Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 5, 2012
VIDEO: California National Guard's new Lakota helicopter goes for a spin

helicopter.jpgThe California National Guard showcased the skills of its new fleet of high-tech helicopters Thursday morning.

Eight new UH-72 Lakota helicopters (left) are set to replace the aging 0H-58 Kiowa models for civil support efforts starting this month. The helicopters, which were purchased from Eurocopter by the federal government, will be used to assist federal, state and local agencies and officials in a variety of missions. Those missions include firefighting, search-and-rescue and anti-drug trafficking and cultivation efforts. They also provide support for natural disasters and border security.

Officials say the new birds are lighter, more mobile and feature many more technological bells and whistles than the older models. They say those tools, such as infrared sensors, GPS mapping and video cameras that can provide close-up views from thousands of feet in the air, will aid the guard as it assists local and state agencies and law enforcement officials.

The Guard held a ceremony and unveiling of the new helicopters, as well as a symbolic final flight for the Kiowa, for law enforcement and military officials and members of the media at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Mather Field this morning. The program included brief flights on two of the new models. Videos of the flight and the final Kiowa take off, which was piloted by one of the last Vietnam-era pilots still flying helicopters in the California National Guard, are posted on the jump.

April 5, 2012
California sues Orange County over $73.5 million in taxes

California state officials sued Orange County today to recoup $73.5 million in property taxes, the latest development in a feud stemming from last year's state budget.

Since its 1994 bankruptcy, Orange County received an enhanced share of state car taxes to help regain its financial footing, the Department of Finance contends. But last year, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers agreed to redirect that share -- $48 million -- to pay counties for new responsibilities they assumed from the state, such as housing low-level prisoners and overseeing parolees.

Orange County lawmakers attempted with little success last summer to have the state restore the car tax money before the end of session. In its place, Orange County has withheld property taxes this year that normally pay for K-12 schools and community colleges - money that the county believes is rightfully its own.

Orange County spokesman Howard Sutter disputes the state's characterization of the car tax history. While some money was dedicated to repaying bankruptcy debt, Sutter contends that did not result in the county receiving more than it was due under state tax formulas.

The state Department of Finance along with California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott filed suit Thursday in Orange County Superior Court, alleging that the county has taken "the extraordinary step of flouting the law and illegally redirecting property tax revenue payments from schools and community colleges to the county's own general fund." The state wants the court to order the county to pay property taxes to schools.

Sutter issued the following in a statement: "While the county has been proactive in discussing this issue with legislators and school officials, the Department of Finance and Attorney General's office have made no contact with the county regarding this matter. The county is disappointed the state has now resorted to filing a lawsuit. We are evaluating the merits of their suit and cannot comment on its specifics at this time until we have had time to completely review their claims."

April 5, 2012
Aspiring Moderate Party posts 'Halftime in California' ad

Ash Roughani is trying to form a political party for California moderates.

It has a website, a purple color scheme and, as of this morning, a very "Halftime in America"- like ad.

"Join me," the midtown Sacramento resident says in the video. "Let's turn a simple idea -- the California Moderate Party -- into a growing movement."

The video (posted after the jump) was accompanied by a mission statement. It complains about the polarization of politics, in general, and about term limits, Proposition 13 and supermajority vote thresholds, specifically.

"The Democrat and Republican brands have lost their luster," it says.

Roughani, who left the government reform group California Forward last summer, said his party would provide "safe harbor" to lawmakers who defect from one of the two major parties.

April 5, 2012
Abel Maldonado breaks from family business amid IRS beef

ha_abel_maldonadoflag.JPGCentral California congressional candidate and former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado Jr. is haggling with the Internal Revenue Service over some $470,000 in disputed taxes, court records show.

The IRS says the money is owed for errors in some complex deduction and depreciation calculations. Maldonado, in turn, is challenging the agency in U.S. Tax Court, even as he pledges to commit his own funds into a race against Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

"I believe we paid the correct amount of taxes and followed the rules as we understood them," Maldonado, a Santa Maria Republican, said. "If the IRS finds differently, I will pay the taxes due with interest."

The tax dispute concerns income from a family farming venture, Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises, as well as a rental partnership. After the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted an online reference to the Tax Court issue as part of a broader campaign attack, Maldonado said this week that he was filing paperwork to dissolve his involvement in Agro-Jal Farming.

"I'll miss working with my family members in the company I help found, but they don't deserve to have their privacy invaded every time my name is on the ballot," Maldonado said.

Maldonado faces Republican Chris Mitchum, a Santa Barbara resident aligned with the tea party, in the jostling to unseat the 14-year year House veteran Capps. Part of Maldonado's campaign platform is a pledge to "close the tax loopholes while keeping the tax burden down on working people."

April 5, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Most interesting politicians?

VIDEO: Dan Walters picks his most interesting politicians.

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 5, 2012
AM Alert: FPPC takes up Chris Norby's Fullerton motel case

In today's video report, Dan Walters looks at interesting California politicians who aren't named Jerry Brown.

The Fair Political Practices Commission is considering whether to reject part of a decision proposed by an administrative law judge in a case that dates to Assemblyman Chris Norby's days as an Orange County supervisor.

Back in 2007, Norby checked into a Fullerton motel and paid in advance for a week. He claimed he was studying the homeless and motel families, and his campaign committee reimbursed him.

"I was doing a homeless study," the Fullerton Republican told the Los Angeles Times after the FPPC accused him of using $340 in campaign funds to benefit himself. "We have a lot of homeless people in motels. I think I learned a lot from it. I will stand by it."

An administrative hearing found that he checked into the motel "the same day his marriage ended," the FPPC's meeting agenda says.

The proposed decision would exonerate Norby for personal use of campaign funds. FPPC staff members are recommending that the commission reject that proposal "and decide the case on the record," the agenda says. Click here to read the agenda for the meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. The Norby item is No. 12 on the list.

NEW GIG: The California Broadcasters Association's board of directors has a new chairman: John Paley of Lotus Communications. Paley joined Lotus Communications' KWKW (1330 AM) radio station in Los Angeles in 1971 and has held several executive positions in the Los Angeles radio market.

NEW "COMMUTE": The Bee's ever intrepid Torey Van Oot is attending the California National Guard's open house today at Mather Field to showcase its new civil support helicopters. The Guard will be showing off its UH-72 Lakota helicopters at the Army Aviation Support Facility. After the flight line ceremony, she's hoping to snag what the news release calls "a brief orientation flight onboard a Lakota, if weather permits."


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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