Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 31, 2012
California Democrats post fundraising, voter registration edge

California Democrats are starting 2012 with an $8.7 million fundraising advantage and 13-point voter registration edge over their rivals in the Republican Party.

The cash edge was reported in year-end campaign finance filings released Tuesday. The California Democratic State Central Committee ended 2011 with $9.3 million in the bank, after raising $2.77 million in contributions in the final three months of the year. The California Republican Party came close to matching Democrats in contributions, raising nearly $2.34 million, but reported having just shy of $439,000 cash on hand due to heavy spending on an effort to repeal the new state Senate maps via a referendum drive.

The campaign cash numbers were reported on the same day as Secretary of State Debra Bowen released updated voter registration figures showing that Democrats continue to hold a 13-point lead statewide, 43.63 percent to 30.36 percent. Both parties saw slight declines in registration in the last year, while the percentage of voters registered as decline-to-state rose to an all-time high of 21.24 percent.

CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro downplayed the registration numbers in a statement issued by the party, saying that Californians continue to show their support for the party by voting for fiscally conservative measures on the ballot. He said that he expects the party to make gains in closing the registration gap ahead of the 2012 election.

Democrats didn't seem too worried about that prospect.

"With these kind of numbers, I think California Democrats can really start to get used to the Del Beccaro era," CDP spokesman Tenoch Flores quipped.

January 31, 2012
Ron Calderon drops bid for Congress, endorses Linda Sanchez

California Sen. Ron Calderon is abandoning his bid for the newly drawn 38th Congressional District, opting to remain in the state Senate and back Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez for the Southern California seat.

"I have had the honor of representing portions of the Gateway Cities and San Gabriel Valley for the past nine years and I am incredibly proud of my record as a legislator committed to creating quality jobs, improving our system of public education, protecting frontline services and keeping our neighborhoods healthy and safe," Calderon said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to represent many of the communities in this Congressional District as a Member of the California State Senate and I look forward to working with Congresswoman Sanchez to champion local job creation and economic development."

The Montebello Democrat's decision comes just over a week after Sanchez emerged as the overwhelming favorite for the state Democratic Party endorsement, winning more than 70 percent of the vote at the party's regional pre-endorsement conferences. Both candidates have yet to file their year-end campaign finance reports, which are due by the end of today.

Calderon, who will be termed out of the Senate in 2014, has also been dealing with personal hardships in recent weeks.The wife of his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, and his mother-in-law have both passed away since the start of the new year.

January 31, 2012
California Senate OKs bill on RDAs' affordable housing funds

Legislation to allow local governments in California to keep using redevelopment funds earmarked for affordable housing projects cleared the state Senate today on a majority vote, after a failed attempt to win the votes needed for the measure to take effect immediately.

Senate Bill 654, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would allow cities and counties to retain tax dollars contained in the low- and moderate-income housing funds of the soon-to-be shuttered redevelopment agencies. Such funds contain about $1.36 billion that will otherwise be redirected to schools and other local government functions when the redevelopment agencies are dissolved on Wednesday.

The fate of that money is uncertain. Even if the measure is passed by the Assembly and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, its provisions would not take effect until next year without a two-thirds vote for an urgency clause.

An attempt to win two-thirds passage of the measure failed without GOP support, 24-1, after majority Democrats rejected amendments proposed by Senate GOP leader Bob Huff.

"I appreciate the pro tem's desire to address affordable housing, but we must go further," the Diamond Bar Republican said, raising questions about outstanding bonds and redevelopment projects already under way.

The bill cleared the upper house easily on the second try, with 10 Republicans who had abstained from the first vote voting yes. That margin would have been enough for the now majority-vote bill to pass as an urgency measure.

Amid the procedural maneuvering, Steinberg told colleagues on the floor that he would be willing later to put the language into a new budget bill so that it could be take effect immediately with majority-vote approval. Steinberg's office said that local agencies overseeing the transition could also opt not to decide what to do about the funds until the issue is resolved.

The agencies, axed as part of last year's budget package, are slated to be disbanded Wednesday. Legislation to delay that date until April 15 has failed to gain traction.

RELATED POSTS:
Steinberg: Extending redevelopment agencies 'not going to happen'

January 31, 2012
Jerry Brown, lawmakers back bill protecting school bus money

HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPGRural and urban school districts in California that make heavy use of buses appear safe -- for now.

State lawmakers are fast-tracking legislation that would transform a $248 million midyear school bus cut into a general-purpose reduction that hits each K-12 district evenly. The Assembly Budget Committee passed Senate Bill 81 with bipartisan support Tuesday, while an aide to Gov. Jerry Brown testified that the governor supports the proposal.

But Brown still wants to eliminate specific funding for buses in his 2012-13 budget, along with removing earmarks for a variety of other K-12 programs. He instead proposes a new block grant funding system for schools, out of which he suggests districts could fund bus service if they choose.

In Tuesday's hearing, Republicans and Democrats representing rural areas joined together to lobby for SB 81, which only applies for the remainder of this school year. The bus cut was triggered when state forecasters determined last month that California would fall $2.2 billion short of a $4 billion tax revenue bump that Brown and lawmakers assumed in the 2011-12 state budget.

"It's a catastrophic problem in my district and in many other rural parts of California," said Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, who represents the North Coast area. "Eliminating the school bus system creates dangerous situations for many children in California, but for my district it means it would be impossible for many children, if not most children in some districts, to attend school at all."

January 31, 2012
Jerry Brown orders review, finds missing X-ray machine, dental chairs

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown was confiscating state-issued cellphones and cars. This year, he's finding grout pumps and chairs.

Such is his attention to budget dust in austere times.

In a memorandum last week to agency secretaries, Brown's executive secretaries, Jim Humes and Nancy McFadden, ordered agency secretaries to review their property-accounting procedures.

"We recognize that the state has over 190,000 employees, and that property can be occasionally lost or misplaced in the regular course of business," their memo said. "However, every state employee must use state property responsibly, and departments must have effective internal controls."

The agencies are to report their findings within six months.

Brown's office provided some examples of state-owned items that were found after being reported lost, stolen or destroyed.

They included one $415,000 X-ray machine and four $26,000 dental chairs at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a surveillance system erroneously listed as "missing" at a Department of Motor Vehicles field office, and a $26,000 grout pump reported stolen, but later found.

Brown is trying to improve documentation and tighten controls, spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said.

January 31, 2012
Senate OKs nearly $13 million in settlements, attorneys fees for legal cases

The state Senate today approved $13 million in settlements and fees in legal disputes lost by the state, including nearly $1 million in court-ordered attorneys fees in the Entertainment Merchants Association's successful challenge of a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the industry group last year in its effort to block the violent video game ban, upholding decisions at the federal and appellate court levels. Critics of the law, which was approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, had argued that the restrictions violated their First Amendment right to free speech.

The legislation, Senate Bill 730, was approved with bipartisan support, by a vote of 32-5.

Senate Bill 730 also gave the green light for a $4.23 million settlement in a lawsuit between EdFund, the state's former student loan guarantor, and a Mather business park office complex, two payments totaling $5.5 million in cases against the Department of Forestry and the Department of Fish and Game and a $1.5 million settlement in a lawsuit against the Department of Parks and Recreation filed by a man who had been struck by a falling tree at Los Banos Creek Reservoir in Merced County.

The appropriation bill, which requires a two-thirds vote to take effect immediately, must be approved by the Assembly before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown, who defended the video game law as state attorney general, for consideration.

RELATED STORIES:

Supreme Court strikes down violent video game ban

January 31, 2012
California campaign disclosure bill rejected by Assembly

The Assembly rejected legislation today that would have required independent expenditure comittees to provide more disclosure of their contributors in backing candidates or ballot measures.

Assembly Bill 1148 fell two votes short of the two-thirds supermajority required for passage. Every Democrat but Cathleen Galgiani of Livingston supported it, and every Republican but Nathan Fletcher of San Diego opposed it or did not vote. The final tally was 52-26.

Democrats touted the measure as a way to ease voter cynicism by providing greater disclosure by independent committees, which can spend unlimited sums to support candidates or ballot measures.

Republicans countered that the bill would restrict freedom of speech. What the state needs instead are less restrictive candidate contribution limits, so that donors could give whatever sums they desire to candidate-controlled committees and there would be less incentive to create independent committees, GOP lawmakers said.

January 31, 2012
Assembly changes mind and passes three-strikes legislation

One day after turning thumbs down, the Assembly today passed legislation that would ask voters to alter California's "three strikes" criminal sentencing law.

Assembly Bill 327, approved by a vote of 41-33, now goes to the Senate.

Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, sought the re-vote after his measure lacked five votes for passage Monday, when 10 members either were absent or opted not to cast a vote.

"We have the opportunity not only to be tough on crime but to be smart on crime," Davis said in floor debate today.

But Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, countered that passing AB 327 would amount to "trivializing violent criminal acts."

AB 327 would ask voters to require that a third strike be a serious or violent felony before an offender could be sentenced to a 25-to-life prison term under California's three strikes law.

January 31, 2012
Controller: State to run out of cash in March without action

ha_jchiang48630.JPGCalifornia will run out of cash by early March if the state does not take swift action to find $3.3 billion through payment delays and borrowing, according to a letter state Controller John Chiang sent to state lawmakers today.

The announcement is surprising since lawmakers previously believed the state had enough cash to last through the fiscal year that ends in June.

But Chiang said additional cash management solutions are needed because state tax revenues are $2.6 billion less than what Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers assumed in their optimistic budget last year. Meanwhile, Chiang said, the state is spending $2.6 billion more than state leaders planned on.

January 31, 2012
Californians rank low in economic security, survey finds

When it comes to financial security - such factors as savings and low debt ratios - Californians resemble the residents of Southern and Rust Belt states, according to a new national survey by the Washington-based Corporation for Enterprise Development.

California's place on the organization's national chart of economic opportunity and security, 39th among the states and the District of Columbia, is largely determined, the detailed data show, by its very low rankings on credit card debt, loan delinquency and bankruptcy.

The study found that nearly a third of California households are "asset poor," meaning they have little or no financial cushions, even if they are employed. And excluding equity in homes or cars, more than 43 percent of Californians could not sustain themselves for three months if they lose their incomes.

California households rank 49th in average credit card debt at $14,677, nearly a third higher than the national average and 45th in bankruptcy rate. Its ranking is similar to those of other southern tier states while the highest levels of economic security are found in the northern tier of states bordering Canada.

Vermonters are No. 1 in economic security and Georgians are 51st.

January 31, 2012
AM Alert: Deadline day under the dome

It's a Triple-D kind of day under the dome.

That's right, three separate deadlines are looming as California politicos prepare to enter month two of 2012 (Sorry for the false alarm, Guy Fieri fans).

1.) RIP Redevelopment Local Redevelopment Agencies will take their last breaths today. The 2010 law axing the agencies, crafted as part of last year's budget package, takes effect Feb. 1. While some lawmakers have voiced support for reviving the agencies' main functions in new forms, a workable solution has not emerged since the state Supreme Court struck down the Legislature's first attempt at creating a successor to RDAs. A push to delay the dissolution date until April 15 has failed to gain traction in the Legislature. Officials from the Department of Finance and the State Controller's Office will be addressing lingering questions on the termination during an 11 a.m. webinar. Questions can be submitted via email to redevelopment@dof.ca.gov.

2.) Last Call for 2011 bills: Bills introduced in 2011 must clear their house-of-origin today in order to stay alive for the remainder of the two-year session. The Senate plans to gavel in at 10 a.m. to tackle the handful of two-year bills remaining on the file. One measure expected to come up for a vote is Senate Bill 654, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's legislation to allow local governments to keep and use redevelopment money earmarked for affordable housing projects. The Assembly, meanwhile, will get back to work at 9 a.m. Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, is expected to take another shot at winning passage of a bill that would make changes to the state's "Three Strikes" law. Assembly Bill 327 fell five votes short during Monday's floor session.

3.) Campaign cash: Candidates for state and federal office face a midnight deadline for filing campaign finance reports. The reports will cover cash raised and spent through Dec. 31, 2011. Wondering which committee balances to check for state legislative races? Parts one, two and three of Capitol Alert's "Races to Watch" series might refresh your memory of the must-watch match-ups. Also due today are state lobbying reports for the fourth quarter of 2011.

RX FOR NURSING BOARD? The Assembly Budget Committee's agenda for today includes a recently crafted bill to reinstate the Board of Registered Nursing through 2016. The board was technically dissolved at the end of 2011 after Gov. vetoed legislation to extend its sunset date. The Budget Committee is expected to take up this bill and review Brown's budget proposal when it meets after the full session adjourns.

PLANNING AHEAD: The Greenlining Institute will present results of its survey on California's ballot initiative system at a luncheon on Wednesday. RSVP to brucem@greenlining.org or micheller@greenlining.org or call (408) 550-3121. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol, Room 2040.



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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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