Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 29, 2012
Assembly Democrats reject Gov. Jerry Brown's welfare cuts

In a hearing that included testimony from children as young as 6 years old, an Assembly budget panel on Wednesday rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's welfare-to-work cuts.

The Assembly's health and human services budget subcommittee voted 3-1 along party lines against cutting grant levels and eliminating adults after 24 months, instead of 48, if they cannot find work. Brown had counted on CalWORKs cuts to save $946 million to help close a deficit he estimates at $9.2 billion.

The state has reduced welfare benefits since the recession, such as shrinking the adult time limit from 60 months to 48 months and cutting maximum grants by 8 percent last year. Brown this year proposed restructuring CalWORKs to spend more on benefits for people who find work and less on those who cannot.

Welfare advocates testified Wednesday that Brown's plan would harm families because many recipients have tried and failed to find jobs in the current economy.

The panel instead agreed to find other ways to save and wait to see what the state's revenue picture looks like after tax dollars come in March and April. Though lawmakers likely won't take substantive floor action on the state budget until June, Wednesday's action marked the first significant legislative rejection of Brown's plan since he introduced it in January.

The only Brown items the panel agreed to Wednesday come with a higher immediate state cost rather than general fund savings. Democrats argue that the changes create more incentives for people to work and reduce dependence on the program in the long run. Lawmakers agreed to ignore $225 in monthly income - rather than $112 - when determining whether someone is eligible to receive welfare benefits, which would cost the state about $90 million.

They also agreed to provide a $50 monthly work bonus to non-CalWORKs families receiving food stamp benefits or state subsidized child care starting in July 2013. That change is largely intended to count more people toward meeting federal work requirements and avoid penalties, though it would cost the state $126 million annually in future years.

February 29, 2012
Jerry Brown pitches tax plan, hails charter school 'insurgents'

Gov. Jerry Brown urged charter school supporters at the Capitol this afternoon to back his ballot initiative to raise taxes, as he continues to try pushing the proponents of competing tax initiatives to step aside.

"We need your support," the Democratic governor told a cheering crowd on the Capitol lawn. "We need the support of all the teachers and the supporters of the public schools in California."

Brown's remarks follow his private meeting in Los Angeles on Tuesday with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. A so-called "millionaires tax" proposed by the California Federation of Teachers is one of two tax measures threatening to compete with Brown's November ballot initiative to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

Brown, who met with other labor leaders in Washington over the weekend to "build support for the single tax," believes the presence of multiple tax initiatives on the ballot could dilute support for any one of them, causing all to fail. He said as he left the rally this afternoon that his meeting with Weingarten was "very good," but he declined to discuss it in any detail.

"She's a real educational leader, and we found a lot to agree with," Brown said. "It was a very, I thought, very stimulating meeting, and I certainly learned a lot, and I might have even given her an idea or two."

Weingarten, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Brown, who started two charter schools when he was mayor of Oakland, was warmly received at the California Charter Schools Association rally. He compared starting a charter school to giving birth.

"Sometimes births are associated with pain," Brown said. "But after the pain comes the joy and the excitement of some new being and reality, and that's what charter schools are in California."

Brown said charter schools represent "power coming up from the bottom."

He told the charter school supporters, "That's what you represent: You're rebels out there, insurgents."

February 29, 2012
House passes California water bill

The House on Wednesday approved an ambitious California water bill that favors farmers, splits the state and pressures the Senate.

In a largely partisan vote, the Republican-controlled House approved the legislation which would lengthen irrigation contracts, override state law and boost deliveries to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Most dramatically, the bill replaces one San Joaquin River restoration plan with something far less ambitious.

"Flushing water into San Francisco Bay is not helping to recover species, and people are suffering needlessly," said bill author Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, adding later that his bill "gives (water) reliability, not only to farms but to the environment."

Approved by a 246 to 175 margin, the bill marked one of the few times the full House has confronted California's water woes. The nearly five-hour debate, though, also underscored how the bill has magnified rather than ameliorated regional and personal differences.

"This is a power grab," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. "It's a water grab, and it's an imposition of the federal government over the state."

February 29, 2012
KQED Radio's John Myers moving to Sacramento television gig

The dean of the Capitol radio press corps, KQED's John Myers, announced today that he will move to television and become political editor for Sacramento's KXTV News 10.

Myers announced the move today on his Facebook page:

On April 2, I'll trade headphones for makeup and join Sacramento ABC affiliate KXTV-TV News10 in the newly created job of Political Editor.

It's back to my roots in TV news, but the same CA politics beat I've had for a decade.

A very tough decision to end my tenure with the great folks at KQED, but an exciting new opportunity.

February 29, 2012
New PPIC study plumbs California's complex political matrix

Democrats dominate statewide, legislative and congressional offices in California, making it a "decidedly blue" state, but its overall political matrix is much more complex, a new statistical study concludes.

"California's Political Geography" is being published by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), based on both official voting and registration data and PPIC's frequent opinion surveys and written by PPIC staffers Eric McGhee and Daniel Krimm.

"Although California votes solidly Democratic, Californians (including non-voters) hold important elements of conservative belief in most parts of the state," they write. "On an ideological scale ranging from strong conservative to strong liberal, public opinion data show the average Californian falling in the middle and leaning slightly conservative.

"Statewide, Californians are divided between those who say they are willing to pay higher taxes for more government services (48 percent) and those who would prefer paying fewer taxes and receiving fewer services (43 percent). And both non-Hispanic white and black Californians are slightly more likely to say that immigrants are a burden on the state (48 percent) rather than a benefit (44 percent).

"In fact, growth in Democratic support over time has not been uniform across the state, but has had a strong geographic dimension. It is common to say that a north-south divide - with the north voting Democratic and the south voting Republican - has been replaced with an east-west, or coastal-inland divide (with the coast voting Democratic and inland voting Republican). But this shorthand tells only part of the story."

The conclusion about an east-west split has been apparent in previous journalistic and academic surveys of the state's politics. And the paper's observations about the Democratic dominance being driven by the party's strength in Los Angeles County and the San Francisco area have long been apparent - in fact was a chapter in a similarly titled book, "The New Political Geography of California," written by the author of this Capitol Alert posting.

February 29, 2012
SEIU director tells Jerry Brown's tax-plan rivals to step aside

20110608_LS_SEIU KIEFFER003 (1).JPGPowerful labor leader David Kieffer says proponents of tax measures competing with Gov. Jerry Brown's measure should get out of the way.

Kieffer, head of Service Employees International Union California, has begun breaking his union's silence on Brown's tax plan after the group had quietly pledged support weeks ago.

"I think people do really feel like he's the adult in the room who would take the resources that the state voters have given him and be prudent with it," Kieffer said in a recent interview. "I think they have a really good feeling that this is the guy who goes into a room on Sunday night as kind of the 'Daddy of California' with a checkbook to pay all the bills."

Brown has proposed raising income taxes on the wealthy and hiking the sales tax by a half-cent to help balance the budget and avoid school cuts. He has tried to discourage proponents of two other multibillion-dollar tax measures from qualifying their initiatives for the November ballot, but those groups have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to gather signatures and shown no sign of stepping aside.

Kieffer said that SEIU, which represents government workers and home care providers, sees Brown's plan as the best one to raise money for the entire state budget. The other proposals mostly raise funds outside the state budget to benefit education and county programs.

February 29, 2012
Housing meltdown dropped California's home ownership rate

The housing industry meltdown in California sharply reversed a trend of steadily increasing homeownership, a new statistical compilation by the Census Bureau reveals.

The result: The percentage of Californians who live in homes that they and their families own dipped to 55.3 percent in 2011, the second lowest rate of any state, just ahead of New York's 53.6 percent.

The current California level is just about where it was during the 1980s and 1990s before climbing to as high as 60.2 percent in 2006, just before the housing market implosion.

The home ownership data is just one of a number of statistical reports on housing trends in the Census Bureau report, including housing vacancies rates.

February 29, 2012
Lawmaker pushes to cut 'R-word' from California law books

A California lawmaker is determined to rid the state of mental retardation -- in its law books.

Dozens of references to "mentally retarded" or "mental retardation" would be wiped off state statutes under legislation by Republican Assemblyman Allan Mansoor of Costa Mesa.

"This is not an acceptable way to refer to people with intellectual disabilities," said Saulo Londoño, Mansoor's spokesman.

"People already have an awareness of other slurs that are used, but this is one that kind of flies under the radar, in our opinion," Londoño said.

Assembly Bill 2370 would replace mentally retarded with the term "intellectually disabled," and it would replace mental retardation with "intellectual disability."

Two organizations serving people with disabilities, Best Buddies California and Special Olympics International, are spearheading a national campaign to discourage use of the word "retarded."

Londoño said he knows of no opposition to the measure, which was proposed last Friday. No public hearing has yet been scheduled.

Nearly five years ago, the state adopted legislation similar to Mansoor's that erased from California statutes three other words deemed offensive by many --"idiot," "lunatic" and "imbecile."

"Government officials are supposed to be leaders, and they're supposed to lead by example with these kinds of things," Londoño said.

February 29, 2012
California's David Dreier to retire from the House

dreier.JPGCalifornia's seniority standing in the House of Representatives will take another hit, with the announcement Wednesday by Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, that he will be retiring.

Dreier, chair of the House Rules Committee, has served in the House since 1981. The committee chairmanship has given the 59-year-old Dreier a key gatekeeper's responsibility, making him responsible for setting the rules of debate on every bill that reaches the House floor.

Dreier surprised his colleagues Wednesday by announcing his retirement plans from the House floor.

Though the timing of the announcement was unexpected, the decision itself had been anticipated ever since a California redistricting commission redrew district lines to put Dreier into a much more competitive spot.

Dreier is the sixth House member from California to announce his retirement at the end of the 112th Congress.

PHOTO CAPTION: David Dreier/Associated Press

February 29, 2012
AM Alert: California's proposed budget cuts back in spotlight

California's proposed state budget cuts are back in the spotlight, sparking their own drama outside the Capitol building.

Health and human services advocates are rallying on the south steps at noon against Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed cuts to the CalWORKs program, which an Assembly budget subcommittee will consider starting in Room 4202 at 1:30 p.m. Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, the Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, is expected to address the rally along with the Rev. Michael Kiernan of the Sacramento diocese and others.

Two other Assembly budget subcommittee also meet today. One will look at cap-and-trade revenues starting at 9 a.m. in Room 447. The other considers the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation starting at 4 p.m. in Room 127.

Not that lawmakers are likely to put any numbers together soon. The Legislative Analyst's Office recommended earlier this week that the Legislature put off writing the budget until Brown releases his own revised proposal in May.

On the Senate side, the Education Committee will hear from members of a student advisory board of the Oakland-based California Association of Student Councils, who are expected to turn thumbs-up on education reforms and thumbs-down on teacher tenure. That hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 4203.

The Senate Rules Committee considers gubernatorial appointments starting at 1:30 p.m. in Room 113, with Public Employment Relations Board members Eugene Huguenin and Anita Martinez required to appear, as are Ellen Widess of Occupational Safety and Health and Joan Markoff of the Personnel Administration Department.

Where do California voters stand now on same-sex marriage? According to the latest Field Poll, they support it by 59 percent to 34 percent -- the largest margin of support since the poll started asking 35 years ago.

Dan Smith and Torey Van Oot have details in today's Bee. If you want even more numbers, click here to see the statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert. You'll find the publicly released poll at this link.

REPORT CARD: The American Society of Civil Engineers releases its California infrastructure report card at 9:30 a.m. on the west steps. Listed speakers include Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella.

MORTGAGES: Attorney General Kamala Harris is joining Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and others to unveil what they're calling the Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of bills that would reform the mortgage process in the state. The presser starts at 11 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 1190.

VETERANS: The AMVETS Service Foundation honors Democrats Sen. Lou Correa and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada for their work supporting veterans. The event, which begins at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol's basement cafeteria, is part of the organization's legislative day.

IMMUNIZATIONS: Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, unveils his Assembly Bill 2109, intended to ensure that parents are given accurate information about immunizations. The event runs from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Room 444.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Members of the California Charter School Association rally for their cause on the north steps starting at 3:45 p.m.

February 28, 2012
Latino Legislative Caucus elects Ricardo Lara as chairman

The Latino Legislative Caucus elected Assemblyman Ricardo Lara as its new chairman today, replacing Assemblyman Tony Mendoza.

A leadership transition involving the two Assembly Democrats will begin immediately, with Mendoza, of Artesia, officially stepping down March 9, said Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Montebello.

Calderon declined to discuss reasons for the caucus' decision to replace Mendoza with Lara, saying only that "the chairman and the body of the caucus were just going in two different directions."

Mendoza said he was stepping down as caucus leader to run in June for a seat on the Central Basin Municipal Water District.

But dissatisfaction with Mendoza's leadership contributed to the change in caucus leadership, other legislative sources said.

Some of the caucus's 23 Latino members had been concerned about Mendoza's performance in matters ranging from fundraising to a controversy last year involving the caucus' failure to identify donors to its nonprofit foundation. Mendoza ultimately reported donors to the charitable group after Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez requested that he do so.

More recently, controversy was sparked by machinations surrounding a caucus vote to endorse former Assemblyman Tom Calderon - brother of incumbent lawmakers Charles and Ronald Calderon - in his current race for the Assembly, sources said.

Mendoza, in a written statement, characterized himself as an independent politician "who does not go along to get along," qualities that he says can serve the water district well in years ahead.

"I know I have ruffled a few feathers as I fought for my constituents rather than doing what was easy," he said. "I want to take that same questioning of the status quo to the water district."

Lara, of Bell Gardens, is a former legislative staff member who was elected to the Assembly in 2010. He currently is running for the state Senate.

Lara declined to discuss any past caucus friction.

"We want to look forward," he said. "I'm definitely humbled and honored to have the support of my colleagues and have the united support of the caucus behind my chairmanship."

* Updated at 2:30 p.m. to add quote from Assemblyman Tony Mendoza. Updated at 3:30 p.m. to add reaction from Assemblyman Ricardo Lara.

February 28, 2012
Competing forces line up on California water bill

On the eve of Wednesday debate over a big California water bill, the pros and cons were being lined up.

The Obama administration, in a formal Statement of Administration Policy, declared late Tuesday afternoon that it "strongly opposes" the bill authored by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia. The administration said the bill's ending of a San Joaquin River restoration program, and replacing it with a less ambitious plan, would "likely result in the resumption of costly litigation, creating an uncertain future for river restoration and water delivery operations for all water users on the San Joaquin River."

In a similar vein, the states of Oregon, Colorado and Wyoming weighed in against the bill, citing in part fears about the federal government tromping on state water rights.

On the other side, Nunes unveiled a list of 200-plus supporters, ranging from the Westlands Water District to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

February 28, 2012
California foundations show big growth from 1999 to 2009

California's nonprofit, charitable foundations boomed both in number and assets between 1999 and 2009, according to a new study by the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

The study, a followup to one done in 2001, concludes that during the 10-year period, the number of foundations in California grew by 71 percent, topping 7,100, contributions to them more than doubled to $6 billion, and foundation assets grew by more than one-third to $93.3 billion. After adjustment for inflation, however, contributions increased by 55 percent and assets by 2.6 percent.

The state's deteriorating economy late in the decade took its toll on foundation growth, however. "While the number of foundations grew throughout the period," the study says, "the robust growth in 2000 and 2001 gave way to a tapering off by the end of the period. On the other hand, foundation giving and assets exhibited peaks and valleys over the 10 years with the swings in assets more pronounced than the swings in giving."

Growth in the number of California foundations, contributions and assets all outpaced national trends during the 10-year period. There are 14 California foundations with assets over $1 billion, up from nine in 1999. They account for 52 percent of all assets and 53 percent of all foundation giving.

Speaking of which, giving by California foundations also has gone up and down during the decade, peaking in 2008 at $4.9 billion, just before a severe recession struck the state.

The thrust of foundation grant-making has also changed. Health care was the largest single category of giving in 1999 but by 2009 education had emerged as the foundations' top priority, garnering nearly a quarter of all grant money.

The J. Paul Getty Trust, endowed by the late Los Angeles oilman, is California's wealthiest foundation with $9.3 billion in assets, but when it comes to spending, Getty was fairly stingy at just $14.8 million in 2009.

The second biggest foundation at $6.9 billion, named for computer pioneer William Hewlett and his wife, Flora, was the biggest spender at $342.5 million. It was followed by the Genentech Access to Care Foundation at $292 million and a $5.9 billion foundation endowed by Hewlett's partner, David Packard, and his wife, Lucille, at $282.8 million.

February 28, 2012
AM Alert: U.S. attorney talks pot dispensary crackdown

The federal Justice Department's recent crackdown on medicinal marijuana dispensaries is expected to be the topic of heated debate at a Sacramento Press Club luncheon today.

Benjamin Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, is scheduled to address the issue today at a luncheon sponsored by the Sacramento Press Club.

Medicinal marijuana growers and dispensaries have been hit with raids, property seizures and criminal charges since the Justice Department signaled a push to pursue enforcement of federal drug laws even in states where medicinal marijuana is legal.

Wagner and California's other U.S. Attorneys have argued that California's voter-approved law legalizing the use, cultivation and possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been "hijacked by profiteers." Supporters of the state's 16-year-old medical marijuana law say the move is putting dispensaries out of business and undermining the voter-approved Proposition 215.

The Press Club's Kathy Beasley said the group is expecting "high turnout" for today's lunch, with at least 90 tickets sold as of Monday afternoon. Unlike most monthly lunches, about 40 of the reservations are from non-members.

"This time there's quite a lot of outside interest in this," she said.

Tickets for the 12 p.m. lunch at The Broiler Steakhouse on 12th and K streets are $25 for members and $30 for non-members. Check for coverage of the discussion from Peter Hecht of The Bee's Weed Wars blog.

Check out The Bee's new, improved state worker pay database at this link.

Think you know how the electoral college vote will go in November's presidential election? Predict the vote at The Bee's new interactive map.

Under the dome, lawmakers are convening committee hearings on several other burning issues.

The joint conference committee on pensions meets at 9:30 a.m. to look at the impact of proposals to raise the retirement age for state employees.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee will hear an update on plans for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from Delta Stewardship Council Chair Phil Isenberg, Natural Resources Agency's Jery Meral, Delta Protection Commission Executive Director Mike Machado and Delta Conservancy Executive Officer Campbell Ignram.

Over in the Assembly, both the Higher Education and Veterans' Affairs committees and the Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration are meeting on issues related to veterans.

HEALTH CARE: Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, is one of several speakers expected to attend a Capitol briefing on the importance of working with communities of color in implementing the federal health care overhaul. The briefing, which is sponsored by the Greenlining Institute, starts at 2 p.m. in Room 447 of the state Capitol.

BURTON GOES TO ROSEVILLE: California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton will address the Democrats of Sun City at the group's 10 a.m. meeting at Roseville's Sierra Pines Recreation Center. Check back on Capitol Alert for coverage of the quotable party leader's talk.

February 27, 2012
Jerry Brown advised not to 'talk too much' about Medi-Cal

WASHINGTON - As he lobbied the Obama administration for four days for authorization to enact further cuts to Medi-Cal to help balance California's budget, Gov. Jerry Brown talked frequently about his frustration, the administration having recently turned down his request to charge co-payments for doctor visits, prescription drugs and other services.

After meetings this afternoon with Obama advisers at the White House and, later, with members of California's Congressional delegation at the U.S. Capitol, Brown aide Nancy McFadden suggested he stop.

"There are possibilities that are being examined that will enable California to more tightly manage its Medi-Cal program, and some of that involves co-payments," the Democratic governor was telling reporters.

"But if you talk too much about it, you might hurt your negotiations," McFadden said.

February 27, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown seeing old acquaintances, avoiding steak

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown has run into any number of old acquaintances while in Washington over the weekend, most of whom he seemed to recall.

But there are others. Approached by a man following a meeting at the White House this morning, the 73-year-old Democrat shook his hand, looked twice at his name tag and said he had to go.

"I'm late," Brown said.

Brown, in town for a meeting of the National Governors Association, said while walking to his car that the governors' White House dinner with President Barack Obama on Sunday night was "pretty good."

"I didn't eat the steak, but I ate the crab cakes," he said. "I try to avoid eating red meat."

February 27, 2012
Tim Donnelly's airport gun incident sparks new legislation

Concerned that Assemblyman Tim Donnelly was cited and released after carrying a loaded firearm into an airport, a Southern California assemblywoman is proposing a new state law to require that such offenders be arrested and taken into custody.

Assemblywoman Norma Torres contends that bringing a loaded gun into a passenger airport is a serious violation and that the state should treat offenders consistently - with a jail booking, not a ticket.

"People should be on notice that we have zero tolerance for loaded guns at an airport," said Torres, a Pomona Democrat whose district includes the airport where Donnelly was cited.

Torres' Assembly Bill 2182 would require formal arrest for illegally carrying a concealed firearm into an airport. Upon conviction, offenders would be permanently banned from the airport where the crime occurred.

February 27, 2012
Jerry Brown presses Obama on Medi-Cal, meets with labor

Governors Meeting.JPEG-05c6.JPGWASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown continued to press President Barack Obama today for authorization to enact further cuts to Medi-Cal to help balance California's budget, even as the administration showed no sign of relenting and complained about the severity of state budget cuts in other areas.

Obama told governors in a meeting this morning that too many states are cutting education programs too deeply, citing teacher layoffs and rising college tuition.

"We've all faced some stark choices over the past several years," Obama said. "But that is no excuse to lose sight of what matters most. And the fact is that too many states are making cuts to education that I believe are simply too big."

California is among states that have reduced spending on higher education in the weak economy. Leaving the White House, California's Democratic governor said, "He definitely emphasized the importance of education, but the fact is, you only have so much money, and that's why I'm asking for waivers in the Medicaid program, which I haven't gotten yet."

Brown, in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association, planned to return to the White House this afternoon to "press our cause" with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president.

February 27, 2012
Vandal damages state Capitol, Jesse Unruh Building

The state Capitol was damaged by a man who vandalized several landmarks in downtown Sacramento last night.

Colleague Bill Lindelof reports on The Bee's Sacto 9-1-1 blog:

CHP officer Rich Wetzel said that about 9:30 p.m. Sunday a young man broke out glass and damaged the wood frames of doors on the west, south and north sides of the Capitol. The man tossed concrete or rocks at windows and doors.

The man then went across 10th Street to the Jesse Unruh Building, home of the state treasurer, at 915 Capitol Mall, and did more damage, Wetzel said. Richard Michael Dopkins, 21, was later arrested.

Click here to read the full post.

February 27, 2012
Analyst: Jerry Brown too optimistic on revenues by $6.5 billion

Gov. Jerry Brown is counting on $6.5 billion too much through June 2013 even with a Facebook stock sale on the horizon, according to a new review by the state's fiscal analyst.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has taken a more pessimistic view of capital gains in California over the next 16 months, though it acknowledges in its new report that predicting those totals is "notoriously difficult." California's heavy reliance on volatile capital gains income has been a huge reason why the state has found it so difficult to budget in recent years.

The analyst's latest revenue forecast is not that different from its November projection, which translated into Brown being too optimistic by almost the same amount as today's report. Based on that projection, the analyst pegged California's deficit at nearly $13 billion at the time. Brown, using a more optimistic forecast, says the deficit is only $9.2 billion.

The LAO's Jason Sisney says that his office is not ready to update its deficit total because that requires other calculations such as how much schools are owed. But he said "in general it's worse than the governor's January forecast. By how much, we don't know."

"If our revenue forecast proves to be more accurate than the administration's, the Legislature and the Governor will have to identify additional budgetary solutions to bring the 2012-13 state spending plan into balance," the analyst's office writes. "Much more information will become available by the end of April, when a large amount of income tax payments are received by the state and refund payments are made."

Due to this unpredictability, the analyst's office explicitly recommends today that the Legislature wait until the governor revises his budget in May before writing the 2012-13 budget. But the latest news is hardly reassuring for legislative Democrats who said they were counting on an even more fruitful April than Brown predicted to avoid the deep health and welfare cuts the governor proposed.

The analyst's office would have been even more pessimistic had Facebook not filed paperwork for an initial public stock offering this month. The office estimates that California will receive about $2 billion through June 2013 in Facebook IPO-related income tax payments than it would have otherwise.

Updated at 11:55 a.m. with comment from Jason Sisney.

February 27, 2012
California's 'tort war' reignited with Darrell Steinberg bill

The Capitol's perpetual "tort war" that pits personal injury attorneys against insurance and business groups over the rules governing lawsuits has a new battleground.

Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg has introduced a bill that would overturn one of recent legal history's most closely watched state Supreme Court decisions, dealing with recovery of medical costs by injured parties.

Last August, in a 6-1 ruling, the Supreme Court limited how medical damages could be calculated in auto accidents and other personal injury cases. The issue in the case (Howell v. Hamilton Meats) was whether an injured person could collect the full medical bills imposed by doctors, hospitals and other medical care providers, or would be limited to the amounts actually paid by insurers, which are often pennies on the dollar.

The case, stemming from a 2005 collision in San Diego County, involved $200,000 in medical bills that were whittled down to $60,000 before payment. The trial judge decreed that only the smaller amount need be paid, while an appellate court said it should be the full amount, and the issue landed in the Supreme Court.

February 27, 2012
Blakeslee seeks Capitol Park plaque for veterans of Iraq War

To ensure their service is never forgotten, a state senator is proposing construction of a memorial plaque in Capitol Park to honor California veterans who fought or served in the War in Iraq.

Republican Sen. Sam Blakeslee, of San Luis Obispo, specified in his Senate Bill 1297 that the project be privately funded and that construction not begin until sufficient funds have been raised.

The state Department of Veterans Affairs would identify an appropriate site in Capitol Park for the plaque and oversee its construction, in consultation with the state Department of General Services, according to SB 1297, proposed Thursday.

If Blakeslee's measure were signed into law, donations would be collected by the state controller and maintained in a special state account, designated the "War In Iraq Memorial Plaque Fund."

February 27, 2012
Court date in Kinde Durkee federal fraud case delayed again

A court date in the federal fraud case against prominent Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee has been postponed yet again.

Durkee was arrested last fall as federal investigators claimed that she embezzled more than $600,000 from the campaign account she managed for Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio. Since her arrest, other political and nonprofit clients, including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, have accused the Burbank-based treasurer of misappropriating millions more from their accounts.

A preliminary hearing in the case set for tomorrow has been rescheduled for March 16 at 2 p.m., according to a document filed with the U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

The filing cites a need for additional time to continue the investigation as reason for the delay, noting that the "government has seized a significant number of computers which need to be processed" since the last continuance.

"The government needs additional time analyze, and synthesize materials that it has obtained during the course of this investigation," the filing reads.

Durkee delay

February 27, 2012
Former GOP Assemblyman Anthony Adams to run for Congress

Former Republican Assemblyman Anthony Adams is looking to return to politics with a bid for an open inland Southern California congressional seat.

Adams, who recently changed his registration to decline-to-state, plans to run as a "no party preference" candidate on the ballot for the 8th Congressional District. The Republican-leaning seat, which stretches along the Nevada border, has attracted a handful of candidates already, including Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, and Minuteman Greg Imus, a former chief of staff to GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly.

Adams, of Hesperia, decided not to run for a third and final terms in the state Assembly in 2010 after surviving a recall effort sparked by his vote to temporarily increase taxes as part of a 2009 budget deal. He said at the time that he wanted to try to pass the bar exam and finish a novel he had been working on.

February 27, 2012
AM Alert: Senate to greet former presidential candidate Dukakis

With the Republicans back from their convention, the Assembly meets at noon and the Senate at 2 p.m., when Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will take to the floor to introduce a former Democratic presidential candidate: Michael Dukakis.

The former Massachusetts governor, who lost to George H.W. Bush in 1988, is giving a talk today at the Mondavi Center as part of the UC Davis Chancellor's Colloquium. His topic: "Public Service: A Great Career." His speech starts at 4 p.m.

Also in the upper house, Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, will present a resolution to Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the nine African American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., back in 1957.

Outside the Capitol, there's no shortage of happenings, and they're all over the political map.

Members of the Western Association of Education Opportunity are rallying at 9 a.m. on the Capitol's north steps to urge that the state improve access to higher education for low-income and minority students.

Then on the west steps starting at noon, the NorCal Tea Party celebrates its third birthday by calling for a part-time Legislature as well as the repeal of the Dream Act.

Over on the south steps, also at noon, members of the South Africa Project -- whose website features an interview with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke of Louisiana -- will begin a three-hour vigil to highlight what they call "black on white racist crimes" in South Africa.

Long-time political observers will recall that Duke has run for president as both a Democrat and a Republican, though not at the same time. He was also famous for wearing a Nazi uniform while attending Louisiana State University. Here is a New York Times article from 1991, back when he was running for Louisiana governor.

Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, is still in Washington, D.C. The National Governors Association is holding its closing session today before meeting with President Barack Obama. Brown will then meet with the California congressional delegation.

FIELD POLL: The Bee's Kevin Yamamura reported Saturday that California voters still view Gov. Jerry Brown favorably and the Legislature miserably. Even so, they're not too keen on demoting legislators to part-time. Click here to read the statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert. You'll find the publicly released poll at this link.

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg joins State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson, California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller, and students and faculty at Elk Grove's Laguna Creek High School to announce grant funding for clean tech and renewable energy academies at 21 California schools. That event starts at 11 a.m.

NEW WEBSITES: Check out The Bee's new, improved state worker pay database at this link. Think you know how the electoral college vote will go in November's presidential election? Predict the vote at The Bee's new interactive map.

February 26, 2012
California GOP OKs new conservative group after floor fight

No political convention would be complete without at least a splash of floor drama.

The California Republican Party voted to formally recognize a new conservative organization today after a procedural floor fight that included debate, voice votes and a person-by-person count of the delegates gathered at the Burlingame Hyatt Regency for the party's spring convention.

Conservative activist Mike Spence created the Conservative Republicans of California in the aftermath of a divisive leadership fight at the California Republican Assembly, a 75-year-old group that bills itself as the "conscience of the Republican Party." The charter allows the new group, which includes several GOP legislators, to use the party's insurance policy, reserve space at the convention at a lower cost and assign one delegate to vote on party matters.

Spence's effort to place a vote to charter his new organization on Sunday's general session agenda stalled in a committee earlier in the weekend. CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro initially tried to block his move to bring up the issue on the floor as the end of the session neared. A voice vote on whether to take up Spence's motion was too close to call, leading Del Beccaro to ask opposing camps to congregate in different areas of the hotel banquet room so the votes could be counted without a roll call. Del Beccaro, who had argued that the procedural issue should be worked out in a committee, was out-voted by delegates and the charter was approved after continued debate on the merits of the group.

Critics of the proposal argued that Spence had not complied with the party's procedure for approving new groups.

"This would be a unanimous consent vote if they had complied with all the (chartering rules)," said Tom Hudson, a CRA vice president.

Supporters, including Republican Assemblyman Don Wagner, said the party should not turn its back on Republican groups at a time when it needs to grow its membership and get its message out.

The procedural dust-up came after the party approved the adoption of a conservative platform, a subject of much internal wrangling when it met last fall, with little fanfare. The platform includes language on abortion, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration sought by conservatives. A more moderate proposed platform had been blocked by a committee at the party's fall convention.

In addition to voting to endorse and oppose several ballot measures, the party took up a package of resolutions that included one opposing Speaker John A. Perez's proposal to change a corporate tax formula policy to raise $1 billion to provide tuition breaks to middle class students attending California's public colleges and universities. Perez will need support from two Republicans in each house of the Legislature to win passage of the plan. While GOP members of the Assembly voted for a bill to undo the corporate tax break, which was approved as part of a budget agreement in 2009, the Senate GOP leader has expressed opposition to the proposal.

February 26, 2012
Jerry Brown to reporter: 'Are you a Moonie, by any chance?'

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown had just finished meeting privately with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this afternoon when, on his way out, he ran into The Washington Times.

It did not go well.

"I'm just saying you've got some criticism that you've ceded way too much to the unions," said the Times' Kerry Picket.

"Give me an example," the Democratic governor said.

"As far as the education, teachers unions, and just as far as some of the contracts that have been negotiated, and that you could be making the same mistake that you made during your last administration."

"Which one was that?"

"Back in the day."

"When California had a $6 billion surplus, and was leading America, if not the world, in many different fields?"

Picket said, "Well, right now it's going bankrupt."

Brown and his advisers bristled.

"Untrue," said Brown, in Washington for the winter conference of the National Governors Association. "I've reduced the deficit that was left to me by a Republican governor from $26 billion to $9 billion, and I have a plan to reduce it to zero, and I'm working on it."

Picket kept on about bankruptcy, and Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran, told her, "You need to ask a question that's based on the truth."

Brown said, "You don't have to argue with her."

Then it went south. Picket suggested things changed in California when Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan came into office "later on," after Brown's first two terms as governor, from 1975 to 1983.

"No, Reagan came before me," Brown said. "Reagan came after my father, and then I came after Reagan."

When Picket asked again about bankruptcy, Duran said, "You're lying."

Brown asked her, "Are you a Moonie, by any chance?"

Here's video of the aftermath between Duran and Picket.

February 26, 2012
California Republican Party endorses auto rate initiative

The California Republican Party today voted to endorse a November ballot measure that would allow auto insurers to consider a motorist's coverage history in setting rates for new customers.

Supporters of the measure, which was filed by the executive director of the Alliance of Insurance Agents & Brokers, say it will allow companies to offer "loyalty discounts" currently only available to existing customers, to motorists who want to switch plans. Critics say it will allow companies to raise rates on Californians who experience a lapse in coverage.

The measure is almost identical to Proposition 17, a failed 2010 initiative bankrolled by insurance giant Mercury General. The company has not contributed to this year's version.

The party also endorsed proposed measures that would require parental notification and a waiting period for women under the age of 18 seeking abortions and roll back a new law requiring public schools to include instruction of the historical contributions of gay individuals. Backers of both must collect hundreds of thousands of valid voter signatures in the coming weeks to qualify for this year's general election. Party delegates opposed by voice vote all three tax measures proposed for the November ballot.

The party previously voted to oppose the two measures that will appear on the June ballot, a cigarette tax hike that proponents say will raise money for cancer research and a change to legislative term limits.

February 26, 2012
Tim Pawlenty delivers pitch for Romney at state GOP convention

Former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty urged California Republicans to line up behind Mitt Romney's candidacy Saturday night, framing the Massachusetts governor as the party's best bet for winning the White House in November.

"There is one candidate who is competitive nationally with Barack Obama. His name is Mitt Romney," the former Minnesota governor told attendees during a Saturday night dinner banquet at the state GOP's spring convention in Burlingame.

Pawlenty refrained from citing any of Romney's GOP rivals by name, but cautioned the audience that "anybody who tells you who's remaining in this race they're the perfect conservative, I know their records. They're not."

In veiled jabs at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who had addressed the convention earlier in the day, he stressed the need for a candidate with a "strong compass and integrity" who can do more than deliver a good speech. He said voters would never wake up to see Romney and his wife in the news for doing something "stupid" or "scandalous."

"The best sermons aren't preached, they're lived," he said.

He also took aim at the rivals' experience in Congress, saying "if the problem is Washington, D.C., don't send Washington, D.C., people to do the job." 

Still, Pawlenty called on the sparring camps to come together once the primary process is complete.

"When the process is over, we have to be a team. We have to be united," he said. "We've got social conservatives, fiscal conservatives.... we don't have a big enough party nationally or in California to be in the business of throwing people overboard. We're in the business of bringing people on board."

February 26, 2012
Jerry Brown urges 'reckless' GOP hopefuls to fight on

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WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown doesn't think much of the Republicans running for president, but he encouraged them this morning to keep fighting through the summer nominating convention.

"I certainly think Ron Paul's going to keep going, and why not?" the Democratic governor and former three-time presidential hopeful said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "The campaigns are to illuminate the issues, give voters a real insight into the character of the candidate. So, yeah, I say, keep going all the way."

Brown, in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, accused Republicans of making an "extreme move to the right." He said of a match-up between President Barack Obama and any of the Republican candidates, "What we're looking at is a reasonable man versus reckless men."

Brown appeared on the show with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Her state's tough immigration law came up, as did Brown's signature of legislation allowing undocumented immigrant college students to receive public financial aid. But no sparks flew between them.

Brewer, a Republican, stole some of the spotlight, using the occasion to announce her endorsement of Mitt Romney for president.

Brown referred to his November ballot initiative to raise taxes only indirectly, when asked if California is less governable now than it was when he was last governor, from 1975 to 1983.

"No," he said. "It's different. But I think it actually will be more governable, and one thing we have in California that you don't have in the United States government, we can appeal to the people through the initiative process. So when we have a breakdown of the two parties, we can go directly to the people as the tie-breaker, and I think that's the way we're going to break the logjam."

Brown said on his way into the studio that he last appeared on "Meet the Press" in 1992, the year he last ran for president.

"Hopefully they're going to put on the old pictures," he said.

Host David Gregory didn't have pictures, but he read briefly from a transcript from an appearance Brown made in the 1970s. Brown took it with him when he left.

"The politician was the star then," Brown said. "Now the interviewer is the star."

February 25, 2012
VIDEO: Callista Gingrich names issues she'd tout as first lady

What sort of issues would Callista Gingrich champion as first lady?

The wife of GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said today that she counts promoting cancer research, music education and the teaching of American history in schools as causes close to her heart.

Here's a brief video of Gingrich, who introduced her husband before his speech to California Republican Party convention attendees, describing her interests after her husband's address. Newt Gingrich did not stop or respond to questions from the media after the luncheon.

February 25, 2012
Herman Cain: 'stupid people' are behind Obama job approval rating

Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain thinks he knows what's behind President Barack Obama's 45 percent job approval ratings nationally.

"That's where the stupid people are," the former Godfather's Pizza CEO told a packed room during a luncheon at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame.

Cain, who dropped out of the race in December after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced, urged attendees to stay involved and inspired in politics as they work to maintain control of the House of Representatives, win the U.S. Senate majority and "alter the occupant of the White House."

"Know your facts. Stupid people are ruining America," he said, reviving a line he has used often on the campaign trail and in public appearances.

Cain was welcomed with cheers and a standing ovation as he appeared at the convention to voice support for presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, the guest speaker for the luncheon. He praised the former House Speaker's "bold leadership" and said he is the best person to revive a sluggish economy.

"We have a message for Barack Obama. We have a message for a broken Washington DC," he said. "We the people are coming. We want our power back and it's going to be led by Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2012."  

February 25, 2012
Gingrich hits Obama on energy policy, gas prices at GOP confab

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich assailed President Barack Obama on gas prices and energy policies as he sought to fuel support among California Republicans today.

"If you want $10-a-gallon gasoline, an anti-energy secretary and weakness requiring us to depend on foreigners for our energy, Barack Obama should be your candidate," the former House Speaker told a crowd during a luncheon at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame.

Energy and gas prices have become a hot issue on the campaign trail amid rising prices at the pump. The average price of gas -- now at $3.58 a gallon -- has increased by 25 cents since the start of the New Year. Gas at a 76 station down the street from the convention site started at $4.49 a gallon.

Gingrich, who rolled out a pledge to drop gas prices to $2.50 a gallon earlier this week, spent much of the appearance responding to a speech on energy Obama delivered at the University of Miami earlier this week. The Democratic president dismissed calls to focus on expanding drilling, saying the country "can't just drill our way to lower gas prices." Instead, Obama said his administration is pursuing an "all-of-the-above strategy" on energy that includes solar, wind, gas and oil power.

Gingrich quoted extensively from the president's Friday speech and previous statements related to energy policy. He criticized the speech as "factually false, intellectually incoherent, deeply conflicting in policy and in some places, just strange."

Gingrich touted his energy policy, which includes upping  domestic oil production and greenlighting the Keystone Pipeline XL project, as a way to reduce reliance on foreign energy sources and lower the cost of fuel for Americans. He said his proposals will cut back on regulations and lead to more economic growth. 

He did not directly call on California to expand drilling off its coast, but said he thinks "each state has to make its own decision." He added, however, that under his proposal to give states 50 percent of the royalties from the arrangement "Sacramento would start thinking seriously" about the issue.

Absent from the speech were mentions of his opponents, who are campaigning elsewhere this weekend ahead of Tuesday contests in Arizona and Michigan. Gingrich, who has suffered losses in recent primary contests and slipped to 12 percent support in a Field Poll of California voters released this week, said he came to the state GOP convention to demonstrate his commitment to building a national campaign. He said he does not believe any candidate will have a "lockdown" on the nomination by the time California Republicans go to the polls June 5.

February 25, 2012
Senate GOP leader: caucus unlikely to fund redistricting referendum

Don't expect members of the Senate Republican Caucus to write big checks to back the referendum of the district lines they fought to qualify for the ballot.

Senate GOP leader Bob Huff said today that the caucus probably won't finance the November campaign asking voters to reject the maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

"We have seats to defend. That's a higher priority," the Diamond Bar Republican said.

Senate Republicans, who are expected to lose seats under the new maps, were the major force behind the effort to qualify the referendum, which was certified for the ballot yesterday. The caucus and the state GOP had poured millions into qualifying the measure in hopes that the state Supreme Court would rule that new maps should be drawn in time for 2012 if the effort was headed towards the ballot.

But with the Supreme Court's ruling that the current districts should be used for this year's elections, questions have emerged about whether anyone will step up to fund the measure in the November election. California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro would not commit to providing money to the campaign during a Friday press conference to open the state party convention in Burlingame.

"What we're going to do is look at our resources, look at the issues in front of us, like the spending cap, and over the next six months, we are going to decide on exactly how far we should push each individual thing we're facing," he said.

February 25, 2012
Jerry Brown plans trip to China to court investors

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown, who in recent weeks has become increasingly interested in luring Chinese investment to California, said today that he will lead a delegation to China, likely this year.

"I think we've got to get moving on this," the Democratic governor told reporters at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Brown announced last week, while meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Los Angeles, that the state would open privately-financed foreign trade offices in China. California's taxpayer-funded offices there and in other countries were closed amid controversy in 2003, with critics questioning their effectiveness and cost.

Brown said he hopes to convince Chinese investors to invest in California projects instead of Treasury bills. He said China is a country of staggering wealth and that, from California's perspective, "it's a source of investment, direct investment."

Brown said Mike Rossi, an adviser, is handling the formation of a group of private interests in California to collaborate with their counterparts in China. Brown dined yesterday with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui and discussed China privately with officials at the State Department.

"This is going to be an important mission," Brown said.

Brown has rarely left the state since taking office last year and has not left the country on official business this term.

February 24, 2012
Herman Cain expected to appear at California GOP Party confab

Herman Cain.JPGCalifornia Republicans gathered for the state party convention in Burlingame are expected to hear from a surprise guest this weekend -- former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

"I'm proud to say there's a 99.9 percent chance -- did you get that, 9-9-9?-- that Herman Cain will be here," party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told reporters at a press conference opening the three-day convention, referring to the former candidate's 9-9-9 tax proposal.

Cain, who dropped out of the race in December amid allegations of sexual harassment, is expected to appear alongside presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame on Saturday. The former House Speaker is the keynote speaker at Saturday's lunch banquet.

Del Beccaro said conservative radio host and commentator Michael Reagan is also expected to join.

Former presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, is scheduled to address convention attendees during the Saturday dinner program.

PHOTO CREDIT: Republican presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain speaks during a GOP presidential debate at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/ Paul Sancya)

February 24, 2012
Del Beccaro: Budget, pension reform will be 'black eye' for Democrats

When it comes to the November elections, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro is banking in part on a poor performance by majority Democrats in Sacramento to push California voters to the polls.

Del Beccaro told reporters as the party kicked off its three-day convention in Burlingame today that the state's ongoing budget problems and a failure to enact pension reform will be a "black eye" for Democrats in the November election.

"They had the projections of how much money would be coming in, they had the obligation to pass a responsible budget that matched those forecasts and if they run out of money, its not going to be any one Republican's fault," he said of the state's budget deficit. "It's going to be squarely on the people in charge and that should send a signal to California voters on the issue of who's a good stewardship of thier money." 

February 24, 2012
California Senate maps will go before voters in November

A Republican-backed referendum to overthrow California's newly drawn Senate districts qualified Friday for the November statewide ballot.

The secretary of state's office announced that 511,457 of the 711,307 referendum signatures submitted by the group were those of registered voters, more than the 504,760 needed to qualify.

Because legislative primary elections will be held before November ballots are cast, however, the Supreme Court ruled last month that the contested Senate districts will be used in this year's balloting.

Twenty of the Senate's 40 districts are up for grabs this year in districts drawn by an independent citizens commission consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters.

Republican leaders contend that the new districts give Democrats a good chance of capturing the two seats necessary to gain a two-thirds supermajority, the margin needed to approve tax or fee increases in that house.

Political analysts of both parties say the lines are not likely to result in a two-thirds majority in the Assembly, so Republicans conceivably could block tax increases there and keep them from reaching the governor's desk.

Nonetheless, a Democratic supermajority in the upper house would significantly increase that party's leverage in the Legislature.

February 24, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown asks Siri about closed-press night at Newseum

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown, arriving at the Newseum this evening for a private dinner for the Democratic Governors Association, was asked if he found it ironic that, at a building erected to celebrate the news, no reporters were allowed inside.

"You can come in," he said. "Just come in and see what they say about that."

Brown was persistent - "He can just walk through a little bit and get a smell of it," he said - but the association had already spoken, and Brown's wife and special counsel, Anne Gust Brown, suggested to her husband that with so many other governors present he could not change the rules.

So on his iPhone 4S, Brown consulted Siri.

"Should this meeting be closed to the press?"

Siri said it didn't see any meeting about that.

Gust Brown translated: "She doesn't think there's a meeting about 'Be closed to the press.'"

Brown, on the second day of a weekend trip to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama and the nation's governors, is expected to speak at the gathering. A string quartet was playing inside.

Earlier today, Brown said he did not know how much money he raised for his ballot initiative to raise taxes at another private function he attended, a fundraiser Thursday at the home of Washington lobbyist Tony Podesta.

He downplayed the event, describing it as "an opportunity for people to come together and talk a little bit."

Later, as governors arrived at the Newseum, they walked past the front pages of newspapers from around the country and, printed on the building's facade, the First Amendment.

Standing by the entrance was Mark Giangreco, a Democratic Governors Association spokesman. More reliable, perhaps, than Siri, he said the organization hosts lots of meetings.

"Many are open to press," Giangreco said. "Some are not."

February 24, 2012
Sen. Sharon Runner recovering from double lung transplant

California state Sen. Sharon Runner is recuperating at UCLA Medical Center after a successful double lung transplant, her office announced this afternoon.

Runner expects to be released from the hospital in two to three weeks and will initially work from home, the statement said.

The Lancaster Republican, who has a rare auto-immune disease, announced Wednesday that she would not seek re-election in November. She has been absent from the Senate since January.

February 24, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown lobbies Obama for Medi-Cal, schools relief

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Jerry Brown lobbied the Obama administration today for authorization to enact further Medi-Cal cuts, after the administration earlier rejected California's bid to charge copayments for prescription drugs, hospital visits and other services.

"We're optimistic that we can get some compromise on that waiver," Brown told reporters after meeting with President Barack Obama and Democratic governors in Washington.

The Medi-Cal waiver that the Democratic governor is seeking includes authorization to charge copayments and, he said, a "few other things." Brown is counting on about $296 million in savings from a waiver to help balance next year's budget.

Brown, who met Thursday with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, said he also is seeking relief from mandates of the No Child Left Behind law. Obama has offered to let states opt out of No Child Left Behind, but the conditions of a waiver include teacher evaluation and testing requirements that may be difficult for the state to meet.

Brown described his discussions with Duncan as a "work in progress."

Brown is in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, a gathering he skipped last year. He cited the Medi-Cal and No Child Left Behind waivers as primary reasons for coming.

"As governor of California, my goal was to get greater flexibility so that we can cut the Medi-Cal program where we need to, and where we can get flexibility on some of the federal restrictions on our education programs, and I think, I think we made a positive step to achieve all that."

Brown arrived for the meeting with Obama on a chartered bus carrying about 15 Democratic governors.

In a briefing at the White House, Josh Earnest, a spokesman, said Obama was "eager to continue the ongoing discussion with Democratic governors about the ways that the federal government and the states can work together to create jobs and grow the economy."

Outside a few minutes later, Brown heaped praise on Obama in return.

"He's all fired up, extremely knowledgeable," Brown said. "I was very impressed with the way he understands this government from top to bottom."

Brown ate lunch with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui and was scheduled to meet privately with officials at the State Department to discuss China. Brown, who met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping last week in Los Angeles, said he is "very serious" about promoting Chinese investment in California.

Brown also raised money at a private fundraiser on Thursday night for his ballot initiative to raise taxes.

February 24, 2012
LAO: Jerry Brown's DMV renewal discount is a money loser

RB DMV Line.JPGGov. Jerry Brown wants to give drivers a $5 discount for avoiding Department of Motor Vehicles offices when they renew their registration, but the state's top fiscal analyst questioned the plan Friday as a money loser.

Drivers would save $5, dropping the renewal rate from $43 to $38, if they register by mail, phone, online, auto clubs, private vendors or self-service terminals. Brown says this would cut wait times and congestion at DMV offices.

But in its review, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says the proposal would result in $75 million in lost revenues in 2012-13 and $100 million annually thereafter. Meanwhile, the state would ultimately lose only 25 positions for $706,000 in annual savings. It would not affect the state's general fund budget -- for now, at least -- but instead the special Motor Vehicle Account that pays for DMV operations and is funded largely through registration fees.

February 24, 2012
Jerry Brown calls GOP senators 'petty' in CSU confirmation spat

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Jerry Brown said today that Senate Republicans are getting "a little petty" in their unwillingness to confirm the appointment of Herbert L. Carter as chairman of the California State University Board of Trustees.

"They don't have much power left, so when they can take a shot, they will," the Democratic governor told reporters after meeting with governors and President Barack Obama in Washington.

Brown said he has "no idea" if Republicans will also move to block his appointment of Steve Glazer, Brown's political adviser, to the CSU board.

But, Brown said, the "reserve of good appointments is very large," adding that he is "prepared to make annual appointments if they're unprepared to collaborate."

February 24, 2012
California measure would allow ads on public school buses

RCB SCHOOL BUS 02.JPGRides to school -- by Campbell's Soup? School funding has gotten so bad that one California lawmaker is proposing to allow commercial advertising outside school buses.

Senate Bill 1295, by Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, would allow school districts to decide for themselves whether to sell ads for school buses and how to spend any revenue raised.

"We're looking at a way for districts to find another source of funding without placing additional burdens on taxpayers," said Bill Bird, spokesman for Huff.

SB 1295 comes at a time when many school bus programs are threatened with cuts and Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, is warning that one-third of public school districts are in fiscal jeopardy.

Seven states have adopted laws similar to SB 1295, Bird said.

California currently permits advertising inside school buses and on the exterior of campus buildings, lunch tables, in hallways, and in yearbooks or other school-related publications, Bird said.

Advertising outside school buses would get maximum exposure because the vehicles travel throughout the district every weekday, Bird said.

No estimate is available of how much revenue could be raised under the measure.

"The senator considers every additional dime to be positive," Bird said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jake Ames of Rio Linda High School washes a school bus shortly after the Twin Rivers Unified School District logo was applied on June 26, 2008. Sacramento Bee file / Renée C. Byer

February 24, 2012
Feinstein asks to go back to donors to recoup allegedly stolen cash

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's attorney has asked the Federal Elections Commission to allow the California Democrat to collect more cash from donors who gave her campaign money that was allegedly stolen by her former treasurer.

The Feinstein campaign is seeking to recoup about $4.5 million that was found to be missing from her campaign account in the wake of the arrest of prominent Democratic Treasurer Kinde Durkee. Durkee, who was arrested last fall, faces federal fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating more than $600,000 from a campaign account she managed for Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio. Other political and nonprofit clients, including Feinstein, have accused her of stealing millions more in statements and court filings.

Feinstein's attorney argued in a document filed with the commission that the longtime senator should be able to ask donors for more cash despite contribution limits. Given Durkee's alleged actions, Feinstein argued, the contributions given for her 2012 re-election bid cannot be considered accepted by the campaign for its use.

"The Committee -- and its donors -- suffered a severe injustice at the hands of Durkee," attorney Marc. E. Elias wrote in the 98-page opinion request. "In the past, the FEC has shown a commendable willingness to rectify wrongful acts, where the law allows it to do so. The law clearly allows it to do so here."

The filing,which was first reported by Politico, cites several examples of cases where replacement checks were permitted by the commission.

Feinstein consultant Bill Carrick told The Bee he believes the campaign can "make a good case that (the money) has been stolen, embezzled and been used to cover (Durkee's) ponzi scheme."

"As a result, we've ended up not having access to this money because it was embezzled and was not available for the campaign to spend in the ways the donors intended it to be spent," he said.

February 24, 2012
CA death spurs call to ban push pins in youngsters' schools

FL CARMICHAEL PRESCHOOL.JPGThe death of a 3-year-old Oceanside boy last year has prompted legislation to ban push pins in California kindergarten classrooms, preschools and daycare centers.

Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego, said the brightly colored pins used to tack items onto bulletin board or office partitions can be extremely hazardous if swallowed by young children.

Block said the various colors of push pins can attract children, and if they are swallowed and get stuck in the throat, the Heimlich maneuver commonly is not always effective in extracting them because of their shape.

Assembly Bill 1820 stemmed from the death of 3-year-old Tyler Howell last year, Block said.

Newspaper reports at the time, by U-T San Diego, reported that the Oceanside toddler choked to death at a private Montessori school after he swallowed a push pin.

Block said that alternative products exist to hang items onto bulletin boards and he knows of no opposition to AB 1820. The bill, introduced this week, has not yet been scheduled for public hearing.

PHOTO CREDIT: A teacher leads a song with the children at Carmichael Parent Participation Preschool on Sept. 12, 2007. Sacramento Bee file / Florence Low

February 24, 2012
Tim Donnelly charged with 2 misdemeanors for airport gun incident

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has been charged with two misdemeanors for bringing a briefcase containing a loaded .45-caliber firearm into Ontario International Airport last month.

The 45-year-old Twin Peaks Republican was charged Friday with illegal possession of a loaded firearm and possession of a prohibited item in a sterile area.

The two counts against Donnelly carry maximum jail sentences of one year and six months, respectively, although judges are free to impose lighter sentences based on circumstances. Each also carries a potential $1,000 fine.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney's office announced the filing of charges nearly eight weeks after Donnelly's Colt Mark IV was discovered by security screeners as he prepared to board a flight to Sacramento for the Assembly's first session of the year.

Donnelly responded Friday by calling the incident an "innocent mistake for which I have taken responsibility." He complimented law enforcement officials and said he has been candid about the matter publicly, serves his district proudly, and regrets any inconvenience he caused.

"I look forward to moving beyond this incident by continuing to focus on getting Californians back to work and getting our economy back on track," Donnelly said in a written statement.

Donnelly will remain eligible to serve in the Assembly, regardless whether he is convicted of the misdemeanor offenses. Assembly rules cut off pay for members only if they are convicted of a felony.

The second-year lawmaker, who was cited and released at the airport Jan. 4, characterized the incident shortly after it happened as a simple error in which he forgot that he had placed the weapon in his briefcase days prior.

Donnelly said that he tended to arm himself because of death threats received after he launched a referendum campaign - ultimately unsuccessful - to overturn the Dream Act, a new law permitting undocumented immigrants to qualify for state-funded college aid.

Donnelly said the chain of events that led to the citation at the airport began three days prior, a Saturday. He was working in his garage and his wife came home, so he stuck the gun in his bag nearby, he said. He later forgot to retrieve it, even after entering Ontario Airport, he said.

Donelly's gun had four rounds in its magazine, and a spare magazine contained five founds, according to Nico Melendez of the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The charges filed against Donnelly confirm TSA's contention that he did not own a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Airline passengers legally can transport firearms via airline flights, but the weapons must be unloaded and contained in a proper carrying case that is checked into the baggage department, not a carry-on, Melendez said at the time.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Capt. Doug Lee, who oversees policing of Sacramento International Airport, said that a law-abiding citizen who carries a loaded firearm to an airport X-ray machine typically is charged with misdemeanor crime.

Extenuating circumstances could make the offense a felony -- for example, if the suspect belonged to a gang, had a felony record or was not the registered owner of the firearm, Lee said.

Donnelly is scheduled to appear March 15 in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court, said Christopher Lee, spokesman for the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.

Separate from any criminal prosecution, a fine of up to $10,000 can be levied by the Transportation Security Administration when guns are confiscated, Melendez said last month.

Asked Thursday whether Donnelly had been fined, TSA officials said they do not disclose information about specific individuals. The average civil penalty for bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint is $3,000, they said.

* Updated at 12:30 p.m. to add Donnelly's response to the filing of charges. Updated at 1:08 p.m. to add the maximum penalties for each charge. Updated at 2:55 p.m. to add court date.

February 24, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown busy in D.C.; CA GOP kicks off confab

Gov. Jerry Brown didn't attend last year's National Governors Association meeting, but it looks like he's making up for it, packing a lot of face time into his five-day visit to Washington, D.C., much of it closed to the press.

Thursday, Brown met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Today's agenda includes a morning meeting with President Barack Obama, other Democratic governors and senior federal officials. Then there's lunch with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, an afternoon meeting with State Department officials, and a Democratic Governors Association dinner -- closed to reporters -- at the Newseum's Great Hall of News.

Saturday, it's the association's opening session. Early Sunday morning, it's the Western Governors Association meeting. Then he's appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," where he's scheduled to share the lineup with Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. (You can watch it live Sunday starting at 6 a.m. Pacific Time on Sacramento's KCRA-TV Channel 3. If you're elsewhere, click here to find airtimes in your area.)

After that, there's a meeting with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius plus the governors' White House dinner. Monday, the association holds its closing session before meeting with Obama. Brown will meet later with the California congressional delegation.

The governor, who hit the East Coast ATM on Thursday night for his tax ballot measure, will surely be interested in the latest Field Poll gauging support for his proposal and its rivals. His measure polled in the middle, with California voters giving the California Federation of Teachers' initiative the most backing. Molly Munger's proposal came in third.

Kevin Yamamura has more in today's Bee. If you want even more numbers, click here for the statistical tabulations compiled especially for Capitol Alert. You'll find the publicly released poll at this link.

The California Republican Party, meanwhile, kicks off its three-day convention in Burlingame today, with town halls and workshops scheduled Saturday. Check out our earlier post about the lineup, and find the agenda at this link. Don't forget to come back to Capitol Alert for coverage over the weekend, including GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's speech at the Saturday luncheon, as well as that of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who'll be addressing the Saturday dinner crowd.

So, what's the state of the state Republican Party? Who are the up-and comers? "This is the barest the cupboard's ever been," GOP strategist Rob Stutzman told The Bee's David Siders. Read more in today's Bee.

In other news, today's the day that proponents of a Republican-backed ballot measure to overturn the new Senate maps will find out whether the proposal has qualified for November. And today's also the last day for California legislators to introduce bills. has been keeping track of the every-growing list. Check it out at this link. It'll save a few trees.

LTGOV: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to members of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce about the state of the state. The event starts at noon.

February 23, 2012
Without GOP support, Jerry Brown's pick for CSU chair in trouble

Gov. Jerry Brown's pick to lead the California State University Board of Trustees could soon be out of a job.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that he will not schedule a floor vote on the confirmation of CSU trustee Herbert L. Carter without a commitment for the Republican support needed to approve his nomination.

"If there are no Republican votes, I will not be interested in having a major floor fight," the Sacramento Democrat told reporters today. "The votes are either there or they're not there."

Carter, who has served on the board since 2004 and now chairs the board, faces a Wednesday confirmation deadline to complete his current term. His confirmation has drawn controversy because of the board's move last year to hike a campus president's compensation package and approve tuition increases at the same meeting.

Steinberg said he is confident that Carter's performance at a "vigorous" Senate Rules Committee hearing won him support of the 25-member Democratic caucus.

February 23, 2012
Third of California school kids in financially distressed districts

As California school districts cope with declines in local and state revenue, more of them are showing up on the state Department of Education lists of financial distress.

The latest of the semi-annual listings, released Thursday, reveals that a third of the state's 6 million K-12 students are attending schools in 127 districts rated as in danger of being unable to meet their financial obligations, 17 more than made the list a year earlier.

Seven districts were given "negative certification" for being in imminent fiscal danger while 120 others were given "qualified certification," including the state's largest district, Los Angeles Unified.

February 23, 2012
Carmichael 'Occupy' supporter plans to challenge Dan Lungren

A teacher and political activist from Carmichael announced plans today to challenge GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District.

Mario Galvan, who is registered decline-to-state, said his candidacy was inspired by the "Occupy" movement and widespread public dissatisfaction with the politics in Washington, D.C.. He said in a release announcing his campaign that he wants to ""Occupy the government."

Galvan, 64, told The Bee in an interview that a central theme of his campaign will be his commitment to representing the views of district residents of all political leanings, promoting a "democracy that's inclusive rather than adversarial."

"Our politics has become like a war, so polarized," he said. "My candidacy offers an alternative in the form of direct democracy that invites everyone to part in the political decisions on an ongoing basis."

A close voter registration split in 7th Congressional District makes the East Sacramento County seat, which stretches from the Galt area to Citrus Heights, a top target for both Democrats and Republicans in 2012. Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, who lost to Lungren in 2010, has already raised more than $1 million for a rematch against the Gold River Republican.

Galvan, whose only other experience running for office was in a school board election in Loomis years ago, said as a "non-traditional" candidate, he does not intend to try to match the fundraising numbers of his rivals for the seat.

"Nobody can raise the money that these super PACS will raise," he said. "If we cannot clear our minds of the 30-second attack ad mentality in politics, then we're doomed."

February 23, 2012
California tax breaks cost state treasury $45 billion a year

Major "tax expenditures" - exceptions to general tax policy to benefit specific activities - cost the state treasury $45 billion a year in lost revenue, the Legislature's budget analyst says in a new report.

They range from the $4.3 billion income tax deduction for mortgage interest to a $28 million sales tax exemption for rentals of linen supplies, and while they should be periodically reviewed, the Legislative Analyst's Office says, "evaluations are very hard to do" because assumptions about their effects are difficult to verify.

While critics often decry tax "loopholes," each of the tax expenditures has a base of supporters who benefit, and they are difficult to change. Creating a new one takes only a simple majority legislative vote but legally, erasing one is considered to be a tax increase, thereby requiring a two-thirds vote.

In addition to the mortgage interest deduction, big income tax exemptions include employer contributions to pension and health insurance, $3.5 billion and $3.2 billion respectively, a $2.5 billion "step-up" basis for inherited property, and a $2.4 billion exclusion of Social Security benefits.

The biggest corporate tax expenditure is a $1.2 billion credit for research and development, followed by the $1 billion cost of allowing multi-state corporations to elect whether to use a "single sales factor" in calculating taxable income. The latter was enacted just two years ago, and Democratic legislators want now to repeal it.

The biggest sales tax exemption is for food, pegged at $3.8 billion, followed by exemptions for utility services ($2.4 billion) and prescription medicines $1.6 billion).

February 23, 2012
Stockton may be first test of California's new bankruptcy law

The first test of California's new law on municipal bankruptcies may come in Stockton, whose city council is on the verge of seeking bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Last year, the Legislature decreed in Assembly Bill 506 that local governments could file bankruptcy only after either declaring a fiscal emergency or participating in a "neutral evaluation process."

It was a modified version of legislation that public employees unions had sponsored to require local governments to gain state permission before filing bankruptcy, stemming from Vallejo's insolvency.

Stockton, which was hard-hit by the housing industry meltdown, is now contemplating bankruptcy, according to an article in the Stockton Record. If it happens, it would be the largest city bankruptcy in American history.

The Stockton City Council is expected to take the first step next week and, among other things, must decide which of the two options in the new law it would take.

February 23, 2012
AM Alert: California's craft brewers take center stage in Senate

As both houses meet at 9 a.m., Sen. Ellen Corbett is introducing California craft brewers on the Senate floor -- just in time for Sacramento Beer Week.

The brewers include two from Sacramento -- Jan-Erik D. Paino of Ruhstaller and Steve Swinford of Rubicon. Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, will also be on hand. Corbett is also putting up a resolution that proclaims February to be California Craft Brewery Month.

Lawmakers might be wishing for a beer as the Senate Budget Committee considers Gov. Jerry Brown's proposals on Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services, including long-term care and managed care. The hearing, which is expected to be lengthy, starts in the Capitol's Room 4203 at 9:30 a.m. or after the session adjourns. For the Legislative Analyst's Office's view on integrating care for seniors and those with disabilities, click here to read the report issued last Friday.

Brown, as we've reported here, is heading to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Barack Obama and governors at the National Governors Association's winter meeting.

Brown is also hitting the East Coast ATM. Democratic lobbyists Heather and Tony Podesta (who The Hill notes is the brother of former White House chief of staff John Podesta) are hosting a reception tonight for Brown and his tax increase ballot measure at their home, according to this invitation.

Speaking of Obama, things are looking up in the Golden State for the president. According to the latest Field Poll, 53 percent of California's voters think he's doing a good job, up five percentage points from last fall. Obama also leads Republican presidential hopefuls by wide margins among the state's voters, with 20 percentage points separating him and Mitt Romney, who does the best among the GOP candidates.

Dan Smith has more in today's Bee. If you want detailed numbers, click here for the statistical tabulations compiled especially for Capitol Alert. You'll find the publicly released poll at this link.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: Click here for the Senate's schedule, and click here for the Assembly's.

ANIMAL SHELTERS: The governor won't be there, but animal activists say they plan to deliver 45,000 signatures to his office at 10 a.m. urging him not to repeal former state senator and big name student activist Tom Hayden's law requiring animal shelters to keep dogs and cats longer before euthanizing them.

RETIREMENT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, join David Pacheco of AARP California, Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen owner Andrew Blaskovich and others in front of the state treasurer's office at 10 a.m. to unveil a retirement savings plan for private-sector employees who don't have access to one in the workplace.

CONGRESS: Sen. Barbara Boxer is back in home territory, holding a presser at noon in San Francisco at the Ferry Building to talk about the extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, the fight over contraception coverage, and the transportation bill to be debated next week on the Senate floor.

February 22, 2012
CA Finance director pleads no contest to DUI charge

California state finance director Ana Matosantos pleaded no contest Tuesday to driving over the legal limit for alcohol last year in downtown Sacramento.

Matosantos was sentenced by Sacramento Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles to three years informal probation and two days on the sheriff's work program, for which she has the option of serving in home detention, according to her lawyer, Megan Virga.

The finance director also was required to complete a three-month DUI program and to pay a fine of $2,200, Virga said. The terms of her plea are standard for first-time offenders.

The California Highway Patrol reported that it arrested Matosantos on Oct. 28 at 12:30 a.m. on Sixth and P streets. Her blood-alcohol level was reported at 0.11, according to court records.

Sacramento Superior Court online records showed that Matosantos pleaded no contest to driving under the influence, but Virga said her client actually entered her plea to driving over the legal limit of 0.08 and that the driving under the influence count was dismissed.

February 22, 2012
Cruz Bustamante weighing bid for Congress in Central Valley

BB_cruz_bustamante_2006.JPGWill former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamane join the race for a competitive Central Valley congressional seat?

Bustamante, who lives in Elk Grove but represented the Fresno area in the Assembly during the 1990s, told The Fresno Bee that he is considering a bid in the 21st Congressional District.

"I'm not ready to make any kind of announcement at this time," Bustamante said. "I've not made all my due diligence calls. An announcement is premature."

Democrats lost their top recruit for the competitive seat when Sen. Michael Rubio, D-East Bakersfield, withdrew his candidacy to focus on his family.

Republican Assemblyman David Valadao of Hanford, and Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive John Hernandez, a Democrat, are currently running for the seat. The Fresno Bee reported that Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong, also a Democrat, is also considering entering the race.

Bustamante, a former Assembly speaker who lost a 2003 bid for governor in the recall election as well as a 2006 run for state insurance commissioner, told The Fresno Bee that he and his wife "need to figure out what we're going to do with the rest of our lives" now that their children are heading to college.

Read the full story here.

Michael Rubio decides not to run for Congress in 2012

PHOTO CREDIT: Then Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante speaks as then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger laughs behind him before the State of the State address on Jan. 5, 2006. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

February 22, 2012
California State University faculty to vote on strike

In the midst of a contract fight, the statewide union representing California State University professors will vote this spring on whether to impose a "rolling" strike at all 23 campuses.

The California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 professors, counselors and other campus staff, announced that its members will decide in late April whether to impose two-day strikes if mediation fails. Spokesman Brian Ferguson said the strikes could take place toward the end of the spring semester or next fall, depending on the status of talks.

The union said it opposes moving more courses into "extension" programs and wants greater restrictions on class sizes. Faculty also want general salary increases for the past two school years and oppose the chancellor's ability to reopen contract provisions on wages and benefits in the near future.

Faculty struck for one day in November at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses over a separate contract matter.

The April strike vote comes after a series of state budget cuts and tuition hikes in recent years. The system lost $750 million in state funding this past year, while it raised tuition by 23.2 percent.

The CSU Chancellor's Office had no immediate comment Wednesday.

February 22, 2012
Obama campaign names seven Californians among co-chairs

President Barack Obama rolled out a list of national co-chairs for his re-election campaign that includes some familiar faces from both the political and entertainment worlds in the Golden State.

Seven Californians made the list of 35 co-chairs,including state Attorney General Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and actress Eva Longoria. Also included on the list were Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo, actor and former White House aide Kalpen Modi and CEO Marc Benioff.

The Obama campaign said in a statement that the co-chairs will "ambassadors for the President, advise the campaign on key issues, and help engage and mobilize voters in all 50 states."

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement that the individuals selected "share the President's vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded."

February 22, 2012
Jerry Brown's tax supporters push back at Molly Munger

Supporters of the tax measure proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown have gone public with their internal polling in their ongoing effort to persuade the backers of competing proposals to ditch their plans.

A memo on the poll, which was conducted over the weekend by Sacramento pollster Jim Moore, backs the Democratic governor's argument that a November ballot stacked with multiple tax measures will increase the likelihood that voters reject all the tax hikes.

"It reinforces the fact that if all three measures on the ballot, it will be a circular firing squad where everyone will lose," said Brown adviser Steve Glazer, who posted the polling memo on Twitter this morning.

Civil rights attorney Molly Munger's proposal to increase income taxes on all but the poorest Californians for 12 years to fund schools and early childhood education programs performed the worst in the statewide survey of 500 voters. Just 31 percent of voters said they would support that proposal, based on the title and summary drafted for one version of her measure. A second version, which sends some of the money to repay bond debt, was approved for signature-gathering yesterday.

The governor's plan, which would temporarily increase income taxes on Californians earning more than $250,000 and raise the sales tax by a half of a percentage point, won support of 53 percent of respondents, while a tax hike on millionaires proposed by the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign was backed by 55 percent of those surveyed.

Support for each proposal dropped below 50 percent when respondents were asked about the prospect of all three being on the ballot.

February 22, 2012
Sen. Sharon Runner announces she won't run for re-election

SharonRunner.JPGRepublican Sen. Sharon Runner, who is awaiting a lung transplant for a rare autoimmune disease, announced today that she will not seek re-election in November.

Runner has been absent from the upper house since January, when she disclosed that complications related to her condition required her to work outside of Sacramento. She said today that she expects to make a full recovery and will focus on "business and philanthropic efforts" after leaving office.

February 22, 2012
Ban on sports drinks at CA middle and high schools proposed

Sugary sports drinks would be banned during the school day at middle and high school campuses under legislation proposed this month in the Assembly.

Assembly Bill 1746 would restrict middle and high school sales of sports drinks - called "electrolyte replacement beverages" in the bill - to before and after each school day.

Sports drinks already are prohibited at elementary school campuses, according to Assemblyman Das Williams, a Santa Barbara Democrat who proposed AB 1746. The California Medical Association is among the sponsors of the bill.

Dr. James T. Hay, CMA president, said that there is a common misperception that sports drinks are healthy but many contain high-fructose corn syrup or other calorie-laden sweeteners linked to childhood obesity, the primary cause of type 2 diabetes.

AB 1746, if signed into law, would take effect in July 2013.

February 22, 2012
California's Barbara Boxer tied for 5th most liberal U.S. senator

California Democrat Barbara Boxer has long been considered one of the U.S. Senate's most liberal members, but according to the National Journal, she's in a five-way tie for being the 5th most liberal senator.

The Journal's ranking, based on voting records, has Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and New York's Kirsten Hillibrand tied as the Senate's most liberal members, followed by a two-way tie between Hawaii's Daniel Akaka and Dick Durbin of Illinois for third and then five-senator tie for fifth.

Boxer is tied with Sherrrod Brown of Ohio, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Tom Udall of New Mexico. Maryland's Ben Cardin came in 10th.

February 22, 2012
AM Alert: Field Poll's latest numbers just in time for GOP debate

With tonight's Republican presidential debate just hours away, the Field Poll has the most recent details of how California's GOP voters view the four hopefuls still in the race.

The bottom line: Rick Santorum isn't No. 1, as Real Clear Politics reports he is in some other polls, but he has pulled within six percentage points of Mitt Romney.

In California, Santorum is polling more strongly than Romney among strongly conservative voters, as well as among born-again Christians and those who identify with the tea party. David Siders has more in today's Bee. If you want even more numbers, click here to read the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert. You can read the publicly released poll at this link.

As for the debate, Santorum and Romney join Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. CNN's John King moderates starting at 5 p.m. Pacific Time from Arizona. CNN is soliciting questions at and the CNN Politics Facebook page. For the Twitterati, it's encouraging use of the hashtag #CNNDebate.

Back in Sacramento, the Legislature isn't holding floor sessions, but there's no shortage of committee hearings and news conferences in the Capitol.

State Controller John Chiang, Sen. Kevin de León and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, all Democrats, join building industry representatives to talk up legislation to make commercial energy retrofits more affordable. That news conference starts at 10 a.m. in Room 1190.

Labor leaders are getting behind a proposal to regulate the wages, hours and working conditions of domestic workers. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski are scheduled to join Democratic Assemblymen Tom Ammiano and V. Manuel Pérez and others at an 11 a.m. presser in Room 317 to highlight the legislators' Assembly Bill 889.

Republican legislators, meanwhile, are unveiling pension reform legislation at 11:30 a.m. in Room 126. Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway and other Republican lawmakers are expected to appear.

As for committee work, a joint Senate hearing will look at how to finance affordable housing and local economic development from 9:30 a.m. to noon in Room 4203. Listed speakers include Claudia Cappio of the California Housing Finance Agency, Marianne O'Malley of the Legislative Analyst's Office, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, Jennifer Matz of the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Mike McKeever of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and others.

The Senate Rules Committee will consider gubernatorial appointments starting at 1:30 p.m. in Room 113, with these appointees required to appear: Jennifer Shaffer, member of the Board of Parole Hearings; Robert Barton, inspector general, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; and Martin Hoshino, Corrections undersecretary.

For more information on the Senate's schedule, click here. You'll find the Assembly's schedule at this link.

SCHOOLS CHIEF: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is in Pacific Grove to address members of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association at their annual leadership conference, starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Asilomar Conference Center.

ASH WEDNESDAY: Sacramento Catholic Bishop Jaime Soto leads Ash Wednesday services starting at 8 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps. This afternoon, legislators and others will take part in an Ash Wednesday "poverty simulation" in the basement of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacramento at 11th and K streets. Lawmakers expected to attend include Republican Assemblyman Katcho Achadijian, Democratic Sen. Carol Liu and Assembly members Julia Brownley, Roger Dickinson, Bonnie Lowenthal, Nancy Skinner and Mariko Yamada. That event starts at 1:30 p.m.

February 21, 2012
Jerry Brown bound for Washington, will meet with Obama

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has rarely left the state since taking office last year, will travel to Washington this weekend to meet with President Barack Obama and governors at the National Governors Association's winter meeting.

The Democratic governor is scheduled to meet with Obama, senior administration officials, California's congressional delegation and the Chinese ambassador, among other meetings.

When he skipped last year's meeting of the nation's governors, Brown spokesman Gil Duran cited "pressing business" in California. Brown also avoided such meetings early in his first two terms as governor, from 1975 to 1983, citing similar reasons.

Within two years, however, he changed course and attended several of the gatherings, raising his political profile while lobbying for various California interests.

February 21, 2012
VIDEO: Shannon Grove talks part-time Legislature in interview

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove's proposal to ask voters to cut the Legislature to part time hasn't gotten much love from her colleagues under the dome.

The Bakersfield Republican characterized the reactions and talked about how her own experiences since being elected in 2010 have shaped her views on the issue in an interview with The Bee's Capitol Bureau.

In the videos below, Watch Grove, who filed a constitutional amendment to have the Legislature meet just three months a year, and People's Advocate's Ted Costa, address those issues, as well as criticism that a part-time Legislature would not attract quality candidates.

Jim Sanders has more from the interview at this link.

February 21, 2012
Galgiani wants California to pay 'Speed Freak Killers' tab

FloodRd_Search_8252_speed_freak_killers.JPGAssemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani is proposing legislation that would require California taxpayers to pick up the tab for a gruesome multicounty search for victims of the "Speed Freak Killers."

Searches have been under way in Calaveras and San Joaquin counties. The tab in the latter hit $90,000 last Friday, said Galgiani, whose bill also will seek reimbursement for any DNA testing done.

At separate San Andreas sites, bone or other remnants have been found of victims Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, who disappeared in 1998, and of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, 16, who was reported missing in 1985.

Officials also have uncovered hundreds of human bones at one San Joaquin County well site and have been told of two other well locations by convicted killer Wesley Shermantine of the "Speed Freak Killers."

Shermantine and his partner, Loren Herzog, are suspected of serial murders in decades past.

Shermantine, who remains on death row, was convicted of four murders. Herzog was found guilty of three killings, but his conviction was overturned on appeal and he later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Paroled last year, Herzog hanged himself inside his trailer last month.

"Certainly no one could have anticipated this happening," said Galgiani, D-Livingston, said of the wide-ranging search for bodies.

The tab is particularly onerous to Calaveras and San Joaquin counties because it comes at a time when California's economy has been weak, said Galgiani, who said total costs could reach $500,000.

State taxpayers have an interest in the case because nobody yet knows how many murder victims there are, where their families are located, or how many counties will be affected, Galgiani said.

Elected to serve portions of San Joaquin County, Galgiani said she will amend an existing bill in the Senate to contain the reimbursement language. She has not yet finished crafting the measure, she said.

PHOTO CREDIT: San Joaquin Sheriff detectives Paul Hoskins, left, and Lindsay Smith sift on Feb. 12 for remains excavated from the abandoned well in the background that is believed to be a burial site of "Speed Freak Killers" Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog. Craig Sanders / The (Stockton) Record.

February 21, 2012
Donations dribbling in slowly for part-time Legislature initiative

Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to reduce the Legislature to part time say they hope to raise $2.6 million for the effort, but records show that contributions have been few and relatively small in the campaign's first few weeks.

Assemblyman Shannon Grove, in a meeting today with The Bee Capitol Bureau, said that even Republican legislative colleagues have been reluctant to help finance the measure thus far.

"No one has stepped forward yet," Grove, R-Bakersfield, said of GOP legislators.

Of $85,000 in contributions reported to the secretary of state, Grove's Assembly campaign committee has been the single largest donor, $30,000. Seven other donations have been reported, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, records show.

Asked if she expected a wealthy activist with deep pockets to bankroll the campaign, Grove smiled.

"I wouldn't turn it down if they decided to show up," she said.

February 21, 2012
Foes of part-time Legislature fire political shot at Shannon Grove

Taking the gloves off, opponents of a proposal to convert the Legislature to part time took a personal shot today at the measure's sponsor - urging Assemblywoman Shannon Grove to voluntarily reduce her own salary and per diem payments.

"I'd respectfully suggest that (Grove) would be a lot more credible on this issue if she would practice what she preaches," former Democratic Assemblyman Dario Frommer, now leading opposition to Grove's proposal, said in a written statement.

Grove, a Republican from Bakersfield, must collect 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify her constitutional amendment to have the Legislature meet for only three months per year, rather than nine, for the November statewide ballot.

The measure also would cut lawmakers' annual pay from $95,000 to $18,000, require legislators to adopt two-year state budgets and bar officeholders from accepting state employment or appointment to a state post while serving in the Capitol or for five years afterward.

In a four-minute video released last week, Grove asked voters to help her "take back this great state." Some new laws passed by the Legislature are outrageous - such as regulating shark fins -- and a part-time Legislature would "reduce the damage" it causes to the state, she said.

Since Grove feels that lawmakers should be paid only $1,500 per month, she should lead by example and cut her own $95,291 salary, according to Frommer, of Los Angeles, who also suggested that she turn down $142 per diem payments for the six months that she seeks to slice from the Legislature's annual session.

Grove and partner Ted Costa of People's Advocate are scheduled to be interviewed by The Bee's Capitol Bureau at 11 a.m. today. Readers are welcome to submit questions on the Capitol Alert Facebook page.

February 21, 2012
AM Alert: California Republican Party gears up for convention

California Republican Party members can look forward to hearing not only from GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich at their convention next weekend, but also from one of his former rivals.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will speak at Saturday's dinner along with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. KSFO (560 AM) radio host Brian Sussman will emcee the event.

Pawlenty, who quit the presidential race last August after a disappointing finish in the Iowa straw poll, is now co-chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential bid.

Gingrich will be headlining Saturday's luncheon at the convention, held Friday through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport hotel in Burlingame.

Also on the convention's speaker list are California Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Darrell Issa, who share the main attraction at Friday's dinner with Republican National Committee Co-Chairwoman Sharon Day. The Sunday prayer breakfast will feature the Rev. Lou Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, which has offices in both Washington, D.C., and Anaheim.

Day, meanwhile, will give an update on California's new top-two primary system at a luncheon Friday for members of the executive committee.

Convention sessions include the "Ground Game" workshop on this year's elections, which was already full up late last week, as well as a workshop on social media plus three town halls aimed at Asian, Latino and young voters. Read an agenda at this link.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: The Legislature has a short week, with sessions scheduled today at noon in the Assembly and at 2 p.m. in the Senate. An Assembly Budget subcommittee looks at state procurement and contracting out, starting at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 447. And a joint legislative hearing will consider Gov. Jerry Brown's proposals to eliminate the departments of Mental Health, and Alcohol and Drug Programs and reorganize other behavioral health programs. That hearing will start around 3:30 p.m. in Room 4202.

SCHOOLS CHIEF: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is touring Lincoln High School's Engineering Construction Academy in Stockton at 1 p.m. to highlight career technical education.

PENSIONS: The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and California Common Sense are releasing a report today on California's local pension systems, including Sacramento County's. Stay tuned for details.

February 20, 2012
Meg Whitman contributes $100,000 to Mitt Romney's Super PAC

California Governor Fresno.jpgFormer GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman pulled out her checkbook last month to boost her former boss Mitt Romney's presidential bid.

Whitman contributed $100,000 to the "Restore our Future" committee, an independent campaign fund created to support Romney's presidential bid, according to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Unlike Romney's presidential campaign committee, the so-called "Super PAC" can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money ahead of the election.

The contribution, received January 20, was the Hewlett-Packard CEO's first donation to the super PAC, which raised more than $6 million in the first month of 2012. She had previously given $2,500 to his presidential campaign committee.

Whitman, who spent $144 million of her own cash on her failed 2010 bid for governor, served as a finance chair on Romney's 2008 presidential campaign. The relationship between the two wealthy business executives stretches back to the 1980s, when a young Whitman worked for Romney at the Bain & Company consulting firm. She told The Bee last year that she would consider an appointment if Romney wins election to the White House, but said at the time that the two had not discussed any specific posts.

Super PAC supporting Romney adds $6.6 million to the coffers last month
Meg Whitman named CEO of Hewlett-Packard

PHOTO CREDIT: California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman arrives at a fund-raising luncheon, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010 in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/ The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora).

February 20, 2012
Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley to run for Congress

Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley says she'll run for the 26th Congressional District.

The Ventura County Star's Timm Herdt reports:

Brownley, who lives in Santa Monica, has represented much of Ventura County in the Assembly for the past five years. Her district includes Port Hueneme, about half of Oxnard, Westlake Village and Oak Park -- areas that make up about 16 percent of the congressional district.

Brownley said she will move to an apartment in Oak Park this week.

"This is going to be a tough campaign -- no question about it," she said. "I think I'm a very strong candidate with my experience in the Legislature fighting to restore excellence in schools, expanding access to health care and investing in the 'green' economy."

Brownley, who is termed out, enters the race with the endorsement of Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, the top Democratic recruit for the seat who dropped out unexpectedly earlier this month. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a Republican who might identify herself as "no party preference" on the ballot, and four other Democrats are running for the swing seat, which became a top target when retiring GOP Rep. Elton Gallegly announced he would not run for another term in the newly drawn district.

The seat is considered a top target for Democrats seeking to win back the majority in the U.S. House.

Click here to read the full Ventura County Star piece.

February 18, 2012
California senator blasts ESPN for Jeremy Lin headline incident

lin.jpgA California state senator blasted ESPN today for using a racial slur in a Web reference to New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin, calling on the network to do more than just apologize "in addressing this unacceptable act."

Democratic Sen. Leland Yee said the headline, which was posted online early Saturday morning, "harkens back to 1947 when Jackie Robinson heard some of the ugliest racial epithets as he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball."

"It is shocking that in 2012, Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise in the NBA is accompanied by the same offensive comments and slurs," the San Francisco Democrat said in a statement. "It is even more disturbing when such racism is promoted by our nation's leading sports network."

The network apologized for what it acknowledged was an "offensive headline" earlier today, saying in a statement that it is "conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again." The headline was taken down after about 30 minutes.

Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin said the senator also wants to know what actions were taken by the network after the same phrase was used during the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. If the same person was responsible in both cases, Yee believes that person should be fired, he said.

"If no action was taken then, they obviously need significant training in racial acceptance within their newsroom," he said.


ESPN sorry for offensive headline on Lin story

NBA's Lin scores by winning and breaking barriers

Ailene Voisin: Lin stuns those in the know in NBA

PHOTO CREDIT: New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin, front right, lays up for two of his 20 game points on a shot in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, in Minneapolis.Jim Mone / AP Photo.

February 17, 2012
Jerry Brown: California to reopen foreign trade offices in China

Nine years after California disbanded its foreign trade offices amid controversy, Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that the state will open two offices in China.

California shut down 12 taxpayer-funded trade offices in 2003, after the Legislative Analyst's Office, among other observers, questioned their effectiveness and cost. Brown's office said in a statement that new trade offices in Shanghai and Beijing will be financed by "partners in the private sector."

"The Pacific Rim has become the center of the world economy, presenting California with countless opportunities to grow alongside our neighbors across the ocean," Brown said in a prepared statement. "The office will encourage direct investment and further strengthen the existing ties between the world's second- and ninth-largest economies."

The announcement coincides with a visit to Los Angeles by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping. The Democratic governor is in Los Angeles today hosting him.

The idea of reestablishing a presence in China came up last year, when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would seek to reopen California's foreign trade offices, first in China.

February 17, 2012
Cook says 13 California congressional seats may be competitive

A fourth of California's 53 congressional seats could be competitive in this year's elections, thanks to extensive district boundary changes by the state's independent redistricting commission, says a new analysis by the Cook Political Report.

The Cook report is considered to be an objective analysis of national political trends and its list of California districts that loom as potentially competitive is contained in a nationwide rundown.

Many of the 13 California districts on the list are either held by incumbents or have incumbents running after changing addresses, while others are open seats without incumbents.

The incumbent seats are those held by Democrats Jim Costa, Lois Capps, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney and Republicans Dan Lungren, Gary Miller, Brian Bilbray, Jeff Denham and Mary Bono.

The most threatened incumbents are in the "tossup" districts and Cook sees them as Republicans Lungren, Miller and Bilbray. Others are in districts that are more likely to go to one party or the other.

February 17, 2012
Second 'per diem session' of year protects lawmakers' incomes

The California Legislature conducted its second "per diem session" of the year Friday, with both legislative houses meeting briefly, thereby allowing their members to leave town for a three-day holiday weekend without losing their $141.86 per day, tax-free expense payments.

Had the Legislature not met Friday and observed Monday's Presidents' Day holiday, lawmakers would have lost the payments for four days, totaling nearly $70,000.

The Senate met for about 20 minutes, doing little more than ceremonial events. The Assembly devoted its session, about 45 minutes, mostly to a resolution marking the 70th anniversary of the 1942 presidential order, issued in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, that citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry, many of them in California, be rounded up and placed in internment camps.

The per diem payments, averaging more than $25,000 per year per legislator on top of their salaries, are supposed to compensate legislators for housing and meals in Sacramento. The state constitution says that the payments continue seven days a week, as long as the Legislature is not out of session for more than three consecutive days.

The Legislature's long-standing practice is to meet from Monday to Thursday - the latter having been dubbed "getaway day" -- unless there's a crunch of business, but when there's a Monday holiday, it routinely has brief sessions on Fridays to avoid violating the three-day rule.

In effect, it's a four-day weekend because members are off duty from Friday morning until Tuesday. A few members, however, don't accept the per diem payments.

February 17, 2012
Kristin Olsen seeks online posting of CA legislators' office budgets

California legislators would be required to post their office budgets and monthly office expenditures online under legislation proposed this week by a Republican assemblywoman.

Modesto Republican Kristin Olsen said her bill is needed because the Legislature often does not hold itself to the same standards of openness and transparency that it requires of other government agencies.

The Assembly lost a court fight last year after withholding office budgets as confidential documents. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that member-by-member budgets are public records and ordered them released.

Olsen's Assembly Bill 1730 would require the office budgets posted online to include all allocations and expenditures, including caucus supplements, travel expenses, office rent and staff salaries.

AB 1730 does not mention committee budgets, which often are used by Assembly members to help pay salaries of personal aides. Olsen plans to amend the bill to include committee expenditures, spokeswoman Jennifer Gibbons said.

February 17, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown continues diplomatic role with Xi Jinping

Gov. Jerry Brown is still in Southern California hanging out with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, while legislators are gearing up in Sacramento for the long weekend by attending per diem sessions.

Brown continues his diplomatic role with China's likely next leader, speaking this morning at the China/U.S. economic trade forum being held at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, then meeting privately with Xi at noon.

The governor will also deliver welcoming remarks at a luncheon honoring Xi that Vice President Joe Biden and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are also expected to attend. This afternoon, Brown hosts a round-table for other governors and Chinese officials. Xi leaves LAX tonight, and Brown and Villaraigosa will see him off.

"China has trillions of dollars in reserves, and they're going to be investing that increasingly throughout the world," Brown told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "I would like to see some of that money come into California for productive investment."

Xi's visit to Los Angeles has not been protest-free, with pro-Tibet supporters and others demonstrating outside China Mart's offices Thursday.

While Brown meets with Xi, Assemblyman Jerry Hill will be meeting with the guy who burglarized his garage back in 2001. The San Mateo Democrat, then a county supervisor, heard banging and found Mark Harvin, then 18, high on meth and alcohol, according to Hill's office.

Hill, a black belt in karate, "held on to him until police could come and take him away. ... In fact, he even sat the guy down and held him in place until the police arrived a few minutes later," the San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time.

Harvin now works at San Mateo's Project Ninety, a substance abuse program he says saved his life. Harvin recently wrote Hill to request a meeting as part of his rehabilitation. They'll sit down today at 10 a.m. for the first time since they met in Hill's garage.

As for the Legislature's per diem sessions, those are the floor sessions scheduled to make sure legislators' per diem checks keep flowing over long weekends, since the rules are such that they don't get paid unless there's at least one session every three days. Both the Senate and the Assembly convene at 9 a.m. The next sessions are set for Tuesday after the Presidents Day holiday.

Next Friday is another red-letter day: It's the last day for legislators to introduce bills this year. Expect many trees to die.

LINCOLN DAY: Board of Equalization member George Runner will be speaking next Monday at the Sutter County Republican Central Committee's annual Lincoln Dinner starting at 6 p.m. He's titled his topic, "Will California ever be business-friendly again?" Listed guests include GOP Rep. Wally Herger; Sen. Doug LaMalfa, who's running for Herger's seat with Herger's endorsement; and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, who has said he'll run for LaMalfa's Senate seat if LaMalfa winds up in Congress. The dinner starts at 6 p.m. at Ruthy's Bar & Oven Starlight Room, 229 Clark Ave., in Yuba City.

CAKE AND CANDLES: It's a big weekend for birthdays. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, turns 42 today. On Saturday, Assemblymen Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, will celebrate, with Wieckowski turning 57 and Huffman turning 48. Then on Sunday, it's Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal's day. The Long Beach Democrat can put 72 candles on her cake.

February 16, 2012
VIDEO: Obama protested outside San Francisco fundraiser

SAN FRANCISCO - If it was only the Tea Party across the street, the protest, however spirited, might have been small.

But liberals have bullhorns, too - and on this night, glows sticks - and in the bluest of cities in the bluest of states, they aired their own grievances with President Barack Obama.

With the Democratic president scheduled to speak at a fundraiser at the Nob Hill Masonic Center tonight, environmentalists complained about oil drilling and anti-war activists complained about the United States' involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Cannabis is medicine," signs said, and some protesters managed while protesting to self-medicate.

Though apparently outnumbered, the Tea Party supporters were loud.

"No-Bama," they shouted, and later, "Fox News Rocks."

A protester behind them laughed and yelled, "Hey, pass the Kool-Aid!"

A man told him, "Get out of my country."

Across from the protesters, in a line of ticketholders that wrapped around the block, was Chris Cook, a 25-year-old from Kentucky who supports Obama now but voted for a Republican, President George W. Bush, when he was 18.

"Coming out here from Kentucky," he said, "it opened me up a little bit."

February 16, 2012
$2 million boost for campaign to require two-year state budget

A signature-gathering drive received a $2 million boost today in its bid to place before voters a constitutional amendment that would require the state to transition to a two-year, performance-based budget cycle and make numerous other changes.

The initiative campaign reported a $1.2 million contribution from an institute of billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen and an $883,567 donation from California Forward, a nonprofit government reform group, secretary of state records show.

The money was contributed to a newly formed committee that is bankrolling the effort to collect 807,615 signatures by May 29 to place the initiative on the November statewide ballot.

Other elements of the measure would require major new programs to have clearly identified funding sources before they are enacted; require proposed laws to be released three days prior to a legislative vote; and require state programs to be reviewed at least once every five years for effectiveness.

February 16, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: Time to rally behind Jerry Brown's tax plan

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that it's time to end sparring over competing measures and rally behind Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative for the November ballot.

The Sacramento Democrat, in what he characterized as a "clarion call," said that Brown's tax initiative appears to be the state's best alternative. Placing competing measures on the ballot could hurt its prospects, he said.

"It's time to get behind the governor's tax initiative," Steinberg said.

"If you have two or three of them on the ballot at one time, they're all at risk of losing," he said.

Brown's proposal would generate nearly $7 billion in budget relief by raising income taxes on high earners and by enacting a half-cent increase in the sales tax.

Two other revenue-raising proposals are being debated among Democrats supporting a tax hike.

The California Federation of Teachers is pushing a tax increase on millionaires, while attorney Molly Munger, an activist on civil rights and education policy issues, is leading a drive to raise state income taxes for all but the poorest Californians to fund schools and early childhood development proposals.

Steinberg, who led a drive to increase taxes on the wealthy seven years ago, said he is convinced that the newly proposed millionaires tax would spark "significant funded opposition" that could sink it at the polls.

The Senate leader said that he wants to see another round of polling on Munger's proposal but that it is not likely to catch fire among voters because it proposes an income tax hike on most working Californians.

"Her polls and the public polls that I've seen show her initiative as not having great upward trajectory," he said.

"I just don't think this is the time," he said of Munger's proposal. "Because the time is now to get behind one solid proposal that presents the biggest opportunity to both fund education and also to end the deficit in California."

Asked if supporters of the tax proposals competing with Brown's could collect the required number of ballot signatures but delay turning them in, thus qualifying for the 2014 ballot, Steinberg indicated that was a viable option.

"I'm just going to say this: We're looking at that very carefully," he said. "I think all things are possible."

February 16, 2012
New Senate GOP leader means new committee posts for some

The Senate Rules Committee approved some committee membership shuffling yesterday, including some changes made at the request of the new Senate GOP leader Bob Huff.

One of the biggest changes was to the Senate Health Committee, where Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, replaces Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, as vice-chair.

Strickland and Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, also swapped their respective posts on the Senate Governmental Organization and Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committees.

Several GOP members picked up new committee assignments to fill seats vacated by Huff, whose spokesman said he needed to free up time to focus on his responsibilities as leader.

While committee changes under the dome are often sparked by political considerations, a Huff spokesman said these shifts were made to move the leader off the committees and honor some requests made by members.

"There was no king-making here," spokesman Bill Bird said. "Requests were made to Bob for committee assignments and Bob took those requests to Senate (President) Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and those requests were made."

All the committee changes are detailed in the Rules Committee agenda, which is posted here.


Approval of National Guard head moves to full State Senate

February 16, 2012
Shannon Grove releases video pitch for part-time CA Legislature

Making a personal pitch for donations and help, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove has posted an online video designed to bolster her campaign to switch California's Legislature to a part-time body.

"Help me take back this great state," the Bakersfield Republican concludes in the four-minute video produced by Tea Party United.

"Last year, Sacramento politicians regulated or legislated font size, shark fins, state rocks - it's just outrageous what they spend their time on. ... We need to reduce the damage that legislators impact on our state," Grove said.

Opponents claim that a part-time Legislature would discourage many good candidates from running, would increase reliance upon lobbyists, and would lead to a more corrupt Legislature, with many lawmakers having outside jobs that conflict with issues at the Capitol.

Grove and Ted Costa, of People's Advocate, recently received the state's green light to begin gathering the 807,615 valid voter signatures needed to place their constitutional amendment before voters in November.

The measure calls for the Legislature to meet for three months each year, rather than nine, and for lawmakers' annual pay to be cut from $95,000 to $18,000.

The proposal also would require legislators to adopt two-year state budgets and would bar officeholders for accepting state employment or appointment to a state post while serving in the Capitol or for five years afterward.

RELATED LINK: See The Bee's op-ed page today for a head-to-head debate on the issue between Pia Lopez and Ben Boychuk.

February 16, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown to welcome Chinese VP in Los Angeles

Gov. Jerry Brown will be in Los Angeles this afternoon to welcome Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping as he touches down on the tarmac.

Also joining Brown: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The governor will attend several official events today and Friday tied to Xi's visit, including a tour this afternoon of the China Shipping Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.

Xi is scheduled to arrive at LAX at 1:30 p.m., about two hours after Air Force One is set to leave the airport for San Francisco. President Barack Obama, who met with Xi earlier this week at the White House, is continuing his West Coast fundraising trip with a visit to the Bay Area.

Obama's calendar includes a dinner at the Pacific Heights home of novelist Robert Mailer Anderson (think "Boonville"), followed by a reception at the Masonic Center where Grammy winner Chris Cornell (think Soundgarden) will perform.

Back in Sacramento, the Senate Budget Committee looks at Brown's budget proposal for K-12 education, with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson expected to testify. The hearing, which starts at 9 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 4203, will be televised on the Senate's website via this link.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, will be at Microsoft Corp. in Mountain View, where he and members of the TechAmerica Foundation will release recommendations at 9 a.m. on cloud computing for state and local governments. Listed speakers at the half-day event include the head of the California Technology Agency, Carlos Ramos, as well as San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. The event will be streamed live at this link.

MODEL LEGISLATURE: Some 2,500 teens are in town, starting today, for the California YMCA Youth & Government program's 64th annual model legislature and court. Try not to scare them off.

NEW GIGS: Brown announced three appointments on Thursday, all Democrats:

Brian Kelly, 43, of Sacramento, has been appointed undersecretary at the Business Transportation and Housing Agency. He has been executive staff director for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg since 2008, and he's worked for Senate leaders going back to Bill Lockyer in 1995. This position also does not require Senate confirmation. He'll be paid $172,992 a year.

Jim Evans, 42, of Sacramento, was appointed deputy secretary for communications and strategic planning at the Business Transportation and Housing Agency. He has been a consultant for Sen. Mark DeSaulnier since 2009 and is a long-time Capitol denizen. (Full disclosure: He also worked for The Bee from 2003 to 2004.) This position does not require Senate confirmation. He'll be paid $129,900 a year.

Robert Zachary Wasserman, 64, of Oakland, has been appointed chair of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Wasserman has been a partner at Wendel Rosen Black and Dean LLP since 1996. This position requires Senate confirmation, and he'll be paid a grand total of $0 a year.

PHOTO CAPTION: China's Vice President Xi Jinping/Associated Press

February 15, 2012
Newt Gingrich 'on the way' to Michigan, Arizona

PALO ALTO -- Newt Gingrich, fundraising in California this week to bolster his fading presidential campaign, said this afternoon that he is "on the way to Michigan and Arizona," which hold primaries on Feb. 28.

The former House speaker's campaign characterized his week of California fundraising as necessary to compete on Super Tuesday, when 10 states hold primaries or caucuses March 6.

"We're on the way to Michigan and Arizona, but we're out here doing fundraising, and we scheduled this a couple months ago," Gingrich said as he left a series of meetings at the Hoover Institution, a think tank on the Stanford campus.

He added: "It's been very successful so far."

Gingrich's calendar on his website lists him as appearing in Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks and Beverly Hills on Thursday, followed by events in his former home state of Georgia later this week.

February 15, 2012
Sacramento Press Club reveals the 'Stuff Capitol Insiders Say'

Take four intrepid California journalists, add two days of camera work and one-liners. Throw in some background shots of Bacteria Bear, and what you get is a brand new video, brought to you by the Sacramento Press Club.

In just over three minutes, "Stuff Capitol Insiders Say" runs through, well, the stuff that Capitol insiders say when they're around the Capitol. Important stuff like, "Where's CCPOA on this?" and "So, what is eye patch underwear?"

The journalists involved aren't named on screen, but here they are: The Bee's Ed Fletcher and Torey Van Oot, as well as Brian Joseph of the Orange County Register and Allen Young of Comstock's magazine.

Fletcher, who did the editing, was behind the camera except when he was in front of it, in which case Joseph and Young took over. The script was a joint effort, and the video was shot late last month.

Its parting words: "The opinions expressed do not represent the views of the journalists involved or their employer past, present or future. Insert additional lawyer speak." Watch the video below.

February 15, 2012
Ex-Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness to lobby for CPOA

PK_MCGINNESS_0287.JPGFormer Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness has agreed to work with the California Peace Officers' Association as a lobbyist, according to a statement on the organization's website.

McGinness retired from his sheriff's post in 2010 after a 31-year career in the department. He currently hosts his own talk radio show on KFBK and teaches as an adjunct professor at California State University.

The association, which represents law enforcement in state, local and federal government, said in a statement on its website that he "will bring great depth of knowledge to the role of advocating for CPOA on public safety issue."

McGinness, who has not yet registered as a lobbyist according to records on the Secretary of State website, told The Bee that he is still working out the details of whether he will work in-house with the association or help them on a contract basis. But he said whatever the role, he is excited to help promote the work and mission of the association.

"I'm certainly very enthusiastic about stepping in and helping," he said, noting that he is a past president and longtime member of CPOA.

He said he expects to formally start working with the group March 1. He plans to continue to teach and host his radio show in the near future.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:57 p.m. with quotes from McGinness.

PHOTO CREDIT: File photo of former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness. Paul Kitagaki Jr., Sacramento Bee.

February 15, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown changes route, restores bus money next year

Gov. Jerry Brown reversed course this week by restoring $496 million in school bus money in his budget proposal for next fiscal year after facing criticism from education groups.

The decision comes after the governor signed legislation Friday that restored bus funding for the remainder of the current school year after districts lost that money in December's midyear cuts. Brown quietly issued a new education budget plan this week ahead of a Thursday state Senate hearing.

Brown's reversal in 2012-13 comes with some caveats. First, it relies on voters approving his plan to raise income taxes on the wealthy earners, as well as sales taxes by a half cent. It allows districts to spend their bus money on other purposes. And the governor intends to eliminate school transportation earmarks in 2013-14, though districts may receive funding in a new form allowing them to maintain bus service.

February 15, 2012
Lance Armstrong's foundation to give $1.5 million to tobacco tax

JV AMGEN LANCE START.JPGChampion cyclist Lance Armstrong said today that his LIVESTRONG Foundation is making a $1.5 million contribution to support a June ballot measure that would increase the state tobacco tax to raise money for cancer research and anti-smoking programs.

Armstrong, a cancer survivor, previously supported the drive to qualify Proposition 29 for the ballot. He said the measure "will save lives, stop kids from smoking" and support the search for cancer cures.

"We feel that it's worth every penny," he said of the proposed $1-a-pack tax hike.

Backers of the June ballot measure include the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.

The Proposition 29 campaign is expected to be a multimillion dollar fight. A campaign committee created to oppose the measure reported $2.67 million in contributions in 2011, all from tobacco company Philip Morris USA and its parent company Altria. A committee to support the measure reported raising $1.39 million in the same period.

California Taxpayers Association President Teresa Casazza, who is part of the opposition coalition, responded to the donation news in a statement saying "now is not the time for Lance Armstrong to come into our state and ask us to support a flawed measure like Prop. 29."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 10:45 a.m. with a statement from Casazza.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lance Armstrong looks out at the fans prior to the start of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California in Nevada City on Sunday. Jose Luis Villegas, Sacramento Bee.

February 15, 2012
AM Alert: Obama heads West to stock up on campaign funds

President Barack Obama is coming to the West Coast for a little fundraising love.

Air Force One is set to touch down at LAX at 4 p.m. Obama will then attend a dinner at the Beverly Hills home of soap opera writer and producer Bradley Bell, famous for "The Bold and the Beautiful," according to this Annenberg TV News report. A Foo Fighters concert is also on the menu.

The president will also make stops in San Francisco and Seattle on Thursday and Friday.

Back in Sacramento, expect drama in the Senate Rules Committee. Members are considering governor's appointees, and one of those required to appear is Adjutant General David S. Baldwin, who now heads the California National Guard.

Brigadier General Charlotte L. Miller, who got ousted as Baldwin took charge last year, announced earlier this week that she would testify against his nomination, calling him "unfit for command."

The Bee's Charles Piller, whose investigations into double-dip pay at the state's National Guard led to Baldwin's predecessor being booted into retirement, wrote about Baldwin in this story last summer after Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him.

The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 112. Come back to The Bee this afternoon for more on the story. Also required to appear: Cal-EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez, a Brown appointee from last summer who will probably be happy not to draw the same attention.

Meanwhile, it's time once again for "Family Feud, Capitol Style." The California YMCA's Youth & Government program is holding its ninth annual fundraising competition at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, starting at 5 p.m. The event emcee is former Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, and Sen. Alan Lowenthal is listed as judge.

Listed for the Republican "family": Senate GOP leader Bob Huff, Sens. Bill Emmerson and Mimi Walters, Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway and Assemblyman Brian Nestande.

Listed for the Democratic "family": Assembly members Bonnie Lowenthal, Ricardo Lara, Rich Gordon and Isadore Hall, as well as Resources Secretary John Laird.

ELECTION 2012: Democratic congressional candidate Ami Bera is joining volunteers staffing a phone bank asking voters to call the office of his rival, GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, to request that Lungren's House Administration Committee set a hearing for a bill that would require Congress to pass its budget on time or risk not getting paid. A Senate committee is holding a hearing on March 7, according to The Hill. The Bera campaign cranks it up at 6:30 p.m. at 6254 Orsi Circle in Carmichael.

February 14, 2012
Cameron Smyth decides not to fight Fran Pavley for Senate seat

Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth has decided not to run for the state Senate this year.

Smyth had been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate to butt heads with Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley for a Ventura County swing seat, the 27th Senate District.

"I just felt the seat wasn't right for me at this time - not the right seat, not the right time," Smyth said.

The Santa Clarita resident said he has decided to return to his Southern California home and be a "better husband and better father" after he is termed out of the Assembly this year. He has three children, ages 8, 5 and 18 months.

Smyth, a government relations consultant before entering the Legislature, said he is not sure where or in what field he will work next year.

"I'm a conservative at heart and I've never expected to spend my entire career chasing a government paycheck," he said.

Smyth is the third potential candidate to decide against challenging Pavley for the Senate seat. Former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, a Democrat, turned thumbs down last month. Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, opted to seek an incumbent-free congressional seat instead.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in voter registration, 41 percent to 34 percent, in the Ventura County Senate district that is considered a key to Democrats' hopes of gaining a two-thirds majority in the upper house.

February 14, 2012
Standard & Poor's improves outlook for California bond rating

Standard & Poor's improved California's bond outlook from stable to positive Tuesday, a signal that the deficit-ridden state could be in line for a ratings bump.

S&P analyst Gabriel Petek said S&P believes there's at least a 1 in 3 chance that California's rating could rise from A-minus to A sometime in the next two years. The state's A-minus is currently S&P's lowest among U.S. states.

In a 15-page analysis, S&P said that the state's new majority-vote budget requirement is a major reason why the state now has a positive outlook. Voters approved the requirement in 2010 in Proposition 25, which also docks pay if lawmakers submit a late budget.

S&P also credited a rise in revenue growth as the economy recovers, as well as a series of recurring budget cuts that Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers enacted last year.

February 14, 2012
Report: Assemblyman Warren Furutani won't run for third term

BB FURUTANI 0265.JPGFresh off a double-digit loss in his Los Angeles City Council bid, Assemblyman Warren Furutani has decided not to run for re-election this year.

The 64-year-old Gardena Democrat told the Daily Breeze that he won't seek a third and final term in the lower house.

"I felt that my run for the City Council needed to be an all-in situation by sending a clear message that I was in it to win it and not hedging my bet with the Assembly as my fall-back," Furutani told The Breeze.

Furutani lost a special election bid a vacant city council race to police Officer Joe Buscaino by 21 points last month. Under the state's new political maps, he would have to face fellow Democratic Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton in the 64th Assembly District.

He told The Breeze, "Isadore is an up-and-coming leader in the community, and so I have decided to support him."

Read the full Breeze story at this link.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly member Warren Furutani casts his first vote on the floor of the Assembly after he was is sworn in, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008. Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee.

February 14, 2012
Wife of Treasurer Bill Lockyer enters rehab after assault

The wife of California Treasurer Bill Lockyer entered a rehabilitation program last week following an incident in which she was allegedly attacked by an ex-boyfriend at a Newark motel.

Nadia Lockyer, who serves on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement that she has enrolled herself in a "wellness and recovery center" to receive treatment for "chemical dependency," injuries from the assault and "chronic pain from a past debilitating car accident."

"Alcoholism and addiction are diseases from which many of us suffer, and unfortunately, I have not been spared," she said in the statement. "With the strong encouragement and support of the people in my life who love me, including my husband, my family, and my friends, I decided to get help and treatment so that I may fully heal and recover."

Bill Lockyer had earlier confirmed to the Chronicle that his wife had been "violently assaulted" Feb. 3 by a former boyfriend. Lockyer said he had been arguing with his wife on the phone before she met with the former boyfriend at the motel. He said at the time that he and his wife had recently reunited after a separation.

A spokesman for the treasurer said he is declining comment on today's statement.

Read Nadia Lockyer's full statement here.

The Chronicle, which first posted the statement, has more on the status of the investigation into the incident at this link.

February 14, 2012
California state sales tax rate highest, but overall rate ranks 12th

California has the nation's highest state sales tax rate, but its overall rate, including local sales taxes, drops to 12th highest, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based organization that collects nationwide tax data.

California's state government levies a 7.25 percent sales tax rate, and that would jump another half-percent if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase plan wins voter approval in November. The Tax Foundation says local governments add an average of .86 percent for an overall average of 8.11 percent. However, in a few jurisdictions the overall rate approaches 10 percent, according to data from the state Board of Equalization.

Tennessee, the Tax Foundation says, has the nation's highest average sales tax rate of 9.45 percent, followed by Arizona and Louisiana. Five states levy no sales taxes, but of those that do, Colorado is lowest at 4.54 percent.

February 14, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill reinstating California state nursing board

Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that he has signed legislation reconstituting the California Board of Registered Nursing, whose legal authority expired on Jan. 1 after Brown vetoed a bill last year to extend its existence.

The Democratic governor signed Senate Bill 98 without comment, reinstating the board through 2015.

When he vetoed legislation last year to extend the nursing board's existence, Brown said he objected to language that would have expanded pension benefits for board investigators -- language not included in the bill that Brown signed today.

The nursing board regulates nearly 380,000 registered nurses in California. It is responsible for enforcing laws and regulations regarding nursing education and licensing, among other duties.

February 14, 2012
Assemblyman Mike Feuer launches bid for Los Angeles city attorney

AD-42 Feuer_M06_photo.jpgAssemblyman Mike Feuer made his candidacy for Los Angeles City Attorney official today.

The Los Angeles Democrat, who is termed out of the Assembly this year, issued a campaign announcement today pledging to "do all I can to bring energy, vision and integrity to the job."

"I'm running to become Los Angeles's next City Attorney because the people of L.A. deserve secure neighborhoods, innovative solutions to our toughest problems, and a city government that inspires confidence and trust," he said in a statement.

Feuer, who had filed papers for a possible run last September, said he has already raised more than $345,000 for his campaign. The election will be held in March 2013.

February 14, 2012
U.S. Chamber of Commerce airs TV ads backing Dan Lungren

Republican Rep. Dan Lungren is getting some early help for his re-election bid from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A new television ad airing in Sacramento area praises the Gold River Republican for "fighting to protect California jobs," singling out his support for repealing the federal health care overhaul.

"He believes free enterprise, not big government, will lead economic recovery," a narrator says of Lungren.

A slight voter-registration edge for Democrats in the newly-drawn 7th Congressional District and high turnout for the presidential election are expected to make Lungren a top target this year. He faces a rematch with Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, the doctor and medical educator who lost to Lungren by 7 percentage points in 2010.

The Lungren spot, which is posted below, is part of a national ad campaign rolled out by the U.S. Chamber last week. The new spots, which include negative pieces against Democrats who supported the health care overhaul, target 12 congressional districts and eight U.S. Senate races.

"American families deserve to know who has the courage to fight for job-creating policies in Washington and who is hurting their pocketbooks," said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue. "We're asking the public to hold members of Congress accountable for their positions on Obamacare, job-killing regulations, energy security, and a culture of wasteful spending in Washington."

Chamber spokesman Bryan Goettel said the ad began airing Thursday on both cable and broadcast channels and will run for two weeks. He declined to specify how much the group spent on the ad buy. The "voter education" spots, which urge viewers to call the offices of Lungren and others on the issues cited in the ads and are not subject to the same disclosure requirements as campaign advertisements.

The Bera campaign said it believes the early spending shows the incumbent's vulnerability.

"It's clear that they see him as someone who stands for their interests and that's why they're stepping up so early and spending a lot of money when most voters don't really want to be seeing TV ads this early in the game," spokesman Josh Wolf said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:11 p.m. with comments from the Chamber. It was also updated to clarify that the ads began last week, contrary to the Feb. 13 date on a press release posted online.

February 14, 2012
Assembly spends nearly $200,000 to fight public-records suit

The California Assembly spent nearly $200,000 in legal fees fighting against disclosure of member-by-member budgets that allocate tens of millions in public funds, records show.

Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said the sum does not include hundreds of hours, perhaps more than a thousand hours, consumed by Capitol employees in gathering records ultimately ordered released by a Sacramento court.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley ruled against the Assembly in December, four months after the public-records suit was filed by The Bee and Los Angeles Times.

The Assembly paid up to $300 per hour for services rendered by the Remcho, Johansen & Pursell law firm, records show.

The Assembly paid $123,945 in legal fees to fight the suit and -- because it lost -- the 80-member house was ordered by Frawley to pick up the $73,707 tab for The Bee and Los Angeles Times as well.

Waldie said the issue needed court adjudication. The Assembly had argued that member budgets were preliminary documents, were private correspondence, and contained personnel information.

Frawley ruled that the "strong public interest in disclosure outweighs any reason for keeping the records secret."

Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, said that the Assembly's practice had been to release audited annual budget information for 35 years prior to 2011. Expenditure reports were released 12 months after the end of a legislative year.

"Speaker Perez accelerated that process even before the court decision by posting current expenditures online," Swanson said. "Once the court determined that all budget documents, even projections, should be released, the Speaker's Office did not appeal the decision and worked quickly to comply."

* Updated at 1:40 p.m. to include statement from Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for John A. Perez.

February 14, 2012
AM Alert: Can Newt Gingrich find California Valentine(s)?

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is spending Valentine's Day in the Central Valley.

Sure, the former House Speaker is looking to woo California Republicans, whose votes he's hoping will still make a difference by the time the state's June primary rolls around.

But the real object of desire for this trip is cash to fuel his campaign fund.

The GOP presidential candidate is holding an evening reception at the Fresno home of Wendy Turner, daughter of former Secretary of State Bill Jones, and her husband Ryan as part of a fundraising swing through California.
Gingrich is no cheap date. Spending the evening with the candidate will set couples back $1,000. Tickets to the VIP reception costs $2,500 a pair. Turner told the New York Times that "a little Champagne, a photo op" are included in the more expensive package.

Back in Sacramento, Sen. Alex Padilla is also looking to capitalize on today's celebration of true love. The Los Angeles Democrat is raising cash for a 2014 secretary of state bid with a Valentine's Day-themed luncheon at Chicory Coffee & Tea. For $1,000, donors can "Be Mine." Contributors who write a $6,500 check get the status of "Sealed with a Kiss."

HEARING: The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee and the Assembly Higher Education Committee hold an oversight hearing on the cost of private postsecondary education. The point of the 1:30 p.m. hearing is to "ensure California's current regulatory structure encourages high-quality educational programs, protects students from fraud and abuse, and provides accountability of financial aid expenditures," according to the agenda.

NEW JOB: California Cable & Telecommunications Association Director of Governmental Affairs Bernie Orozco is now serving as the group's vice president of state governmental affairs, according to a release from CCTA yesterday.

February 13, 2012
Steinberg seeks state review of Sacramento Co. dental program

door.jpgSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is calling for a state review of a Sacramento County pilot program that provides state-funded dental coverage for low-income children.

A Center for Health Reporting article published in The Bee over the weekend detailed the shortcomings of the managed care program, including long wait times and comparatively low rates of dental care among the more than 110,000 Sacramento County children covered by the program.

In a letter to California Department of Health Care Services Director Toby Douglas, Steinberg called for immediate action to address what he called a "crisis in prevention and treatment services."

"Despite that state funding, disturbing specific patient cases as well as the department's own data cited in the article make it abundantly clear that prevention and treatment services are woefully inadequate for those children most in need," the Sacramento Democrat wrote in the letter.

February 13, 2012
California's high-income taxpayers dropped sharply

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to hit California's highest-income taxpayers with billions of dollars in new taxes, and is jousting with other groups with their own tax-the-rich measures over which, if any, will win voter approval.

But the number of Californians with $500,000-plus annual incomes declined dramatically from 2007 to 2009 as the state's economy stagnated, leaving fewer to tax, the California Taxpayers Association points out in a compilation of data from the Franchise Tax Board.

The latest FTB statistical report covers the 2009 tax year, and Cal-Tax points out that it listed just 98,610 California tax returns with adjusted gross income of $500,000 or more, down nearly a third from the 146,221 in 2007. Data for 2010 are not yet available.

Those 98,610 tax returns were just over a half-percent of the 14.6 million returns filed for 2009, but they accounted for 18.8 percent of the taxable income and 32 percent of the income taxes paid that year.

Economists believe that most of the decline reflects lower incomes, rather than an exodus of high-income taxpayers from the state, but there are no hard data on that point.

Expanding the 2009 sample to the top 1 percent (144,071) drops the cutoff to just under $400,000 a year in adjusted gross income. The one-percenters accounted for 21 percent of the taxable income that year and 35.5 percent of the taxes levied.

At one time, the top 1 percent of California taxpayers accounted for half of the state's income tax revenues but their incomes, tied to stocks and other capital markets, declined the most of any income class and currently, state officials say, they are believed to provide about 37 percent of the state's income taxes. That decline accounts for much, if not most, of the state's revenue declines in recent years.

Those with adjusted gross incomes of $400,000 or more paid $25.7 billion in state income taxes for 2007, but two years later, that had dropped to $12.3 billion. Their taxable incomes had declined from about $278 billion to $156 billion.

February 13, 2012
Billionaire George Soros donates $500,000 to three-strikes drive

Billionaire investor George Soros has given a half-million dollar boost to efforts to overhaul California's three-strikes law.

Soros' $500,000 donation to the "Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012" was reported Friday by the ballot drive's fundraising committee, sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, records show.

Stanford University professor David Mills, the measure's proponent, invested an additional $250,000 last week. He cumulatively has contributed $603,000, records show.

The only other substantive donation this year was $100,000 from investor Peter Ackerman of Washington, D.C.

The campaign must collect 504,760 valid voter signatures by May 14 to qualify for the November ballot.

The initiative would amend California law to require that only serious or violent felonies qualify as a third strike punishable by prison sentences of 25 years to life.

The measure also would allow some offenders to appeal if they were sentenced under "three strikes" law after conviction of minor crimes.

February 13, 2012
California faces cuts in Obama budget

California has a big stake in the debate begun Monday with release of the Obama administration's proposed Fiscal 2013 budget, even if the document has only a short lifespan.

If adopted, Obama's budget would mean fewer subsidies for Central Valley farmers, smaller block grants for Valley counties and less money for incarcerating the illegal immigrants who crowd the state's jails and prisons. The budget also subtracts money used to clean California beaches and construct national park facilities while it invests more in the state's 2.5 million community college students.

The administration, for instance, proposes a modest $70 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, down from the current $240 million. Roughly 13 percent of California state prison inmates are identified as illegal immigrants; in some county jails, the percentage may be even higher. Overall, California and its counties spend an estimated $1 billion to incarcerate illegal immigrants.

"That leaves a big hole," Matthew Cate, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said of the funding shortfall in a recent interview. "I would love to see the federal government play a bigger role."

All told, the administration identified 210 federal programs for notable cuts or consolidation. Many of the proposals are retreads that have been rejected before

February 13, 2012
AM Alert: Legislative Black Caucus hosts Olympic athlete John Carlos

Legislative Democrats are back in Sacramento today after the California Democratic Party confab in San Diego.

The Assembly meets at 1 p.m., and the Senate at 2 p.m. Expect the next floor sessions this week on Friday. Next Monday is Presidents Day, and that schedule ensures per diem checks keep coming.

It also ensures that legislators get a break before the California Republican Party convention, which runs Feb. 24-26 at the Hyatt San Francisco Airport hotel. Capitol Alert, of course, will be there. If you missed our coverage of the Dems over the weekend, catch up at this link.

In non-convention news, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will present a Senate resolution this afternoon to Team Will cyclists, who raise funds for childhood cancer research. The group is named for a Sacramento toddler, Will Keifer, who died of a rare cancer. The event starts at 12:45 p.m. on the Capitol's west steps, after which the team will ride to UC Davis Children's Hospital to give valentines to the patients there. Read more about Team Will at the nonprofit's website.

The Legislative Black Caucus, meanwhile, is hosting a reception this evening with Olympic athlete John Carlos, who raised a black power salute from the medal podium in 1968 along with a fellow U.S. medalist. Carlos will be signing his book, "The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World," from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the California Museum, 10th and O streets. Click here to see a flyer about the event. Read more about the book itself at this link.

February 12, 2012
Report: Bill Lockyer says wife assaulted by ex-boyfriend

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer told the San Francisco Chronicle that his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, was assaulted by an ex-boyfriend at a Newark motel early this month, when she met with him after fighting with her husband, the newspaper reported this morning.

According to columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, Bill Lockyer said his wife believed her former boyfriend was in crisis, but that he was angry and "violently assaulted" her.

She was treated at a hospital and released, the columnists reported.

Read the full story here.

February 12, 2012
Top Democratic recruit for California congressional race drops out

A top Democratic recruit for the swing 26th Congressional District shocked supporters Saturday by dropping out of the race, one day after party leaders touted his race as a top pick-up opportunity.

Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, who was the top candidate for a pre-primary endorsement recommendation, announced during the state Democratic Party Convention in San Diego that he will drop his congressional candidacy to run for re-election to the Board of Supervisors.

February 12, 2012
Endorsement wars heat up at California Democratic Party confab

Signs waved, insults flew and upsets occurred as rival Democratic campaigns went head-to-head for coveted endorsement recommendations at the state party's annual convention in San Diego.

The battle royale of the Saturday night balloting was the vote for the 30th Congressional District, which pits Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman against one another.

The two exchanged verbal blows in front of a crowd of several hundred delegates assigned to the district gathered to make a recommendation for Sunday's full floor vote.

February 12, 2012
See California state parks closure list

This is the list of parks that should be saved under agreements that have been set up and the type of arrangement in the works for each, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

1. Antelope Valley Indian Museum - Donor
2. Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area - City of Colusa
operating agreement
3. Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park - National Parks Service
4. Samuel P. Taylor State Park - National Parks Service
5. Tomales Bay State Park - National Parks Service
6. Henry W. Coe State Park - Donor
7. McGrath State Beach - Donors and grants
8. Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve - Concession agreement
9. Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park - Operating agreement (unspecified)
10 South Yuba River SP - New parking fees

Here is the list of the original 70 parks on the chopping block:

February 11, 2012
Al Franken ribs California Democratic Party chair John Burton

SAN DIEGO - California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton isn't cursing much this weekend.

But two months after Burton's interview on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" prompted correspondent John Oliver to remark, "You curse more than a West Coast rapper," U.S. Sen. Al Franken suggested tonight that Burton's reputation is intact.

"I used to be in the entertainment business, where you can pretty much say anything you want," the Minnesota Democrat and former comedian told a dinner crowd at the California Democratic Party's annual convention in San Diego. "I have to keep reminding myself that in politics it's very different, and I've just got to keep reminding myself not to say certain things, and I want to thank John for reminding me so dramatically when he was on the 'Daily Show.'"

Franken offered an appreciative audience perhaps more red meat than at any other event so far this weekend.

Praising the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for ruling California's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, Franken said, "At one point the majority wrote that the only effect of Prop. 8 was to 'lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians.'

"To which proponents of Prop. 8 replied, 'Yeah, and?'"

Franken cast Republicans as obstructionists only interested in defeating President Barack Obama in November.

"The question is, what are we going to do about it? The answer is simple: It's time for some negative reinforcement."

He said, "If the only thing they care about is winning, the only thing we can do to change their behavior is to beat them."

February 11, 2012
Kamala Harris pledges to double down on lender abuse cases

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said today she is "doubling down" on prosecutions of predatory lending and other cases of lender misconduct in the wake of the $26 billion mortgage settlement announced last week.

"We're just now starting to lace 'em up," the state's top law enforcement official told delegates during the state Democratic Party convention in San Diego.

Harris said she is expanding her mortage fraud task force to continue fighting for relief in what she called "a crime perpetrated against the middle class."

"California wasn't just the epicenter of the crash," she said of the housing crisis. "Let's call it what it is, the scene of the crime."

Harris said the settlement reached between banks, the Obama administration and 49 state attorneys general will provide Golden State home owners with $18 billion in relief, which she hailed as " 900 percent more than the crumbs they were putting on the table when we first entered the door."

"After more than a year of standing tough against the banks and standing alone when necessary, we have won a California commitment," she said.

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton praised Harris' role in the settlement, saying "without this one person that deal wouldn't have happened because that deal would have been done in a back boardroom."  

Harris, who was first elected to statewide office in 2010, received some of the loudest cheers and applause of the day and a standing ovation from delegates as she argued that California's ideas and dreams are "too big to fail."

February 11, 2012
Feinstein: Obama contraception compromise 'can be lived with'

California Democrats.JPEG-0.JPG

SAN DIEGO -- U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed disappointment
Saturday in the compromise the Obama administration announced this week on its birth control coverage mandate, but said the decision "can be lived with."

"I regret the fact that the president felt he had to do it, but he had to do it," she told reporters after speaking at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego.

The Obama administration announced Friday that it would not force certain religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals to comply with a health regulation requiring employers to provide employees with access to free contraceptives. While the faith-based employers will be able to opt out of the rule, insurance companies will be required to provide such coverage at no cost to the employer.

The Feinstein's comment put her in contrast with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who defended the administration's move yesterday. Pelosi told reporters that the move demonstrated Obama's unifying leadership abilities and an ongoing commitment to women's health.

The remark came after the 78-year-old Democrat, who is up for re-election this year, told Democrats attending the convention's Saturday luncheon that re-electing Obama must be their "first order of business" in 2012.

"We must re-elect a man who restored America's image abroad, who saved the American auto industry and who has worked tirelessly to bring this county back from an economic catastrophe he actually inherited," she said. "We have to come together like we have never come together before to re-elect Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States."

Feinstein, who is not expected to face a top-tier challenger this year, urged attendees to get involved in issues she has been championing in Washington, D.C., and California, including legislation to ban the military from detaining American citizens on U.S. soil indefinitely and to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

She called 1996 federal law restricting rights for same-sex couples, which the Obama administration says it will no longer defend, "diabolical."

"It was wrong when it was introduced, it is wrong today and we must change it," she said. 

Feinstein also made a pitch for a proposed health insurance rate regulation initiative backed by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Consumer Watchdog. She urged attendees to sign the petition to help qualfify the initiative, which would give the insurance commissioner the power to block proposed increases in the cost of coverage.

"Please become part in this movement," she said, directing attendees to signature-gatherers waiting outside. "It is important and you could actually be directly affected by it." 


Obama compromises on contraception mandate, but reservations remain

February 11, 2012
Jerry Brown sidesteps taxes, says 'marching orders' coming

California Democrats.JPEG-0.JPG

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks Saturday at the state Democratic Party convention.
AP photo/Gregory Bull

SAN DIEGO - While supporters of a competing "millionaire's tax" waved banners outside, Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged today having a "few issues" with his own bid to raise taxes.

But in a speech to California Democrats at their annual convention, Brown said almost nothing more about an issue central to his agenda and to a growing rift between Democrats in this election year.

"Look, we've got some issues. We've got a tax measure, we have a little, few issues there, and we'll be talking about that from time to time," he said. "You'll get your marching orders soon enough."

Backstage, Brown told reporters, "I think you guys have to take each speech one at a time ... We have a good plan. We've laid it out, and now we have our work to do, and we're going to do it."

February 11, 2012
Van Jones: 'Millionaire tax' will energize young voters

SAN DIEGO -- Backers of a "millionaire's tax" proposed for the November ballot got a boost from activist and former Obama adviser Van Jones last night.

Jones, the guest speaker at the Friday night kick-off of the state Democratic Party convention in San Diego, told attendees that a tax on top earners would motivate young voters facing large student loan debt and dismal job prospects in a down economy.

"That will get their attention," he said. "The idea that the people who have already climbed that ladder have to give back to them, that's the pathway forward I think to electrify that generation."

The California Federation of Teachers and the California Nurses Association are trying to qualify an income tax hike on Californians earning more than $1 million for the November ballot to fund schools and other services. Jones did not specify whether he was referencing that proposal or the general idea of a millioniare's tax, but the remarks drew applause from the crowd gathered at the Friday night reception. Supporters of the initiative have been out in full force during the annual party gathering, distributing signs and campaign literature promoting the plan.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has filed his own tax initiative to help balance the state budget, is scheduled to address the convention delegates later this morning. He has argued that a ballot with multiple tax initiatives will increase the chances of failure for all measures aimed at budget relief. His proposal would temporarily raise income tax rates for California's top earners and enact a half-cent sales tax increase.

February 10, 2012
Perez: Corporations not people 'until Texas executes one'

SAN DIEGO -- Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez may be nowhere more popular than at a labor caucus meeting at a Democratic convention, and so it was that he received a standing ovation here this afternoon and tried out a one-liner on the crowd.

"This year you've seen Mitt Romney and others talk about the fact that corporations are people," the former labor organizer said. "I won't believe corporations are people until Texas executes one of them."

Labor interests are a major force in the California Democratic Party, and as party activists arrived in San Diego today for their annual convention, Pérez said defeating a so-called "paycheck protection" measure is more important than any candidate election this year.

The ballot initiative would block unions and corporations from using automatic payroll deductions for political purposes. Supporters of the initiative say it will curb the influence of special interests in elections, while labor unions say it is a targeted effort to reduce their political clout. Labor unions spent millions of dollars helping Gov. Jerry Brown defeat billionaire Meg Whitman in the 2010 election.

"This ballot measure is a fraud, it's phony and it's a lie," said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation. "Imagine, just for a moment, a California where your mouths were taped the next time a Meg Whitman ran for governor."

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said Democrats will "fight like hell" to defeat the measure.

"Thank you, brothers and sisters," he said. "It is good to be in the house of labor."

February 10, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill restoring school-bus money

169902_Rural-Schools_SIK_Death Valley School Bus.JPGGov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation restoring $248 million for school buses after rural and urban districts complained that the midyear cut would sink their budgets.

Senate Bill 81 replaces the $248 million bus cut with an across-the-board reduction of roughly $42 per student that affects all K-12 districts. Under the previous plan, the isolated Death Valley Unified School District would have lost $1,734 per student, while Davis Joint Unified would have lost less than $8 per student, according to the California School Boards Association.

The state's coalition of education groups, including teachers, school boards and administrators, supported the change, as did lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The only opponents were charter schools and some suburban districts that stand to lose more under SB 81 than they did under the bus cut.

The bus 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.

Brown has proposed eliminating bus funding next school year and launching a new block grant for school districts that could pay for some of those costs. But lawmakers seem intent on trying to preserve earmarked school bus money next year.

PHOTO CREDIT: Marlee Redwolf-Rave, 14, left, and another student get off a school bus at Timbisha Shoshone Tribe Reservation in Death Valley on Jan. 10, 2012, after a long drive from Death Valley High school in Shoshone. (Irfan Khan/ Los Angeles Times.)

February 10, 2012
VIDEO: John Burton can't imagine 'hit squad' for Molly Munger

SAN DIEGO -- California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton agrees with Gov. Jerry Brown that Molly Munger's November tax initiative could hurt the governor's bid to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

Too many tax measures on one ballot, the thinking goes, and wide-eyed voters might look at all of them and say, "No."

But the powers of a party chairman are not without limits.

"What are you going to do, you know, go get a hit squad to tell Molly Munger, 'We'll burn down your house if you don't do it?' " Burton told reporters this afternoon in San Diego, where state Democrats arrived for their annual convention.

Munger, the daughter of a business partner of Warren Buffett, has contributed nearly $1 million to her campaign, an initiative to raise income taxes on all but the poorest Californians.

Burton said he hasn't talked to her and wouldn't know her if he saw her. But if he called her about her initiative, he said, he thought the conversation might go something like this:

"You really want to do this?"



"'Cause I wanna."


Burton should know. He has proposed an initiative of his own, a tax on oil production, though even he said today that he is "of the opinion that more people would look favorably on the governor's proposals than the others."

A reporter asked Burton if he thought Munger's initiative, should it qualify, would doom Brown's.

"That's a good question," he said. "How in the hell would I know?"

February 10, 2012
Pelosi: Swing seats, strong candidates make California a 2012 'battleground' (VIDEO)

SAN DIEGO -- While California may not see much action from presidential hopefuls, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said today she believes a handful of competitive districts will make the state a "battleground" in Democrats' effort to win back control of Congress.

Democrats could pick up as many as five or six seats here next November under the state's new political maps, according to some political analysts. Victories in a handful of GOP-held districts could help Democrats win the 25 seats they need nationwide to reclaim the majority.

Pelosi said strong candidates and registration edges in some of California's new districts will work to Democrats' advantage in 2012.

"We have many opportunites here because we were able to out-recruit the Republicans to run candidates who are real problem-solvers," she said during a news conference at the state Democratic Party convention in San Diego.

The party has identified nine seats that are potential pick-ups. Pelosi focused on three swing seats that have attracted only one high-profile Democratic candidate, including the newly drawn 7th Congressional District in the Sacramento region.

That race will be a rematch between GOP Rep. Dan Lungren and Democrat Ami Bera, a doctor and public health official from Elk Grove.

Bera attracted headlines for strong fundraising in his 2010 bid, but lost by seven percentage points in the swing district. Pelosi said she believes the now "battle-tested" candidate will be able to win under the new district lines, which give Democrats a one-point voter registration advantage.

"He has a personality and an agenda that really invigorates the grassroots and one of the most positive, enthusiastic grassroots operaitons in the country," she said. "He will have that again, even more so, more Democrats and (this year's) president at the top of the ticket." 

CDP Chairman John Burton said high turnout in a presidential year and voters' disappointment with the GOP majority in the House will benefit Bera and other Democrats running in the state.

"It's just going to be a whole different chemistry this election," Burton said. "In fact, there are some pollsters that say ... this could be an absolute flip of 2010, that the people voted Republican, and they saw what they got, and they're suffering from what they call the buyers' remorse." 

Lungren strategist Rob Stutzman said later that while the new district is more favorable to Democrats than the 2010 lines, he's "very confident still that Lungren is a vote-getter."

"It's going to be a very expensive race, but we're confident in prevailing," he said.

Stutzman said Democrats' pick-up prospects could be dimmed by their need to defend incumbents who are vulnerable under the new lines, such as Reps. John Garamendi and Lois Capps.

Democrats' optimism about the election outcome might not translate to big spending by House Democrats in California's targeted seats. Pelosi said while she expects candidates here to be well-funded, focus and resources will also be concentrated in other states with pick-up opportunities, such as New York, Illinois, Florida and Texas.

Allan Hoffenblum, a former GOP strategist who now tracks California congressional and legislative races, said it's too early to tell whether Democrats will pick up many House seats here next November. Much of the outcome, he said, will depend on which Republican is on the top of the ticket.

"Right now, I (think) it could go either way, depending how strong the Republican candidate for president is," Hoffenblum said. "There is going to be significant turnover, but I don't want to place bets yet on is it going to be plus 'D' or plus 'R.'" 

EDITOR'S NOTE, 4:02 p.m.: This post was updated to add comment from Rob Stutzman.

February 10, 2012
Judge dismisses last lawsuit challenging California districts

A federal judge has dismissed the last remaining lawsuit challenging California political districts drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson concluded Thursday that he had no jurisdiction because the California Supreme Court previously rejected arguments made in the suit by a former Republican congressman and four others.

Mariposa Republican George Radanovich, who left Congress last year, was challenging the state's newly drawn congressional maps.

Radanovich contends that the redistricting commission violated federal voting rights law and the U.S. Constitution by seeking to protect three African American incumbents in the drawing of three congressional districts.

The state Supreme Court rejected similar arguments in October, without comment.

Jeanne Raya, current chairwoman of the redistricting commission, said that Wilson's action protects the panel's work against "baseless partisan attacks" and demonstrates that its districts were fair and complied with state law.

The 14-member redistricting commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party members. Map approvals required support from at least three members of each bloc.

Dismissal of the federal suit ensures that the redistricting commission's legislative and congressional districts will be used in this year's elections. Signatures have been filed in a referendum drive aimed at overturning the Senate maps for future state elections.

February 10, 2012
Controller John Chiang: January revenues 'disappointing'

California revenues last month lagged 5.5 percent behind what Gov. Jerry Brown expected in his just-proposed January budget, a development that Controller John Chiang termed "disappointing."

Though the big spring revenue months and Facebook's public stock offering are still to come, the latest report may provide a cautionary signal for Democratic lawmakers who think Brown's forecast is too pessimistic.

According to Chiang's office, the state fell $528.4 million behind the governor's latest projection for January, including a $525 million (6.3 percent) shortage in income tax collections. After the first seven months of the fiscal year, the state is $694 million in general fund revenues, or 1.1 percent, behind Brown's latest plan to solve a $9.2 billion deficit through June 2013.

"January revenues were disappointing on almost every front," Chiang said in a statement.

February 10, 2012
Read chief justice's list of false claims from Assembly debate

Our story this morning on California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye's complaints about the Assembly's process in approving Assembly Bill 1208 referenced a list of 16 statements from the floor debate she said were "meritless, false claims."

Cantil-Sakauye sent the list to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, and the Administrative Office of the Courts has published the list on its website. Read them here.

Click here to download video of Cantil-Sakauye's speech to presiding judges. Requires a Windows Media file player.

February 10, 2012
GOP lawmaker takes aim at Democrats' state budget power

A Republican assemblyman announced Thursday that he will propose a constitutional amendment to require a supermajority vote by the Legislature to pass budget bills and to require the state controller to withhold lawmakers' pay if an approved budget is not balanced.

The measure by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, responds to a provision in voter-approved Proposition 25 that allows Democrats to pass a majority-vote budget needing no Republican support.

Proposition 25 also called for docking legislative pay when a budget is not passed by the June 15th deadline. But state Controller John Chiang sparked controversy last year when he withheld pay after concluding that the spending plan initially passed by lawmakers was not balanced.

Democratic legislative leaders, who contend that Chiang illegally intervened in legislative matters, filed suit last month asking a judge to decide whether the controller can punish lawmakers again this summer and in the future for budgets he deems unconstitutional.

Mansoor's constitutional amendment, if placed on the ballot by lawmakers and approved by voters, would settle the matter by requiring the controller to dock pay until the Legislative Analyst's Office certifies that a budget is balanced.

The ballot measure also would make Republicans more relevant in budget negotiations by requiring a two-thirds supermajority in each legislative house to pass a spending plan. Currently, that would require two GOP votes apiece in the Senate and Assembly.

Because Republicans are vastly outnumbered in the Legislature, Mansoor's proposal will be dead on arrival unless he can win support from Democratic colleagues whose party powers would be reduced if the constitutional amendment were to become law.

February 10, 2012
AM Alert: California Democrats to pick their primary colors

Let the endorsements begin: The California Democratic Party votes this weekend on its official candidate picks for the June 5 primary.

The party's convention runs today through Sunday, with party Chairman John Burton and former White House aide Van Jones kicking things off tonight in San Diego. Come back to Capitol Alert during the weekend for full coverage.

Political junkies will be paying close watch to Saturday afternoon's endorsing caucuses for districts in which no candidate got enough votes at the pre-endorsement conference to get recommended outright. That would include the 31st Congressional District, where incumbents Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are slugging it out.

The rules are such that if two incumbents are running in the same district, a candidate will need a 60 percent vote in caucus to land an endorsement recommendation. Berman and Sherman are the only two incumbents running in the same district who will be considered by an endorsing caucus.

But wait, there's more. Incumbents who aren't facing another incumbent have a lower threshold to meet: 50 percent of the votes, plus one. That would include Assemblymen Richard Pan of Sacramento, who's running in the 9th Assembly District, and V. Manuel Pérez of Coachella, who's running in the 56th, neither of whom face caucus challengers.

Non-incumbents, meanwhile, need 60 percent to get a recommendation. That makes it a different story for the 50th Assembly District race, which is pitting incumbent Betsy Butler, who moved into the district, against challengers Torie Osborn and Richard Bloom.

You'll find the list of candidates eligible to participate in the endorsing caucuses here. Party officials have posted a memo explaining caucus details at this link.

This link will open up the official pre-endorsement list, which includes six legislative districts for which no endorsement recommendation was made. One of the orphans is the 8th Assembly District, an East Sacramento swing seat where Democrats Ken Cooley, Chris Parker and Larry Miles now face Republican contenders Barbara Ortega and Peter Tateishi.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is speaking at Saturday's luncheon, as we've reported before, and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota is talking to the Saturday dinner crowd. Gov. Jerry Brown and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are among those speaking Saturday morning. Find more information at the party's website.

PET GROOMING: Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, is holding a presser at 11 a.m. at Nate's Point Dog Park in Balboa Park with pet groomers and pet owners to draw attention to his Senate Bill 969 (also called Lucy's Law, named for a dog) to regulate the pet grooming industry and to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors decision to oppose it.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, turns 52 on Saturday.

February 9, 2012
Chief justice goes after Assembly, process over funding bill

20120126_PK_CHIEF JUSTICE0135 tani cantil-sakauye.JPGCalifornia Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is delivering an aggressive message to members of the Assembly after the lower house narrowly passed a bill that would strip power from the state Judicial Council she controls.

In a 20-minute speech to the state's presiding judges in the days after the Jan. 30 vote on Assembly Bill 1208, a stern-faced Cantil-Sakauye said she was "greatly dismayed" at the "meritless, false claims" in the floor debate and the voting process in the Assembly.

Click here to download video of Cantil-Sakauye's speech. Requires a Windows Media file player.

"It's one thing to lose an argument based on merit," Cantil-Sakauye said, "it's another thing when the facts are not represented."

She said she expressed her displeasure after the vote in a phone conversation with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who supported the bill.

She also said she was surprised that, with the bill in limbo and eight votes short of passing at 33-23, Pérez apparently helped round up the deciding votes for the 41-26 outcome.

"Because of my previous conversations with the speaker I thought for the most part then it would go away, because I understood that this bill would be up to each member to vote their conscience, that it wouldn't be the subject of political maneuvering...on the Assembly floor," Cantil-Sakauye said. "And that of course disturbs me, but I know our process is very different from the legislative process."

Pérez's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Cantil-Sakauye said the process "really called into question" the meaning of separation of powers. "That line has been and very well could be blurred based on the conduct and the involvement that occurred not only leading up to the bill, but how it squeaked out...of the Assembly. I don't know that anyone can stand tall after that process or claim a mandate after that process."

AB 1208 is pushed by a group of judges called the Alliance of California Judges and is backed by Service Employees International Union, representing courthouse employees.

The bill is stalled -- for now -- in the Senate. Cantil-Sakauye said she would continue pushing to kill the measure.

"That's my hill," she told the judges. "There are few hills as a judge. As you all know, we're neutral, we're objective, we're fact-finders. We left that persona (as advocates) behind a long time ago, but it is kind of funny how it comes back to you. Pretty quickly actually, about how when you're fighting for a value, or a principle you think threatens what you stand for, what you took an oath for."

PHOTO CREDIT: California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye visits The Bee on Jan. 26, 2012. Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee

February 9, 2012
Jody Patel named interim administrative director of state courts

Jody Patel, former executive officer of Sacramento Superior Court, was named interim administrative director today of California's court system.

Patel replaces Ronald G. Overholt, who resigned after serving in the post for about five months, as reported here.

Patel quickly announced that she has no plans to serve permanently. A nationwide search currently is under way to find a permanent administrative director.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye announced that the state Judicial Council had approved Patel's interim appointment.

Patel had been serving as regional administrative director of California's state court system. She was the executive officer of Sacramento Superior Court from 2001 to 2006.

February 9, 2012
CA court system seeks new interim head after resignation today

Saying that his position has become a "lightning rod for controversy," Ronald G. Overholt resigned today as interim administrative director of California's court system.

Overholt's move comes as the court system's statewide decisions have come under increasing fire and a group of dissident judges is pushing Assembly Bill 1208 to grant local courts more control over spending.

Overholt, in a written statement, noted that courts have operated for the past three years in an "anxiety-generated climate" of fiscal crisis that has prompted ongoing budget reductions and internal reorganization efforts.

"My decision is based on a number of factors," Overholt said of his resignation.

"Among them is that the position of administrative director of the courts has become a lightning rod for controversy, impacting the focus on budget discussions, Judicial Council governance of the judicial branch, and the Administrative Office of the Courts itself."

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye called Overholt's decision "understandable but unfortunate."

Overholt's 30 years of service in court administration, including his stint as interim administrative director since September 2011, have been exemplary and his departure is a great loss to the state's judicial system, Cantil-Sakauye said.

"But we respect his judgment that a transition is necessary at this time for him and for the court system he has served so well," she said.

A new interim director will be selected while a national search continues for a permanent director.

February 9, 2012
Steinberg 'committed' to passing pension reform before budget

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that a nonprofit group's decision to scrap a proposed ballot initiative targeting public employee pensions does not alter his commitment to tackle that issue.

"We are committed to getting pension reform done," the Sacramento Democrat said in a news conference.

Steinberg said he anticipated the question after the advocacy group, California Pension Reform, announced Wednesday that it was shutting down its effort to place a pension initiative before voters this year.

Steinberg said he is committed to passing pension reform before adoption of a state budget this year.

The Senate leader said he intends to address all 12 points of a pension overhaul proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, but added, "That doesn't mean we're going to do every point in the way he suggests."

February 9, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown hits the road for Tesla Motors' Model X

Gov. Jerry Brown will be making an appearance tonight as electric-car maker Tesla Motors unveils a new vehicle in Los Angeles County -- its Model X.

California's clean-car makers are among the state's economic bright spots. And as The Bee's Rick Daysog reported last month, the California Air Resources Board has voted unanimously to tighten emissions standards by mandating that one in every seven cars sold in the state in the year 2025 be an ultra-low- or zero-emission vehicle.

Brown is expected to speak around 8 p.m. at the premiere, held at Tesla's Los Angeles Design Studio in Hawthorne.

The Model X is a luxury SUV crossover, according to an article posted Wednesday by Investor's Business Daily, which says Tesla has been teaming up with Toyota and Daimler, with Toyota using a Tesla power train in an electric RAV4, and Daimler putting Tesla-designed battery systems in some of its vehicles.

"As essentially a tech startup ... Tesla is a rarity in the car world. How well it does over the long haul is tied to interest from larger automakers, electric-car adoption and the price of oil," the article says.

Back in Sacramento, Capitol denizens can instead contemplate the joys of beef noodle soup. Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento and Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco are hosting a cooking demonstration of the Taiwanese signature dish featuring the winner of the 2011 international competition in Taipei.

Chef Hou Chun-Sheng will give his take at Spataro restaurant on L Street across from the Capitol, starting at 2 p.m. Spataro's Randy Paragary will also be on hand, as well as members of the Sacramento chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

Hou has become a big deal in Taiwan, and his champion recipe incorporates a rich beef broth, tomato paste, fermented bean curd sauce, hot chile peppers, and a bag of herbs and spices including star anise, cinnamon sticks, dried orange peel, and some stuff Capitol Alert hasn't heard of.

The Senate and the Assembly have both set floor sessions at 9 a.m. Beef noodle soup is not on the agenda. Click here for more details on the Senate side, and click here for the Assembly.

The Peace and Freedom Party, meanwhile, is unhappy that Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office left two of its four candidates off the list of generally recognized candidates for the June 5 presidential primary. The California party chair, C.T. Weber, has called a presser at 10 a.m. at Bowen's office, 11th and O streets.

There could be good reason for the move, though. A Bowen spokeswoman told The Bee's Torey Van Oot on Wednesday that websites giving information about one of the omitted candidates, Peta Lindsay, indicated that she isn't old enough under the U.S. Constitution to be president. (For the record, a president must be at least 35 at the time of inauguration.)

CAMPAIGN WATCH: Senate Republican leader Bob Huff is hosting a fundraiser tonight at Power Balance Pavilion for his 29th Senate District re-election bid. Single tickets to watch from a private suite as the the Sacramento Kings play Oklahoma City Thunder run $2,000 each. If you're strapped for cash and still want to go, StubHub had more than 400 tickets available for the game as of Wednesday evening. Starting price: $15.

February 8, 2012
High-speed rail touted in jobs coalition's new radio campaign

High Speed Rail Station.JPGA coalition representing Northern and Central California contractors and union construction workers launched a radio campaign this week applauding the state's proposed high-speed rail system.

The group's 60-second spots, narrated by comedian Will Durst, are running at least twice daily -- during morning and evening commutes -- on six Sacramento and nine Bay Area radio stations.

The spot by the California Alliance for Jobs can be heard here.

The group's push to rally public opinion comes at a time when the planned high-speed rail system is coming under increasing criticism, sparking efforts to kill it in the wake of a state auditor's report that questions its financing and ridership projections.

February 8, 2012
LAO sees problems with Jerry Brown's higher education plan

The Legislative Analyst's Office raised concerns with Gov. Jerry Brown's higher education budget in a new report today, including his plans to tighten Cal Grant requirements and automatically increase funding if his tax plan passes.

After the state slashed its higher education spending by 21 percent during the recession, the Democratic governor has proposed 4 percent annual increases to the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges for three fiscal years starting in 2013-14 -- but only if voters approve his plan to hike taxes on sales and wealthy earners. If voters reject the plan, the systems would lose state funding in 2012-13.

Brown made the 4 percent promise as a sweetener to his tax proposal, which he's trying to bill as a plan for funding education and public safety. The analyst's office recommended that lawmakers reject the 4 percent promise. Pledging to give automatic increases presents problems, the LAO said, because other parts of the budget could suffer, lawmakers would have little discretion if one higher education system needed more money than another, and the pledge ignores enrollment and inflation, among other reasons.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the governor wants to give the education systems "a level of stability and predictability."

The analyst's office also raised questions with Brown's plan to increase grade-point average requirements to receive Cal Grant awards.

February 8, 2012
Sacramento snags flood control funds

Sacramento-area flood control projects will be embellished with more than $8 million in new federal funds, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.

The Folsom Dam Joint Federal Project will receive $7.42 million, and the Folsom Dam Raise project will receive $720,000. In both cases, the money comes from a Corps of Engineers' "reserve fund" established by Congress late last year. Unlike the old congressional earmarks, the reserve fund was set up to be distributed competitively.

The Folsom Dam projects are designed to provide 200-year flood protection for much of Sacramento.

February 8, 2012
AM Alert: Rob Reiner to speak at First 5 California conference

Actor and director Rob Reiner is in town: He'll be honored today at the joint conference of First 5 California and the Water Cooler branch of civil rights lawyer Molly Munger's Advancement Project.

Reiner backed the ballot measure that set up First 5 and was its first commission chairman. Other listed speakers include former California first lady Maria Shriver's brother, Mark Shriver, who is senior vice president of U.S. programs at the nonprofit Save the Children.

Munger, fresh off her talk earlier this week before the California State PTA about her tax ballot proposal, will be featured Thursday at the two-day conference. She'll be moderating a panel titled "Getting Real About Revenue: Can 2012 Be the Year?"

She won't be getting any help from Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance. He was burning up the Twitterverse on Tuesday, imploring advocates of tax ballot measures to consolidate support behind Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to avoid having all of them go down in flames.

Lieu quoted a tweet at one point from Republican consultant Matt Rexroad, who'd written, "Molly Munger may be the best thing to happen to those of us that want to defeat tax increases."

"Thx for validating the truth," Lieu tweeted back.

Lieu even got a shout-out from former California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring, who tweeted, ".@TedLieu and I don't agree on much, except this: more tax hikes on ballot, more likely all fail. #Bipartisanship."

The First 5 conference is being held at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento at 14th and J streets. Click here to read more, and find the agenda at this link. Learn more about the Advancement Project, where Munger is president and co-director, here.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, meanwhile, is making an appearance in Sacramento at 1:30 p.m. today at the Siemens rail car manufacturing plant out on French Road. LaHood will be talking up President Barack Obama's commitment to rail as well as the creation of quality manufacturing jobs.

And Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to appear with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to announce a "green taxi milestone" in that city, according to a news release. The 10 a.m. presser will be, appropriately enough, at the Yellow Cab Co-Op, 1200 Mississippi St.

February 7, 2012
Republican Barbara Ortega to run for 8th Assembly District

A fifth candidate has entered the race for a vacant East Sacramento County seat in the California Assembly.

Sacramento Republican Barbara Ortega announced today that she will run to represent the 8th Assembly District, a swing seat that is expected to be a top legislative target this year.

Ortega, who currently owns a Sacramento business consulting and marketing firm called POW Group, said in a statement that she hopes to "bring my business experience and know-how to the Assembly so we can actually get things done to provide relief for California." Her resume includes stints as director and vice president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association and director of legislative affairs at the the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Her campaign consultant, Dave Gilliard, said she is filing the paperwork to start raising money for her race this week.

The race has become more crowded since Democratic Assemblywoman Alyson Huber decided not to run for re-election after her home was drawn into a new GOP-leaning district.

Three Democrats -- Franchise Tax board attorney Chris Parker, Rancho Cordova Councilman Ken Cooley and San Juan Unified School District Board Member Larry Miles -- and Republican Peter Tateishi, who works for GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, have also announced plans to run for the seat.

February 7, 2012
Proposition 8 lawyer vows to appeal 'one way or the other'

The fight over California's same-sex marriage ban has been presumed for years to be destined for the U.S. Supreme Court, and a lawyer for Proposition 8 backers confirmed today that they'll appeal this morning's decision "one way or the other."

But when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this morning that the ban is unconstitutional, its reasoning focused so narrowly on Proposition 8 that a lawyer for same-sex marriage proponents suggested the Supreme Court might be less inclined to take up the case.

"The grounds for the opinion, in my view, do make it somewhat less likely that the Supreme Court will take it," said the lawyer, David Boies.

Unlike in many other states, gay and lesbian people could wed in California for a brief period before Proposition 8's passage in 2008. The appeals court ruled that California erred in stripping them of a right they previously enjoyed. It did not consider the broader question of whether gay and lesbian couples may ever be denied the right to wed.

Boies said the Supreme Court might elect to "wait for a case that would raise the more general issue." But Ted Olson, also a lawyer for gay-marriage proponents, said it may be "very difficult" for the Supreme Court to ignore a case of such magnitude. The two lawyers have been planning for years for the case to wind up in the Supreme Court, as have lawyers working with Proposition 8 proponents.

Backers of the same-sex marriage ban said today that they have not yet decided whether to appeal directly to the Supreme Court or request a review by a larger panel of the appeals court.

"Either way, one way or the other, the case will continue on," said Folsom lawyer Andy Pugno, the author of Proposition 8.

He said the focus of the court's ruling is unlikely to dissuade the Supreme Court from taking it, likely next year.

"This case is all about the rights of the voters to make a decision on an important public policy matter vs. one or two judges substituting their opinions for the will of the voters," Pugno said.

February 7, 2012
Ex-GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad to run for California House seat

SamAanestad.JPGFormer Republican Sen. Sam Aanestad has decided to enter the race for a vacant Northern California congressional seat, setting the stage for a same-party showdown with Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa.

Aanestad's newly retained campaign spokesman, former California Republican Party Communications Director Mark Standriff, confirmed today that the former legislator will be a candidate in the 1st Congressional District.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, will be Aanestad's campaign chairman, Standriff said.

GOP Rep. Wally Herger, who now represents the area, announced last month that he will not run for re-election in the district, which runs from Yuba City to the Oregon border. Herger, of Chico, endorsed LaMalfa shortly after announcing his own retirement plans.

Aanestad told The Bee last month that he was considering a run for the seat. The 2010 lieutenant governor hopeful said the 12 years he spent representing the region in the state Legislature make him a good fit for the district.

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

Standriff said Aanestad is unavailable to comment on his plans today due to patient appointments at his Grass Valley dental and oral surgery practice. He plans to make a formal campaign announcement tomorrow.

Former GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad considering run for Congress
LaMalfa 'moving forward' for Congress run after Herger announcement

PHOTO CREDIT: Then-Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Penn Valley, listens to the debate in the California upper house on Friday, September 11, 2009. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

Editor's note, 1:09 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect that Rep. Tom McClintock will be former Sen. Sam Aanestad's campaign chairman, not his manager.

February 7, 2012
Opposition forms quickly on proposed part-time CA Legislature

MAJ STATE CAPITOL.JPGA Democratic political strategist and a former Democratic assemblyman will help lead opposition to a proposed ballot initiative that would reduce California's Legislature to part-time.

Political consultant Steve Maviglio, former spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, said today that he has joined forces with Burbank attorney Dario Frommer, a former Assembly majority leader. Fundraising has not yet begun, Maviglio said.

The group will butt heads with Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and with Ted Costa, the head of a political watchdog group, over the duo's proposed constitutional amendment.

The secretary of state's office gave the green light Monday for proponents of the proposal to begin collecting the 807,615 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

Backers hope to encourage the election of citizen legislators who have outside sources of income and are not so politically ambitious that they become overly dependent upon powerful special interests.

The measure calls for the nation's most populous state to meet three months per year -- and for lawmakers' pay to be cut from $7,940 per month to $1,500 per month -- or $18,000 annually.

The initiative also would require legislators to adopt a balanced, two-year budget by June 15 of each odd-numbered year -- and to forfeit salary and per diem for each day it is late.

Lawmakers would be barred from accepting state employment or appointment to a state post while serving in the Capitol or for five years afterward.

Maviglio said that a part-time Legislature would discourage many good candidates from running and would lead to a more corrupt Legislature, with many lawmakers having outside jobs that conflict with issues at the Capitol.

"You'd end up with more inexperienced legislators who lack the ability to tackle the state's major challenges," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: The California state Capitol in Sacramento, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Michael Allen Jones / Sacramento Bee file photo

February 7, 2012
Prop. 8 decision cites Marx (Groucho), Monroe (Marilyn) and Kennedy (Anthony)

Groucho Marx.JPGIt's not every day that a federal appeals court cites late comedian Groucho Marx in a decision, especially one as important as overturning California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8.

But a three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did exactly that Tuesday, citing Marx's quip that "marriage is a wonderful institution...but who wants to live in an institution?"

It was one of several cultural references (another was to the title of a Marilyn Monroe movie, "How to Marry a Millionaire") in the decision that was narrowly hinged on whether the state had the right to withdraw the right to marry once it had been extended, as it had been in California by a state Supreme Court decision.

The federal panel sidestepped whether gays and lesbians had a constitutional right to marry, saying, "We therefore need not and do not consider whether same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry."

But it declared that the state's voters could not terminate that right, saying that violated the Constitution's equal protection clause.

The decision repeatedly cited a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision setting aside a Colorado ballot measure barring certain rights to homosexuals, and thus appeared to be aimed at influencing the author of that decision (Romer v. Evans), Anthony Kennedy.

It's widely believed that when California's Proposition 8 reaches the Supreme Court, Kennedy will hold the decisive vote since the other eight justices are evenly divided between liberals and conservatives and Kennedy is often the swing vote.