Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 4, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown bans BPA from baby bottles and cups

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will ban a chemical known as BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups made or sold in California.

Assembly Bill 1319 says that by July 1, 2013 bottles and cups made for children under age 3 may not contain bisphenol A, a common chemical in clear plastic containers.

Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, D-Marina Del Rey, introduced the billm arguing that BPA harms babies when it leaches from containers into their milk and food. She said growing children are especially vulnerable to the effects of the chemical, which she said is linked to birth defects, reproductive problems, impaired learning, hyperactivity and some forms of cancer.

The bill was supported by environmental groups, medical professionals, labor unions and consumer groups. It was opposed by chemical makers, employers and industry groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and the American Chemistry Council.

Opponents argued that BPA is safe in small doses and that any regulation of it should go through California's existing process for determining which chemicals are safe for use in consumer products.

October 4, 2011
Pérez cancels furloughs for Portantino's staff

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has canceled an order to furlough the staff of Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.

Portantino had been informed by the Assembly Rules Committee in July that his staff would be put on leave without pay this fall because of projections that his office would run tens of thousands of dollars over budget. The La Cañada-Flintridge Democrat disputed the stated reason for the cut, saying he was being punished for being the lone Assembly Democrat to vote against the state budget package approved earlier.

Pérez's office announced today that the furloughs were no longer needed "in light of two staff departures, and the requests of two additional staff members for leaves of absence."

"The Speaker again expressed his disappointment at Mr. Portantino's continued refusal to cooperate in resolving his office budget issues, and noted that any staff hires, including replacement hires, must be accompanied by a spending plan that details how Mr. Portantino's expenditures will remain within his allocation," Pérez communications director Robin Swanson said in a statement.

Portantino responded with a release trumpeting that he "CLAIMS VICTORY" on behalf of his constituents.

"Though I am thrilled for my staff and district, I am disappointed that the Speaker is holding on to the delusion that this was anything but retaliation for my independent budget vote," he said in the statement. "It never made any sense to single out my staff and the half-million residents of the 44th A.D. because I voted my conscience."

The dust-up over cuts to Portantino's budget sparked months of public feuding between the two Assembly Democrats and triggered a broader push for disclosure of office spending information, including a lawsuit filed by The Bee. After initially denying requests from Portantino and several news outlets, the Assembly released office budgets in August. Portantino remained unsatisfied, accusing leaders of "cooking the books" to mislead the public about the lower house expenditures.

The announcement canceling the furloughs came hours after Portantino took yet another public swipe at the speaker over the Assembly's budgeting practices.

October 4, 2011
In overseas visit, Joe Simitian black-listed by Azerbaijan

State Sen. Joe Simitian has been black-listed by the Azerbaijani government after traveling to a separatist region while on a diplomatic visit, an Azerbaijani official said this afternoon.

Simitian, D-Palo Alto, was among a group of California senators visiting the Middle East. The delegation, which included Sens. Ellen Corbett, Curren Price, Mark DeSaulnier, Ted Lieu and Bob Huff, made at least one stop in the Iraq city of Arbil and was scheduled to return home Wednesday.

Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan's consul general in Los Angeles, said that after meeting with Azerbaijani officials in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital city, Simitian took an unannounced, personal trip to Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominately ethnic Armenian region and the center of a longstanding dispute.

The visit violated Azerbaijani rules requiring permission to travel to the region, Suleymanov said.

Simitian is "basically black-listed ... will not be allowed back," he said.

"I was very disappointed, because it was a very successful visit," Suleymanov said. "The visit has become somewhat marred by this."

Simitian's office said this afternoon that the senator was traveling today and would address the matter when he returns.

Torey Van Oot of The Bee's Capitol Bureau contributed to this report

October 4, 2011
Portantino takes swipe at Pérez's transparency task force

Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino is ramping up his ongoing feud with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, calling for the lower house leader to shed more light on his proposed transparency task force.

Pérez announced in August that he planned to create a committee to review legislative open records practices in the wake of growing pressure to disclose more information about the Assembly's spending, including a lawsuit filed by The Bee and the Los Angeles Times. Pérez said at the time that the task force would issue a proposal for updating policies by early next year.

Both the Assembly and the Senate released office spending information in late August. But Portantino, who has sparred with the speaker over his own budget, says action by the task force has yet to occur -- at least in the public realm.

October 4, 2011
Jerry Brown vetoes home child-care labor bill

In a major blow to organized labor, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation today that would have let unions organize child-care providers who work out of the home.

"Today California, like the nation itself, is facing huge budget challenges," Brown wrote in a veto message. "Given that reality, I am reluctant to embark on a program of this magnitude and potential cost."

The veto was one of six announced today.

Brown also vetoed legislation that would have eliminated California's $4,650 vehicle asset limit for welfare eligibility.

"This bill would allow a person applying for welfare to have one car, or possibly more, of any value, rather than a maximum value of $4,650 under current law," Brown wrote. "In the last year, the state has been forced to make steep reductions in many programs, including the state's welfare-to-work program. As we go into the new year, we may have to make additional cuts. Until we better understand the fiscal outlook, we should not be making changes of this kind."

October 4, 2011
Sierra Nevada tree tapped for Capitol Hill duty

Here's some early Christmas cheer for the Stanislaus National Forest. This year, the forest will be providing the so-called "People's Christmas Tree" to be erected near the U.S. Capitol for the holidays.

This means quite a ride for the 65-foot white fir, currently growing in a remote and undisclosed portion of the national forest. In other words, don't go try finding it on your own.

After being cut down on Nov. 5, the tree will be trucked to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora for a public viewing. Public viewings in Sacramento on Nov. 9 and in an array of other cities will follow, before its scheduled arrival in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 28.

A drawing will select some young Californian for an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the tree ceremony.

October 4, 2011
High-Speed Rail Authority to delay business plan release

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will delay until at least Nov. 1 the release of updated financial projections for the embattled project, saying new board members need more time to review the plan.

"The California High-Speed Rail Authority has put together an extensive business plan that comprehensively addresses the future of this project," rail board Chairman Tom Umberg said in a release this morning. "At the same time, we have new appointees to the Board who weren't able to be a part of its development. This postponement will provide them the necessary time to participate."

The authority, facing criticism about he project's management and cost, planned to release a business plan in mid-October. It said the delay will not affect the project's schedule.

Gov. Jerry Brown this summer appointed former bank executive Michael Rossi and former Brown adviser Dan Richard to the rail board. Brown said he was seeking to help the authority "get their act together."

"I look forward to having these extra two weeks to delve into the business plan - which numbers in the hundreds of pages - and take a close look at the funding, ridership and implementation information it presents," Richard said in a release. "Governor Brown, the Legislature and all Californians will be well-served by a plan that lays the foundation for the future of this sorely needed transportation option."

October 4, 2011
AM Alert: California's cost of living going up

A new report out today finds that residents of many California counties have experienced double-digit increases in their cost of living since 2008.

Dan Walters reports that the report from the Oakland-based Insight Center for Community Economic Development "provides statistical ammunition not only for advocates of raising minimum wages and other steps to aid the poor, but for conservative anti-tax groups, since the center found that taxes are the largest single element in living cost increases."

If you're in the Silicon Valley today, you have a chance to catch Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary to President Bill Clinton, at the YWCA
Silicon Valley 21st Annual Luncheon. Myers, who wrote the New York Times best-seller "Why Women Should Rule the World," is the keynote speaker at the event, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The Jesse M. Unruh School of Politics says it is developing a memorial award in the name of pollster Andre Pineda, who died last week at age 46.

CAKE & CANDLES: Happy Birthday to Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who turns 59 today.

October 4, 2011
Study finds sharp cost-of-living increases in California

California's economy remains locked in recession and wages have been stagnant, but nevertheless living costs - especially taxes - have risen. That's putting a squeeze on many families, according to a new county-by-county compilation of the "true cost of living."

The report from the Oakland-based Insight Center for Community Economic Development provides statistical ammunition not only for advocates of raising minimum wages and other steps to aid the poor, but for conservative anti-tax groups since the center found that taxes are the largest single element in living cost increases.

The study was designed as an alternative to the commonly used federal poverty standard, which critics say does not take into account the real costs of living. It updates a report previously issued in 2008, and found that double-digit increases in living costs are common throughout the state.

"The Self-Sufficiency Standard...provides us with a true picture of the needs within the communities we serve, informs how we tailor our approaches to increasing financial stability and helps us measure progress toward our collective goals," Peter Manzo, president of United Ways of California, said in a statement accompanying release of the report. "We believe that to build financial stability, you have to see and address all the issues including health, education, and income."


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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