Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 10, 2011
California FPPC delays vote on overhaul of gift rules

Update 3:43 p.m.: After announcing that the adoption of the regulations would be delayed, the FPPC reconvened from a recess break and voted to adopt several of the regulations.

The Fair Political Practices Commission has delayed a planned vote to overhaul rules on gifts to lawmakers and other state officials, continuing discussion of proposed regulatory changes until next month.

The proposed changes would regulate situations in which gifts do not need to be reported or counted towards the $420 annual limit for gifts from an individual source. Some of the exceptions, including carve-outs for gifts received in the context of dating relationships and funerals, would apply to registered lobbyists, who are otherwise prohibited on spending more than $10 on gifts.

The draft regulations also address rules governing acceptance of free tickets to events, determining the value of travel on corporate jets and allowing lobbyists and others hosting lawmakers in their homes.

Commissioners and staff considered minor and technical changes to the 78-page draft regulations for more than two hours Thursday. They voted on some provisions, including one affecting home hospitality rules, but decided to put off full discussions and final vote on other changes until next month to accommodate the travel plans of two commissioners who were scheduled to leave Sacramento in the early afternoon.

FPPC Chair Ann Ravel had at first suggested that the commission -- which is set to meet next in about a month -- schedule a second meeting in December focused solely on wrapping up its work on the gift regulations.

But after one commissioner was able to change travel plans during a recess, the four remaining commissioners decided to discuss and vote on some regulations they had previously decided to table until the December meeting.

"Instead of making December a really difficult meeting and then not being able to get to the other issues that we wanted to discuss I thought it would be best... that we should go forward (with some votes)," Ravel said.

Regulatory changes not addressed today, including the exceptions for lobbyists dating legislators, are currently set to be considered at the commission's Dec. 8 meeting.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect a later vote by the commission.

November 10, 2011
Richard Pan to seek California benefits for ousted gay soldiers

Gay and lesbian veterans who were dishonorably discharged from the military in years past because of their sexual orientation would be eligible for state benefits under legislation being crafted by a Sacramento assemblyman.

Democrat Richard Pan vowed Thursday to introduce the legislation when the Legislature reconvenes in January. His announcement came on the eve of the nation's annual Veterans Day.

"Beginning the conversation about how we treat our veterans, who dedicated their lives to our country only to be separated unjustly from the military, is an important step toward equality," Pan said.

Details have not yet been worked out, but Pan said his goal is to ensure provision of state benefits for an estimated 3,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender California veterans who were dishonorably discharged from the military.

November 10, 2011
FPPC sticks with $30,000 fine for lobbyist Frank Molina

By Laurel Rosenhall and Torey Van Oot

The Fair Political Practices Commission decided today to levy a $30,000 fine against lobbyist Frank Molina , scrapping an earlier proposal to increase his penalty to $50,000.

Molina, a former legislative staffer who opened his own lobbying firm in 2007, is being punished for failing to report $840,000 in lobbying income between 2007 and 2009 when he was representing several Indian tribes and the Deloitte Consulting firm. State law requires that lobbyists file quarterly reports disclosing their clients, income and issues lobbied.

FPPC staff originally recommended that the commission fine Molina $30,000 -- or $2,500 for each of the 12 quarterly reports he failed to file as the sole lobbyist at Strategic Solutions Advisors. But at the watchdog agency's meeting in February, commissioners rejected the $30,000 fine and instead said Molina deserved a stiffer penalty of $50,000.

November 10, 2011
Controller John Chiang says California has $1.5 billion cash gap

California has fallen $1.5 billion behind in revenues through the first four months of the fiscal year, according to state Controller John Chiang, amplifying fears the state will impose deeper budget cuts this winter.

For the month of October, Chiang said California was $810.5 million behind what was expected, or 16.3 percent. Notably, the state missed its personal income tax estimate by $451 million, or 12.9 percent, which the Franchise Tax Board attributed to both lower withholdings and estimated tax payments.

The state also faced spending pressures through the first four months of the year. Chiang reported that California spent $1.7 billion more than budget writers expected.

Under the budget deal Gov. Jerry Brown signed in June, the state will automatically cut a variety of programs depending on how deep budget analysts determine the revenue shortfall will be. If the state falls between $1 billion and $2 billion short, the budget calls for cuts in higher education, social services and public safety. If the state falls more than $2 billion short, the state will cut K-12 schools and community colleges. More on this here.

November 10, 2011
High-Speed Rail official hoping for Obama win, traffic

When the California High-Speed Rail Authority released its $98.5 billion plan last week, officials said they were aware of congressional Republicans' distaste for the project.

So the authority didn't count on more federal aid for the project immediately, but it did bet it could find some over time.

Not necessarily because of anything the rail authority might do, but because President Barack Obama might win re-election, a rail official said earlier this week, and because of "continuing transportation challenges" over time.

"I think that after the 2012 election, if President Obama wins, then the 'Obama Rail' thing will, that that dynamic will be changed a bit," Tom Umberg, chairman of the rail authority, said Wednesday in an interview with The Bee's editorial board.

While suggesting criticism of the project in a post-election year might subside, Umberg also said "the other thing that exists is that the continuing transportation challenges are going to continue to add pressure" on politicians to act.

High-speed rail is expensive, the authority said in its business plan, but still cheaper than expanding airport and highway systems for California's growing population.

The rail authority plans to start construction in September. If it had two other wishes for the New Year, they might be these: that voters choose Obama on Election Day and get stuck in traffic on the way.

November 10, 2011
AM Alert: All rise for Supreme Court hearing on redevelopment

The California Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this morning in one of the state's budget nail-biters, California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos.

Cities and redevelopment agencies have sued to stop the state from axing 400 or so agencies while letting them reopen if they contribute funds to schools. Here's the case summary, courtesy of the court:

Original proceeding. The court issued an order to show cause directing the parties to show cause why the relief prayed for in the petition for writ of mandate should not be granted. This case involves the validity of recent legislation ... dissolving and reenacting with changes the statutory framework for redevelopment agencies.

The state Supreme Court put the case on a fast track, placing most of the new provisions on hold and promising to issue a ruling by mid-January. The California Channel will air the hearing on its local cable channels as well as its website, It runs from 9 to 10 a.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, is talking green at noon as electric vehicle firm CODA officially opens its global headquarters in Los Angeles.

CODA makes all-electric cars named, appropriately enough, CODA, which you can view online at the company's website or its Westfield Century City store in Los Angeles. The base price, including destination charge, runs $45,795, according to the online calculator. Range is estimated at 150 miles.

Also in the south state, Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez chairs an Assembly hearing on trade and foreign investment along the California-Mexico border. Listed speakers include the mayors of Calexico and Mexicali, as well as representatives of the Industrial Development Commission of Mexicali, the Center for International Trade and Development, the Imperial County Farm Bureau and other agencies.

The hearing runs from 9 a.m. to noon in Calexico's city hall. Assemblymen Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, are also expected to attend. Click here to read the preliminary agenda.

FPPC: The Fair Political Practices Commission meets at 10 a.m. to consider, among other things, the legal issues surrounding the Kinde Durkee case but won't be making any decisions, chairwoman Ann Ravel said Wednesday via Twitter. Find the agenda at this link.


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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