Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.

RELATED POSTS:

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.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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