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.


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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