Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's proposal to raise taxes on out-of-state firms for college scholarships is dead for the year, his office said Friday night after huddling with Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
The speaker wanted to tighten a corporate tax formula to generate $1 billion, most of which would go toward reducing tuition at California State University and the University of California. In a final-week struggle to win the necessary supermajority support, Pérez negotiated with Senate Republicans and moderate Democrats.
The proposed framework became unwieldy, sweeping in parts of other politically challenging proposals dealing with forestry regulations and Healthy Families coverage for lower-income families. Senate negotiators also sought exemptions for select companies, including tobacco firm Altria, according to sources.
Pérez officials would not verify which exemptions were in play but said the carve-outs had reduced the tax revenues too much in the end.
An hour before a midnight end-of-session deadline, a revival of Healthy Families appeared unlikely to pass on its own. A standalone lumber tax bill to pay for forestry regulatory activities and reduce wildfire liability also was in doubt.
A well-financed initiative campaign for a corporate tax change similar to one being negotiated in the Capitol suggested Friday night that it may continue seeking voter approval if lawmakers grant an exemption for tobacco firms.
Backers of Proposition 39, including billionaire hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer, previously agreed to drop their effort if Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez could negotiate a change in the Capitol that would result in out-of-state firms paying higher taxes. Perez's proposal is designed to raise $1 billion, most of which would reduce tuition at California's public universities.
But a framework being negotiated with Senate Republicans and moderate Democrats could contain an exemption for out-of-state tobacco firms by classifying them as agricultural companies. The Proposition 39 campaign said in response to a Bee inquiry that the exemption was never part of its agreement to drop its campaign.
If both the legislative change and Proposition 39 pass, the initiative would likely take precedence.
"We're in the dark, like everyone else," said Alexa Bluth, spokeswoman for Proposition 39. "We agreed to drop our campaign if the tax loophole was closed for middle-class college scholarships. We did not agree to end the campaign for a partial-fix that also subsidizes Big Tobacco. We obviously hope the rumors aren't true, but we haven't seen a bill or any language yet."
California schools would be judged less by student test scores under a bill lawmakers are sending to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 1458 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg de-emphasizes standardized tests in evaluating schools, and requires other factors - such as graduation rates, college-going rates, and other measures - to be used in calculating a school's Academic Performance Index. It cleared the Legislature today when the Senate approved it, 23-13.
"The real purpose of the bill is to do what I hope creates a shock to the system so there is an incentive for a broader curriculum in high schools that is both rigorous and relevant," Steinberg said.
Brown vetoed a similar bill by Steinberg last year, suggesting local evaluation panels could be a good part of a new system for evaluating schools. That concept is part of SB 1458.
Opponents said the bill would weaken California's school accountability system that uses the same tests statewide to judge school performance.
Last-minute legislation to overhaul California's workers' compensation system easily cleared both houses of the Legislature Friday and was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for a certain signature.
There was no time to spare for Senate Bill 863 because the Legislature was to adjourn for the year at midnight.
The wide-ranging changes to California's system for treating and compensating injured and ill workers received bipartisan support in the Assembly, 66-4, and in the Senate, 34-4..
Key elements of SB 863 would increase permanent disability benefits by $740 million - an average hike of about 30 percent - and would create a $120 million program for workers injured severely enough that they cannot go back to a job at their previous wage level. It would pay for the increased benefits by squeezing medical costs and administrative procedures.
Republicans praised the measure for benefiting California businesses, too, by easing prospects of a potential 18 percent increase in their workers' compensation insurance costs.The State Compensation Insurance Fund, the quasi-public agency that is the state's largest workers' comp insurer, has said it would reduce employers' premiums should the legislation be enacted.
SB 863, carried by Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Kevin de Leon, was hammered out during lengthy negotiations by representatives of labor unions and employers but fiercely opposed by lawyers representing injured workers and some medical care providers.
Annual closed-door budget talks between parties evaporated after Democrats won expanded majority-vote powers in 2010, but a new version of the cross-party leverage play is unfolding in the final hours of the legislative session.
Democrats need Republican votes for key tax measures that still require a supermajority vote, none bigger than Speaker John A. Pérez'sproposal to tighten corporate tax formulas and generate $1 billion mostly from companies based out of state. The Los Angeles Democrat wants to use much of funds to reduce costs at California colleges and universities, where tuition rates have soared in recent years.
Pérez is discussing a grab bag of items with Senate Republicans, from a $50 million exemption for tobacco firms to a restoration of Healthy Families coverage for lower-income children against Gov. Jerry Brown's wishes, sources said.
But Democrats also need Republicans to approve a consumer tax on lumber, a tax on managed care plans and an extension of various fees on motorists.
Pérez is discussing with Senate Republicans two of those items - the lumber tax and managed care tax - as part of a potential megadeal on his corporate tax change, according to several sources. The speaker's "Middle Class Scholarship" proposal has cleared the Assembly, but remains stuck in the Senate.
Three days after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called California Gov. Jerry Brown an "old retread," the Democratic governor fired back on Thursday, challenging Christie to a physical fitness contest.
"There's nothing wrong with being a little retread," the 74-year-old, third-term governor told members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 in Los Angeles. "Not as much hair, I'm slowed down a little bit. But I have to tell you, I ran three miles in 29 minutes two nights ago ... and I hereby challenge Gov. Christie to a three-mile race, a pushup contest and a chin-up contest. And whatever he wants to bet, I have no doubt of the outcome."
In a speech to California Republicans attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Christie said he could not believe Californians chose Brown over Meg Whitman in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
"Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown?" Christie said. "I mean, he won the New Jersey presidential primary over Jimmy Carter when I was 14 years old."
In a video of part of the address posted online by the union, Brown said Christie's remark showed only one thing: "I may know a hell of a lot more than you, because when you were 14, I was passing the farm labor bill, I was passing worker protections in California."
Brown said Christie's attack was "the first time I've ever been attacked at a convention, so I feel that I've finally come into my own, that I'm being attacked by the Republicans."
Republican state Sen. Doug LaMalfa announced today that he would resign from the California Senate after the Legislature adjourns its 2012 session tonight so that a special election to fill his seat could be consolidated with the Nov. 6 general election.
LaMalfa, whose district sprawls over a wide region of northeastern California, is running for Congress to succeed retiring Republican Wally Herger. He is considered a shoo-in in the heavily Republican congressional district.
Two Republican assemblymen, Jim Nielsen and Dan Logue, are declared rivals for LaMalfa's Senate seat with LaMalfa backing Nielsen in what is expected to be a sharp-elbows contest.
LaMalfa said in a statement that he has met with Gov. Jerry Brown "and he told me he will move quickly to consolidate the elections."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect the correct date for the general election.
Gov. Jerry Brown has given approval for two Indian tribes in remote parts of California to build casinos along freeways many miles from their land, setting the stage for what critics say could become an explosion in off-reservation gambling.
Brown's decision allows the Enterprise Rancheria near Marysville and the North Fork Rancheria near Fresno to move ahead with plans to have the federal government take land into trust on which the tribes will build casinos, each with 2,000 slot machines.
In a letter announcing his decision to Kenneth L. Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Brown said approval of the two casinos is unlikely to allow many other tribes to expand their gambling operations in the same way.
California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a package of bills that would allow college students to choose free online textbooks instead of costly printed ones for common undergraduate courses.
Senate Bills 1052 and 1053 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg cleared the Legislature today, when the state Senate approved them with final votes.
The bills would create an online library of digital textbooks for the 50 most widely-taken lower division courses at the University of California, California State University and the state's community colleges. The project would get under way when state or private funding becomes available.
The digital texts would be "open-source," which means they are not copyrighted the same way traditional texts are, making them much less expensive. The texts are primarily available online; students can typically buy a print-out for around $20, about one-tenth the cost of many traditional textbooks.
"This is the new way to try to bring down the cost of instructional materials, by putting them in an open-source format," Steinberg said.
Publishing companies originally opposed the bills but removed their opposition, Steinberg said. Amendments removed a requirement that publishers provide free copies of textbooks in college libraries.
Gov. Jerry Brown waded into the workers' compensation negotiations at the Capitol this morning, urging lawmakers to approve what he called an "extraordinary bill" to increase benefits and reduce costs in the system.
Lobbyists for labor, employers, doctors, lawyers and insurers are working on a proposal in Senate Bill 863 that advocates say would increase payments to injured workers by an average of 29 percent. The plan would pare costs from the program by eliminating services that are frequently subject to lawsuits, such as enhancements for psychiatric problems, sexual dysfunction or loss of sleep.
Negotiations reportedly have faltered several times, but Brown urged perseverance:
"For months, people whom I trust have held public hearings and worked with labor and management to reform a broken system.," the Democratic governor said in a statement released this morning. "They have crafted an extraordinary bill that will avert an imminent crisis where workers suffer and rates will skyrocket. That happened in 2004, but this time, we have the chance to fix a problem before it becomes a crisis. We have the chance to make the Workers' Compensation System better--much better--for workers and cheaper for business."
Legislation that would grant farm workers the right to collect overtime pay was rejected in the state Assembly late Thursday as 19 Democrats, particularly those running this year in agricultural districts, refused to vote for it.
The measure, Assembly Bill 1313, received just 33 votes, eight short of the 41 required, despite hours of effort by the United Farm Workers union to persuade more Democrats to support it.
Two Democrats - Alyson Huber of El Dorado Hills and Richard Pan of Sacramento - voted against the bill, along with 28 Republicans, while 17 other Democrats refused to vote at all. Another attempt will be made in the Assembly today, the final day of the 2012 legislative session.
Farm workers were exempted when Congress voted in the 1930s to establish initial federal overtime rules, and the state did the same a few years later, prompting the bill's author, Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, to declare, "75 years of waiting is long enough."
Republicans, however, said that farmers would react to an overtime requirement by restricting the work hours of their seasonal employees or by increasing reliance on machinery, either of which would reduce workers' incomes. "AB 1313 is self-defeating," Assemblyman Curt Hagman, D-Chino Hills, said.
Legislation to ensure that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants will be eligible for California driver licenses is headed to the governor.
The final legislative vote on the measure came Thursday night, when the Assembly concurred in amendments, 55-15.
Assembly Bill 2189 would apply to an estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants expected to meet the requirements of President Obama's new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Assemblyman Gil Cedillo proposed the legislation as part of a decade-long campaign to give undocumented immigrants the right to apply for California driver's licenses.
AB 2189 would apply to less than one of every four undocumented immigrants in California, the Los Angeles Democrat said.
TAMPA, Fla. - A California woman gave a tearful account of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's support for her family and their sick infant daughter as a speaker at tonight's Republican National Convention.
Pamela Finlayson, who met Romney through the local Mormon congregation when she lived in Massachusetts more than 25 years ago, was one of several speakers tapped to share personal stories about their relationships with Romney ahead of his acceptance speech.
Finlayson told the packed hall at the Tampa Bay Times Forum of Romney visiting the hospital where her daughter, who was born premature and with serious complication, was born.
California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would continue a study in which nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physicians assistants conduct first-term abortions.
Senate Bill 623, by Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, cleared the state Senate today on a vote of 22-16. Outside of this study, only doctors can perform aspiration abortions, which use a suction technique.
Gov. Jerry Brown will not attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week, staying at the Capitol to review hundreds of bills sent to him as the Legislature concludes its session this week, spokesman Gil Duran said tonight.
In addition, Brown's father-in-law, Rockwell "Rocky" Gust, died earlier this week. Gust, father of first lady Anne Gust Brown, once ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Michigan alongside George Romney, Mitt Romney's father.
California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said the party had been informed that Brown would not attend.
"He cited a death in the family and legislative work that requires attention," Flores said. "We certainly understand, and our thoughts and our hearts go out to him and his wife during this critical time."
Anti-tax advocates are mobilizing their forces to try to defeat a last-minute bill moving through the Legislature that would extend some fees on car registrations and tire purchases for several additional years.
Senate Bill 1455 by Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, was amended to detail several fees on drivers which would be used to fund air quality programs such as hydrogen fueling stations. Fee changes outlined in the bill include:
- A $20 smog abatement fee and various car and boat registration fees set to expire in 2016 would be extended to 2023
- A $6 air quality district fee set to drop to $4 in 2015 would be extended at $6 until 2023
- A $1.75 tire fee set to drop to 75 cents in 2015 would be set at $1.50 until 2023
"Just when they are needed most and a wide variety of new vehicles and technologies are coming to the market, California's clean transportation and air quality investment programs are all set to expire," Kehoe said in a bill analysis.
The bill is supported by agricultural interests, environmental groups, utility companies and the oil industry. It is opposed by the car dealers association and anti-tax groups, which have sent out alerts asking people to urge their representatives to reject SB 1455.
"We don't need a multi-billion dollar car tax increase in the middle of a recession," anti-tax activist Jon Fleischman says in a video posted on his blog.
The bill requires approval by two-thirds of the Legislature, meaning it must gain support from some Republicans.
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - A handful of University of California, Berkeley, students (left) are assisting the California delegation to the Republican National Convention here this week, and if it is hard to be a Republican in "The People's Republic of Berkeley," the students aren't letting on.
"The student population is more moderate than what you might expect," said Shawn Lewis, an incoming senior and one of the volunteers.
Students are concerned about the economy, he said, and he believes that is an area in which the GOP can succeed. Lewis said the Republican student club at Berkeley is the largest in the state.
Still, the students are aware of their surroundings: Last school year, to raise money for wounded veterans, club members set up a dunk tank and took turns getting dunked.
Farmers could be jailed for failing to provide field workers with adequate shade or water under legislation sent to the governor Thursday.
The measure, Assembly Bill 2676, cleared the Legislature when the Assembly concurred in amendments, 43-28.
Democratic Assemblyman Charles Calderon characterized his bill as a humane measure. State law protects the welfare of domestic animals in extreme heat and it should do the same for farmworkers, he said.
"I hope that you can at least see that I'm trying to do the right thing here," Calderon told colleagues during floor debate.
California children would be prohibited from undergoing therapy to change their sexual orientation under a bill state lawmakers are sending to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 1172 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, cleared the Legislature today when the state Senate approved it 22-12, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposing.
"The entire house of medicine has rejected this phony and sham therapy," Lieu said. "It really is junk science."
Lieu said the bill is necessary to draw attention to therapists who claim they can help change a person's sexual orientation, which cannot actually be changed by psychotherapy. So called "ex-gay conversion therapy" can cause guilt, shame and in some cases suicide, Lieu said, and children should not be subjected to it.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Buttons featuring vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan have been a hot sell on the streets outside the security perimeter of the Republican National Convention.
Business hasn't been as good for Hanson Yuen.
Yuen, 25, drove from Mountain View to Tampa last week to sell boxes of chocolate sandwich cookies rebranded as "Obameos" and "Romneos." The cookies, which Yuen priced at $10 today, feature caricatures of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
By midday Thursday, he had only sold 10 boxes.
"It's not like really, really great yet," said Yuen, who has been sleeping in his car all week.
It cost Yuen about $5,000 to commission the art, print the packaging and purchase the cookies for the 500 boxes he brought to Tampa.
While he hopes to break even, the former IT analyst said he'll be content if the week brings more eyeballs to his new start-up, a website aimed at "creating a sharing economy for food" by allowing strangers to turn their homes into impromptu restaurants.
He said whether he goes on to Charlotte for next week's Democratic National Convention "depends on performance" in the second half of the final day of the GOP convention. He hoped adding the Obameos to the mix would up his numbers. He lost three potential customers as a result of not having those on hand earlier in the week.
"I thought it was all about the Romneos, but I was wrong," he said.
PHOTO CREDIT: Hanson Yuen, 25, talks to a potential customer blocks from the pedestrian entrance to the Republican National Convention site Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot
The California Senate gave final approval Thursday to legislation that would regulate "buy here, pay here" auto dealers, responding to reports that they exploit low-income consumers with high interest rates and harsh repossession practices.
Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, introduced the bill, Senate Bill 956, after the Los Angeles Times published a multi-part series on auto dealers who sell cars and finance the sales themselves.
Among other things, the legislation would limit interest rates on such sales, which now sometimes exceed 30 percent a year, and regulate how dealers can repossess cars for late payments. Some dealers allegedly sell and resell the same cars multiple times after repossessing them.
The final Senate vote to send the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown was 23-14.
Legislation that would give California's domestic workers such as housekeepers and nannies overtime pay, rest periods and other state labor protections was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday for either a signature or a veto.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 889, went to Brown on a 42-27 vote along party lines. It's sponsored by the California Domestic Workers Coalition and dozens of labor union and civil rights groups and is being carried by Assermblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Ammiano and other advocates said the legislation would protect domestic workers against exploitation and insisted that when the state Department of Industrial Relations adopts regulations to implement it, it would not be applied to teen-age babysitters and other casual workers.
Republicans, however, said that it would raise costs for parents and the elderly who depend on household help.
Jack Scott, a former state senator who is retiring this week after three years as chancellor of California's community college system, will become a "scholar in residence" at Claremont Graduate University's School of Educational Studies, the university announced Thursday.
Among his other duties, Scott will launch a certificate program for community college profssionals. Scott was a Democratic state senator from Pasadena for eight years before becoming community college chancellor in 2009 and also is a former president of Pasadena City College and Cypress College. His Claremont position begins Sept. 17.
PHOTO: Jack Scott / Sacramento Bee 2011 file, Hector Amezcua
TAMPA, Fla. -- Betty Ng isn't just a proud delegate at the Republican National Convention this week, she's a proud parent.
Her son, Darrel Ng, recently joined Mitt Romney's presidential effort as an aide to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's campaign. Ng's wife Jessica is also working for the Romney campaign.
"I just am very grateful that my children share the values we have," Betty Ng said, citing strong work ethic and fairness.
Being at the convention is also special for Ng and her husband Joseph, an alternate delegate. Both Montebello Republicans immigrated to America from Hong Kong as young adults. They said they were excited to be part of the political process in the country that provided them with many opportunities.
The younger Ng couple, also in Tampa this week, recently moved to Boston from Sacramento, where both worked on statewide campaigns and legislative offices over the years. They met through their jobs in the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger administration.
PHOTO CREDIT: Betty and Joseph Ng at the Tradewinds Island Grand resort, the hotel housing California's delegation to the Republican National Convention. The Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot,
VIDEO: Dan Walters offers an assessment of the the public pensions overhaul that the California Legislature is considering this week. Find his latest report at Capitol Alert.
It's T minus 42 hours -- we're counting from 6 a.m. today until the clock strikes midnight late Friday night -- before the current legislative session goes poof.
If Capitol denizens don't already have a pool for how many gut-and-amend bills will emerge between now and then, somebody should start one.
David Siderswrote a post yesterday about one of those "transmogrified" measures -- Senate Bill 1466, which got amended Monday to help Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fulfill a promise to employ 10,000 officers in the city's police department.
California children could legally have more than two parents under legislation state lawmakers are sending to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 1476 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, crossed its last legislative hurdle today, when the Senate approved it on a concurrence vote tonight of 21-13.
It passed out of the Senate with the bare minimum of votes necessary, all from Democrats.
"This bill has enjoyed absolutely no bipartisan support," Leno said as he presented the bill on the Senate floor.
The bill is necessary, Leno has said, because of the way society is changing from surrogate births, same-sex parenthood and assisted reproduction. Those scenarios create new possibilities for the parent-child relationship, which could be challenged in the case of divorce. Under SB 1476, a judge could split custody, child support or visitation rights among three or more people who had acted as parents to the child.
Opponents, including the Traditional Values Coalition, criticized Leno's bill as a move by a leader in the gay-marriage movement to redefine family structure.
TAMPA, Fla. - Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tonight portrayed the Obama administration as dangerously wavering in its foreign policy, seeking to bolster Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials on the second night of the Republican National Convention.
Rice said "the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty," with allies and enemies alike asking, "Where does America stand?"
The California Assembly rejected legislation Wednesday to place before voters a proposal to stiffen requirements for qualifying and approving citizen-led initiative drives that would alter the state constitution.
The measure, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10, died by a vote of 39-29, 15 votes shy of the 54 necessary for passage.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, told legislative committees that his proposal was a way to ensure that changes to the state's most fundamental document, its constitution, are not made lightly.
California's constitution has been amended 521 times in 133 years, while the U.S. Constitution has been altered only 27 times in 223 years, according to an Assembly floor analysis of ACA 10.
Gatto's proposal would have required that petition drives for initiatives to change the state constitution collect voter signatures totaling 8 percent of the ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election by residents in each of 27 or Senate districts.
Such petition drives also would be required to garner signatures totaling at least 8 percent of all votes cast statewide for governor.
Once on the ballot, passage of a constitutional amendment would require 55 percent support rather than a simple majority.
Opponents characterized ACA 10 as an attack on citizens' constitutional right to sidestep the Legislature in altering state law. Making it harder to qualify an initiative petition would be a blow to the democratic process, they said.
"It's the only voice that people have when they don't like what goes on in this building," Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said of ballot initiatives.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched what may constitute the first unofficial television salvo against Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative with an ad criticizing California state government.
The 30-second ad says "California is struggling badly" under the weight of "huge deficits," "high taxes" and "overregulation." It later claims that "bureaucrats put $37 billion in hidden, unaudited accounts," a reference to the state's special fund accounts that have drawn greater scrutiny in the wake of the state parks scandal.
The state's 550-plus special fund accounts were never themselves hidden, but the parks department purposely shielded $54 million from state leaders.
Based on Federal Communications Commission documents, the U.S. Chamber spent at least $431,000 in the Los Angeles and Sacramento broadcast markets on ads starting today and lasting through Sept. 6.
The ad never mentions Brown's initiative, Proposition 30, but it uses arguments that opponents are expected to repeat down the campaign stretch. The initiative has a narrow lead in recent polls, and Brown had counted on the absence of a well-financed opposition effort. The powerful California Chamber of Commerce, a separate Sacramento-based group, has remained neutral on his tax measure.
Neither a U.S. Chamber spokesman nor the group's listed California contact, prominent law firm Nielsen Merksamer, immediately returned a request for comment Wednesday.
If there is one criticism that especially bothers Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, it is that he has fallen short on certain promises, including an effort to expand his city's police department to 10,000 officers.
"We'll announce in September that we hit 10,000, which, if you saw an article recently, they said that I always set a high goal and I only did 9,943," Villaraigosa recently told The Bee. "Oh yeah, I'm going to hit 10,000."
It became clear this week why Villaraigosa could be so sure. In the final week of the legislative session, a bill amended in the California Assembly proposes to help increase the size of the city's police department by adding public safety employees from another city department to its ranks.
Enrollment at California Community Colleges has dropped 17 percent below its 2008-09 peak, system officials said today, blaming the decline on post-recession state budget cuts.
The 112-college system had 2.4 million students last school year, 485,000 fewer than in 2008-09. Community colleges have long served a variety of needs, including recent high school graduates, adults seeking new skills and retirees taking recreational courses. It is unclear who comprises the group that fell off.
Community colleges are heavily subsidized by the state, and leaders said campuses have cut back their course offerings by 24 percent to save money. The state has also raised costs from $26 per unit in 2010-11 to $46 per unit now, though more than half of students have their fees waived.
Schools have tried to protect courses necessary for a degree, remediation or vocational education. But even those essential courses have filled to the brim, leaving long wait lists, said spokeswoman Paige Marlatt Dorr. System leaders believe students have fled community colleges because they can't get the classes they need or want.
"The real tragedy in all of this is the students we're pushing out of our institutions," said Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brice Harris in a statement. "At the high water mark of January 2009, Los Rios had 93,000 students. This week we opened the doors with 82,000 students but that's only half of the story because state projections showed us at about 100,000 students. So, really the number of students being denied access to these colleges in the Sacramento region is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 to 18,000."
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. -- The California Public Employees' Retirement System is in session -- at the Republican National Convention.
Richard Costigan, a delegate to the convention and a member of the CalPERS board, sat in the lobby with a piece of paper propped up on a lemonade can to notice the meeting for the public.
"We do play by the rules," he said.
Costigan expected the meeting -- which began at 1 p.m. Pacific Time to consider the late-session proposal to reform the state's public pensions system -- to last a couple of hours, delaying his trip to the convention hall.
"I'm going to miss the bus," he said.
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Costigan monitors the California Public Employees' Retirement System board meeting from the Republican National Convention in Florida on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. Photo by David Siders, Sacramento Bee
California had the nation's ninth highest rate of medically uninsured residents in 2010, according to a new Census Bureau report.
The report -- which covers those under 65 years old, the age at which Medicare kicks in -- found that 6.7 million of the state's 32.5 million under-65 residents lacked medical insurance, for a rate of 20.7 percent.
Texas had the nation's highest rate of 26.3 percent, while Massachusetts, at 5.2 percent, was the lowest, thanks largely to a program that its former governor, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, championed. Most of the states with rates higher than California's were in the South, but they include adjacent Nevada at 25.1 percent.
Within California, the most populous county, Los Angeles, also had the highest medically uninsured rate, 25.9, virtually identical to Texas' rate. The state's lowest rate, 11.8 percent, was in Marin County, which also has the state's highest personal incomes.
Open display of unloaded rifles in public would be banned in California under legislation sent to Gov. Jerry Brown today.
Assembly Bill 1527 cleared the Legislature when the Assembly concurred in amendments, 43-30.
The measure extends an existing "open carry" law that applies to handguns. AB 1527 would not bar possession in unincorporated areas or at a private business, on private property, and or to the carrying of an unloaded rifle in a vehicle's rack.
Some gun-owning Californians have encouraged open display of firearms in recent years as evidence of their constitutional right to bear arms and as a protest against government gun-control laws.
Legislation authorizing California's junior high and high schools to teach students about the Bracero guest worker program from decades past was signed into law today by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The measure, Senate Bill 993, does not require schools to discuss Braceros, but the bill is a way to raise awareness about the program and could encourage districts to include it in social sciences instruction, according to a legislative committee analysis.
Los Angeles Democratic Sen. Kevin de León proposed SB 993, which does not require any new spending or allocate any new funding to schools.
The Bracero program, from 1942-64, was a temporary guest worker program designed to provide an inexpensive source of labor for United States agriculture and railway maintenance during World War II and years beyond that.
The program was developed through a treaty between the United States and Mexican governments.
The Bracero program frequently is ignored in classroom instruction and left out of textbooks, despite its impact on United States' immigration patterns and labor market, de León told the legislative committee.
SB 993 encourages instruction about the Bracero program to include personal testimony from participants.
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - California delegates to the Republican National Convention returned to their beachfront hotel as late as 3 a.m. this morning, delayed for hours following proceedings Tuesday night.
The delegates, already irritated by a bus system that delivered them to the convention hall late on Tuesday afternoon, were still complaining about the return trip as they staggered from their rooms to a lobby coffee bar this morning.
"Clearly there were some logistical challenges that require immediate attention," delegation spokesman Mitch Zak said.
Some delegates said they waited outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum for more than an hour for a bus after the convention let out at 11 p.m., then sat still in traffic.
"When we started moving, everyone cheered" said Caleb Kruger, a 12-year-old youth delegate who got in relatively early, at 1 a.m.
In light traffic, the drive from Tampa to St. Pete Beach, where the delegation is staying, takes less than an hour.
Delegation officials said they are working with national convention officials, who are in charge of transportation to and from the convention hall, to improve the trip tonight.
VIDEO: Dan Walters says it seems members of the Assembly are always changing their votes. Find his daily report here.
As the Legislature powers through its last three days of business, Sacramento's money trees are in full bloom. Eight fundraisers are on the docket today at restaurants around the Capitol -- you can hit them up for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- and a ninth takes place at the Walnut Grove home of former Assemblyman Rusty Areias and his fund-raising wife Julie Sandino. That one benefits U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
PENSION POW WOW - The pension reform deal Gov. Jerry Brown announced yesterday gets vetted today by the CalPERS board, which meets by teleconference. Keep an eye on our sister blog, The State Worker, for updates.
MISSION TUITION BREAK - University of California students are holding a press conference at UC Irvine today to call on legislators to pass Assembly Bills 1500 and 1501, which change corporate tax structure to fund college scholarships. "Due to the highly anticipated mid-year tuition increase of 20.3 percent, middle class students and their families need this break more than ever," says a statement from the UC Student Association. "We are encouraging students and their families to call their Senators and demand passage of the Middle Class Scholarship Act."
The Assembly sent to the governor today a San Francisco lawmaker's bill meant to ensure that her city's trash can continue to be hauled to Solano County without restriction in years to come.
The measure by Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma would prohibit voters in a city or county from restricting or limiting the importation of solid waste into a privately owned landfill.
Assembly Bill 845 passed the lower house by a vote of 46-15.
Ma's proposal stems from a fight over Measure E, a 1984 voter-approved Solano County initiative to limit the amount of waste imported into Solano County to a maximum of 95,000 tons per year, curtailing what it could accept from San Francisco.
TAMPA, Fla. - Former California Gov. Pete Wilson likened Mitt Romney to Ronald Reagan this afternoon at the Republican National Convention.
"California, the state that gave America and the world the inspirational leadership of Ronald Reagan," Wilson announced on the convention floor, with the state delegation cheering behind him, "proudly casts all of our 172 votes for another champion and another leading example of American exceptionalism, Gov. Mitt Romney."
Wilson said America is suffering and that voters must "choose to restore our economy and to restore belief in America."
Reagan, the former governor, is a source of pride for California Republicans, and Reagan memorabilia was up for auction in the lobby at the delegation hotel.
TAMPA, Fla. - For some perspective about the quality of California's seating assignment at the Republican National Convention - stage right, back a ways - consider the Texans, who are sitting right by them.
The 155-member delegation, second in size only to California, got used to sitting up front during the George W. Bush years, delegates said.
The current arrangement is "OK," said Rick Miller, a delegate from Sugar Land.
"Probably we could have done a little bit better."
In the California seats, Kellie Randle was seated with her husband, Mitt Romney adviser Jeff Randle, directly behind a former governor and a former, failed candidate for the office.
"I'm a seat away from Pete Wilson and Meg Whitman," Kellie Randle said. "It's great."
Delegates were preparing tonight to hear from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, on the first full night of the convention.
The Assembly sent to the governor today legislation that would double the statute of limitations for families of police and firefighters to file for job-related death benefits that can exceed $300,000.
Assembly Bill 2451 cleared its final legislative hurdle, 51-18, when the Assembly concurred in amendments. Most Democrats supported the measure, while many Republicans opposed it.
The bill by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez would allow families to file for death benefits for up to nine years after the diagnosis of a job-caused illness or injury to a public safety official.
AB 2451 would apply to deaths from cancer, tuberculosis, blood-borne infectious diseases and what are commonly called MSRA skin infections, ailments presumed by law to be job-related when they afflict police or firefighters.
TAMPA, Fla. - Transportation troubles caused most of California's 172-member delegation to miss the opening of the Republican National Convention today.
The four buses assigned to carry delegates, alternates and guests from their hotel in St. Pete Beach to the Tampa Bay Times Forum ran more than an hour late Tuesday afternoon, with all but 30 delegates boarding their shuttles for the 25-mile trip as the convention got underway at 2 p.m.
Spokesman Mitch Zak said issues with security checks and traffic closures contributed to the delay.
"The logistics at this convention are something else," delegate Don Genhart of Palm Desert said as he waited in line for a bus outside the TradeWinds Island Grand resort.
The first hour was mostly filled with welcome remarks from Republican National Committee and local officials. Delegates milled around on the floor as a live band played between the brief speeches.
The last buses carrying delegates arrived at the convention site at about 3:05 p.m. - minutes after California 9th Congressional District candidate Ricky Gill appeared on stage to give a roughly 2-minute speech.
The main attractions of the day -- speeches by Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- won't start for hours.
With just a few days remaining in the 2012 legislative session, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has filled in a shell bill aimed at overturning, or at least altering, a hotly contested 2011 state Supreme Court ruling on medical damages in personal injury cases.
The revised bill - backed by attorneys who specialize in such cases and opposed by business, medical and insurance groups - cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee Tuesday on a party-line, 6-3 vote. It had earlier passed the Senate with a brief framework that Steinberg had promised would be fleshed out later.
Enacting the legislation, Senate Bill 1528, has been the highest priority of Consumer Attorneys of California this year.
Steinberg and other proponents insisted that the bill doesn't overturn the decision, Howell vs. Hamilton Meats, or a predecessor ruling on which it was based. But opponents told the committee that it would have that effect, and could also undermine the state's landmark law - signed by Gov. Jerry Brown during his first governorship in 1975 - that limits pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000.
That suspicion fueled an outpouring of opposition from medical groups. "There's no problem that needs to be solved here," Kaiser Permanente lobbyist Teresa Stark told the committee. The personal injury lawyers have tried to change the pain and suffering limit, known as MICRA, on numerous occasions, but failed each time.
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - The rain cleared Monday night, and a handful of Republicans made their way to a karaoke bar at the beachfront resort where the California delegation is staying for the Republican National Convention.
There sipping wine was a left-leaning vacationer from New Brunswick, Canada, who objected to both the politics of the Republicans and their music.
"We believe in all these kind of things Republicans don't believe in," said the Canadian, Marlene Whitehead, including public health care, gay marriage, and "gun control - Oh, my God."
Her more immediate concern was the delegate singing "My Way." A karaoke bar, Whitehead said, is no place for sad songs.
If the Republicans could not accommodate Whitehead's politics, they were more than happy to pick up the beat. A round of beers came from the bar, and Frank Sinatra's catalog was left behind.
On stage, Kevin Krick and Sashi McEntee, current chairman and past chairwoman, respectively, of the Marin County Republican Central Committee, took up "The Time Warp," made famous by "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"That was happier!" Whitehead said. "And you know what? I don't know who this girl is, but she can sing."
VIDEO: Dan Walters talks about the list of immigration legislation lawmakers are considering this year. Find his daily report here.
A plan labor unions and business owners have hashed out to overhaul California's workers compensation system will get its first public airing today when the Assembly Insurance Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. in room 437. It's a complex issue to tackle with just four days left of the legislative session, but lawmakers seem to love leaving the juiciest work for the end.
Speaking of which: pensions. The Legislature is expected to introduce its long awaited package of bills aimed at reforming California's public employee pension system today. Expect a package that includes a cap on the pension retirees can draw - but does not include a so-called "hybrid" plan that incorporates a 401(k)-type element.
And in Florida today, the Republican National Convention is scheduled to start after a one-day hurricane delay. California delegates won't have the worst seats in the house when they arrive at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, but they certainly don't have the best.
The bulk of California's 172-member delegation is seated in a section center-left of the podium in the main hall, filling the chairs behind Republicans from Florida, Massachusetts and Guam. Others will be looking over the heads of Republicans from New Hampshire, the U.S. Virgin Islands, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Washington, D.C.
CAKE AND CANDLES: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who turns 60 today.
California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that severely restricts the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats.
Senate Bill 1221 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, crossed its last legislative hurdle this afternoon, when the state Senate approved it on a 22-13 concurrence vote. The bill had become a flash point in California's culture wars -- with hundreds of hunters filling the Capitol for every vote -- and the Senate's debate was no different. Houndsmen in orange t-shirts watched today's debate from the balcony above the Senate floor.
Republicans did most of the talking during the 40-minute discussion. They cast the bill as a case of elite city-dwellers impinging on the rights of rural Californians.
"What is it about hunting that urban folks don't seem to like?" said Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Richvale.
"I'm not even a hound hunter, but so many of my neighbors participate in this type of activity.... We see this as a threat to very basic, very core, foundational rural life."
Lieu said that senators represent more than their individual districts. They also represent the whole state, he said, adding that a survey showed the majority of Californians favor banning dogs from participating in bear and bobcat hunting.
"This is really not a rural or urban issue. It is a California issue," Lieu said. "It is a humane issue."
The California Medical Association and other health care groups are trying to restore Healthy Families coverage for 880,000 lower-income children, but Gov. Jerry Brown remains opposed.
As part of a June budget compromise, the Democratic governor asked lawmakers to eliminate Healthy Families and shift 880,000 children just above poverty level over to Medi-Cal. Republicans opposed the move and Democrats reluctantly approved it as part of a deal to avoid deeper cuts in other health and welfare programs.
Brown believes the change will be more efficient and points out that children whose parents earn between 100 percent and 138 percent of federal poverty level will regardless have to move to Medi-Cal by 2014 under federal health care changes.
Separately, the governor is counting on $183 million for the state budget by extending a tax on managed care plans that draws down more federal funds. But he still needs two-thirds support from the Legislature to approve the tax, and Republicans have refused to provide votes as long as the state eliminates Healthy Families. The bills being floated by CMA - Senate Bill 301 and Assembly Bill 826 - would extend the tax and restore Healthy Families.
The doctors' group says it has bipartisan support for the legislation. But it still lacks support from Brown.
"The Governor is opposed to modifying the budget agreement, because we can't go back on the important savings we have achieved," said Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford. "The full transition from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal simplifies and improves health care coverage for California's children in addition to saving money."
Rancho Cordova City Councilman Ken Cooley is running in one of four California Assembly races that are being targeted by Democrats as priorities for funding and other assistance in the November election.
Besides Cooley, the other Democrats identified by Speaker John A. Pérez for campaign assistance are Rudy Salas in Kern and Kings counties; Jose Medina, Riverside County and Moreno Valley; and Al Muratsuchi, Los Angeles' south bay.
The California Democratic Party, beginning this week, will move $150,000 into each of the four competitive races, begin field operations, and launch paid media advertising efforts, according to Perez.
The Assembly leader, in a prepared statement, said the four candidates will stress a "powerful message of restoring opportunity for the people" and will remind voters that Democrats represent "the party of solutions."
Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in the Assembly by a large margin, 52-27, with one seat held by an independent legislator. Democrats would need to gain two additional seats to reach the supermajority necessary to approve tax increases.
Cooley, who works as a legislative staffer, captured 43 percent of the District 8 vote in the June primary. Republican Peter Tateishi, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, qualified for the November ballot by garnering 23.4 percent.
Assemblyman Roger Hernandez was found not guilty of drunken driving by Contra Costa County jurors today, ending a trial that lasted nearly two weeks.
The jury found Hernandez not guilty of driving under the influence, and the panel was hung on whether his blood-alcohol content was 0.08 percent, said Cindy Armstrong, clerk for Judge Mary Ann O'Malley.
The West Covina Democrat can return now to the Capitol after missing about a week of work during his trial. Lawmakers are acting on dozens of bills each day as the Legislature prepares to adjourn for the year Friday.
"I'm grateful to our judicial system for a fair and impartial process," Hernandez said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to continuing to focus on my constituents, and the people of the San Gabriel Valley. California faces huge challenges and I intend to be part of positive solutions."
Tampa, Fla. -- Years after surviving the rough and tumble of reality TV, former "The Bachelor" star Andrew Firestone is trying out a new role in politics as California delegate to the Republican National Convention.
"I think probably the difference between politics and 'The Bachelor' is the fact that the candidates I think in 'The Bachelor' are a lot better looking," said Firestone, who was the third bachelor to appear on the ABC dating series. "But probably just as stressful as well."
Firestone, the son of former Assemblyman Brooks Firestone, is a first-time delegate. The Santa Barbara Republican said he hopes to see expected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney give an acceptance speech Thursday night that fires up the GOP base and gives all voters more details about how he'll use his vision and business acumen to turn the country around.
"I don't think anybody denies that this country is going in the wrong direction and we want a plan," he said. "We want a direct idea of how it's going to be put into place to get us going in the right direction."
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - Meg Whitman, who never quite managed to connect with the California electorate in her 2010 gubernatorial run, shared this morning what she suggested is a truism of a good campaign: Hold town hall meetings, but starting two weeks before the election, stop taking questions.
Whitman, the chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, was introducing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to California's delegation to the Republican National Convention. Whitman considers the conservative star a "close friend," and she recalled for the audience "one quick, personal story.
"Towards the end of my campaign - it was the last two weeks of the campaign, and Chris Christie volunteered to come out and campaign with me," Whitman said. "We were in Los Angeles at a roundtable, a big town hall meeting, several thousand people there. And when you're at that point in the campaign, you actually do not take questions from the audience because typically there are 'plants' from the opposition in the audience, and it can get very nasty. So you actually, two weeks before the election, you stop taking questions."
At the end of the event, Whitman said, a man in the audience started screaming, criticizing her for not taking questions.
The exchange that followed made headlines in New Jersey and California, when Christie walked over to the man, pointed his finger at him and scolded, "It's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. We're here to bring this country together."
Whitman's description of the encounter cheered the crowd:
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called California Gov. Jerry Brown an "old retread" this morning, ripping into the Democratic governor in a speech to California's delegation to the Republican National Convention.
Christie, who will keynote the convention this week, told delegates at their beachfront hotel that New Jersey and California Republicans are alike, coming as they do from blue states.
"The message I want to deliver to California this morning is: There is hope," Christie told the delegates, some of whom had staked out positions near the podium more than an hour before Christie spoke. "Don't give up on the fact that California can be governed. You've seen it governed before, and you've seen it governed effectively."
Christie, a conservative star in the Republican Party, cheered the crowd by laying into Brown, California's 74-year-old, third-term governor.
"California made the bad choice by going with an old retread," Christie said. "Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown? I mean, he won the New Jersey presidential primary over Jimmy Carter when I was 14 years old. And now I've got to sit at the National Governor's Association with this guy and have him come up to me and say, 'Gov. Christie, stop telling people that I want to raise taxes. I'm not trying to raise taxes.'
"And I said, 'Yeah you are, Jerry.'
"And he said, 'No, no, Chris, I'm not, I want to put them on the ballot and let the people decide.'
As the Republican National Convention kicks off in Tampa, most GOP legislators can be found on the floor of their respective legislative chambers here in Sacramento instead of the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where former Gov. Mitt Romney will accept the Republican presidential nomination later this week.
Just two Republican legislators are confirmed attendees of this week's convention in Tampa. Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, is serving as a delegate representing the 50th Congressional District. Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, is heading to Tampa with her husband, Board of Equalization member George Runner, another Romney delegate, but a spokeswoman said she is ready to fly back to California if needed.
Senate GOP leader Bob Huff, whose wife is a delegate, spent the weekend with the California delegation at in St Pete Beach, but was scheduled to return home in time for Monday's floor session.
A spokeswoman for Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway said she was unaware of any Assembly Republicans planning to attend the convention.
The low attendance rate among state legislators is likely due to the legislative calendar. Both houses are set to work through hundreds of bills ahead of the end-of-session deadline on Friday.
VIDEO: Dan Walters talks about three issues pending in the California Legislature that get lobbyists all excited. Find his daily report on Capitol Alert.
Republicans are gathering this week for Republican National Convention in Tampa, but few of California's GOP legislators are going. Torey Van Oot, in this Capitol Alert post, reveals who's Florida-bound, and who's not.
Here's what legislators face in Sacramento -- Sausage Week.
Alert readers already know that Friday is the end of the legislative session. Late last week, a Senate spokesman estimated that the Legislature still has about 400 bills on its plate. (Not to mention the proposals that Dan Walters would dub "transmogrified.")
Lawmakers will take a break at noon to hang out with an Olympic athlete. Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, is presenting a Senate resolution to Tyler Clary on the Senate floor. Clary, a Redlands native who attended Riverside Poly High School, won gold in the 200-meter backstroke event in London. He beat out teammate Ryan Lochte with a time of 1:53:41, setting an Olympic record.
Come back later to Capitol Alert. We'll be tracking the action both in the Legislature and in Tampa, where Torey Van Oot and David Siders are on the ground. It's going to be a long week.
Meanwhile, fundraisers continue today at Sacramento restaurants near the Capitol, with three Democratic state senators collecting campaign donations: Ellen Corbett, Juan Vargas and Rod Wright.
Two legislator-wannabees are also holding fundraisers today: Redding City Councilman Rick Bosetti, who is facing fellow Republican Brian Dahle, a Lassen County supervisor, in the sprawling 1st Assembly District; and Democrat Mark Stone, a Santa Cruz County supervisor running in the Central Coast's 29th Assembly District.
NEW GIG:Oscar Hidalgo, most recently spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, is now director of communications and public relations for the California Health Benefit Exchange. He'll be paid $160,000 a year, according to a news release announcing the move.
CAKE AND CANDLES: Republican Sen. Tom Berryhill turns 59 today.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - As the welcome party for the Republican National Convention got going this evening at Tropicana Field, Steve Lucas, a delegate from Orinda, stood in right field wearing an "Obama sucks" button, which seemed to sum up the feeling of many partygoers here.
Lucas, a partner at the powerhouse Sacramento law firm Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinellow, Gross & Leoni LLP, was unusually precise in his explanation.
"Why Obama sucks?" he said. "He sucks on the economy, because he hasn't created a new job in 3 ½ years. He sucks on foreign policy because he leads from behind, and he's an amateur."
Lucas was standing just shy of the warning track, and a party official standing nearby remarked about how on point he was.
The conversation then turned to the small town where Lucas lives, and it became clear he is not in all areas a partisan. He said he is a supporter of the city's mayor, Steve Glazer, who happens to be Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's top political adviser. He even favors local tax measures.
Lucas didn't have a button for it, but he said of Glazer, "He's a great mayor."
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - California's delegation to the Republican National Convention was planning today to counteract any uprising by Ron Paul supporters on the convention floor, with officials preparing "delegate whips" to lead the effort.
The state delegation, marginalized in most matters because of California's heavily Democratic electorate, could be significant in drowning out any chants supporting Paul: The 172-member delegation is the nation's largest, and unlike some split delegations is fully committed to Romney.
In a private meeting at the delegation's beachfront hotel, Jeff Randle, the senior Romney adviser who is in charge of the California delegation, told 16 delegate whips to be prepared for a potential Paul uprising, including leading pro-Romney chants. Randle and the whips were expected to meet again Monday to finalize plans.
Paul stopped campaigning in the Republican primary months ago, but the Texas congressman's supporters are an exceptionally vocal group, and he maintains a small number of delegates. The Romney campaign plans to air a film about Paul during the convention, but it is unclear if that will be enough to quiet Paul's supporters.
California delegates were loading buses this afternoon for a welcome party at Tropicana Field. The event follows a private VIP reception in a penthouse at the delegation hotel.
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - In a week in which Mitt Romney is expected to highlight his personal side - including, perhaps, his Mormon faith - Harold Stuart, an organist and alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention, accompanied California members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a service this morning at their beachfront hotel.
Of the state's more than 700 delegates, alternates and guests selected by the campaign to attend the Republican National Convention, more than 100 are Mormon, organizers said.
About 60 of them filled a small ballroom at the TradeWinds Island Grand. Mark Clayson, of Gardena, told the congregants it is a week to "serve well and strengthen this nation, and be able to let our light shine."
He said he is hopeful for a convention that presents Romney in a more personal light than the campaign has managed in recent months.
"To get a sense of who he is," Clayson said, "I think we need to see a little bit of that."
The service ended, Stuart finished on the keyboard and a delegate came over to tell him he sounded good.
"I do better if I've got two keyboards and a pedal board," he said, "But that's OK."
The right balance for Romney, Stuart said, will be to discuss the values that inform his decisions while not overemphasizing his particular religion.
After all, Stuart said, "He's going to be the president of every person in this country."
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. -- No convention would be complete without some SWAG.
California delegates attending the Republican National Convention this week will take home a goodie bag filled with GOP gear, gift cards and some Golden State-grown staples like rice and walnuts. .
The black-and-red tote bags are stuffed with freebies like a 2012 "President" Barbie, a copy of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents" and a $120 credit for a line of luxury swim suits. Soda, candy and ibuprofen were thrown in for good measure. Attendees also get a second bag provided to all delegates to the Republican National Convention.
All told, the California bag's contents, provided by a long list of delegation sponsors that includes Folsom Lake Ford and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, are worth up to $700. Alternates and guests get a scaled-back version of the bag.
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - A tropical storm heading in the direction of the Florida coast is shaking up the schedule for the roughly 750 California Republicans set to gather in Tampa as delegates, alternates and guests at the Republican National Convention.
Convention officials decided today to postpone much of Monday's schedule in light of Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane in the coming days.
The forecast for severe weather is also causing some logistical challenges for the California delegation, which is staying at the oceanside TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach.
"Our parties and what's happening at the convention (are) going to change probably daily as we try to adapt to whatever the hurricane or the storm is going to bring to us," Don Willet, the chief operating officer for the delegation, told delegates Saturday night.
With just a week left for Gov. Jerry Brown to decide the fate of two off-reservation casino proposals, opponents are arguing that approval of one of them could hurt public employee investment funds.
Brown has until Aug. 31 to decide the fate of casinos proposed by the Enterprise Rancheria near Marysville and the North Fork Rancheria near Fresno. Members of both tribes have property in the mountains but want to build casinos miles away, along freeways on the valley floor. Opponents call it reservation shopping, while the tribes say they have historic connections to the valley locations. The federal government has OK'ed the projects and sent them to the governor for final approval.
Last week, 17 state senators sent Brown a letter urging him to reject the North Fork proposal. The senators -- including Democrats Kevin de Leon, Lou Correa and Juan Vargas, as well as Republican Tony Strickland -- said a North Fork casino on Highway 99 near Madera would threaten the viability of the nearby Chukchansi Gold casino in the foothills east of Madera. That, they argued, puts the retirement funds that have invested in the project at risk. Their letter says:
"We recently learned of another major concern about this proposed off-reservation approval, which is that publicly-issued California bonds, which represent major investment in the Chukchansi Gold casino, would be at risk if the Chukchansi Gold casino were to default. The investment firms which invest these bonds include those who manage assets for the benefit of university endowments, pension plans and retirement funds, including those organized for the benefit of public employees in California and other states... Our retired employees and educators cannot afford to have their hard-earned funds put at risk, and no actions should be taken by our State which could create such risks."
Casino opponents would not say which public employee funds are at risk or how much money is at stake.
"I can't quantify it but it's substantial," said lobbyist David Quintana, who represents the tribe that runs the Chukchansi casino as well as others opposing the projects.
The lobbyist for the North Fork tribe called the investment fund argument a red herring and said opponents are grasping at straws. Rick Lehman, a former congressman who is now North Fork's lobbyist, said the federal government spent eight years studying the North Fork proposal.
"They vetted all the impacts on Chukchansi and concluded they were not significant enough to deny the project," Lehman said.
California's controversial $150 annual fire prevention fee to rural homeowners would be repealed in exchange for raising taxes on numerous out-of-state corporations under legislation proposed today.
The development comes just one week before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year.
The new proposal, Senate Bill 1040, would link a GOP push to repeal the fire prevention fee repeal with a key priority of Assembly Speaker John Pérez and most Democrats, Assembly Bill 1500, to impose a corporate tax formula known as the "single sales factor."
The proposed compromise also could pressure Senate Republicans to provide the necessary votes, at least two, to ensure that Pérez's tax formula bill clears the upper house by the needed supermajority.
"This should deliver Republican votes, based on what they've said in the past," said Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Pérez, who is pushing AB 1500.
Altering the corporate tax formula should generate an estimated $1 billion for the state each year. About $90 million would be used to backfill revenue lost by repealing the fire fee. The remainder would fund college scholarships for families earning less than $150,000 per year.
"This is a nice, I think, compromise where we can still take care of middle-class families and address some of the concerns of Republicans, while closing the single sales factor loophole," Swanson said.
Sen. Bob Huff, leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, could not be reached immediately for comment.
Senate Bill 1040 was gutted and amended Friday to contain the compromise.
When state Controller John Chiang reported this month that state sales taxes in July were a third lower than the state budget projection for the month, it created a stir in political and financial circles.
July was the first month of the 2012-13 fiscal year and some analysts wondered whether the controller's report meant that the budget's full year revenue projections were much too high, and deficits were in the offing.
Not to worry, says George Runner, a member of the state Board of Equalization, which collects sales taxes. "Contrary to what you may have heard, the sky is not falling in California--at least not as it pertains to sales tax revenue," Runner said in a statement Friday. "I'm pleased to report that sales and use tax revenues are doing just fine."
Instead of being $295 million below projections in July, Runner said, sales taxes - $1.527 billion - were actually $17 million above Department of Finance expectations.
Why the big difference? Differing accounting method in different financial agencies, which has become a bugaboo of late in determining fund balances throughout state government and contributed to a scandal over hidden funds in the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Runner said the controller counts only "money in the bank" while the Board of Equalization's data also include pending deposits. He said the BOE received more than $900 million in sales taxes during the final days of July which were not deposited in the state treasury by the end of the month.
The Assembly Friday passed and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown legislation that would prohibit law enforcement officers from detaining undocumented immigrants for federal authorities when they are released from criminal custody, unless they have a history of serious or violent crime.
"This is a bill that speaks to humanity," Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said at the close of a heated floor debate on his bill, Assembly Bill 1081.
He and other Democrats said it's aimed at preventing otherwise non-threatening immigrants to go about with their lives without fear of deportation, while Republicans argued that the effect would be to give criminally inclined illegal immigrants a sanctuary.
The 44-23 vote to send the measure to Brown was strictly along party lines, although some members of both parties declined to vote.
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has asked Attorney General Kamala Harris to probe conflict of interest allegations against two bond-issuing agencies after a state audit raised concerns.
Lockyer sought the audit a year ago, suggesting the California Statewide Communities Development Authority and the California Municipal Finance Authority operate with conflicts. The joint powers authorities serve as "conduit financiers" between hundreds of local public agencies and investors and make project financing decisions based upon recommendations from the private companies that serve as their staff. Lockyer has asserted that because the companies are paid based on the tax-exempt bonds issued by the authorities, they have an inherent conflict of interest.
State Auditor Elaine Howle, in a report released Thursday, did not go that far. She said the joint powers authorities have broken no laws, but suggested their mode of operation "raises concerns" that the practice violates the state Political Reform Act.
VIDEO: Dan Walters doesn't think the term "gut and amend" is very dignified, so he has come up with another word for the end-of-session process. (No, it isn't "sausage.")
California legislators haven't just been wading through hundreds of bills since Monday -- they've also been collecting campaign cash. Capitol Alert counted dozens of fundraisers scheduled on behalf of current lawmakers or legislative hopefuls. Those drawing on donors' largess this week included Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez as well as several of his fellow Democrats in the Assembly.
Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, is scheduled to come to Fresno next month to raise cash for the GOP ticket.
The Fresno Bee has the details of the event with the Wisconsin congressman:
According to an invitation being circulated, it will cost $1,000 per person to get in the door of the Fresno Convention Center's Valdez Hall, where the event will be held. Costs go up from there -- to $25,000 per couple.
The event follows close on the heels of a high-dollar lunch fundraiser for Romney at the Sanger home of prominent west-side rancher John Harris. That event attracted a select number of big-money donors and ended up raising more than $1 million -- a first for a Valley fundraising event.
Read more from Fresno Bee colleague John Ellis at this link.
PHOTO CREDIT: Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., answers questions during a campaign event at Partnership for Defense Innovation in Fayetteville, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Sara D. Davis).
Legislation to overturn a Solano County ballot measure that limited garbage shipments into the county was approved Thursday by the state Senate.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, amended the legislation's provisions into a new bill (Assembly Bill 845) after an earlier version stalled in a Senate committee, a process known as "gut-and-amend."
AB 845 is aimed at blocking 1984 Solano County ballot measure limiting importation of garbage that was the subject of a lengthy court battle before winning judicial approval. Advocates of the measure sought to bar expansion of a landfill in Portrero Hills, which handles refuse from San Francisco.
The measure now goes back to the Assembly for a final vote.
The Senate's approval came over the objections of Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, whose district includes Solano County.
After the vote, Ma said, "Garbage is a statewide issue as is wastewater treatment, transportation and electricity. Thirty-nine California counties ship their waste to other jurisdictions or will need to export waste in the future. Not every city and county can have its own landfill and local jurisdictions should not put initiatives on the ballot that discriminate against out-of-area garbage."
An initiative to regulate health insurance rates in California has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.
The Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog drafted the initiative after rate-regulation legislation fell short in the Capitol last year. The measure would give the state insurance commissioner the power to approve or reject health insurance rate changes, a move supporters say would protect consumers from spikes in the cost of coverage.
Proponents collected 800,000 voter signatures this spring in hopes of getting a spot on the Nov. 6 ballot, which will also feature an auto insurance measure opposed by Consumer Watchdog. But election officials were not able to determine whether enough of those signatures were valid to qualify by the late June deadline for making the November election.
Still, supporters believe the wording of the initiative would give the insurance commissioner the power to order refunds of excessive rate hikes enacted after this year's Nov. 6 vote if the measure passes in 2014.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced today that a full check of the signatures showed that proponents exceeded the 504,760-signature threshold for qualifying an initiative for the ballot.
It is the third measure slated for the election 26 months away. The two others -- an $11 billion water bond and a rainy day fund measure -- were placed on that election ballot by the state Legislature.
A late-hour bid by business interests and some lawmakers to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act fell apart this afternoon, with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg saying the upper house will not take up the measure before the legislative session ends next week.
"The Senate will not take up comprehensive CEQA reform in the last days of the legislative session," Steinberg told reporters at the Capitol. "This law, for all of its strengths and its faults, is far too important to rewrite in the last days of the session."
The announcement cheered environmentalists, who had been lobbying furiously against the bill. The proposal would have limited the reach of California's signature environmental law, insulating from litigation certain projects that comply with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done.
"I'm relieved," said Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips, who called the bill "one of the worst attacks on environmental protections that we've seen in the 40-year life of this law."
A highly controversial bill to make it easier for survivors of police officers and firefighters to collect workers' compensation benefits was approved Thursday by the California Senate.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is personally carrying the measure, Assembly Bill 2451. It would double the time period in which benefits could be claimed for deaths linked to a number of conditions, such as cancer, that are presumed by current law to be job-related.
Critics say it will cost state and local governments countless millions of dollars at a time when they are struggling to balance their budgets. It is, however, a high priority for politically influential police and fire unions.
The measure was amended earlier in the week to soften its financial impacts and in that form was approved on a 21-7 Senate vote, sending it back to the Assembly for a final vote before being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
The Senate vote was taken after no debate and was strictly along party lines, with majority Democrats favoring it.
Debate over abortion-related legislation took a combative turn in the Assembly today when a Pomona Democrat blasted male ignorance of women's bodies, then defied house floor leaders who asked her to stop.
Assemblywoman Norma Torres' outburst ended nearly an hour of fierce debate over Senate Bill 623 to continue a pilot project in which physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives provide first-trimester aspiration abortions.
The measure ultimately passed, 46-24, despite Republican opposition.
Torres began her floor speech by noting the words of Todd Akin - though not mentioning his name. The U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri sparked a national furor last week by saying that a "legitimate rape" doesn't usually cause pregnancy because women's bodies have a way to "shut that whole thing down."
California's state government had 9.3 percent more employees in 2011 than it did 10 years earlier - closely tracking overall population growth - but its payroll costs had jumped by 42.4 percent in non-inflation-adjusted dollars, according to a new Census Bureau report.
That data are gleaned from the bureau's annual report on state government employment, which also reveals wide swings in the makeup of the state's workforce, which includes all agencies, regardless of funding source, and institutions of higher education.
In 2001, the state had the "full-time equivalent" of 372,678 employees and was paying them $1.7 billion a month. By 2011, the FTE's, as they are dubbed, had increased to 407,321 and payroll costs to $2.4 million billion.
Over the 10-year span, which included two major recessions separated by a brief period of economic expansion during the housing boom, FTE's in higher education, the largest single component of the state workforce, increased by 23 percent from 128,665 to 158,229, and prison payrolls, the second largest, jumped by a nearly identical amount -- from 48,896 to 60,007. Offsetting declines occurred in transportation agencies and state hospitals.
State employment in 2011 was also slightly lower than in 2010, but the decline was less than the 1.4 percent nationwide drop in state payrolls. Year-to-year declines in other states ranged as high as 7 percent in Arizona while a few states recorded employment increases, topped by 13.3 percent in Arkansas.
Editor's note--Corrected at 12:55 p.m. Aug. 23, 2012 to reflect monthly, not annual, payroll cost. Updated 1:50 p.m. Aug. 24, 2012 to clarify that the 10-year data is not adjusted for inflation.
In a last-minute bill moving through the Legislature, Democratic lawmakers are seeking to expand the number of mail ballots counted in elections by extending the deadline for submitting them.
The bill would require counties to count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and arrive at registrars' offices no later than three days after the close of polls. Current law requires ballots to arrive no later than the poll closing on Election Day to be counted.
Rhys Williams, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said Assembly Bill 1466 is necessary because of recent United States Postal Service closures of distribution centers. He pointed to such shutdowns in Modesto, Pasadena and Burlingame.
Democrats have drafted the bill as budget trailer legislation, which allows it to take effect before November on a majority vote of the Legislature rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required for urgency matters. Williams said AB 1466 is being cast as a budget proposal because it has additional costs for registrars and educating voters.
Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield ruffled feathers and was blasted by Republicans on the Assembly floor Wednesday for describing a situation in which a hunter sits drinking a beer while hounds chase a bear or bobcat to exhaustion.
The Woodland Hills Democrat later apologized to colleagues, saying the thrust of his comment was not about hunters but about a form of hunting that he feels deserves to be banned.
The flap occurred during debate on Senate Bill 1221, ultimately passed by the Assembly, to ban use of dogs in hunting bear or bobcat.
The fiercely contested bill, which now goes to the Senate for concurrence in amendments, includes exceptions for scientific research, responding to a nuisance, or defending crops or livestock.
Blumenfield, introducing SB 1221 on the Assembly floor, said that current law creates situations in which hunters have little or nothing to do while their hounds chase bear or bobcat until the prey can run no more.
"While the hunter relaxes, perhaps opens a cold one, packs of dogs are released to chase the bears and bobcats to the point of exhaustion, a chase that can last more than three hours," Blumenfield said.
"The chase ends when the animals climb a tree to escape the baying hounds and the hunter saunters off to take an execution shot at close range."
With only days left before the California Legislature adjourns for the year, lawmakers are breathing new life into a failed initiative campaign calling for creation of a five-year program to allow undocumented workers to live and work openly in the state.
Senate Bill 901 was gutted and amended this week by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, to propose the "safe harbor" plan for up to 2 million undocumented immigrants.
The bill's contents previously set guidelines for a program that pays owners of high-polluting vehicles to retire them.
The immigrant "safe harbor" measure needs approval by both houses before the Legislature adjourns Aug. 31, after which Gov. Jerry Brown would decide its fate by vetoing it or signing it into law.
VIDEO: Dan Walters looks at why Democrats back a tax loophole -- the one benefiting the movie industry. Watch him at this link.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's request for an audit of mental health funds gets a formal hearing in the Joint Legislative Audit Committee today.
Steinberg has asked that the committee authorize State Auditor Elaine Howle to review programs operating under the Mental Health Services Act, Steinberg's Proposition 63. That hearing starts at 8:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 444.
Steinberg's request follows a similar one made earlier by Republican assemblymen Dan Logue of Marysville and Brian Nestande of Palm Desert, as Jim Sanders reports in this Capitol Alert post.
The Senate leader is asking that at least four counties, including Los Angeles, be included in the audit, suggesting that the other three come from the Bay Area, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley. Key questions, he says, would include who is being served, whether the programs have helped reduce homelessness and psychiatric hospitalizations, and how outcomes are measured and data obtained. Find Steinberg's formal request at this link.
UPDATE, 12:15 p.m.: This morning, the committee unanimously approved the audit, which the state auditor estimates will cost nearly $450,000, according to this Associated Press story.
Elsewhere under the dome, both the Senate and the Assembly continue their slog through bills, with sessions starting in both houses at 10 a.m.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, meanwhile, has a new gig. The Los Angeles Democrat was elected president of the National Speakers Conference on Sunday. He'll be hosting the group's annual meeting next year in Los Angeles during his one-year term.
CAKE AND CANDLES: Belated birthday wishes to Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, who celebrated her 68th birthday on Tuesday.
A business-labor-government coalition's proposed overhaul of the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has been amended into a Senate bill, the group announced late Wednesday.
The amendment touches off what could be the fiercest battle of the 2012 legislative session's final days because environmental groups have vowed to resist any major changes in the 42-year-old law, one of the oldest and most comprehensive such statutes in the nation.
Gov. Jerry Brown strongly supports CEQA reform, calling it "the Lord's work" earlier Wednesday during a campaign stop for his tax increase measure. But he has not endorsed the CEQA Working Group's version of reform. Democratic legislators appear to be deeply divided on changing CEQA while Republicans have been demanding it for years, echoing complaints from business that it makes construction of much-needed public and private projects too difficult and discourages investment..
The CEQA Working Group's four-point proposal, aimed at reducing frivolous litigation and duplication of government oversight of projects, has been placed in Senate Bill 317, a measure by Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, that has been languishing in the Assembly's inactive floor file after clearning the Senate and Assembly committees.
The measure had dealt with fisheries management on the Kings River, but its contents are being stripped out and the new CEQA bill inserted, a process commonly used late in a legislative session called "gut-and-amend."
The new bill's provisions are exactly what the group said it wanted Monday when it made its public announcement. Rather than change CEQA itself, it would enact a new law, the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act, that changes how it's to be enforced, including integrating its provisions with other planning and protection laws, and placing restrictions on CEQA lawsuits that don't specifically address environmental matters.
Given the decades-long conflict over CEQA's provisions and effects, however, winning legislative approval in a session that's due to end Aug. 31 will be difficult. A majority of the Assembly's Democrats have already signed a letter pledging opposition to changing CEQA.
One of the prerogatives of the governor, Jerry Brown said at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory this afternoon, is to issue proclamations, even if most of them "don't mean a hell of a lot."
The rhetoric, he said, is "generally deficient and uninspiring."
Nevertheless, as the Mars rover Curiosity finished its first test drive on the Red Planet, Brown proclaimed today "Space Day" in California.
He read a line from his text: "The challenge and the promise of outer space unites all of humanity in a shared sense of curiosity, hope and wonderment."
It was not the first "Space Day" Brown has declared. He reminded the crowd in Pasadena that he had done so when he was governor before in 1977. That year, Brown hosted an event on the eve of the space shuttle Enterprise's first free flight.
"We talked a lot about space and the future," Brown said. "Of course, I talked a little bit too much about space, and they began to think I might be a little spacey. And that's where I got this moniker called 'Governor Moonbeam.' "
It was Brown's unorthodox appointments -- as much as his interest in a state satellite program -- that inspired Chicago columnist Mike Royko to give him the nickname. Brown, who has embraced the name, suggested there might have been other reasons to call him that, too.
"There's a lot of other ingredients into my Moonbeamship," he said, "only one of which was my interest in space."
PHOTO CREDIT: California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, tours NASA's Mars Curiosity rover mission In-Situ Instrument Laboratory room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. From left is Dr. Charles Elachi, director of JPL, Gov. Brown and Richard Cook, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Deputy Project Manager. (Associated Press Photo/Damian Dovarganes, Pool)
Dogs could not be used to hunt bears or bobcats under controversial legislation that was passed today by the Assembly.
Senate Bill 1221, approved 44-29, now goes to the Senate for concurrence in amendments.
The measure, by Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu, pitted hunters against protectors of wildlife in legislative committee hearings.
Supporters of SB 1221 characterize the practice of using dogs in hunting bears and bobcats as unnecessary, cruel and inhumane.
Opponents counter that using dogs is a valued tradition and way of life. The practice also helps with management of the bear and bobcat population, which are animals that endanger livestock and public safety, opponents contend.
SB 1221 exempts use of hounds in hunting bears or bobcats in cases of depredation, scientific research, or when protecting the owners' livestock or crops.
Lobbyists in California will see their registration fees double under a bill on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 1001 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, requires lobbyists and political candidates to pay a $50 annual registration fee to the Secretary of State. It's expected to generate $600,000, which would go toward improving the Cal-Access online system that tracks lobbying activity and campaign finance. Right now lobbyists pay $25 a year to register and recipient committees don't pay a fee at all.
The bill, sponsored by government watchdog group California Common Cause, was inspired by problems with the Cal-Access system.
"At a time when the Secretary of State's campaign and lobbying transparency website is outdated and constantly crashing, this common sense and long-awaited bill will make sure lobbyists and special interests pay their fair share in maintaining this essential public service," Phillip Ung, a lobbyist for California Common Cause, said in a statement.
The bill was supported by the lobbyists association. It required a two-thirds vote in both houses because it amends the state's Political Reform Act. SB 1001 cleared its final legislative hurdle today when the state Senate approved it on a concurrence vote of 31-5. Republicans Joel Anderson, Bob Dutton, Ted Gaines, Doug LaMalfa and Mimi Walters voted against the bill.
A late-blooming legislative measure that would intervene in a decades-long squabble among cities over allocation of sales taxes was turned back Wednesday by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
The measure, Assembly Bill 658, didn't even get a motion for approval in the committee during a hastily called hearing.
It had surfaced just Monday as a "gut-and-amend" maneuver by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, aimed at overturning a July 31 San Francisco Superior Court decision that reversed a long-standing Board of Equalization rule on sales tax allocation.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Gov. Jerry Brown, visiting a school this morning to promote his November ballot initiative to raise taxes, stepped inside for a moment before the media with a sixth-grade math and science class.
It was first period, so the Democratic governor asked the students what they'd learned the previous day.
"We learned about, like, some poems and stuff," one student said.
"Poems?" Brown said. "I thought this was math."
"Yeah," the student said.
Brown said he'd "like to learn more about that," then went on to call Spanish "cool" and to say he was "very excited" to be visiting.
But the thought of poems preoccupied him.
"I want to find out more about these mathematical poems," Brown said. "What is an acrostic?"
The student offered an explanation. An acrostic poem is one in which the first word or letter of a line or paragraph can be used to spell a word or other message.
Brown's predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, once made headlines with an acrostic veto message starting with "F" and ending with "you," though that hasn't been Brown's style.
"That's hard to do that, isn't it?" Brown asked the student. "I think it's hard to do that."
Democrats are working to make a Missouri congressman's controversial comment about rape an issue in the heated 7th Congressional District race.
Republican Rep. Todd Akin has come under fire from politicians on both sides of the aisle for saying in a televised interview that a woman's body has the ability to block pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape." He has apologized for the remarks, but rejected calls from Republican leaders and politicians, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to drop his U.S. Senate campaign against Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, denounced the comments in a statement posted to his campaign Twitter feed Tuesday.
Legislation to eliminate a perk of elective office by raising fees for legislative and congressional license plates was sent to the governor today.
Assembly Bill 2068 cleared its final legislative hurdle when the Assembly concurred in amendments, 69-0.
The measure by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, would eliminate bargain rates for current or former legislative or congressional members to acquire specialty license plates commemorating their service.
The bill would take effect in January 2014 if signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
California's current charge of $12 to acquire legislative or congressional license plates would quadruple, to $48, under the bill.
The measure also would add an annual renewal fee of $38, and a new fee of $38 for a duplicate plate.
Revenue generated by AB 2068, in excess of DMV costs, would be deposited in the California Environmental License Plate Fund. A legislative committee estimated that less than $30,000 annually would be generated for the environmental fund.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that changing the California Environmental Quality Act is "the Lord's work," but he was noncommittal about the proposal currently percolating at the Capitol.
"To tell you the truth, I have not read it," Brown told reporters in San Francisco, where the Democratic governor was campaigning for his November ballot measure to raise taxes.
"In fact, it's not even clear we've got a final draft yet," he added. "But, look, CEQA reform is the Lord's work. Whether this is the perfect vehicle, I'll be in a better position after I've read it."
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other business interests on Monday aired a proposal to dramatically limit the reach of the state's signature environmental protection. The group is being advised by Brown's top political adviser, Steve Glazer, and its proposal resembled draft bill language that would exempt from CEQA certain projects that complies with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done.
More than 30 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez on Tuesday objecting to the proposal, and environmentalists were lobbying against it.
A bill is expected to come up in the Assembly before the end of the legislative session next week. Brown has previously been critical of CEQA, and he signed three bills last year limiting the law.
California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that will prohibit regulation of a type of phone service known as "voice over Internet protocol," or VOIP.
Senate Bill 1161 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, was pushed by the telecom industry and high tech companies, which stand to benefit from the growing use of VOIP technology. It was opposed by consumer groups and labor unions, who argued that the bill doesn't give customers enough protection to lodge complaints about service.
The bill passed its final legislative hurdle today, when the Senate approved it on a concurrence vote of 28-7. Democrats Ellen Corbett, Noreen Evans, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno, Joe Simitian, Lois Wolk and Leland Yee voted against the bill.
A new campaign finance web site is circulating the Capitol Twitterverse. Dollar, Dollar, Bill allows users to see in graphic format how contributions are stacking up in California political races. The site scans the Secretary of State's database every 20 minutes and displays contributions to campaigns and IEs associated with legislative races and ballot measures.
The tool is the brainchild of Ryan Hughes, a staffer in the office of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. Hughes says Dollar, Dollar, Bill is nonpartisan. "This project is completely objective and without commentary," he said in a statement announcing the site. "It's designed to give everyone an intuitive look at how much money is being raised and spent in our elections."
Speaking of campaigns, Gov. Jerry Brown will criss cross the state today. He'll spend the morning in San Francisco stumping for Proposition 30 . In the afternoon, the man newspaper columnist Mike Royko once dubbed "Gov. Moonbeam" will head to Pasadena to tour NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Speaking of cash, a noon-time fair outside the Capitol will kick off the annual drive for state employees to give charitable contributions through payroll deductions, a process that now generates $6.9 million for nonprofit groups throughout the state. More than 100 nonprofits will be displaying their causes and asking state employees for support.
Back under the dome, the end-of-session march continues in both houses. The floor session gavel comes down in the Assembly and Senate at 10 a.m.
A bill that would have banned the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats has been amended to provide some exemptions. But the two sides in this hotly contested issue remain firmly in opposite camps, with the Humane Society saying the bill will protect many animals and hunters saying it's an unfair attack on their lifestyle.
Amendments to Senate Bill 1221 by Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, allow for three circumstances when it would be OK for hounds to pursue bears and bobcats: in conducting wildlife research, when a permit has been issued to kill an animal causing a nuisance, and if an animal unintentionally comes onto private property where the owner has a dog.
"These exemptions only apply to some narrow cases," said the Humane Society's Jennifer Fearing. "The vast majority of hounding would be prohibited, which is our goal."
California Houndsmen for Conservation -- the group that has filled the Capitol with hundreds of protesters with orange shirts and signs opposing the bill -- isn't giving up. Josh Brones, the group's president, said the exemptions are burdensome and hypocritical. He said he expects the Assembly to approve the bill but still thinks he can kill it when it returns to the Senate or hits the governor's desk.
"This is our way of life," Brones said. "We're not going to die without a fight."
PHOTO CREDIT: Sequoia, 3, left, and Tanner, 6, lead the way as Josh Brones, 37, of Wilton follows during a hunt for bobcats in Glenn County recently. Randy Pench/The Sacramento Bee
In the middle of an end-of-session bid to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act, 33 Democratic lawmakers urged legislative leaders in a letter released today to oppose any significant re-writing of the law.
"Like many important laws, CEQA is not perfect and could probably be improved while retaining its many benefits - but only if such improvements are undertaken in a good faith process and are crafted very carefully," said the letter, delivered today to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, both Democrats. "Unfortunately, the proposals we have seen and heard about reflect major changes that have not been vetted and are being advanced by special interests in an end-of-session power play."
The letter's release follows a business group's airing Monday of proposed changes to the law, California's signature environmental protection. In a proposal resembling draft legislation circulating at the Capitol, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other business interests are calling to exempt from CEQA projects that comply with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done.
Following the letter's delivery, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he has collected one more signature - from Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena - bringing the total number of signers to 34.
"This is the biggest blow to environmental laws in many years and it's being pushed through at the last minute," Huffman said. "And I just think we need to make sure that the whole world is watching."
Steinberg said Monday that he expects a CEQA-limiting bill to come up in the Assembly before the end of the legislative session. He said he is a "strong believer in the importance of our environmental laws" but is open to discussion.
Robin Swanson, Pérez's spokeswoman, said Pérez wants to protect CEQA while encouraging job creation.
"Any reforms that are adopted would be those that are good both for the environment and for job creation," she said. "It's all about finding a balance that makes sense."
Paul McIntosh, executive director of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) for the past five years, announced his resignation Tuesday to "determine my best course in the twilight years to come."
CSAC is the lobbying arm for the state's 58 county governments and plays a major role in each year's state budget negotiations, including the landmark "realignment" from the state to counties of some penal and social services. McIntosh said in his retirement announcement that "I am convinced that a decade from now, we will look back upon the changes made, particularly in the public safety arena, with great pride and success."
CSAC's former legislative director, Steve Keil, will serve as CSAC's interim executive director while the organization conducts what it said would be a "nationwide search" for a permanent successor.
Education consultant John Mockler, the chief architect of Proposition 98, California's school finance law, finished working this morning on a list of talking points for Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot initiative to raise taxes.
The top-line message: Brown's Proposition 30 "would avert a fiscal catastrophe for public schools," preventing $5.4 billion in midyear spending cuts to schools and community colleges.
Mockler is a supporter of Brown's initiative, but as recently as January he was paid $12,500 to consult for a rival tax measure, Proposition 38.
Mockler said the measure's chief proponent, civil rights lawyer Molly Munger, produced a "fairly good school finance bill," but he said he told her she should step aside if Brown offered one, too.
Munger "disagreed, and I said 'Goodbye,'" Mockler said.
The question and answer section of Mockler's document strays briefly from education policy to politics, including a parting shot at Munger's campaign.
"What is indisputable is that if neither initiative passes, schools will be facing almost incomprehensible cuts," Mockler wrote. "Up to this point, Prop. 30 has received substantially higher levels of voter support in independent statewide polls, while attracting a broader and more diverse coalition of support, than Prop. 38."
The Senate and Assembly will be "working the file" today, jamming through hundreds of bills before session ends next week.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma is calling attention to two of her own bills with an 11 a.m. press conference on AB 1593 and AB 593. The bills concern victims of domestic violence who have killed their abusers in self-defense. Ma describes her inspiration for the bills in this blog post on her Board of Equalization campaign web site.
At 10:30, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez joins with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to publicize a statewide outreach effort to locate former customers of two Payday loan operations, Money Mart and Loan Mart, who may be due refunds. The event gets underway in Room 317 of the Capitol.
And in San Francisco today, the California Nurses Association -- well known for its Queen Meg skits during the 2010 gubernatorial election -- launches a new skit, this time promoting Proposition 30, AKA Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative.
California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would allow some juvenile murderers the chance to get out of prison on parole.
The state Senate approved Senate Bill 9 on a 21-16 vote today, the bare minimum necessary for it to clear its last legislative hurdle. Brown has until the end of September to act on it.
The bill by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco would allow some murderers to petition for a hearing to have their sentence changed to 25 years to life, allowing them to later petition for parole. Several conditions would apply: They would have to have been under 18 when they committed a murder that got them life in prison with no possibility of parole. They also would have to have already served at least 15 years of their sentence, and wouldn't be released until they had served at least 25 years. And they would have to have been convicted with at least one adult co-defendant.
Some criminals would not be eligible -- those with a history of violence before the murder conviction, those who had tortured their victims, and those who had killed a firefighter or law enforcement official.
Yee said the bill would only apply when offenders showed remorse and when "it is a very clear case where an individual has made amends and demonstrated that they are not going to re-offend."
Democratic senators Lou Correa of Santa Ana and Michael Rubio of Shafter joined Republicans in voting against the bill. Democrats Ron Calderon and Fran Pavley did not vote.
"It is absolutely outrageous that were going to release these little psychopaths out into the streets to murder again," said Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from Alpine.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is up with its second radio advertisement against Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot initiative to raise taxes, comparing Brown's tax campaign to street robbery.
"Hey, lady, hand over your purse or the schools get it," a voice at the top of the ad says.
The ad, an issue-advocacy spot running statewide beginning today, comes as the Democratic governor begins in earnest to campaign for Proposition 30, his proposal to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners. The Democratic governor has characterized the election as a choice between higher taxes and $5.4 billion in cuts to schools and community colleges.
The taxpayers group declined to say how much money is behind the ad, which is replacing a previous one that hammered "Sacramento politicians" for their approval of California's $68 billion high-speed rail project.
The current ad, in addition to criticizing the rail project, lambastes pay raises given to more than 900 legislative employees this year and the disclosure of nearly $54 million in hidden parks money.
"Sacramento politicians are threatening cuts to education and public safety unless you pay more taxes," Jon Coupal, president of the taxpayers group, says in the ad. "These same politicians just gave hundreds of staffers pay raises. They approved the bullet train against the wishes of most Californians, and now, after Jerry Brown announced the closure of 70 state parks, we find out that the state parks department has been hiding $54 million. What else are they keeping from us? It's time to stop the deception politicians are using to force tax increases on the working people of California."
Brown said last week that his tax measure is "not about any other issue," and he is trying in a series of appearances at schools to refocus public attention on education.
The California Nurses Association, which antagonized Republican Meg Whitman with its relentless "Queen Meg" parody during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, is back for a second act - this time poking fun at wealthy people opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot initiative to raise taxes.
The influential union, in a campaign to paint tax opponents as "bungling billionaires," will stage a skit on Tuesday at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. The union promised reporters a "colorful event," with visuals including life rings and a model yacht.
The appeal of the spectacle notwithstanding, the label may be difficult for the union to stick. Though donors to the campaign committee opposing Brown's Proposition 30 appear to include at least one billionaire - Forbes magazine has Charles Johnson of Franklin Resources Inc., on its list - the campaign's fundraising has been anemic: Opponents of the tax increase have raised less altogether than the nurses association gave Brown's side in a single $1 million check.
Michael Lighty, a spokesman for the union, said the imagery isn't supposed to be precise. Rather, he said, it is to "discourage others from contributing."
Brown, a Democrat, is proposing to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.
PHOTO CREDIT: Elaine Burn, of Los Angeles, arrives in her "Queen Meg For California 2010" as part of the California Nurses Association parallel satire campaign. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua
An effort to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act in the last two weeks of the legislative session appeared this morning to pick up, with business leaders calling publicly for changes and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg saying he expects a bill to come up in the Assembly.
The proposal aired by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other business interests at a news conference this morning resembled draft legislation that would limit the ability to challenge certain projects in court. One proposal would exempt from CEQA projects that comply with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done.
"We're here to press this effort forward," said Jim Earp, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs. "We need to do this in California. If there's an opening that opens up in these last couple of weeks of session, we're going to take advantage of it if we can. But if not, it doesn't matter that much. We're going to be in it for the long haul. We'll be back."
The business group, which includes retailers and builders, is being advised by Gov. Jerry Brown's top political adviser, Steve Glazer. Brown himself has been critical of CEQA, the state's landmark environmental law, and he signed three bills last year limiting its reach.
Environmentalists today were already lobbying against the proposal at the Capitol. Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said general plans are not sufficiently detailed to address environmental concerns about projects.
"The reason you do this analysis is to figure out how much impact that particular project will have," she said.
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he is a "strong believer in the importance of our environmental laws" but is open to discussion.
"If and when something comes over to the Senate," he said, "we'll take a look at it."
High school coaches in California will be required to receive training in concussions under legislation signed into law Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Assembly Bill 1451 requires high school coaches to receiving training every two years on recognizing the signs of concussions and responding to them appropriately. The training can be acquired online.
Democratic Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi of Castro Valley proposed the bill, which will take effect Jan. 1.
A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that U.S. high schools' two highest rates of concussions per 100,000 players games or practice occur in football, 47, and girls soccer, 36.
Hayashi last year pushed through successful legislation, effective last January, that requires schools to remove from play, pending medical clearance, a student athlete who sustains a possible concussion.
VIDEO: Dan Walters, in today's report, outlines some of the big issues still unresolved during the last days of the California legislative session.
It's a sprint to the finish.
Both houses of the Legislature meet today -- the Senate at noon and the Assembly at 2:30 p.m. The Senate has about 360 Assembly bills on its plate between now and Aug. 31, and the Assembly will be considering about 270 Senate bills. Come back to Capitol Alert as we track the action.
Meanwhile, a new Field Poll finds that California voters are more positive about the federal health care overhaul than the nation as a whole, with 53 percent saying it's an important first step and more changes need to be made.
Voters are fiercely partisan about the Affordable Care Act, however. California Democrats support the law, 78 percent to 15 percent, while the state's Republicans oppose it, 72 percent to 18 percent. No-party-preference voters back it, 54 percent to 34 percent.
Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo will be presenting the poll's findings in the Capitol's Room 4203, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Diana Bontá, the president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation, which sponsored the poll.
Diana Dooley, the secretary of the state's Health and Human Services Agency, and Peter Lee, the executive director of the California Health Benefit Exchange, will be among those participating. The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon. Click here for more information.
Gov. Jerry Brown plans to call a special session on the national health care overhaul, as David Siders reported last week.
NEW DIGS: The Bay Area Council is opening an office in Sacramento not far from the Capitol. Find it on the 22nd floor of the Esquire Building at 1215 K St.
NEW GIG:Pedro Morillas, the legislative director for CalPIRG of late, is moving camp to Washington, D.C., to work for Fenton Communications.
CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, turns 61 today.
Gov. Jerry Brown plans to call a special legislative session at the end of the year on the national health care overhaul, as the state prepares to implement the landmark act by 2014.
The session, to begin in December or January, will run concurrently with the regular legislative session, California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley said this afternoon.
She said the state -- one of the first to embrace President Barack Obama's signature health care law -- is waiting for guidelines from the federal government, delaying the state's ability to act on legislation now.
"We won't get it right if we do it now," Dooley said.
Dooley said she suggested a special session to afford the administration time to implement the act once those guidelines from the federal government are received. Any laws passed by the Legislature during the session would take effect in 90 days, instead of the following January.
The Affordable Care Act calls for a dramatic expansion of the state's Medi-Cal program, California's version of Medicaid. The state is also working to set up a public health insurance exchange.
"We're doing everything we can," Dooley said. "It's a very ambitious agenda, a lot to do in a short amount of time, but we have really been breaking our necks to stay on course, and I think we are."
Brown told legislative leaders in a letter Thursday that he planned to call the special session.
"We will work with you to complete what we can in the current session," the Democratic governor wrote, "but many important issues and questions cannot be addressed or answered without further guidance from the federal government and additional analysis to understand the interrelationship of the decisions we must make."
Perhaps it's fitting that California lawmakers are honoring something that spends much of its time under water.
The state that has nearly drowned in red ink in recent years may soon have an official marine reptile.
The honor would go to -- drum roll, please -- the Pacific leatherback sea turtle, under a proposed state law that cleared its final house of the Legislature this week and was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Only Brown's signature stands between leatherbacks and a seagoing turtle party likely to prove, once and for all, whether the endangered 8-foot-long, 2,000 pound creature really can devour 230 pounds of jellyfish in an hour.
Assembly Bill 1776, by Democratic Assemblyman Paul Fong of Cupertino, also calls for every Oct. 15, beginning in 2013, to be designated as Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day.
Public schools would be encouraged to incorporate Pacific leatherbacks into their teaching lessons that day, so students can celebrate the flippered foragers that have survived since ancient times.
One day after U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and California legislative leaders called for a cease fire on two competing ballot tax proposals, supporters of Proposition 38 said today that a good start would be for Gov. Jerry Brown's backers to stop actively opposing their measure.
In a reply to Feinstein, Boxer, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, California PTA President Carol Kocivar said that while the PTA has taken no position on Brown's Proposition 30, "some supporters of Proposition 30 are formally and actively opposed to Proposition 38," the tax measure that the state PTA and Democrat Molly Munger are backing.
"Some even formed a political committee and also submitted ballot arguments against Proposition 38 and testified publicly against Proposition 38," Kocivar wrote in her letter. "Perhaps a good first step in creating a positive environment is to urge supporters on both sides to agree not to formally and actively oppose each other's initiatives."
Proposition 38 would raise income taxes on all but the lowest earners to pay mostly for education. Brown's Proposition 30 would raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners to avert cuts to schools and bolster the state budget.
VIDEO: Dan Walters mulls whether the California Legislature will push through public pension changes during the last two weeks of its session. Find his latest report at this link.
After Thursday's flurry of bills, consider today the uneasy calm before a storm. Both houses of the Legislature are adjourned until Monday.
Among the measures to be considered in the next two weeks is Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's proposal aimed at extending basic labor protections, including overtime pay and meal breaks, to domestic workers. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the San Francisco Democrat's Assembly Bill 889 on Thursday on a 5-2 vote and sent it to the Senate floor.
The Bee's Stephen Magagnini wrote about the proposal in this story back in May.
Another proposal now before the full Senate would require written decisions from the state Board of Equalization in cases involving $500,000 or more. Assembly Bill 2323, by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, has been the subject of several editorials, columns and op-eds published by The Bee, including this column that Dan Walters wrote on the subject last month.
Meanwhile, both the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee passed Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's Assembly Bill 1500, the single sales factor companion bill to his AB 1501 setting up "middle-class scholarships." The two measures are now pending before the full Senate.
YES ON 35: Proponents of Proposition 35, a November ballot proposal to increase penalties for human trafficking, have organized a 5K "Walk for Justice" on Saturday at Elk Grove Regional Park, along with art, music, entertainment and a self-defense demonstration. Elk Grove officials are also expected to present backers with a proclamation. The event runs from 7:45 to 11:15 a.m at Site 9B, 9950 Elk Grove-Florin Blvd. Click here for more information.
CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, turns 41 on Sunday.
California bicyclists will not be banned from using their cellphones after all.
Legislation to increase the fine for motorists who text or hold a cellphone to their ear was approved Thursday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but a provision extending the ban to bicyclists was deleted.
Senate Bill 1310, by Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, now moves to the Assembly floor for a vote next week.
If signed into law, the measure would extend the base fine for motorists who violate the texting or hand-held cellphone bans by $10 both for first offenses, from $20 to $30, and for subsequent offenses, from $50 to $60.
After adding various county and other traffic-related fees, offenders' would find their bottom-line fine rise from about $160 to $200 for a first offense, and from about $280 to $370 for subsequent offenses. Totals can vary slightly between counties.
SB 1310 also calls for a point to be placed on a motorist's traffic record, which can affect insurance rates, for a second or subsequent violation of the prohibition against hand-held cellphones while driving. Hands-free models are permissible.
A crackdown on giving California legislators and other elected officials free tickets to professional sporting events, concerts, amusement parks and other such entertainment died quietly today.
Senate Bill 1426, by Republican Sen. Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, was shelved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill will not reach the Assembly floor and no member of the committee will record a vote on it.
SB 1426 would have banned lobbyist employers from giving legislators or other elected state officers free golf, ski, hunting, fishing or other outings, as well as gift cards or tickets to professional sporting events, theme parks, or racetracks.
State law already places strict limits on gift giving by lobbyists and by lobbying firms. SB 1426 would have extended such restrictions to groups that hire them to affect public policy.
In a pointed letter critical of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax rival, California's two U.S. senators along with state legislative leaders called Thursday for a cease-fire from campaigns backing the two multibillion-dollar tax hikes on the November ballot.
U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, said in a letter to the California State PTA that the Proposition 38 campaign has "become increasingly negative" and "engaged in personal attacks against Governor Jerry Brown and Prop. 30."
The PTA has joined wealthy attorney Molly Munger in backing Proposition 38, which raises income taxes on all but the poorest households to pay mostly for education. That initiative is competing against Brown's measure to raise income taxes on wealthy earners and the state sales tax by a quarter-cent on the dollar to bolster the state budget.
"These attacks should stop," the four Democrats wrote. "While we may not all agree on the ultimate funding solution, education advocates across California can surely agree on the worst outcome for our state: one where both initiatives fail."
The letter called on the campaigns to "refrain from directly attacking or referring to the other." It added, "We have spoken with Governor Brown, and he will strongly support this."
Brown, when asked about the letter in San Jose, called the idea "excellent" and "a good step." However, he also made a point of saying that his initiative is the only one that would avert mid-year budget cuts.
The Proposition 38 campaign declined the request Thursday.
Spokesman Nathan Ballard said his team will "continue to campaign vigorously for Proposition 38. It will be a campaign based on this important fact: Prop 38 will invest more in California's public schools than any other ballot measure. We will continue to make this point in a variety of civil, respectful ways."
The letter came a day after the two sides sniped at one another.
Ballard, spokesman for Proposition 38, said in a statement during Brown's appearance at a Sacramento school that the even was "good stagecraft" but that Proposition 38 would raise more money for education.
At a rally for his Proposition 30, Brown said, "I can tell you one thing. Only this measure saves cuts this year." The governor has tried to make the case that Munger's initiative would cause harm to schools in 2012-13 because the trigger cuts imposed by Brown and lawmakers would still take effect if his proposal fails and Proposition 38 passes.
David Siders contributed to this report from San Jose. Statement from Proposition 38 campaign added at 4:50 p.m.
Fourth of July will continue to be the only holiday celebrated with backyard fireworks in California.
Legislation to allow the sale of "safe-and-sane" fireworks between Christmas and New Year's Day for a two-year period was shelved today by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 1468 would have permitted fireworks sales between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1 for 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Democratic Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello proposed the bill, which was sponsored by American Promotional Events, known for its TNT Fireworks.
Expanding the number of days that fireworks could be sold potentially would be a windfall for thousands of nonprofit organizations that sell Fourth of July fireworks in nearly 300 communities statewide.
Opponents argued that selling more fireworks could increase injuries or property damage tied to them. The bill also could exacerbate fire agencies' staffing problems by increasing their workload during the December holiday season.
The campaign that successfully backed an initiative banning same-sex marriage received a $49,000 fine today from the California Fair Political Practices Commission for violating state campaign finance disclosure laws.
Commission investigators, prompted by a state audit of the Yes on 8 campaign's 2007 and 2008 records, found the organization and its treasurer, David Bauer, failed to report $1,169,292 in contributions before the legal deadline, including $508,150 in late contributions of $1,000 or more. Investigators also found that the campaign committee didn't disclose who made a $10,000 wire transfer.
The Fair Political Practices Commission's enforcement division recommended the fine. The Proposition 8 campaign had already stipulated to the penalty before the commission sealed the deal with a 4-0 vote today.
Proposition 8, enacted by 52 percent of voters statewide in 2008, says that "only marriage between a man and woman is valid or recognized in California."
Juvenile murderers would have the possibility of eventual release under legislation that narrowly passed the California Assembly today.
The measure, Senate Bill 9, received no Republican support and was approved by a bare-minimum majority of the house. The 41-34 vote sends the bill to the Senate for concurrence in amendments.
SB 9, by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, would allow some offenders to petition for a resentencing hearing if they were minors when they committed a murder that landed them in prison with no chance of parole.
Legislation that would exempt California athletes' Olympic medals and financial prizes from state income taxation cleared its first hurdle Thursday, but crashed into the second.
The Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved Assembly Bill 1786 by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, on a 5-1 vote even though the committee staff said in an analysis that it "is the exact opposite of sound tax policy" by giving a narrow exemption to one form of income while taxing others.
"The committee may wish to consider whether running afoul of good tax policy is worth the bill's kind gesture," the staff analysis advised. It also noted that winners of other achievement prizes, including the Nobel Prize, pay taxes on their grants, and asked: "Why should one set of successful competitors be excluded from tax when others have to pay?"
The only member to agree with that, apparently, was Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who asked why highly paid athletes such as the NBA players on the U.S. basketball team should benefit and voted against the hastily drafted measure. But Mansoor did say he would amend the bill to narrow its application to only the medals and official honoraria, not any champion athletes' earnings from endorsements and other ancillary activities.
Later, Mansoor appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Kehoe chairs, to seek movement of the measure to the Senate floor, but ran into concerns about the potential loss of revenue. The bill was placed "in suspense" and Mansoor's office said he would try to write amendments that would allow it to move.
California is home to more Olympic medal winners than any other state.
Editor's note--Revised at 2:55 p.m. to reflect Appropriations Committee action.
VIDEO: Dan Walters says that with the Bay Bridge costing more than six times the original estimate, you have to wonder about California's plans for Delta tunnels and other big projects. Check out today's report at this link.
Gov. Jerry Brown heads to San Jose this afternoon to join Samsung Semiconductor officials for what the official news release calls "a major announcement" about the company's Northern California plans.
Joining Brown at the presser is Mayor Chuck Reed, and George Shirakawa, who's president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The event starts at 3 p.m. at City Hall.
Back in Sacramento, both the Senate and the Assembly hold sessions at 9 a.m., after which the Appropriations committees in both houses will work through their suspense files once sessions adjourn.
Bills up for consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee include proposals to set up a state-run, open-source digital library for students (Senate Bills 1052 and 1053), ban using dogs to hunt bobcats and bears (Senate Bill 1221), create a state-run retirement savings plan for private-sector employees (Senate Bill 1234), and legalize the sale of "safe and sane" fireworks from Christmas through New Year's Day (Senate Bill 1468).
Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee agenda includes Assembly Bill 1501, one of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's middle-class scholarship measures. (Its companion, Assembly Bill 1500 requiring out-of-state companies to compute their state taxes using the so-called "single sales factor," is also pending before the upper house.)
EDTECH: State schools chief Tom Torlakson is taking to Twitter to chat about the state's education technology blueprint, aimed at leaving "no child offline," the news release says. Find him at @TorlaksonSSPI and use the hash tag #edtechtaskforce. The chat starts at 10 a.m.
CAPITOL STEPS: The California Environmental Justice Alliance is holding a rally on the west steps at noon in support of Assembly Bill 1990, a measure on today's Senate Appropriations Committee agenda that would expand an existing small-scale renewable generation program within so-called "disadvantaged communities." Rooftop solar projects would likely be the primary energy sources, according to a Senate committee analysis. Listed speakers include Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, the bill's author. Click here for more information.
CAPITOL STROLL: It might be a little hot to don Victorian duds, but that sartorial choice will be more than welcome today at the California Council of Churches' summer stroll and tea at the Capitol. The event, which runs from 2 to 6 p.m. in the rose garden, helps mark the council's 100th anniversary. Cost is $25. Find more information at Eventbrite.
Editor's Note: This alert was updated to clarify the provisions of SB 1234. Updated at 9:36 a.m., Aug. 16, 2012.
California parks officials apparently used obscure payroll codes intended for emergencies such as wildfires and disasters like Hurricane Katrina to turn vacation time into overtime pay, the State Controller's Office testified Wednesday.
State managers are generally not allowed to earn overtime, and California's payroll system is designed to block them from receiving it, said John Hiber, chief operating officer with the Controller's Office, at a Senate oversight hearing. But the system has codes that managers can enter for overtime in rare cases such as Cal Fire employees fighting wildfires or emergency workers providing relief in natural disasters as they did in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.
"It appears that because those codes exist that this wasn't picked up (and) that those codes were manipulated to allow this to occur," Hiber testified.
"Someone knew what he or she was doing," observed Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.
"Correct, correct," Hiber said. "And there appears to be collusion here as well. So we're in the process of evaluating those codes as they were used and changing the procedures to eliminate this practice from occurring at all in the future."
The Bee reported last month that 56 Department of Parks and Recreation employees inappropriately sold unused vacation time back to the state for more than $271,000. Because the practice was unauthorized, employees submitted buyout requests on Post-It notes in 2011 rather than official forms, according to a department audit. The money was paid as overtime.
Hiber said the state has a decentralized payroll system that puts each department in charge of its employee compensation.
Three parks department executives were disciplined this month because they "manipulated the system" or gave "recklessly flawed advice," according to formal actions imposed by the department.
California's "realignment" program, aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons by diverting more low-level felons into local custody and probation, has sharply reduced state inmate numbers, according to a new report, but the rate of decline seems to be slowing.
The report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco charts the first nine months of realignment ending June 30.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature adopted the program as an alternative to releasing inmates directly from prison in response to federal court orders to reduce severe prison overcrowding. The state is sending money to counties to keep more convicted felons in local jails, rather than send them to prison, take over parole supervision and provide more intensive probation oversight.
The study found that during the first nine months, there was a 39 percent reduction in new prison admissions and an inmate population drop of 26,480 -- two-thirds of the stated goal of a 40,000-inmate reduction.
But it suggests that the easy shifts may have been made and it will be tougher to meet the goal as diversion deals with felons who have more serious criminal records. And it also implies that some counties are deflecting the impact of realignment on local jails by "charging more defendants with those offenses still eligible for state imprisonment," singling out Los Angeles County's revised prosecutorial policies.
An initiative on the November ballot that would change the way packaged foods are labeled is shaping up like a battle between a tiny health food store and a big box grocery.
Proposition 37 would require new labeling on foods made with genetically-engineered ingredients. That would include just about every processed food that is not organic. As of yesterday, supporters have raised $2.4 million while opponents have raised $25 million - about ten times as much.
A list of supporters reads like the aisle of your local health food store: Eden Foods, Nature's Path, Amy's Kitchen, Lundberg Family Farms, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap.
A list of opponents is like a stroll through Safeway or WalMart: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Ocean Spray, Nestle, Kellogg's, Hershey's, Sara Lee, General Mills.
Proposition 37 has also received substantial backing from Joseph Mercola, an osteopath who sells his own line of vitamins, household cleaners and organic personal care products. The effort to kill the measure includes $13 million from companies that make pesticides and genetically-modified seeds.
Gov. Jerry Brown, beginning to campaign in earnest for his November ballot initiative to raise taxes, appeared this morning outside a Sacramento school in a push to frame the measure as a choice between higher taxes and schools.
"We all know what's at stake," said the Democratic governor, flanked by students at New Technology High School. "The kids standing behind me have their future at stake, and if we cannot pass Prop. 30, we're taking a half a billion out of our colleges and universities, and we're taking five and a half billion out of our schools."
Brown's Proposition 30 proposes to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners. The campaign said Brown will use the start of the new academic year to make appearances at schools throughout the state.
The appearance follows a potentially difficult July for the campaign, including the disclosure of nearly $54 million in apparently hidden state parks money and the revelation that more than 900 state legislative employees received pay raises this year. Brown also signed legislation authorizing initial construction of California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, an unpopular bill.
Asked about the potential impact of the parks scandal on the campaign, Brown said he was prepared for the question and wanted to "exhaust" it.
"You can bring up all the foibles, and you know what? There's a lot more," Brown told reporters at the school. "You know, we've got a lot of flawed people around here. I've got some flaws myself, and you can probably dig 'em out. And, you know, a lot of people don't like things about me or what I say. And I can tell you things about the Legislature, I could tell you things even about the LA Times and the AP and The Sacramento Bee and the media empire. Lots of flaws, I mean, you know they're losing money all the time. But, having said all that, are you for 30 or are you against 30? I think it's a pretty self-contained, zero-sum game."
Opponents of the tax are building their campaign around the arguments that high-speed rail and other expenses are frivolous, and that Brown is a poor steward of what tax revenue he already has.
Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, said there will be "some cuts" to education if Proposition 30 fails, but he said Brown exaggerates the impact. He said that opposing the tax increase is necessary to pressure Brown and state lawmakers to enact pension changes and otherwise reduce spending.
Public support for Brown's measure remains above 50 percent, according to recent polls. The measure of support is tenuous but greater than support for a rival tax measure proposed by lawyer Molly Munger. Her Proposition 38 would raise income taxes on all but California's lowest earners.
Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the Proposition 38 campaign, said in a prepared statement that Brown's appearance was "good stagecraft" but that Proposition 38 would raise more money for public schools.
Proposition 38 would not avert billions of dollars in automatic, midyear spending cuts if Proposition 30 fails, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office, but it could raise billions of dollars more for schools in future years.
"I can tell you one thing," Brown said. "Only this measure saves cuts this year."
The school visit was billed by Brown as a "kick off," though it followed a press conference in Oakland earlier this month and one in Sacramento in May. Still, it has the flourishes of a campaign's beginning - with new signs and promises of a vigorous fundraising and organizational effort.
Brown was accompanied by his dog, Sutter, outfitted in a red vest with Proposition 30 stickers on it. The dog barked when Brown started speaking.
"He wants to get a little more attention, see?" Brown said. "He's a young politician on the make."
As he left, Brown signed a bobblehead and an old newspaper photograph for two young people.
California may have high taxes and high unemployment, but its residents have one of the nation's lower rates of obesity, according to a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the agency says more than a third of American adults are obese, it's just 23.8 percent in California. Other states range from a high of 34.9 percent in Mississippi to 20.7 percent in Colorado.
The report also found that obesity rates are much higher than average among African Americans- nearly 50 percent - and Latinos and tend to be higher among low-income adults.
California has nearly 3 million businesses so small that they have no employees, according to a new compilation by the Census Bureau.
The report, based on 2009 income tax data from the Internal Revenue Service, found 2.7 million "nonemployer" businesses in the state, 12 percent of the nation's total, right in line with California's proportion of the U.S. population. The largest single category of such businesses - 480,000 - is "professional, scientific and technical services" and the smallest is "utilities" at 1,314.
Legislation aimed at closing a legal "loophole" allowing owners of military-style guns to sidestep the state's assault weapons ban has died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said the appropriations committee has decided not to hear Senate Bill 249 on Thursday, when it must decide which bills reach the Assembly floor for a vote before lawmakers adjourn for the year Aug. 31.
SB 249 would ban devices that allow magazines of ammunition to be reloaded so quickly that semiautomatic firearms can be fired almost like assault weapons, releasing dozens of bullets within seconds, Yee said.
Yee's bill comes in the wake of mass murders in Colorado and Wisconsin that he says have generated momentum for a crackdown.
"My greatest fear is that another senseless act of violence will happen before the loophole is closed," Yee said in a prepared statement. "Despite the gun lobby's efforts to derail common sense legislation, I will not give up this fight."
Geoff Long, chief consultant for the appropriations committee, said that Yee's proposed ban was crafted only this month, targets a major issue, and has not been the subject of a public hearing by policy committees of either house. Action should not be rushed on it, he said.