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Medical Marijuana Tax, Pension Cuts Up For Grabs In LA Election

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Voters headed to the polls on Tuesday to weigh in on such issues as taxing medical marijuana dispensaries, curbing the Department of Water and Power and a number of City Council races, including races to fill the vacated seats held by the infamous "Bell 8".

Concerns about the economic future of the city dominate the ballot box this year as Los Angeles desperately seeks new revenue streams to ease its mounting budget crisis.

With retirement benefits taking up an ever-increasing chunk of the city's budget, voters will be asked to consider scaling back the pensions of future Los Angeles police officers and firefighters.

Measure G, if approved, would also require sworn personnel hired after July 1 to contribute a portion of their salary to pay for their post-retirement health care.  The city currently subsidizes those costs.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said pensions account for 18 percent of the city's expenses, and that number is expected to double by 2014.

The cash-strapped city of Los Angeles will try to create a new source of revenue by asking voters to tax medical marijuana dispensaries.

Measure M, if approved, would allow to the city to collect $50 out of each $1,000 in "gross reimbursements" that dispensaries receive from their patients.

Supporters say the measure could generate $10 million a year, which the city can use to pay for basic services such police, libraries and street repairs.

After a bitter dispute over rate hikes last year, the Los Angeles City Council demanded changes at the Department of Water and Power, and voters will have the final say on whether those adjustments should be enacted.

Measure I would create an Office of Public Accountability staffed with a ratepayer advocate who would evaluate the need for proposed rate increases and investigate complaints of fraud, abuse and waste.

Measure J, on the other hand, would force the DWP to release its annual budget earlier, and guarantee the amount of money that the DWP must remit to the city each year.

In dire need of money, Los Angeles officials will ask voters to impose a new tax on companies that drill for oil in the city.

If approved, Proposition O would raise about $4.17 million in annual revenue for a city dealing with a budget deficit of about $400 million in the current and next fiscal year.

The ballot measure would charge companies $1.44 per barrel of oil extracted from wells in the city of Los Angeles. That rate would be adjusted annually, based on fluctuations in the consumer price index.

A trio of measures on today's ballot are aimed at changing laws governing campaign financing and protecting the city's reserve fund.

Measure N, if approved, would repeal provisions of the city charter that are similar to laws recently deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ballot measure would lift restrictions on the amount of funding that candidates can receive from independent groups during city and Los Angeles Unified School District elections.

It would also remove the requirement that self-financed candidates give advance notice before spending more than $30,000 of their personal money and increase the amount of contributions that opponents of self-financed candidates are allowed to receive.

Measure H, meanwhile, would remove conflicts of interest during the bidding for city contracts, and also expand the public financing of candidates for city office.

Seven of the City Council's 15 seats will be on Tuesday's ballot, with Bernard Parks and Jose Huizar expected to face the toughest challenges among the six incumbents seeking re-election.

Councilman Greig Smith is not seeking re-election and has endorsed his chief of staff, Mitchell Englander, to be his successor in the 12th District.

If no candidate receives a majority in any race today, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff May 17.

Four seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education will be up for grabs, but three incumbents seeking to retain their seats are unlikely to be ousted.

Local political analyst Jessica Levinson tells KNX 1070 voters are also set to elect an entirely new council in the city of Bell in the wake of a corruption scandal that made national headlines.


A host of candidates who are on the ballot in hopes of claiming one of the five seats after five city council members and other top administrators were indicted for allegedly bilking the city out of millions of dollars through hefty salaries and loans.

Three of the council seats — those of Mayor Oscar Hernandez, George Mirabal and Lorenzo Velez — are being sought by a total of 10 candidates.

Velez, the only incumbent who was not indicted, is seeking re-election. The top
three vote-getters in the 10-candidate field will claim the seats.

For a full rundown of measures, visit the City Clerk's website.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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