Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 2, 2011
VIDEO: Find out what statewide office John Chiang is eyeing

We asked our Facebook fans and Twitter followers to suggest questions for our bureau interview with Controller John Chiang.

One topic on readers' minds was whether Chiang, who is termed out of his current job in 2014, plans to run for governor in the future.

Chiang told us he isn't prepared to announce any plans to run for the state's top office. But he did share with The Bee one statewide post he is interested in seeking (hint: he's already opened a campaign account for a 2014 bid).

Watch Chiang reveal what seat he will likely seek and why he wants the job in this video:


Don't like cuts? Controller John Chiang says offer alternatives

Video by Bee photographer Hector Amezcua.

November 2, 2011
Roger Niello named president of Sacramento Metro Chamber

Former GOP Assemblyman Roger Niello has been named the leader of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

The Fair Oaks Republican has remained active in the public and political spheres since wrapping up his third and final term in the state Assembly last year. He has thrown his support behind two public employee pension initiative proposals, the latest released today, and expressed interest in future runs for the state Senate or statewide office.

Click here to read a account of Niello's new post.

California group moves to put pension overhaul on 2012 ballot
Roger Niello eyeing runs for state Senate, statewide office

November 2, 2011
Jerry Brown shuts down government transparency website

Gov. Jerry Brown has shut down the government transparency website created by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a repository for financial disclosure statements and other records.

A note on the website,, says information previously available on the site can be found on other state websites and furnishes the links. But open government advocates have objected to the move, saying it will make it more difficult for citizens to track spending.

Many of the documents -- including information about state contracts, audits and salaries -- can be found on other sites. But the transparency site, created in 2009 and shut down Tuesday, also included travel expense claims submitted by senior agency officials and employees of the governor's office.

Brown's office said this afternoon that travel records can be requested under California's open records act. Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the Democratic governor, cited the time and cost of copying and uploading those documents.

Ashford said the website was created in response to concerns about travel and spending during Schwarzenegger's administration. Staff and travel costs under Brown are far lower, she said.

Phillip Ung, a lobbyist for the government watchdog group Common Cause, said there is a "large public interest in having a centralized disclosure, which is exactly what the transparency website was."

When he saw a note on the website this afternoon announcing its discontinuation, Ung said, "This is the worst."

The note on the website says Brown "is committed to keeping state government open and transparent while eliminating inefficiencies and unnecessary costs."

Brown last month rescinded the executive order under which his Republican predecessor created the website. The action accompanied Brown's veto of labor-backed legislation that would have required the state to post contracts of $5,000 or more on the site.

Brown said in a message accompanying his veto of the bill, by Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, that information about state contracts could already be found on a Department of General Services website.

"While governmental transparency is laudable, there's no need for a new law," Brown wrote.

November 2, 2011
Romney video compares Rick Perry to California, Jerry Brown

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is out with a new Web video tying Texas Gov. Rick Perry to California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

The 30-second spot, which features pictures of Perry and Brown, suggests Perry's policies on illegal immigration served as "An Inspiration To Liberal California."

"Where did liberals in California get all their bad ideas?" the ad's text asks, before slamming Perry for being "the first to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants."

California and Texas both adopted laws approving in-state tuition rates for some undocumented immigrant students in 2001. The California measure, Assembly Bill 540, was signed into law by then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Brown signed into law this year legislation allowing the undocumented immigrant students who qualify for in-state tuition to receive private and state-funded financial aid, including CalGrants.

While Perry's campaign would likely contest comparisons to California's top Democrat, they are stressing one California connection today: cash. His campaign, which has reported raising at least $1.2 million from Golden State donors since he entered the race, announced the members of his California finance leadership team today, including San Diego Chargers President and Chairman Dean Spanos as one of five statewide finance chairs.

Perry, meanwhile, is hitting the Silicon Valley cash machine, and the San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci reports today that he called his loopy New Hampshire address last week "a pretty typical speech for me."

Watch the full video, which is posted on a website paid for by Romney's campaign.

November 2, 2011
Don't like cuts? Controller John Chiang says offer alternatives

Controller John Chiang said Wednesday that lawmakers who fear the prospect of automatic mid-year budget cuts should find alternatives soon.

In a meeting with The Bee Capitol Bureau, Chiang wouldn't predict whether "trigger" cuts to education and social services would happen. Under the budget approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers, California is required to impose up to $2.5 billion in cuts if fiscal analysts determine in the next few weeks the state will fall short in revenues this fiscal year.

Chiang reported last month that California is running $705.5 million short through the first quarter of the fiscal year, from July to September. Some budget experts have downplayed that shortfall, saying the amount received so far is less important than what forecasters believe California will take in from January to June based on economic indicators.

The Democratic controller credited the "trigger" cuts for adding certainty to the state budget in unpredictable times, noting that credit rating agencies have looked favorably on that mechanism. But he knows many Democratic lawmakers, who agreed to triggers only at Brown's urging, don't feel the same way.

"As I share with a few legislators when I talk to them today, I say if you don't like the fact that we may have triggers, then you better offer an alternative, and you should offer that alternative pretty quickly," Chiang said.

November 2, 2011
KP no longer tops in California lobby earnings

KP Public Affairs has slipped from its long-held position as Sacramento's top-earning lobby firm, disclosure forms released this week show. That title now goes to the Nielsen, Merksamer firm, which brought in the most money -- $4,957,730 -- during the first three quarters of the year.

KP came in second, raking in $4,626,826 between January and September, according to lobby disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of State.

Nielsen Merksamer appears to have benefited from its contract with the City of Vernon, which was the top spender among lobbyist employers during the third quarter. Vernon spent $1.6 million on lobbying during that time, while the Western States Petroleum Association, which employs KP, spent just over $1 million.

Nielsen's new position as the top earning firm for the first nine months of the year reverses a trend of at least 10 years, when KP brought in the most money among California lobby firms.

The top 10 earners from the first three quarters of 2011 are:

Lobbying Firm Name Total Payment
KP PUBLIC AFFAIRS - $4,626,826
THE GUALCO GROUP, INC. - $2,058,653

November 2, 2011
AM Alert: Here comes another California pension proposal

A new proposal to rein in public pensions will surface today as California Pension Reform heads to the state Attorney General's Office to turn in language for a 2012 initiative.

Joining forces on the plan are longtime pension critic Dan Pellissier, former Schwarzenegger finance director Mike Genest and Roger Niello, who filed and then declined to pursue a pension initiative earlier this year.

Backers say the initiative "will stop the accumulating debt caused by unfunded pension and retiree benefit liabilities, make pension boards more transparent and accountable, and end abuses."

Aiming for the November ballot, the group will roll out its agenda for reporters in a 10:30 a.m. conference call.

Here's guessing that one of the first questions will be "Can you raise the money?"

The State Worker will have the details.

REALIGNMENT: A Contra Costa County forum today will explore corrections changes facing local government. The two-hour forum begins at 1 p.m. at Antioch City Hall. Among those attending: Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

SERVICE CORPS: California Secretary of Service and Volunteering Karen Baker will join Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson today to announce plans to launch City Year in Sacramento schools next year. The announcement is set for 1 p.m. at Oak Ridge Elementary School.

PRESTIGIOUS POST?: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has named Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, to the California Film Commission. Assemblyman Anthony Portantino is also a member...

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled Pellissier's last name. The Bee regrets the error.

LIVE CHAT: Join Ben Boychuk and Pia Lopez during a live chat today at noon on Brown's pension plan. Joining them will be Marcia Fritz, president of California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, and Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security. To share your comments and join in the discussion, go to:


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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