Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 17, 2011
Californians worry about college funding, don't want to pay for it

Most Californians are worried about decreased funding for the state's public colleges and universities -- but don't want to pay higher taxes to alleviate budget cuts and tuition increases.

Those are some findings from a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California on state residents' views on higher education. Specifically, the survey found that:

  • 62 percent of residents think public higher education in California is headed in the wrong direction
  • 61 percent say affording college is a big problem for students
  • 74 percent say there is not enough state funding for higher education
  • 65 percent say that public colleges and universities have been affected a lot by budget cuts

But it also found that:

  • 69 percent are opposed to increasing student fees to maintain current funding
  • 52 percent are unwilling to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding

So how should California come up with money for colleges and universities?

The survey says that 59 percent of Californians would rather see the state spend more on public higher education "even if this means less money for other state programs."

It says 52 percent favor admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition, though support for that idea drops to 20 percent if it means admitting fewer students from the Golden State.

And one idea that garners support is "a hypothetical statewide bond measure to pay for construction projects in the state's higher education system." Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said they would vote for such a measure, which would require a simple majority vote to pass.

Read the full survey at this link.

November 17, 2011
Initiatives target California law requiring gay history in schools

Foes of a new law requiring California public schools to teach students about the historical contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have filed two proposed initiatives to challenge the statute.

One proposed initiative would repeal the section of Senate Bill 48 mandating LGBT history, leaving in place new requirements that students learn about the role of disabled individuals and members of different cultural and ethnic groups. A second would give parents the ability to opt their children out of instruction related to "social science and family life" that conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Both measures were filed with the state attorney general's office by Richard Rios, who is listed online as the president of the Yorba Ranch branch of the conservative California Republican Assembly. Calls for comment to the phone number listed on the initiative proposal and Rios' home were not immediately returned.

The proposed initiatives mark the second attempt at challenging the law, which was approved by the Legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year.

November 17, 2011
California has 2 million kids in poverty, says Census Bureau

California has more children living in poverty than any other state -- more than 2 million -- but its rate of child poverty, while rising, is about average, a new U.S. Census Bureau report indicates.

The report on child poverty is one of several new Census Bureau data dumps that deal with immigration, various indices of poverty, disability among children and the rising numbers of Americans who are 90-plus years old.

The analysis of data from the American Community Survey found that the number of American children living in poverty rose from 14.7 million in 2009 to 15.7 million in 2010 with the rate also rising from 20 percent to 21.6 percent.

In California, the number rose from 1.8 million to 2 million and the rate from 19.9 percent to 22 percent, apparently reflecting the severe recession that was still deepening.

November 17, 2011
See the list of raises for California Senate staff members

As we reported in today's Bee, the state Senate salary handed out salary increases to nearly one-fifth of its staff in recent months.

Here is a spreadsheet detailing the Senate staff raises identified in a Bee analysis of payroll data. The list was compiled by comparing the current pay data, which is posted here, with the payroll as of July 31. At least 10 more staff members not included in this chart received pay increases related to a promotion that resulted in a job classification change.

November 17, 2011
California Supreme Court deals blow to gay-marriage advocates

In a major lift for proponents of California's same-sex marriage ban, the California Supreme Court ruled this morning that they have legal standing under state law to defend the measure in court.

The opinion is expected to increase the likelihood that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will rule the proponents of Proposition 8, approved by voters in 2008, have authority to defend the measure, allowing the case to move forward.

The California Supreme Court concluded, "When the public officials who ordinarily defend a challenged state law or appeal a judgment invalidating the law decline to do so ... the official proponents of a voter-approved initiative measure are authorized to assert the state's interest in the initiative's validity, enabling the proponents to defend the constitutionality of the initiative and to appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative."

The state court's opinion isn't binding, but it was solicited by the federal appeals court before that court considers constitutional merits of the case. The appeals court had previously rejected a bid by Imperial County for legal standing to defend Proposition 8. If it had ruled that proponent did not have legal standing, the appeal might have been stopped short.

The state court ruled the proponents of initiatives in California have legal standing to defend the measures they back, even when the state's elected officials decline to do so.

"The court rescued the initiative process from being fundamentally undermined," said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Harold Johnson, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of proponents, in a statement. "The court recognized that when voters exercise their right to enact a law or constitutional amendment by initiative, that measure deserves a defense when challenged."

"It's a mixed bag," said Ken Pierce, president of Sacramento-based Equality Action Now, who awaited the decision with other gay rights activists at Head Hunters restaurant. "Basically what this says is our fight continues. Other states are getting marriage equality while California is sitting and languishing."

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco struck down Proposition 8 last year, ruling it unconstitutional. The issue of standing became significant when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown, now governor, declined to defend the measure in court.

The opinion follows two legal defeats for the proponents of Proposition 8. A federal judge rejected the proponents' argument that Walker's decision should be overturned because he didn't disclose he is gay and in a long-term relationship, and another federal judge last month denied a bid by the supporters of Proposition 8 to conceal the identities its campaign donors.

The Bee's Peter Hecht contributed to this report.

November 17, 2011
AM Alert: Can ProtectMarriage defend Proposition 8 in court?

Under California state law, can Proposition 8 backers defend it in court?

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering ProtectMarriage's challenge of a federal judge's ruling that the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. State officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, have declined to go to bat for the ballot measure.

In fact, Brown, who's now named as a defendant, asked the California Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional back when he was attorney general, and Harris has since asked the 9th Circuit to dismiss its order barring same-sex marriages as the appeal makes its way through the courts.

Since no state official has jumped to Proposition 8's defense, the federal appeals court wants the California Supreme Court to opine on who has legal standing under state law to do so. Here's the question before the state Supreme Court, in all its legal glory:

Whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative's validity or the authority to assert the State's interest in the initiative's validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so.

The state Supreme Court will post its ruling in Perry v. Brown on its website at 10 a.m. The state court can't tell the federal court what to do, of course, but the federal court may consider the state court's opinion when deciding who can defend it before the federal bench.

Capitol Weekly and the University of California, meanwhile, are co-sponsoring a conference in Sacramento on the state's prisons. Topics include the problems and politics of prisons, possible reforms, and the shift in some public safety responsibilities from the state to the local level.

Listed speakers and panelists include Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate; Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones; Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Safety; and Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Registration (cost is $199) starts at 8 a.m. at the Crest Theatre on K Street. The conference itself runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Today's also the day that California State University faculty have declared a one-day strike at two of the system's campuses: East Bay and Dominguez Hills. CSU trustees approved another 9 percent tuition increase Wednesday amid protests in Long Beach, as The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall reported in this post.

HEARINGS: An Assembly hearing at 10 a.m. in the Capitol's room 127 looks at state and federal funding of delinquency prevention and youth development programs. Information technology procurement is the subject of a joint legislative hearing starting at 10 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 437. And an Assembly committee heads to eBay headquarters in San Jose for a hearing from 2 to 5 p.m. on the impact of the state's activities on California's high-tech economy.

CHALLENGE: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, announces the winner of the canned food competition between legislators and fifth-graders from Sacramento area schools. Look for kids from Bannon Creek Elementary School, Leonardo da Vinci School and Theodore Judah Elementary School on the Capitol's west steps at 3:30 p.m. The donations are going to Operation Gobble.


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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