Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 9, 2011
Jerry Brown raises money in Orange County

For a governor who has hardly done any buck-raking in his first year in office, Gov. Jerry Brown's trip last month to Orange County may have resulted in one of his best single-day hauls in months.

Which doesn't mean it amounted to much.

Brown today reported raising $30,000 from three labor groups, a law firm and a lawyer in the area.

Jennifer Muir of the Orange County Employees Association, which contributed $10,000, said her group organized a reception for the Democratic governor on Oct. 11, the day he spoke at a Democratic Party of Orange County event.

"It was just small, private reception here to show our support for the governor," Muir said.

Also contributing to Brown were the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association and Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

Brown has raised little money since taking office. He collected about $45,000 in the first six months of the year. Including donations reported today, Brown has raised $64,000 more since then in donations large enough to already have been reported.

November 9, 2011
Jerry Brown appointees help approve higher rural fire fee

A state board restocked with Gov. Jerry Brown appointees approved a $150 fire fee Wednesday on rural homeowners this fiscal year, continuing a drive by the Democratic governor to raise $50 million from those residents.

Most property owners will receive a $35 discount for living in a fire district; an estimated 90 percent of structures qualify for that savings. But their remaining fee, $115, will still be significantly higher than what rural property owners would have paid under a plan the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection passed in August.

An estimated 800,000 structures in rural areas, including homes and office buildings, will be subject to the fee. The state is responsible for wildfire prevention and protection in those areas, and the governor said this summer that suburban growth on formerly rural lands had driven up costs for the state.

November 9, 2011
Rep. Darrell Issa opens probe of California Air Resources Board

The California Air Resources Board is now being investigated by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

On Wednesday, the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, sent Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols a 13-page letter advising her that he was "expanding" the committee's ongoing investigation into the establishment of fuel economy standards. Nichols had earlier declined to attend a committee hearing on the subject.

"Your refusal to subject yourself and your office to congressional scrutiny is emblematic of the core concern that many in Congress share ... that CARB, as a state actor, is unresponsive to congressional concerns and unappreciative of congressional priorities," Issa wrote.

Issa accompanied his observation with a series of specific questions and document requests, dealing with California's role in the fuel economy standard deliberations. The board has until Nov. 23 to meet the demands.

Click here to read Issa's letter to Nichols.

November 9, 2011
California group files health insurance regulation initiative

A leading consumer group has launched an initiative drive to give state regulators the power to reject health insurance rate increases.

Consumer Watchdog has asked the state attorney general to prepare a title and summary for a proposed initiative for the November 2012 ballot to require that proposed rate changes are submitted to the state insurance commissioner for approval before taking effect.

The group had announced plans to go to the ballot earlier this year, after rate-regulation legislation stalled in the state Legislature.

"The Legislature didn't do this so the public's going to have to do it," said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court.

November 9, 2011
Senate dumps policy providing free meals to members

The state Senate has pulled the plug on a longstanding practice of using public funds to provide snacks and meals for members under the dome.

The Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, voted 3-1 to change the policy in a meeting held over the phone Tuesday, Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund confirmed in an email. The decision was first reported by the Los Angeles Times Tuesday.

Under the proposal approved by the Rules Committee, members will be asked to pay $2,000 a year to cover coffee room expenses and meals when the business of the house, such as late legislative sessions, prevents lawmakers from leaving the Capitol.

"It has been a long tradition in the Senate that our coffee room provides snacks for Members on session days, and meals in situations where the Senate remains in session over normal dining hours," Steinberg wrote in a memo to committee members. "However, not all traditions can or should be maintained indefinitely; our institutional practices should reflect our best judgment as times and circumstances change."

The change came after the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the Senate spent at least $111,316 on food, including deli platters, granola and ice cream, in 2011 -- 10 percent more than it had spent the year before. On top of their salaries, senators receive tax-free payments of $143 a day to cover travel and other expenses related to their work while in Sacramento.

Senate memo on meals

November 9, 2011
Local revenue proposals fare well among California voters

Revenue measures fared well in local elections held across the state Tuesday, with tax proposals passing at a higher rate than over the previous decade.

An analysis by the League of California Cities' counted 53 revenue-related measures, including tax increases and school bonds, among the 90 ballot proposals considered by local voters.

Voters on Tuesday approved 82 percent of the 22 non-school tax-related measures, compared to a 65 percent passage rate from 2001 to 2010, according to the analysis of preliminary election results.

Roughly 70 percent of the 16 special tax proposals, which required the support of two-thirds of voters, were approved Tuesday. The passage rate for such measures for the previous 10 years was 46 percent.

Find a breakdown of the measures plus the full analysis posted below:

Passage rates for local tax measures on November 2011 ballot

November 9, 2011
AM Alert: Republicans call for greater focus on public pensions

Four Republican state senators, including Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton, are holding a presser under the dome to highlight what they see as the urgency of reforming California's public pension systems.

Joining Dutton are Sens. Tom Berryhill, Tom Harman and Mimi Walters. Their news conference starts at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 305.

Gov. Jerry Brown's own reform plan got a mixed review from the Legislative Analyst's Office on Tuesday, as The Bee's Jon Ortiz reported. The LAO questioned whether Brown's proposal to split pension costs equally between employers and current employees could be legally mandated.

Down in the south state, Mike Rossi, Brown's senior adviser on jobs and business development, will participate in a White House Business Council roundtable discussion about small business owners. The panel runs from 9 a.m. to noon at CSU-Los Angeles in the ballroom at 5151 State University Drive.

Other listed speakers include David Hinson, director of the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency; Andre Gudger, director of the Office of Small Business Programs at the U.S. Department of Defense; Peter Gravett, secretary of the state's California Department of Veteran Affairs; Joel Ayala, director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development; and Jerome Horton, Board of Equalization chairman.

SCHOOL FACILITIES: Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, and Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, co-chair a joint hearing on financing options for K-12 school facilities. Speakers include representatives from the Office of Public School Construction, the State Allocation Board, Division of the State Architect, as well as the Legislative Analyst's Office and Los Angeles Unified School District. The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 3191.

AGING: Sen. Elaine Alquist, D- Santa Clara, conducts a subcommittee hearing on aging and long-term care starting at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 113.

THIS IS A TEST: No, really. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is conducting the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System at 11 a.m. Pacific Time. Expect regularly scheduled television, radio, cable and satellite shows to be interrupted for 30 seconds.


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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