Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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