Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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

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.


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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