Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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.


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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