Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 25, 2011
Jerry Brown to propose public pension changes Thursday

Gov. Jerry Brown will give lawmakers his plan for pension changes on Thursday, the governor said in a letter to legislators this afternoon, though it remains unclear what Brown will propose.

"Given the paramount importance of pensions to both taxpayers and public employees, it is absolutely critical that we carefully examine our current assumptions and practices," Brown said in a letter to Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena. "We have to do our best to make sure that we have a system that is fair and truly sustainable over the long time horizon that our pension and health systems require."

The Democratic governor has said for weeks that he would propose pension changes this fall. He recently said some of them will require a constitutional amendment and a vote of the people.

Brown's letter comes on the eve of an informational hearing Wednesday in Carson by the new Joint Conference Committee on Public Employee Pensions, which is chaired by Furutani and Negrete-McLeod.

October 25, 2011
Insurance newsletter ceases publication

A major and long-running source of insider information about the politics of California's insurance industry is gone, an apparent victim of the state's moribund economy.

Ted Huntington, publisher of The Scribe's Insurance Bulletin (formerly Smart's California Insurance Report), announced Tuesday that declining subscriptions had compelled the parent company, Santa Clarita-based Pale Blimp Marketing, to cease its weekly publication.

"For the past couple years the subscriber base for the newsletter has been eroding at a rapid rate," Huntington told subscribers in an email. "We had hoped to keep the newsletter operating on a shoestring budget, but for the past several months we have been running in the red. The bottom line is that we simply are not receiving enough subscription renewals to cover our expenses. We had attempted to find another investor to potentially revive the publication, but that was not successful. The situation is now dire, and the newsletter account has become insolvent."

For many years, mostly under its former name, the newsletter provided subscribers in the Capitol and in the insurance industry with detailed information on the Department of Insurance's actions and the ups and downs of the State Compensation Insurance Fund, among other issues.

October 25, 2011
Center for California Studies director Tim Hodson dies

Tim photo1.JPG Timothy Hodson, a leading expert on California politics who spent more than three decades working in and around the Capitol, died this morning. He was 61.

Hodson, who had previously battled prostate cancer, had revealed to friends in August 2010 that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. The news of his death was announced in an email from his wife, Deputy Controller for Health and Consumer Policy Ruth Holton-Hodson.

The New Petty: Timothy Hodson's poem about the state of public affairs in California

Hodson served as executive director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento for nearly two decades before retiring earlier this month. In that role, the former Senate staff member oversaw the Capital Fellows Program, a nationally recognized internship that counts more than two dozen judges and current or former elected officials as alumni. He also served until earlier this year as a commissioner on the Fair Political Practices Commission.

His expertise and knowledge of California's political process was rooted in the 15 years he spent under the dome, working for the Select Committees on Political Reform and Government Regulation, the Senate Office of Research and the Senate Elections and Reapportionment Committee.

In addition to his work with CSU Sacramento, Hodson taught over the years at Claremont McKenna College and the University of Southern California. A Sacramento State scholarship has been established in his honor. For more information on that fund, contact the Center for California Studies

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of California State University, Sacramento

October 25, 2011
M.C. Hammer, Brian Wilson, Willie Brown team up for Ed Lee

With two weeks to go until Election Day, it's crunch time in the San Francisco mayoral race.

For Ed Lee's campaign, it's also Hammer Time.

M.C. Hammer and San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson are among the celebrities who teamed up to produce a video remake of Hammer's hit song "2 Legit to Quit" in support of the interim mayor's campaign for a full term.

"Only five-foot-five but he gets (bleep) done. So tell them other candidates to find a bus pass, Unless you ridin' with us...FEAR THE MUSTACHE!" the revised lyrics, posted in full after the jump, read.

The web video, created by a committee backed by angel investor Ron Conway, also features cameos from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, the Black Eyed Peas', and executives from Silicon Valley tech giants Google, Twitter and YouTube.

The video, posted below, was released as the front-runner's campaign comes under increased fire from opponents. Seven other candidates have asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the California secretary of state to investigate allegations that Lee's supporters were helping voters mark absentee ballots in an attempt to sway election results. Lee has said his campaign has nothing to do with the group accused of wrongdoing.

October 25, 2011
San Joaquin Supervisor Leroy Ornellas to run for Senate seat

San Joaquin County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas has thrown his hat in the ring for a competitive state Senate seat up for grabs in 2012.

The Tracy Republican and longtime dairy farmer announced today plans to run for the newly drawn 5th Senate District seat. A four-point voter registration edge for Democrats is expected to make the district a top target.

"To get California working again, we can't afford any more bull in Sacramento," he said in a statement. "We need tough, principled legislators who'll focus on the real issues - jobs, economic development, infrastructure building, public safety, education and holding government strictly accountable for the money it's entrusted with."

Ornellas will face two current legislators in his bid for the San Joaquin Valley seat. Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, and Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, have both announced plans to run in the 2012 primary.

Ornellas, whose family has run a dairy farm in the area since the 1930s, has served on the board of supervisors since 2002. He said in his campaign announcement that opposing higher taxes and pushing for the creation of a California State University campus in the county would be top priorities.

The lines of the seat, drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission, could still change. The Senate map has been targeted by a GOP-backed referendum drive and a lawsuit asking the courts to create new districts.

Interactive map: See your new California legislative and congressional districts
Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani launches state Senate run

October 25, 2011
Richard Pan to seek south Sacramento County Assembly seat

Assemblyman Richard Pan is packing his bags in hopes of staying put.

The Sacramento Democrat said today that he has decided to move into a newly drawn south Sacramento Assembly district to seek a second term in the Legislature next year.

Pan characterized his decision as a return to a part of the county where he lived for about two years. He resided in Sacramento's Pocket area from about 1998 to 2000 after moving to California from Boston in 1998, he said.

"I believe that people, when they go to the voting booth, they're looking for someone who will work effectively in the Capitol to represent their community, to represent them -- and that's what I'll do," Pan said.

Pan's current Assembly District was redrawn recently by California's citizens redistricting commission, placing the pediatrician and freshman lawmaker in the same district as Democratic colleague Roger Dickinson for next year's election.

By moving from North Natomas, Pan will avoid a high-powered political showdown with Dickinson and seek an open seat - the 9th Assembly District - that stretches from south Sacramento through Elk Grove and Galt to Lodi.

Elk Grove Councilwoman Sophia Scherman, a Republican, also has expressed interest in the seat.

Pan said the new south Sacramento County district is a good fit for him partly because many issues he has tackled as a lawmaker and pediatrician -- from expanding children's health care to promoting job creation -- impact residents throughout the region.

October 25, 2011
AM Alert: A San Francisco welcome for Obama

President Barack Obama heads to San Francisco today for a lunch fundraiser, but he may get a little more green than he bargained for.

Medical marijuana activists are using the occasion to slam the Obama administration for its recent crackdown on the cannibis industry. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, will hold a 10 a.m. press conference with politicians, patients and directors of medical marijuana dispensaries targeted by federal prosecutors.

An Ammiano release says the coalition will "discuss the ramifications of (the Obama) administration's new attack on the medical marijuana community" while calling for federal policy changes.

Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, will head Tuesday evening to Club Nokia at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. The concert venue hosts Cyndi Lauper next month and Wu-Tang Clan in January, but on Tuesday it's all about nonprofits.

Brown speaks at the Annenberg Foundation's 3rd Annual Alchemy Peer to Peer event. It includes a "Social Innovation Fast Pitch Competition," in which nonprofits will compete for more than $100,000 in funding by giving three-minute speeches on their projects.

Elsewhere, an anti-death penalty coalition called SAFE California says it will begin gathering signatures today to end the death penalty and replace it with life sentences without parole. The group will hold press conferences this week around the state featuring law enforcement officials and crime victims.

"With the money in the bank and commitments we have we are not concerned at all and positive we will have the signatures needed to get on the ballot," said spokeswoman Erin Mellon.

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


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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