Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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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