Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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.


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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