Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 10, 2011
GOP assemblyman files referendum of California Dream Act

A GOP state assemblyman today launched an effort to ask voters to repeal the California Dream Act signed into law this weekend by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, filed referendum papers to overturn Assembly Bill 131, which allows undocumented immigrant college students who already qualify for in-state tuition rates to receive state-funded financial aid, including Cal Grants.

"I think that it is perhaps the biggest mistake that Governor Brown has ever made...other than unionizing public employees," Donnelly, a former Minuteman Corps of California leader, told The Bee over the weekend.

October 10, 2011
Next play in bid to make online gambling legal: Free poker sites

Groups that want California to make Internet poker legal are upping the ante in their efforts to convince lawmakers that online gambling is a good idea: They're launching web sites where users can play poker without betting any money on the game.

Legislation to permit in-state Internet gambling stalled this year, but proponents are expected to come back in January with a new proposal. Gambling operators will likely use their new free poker sites to make the case to lawmakers that Internet poker is popular in California and demonstrate how gambling versions of the sites could work.

"This is pretty much what online poker would look like as a real money game," said Ryan Hightower, a spokesman for the California Online Poker Association, a group of cardrooms and casino-owning tribes that sponsored Senate Bill 40 to legalize Internet poker.

"It will absolutely serve as an example of the popularity of online poker in California."

October 10, 2011
Jerry Brown calls bill process 'very unusual'

BELMONT - Hours after dispatching with the last of hundreds of bills sent him by the Legislature this fall, Gov. Jerry Brown was still musing about the "very unusual process" that kept him up reviewing piles of proposed laws.

"I was up late last night signing and vetoing lots of bills," the Democratic governor said under drizzling skies in Belmont. "It's a very unusual process that concentrates a lot of the work of state government in the last couple of weeks."

When asked if there were any inconsistencies in his veto and signing messages, Brown said there were not.

"I look at each bill," he said. "Since the same mind is looking at each bill, there's at least a modest consistency."

Brown was in Belmont to celebrate solar energy company SunEdison's decision to move its corporate headquarters here from Maryland, but he faced continuing questions about Solyndra LLC's spectacular failure.

Brown said the nature of capitalism is for some businesses to fail and others to succeed.

"There's a certain Darwinian struggle," he said. "Some make it and some don't."

October 10, 2011
California revenues miss mark in September

California missed the mark again in September by collecting $301.6 million less in revenue than state leaders expected when they approved this year's budget, according to Controller John Chiang.

The $301.6 million is 4 percent below what had been expected for September. It represents nearly all of the $310 million that state leaders counted on for the month when they closed the budget with an expectation the state would receive $4 billion more over the course of 2011-12.

That $4 billion bump has attracted plenty of skepticism. Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers have defended the optimistic assumption by pointing to as much as $2.5 billion in cuts to schools and social services they prescribed in case the money never materializes.

For the first three months of the fiscal year, from July to September, California is now $705.5 million, or 3.6 percent, behind what state leaders expected by this point.

"For better or worse, the potential for revenue shortfalls is precisely why the Governor and Legislature included trigger cuts in this year's State spending plan," Chiang said in a statement. "September's revenues alone do not guarantee that triggers will be pulled. But as the largest revenue month before December, these numbers do not paint a hopeful picture."

October 10, 2011
2011 session a record year for California referendum drives

When it comes potential measures for the 2012 ballot, Californians appear to have a case of "refer" madness.

No, we're not talking about another attempt to ask Golden State voters to legalize marijuana for recreational use, though one has been filed. This year has seen a record number of referendum efforts launched to challenge laws recently added to the books.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, became the latest to pledge a referendum fight, saying this weekend he will try to qualify a measure to overturn a recently signed law allowing some illegal immigrants attending college to receive state-funded financial aid.

Donnelly's effort would bring the total number of referendum drives launched this year to eight. The previous record was five measures filed for the1920 ballot, according to data posted on the secretary of state's website.

Voters will see far fewer than eight referendums - if any - on the ballot next year. Three campaigns have either failed to qualify or already been abandoned, including a challenge of the state's new tax collection law for online retailers dropped as part of a compromise with to delay implementation for one year.

October 10, 2011
Cal Chamber praises Jerry Brown for vetoing 'job killer' bills

Gov. Jerry Brown may not be to the California Chamber of Commerce what Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was, but he did pretty well by the business group in his dispatching of proposed laws this fall.

Of five bills the chamber identified as "job killers" on his desk, Brown, a Democrat, vetoed four, the chamber said.

"We commend Governor Brown for vetoing nearly all CalChamber identified job killers," chamber President Allan Zaremberg said in a prepared statement. "Governor Brown's commitment to 'do no more harm' to California's economy will send a strong message that eliminating economic uncertainty is the first element of any program to make California more competitive."

Brown vetoed chamber-opposed bills involving bereavement leave, workers' compensation and judicial authority to reduce attorney fees in fair employment and housing cases, among others.

He signed one. Just after midnight, Brown announced signing Assembly Bill 22, by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, restricting the use of credit reports by employers making hiring decisions.

October 10, 2011
Jerry Brown pushes up veto rate at bill signing deadline

Gov. Jerry Brown, who was so annoyed by the volume of bills the Legislature produced this fall that he suggested cuing the "veto blues," ended up vetoing about 17 percent of the end-of-session bills, no record, but far more than the Democratic governor has vetoed before.

From mid-September to late Sunday night, Brown signed 466 bills and vetoed 97, his office said.

Brown's veto rate for the year overall was slightly lower, at about 14 percent. In the first year of his third term, Brown signed 760 bills, vetoed 128 and allowed one bill to become law without his signature, his office said.

Brown vetoed fewer than 5 percent of regular session bills when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed more than a quarter of regular session bills.

October 10, 2011
Former astronaut ready to launch congressional race

San Joaquin County native and former astronaut Jose Hernandez will be formally announcing his candidacy for the 10th Congressional District on Tuesday. Hernandez, born in French Camp and educated at the University of the Pacific, flew on the space shuttle in 2009.

Hernandez, a Democrat and political novice, appears lined up to compete for the chance to challenge freshman Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater. The campaign rollout will take place at events in Modesto and Tracy.

October 10, 2011
Jerry Brown vetoes bill restricting debit card paychecks

Siding with banks and employers, Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill unions sought to restrict employers from using debit cards to pay employees, his office announced this morning.

Paying workers with debit cards carrying wages that can be withdrawn at stores, banks and ATMs, is becoming more popular as employers try to cut costs. The payroll cards are cheaper to process than paper checks and - unlike direct deposit - can be issued to low-wage workers who don't have bank accounts.

But unions got behind Senate Bill 931 -- which would have limited the fees issuers can charge when workers access their wages. Banks said the fees would have resulted in a de-facto ban on the cards.

Brown said the bill, by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, went too far.

"I strongly believe that reasonable protections are needed for those who use pay cards," Brown said in his veto message. "I will work with the bill's proponents and the
financial institutions to forge a better solution that I can sign into law."

October 10, 2011
AM Alert: California direct democracy takes a bow

One hundred years ago today, Californians approved major changes to state government, giving women the right to vote and creating the initiative and referendum process for citizens to bring issues to the ballot.

Since 1911, more than 1,675 initiatives have been circulated and 348 have made it to the ballot, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Voters have approved about a third of them.

The Citizens in Charge Foundation is hosting a day-long birthday party at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, featuring a series of discussions and debates on how voter initiatives have shaped California. The event includes appearances by Jonathan Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association; Peter Schrag, columnist and former Sacramento Beeeditorial page editor; Jon Fleischman, author of the Flash Report; Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies; Kim Alexander, founder of the California Voter Foundation and other glitteratti of our state's democracy. A full agenda of events is here.

Elsewhere around the Capitol, celebrations will honor women's suffrage with a 10:30 a.m. event on the north steps of the State Capitol, a series of historic presentations inside the Capitol from noon to 3 p.m., and a reception at the California Museum from 4 to 6:30 p.m. A full list of suffrage celebration events is here.

Fun fact about suffrage in California: Although state voters overall gave women the right to vote by passing Proposition 4 in 1911, eight counties voted against the ballot measure: Alameda, Amador, Marin, Monterey, Orange, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Ventura.

Over in Davis, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is headlining a conference on teaching the so-called STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and math. The second annual California STEM Summit runs today and tomorrow at UC Davis and features speakers from Google, Apple, Pixar Studios, Hewlett-Packard, Chevron, Raytheon, the George Lucas Foundation and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Also on the agenda: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Board of Education President Mike Kirst. Click here for more information.

October 10, 2011
Jerry Brown vetoes tax break sunset, new budgeting scheme

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed bills to restrict tax breaks and overhaul California's budgeting system, his office announced this morning.

Brown vetoed Senate Bill 508, by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, which would have required corporate and individual tax breaks enacted after Jan. 1 to automatically end in 10 years.

"While I agree that we should consider sunset clauses for personal income and corporate tax credits, one size does not fit all," Brown said in a veto message. "The legislature should examine all its bills to determine how long they should exist or, indeed, whether they should exist at all."

The bill had been assailed by business groups as a limitation on job-creating tax incentives. Legislative Democrats sought the automatic sunset, in part, because it would have changed what they consider a key procedural dynamic: tax cuts can be approved by the Legislature with a majority vote, but require a two-thirds vote to end because that action is considered a tax increase.

Brown vetoed another Wolk bill, Senate Bill 14, that would have required the state to begin "performance-based budgeting," forcing each state department to provide lawmakers its goals, targeted outcomes and performance data.

October 10, 2011
Jerry Brown signs one union measure, vetoes another

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a union-backed bill prohibiting grocery stores from selling beer, wine or liquor using electronic self-checkout lanes, Brown announced this morning.

Assembly Bill 183, by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, was supported by labor and police chiefs, who said it could deter underage drinking.

Business groups and grocers said existing oversight is sufficient and blamed labor interests for trying to block Fresh & Easy, a nonunion chain that uses only staff-supervised self-checkout lanes.

Fresh & Easy said in a prepared statement Monday that "we are disappointed that politics has prevailed over solid judgment."

Brown also vetoed legislation that would have required local governments to study the economic impact of proposed Wal-Mart and other superstores before approving them.

Senate Bill 469 by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, would have required the studies to be paid for by project applicants.

"While I recognize that the merits of large-scale projects need to be carefully considered, plenty of laws are already on the books that enable and in some cases require cities and counties to carefully assess whether these projects are in a community's best interests," the Democratic governor said in a veto message. "This bill would add yet another layer of review to an already cumbersome process."

Vargas' bill had been assailed as a union-inspired effort to block development of non-union retail stores.

The California Retailers Association praised Brown's veto. "This veto clearly preserves local authority to decide what businesses they want in their communities and empowers them to bring in more jobs, economic activity and revenue.," Bill Dombrowski, the group's president, said in a statement.

Vargas said he was undeterred by Brown's veto. "Research continues to show that supercenters cause business districts to suffer, significantly decrease the net number of jobs and often rely on taxpayer-funded government services, like Medicaid, to provide healthcare for their employees," he said in a statement. "I will continue to work to make sure that our communities know the truth about these supercenters and how they claim to be creating jobs when actually they are destroying them."

Editor's Note: This post was updated to include Vargas' comments. Updated 11:39 a.m., Oct. 10

October 10, 2011
Jerry Brown expands needle-exchange programs

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation allowing the state Department of Public Health to authorize a needle-exchange program in cities or counties where it fears the rapid spread of HIV or other potentially deadly or disabling infections, Brown announced this morning.

Brown, a Democrat, said in a signing message that he is directing health officials to implement the law in a "constrained way, working closely not only with local health officers and police chiefs, but with neighborhood associations as well."

Brown said he believes the measure, Assembly Bill 604, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, could reduce the spread of disease.

Current law allows cities and counties to approve their own needle-exchange programs, but the new law allows state health officials to approve programs sought by entities across the state.

Some police organizations and the League of California Cities opposed the measure because it takes away local authority over the issue.

October 10, 2011
Jerry Brown signs bills restricting rifles, 'open carry' of guns

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation criminalizing openly carrying an unloaded handgun in public and requiring the state to keep records of rifle sales, as it currently does for handguns, Brown announced this morning.

The open-carry ban, Assembly Bill 144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, pitted law enforcement groups against gun rights advocates. The legislation targeted the "open carry" movement, in which people displayed firearms in public places to protest gun-control laws.

The measure exempts peace officers, military gatherings, gun shows and hunting.
Assembly Bill 809, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, requires the state to keep records of rifle sales starting in January 2014.

"Since the state already retains handgun purchaser information, I see no reason why the state should not also retain information pertaining to the sales of long guns," Brown, a Democrat, said in a signing statement.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence praised Brown's signings, notably the open carry bill. "By prohibiting the open carry of guns, we can now take our families to the park or out to eat without the worry of getting shot by some untrained, unscreened, self-appointed vigilante," said Dallas Stout, president of the group's California chapter.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated with comments from the Brady campaign. Updated 9:34 a.m., Oct. 10, 2011.


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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