Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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 more than 50 feet away from the Union Square store for the duration of her probation.

"Fortunately, it is something curable and is treatable. It is being treated and so it no longer is affecting her," said Rappaport, who said she was diagnosed prior to the incident.

The attorney prosecuting the case declined to comment. District Attorney George Gascon signaled earlier that his office would be willing to accept a reduced charge, saying he the totality of circumstances must be considered and that would support the direction of the court.

Hayashi, who has represented an Alameda County Assembly seat for three terms, declined to comment.

January 6, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown proposes axing transitional kindergarten

PK_KINDERGARTEN 0131 (1).JPGAs California moves toward an earlier cutoff age for kindergarten, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed axing funds for a transitional program aimed at children newly shut out of those classrooms.

In his latest budget, the Democratic governor proposed a permanent elimination of funds for transitional kindergarten, a new program designed to serve children not yet ready for regular kindergarten. It would save $223.7 million in 2012-13 and $672 million at full implementation in 2014-15.

In 2010, lawmakers passed a measure to phase in an earlier cutoff age for kindergarten over three years starting in the 2012-13 school year. Students previously could enter kindergarten if they were 5 years old by Dec. 2.

January 6, 2012
Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi pleads no contest to misdemeanor shoplifting charge

hayashi2012.jpgSAN FRANCISCO -- Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, pleaded no contest this afternoon in San Francisco Superior Court to a misdemeanor shoplifting charge.

After the plea, Hayashi declined comment, but her attorney, Doug Rappaport, said she had a brain tumor that affected her judgment the day of the shoplifting.

Hayashi was sentenced to three years of probation and less than $200 in fines. She was told to stay more than 50 feet away from Neiman Marcus, where she was arrested in October, during her probation.

Her plea followed the San Francisco district attorney's signal earlier today that he would be open to the court reducing the felony grand theft charge filed in the shoplifting case against Hayashi to a misdemeanor.

"This is a case that clearly contains the elements, in our opinion, of the crime as a felony, but we also recognize that the defendant in this case is a first-time offender, and I think that also plays a part in the discussion," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said after a news conference on an unrelated case.

"If the court decides to go in a different direction, we'll support it," Gascon added.

Rappaport said the tumor affected Hayashi's judgement, but added she is on the mend.

"Unfortunately, she has been diagnosed with a brain tumor," said Rappaport, who said she was diagnosed prior to the incident. "However, fortunately for her, it's benign and it can be taken care of and addressed with medication, which is exactly what happened...Fortunately, it is something curable and is treatable. It is being treated and so it no longer is affecting her."

January 6, 2012
Economist says Jerry Brown's budget underestimates revenue

By Dale Kasler

At least one prominent economist says Gov. Jerry Brown is underestimating the strength of the recovery in his new budget proposal.

Chris Thornberg, a Los Angeles consultant who advises State Controller John Chiang, said today he believes tax revenue in the upcoming fiscal year could top Brown's forecast by around $4 billion.

Thornberg, head of Beacon Economics, called the governor's forecast "bizarrely low."

Brown's official economic outlook, released along with the budget Thursday, calls for a "guardedly positive" outlook but says unemployment rates will average 12 percent throughout the next year. California's unemployment has already fallen to 11.3 percent as of November.

Thornberg acknowledged that he's misjudged state revenue projections in the past. When the Legislature approved a budget last June based on a predicted $4 billion surge in revenue, Thornberg said "they're out of their minds." As it turns out, revenue did grow, but by only $2 billion.

January 6, 2012
Just how large is Jerry Brown's new California budget?

Gov. Jerry Brown's introduction of a proposed 2012-13 budget for California not only touches off the annual wrangle over what to spend on what, but the annual debate over the budget's dimensions.

Officially, the governor's budget is $137.3 billion, consisting of a general fund budget of $92.6 billion, $39.8 billion in special funds (Caltrans, Department of Motor Vehicles, etc.) and just under $5 billion in bond funds.

But that official number ignores about $70 billion in federal funds that will be funneled through the budget, thereby bringing the total to more than $200 billion, or roughly 10 percent of the state's economy.

But wait, as the TV pitchmen say, there's more.

January 6, 2012
Coastal California rates high nationwide in healthy lifestyles

California's economy may be suffering and the state budget may be in disarray, but when it comes to healthy lifestyles, Californians -- or at least coastal Californians -- are leading the nation, according to The Atlantic magazine.

The magazine rates San Jose as the nation's healthiest metropolitan area, based its low rates of obesity and smoking, with nearby Santa Cruz No. 2 and seven other California coastal regions in the top 15.

The Atlantic devised a Metro Health Index, which "measures the share of people who smoke or are obese across 315 U.S. metro regions. The higher the score on the index, the lower the rates of smoking and obesity, and the better a metro's health outlook. Smoking is measured as the percentage of the population who are regular smokers. Obesity is measured as the percent of the population with a body mass index of 30 or more. It's notable that smoking and obesity themselves are closely related across the United States."

January 6, 2012
California Assembly releases member budgets under court order

Complying with a court order, the California Assembly released thousands of pages of documents about its members' expenditures today that it fought against providing to the public.

The documents detail budgets and spending by each of the Assembly's 80 members. The data should enable the public to better determine what portion of committee funds are used for lawmakers' personal staff.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley ordered the records to be released in a lawsuit filed by The Bee and Los Angeles Times. Frawley issued a tentative ruling in December, which the Assembly did not contest.

"How the government spends the public's money is an area of profound interest," said attorney Rochelle Wilcox, who represented the newspapers in the fight over interpretation of California's Legislative Open Records Act.

Documents released by the Assembly "provide significant information about Assembly spending of tens of millions of dollars annually," Wilcox said.

January 6, 2012
Tim Donnelly apparently has no permit to carry loaded gun

Days after he was issued a misdemeanor citation for carrying a loaded firearm into the Ontario airport, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly indicated today that he does not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The question arose Wednesday after the federal Transportation Security Administration said that Donelly's briefcase contained a .45-caliber handgun with four rounds in its magazine, and a spare magazine containing five rounds.

The 45-year-old Twin Peaks Republican said that he had armed himself because of recent death threats, but mistakenly placed the gun in his briefcase last weekend and forgot to retrieve it before going to the Ontario airport for a flight to Sacramento.

Californians with a concealed weapons permit cannot carry a loaded gun onto an airplane. But whether Donnelly had the right to carry a loaded weapon anywhere is a separate question that was not definitely answered Wednesday.

Concealed weapons permits generally have to be obtained in the county or city in which a person lives. Donnelly lives in an unincorporated area in San Bernardino County. Sheriff's officials there said Wednesday that they had not issued him a permit.

Nico Melendez, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said Wednesday that it was his understanding that Donnelly did not possess a concealed weapons permit.

Asked directly today if he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Donnelly said only that he felt enough information about the concealed weapons permit issue had been released or published already. Asked if that meant that he did not have such a permit, Donnelly deflected the question.

"It's already been spoken to," Donnelly said. "It's certainly not something that I feel that I need to address. I really don't feel that there's anything more that I want to add to that story. I tried to be very forthcoming and put all the information out there ... so, I'm just going to leave it at that."

January 6, 2012
Referendum drive to overturn California's Dream Act fails

Opponents of California's Dream Act have failed in a signature-gathering drive aimed at overturning the new law that will permit some undocumented immigrants to receive publicly funded college aid.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly informed supporters of the referendum drive through a written statement today that the campaign had fallen short of qualifying for the ballot.

The effort garnered 447,514 signatures, not the required 504,760 valid voter signatures required to place the matter before voters, Donnelly said.

"This is disappointing news, but it is no less of a warning to Governor Brown and every Democrat legislator who voted to create a new entitlement program for illegals while the state still has a budget deficit of over $9 billion, and cannot even meet its obligation to legal California students," he said.

The Dream Act allows undocumented students who came to the country before age 16 and attended California high schools to apply for public financial aid, including Cal Grants. Those students already are eligible for in-state tuition, and Gov. Jerry Brown also signed a companion measure this year affording them access to private financial aid.

"Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creating thinking," Brown said in a prepared statement upon signing the contested bill, Assembly Bill 131, in October. "The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us."

Donnelly said the referendum campaign was not in vain because it brought together Californians of every age, race, religion, income and political party to fight "to restore sanity to the Golden State."

"Today only marks the end of one battle in a war to reclaim our voice in our Legislature," Donnelly said. "This one loss will not dampen our resolve."

January 6, 2012
AM Alert: Measure to block California Dream Act faces deadline

Tim Donnelly 20120104_PK_LEGISLATURE 0034.JPGToday's one of the days Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has been dreaming of -- it's the signature deadline for his referendum to overturn the California Dream Act.

That's the ballot proposal to block the new law allowing some undocumented immigrants to qualify for state-funded college aid. Proponents must submit 504,760 valid voter signatures to county election officials by today in order to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Alert readers will recall that Donnelly told reporters Wednesday, after he was cited for having a loaded gun in his carry-on bag at the Ontario airport, that he "tends to always be armed" because of death threats he said he has received since launching the referendum.

(The Twin Peaks Republican also told John Oliver of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in an episode that ran last month about California's direct democracy and the Amazon tax, "Oh, I can tie anything to illegal immigration.")

In legal news, the shoplifting case of Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is on the docket this morning in San Francisco Superior Court. The Castro Valley Democrat is not expected to make an appearance.

Sunday, meanwhile, marks the one-year anniversary of the shootings in Tucson that killed six and wounded 13 others, including Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The Brady Campaign is planning vigils nationwide to mark the date, including events in Compton, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other California cities.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, both Sacramento Democrats, are expected to take part in a bell ceremony and candlelight vigil from 5 to 6 p.m. Sunday at St. John's Lutheran Church, 1701 L St.., down the street from the Capitol in Sacramento.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly waits for the opening of the legislative session in Sacramento, on Jan. 4, 2012. Paul Kitagaki Jr./ Sacramento Bee


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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