Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 24, 2012
Former GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad considering run for Congress

Former Republican Sen. Sam Aanestad is weighing a run for the Northern California congressional seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Wally Herger.

The Penn Valley Republican said he learned of Herger's decision after returning home from Mexico, where he had been vacationing without access to his cell phone or lap top, several days ago. Since then, he has been "making phone calls to see if there is any support" for a run for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District.

Aanestad, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010, said the addition of a new partner at his Grass Valley oral surgery practice has given him the time and flexibility to run. He said the 12 years he spent serving in overlapping state Senate and Assembly districts makes him a good fit for the House district, which runs from Yuba City to the Oregon border.

"I already know most of the local issues of each of the areas and the people involved in the history," he said. "It wouldn't be much of a learning process in terms of getting up to date on what the issues are for the district."

News that he is considering entering the race was first reported by FlashReport publisher Jon Fleischman on Twitter. GOP Sen. Doug LaMalfa, who succeeded Aanestad in the Senate, has already announced plans to run for the congressional seat with Herger's backing.


LaMalfa 'moving forward' for Congress run after Herger announcement

Chico Rep. Wally Herger to retire from Congress

January 24, 2012
Assemblyman Sandre Swanson drops out of SD09 race

Democratic Assemblyman Sandre Swanson has decided not to challenge Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock for the newly drawn 9th Senate District next year, eliminating a potentially costly and divisive same-party battle for the East Bay seat.

In a statement released by the Senate Democratic Caucus, the Alameda Democrat said he would hold off on seeking the Senate seat until 2016, when he plans to run with Hancock's endorsement. Both Swanson and Hancock cited the caucus' efforts to pick up the two seats needed to hold a two-thirds majority in the upper house in the joint statement.

"As Democrats, we must come together to work for the good of all Californians," Swanson, who has now endorsed Hancock, said in a statement. "2012 provides an incredible opportunity for us to achieve a supermajority in the State Senate and that must be every Democrat's top priority."

Swanson, who is termed out of the Assembly this year, had announced in December that he would run for the safe Democratic seat, claiming Hancock had previously promised that she would support him instead of seeking a second term. Hancock thanked Swanson for his support in the statement, saying she "can't think of a better person" to succeed her if she is re-elected next November.

"Nothing is more important," the Berkeley Democrat said in a statement."than having Democrats come together for the greater good."

SD09 Press Release


Sandre Swanson to challenge Loni Hancock for state Senate

January 24, 2012
Sen. Al Franken to speak at California Democratic Party confab

US NEWS MINN-SENATE 1 MS.jpgU.S. Sen. Al Franken will speak live from San Diego next month as California Democrats gather for the state party's spring convention.

The Minnesota Democrat and former comedian will keynote a dinner event during the three-day confab, party spokesman Tenoch Flores said today. The $120-a-plate dinner will be followed by a separate event featuring a performance by Eli "Paperboy" Reed.

Flores said Franken's work on health care and financial regulation since winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2008 made him a good fit for the convention, which will be held Feb. 10-12 at the San Diego Convention Center.

January 24, 2012
PPIC poll delivers voters' mixed signals on California budget

California voters like Gov. Jerry Brown's idea of making high earners pay more taxes, but otherwise are of mixed minds about solving the state's chronic budget woes, according to the Public Policy Institute of California's latest poll on the topic.

Here are a few findings from the poll, released today:

  • Among likely voters, 40 percent think the budget problem should be solved through a mix of cuts and tax increases, while another 41 percent think it should be solved mostly through spending cuts.
  • But about half of likely voters oppose Gov. Jerry Brown's welfare cuts, and 75 percent oppose the school cuts he's threatened if tax increases don't pass.
  • More than 60 percent would pay higher taxes to maintain funding at current levels for K-12 education, while slightly less than half would shell out more for higher education or health and welfare.
  • But nearly two-thirds are opposed to raising the sales tax, while 68 percent favor raising income tax rates on the wealthy. Both provisions are in Brown's plan.
  • Less than half - 48 percent - favor Brown's entire plan, cuts and tax increases included.
  • Two-fifths of college graduates said they knew very little or nothing about the budget. Only 11 percent of all voters could identify both the top spending category (K-12 schools) and top revenue source (income tax).

January 24, 2012
California lawmakers to sue John Chiang over their pay

Thumbnail image for chiangsmiling.JPGDemocratic legislative leaders sued Controller John Chiang today for blocking their pay during last year's budget dispute, a decision that drew scorn from lawmakers last summer.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said the Democratic controller overstepped his bounds when he decided that lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown a flawed budget last June and docked their pay. They said they are not suing for back earnings, but to ask the court whether Chiang can intervene this year if lawmakers face another budget dispute with Brown at the June 15 deadline.

The lawmakers filed in Sacramento Superior Court, hiring Arthur G. Scotland, retired presiding justice of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, as well as the Los Angeles firm Strumwasser & Woocher. The Legislature's operating budget, financed by tax dollars, will pay for legal costs. Billing rates range from $435 per hour for the two lead attorneys to $130 per hour for a paralegal, according to the leaders' offices.

Chiang said his own party's lawmakers failed to balance the budget largely because their plan underfunded schools by $1.3 billion according to his interpretation of the state constitution. He also said they failed to pass all of the bills necessary to carry out a balanced budget. Chiang's decision came after Brown vetoed the first budget lawmakers sent him at the deadline.

Under a 2010 voter-approved law, lawmakers lose their pay and tax-free expense money if they do not send the governor a balanced budget by the June 15 deadline. Democrats added that provision as a sweetener in Proposition 25, the main thrust of which was reducing the budget vote threshold to a majority, rather than two-thirds. The controller believes he has discretion to determine what counts as a balanced budget under the initiative.

Steinberg and Pérez believe the controller has no role under Proposition 25 to determine the validity of the Legislature's budget. Scotland said today the controller illegally interfered with the Legislature's powers of appropriation.

Aside from veto powers, Steinberg said "neither the governor nor any member of the executive branch may brandish the threat of withholding legislative pay because they disagree with the decisions made by the legislative branch."

Brown and lawmakers ultimately reached agreement on June 27, costing most lawmakers about $4,830 each, equal to 12 days' worth of pay and expense money. The state saved a total of $583,200 in foregone legislative pay.

Mindful of public acrimony against the Legislature, the two leaders emphasized Tuesday that they were not asking for back pay. "Let me be clear from the outset, both the pro tem and I have waived our claims for renumeration should this lawsuit succeed," Pérez said. "This is fundamentally an issue of separation of powers."

Chiang said Tuesday in a statement that he welcomed the court's review. But he also used the words of fellow executive branch members as a retort to lawmakers.

"It is noteworthy to point out that the Legislature's budget proposal was not only vetoed by the Governor for not being a 'balanced solution,' but it was determined by the Treasurer to not be financeable, and would have, within months of its passage, led to the issuance of IOUs," the controller said.

Chiang's move gave Brown leverage in budget negotiations, as the controller essentially suggested that Brown could block legislative pay with his veto pen. Lawmakers have seethed ever since. If their lawsuit succeeds, they would not only have greater pay protection this year, but also greater leverage. Brown has asked lawmakers to pass significant cuts to health and welfare programs and to put school funding at risk if voters reject his tax plan.

January 24, 2012
California Assembly hopeful accused of threatening Oakland aide

A Democratic candidate for the 18th Assembly District is facing a potential second brush with the law stemming from allegations of violence.

The Oakland Tribune reports that Joel Young, who was accused last year of domestic violence following a dispute with his former girlfriend, is now under investigation for allegedly threatening an Oakland City Council staffer at a Jan. 14 event.

(Jason) Overman, an aide to Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, filed a police report Friday -- disputed by Young and his girlfriend -- stating that when he greeted Young during the event, Young told him, "Walk away before I beat your (expletive) (expletive), you piece of (expletive)."

Overman, 27, told police that Young, a 34-year-old attorney and former Cal football player, asked him to step outside and then put his face inches from Overman's and said, "You just wait until my campaign is over. I'm going to find you and beat your (expletive) (expletive), you (expletive)."

Young then "made a gurgling sound" and spat in Overman's eye before leaving the bar, according to Overman's account to police.

Young, who had not yet been contacted by authorities Monday, said he had a brief conversation that night with Overman, but denied making any threats. "None of that is true," Young said. "If I wasn't a candidate for the Assembly, I doubt Jason would be doing this."

Young is one of several Democrats expected to run for the vacant East Bay Assembly seat. His current girlfriend, who also attended the event, defended his account, saying Overman was jealous about their relationship, according to the Tribune.

Read the full story at this link.

January 24, 2012
Audit accuses high-speed rail of risky financing, contract splitting

In yet another blow to California's troubled high-speed rail project, California's state auditor said this morning that the project's financing is "increasingly risky" and its oversight inadequate.

In a follow-up report to her agency's 2010 critique of the project, state Auditor Elaine Howle said the California High-Speed Rail Authority's most recent business plan relies on uncertain funding sources and that "the program's overall financial situation has become increasingly risky."

Howle's report is the latest in a series of critical reports about the project, including by the Legislative Analyst's Office and the rail authority's own peer review group. Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to press the nearly $100 billion project through the Legislature this year.

Howle's report questions the authority's ridership projections, saying the group that reviewed those numbers was "handpicked" by the authority's chief executive officer, and it accused the authority of failing to adequately manage its many contractors.

"Without sufficient staffing," the report said, "the authority has struggled to oversee its contractors and subcontractors, who outnumber its employees by about 25 to one."

Howle also said the rail authority violated a state rule prohibiting agencies from splitting contracts to avoid competitive bidding requirements, dividing $3.1 million in information technology services into 13 different contracts with one vendor over 15 months.

In a written response, the rail authority said contract management remains "a huge challenge for the authority due to a lack of sufficient qualified staff." But it discounted as "purely speculative" Howle's claim that the plan is financially risky.

The authority all but conceded that it had mismanaged its information technology contracts, saying it "will develop procedures to detect and prevent contract splitting."

January 24, 2012
Republican Tony Amador to run for new 9th Assembly seat

Republican Tony Amador, a Lodi resident and retired federal marshal, will seek the newly drawn 9th Assembly seat stretching from south Sacramento through Elk Grove to Lodi.

Amador will compete against a field expected to include incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan -- who is moving into the district to run - and Elk Grove City Councilwoman Sophia Scherman, a Republican.

Amador said the new district is a perfect fit for him because he lived in Elk Grove for nearly 20 years before moving to Lodi in 2009. Voter registration favors Democrats, however, by 13 percentage points.

January 24, 2012
Former Assembly leader Fabian Núñez to be TV political analyst

Nunez.jpgFormer Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez will serve as a political analyst during this presidential election year for Univision Communications, a major national Spanish-language media firm.

The Los Angeles Democrat will participate with other analysts in roundtable discussions and provide commentary on the election season, presidential candidates and major political issues, according to a written statement on the company's website.

Besides assisting with election coverage, Núñez and other analysts will appear on the network's evening newscast, "Noticiero Univision"; a Sunday public affairs program, "Al Punto"; and on a morning program, "Despierta America."

Núñez led the Assembly from 2004 to 2008, when he was termed out of the lower house. He currently serves as a partner in Mercury Public Affairs -- a high-powered political consulting firm -- and he will continue to do so during his stint as an analyst, colleague Adam Mendelsohn said.

Univision's statement can be read here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, 2007. Associated Press/ Rich Pedroncelli.

January 24, 2012
AM Alert: Find a (Democratic) party for the State of the Union

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address today.

Sacramento's speech-watching party for Obama supporters will be held at 5 p.m. at Head Hunters restaurant, 1930 K Street. Find a watch party near you here.

In case you feel accessories are required, the Obama campaign is offering "I bark for Barack" car magnets featuring first pet Bo.

We checked with the state Republican Party for a watch-party list, but none was available. Capitol Alert suspects GOP voters are spending their time at debate-watching parties these days.

The California University System Board of Trustees meets today and tomorrow. Among items on the agenda: collective bargaining, campus planning and presidential compensation. Guess which one is likely to get the most attention?

Find live-streaming of the public sessions here beginning at 11 a.m. today.

DOMESTIC WORKERS: Advocates of a Domestic Worker Bill of rights will travel to the Capitol today for a 10 a.m. march and 11:30 a.m. children's festival. They promise clowns, balloons, arts and crafts and games, along with visits to legislative offices. Their goal is revival and passage of Assembly Bill 889, by Tom Ammiano.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Happy birthday to Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who turns 54 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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