Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 7, 2011
Staff cuts proposed at California's state mental hospitals

The California Department of Mental Health today proposed eliminating about 600 state hospital positions to shed costs, reducing the department's authorized workforce by about 5 percent.

The proposal came as the department prepares to establish a new Department of State Hospitals next year. It announced a series of streamlining and cost-reduction measures ahead of a formal budget proposal next month.

More than half of the positions proposed for elimination are vacant, and employees who are affected may move to other jobs within the department, said Kathy Gaither, acting chief deputy director of the department.

"The goal is no layoffs," she said.

Conditions at the state hospitals have drawn the attention of federal officials for years, but Gaither said the department could manage the proposed reductions, estimated to reduce spending by about $173 million next year.

Among other measures, officials proposed higher staffing ratios for hospital units with sicker and more aggressive patients, and lower ratios for more stable ones. The department said it is installing a new alarm system at Napa State Hospital, where a psychiatric technician was killed last year.

"We are making the changes that are long overdue," Cliff Allenby, acting director of the department, said in a prepared statement.

December 7, 2011
Cub Scout's wish list includes law shortening school week

This California Cub Scout clearly had done his homework.

While Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher was talking politics Tuesday with the boy and about a dozen other scouts during a visit to the lawmaker's San Diego office, the 9-year-old made his move.

"Do you listen to kids?" the boy asked.

"Well, sure, what ideas do you have?" replied Fletcher, a San Diego Republican who hopes to become the city's mayor next year.

"I think school should only be four days a week," the boy said. "I think you should do a law that says school is only four days a week."

Recalling the exchange, Fletcher laughed Wednesday.

"Well, I'm going to listen to you," Fletcher said he told the youngster. "But you're still going to go to school five days a week."

Nine years from now, when the Cub Scout can vote, will Fletcher regret turning thumbs down?

"Naw," Fletcher said. "By then, he will have finished his education. He'll realize the value of it."

And some other boy will push for the same thing, perhaps.

December 7, 2011
Caption Contest: Butterbeer for Jerry Brown?

APTOPIX Universal Harry Pot.JPGGov. Jerry Brown stopped by Universal Studios Tuesday to celebrate plans to build a Wizarding World of Harry Potter park in Los Angeles.

A photo of the muggle governor sipping a big mug of butterbeer at the event stirred up some questions here at The Bee's Capitol Bureau.

1.) What in the world does butterbeer taste like?
2.) What would Brown do with Harry Potter's powers?

Would he make the budget deficit go 'poof'? Conjure up a spell to persuade voters to approve new taxes? Use a wave of the wand to get Sutter to stop barking?

We'll leave it to you, alert readers, to do the mind reading this time around.

Yup, it's time for another Capitol Alert Caption Contest.

Most regular readers know the rules, but for those who need to brush up on the basics:

1. Look at the picture.
2. Write a caption.
3. E-mail it to us.

When sending in submissions, feel free to request anonymity. Only those willing to have their real names published, however, can win the grand prize: a $25 gift certificate to a capital coffee shop (entrants residing outside Sacramento can request any coffee chain).

Entries are due by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9. Send submissions to

PHOTO CREDIT: From left, Ron Meyer, President and COO of Universal Studios, Gov. Jerry Brown, and Barry Meyer, Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. make a butterbeer toast as Universal Parks & Resorts as they announce that the Harry Potter attraction is coming to Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. The attraction opened in Orlando, Fla. last summer. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

December 7, 2011
Report says big California corporations paying little in state taxes

California's major corporations have rung up hundreds of billions of dollars in profits in recent years, but have paid only a few percentage points of those profits in income taxes here and in other states, according to a new nationwide study by several liberal organizations.

The compilation of corporate profits and state taxes was conducted by the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy and Citizens for Tax Justice and released in California by the California Public Interest Research Group.

It covered 265 of the Fortune 500 corporations that reported profits for three straight years, 2008-2010, including 33 based in California.

Nationwide, the 265 firms had a combined $1.33 trillion in profits during the three-year period but on average, paid just 3 percent of those earnings in state corporate income taxes.

December 7, 2011
AM Alert: Let there be Capitol Christmas tree lights

Take 10,000 LED lights, add one 40-foot-tall white fir, and it's time for the 80th annual Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Gov. Jerry Brown and California first lady Anne Gust Brown will be joined by 6-year-old Mikayla Jones of Visalia, who'll help the governor during the official lighting of the tree, which is decorated with 900 hand-crafted ornaments made by adults and children with developmental disabilities.

The ceremony won't lack for music. Scheduled performers include choirs, bell ringers and the California Army National Guard's 59th Army Band, whose website bills it as one of the oldest bands in the U.S. Army. The Sacramento-based unit is also known as "The Governor's Own."

The public event starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Capitol's west steps and will be webcast live on the governor's website at Those who attend are encouraged to donate non-perishable food items to benefit the California Emergency Foodlink.

Meanwhile, a majority of Golden State voters support Brown's plan to dial back public employee pensions, and a plurality believe state and local government retirements are too generous.

The Bee's Jon Ortiz has details about the latest Field Poll on public pensions in today's Bee. Click here for the publicly released poll, and find the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert at this link.

INCOME INEQUALITY: An Assembly committee, chaired by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento, hears from economic and public policy experts on state policies that could alleviate income and wealth disparity. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 437 and will be televised live on the California Channel.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: A Senate select committee, headed by Democratic Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles, meets at the Century Park Towers in Los Angeles from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to look at how to expand commercial energy-efficient retrofits.

MEDI-CAL: A joint legislative committee on health, co-chaired by Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez of West Covina and Assemblyman Bill Monning of Carmel, examines the future of seniors and people with disabilities in the state's Medi-Cal program. The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 4202 and will be televised live on CalChannel.

ECONOMY: Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, hosts a panel discussion on the state budget, small business, manufacturing, taxes, energy and other topics. Speakers include former Finance Director Mike Genest and Jack Stewart of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association. Look for it from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 4203.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, celebrates his 60th birthday today.


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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