Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 29, 2012
Bill to force companies to share retirees' benefits falters in CA Senate

A union-backed bill to require public companies to disclose in their annual statement the names of the five most highly compensated retirees fell one vote short in the state Senate Tuesday, but will be reconsidered by week's end.

Senate Bill 1208 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Fransisco, would not require companies to change retirees' benefits, but to share that information with the public.

"We just want to see it disclosed," Leno said. "We're not trying to tell anyone how to do their business."

Current law requires public companies to release the names of the five highest paid employees, but not retirees.

Sen. Mark Wyland, R-San Diego, said the Senate should instead ask businesses what California could do to make them profitable.

Others argued that spending by state departments should be addressed before public companies' retirees' compensation.

But Leno said disclosure is justified.

"To argue that shareholders have no right to know how their corporations, which they own, are being run with regard to these retirement packages is to suggest that they should not have information about what is being done with their property," Leno said.

May 29, 2012
California Senate passes framework for sports betting

The California state Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation that would legalize sports betting in California if federal law is also amended.

Senate Bill 1390, by Sens. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, and Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, would make such betting legal at currently licensed gambling establishments, horse racing tracks or satellite wagering facility. The bill would not make betting legal anywhere that does not already have a license.

Federal law now prohibits these wagers, but Wright said he believes it "will be amended."

"When this law is changed, and we believe it will be, you want California to be in the position to move forward with this," he said.

New Jersey, which has passed a similar law, is suing the federal government to amend its law. Wright said that he was encouraging California to wait to see what happens in that court case, rather than file a lawsuit of its own.

The bill passed 32-2 and now goes to the Assembly.

May 29, 2012
Assembly passes controversial 'cap-and-trade' auction measure

The Assembly passed hotly contested legislation Tuesday to regulate and restrict how money generated by California's new "cap-and-trade" program of marketing carbon emissions can be spent.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez carried the measure, Assembly Bill 1532, which passed by a vote of 47-26.

The bill marks a major step toward implementing "cap and trade," which places a limit on various pollution generators but allows that cap to be exceeded through the purchase of credits from businesses that fall below their cap.

The program stems from Assembly Bill 32, pushed in 2006 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez to require California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

AB 1532 would apply to an estimated $1 billion expected to be generated from cap-and-trade auctions in 2012-13. Revenues are expected to grow significantly in future years.

AB 1532 would authorize funds generated by the auction of "cap and trade" credits to be spent on projects promoting clean energy, low-carbon transportation, natural resource protection, and for research, development and deployment of innovative technologies to promote cleaner air.

Pérez's legislation also would require the state Air Resources Board to develop an investment plan for the auction revenues every three years. The Legislature would review and could change the ARB plan before adoption.

Republicans blasted AB 1532 as a new blow to California businesses that have been hit hard by a rocky economy.

The California Chamber of Commerce is among the measure's opponents.

"Businesses are taking this as an attack," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

"This is a massive mistake, and this is a movement in the wrong direction," Donnelly said.

Added Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville: "We have to stop looking at our businesses and job creators as a bottomless piggy bank."

Pérez countered that the state already is committed to cap and trade to reduce greenhouse gases, so AB 1532 does not impose new economic pressures on businesses but simply regulates the spending of revenues generated from pollution auctions and gives lawmakers more control over future projects.

"If you would like to bury your head in the sand and say, 'I do not want to be involved in actually governing the state of California in what we do in these areas,' you should vote no," Pérez said.

AB 1532 now goes to the Senate for action.

May 29, 2012
High-speed rail board picks former Caltrans chief to lead agency

JeffMorales.jpgThe California High-Speed Rail Authority voted this morning to hire as executive director a former Caltrans chief who now works for Parsons Brinkerhoff, a major contractor on the rail project.

Pending contract negotiations, Jeff Morales will replace Roelof van Ark, who resigned from the troubled agency earlier this year. The rail authority is seeking legislative approval in coming weeks to start construction of the $68 billion project.

The board is expected to finalize a contract with Morales after negotiating with him on its terms.

Morales was appointed director of Caltrans by Gov. Gray Davis and resigned in 2004. Parsons Brinkerhoff has a $199 million, seven-year contract to manage the rail project for the state authority.

In a brief meeting this morning at which the decision was announced, Dan Richard, chairman of the rail board, said Morales is the "right person to move us to the next level."

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Morales, 2002. Sacramento Bee / Randy Pench

May 29, 2012
Scathing report on judicial bureaucracy bolsters rebel judges

The years-long political war among California's judges took another turn Friday, when a special commission appointed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to investigate the Administrative Office of the Courts delivered a scathing report that, in effect, agreed with rebel judges.

The rebels, coalesced in the Alliance of California Judges, have been pushing legislation that would reduce the powers of the Judicial Council, which is headed by the chief justice, and the AOC and give local judges more authority to spend money.

The Alliance has accused the AOC of building a bloated bureaucracy (more than 1,100 employees) and wasting money on itself and on an inoperable computer case management system while starving local courts and forcing them to shut down periodically and furlough employees.

The "Strategic Evaluation Committee" bolstered the Alliance's case in its 298-page report, concluding, "The top-level decision making process of the AOC became insular, with a top-down management style limiting input from those within the organization."

May 29, 2012
AM Alert: Bills come due Friday in California Legislature

Now that Memorial Day is in the rear-view mirror, get ready for an avalanche of bills this week.

Friday is the deadline for the California Legislature to pass measures out of their house of origin.

Both houses will be tied up with floor sessions all week, and no committees will be meeting. Today, the Senate convenes at noon, and the Assembly at 1 p.m.

How many bills are pending? Aides said last Friday that the Senate will be working its way through approximately 160 measures, while the Assembly has about 225 on its plate.

Bills to watch in the upper house include Senate Bill 1234, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. This would set up a state-run pension plan for private-sector employees not covered by a retirement plan.

On the Assembly side, Assembly Bill 2312 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would regulate the medical marijuana industry and allow local governments to impose up to a 5 percent tax on sales.

Come back to Capitol Alert as we follow the sessions later today.

It's also just a short week away from next Tuesday's presidential primary.

How many people will vote? The secretary of state's office says that registered-voter turnout in California's presidential primaries since 1980 has ranged from 28.2 percent to 63.3 percent, a rather large spread.

More than 17 million Californians were registered by April 6. The secretary of state's office will issue a new count on Friday.


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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