Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 4, 2011
Schwarzenegger's face draws reaction from Gabrielle Giffords

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can't stay out of the news.

He turned up today with the release of a book about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' near-fatal gunshot wounds and her recovery.

Here's how the Associated Press starts the story of the book, written by Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly.

PHOENIX -- When President George H.W. Bush came to visit her in the hospital, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords could say only "Wow!" and another word she had been uttering frequently at the time, "chicken."

Months later, when she was shown photos of famous people to see if she recognized faces, Giffords looked at Arnold Schwarzenegger and replied, more or less accurately: "Messin' around. Babies."

Read the full story here.

November 4, 2011
Unions take tax-hike campaign to California college campuses

The wave of anger at banks that has swept the country with the recent "Occupy" movement is coming to California college campuses next week.

A union-backed group calling itself "Refund California" is organizing protests on Wednesday at more than a dozen college campuses, including Sacramento State and UC Davis.

The group argues that banks created the country's economic collapse that decimated state budgets and led to massive tuition hikes in recent years. It is calling on leaders of the public universities to pledge support for higher taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals as a way to restore funding for jobs and education.

The group sent letters today to University of California regents and trustees of the California State University, asking them to sign the following pledge:

November 4, 2011
The Dish: Gold Rush Grille at the Secretary of State building

IMG_0837.jpg While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

By Torey Van Oot and Jon Ortiz

The spot: Stop two on our mission to dine our way through Sacramento's state buildings was Gold Rush Grille on the second floor of the Secretary of State Building. Situated at the corner of 11th and O streets, this one is a quick jaunt from the Capitol. Don't be deterred by the security guard manning the first floor entrance -- all you need to do is show an ID and hit the staircase to the left to get to the grille.

The grub: Gold Rush Grille is a good spot for grilled sandwiches, wraps and other hot plates. Sample fare includes the grilled ham and cheese ($5.49) or a crispy Buffalo chicken wrap with a "blue cheese drizzle" ($6.29). Specials at the grill follow a daily theme, such as "In the Mood Mondays" and "Comfort Food Wednesdays." Lunch is dished up from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Like Cafe 744, the Gold Rush Grille also serves breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. The full menu is posted here.

IMG_0838.jpgOn our plates: Jon had a made-to-order BBQ beef sandwich with cheese and a "mountain" of fries. Torey grabbed a pre-made turkey wrap with bacon, avocado, onion, lettuce and cream cheese and a mixed greens salad. Our lunch guest chowed down on the tortellini pasta special with meatballs and a side of garlic bread.

The bill: The total tab for all three diners came to $15.30, not bad for the amount of food on our plates.

The good: French fries don't get much better than this. Crunch on the outside, tender on the inside. Makes our mouths water just thinking about it.... The grilled sourdough bread for Jon's sandwich was buttery and browned to perfection. The combination of made-to-order grill items and daily specials presents plenty of options for diners looking for something besides your typical turkey sandwich. The location is super convenient. We ate at one of several tables on an outside balcony overlooking the building's courtyard, but the large, wrap-around windows inside let in lots of natural light, giving the dining area an atrium-like feel.

Thumbnail image for IMG_0840.jpgThe bad: Besides the fries and sandwich bread, Gold Rush didn't exactly strike gold with the rest of our food. Jon's beef was rubbery and the BBQ sauce was bland. The wrap was also lacking in flavor and a bit mushy thanks to the cream cheese. Our guest reported that his pasta dish was just like his mom used to make. He wouldn't say whether that was good or bad. We'll take it as leaning towards the latter.

The grade: 2.5 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Gold Rush Grille? Share your experiences in the comments field below. You can also check out our earlier review of Cafe 744 at this link.

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try. Send your picks to and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

PHOTO CREDITS: From top to bottom: Pasta special, turkey wrap and BBQ beef sandwich from Gold Rush Grille. Photos by Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau.

November 4, 2011
Jerry Brown fires conservation chief, oil regulator

Gov. Jerry Brown has fired Derek Chernow, acting director of the California Department of Conservation, and Elena Miller, the chief overseer of oil drilling operations in California, amid conflict between the agency and oil producers on regulatory matters.

Clifford Rechtschaffen, a senior adviser to Brown on energy, environmental and agricultural issues, was named acting director, California Natural Resources Agency spokesman Richard Stapler said this morning.

Sen. Michael Rubio, D-East Bakersfield, issued a statement praising the decision. His office said the permit approval process for oil drilling in Kern County had become "overly bureaucratic" under Miller's leadership.

The ouster was first reported by The Bakersfield Californian. The newspaper wrote:

"A lawyer regarded as an outsider unfamiliar with the technical side of the oil industry by some, Miller introduced lengthier scrutiny to underground injection projects, according to Californian reports. DOGGR has also been hesitant to allow high-pressure steam injection projects in the aftermath of a Chevron employee's June death in a oil field sinkhole. DOGGR representatives also said Miller was concerned that injections can pollute water sources and cause oil and fluids to leak to the surface."

November 4, 2011
Carrie Underwood show boosts tribe's lobbying expenses

CMA Awards.jpgLook at how much interest groups spent on lobbying during the third quarter of the year, and it appears the San Manuel Band of Indians was a big player. The tribe was the fourth-biggest spender among more than 2,000 groups that employed lobbyists in California between June and September, declaring $1,008,620 in lobbying expenditures on disclosure forms released this week.

But the vast majority of that money -- a cool $1 million -- went toward throwing a private party at the tribe's San Bernardino County casino featuring a performance by country-music star Carrie Underwood. Three assemblymen -- Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, Curt Hagman of Chino Hills and Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga -- and a legislative staff member were among the aproximately 1,000 invited guests who attended the July 14 party. Each one enjoyed $300 worth of entertainment, food and drinks, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State.

It would appear, then, that the tribe spent $1,200 on entertaining politicians and their staff. But San Manuel was correct to report the entire $1 million event as a lobbying expense, said Lynda Cassady, chief of technical advice at the Fair Political Practices Commission -- even though doing so catapults the tribe from its place near the middle of the pack on lobby spending in the past two quarters to almost the top this quarter.

"That number sort of skews it because it really wasn't used for lobbying, but the way the law reads is you have to provide the full cost of the event and (the government official's) pro rata share," she said.

The full amount must be disclosed, Cassady said, because the party was an invitation-only event. If Underwood's concert had been open to the public and San Manuel gave tickets to a few lawmakers, only the cost of the tickets would have to be disclosed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Carrie Underwood performs at an outdoor show in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. Associated Press/ Mark Humphrey

November 4, 2011
Democrats targeting Reps. Jeff Denham and Dan Lungren again

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will be returning to the Central Valley airwaves next week, with ads targeting Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, and Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River. Get ready for a lot more of this.

The Democratic radio ads will start Monday and run throughout the week, attacking Denham and Lungren with similar language asserting the GOP incumbents "protect tax breaks for billionaires instead of Medicare for seniors and jobs for us." Similar themes are being presented in ads airing in a total of 25 Republican-held congressional districts nationwide, as part of what the DCCC operatives term "Drive for 25."

Party officials declined to say how much the ad campaign will cost, but noted that it will be accompanied by phone bank operations and other tactics.

November 4, 2011
AM Alert: John Chiang leads seminar on small businesses

Controller John Chiang is joining state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier in Contra Costa County to lead a seminar on small businesses and regional business opportunities.

Chiang did tell The Bee Capitol Bureau earlier this week that he's interested in running for state treasurer. Job creation is part of the mix.

"I worry about cash, and I think about the general economy and how to impact California," he said Wednesday in this video. "In the treasurer's office, I can focus on access to capital -- how do I make job creation happen, how do I make business creation happen in the state of California."

Chiang and DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will conduct the seminar from 1 to 4 p.m. at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill. Representatives of state, local and federal agencies, including the Small Business Administration, will talk about tax compliance, small business financing and other incentive programs. Click here to read the flyer.

Chiang is also leading a seminar for nonprofits this morning in San Jose along with Democratic Assembly members Nora Campos of San Jose, and Paul Fong of Cupertino, and Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro. Click here to see the flyer for that event.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, meanwhile, is discussing California's public education system during the Association of California School Administrators' leadership summit. Torlakson will also talk up his "Blueprint for Great Schools" initiative during his address, which starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center, Exhibit Hall E, at 1400 J St. Click here to learn more about the event.

CEQA: UC Davis Law School is sponsoring an assessment of the California Environmental Quality Act at its 40th anniversary. Listed speakers include Democratic Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's aide Kip Lipper, and Ken Alex, director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. Click here to read the agenda.

RECESS: Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, is helping clean up litter and graffiti in Isla Vista, Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, is hosting a seminar in Los Angeles intended to help seniors avoid car repair and other scams, and Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, is co-hosting a workshop in Ontario on how to apply for state boards and commissions.

MEMORIAL: Friends of Robb Deignan, the former Senate staffer who died Oct. 15 following a bike wreck, will celebrate his life Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at William Pond Park in Carmichael along the American River Parkway. Click here to learn more at the Facebook memorial page honoring Deignan.


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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