Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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