Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 31, 2012
Lawmakers skeptical about Jerry Brown's high-speed rail revision

California lawmakers expressed skepticism Saturday about the timing and magnitude of Gov. Jerry Brown's high-speed rail revision, saying it may take longer than the governor wants to sort through the numbers.

The administration will announce Monday settling on $68.4 billion, according to sources familiar with the plan, proposing major design changes in and around Los Angeles and the Bay Area in an eleventh-hour bid to improve the project's chances of approval by the Legislature.

But some legislators noted today that just last year the Brown administration itself raised the proposed cost to $98 billion.

March 30, 2012
Rivals Andy Pugno, Beth Gaines to meet in Sacramento court

The chase is over: California Assemblywoman Beth Gaines accepted service today, through her attorney, of a lawsuit filed by fellow Republican Andy Pugno challenging her ballot designation as "small business owner."

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny has scheduled a 9 a.m. Monday hearing in the case.

Arguments initially were expected to be heard Thursday, but a judge ruled that Gaines had not been personally served with the paperwork.

The judge's finding prompted a futile, daylong scramble by Pugno's campaign to serve the Rocklin Republican before the close of business Thursday, the deadline for the secretary of state's office to certify ballot titles.

Pugno's lawsuit contends that his rival's ballot designation of "small business owner" is misleading because Gaines and her husband, state Sen. Ted Gaines, incorporated their family-owned insurance firm less than a month before she filed for re-election to the Assembly.

Pugno and Gaines are among candidates for the newly drawn 6th Assembly District, which is based in Placer County but extends into El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park and portions of northeastern Sacramento County.

Gaines' campaign notified Pugno's camp today that she would agree to accept service of the lawsuit through her attorney, Brian Hildreth, of the Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk law firm, said Dave Gilliard, Gaines' campaign consultant.

Gaines made the decision to end the scrambling after Pugno's representatives scoured the area for her all day, then showed up at a private event in a private home Thursday night, Gilliard said.

"So we just said, 'This is ridiculous,' " said Gilliard.

Pugno countered that Gaines "clearly was in hiding" after Thursday's ruling that she needed to be personally served with papers.

Though Pugno missed the state's deadline for certification of ballot titles, he said there remains time for a judge Monday to order counties to make changes before the material is sent for printing.

Brad Buyse, Sacramento County's campaign services manager, said the county's position is that the deadline for changes in the ballot for the Assembly race has been missed, but "we'll try to comply with whatever the court orders."

"It really doesn't matter," Gilliard said of the deadline, "because she's going to prove quite easily that she's a business owner."

* Updated at 2:30 p.m. to say that Pugno had served Gaines with papers.

March 30, 2012
Jerry Brown signs compact for Sonoma County Indian casino

Gov. Jerry Brown today signed an Indian gambling compact allowing development of a casino near the Sonoma County city of Rohnert Park.

The compact allows the 1,300-member Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to operate as many as 3,000 slot machines. Eventually, the casino will pay up to 15 percent of the slot machines' net win to local and state agencies for gambling mitigation programs and services.

The Democratic governor's office, citing tribe estimates, said in a statement that the project would create about 700 construction jobs and 2,500 jobs at the casino once it is built.

The casino's development has faced local opposition, with opponents objecting to its impact on the environment, among other things.

March 30, 2012
Read the Kinde Durkee plea agreement

Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee entered guilty pleas to five counts of mail fraud before U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. Read the plea agreement:

Durkee Plea Agreement

March 30, 2012
Kinde Durkee pleads guilty to $7 million embezzlement scheme

Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee pleaded guilty this morning to defrauding her clients of at least $7 million, bringing to a close a case that one official has called the "most extensive campaign treasurer fraud in the history of California."

Durkee entered guilty pleas to five counts of mail fraud at the Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse in Sacramento this morning before U.S. District Judge Kimberly J Mueller. Federal prosecutors say the veteran campaign treasurer misappropriated money from the accounts of at least 50 clients, including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Durkee, 59, remains free pending sentencing on June 20. She likely faces 11 to 14 years in prison.

A document filed with the court this week said she siphoned millions from her clients' accounts to cover business expenses such as payroll for her Burbank firm, Durkee & Associates, provide care and services for her elderly mother and pay personal credit card bills. She also transferred money between accounts to try to the hide the embezzlement from clients and investigators.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said Friday that he thinks the losses will total $9 to $10 million in what is believed to be the largest embezzlement by a campaign treasurer ever prosecuted.

Durkee declined to speak to reporters through her attorney, Daniel Nixon. Nixon described his client's state of mind as "very remorseful." He declined to comment on her motives or what she did with the money, saying only that more details could come out at the sentencing later this year.

"She's accepting full responsibility for her actions and she has come to court today to acknowledge what she's done," he told reporters after appearing in court.

Durkee, who ran the Burbank-based Durkee & Associates, was arrested in September on suspicion of committing mail fraud by submitting falsified campaign finance reports to elections officials. The investigation was sparked by irregularities uncovered during a Fair Political Practices Commission audit.

Despite a history of fines for campaign disclosure violations issued by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Durkee maintained a client list that included some of California's most prominent Democratic politicians, political organizations and nonprofits.

Several clients, including Feinstein, have sued Durkee and the bank where their assets were held in hopes of recouping some of the lost money.

RELATED POSTS:
Updated charges filed against California treasurer Kinde Durkee
Dianne Feinstein suing bank over Kinde Durkee scandal
Kinde Durkee's clients include nonprofits with political ties
Affidavit: FPPC alerted FBI after its own Kinde Durkee inquiry

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:36 p.m. with comments from Durkee attorney Daniel Nixon

March 30, 2012
From Afghanistan to Camarillo -- Jeff Gorell is back home now

Welcome home, Jeff Gorell.

After a yearlong stint at war in Afghanistan, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell can unpack his bags now in Camarillo. He expects to finish processing paperwork today to transition out of active military duty.

"I'm back in California, I'm home," Gorell told The Bee. "It's great to be back."

The 41-year-old, first-term Republican lawmaker expects to return to the Capitol on April 9, when the Assembly reconvenes after a weeklong recess.

"I'll be there, rocking and rolling," Gorell said. "I'm looking forward to getting back in the mix."

Meanwhile, Gorell can spend time with his wife, Laura, and with their two young children.

Gorell, a Naval reservist, was deployed on active duty as an intelligence officer stationed with Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan's Helmand province, spokesman Doug Lorenz said.

March 30, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Politicians play the ballot name game

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses California politicians' efforts to describe themselves in flattering ways on the ballot.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 30, 2012
AM Alert: Legislature gone; Cesar Chavez Day observed

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Dan's latest video report describes California politicians playing the ballot name game.

Yesterday, the Capitol got wrapped up in hoodies and a Republican budget proposal that cuts state worker pay.

Today, it's Cesar Chavez Day observed, and the sound you hear is the sound of the silence. Legislators have left Sacramento for spring recess. They'll be gone all next week, too, returning April 9 after Easter and the first days of Passover.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is holding a luncheon fundraiser today at Spataro restaurant at 1415 L St. across from the Capitol from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tickets run from $500 to $5,000 if you want to get in the door.

State schools chief Tom Torlakson is speaking at a ribbon-cutter for South San Francisco Unified School District's solar projects. That event starts at 1:30 p.m. at Westborough Middle School in South San Francisco.

After that, the calendar turns to the weekend. Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 500, are laying a wreath at Capitol Park's Vietnam Memorial on Saturday at noon. Listed speakers include Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. The occasion is Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.

Also Saturday, Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada of Davis is holding a forum on veterans benefits with the Yolo County Veterans Coalition. That event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Veterans' Memorial Theatre, 203 E. 14th St. in Davis.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, turns 60 on Saturday.

March 29, 2012
Santorum plays the Jelly Belly card in California fundraising trip

By Torey Van Oot

FAIRFIELD - Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum sought to sell his conservative credentials to California Republicans Thursday, using a stop at the Jelly Belly Candy Company to the compare himself to one of the sweet's most famous fans - late President Ronald Reagan.

Santorum told the crowd gathered at the Fairfield company's factory store that the country needs a leader who will emulate the policies and approach of the conservative icon, who was enshrined in two candy-created portraits hanging outside the room where his afternoon rally was held.

"I've been in consistency with the Reagan vision," he said. "He stood for life. He stood for the integrity of the family."

March 29, 2012
California officials say Child Support Services data now missing

By Jon Ortiz
jortiz@sacbee.com

California officials said Thursday that the state has lost sensitive personal data for hundreds of thousands of individuals, including names, Social Security and driver license numbers.

The Department of Child Support Services said data for some 800,000 parents, guardians and children on special storage devices went missing in transit between Colorado and California.

"We have no indication that there has been any breach," said department spokeswoman Connie DaMant.

The lost data involves a little less than one-fifth of the 4.3 million people in the 1.4 million cases the department tracks to make sure the children receive court-ordered financial and medical support.

There's little risk that the information could be compromised, since it was stored on uniquely formatted data cartridges, said Christine Lally, spokeswoman for the state's Technology Agency.

"It's not like if you or I found these on the street that we could pop them into our computer," Lally said.

Iron Mountain Inc., a firm that specializes in transporting and storing sensitive corporate data and documents, contracted with Fed Ex to return the cartridges from an IBM facility in Colorado. The state had shipped them there as part of an exercise in disaster preparedness.

The department learned March 12 that the cartridges were lost.

Child Support Services is notifying by mail anyone potentially affected. It also has posted information on its www.childsup.ca.gov website and set up a toll-free hotline, (866) 904-7674.

Although officials say there's little chance of a breach, they're still recommending that anyone affected put a fraud alert on credit cards, watch bank accounts closely, examine benefits statements from health insurers and review credit reports.

March 29, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown's finance office questions GOP budget plan

Gov. Jerry Brown's Department of Finance responded late this afternoon with a line-by-line retort to the budget proposal that California Republican legislators unveiled this morning.

"A number of these proposals have been overstated in value or blocked by the courts," said Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.

Among the highlights:

• Finance believes the plan to take $1.3 billion in mental health funds and $131 million in First 5 money would be illegal. It also believes cuts to In-Home Supportive Services and prisons face legal hurdles. Republicans respond that Democrats pursued similar measures in the past. Some legally questionable moves survived because Democrats convinced groups not to sue; Republicans say they believe the same moves can occur again.

• Finance says the $400 million in state worker savings could not be reached by reducing operating expenses. The Republican plan suggested the reduction could also occur through a once-monthly furlough or 4.6 percent pay cut.

• Finance says the state could benefit by $520 million to $880 million by eliminating the funds for affordable housing, lower than the $1 billion that Republicans are counting on.

• Finance says that savings from inmate pharmaceutical costs and revenues from selling ad space on highway electronic signs are overstated. Republicans say they have leeway because they are not counting revenues from Facebook's public stock sale.

Updated with Republican responses.

March 29, 2012
Pugno campaign seeks to serve Beth Gaines at the Capitol

photo (1).JPGAssemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, had good reason to avoid her office today.

The campaign manager for Andy Pugno, Gaines' GOP rival in the 6th Assembly District, staked out the hallway outside her Capitol office for hours in hopes of serving the Rocklin Republican with a lawsuit.

Pugno, a Folsom attorney, filed a lawsuit earlier this week challenging Gaines' use of "small business owner" as her job title on the ballot. Gaines says it's accurate because she and husband Ted Gaines, a state senator, own their own insurance company. Pugno's complaint says telling voters that is her "principal profession, occupation or vocation" is misleading because the company was just incorporated in late January.

The case was scheduled to be heard this morning in Sacramento Superior Court. But the question was put on hold after lawyers for Gaines successfully argued that the case should not be heard because their client had not been personally served with the paperwork. Pugno said the judge told his attorneys that they can return later today to make their case if they are able to serve Gaines.

With the clock ticking to make changes to ballot language, Pugno campaign manager Jim Dutra headed to the Capitol to try to serve Gaines there, arriving at the benches outside her fourth-floor office at about 11:30 a.m. The assemblywoman had not returned to her office as of 1:30 p.m. An aide said she was expected to be in and out of the office throughout the day but was not currently there.

March 29, 2012
Judge rules candidate can be an 'astronaut' after all

josehernandez.JPGA Sacramento judge has ruled that Jose Hernandez, who flew in the shuttle Discovery three years ago, can use the ballot designation of "astronaut" in his current congressional bid.

The San Joaquin Valley Democrat is challenging freshman Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, for California's 10th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Balloting is in June.

A lawsuit filed by the Sacramento law firm of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk argued that a ballot designation of "astronaut" for Hernandez would violate state elections law because he has left NASA.

But Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd G. Connelly disagreed, and ruled this afternoon that Herrnandez can keep the moniker.

Ballot designations must reflect one's current profession or vocation, or one held during the previous calendar year, the lawsuit said.

The challenge was filed after Hernandez sought a ballot designation of "astronaut/scientist/engineer."

Hernandez flew aboard the shuttle Discovery between Aug. 28 and Sept. 11, 2009. He subsequently left NASA in January 2011.

The suit notes that Hernandez reported to the clerk of the House of Representatives that he received $150,000 last year for serving as the "executive director for strategic operations" with MEI Technologies.

Connelly said the fact that Hernandez worked for NASA only two weeks in 2011 does not mean that he cannot be called an astronaut that year, which also included service at MEI technologies that drew upon his scientific and engineering background.

A key question is whether the ballot designation of "astronaut/scientist/engineer" is misleading as to the cumulative work performed by Hernandez during the 12-month period, according to Connelly.

"Given the scope of the work performed in 2011, the court does not believe it is (misleading)," Connelly said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jose Hernandez, a former NASA astronaut from Stockton, announces his run for Congress on Monday, Oct. 11, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 29, 2012
California Common Sense dissects money in 2010 elections

California Common Sense is out with a new report on spending in the 2010 elections, calculating that more than $358 million was spent on California campaigns, which set a new high.

Its findings include these:

"Among Assembly races, Democratic candidates outnumbered Republican candidates 94 to 58 and fundraising strongly favored Democratic candidates. Democrats received 93% of union donations, 80% of PIA donations, 75% of trade association donations, and 70% of corporate donations.



Among Senate races, Democratic candidates outnumbered Republican candidates 19 to 14 and out-raised Republicans by more than a 3:1 ratio. Democrats received 92% of all union donations, 88% of trade association donations, 80% of PIA donations, and 70% of corporate donations."

Researcher Sydney Evans, author of the report, said he was struck in retrospect by just how much Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman spent.

"She basically singlehandedly (accounted for) a third of the money in the entire election season," he said. To identify overall trends, therefore, he also made calculations that eliminated personal spending by candidates from the data.

"You see some of the real California politics at work when you take away some of the outliers," he said.

The group also produced plenty of customizable charts of the spending.

March 29, 2012
California commission defers action on state officeholder pay

Much talk, no action -- yet. California's Citizens Compensation Commission spent two hours today discussing state officeholder compensation, but no decisions were made and none of its members suggested raising pay of legislators or other statewide officeholders.

Chairman Tom Dalzell said he suspects that the state's budget crisis would bar any pay hike, even if there were sentiment to do so when the commission reconvenes in May to consider any written motions submitted by members.

Today, commissioners identified several issues they may want to consider in the future -- whether senators should be paid more than Assembly members because of larger districts, for example, and whether California's prohibition on legislative pension benefits should be taken into consideration in comparing pay to other states.

March 29, 2012
Actress Geena Davis to lead California women's commission

geenadavis.jpg Geena Davis has a new leading role to add to her resume.

The Academy Award-winning actress has been elected to chair the California Commission on the Status of Women. The leadership decision was announced at an event at Mount St. Mary's College held to unveil a new report by the agency, which promotes equality and justice and advises lawmakers on issues that affect the state's female population.

"I am honored to lead the critical work of the Commission to improve the lives of all women and girls in California," Davis said in a statement announcing her new post. "It's not just an issue of gender equality; it's also an economic issue. Addressing inequalities is good not only for women, but also for California as a whole."

Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, was appointed to the commission by fellow film star and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. Her new lead could be short lived, however. Gov. Jerry Brown called for eliminating the nonpartisan agency in his 2012-2013 budget proposal. His office says the move would save the state an estimated $270,000.

PHOTO CREDIT: Geena Davis in 2005 Associated Press/ Kathy Willens)

March 29, 2012
Steinberg: GOP budget plan is 'rehash' with one-time fixes

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday he considers the Republican budget plan a "rehash" that is legally questionable and would not solve California's fundamental budget problems.

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats have gone all-in on their multibillion-dollar November tax initiative, which they say will spare the state from deep education cuts this year and from deficit problems in the future.

Republicans issued their own budget plan Thursday to refute that argument, saying that Democrats do not need higher taxes to fully fund schools and that a growing economy and spending restraint will rescue the state in the coming years.

March 29, 2012
California lawmakers don hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin

Jon Ortiz has used Storify to tell the tale, collecting photos, tweets and other information from the Web. This post will take a little time to load, but it's worth the wait.

March 29, 2012
California lawmaker arrested on suspicion of drunk driving

RogerHernandezBookingPhoto.JPGBy Jim Sanders

A California lawmaker was arrested this week for suspicion of drunken driving.

Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernandez was arrested in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel after he failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test, Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger said.

Officers stopped Hernandez's white Toyota Camry about 2 a.m. Tuesday after they observed the car weaving from side to side in its lane on Concord Avenue, then turn suddenly onto Meridian Park Boulevard without signaling, Swanger said.

Hernandez, a first-term assemblyman who serves as the Democratic Caucus's assistant majority whip, was taken intially to the Concord Police Department for a blood test and later booked at the Contra Costa County jail in Martinez, Swanger said.

The West Covina lawmaker said Thursday that he had been visiting a friend in the Bay Area shortly before the incident occurred. He said he is confident that test results will show he was not drunk.

"After dinner I had a couple of drinks and because of the late hour I decided to stay in the town of Concord," Hernandez said.

March 29, 2012
Republicans propose California budget with state worker pay cut

Legislative Republicans rolled out a budget plan Thursday that relies on cutting state worker pay, eliminating affordable housing funds and using pots of money dedicated for mental health and childhood development.

Republicans believe their plan eliminates the state's $9.2 billion deficit without new taxes and preserves the same amount of funding for education that existed last year. They say it undercuts Gov. Jerry Brown's argument that voters must pass higher taxes in November to spare schools from deep reductions.

"The state budget is a reflection of priorities and there is no reason to hold our schools hostage to the uncertainties of the proposed tax increase initiative that may not benefit our students," GOP legislative and budget leaders wrote in a joint letter. "With political will, we can work together in a bipartisan manner to ensure that our schools are protected from trigger cuts, whether the Governor's tax initiative is ultimately accepted or rejected by the voters."

Democrats have all but written off Republicans in this year's budget process because they have majority-vote budget authority and are going directly to voters for a tax hike on sales and upper-income earners. Brown has said that if voters reject the tax hike, the state will need to cut about $2.4 billion in K-14 classroom funds, equal to three weeks of school, as well as cut $200 million each from the state's university systems.

March 29, 2012
VIDEO: California lawmakers don hoodies

A handful of state lawmakers wore gray-hooded sweatshirts this morning at this morning's session, taking up the symbol of solidarity and protest that has sprung up around the country over the slaying of Trayvon Martin.

Sen. Curren Price, who gaveled the session to order, wore one of the hoodies over his suit jacket and tie. Other Democrats, including Juan Vargas, donned the sweatshirts bearing "In memory of Trayvon Martin" stenciled in black letters on back.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, put on his sweatshirt before addressing the Senate.

Martin's Feb. 26 death has reignited a national debate about race. The 17-year-old was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla., by George Zimmerman, a self-described neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman claimed self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law and has not been charged.

Martin's family and those who support them say he was a victim of racial profiling and that law enforcement officials haven't adequately investigated the teen's death.

Hoodie-wearing protesters around the country have said Martin's killing is part of a larger pattern of injustice against African American men. On Wednesday, Rep. Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois, wore a hooded sweatshirt on the floor of the House of Representatives. Rep. Gregg Harper, a Mississippi Republican who was presiding over the chamber, kicked Rush out of the chamber for violating a dress code ban on hats.

March 29, 2012
GOP's Linda Halderman and Democrat push guest worker bill

halderman.jpgA Fresno Republican has joined forces with a Coachella Democrat to push legislation aimed at granting worker permits for undocumented immigrants who have been living for years in California.

Republican Linda Halderman and Democrat V. Manuel Perez are co-authors of the measure, Assembly Bill 1544. They jointly shared their views in an opinion article in today's Bee.

The two Assembly members said it's time to end the predictable chorus of "Deport them all!" from the political right wing, and "Amnesty for all!" from liberal Democrats.

"We're tired of waiting for a federal solution," they wrote. "We're tired of politics as usual. And so we are taking a risk."

March 29, 2012
AM Alert: Lawmakers don hoodies in Trayvon Martin's memory

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Dan's video report lays out California's recent history on workers compensation as well as a likely scenario for an upcoming war in the Legislature.

Today's sartorial choice under the dome may well be a hoodie.

Both the Assembly and the Senate have floor sessions set for 9 a.m., and members of the Black, Latino and Asian Pacific Islander caucuses are holding a news conference afterward to urge justice for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer last month. They'll be donning hoodies in solidarity with Martin's family members, who have called him a victim of racial profiling.

Word is that Sen. Roderick Wright, a Southern California Democrat, plans on adjourning the upper house in memory of the teen and has encouraged members to wear hoodies as the chamber is adjourned. The presser starts at 10 a.m. in the Governor's Press Room, Room 1190.

With Cesar Chavez Day being celebrated Friday, the Legislature starts its spring recess after the Assembly and the Senate adjourn. Both houses will reconvene April 9.

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is visiting Northern California, with a stop in Fairfield this afternoon for a public rally at the Jelly Belly Candy Co. followed by a reception there. The campaign is soliciting contributions of $5,000 per host couple, $2,500 for a patron and $1,000 for a sponsor, according to an announcement for the event. You can see a flier for the rally at this link.

Santorum has a second fundraiser on his calendar tonight as well at the Alamo home of Ubokia CEO Mark Pine and his wife, Becky, where the tickets aren't quite so steep. You can find that flier here. (H/t to the Bay Area News Group's Josh Richman, who reported this last week.)

Two ballot titles come up for hearings today in Sacramento Superior Court: Democratic congressional candidate Jose Hernandez's use of the word "astronaut" and GOP Assemblywoman Beth Gaines' use of the term "small business owner." Today's the day that the Secretary of State's Office issues a certified list of candidates, so the judges won't be dawdling over their decisions.

TREE PLANTING: State and Consumer Services Agency Secretary Anna Caballero is joining Japan's Consul General Hiroshi Inomata at 10 a.m. to recognize the centennial anniversary of that nation's donation of cherry blossom trees to the United States. Japan has donated three trees that will be planted in Capitol Park by the Vietnam Memorial.

NATIONAL GUARD: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Major General David S. Baldwin, who is adjutant general for the California National Guard, are announcing the Assembly's $500,000 contribution to help establish a pilot program, "Work for Warriors," intended to reduce unemployment and underemployment among the state's Guard members. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 317.

TOWN HALL: Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is hosting a town hall from 7 to 9 p.m. at the California High School Theater in San Ramon on the controversial health care overhaul. Listed speakers include Herb Schultz, a regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Diana Dooley, secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency; and Brent Barnhart, director of the state Department of Managed Health Care.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, celebrates his 43rd birthday today.

March 29, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Let the work comp war commence

VIDEO: Dan talks about the upcoming legislative war over workers' compensation in California.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 28, 2012
California Teachers Association gives $1.5 million to tax effort

The influential California Teachers Association reported giving $1.5 million today to Gov. Jerry Brown's effort to raise taxes.

The donation, the single largest yet reported, is a lift for a campaign committee that is racing to collect signatures after Brown and the California Federation of Teachers brokered a deal this month on components of the tax plan.

"I think we have a decent chance to get it passed," the Democratic governor told a luncheon crowd in Sacramento today. "I'm going to do everything I can."

In the same filing, the CTA, which represents some 325,000 teachers and education workers throughout the state, reported donating $1 million to the California Democratic Party.

March 28, 2012
California's Kinde Durkee to enter plea in fraud case on Friday

A court date to enter a plea in the fraud case against Democratic treasurer Kinde Durkee has been set for Friday at 11 a.m.

Durkee, a veteran treasurer who managed the campaign accounts of some of California's top Democrats, is expected to plead guilty to charges stemming from allegations that she embezzled millions from her clients. Politico has reported that prosecutors are expected to seek 11 to 14 years in prison as part of a plea agreement.

The owner of the Burbank-based Durkee & Associates, who was arrested last fall, is accused of stealing millions from her clients to cover personal and business expenses. Prominent clients affected by the scheme include Sen. Dianne Feinstein, state Assemblyman Jose Solorio and Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Susan Davis. The U.S. Attorney's office filed additional charges Tuesday, detailing an embezzlement scheme that resulted in $7 million in losses for at least 50 victims.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California declined further comment on the order granting the calendar request. The arraignment and entry of plea will be heard by Judge Kimberly J. Mueller at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. Durkee's attorney has not responded to a request for comment.

RELATED POSTS:
Updated charges filed against California treasurer Kinde Durkee
Kinde Durkee to plead guilty in embezzlement case

March 28, 2012
Jerry Brown on 'poor Pete' and other governors, deficits past

Gov. Jerry Brown was late to speak at an Alliance of California Law Enforcement luncheon this afternoon, and his remarks were hardly his most inspired.

But before finishing, the Democratic governor offered perhaps his most complete assessment yet of the lineage of California's budget deficit, starting in 1959, with a deficit he said Gov. Goodwin Knight left Brown's dad.

"And then, when my father left and Reagan came in as governor," Brown said, "he left him a deficit."

March 28, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown defends proposal label of 'Millionaires' Tax'

Even though his tax initiative includes a sales tax increase and higher income taxes on people who earn at least $250,000 a year, Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he can call it a "Millionaires' Tax" because people who make that much money will likely become that rich.

"Because everybody who makes $250,000 becomes a millionaire very quickly if you save," Brown told reporters after a speech in Sacramento. "You just need four years."

The Democratic governor launched a campaign website today that calls his proposal a "Millionaires' Tax," while explaining the proposed tax increases in detail on a secondary page.

He said this afternoon that he hasn't seen the website and would review it for accuracy. He included a link to the site in a tweet earlier today.

"Yeah, but we, I still haven't seen it," Brown said. "But I do think it is a Millionaires' Tax. It taxes millionaires."

March 28, 2012
GOP sees four Democrat-held Cal congressional seats as winnable

A new appraisal by the National Republican Congressional Committee claims that state-by-state redistricting has enhanced GOP chances of retaining control of Congress by making 16 seats held by Democrats vulnerable, including four in California.

The NRCC memo written by its executive director, Guy Harrison, was revealed in a National Journal article Wednesday.

The memo says that Democrats Lois Capps of Santa Barbara, Jim Costa of Fresno and John Garamendi of Walnut Grove are potentially vulnerable. It also lists the vacant 21st Congressional District in the lower San Joaquin Valley as winnable by a Republican. Costa would have been the 21st District incumbent, but opted to move into the 16th District after Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza decided to retire.

March 28, 2012
Bill Monning drops bill to restrict California food trucks

Legislation to ban food trucks from selling near school campuses was shelved Wednesday.

Assemblyman Bill Monning said he lacked the votes to pass his measure, Assembly Bill 1678, but he remains committed to a crackdown on the sale of non-nutritious foods to children.

Monning's proposal would have banned food trucks from selling within 500 feet of a campus from breakfast until dinner time on any day that students are attending classes. Some exceptions would have been allowed, such as if the food truck were on private property or was operating through a formal agreement with a school district.

"For years, Californians have worked to remove sodas and unhealthful snacks from school grounds," Monning said. "Vendors are bringing these very items back to the school gate using the mobility of ice cream trucks, pushcarts, and other portable units. This undermines the statewide nutrition improvements that we have established."

Monning said he will continue meeting with supporters of his bill to craft a different legislative solution.

"It wasn't ready for prime time," he said of AB 1678.

* Amended at 5:26 p.m. to reflect an amendment that would have allowed mobile sales no closer than 500 feet from a school, not 500 yards.

March 28, 2012
Hearing portends battle over California workers compensation

A lengthy hearing in the California Assembly on Wednesday indicated that one of the Capitol's longest-running political wars is being reignited.

It's over the rules governing workers compensation, the multibillion-dollar system that provides medical care, rehabilitation and financial support to those with work-related injuries and illnesses, what those in the Capitol call "work comp."

March 28, 2012
Jerry Brown: Combat training may aid in work with legislators

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has had some difficulty working with the Legislature, suggested this morning that combat training might help.

Marking the promotion of California National Guard Col. Sylvia R. Crockett to the rank of general, Brown told Crockett, whose job will include interacting with the Legislature, that she is "taking on the most difficult mission of all -- dealing with the legislative branch."

"You'll have to call forth all the skills and training that you got for combat," the Democratic governor said.

Crockett may already have a knack for politics. She told Brown, who was also governor from 1975 to 1983, "You're the first man I ever voted for."

March 28, 2012
Committee formed to back California candidates with 'courage'

MM SCHWARZENEGGER 163.JPGOne of several new independent committees hoping to influence elections for the California Legislature under the state's new top-two primary system is stepping up its efforts.

Govern for California, an effort to back state legislative hopefuls who display "courage," filed paperwork to create an independent expenditure committee last week.

One of the group's co-founders, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger adviser David Crane, said the group has identified up to five candidates -- two Democrats, two Republicans and one decline-to-state -- to potentially support in the June primary.

March 28, 2012
California Gov. Jerry Brown calling his plan a 'Millionaires' Tax'

When Gov. Jerry Brown reached a tax compromise with the California Federation of Teachers and liberal activists, apparently their "Millionaires' Tax" slogan was included in the deal.

Brown launched a new campaign website today whose front page calls the proposal a "Millionaires' Tax" even though it contains a quarter-cent sales tax increase and starts hiking income taxes at $250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for couples. The site explains these particulars only on a secondary "frequently asked questions" page.

CFT and its coalition previously circulated a tax plan that taxed only those making at least $1 million or more, single or married. Its initiative had been polling best partly because it had the "Millionaires' Tax" label.

The governor's website does say his tax plan would pay for more than schools. It notes the plan would fund "health and dental care, childcare, police, fire, parks, transportation and programs for seniors, disabled and the poor." Brown had faced criticism since launching his original initiative last year for implying that all new tax money would fund schools rather than other parts of the state budget.

March 28, 2012
LA County leads nation in population inflow and outflow

As California's economy boomed and then plummeted during the latter years of the previous decade, more people (372,331) left Los Angeles County for homes elsewhere than any other county in the nation.

However, as a new U.S. Census Bureau statistical study found, more people (212,882) also moved into Los Angeles County during the 2005-2009 period than to any other county.

The study covered only movements within the nation, not migration from and to other countries.

Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties in Southern California and Alameda County in Northern California ranked among the national leaders in both outflow and inflow of residents.

The Southern California counties also ranked highly in what the Census Bureau calls "origin flow" -- high numbers of destinations for those moving out. Los Angeles, for instance, was second only to Maricopa County, AZ, in the number (1,091) of other counties to which the ex-Angelenos moved, indicating they scattered widely around the nation.

San Diego was 4th on that list, San Bernardino 15th, Orange County 16th and Riverside 19th.

Conversely, while Maricopa County was also No. 1 in the variation of places from which its new residents came, called "destination flow," San Diego was 3rd highest, with its new residents coming from 795 other places in the country. Los Angeles was 4th at 741 previous homes.

Edited at 11:23 a.m. to reflect that study covered only movements within U.S.

March 28, 2012
Tehama GOP pulls party chair's speaking invite over endorsement spat

There's no need for Tom Del Beccaro to R.S.V.P. to the Tehama County Republican Party's upcoming Lincoln Reagan Dinner.

The northern California GOP group publicly uninvited the state party chairman to its May gathering this week, citing a split over endorsements in the newly drawn 3rd Assembly District.

"The TCRP, by unanimous vote, has affirmed that our speaker must be someone that upholds our adherence to Republican values and principles," Chairman Ken Say wrote in a letter to Del Beccaro. "Unfortunately, we no longer believe that you meet that criteria and have voted to invite speakers that the TCRP believe to meet that standard."

Members of the Tehama group are upset that the state party's board of directors opted to endorse Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, over Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams, the candidate who won the county party's endorsement. In an open letter circulated Tuesday, Say accused the party board of violating its own bylaws by invalidating his group's endorsement.

"We, the Tehama County Republican Party, at the local level, will continue to support the Republican candidates that represent our best interests and not some unknown person picked by a "star chamber" in an illegal procedure," Say wrote.

Del Beccaro defended what he called an "unprecedented" endorsement process created in response to the state's new primary system, saying in a statement that the "overwhelming majority of decisions the party made were well received."

"There were exceptions - proving the adage that you cannot please everyone, especially in politics," he said in the statement. "Going forward the Party will move toward a more broad based process that will engage Republicans voters directly."

March 28, 2012
Rival sues over Beth Gaines' ballot title of 'small business owner'

BethGaines.JPGAssembly candidate Andy Pugno has filed suit challenging Assemblywoman Beth Gaines' designation of herself as a "small business owner" for the June primary ballot.

Pugno's nine-page complaint, filed Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court, contends that Gaines' ballot designation is misleading.

"The facts reflect that Gaines currently serves as a full-time member of the California State Assembly, and may spend nominal time on the side as a marketing consultant," the complaint said.

March 28, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Judicial Council pulls the plug

VIDEO: Dan Walters reports that the state Judicial Council has pulled the plug on a costly and controversial computer system.


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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.


March 28, 2012
AM Alert: National Guard ceremony on Jerry Brown's agenda

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Dan's latest video report dissects the California Judicial Council's decision to yank the rug out from under the courts' controversial computer management system.

Gov. Jerry Brown's calendar today includes a California National Guard ceremony at which Col. Sylvia R. Crockett will be promoted to general.

It's a milestone for the Golden State: She's the first Latina to attain that rank in the California National Guard, according to the governor's office.

Crockett, who's now assistant division commander for the 40th Infantry Division as well as director of strategic communications for the California Military Department, started her career with the California National Guard in 1982. The ceremony starts at 11 a.m. in the the governor's Capitol office.

Brown is also scheduled to speak with police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and others at the 20th annual legislative day of the Alliance of California Law Enforcement. That talk starts at 1 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Meanwhile, there's no shortage of committee meetings under the dome, with a joint Senate-Assembly hearing considering the impact of a 2004 law on workers compensation disability benefits for permanently injured workers. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is among the listed speakers at the hearing, which starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 2040.

The Senate Education Committee is looking at new requirements for schools with high suspension rates, among other measures, starting at 9 a.m. in Room 4203. The Senate Rules Committee considers governor's appointees with Claudia Cappio, executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency, and Ronald Chapman, Kathleen Billingsley and Daniel Kim of the Department of Public Health required to appear. That hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 113.

The terms "mentally retarded" and "mental retardation" would be dropped from state documents and laws under Senate Bill 1381, which comes up before the Senate Health Committee, whose meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203. The Assembly Public Employees Committee, meanwhile, looks at the "Public Employees Bill of Rights" -- as Jon Ortiz reports on sister blog The State Worker.

For more information on those hearings and a host of others, click here for the Senate's daily file, and click here for the Assembly's.

Elsewhere in Sacramento, public pensions come up for debate at the Sacramento Press Club's luncheon, where Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, and Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, go head to head on the issue.

Teachers' pensions are the focus tonight at a free seminar hosted by the Press Club at The Bee's main office. Listed speakers include Fritz, as well as Ed Derman of the California State Teachers' Retirement System, Jason Sisney of the Legislative Analyst's Office and Jennifer Baker of the California Teachers Association. That event starts at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor, 2100 Q St., Sacramento. RSVP to seminars@sacpressclub.org.

ELECTION 2010: The group California Common Sense is releasing a report this morning that details donations to California races in 2010. Expect big numbers.

LEGISLATORS' VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker's last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link.

March 27, 2012
Updated charges filed against California treasurer Kinde Durkee

Federal prosecutors filed a set of new charges against Kinde Durkee, the veteran Democratic campaign treasurer accused of misappropriating millions of dollars from the accounts she managed.

The document, which is posted below, details an alleged embezzlement scheme that defrauded 50 clients of at least $7 million over more than a decade.

Durkee, who was arrested last fall, is expected to plead guilty to the charges as early as Friday. Click here to read more about that development.

DurkeeInformation_0327201219063400 (1)

March 27, 2012
Kinde Durkee to plead guilty in embezzlement case

Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee is expected to plead guilty to stealing millions from the accounts she controlled for her California political clients, according to two sources close to the case.

The news came as the U.S. Attorneys Office filed fresh charges against the veteran Democratic treasurer, who was arrested last fall. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney in Sacramento could not confirm whether Durkee is expected to plea, but said the filing of such documents typically indicate plea negotiations are in the works.

The 17-page complaint, filed Tuesday in the United State District Court for the Eastern District of California, details fraud and embezzlement stretching back more than a decade, accusing Durkee of "routinely misappropriating" funds from clients' accounts and filing false reports with the Secretary of State and the Federal Elections Commission. The document says at least 50 victims lost a combined $7 million-plus due to her actions.

The document says the money, which was transferred between accounts and to her firm, Durkee & Associates, without client authorization, was used to pay personal expenses, including a mortgage and credit card bills, and payroll and other business expenses.

In one 2010 transaction listed, Durkee allegedly used $23,000 intended for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's federal campaign account to help pay a $30,000 American Express tab that included charges from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Amazon.com, Disneyland and Trader Joe's grocery store. Other payments made with client money went to health insurance companies and residential services for her elderly mother. In some cases, she allegedly transferred money or diverted deposits to cover for previous unauthorized withdraws from other clients' accounts.

March 27, 2012
California Judicial Council halts court case management system

Capping years of sometimes bitter controversy inside and outside the judicial system, the state Judicial Council voted Tuesday to halt deployment of what was to be a computerized case management system linking every California court in paperless operation.

The California Case Management System (CCMS) was the brainchild of former Chief Justice Ron George and more than a half-billion dollars has been spent so far, mostly on private consultants and vendors. But it's come under increasingly sharp criticism by some judges, through the Alliance of California Judges, in the Legislature and by the state auditor.

The auditor had questioned how the money had been spent and an Assembly budget subcommittee voted recently to cut off funds for CMSS deployment.

The Alliance of California Judges, which said that the money had been squandered on an unworkable system while courts were being forced to close the doors due to sharp cuts in state court funds, was the big winner in Tuesday's action.

March 27, 2012
Judge tentatively rules for California in school funding suit

MC_SCHOOL_FUNDING_01.JPGIn a court battle that could shape how schools are funded, a judge tentatively ruled Tuesday that California lawmakers can reduce education funding by diverting state revenues into new pots of money.

School boards and administrators sued the state last fall alleging that Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers had shortchanged schools by shifting about $5 billion in sales tax revenues to counties in a new realignment fund.

Under voter-approved Proposition 98, the state is required to devote a specified share of overall general fund revenues to K-12 schools and community colleges. School officials said that by diverting $5 billion in sales taxes, the state avoided sending $2 billion it owed to education last year under the constitution.

In recent years, recalculating Proposition 98 has become a popular solution to balancing the budget in the final days -- as long as the powerful school lobby signs off. Last year, the California Teachers Association agreed to the shift after winning concessions that protected jobs. But school administrators were upset because they said the budget had tied their hands in terms of midyear layoffs or furloughs while cutting $2 billion in the process.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn issued a preliminary ruling today indicating that he believes the state has the power to create new special funds, and that none of those dollars have to be devoted to schools under Proposition 98.

March 27, 2012
John A. Pérez launches fight to alter tax formula for scholarships

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is drumming up public support for legislation touted as a billion-dollar relief plan for college students that is sure to be a Democratic centerpiece this year.

"This addresses the challenge of the middle class getting squeezed out," Pérez said today of his push to alter corporate tax law and divert money generated to students at colleges and universities.

While saving students money, Pérez's plan would raise taxes on out-of-state companies like Detroit automakers and cigarette-maker Altria by requiring that multistate companies calculate tax liability based on the portion of sales in California.

Pérez pitched his "middle-class scholarship" plan to The Bee's editorial board today, accompanied by three students who described the toll that soaring college fees are taking on their education, prospects and pocketbook.

The Assembly leader said his billion-dollar plan would cut fees by two-thirds for families earning under $150,000 per year - from $5,970 to $1,970 at California State Universities, and from $12,192 to $4,023 a the University of California.

Community colleges would receive $150 million statewide. Districts would decide how to spend it, in ways that could range from expanding the use of fee waivers to providing grants for buying books or other educational materials.

Pérez's package is designed to ease costs to students, primarily through scholarships, but it would not force colleges and universities to lower their fees or prevent them from increasing in the future.

March 27, 2012
California bill would make teacher-student relationship a felony

powers.jpgA Republican lawmaker announced legislation Tuesday to make it a felony for a K-12 teacher to date a student regardless of age, responding to a high-profile case at a Modesto high school in which the student is an adult.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, introduced Assembly Bill 1861 after news broke that Enochs High School teacher James Hooker, 41, had started a relationship with 18-year-old student Jordan Powers. Hooker left his wife, resigned from his job and moved in with Powers.

"I believe this bill will serve as a deterrent, as a preventative measure," said Tammie Powers, Jordan's mother, at a Capitol press conference. "As parents, we send our children to school with the expectation that they're going to be safe, they're going to receive a good education. Not that they're going to be pursued."

AB 1861 would have no impact on Hooker, whose case is under investigation and has resulted in no charges thus far. Hooker and Powers have denied that they had a relationship before she was an adult.

But in the future, the bill would create a felony for any public school employee who begins a sexual relationship or has "excess and inappropriate communication" with a student of any age. The bill's inclusion of inappropriate communication, described in broad terms, is meant to deter teachers from starting down a path that could lead to an intimate relationship, Olsen said.

AB 1861 also would expel the school employee from the public pension system, though it would return employee retirement contributions back to the worker.

March 27, 2012
Mitt Romney raises cash in Stockton, announces California team

STOCKTON -- Mitt Romney, speaking at a private fundraiser in Stockton this morning, kept up his criticism of President Barack Obama's recent hot mic incident, while mentioning none of his Republican rivals, attendees said.

The event, at the home of billionaire developer Alex Spanos, was one of a series of Romney fundraisers in California this week. His campaign used the occasion to announce its California leadership team, including former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, among seven statewide chairpersons.

Former Govs. Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian were listed as honorary statewide chairmen.

Romney also announced the support of the state's Republican legislative leaders, Sen. Bob Huff and Assemblywoman Connie Conway.

"The reception I have received from leading Republicans in California has been overwhelming," Romney said in a prepared statement.

Outside the Spanos estate, the reception was chillier. A handful of Democrats and Occupy protesters strapped crates to their cars and waved signs that said, "Dogs ride inside."

March 27, 2012
AM Alert: Shack up with a student, lose your pension

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Dan's video report says the state Legislature isn't the place to watch for progress on pension reform.

Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto will introduce her own pension legislation today with a bill aimed at cracking down on student-teacher relationships.

Assembly Bill 1861 would eliminate pension and retiree benefits for teachers who have an inappropriate relationship with a student at the same school - even if the student is an adult.

Olsen will be joined by Tammie Powers, the mother of an 18-year-old Modesto student who moved in with a teacher, at 10:30 a.m. in room 444 at the state Capitol.

CELLPHONE FINES: Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian will take another stab at raising penalties for using cell phones while driving today when Senate Transportation and Housing takes up Senate Bill 1310. The measure also extends the ban to bicyclists.

The bill is much like one that drew a gubernatorial veto last year, but raises base fines by just $10.

The idea is that the fee increase will pay for education on the perils of talking or texting while moving down the road. The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in room 4203 at the Capitol.

DONOR IDS: Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley will present AB 1648 to the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. The bill would require the top three financial backers of political ads to be identified on the messages. The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. in room 444 at the state Capitol.

Attending a Mitt Romney fundraiser today?

The Republican frontrunner will start the day at the home of Stockton developer Alex G. Spanos, then move south to Irvine for a luncheon event with conservative policy advocateDavid Horowitz in Irvine. Irvine Company chairman Donald Bren is among those attending that one.

Then it's on to dinner with the likes of former Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan former state Republican Party chair Shawn Steel at the Hyatt Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles.

That's a long day of smiling for the cameras.

CAKE & CANDLES & CAMPAIGN CHECKS: Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, turns 38 today, and plans to celebrate by collecting some election cash.

March 27, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Pension reform eludes Legislature

VIDEO: Dan Walters says the state Legislature isn't the place to watch for progress on pension reform.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 26, 2012
Assembly passes bill to spend redevelopment funds for housing

About $1.4 billion in redevelopment funds for low- and moderate-income housing would continue to be spent for those purposes under legislation approved today by the Assembly.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez crafted the legislation, Assembly Bill 1585, to help ease the transition in the wake of last year's decision to dissolve local redevelopment agencies in capturing funding for state coffers.

AB 1585 was approved by the Assembly, 56-7, receiving two more votes than the supermajority required for passage as an urgency measure.

Five Republicans bucked their GOP colleagues to vote yes: Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita, Nathan Fletcher of San Diego, Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo, Jeff Miller of Corona, and Kevin Jeffries of Lake Elsinore.

Perez's bill would take effect immediately if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

A key element of AB 1585 would transfer balances in redevelopment low- and moderate-income housing funds to local housing agencies to be spent for affordable housing.

The bill provides an incentive for local government to allocate the housing funds relatively quickly: 80 percent of the money must be committed within two years and spent within four years.

Funds that remain uncommitted after four years must be transferred to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for use on low-income housing programs in the county from which they came.

Absent AB 1585 - or similar legislation -- the $1.4 billion would be spent on other local government services as redevelopment agencies dissolve, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.

Pérez's measure now goes to the Senate.

* Corrected at 5:10 p.m. to show that five Republicans voted yes, not four. The fifth was Kevin Jeffries of Lake Elsinore.

March 26, 2012
Folsom Assembly candidate's pledge could mean backing rival

Republican Assembly hopeful Andy Pugno kicked off his campaign today with a pledge that could leave him backing his rival over his own candidacy in November.

The Folsom Republican is challenging Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, in the 6th Assembly District. Under the state's new top-two primary rules, voters could send both Republicans to the general election.

But voters in the safe GOP district might be spared a second round of a same-party slug fest if that happens. Pugno said today that he would support whichever Republican gets the most votes in the June 5 primary -- even if he secures the No. 2 spot to advance to the runoff. He said he made the pledge because he believes Republicans "should not be beating up on each other in the general election"

"If I came in behind Beth Gaines, I would honor the expression of Republican voters and endorse her campaign and not actively campaign myself," Pugno said in an interview with The Bee today.

Gaines' consultant dismissed the scenario as unlikely given the presence of a Democratic candidate in the three-way race. But he said his candidate wasn't interested in joining Pugno on the issue.

"She pledges to vote for a Republican in November and it's going to be herself," Gaines consultant Dave Gilliard said.

Pugno filed to run for the office earlier this month, but spoke publicly about his plans to run for the Assembly for the first time today. The 2010 Assembly candidate and author and attorney for Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, told KTKZ (1380 AM) host Eric Hogue that he wants to position himself as a "strong advocate for conservative causes" who would "actually be there out on the frontlines engaging and fighting for us."

He later criticized Gaines as"very passive and totally inaccessible to her constituents" in an interview with The Bee.

Gilliard rejected Pugno's characterization, noting that Gaines has hosted recent town hall meetings in the newly drawn district.

"She's been very accessible," he said "I think it's a non-issue."

March 26, 2012
See fundraising totals for top California legislative races

With just over two months to go until the June primary, some state legislative candidates are boasting six-figure warchests while others find themselves in the red.

Pre-election campaign finance reports covering money raised and spent between Jan. 1 and March 17 were due late last week. The full reports are posted on the Secretary of State website.

How do the top candidates in some of the state's most hotly contested races stack up? We've compiled a roundup of the numbers for some of those races in the spreadsheet posted below. Click here to view the spreadsheet in a new window. Suggestions for other races to include may be sent to tvanoot@sacbee.com.

March 26, 2012
Census Bureau says California the most urbanized state

California may lead the nation in agricultural production, but being a society of great contrasts, it's also the nation's most urbanized state, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Based on 2010 census data, the bureau calculated that 94.95 percent of the state's 37.3 million residents live in urban areas, albeit some that are quite small, with New Jersey second at 94.7 percent.

How small? How about Delano?

The nation's four most densely populated urban areas are in California, led by No. 1 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, at nearly 7,000 persons per square mile. It's followed by San Francisco-Oakland at 6,266, San Jose at 5,820 and tiny Delano, in the San Joaquin Valley, at 5,483. Delano's population is denser even than the New York-Newark urban area at 5,319 per square mile.

The latter, however, remains the nation's largest urban area at 18.3 million, followed by Los Angeles, et al, at 12.2 million and Chicago at 8.6 million.

Overall, the Census Bureau says, the nation's urban population - defined by population density - increased by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010 while the overall growth was 9.7 percent.

March 26, 2012
FPPC launches online disclosure of city, county ticket handouts

California's political watchdog agency has begun ramping up an online service that will itemize concert, sporting event, banquet and entertainment tickets distributed through cities and counties.

The Fair Political Practices Commission launched the program this month with 2012 ticket distribution by the cities of San Diego, Ontario and Dana Point, along with the counties of Alameda and San Francisco.

All cities and counties that engage in ticket distribution are required to report to the FPPC, however, so more local governments are expected to be added to the online site soon, officials said. Businesses can provide tickets to local government for distribution to nonprofit groups, elected officials or other officials.

March 26, 2012
Donnelly gets fine, probation after no-contest plea to gun charges

Thumbnail image for Tim Donnelly 20120104_PK_LEGISLATURE 0034.JPGAssemblyman Tim Donnelly pleaded no contest today to two misdemeanor gun charges stemming from the discovery of a loaded firearm in his carry-on bag before he boarded a flight for Sacramento.

The Twin Peaks Republican was placed on probation for three years and fined $2,215, said Christopher Lee, spokesman for the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.

Donnelly faced charges of illegal possession of a loaded firearm and possession of a prohibited item in a sterile area in connection with the Jan. 4 airport incident involving a loaded .45-caliber firearm.

The two misdemeanors carried maximum jail sentences of one year and six months, respectively. Offenders also could be fined up to $1,000 for each count. Judges are free to impose lighter sentences, however, based on circumstances.

Donnelly was ordered to pay his $2,215 fine in increments of $200 per month, starting May 1, Lee said.

The assemblyman's gun and ammunition will be destroyed by law enforcement, and Donnelly was ordered not to use, possess or own a firearm not registered to him, Lee said.

Rod Pacheco, Donnelly's attorney, characterized the plea agreement as a fair resolution of a case in which the assemblyman immediately and consistently accepted responsibility

"This has been an incredible distraction for him," Pacheco said.

"He wasn't trying to sneak it in," Pacheco said of the gun. "He put the bag in the scanner, for god sakes. He obviously wasn't trying to sneak something through the scanner. You can't get a metal toothpick through the scanner, let alone a handgun."

Donnelly called the incident a regrettable but "innocent and honest mistake."

"My family and look forward to putting this behind us," he said in a written statement. "Many have sent words of encouragement throughout this time, and we are truly grateful. I am excited to move forward to continue representing the people and values of our district."

Federal Transportation Security Administration officials described Donnelly's gun as a .45-caliber Colt Mark IV. It had four rounds in its magazine and a spare magazine with five rounds, TSA officials said.

March 26, 2012
AM Alert: California presidential gold rush week begins

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Dan's video report says green jobs won't be California's economic salvation.

While the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act today, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will stop by a San Diego medical device firm and dine with contributors during a brief swing through the Golden State.

Romney is slated to appear this morning at the San Diego headquarters of NuVasive, which describes itself as a developer of "minimally disruptive surgical products and procedures for the spine."

He also will have two fundraisers today with some big-name hosts. Former Gov. Pete Wilson will be on hand at the San Diego luncheon, while former gubernatorial candidate and HP executive Meg Whitman will host a dinner in Redwood City.

Romney will have three fundraisers across the state Tuesday, including one at the Stockton home of developer Alex G. Spanos.

But Romney isn't the only one visiting California this week. Presidential rival Rick Santorum will hold a rally and fundraiser Thursday at the Jelly Belly Candy Company. His California page on Facebook has a copy of the invite, the rare instance in which you'll find "Jelly Belly" written in fancy script. Though it also features the iconic jelly bean character waving an American flag.

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments, the Public Policy Institute of California will hold a lunch forum in Sacramento to discuss the state's implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Participants include California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley and her predecessor, Kim Belshé, who also sits on the state's health exchange board.

At the state Capitol, both houses will hold floor sessions.

A Senate budget subcommittee will hold a 10 a.m. hearing in Room 4203 to examine the Department of Developmental Services, State Independent Living Council and Commission on State Mandates.

An Assembly budget subcommittee will hold a 4 p.m. hearing in Room 127 to examine the Department of Public Health budget, including Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed changes and cuts to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

In one more budget-related matter, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee will consider Assembly Bill 1506 by GOP Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries to repeal a new fire fee on rural homeowners. Democrats authorized the fee last year as part of their budget solution.

March 26, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Green jobs aren't California's salvation


VIDEO: Dan Walters says green jobs won't turn California's economy around.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 24, 2012
Molly Munger tax initiative drive offers workers a chance for free cars

Key to victory?

A car key, perhaps.

Michael Arno, whose company is spearheading the drive to qualify Molly Munger's tax measure for the November ballot, plans to give away a car each week in a drawing involving his top signature gatherers.

The weekly winner can choose a favorite vehicle in the $15,000 price range, said Arno, whose firm must gather 504,760 valid voter signatures.

County elections officials must confirm voter signatures by June 28, so the secretary of state has suggested that campaigns submit their petitions to local government by April 20. Clearly, it's pedal-to-the-metal time for initiative drives.

Arno said the car giveaway is an incentive offered by his company, not by Munger or her initiative.

Munger's tax measure would raise income tax rates on all but the poorest taxpayers.

A rival tax proposal, pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, can offer signature gatherers roughly twice the $1.50-per-signature paid by his firm, Arno said.

"I obviously couldn't afford that, so this is a way to get everybody excited and interested in working that particular petition," Arno said. "This was my choice, to pitch in to help us get signatures."

The first car will be awarded next Friday, he said.

March 23, 2012
State discriminates in choosing redistricting panel, suit argues

California illegally considers race, gender and ethnicity in choosing members of a state commission to draw legislative and congressional districts, according to a lawsuit making its way through Sacramento Superior Court.

An amended complaint was filed this week by Ward Connerly and his American Civil Rights Foundation, which have fought nationwide for more than a decade against race-based preferences in government.

Connerly's suit would not invalidate legislative and congressional boundaries drawn this year, but it seeks a court order altering the process for choosing commission members in years to come.

March 23, 2012
Manning saved millions in taxes by opting for Denver over SF

We'll never know whether it played a role in quarterback Peyton Manning's decision to play for the Denver Broncos rather than the San Francisco 49ers, but the California Taxpayers Association says that it could save the football star millions in state income taxes.

Cal-Tax did some horseback calculations that assumed he would have been paid the same by both teams ($96 million over five years).

It also assumed that he would have paid all of it at each state's highest income tax rate, and in California's case that would be both the current rate and what it would be if Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed income tax hike is approved by voters. It also applied the state Franchise Tax Board's formula for professional athletes, which assumes that roughly 90 percent of the salary is taxable in a team's home state.

Those assumptions would give Manning, Cal-Tax said, a taxable income over five years of $86.4 million, which would mean $8.9 million in taxes for California under the current system or $11.5 million under Brown's proposal, against $4 million in Colorado.

Of course Manning could have opted to play in Florida, which has no state income tax.

March 23, 2012
First non-lawyer heads California Commission on Judicial Performance

Call it a minor milestone.

For the first time in its history, the state Commission on Judicial Performance, which handles complaints about judges, has elected a non-lawyer as its chairman.

He is Lawrence Simi, a prominent non-profit organization leader and one-time corporate executive from San Francisco. Simi has been a member of the commission since being appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 as a public member.

The commission, based in San Francisco, also elected Santa Clara County Judge Erica Yew as vice-chair.

March 23, 2012
Jerry Brown skeptical of poet laureate's 'life without boundaries'

GOLETA - It appeared to throw Gov. Jerry Brown momentarily when, in an on-stage interview about energy and the economy, he was asked this morning about California's poet laureate.

"To tell you the truth, I hadn't even heard about this poet laureate a week ago," said Brown, who appointed Juan Felipe Herrera poet laureate on Wednesday, on a recommendation from staff.

"Nuclear power, poetry," he said. "I've got to kind of focus my attention."

The announcement from Brown's office included a link to a poem in which Herrera describes poetry as "a way to attain a life without boundaries."

In Southern California this morning, Brown said he wanted none of that.

"Life without boundaries?" he said, "I think the key is boundaries. So, maybe you put it this way: Imagination, in some sense, doesn't have boundaries. But if all you have is imagination, that's akin to insanity."

The Democratic governor moved from poetry to other media, appearing outside for an interview streaming online with The Wall Street Journal, the host of the conference.

"Follow me on Twitter if you want," Brown told viewers. "But it's a little, it's a little bit nerve racking to watch that, those Twitter messages come down minute after minute."

March 23, 2012
Jerry Brown pushes zero-emission cars, defends oil policy

GOLETA - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he will push the state to put 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 1990s levels.

In an executive order, the Democratic governor directed state agencies to help facilitate that effort.

Meanwhile, Brown announced a $120 million settlement between the California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy Inc. - resolving a years-old claim related to power costs during California's energy crisis - to fund construction of 200 fast-charging stations for zero-emission vehicles and 10,000 plug-in units around the state.

"This executive order strengthens California's position as a national leader in zero-emission vehicles," Brown said in a prepared statement, "and the settlement will dramatically expand California's electric vehicle infrastructure, helping to clean our air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Brown's announcement came as he defended his record on oil production at a conference on the economy and the environment just outside Santa Barbara. Four months after firing the top two overseers of drilling operations in California, Brown said, "I fired the people in charge, and now our permits are dramatically up."

When asked about his position on nuclear energy and hydraulic fracturing, Brown said he is still studying them.

The administration said the zero-emission vehicle settlement would fund charging stations in the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County.

March 23, 2012
Bill would stop requests for job seekers' social media logins

A California senator is seeking to block employers from requesting social network login information as part of the job application process.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, announced today that he plans to introduce legislation to ban demands for usernames and passwords from job seekers and current employees, saying content on sites like Facebook and Twitter, such as personal photos and calendars, "have no bearing on a person's ability to do their job and therefore employers have no right to demand to review it."

"It is completely unacceptable for an employer to invade someone's personal social media accounts," Yee said in a statement. "Not only is it entirely unnecessary, it is an invasion of privacy and unrelated to one's work performance or abilities."

While it is unclear how common such requests are in California, questions about legal and privacy concerns have emerged as some companies and government agencies increase their scrutiny of candidates' social media presences. A recent report by the Associated Press detailed examples of the requests in states across the country.

Yee's bill, which has yet to be formally drafted, would also prohibit employers from asking the applicant or employee to voluntarily show them their social media accounts. Legislation on the topic has also been introduced in Illinois and Maryland, according to the Associated Press.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, introduced a similar proposal earlier this year. That bill, A.B. 1844, is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on April 18.

RELATED POST:

Employers ask job seekers for Facebook passwords

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:36 p.m. to include the Campos bill.

March 23, 2012
California lags nation in green jobs

The latest monthly employment report, released Friday, was not particularly good news for California, whose jobless rate was unchanged in February at 10.9 percent with more than two million workers unemployed.

That's a bit better that it was during the depths of the recession, but not much, the data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistic indicate.

But what about those green jobs that Gov. Jerry Brown and other political figures frequently tout as California's economic salvation? Another report from the BLS indicates that they're a tiny part of the state's economy and would have to grow exponentially for a long time to become a major factor in reducing the state's high jobless rate.

The BLS counted 338,445 jobs related to green products and services in California in 2010, just 2.3 percent of the state's 14.4 million employees, slightly below the national proportion of 2.4 percent. And when it comes to non-governmental employment, it's even lower at 1.9 percent, also below the national average.

Vermont tops the states in green jobs at 4.4 percent while Florida is lowest at 1.3 percent. And for those fond of comparing California to Texas, the Lone Star State's proportion of green jobs is 2.3 percent, exactly the same as California's, but in private employment, Texas is slightly higher at 2 percent.

March 23, 2012
AM Alert: Bumpin' and grindin' in the desert

DAN WALTERS DAILY: In his video report, Dan notes that the new poet laureate loves libraries, but the man who appointed him -- Gov. Jerry Brown -- has not always been their friend.

With the weekend around the corner, a bipartisan team of state assemblymen is planning to do some bumping and grinding in the Coachella Valley.

It's not necessarily what you think.

Assemblymen Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, and V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, plan to meet up Saturday morning at the "Bump and Grind" trail in Palm Desert to announce a new bill designed to resolve what has become quite a controversy in those parts.

According to the Desert Sun, the Department of Fish and Game closed the popular trail last summer to shield the local bighorn sheep from hikers.

It was not a popular decision, and local hikers have been protesting ever since, demanding more evidence from the state that their presence threatens the sheep.

The lawmakers' bill theoretically could ramp up the heat on Gov. Jerry Brown to get Fish and Game to change their ways.

As for the trail's name, Capitol Alert had a hard time pinning down the exact origin of "bump and grind." One local said it's what the bighorn sheep do up there. Another said it's because the trail is bumpy and the top part is quite a grind.

FORE!: Got 60K lying around? Want to spend some quality time with Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg around the golf course? Today marks the beginning of the Pro Tem Cup at La Jolla's Torrey Pines Golf Course. As Torey Van Oot reports, the fundraiser for the California Democratic Party is designed to help Steinberg win a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

RALLY: The north steps of the state Capitol today is scheduled to be one of some 140 sites nationwide for a protest against the Obama Administration's mandate that employer-based health insurers provide free contraceptives. Sponsored by a group called "Catholics for Religious Liberty," the rally is scheduled to begin at noon. Other California rally locations are Los Angeles, San Diego, Ventura, Murrieta, San Francisco and Redding.


March 23, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown, libraries and the poet laureate

VIDEO: Dan Walters' discusses Jerry Brown's recent poet laureate appointment.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 22, 2012
Jerry Brown studies up

GOLETA - Here's Gov. Jerry Brown, "A" student.

In Southern California for a three-day conference on green energy and the economy, the Democratic governor has been sitting up front, drinking coffee and taking notes. His cellphone hasn't gone off once.

Brown is scheduled to speak Friday at the conference, at the posh Bacara Resort & Spa just outside Santa Barbara. Nibbling on a cookie during a break this afternoon, he was not inclined to provide a preview.

"There's no news," Brown said. "This is my study."

First lady Anne Gust Brown came by a few moments later, and they headed into an auditorium for another round of sessions. Inside, the governor stopped for a few minutes to talk to T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil executive.

March 22, 2012
Senate Democrats' fundraiser gets pricier for top donors this year

The price of access is going up for top donors attending this weekend's Pro Tem Cup at San Diego's Torrey Pines Golf Course, an annual golf outing held to raise cash for the California Democratic Party.

Contributors looking to spend some quality time with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg this weekend can expect to pay up to $60,000 -- a $10,000 increase from recent outings, according to this year's invite and event listings from 2011 and 2008.

The top "Two Day Platinum" price includes golf for four on Friday and Saturday, an evening with Steinberg, two nights accommodation, attendance at an awards BBQ and "commemorative gifts," according to an invitation. The "Two Day Gold," which includes the same access for two people, spiked $5,000, to $45,000 this year.

Prices for the cheaper packages, which start at $10,000 for golf for one on Saturday, one night's stay, the awards BBQ and gifts, remained steady. Spa packages are available for interested parties who don't want to golf.

The increased ticket price comes as Senate Democrats prepare for major battles in several swing districts where victory could mean securing a two-thirds majority in the upper house. Those targeted races, including the Stockton-area 5th Senate District, are expected to be costly battles.

The fundraiser, which starts tomorrow, is sponsored by cable industry interests, including the California Cable & Telecommunications Association, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, declined to comment on details of the fundraiser, including package prices, ahead of the event.

March 22, 2012
States saw revenue surge last year, but not California

As the nation's economy recovered, albeit slowly, from recession last year, most states saw a surge of revenues - but not California, a new Census Bureau data dump indicates.

Nationally, state government revenues rose 3.5 percent to $183.8 billion during the fourth quarter of 2011 over the same period of 2010, the Census Bureau report said, but in California, they dropped 8.2 percent to $25.6 billion.

But there may be less import than those numbers would indicate. Temporary income and sales tax increases enacted by the Legislature in 2009 were still in effect in 2010, but had expired by late last year, which largely explains the sharp declines in revenues from those two sources.

Fourth-quarter California income tax revenues last year were $11.3 billion, the Census Bureau report said, down from $12.2 billion in 2010, while sales taxes dropped from $8.1 billion to $7.5 billion.

Gov. Jerry Brown tried to get the temporary taxes extended, but Republican legislators refused to support his plan. He's now pushing a November ballot measure that would raise sales taxes by a quarter-cent and sharply boost income taxes on high-income Californians. He says it would raise about $9 billion a year but the Legislature's budget analyst says that number is likely too high.

March 22, 2012
AM Alert: Play along with our electoral college map

DAN WALTERS DAILY: In his video report, Dan points out the irony of Gov. Jerry Brown vetoing that signature gathering bill last year.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is having quite a week in the Capitol. On Monday, she spoke to lawmakers to ask for money and defend her administration of the courts.

Today, the Sacramento native will participate in the inaugural event for She Shares, a series of conversations with what organizers call "female trailblazers, who, through their leadership have created a lasting impact on women in California and beyond."

Moderated by Karen Breslau of the Dewey Square Group, the luncheon with Cantil-Sakauye will include six students representing schools the chief justice attended: McClatchy High School, Sacramento City College and UC Davis Law School.

Find more info on the She Shares Facebook page.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Bipartisan birthdays today. Democrat Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles is 39. Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres turns 43.

After Illinois, are you ready to calculate how the electoral college vote will go in November's presidential election? Predict the vote with The Bee's interactive map.

March 22, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: The irony of politics

VIDEO: Today Dan points out the irony of Gov. Jerry Brown vetoing that signature gathering bill last year.


Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 21, 2012
Sacramento judge rules state violated disclosure law

The state Department of Health Care Services violated disclosure law last year by refusing to provide background information on Medi-Cal cuts, a Sacramento Superior Court judge has ruled.

Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers last year approved a 10 percent cut in payments to doctors and other providers of Medi-Cal services to help balance the 2011-12 budget - a reduction that a federal judge has since blocked. Under federal law, the department had to show that Medi-Cal cuts would not undermine access to care.

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association and California Pharmacists Association filed a Public Records Act request last year to obtain the state's supporting evidence showing that the Medi-Cal cut wouldn't harm patient access. The Bee filed a similar request last summer.

But the requests were denied as the state Department of Health Care Services said it needed to keep such documentation private "to engage in candid policy discussions" with federal officials.

March 21, 2012
Juan Felipe Herrera named California poet laureate

Gov. Jerry Brown today appointed to be California poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, a son of migrant workers who went on to become a university professor and a poet of critical acclaim.

Herrera, 63, the author of 28 volumes of poetry and other works, is a professor of creative writing at University of California, Riverside. He was previously a professor and chairman of Chicano and Latin American Studies at California State University, Fresno, according to the governor's office.

Herrera holds degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford University and University of Iowa.

Like Brown, Herrera is a Democrat.

The governor's announcement included a link to Herrera's 2008 poem, "Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings."

In it, Herrera describes poetry as "a way to attain a life without boundaries."

March 21, 2012
Pat Brown documentary gets swank D.C. premiere

A documentary film exploring the life and times of the late California Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown got its East Coast premiere Tuesday night at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Sweet location, if you can land it.

Entitled "California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown," the 90-minute film was screened in downtown D.C. at the Archives' 290-seat William G. McGowan Theater, hosted by Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film. Omnipresent historian Michael Beschloss moderated the Q&A with the filmmakers, Brown's granddaughters Sascha Rice and Hilary Armstrong, as well as producer Julia Mintz.

March 21, 2012
California has by far nation's largest Asian-American population

California has - by far - the nation's largest Asian-American population with nearly a third of the 17.3 million counted nationally in the 2010 census, according to a new Census Bureau report.

California's Asian-American population of 5.6 million is nearly 1.5 million higher than it was in the 2000 census and more than three times as large as New York's 1.6 million, the second largest population.

California's 2010 percentage of Asian-American residents, 14.9 percent of its population, is surpassed only by Hawaii's 57.4 percent. But growth in the state's Asian-American population, 33.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, was surpassed by that of many other states (Nevada's increase was 116 percent) and well below the national growth rate of 45.6 percent.

New York City has the numerical largest population of Asian-Americans of major urban areas at 1.1 million, but California cities - Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego - hold the next four places while Fremont is 9th and Sacramento is 12th.

March 21, 2012
Lawmakers reject bill to curb pay hikes at California public universities

yee.JPGThe Senate Education Committee Wednesday rejected legislation that would have curbed pay increases for college administrators, just a day after trustees of the California State University System gave 10 percent boosts to two university presidents.

Sen. Leland Yee (right), D-San Francisco, argued that his measure, Senate Bill 967, was needed to send a message to trustees that hefty raises are inappropriate while student fees are being increased and enrollment is being curtailed.

But just four members of the Democrat-controlled committee, two short of a majority, voted for Yee's measure and three voted against it.

The bill would prohibit trustees from increasing any monetary compensation of an university executive officer for two years if fees were rising or state appropriations for the system were being reduced. It also would cap the salary increase for any new executive at 5 percent of that paid to his or her predecessor. And it would ask University of California regents to abide by the same rules, although the UC system is constitutionally independent.

On Tuesday, CSU trustees, meeting at the system's headquarters in Long Beach, approved raises for the presidents of CSU East Bay and CSU Fullerton, despite complaints from students and faculty members and public criticism by Gov. Jerry Brown. The 10 percent increases were the maximum allowed under a board policy.

A university official conceded to the Senate committee Wednesday that the raises were "bad optics...bad juju" in light of budget cuts and enrollment restrictions. Critics of the bill said it would set a bad precedent of micromanaging university affairs.

""It is another sad day for our students," Yee said in a statement after the committee action. "Unfortunately, the Education Committee has sent the completely wrong message. Rather than stand up for students and faculty, they protected the 1 percent and condoned CSU's bad behavior. CSU students and California taxpayers deserve better than the status quo."

March 21, 2012
AM Alert: Chickens and cows and Willie Brown

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Dan's video report discusses state Attorney General Kamala Harris' role in putting measures on the ballot.

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and farm animals. What could go wrong?

If you come across a cow or chicken on the Capitol grounds today, you can take a moment to note the one-year anniversary of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 42, which called on Californians to "eat local" and "buy California grown" food.

Specifically, it asks Californians to prepare meals made exclusively with Golden State ingredients one day a week. If you want to make a personal pledge, sign up here.

Brown, also the former mayor of San Francisco, will join state Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross for a press conference commemorating the resolution and the adoption of similar efforts by California cities and counties. It begins at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

Organizers also promise tractors and rodeo queens.

MILANOVICH REMEMBERED: Gov. Jerry Brown will travel to Palm Springs today to speak at a memorial service for Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Chairman Richard Milanovich.

Brown called Milanovich, who wrangled with governors from Wilson to Schwarzenegger over the growth of Indian gambling in California, a "friend" in a statement marking his March 11 death. The service will be held at 10 a.m. at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

HIGHER ED PAY: A day after CSU trustees approved salary increases for new campus presidents at CSU Fullerton and CSU East Bay, Sen. Leland Yee is working to crack down on pay raises for university administrators.

The Senate Committee on Education will hear his bill, SB 967, which seeks to stop pay raises in bad budget years or within two years of a student fee increase. The hearing starts at 9 a.m. in room 4203 at the Capitol.

HEALTH CARE: Democrats this week are celebrating the second anniversary of the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, known on the GOP primary trail as Obamacare.

Touting the measure's provisions before the U.S. Supreme Court holds a hearing on its constitutionality next week, the Obama campaign will hold a 1 p.m. press conference in which young people praise the president's efforts to give them access to health care coverage.

Among Democrats scheduled to attend are Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Sen. Alex Padilla, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma and Assemblyman Isadore Hall.

That event will be held at Obama's Sacramento office, 6760 Folsom Blvd.

Sen. Ted Lieu is celebrating in Los Angeles, where he'll warn newcomers to the health insurance market about the possibility they'll be preyed upon by unscrupulous sellers. He's carrying legislation aimed at tightening consumer protections.

Representatives of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, California Immigrant Policy Center and Consumers Union will join him at 10:30 a.m. at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center on Wilshire Boulevard.

March 21, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Fast-tracking Jerry Brown's tax measure


VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses the role state Attorney General Kamala Harris plays in putting measures on the statewide ballot.



Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 20, 2012
Jerry Brown: Munger sent 'nice e-mail,' but no deal in works

A week after negotiating the compromise tax measure with the California Federation of Teachers, Gov. Jerry Brown said today that despite recent talks with Molly Munger, the proponent of a competing tax initiative, there is no sign of a deal.

"I spoke to her on the phone, she sent my wife a nice e-mail, and my wife responded, and then she responded back, and that's where we are," the Democratic governor told reporters in Sacramento.

He said the exchange "left things as they are, with a very fierce campaign on the horizon, which I'm fully prepared for."

Brown said his compromise tax measure, despite its greater reliance on income tax, will not lead to budget volatility.

"We're coming out of a recession, and we're coming out slowly," Brown said. "By the time we get to the point of the next recession, this tax measure will have expired."

He said, "My goal is to use the money from the tax measure, if it passes, and pay for the programs, pay down debt, and get ready for the next recession with a reserve ... I'm going to build a reserve to guard against the falloff in revenue that comes from having so much reliance on the income tax."

Brown said a representative of Occidental Petroleum Corp., which donated $250,000 to Brown's tax campaign in January, told him in a telephone call that the company is still supportive of the measure.

The compromise tax initiative between Brown and the CFT would extend a higher tax on California's highest-income earners to seven years instead of five. Business groups have objected to permanent tax increases or ones that remain in place for a long period.

March 20, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown criticizes college president pay

Hours before the California State University Board of Trustees considers approving annual salaries of more than $300,000 for two college presidents, Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he opposes the increases, and suggested any number of people - including him - could do the work of a college president for less.

"The colleges ... a lot of public employers think that they have to give pay raises, and I don't think so, because the average person has not gotten a pay raise, and the kids have been paying more in tuition," Brown told reporters before speaking to optometrists in Sacramento. "So I think they have to find ways of attracting people, and they have to widen the pool."

The Democratic governor dismissed the argument that the potential pool of college presidents is so small that salaries must be raised to remain competitive.

"I think there are a lot more people that can be college presidents, maybe even some of you," Brown told reporters.

Asked if he could be one, Brown said, "I have no doubt."

"I have no doubt that I could be a college president, and I think a number of legislators could," he said "since basically it involves raising money, it involves being diplomatic with all the different constituencies, including the faculty, and it takes some skill."

The CSU board is scheduled to consider compensation packages this afternoon for the presidents of the Fullerton and East Bay campuses, Mildred Garcia and Leroy Morishita, respectively.

March 20, 2012
Kamala Harris, online dating sites agree to security measures

Thumbnail image for kamala.jpgCalifornia Attorney General Kamala Harris is touting today an agreement she says will help improve safety and security for people looking for love online.

Harris and online dating site companies eHarmony, Match.com and Spark Networks, which operates JDate and Christian Mingle, released a set of business guidelines by which the parties have agreed to abide. Harris praised the principles as "important consumer protections" for people participating in the sites. The release noted that 40 million Americans used online dating services in 2011.

"Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted," she said in the statement.

Under the agreement, which is posted here, the providers will publish safety tips and financial scam warnings online, maintain systems for reporting abuse or suspected criminal activity by users and make an effort to remove registered sex offenders and fake profiles from their sites. The providers will also work with the attorney general and a liaison from the office's new eCrime Unit to address concerns about criminal activity and identity theft issues.

Leaders from the companies said in the statement that many of the "best practices" outlined in the document were drawn from existing policies.

"These types of practices have been part of our commitment to member safety and education for many years," eHarmony CEO Jeremy Verba said in the statement. "We are proud to join Attorney General Harris, March.com and Spark Networks in setting an example for the rest of the online dating industry."

Harris spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said the attorney general's office initiated conversations with the providers after learning about a case in Southern California involving a woman who was allegedly raped by a man she met through an online dating service. After learning that the man had a criminal history, the woman started urging the site to increase its user screening practices.

While the principles released today are not legally binding by private parties, Gledhill said the attorney general hopes the good-faith agreement will spark more changes for other sites.

"We hope it becomes best practices for the industry," she said.

March 20, 2012
Ashburn says he'll resign from state board if elected to county board

Former state Sen. Roy Ashburn, who had earlier indicated he might keep his $128,000 per year position on the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board if elected to a $120,000 seat on the Kern County Board of Supervisors, is changing his tune.

Ashburn told the Bakersfield Californian newspaper Tuesday that he'll resign from the state board if elected to the county board seat that's opening because incumbent Jon McQuiston is running for the state Assembly.

Republican Ashburn was a Kern County supervisor before going to the Legislature as an assemblyman and later as a two-term senator. In 2010, his last year in the Senate, Ashburn was arrested for drunken driving in Sacramento after leaving a gay bar and later publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. After leaving the Senate, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the UI appeals board.

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger's successor, Jerry Brown has proposed to abolish the UI board, whose appointees have often been ex-legislators, as part of a larger reorganization of state government.

March 20, 2012
Assembly Republicans unveil 13-bill package honoring veterans

With troops returning from combat in the Middle East, Assembly Republicans unveiled a 13-bill package today designed to recognize their service and assist them in returning to civilian life.

One of the GOP's Assembly legislators, Jeff Gorell of Camarillo, is among those coming home after yearlong duty as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. He is expected back on the Assembly floor April 9.

Legislation touted by Assembly Republicans today target issues ranging from single-parent custody rights to extending the number of years that veterans are given a priority for college class registration.

Key measures in the package include:

March 20, 2012
Friends propose Rod Blonien scholarship at Jesuit High School

Friends and family of Rod Blonien are trying to create a memorial scholarship to honor the late California lobbyist at Jesuit High School.

Blonien, who worked for former Gov. George Deukmejian before becoming a lobbyist for gambling and horse racing interests, died a week ago at age 65 of an apparent heart attack.

Blonien's longtime friend and former colleague Allan Zaremberg, the current president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, said Blonien's sons attended the Catholic school in Carmichael.

Zaremberg, who posted an announcement of the scholarship on his personal Facebook page, said Blonien's family mentioned the idea at a memorial service last week.

"It will be a legacy that lives well beyond him," he said.

March 20, 2012
Democrat Ami Bera says Obama hasn't done enough on economy

Congressional candidate Ami Bera is once again distancing himself from the country's top Democrat as he heads into the first of what could be two election battles with Republican Rep. Dan Lungren.

The Elk Grove Democrat, who is challenging Lungren in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District, was critical of President Barack Obama's record on improving the economic climate in an interview with News 10 this week.

"I don't think the president did enough in his first years in office," Bera said, noting Sacramento County's roughly 11 percent unemployment rate.

Bera, who called job creation "jobs one, two and three," said he believes officials need to look at both cutting regulations to help small businesses and approving shovel-ready projects, such as work on California's roads and levees, to put people back to work.

Bera tried to distance himself from Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2010 campaign, too, without success.

At one point he declared that "If I thought the Democrats were doing the right job in this country with moving forward, I wouldn't be running," and later said he would have been "reluctant" to vote for the health care law Obama and Pelosi championed

Still, two weeks before the 2010 election, a conservative group with ties to GOP strategist Karl Rove, aired a campaign ad asserting that Bera didn't think the overhaul of the nation's health care system went far enough.

"I've been consistent. I think the Affodable Care Act, the health care reform by President Obama misses the point," Bera said in the News 10 interview. "We've got to address the cost of health care. Far too many families, far too many business owners are paying more and more every year and we're getting less and less."

He said Obama's failure to take on the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to lower the cost of health care is "one of the biggest disappointments" of the overhaul.

March 20, 2012
AM Alert: How to raise $10 billion for California state government

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Dan's video report today laments HBO's cancellation of 'Luck,' a move that leaves its legislative plot hanging.

On a day with plenty of committee hearings on tap, the most lucrative for state budget purposes is probably one scheduled for Assembly Budget Committee #4 on State Administration.

The committee will look at ways to close the state's "tax gap" - the difference between how much taxpayers owe and how much they really pay.

The number has been estimated at more than $10 billion a year.

Lawmakers will consider adding positions to step up enforcement at 1:30 p.m. in room 447 at the Capitol.

They will also look at adding 28 jobs to collect sales and use taxes under AB 155, the deal the Legislature made with Amazon.com last year.

You'll remember that California agreed to delay collecting those online taxes until September, while Amazon sought to convince Congress to take a national approach. Capitol Alert hasn't heard that congressional action is coming anytime soon.

Find the committee agenda here.

TERMLIMITS: Voters in June will decide whether to change California's term limits law to cut the number of years legislators can serve from 14 years to 12, while allowing 12 years' service in one house.

Supporters say the change will prevent job-hopping by lawmakers now limited to three terms in the state Assembly and two in the state Senate. Opponents say it will mean those elected stay in office longer than they do now.

Elections committees for the Assembly and Senate will conduct a joint hearing on the measure at 1:30 p.m. today in room 3191 at the Capitol.

Among those testifying: Trudy Schafer of the California League of Women Voters, Phillip Ung of California Common Cause, and Jon Fleischman of Californians for Term Limits.

CITIZENS UNITED: The Assembly Judiciary Committee considers a resolution that calls for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling let corporations and labor unions spend unlimited amounts in election efforts independent of candidates' campaigns.

Supporters predict the resolution will sail out of the Democratic-controlled Capitol. The hearing is at 10 a.m. in room 4202.


March 20, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: HBO's 'Luck' leaves legislative plot hanging

VIDEO: Dan Walters is disappointed that HBO cancelled "Luck."


See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 19, 2012
Senate Oks David Baldwin as head of California National Guard

Baldwin.jpgThe Senate confirmed today Gov. Jerry Brown's pick to lead the state Military Department.

Major General David S. Baldwin, who was appointed acting adjutant general by the Democratic governor last April, was approved by a unanimous vote of 35-0 during Monday's floor session. Baldwin's duties include leading the troubled California National Guard. A Bee investigation has detailed financial and management problems within the Guard, including evidence of "double dipping" and fraudulent bonuses and student loan repayments.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg acknowledged that the appointment had been controversial, in part due to the department's history, but said Baldwin "has committed to address the years of wrongdoing and try to change the culture within the department." He said after discussions and a lengthy Senate Rules Committee confirmation hearing, he is "hopeful and confident" that Baldwin is "up to the job."

March 19, 2012
California chief justice appeals to lawmakers for court funding

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye called on state lawmakers this afternoon to improve funding for the state court system, warning courtroom closures and other impacts imperil justice.

After four years of budget reductions, she said, the judiciary now has "Closed" signs on courtrooms and clerks offices in 24 counties around the state...Sadly, courts are considering more layoffs."

Cantil-Sakauye has in recent months campaigned publicly against a proposal to weaken the state Judicial Council, which she controls, shifting more authority for local spending decisions to trial courts. The bill was passed by the Assembly but is stalled in the Senate.

In her address, Cantil-Sakauye characterized her first year in office as "bringing a fresh approach to the governance of the judicial branch."

She said she has opened meetings to the public and is meeting with local judges, while also reviewing the judiciary's bureaucracy.

"If I can point to an overall characterization of my first year it is bringing a fresh approach to the governance of the judicial branch," she said. "That has meant different leadership, more transparency and greater accountability, and significantly more collaboration within the branch, with justice system partners, and with you."

Cantil-Sakauye had planned to give a State of the Judiciary speech last year - her first - but canceled because of ongoing budget negotiations at the Capitol.

March 19, 2012
Assembly applauds walkers pushing to change immigration law

20120319_HA_dreamers0588AA.jpgFive undocumented immigrants received a standing ovation on the floor of the Assembly today for their campaign to prod changes in federal immigration law.

The immigrants are walking from San Francisco to Washington D.C. to lobby for passage of the federal Dream Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for many longtime residents who immigrated illegally as children and later graduated from U.S. high schools.

No lawmakers protested recognition of the undocumented immigrants on the floor of the Assembly. Almost all Democrats stood to applaud, but many Republicans stayed in their seats.

"These are young people exemplifying true leadership and commitment to civic engagement," said Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat who chairs the Latino Legislative Caucus, in introducing participants in the nearly 3,000-mile cross country walk.

The five undocumented walkers are Alex Aldana of Southern California, Lucas Da Silva of Orlando, Fla., Jose Gonzalez of San Diego, Nicolas Gonzalez of Chicago and Jonatan Martinez of Georgia. They are joined by a sixth-walker, Raymi Gutierrez, a U.S.-born citizen from an immigrant family.

The walkers are traveling about 16 to 19 miles per day, six days a week. They plan to reach the nation's capital on Nov. 2, shortly before ballots are cast in the U.S. presidential election.

Martinez, 25, said the walkers' goal is to show that undocumented immigrants like themselves are an asset to the U.S. and can be productive, contributing taxpayers if given the opportunity.

Martinez was brought to the U.S. from Mexico City on a visitor's visa when he was 4. He recently graduated from college but federal law bars employers from hiring him because of his immigration status, he said.

"As much as I love America, I'm not able to give back because of the fact that I'm undocumented," Martinez said.

Photo caption: Five undocumented immigrants, who are on a nearly 3,000 mile walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., appeared in front of the state Assembly on Monday. They are marching in support of the federal Dream Act. Photo by Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

March 19, 2012
Molly Munger hits TV airwaves with pitch for income tax hike

Civil rights attorney Molly Munger's campaign to pass a broad-based income tax to bolster California education is taking to the television airwaves with a 30-second ad in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Campaign manager Addisu Demissie said the ad stresses how the proposed ballot measure could benefit schools and communities.

The 30-second ad also demonstrates the campaign's commitment to qualify the measure for the November ballot, despite a rival tax measure presented as a compromise between proposals by Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers.

"We're moving ahead, let's put it that way," Demissie said. "It's always been about what's best for schools."

Munger's campaign, called "Our Children, Our Future," is pushing a broad-based income tax hike designed to raise $10 billion to $11 billion annually for 12 years. All the money would go directly to schools, except in the first four years, when about $3 billion would go to reduce the state deficit.

The new TV spot invites viewers to use an online calculator on the campaign's website -- www.ourchildrenourfuture2012.com -- to determine how their neighborhood school or district would benefit from Munger's initiative.

Demissie declined to comment on how long the 30-second spot will run or how much was spent on it. He said the ad, already posted on You Tube, will begin running on TV stations today or tomorrow.

* Updated at 3:20 p.m. to add information about the online calculator on the initiative campaign's website.

March 19, 2012
Jerry Brown tax compromise measure cleared for circulation

Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers have started gathering signatures to qualify their compromise tax proposal for the November ballot.

The Democratic governor and CFT announced last week that they had reached an agreement to work together to try to qualify a measure that combines parts of their rival tax proposals. CFT had been working with the Courage Campaign to qualify a special tax increase on millionaires.

The state attorney general's office released a title and summary for the new measure, on Friday, two days after the groups filed language agreed upon last week. Brown adviser Steve Glazer said supporters hit the streets with petitions on Sunday.

March 19, 2012
Budget analyst leery about Jerry Brown's in-home care cutbacks

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) has been one of the state's fastest growing programs during the last decade, and both Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have tried to rein in costs, only to collide with political and legal roadblocks.

The multi-billion-dollar program is financed by federal, state and local governments and serves hundreds of thousands of the elderly and disabled with only slightly fewer caregivers. The latter are technically local government employees and are represented, in the main, by the aggressive Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The union has fought reductions in the Legislature, in the courts, in Washington and in the streets with demonstrations, picket lines and other tools.

Brown is trying to reduce IHSS costs again in his 2012-13 budget, proposing a series of eligibility and direct cost changes that would, he says, cut spending by 5 percent to $5.3 billion, of which $1.2 billion would come from the state's general fund budget. If implemented, his budget says, the number of recipients would drop 2.5 percent to an average of 422,993.

The proposals include a 20 percent across-the-board reduction in the hours of caregivers, even though a federal judge has already blocked that approach. Brown also wants to move IHSS into managed-care and eliminate IHSS benefits for recipients who reside with their families or other persons.

However, the Legislature's budget analyst, Mac Taylor, is leery of the administration proposals and is suggesting other ways of saving money in a new report.

"We find that the governor's proposal for budget-year savings - the elimination of domestic and related care services for most IHSS recipients who live with other people - raises significant policy and legal concerns," Taylor told the Legislature Monday. "We therefore offer the Legislature two savings alternatives--the extension of the 3.6 percent across-the-board reduction in hours and the reenactment of the reduction in state participation in provider wages - to achieve some general fund savings in the budget year. We think that our alternatives pose less legal risks and implementation challenges than the governor's proposal to achieve budget-year savings."

March 19, 2012
California's Fred Karger has best showing yet in Puerto Rico

bp fred karger.JPGCalifornian Fred Karger scored the best performance of his Republican presidential campaign Saturday, winning about 1,700 votes in Puerto Rico's primary.

Karger's share of the vote -- about 1.4 percent -- landed him in fifth place in the U.S. territory, which delivered a landslide win to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

But underdog Karger, the only openly gay candidate in the GOP race, saw much to celebrate in results. In addition to topping his previous finishes for percentage of votes won, he finished ahead of Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

"I had no idea the outpouring of support," Karger said in an interview Monday, calling the results "incredibly gratifying."

Karger attributed his performance in Puerto Rico to the time spent on the ground in the week ahead of Saturday's votes, meeting with LGBT leaders, voters and members of the media, and and a Spanish-language commercial aired by his campaign. Puerto Rico's open primary, which allowed Democrats and Independents to cast ballots in the Republican race, also gave the pro gay marriage, pro-choice candidate a boost.

"The hard work, the media, the contacts and time spent here paid off," Karger, a political consultant who was a major player in the campaign against California's Proposition 8, said.

March 19, 2012
AM Alert: All hail the chief (justice of California)

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is delivering her first State of the Judiciary address this afternoon before a joint session of the California Legislature.

Watch today's Dan Walters Daily to learn why her talk promises to attract more attention than those of her predecessors. Think rebel judges and the computer case management system whose expansion an Assembly panel voted to block last week.

Cantil-Sakauye will address lawmakers in Assembly chambers starting at 4 p.m. The California Channel will broadcast the event and also stream it live on its website. If you'd rather watch it on TV, click here to search a list of cable stations that carry the channel.

Both houses are convening today as well, with the Assembly meeting at noon and the Senate at 2 p.m. Committee hearings will work around the sessions and Cantil-Sakauye's address, with the Business, Environmental Quality and Appropriations committees meeting on the Senate side, and the Transportation and Utilities committees meeting on the Assembly side.

One measure of note, Senate Bill 984, would streamline preparation of CEQA records. The Senate Environmental Quality Committee will hear Sen. Joe Simitian's urgency measure and other bills in the Capitol's Room 112 starting at 1:30 p.m.

Click here to read the Senate's complete daily file, and click here for the Assembly's.

Speaking of the Legislature, even political junkies can have a hard time figuring out where the lines are on the newly drawn legislative and congressional districts in California. Search for addresses and ZIP codes on The Bee's interactive maps at this link.

March 19, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Here comes the chief justice

VIDEO: Dan Walters previews today's State of the Judiciary speech.


See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Read Dan Walters' columns here.

March 16, 2012
Budget analyst: Tax revenue less than Jerry Brown projects

Two days after Gov. Jerry Brown announced a compromise ballot measure to raise taxes, California's top budget analyst said today that the measure will generate $2.2 billion less next year than Brown has estimated.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimated in its review of the measure that the tax increase would generate $6.8 billion in fiscal 2012-13. Brown had estimated raising some $9 billion.

The tax initiative, a compromise Wednesday between the Democratic governor and the California Federation of Teachers, would increase the state sales tax less than Brown originally proposed, but include a larger tax increase on California's highest earners. The state Department of Finance has estimated that the revised plan would raise about $2 billion more through June 2013 than Brown's initial plan.

The LAO's analysis is in line with its review of Brown's first tax plan, in which it also estimated lower revenues than Brown did. Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer attributed the difference to the agencies' different revenue forecasts, with the administration anticipating higher revenue from capital gains.

March 16, 2012
Woman ordered to pay rapist backs change in California law

Crystal Harris was ordered by a judge to pay her rapist. Now the San Diego County woman is fighting to pass legislation in California to ensure that never happens to anyone else.

"You wouldn't have to pay your abuser, basically," said Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who has taken up Harris' cause by crafting new legislation, Assembly Bill 1522.

"This seems like something that would be a no-brainer," said Atkins, D-San Diego.

Crystal Harris' problem stems from the fact that her rapist was her husband, Shawn Michael Harris, who attacked and forced her to commit a sex act during an argument in their Carlsbad home in March 2008, records show.

Shawn Harris was convicted of the rape and sentenced to six years in prison, but separately, Crystal said that he was awarded $1,000-a-month in spousal support and a judge ordered her to pay his $47,000 in family court legal fees.

Crystal Harris, now 39, said she earned a six-figure salary as a financial adviser. Shawn had been a "stay-at-home" father for five years. The couple had two children, at the time ages 5 and 7.

"I wanted to break down," she said of the judge's payment order. "I left the courtroom crying. I was incredulous about it. I couldn't believe it happened to me. I thought I'd find justice in the courts."

Crystal Harris said she paid the $1,000-a-month spousal support for about four months before her husband was imprisoned, after which a judge halted the payments -- at least temporarily -- because his financial need had changed. She continues to make monthly payments on his legal fees, she said.

Shawn Harris currently is incarcerated at a medium-security prison in Norco. Records show a trail of threats, arguments and altercations involving the couple during their 12-year marriage, which Crystal Harris said ended after the rape.

Atkins' AB 1522 would bar a spouse convicted of rape or other violent sexual felonies from collecting spousal support, attorney fees, insurance benefits or other payments from the victim.

State law currently carves out a similar exception to spousal payments only in cases of attempted murder or solicitation for murder.

Crystal Harris said that AB 1522 is meant to benefit other spousal rape victims. It could benefit her only if Shawn Harris seeks a court order restoring spousal support once he leaves prison, she said.

AB 1522 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Opposition to the bill has not yet surfaced, Atkins said.

* Updated at 2:30 p.m. to add quote from Crystal Harris.

March 16, 2012
California student leaders criticize Jerry Brown in open letter

Frustrated by tuition increases and ongoing spending cuts, California college student leaders criticized Gov. Jerry Brown in an open letter Thursday and complained he hasn't met with them.

"When you were elected in 2010," the students wrote the Democratic governor, "many students hoped that your election would usher in a new era for public higher education in California and reverse the approach taken by your predecessor.

"Thus far, things have not improved, and in fact, in many ways they have worsened."

In their letter, presidents of the University of California Student Association, California State Student Association and Student Senate for California Community Colleges complained Brown hasn't invited them to participate in meetings with college administrators.

Read the letter below.

Press Release Open Letter to Brown 3.15

March 16, 2012
Steinberg touts poll showing Galgiani lead in Stockton Senate seat

BB BUDGET VOTE 0449.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is looking to shore up donor support for Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani's bid for Senate, circulating an internal poll showing the Livingston Democrat holding a double-digit lead in the contested 5th Senate District.

The race between Galgiani, Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill and San Joaquin Supervisor Leroy Ornella, also a Republican, is expected to be one of the year's top state legislative contests. A slight voter registration edge for Democrats in the San Joaquin County district makes it one of three seats Senate Democrats are targeting as they try to get to the two-thirds mark in the upper house.

The polling memo, which was sent to members of the capital's lobbying community by Steinberg's political director, shows Galgiani leading both Republican rivals, with a strong edge among decline-to-state voters.

Pollster Paul Goodwin called the findings of the telephone survey "quite encouraging" for Galgiani in the memo.

"She is almost certain to finish first or second in the June primary, and has a wide lead over her Republican opponents looking ahead to November," the memo reads.

Berryhill's political consultant dismissed the results, saying other polls have painted a much different, closer picture of the race. Republicans say their efforts in the district have caused Democrats' roughly four-point registration edge to drop to about 2 percentage points, with numbers they say have historically resulted in GOP wins.

"If Steinberg's so panicked that he's walking false polls around, you know that Bill Berryhill is going to beat Galgiani," Berryhill consultant Duane Dichiara said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, casts her vote on the budget cuts portion of the Democratic budget plan during the Assembly floor session, Tuesday Dec. 16, 2008.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:05 p.m. to correct the town of Galgiani's residence. She is from Livingston, not Livermore.

March 16, 2012
AM Alert: Capitol insiders dissect upcoming California elections

VIDEO: Today's Dan Walters Daily takes on legislative Democrats' friction over California's state budget. Watch it at this link.

So, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro walks into a room with two Democrats, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and former Senate leader Don Perata.

No, it's not the setup for a joke. The three are among the speakers at the Leadership California Institute conference today in Sacramento highlighting election issues this year, including the mood of California voters, the possible effects of the new top-two primary system and the legislative races to watch between now and November.

Núñez is giving the luncheon keynote address, while Del Beccaro and Perata are among the panelists analyzing the ballot measures up this year. Click here to see the lineup. You'll find an event flyer at this link. It's not cheap -- it costs $500 a ticket -- but at least attendees get a resource guide book from Sacramento-based Redistricting Partners.

First, it was December, then January. Then February turned into March. And now the preliminary hearing in the federal fraud case against former Democratic treasurer Kinde Durkee -- rescheduled for today -- has been put off once again. The new date and time is March 30 at 2 p.m. Capitol Alert will not be holding its breath.

SERVICES: A funeral Mass will be said for lobbyist Rod Blonien at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, 1017 11th St., in Sacramento, followed by a reception at 1130 K St., Suite 101. Blonien died earlier this week at 65, as Dan Walters reported in this post.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Capitol denizens have two birthdays to celebrate on Sunday, when Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, turns 54, and Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, turns 47. Congrats to both.

March 16, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Budget fight lies ahead

Today Dan Walters talks about friction within the Democratic ranks over the state budget.

March 15, 2012
FPPC holds off on posting disclosure forms for California judges

California judges seeking to keep their financial disclosure forms off the Internet scored a temporary victory Thursday.

After a lengthy discussion that included testimony from judges opposing the posting and government watchdog groups, the Fair Political Practices Commission decided to continue to hold off on posting the forms while staff drafts guidelines for redacting information that could present a security threat. Those guidelines are expected to come up at the May meeting.

The California Judges Association is fighting implementation of a 2010 regulation requiring that the forms filed by certain elected officials, including the governor, legislators and county supervisors, are posted online. While the forms of other officeholders are already online, the posting of disclosures by judicial officers had been delayed due to concerns expressed by the judges.

The association argues that online posting of the Form 700s could put the judiciary and their families in jeopardy if some information included in the disclosures, such as a spouse's place of business or a property rented by a child, could be accessed with a click of a mouse. The group rejected a proposal by the Administrative Office of the Courts to allow judicial officers subject to the disclosure rules to submit a second copy of their form that omits information for online posting.

CJA President David Rubin, a San Diego judge, told commissioners that the association feels that keeping the forms offline, where they are still available as public records, strikes the right balance between "the public right to know and the security of judicial officers and their families."

Rubin and other judges appearing in front of the commission said limiting access to paper filings would ensure a "cooling-off" period and other safeguards to prevent disgruntled litigants or their family members from using information from the forms to seek vengeance.

"My address or the address of our spouses at work or at home or our kids addresses can get us killed," said Sacramento Judge Ben Davidian, a former FPPC chair. "And that's not just a joke and its not said lightly. It's true."

But Commissioner Ronald Rotunda questioned why a change to the current practices, which allow redaction of sensitive information such as home addresses, phone numbers and signatures in online postings, is needed. Given the current redaction policies, he said a change in regulation would only make access to financial disclosures contained in the form, such as stockholdings and other business interests, more difficult.

"It looks like this is more of a situation where the judges don't want the voters to know how rich they are... because it's the financial information that is going to be disclosed," he said.

RELATED POST:
California judges fight online posting of their financial statements

March 15, 2012
Molly Munger gives tax initiative campaign $1.5 million more

One day after Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers announced an agreement to combine forces behind one tax hike proposal, civil rights attorney Molly Munger has dropped another $1.5 million into the campaign to qualify her own rival tax plan for the November ballot.

Munger has now contributed $3.4 million of her own money to her measure, which would raise an estimated $10 billion for schools and early childhood development programs by increasing personal income rates on a sliding scale for Californians making more than $7,316.

Brown's supporters have sought to persuade Munger to drop her effort, arguing that the presence of multiple tax measures on the November ballot increases the chances that voters will reject them all. That argument was central to the agreement between Brown and CFT, which had been circulating petitions for a tax hike on millionaires.

The campaign for Munger's measure, which is collecting voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, showed no sign of backing down after Wednesday's deal, saying in a statement that backers "don't anticipate that it will change our plans."

The new version of Brown's initiative, which was filed with the state attorney general on Wednesday, includes a greater tax hike on Californians making more than $500,000 than the Democratic governor had originally proposed. Those making more than $250,000 will still see an increase under the plan. The tax increases would be in effect for seven years. It also lowers a proposed four-year increase in the state sales tax from a half percent to a quarter percent. The Bee's Kevin Yamamura has more details in this story.

March 15, 2012
Ken Cooley is sole Democrat left in 8th District Assembly race

Larry Miles and Chris Parker have decided not to run in the 8th Assembly District, leaving Rancho Cordova Councilman Ken Cooley as the lone Democrat standing in the race for the newly drawn Sacramento County seat.

Cooley will be opposed by four Republicans, elections officials said. They include businesswoman Barbara Ortega, railroad engineer Phillip A. Tufi, technology company president John Flynn and Peter Tateishi, who is chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren.

One minor party candidate also has filed for the race, Libertarian Janice Bonser, a businesswoman.

Democrats hold a two percentage point edge over Republicans -- 40 percent to 38 percent -- in the district, which stretches from Citrus Heights south to the Wilton area.

Parker's and Miles' decisions not to compete for the seat leaves Cooley as his party's flag bearer.

Parker, an attorney with the Franchise Tax Board, ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Equalization in 2010.

Miles, an attorney, is a school board member for the San Juan Unified School District who lost to Richard Pan in the 2010 Democratic primary for the 5th Assembly District. The state later redrew legislative district boundaries.

Miles said he concluded that he could not generate enough support to win the Assembly seat. One consideration, but not the only one, was that he felt Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez was inclined to support Cooley, who is a "marvelous city councilman" and a good Assembly candidate, Miles said.

March 15, 2012
Tim Donnelly seeks plea deal in airport gun case

donnelly.jpg
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is seeking a plea deal on misdemeanor charges stemming from the discovery of a loaded firearm in his hand-carry luggage by screeners at Ontario International Airport.

"Tim has taken responsibility for it, so this isn't like we're going to have a trial or anything, to be candid with you," said Rod Pacheco, a former legislator and Riverside County district attorney who is Donnelly's attorney.

The Twin Peaks Republican, through Pacheco, pleaded not guilty to the charges at arraignment Feb. 24.

Pacheco said he met with prosecutors today, and has talked with them in the past, to explain threats made against Donnelly and other mitigating circumstances that should be considered in resolving the case.

"The justice system needs to mete out justice in a fair manner, taking into consideration various circumstances," Pacheco said, declining to comment on what he felt would be a fair disposition.

The case of a committed public servant bringing a gun to an airport by mistake is quite different than that of a gang member trying to sneak a weapon through airport security, Pacheco said.

Officials from the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office declined comment today.

March 15, 2012
AM Alert: Will sun shine bright on California judges' finances?

To post or not to post? California's watchdog agency is discussing whether to let judges keep their annual financial disclosure statements off the Internet.

The Fair Political Practices Commission already posts statements of economic interest for legislators, the governor and other constitutional officers. But the California Judges Association wants the judges' Form 700s to remain offline public records, as The Bee's Torey Van Oot reported last week.

Staff members, meanwhile, have "agreed to allow judges to submit a second version of their respective statements omitting sensitive information as a supplement to their original statements," the commission's general counsel and commission counsel told FPPC head Ann Ravel in a memo last month.

The FPPC will consider the matter at its meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. at 428 J St., Suite 800, in Sacramento. Click here for the agenda, and scroll down to Discussion Item 44 to find links to a staff memo and other documents.

Online gambling, meanwhile, gets all-day attention at a conference at the Crest Theatre conducted by Capitol Weekly and the University of California. Four panels will look in turn at financial impacts, sovereignty, technology and the politics. Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, gives the lunch keynote address. Listed sponsors include the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the California Tribal Business Alliance.

Today's Dan Walters Daily explores Gov. Jerry Brown "paddling on the left" to compromise with the California Federation of Teachers on a tax ballot measure.

Under the dome, both the Assembly and the Senate convene at 9 a.m., with four budget panels meeting in the upper house at 9:30 a.m. or after the session adjourns.

The education subcommittee looks at Brown's proposals on the University of California and California State University systems, as well as Hastings College of the Law. You'll find that hearing in the Capitol's Room 3191. The health and human services panel, in Room 4203, considers CalFresh, In-Home Supportive Services, CalWORKs and related programs and departments. Another subcommittee has the California Department of Veterans Affairs, the Military Department and the state Emergency Management Agency on its agenda in Room 112. And in Room 113, the Office of the Inspector General and female offenders under the purview of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation both get a look.

For more information about other hearings, click here for the Senate's daily file, and click here for the Assembly's.

PRESSER: Legislative Republicans unveil Assembly Bill 1506 to repeal a new rural fire fee, whose legality they question and which they call a tax. Listed participants include Assembly members Kevin Jeffries, Paul Cook, Jim Nielsen and Kristin Olsen as well as Sen. Doug LaMalfa and Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The events starts at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 127.

ELECTION 2012: Democrat Ami Bera, who's challenging GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, will join Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento and others at Obama for America's watch party from 4 to 7 p.m. in its Sacramento headquarters at 6760 Folsom Blvd. for the premiere of Davis Guggenheim's documentary "The Road We've Traveled," a retrospective of the 2008 election and President Barack Obama's time in office. Lungren, meanwhile, is holding another in a series of town halls tonight at Rancho Cordova City Hall, 2729 Prospect Park Drive, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

CALLING ALL CANDIDATES: The Sacramento Bee is again publishing its Voter Guide for online and print. The online version will allow readers to enter their home address and see a "ballot" of candidates and initiatives just for their location. If you're running for office in the June primary in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado or Yolo counties, you're invited to create a profile on our Voter Guide. If you haven't received an invitation from us through email, please contact Pete Basofin at pbasofin@sacbee.com.

March 15, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown paddles on the left

Dan Walters discusses the new tax deal between the California Federation of Teachers and Gov. Jerry Brown.

March 14, 2012
Assembly panel blocks expansion of court computer system

An Assembly budget subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday to block expansion of a statewide court case management system that has become the focal point of a months-long political war between the state's judicial leadership and some rebel judges.

The latter -- backed by the politically powerful Service Employees International Union -- have complained that millions of dollars are being wasted on the computer system while local courts are being compelled to curtail their operations and lay off employees as state financing of courts is reduced.

The budget subcommittee's action bolsters the Assembly's position in a conflict with the state Senate over court management. The Assembly has passed legislation, Assembly Bill 1208, that the rebel Alliance of California Judges sponsored to give local judges more power over distribution of operational funds.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who chairs the state Judicial Council and heads the Administrative Office of the Courts, has publicly complained that the legislation violates judicial independence, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has declared that the bill will be held in his house without a vote.

Steinberg, however, is under pressure from the SEIU, which represents court employees facing layoffs and is a major source of campaign money for Democrats. Wednesday's action makes the computer system financing a potential bargaining chip in the inter-Capitol maneuvering over the legislation.

The subcommittee's action came after the Legislature's budget analyst and the state auditor delivered reports that strengthened the critics' positions.

So far, legislators were told, the Administrative Office of the Courts has spent $556.5 million on the system but it's been deployed in only a few counties. Even so, Auditor Elaine Howle pointed out, the AOC certified that the system is complete, thereby triggering a limited warranty period from the contractor that could leave the state holding the financial bag if problems crop up later.

Judges themselves are divided over the efficacy of the system, some professing that it lightens their workloads, while others saying it is unusable. In recent weeks, the chief justice and her allies have backed off their previous intent to install it in every county and indicated that they'd give local judges more leeway.

March 14, 2012
Senate leader Steinberg 'happy and relieved' over ballot deal

darrell_steinberg_3_14_2012.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg celebrated a deal Wednesday between Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers to place a compromise tax initiative on the November ballot.

"We were headed for a real collision course," said Steinberg, meeting with reporters in his office. "If this were a game, this would all be pretty interesting, the machinations. But this is not a game."

The new deal, which Brown is expected to announce shortly, would raise the statewide sales tax by a quarter-cent rather than half-cent per every dollar of purchase. It would retain the governor's three higher tax brackets starting at one percentage point more for single filers making at least $250,000.

But under the new deal, the last two tax brackets would increase at a steeper pace. Single earners would pay two percentage points more on income between $300,000 and $500,000 (income amounts doubled for joint filers), whereas the governor originally proposed a 1.5 percentage point increase.

Singles earning at least $500,000 and couples earning at least $1 million would see their top bracket increase by 3 percentage points rather than the two percentage points Brown originally wanted.

The income tax hike on the rich would also last longer than Brown's proposal, going for seven years instead of five, starting retroactively on Jan. 1, 2012. The sales tax hike would still start Jan. 1, 2013 and expire at the end of 2016.

Steinberg estimated that the new plan would generate about $2 billion more through June 2013, or nearly $9 billion total. But those figures are based on more optimistic Department of Finance projections. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office believes Finance's forecast is too rosy when it comes to wealthy earners whose tax rates would be higher under the new compromise.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, March 14, 2012. Photo taken by Kevin Yamamura.

March 14, 2012
California gets 'D minus' in government spending transparency

Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to shut down a state-run "transparency" website has caused California to slip in an annual ranking based on access to government spending data.

California, one of eight states to receive the ranking's second-lowest grade of "D minus," saw its score drop 13 points from last year, according to the California Public Interest Research Group's third annual report on government spending transparency.

The report cites that the shutdown of the "Reporting Transparency in Government" website is a major force behind the change, saying the move left "state spending information scattered across multiple agencies' websites." Brown's administration replaced the site, which was launched by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, with links to other state websites where the same information could be found last year, along with a note saying the Democratic governor "is committed to keeping state government open and transparent while eliminating inefficiencies and unnecessary costs."

"As home to the tech industry, it's disappointing and embarrassing that California is not only lagging behind, but actively moving in the wrong direction when it comes to keeping pace with current online transparency standards," CALPIRG Legislative Director Pedro Morillas said in a statement.

Brown spokesman Evan Westrup defended the move, saying the website "was poorly maintained, underutilized and had not been regularly updated by the previous administration."

"All information previously posted on the site continues to be available to the public," he wrote in an email. "We remain committed to transparency, while also working to eliminate redundancies, make government more efficient and save taxpayer dollars."

Not all groups give the state's online efforts such low marks. As The State Worker reported this week, the nonprofit Sunshine Review recently honored the state's ca.gov website with an award and an "A-" grade.

Click here to read the full report.

RELATED POSTS:
Jerry Brown shuts down government transparency website

Editor's note: This post was updated with a statement from Brown spokesman Evan Westrup.

March 14, 2012
Prominent California lobbyist Rod Blonien found dead at home

Rod Blonien, a Capitol fixture for years as Deukmejian administration official and later as a major lobbyist for gambling and horse racing interests, was found dead in his home Tuesday, the apparent victim of a heart attack. He was 65.

Angela Schiele, a long-time associate in Blonien's lobbying firm, said Blonien's son, Jarhett, found him in a chair at his home after he failed to come to his office near the Capitol. His wife, Noreen, was out of town on business at the time.

Blonien worked for former Gov. George Deukmejian at the Department of Justice and then segued into a prominent role in Deukmejian's gubernatorial administration before setting up his lobbying practice in 1987.

Survivors include not only his wife, but four children -- Ryan, Jessica, Molly and Jarhett -- and 11 grandchildren.

A rosary will be recited at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a funeral Mass at the cathedral at 10 a.m. Friday.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to correct Blonien's age. He was 65, not 55. Updated at 12:35 p.m. March 14, 2012.

March 14, 2012
Jerry Brown, teachers finalizing compromise tax initiative today

LS BROWN BUDGET.JPGAfter weeks of battling in public and negotiating behind the scenes, Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers have reached a compromise on a November tax initiative.

The deal would result in a smaller sales tax hike and larger tax increase on the wealthy than the Democratic governor wanted. CFT had been circulating an initiative with no sales tax hike and a two-step increase on earners starting at $1 million.

"This united effort makes victory more likely and will go a long way toward balancing our budget and protecting our schools, universities and public safety," Brown said in a prepared statement Wednesday afternoon.

The new deal would raise the statewide sales tax by a quarter-cent rather than half-cent per every dollar of purchase. It would retain the governor's three higher tax brackets starting at $250,000 for single filers. But the last marginal tax hike - at $500,000 for singles and $1 million for couples - would increase by 3 percentage points rather than Brown's original 2 percentage points.

The income tax hike on the rich would also last longer than Brown's proposal, going for seven years instead of five. The sales tax hike would still expire at the end of 2016.

"Our coalition welcomes the opportunity to join Governor Brown, Senate Pro-tem Steinberg, Speaker Pérez and their allies in crafting this win-win measure," Joshua Pechthalt, President of the California Federation of Teachers and a co-chair of the Millionaire Tax Campaign, said in a statement.

"Our values and principles are clearly reflected in this new initiative that now includes a 50% decrease in the sales tax rate, reduces the burden on working families and ensures a greater contribution from the 1%. These changes will generate $2 Billion in additional vital funding in the next fiscal year, and we are determined to ensure those funds benefit the communities that have been hit hardest by budget cuts and our cash-strapped higher education institutions."

Cutting a deal so late in the signature-gathering season ramps up the pressure on proponents, as well as the costs. The new initiative would be filed in the next couple of days, sources said. The LAO has 45 days to return an analysis to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who then must write ballot language for petitions.

If the initiative gets fast-tracked, it would land on the streets in early April under the most optimistic timetable. Proponents think they may have four to five weeks to collect a million-plus signatures, a compressed period that would raise the cost per signature.

March 14, 2012
Teach a high school class, date a student -- lose your pension?

Teacher Student Romance.JPE.JPGAngered by a 41-year-old Modesto teacher who moved in with an 18-year-old student, a California lawmaker is crafting legislation that would strip teachers of their retirement benefits in such cases.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen called it appalling that current law provides no consequences for a love relationship between a teacher and high school student, if both are adults.

"My point is, whether you're 18, 17 or 14, the fact remains that a teacher is in a position of authority and influence over that student, and therefore, it is highly inappropriate," said Olsen, R-Modesto.

Olsen's legislation was sparked by news last month that Enochs High School teacher James Hooker had resigned his job and moved in with an 18-year-old student, Jordan Powers, who is now taking classes through independent study.

Hooker and Powers have denied dating when the student was a minor, but police are investigating that possibility.

Olsen's bill, to be introduced as Assembly Bill 1861, would strip a teacher of pension and retiree benefits for having an inappropriate relationship with a student at the same school. The bill may be unveiled early next week, she said.

March 14, 2012
AM Alert: SEIU targets costly court computer system

The battle has been going on for months, as those who work in California's trial courts fight back against budget cuts and criticize - often anonymously - the leadership of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

Many of the court employees just happened to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, so they have some clout on their side.

Which may explain why there's a press conference today before Joint Budget Subcommittees On State Administration And Public Safety hold a hearing on the court computer system.

Dan Walters sums up the court fight in his new daily video report.

The SEIU wants the plug pulled on the system, which is intended to connect courts in all 58 counties, but by all accounts is over budget and getting more so.

Workers will make themselves available to the media before the 1:30 p.m. hearing in Room 437 at the Capitol.

Gov. Jerry Brown normally flies on Southwest Airlines' Boeing 737 planes in California, but he's heading to Long Beach today to check out the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. He will tour the plane, give a speech and meet with Boeing engineers.

Attention Candidates: The Sacramento Bee is again publishing a Voter Guide for online and print. The online version will allow readers to enter their home address and see a "ballot" of candidates and initiatives just for their location.

If you're running for office in the June Primary in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado or Yolo Counties, you're invited to create a profile on our Voter Guide. If you haven't already received an invitation from us through email, please contact Pete Basofin at pbasofin@sacbee.com.

March 14, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Judicial restraint?

Dan Walters looks ahead to today's Assembly schedule and sees more squabbling among California's judges.

March 13, 2012
Republicans unveil bill package targeting misbehaving teachers

Sparked by the case of a Los Angeles elementary school teacher accused of lewd conduct, Assembly and Senate Republicans unveiled a package of legislation today designed to hasten the removal of misbehaving teachers.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway and Senate Republican leader Bob Huff say the measures respond to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's request for changes in state law that make teacher removal less cumbersome and costly.

"While state policies must protect the many educators who are doing great work, they must not become obstacles that hinder the immediate termination of employees who engage in criminal behavior and harm children," Villaraigosa said in a letter last month to Republican and Democratic leaders.

March 13, 2012
New report finds low college attendance by California Latinos

While California's Latino population is growing, and is likely to become the state's largest ethnic group within a few years, only a tiny percentage of Latinos are seeking and receiving college educations, according to a new data compilation by the Campaign for College Opportunity.

The Los Angeles-based organization says in a new report that while 57 percent of Latino students graduated from high school in 2009 - markedly lower graduation rates than those for white or Asian American students - just 16 percent graduated with the course requirements for the state's four-year colleges, and just 8 percent enrolled in one of those colleges.

The bottom line, the organization says, is that just 7 percent of California's Latinos 25 years or older have baccalaureate degrees, while 30 percent of all Californians have at least bachelor's degrees.

Latino attendance at community colleges is higher. Of Latinos who pursue college educations, two-thirds go to community colleges, but just 20 percent earn certificates or associate degrees or transfer to four-year colleges.

Michele Siqueiros, the campaign's executive director, calls the data "cause for significant alarm" because with the overall Latino population continuing to expand, low Latino college attendance could affect the larger society, especially in jobs that require post-high school education.

"California cannot succeed if its Latino students do not succeed," she said in a statement accompanying release of the report. "At present, our education system, including the community colleges, do not serve Latino students well."

Editor's note: Comments on this story were closed due to hate speech.

March 13, 2012
What split? ... School groups stress unity on some key issues

At a time when California education groups are split on which tax measure to support in November, their leaders joined forces Tuesday to emphasize unity on bolstering school funding and avoiding deeper cuts.

"Families cannot see their children take any more losses," said Carol Kocivar of the California State PTA as districts statewide brace to send out thousands of pink slips before a Friday deadline.

Besides PTA, the Education Coalition news conference included officials of the California Teachers Association, California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators, and the California School Employees Association.

The groups announced consensus on a handful of budget-related school issues, including:

• Opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate most of schools' "categorical" funding - for specific programs such as class-size reduction or adult education - and to institute a "weighted formula" that could give districts more discretion over spending. The coalition said that launching such a major overhaul in a year of budget-cutting is wrong.

• Opposition to Brown's proposed "trigger cuts," involving billions in statewide programs and services that would be slashed if voters fail to pass a revenue-raising measure in November. The coalition estimated that trigger cuts would total $4.8 billion for schools.

• Support for some form of revenue enhancement for state education, though the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, and the PTA are split on which of three rival tax-increase measures to back for the November ballot.

• Support for the Legislature to conduct a "full policy hearing" on key proposals in Brown's budget that would result in major policy changes for K-12 education, including the weighted funding formula and elimination of state funding for transitional kindergarten.

• Support for "maintaining the integrity of Proposition 98." To cite one example, the coalition said it was "inappropriate and unconstitutional" to include $2.4 billion of debt service payments when calculating the Proposition 98 guarantee.

Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, said the massive number of pink slips being mailed out by school districts provides a stark warning about the urgency of funding.

"Right now, we have to budget for a worst-case scenario," he said.

March 13, 2012
Dan Lungren ramps up re-election efforts in Sacramento Co. seat

Rep. Dan Lungren is stepping up his re-election efforts this week, raising cash, recruiting volunteers and holding town hall meetings in his Sacramento County district.

The Gold River Republican faces a rematch with his 2010 challenger, Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District. A close voter registration split and high turnout in the presidential election are expected to make the race one of the most competitive congressional elections of the year.

Lungren, who has trailed his opponent in campaign cash both this election and in 2010, got some help from Republican leadership for a Monday fundraiser in Sacramento. House Speaker John Boehner flew into town for yesterday afternoon's reception at the California Chamber of Commerce's downtown office. A photo with the Ohio Republican set attendees back $5,000, according to a posting on Capitol Morning Report.

Lungren, meanwhile, took a shot at Democratic congressional leadership in a Monday email seeking money and volunteer commitments from supporters.

"Nancy Pelosi is already pouring money into the district, and every dollar helps," read a Lungren campaign email titled "The campaign begins today."

Pelosi, the Democratic leader, has identified flipping the seat as a top priority in her effort to win back control of the House. House Majority PAC, an independent campaign committee supporting House Democrats, has already been on the air with television ads opposing Lungren.

Lungren is also holding town hall meetings this week in Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova and Angels Camp. The first event is tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the Citrus Heights Community Center.

Lungren consultant Rob Stutzman said the campaign is "preparing for a huge battle" with this week's events.

"Pelosi has to beat Lungren to retake the Speaker's gavel," he wrote in an email. "We're not going to show up with padded gloves."

Friday was the deadline for candidates to file for the east Sacramento County seat, which stretches from Elk Grove to Citrus Heights. A full list of candidates was not immediately available, but Lungren and Bera, a doctor and former Associate Dean for Admissions at the UC Davis School of Medicine, will likely face off both in the June primary and the November general election under the state's new top-two primary system.

March 13, 2012
Michael Reagan to chair initiative drive for part-time Legislature

michaelreagan.jpgMichael Reagan, a talk-radio host and son of former President Ronald Reagan, will chair the initiative drive for a part-time Legislature.

Reagan and Assemblywoman Shannon Grove announced his decision to help spearhead the signature-gathering drive at a news conference today in Los Angeles.

Grove launched the campaign recently and has led it thus far. The Bakersfield Republican's $30,000 donation from her Assembly campaign coffers remains the largest single contribution to the effort, records show.

Money remains a significant obstacle to the campaign, apparently. Qualifying a ballot measure typically requires seven-figure sums, but the campaign for a part-time Legislature has reported collecting only about $174,000.

The Citizens Legislature signature-gathering drive must collect 807,615 valid voter signatures by July 2 to qualify for a statewide ballot.

The measure would reduce the legislative year from nine months to three, 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.

PHOTO CREDIT: Talk radio personality Michael Reagan greats fans in front of the stage of the Sacramento "tea party" in 2009. Manny Crisostomo / Sacramento Bee

* Updated at 12:12 p.m. after news conference was held..

March 13, 2012
AM Alert: Committees explore Postal Service closures; Announcing 'Dan Walters Daily'

Today Capitol Alert launches "Daily Dan Walters," a new video report on policy and politics in California.

Come back each weekday for a quick update from Bee columnist Dan Walters on topics occupying the Capitol crowd.

What will U.S. Postal Service closures mean for California elections?

Two committees with an interest in that subject - the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments and the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting - will hold a joint hearing today to explore the question.

Given the increase in vote-by-mail behavior, the committees want to know whether materials will reach voters in time - and whether those who wait until the last minute to return them could risk missing a chance to vote.

Those speaking will include U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine.

They will not, however, include a representative of the U.S. Postal Service - a committee spokeswoman said it declined an invitation to participate. Testimony begins at 2 p.m. in Room 2040 at the Capitol.

Garamendi and Bowen already have both warned that voters could be disenfranchised if 15 processing centers are closed after a ban on the closures expires May 15. That would be less than three weeks before the June primary election.

They want a six-month extension of the moratorium, postponing the closures until after the November general election.

LUNGREN TOWN HALLS: U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren is also on the West Coast, hosting town halls in Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova and Angels Camp this week.

Tonight's event is at 7 at the Citrus Heights Community Center, 6300 Fountain Square Drive. He'll be at Rancho Cordova City Hall on Thursday evening and at the Frogeteria Room at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Senate panels led by Sen. Joe Simitian and Sen. Alan Lowenthal will travel to Mountain View tonight for an informational hearing on high-speed rail.

Simitian says the session, 7 p.m. at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, will offer South Bay and Peninsula residents a "sneak peak" at changes in the high-speed rail business plan scheduled for release later this month.

Dan Richard, chair of the High-Speed Rail Authority Board, and Will Kempton, chair of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, are among the speakers.

If you're going, bring caffeine. While public participants will be limited to two minutes each, the press release says "Simitian will continue the hearing for as long as necessary to hear from anyone who wishes to speak."

March 13, 2012
'Dan Walters Daily' debuts

Today Capitol Alert launches "Dan Walters Daily," a new video report on policy and politics in California state government.

Come back each weekday morning for the longtime Bee columnist's quick update on topics occupying the Capitol crowd.

To submit a question for Dan, go here to "like" Capitol Alert on Facebook and leave your query on our wall.

Today, Dan describes Monday's tax talk at the Capitol.

March 12, 2012
Chamber takes no position on Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan; opposes rivals

The California Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition today to two of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax rivals but remained silent on the governor's own plan, tacitly giving his proposal a boost as he tries to thin the field.

The Chamber's board voted to oppose a tax on millionaires circulated by the California Federation of Teachers, as well as a progressive income tax hike on most earners backed by wealthy attorney Molly Munger. It did not take a vote on Brown's initiative, according to Chamber president and CEO Allan Zaremberg.

"I can just say we wanted to take up those things we felt were urgent to position on, and we're opposing these two tax measures along with a couple of other things members asked us to take a leadership role in," Zaremberg said.

Brown has asked industry groups to at least remain neutral on his plan to raise taxes on sales and high-income earners, and he has tried to portray his plan as unique for its lack of business opposition. But CFT has shown little indication of vacating its measure and donated another $1.15 million toward its signature-gathering drive this month, according to a statement filed today.

Zaremberg said the CFT and Munger proposals are different from Brown's because "they're permanent or virtually permanent ... so I don't think you can look at them the same way."

He added that the proposals would hurt job creation because some small business owners may have to pay higher rates. He also said the CFT plan in particular would drive taxpayers earning more than $2 million annually to either move out of state or change their behavior to avoid paying a top rate of 15.3 percent.

"These are very sophisticated people with very sophisticated tax advice," Zaremberg said. "When they have a 40 to 50 percent tax increase, they have experts advising them on whether they should move out of state or how to dispose of things in a sophisticated manner."

Zaremberg added, "It's one reason I think there will clearly be an opposition campaign."

Last week, the California Business Roundtable took an identical position on the three multibillion-dollar tax initiatives.

Within minutes of the Chamber's announcement, backers of the CFT's tax on millionaires appeared to delight in seeing business oppose their plan while staying neutral on the governor's. The "millionaires tax" campaign reposted a comment on Twitter from activist Raven Brooks: "About says it all."

Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to clarify that the chamber did not take a neutral position on Brown's measure, but rather decided to take no position. Updated 5:30 p.m., March 12, 2012.

March 12, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown 'promising wine and roses, but not in 2012'

If lawmakers won't make nearly $1 billion in cuts to California's welfare-to-work program, Gov. Jerry Brown said today, he'll find somewhere else to cut, promising a balanced budget.

"It's very simple. This is arithmetic, and it's really, I would call it seventh grade arithmetic," Brown said today, after an Assembly budget panel rejected his proposed CalWORKs cuts last month. "If you don't want to cut what I propose, find something else, and then show it. But we're going to have a balanced budget. That you can take to the bank."

The Democratic governor's remarks followed a speech to the California Police Chiefs Association in Sacramento. Brown, who is proposing tax increases and spending reductions to balance a budget deficit he estimates at $9.2 billion, said he is looking for more money for law enforcement, but he urged patience.

"You cops know what it is to deal with a tough neighborhood, OK?" Brown said. "I'm working in a tough neighborhood."

Brown told reporters that the spending plan he signs this year will "have its pain," but that the economy will improve in future years.

"I'm promising wine and roses," he said, "but not in 2012."

March 12, 2012
California workers' compensation costs rose slightly in 2011

California employers' costs of providing workers' compensation insurance rose slightly in 2011, but are scarcely half of what they were before then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature enacted a major overhaul of the system in 2004.

The data are contained in the annual report of the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, which was released Monday.

The average cost of workers' comp insurance rose from $2.32 per $100 of payroll in 2010 to $2.37 in 2011 as payouts to injured workers and their medical care providers also rose from $7.8 billion to $8.1 billion.

In 2003, coverage averaged $6.29 per $100 of payroll but after the reforms, which tightened eligibility for benefits, it dropped to as low as $2.16 in 2008 before beginning a slow rise. Payouts also dropped from $12.3 billion in 2002 to as low as $6.7 billion in 2005 before also beginning a slow rise.

The data are ammunition for the Capitol's never-ending war over workers' compensation costs and benefits. Since the 2004 overhaul, labor unions and attorneys who specialize in employee injury cases have pressed for rolling back some of its provisions - saying they have denied adequate benefits to disabled workers - but Schwarzenegger refused. His successor, Jerry Brown, has not yet addressed the issue.

March 12, 2012
California losing $10 billion a year in tax underpayment

The state is losing an estimated $10 billion a year in revenue due to the underground economy, non-filing of tax returns, overstatement of deductions and other forms of tax evasion, a new study by the Franchise Tax Board staff estimates.

That's nearly twice as much as what Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to realize from his tax increase ballot measure.

Scott Reid, the state tax agency's research director, told the board this month that the estimate, which is up from $6.5 billion seven years ago, is extrapolated from an extensive study by the federal Internal Revenue Service.

Reid gave the board one example of how the state's "tax gap" emerges: A taxpayer who donates to charity a slightly used suit of clothes that originally cost $300 and values it at $75 for a tax deduction, only to see the suit actually listed for sale at $10.

March 12, 2012
California revenues 3.2 percent shy in February

California revenues missed the mark in February by 3.2 percent, or $146.3 million, state Controller John Chiang said Monday.

Chiang, who manages the state's cash, said the shortfall was likely due to a spike in tax refunds going out earlier than expected in February. Income tax receipts were 5.7 percent, or $99.9 million, below the Department of Finance's projection.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers are anxiously awaiting tax receipts from March and April, two significant revenue months as taxpayers file their returns. The Democratic governor has proposed a budget to close a $9.2 billion deficit, but the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has suggested that Brown's estimates are overly optimistic and that the deficit is likely higher than that figure.

Though lawmakers have begun to review Brown's budget in committee, they do not plan to take significant steps on the plan until late spring, closer to the June 15 deadline. Democratic leaders have said they want to see what tax revenues will be like in March and April before deciding how much to cut and where.

The state has a cash deficit of $21.6 billion at the moment, which includes $15.2 billion of internal borrowing and $6.4 billion of borrowing from outside investors, Chiang reported. The cash deficit is different from the state's budget deficit. While some of it is due to the accumulation of budget gaps over the last few years, it is also the result of timing between when taxes are paid and programs are funded, as well as accounting methods that count revenues before they are actually received.

March 12, 2012
Jerry Brown's talk to police chiefs recalls earlier political dilemma

Gov. Jerry Brown's speech to California Police Chiefs Association today at Sacramento's Sheraton Hotel recalls one of the odder incidents in his first governorship 30-plus years ago.

Brown 1.0 also wanted to talk to the association one year to plug his anti-crime agenda but ran into a sticky political problem. The chiefs were meeting at the Red Lion Inn in Sacramento (now the Doubletree), but the hotel was on labor unions' do-not-patronize list and Brown didn't want to antagonize them by going to the hotel.

The solution was to herd the police chiefs onto buses and take them to nearby Cal Expo, the state fairgrounds, where Brown could speak without angering union leaders, then returning the chiefs back to the Red Lion.

Speaking at the Sheraton carries no such danger.

March 12, 2012
Elizabeth Emken gets California Republican Party endorsement

U.S. Senate hopeful Elizabeth Emken won the backing of the California Republican Party over the weekend.

Emken, an advocate for autism research from Danville, is one of at least five Republicans seeking to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Under the state's new primary system, the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of their political party affiliation, will advance to the November election.

The state party's board of directors met over the weekend to consider endorsement recommendations submitted by local GOP committees and make a final decision on which candidates the party will support on the June ballot. Friday was the filing deadline for districts where an incumbent is running. The deadline is extended until Wednesday for seats with no incumbent (click here to see the list).

The board also voted to back Republican Peter Tateishi, a chief of staff to GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, in the vacant 8th Assembly District. At least one other Republican is running for the competitive East Sacramento County seat.

Incumbents in Sacramento region seats, including Lungren, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, and Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, secured endorsements in their re-election bids. The party did not make an endorsement in the 1st Congressional District race between Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and former Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Penn Valley.

The full list of endorsements is posted below/

Crp Official Endorsement List Update

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:10 a.m. to include a revised list of endorsements from the CRP. The original list was missing the endorsement made in the 5th Congressional District.

March 12, 2012
AM Alert: Can California change its third rail of taxation?

That sizzle you hear today may come from Room 126 in the Capitol, where elected leaders and tax experts will touch the third rail of California politics, Proposition 13.

The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee will hold a 1:30 p.m. oversight hearing examining whether the state should tighten rules defining when businesses must have their property reassessed.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, believes businesses take advantage of loopholes to save hundreds of millions of dollars. He is pursuing legislation, Assembly Bill 448, that would trigger more frequent reassessments of commercial property.

Those scheduled to testify include Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics and Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone. Ammiano requested the hearing and will sit on the dais per legislative privilege, but he is not formally listed as a panelist, according to spokesman Quintin Mecke.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, both houses will hold floor sessions, the Assembly at noon and Senate at 2 p.m. The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee will hold an 11 a.m. oversight hearing to review the state Acupuncture Board, Podiatric Board and Court Reporters Board.

Happy birthday to Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, who turns 62 today. We're not sure if he's on Facebook for you to wish him good cheer, but son and Assembly staff member Ian Calderon apparently is.

Update (12:25 p.m.): An earlier version said Ammiano would testify at the hearing, based on a news release issued by Villaraigosa's office. Ammiano will not testify because he can sit on the dais as a sitting legislator, even though he is not on the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

March 11, 2012
California tribal casino leader Richard Milanovich dies

Richard Milanovich, who as the longtime chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians was a major figure in creating California's multi-billion-dollar tribal casino gambling industry, died Sunday in Rancho Mirage.

Milanovich died at Eisenhower Medical Center after a long bout with cancer. He was 69.

"The influential Coachella Valley leader saw his tribe go from eating food out of government-issued cans in his youth to successfully fighting for the right to lease land in the 1950s and build casinos in the 1990s," a Desert Sun newspaper article said.

The Sun noted that during the past two decades, Milanovich's tribe had built two major casinos -- the Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs and Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage.

Milanovich became a familiar figure to California politicians as the state negotiated compacts with casino-owning tribes.And he and other tribal leaders became major contributors to political campaigns.


March 9, 2012
Jerry Brown attends lecture by Ralph Nader, who commiserates

BERKELEY - On Friday afternoon, while college students started their weekends barbecuing down the street, Gov. Jerry Brown found himself on the University of California, Berkeley, campus, at the symposium "Anthropology in the World."

He came 20 minutes late. But professors run behind, too, and Brown was in time to hear a contemporary, Ralph Nader, lecture on the following prompt: "Anthropology from Margaret Mead to 2012."
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Nader, the consumer activist and six-time presidential candidate, suggested anthropologists consider such questions as, "Why is it that bureaucracies are so tyrannically successful in blocking the most rational courses of action." He took note of the Democratic governor in the front row.

"We have here tonight Gov. Jerry Brown, whose ability to change the state is constantly blocked by bureaucracy and corporate interests," Nader said. "Why aren't these studied vigorously, bottom up by anthropologists?"

The symposium was held in honor of Nader's sister, the Berkeley anthropologist Laura Nader.

To the extent that anthropology considers the ways in which human beings relate to one another, Brown may have some thoughts of his own.

"Government," Brown told a group of biomedical industry reps earlier Friday, "can best solve those problems that it itself first created."

March 9, 2012
Bid to boot Fish and Game president who shot mountain lion dropped

Cougar Killing Flap.JPEG-01.JPGDemocratic Assemblyman Ben Hueso signaled today that he is dropping his effort to strip Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards of his appointment.

Richards came under fire from animal rights groups and Democratic lawmakers after a photo featured in a hunting publication that showed him posing with a mountain lion he shot in Idaho began circulating online. Unlike in California, where voters banned killing mountain lions in 1990, Idaho allows the hunting of the animal.

Critics say his actions, while not illegal, raise doubts about his ability to lead the commission. Hunting groups and Republican lawmakers have come to the defense of Richards.

Hueso, a Democrat of San Diego, drafted a resolution to oust the former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee after Richards dismissed calls to step down. But the fate of the resolution, which required a majority vote in both houses, was uncertain after Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg signaled he wasn't interested in taking it up in the upper house.

In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, Hueso and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said they have decided to work on crafting legislation to "improve the standards and practices of the California Fish and Game Commission," including a revised conflict-of-interest code for commissioners. The lawmakers urged the Democratic governor to begin his search for a "suitable replacement who can step in and serve as soon as" Richards' term end in January 2013.

The San Jose Mercury News, meanwhile, reported that the commission could act in May to remove Richards as president of the panel.

DFG Letter

PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Richards. The Press-Enterprise/David Bauman

March 9, 2012
Facebook posts fuel attacks in Bermudez vs. Calderon race

Lesson for political hopefuls seeking office in the age of social media: Watch what you post.

Democratic Assembly candidate Ian Calderon has come under fire from his chief rival for a series of Facebook status updates he allegedly posted on his personal account.

A voter in the Whittier-area Assembly district Calderon is seeking to represent says he is filing a complaint alleging that the 26-year-old Assembly staff member, and son to longtime Democratic legislator Charles Calderon, posted campaign-related status updates on state time.

The complaint, which was sent to the press by fellow Democratic candidate Rudy Bermudez's campaign, lists 52 separate instances of updates posted during regular business hours. The targeted posts include mentions of Calderon's campaign logo and website domain name.

Whitter resident Francisco Santana, a Bermudez supporter who signed the complaint, said he noticed questionable posts after becoming Facebook friends with Calderon about six months ago and later brought them to the attention of the Bermudez campaign.

The Calderon campaign shot back in a statement that the complaint "lacks substance, detail and credibility and has no basis for any consideration whatsoever," arguing that six of the alleged postings were made during the lunch hour and 23 were dated before his campaign account was opened with the Secretary of State. It dismissed the filing as "little more than a deflection by the Rudy Bermudez campaign to divert attention" from allegations that Bermudez, a former legislator, does not live in the district.

March 9, 2012
Courage Campaign fires back at California Business Roundtable

The war over tax increase ballot measures escalated Friday when sponsors of the so-called "millionaires' tax" denounced the Business Roundtable for its opposition.

Terming it "us vs. Goliath," the Courage Campaign, a co-sponsor of the measure that would raise income taxes on Californians with $1 million-plus incomes, accused the corporate leaders of the Business Roundtable of protecting their own wallets.

"Of course the CEOs of corporations like Chevron, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and PG&E would oppose the Millionaires' Tax of 2012 through their umbrella organization, the California Business Roundtable," said Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign.

The Courage Campaign, the California Federation of Teachers and the California Nurses Association are sponsoring the initiative measure, one of three major tax proposals that may be headed for the November ballot.

Earlier this week, the Business Roundtable declared opposition to the millionaires' tax measure, which would boost financing for education and social services, and another income tax measure sponsored by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California PTA, whose proceeds would go to schools.

The business group did not, however, oppose Gov. Jerry Brown's measure that would raise sales and income taxes to balance the state budget, saying that it wanted to see whether Brown and the Legislature would enact pension reforms and business climate improvements before taking a position.

Brown has been trying to persuade sponsors of the other measures to pull back, saying that if all three are on the ballot, voters will be confused and likely reject all three. He's particularly concerned about the millionaires' tax, which fares the best among voters in recent statewide surveys, saying that it would do little to close the state's budget deficit.

Jacobs' sharp retort to the Business Roundtable indicates, however, that he and other sponsors of are not backing down, despite Brown's private and public pleas.

"Game on," says an "action report" that Courage Campaign sent to its members, denouncing the Business Roundtable's stance.
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March 9, 2012
Jeff Gorell is returning from war -- to step into Capitol fighting

For Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, the war is almost over.

The 41-year Camarillo Republican is scheduled to return to California in late March after spending a year in Afghanistan as a lieutenant commander in the Navy reserve.

Gorell's first day back at the Capitol is expected to be April 9, because the Assembly will be in recess the prior week, spokesman Doug Lorenz said.

"He's in the middle of a war right now, but when he gets back, we're ready for him," Lorenz said, adding that colleagues have introduced and pushed bills on Gorell's behalf while he was overseas.

An intelligence officer, Gorell has been stationed with Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, Lorenz said.

Awaiting him in California are his wife, Laura, two young children, a newly drawn district, a state budget that remains mired in red, and continued Capitol bickering over taxes.

Gorell's current district stretches through Los Angeles, Ventura and Kern counties. A community welcome-back celebration is planned April 4 at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

March 9, 2012
Linda Halderman announces she will not seek re-election

halderman.jpgOne and done.

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman announced today that she will not seek election for a second term this year.

Spokesman George Andrews confirmed that Halderman, a surgeon, announced on Fresno radio station KMJ today that she will return to the medical profession when her first Assembly term expires in December.

"I have loved representing my constituents," Halderman told KMJ News. "This is my home and I'm staying here, but it's been more than four years since I have been more of a policy person and a politician than a doctor and I just need to go back."

The Fresno Republican is a specialist in breast cancer surgery who once served as a policy adviser to former state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Penn Valley.

March 9, 2012
Read the arguments in John Chiang's battle with the Legislature

ha_jchiang48630.JPGToday's lead item in The Bee's Buzz column gave a snippet of the legal wrestling going on in Controller John Chiang's battle with fellow Democrats in the Legislature over his move to withhold their pay during last year's budget debate.

Chiang says he was within his rights to withhold the pay, particularly because Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the budget. Democrats say he was merely being "politically expedient" and overstepped his bounds, especially because SCO officials had recently acknowledged they had no expertise in evaluating the viability of the state budget.

The court showdown comes April 10. But the most recent filings lay out the arguments from both sides. Here's the filing Attorney General Kamala Harris made on Chiang's behalf:

Chiangfiling

Here are the points and authorities from legislative leaders:

Leg is Filing

March 9, 2012
AM Alert: Want to run in 2012? The clock (mostly) runs out today

The June 2012 ballot lineup will soon be set.

Today is the filing deadline for candidates considering bids for most California offices, including the Legislature, Congress and the U.S. Senate.

One question remaining for voters in the Sacramento area is whether 2010 Assembly hopeful Andy Pugno will challenge GOP Assemblywoman Beth Gaines in the newly drawn 6th Assembly District. The Proposition 8 author, who has not returned calls from The Bee on his plans, filed a statement of intention earlier this week and sent a fundraising email to supporters seeking cash to fuel a possible bid.

Possible candidates for incumbent-free seats have a few more days to decide. The deadline for officially entering races where an incumbent does not file by today will be extended to next Wednesday, March 14.

Figuring out which seats are home to an incumbent isn't as simple as it sounds, as Jim Miller noted in the Press-Enterprise this week. The state's new political maps left a handful of members of Congress living outside the districts they plan to seek and sent more current legislators, who must live in the district they run to represent, packing their bags to relocate to an open or more favorable seat. It's up to county election officials to make the call on who is or is not an incumbent, causing confusion in some of the races featuring more mobile candidates.

Now that the filing period is coming to an end, the California Republican Party board of directors will meet Sunday to make endorsements ahead of the June primary. Central committees in counties across the state have been meeting to consider making endorsement recommendations in races for Congress and the state Legislature. Those recommendations, or lack of recommendation in some cases, will come up for board approval this weekend. The board will also consider whether to back one of at least four Republican candidates in the race for U.S. Senate. Securing that stamp of approval requires a two-thirds vote.

For those who missed the political theater, the state Democratic Party finalized its endorsements at its spring convention.

BLAST OFF: The Assembly Select Committee on Aerospace touches down in Redondo Beach today, where chair Betsy Butler, D-Los Angeles, is hosting an informational hearing on education and the aerospace industry. The hearing is scheduled to launch at 2 p.m. at the city's Northrop Grumman.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDARS: It's a quiet day under the dome, with no sessions or committees scheduled at the Capitol. The Assembly returns to the chamber at noon Monday, and the Senate will convene at 2 p.m.