Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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 /

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 -- -- 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.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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