Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 1, 2012
California Democrats arrive in Charlotte to wind-damaged hotel

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Californian Democrats arriving here for the Democratic National Convention found their hotel to be in less than tip-top shape.

Stucco damaged by wind was pulled from the facade of the Blake Hotel on Friday, affecting at least seven rooms at the hotel where California's delegation is staying, The Charlotte Observer reported.

California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said Saturday night that the hotel appears to have enough capacity to accommodate the delegation without affecting any of its more than 700 delegates, alternates and guests.

"I haven't heard of anybody having to move," Flores said.

Most California delegates were expected to arrive Sunday and Monday for the convention. The hotel has one major perk: It is within walking distance of the convention hall.

PHOTO CREDIT: California delegates to the Democratic National Convention arrive Saturday to find their hotel damaged by wind. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 1, 2012
California Democrats get big-name speakers for DNC breakfasts

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- California Democrats traveling to the Democratic National Convention are scheduled to hear from major names in national politics during daily breakfast briefings for the state delegation.

The list of speakers for the breakfasts at the Blake Hotel features some of the state's top elected Democrats, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Los Angeles Mayor and convention chair Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Gov. Jerry Brown decided this week not to attend the convention, citing a need to stay in California to review the hundreds of bills sent to his desk in the last week and the recent death of his father in law.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, senior adviser to President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law school student who became a nationally-known women's health advocate after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a slut on air, will also address California's delegation throughout the week.

September 1, 2012
Capitol Alert: End-of-session extra

In case you missed it:

A middle-class scholarship tax deal died for the year.

Gov. Jerry Brown said Democrats will try again.

A lumber tax made it through.

A bill targeting predatory disability-law lawyers cleared the Legislature.

Lawmakers approved CEQA exemptions for a major L.A. project.

An extension for Hollywood tax breaks hit the governor.

Former state legislator Ed Vincent died Friday.

September 1, 2012
Bill targeting predatory disability-law lawyers clears Legislature

California would crack down on lawyers who abuse the state's disability access laws for personal profit under a proposed state law that cleared its final legislative hurdle Friday.

Senate Bill 1186 received bipartisan support in the Senate, which concurred in amendments, 34-3. The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Written by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and by Republican Sen. Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, SB 1186 takes aim at lawyers who flood businesses with threats of access lawsuits even if the owners demonstrate good faith in serving customers with disabilities.

September 1, 2012
Legislature approves CEQA exemptions for massive LA project

A gut-and-amend bill to exempt a multimillion-dollar Los Angeles law enforcement communications project from environmental review was sent to the governor Friday night.

Assembly Bill 1486 cleared its final legislature hurdle in the Assembly, 59-1, receiving bipartisan support.

The measure by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is touted as a way to expedite construction of an $80 million voice and data communications system for the region's 34,000 first responders.

Supporters of the project say the ability for emergency service providers to communicate with each other is particularly acute in the Los Angeles region, which has over 50 law enforcement agencies and 31 fire departments.

AB 1486 was subject to little public scrutiny, however. It was amended to contain the CEQA exemption Aug. 24, just one week before the Legislature adjourned for the year Friday. Previously, the bill was a placeholder for budget-related legislation.

Lara's proposal would provide an exemption from California Environmental Quality Act review for the design, site acquisition, construction, operation or maintenance of certain elements of the communications project.

AB 1486 potentially could hasten construction of 239 tapered monopoles and dozens of land mobile radio systems, known as LMRs. Both elements of the communications system would hold antennas, microwave dishes and other components.

September 1, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown on middle-class scholarships: Try, try again

Gov. Jerry Brown already was vowing to try again next year, minutes after the Senate today rejected Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's proposal to raise taxes on out-of-state firms for college scholarships.

"Speaker Perez deserves special credit for leading the way to end tax loopholes and fund middle-class scholarships," Brown said in a written statement released at 1:25 a.m. today.

"We're not finished yet and we're going to work to get it done in the next session."

The Senate took a vote on Pérez's Assembly Bill 1500 early this morning, before adjourning for the year, even though the bill's doom had been assured hours earlier when Pérez's efforts to swing a deal with Republicans failed.

The final tally was 22-15, five votes shy of the supermajority needed for passage.

AB 1500 would have altered a tax formula for out-of-state firms to generate $1 billion, mostly for scholarships to students attending the University of California or California State University.

The scholarships were intended for students from middle-class families, with household incomes of about $150,000 per year or less. Separate legislation, Assembly Bill 1501, promised the scholarships - but without funding, that bill is dead, too.

September 1, 2012
Former California state legislator Ed Vincent dies

Former state legislator Ed Vincent died Friday, according to a statement released by Sen. Rod Wright. He was 78.

Vincent represented portions of Los Angeles County in the Legislature for more than a decade, serving in the Assembly from 1996 to 2000 and the state Senate from 2000 to 2008. The Inglewood Democrat also played football for the University of Iowa and the Los Angeles Rams, served in the U.S. Army and worked for the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

Wright, who worked on Vincent's 1983 mayoral campaign in Inglewood and later succeeded him in the 25th Senate District, said in a statement that he considered Vincent a close friend and mentor.

"Ed Vincent was a great friend, and someone I respected so much as a legislator," Wright said in a statement. "I will miss him and I send my heartfelt condolences to his wife, Marilyn, and his children, grandchildren and extended family."

Wright's statement did not cite a cause of death.

September 1, 2012
Hollywood tax breaks extended under bill headed to Gov. Brown

A $100 million annual tax break for California motion picture companies would be extended under legislation headed to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Sylmar Democratic Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes proposed the two-year extension, Assembly Bill 2026, which cleared its final legislative hurdle late Friday night in the Assembly by a vote of 60-4.

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

The tax concession targets major motion picture projects in which 75 percent of the shooting days take place in California or 75 percent of its production budget pays for services, purchases or property rental in the state.

AB 2026 is meant to encourage California's motion picture industry, which has made Hollywood famous, not to relocate.

Forty states offer financial incentives to the industry, as do Canada, Australia and much of Europe, according to a legislative analysis of AB 2026.

September 1, 2012
Lumber tax approved by Assembly in early morning nailbiter

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to impose a 1 percent lumber tax and limit wildfire liability awards cleared the Legislature early today.

Assembly Bill 1492 was sent to the governor's desk when the Assembly concurred in amendments by a vote of 54-20, the bare minimum needed for the required supermajority.

The bill by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, passed on its second attempt in the lower house, at nearly 1:30 a.m. today. It lacked four votes in an earlier roll call. All but one Republican voted no.

Democrats were joined in supporting AB 1492 by two Assembly members who will be termed out of the Legislature in December - Republican Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita and Independent Nathan Fletcher of San Diego.

AB 1492 would require retailers to impose a 1 percent tax on lumber sold in California to raise an estimated $30 million annually that would pay for regulatory oversight, including $1.5 million for the Department of Fish and Games' timber harvest review program.

California timber firms support the tax because it relieves them of regulatory fees they must currently pay - and additional fees that Democrats have long wanted to impose on them to fund state forestry oversight. Shifting the tax to consumers means that wood from outside California would also face the new 1 percent charge.

Environmentalists generally like the fact that money would be raised for regulating the industry but are concerned about other provisions that reduce the frequency of environmental reviews and limit how much landowners would pay if they spark wildfires.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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