Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 9, 2011
California Supreme Court to fast-track ruling on Senate maps

The California Supreme Court expects to rule "as early as the end of January" on which state Senate districts would apply to next year's state elections if a referendum challenging newly drawn maps qualifies for the November ballot.

The high court released an expedited briefing schedule today in response to a petition by Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, a Republican-backed group pushing to kill the Senate maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The group, known as FAIR, has submitted more than 700,000 signatures to the state. If 504,760 of those signatures are from valid voters, the group's referendum will qualify for the November ballot.

To prepare for that possibility, the state Supreme Court must decide which state Senate districts would be used in next primary and general elections while a statewide vote on the referendum is pending.

Justices told both parties to submit arguments this month in preparation for oral arguments in early January.

December 9, 2011
Tech troubles continue for CalAccess campaign finance site

CalAccess has crashed for the second time in a little over a week, blocking online public access to lobbying records and campaign finance disclosure reports.

The page hosting the database, part of the Secretary of State website, went offline this morning, affecting both the viewing and filing of reports.

Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said the agency's information technology staff is trying to pinpoint the problem to get the site back up and running as soon as possible. She said the database does not appear to be compromised.

"What the technology staff can see is that the database is safe and the rest of our website is working. It's the internet availability of the database," she said.

The site, which campaign committees use to file electronic spending and contribution reports, had come back online Wednesday after being down a full week. Part of the cause of that crash was a failed memory module that needed to be replaced with out-of-date parts. Tracking down that hardware and finding someone who knew how to fix it took some time, Winger said.

"Because this hardware is so old and there are few specialists in the nation who know how to work with it our office had to track one of them down and get them out here on an emergency contract," she said.

December 9, 2011
Ballot proposal would make California Legislature part-time

A constitutional amendment to switch California's Legislature to a part-time body meeting about three months per year was proposed today by a Republican lawmaker and the head of a political watchdog group.

The measure by Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, and Ted Costa of People's Advocate, also would cut legislators' salaries from $7,940 per month to $1,500 per month -- or $18,000 annually.

The measure was filed today with the state Attorney General's Office, a first step toward launching a campaign to gather the 807,615 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, Costa said.

Separately, two Republican Assembly members have vowed to make a legislative push next year for lawmakers to serve part time.

California has had a full-time Legislature for more than four decades, stemming from passage of a 1966 constitutional amendment by state voters.

"We've tried it -- and it's failed miserably," said Costa, who helped launch the successful recall against then-Gov. Gray Davis nearly a decade ago.

"It only took me about 30 days of being in that (Capitol) to realize that we fail our state miserably," Grove added. "I want to mitigate our damage to Californians."

December 9, 2011
The Dish: Capitol Coffee in the California Capitol building

IMG_1050.jpg While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

The spot: Bee bloggers Torey Van Oot and Jon Ortiz joined Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton (pictured at right) at Capitol Coffee, a tiny eats-and-drinks spot tucked into a corner of the statehouse basement. The walls are festooned with photos of luminaries and lawmakers enjoying the fare, proof that owner Gary Haller's place is a good spot to catch up on Capitol gossip. Comfortable seating is just a few steps away in the large, brick-walled common eating area Capitol Coffee shares with its Capitol basement neighbor, Griselda's World Café. Bring money or plan to use the ATM outside the shop, since Capitol Coffee is a cash-only establishment. The Capitol Coffee Club card gives you a free beverage after nine drink purchases. Haller draws one completed card per month from a fish bowl behind the counter for a week's worth of free coffee.

(Bias alert: Capitol Coffee is a favorite spot of the senator's. He invited The Dish to meet him there.)

IMG_1057.jpgThe grub: Haller, pictured left, has been serving up hot dogs and the senator's favorite Polish sausages since opening in 1991. He also serves coffee (hence the name of the business), espresso, Italian sodas and smoothies that run from $1.10 to $4.75 depending on size and beverage. The shop even offers caffeine-starved customers several Starbuck's-style holiday season mochas, frappes and lattes spiced with peppermint, pumpkin and ginger. The shop also sells granola bars and microwaveable cups of noodles and oatmeal among its cheap grab-and-go options.

On our plates: Actually, the steamed Polish sausages and hot dogs were wrapped in paper. Jon and Torey shared a foot-long hot dog ($3 or $4.75 with chips and a soda) with ketchup. Our esteemed guest ordered his usual Polish sausage ($3.25 or 5 bucks for the combo) with mustard and an Italian soda ($1.60 for 16 ounces or $2 for 24 ounces). Jon had a peppermint mocha frappe ($3.75 for a small, $4.75 for a large).

The bill: Total for the hot dog, the Polish sausage, the 16 ounce soda and the frappe: $11.60. Our esteemed guest picked up his $4.85 portion of the tab.

The good: You can sum Capitol Coffee up in a word: value. We hear that the coffees are killer but without the killer prices normally endured with designer drinks. The size of the hot dog was a surprise: "A foot-long that's actually 12 inches long," Jon said, making it a good value. The senator is a big fan of the Polish sausage. Here's his video review:

The bad: The hot dog was big and tasty, but Jon would have liked it better with onions. The shop's condiment selection is limited to packaged ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and relish. The frappe had great flavor, but it wasn't thoroughly blended. When the drink was drained, two large ice cubes were stranded in the bottom of the cup.

Grade: 3 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Capitol Coffee? Share your experiences in the comments field below. And check out our recent reviews of Gold Rush Grille, Side Bar Café, Cafe 744 and Dave's Deli (closing soon).

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try. Send your picks to and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

December 9, 2011
California still an expensive place to live

California's housing market may be in the dumps along with its economy, but it's still a very expensive place in which to live, a new nationwide comparison indicates.

Four California communities are among the nation's 10 most expensive locales, according to the quarterly survey of living costs by the Arlington, VA.-based Council for Community and Economic Research.

Two New York City boroughs, Manhattan and Brooklyn, top the survey rankings, which are based on 90,000 prices of 60 different items, followed by Honolulu and San Francisco. San Jose is the sixth most expensive community, the Truckee area is ninth and Orange County is 10th.

Harlingen, Texas, is the nation's least expensive community in which to live. All others on the 10 least expensive list, with the exception of Richmond, Indiana, are in the nation's southern tier of states.

Truckee, incidentally, has the nation's fourth highest grocery costs, the survey found.

December 9, 2011
AM Alert: Hearing takes pulse of older women's fiscal health

The California Legislature is in recess, but there's a hearing today -- in Los Angeles.

Two Assembly committees -- Human Services as well as Aging and Long-Term Care -- will consider the fiscal forecast for older women at a hearing at the Ronald Reagan State Building co-chaired by two Northern California Democrats, Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada of Davis and Assemblyman Jim Beall of San Jose.

Listed speakers include Jenny Chung Mejia of the Insight Center on Community Economic Development, Donna Addkison of the group Wider Opportunities for Women, Jean Ross of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and gerontologist Caroline Cicero of Pepperdine University. Issues include the gender wage gap, gender discrimination, and the effects of women's longer life-spans on their fiscal health. Listen live from 1 to 3 p.m. at this link.

Back in Sacramento, political junkies can get their fix this weekend at the annual political collectibles show.

Campaign buttons? Check. Campaign posters? Got them. There's even a display comparing the 1912 campaign to the 2012 campaign. You can also get a free appraisal of the stuff you've been hoarding since the Reagan years.

The show runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th St., and is hosted by the American Political Items Collectors. Learn more at this link.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Two legislators celebrate their birthdays on Saturday. Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, turns 40, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, turns 45.


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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