Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 14, 2012
Norby concession assures Dems of Assembly supermajority

It's official: Democrats now have their Assembly supermajority.

Incumbent Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby conceded late today that he had been beaten by Democratic challenger Sharon Quirk-Silva in a newly drawn Orange County district.

"I wish my successor well," Norby said in a phone call from Honduras, where his family was spending time with his wife's ailing mother.

"I don't see any way of this turning out the way I'd like," Norby said of his prospects of overcoming Quirk-Silva in absentee or provisional ballots that remain uncounted. The two candidates were nearly 3,000 votes apart Wednesday.

Norby's concession means that Democrats will have 54 of 80 seats in the lower house next year.

Democrats also are assured of a supermajority in the Senate, marking the first time since 1883 that the party has wielded such power in the Legislature.

November 14, 2012
Yolo County almost becomes world-famous as acronym 'YOLO'

Yolo County, north of Sacramento, is home to UC Davis, the Cache Creek Casino and a county seat, Woodland, that still retains the flavor of its 19th century founding.

But it almost became world-famous this week for another reason -- its name.

The original Indian occupants of the area called it, as Anglicized, "Toloy-toy," and early white settlers shorttened that to "Yoloy," and later to "Yola" and finally, "Yolo," when it became one of California's first counties in 1850.

"YOLO," however, has also evolved into a texting and Twitter acronym meaning "you only live once." It was one of the finalists in the Oxford University Press USA's annual "word of the year" designation.

On Tuesday, however, "YOLO" lost out to "GIF," the extension designation for a certain kind of digital image that has morphed into a verb.

Or, as Oxford put it: "GIF verb to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event): he GIFed the highlights of the debate."

November 14, 2012
Jerry Brown tells University of California to 'get more grounded'

Gov. Jerry Brown prodded University of California regents today to pursue online course offerings to reduce costs, saying the state's premier university system must "get more grounded" in its approach to education.

The Democratic governor's remarks came at a meeting of the UC's governing board, which postponed a vote on fee increases at Brown's request.

Brown had said in his campaign to raise taxes that his initiative, Proposition 30, would avert tuition increases this year. The measure's passage, however, does not prevent universities from raising other fees.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had accused Brown during the campaign of making misleading statements about the extent to which tuition increases could be avoided. When Newsom pressed UC administrators today about the potential for future increases, Brown hardly contradicted him.

November 14, 2012
California faces $1.9 billion deficit

California faces a $1.9 billion deficit through June 2014, significantly smaller than in recent years after voters passed two tax initiatives last week, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said Wednesday.

The Analyst's Office said in its annual precursor to the budget process that California faces a small deficit because spending is higher than expected and the state will not receive as much as Gov. Jerry Brown predicted from shutting redevelopment agencies. It also believes other revenues from a managed care tax and cap-and-trade auction will fall short.

But the 19-month deficit figure of $1.9 billion pales in comparison to the $13 billion gap the LAO predicted last November or the $25 billion shortfall it foresaw two years ago. The deficit includes a $943 million deficit in the fiscal year that ends in June.

"The state's economic recovery, prior budget cuts, and the additional, temporary taxes provided by Proposition 30 have combined to bring California to a promising moment: the possible end of a decade of acute state budget challenges," the LAO said in its report. "Our economic and budgetary forecast indicates that California's leaders face a dramatically smaller budget problem in 2013-14 compared to recent years."

The Analyst forecasts the possibility of surpluses starting at $1 billion in 2014-15, growing to more than $7 billion in 2017-18. But that depends on Brown and lawmakers restraining program growth, and numerous advocates are likely to ask for existing cuts to be reversed given the additional money available.

Brown said in a statement: "This report validates the hard work the state has done to cut its deficit and balance its budget over the long term. California is now on the path for a fair and sustainable budget as long as we continue to exercise fiscal discipline and pay down debt."

The governor's Department of Finance told the LAO last week that it had discovered $1.4 billion in extra money from an accounting change. The Analyst's Office said that "adjustment" for the 2010-11 fiscal year was unusually large. Without it, the deficit would have been $3.3 billion.

Post updated with quote and additional details at 12:45 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.

November 14, 2012
California legislators attend policy conference at Hawaii resort

More than a dozen California legislators are lodged in Hawaii's fancy Fairmont Kea Lani hotel this week -- hobnobbing and talking public policy with dozens of corporate, union and other officials that do business at the Capitol.

The annual invitation-only conference is sponsored by the California Independent Voter Project, a nonprofit public policy group that is funded through various business, labor and other groups.

Legislators' travel to Maui and their hotel tabs will be picked up by the nonprofit unless they opt to pay their own way.

Dan Howle, event organizer, declined to identify members of the California Legislature participating in the annual conference. He said they consist both of Republicans and Democrats. Several of the lawmakers are paying their own way.

November 14, 2012
New CSU chancellor requests 10 percent pay cut

Timothy P. White, California State University's incoming chancellor, has requested a 10 percent pay cut, saying in a letter to trustees, that he hopes the move will send a signal that "public higher education matters to all of us, and that we each must play a part in the rebuilding."

CSU's board of trustees met today in Long Beach to approve White's compensation package. He was in line to receive the same pay as outgoing Chancellor Charles Reed: a $421,500 salary plus a $30,000 supplement from CSU foundations. After rounding the pay cut White requested to his base salary, he will be paid $380,000 plus the $30,000 supplement.

White, 63, comes to CSU after four years at the helm of UC Riverside, where his pay in 2011 was $327,200.

In his letter to CSU trustees requesting the pay cut, White said voter approval last week of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative does not alleviate all of CSU's financial problems.

"Despite the passage of Proposition 30, there remain grave economic issues to solve in California and the California State University. Indeed, the success of Proposition 30 was the voice of the voters and taxpayers of California to start to reinvest in education," he wrote.

"I also recognize that Californians expect me to properly steward these resources. Consequently, as l join the faculty, staff and students who have experienced cuts, salary freezes, and increased fees, I too must do my part."

The union that represents CSU professors has had a contentious relationship with Reed, frequently criticizing him for executive pay packages that the union felt were unfair.

Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association immediately posted her reaction to White's request on Twitter: "Looks like a fresh start."

Editor's note, 12:36 p.m.: This post was updated to reflect White's pay of $380,000.

November 14, 2012
Schwarzenegger reiterates criticism of GOP exclusivity

Five years ago, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered a speech to a state Republican convention, warning party activists that unless they became more inclusive and broadened their appeal, they would become irrelevant.

"In movie terms," the movie star-turned-politician told his fellow Republicans, "we are dying at the box office."

On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger issued a gigantic "I told you so" in the form of a Wall Street Journal interview.

He said that Republicans should not shy away from immigration and other hot button issues, but rather embrace them in positive terms.

"We cannot tolerate these offensive comments about women's rights and ridiculous plans for mass deportations," Schwarzenegger said. "We have always been a party of big ideas to move the country forward, and that is what we must communicate now. Not these petty attacks."

"We need to focus on expanding the tent instead of shrinking it," Schwarzenegger continued in the question-and-answer interview. "We need to find ways to include instead of exclude. The party has tried to move to the right, and now we can see that the action and the votes are more in the center."

November 14, 2012
California's poverty rate highest in U.S. by new federal measure

Nearly nine million Californians - almost a quarter of the state's residents - live in poverty under a newly devised federal standard, making the state's rate by far the highest in the nation.

The stunning number will fuel California's perpetual political debate over the state's "safety net" of health and welfare services, which have been reduced sharply due to budget deficits. With voter approval of new taxes, advocates for the poor are demanding that some of the benefit cuts be rescinded.

California's 23.5 percent poverty rate under the "supplemental poverty measure" (SPM) developed by the Census Bureau is approached only by the 23.2 percent rate in the District of Columbia. The highest SPM rate in any other state is Florida's 19.5 percent.

The state-by-state comparison is found in a Census Bureau report on the SPM, which is being tested as a replacement for the current way of measuring poverty, which is a half-century old.

The new, and still experimental, system includes broader data of income and outgo that have emerged since the system was created in the early 1960s, such as payroll taxes that reduce disposable income and government benefits that increase income.The new system also takes into account cost-of-living variations from state to state.

The steep climb in California's poverty rate under SPM, adding nearly 3 million to the poverty rolls, is apparently driven largely by the state's high cost of living.

Under the old - and still official - system, California's poverty rate is 16.3 percent, which translates into slightly over 6 million of the state's 38 million residents. That rate is somewhat higher than the national rate of 15 percent, but by no means the highest in the nation.

The national SPM rate is 15.8 percent, a fractional increase from the official rate, and California's SPM rate of 23.5 percent represents not only the highest in the nation, but the largest of any state's jump from the official rate to the SPM rate. In some states, the SPM rate actually is lower than the official rate.

November 14, 2012
Nancy Pelosi to stay as House minority leader

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that she will keep her position for the next two years.

The 72-year-old San Francisco Democrat first met with fellow Democrats in a closed-door caucus session.

Pelosi will still need to win election to the post, though that is all but guaranteed. Pelosi's career announcement capped an extended period of speculation that began even before the Nov. 6 election, in which Democrats gained a handful of seats but failed to reclaim control of the 435-member House.

November 14, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Latino vote in California may be encouraging to the GOP

VIDEO: Dan says the election results may have actually brought some positive news for California Republicans.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

November 14, 2012
AM Alert: No fees to see here

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses the growing political clout of Latino voters.

FEE FREE: Having scrubbed the agenda of an item to increase fees at UC professional schools, Gov. Jerry Brown continues his Proposition 30 victory lap today with an appearance at the University of California regents meeting in San Francisco. A controversial student fee item on yesterday's agenda of the California State University trustees was met by a similar disappearing act after Brown announced he'd attend that meeting.

We're looking forward to seeing how Brown is greeted by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom at today's regents meeting. Newsom criticized Brown during the Proposition 30 campaign for misleading students on the extent to which his tax increase could avoid fee hikes at California colleges.

BLOGGING FOR DOLLARS: The Fair Political Practices Commission is hosting a conversation today to discuss how bloggers and others who are paid to communicate political messages online should disclose the source of their payments. It's an issue that drew the wrath a few months ago of Democratic political strategist Steve Maviglio and Republican blogger and state party official Jon Fleischman. Today's meeting is at 10:30 a.m. at 428 J Street in Sacramento. FPPC Chair Ann Ravel wants the political blogosphere to weigh in.

NEW JOB: First 5 California has named Camille Maben its new executive director. Maben previously worked for the state Department of Education, the Governor's Office of the Secretary of Education and the Assembly Education Committee. Maben is on the board of the Rocklin Unified School District.

ROASTED: Former Gov. Gray Davis will be in Sacramento tonight for a roast in honor of his 70th birthday. The event at the California Museum is being put on by his former chiefs of staff Lynn Schenk, Garry South and Dan Zingale. Former Sen. Art Torres will serve as MC.

Which leads to this suggestion for those into workplace bets: How many recall jokes can be stuffed into one roast?


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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