Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 29, 2011
California legislative races to watch: Part 3

hannabethjackson.jpgWith just five months until the June primary, legislative contests around California are starting to heat up. While candidates can't begin the formal process of filing for office until Friday, when candidate papers can first be pulled, many legislative hopefuls have already spent months raising cash, securing endorsements and plotting their path to potential victory.

The decennial redistricting process and first election under the state's new top-two primary system has produced a new list of competitive state legislative districts that are being closely watched by political junkies on both sides of the aisle. The stakes are high, especially in the Senate, where Democrats see an opportunity to reach a coveted two-thirds majority.

bobdutton.jpgCapitol Alert has compiled a roundup of battles we're keeping tabs on in the early stages of the primary campaign. Because the candidate papers have yet to be filed, we've listed only the declared or expected entrants on our radar so far.

You can send your suggestions for contests or candidates we might have missed, or predictions about the outcome of these races, to

Read installment three -- on Senate District 19 and Assembly District 40 -- after the jump. You'll find previous installments at this link.

December 29, 2011
Arnold Schwarzenegger back with Maria Shriver? Don't bet on it

BB Maria Shriver 2009 STATE OF THE STATE 0277.JPGBy now word has gotten around -- thanks to celebrity website TMZ and its anonymous "friends" of Maria Shriver -- that she is reconsidering her decision to divorce former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Apparently, TMZ reported, Shriver is having second (maybe even third or fourth) thoughts, partly because -- gasp -- her Catholic beliefs "do not include divorce."

Not to be outdone by its rivals, Us Weekly went the extra mile, quoting its own anonymous sources saying the estranged couple were actually seen in church with the kids on Christmas Eve and "were serious but seemed like one family unit. ... They hugged the pastor at the end of the service and seemed warm and happy."

Well, now we're getting somewhere! Or are we?

Of course, nobody's commenting publicly on anything, but sources in a position to know say the whole story smells like a bunch of hooey -- and it's full steam ahead to divorce court for Shriver, who filed this year after revelations that Schwarzenegger had fathered a child with the couple's housekeeper.

Meanwhile, we're still checking the vast Bee archives to see if there's any record of Catholics getting divorced or of estranged couples spending time together with their children over the holidays.

PHOTO CREDIT: California first lady Maria Shriver listens to her husband, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, give his State of the State address on Jan.15, 2009. Sacramento Bee file photo, 2009 / Brian Baer

December 29, 2011
Read the California Supreme Court redevelopment decision

Here is the California Supreme Court's decision in the redevelopment case:


December 29, 2011
Jerry Brown adviser Steve Glazer to help CalChamber PAC

Gov. Jerry Brown's political adviser, Steve Glazer, has been tapped to advise the California Chamber of Commerce's heavy-hitting political action committee in legislative races next year.

The chamber's JobsPAC, whose donors include insurance, oil, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, spent more than $9 million statewide last year, including opposing the elections of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, all Democrats. The chamber itself attacked Brown during the campaign, though it became largely supportive of the Democratic governor this year.

December 29, 2011
California high court says state can eliminate redevelopment

In a significant budget win for Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday the state can eliminate the local agencies that subsidize construction in blighted areas.

The decision strengthens the state's ability to take funds from redevelopment agencies for the current budget. It also provides leverage for state leaders to use more than $1 billion annually in redevelopment property tax dollars to balance future budgets.

The court called the elimination of redevelopment "a proper exercise of the legislative power vested in the Legislature by the state Constitution."

But justices ruled invalid a second bill that would have reconstituted redevelopment agencies in a different form. That decision spells the agencies' demise unless lawmakers pass a new redevelopment plan when they return next month.

Lawmakers counted on raising $1.7 billion from the two-bill package. The court's ruling on the second measure may result in less money this year but more in future years from property taxes that would have otherwise gone to redevelopment.

"Today's ruling by the California Supreme Court validates a key component of the state budget and guarantees more than a billion dollars of ongoing funding for schools and public safety," Brown said in a statement this morning.

Local government advocates and some Democrats issued a response today calling for a new bill to reinstate redevelopment agencies.

"Without immediate legislative action to fix this adverse decision, this ruling is a tremendous blow to local job creation and economic advancement," said California Redevelopment Association board president Julio Fuentes. "The legislative record is abundantly clear that legislators did not intend to abolish redevelopment."

In his own statement, Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, called the decision a "mixed result" because the court struck down the second bill. He said lawmakers "remain committed to finding affordable housing solutions and making smart economic development investments in our local communities."

State leaders axed redevelopment agencies in June as they closed a deficit once projected at $26 billion. As part of the plan, cities could reorganize the agencies only if they agreed to use their money to pay for state obligations this fiscal year and make smaller $400 million contributions in future years.

Cities and redevelopment agencies sued the state in August to block the plan, saying it was akin to the state demanding a "ransom payment." Critics in the Legislature said the state could ill afford to subsidize private developers, pointing to venues such as "Dive Bar," a watering hole steps from the Capitol that features a mermaid tank.

The state's high court agreed to fast-track the case. By issuing a decision today, the court gave state leaders guidance before Brown proposes his 2012-13 budget in less than two weeks.

Updated throughout the day with additional responses and reporting.

December 29, 2011
Julia Brownley leads California Assembly in raising staff pay

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley led the lower house with 10 pay raises sought this month for members of her personal staff or for the Education Committee she chairs, records show.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez recently authorized merit increases ranging from 3.6 percent to 5 percent for employees who had not received a pay hike in three years.

Other Assembly members who led the pack in seeking salary increases for personal or committee aides were Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, seven; Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley and Wilmer Carter, D-Rialto, five apiece; and Isadore Hall, D-Compton, and Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, four apiece.

Read the full list of raises here and The Bee story here.

The raises were not automatic: Lawmakers could opt not to request them for eligible employees.

Assembly rosters show that 258 Assembly aides received salary increases this month, roughly one of every five employees. Forty-three other aides saw their pay rise because they received promotions or assumed new job duties.

Among those targeted for a raise by Brownley, D-Santa Monica, were her chief of staff, Wendy Notsinneh, whose pay rose by $4,000 per year, 3.6 percent - from $125,004 to $129,504. The second highest-paid Brownley staffer to receive a raise was Sophia Kwong Kim, a senior education committee consultant, whose salary rose from $99,324 to $103,104.

Two Brownley aides receiving pay increases are on the low end of the Capitol salary scale, earning less than $50,000 per year.

December 29, 2011
Read the spreadsheet detailing California Assembly's pay hikes

More than 250 Assembly employees -- roughly one of every five people who work for the lower house -- received pay increases this month, as Jim Sanders reports in today's Bee.

We've put together a spreadsheet, below, of those awarded the increases.

You can search a master list, as well as lists of employees making more than $100,000 or less than $50,000, as well as the aides of Sacramento area lawmakers. You'll also find a list of those awarded the largest percentage increases.


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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