Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 8, 2011
VIDEO: Jerry Brown, celebrities arrive on red carpet

Following basketball star Magic Johnson up the red carpet outside Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium this evening, Gov. Jerry Brown was asked what the Hall of Fame event meant for California.

"It means we have a lot of famous people," he told a bank of photographers, "and we're going to make them even more famous."

Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown are preparing to present the hall of fame awards at a ceremony tonight at the auditorium. The Democratic governor cast the event as a celebration of California's innovative spirit.

"This is where a lot of people have come," Brown said. "They've been coming here for hundreds of years, and many of them create what wasn't."

Politicians and political advisers mixed with celebrities on the red carpet. Brown executive secretary Nancy McFadden had some fun with the scene, and with the governor's frugality:

Buzz Aldrin, the lunar astronaut, chatted briefly with the media:

Chuck Yeager, the legendary test pilot and former Hall of Fame inductee, was on hand, too. He said the distinction meant "nothing," suggesting the first man to break the sound barrier takes a lot in stride.

Johnson's entrance was cheered by onlookers shouting "Magic, Magic." He had this praise for California:

For Brown, it is a rare event at which photographers call him "Jerry" and ask him to pose.

"How about you and your wife together?" one of them called out to him.

December 8, 2011
Assembly will not appeal court order to release member budgets

The Assembly has decided not to appeal a Sacramento Superior Court judge's ruling requiring it to release member-by-member budgets and any changes made to them through the year.

Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, said that attorneys for the Assembly are focusing now on complying with the judge's ruling and on a timeline for document release.

The Assembly's decision not to appeal had seemed likely since hours after Judge Timothy M. Frawley's ruling on Dec. 1. Swanson said at the time that there were no immediate plans to appeal, but that attorneys were reviewing the matter.

December 8, 2011
Proposition 8 hearings to be broadcast live online at KQED

Late breaking news from KQED: The radio station will be streaming live audio from the Proposition 8 hearings in San Francisco this afternoon.

The back-to-back hearings, which start at 2:30 p.m., will hear appeals in two cases involving videotapes of the original trial challenging the same-sex marriage ban as well as former federal Judge Vaughn Walker's same-sex relationship.

KQED says the audio player will be available at 2:15 p.m. A spokesman also advises that it's the first time the station has tried live-streaming audio. Find the audio player at this link.

December 8, 2011
Ex-Speaker Herb Wesson wins presidency of LA's council

The Los Angeles City Council has become a convenient destination for local members of the Legislature who are forcibly retired by term limits.

Out-of-work legislators are drawn to the council's higher salaries and more generous perks. The current council has five with another half-dozen local Democratic lawmakers eyeing council seats in the next set of city elections in 2013, as the LA Weekly points out in a profile of Herb Wesson, an ex-speaker of the state Assembly who just became council president.

Wesson became speaker in 2000 -- as part of the informal rotation of the office among Los Angeles Democrats -- and left two years later to pursue his political career in Los Angeles.

The LA Weekly article says that Wesson gained the council presidency, which is analogous to the speakership, via old-fashioned political horsetrading. While widely praised for his affability, the story says, he's not likely to offer much leadership for the troubled city, which would also be analogous to his brief speakership.

December 8, 2011
California FPPC remembers former commissioner Tim Hodson

Tim Hodson photo1.JPGThe state Fair Political Practices Commission took several moments before tackling a long agenda today to remember the contributions of former Commissioner Tim Hodson.

Hodson, the longtime director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento, died in October after a battle with cancer. The 61-year-old former legislative staffer served on the commission until earlier this year.

FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel, who was appointed to her post just as Hodson's term expired, honored Hodson at the start of today's meeting as a "revered member of this commission because of his gentlemanly manner and his thoughtfulness."

Members who served alongside Hodson echoed those remarks, noting his ability to thoroughly analyze and understand complex issues in front of the commission.

Commissioner Elizabeth Garrett said she often thinks of how Hodson would approach an issue in her own deliberations.

"Tim was an amazing colleague and somebody whose judgment I miss," she said.

Republican political attorney Chuck Bell praised Hodson as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "best appointment to this commission."

"I appreciated his ability to listen and discern and to express his wisdom as a commissioner based on the substantial and deep and amazing political knowledge and experience that he had in all of his service to the state and at the university as an academic," he said.

RELATED POSTS:
Center for California Studies director Tim Hodson dies

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of California State University, Sacramento.

December 8, 2011
California revenues, spending beat projections in November

Some good budget news, for once. California beat its November revenue projections by $497.7 million, or 8.9 percent, state Controller John Chiang reported today.

That comes just days before the Department of Finance is slated to announce how much money it believes California will receive for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which will ultimately decide how much the state has to cut starting in January.

Through the first five months of the fiscal year, California is $1 billion short of its revenue forecast, or 3.4 percent, better than the $1.5 billion revenue gap Chiang reported last month.

Personal income taxes drove the November boost. The state took in $531.4 million, or 19.6 percent, more in income tax revenues than expected. Sales taxes were on target, while corporate taxes were $57.9 million, or 53.6 percent, higher than expected.

But the state has also spent $1.95 billion more than projected through November, Chiang reported.

December 8, 2011
Audit rips California's school construction safety oversight

State oversight of seismic and structural safety standards on school construction projects throughout California has been ineffective and incomplete, with thousands of projects left uncertified even after they are finished, the state auditor said today.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report that the Division of the State Architect "has not provided an effective, comprehensive level of oversight of school construction processes," including no evidence of site visits in some cases, and only infrequent site visits in others.

The report, which you can read in full at this link, also criticized the division's oversight of local project inspectors, who are either school district employees or contractors. The state sometimes excused those inspectors from required training and has not always ensured inspectors passed current exams, the audit said.

In violation of regulations, the audit said, California school districts often started construction before the division approved their inspectors.

December 8, 2011
Recession has created more economic polarization in California

California's worst recession since the Great Depression has hit all economic classes, but has had a particularly harsh effect on those in the lower income brackets and has exacerbated the state's socioeconomic polarization, a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California determined.

One result has been that the ranks of the economic middle class have thinned to less than half of the state's population, PPIC found.

"Unemployment and underemployment are the hallmarks of the Great Recession," Sarah Bohn, who co-authored a report with Eric Schiff, said in a statement accompanying its release. "This suggests that policies that create jobs and promote full-time employment - rather than those that target wage rates - are more likely to be effective in raising family income to pre-recession levels."

That conclusion provides fodder for California's ongoing political debate over what, if anything, the state's political policymakers could do to hasten recovery and make a dent in what remains the nation's second highest unemployment rate, just under 12 percent with more than 2 million workers on the jobless rolls.

December 8, 2011
GOP consultant Beth Miller to launch new Sacramento firm

GOP consultant Beth Miller is going solo, launching her own public affairs and political strategy firm.

Miller Public Affairs Group which opens its doors Jan. 1, will continue political and communications strategy for clients of Miller's current firm, Wilson-Miller Communications .

Miller's announcement comes two months after her business partner Marty Wilson announced he was leaving Wilson-Miller to manage the political operations at the California Chamber of Commerce. The firm, founded in 2004, has managed major statewide candidates and ballot measure campaigns in recent years, including Republican businesswoman Carly Fiorina's 2010 U.S. Senate bid.

Current Wilson-Miller aides Nick Garcia and Brooke Armour and Jessica Ng, a former Wilson-Miller employee who most recently worked for GOP Sen. Anthony Cannella, will join Miller at the new venture.

The firm also announced the departure of another partner yesterday. GOP consultant Julie Soderlund, who joined Wilson-Miller in 2007, will leave Sacramento for Switzerland next month to start a new job as director of regulatory communications for Phillip Morris International. Soderlund, a former deputy press secretary for GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said while she will miss her work at the California firm, she is excited about the "opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream to work in countries around the world and to live in another culture."

RELATED POSTS:
GOP strategist Marty Wilson joins CalChamber

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect that the full name of the firm is Miller Public Affairs Group, not Beth Miller Public Affairs Group, and to correct the attribution of a quote on Soderlund's departure.

December 8, 2011
AM Alert: Judges hear arguments in two Proposition 8 appeals

Proposition 8 is back in the news as three federal appellate judges in San Francisco hear arguments in not one, but two cases related to the gay-marriage ban.

The first case involves the appeal of a ruling to allow the release of videotapes made during the original trial. That hearing starts at 2:30 p.m.

In the second case, Proposition 8 backers had wanted a lower court to overturn Judge Vaughn Walker's decision declaring the measure unconstitutional, and their argument was this: Walker should have been disqualified from hearing the case because he was in a same-sex relationship. Their motion was denied. They're appealing that decision. The hearing starts at 3:30 p.m.

None of the appellate judges is based in Northern California. They are Judges Stephen Reinhardt of Los Angeles and N. Randy Smith of Pocatello, Idaho, and Senior Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of Phoenix, all of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Keep in mind that they aren't hearing arguments in the appeal of Walker's decision itself. That's the case in which the 9th Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to rule on whether a ballot measure's proponents had standing to defend it in court if state officials declined to do so. The state Supreme Court said yes. The 9th Circuit, however, has yet to rule on the issue of standing or Proposition 8's constitutionality.

Today's hearings will be videotaped for later broadcast by C-SPAN and the NBC-7 television station in San Diego. Click here to read the 9th Circuit's media advisory. You'll find links to more documents about the appeals embedded on the second page.

Back in Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown are hosting this year's California Hall of Fame induction ceremony tonight for 10 new honorees.

Among them are astronaut Buzz Aldrin, The Beach Boys surfer-rockers, scientist and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, community activist and Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle, Gap founders and philanthropists Doris and Donald Fisher, basketball star Magic Johnson, disability rights advocate Ed Roberts, music legend Carlos Santana, novelist Amy Tan and California Supreme Court Justice Roger Traynor, a highly respected jurist who died in 1983.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Oprah Winfrey Network's Lisa Ling emcee the event at Memorial Auditorium. Red carpet arrivals begin at 6 p.m., and the ceremony starts at 7 p.m. The Comcast Hometown Network will broadcast both in the Sacramento area on Channel 104. You can also watch them live at the governor's website. Learn more about this year's honorees here.

TOXICS: The Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, looks at informal draft regulations for so-called green chemistry consumer products. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 4202.

FPPC: The Fair Political Practices Commission considers revised gift regulations in such categories as "acts of neighborliness," "bona-fide dating," "acts of human compassion" and "best friends forever." The meeting starts at 10 a.m. at 428 J St., Suite 800. Click here to read the agenda.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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