Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 7, 2011
GOP lawyer opens referendum process on initiative bill

Just hours after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation restricting initiatives and referendums next year to the November ballot, Republican attorney Chuck Bell submitted a request for title and summary for a referendum of the bill.

Bell said a coalition of groups preparing initiatives for June - including one initiative that would, in part, limit unions' ability to raise campaign funds from members - are considering a referendum. He said his filing is to "keep the door open for a possible referendum qualification effort."

Senate Bill 202 benefits Democrats and labor unions by restricting initiatives to November, when the party's voter turnout is expected to be higher than in June. The union dues measure was expected to qualify for the June ballot, when Republican turnout is expected to be proportionately higher than in November.

October 7, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown lets schools give meds to epileptic students

Against the urging of his union allies, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will allow non-medical school employees to administer anti-seizure medication to epileptic students.

Senate Bill 161, by Republican Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, threw a curveball into typical Capitol politics. It gained support from Democrats throughout the Legislative process even though it was opposed by the state's leading public employee unions, with whom Democrats are usually closely aligned.

"The Governor's signature on SB 161 marks the victorious end to a long and bitter fight to provide the safety net that children with epilepsy desperately need in our schools," Huff said in a statement. "This victory proves that a determined group of parents, doctors, schools and other citizens can overcome even the most powerful of special interests."

School district officials and parents of children with epilepsy supported the bill, saying students need to be able to get anti-seizure medication even if they attend a school without a nurse. Unions representing nurses, teachers and school support staff lobbied against the bill, arguing that schools need to be staffed with nurses to adequately care for children with conditions such as epilepsy.

October 7, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown OKs online voter registration in California

Californians will be able to register to vote online for 2012 elections under legislation signed into law today by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Senate Bill 397, by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, allows to state to begin registering voters online ahead of the completion of a new statewide voter registration database.

In the meantime, election officials and the Department of Motor Vehicles will work together to match registration information submitted online with DMV records containing an electronic copy of a voter's signature.

Supporters had argued that the bill would make it easier for Californians to register to vote, increasing voter participation.

October 7, 2011
Jerry Brown puts California initiatives on November ballot

In a victory for Democrats and their labor union allies, Gov. Jerry Brown Friday signed a bill restricting initiatives and referendums next year to the November ballot, when the party's voter turnout is expected to be higher than in June.

The bill language, inserted into legislation at the last minute by legislative Democrats, could help labor unions defeat a pending measure to limit unions' ability to raise campaign funds from members.

The union dues measure was expected to qualify for the June ballot, when Republican turnout is expected to be proportionately higher than in November.

Read the signing message here.

October 7, 2011
Jerry Brown's cousin, longtime Marin supervisor, to step down

Hal Brown, a cousin Gov. Jerry Brown appointed to the Marin County Board of Supervisors nearly 30 years ago, when he was governor before, announced today he will resign this month.

The supervisor, 66, was diagnosed with cancer in December, his office said. He was appointed to the board in 1983 to fill a vacancy left when Barbara Boxer was elected to Congress.

Hal Brown said in a prepared statement that he hopes his cousin will appoint a successor quickly.

"I care deeply about this office, and will make recommendations to the governor based on what I think will best serve my district and the County of Marin," the supervisor said. "But in the end, it is his decision, not mine."

Hal Brown's father, former California appellate court Justice Harold C. Brown, was the brother of Jerry Brown's father, the former governor.

"I had hoped to return to office and complete my term, but my medical condition makes that impossible," Hal Brown said in the statement. "As much as I will miss this job, I look forward to my retirement, and the opportunity to spend more time with my family and friends."

October 7, 2011
Backers of 'paycheck protection' measure submit signatures

Proponents of an initiative to prohibit unions from automatically deducting dues from members' paychecks for political purposes say they've collected more than 900,000 voter signatures in hopes of placing the measure on next year's ballot.

The so-called "paycheck protection" measure would ban contributions to candidate-controlled committees by corporations and labor unions. Contractors that receive government contracts could not donate to the officeholder who awarded the contract.

"This initiative gets to the heart of one of the most corrosive elements in politics: campaign contributions," former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, a supporter of the initiative drive, said in a statement. "For too long, special interest money has dominated our politics, muting the voice of average Californians.

October 7, 2011
California ban on shark fins signed by Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that he has signed legislation banning the possession and sale of shark fins in California.

Assembly Bill 376, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, is meant to combat "shark finning," an illegal fishing practice used to procure the main ingredient in shark fin soup.

Brown said in a statement that he signed the bill "in the interest of future generations," noting estimates that shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent.

"The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans," Brown said.

Brown also signed Assembly Bill 853, a companion measure to allow stores to continue selling current stock and exempt sharks legally caught by California fishermen, that was crafted as part of a deal to win the bill's passage.

The shark-fin ban, which was the subject of intense lobbying by environmental and animal-rights groups, attracted high-profile support. Brown mentioned recently that he had received a call from business mogul Richard Branson urging him to sign the bill.

Critics argued that the bill was discriminatory because it targeted a traditional Chinese delicacy and that the ban would would hurt Asian stores and restaurants owners.

October 7, 2011
Californians in Congress try to block high-speed rail funds

A top House Republican on Friday sent another warning signal to California's high-speed rail project, by introducing a bill to freeze federal funding.

The bill authored by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, would stop the Obama administration from spending additional high-speed rail funds through September 2012. Whatever its long-term prospects, the measure sounds a definite political alarm.

"Responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars is always important, and now more than ever. We cannot afford to throw money we don't have at a project most don't have confidence in," McCarthy said Friday.

Nine House members, all California Republicans, joined McCarthy as co-sponsors. The co-sponsors include a number from the Central Valley, including Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia..

October 7, 2011
Jerry Brown signs pipeline bills in response to San Bruno blast

In response to last year's pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation this morning requiring stricter oversight of natural gas transmission lines in California.

Among other things, the legislation requires the Public Utilities Commission to establish emergency response standards for pipeline operators, authorizes the PUC to require automatic shut-off or remote controlled valves on certain lines and requires utilities to develop service and safety plans.

"We learned very important lessons from the tragic explosion in San Bruno. Pipeline operators and the Public Utilities Commission must take every possible step to keep it from happening again," Brown said in a prepared statement. "These bills protect California's communities by setting new standards for emergency preparedness, placing automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas and ensuring that gas companies pressure test transmission lines."

The five bills signed by the Democratic governor are Assembly Bill 56 and Senate Bills 44, 216, 705 and 879.

October 7, 2011
AM Alert: True Assembly spending varies widely by member

Jim Sanders of The Bee Capitol Bureau reported Thursday that the Assembly routinely underreports the amount of money used to run legislators' personal offices and overreports the operating costs of committees that do the brunt of the policy work in the house.

Today, Capitol Alert is publishing member-by-member estimates of how much was spent on personal staff for the first eight months of the legislative year.

The numbers are significantly larger than the per-member office expenses on the list the speaker's office made public in August. They also vary widely by lawmaker, reflecting the perks granted majority Democrats and those serving in various leadership positions.

Who's on top? Here's a hint - it's not Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.

Have Libertarian leanings? The Libertarian Party of California will host an all-day leadership seminar on Saturday at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento.

The agenda not only promises to teach party-building techniques, but to help you learn to
"resolve conflicts and repair relationships."

If a taxpayer protest is more to your liking, a Rally for Economic Freedom is set for the west steps of the state Capitol on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.

Speakers will include Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Assemblyman Dan Logue, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and Betty Plowman of the California Dump Truck Owners Association.

Another Saturday option is the first-ever Northern California Women's Conference, hosted by Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Roseville, at the Sunset Center in Rocklin.

Among those in the line-up of speakers: KCRA Channel 3 news anchor Edie Lambert and Donna Lucas, CEO and president of Lucas Public Affairs.

October 7, 2011
True Assembly spending varies widely by member

California's Assembly is a house of haves and have-nots.

Members of the 80-person house have disparate sums to spend for Capitol and district office staff that can vary by hundreds of thousands of dollars, records show. Democrats not only dominate the Assembly, they dominate its spending as well.

While Assembly officials say each member receives a base budget of $263,000 annually, that sum is misleading because it typically is augmented by committee, caucus or leadership funds.

By analyzing committee rosters, Assembly staff rosters and expenditure records, The Bee has been able to approximate the total funds received by each lawmaker for personal staff during an eight-month period ending July 31. The Assembly has balked at releasing member budgets that would specify how much each lawmaker has to spend.

For the first eight months of the legislative year, totals ranged from a high of about $608,000 for Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, to a low of about $65,000 for Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, a Roseville Republican who took office in May after a special election.

Go to the jump to see a member-by-member comparison:


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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