Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 19, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown to make water project proposal by summer

SAN DIEGO - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he will make a proposal by summer for a peripheral canal or other way to move water through or around the Delta, a controversial, multi-billion project.

The Democratic governor said the project itself - not including the cost of restoring the Delta - will be paid for by water users and will not require a general obligation bond. He did not address financing for environmental mitigation in any detail.

"To get the project, we do not need tax money," Brown said. "The big water users will pay for having water reliability."

Brown, concluding a two-day swing through Southern California to promote infrastructure spending and his ballot measure to raise taxes, said he is "cleaning up a mess" in state spending that requires both additional tax revenue and service cuts, as Brown discussed here:

January 19, 2012
Judge blocks Jerry Brown's in-home care cuts

By Kevin Yamamura

A federal judge on Thursday continued to block the state from reducing in-home care to low-income disabled and elderly residents, a budget cut pursued last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers.

The reduction would have slashed one-fifth of service hours for In-Home Supportive Services recipients to save the state $100 million over the next six months.

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken converted her temporary December order blocking the state into a preliminary injunction.

Last month, Wilken said the IHSS cut "raises serious questions" about whether the state had violated several federal laws, including those protecting people with disabilities.

The state will challenge the decision with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, said Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer. He said that since last summer, court decisions and federal administrative delays have cost the state nearly $2 billion in savings. It is a factor that Brown has cited as contributing to the state's $9.2 billion deficit.

January 19, 2012
California lawmakers take skeptical eye to Jerry Brown's budget

While Gov. Jerry Brown sold his budget plan to outside groups in Southern California, state lawmakers greeted his proposal with a skeptical eye Thursday inside the Capitol.

In a Senate budget committee hearing, Democrats raised concerns not only about Brown's cuts to schools and health and welfare programs, but also about the strength of his revenue projections, which the nonpartisan legislative analyst has called optimistic.

One Democrat, Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, took issue with Brown's tax hikes because he said the sales tax increase would hurt the poor.

"I understand the politics, but in terms of policy and benefiting poor people, I think this does them a disservice," Wright said. "If somebody makes $10,000 a year or somebody makes $300,000 a year, the sales tax on toilet paper is the same. I'm just saying that disadvantages the people I represent in Watts or Compton."

January 19, 2012
Jerry Brown predicts fight over his education proposals

SAN DIEGO - One day after urging a series of education changes in his State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he expects a major part of his plan to face staunch opposition, while other elements remain murky.

The Democratic governor called his proposal to change the categorical funding system for public schools a "heavy lift," and he predicted a tussle in the Legislature. He said wealthy areas of the state are likely to object to a plan he said would shift money to lower-income schools.

"That's a big, major reform with real bite in it," Brown said.

Brown is also proposing less state testing, but it is not yet clear exactly how some of his other ideas about education might come to fruition.

"The actual details we'll get soon," he told reporters after speaking in San Diego this afternoon.

January 19, 2012
Bill to grant Cal Expo more independence killed in Assembly

Legislation that would have allowed Cal Expo to operate more independently and to receive the proceeds of any sale or leasing of its land died today in an Assembly committee.

Assembly Bill 1204 was shelved without a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, proposed the bill as a step toward allowing Cal Expo to operate as an independent enterprise in tackling $45 million in deferred maintenance, as well as declining attendance for horse racing and the annual state fair.

A key element of AB 1204 would have eliminated a requirement that the state Department of General Services approve the purchase, acquisition, disposal, leasing, or permanent improvements of real estate or personal property owned by Cal Expo.

Under Dickinson's bill, approval of state fair property transactions would have been overseen by the State Fair Leasing Authority, consisting of four members of the Cal Expo governing board and directors of the state finance, general services, and food and agriculture departments. The state controller and treasurer would have been seated if transactions involved the issuance of bonds.

A spotlight was placed on the value of Cal Expo's land last year during discussions about the possibility of constructing a new Sacramento Kings arena on the 350-acre site. The fairgrounds' value was estimated at $200 million, according to an Assembly analysis of AB 1204.

January 19, 2012
California single-payer health care bill to get full Senate vote

Legislation to create a "single-payer" health care system in California won approval in a key committee today, getting the OK for a vote of the full Senate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 810, Democratic Sen. Mark Leno's universal health care measure, by a vote of 6-2.

The vote came as the committee met to consider bills introduced in 2011 that are projected to cost the state at least $50,000. A fiscal analysis of SB 810 estimated that running a health care system that would be open to all 37 million Californians could cost up to $250 billion a year.

The bill, which supporters say would provide greater access to health coverage and lower costs, does not include any taxes or fees to cover the cost of the system, which would be run by a new state agency.

The concept has been introduced in the Legislature multiple times in recent years. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed one version approved in the 2007-2008 legislative session. A 2009-2010 measure, also authored by Leno, died in the state Assembly.

The committee also approved urgency legislation related to local redevelopment agencies, which are set to shut down next month due to legislation and court decisions.

Senate Bill 654, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would allow the local governments to keep redevelopment money budgeted for low- and moderate-income housing. The bill, which also affects repayment of loans from local governments, would need to win approval from two-thirds of members in both houses to take effect immediately.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation containing a similar provision last year, saying it would be premature to take action before a legal battle over dissolving the agencies was settled.

California lawmakers take another crack at 'single-payer' health care bill

January 19, 2012
California Assembly kills bill to protect legislative whistleblowers

A proposed state law to protect Capitol whistle-blowers from retaliation for filing a complaint of improper activity died today in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 1378 was derailed after it failed to get a motion or second in the committee. Thus, no roll-call vote was taken. It previously had passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee, 10-0.

Legal protection against blowing the whistle on government corruption or wrongdoing currently applies to most employees -- including executive branch employees, California State University workers, and legislative appointees to boards and commissions.

AB 1378 would have expanded the list to include current and former legislators and legislative employees. The measure was proposed by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge.

The state auditor, whose office is responsible for receiving, evaluating and investigating whistleblower complaints, estimated that AB 1378 would increase costs by about $400,000 annually.

State Auditor Elaine Howle opposed the bill in a letter sent Thursday to Portantino and the Appropriations Committee. She said it would undermine and erode the independence of her office to handle investigations allegations involving the Legislature, which directs much of her staff's audit work, approves its budget, and has sole authority to remove her from office.

"The bottom line is that we cannnot and should not investigate our client -- the Legislature," she wrote.

By dying without reaching the Assembly floor, AB 1378 does not leave a trail of votes that incumbents might have to defend in upcoming elections. All 80 Assembly seats are on the ballot this year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated at 4:07 p.m. to clarify that the measure also would have applied to legislators. It also was updated at 5:11 p.m. to note that the state auditor opposed AB 1378.

January 19, 2012
Push to override Jerry Brown's veto of parks bill fails in Senate

A Republican senator's push to override Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of his state parks legislation failed today in the California Senate.

Sen. Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, brought up for reconsideration Senate Bill 356, which had proposed giving local governments the opportunity an opportunity to take over operation of state parks slated for closure due to budget cuts.

Blakeslee said the override would send a message to Brown, whom he described as California's "dreamer" governor in light of Wednesday's State of the State address, that the Legislature is working to "to economize and keep parks open."

"We have real world problems today that need immediate addressing and this is an opportunity for us potentially to keep state parks open that would otherwise close," he said.

Thirty-five senators had voted for the measure when it cleared the upper house unanimously in September. But support for bucking the Democratic governor, who called the legislation "unnecessary" in a veto message, was not as strong. Blakeslee's attempt to secure the two-thirds vote needed to override Brown's action failed with 13 lawmakers voting yes and 22 voting no. Those turning thumbs down included 20 Democrats who supported the bill last year.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that while the legislation is "meritorious," a move to override a governor's veto is "not a decision to be made lightly." Such a decision, he said, should be made by leaders from both caucuses, not an individual member.

"This isn't the bill, this isn't the time," the Sacramento Democrat said.

Blakeslee bristled at Steinberg's response, arguing that it shouldn't be left to "two people to emerge from a smoke-filled room" for the Legislature to use its constitutional authority to act independently of the governor and override a veto.

The presiding officer, Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian, admonished Blakeslee for mischaractarizing Steinberg's remarks, and Blakeslee conceded that one part of his statement wasn't accurate.

"Smoking in state buildings in California is not allowed, so it probably would not be a smoke-filled room," he quipped.

January 19, 2012
What would 'millionaires tax' collect? California experts disagree

Tax-the-rich measures may be popular, but California fiscal experts can't agree on how much they would raise.

Because wealthy earners have such volatile income streams, the state's two leading fiscal offices already disagree over how much Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan would generate

The latest example comes from a new state review of the "millionaires tax" backed by the California Federation of Teachers and Courage Campaign. The plan would charge an additional three percentage points on income above $1 million and five percentage points on income above $2 million.

A fiscal review filed last night shows that the Department of Finance believes it would generate about $9.5 billion over 18 months through June 2013. The Legislative Analyst's Office says it would raise only $6 billion. In the next fiscal year, Finance says it would raise $6 billion, while LAO says it would ring in $4 billion.

The two offices submitted their forecasts in a memo they sent to Attorney General Kamala Harris for petition purposes. It was due last Friday, but Harris spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said the fiscal offices can take more time if they request it. Harris has 15 days to write a title and summary for voters to read before deciding whether to sign a petition.

Brown has a head start on collecting signatures after state officials cleared his measure for signature gathering Wednesday. CFT secretary-treasurer Jeff Freitas said his coalition isn't backing away despite the governor's urging for it to do so.

"We're very much moving forward, securing support," Freitas said. "We have unions and community organizations getting on board. Our initiative is very much the voice of the people. It embodies the Occupy movement going on."

January 19, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown expects 'widespread business support' for tax campaign

IRVINE -- Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that he expects "widespread business support" for his campaign to raise taxes, including from health care and oil companies.

"Business is not only supporting it, but they're putting their money where their mouth is," Brown told reporters after meeting privately with about 50 members of the Orange County Business Council.

Brown has raised more than $1.2 million for his November ballot initiative to raise the state sale tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

He said of the proposal, "It's balanced, it's reasonable, and it's temporary."

The Democratic governor's remarks came on the second day of a two-day swing through Southern California to promote his plan to raise taxes and to invest in infrastructure and schools. Brown is scheduled to address the City Club of San Diego at noon.

On the club's website, the speech is titled "The State of the State, Plus One." Brown delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday.

His appearances today are in more conservative territory than on Wednesday, when Brown addressed the Democratic-controlled Legislature in Sacramento and an invitation-only crowd in Los Angeles. Both San Diego and Orange counties went for Brown's Republican opponent, Meg Whitman in the 2010 election -- in Orange County, by almost 20 percentage points.

Lucetta Dunn, president of the Orange County Business Council, said the group has not endorsed Brown's tax proposal but that "the room was supportive." She called it a "terrific meeting."

After meeting with teachers in Burbank on Tuesday afternoon, Brown was optimistic about his chances of passing a ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

"I think the voters are understanding," he said.

January 19, 2012
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino will not seek office this year

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, perhaps best known for pushing the Assembly to release member budgets after leaders threatened to furlough his staff last year, has decided not to run for state or federal office this year.

"I hope you understand that this decision in no way ends my political career," Portantino said in a written announcement Wednesday night.

"Placing it on 'hold' allows me to focus on my family while they need me. I will continue to work to put trust and accountability back into public service, now and in the future."

The D-La Cañada-Flintridge Democrat, who is termed out of the Assembly in December, has about $46,000 in a campaign finance committee named "Portantino For Senate 2016."

January 19, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown takes tax campaign to Irvine, San Diego

Gov. Jerry Brown continues his two-day campaign through Southern California today, talking up his ballot proposal on taxes.

First, he'll be meeting privately with members of the Orange County Business Council at 9:30 a.m. in Irvine. Then he's set to speak at the City Club of San Diego at noon.

Brown's advisers said Wednesday that he would start collecting signatures for his tax initiative immediately, as David Siders reports in today's Bee.

Back at the Capitol, both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled sessions for 9 a.m.

Friday is the deadline for any committee to report to the floor any bill introduced last year in their respective houses.

On the Senate side, the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee will conduct an overview of Brown's proposed budget. That hearing will start in the Capitol's Room 4203 after the Senate Appropriations Committee adjourns.

The Appropriations Committee will meet, appropriately enough, after the Senate session itself adjourns. Some 30 bills remain on the suspense file, including Sen. Mark Leno's Senate Bill 810 on single-payer health care coverage, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's Senate Bill 654 on redevelopment.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, will meet in Room 4202 after the lower house's session adjourns. You'll find its agenda at this link.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, turns 38 today.


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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