Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 31, 2012
California Democrats post fundraising, voter registration edge

California Democrats are starting 2012 with an $8.7 million fundraising advantage and 13-point voter registration edge over their rivals in the Republican Party.

The cash edge was reported in year-end campaign finance filings released Tuesday. The California Democratic State Central Committee ended 2011 with $9.3 million in the bank, after raising $2.77 million in contributions in the final three months of the year. The California Republican Party came close to matching Democrats in contributions, raising nearly $2.34 million, but reported having just shy of $439,000 cash on hand due to heavy spending on an effort to repeal the new state Senate maps via a referendum drive.

The campaign cash numbers were reported on the same day as Secretary of State Debra Bowen released updated voter registration figures showing that Democrats continue to hold a 13-point lead statewide, 43.63 percent to 30.36 percent. Both parties saw slight declines in registration in the last year, while the percentage of voters registered as decline-to-state rose to an all-time high of 21.24 percent.

CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro downplayed the registration numbers in a statement issued by the party, saying that Californians continue to show their support for the party by voting for fiscally conservative measures on the ballot. He said that he expects the party to make gains in closing the registration gap ahead of the 2012 election.

Democrats didn't seem too worried about that prospect.

"With these kind of numbers, I think California Democrats can really start to get used to the Del Beccaro era," CDP spokesman Tenoch Flores quipped.

January 31, 2012
Ron Calderon drops bid for Congress, endorses Linda Sanchez

California Sen. Ron Calderon is abandoning his bid for the newly drawn 38th Congressional District, opting to remain in the state Senate and back Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez for the Southern California seat.

"I have had the honor of representing portions of the Gateway Cities and San Gabriel Valley for the past nine years and I am incredibly proud of my record as a legislator committed to creating quality jobs, improving our system of public education, protecting frontline services and keeping our neighborhoods healthy and safe," Calderon said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to represent many of the communities in this Congressional District as a Member of the California State Senate and I look forward to working with Congresswoman Sanchez to champion local job creation and economic development."

The Montebello Democrat's decision comes just over a week after Sanchez emerged as the overwhelming favorite for the state Democratic Party endorsement, winning more than 70 percent of the vote at the party's regional pre-endorsement conferences. Both candidates have yet to file their year-end campaign finance reports, which are due by the end of today.

Calderon, who will be termed out of the Senate in 2014, has also been dealing with personal hardships in recent weeks.The wife of his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, and his mother-in-law have both passed away since the start of the new year.

January 31, 2012
California Senate OKs bill on RDAs' affordable housing funds

Legislation to allow local governments in California to keep using redevelopment funds earmarked for affordable housing projects cleared the state Senate today on a majority vote, after a failed attempt to win the votes needed for the measure to take effect immediately.

Senate Bill 654, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would allow cities and counties to retain tax dollars contained in the low- and moderate-income housing funds of the soon-to-be shuttered redevelopment agencies. Such funds contain about $1.36 billion that will otherwise be redirected to schools and other local government functions when the redevelopment agencies are dissolved on Wednesday.

The fate of that money is uncertain. Even if the measure is passed by the Assembly and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, its provisions would not take effect until next year without a two-thirds vote for an urgency clause.

An attempt to win two-thirds passage of the measure failed without GOP support, 24-1, after majority Democrats rejected amendments proposed by Senate GOP leader Bob Huff.

"I appreciate the pro tem's desire to address affordable housing, but we must go further," the Diamond Bar Republican said, raising questions about outstanding bonds and redevelopment projects already under way.

The bill cleared the upper house easily on the second try, with 10 Republicans who had abstained from the first vote voting yes. That margin would have been enough for the now majority-vote bill to pass as an urgency measure.

Amid the procedural maneuvering, Steinberg told colleagues on the floor that he would be willing later to put the language into a new budget bill so that it could be take effect immediately with majority-vote approval. Steinberg's office said that local agencies overseeing the transition could also opt not to decide what to do about the funds until the issue is resolved.

The agencies, axed as part of last year's budget package, are slated to be disbanded Wednesday. Legislation to delay that date until April 15 has failed to gain traction.

RELATED POSTS:
Steinberg: Extending redevelopment agencies 'not going to happen'

January 31, 2012
Jerry Brown, lawmakers back bill protecting school bus money

HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPGRural and urban school districts in California that make heavy use of buses appear safe -- for now.

State lawmakers are fast-tracking legislation that would transform a $248 million midyear school bus cut into a general-purpose reduction that hits each K-12 district evenly. The Assembly Budget Committee passed Senate Bill 81 with bipartisan support Tuesday, while an aide to Gov. Jerry Brown testified that the governor supports the proposal.

But Brown still wants to eliminate specific funding for buses in his 2012-13 budget, along with removing earmarks for a variety of other K-12 programs. He instead proposes a new block grant funding system for schools, out of which he suggests districts could fund bus service if they choose.

In Tuesday's hearing, Republicans and Democrats representing rural areas joined together to lobby for SB 81, which only applies for the remainder of this school year. The bus cut was triggered when state forecasters determined last month that California would fall $2.2 billion short of a $4 billion tax revenue bump that Brown and lawmakers assumed in the 2011-12 state budget.

"It's a catastrophic problem in my district and in many other rural parts of California," said Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, who represents the North Coast area. "Eliminating the school bus system creates dangerous situations for many children in California, but for my district it means it would be impossible for many children, if not most children in some districts, to attend school at all."

January 31, 2012
Jerry Brown orders review, finds missing X-ray machine, dental chairs

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown was confiscating state-issued cellphones and cars. This year, he's finding grout pumps and chairs.

Such is his attention to budget dust in austere times.

In a memorandum last week to agency secretaries, Brown's executive secretaries, Jim Humes and Nancy McFadden, ordered agency secretaries to review their property-accounting procedures.

"We recognize that the state has over 190,000 employees, and that property can be occasionally lost or misplaced in the regular course of business," their memo said. "However, every state employee must use state property responsibly, and departments must have effective internal controls."

The agencies are to report their findings within six months.

Brown's office provided some examples of state-owned items that were found after being reported lost, stolen or destroyed.

They included one $415,000 X-ray machine and four $26,000 dental chairs at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a surveillance system erroneously listed as "missing" at a Department of Motor Vehicles field office, and a $26,000 grout pump reported stolen, but later found.

Brown is trying to improve documentation and tighten controls, spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said.

January 31, 2012
Senate OKs nearly $13 million in settlements, attorneys fees for legal cases

The state Senate today approved $13 million in settlements and fees in legal disputes lost by the state, including nearly $1 million in court-ordered attorneys fees in the Entertainment Merchants Association's successful challenge of a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the industry group last year in its effort to block the violent video game ban, upholding decisions at the federal and appellate court levels. Critics of the law, which was approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, had argued that the restrictions violated their First Amendment right to free speech.

The legislation, Senate Bill 730, was approved with bipartisan support, by a vote of 32-5.

Senate Bill 730 also gave the green light for a $4.23 million settlement in a lawsuit between EdFund, the state's former student loan guarantor, and a Mather business park office complex, two payments totaling $5.5 million in cases against the Department of Forestry and the Department of Fish and Game and a $1.5 million settlement in a lawsuit against the Department of Parks and Recreation filed by a man who had been struck by a falling tree at Los Banos Creek Reservoir in Merced County.

The appropriation bill, which requires a two-thirds vote to take effect immediately, must be approved by the Assembly before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown, who defended the video game law as state attorney general, for consideration.

RELATED STORIES:

Supreme Court strikes down violent video game ban

January 31, 2012
California campaign disclosure bill rejected by Assembly

The Assembly rejected legislation today that would have required independent expenditure comittees to provide more disclosure of their contributors in backing candidates or ballot measures.

Assembly Bill 1148 fell two votes short of the two-thirds supermajority required for passage. Every Democrat but Cathleen Galgiani of Livingston supported it, and every Republican but Nathan Fletcher of San Diego opposed it or did not vote. The final tally was 52-26.

Democrats touted the measure as a way to ease voter cynicism by providing greater disclosure by independent committees, which can spend unlimited sums to support candidates or ballot measures.

Republicans countered that the bill would restrict freedom of speech. What the state needs instead are less restrictive candidate contribution limits, so that donors could give whatever sums they desire to candidate-controlled committees and there would be less incentive to create independent committees, GOP lawmakers said.

January 31, 2012
Assembly changes mind and passes three-strikes legislation

One day after turning thumbs down, the Assembly today passed legislation that would ask voters to alter California's "three strikes" criminal sentencing law.

Assembly Bill 327, approved by a vote of 41-33, now goes to the Senate.

Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, sought the re-vote after his measure lacked five votes for passage Monday, when 10 members either were absent or opted not to cast a vote.

"We have the opportunity not only to be tough on crime but to be smart on crime," Davis said in floor debate today.

But Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, countered that passing AB 327 would amount to "trivializing violent criminal acts."

AB 327 would ask voters to require that a third strike be a serious or violent felony before an offender could be sentenced to a 25-to-life prison term under California's three strikes law.

January 31, 2012
Controller: State to run out of cash in March without action

ha_jchiang48630.JPGCalifornia will run out of cash by early March if the state does not take swift action to find $3.3 billion through payment delays and borrowing, according to a letter state Controller John Chiang sent to state lawmakers today.

The announcement is surprising since lawmakers previously believed the state had enough cash to last through the fiscal year that ends in June.

But Chiang said additional cash management solutions are needed because state tax revenues are $2.6 billion less than what Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers assumed in their optimistic budget last year. Meanwhile, Chiang said, the state is spending $2.6 billion more than state leaders planned on.

January 31, 2012
Californians rank low in economic security, survey finds

When it comes to financial security - such factors as savings and low debt ratios - Californians resemble the residents of Southern and Rust Belt states, according to a new national survey by the Washington-based Corporation for Enterprise Development.

California's place on the organization's national chart of economic opportunity and security, 39th among the states and the District of Columbia, is largely determined, the detailed data show, by its very low rankings on credit card debt, loan delinquency and bankruptcy.

The study found that nearly a third of California households are "asset poor," meaning they have little or no financial cushions, even if they are employed. And excluding equity in homes or cars, more than 43 percent of Californians could not sustain themselves for three months if they lose their incomes.

California households rank 49th in average credit card debt at $14,677, nearly a third higher than the national average and 45th in bankruptcy rate. Its ranking is similar to those of other southern tier states while the highest levels of economic security are found in the northern tier of states bordering Canada.

Vermonters are No. 1 in economic security and Georgians are 51st.

January 31, 2012
AM Alert: Deadline day under the dome

It's a Triple-D kind of day under the dome.

That's right, three separate deadlines are looming as California politicos prepare to enter month two of 2012 (Sorry for the false alarm, Guy Fieri fans).

1.) RIP Redevelopment Local Redevelopment Agencies will take their last breaths today. The 2010 law axing the agencies, crafted as part of last year's budget package, takes effect Feb. 1. While some lawmakers have voiced support for reviving the agencies' main functions in new forms, a workable solution has not emerged since the state Supreme Court struck down the Legislature's first attempt at creating a successor to RDAs. A push to delay the dissolution date until April 15 has failed to gain traction in the Legislature. Officials from the Department of Finance and the State Controller's Office will be addressing lingering questions on the termination during an 11 a.m. webinar. Questions can be submitted via email to redevelopment@dof.ca.gov.

2.) Last Call for 2011 bills: Bills introduced in 2011 must clear their house-of-origin today in order to stay alive for the remainder of the two-year session. The Senate plans to gavel in at 10 a.m. to tackle the handful of two-year bills remaining on the file. One measure expected to come up for a vote is Senate Bill 654, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's legislation to allow local governments to keep and use redevelopment money earmarked for affordable housing projects. The Assembly, meanwhile, will get back to work at 9 a.m. Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, is expected to take another shot at winning passage of a bill that would make changes to the state's "Three Strikes" law. Assembly Bill 327 fell five votes short during Monday's floor session.

3.) Campaign cash: Candidates for state and federal office face a midnight deadline for filing campaign finance reports. The reports will cover cash raised and spent through Dec. 31, 2011. Wondering which committee balances to check for state legislative races? Parts one, two and three of Capitol Alert's "Races to Watch" series might refresh your memory of the must-watch match-ups. Also due today are state lobbying reports for the fourth quarter of 2011.

RX FOR NURSING BOARD? The Assembly Budget Committee's agenda for today includes a recently crafted bill to reinstate the Board of Registered Nursing through 2016. The board was technically dissolved at the end of 2011 after Gov. vetoed legislation to extend its sunset date. The Budget Committee is expected to take up this bill and review Brown's budget proposal when it meets after the full session adjourns.

PLANNING AHEAD: The Greenlining Institute will present results of its survey on California's ballot initiative system at a luncheon on Wednesday. RSVP to brucem@greenlining.org or micheller@greenlining.org or call (408) 550-3121. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol, Room 2040.

January 30, 2012
Los Angeles judge blocks state budget cut to Medi-Cal providers

A Los Angeles federal judge has tentatively blocked Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts to doctors and other providers who treat low-income patients.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled today that the state cannot reduce payments by 10 percent to Medi-Cal doctors, dentists, ambulance services and other providers. The tentative decision comes after Snyder previously blocked cuts to hospital-based nursing units and some pharmacists.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers included the 10 percent cut in last year's budget as a way to save $623 million. They won approval from the Obama administration in late October.

Plaintiffs such as the California Medical Association and the California Dental Association argued that the Medi-Cal cut would reduce access to patients as more providers opt out of the system. The state already pays among the lowest rates in the nation to those who treat low-income patients.

"Medi-Cal patients are already having a tough time getting access to care," said CMA President James T. Hay in a statement. "The approved cuts are irresponsible and will only put the health of California's most vulnerable population further at risk."

Courts have blocked various state budget cuts before, and Brown has blamed rulings for some of the current deficit problems. In a separate case that will have a major impact on whether courts can block such cuts, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide this year if provider groups can sue over cuts to Medi-Cal or Medicaid programs in other states.

Norman Williams, spokesman for the state Department of Health Care Services, said he could not comment on the litigation. But he stressed that the state satisfied federal officials last year.

"What we can say is that the various rate reductions approved by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are supported by extensive analyses conducted by DHCS," Williams said in an e-mail. "The findings showed that the approved reductions will allow California to continue to meet federal standards requiring an adequate level of access to care for beneficiaries."

Updated to include comment from state Department of Health Care Services spokesman Norman Williams.

January 30, 2012
January 30, 2012
Assembly kills bill proposing four-tier sex registration system

Legislation to create a tiered sex-offender registration system designed to focus attention on violent criminals was killed today by the Assembly.

Assembly Bill 625 died by a vote of 19-41. Its author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said he will propose a similar measure later this year.

California law currently requires people convicted of various sex offenses to register with the state for life.

AB 625 would have created three tiers of sex registration, with offenders in the first two tiers allowed to drop off into an inactive status after 10 or 20 years, respectively.

The most lenient tier would have applied to sex offenders who did not use violence, did not molest a minor, and maintained a clean record during the 10 years they were on the active registry.

Opponents of the bill claimed that allowing some sex registrants to be placed on an inactive status would weaken current law and make communities less safe.

January 30, 2012
Assembly OKs bill to give local courts more power over spending

Hotly contested legislation that split the state's judiciary system over issues of money and power was approved today by the Assembly.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1208, passed by a vote of 41-23.

The bill was pushed by a group of judges called the Alliance of California Judges and was backed by Service Employees International Union, representing courthouse employees.

AB 1208 would shift authority from the state's Judicial Council -- led by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye -- to create a more formula-driven funding approach that would give more power to trial courts in setting spending priorities.

The bill by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, stems from years of budget crisis that have taken a toll on courts, sparking cuts of $350 million during the current budget cycle and nearly $300 in additional cuts over the past five years.

January 30, 2012
Assembly passes bill creating roadblock to new charter schools

The Assembly passed union-backed legislation today that would allow charter school petitions to be rejected if they negatively affect a school district's finances.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1172, was approved by the bare minimum number of votes required, 41-27. No Republicans supported the bill by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.

Supporters, including the California Teachers Association, contend that the bill is needed to help schools avoid fiscal insolvency, according to an Assembly analysis of AB 1172.

Opponents argue that the bill is too broadly written and that most school districts could claim a negative financial impact under it, the analysis said.

AB 1172 now goes to the Senate.

January 30, 2012
Kamala Harris announces settlement in Brazilian Blowout case

The maker of a popular hair-smoothing treatment has agreed to warn stylists and salon-goers that its products cause exposure to a cancer-causing chemical as part of a legal settlement announced by California Attorney General Kamala Harris today.

The state had sued the company that manufactures the Brazilian Blowout treatment in 2010, alleging that "formaldehyde free" labels on two of its products deceived customers and violated state disclosure laws governing cancer-causing chemicals and cosmetics.

In addition to discontinuing its formaldehyde free claims and adding caution labels to its products, Brazilian Blowout manufacturer GIB, LCC, must produce a safety information sheet that includes the carcinogen warning to be distributed with product shipments and posted on its website, limit sale of the products to professionally licensed stylists and pay $600,000 in penalties and attorney fees to the state.

January 30, 2012
Teachers' union head says no dues surcharge for ballot battles

The head of the California Teachers Association said he anticipates his union will put "considerable" money into Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, but funds may be tighter than usual as the group faces different ballot battles.

CTA President Dean E. Vogel said Sunday the union is focused on fighting a November measure that would restrict member dues collection and spending on candidate campaigns. He said CTA is also waiting to see whether a new proposal to cap future state spending will qualify for the ballot, a proposal the group would also fight.

The union officially agreed Sunday to back Brown's plan to raise sales taxes and income taxes on wealthy earners.

CTA previously imposed a $60 annual surcharge on members for three years to raise $50 million to defeat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a 2005 special election, which included measures to restrict union dues and cap state spending. But Vogel said this time is different.

"The last time in this position we did a special assessment to get more money," Vogel said. "but we're not in a position to get more money right now."

Vogel said CTA will probably decide in March how to divide its funds this year.

"We're going to wait and see what things are looking like," he said. "We believe because of the broad-based appeal (Brown's) initiative has, it's going to qualify. We're very concerned about a potential spending cap initiative and how that's going to play out."

"Eventually I would anticipate we would put considerable money in," he said of the tax measure campaign.

January 30, 2012
Bob Hertzberg won't challenge Fran Pavley for state Senate

Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg has decided not to challenge incumbent Democrat Fran Pavley for a Southern California Senate seat.

Hertzberg had expressed interest in running for the newly drawn 27th Senate District, a Ventura County swing seat that includes area he previously represented in the state Assembly. But he said in a statement issued today that he has decided to instead focus on the campaign for a proposed budget and governance ballot measure backed by California Forward Issue Action Fund and the Think Long Committee for California.

"After thoughtful consideration, I have decided not to pursue a campaign for the State Senate," Hertzberg, who has worked closely with both California Forward and Think Long, said. "I believe the extraordinary challenges we face in California can best be met with big ideas and independent voices. Pursuing a partisan campaign at this time would inevitably distract from my top priority -- reforming our government to better serve its citizens."

The announcement comes weeks after Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, announced that he will run for an incumbent-free congressional seat instead of seeking re-election to the Senate in the district. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, has been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate for the Senate seat, but has yet to make a decision on the race.

Hertzberg's decision allows Senate Democrats to avoid a potentially costly and divisive same-party battle in an election that could deliver the caucus a two-thirds majority in the upper house. Two other potential high-profile challengers to incumbent Democrats bowed out of their respective races in recent weeks. Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, dropped out of the race for Sen. Loni Hancock's Bay Area Senate seat and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, announced that he will not challenge Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, this year.

January 30, 2012
AM Alert: Bills come due this week in California Legislature

Tuesday is the deadline for the California Legislature to pass bills introduced last year out of their house of origin. The Assembly meets at noon, the Senate at 2 p.m.

In the lower house, measures to watch include Democratic Assemblyman Charles Calderon's Assembly Bill 1208 on the Judicial Council, which The Bee's Dan Walters called a "rebel-sponsored bill" sparked by California judges' civil war over money and power. A majority vote wins approval.

Should the three largest funders be clearly identified on political ads? Assembly Bill 1148, by Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, which would require just that, is expected to come up for a vote in the Assembly on Tuesday. It requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

On the Senate side, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's Senate Bill 654 -- which also requires a two-thirds vote -- would let local governments keep redevelopment money budgeted for low- and moderate-income housing. It would also affect repayment of loans from local governments.

Other measures to follow include Senate Constitutional Amendment 4, introduced by Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier. The proposal, another needing a two-thirds vote, would require ballot initiatives to identify a funding source to pay for any additional costs. The California State Association of Counties supports the proposal, while the California Taxpayers Association and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association oppose it, according to a Senate Committee analysis. Votes in the Senate Elections and Appropriations committees split along party lines. Opponents have argued that the measure could require tax cuts to be considered costs to the treasury that would require a funding source.

FOSTER YOUTH: The California Youth Connection, a group of current and former foster youth, rally on the Capitol's west steps at noon to urge support for more services for foster youth on California's public university and college campuses.

January 29, 2012
Jerry Brown says cap-and-trade fees will fund high-speed rail

Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview airing in Los Angeles today that California's high-speed rail project will cost far less than the state's current estimate of nearly $100 billion and that environmental fees paid by carbon producers will be a source of funding.

"It's not going to be $100 billion," the Democratic governor said on ABC 7's Eyewitness Newsmakers program. "That's way off."

Brown's remarks come as his administration prepares revisions to the California High-Speed Rail Authority's latest business plan. Brown is trying to push the project through an increasingly skeptical Legislature following a series of critical reports.

"Phase 1, I'm trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment," Brown said. "We do have other sources of money: For example, cap-and-trade, which is this measure where you make people who produce greenhouse gasses pay certain fees - that will be a source of funding going forward for the high speed rail."

Brown said, "It's going to be a lot cheaper than people are saying."

The annual spending plan Brown released this month included $1 billion in cap-and-trade revenue for programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The budget document lacked detail, however, saying, "Further detail on specific program areas will be developed when there is more certainty of fees received from the Cap and Trade Program."

The interview aired following Brown's trip last week to Southern California, his second in two weeks as he begins campaigning for his ballot initiative to raise taxes.

"It isn't all, you know, going to football games and buying clothes and cars and gasoline and all the things people want to do in their private life," Brown said. "We also have a public investment, and that's part of the balance of a civilization."

Brown has also proposed changes to reduce pension costs, and he suggested he may take that measure to the ballot, too, if the Legislature does not act.

"One way or the other, if we can't get it through the Legislature," he said, "then there's always the initiative route at some point."

January 29, 2012
California Teachers Association backs Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan

The California Teachers Association officially agreed Sunday to back Gov. Jerry Brown's multibillion-dollar tax plan, which should provide the governor hefty financial support for his fall campaign.

The union represents 325,000 teachers and education workers, and it is a heavy hitter in state politics. Brown is gathering signatures for a November initiative to raise sales taxes by a half-cent and income taxes on high income earners. He has structured his budget so that schools would face a $2.4 billion program cut in 2012-13 if voters reject his proposal, which he says is equal to three weeks off the school year.

The Democratic governor now has support from the state's two most powerful public employee unions in CTA and the Service Employees International Union State Council. SEIU has not made its support public, but CTA President Dean E. Vogel told his members on Saturday that "SEIU State Council has already taken a support position," according to a text of his speech.

SEIU spokesman Michael Cox said Sunday his organization has not taken a public position. But sources besides Vogel confirmed SEIU has privately agreed to support Brown. The governor has been working for weeks to convince other tax proponents to step aside, knowing that voters are less inclined to support any tax plan if faced with multiple options.

CTA's State Council, a group of nearly 800 union leaders, voted today in Los Angeles to back the governor's plan. The union's support had been expected for weeks, but it took the State Council to make it official. Some members advocated for competing plans, such as a "Millionaires Tax" proposed by a separate union, the California Federation of Teachers. But CTA ultimately got behind the governor's plan.

"It is way past time for a tax increase, and we must help lead the way in getting a revenue package approved," Vogel said Saturday.

The CFT proposal would raise taxes only on Californians earning at least $1 million as either single or joint filers. The $4 billion to $6 billion it would raise annually would flow outside the state's general fund to schools and local governments, but it may not help solve the state's deficit.

In his speech, Vogel called the CFT plan "the most progressive of the proposals ... But as it is written, there are some unintended consequences. This initiative doesn't help close the current budget deficit and does not pay for the local realignment. There also another big issue: It doesn't help restore program cuts to essential services."

January 27, 2012
Union membership dips slightly in California, still 7th highest

Union membership among California's workers declined fractionally in the last year, according to an annual survey by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, but remains seventh highest among the states.

The BLS report says that 17.1 percent of California's private and public employees are union members, down from 17.5 percent the previous year. That translates into 2.4 million union members, down more than 50,000 from a year earlier, in a total employed workforce of 13.9 million.

The numbers and percentages of workers represented by unions, including non-members, are slightly higher at 2.5 million and 18.2 percent. California is tied for the seventh highest rate with Oregon. New York is highest at 24.1 percent and South Carolina the lowest at 3.4 percent. The national rate is 11.8 percent, down from 11.9 percent the previous year.

The survey report does not break down state membership by private and public sectors. Nationally, 37 percent of public workers are unionized, while just 6.9 percent of those in private employment belong to unions.

EDITOR'S NOTE, 1:27 p.m.: This post has been corrected to show that California's rate is tied with Oregon's for seventh place, not fifth.

January 27, 2012
Read the California Supreme Court redistricting decision

Remap

January 27, 2012
California Supreme Court denies challenge of Senate maps

The California Supreme Court ruled today that state Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission will be used in this year's elections, despite a pending referendum to overturn them.

In a 73-page decision, justices evaluated several proposed alternative maps and concluded that the Senate lines drawn by the 14-member commission were the most appropriate and least disruptive to this year's elections.

Republican State Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, a leader of the referendum drive, blasted the ruling as "shortsighted and disrespectful" of California voters who signed petitions and are awaiting the opportunity to vote on the commission's Senate maps. She characterized the decision as a throwback to a flawed, politically based precedent established by former Chief Justice Rose Bird.

"They kind of gutted the whole idea behind the referendum process," said Dave Gilliard, another leader of the drive to kill the Senate maps.

Peter Yao, current chairman of the commission, countered that use of the commission maps is important to maintain electoral stability and that the challenge is based on "partisan self interest" that has "cost precious taxpayer dollars to defend."

The issue came before the high court after a Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, filed more than 711,000 signatures with county elections offices in a referendum to overturn Senate maps drawn by a 14-member citizens commission.

Californians will decide the fate of the newly drawn Senate districts in November if 504,760 of the signatures are from valid voters. Legislative candidates must file and run their campaigns before then, however, so justices needed to identify district maps to be in effect immediately.

County elections offices face a Feb. 24 deadline for certifying FAIR's referendum signatures. Thus far, they have verified 57,761 of 80,127 signatures checked. If the percentage of valid signatures holds steady, 72 percent, the referendum would qualify for the ballot.

Twenty Senate seats are up for grabs this year - and the results carry high-stakes politically.

GOP officials contend that the new, commission drawn lines would give Democrats a strong chance of gaining two additional seats in the Senate, enough to gain the two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes or fees.

"If the current redistricting lines hold with regard to the Senate, the Republicans are going to have an enormously difficult time staying above the one-third threshold," California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told The Bee this week.

"We're going to fight like the dickens to do it," he said, "which is in part why, of course, we went ahead with the referendum process. But it will be enormously difficult."

The Supreme Court noted that the commission met its constitutional duty in drawing the new Senate districts and that submittal of referendum petitions signed by perhaps 5 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election does not necessarily disqualify them pending a statewide vote.

Justices previously had rejected a FAIR lawsuit that contended the commission's Senate maps illegallydilute Latino voting clout in parts of the state and violate criteria established by voters in a 2008 ballot measure.

The Supreme Court, in today's decision to use the newly drawn Senate maps, considered alternatives that included using former districts in effect from 2002-2010; combining two commission-drawn Assembly districts to form new Senate districts; or amending the commission's approved Senate maps. Its ruling cited timing, constitutional, minority voting rights or other reasons to reject each one.

In selecting the new but contested Senate districts, the high court ruling said that boundary lines seem to comply with voter-approved criteria and are "a product of what generally appears to have been an open, transparent and nonpartisan redistricting process ... We believe these features may properly be viewed as an element favoring use of the commission-certified map."

* Amended at 11:41 a.m. to add reaction from the commission chairman and from leaders of FAIR.

January 27, 2012
AM Alert: Which Senate maps will state Supreme Court pick?

The California Supreme Court, as promised, has fast-tracked a decision on what state Senate maps will be used in this year's elections if voters get to vote on the districts that the citizens commission drew last year.

The high court is also considering the issues of what standard to apply in determining whether a referendum is "likely to qualify" and whether it has the authority to step in "even if it cannot yet be determined whether such a referendum is 'likely to qualify' for placement on the ballot."

The court is expected to post its decision at 10 a.m. Come back to Capitol Alert later this morning for details as well as reactions to the ruling.

The Bee's Jim Sanders reported in this post earlier this month about the hearing on the case that the justices focused on technical issues, including whether they could rule only if the referendum is "likely to qualify" for the November ballot.

The odd-numbered Senate seats come up for election this year, with candidates starting to file on Feb. 13.

NEW GIG: Fiona Hutton & Associates has hired Jennifer Wonnacott, most recently of Assemblywoman Betsy Butler's district office, as a senior account executive in Los Angeles.

POLL: Sonja Petek of the Public Policy Institute of California will talk about the January statewide survey of what Californians think of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal and other matters. The luncheon runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the CSAC Conference Center, 1020 11th St., in Sacramento. Click here to read more about the event. Find the survey itself at this link.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, celebrates his 51st birthday on Sunday.

January 26, 2012
Assembly passes bill sparked by Caylee Anthony murder case

The Assembly approved new parental obligations today in response to a much-publicized Florida case in which Casey Anthony waited a month to report her 2-year-old daughter missing but ultimately was acquitted of her murder.

Assembly Bill 1432 would make parents or guardians guilty of a misdemeanor if they knowingly fail to report, within 24 hours, the disappearance of a child younger than 14.

Maximum penalties would vary, however.

Offenders could be jailed for a year and fined $2,000 for failing to report the death of a child from crime, or one who is missing under circumstances that would suggest danger.

Violations stemming from disappearances in which no danger of physical harm exists would be punishable by maximum jail sentences of six months and fines of up to $1,000.

The bill declares itself "Caylee's Law," a reference to Caylee Anthony, the Florida toddler whose body was found in a wooded area not far from her grandparents' home in 2008. She had been missing six months.

AB 1432, by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, passed the Assembly with bipartisan support, 66-3. It now goes to the Senate. If signed into law with two-thirds support from the Legislature, the measure would take effect immediately.

January 26, 2012
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye fights Calderon's court bill

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye visited The Bee's Editorial Board today to make her case against Assemblyman Charles Calderon's effort to reduce her clout over statewide spending on the judicial system.

The chief justice said Calderon's bill, Assembly Bill 1208, would "reduce and eliminate the authority of the Judicial Council" to control significant parts of judicial branch spending."

Senior Editor Dan Morain filed an account of her visit on The Swarm blog. Read it here.

January 26, 2012
California Supreme Court to rule Friday on state Senate maps

The California Supreme Court will rule Friday on what state Senate district boundary lines will be in effect for this year's legislative elections if a pending referendum qualifies for the ballot.

Justices will post their ruling at 10 a.m. Friday on the court's website, said Lynn Holton, Supreme Court spokeswoman, in a press release.

The matter stems from a referendum attempt by a Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, which opposes new state Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission and has gathered signatures in an effort to overturn them at the ballot box.

Because this year's legislative elections will be held before the group's map challenge could be decided by voters, the Supreme Court must decide which boundary lines will be used if the referendum qualifies for the ballot.

County elections offices currently are counting signatures filed by FAIR to determine whether 504,760 are from valid voters, which would place the newly drawn Senate maps on the November ballot.

The Supreme Court conceivably could order the FAIR-challenged Senate maps to be used this year. Justices also could revive maps that were in effect from 2002-10 or select a special master to draw new districts.

California's legislative and congressional districts were drawn last year, for the first time ever, by a 14-member citizens commission consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party voters. The Legislature drew political districts in decades past.

* Updated at 2:20 p.m. to add information about the Supreme Court's options and about the structure of the redistricting commission.

January 26, 2012
Assembly passes measures to expand private health insurance

Bills to require private health insurance plans to cover costs of oral chemotherapy and the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse were passed today by the Assembly, largely along party lines.

The lower house also approved Assembly Bill 369, which would bar health plans from requiring a patient to try more than two lower-priced medications before providing access to the product prescribed by the patient's physician.

AB 369 passed, 46-19, with most Democrats but no Republicans supporting it.

Democratic Assemblyman Jim Beall of San Jose crafted the bill covering mental health and substance abuse treatment, Assembly Bill 154. It passed the lower house, 47-18, with no GOP votes.

Current law only requires private insurers to cover severe mental illness, while AB 154 targets other types of disorders, including depression and substance abuse but not bereavement or antisocial behavior.

Services covered under AB 154 include outpatient, inpatient and partial hospital services, as well as prescription drugs if the plan's contract already includes coverage for medications.

The oral chemotherapy bill, Assembly Bill 1000, was pushed by Assemblyman Henry Perea, a Fresno Democrat who said he conceived of the idea during his mother's treatment for lung cancer.

AB 1000 passed, 52-17, with support from only three Republicans: Paul Cook of Yucca Valley, Kevin Jeffries of Lake Elsinore, and Kristin Olsen of Modesto.

Health plans typically cover the price of a patient's intravenous chemotherapy, charging only a minor office co-payment. By contrast, most insurers cover only a portion of oral chemotherapy costs, leaving patients with bills that can total hundreds of dollars per month, Perea said.

AB 1000 would not require insurers to provide coverage for prescription drugs, but those that do would be required to bankroll much of the costs of oral chemotherapy as they do now for intravenous chemotherapy.

All three bills now go to the Senate.

January 26, 2012
Think Long announces it will back California Forward's measure

An independent committee backed by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen announced today that it will support a proposed ballot measure that would make major changes to the state's budget and governance processes.

Berggruen, who previously pledged to spend at least $20 million on the Think Long Committee for California's effort, said the California Forward Issue Action Fund proposal "perfectly reflects both the growing public demand in California for a more accountable government and Think Long's mission of strengthening California's democracy for the long term. "

"We are looking forward to working together with California Forward to take historic steps to increase public confidence in government and are prepared to dedicate ample time and resources to this worthy cause," he said in the statement.

January 26, 2012
Steinberg: Extending redevelopment agencies 'not going to happen'

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that he believes an effort to extend the life of local redevelopment agencies through April 15 is "not going to happen."

Legislation to that effect, Senate Bill 659 by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, faces a Tuesday deadline for winning passage in the state Assembly, in addition to the planned Feb. 1 date of closure for the agencies

"I'm skeptical," Steinberg said. "I think the speaker is skeptical, and the governor is dead set against the bill. The focus needs to be on recreating a new set of economic development tools for cities and not on trying to keep alive the current form."

The Legislature axed the agencies, which subsidize local projects in blighted areas, and created a new redevelopment entity as part of last year's budget package. But the state Supreme Court ruled in December in response to a legal challenge to the move that while the Legislature had the power to dissolve the agencies, the replacement organizations could not stand.

Local governments have pushed for the extension measure, saying it is needed to allow lawmakers to address legal and contractual issues related to terminating the taxpayer-funded agencies. Gov. Jerry Brown expressed doubts about the proposal on a campaign stop last week, saying, "I don't think we can delay this funeral."

Steinberg said he is interested in exploring ways to take money and assets now held by the agencies and "hand (them) back to the cities and counties for economic development, but with a connection to ... our goals of better planning."

The Sacramento Democrat has introduced legislation to allow local governments to retain and use redevelopment money earmarked for affordable housing projects. That bill also faces a Tuesday deadline for winning approval.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez appears to be on the same page as Steinberg.

"The governor certainly made his feelings absolutely clear for extending them for the sake of an extension," said Pérez spokesman John Vigna. "So I think our focus is preserving some of the (long-term) economic development functions of them."

RELATED POSTS:
California high court says state can eliminate redevelopment

January 26, 2012
California single-payer health care bill stalls in state Senate

California's "Medicare for all" universal health care legislation fell short of the 21 votes needed to pass the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 810 failed on a 19-15 vote during this morning's floor session, with four moderate Democrats abstaining and one voting no.

Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the bill, said the proposal would stabilize health care costs and expand access to coverage.

He called the bill, which does not include funding to cover the projected $250 billion annual cost of running the single-payer system, the first step in a "many year project" that will likely require asking voters to approve financing. He encouraged members to support the bill to allow the policy discussion to continue.

No Republicans voted for the bill. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, criticized the proposal as an attempt to create "another costly and inefficient bureaucracy."

"There's no doubt that we need health care reform, there's no doubt that we need to improve our health care system, but members, this is not the bill to move forward," he said.

The bill faces a Tuesday deadline for passing the state Senate in the current legislative session. Several similar bills have cleared one or both houses in recent years. The last version to win legislative approval was vetoed by then-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

January 26, 2012
Senate approves bill restricting picketing at funerals

Legislation aimed at restricting protests at military and other funerals won unanimous approval in the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 661, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would prohibit picketing within 500 feet of a burial or memorial site within one hour of the service. Violators of the law could face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Supporters say the bill, which is backed by veterans groups, will protect grieving families from distress while maintaining the First Amendment rights of protesters. Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, say the bill goes too far in protecting the interests of funeral attendees over free speech.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar version of the bill last year, writing in a message that while he was "very tempted to sign it," he felt the language "plainly fails to comport" with a 2011 Supreme Court decision.

Lieu's office believes changes to the language, including decreasing the zone around the funeral where picketing is banned, addresses the governor's concerns.

The bill now heads to the state Assembly for consideration.

January 26, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown to speak at L.A. Chamber of Commerce

True to his quip after the State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown is spending more time in Southern California.

Brown took part Wednesday in a private roundtable in Santa Monica with members of the California District Attorneys Association. He'll attend another private event today -- a luncheon celebrating the 50th anniversary of San Juan Capistrano's incorporation.

Tonight, he's scheduled to speak at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce's inaugural dinner held in the Diamond Ballroom of the JW Marriott at L.A. Live.

Back in Sacramento, both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled floor sessions at 9 a.m. Next Tuesday is the last day for each house to pass bill introduced last year.

The Assembly Elections Committee will hear an urgency measure, Assembly Bill 1413 by Assemblyman Paul Fong, that tweaks the "top-two" primary system regarding write-in candidates and other issues. The hearing starts in the Capitol's Room 3162 after the session adjourns.

Reducing wait times at the California-Mexico border is the topic of discussion for an Assembly select committee, which meets at 2 p.m. in Room 444.

And a Senate subcommittee looks at challenges facing the olive oil industry. Presenters include Dan Flynn, the executive director at the UC Davis Olive Center, and Tom Mueller, author of "Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil," which Amazon.com picked as one of the best books of the month in December. Look for that hearing starting at 1:30 p.m. in Room 3191.

FUN FACT: As of Wednesday afternoon, there were now 60 -- yes, 60 -- ballot measures cleared for signature gathering in California, plus 17 more pending at the attorney general's office. The Bee's Torey Van Oot has details in this story about several you're likely to see at the grocery store. Click here for more information at the secretary of state's website.

January 25, 2012
Jarvis tells businesses to not let Jerry Brown 'cajole' them on taxes

Less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown claimed widespread business support for his ballot initiative to raise taxes - including donations from big healthcare and oil companies - the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business urged business groups this afternoon to resist any effort by Brown to "cajole" them.

"We know that Governor Brown, just through the power of his office alone, can cajole and perhaps even threaten vulnerable businesses," the groups said in an open letter. "It is therefore not lost on us that, under certain circumstances, modest support to help the governor place his measure on the ballot might be viewed a lesser of two evils or, more likely, as an insurance payment. However, on behalf of citizen taxpayers and the small business community, we appeal to your sense of doing what is right for all of California."

The Democratic governor, who is proposing to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest-earners, has enjoyed a relatively favorable relationship with business interests since taking office, and he met with business groups last week in Southern California. The letter was released on the eve of an appearance by Brown before the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Brown spokesman Gil Duran cited favorable polling for the tax measure - including among Republicans - and dismissed as "a baseless accusation, a hyperventilation meant to generate headlines" the suggestion that business groups might feel threatened by Brown.

The taxpayers association and business federation said the higher taxes proposed by Brown would hurt California's already-shaky economy.

"We also would like to reiterate our belief that when citizen taxpayer groups, small business interests and major corporations stand together for the common good, we constitute a formidable force to prevent a further erosion of California's tax and regulatory climate," the groups said in their letter. "Therefore, representing citizen taxpayers and small businesses in California, we appeal to you and your members to do the right thing and oppose any and all proposed tax increases. As Benjamin Franklin once noted, we must hang together in order to avoid hanging separately."

January 25, 2012
Federal hearing in Kinde Durkee fraud case delayed again

A preliminary hearing in the federal fraud case against former Democratic treasurer Kinde Durkee has been delayed yet again.

The hearing date, which had been moved from early December to tomorrow at 2 p.m., has been rescheduled for the same time on Feb. 28, according to a document filed with the U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

Durkee has been accused by federal investigators and her former clients of stealing millions of dollars from the campaign and nonprofit accounts she managed. The prominent Burbank-based treasurer was arrested in September and charged with mail fraud for allegedly misappropriating $600,000 from the campaign account of Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio. More clients have come forward as potential victims since her arrest, including U.S. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who says $5 million was taken from her re-election committee account.

A court filing posted today said the delay was requested to give the government more time to sort through evidence collected during its investigation. Durkee, who managed hundreds of accounts, has been accused in criminal and civil court filings of frequently moving money between accounts as part of her embezzlement scheme.

"The parties stipulate that the arrest in this case occurred at a time before the investigation was completed, and that the case is complex given the number of clients of Ms. Durkee and bank accounts involved," the document reads. "The investigation has continued, a significant amount of materials have been acquired, and the government needs additional time to review, analyze and synthesize those materials."

Kinde Durkee hearing delay

January 25, 2012
Will GOP recruit 'prominent name' to challenge Feinstein?

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has yet to attract a top-tier opponent in her 2012 re-election bid.

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro signaled today that a high-profile GOP challenger to the 78-year-old Democrat could still emerge. He said a "number of people" have expressed interest in the race, with final decisions expected in the coming weeks.

"Right now, point blank, there isn't someone, a major name that has agreed to it," he said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau.

"But I think her polls show that she is vulnerable, and we are hoping to find someone who will break out of the pack," he added. "But as of yet, point blank, I'm not going to snow you, we don't have someone who has made it clear, who is head and shoulders above the rest or a very prominent name."

Santa Monica businessman Al Ramirez became the latest Republican to express interest in the race this week. Ramirez, who ran in the GOP Senate primary last year, announced yesterday that he is opening an exploratory committee and starting to raise money for a run.

Ramirez said that while he is "fairly called a long shot-challenger," he believes the new top-two primary system will help him in his effort to become the state's first Hispanic U.S. senator.

"Hispanic voters, Republicans and Independents understand faith, family and hard work," he said in a statement. "We should come together to uphold the values of freedom that make America great, but there hasn't been a voice to speak to and for each of these sides. It is a void I believe I can fill to put California back on the right track."

Other Republicans currently expected to run are Elizabeth Emken , an advocate for children with autism and 2010 congressional candidate, and Orly Taitz, an activist perhaps best known for her disproved assertions that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.

January 25, 2012
Thanks for the memories, Arnold? Schwarzenegger stuff available for a price

Arnold Schwarzenegger's days as governor are long gone -- but not forgotten by political junkies, apparently.

Nearly two dozen mementoes of Schwarzenegger's two terms in the Capitol were available today on eBay, including a "Women For Arnold For Governor" pin with an asking price of $1.99 but no bids.

The most expensive item was an autographed photo of Schwarzenegger at the White House, priced at $425 or best offer.

A talking toy Schwarzenegger doll was available for $75, a Halloween mask, $19.99; an Austrian stamp bearing his likeness, $3; and a "Governator" button from his 2004 election, $6.99.

Other memorabilia included a traditional playing card featuring Schwarzenegger as a Jack, $4.01, with free shipping; a "Go For It Arnold" T-shirt, $15; and a kitchen magnet of the former governor standing at a microphone, $4.50.

January 25, 2012
Del Beccaro: GOP 'food fight' will help nominee against Obama

Will blue California be a battleground in the November presidential election?

While the Golden State will almost surely go for President Barack Obama in the general election, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro believes that the competitiveness of the race will force the Democratic president to raise -- and spend -- more money in California, diverting time and resources from other key states.

"It will look like a competitive race for a long time, and then I think in the last month things will slip away from Obama, and it's going to require him to spend money in places he otherwise would not want to spend," Del Beccaro said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau today.

"I'm not predicting to you today that we're going to carry California, but I think (Obama) has trouble here, and I think that allows us to provide resources and do other things around the country that will eventually lead to his loss," he added.

Del Beccaro, who has not endorsed a GOP candidate in the presidential race, said he believes it is too early to tell who would give Obama more trouble in California. But the state's top GOP official said that once the "worst of their food fight" for the nomination is over, the battle-tested GOP nominee will be better positioned to defeat the president.

"One of the benefits of this intramural affair is that it forced the Republican candidates to get very definite on what their plans would be, whereas Obama going into the fall is not going to have a plan because his plan is, involves government spending and that's not going to be able to sell," Del Beccaro said.

"He'll have a hodgepodge of we want to do one, or two or three things here, or what you saw last night (during the State of the Union), but it's going to be vague. So I think the detailed plan beats the vagueness in a difficult situation," he added.

That "intramural affair" between GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich could extend through California's June 5 primary, giving the state's Republicans more sway in the nomination process, Del Beccaro said.

"If they continue this constant process of debates, then I think it's possible," he said.

Watch a video from Del Beccaro's interview below or check out our Capitol Alert's Facebook page for his answers to questions from our readers. Pick up tomorrow's Bee to read a Q&A with the party chairman.

January 25, 2012
AM Alert: Californians see clouds in the forecast for Capitol

It looks like Californians' optimism has its limits when it comes to state government.

Last January, 58 percent of Golden State residents thought that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature would be able to work together to accomplish a lot in a year, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Now that number is at 44 percent, with 47 percent saying it's not gonna happen, according to PPIC's latest poll.

Meanwhile, Brown's approval rating has gone up among state residents, from 41 percent to 46 percent. The bad news is that trend is reversed among likely voters, slipping from 47 percent to 44 percent. Still, the governor is doing better than legislators -- 17 percent of likely voters approve of how the solons are doing.

As for the Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney leads among likely GOP voters in California, with 37 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich, 18 percent. Mind you, the survey was conducted before the South Carolina primary. Last month, Gingrich led Romney, 33 percent to 25 percent, among the likely voters PPIC surveyed in California.

The Bee's Dan Smith has details about voters' views of the state budget in this post. Find the full survey at this link.

Under the dome, a joint Senate-Assembly committee on public employee pensions looks at design options for hybrid pension plans, starting at 1 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 4202.

The Senate Rules Committee considers gubernatorial appointees, starting at 1:30 p.m. in Room 113, with Howard Schwartz, the deputy director of the Department of Personnel Administration, required to appear.

CALLING ALL QUESTIONS: Got something you'd like to ask California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro? Go to our Facebook page at facebook.com/capitolalert, and fire away. He's coming to the Capitol Bureau this morning for an interview at 9:30 a.m.

CSU PAY: California State University trustees are considering executive pay and compensation at their meeting today in Long Beach, and its chairman plans to propose a cap in response to pending legislation, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. Democratic Sen. Elaine Alquist's Senate Bill 952 proposes codifying a 10 percent cap into law. Democratic Sen. Ted. Lieu -- whose Senate Bill 959 would limit campus presidents' salaries -- will be among those testifying. Other CSU-related measures include Democratic Sen. Leland Yee's Senate Bill 967, which would bar CSU trustees from hiking executives' pay in bad budget years or within two years of a tuition increase.

REALIGNMENT: Speaking of PPIC, its luncheon program today focuses on the fiscal relationship between state and local governments, with State President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway among the scheduled speakers. The deadline has passed, but you can read the agenda here.

WOMEN IN MEDIA: California's second lady, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is a special guest tonight as the Crest Theater screens her documentary, "Miss Representation," about media portrayal of women. The screening starts at 6 p.m. after a 5 p.m. reception. The Legislative Women's Caucus and the California Commission on the Status of Women are sponsoring the event at 1013 K St., Sacramento.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to add mention of other CSU-related measures pending before the Legislature.

January 24, 2012
Former GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad considering run for Congress

Former Republican Sen. Sam Aanestad is weighing a run for the Northern California congressional seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Wally Herger.

The Penn Valley Republican said he learned of Herger's decision after returning home from Mexico, where he had been vacationing without access to his cell phone or lap top, several days ago. Since then, he has been "making phone calls to see if there is any support" for a run for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District.

Aanestad, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010, said the addition of a new partner at his Grass Valley oral surgery practice has given him the time and flexibility to run. He said the 12 years he spent serving in overlapping state Senate and Assembly districts makes him a good fit for the House district, which runs from Yuba City to the Oregon border.

"I already know most of the local issues of each of the areas and the people involved in the history," he said. "It wouldn't be much of a learning process in terms of getting up to date on what the issues are for the district."

News that he is considering entering the race was first reported by FlashReport publisher Jon Fleischman on Twitter. GOP Sen. Doug LaMalfa, who succeeded Aanestad in the Senate, has already announced plans to run for the congressional seat with Herger's backing.

RELATED POSTS:

LaMalfa 'moving forward' for Congress run after Herger announcement

Chico Rep. Wally Herger to retire from Congress

January 24, 2012
Assemblyman Sandre Swanson drops out of SD09 race

Democratic Assemblyman Sandre Swanson has decided not to challenge Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock for the newly drawn 9th Senate District next year, eliminating a potentially costly and divisive same-party battle for the East Bay seat.

In a statement released by the Senate Democratic Caucus, the Alameda Democrat said he would hold off on seeking the Senate seat until 2016, when he plans to run with Hancock's endorsement. Both Swanson and Hancock cited the caucus' efforts to pick up the two seats needed to hold a two-thirds majority in the upper house in the joint statement.

"As Democrats, we must come together to work for the good of all Californians," Swanson, who has now endorsed Hancock, said in a statement. "2012 provides an incredible opportunity for us to achieve a supermajority in the State Senate and that must be every Democrat's top priority."

Swanson, who is termed out of the Assembly this year, had announced in December that he would run for the safe Democratic seat, claiming Hancock had previously promised that she would support him instead of seeking a second term. Hancock thanked Swanson for his support in the statement, saying she "can't think of a better person" to succeed her if she is re-elected next November.

"Nothing is more important," the Berkeley Democrat said in a statement."than having Democrats come together for the greater good."

SD09 Press Release

RELATED POSTS:

Sandre Swanson to challenge Loni Hancock for state Senate

January 24, 2012
Sen. Al Franken to speak at California Democratic Party confab

US NEWS MINN-SENATE 1 MS.jpgU.S. Sen. Al Franken will speak live from San Diego next month as California Democrats gather for the state party's spring convention.

The Minnesota Democrat and former comedian will keynote a dinner event during the three-day confab, party spokesman Tenoch Flores said today. The $120-a-plate dinner will be followed by a separate event featuring a performance by Eli "Paperboy" Reed.

Flores said Franken's work on health care and financial regulation since winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2008 made him a good fit for the convention, which will be held Feb. 10-12 at the San Diego Convention Center.

January 24, 2012
PPIC poll delivers voters' mixed signals on California budget

California voters like Gov. Jerry Brown's idea of making high earners pay more taxes, but otherwise are of mixed minds about solving the state's chronic budget woes, according to the Public Policy Institute of California's latest poll on the topic.

Here are a few findings from the poll, released today:

  • Among likely voters, 40 percent think the budget problem should be solved through a mix of cuts and tax increases, while another 41 percent think it should be solved mostly through spending cuts.
  • But about half of likely voters oppose Gov. Jerry Brown's welfare cuts, and 75 percent oppose the school cuts he's threatened if tax increases don't pass.
  • More than 60 percent would pay higher taxes to maintain funding at current levels for K-12 education, while slightly less than half would shell out more for higher education or health and welfare.
  • But nearly two-thirds are opposed to raising the sales tax, while 68 percent favor raising income tax rates on the wealthy. Both provisions are in Brown's plan.
  • Less than half - 48 percent - favor Brown's entire plan, cuts and tax increases included.
  • Two-fifths of college graduates said they knew very little or nothing about the budget. Only 11 percent of all voters could identify both the top spending category (K-12 schools) and top revenue source (income tax).

January 24, 2012
California lawmakers to sue John Chiang over their pay

Thumbnail image for chiangsmiling.JPGDemocratic legislative leaders sued Controller John Chiang today for blocking their pay during last year's budget dispute, a decision that drew scorn from lawmakers last summer.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said the Democratic controller overstepped his bounds when he decided that lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown a flawed budget last June and docked their pay. They said they are not suing for back earnings, but to ask the court whether Chiang can intervene this year if lawmakers face another budget dispute with Brown at the June 15 deadline.

The lawmakers filed in Sacramento Superior Court, hiring Arthur G. Scotland, retired presiding justice of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, as well as the Los Angeles firm Strumwasser & Woocher. The Legislature's operating budget, financed by tax dollars, will pay for legal costs. Billing rates range from $435 per hour for the two lead attorneys to $130 per hour for a paralegal, according to the leaders' offices.

Chiang said his own party's lawmakers failed to balance the budget largely because their plan underfunded schools by $1.3 billion according to his interpretation of the state constitution. He also said they failed to pass all of the bills necessary to carry out a balanced budget. Chiang's decision came after Brown vetoed the first budget lawmakers sent him at the deadline.

Under a 2010 voter-approved law, lawmakers lose their pay and tax-free expense money if they do not send the governor a balanced budget by the June 15 deadline. Democrats added that provision as a sweetener in Proposition 25, the main thrust of which was reducing the budget vote threshold to a majority, rather than two-thirds. The controller believes he has discretion to determine what counts as a balanced budget under the initiative.

Steinberg and Pérez believe the controller has no role under Proposition 25 to determine the validity of the Legislature's budget. Scotland said today the controller illegally interfered with the Legislature's powers of appropriation.

Aside from veto powers, Steinberg said "neither the governor nor any member of the executive branch may brandish the threat of withholding legislative pay because they disagree with the decisions made by the legislative branch."

Brown and lawmakers ultimately reached agreement on June 27, costing most lawmakers about $4,830 each, equal to 12 days' worth of pay and expense money. The state saved a total of $583,200 in foregone legislative pay.

Mindful of public acrimony against the Legislature, the two leaders emphasized Tuesday that they were not asking for back pay. "Let me be clear from the outset, both the pro tem and I have waived our claims for renumeration should this lawsuit succeed," Pérez said. "This is fundamentally an issue of separation of powers."

Chiang said Tuesday in a statement that he welcomed the court's review. But he also used the words of fellow executive branch members as a retort to lawmakers.

"It is noteworthy to point out that the Legislature's budget proposal was not only vetoed by the Governor for not being a 'balanced solution,' but it was determined by the Treasurer to not be financeable, and would have, within months of its passage, led to the issuance of IOUs," the controller said.

Chiang's move gave Brown leverage in budget negotiations, as the controller essentially suggested that Brown could block legislative pay with his veto pen. Lawmakers have seethed ever since. If their lawsuit succeeds, they would not only have greater pay protection this year, but also greater leverage. Brown has asked lawmakers to pass significant cuts to health and welfare programs and to put school funding at risk if voters reject his tax plan.

January 24, 2012
California Assembly hopeful accused of threatening Oakland aide

A Democratic candidate for the 18th Assembly District is facing a potential second brush with the law stemming from allegations of violence.

The Oakland Tribune reports that Joel Young, who was accused last year of domestic violence following a dispute with his former girlfriend, is now under investigation for allegedly threatening an Oakland City Council staffer at a Jan. 14 event.

(Jason) Overman, an aide to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, filed a police report Friday -- disputed by Young and his girlfriend -- stating that when he greeted Young during the event, Young told him, "Walk away before I beat your (expletive) (expletive), you piece of (expletive)."

Overman, 27, told police that Young, a 34-year-old attorney and former Cal football player, asked him to step outside and then put his face inches from Overman's and said, "You just wait until my campaign is over. I'm going to find you and beat your (expletive) (expletive), you (expletive)."

Young then "made a gurgling sound" and spat in Overman's eye before leaving the bar, according to Overman's account to police.

Young, who had not yet been contacted by authorities Monday, said he had a brief conversation that night with Overman, but denied making any threats. "None of that is true," Young said. "If I wasn't a candidate for the Assembly, I doubt Jason would be doing this."

Young is one of several Democrats expected to run for the vacant East Bay Assembly seat. His current girlfriend, who also attended the event, defended his account, saying Overman was jealous about their relationship, according to the Tribune.

Read the full story at this link.

January 24, 2012
Audit accuses high-speed rail of risky financing, contract splitting

In yet another blow to California's troubled high-speed rail project, California's state auditor said this morning that the project's financing is "increasingly risky" and its oversight inadequate.

In a follow-up report to her agency's 2010 critique of the project, state Auditor Elaine Howle said the California High-Speed Rail Authority's most recent business plan relies on uncertain funding sources and that "the program's overall financial situation has become increasingly risky."

Howle's report is the latest in a series of critical reports about the project, including by the Legislative Analyst's Office and the rail authority's own peer review group. Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to press the nearly $100 billion project through the Legislature this year.

Howle's report questions the authority's ridership projections, saying the group that reviewed those numbers was "handpicked" by the authority's chief executive officer, and it accused the authority of failing to adequately manage its many contractors.

"Without sufficient staffing," the report said, "the authority has struggled to oversee its contractors and subcontractors, who outnumber its employees by about 25 to one."

Howle also said the rail authority violated a state rule prohibiting agencies from splitting contracts to avoid competitive bidding requirements, dividing $3.1 million in information technology services into 13 different contracts with one vendor over 15 months.

In a written response, the rail authority said contract management remains "a huge challenge for the authority due to a lack of sufficient qualified staff." But it discounted as "purely speculative" Howle's claim that the plan is financially risky.

The authority all but conceded that it had mismanaged its information technology contracts, saying it "will develop procedures to detect and prevent contract splitting."

January 24, 2012
Republican Tony Amador to run for new 9th Assembly seat

Republican Tony Amador, a Lodi resident and retired federal marshal, will seek the newly drawn 9th Assembly seat stretching from south Sacramento through Elk Grove to Lodi.

Amador will compete against a field expected to include incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan -- who is moving into the district to run - and Elk Grove City Councilwoman Sophia Scherman, a Republican.

Amador said the new district is a perfect fit for him because he lived in Elk Grove for nearly 20 years before moving to Lodi in 2009. Voter registration favors Democrats, however, by 13 percentage points.

January 24, 2012
Former Assembly leader Fabian Núñez to be TV political analyst

Nunez.jpgFormer Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez will serve as a political analyst during this presidential election year for Univision Communications, a major national Spanish-language media firm.

The Los Angeles Democrat will participate with other analysts in roundtable discussions and provide commentary on the election season, presidential candidates and major political issues, according to a written statement on the company's website.

Besides assisting with election coverage, Núñez and other analysts will appear on the network's evening newscast, "Noticiero Univision"; a Sunday public affairs program, "Al Punto"; and on a morning program, "Despierta America."

Núñez led the Assembly from 2004 to 2008, when he was termed out of the lower house. He currently serves as a partner in Mercury Public Affairs -- a high-powered political consulting firm -- and he will continue to do so during his stint as an analyst, colleague Adam Mendelsohn said.

Univision's statement can be read here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, 2007. Associated Press/ Rich Pedroncelli.

January 24, 2012
AM Alert: Find a (Democratic) party for the State of the Union

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address today.

Sacramento's speech-watching party for Obama supporters will be held at 5 p.m. at Head Hunters restaurant, 1930 K Street. Find a watch party near you here.

In case you feel accessories are required, the Obama campaign is offering "I bark for Barack" car magnets featuring first pet Bo.

We checked with the state Republican Party for a watch-party list, but none was available. Capitol Alert suspects GOP voters are spending their time at debate-watching parties these days.

The California University System Board of Trustees meets today and tomorrow. Among items on the agenda: collective bargaining, campus planning and presidential compensation. Guess which one is likely to get the most attention?

Find live-streaming of the public sessions here beginning at 11 a.m. today.

DOMESTIC WORKERS: Advocates of a Domestic Worker Bill of rights will travel to the Capitol today for a 10 a.m. march and 11:30 a.m. children's festival. They promise clowns, balloons, arts and crafts and games, along with visits to legislative offices. Their goal is revival and passage of Assembly Bill 889, by Tom Ammiano.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Happy birthday to Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who turns 54 today.

January 23, 2012
California Democrats make early picks for 2012 primary

Democrats across the state gathered over the weekend to make early picks for candidates the party should support on the June primary ballot.

The pre-endorsement votes, held each election year ahead of the state Democratic Party convention, garnered extra interest this year due to the number of competitive races and the unknowns of running under the top-two primary system, which will send the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to a November runoff.

A candidate must receive 70 percent of the vote from participants in the pre-endorsement process, which includes Democratic State Central Committee members, county central committee members and representatives of chartered clubs and organizations, to snag a recommendation and a spot on the consent calendar at next month's state party convention in San Diego. Recommendations for districts where one candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote but failed to hit the 70 percent mark will be decided during caucuses at the convention, including the 30th Congressional District showdown between Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman

In seats where no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote, such as the Sacramento-area's crowded Assembly District 8 race, no recommendation has been made.

The preliminary results are posted below. A final tally will be released once party officials receive and certify results from the regional meetings.

Preliminary Pre-Endorsement Conference Results

January 23, 2012
Top Rick Perry surrogate in California now backing Newt Gingrich

Gingrich 2012_JPEG-0b455.JPGOne of former GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry's most vocal California backers has thrown his support behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign.

"I think the people of America want to go back to work more than anything," Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Penn Valley, said today. "Mr Gingrich has the courage and the intelligence to turn the economy around."

Logue, who founded the Committee to Draft Rick Perry for President last year, had campaigned for the Texas governor in Iowa earlier this month.

He said he decided to endorse Gingrich late last week, after Perry dropped his own campaign and announced he was backing the former House speaker's presidential bid. Logue has now been approached about becoming one of the Gingrich campaign's California chairs.

Logue said he was drawn to both Gingrich's record as House speaker and the fact that he has "gone through many wars."

"He's done some great things, but he has flaws," he said. "I think the times demand a person who has that experience."

While he said he will support the eventual nominee against President Barack Obama in November, he believes Gingrich, who defeated former Massachusetts Gov. and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in Saturday's South Carolina primary, is the GOP candidate best positioned to "bring the Reagan agenda to the table."

"America needs a bulldog, not a poodle for president," he said.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at The River Church, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

January 23, 2012
Animal activist Tom Hayden urges Jerry Brown to stop, think of dog Sutter

Tom Hayden, the former state senator and animal rights activist urged Gov. Jerry Brown in an online video today to look at his dog, Sutter, before repealing a state law requiring animal shelters to keep dogs and cats longer before euthanizing them.

"Governor, I see you're a dog owner. I can tell from the publicity that you love that dog, your wife loves that dog," Hayden, the former Santa Monica state senator who wrote the 1998 bill, says in the video. "So stop and think: Thousands of dogs and cats are put to death needlessly every year ... I urge you to look at your dog before you allow this bill that protects animals to die."

The mandate, suspended since 2009, lengthened the time animal shelters must hold stray animals before euthanizing them, generally to six days from three. It is one of about 30 local government mandates the Democratic governor is proposing to repeal next fiscal year to save money - about $46 million from the shelter mandate alone.

In a report recommending the mandate's repeal, the Legislative Analyst's Office in 2008 found no link between the mandate and programs encouraging animal adoption.

Sutter, the Pembroke Welsh corgi, has been a source of reliably positive publicity for his owner for more than a year. But animal rights activists this month began using his name in opposition to Brown's proposal to repeal the shelter mandate. Those efforts include a Facebook page, "Sutter's Friends."

January 23, 2012
California livestock law struck down

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down California's ban on the slaughter of downed swine, saying the state strayed too far into federal territory.

In a case closely watched by other states as well as the multi-billion dollar livestock industry, the court's liberal and conservative justices unanimously ruled that long-standing federal law preempted California's 2008 measure.

"The California law rums smack into the (federal) regulations," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court.

Kagan's 14-page decision emphasized that the Federal Meat Inspection Act covers a "broad range of activities at slaughterhouses" and that it "expressly" preempts the state law.

The California law in question prohibits the slaughter of non-ambulatory pigs, sheep, goats or cattle. These are animals that can't walk, because of disease, injury or other causes. The state law further requires that the downed animals be euthanized.
Federal law bans the slaughter of downed cattle, and the challenge was to the state provision that covers swine.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act specifies that a state can't impose slaughterhouse protections "in addition to or different" from the federal requirements. The National Meat Association, in challenging the state law, argued that the state violated this pre-emption rule.

"The (federal law) regulates slaughterhouses' handling and treatment of nonambulatory pigs from the moment of their delivery through the end of the meat production process," Kagan wrote. "California endeavors to regulate the same thing, at the same time, in the same place - except by imposing different requirements.

January 23, 2012
AM Alert: Deadline looms for action on redevelopment agencies

California lawmakers are working against two deadlines as they convene today.

The Assembly meets at noon, the Senate at 2 p.m. Each house will be plowing through bills ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline to pass any measures introduced last year.

A week from Wednesday - Feb. 1 - is the day the state's redevelopment agencies go poof unless the Legislature resuscitates them ... and Gov. Jerry Brown signs off on the move, which looks unlikely.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's Senate Bill 654 would, among other things, let the local government of a dissolving redevelopment agency retain the money in the agency's low- and moderate-income housing fund.

Then there's Sen. Alex Padilla's Senate Bill 659, which would postpone the dissolution date to April 15.

Brown said last Thursday during his tax campaign swing through Southern California that he would oppose legislation extending the agencies' termination date, quipping, "I don't think we can delay this funeral."

Meanwhile, it's Ed Roberts Day.

Readers may remember that Roberts was inducted late last year into the California Hall of Fame, whose website describes him as "a civil rights leader for people with disabilities" and "the father of the independent living movement."

Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who carried the bill proclaiming Jan. 23 each year to be Ed Roberts Day, will join the late activist's mother, Zona Roberts, and dozens of disabled high school students from the Bay Area at a celebration of his life this morning on the UC Berkeley campus.

POLITICAL RADIO: The recently launched Cristina Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio is targeting Latino voters with a bipartisan and bilingual political program called "Power Play," co-hosted by Republican Bettina Inclán and Democrat Alicia Menendez. The program will air every Tuesday and Thursday. Click here for more information.

January 20, 2012
Lawmakers push bill to replace California school bus cut

HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPGAfter a mid-year budget cut wiped out school bus funds, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to restore transportation money by cutting general purpose dollars in all districts.

The Senate budget committee amended its Senate Bill 81 in the Assembly yesterday, signaling lawmakers' intent not only to preserve school bus service now, but in the future as well. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed eliminating school bus funds permanently in his 2012-13 budget.

Brown has shown little willingness to reverse cuts, especially with the state facing a new $9.2 billion deficit. With that in mind, SB 81 would replace the $248 million school bus cut with an across-the-board reduction to all districts equal to about $42 per student, shifting more of the pain to suburban districts that don't offer much bus service.

The midyear bus cut hit rural and urban districts particularly hard. According to data compiled by the California School Boards Association, the isolated Death Valley Unified School District would lose $1,734 per student. Meanwhile, Davis Joint Unified would lose less than $8 per student and Rocklin Unified less than $10.

The state's coalition of education groups, which includes teachers, school boards and administrators, supports the change. Brown's Department of Finance does not yet have a position, said spokesman H.D. Palmer.

The reduction was triggered in December when fiscal forecasters determined California would fall $2.2 billion short of the optimistic revenue projections that Brown and lawmakers used last June. Since last month, rural school districts have lobbied lawmakers to reverse the bus cut, noting that it would cause uneven hardship throughout the state.

The Los Angeles Unified School District filed a lawsuit to block the bus cut last month, alleging it would violate federal busing mandates and past court decisions ensuring equal education funding across districts. LAUSD would lose $61 per student, according to the CSBA data.

Updated to clarify that the cut would apply to general purpose funding, which largely pays for classroom instruction but also goes toward administration and other costs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pleasant Grove High School students get off their bus on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

January 20, 2012
Rep. Dennis Cardoza enters online gambling fray in Sacramento

Congressman Retiring Cardoza.jpgAdd Rep. Dennis Cardoza to the long list of individuals and interests weighing in on the online gambling legislation discussions going on under the dome.

The Merced Democrat was part of a group of racehorse owners and lobbyists for the Thoroughbred Owners of California trade association that met with members of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee this week "to discuss Internet poker, and other Internet gaming issues," according to a report by California Watch.

In a telephone interview, Cardoza said he is an unpaid member of the board of directors of the thoroughbred owners association. The House of Representatives' Ethics Committee approved his service last year, he said.

He said the Sacramento meetings were aimed at calling attention to the economic problems of the state's $2.8 billion horse racing industry. He was "absolutely not lobbying," Cardoza said.

"I wouldn't consider it being a lobbyist," he said. "It's just visiting friends, and I certainly am unpaid."

When asked whether his work with the association posed a conflict of interest, he said, "I don't have a conflict of interest - I'm a citizen who is talking to my old colleagues."

A renewed push to legalize and regulate Internet poker and other online gambling in California is expected to be the subject of intense lobbying this year, as Indian tribes, card rooms, horse racing entities and other interests fight for a stake in whatever system is crafted by legislators.

Democratic Sen. Rod Wright, who authored one of two online gambling measures that stalled last year, is planning to introduce another bill on the matter this spring.

>PHOTO CREDIT: Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2010. Associated Press/Harry Hamburg.

January 20, 2012
Assembly candidate's comments on train cause a stir on Twitter

salladay.jpgIn the age of smart phones, YouTube and Twitter, a public train car probably isn't the best place to talk campaign strategy.

Assembly candidate Michele Martinez learned that the hard way this week.

The Orange County Democrat, who now serves on the Santa Ana City Council, was apparently dishing on her cellphone about her campaign and other Capitol gossip during a ride from Sacramento to the Bay Area on Thursday morning.

Sitting nearby? Bob Salladay, a veteran political reporter who's now a senior editor for California Watch, a nonprofit investigative news outlet.

When some of her comments suggested that she was "working with" an Indian tribe on independent expenditures -- a potential violation of the Political Reform Act if she was coordinating independent spending that benefited her own campaign, Salladay took notice.

He then began to tweet.

January 20, 2012
AM Alert: California Democrats already thinking endorsements

The primary election isn't until June, but the California Democratic Party is already voting on endorsements.

State Democrats are holding their pre-primary endorsement conferences this weekend in anticipation of the state party convention next month.

Just to drive home the point, Party Chairman John Burton lays out Democrats' goals this year in a letter to candidates and those eligible to vote on endorsements: re-elect Sen. Dianne Feinstein, regain the majority in the House, beef up Democratic majorities in the state Senate and the Assembly, and "compete in newly crafted districts across the state."

Some of those districts have two or more Democrats competing against each other, for instance, the 30th Congressional District, where incumbents Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are slugging it out. Who will they choose? Or will the choice be "no endorsement"?

Candidates who are registered Democrats, file as Democrats and pay the party a filing fee will be considered. An Assembly candidate pays $250, while a congressional candidate pays $350 and a Senate candidate, $500. Candidates recommended for endorsement will need final approval at the state party convention, which will be held in San Diego on Feb. 11-12.

It'll be a big month for conventions. The California Republican Party will hold its own state party convention two weeks later, Feb. 24-26 at the Hyatt San Francisco Airport.

NEW JOB: Republican strategist Rob Stutzman's firm Stutzman Public Affairs has a new vice president -- Amy Thoma. The former Assembly aide, who worked on Carly Fiorina's Senate campaign, has been an account director at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and director at Wilson-Miller Communications. She'll serve as deputy campaign manager of Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher's San Diego mayoral campaign.

LGBT CAUCUS: Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, has been elected the chair of California's seven-member LGBT Legislative Caucus. The freshman Democrat replaces Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who is termed out this year.

SELF-DRIVING CARS: There aren't any autonomous cars on California's roads -- yet -- but Santa Clara University's law school is already looking at their legal implications at an all-day symposium today. For instance, who would be liable for an accident? Check out the agenda via this link.

January 19, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown to make water project proposal by summer

SAN DIEGO - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he will make a proposal by summer for a peripheral canal or other way to move water through or around the Delta, a controversial, multi-billion project.

The Democratic governor said the project itself - not including the cost of restoring the Delta - will be paid for by water users and will not require a general obligation bond. He did not address financing for environmental mitigation in any detail.

"To get the project, we do not need tax money," Brown said. "The big water users will pay for having water reliability."

Brown, concluding a two-day swing through Southern California to promote infrastructure spending and his ballot measure to raise taxes, said he is "cleaning up a mess" in state spending that requires both additional tax revenue and service cuts, as Brown discussed here:


January 19, 2012
Judge blocks Jerry Brown's in-home care cuts

By Kevin Yamamura
kyamamura@sacbee.com

A federal judge on Thursday continued to block the state from reducing in-home care to low-income disabled and elderly residents, a budget cut pursued last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers.

The reduction would have slashed one-fifth of service hours for In-Home Supportive Services recipients to save the state $100 million over the next six months.

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken converted her temporary December order blocking the state into a preliminary injunction.

Last month, Wilken said the IHSS cut "raises serious questions" about whether the state had violated several federal laws, including those protecting people with disabilities.

The state will challenge the decision with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, said Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer. He said that since last summer, court decisions and federal administrative delays have cost the state nearly $2 billion in savings. It is a factor that Brown has cited as contributing to the state's $9.2 billion deficit.

January 19, 2012
California lawmakers take skeptical eye to Jerry Brown's budget

While Gov. Jerry Brown sold his budget plan to outside groups in Southern California, state lawmakers greeted his proposal with a skeptical eye Thursday inside the Capitol.

In a Senate budget committee hearing, Democrats raised concerns not only about Brown's cuts to schools and health and welfare programs, but also about the strength of his revenue projections, which the nonpartisan legislative analyst has called optimistic.

One Democrat, Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, took issue with Brown's tax hikes because he said the sales tax increase would hurt the poor.

"I understand the politics, but in terms of policy and benefiting poor people, I think this does them a disservice," Wright said. "If somebody makes $10,000 a year or somebody makes $300,000 a year, the sales tax on toilet paper is the same. I'm just saying that disadvantages the people I represent in Watts or Compton."

January 19, 2012
Jerry Brown predicts fight over his education proposals

SAN DIEGO - One day after urging a series of education changes in his State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he expects a major part of his plan to face staunch opposition, while other elements remain murky.

The Democratic governor called his proposal to change the categorical funding system for public schools a "heavy lift," and he predicted a tussle in the Legislature. He said wealthy areas of the state are likely to object to a plan he said would shift money to lower-income schools.

"That's a big, major reform with real bite in it," Brown said.

Brown is also proposing less state testing, but it is not yet clear exactly how some of his other ideas about education might come to fruition.

"The actual details we'll get soon," he told reporters after speaking in San Diego this afternoon.

January 19, 2012
Bill to grant Cal Expo more independence killed in Assembly

Legislation that would have allowed Cal Expo to operate more independently and to receive the proceeds of any sale or leasing of its land died today in an Assembly committee.

Assembly Bill 1204 was shelved without a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, proposed the bill as a step toward allowing Cal Expo to operate as an independent enterprise in tackling $45 million in deferred maintenance, as well as declining attendance for horse racing and the annual state fair.

A key element of AB 1204 would have eliminated a requirement that the state Department of General Services approve the purchase, acquisition, disposal, leasing, or permanent improvements of real estate or personal property owned by Cal Expo.

Under Dickinson's bill, approval of state fair property transactions would have been overseen by the State Fair Leasing Authority, consisting of four members of the Cal Expo governing board and directors of the state finance, general services, and food and agriculture departments. The state controller and treasurer would have been seated if transactions involved the issuance of bonds.

A spotlight was placed on the value of Cal Expo's land last year during discussions about the possibility of constructing a new Sacramento Kings arena on the 350-acre site. The fairgrounds' value was estimated at $200 million, according to an Assembly analysis of AB 1204.

January 19, 2012
California single-payer health care bill to get full Senate vote

Legislation to create a "single-payer" health care system in California won approval in a key committee today, getting the OK for a vote of the full Senate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 810, Democratic Sen. Mark Leno's universal health care measure, by a vote of 6-2.

The vote came as the committee met to consider bills introduced in 2011 that are projected to cost the state at least $50,000. A fiscal analysis of SB 810 estimated that running a health care system that would be open to all 37 million Californians could cost up to $250 billion a year.

The bill, which supporters say would provide greater access to health coverage and lower costs, does not include any taxes or fees to cover the cost of the system, which would be run by a new state agency.

The concept has been introduced in the Legislature multiple times in recent years. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed one version approved in the 2007-2008 legislative session. A 2009-2010 measure, also authored by Leno, died in the state Assembly.

The committee also approved urgency legislation related to local redevelopment agencies, which are set to shut down next month due to legislation and court decisions.

Senate Bill 654, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would allow the local governments to keep redevelopment money budgeted for low- and moderate-income housing. The bill, which also affects repayment of loans from local governments, would need to win approval from two-thirds of members in both houses to take effect immediately.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation containing a similar provision last year, saying it would be premature to take action before a legal battle over dissolving the agencies was settled.

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California lawmakers take another crack at 'single-payer' health care bill

January 19, 2012
California Assembly kills bill to protect legislative whistleblowers

A proposed state law to protect Capitol whistle-blowers from retaliation for filing a complaint of improper activity died today in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 1378 was derailed after it failed to get a motion or second in the committee. Thus, no roll-call vote was taken. It previously had passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee, 10-0.

Legal protection against blowing the whistle on government corruption or wrongdoing currently applies to most employees -- including executive branch employees, California State University workers, and legislative appointees to boards and commissions.

AB 1378 would have expanded the list to include current and former legislators and legislative employees. The measure was proposed by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge.

The state auditor, whose office is responsible for receiving, evaluating and investigating whistleblower complaints, estimated that AB 1378 would increase costs by about $400,000 annually.

State Auditor Elaine Howle opposed the bill in a letter sent Thursday to Portantino and the Appropriations Committee. She said it would undermine and erode the independence of her office to handle investigations allegations involving the Legislature, which directs much of her staff's audit work, approves its budget, and has sole authority to remove her from office.

"The bottom line is that we cannnot and should not investigate our client -- the Legislature," she wrote.

By dying without reaching the Assembly floor, AB 1378 does not leave a trail of votes that incumbents might have to defend in upcoming elections. All 80 Assembly seats are on the ballot this year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated at 4:07 p.m. to clarify that the measure also would have applied to legislators. It also was updated at 5:11 p.m. to note that the state auditor opposed AB 1378.

January 19, 2012
Push to override Jerry Brown's veto of parks bill fails in Senate

A Republican senator's push to override Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of his state parks legislation failed today in the California Senate.

Sen. Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, brought up for reconsideration Senate Bill 356, which had proposed giving local governments the opportunity an opportunity to take over operation of state parks slated for closure due to budget cuts.

Blakeslee said the override would send a message to Brown, whom he described as California's "dreamer" governor in light of Wednesday's State of the State address, that the Legislature is working to "to economize and keep parks open."

"We have real world problems today that need immediate addressing and this is an opportunity for us potentially to keep state parks open that would otherwise close," he said.

Thirty-five senators had voted for the measure when it cleared the upper house unanimously in September. But support for bucking the Democratic governor, who called the legislation "unnecessary" in a veto message, was not as strong. Blakeslee's attempt to secure the two-thirds vote needed to override Brown's action failed with 13 lawmakers voting yes and 22 voting no. Those turning thumbs down included 20 Democrats who supported the bill last year.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that while the legislation is "meritorious," a move to override a governor's veto is "not a decision to be made lightly." Such a decision, he said, should be made by leaders from both caucuses, not an individual member.

"This isn't the bill, this isn't the time," the Sacramento Democrat said.

Blakeslee bristled at Steinberg's response, arguing that it shouldn't be left to "two people to emerge from a smoke-filled room" for the Legislature to use its constitutional authority to act independently of the governor and override a veto.

The presiding officer, Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian, admonished Blakeslee for mischaractarizing Steinberg's remarks, and Blakeslee conceded that one part of his statement wasn't accurate.

"Smoking in state buildings in California is not allowed, so it probably would not be a smoke-filled room," he quipped.

January 19, 2012
What would 'millionaires tax' collect? California experts disagree

Tax-the-rich measures may be popular, but California fiscal experts can't agree on how much they would raise.

Because wealthy earners have such volatile income streams, the state's two leading fiscal offices already disagree over how much Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan would generate

The latest example comes from a new state review of the "millionaires tax" backed by the California Federation of Teachers and Courage Campaign. The plan would charge an additional three percentage points on income above $1 million and five percentage points on income above $2 million.

A fiscal review filed last night shows that the Department of Finance believes it would generate about $9.5 billion over 18 months through June 2013. The Legislative Analyst's Office says it would raise only $6 billion. In the next fiscal year, Finance says it would raise $6 billion, while LAO says it would ring in $4 billion.

The two offices submitted their forecasts in a memo they sent to Attorney General Kamala Harris for petition purposes. It was due last Friday, but Harris spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said the fiscal offices can take more time if they request it. Harris has 15 days to write a title and summary for voters to read before deciding whether to sign a petition.

Brown has a head start on collecting signatures after state officials cleared his measure for signature gathering Wednesday. CFT secretary-treasurer Jeff Freitas said his coalition isn't backing away despite the governor's urging for it to do so.

"We're very much moving forward, securing support," Freitas said. "We have unions and community organizations getting on board. Our initiative is very much the voice of the people. It embodies the Occupy movement going on."

January 19, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown expects 'widespread business support' for tax campaign

IRVINE -- Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that he expects "widespread business support" for his campaign to raise taxes, including from health care and oil companies.

"Business is not only supporting it, but they're putting their money where their mouth is," Brown told reporters after meeting privately with about 50 members of the Orange County Business Council.

Brown has raised more than $1.2 million for his November ballot initiative to raise the state sale tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

He said of the proposal, "It's balanced, it's reasonable, and it's temporary."

The Democratic governor's remarks came on the second day of a two-day swing through Southern California to promote his plan to raise taxes and to invest in infrastructure and schools. Brown is scheduled to address the City Club of San Diego at noon.

On the club's website, the speech is titled "The State of the State, Plus One." Brown delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday.

His appearances today are in more conservative territory than on Wednesday, when Brown addressed the Democratic-controlled Legislature in Sacramento and an invitation-only crowd in Los Angeles. Both San Diego and Orange counties went for Brown's Republican opponent, Meg Whitman in the 2010 election -- in Orange County, by almost 20 percentage points.

Lucetta Dunn, president of the Orange County Business Council, said the group has not endorsed Brown's tax proposal but that "the room was supportive." She called it a "terrific meeting."

After meeting with teachers in Burbank on Tuesday afternoon, Brown was optimistic about his chances of passing a ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

"I think the voters are understanding," he said.

January 19, 2012
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino will not seek office this year

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, perhaps best known for pushing the Assembly to release member budgets after leaders threatened to furlough his staff last year, has decided not to run for state or federal office this year.

"I hope you understand that this decision in no way ends my political career," Portantino said in a written announcement Wednesday night.

"Placing it on 'hold' allows me to focus on my family while they need me. I will continue to work to put trust and accountability back into public service, now and in the future."

The D-La Cañada-Flintridge Democrat, who is termed out of the Assembly in December, has about $46,000 in a campaign finance committee named "Portantino For Senate 2016."

January 19, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown takes tax campaign to Irvine, San Diego

Gov. Jerry Brown continues his two-day campaign through Southern California today, talking up his ballot proposal on taxes.

First, he'll be meeting privately with members of the Orange County Business Council at 9:30 a.m. in Irvine. Then he's set to speak at the City Club of San Diego at noon.

Brown's advisers said Wednesday that he would start collecting signatures for his tax initiative immediately, as David Siders reports in today's Bee.

Back at the Capitol, both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled sessions for 9 a.m.

Friday is the deadline for any committee to report to the floor any bill introduced last year in their respective houses.

On the Senate side, the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee will conduct an overview of Brown's proposed budget. That hearing will start in the Capitol's Room 4203 after the Senate Appropriations Committee adjourns.

The Appropriations Committee will meet, appropriately enough, after the Senate session itself adjourns. Some 30 bills remain on the suspense file, including Sen. Mark Leno's Senate Bill 810 on single-payer health care coverage, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's Senate Bill 654 on redevelopment.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, will meet in Room 4202 after the lower house's session adjourns. You'll find its agenda at this link.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, turns 38 today.

January 18, 2012
Jerry Brown repeats speech, says he'll be in Los Angeles more

LOS ANGELES -- Hours after delivering his State of the State address to the Legislature this morning, Gov. Jerry Brown arrived this afternoon in Los Angeles, where he essentially read it again.

The Democratic governor told an invitation-only crowd at Los Angeles City Hall, including former Gov. Gray Davis and philanthropist Eli Broad, that he flew down this afternoon because "the business of government is not just under the Capitol dome," though a bank of television cameras at the back pointed to another reason a politician might visit L.A.

Brown is proposing a ballot measure to raise taxes, and he told reporters later, after meeting privately with teachers at an elementary school in Burbank, that he plans to travel more often this year.

"You can expect to see me in Los Angeles a lot more in the coming months," he said.

Brown is scheduled to appear in Irvine and San Diego on Thursday, concluding a two-day swing through Southern California.

Brown was accompanied by senior advisers on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento, including his wife, Anne Gust Brown.

He told reporters an updated business plan for California's controversial high-speed rail project will be released in three weeks.

January 18, 2012
Auto rate initiative qualifies for California ballot

Auto insurance companies will get a second shot at asking California voters to allow them to use a motorist's coverage history when setting rates.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced today that the proposed auto insurance pricing initiative has qualified for the November 2012 ballot. Proponents had submitted more than 800,000 voter signatures to election officials late last year.

The measure, backed by the American Agents Alliance, is similar to Proposition 17, the failed June 2010 measure bankrolled by Mercury General. Supporters, who say the change would allow companies to extend existing loyalty discounts to new customers who want to switch providers, have updated this version to address concerns about rates for members of the military and the unemployed.

Critics say the change would result in increased rates for motorists who experience a lapse in coverage.

The auto rate initiative is the third measure to qualify for the general election ballot. The two others are an $11 billion water bond, which was placed on the ballot by the Legislature, and a proposal to prohibit using paycheck deductions such as union dues to collect cash for political spending.

January 18, 2012
VIDEO: Steinberg, Pérez on future of high-speed rail

Gov. Jerry Brown wants the green light to move forward with construction of California's proposed bullet train.

The Democratic governor called on the Legislature to approve funding for the high-speed rail project today, telling lawmakers in his State of the State address that a revised business plan that will allow construction on the project to start by the end of the year will be released within weeks.

Despite ongoing criticisms about the cost and blueprint for the voter-approved rail project, Democratic legislative leaders appear poised to back the governor's commitment to the bullet train.

See why Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg support the project and where they stand on the question of where to start laying the track in this video from their Capitol press conference today.



January 18, 2012
California Democratic congressional candidates get boost

Democratic strategists on Wednesday put more serious muscle behind two Central Valley challengers to incumbents in the California congressional delegation.

In a move that opens up campaign pocketbooks, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee elevated former astronaut Jose Hernandez of San Joaquin County and physician Ami Bera of Sacramento County to the highest priority in the party's bid to reclaim the House.

"They are problem solvers," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., the committee's chairman. "Who can be more of a problem solver than an astronaut, who has to decide 'all systems are go.' "?

On Wednesday, Bera and Hernandez joined 16 other top-ranked Democrats on the party's designated first team of challengers, dubbed "Red to Blue" candidates for their potential to take back Republican seats.

Bera is challenging Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Hernandez is challenging Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater.

January 18, 2012
Kamala Harris gives Jerry Brown go-ahead on California tax initiative

Gov. Jerry Brown can begin collecting signatures on his tax initiative thanks to a timely release by state Attorney General Kamala Harris today.

Minutes before Brown took the podium in the Assembly chambers for his State of the State address, Harris' office issued petition language on his plan to ask voters for a temporary hike in income taxes on the rich and sales taxes.

The governor received a favorable title: "TEMPORARY TAXES TO FUND EDUCATION. GUARANTEED LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY FUNDING." Brown hopes to frame his initiative as a $6.9 billion increase to pay for schools and public safety, the two highest priority issues for voters.

First Lady Anne Gust Brown and top aide Nancy McFadden said Brown's campaign team would begin collecting signatures today.

The petition language reflects the disparity between the governor's tax projections and those of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. Though Brown believes his plan will raise $6.9 billion annually, the analyst thinks it will raise only $4.8 billion in the first budget cycle and $5.5 billion on average at full implementation.

January 18, 2012
Chat with Dan Walters: Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State

January 18, 2012
VIDEO -- Rapid Response Roundup: State of the State

Gov. Jerry Brown began his speech Wednesday by chiding Republican lawmakers who responded a little too rapidly to his State of the State address. Assembly Republican leader Connie
Conway
and Senate Republican leader Bob Huff put out their videotaped response a day earlier.

"I noticed that Connie and Mr. Huff put out their critique of my speech 24 hours ago," Brown said. "I'll let you in on a little secret -- my speech wasn't finished 24 hours ago."

Given what he called their "powers of precognition and clairvoyance," Brown said he planned to check with Conway and Huff on some stock tips after the speech.

"We could use them -- especially the state," he said.

Here's an assortment of responses that arrived after Brown stopped talking:

January 18, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State 2012: Full text

Here is the full text of Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State 2012 address, "California on the Mend," as released by the Governor's Press Office on Wednesday, January 18, 2012. Remarks as prepared.

As required by the state constitution, I am reporting to you this morning on the condition of our state.

Putting it as simply as I can, California is on the mend. Last year, we were looking at a structural deficit of over $20 billion. It was a real mess. But you rose to the occasion and together we shrunk state government, reduced our borrowing costs and transferred key functions to local government, closer to the people. The result is a problem one fourth as large as the one we confronted last year.

January 18, 2012
Jerry Brown defends California and his tax plan

Gov. Jerry Brown defended his plan to raise taxes in his State of the State address this morning, the second of his third term, depicting California as a place of opportunity ripe for investment in high-speed rail, water infrastructure and schools.

"California is on the mend," he said.

Brown called his ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest-earners "fair," and he suggested, as he has for weeks, that schools would suffer if higher taxes aren't approved.

"Given the cutbacks to education in recent years, it is imperative that California devote more tax dollars to this most basic of public services," he said to applause. "If we are successful in passing the temporary taxes I have proposed and the economy continues to expand, schools will be in a much stronger position."

January 18, 2012
Assemblyman Warren Furutani loses bid for LA City Council

BB FURUTANI 0265.JPGIt looks like Assemblyman Warren Furutani won't be leaving the Legislature this month after all.

The Gardena Democrat was defeated by Los Angeles Police Department officer Joe Buscaino in yesterday's runoff election for a vacant Los Angeles City Council seat by a 22-point margin.

The two Democrats were vying for the 15th Council District seat vacated by Democrat Janice Hahn's 2011 election to Congress.

Furutani, who was first elected to the state Assembly in a 2008 special election, will be termed out of the lower house in 2014. He has been drawn into the same district as fellow Assembly Democrat Isadore Hall for the 2012 election.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly member, Warren Furutani, casts his first vote on the floor of the Assembly after he was is sworn in, Thursday, Feb. 7 2008. Furutani won a special election in District 55, to succeed Laura Richardson, who was recently elected to represent the 37th Congressional District. (Sacramento Bee/ MCT/ Brian Baer / BBAER@SACBEE.COM).

January 18, 2012
AM Alert: No golf whispers during State of the State address

It's all ears for Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address this morning -- and no golf whispers in Assembly chambers.

The annual address, which begins at 10 a.m., requires a fair amount of media choreography.

Live trucks can start lining up at 6 a.m. for a security sweep from California Highway Patrol officers before they're allowed on Capitol grounds. If they get there after 7 a.m., they'll be out of luck.

Then reporters hauling radio and television gear will set it up. Everybody needs to be in place by 9:25 a.m. They also need to be sporting business attire, or they could find themselves ejected from chambers.

Another no-no: ringing cellphones.

Come back later -- The Bee will be broadcasting the governor's address live at sacbee.com/live. You'll also find it at CalChannel. Live audio also will be available on Capital Public Radio station KXJZ-FM 90.9 in Sacramento.

After his State of the State address, Brown will be heading to Southern California to talk up his ballot measure on taxes to California voters, as David Siders and Torey Van Oot report in today's Bee.

First, he'll be talking at Los Angeles City Hall, starting at 2 p.m. That event will be webcast live at the governor's website. Later, at 4 p.m., he'll meet privately with teachers at Bret Harte Elementary School in Burbank. Thursday, Brown will make his pitch in Irvine and San Diego.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: The Senate Rules Committee considers gubernatorial appointments, with Public Utilities Commission members Michael Florio and Catherine Sandoval required to appear. The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 113.

January 17, 2012
GOP responds to Jerry Brown's address before it's given

Republican legislative leaders rolled out their response to Gov. Jerry Brown's 2012 State of the State address Tuesday, slamming the Democratic governor for telling Californians that the"sky will fall" without higher taxes.

"Today Governor Brown shared his vision for California for the year ahead," Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway says in a video. "Republicans were eager to hear his ideas for the many challenges facing our state. Unfortunately, the governor's vision is centered around one thing: higher taxes."

The only thing is Brown hasn't shared that vision yet.

January 17, 2012
Federal government approves California's new political districts

California's newly drawn legislative and congressional lines cleared a major hurdle today when the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that they do not dilute minority voting power in four counties under federal oversight.

The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires such approval of any new political districts formed in Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba counties to ensure that they do not adversely affect minority groups.

The justice department gave the green light in a two-paragraph ruling that did not elaborate on its findings.

A Republican-backed coalition, Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) had filed arguments with the justice department challenging the legality of the newly drawn state Senate maps, focusing their arguments on lines drawn in Monterey and Merced counties.

January 17, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown to call for less state testing in schools

Gov. Jerry Brown will call for less statewide testing and expanding classroom focus beyond math and English in his annual State of the State address tomorrow, according to his top education adviser.

Sue Burr, executive director of the State Board of Education, told hundreds of school finance officials today that Brown will seek to reduce student testing and push districts to focus on a broader array of subject areas. She spoke at an annual workshop produced by School Services of California, which advises districts on how to budget for the next school year.

"We think there's way, way too much testing in our system right now," Burr said. "Just as an example, a 10th grade student takes 15 hours' worth of tests. So that sophomore is losing 15 hours of their instructional program."

Burr said that while some testing is necessary for measuring schools, Brown will ask lawmakers to "take (hours) away from testing and give it back to instruction."

January 17, 2012
Capitol Weekly ends print edition

Capitol Weekly, the 23-year-old chronicle of state government in Sacramento, announced today that it is suspending its print edition effective Thursday.

The paper will continue to publish an online version.

The newspaper's publisher, Arnold York: released a statement online:

"This step, an essential element of the reorganization of our company, was prompted by challenging economic times coupled with the need for new technologies to expand our company's online, social media and electronic communication capabilities."

Founded in 1988 by Ken Mandler, the newspaper in the early years focused largely on state government jobs. Arnold and Karen York purchased it in 2005, and expanded its mission to include more news and analysis.

January 17, 2012
'Think Long Committee for California' backs away from tax measure

Gov. Jerry Brown scored a tactical victory in his quest to raise taxes Tuesday when the "Think Long Committee for California" decided not to pursue its own tax reform plan this year.

The committee, which was created by billionaire Nicholas Berggruen and counted a number of prominent Californians in its membership, had proposed a massive overhaul of California taxes to reduce revenue volatility. The group was planning for the November ballot.

That complicated Brown's plans to ask voters for a more modest temporary increase in sales and income taxes that he wants to balance the state budget. He and other advocates worried that having a multitude of competing tax measures on the ballot would confuse voters and perhaps lead to rejection of all.

It's still possible, however, that Brown will have competition because Molly Munger, a wealthy civil rights activist, is pursuing a broad income tax increase to bolster public school financing. Brown is trying to persuade her to back away as well.

The Think Long Committee's announcement that it would postpone its measure until 2014 didn't mention the complicated politics of the situation but rather said it was taking more time to refine its tax reform proposal.

"It is clear from public reaction, stakeholder meetings and our own public opinion research that Californians are hungry for real reform and are more willing than ever to support a sweeping plan that is fair and will put an end to California's perpetual financial volatility and suffocating wall of debt," the committee said in a statement. "At the same time, we recognize the practical constraints of the 2012 election calendar - and have come to the conclusion that it will take more time to perfect these proposals, eliminate unintended consequences and provide every stakeholder and everyday Californians a meaningful voice in that process."

January 17, 2012
Committee vote on single-payer health bill delayed until Thursday

Legislation to create a single-payer health care system in California was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee suspense file today, delaying action on the bill until later this week.

After hearing from a long line of supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 810 this afternoon, committee members added the legislation to a list of costly proposals that are set to be considered on Thursday.

The bill, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, does not include any taxes or fees to cover the cost of the system, which would be run by a new state agency. A fiscal analysis pegged the annual cost of the bill at $200 billion to $250 billion.

Supporters, who say the proposal would simply shift $200 billion already spent on health care annually to a new system, cast the bill as an effort to lower cost for consumers and expand access to coverage for medical care. Opponents argued that the government should not get more involved in health care and that the proposal could end up making costs higher.

Similar legislation died on the Assembly floor in the 2009-2010 legislative session. Another version that was approved in both houses in the 2007-2008 session was vetoed by then GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

RELATED STORIES:

California lawmakers take another crack at 'single-payer' health care bill


January 17, 2012
California GOP Sen. Tony Strickland launches bid for Congress

Strickland.jpgSen. Tony Strickland has made his plans to run for Congress official, launching his campaign at a Camarillo news conference for the newly drawn 26th Congressional District.

The Moorpark Republican decided to enter the race after longtime Rep. Elton Gallegly announced plans to retire. Gallegly, who lives in Simi Valley, had been considering a run in the incumbent-free CD26 after his own home was drawn into the same district as fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon.

Strickland, who served three terms in the Assembly before being elected to the state Senate in 2008, cited national security and promoting alternative energy sources as top issues for his campaign.

"I expect the campaign ahead to be spirited but I'm committed to uniting our community; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents behind policies that create jobs and economic opportunity for those struggling to make ends meet," he said in a statement.

The open swing seat has already attracted a half dozen local officials, most of whom are Democrats, as possible candidates, according to an analysis by AroundtheCapitol.com.

Strickland's move opens the door for another Republican to run in the 27th Senate District, a swing seat that is expected to see one of the most contested state legislative races of 2012. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, is reportedly considering a run, but is waiting for the Supreme Court to signal what it will do if a referendum of the Senate map qualifies. He would face Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and possibly former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, urges lawmakers to reject a plan to extend a tax increase for another year to help close California's state budget deficit, at the Capitol in Sacramento, June 10, 2011. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)

January 17, 2012
Democrat Richard Roth to run for 31st California Senate District

richard_roth_rd_R.jpgRiverside Democrat Richard D. Roth announced today that he will run for the 31st Senate District, a swing seat that Senate Democrats are targeting as part of their effort to win a two-thirds majority in the upper house.

The attorney and former Air Force officer became the party's choice candidate after efforts to recruit Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge for the seat were unsuccessful. Loveridge joined local political leaders, such as former state Sen. Robert Presley, in endorsing Roth today.

"As a small businessman and retired Air Force officer, I believe there's one thing our elected leaders can take from our men and women in uniform: public service needs to be about working together to get the job done," Roth said in a statement. "It's time to end the partisan games and focus on the critical mission for Riverside County, creating a climate for real job growth."

Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, has emerged as the GOP's top candidate for the seat. Former Democratic Assemblyman Steve Clute also launched a campaign for the seat last year.

PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Roth, courtesy of U.S. Air Force

January 17, 2012
California mayors swarm Washington

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin are scheduled to join some 250 of their mayoral counterparts in Washington, D.C. this week for the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

All told, about three dozen California mayors are scheduled to take part in the conference, which runs Tuesday through Friday. Some are taking a relatively high profile. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the organization's president, will give the annual State of the Cities presentation. Johnson, on Friday, will chair a panel discussion on education reform. Swearengin is participating in a panel discussion on exports.

January 17, 2012
AM Alert: Senate committee considers 'Medicare for all'

Would "Medicare for all" in California cut medical costs and insurance premiums and also improve access to health care?

The Senate Appropriations Committee is taking up a bill today that would set up a state agency to run a single-payer health care system.

Senate Bill 810, by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, is running into opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, as Jon Ortiz reports in today's Bee. The hearing is set to begin at noon in the Capitol's Room 4203.

Also on the committee's agenda is Sen. Ted Lieu's "gut-and-amend" Senate Bill 661 to make it a crime, except on private property, to set up a picket at a funeral.

It's the Torrance Democrat's second try at the issue in recent months. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Lieu's similar measure in September, saying in his veto message that he was "very tempted to sign it" but that it went against the recent U.S. Supreme Court's decision that the First Amendment protects such protests and that they "can be circumscribed in only extremely limited ways."

The new version would set up a 500-foot protest-free zone, half the length proposed in the vetoed measure. The new version is also missing the original bill's reference to targeting the dead person or the mourners because of marital status, sexual orientation or other factors.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, will announce his campaign for Congress at an aviation museum in Camarillo at 10 a.m.

It's also T minus one day to the governor's State of the State address, which he's set to give at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

"You're going to hear so much that I wouldn't miss it if I were you," Brown said last week.

ELECTION NIGHT: Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, will be in Torrance tonight watching the returns in his runoff with Los Angeles police officer Joe Buscaino, a political newcomer, for the Los Angeles City Council seat vacated by Janice Hahn.

January 16, 2012
Jerry Brown commits typo, forced to re-file tax initiative

Gov. Jerry Brown is taking a mulligan, tripped up by a typographical error and forced to re-file his ballot initiative to raise taxes.

The Democratic governor on Friday filed paperwork with the state for "The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012- ver. 2." The measure is identical to one Brown filed in December, the governor said in a filing with the attorney general's office, "except that we have corrected a typographical error that resulted in two numbers being transposed."

Re-filing an initiative can delay the attorney general's preparation of its title and summary, potentially condensing the period for a proponent to gather signatures and making that effort more expensive.

But Brown adviser Steve Glazer said this afternoon that he does not expect the mistake to affect Brown's timing ahead of the November election.

"We don't think it will affect our schedule," Glazer said. "It was a typo."

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, opposes Brown's tax measure, but he was sympathetic about Brown's mistake.

"It's when you find that mistake after spending $1 million on signatures that that's a real problem," he said. "This is really part of the whole initiative game."

Coupal said he expects the re-filing to "affect the timing a little bit." But for the initiative to be on the street by the end of the month, as Glazer expects, "sounds about right," Coupal said.

Brown's measure, to temporarily increase the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners, is expected to be a major focus for the governor this year, in the second year of his third term.

To see the correction, read Brown's letter on the jump

January 13, 2012
Assembly kills legislation to regulate high-interest car title loans

Legislation to regulate high-interest loans in which borrowers use their vehicles as collateral died this week in the Assembly.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said he was disappointed by the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee's rejection of his Assembly Bill 336 but will try again next year.

"(AB 336) would have offered at least some minimal protections to consumers for these loans, which have outrageous interest rates," he said.

Dickinson's bill targeted loans offered at annual interest rates ranging from 72 percent to 180 percent to car owners who have very low credit scores, need quick cash, and have few other options for borrowing money.

Lenders take title to the borrower's car as collateral and typically loan less money than the vehicle is worth. Thus, lenders are left with little financial risk because they benefit whether the borrower pays or the car is repossessed, Dickinson said.

State law does not restrict the interest rates charged on car-title loans of more than $2,.500.

AB 336 would have imposed additional disclosure requirements on lenders, including informing borrowers of total costs over the life of the loan. The bill also would have banned structuring car-title loans as a combination sale and leaseback.

Under Dickinson's measure, lenders would have been barred from making such loans if payments would exceed 50 percent of a borrower's gross monthly income.

Opponents of AB 336 contended that cracking down on car-title loans would leave borrowers with few other options and that high interest rates were necessary, in part, to cover costs of repossessing, handling and selling vehicles when defaults occur.

January 13, 2012
California GOP taps Jennifer Kerns as communications director

The California Republican Party has a new spokesperson heading into the 2012 elections.

Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro announced today that it has hired GOP political consultant Jennifer Kerns as its communications director. She replaces outgoing communications director Mark Standriff, who is leaving the post after two years to work as a communications adviser and consultant to candidate campaigns.

Kerns, who runs K Street Communications, has represented the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, the 2008 ballot measure banning same-sex marriage and the campaign against a failed 2009 tax initiative in recent years.

Del Beccaro said in a statement that she "brings not only an unrelenting desire for our Party and for its goals to succeed, but also a great deal of creativity that will help us drive our message in 2012."

Standriff will remain a consultant to the party. Del Beccaro said his "tireless" work to help the state GOP reach more voters has helped the party in "immeasurable ways."

January 13, 2012
Sacramento premiere set for film on same-sex marriage ballot fight

Question One - Sacramento from Fly On The Wall Productions on Vimeo.

Don't bother asking Sacramento political consultant Frank Schubert what he thinks of the movie "Question One -- The Battle for Same-Sex Marriage in America."

He hasn't seen it. And he has no plans to.

The documentary, set to premiere on the West Coast at Sacramento's Crest Theater on Feb. 1, depicts the 2009 ballot war in Maine over same-sex marriage. Maine lawmakers approved same sex marriage. Maine voters, with urging from Schubert and partner Jeff Flint of Schubert Flint Public Affairs, repealed it. Schubert Flint took the Maine job in the aftermath of guiding Proposition 8's gay marriage ban to victory in California in 2008.

"I have no plans to see the movie, and I already know how it ends," Schubert said Friday. He said he is skeptical that the film constitutes an even-handed portrayal of the campaign, particularly because one of his allies in the campaign -- Catholic diocese official Marc Mutty -- "is portrayed as being upset with me."

New York filmmaker Joseph Fox, who raised eyebrows when he publicly came out as gay after the campaign, said the movie is simply a "mirror" on what transpired in both war rooms.

"We set out to make a movie right down the middle, and we were granted access from both sides," Fox said in an interview Friday.

The movie premiered in Maine in November, and the filmmakers are just beginning to market the showing in Sacramento, Schubert Flint's home turf. The trailer (above) prominently features Schubert speaking to supporters of the marriage ban.

"The covering of the process of campaigns is something the media likes to do, but I don't think it's particularly interesting or particularly informing," Schubert said.

Fox would like to Schubert to reconsider. "I would be delighted," Fox said, "to have him see it."

January 13, 2012
Assembly kills bill to require legislative vote on peripheral canal

A bill to require legislative approval before any new peripheral canal could be built to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to other parts of the state died this week in the California Assembly.

Democratic Assemblywoman Alyson Huber of El Dorado Hills proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 550, which was rejected Tuesday by the Assembly's Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee by a vote of five yes, seven no.

The measure would have barred construction of such a canal if it would impact the Delta or its residents in ways ranging from imposing a financial burden to negatively affecting water rights, quality or supply.

Huber said Friday she will not try to revive AB 550 this year, but she will continue to push a provision calling for an independent analysis of financial feasibility prior to construction of any canal.

The Legislature, as part of a package of water legislation in 2009, created a Delta stewardship to develop a plan for long-term water supply and Delta protection. Four of its seven voting members are appointed by the governor.

Water exporters, business interests and Southern California officials have long supported construction of a new water canal to help stabilize California water supplies.

Huber contends that the stewardship council is moving toward approving such a project and that lawmakers, not appointees, should make the decision on "one of the largest infrastructure projects in California history."

"Ultimately my view lost," she said.

Tackling California's water problems pits powerful interests against each other, sparking political headaches.

"Ultimately, I think that the Legislature is afraid to be involved in decisions involving water," Huber said.

Two Republicans on the Assembly water committee opposed Huber's bill, along with five Democrats, including four from Southern California.

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, a Fresno Republican who voted against AB 550, said that the Legislature should not renege on the commitment it made in 2009 to form the stewardship council.

"I don't believe in breaking promises," Halderman said Friday.

"In my view, once we start down that road, we create a body that's guaranteed to be dysfunctional," she said.

January 13, 2012
Assemblywoman Linda Halderman moves into tiny 'doghouse'

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman already is in the "doghouse," less than two weeks after the new legislative year began.

The 43-year-old Fresno Republican and medical surgeon was chosen by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to replace GOP colleague Beth Gaines of Roseville in the shoebox-size Capitol office known as the doghouse.

Halderman declined substantive comment Friday, but said with a smile that the tiny office suits her fine and offers a nice view.

Though not always used as punishment, the cramped fifth-floor office attracted the nickname "doghouse" because Assembly speakers through the years have tended to assign it to lawmakers who angered them.

Pérez's office did not comment on why Halderman was assigned to the 391-square-foot office, which is 135 square feet smaller than the next smallest Assembly office and about 300 square feet less than the norm.

Pérez spokesman John Vigna said only that speakers shift member office assignments every year.

Halderman is known as one of the most conservative lawmakers in an Assembly dominated by liberal Democrats.

Privately, colleagues say that Halderman also raised eyebrows last year by joining in a failed behind-the-scenes effort to prod Connie Conway to step down as Assembly Republican leader. Halderman characterized such reports Friday as rumors.

January 13, 2012
Jerry Brown vows to push forward with high-speed rail

Less than 24 hours after the chief administrator of California's troubled high-speed rail project resigned, Gov. Jerry Brown this morning defended the $98.5 billion project and said he will push it forward.

The resignation of Roelof van Ark, the chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and an announcement the same day of the planned installation of Brown adviser Dan Richard as chairman of the rail board, were viewed by many as an effort by Brown to recast the project ahead of legislative hearings this year.

"I'm putting my own stamp on state government, slowly but surely," the Democratic governor told reporters after an event in Elk Grove.

He said Richard "knows his material."

The Legislature is highly skeptical of the project, and public opinion has turned against it, according to a recent Field Poll.

"We're pushing forward," Brown said. "We're going to build, but we're not going to be stupid ... We're going to be very careful and build incrementally as we go."

He said, "A lot of people want to turn off the lights. I'm not one of them. We're going to build, we're going to invest, and California is going to stay up among the great states and the great political jurisdictions of the world."

Brown was asked what people might expect to hear from him in his State of the State address next week.

He said, "You're going to hear so much that I wouldn't miss it if I were you."

January 13, 2012
FPPC sues United States Postal Service over records request

The state political watchdog agency has delivered a lawsuit to the United States Postal Service in an ongoing dispute over public records.

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, stems from a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into whether a campaign mailing sent in a 2008 local recall campaign violated the state Political Reform Act.

The agency sought to obtain from the USPS records showing how many mail pieces were sent to determine whether the mailing was large enough to trigger mandatory disclosures.Though it has provided similar information in the past, according to the FPPC, the USPS denied the agency's request.

FPPC Chair Ann Ravel said in a statement that the agency felt "compelled to take action" out of concern that the USPS' "refusal to provide this simple information will result in shutting down the enforcement of all similar laws in every State."

"The Post Office's unreasonable refusal to provide the information and bizarre use of FOIA to prevent the release of basic information prohibits the Commission from executing its mission," she said in a statement. "The Commission is left with no other choice but to bring a cause of action against the Post Office to compel disclosure."

A spokesman for the postal service declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying attorneys are still reviewing the complaint.

USPS FOIA Complaint 1-5-12

Editor's note: This post has been updated with the USPS response.

January 13, 2012
California Legislature has first 'per diem session' of the year

The California Legislature conducted its first "per diem session" of the year Friday -- brief meetings of both legislative houses that allowed their members to take off a three-day holiday weekend without losing their $141.86 per day, tax-free expense payments.

Had the Legislature not met Friday -- the Senate for less than 30 minutes, the Assembly for slightly over an hour -- and observed Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, members would have lost the payments for four days, totaling nearly $70,000.

The per diem payments average more than $25,000 per year per legislator on top of their salaries, although a few members don't take the money. Per diem is supposed to compensate legislators for housing and meals in Sacramento. The state constitution says that the payments continue seven days a week, as long as the Legislature is not out of session for more than three consecutive days.

The Legislature's long-standing practice is to meet from Monday to Thursday - the latter having been dubbed "getaway day" -- unless there's a crunch of business, but when there's a Monday holiday such as MLK Jr. Day, it routinely has brief sessions on Fridays to avoid running afoul of the three-day rule.

Both houses devoted much of their brief meetings to speeches commemorating King, the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968.

Although technically it's a three-day holiday, it's more than four days for the Legislature, since it convened at 9 a.m. Friday and won't reconvene in the Capitol until midday Tuesday.

January 13, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown, Ken Salazar follow the sun to Elk Grove

Gov. Jerry Brown is heading to Elk Grove today to talk up green jobs for California.

Brown and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are announcing a federal-state agreement billed as advancing the state's goals on renewable energy as well as creating clean-energy jobs in the Golden State.

The presser starts at 11 a.m. at solar farms now run by Recurrent Energy, which is selling them to Google Inc., as The Bee's Rick Daysog mentioned in this story earlier this week. Recurrent Energy's CEO, Arno Harris, is also expected to be on hand.

Salazar was in Los Angeles on Thursday and is scheduled to visit Fort Ord in Monterey County this afternoon. It's all part of his swing this week through California and Arizona touting the economic benefits of clean energy, tourism and conservation.

The governor, meanwhile, will be in Los Angeles this weekend for an appearance at a 11th annual multifaith prayer breakfast put on by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Executive Clergy Council. Brown's talk Saturday is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at the Power of Love Church on West Manchester Avenue.

As for the Legislature, it's a per diem day in the Senate and the Assembly. Both houses have scheduled sessions, which aren't expected to be lengthy, in advance of Monday's legislative holiday marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Committee hearings start up again on Tuesday, with the Senate Appropriations Committee set to take up Sen. Mark Leno's Senate Bill 810 on single-payer health coverage starting at noon. For the record, the measure lists 29 co-authors -- all Democrats.

WATCH LIST: Governing magazine has named Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, one of the nation's 12 state lawmakers to watch this year. Lieu is "that rare Democratic political figure who combines it all," Democratic strategist Garry South told the Washington, D.C.-based monthly. He was the only Californian to make the list. Read the full article at this link.

MEMORIAL: A public memorial service will be held Saturday in Montebello to celebrate the life of Marcella Calderon, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon's wife, who died earlier this month. The memorial begins at 1 p.m. at the Applied Technology Center at 1200 W. Mines Ave.

STATE BUDGET: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor says Gov. Jerry Brown's budget would help bring the state's spending in line but relies on volatile income, as The Bee's Kevin Yamamura reported earlier this week. The Assembly Republican Caucus has also launched a website giving its take on the governor's proposal. You'll find it at this link.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach, celebrates his 68th birthday on Sunday.

January 12, 2012
Berman-Sherman battle stirs embers of 1980 speakership fight

The political shootout of the year, at least in Southern California, is the duel between two veteran Democratic congressmen who were thrown into the same district by the independent redistricting commission, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.

Their high-octane contest in the new 30th Congressional District has divided Los Angeles' Jewish and labor communities. As it turns out, it has also stirred the embers of a bitter, 32-year-old battle in the state Capitol over the speakership of the state Assembly.

In 1980, Berman, then a state assemblyman, tried to oust fellow Democrat Leo McCarthy, who had become speaker six years earlier. That led to a year-long conflict that eventually ended in a draw. Willie Brown -- whom McCarthy had defeated for speaker in 1974 -- succeeded his old rival, elected over Berman by McCarthy Democrats and Republicans.

January 12, 2012
California high-speed rail head Roelof van Ark resigns

LS VAN ARK 1.JPGRoelof van Ark, chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, announced this afternoon that he is quitting, the latest setback for the state's beleaguered campaign to build a nearly $100 billion rail network in California.

His resignation, announced at a board meeting in Los Angeles and effective in two months, comes at a critical point for the project, with rail officials bidding for Legislative approval to start construction in the Central Valley this fall. Public opinion about the project has fallen sharply, according to a recent Field Poll, and the Legislature is highly skeptical.

Minutes after van Ark's announcement, Tom Umberg announced that he is stepping down as chairman of the rail board, though he will remain a member of the board. Umberg is to be replaced next month by Dan Richard, an adviser Gov. Jerry Brown appointed to the board last year.

Brown, a Democrat, became a vocal supporter of the project last year and appointed two advisers, Richard and Mike Rossi, to the rail board. This month, Brown proposed folding the authority into a new state agency, the Transportation Agency, a measure rail officials support.

Van Ark was hired in 2010 and oversaw the authority's creation of an updated business plan that raised the estimated cost of the project to almost $100 billion over 20 years. Lawmakers said the plan was more credible than before, but many lawmakers remain critical of the project's management and cost.

Van Ark cited personal reasons for his resignation.

"I need to focus myself more on my family, and maybe some other interests," he told board members. He said he may continue on the project as a consultant.

Van Ark used his resignation announcement to reiterate his support of the rail authority's decision to start construction in the Central Valley, controversial because it is far from California's population centers. The administration signaled no change of course.

While Richard said he was "very skeptical of that notion" when he joined the board, he said, "I sit here today as somebody who's been fully convinced."

Van Ark told The Bee last year that he considered it a personal challenge to ensure implementation of the project.

"I really believe that California should have a system like this," he said. "This state is so well positioned for high-speed rail."

Editor's note: Updated at 3:05 p.m. to include comments from the meeting in Los Angeles.

PHOTO CREDIT: Roelof van Ark, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

January 12, 2012
Welfare cut relies on shifting money to scholarships

One of the best examples of the complexity in California budgeting is how Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed saving $1 billion through deep welfare-to-work cuts.

The state cannot cut $1 billion of its own money on welfare, or else it would spend so little on the program that the federal government would take away federal funds. On paper, it looks like Brown would only cut $248 million in state welfare costs, even though $1 billion in welfare programs would be reduced.

To actually save the full $1 billion, the state needs to play the annual fund shift game. Brown's solution: Rather than use only state money to fund Cal Grants - college scholarship aid for the poor - California would use $736 million of federal funds that formerly went to welfare recipients.

California receives a $3.7 billion Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant from the federal government each year, which the state uses to help pay for welfare-to-work and other programs that help the poor. Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor suggested Wednesday that this block grant gives states more freedom than other federally funded programs like Medicaid.

In grappling with a deficit, the state is looking for all of the freedom it can get. So when budget writers find outside dollars that can be tapped for other purposes, they use it.

California would likely justify its federal low-income dollars for scholarships by saying that Cal Grants help poor students become employable and discourage them from starting families without financial means, thus keeping them out of the state's welfare-to-work program.

"It doesn't have to be spent on direct assistance," said Caroline Danielson, a policy fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California. "It can serve to help needy families reach self-sufficiency."

January 12, 2012
Education Week gives California a 'C' for its schools

California's 6 million-student public education system receives high marks for setting high academic standards but very low grades for meeting those standards and school finance in the latest national rankings by Education Week magazine.

Overall, the state receives a "C grade for its public schools with a mark of 76.1 on the 1-100 scale, slightly below the nation as a whole. For the fourth year in a row, Maryland's schools came out on top at 87.8 while South Dakota came in last with 68.1.

The magazine rates states' schools on six criteria - chances for successes, K-12 achievement, standards and assessments, teaching profession improvement, finance and preparing students for work or college. California received an "A" grade for standards and assessments, a "B" for preparing students, a "C" in chances for success, teaching profession improvement and finance, and a "D" in K-12 achievement.

School finance is the area that draws the most political attention, and in that, Education Week says California does well in equalizing support among schools, with a "B-plus," but is given an "F" for spending, reflecting the state's relatively low level of per-pupil support from state and local taxes.

The state's schools have lost billions of dollars in state aid due to chronic budget deficits and are likely to see more cuts this year, but Gov. Jerry Brown has also proposed an overhaul of how aid is allocated, eliminating many "categorical aid" programs and creating a simpler method that gives more aid to schools with poor and/or low-performing students.

January 12, 2012
California Rep. Jerry Lewis announces retirement

jerrylewis.JPGRep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, announced Thursday he will be retiring at the end of the current Congress.

Lewis, 77, has served in the House since 1979, making him one of California's most senior and highly placed lawmakers. He was the first Californian to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and he has long prided himself on his ability to steer federal funds toward California.

"After months of consultation with loved ones and family, my wife Arlene and I have decided to retire from public life," Lewis said in a statement. "We are deeply grateful to so many who have provided their support over the years. I have worked hard to justify that support."

Lewis becomes the sixth California lawmaker to announce a stepping-down at the end of the 112th Congress.

PHOTO CAPTION: Representative Jerry Lewis

January 12, 2012
AM Alert: Finance's Matosantos talks budget with CalChamber

The state budget will be front and center today as Gov. Jerry Brown's finance director, Ana Matosantos, talks to members of the California Chamber of Commerce at its luncheon forum.

Over the holidays, Brown adviser Steve Glazer was tapped to advise CalChamber's political action committee on matters involving Democratic candidates in this year's elections, as The Bee's David Siders reported in this post. Republican strategist Rob Stutzman is the chamber's GOP adviser.

Speaking of elections, the California Redistricting Commission holds a teleconference this afternoon for a report on the state Supreme Court hearing earlier this week, which The Bee's Jim Sanders wrote about here, plus a status update on the ballot proposal to block its state Senate maps. You'll find the commission's agenda for today's meeting at this link.

The high court has said it will decide by the end of the month which maps the state should use in this year's elections. The secretary of state's office announced this week that a random check of petition signatures didn't hit the target needed to avoid a full check to see whether the proposal qualifies for the November ballot. Election officials now have until Feb. 24 to complete that full check.

Anybody who wants to run for state Senate, meanwhile, needs to formally file candidacy papers between Feb. 13 and March 9, according to the state's primary election calendar.

Click here for more information about the ballot measure, posted at the secretary of state's website.

BROADBAND COUNCIL: Members of the California Broadband Council meet with the Federal Communications Commission's chief counsel and members of the state's Public Utilities Commission about expanding broadband access to all areas of the state. The council, set up by a bill authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, is charged with eliminating the state's so-called "digital divide." The roundtable starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 112 and will be streamed live on CalChannel at this link.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, turns 52 today.

January 11, 2012
Number of Californians with million-dollar incomes up sharply

The number of Californians reporting incomes of more than $1 million increased sharply last year, as did their share of the income stream, a new report from the Franchise Tax Board reveals.

The new data will fuel the political debate over whether high-income Californians should pay higher taxes.

There were 10,000 taxpayers in the million-dollar income club during the 2009 tax year -- just one-third of one percent of all returns -- but that number jumped 27 percent to more than 13,000 for 2010, based on tax returns filed in 2011.

The income millionaires reported adjusted gross incomes of $22.4 billion in 2009, an average of $2.2 million each. In 2010, the total jumped 30.2 percent to $29.1 billion, with the average remaining virtually unchanged.

January 11, 2012
Oakland developer Phil Tagami among lottery board appointees

Phil Tagami, the Oakland developer who made headlines by defending his building with a shotgun during Occupy protests last year, has been appointed to the California Lottery Commission, one of three commission appointments Gov. Jerry Brown announced this afternoon.

Brown's recasting of the three-member commission comes a month after his appointment of a new lottery director, former business consultant Robert O'Neill. The lottery does about $3 billion in game sales annually and provides about $1 billion to California schools.

Like Brown, the appointees all are Democrats. Brown and Tagami, 46, know each other from Oakland, where Brown was mayor, and Tagami is a political supporter of his.

The Bay Area News Group reported in November that Tagami guarded his Rotunda Building in Oakland with a shotgun when Occupy protesters tried to force their way in.

"They took a few steps forward, and I racked the shotgun and they left," the newspaper quoted Tagami as saying. "It's sort of the universal 'Don't come any farther' sign."

Also appointed to the commission were Nathaniel Kirtman III, 40, senior vice president of publicity for NBC Universal, and John Smolin, 43, a Los Angeles County firefighter.

Brown was under some pressure to make the appointments. The terms of two of the previous three commissioners expired in November, though they continued to serve. A third commissioner stepped down in December.

The appointments require Senate confirmation and pay a $100 per diem.

January 11, 2012
Long shot Fred Karger taking presidential campaign to Michigan

bp fred karger.JPGAfter logging an estimated 500 events and more than 200 days in the Granite State, California Republican Fred Karger has survived the first contest of his presidential campaign.

"I made it," Karger said today. "I'm still standing!"

Karger, who has made headlines for being the only openly gay candidate in the GOP presidential race, came in eighth place in last night's New Hampshire primary, with current counts showing he won 485 votes.

A last-minute surge in the final tally allowed him to meet his goal of edging out Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses.

"A lot of people like to vote for someone who has a shot at winning," he said of the results. "But I'm very proud of the votes I got."

Karger plans to return to his home in Southern California for a few days before heading back to the trail to begin campaigning for his next contest -- Michigan's Feb. 28 primary.

"I never intended to be on 50 state ballots because we're a lean, mean machine here, and so I wanted to compete in states where I have a chance," he said.

The pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage candidate is hoping the whittling of the field will allow him to finally secure a spot in a national debate in the coming weeks. While he faces long odds to make it to the White House, the former political consultant to President Ronald Reagan says that as long as there's a race for president, he'll be in it.

"I will not continue forward if it's a done deal," he said of the prospect of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clinching the nomination. "But if Ron Paul continues or (Jon) Huntsman or (Newt) Gingrich catches fire and there is a two- or three- or four-person race, I am going to be nipping at their heels."

Editor's note. This post was updated to reflect final results putting Karger in eighth place, ahead of Bachmann. An earlier tally had him trailing Bachmann by several votes.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fred Karger. Bryan Patrick / Sacramento Bee file, 2010.

January 11, 2012
Dan Logue on the move again as re-election plans change

ha_dan_logueII.JPGCampaign musical chairs caused by the state's new political maps have put Assemblyman Dan Logue on the move again.

Logue told The Bee earlier this year that he had moved to a home he owns in Penn Valley both to be eligible to run in the newly drawn 1st Assembly District and to improve his commute to the Capitol. Staying put in his current Linda residence would have left him to run against fellow GOP Assemblyman Jim Nielsen.

But Nielsen announced Tuesday that he will pass on running for re-election in the lower house, instead waiting to run for the 4th Senate District, which will be up for grabs in a special election if Richvale Republican Doug LaMalfa wins election to Congress in November.

"Rather than forcing the taxpayers to spend millions on another special election to fill his (Assembly) seat if he is elected to the Senate, he has chosen to forgo his election this year," Nielsen spokesman David Reade said of the Gerber Republican's plans.

That decision opened the door for Logue to change course and run in the 3rd Assembly District, which includes a large chunk of territory he currently represents.

State law requires that candidates be registered to vote in the district they seek to represent, so Logue will have to move yet again ahead of his 2012 campaign. But finding somewhere to live in the new district shouldn't be a problem, said Logue, who will have to re-register to vote at the new address before formally filing his candidacy papers.

"I have 10 houses in the 3rd Assembly District, so I am just going to pick one of the houses that I already own and we will be residing there," Logue said.

Logue hasn't ruled out running for the state Senate if LaMalfa's seat opens up, meaning a Nielsen vs. Logue matchup could still be in the cards for next year.

"It's presumptuous to believe that that seat's available," he said, "If the seat does become available, I would definitely take a hard look at it."

RELATED STORIES:
California redistricting means many lawmakers might move
As Rep. Wally Herger signals retirement, Sen. Doug LaMalfa is poised to move up

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, confers with colleague Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, on the Assembly floor onFeb. 8, 2010. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

January 11, 2012
Jerry Brown's budget plan criticized at Martin Luther King event

A year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown said at an annual breakfast celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that education funding was a civil rights issue, defending his budget plan in the first days of his new administration.

This year, Brown didn't attend. The Democratic governor has a new budget proposal now, and lawmakers at breakfast this morning said it would hurt children, the sick and the poor.

"The members of the California Legislative Black Caucus are aware of how our communities are hurting, and we're doing all we can to prevent the budget from being balanced on the backs of those who can least afford it," said Sen. Curren Price, the Inglewood Democrat and chairman of the black caucus, which put on the event. "We're joining with (Senate) President Pro Tem (Darrell) Steinberg and others in asking the governor to hold off on his proposed budget cuts that are going to hurt schools, the sick and the working poor until the budget initiative is voted on."

If approved by voters in November, the initiative would raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest-earners. But Brown wants the Legislature to enact spending cuts by March, a measure legislative Democrats have dismissed.

"Why would we make cuts that are going to harm people and harm the economy in March when in fact in May there's a ... probability that the deficit number is going to be less?" Steinberg said when Brown proposed his budget last week.

Steinberg invoked King's legacy in his remarks this morning, at the downtown Holiday Inn.

"The politics, the difficulties, the struggles, the bills, the differences, sometimes the partisanship, the elections - they are all about the larger purpose that Dr. King spoke so eloquently about," Steinberg said. "How do we make sure as Californians that every kid has a chance, that the words about equal opportunity and good education are not just words, but are reflected in our public policies? How do we make sure we don't do any more damage to the poor and the needy and those who have suffered more than others because of the difficult budget cuts and decisions we've had to make over the last number of years?"

Brown has said the cuts are necessary in California's poor financial state.

Among the crowd at breakfast was Mervyn Dymally, lieutenant governor when Brown was governor before. Dymally, a former congressman, assemblyman and state senator, was honored in a video tribute, for which Brown recorded a message.

Brown, who had a sometimes strained relationship with Dymally, called him a friend and "one of the legends of California political history."

The 73-year-old governor added, "I'm very glad that he's upholding the finest traditions of us older folk who still cling to power."

January 11, 2012
California slips to No. 9 in worldwide economic rankings

California, long considered to have the world's eighth-largest economy, has slipped to ninth place, according to the Palo Alto-based Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Blame it on Brazil.

With a fast-growing, $2.1 trillion economy, Brazil has slipped past California ($1.9 trillion) into eighth place, according to the center's calculations from the latest World Bank economic rankings.

California was once as high as seventh but was later surpassed by Italy, which remains No. 7, just ahead of Brazil and just behind No. 6 Great Britain.

The United States, of course, is first at $14.5 trillion, followed by China at $5.9 trillion, Japan at $5.5 trillion, Germany at $3.3 trillion and France at $2.6 trillion.

California is just ahead of India's $1.7 trillion. The Los Angeles area, with a $886 billion economy, would rank 16th in world, just behind Australia and just ahead of the Netherlands. The Sacramento area's economy, incidentally, would rank 59th, just behind Qatar and Kazakhstan.

By a wide margin, the economic think tank says, California's economy is the largest of any state, with Texas second at $1.2 trillion, based on data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. They're followed by New York, Florida and Illinois.

However, Texas is catching up fast, with an economy growing half again as fast as California's. The Palo-Alto-based center notes that between 2000 and 2010, Texas had the nation's fourth-fastest growing economy at an average of 2.4 percent per year. California trailed at 1.8 percent. Wyoming's economy was growing the fastest at a 4 percent average, followed by North Dakota and Nevada.

When it comes to economic output per capita (2010), California is also trailing many other states at $51,470, but it's slightly higher than Texas' $48,617. Alaska is tops at $70,030, while California is 10th.

January 11, 2012
LAO: Brown's budget restores balance, but estimates questionable

Gov. Jerry Brown's budget would help California bring its spending in line with revenues over time, but it relies on volatile income and may contain welfare cuts that are "too severe," the state's top fiscal analyst said Wednesday in his first review.

The Democratic governor released a $92.6 billion general fund budget last week that includes health and welfare cuts while relying on voters to pass a $6.9 billion increase of income taxes on the wealthy and sales taxes. He also outlined an alternative path if the taxes fail that would reduce school program funding by $2.4 billion, about 5 percent.

Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, in a press conference today, emphasized the wide divide between his tax projections and Brown's. Dating back to 2010-11, Brown is more optimistic by $3.9 billion. If that gap holds, Taylor noted, eventually lawmakers and the governor will have to find more revenues or cuts than Brown proposes.

They disagree mostly over how much Californians will receive in capital gains. The governor's Department of Finance believes taxpayers will reap $96 billion in 2012; the Analyst says it will only be $62 billion, a $34 billion difference. That translates into a $3 billion tax revenue swing.

"I think what we're concerned about is that the capital gains assumptions the administration is making is a little bit optimistic," Taylor said.

"At this time we're really not asking the Legislature to do anything in particular about it," he added. "It's a little bit more, I think, waving the cautionary yellow flag that there is in our view more downside risk to the administration's numbers."

Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos responded in a statement, "As both we and the Analyst's office have indicated, revenue forecasting during this time of economic uncertainty is difficult ... While some have commented that our revenues are too low and others have said they are too high, we believe they are just right."

Taylor's report suggests that Brown's $1 billion cut in the welfare-to-work program may have some merit in emphasizing work. But he warned that scaling back aid as dramatically as Brown wants may be "too severe."

The governor's proposal drops aid to parents who fail to find jobs after 24 months, rather than the current 48 months. It also would restrict child care access to those making the equivalent of about $37,000 for a family of three, down from about $42,000.

The analyst also warned that because of the way school districts build their budgets, the governor and lawmakers need to be mindful that they may install program cuts this summer before voters have a chance to decide on taxes.

"This means schools in '12-'13 likely will implement most, if not all, of the reductions that many hope to avoid," he wrote. "Given this possibility, the Legislature needs to be very deliberate in structuring a workable trigger package."

Story has been updated with quotes from the Legislative Analyst's press conference and the Department of Finance. Child care income thresholds have been corrected to reflect state median income rather than federal poverty level calculations.

January 11, 2012
Moody's says California no longer has worst U.S. credit

We're No. 49!

After being stuck in the ratings basement since 2009, California's credit rating now ranks better than that of Illinois, according to Moody's Investors Service. Illinois was slapped with an A2 rating last week, worse than California's A1. Moody's penalized Illinois for unresolved pension liabilities and delayed payments.

"The downgrade of the state's long-term debt follows a legislative session in which the state took no steps to implement lasting solutions to its severe pension under-funding or to its chronic bill payment delays," Moody's wrote in its announcement. "Failure to address these challenges undermines near- to intermediate-term prospects for fiscal recovery."

California still ranks worst in the nation according to the two other major agencies, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings. Though S&P kept California's rating at A- last year, it improved the state's outlook to "stable" from "negative" after the state enacted an on-time budget, cause enough for Gov. Jerry Brown to celebrate.

California starts this budget cycle facing a $9.2 billion deficit, $4.1 billion of which is because that June spending plan fell out of whack.

"It's not exactly cause to throw confetti from the top floor of our office here, but I think we can take heart from fact that California's credit standing in the market unquestionably has improved in the last year," said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, of the climb out of the Moody's basement. "California cash borrowing notes received higher ratings last year, and all three of the major agencies have expressed more positive views about our credit worthiness."

January 11, 2012
AM Alert: Condoleezza Rice makes stop in Sacramento

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in town tonight as part of the Sacramento Speakers Series.

Rice, of course, is now a Stanford University professor and a member of Think Long Committee for California, which -- among other things -- has proposed a ballot initiative to raise tax revenue.

To get a taste of what Rice might explore at her talk, click here to read her recent conversation with The Bee's David Siders. She told him, for instance, that the California Republican Party needs "better policies on immigration" in order to regain some of its voter registration losses in the state.

Her talk starts at 8 p.m. at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L St. Attendance will set you back. It requires buying prorated subscriptions for the remaining speakers in the series, priced at $155, $200, $260 and $280. Click here for more information.

Back at the Capitol, committees in both the Senate and the Assembly are considering bills that face a deadline Friday for moving fiscal measures to fiscal committees.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee, for instance, is looking at Sen. Alex Padilla's Senate Bill 331, which would bar new tobacco retailers from locating within 600 feet of a public or private elementary or secondary school.

Click here to find the Senate committees' schedules, and click here for the agendas on the Assembly side.

PHOTO EXHIBIT: The nonprofit U.S. Pain Foundation is exhibiting photos today and Thursday at the Capitol in support of Assembly Bill 369, by Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman of San Rafael, which would bar health insurers from requiring a patient to try more than two pain medications before allowing him or her access to other doctor-prescribed medication. Look for the photos on the first floor near the elevators.

TRAFFICKING: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, joins Facebook's former chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, and others to highlight a ballot proposal that would increase criminal penalties for human trafficking and require anyone convicted of trafficking to register as a sex offender. The news conference, which coincides with National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, starts at 10 a.m. at Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, 2150 Post St.

January 10, 2012
California controller says December revenues missed mark

California missed its December revenue target by $1.4 billion due to weak income tax totals, closing the first half of the fiscal year down $2.5 billion compared to the budget enacted in June, according to state Controller John Chiang.

That gap isn't a huge surprise, given that the June budget was overly optimistic.

Gov. Jerry Brown said last month that the state budget would fall $2.2 billion short in the current fiscal year, triggering nearly $1 billion in mid-year budget cuts. He also acknowledged that deficit when he built his new 2012-13 budget proposal, which projects a $9.2 billion shortfall between now and June 2013.

But Chiang said the governor's new budget -- which is built on up-to-date economic data -- was still off the mark by $165 million in December, or 2 percent for the month.

January 10, 2012
LaMalfa 'moving forward' for Congress run after Herger announcement

Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, announced his retirement Tuesday, ending more than three decades of representing the Sacramento Valley in Congress and the state Legislature.

The 66-year-old staunch conservative said he was prepared to be a homebody after years of traveling.

"We want to spend more time with the grandkids." Herger said in a telephone interview. "We just think it's time to begin spending more time with our family."

Herger and his wife have 11 grandchildren, and a 12th is on the way.

Herger's retirement after 13, mostly low-key terms in the House sets the stage for a congressional run by state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, among others. LaMalfa starts as a presumptively strong candidate in the safely Republican and newly renumbered 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Yuba City to the Oregon border.

While acknowledging that "I'm sure there will be a number of candidates," Herger said LaMalfa "has my endorsement and full support," and LaMalfa's upcoming campaign will be run by Herger's own consultant, Dave Gilliard.

"We're moving forward with the campaign," LaMalfa said by telephone Tuesday. "We're already in pretty good shape with the (district's) constituents already knowing me."

A native of tiny Rio Oso in Sutter County, where he still owns a house and ranchland, Herger first won election to a school board position before winning a state Assembly seat in 1980. In 1986, he won election to a House seat that he has held ever since; largely, with relative ease.

In 2010, Herger beat his Democratic opponent by a comfortable 57-43 percent margin.

"It's the end of an era," said former Rep. John Doolittle, a Rocklin Republican who first met Herger three decades ago. "Wally's been running for office every other year since 1980, and it's wearing, year after year, to do that. I think his life is about to get much better."

January 10, 2012
High-Speed Rail Authority press secretary bound for Wal-Mart

Rachel Wall, press secretary for the embattled California High-Speed Rail Authority, is leaving the agency to do public relations for a company that has its own image issues from time to time: Wal-Mart.

Wall's departure, announced in an email late Monday night, comes as the rail authority considers overhauling its multimillion dollar outreach and communications effort statewide. The authority's nearly $100 billion bid to build a rail system connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco has come under increasing criticism from the Legislature and public, and its prospects for funding are uncertain.

Rail officials last month put on hold their effort to replace its $9 million outreach contract with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, instead considering handling public relations in-house. Lance Simmens, the authority's deputy director for communications and public policy, is scheduled to brief rail officials on the matter at a meeting in Los Angeles on Thursday.

That will also be Wall's last day at the authority before starting work in Los Angeles for Wal-Mart, the Arkansas-based retailer.

January 10, 2012
California Supreme Court explores which Senate maps to use in redistricting fight

About a month before state Senate candidates must file for the June primary election, the California Supreme Court wrestled Tuesday with which district boundaries should be used if a pending referendum qualifies for the ballot.

A decision by the high court is expected this month on the issue, created by the filing of more than 711,000 signatures by a Republican-backed group seeking to overturn new Senate maps drawn by the state's citizens redistricting commission.

In a 75-minute hearing, justices focused on technical issues, including whether they can only rule if the referendum is "likely to qualify" and what standard should be used to measure that.

Justices also questioned attorneys for the redistricting commission, the secretary of state's office and the Republican-backed group that led the drive -- Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) -- about options if the court decides to intervene.

January 10, 2012
California Legislature rejects moratorium on highway naming

One of the perks of serving in the California Legislature is naming highways, bridges, interchanges and other public facilities - often for fellow politicians - and there are hundreds of such signs on the state's highways.

Chris Norby, a Republican assemblyman from Orange County, faced an uphill battle, therefore, in proposing a two-year moratorium on such namings so, he said, tighter guidelines could be developed.

Norby introduced his measure, Assembly Bill 595, last year but it languished in the Assembly Transportation Committee until this week, when it was taken up because of a looming deadline for action.

Norby made his pitch to his fellow committee members, citing costs and confusion from the welter of special signs. (The Caltrans website has a 246-page listing of named highways, bridges and tunnels.) He even gained support from the National Organization for Women, pointing out that just two percent of the official namings are for women, terming it "extreme gender disparity."

But he garnered opposition from the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, whose lobbyist, Aaron Read, said it would preclude honoring CHP officers killed in the line of duty.

Norby offered to exempt bills honoring CHP officers from the moratorium and make it a one-year moratorium, saying that made the measure "pretty watered down." Even so, it attracted just five votes, well shy of the eight required for committee approval.

Updated at 1:01 p.m. with website of named highways, etc.

January 10, 2012
Bob Hertzberg says he's 'very interested' in California Senate run

It's looking more and more likely that former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg will seek the newly drawn 27th Senate District.

The Sherman Oaks businessman fueled ongoing speculation about his plans in public comments this week, telling the Los Angeles Daily News that the Southern California swing seat is "perfectly suited to me."

"If the lines stay the way they are, I am certainly very interested in running," he told The Bee Tuesday.

Hertzberg's entry into the race would set up a challenge with Sen. Fran Pavley, a liberal Democrat known for her work on environmental issues. That would mean bucking Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who has already thrown his support behind the incumbent Agoura Hills Democrat.

January 10, 2012
Chico Rep. Wally Herger to retire from Congress

herger.JPGBy Michael Doyle
mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, is announcing his retirement today, ending more than three decades of representing the Sacramento Valley in Congress and the state Legislature.

Herger's retirement after 13, mostly low-key terms in the House sets the stage for a congressional run by state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale. LaMalfa will be the prohibitive favorite in the safely Republican and newly renumbered 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Auburn to the Oregon border.

"He's going to announce that he's retiring, and that he's endorsing Sen. LaMalfa," Herger's campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said an interview Tuesday.

Gilliard said that Herger had begun informing his congressional staff "around Christmas" of his impending retirement plans, and that he anticipates "spending more time with his grandkids."

"He has 11 grandchildren," Gilliard noted, adding that Herger "has been in Congress a long time, and he doesn't want to do the cross-country commute anymore.

January 10, 2012
Dianne Feinstein urges moving high-speed rail to CalTrans

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein this week added her voice to the chorus of those who want the California Department of Transportation to take over the state's increasingly controversial high-speed rail project.

In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown made public Tuesday, Feinstein declared that "deploying the expertise and resources of Caltrans towards this effort over the next six months" could help turn the project around.

Tellingly, Feinstein added that she has spoken about the idea with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; LaHood, the senator reported, agrees with "the importance of utilizing Caltrans' expertise."

January 10, 2012
AM Alert: California Supreme Court takes up redistricting fight

If Republican political consultant Dave Gilliard has his way today, the California Supreme Court will conclude he's on the verge of qualifying a referendum on the new state Senate district lines for the ballot in November.

The court, meeting in San Francisco, is scheduled to consider at a 9 a.m. hearing whether to weigh in on which Senate districts will be used in this year's primary and general elections if the referendum qualifies.

Gilliard is representing Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, the group pushing to kill the Senate maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. His argument: Because the measure is likely to qualify, the court should step in today to begin the process of drawing another version of the lines in times for Senate candidates to have some certainty when they take out their nomination papers on February 13.

Were the court to appoint a special master today to put new lines in place, he said, there's plenty of time to create constitutionally acceptable districts by then.

"Literally you could draw the Senate lines in a week with the right software," he said.

Democrats have a different best-case scenario: Democratic consultant Jason Kinney said his side thinks the court, which previously has declined to intervene or name a special master, will decide the referendum is not likely to qualify and opt not to get involved.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, it appeared that the referendum had secured enough signatures to proceed to a full count but not enough to qualify outright via random sample.

"Given the pitifully low validity rate, we have every hope and expectation that the court will find that this misguided measure does not meet the "likely to qualify" test and therefore the people's vote will be respected and the commission's lines will stay squarely in place," Kinney said.

NO MORE WRITE-INS? An attempt to change ballots in light of the state's new top-two primary system gets another hearing in the upper house today. Assembly Bill 1413, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, would eliminate the space for write-in votes, which cannot be counted under the new election rules.

The bill, which could thwart one potential legal challenge to the new system, was introduced in the final days of the 2011 legislative session, but put on hold amid controversy over a provision on residency requirements. That language has been taken out of the latest version of the bill. The amended version is on the agenda for a 1:30 p.m. hearing of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTE: Here's a reason for California Republicans to watch the outcome of tonight's New Hampshire primary. Californian Fred Karger hasn't been on the debate stage, but he is on the Granite State ballot.

Following the presidential contest? Bookmark our delegate tracker to keep up to speed throughout the primary season on the Republican race. Find more analysis, fact-checking and adwatches here.

CAKE & CANDLES: Happy Birthday to Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, who was born on this date in 1964.

January 9, 2012
McCarthy floats David Dreier as possible Feinstein challenger

With less than six months to go until the June primary, viable Republican challengers to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein aren't exactly rushing to file nomination papers.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 ranking House Republican, suggested Monday that fellow House Republican David Dreier could be a formidable challenger.

"He's a good member. He has probably statewide name ID, more so, having served," the Bakersfield Republican told a group of reporters Monday. "I think he's very smart, he's smart on issues. I think he'd be a big contrast."

Few political insiders believe Dreier, whose own congressional re-election prospects have been complicated by redistricting, actually plans to challenge Feinstein this year. He dramatically scaled back campaign operations and posted anemic fundraising numbers last year. A spokesperson could not be reached for comment on his plans Monday.

McCarthy, who was in Sacramento to speak at a Public Policy Institute of California luncheon, shopped short of endorsing a bid by Dreier, saying a "lot of people," including GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, have the name recognition to run against the 78-year-old incumbent Democrat.

"I really believe if you challenged Feinstein, and made a real race of it and go up and down the state, I just don't think she has the same passion she once had. I look at the numbers, her numbers are not where they should be," he said, referring to recent polling numbers putting Feinstein's job approval at under 50 percent.

As for Elizabeth Emken, the nonprofit executive who threw her hat in the ring late last year? McCarthy said she too has a "good chance," despite coming in fourth in a GOP congressional primary in 2010.

"Abraham Lincoln lost a race for the Senate, served one term in the House, became president," he said. "Barack Obama was a state senator, ran, wasn't favored. He actually lost his race for Congress in the primary by 30 percentage points. There's opportunity."

January 9, 2012
Wealthy civil rights lawyer backs her initiative with $500,000

Civil rights attorney Molly Munger has contributed $500,000 toward her tax initiative to raise $10 billion annually for education, the first significant cash backing a measure that competes with Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal, according to a campaign statement posted today.

Munger wants to raise income taxes on all but the poorest residents, with progressively higher rates up the income scale. She has filed two versions of her initiative; one would give the money entirely to education, another would provide $3 billion in state budget relief on top of money for schools.

The money flowed in two contributions for $100,000 and $400,000 to the new "Our Children, Our Future," campaign committee.

The Democratic governor and his aides are trying to convince other tax proponents to shelve their proposals, for fear that voters will be confused and vote down all tax plans. But Munger still indicates she will move forward. The donations marking the latest sign. Munger, an attorney and daughter of billionaire Charles Munger, has significant wealth to help finance the initiative.

It remains early. The major tax proponents - Brown, Munger and California Federation of Teachers - must still wait to obtain ballot language from state Attorney General Kamala Harris before they can gather signatures. At that point, each group would likely have to spend $3 million or more on signature gatherers to qualify their measures.

Brown has raised more than $1.2 million so far, campaign statements show.

January 9, 2012
Legislative Analyst: Jerry Brown tax raises only $4.8 billion

The state's top fiscal analyst says Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike would raise $2.1 billion less than he is banking on to balance his new budget, requiring deeper cuts than the governor proposed or more revenues if lawmakers use that estimate.

The Democratic governor is counting on a voter-approved tax increase on sales and the wealthy to generate $6.9 billion for the 2012-13 budget. But the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says Brown's plan would raise only $4.8 billion in the first budget cycle.

The Analyst's Office and Department of Finance included their separate projections in a joint letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris that is required for ballot preparation.

"The volatility described above makes it difficult to forecast this measure's state revenue gains from high-income taxpayers," stated a joint letter from Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and Brown's Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos, after describing how unpredictable state tax revenues have become. "As a result, the estimates from our two offices of this measure's annual revenue increases vary."

January 9, 2012
Mary Hayashi apologizes for 'unintentional' shoplifting

In her first public comment since pleading no contest to misdemeanor shoplifting, Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi apologized today for "unintentionally" taking clothing out of a San Francisco store but shed little light on what sparked the theft.

"I accept responsibility and I offer apologies, not excuses," Hayashi said in a written statement. She declined an interview request.

Shortly after the Castro Valley Democrat's arrest in October on a felony charge of stealing nearly $2,500 in clothing, Sam Singer, Hayashi's spokesman, said she had been inside a Neiman Marcus store and walked out of the store while talking on her cellular phone.

Following Hayashi's no contest plea -- which means no guilt was admitted -- her attorney Doug Rappaport said the legislator's behavior had been affected by a benign brain tumor that is curable, treatable and no longer is affecting her.

Hayashi, in her written statement today, did not address the severity of her tumor, when she was diagnosed, or what effect it had on her behavior.

"There were a number of personal factors that led to the situation where I made this absent-minded error," she said. "My medical condition may have complicated the situation, however, I want to be clear that I take full personal responsibility for my actions."

January 9, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown proposes discount for avoiding DMV offices

Banks have tried to discourage customers from using tellers in person; now Gov. Jerry Brown wants to do the same for renewals at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The governor, in his latest budget plan, proposed a $5 discount for drivers who use the internet or mail to renew their "routine" vehicle registrations. The plan would save drivers an estimated $100 million statewide annually.

It's unclear how much this would save the state, as opposed to drivers. But Brown's budget says it would "result in savings for the DMV by moving customers from more costly field offices to less expensive methods of renewing vehicle registrations."

January 9, 2012
Chat live with Kevin Yamamura: Q&A on Brown's budget plan

January 9, 2012
AM Alert: Are California lawmakers hoping for a calmer week?

Well, what an exciting week that was. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly's loaded gun. Gov. Jerry Brown's surprise budget. Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's no contest plea. What's next for California lawmakers?

Both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled sessions today, the upper house at 2 p.m. and the lower house at noon. Policy committees in both houses face a deadline of Friday for moving fiscal bills along to the fiscal committees. Check out the Senate's schedule here, and the Assembly's schedule here.

Another red-letter day: Jan. 31, which is the deadline for both the Senate and the Assembly to pass any measures introduced last year.

As for the rest of the week, Tuesday was when Brown had originally announced he'd unveil his budget. Now that that's out of the way, political junkies can watch the oral arguments before the California Supreme Court on the state Senate maps instead. CalChannel will be live webcasting the proceedings starting at 9 a.m. Tune in at this link.

Meanwhile, will the referendum challenging the Senate maps need to go to a full signature count? As of Friday, 13 counties still needed to report their numbers to the secretary of state. They have until Tuesday to do so.

LUNCHEON: U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, will be talking with Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, about issues ranging from the budget to water policy at a luncheon at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento starting at noon. For more information about the event, click here.

HEALTH CARE: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, talks up his Senate Bill 810, which calls for single-payer health care coverage, as he talks with health care students during their annual lobbying day, starting at noon on the Capitol's north steps.

January 7, 2012
Report: GOP Rep. Elton Gallegly won't seek re-election in 2012

GOP Rep. Elton Gallegly announced today that he won't run for re-election in 2012, clearing the way for a possible congressional bid by state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark.

Gallegly, 67, told Politico in a statement today that he will end his 25-year run in Congress instead of seeking another term. The state's new political maps had left him with the option of running against fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon or seeking the newly drawn 26th Congressional District, a competitive Ventura County seat with a Democratic registration edge.

Strickland, who has been widely expected to jump in the 26th Congressional District race if Gallegly bowed out, told The Bee late last year that he had yet to make a final decision on his election plans. His campaign consultant declined to comment on his 2012 plans in an email to The Bee.

"Congressman Gallegly has served our community with distinction and honor. We are grateful for his service and wish him the very best," Strickland wrote in a tweet.

A Strickland congressional run would be welcome news to Senate Democrats in the current 27th Senate District . Under the current maps, Strickland would likely face Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley in what was expected to be one of this year's top state legislative battles. The Senate maps, which have been targeted by a referendum effort, could still change. The state Supreme Court is holding a hearing on Tuesday on the issue.

Read the full Politico story here.

January 6, 2012
Backers confident redistricting referendum will qualify for ballot

A Republican group backing a referendum challenging newly drawn state Senate districts believe they have inched closer to qualifying just days before the California Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether it should intervene.

As of this afternoon, a sampling of the 709,000 signatures collected by Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting projects that 490,357 are valid, according to the Secretary of State's website. That's roughly 10,000 more than required to launch a full count of verified signatures and 14,000 shy of the threshold to qualify the referendum once the verified signatures are tallied. The referendum needs 504,760 verified signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The latest count doesn't include sample results from 13 counties that still need to report their numbers to the Secretary of State's office by Tuesday.

"We will pass the 100 percent (sample) mark by Tuesday," GOP political consultant and FAIR spokesman Dave Gilliard said this afternoon.

FAIR's lawyers will argue that the sample proves the measure will qualify and that the court should suspend the redrawn Senate district boundaries until voters can weigh in 11 months from now.

But that assessment was strongly disputed by Democratic consultant Jason Kinney, who said the relatively low validity rate of the signatures means the measure "is likely to fail."

FAIR says the new maps unjustly dilute Latino voters' influence and break rules established in the 2008 ballot measure that created the commission itself. Commission officials have defended the maps and argued that the court shouldn't intervene because it is unlikely the referendum could gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The Supreme Court has said it will make a decision by the end of this month, in time for the June primary and the November general elections. Half of the state's Senate's 40 seats are in play this year.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to add comments from Jason Kinney. Updated 5:45 p.m. Jan. 6, 2012.

January 6, 2012
Attorney: Mary Hayashi has brain tumor that affected judgment (VIDEO)

SAN FRANCISCO -- An attorney for Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi said today that his client suffers from a benign brain tumor that affected her judgment at the time of her shoplifting arrest.

Attorney Douglas Rappaport, who said Hayashi is now receiving treatment for the tumor, said the circumstances justified an agreement with prosecutors to drop felony grand theft charges filed by the San Francisco District Attorney to a misdemeanor.

Hayashi pleaded no contest to the reduced charge today, receiving three years probation and less than $200 in fines for leaving a San Francisco Nieman Marcus store without paying for nearly $2,500 in high-end clothing last October. She must stay