Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 29, 2010
PM Alert: Ineligible inmates

In case you missed it:

Illegal-immigrant inmates will no longer be allowed to participate in a prisons vocational training and work program.

Add two more to the already crowded field of candidates possibly vying for the state's top law enforcement gig.

TGIF? Today marked the end of the first full five-day work week for furloughed state workers since Oct. 30.

Carly Fiorina has the edge in the cash dash for the U.S. Senate race.

The Assembly is taking aim at four-letter words.

Meet the newest member of the state Assembly.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Susan Ferriss looks at the central claims of witness testimony in the trial over the constitutionality over Proposition 8.

There was no shortage of emotion during a daylong forum on pension costs -- particularly when a panel discussion including a prominent labor leader and a key Schwarzenegger aide turned personal. Dale Kasler has the story.

Legislators shouldn't let groups trying to derail the new non-revocable parole plan get in the way of the first sensible step in prison reform, writes The Bee editorial board.

January 29, 2010
HP contributions go to Barbara Boxer, not Carly Fiorina

So far, Hewlett-Packard has given the maximum amount to Sen. Barbara Boxer but hasn't contributed toward its own former CEO, Carly Fiorina, campaign finance reports show.

Boxer has received the maximum $10,000 from Hewlett-Packard's political action committee toward her re-election, including $3,000 in the last quarter of 2009, her campaign reported today. HP's PAC gives to congressional candidates "who share HP's public policy views," using donations from employees rather than corporate funds, according to HP's Web site.

Fiorina, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, was president and CEO of HP from 1999 to 2005, when she was fired in a dispute with the company's board of directors. The only HP-related donation she reported was a $250 contribution from a Roseville-based HP manager.

One of Fiorina's GOP rivals, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, benefited more than Fiorina from the HP fortune. DeVore received $2,400 from Arianna Packard, the granddaughter of the founder of Hewlett Packard, according to the Los Angeles Times.

January 29, 2010
Illegal-immigrant inmates no longer allowed in work program

A board that oversees vocational training and work programs at California prisons has voted to discontinue allowing undocumented immigrant inmates set for deportation to participate in the California Prisons Industry Authority certification program.

Authority spokesman Tom Collins said the aim of the Prison Industry Board action Thursday is to "ensure that the effective vocational training that CalPIA provides is first applied to inmates who will return to California's communities following their parole, rather than training individuals who will not."

The program, established in its current form in 1982, provides training and jobs in the manufacturing and agricultural industries for inmates in 22 prisons across the state.

Approximately 427 of the 5,700 inmates now participating are under an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold and will be deported once their sentence is completed. Fifty-two of the 727 inmate workers enrolled in certification programs are also under an ICE hold, according to a staff report recommending the change.

January 29, 2010
U.S. Senate race: Fiorina has the money edge

Republican U.S. Senate candidates Carly Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore each raised more than $1 million through the end of 2009, but Fiorina had a significant cash-on-hand advantage after loaning her campaign $2.5 million, according to year-end statements they released Friday.

Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, had $2.75 million in cash at the end of 2009, compared to $226,364 for DeVore. Former congressman Tom Campbell entered the Senate race two weeks ago and had to start his fundraising anew after dropping his gubernatorial bid.

Campbell is the initial frontrunner in the GOP primary, according to January surveys released by the Field Poll and Public Policy Institute of California.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, raised $5.9 million in 2009 and had $7.2 million in cash-on-hand as of Dec. 31, her campaign announced this month. Boxer spent $951,151 in the fourth quarter, more than Fiorina ($830,517) or DeVore ($367,076), according to a filing she released Friday.

DeVore has raised $1.2 million and received fewer than 20 contributions at the maximum per-donor amount of $2,400, according to his statement. His campaign is touting donations as small as $10 on his Twitter page.

Fiorina has raised nearly $1.1 million, including more than 200 contributions at the $2,400 level, according to her campaign statement. Her donors include former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio and Irvine Co. CEO Donald Bren.

January 29, 2010
No-cuss California? Assembly takes aim at four-letter words

Dang you, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Darn it, legislators.

Just practicing, in case lawmakers pass Assembly Concurrent Resolution 112 to declare the first week of March each year as "Cuss Free Week."

The measure applauds a 3-year-old campaign by then-14-year-old McKay Hatch, who founded a No Cussing Club at his South Pasadena junior high school in June 2007 to encourage classmates to clean up their act.

"McKay reasoned that if pupils could say no to cussing it would be easier to stay away from drugs, violence and pornography, and to turn their focus to positive aspirations and goals," the Assembly proposal reads.

January 29, 2010
Friday reading file

Senate Republican caucus chief of staff Russell Lowery is leaving the Legislature to work for PG&E.

Retiring Rep. George Radonovich slammed ex-Rep. Richard Pombo, one of the candidates vying for his soon-to-be vacant seat, saying the former congressman should "run in his own district."*

Meanwhile, Pombo's making the rounds in DC to round up some cash for his run.

"Go! Go! Power Rangers Meg Whitman!" says the money coming from bigtime campaign donor Haim Saban.

Californians have no shortage of opinions on how the budget system should be changed -- but they are short on knowledge of how the system actuall works.

*Roll Call is subscription only, but the text is also posted at Flashreport.org.

January 29, 2010
Speier confirms AG interest, Eastman dives in GOP race

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier has confirmed that she's considering jumping in the already crowded field of attorney general hopefuls.

The buzz that Speier, a freshman congresswoman and 20-year veteran of the state Legislature, was weighing a run was first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle's Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross and confirmed by Speier at a Thursday appearance in San Mateo.

January 29, 2010
Norby sworn in to replace Duvall in Assembly



Republican Chris Norby became the state's newest assemblyman today, taking the oath to replace Mike Duvall, who abandoned the seat last September after his private boasts of sexual conquest were captured on audiotape at a public meeting.

Norby was sworn in by newly elected Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick with the assemblyman's wife, Martha, by his side.

During the brief Capitol ceremony, Norby held his family Bible, which he had been given as a young child at a Presbyterian Church.

The 60-year-old Fullerton resident displayed a sense of humor after learning, after the swearing-in, that he had inherited the minuscule, fifth-floor office jokingly derided as the Capitol's "doghouse."

"Cozy is good," Norby quipped.

January 29, 2010
AM Alert: Working on the railroad

If your commute seems more crowded than usual for a Friday, it's not your imagination. Today marks the first five-day work week for state employees since Oct. 30, owing to a combination of holidays and three "Furlough Fridays." Now the 12-week streak is over, which means this morning that about half the region's 78,000 state workers will funnel into downtown Sacramento.

Furlough Friday returns next week.

The grim economic times in the capital city and elsewhere have certainly contributed to California voters' sour mood about the future of the state. Steve Wiegand lays out the Field Poll findings in today's Bee. See the gory details via the poll's statistical tabulations here, exclusively on Capitol Alert.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, will be commuting to Fresno today, where he will appear with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcar and Rep. Jim Costa to celebrate the $2.25 billion the Golden State is getting from the feds for high-speed rail.

The governor will dispatch adviser David Crane to sell his pension benefit reduction plan at a forum on the topic sponsored by CalPERS. Drop in from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Sen. Jeff Denham makes stops at UC Merced and CSU Fresno to tout his bill that would limit student fee increases to 10 percent a year and require a six-month waiting period before higher fees kick in.

Sen. Leland Yee will be in San Francisco pushing his bill to allow same-day voter registration.

BIRTHDAYS: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, celebrates the big 5-0 today. Assemblyman Juan Arambula, I-Fresno, turns 58.

January 28, 2010
PM Alert: Mogadishu, Calif.?

In case you missed it:

What do Somalia and California have in common? One libertarian think tank believes they're both failed states.

In a showdown over generating new tax revenue, the Assembly today passed legislation touted as closing a tax loophole benefiting multinational corporations.

Jerry Brown promised to "mix it up" this morning on his weekly call into San Francisco radio station KGO, and he did.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger meets public opinion as he tosses out an idea to have California pay to build and operate prisons in Mexico.

Is mandatory staff training at the Energy Commission holding up the approval of stimulus fund applications?

California got a large chunk of the stimulus cash doled out for high-speed rail projects, but the proposed bullet train still needs a big boost in funding.

California car sales plummeted last year.

Find out which member of the California congressional delegation was most likely to vote with his or her party last year.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Jim Sanders reports that a partisan skirmish Thursday on the Assembly floor made the target clear: Raise revenue without hiking taxes.

Proponents of a proposed initiative to legalize marijuana submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures in hopes of qualifying the measure for the November ballot. Peter Hecht reports.

Matt Weiser has an update on California's drought conditions.

Steve Wiegand has details on the latest Field Poll.

Jack Chang analyzes Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's radio ad on the state's welfare program.

Amid rising tensions over the cost of California public employee pensions, CalPERS is holding a public forum Friday. Dale Kasler has the story.

Dan Walters has the latest on the "tort war."

January 28, 2010
Jerry Brown takes off gloves, dings Gavin Newsom

Thumbnail image for Jerry Brown.jpgJerry Brown promised to "mix it up" this morning on his weekly call into San Francisco radio station KGO. And mix it up he did. Listen here.

The attorney general and undeclared Democratic gubernatorial candidate was asked about San Francisco Mayor and former gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom's recent remark that Brown didn't appear to have "fire in his belly" for the race.

Brown responded, "He's been giving a lot of advice to the president and now me, and I'm sure there'll be others because when you don't have a lot to do, you can start checking out what other people have been doing.

"I appreciate the advice, and I'm going to be examining my intestinal fortitude here."

January 28, 2010
Serious or not, Arnold Schwarzenegger knows public opinion

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger generated buzz this week when he tossed out an idea to have California pay to build and operate prisons in Mexico to save money on housing the state's illegal immigrant inmates.

January 28, 2010
Matsui toed party line in '09

From Rob Hotakainen in Washington

Who's the purest Democrat of them all?

That would be Sacramento's Doris Matsui, according to the annual rankings of Congressional Quarterly (CQ).

Matsui is one of two House Democrats who scored a perfect 100 percent on party unity last year. (The other is North Carolina's David Price.) That means Matsui and Price voted the party's position on every vote. Matsui's picture is included in this month's edition of CQ, which featured the rankings.

January 28, 2010
Florida group equates California with Somalia, et al

The James Madison Institute is a libertarian think tank in Florida, and the cover of its latest Journal is a mock Central Intelligence Agency report on "the world's top 10 failed states."

journalimage.jpg

It lists Somalia as the No. 1 failed state and adds eight other Third World nations before it gets to No. 10 - the Golden State of California - and asks "Will Florida join the list of failed states?"

It's the latest in a recent string of out-of-state publications riffing on California's social, political economic and budgetary woes and warning that its civic disease could spread.

J. Robert McClure, the institute's president, writes that "the jury is still out as to whether Florida - at the end of the decade ahead - will be prospering like Texas or foundering like California, Wisconsin, New York, and other states where government evidently exists primarily for the benefit of the governing, and onerous taxes and regulations consistently drive away the most productive citizens, harming the economy and eroding the quality of life."

January 28, 2010
Is training delaying ARRA applications at Energy Commission?

Wonder why the California Energy Commission has taken so long to process applications for projects financed with Recovery and Reinvestment Act cash?

January 28, 2010
California new car sales take steep plunge

New car sales plummeted in California during 2009, dropping 28.3 percent from 2008, and barely topping 1 million, a level not seen in more than three decades.

Although new car sales declined nationally last year, California's drop was markedly larger than the national trend, according to a year-end report from the California New Car Dealers Association.

Hundreds of auto dealerships have closed in California in the last few years as sales dropped to less than half the levels of mid-decade, and the impact on both state and local coffers has been heavy. A $25,000 car generates about $2,000 in state and local sales taxes, so a million-unit drop in sales means a $2 billion loss in sales tax revenues.

Sales of "Big 3" domestic brands declined even faster last year, down 36.4 percent, and both General Motors and Chrysler lost market share while Ford's increased slightly.

Despite the bad sales news, the association sees a brighter future. It notes that while new car sales slid 39.6 percent in the first half of the year, the decline was just 13.7 percent in the second half and it projects a slight uptick in total sales this year, from 1,040,000 vehicles in 2009 to 1,145,000 in 2010, as the economy improves.

The full report, include a model-by-model breakdown of sales, is available here.

January 28, 2010
AM Alert: High-speed rail ahead

California is getting a big chunk of cash for plans to build a high-speed rail system connecting Anaheim to San Francisco.

As Fresno Bee colleagues Michael Doyle and E.J. Schultz report, California's $2.25 billion grant represents more than a quarter of the $8 billion in federal funds being doled out by the Obama administration.

Here at the Capitol, both houses have floor sessions on tap today.

Over in the Senate, the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee continues its series of hearings on the governor's budget proposal, with a look at the proposals for employee compensation and public safety.

January 27, 2010
Campbell, Whitman fare well in new PPIC poll

Republicans Tom Campbell and Meg Whitman fare well in a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Campbell, a former Silicon Valley congressman who shifted his political ambition this month from governor to U.S. senator, already enjoys a strong lead over GOP rivals Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore, the poll found, and is locked in a near-tie with Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Whitman, former CEO of eBay, has increased her lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner among Republicans with Campbell out of the contest, PPIC's survey found, and trails the sole Democratic candidate, Attorney General Jerry Brown, by only a few points.

PPIC's results generally reflect those of another new statewide poll by the Field Research Corp., but came up with closer results in the theoretical gubernatorial and senatorial matchups.

January 27, 2010
PM Alert: Churches, Haiti and health care

In case you missed it:

A bill introduced this week would let churches off the hook on performing same-sex marriages.

San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier has withdrawn her bid for insurance commissioner.

The Legislative Analyst recommended that the Legislature move forward with the governor's proposal to cut state worker pay.

Texting a donation to Haiti could count as a 2009 tax deduction under a bill that passed the Assembly today.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has put President Barack Obama's recent remarks on repeat to send a message to legislative Democrats.

California voters give Congress a thumbs down on handling of health care reform and overall job performance.

Check out the spread for Capitol Alert's annual budget pool.

The Senate Rules Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for "guv lite" nominee GOP Sen. Abel Maldonado.

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson is recovering from heart surgery.

Check out cartoonist Rex Babin's take on the recent SCOTUS ruling allowing unlimited federal campaign contributions for corporations and unions.

A for-profit university that has lobbied against more stringent postsecondary education regulations chipped in a chunk of cash to pay for Schwarzenegger's aides to travel to Copenhagen.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Mike Doyle and E.J. Schultz have the specifics on California's piece of the federal high-speed rail funding.

Obama is set to deliver his annual State of the Union address tonight. Rob Hotakainen gets California lawmakers' reactions in Washington.

Do Californians think the state's diversity is an advantage or a challenge? Kevin Yamamura reports on the results from the latest Field Poll.

The State Worker columnist Jon Ortiz has the story of a $7 million clerical error.

Ortiz also has more on the LAO's recommendation on the proposal to cut state pay.

The Assembly approved a bill today that would make it illegal for bystanders to a rape or sexual assault to not come forward and report the crime, reports Jim Sanders.

Laurel Rosenhall has details on the CSU trustees' new plan to increase graduation rates and close achievement gaps between racial groups at campuses across the state.

The Bee's editorial board asks, "Does anyone feel safer because Alcohol Beverage Control Department agents busted the Super Bowl betting pool at the Valley Hi Country Club in Elk Grove?"

The editorial board also weighs in on Obama's speech.

January 27, 2010
Alioto-Pier drops insurance commissioner bid

Democratic San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier announced today that she is dropping her insurance commissioner bid.

January 27, 2010
Texting Haiti relief donations could count for 2009 tax deduction

From Jim Sanders:

Donations to Haiti earthquake relief could be deducted from 2009 California income taxes under legislation approved Wednesday in the Assembly.

January 27, 2010
Budget battle in 140 characters or less

Spokespersons for dueling politicans trading blows over budget proposals is nothing new.

But the rhetorical blows -- which typically are thrown via sharp-tounged press releases -- are moving to a more compacted forum this morning.

A spat that broke out this morning after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office unveiled a new display using a video of President Barack Obama to slam what he said was Democrats'

tweeted @AliciaTrost, spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

January 27, 2010
Mark Leno's new gay-marriage bill lets churches off hook

Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco introduced a bill Monday he says should put to rest fears from religious groups that say they'll be forced to perform same-sex marriages one day in California.

Leno's SB 906 is called the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act. It would amend California's family code to "reaffirm" the separation of church and state and declare that no no clergy person is required to solemnize a civil marriage that is contrary to his or her faith.

The proposal also assures churches they won't lose tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform marriages contrary to beliefs.

Leno introduced the bill just as a federal trial over Proposition 8 trial began entering its final stages in San Francisco. On Wednesday, the last of witnesses appeared in court. Closing arguments might come in March. Gay couples are challenging the constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban established by Proposition 8.

Here's Leno answering questions about the bill:

January 27, 2010
The bets are in for Capitol Alert's annual budget pool

Last week, we asked readers to place their bet on when the 2010-2011 budget package will pass both houses of the Legislature.

More than 100 readers sent in their guesses, with August and September heavily favored as the likely months for passage.

The most optimistic? A reader who thinks the whole package will be sent to the governor's desk for signing in less than a month -- by Feb. 23.

The most pessimistic entrant (besides the rosy reader who submitted "My bet is never. And that is being optimistic" ) guessed Feb. 21, 2011.

While some readers provided detailed explanations for how they made their educated guess, three entrants said they were betting on their own or a family member's birthday, which raised the question: who doesn't wish for a $20 billion deficit fix when blowing out the candles?

We'll keep you posted as the days and months roll by on how many entrants are still eligible to win the big prize -- a $25 gift certificate to a capital coffee shop.

Click here to see a spreadsheet with all the bets.

If for some reason we missed your entry, send it again to contest@capitolalert.com.

Good luck!


January 27, 2010
Schwarzenegger's latest prop is Obama video

Since his first-term use of red-ink spigots and "Count Cartaxula," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has toned down his reliance on props.

But today came proof that he can't stop entirely.

The Republican governor had his staff install outside his office a repeating video loop of President Barack Obama telling ABC News on Monday, "I can guarantee that the worst thing we could do would be to raise taxes when the economy is still this weak." The display is in a case titled "State of California," next to the displays for California counties in the State Capitol.

After visiting Washington last week with legislative leaders as a unified team, Schwarzenegger is now trying to hammer Democratic state legislators today on the tax issue. His aides issued recent statements by Democrats that suggested looking for new tax revenues to help erase a $20 billion budget deficit.

January 27, 2010
Maldonado confirmation hearing set for next week

Lieutenant governor nominee Sen. Abel Maldonado will get his first confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Rules Committee next week.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped the Republican senator as his pick for the vacant post in late November, setting of a 90-day clock for lawmakers to confirm or reject his nomination.

If legislators fail to act before Feb. 22, Maldonado assumes the post.

But as Fresno Bee colleague E.J. Schultz reported yesterday, a decision on whether to confirm Maldonado is expected to take place before Feb. 16. If Maldonado is confirmed by that date, the run-off election for his Senate seat could consolidated with the June primary election, meaning his Senate seat could be filled before the budget fight heats up this summer.

The hearing has been set for Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 1:30 p.m.

January 27, 2010
Assemblyman Tom Torlakson recovering from heart troubles

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, an avid fitness buff and triathlete who's running for state schools chief, is recovering from heart surgery after suffering from chest pains Tuesday while jogging.

The Martinez Democrat's chief of staff, Rich Zeiger, said Torlakson was taken to Mercy General Hospital after visiting the nurse's office at the Capitol. Zeiger said the assemblyman felt chest pains during an early-morning run.

Doctors found a blockage in one artery, catheterized it, and installed a stent. Zeiger said Torlakson was recovering nicely, and was expected to be released sometime today.

The 60-year-old former teacher is in his third and term-limits-imposed last term as an Assembly member. He has also served two terms in the state Senate, and is vying to replace termed-out Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

January 27, 2010
Rex Babin: Supreme flood

babinfloodgates.jpg

Rex Babin is the political cartoonist at The Bee. Click here to see a collection of his work.

January 27, 2010
Jackie Speier takes a look at return to Sac with AG run

Is first-term Rep. Jackie Speier considering jumping in the already crowded pool of candidates running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general?

SF Chron's Philip Matier and Andrew Ross break down the buzz with this item:

Speier's interest in returning to Sacramento, where she spent nearly 20 years in the Legislature, was sparked by a statewide poll that showed her outpacing the other Democratic candidates for AG by better than 4 to 1.

The poll of 450 likely Democratic and independent voters, taken by J. Moore Methods this month, showed Speier running first with 23 percent, followed by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris at 5 percent, state Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance (Los Angeles County) at 4 percent and ex-Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo at 3 percent. A smattering of other candidates pulled lesser numbers.

The biggest bloc of voters, however, was "undecided," at 62 percent.

In other AG race news, the Harris campaign said this morning that the San Francisco DA raised more than $1 million over the last six month, bringing the campaign's total fundraising to $2.3 million in 2009.

January 27, 2010
Copenhagen trip sponsored by University of Phoenix

(Editor's note: A previous version of this post incorrectly said the donation from the University of Phoenix also went toward costs of the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony.)

The for-profit University of Phoenix, which has lobbied against stricter postsecondary regulations in California, donated $50,000 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last November to pay for his aides to travel to Copenhagen, according to gift records filed by the Governor's Office.

Schwarzenegger visited Copenhagen in December to participate in the United Nations climate change conference. He also visited Iraq, Jerusalem, Austria and Italy in November.

The California State Protocol Foundation, a nonprofit with ties to business groups that lobby the Capitol, collected donations to pay for the trips. Schwarzenegger's office said the travel did not cost taxpayers any money, although the administration refuses to disclose the costs of Schwarzenegger's overseas CHP detail, citing security reasons.

Recent gift reports on the governor's Web site show that University of Phoenix gave $50,000 to the California State Protocol Foundation in November, while a Brazilian-based paper company, the Orsa Group, contributed another $10,000.

January 27, 2010
AM Alert: State of the union

President Barack Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union address tonight.

One topic that might come up -- the attempt to overhaul the country's health care system.

The way Congress has handled the issue isn't getting high marks from Californians, according to The Field Poll released today.

Nearly seven in 10 of California voters aren't happy with their elected representatives' efforts to pass a health care reform package.

Almost as many voters polled -- two-thirds -- disapprove of Congress's job performance as a whole.

Rob Hotakainen has more on the poll in today's Bee. Click here for the release on the poll and statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

Back in California's Capitol, the Senate and the Assembly has afloor session on tap, with the deadline for passing two-year bills out of their house of origin coming up at the week's end.

On the Capitol Alert blog this morning: Kevin Yamamura has the scoop on which organization chipped in to cover costs of the Capitol Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and the governor's staff's trip to Copenhagen for the United Nation's climate summit.

UPDATE: The Senate has a check-in, but no floor session scheduled for today.

January 26, 2010
PM Alert: Shining the light

In case you missed it:

The state committee overseeing the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine called for increasing transparency at the state's stem cell agency.

GOP Sen. Roy Ashburn has nixed plans to run for Board of Equalization or Congress in 2010.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's off-the-cuff suggestion to build prisons in Mexico to house illegal immigrant inmates isn't under serious consideration yet, his office says.

Wondering how many of those undocumented immigrants are actually from Mexico? Here's the breakdown.

Click here for more comments Schwarzenegger made at the annual Sacramento Press Club address.

The Legislative Analyst panned Schwarzenegger's proposal to link higher education and prison spending.

Here's something for California animals to wag their tails about.

And here's a ranking of which lawmakers got the highest grades when it comes to supporting animal-friendly legislation.

Jerry Brown has named a campaign manager for his still-unannounced gubernatorial bid.

Late Democratic strategist Bill Cavala might have a building named after him.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Susan Ferriss has the latest from testimony in the Proposition 8 trial.

Legislation that would have cracked down on concert tickets, meal tabs, greens fees, Sacramento Kings tickets and other gifts to California lawmakers has been killed before reaching the Assembly floor. Jim Sanders has the story.

Rob Hotakainen has the results from The Field Poll's survey of California voters' approval ratings for Congress.

Columnist Dan Walters looks at whether California is ripe for a political shift.

The Bee's editorial board tells California to quit whining for special favors and join forces with other states instead while seeking U.S. funds.

January 26, 2010
SOTU viewing parties

Politicos on both sides of the aisle will be tuning in to cheer and/or jeer the president's remarks, with several viewing parties on tap in Sacramento tonight.

On the left, we hear there's a watch party hosted by Volunteers with Organizing for America and CD3 congressional cnadidate Dr. Ami Bera at Samurai Sushi in Rancho Cordova.

On the right, Capitol Alert has heard that Americans for Prosperity of California and Republican Sen. George Runner are meeting at Brew it up! Brewery and Grill and that the Sacramento Metropolitan Young Republicans and the Sacramento County Republican Party will be watching at MVP Sports Grill.

January 26, 2010
Stem cell agency needs more transparency, committee says

A state committee tasked with overseeing the financial practices and performance of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine called today for more transparency at the publicly funded stem cell research agency.

The Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Controller John Chiang, approved the Little Hoover Commission's recommendations for updating CIRM's structure and funding approval process.

The agency, which was created by the 2004 voter-approved Proposition 71, is responsible for doling out billions of dollars in bonds approved for stem cell research.

"To ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent lawfully, wisely and successfully, the stem cell program must pursue the highest standards of transparency to be fully accountable to the public," Chiang said in a statement.

January 26, 2010
Wednesday reading file

Fox. A PPP poll found it's the most trusted name in nwes

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/32039.html

January 26, 2010
California's illegal immigrant inmates, by the numbers

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's suggestion on Monday to build a prison in Mexico raised several questions, not least of which was how many illegal immigrant inmates in California actually have Mexican citizenship.

Schwarzenegger's suggestion drew a response from Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, whose office said in a press release today that the governor erroneously implied all illegal immigrant prisoners are from Mexico, a claim that "showed tremendous racial insensitivity."

As of Dec. 31, 2009, California prisons had 22,173 inmates with an immigration hold or potential immigration hold, according to a Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation analysis. That represented 13 percent of the state's 168,830 inmates.

Inmates self-identify their country of birth, so the citizenship breakdown may not be entirely accurate, according to CDCR spokesman Gordon Hinkle. For instance, 827 of the inmates with an actual or potential immigration hold reported they were born in the United States, but they have a hold because their citizenship is in question.

According to the chart, 15,124 of the 22,173 inmates with an actual or potential immigration hold self-identified as Mexican natives, equal to 68.2 percent. The second-highest country was El Salvador, which had 1,133, or 5.1 percent. After that came the United States, for the aforementioned reason, with 3.7 percent. Vietnam was fourth with 734 inmates, or 3.3 percent.

You can see the CDCR tables here.

CORRECTION: A reader points out that we misread the CDCR tables indicating which crimes were most common among illegal immigrants. The most common crime among illegal immigrants was lewd act (2,688), followed by robbery (2,473) and second-degree murder (2,454).

January 26, 2010
It's official: Jerry Brown has picked Steven Glazer as campaign manager

Attorney General Jerry Brown has hired his senior adviser Steven Glazer to be the manager of his gubernatorial campaign, campaign staff member Sterling Clifford confirmed to The Bee today.

Rumors about Glazer's pick began circulating yesterday after the San Francisco Chronicle's blog reported a move was imminent. Clifford said today that Glazer accepted the position about two weeks ago.

Brown has not yet announced his candidacy but is widely expected to do so next month.

Glazer, who is currently an Orinda city councilman, worked on Brown's 1978 re-election campaign for governor when he helped organize college voters. Glazer then served as deputy campaign manager for Brown's failed 1982 U.S. Senate campaign.

Glazer also worked for Gray Davis in the state Assembly, was press secretary for former Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti and ran campaigns for various voter initiatives. He began acting as senior adviser for Brown's latest gubernatorial campaign about six months ago, Clifford said.

January 26, 2010
Don't start making plans for that prison in Mexico just yet

If it wasn't clear yesterday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear impressed upon Capitol reporters Tuesday that the governor's idea to build a prison in Mexico for illegal immigrant inmates is not under serious consideration at the moment.

The Republican governor suggested Monday at his annual Sacramento Press Club address that California could pay Mexico to build and house 19,000 illegal immigrant inmates to save "$1 billion."

McLear said Tuesday that the Governor's Office cannot say where the state would save $1 billion under such a plan because it has no plan. He emphasized that Schwarzenegger was just passing along an idea that some people -- unclear on who -- offered to the governor as a way to save money.

"Whether it's Mexico, other countries or other states, if we can figure out great ways that we can save money on what we're spending on prisons, we ought to debate that and look at it," McLear said. "... I think you guys have covered him long enough to know he likes the out-of-the-box, creative ideas. He doesn't think any idea is too zany to at least debate."

January 26, 2010
Steinberg looks to rename LOB after Dem strategist Bill Cavala

The Legislative Office Building could soon be a standing memorial to longtime Democratic strategist Bill Cavala, who died late last month at age 66.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced a resolution earlier this month that would add Cavala's name to the office building's currently, well, descriptive, title.

SCR 62 calls for the structure at 1020 N Street to be renamed the William L. Cavala
Legislative Office Building
, citing Cavala as "highly regarded for his institutional knowledge and skill regarding legislative issues, as well as his kindness, humility, and professionalism."

The resolution, introduced Jan. 11, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization.

January 26, 2010
Caucus formed to bark for animal rights

California's animals have a new reason to wag their tails -- legislators have formed a caucus focused on animal rights and protection issues.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, Assemblymembers Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, and Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara have joined forces to co-chair the caucus, according to a release.

The Humane Society of the United States says the new Animal Protection Caucus is the first state legislative caucus focused on boosting efforts to pass "humane legislation."

As we've noted before, 2009 was a good year for Fido and friends.

Two of the legislators leading the caucus --Florez and Nava -- received top marks in a recent legislative scorecard issued by "PawPac," a political action committee focused on animal rights. Strickland and Smyth didn't score quite as high, coming in with a "B" and "C" respectively.

January 26, 2010
LAO: Schwarzenegger's prison-higher ed plan 'ill-conceived'

In a four-page review, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said today that lawmakers should reject Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed ballot measure to dedicate more money to public universities than prisons.

"It is an unnecessary, ill-conceived measure that would do serious harm to the budget process," the LAO report concludes.

Schwarzenegger's constitutional amendment would require the state to spend no more than 7 percent of general fund money on corrections and no less than 10 percent on the University of California and California State University systems.

In 2009-10, the state is spending 5.7 percent of general fund money on UC and CSU, compared to 9.5 percent on corrections in the governor's revised budget.

LAO points out that corrections has received an increasing share of state budget funds because the number of inmates and parolees has increased, federal judges have imposed additional costs due to prison health care lawsuits and correctional officer compensation has increased.

But LAO says that the percentage figures don't tell the whole story. The UC and CSU totals don't include Cal Grant money that helps pay for tuition. At the same time, California -- as have other states -- has increasingly shifted costs to students as a policy change.

LAO lists various reasons the state shouldn't pursue a ballot measure that enshrines percentages in the state constitution. It says the measure would ignore community colleges, inappropriately pit two program areas against each other and set arbitrary benchmarks that could hurt spending on other state priorities. It notes that the governor and Legislature already have the ability to prioritize higher education in any given budget year.

January 26, 2010
Politicians given grades on animal bills

"PawPac," which describes itself as "California's political action committee for animals," wanted to enact seven bills during the 2009 legislative session, including a highly controversial measure that would require spaying and neutering of pets.

PawPac had just one success, a bill to curb "tail docking"of cows. The other six were either stalled or, if passed, vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the seven generated voting records from which PawPac created a scorecard to rate politicians on their support levels.

Schwarzenegger, who vetoed four PawPac bills, not surprisingly was given an "F" grade, and Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, who carried both the "tail docking" bill and the neutering measure, got a "A-plus."

Forty-eight other legislators, all Democrats, also received "A" or "A-plus" grades, while 26, all Republicans, were given "Fs." The other 45 had mixed records on the seven bills.

The full PawPac scorecard may be found here.

January 26, 2010
Roy Ashburn to bid goodbye to world of politics?

Republican Sen. Roy Ashburn had dropped brewing plans to run for the Board of Equalization or Democrat Jim Costa's 20th Congressional District seat.

While Republican Scott Brown's recent Senate victory in Massachusetts has shaken many Democratic candidates, the Bakersfield Republican also cited Brown's surprise win as a reason for not running.

Here's what Ashburn, who is termed out this year, told the Bakersfield Californian:

"I think people are looking for new faces and new people," Ashburn said. "I think that was one of the messages I took out of the vote in Massachusetts."

He was referring to Republican Scott Brown's win last week of the Senate seat opened by the death of Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., last year. Analysts have in part attributed that win to voter disenfranchisement with establishment politicians.

Ashburn said he doesn't know what he will do after he's termed out of office at the end of this year but that "I'm sure I'll find ways to keep busy." Asked if he's ruling out any future run for public office, he said: "it's never smart to say never."

"(For now) I'm very committed to being the very best representative in the Senate I can this year," Ashburn said.

Click here to read the full story.

Updated: An earlier version of this post misspelled Ashburn's name in the headline.

January 26, 2010
Highlights from Schwarzenegger's Sac Press Club Q-and-A

ha_schwarzenegger7749.JPGGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created some buzz yesterday when he made an off-the-cuff suggestion that California could cut prisons costs by shipping undocumented inmates to new prisons that the state would pay to build in Mexico.

But the governor also touched on a wide array of topics during prepared remarks and a Q-and-A organized by the Sacramento Press Club. After the jump, see what the governor had to say about his job performance marks, the recent SCOTUS ruling, a constitutional convention and more.

January 26, 2010
Rex Babin: Bernanke confirmation

We wrote yesterday about California's senators' opposite stances on whether to approve Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term. Here's Bee cartoonist Rex Babin's take on the confirmation scuffle:

Bernanke.jpg

Rex Babin is the political cartoonist for The Bee. You can see a collection of his work here.

January 26, 2010
AM Alert: Tea Party poll

The Tea Party protests staged across the country have caught the attention of California voters, according to the latest survey by The Field Poll.

About six in 10 California voters said they had heard of the anti-tax, anti-big government movement.

More than a quarter of the respondents aligned themselves with the Tea Party platform. That figure jumped to 64 percent among voters who describe themselves as strongly conservative.

The pollsters also took the electorate's pulse on "Birther movement" claims that President Barack Obama isn't eligible to serve as president because wasn't actually born in the United States.

January 25, 2010
PM Alert: A 'royal' campaign

In case you missed it:

Zsa Zsa Gabor's hubby, "Prince" Frederic von Anhalt, has a new title in mind -- governor.

Local government groups say California's roads are crumbling.

Longtime Senate education policy expert Melinda Melendez died last week following a stroke.

Speaker-elect John Perez is set to be sworn in at his new post March 1.

During a Q-and-A organized by the Sacramento Press Club, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today floated an idea to send undocumented inmate immigrants to Mexico.

California's senators are split over whether to reconfirm Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term.

Does Schwarzenegger's "78 cents" argument for "federal fairness" stack up?

Californians don't have high hopes for the state of the state once Schwarzenegger wraps up his term.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Should children be required to wear helmets when they hit the slopes? Two Democraic legislators think so, but critics of the efforts say they're just another example of nanny government. Jim Sanders has the story.

Where do Californians stand on the Tea Party and Birther movements? The Field Poll asked voters those questions. Steve Wiegands reports on the responses.

Kevin Yamamura has more on the governor's remarks to the Sacramento Press Club.

Lawyers defending Proposition 8 began to make their case for upholding the ban on same-sex marriage in federal court today. Susan Ferriss reports on the testimony.

Will Schwarzenegger be able to achieve his goals and turn around his dismal approval ratings during his last year in office? "Fat chance," writes columnist Dan Walters.

Legislators who failed to report gifts from lobbyists should have known better, writes The Bee editorial board.


January 25, 2010
PM Alert: A 'royal' campaign

In case you missed it:

Zsa Zsa Gabor's hubby, "Prince" Frederic von Anhalt, has a new title in mind -- governor.

Local government groups say California's roads are crumbling.

Longtime Senate education policy expert Melinda Melendez died last week following a stroke.

Speaker-elect John Perez is set to be sworn in at his new post March 1.

During a Q-and-A organized by the Sacramento Press Club, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today floated an idea to send undocumented inmate immigrants to Mexico.

California's senators are split over whether to reconfirm Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term.

Does Schwarzenegger's "78 cents" argument for "federal fairness" stack up?

Californians don't have high hopes for the state of the state once Schwarzenegger wraps up his term.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Should children be required to wear helmets when they hit the slopes? Two Democraic legislators think so, but critics of the efforts say they're just another example of nanny government. Jim Sanders has the story.

Where do Californians stand on the Tea Party and Birther movements? The Field Poll asked voters those questions. Steve Wiegands reports on the responses.

Kevin Yamamura has more on the governor's remarks to the Sacramento Press Club.

Lawyers defending Proposition 8 began to make their case for upholding the ban on same-sex marriage in federal court today. Susan Ferriss reports on the testimony.

Will Schwarzenegger be able to achieve his goals and turn around his dismal approval ratings during his last year in office? "Fat chance," writes columnist Dan Walters.

Legislators who failed to report gifts from lobbyists should have known better, writes The Bee editorial board.


January 25, 2010
'Prince' Frederic von Anhalt launches gubernatorial bid

Frederic von Anhalt, a self-described prince and husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, announced today that he is running for governor by unveiling a campaign billboard over Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard.

"When I came to California 26 years ago we had the 'Good Life.' [Where] prosperous people had jobs, affordable homes and money to spend. ... About 10 years ago things started to deteriorate, and last year when the state was at its worst I decided I had to try and make a difference. I decided to enter the political realm and get California back on the right track," he said in a statement on his campaign Web site.

Von Anhalt's platform includes legalizing marijuana, opening the border with Mexico, overturning Proposition 8, mandating that all buildings have solar panels and lifting a ban on Cuban cigars.

The German native, who reportedly acquired his title after he was adopted as an adult by a German princess, is a familiar face to followers of celebrity gossip sites and tabloids. In 2007, he declared himself the potential father of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter. He also created a stir that year when he was found handcuffed and naked in his Rolls-Royce, claiming he was robbed by three female fans.

January 25, 2010
Locals say streets and roads deteriorating

California's local streets and roads are deteriorating due to lack of maintenance and rehabilitation and need an additional $71 billion in work over the next 10 years, a survey commissioned by local government groups concludes.

"California's local streets and roads are on the edge of a cliff," the survey, commissioned by the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and the County Engineers Association of California says.

On a scale of zero (failed) to 100 (excellent), California's local roadways stand at 68, placing them in the "at risk" category, and the report projects that the rating will fall to 58 in 10 years and 48 by 2033 if transportation funding remains at current levels.

"This investment is critical for the safety and mobility of the traveling public, farm to market needs, multimodal needs, and commerce," Chris McKenzie executive director of the League of California Cities," said. "Cities and counties own and operate 81 percent of California roads. It's where every trip begins and ends."

The Federal Highway Administration has said that California's roadway conditions are the second worst in the nation, trailing only those in New Jersey.

The report was issued as local governments and their allies crank up a signature-gathering campaign for a ballot measure that would shield local treasuries from raids by the state. The full report is available here.

January 25, 2010
Schwarzenegger: Send illegal immigrant inmates to Mexico

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday offered yet another way California can save on incarcerating illegal immigrants: send them to Mexico.

The Republican governor said he will not raise taxes for a second year in a row during a speech at the Sacramento Press Club. Instead, he suggested that the state can find plenty of money in other ways such as cutting pension costs, allowing offshore oil drilling and lowering prison expenditures.

Schwarzenegger's budget plan calls for an $880 million infusion from the federal government to pay for housing illegal immigrant prisoners who have committed crimes in California. The governor also wants to rely more on private prison companies to run the state's corrections facilities.

But he later gave an off-the-cuff suggestion that California should send its undocumented inmates to Mexico and help our southern neighbor build a new prison to house them.

"In the prison system alone, we can go and take inmates, for instance, the 20,000 inmates that are illegal immigrants that are here, and get them to Mexico," Schwarzenegger said.

The governor said California could save "half the costs" of incarceration by helping Mexico build a prison to house those inmates and then spend the savings on education. The governor, of course, has proposed an initiative that would require the state to spend more on higher education than prisons.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor has no official plan to send Mexico money to build a prison.

"It's an idea that people have mentioned to him," McLear said. "We need to spend less on prisons and more on higher education, and he thinks we ought to debate any creative solutions to do that."

Update: There appears to be a problem with the video embed. We will add the clip again once the glitch is fixed.

January 25, 2010
Senate education consultant Melinda Melendez , 61, dies

Longtime Senate staffer Melinda Melendez died Wednesday following a stroke. She was 61.

The senior education consultant to Democratic Sen. Gloria Romero devoted nearly 30 years to a career crafting state education policy.

Melendez first joined the Legislature in 1982, working as a senior consultant to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. She worked for numerous offices and committees, including serving as higher education adviser to former Assembly Speakers Antonio Villaraigosa and Robert Hertzberg and as principal education consultant for the Senate Office of Research. She also worked as a professor and as a legislative advocate for the Association of California School Administrators.

January 25, 2010
Looking deeper at Schwarzenegger's '78 cents' argument

To make his case that California doesn't get its fair share in federal money, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has relied heavily on a 2005 statistic showing the state only received 78 cents in federal spending for every dollar its taxpayers send to Washington. It's an argument that presumably resonates with Californians - which is why he used it again Saturday in his weekly radio address.

It is true that California receives less money back from the federal government than most other states do. But his use of the "78 cents" figure is misleading for the following reasons:

January 25, 2010
Perez to take Assembly Speaker's gavel March 1

Assemblyman John A. Perez will be sworn in March 1 to succeed Karen Bass as speaker of the house.

The two Los Angeles Democrats released a joint statement today, stressing that the transition will be amicable.

Bass labeled the event "one of the smoothest transitions in history."

"As we have been meeting and working together closely over these past few weeks, I know absolutely that John is more than ready, willing and able," Bass said.

Perez said he is excited to take the gavel.

"Even though this is one of the most challenging times in modern California history, I am confident that this can be a year of reform where we finally stabilize our budget situation and push forward with the hard work of creating decent, well-paying jobs," Perez said.

January 25, 2010
Schwarzenegger tardy to the party for meeting with CA lawmakers

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went to Washington last week to urge lawmakers to send more federal dollars to California.

But not that many heard his pitch -- in person at least. Roll Call newspaper's Heard on the Hill reports that fewer than half the members of California's congressional delegation made a meeting wtih the governor.

The entire 53-member Golden State delegation was invited to a meeting with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday afternoon, but HOH hears that when the guest of honor arrived 45 minutes late, only a handful of Members were waiting for him.

"People just couldn't stick around," says one staffer who saw the exodus. "They had other events on their schedules or planes to catch. Members of Congress don't just hang out for 45 minutes waiting for anyone."


January 25, 2010
Monday reading file

See which industry groups coughed up the cash to pay for meeting rooms, gourmet meals and swag bags at Republican legislators' recent retreat.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talks to NYT columnist Maureen Dowd about Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown's Senate victory.

Big-spending GOP guv hopeful Meg Whitman's new book hones in on the importance of being thrifty.

Casino-owning tribes are dropping big checks to support Attorney General Jerry Brown's presumed gubernatorial bid.

The plan to reduce some inmates to lower the prison population takes effect today.

With the deadline for applying to serve on the Citizens Redistricting Commission just a few weeks away, some critics are worried that the applicant pool isn't diverse enough.

January 25, 2010
Boxer, Feinstein split on whether to back Bernanke for new term

While Sen. Barbara Boxer said last week she wouldn't back Ben Bernanke's bid for another term as the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Sen. Dianne Feinstein made it clear this morning that she's sticking by the current chair, whose term expires Jan. 31.

"I believe it would be a mistake not to reconfirm Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. To blame one man for the financial implosion is simply wrong. ... Ben Bernanke has been helpful to the recovery and, for reasons of stability and continuity, should be reconfirmed. I support him fully." she said in a statement.

The ongoing recession and the multi-billion-dollar bailout of the nation's banks has put Bernanke in the hot seat. Bernanke's reconfirmation fate appeared unclear last week, but several key senators are now suggesting that he has the votes to be appointed to a second term.


January 25, 2010
AM Alert: Who thinks Schwarzenegger improved the state?

What a difference a few years makes.

Voters' dismal view of how Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing hasn't budged, according to the latest Field Poll released yesterday.

And nearly six of every 10 people polled -- including a majority of Republicans -- think the GOP governor will leave California in worse shape than when he took office.

In fact, only 7 percent think Schwarzenegger will leave the state better off than when he found it.

That's probably not how the movie-star-turned-politician thought his governorship would play out when he took office six-plus years ago.

But it's only fair to note that voters surveyed also hold a dismal view of how legislators are doing.

Speaking of legislators, both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled sessions for today.

Also on tap is a legislative hearing investigating the so-called "interchange" fees that banks charge on credit-card and debit-card transactions.

The Assembly Banking and Finance Committee will hear from representatives of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the California Credit Union League, banks, businesses and organizations about the impact of these fees, which advocates say cost California consumers and merchants $5 billion a year.

Look for that hearing in the Capitol's Room 444 starting at 2 p.m., or upon adjournment of session.

DIESEL RULES: The California Air Resources Board, which gave truckers something of a break last month on the state's tough diesel emissions rules, is holding a public workshop today on proposed changes. The meeting, which will be webcast, is at the board's Byron Sher Auditorium, 1001 I St., Sacramento, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A similar workshop will be held Tuesday in Fresno.

January 22, 2010
PM Alert: Cash crunch

In case you missed it:

State Controller John Chiang warned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators today that the state could run out of cash to pay its bills before the end of the fiscal year.

What acrostic expletive?

Journalists and historians looking for more info on former Gov. Jerry Brown's past terms have run into a little-known legal roadblock ... and more from the Friday reading file.

State schools Supt. Jack O'Connell delivered his swan song today.

Check out what campaign contributors and committees have been fined for failing to comply with state reporting rules -- and have yet to pay up.

Public employee union leader Willie Pelote is warning Democratic legislators not to acquiesce to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on slashing spending.

Check out Bee cartoonist Rex Babin's take on two strange political bedfellows.

A California city makes the "gayest burgs" list, and it's not San Francisco.

Legislation to require California grocery and convenience stores to charge shoppers for paper or plastic bags has been derailed.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Torey Van Oot reports that campaign violators who've missed financial disclosure deadlines have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in late fines that are supposed to get chipped into the state's cash-strapped general fund.

California wildlife officials want state game wardens exempted from furloughs like other law enforcement officers. Matt Weiser has that story.

The Bee's editorial board says that instead of sending in cops and prosecutors to root out fraud, the state could save more by reserving In-Home Supportive Services for recipients who are the most impaired and the most likely to have to go to nursing homes.

January 22, 2010
Expletive-laced veto message? Poof!

What acrostic expletive?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not issue a cryptic, expletive-laced veto message to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano last year after all, judging from a check of online legislative records.

The veto message that left the governor's office last October for Assembly Bill 1176 contained a profane acrostic message: The first letter of each line, read vertically, spelled out a two-word expletive starting with "F" and ending with "YOU."

Though it made national and international news at the time, the odd acrostic slap at Ammiano is nowhere to be found in the Legislature's own online tracking system for bills, www.leginfo.ca.gov

The words in Schwarzenegger's veto message system are the same, but each line is a little shorter than the original, wiping out the two-word acrostic expletive for anyone searching legislative records in decades to come.

Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's spokesman, said the governor did not request the change.

Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine, whose office maintains the online tracking system, said that such changes occur naturally because of differences in formatting between the Legislature's online system and the document sent from the governor's office.

In a random check of six other bills vetoed by Schwarzenegger last year, The Bee found that the visual appearance was exactly the same between the governor's document and the legislative Web site on four of the bills, but different on the other two.

January 22, 2010
Controller John Chiang warns of looming cash crunch

State Controller John Chiang warned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators today that the state could run out of cash to pay its bills before the end of the fiscal year and urged them to make $2.7 billion in "cash solutions" to avoid delays in payments.

Chiang didn't mention registered warrants, otherwise known as IOUs, which the state used to pay vendors last year when it hit a severe cash crunch. But his warning undercuts previous assurances from the governor and other officials that the state could make it through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, without another cash crisis.

A big test will come late in the period, when the state must repay billions of dollars in short-term loans called "revenue anticipation notes," that it floated last year. It cannot issue new RANs until it has a 2010-11 budget in place.

"My analysis of the governor's recently released revenue and expenditure estimates shows that the state's cash position for the remainder of the current fiscal year will be weak from approximately March 30 through April 21," Chiang said in a letter to his fellow officials.

"According to my projections," Chiang continued, "California will drop below its $2.5 billion prudent minimum cash balance on March 30 by $1.3 billion. On April 1, the state will be in the red by $197 million, and our resources to pay bills are not expected to return to safe levels until April 21.

"Barring any unforeseen circumstances, such as a spike in expenditures or precipitous decline in revenues, $2.7 billion in cash solutions are necessary to avoid a cash shortage in the current fiscal year."

Chiang's letter is available here, and his cash flow chart may be found here.

January 22, 2010
Friday reading file

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer says she'll vote "no" on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's bid for a second term.

Legislative Democrats' revival of a single-payer health care bill drew ire from Republicans.

It's radio silence for liberal talk radio station Air America.

More takes a look at Meg Whitman's pitch to female voters.

Journalists and historians looking for more info on AG and guv-hopeful Jerry Brown's past terms have run into a little-known legal roadblock.

It's no Mike Curb move, but see what action Brown did take during his brief stint as acting governor.

There's no consensus on proposed changes being considered by a joint legislative committee on governmental reform.

January 22, 2010
O'Connell cites school gains, laments budget cuts

State schools Supt. Jack O'Connell delivered his swan song today, citing "real gains" in academic achievement over his last seven years as the state's top educator but lamenting that financial support for schools is waning.

O'Connell, a former teacher who had a long career in the Legislature before becoming state schools superintendent in 2003, will be termed-out this year. He made his comments in his last "State of Education" address.

"California public school students have made real gains in achievement," O'Connell told an audience in a state auditorium. "Today, half of our students are proficient in English-language arts. Think about this: seven years ago only 35 percent of our students met this high bar. In mathematics, 46 percent of California's students are now at the proficient or above level - eleven points above where we were seven years ago."

However, he acknowledged that there's a stubborn "achievement gap" between white and Asian students on one side and Latino and black youngsters on the other, and lamented cutbacks in state aid to local school districts.

January 22, 2010
Fines for reporting violations -- see who's on the list

Capitol Alert has obtained a list of campaign contributors and committees who have been fined for failing to comply with state reporting rules -- and have yet to pay up.

The fines for each violation, which range from $10 to $21,250, result from a $10 per-day penalty issued to campaign donors who failed to file their financial disclosure forms by the reporting deadline.

In one case, a contributor late on multiple forms - the Sacramento County Democratic Central Committee - accumulated $104,000 in debt.

Hundreds of late filers have racked up a grand total of $888,730 in fines, all of which would go into the general fund.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Nicole Winger wrote in an e-mail that staff resource limitations and the fact that some contributor committees are terminated after the election cycle makes it difficult to collect the cash owed by the chronic debtors.

The list includes the names and the amount of money owed by violators who received a final demand for payment notice by Nov. 21. Several of the major violators on the list - such as the Sac Dems and Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth - have asked for time to address their delinquency or are in the process of negotiating settlements for a fine waiver or reduction, Winger said.

"It is important to note this report is a snapshot in time (November 21, 2009), and changes daily as fines are paid, assessed, waived, reduced or corrected due to clerical error," she wrote in an e-mail.

Some familiar names are on the list of violators and money owed, which you can check out yourself here. Click here to sort the violations by name or fine.


January 22, 2010
Union leader warns Dems about budget resolve

Public employee union leader Willie Pelote is warning Democratic legislators that if they acquiesce to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on slashing spending to close the state budget deficit, unions are "ready to hold legislators accountable for their actions in this election year."

Pelote, an assistant director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, issued his warning and a list of revenue-raising measures he and other union activists want enacted in an article published today on California Progress Report, a liberal Web site.

He said Schwarzenegger's new budget "promises more pain for Californians and is largely composed of ideas that were discarded during last July's mid-year budget revision," and added, "It is now time to see whether the Democratic majority will rediscover the courage of their convictions in order to stand up for ordinary Californians."

January 22, 2010
Rex Babin: Strange political bedfellows

babin8trial.jpg

Rex Babin is the political cartoonist for The Bee. You can see a collection of his work here.

January 22, 2010
One California city makes 'gayest burgs' list

The Advocate, a widely read gay publication, lists the nation's "15 gayest burgs" in its new issue and, perhaps surprisingly, just one California community made the list.

It's not San Francisco, widely believed to be the nation's gayest large city, nor even West Hollywood or Laguna Beach, two smaller communities with large gay populations.

It's San Diego, which was ranked No. 14 by what The Advocate describes as "intrepid amateur sociologist Mike Albo."

"Why San Diego when L.A. is so close?," The Advocate blurb on San Diego asks rhetorically. "The question almost answers itself. San Diego has always been more bi-friendly, mellower, less snooty, and a place to which L.A. gays frequently escape. Black's Beach is a famous nude sunning spot, and there's even an annual gay rodeo."

The Advocate's rankings were based on such factors as a community's ratio of same-sex couples, the state's receptiveness to gay marriage, the number of gay elected officials, the ratio of gay bars, and even the local preferences for gay films in Netflix orders.

Atlanta scored The Advocate's No. 1 ranking. The full list is available here.

January 22, 2010
Push to charge for shopping bags shelved -- for now

Legislation to require California grocery and convenience stores to charge shoppers for paper or plastic bags was derailed this week by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bills 68 and 87 would have required shoppers to pay 25 cents per single-use carry-out bag to reduce waste, promote reusable bags, and decrease the volume of plastic bags that litter waterways and pose a danger to wildlife.

Assemblyman Mike Davis, a Los Angeles Democrat who crafted AB 87, said he expects the issue to be revived later this year because cash-strapped local governments are increasingly struggling with litter cleanup.

The fee would have cost the state about $300,000 to implement and perhaps $1 million annually to enforce and collect, but it could have raised millions each year for cleanup, public service announcements, donations of reusable bags to community groups, and other litter-reduction efforts, according to committee analyses of the two bills.

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste, which lobbies on recycling issues, said the proposed 25-cent fee faced an uphill fight at a time when the state and its taxpayers are struggling financially.

"I think the idea of a high fee on single-use bags may be more than policymakers are prepared to swallow in light of the economy," Murray said. "I think there will be a look at a more modest (5- or 10-cent) proposal."

January 22, 2010
AM Alert: Gubernatorial Field

With 137 days until the June primary, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman has the edge among likely GOP primary voters, according to the Field Poll released today.

The former eBay executive, who announced yesterday that she was dropping another $20 million into her campaign, leads Republican rival Steve Poizner by 28 points, 45 percent to 17 percent.

That leaves more than a third of likely GOP primary voters undecided.

Still undeclared Attorney General Jerry Brown, the sole Democrat expected to jump in the race, posted double-digit margins over both GOP candidates in hypothetical matchups.

But both Republican hopefuls have gained ground against Brown since voters were polled about the governor's race in October.

Jack Chang has more on the numbers and what they mean in today's Bee. Click here to read the poll and statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

TICK-TOCK: Yesterday marked the one-month countdown to the deadline for confirming or rejecting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's lieutenant governor pick, Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado. If the Legislature doesn't act by midnight Feb. 21, the Santa Maria Republican automatically assumes the post.

BIRTHDAY: Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, turns 52 on Sunday.

January 21, 2010
PM Alert: Upping the ante

In case you missed it:

On day two in D.C., Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reiterated his pledge to capture more federal dollars for California.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass says pensions should be on the table as part of the budget fix.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has revived the bill that was targeted with a now-famous veto message from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Democrat quipped that he's declined the invitation spelled out in the acrostic.

Find out how today's Supreme Court ruling on corporate and labor campaign contributions is expected to affect the California Senate race.

GOP guv-hopeful Meg Whitman dropped another $20 million in personal funds into her campaign.

After just two months on the job, the CEO of the California Medical Association has stepped down to return to his old gig in Colorado.

A new study measures the impact of the recession on California schools.

Click here for the grand total of legislators' gift disclosure violations under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Tom Campbell holds an edge among GOP Senate hopefuls in today's Field Poll.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Kevin Yamamura has more on the impact that today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling is expected to have on California elections.

A San Francisco judge has ruled against California Association of Professional Scientists in its furlough lawsuit against the governor, reports Jon Ortiz.

Rob Hotakainen reports on day two of the Big 5's Washington trip.

The UC regents approved big pay raises for executives at the UC medical centers. Laurel Rosenhall has the story.

Jack Chang has The Field Poll's latest numbers in the governor's race.

The margins highlight the importance of independent voters in the upcoming election, writes columnist Dan Walters.

The state Supreme Court's move to strike down California's limits on the number of pot plants medicinal marijuana users can grow raises more questions in the already hazy pot legal landscape. Peter Hecht has the story.

"Buyer Beware" is the message The Bee editorial board sends to voters in the wake of today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on corporate campaign contributions.

January 21, 2010
Gilchrist steps down as CMA chief after two months on the job

Just two months after being tapped to head the California Medical Association, Alfred Gilchrist is going back to Colorado to resume his post as CEO of the Colorado Medical Society.

Click here for more from Bee colleague Bobby Caina Calvan.

January 21, 2010
Ammiano to governor: No way, Arnold

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano fired back Thursday, three months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed one of his bills with an acrostic message that raised eyebrows worldwide by spelling out an expletive abbreviated as "F-You."

Presenting a similar bill Thursday to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, Ammiano, an openly gay Democrat, noted that his previous bill on San Francisco public works financing had been colorfully vetoed.

"I reject the veto -- and the encrypted offer," Ammiano quipped Thursday, sparking laughter.

Schwarzenegger's profane message came days after the San Francisco lawmaker had greeted the Republican governor's appearance at a Democratic event with the words "you lie." Others said the lawmaker added "kiss my gay ass," but Ammiano said he doesn't recall that.

Asked about the acrostic profanity in the veto of Assembly Bill 1176, spokesman Aaron McLear denied that the jab was intentional. The expletive was visible when the first letters of consecutive lines were read vertically, top to bottom.

"My goodness, what a strange coincidence," McLear said. "I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen."

The two may be headed for more head-butting: Ammiano's new measure, Assembly Bill 1199, passed the Appropriations Committee on Thursday and is headed to the Assembly floor.

January 21, 2010
Arnold Schwarzenegger determined to deliver federal money

From Rob Hotakainen in the Washington Bureau:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrapped up two days of meetings in Washington today, determined and optimistic that he'll get $7 billion from the federal government to help balance his state's faltering budget.

"We're going to fight, and we are going to work together to get this money," the Republican governor told reporters this afternoon after meeting with Democrats and Republicans from the California congressional delegation.

Earlier in the afternoon, the governor met privately with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who held open the possibility of helping her state, which she noted has already received $85 billion under the stimulus approved last year.

"I think it was a good meeting and will lead to some productive actions and some good results," Pelosi said.

January 21, 2010
New UCLA study cites heavy impact on schools

California's severe recession and its chronic budget crisis are having a double-barreled impact on the state's K-12 schools, a new report by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA) concludes.

While the recession increases the stress on families, especially low-income families, the budget crisis is reducing state and local spending on education, making it more difficult for schools to cope, the study - the latest in an annual series entitled the California Educational Opportunity Report.

January 21, 2010
Schwarzenegger's aide takes a shot at Steinberg on pensions

crane.JPGAlthough Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature's two top leaders are supposedly working together this week on getting more federal money, they also seem to be doing some sniping.

Most obviously, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass accused Schwarzenegger of concentrating more on his gubernatorial legacy than on the budget and other pressing issues.

Today, one of Schwarzenegger's top aides, David Crane, took a shot at Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the Senate, for complaining about budget cuts that, Crane says, are partially caused by big boosts in public employee pension costs that Steinberg supported a decade ago.

January 21, 2010
Supreme Court decision could affect Barbara Boxer race

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling today overturning restrictions on independent spending by corporations and labor unions could have an immediate impact this year in California's U.S. Senate race.

California state campaign finance rules already allow corporations and unions to give directly to independent expenditure campaigns without limits, so the court decision will have little impact on state contests.

But the decision overturns federal rules requiring that corporations and unions establish political action committees, or PACs, to spend on elections. Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies and an architect of California campaign finance rules, said the ruling should have a greater impact for corporations, who have access to more money and have been less adept than unions at navigating PAC rules in the past.

As we reported today, Republicans in California believe they have a shot at unseating Sen. Barbara Boxer in November and were emboldened by Scott Brown's victory Tuesday in Massachusetts. Boxer leads all three GOP hopefuls in head-to-head matchups, but she is hovering at or below the 50 percent mark. Conventionally, that's a sign that an incumbent is vulnerable, but Boxer has a history of modest support in early polling.

"It certainly changes the Boxer race," Stern said. "It means corporations, without setting up a PAC, can spend as much as they want opposing Boxer."

January 21, 2010
Bottom line in FPPC probe: 66 gifts worth $8,500

The grand total in alleged public disclosure violations by dozens of California lawmakers is 66 gifts valued at more than $8,500, according to a review of Fair Political Practices Commission documents.

The gifts ranged from $390 for a Holiday Bowl college football game to $250 in green fees, $195 for admission to Sea World San Diego, $282 in Disneyland park-hopper tickets and numerous meals, receptions, beverage, parking or other tabs.

The FPPC revealed last week that 38 legislators had been sent notification letters of discrepancies in gifts they reported receiving and those that interest groups reported giving in 2008. A full list of legislators sent letters is posted after the jump.

The totals do not include alleged gift-disclosure violations by 15 legislative staff members.

Roman Porter, FPPC executive director, said Thursday that no conclusion has been reached that violations have occurred. His agency is reviewing written responses from legislators.

"It is important for the public to know who is attempting to influence elected officials and high-level government officials," Porter said, "so the public can determine for themselves whether there is a real or perceived conflict of interest."

January 21, 2010
Ammiano trying again after infamous veto

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed hundreds of bills during his six-plus years as California governor but none got the national and even international attention that his rejection last fall of a relatively minor measure dealing with infrastructure financing in San Francisco.

The first letters of every line of his veto message spelled out a profane message to the bill's author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who had greeted the Republican governor's surprise appearance at a Democratic event with the words "You lie" and and "Kiss my gay ass" a few days before the veto.

For those who haven't kept a copy of the now-famous veto message, it went this way:

"To the Members of the California State Assembly:

"I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.

"For some time now I have lamented the fact that major issues are overlooked while many
unnecessary bills come to me for consideration. Water reform, prison reform, and health
care are major issues my Administration has brought to the table, but the Legislature just
kicks the can down the alley.

"Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californians
overwhelmingly deserve. In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it is
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.

"Sincerely,

"Arnold Schwarzenegger"

The governor may get another shot at Ammiano this year since he has reintroduced the bill with a different number and it seems to be heading for approval. The new bill, AB 1199, has cleared its first committee hurdle.


January 21, 2010
Meg Whitman drops $20 million more into campaign war chest

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Whitman.JPG
GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman announced this morning that she has dropped another $20 million into her campaign coffer, bringing the total amount she has contributed to her campaign to $39 million.

Whitman's campaign also said it raised $10.2 million in 2009, ending the year with $30.5 million cash-on-hand, meaning the former eBay executive spent about $19 million in the past year.
"Meg's commitment to creating jobs, cutting spending and fixing education has won early and broad support among Californians," campaign manager Jillian Hasner said in a statement. "This contribution comes in addition to overwhelming donor support from Californians and shows how fully committed Meg is to winning this election and re-building this state."

This year's gubernatorial race is expected to eclipse previous spending records, especially with two super wealthy candidates going head-to-head in the Republican primary.

January 21, 2010
AM Alert: Scoring the Senate race

Tuesday's Senate victory for Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown jolted 2010 Senate contests across the country into the spotlight.

So how are the GOP candidates seeking to challenge California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer shaping up?

Tom Campbell leads the pack of hopefuls with the backing of 30 percent of likely Republican voters, according to a Field Poll released today.

That puts Campbell, who swapped his gubernatorial bid for a shot at the Senate just last week, five points ahead of former HP executive Carly Fiorina.

State Sen. Chuck DeVore trails both with support from 6 percent of likely voters.

Even so, 39 percent are still undecided. The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 7.1 points on the GOP primary.

Meanwhile, Boxer posted double-digit leads against could-be challengers but failed to cross the 50 percent threshold in any of the hypothetical match-ups.

The poll showed the three-term incumbent leading Campbell by 10 points, Fiorina by 15 points and DeVore by 17 points. The margin of error for the general election poll results is plus or minus 3.3 points.

Kevin Yamamura has more on the results in today's Bee. Click here to read the poll and statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

January 20, 2010
PM Alert: Acting the part

In case you missed it:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders are in Washington looking for more federal funds.

Guess who's acting governor while they're away?

Grab your crystal ball -- it's time to place your bet in Capitol Alert's annual budget pool.

Find out where AG hopeful Ted Lieu stands on Proposition 8, privatizing prisons and other issues.

A former state homeland security official -- and Schwarzenegger's body-building bud -- withdrew his nomination to head the federal Transportation Security Authority.

Sen. Gil Cedillo has launched his campaign for the 45th Assembly District seat.

GOP guv-hopeful Meg Whitman calls for welfare cuts in a new radio ad.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer's wife got a new gig from Schwarzenegger yesterday.

Republican Senate candidates didn't dilly-dally in sending congrats to Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown.

California's unemployment insurance fund has dropped into a deep hole.

Republican state Sen. Sam Aanestad got a double-special arrival today.

In tomorrow's Bee:

What does Republican Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate race mean for the future of health care reform? Bobby Caina Calvan has the story.

Rob Hotakainen reports on the first day of action as Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders make their case for cash in the nation's capital.

Kevin Yamamura has the Field Poll's latest numbers on the U.S. Senate race.

The State Worker columnist Jon Ortiz has two words state workers don't want to hear: minimum wage.

The Bee's editorial board says the Massachusetts election results show the Democrats need new resolve on health care reform.

January 20, 2010
Place your bet in the annual Budget Pool

Another year, another budget battle brewing on the horizon.

As Alert readers know, California's looking at a shortfall of about $20 billion over the next year and a half.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called a special session for legislators to address about half of that gap, but as colleague Kevin Yamamura reported in yesterday's Bee, the prospect that lawmakers will agree on a full budget fix in the near future doesn't look bright.

(The) Legislature, divided as ever along partisan lines in an election year, doesn't inspire much confidence that it will solve the budget anytime soon.

For starters, California should have enough cash to pay its bills until July. That means lawmakers and Schwarzenegger can negotiate all spring without the immediate specter of embarrassing IOUs.

While lawmakers were able to reach a difficult compromise last February to impose tax hikes and spending cuts, the repercussions of that agreement have encouraged both parties to hold their ground this time.

So when will the Legislature pass a budget bill that gets signed into law by Schwarzenegger?

Your guess is as good as ours.

Grab your crystal ball and tea leaves, because it's time for Capitol Alert's annual Budget Pool.

We're giving our faithful readers the chance to bet on the exact time and date the final budget package clears both houses. And we're not talking about the current-year fix the Legislature could tackle in the coming weeks -- we want you to take a guess at when the whole shebang gets sent to the governor's desk.

The reader who submits the closest guess takes home a grand prize of a $25 gift card to a capital coffee shop (readers hailing from beyond the Sactosphere will have the option to snag a Starbucks gift card).

Ready to play? Here are the rules:

Send your prediction our way at contest@capitolalert.com. Entries must include an exact day and time the budget will have passed through both houses of the Legislature and your full name in order to be eligible. All entries must be sent in by 11:59 a.m. (that's just before noon) on Friday, Jan. 22. (Click here for the full legal rules.)

The constitutional deadline for the Legislature to approve a budget is midnight on June 15. To help readers make an educated guess (if such a thing is possible), here's when the last two budgets cleared the Legislature:

  • 2009-2010 budget bill: About 7 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2009.
  • 2008-2009 budget: Past midnight on Sept. 16, 2008.

With that range, good luck leaning on history to make your guess. We'll hold on to the bids until the big day arrives and let you know which reader has the best crystal ball in town.

January 20, 2010
Q&A with Ted Lieu: Proposition 8 and other issues

Assemblyman Ted Lieu, a candidate for state attorney general, tackled a wide range of issues today in an hourlong question-and-answer session with The Bee's Capitol Bureau.

The Torrance assemblyman is running in a Democratic field that could include San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, Assemblymen Alberto Torrico and Pedro Nava, former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, and Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer.

Here is some of what Lieu said:

ON CAMPAIGN STRATEGY: A military reservist, Lieu said he benefits in the AG's race because most of his challengers are from Northern California -- and none of his competitors holds office in Southern California. "If I simply turn out parts of Southern California, I win. If I turn out parts of Southern California, plus veterans, this race will not be close."

January 20, 2010
Second initiative qualifies for June primary ballot

With the deadline for ballot measures to qualify for the June ballot quickly approaching, a second initiaitve has made the cut, the Secretary of State's office said today.

The measure, dubbed by propopentns

The measuer

permit insurance companies to offer a discount to drivers who have continuously maintained their auto insurance coverage, even if they change their insurance company

January 20, 2010
California has biggest unemployment fund shortfall

Chalk up another first for California.

ProPublica, a public-interest journalism service, surveys state unemployment insurance fund deficits and finds that California, by far, has dug itself into the nation's deepest hole.

With unemployment running over 12 percent, the state has already borrowed more than $6 billion from the federal government to keep unemployment insurance checks flowing. That's nearly three times as much as New York, the second biggest borrower of UI funds.

ProPublica notes that California began getting itself into UI trouble when, under former Gov. Gray Davis, it sharply increased UI benefits without raising payroll taxes on employers. Some states have already boosted such taxes, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature, preoccupied with state budget deficits, have largely ignored the mounting UI debt.

An interactive map that gives state-by-state details on UI solvency is available here.

January 20, 2010
Gil Cedillo makes 45th Assembly District bid official

Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, officially confirmed today that he will run for the 45th Assembly District. The announcement completes a cycle of seat swapping among three Los Angeles Democrats seeking a return to the Legislature in next fall's election.

"This decision fulfills a promise I made to my wife, to my family, and to my community to improve the quality of life for all Angelenos," Cedillo said in a statement.

January 20, 2010
Governor Jerry Brown?

Attorney General Jerry Brown has managed to secure another go-around as governor without even officially announcing his expected bid for the job.

With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass all in D.C. and that lonely "guv lite" spot still vacant, government code dictates that Secretary of State Debra Bowen takes charge as acting governor. But Bowen is also out of state, dealing with a family emergency, her office confirmed.

Next in line?

Attorney general, meaning Brown, who already served two-terms as governor, is acting governor until one of the four officials ahead of him in the line of succession returns to the state.

January 20, 2010
'Grandpa' Aanestad doubles his pleasure with birth of twins

Call him Grandpa Aanestad - again.

Sen. Sam Aanestad doubled his pleasure Tuesday with the birth of twin girls to his son, Erik, and daughter-in-law, Tiffani Aanestad.

Aanestad, who did not yet know the girls' names this morning, said they weighed 5 pounds 12 ounces and 5 pounds 3 ounces, respectively. The twins were born one minute apart, about 8:15 p.m.

"We're just ecstatic," Aanestad said. "What a blessing."

Aanestad said he wasn't able to attend the birth because "I was afraid I'd get caught in the snowstorm."

The Penn Valley Republican and his wife, Susan, have four other grandchildren by their two daughters.

January 20, 2010
New Meg Whitman radio ad proposes welfare cuts

Thumbnail image for Whitman.JPGGOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman takes aim at the state's welfare program in a new radio ad that she's unveiling today. Listen to the ad here.

She echoes rival Republican candidate Steve Poizner in proposing to cut state lifetime welfare limits from five to two years and pointing out that California claims about a third of the country's welfare recipients while its share of the national population is much lower.

"Some people worry that we're creating a welfare state," Whitman says in the ad."The fact is, California is the welfare state."

The ad is Whitman's first to address only one issue. Poizner has yet to buy any radio or TV advertising.

January 20, 2010
New Meg Whitman radio ad proposes welfare cuts

Thumbnail image for Whitman.JPGGOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman takes aim at the state's welfare program in a new radio ad that she's unveiling today. Listen to the ad here.

She echoes rival Republican candidate Steve Poizner in proposing to cut state lifetime welfare limits from five to two years and pointing out that California claims about a third of the country's welfare recipients while its share of the national population is much lower.

"Some people worry that we're creating a welfare state," Whitman says in the ad."The fact is, California is the welfare state."

The ad is Whitman's first to address only one issue. Poizner has yet to buy any radio or TV advertising.

January 20, 2010
Assembly Dems to take stage for karaoke event

State lawmakers have proven they can do the political dance, but can they sing?

We're not sure if we want to know the answer to that question, but if you do, tonight is your chance to find out.

More than a dozen Democratic state legislators take the stage for a karaoke contest of sorts at Capitol Garage tonight.

For $10 admission, attendees will see if Speaker-Elect John A. Pérez has pipes or if Assemblyman and stand-up comedian Tom Ammiano can carry a tune as well as he can create a laugh.

Other lower-house lawmakers expected to show include Democrats Jim Beall, Marty Block, Bob Blumenfield, Steve Bradford, Joe Coto, Mike Eng, Noreen Evans, Paul Fong, Mary Hayashi, Mary Salas, Sandre Swanson and Fiona Ma, the emcee and host of the event, according to an event organizer.

Proceeds from the 7 p.m. event go to the New Leaders Council, which aims to train and support progressive leaders.

January 20, 2010
GOP Senate candidates rush to congratulate Brown

After Republican Scott Brown won the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Ted Kennedy on Tuesday -- an improbable victory in a blue state -- all three GOP candidates running to unseat California Sen. Barbara Boxer rushed to congratulate Brown through press releases and Twitter.

By congratulations, of course, they meant to tell supporters, "If Brown can do it, so can I."

January 20, 2010
Former state homeland security official pulls out of TSA nomination

Saying his nomination was a "lightning rod" for political criticism, former California Department of Homeland Security official Erroll Southers today withdrew his name from consideration to be the next head of the Transportation Security Agency.

President Barack Obama announced in September that Southers, a top homeland security official with the Los Angeles International Airport police agency and assistant director of University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, was his pick to lead the TSA.

January 20, 2010
Lockyer's wife appointed to community colleges board

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer's wife got a new gig from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today.

Nadia Davis-Lockyer, a Democrat, was tapped to join the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.

Davis-Lockyer, who lives in Hayward, is the executive director and deputy district attorney of the Alameda County Family Justice Center. Before joining the Justice Center, Davis-Lockyer worked for Democratic lawmakers and as an attorney representing adults who suffered physical and sexual abuse as children, according to her bio. She also served as president of Santa Ana Unified School District from 2000 to 2001.

The position, which carries a $100 per diem, requires Senate confirmation.

January 20, 2010
AM Alert: Guv goes to Washington

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking his campaign for "federal fairness" to the nation's capital today.

Schwarzenegger's budget proposal banks on a $6.9 billion boost from the feds, as well as regulatory changes that would allow for $1.1 billion in additional spending cuts, to close the state's $19.9 billion budget shortfall.

The Legislative Analyst's Office summed up the chances of all that cash coming through as "almost nonexistent."

But the "Collectinator" and legislative leaders will make their case for more cash to Sen. Barbara Boxer and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this morning and Sen. Dianne Feinstein this afternoon.

Speaking of Washington, The Field Poll released today a poll on California voters' approval ratings of President Barack Obama at the end of his first term.

January 19, 2010
PM Alert: Departures and arrivals

In case you missed it:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders are DC-bound to ask for more cash assistance from the federal government. Find out who won't be hearing their pleas -- in person at least.

See which familiar face around the Capitol has got a Washington gig.

Schwarzenegger tapped a new chief deputy director for the Department of Finance.

Team Poizner announced the endorsement of a former GOP governor.

First-term GOP Assemblyman Danny Gilmore made it official that he won't seek re-election this year.

Money woes are on the minds of California voters, according to the newest Field Poll.

Assembly Republicans elected Martin Garrick as the next lower-house minority leader.

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman's mother, Margaret Whitman, died Monday at age 89.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Field Poll asked California voters to rate President Barack Obama's job performance after year one in office. Steve Wiegand reports on their response.

Jim Sanders has more on Martin Garrick's election as the next Republican leader of the Assembly.
.
As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected California's appeal of a lower court's order that the state draft and submit a plan to reduce its prison population, reports Denny Walsh.

Columnist Dan Walters traces Schwarzenegger's path from friend to foe of local government groups.

January 19, 2010
FMAP: A four-letter acronym

One of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's causes this week in Washington will be to fight for more Medicaid dollars under a formula known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP.

The governor has widely complained that California only gets a 50 percent share of cost on its Medicaid expenditures, the minimum percentage that states can get.

As this Kaiser Family Foundation chart shows, the state

January 19, 2010
Cynthia Bryant moves to Department of Finance post

Cynthia Bryant was named chief deputy director for the Department of Finance, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today.

Bryant, 51, has served in Schwarzenegger's administration since he took office in 2003. A former Assembly Republican staffer, Bryant was chief deputy legislative secretary for Schwarzenegger from 2003-2006 and a deputy chief of staff thereafter. Since last year, she also served as director of the California Recovery Task Force, which is overseeing the state's stimulus money.

Bryant replaces Tom Sheehy, who recently left Finance to become acting secretary for the State and Consumer Services Agency. She will earn $147,900.

Herb Schultz, a senior adviser to the governor, will take over as director of the California Recovery Task Force. Schultz, 47, had a high-profile role working on the governor's health care plan from 2006 to 2008.

January 19, 2010
CA Dems communications director to join Boxer's press shop

Former Capitol journalist and state Democratic Party flack Kate Folmar is heading to Washington to join the press shop of Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Boxer's office announced today that Folmar, whose most recent gig was working as communications director for the California Democratic Party, has been hired as the senator's press secretary.

Folmar's past experience includes 12 years as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times and a stint as press secretary for Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

January 19, 2010
No Obama meeting for Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislative leaders are heading to Washington, D.C., for a two-day visit starting tomorrow, but they won't have a chance to meet with President Barack Obama, according to Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear.

The governor asked for a meeting, but Obama declined for scheduling reasons, McLear said. Schwarzenegger hopes to meet with the president in February during the annual National Governors Association conference.

State leaders want to convince congressional members and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that California deserves more money than it currently receives. The state faces a $19.9 billion budget deficit, and Schwarzenegger is counting on $6.9 billion in direct federal aid, as well as regulatory changes that would allow the state to cut another $1.1 billion in spending.

McLear said the schedule calls for the California leaders to meet with Sen. Barbara Boxer at 10 a.m. and Sebelius at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Schwarzenegger will have lunch with the Republican congressional delegation at 12:30 p.m., and state leaders will have another meeting at 4 p.m. with Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

On Thursday, the California crew will meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the entire California congressional delegation.

Schwarzenegger has traded shots in recent weeks with Democrats Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi over whether Washington bears responsibility for California's budget problem.

Update (1:25 p.m.):
Schwarzenegger invited all four legislative leaders to fly to D.C. with him on his private redeye flight tonight, McLear said. But it won't be a post-partisan flight back East. The two Democratic leaders -- Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- flew out earlier today and are on the ground in Washington already. The two Republicans -- Assembly Republican Leader Sam Blakeslee and Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth -- are flying out with Schwarzenegger.

Update (2:05 p.m.): Schwarzenegger will have a private meeting with Obama in February during the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, McLear said this afternoon.

January 19, 2010
Martin Garrick chosen Assembly GOP leader

From Jim Sanders at the Capitol:

Martin Garrick, who touts himself as a "lifelong conservative advocate," was elected today as Assembly Republican leader.

Garrick will replace Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, who will be termed out this year, as head of the 28-member GOP caucus.

Garrick, of Solana Beach, is serving his second of three possible terms in the 74th Assembly District, representing parts of San Diego County.

The 56-year-old Solana Beach lawmaker, like nearly every GOP colleague, has signed a national pledge vowing to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes."
Garrick reinforced that commitment this month in comments about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed new budget, which did not seek sales or income taxes to help bridge a shortfall projected to reach $19.9 billion by July 2011.

"I have always said that when you find yourself in a hole you should stop digging," Garrick said in a written statement. "Californians are already burdened with the highest sales tax and the second highest income tax in the nation.

"Tax increases will not solve the structural budget deficit and will only extend the economic crisis gripping our state and nation," he said.

January 19, 2010
Gilmore officially bows out of AD30 re-election bid

As expected, first-term Republican Assemblyman Danny Gilmore announced today that he won't seek re-election this year, saying that though "there are those who enjoy political games and legislative intrigue. I'm just not one of them."

"If I could sum up in one word my feeling about serving in the Legislature that word would have to be frustration," he said in a statement. "This most recent phase of public service does not suit my family or me. Simply put, I do not have the temperament or personality to be a long-term politician."

The former California Highway Patrol assistant chief was the sole Republican to win a seat previously held by a Democrat in 2008. He edged out Democrat Fran Florez 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent.

His re-election bid was expected to be one of the most targeted state legislative races of the 2010 cycle.

A battle for the 30th District seat has been brewing for months, with a longstanding Central Valley political family feud spicing up the Democratic primary.

January 19, 2010
Deukmejian endorses Steve Poizner's gubernatorial bid

Former Republican Gov. George Deukmejian has endorsed GOP guv-hopeful Steve Poizner.

Watch Deukmejian, who served two terms as governor from 1983 to 1991, explain his decision in this video released by the Poizner campaign:

January 19, 2010
Meg Whitman releases statement on death of her mother

GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said today that her mother, Margaret Whitman, died last night at age 89.

Whitman, who in September tweeted this picture of the two celebrating the elder Whitman's 89th birthday, released a statement calling her mother a "beacon of integrity, loyalty, and inspiration in our family."

"I often say that I am my mother's daughter because she taught me from a very young age that the price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake. My mother loved doers. She never focused on the challenges, but rather on the opportunities. She encouraged me and everyone around her to follow their dreams and to test their limits. Together with my father, my mother inspired my brother, Hal, and my sister, Anne, and me to follow our passions, appreciate each individual's unique gifts, and, most of all, go out and do our very best. We will deeply miss her."

January 19, 2010
Garrick set to be named Assembly GOP leader today

martingarrick.jpgMartin Garrick is expected to be named Assembly Republican leader today in a closed-door caucus meeting at 11 a.m.

Garrick, of Solana Beach, would replace Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, who will be forced out of the Legislature by term limits.

Assemblywoman Connie Conway of Tulare, a rival for the leadership post, is expected to be a top lieutenant for Garrick as caucus chairwoman.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, confirmed off-the-record comments by other legislators this morning that Garrick had secured majority support of the 28-member GOP caucus to succeed Blakeslee.

"I worked very hard to get Martin a victory," Gaines said. "I'm pretty confident the votes are there, and that Martin will be our leader and Connie will be our caucus chair."

PHOTO: Garrick's Facebook page.

January 19, 2010
Harman Cooley

We've still got more than five months until the June primary, but Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley's entry into the attorney general's race has kicked the downticket Republican primary battle into full gear.

Cooley's rival for the Republican nomination, Sen. Tom Harman, came out swinging within 24 hours of Cooley's announcement that he would form an exploratory committee to start raising cash for a run, slamming his challenger for being soft on California's three-strikes law.

Now Harman's campaign is touting the results of a poll showing him 6 points ahead of Cooley among Republican voters.

There could be a third candidate joining the fray, too, with Champan Law School Dean reportedly mulling a run.

Whoever wins the GOP nomination will face the winner of a crowded field of Democratic candidates also vying to be the state's top law enforcement official. Those candidate include Facebook executive Chris Kelly, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Assemblymen Ted Lieu, Pedro Nava and Alberto Torrico.

January 19, 2010
AM Alert: Money on the mind

"Jobs, Jobs, Jobs."

Alert readers will recognize those words as the recent battle cry of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as he unveiled and touted his budget proposal and job creation plan.

That mantra and ongoing money woes are also on the minds of a majority of Californians, according to the latest Field Poll.

January 15, 2010
PM Alert: Going green?

Capitol Alert is taking the day off Monday. Look for the AM Alert is your inbox on Tuesday morning.

In case you missed it:

Are Californians ready to go Green in 2010?

Assembly Republicans are gearing up to pick a new leader. Find out who is in the running.

Can you guess which kiddo is lil Jerry Brown?

The newest entrant into the U.S. Senate race, Tom Campbell, stopped in Sacramento today.

Campbell has hired consulting firm McNally Temple to run the campaign.

Has the Florez-Parra family feud entered the lieutenant governor race?

In tomorrow's Bee:

Thirty-eight California legislators are under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission on suspicion of failing to disclose gifts ranging from expensive meals to concert tickets provided by interest groups. Jim Sanders and Phillip Reese have the story.

Jon Ortiz reports that Controller John Chiang received a legal slap on the wrist Friday as a state appellate court said that furloughed state correctional officers will keep getting reduced wages - at least for now.

How much of states' spending for Medicaid is covered by the federal government has become a hot issue in the debate on health care reform. Rob Hotakainen tells how California is affected.

The Bee editorial board calls on CalPERS to release more information about which investment houses hired so-called "placement agents" that lobbied for the board's business.

January 15, 2010
Wells

CNBC reporter Jane Wells has launched a gubernatorial bid.... well sort of.

Wells, who writes CNBC's "Funny Business" blog, has launched a fake gubernatorial campaign with the slogan "Vote for Jane, She Can't Be Any Worse!"

"As Gov, I will force SF to love LA, and I will force LA to stop calling SF "a pretty little town." Yes we can! #janeforgovshecantbeanyworse," the sharp-witted Wells tweeted Friday.

The comedienne has certainly made "out of the box" the theme of some of her "campaign pledges," like nominate Sully Sullenberger to actually serve her gubernatorial term.

"He can do anything, even navigate a "Miracle in Sacramento,'" she tweeted recently.

Jane's blog.

January 15, 2010
McNally Temple consulting for Tom Campbell

The consulting firm McNally Temple Associates signed onto Tom Campbell's senatorial campaign Thursday, just as Campbell was announcing he was switching from the governor's race to run for the U.S. Senate, said the firm's executive vice president, Richard Temple.

Campbell had not been working consistently with any political consultants in his gubernatorial bid but had hired Engage to handle new media and Chariot for press work.

McNally Temple has been known for working with moderate Republicans. Its current clients include former Assemblyman Russ Bogh, a Republican running in the 37th state Senate district, and Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, a Republican candidate in the 36th state Senate district.

January 15, 2010
VIDEO: Campbell's Sacramento campaign stop

Video by The Bee's Hector Amezcua.

January 15, 2010
Parra pair give Janice Hahn a hand in lieutenant governor race

There's nothing like a little bit of family feuding to spice up a Friday morning.

The Bakersfield Californian posted a little scooplet yesterday about father-daughter duo Nicole and Pete Parra showing "guv lite" hopeful Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn some love in the Central Valley.

It makes sense that the Hahn, a Democrat from Los Angeles, would seek an intra-party helping hand from Nicole, a former state legislator, and Pete, a former Kern County supervisor, to get introduced to valley Democrats.

But there's another detail worth noting: Hahn's rival for the Democratic nomination is Sen. Dean Florez.

The Florez and Parra families have long traded political blows, and now the Shafter Democrat's mother, Fran Florez, is expected to go tête-à-tête with Pete Parra in a battle to grab GOP Assemblyman Danny Gilmore's 30th Assembly District seat. (Gilmore, on his first term in office, has given signals that he might shy away from a second run).

We posted earlier this week that Hahn's entry into the race had caused Florez to re-evaluate his lieutenant governor bid. But the Shafter Democrat took a more certain tone when responding to a query from the Bakersfield paper: "My future plan is simple," he said. "100 percent running for lieutenant governor. That's it."

January 15, 2010
Gavin

San Francisco Mayor and former gubernatorial hopeful Gavin Newsom reached out to supporters today, but not for his now-canned gubernatoral bid.

In an e-mail,

As Republicans across the nation pour money into this election, there is a good chance that Martha's opponent can win in an upset. Without Martha Coakley in the Senate, health care for millions of Americans is in peril.

January 15, 2010
Jerry Brown: The early years

From the Jerry Brown files; a trip in the time machine.

And no, we're not talking about his presumed attempt to seek another go-around in the governor's office.

The attorney general has posted this class picture to his Twitter feed with the caption "From the archives - can you find me?"

brownkiddo.jpg

The grade school throw-back joins a hodgepodge of other pics the attorney general has posted to the Twittersphere. Other subjects include his dog Dharma Brown (on her birthday) , Francis Ford Coppola (with a caption about Coppola's mismatched sox) and a note he received from slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.

We'll try to find out which one is lil Jerry, but go ahead and take your guess for now. Update: Brown has tweeted the answer. See what it is after the jump.

January 15, 2010
Republicans jockey to succeed GOP leader Sam Blakeslee

Assembly Republicans Connie Conway and Martin Garrick are top contenders in the behind-the-scenes competition to succeed Sam Blakeslee as leader of the GOP caucus, according to a sampling of caucus members.

Curt Hagman and Jim Nielsen also are mentioned as candidates for the 28-member caucus's top spot.

A vote is expected soon, but no date has been set pending evidence that one candidate has secured support from a caucus majority.

Garrick, of Solana Beach, currently serves as an assistant caucus leader. Conway, of Tulare, is a floor whip; Hagman, of Chino Hills, is minority caucus floor leader; and Nielsen, of Gerber, is the GOP's point man on budget issues.

The Senate last week named its own new GOP leader, Sen. Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, to replace current leader Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta.

Both current leaders, Blakeslee and Hollingsworth, will be forced from the Legislature by term limits this year.

January 15, 2010
Are frustrated Californians ready to go Green?

Laura Wells.jpgWith approval ratings at record lows for Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democrat-dominated Legislature, it would be understandable if Californians started looking outside the two major parties for a savior.

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Laura Wells would like to be that alternative, and the Oakland woman came to Sacramento this week to announce her candidacy while preaching her message of budget reform and higher taxes on wealthy Californians.

Wells is a financial systems manager who lives in the Grand Lake neighborhood of Oakland. Like Republican candidate Meg Whitman, she has no previous elected experience and is emphasizing her outsider status in her campaign. She did run on the Green ticket for state controller in 2002 and 2006.

Unlike Whitman, the former CEO of online auction firm eBay, Wells does not have mega-bucks to spend on her campaign and is making do with a bare-bones team. She toured Sacramento with one press person in tow.

"The two parties, the Democrat and Republican parties, do not address the root causes of the problem," Wells said in a meeting with The Bee. "That's off the table for them. Mum's the word on it. And that is the way the system is structured in order to set up the budget. To get what we want and to have the revenue that pays for it we need to have a budget that makes sense."

January 15, 2010
AM Alert: Stops and swaps

In case you haven't had enough yet of GOP guv Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, he's swinging through Sacramento today.

Campbell, who announced yesterday that he's dropping his gubernatorial bid in favor for a Senate run, is speaking about his campaign at 9 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency.

In other seat-swapping news, as we reported last night, Assemblyman Kevin de León, D- Los Angeles, has decided to run for state Senate.

REPORT CARD: The California Small Business Association released this week an "honor roll" of 82 legislators they say fought for causes important to the small business community. See who made the list, which is broken into three tiers, here.

SERVICES: A funeral for Capitol staffer Will Smith, who died unexpectedly Monday, is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday. Click here for more information.

BIRTHDAY: Assemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach, turns 66 today.

January 14, 2010
PM Alert: Seat swaps

In case you missed it:

Kevin De León's decision to run for state Senate opens the door for more seat swaps in Los Angeles.

Tom Campbell made his campaign switch official.

Campbell says an internal poll shows him entering the race with a double-digit lead over both his rivals for the GOP Senate nomination.

A jog in the park turned into a life-or-death situation for one state legislator.

See what budget director Mike Genest is diving into next.

Did you spot the $19 trillion goof in the governor's budget proposal summary?

The Capital Fellows Programs was named one of the country's top internships.

In tomorrow's Bee:

Dale Kasler reports on the latest twist in the CalPERS placement agents controversy.

Columnist Dan Walters takes a look at recent action in a series of hot statewide races.

January 14, 2010
Kevin De León announces state Senate run

Assemblyman Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, announced today that he will run to replace termed-out Democrat Gil Cedillo in the 22nd Senate District

Assemblyman Kevin De León's state Senate bid opens the door for more seat swapping.

Cedillo had planned to run for a third and final term representing the 46th Assembly District, which he served for a little more than two terms before he was elected to the Senate. Under that plan, the current 46th District legislator, Assemblyman John A. Pérez, would have run for Cedillo's Senate seat.

But that plan was derailed when Pérez, was elected to be the next speaker of the Assembly. (Alert readers will recall that the final speakership showdown was staged between Pérez and de León).

During and in the immediate wake of the speaker fight, Cedillo pledged to soldier on with plans to run for his old seat, even floating a seat swap compromise between the three Los Angeles legislators.

But Cedillo has been mum about his plans of late, recently telling Capitol Alert that he would announce a decision about his future plans soon.

With de León's district up for grabs, it looks like all three could have a seat to seek in this round of legislative musical chairs. We'll keep you posted if and when Cedillo makes a 45th Assembly District run official.

January 14, 2010
U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell explains his switch

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Tom Campbell.JPGRepublican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell -- who until this morning was running for California governor -- told The Bee this afternoon that he switched races not only because he was facing two wealthy gubernatorial rivals, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, ready to spend tens of millions on their races but because he was alarmed at rising federal spending.

He spoke on his way from San Jose, where he had just finished a campaign event, to Sacramento, where he will hold another event at 9 a.m. Friday at the Hyatt Regency hotel. Campbell announced his switch this morning in Los Angeles.

"What we've seen in the last year is a tremendous growth of the federal government, tripling the deficit and an expansion of the federal role in health care and financial services," Campbell told The Bee. "The federal issues are just exploding in the last year."

Campbell said a poll conducted by the company of his communications director Jamie Fisfis showed him winning 31 percent of voters' support to 15 percent for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and 12 percent for Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine. The Field Poll found in October that Fiorina and DeVore each had the support a fifth of Republicans and did not include Campbell.

January 14, 2010
Assemblyman helps derail threatened suicide

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is a smooth-talking lawmaker - a talent that came in handy this week when the San Diego Republican convinced a man not to hang himself on a downtown Sacramento bike bridge over the American River.

The Sacramento Police Department confirmed today that two passers-by intervened Wednesday after spotting the man with one end of a rope tied around his neck and the other around a bikeway commonly known as the "Pipe Bridge" in northern Sacramento near North 18th Street. Their names were not immediately available.

Fletcher said he was jogging in the area when he spotted the suicidal man, then asked a passer-by to summon police and approached the distraught subject along with a homeless man who called himself "Squirrel."

"We sat out there for 20 or 30 minutes and just talked," Fletcher said. "The guy had lost his job, was having problems with his family and issues with law enforcement. He was just going through a rough period in his life.

"I said, 'Hey, you're still a young man - he was probably about 40 - you've got a lot of life to live.' "

January 14, 2010
Capital Fellows Programs top nation's best internships list

senate_seal.jpgMuch to the delight of young Capitol denizens working their way up the ranks, Sacto's own Capital Fellows Programs has been named one of the nation's No. 1 top 10 internships in career site Vault.com's annual internship rankings.

Here's how Forbes summed up the "combination of meaningful work experience, pay, perks and career opportunities" that earned the program the honor:

The 64 interns in the Sacramento, Calif., Capital Fellows Program do no less than help draft state laws.They also write speeches, conduct policy briefings and take part in graduate-level seminars in government and public policy. So steeped are they in the work of real-life policymaking that many get offered full-time jobs in California's state government when they finish the 10-month program, which runs from October to September. In addition, they get paid a handsome $1,972 a month, receive academic credit and get health insurance that includes dental and vision benefits.

Click here for the full article at Forbes.com.

Image: Senate seal via the Senate Fellows Web site.

UPDATE: Turns out Forbes (and, by linkage, CapAlert) got it a bit wrong: The Capital Fellows is on the Top Ten list, but the internships there are not intended to be ranked. The Capital Fellows Program does top the list on Vault.com and in the company's press release, but the internships are listed in alphabetical, not ranked, order, Vault's Jon Minners wrote us this morning.

January 14, 2010
State to Californians: We still owe you

Remember those $2.6 billion in registered warrants (a.k.a. IOUs) issued during last year's cash crunch?

The controller has been redeeming the "pay-you-later" notes since early September, but it seems scores of could-be payees have held on to the notes.

The state controller and treasurer are sending this letter tomorrow to remind 89,000 individuals and businesses to cash an estimated $50 million worth of of IOUs.

Have an IOU collecting dust? According to the controller, you can redeem your IOUs by mailing them to 915 Capitol Mall, Attention Registered Warrant Desk, Sacramento, CA 95814. You can also call 1‑888-864-2762 for more information.

January 14, 2010
State budget, Genest both underwater

The state budget is underwater and former budget director Mike Genest says he'll be there soon.

Genest, in an e-mail to Capitol acquaintances, said today that he's forming a consulting firm, Genest Consulting, and planning a long-delayed scuba-diving trip to the Philippines, "even though I feel a bit guilty about leaving while the state is struggling to solve its budget problem."

One of Genest Consulting's first clients will be California Forward, a bipartisan group that's promoting a series of governmental reform measures, including one that would overhaul the state budget process.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed that measure during his State of the State address last week. Its provisions include reducing the legislative vote margin on budgets from two-thirds to a simple majority.

January 14, 2010
Budget reader finds a $19 trillion error

trilliontable[1].jpgThe "summary" of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's new state budget is 192 pages long and somebody out there - one Charles Hagen of San Luis Obispo specifically - was reading it and found a $19 trillion error.

The document, available here for anyone who wants to emulate Hagen, contains a chart on Page 5, purporting to list Schwarzenegger's "solutions" for a projected $19.9 billion deficit.

The chart, however, actually describes $19.9 trillion in spending cuts, "alternative funding," hoped-for federal funds and other steps to close the gap.

"I've given up on trying to get the DOF to notice this," Hagen wrote in an email. H.D. Palmer, the Department of Finance's media man, quickly acknowledged the error, however, and said his bosses would fix it.

Click on the image for a larger version of the chart.

January 14, 2010
Tom Campbell switches to U.S. Senate race

Tom Campbell announced in a news release and video this morning that he was leaving the Republican gubernatorial race in California to run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Campbell says in the video that he will fight what he says is out-of-control federal spending in the U.S. Senate and accuses Boxer of contributing to the problem.

"I've strongly considered where I could serve and where I could do the most good," Campbell says. "Today I'm announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate, to represent California, to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer."

January 14, 2010
AM Alert: Campbell's next move?

UPDATE 9:30 a.m. Campbell made the switch official at about 9 a.m. Click here for more on his announcement.

Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell is expected to announce as soon as today that he's swapping his gubernatorial bid for a U.S. Senate run.

Campbell, whose resume also includes stints as a state senator, state finance director and professor, has events scheduled in Los Angeles and San Jose today.

Campbell, who has run for U.S. Senate twice before, also plans to hold an event in Sacramento on Friday morning.

The Orange County Fairgrounds heads to the auction block today.

The sale of the fairgrounds was included in last July's budget revision as a plan to raise cash for the state. Seven bidders put down a $50,000 deposit and initial offers by Monday's deadline.

The sale has sparked strong opposition from some Orange County groups that fear that the 150-acre plot will be developed for commercial purposes.

Assembly members Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, and Van Tran, R-Garden Grove, recently teamed up to push legislation that would strike the authorization of the sale from that budget bill. Their bill, AB 1590, was approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee earlier this week.

The auction will take place in Orange County, but you can watch it at the DGS Web site.

January 13, 2010
PM Alert: Dear Congress, send money

In case you missed it:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger penned another plea for cash to California's congressional delegation.

Senate Republicans officially made Bob Dutton their pick to succeed Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth as minority leader.

The assumptions in the governor's budget proposal were among the reasons S&P cited for docking California's credit-rating grade.

Leadfoot drivers may see higher fines as part of the governor's plan to close the budget gap.

A big financial backer of Proposition 11 has upped the ante on his bid to give the soon-to-be-created Citizens Redistricting Commission the power to redraw congressional lines.

Democratic Sen. Dean Florez is deciding whether to drop his "guv lite" bid.

Meanwhile, his GOP colleague Mimi Walters is gearing up for a treasurer run.

A memorial service for Senate staffer Will Smith, who died Monday, is planned for Saturday at 11 a.m.

Tom Campbell, who's expected to swap his gubernatorial bid for a Senate run, has a busy schedule for the next two days.

Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby is headed to the Assembly.

Find out how much the administration has spent to fight those furlough lawsuits.

In tomorrow's Bee:

The governor's proposal to replace the gas sales tax with an excise tax could lower prices at the pump, but it would be a blow to mass transit, reports Tony Bizjak.

Former state Treasurer Phil Angelides grilled the nation's top bankers in Washington at the first hearing of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which he chairs. Rob Hotakainen has the story.

The State Worker columnist Jon Ortiz sums up the latest skirmishes in the furlough wars.

And in a guest op-ed, Bruce Maiman argues it's time to remove pot from the war on drugs.

January 13, 2010
Senate Republicans elect Dutton as next leader

In a unanimous vote, the Senate Republican Caucus elected Sen. Bob Dutton as the next minority leader.

Dutton, who hails from Rancho Cucamonga, announced last week that he had enough support to succeed current Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth, who is termed out at the end of this year.

Don't expect any immediate changes though -- the transition isn't expected to take place until after work on the budget is complete.

UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Dutton said in a statement that he was "humbled and honored" by the vote.

"I intend to work closely with [Hollingsworth] to solve the important issues facing California residents," he said in a statement. "Our priorities include private sector job creation and balancing the budget with no new taxes."

January 13, 2010
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Dear Congress, send money

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent another letter to California's congressional delegation Wednesday asking for help in securing $6.9 billion, this time including past quotes from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein that the governor implies were contradictory to her criticisms of him last week.

In his budget plan and his State of the State address, Schwarzenegger attacked the federal health care overhaul and blamed Washington for not paying California its fair share in reimbursements and for overburdening the state with Medicaid regulations. Feinstein said in return, "California's budget crisis was created in Sacramento, not Washington."

Schwarzenegger wrote Wednesday, "There is no rational way to absolve Washington of any responsibility for state budget deficits until Congress acts to remove the barriers that prevent states from reducing spending as needed to live within our means. There is no rational way to say that California's budget deficit is not at least in part Washington's problem until Congress fixes flawed reimbursement formulas that cost California taxpayers billions of dollars each year."

January 13, 2010
'And in the most teeth-grindingly annoying category...'

Those of you who think political campaigns have degenerated to sickly slick advertising and PR efforts will feel vindicated -- or sickened -- to know that the 2010 Reed Awards finalists are out.

The what? They're prizes handed out in more than 70 categories by Politics magazine, which is basically a mag for those who make their living off the political process. Among this year's categories are -- and I am not making this up -- "Automated Phone Calls;" "Live Phone Calls;" "Best Bare-Knuckled Street Fight Victory;" "Best (TV) Ad That Never Saw the Light of Day," and "Best Villain."

On your way out to register to vote, take a look at the nominees here.

January 13, 2010
Mimi Walters launches bid for state treasurer

mimi.jpgSaying she wants to give taxpayers a "voice on the inside," Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, announced today that she is running for state treasurer.

The conservative Republican is seeking to be the GOP's pick to challenge incumbent Democratic Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

Walters, who has served in the state Legislature since 2004, launched her bid with a swipe at Lockyer's long career in state politics, framing the veteran pols as insiders "out of touch and out of ideas."

"Yesterday's politicians have proven they cannot fix today's problems. We need to clean house in Sacramento before we can get our financial house in order," she said in a statement.

H/T to conservative blog FlashReport for posting the news first.

January 13, 2010
Memorial service set for George Runner's chief of staff

A memorial service for Capitol staffer Will Smith has been set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Sacramento's Arcade Baptist Church.

Smith, chief of staff to Republican Sen. George Runner, died unexpectedly Monday after he collapsed while playing basketball. He was 41.

A memorial fund has been created for his wife, Anissa, and four children. More information is posted after the jump.

January 13, 2010
Standard & Poor's downgrades California's credit rating

Citing serious risks in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget plan, Standard & Poor's on Wednesday downgraded California's national-low credit rating from "A" to "A-minus."

The ratings house sees a gloomier picture this year for California's finances because "the state's options have narrowed considerably" and Schwarzenegger has made risky calculations in his latest budget plan to bridge a $19.9 billion deficit.

"We believe that, relative to the past fiscal year, uncertain assumptions for major portions of the budget balancing proposal make the state's credit more susceptible to adverse economic or other developments," Standard & Poor's wrote.

January 13, 2010
With Janice Hahn in race, Dean Florez reconsidering bid

Has Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's recent entry into the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor given her could-be rival Sen. Dean Florez cold feet?

Fresno Bee colleague E.J. Schultz reports that the Shafter Democrat is taking another look at his decision to run:

In an interview today, the Shafter Democrat emphasized that he is still "100%" in the race. But he said the next few weeks will be critical as he does more private polling on his chances of beating Los Angeles City Council Member Janice Hahn. Hahn, the sister of former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, enjoys high name recognition in voter-rich Southern California and has performed well in private polling.

"Janice Hahn is formidable, no doubt," Florez said. "I am going out to poll this next week and I'm anxious to see if the electorate has moved at all since her poll and I'm going to look at the poll and make a very informed decision."

Click here for more at the Fresno Bee news blog.

January 13, 2010
Prop 11 backer pours more cash into new redistricting push

Charles T. Munger, Jr., has dropped another $498,000 into his effort to expand the responsibilities of the Citizens Redistricting Commission to include redrawing congressional lines.

The donation brings the grand total Munger has reported chipping into the campaign account for his proposed ballot measure to $2,013,197.

Munger, whose father is a business partner of financier Warren Buffett, was one of the biggest backers of Proposition 11, the 2008 voter-approved initiative that took the post-census task of redrawing state legislative and Board of Equalization districts away from state lawmakers and gave it to a 14-member citizen panel.

Munger's measure, the Voters First Act for Congress, must collect 694,354 valid voter signatures by March 22 to qualify for the November ballot.

Meanwhile, another proposed initiative would give redistricting responsibilities back to lawmakers.

The Financial Accountability in Redistricting Act, filed by former Fair Political Practices Commission Chairman Daniel Lowenstein, is awaiting a title and summary from the Attorney General's office.

January 13, 2010
Tom Campbell campaign plans big events for Thursday, Friday

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Tom Campbell.JPGFollowing news reports that Tom Campbell will drop his GOP gubernatorial bid and run for the U.S. Senate, his campaign has just announced a spate of public events all over the state tomorrow and Friday.

Many within the Republican Party said they expect Campbell to announce his switch at the press events. The Bee and other media have already reported the Thursday events.

Campbell and his campaign have declined to comment on his plans.

You can read the e-mail announcing the events after the jump.

January 13, 2010
Cost of fighting furlough suits hits half-million

Capitol Bureau colleague Jon Ortiz reports over at the State Worker Blog that the state has now spent $513,933 on legal fees for furlough litigation.

Click here to read his post.

Jon is also keeping tabs on the 25 furlough lawsuits currently working their way through the courts in a spreadsheet you can view here.

Also on the furlough front, a battle between Controller John Chiang and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is heating up over whether a recent court decision means full pay should be restored for correctional officers. Andrew McIntosh has the story here.

January 13, 2010
Chris Norby wins 72nd Assembly District seat

Thumbnail image for Norbyphoto.jpgRepublican Chris Norby coasted to victory in yesterday's special election to replace ex-Assemblyman Mike Duvall.

Norby, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, won about 63 percent of the vote in the strong Republican district. His opponents, Democrat John MacMurray and Green Party candidate Jane Rands, won 31 and 6 percent of the vote respectively.

As expected, the special election saw low turnout, with about 14 percent of registered voters casting a ballot. About 80 percent of ballots cast were vote-by-mail.

Click here for the election results.

January 13, 2010
FPPC looks to shore up

The Fair Political Practices Commission will consider enacting stricter disclosure


Click here for the full agenda.

January 13, 2010
Another increased fine to help balance California's budget

We've written about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to install speed cameras at intersections to ticket leadfoot drivers and contribute $338 million toward the state's general fund budget.

The governor's plan also includes a separate fine increase equal to 20 percent of base fines for crimes and driving offenses. For instance, speeding between 16 and 25 miles per hour over the speed limit on a highway results in a base fine of $70 and $266 in total fees. Schwarzenegger's plan would add $14 to that speeding ticket.

The money would go toward a new dedicated fund to pay for the state's forensic labs and save the state $45 million in general fund costs.

January 13, 2010
AM Alert: Tax proposals and parties

In last week's State of the State address, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wondered whether the tax reform recommendations submitted by the Commission on the 21st Century Economy had "somehow disappeared under this dome."

"Maybe the pig and the pony have taken it," he quipped, urging legislators to take swift action on the proposals.

Democrats' response on the likelihood that they'd approve the full scope of the commission's controversial proposals: fat chance.

Legislators are moving forward today with plans to overhaul the tax structure -- they just happen to be different plans.

The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee is holding a 9 a.m. hearing to consider alternatives to the tax commission's recommendations.

BIPARTISAN BASH: We hear the "Assembly Bipartisan Caucus" has a new leader: San Francisco Democrat Fiona Ma.

Ma offered to take over for Democratic Assemblyman Hector De La Torre , who is termed out this year, as the organizer of the unofficial social gatherings for lower house lawmakers.

"Obviously, what we try to do is foster relationships across the aisle," Ma said. "Many of us feel that it is important to get to know each other outside of work socially, and that actually translates into better working relationships inside the building."

Ma's first event? An after-work get-together at The Mix to fete Speaker-elect John A. Pérez.

January 12, 2010
PM Alert: Chiang and the correctional officers

In case you missed it:

Controller John Chiang says he's going to restore full pay to furloughed correctional officers to comply with a recent court decision on furloughs.

The chief of staff to Republican Sen. George Runner died unexpectedly Monday at age 41.

GOP guv-hopeful Tom Campbell appears poised to drop out of the gubernatorial race for a Senate run.

The Legislative Analyst called the chances of a central part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget plan succeeding "almost nonexistent."

Export traffic is up from last year, but the slight increase is "scarcely worth toasting," says the UC's trade adviser.

It's election day in the 72nd Assembly District, where voters will choose a new representative to replace ex-Assemblyman Mike Duvall. Polls close at 8 p.m. Results will be posted here.

Will a former state legislator running for another round in the Legislature revive his effort to require record companies to put warning labels on albums if the discs contained satanic messages when played backwards?

In tomorrow's Bee:

Andrew McIntosh has more on Chiang's furlough move and the administration's response.

A three-judge panel has accepted the Schwarzenegger administration's plan to address prison overcrowding, reports Denny Walsh.

Jack Chang reports on the growing expectation that Campbell's departure from the gubernatorial race is "imminent."

A proposal to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee today. Peter Hecht has the story.

The history of marriage was the central theme of today's testimony at the Proposition 8 trial, reports Susan Ferriss.

Kevin Yamamura breaks down the LAO's not-so-glowing review of the governor's budget proposal.

Columnist Dan Walters writes that the governor is "blue-skying" his plan with "fanciful and politically unrealistic notions."

January 12, 2010
Ballot watch: First initiative qualifies for June primary

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced yesterday the first initiative to secure enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the June primary ballot.

The measure, titled the "The Taxpayers Right to Vote Act," would require plans to use public funds or bond money to expand electricity to new customers or territory or implement a community choice program for electricity are approved by two-thirds of voters in that municipality.

The initiative's spot on the ballot brings the total number of measures Californians will vote on in the June primary so far to four; three proposals have already been placed on the ballot by lawmakers. One other initiative, , is awaiting signature verification.

January 12, 2010
760 schools sign MOUs for Race to the Top funds

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released today a list of 760 local educational agencies that have committed to partnering with the state on implementing the school reforms submitted as part of the state's application for Race to the Top competitve grants.

Districts had until last Friday to sign the non-binding agrement, dubbed a memorandum of understanding. California faces a Jan. 19 deadline for applying for a piece of the $4.35 billion in federal dollars being doled out through the program.

Click here to view the full list.

January 12, 2010
'Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?'

The friendly folks at the Franchise Tax Board are out with a reminder that it's state income tax season, and would like to point out a few changes for this year, courtesy of the governor and Legislature:

• The personal income tax rates are up 0.25 percent for 2009 and 2010.
• The standard deduction levels are down.
• So is the personal exemption credit.
• Estimated tax payment percentages are up for the first half of the year, and taxpayers who are required to pay backup withholding taxes to the IRS generally must fork over 7 percent to the FTB as well.

Oh yeah: "Due to limited resources," the board advises, "reaching a customer service representative in the call center or in an FTB field office may be more difficult this upcoming filing season."

Otherwise, have fun filing...

January 12, 2010
It's on the record: Wyman is running

Proving once again that you can take the politician out of Sacramento, but not Sacramento out of the politician, former San Joaquin Valley legislator Phil Wyman says he wants to be a solon again.

The Republican, who served in the Assembly from 1979 to 1992 and in the state Senate from 1993 to 1994, announced today he's seeking the 16th Senate district seat currently held by Democrat Dean Florez, who's termed out. The district covers parts of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. The district's been in Demo hands since 1994, when Wyman lost a close contest to Jim Costa, who's now in Congress.

A self-described rancher/businessman, the 64-year-old Wyman is a rock-ribbed conservative. How conservative? Well, he once carried a bill that would have required record companies to put warning labels on albums if the discs contained satanic messages when played backwards. (It didn't pass.)

January 12, 2010
LAO: Schwarzenegger's assumptions for federal aid unrealistic

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office on Tuesday deemed "almost nonexistent" the chances that California will receive anywhere near the roughly $8 billion in federal aid and waivers that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is counting on in his budget plan.

In its initial review of Schwarzenegger's budget, which you can read here, LAO said California is likely to fall "several billion dollars" short of the amount the governor relies upon to balance his $82.9 billion general fund spending plan in 2010-11.

LAO excluded the governor's $1 billion reserve from the state's deficit figure, portraying the governor's deficit as an $18.9 billion problem. LAO said the governor's Department of Finance has offered a "reasonable" estimate of the budget gap but warned that lawsuits and overly optimistic revenue assumptions create plenty of "downside risk" in his budget.

January 12, 2010
Tom Campbell to switch races?

Thumbnail image for Tom Campbell.JPG

Update: The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that Campbell campaign sources confirm he will run for the U.S. Senate.


GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Campbell has canceled his appearance at a governor's forum in Los Angeles Thursday night and has scheduled his own event for that morning at the Crown Plaza hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, according to Jane Barnett, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County.

Campbell has been widely rumored to be considering switching races to seek the Republican nomination for U.S. senator, against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. He's badly trailing GOP gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner in fundraising.

In an interview Monday with The Bee, Campbell said he had nothing to say about the rumors.

Campaign spokesman Jamie Fisfis wrote in an e-mail, "I can't confim anything at this time. We'll have an announcement at some point and it will be advised in time for planning."

The newspaper The Hill, wrote in its blog this morning: "Former Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) appears primed to switch from California's governor's race to its Senate race, and it looks like he will make an announcement Thursday morning."

January 12, 2010
California export traffic increases slightly

After months of decline, exports through California's ports increased slightly in November from the same month of 2008, according to an analysis of new Department of Commerce data.

The analysis by University of California trade advisor Jock O'Connell pointed out that the fractional gain in exports traffic through California, from $10.75 billion in November, 2008, to $10.95 billion last November, is much less than thje robust overall increased in U.S. export trade as the nation emerges from recession. And November's number was also lower than October's.

"Even after adjusting for inflation, this November's export total represents a slight gain over November of 2008," O'Connell said. "Still, when overall U.S. exports increased by 11.1 percent during the same year-over-year period, California's accomplishment is scarcely worth toasting."

Later today, O'Connell corrected his data. "Unfortunately," he said, "I transposed some numbers in my earlier calculations and, as a result, inflated the increase in overall U.S. exports. In actuality, U.S. exports in November were off by 2.9 percent from the preceding November."

The state's exports of manufactured goods were down 2.1 percent from last November. By contrast, exports of agricultural goods and other non-manufactured products jumped by 29.8 percent over the same period, while re-exports of goods previously imported into the state showed no real gain.

"We've peeking around an important corner here, not fully turning it," O'Connell said.

There's also a marked difference in activity between Southern California ports and those in the northern part of the state. While the number of loaded containers leaving ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach increased by 11.4 percent from the previous year, the Port of Oakland's export trade jumped by 39.7 percent.

A similar discrepancy was noted in export shipments from Los Angeles International Airport, up 4.6 percent, and those from San Francisco International, up 11.7 percent.

January 12, 2010
Poizner AB32


A bill with the same goal -- AB 118 -- was failed on a party-line vote by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee yesterday.

January 12, 2010
Chief of staff to Sen. George Runner dies

Thumbnail image for Will.jpgWill Smith, chief of staff to Republican Sen. George Runner, died Monday night after he collapsed while playing basketball. He was 41.

Smith, who grew up in Weaverville and attended Sacramento State, first came to the Capitol as an Assembly Fellow.

In 1996, Smith joined Runner's Assembly staff. For the next 14 years, he worked in various capacities in Runner's Assembly and Senate offices, as well as for Runner's wife, former Assemblywoman Sharon Runner.

"He was just an incredibly loyal individual. He was loyal obviously to us, but he was loyal to his passions, to his faith," George Runner said. "He was loyal to his conservative convictions, but yet he did it in a way that no matter where you were and who you were you respected him."

January 12, 2010
AM Alert: Pot and poker

Update 11:08 a.m.: The bill was approved by the committee by a 4-3 vote.

A bill to decriminalize, regulate and tax marijuana is heating things up in the Capitol today as a legislative committee considers repealing the nearly century-old prohibition of the drug.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee is set to vote on AB 390, which would add a $50-per-ounce tax on marijuana sold for recreational use.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, today's hearing marks the first time in U.S. history that any state legislative committee votes on a proposal that would make marijuana legal, taxed, and regulated..

January 11, 2010
Wolk, Wiggins lose big in committee shake-up

Sen. Lois Wolk, wasn't shy about her disdain for the water package passed last fall -- or Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's role in crafting the agreement.

The Davis Democrat emerged from last week's reorganization of Senate committee rosters with just two of the seven committee assignments she previously held.

Coincidence?

January 11, 2010