Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 30, 2011
Jerry Brown has cancerous growth removed from nose

Gov. Jerry Brown underwent a medical procedure yesterday to remove a cancerous growth from his nose, his office said today. The procedure has caused the 73-year-old governor to cancel his scheduled appearance at the California Democratic Convention on Sunday.

The procedure was scheduled after tests showed the presence of a slow-growing form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, in a growth on the right side of his nose, according to his office.

All the detected cancerous cells were removed and Brown was released from the doctor's office yesterday to his home, where he is working today.

Brown, who needed some reconstructive surgery as a result of the procedure, does not plan to attend any public events until the stitches are removed from his nose, according to his office.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Brown was released from a hospital. The procedure was done at a doctor's office.

April 30, 2011
Feinstein rails against GOP, Tea Party at Democratic convention

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein took the stage at the at the state Democratic Party convention today to rally the base with a stinging rebuke of Republicans in the U.S. House.

"In the five months since Republicans have taken control of the House they have tried to systematically disassemble the American dream," she said.

Feinstein praised fellow Democrats and President Barack Obama for standing up to GOP demands to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, but called the budget proposal for next year introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the "next act in the assault on women, seniors and working people"

She cast the fundamental challenge of the country the conservative Tea Party movement's "singular mission to cut government so it cannot serve our people."

"In reality, the Tea Party has no plans for job creation and economic recovery. What they have is a radical, ideological agenda to dismantle the social and economic safety net of our country," she said.

Feinstein called for a stronger, more comprehensive national policy on nuclear power, saying being vigilant about safety and establishing a protocol for storing nuclear waste over the long term are top priorities.

"There are great lessons to be learned from Japan and we have some problems and some issues that need to be sorted out," she said.

She also applauded the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy and pledged to fight to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But she warned that a victory for the gay-rights community is "not going to happen tomorrow or next month."

"We must right this wrong and it is going to be another long march," she said.

The 77-year-old Democrat called on delegates to come together to re-elect Obama and win the House and Senate in 2012, but was notably mum on her own re-election bid.

A serious GOP challenger has yet to emerge but the four-term senator, who won her last re-election bid by with nearly 60 percent of the vote, reported having more than $4.3 million cash on hand as of her late March federal campaign filing.

She declined questions on her impending campaign after the speech except to say it is her plan is to run again in 2012.

April 30, 2011
Ami Bera pins CD3 rematch hopes on name ID, new district

Despite attracting big bucks and lots of buzz, Democrat Ami Bera's 2010 challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Lungren fell seven percentage points short of a win last November.

But the Elk Grove Democrat said he expects increased name identification and an existing volunteer and support base will help shift the odds in his favor as he gears up for a potential rematch against Lungren.

"We're starting from a very different point," Bera said in an interview at the California Democratic Party convention this weekend.

Bera's camp is also hoping predictions that the currently GOP-leaning 3rd Congressional District will become more moderate under the maps being drafted by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will give him a better shot with voters.

There won't be any real indication of whether that scenario is likely to pan out until the new panel releases its preliminary political maps in early June. It's also yet to be seen whether any additional Democrats will jump in the race and how the new top-two primary system will impact the final matchup.

But Bera was in full-blown campaign mode as he and his staff roamed the Convention Center halls, shaking hands with delegates, dishing up talking points from his platform and dinging House Republicans.

"We've got to start creating jobs," he said. "We're going backwards and our representatives should be fighting day and night to get jobs, to get people working again."

April 30, 2011
Jerry Brown names Steve Glazer to CSU board post

Steve Glazer, the political adviser who helped steer Gov. Jerry Brown to victory last year, won an appointment Saturday to the California State University Board of Trustees.

Glazer, who has volunteered his time as a consultant to the governor since January, has been expected to run the campaign if Brown's tax extension proposal reaches the ballot.

On Saturday, Brown named the 53-year-old Democrat to the higher ed board, which will grapple with funding cuts given the state's current budget difficulties. Assuming Senate confirmation, he'll receive $100 per diem for expenses.

Glazer, who has long worked for Democratic politicians ranging from then-Assemblyman Gray Davis and then-Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti, is president of Glazer & Associates, a strategic and communications consulting company.

He also serves as vice mayor of the Orinda City Council and as a board member of the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority.

April 30, 2011
Burton: Obama must motivate Democrats for wins in 2012

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton has an offer for the protesters who paid five-figures to interrupt a recent San Francisco fundraiser for President Barack Obama .

"They pay $78-grand, they can come back and insult me... they can take a dump in my salad for $78-grand," the famously foul-mouthed former Democratic legislator and congressman quipped to a group of reporters on the opening night of the state party convention.

On a more serious note, Burton laid out the challenge Obama faces in firing up his base and winning over critics within his own party as he gears up to seek a second term.

"I think a lot of our people are very concerned about the three wars. They're concerned about the spending, too," he said. "They're concerned that that we're spending all this money on three wars and cutting funds for education and poor people and those are cases that have to be made by the president and his campaign."

Burton said he believed the president would win California 53 percent to 47 percent without any added effort -- compared to the 61 percent share he took in 2008.

Whether Obama can generate a high level of enthusiasm for his second bid could matter for California Democrats. Burton said spillover from a successful presidential campaign could help sweep down-ticket Democrats to victory in 2012, a boost that could matter more if the congressional and state legislative district maps drawn by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission produce more competitive races.

"The president's the guy on the ballot and the motivation's got to come from Washington," he said.

But Burton also said he expects Democrats to turn out to fight back against policies being pushed by Republicans controlling the U.S. House and statehouses across the country, saying proposals to cut Medicare and Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan should be "enough to scare the bejeezus out of anybody."

Just as important as hitting the GOP platform, Burton said, will be highlighting success of the health care law and other political victories in Obama's first term.

"The challenge for us in the Democratic Party is to tell people what the deal is in a positive way," he said.

April 30, 2011
VIDEO: Gavin Newsom talks tax election, targeted cuts

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom isn't on board with the idea some fellow Democrats have raised to target GOP districts with steeper budget cuts if Republican legislators fail to support a budget deal that involves continuing higher tax rates.

"That's not the fault of those that are in those districts that their leadership are recalcitrant and I don't think we should hurt those who need us the most," Newsom told reporters on the first day of the state party's three-day convention.

The San Francisco Democrat said he believes legislators will be able to come to an agreement to resolve the remaining $15.4 billion deficit without resorting to an all-cuts solution. But he said while he supports Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to ask voters to ratify $11 billion in higher tax rates, he sees a scenario where it would be "acceptable" for Brown to go back on that pledge.

Find out what that would be and see his full argument against targeting GOP districts with cuts in the video clips below.

April 29, 2011
Torlakson cancels annual ceremony for California's top schools

Schools, you just won the state's highest honors. Where are you headed next?

Not to Disneyland.

California schools chief Tom Torlakson has canceled an annual awards ceremony for more than 300 top performing schools in light of a new Department of Education ban on non-essential state travel. The California School Recognition celebration was slated to take place May 20 at the Disneyland Hotel.

It's believed to be the first time the state has canceled the annual gala in the 25-year-old program's history, though there was no party in the initial years, said Craig Cheslog, principal adviser to Torlakson.

"The celebration was the culmination of months, even years of work by school communities to improve student performance and to close the achievement gap," Torlakson wrote Friday in a letter to local school officials.

"This year, however, our state's budget crisis will affect even this joyous program," he continued. "In light of the fiscal emergency facing our schools and my decision to restrict non-essential travel in a way similar to the Governor's recent Executive Order, I have made the difficult decision to cancel this year's awards event."

The winning schools include: 97 California Distinguished Schools, 209 Title I Academic Achievement recipients and 33 National Blue Ribbon nominees. Some schools won more than one award.

The event estimated state costs of $265,000, including $228,000 for the ceremony and $37,000 in travel costs for 40 Department of Education staff members, Cheslog said. Torlakson instituted his own non-essential travel ban today, three days after Gov. Jerry Brown said state workers could only go on trips that were "mission critical."

Representatives from the schools pay their own way, and it would have been up to districts whether they could have used public funding, Cheslog said. Torlakson didn't want schools paying for the trip as they are facing deep cuts in the unresolved state budget.

Disneyland may be the "Happiest Place on Earth," but parents know it is hardly the cheapest. Based on an Internet search this afternoon, a standard room at the Disneyland Hotel costs $432.90 a night, with taxes, on the weekend of May 20-22, though that is likely more expensive than the advance group rate.

Asked whether his department had considered relocating to a cheaper spot, Cheslog said, "We can't do that with an event this large on such short notice." He said that the awards ceremony had taken place at Disneyland as long as there has been a dinner.

April 29, 2011
Poll: Californians still like reading

Notwithstanding the proliferation of movies, television channels, video games, smart phones and iPads, Californians still read a lot of books, a new University of Southern California Dornsife/ Los Angeles Times poll has found.

The poll discovered that two-thirds of Californians say they like reading "a lot" and a fourth read at least one book a week -- including the electronic versions. Nearly a fifth of those surveyed said they owned an iPad, Kindle or other electronic reading device.

The poll included reading in its array of mostly political questions because the USC campus was to play host this weekend to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which is expected to draw 150,000 book lovers.

It found that 61 percent of those surveyed spend at least three hours a week reading books, including 31 percent who spend at least seven hours and 17 percent who devote more than 10 hours a week to reading. Eighty percent said they have read at least one book in the past month and 40 percent at least three books in the last month.

"These results reinforce quantitatively what we experience anecdotally: that people continue eagerly turning to books, in all their forms, for wisdom, entertainment, and exploration," said Catherine Quinlan, dean of USC's libraries.

The poll found that more Californians said they buy books in brick-and-mortar bookstores than online, but the single most popular source of books is the library. More than a quarter of respondents said they get the majority of their books from local libraries.

April 29, 2011
GOP retired major general picked to head Veterans Affairs

Gov. Jerry Brown today named a Republican retired major general with more than 35 years of service with the California National Guard as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Retired Maj. Gen. Peter James Gravett became the first African American division commander in the history of the U.S. National Guard when he was promoted to the post in 1999. His assignments included serving in a Partnership for Peace program in Kiev, Ukraine.

Gravett, 69, most recently served as state chairman for the Southern California Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Committee and principal business associate at Traiden Global Solutions.

The Rolling Hills Estates Republican, who retired in 2002, replaces acting Secretary Rocky J. Chavez, an appointee from the Schwarzenegger administration.

The position, which comes with a salary of $175,000 a year, requires Senate confirmation.

April 29, 2011
Assembly members waffle on Pérez's bill to dissolve Vernon

Two Democrats changed their vote Thursday, leaving Assemblyman Tony Mendoza of Artesia as the only party member not to support Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's bill to dissolve the city of Vernon in Los Angeles County.

Pérez is pushing Assembly Bill 46 as a top legislative priority for him, but the bill is opposed by a powerful team of labor and business groups, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, said the city of fewer than 100 residents is so small that there are no effective checks and balances against what he calls an "unacceptable and unprecedented level of corruption" in Vernon.

Seventy-two of the Assembly's 79 members were registered earlier this month as co-authors of AB 46, but only 58 voted yes in Thursday's roll call, indicating that a blistering lobbying campaign is taking a toll.

Once the measure's fate was decided Thursday, four Assembly members changed their vote from an abstention to a yes: Democrats Tom Ammiano of San Francisco and Mary Hayashi of Castro Valley, and Republicans Bill Berryhill of Ceres and Jeff Miller of Corona.

The legislative record now shows the bill passing by a vote of 62-7.

Fred MacFarlane, Vernon spokesman, released a letter to Pérez in which nine Republicans listed as co-authors of AB 46 said they no longer support disincorporation of the city that is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the attorney general's office into issues that include massive salaries paid to its leaders in years past.

"Unfortunately, after further review and information gathering, we believe that disincorporation puts at risk thousands of jobs and tens of millions of tax revenues for the state and region," said the Republicans' letter, dated April 27, one day before the Assembly's floor vote. "We cannot support that."

The letter was signed by Assembly Republicans Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Steve Knight of Palmdale, Don Wagner of Irvine, Dan Logue of Linda, Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, Jeff Miller of Corona, Brian Jones of Santee, Bill Berryhill of Ceres, and Jim Nielsen of Gerber.

The waffling of Miller and Berryhill, perhaps, are most intriguing: Initially co-authors of AB 46, they signed the letter saying they no longer support it, then abstained on Thursday's roll call but later changed their vote to yes.

David Cox, Miller's spokesman, said the Corona Republican signed the GOP letter because he did not feel that AB 46 contained adequate job protections. He later voted yes because Pérez expressed a willingness to amend his bill in the future to address such concerns, Cox said.

Berryhill's office did not comment publicly today about his machinations on AB 46.

Mendoza, the only Democrat not to support AB 46, told The Bee that he fears the bill's impact on jobs in Vernon.

April 29, 2011
DMV warns hybrid owners their carpool access ends in July

The Department of Motor Vehicles will likely stop sending registration renewal notices next month, but it still plans to make use of the postal system.

The department said today it will mail 85,000 letters to owners of hybrid vehicles, warning them that they will no longer be able to use carpool lanes as of July. Early adopters of hybrid vehicles received yellow stickers granting them special access to those lanes.

Under legislation passed last year, DMV will create a new sticker by 2012 for 40,000 vehicles that meet stricter emissions criteria than many current hybrid cars.

April 29, 2011
Columbia Law School draws new California congressional maps

Students at New York City's Columbia Law School have taken a stab at redrawing California's 53 congressional districts to comply with new census data and state and federal guidelines, beating the state's new redistricting commission to the punch.

The 14-member commission is now conducting hearings throughout the state and is due to release preliminary legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district maps in June. As that process continues, a Columbia Law School class taught by redistricting expert Nathaniel Persily delved into California's 53 congressional districts.

The first-ever Columbia effort used what it calls "state-of-the-art software to come up with new district boundaries that reflect changes in demographics, party affiliation and population shifts."

Students Kristine Van Hamersveld and Jessie Riggin said in their narrative report on the project that "California's current congressional districts are, to put it bluntly, messy. They are not compact. They do not respect political subdivision lines nor do they consider communities of interest. When looking at these lines, it is beyond obvious that good government considerations took a backseat to partisan politics. Suffice it to say, it would be difficult to make a plan less respectful of standard redistricting principles."

The current maps were the product of a bipartisan legislative deal aimed at preserving the numerical status quo of the Legislature and the state's congressional delegation. Just one of the state's congressional districts has changed hands in the five election cycles since.

The Columbia plan, among other things expands the number of districts with majorities of Latino voting age residents from 13 to 14, reflecting the strong growth of Latinos in the state during the last decade. The commission's plan is also expected to expand Latino-majority districts in both Congress and the Legislature.

The full Columbia congressional plan can be found here.

April 29, 2011
State lowers population estimate due to census

State demographers, who once calculated California's population at more than 38 million, have downsized their estimates to align them with the 2010 census and now say California had 37.5 million people on Jan. 1.

The state gained 287,000 residents during 2010, the Department of Finance's demographic unit calculated, for a one-year growth rate of just 0.8 percent, one of the lowest rates in recent history. In the 1980s, for instance, the state was growing at a rate of about 2.5 percent per year.

The Department of Finance and the Census Bureau were at odds during the last decade over how many people resided in California, with the gap between their competing estimates reaching 1.5 million prior to the census. The official count last year pretty much confirmed the Census Bureau's view, although it's widely believed that the census missed many residents, particularly illegal immigrants, in Southern California cities.

Regardless, the census became the official base and the state felt compelled to adjust its own numbers to it, resulting in Friday's estimate of 37.5 million. The city-by-city and county-by-county detail indicates that even with slow overall growth, California's coastal cities are continuing to lag behind inland areas in growth rates.

Los Angeles, by far California's largest city at 3.8 million, grew by just 0.4 percent - half the state rate -- during 2010, for instance, while Riverside County's Desert Hot Springs was the state's fastest growing community at 5.9 percent.

The full report, including detail on cities and counties, can be found here.

April 29, 2011
Senate budget hearing a gerrymanding special

When the state Senate announced the location of today's 1:30 p.m. budget hearing at the Cal Poly Pomona, it was hard for us to tell whose district it was in.

Senate maps show the Pomona campus right on the edge of the dividing line between districts represented by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

The location of budget hearings and press conferences has been of great interest because legislative Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown are trying to get their message across in the backyards of GOP lawmakers, who have opposed any more taxes.

For the official answer, we turned to Press Enterprise mapping guru and Capitol Bureau Chief Jim Miller. He determined that, thanks to gerrymandering, the line splits right through the campus.

Based on a campus map and Miller's analysis, it appears the Fruit/Crops Unit, citrus orchards and student housing are in McLeod's district. But the Bronco Student Center where the hearing will take place is in Huff's district. The campus hedged its bets in a press release, noting that the campus was in both of their districts.

"The hearing is in my district," Huff said. "But the actual address and some student housing in Pomona are in her district."

This will likely cease to be an issue when the redistricting commission releases its new preliminary maps in June. Voters handed the commission power to draw state legislative boundaries three years ago with these kinds of mapping peculiarities in mind.

April 29, 2011
AM Alert: It's the Democrats' turn for party time

Gavin and Gavin Unplugged.JPGIt's California Democratic Party time.

The Golden State's Dems are holding their state convention in Sacramento today through Sunday.

What's on the schedule at the convention center and elsewhere? Delegates probably won't want to miss Gavin and Gavin.

That would be Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw, who'll be performing a special acoustic set tonight at District 30 in downtown Sacramento.

The event is being sponsored by a slew of unions, including the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California Faculty Association, California School Employees Association, California Medical Association and California Nurses Association.

Saturday's events feature luncheon speaker U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who'll hold forth at dinner.

In between, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- who's one of two independents in the current Congress -- is keynote speaker at Saturday's general session. That starts at 1:30 p.m.

Later, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma and the Sacramento chapter of the New Leaders Council are hosting a karaoke night Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. at Simon's, 1415 16th St.

Click here for the convention's agenda and special events.

Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee heads to Pomona in the south state's Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino counties to hear from law enforcement officials and representatives of public schools, colleges and universities, and local governments about the potential effects of an all-cuts budget.

The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. at Cal Poly Pomona, Building 35 in the Ursa Major Room of the Bronco Student Center, 3801 West Temple Ave. It will also be streamed live at sbud.senate.ca.gov.

Click here for the agenda and a list of speakers.

The committee has also put together a document detailing how the counties' law enforcement agencies would be affected by so-called "realignment" funded by an extension of the vehicle license fee. The document also lists schools, colleges and universities supported by the state's general fund. Click here to read it.

SPRING CONVENTION: The Junior Leagues of California are in Sacramento today through Monday, when more than 100 women are expected to participate in the annual Day at the Capitol. Click here for more information.

NEW JOB: Former California Public Utilities Commissioner Rachelle Chong has been named Comcast's new regional vice president of government affairs for California. Chong, a Schwarzenegger appointee, served on the CPUC from 2006-2009. She previously served for three years on the Federal Communications Commission.

April 28, 2011
Sue Burr appointed director of State Board of Education

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a former Elk Grove Unified School District administrator as executive director of the State Board of Education.

Sue Burr, 57, of Rancho Murieta, will advise Brown on education policy, legislation and budget matters, college readiness, teacher credentialing, early childhood education and school construction.

Burr has served many local and state organizations, most recently as executive director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.

Before that, she was an assistant superintendent with Elk Grove Unified, undersecretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, and co-director of the California State University Institute for Education Reform. She has also been a consultant to the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Currently Burr is on the board of directors for EdSource and the Sacramento Children's Home.

The position, which pays $175,000 a year, does not require Senate confirmation. The Democrat replaces the board's interim executive director, Patricia de Cos.

Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, said he is excited about what Burr will bring to the board.

"Ms. Burr's position will enhance the board's linkages to the governor on a wide variety of crucial education issues," Kirst said in a statement.

April 28, 2011
Bill targeting Fran Florez's commission post gets the ax

Fran Florez shouldn't expect GOP Sen. Tony Strickland to send her flowers congratulating her on her new job.

A Senate committee today killed his bill to eliminate the very commission she'll be joining.

The Senate Rules Committee has appointed the two-time Democratic Assembly candidate and mother of former Democratic Sen. Dean Florez to the California Medical Assistance Commission.

Senate Bill 256 would have dissolved the commission and transferred its job of coordinating Medi-Cal contracts with hospitals to the Department of Health Care Services.

Strickland slammed the 3-6 rejection by the Senate Health Committee, saying in a statement that legislators "cannot afford to ignore areas where we can trim the fat" during the current fiscal crisis.

"With the responsibilities of this commission dwindling over the years, it is high time we consolidate efforts and reduce government expenses," the Moorpark Republican's statement said.

Florez will receive an annual salary of $56,095, plus travel expenses, for her 20-month term on the seven-member board, which meets roughly 24 times a year.

A fiscal impact report for the bill had not been released, but a committee analysis says that the commission's work negotiating Medi-Cal contracts with hospitals saves the general fund $479 million a year. The analysis also raised concerns about the logistics and timing of shifting the commission's responsibilities to the department.

Another Strickland bill targeting paid commission posts also failed to make it out of a policy committee this week. Senate Bill 153 would have removed the $100,000-plus annual salaries granted to members of a handful of state boards.

April 28, 2011
Legislature seeking to halt DMV notices to buy time on budget

RB DMV Line.JPGUpdated at 3:40 p.m. to include Department of Finance comments.

To buy negotiating time for Gov. Jerry Brown's tax extensions, lawmakers are seeking to halt Department of Motor Vehicles notices for drivers whose vehicle registration expires in July and later.

Under current law, DMV must send notices at least 60 days before a renewal due date. That means the department is required to notify motorists by May 2 if their vehicle registrations are up for renewal on July 1.

Because lawmakers haven't agreed to extend the 2009 vehicle license fee increase, drivers are poised to receive a 0.5 percentage point reduction in their VLF starting July 1. The fee is currently a 1.15 percent tax on the estimated value of a vehicle. On a $15,000 car, the difference in rates would be $75.

Democrats still hope to persuade Republicans to extend the higher VLF rate beyond June. But they don't want drivers to receive renewal notices quoting lower VLF rates now, only to have DMV ask them for more money later this year. That would frustrate drivers and likely undermine support for Brown's tax plan.

So the Assembly approved a bill Thursday that directs DMV to delay sending renewal notices starting with drivers whose registrations are due July 1. That buys at least another month of time for Democrats to negotiate with Republicans on maintaining higher VLF rates. Democrats say the money is needed to avoid deep cuts in local law enforcement programs.

"This just avoids a lot of confusion and allows us to keep the option open of extending the status quo," said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.

Brown's Department of Finance pushed for the change, according to Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer. The bill does not specify when DMV should send out notices; Palmer said it allows the department to wait until July 1 if need be. If there is no agreement to extend taxes by that date, the VLF rate would return to the lower 0.65 percent of vehicle value.

April 28, 2011
Jerry Brown pulls plug on building San Quentin's new death row

MC_SAN QUENTIN_GALLERY.19.JPGGov. Jerry Brown pulled the plug today on plans to construct a new housing facility for condemned inmates at San Quentin.

Brown said in a statement that he believes it would "be unconscionable to earmark $356 million for a new and improved death row while making severe cuts to education and programs that serve the most vulnerable among us."

That bill would add an estimated $28.5 million general fund costs in annual debt service payments, his office said.

"At a time when children, the disabled and seniors face painful cuts to essential programs, the State of California cannot justify a massive expenditure of public dollars for the worst criminals in our state," said Brown. "California will have to find another way to address the housing needs of condemned inmates."

The project, which has been in the works since 2003, was designed to house 1,152 inmates. There are currently fewer than 700 inmates on California's death row, according to Brown's office.

PHOTO CREDIT: Doors lead to the old gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison, Sept. 21, 2010. Manny Crisostomo, Sacramento Bee.

April 28, 2011
Assembly passes ban on renting cars with safety defects

Legislation to ban rental companies from selling or renting cars subject to a federal safety recall narrowly passed the Assembly today.

Assembly Bill 753 lacked five votes on the first roll call, but managed to corral the necessary majority before the day's session ended, passing 42-26. Most Republicans opposed the bill.

The bill was crafted in the memory of Raechel Houck, 24, and her 20-year-old sister, Jacqueline, who were killed seven years ago in a fiery head-on collision on Highway 101 in Monterey County while driving a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser to their Santa Cruz home.

The crash occurred about one month after Enterprise, the company that rented the Cruiser to the Houcks, had received notice from Chrysler that such vehicles could catch fire because of a defective steering component, according to a legislative committee analysis.

Lawmakers opposed to AB 753 argued that it was too broad and could cover defects that do not necessarily pose immediate risks to successful operation of the car or the safety of its driver.

Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon said the bill should be narrowed to life-threatening defects, excluding things like a broken windshield wiper or a defective climate knob.

Assemblyman Bill Monning countered that AB 753 targets only safety defects and that even a broken windshield wiper can be a major hazard on a dark, stormy night with someone driving an unfamiliar car on a two-lane highway.

"Consumers need to know that when they rent a vehicle, it's safe for them and for their family," said Monning, who crafted AB 753.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

April 28, 2011
Fran Florez appointed to state Medical Assistance Commission

BB FLOREZ MOM 039.JPGThe Senate Rules Committee has appointed the mother of former Sen. Dean Florez to a paid post on the California Medical Assistance Commission.

Fran Florez, a former Shafter councilwoman and San Joaquin Hospital community board member, lost a November bid for the 30th Assembly District to Republican David Valadao.

The Shafter Democrat, who also ran for the Assembly in 2008, has served on the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Her term on the board, which coordinates health care services for Medi-Cal recipients, comes with an annual salary of $56,095 and ends Jan. 1, 2013.

Senate Rules also announced that it appointed Nora E. Vargas, a former aide to former Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, to the Osteopathic Medical Board of California. Vargas is the vice president of community engagement for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. The Chula Vista Democrat formerly served on the Dental Board of California and the Physician Assistant Committee. She was director of Hahn's Office of Immigrant Affairs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Then Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and his mom, then Assembly candidate Fran Florez, leave the Senate chambers together, Monday Oct. 22, 2007. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:30 p.m. to add Florez's salary.

April 28, 2011
Assembly votes to dissolve city of Vernon in high-stakes brawl

A California city may be dissolved for the first time in nearly 40 years under hotly contested legislation that cleared the Assembly today.

The measure by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez targets the tiny Los Angeles County city of Vernon, which has only about 100 residents but is a rich industrial hub with a virtual army of lobbyists to fight the bill.

Assembly Bill 46 would transfer Vernon's duties and obligations to the county of Los Angeles. The issue is a big-money brawl pitting the Assembly leader against some of the Capitol's most powerful lobbyists, hired with city funds.

The Assembly passed the bill 58-7, sending the legislation to the Senate.

April 28, 2011
California led nation in pension fund losses

All state public pension funds lost money in 2009 as their stock and property investments tanked, a new Census Bureau report says, but California's systems accounted for a huge share of the losses.

The state has three major pension systems - one covering state and many local workers, one for teachers and one for University of California employees - and collectively assets dropped from $476.2 billion during the 2007-08 fiscal year to $340.2 billion a year later.

That $136 billion loss of value represented 21.2 percent of all state pension fund value declines during the year, even though the state has about 12 percent of the nation's population and had less than 18 percent of the all state pension fund assets.

The new data add fuel to the already burning controversy over the long-term viability of public pensions in California, both state and local.

Republicans have demanded pension reforms as part of any state budget deal, while Democrats and their allies in public worker unions have resisted wholesale changes, contending that recent investment gains are restoring pension fund health. But recent polls also indicate that were major pension changes placed on the ballot, voters would approve them handily.

The Census Bureau's statistical report reveals that nationwide, state pension fund assets declined from $2.7 trillion in 2008 to $2 trillion in 2009. It includes a state-by-state breakdown of income, outgo, investment gains and losses and net value.

During 2009, California's funds distributed $23.6 billion to pensioners and those withdrawing from the systems. They took in $6.4 billion from employee payroll deductions and $10.7 billion from government employers while losing $105.2 billion on investments.

April 28, 2011
AM Alert: Jerry Brown, PTA bound

Gov. Jerry Brown is making another foray to the south state today.

First up, the 112th annual convention of the California State PTA. Brown will be speaking at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center at 4:30 p.m.

The governor will then attend the 30th annual award dinner for the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs, named for his dad. That event is at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Public Policy Institute of California lays out its annual statewide survey on Californians and education, which looks at views on the state's budget gap, challenges for the K-12 system and other issues. The event runs from noon to 1:30 p.m at the CSAC Conference Center. Click here for more information.

As Bee colleague Kevin Yamamura reports, most voters the PPIC surveyed still support Brown's special election to resolve the state deficit, but they send mixed messages when it comes to approving taxes on the ballot. Find his post on Capitol Alert.

Closer to the dome, Caltrans will honor 175 fallen state transportation workers, including a man killed last year by a suspected drunken driver. You'll find 10th Street closed between L and N streets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The workers memorial starts at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

Meanwhile, local and state law enforcement officials hold their own remembrance commemorating officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. That ceremony starts at noon at the Sacramento Police & Sheriff's Memorial at 500 Arden Way.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: Both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled floor sessions for 9 a.m. Track bills and issues moving through the houses' committees here and here.

RAIL RELOCATION: Local, state and federal officials will be on hand in the Sacramento railyards to mark the groundbreaking of the rail relocation project. Expected to attend the 10 a.m. event: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and others.

TEXAS TRIP: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway and Republican Assembly members Dan Logue, Kristin Olsen and Shannon Grove join others to talk about their recent trip to Texas and unveil 30 measures they're calling the 2011 "California Jobs First" bill package. The news conference starts at 11 a.m. at the Carl's Jr. restaurant at 2615 Broadway, Sacramento.

TANNING BEDS: Sen. Ted Lieu highlights his Senate Bill 746 to ban youths under age 18 from using indoor tanning booths at a news conference starting at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 1190. The bill is sponsored by the California Society of Dermatology & Dermatological Surgery and the Aim at Melanoma Foundation.

LABOR DINNER: Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones heads to Stockton to speak to the North Valley Labor Federation tonight at the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium. The anniversary dinner starts at 5:30 p.m.

FEM DEMS: The Fem Dems of Sacramento honor Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, tonight at its spring reception and silent auction at Barton Art Gallery, 1723 I St. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Click here for more information.

April 27, 2011
PPIC Poll: Voters favor election, mixed bag on taxes

Most California voters still support Gov. Jerry Brown's special election to resolve the state deficit, but they send mixed messages when it comes to approving taxes on the ballot, the latest Public Policy Institute of California survey shows.

The Democratic governor is trying to convince lawmakers to place taxes on a statewide ballot at some point this year despite falling short in his initial pursuit of a June election. The PPIC poll found 56 percent of likely voters still think the special election is a good idea.

When presented with details of Brown's plan, including the fact that Brown's temporary tax increases would spare K-12 schools from cuts, 61 percent of likely voters said they favor his plan.

But when asked specifically about an increase in higher personal income taxes to pay for K-12 education, 62 percent of voters said they oppose the idea. And 61 percent said they oppose higher sales taxes for schools. Brown has proposed maintaining higher sales taxes and retroactively extending higher income taxes for five years as part of his budget solution.

"To me, it underscores generally the challenge of going to voters and asking them to raise their taxes," said PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare. "It would need to be very carefully placed in a package that involves a clear and consistent message about the balance between spending cuts and anything on the revenue side."

The only tax idea that won support in the PPIC poll was raising income taxes on the rich - which garnered 68 percent support. Brown and legislative leaders so far have not seriously considered that idea to solve the remaining $15.4 billion deficit, but the California Federation of Teachers is sponsoring a bill to raise taxes by 1 percent on income above $500,000 to raise an estimated $2.3 billion. That proposal is Assembly Bill 1130 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

It is difficult to compare this poll's results to PPIC's previous surveys on special election taxes. Previous polls asked voters about tax extensions, a phrasing this poll did not use. Baldassare said this particular PPIC poll was an annual survey on education issues which asks each year specifically about tax increases, so its questions were not necessarily determinative of how taxes would be framed should there be a special election.

Elsewhere in the survey, likely voters gave Brown a 46 percent approval rating, higher than the 41 percent he received in March. They gave the Legislature a 14 percent approval mark, close to the 16 percent in March.

PPIC found that only 23 percent of Californians knew that both student test scores and per pupil spending ranked below the national average. More than eight in 10 (83 percent) prefer local rather than state control over schools, a preference made difficult by the fact that state government controls the purse strings in the wake of Proposition 13.

A majority of Californians (56 percent) said their local public schools do not get enough money, while 76 percent of public school parents said state budget cuts had affected their children's campus.

Most Californians said that teacher salaries should be closely (29 percent) or somewhat closely (40 percent) tied to student performance. Support for performance-based pay cut across ideologies, with 65 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans in support.

April 27, 2011
Teachers still calling for Legislature to scuttle election idea

A top adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown suggested Wednesday the governor would veto legislative tax proposals that do not require voter approval, but the California Teachers Association remains steadfast in its belief that lawmakers should pass taxes without going to the ballot.

Brown aide Steve Glazer posted on Twitter this morning that if there's two-thirds legislative support for taxes, "there's 2/3 to override Gov veto."

California Teachers Association President David Sanchez said later that the Education Coalition, which includes a variety of school organizations, still does not believe taxes should be settled at the ballot. Sanchez first made this point two weeks ago, and CTA launched a statewide ad last week urging lawmakers to solve the budget without further cuts.

Sanchez emphasized that a fall election would be a disaster for school districts because they need confidence in their 2011-12 funding level before the school year begins. He again said it would be difficult to persuade voters to pass taxes in September.

Contrary to the position taken by Brown, Sanchez posited that it would be easier to persuade Republicans to pass taxes in the Capitol outright because they'd only have to make a tough vote once this year rather than deal with more cuts should voters reject taxes.

"If you extend taxes by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, it's done and over with," Sanchez said.

Brown's special election remains popular among voters even after his first attempt to call one in June fell short. A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll last week showed that 60 percent of voters support having an election, though fewer voters -- 52 percent -- support the higher tax rates Brown has proposed for the ballot.

One idea under consideration is for the Legislature to maintain higher tax rates past June and then call a special election in September in which voters consider whether to extend them further.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday at the Sacramento Press Club he is supportive of bypassing an election to get more tax revenues. But he added that arguing about the mechanism to increase taxes was of lesser importance than getting at least two Republicans in each house to support them, one way or another.

"I'm not looking to distance myself from the governor," Steinberg said. "If we can get the revenue and make an agreement with the Republicans without an election, of course that would save the schools and it would save the universities and it would save the police services. But let's get an agreement first with the Republicans."

Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.

April 27, 2011
Steinberg considers cuts targeting GOP districts

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today said he is willing to consider calls to target GOP districts with steeper cuts if legislative Republicans will not vote for taxes or to put taxes on a statewide ballot as part of a budget solution.

"When it comes to kids or the vulnerable, I wouldn't want to make distinctions between who lives in a Democratic district and who lives in a Republican district, but when it comes to sort of basic services, convenience services that affect adults... I have an open mind," Steinberg told reporters after speaking at a Sacramento Press Club luncheon.

The Sacramento Democrat said he thinks a targeted-cuts scenario like the one state Treasurer Bill Lockyer laid out in an interview with the Bay Area News Group-East Bay's editorial board comes down to "basic fairness."

"You don't want to pay for government, well then, you get less of it," he said.

Jann Taber, spokeswoman for Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton, said any blame for an all-cuts approach should be placed on the Democrats for rejecting the proposals already offered by Republicans.

"If they're threatening cutting services in Republican districts it's because they're unwilling to stand up to the public employee unions and allow voters to vote on a spending cap and pension reform as part of a budget deal," she said.

April 27, 2011
Labor PAC launches last-minute attack on Beth Gaines in AD 4

20110414_AOC_BethGaines_081w.JPGA labor-backed independent expenditure committee has launched a last-minute attack against Republican Beth Gaines in the 4th Assembly District.

Opportunity PAC reported this week spending more than $9,000 on mail pieces opposing Gaines, a candidate in next week's special election to fill the seat vacated when her husband, Ted Gaines, was elected to the state Senate in January.

The Roseville Republican is favored to win Tuesday's runoff for the suburban Sacramento seat, which includes Alpine County and parts of Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties. Republicans hold a double-digit voter registration advantage over Democrats there. Her sole opponent, Democrat Dennis Campanale, has spent less than $5,000 on his campaign so far.

The expenditures were fueled by contributions from California Professional Firefighters, which recently endorsed Campanale, a retired firefighter.

California School Employees Association Executive Director Dave Low, whose union is one of the key funders of the committee, said the point of the mail pieces was to point out hypocrisy of Gaines and her husband supporting a cuts-dominated budget while taking a government paycheck and perks.

He declined to comment further on the strategy, but Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio wrote on California Majority Report today that the committee backers, which include SEIU and teachers unions, were encouraged to step in by polling showing voters aren't keen on Gaines' support for an all-cuts approach on the state budget.

It's unclear, however, how big of an impact the spending could have this late in the game. The contest is expected to see low turnout and the majority of ballots cast by mail, meaning it's highly possible many of the voters who will participate in the election have already made up their minds -- and their votes.

"Anything can happen," Low said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Beth Gaines speaks to a group of her closest supporters during a campaign event at Bass Lake Golf Course in Rescue on April 14, 2011. Autumn Cruz, Sacramento Bee.

April 27, 2011
AM Alert: Breaking dress codes and bread

Expect to see rule-breakers at the Capitol today.

Legislators join the California Coalition against Sexual Assault to mark the annual Denim Day protesting the 1999 Italian Supreme Court decision overturning a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans. The event starts at 10 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

Speaking of the Capitol Steps -- whose motto is "We put the MOCK in democracy" -- the Washington-based troupe performs tonight at Sacramento's Crest Theater starting at 7:30 p.m.

The show's title: "Watch out, Jerry Brown!"

Meanwhile, lawmakers will break unleavened bread tonight at the Herschel Rosenthal Capitol Passover Seder. Those listed to attend the 46th annual event at Albert Einstein Residence Center include Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and several other members of the Assembly and the Senate.

Steinberg has a rather busy schedule. This morning, he presents his measures on education -- Senate Bills 612, 611 and 547 -- to the Senate Education Committee. That hearing starts at 9 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 4203.

Then, he'll be talking up the measures at the Sacramento Press Club luncheon starting at noon. Perhaps he'll slip in an opinion about the state of the state's budget negotiations.

LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE: Tracking bills and issues? There's no lack of committee hearings today in the Senate and the Assembly. A Senate select committee, for instance, will be taking a look at seismic safety in the state's hospitals, schools and infrastructure starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 3191. Meanwhile, both houses have check-in sessions.

RAVES: Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, discusses her Assembly Bill 74, a response to safety concerns at large events like raves on state-owned property. That news conference starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 126.

REDISTRICTING: The California Redistricting Committee heads for the south state, holding a public hearing in Long Beach. Click here for the agenda. The commission will also be in Los Angeles on Thursday, San Gabriel on Friday, and San Fernando on Saturday. Find the hearing schedule here.

April 26, 2011
Bill to sell Sacramento wastewater clears Assembly committee

PK_SEWAGE 0156.JPGSacramento's sewage district could sell treated wastewater to help cover the cost of upgrading its sewage treatment plant under legislation that cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 134, by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento, passed the Assembly's Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee by a vote of 9-1.

The measure is part of a dual strategy, by Dickinson and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, that calls for selling wastewater and securing $50 million in state bond funds to help upgrade a capital local sewage treatment plant.

The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District faces costs of up to $2 billion to comply with conditions of a strict new wastewater discharge permit for its treatment plant near Elk Grove.

Wastewater is treated at the Elk Grove plant before it is pumped into the Sacramento River. AB 134 would allow the finished product to be sold as urban drinking water or irrigation water for farms.

AB 134 now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento regional wastewater treatment plant, Dec. 5, 2010, in Elk Grove. Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee

April 26, 2011
Senate panel OKs bill to force Kings to repay loan before move

20110120_HA_STEINBERG1217.JPGLegislation that would force the owners of the Sacramento Kings to repay a $77 million loan from the city up front if the franchise moves to Anaheim advanced in the state Senate today.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved on a 3-1 vote Senate Bill 652, which would prohibit professional sports franchises in the state from signing a relocation agreement with another California city if they have outstanding debts to the home city or if the move would breach an existing financial agreement.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who authored the bill, acknowledged that it is "no secret that the impetus for the bill was the proposed or potential relocation of the Sacramento Kings from Sacramento to Anaheim."

The Sacramento Democrat said while the team's current owners "have always paid their debts and been good stewards," the legislation is "intended to ensure that any sports team honors their financial commitment to their home communities."

"(If) anyone is seeking to make a cold business decision about where they want to relocate, public policy in California ought to be that the city from which they consider leaving is made whole before they in fact do leave," said Steinberg, who voted as a city councilman to approve the 1997 loan to the Kings.

April 26, 2011
Jerry Brown bans 'non-essential' travel for state employees

Gov. Jerry Brown today issued an executive order banning state employee travel that is "not mission-critical."

The order targets all in- and out-of-state travel that costs the state money and is not "directly related to enforcement responsibilities, audits, revenue collection or other duties required by statute, contract or executive directive."

"Travel to attend conferences, networking opportunities, professional development courses, continuing education classes, meetings that can be conducted by video or teleconference or other non-essential events will not be permitted or paid for by the state," a release announcing the order states.

Under the order, all in-state travel on the state's dime will require approval from agency secretaries or department directors. Out-of-state travel must be cleared by the governor's office. Brown has asked agencies to submit all requests for out-of-state travel for the coming fiscal year, along with an explanation for why the trip is necessary, by May 6. Travel that was approved in previous fiscal years will be subject to review, not automatically approved as it sometimes was in the past.

"Our fiscal challenges demand that we take a much closer look at how taxpayer dollars are being spent within state government," Brown said in a statement. "Now is not the time to attend conferences, travel to meetings or take out-of-state field trips and this Executive Order puts an end to it."

Read the full order after the jump:

April 26, 2011
Regulation review passes Senate committee

A decades-old issue was resurrected in the Capitol on Tuesday when a Senate committee approved legislation requiring state agencies to submit major regulations to the Legislature for review.

Business groups lined up behind Senate Bill 688, while environmental and consumer groups strenuously opposed the measure in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.

The bill is being carried by the committee chairman, Los Angeles Democrat Rod Wright, and would apply to any regulations with an impact of $10 million or more on regulated businesses.

Wright echoed the complaints of business groups that unelected state agency administrators issue rules that have heavy financial impacts and thus discourage job-creating investment. A running controversy over regulations issued by the state Air Resources Board, aimed at reducing greenhouse has emissions, is the most recent blowup over agency rules.

The issue, however, goes back at least three decades when Jerry Brown, during his first stint as governor, faced legislation that would have given the Legislature the power to overturn administrative regulations. The showdown was averted by an agreement to create the Office of Administrative Law, an arm of the governor's office, that would review proposed regulations for their compliance with enabling legislation.

Wright's measure wouldn't give the Legislature the power to overturn rules, but would delay implementation of those with $10-plus million in impact for at least a year after initial proposal, unless there's an emergency.

The measure cleared the Senate committee on an 8-1, bipartisan vote, but as it faces stiff opposition from environmental and consumer groups, its fate is uncertain.

While approving Wright's measure, the committee deep-sixed another bill on the same subject by Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rosevillle. His measure, Senate Bill 591, would require state agencies to determine how many rules they have promulgated and reduce the total by 33 percent. Gaines made much the same argument as Wright about the effect of regulations on business and had much the same support base but was on the short end of a 5-6 vote.

April 26, 2011
Which legislators missed the most votes last session?

"Aye" and "no" weren't the only votes California legislators cast last session.

State lawmakers missed or abstained from votes more than 48,000 times during the 2009-2010 session, an analysis by Bee colleague Phillip Reese found. That breaks down to roughly one out of every 12 votes cast. The review looked at both committee and floor votes, though floor votes made up 80 percent of the abstentions.

See a list of which legislators missed the most votes last session over at our sister blog, The Public Eye.

April 26, 2011
LA labor, business groups come out against Vernon dissolution

Two powerful Los Angeles groups are turning thumbs down on legislation to dissolve the tiny city of Vernon that is being pushed by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and is co-authored by nearly 100 of the state's 120 legislators.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is announcing its opposition to Assembly Bill 46 today, and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is opposed to the measure unless it can be amended to preserve existing union jobs in Vernon.

"There is great anxiety about the long-term viability of (businesses) if Vernon if disincorporated and becomes a part of unincorporated Los Angeles County or is annexed by an adjacent city," the chamber wrote to Pérez.

Major changes proposed by the Vernon business community should be given a chance to transform the city's governance before disincorporation is considered, the chamber's letter said.

AB 46 cleared its first legislature hurdle without a no vote this month, passing the Assembly Local Government Committee, 8-0.

Pérez, in targeting Vernon, contends that the city is riddled with corruption and that its leaders have created a perpetual ruling class because the city owns and controls who lives in many of the several dozen housing units within its 5 square miles.

Vernon sparked headlines last year for the indictment of former city manager Donal O'Callaghan on conflict of interest charges, and for a probe by the attorney general's office into issues that included massive pay for the city's leaders in years past.

Only about 100 people live in Vernon, but more than 50,000 work in the unusual city, which was designed as an industrial hub and incorporated in 1905.

Perez

Labor Fed Letter

April 26, 2011
Legislation to kill Air Resources Board rejected in Assembly

Legislation to abolish the California Air Resources Board has been killed by a legislative committee.

The proposal by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, died Monday in the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee on a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed to the measure.

Assembly Bill 1332 would have transferred the Air Resources Board's duties, powers and jurisdiction to the state Environmental Protection Agency.

The Air Resources Board is appointed by the governor pending confirmation by the state Senate. It oversees regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and mobile sources of pollution, such as from vehicles, fuels and consumer products.

April 26, 2011
AM Alert: Only in California

Where else but California can Shamu, hemp cultivation and dead bodies converge on the same day?

The Legislature faces another packed docket Tuesday with policy committees running at full capacity. Among the highlights:

-- Assembly Bill 4 by Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, would allow the state Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to regulate a new method of disposing of human remains: chemical dissolution. It is backed by the cemetery and mortuary industry but opposed by the California Catholic Conference. AB 4 will be in the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection committee, which starts at 9 a.m. in Room 447.

-- Senate Bill 676 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would permit the cultivation of industrial hemp in California. Previous iterations of the bill died at the hands of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who showed in "Pumping Iron" that he was familiar with another version of the plant. SB 676 is in the Senate Public Safety Committee, which starts at 9 a.m. in Room 3191.

-- Assembly Bill 52 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, would expand the state's ability to regulate health insurance rates. The proposal comes after Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California announced large rate hikes in the past two years. AB 52 is in the Assembly Health Committee, which starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202.

-- Assembly Bill 373 by Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Solana Beach, would reduce welfare-to-work time limits from four years to two years for adults. AB 373 is in the Assembly Human Services Committee, which starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 437.

-- And for you Sacramento Kings fans (and wanna-be Anaheim Royals backers), check out Senate Bill 652 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. The legislation would prohibit pro sports franchises from moving until they fulfill their financial obligations to their existing hometown. SB 652 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112.

As for Shamu? A likeness of the Sea World killer whale will roam the streets of Sacramento as part of the nonprofit California Travel & Tourism Commission's Outlook Forum. Shamu and other tourism officials plan to walk from the Convention Center to the Capitol's West Steps at 5 p.m.

April 25, 2011
Soda tax legislation shelved by Assembly committee

A proposed California law to tax sodas, sweet teas, sports drinks and other sugary beverages was shelved today by an Assembly committee.

Assembly Bill 669 was placed on hold in a file for bills with monetary implications. No vote was taken, so the bill technically remains alive, but the author's office conceded that it is unlikely to advance.

Assemblyman Bill Monning, who crafted the measure, said the committee will not move AB 669 to the Assembly floor unless it can win a two-thirds majority vote there -- and, so far, that is not the case. Republicans adamantly have opposed any new tax.

"I would acknowledge that it's an uphill struggle," said Monning, D-Carmel.

Monning crafted AB 669 to generate revenue for obesity prevention activities and programs.

The measure would slap sugar drinks distributed in California with an excise tax of one penny per fluid ounce.

Monning released a written statement today saying that he is disappointed that AB 669 was shelved - but not giving up.

"I remain committed to continuing to pursue this issue and educating the public about the dangers of sugary drinks - the biggest contributor to current obesity trends," Monning said.

"The long-term health of California's children is at risk and we must work together to avoid a future influx of chronically ill adults into our already overstressed healthcare system," he said.

Opponents claim that AB 669 could harm the beverage industry and that decisions about consumption of sugary drinks are a matter of individual responsibility and parental authority.

April 25, 2011
Crackdown on voyeuristic taping wins Assembly approval

Legislation stemming from real estate executive Michael Lyons' secret videotaping of women at his Sacramento County home was approved today by the Assembly, the same day that Lyons learned he must do jail time.

Assembly Bill 708 would extend the statute of limitation on such crimes, allowing charges to be filed within one year after discovery of hidden videotaping that is meant to invade privacy or arouse the offender's sexual desire.

Assemblyman Steve Knight, a Palmdale Republican and former Los Angeles police officer, said he crafted the bill in response to the Lyons case and incidents in which predators would hide cameras at shopping mall escalators to videotape beneath women's dresses.

AB 708, which passed the Assembly 67-0, now goes to the Senate.

Lyons pleaded guilty last month to secretly videotaping four prostitutes he hired from online services.

Lyons learned today that he will be jailed for his crimes. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said he had rejected Lyon's application to serve his sentence under home arrest with electronic monitoring.

Lyons pleaded guilty to four felony counts. A sentencing brief in the Lyons case described a 20-year pattern of similar misconduct that was not charged because the statute of limitations had expired.

The statute of limitations for most crimes is three years after the alleged offense. The deadline under a specific misdemeanor video voyeurism law is even tighter, one year.

April 25, 2011
Assembly passes bill sparked by cut in Núñez prison term

Though it would not affect Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's reduction in the sentence of Esteban Núñez, legislation passed the Assembly today to require victim notification before similar action in years to come.

Assembly Bill 648 would require that 30 days before acting on a commutation request, the governor must provide written notification to the district attorney of the county where the conviction occurred. The DA must then notify the victims.

The bill passed the Assembly by 64-0, with 15 legislators absent or not voting. It now goes to the Senate.

Assemblyman Marty Block, a San Diego Democrat who proposed AB 648, said the bill stemmed from controversy over Schwarzenegger's decision to commute the sentence of Núñez, the son of a political ally, as the governor left office Dec. 2.

Núñez's sentence was reduced from 16 years to seven years in connection with a three-man attack in October 2006 on some San Diego college students. Luis Dos Santos, one of the students, died during the brawl.

Núñez had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. Schwarzenegger, in reducing the sentence, said that 16 years was excessive because Núñez did not commit the stabbing and had a "limited role" in Dos Santos' death.

California's governor has a legal right to commute prison sentences. But AB 648 would ensure that victims and prosecutors have an opportunity to provide input before action is taken, Block said.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's office had no immediate comment today on AB 648, which was pushed by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and other law enforcement groups.

In February, Brown told reporters he was hesitant to make changes in the process, but that he was keeping an open mind.

April 25, 2011
AM Alert: 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' under the dome

Floor sessions in both houses will feature a special treat for Food Network fans: celebrity chef and TV personality Guy Fieri.

No, the NorCal native won't be chowing down in the Capitol cafeterias for an upcoming segment on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives." (But if he stops in for an early bite, we recommend the breakfast sandwiches in the basement.)

The spiky-haired host is in town to support a resolution encouraging parents to cook with their kids. Flanked by both Democrats and Republicans, Fieri will tout the resolution at an 11 a.m. presser on the Capitol's north steps.

Spring recess is over, which means policy committees are back to working through thousands of bills introduced this session.

Committees in the lower house face long bill queues, with no fewer than five panels meeting throughout the day.

Over in the Senate, a measure on the use of chemical flame retardants in furniture is generating some heat.

Senate Bill 147, which will be heard in the Senate Business and Professions Committee, would let manufacturers opt out of using chemical flame retardants in their products by creating an alternative test for meeting the state's fire prevention standards. Supporters of the bill, authored by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, say that exposure to those chemicals can cause cancer, neurological problems and infertility and that the retardants actually make fires more deadly by emitting toxic soot.

Similar legislation in the past faced stiff opposition from chemical industry-backed groups like Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, which argues that the alternate standards and change in labeling required by the bill would compromise fire safety and confuse consumers.

Supporters have set off flares that this year's effort could be extinguished in a similar fashion today, pointing to data compiled by MapLight.org showing significant industry contributions to five of the six Democrats sitting on the committee. Find some of those contributions here, here, and here.

As our sister blog The State Worker has reported, the Senate Appropriations Committee meets at 11:30 a.m. to consider a bill to approve six labor contracts reached negotiated with six unions by Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill includes the agreement recently struck for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

CAKES AND CANDLES: Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, turns 53 today. Five of his legislative colleagues celebrated birthdays during the spring recess: Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield (who turned 61 on April 16); Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo (who turned 64 last Monday); Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia (who turned 40 on Friday); Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa (who turned 56 on Friday); and Assemblywoman Norma J. Torres (who turned 46 on Saturday).

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April 24, 2011
Poll finds support for tax extensions

A majority of voters supports Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to close the state deficit through a mix of spending cuts and tax extensions, with even greater support for taxes to protect education funding, according to a new poll.

Fifty-two percent of voters support Brown's budget plan, according to a University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll. Thirty-eight percent oppose it.

Support for taxes is even greater - 63 percent - to protect education funding. The Democratic governor has warned of cuts to education if tax extensions are not approved, and he is visiting schools throughout the state to make the point.

"Californians are clearly buying what Jerry Brown is selling," Dan Schnur, director of the poll, said in a release. "Not only do they support a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to balance the budget, but they are adamant about having the opportunity to vote on it themselves. Their continued support for a special election is a strong signal that the governor is correct to keep his promise to let the voters make the final decision."

Holding to a campaign promise of no new taxes without voter approval, Brown proposes a ballot measure to extend 2009 tax increases on vehicles, income and sales. However, he has been unable to find the two Republican votes needed in each house to put the matter on a ballot. Republicans in budget negotiations have demanded pension, regulatory and other government changes.

Some of Brown's Democratic allies have urged him to abandon his promise and to push a tax deal through the Legislature without a public vote. A majority of voters - 53 percent - would oppose such a maneuver, according to the poll. Brown has dismissed the idea.

Voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the state, with only 19 percent believing it is heading in the right direction, according to the poll. Forty-four percent of voters approve of the job Brown is doing; 33 percent disapprove.

April 22, 2011
Jerry Brown personalizes tax appeal in Northern California stop

Jerry Brown San Jose April 22 2011.JPGSAN JOSE -- Gov. Jerry Brown, framing resistance to his tax plan as an expression of broad anti-government sentiment, said in a highly personal appeal Friday to Silicon Valley business leaders that public education is worth funding because it is central to democracy.

But the Democratic governor said a budget deal remains elusive and could take several more weeks to reach.

"We're not at the point of, 'OK, if you do this pension reform and A, B, C and D regulatory, you've got a deal,' " Brown told reporters after a panel discussion at an IBM research facility. "We're not at that level of specificity, and I think we have several weeks of conversations to get to a point where people feel, 'OK, that sounds like a good deal.' "

Brown proposes extending higher taxes on vehicles, income and sales to resolve the state's remaining $15.4 billion budget deficit, warning of deep cuts to education and public safety if taxes are not approved.

Republicans have said such a warning is disingenuous, as few lawmakers are likely to agree to such a plan. Republicans negotiating with Brown -- who needs two GOP votes in each house to put taxes on the ballot -- are demanding pension, regulatory and other government changes.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which endorsed Brown's budget plan, provided him a friendly forum. The group's CEO, Carl Guardino, said his members have been "politely encouraging" Republican lawmakers on Brown's behalf.

April 22, 2011
Who scored in 'Baller Jerry Brown' caption contest?

65140702.jpg We know our readers are just dying to find out which laugh line won the latest Capitol Alert caption contest. So without further ado, the winner is...

"Finally, a game that I don't have to win by two-thirds!"

The entry was a slam dunk for Capitol Alert followers, winning more than one-third of votes cast. "It's brilliant," one voter gushed.

Coming in second place was another budget-themed entry: "I'll bet you $15 billion I can make this shot!"

The mind behind the winning quip, Joe Cislowski, was a caption contest rookie but a veteran Brown supporter.

The Los Angeles Democrat, who works in the nonprofit sector, was Los Angeles County coordinator for Brown's 2010 campaign. But his support stretches back to 1978, when he served as UCLA campus coordinator for Brown's re-election bid.

Cislowski, who witnessed Brown's first spin as the state's top executive as an intern for California Journal and an Assembly fellow, noted that he "believes it was much easier to forge compromise" back then.

Cislowski said the Brown's 2010 campaign talking point -- "We need someone with insider's knowledge, but an outsider's mind" -- was his first thought when he saw the shot of the governor squaring up at the top of the key while visiting an elementary school earlier this month. But he settled on what became the winning entry as a reflection of the "high threshold" the governor has to meet to enact his priorities on the budget front and beyond.

He takes home a $25 gift card to Chicory, which he is looking forward to using while catching up with old friends when he comes into town for the California Democratic Party convention next week.

Thanks to everyone who participated, with a special shoutout going to Sacramento Bee reader Dolly, who went the extra mile by phoning in her vote.

See all 10 finalist entries at this link or check out the original entry announcing the contest here.

April 22, 2011
Jerry Brown, meet Watson

SAN JOSE - Gov. Jerry Brown, arriving early for an event at an IBM research facility this morning, was introduced to Watson, the supercomputer that bested human competitors on the TV quiz show "Jeopardy!"

There the famously brainy governor was instructed in the most basic rule of the game.

"Why do you say, 'What is?'" Brown asked.

"In 'Jeopardy!' you have to answer in the form of a question," said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Brown wondered aloud about people who spend time learning sufficient trivia to be competitive on "Jeopardy!," but in Watson he saw potential.

"Are you ready to sell it?" he said.

April 21, 2011
Vernon Billy set to take CSBA helm -- but not at Plotkin pay

The California School Boards Association has tightened its wallet considerably in hiring a new executive director after last year's controversy over the pay of former leader Scott Plotkin.

Vernon Billy will take the group's helm May 4 at an annual salary of $232,000 -- a far cry from Plotkin's compensation of $516,517 in 2008 and $403,955 in 2009 after receiving sizable bonuses and other compensation.

Billy, 40, is replacing interim Executive Director Jeff Vaca, who will return to his previous role of chief operations operator for the association representing more than 1,000 school districts.

Billy, a blast from CSBA's past, served as a lobbyist in the group's governmental relations department from 1994 to 2000.

More recently, Billy has been a vice president of School Innovations & Advocacy, a consulting and lobbying firm. He also has served as a cabinet member for the San Francisco Unified School District and as a chief lobbyist for several school districts.

April 21, 2011
Jerry Brown finds frustrated crowd at budget talk

SANTA CLARITA -- Gov. Jerry Brown, joined on his budget tour this afternoon for the first time by a Republican lawmaker, put the assemblyman on a stage in his hometown and flanked him with administration and public safety officials supportive of Brown's tax plan.

But the rhetoric was ratcheted down on both sides, and not even a panelist's mispronunciation of Assemblyman Cameron Smyth's name could provoke him.

"Smyth," the legislator said after he was introduced at his alma mater, pronouncing the Y like the I in "rice." "It's just my old high school, but that's cool."

The Democratic governor, who's on the road promoting his plan to extend higher taxes on income, vehicles and sales, once again enjoyed a largely friendly audience. But in the crowd of about 150 people at Hart High School, there was an undercurrent of frustration on both sides that a deal has not yet been reached.

"It's sad that we're even having this thing," Scott Wilk, a member of the College of the Canyons board of trustees, told Brown. "You guys need to be adult and go do the right thing."

April 21, 2011
Gavin Newsom to pen book on social media, politics

ha_GNEWSOM20338046.JPG Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is adding author to his resume: He's penning a book on the intersection between technology, social media and politics that's set for release as the 2014 campaign takes shape.

"This solution-driven book suggests that we are at the dawn of a revolutionary change in the way government and the people interact," trumpets a release by the Penguin Press, which has acquired rights to publish the manuscript.

The San Francisco Democrat is certainly social media savvy -- he announced his short-lived gubernatorial primary campaign as well as the birth of his daughter via Twitter and was described as "The Twitter Prince" by a New York Times blog after a Manhattan-based startup ranked him the fourth most-followed politician on the microblogging service.

The winter 2013 publication date suggests that the contents will lay out the message of Newsom's next campaign -- whether it's a reelection effort or a bid for other statewide office.

Newsom is reportedly already taking steps for a future run at the state's top post, though he isn't expected to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown if he runs for reelection himself in 2014.

He would be far from the first California politician to use a book to drive his message and generate press about his platform. The 2010 cycle saw titles by Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner, Carly Fiorina, and Kamala Harris, to name a few.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to guests after he was sworn into office on the Senate chambers on Monday, Jan. 10, 2011. Hector Amezcua/ Sacramento Bee.

April 21, 2011
Protest group drops some change to serenade Obama

For Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn, money was no object in making sure she and others got to serenade President Barack Obama today -- and they did it a capella.

Pitcairn and about half a dozen other protesters unhappy about treatment of a Wikileaks suspect disrupted the Obama fundraiser this morning at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel, reports Chronicle colleague Carla Marinucci.

Pitcairn said she personally paid $76,000 for the progressive group -- which calls itself freshjuiceparty.com -- to attend the high-priced breakfast fundraiser to protest what they called inhumane treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning, Marinucci wrote in her pool report from the event.

"Mr. President, we actually wrote you a song -- can we sing it?" one of the protesters said about five minutes into Obama's speech.

The song's lyrics included, "We paid our dues -- where's our change?" but make clear the group isn't about to back Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney.

April 21, 2011
Will Leon Panetta be Obama's next defense secretary?

Is Leon Panetta, the former California congressman now at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, destined to become President Barack Obama's pick for secretary of defense?

POLITICO thinks so. The Beltway-based publication declared that it has become "accepted wisdom" among Washington insiders that the 73-year-old Monterey Democrat, who was White House chief of staff and Office of Management and Budget director under former President Bill Clinton, is the obvious choice to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has announced plans to retire.

Noting that it's unclear whether Panetta has been offered the job or would want to take it on the job, POLITICO reports:

Gates's departure after more than four years at the Pentagon under two presidents has been widely anticipated for months. But the idea that Panetta would succeed him surfaced in a rare bit of Washington journalistic doubling down -- stories on April 7 in both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that he is the key part of an imminent move to reshuffle the Obama national security team.

And it all made sense: Panetta is a known quantity at the White House, has good relations on Capitol Hill and, with experience as chairman of the House Budget Committee and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton, is well prepared to tackle the budget slashing the Pentagon will confront in the coming years.

"Given the tasks before the next secretary of defense and the budget problems we confront and that following Bob Gates is no small challenge, in many respects, Panetta is the right person," said Fran Townsend, a White House homeland security official under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and a member of a CIA advisory panel.

If anything, the focus on the budget and Obama's announcement last week that he wants an additional $400 billion in cuts from defense and other security programs over the next 12 years have solidified the consensus that Panetta's nomination is inevitable.

"The budget was always going to be a big factor in these decisions," a senior official close to the discussions said. "It puts even more of a premium on [Panetta], but there was already a premium."

Click here to read the full piece.

April 21, 2011
California's criminal alien population rises

The number of criminal aliens incarcerated in California rose to 102,795 in 2009, a 17 percent increase since 2003, federal auditors reported Thursday.

This isn't cheap. Nationwide, the Government Accountability Office reports, it costs well over $1.1 billion a year for states to imprison criminal aliens -- those who committed a crime after entering the United States illegally. California, moreover, is more expensive than other states. GAO auditors estimated California spends $34,000 to incarcerate a criminal alien for one year; in Texas, it's only $12,000.

The audit, requested by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will provide ammunition for states' perennial effort to secure more federal reimbursement dollars.

More than one in four of the illegal immigrants imprisoned in California are behind bars for drug offenses. Many are also repeat offenders. GAO auditors say that, based on a survey, criminal alien inmates have been arrested an average of seven different times.

April 21, 2011
Report finds criminals able to offer in-home care for elderly

Lax oversight of in-home care agencies is opening the door for caregivers with criminal backgrounds to offer services to the elderly and disabled, according to a Senate oversight report issued today.

A Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes review of Craigslist.org advertisements for in-home caregivers uncovered five confirmed cases where the individuals offering services had extensive criminal records, including arrests for burglary, narcotics trafficking and prostitution. It also found that more than 25 percent of caregivers identified in media reports as being convicted or accused of wrongdoing on the job had previous offenses on their records.

"Without criminal background checks, these consumers may unwittingly open their homes and finances to those who have shown a willingness to exploit or harm others," the report says.

California is one of six states that does not regulate private in-home caregivers. While the state now screens workers providing care for the mostly low-income, blind, disabled and elderly Californians enrolled in the In-Home Supportive Services program, a similar system does not exist for private providers. The Legislature has approved legislation in recent years aimed at helping consumers conduct criminal background checks on prospective caregivers, but the report found that those services are not being used.

Authors of the report, whose office was established by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, issued several recommendations for creating more oversight in the industry, including launching a public awareness campaign to inform consumers of their options for obtaining background reports and establishing standards for agencies that claim to conduct criminal checks on their employees.

Read the full report in the PDF posted below:

2385.Caregiver Roulette

April 20, 2011
Brown orders crackdown on employee cash advances

Gov. Jerry Brown today ordered agencies to take a take a tougher approach in collecting salary and travel advances and other debts owed to the state.

State law allows for cash advances in cases such as check delays, employee travel and certain vendor payments. But Brown's office says audits have found agencies are falling behind in collecting debts owed by employees and vendors, costing the state millions of dollars. One 2009 audit, posted here, found 11 departments had failed to recover more than $13.3 million in advances.

The executive order directs agencies and departments to process expense and other advance claims within 30 days. If the request is not cleared during a specified time frame, agencies and departments have been told to deduct the money owed from the employee's paycheck.

"It's shocking that the state has apparently failed to collect millions of dollars in salary and travel advances owed by state employees," Brown said in a statement. "This situation reinforces the worst stereotype of ineffective and inefficient government, and I have ordered state agencies to immediately investigate the backlog of uncollected debts and find every penny owed to taxpayers."

Read the full executive order after the jump.

April 20, 2011
Outside Facebook, former Obama volunteer protests him now

President Barack Obama could hardly find friendlier ground as he starts a fund-raising swing through California today, but there were signs of discontent outside Facebook headquarters, where he is hosting a town hall.

It wasn't that the crowd was large - it wasn't - but that many of the people hoisting signs were young, liberal voters who cast their first ballots for Obama, even volunteered for him, in 2008.

Chelsea Byers, a Code Pink intern who was studying abroad in 2008, helped organize an effort that year encouraging students to return absentee ballots for Obama. But she said she is upset with his actions in Libya.

"We just had hopes of seeing this great new Democratic base against wars," she said. "I definitely am a fan of Obama. I like Obama. But his policies, and what they're doing, it's got to stop."

Byers and her colleagues held signs that encouraged Obama, in the vernacular of the social networking site, to update his war status and budget profile.

"He made a lot of promises," she said. "It's dissatisfying."

A crowd has gathered inside Facebook for Obama's town hall event, to be streamed live on Facebook this afternoon. Supporters lined up hours early, and about 500 people, many of them Facebook employees, are expected to attend.

Obama will attend several fundraisers this week in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They include a private dinner and a rally tonight at Nob Hill Masonic Center and a breakfast Thursday morning at the St. Regis San Francisco. Tickets ranged in price from $25 to $35,800 per person.

April 20, 2011
'Open Carry' supporters to dine out with guns

Salsa could be served up with a side of shotgun at one Old Pasadena restaurant Thursday night, when opponents of legislation to ban the practice of openly carrying unloaded guns in public stage a dinnertime protest in the district of the Democratic lawmaker carrying the bill.

South Bay Open Carry members have been encouraged to holster their unloaded firearms to their hips while dining Thursday evening at Old Pasadena's ix Tapa Cantina. While the group regularly organizes "open carry" demonstrations at area restaurants, attracting dozens of participants in one case, this particular gathering has been cast as a protest of Assembly Bill 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.

The bill, which recently passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee, would would make it a crime to carry an unloaded handgun in public under most circumstances. Legislation was sparked by the growing "open carry" protest movement, which encourages participants to display their guns to show opposition to gun-control laws.

South Bay Open Carry has circulated a "Wanted" poster featuring the La Cañada Flintridge Democrat, whose district office is blocks from the restaurant, to advertise the event, calling on participants to join to show up to "support your second amendment rights." The group has not responded to a request for comment on the event.

Portantino called the event "unfortunate," but said he believes the planned protest and tone of heated rhetoric from opponents make the case for why his bill is needed.

"I think most people on Main Street California want to go out with their families at dinner and to a movie and not have to worry about a group of folks who are armed at the restaurant or on the street next to them," he said. "I think the folks that are taking this to the next level are doing themselves more damage in the discussion than help."

The Brady Campaign, which supports increased gun control laws, has planned a counter-protest at the site. That camp is expected to be armed with signs only.

Wanted Poster Pasadenav2

April 20, 2011
Chat replay: California's budget impasse heads toward May

April 19, 2011
Jerry Brown to be joined by GOP lawmaker at budget stop

Gov. Jerry Brown will be joined at a budget forum Thursday in Santa Clarita by a type of lawmaker missing from his first two stops: a Republican.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said this afternoon that he expects to participate in the forum, the third in a series of appearances in which Brown is pushing his tax plan.

Smyth and Brown aren't likely to agree on Brown's tax plan or much else in his budget proposal. The assemblyman is one of many Republicans who have signed a no-taxes pledge.

Smyth said he is attending Thursday to listen both to Brown and to his constituents. But if Brown is trying to pressure Republican lawmakers by appearing in their districts, Smyth said he doesn't feel it.

"Having the governor in town creates no more pressure for me than sitting with a group of parents of disabled Californians whose children are in jeopardy of services," he said. "That's pressure."

California Republican Party leaders also plan to be in Southern California on Thursday, with its "California Speaks Out 2011 Tour" stopping in Riverside.

April 19, 2011
VOTE: 'Baller Jerry Brown' caption contest

65140702.jpg

The inbox flowed over and we've chosen 12 finalists in Capitol Alert's latest caption contest. Now it's time to help us pick a winner.

For those who need a refresher, the photo is of Gov. Jerry Brown on an elementary school playground in Stockton last week. (You can click on the photo to make it larger).

Pick your favorite and send your vote to captions@capitolalert.com.

Please vote once and pick only one caption. The deadline for casting a vote for your choice is 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 20. Feel free to make the case for your favorite line in the comments forum below.

Here, in no particular order, are the captions we liked best:

1.) "Finally, a game that I don't have to win by two-thirds!"
2.) "Governor, I know you've cut your staff, but you need at least a few teammates."
3.) "I know, I know, the ball's in my court."
4.) "Moonball"
5.) "Jerryatric Dodgeball anyone?"
6.) "I wish the unions would let me play ball with the Republicans."
7.) "The GOP keeps moving the goalposts, but now the basketball hoop, too?"
8.) "Hey kid, how about a game of SEIU?"
9.) "Nothing says 'relateable' more than a 73-year-old man in a suit playing basketball with 5th graders."
10.) "The Kings aren't leaving until I get my tryout!"
11.) "I'll bet you $15 billion I can make this shot!"
12.) "Dude! Black wingtips?"

Choose carefully because the stakes are high -- the winner takes home a $25 gift card to a coffee shop of his or her choice.

Check out the original entry announcing the contest here.

April 19, 2011
Cheating charges abound at 'conscience of the GOP' confab

Allegations of fraud and vote fixing. Courts intervening in the election process. A call to police as officials convene behind closed doors to determine who is eligible to cast a vote.

Sounds like the makings of a political thriller. But that's what unfolded at an Arden-area hotel over the weekend as political infighting (and maybe some real fighting) spiced up what could have been a drab weekend of bylaw amendments and officer elections at the California Republican Assembly's spring convention.

Divisions at the conservative group -- which bills itself as the "conscience of the Republican party" -- emerged amid conservative activist Karen England's challenge to incumbent CRA President Celeste Greig. Both sides of the fight agree that cheating charges stemming from a series of contested officer races resulted in delegates from across the state getting the boot. How many delegates were disqualified and why they were stripped of their voting rights is the subject of a heated debate.

In the end, Greig emerged from the scuffle victorious, winning re-election to a two-year term. Despite much debate over who could participate in the elections, consensus on the final results was lacking. England, who was not allowed to attend the session, said the tally was 165-119. Greig thought the margin was closer to 169-101, though she added that she was "very nervous" during the vote and had not written down the results.

It's also unknown how many members are represented by the organization and its leadership. CRA is generally considered the largest Republican organization in the state outside the California Republican Party, and Greig estimated the CRA has "a few thousand" members statewide. But she acknowledged she has "no idea because it's a secret."

England said the CRA's weekend troubles escalated when committees barred more than 125 members -- a figure she said represented 38 percent of the organization's original delegate pool -- from participating in the leadership elections.

Former CRA President Mike Spence, who attended the convention, said the number of unseated delegates was unprecedented. "There were more delegates disqualified this time than there were delegates disqualified combined in the 20 years I've been involved." he said.

An attorney for CRA put the number at "much, much less" and pointed out that delegates-- albeit not the ones whose credentials were being challenged -- voted on the committee's eligibility recommendations during a Saturday session that spanned nine hours.

April 19, 2011
Schwarzenegger on Núñez commutation, Whitman and his body

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sat down with Newsweek recently for one of the most extensive interviews since his January exit from office.

Schwarzenegger addresses everything from criticisms of one of his final acts as the state's chief executive to his own body image in his post-bodybuilding days, saying the effect of aging on his 63-year-old physique makes him "feel sh--y when I look at myself in the mirror."

Below are some excerpts from the more than 2,500-word piece. Read the full article at this link.

On controversy surrounding his 11th hour decision to reduce the prison sentence for the son of former Speaker Fabian Núñez who had pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a case involving the 2008 slaying of 22-year-old Luis Dos Santos.

"I understand people's disappointments. I understand the parents' anger. I would probably feel the same way," Schwarzenegger tells me in his first public comment on the commutation, which he granted hours before leaving office, arguing that his friend's son didn't inflict the fatal wound. "My office definitely made a mistake in not notifying the parents beforehand ... and I'm ultimately responsible." But, Schwarzenegger adds, "I feel good about the decision ... I happen to know the kid really well. I don't apologize about it ... There's criticism out there. I think it's just because of our working relationship and all that. It maybe was kind of saying, 'That's why he did it.' Well, hello! I mean, of course you help a friend."

On Republican Meg Whitman's failed gubernatorial campaign:

"She kind of took herself out of the game," Schwarzenegger says. "What she did was play to the right, and she couldn't come back for the general election to grab the center ... Brown was very smart to do exactly the opposite of what she did--which was to say, 'I'm not a rich guy, all I have is my knowledge and experience, and I don't need to cater to anyone, I will do what is right for California.' She was not as effective as a communicator, and her ideas were too extreme."

On what's next for the bodybuilder/actor/businessman/politician:

At one point during the meeting, the [British] prime minister jokes, "We need to change the constitution and then you can run [for president]. That's what we're going to do."

If it were constitutionally permissible, Schwarzenegger probably would be running for president--an option not available to an Austrian policeman's son who grew up without indoor plumbing in the village of Thal-Linak outside of Graz. Instead, he's reading film scripts and looking for a ghostwriter to help him with his memoirs. A multimillion-dollar publishing deal will soon be announced. His speaking fees are on a par with "a former president--and sometimes more," he brags. He's already fabulously wealthy, having prospered from canny investments such as a Columbus, Ohio, shopping mall he bought in partnership with Limited Brands mogul Les Wexner--though he declines to confirm published reports of net worth around $400 million. "Let's put it this way: I'm very happy," he says.

April 18, 2011
Obama to host town hall-style event Wednesday at Facebook

President Barack Obama will swing through donor-rich California this week, raising money for his re-election bid and hosting a town hall-style event at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto.

The White House said Obama will "discuss his vision for bringing down our deficit" at Facebook on Wednesday. The event will be streamed live online starting at 1:45 p.m. Pacific Time, and Obama is promoting it in a YouTube message.

"I hope you'll take a break from either friending or de-friending each other to RSVP at Facebook.com/WhiteHouse," the president said.

Obama is on the road touting his deficit-reduction plan, which would reduce spending and end certain tax breaks for wealthy people. He is hosting similar, town hall-style events in Virginia on Tuesday and in Reno on Thursday.

April 18, 2011
Rob Stutzman is in final push to delay Kings' move

Sacramento political consultant Rob Stutzman is on the verge of tossing a wrench into Joe and Gavin Maloof's efforts to move the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim.

By early this week, Stutzman expects to have collected roughly 11,000 signatures needed to challenge by referendum Anaheim City Council's $75 million deal to upgrade that arena where the Kings would play, and help the Maloofs with the cost of relocating.

"What we're doing is very real and matters legally," Stutzman said, adding that he can gather the requisite number of signatures with "one arm tied behind my back."

He does, however, need a little more money. But assuming he gets it--and there are some wealthy people who have an interest in his success--the referendum would place the Anaheim financing deal on hold until the next election, likely in June 2012, long after the next basketball season is over.

Stutzman's effort comes as lobbyist Darius Anderson and billionaire Ron Burkle press to try to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Stutzman said he is not operating on their behalf. But he said he received a call a few hours before Anderson announced last week that he and Burkle were intervening, alerting him to the development. Because a referendum could delay a move, Stutzman's effort could help the Anderson-Burkle play.

"The upshot is that it all kind of works hand in hand," Stutzman said.

April 18, 2011
Cash Dash: First quarter fundraising for U.S. House

First quarter fundraising reports for federal campaign accounts were due on Friday, giving a glimpse at how California's congressional members and their past and could-be future challengers are faring in the very early phase of the 2012 campaign cycle.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who snagged the No. 3 House leadership spot when Republicans took control of that chamber, led the Golden State delegation, raising $539,480 in the first few months of the year. Other incumbents posted less aggressive numbers this quarter. Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who has said she is contemplating retirement instead of running for reelection, reported raising only $39,214, for example.

Several current and former state politicians are also raising cash with an eye on running for Congress in 2012. Those include Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, ($93,869), Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman ($123,079) and former GOP Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado ($10,199).

See how congressional incumbents as well as some of last year's challengers and other familiar faces stack up in the chart below.

The reports also included filings for candidates for the upcoming special election in the 36th Congressional District. Democrat Janice Hahn, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, led the crowded field of candidates by raising $275,443, while Republican Craig Huey boosted his own totals with a $250,000 personal campaign loan. See those figures at this link.

Click here to view the full table on a separate page.

April 18, 2011
CAPTION CONTEST: Baller Jerry Brown

brownhoop.png

Gov. Jerry Brown, out pushing his tax plan in Stockton on Thursday, hit the playground at the elementary school where he spoke.

Can a Capitol Alert Caption Contest be far behind?

In a photo posted on Twitter by Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran, the 73-year-old governor appears to be launching a wide-open, three-point try. Or demonstrating some yoga-based pose with an exercise ball.

Duran said in a Twitter post accompanying the photograph that Brown "took care of some important business on the courts."

No word if he made it.

For those of you new to Capitol Alert's caption contest (or those who need a refresher), here's the deal:

1. Look at the picture. (Click on it to make it larger)
2. Write a caption.
3. E-mail it to us.

When sending in submissions, feel free to request anonymity. Only those willing to have their real names published, however, can win the grand prize: a $25 gift certificate to a capital coffee shop. (Entrants who caffeinate outside the Sactosphere can opt for a Starbucks gift card.)

Entries are due by 11:59 p.m. on Monday April 18. Send submissions to captions@capitolalert.com.

Feel free to send in multiple entries. Sometimes you don't hit your first shot.

Good luck!

Photo: Elizabeth Ashford/Office of the Governor

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on 4/15/11.

April 15, 2011
Analysis names Dreier, McNerney as likely 'redistricting victims'

A Washington Post blog has included California Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and David Dreier, R-San Dimas, on its list of ten congressional incumbents likely to lose out in the decennial redistricting process.

The effect redistricting in California will have on 2012 match-ups is especially hard to predict this year, as an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has for the first time been assigned the task of redrawing of district lines to reflect population shifts. Here's what The Fix's Aaron Blake had to say about the two California representatives on the "likely redistricting victims" list:

10. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.): McNerney is the only member in California's entire 53-person delegation to win a seat from the other party over the last decade. He was able to hold that GOP-leaning district in 2010 because of its tiny arm reaching up into Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay area. McNerney lives on that arm. The problem for him is that redistricting is now in the hands of a citizen's commission, and many people think the commission will have no regard for incumbents' residences. The fact that McNerney is from an extreme part of his district -- not to mention less than 10 miles from Rep. Pete Stark's (D) hometown -- means he's unlikely to live in his own home district. And in a primary against a longtime member like Stark, he'd be an underdog.

6. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.): Dreier got lucky 10 years ago, when a deal was cut to keep him safe for the next decade. After a decade's worth of demographic changes, though, it will be tough to keep his district even slightly friendly to a Republican -- even if the citizen line-drawers were looking out for Dreier (which they probably won't be). His current district is now more than 50 percent black and Hispanic, it voted for Obama in 2008, and he lives just a few miles from fellow GOP Rep. Gary Miller (R). Smart California observers suggest Dreier may face a primary with either Miller or Rep. Jerry Lewis (R), either of which would probably be in unfriendly territory for Dreier.

Read the full analysis at this link.

April 15, 2011
Lawmakers' per diem comes under fire from pay commission

California's system of paying lawmakers a tax-free per diem, even on days they are absent from the Capitol, came under fire this week from the commission that sets salaries and benefits for statewide elected officials.

The seven-member panel did not attempt to alter current rules, but they decided Thursday to ask the Franchise Tax Board for a "legal opinion or similar document" on whether legislators' per diem should be taxed.

Lawmakers currently receive $142 per day during the legislative session to defray their living expenses while in Sacramento. Only lawmakers living within 50 miles of the Capitol currently pay state and federal taxes on per diem.

The pay commission's letter also will ask whether lawmakers can be barred from receiving per diem if they miss a Capitol session.

"If they're sick or out of town, should they really be paid a per diem?" Commissioner Kathy Sands said during the panel's Thursday's meeting.

Under current legislative rules, lawmakers are eligible for per diem if they are ill or are excused by the leader of their legislative house for various other reasons, such as pressing district business.

Thursday's action marks the second time that the pay commission has targeted per diem. Two years ago, the panel sliced the stipend by 18 percent -- from $173 per day to the current $142 per day.

Pending legislation by Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, would prohibit legislators from receiving per diem if they are absent from or late to an Assembly or Senate session. Assembly Bill 1012 has not been scheduled for debate.

A study by The Bee found that the Assembly's 80 members totaled 239 absences from 60 floor sessions through Aug. 18 of last year's legislative calendar. The 40-member Senate had 176 absences in 50 meetings during the same period. Cumulatively, the two houses paid per diem for 73.5 percent of the absences, records showed.

Denise Azimi, FTB spokeswoman, said that California conforms with federal law regarding taxing per diem only if lawmakers live within 50 miles of the Capitol. The state agency has no control over whether absent legislators receive the daily stipend, she said.

April 15, 2011
AM Alert: On the road in the Lone Star State

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, lawmakers and California business leaders are on Day Two of their mission to find out how Texas creates jobs.

On Thursday, they heard from Donna Arduin, who Alert readers may remember as the first finance director for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

They also had a 20-minute private meeting with Gov. Rick Perry and lunch with a group that included Carl's Jr. chief Andrew Puzder, who is considering moving his headquarters to Texas. No burgers were served.

Then they took a tour of the Capitol, where they were recognized as honored guests on the legislative floor.

One big finding: labor unions are more powerful in California.

"Andrew Puzder from Carl's Jr. talked about how the 8-hour work day and the meal breaks (required in California) are harmful, especially for restaurant businesses," said Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda. "Because they may get a truckload of ....teenagers at 2:00 and he's got to tell half of his staff to take a break while people line up out the door."

Said Logue: "I will travel the world to find a way to improve our economy and put the people the California back to work, if that's what it takes."

Today's agenda includes breakfast with Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and a hearing moderated by Logue on the differences between the business environments in California and Texas.

Others on the trip include Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare and Republican Assembly members Martin Garrick of Solana Beach, Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Diane Harkey of Dana Point, Brian Jones of Santee, Steve Knight of Palmdale, Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga and Donald Wagner of Irvine.

Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani of Livingston is the lone Democratic legislator on the trip.

Jack Stewart, president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association and Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group are also along.

ELECTION 2012 Assemblyman Jim Silva is looking to get promoted to the upper house in 2012. The Huntington Beach Republican says he'll run to replace termed-out GOP Sen. Tom Harman in what is now the 35th Senate District. A first draft of the updated district lines will be released by the Citizens Redistricting Commission in June.


April 14, 2011
Jerry Brown tests children, one classroom at a time

In his second school visit in a series of statewide stops, Gov. Jerry Brown made apparent today the many ways a governor may measure academic achievement in California schools.

Brown asked first graders before a budget forum in Stockton if they could spell and how high they could count.

"What comes after 100?" he said. "What comes after 102?"

The 73-year-old governor, it would seem, strives for age-appropriateness. He asked fourth grade students last week in Riverside, "Does anybody here know the first Spaniard to come to California?"

They didn't. Brown told them it was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the "first thing they're supposed to learn when you study California history."

He said he'd ask again next time.

Brown is taking his campaign for tax extensions on the road, and in a budget forum this afternoon the Democratic governor talked with adults about class sizes and teacher layoffs, school officials' traditional concerns.

The schools Brown visited in Riverside and Stockton are both in economically depressed areas. More than 98 percent of students at south Stockton's Van Buren Elementary School receive free or reduced-price lunches. The school is by a housing project and is low-performing by state standards.

Brown's visits outside Sacramento are meant to apply pressure to Republican lawmakers resistant to his budget plan. Meanwhile, he has been focusing attention on law enforcement officials, asking them to lean on Republicans.

After the budget forum, Brown met privately in a portable classroom with San Joaquin County's sheriff and other local officials.

April 14, 2011
Senate approves $600k settlement in chiropractor board firing

BB CHIROPRATIC HAYES.JPGThe state Senate today approved a $600,000 settlement in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by the former executive director of the Board of Chiropractic Examiners.

Catherine Hayes was fired in 2007 amid clashes with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointees to the seven-member panel. A Bee investigation found that she had sent an email to the governor's office challenging the competency of the appointees shortly before her dismissal.

Then-board chairman Richard Tyler, a chiropractor and longtime friend of Schwarzenegger's, briefly assumed the role of interim executive director, and the board came under fire for taking several controversial actions in the wake of the shake-up. Lawmakers later deemed that the panel violated open-meeting laws and that Hayes was improperly fired.

Hayes filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court in 2008 alleging that she had been fired for cooperating with a criminal investigation into the practice of chiropractors working on patients under anesthesia and for reprimanding board members for not complying with open-meeting laws.

The bill, which was approved on a 37-0 vote, directs $600,000 from the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners' Fund to pay for the settlement. It now goes to the Assembly for approval.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fired Executive Director, Catherine Hayes testifies during the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners meeting held at the Department of Consumer Affairs, Friday March 23, 2007. Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee.

April 14, 2011
Odds and ends on the budget situation

No major breakthroughs to report on the state budget, but a few notes from the past couple days:

-- Senate Republicans don't seem particularly motivated to vote for taxes or a tax ballot, though they are still willing to engage in budget talks that involve pension changes and a long-term spending cap.

Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, said he hasn't spoken to Gov. Jerry Brown since talks ended last month and that he feels Republicans "gave them a clear pathway" to a deal before. But he isn't ruling anything out.

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said that little has changed in the Senate Republicans' position. They still want pension and spending cap changes. They still dislike Brown's elimination of redevelopment agencies and enterprise zone tax credits, as well as his change to the corporate tax formula. Huff said Democrats would need to make concessions before any deal could be struck.

"It's in their court to make the first move, and it would have to be to agree to the stipulations that were put in there before," Huff said, referring to the Senate Republicans' March memo. "I just don't think they can go there."

Brown has floated the idea of a temporary tax extension as a bridge to a fall election, while the California Teachers Association suggested that lawmakers raise taxes on their own. Asked about those ideas, Huff said, "You see an incremental problem growing ... Each one of those is more and more difficult for Republicans. I don't think they would get there at all."

-- The Department of Finance issued its cash assessment Thursday with data similar to those posted last week by Controller John Chiang and the Legislative Analyst's Office. Finance included the $1.2 billion loss of the sale-leaseback cash, though the governor and Legislature have already agreed on ways to replace that money. Finance said the March jump in personal income-tax revenue was largely due to a "misallocation" in its prediction of when filers would seek refunds. The state also received $423 million less in corporate tax revenues, or 21.2 percent below estimates.

-- Excluding the sale-leaseback deal from the calculation, the state is roughly $2 billion ahead of forecast in general fund revenues in 2010-11. Speaker John A. Pérez alluded to this money in his press conference Tuesday, and lawmakers are starting to believe that it will put a dent in the remaining $15.4 billion deficit.

The impact could be greater than $2 billion if the governor has reason to believe the state should use more optimistic projections for 2011-12. Huff and others have heard speculation (wishful thinking?) of assuming as much as $10 billion in additional revenues, but that seems wildly optimistic. Much depends on what happens with April revenues, and it remains too early to tell where things will end up. It remains possible that there will be no revenue bump at all.

April 14, 2011
Assembly speaker's gun inspires lyrical response

Armed with the news that Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez owns a gun, Dan Bernstein, longtime columnist for The (Riverside) Press-Enterprise, has penned a tribute.

Bernstein's lyrical effort is sung to the tune of Aerosmith's "Janie's Got A Gun," and includes this opener:

Johnny's got a gun

Johnny's got a gun

Lookin' out for Number One

Ain't even a Republican

What would Big Daddy say

Demos just don't roll this way

For better or worse, there's more.

April 14, 2011
Commission kills legislators' cars

California lawmakers can say goodbye to their cars provided largely at taxpayer expense.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission voted today to give legislators a $300 monthly car allowance to drive their own vehicles, effective the first week in December.

The action was taken over the objection of new commission chairman Tom Dalzell, who cited a two-year-old opinion of the Department of Personnel Administration that the commission lacks authority over legislative travel expenses.

Dalzell proposed postponing a vote until May to provide more time for legal review.
The other five commissioners attending the meeting overruled him and voted to kill the existing car program.

Legislative salaries, health benefits and the $142 per diem for living expenses were not altered by the independent pay panel.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the change is "something members can live with," but criticized the commission for "pointing the finger at public servants and public service" by repeatedly targeting lawmakers with pay and benefits cuts.

"We all know these are tough times and certainly some cutbacks are justified but I do think there is a fine line between ensuring that their decisions reflect the times and trying to make a political point," the Sacramento Democrat said.

Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Perez said a "one-size-fits-all-approach is a concern" because some members serve huge districts, as large as 32,000 square miles.

"Given the 26 percent cut legislators have already taken in salary and benefits, and the 15 percent additional cut the Speaker made to the Assembly operating budget, today's action seems punitive, and not in line with the commission's duty to size legislative compensation to the job," Murphy said in a statement.

Created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, the independent commission of seven gubernatorial appointees meets annually to set compensation for legislators and other statewide elected officials, from governor to Board of Equalization members.

The Legislature's vehicle program consumes a minuscule portion of the state budget, less than $1 million per year, but it was seized upon by the commission as an unnecessary expense in a year of massive budget deficit.

For decades, the Legislature has offered to buy a vehicle of each lawmaker's choosing and lease it back to the officeholder, who pays a portion of lease costs. Public funds pay for gas and maintenance.

The state insures each car for business travel, while lawmakers purchase private policies for personal use. The vast majority of driving is required to be for business travel, though the split is not closely monitored.

A Bee review of vehicle claims paid on lawmakers' state-issued cars showed they filed 122 claims over the past five years - roughly one for every four vehicles each year - costing taxpayers more than $768,000.

A recent legislative study found that costs for the existing vehicle lease program, including insurance, are not significantly higher and may be lower than reimbursing for miles driven in personal cars.

The current program's per-vehicle cost to taxpayers averaged $7,508 annually in the Senate and $7,397 annually in the Assembly during a one-year period that ended Nov. 30. The totals equal 42 cents and 38 cents per mile, respectively.

By contrast, legislators who drive their own vehicles are reimbursed by the Senate at 40 cents per mile and by the Assembly at 44 cents per mile.

In 2009, the pay panel cut legislative salaries from $116,208 to $95,291 and reduced per diem, car stipends and other benefits by 18 percent. It opted not to alter compensation last year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated to include comments from Steinberg and Murphy. Updated at 2:26 p.m., April 14, 2011.

April 14, 2011
Jerry Brown dumps commission chairman before cars vote

By Jim Sanders

BURBANK -- Gov. Jerry Brown designated a new chairman of California's state officials' compensation commission Wednesday on the eve of today's public hearing to consider eliminating a program that provides cars to lawmakers.

Democrat Thomas Dalzell, whose appointment as a commission member was announced Wednesday afternoon, was elevated to commission chairman by the governor hours later.

Dalzell replaced Chuck Murray as chairman, although Murray will continue to sit on the commission.

The move could alter whether the commission addresses the issue of legislative cars today. Murray was an advocate of eliminating the current program, while Dalzell is undecided.

The compensation commission, created by passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, is charged with setting salaries and benefits for state elected officials.

Dalzell, who said he has known Brown for years, is the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245.

April 14, 2011
AM Alert: It's pay commission day

The California Citizens Compensation Commission meets in Burbank today to take on the touchy question of whether California lawmakers should still drive state-subsidized cars.

Armed with information that shows paying mileage would be more expensive, as well as a list of incidents and accidents involving legislative vehicles, commissioners will consider whether to take aim at a benefit that makes some taxpayers' blood boil.

Adding to the intrigue, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday named two new commissioners to the panel, including one who used to work with his wife.

Gil Duran, press secretary to the governor, confirmed that the newbies will be participating in the discussion, but wasn't predicting the outcome.

BUDGET HEARING - The prospect of more cuts to California education is the topic of the day for the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, which meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4203.

The first half of the hearing will cover K-12 schools, with testimony from state schools chief Tom Torlakson and local superintendents. The second half is set to address higher education, with representatives of the California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Happy Birthday to Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, who turns 34 today.

April 13, 2011
Brown: Ultimate authority rests with the people

In making his case for a public vote on taxes Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown made an interesting reference to a line in the state constitution: "All political power is inherent in the people." It is in Article II, Section I, a part of the constitution related to laws on the initiative, referendum and recall process.

"It's a question of who's sovereign in this country and in this state," Brown said Wednesday. "It's we the people. In fact, California says, in the initiative part of the constitution, ultimate legislative authority rests with the people of California. And I'll take my case to them."

It's worth pointing out that the same part of the constitution has given confidence to some Democrats who think they can put taxes on the ballot with a majority vote. One criticism of the majority-vote path has been that the Legislature cannot delegate to the people its authority to write statutes. The legal defense is that the constitution gives voters the ultimate authority, so the Legislature can delegate its duties to the people - and on a majority vote.

Brown does not agree with the majority-vote path, and he wasn't intending to make that argument with his reference.

But the line apparently gives Brown moral comfort as much as it gives some Democrats legal comfort.

April 13, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown fills pay-panel vacancies on eve of key vote

Gov. Jerry Brown filled two vacancies on the California Citizens Compensation Commission today on the eve of a public meeting in which the panel is expected to consider killing the state's program of leasing cars to legislators.

The new appointees are Thomas Dalzell, 59, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, and Wilma Wallace, 49, vice president and deputy general counsel of Gap Inc. Brown's wife, Anne Gust Brown, was general counsel at The Gap until 2005.

Dalzell and Wallace will fill two vacant posts on the commission, raising the number of members from five to seven. Both are Democrats.

The pay panel, consisting entirely of gubernatorial appointees, was created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990 to set salaries and benefits for legislators and statewide elected officials.

Chairman Charles Murray said today that he is not sure whether Dalzell and Wallace will participate in Thursday's commission hearing. He said he was not aware that Brown had filled the two vacant positions until called by The Bee.

"I'm glad he has filled those slots and we look forward to working with them," Murray said simply.

Brown's announcement came hours after Murray told The Bee that he expected the pay commission to consider eliminating the state's tradition of leasing cars to legislators Thursday.

Members of the pay commission are not paid an annual salary but receive $100, plus travel expenses, for each day worked. The appointments of Dalzell and Wallace do not require Senate confirmation.

April 13, 2011
Ami Bera raises $230,000 for second bid for Congress

officeRB Ami Bera 1.JPGElk Grove Democrat Ami Bera says he has reported raising more than $230,000 in the first quarter for his second run for Congress.

The 46-year-old physician posted strong fundraising numbers in his 2010 bid for the 3rd Congressional District, outraising incumbent Rep. Dan Lungren throughout the campaign. He lost to the Gold River Republican by seven percentage points.

While it is yet to be seen how the boundaries and makeup of the region's congressional seats will change under the decennial redistricting process or if the new district lines will even pit Bera against Lungren, a release sent by the campaign reads like the Bera camp is gearing up for a rematch. Draft district maps drawn by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission are expected to be released in June.

The 2011 first quarter total is shy of the $300,000 Bera raised as of July 2009, his first active quarter of the 2010 cycle. His campaign said 94 percent of the contributors are from California, with more than 400 coming from the Sacramento region. The full federal campaign finance reports must be submitted by Friday.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ami Bera greets volunteers in his Carmichael field office while he campaign for the 3rd Congressional District on Saturday, October 16, 2010. Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee.

April 13, 2011
Jerry Brown, law enforcement officials pitch tax plan

Gov. Jerry Brown and law enforcement officials at the Capitol this afternoon defended Brown's plan to redirect certain offenders from prisoners to local jails, a bid to blunt Republican criticism that the plan would burden counties and lead to prisoners being released early.

The issue has become a major point of contention in Brown's bid to extend higher taxes on income, vehicles and sales. Brown is seeking to send some tax revenue to local agencies to fund the added burden.

Brown said at a press conference that California's prison system is failing, with a recidivism rate exceeding 70 percent. He was joined by law enforcement officials, including the leaders of state sheriffs and police chiefs associations, who said they could manage inmates more efficiently than the state. They called for tax extensions to fund their efforts.

"We're talking about a reasonable amount of money for a tremendous amount of public safety," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said.

Brown's proposed tax extensions would expire in five years. Asked about continued funding for local agencies, the Democratic governor said, "Hopefully, the economy's going to grow."

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, addressed reporters in the hallway after Brown's press conference. He said Brown's plan would cause "mass victimization and a great injustice," with prisoners released early from crowded county jails.

"The blood will be on the streets," he said. "That for me is a bigger reason to be no on the budget than the taxes."

Nielsen, asked why the law enforcement officials thought differently, said to ask them. One of them, Mark Pazin, president of the California State Sheriffs' Association, was standing nearby, but they had no interest in an on-the-spot exchange.

"He's a friend of mine," Nielsen said, shaking Pazin's hand. "I'm not going to suck him into this debate."

April 13, 2011
Pay panel to consider killing subsidies for lawmakers' cars

California's longtime tradition of leasing cars for legislators will be considered for elimination Thursday, according to the chairman of the state's independent salary-setting commission.

Chuck Murray, chairman of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, said today that he anticipates a proposal that would eliminate the current lease program by year's end.

"In the current economy, this is not something we can lead on," Murray said in noting that no other state provides lawmakers with a car, gas and maintenance paid largely by taxpayers.

The five-member commission of gubernatorial appointees, created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, is scheduled to meet Thursday in Burbank to consider salaries and benefits for statewide elected officials.

Murray said he personally believes that officials' pay should be cut in light of the state's massive budget crisis, but he does not know whether a salary proposal will surface at Thursday's meeting.

On other pay matters, Murray said he does not expect action on cutting per diem or health benefits.

The car issue is likely to be a focus of Thursday's public meeting. Murray said he did not know whether a majority of the commission favors eliminating the current vehicle leasing program.

Murray said he has not seen a specific proposal, but that he would like to see legislators given a standard monthly car allowance or be reimbursed for miles driven on official business.

California is the only state that provides lawmakers with a car, gas and maintenance paid largely by taxpayers.

Under the current program, the state buys a vehicle of each lawmaker's choosing. Legislators pay a share of costs to lease the vehicle, and public funds pay for gas and maintenance.

About two of every three legislators - 80 of 119 - drive a state vehicle, but some opt for used models, particularly in the Senate.

The Legislature caps the public subsidy for lawmakers' vehicles. The sum varies depending on the length of lease, but typically it is $287 per month in the Assembly and $282 per month in the Senate for each leased vehicle.

The Legislature insures the vehicles for business use, while legislators buy their own insurance for personal use, which is expected to consume only a small fraction of total miles driven. The split between personal and business miles is not monitored closely. A Bee review of accident claims found legislative drivers to be more collision prone than the national average.

Defenders of the lease-car program say it is cost effective.

Many legislators drive long distance to reach the Capitol each week, and some districts encompass several hundred square miles, so switching exclusively to mileage reimbursement would not significantly cut costs and could raise them, a joint legislative study concluded.

April 13, 2011
Sidney Harman, husband of former congresswoman, dies at 92

Sidney Harman, the wealthy businessman and philanthropist married to former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, died in Washington late Tuesday of complications from leukemia. He was 92.

Harman, who made his fortune in the stereo industry, made headlines in recent years for his purchase of Newsweek magazine and decision to merge the publication with the Daily Beast website. His wife represented the 36th Congressional District until late February, when she stepped down to take a job with a Washington, D.C. think tank.

Below is an excerpt from a Los Angeles Times obituary of Harman. Read the full piece at this link.

The path of Harman's long career took him from the electronics industry to government, academia and, finally, the Fourth Estate. His passion for the arts and philanthropic impulses led him to provide funding for Washington Sidney Harman Hall, a popular performance space. An indefatigable reader and thinker who was fascinated by creative geniuses, Harman also at age 92 founded the Academy for Polymathic Studies at the University of Southern California. From heart, he could recite long passages from Shakespeare, or Abraham Lincoln or Maxwell Anderson, and would often embroider a thought or regale dinner-party guests with an apt quote.

April 13, 2011
AM Alert: Sikh solidarity

Today is Sikh Solidarity Day at the Capitol, an event prompted by the recent shooting of two elderly Sikh men in Elk Grove.

Beginning at 11 a.m., members of the community will serve traditional Sikh food and offer information about Sikh traditions, culture and history to the public.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will wear a turban for the second time this week, and an assortment of community leaders and elected officials will speak out for religious freedom.

Among the participants: State Sen. Doug LaMalfa, Sen. Michael Rubio, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, Assemblyman Dan Logue and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada.

Not interested in Indian food?

Businesses and workers from the city of Vernon will gather on the west side of Capitol Park to offer their own version of free lunch.

They're out to kill a bill by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez that would dissolve Vernon, a tax-rich city with a history of paying officials more than $500,000 a year.

We'll see whether representatives of the Los Angeles County community can appeal to Northern California appetites with food from Farmer John's, maker of the "Dodger Dog."

All 23 California State University campuses will host events today in defense of higher education. This time it's faculty members who are pushing the actions, which will include rallies and teach-ins.

At CSU Sacramento, a rally and march begins at 12:30 p.m. in the Main Quad. Faculty there say they are focused on the"misplaced spending priorities" of President Alexander Gonzalez.

April 12, 2011
Grounded by his doctor, Lieu opts for long commute to Capitol

It wasn't your typical flight delays that thwarted Sen. Ted Lieu's Monday morning commute to Sacramento. The Torrance Democrat was diagnosed with an ear infection and under doctor's orders not to take the 75-minute flight to work.

But instead of calling in sick, Lieu opted for an alternative route back to Sacramento. He boarded a Greyhound Bus. The nine-hour ride, which left at around 11 a.m., landed Lieu in the capital after 8 p.m. While the trek meant rescheduling at least one bill set to be heard in committee, Lieu was able to make light of the situation on his Twitter account:

On Greyhound from LA to Sac (ear infection). Plus side is I'm not on aging #Southwest 737-300 jet where the fuselage could blow open.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply


No word on whether he got a Southwest refund to put toward his $64 bus fare.

April 12, 2011
Teachers, Assembly leader seeking taxes without ballot

The head of the California Teachers Association said Tuesday he wants state leaders to drop Gov. Jerry Brown's idea of asking voters to extend higher taxes and instead approve the taxes themselves in the Capitol.

"I believe that as much as our governor has been extremely transparent and honest in doing what he told folks he'd do - which is let the people decide - it's too late for that," said CTA President David Sanchez in a phone interview. "Once you put it on the ballot after June, it's no longer an extension, it becomes new taxes. And once they're new taxes, the people won't support that. I think the Legislature ought to do that themselves."

Brown had been counting on significant financial backing from CTA, the state's largest teachers union, to support his campaign for five years of higher taxes on vehicles, sales and income. The Democratic governor built his budget so the taxes would ensure K-12 schools avoid cuts.

Sanchez's remarks suggest a split in strategy between Brown and his labor partners. The Democratic governor has insisted he will hold true to his campaign pledge not to raise taxes without a vote of the people.

Besides having concerns about the mood of the electorate, school leaders are nervous about the election idea because they want to know their funding level before the 2011-12 school year starts, and an election in September or later would undermine that.

April 12, 2011
Speaker says he owns a gun but doesn't carry it at Capitol

After seeking to rescind authorization enabling four assemblymembers to carry weapons at the Capitol, Speaker John A. Pérez said Tuesday he owns a gun but doesn't bring it to work because he believes protection should be in the hands of "trained professionals."

"I think that the security of the building is best done by the professionals," the Los Angeles Democrat said. "Like many members of the Legislature, I'm a gun owner. But I don't bring my weapon into the Capitol. I don't think that's the purpose for my weapon. So I think that the security of the building ought to be left to the trained professionals."

Assembly Chief Sergeant at Arms Ronald Pane previously authorized four assemblymembers to carry concealed firearms at the Capitol, The Bee reported Friday. Pérez said that after The Bee contacted him, he asked Pane to revoke that decision.

Pérez said Pane's authorization "was done, quite frankly, in error." He said that under legislation passed last year, Assembly Bill 2668, the chief sergeants in both houses would have to approve a concealed weapons exemption for any legislator. Pérez has told lawmakers that they must reapply with both Pane and Senate Chief Sergeant at Arms Tony Beard, Jr.

The legislator gun dispute unfolded just days after Pérez had directed Assembly sergeants-at-arms to carry semiautomatic handguns at all times while on duty.

April 12, 2011
Assembly committee approves 'open carry' ban, rifle records bill

Angry Summer Obama protest with rifle.JPGThe Assembly Public Safety Committee approved on party lines today two controversial gun bills that failed last session, including legislation targeting the "Open Carry" protest movement.

Assembly Bill 144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public. The bill language contains a number of exceptions, including exemptions for peace officers, military gatherings, gun shows and hunting.

Former Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña introduced similar legislation last year in response to reports of gun brandishing people gathering in public places to protest gun-control laws. An amended version of the bill failed to make it out of the lower house before the end of the legislative session.

Portantino said the practice of open carry has "created an increase in problematic instances," alarming and frightening passersby and needlessly draining law enforcement resources when officers are called to respond to reports of armed people.

"Open carrying of weapons is something that belongs on a Hollywood movie set, not on Main Street or Starbucks. You don't need a sidearm in order to buy a cheeseburger," he said.

Opponents countered that the ban would leave law-abiding citizens with no option for exercising their Second Amendment rights if they are also denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon. They argued the open carry movement has not led to any altercations that would merit the ban.

"Show me any instances where there has been a problem where the person carrying the arms openly has been arrested for any reason. They don't have any," Ed Worley of the National Rifle Association said. "It makes people uncomfortable, but that's the nature of a free society."

The Democratic-controlled committee also approved Assembly Bill 809, a revival of a previous effort to require that gun retailers report the same records of sales for long guns that they currently collect for handguns. Democratic Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who authored the bill, said the legislation would standardize reporting procedures and aide law enforcement. Opponents said the change would create an undue burden for gun owners and retailers.

PHOTO CREDIT: In this Monday, Aug. 17, 2009 file photo, a man carries a military style AR-15 type rifle during a Barack Obama opposition rally in Phoenix. (AP Photo/ The Arizona Republic, Jack Kurtz, File)


April 12, 2011
Will Prop. 14, redistricting push out congressional incumbents?

POLITICO takes a look today at how changes to the redistricting process and primary election system could impact the Golden State's congressional incumbents during the next election, positing that a "perfect storm of political forces is set to dramatically transform the nation's largest congressional delegation next year."

Alex Isenstadt reports:

Some change in the California delegation is already guaranteed. Rep. Jane Harman departed the House earlier this year to assume the lead position at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. Rep. Bob Filner is expected to run for San Diego mayor. A third Democrat, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, has suggested she plans to retire from the House, too.

Aside from those three, officials in both parties are closely monitoring the political activity of a handful of long-serving incumbents -- including (Democrat Howard) Berman, Democrat Pete Stark and Republicans Jerry Lewis, Elton Gallegly and David Dreier -- for signs they might also be headed for retirement.

"We're starting to see them look at the future and at other pastures," said Douglas Johnson, a fellow at Claremont McKenna College's Rose Institute, which studies state and local government.

"They've had the good life for the last 10 years. They've had good districts and had no competition," Johnson said. "I think you're going to see a big change -- I'm guessing nine to 10 members of the delegation may not run again."

The piece, which you can read at this link, also suggests that the maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission could create room for viable challengers to Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Sam Farr.

An aging delegation could also create higher-than-usual turnover over the next election or two. GOP consultant Matt Rexroad looked at that factor in this February Flashreport.org piece.


April 12, 2011
Jerry Brown says first 100 days went 'remarkably well'

Gov. Jerry Brown will spend today, the 100th day of his third term, signing renewable energy legislation in Milpitas and talking to business leaders in San Francisco about the budget crisis.

In his first three months, the Democratic governor has charmed lawmakers and observers alike with his accessibility, his lack of entourage and, yes, his corgi dog. Brown started budget negotiations far earlier than in previous years, and he enacted $11.2 billion in spending cuts.

But Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, still doesn't have a budget deal, and his plan for a June election on tax extensions is dead.

"I think it's gone remarkably well," Brown said Monday. "We got half the budget deficit cured two months early. We have a renewable energy bill that will set a landmark for the nation, and we have a prison realignment and reform that will also be a very important and major change for the state."

Still, he said, "Plenty to do in the next couple hundred days."

April 12, 2011
AM Alert: New push for 'open carry' handgun bill

The last effort died in the final hours of last year's Assembly session, most likely a casualty of too many bills and too little time.

Now Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, has taken up the bid to prohibit people from openly carrying unloaded handguns in public.

His measure will have its first public hearing today in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. in Room 126 at the Capitol.

With AB 144, Portantino is picking up where fellow Democrat Lori Saldaña - now termed out of the Legislature - left off. His goal is to curtail protests that encourage participants to show up at public places en masse with firearms strapped to their side.

Now that Assembly Speaker John Pérez has revoked permission for his members to carry weapons, Portantino can rest assured that no one on the committee will be armed.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who today marks the 100th day of his current stint in the governor's office, will sign legislation requiring public and private utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

He'll then travel to the Marriott Marquis Hotel in downtown San Francisco for a speech to the Bay Area Council.

CONGO 'CONFLICT MINERALS' - Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett will hold a 9:30 press conference in Room 2040 on the subject of 'conflict minerals' from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The federal government wants companies to disclose whether minerals they use come from mines owned by rebel militias that have killed more than 5 million people in the country. Corbett has legislation, to be heard in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee immediately after the press conference, aimed at encouraging companies to comply.

NUCLEAR TESTIMONY - State Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, will spend his day in Washington, D.C., where he is scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Blakeslee, a geophysicist with a doctorate in earthquake studies, has called for more rigorous seismic studies to be done before federal regulators re-license California's Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. PG&E just yesterday requested that the NRC delay its final licensing approval until the studies are done.

April 11, 2011
Death of consultant Kam Kuwata stuns Democrats

By Michael Doyle
Bee Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The body of highly regarded Democratic political consultant Kam Kuwata was found in his Southern California condominium Monday, sending shock waves that reached all the way to Capitol Hill.

Kuwata was 57, a wily and good-humored operator who helped some of California's most well-known politicians win election time and time again.

"He was a political wonk, who loved campaigns," said Mark Kadesh, former chief of staff for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. "He was also one of the nicest, most sincere political professionals I have ever known."

In a statement, Feinstein added that she was "deeply saddened" at Kuwata's death, which she said was a reminder of "how short life is."

"California has lost a sharp political mind," Feinstein said, "and I've lost a loyal and dear friend of more than 20 years."

The state Assembly adjourned in Kuwata's honor on Monday, just hours after word his passing surfaced.

"He would make sure that folks held their word," said Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, his voice cracking.

Neither the cause of death nor its exact time was known Monday.

Los Angeles police officers found Kuwata's body on the office floor of his condo in Venice, according to an e-mail sent by a Kuwata family member. Friends and family members had reportedly alerted police after becoming concerned about not being able to reach him.

April 11, 2011
Jerry Brown urges crime victims to lobby for taxes

Gov. Jerry Brown urged crime victims this afternoon to pressure Republican lawmakers resistant to tax extensions, a move to broaden the field of interests lobbying for his budget plan.

"I hope you'll tell some of your legislators we're going to need some money," Brown told crime victims and law enforcement officials at the Capitol. "Because you can't run a prison, you can't run rehabilitation, you can't run parole and you can't run probation on hot air. You got to run it on real money. And I hope you'll be a good advocate to do that."

The Democratic governor is hoping pressure from law enforcement and school officials, among others, can deliver the two Republican votes necessary in each house for a ballot measure to extend higher taxes on vehicles, income and sales. He has so far failed to secure those votes.

"I know that's a political advertisement, but so be it," Brown told crime victims on the west steps of the Capitol. "We need it. You want me to do the job? I'll do it for you, but you've got to get those few Republicans to do their job."

Republicans who negotiated with Brown over California's now-$15.4 billion budget deficit demanded pension, regulatory and other changes. Talks fell apart last month, but Brown said he is meeting with some lawmakers again.

While applauding Brown, speakers at this afternoon's gathering were critical of his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for reducing from 16 years to seven the prison sentence of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez's son. The victim's father, Fred Santos, said the justice system did not fail his family, but that "dirty politicians" did.

April 11, 2011
Steinberg, legislators honor Sikh victims of Elk Grove shooting

The California Channel- Video on Demand_1302553320799.jpegA handful of lawmakers donned traditional Sikh headdress on the Senate floor Monday to honor two turbaned Sikh men shot while on a walk in Elk Grove last month.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, joined by Sikhs from the greater Sacramento area, said the gesture was meant to show solidarity and unity in the wake of the March 4 shooting, which left 65-year-old Surinder Singh dead and 78-year-old Gurmej Atwal critically injured.

"No Sikh should be afraid to wear this headdress. No Sikh should be afraid to practice their peaceful religion because they believe someone will attack them," the Sacramento Democrat, wearing a purple turban, said.

April 11, 2011
Jerry Brown's loft building evacuated after sprinkler breaks

Gov. Jerry Brown was at his downtown loft when a sprinkler head at a downstairs restaurant broke this morning, triggering an alarm and forcing a brief evacuation.

Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Burgess said a cleaner at P.F. Chang's China Bistro apparently struck the sprinkler accidentally with a mop head about 5:30 a.m., wetting the restaurant.

The lofts at the Elliott Building, at 16th and J streets, were briefly evacuated.

April 11, 2011
With Kings gone, lawmakers and staff lose freebies

By Phillip Reese and Torey Van Oot

Add California's political industry to the list of those shedding a tear if the Sacramento Kings leave town.

Tickets to see the capital team hit the court perennially make popular gifts to lawmakers and staff.

Corporations and interests groups gave roughly $200,000 worth of Kings' tickets to state leaders and their aides during the last decade, according to a Bee review of state records. About 50 leaders and aides accepted more than $1,000 worth of Kings tickets during that period.

Among the ticket recipients was Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who has been rooting for the team to relocate to Anaheim.

There was a noticeable drop off in Kings ticket giveaways during the last part of the decade, as the Kings played badly. Last year, corporations could only give away $7,000 worth of Kings tickets, down 80 percent from the $36,000 worth of free tickets given during 2004.

If watching the Kings is no longer an option, interests seeking to court Capitol decision-makers with free tickets could always rely on admission to scores of other shows and happenings at Power Balance Pavillion. Corporations and interest groups footed the bill for a wide range of capital-area events in 2010, including Black Eyed Peas and Jon Bon Jovi concerts, Disney on Ice and World Extreme Cagefighting.

Search The Bee's database of more than 40,000 gifts to lawmakers and staff over the last decade at this link.

April 11, 2011
See the full list of legislative insurance claims

The online version of our Sunday story about auto insurance claims filed on legislators' state-issued cars, came with a full list of claims made from 2006 through 2010.

Check it out here.

April 11, 2011
Political consultant Kam Kuwata found dead

UPDATE: Read an updated obituary here.

Well-known Democratic political consultant Kam Kuwata was found dead Monday in his Venice, Calif. condominium, according to city officials and a family e-mail.

The family e-mail, sent to friends and acquaintances of the 57-year-old Kuwata, said that Los Angeles Police Department officers had found him on the floor of his condo. News reports stated there was no indication of foul play.

Kuwata had helped Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein win election multiple times, and worked on the presidential campaign of the late Sen. Alan Cranston.

"Kam was one of the nicest, most sincere political professional I have ever known," said Mark Kadesh, who formerly served as Feinstein's chief of staff. "He was a political wonk, who loved campaigns."

April 11, 2011
Database: See, search gifts to elected officials, aides

The gift reports filed by state lawmakers last month included everything from sporting event tickets to tequila tastings.

Now you can search those items and more in The Bee's updated database of the more than 40,000 gifts corporations and interest groups reported giving to lawmakers and their aides over the last decade.

Check out the full database at this link.

April 11, 2011
Federal budget deal could slow California rail funds

By Michael Doyle
Bee Washington Bureau

California's ambitious high-speed rail project could slow down a little under the last-minute budget deal that's kept the federal government open.

As a lead-up to what lawmakers call the largest spending cut in U.S. history, negotiators lopped $1.5 billion from federal high-speed and intercity rail funding.

The move lets states keep high-speed rail funds they've already been promised, but reduces the new money they can obtain.

"It would have helped," California High-Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall said Monday. "Obviously, if there was money available, we could put it to work."

The cut still preserves $1 billion for federal high-speed and intercity rail projects, for the fiscal year that ends Oct. 1.

The high-speed rail funding cut is part of $2 billion in housing and transportation spending reductions agreed to by White House and congressional negotiators late Friday night.

Negotiators folded the reductions into a stop-gap measure, which keeps the government open while the finishing touches are put on a much-larger $38 billion package of cuts.

"(These initial) spending cuts...show the American people that we are serious about cutting spending wherever and whenever we can," declared Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

The House and Senate will vote on the overall $38 billion budget-cutting bill sometime this week. Few details were available Monday about the specific additional reductions.

April 11, 2011
AM Alert: Protest time

'Tis the season for budget protests on the Capitol lawn, and today is no exception.

Classified school employees, parents and school officials will gather near the south steps of the Capitol at noon to warn that an all-cuts state budget will hurt school districts throughout the state.

Among the scheduled speakers: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Schools chief Tom Torlakson, California School Employees Association President Allan Clark and California PTA President Jo Loss.

The state Assembly is set to hold session today at noon; the time of the Senate floor session has been changed to 1 p.m.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: Both houses also have committee hearnings scheduled. Click here for the Assembly's schedule, and here for the Senate's.

The Senate's Public Employment and Retirement Committee will consider approving recently negotiated contracts between six state labor unions and the Brown Administration.
It meets at 2:00 p.m. or upon adjournment in Room 2040.

Among them are new deals with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the International Union of Operating Engineers, which the state Legislative Analyst said Friday don't save as much as Gov. Jerry Brown had planned.

April 10, 2011
Jerry Brown defends first lady in LA interview

View more videos at: http://www.nbclosangeles.com.

Responding to Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton's statement that first lady and special counsel Anne Gust Brown "yelled" at him in budget talks, Gov. Jerry Brown said on a TV show in Los Angeles this morning that Dutton was "filibustering" and that his wife had little patience for it.

"If you were talking to Robert Dutton, you would have yelled at him, too," Brown said on NBC 4's "News Conference," taped Saturday. "The fact is that he was filibustering for 45 minutes. Now, I understand that's his right, and I was listening. But my wife, you know, is from business. She's not used to the games and antics of politicians."

Brown said, "Quite frankly, you know, I think she has some level of impatience with that kind of nonsense."

The Democratic governor told reporters Friday that he would consider signing a budget that includes immediate tax extensions subject to a later vote. The measure would still require two Republican votes in each house. Brown, who failed to secure that level of support for a June ballot measure, said he believes pressure from law enforcement leaders in Republicans' districts could change their minds.

"They're very concerned for the public safety," Brown said. "And as the legislators, even conservative ones, listen to their own police chief, they may have second thoughts."

April 9, 2011
Jerry Brown to sign renewable energy bill Tuesday

Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he will sign legislation Tuesday requiring public and private utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

"Obviously I'm going to sign the bill," the Democratic governor told reporters in Los Alamitos. "I believe we can get to 40 percent, and I think we should."

The measure greatly increases California's mandate, currently 20 percent, and Brown was widely expected to sign it.

The bill was approved in the Legislature mostly on partisan lines. Democrats cheered it as a measure to improve the environment and stimulate the economy, while Republicans said it would hurt the economy and increase future power prices.

April 9, 2011
Jerry Brown appoints David Baldwin head of National Guard

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Col. David Baldwin head of the California National Guard.

The appointment, announced today, comes less than a month after state senators questioned Guard officials about financial lapses, including evidence of fraud involving student loan repayments and cash bonuses in recruiting.

Baldwin, 47, replaces Adjutant Gen. Mary J. Kight, who had said she was responding to problems by flattening the organization's culture and promoting a "culture shift" in the Guard.

Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, said during a hearing in Sacramento in March, "You have to change the attitude, the personality of the Guard in California."

Baldwin, of Fair Oaks, has been with the Guard for more than 29 years and served two combat tours in Afghanistan, Brown's office said in a statement announcing the appointment.

Brown and Baldwin are scheduled to appear together today at a California Cadet Corps celebration in Los Alamitos.

Baldwin served in Afghanistan as deputy commanding officer of the 101st Air Assault Division Tactical Command Post. In the Guard, he was chief of the Joint Staff from 2009 to 2010 and director of plans and operations from 2004 to 2009.

The position, for which Baldwin is to be paid $180,201, requires Senate confirmation. He is a Republican.

Brown also appointed Col. Matthew Beevers, 47, of Felton, assistant adjutant general of the Guard. He has served with the Guard for almost 28 years, including tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

Beevers, a Republican, is to be paid $139,194 a year.

April 8, 2011
Pérez asks sergeant to revoke members' gun permission

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has asked the lower house's chief sergeant-at-arms to revoke authorization several members were given to carry concealed firearms in the Capitol "pending a full review of safety and security measures."

The request came hours after The Bee first reported that Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Ronald Pane had granted four members special permission to carry weapons under the dome and in legislative office buildings.

Perez spokesman John A. Vigna said in a written statement:

"The Speaker does not believe that members should bring weapons into the Capitol because the job of protecting the men and women who visit and work in the Capitol is best left to the well trained professionals in the Sergeant's office and the California Highway Patrol. The Speaker has asked members to work with his office to review safety and security concerns they may have about their district offices. The safety of the men and women who visit the Capitol, as well as their representative's district office is the highest priority for the Speaker."

April 8, 2011
California Democrats tap independent for convention

Apparently Democrats need a break from themselves every once in a while.

The California Democratic Party announced Friday that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, will be the keynote speaker for its annual state convention April 29 to May 1 in Sacramento.

Sanders may be an independent, but he's not of the moderate variety that term tends to conjure. He sits to the left of the Democratic Party and was dubbed "The Socialist Senator" in a 2007 New York Times Magazine profile.

The state party said this marks the first time it has tapped an independent for its prime speaking position. Despite his independent status, Sanders caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.

All Democratic statewide officeholders are slated to address the convention, including Gov. Jerry Brown, who is scheduled for the final day.

The convention will feature a Saturday night concert by the Latin funk band Ozomatli. The Grammy-award winning group is no stranger to politics; it organized in 1995 to perform at Los Angeles labor protests, according to its website.

April 8, 2011
Jerry Brown mulling tax extension before public vote

Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he would consider signing a budget in which the Legislature extends temporary tax increases - subject to a later vote.

"That's a possibility," Brown said after meeting with local officials in Riverside. "They can do all cuts, they can have no budget, or they can... extend the taxes subject to their expiring if the people vote 'No."

Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said such a plan would still require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature. Brown has been unable to find the Republican votes necessary in either house to move forward his proposal to extend higher taxes on vehicles, income and sales.

Brown said he may propose a budget that would assume tax extensions before voters approve them, triggering an all-cuts budget if taxes fail at the ballot. The Democratic governor promised in his campaign not to raise taxes without voter approval. Brown said he is not breaking his promise.

"(The Legislature) may do the extension subject to a vote as soon as possible," Brown said. "I'd like to have a vote before, but the Republicans made that impossible."

Brown said, "I want to see what can be done. ... The Republicans have made impossible an election in June, so I say get an election as quickly as you can."

Ashford said the scenario is only one of many possibilities and would not break Brown's campaign promise because "it would be a temporary extension until we could get a vote as soon as possible."

Brown was in Riverside for the first of a series of statewide forums on the budget. He largely refrained from attacking Republican lawmakers, as he did all week in Sacramento, instead painting their differences as so deep only voters in a tax election could resolve them.

"There's no absolute right answer here," Brown told about 60 education and other officials in a forum at Arlanza Elementary School.

April 8, 2011
Assembly OKS concealed guns for four legislators

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:40 p.m. to include a link to a new post with a response from the Assembly speaker.

Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Ronald Pane has given four legislators permission to carry concealed weapons in the state Capitol, according to two senior Senate staff members who have been informed of the decision.

State law prohibits carrying loaded firearms and deadly weapons in public buildings, except under limited conditions. A 2010 bill by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, tightened the law, requiring that most holders of concealed weapons permits or other gun licenses get permission from the sergeants-at-arms of the state Assembly or the state Senate in order to bring their gun in the Capitol or legislative office buildings. Peace officers are exempt from the restrictions.

No such approval has been given in the Senate, where the Rules Committee has established a no-guns policy. Senate Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard said while he respects the Assembly's judgment to establish its own security practices to best protect its members, it would take an "extraordinary situation" for him to give a member the OK to carry a concealed weapon in the building. He said his focus has been on how existing safety protocol and systems can be used to respond to threats and protect all members, staff and visitors.

Shortly after The Bee first reported the news, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said the Los Angeles Democrat had asked Pane to revoke the authorizations "pending a full review of safety and security measures."

As the Sacramento Bee reported this week, sergeants for the lower house have recently started carrying concealed weapons full-time while on duty.

Pane and a spokeswoman for Pérez, who directed the change in policy, said the move was intended to create continuity and enhance safety for members, staff and the public as a whole.

The measures, which come in the wake of the January shooting of Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, are in addition to existing security present at the Capitol, including armed California Highway Patrol officers and metal detectors and security stationed at building entrances.

April 8, 2011
State saw surprise March boost in income tax revenues

State Controller John Chiang and the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office reported this week that California enjoyed a surprise boost in income tax revenues for March, more than $1.2 billion above projections.

Much of the gain was due to the fact that California paid out $953 million less in refunds than the Department of Finance had projected, according to the analyst's office.

But the analyst also suggested that "job growth and wage and salary growth might be better than indicated by official labor market estimates." Chiang's office also attributed the rise to "decent gains in employment, incomes and hours."

The Analyst's Office said California has now received about $2 billion above what the Department of Finance had projected for the 2010-11 fiscal year, based on collections of income, corporate and sales taxes.

If those numbers hold through April - a big "if," given that April is the state's biggest tax collection month - they could provide an immediate reduction to California's deficit calculation, which currently stands at $15.4 billion.

Gov. Jerry Brown is due to release his budget revision by May 14 with updated figures. Senate Republicans suggested in their budget memo last month that the governor "account for higher than projected tax revenues" as a budget solution worth $1.3 billion.

Both fiscal offices cautioned that the revenues remain volatile. Corporate tax collections in March were about 20 percent less than expected. It also remains possible that a late 2009 increase in state tax withholding could force the state to pay out more in refunds this April than expected.

Chiang actually reported that revenues were below projections in March by 5.8 percent, but that was largely due to Brown's decision not to sell 11 state office properties. The Analyst's Office did not include the sale-leaseback deal in its review. Brown and lawmakers have already approved alternate solutions - largely borrowing from special funds - to offset the loss of building sale money.

April 8, 2011
AM Alert: On the road again

Gov. Jerry Brown, who's kept close to the Capitol since his election in an effort to reach a budget-balancing deal, heads out today for a different kind of campaigning.

In the next two days, he'll visit the districts of two Republican lawmakers he hopes will provide votes he needs to put tax extensions on the ballot: Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga and Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach.

Dutton's district encompasses all of Riverside, where Brown will appear at an elementary school today. Capitol Alert suspects the subject of education funding might come up.

The city is also represented by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries of Lake Elsinore, who issued a statement welcoming Brown to town:

"The message I hear from the people of Riverside is clear - they oppose higher taxes, support a spending cap and pension reform, and want Sacramento to lift heavy-handed regulations that prevent businesses from creating jobs. We have some of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country here, and I welcome Gov. Brown to speak to some of the actual private sector employers in Riverside so he can hear that same message that we just can't afford it anymore," said Jeffries, who was never considered a possible vote for Brown's spending plan.

On Saturday, Brown stops by the California Cadet Corps Centennial Celebration at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base. Harman, a moderate who happens to be termed out of the Legislature in 2012, represents the area.

No word on whether Dutton or Harman will get lunch or a hug.

LONGHORN BEETLES -- The Pacific Legal Foundation announces filing a federal lawsuit in an effort to remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle from the Endangered Species Act list. The 10 a.m. press conference will be held across the street from 251 Commerce Circle (the Boy Scouts of America building) in Sacramento.

BREASTFEEDING POLICIES - The California WIC Association hosts an educational forum, sponsored by the Senate Health Committee, from 10 a.m. to noon at the state Capitol, Room 2040.

NATIONAL GUARD - The California Army National Guard holds a 10 a.m. ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new Okinawa Armory. The address is 8450 Okinawa Street in Sacramento.

April 7, 2011
Meg Whitman to speak at Bush conference on economic growth

Meg Whitman at debateFormer GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman will make her first major public speaking appearance since the November election next week, giving a keynote address at a The George W. Bush Institute conference on the economy.

The former eBay chief executive's Tuesday speech in Dallas will be part of a conference exploring what economic policies could spark a 4 percent economic growth rate in the United States. Former Republican President George W. Bush and economist Arthur Laffer are also scheduled to give remarks at the two-day event.

Whitman's publicized speaking engagements since losing the election to Gov. Jerry Brown have been limited to private events, including talks with Harvard University alumni and
female members of a Bay Area group.

Whitman, who says she has no plans to run for office in 2012, has joined the boards of Zipcar, Hewlett-Packard and Procter & Gamble and started to work as a part-time consultant to venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers since the campaign ended.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman speaks at a Sept. 29, 2010, gubernatorial debate held at UC Davis (José Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee)

April 7, 2011
GOP kicks off budget roadshow of its own

Add the California Republican Party to the list of politicians taking their budget cases on the road.

Starting a yearlong set of visits with a stop tonight in Fresno, Republican lawmakers said today they will talk about proposals for regulatory, pension and other government changes while objecting to Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan.

"Sometimes we get, I think we get insular across the street in that building," Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said. "And it's a great opportunity to get out and talk to what I call real people, real Californians."

She may cross paths with the Democratic governor or Democratic legislative leaders. Brown is making his first appearance on a statewide budget tour on Friday in Riverside, and Democratic leaders said today they plan to hold budget hearings outside Sacramento.

Brown and Democratic lawmakers are expected to frame the budget controversy as a choice between higher taxes or dramatic service cuts. Conway, Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, said that is a false choice.

"It's disingenuous to scare people," Conway said.

Conway said state government could save $2.5 billion by reducing operating and equipment budgets by 20 percent. Harkey pointed to California's high speed rail project as an example of unnecessary spending. She also objected to it being built through farmland.

"This is cultural genocide, and we can't tolerate that," she said.

After enduring major losses at the polls last year, Republicans will try on their tour to appeal to Democrats and independent voters, including stops in Los Angeles and other Democratic areas, Del Beccaro said.

"We need to hear what it's like out there," he said. "We're going to be doing mostly listening."

The party announced seven stops between today and July 21. It said more dates will be forthcoming.

April 7, 2011
Jerry Brown blows out candles with first lady, dog by side

Gov. Jerry Brown, who turned 73 today, pulled on a sweater and blew out the candles on a birthday cake at the Capitol on Wednesday.

He said on Twitter today that his staff surprised him with it.


April 7, 2011
State leaders taking budget message to the road

Frustrated with a stalemate in the Capitol, Democratic leaders said Thursday they plan to hold budget hearings outside Sacramento in the coming weeks, though the two legislative houses seem to disagree on the message.

The announcement comes as Gov. Jerry Brown plans to visit Republican districts the next two days to call for a tax election to balance the state budget. He will head to a Riverside elementary school on Friday and visit the city of Los Alamitos on Saturday.

The California Republican Party also announced its own budget tour Thursday, kicking off tonight in Fresno.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said his budget committee would hold hearings focused on how an "all cuts" budget would impact education and other areas. He said lawmakers have only two alternatives to solve the remaining $15.4 billion deficit - all cuts or additional tax revenues.

The first two hearings will take place in Sacramento, though Steinberg said the Senate will follow up with meetings throughout the state. Some Democrats have been eager to highlight budget issues in Republican districts, but Steinberg did not specify where the hearings would take place.

Critics have suggested that an "all cuts" plan is a scare tactic because few lawmakers, including Republicans, would vote for such a proposal. Steinberg acknowledged that he would not support an "all cuts" budget, but he called the approach "very real."

"I think the choices are pretty clear, and again, without panicking people, because that never is the way to make an impact here, it's our responsibility to describe for local communities what it would look like," Steinberg said.

The Assembly Budget Committee also plans to hit the road, as it has done in past years, according to Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills. But Blumenfield, the committee chairman, said the Assembly does not want to focus on the "all cuts" scenario.

"We're not entertaining 'all cuts' right now," Blumenfield said.

The Assembly and Senate have disagreed over whether to lay out an "all cuts" budget. The Senate asked the Legislative Analyst to compile a list of cuts that could occur if the taxes failed, while the Assembly spurned that idea, suggesting that it was pointless because there is no support for that approach.

David Siders contributed to this report.

April 7, 2011
Jerry Brown turns 73, soon to be oldest-ever sitting governor

Gov. Jerry Brown turns 73 today, and in less than two weeks he will become the state's oldest-ever sitting governor.

What does he plan to do on his natal day?

"I may leave Sacramento," said Brown. "I think that's my principal objective."

The Democratic governor, whose election last year made him the oldest person elected governor, was one of California's youngest governors during his first two terms, from 1975 to 1983.

The soon to be second-oldest-ever sitting governor was Frank Merriam, who left office in 1939 just 11 days after turning 73.

Brown will hit 73 years and 12 days on April 19.

Merriam, a Republican, governed during the Great Depression. With the budget deficits the state faced at the time, he advocated both spending reductions and taxes.

April 7, 2011
AM Alert: Cake and candles for Jerry Brown

With Gov. Jerry Brown turning 73, he might not be spending much of his natal day in California's capital city. David Siders has more in this post on Capitol Alert.

Both houses of the Legislature have scheduled floor sessions, and lawmakers have federal money and earthquakes on their minds.

Up for consideration are two companion measures -- Senate Bill 90 and Assembly Bill 113 -- that would make changes to Medi-Cal hospital payments that legislators hope will capture federal matching funds. The bills would also give hospitals in California more time to comply with state seismic standards.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider AB 113 before the Senate session, which is set for 9:30 a.m. The Assembly is to meet at 9 a.m.

The Senate Budget Committee, meanwhile, takes a look at what's been cut so far and what's next in closing the state's estimated $15.4 billion deficit. The meeting starts in the Capitol's Room 4203 after session adjourns.

Speaking of the budget, the state Republican Party is kicking off what it's calling a California Speaks Out tour.

Republican Assembly leader Connie Conway, Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey of Dana Point join California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro to tout a statewide series of town halls. Their news conference starts at 11 a.m. in the Tahoe Room at the Hyatt Regency across L Street from the Capitol.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission will consider whether to finalize its $150,000 contract with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm the commissioners tentatively chose to provide legal advice on the federal Voting Rights Act.

Berkeley-based Maplight.com said yesterday that the firm and its employees favored Democrats in their campaign donations, as Dan Walters reports. Click here for the redistricting commission's agenda.

FINANCIAL LITERACY: Assembly members Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, and Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, join Controller John Chiang to talk up Eng's Assembly Bill 597, which would set up a financial literacy fund to be administered by the state's controller. The news conference starts at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's north steps.

LIVE CHAT: Jon Ortiz, who writes our sister blog, The State Worker, is holding a live chat from noon to 1 p.m. on pensions, politics and public employees. Find it at www.sacbee.com/live.

April 6, 2011
Jerry Brown: 'Hug a Republican'

Having encouraged state workers on Tuesday to take Republicans to lunch, Gov. Jerry Brown today asked the California Hospital Association and a group of law enforcement officials to hug them.

"Hug a Republican, make them feel good," Brown said. "In fact I'm going to go up and down the state to see if I can't hug Republicans and ... tell them, 'We love you, but give us a break, let the people vote.'"

The Democratic governor has been unable to reach a budget deal with Republicans opposed to his plan to put tax extensions on a ballot to help close California's yawning budget deficit.

In two addresses today, Brown remained optimistic about his prospects for a deal, despite Republican resistance.

"I'm appealing to you to stay the course, don't get discouraged," Brown told law enforcement representatives at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. "We will get it done. There's a lot of ways to do things."

The California State Sheriffs' Association's Mark Pazin said Brown met Tuesday night with Republican Sens. Tom Berryhill of Oakdale and Anthony Cannella of Ceres at a reception at the Citizen Hotel. The two senators are among those with whom Brown talked before announcing last week that negotiations had collapsed

Brown said earlier today that he saw four Republicans on Tuesday night and "talked at some length to two of them." He said there are some Republican lawmakers who "really want to get there."

Spokeswomen for Berryhill and Cannella said the senators ran into Brown at the reception but exchanged nothing more than pleasantries.

Post updated at 3:20 p.m. to include comments from spokeswomen for Berryhill and Cannella.

April 6, 2011
Anti-Wal-Mart bill clears Senate committee

A Capitol political battle lasting years over placing restrictions on Wal-Mart and other big box retail stores flared anew Wednesday when the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved union-backed legislation.

The bill, Senate Bill 469 by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, would require proposed "superstore" projects to undergo an "economic impact report" before approval by local governments. It's the latest in a long-string of anti-big box bills; predecessors were vetoed by former Govs. Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Several cities now require such reports, similar in concept to environmental impact reports, but Vargas bill stems directly from a flareup in San Diego. At the behest of unions that have battled with Wal-Mart, the San Diego City Council approved such a requirement last fall, but Mayor Jerry Sanders vetoed it.

The council then overrode the veto, but Wal-Mart gathered 54,000 signatures to place the issue before voters. The council then backed down and rescinded its ordinance. Vargas immediately pledged to pursue the issue with legislation that would apply to the entire state.

Vargas called his proposal "a modest approach" aimed at determining how superstores affect small business, but Wal-Mart and other critics said it was aimed only at big stores that sell groceries and was obviously aimed at giving anti-Wal-Mart forces more legal ammunition.

The bill cleared the committee on a 6-3 party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

April 6, 2011
Redistricting law firm favored Democrats in campaign giving

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm tentatively chosen by the state's new redistricting commission to provide legal advice on the federal Voting Rights Act, has given most of its campaign contributions to Democrats, a new compilation by Maplight.com found.

Maplight, a Berkeley-based database on campaign contributions at state and federal levels, released its study of the law firm's donations Wednesday, just one day before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is to decide whether to finalize its $150,000 contract.

Gibson, Dunn was tentatively chosen last months after a Sacramento law and lobbying firm with strong Republican ties lost in a preliminary round of voting and then dropped out of the competition.

However, the contract was held up after it was revealed that Gibson, Dunn had made substantial campaign contributions and also was registered as a federal lobbying firm. Republican Party leaders then attacked its selection and that of Q2 Data and Research, a demographic consulting firm, as evidence of a pro-Democrat bias on the commission.

On Wednesday, Maplight provided more fuel for the debate by revealing that since 2003, Gibson, Dunn employees had given $29,700 to legislative candidates since 2003 -- a relatively modest amount -- and that nearly three-quarters went to Democrats. At the federal level, the firm and its employees have contributed $1.2 million to House and Senate candidates, 70 percent of it to Democrats.

April 6, 2011
Live budget chat with Kevin Yamamura

April 6, 2011
Congressional Dems raising cash for Portantino's House bid

Portantino07-08-headshot.JPGDemocratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino's 2012 U.S. House bid is already drawing the interest of congressional Democrats.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, a New York state congressman, is coming to California this weekend to raise funds for the La Cañada Flintridge Democrat. Tickets to a Saturday morning breakfast at the Pacific Palisades home of environmentalist Joe Edmiston range from $75 to $2,500.

Portantino, who will be termed out of the Assembly in 2012, plans to challenge GOP Rep. David Dreier, of San Dimas, in what is now the 26th Congressional District. He kicked off his campaign in late February with a fundraiser at the Sacramento home of Jay Hansen, chief strategy officer for the California Medical Association.

Republicans have a five percentage point registration edge in the district, which includesLos Angeles County's San Gabriel Valley and western San Bernardino County, though the lines and demographic makeup will change under this year's redistricting process.

An e-mail invite sent by Portantino's campaign calls the California assemblyman "DCCC's #1 California recruit."

Portantino isn't the only Assembly Democrat filling campaign coffers for a congressional run. Assemblyman Jared Huffman reported raising $120,000 for his federal campaign account in the first quarter of 2011. The San Rafael Democrat, who will also be termed out in 2012, plans to seek what is now the 6th Congressional District if Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey decides to retire. Woolsey, 73, is expected to make a decision by June.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. Associated Press File Photo.

April 6, 2011
Jerry Brown tells state workers to take Republicans to lunch

Gov. Jerry Brown said in a telephone town hall with state employees last night that partisan bickering is more rampant than it once was at the Capitol, and he suggested his tax plan might fare better if Service Employee International Union members plied the other side.

"If every SEIU member would take a Republican to lunch, maybe we would be in better shape," Brown said in a telephone town hall that the union said reached thousands of employees.

Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000, said the union's membership is 30 percent Republican, and she told Brown, "We take a lot of Republicans to lunch."

Brown's own gastronomical efforts, which he described tonight in greater detail than before, fell short, with talks stalling last week. He said his budget talks involved about seven Republicans, four in "prolonged negotiations."

Brown, who is seeking to extend higher tax rates on income, vehicles and sales, said the two sides "enjoyed some nice wine in my office, and the next night I took them over to my loft and we poured another couple bottles of wine."

Later, an employee on the call asked Brown if he would proceed to furloughs or layoffs if the state budget remains unresolved in November.

"Wow," Brown said. "You know what, I hadn't thought about that, but it's not good."

He said, "All I can tell you at this point is I'm not taking anything off the table, but we just have to get those tax extensions, because the alternative is not pretty."

April 6, 2011
AM Alert: White coats come to Sacramento

Yesterday, it was the state's doctors. Today, it's the pharmacists.

The California Pharmacists Association dispatches its representatives to the Capitol today to push for Senate Bill 393 by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, which they say would encourage licensing of patient-centered medical homes.

Its members will also conduct cholesterol and diabetes screenings starting at noon on the Capitol's north steps.

"Please wear your White Coats!!" advises the association's website.

Other groups roaming under the dome -- and there are many -- include the California Bankers Association, whose members gather this morning at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria at 9th and I streets before meeting with legislators.

Outside the Galleria, members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in turn will push for measures they say will reduce the impact of home foreclosures, including Senate Bill 729 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which would require that mortgage servicers complete negotiations for a modified loan before starting foreclosure proceedings. That news conference starts at 9:30 a.m.

The American Cancer Society's California branch takes up residence on the Capitol's south steps at 10:30 a.m. with Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, to talk up his Senate Bill 575, which would expand the ban on workplace smoking to include owner-operated businesses and would eliminate most exemptions that now permit smoking in hotel lobbies, bars and taverns, and other work environments.

Doctors and activists from the American Heart Association and American Lung Association will also be on hand to help highlight the effects of second-hand smoke.

The California Professional Firefighters union, meanwhile, regale Capitol denizens with a performance by its pipe and drum band on the west steps starting at noon. Members are in Sacramento today and tomorrow.

And representatives of 25 organizations come to town for the eighth Annual Sierra Day in the Capitol, coordinated by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, whose members hope to get legislators interested in investing in the region's watersheds.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: Committees meet in both houses today. Click here for the Senate list, and click here for the Assembly's.

BOUND FOR TEXAS: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare and Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, join Jack Stewart, president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, to announce what they're billing as a bipartisan effort to examine why jobs are leaving California, complete with a fact-finding mission next week to Texas. Their news conference starts at 10 a.m. on the Capitol's east steps.

April 5, 2011
Lauren Hammond appointed to California gambling panel

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed former Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond to a six-figure job on the state Gambling Control Commission.

Hammond, a Democrat who served on the city council from 1997 until last year, will earn $128,109 a year on the commission, which regulates tribal casinos, card rooms and remote caller bingo operations.

Hammond, 55, worked as a consultant in the state Senate from 1981 to 2004. The new position requires confirmation by the Senate.

April 5, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown talks tax extensions with university leaders

Leaders of the three branches of California's public higher education system emerged from an hour-long meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown today optimistic that an all-cuts budget would be avoided.

And the governor emerged feisty, pledging to keep pushing for tax extensions despite the breakdown in budget negotiations last week.

"I don't think the people of California want to wreck the state," Brown said as he stood beside the college leaders outside his office.

"The university is an engine of wealth creation. Stripping it of its professors and its research in the way that an all-cuts budget would require is unacceptable. I'm going to do everything I can to convince the Republicans here to vote for the tax extensions, to put them on the ballot. And I'm going to go throughout this state to mobilize support," Brown said.

He said he was exploring a range of options and will travel the state to meet with people whose livelihoods depend on the state budget, including university administrators, school boards, teachers, police and sheriffs.

"I'm convinced that we're going to have a very powerful coalition and rally California to protect its vital and basic interests," Brown said.

Jack Scott, chancellor of the state's community colleges, said he'll support the governor's efforts.

"We're willing to join our voices to say there needs to be some kind of extension of taxes, otherwise in all of our communities we're going to see young people turned away from our colleges and universities," Scott said. "That's going to be a tragedy for them, but it's going to be a bigger tragedy for the future of California."

Brown has already signed bills that cut $1.4 billion from higher education for 2011-12. Cal State campuses are planning to admit 10,000 fewer students, some UC campuses are admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition and community college fees are going up by $10 a unit.

Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, said changes at the colleges will be even more drastic if higher education faces deeper cuts.

"You haven't seen anything yet in terms of layoffs, in terms of limiting enrollments, in terms of reducing programs, in terms of rising tuition," Yudof said. "If this all-cuts budget goes through, it's going to be terrible for California."







April 5, 2011
Assembly panel kills two anti-illegal immigration bills

A state Assembly committee dominated by Democrats this morning killed two bills that sought to require public officials to report suspected illegal immigrants and prohibit employers from knowingly hiring the immigrants.

Freshman Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, an activist with the Minuteman movement, proposed an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigrants because he said the federal government is doing an inadequate job protecting the borders.

One of the bills killed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee bills, Assembly Bill 26, would have banned public officials and agencies from restricting the enforcement of immigration laws. It also would have prohibited employers from knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant and made it a crime to transport, harbor, shelter or conceal a person that you know is an illegal immigrant.

The measure was supported by a long line of witnesses, including tea party representatives, other anti-illegal immigration activists and victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Republicans on the panel said illegal immigrants were responsible for an increasing number of crimes. "We have had to tolerate murders, assaults, rapes and every other kind of illegal activity (known to) mankind," said Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee.

It was opposed by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, Attorney General Kamala Harris, public defenders, the ACLU and immigrant rights groups.

Majority Democrats refused to support the bill, noting that the Arizona law is being challenged in court.

"I think the bill is unconstitutional," said Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles and chair of the committee. "I think the bill is needlessly divisive at a time in our state when we need to be looking at each other as a source of strength to weather the worst economic recession we've confronted in a long time."

On a party line vote, the panel also killed Assembly Bill 1018, which would require state and local officials to verify the immigration status of any person who requests any public service. It was opposed by immigrant rights groups and labor unions.

April 5, 2011
Jerry Brown met by caricature, GOP report card full of F's

jerry brown mask.JPGThe California Republican Party brought a protester this morning to the Sheraton Grand Hotel who was wearing a larger-than-life caricature of Gov. Jerry Brown and holding a report card on the governor's performance.

Predictably, the Republicans gave the Democratic governor all F's. Brown "fails to complete assignments on time," "doesn't work and play well with others" and is "too easily distracted by loud groups," the report card said.

Brown, who was about to speak to a crowd inside the hotel, didn't engage his likeness. But he did answer a reporter's question about Republican leader Bob Dutton's remark last week that first lady and special counsel Anne Gust Brown "yelled" at him in budget talks.

"I can tell you my encounter with Mr. Dutton was informative and illuminating," Brown said, adding that it would give him "pleasant memories in days to come."

PHOTO CREDIT: A protester wearing a larger-than-life caricature of Gov. Jerry Brown holds a report card for the governor outside the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, April 5, 2011. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

April 5, 2011
Darrell Steinberg to introduce bill to force Kings to repay loan

MAJ DARRELL STEINBERG.JPG Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today he plans to introduce legislation this week to force the owners of the Sacramento Kings to repay a $77 million loan from the city if they decide to move the team to Anaheim.

The Sacramento Democrat told radio station KFBK (1530 AM) that the measure would state that "no California city can sign a lease with a professional franchise unless that franchise has paid off its existing debt to another city."

"Some might think that has something to do with our Sacramento Kings. It might, but the policy is really what is important to me," Steinberg said in an on-air interview. "California, we're one state. We shouldn't have one city picking off another."

Steinberg acknowledged that the decision to move the Kings boils down to a private business agreement, but said "when there's public money at stake like there is in Sacramento, I think it's proper to say, 'Let's have the debt paid off.' "

The Maloof family, which owns the team, has until April 18 to ask the National Basketball Association board of governors for permission to move the team. The city of Anaheim has taken action intended to draw the team, including approving $75 million in bonds for upgrades to the city's Honda Center.

Steinberg's bill is not the only effort to ensure the loan is repaid. One of the Maloof brothers said that they "have no intention of leaving that town without paying our debt," and the city of Sacramento has asked them to put their assurances in writing.

"They're making a cold business decision -- the city has its right to protect its bottom line," Steinberg said. "This is no sentimentality here."

Listen to the full interview at this link.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Nov. 13, 2009. Michael Allen Jones/ Sacramento Bee file photo

April 5, 2011
Jerry Brown urges patience on state budget

Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that any voter initiative to bypass Republican opposition to taxes will not be filed before the end of the month, but he said an initiative or an all-cuts budget are his only alternatives if he cannot reach a deal with the GOP.

"The only way to get tax extensions is Republican votes," Brown told reporters before speaking to the California Medical Association at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. "If they say 'No,' at some point we'll have to take it to the people via initiative, but that's not something I'm going to be doing in the next 30 days."

The Democratic governor was seeking two Republican votes in each house to put on a June ballot a five-year extension of 2009 tax increases on vehicles, income and sales, but he broke off negotiations last week. He said today he talked to some Republicans over the weekend, though he declined to name them, and characterized the state of talks as "a little quiet."

Asked why he doesn't immediately begin the initiative process, Brown said he has been asked to hold off in hope of a deal.

"The initiative is rather rigid," Brown said. "Once you put it in, you can't make any changes, so I'm certainly thinking about that, working on it, but I want to make sure that there is a wider group of people that want to support that. And today most people are asking, 'Just wait.' Basically, 'Just wait and something will turn up.' I don't think that will happen, so I'm going to go out to the people, and I'm just going to share what the issues are."

Brown is preparing to travel to cities across the state to make his budget case, including to Los Alamitos on Saturday. He said his appearances will be similar to the budget forums he held before taking office, including PowerPoint presentations.

"As people always say, don't spend all your time up here in the Capitol," Brown said. "So the basic idea is to become available to different groups around the state."

Of the collapse last week of budget negotiations, Brown told the crowd at the Sheraton, "Breakdown is not unexpected." He said breakdowns "lead to breakthroughs. It's just a matter of patience."

Brown, who once hoped to have a budget deal by March 10, said he is now putting together a budget proposal for the May revision that may include alternatives.

"We're going back to that traditional process," Brown said, "and we'll be ready by May 14."

April 5, 2011
First 5 agencies sue to block $1 billion in Jerry Brown's budget

Updated at 12:40 p.m.

A trio of First 5 agencies said Tuesday they have filed suit to block the state from taking $1 billion from the statewide network of childhood development programs, marking the first legal challenge to Gov. Jerry Brown's budget.

The three county commissions -- Fresno, Merced and Madera -- said the shift of funds without voter approval sets a "dangerous precedent." They said the move contradicts the "original intent" of Proposition 10, the 1998 voter-approved measure to tax tobacco products to fund health and educational development programs for children under 5 years old.

"The Legislature is disregarding the will of the voters and taking local funds from counties to fill holes in the state budget," First 5 Merced County Commission Chair Jerry O'Banion, a county supervisor, said in a statement.

The governor and lawmakers agreed last month to take $1 billion from First 5 programs, including $950 million from county commission reserves and $50 million from the state.

Budget proposals face legal challenges each year, particularly in deficit times when lawmakers find new ways to cut programs. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger frequently complained about courts blocking his budget proposals, decisions that added to deficits in subsequent years.

Brown had originally proposed asking voters to take the $1 billion in addition to half of future First 5 tobacco tax revenues. But the Legislature dropped the plan to take future funds and believed it did not need voter approval to sweep the $1 billion, which the state is using to pay for Medi-Cal for children up to 5 years old.

Under Proposition 10, the Legislature can change First 5 with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature so long as the amendment furthers the intent of the initiative. The county commissions dispute that the budget proposal does that.

The commissions filed suit Tuesday in Fresno Superior Court. Zoua Vang, spokeswoman for First 5 Fresno County, said the three county commissions are sharing legal costs but are asking for reimbursement from the state should they prevail.

April 5, 2011
Higher education leaders lobby against all-cuts budget

About 250 administrators from public universities across California are in the Capitol today, pleading with lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown not to cut any more from the higher education budget.

The governor has already signed bills cutting $1.4 billion from the state's colleges and universities next year, with community colleges losing $400 million and the University of California and the California State University each losing $500 million.

"We have done our part," CSU Chancellor Charles Reed told the crowd gathered outside the Capitol before the day of lobbying began. "But you know what? That's enough."

To which the audience burst into applause.

College leaders fear an all-cuts budget could lead to an increase in tuition and much steeper cuts for their campuses. Already, fees at community colleges are going up $10 a unit. Cal State campuses will admit 10,000 fewer students next year. And UC campuses are planning a range of cutbacks, including, at UC Davis, eliminating some academic programs and admitting more international and out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition.

And that's the best-case scenario. University leaders fear their budget cuts could double if lawmakers go with an all-cuts budget. Jack Scott, chancellor of the state's community colleges, said those schools will turn away 400,000 students if the state doubles its cut to the community colleges.

Speaking to the crowd on the west steps of the capitol this morning, UC President Mark Yudof said higher education officials are "engaged in the fight of our lives to preserve this wonderful higher education system in the state of California."

"The building behind me is filled with good intentions," Yudof said. "The problem is to have those assurances, which are heartening, translate into dollars."

April 5, 2011
Assembly orders sergeants-at-arms to carry guns full time

BB NEW MEMBERS 169.JPGThe state Assembly has stepped up its security measures, ordering more than a dozen sergeants-at-arms to carry guns while on the job.

"Please be advised that as of March 31, 2011, the Assembly Sergeants-at-Arms Security Division will be carrying department-issued Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semi-automatic weapons full-time while they are on duty for the Assembly," Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Ronald Pane wrote in a March 31 letter to Senate Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard, Jr.

Sergeants-at-arms, whose duties include protecting legislators and monitoring floor sessions, are far from the only layer of security at the Capitol. California Highway Patrol officers are already stationed at the Capitol, patrolling the building and grounds 24 hours a day, and visitors and staff must go through metal detectors and screenings upon entering the Capitol.

Pane said the move is not a response to current threat levels or a demonstrated need for more security, but meant to establish continuity in security policy and enhance "safety here at the Capitol." He said the Assembly's security personnel are already armed during large events at the Capitol and times when threat levels are high.

"We've been carrying weapons for years, but now we're carrying them a little more than part-time," he said in an interview, adding that the change will not require the purchase of new guns. "We just thought professionally and as far as providing the service we need to do it full time."

The policy affects roughly 17 employees, all of whom were trained at police academies and subject to peace officer standards training set for California law enforcement officials, he said.

Beard said while the subject of arming Senate sergeants-at-arms full time has been discussed over the years, any change in policy would require action by the Senate Rules Committee.

April 5, 2011
AM Alert: Big guns in the budget wars

Higher education brings out big guns today in the budget wars, with University of California President Mark Yudof, California State University Chancellor Charles Reed and Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott pleading their case for sparing colleges and universities from more cuts.

They kick off Higher Education Advocacy Day at 9 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps. Gov. Jerry Brown is set to meet with them privately later this morning.

Brown -- who's expected to take his budget message on the road -- is also scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. to the state's doctors, who are in town for the California Medical Association's annual legislative leadership conference.

The morning meeting at Sacramento's Sheraton Grand also includes a talk by Diana Dooley, whom Brown appointed to head the state Health and Human Services Agency, as well as a panel discussion on legislative health-care issues featuring two freshman Assembly members: pediatrician Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and surgeon Linda Halderman, R-Fresno.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will give the lunchtime keynote speech to the association, which is also sponsoring a health fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Capitol's north steps.

The Legislature isn't holding floor sessions, but committees meet in both houses. The Senate schedule is here, and the Assembly schedule is here.

Measures scheduled to be heard include Assemblyman Tim Donnelly's Assembly Bill 26, which -- among other things -- would bar public officials and agencies from adopting a policy limiting or restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The Twin Peaks Republican's measure is set to come up during the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which starts at 9 a.m. in Room 4202.

Other measures include Senate Bill 48 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which would require public school materials to include the historical contributions of gay people as a way to fight bullying.

It's similar to a proposal that the Legislature approved in 2006 and that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger then vetoed. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider Leno's bill starting at 3 p.m. in Room 4203.

RALLY: The California Coalition for Youth rallies for homeless youth on the Capitol's south steps starting at 10 a.m. following a march that starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites, 100 Capitol Mall. The group is highlighting two Democrats' legislative proposals: Senate Bill 123 by Sen. Carol Liu of La Cañada Flintridge to set up a statewide plan to counter the problem, and Senate Bill 119 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach to license emergency youth shelters.

PHOTO GALLERY: The Bee's popular "Anatomy of the Budget" gallery, outlining Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, has been updated to reflect action in the Legislature. How will widespread cuts and structural changes in state government affect you? Click here for the photo gallery. And click here for The Bee's budget coverage.

April 4, 2011
Jerry Brown signs prison bill that remains unfunded

Gov. Jerry Brown signed budget legislation today to redirect certain offenders from state prisons to county jails, though he acknowledged in his signing message that the measure - part of his plan to shift responsibility for many state services to local governments - is hollow without funding.

"Regrettably, the measure that would provide stable and constitutionally protected funding for public safety has not yet passed the Legislature," Brown wrote in his signing message for Assembly Bill 109. "In the coming weeks, and for as long as it takes, I will vigorously pursue my plan to balance the State's budget and prevent reductions to public safety through a constitutional guarantee."

Brown is seeking a ballot measure to extend 2009 tax increases on income, vehicles and sales, but negotiations with Republican lawmakers for a June vote on those taxes fell apart last week. Brown is considering alternative strategies to force a vote and is preparing to lobby for his budget plan in appearances throughout the state.

Brown said in his signing statement, "I will not sign any legislation that would seek to implement this legislation without the necessary funding."

Brown also signed a related bill, Assembly Bill 111, which he said would make it easier for counties to access money to increase jail space. Brown said he will ask the Legislature to pass additional legislation to reduce the cost to local agencies of such projects.

April 4, 2011
Bill to fund 'green' job training for students goes to Jerry Brown

The Senate today sent legislation aimed at expanding "green" jobs training for high school students across the state to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval.

SB X1 1, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg would provide grant funding for "green partnership academy" programs that include in their curriculum training for careers in the clean technology and renewable energy sectors. The bill redirects $8 million from a California Energy Commission special fund to pay for the programs.

The bill, part of a package of clean jobs legislation advanced by legislative Democrats this year, had already been approved by both houses. The version that passed today on a 21-14 vote included amendments added by the Assembly.

"The fact of the matter is many of our students drop out of high school because they're bored and unmotivated," Steinberg said in a statement. "It's not because they're less intelligent than their peers, they simply don't see traditional curriculum leading to a real job."

Similar legislation approved last session was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wrote in a veto message that the move "would start a dangerous precedent for finding unrelated revenue sources to fund, expand, or create K-12 programs outside of the Proposition 98 guarantee."

April 4, 2011
Hahn, Bowen split Democratic Party's CD 36 endorsement vote

One of the biggest prizes in the 36th Congressional District endorsement wars will go unclaimed.

None of the five Democrats running for the vacant congressional seat in next month's special primary election will be able to tout the official backing of the California Democratic Party.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn was the top vote-getter in the party's weekend endorsement meeting with 65 votes, according to party spokesman Tenoch Flores, or 57 percent of participating delegates living in the district. But she fell short of the 60 percent threshold to trigger a primary endorsement.

Hahn declared victory, calling the majority vote a "game changer in this campaign" that "sends a strong message that I am the choice for Democrats."

Her main rival in the Democratic-leaning district , Secretary of State Debra Bowen, won 40 percent with a total of 46 votes, according to Flores. She said in a statement that the results showed "the Party was clearly divided in the vote today."

Liberal activist Marcy Winograd, who has twice run in a primary for the seat, received two votes out of the 114 cast. The remaining vote recommended no endorsement of any candidate, which left the two other Democrats on the ballot without any votes.

Hahn and Bowen have been actively publicizing high-profile endorsements in what is expected to be a low turnout race to replace Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who stepped down in February.

Hahn has touted support from labor unions, including Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and AFSCME California, as well as local elected officials and members of Congress and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Bowen's backers include former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Equality California and California League of Conservation Voters.

A total of 16 candidates are running in the May 17 special primary election in the coastal Los Angeles County district. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters compete in a runoff election on July 12.

Editor note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Organizing for America endorsed Bowen. The organization was Democracy for America.

April 4, 2011
Jerry Brown makes Cal-OSHA, other appointments

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a Berkeley labor consultant chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and he named chairman of the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board the chief of Cal-OSHA when Brown was governor before.

The appointments were two of 14 Brown announced this afternoon.

Brown's new Cal-OSHA chief, Ellen Widess, 63, worked for the Rosenberg Foundation, which advocates for immigrants and working-class families, from 2000 to 2010. She was chief of the pesticide program at Cal-OSHA from 1978 to 1984. Widess, a Democrat, is to be paid $125,004 a year.

Art Carter, 69, of San Francisco, has been on the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board since 2009. He was chief of Cal-OSHA during Brown's first two terms as governor, from 1976 to 1983. Carter, a Democrat, is to be paid $115,913 a year.

In other appointments, Brown named Christine Baker, 61, of Berkeley, chief deputy director of the Department of Industrial Relations and Howard Schwartz, 53, of Sacramento, chief deputy director at the Department of Personnel Administration.

April 4, 2011
It's true: Arnold Schwarzenegger goes animated

APTOPIX France Cannes MIPTV.jpg

If it's an April Fool's joke, as some have suggested, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to great lengths to pull off the gag.

As we reported last week, the former guv announced today in Cannes that his new adventure will be as the voice of an animated crime fighter in "The Governator."

Schwarzenegger made the announcement as he was inducted into France's Legion of Honor and had his hand prints cast in the star walk at Cannes.

"When you are a governor, you deal with keeping the beaches clean, making sure there's enough funding for the after-school programs and the lunch programs for the kids, and all of those kinds of things," he said at the presentation, according to the Associated Press. "As an action hero, you just have to save the world -- that's it."

The AP reported that the new television show character will include special powers that could have served him well as governor:

Producers of the show, which is to debut next year at locations still being determined, have cobbled together a comic-strip action extravaganza with laser-beam eyes, remote-controlled motorcycles and magic chewing-gum bubbles that change faces for incognito sleuthing. It also has what Schwarzenegger called "speaker spray," which temporarily allows its recipient to converse in foreign languages -- among much more gee-whiz gadgetry and imagination.

In short: "It's a superheroic guy" with powers that a real-world governor could only dream of.

"It's kind of like, when you see that you could have fought certain crimes but the system didn't allow you, or there were too many people that had to be asked for permission, by that time, the criminals were gone or the disaster that could have been prevented from happening," Schwarzenegger said. "With this, it's a fantasy world where the governor has extra powers."

Read the full AP story here.

Click here to watch the trailer of "The Governator" on Youtube. Click here for the Facebook page.

UPDATED 3:06 p.m. to add link to trailer of "The Governator."

PHOTO: Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger poses with the animated character he will portray in a new international television series "The Governator." (Associated Press/ Lionel Cironneau)

April 4, 2011
AM Alert: 'The greatness of America'

The California Labor Federation and other unions have called for a nationwide day of action today to highlight what they see as attacks on workers rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and other states.

Union members will meet in Sacramento's Cesar Chavez Park at 5 p.m. to view a speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Memphis, Tenn., back in 1968. They'll then march to the federal building at 5th and I streets.

Similar events are planned in San Francisco, Los Angeles and elsewhere in the state and nation.

Let's scroll back in time for a moment. King gave that speech to striking sanitation workers who wanted city officials to allow them to unionize.

"The greatness of America," he told the assembly, "is the right to protest for rights."

The workers eventually won the right to organize, but it was the last speech King ever gave. He was shot dead a day later -- 43 years ago today.

Click here to watch a three-minute YouTube clip from the speech. Or you can click here to view the AFSCME union's 10-minute film on his speech and the strike.

Under the dome, Democratic Assemblymen Mike Feuer of Los Angeles and Jared Huffman of San Rafael join Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones this morning to tout Assembly Bill 52, which would authorize state regulators to reject excessive hikes in health insurance rates starting on Jan. 1. The news conference starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 317.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: Both houses have scheduled floor sessions today -- the Assembly at noon, and the Senate at 1 p.m. Click here for the Assembly's committee schedule, and click here for the Senate's. The Senate Environmental Quality Committee, for instance, is scheduled to hear several bills on recycling.

AD 4: Vote-by-mail ballots in the special election runoff in the 4th Assembly District start going out today. The two candidates left standing under the new top-two rules are Democrat Dennis Campanale and Republican Beth Gaines. Voters go to the polls May 3.

RETIRE YOUR ATTIRE: Nissan teams up with WEAVE to help survivors of domestic violence get suited for success with its 14th annual Capitol clothing drive. Gently used clothing will be accepted through April 13. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, join advocates on the Capitol's west steps at 9 a.m. to highlight the drive.

WATER: The Association of California Water Agencies releases a policy statement on groundwater management at 9:30 a.m. at Sacramento's Sheraton Grand Hotel.

DISTRACTED DRIVERS: Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, joins Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow and others at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento at 10 a.m. to mark National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

LGBT: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, along with Democratic Assembly members Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, Toni Atkins of San Diego and Rich Gordon of Menlo Park and others mark the annual Queer Youth Advocacy Day starting at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's south steps.

BRASS: The marching band of Mission Viejo's Tesoro High School will be performing at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol's north steps.

TOBACCO: Members of the California Youth Advocacy Network will highlight marketers' manipulation of teens with smokeless tobacco products, starting at 1:30 p.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

CHILD ABUSE: Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Los Angeles, and others highlight Hall's resolution declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The news conference starts in the Capitol's Room 317 at 1:30 p.m. or after the Assembly session adjourns.

April 1, 2011
NYC-based research group advising Democrats on tax message

Senate Democrats are turning for the second year to a New York City-based public policy research firm for advice on how to craft their talking points on taxes.

Members and staff are scheduled to attend a Tuesday morning messaging and strategy session put on by representatives from Demos, which bills itself as a nonpartisan organization that "combines research, policy development, and advocacy to influence public debates and catalyze change."

"This will not be an abstract or academic exercise," reads an email memo distributed by the office of Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. "You will receive specific advice and they will report on their research on how to communicate about tax and budget issues: What to say, how to say it, who to say it to, and how to communicate complex economic issues to reach the widest possible audience with the right message."

The off-site meetings, which will be held in a California Labor Federation conference room, come as legislative Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown are mulling their next steps to close a projected $15.4 billion budget deficit. Brown has proposed asking voters to continue $11.2 billion in 2009 tax increases. With a June election to extend those taxes before they expire no longer an option, some unions are pushing for other tax increases, including higher tax rates for the top 1 percent of earners, to be included in the budget package.

While the presentation was set up for members of the Senate Majority Caucus and staff, the office of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said