Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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