Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 19, 2011
Mercury, Consumer Watchdog spar over rate hike proposal

In a sign the 2012 insurance wars have begun, a consumer group that routinely seeks to block rate increases has accused auto insurance giant Mercury General of illegally passing onto consumers the cost of its 2010 ballot measure campaign.

Consumer Watchdog is seeking to block a Mercury subsidiary's request to raise rates on its auto insurance policies by an average of 6 percent, a move Consumer Watchdog says will cost consumers nearly $89 million.

A challenge submitted to the state Department of Insurance earlier this month alleges that the company violated voter-approved auto insurance regulation laws by failing to disclose $16 million the parent company spent to support Proposition 17, an unsuccessful 2010 initiative to allow insurers to consider coverage history when setting premiums. Consumer Watchdog led the fight against that measure, arguing that it would result in higher rates for motorists who had a lapse in coverage.

Company officials deny the allegation.

December 19, 2011
Americans Elect gets OK to put ticket on California ballot

Californians heading to the polls next November could find themselves casting a vote for a presidential candidate picked not by early caucus or primary contests, but on the Web.

Americans Elect, a nonprofit group planning to stage an online nominating convention to select a multi-partisan presidential ticket, has qualified for the California ballot.

The Washington, D.C.-based group spent more than $2 million to collect 1.6 million California voter signatures as part of its national campaign to ensure its eventual presidential ticket is on the ballot in all 50 states next November. The secretary of state confirmed today that at least 1.03 million of the signatures submitted here were valid, making Americans Elect the first new political entity to qualify in California since 1995.

The group, which has now secured ballot access in 12 states, says its goal is to create a nonpartisan process to allow voters of all political leanings to choose an alternative presidential ticket. The Americans Elect presidential and vice-presidential nominees, which must come from different political parties, are set to be selected next June, in the country's first online, national nominating convention.

The addition of Americans Elect brings the number of parties cleared for California's ballot to seven. In all, 18 political groups have made the cut since the nominating process began in 1910.


Americans Elect backing effort for nonpartisan Web-based presidential convention

December 19, 2011
The numbers behind California's 11.3 percent jobless rate

California's unemployment rate has been edging downwards in recent months in an apparent sign of slow recovery from the state's worst recession since the Great Depression, dropping to 11.3 percent in November.

But it's a mixed bag of numbers.

The good news is that a quarter-million more Californians were working in November than a year earlier, and that was more than enough to offset a 34,000-person increase in the labor force, so the unemployment rate dropped by 1.2 percentage points from the previous November, although it's still one of the nation's highest.

The bad news is that about 2 million Californians considered to be in the labor force are still jobless, and that's about a million more than were unemployed before recession struck the state. Roughly half of the 2 million jobless workers are receiving unemployment insurance benefits and the state fund that pays them is nearly $10 billion in the red and subsisting largely on loans from the federal government.

That fund covers only the first 26 weeks of unemployment for about a half-million recipients. Benefit extensions for another half-million, up to 99 weeks in total, are financed by the feds, but the longest extensions will expire in less than two weeks unless Congress renews them. They are ensnared in a sharp partisan battle in Washington.

December 19, 2011
Jerry Brown touts solar power as today's Hanukkah 'miracle'

Gov. Jerry Brown sees a modern day message for proponents of solar power in the story of Hanukkah.

Speaking at the Capitol Menorah Lighting this morning, the Democratic governor cast the eight-day Jewish holiday, which begins tomorrow, as a good time to reflect on "the whole idea that we're running out of oil so we need a miracle."

Today's miracle, he said, "is not to find more oil, but to utilize the sun."

"When we continue to use our intelligence we're going to take that sun through the miracle of modern science and technology and we're going to light up California, our cars, our homes our air conditioners," Brown said. "And we are going to reduce significantly and every year the amount of money we are sending over to the Middle East to some very dangerous characters who do not have our best interests in the heart."

Of course, with just weeks until his next budget unveiling and a fight to win voter approval for tax hikes headed to the November ballot, Brown is also hoping for some higher help in the near future.

"We need a lot of miracles here in Sacramento to get our problems solved," he said.

December 19, 2011
Tax attorney Chris Parker hits ground running in Assembly race

ha_APAPA14040 chris parker.JPGIt's official: Chris Parker is the second Democrat vying for the newly drawn 8th Assembly District seat stretching from Citrus Heights to the Wilton area.

Parker, 36, moved from downtown Sacramento to Carmichael in October and will compete for an open seat that Republicans are expected to make a top priority statewide in next year's election.

An attorney for the state Franchise Tax Board, Parker said the 8th Assembly District is a good fit for him because his office is in Rancho Cordova, where he has worked for nearly seven years.

Parker, who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Equalization last year, never has held elected office. He is active in Democratic Party politics, however, both at the local and state level.

As a legislator, Parker said, he would make cracking down on tax evaders a personal priority.

December 19, 2011
AM Alert: Will Americans Elect qualify for California ballot?

Will Americans Elect qualify for next June's presidential primary in California?

The Washington, D.C.-based organization is pushing for a national online convention next June to pick a bipartisan ticket to run in November. The group began submitting voter signatures to California election officials last summer in hopes of getting qualified for the June primary as a recognized political body.

Raw count? More than 1.6 million.

The group didn't qualify last month under a random sample of signatures to determine how many were valid, so county election officials had to go back to do a full check.

Those officials have until today to report the results to Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Her office will have until Friday to compile that information in order to determine whether the group makes the cut.

When the Bee's Torey Van Oot profiled the group in this story back in July, the group's chief operating officer, Elliot Ackerman, said it had no specific candidate or candidate mold in mind. She writes:

Instead of adhering to a political platform or ideology, candidates seeking the nomination would have to answer a list of questions that site users generate. The nominee chosen at the convention - open to registered voters of all parties who sign up online - would have to pick a running mate from another party as the ticket's vice presidential candidate.

Click here to see a spreadsheet of the numbers reported by each county. Read Bee columnist Dan Morain's take on the group's effort at this link.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: Today's musical offerings at the Capitol rotunda bring Yolo County's performers into Sacramento, with the Davis Chorale at noon and the Davis Children's Chorus at 12:30 p.m. Click here to read the rest of the schedule through Friday.

STATE WORKER: Don't miss out on the latest in state worker news -- sign up for State Worker News Alerts. Go to The State Worker blog, and sign up via the blue box on the screen.


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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