Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 30, 2012
Bill would ask state contractors: Are you gay or lesbian?

For the first time, California would ask its contractors if they are gay under legislation passed Monday by the Assembly.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1960, would enable the owners of businesses that contract with the state to identify themselves as gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. It would not require them to do so.

The Assembly vote was 47-24, with support from Democrats and from the only member not affiliated with either major party, Nathan Fletcher of San Diego.

The Department of General Services currently is required to collect data on contractors by race, ethnicity and gender. AB 1960 would add LGBT-owned businesses to that list.

The bill by Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson seeks data involving state contracts for construction, professional services, and for the purchase of materials, supplies or equipment.

Dickinson said the measure would allow state officials and gay or lesbian groups to better pinpoint the extent to which LGBT-owned businesses are helping to drive the state economy.

* Updated at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to say that support came from Democrats and from the Assembly's only member not affiliated with either major party, Nathan Fletcher of San Diego.

April 30, 2012
Term limits fight is David-vs.-Goliath in campaign fundraising

The fight to alter California's legislative term limits has been lopsided in fundraising, records show.

Proponents have raised about $2.5 million since the signature-gathering drive began in 2009, while opponents have reported only one contribution, $45,000, from the founder of U.S. Term Limits, Howard Rich, of Philadelphia.

Labor unions and key developers have helped bankroll Proposition 28 , including groups owned by Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski that are pushing rival plans to construct a National Football League football stadium in Southern California.

Jon Fleischman, spokesman for the No on 28 campaign, said the big money raised by proponents could backfire in balloting.

"If you look at the people that are funding the effort to pass Proposition 28, it's all the special interests who want to curry favor with the political class," Fleischman said.

"What we have on our side are the people who believe that you should have to go back and serve under the laws you've created," Fleischman said.

Gabriel Sanchez, spokesman for Yes on 28, said the campaign has a "broad and diverse base of support," with California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California participating in its steering committee.

Sanchez said there is "absolutely no connection" between donors and Capitol legislation. He called such claims "laughable," adding that supporters simply believe that altering term limits is "smart reform for our state."

Proposition 28 would reduce the total time that lawmakers could serve in the Legislature from 14 to 12 years, but it would allow all to be served in one house. The current limit is eight years in the Senate and six in the Assembly.

The constitutional amendment would not affect current officeholders, who have not been major donors for or against the proposal. Voters will decide the issue in the June statewide election.

The top contributor to the Proposition 28 campaign has been the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which has chipped in about $1 million in donations and loans.

Roski's Majestic Realty donated $300,000 to the term limits proposal in December 2009, several months after the Legislature passed a bill that shot down a citizens lawsuit by providing environmental exemptions for his planned NFL stadium in the City of Industry. The firm added $100,000 in April 2010, bringing its total contribution to $400,000.

Another key contributor to the Proposition 28 campaign is LA Live Properties, part of Philip Anschutz's entertainment conglomerate, which successfully lobbied lawmakers last year to pass legislation ensuring expedited environmental review of its plan to construct an NFL stadium in Los Angeles. LA Live donated $100,000 to the ballot measure in March.

Other major contributors include A. Jerold Perenchio, former chairman of the Spanish-speaking television network, Univision, $100,000; Pacific, Gas & Electric Co., $100,000; LA Jobs PAC, $80,000; developer Eli Broad, $50,000; and the United Nurses Associations, $50,000.

* Updated at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to reflect that the issue will be decided in the June election.

April 30, 2012
California bullet train plan gets positive response

Will Kempton, who chairs a "peer review" committee that has been sharply critical of the state's highly controversial bullet train project, sounded a more positive note Monday during testimony to the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Kempton, a veteran transportation executive who is chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Authority, told the committee that the California High-Speed Rail Authority's recently revised business plan answers some of his committee's criticism, but still leaves the project's long-term finances in doubt. The committee is still working on a formal response to the new business plan.

The new plan still proposes to build an initial segment in the San Joaquin Valley but, in response to criticisms from the peer review committee and others, also proposes to link that section to Los Angeles soon thereafter.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the CHSRA are asking the Legislature to appropriate money from a state bond issue that would be combined with federal funds to build the San Joaquin Valley segment, but there's still no firm financing for the extension to Southern California.

Kempton cited financing and the lack of a competent project management team as "risk levels" that the Legislature must consider before deciding to appropriate construction funds.

Dan Richard, the CHSRA chairman, told the committee that the management team is being recruited now and reiterated that he and Brown see proceeds of auctioning carbon emission credits under the state's new anti-global warming law as the backup source of financing if more federal money is not available.

But the Legislature's budget analyst and other authorities have questioned whether "cap-and-trade" funds could be legally used for the bullet train.

April 30, 2012
CSU trustees to consider pay freeze - with a catch

California State University trustees will consider freezing state-funded pay for new campus presidents next week but with a catch: raises could still come from foundation accounts.

CSU trustees have come under fire in recent months for giving raises to newly hired presidents as state funding has shrunk and fees have soared, particularly last year when it granted the new San Diego State University president a $100,000 raise from $300,000 to $400,000.

In January, the board agreed to limit raises to campus presidents to 10% percent above what the outgoing leader made.

But the 23-campus system has continued to face pressure from state leaders and employee unions, who have demanded more action. Faculty members, currently in a contract dispute over several issues, are voting on whether to authorize a strike later this year, with results of the vote due Wednesday.

The new proposal would freeze use of state funds for pay hikes until 2014 while allowing campuses to tap foundation money to give more when "deemed necessary to retain the best leader." University foundations raise money in a variety of ways, ranging from donations to campus bookstores. It is unclear whether there is any limit to the amount of raise that a foundation could provide.

The plan comes as the CSU system could face seven vacancies to fill in the next year, according to CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith.

Despite having changed the policy in January, "some of the board members were expressing that they wanted to look at the policy once again," Keith said. "So they started thinking about so many of the presidential vacancies and hiring coming up, and this seems thoughtful and reasonable."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson "welcomes" the change after calling for a pay freeze earlier this month, said his spokesman Paul Hefner.

But Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for Sen. Leland Yee, a CSU critic, called it a "terrible idea."

"Executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars should not be getting double digit pay hikes during tough economic times," Keigwin said in an e-mail. "Dollars from foundations should be going to provide scholarships and assist students, not to line the pockets of administrators."

Post updated at 3:05 p.m. because of conflicting information on whether there is a limit on foundation-funded pay hikes under the proposal.

April 30, 2012
California public pension fund assets rebounded in 2010

California's state and local government pension funds saw a 12.4 percent increase in their assets during 2010, according to a new Census Bureau report, markedly higher than the national pension fund increase.

The increase, from $458.8 billion in 2009 to $516.1 billion in 2010, marked a return to positive growth after pension funds in California and elsewhere were battered by investment losses during the national recession.

Nationally, state and local pension funds gained 10.6 percent in value during the year, rising to $2.7 trillion. California, with about 12 percent of the nation's population, holds nearly 20 percent of public pension assets. The state's pension funds, including the California Public Employees Retirement System, hold $373.7 billion in assets while local funds account for the remaining $142.3 billion.

The Census Bureau report also reveals that during the 2010 fiscal year, California's pension funds earned $63.1 billion on their investments and received another $23 billion in contributions from employees and government agencies while paying out $35.2 billion, including $33.1 billion in benefits.

Virtually all state and local pension funds have unfunded liabilities for future pension commitments, but the size of these shortfalls are in dispute since estimates depend on assumptions of future earnings.

Pension funds generally assume future earnings ("discount rate") in the 7-plus percent range but critics say that's unrealistically high. Lowering the assumption would raise the unfunded liability and increase pressure for more contributions from governments and their employees.

April 30, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Will the real Jerry Brown please stand up?

VIDEO: Dan Walters says Gov. Jerry Brown has a complicated history on taxes.

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.

April 30, 2012
AM Alert: California wineries eye China's huge market

VIDEO: Dan Walters asks in today's video report: Will the real Jerry Brown stand up?

Can California sell more wine to China?

U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren is in Amador County moderating a forum on the possibilities of marketing wine to that large Asian market and elsewhere. Participants will hear from representatives of federal agencies, exporters, transportation specialists and industry officials at the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Old Schoolhouse, 21601 Shenandoah School Road, in Plymouth.

The Gold River Republican co-chairs the Congressional Wine Caucus along with Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena. Lungren counts about 100 wineries in his district, according to the caucus web site. But don't expect him at any tastings. As Torey Van Oot has reported, he doesn't drink.

Meanwhile, it's Women's Empowerment Day at the state Capitol, conducted by California Women Lead. Listed speakers at the all-day conference, aimed at helping women hone their leadership style and networking skills, include Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and Gov. Jerry Brown's appointments secretary, Mona Pasquil. Conway will also co-host a reception with Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma starting at 5 p.m. at the Park Ultra Lounge. Click here for more information.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have set floor sessions for noon, after which the Senate Appropriations Committee and other panels will work through their list of bills. Also under the dome, a Senate select committee looks at access to care for autism spectrum disorders, while the Assembly Transportation Committee considers the California High-Speed Rail Authority's latest business plan. Click here for the Senate's schedule, and click here for the Assembly's.

MARCH: Members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and others are marching starting at 9:45 a.m. from the California Bankers Association headquarters, 1303 J St., to the Capitol to meet with legislators about the banking and mortgage industries' campaign contributions and the money they spend on lobbying.

LGBT: Students gather at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's north steps to mark the seventh annual Queer Youth Advocacy Day to highlight issues affecting LGBT students.

HIGHER EDUCATION: University of California President Mark Yudof, Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, Craig McNamara of the State Board of Food and Agriculture and others highlight the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1862, back when Abraham Lincoln was president. The federal legislation set up a nationwide system of land grant universities -- including UC. The event starts at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

CUTS: Members of the Professional Beauty Federation of California head to the Capitol's south steps from 3 to 7 p.m. for its annual event offering free haircuts, massages and manicures to Capitol denizens.

April 29, 2012
On 'Face the Nation,' Jerry Brown tries managing expectations

Four months into his second year in office - still with major parts of his agenda unfulfilled - Gov. Jerry Brown this morning tried a little expectation control.

Asked by Bob Schieffer on the CBS public affairs show "Face the Nation" for any advice he might have for politicians, Brown said, "I've learned you don't get things done overnight. It does take time.

"Things that I was talking about 30 years ago - pension reform, renewable energy, completing the California water plan, high-speed rail, they're right at the top of the agenda today. So what do I say? Hey, you've got to take 30 years to get it done, because you can't get it done overnight, you can't get it in a term. But we're into instant gratification, get it done, if you don't do it in two years, you're a failure. Life doesn't work that way, at least from the point of view of somebody in their 74th year. It looks like things take longer, and now I'm kind of glad they do, because I still have something to do."

The Democratic governor, asked what he thought the presidential election would come down to, suggested one reason he may have been happy to keep quiet for months in his own gubernatorial contest in 2010.

"I think it turns on if one of the candidates screws up first and makes a mistake," Brown said. "Elections tend to move on the other person making the mistake."

Brown is in Washington D.C. this weekend meeting with officials on a range of policy issues. He and first lady Anne Gust Brown also attended the 98th annual dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association.

Brown still wouldn't say if he will run for re-election, though he is raising money for a re-election campaign.

"I'm thinking about it," he told Schieffer. "I wouldn't rule it out."

Schieffer recalled an interview he did with Brown in 1979 "on a log in the hills above Sacramento." Here's that video:

April 28, 2012
Former state Sen. Daniel Boatwright dies

Former Democratic state Sen. Daniel Boatwright died Friday at his Clayton home at age 82.

Boatwright, of Concord, served in the Legislature for 23 years, retiring from the Senate in 1996. He then began a lobbying career, working for Sacramento Advocates until retiring in 2010.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement this afternoon: "Dan Boatwright was a dedicated legislator, an early proponent of a national balanced budget amendment and a very good representative of Contra Costa County. I enjoyed his friendship and I will miss him."

According to an obituary the family provided to, he is survived by his wife Teresa, three sons and five grandchildren.

Visitation is planned for from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Ouimet Bros. Funeral Home in Concord. A service is scheduled for Saturday at at 11 a.m. at the Church of Christ in Martinez.

Editor's Note: This post was updated to reflect that the family issued the obituary to Updated at 6:19 p.m., April 28, 2012.

April 27, 2012
Attorney General declines to file charges in Nadia Lockyer case

State prosecutors announced late Friday they will not file charges in the dispute involving the wife of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer after she claimed she had been assaulted at the hands of her onetime lover.

Nadia Lockyer, who resigned from her post as an Alameda County supervisor after revelations of her affair and substance abuse became public, had alleged that she was beaten by Stephen Chikhani in a Newark hotel room in February. Alameda County prosecutors referred the matter to the state Department of Justice after citing a conflict of interest because of previous professional ties with Nadia Lockyer.

"The Department of Justice has thoroughly reviewed the matter referred to us by the Alameda County District Attorney's office regarding the Feb. 3 incident at a Newark hotel involving Nadia Lockyer," said Shum Preston, spokesman for state Attorney General Kamala Harris, in a statement released just before 6 p.m. "After reviewing the evidence, the department has determined that it will not file charges."

Chikhani's attorney, Adrienne Dell, said her client is "very grateful" that the Department of Justice investigated the claims and decided not to file charges. She said she believes this exonerates Chikhani, who is currently living in a post-rehab "sober living environment" to deal with his methamphetamine addiction.

"These are personal matters that should never have been aired," Dell said. "She needs to take care of herself."

April 27, 2012
Wipeout of California's redevelopment continues to reverberate

The abrupt demise of local government redevelopment agencies due to legislative action and a state Supreme Court decision also means the end of the California Redevelopment Association.

The 33-year-old organization has been the Sacramento lobbying operation for the 400-plus local redevelopment agencies, fighting to keep the program alive in the face of political and media criticism.

"With the dissolution of local redevelopment agencies as of Feb. 1, it has become clear to the board and executive staff that the business plan for CRA is no longer sustainable," the organization's interim leadership said in a statement earlier this month.

April 27, 2012
TV stations to post political ad info online under new FCC rule

Television stations in California's major media markets, including Sacramento, will have to post information about political ads airing on their channels online before the November election because of a new policy adopted by the Federal Communications Commission today.

Information about political ad rates is already available for public viewing at the stations themselves. The Associated Press is reporting that the FCC will now require stations to also post that information on the Web, with stations in the top 50 media markets making the change within the next six months. All other stations will have until 2014 to begin posting the information online.

Four of the country's top 50 media markets are in California, according to Station Index. They are Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto and San Diego.

The Associated Press has more on the vote at this link.

April 27, 2012
New Census Bureau report contains detailed California data

In 2000, the federal government spent $176 billion in California, but by 2010, those expenditures totaled $333.8 billion.

That's just one of thousands of info-bits available in the newest Census Bureau data dump, which makes the numbers available not only for each state, but every county within each state, covering topics that range from agricultural activity to crime and personal incomes.

The new statistical release is drawn largely from the surveys that the Census Bureau conducts between the decennial censues, plus other government data banks. Federal spending is new to the release.

April 27, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Unions seek new rules on city bankruptcies

VIDEO: Dan Walters says California lawmakers and unions are fiddling with new municipal bankruptcy rules.

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.

April 27, 2012
AM Alert: Hollywood meets politics as Jimmy Kimmel roasts Obama

VIDEO: Dan Walters talks about why California labor unions want new rules on municipal bankruptcy.

Gov. Jerry Brown has left the state with a hot ticket for Saturday night.

Brown is in Washington, D.C., meeting with officials on issues ranging from health care policy to funding for the California National Guard, but his social calendar also includes the 98th annual dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association.

It'll be Hollywood meets politics at the Washington Hilton. This year's headliner is late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel, whose job is to roast President Barack Obama.

The governor and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, will be seated at the table hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, according to the White House Correspondents Insider.

Who else is at that table? Playing for Team Hollywood are actresses Reese Witherspoon and Viola Davis as well as J.R. Martinez of "Dancing With the Stars."

As for Team Government, other guests include CIA Director David Petraeus, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Susan Collins of Maine, Reps. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Carolyn Maloney of New York, as well as Melanne Verveer, who's ambassador-at-large for global women's issues.

Rounding out the list is Washington attorney Bob Barnett, who's been behind a lot of political book deals, according to this Washington Post story.

Other tables are claiming celebrity guests Kim Kardashian, Charlize Theron and George Clooney. Actress Diane Keaton will be sitting with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's daughter Katherine. The list goes on and on.

But hey, it's not about the stars. It's about the journalism. C-SPAN will be covering the event live starting Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. (Translation: 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time.) Click here to learn more about the dinner and see photos from last year's event.

That's Saturday. Brown will be busy Sunday morning as well, when he faces host Bob Schieffer of the CBS public affairs show "Face the Nation." Here's the online promo: "Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., faces massive budget shortfalls in his state. What's his plan for fixing it? How have politics changed since his first stint as governor over 30 years ago?"

Good questions. "Face the Nation" runs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time, and airs in Sacramento on KOVR-TV (Channel 13) at 8:30 a.m., according to this CBS News website, which lists other local markets as well. You can also watch the broadcast online at this link.

EDUCATION: Sonja Petek of the Public Policy Institute of California will be talking about its survey of Californians' views on spending cuts in schools, taxes and education reforms. The poll showed that California voters are inclined to support Gov. Jerry Brown's sales and income tax increase, but by a less than overwhelming margin, as Dan Walters reported in this post earlier this week. The lunchtime briefing runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. at CSAC Conference Center, 1020 11th St. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

April 26, 2012
Proposal for part-time Legislature won't be on November ballot

A drive to convert the California Legislature to part-time won't make it onto the ballot this year.

The campaign will continue to collect voter signatures, however, in hopes of placing the issue before voters in 2014, said Ted Costa of People's Advocate, a co-leader of the drive.

Costa said the petition drive has collected between 200,000 and 300,000 of the 807,615 voter signatures needed to qualify the constitutional amendment for a California ballot.

The deadline for gathering signatures is July 2, but that would be too late to qualify for this year's elections. The secretary of state's office recommended that signatures be submitted by April 20 for the November ballot.

Costa said that other campaigns have driven up the price for signature-gathering this year, hurting his drive, which has been bankrolled by relatively small donations rather than by a wealthy investor or major political party.

Costa characterized his campaign as in a "fall back, regroup and charge ahead" mode. The effort is spearheaded by Costa and by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield.

Signature-gatherers for various other initiative drives should be off the streets in a week or two, which should create more opportunities for the part-time Legislature campaign, Costa said.

His measure calls for lawmakers in the nation's most populous state to meet three months per year, and for lawmakers' pay to be cut from $7,940 per month to $1,500 per month -- or $18,000 annually.

Steve Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant helping to lead opposition to the part-time Legislature initiative, said that he is not surprised that the measure won't qualify for the November ballot because it was not popular with voters or potential donors.

"First of all, there was no money behind it whatsoever," Maviglio said. "And it's something that sounds good on right-wing talk radio, but when voters think about it, they realize it makes little sense. You don't solve the problems of the Legislature by cutting down the amount of time they're here."

* Updated at 4:45 p.m. to add comments from Steve Maviglio, leader of a group opposing the initiative proposal.

April 26, 2012
Ex California Rep. Diane Watson recovering after heart attack

Former California Rep. Diane Watson is recovering from a heart attack she suffered last week, friends and former aides said.

The 78-year-old Los Angeles Democrat was released Monday from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she had been hospitalized following the April 18 heart attack, a former aide said. She is now recovering at her home in Los Angeles.

"She's doing excellent and is in good spirits," Michelle Chambers, a former Watson aide who is still close to the Los Angeles Democrat, told The Bee. "She's doing very well."

Watson retired in 2011 after serving a decade in Congress, most recently representing the 33rd Congressional District. She had previously served 20 years in the state Senate.

Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, told Senate colleagues of the news during today's floor session, asking members to pray for her recovery.

"She's on the mend, but all heart attacks are really serious and this was," he said.

April 26, 2012
Garry South making trove of internal campaign records public

south.JPGFor 10 years, Democratic strategist Garry South kept a climate-controlled storage unit full of internal memos, opposition research and other material from former Gov. Gray Davis' political campaigns.

Now, South says, he's ready to show all.

In an unusual move for a political strategist, South has donated his records to UCLA. He expects the university library to open the Garry South Collection of Political Research in about a month.

The records include advertisements that never aired, videotapes of focus groups and other material from Davis' gubernatorial campaigns and from his failed bid for U.S. Senate in 1992, among other races.

South said in an interview Thursday that climate-controlled storage units aren't cheap, and "it seemed a crime and a waste of history to just pitch it all."

He said he didn't ask Davis first, but the former governor doesn't seem to mind. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this morning that Davis thinks the idea is "terrific."

PHOTO CREDIT: Garry South, campaign strategist for Governor Gray Davis, in 2002.The Sacramento Bee/Steve Yeater

April 26, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown brings tax campaign to Sacramento church

Gov. Jerry Brown, campaigning at a Sacramento church this morning, called on California's religious leaders to engage in a "campaign of civic activism" to pass his ballot initiative to raise taxes.

"We've got to take this message to the schools, to the colleges and, yes, to the churches, to the faith community that knows that man doesn't live by bread alone," the former seminarian told about 200 clergy members from throughout the state at Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

The event comes as the Democratic governor moves to broaden support for his tax campaign even before the measure is qualified for the November ballot. Brown is expected to submit signatures early next month.

Members of PICO California, a network of faith-based community organizations, said they will embark on a campaign to urge 100,000 new and infrequent California voters to support the tax initiative.

"For far too long we have disinvested in our communities," the Rev. George Cummings, founding pastor of Imani Community Church in Oakland, told the crowd. "The time has come for us to begin to reinvest in our schools, and in the programs and services that will restore fiscal stability to our state."

Brown, who proposes to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners, said wealthy Californians have "been blessed, and they must join with us in blessing those that have not been as fortunate."

Church leaders said they are collecting signatures for Brown's initiative at their churches.

April 26, 2012
Assembly kills bill to require disclosure of member budgets

Legislation to designate lawmakers' member-by-member budgets as public records, thus putting into state law a judge's ruling last year, was shelved quietly Thursday by an Assembly committee.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said she proposed the measure to ensure that future lawmakers would continue to abide by the judge's ruling in a public-records lawsuit filed by The Bee and Los Angeles Times.

"I expected it to die," Grove said after the bill, Assembly Bill 1946, received no Democratic support and lacked the six committee votes necessary to move to the Assembly floor. Five members voted no, four yes, and two members abstained.

The committee killed Grove's bill without comment or discussion.

AB 1946 would have stated that public-records law be interpreted with a "strong presumption in favor of public access to legislative records." It also stipulated that member budgets are not exempt from mandatory disclosure.

Rules Committee Chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said after Thursday's meeting that AB 1946 was not necessary because the Assembly has not contested the order last year by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley to release member-by-member budgets to the public.

"The Assembly has accepted the court ruling, we did not appeal it, we're practicing it now - and I felt that's sufficient," Skinner said.

April 26, 2012
California bill on abortion procedure stalls in Senate committee

A scaled-back version of a bill aimed at expanding access in California to an early abortion procedure stalled today in a key Senate committee.

Senate Bill 1338, by Democratic Sen. Christine Kehoe, originally sought to allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physicians assistants to perform aspiration abortions, a suction technique that under current law only doctors can conduct. The proposal was based on a multiyear pilot program and study run through the UC San Francisco Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.

A narrowed version of the bill, which would allow only 41 clinicians trained under a pilot program to continue performing the procedure after this year, failed in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on a 4-4 vote. Democratic Sens. Juan Vargas and Lou Correa joined Republicans in opposing the bill. One member, Republican Sen. Tony Strickland, was absent for the vote.

The bill was amended this week as part of a deal Kehoe reached with the California Nurses Association, which opposed changing the law before the pilot program wraps up later this year and has its study results peer-reviewed. Kehoe said at the committee hearing that she hoped to continue talking with stakeholders about an agreement to restore the bill's original intent.

Supporters say allowing more trained providers to perform the procedure will give women early access to abortions from providers they already know and trust, noting that some women in rural and medically under-served communities must travel hours to receive an abortion. They say results of the multiyear pilot program, which is set to expire in September, show it is safe for non-doctors who are properly trained to do the procedure.

Critics testifying at the committee hearing as well as some committee members questioned the procedure's safety, pressing supporters about what the possible complications are and whether there is enough evidence to expand the pilot program statewide.

"I just think we don't know enough about it," said Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach.

The bill was granted reconsideration and is set to come up for another vote in early May.

April 26, 2012
GOP hopefuls for California Legislature make Trailblazers list

California Trailblazers today named the first two legislative candidates to reach its first level of recognition under the new GOP candidate recruitment and training program.

Assembly District 5 candidate Frank Bigelow , whose rivals include fellow Republican Rico Oller, and Assembly District 49 candidate Matthew Lin, who's competing in a heavily Democratic Los Angeles district, reached "Pathfinder" status, the first of three levels set for candidates participating in the program.

Their designation was based on meeting unspecified fundraising and organizational benchmarks. Candidates who reach different levels in the program will be eligible for additional training on fundraising and other campaign skills.

The Trailblazers program is modeled after the National Republican Congressional Committee's Young Guns program. It was launched ahead of this year's election by Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who founded the Young Guns program, and Republican leaders Bob Huff and Connie Conway.

April 26, 2012
California's 'Three Strikes' overhaul measure turns in signatures

A proposal to revise California's "Three Strikes" sentencing law appears headed for the November ballot.

Initiative proponents announced today that they are submitting to election officials more than 830,000 voter signatures in support of the proposal. They need 504,760 valid voter signatures to qualify for November ballot.

Under the proposal, only offenders convicted of a "third strike" felony that is violent or serious would face a minimum sentence of 25 to life in prison. The measure, which is modeled after proposed legislation, would also allow some offenders currently behind bars for a "third strike" that was a minor crime to seek a re-sentencing.

Voters rejected a similar measure, Proposition 66, in 2004.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, who has endorsed the new measure, said in a statement that the initiative "saves California taxpayers money and restores the original intent of the law," which was approved by voters in 1994, "by focusing on truly dangerous criminals." A fiscal analysis estimates the measure could reduce prison costs by up to $100 million a year in the future.

The effort's signature gathering drive was fueled by six-figure contributions from Stanford University professor David Mills, a proponent of the measure, billionaire George Soros and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.


Billionaire George Soros donates $500,000 to three-strikes drive

April 26, 2012
Dems, unions pushing new local government bankruptcy bill

Although a new law to govern bankruptcy filings by local governments is just four months old, Democratic legislators and labor unions are lining up behind a major revision that local officials say would tilt the playing field.

In the aftermath of Vallejo's bankruptcy, unions had pushed legislation that would require local governments to get permission from a union-friendly state commission before filing bankruptcy.

The issue was stalemated for several years, but in 2010, the Legislature passed a delicately negotiated compromise that would essentially require a locality contemplating bankruptcy to first go through a "neutral evaluation process" and seek relief from creditors before taking that step, unless it declared a fiscal emergency.

Two cities, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes, are now going through that process. But Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and union groups are pushing a new measure, Assembly Bill 1692, that would change the "neutral evaluation" of a locality's fiscal condition to "alternative dispute resolution" and would grant the mediator in the process more power.

The League of California Cities and other local government groups are crying foul, saying it undoes major portions of last year's compromise and gives unions a leg up in pre-bankruptcy negotiations. The City of Stockton is one opponent, telling the Assembly Local Government Committee in a letter that "these changes would dramatically increase the likelihood that mediations will be prolonged with no settlements reached."

Union officials have worried aloud that labor contracts and perhaps retirement benefits could be undone in a bankruptcy proceeding. Wieckowski told the committee that last year's compromise contained "concessions I made reluctantly."

On Wednesday, by a 5-3 vote, the Democrat-dominated committee approved the bill.

April 26, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Tax measure polling problematic for Jerry Brown

VIDEO: Dan Walters unpacks new polling on Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure.

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.

April 26, 2012
AM Alert: State budget and bill slinging on Capitol agenda

VIDEO: Dan Walters explains why the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll suggests problems ahead for Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot tax measure.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have sessions scheduled for 9 a.m., followed by several committee hearings. Expect a lot of bill slinging to beat Friday's deadline for fiscal measures to move out of policy committees.

Senate budget subcommittees, meanwhile, take up proposals ranging from the Department of Education and charter schools to the Department of Health Care Services and Medi-Cal. The Senate panel on state administration, for instance, looks at several agencies, including the Fair Political Practices Commission and the California Technology Agency, as well as the constitutional offices of the State Controller, the Secretary of State and the Department of Insurance. All of the hearings start at 9:30 a.m. or after session has adjourned.

For details, check out the Senate's daily file at this link. The Assembly's daily file is here. One Assembly panel with a lot of bill slinging to do is the Public Employees Committee, which lists several Republican bills that the public employee pension conference committee is considering.

HIGHER ED: The California Student Aid Commission holds a public hearing on whether CalGrants should be used to pay for online programs, also called distance learning, and how best to oversee such programs. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. at CalPERS, 400 P St. Click here to read the agenda.

VOTE EFFORT: Clergy leaders from PICO California are launching a campaign to urge what a news release calls "new and infrequent faith voters" to the polls. The presser starts at 10:30 a.m. in the conference room of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on 11th Street, after which the clergy will meet with legislators.

TOWN HALL: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Assembly members Roger Dickinson, Alyson Huber and Richard Pan head to Sacramento State to talk with students about the "Middle Class Scholarship" legislative proposal found in Assembly Bills 1500 and 1501. The meeting runs from noon to 1 p.m. in the University Union Summit Room on the third floor.

April 25, 2012
California voters narrowly support Jerry Brown's tax measure

California voters are inclined to support Gov. Jerry Brown's sales and income tax increase, but by a less than overwhelming margin, a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California has found.

The PPIC poll of likely voters found 54 percent in favor of Brown's tax measure, for which signatures are now being gathered, and 39 percent opposed. The poll also indicated that a rival measure sponsored by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the state PTA to raise income taxes on most taxpayers for schools faces an uphill struggle.

Brown has attempted to persuade Munger to drop her initiative, but she's poured millions of dollars into signature-gathering and is likely to turn in signatures soon.

Brown has portrayed his measure as one that would save schools from massive cuts, building on an assumption -- confirmed by the PPIC poll -- that K-12 education is the most popular area of the state budget. But Munger contends that Brown's measure would actually give schools little or no new money.

Overall, the poll found, voters are more than willing to tax high-income Californians, as Brown's measure would do. The poll didn't ask about Munger's plan specifically, but showed nearly three-fifths of voters opposed to raising income taxes on most taxpayers for schools, which her measure would do. They also oppose the sales tax component of Brown's proposal, a quarter-cent increase. That opposition drags down overall support for the governor's approach.

The PPIC poll also found that Brown's approval rating among all adults is 43 percent and among likely voters 47 percent, but support for his handling of public education - -the broad subject of PPIC's polling -- drew approval at just half of those levels. In fact just 23 percent of likely voters like his education policies.

However, Brown is doing much better than the Legislature, which gained the approval of just 15 percent of likely voters in the PPIC poll.

April 25, 2012
Analyst predicts state budget gap "a few billion dollars" worse

With state revenues slowing to a trickle as the end of April draws near, the state's top fiscal analyst said late Wednesday that California could be "a few billion dollars" shy of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget projections through June 2013.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said total personal income tax collections would likely be more than $2 billion below Brown's expectation of $9.4 billion for the month. Because the state was already running behind, it would mean PIT revenues would be $3 billion shy for the fiscal year compared to Brown's updated January projections.

Corporate taxes are also likely to trail Brown's forecast by about $450 million for the fiscal year so far, according to LAO.

Unless sales taxes are robust, that means the state would be about $3.5 billion behind for this fiscal year, and likely a "few billion dollars" through the budget cycle that ends in June 2013, the Analyst's Office estimates.

Brown pegged the state's deficit at $9.2 billion through that month, and he suggested last week that the problem might be $1 billion or $2 billion worse than previously stated.

April 25, 2012
Fred Karger returns to California for final leg of his campaign

Shirtless young men and bikini-clad young women toss Frisbees and footballs, workout and frolic on the beach in a new television spot soon hitting Southern California airwaves.

The tanned and toned beach-goers aren't promoting a new brand of suntan lotion or the latest rum drink.

They're backing Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger.

"I wanted to make it fun and sexy," Karger said outside the Capitol as he swung through Wednesday to tout the new spot, which he launched online ahead of his upcoming cable buy, and kick off the final leg of his campaign.

The Web version of "Sexy Frisbee," which ends with two men sharing a kiss, has already caused a bit of a stir for Karger's shoestring campaign. The 60-second version, posted below, had been flagged as inappropriate and taken off YouTube by late last night. It "magically reappeared" this morning after he shot off complaints to YouTube and parent company Google.

"A little racy, but nothing compared to 'Baywatch,' " he acknowledged of the ad's content.

But Karger, who is the only openly gay candidate in the GOP contest, thinks the spot will strike a chord with young Republicans, his target demographic for California's June 5 primary. He says he got a good response from other videos featuring his campaign's signature swag, including a spoof of the 2010 "Demon Sheep" video called "Demon Frisbee."

"One of my great appeals has really been to younger people," he said. "They don't care about the gay thing. They're much more interested in jobs and education reform, foreign policy, so it messages to them."

While his chance of winning the state slim to none, the moderate Republican said he wants to serve as a "voice of opposition" to expected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"There are many people that are unhappy with his far-rightward move, with the far-rightward move of the Republican Party, that want a reasonable, moderate Republican who's looking to the future," he said.

Karger said he plans to spend the coming weeks touring the state in a decked-out luxury van (a full bus is out of his budget), conducting precinct walks complete with bagpipe music and speaking to "anybody who will have me." He's focusing on turning out GOP voters in heavily Democratic congressional districts in hopes of picking up some delegates to use as leverage to secure a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

"If I can get three delegates, or six or nine, I could be more of a force or factor in the Tampa convention," he said.

April 25, 2012
Lawmakers reject whistleblower protections

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino has struck out in his push for legislation to protect Capitol whistleblowers.

For the second time this year, a whistleblower bill proposed by Portantino has been killed by an Assembly committee.

The latest defeat occurred this week in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which rejected Portantino's Assembly Bill 2256 by a vote of 3 yes, 7 no, with most Democrats voting against the measure.

Current California law protects most state employees for whistleblowing -- including executive branch employees, California State University workers, and legislative appointees to boards and commissions.

AB 2256 would have expanded the list to include current and former legislative employees.

"I'm highly disappointed," Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, said after his bill died. "I think it begs the question, 'What is the agency hiding?'"

The judiciary committee's analysis of AB 2256 noted numerous questions, however, including the possibility that large numbers of anonymous complaints could be filed and that some could be politically motivated.

AB 2256 went further than Portantino's previous whistleblower proposal by imposing on legislative staff an "affirmative duty to disclose or report improper governmental activity," the analysis said.

"This provision has no known precedent in California law, and the bill does not state how this apparently novel duty would be carried out in light of the amorphous and arguably subjective nature of 'improper governmental activity,'" the analysis said.

AB 2256 would have authorized the Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate complaints or refer them to the attorney general, district attorneys, or the Assembly or Senate Rules Committees for consideration.

The FPPC opposed AB 2256, saying it is concerned about any legislation that would expand its duties but not its budget.

Portantino's previous whistleblower bill, Assembly Bill 1378, was derailed in January by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

April 25, 2012
Judge affirms his ruling for Legislature in budget pay dispute

In a win for lawmakers, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown affirmed his decision today that Controller John Chiang cannot unilaterally block their pay if they submit a budget they consider balanced.

Attorneys for the Legislature and Chiang battled in an hour-long hearing that at one point had the controller's attorney suggesting lawmakers could just write a flimsy state budget on a ham sandwich wrapper and send it to the governor to get their pay.

Most of the hearing featured verbal sparring between Brown and deputy attorney general Ross Moody, who represented the controller. Chiang did not say Wednesday whether he would appeal.

Democratic legislative leaders who sued Chiang contend the controller illegally took control of the budget process when he found their budget out of balance and blocked their pay for 12 days last June.

During the hearing, one of the Legislature's attorneys, Fredric D. Woocher, said of Chiang, "When did he essentially get to appoint himself king?"

Judge Brown was sympathetic. He told Chiang's side, "If your position is correct, nobody is going to want to run for governor anymore. The big race in California is going to be for controller because the controller is going to be the person. He or she will be the top power in the state."

April 25, 2012
Jerry Brown tells state agencies to reduce emissions, water use

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state agencies today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption by at least 20 percent by 2020, formalizing longstanding goals.

"We must lead by example," the Democratic governor said in a written statement announcing his executive order. "Greening the state's buildings will shrink our environmental footprint and save taxpayers millions of dollars."

The order also requires new state buildings and major renovations of old ones larger than 10,000 square feet to meet certain green-building standards. It requires that, where economically feasible, those buildings include green power generators such as solar panels.

Brown touted the order as a measure to reduce state spending. Reducing state energy purchases by 20 percent could eventually save $45 million annually, his office said.

April 25, 2012
Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board may change, but how?

A state Senate committee voted Wednesday to change how members of the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board are paid -- but nobody, including the author of the bill, knows what that change will be.

The seven-member board -- appointed by the governor and legislative leaders -- hear appeals when applications for unemployment insurance are denied. Those appointees are often legislators who have been forced out of office by term limits.

Two former Assembly members, Republican Bonnie Garcia and Democrat Alberto Torrico, are serving on the board now. Former Republican Sen. Roy Ashburn announced recently that he would resign to run for the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, introduced Senate Bill 1263 to abolish the board members' $79,122 salaries.

Vargas cited the public perception that board appointments are rewards for "termed-out lawmakers" and noted that members of other state boards with equal or more important duties, such as the Coastal Commission, receive only token per diem payments and expenses.

However, it appeared that members of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee were not willing to abolish the board's salaries. So Vargas agreed to make some still-unwritten changes in the measure as it moves further through the legislative process to mollify opponents. The precise nature of those amendments are to be worked out privately, and they may -- or may not -- bar ex-legislators from serving on the board.

With that pledge, the committee voted to keep SB 1263 alive.

April 25, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: Pay ruling a 'victory' for separation of powers

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said today that it would be "a victory for upholding the separation of powers" if a Sacramento judge finalizes his decision favoring lawmakers over Controller John Chiang in their budget-related pay dispute.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown issued a tentative ruling Tuesday siding with legislative leaders who said Chiang cannot block their pay on the basis of how he interprets their budget. The Democratic controller last year withheld 12 days' worth of pay and expense money by relying a new on-time budget requirement in Proposition 25 and a constitutional requirement requiring their budget to be balanced.

Brown will hear oral arguments today at 2 p.m. before issuing a final ruling.

Steinberg said he was "obviously pleased" with Brown's tentative ruling, which attacked several of Chiang's arguments. The Senate leader acknowledged that he and lawmakers would "take a hit" from the public for suing the controller, but he said, "There is a big difference between how people might feel about this in the present, and what this means for upholding the separation of powers in the long run."

April 25, 2012
California more Ozzie and Harriet than Kardashian

Nelson Ozzie 016.JPGCalifornia has a global reputation for an anything-goes lifestyle - fueled, perhaps, by the lavishly publicized antics of Hollywood's glitterati.

A new Census Bureau report indicates, however, that Ozzie and Harriet may be more accurate exemplars of Californians' lifestyles than the Kardashians.

The report analyzes the composition of American households from 2010 census data, finding - not surprisingly - a trend toward more nontraditional living arrangements.

Those would include more singles, more single-parent households and more interracial and interethnic couples - the latter growing by 28 percent between 2000 and 2010.

The data show, however, that 49.4 percent of California households are old-fashioned husband-and-wife types, and that's one percentage point higher than the national average of 48.4 percent. And those California couples are more likely than those in other states to have children at home.

April 25, 2012
Live chat: Election 2012 Q&A with Republican, Democratic party officials

April 25, 2012
Roger Hernandez driving drunk when arrested, lab results conclude

Laboratory test results have concluded that Assemblyman Roger Hernandez was legally drunk when arrested last month in Concord, prompting an apology from the West Covina Democrat.

Hernandez's blood-alcohol level was 0.08 percent at the time of his test, police said in a written statement. His case will be turned over to the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office for review.

Hernandez, in a written statement, apologized for any embarrassment he may have caused others and characterized the test results as a "huge wake-up call for me." He expressed hope that others can learn from the incident that it is dangerous to consume any amount of alcohol before driving.

"I may have made a poor judgment thinking that I was sober enough to drive after a couple of drinks over the course of an evening," Hernandez said. "Had I thought I was mentally or physically impaired to drive, I would not have gone behind the wheel of a car."

Hernandez did not specifically address the blood-level finding, saying simply, "I look forward to fully looking into the specifics of the test for more information."

California law deems motorists with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

"Any time we send (a case) to the DA's office, we're recommending prosecution," Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger said.

Hernandez, D-West Covina, was stopped by officers in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel about 2 a.m. on a weekday, March 27. He was accompanied by a 29-year-old woman and his Toyota Camry had been spotted weaving inside a lane on Concord Avenue, officers said.

The first-term legislator denied that his car -- one of the Assembly's pool vehicles -- had been weaving or that he was impaired at the time.

Two days after his arrest, Hernandez said that he had consumed "two, maybe three glasses of wine over the course of a period longer than four hours after dinner."

Swanger said the blood-alcohol test was administered about an hour after Hernandez was taken into custody. Officers detected the smell of alcohol in his car when it was stopped, police reports noted.

Hernandez's blood sample was not tested for drugs because there was no indication during field observations that drugs might be involved, Swanger said.

* Updated at 2:45 p.m. to add comments from Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger. Updated at 5:05 p.m. to add comments from Roger Hernandez.

April 25, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Prognosticating California's population

VIDEO: Dan Walters says California may not be growing as fast as we thought.

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.

April 25, 2012
AM Alert: GOP presidential hopeful Fred Karger in Sacramento

VIDEO: Dan Walters, in today's video report, says that if California grows more slowly than originally thought, that could change everything.

Sacramento hears from one of the Republican presidential candidates this afternoon: Californian Fred Karger. The long-shot hopeful, who's had a "Fred Who?" thing going, is officially launching his California primary campaign on the Capitol's south steps at 2 p.m.

The only openly gay candidate in the GOP presidential primary, Karger edged out Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in New Hampshire and racked up 1,700 votes in Puerto Rico. His California campaign has launched a video ad called "Sexy Frisbee," which features scantily clad men and women throwing plastic discs around on a beach.

Spoiler alert: A couple of guys kiss at the end. The campaign says it will start airing a 30-second version Thursday in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

Under the dome, an Assembly panel hears from the state parks director, Ruth Coleman, about park closures while representatives of the Legislative Analyst's Office offer recommendations on how to avoid closing them.

The hearing will also feature testimony from Natural Resources Secretary John Laird on reorganization within the agency, as well as an update from Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols on the cap-and-trade program. The meeting runs from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 447. Click here to read the agenda.

On the Senate side, the Rules Committee considers gubernatorial appointments, with Fred Klass, director of the Department of General Services, Ken Pimlott, director of CalFire, and Tonya Hoover, state fire marshal, required to appear. That hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 113.

Those are by no means the only committee hearings. The list is long. Other Assembly budget subcommittees, for instance, will consider proposals for agencies ranging from the California Highway Patrol to the board of the California Community Colleges as well as the Department of Public Health. Check out the Senate's daily file here, and the Assembly's here.

LIVE CHAT: Got a question about this year's primary and general elections? Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party, and Shawnda Westly, executive director of the California Democratic Party, are joining The Bee's live chat today. Watch the chat and ask questions from noon to 1 p.m. at Torey Van Oot will moderate.

DENIM DAY: The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault marks its annual Denim Day California, an annual event sparked by an Italian Supreme Court decision to overturn a rape conviction based on the woman's tight jeans. The event starts at 10 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps. The cause has bipartisan appeal. Listed participants include Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa and Democratic Sen. Leland Yee, as well as Democratic Assembly members Bonnie Lowenthal, Roger Dickinson, V. Manuel Pérez, Bob Wieckowski and Das Williams, and Republican Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian.

LOBBY DAY: The American Heart Association meets at 10 a.m. under the tent on the north lawn to talk up Assembly Bill 1731 on infant screenings for heart defects, as well as Proposition 29's tobacco tax campaign. Listed speakers include Democratic Assemblymen Marty Block and Bill Monning.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, turns 54 today.

April 24, 2012
Abortion procedure bill scaled back in Senate

A proposal aimed at expanding access to a first trimester abortion procedure in California advanced today after being stripped of its key provisions, signaling that lawmakers could punt on the issue amid opposition from the California Nurses Association.

The original version of Senate Bill 1338, (originally Senate Bill 1501) by Democratic Sen. Christine Kehoe, would allow trained nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and certified nurse midwives to perform aspiration abortions. Only doctors can conduct the procedure, which uses a suction method to remove a fetus from a patient's uterus, under current law.

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved today a scaled-back version of the bill that would allow only clinicians trained under a UC San Francisco Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health pilot program to continue performing aspiration abortions after the program sunsets in September. That pool is now at 41 individuals, Kehoe's office says, though the bill covers clinicians trained through the end of 2012.

Sponsors of the bill, including Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, say Kehoe's original measure would ensure that women in rural and medically under-served communities have access to early abortions. They argue that results of the multi-year study, which served as a model for the bill, have shown that it is safe for trained clinicians identified in the bill to perform the procedure with proper training.

But opposition from the California Nurses Association, which contends the change would be premature because the program is not complete and the study has not been peer reviewed, threatened to derail the proposal. The association has also raised concerns about how earlier language would affect nurses' ability to assist with other kinds of abortions and procedures.

Compromise language to authorize only the study participants to perform the procedure after the pilot program wraps up emerged late last week, as the bill faces a Friday deadline for winning approval in two policy committees.

Kehoe told the committee that she and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will meet with stakeholders in the coming weeks to "resolve still outstanding issues" in hopes of restoring the bill to its original intent.

The bill, which was approved on a vote of 4-2, is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee later this week.

April 24, 2012
Judge says state controller has no power to block Legislature's pay

Post has been updated throughout the afternoon with responses and additional reporting.

A Sacramento Superior Court judge has tentatively ruled that the state controller has no authority to judge whether the state budget is balanced or block lawmakers' pay as he did last June.

In a bitter feud during last year's budget battle, Controller John Chiang determined that the budget passed by legislative Democrats was not balanced. Using new powers he believed he had under voter-approved Proposition 25, Chiang then blocked lawmakers' pay and expense money for 12 days until they cut a budget deal with Gov. Jerry Brown.

In a tentative ruling today, Judge David I. Brown said that the controller does not have discretion to determine whether the Legislature's budget is balanced. Proposition 25 said that lawmakers must approve a balanced budget by June 15 or else lose their pay.

Brown's ruling essentially says that the Legislature can determine for itself whether a budget is balanced.

"A contrary result could threaten to undermine the Legislature's essential function," Brown wrote today.

Chiang's office did not indicate today how it would proceed beyond making the scheduled oral arguments Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court. Brown could issue a final decision at any time after tomorrow's arguments.

In a statement, Chiang said, "The court's tentative ruling flies in the face of the voters' will by allowing legislators to keep their salaries flowing by simply slapping the title 'budget act' on a sheet of paper by June 15. Adopting an unbalanced and unfinanceable budget may ensure they are paid, but the people of California will be stuck with delayed payments and IOUs once that 'budget' falls apart."

April 24, 2012
Commission headed by Geena Davis gets last-minute funding from Assembly

Perez.jpg The California's Commission on the Status of Women is getting a second act with a last-minute funding pledge from the state Assembly.

The commission, which Academy Award-winning Geena Davis chairs, has been advising the governor and Legislature on issues and policy affecting women in the state for more than 45 years.

The panel was set to suspended its operations due to state budget cuts, and Gov. Jerry Brown proposed in January that its remaining $265,000 budget be eliminated, saying "numerous alternative and effective forums" already perform its duties.

But it was saved from the chopping block today. Speaker John A. Pérez and members of the Legislative Women's Caucus announced that the lower house will use $150,000 from its operating budget to fund the commission.

Davis said she has heard the governor's concerns and is "moving forward in a new direction with a clarified focus and a new commitment to women and girls." She said commission officials are exploring public-private funding opportunities and are planning to focus on business, health and safety, education, gender equality in the media and women and children in military families.

"Parity in these key areas is a marker of success and opportunity in our society," she said.

The Democratic governor isn't the only one calling for cutting off money to the commission. Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto plans legislation to prohibit the use of public funds for the commission and issued a statement today questioning whether saving the commission is the best use of Assembly budget savings.

"I applaud the Speaker for his willingness to reallocate Assembly funding to other areas of the budget," Olsen said. "However, at a time when teachers are receiving pink slips and we are releasing prisoners early, why would we use this money to fund the Commission on the Status of Women instead of a priority program? That is beyond comprehension."

Pérez said the commission "is one of many" programs the Assembly is looking to bolster with the savings from ongoing reductions to its operating budget, pointing to a recent $500,000 commitment to aid the National Guard in helping returning veterans get jobs and earlier transfers to restore funding for state-subsidized child care. The Los Angeles Democrat said the commission was a worthy recipient in part because of the effect that budget cuts to social services programs have had on women and children.

"You don't need to add insult to injury and layer those cuts on the elimination of the commission that has done essential work to look at those impacts, to look at other out-year challenges for us and to look at ways to create greater equity in the state of California," Pérez said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis talks about funding for the California Commission on the Status of Women with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, at the Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, April, 24, 2012. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

April 24, 2012
Jerry Brown glad death penalty measure on November ballot

SAN JOSE - Gov. Jerry Brown, who has personal reservations about the death penalty but enforced it as state attorney general, said this morning that he is glad a measure to abolish the death penalty will be on the November ballot, though he declined to say how he will vote.

"I think it gives people a chance to express themselves on a very, very important issue, so yeah, sure, I think it will be a good thing," the Democratic governor told reporters after an event in San Jose. "Just like I think it's a good thing that people get a chance to vote on taxes. Death and taxes are things we can't avoid, so it's good that people get to weigh in occasionally."

Brown, speaking the day after a measure to replace the death penalty with a maximum life sentence qualified for the November ballot, said he will "have a lot of time" to talk about his view of the measure. Brown is also seeking to qualify for the ballot a measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

"I'm not going to get into a death penalty discussion in May," he said.

Brown vetoed death penalty legislation in 1977, when he was governor before. The Legislature overrode his veto, and he said during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign that he would uphold it as governor.

Brown was at an IBM research facility for a panel discussion on business and the economy with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

April 24, 2012
USC demographers see much slower California population growth

California's population will grow much more slowly than current official projections as immigration and birth rates decline and the state's residents will grow markedly older, according to a massive new study by University of Southern California demographers released today.

The state Department of Finance currently projects that California will add roughly 5 million persons each decade to its population through 2050, but those numbers are five years old and the department is now upgrading its calculations in response to the 2010 census.

Meanwhile, researchers at USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy project that the state will add only about 3.5 million per decade as growth shrinks to under 1 percent per year. If that's true, it would mean about 5 million fewer Californians in 2050 than previously thought.

The USC report, available here, says it will mean "a new era of aging" as baby boomers and then their children retire. The state's 65-plus population is expected to rise from 11.4 percent in 2010 to 18.6 percent by 2030.

April 24, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: 'Top two' primary to produce intra-party battles in November

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses the "historic" nature of California's upcoming primary.

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.

April 24, 2012
AM Alert: Geena Davis, John Pérez announce plans for women's commission

VIDEO: Dan Walters Daily takes on the "historic" primary coming California's way.

The Commission on the Status of Women is expected to get a new lease on life today as commission chair - and Academy Award-winning actress - Geena Davis joins Assembly Speaker John Pérez for a 10:30 a.m. press conference.

Pérez plans to announce that the Assembly will contribute a portion of its budget savings to the commission, which Gov. Jerry Brown slated for elimination in his January budget proposal.

State Sen. Noreen Evans, a commission member who was critical of the governor's proposal, will also attend the event, set for room 317 in the Capitol.

Brown has a busy day of his own scheduled, beginning in San Jose with a 9 a.m. panel at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's 9th Annual CEO Business Climate Summit. He'll join Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to talk about the state's business climate and economic development.

Then he'll head to Sacramento for a rally co-sponsored by Crime Victims United of California and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The event, scheduled for 11:45 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol, is planned in connection with National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

Tomato workers unhappy with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board will continue their vigil today across from the Capitol's west steps, saying they've waited too long for payment from a dispute that began when employees of San Joaquin Tomato Growers, Inc. voted for UFW representation in 1989.

The case has been in litigation for years, and the board is now considering final action. The workers say they play to stay until that happens.

Have ideas or concerns about taxes? The first of two "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights" public hearings will be held today at the state Board of Equalization district office in Culver City.

Watch it live here, beginning at 1:30 p.m. A second hearing will be held in Sacramento on June 26.

LAWSUITS: California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and the Civil Justice Association of California will hold a public forum today in Sacramento. The session begins at 3 p.m. in room 127 at the Capitol.

NEED DATA? Check out our online database work on topics of interest to political junkies and state workers:

See who's lobbying state government - search by interest group or organization.

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See what state workers majored in during college.

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April 23, 2012
Measure to repeal death penalty in California qualifies for ballot

Californians voters going to the polls in November will again decide the fate of the death penalty.

A measure to abolish the death penalty and replace it with a maximum sentence of life behind bars without parole has qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot, the Secretary of State confirmed today. The measure, backed by a coalition that includes the American Civil Liberties Union and some law enforcement and victims rights groups, would apply to inmates currently on death row.

Supporters say capital punishment, which voters added to the state's books in 1978, costs California more than $100 million a year while leading to very few executions because of the time it takes to go through the appeals process.

Proponents had submitted to election officials nearly 800,000 petition signatures earlier this year. The measure officially made the cut after a random signature check conducted by counties projected that at least 555,236 of those signatures were from registered voters.

The death penalty initiative is the fifth ballot measure to be added to the November ballot. Voters are also set to consider a measure banning the use of automatic payroll deduction to collect money for political spending, a measure on auto insurance rates, a referendum to overturn the newly drawn state Senate district maps and a $11 billion in bonds for water infrastructure projects and conservation.

April 23, 2012
Report: Nadia Lockyer says she called husband drug supplier

Nadia Lockyer, the embattled wife of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, acknowledged she wrote the e-mail accusing her husband of once supplying her with drugs, according to a San Jose Mercury News story that ran Sunday.

She previously claimed that her former methamphetamine-addicted lover had hacked into her e-mail account to send the accusation to a reporter earlier this month. In the interview with the Mercury News, Nadia Lockyer said, "It did come from me and I made the mistake of regretting sending it. I ask the public not to hold anything against my husband for actions that happened a long time ago."

Bill Lockyer, a former state attorney general, denies his wife's claim.

"The allegation that Bill Lockyer provided her drugs was B.S. when we didn't know who said it, and it's still B.S.," spokesman Tom Dresslar said Monday.

Nadia Lockyer announced her resignation Friday from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, where she had served little over a year after winning election in 2010 with $1.5 million in campaign funding from her husband's war chest.

She said in a statement that she was leaving office so she could "focus on the well-being of my child, recovery from chemical dependency and interpersonal violence, and transitioning to work in the private sector." Her mention of "interpersonal violence" was apparently a reference to allegedly having suffered a Feb. 3 assault at the hands of her onetime lover Stephen Chikhani in a Newark hotel that exposed her personal problems.

Elsewhere in the Mercury News interview, Nadia Lockyer alleged that her husband said to her during a fight in February, "Why don't you just go ahead and commit suicide?"

Dresslar responded, "They had a heated argument, like married couples do on occasion. Nothing unusual. They both said things - not just him - they both said things that were hurtful and that they regret."

April 23, 2012
Hoffenblum sees same-party runoffs in 34 California districts

Allan Hoffenblum, one of the state's most experienced political campaign consultants and handicappers, says that nearly three dozen congressional and legislative contests could be runoffs between candidates of the same party, thanks to the state's new "top-two" primary system.

For the first time, candidates from all parties will be listed on the June 5 primary ballots and the two top vote-getters, regardless of party, will face each other in the November election.

There are 80 Assembly seats, 53 congressional seats and 20 state Senate seats up this year, and Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, a bible for election handicappers, says as many as 34 could wind up with same-party contests in November.

Hoffenblum, writing for the Fox & Hounds political website, sees a potential for 22 Assembly districts falling into that category, plus eight congressional seats and four in the state Senate.

By far, Hoffenblum writes, the greatest potential is for Democrat vs. Dermocrat duels due to low Republican voter registration in coastal and urban areas.

April 23, 2012
Jerry Brown aide Steve Glazer confirmed to CSU Trustee post

A top political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown won confirmation to the California State University Board of Trustees today.

Steve Glazer, who is helping run the Democratic governor's tax measure campaign, was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 31-5.

Glazer was appointed to the board by Brown last year. He faced an early May deadline for winning confirmation in the Senate.

While another Brown appointee to the board, former Chairman Herbert Carter, stalled in the face of Republican opposition, Glazer was able to secure the Republican support needed to achieve the two-thirds confirmation vote.

Senate Republican leader Bob Huff said that he was pleased with Glazer's demonstrated independence on the board and decision to vote against a generous campus president compensation package that was approved by the board amid tuition increases. Carter had voted for the pay package.

In additional to his political consulting work and role as an unpaid adviser to Brown, Glazer serves on the Orinda City Council.

April 23, 2012
California judicial summit conference aims at healing political rift

Gov. Jerry Brown's Yale Law School classmate and close friend, Appellate Justice J. Anthony Kline, is mediating a judicial summit conference today that will attempt to heal the years-long political war that has divided the state's judiciary.

Kline served as Brown's legal adviser during his first governorship three decades ago, and Brown appointed him to the San Francisco-based 1st District Court of Appeal, where he is now presiding justice.

Today's meeting will involve Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and a number of prominent judges, including two representatives of the California Alliance of Judges, which has been highly critical of the State Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts, which the chief justice heads.

The breakaway group has sponsored legislation to shift financial power from the AOC and the Judicial Council to local judges, alleging that local courts are being starved for funds while the two central agencies waste money on bureaucracy and an unworkable computer system.

The Judicial Council recently stopped work on the computerized case management system and Cantil-Sakauye is pressing the Legislature for more money, citing $653 million in state support reduction in recent years. But she has bitterly opposed the Alliance's legislation as a breach of the court system's independence.

April 23, 2012
California Taxpayers Association offers $7.3 billion in savings, revenue increases

The California Taxpayers Association handed ammunition Monday to opponents of this year's proposed tax increases - a report that outlines $7.3 billion in operational savings and non-tax "revenue enhancements" in state and local governments.

That's roughly 5 percent of annual state and local tax collections and approaches the revenue estimates for Gov. Jerry Brown's sales and income tax boost and a rival income tax increase sponsored by wealthy attorney Molly Munger. Brown's measure would address the state's budget deficit while Munger's would boost spending on schools.

"This report makes tangible, pragmatic recommendations that will yield long-term savings to address our current fiscal constraints and get state and local governments back on solid financial footing," CalTax president Teresa Casazza said in a statement that accompanied the report's release.

CalTax is a Sacramento-based organization, supported mostly by business groups, that tracks state and local government tax and budget matters and generally opposes tax increases. Its report lists $4.01 billion in permanent savings items, another $104 million in one-time savings and $3.19 billion in revenue increases.

None of the individual proposals involves big money, as the Capitol defines it; they are a grab bag of operational changes, such as reducing lease costs and privatization of some public services, many of which have kicked around the Capitol for years, mostly as Republican suggestions.

The "revenue enhancements" are fewer and larger, such as cleaning up delinquent tax accounts that, CalTax says, could produce $2.3 billion in one-time revenue,

April 23, 2012
Readers pick top California politics stories from last week

On Friday, we asked Facebook fans and Twitter followers to send us their picks for the top California politics story of the week. Share your thoughts on the question in the comments field of this piece.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for breaking news alerts to keep up with all the latest news in the week ahead.

April 23, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: California jobs aren't booming back

VIDEO: Dan Walters explains what's going on with jobs 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.

April 23, 2012
AM Alert: Howard Berman heads to Sacramento for fundraiser

Dan Walters, in today's video report, gives his take on what's behind California's latest unemployment figures.

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman is in Sacramento to raise money for his closely watched -- and expensive -- campaign against fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman in Southern California.

Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez are among the listed hosts for the $1,000-a-plate reception at 5:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Click here to read the invitation.

Meanwhile, expect another busy week under the dome. Friday is the last day for policy committees to pass fiscal bills introduced in their house.

One talker, or should we say barker, that's up for discussion today is Senate Bill 969 by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, to regulate pet groomers. Click on the links to see the Senate committee and the Assembly committee lineups. Both houses have floor sessions at noon.

Outside the Capitol, members of the California State Student Association are gathering on the north steps at 10 a.m. before the California State University students meet with legislators all day.

PHOTOS: The Department of Fish and Game's director, Chuck Bonham, is announcing the grand-prize winner of a wildlife photo contest sponsored by the department and California Watchable Wildlife. That event starts at 1 p.m. on the Capitol's south steps. The 12 top images will be displayed this week outside the govenor's office. Click here to read more.

VIGIL: Members of Impact Teen Drivers are conducting a vigil honoring teens and others who've died because of reckless or distracted driving. That event starts at 6 p.m. on the west steps.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, turns 47 today.

David Siders and Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.

April 20, 2012
Nadia Lockyer to resign from Alameda supervisor post

Story updated at 4:50 p.m. based on statements provided to The Bee by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and and Supervisor Nadia Lockyer.

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer's wife Nadia Lockyer , whose battles with substance abuse and an allegedly abusive affair became public earlier this year, announced today that she will resign from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to focus on her family and her recovery.

The development was first reported by the Bay Area News Group, who interviewed Nadia Lockyer in her Hayward living room.

In a statement issued late Friday, Nadia Lockyer said she could no longer balance being a mother and county supervisor with her recovery from addiction and dealing with the "aftermath of interpersonal violence."

She cited both Mother's Day and National Crime Victims' Rights Week in her announcement. The California Department of Justice, where Bill Lockyer previously served as attorney general, is still investigating Nadia Lockyer's allegation that she was assaulted in February by her lover in a Newark hotel but has not filed charges.

"Today, for my child, and in the spirit of Mother's Day and National Victims Rights' Week, I hereby announce my resignation from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, in order that I may focus on the well-being of my child, recovery from chemical dependence and interpersonal violence, and transitioning to work in the private sector," she stated.

Bill Lockyer issued his own statement later today: "I fully support Nadia's decision to step down as county supervisor and focus on completing her recovery and caring for our son. She has worked hard and well for her district. But the last year took a great toll on Nadia. It's best for her, best for Diego and best for our family that she leave public office."

Kevin Yamamura contributed to this report.

April 20, 2012
Planned Parenthood runs ad backing abortion bill ahead of vote

Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California has launched a new radio ad to generate support for legislation that would allow non-doctors to perform an early-term abortion procedure, as opposition from the California Nurses Association threatens to derail the bill.

The spot, which is running in San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego, asks listeners to call specific legislators and ask them to "guarantee women access to the health care we need and deserve."

While the ads, posted at this link, does not directly mention Senate Bill 1338, a press release says that is one of two bills that the ads seek to support. All three Democratic senators targeted by the campaign serve on a committee set to hear the measure in the coming weeks.

April 20, 2012
Assemblyman was driving state car when arrested in DUI case

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez voluntarily relinquished his right to drive Assembly pool cars Friday, hours after the lower house disclosed that he was driving one of the vehicles when arrested in Concord last month on suspicion of drunken driving.

The West Covina Democrat, in a written statement, said he learned after reviewing Assembly rules that he "should not have used a state vehicle for travel outside the Capitol to the Bay Area."

"I apologize to my constituents and colleagues for doing so," Hernandez wrote. "I do believe pending test results will make clear that I was in fact driving within the law. Until this matter is resolved,I am voluntarily relinquishing my access to drive state vehicles."

Earlier Friday, Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said that Hernandez did not have permission March 27 to take one of the Assembly's pool cars to Concord, where he was arrested in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Hernandez was driving a Toyota Camry hybrid that had been assigned to him for travel in the Capitol area, Waldie said.

Lawmakers are making more extensive use of personal vehicles or pool cars after California's independent salary-setting commission eliminated a lease-car program serving Assembly and Senate officeholders.

The general rule is that Assembly members not take pool cars out of Sacramento without prior permission. Officials prefer that out-of-area trips be for a legislative or governmental purpose, Waldie said.

"He was not fully aware of those rules, I guess, being a first-term member," Waldie said. "He is now fully aware of those rules."

Pending results of a blood test, no charges have been filed against Hernandez in connection with the Concord arrest.

April 20, 2012
FPPC pushing for personal liability when IEs break elections law

Bracing for a flood of independent expenditures for candidates or causes in this year's elections, California's political watchdog agency is seeking to tighten state law to require more personal liability.

FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel said that legislation is being drafted, at the agency's behest, to require that principal officers of independent expenditure committees be held personally responsible for violations of election law.

The bill would take effect immediately if passed by a two-thirds supermajority of each legislative house and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

April 20, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Will term-limits measure benefit politicians?

VIDEO: Dan Walters answers a reader's question about how the term limits proposition on the June ballot would affect California legislators now in office.

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.

April 20, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown to attend funeral of Stanislaus deputy

Dan Walters, in today's video report, explains how the term-limits measure on the June ballot would affect California legislators now in office.

Gov. Jerry Brown is Modesto-bound to attend the funeral service for Robert Paris, the Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy who was shot and killed April 12 as he tried to serve an eviction notice.

Locksmith Glendon Engert was shot to death along with Paris. A badly burned body was found the next day in the charred ruins of the building where Paris had tried to serve the notice. Police later identified the well-armed body as that of Jim Ferrario, who they said died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to this Associated Press report.

The funeral service for Paris starts at noon at Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto.

Back at the Capitol, the California Highway Patrol is teaming up this morning with the Senate and Assembly sergeants-at-arms for an emergency drill that may require evacuation of the building.

Speaking of emergencies and preparedness, a Senate select committee will hear from State Auditor Elaine Howle, State Architect Chet Widom and others on seismic safety standards and construction oversight at California's public schools. The hearing, which follows up on a 2011 state audit report, starts at 10 a.m. at Canyon Middle School in Castro Valley.

Down in the south state, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Assemblywoman Holly J. Mitchell are meeting with UCLA students to talk up Pérez's "middle-class scholarship" measures, Assembly Bills 1500 and 1501. The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Fowler Museum's Lenart Auditorium at UCLA.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Two legislators celebrate their birthdays on Sunday. Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, turns 57, and Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, turns 41.

April 19, 2012
Steinberg wants to put initiative process changes on 2014 ballot

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg pledged today to put forward for the 2014 election a package of major changes to California's initiative process, including a provision to make it easier for legislators to place tax measures on the ballot.

The Sacramento Democrat, speaking at a Sacramento Press Club luncheon, outlined a trio of initiative reforms he said "will both strengthen California's tradition of direct democracy and empower the people elected by their make clear choices."

He said he plans to put the proposals on the 2014 ballot either through a vote of the Legislature, a task he said could be easier if Democrats secure a supermajority in the upper house this November, or by gathering the necessary voter signatures through the initiative process.

April 19, 2012
California Lottery swaps ad amid controversy over slap scene

Lady Luck 01.JPGThe California Lottery is taking down a new television ad that the California Legislative Women's Caucus said inappropriately "glamorizes violence."

The ad, which has been airing for about two weeks, had come under fire for a scene in which a woman acting as "Lady Luck" slaps a man playing a new scratch lotto game.

The Lottery decided today to replace that commercial with a version where the woman instead blows a kiss to the man at the end, said Russ Lopez, the Lottery's deputy director of corporate communications.

"That was not and would never be our intention to glamorize violence," he said.

Lopez said officials had always intended to run two versions of the commercial, which promotes the new Black Scratchers game. He said officials began discussion switching the ads earlier this week after hearing concerns from "a few" customers.

"We're not in the business of controversy," he said. "We're in the business of growing the lottery for the benefit of public education."

Lopez said the ad had received hundreds of "Likes" on Facebook and other positive feedback and just a dozen or so complaints. He also said participants in focus groups run before the ad went on the air did not raise concerns about the slap.

"Nobody had an issue with it," he said. "(They) saw a metaphor for being struck by Lady Luck."

The new version of the ad will continue to air in broadcast markets statewide. The cost of producing the spot and buying airtime was not immediately available.

Photo Caption: California State Lottery lady luck comercial.

Legislative Women's Caucus condemns California Lottery ad

April 19, 2012
Legislative Women's Caucus condemns California Lottery ad

UPDATE: 4:20 p.m. The California Lottery Commission is taking down the ad. Read more at this link.

Leaders of the Legislative Women's Caucus are demanding that the California Lottery Commission take a new television ad off the air, saying a scene in which a woman slaps a man who scores a win on a scratch ticket "glamorizes violence."

"We certainly believe this commercial not only portrays women in a poor light -- by perpetrating violence -- but also endorses the act of violence itself," Sen. Noreen Evans and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, who co-chair the caucus, wrote in a letter Wednesday to Lottery Director Robert O'Neil.

The letter, posted after the jump, asks the Lottery Commission to pull the ad and "scrutinize the content of future ads which may contain harmful messages that are paid for with public dollars."

"It is inappropriate for any entity, especially a state-funded Commission, to promote its products through the use of violence," the letter reads.

The "Luck has a new look" spot, posted below, shows a woman in black, assumed to be "Lady Luck," walking up to a man playing a California Lottery Black Scratchers ticket at a bowling alley. After she slaps him across the face, he looks at his scratch card and says, "I won!"

A spokesperson for the Lottery Commission was not immediately available for comment. The commission website lists several Lady Luck-themed promoted for the Black Scratchers game running through the month of April.

April 19, 2012
FPPC leader to seek blogger disclosure of campaign payments

California would push political bloggers to disclose payments they receive from campaigns under a proposal that the state Fair Political Practices Commission will consider in coming months.

In closing remarks Thursday at a Sacramento symposium on a wide range of political and campaign issues, FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel announced plans to seek a vote by her commission on blogger disclosure.

Details of the proposal have not yet been worked out, such as what level of payments would trigger disclosure to readers on websites where bloggers post their political or campaign-related opinions

Ravel said she initially plans to ask the FPPC to pass an advisory measure, meaning that disclosure by bloggers would be suggested but not required for the November election. Her goal for future elections is mandatory disclosure, she said.

Under current state law, campaigns are required to report any payments they make to bloggers, but the latter need not report.

FPPC officials said they believe that passage of a mandate would make California the first state to require blogger disclosure of political payments.

April 19, 2012
Senate GOP cries foul over procedural move on mortgage bills

The Senate moved forward today with plans to direct mortgage reform proposals sponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris to a joint legislative conference committee, passing placeholder legislation over objections from Republican lawmakers who said the upper house was manipulating the legislative process.

The move would allow a six-member committee to hammer out the details of the proposals to apply terms of the major foreclosure settlement reached between 49 states and five major banks to apply to all California lenders outside the normal committee process.

The package of bills on the topic sponsored by Harris, which includes proposals addressing problems stemming from "dual tracking" and "robo signings," was pulled from committee agendas in the Senate and the Assembly this week.

April 19, 2012
Jeff Randle named senior adviser to Mitt Romney campaign

Jeff Randle sure can pick a toughie. With the Republican presidential primary race all but locked up for Mitt Romney, it was announced today that the Sacramento-based GOP strategist will be a senior adviser to Romney's California campaign.

"Jeff Randle is one of California's most respected and accomplished political leaders, and his expertise is critical as we work to highlight Mitt Romney's vision for the Golden State," Romney political director Rich Beeson said in a prepared statement.

The California primary is less than seven weeks away. Romney led the field of Republicans here even when the race was competitive.

The general election is another story. California is so heavily Democratic that no Republican candidate is expected to campaign seriously here against President Barack Obama.

"I am honored to be part of what is an incredibly organized, focused and determined campaign team," Randle, who previously volunteered for Romney, said in the statement. "The team reflects Mitt Romney's leadership and mirrors his focus on building a winning organization that is primed to win the general election."

April 19, 2012
Reagan statue proposed for California's Capitol

Doug Elmets, a Sacramento public affairs consultant who worked in Ronald Reagan's White House, thinks it's about time to erect a statue of his old boss at the state Capitol - and more than a few lawmakers agree.

Assembly Bill 2358, coauthored by just about every Republican in the Assembly, would authorize a statue of the late president and California governor on the Capitol grounds. Its construction and maintenance would be paid for by private donations.

"The reality is this," said Elmets, who plans to raise money for the effort. "He is one of the only presidents who has also served as governor of a state that does not have a statue at the state Capitol."

The bill is scheduled to be heard in committee next week.

Elmets said supporters of the project haven't decided where to put the statue, or who will make it. He estimated the cost at anywhere from $80,000 to $200,000.

The Legislature has some history with Reagan memorials. Two years after Reagan's death, lawmakers elected in 2006 to put a bronze statue of him in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall.

The statue displaced one of Thomas Starr King, the abolitionist who died in 1864. King's statue was moved to the state Capitol and dedicated there in 2009.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Thomas Starr King.

April 19, 2012
Shannon Grove says Dems hijacked her 'good government' bill

Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, who is spearheading an initiative drive for a part-time Legislature, accused Democrats of hijacking one of her "good government" bills at a committee hearing Wednesday.

Grove said the intent of her Assembly Bill 1948 was to require the Legislature to live under labor rules it imposes on private industry. She characterized Democrats who oppose that notion as cowards, saying the incident shows why a part-time Legislature is needed.

"It's just another key to me, and it should be to the citizens of California, that we all need to be part time," the Bakersfield Republican said.

The Democrat who heads the Labor and Employment Committee, Sandré Swanson of Alameda, disagreed with both Grove's characterization of what happened and her contention that it backed up her push to make the Legislature part-time.

April 19, 2012
Social media protections for job, college applicants advances

FACEBOOK91.JPGA Senate committee gave the green light today to legislation that would block public and private universities and employers from seeking access to applicants' social media accounts.

Senate Bill 1349, by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee, bans employers and educational institutions from asking prospective or current employees and students to hand over their user names and passwords or provide access to the account.

The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee 7-0. It now heads for consideration in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Yee announced plans to pursue the legislation after an Associated Press report cited examples of such practices happening in other states, though the San Francisco Democrat said the issue had come up before in conversations with Silicon Valley interests. While California's public universities and colleges say they do not currently request such information, a legislative committee analysis says some private institutions have sought access to student athletes' accounts.

"While social media have provided a useful avenue for socialization and expression, the author contends that it has also put employees, job applicants, and students at risk of having their privacy blatantly violated by employers and schools," the committee analysis reads.

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 next week.


Bill would stop requests for job seekers' social media logins

PHOTO CREDIT: Matt, 17, and Bob Florian showcasing a Facebook page. Washington Post photo by Susan Biddle.

April 19, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: California high-speed rail in trouble

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses the political and legal problems facing high-speed rail.

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.

April 19, 2012
AM Alert: Coalition urging Californians not to go to pot

Dan Walters, in today's video report, looks at whether the California Legislature is likely to OK bond money to start construction on the state's high-speed rail project.

It's the day before "420," and a coalition rallying at the Capitol is urging Californians not to go to pot.

Members of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, which has proclaimed today to be "National No Pot Day," will be distributing its parents' pledge to educate their kids about marijuana. The event starts at 10 a.m. on the Capitol's north steps.

The number "420," of course, is a nickname for pot and also refers to April 20, the Fourth of July of weed. "This most unusual of holidays pays tribute to the legend of a group of 1970s high school students in San Rafael, who gathered at 4:20 p.m. every day to smoke marijuana," The Bee's Peter Hecht reported two years ago.

Over on the west steps, also at 10 a.m., the Keep California Beautiful campaign is launching its sixth annual beautification day. The event, which coincides with this week's Earth Day celebration, includes an e-waste collection from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Jesse Unruh State Office Building, 915 Capitol Mall. Learn more at this link.

Meanwhile, the Senate and the Assembly both have sessions this morning at 9 a.m., followed by five budget-related hearings in the upper house, related to issues ranging from realignment of child welfare service and adoptions to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and from trial court funding to Caltrans. All of the hearings start at 9:30 p.m. or after session adjourns. Click here to read the Senate committee schedule.

HIGH-SPEED RAIL: The California High-Speed Rail Authority is discussing environmental reports for its planned route from Bay Area to the Central Valley. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. at Sacramento City Hall. Click here for the agenda.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The University of Southern California and the Fair Political Practices Commission are hosting a symposium on campaign finance and disclosure in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial decision in the Citizens United case. Listed speakers include former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and legal and government experts, plus Bee columnist Dan Morain and FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and will be streamed live at both the FPPC website and the California Channel website. For more information, click here.

BUDGET TALK: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is making his fourth appearance as Senate leader before the Sacramento Press Club, this time discussing the state budget and other issues. Click here to learn more. (The RSVP deadline has already passed.)

LTGOV: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking a noontime tour of NASA's new Sustainability Base, which a news release describes as "a highly intelligent and intuitive facility designed to anticipate and react to changes in sunlight, temperature, wind and occupancy." The building, which is at Moffett Field, is being considered for the highest LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

AWARD: Veteran California pollster Mervin Field -- founder of the Field Poll and Field Research Corp. -- has another honor to put on his resume. The Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley has presented him with an award named for long-time IGS supporters Darius and Sarah Anderson that honors Field for decades of work. As former Bee reporter Jon Matthews wrote back in 1996, Field and his organizations have measured voter sentiment "from Truman vs. Dewey in 1948 to Clinton vs. Dole in 1996, from Proposition 13 to Proposition 209" and beyond.

April 19, 2012
Census Bureau offering even more data about California

If you want even more information about California from the 2010 census than was released last year, the Census Bureau is providing it.

Beginning today, the bureau is releasing information about as many as 331 racial and ethnic groups down to the census tract level for California and four other states.

The new data dump will cover such topics as age, family relationships and home ownership not only by racial or ethnic group but by counties, communities, ZIP codes and congressional districts, as well as census tracts.

April 18, 2012
Steve Glazer clears key committee vote for CSU trustee post

Steve Glazer, a top unpaid adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, cleared a key hurdle today for winning confirmation to the California State University Board of Trustees.

The Senate Rules Committee approved Glazer's appointment by a bipartisan vote of 5-0 at a confirmation hearing this afternoon, signaling smooth sailing for the Brown appointee as he heads to a vote of the full Senate.

Glazer's confirmation hearing had been delayed last week amid questions about support from Senate Republicans, whose votes are needed to hit the two-thirds threshold for approving CSU trustees.

Another Brown appointee to the board, former chairman Herbert Carter, failed to win approval after Republicans signaled they would not support him in a floor vote. But unlike Carter, Glazer had not made a controversial vote for a generous campus president pay package on the same day the board moved to increase tuition.

Glazer told members of the committee today that while he believes the board should do what it can to attract top-tier talent for open posts, "we need everyone in the system to make sacrifices" during a time of budget constraints.

"We have to live within our financial means," he said. "We have to set the right example."

Glazer, who is helping run Brown's tax measure campaign, was appointed to the board by the Democratic governor last year. He faces a May 3 confirmation deadline.

Senate delays confirmation hearing for Steve Glazer

April 18, 2012
California high-speed rail chief: Projects often lack sure funding

After the state's fiscal analyst criticized California high-speed rail for facing "highly speculative" financial prospects, California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard defended the $68 billion program this morning by suggesting major transportation projects often lack funding certainty.

Richard urged Assembly members to approve $2.6 billion in state bond funds along with $3.3 billion in federal money to start construction in the Central Valley by the end of the year. He testified in the first of a double-header of legislative budget hearings slated for today.

The project chief, who once served as a Bay Area Rapid Transit board member, said BART and other transportation programs commonly pursued construction without knowing where every dollar would come from.

April 18, 2012
Stalled mortgage bills headed for joint conference committee

Opposed by powerful business and finance groups, key mortgage reform bills sponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris are headed for a joint legislative conference committee.

The six-member conference committee will consist of two Democrats and one Republican from each house, according to multiple legislative aides who had been notified of the plan.

The maneuver would be a way to discuss amendments and move the legislation, considered lynchpins of Harris' mortgage reform plan, to the Assembly and Senate floors without a vote by finance committees.

April 18, 2012
Newman of 'Seinfeld' makes cameo in California bill analysis

SEINFELD_NEWMAN.JPGThe television show about nothing has become something of an argument for an Assembly bill to change California's beverage container recycling program.

A reader passed along the Appropriations Committee analysis for Assembly Bill 1933, noting that "Seinfield" antagonist Newman makes a cameo in the three-page bill report:

As the author notes, a 1996 episode television's Seinfeld featured the efforts of supporting character, Newman, to smuggle a mail truck loaded with beverage cans out of New York, which did not offer a beverage container redemption, and into Michigan, where the cans could be turned in for a five-cent redemption value.

Calrecycle does not know how much beverage container material is imported into the state in attempts to fraudulently receive CRV for the material, a la Newman. However, the department has evidence to suspect the practice happens large scale.

The bill's author -- Democratic Assemblyman and apparent Seinfield fan Richard Gordon of Menlo Park -- is likely hoping his legislation enjoys a better outcome than Newman's scheme.

The reoccurring nemesis to the fictional Jerry Seinfield lost both the bottles and his seat in the truck by the end of the two-part episode.

For the record, the episode's math actually involved a 10-cent redemption in Michigan. New York's deposit was then and still is a nickel. Watch a clip from the episode at this link.

PHOTO CREDIT: Actors Jerry Seinfeld, left, as "Seinfeld" and Wayne Knight as "Newman," file photo, 1998.

April 18, 2012
Gavin Newsom to host cable talk show

Gavin Newsom.JPGLt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, in addition to his limited duties at the Capitol, will become a cable talk show host next month.

"The Gavin Newsom Show," a weekly, hour-long program, will feature the former San Francisco mayor interviewing "notables from Silicon Valley, Hollywood and beyond," Current TV announced today.

"We've got Gavin: New show in May," the San Francisco-based network announced on its website. "The California lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco brings his trail-blazing perspective to Current TV with a new weekly, hour-long show."

The announcement follows the network's recent split with Keith Olbermann. Newsom and Gov. Jerry Brown, both Democrats, have appeared before on the network's "The War Room with Jennifer Granholm," a show hosted by the former governor of Michigan.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, file photo, Feb. 7, 2011. Autumn Cruz / Sacramento Bee.

April 18, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Employers winning Capitol battle

VIDEO: Dan Walters says job-killer bills don't do so well at the Capitol.

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.

April 18, 2012
AM Alert: High-speed rail gets California legislative scrutiny

Dan Walters, in today's video report, says California's business interests have been doing pretty well in killing measures they label "job killers."

California's high-speed rail project, which the Legislative Analyst recommended Tuesday should not receive construction funding, gets a double-barreled look today from committees in both houses.

An Assembly budget subcommittee considers the High-Speed Rail Authority's revised business plan at a hearing from 9 a.m. to noon in the Capitol's Room 447. Then a Senate budget subcommittee takes up the subject at 2:30 p.m. in Room 112, or after the Senate Rules Committee adjourns.

Speaking of the Rules Committee, Gov. Jerry Brown adviser Steven Glazer is required to show up as members consider his appointment to the California State University board. His confirmation hearing was put on hold last week as Brown trolled for Republican support.

Also required to appear: former legislator Hector De La Torre, who Brown has named to the California Air Resources Board, and Mark Cowin, the director of Water Resources. The Rules Committee hearing starts at 1 p.m. in Room 113.

Education committees are also meeting in both chambers, with the upper house's panel considering dueling bills on school employee discipline. In fact, the lists of committees and bills are long as the Legislature faces its next deadline: April 27 is the last day for policy committees to move along fiscal measures introduced in that house. Click here for the Senate's daily file, and click here for the Assembly's.

Outside the building, Lockheed Martin officials are setting up an F-35 cockpit demonstrator to highlight the fighter aircraft's national security role as well as its economic impact on the state. Assembly members Betsy Butler, D-Los Angeles, and Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, will also be talking up their legislative resolution urging Congress to support the F-35 program. Both of them count aerospace manufacturers in their districts and serve on the Assembly's Select Committee on Aerospace, with Butler as chair. The presser starts at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

PASSOVER SEDER: The 47th annual Sen. Herschel Rosenthal Passover Seder, a Capitol tradition, takes place tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. at Sacramento's Albert Einstein Residence Center. Listed participants include Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Assembly members Marty Block, Bob Blumenfield, Mike Feuer, Linda Halderman, Bonnie Lowenthal and Jeff Miller, and Sens. Mark Leno, Alan Lowenthal and Lois Wolk.

ANSEL ADAMS: Gary F. Kurutz, recently retired as director of the California State Library's special collections, will be discussing California icon Ansel Adams at a California State Library Foundation talk tonight, starting at 6 p.m. at the library, 900 N St.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, turns 65 today.

April 17, 2012
Assembly committee shelves 'ban list' for violent sports fans

Legislation to create a "Ban List" prohibiting violent fans from attending professional sports events anywhere in California was shelved Tuesday by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto, of Los Angeles, hopes to revive his Assembly Bill 2464 by talking with critics about potential amendments in coming days, an aide said.

Gatto's bill was a response to senseless fan violence such as the nearly fatal beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow outside Dodger Stadium last year.

Committee concerns ranged from the planned publicizing of offenders' names on the Internet to a provision to assess professional sports teams $10,000 initially to launch the program and to provide witness rewards.

April 17, 2012
Bill to require more legislative transparency dies in Assembly

Legislation touted by supporters as a way to increase lawmakers' transparency and accountability, partly by publishing member-by-member monthly spending reports, died Tuesday in the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.

Modesto Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 1730.

Olsen's bill called for members of the Assembly and Senate to:

• Post their monthly budget allocations and expenditures online, including any caucus allocations, travel expenses, office rent and staff salaries.

• Identify committee spending separately from office spending.

• Withhold votes on legislation until a bill has been available publicly for at least 72 hours.

• Report within 24 hours any campaign contribution over $100 that is received during deadline weeks for the state budget, end of the legislative session, and for moving bills out of their house of origin.

Olsen introduced AB 1730 after the Assembly balked last year at releasing member-by-member office budgets, sparking a lawsuit by The Bee and Los Angeles Times that led to a judge's ruling that they are public records and must be disclosed.

Republicans on the committee supported AB 1730 Tuesday, but Democrats voted against the bill, were absent, or did not vote.

The bill received only two of the four affirmative votes required for passage.

April 17, 2012
Legislative Analyst: High-speed rail funding 'speculative'

High Speed Rail.JPGDespite lowering the proposed cost of California's high-speed rail project to $68 billion, the Brown administration still relies on "highly speculative" funding for the project, the Legislative Analyst's Office said in a report today recommending that construction funding not be approved.

The nonpartisan LAO did recommend that the Legislature approve minimal funding to continue planning for the project.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority propose to use $2.6 billion in high-speed rail bond funds and $3.3 billion in federal funds to start construction in the Central Valley by early next year.

The LAO and other critics of the project have long questioned the authority's reliance on uncertain federal funding to complete the project, an objection raised by the LAO again today.

"Given the federal government's current financial situation and the current focus in Washington on reducing federal spending, it is uncertain if any further funding for the high-speed rail program will become available," the report said, which may be viewed online at this link.

The LAO also questioned whether the state could use revenue from its new cap-and-trade program for the rail project. Cap-and-trade money is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the high-speed rail project could eventually help the state reduce emissions, the LAO said, it would not come online until after 2020, the year by which the state is trying to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The LAO said the administration's shifting focus to rely on existing rail lines in urban areas could be positive. However, it said it is concerned changes to the plan "have been rushed with many important details not having been sorted out."

The LAO said the California High-Speed Rail Authority "has not made a strong enough case for going forward with the project at this time."

PHOTO CREDIT: A rendering of a high-speed train moving through a wind farm in the proposed high speed rail network. Courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority.

April 17, 2012
Census Bureau goofed on California tax collections

The Census Bureau goofed when it declared that California had the nation's third fastest rate of state revenue growth during the 2010-11 fiscal year, it said Tuesday.

The Census Bureau issued a revised report on state tax collections with a note that the change was "due to a calculation error that caused California's sales tax to be overstated by $6.4 billion. New Mexico replaced California as one of the four states with the largest percentage tax increase."

The revised report places California's $116.7 billion was sixth highest in the nation.The corrected April 12 Capitol Alert item on the earlier Census Bureau report can be found here.

April 17, 2012
California veterinarians win battle with groomers over teeth

Legislation that would allow pet groomers to brush the teeth of dogs, cats and other pets died in the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Committee Tuesday without a single "aye" vote.

It was the latest skirmish in a decades-long political war between the groomers and veterinarians, who now have the exclusive legal right to brush teeth and perform other dental procedures on animals.

Proponents of Assembly Bill 2304, including its author, Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Carlsbad, said allowing groomers to do cosmetic brushing would encourage better dental care because of lower cost. But veterinarians contended that loosening the regulation could imperil pets.

No members of the committee voted for the bill while three voted against it.

April 17, 2012
Committee kills bill making wealthy California inmates pay costs

photo.jpegShould wealthy Californians serving time as inmates head directly to jail AND pay the tab of their incarceration costs?

A state Senate committee today decided the answer to that question is no -- for now, at least.

Senate Bill 1124, by Sen. Anthony Cannella,would require the courts to order prisoners who can afford to pay for part of their state prison or county jail stay to do so.

While current law allows a judge order someone sentenced to state prison to pay all or part of the "reasonable costs of the imprisonment," Cannella says that his proposal would result in more so-called "pay-to-stay" orders and alleviate financial burdens for the correctional system.

"I'm just suggesting that the one percenters that we talk about who have the ability to pay for their incarceration do just that," the Ceres Republican told members of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

The bill failed by a vote of 2-3. Critics complained that it would put an undue burden on families and inmates readjusting to life after bars, but Democrats voting no pointed to potential costs for the court system, which would have been required to set a hearing to determine whether the inmate would be able to reimburse the state.

"This is not a time to be imposing any additional requirements on our courts in my view," said Public Safety Chair Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.

Still, several Democrats sitting on the committee endorsed the concept of the proposal. Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, suggested commissioning a report on how often the current option to force repayment is exercised and looking into a pilot program.

'I think it's a great bill, and I think in a different time and a different place it would be very effective," Calderon said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Inmates wait in the Roger Bauman Facility for assessment at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center on March 5, 2012. Renée C. Byer, Sacramento Bee.

April 17, 2012
VIDEO: Jerry Brown addresses Kings arena deal

Calling politics at the Capitol a "contact sport," Gov. Jerry Brown welcomed the California Medical Association this afternoon "to the arena" - then recalled that the Kings arena deal is dead.

Perhaps, he suggested, the city might take in some other sport.

"I feel the gladiatorial instincts can be adequately sated by coming to the legislative galleries and watching the various forces of the state contend," Brown said.

Asked later who is to blame for the arena deal crumbling, Brown said maybe no one person, at all.

"It might be the economy. It might be lack of money," he said. "I don't think you should be looking for fault. It's a business proposition, and somebody has to say that by investing the money, they're going to get more than they put in, and if you can't find that, it won't happen, and if that does turn out to be the case, I'm sure somebody will step up."

April 17, 2012
Jerry Brown says budget gap could grow by $1 billion or more

Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that the state budget deficit could be $1 billion or more greater than the $9.2 billion he previously thought.

"I think it will be bigger than it was before," the Democratic governor told reporters after speaking to the California Medical Association in Sacramento. "Whether it's $1 billion or a couple billion, we'll let you know in a couple weeks."

Brown will release revised budget projections in May.

Legislative Democrats so far this year have resisted spending cuts Brown proposed and his request that they be enacted by March. Lawmakers have said they will wait until later in the budget calendar to make cuts.

Brown said today that he isn't frustrated by that resistance.

"The way the minuet is played," he said, "first you go through the next couple of months, and then, after June, then you really get down to business."

Brown said he is "doing my best" to push reluctant Democrats for pension changes and spending cuts.

"I keep pushing it, and I keep pushing the cuts," he said. "But it's a little early yet ... The moment of truth will be here in June."

April 17, 2012
California Moderate Party founder calls it quits

1ivLDm.Xl.4.jpgAfter three years of Twitter posts, fundraising pleas and a YouTube debut, the man behind the attempt to create a new California Moderate Party is moving on.

"Knowing when to call it quits is one of the most important decisions we make in all facets of our lives," California Moderate Party founder Ash Roughani wrote in a message to supporters that was posted via Twitter. "Having turned 30 this past February, I can't help but feel that this was a manifestation of my entire life's experience. Yet, people weren't taking me seriously."

Roughani wrote that organizers of the effort "simply weren't generating the results we needed" to keep going. The effort has long struggled to raise money and gain traction in the state.

April 17, 2012
Jerry Brown calls kangaroo harvest report, others, wasteful

Gov. Jerry Brown, who said in December that he wanted state agencies to stop writing so many reports, announced today a list of 718 he'd like canned.

Among reports the Democratic governor finds wasteful are the Department of Transportation's annual report on the use of waste tires and an annual report by the Australian government on the country's kangaroo harvest, which the Department of Fish and Game is required to transmit to the Legislature.

"It wastes a lot of time and money to write, track and file these reports," Brown said in a prepared statement. "Government should be focused on providing information that is actually helpful to taxpayers, not on checking boxes to meet outdated bureaucratic requirements."

Of the 718 reports Brown finds wasteful, 375 require legislative action to eliminate, Brown's office said. The governor's Department of Finance will direct the Legislative Counsel to stop tracking the remaining reports, effectively ending the requirement that they be produced, the office said.

April 17, 2012
UC sets records for applicants, admits, non-Californians

The University of California system accepted a record number of 80,289 freshmen for this fall, including a 43 percent increase in students from outside California who would pay higher tuition rates, according to preliminary data released this morning.

The system's nine undergraduate schools saw a combined record 126,455 applicants this year despite massive tuition hikes in the wake of state budget cuts. The systemwide acceptance rate dropped from 69.7 percent to 65.8 percent compared to last year.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending 21 percent less in 2012-13 than the state did in 2007-08, while undergraduate resident tuition has increased 84 percent, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, the number of nonresident students, who pay tuition above what it costs to educate them, increased by about a third.

For this fall, UC accepted 18,846 out-of-state and international students, compared to 13,144 last year, a 43 percent rise. By comparison, the number of residents admitted increased by only 3.6 percent, from 59,288 students to 61,443 students.

UC was quick to point out that out-of-state students typically decline admission offers more than California residents and that the system expects to remain below its 10 percent cap on out-of-state population.

Every campus except UC Berkeley saw a rise in out-of-state and international admissions. The biggest spike in non-California admits came at UC San Diego, which saw a 75 percent increase. Berkeley, on the other hand, saw a 12.5 percent decrease in non-California admits.

April 17, 2012
Lawmakers kill bill to make student-teacher trysts a felony

Thumbnail image for Teacher Student Romance.JPE.JPGLegislation to make it a felony for teachers to engage in sexual activities with a student at their school was killed today by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1861, was sparked by a recent Modesto incident in which 18-year-old Jordan Powers moved in with 41-year-old James Hooker, who had been a teacher at her Enochs High School.

The two claimed that Powers was 18 before their relationship became romantic. AB 1861 would encompass relationships in which both student and teacher are adults, but it would not apply to past cases, including the Modesto relationship.

AB 1861 by Modesto Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen targets employees of elementary, middle and high schools, but not colleges. It would outlaw not only sexual relations but sexual communications with students.

Democrats torpedoed the measure at today's committee hearing after questions arose about its constitutionality and other issues, such as why a ban should apply only to school employees and whether it could chill communications about sex-related issues in "The Great Gatsby" or other novels.

Olsen argued that teachers abuse their position of authority if they engage in sexual activities with a student, regardless of age. Parents should have confidence that the state is doing everything possible to ensure its public schools are safe environments for learning, she said.

Tammie Powers, mother of the Modesto student who moved in with her former teacher, urged lawmakers to pass AB 1861 at today's hearing.

Besides criminal penalties, AB 1861 would expel from the public pension system any school employee convicted of having sex or engaging in sex-related communications - such as sexting or lewd e-mails - with a student. Offenders would be refunded any retirement contributions they made to the pension system.

Opponents of AB 1861 note that state law already makes it a crime for adults to have sex or attempt to seduce a minor. By targeting conduct between consenting adults -- 18-year-old high school students -- the bill could violate constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly, opponents say.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said he was upset by the Modesto incident but felt that too many too many questions surround AB 1861. "I feel it's not fully baked," he said.

"We have to protect free speech even when we don't like it," Ammiano said.

After today's hearing, Olsen said she will continue working on legislation to crack down on predatory behavior by unethical teachers. She conceded, however, that the issue is probably dead for this year.

The Modesto couple whose case sparked the bill reportedly ended their relationship this month after Hooker was arrested by Modesto police on charges of engaging in a sex act with another teenage girl 14 years ago. That case is pending.

PHOTO CREDIT: Enochs High School student Jordan Powers, 18, and James Hooker, 41, talk about their relationship during an interview on Feb. 28, 2012 in Modesto, AP Photo/The Modesto Bee, Debbie Noda

* Updated at 10:45 a.m. to add additional information about developments and comments in today's committee hearing.

April 17, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown calls out California Democrats

VIDEO: Dan Walters says Jerry Brown's dispute with fellow Democrats was to be expected.

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.

April 17, 2012
AM Alert: Tax day event targets Dan Lungren, not millionaires

DAN WALTERS DAILY: In his video, Dan follows up on Gov. Jerry Brown's "man up" message for the Legislature.

It's tax-filing day, albeit two days later than usual, and labor is taking the opportunity to press its case against Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal and by extension U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, who supports it.

The California Labor Federation, joined by local seniors, will showcase one of the "patriotic millionaires" at an 11 a.m. press conference at the Sacramento Federal Building, 501 I Street.

Their goal is to criticize Lungren's support for changes to Medicare while the wealthy are paying a smaller proportion of their income than the middle class.

The effort comes a day after a liberal effort to make millionaires pay more went down to defeat in the U.S. Senate.

Among press conference participants will be Anthony Wright of Health Access, Bill Camp of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and David Watson, a member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength and a self-described music entrepreneur.

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.

DEATH PENALTY: Marc Klaas, father of murdered 12-year old Polly Klaas, will testify today for SB 1514, a bill intended to end automatic appeal of death sentences, at the Senate Public Safety Committee.

His daughter's killer, Richard Allen Davis, was sentenced to death in 1996 and remains on death row at San Quentin. The hearing is set for 9 a.m. in room 4203 at the Capitol.

TEACHERS AND STUDENTS: Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen's bill to make inappropriate conduct between teachers and students - even adult ones - a felony is up for its first hearing in Assembly Public Safety. The session begins at 9 a.m. in room 126 at the Capitol.

Buddy Roemer, bidding for the Americans Elect presidential nomination, will be in California today for three events. He begins at the University of the Pacific, then moves to UC Davis, where he'll speak at 2 p.m. in Arc Pavillion meeting room #1. He'll spend the evening at UC Berkeley.

He told Capitol Alert he knows he's coming down with a cold.

April 16, 2012
Buddy Roemer: 'I'm a long-shot, obviously, but I run to win'

Roemer Goes Independent.JPGBuddy Roemer, the one-time congressman and Louisiana governor, was bound for Sacramento this morning to promote his long-shot candidacy for president when, at Reagan National Airport, in Washington, D.C., he crossed paths with a former presidential hopeful, John McCain.

"I heard this shout," he said. "'Roemer!'"

The Republican senator from Arizona has endorsed Republican Mitt Romney this year, but Roemer said he told him his campaign is "awesome," too.

After running as a Republican but failing to qualify for a single debate, Roemer is running as an independent. He is trying to become the nominee of Americans Elect, which will hold an online primary in June, and he is focusing this week on college students, with appearances Tuesday at University of the Pacific, UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

"They're less entangled with the current parties," Roemer said over a BLT at The Big Salad Shop in Sacramento. "They're freer."

Roemer feels he is freer, too. But the 68-year-old, who was a Democrat before he became a Republican many years ago, has some paperwork to catch up on to reflect that. In Louisiana, he is still a registered Republican.

"I will change that when I discover my state again, when I get back there," he said. "I'm not sure when I'm going back. I'm in California all this week."

Roemer had a newspaper in front of him, and he borrowed his campaign manager's red pen. The Republicans and Democrats are in their own circles, he said, pulled further and further apart by special interest money.

"I think the two parties are corrupt. I think they're joined at the billfold," he said. "Tell me what the difference is?"

He pointed to a space on the newspaper between the two circles he'd drawn. That's where he is, he said.

"They just don't know me," he said. "They will."

Roemer was planning to rest tonight, before his three events Tuesday. He had been up since early this morning, and for the first time in his campaign he said he was coming down with a cold.

He said: "I'm a long-shot, obviously, but I run to win."

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer in July 2011. Associated Press/Jim Cole

April 16, 2012
Tax rival airs second ad distancing initiative from Sacramento

Molly Munger, the wealthy tax proponent whose initiative has frustrated Gov. Jerry Brown, has launched a second ad portraying her measure as an outsider effort.

With upbeat music and a young girl as narrator, the 30-second "Our Children, Our Future" ad attacks Brown's plan without ever referencing it. Munger's initiative would hike income taxes on all but the poorest residents along a sliding scale to raise $10 billion annually.

Of efforts to fix schools, the ad says, "We've waited years for the politicians to do it. Now, we can do it ourselves. Our Children, Our Future sends every K-12 dollar straight to our schools, not to Sacramento."

Munger has contributed $6 million so far to the campaign, which must gather 504,760 signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot. The campaign said the $1.2 million ad buy will air on broadcast and cable stations in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Spokesman Nathan Ballard said the campaign is "on track" to qualify its measure.

"The environment out there is crowded with the governor's measure and various other measures that are being shopped around," Ballard said. "There's quite a bit of noise, and we believe this ad will cut through the noise."

April 16, 2012
Corporations to fight John Pérez's 'middle-class scholarship' bill

Five out-of-state corporations are banding together to fight efforts by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to hike taxes on some out-of-state firms to fund a billion-dollar relief plan for college students.

Chrysler, General Motors, International Paper, Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble all stand to lose under Pérez's Assembly Bill 1500 and have formed a coalition called California Employers Against Higher Taxes, spokesman Peter DeMarco said today.

The corporations are speaking jointly through a Sacramento consulting firm, Randle Communications, and they have launched a website, But the coalition has not hired lobbyists or made political contributions DeMarco said.

Pérez's AB 1500 would raise taxes on various corporations by requiring that companies operating in multiple states calculate tax liability based on the portion of sales in California.

The tax portion of Pérez's package would eliminate a component of a 2009 state budget deal that allowed firms to pick the more advantageous of two formulas for calculating tax liability. Pérez's plan would force use of one formula, called the "single sales factor."

Touting AB 1500 as a middle-class scholarship, Pérez said that funds generated by it would cut by two-thirds the cost of attending state universities for families earning less than $150,000 per year.

The bill also would augment community college funding statewide by $150 million statewide, Pérez said.

DeMarco said that AB 1500 would have a chilling effect on job creation in a time of economic distress. What good is a middle-class college scholarship plan if its ultimate effect is to reduce middle-class jobs, he asks.

"It's a billion dollar tax increase," DeMarco said.

John Vigna, spokesman for Pérez, said that AB 1500's benefits to middle-class families are enormous.

"Every member of the Legislature will have a choice: Will they stand with major out-of-state corporations or with working families?" Vigna said. "We believe that the Legislature will stand with California's middle-class families."

* Updated at 3:40 p.m. to add comment by John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker's Office.

April 16, 2012
Dan Lungren outraises Ami Bera in Sacramento County district

Republican Rep. Dan Lungren took in more than $500,000 for his re-election campaign in the first three months of the year, outraising rival Ami Bera for the first time since the Elk Grove Democrat emerged on the fundraising scene in mid-2009.

Lungren, of Gold River, ended March with just under $900,000 on hand, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission. Bera, whose filing has not yet appeared on the FEC website, said in a release issued last week that he raised $366,000. He ended the quarter with a cash advantage over his rival, saying he has roughly $1.15 million in the bank heading into the June 5 primary.

Bera, who lost to Lungren in 2010 by seven percentage points, had outraised Lungren in every quarterly filing period since the July 2009 reports. Lungren consultant Rob Stutzman said while both candidates took in significant sums, the latest numbers reverse "what has been what has been a mostly two-year streak."

"He's finding a lot of support and he's working very hard to gather the resources to take on Bera," Stutzman said of Lungren.

Bera's campaign, meanwhile, touted its own numbers as a sign of "grassroots" support, saying in a release that 60 percent of donors this quarter were giving to the campaign for the first time.

A close registration split has made the newly drawn 7th Congressional District a top target this election. Lungren and Bera have huge fund-raising advantages over the other two candidates running in the primary and are expected to face off in a rematch in November.

April 16, 2012
Bill proposes changes for California's new redistricting process

Now that California's legislative and congressional districts have been drawn for the first time ever by an independent citizens commission, the 14-member panel is recommending ways to smooth the process in years to come.

The commission's recommendations are contained in gut-and-amended legislation, Senate Bill 1096, proposed by the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

The redistricting commission, created by voter passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, drew Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and state congressional districts last year that will be used in this year's statewide election.

By law, the panel consisted of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters. Three votes from each bloc were required to pass new district maps.

Proposed changes have bipartisan support and focus on timing and technical issues, including:

• Requiring the state auditor's office, not the secretary of state's office, to provide support functions when a new redistricting commission is formed every 10 years, until it hires staff and becomes fully functional.

• Revising deadlines to provide more than four additional months to select commission members.

• Requiring that only veteran auditors employed by the Bureau of State Audits can be chosen, by random drawing, to serve on a three-member panel that screens redistricting commission applicants and helps to create a pool of finalists.

• Mandating that the commission publicly display its first preliminary statewide maps no later than July 1 of the year it plans to vote on them. The public would have 14 days to comment on those initial maps, then seven days for any other preliminary maps and three days for final statewide maps

• Specifying that any bill proposing legislative amendments to the redistricting process be in print for 12 days, rather than 10. It would prohibit lawmakers from altering the redistricting process in any year ending in 9, expanding upon current law, which bans procedural changes in years ending in 0 or 1.

April 16, 2012
Jerry Brown tax campaign looks to legislative staff for help

It's all hands on deck as the deadline approaches for supporters of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure to turn in the hundreds of thousands of signatures they need to qualify for the November ballot.

In addition to calling and mailing voters pleas to send signatures in, campaign supporters have asked some Democratic staff members in the Legislature to circulate petitions for the constitutional amendment on their time off.

The volunteer effort is organized by the political, non-state arms of the Assembly and Senate Democratic caucuses, which are funded and staffed by the California Democratic Party, both the Assembly and Senate Democrats say.

April 16, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown-Molly Munger tax battle looms

VIDEO: Dan Walters says Jerry Brown sees Molly Munger in his rear-view mirror.

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.

April 16, 2012
AM Alert: California Assembly remembers the Holocaust

Dan Walters, in today's video report, lays out how wealthy civil rights lawyer Molly Munger could play havoc with Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot tax campaign.

The Legislature has floor sessions today, with the Senate meeting at 2 p.m. and the Assembly at 10 a.m. The lower house is also holding a special event at 11 a.m. -- a Holocaust memorial. The ceremony, hosted by Democratic Assembly members Betsy Butler of Los Angeles and Michael Allen of Santa Rosa, is part of Holocaust Remembrance Week.

After the upper house adjourns, the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee takes up Senate Bill 1234, which would establish a pension plan for private-sector employees. Find that hearing in the Capitol's Room 3191.

Another Senate hearing will look at the decline in public access to the state's justice system, given recent budget cutbacks. Before the hearing, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye joins Democratic Sens. Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa and Loni Hancock of Berkeley, California State Bar President Jon Streeter and attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson to talk about the implications.

Their presser starts at 1:30 p.m. on the Capitol's south steps. The hearing itself starts at 3 p.m. in Room 4203 or after the Senate adjourns.

Another presser touts legislation that proponents say will "tackle piracy, business fraud and the state's expanding underground economy," according to a news release.

Senate Bill 1185, by Democratic Sen. Curren Price of Los Angeles, would create a multiagency task force involving the Board of Equalization, the Franchise Tax Board, Employment Development Department, as well as the Departments of Insurance, Justice, Health, Motor Vehicles, Consumer Affairs, and Industrial Relations.

Price will join the BOE's Randy Silva and Mira Guertin, of the California Chamber of Commerce at an "undisclosed warehouse in West Sacramento containing millions of confiscated products," the news release says.

Meanwhile, dueling rallies abound, with the National Association of Social Workers meeting at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's south steps. Listed speakers include Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, and Democratic Sens. Mark Leno of San Francisco and Christine Kehoe of San Diego.

Then at noon on the west steps, it's the Tea Party United with the Citizens Reclaiming Constitutional Liberty PAC. Listed speakers at that rally include Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale, former Republican legislator Chuck DeVore, and Tom Del Beccaro, president of the California Republican Party.

The ACLU also meets at noon, but its members will be over near the fish pond.

If you're seeing red this afternoon, the members of the California Federation of Republican Women are meeting up for their annual Red Jacket Day photo. That's at 3:15 p.m. on the south steps.

ELECTION 2012: Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidates Stewart Alexander, Stephen Durham and Peta Lindsay will be in Sacramento at 6:30 p.m. at Integrate, 1529 28th St. (Lindsay won't be listed on California' primary ballot as she's too young to serve as president.) The party's Marsha Feinland, who's running for U.S. Senate, and C.T. Weber, who's running for the 9th Assembly District, will join them.

TALK: Former presidential advisers Paul Begala, who worked for Bill Clinton, and Ari Fleischer, who was George W. Bush's press secretary, share the stage tonight in Sacramento, appearing at the Scottish Rite Temple from 8 to 9:30 p.m. at an event organized by Temple Or Rishon in Orangevale. For more information, click here.

April 15, 2012
Former California state Sen. Cathie Wright dies at 82

Former California Sen. Cathie Wright, a Simi Valley Republican who served in the Legislature for 20 years, died Saturday. She was 82.

Timm Herdt writes about her legacy in today's Ventura County Star:

"She was a conservative politician with a soft heart for people who were not able to take care of themselves," said former Ventura County Chief Administrative Officer Richard Wittenberg. "She really cared for people who were poor or mentally ill."

Wright was instrumental in crafting details of the state's welfare-to-work law, but she took greatest pride in her advocacy for an integrated program for delivering services to mentally ill children. She championed the Systems of Care program as a pilot project in Ventura County, and then each year pushed to expand it to additional counties.

A public memorial service is expected to be held on Friday in Simi Valley. Click here to read the full obituary.

April 13, 2012
Jerry Brown tells Legislature to 'man up,' make cuts

Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that the Legislature should "man up" and make spending cuts, acknowledging the state budget deficit is likely larger than he previously thought.

The Democratic governor, in an interview on the Bay Area talk radio station KGO 810, said the deficit is "probably bigger now" than the $9.2 billion he estimated earlier this year.

"We're trying to be as prudent as we can," Brown said. "That's why the Legislature has to man up, make the cuts, and get some taxes and we'll make it."

Legislative Democrats have resisted many of Brown's proposals to reduce spending, and his demand that cuts be enacted by March fell flat.

Brown's "man up" remark was reminiscent of when Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called legislative Democrats "girlie men" in 2004, also in a budget dispute.

"Uh-oh ..." Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's former press secretary, said on Twitter, "sounds a lot like 'Girly Men.'"

April 13, 2012
Poll: Nathan Fletcher jumps to second in San Diego mayor race

San Diego Mayor Nathan Fletcher.JPGAssemblyman Nathan Fletcher received oodles of media attention when he left the Republican Party and re-registered as an independent amidst his campaign for mayor of San Diego.

And it may be paying off.

A San Diego television station reported Thursday that its poll shows Fletcher jumping from third place in the race to succeed Mayor Jerry Sanders into a solid second, just two percentage points behind City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, with Democratic Rep. Bob Filner dropping into third place.

They and other candidates face a June 5 primary. If none gets more than 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will appear in a runoff election in November.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, speaks during the Assembly session on Jan. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli, File)

April 13, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Income tax collections lag

VIDEO: Dan Walters says state officials are keeping a close watch on tax returns this 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.

April 13, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown takes to Bay Area radio airwaves

In today's video report, Dan Walters details the $9.1 billion in tax revenue -- billion with a B -- that California is hoping to take in this month. Will that money come in?

Gov. Jerry Brown takes to the airwaves this morning, appearing on KGO Newstalk 810's "The Ronn Owens Program," starting at 9 a.m. Click here to listen live. You'll find information about Owens and his program at this link.

Members of the California Federation of Teachers will also be in the Bay Area, meeting in San Jose today through Sunday at its 70th annual convention. The agenda includes campaign strategy for the union's compromise ballot tax measure with the governor.

Back in Sacramento, the Legislative Analyst's Office is releasing a report examining budget reductions to the state's judicial branch as well as Brown's proposals for more cuts. That report will be available online at the LAO's website starting at 3 p.m.

Down in the south state, the legislative conference committee on public employee pensions looks at pension reform, the County Employees' Retirement Law of 1937, and statewide policies on pension benefits for elected officials. (Legislators first elected after November 1990 don't get pension benefits.)

Legislative Republicans have called for the committee to vote on Brown's pension reform proposals, which Republicans have put word for word into two measures, as Jon Ortiz reported earlier this week over at sister blog The State Worker.

That hearing runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Chaffey College Community Center, 5890 College Park Avenue, Room 101, in Chino. It will be streamed live online at this link.

An Assembly select committee, meanwhile, heads to Fresno City Council Chambers for a hearing from 1 to 4 p.m. on health and success for boys and men of color.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, turns 35 on Saturday.

MEMORIAL: The Sacramento Bee is inviting fans of the late cartoonist Rex Babin to join family, friends and colleagues for a celebration of his life. The free public event is 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Constitutional Wall Courtyard between the California Museum and the secretary of state's office at 1020 O St. The event includes a silent auction of several of his cartoons, as well as a multimedia display. Proceeds will go to a scholarship fund set up for Rex and Kathleen Babin's 10-year-old son, Sebastian. Click here for more information.

April 12, 2012
California watchdog warns fish and game chief, closes case

The state's political watchdog arm warned Fish and Game Commission head Dan Richards that his guided mountain lion hunt in Idaho violated the state's gift laws, but it closed the case today without a penalty.

In a letter, the Fair Political Practices Commission said it decided to end its review with a warning because Richards recently paid the Flying B Ranch $6,812.50 for the hunting trip, albeit after the 30-day period prescribed in the state's Political Reform Act. The law limits gifts for certain public officials at $420 a year from any one donor.

Richards drew attention in February after the trip when a photo cropped up online depicting him holding a dead mountain lion. Killing a mountain lion is illegal in California, but legal in Idaho. Forty Assembly Democrats signed a letter calling for his resignation, but Richards refused to step down and defended his out-of-state actions as perfectly legal.

Former California Democratic Party head Kathy Bowler, who was copied on today's FPPC letter, filed the initial complaint with the state agency.

"Your actions violated the Act because you received a gift over the limit," wrote FPPC enforcement chief Gary S. Winuk. "However, because you did repay the donor relatively soon after receipt of the gift, although after the 30-day window for repayment prescribed by the Act, we have decided to close the case."

Winuk added that future violations by Richards would result in penalties up to $5,000 per violation.

Richards' attorney, Stephen Larson, said the commissioner paid for the hunting trip on March 5.

"We don't believe technically it was a gift, but be that as it may, we're happy to have this resolved," Larson said.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to correct the amount Richards paid for the trip, due to incorrect information initially provided by the FPPC. Updated at 3:36 p.m. April 12, 2012. Also updated at 5:50 p.m. to include comments from Richards' attorney.

April 12, 2012
Report: E-mail claims Bill Lockyer provided drugs to wife

An email sent to a Bay Area newspaper purportedly by Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer alleges that her husband, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, provided her with drugs that led to her eventual downward spiral into addiction and sex scandal.

The Bay Area News Group's report includes a denial from Nadia Lockyer, who said her email account was hacked by former lover Steven Chikhani, and by Bill Lockyer's spokesman.

Read the full report here.

April 12, 2012
With no one willing to take the hot seat, California Roast is cancelled

Californiaroast.jpgThis year's California Roast will be no laughing matter for Capitol denizens in need of a chuckle.

That's because the California Center for Civic Participation's much-anticipated fund-raising dinner, known for delivering raunchy lines and lots of laughs, couldn't nail down a politician willing to take the heat. The center announced in a letter sent to supporters this week that it has postponed until 2013 what was set to be the 30th annual roast.

"We tried so hard and we just couldn't make it happen," Belen Flores, the center's executive assistant, said in an interview.

Flores said organizers extended invitations to multiple prominent politicians they wanted to be the "honoree" -- including Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris -- but all had scheduling conflicts or declined for other reasons.

While Brown is among the politicians who will avoid the hot seat this spring, the now 74-year-old governor didn't escape the comedic crossfire last year.

"In his first race he ran against the original Tea Party.... No one's asking to see this governor's birth certificate because they're worried it would crumble if it was exposed to air," Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, cracked at the time about the governor's senior status.

The stage has been shared by some of the state's top political names in recent years, including Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez . Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger got in on the action in 2010, exchanging jabs with Pérez and other politicians on hand for the festivities.

The roast, which attracts high-profile sponsors and hundreds of guests each year, is a major fundraising source for the center, which runs civic engagement and policy programs for the state's youth. Flores said while several grants, including one from The California Endowment, have allowed the center to "move things around and budget" for the coming year, the group is still seeking donations and sponsorships to make up for the revenue lost by postponing the roast.


Pérez , others, punch lines at raunchy California Roast

Balls fly as Schwarzenegger, others roast Steinberg

PHOTO CREDIT: Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, feels the hair of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, as he makes fun of his hairstyle as Steinberg was roasted at the annual California Roast on Tuesday, June 1, 2010 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 12, 2012
Agency wants 4.1% increase in Cal workers compensation premiums

The Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau Thursday proposed a 4.1 percent overall increase in employer-paid premiums for insurance to cover work-related injuries and illnesses, thus adding another element to the Capitol's looming battle over the multi-billion-dollar program.

The "pure premium rate" proposal would raise average costs from $2.41 per $100 of payroll to $2.51, and is markedly smaller than increases proposed by the private agency in years past.

It's contained in a letter to Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who will hold hearings on the issue before making his own recommendation. Insurers, however, are free to set their own rates.

Employers' workers' compensation premiums dropped sharply after the Legislature, under pressure from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, enacted sweeping benefit and medical care reforms in 2004, but insurers have complained in recent years about rising costs, saying they were eroding profitability.

Schwarzenegger and Jones' predecessor, Steve Poizner, opposed the WCIRB's premium increase proposals, backing employers' contentions that they would retard economic recovery.

More recently, labor unions and attorneys who represent injured workers have been pressing the Legislature to undo some of the Schwarzenegger reforms, saying they are too harsh and deny legitimate compensation to disabled workers.

April 12, 2012
Online USC poll confirms support for Brown's tax measure

An experimental online poll of California voters by the University of Southern California's Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences has found strong support for Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase ballot measure - almost identifical, in fact, to a simultaneous telephone poll.

The USC/Dornsife telephone poll last month found that 64 percent of the respondents supported Brown's package of sales and income taxes with 33 percent opposed. The online poll found a 63 percent-30 percent split.

Both surveys were based on a capsule description of Brown's plan. The online poll also tested the official ballot summary of Brown's plan and found 60 percent in support and 30 percent opposed.

Both polls found scant support for a rival income tax measure sponsored by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the PTA. It was 32 percent in the telephone poll and 24 percent in the online survey.

Dan Schnur, the poll's director, said the online survey was an experiment to test methodology and ask more in-depth questions than the phone version asked. Other questions in the online poll dealt with President Barack Obama's approval rating, online privacy issues and Internet piracy.

April 12, 2012
California leaders watching the tax dollars trickle in

California's budget process is in a holding pattern until Gov. Jerry Brown issues his revised plan next month, which depends largely on how much tax money the state receives in April.

With that in mind, Capitol insiders are watching personal income tax returns each day on Controller John Chiang's daily tracker. So far, the pace seems to be about the same as last year, when the state took in just over $7 billion for the month. As of April 11 last year, the state had received a hair over $1 billion; this year, the state has taken in $1.27 billion.

It remains too early in the month to determine a pattern, considering the bulk of revenues typically flow late in April, and especially so this year with a later-than-usual filing deadline.

A few things bear noting:

-- State income tax rates fell in 2011, which means that taxpayers had to generate more income in 2011, as well as earn more now in 2012, just to hit the same $7 billion revenue target as last April.

-- Brown is counting on $9.1 billion, according to Chiang. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says Brown is counting on $9.4 billion under a different cash measurement.

-- That means Brown is projecting that the state will receive more than $2 billion above last year's April total. The governor has assumed that taxpayers saw a lot more capital gains in 2011 than in 2010.

-- The Analyst's Office has a more conservative view of revenues. Jason Sisney, the Analyst's chief forecaster, says his prediction was for roughly the same $7 billion the state received last year, which accounts for modest growth.

It's worth noting that Brown's May budget will assume a new tax initiative that he believes would raise an additional $2 billion through June 2013 (albeit using the same optimistic capital gains model). We'd also expect to see some reference explicitly or implicitly to Facebook's stock offering in the governor's May revenue section.

But it's clear that Brown's forecast has set a very high bar for income tax returns this month, considering it represents significant income tax growth year over year in a period when income tax rates were actually lower.

April 12, 2012
California Senate approves bill to remove 'R word' from books

code.jpgThe use of the "R word" could soon be expelled from California laws.

The California Senate today unanimously approved a bill today that would strip the phrase "mentally retarded" from existing statutes, replacing that and related terms with "intellectual disability."

"Words do matter and the 'R word' is outdated and offensive to people with intellectual disabilities and their families," bill author Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, said today.

Pavley's office said it is difficult to track how many times the language is used in state code because it comes up in many contexts, including provisions related to education, social services and criminal justice. To avoid added costs, the changes dictated by the bill would be made as part of routine review or revisions to code. The federal government adopted a similar change in 2010.

Senate Bill 1381, which does not affect state services for people with such disabilities, now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

April 12, 2012
California chamber targets 23 'job killer' bills

220x220-cajobkillers.pngOne of the Capitol's spring rituals is publication of a list of "job killer" bills by the state Chamber of Commerce.

The newest list was published this week, 23 bills that the chamber and other business groups say will discourage investment and hiring by private employers. And not surprisingly, every one of the targeted measures is carried by a Democrat, including the majority party's two leaders, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Pérez's Assembly Bill 1532 is one of four on the list that would tap into revenues from the state's new "cap-and-trade" program of marketing carbon emissions, which the chamber calls an "illegal tax increase."

Steinberg's Senate Bill 1528, meanwhile, is sponsored by personal injury attorneys to overturn a state Supreme Court decision limiting recovery of medical costs in liability lawsuits.

Other measures on the list deal with regulatory costs, fuel price increases and workplace mandates.

Publication of the list, history indicates, is more than a rhetorical exercise. In past years, despite Democrats' control of the Legislature and their close ties to labor unions, environmental groups, attorneys and other sponsors of the bills, few of those labeled as "job killers" have reached the governor's desk and most of those that do are vetoed.

Last year, just five of 30 job-killers reached Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, and he vetoed four of them.

April 12, 2012
California's state taxes showed big jump last fiscal year

Although its economy was stagnant and its state budget was imbalanced, California saw one of the nation's sharpest increases in state tax revenues during the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to a new Census Bureau report.

California's 11.3 percent increase to $116.7 billion over the previous fiscal year was the sixth highest jump among the states. North Dakota (44.5 percent) and Alaska (22.4 percent) -- topped the list, likely because of increases in oil prices,. Oil severance taxes accounted for nearly half of North Dakota's state revenues and more than three-quarters of Alaska's.

California's increase, meanwhile, appears to have come mostly from some temporary sales and income taxes increases that were enacted in 2009 but since have expired. Gov. Jerry Brown is now proposing to restore those revenues with a plan on the November ballot to raise the sales tax by a quarter cent and increase income taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year.

The Census Bureau report covers all tax collections, regardless of source or destination, including vehicle and fuel taxes. Nearly half of the state's revenues -- $60.1 billion -- came from personal and corporate income taxes while sales taxes generated another $45.1 billion.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect corrected numbers for California provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Updated 2:54 p.m., April 17, 2012.

April 12, 2012
Molly Munger puts $2 million more into California tax measure

Munger.jpgWith just weeks left to gather the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, civil rights attorney Molly Munger has poured another $2.15 million into her proposal to raise income taxes to fund schools.

Munger, president of The Advancement Project, is the sole financier of the "Our Children, Our Future Measure." The proposal would raise taxes on a sliding scale for almost all California earners, routing the revenues directly to school districts and early childhood development programs.

Supporters of Gov. Jerry Brown's rival tax measure, which would temporarily raise income taxes on high earners and increase the state sales tax by a quarter percent, have tried to persuade Munger to drop her measure to avoid confusion and mixed messaging that could arise with more than one tax hike in front of voters in November.

The Munger camp must collect roughly 504,000 valid voter signatures by to make it on the ballot. They likely need to submit those petitions signatures to elections officials by mid-May to be certified in time for the 2012 election.

The latest contributions were reported Wednesday in a campaign filing on the secretary of state website.

Nathan Ballard, the spokesman for the effort, said the latest investment "shows that we are serious about getting this measure on the ballot."

"The signature gathering is on track," he said. "We are meeting our goals every week."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:20 a.m. with a comment from Ballard.

PHOTO CREDIT: Molly Munger talks to reporters about her proposed ballot initiative on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

April 12, 2012
FEC delays decision in Durkee embezzle case

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday raised sharp questions but came to no firm conclusion over Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bid for greater fundraising leeway in the wake of embezzlement by her former campaign treasurer.

The punt will give the FEC more time to consider whether California politicians ripped off by former treasurer Kinde Durkee can solicit additional funds from individuals who have already reached their contribution limit.

"We're all sympathetic to your client," FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub told Feinstein's attorneys Thursday morning, "but it's still a hard question."

Though the commission's legal staff had recommended rejecting Feinstein's request, the commissioners during a two-hour hearing indicated they thought it was a close call. Several voiced concern over the potential "implications" for other campaigns of granting Feinstein's fundraising request.

"We have to do some special thinking," Commissioner Steven Walther said. "We're in a tight spot, and we need to think this one out."

April 12, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: California cities are paying the piper

VIDEO: Dan Walters says more municipal bankruptcies may be coming for other California cities.

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.

April 12, 2012
AM Alert: Capitol agenda includes wine grapes, K-12 education

Dan Walters, in today's video report, looks at the possibility that more California cities will file for bankruptcy.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have set floor sessions for 9 a.m., after which committees take up subjects ranging from wine grapes to Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposals for K-12 education.

A Senate budget subcommittee looks at Brown's plan for child care, preschool, transitional kindergarten and child nutrition programs under the state Department of Education. That hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 3191 or upon adjournment.

Another Senate budget subcommittee meets at the same time in Room 4203 to review several agencies affected by Brown's proposal to reorganize mental health programs. Meanwhile, the grape takes center stage as no fewer than three select committees hear from growers, winery owners and a UC Davis enologist about sustainable wine growing. That hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 126.

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

Down in the south state, Rep. Howard Berman is bringing out the law enforcement guns, including endorsements from the Police Protective League and Republican Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles district attorney who narrowly lost the attorney general race in 2010 to Democrat Kamala Harris.

Berman, of course, is slugging it out with fellow Democrat Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley-based 30th Congressional District race. The presser starts at 10:30 a.m. at Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in Los Angeles.

HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority are meeting at 10 a.m. in San Francisco to review the project's revised $68 billion business plan unveiled by the Brown administration last month relies heavily on federal dollars. Click here to read the agenda.

POLICY & POLITICS: Sacramento State Alumni is kicking off its Hornets Policy & Politics Chapter with a reception at 5:30 p.m. at the Cafeteria 15 and L on 15th Street. Listed guests include Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, as well as Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, Sacramento City Council members Kevin McCarty and Steve Cohn, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and Elk Grove City Councilmember Gary Davis. To RSVP, click here.

NEW GIGS, NEW NAME: Now that Frank Schubert has left to work on conservative issues, Schubert Flint Public Affairs has a new name and two new partners. Its president, Jeff Flint, is now calling the firm he co-founded FSB Core Strategies, and long-time senior employees Kristy Babb and Cherri Spriggs-Hernandez are joining Flint as partners.

April 11, 2012
Senate delays confirmation hearing for Steve Glazer

A Senate confirmation hearing for California State University Trustee Steve Glazer was put on hold today as Gov. Jerry Brown sought to shore up Republican support.

Senate Republican leader Bob Huff said he met with the Democratic governor today to discuss Glazer's confirmation vote and other issues. The caucus has not yet taken a position on the appointment, which requires a two-thirds vote of the full Senate.

"I think we're going to a good place," Huff said after the meeting. "We just weren't ready to make a decision this week."

Glazer, a top unpaid political adviser to Brown, was scheduled to appear in front of the Senate Rules Committee today. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced that consideration of Glazer's appointment would be pushed back a week.

Steinberg spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the "hearing was delayed to allow further conversations with the minority party."

"Steve Glazer is an excellent candidate and the pro tem looks forward to his confirmation," she wrote in an email.

April 11, 2012
GOP Senate hopeful defends lobbying on Obama health care bill

Emken.jpgRepublican U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken this week defended her work lobbying to include autism coverage in the federal health care overhaul backed by President Barack Obama in 2009, even though she opposed the bill.

Emken, one of 23 candidates challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the June 5 ballot, has come under fire from Republican opponents over records showing Autism Speaks sought to influence the outcome of the legislation when she was listed as a top lobbyist for the nonprofit advocacy group.

The Danville Republican, whose 19-year-old son is autistic, said the organization lobbied lawmakers to include language to ensure that health care companies would provide coverage for medical issues and treatment related to the condition under the new law.

Emken said that while she disagrees with the overall approach of the health care overhaul, the effort to include the language was important for her and the organization because autism is "perfect example of a catastrophic medical event" that some insurance companies will not cover.

"What we were doing is, as everyone was doing when you have a Democratically-controlled Senate, House and president, everyone, Democrats and Republicans are all working on a piece of legislation that's on the table," she said during a Sacramento press availability Tuesday. "That's how it's done. You don't just walk away if you don't like how things are going. You continue to work on it."

Emken said the reference to autism did not make it into the bill, which was signed into law in 2010, and regulatory language emerging on the issue is "extremely nebulous." She said that outcome reinforced her opposition to the law.

"The issues are so long and vast and broad with Obamacare," she said, "I really believe the only solution is to repeal it, but I do believe in replacing it with real health care reform and real health insurance reform."

Emken dismissed the attacks from opponents, saying they are "to be expected" because she won the endorsement of the California Republican Party.

"As you can imagine, it's very natural that I'm sure the other Democratic candidates are going to be making comments about Dianne Feinstein and (Republicans are) going to be making comments about me and they're going to be unified in that because I have the support of the California Republican Party," she said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Emken speaks at a news conference in Sacramento on April 10, 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

April 11, 2012
California college athletes' 'bill of rights' stalls in Senate

Legislation aimed at compelling the state's four major sports universities to improve treatment of their "student athletes" stalled, at least temporarily, in the state Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

While committee members appeared to favor the thrust of the legislation, they wanted to see proposed amendments in print before moving the bill.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is carrying Senate Bill 1525, dubbing it the "Student Athlete Bill of Rights," contending that while big sports schools reap tens of millions of dollars in revenue from tickets and broadcast rights, they cast aside athletes if they don't perform as expected or become injured.

As written, SB 1525 would require the University of California, Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford University and the University of Southern California to continue athletes' educations if they lose their athletic scholarships and also provide continuing medical care for any sports injuries.

Lobbyists for the UC system and the two private universities opposed the bill. Committee chairman Alan Lowenthal, a Long Beach Democrat, said the bill has "so many unanswered questions" and contains "loose ends" that must be tightened up before the bill can receive approval. But he and other committee members said they support its thrust.

April 11, 2012
Chat live: Proposition 29 -- Tobacco tax increase

April 11, 2012
Arnold Schwarzenegger asks Facebook fans for help on memoir

Schwarzenegger Comeback.jpgGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking for stories.... about himself.

The bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician-turned-actor has turned to Facebook to solicit ideas for his upcoming memoir, "TOTAL RECALL: My Unbelievably True Life Story."

A post on his page asks his nearly 1.5 million Facebook fans to chime in ahead of an upcoming "brainstorming session to talk about themes, stories, and ideas I might have missed."

"A million minds are better than a few, so I'm asking you to let me know: what do you want to hear about? What themes in my life? Are their any stories you really want to hear?" the post reads. "Give me your ideas. You can all consider yourselves my co-writers."

With 1,213 comments and counting on the post, we're guessing the social media contributors won't get to see their names in print with an author credit.

The autobiography, which is co-authored by former Fortune magazine executive editor Peter Petre, is expected to hit the shelves this October.


Schwarzenegger penning autobiography to be released in 2012

PHOTO CREDIT: Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks after being honored by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce at the annual convention of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ Mark J. Terrill).

April 11, 2012
GOP gains registration edge in Rep. Dan Lungren's seat

Republicans have gained a slight voter registration edge in the targeted 7th Congressional District, closing for now a gap Democrats had argued would help challenger Ami Bera defeat GOP Rep. Dan Lungren.

The two major parties are now neck and neck in the competitive east Sacramento County district, with each representing about 38.7 percent of registered voters, according to updated figures from Sacramento County election officials. The new report shows Republicans outnumbering Democrats by a mere 202 voters.

That margin has closed significantly since January, when registration reports showed Democrats holding a one-point, 3,773-voter lead.

While Republicans were quick to credit voter registration efforts for the change, the number of registered voters in both parties -- and in the district as a whole -- fell in the new report.

April 11, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: The do-nothing Legislature

VIDEO: Dan Walters says Assemblyman Jeff Gorell didn't miss much while he was gone.

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.

April 11, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown aide gets scrutiny

Dan Walters, in today's video report, tells California Assemblyman Jeff Gorell what he missed during his year in Afghanistan.

There's no shortage of committee hearings under the dome, with Gov. Jerry Brown adviser Steve Glazer one of the gubernatorial appointees required to appear this afternoon before the Senate Rules Committee.

Brown has appointed Glazer trustee of California State University. Back in February, legislative Republicans blocked Brown's pick for the CSU board's chairman from coming up for a vote on the Senate floor. Today's hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 113.

Measures of note also come up before the education committees in both houses, with the Senate committee hearing bills on an open-source digital library, bracero education, ads on school buses and other matters. The Assembly committee, meanwhile, considers a bill on teacher misconduct backed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Click here for the Senate's daily file, and click here for the Assembly's.

NEW GIG: Longtime Sacramento Democratic consultant Roger Salazar is joining Mercury as the public strategy firm's managing director. Salazar, co-founder of Acosta|Salazar LLC, will keep working on initiative campaigns and team up with former Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez on "the firm's emerging Hispanic and Spanish language public affairs specialty practice," a news release says. Salazar will split his efforts among the firm's Washington, D.C., office as well as its California offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento, which are managed by partners Núñez and Adam Mendelsohn, a political adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

LET'S CHAT: The Bee's live chat today highlights a proposition on the June 5 ballot that would impose a $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes to finance cancer research and anti-tobacco efforts. Proposition 29 would raise an estimated $855 million the first year, with revenues declining in subsequent years.

Joining us are Jim Knox, vice president of legislative advocacy for the California division of the American Cancer Society, and Tom Hudson, executive director of the California Taxpayer Protection Committee, which opposes the initiative.

The Bee's Kevin Yamamura will moderate. Watch the chat and ask questions from noon to 1 p.m. at

INVITE: Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan is invited to breakfast this morning with the Teamsters, who want to talk with the Republican about a November ballot measure to ban unions and corporations from contributing directly to political candidates. As Jon Ortiz over at sister blog The State Worker reported last week, the meeting is scheduled at a restaurant Riordan owns.

April 10, 2012
VIDEO: Feinstein on losing millions to treasurer Kinde Durkee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke up about being a victim of what's thought to be the nation's largest campaign treasurer fraud ever prosecuted, calling the situation a "very hard thing."

Kinde Durkee, the prominent campaign treasurer used by Feinstein and many other California Democrats, pleaded guilty earlier this month to defrauding clients of at least $7 million. Feinstein's multi-million dollar war chest was one of the accounts that was hit hardest.

While her request to seek more money from donors whose contributions were misappropriated is expected to be rejected by federal elections officials this week, Feinstein said she is not "terribly worried" about the losses hurting her re-election prospects. She has already put up $5 million of her own money to make up for lost cash and is suing the bank where the committee funds were held.

Feinstein said while she had no personal relationship with Durkee, the news was particularly difficult because she had used Durkee for campaigns in the past. She echoed a reporter's characterization of the embezzlement, calling it a "big betrayal."

"She had a big business," she said. "She was the go-to Democratic fiduciary."

Watch a video of Feinstein's full remarks on the subject.

April 10, 2012
California Governor's Mansion has a black cat mystery to solve

RB Mansion Exterior.JPGThe tour guides at the old Governor's Mansion in Sacramento are trying to solve a mystery, one that involves a black cat.

One of the guides, John Casey, is the grandson of former Gov. Pat Brown, the last governor to live in the Victorian mansion at 16th and H streets, and therefore the nephew of the current governor, Jerry Brown.

Casey was given the black ceramic cat by his aunt, former Treasurer Kathleen Brown, with a story that Pat Brown used it to denote whether his conversations with reporters at the mansion were on or off the record. If the cat was sitting on a hall table, so goes the legend, reporters knew the conversations were off the record, but if it was missing, everything was for attribution.

Casey contacted me in hopes that I could verify or debunk the story so that the cat could be properly displayed in the mansion, which is now a state park facility, but I wasn't around the Capitol in those days, nor were any of my current reportorial colleagues. But if anyone knows the real story, he or she can either email me at or post a comment on this item.

PHOTO CREDIT: The exterior of the historic Governor's Mansion in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday September 6, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

April 10, 2012
Dianne Feinstein praises Jerry Brown's high-speed rail plan

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein praised Gov. Jerry Brown's revised approach on California's high-speed rail project today, but cautioned that the federal funding for the project could depend on final cost projections.

"Do I think it's doable? Yes. Do I think it's doable with all the bells and whistles? No," Feinstein told reporters after addressing local business and government leaders at the Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento. "That's a decision that has to be made."

The revised high-speed rail plan unveiled by the Brown administration late last month relies heavily on federal dollars, counting on $41.9 billion of the projected $68 billion needed for the project coming from the federal government. Feinstein noted that cost has been greatly reduced -- a cut of roughly $30 billion from an earlier business plan -- and that voters already approved nearly $10 billion in bonds to build a bullet train.

Feinstein said Brown has "done the right thing" by focusing on a building a high-speed rail line down the center of the state that would then connect to high-population centers such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. That so-called "blended approach" would rely on some existing infrastructure in urban areas.

"You're really not going to bring, in my view, those high-speed trains into either population area," she said.

April 10, 2012
California revenues 4.2 percent shy in March

As state leaders hope for a surprise uptick in revenues this spring, state Controller John Chiang reported Tuesday that California lagged last month by $233.5 million, or 4.2 percent.

The state missed its target most in corporate income taxes, which were $125.8 million (8.2 percent) off the mark. Income taxes and sales taxes were each less than 2 percent behind Gov. Jerry Brown's revenue forecast.

For the fiscal year that ends in June, the state is now trailing Brown's expectations by nearly $1.1 billion, or 1.9 percent.

"While revenues continue to fall short, the months ahead will be far more important to the State's finances," Chiang said in a release. "More than 35 percent of all revenues are expected in the next three months, making this the most important period for tax collection in the fiscal year."

Because April is such a telling month for state budgeting, Chiang has a daily revenue tracker on his website. Through Friday, the state had cleared $923 million. Brown's budget is counting on $9.132 billion for the month.

Lawmakers are delaying significant actions on the budget until Brown issues his May budget revision, which takes into account April revenues. Brown is circulating a new tax initiative with larger increases on sales and wealthy earners than his initial proposal in part to give lawmakers a bigger buffer against the possibility of disappointing spring tax revenues.

April 10, 2012
Carmichael billboard targets Rep. Dan Lungren on Medicare

Billboard.jpgNational Democrats are taking their campaign against Rep. Dan Lungren to, well, above, the streets.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says it has put up a billboard in Carmichael hitting the Gold River Republican on his support for a Republican budget plan that would make major changes to Medicare. The billboard, which was erected by the intersection of Fair Oaks Blvd. and Garfield Ave., accuses Lungren of "Protecting Millionaires Instead of Medicare," according to a photo provided by the committee.

Democrats are hoping to make Medicare a major issue in the 7th Congressional District race between Lungren and Ami Bera, the Elk Grove Democrat who also challenged Lungren in 2010. They argue that provisions in the House GOP budget plan, which Lungren supports, will end up increasing health care costs for future seniors while providing tax cuts for the wealthy.

Lungren's consultant has dismissed the tactic in the past, arguing that voters will be more concerned by the effect the federal health care overhaul could have on the health care program for seniors and the disabled.


Voters in Sacramento-area district hit with political claims over Medicare

Dan Lungren ramps up re-election efforts in Sacramento Co. seat

Democrats targeting Reps. Jeff Denham and Dan Lungren again

PHOTO CREDIT: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put up a billboard targeting Rep. Dan Lungren in the 7th Congressional District. Photo courtesy of the DCCC.

April 10, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Drilling down on the oil and gas tax

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses moves to tax oil and gas extraction 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.

April 10, 2012
AM Alert: U.S. Senate rivals shadowbox in Sacramento

DAN WALTERS DAILY: Bee columnist Dan Walters dives into the debate over taxing oil and gas extraction in today's video clip.

Sacramento takes center stage in the U.S. Senate showdown today.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and one of her chief rivals, Republican Elizabeth Emken, both have events scheduled within blocks of each other - and the Capitol - today.

Feinstein will swing by the Citizen Hotel at noon to talk about "the economy, housing, international affairs and California's water infrastructure" at an event organized by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Next Economy Partnership, according to her office. She'll follow that event with a tour of the Natomas levees alongside Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento.

Emken, who beat out 13 other GOP challengers on the June ballot for the California Republican Party endorsement, has scheduled a press conference of her own ahead of Feinstein's remarks. She plans to address the federal deficit, unemployment numbers and "why new leadership is needed during this critical election year." The longtime advocate for children with autism will head to the Arden Hills Resort Club and Spa later today for a 6:30 p.m. reception with the Republicans of River City.

BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: Policy committees in both houses continue to churn through measures up for consideration ahead of upcoming deadlines for bills to move to fiscal committees and the floor. Click on the links to the see full Senate and Assembly committee schedules.

HONORING TROOPS: A trio of legislators will stage a press conference on a resolution aimed at honoring veterans who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure would ask state agencies to plan a privately-funded memorial for troops who served in the two wars and encourage communities throughout the state to organize parades or other events to welcome back members of the military. Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, the Camarillo Republican who returned to Sacramento yesterday after a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, will headline the 11:30 a.m. presser at the California Veterans' Memorial in Capitol Park.

LEGISLATIVE PAY LAWSUIT: Today's court date in the lawsuit Democratic legislative leaders filed over Controller John Chaing's decision to withhold lawmakers pay after the budget they approved was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown has been rescheduled for April 18. To brush up on the lawsuit, which raises the question of who decides what constitutes a balanced budget under Proposition 25, click this link.

April 9, 2012
Jarvis group launches 'Don't Sign the Petition' anti-tax campaign

Less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown started using robotic telephone calls and mailers to gather signatures for his ballot initiative to raise taxes, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plans to launch its anti-tax campaign today on the conservative "John and Ken" talk radio show.

The taxpayers group this morning posted a red banner on its website inviting viewers to join a "Don't Sign the Petition" campaign. The banner links to a campaign website opposing Brown's effort to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

Jon Coupal, president of the Jarvis group, criticized as misleading Brown's characterization of his tax measure as a tax on millionaires. It includes a proposed sales tax increase and higher income taxes on people who earn at least $250,000 a year.

"A second grader," he said, "knows that $1 million does not equal $250,000."

Brown has previously said that people who make at least $250,000 a year will become millionaires if they save.

Coupal is expected to appear at 5 p.m. on the Los Angeles radio show hosted by John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou.

April 9, 2012
'Now let's get back to work,' Jeff Gorell says of return to Capitol

Short and sweet.

No flowery speech from Assemblyman Jeff Gorell today as he returned to the Capitol after a yearlong deployment to the war in Afghanistan.

After leading the Assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Camarillo Republican was called upon to address his colleagues.

"Did I miss anything while I was gone? The Capitol press corps tells me no," he quipped.

A framed photo of Gorell in military fatigues, signed by Assembly colleagues, had been presented to him earlier as a welcome-home gift.

"I get to come back to the best job in the world and to work with some of the best people in the world," Gorell said.

"Now let's get back to work."

Gorell, 41, was joined on the Assembly floor by his wife, Laura.

A lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve, Gorell served in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer stationed with Marines at Camp Leatherneck in the Helmand province.

April 9, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: California would have mattered this year

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses the irony of California's not-so-early primary.

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.

April 9, 2012
AM Alert: Assembly to adjourn in memory of Oikos victims

Dan Walters, in today's video report, explains why California could have been a contender in the Republican presidential primary battle between Mitt Romney and everyone named "I'm Not Mitt Romney."

Spring recess over, California legislators are back in Sacramento, with the Assembly meeting at noon and the Senate at 2 p.m. Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, is expected to adjourn the Assembly floor session in memory of the seven people killed in Oakland last week at Oikos University.

Committee hearings are also cranking back up. Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed state budget will get more scrutiny, with both houses taking up some part of the plan.

On the Senate side, the budget education subcommittee looks at his proposal for the California Community Colleges system, starting at noon in the Capitol's Room 112. Also in the upper house, the Public Employment and Retirement Committee take up several bills of interest to state employees, as Jon Ortiz reported in sister blog The State Worker. That hearing starts in Room 2040 after session adjourns.

On the Assembly side, a budget subcommittee considers proposals for the Department of State Hospitals and the Department of Mental Health, starting at 4 p.m. in Room 127.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego is joining business leaders, community leaders and others on the Capitol's north steps at 10:30 a.m. to talk up his Senate Bill 990, which he and supporters say will better protect consumers who buy used vehicles by requiring a vehicle history report on any damages.

The measure counts the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, the Orange County Taxpayers Association and former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, as well as Experian and CARFAX among its many supporters.

The presser will feature two vehicles -- a wrecked car and a rebuilt car -- and will compare their vehicle history reports.