Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 6, 2012
Hundreds stranded outside Democratic National Convention

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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.)


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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