Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 4, 2012
Bob Huff named Republican leader in California Senate

Bob Huff 20120104_PK_LEGISLATURE 0602.JPGThe Senate Republican Caucus, as expected, is starting the new year with a new leader.

Senate Republicans unanimously selected Bob Huff as the successor to outgoing leader Bob Dutton in a closed-door meeting following today's legislative session.

Huff said he expects"pretty much a continuum" of the caucus' current leadership style and policies, citing job creation and keeping Democrats from picking up the seats they need to secure a two-thirds majority in next year's election as top priorities.

"I expect this to be more of a baton handed off," he said of the transition.

While Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats are planning to use their majority-vote power to pass a budget plan and go directly to the ballot with a tax hike instead of negotiating with Republicans for revenue solutions, Huff said he hopes to be engaged in the process.

"The voters have given the Democrats the ability to craft a majority vote budget, to the degree they want to do that, they can," he said. "I think they're missing the boat. I think the more that voters see the Legislature working in a bipartisan way, the more they'll be receptive to ideas that end up on the ballot box."

Huff, who served as vice chair of the Senate Budget Committee, had been jockeying earlier this year with the more conservative Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, for the support of GOP colleagues. The Diamond Bar Republican secured the support of a majority of his 14 colleagues over the legislative recess, and Anderson nominated him today for the post.

Dutton, who is wrapping up his final year in the Senate and running for an Inland Empire Assembly seat, had announced late last month that he would pass the torch early this year. He issued a statement congratulating Huff after the vote, repeating earlier commitments to ensuring a "smooth and orderly transition."

Huff said he expected the transition -- including an office swap -- to be completed by Monday. He announced several expected changes in GOP leadership, including tapping Sen. Tom Harman for the caucus' No. 2 leadership post and Dutton as vice chair of the Senate Rules Committee.

Sen. Bill Emmerson, who was involved in last year's budget negotiations as a member of the "GOP 5," is expected to replace Huff as vice-chair of the Senate Budget Committee. All committee assignments will require sign-off from the Senate Rules Committee.

Related posts:
California Senate Republican leader to step down in January
Jockeying to succeed Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton begins

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:20 p.m.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sens. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, talk during the 2012 session in Sacramento, Jan. 4, 2012, before Huff was selected as the new Senate GOP leader.

January 4, 2012
Sen. Sam Blakeslee unlikely to run again if current maps upheld

20110321_ha_senate_quake5586.JPGGOP Sen. Sam Blakeslee has started publicly signaling that he might not run for re-election this year.

The San Luis Obispo Republican told Bee sister paper The San Luis Obispo Tribune that his decision is tied to the fate of the new district maps drawn by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Democrats now hold a 16-point registration edge over Republicans in the central coast swing seat Blakeslee won in a 2010 special election. But critics of the new Senate maps have collected hundreds of thousands of voter signatures in an attempt to ask voters to reject the districts next fall. If the referendum qualifies, the decision of whether to use the newly drawn Senate map this year will be left up to the state Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hold a hearing next week on the issue.

The former Assembly GOP leader said if the current maps prevail, he is unlikely to run for a second term in what is now the 17th Senate District.

"I want my community to understand that by making this decision, I'm not walking away from a fight," Blakeslee told The Tribune. "But I'm not willing to lose the entire last year in office in (a vain) pursuit of office. I'm 100 percent engaged to make sure this last year is the most impactful as it possibly can be."

Blakeslee's decision not to run, which has been rumored for some time, would ease the path for Senate Democrats to come one seat closer to a two-thirds majority in the upper house. The only prominent declared candidate in the race so far is Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel, who announced in August his own bid for the upper house.

Read the full Tribune story at this link.

Interactive map: See your new California legislative and congressional districts

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo at a March 2011 legislative hearing. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

January 4, 2012
GOP Sen. Sharon Runner again seeking lung transplant

SharonRunner.JPGRepublican Sen. Sharon Runner announced today that an ongoing battle with a rare autoimmune condition has landed her back on the lung transplant list.

The 57-year-old Lancaster Republican, who has been diagnosed with a condition called limited scleroderma for more than 20 years, said the decision to again seek a double lung transplant was made by her doctors after she experienced several lung infections.

To avoid risk of future infections, she is not returning to the Capitol as the Legislature reconvenes today. She said in a statement, however, that she plans to continue work away from the office in what her chief of staff described as a "germ-free location."

"Given my overall good health, combined with my age, the doctors expect me to make a full recovery. And I look forward to continue the fight to protect Californians," she said in the statement.

Runner, a former assemblywoman, was elected last year to fill the seat vacated by her husband George Runner's election to the state Board of Equalization. She said at the time of her run that her treatment for limited scleroderma, which has no known cure, had been successful and that she no longer required the transplant. She had been hospitalized for infections related to limited scleroderma in 2008, about two years after she began suffering from complications related to the condition.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Member Sharon Runner, listens to Mexican President Felipe Calderón speak to a joint session of the California Assembly and Senate at the state Capitol on Feb. 13, 2008. (Sacramento Bee file photo / Brian Baer)

January 4, 2012
Ex-Assemblyman Alberto Torrico joins lobbying firm as counsel

Alberto Torrico.jpgA former Assembly majority leader has joined one of Sacramento's top lobbying shops.

Former Democratic Assemblyman Alberto Torrico is working as an "of-counsel" attorney for Capitol Advocacy, the firm confirmed today. It said in a statement that Torrico, who is not a registered lobbyist, will "provide Capitol Advocacy and its clients with strategic advice on political and policy issues."

The Sacramento-based firm, which represents major Capitol players such as the California Retailers Association, the California Hospital Association and Chevron, ranked No. 5 in California lobbying firm revenues in the first three quarters of 2011.

Torrico, who left the lower house due to term limits in 2010, will retain his private law practice. The Newark Democrat, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Democratic primary for state attorney general, also serves on the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. He was appointed to a six-figure post on the panel by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in early 2011.

Torrico joins a group of roughly 50 former legislators working to shape California policy either as registered lobbyists or general policy consultants, according to a 2011 Bee analysis.

Ex-Assemblyman Torrico appointed to unemployment board
KP no longer tops in California lobby earnings
California lawmakers-turned-lobbyists cultivate relationships under the dome

PHOTO CREDIT: Alberto Torrico campaigns for attorney general. Associated Press file photo, 2010.

January 4, 2012
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly tries to carry loaded handgun on airplane

donnelly.jpgAssemblyman Tim Donnelly was cited today for having a loaded .45-caliber handgun in his carry-on bag at the Ontario airport.

The Twin Peaks Republican was stopped at a security checkpoint early Wednesday morning, detained, and cited by airport police, said Nico Melendez, spokesman for the federal Transportation Security Administration.

Donnelly's carry-on bag housed a .45-caliber Colt Mark IV that had four rounds in its magazine and a spare magazine with five additional rounds, Melendez said. Lawmakers were returning to the Capitol today for the 2012 legislative year.

"When he was packing to leave, he had forgotten that it was in there," said Cassandra Joiner, Donnelly's spokeswoman. "He didn't realize it when he put it through the metal detector."

Donnelly -- a supporter of gun ownership -- was scheduled to board Southwest Airlines Flight 661, Melendez said. Passengers were to be transported from Ontario to Sacramento.

The incident sparked confusion because Donnelly's initial citation specified that the gun was unloaded. Ontario airport police later released a revised statement saying that the charge will be possession of a loaded firearm.

"It was an error on the officer's part," Sgt. Belinda Nettles, spokeswoman for airport police, said of the need to rewrite Donnelly's citation. She declined to discuss how the error occurred.

Possession of a loaded firearm is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, Nettles said. Donnelly's weapon was confiscated by the Ontario Police Department. He will appear in court at a future date, she said.

Airline passengers legally can transport firearms via airline flights, but they must be unloaded and contained in a proper carrying case that is checked into the baggage department, not as a carry-on, Melendez said.

Donnelly would not be alone in forgetting that his carry-on bag contained a firearm -- 1,200 such incidents occurred nationwide last year, Melendez said.

Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, urged against rushing to judgment in Donnelly's case.

"He deserves due process just like anyone else," Swanson said. "We support public safety. (Officials) will get to the bottom of it."

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, left, discusses his proposed measure that targets illegal immigrants during a rally at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, April 4, 2011. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

* Updated at 12:04 p.m. to include information from Donnelly's spokeswoman, Cassandra Joiner, and from Robin Swanson, spokeswoman to the Assembly leader. Updated at 12:40 p.m. to add information about the ticket revision.

January 4, 2012
AM Alert: California Legislature heads back to budget woes

Fasten your seat belt. The California Legislature is back in Sacramento, with the Assembly meeting at noon, and the Senate at 2 p.m.

Business in the upper house includes choosing a Republican leader, as Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton announced that he'd step down early this month.

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, told The Bee's Kevin Yamamura just before Christmas that he expected to replace Dutton. Senate Republicans weren't planning to caucus today before the Senate floor session starts, but stay tuned.

Several Assembly committees meet today -- you can check out their agendas at this link -- but the bigger action will come when Gov. Jerry Brown releases his budget. His deadline is next week -- Tuesday, to be exact. The Bee's Jim Sanders gives a taste of what lawmakers are facing this session in this story.

Also next Tuesday, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on which state Senate maps should be used in this year's elections, as Jim Sanders details in this post.

Tuesday also happens to be the deadline for random sample checks of the signatures gathered for the referendum that would overturn the state Senate district maps that the Citizens Redistricting Commission drew last year. Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties were among those yet to report to the secretary of state as of Tuesday night. Political junkies can check out the numbers at this website. (Editor's note: Both Los Angeles and Riverside reported their figures Wednesday.)

Fun fact: Just one of Mono County's 6,000 or so registered voters signed the petition.

POTUS 2012: Following the presidential contest? Bookmark our delegate tracker at to keep up to speed throughout the primary season on the Republican race. Find the latest analysis, fact-checking and adwatches at

CAMPAIGN WATCH: Terry Schanz, who's currently Assemblyman Isadore Hall's legislative director, has thrown his hat in the ring for the Sacramento City Council's 4th District seat. Schanz and his partner, Guy Strahl, live in Land Park. The Bee's Ryan Lillis has more details in this City Beat blog post.

MONEY WATCH: The California Latino Legislative Caucus is holding its "Welcome Back" fundraiser from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Tequila Museo Mayahuel at 12th and K streets in Sacramento. Cost: $1,000.

CAKE AND CANDLES: That birthday train doesn't stop for much, does it -- not even New Year's Day. Legislators celebrating their natal appearances include Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who turned 58 on New Year's Eve, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, who blew out 36 candles that day as well. Monday was another double day: Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, turned 47, and Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, turned 65. Today, it's Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani's turn: The Livingston Democrat turns 48. But Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has her beat: He celebrates the big 5-0 today. Congrats to all.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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