Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 31, 2012
CA Senate defeats bill downgrading drug possession

The California Senate Thursday defeated a bill that would downgrade from a felony to a misdemeanor charges for simple possession of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Senate Bill 1506, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Fransisco, would have made the offense punishable by one year in county jail, as opposed to a felony punishable by three years in prison. The measure garnered only 11 votes, 10 votes short in the 40-member Senate.

Leno said the bill would save the state millions and improve the rehabilitation.prospects of convicted drug users.

"No data begins to suggest that putting felonies on these mostly young people and incarcerating them for longer periods of time in any way benefits their recovery from drug use,'' Leno said.

Other senators claimed Leno's approach minimizes the consequences of drug use and would overcrowd county jails.

"I don't understand how a decriminalization will actually reduce crime," said Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville.

May 31, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown: 'We're going to get $8 billion in cuts'

Gov. Jerry Brown isn't backing down from his call for $8 billion in spending cuts, despite public push-back from Democratic legislative leaders.

"They've got to make cuts," Brown told a gathering of county supervisors in Sacramento today. "The big battle will be on how much is ongoing and how much is not ongoing, so you have to do something similar next year and the year after that. But we're going to get $8 billion in cuts."

The Democratic governor's revised budget plan calls for reductions to programs that help the poor, including the state's welfare-to-work program and Cal Grants for low-income students, to help close a projected deficit that his finance officials say has grown to nearly $17 billion. Billions in additional cuts to schools, colleges and the courts would come at the end of the year if voters reject his tax measure on the November ballot.

Democratic legislators have vowed to try to "buy out" some of those cuts with other solutions, such as dipping into a planned $1 billion reserve.

Brown told reporters after his talk at the California State Association of Counties' board of directors meeting that he is having difficult but pleasant conversations on the budget with various interests, including Democratic leaders. He said he met with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez yesterday and had an hourlong meeting with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today.

"We're putting our toes in the water," Brown said.

Legislators face a June 15 deadline to pass a budget.

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May 31, 2012
Jerry Brown on pay cut: 'I derive a lot of psychic income'

Don't expect Gov. Jerry Brown to lose much sleep over the Citizens Compensation Commission's decision to slash his salary by $8,699.

"I'd run for governor whether it was a paid job or not," he said today. "I derive a lot of psychic income."

The seven-member panel, which sets pay levels for legislators and constitutional officers, voted 5-1 today to reduce pay for the elected officials by 5 percent. It will take effect in December.

Democratic governor, who currently makes $173,987, said he didn't think it was his place to weigh in on the commission's action.

"They're independent and people voted as they saw it," he said.

He likened the cut to his proposal to reduce state employee payroll costs by 5 percent.

"This is tough times for California and we're proposing some very difficult cuts," Brown said. "They come in many different forms. Some people like and some people won't like."

While he may value the intangible benefits of the job, Brown also has other income streams to rely on. His 2012 financial disclosure form includes six interests valued at between $100,001 and $1 million and he is eligible to receive a pension based on previous stints as governor, attorney general and secretary of state. During his 2010 gubernatorial bid, his campaign said he would receive an annual pension of $79,536 if he retired the following year.

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May 31, 2012
CA Senate passes bill limiting free tickets for elected officials

The California Senate on Thursday passed legislation to restrict the free tickets that elected officials can receive from interests employing lobbyists and to double the annual registration fees lobbyists pay.

Efforts by Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, to restrict gifts had been bottled up in committee in recent years, but Senate Bill 1426 cleared the upper house on a 33-1 vote and now heads to the Assembly.

SB 1426 would ban lobbyist employers from giving elected officials tickets to concerts, sporting events, hunting and fishing outings and other events, or treating them to golf, ski trips or spa treatments.

May 31, 2012
VIDEO: Mitt Romney visits Solyndra, blasts Obama investment

FREMONT -- Mitt Romney kept up his escalating attack on President Barack Obama's economic policies this morning, calling the administration's investment in Solyndra a "gross waste" during an appearance outside the failed solar plant.

The event, kept secret from reporters until shortly beforehand, comes two years after Obama toured Solyndra, claiming it an example of the success of federal stimulus spending.

"Well, you can see that it's a symbol of something very different today," Romney said. "It's a symbol not of success, but of failure."

Romney's appearance was the latest in an effort by his campaign this week to highlight the Obama administration's involvement in Solyndra, which closed and filed for bankruptcy protection last year. It is also a measure to blunt Obama's criticism of Romney's record at Bain Capital.

Romney accused Obama of steering a $535 million federal loan guarantee for Solyndra to benefit campaign donors. He said the president's policies signal to other companies "that the best way to get ahead is not with the best ideas and the best technology and the best people and the best marketing, but instead with the best lobbyists. That is not the nature of how America works."

Romney, who secured the Republican nomination for president with his victory in Texas on Tuesday, is in California this week raising money. His appearance this morning followed a fundraiser last night at Chateau Carolands mansion in Hillsborough.

The secrecy surrounding Romney's Solyndra event involved assembling reporters at a hotel in Redwood City earlier this morning, disclosing the location of the event only after they had boarded a bus. Romney, who rode the bus to Solyndra after being picked up from a Menlo Park hotel, suggested such secrecy was because "there are a number of people among the president's team" who might try to stop it.

"I think there are people who don't want to see this event occur, don't want to have questions asked about this particular investment, don't want to have people delve into the idea that the president took a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money and devoted it to an enterprise that was owned in large measure by his campaign contributors," he said. "This is a serious conflict of interest. This ought to be a big story, and I think there are a number of people among the president's team who don't want that story to get out."

May 31, 2012
Panel cuts pay for Jerry Brown, lawmakers, other California officials

Pay for California Gov. Jerry Brown, legislators and all statewide officeholders will be cut by 5 percent from current levels, the state's independent salary-setting commission decided today.

The seven-member California Citizens Compensation Commission, the majority of whom were appointed by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, voted 5-1 for the pay cut at a morning meeting at Sacramento City Hall.

The panel, created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, is charged with setting compensation for the governor, legislators, and for all statewide officeholders from treasurer to controller to Board of Equalization members.

By law, the commission must take action by June 30 and its decisions take effect in December.

Commissioner Charles Murray had helped push the idea of a 5 percent pay cut for all officeholders, meant to save the state about $650,000 - only a tiny sliver of the state budget but symbolically significant to supporters.

Brown currently receives a salary of $173,987 and legislators are paid $95,291, except for legislative leaders of both parties. The Assembly speaker, Senate president pro tem and the minority party leader of each house receive $109,584.

Other current salaries range from $151,127 for Attorney General Kamala Harris and state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson to $130,490 for the lieutenant governor, secretary of state and Board of Equalization members. The state treasurer, controller and insurance commissioner are paid $139,189.

A 5 percent reduction translates to $8,699 fewer dollars for the governor, $4,765 for legislators, $5,479 for legislative leaders, and amounts ranging from $7,556 to $6,525 for state constitutional officers.

The commission last cut salaries for legislators and statewide officeholders in 2009, when it approved an 18 percent reduction in pay and benefits. It also sliced lawmakers' per diem that year from $173 to $142.

Last year, the pay panel did not slash pay but eliminated a Capitol program providing cars to legislators, who now drive their personal vehicles and are reimbursed for mileage.

* Updated at 1:05 p.m. Thursday to delete a sentence that said state Controller John Chiang last year suggested the pay panel lacked authority to create a car allowance for lawmakers.

May 31, 2012
AM Alert: Will California lawmakers keep their current pay?

Will California lawmakers see their pay get cut yet again?

The California Citizens Compensation Commission is poised to consider a proposal to cut the pay of all state lawmakers -- from Gov. Jerry Brown and other constitutional officers to the state's 120 legislators -- a total of 5 percent.

Commissioner Charles Murray told The Bee's Jim Sanders on Wednesday that he's bringing that proposal to today's meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. at Sacramento City Hall, 915 I St. Click here to read the commission's agenda.

How do likely voters view the two ballot measures slated for next Tuesday? The latest Field Poll finds Proposition 28, the term limits measure, ahead by 22 percentage points. Proposition 29, on tobacco taxes, has slipped to an eight-point lead, suggesting it could go down to the wire.

Age matters for Proposition 29. Voters under 40 back the tobacco tax measure 66 percent to 24 percent, while voters 65 and older (which Field estimates will make up more than a third of the voters casting ballots in the primary) oppose it, 51 percent to 42 percent.

David Siders has more details in today's Bee. If you want the numbers, click here to read the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert. You can read the publicly released poll at this link.

Under the dome, the Senate meets at 9 a.m. and the Assembly at 10 a.m. to continue working through pending legislation. Come back to Capitol Alert during the day as we track the action.

One bill to watch in the upper house is Senate Bill 1426. This measure by Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, would prohibit lobbyists and the firms that hire them from giving elected state officials various kinds of gifts, including golf outings, gift cards, spa treatment or tickets to sporting events, racetracks or theme parks.

Some of the measures the Senate approved Wednesday and sent on to the Assembly included a ban on sexual-orientation change therapy for minors (Senate Bill 1172), a requirement that public companies reveal their five highest-paid retirees (Senate Bill 1208) and a mechanism for a state-run retirement program for private-sector workers (Senate Bill 1234).

Click here to read even more Capitol Alert posts about Wednesday's legislative votes.



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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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