Efforts to correct a problem in a piece of equipment involved in electrical service to the state Capitol could result in a brief power outage for about 650 Sacramento Municipal Utility District customers early Tuesday morning.
The latest on California politics and government
A controversial bill that would ban dogs from being used to hunt bobcats and bears in California made it out of one Assembly committee today on its second try, but still faces fierce opposition from the California Houndsmen for Conservation.
About 200 opponents gathered at the Capitol today to urge members of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee to vote against Senate Bill 1221 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance. It passed 8-4, and now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee
Josh Brones, president of the houndsmen group, noted that the bill also allows the Department of Fish and Game to kill dogs who are in pursuit of a bear or bobcat.
Laurie Jones, a member of the Humane Society, said she supported the bill because it protected dogs, bobcats and bears from being treated poorly.
"It doesn't keep (hunters) from killing the bears, it just doesn't allow them to use the hounds, to use them in which way is seen as in an inhumane way," Jones said.
The houndsmen carried bright orange signs that read "HSUS is killing our wildlife one bill at a time. Vote no on SB 1221." And sported pins that said "revenge is not the answer. Vote no on SB 1221."
Many supporters of the bill, like Jones, have argued that the use of hounds in hunting is unfair and takes the sport out of it. Brones disagrees.
"It is anything but unfair," he said. "It does not rely on technology of any kind. It relies on the training you gave the dog."
If the bill becomes law, Brones said he and an estimated 3,000 people would move out of California in order to preserve their way of life.
The bill failed to make it through the committee last week but was reconsidered today. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, did not previously vote, but voted in favor of the bill today. Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who was not present for the previous vote, also voted in favor of the bill.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Sacramento Bee Hannah Madans
State Controller John Chiang will appeal a judge's ruling that he does not have authority to withhold lawmakers' pay in cases in which the Legislature passes a budget Chiang finds unbalanced.
The appeal, to be filed with the 3rd District Court of Appeal, re-opens a dispute between Chiang and Democratic legislative leaders, who sued Chiang after he blocked their pay for 12 days last year. The Democratic controller filed a notice of appeal in Sacramento Superior Court this afternoon.
At issue is an interpretation of voter-approved Proposition 25, which requires lawmakers to pass a budget by June 15 or go unpaid. Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown ruled it was within the Legislature's power - not Chiang's - to determine whether the budget it passed is balanced.
Chiang spokeswoman Hallye Jordan said Brown's ruling "flies in the face of the voters' will, which was to hold lawmakers accountable for late, unbalanced budgets by docking their pay when they miss the Constitutional deadline."
Legislation that would shift an $11 billion water bond from the November ballot to 2014 cleared the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee Monday on a bipartisan, 5-0 vote.
The measure, Assembly Bill 1422 by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, won support from virtually every stakeholder in the state's notoriously fractious water issue.
If passed, it would be the second time that the measure had been delayed and would indirectly help Gov. Jerry Brown win voter approval of his sales and income tax measure in November. Brown has called for delay and changes in the water bond, fearing that its size would make voters less likely to approve taxes.
Brown has already signed legislation that would move his measure, a constitutional amendment, to near the top of November's ballot, just behind bond issues, and if AB 1422 is enacted, the tax measure then would top the ballot. However, Molly Munger, who's sponsoring a rival income tax measure, has sued, claiming that legislators and Brown are manipulating the election process. A Sacramento judge last week issued an order to temporarily block the numbering of ballot measures pending further hearings.
The contents of Senate Bill 1528 are scant but lobbyists for personal injury attorneys and business and insurance industry groups assume that the final language will spark political war and the contending factions are arming for battle over its high financial stakes.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced the bill and moved it through the Senate as virtually an empty shell to be filled in later with language that would completely or partially overturn a 2011 state Supreme Court decision. The case (Howell vs. Hamilton Meats) limited recovery of medical damages in personal injury cases to amounts actually paid, rather than medical providers' bills. Insurers say the decision saved them $3 billion a year in lawsuit payouts.
The lobby for personal injury attorneys, Consumer Attorneys of California, has declared legislation to overturn the decision as its highest legislative priority this year. In response, insurance and business groups have formed a coalition to oppose the bill and with its initial hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee scheduled for Tuesday, both sides are ramping up lobbying and public relations campaigns.
Steinberg amended the bill last week, but it still pertains only to recovery of medical costs by counties, which is only tangentially connected to the Howell decision. Opponents, therefore, contend that Steinberg and the lawyer group are planning "phantom amendments" and have posted a You Tube video (above) making fun of the process.
California lawmakers approved today legislation aimed at strengthening the rights of homeowners facing foreclosure, leaving the fate of the heavily debated proposal in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown.
The proposal, approved over opposition from banking and business interests, would make California the first state to put into state law several significant provisions contained in a national settlement with five large banks. It is part of a package of bills backed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
"I think we all should feel very good that we have done something that was just the right thing to do," Harris said at a press conference following the vote.
The legislation, contained in Assembly Bill 278 and Senate Bill 900, cleared both houses this afternoon. The Assembly easily approved the majority-vote measure, 53-25, with one Republican and one independent joining Democrats in voting yes, and cleared the Senate on a party-line vote of 25-13.
The bill targets "dual tracking" by prohibiting lenders from starting the home foreclosure process while a loan modification is being negotiated and seeks to curb the use of robo-signed, unverified documents that can speed up the foreclosure process. It also provides homeowners with some legal recourse, such as the ability to seek an injunction blocking the sale of their foreclosed home, and requires that large financial institutions give borrowers negotiating a loan modification a single point of contact for dealing with their home financing issue. Institutions that foreclosed on fewer than 175 homes the previous year would be exempt from some parts of the law.
The provisions in the bill that were part of the national settlement, which already apply to the five banks involved in that agreement, would take effect for other institutions Jan. 1, 2013, with some provisions sunsetting after five years.
Language approved today was crafted by a Democrat-controlled two-house conference committee that was created after opposition from financial institutions threatened to derail the original bill.
Legislative Democrats praised the conference committee report as a strong compromise that will help homeowners while keeping the economy on track. Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said it would "give people facing foreclosure a fighting chance" and "help people cut through the red tape" when dealing with lenders.
Some Republicans opposing the bill in the Senate said they support the goal of protecting homeowners, but voiced concerns about provisions allowing borrowers to take legal action against thier lenders under the law. They said the final language, which as a conference committee report could not be amended, created uncertainty for the markets and gave borrowers too much leeway to seek coverage of attorneys fees.
"This will be a field day for the trial attorneys," said Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale. "That doesnt serve homeowners. That doesn't serve regenerating the housing market. It doesn't help."
Representatives from a coalition pushing for the changes said while the proposal approved today provides more limited protections than they first sought, they are happy to see several key elements make it into the final language.
"It's good enough and it's probably much better than good enough," Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of Courage Campaign, said at a press conference held before the vote.
VIDEO: Dan Walters says in today's report that getting the Senate to approve the funds this week to start constructing California's high-speed rail project may not be easy.
Both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled floor sessions at noon. Legislators are trying to wrap up some loose ends this week before taking a month-long summer recess.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters last Thursday that lawmakers still have "five significant things" on this week's agenda.
"That's not an iron-clad promise that it will get done," Steinberg said, "but we'll endeavor to get done pension reform, foreclosure relief, high-speed rail, ... putting off the water bond until 2014, and the governor's reorganization plan."
The proposal would increase protections for homeowners facing foreclosure through several provisions, including setting up fines for lenders filing robosigned documents and allowing borrowers to sue for damages over material violations of the law.
Banking, business and real estate interests have lined up against it, according to this Senate floor analysis, including the California Association of Realtors, California Bankers Association, California Chamber of Commerce, California Financial Services Association, California Land Title Association, California Mortgage Association, California Mortgage Bankers Association and others.
The Senate may also take up a measure to delay the water bond until the Nov. 4, 2014, general election.
Meanwhile, committees meet in both houses, as Friday is the deadline for policy panels to hear bills. Measures expected to come up in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee include Assembly Bill 298 by Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley aimed at reducing the distribution of single-use carryout bags at retail stores.
Over on the Assembly side, the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee is expected to convene after session adjourns in order to vote on Senate Bill 1221, Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu's measure on the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats, which fell one vote short of passage last week.
Meanwhile, the Senate Rules Committee will consider gubernatorial appointments starting at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 113. Among those required to appear are Denise Brown, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs; Brent Barnhart, director of the Department of Managed Health Care; and Charlton "Chuck" Bonham, director of the Department of Fish and Game. The three were originally up for consideration last Wednesday, but Alert readers will remember that the Legislature was preoccupied with budget votes that day.
Not required to appear is the new California poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera. Click here to read a biography of Herrera. You can also watch a video of him talking about how libraries made stories come alive when he was a child. Find that video and more in this Capitol Alert post about his appointment.
CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, turns 52 today.
The Bee's Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.