Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 30, 2012
Bill to extend filing period for safety officers' death benefits axed

Legislation touted by supporters as a fitting tribute to fallen heroes but ripped by opponents as a costly expansion of public benefits was vetoed Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 2451 would have doubled the statute of limitations for families of police and firefighters to file for job-related death benefits that can exceed $300,000.

The bill by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez would have allowed 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.

Brown's veto message said that California lacks adequate data to determine how many people would file for benefits under AB 2451 or how much the state would be obligated to pay as a result.

September 30, 2012
Bill demanding water, shade for farmworkers killed by governor

Gov. Jerry Brown killed legislation Sunday that would have made it a crime for farmers not to provide adequate shade and water to their field workers.

Assembly Bill 2676 required that anyone directing or supervising a farmworker ensure continuous access to shade and to enough "suitably cool" water for each employee to drink one quart per hour throughout a work shift.

Violators would have been subject to a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $10,000. If the victim suffered injury, the potential penalty would have escalated to a one-year jail term and a $25,000 fine.

September 30, 2012
Jerry Brown vetoes 'Trust Act' bill targeting immigration holds

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation designed to curtail the deportation of undocumented immmigrants arrested on minor or non-violent offenses.

Assembly Bill 1081 would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from holding arrestees for federal immigration authorities unless the crime or conviction involved a serious or violent felony.

Known by supporters as the "Trust Act," the measure was touted by its author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, as a way to save money and police time by limiting use of local jails for immigration enforcement, an obligation of the federal government.

September 30, 2012
New law to allow many undocumented immigrants to drive

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants in California will be eligible for driver's licenses under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown late Sunday.

The measure, Assembly Bill 2189, was among the final bills acted upon as Brown decided the fate of 108 proposals on the last day for him to sign or veto measures passed by the Legislature this year.

AB 2189 affects an estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants expected to meet the requirements of President Barack Obama's new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The bill was the latest proposal in a decade-long campaign by Democratic Assemblyman Gil Cedillo to give undocumented immigrants the right to drive legally in California.

September 30, 2012
Lungren makes Bera's gas tax comments an issue at forum

Rep. Dan Lungren blasted Democratic challenger Ami Bera Sunday afternoon over comments he reportedly made in support of increased gas taxes, accusing his challenger in the 7th Congressional District of pursuing a vision of "tax and spend."

"He wants you to pay more at the pump than you do now, not for infrastructure but for punishing you, because he says as a doctor he knows how that's changed (behavior)," the Gold River Republican said at a forum sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association. "Well I guess the single mom who has to drive her child to soccer ought to be punished for that. They ought to pay higher rates. You see his answer every time is to tax more, tax more, tax more."

Lungren was citing comments Bera reportedly made to more than 7,500 voters during a 2010 telephone town hall conducted by the Democrat's first campaign to unseat the incumbent Republican congressman.

"One idea that certainly is out there is thinking about a gas tax to reduce consumption," Bera said at the time, according to the Elk Grove Citizen. "As a doctor, (I) certainly saw what happened to smoking rates (with cigarette taxes), so that's something that's worth exploring."

September 30, 2012
Celebrity criminals? Jerry Brown kills bill for media interviews

Charles Manson will not be taping any new TV interviews any time soon.

Rejecting the notion of allowing criminals to become celebrities, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Sunday that would have allowed reporters the right to interview specific state convicts.

"Giving criminals celebrity status through repeated appearances on television will glorify their crimes and hurt victims and their families," Brown wrote in his veto message for Assembly Bill 1270.

California's prison system currently permits the media to conduct random interviews with inmates, but not face-to-face recording sessions with Manson or any other convict that reporters cite by name.

AB 1270, by Democratic Assemblyman of Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, would have required prison staff to seek the consent of inmates before such interviews and to contact victims who desire notification.

"The cost of implementing and monitoring this expansive new level of access should not be imposed at a time when prison budgets are being cut," Brown's veto message said.

"I agree that too little media access may be harmful, but too much can be as well," said Brown, ending his veto message with a five-word kicker: "This bill gives too much."

September 30, 2012
Tax break for California film industry extended by new state law

A $100 million annual tax break for California motion picture companies was extended by newly signed legislation Sunday.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure, Assembly Bill 2026, by Democratic Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes of Sylmar.

The program of tax credits initially was signed into law in 2009 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fuentes' measure would extend the program for two additional years -- from July 2015 to July 2017.

September 30, 2012
Munger not moved by polls showing her tax measure faltering

When state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson asked the optimists in the audience at the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association's annual election forum to raise their hand, civil rights attorney Molly Munger lifted her arm in the air.  

That sunny outlook, it seems, extends to Munger's effort to persuade Californians to approve a $10 billion income tax hike to fund schools and early education programs. The Nov. 6 ballot measure, Proposition 38, continues to make a poor showing in public polls, with a recent survey by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California finding just 34 percent of voters supporting the proposition.

That level is much lower than the support for Proposition 30, a rival tax measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown that has support of a slim majority of voters in the polls.


September 30, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill requiring signatures for those opting out of vaccinations

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Sunday requiring parents who exclude their children from immunization requirements to submit a signed statement that they received information about risks and benefits of vaccines.

Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 2109, which requires the statement to be signed by the parents and by a health care practitioner.

In signing the bill, Brown said that he will direct the state Department of Health to provide a way for people whose religious beliefs preclude vaccinations from having to seek a health care practitioner's signature.

September 30, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill allowing new sentences for young murderers

Juvenile murderers sentenced to life in prison without parole have hope of being released in years to come under legislation signed today by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure, Senate Bill 9, would allow some offenders to petition for a resentencing hearing if they were minors when they committed a murder that landed them in a prison cell for life.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, narrowly managed to win legislative approval for the bill this year after shelving it in 2011 because of lawmakers' lack of consensus. Republicans opposed the proposal.

September 30, 2012
Jerry Brown vetoes bill allowing more than two parents

Legislation to allow California children to have more than two parents was vetoed today by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill would have given judges authority to recognize multiple parents if doing so is "required in the best interest of the child."

On separate legislation watched closely by the gay and lesbian community, however, Brown signed Senate Bill 1172 to prohibit children under 18 from undergoing psychotherapy to change their sexual orientation.

State Sen. Mark Leno proposed the multiple-parents measure, SB 1476, in response to surrogate births, same-sex parenthood, assisted reproduction and other technological and societal changes that create new possibilities for nontraditional households.

September 29, 2012
Jerry Brown calls it a day, with 108 bills to go before deadline

Gov. Jerry Brown has 108 bills left to dispatch before tomorrow night's bill-signing deadline, all of which will come on Sunday, his office said.

The Democratic governor announced signing or vetoing about 90 bills today, before his press secretary, Gil Duran, said on Twitter, "That's all for bills today."

Of the 659 bills he has had handled so far this month, the Democratic governor has vetoed 84.

That veto rate - nearly 13 percent - is close to the about 14 percent rate Brown posted last year. It remains far higher than when Brown was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and vetoed fewer than 5 percent of regular session bills.

September 29, 2012
Jerry Brown vetoes package of local redevelopment bills

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a package of bills that could have let local governments retain some redevelopment money for affordable housing and other economic development projects following the dissolution of California's redevelopment agencies, his office announced this afternoon.

In his veto messages, the Democratic governor said the measures could distract from the winding down - and cost savings - of redevelopment.

Senate Bill 1156, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would have allowed local agencies to establish a "Sustainable Communities Investment Authority" to finance redevelopment-like projects. Assembly Bill 2144, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, would have expanded the types of local projects that could be financed under existing infrastructure financing districts.

"Expanding the scope of infrastructure financing districts is premature," Brown said in a veto message. "This measure would likely cause cities to focus their efforts on using the new tools provided by the measure instead of winding down redevelopment."

Citing similar reasons, Brown also vetoed two other, similar bills: Senate Bill 214, by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assembly Bill 2551, by Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego.

September 28, 2012
Jerry Brown kills bill to raise cell phone, texting fines for drivers

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would increase the fine for motorists who text or hold a cellphone to their ear.

Brown said the increased fines in Senate Bill 1310 by Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, were unnecessary.

"I believe the current fines and penalties of $213 and $336 for cell phone and texting while driving are a powerful deterrent," Brown wrote in his veto message. "I have found even a $50 ticket unpleasant enough. ... Upping the fines may satisfy the punitive instincts of some, but I severely doubt that it will further reduce violations."

The bill would have raised 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. The higher numbers to which Brown referred include other fees that are typically tacked on to traffic fines.

September 28, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill to advance private retirement program

Legislation designed to pave the way for a private retirement plan affecting millions of California private-sector workers was signed into law Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

A companion bill also signed by the governor, however, requires more study regarding the feasibility of such a retirement plan and that the Legislature take a final vote before implementation.

Democratic Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles pushed the two measures, Senate Bills 1234 and 923, respectively.

September 28, 2012
Jerry Brown approves more oversight for California National Guard

The inspector general of the state's Military Department will have more independence and National Guard members who blow the whistle on misconduct will have more protections under a bill Gov. Jerry Bill signed today.

Senate Bill 921 makes those changes in response to concerns raised in a Bee investigation of the National Guard during 2010 and 2011. The articles exposed financial fraud in recruitment and retention programs, improper pay for generals and neglect of the California Army Guard's largest training base at Camp Roberts.

The new law says that the governor will appoint an inspector general to a four-year term, who will report to the top Guard leader, but cannot be removed from office except for good cause. It was written by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, an Air Force veteran who is a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee

"Gov. Brown's leadership as commander in chief is commendable and I'm proud to have worked with him to clean up the abuses of the prior administration," Lieu said in a statement. "These abuses simply cannot be allowed to ever happen again."

Lieu said a lack of internal oversight within the chain of command was to blame for the violations uncovered through legislative hearings and The Bee's investigation.

RELATED STORIES:

National Guard inspector general bill OK'd by California Legislature

Senate approves bill for National Guard oversight

Massive fraud at California Guard, officials allege

September 28, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill banning open display of unloaded rifles

Gun-toting demonstrators will not be able to openly display their unloaded rifles in California cities under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The governor vetoed a separate gun-related measure, however, that would have barred peace officers from selling to the public potentially unsafe handguns that are not available at stores.

Two Assembly Democrats, Anthony Portantino of La Canada Flintridge and Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, carried the ban on open display of unloaded rifles, Assembly Bill 1527.

The measure is a companion to legislation signed into law last year banning open display of handguns.

September 28, 2012
Condoleezza Rice: No recollection of incident described in Schwarzenegger's book

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has no recollection of an awkward conversation in which former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says political consultant Karl Rove once introduced Rice as a prospect for California governor, her office said this afternoon.

According to the Associated Press, Schwarzenegger says in his forthcoming book that Rove predicted the 2003 gubernatorial recall election would never happen and introduced Rice, who was then national security adviser, to him as his pick for governor in 2006.

Rice's office said this afternoon that Rice does not recall any conversation about her interest in the office.

September 28, 2012
U.S. Chamber launches ad blitz against California Democrats

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has begun a multimillion-dollar television ad buy blasting Democratic congressional candidates in California, including three in the Sacramento area.

The ads from the Washington-based business group hammer both incumbents and challengers for supporting taxes or President Barack Obama's national healthcare overhaul. Many of the ads warn seniors of a $716 billion reduction in Medicare spending, an attack Democrats counter is misleading because the reductions are envisioned over time from providers and insurers and would not affect services.

September 28, 2012
Bloomberg: California among states with faltering economies

The economies of 36 states, including California, "showed signs of worsening" during the second quarter of this year, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States.

Ironically, the on-line article by the international economic reporting organization was published just as California was hit with two major corporate pullbacks.

Comcast announced that it was shutting down its California call centers and Campbell Soups said it was closing its Sacramento plant.

Initially, Comcast cited the state's hostile business climate, but after politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, protested, the firm changed its stance. Brown has been touting employment gains and other positive economic news of late, and bad news is widely seen as a negative factor for the multi-billion-dollar tax increase, Proposition 30, that Brown and other Democratic politicians are hoping voters will endorse in November.

Recent polls, including one released Friday by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times, indicate that the measure is favored by just over 50 percent of voters now and would be vulnerable to an opposition campaign.

The Bloomberg survey, dubbed BEES, found that 10 states, mostly those with thriving energy sectors, showed economic improvement during the second quarter while 36 stumbled. The first quarter survey had found 35 states improving.

September 28, 2012
San Francisco rated as nation's most livable city

San Francisco is the nation's most livable city, according to an annual evaluation of urban ambiance by Bloomberg/Businessweek, citing its gastronomical, cultural and economic amenities.

"As long as chilly weather, walking uphill, and really expensive real estate don't turn you off, San Francsco has no shortage of positive qualities," the article declares.

"Not everything is golden in San Francisco, of course," the economic website acknowledges, noting that an "influx of young techies has driven up living costs" and as the city "has grown wealthier, it has lost some of its legendary grit" and has "one of the largest U.S. populations of homeless people."

Seattle was ranked second in livability. San Diego came in ninth and Los Angeles 50th.

September 28, 2012
VIDEO: Schwarzenegger calls affair 'stupidest thing I've done in the whole relationship'

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the affair he had with a member of his household staff, which resulted in a child he kept secret for more than a decade, was "the stupidest thing I've done" in his relationship with Maria Shriver.

"I think it was the stupidest thing I've done in the whole relationship," Schwarzenegger says in an excerpt of a "60 Minutes" interview scheduled to air Sunday. "It was terrible. I inflicted tremendous pain on Maria and unbelievable pain on the kids."

Schwarzenegger, is promoting his new autobiography, "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story," which comes out Monday.


September 28, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Job losses fuel debate on business climate

VIDEO: Dan says politicians are taking notice as large employers leave California.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 28, 2012
AM Alert: Rob Schneider, Tim Donnelly team up on vaccinations

VIDEO: Dan Walters chronicles the reactions of some California politicians to this week's announcements of Comcast shutting down call centers and Campbell Soup closing a south Sacramento plant.

Three days are left for Gov. Jerry Brown and his pen, and the issue bringing advocates to the Capitol today can be summed up in one word: vaccinations.

Their event is being billed as a "bipartisan medical choice freedom rally." Their target is Assembly Bill 2109, Sacramento pediatrician Richard Pan's measure to require parents to receive information from a health-care provider before exempting their child from immunizations because of their beliefs.

On the left is Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider of Pacifica, who talked to Capitol Alert earlier this month about why he opposes the Democratic assemblyman's proposal. On the right are two Republicans -- Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks and Tony Amador, who's challenging Pan in the 9th Assembly District. All three are scheduled to speak at the rally, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

Also on Brown's desk is Assembly Bill 2189, which would let some of the state's 2.5 million illegal immigrants get driver's licenses if they have special federal status.

A new Field Poll finds that California voters oppose giving driver's licenses and in-state tuition breaks to illegal immigrants, though most voters support a path to citizenship. Kevin Yamamura has details in today's Bee. To read the publicly released poll, click here. You'll find the statistical tabulations, compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert, at this link.

Mark your calendars, meanwhile, for Sunday. Not only is it the governor's deadline for acting on this session's bills, it's time for a candidate forum co-hosted by Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association and others. Organizers have invited candidates in Sacramento area races for Congress, including Democratic Rep. John Garamendi and Republican challenger Kim Vann, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney and Republican challenger Ricky Gill, and Republican Rep. Dan Lungren and Democratic challenger Ami Bera.

Garamendi, Vann, Gill, Lungren and Bera are confirmed to attend, according to this flier. Also confirmed are Pan and Amador, as well as Democrat Ken Cooley and Republican Peter Tateishi, who are facing off in the 8th Assembly District.

Topics include the three tax initiatives and other November propositions as well as the federal health care reform law. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will open the event, while Pamela Wu serves as M.C. and The Bee's Dan Walters is chief moderator. The forum runs from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Sacramento State's University Union. Capitol Alert will be there.

CAPITOL STEPS: The State Indian Museum and others are sponsoring the 45th annual California Native American Day, with cultural demonstrations and music, dance, story-telling and other cultural demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the west steps. Maidu dancers will also perform at 5 p.m. at the grinding stone near N Street in Capitol Park.

CA24: Democratic Rep. Lois Capps and Republican challenger Abel Maldonado face off tonight at a public forum hosted by the San Luis Obispo Tribune and the League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. at 3825 S. Higuera in San Luis Obispo.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, turns 43 today, and Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, turns 42.

September 27, 2012
Jerry Brown signs Reagan statue bill, makes point about taxes

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation blessing the construction of a Ronald Reagan statue at the state Capitol, citing his "courage and unique leadership ability" while pointing out that the Republican icon oversaw tax increases - just as Brown would like to do.

"I am proud to sign Assembly Bill 2358 in honor of Ronald Reagan," the Democratic governor wrote in a signing statement. "I served as Secretary of State when he was Governor.

"Even in those days he demonstrated courage and unique leadership ability - even to the point of raising California taxes when he saw they were needed."

Brown is campaigning for a Nov. 6 ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

Assembly Bill 2358, by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, authorizes planning for a Reagan statue at the Capitol. The statue honoring the former governor and president is to be built with private funds. The bill found no opposition in the Legislature.

Reagan and Brown have history. Reagan unseated Brown's father, Pat Brown, in the 1966 gubernatorial race.

September 27, 2012
Jerry Brown signs laws to provide free digital college textbooks

Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation to give students access to free online textbooks for common undergraduate courses at California's public colleges and universities.

Senate Bills 1052 and 1053, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, call for the establishment of an online library of digital textbooks for 50 of the most widely taken lower-division courses at the University of California, California State University and state community colleges.

The bills, intended to reduce student costs, were approved on bipartisan votes in the Legislature. Publishing companies that once objected to the bills eventually removed their opposition, and amendments removed a requirement that publishers provide free copies of textbooks in college libraries.

"The current cost of traditional textbooks is so high, some college students are forced to struggle through a required class without the textbook, forced to drop classes or sometimes even drop out of college altogether," Steinberg said in a prepared statement. "There's absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200."

The Democratic governor also signed Assembly Bill 970, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, directing UC and CSU officials to consult students prior to any increase in student fees.

Brown signed the legislation while meeting with college students at the Capitol. Brown's office published this video of the private event:

September 27, 2012
Jerry Brown signs two social media privacy laws

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two measures this morning to block California universities and employers from seeking access to applicants' social media accounts.

"The Golden State is pioneering the social media revolution and these laws will protect all Californians from unwarranted invasions of their personal social media accounts," the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement.

Assembly Bill 1844, by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, prohibits employers from demanding user names or passwords from employees and job applicants.

Senate Bill 1349, by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, prohibits public and private universities from requiring students or prospective students to disclose their user names or passwords.

The legislation comes amid growing questions about the legal and privacy implications of employee and student presences on social media. In a release, Brown's office said SB 1349 "is designed to stop a growing trend of colleges and universities snooping into student social media accounts, particularly those of student athletes."

Brown announced on Twitter that he had signed the legislation.

September 27, 2012
Is San Francisco denser than Los Angeles? It depends

Does the compact San Francisco Bay Area have a denser population than the sprawling Los Angeles Basin?

Most would say San Francisco does, but it turns out, according to a new Census Bureau statistical report, that it depends on how the information from the 2010 census is viewed.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region is higher at 2,646 persons per square mile in terms of what the Census Bureau calls "overall population density." That's the second highest rate in the nation, just slightly less dense than No. 1 New York City and its environs, with the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont region third at 1,754 per square mile.

But when the Census Bureau massages the data a different way to produce "population-weighted density," the San Francisco Bay Area, at 12,144 per square mile, is No. 2 behind New York with the Los Angeles area third at 12,113.

If nothing else, however, the lengthy report confirms that California is simultaneously the nation's most urbanized state and its most prolific agricultural producer, two "firsts" that might seem mutually exclusive.

The report also contains these other nuggets of data pertaining to California:

September 27, 2012
Brice Harris named chancellor of CA community colleges

Brice Harris.JPGBrice Harris, the longtime leader of Sacramento's Los Rios Community College District, has a new job as chancellor of California's statewide community college system.

Scott Himelstein, president of the California Community Colleges board of governors, announced Harris as the system's 15th chancellor this morning. Harris, who retired last month from Los Rios, replaces Jack Scott, who retired earlier this month.

Harris led the four-college Los Rios district, which includes Sacramento City, American River, Cosumnes River and Folsom Lake, for 16 years. In his new role, he will oversee 112 colleges up and down the state that serve 2.4 million students.

RELATED STORIES:

Jack Scott to join Claremont University as scholar in residence

BEE EDITORIAL: Brice Harris set the bar high for Los Rios


PHOTO CREDIT: Brice Harris during a 2003 groundbreaking at Folsom Lake College. Bee photo by Randall Benton.

September 27, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: On 'garbage equality' and other euphemisms

VIDEO: Dan talks about California legislators' use of euphemisms to describe their handiwork.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 27, 2012
AM Alert: Hundreds of bills remain as signing deadline looms

VIDEO: Dan Walters talks trash and touches on what he calls "weasel words."

Just four days left for Gov. Jerry Brown to wade through the California Legislature's handiwork this session. Hundreds of bills remain, including these controversial proposals:

• Sen. Leland Yee's proposal to let some juvenile murderers seek resentencing to receive 25 years to life (Senate Bill 9).

• Assemblyman Anthony Portantino's measure to ban openly carrying unloaded rifles in public, with some exceptions (Assembly Bill 1527).

• Assemblyman Richard Pan's bill to require require parents to receive information from a health-care provider before exempting their child from immunizations because of their beliefs (Assembly Bill 2109).

Meanwhile, the governor has had his work cut out for him. His actions this week have included signing 14 election-related measures, including one that will allow same-day voter registration once the secretary of state certifies California's new statewide voter database.

Brown also signed 19 education-related measures, including Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's bill to de-emphasize standardized test scores when measuring California schools' performance.

Then there were the critter bills (thumbs up on banning the use of dogs while hunting bears and bobcats, and thumbs down on a special designation for bats).

As for what's left, Capitol Alert will be keeping track. Check out our photo gallery of measures to watch as Sunday's deadline approaches.

JAILS: Magnus Lofstrom of the Public Policy Institute of California gives a luncheon talk in Sacramento about how the state's jails have fared since the state shifted many responsibilities for corrections and public safety to the counties. For more information and to register, click here.

LUNGREN-BERA: If you missed the debate Tuesday between Republican Dan Lungren and Democrat Ami Bera in the 7th Congressional District race, replay the video at this link.

September 26, 2012
Video replay: Dan Lungren-Ami Bera debate in Sacramento

Candidates for congressional District 7 -- Republican Congressman Dan Lungren and Democrat Dr. Ami Bera -- faced off Tuesday in their first debate. The district includes several Sacramento suburbs like Citrus Heights, Carmichael, Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove. The race is considered one of the nation's most competitive congressional contests.

The debate, sponsored by The Sacramento Bee, News10 and Capital Public Radio, featured questions from panelists Dan Smith, Bee Capitol Bureau chief; News10 Political Editor John Myers; and Capital Public Radio senior reporter Marianne Russ.

See the hourlong debate in five segments:

September 26, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill to ban using dogs to hunt bears, bobcats

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a controversial bill restricting the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats, his office announced this afternoon.

The legislation pitted wildlife advocates against hunters at the California Capitol -- the former raising concerns about the humane treatment of animals, the latter about urban elitism.

The Democratic governor signed the legislation without comment.

Senate Bill 1221, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, prohibits using dogs to pursue bears and bobcats except in limited circumstances, including when a dog is guarding crops or livestock.

"I applaud Gov. Brown for signing this measure that will protect dogs, bears, bobcats and other wildlife," Lieu said in a prepared statement. "There is nothing sporting in shooting an exhausted bear clinging to a tree limb or a cornered bobcat."

The legislation was among a batch of bills Brown signed related to animals. Among them was Assembly Bill 1776, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, designating the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as the official state marine reptile.

Brown was unwilling, however, to afford a special designation for bats, vetoing Senate Bill 1480, by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, which would have prohibited the trapping of bats and restricted the netting and exclusion of them.

"Homeowners should be allowed to exclude bats from their home at any time," Brown wrote in his veto message.

September 26, 2012
Sacramento region to get ARB seat under newly signed law

The Sacramento region will have a seat on the California Air Resources Board under legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown this week.

Assembly Bill 146 will expand the ARB from 11 to 12 members, with the new seat reserved for a representative from the Sacramento, Placer, Yolo-Solano, El Dorado or Feather River air districts.

Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, who proposed AB 146, noted that the Sacramento region had been the largest major metropolitan area in California not assured a seat on the state air board.

September 26, 2012
Lungren backed 'forcible rape' bill before language was removed

Republican Rep. Dan Lungren distanced himself from controversial bill language involving abortion funding in cases of "forcible rape" during a Tuesday debate with 7th Congressional District rival Ami Bera, saying he told the original sponsors of House Resolution 3 that he "would not support" the proposal unless the word "forcible" was taken out.

"So in fact, if you're talking about the mistake they made, I was the one who pointed it out," Lungren said. "... I can tell you it was after I went to them and told them I couldn't support it if they didn't take the word forcible out that they changed it."

Congressional records show, however, that Lungren signed on as a cosponsor of the bill when the legislation was first introduced, before 'forcible' was deleted from the text.

September 26, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill declaring May to be Labor History Month

Gov. Jerry Brown, like the Democratic-controlled California Legislature, wants schoolchildren to learn about labor unions, preferably when they are in school and aren't too busy with other matters.

Brown's office announced today that he has signed legislation replacing Labor History Week with a Labor History Month and moving the observation from the first week of April to May.

Many school districts are on spring break the first week of April, and supporters of the bill said the rest of the month is busy for students because they are preparing for statewide tests.

Assembly Bill 2269, by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, encourages school districts to commemorate the month with educational exercises that teach students about the role of the labor movement in California and U.S. history.

Labor unions have had a significant impact on labor conditions for workers nationwide. They are also major contributors to Democratic politicians and their causes.

September 26, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill revising California school rating system

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to de-emphasize standardized test scores when measuring the performance of California schools, his office announced today.

Senate Bill 1458, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, requires other factors, such as graduation rates and college-going rates, to be used in calculating a school's Academic Performance Index.

The Democratic governor vetoed similar legislation by Steinberg last year. At the time, Brown suggested local panels could be used to evaluate schools, a concept included in the bill he ultimately signed.

Steinberg said in a prepared statement that he believes the measure will be one of the most significant education bills of the decade, "fundamentally changing what we teach and how we measure accomplishment."

Supporters of the legislation have said it could make schools more innovative, allowing them to avoid teaching "to the test." Opponents said it could weaken school accountability.

September 26, 2012
Assembly candidate Brian Dahle to voters: Call me -- maybe?

Call me - maybe?

At 530-251-3888.

Assembly candidate Brian Dahle is taking the unusual tack of listing his cellphone number on ballot statements sent by counties to voters in the 1st Assembly District, which stretches from Modoc to Placer counties.

He did the same thing before the June primary and usually got a handful of calls each day.

"Most people were amazed that I answered the phone," said Dahle, a 46-year-old farmer, seed salesman and Lassen County supervisor who is running against fellow Republican Rick Bosetti for the newly drawn Assembly seat.

"I believe that you need to be transparent," Dahle said. "That's the way I run my life and my business."

Dahle, who is married and has three young children, said he has the cellphone take messages during "family time," but otherwise, he tries to answer calls and will return those he misses.

Most callers are polite and want to ask about his positions, Dahle said, but occasionally someone is abusive or just wants to vent.

"I'll take a few bad with a lot of good," he said.

September 26, 2012
California's state, local governments spent $434 billion in 2010

California's state and local governments spent $434 billion in 2010, according to a new Census Bureau report, the equivalent of more than 20 percent of the state's economic output.

California's 2010 expenditures were $3.3 billion -- less than 1 percent -- higher than in 2009.

Three-fourths of California's 2010 spending, or $326.4 billion, was raised inside the state -- mostly from income, sales and property taxes but also including fees and utility sales -- while virtually all of the other 25 percent came from the federal government, a substantially higher percentage than in most other states. Nationally, just 19.7 percent of state and local revenues came from the federal government.

The report also revealed that education accounted for $102.5 billion, or 23.6 percent, of California's 2010 spending, roughly two-thirds of which was for the state's six million K-12 students and the other third for higher education. Nationally, state and local governments devoted 27.6 percent of their spending to education.

Welfare services took another $52.2 billion, or 12 percent, of California's spending in 2010, nearly three percentage points lower than the national average.

Despite California's national reputation as a low property tax state, thanks to its landmark property tax limit, Proposition 13, its level of property tax revenues is only slightly lower than the national average. California's $53.9 billion in property tax revenues to local governments and schools in 2010 represented 16.5 percent of total state-local revenues while nationally, the average was 17.7 percent.

Relative property tax burdens in other states ranged from a high of 33.6 percent of revenues in New Hampshire to a low of 7.3 percent in New Mexico.

September 26, 2012
Ami Bera says he will take congressional pay if elected after all

lungrenbera.jpgElk Grove Democrat Ami Bera's campaign said today that the 7th Congressional District candidate misspoke during Tuesday's debate when he pledged to forgo his own pay if elected to Congress until unemployment drops in the Sacramento region.

"Here's my promise to you," Bera said in his closing statement of a Tuesday debate. "I pledge not to take any salary until unemployment in Sacramento is below 5 percent. I pledge not to take a pension until we've secured Social Security and Medicare for the next generation and our seniors."

Bera spokeswoman Allison Teixeira said today that the candidate has committed to "oppose congressional pay raises" until Sacramento unemployment levels, which are currently at more than 10 percent, drop to the rate referenced in his statement. He has featured that no pay increase pledge on his website and in his first television ad. She said Bera will consider the entitlement programs "secured" when they are "safe from being privatized by the Republicans," though she could not say whether Democratic control of Congress and the White House would meet that criteria.

September 26, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Cars without drivers

VIDEO: Dan discusses driverless cars and the future of California transportation.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 26, 2012
AM Alert: Mary Hayashi raises money in bid to replace Nadia Lockyer

Gov. Jerry Brown is in Beverly Hills today to address congregants of Temple Emanuel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. On the day that observant Jews fast and atone for sins of the past year, Brown's topic is "California Matters."

We're not trying to draw any connections there, just reporting the facts.

DEBATE: In case you missed yesterday's debate between Republican Congressman Dan Lungren and his Democratic challenger Dr. Ami Bera -- who are in one of the most closely watched Congressional races nationwide -- you can catch a re-broadcast today. The debate will air again at 9 a.m. on News10 and at 10 a.m. on Capital Public Radio.

FUNDRAISER: On the long list of fundraisers going down this week, this one caught our eye. Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is holding an event in Hayward tonight to raise money for her campaign for Alameda County Supervisor. Hayashi is running for the seat formerly held by Nadia Lockyer, the estranged wife of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer who resigned her seat on the board of supes after her drug abuse and extramarital affair became public. Listed to attend Hayashi's event are Assemblywoman Fiona Ma and former Assembly Speaker Rep. Karen Bass.

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses driverless cars and the future of transportation in the Golden State.

September 25, 2012
Gov. Brown signs bill to speed payouts by corporate fraud fund

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday designed to cut red tape that has delayed numerous payouts of money set aside in a multimillion-dollar state fund for victims of corporate fraud.

The measure, Senate Bill 1058, was crafted by Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance in response to a story in The Bee last October that said the fund had collected $14.6 million but paid out only $112,496 since its creation in 2002.

Lieu said a key problem in making payouts was that the secretary of state's hands were tied by lengthy, time-consuming regulations requiring victims to produce substantial paperwork and overcome bureaucratic hurdles even after winning a court judgment.

September 25, 2012
Medicare, personal attacks dominate Lungren-Bera debate

There were no shortage of political and personal swipes as Republican Rep. Dan Lungren and Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera took the stage for the first and only scheduled debate of one of the nation's most competitive congressional contests.

The rivals for Sacramento County's 7th Congressional District traded jabs on a variety of issues, including job creation, health care and immigration, during the hourlong debate at the News10 studios in Sacramento.

Some of the most heated exchanges, however, occured during the back-and-forth over both parties' plans for Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors. Both candidates accused the other of backing changes to the program that would lead to reduced access and higher costs for the region's seniors.

September 25, 2012
Live chat replay: Dan Lungren-Ami Bera debate

September 25, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown signs two-year reprieve for state parks

Gov. Jerry Brown gave California's 278 state parks a two-year reprieve from closure today in the wake of July revelations that parks officials were hiding funds for years.

The governor signed Assembly Bill 1478, which prohibits the state Department of Parks and Recreation from closing a park until July 2014.

The legislation also provides $10 million to match future contributions from donors who help keep parks open, $10 million for operating costs and $10 million in bond funds for park improvements. An additional $500,000 will fund investigations by various agencies into the state parks department.

September 25, 2012
Jerry Brown signs driverless car bill

MOUNTAIN VIEW - Gov. Jerry Brown, describing Google Inc.'s robot cars as "science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality," signed legislation this afternoon allowing driverless cars to be tested on public roads.

"Today we're looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality: the self driving car," the Democratic governor said at a bill signing event at Google's headquarters here.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he could "count on one hand" the number of years it might take before driverless technology becomes widely available.


September 25, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill easing San Francisco's export of trash

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation ensuring San Francisco can continue to haul trash to Solano County, despite opposition from local voters, Brown's office announced today.

Assembly Bill 845, by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, prohibits local voters from restricting the importation of waste into a privately owned landfill.

The measure follows a 1984 voter-approved initiative in Solano County to limit the amount of waste imported into the county.

Environmentalists and cities argued against Ma's legislation, saying it usurps local authority.

Waste haulers and other supporters of the bill said waste disposal is a matter of statewide concern.

September 25, 2012
Census Bureau report charts ups and downs of California revenues

To those who chart state government finances, tax revenues during the second quarter of each year loom large because income taxes are the largest source of income and they peak as the annual tax return deadline arrives in April.

Just as fourth quarter holiday gift sales can make or break retailers' year, second quarter tax collections tell state budget writers whether will enjoy surpluses or face budget deficits. And a new Census Bureau report shows how California's second quarter revenues have gone up and down in the last decade.


September 25, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Top-two primary could produce revolution

VIDEO: Dan says the top-two primary has altered campaigning throughout the state.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 25, 2012
AM Alert: Debate day for congressional candidates Lungren, Bera

DAN WALTERS DAILY: In his daily video, Dan says the top-two primary could revolutionize California politics.

Republican Congressman Dan Lungren and his Democratic challenger Dr. Ami Bera face off this afternoon in their first debate of the 2012 election season, sponsored by The Bee, News10 and Capital Public Radio. The race for the 7th Congressional District - which includes several Sacramento suburbs like Citrus Heights, Carmicahel and Elk Grove - is considered one of the tightest in the country.

You can watch the debate live at 3 p.m. on sacbee.com, featuring questions from Bee Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Smith, News10 Political Editor John Myers and Capital Public Radio senior reporter Marianne Russ, as well as you, our dear readers.

Check the printed paper tomorrow for full coverage. The debate will be re-broadcast tomorrow on News10 and Capital Public Radio.

BILL SIGNING - Gov. Jerry Brown will be at Google HQ in Mountain View today for a bill-signing ceremony. The search engine giant has lobbied on several bills this year, the most high-profile being SB 1298, its effort to clarify rules of the road for driverless cars. Brown's bill signing with Google co-founder Sergey Brin will be streamed live at 1 p.m. at http://www.youtube.com/google.

32 + 33 = 2: If you're studying up on the November ballot initiatives, today provides a two-fer. At 9:30 a.m. the Legislature's joint insurance committee will hold a hearing on Proposition 33, which would allow car insurance companies to charge higher rates to drivers who have had a lapse in coverage. At 10 a.m., the joint elections committee will hold a hearing on Proposition 32, which would prohibit unions from using payroll deduction to pay for political campaigns.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sending birthday wishes to Assemblywoman Connie Conway, R-Tulare, who turns 62 today.

September 24, 2012
Former lawmaker/lobbyist arrested on suspicion of DUI

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Robinson Image.JPG
Those special license plates for retired lawmakers might spark some nice treatment from a restaurant valet. But they didn't come in too handy last week when former lobbyist and Assemblyman Richard Robinson crashed his BMW in Sacramento and was later booked on suspicion of drunk driving.

Robinson, a Democrat who represented the Garden Grove area in the Assembly from 1975 to 1986 and then worked as a lobbyist for many years, was driving an SUV with special plates indicating he's the retired District 72 assemblyman when he crashed Wednesday night. Fox 40 TV news caught the aftermath on tape.

September 24, 2012
Molly Munger's tax campaign swipes at Jerry Brown in first statewide TV ad

In a swipe at Gov. Jerry Brown and his ballot measure to raise taxes, the campaign for a rival tax measure suggested in its first statewide TV ad, released today, that Brown's initiative is the product of "Sacramento politicians" who have reduced school funding for years.

In its ad, the Proposition 38 campaign, backed by wealthy civil rights lawyer Molly Munger, touts its Nov. 6 initiative as a "new approach," sending money for schools directly to school districts.

The ad does not mention the Democratic governor or his tax initiative by name, but it criticizes the campaign's central argument, that failure to pass Proposition 30 will result in about $5.4 billion in cuts to schools and community colleges.

"For years, Sacramento politicians have chopped away funds for our schools," the ad says. "Today, we're 47th out of 50 in per-pupil funding. Now these politicians say unless we send more tax dollars to Sacramento, they'll cut education again."

The ad comes as the campaigns prepare to ramp up ahead of Election Day. Brown has yet to release a statewide TV spot. He said over the weekend that "the campaign is just beginning."

September 24, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill allowing same-day voter registration

Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation allowing residents to register to vote up until and on Election Day, though the provision will not be implemented at least until 2014.

"Voting - the sacred right of every citizen - should be simple and convenient," the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement. "While other states try to restrict voters with new laws that burden the process, California allows voters to register online - and even on Election Day."

Assembly Bill 1436, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, was contested along partisan lines, with Democrats saying it would encourage more voter participation and Republicans saying it would encourage fraud.

Ten other states, including Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, allow some form of same-day registration and voting, according to a legislative analysis.

California currently cuts off voter registration 15 days before an election. The bill requires the secretary of state to complete work on a statewide voter database before same-day registration goes into effect.

September 24, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Time for 'due diligence' on California ballot

VIDEO: Dan says this is the year for voters to do their homework on California's long menu of ballot measures.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 24, 2012
AM Alert: Capitol committee scrutinizes California tax proposals

VIDEO: Dan Walters says that conscientious California voters have their homework cut out for them in the next few weeks, what with 11 propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The Legislature is out, but the Assembly Budget Committee is in, with a hearing today on November's three tax initiatives -- Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, Molly Munger's Proposition 38 and Tom Steyer's Proposition 39.

Click here to read the agenda, which includes presentations from proponents and opponents as well as representatives of the Legislative Analyst's Office. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 437.

Outside the building, domestic workers and their supporters are rallying at 11 a.m. on the west steps to urge Brown to sign Assembly Bill 889, by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco. They're also expected to deliver a giant pen and 25,000 petition signatures to the governor. The measure would give domestic workers -- including housekeepers and nannies -- overtime pay, rest periods and other labor protections.

In election news, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo told The Bee's Torey Van Oot, "It seems like I've seen this movie before," when it comes to the matchup between Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken.

A recent survey shows Feinstein up by 26 percentage points as the campaign enters its final weeks. Independent and third-party voters favor her by an even wider margin. Click here to read the publicly released poll. You'll find statistical tabulations, compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert, at this link.

Meanwhile, the University of Southern California's Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy has lined up some big names to talk about post-partisanship at its first symposium today, including former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. Click here to learn more.

ADULT SERVICES: Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, is conducting an Assembly committee oversight hearing to air complaints about the transition to the state's new adult services program. Start time is 1 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 126.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, celebrates his 61st birthday today.

September 23, 2012
Jerry Brown vetoes 'wrong way' Sacramento-San Francisco commute bill

Gov. Jerry Brown has put the brakes on a San Francisco Democratic lawmaker's effort to ease the "wrong way" morning commute between the Bay Area and Sacramento.

The Democratic governor vetoed Assembly Bill 2200 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, his office announced today.

Ma's measure would have lifted restrictions for the eastbound carpool lane on Interstate 80 from the Bay Bridge to the Carquinez Bridge during the morning commute, giving Bay Area-to-Sacramento drivers an extra lane to help ease the trip.

But Brown, who likely has made similar trips from his Oakland Hills home to the Capitol on some weekdays, was having none of it.

"Encouraging carpooling is important to reduce pollution and make more efficient use of our highways," he wrote in his veto message. "This bill goes in a wrong direction."

September 22, 2012
Jerry Brown signs abortion, mammogram bills

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation extending an ongoing pilot program allowing nurse practitioners and other clinicians to perform non-surgical abortions, his office announced this afternoon.

Senate Bill 623, by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, was supported by Planned Parenthood and opposed by abortion rights opponents.

The bill extends until Jan. 1, 2014 a pilot program to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of allowing nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants to provide aspiration abortions.

Brown also signed Senate Bill 1538, by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, requiring facilities conducting mammography examinations to give special notice to patients who have dense breast that they may benefit from additional screening.

Simitian's office said language included in the notification was negotiated with Brown's office after the Democratic governor vetoed similar legislation last year.

"This is a life saver," Simitian said in a prepared statement. "I'm tremendously thankful for the Governor's support of this measure, and for his willingness to listen to and work with us on this issue over the past year."

September 22, 2012
Jerry Brown signs legislation expanding access to birth control

LOS ANGELES - Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today allowing registered nurses to dispense birth control in clinics, depicting California as a place above recent controversies nationally about contraception.

"Instead of shrinking back and trying to take away women's health care services or birth control, we're empowering women, and we do it proudly," Brown said at a Planned Parenthood headquarters here. "Today, we're realizing the dream that women have a right to control their own destiny, not with some guys in the Legislature who think they know better."

Supporters of Assembly Bill 2348, by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, say it will improve access to birth control, especially in poor and rural areas, reducing unplanned pregnancies.

The legislation pitted non-union Planned Parenthood clinics and other health groups against the California Nurses Association. The influential nurses union, which has donated millions of dollars to Brown and his causes, had said the measure could result in poor women receiving lesser care.

"I would also just say as part of the chemistry of legislation, you'll find that allies become adversaries for certain bills," Brown said. "Generally speaking, the great family of progressive, thoughtful Democrats are on board, for the most part."

The bill signing came as debate continues nationally over an Obama administration policy requiring insurers to cover birth control for women.

Brown, speaking in the state's largest media market, criticized Republicans for their opposition to Mitchell's bill, while Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez lamented what he called a "fierce assault" on reproductive rights.

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, elicited groans when he offered as an example controversial remarks about rape last month by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, a Missouri congressman.

September 21, 2012
Democrats regain registration edge in Lungren-Bera seat

Democrats have regained a slight voter registration edge in the hotly contested 7th Congressional District, though the two parties still represent almost equal shares of voters heading into the Nov. 6 rematch between Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera.

The latest voter registration figures, released today by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, show Democrats leading 39.16 percent to 38.37 percent - a margin of 2,822 voters. Independent voters who decline to state a party preference accounted for 18.25 percent of the electorate. The numbers have flipped since late May, when Republicans were up by 888 voters.

The race between Lungren and Bera is considered one of November's most competitive congressional races.

September 21, 2012
Democrats gain on voter rolls for hot Sacramento Assembly race

A Sacramento County Assembly race touted as one of California's most competitive just tilted slightly more to the left.

Voter registration statistics posted by the secretary of state's office today showed that Assembly District 8 has gained 6,256 Democrats since May, while Republican ranks have dropped by 665.

The news was applauded by the campaign of Democrat Ken Cooley but downplayed by that of Peter Tateishi, the Republican candidate. Assembly District 8 stretches from Citrus Heights to the Sacramento County line south of Wilton.

September 21, 2012
Petal by petal they lobby Jerry Brown

Of all the ways to lobby a governor, sending flower arrangements, it would seem, is the gentlest.

They could also be considered gifts, however. So as Gov. Jerry Brown wades through hundreds of bills in this bill-signing season, his office today asked one group to stop its deliveries, the group said.

The offending gerberas, carnations and assorted other flowers are from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, which said it sent arrangements to the Democratic governor's Sacramento and Los Angeles offices to encourage him to sign Assembly Bill 889.

The legislation, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would afford domestic workers overtime pay, rest periods and other state labor protections.

"They view them as a gift," the coalition's Joseph Villela said. "They cannot accept gifts, so therefore they have to donate them."

The governor's office was polite about it, Villela said, but "they have respectfully requested us to stop."

The disposition of the already-delivered flowers is unclear, but the group said today that they will keep coming every day - until the end of the month, or until Brown signs the bill.

September 21, 2012
Gov. Brown kills bill to bar long suspensions for pupil defiance

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation by a Sacramento assemblyman designed to restrict expulsions or lengthy suspensions for students who disrupt school activities or defy campus staff.

In vetoing Assembly Bill 2242, Brown said that "it is important that teachers and school officials retain broad discretion to manage and set the tone in the classroom."

Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson proposed the bill as a way to replace lengthy "willful defiance" punishments with supervised detention, community service or other alternatives.

September 21, 2012
Speaker Pérez to appear in reading of show about Prop. 8 trial

Two years after making an in-name-only cameo in the trial over California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is preparing to play a new role in the legal saga surrounding Proposition 8.

The Los Angeles Democrat announced today that he will participate next month in a reading of "8," a play about Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the challenge of the 2008 constitutional amendment now heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. He'll share the stage at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre with award-winning actors Dustin Lance Black and Holland Taylor.

Pérez will play Stanford Professor Gary Segura, who made the case during the 2010 court proceedings that gays and lesbians are underrepresented and targeted in the political process. As part of the cross-examination by Proposition 8 attorneys, Segura was pressed on whether Pérez's own role as the first openly gay Assembly speaker undercut his argument.

In a statement, Pérez praised the reading as an "opportunity to help tell a powerful story of a victory celebrated by LGBT People, and people of conscience all over the country."

"As someone whose own rights were taken away by Proposition 8, and Proposition 22 before it, I am deeply honored to be participating in a production that brilliantly and vividly captures the critical moments of the trial that led to Judge Vaughn Walker's groundbreaking ruling," he said of the federal judge's finding that the ban is unconstitutional.

Proceeds from the Oct. 7 performance will go to American Foundation for Equal Rights, which supports the legal case against the ban.

September 21, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: California's budget problems continue

VIDEO: Dan says the automatic budget cuts that would be triggered if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure fails on Nov. 6 won't cover the California budget deficit.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 21, 2012
AM Alert: Capitol forecast includes spaceship (but no aliens)

VIDEO: Dan Walters predicts that California's budget will be in a world of hurt, even if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure passes on Nov. 6.

Capitol denizens are about to get as close to a spaceship as most humans ever do.

The Shuttle Endeavour is set to fly over the dome this morning on its meandering way to its new museum home. The last Capitol Alert heard was that NASA was worried about Bay Area fog, so it has delayed the flight an hour, which should put the shuttle over Sacramento around 9:30 a.m. According to The Bee's Bill Lindelof, the Endeavour is expected to be poking along at 230 mph when it buzzes the Capitol at an altitude of 1,500 feet.

NASA Television will air its departure starting at 8 a.m. at this link. Shuttle fans are also tracking the flight via Twitter with these hashtags -- #SpotTheShuttle and #OV105, which is Endeavour's vehicle designation. Check out a NASA Fans pic of the shuttle in flight at this link.

And now, back to down-to-Earth news.

Almost one in five likely voters in California don't know which way they're going to vote on Proposition 32, which would ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted money for political purposes. That's according to a new survey conducted by UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies and the Field Poll.

The Bee's Jon Ortiz has more details in today's Bee about the campaign finance measure, which is trailing among those likely voters. Click here to read the publicly released poll. If you want even more numbers, you'll find statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert at this link.

In the Bay Area, an all-day conference examines California's fiscal crisis, zeroing in on pension reform and deficit reduction. Its keynote speaker is Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, and other participants include San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, former California Republican Party chairman Duf Sunheim, Marty Morgenstern of the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency and others. The conference is sponsored by UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies. Registration is now closed, but you can read the agenda at this link.

Back in Sacramento, the Public Policy Institute of California lays out its recent poll on voters' views of the presidential candidates and the November propositions at a luncheon. Click here for more information.

ELECTION 2012: Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani formally launches her state Senate campaign in Stockton on Saturday with a keynote address from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, followed by a neighborhood canvass and phone bank. The event starts at 11 a.m. at her Stockton headquarters, 5635 Stratford Circle.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, celebrates his 62nd birthday Saturday by hosting a free food literacy fair along with the California Food Literacy Center and the Oak Park Farmers Market. Find it at McClatchy Park, 35th Street and Fifth Avenue, across from McGeorge School of Law, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

September 20, 2012
Poll: Support for Prop. 30 highest among wealthy, educated

Among the more interesting findings of the Field Poll released on Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot initiative to raise income taxes on high-income earners is that support for the measure is highest among those who are relatively well off.

While overall support for Proposition 30 is just 51 percent, support for the measure climbs to 59 percent among likely voters whose annual household incomes exceed $100,000, according to the poll.

The measure is supported by 48 percent of likely voters whose annual household incomes fall between $40,000 and $99,000, according to the poll, and by 51 percent of likely voters whose household incomes fall below that lower threshold.

Proposition 30 would raise sales taxes and hike income taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year, the very people who appear to back it the most.

But Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said support for the measure among California's wealthier people is a reflection less of their income than of their typically higher educational attainment. Among likely voters, 54 percent of college graduates and 61 percent of people who have done postgraduate work support Brown's initiative, according to the poll.

It isn't clear how many of the relatively wealthy voters Field interviewed earn enough to be affected by the proposed income tax increase. DiCamillo said he has a feeling they might oppose the measure, but he said, "I'm just not sure."

September 20, 2012
Ask Dan Lungren and Ami Bera a question

The Bee, News10 and Capital Public Radio are sponsoring a debate next Tuesday in the 7th Congressional District contest pitting Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, against his Democratic challenger, Dr. Ami Bera of Elk Grove.

The hour-long debate will be webcast live on sacbee.com at 3 p.m. with full coverage online and in Wednesday's printed Bee.

Here's where you can help. Send us your questions for one or both of the candidates. We'll sift through them and try to ask one during the debate. Email your question with your name, city of residence and phone number to Dan Smith, Bee Capitol Bureau Chief, at dssmith@sacbee.com.

September 20, 2012
Poll: Should the national political conventions get tax dollars?

Rep. Dan Lungren wasn't in Tampa as other members of the GOP gathered for the Republican National Convention last month.

Now, the Gold River Republican is part of a bipartisan push to ensure taxpayer cash skips out on the quadrennial political conventions, too.

Lungren voted aye this week on federal legislation to prohibit the use of public funds for the national nominating conventions, which are currently partially subsidized by taxpayers who elect to send some of their own tax dollars to a public campaign financing fund.

The Associated Press quoted Lungren as calling the events ""weeklong televised movie sets and almost entirely symbolic."

"American taxpayers should not be subsidizing political party conventions," he said.

September 20, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Support for Jerry Brown's tax measure dips

VIDEO: Dan says Gov. Jerry Brown is "all in" for his tax measure, but the bet may be a loser.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 20, 2012
AM Alert: Brown's proposal still fares best of three tax measures

VIDEO: Dan Walters says Gov. Jerry Brown is betting California's solvency on his ballot tax measure, and it's maybe 50-50.

Most California voters -- about two in three -- who have decided yea or nay on the governor's Proposition 30 intend to vote the same way on Molly Munger's competing Proposition 38, according to a new poll conducted jointly by UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies and the Field Poll.

The survey looks at trends among voters on those two measures as well as a third tax-related proposal, Tom Steyer's Proposition 39 to hike taxes on multistate companies operating in the state. Of the three, Brown's measure is still faring the best, but support has slipped.

The Bee's David Siders has more details in today's Bee. Want even more numbers? Click here to read the publicly released poll. You'll find the statistical tabulations, compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert, at this link.

Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board is drawing a crowd today as business groups plan to protest the state's cap-and-trade market, which kicks off on Nov. 14. The board isn't expected to take action at its meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. at 1001 I St. in Sacramento, but the groups say they'll be there anyway. The Bee's Dale Kasler has more in this story. To read the agenda, click here.

Registration is closed for Perspectives 2012, but you might catch a glimpse of former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Mexican President Vicente Fox or Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post near the dome. They're among the speakers at the Metro Chamber's forum, which runs all day at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is also in town for an event with two Republicans -- Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, 37, who faces Democratic Rep. John Garamendi in the 3rd Congressional District, and with Ricky Gill, 25, who's up against Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 9th Congressional District. That presser starts at 8:30 a.m. at Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, 1215 K St. on the 14th floor.

Down in the south state, state schools chief Tom Torlakson participates in a round table discussion with Chris Steinhauser, the Long Beach Unified School District superintendent, and others about recommended new models for evaluating the state's teachers. That event starts at 10 a.m. at Marshall Academy of the Arts in Long Beach.

CAPITOL STEPS: State employees will be walking the mile around Capitol Park today to raise money for the American Heart Association, with a wellness fair from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the west steps.

September 19, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill targeting abuses of disability access law

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation designed to limit what advocates say is an abuse of disability access lawsuits, his office said this afternoon.

Senate Bill 1186, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Republican Sen. Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, will reduce potential damages for disability access violations from a minimum of $4,000 to as little as $1,000 if the defendant corrects violations quickly.

The bill would also bar lawyers from issuing pre-litigation "demands for money" and regulate complaints involving construction-related violations.

September 19, 2012
Sacramento judge, Troy L. Nunley, gets confirmation hearing

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Troy L. Nunley is an important step closer to serving on the federal bench, as he easily handled his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing Wednesday morning.

The Senate Republicans who have resisted other judicial nominees, particularly to powerful appellate courts, raised no objections to Nunley's nomination to serve as a Sacramento-based judge in the Eastern District of California. Following the usual make-no-waves confirmation script, Nunley joined four other judicial nominees Wednesday in assuring the few senators present that moderation would guide decision-making.

September 19, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown signs (another) workers' comp bill

VIDEO: Dan says Tuesday's workers' comp bill signing was a once-a-decade exercise at the Capitol.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 19, 2012
AM Alert: Obama's lead grows in California

Dan Walters discusses the workers compensation legislation Gov. Jerry Brown just signed.

Californians seem to like President Barack Obama more as the election draws nearer. A Field Poll released today shows Californians favor the president over Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 24 points - compared to an 18 point lead Obama enjoyed in the state in July. Obama is ahead in every region of California, poll results show, except one: the Central Valley. Here in California's heartland, the candidates are tied at 48 percent. Read the Bee's story on the poll here. Find Capitol Alert's exclusive statistical tabulations here.

Potential changes to California's "three strikes" law are the focus of a joint hearing today of the Senate and Assembly public safety committees. Legislators will hear testimony about Proposition 36, which would change the "three strikes" law so offenders could be sentenced to life in prison only if their third felony is serious or violent. Mike Reynolds, author of the Three Strikes law and chairman of the No on Three Strikes campaign will be there, as will Michael Romano, director of Stanford's Three Strikes Project.

Controller John Chiang will be featured in a Public Policy Institute of California discussion today about pension reform. The talk in San Francisco will be broadcast live online at 12:20 p.m. Also scheduled to speak: Assemblyman Michael Allen, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California.

September 18, 2012
Ex-Governor Deukmejian still has wry sense of humor

RP CONVENTION DEUKMEJIAN.JPGDuring his eight years as California's 35th governor (1983-91), George Deukmejian was known publicly for his tough stances on crime and the state budget and privately for his wry, self-deprecating sense of humor.

The latter quality comes through in a recent question-and-answer interview with the Long Beach Press-Telegram, his hometown newspaper.

Press-Telegram columnist Tim Grobaty conducted the interview and pointed out that a new courthouse in the city will be named for Deukmejian, who also was a state legislator and state attorney general before winning the governorship.

"What a wonderful, amazing honor," Deukmejian replied. "I came to Long Beach in 1958 and I didn't know anyone except my wife, and now to have a courthouse named for me is really a thrilling honor. Nothing I ever expected. Now the challenge is to stay alive until it opens."

PHOTO CREDIT: George Deukmejian in 2002. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

September 18, 2012
Brown signs overhaul of California workers' compensation

Gov. Jerry Brown signed an overhaul of California's workers' compensation system Tuesday in San Diego, hailing it as a win-win for employers and employees alike.

The legislation, Senate Bill 863, was hammered out in months of private negotiations between employer and labor union representatives. It was formally carried by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and passed the Legislature in the final hours of the 2012 session despite late-blooming opposition from lawyers who represent injured workers and some medical care and rehabilitation groups.

The legislation promises a 30 percent increase in cash benefits for permanently injured workers and enough procedural changes and eligibility tightening to more than pay for them, thus freezing or reducing employers' workers' compensation insurance costs.

September 18, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown's veto eases growing traffic fine burden

VIDEO: Dan says Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of a bill takes a little bit of a bite out of traffic fines.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 18, 2012
AM Alert: Governor scheduled to sign workers comp bill

The day starts with another - make that two more - bill signing ceremonies for Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who will be in the south state trumpeting SB 863. The bill makes major changes to California's workers compensation system by eliminating areas that are subject to a lot of litigation, cutting costs for employers and increasing benefits to permanently injured workers. It was negotiated among labor union leaders and some of the state's major employers, who are expected to be on hand for the signing ceremonies.

The first one is at a San Diego printing company at 9:30 a.m. Then the group heads to Burbank for a 2 p.m. signing at the Disney studios, a company that played a role in negotiating the bill.

CALLING AN AD AN AD? Political bloggers, tweeters and comment-posters may want to tune in to the Fair Political Practices Commission today. It's taking comment on a new proposal aimed at informing the public when campaign funds are used to pay for blog posts and social media use. The idea has drawn ire from bloggers on both ends of the political spectrum.

FISHIN' FOR TUITION California State University trustees are meeting today in Long Beach to take on some fiscal what-ifs. What if the governor's tax initiative passes? What if it fails, and the state cuts CSU by $250 million? If voters approve Proposition 30 in November, CSU is planning to refund students the 9 percent tuition increase they are paying this semester. If it fails, a contingency plan trustees are considering today calls for increasing tuition by 5 percent in January.

Cal State trustees are also considering several new fees unrelated to the outcome of Proposition 30: $372 per unit for "super seniors" who keep taking classes even though they have enough units to graduate; $100 per unit for repeating classes; and $200 per unit for taking an extra-large course load of 17 units or more. The university estimates it could generate $35 million a year with those combined fees.

DEATH PENALTY: Under the dome, the joint Public Safety Committee will hold a 10 a.m. hearing on Proposition 34, which calls for repealing the death penalty in California and replacing it with life without parole. Opponents of the measure are holding a campaign kick-off event later in the afternoon, with Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, former NFL player and crime victim advocate Kermit Alexander and San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe.


September 17, 2012
Jerry Brown signs bill restricting picketing at funerals

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation restricting protests at military and other funerals, after vetoing a similar bill last year, his office said this afternoon.

Senate Bill 661, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, prohibits picketing a funeral within 300 feet of a burial or memorial site beginning one hour before a funeral and ending one hour after.

September 17, 2012
New law gives immunity to drug users who seek overdose aid

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today to provide Californians with limited immunity from prosecution for drug offenses when they seek medical assistance for an overdose by themselves or others.

Assembly Bill 472, by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, is meant to encourage people to call 9-1-1 in a drug emergency, rather than to hesitate for fear of arrest.

The measure will prohibit, in overdose cases, the arrest of a witness who summoned help if that person was under the influence of or possessed a drug for personal use. Immunity also would extend to possession of drug paraphernalia.

AB 472 will not apply to other drug-related offenses, however, including drug sales or driving under the influence.

Most Democrats in the Legislature supported Ammiano's proposal, while most Republicans opposed it. The bill will take effect. Jan. 1.

September 17, 2012
How Tweet it is? Sink-or-swim time for FPPC blogging proposal

Democratic political strategist Steve Maviglio and Republican blogger and state party official Jon Fleischman agree on political matters about as often as most Californians skinny dip with piranhas.

But that sound you hear is the two diving in together, figuratively speaking, against a Fair Political Practices Commission proposal meant to help voters identify campaign funds spent for blogging or social media.

Chairwoman Ann Ravel backed off an initial FPPC plan to require blogging websites to disclose money received from candidates or ballot measures. Her new push is to make such payments easier to identify in existing campaign disclosure documents.

Maviglio and Fleischman argue that the proposal is so broadly worded, however, that it could apply to a campaign aide who posts a single online comment, or to a field worker who tweets about distributing campaign literature on a weekend.

The FPPC plan would have a chilling effect because campaigns would bar aides from posting comments rather than undertake the hassle and expense of tracking and reporting each tweet or Facebook post, the two activists contend.

Nonsense, Ravel counters. Wording can be tightened, if necessary, but the intent is to make disclosure clear when campaigns pay for favorable online coverage - not to slap campaign aides or to discourage use of social media.

"People have a right to know if what they're reading as political support is, in fact, being paid for," Ravel said.

The proposal does not target this year's elections.

FPPC staff will hold a public hearing on the plan Tuesday.

September 17, 2012
Bakersfield hockey team makes light of Stockton's bankruptcy

It's a tale of two cities separated by 234 miles of farmland, political orientation, economic condition - and hockey.

Stockton lies at the northern edge of the San Joaquin Valley and Bakersfield at the southern end. Stockton votes Democratic and Bakersfield is solidly Republican. Stockton was clobbered by the housing bubble's burst, and the city government has filed for bankruptcy while Bakersfield is enjoying the oil boom.

Both cities have minor league hockey teams, the Stockton Thunder and the Bakersfield Condors, which play regularly. The Thunder's city-owned arena, in fact, figures prominently in the city's bankruptcy.

The two teams have a Dec. 27 game scheduled in Bakersfield and the Condors' management, which is known for its wacky promotions, has designated it as "Our City Isn't Bankrupt Night" and plans to hand out phony million-dollar bills and Rolls Royce automobiles.

That's drawn expressions of outrage in Stockton media, as Bakersfield Californian columnist Lois Henry explores in a recent column.

The Condors, however, appear to be enjoying the attention - it is a marketing promotion, after all - and say they may make amends by offering Stockton's much-troubled city employees a discount on tickets to the game.

September 17, 2012
Six candidates file papers for Doug LaMalfa state Senate seat

Republican lawmakers Jim Nielsen and Dan Logue jumped out quickly this month to announce that they will seek Doug LaMalfa's recently vacated Senate seat, but four other competitors have now filed to run.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen is scheduled to complete a check of filing papers and formally announce the field of candidates this evening for the 4th District Senate seat that winds through 12 counties.

The tentative field includes Democrat Mickey Harrington, a Magalia resident and labor council president who ran unsuccessfully for an Assembly seat in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

September 17, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Bill season provides work, opportunity for Jerry Brown

VIDEO: Dan says Gov. Jerry Brown is taking a few shots as he plows through a pile of bills the Legislature left on his desk.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 17, 2012
AM Alert: Black Caucus raising money for Richardson campaign

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus are jumping in to a Dem-on-Dem contest in the 44th Congressional Distrct, lending a hand to Rep. Laura Richardson in her bid to defeat Rep. Janice Hahn for the Los Angeles seat.

Tonight, Sen. Curren Price and Assemblymembers Mike Davis, Holly Mitchell and Steve Bradford are scheduled to attend a 5 p.m. reception and fundraiser at the K Street office of the California arm of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Also listed as guests: California NAACP President Alice Huffman, former state Assembly speaker Rep. Karen Bass, and Rep. Maxine Waters. The fight for the Los Angeles seat is one of more than two dozen races statewide where voters will choose between two members of the same party, thanks to the new "top two" primary system.

NEW JOB: GOP political consultant Peter DeMarco has joined Randle Communications as a director. He will represent several of the firm's clients, including the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, Golden State Water Company, and the San Francisco Bar Pilots.

L'SHANA TOVA: Happy new year to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg; Senators Mark Leno, Alan Lowenthal and Lois Wolk; Assemblymembers Marty Block, Robert Blumenfield, Mike Feuer, Linda Halderman, Bonnie Lowenthal and Jeff Miller, and anyone else celebrating Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish new year begins today and lasts through Sept. 26.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sending birthday wishes to Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, who turns 53 today.

September 14, 2012
Jerry Brown finds decisions 'way too important' for LAO

The Legislative Analyst's Office wasn't the most diplomatic, perhaps, when in a February report on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal for higher education, it suggested a number of shortcomings in Brown's plan to measure performance at public colleges and universities.

Among the subheads in the report: "Key Details Lacking."

This afternoon, the Democratic governor vetoed legislation that would have established statewide goals to guide budget and policy decisions regarding postsecondary education, and in his veto message he had some choice words for the LAO.

The legislation, by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would have required goals to be developed with the assistance of a working group convened by the nonpartisan analyst's office.

"Questions about who should measure, what to measure and how to measure what is learned in college," Brown wrote, "are way too important to be delegated to the Legislative Analyst."

September 14, 2012
AM Alert: Of dogs and bullies

In case you hadn't noticed, hunters in California really don't like Senate Bill 1221.

That's the legislation by Torrance Democrat Ted Lieu that would restrict the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats. Houndsmen who opposed the bill showed up en masse at the Capitol as the bill was making its way through the Legislature.

They'll be back today to relay their thoughts to Gov. Jerry Brown, who will decide the bill's fate by month's end. Hunting groups put out a press release urging their allies to rally against the "radical animal-rights agenda of the Humane Society" at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

TECH TALK: The intersection of politics and technology is the focus of the Envisioning California Conference under way today at the Sacramento Convention Center, where panelists will talk about the use of social media in political movements, whether new technologies can undermine democracy and California's role as a global innovator.

Historian and former state librarian Kevin Starr is the keynote speaker. Panelists include Democratic PR maven Steven Maviglio, News10 political editor John Myers and California's Capitol blogger Greg Lucas.

BULLY PROOF: State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson is in San Francisco today to participate in the Bay Area Stop Bullying Summit, convened by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and The Bully Project. Torlakson will talk about anti-bullying measures in the state's schools.

CAKE AND CANDLES: HBD, as they say on Facebook, to two Assemblymen: Jeff Miller, R-Corona, who is turning 49 today, and Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, who is now 66.

September 13, 2012
Tax campaign for Prop 38 issues call for ads - just 'be positive'

In perhaps the touchiest, feeliest appeal yet of the November tax campaign, Carol Kocivar, president of the California State PTA, invites viewers in an online ad to "be" Proposition 38 - just like her.

"I am 38," she says. "Will you be, too?"

The campaign for Proposition 38, the initiative rivaling Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, was in the digital equivalent of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood today to announce a video contest urging Californians to record stories about how higher taxes could help their local schools.

The campaign said the contest winner will be featured in a primetime TV ad this fall.

"We're not looking for a full-length, Hollywood feature," Kocivar says. "Just a clip showing your face and sharing your authentic story, and you can even record it on your webcam or your camera phone."

The video, she says, could be "funny, serious, creative or dramatic. It could feature you, your family, your school. Just don't use any copyrighted content, and be positive."

September 13, 2012
Jerry Brown veto 'in keeping with the author's oft-stated mantra'

Gov. Jerry Brown issued his first veto messages of the season this morning, and he is off to a prickly start.

Assembly Bill 1892, by Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, R-Fresno, would have required the Department of Consumer Affairs to post certain language on its website regarding construction defects.

"This has already been done," the Democratic governor said in his veto message. "So in keeping with the author's oft-stated mantra that government should not be wasteful or do unnecessary things, I am returning Assembly Bill 1892 without my signature."

The veto message was one of four issued today by Brown, who also signed more than a dozen other bills.

The vetoes are Brown's first since the legislative session ended, though he vetoed two bills earlier this year. Hundreds more bills are on Brown's desk awaiting action before the end of the month.

September 13, 2012
California's richest congressman slips to No. 3 in annual ranking

Rep. Darrell Issa is still one of the richest members of Congress, but he's apparently not as flush as he was.

An estimated $80 million drop in overall net worth from 2010 to 2011 caused the Vista Republican to slip from No. 2 to No. 3 in Roll Call newspaper's annual ranking of the wealthiest members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. A reported net worth of at least $140.5 million put him behind only Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, (worth $305.46 million) and Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (worth $198.65 million) on the list.

Issa isn't the only Californian near the top of the list, which is compiled based on annual financial disclosure reports filed by members of Congress.

September 13, 2012
AM Alert: Funeral for CHP officer shot making traffic stop

The day starts on a somber note for Gov. Jerry Brown, who will be in Vacaville for the 10 a.m. funeral of CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom. Later in the afternoon, Brown will join Attorney General Kamala Harris at a ceremony in the Capitol to present three public safety officers with the Medal of Valor.

The state's new "top two" primary system and its re-drawn political districts are the subject of a lunchtime talk by Eric McGhee of the Public Policy Institute of California. He'll discuss how these reforms played out in June's primary in terms of competition, money, and crossover voting. It's at noon at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, 1017 11th Street.

Also over the lunch hour, Brown's executive secretary Nancy McFadden will address a Capitol women's group called She Shares - a conversation series featuring female leaders. Prior speakers in the series included California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Attorney General Kamala Harris. The next talk, in December, features California's second lady, documentary filmmaker and social activist Jennifer Siebel Newsom. McFadden's talk today is at noon at Lucca Restaurant, 1615 J Street.

Capitol journalists will gather tonight at the Convention Center for the California Journalism Awards, put on by Sacramento State's Center for California Studies. See the list of winners here.

September 12, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown signs pension reform bill

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 340 in Los Angeles this morning, making changes to the pension system for state and local government employees.

"This is the biggest rollback to public pension benefits in the history of California pensions," Brown said in a statement. "We're lowering benefits to what they were before I was Governor the first time and reducing costs by up to $55 billion in PERS and billions more in other local pension systems. Under the new rules, employers and employees alike are going to contribute their fair share of the costs, resulting in a more sustainable system."

The legislation caps benefits, increases the retirement age, stops abusive practices and requires state employees to pay at least half of their pension costs.

Related Stories:

Legislature approves pension overhaul

The State Worker: The years have brought CalPERS back to earth

Local officials still penciling out when California pension reform will help


September 12, 2012
How California ranks in income, poverty and health insurance

California's median household income of $53,367 was only slightly higher than the national median last year while its poverty rate and its medically uninsured population were among the nation's highest, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The national median income in inflation-adjusted dollars was $50,054, a 1.5 percent decline from 2010. Fourteen other states topped California in median household income last year, with Maryland the highest at $68,876 and South Carolina the lowest at $40,084.

September 12, 2012
AM Alert: Lunch, a movie and a show

Gov. Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will be in Los Angeles today for a 10 a.m. ceremony to sign pension legislation.

ENDORSEMENT: The Proposition 39 campaign has secured a noteworthy endorsement. Today Assembly Speaker Pérez will endorse the November initiative that raises taxes on out-of-state businesses, according to campaign officials.

Pérez's support of Proposition 39 was far from certain, since the Los Angeles Democrat proposed a megadeal containing the same tax change that collapsed on the final night of the legislative session. Pérez wanted to devote most of the resulting $1 billion in revenue toward reducing tuition at public universities. Proposition 39, financed by billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, would initially devote about half of the tax funds toward clean energy projects, with the other half going toward the general fund that supports education, prisons, health care and social services.

Steyer is making the rounds in Sacramento today to stump for his initiative, including a lunch appearance at the Sacramento Press Club.

SILVER SCREEN: A little sliver of the national political conventions is making its way to Sacramento today in the form of a film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. StudentsFirst, the education reform group headed by Sacramento's first lady Michelle Rhee, sponsored screenings of "Won't Back Down" at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. It caused a bit of a stir at the DNC because teachers unions perceived the story - about a group of parents who try to take over their kids' school using the so-called "parent-trigger" law - as anti-union. Today Rhee is showing the movie at Sacramento's Downtown Plaza. A panel discussion will follow the 3 p.m. show, featuring Rhee, Mayor Kevin Johnson, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and others. The Bee's education reporters will be there, writing about the movie and the talk on our new education blog, The Report Card.

ON THE STAGE : GOP political consultant Wayne Johnson and his Gateway Media production company are making the leap from television ads to musical theater, producing a live show about gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. "Mahalia," sponsored by The Bee, tells the life story of the woman who performed next to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. It's at the Guild Theater in Sacramento through Sept. 23.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Happy Birthday to Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, who is celebrating the big 7-0.

September 11, 2012
GOP congressional candidate backs off abortion-cancer link

Doug LaMalfa.JPGRepublican congressional candidate Doug LaMalfa walked back today from a claim that women who have abortions are more likely to get cancer.

The Richvale Republican, who is running in the 1st Congressional District, made that argument during a Monday debate between him and Democrat Jim Reed sponsored by the Redding Tea Party. He repeated the stance in a post-debate interview with KRCR News.

"Research has shown there is that there is that higher level of incidence, there is that risk and so I would want women to be fully informed of all the aspects of it before they would make a decision like that," he told the station. "I think that shows more care for women then by simply shuffling them off to an abortion mill and so that's a very important distinction that needs to be made."

While a link between abortion and breast cancer has been the subject of medical studies and used as fodder for anti-abortion advocates, groups such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute have concluded that there is not scientific evidence to back such claims.

September 11, 2012
Jerry Brown calls pension changes not enough but 'most that could be gotten'

Gov. Jerry Brown, who will travel to Los Angles on Wednesday to sign legislation reducing public employee pension benefits, said today that the measure, though less sweeping than he proposed, is "the most that could be gotten" through his negotiations in Sacramento.

"What I got was the most that could be gotten," the Democratic governor said in an interview with the Bay Area News Group's editorial boards. "Is it enough? No."

The pension changes, approved by the Legislature over opposition from labor unions, will reduce benefits for future hires and require increased retirement contributions from current employees. Many Republicans, despite complaining the pension changes did not go far enough, called the measure a small step and voted to support it.

"It is very far-reaching pension reform relative to where we were," Brown said when a questioner suggested the changes were only minimal. "Let's get real here, folks. You're sitting around this table writing stories or thinking thoughts. I am in Sacramento. I've got to get things done."

Brown said, "I didn't say this was the end" of his effort to reduce pension costs.

"This is a big ship," he said. "You turn it slowly. Our direction is getting better, that's all I can say."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:20 p.m. to reflect that many Republicans, despite complaining the proposed pension changes did not go far enough, voted to support the measure in the Legislature.

September 11, 2012
Jerry Brown calls Bay Bridge investigation 'kind of curious'

REDWOOD CITY - Gov. Jerry Brown, who told The Bee's editorial board last week he wasn't aware of the federal government's concerns about Caltrans and bridge testing, didn't respond to the question when he was asked this morning if he had followed up on those concerns.

"This whole Caltrans-Sacramento Bee story is kind of curious," he said.

The Bee reported last month that Caltrans had uncovered doctored data and other testing problems on roadways and bridges, including on work done on the new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, even as Caltrans engineers said tests were valid and the bridge safe.

The Federal Highway Administration, in a draft assessment, criticized Caltrans officials for waiting years to rigorously review testing problems. Asked last week about the fact that the federal government had concerns, Brown replied, "I don't know that to be the case."

September 11, 2012
Jerry Brown: Chamber 'clearing the way' for tax bid by staying neutral

REDWOOD CITY - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that it is "amazing" the California Chamber of Commerce's decided to take no position on his Nov. 6 ballot initiative to raise taxes, adding that the group's neutrality is "basically clearing the way" for passage of the measure.

"The chamber is neutral," Brown said, "which is amazing that the Chamber of Commerce would work so carefully with my administration and is not in opposition at all - is basically clearing the way for us."

The Democratic governor said at a bill signing event here that the chamber's neutrality "is a very important sign ... it's a very, very positive indicator of Proposition 30's potential to get the 'Yes' vote."

Brown's Proposition 30 proposes to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

September 11, 2012
Congressional rivals Dan Lungren, Ami Bera to debate Sept. 25

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera have agreed to debate later this month.

The Sept. 25 debate, sponsored by The Sacramento Bee, News10 and Capital Public Radio, is the first for the 7th Congressional District rivals, who also went head to head on the 2010 ballot.

The debate, to be held at News10's Sacramento studios, will stream live on www.sacbee.com and the other sponsors' sites at 3 p.m. on Sept. 25. It will air the following day on News10 and Capital Public Radio. News10 Political Editor John Myers, Bee Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Smith and Capital Public Radio senior reporter Marianne Russ will serve as panelists for the debate, which will include reader-submitted queries and questions posed by the candidates themselves.

A close registration split in the eastern Sacramento County district and the expectation of heavy spending by both candidates and outside groups has made it one of the most competitive and closely watched congressional contests in the country this year.

"That's why this is such an important election for us locally," Bee's Publisher and President Cheryl Dell said in a statement. "The newly redrawn district includes so much of our readership area that we feel it is important for voters to hear from the candidates themselves on the issues that matter in the region."


September 11, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown signs lumber tax, wildfire liability limits

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today that imposes a 1 percent tax on lumber products starting in January and restricts damages landowners pay for starting wildfires.

The timber industry backed Assembly Bill 1492 for several reasons. The new consumer tax pays for regulatory costs that landowners previously paid; the liability provisions could restrict payouts in future federal lawsuits; harvest plans remain effective for longer periods, resulting in less frequent environmental reviews; and the tax applies to purchases on lumber from out of state as well as from California.

"California's laws have saddled our timber industry with costly burdens while giving out-of-state competitors a free ride--but that stops today," Brown said in a statement. "This legislation enacts serious bipartisan reform to even the playing field to protect California's timber-industry jobs."

September 11, 2012
Garamendi pulls TV ad falsely attacking Vann over $4,000 chair

Democratic Rep. John Garamendi's campaign has removed one of its television ads attacking Republican opponent Kim Vann because it made false claims.

The 30-second ad, which began airing last week, hit Vann for her record on veterans and actions taken as a member of the Colusa County Board of Supervisors.

The spot falsely claimed that Vann had the county buy her a $4,000 chair.

The county spent roughly $4,000 on chairs in the 2007-2008 fiscal year, but not on a single seat for Vann. Five new chairs for the board's meeting chambers were purchased online for $1,933.40, or $386.68 for each chair, according to documents provided by the county auditor-controller. An additional set of chairs purchased by the county that year was transferred for use in another agency because the seats were the wrong dimensions for the space.

September 11, 2012
AM Alert: California State University homes in on a new boss

California State University trustees are gathering privately today and tomorrow in Burlingame to interview candidates for the job of chancellor. And who might they be talking to about heading up the 23-campus system? The university won't say.

But political scuttle has it that state Treasurer Bill Lockyer is interested in the position. Bee editorial writer Dan Morain says Lockyer isn't up to the task, while political commentator Joe Mathews says he's the best candidate for the job.

Cal State will probably announce the new chancellor in about a month, according to a university spokeswoman.

BILL SIGNING - Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez will be in Silicon Valley today for a bill signing ceremony at a meeting of the Bay Area Council. The legislation in question will "strengthen California's trade relationships and support the state's businesses," the Guv's office says.

THERE'S NO SUCH THING - The Public Policy Institute of California hosts a discussion today about closing the achievement gap for English-learner students in the state's schools -- along with a free lunch. All the info is here.

September 10, 2012
Pugno changes course, vows to fight Gaines for Assembly seat

The race is officially on in the 6th Assembly District.

Republican Assembly candidate Andrew Pugno announced today that he plans to move forward with his bid to unseat Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, on the Nov. 6 ballot, despite an earlier pledge to stop campaigning if another Republican came in first in the June primary.

The Folsom attorney said in a statement to The Bee that he has come to the conclusion he "cannot, in good conscience, endorse (Gaines') dishonest and unethical campaign tactics," citing what he called "last-‐minute attack ads that she knew were lies."

September 10, 2012
Jarvis group's new ad calls Jerry Brown's tax bid 'snake oil'

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is airing a new radio ad calling Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot initiative to raise taxes "snake oil," arguing Proposition 30 would provide no new funding for schools.

"Sacramento politicians are out pitching their Prop. 30 snake oil," Jon Coupal, president of the taxpayers group, says in the ad. "But what Proposition 30 really is ... is a massive tax increase they claim is for our schools. But even the California School Boards Association says the initiative provides no new funding for schools. None."

Proposition 30, which would raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners, was endorsed by the California School Boards Association.

In a statement, the group said Proposition 30 and a rival tax measure, Proposition 38, "both will generate billions of dollars in much-needed revenue for public education."

The group's leaders said they "want to make it clear to the public that the governor's initiative does not provide new funding for schools. Instead, it bolsters the general fund with new revenue."

The taxpayers group's ad, running statewide beginning today, follows two issue advocacy spots aired by the group against Proposition 30. Like the most recent ad, it criticizes Brown and state lawmakers for approving the start of construction of California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, among other expenses.

September 10, 2012
AM Alert: Clock still ticking on the Legislature's handiwork

This fine Sacramento morning, Capitol denizens and other political junkies might want to contemplate the number 33.

It is the atomic number of arsenic. It is the number of innings played in the longest game in professional baseball history.

It's also the number of bills that Gov. Jerry Brown must dispatch, on average, each and every day during the 21 days he has left to contemplate the handiwork of the now departed California Legislature.

Brown announced early Friday afternoon that he had signed 59 measures, including a 64-page-long piece of legislation changing five words, and another bill barring landlords from requiring tenants to pay rent online.

The governor announced later Friday that he would sign two measures Saturday afternoon at a Capitol rally, sponsored by the North American Punjabi Association, honoring victims of the shooting last month at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc.

Assembly Bill 1964, by Democrat Mariko Yamada, adds a religious dress or grooming practice as an observance covered by the state's anti-discrimination laws.

Senate Bill 1540 by Democrat Loni Hancock -- which Sikh groups, the Korea Academy for Educators, state schools chief Tom Torlakson and others supported -- calls for the State Board of Education to consider, by June 30, 2014, adopting a revised curriculum framework for history and social science.

That left, oh, about 700 bills to go.

The Bee's Capitol Bureau took a look Sunday at a few of those pending proposals, which range from pension reform to retirement savings, and from a lumber tax to health insurance plans. Find it at the Capitol and California page.

September 10, 2012
California ranked 4th worst in business legal climate

California ranks 47th in the nation in its courts' "fairness and reasonableness" regarding business lawsuits, according to a poll conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform.

Not only is the state's legal climate as a whole ranked fourth worst in the nation, just ahead of Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia, but Los Angeles County has the second worst lawsuit climate among local jurisdictions and San Francisco fourth worst..Delaware, the legal home of many major corporations, ranks No. 1 in business legal climate.

The rankings are based on a survey of corporate general counsels and senior attorneys, conducted by Harris Interactive.

The annual survey has been conducted for the past decade, and California's standing has declined during that period. The survey report called California courts "havens for class action lawsuits because judges certify cases for trial that wouldn't be certified in most other parts of the country." It noted that the largest asbestos verdict in the nation this year - $48 million for one plaintiff - came in a Los Angeles jury trial.

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September 9, 2012
Jerry Brown defends tax measure, likens Mitt Romney to Thomas Dewey

Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that California's high tax rates have not dragged down the economy, defending his Nov. 6 ballot initiative to raise taxes in a television interview.

"I know we're a high-tax state, but that's happened under Ronald Reagan, it's happened under my father, it's happened under Schwarzenegger, it's gone a long time," the Democratic governor said on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley. "Remember, California has created almost twice as many jobs at twice the rate of the country as a whole. So we're a real engine out here, in terms of Silicon Valley and Apple and Hewlett-Packard, and all the things we're doing."

California is outperforming other states in job creation, according to the state Employment Development Department, though double-digit unemployment remains higher than the national average.

Asked by Crowley if California's persistent budget deficits don't demonstrate that higher taxes hinder economic growth, Brown said, "It's just the opposite, because the economy is doing better than the rest of the nation."

September 7, 2012
What's in a name? Sixty-four pages and one newly signed law

Question: What takes 64 pages to change just a few words?

Answer: Senate Bill 1395, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown today.

The measure switches the name "Bureau of State Audits" to "California State Auditor's Office," and switches "State Auditor" to "California State Auditor."

Five words altered.

But the bill extends dozens of pages because it identifies every sentence in state codes where the old terms exist.

Existing statutes can cause confusion by using the terms State Auditor and Bureau of State Audits when referring to the duties of a single state office, according to a legislative analysis of SB 1395.

"The proposed change would clarify that there is one single state entity responsible for audits," the analysis said.

The new law requires that all supplies, forms, signs or logos using the old terms for the auditor's office be used up, not replaced.

A legislative analysis says the cost of the change would be "minor and absorbable within existing BSA resources."

State Auditor Elaine Howle sponsored SB 1395.

September 7, 2012
New law bars landlords from requiring rents to be paid online

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today barring landlords from requiring their tenants to pay rent online.

Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance proposed the measure, Senate Bill 1055, in response to concerns that demanding online payments can hurt tenants who know little or nothing about using computers.

September 7, 2012
Judge lets Schwarzenegger's commutation of Núñez son stand

A judge today refused to overturn former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's commutation of the prison term of one-time Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez' son, Esteban Núñez, who is serving time on a voluntary manslaughter conviction.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd G. Connelly characterized as "repugnant" Schwarzenegger's decision to cut Esteban Núñez' prison term from 16 years to seven. Schwarzenegger issued the commutation as one of the final acts of his administration in January 2011.

But even though Connelly said he believed the commutation was an abuse, he said it was still an authority the governor had under his executive powers.

September 7, 2012
From Capitol to 'Noble Heights' for lobbyist with steep dreams

Wolfe.jpgGenerosity, sacrifice, noble heights -- and lobbyist.

Not many Capitol stories contain those words, perhaps, but they combine to describe how lobbyist David Wolfe, who suffers from cerebral palsy, plans to scale a 10,000-foot Yosemite peak Saturday.

The 29-year-old Sacramentan, who can't walk without crutches, is counting on the generosity and sacrifice of numerous friends, business associates and a local nonprofit group, Noble Heights, that has assisted with similar trips since 2008.

"This will be a dream come true," said Wolfe, who is often spotted at the Capitol in a motorized scooter.

September 7, 2012
FPPC pushes to tighten disclosure for independent expenditures

The Fair Political Practices Commission is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to tighten disclosure rules for independent expenditure committees through a bill that cleared the Legislature with bipartisan support.

The measure, Assembly Bill 481, targets a segment of politics that has grown significantly the past decade - independent political campaigns that support or oppose candidates or ballot measures but are not coordinated by them.

FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel touts the bill "a major step to ensure accountability and public disclosure of independent expenditures."

Corporations, unions and other groups can spend unlimited sums on independent expenditure campaigns. An FPPC report in June 2010 found that $127 million had been spent the past decade on such efforts.

September 7, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Villaraigosa's convention sours

VIDEO: Dan says things didn't work out at the Democratic National Convention exactly how Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would have liked.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 7, 2012
AM Alert: Paul Ryan hits the California ATM

VIDEO: Dan Walters talks in today's report about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's run-in with the words "God" and "Jerusalem" at the Democratic National Convention.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is in California collecting campaign cash for the Romney-Ryan ticket, starting out in the south state, according to the Fresno Bee's Jim Boren.

Ryan will be heading north for a breakfast fundraiser Saturday at the Danville home of former 49ers tight end Brent Jones and his wife, Dana. (Click here to view the flier.)

September 6, 2012
Hundreds stranded outside Democratic National Convention

lockout 006.jpg

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Hundreds of ticketholders were stranded outside the Democratic National Convention ahead of President Barack Obama's acceptance speech here tonight, after officials said the arena reached capacity and closed the doors.

The lockout came after forecast storms forced organizers to move the final night of the convention from Bank of America Stadium to the smaller Time Warner Cable Arena, where the first two nights of the convention were held.

An official told a crowd outside the arena gate that the local fire marshal apologized and called the situation "embarrassing." The official said the gate would not re-open and that no ticketholders - even delegates and special guests - would be admitted.

September 6, 2012
Lower costs seen in California workers' compensation overhaul

The workers' compensation overhaul passed by the California Legislature last week and now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature will result in lower overall costs, even with its increase in benefit payments, the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau said Thursday.

However, whether the lower costs will result in lower insurance premiums for employers is still uncertain, the WCIRB report implied, due to "a continued deterioration in insurer loss experience" from previous claims.

The Department of Insurance has postponed hearings on the WCIRB's previous recommendation of a 2.6 percent "pure premium" increase effective next year so that the advisory organization can determine the net impact of the workers' comp overhaul, Senate Bill 863.

September 6, 2012
Villaraigosa's handling of platform gets mixed reviews from CA

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa is still facing questions about his handling of late changes to the Democratic party platform made this week, including from some delegates hailing from his own state.

Villaraigosa presided Wednesday over a vote to restore in the platform references to God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The chair declared the amendments adopted after three voice votes from a divided Time Warner Cable Arena audience, drawing objections and boos from some in the crowd who felt the ayes had not hit the two-thirds margin needed for passage.

Dr. Sota Omoigai, a delegate from the San Fernando Valley, was among those dissenting.

"(Former President Bill Clinton) later came out and said one word the Republicans don't understand is arithmetic. There was no arithmetic done when Villaraigosa declared it was two-thirds that had given the voice vote," he said. "...I believe that democracy needs to be practiced in all aspects of the platform. This position cannot be shoved down the party."

September 6, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown sees 'fear in the eyes of Republicans' on taxes

Gov. Jerry Brown dismissed notions today that he can go back to GOP lawmakers for higher taxes if his November initiative fails, saying "there is fear in the eyes of Republicans when the tax word is uttered in their presence."

To make his point, the Democratic governor recounted a tale from the final week of session (watch the video here) when he lobbied Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, for a 1 percent lumber tax during a chance encounter in the Capitol basement garage. LaMalfa has since resigned his post for the remainder of the year as he runs for Congress, but until last week he represented wide swaths of forest in the north state.

"He kind of got into a little fetal position and started shaking, he literally was shaking," Brown told The Bee editorial board of LaMalfa, repeating the gesture for effect. "And this big man, he looks like a -- wears boots, he's kind of an outdoorsman, a mountain man kind of. And I saw him kind of start shriveling in fear of, I guess, it was the FlashReport or (Grover) Norquist or whoever the hell it was."

September 6, 2012
California business lobbyists block all but a few 'job killer' bills

Lobbyists for the California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups blocked or neutralized more than 80 percent of the bills on the chamber's "job killer" list in the just-concluded 2012 legislative session, and would score even higher if Gov. Jerry Brown rejects any of the four measures that reached his desk.

The list, which the chamber issues each year, sets the stage for battles pitting business groups against labor unions, environmentalists, consumer advocates and personal injury lawyers over the latter groups' major legislative issues. Over the years, relatively few of the business-opposed measures on the lists have survived intact, with most having been rejected in the Legislature, modified to remove opposition or vetoed by Brown and previous governors.

Brown signed two of the 32 bills on the list earlier in the year, but business lobbyists killed most of the others. Just eight were alive when the session's final week began on Aug. 27. Of those, four survived to await Brown's signature or veto.

September 6, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown calls his tax hike 'common sense'

Arguing for more revenues to bolster the state's finances, Gov. Jerry Brown called his November tax initiative "common sense" Thursday and blamed his predecessor for leaving California with an ongoing budget gap.

Brown contended that his Proposition 30 would initially raise roughly the same $7 billion that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated by cutting the car tax and not raising taxes on out-of-state firms. The governor's Proposition 30 would increase taxes on high-income earners for seven years and sales for four years.

"These cuts have been made before I became governor - these cuts in revenue," Brown told The Bee's editorial board. "And there were no cuts in corresponding expenditures. So that hole is there. And then on top of that, we were in a hole because of the downturn."

September 6, 2012
VIDEO: Could canceling the DNC balloon drop save lives?

By Torey Van Oot and David Siders

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tiburon Democrat Elizabeth Moffet could barely believe the news when she learned last-minute change of venue for the final night of the Democratic National Convention means there will be no balloon drop after President Barack Obama accepts his party's nomination for re-election.

But after thinking about it for a minute, the three-time convention-goer said she didn't think the lack of balloons will affect the vibe in the hall tonight.

"There will be so much excitement after his speech," she said. "We'll survive. I'll be sad, but we'll be fine."

September 6, 2012
Democrat Clute endorses GOP candidate in targeted Senate seat

Republican Assemblyman Jeff Miller is touting an unusual new endorsement in his bid for the targeted 31st Senate District: a former Democratic rival.

Miller's campaign announced today that Steve Clute, the former Democratic assemblyman who came in third in the June 5 primary for the Inland Empire seat, has endorsed him over Democratic candidate Richard Roth.

"Although our party of preference means ideologically we may not agree on every issue, one thing I know is Jeff Miller will stand up for Riverside County," Clute said in a statement released by the Miller campaign. "Voters can trust that Jeff will stand up for us when it comes to ending government waste; funding our local schools and most importantly getting our local businesses growing again. In these difficult times, supporting the best candidate is more important than party preference."

Clute, who was endorsed by the state Democratic Party, won 20 percent of the vote in the primary. Labor unions spent heavily to help Roth, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's preferred candidate, make the top two runoff.

The 31st Senate District is one of this election's most competitive races. A win for Democrats could deliver a two-thirds majority in the upper house.

September 6, 2012
Rod Wright agrees to $200 fine for not disclosing Rwanda trip

State Sen. Rod Wright has agreed to pay a state fine for failing to disclose a $13,045 expenditure by a Wisconsin-based nonprofit group to fly him overseas as part of an academic program that awarded him a master's degree last year.

The Inglewood Democrat has agreed to pay $200 in connection with a 2009 trip to Rwanda bankrolled by the Legislative Leadership Institute, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The FPPC is expected to vote Thursday on whether to accept the settlement. Gary Winuk, chief enforcement officer, declined comment pending a final vote.

Wright said it still is not clear to him that the $13,045 expenditure is required to be reported because the group is not from California and the trip was part of an educational fellowship not tied to politics.

September 6, 2012
Balloting set -- filing can begin for Doug LaMalfa Senate seat

Candidates can begin filing for the state Senate seat vacated by Doug LaMalfa, now that Gov. Jerry Brown has set the primary election for Nov. 6 and, if necessary, a runoff for Jan 8.

Contenders can file for the 4th District Senate election through Tuesday, Sept. 12, the secretary of state's office said.

Incumbent Republican Assembly members Jim Nielsen of Gerber and Dan Logue of Marysville already have announced that they will butt heads to fill the final two years of LaMalfa's Senate term in the heavily Republican district.

September 6, 2012
DNC chair admires California's 'oasis of Democratic politics'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman and congresswoman from Florida, was at ease this morning among a group of Democrats from deep-blue California.

"Let me just tell you how much I appreciate the oasis of Democratic politics that California is," she said at a delegation breakfast on the final day of the Democratic National Convention. "I know that you all feel like you live in heaven."

A man in the audience yelled, "We do!" and Wasserman Schultz said, "Understandably so."

California is so heavily Democratic that President Barack Obama is almost certain to carry the state, but several congressional seats are in play. Wasserman Schultz encouraged the California Democrats "to work harder than you ever have before" to win those elections.

Wasserman Schultz is from a swing state, in a southern Florida district that includes Miami Beach. For any Floridians watching, she suggested she's not so fond of California politics to be unhappy in the Sunshine State.

"I like to say that I'm Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Paradise," she said.

September 6, 2012
John Chiang: Democrats 'want this hotel to work'

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The scalding showers, stuck elevators and crumbling stucco at The Blake Hotel have been a source of frustration - and more than a few jokes - for California Democrats in town for the Democratic National Convention.

But perhaps no one tried harder to make a policy point about it than the state controller, John Chiang.

"We've made fun of this hotel," he said at a delegation breakfast this morning, on the final day of the convention. "Obviously it's been a little bit stressful, it's been a little bit challenging."

However, Chiang said, beyond "the safety issues, which are serious," are dozens of hardworking hotel staffers - and beyond that, apparently, is a reflection of the nation's needs.

"This country, as reflected in this hotel, requires three things," Chiang said.

He listed education, access to capital and infrastructure.

When infrastructure and leadership fail, he said, "you get The Blake Hotel."

September 6, 2012
VIDEO: Boxer, Pelosi, Feinstein deliver CA votes for Obama

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Democrats formally ordained President Barack Obama as their presidential nominee for the November election last night.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi were given the honor of announcing California's 609 delegate votes for Obama at the end of the Democratic National Convention session. A video of the three women delivering the vote is posted below.

Obama will deliver his acceptance speech tonight at the Time Warner Cable Arena.


September 6, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: GOP House seats tough goal for California Dems

VIDEO: Dan says Rep. Nancy Pelosi's effort to retake the House speakership by picking up seats in California will fall short.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 6, 2012
AM Alert: Three tries at platform changes for Villaraigosa

VIDEO: Dan Walters says it'll be tough for California Democrats to pick up enough GOP House seats in November to help make Nancy Pelosi speaker again. Find his latest report at this link.

Today's the last day of the Democratic National Convention, with President Barack Obama addressing convention-goers tonight in North Carolina.

Obama decided Wednesday to move his acceptance speech indoors, given the rainy weather lately in Charlotte, rather than at a football stadium capable of accommodating thousands more spectators.

The president also told his fellow Democrats to change their party platform to mention God and declare Jerusalem to be Israel's capital. (Political comedians might link the rain in Charlotte to God's temporary absence from the platform, but Capitol Alert isn't going there.)

September 5, 2012
Report: Nadia Lockyer faces drug, child endangerment charges

Nadia Lockyer, recently separated from state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, faces charges of felony methamphetamine possession and child abuse, the San Jose Mercury News reported today.

She was arrested last week in Orange County after officers found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia at the house of a relative with whom she was staying with the Lockyers' 9-year-old son, Diego. Besides the felony methamphetamine charge, she faces misdemeanor charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and child abuse and endangerment.

September 5, 2012
Democratic delegates' view of California: Big, broke, baked

delegate.JPGCHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The opinion that Californians are a little off is apparently bipartisan.

The Golden State's blue politics didn't stop Democrats from across the country gathered here for the Democratic National Convention from developing views of the state similar to their GOP counterparts in Tampa, whose thoughts on the state included "weird" and "scary."

"I love California's weather, but the people -- I think some of them, the sun has affected their brains," said Marcia Hazelton, a Maryland delegate who spends several months a year in the state. The retiree cited onerous business licensing requirements faced by some friends selling goods in Venice Beach as one issue with her part-time home.

September 5, 2012
Lawmakers honor John Burton's legacy in final days of session

Never a pushover, John Burton can be rolled over, now.

It's OK.

A strip of State Highway Route 35 in San Francisco was named in honor of the longtime politician and current California Democratic Party chairman late last week, in the final days of this year's legislative session.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who pushed the idea of honoring Burton, said the new John Burton Highway is a two-mile section of road beside a Sloat Boulevard home where Burton once lived as a child.

September 5, 2012
'Knife Fight' draws Californians at Democratic National Convention

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It usually isn't advisable to head to a knife fight at a national political convention.

But a small but star-studded crowd of Democratic National Convention attendees did just that this afternoon as they filed into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

No one got hurt.

The group was gathered to view a screening of "Knife Fight," a new movie co-written and co-produced by veteran Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. The film, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, is about a California political consultant and the dirty tactics it can take to win.

September 5, 2012
Speaker John Pérez makes 'opportunity' theme of DNC speech

PerezConvention.jpgCHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez today called on Democrats to focus on the fight for opportunity as they head into the final months of the 2012 campaign.

"That is the spirit of our party and the guiding principle of President Obama. This election is our opportunity to rededicate ourselves to that commitment," the Los Angeles Democrat told the Democratic National Convention, calling the focus the "pathway to victory" for Democrats.

Pérez, a second-term legislator who was elected speaker in 2010, highlighted the need to ensure Americans have access to jobs, higher education and protections in the workplace regardless of their sexual orientation. His entrance was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers from the California delegation seated in the stands of the Times Warner Cable Arena.

Pérez is one of seven Californians scheduled to speak at the convention tonight.

PHOTO CREDIT: John A. Pérez, Speaker of the California State Assembly addresses the delegates. Harry E. Walker/ MCT

September 5, 2012
Steinberg eyes Democratic supermajority, praises end of session

After failing to win votes for tax hikes this legislative session, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he's focused on helping Democrats win a supermajority of his house this fall.

Democrats gave up on seeking GOP votes for taxes during June budget talks, instead asking voters to raise the statewide sales tax and income taxes on wealthy earners in a November initiative. Only one high-profile tax measure passed his house last week - a 1 percent charge on lumber - while other proposals to extend motorist fees and change corporate tax formulas for out-of-state firms died on the final night.

September 5, 2012
Video: Actor Rob Schneider in capital to urge veto of vaccination bill

Actor Rob Schneider made the rounds of Sacramento media today to argue that Gov. Jerry Brown should veto legislation requiring parents to receiving counseling about vaccinations before opting their children out of receiving the medicine.

Schneider, a former regular on "Saturday Night Live" who has performed in numerous motion pictures, opposes Assembly Bill 2109 by Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento.

Under AB 2109, parents who exclude their children from immunization requirements would have to submit a statement, signed by themselves and their health care practitioner, that they received information about risks and benefits of the vaccines.

"This is a parental rights issue," Schneider said during a visit to The Bee Capitol Bureau.

"There shouldn't be government coercion to force parents to jump another hoop to have to make decisions on ... what's the best interest of their child," he said.

September 5, 2012
Audit: CalSTRS' pension spiking controls are inadequate

120904 Jack Ehnes 059 5x7 color.JPGThe California State Teachers' Retirement System isn't keeping a close eye on pension spiking, according to a new audit of the state's second-largest pension fund.

CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes responded that the organization is committed to cracking down on pension spiking.

"CalSTRS agrees with the Controller's recommendations and will take additional actions to further strengthen its controls," Ehnes said in a press statement release shortly after the audit was made public today. "In fact, many of the recommendations in the report have been initiated within the last year."

The review by State Controller John Chiang's office found CalSTRS, with more than 1,900 employer-members, averages just 40 audits per year.

September 5, 2012