Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 26, 2011
Jerry Brown to propose less generous pensions, higher retirement age

Gov. Jerry Brown will propose a higher retirement age and a less generous pension system for newly-hired state workers, sources familiar with Brown's pension plan said this afternoon.

The Democratic governor, who is expected to release his pension plan Thursday, will also propose prohibiting the purchase of additional retirement service credit, or "airtime," for existing employees. And he will call for a ballot measure to reshape the governing board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, requiring changes to Proposition 162, the 1992 initiative that strengthened the retirement board.

The proposal includes some of the same ideas Brown discussed with Republicans in failed budget talks in March. At the time, however, Brown was thought to be considering for new employees a "hybrid option" involving 401(k)-style benefits, not making that hybrid mandatory for new employees.

The hybrid option Brown will propose for new non-public safety employees will be a three-pronged plan that combines a smaller, defined benefit with Social Security and a 401 (k)-style benefit.

The plan, as presented privately by the Brown administration to labor leaders this afternoon, also includes increasing the retirement age from age 55 to 67 for most new, non-public safety employees, the sources said.

October 26, 2011
Newsom calls for 'pattern interrupt' on jobs, higher education

MC_NEWSOM_01.JPGLt. Gov. Gavin Newsom railed against tuition increases and said this afternoon that the state's master plan for higher education is outdated, promising "a different narrative" for higher education by the end of the year.

It was unclear what the plan might contain or how Newsom, a Democrat, might propose funding it.

"We're going to come up with some out-of-the-box recommendations, is our hope and expectation," he told The Bee's Capitol Bureau.

Fifty years after the production of the California Master Plan for Higher Education, Newsom said he and school officials are preparing to "try to create a different narrative for higher education as a system, as opposed to UC as a system, CSU as a system and community colleges."

Newsom, who as lieutenant governor is a member of the UC regents and the CSU trustees, said he is willing to consider a unified higher education system.

The University of California suffered a $650 million state budget cut this year and faces another $100 million this winter if state revenue falls short of expectations and trigger cuts are enforced.

UC regents voted in July to raise tuition by 9.6 percent, following n 8 percent increase the previous year. Newsom was one of four regents to vote against the increase.

"You can destroy a system that Lincoln built, with the college grants, the land grants," he said. "It took hundreds of years to build a system, and you can destroy it in a few years. And what we're doing is walking down that path. And I know I sound like a cliché, like every single lieutenant governor, opposing the tuition increase, demagoguing it, putting a press release out, organizing the students for some political hay. But I believe this in my gut."

October 26, 2011
High-Speed Rail Authority bails again on Sacramento Press Club

A glutton for bad press, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has canceled on the Sacramento Press Club.


The rail authority, which canceled a luncheon once already at the club -- and delayed the release of its much-awaited business plan -- said this afternoon that it will still release its business plan Nov. 1.

But it will be just somewhere else.

Lance Simmens, the authority's new deputy director for communications and public policy, said he made the call "to roll out what is going to be a very significant business plan at another venue."

That venue, Simmens said, has yet to be picked.

October 26, 2011
California lawmakers discuss pensions ahead of Brown's plan

It took less than 10 minutes of Wednesday's legislative hearing on public pensions to understand the differences between Democrats and Republicans on the issue.

GOP Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, said she hoped the panel and Gov. Jerry Brown would focus on "California's massive unfunded pension liabilities and high year-to-year costs." She lamented that representatives from the Little Hoover Commission and Legislative Analyst's Office, two nonpartisan entities that have drawn labor scorn by calling for pension cutbacks, were not at Tuesday's first hearing in Carson.

Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, co-chairman of the legislative committee, said it was important to hear first from public employee unions because he believes they have the most at stake from pension changes. Half of those testifying Wednesday were representatives from the state's largest public employee organizations.

"The people most directly impacted aren't the ones who are the pundits or those talking about what we should do or those running around with their heads cut off like the sky is falling," Furutani said.

October 26, 2011
Senate map fight boosted by $1 million donation to state GOP

A $1 million contribution from the owner of Mercury General Insurance Corp. to the California Republican Party this month has helped the GOP push a referendum challenge to the state's newly drawn Senate districts.

But George Joseph did not earmark his million-dollar donation for any specific purpose, said Mark Standriff, state GOP spokesman.

"Obviously, our focus right now is the Senate map referendum, but we also have a number of other programs, including what is probably the most aggressive and comprehensive voter registration program in our history," Standriff said.

Jeff Green, Mercury General spokesman, released a written statement Wednesday that said Joseph contributed the money "with no restrictions" on the Republican Party's use of it.

"The redistricting referendum was part of the discussion, which included many topics, but it's up to the party to decide how the money should be spent," Green said.

Joseph's contribution to the state GOP on Oct. 13 represents more than half of the $1.86 million in recent donations to the party's coffers, from which $936,000 has been sent since late September to bolster the referendum effort, records show.

October 26, 2011
California Supreme Court rejects challenges to Senate, Congress maps

The California Supreme Court today rejected legal challenges to the state's new Senate and congressional maps.

The two separate lawsuits were rejected by identical 7-0 votes, said Lynn Holton, court spokeswoman.

The court's decision ended the first hurdle to implementing boundary lines that were drawn this year, for the first time, by a 14-member citizens commission created by voter passage of Proposition 11 in 2008.

More hurdles remain, however.

A coalition of Republican-backed groups is spearheading a referendum drive aimed at placing the new Senate maps before voters next year.

GOP opponents say the new lines tend to give Democrats an advantage and could allow the majority party to gain the two additional seats necessary to gain a two-thirds majority in the state Senate.

Raising taxes or fees requires a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses.

October 26, 2011
Jerry Brown fills vacancy left by cousin on county board

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed an administrative aide to Marin County Supervisor Hal Brown, the governor's cousin, to replace him on the county board, the governor announced this afternoon.

Brown was governor before when he appointed Hal Brown to the board in 1983, filling a seat left open when Barbara Boxer was elected to Congress. The supervisor was diagnosed with cancer in December and announced his resignation, effective this coming Saturday, earlier this month.

Catherine Rice, 51, of San Anselmo, has been an administrative aide to Hal Brown since 2004. Like the governor, she is a Democrat.

The position does not require Senate confirmation. It pays $97,739 a year.

October 26, 2011
California has a high level of income inequality

California generally - and the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area specifically - have higher levels of household income inequality than the nation as a whole, according to a new Census Bureau statistical analysis.

California is one of seven states, plus the District of Columbia, that have the highest levels of inequality on all three indices of disparity used in the report, although California's inequality scores are the lowest of the eight. The District of Columbia has the highest level. The others -- a mixture of high- and low-income states -- are New York, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.

However, a number of major (more than 1 million residents) California communities are cited in the report as having relatively low levels of income inequality, such as San Diego, San Jose, the Riverside-San Bernardino area, the Sacramento-Roseville metropolitan area.

Elk Grove is also cited as having a low level of inequality, and two of the state's census tracts, one in Kern County and another in Los Angeles County, are on short list of tracts with the nation's lowest levels of inequality.

The data and the indices were developed from a series of surveys conducted by the Census Bureau.

October 26, 2011
Democratic House challengers flock to D.C.

Several Central Valley Democrats have joined more than 100 other House candidates in Washington, D.C., this week for a pep talk and some hands-on campaign tutoring.

Participating are Democrats Jose Hernandez -- a San Joaquin County native and former astronaut who's challenging Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater -- and Ami Bera -- a physician repeating his challenge of Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River.

All told, the candidates assembled by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee come from 36 states and from "all walks of life," according to a press statement by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Republicans put their own spin on the candidates' event, saying in their competing release that Hernandez was "rushing to the aid of Washington Democrats today in hopes of returning Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker's Chair."

Hernandez wasn't the only California candidate targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee's email blast. The group issued identical releases hitting two other Democratic congressional hopefuls running for a coastal Northern California seat.

The messages warned that both candidates, who are also in Washington this week, "will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Obama and Pelosi's broken policies."

October 26, 2011
AM Alert: Public pension debate heads to Southern California

California's public pension debate moves to the south state, where a new legislative committee will look at recent changes and options for fiscal stability.

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino and Assemblyman Warren Furutani of Gardena, both Democrats, are chairing the informational hearing, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Carson City Council Chambers.

The meeting comes on the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown's announcement yesterday that he'll unveil his proposed changes to public pensions tomorrow.

Several union representatives and lobbyists are among the scheduled speakers at today's hearing. They include Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000; Rich Brandt, president of Long Beach Firefighters; and Dave Low, executive director of the California School Employees Association.


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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