Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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