Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 20, 2012
Lawmakers push bill to replace California school bus cut

HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPGAfter a mid-year budget cut wiped out school bus funds, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to restore transportation money by cutting general purpose dollars in all districts.

The Senate budget committee amended its Senate Bill 81 in the Assembly yesterday, signaling lawmakers' intent not only to preserve school bus service now, but in the future as well. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed eliminating school bus funds permanently in his 2012-13 budget.

Brown has shown little willingness to reverse cuts, especially with the state facing a new $9.2 billion deficit. With that in mind, SB 81 would replace the $248 million school bus cut with an across-the-board reduction to all districts equal to about $42 per student, shifting more of the pain to suburban districts that don't offer much bus service.

The midyear bus cut hit rural and urban districts particularly hard. According to data compiled by the California School Boards Association, the isolated Death Valley Unified School District would lose $1,734 per student. Meanwhile, Davis Joint Unified would lose less than $8 per student and Rocklin Unified less than $10.

The state's coalition of education groups, which includes teachers, school boards and administrators, supports the change. Brown's Department of Finance does not yet have a position, said spokesman H.D. Palmer.

The reduction was triggered in December when fiscal forecasters determined California would fall $2.2 billion short of the optimistic revenue projections that Brown and lawmakers used last June. Since last month, rural school districts have lobbied lawmakers to reverse the bus cut, noting that it would cause uneven hardship throughout the state.

The Los Angeles Unified School District filed a lawsuit to block the bus cut last month, alleging it would violate federal busing mandates and past court decisions ensuring equal education funding across districts. LAUSD would lose $61 per student, according to the CSBA data.

Updated to clarify that the cut would apply to general purpose funding, which largely pays for classroom instruction but also goes toward administration and other costs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pleasant Grove High School students get off their bus on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

January 20, 2012
Rep. Dennis Cardoza enters online gambling fray in Sacramento

Congressman Retiring Cardoza.jpgAdd Rep. Dennis Cardoza to the long list of individuals and interests weighing in on the online gambling legislation discussions going on under the dome.

The Merced Democrat was part of a group of racehorse owners and lobbyists for the Thoroughbred Owners of California trade association that met with members of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee this week "to discuss Internet poker, and other Internet gaming issues," according to a report by California Watch.

In a telephone interview, Cardoza said he is an unpaid member of the board of directors of the thoroughbred owners association. The House of Representatives' Ethics Committee approved his service last year, he said.

He said the Sacramento meetings were aimed at calling attention to the economic problems of the state's $2.8 billion horse racing industry. He was "absolutely not lobbying," Cardoza said.

"I wouldn't consider it being a lobbyist," he said. "It's just visiting friends, and I certainly am unpaid."

When asked whether his work with the association posed a conflict of interest, he said, "I don't have a conflict of interest - I'm a citizen who is talking to my old colleagues."

A renewed push to legalize and regulate Internet poker and other online gambling in California is expected to be the subject of intense lobbying this year, as Indian tribes, card rooms, horse racing entities and other interests fight for a stake in whatever system is crafted by legislators.

Democratic Sen. Rod Wright, who authored one of two online gambling measures that stalled last year, is planning to introduce another bill on the matter this spring.

>PHOTO CREDIT: Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2010. Associated Press/Harry Hamburg.

January 20, 2012
Assembly candidate's comments on train cause a stir on Twitter

salladay.jpgIn the age of smart phones, YouTube and Twitter, a public train car probably isn't the best place to talk campaign strategy.

Assembly candidate Michele Martinez learned that the hard way this week.

The Orange County Democrat, who now serves on the Santa Ana City Council, was apparently dishing on her cellphone about her campaign and other Capitol gossip during a ride from Sacramento to the Bay Area on Thursday morning.

Sitting nearby? Bob Salladay, a veteran political reporter who's now a senior editor for California Watch, a nonprofit investigative news outlet.

When some of her comments suggested that she was "working with" an Indian tribe on independent expenditures -- a potential violation of the Political Reform Act if she was coordinating independent spending that benefited her own campaign, Salladay took notice.

He then began to tweet.

January 20, 2012
AM Alert: California Democrats already thinking endorsements

The primary election isn't until June, but the California Democratic Party is already voting on endorsements.

State Democrats are holding their pre-primary endorsement conferences this weekend in anticipation of the state party convention next month.

Just to drive home the point, Party Chairman John Burton lays out Democrats' goals this year in a letter to candidates and those eligible to vote on endorsements: re-elect Sen. Dianne Feinstein, regain the majority in the House, beef up Democratic majorities in the state Senate and the Assembly, and "compete in newly crafted districts across the state."

Some of those districts have two or more Democrats competing against each other, for instance, the 30th Congressional District, where incumbents Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are slugging it out. Who will they choose? Or will the choice be "no endorsement"?

Candidates who are registered Democrats, file as Democrats and pay the party a filing fee will be considered. An Assembly candidate pays $250, while a congressional candidate pays $350 and a Senate candidate, $500. Candidates recommended for endorsement will need final approval at the state party convention, which will be held in San Diego on Feb. 11-12.

It'll be a big month for conventions. The California Republican Party will hold its own state party convention two weeks later, Feb. 24-26 at the Hyatt San Francisco Airport.

NEW JOB: Republican strategist Rob Stutzman's firm Stutzman Public Affairs has a new vice president -- Amy Thoma. The former Assembly aide, who worked on Carly Fiorina's Senate campaign, has been an account director at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and director at Wilson-Miller Communications. She'll serve as deputy campaign manager of Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher's San Diego mayoral campaign.

LGBT CAUCUS: Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, has been elected the chair of California's seven-member LGBT Legislative Caucus. The freshman Democrat replaces Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who is termed out this year.

SELF-DRIVING CARS: There aren't any autonomous cars on California's roads -- yet -- but Santa Clara University's law school is already looking at their legal implications at an all-day symposium today. For instance, who would be liable for an accident? Check out the agenda via this link.


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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