Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 31, 2012
California gets federal approval to close Healthy Families

California will begin moving 860,000 lower-income children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal next month after receiving last-minute federal approval today, state health officials said.

The shift comes despite a request from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to postpone the switch because he fears too many children will lose access to their medical providers.

Many health care advocates fought the shift in June and felt that Healthy Families had served its beneficiaries better than Medi-Cal could. But Gov. Jerry Brown asked lawmakers to end Healthy Families as the state prepares for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in 2014, saying it would be more efficient and ultimately save money.

The state plans to start the transition by moving nearly 200,000 children in eight large counties. Department of Health Care Services spokesman Norman Williams said today the state will move forward tomorrow after receiving federal approval.

"The department has thoughtfully planned this transition to maximize the continuity of care and maintain adequate health care provider networks for these children," Williams said in a statement. "Our goal is to minimize impacts to children. The transition will be completed over the course of 2013."‬

December 31, 2012
Capitol Alert's top 10 posts of 2012

California's state budget. Public-sector pensions. Taxes.

The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert readers avidly followed those issues this year, as the blog's top 10 posts of 2012 show. Here's the list, in reverse order:

MC_BERA_07.JPGNo. 10: "Rep. Dennis Cardoza announces resignation" (Aug. 14). In a surprise move citing his family's needs, the Merced Democrat said he was resigning from Congress.

No. 9: "FPPC says Arizona nonprofit laundered money to California campaign" (Nov. 5). "At $11 million, this is the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history," the Fair Political Practices Commission said in a news release.

No. 8: "Bera lead over Lungren wider in Sacramento County House race" (Nov. 9). Democrat Ami Bera wound up besting Republican Rep. Dan Lungren and will be sworn into Congress this week.

December 31, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: What will the new year bring to California politics?

Dan ponders whether the events of 2012 mark a new era in California politics.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 27, 2012
Former lobbyist, state legislator John Quimby dies at 77

Quimbyjpg.jpg John Quimby, a former state legislator who went on to spend three decades as a lobbyist, has died of complications related to pneumonia.

Quimby, 77, had overcome polio as a child and later battled pulmonary disease that was brought on by his confinement to a wheelchair, his prepared obituary states.

The Democratic lawmaker was first elected to the state Assembly in 1962. He served what was then the 72nd Assembly District, which spanned parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, for 12 years before losing in a primary in 1974. Quimby continued to represent those counties in the Capitol after he lost, not as an elected official but as a lobbyist starting in 1980. He retired from lobbying in 2011.

While in the Legislature, Quimby authored a namesake law that required developers to donate land or money for local parks. He enjoyed reminiscing about his time in the state Legislature, which was marked by the reign of famed former Assembly Speaker Jesse M. Unruh.

"Like Jesse Unruh, John was known for his wit, idealism, anger and irreverence and until 1976 his drunken excess," according to a prepared obituary submitted to The Bee. "He attributed his 1974 political loss for saving his life."

Quimby spent the following years "helping countless individuals find recovery" during his own 36 years of sobriety.

He is survived by two children, three step children, seven grandchidlren, seven great grandchildren and a brother. A memorial service will be held at Carmichael's Mission Oaks Community Center on Jan. 5 at 1 p.m.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Secretary of State Lobbyist Directory

December 27, 2012
Sacramento filmmaker lobbies for cash to back 'The Lobbyist'

MAJ STATE CAPITOL.JPGSacramento filmmaker John Kenneth Wagner didn't have to look far to find the subject for his next project.

As a 57-year resident of California's capital, Wagner has heard plenty of stories about the role of lobbyists.

He decided to shine a spotlight on Sacramento's influence peddlers in a new fictional Web series he's calling "The Lobbyist."

Wagner plans to produce and post 13 episodes, each 10 minutes long, for the first season of the show, which chronicles the professional and personal dealings of the fictional Elliot Richards.

But as with politics, money is the mother's milk of the movie business. So Wagner put three of his actors' lobbying skills to work during a six-minute video seeking cash for the project.

Elevator jazz accompanies their pitch on a crowd-funding website called IndieGoGo, which you can watch here.

Actor Brian Jagger, who plays Richards, describes the series as a " 'West Wing' meets 'Dallas' take on the California political structure."

In what could be seen as method acting, the three spend much of the video embracing the talents of the locally sourced cast, mainly themselves.

"Yeah, they're fantastic actors, but damn it if they don't look good, too," Jagger says.

As it turns out, Jagger has experienced the rougher side of the rough and tumble of politics first hand.

The former aide to Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler pleaded guilty in 2011 to scheming to steal more than $20,000 from campaign accounts of Uhler and two other candidates running for local office.

Jagger's defense attorney said at the time that he had suffered from personality changes after experiencing substantial weight loss and sustaining a concussion in a fall, according to a report in The Auburn Journal. He was ordered to pay a restitution and a fine and was sentenced to 36 months' probation, including six months of home monitoring with a GPS ankle bracelet.

Jagger said in an interview that dealing with medical issues he says contributed to his behavior in the wake of his arrest has allowed him to pursue his passion for acting.

"A project that happens to combine politics, a world I was very intimately familiar with, and acting was a great avenue and I'm excited to bring my experience -- both good and bad -- to the project," he said.

Wagner said he was aware of his run-in with the law, but has had nothing but positive interactions with the actor since they began working together last summer.

While Wagner hopes the show focuses more on the personal relationships behind lawmaking than political corruption, he said Jagger's past could make the character even better.

"Every actor draws on his or her experiences in life and work and business and that sort of thing," he said. "I think it's a tool that he's going to use."

EDITOR'S NOTE, 5:45 p.m.: This post has been updated with information about Brian Jagger's court case and adds both his and John Kenneth Wagner's comments about it.

PHOTO CREDIT: The California state Capitol in Sacramento, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Michael Allen Jones / Sacramento Bee file photo

December 27, 2012
Former El Dorado Hills assemblywoman appointed to judgeship

Thumbnail image for ACW ALYSON HUBER 2.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has appointed former state Assemblywoman Alyson Huber to fill a vacancy on the Sacramento Superior Court bench.

The El Dorado Hills Democrat completed her second term in the state Assembly in November. She scrapped plans to move to Rancho Cordova to run for a third and final term in a seat created by the state's new political maps amid personal and financial issues stemming from her divorce proceedings. She worked as an associate at several law firms before running for office.

The new job comes with a big salary bump - Huber will make $178,789 as a judge, compared to the roughly $125,000 she took home in salary and per diem payments as a state legislator.

The Democratic governor announced today more than two dozen appointments to fill vacancies in courts across the state.

PHOTO CREDIT: Alyson Huber speaks at the October meeting of the Cordova Community Council at the Ranch Cordova City Hall on Friday, Oct. 17, 2008. Anne Chadwick Williams, Sacramento Bee.

December 24, 2012
Jerry Brown grants pardons for 79 convicted criminals

Gov. Jerry Brown announced pardons for 79 individuals today, from convicted marijuana growers to drunk drivers, who served their sentences and committed no other crimes for at least a decade.

Most of the pardons announced today -- 61 -- involved drug crimes, many of which carried no prison sentence. One of the pardons involved involuntary manslaughter, four grand theft, four robbery and three felony driving under the influence.

The pardons handled out by the governor on one of the slowest news days of the year include Kenneth Joe Benedict, a Sacramento County resident convicted of criminal conspiracy to manufacture drugs. He was discharged in 1995 after serving two years in prison and 11 months on parole.

December 21, 2012
Medi-Cal boost for California doctors hits a bump

California primary care doctors expect to receive more than twice their current reimbursement rate for treating Medi-Cal patients next year, but those higher payments will now be delayed, according to state officials.

The change in reimbursement rates is part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. The federal government has agreed to fund primary care for Medi-Cal patients at the same rate that it pays Medicare providers, hoping to expand the number of doctors willing to treat low-income patients before the Affordable Care Act kicks into overdrive in 2014.

In California, which pays one of the lowest Medicaid rates in the country, primary care physicians can expect to receive 136 percent higher reimbursements, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The state Department of Health Care Services says it intends to eventually give higher payments to doctors for treating Medi-Cal clients, including retroactive payments for treatment after Jan. 1. DHCS blamed the delay on bureaucratic reviews that are not yet final, and it suggested other states also won't be able to pay immediately.

"Since the payment increase will be retroactive to January 1, 2013, any delay in implementation is not expected to impact a provider's willingness to continue serving Medi-Cal members," said DHCS spokesman Norman Williams in a statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested in recent days that he may not embrace that expansion if it comes with higher state costs, though his argument appeared to be based on his own speculation that "fiscal cliff" negotiations may lead to a dramatic rollback in the Affordable Care Act.

December 21, 2012
Darrell Steinberg names new California Senate committee chairs

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today announced the leadership lineup for the new session, officially elevating Sen. Kevin de León to head the powerful Appropriations Committee.

The only true freshman in the upper house, Riverside's Richard Roth, was given the chairmanship of the Legislative Ethics Committee and the budget subcommittee on State Administration and General Government.

See the full list, as provided by the Senate, after the jump.

December 21, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Demography is destiny in California

Dan says new population numbers for California contain good news and bad news.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 21, 2012
AM Alert: Pelosi announces committee posts for House Dems

VIDEO: Dan Walters says that California's demographics are its destiny.

California Democrats heading to Congress got a glimpse Thursday of what lies ahead as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced committee assignments for new and returning members, including these 11 Golden State freshmen:

Ami Bera of Elk Grove will join Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach and Juan Vargas of San Diego on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino drew the Agriculture Committee.

Tony Cardenas of Los Angeles, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Jared Huffman of San Rafael got the nod for the Natural Resources Committee. (Huffman chaired the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee in the Assembly.)

Scott Peters of San Diego will serve on the Armed Services Committee.

Eric Swalwell of Dublin, who defeated long-time congressman Pete Stark, was assigned to the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Mark Takano of Riverside and Julia Brownley of Santa Monica will serve on the Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Of the returning members, Barbara Lee of Oakland was assigned to the Budget Committee, Karen Bass of Los Angeles will serve on the Judiciary Committee, and Janice Hahn of San Pedro drew the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Click here to read the entire list of appointments.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has requested that all governors across the country call for residents of their states to observe a moment of silence today in honor of the victims of the Newtown schoolhouse massacre. Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for Californians to observe that moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: You still have a chance to hear festive tunes in the Capitol rotunda. Today at 11 a.m., listen to violinists Lisa and Stephanie Holzen, followed by what's described as a world music group called Sambandha. Then Saturday at 1 p.m., the State Capitol Museum Singers lead a singalong, followed by vocalist Catherine Cheshire at 2 p.m. On Sunday, the final concert features Festival Brass starting at 1 p.m.

ALERT TAKES A HOLIDAY: The AM Alert will go on hiatus over the holidays. Look for it to resume on Wednesday, Jan. 2.

December 20, 2012
California Democrats propose stricter campaign disclosure laws

Dickinsonpresser.jpgFollowing the controversy in California's initiative campaigns over an $11 million donation from a secretive, out-of-state group, Democratic lawmakers have begun introducing legislation to increase disclosure requirements and the power of the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce them.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, announced legislation this afternoon that would require donors of $50,000 or more to a non-profit group to be identified if the contribution is made within six months of an election and if the non-profit makes a large donation to a campaign within that same period.

"This is the kind of information that voters and the public need and deserve to have before they cast their votes, not find out after," Dickinson said.

December 20, 2012
California Legislature is biggest generator of major new laws

If you sense that California's Legislature is the nation's most active -- or most intrusive -- generator of new laws, a nationwide compilation of 2012 state legislation by the National Conference of State Legislatures seems to prove the case.

The NCSL released its annual list of the nation's 81 most significant new state laws Thursday, and the California Legislature is responsible for 27 of them, or exactly one third. California edged out Illinois, which generated 26 of the noteworthy new laws.

Among California measures cited by the NCSL were those that allow clergy members to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, prohibit prison workers from having sex with inmates, allow life-sentence offenders who were under 18 when they committed crimes to seek release, restrict picketing at funerals, protect breastfeeding rights, require car washes to recycle water, reform state pensions, and no longer require passengers in off-road vehicles to keep their feet flat on the floor.

December 20, 2012
Forbes ranks California as No. 41 in business climate

Steven Glazer, one of Gov. Jerry Brown's closest advisers, tweeted jubilantly Thursday about his hometown of Orinda's being rated the second friendliest community in America by Forbes magazine.

Glazer, an Orinda city councilman, was dismissive, however, about California's poor showing in Forbes' annual ranking of the states on business climate, which also was published Thursday.

California was rated No. 41, just behind Alabama and just ahead of Wisconsin, in the annual survey, which covered six factors ranging from business costs to quality of life. California's lowest score was in business costs while its highest - No. 1, in fact - was in "growth prospects."

When asked whether he also embraces Forbes' business climate ranking, Glazer responded, on Twitter: "Of course not. This is all abt fun. Best 2 argue abt criteria, laugh @ conclusions 4 both. Go Orinda!"

Forbes ranked Utah as the No. 1 state for business, with Maine last at No. 50.

December 20, 2012
Census Bureau sees California growing faster than state agency does

A polite, decade-long disagreement between the federal Census Bureau and California's state demographers developed after the 2000 census.

The Census Bureau saw California's population growing more slowly than did the state, and by the end of the decade, the gap between the two had grown to about a million persons.

The 2010 census officially settled the argument in the Census Bureau's favor. The state, albeit reluctantly, rebenched its population figures to the census.

Two years later, however, the gap has emerged again, only this time the Census Bureau sees California's population growing more rapidly than does the state Department of Finance's population unit.

Last week, the state pegged California's July 1 population at 37.8 million, up 256,000 from 2011. But on Thursday, the Census Bureau said the state had just over 38 million residents on July 1, having grown by 357,500 during the previous 12 months.

The Census Bureau's growth estimate for California was the nation's second highest behind Texas' 427,400, but in percentage terms, the state's annual growth rate, 0.9 percent, was just a tad over the national rate of 0.7 percent while Texas' rate, 1.7 percent, was nearly twice California's.

North Dakota, thanks to an oil boom, had the fastest growth rate of 2.17 percent and Texas was No. 3. California's rate was the 19th highest. At the other end of the scale, Vermont dropped by 581 residents. It and Rhode Island were the only two states to see a population decline.

December 20, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Legislative 'tithing' is a fixture at the Capitol

Dan says raising money to win plum legislative appointments is a longstanding tradition.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 20, 2012
AM Alert: Headlines turn focus to mental health, 'money bombs'

VIDEO: Dan Walters says legislative "tithing" for plum posts is nothing new.

Last week's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school has focused national attention not only on gun control efforts but on access to mental health services.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who has long championed such access, will be joining mental health experts today to highlight how to identify mental illness and know where to get help with mental illness or a suicide crisis.

Other listed participants include Cameron Carter of UC Davis, whose clinical interests focus on early diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia and other cognitive mental disorders, as well as Eduardo Vega of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, Jessica Cruz of the National Alliance on Mental Illness California, and representatives of community programs and suicide prevention campaigns.

The press conference, which starts at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 1190, will be followed by a tour of The Effort, a midtown Sacramento mental health clinic on J Street that offers inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment, mental health counseling and the area's only 24-hour suicide crisis line.

Another press conference ripped from the headlines features Fair Political Practices Commission head Ann Ravel and Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, who'll be unveiling campaign finance reform that would ban what a news release calls anonymous "money bombs" before an election.

Alert readers will recall the battle this fall over an $11 million donation to the No on 30 and Yes on 32 campaigns from a mystery Arizona nonprofit, Americans for Responsible Leadership. After the California Supreme Court told the nonprofit to submit to an FPPC audit, the known trail of the money grew to include three other out-of-state nonprofits.

The proposed legislation would require greater disclosure of funding sources and increase the FPPC's oversight of campaign contributions. The event starts at 2 p.m. at William Land Elementary School, 2120 12th St. in Sacramento. Organizers are promising a flow chart depicting the path of that $11 million donation.

Sacramento Assemblyman Richard Pan, meanwhile, is joining with representatives of Anthem Blue Cross and the Jessie Rees Foundation to distribute what's called JoyJars -- containers filled with toys and activities -- to children in the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center's pediatric infusion center. That event starts at 10 a.m.

STATE FLEET: Representatives of the Department of General Services will be unveiling two of the 10 zero-emission vehicles that have replaced vehicles in the state fleet. They'll also debut vehicle charging stations at state garages available for public use. Look for it at 10:30 a.m. at the State Parking Garage, 1517 13th St., Sacramento.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: The tunes continue under the Capitol dome with these performances in the rotunda: Folsom Lake Youth Choir at 11 a.m. and the Caltrans Choir at noon.

December 19, 2012
'LA Shuffle' means lots of political moves in huge county

The "LA Shuffle" isn't a dance, or at least not one of the musical variety, but rather a name that some political insiders apply to the constant movement of politicians in Los Angeles County, which has more than a quarter of the state's population.

The county has all or parts of 18 of the state's 53 congressional districts, 15 of the 40 state Senate districts and 24 of the 80 Assembly districts. There are also 15 well-playing slots on the Los Angeles City Council, the city's mayoralty and five seats on the county's Board of Supervisors.

With that many political positions as lures and term limits as spurs, there's a lot of movement among Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington in any election year, whether it's the even-numbered year for federal, state and county balloting or the odd-numbered year for city elections.

Five members of the Los Angeles City Council are former state legislators, including the council's president, Herb Wesson, a former speaker of the state Assembly but one, Tony Cardenas, is leaving to take a seat in Congress, which will mean a special election next spring for his seat.

Eight odd-numbered city council seats are up in the spring as well, and five current or recently termed-out state legislators are running for them. Were state Sen. Curren Price and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield to win their council races, the new Democratic supermajorities in both legislative houses would be diminished until their seats are filled by special election.

And then there's the county Board of Supervisors, whose members were dubbed the "five little kings" until women began to win seats.

Three of the five supervisors are former state legislators. Two of the five, ex-Assemblywoman Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, will be forced off the board by term limits in 2014, two others, former Assemblyman Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe, will be out in 2016, and the fifth, former Assemblyman (and LA City Councilman) Mark Ridley-Thomas can serve until 2020.

The departures of Molina and Yaroslavsky, and later of Antonovich and Knabe, are expected to touch off a political feeding frenzy among the county's legislators, city council members and even members of Congress.

Former Assemblywoman and state Sen. Sheila Kuehl has already declared her candidacy for the Yaroslavsky district, which includes the wealthy "west side" of Los Angeles.

Editor's note: Updated at 1:11 p.m. to reflect Sheila Kuehl's candidacy.

December 19, 2012
Jerry Brown names former adviser, news exec to CSU board

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed former campaign adviser Douglas Faigin, president of City News Service Inc., to the California State University Board of Trustees.

Faigin, 66, was press secretary for Brown's 1974 gubernatorial campaign and deputy campaign manager of Brown's reelection effort in 1978. Faigin's late wife, Mary Jean Pew, was appointed by Brown to the CSU board in 1975.

Pew, who died this year, was one of Brown's first appointments to the college system board.

Faigin, of Marina del Rey, has a doctorate in political science from Claremont Graduate University and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

Like Brown, he is a Democrat.

The position requires Senate confirmation and pays a $100 per diem.

December 19, 2012
Jerry Brown taps former Pennsylvania prison chief to lead California prisons

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a former Pennsylvania prison chief secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Brown's office announced this morning.

Jeffrey Beard, 65, was secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections from 2001 to 2010, Brown's office said. He consulted for California's prison system on litigation filed on behalf of inmates who complained prisons failed to provide adequate mental health treatment, and he was a member of a 2007 panel assessing the effectiveness of California's adult prison and parole programs, according to the governor's office.

"The new secretary has just the experience California needs," the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement. "He's been a prison warden, led the correctional system in Pennsylvania, and more recently participated in the federal oversight of California's prisons, visiting the majority of our institutions. In the face of a plethora of federal court decisions and the bold realignment enacted by the Legislature, Jeff Beard has arrived at the right time to take the next steps in returning California's parole and correctional institutions to their former luster."

Beard replaces Matt Cate, who announced his resignation in October to become executive director of the California State Association of Counties.

Beard, of Bellefonte, Pa., is registered decline-to-state. He received a doctorate and master of education in counseling from Pennsylvania State University, Brown's office said. The position requires Senate confirmation and pays $225,000 a year.

December 19, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Court funding issue brings enemies together

Dan says ongoing state cuts to the court system have drawn opposition from natural combatants -- lawyers, business and labor.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 19, 2012
AM Alert: Holiday card edition

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses the funding crunch in California's courts and the emerging coalition to reverse them.

diego-1.JPG

HO HO HO: 2012 has not been the easiest year for the Lockyer family, what with state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife Nadia separating after her drug abuse and extramarital affair became public. But that hasn't stopped the Lockyers from sending out a festive family holiday card (right) featuring a picture of their son Diego standing in a colorful game arcade. The boy is holding long strips of skee ball tickets that are piling up at his feet. "May you win the big ticket to happiness jackpot this holiday season and throughout the new year," says the card, signed by "Bill, Nadia & Diego."

Meanwhile, Rep. Loretta Sanchez's holiday card - think high heels and fiscal cliff - is featured in this Washington Post blog, along with images of some of her wacky cards from years past.

All of which got us thinking a slide show of political holiday cards may be in order. Please scan and send the best ones from the political world to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com.

FISCAL CLIFF: Rep. George Miller and California small business owners are holding a telephone press conference today to discuss the "fiscal cliff, its impact on consumer spending and how employers feel about tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year," according to a statement from the Small Business Majority advocacy group.

The group says small businesses "want tax cuts for the middle class extended to help boost spending power, but believe allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent to expire is the right thing to do in light of our current budget crisis."

UTILITY BILL: The Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission are gathering for a joint meeting today in Sacramento. And just as the meeting will be getting under way at 10 a.m., state Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo will hold a press conference in San Francisco announcing legislation aimed at prohibiting the PUC from "giving away millions of dollars in ratepayer money to third parties," according to a statement from Hill's office. Advocates from The Utility Reform Network and the Consumer Federation of California are also expected at the presser. They want PUC President Michael Peevey to recuse himself from a decision on awarding a $150 million grant to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, claiming that he's biased because of his involvement in the project.

CLIMATE CHANGENATOR: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is giving former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger an award tonight at the UN Correspondents Association's event in New York City. Schwarzenegger is receiving the "Global Advocate of the Year" award for creating the nonprofit group R20: Regions of Climate Action, which encourages subnational governments to create clean energy projects.

December 18, 2012
Roger Dickinson says Sacramento Kings have squandered fan loyalty

During an hour-long visit with Bee Capitol Bureau reporters this afternoon, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson was asked to assess the Sacramento Kings' future. Here's a brief clip of the Sacramento Democrat explaining how the Kings owners, the Maloof family, have squandered regional loyalty to the team:

Dickinson said he thinks the Maloofs aren't taking the team out of town.


December 18, 2012
Brown administration proposes rules for hydraulic fracturing

The Brown administration today released draft regulations that would require oil companies for the first time to disclose where in California they use hydraulic fracturing, a controversial but little regulated method of oil extraction.

The proposed rules, issued by the state Department of Conservation, were immediately criticized by environmentalists as too lenient.

Hydraulic fracturing, in which water and chemicals are injected underground to break up rock formations, has been used for decades in California - safely, oil producers say. Environmentalists have said the method of oil extraction can damage wells and pollute groundwater.

The draft regulations would require oil producers to test the integrity of wells they intend to use for hydraulic fracturing before drilling, to provide advance notice to the state and to monitor sites where hydraulic fracturing is employed. The regulations would also require drillers to disclose the chemical makeup of the fluid they use in hydraulic fracturing, though it would provide an exemption in cases in which an operator claims the fluid makeup is a trade secret.

December 18, 2012
'Prop Zero,' devoted to California political issues, calls it quits

"Prop Zero," a three-year-old website maintained by California's NBC television stations and devoted to essays on California political issues, is calling it quits.

Joe Mathews, a former Los Angeles Times reporter and co-author of a book about California's governance problems, "California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It," who was the site's chief blogger, announced its closure in a final posting over the weekend.

"It has been a wonderful run," Mathews wrote. "But after this election, I was exhausted, and had come to feel like the blog had run its course. NBC, which had supported Prop Zero strongly despite its relatively small audience, saw things the same way.
"The state is in a different place than it was three years ago - still facing profound challenges and governance problems, but with different leaders, a different political context, and different burning issues. After a rash of ballot measures and reform efforts, we may be entering a lull in efforts to fix California -- and those efforts were a focus of this blog."

Mathews and other regular contributors - journalists and academics, mostly - posted thousands of essays during the three-year run, focusing mostly on the difficulties of governing a large and fractious state.

In his final post, Mathews listed "five tips for the road that Californians must walk..." They are to simplify the governmental structure, avoid scapegoating for failures, take a large view of issues, build on the state's strengths, and create a better political system.

December 18, 2012
Long Beach phone tax case tests taxpayers' rights

A Long Beach city telephone tax dispute pending before the state Supreme Court is shaping up as a test of taxpayers' rights that's drawing national attention.

There's no question that Long Beach's 10 percent tax on long-distance telephone service (called a TUT) was illegal under federal law, and also illegal when the city attempted to reimpose it without voter approval, as required by the state constitution.

The state Court of Appeal declared flatly that, "The city has nevertheless unlawfully collected and continues to collect to the TUT from (plaintiff John) McWilliams and other class members on telephone service exempt from the Federal Excise Tax."

The only issue at stake in the Supreme Court case is whether the city must make blanket refunds of the improperly collected taxes under class-action provisions, or may compel those who paid the tax to make individual claims for refunds.


December 18, 2012
Schoolhouse massacre sparks spate of California gun bills

Legislation to require ammunition buyers in California to purchase annual permits was unveiled today, one of a series of bills surfacing in the aftermath of last week's Connecticut schoolhouse massacre.

"I, for one, have had it," Sen. Kevin de León said in emphasizing his commitment to keep tragedies like that at Sandy Hook Elementary School from ever happening in California.

De León's proposal would require ammunition buyers to acquire an annual permit and undergo a background check. The permit is expected to cost about $50.

California currently requires people to own a permit in order to hunt or fish, but it places no conditions on the purchase of unlimited amounts of ammunition, he said.

Online ammunition purchasers, under de León's proposal, would be required to pick up the merchandise at a retail business, such as a bait shop. A thumbprint and identification would have to be provided, de León said.

December 18, 2012
Rebel judges will continue battle with California chief justice

California's civil war of the judges apparently will continue, even though a rebel organization scored a major victory this year.

A "trailer bill" to the 2012-13 state budget incorporated many provisions of legislation that the breakaway Alliance of California Judges had sought over the opposition of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in a quest for more local control of court funds.

However, with the Brown administration apparently seeking further cuts in state support of the courts, the alliance has elected one of its most combative members, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White, as its president.

It also declared in a letter to its members this week that it will independently lobby the Legislature on budget and other matters, saying that management by Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts, both of which are controlled by Cantil-Sakauye, "clearly has been a failure."

December 18, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Labor, business brace for wage battle

Dan says the Legislature is poised to consider another minimum wage increase.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 18, 2012
AM Alert: California lawmakers propose stricter gun control

VIDEO: Dan Walters says pressure is building to raise the minimum wage in California, with the Legislature poised to consider the issue next year.

State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles holds a 10 a.m. news conference at the Capitol to announce legislation his office said will combat "the easy accessibility to firearm ammunition that fuels gun violence and criminal activity."

The news conference, in Room 1190, comes less than a week after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, announced Monday that he is drafting legislation to close loopholes he said exist in the state's assault weapon ban.

De León carried legislation signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 to require vendors of handgun ammunition to obtain thumbprints and other data from buyers. The law was challenged on constitutional grounds and struck down by a Fresno Superior Court judge. The case is now on appeal.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: Today's performances in the Capitol rotunda include violinist Ray Anthony Trujillo and a Salvation Army brass quintet. For a full list visit the California State Capitol Museum website.

December 17, 2012
Ami Bera: CT shooting should be 'wake up call' for gun debate

MC_BERA_07.JPGDemocratic Rep.-elect Ami Bera weighed in on calls for stricter gun control laws in the wake of Friday's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, saying he hopes the rampage in Newton serves as a "wake up call that gives us the courage to engage in the conversation" about the politically sensitive issue.

"We have to be thoughtful in this approach but ... 27 people just lost their lives. We've had multiple tragedies here. We have to have the conversation. We have to have the courage to have the conversation," the Elk Grove Democrat told The Bee's editorial board today. "It is not an infringement on someone's rights if you ask them a few questions.

Bera called Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's plans to again try to revive a federal assault weapon ban a "good first step," but also said as a doctor he hopes to also take a close look at what can be done to improve mental health services to identify and help individuals who could become violent before they can do harm.

"That is a broader conversation than what kind of gun laws do we put in place and we have to have the courage to address that," he said. "I have to approach that as a doctor who has seen first hand how difficult it is."

December 17, 2012
California casts Electoral College votes for Barack Obama

MC_ELECTORAL_01.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez called to order this afternoon California's members of the Electoral College, declaring 2 p.m. to have arrived on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

Electors across the country were gathering to ratify President Barack Obama's re-election, and in his Assembly chambers, Pérez was not taking the tradition lightly.

"Each of you are partaking in a ceremony and a process unique to the American experience," he said. "Though the role of elector has changed over time, the actions you take today are a timeless expression of our Democratic values."

The vote, said Pérez, D-Los Angeles, would "memorialize forever" that California voters on Nov. 6 chose Obama.

"This is a solemn duty," Perez said, "but one we carry out with joy."

December 17, 2012
Could Howard Berman finally become Assembly speaker?

Could Howard Berman finally become the speaker of the state Assembly three decades after he lost a bruising intraparty battle for the position?

Douglas Jeffe, a veteran Los Angeles political advisor and commentator, raises the intriguing possibility in a posting on the Fox & Hounds political website.

Berman lost his San Fernando Valley congressional seat this year in an expensive battle with fellow Democrat Brad Sherman, but as it happens, the local assemblyman, Bob Blumenfield, is seeking a seat on the Los Angeles City Council next spring, and if he gets it, a special election would fill his Assembly seat. Blumenfield is a former Berman aide.

Berman, Jeffe expostulates, could run for the Assembly and if elected, could succeed John A. Pérez because Pérez will be forced out of the Assembly in two years.

There's no word on whether Berman would be interested in returning to the Assembly, where he served in the 1970s and early 1980s, leaving for Congress in 1982. His departure followed a year-long battle with the late Leo McCarthy for the speakership culminated in the election of Willie Brown, who went on to become the longest serving speaker in state history.

Were Berman to run for the Assembly, he'd have the support of fellow septuagenarian Jerry Brown. Berman was one of Brown's closest allies in the Legislature during the governor's first stint, and Brown endorsed him during the duel with Sherman this year.

December 17, 2012
New battle coming over California's minimum wage

California's minimum wage of $8 per hour has been frozen for five years and a battle is likely in the 2013 legislative session over whether it should be increased and whether it should be automatically indexed to inflation.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, tried to win passage of a minimum wage hike and automatic indexing in 2011, but after Assembly Bill 10 easily cleared the Assembly's Labor and Employment Committee with Democratic votes, it died without a hearing or a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, having drawn stiff business opposition.

Alejo is back with a new bill, also tagged as AB 10, that's slightly less ambitious. It would boost the minimum wage to $8.25 in 2014, with two 50-cent boosts in subsequent years, and then automatic adjustment to inflation beginning in 2017.

Backers of change - labor unions and advocates for the poor - contend that low-income workers lose purchasing power due to inflation. Opponents - restaurants and other employers with large numbers of minimum wage workers - say that raising it would increase their costs and force them to reduce payrolls.

December 17, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: 'Are we asleep at the switch?'

Dan says that Bloomberg's recently published compilation of California government's largesse raises questions about the state's governance.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 17, 2012
AM Alert: California Electoral College meets at state Capitol

MAJ STATE CAPITOL.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters wonders whether a recent Bloomberg series about California's largesse might have changed things if it had been published before the November election.

California's Electoral College is about to make it official: The Golden State is blue.

Its members meet this afternoon in Assembly chambers to cast their 55 votes for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who won the state's popular vote 60 percent to 37 percent against Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, according to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's Statement of Vote last week.

The state Electoral College vote is scheduled for 2 p.m., with electors seated in chambers by 1:30 p.m. The event will be streamed live online at the California Channel's website, www.calchannel.com.

Media representatives have been admonished not to wear jeans, leave their cellphones on, or talk in "golf whispers" during the proceedings. Come back later for a complete update. Capitol Alert will be there.

One of the youngest members of the state's Electoral College isn't even in college. Christopher Tumbiero, 18, attends Royal High School in Simi Valley. No word on who the oldest member might be.

Down in Los Angeles, new Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra is being sworn in again at a local event. Listed attendees include a number of big names from the south state, including Rep.-elect, City Councilman and former state legislator Tony Cardenas, as well as state Sen. Alex Padilla, former Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes and current Assembly members Bob Blumenfield, Anthony Rendon, Cristina Garcia and Scott Wilk.

Then there are Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, and City Councilmen Jose Huizar, Dennis Zine and Paul Krekorian, himself a former legislator. The ceremony starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bishop Alemany High School. There's even a mariachi band.

Given that Greuel is running for mayor in the City of Angels' municipal election next March, and Fuentes and Blumenfield are among the current and former legislators running for City Council or city attorney, expect to see more public appearances of the sort.

HONORED OFFICERS: The California Peace Officers' Memorial Foundation and Donate Life California are honoring 30 fallen officers and their families at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. in the Eureka Room of the state Capitol basement. The ceremony is a preamble to Donate Life's participation in the Rose Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1. Listed speakers today include Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones and representatives of the foundation and of Donate Life.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: Today's performances in the Capitol rotunda include the Forest Lake Christian School Chamber Choir at 11 a.m. and the Davis Chorale and Davis Children's Chorus at noon. For a full calendar, visit the Capitol Museum website.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, turns 46 today.

PHOTO CREDIT: The California state Capitol in Sacramento, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Michael Allen Jones / Sacramento Bee file photo

December 14, 2012
FPPC fines treasurer for loaning committee funds to strip club dancer

GivingMoney.JPGCalifornia campaign treasurers, take note: Your love interest's plastic surgery isn't an acceptable use of the political cash you control.

That message was made clear Thursday, when California's political watchdog agency fined a treasurer of a committee supporting decriminalization of prostitution $9,500 for violations of the state political laws that included improperly loaning committee funds to a strip club dancer with whom he had fallen in love.

The treasurer who made the loan, Luke Breit, said he believed at the time that his amour would use the money to pay an attorney for a child support case. He told investigators with the Fair Political Practices Commission in an interview that the woman, who he had met at a club called Centerfolds, "got a boob job and had another kid" and later denied he had loaned her $3,000 in cash. The money was never repaid.

A second treasurer managing the Californians for Privacy Committee, Michael Gunter, received an additional fine of $7,500 for using $10,000 of the committee's money to start his own business. He told investigators that he was having financial difficulties, according to a document outlining the circumstances of a case.

The investigation, which started when the secretary of state referred the committee to the agency for failing to file its financial statements, also found other issues with the group's bookkeeping. Breit addressed some of the inconsistencies in his interview with FPPC investigators, saying the committee did not identify contributors because its money was raised at cash-only "mixers" where "working ladies would come and, you know, the guys would come to meet them."

FPPC Chair Ann Ravel called the action "FPPC Staff's vote for the most amazing case involving improper use of campaign funds this year" in a tweet posted today.

The chief of the agency's enforcement division agreed.

"Actually, I think it is," Gary Winuk said in an interview. "I'd be hard-pressed to come up with another example."

PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press file photo illustration

December 14, 2012
California tightens PR contracts after Bay Bridge revelation

US NEWS BAYBRIDGE 2 CC.JPGFollowing the revelation of a costly public relations contract that the Brown administration said it knew nothing about, the California Business, Transportation & Housing Agency said this afternoon that it is requiring departments to obtain administration approval for even relatively small public relations contracts.

Jim Evans, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email that agency officials have told the California Department of Transportation and other departments within the agency that any public relations contract worth more than $100,000 must be approved by the agency's acting secretary, Brian Kelly.

The order follows a The Bee's report on Wednesday that Caltrans agreed to pay a public relations company nearly $10 million for work on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct tours and produce a video and commemorative book.

The administration ordered the contract's cancellation after The Bee requested documents related to it.

PHOTO CREDIT: Traffic flows on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. (Laura A. Oda/ Oakland Tribune/ MCT)

December 14, 2012
Bowen: Mail ballots hit an all-time high in CA general election

votepic.JPGCalifornia saw a record share of general election voters opt to cast their ballot by mail this year, with 51 percent of the state's 13.2 million participants using mail-in ballots.

The general election record, which still trails the state's all-time high of 65 percent mail-in ballots set in this year's primary, was announced today as Secretary of State Debra Bowen's released the official statement of vote. The numbers include vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at polling stations as late as Election Day.

In all, 72 percent of the state's 18.2 million registered voters participated in the general election. That number is lower than the 79 percent average turnout rate for presidential elections over the past century.

"While the election results show an increasing number of Californians rely on the convenience of voting by mail,100 years of election data also demonstrate the fact that too many registered voters choose to sit elections out," Bowen said in a statement. "The crucial factor seems to be whether election issues or candidates strike a chord with each voter.'

December 14, 2012
University of California suspends controversial new logo

New UC Logo.jpgThe University of California system announced this morning it has suspended its controversial new logo in the wake of complaints from students and alumni, some of whom derisively compared the image to a "toilet bowl."

Daniel M. Dooley, senior vice president for external relations at the UC Office of the President, said in a statement that a replacement monogram "could require a measure of time to complete."

Dooley seemed a bit defensive, however, suggesting people misunderstood the logo's purpose and that it was only intended for use on "systemwide communications materials." The logo was designed by an in-house design team.

"The controversy has been fueled in large part by an unfortunate and false narrative, which framed the matter as an either-or choice between a venerated UC seal and a newly designed monogram," Dooley said. "In fact, the graphic element in question was never intended to replace the official seal that still graces diplomas and other appropriate documents."

Dooley also noted that the logo "has received praise from an array of accomplished design experts not affiliated with the university."

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the UC Board of Regents, was among the loudest critics, calling it a "disaster." Besides posting several criticisms on Twitter, Newsom wrote a letter Tuesday to UC President Mark Yudof.

Newsom responded on Twitter this morning, "Power of the people!"

PHOTO CREDIT: This image shows the old logo of the University of California, left, with the new logo. The university's original logo -- with its open book, 1868 date stamp and "Let there be light" script -- will still be in circulation, appearing on president's letters and official university documents. But marketing materials and websites will feature a radically simple and more contemporary symbol: a little "C" nesting inside a shield-shaped "U." (AP Photo/ Oakland Tribune)

December 14, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Can California handle large public works projects?

Dan says problems with the Bay Bridge project should be a cautionary tale for another public works job -- California's planned bullet train.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 14, 2012
AM Alert: John Burton's swearing-in offers history lesson

RP JOHN BURTON HAND.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters says that the Bay Bridge project might be a cautionary tale for California's high-speed rail.

It's not every day that former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton turns 80 -- that would be on Saturday.

To help the California Democratic Party chairman celebrate, Capitol Alert conducted some historical research into his swearing in as Senate president pro tem way back in 1998.

Bill Lockyer, now the state treasurer, was then the Senate leader passing the gavel to Burton.

"He has taught me all I know about calm and serenity," Lockyer said dryly, "which has been a blessing."

Sen. Patrick Johnston, the Stockton Democrat who'd gone up against Burton and lost, noted Burton's prowess at basketball during his college years.

"Running against him for the Senate pro tempore job felt like the Kings trying to keep up with the Bulls," said Johnston, who later tossed a basketball at Burton.

Thanks to Greg Lucas and the California's Capitol website, you can view the historical record yourself. Click here and scroll down to find the video. The actual swearing-in starts at about the 18-minute mark.

Current members of the Legislature might note that two former Senate Republican leaders -- Ken Maddy, a political moderate who died in 2000, and Jim Brulte, who's being recruited to help California Republicans stage a comeback -- were among the legislators escorting Burton to the rostrum for his swearing-in.

ELECTION RESULTS: Today is the day that Secretary of State Debra Bowen will issue California's official Statement of Vote -- the official results of the Nov. 6 state and federal races. County officials had until last Friday to report their final results to Bowen's office, which has until today to certify them. Look for numbers in statewide contests as well as legislative and congressional races.

SERVICES: Friends and colleagues gather at 11 a.m. at Capital Christian Center, 9470 Micron Ave., in Sacramento for a celebration of Barbara Alby's life. The former Republican assemblywoman died Sunday at the age of 66. Click here to read her obituary.

NEW GIG: Former Assemblyman Juan Arambula, a Fresno Democrat who later re-registered as an independent, has been elected board chairman at Fresno State's Kenneth L. Maddy Institute. Arambula, whose term starts Jan. 1, replaces former Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: Listen to live music at the state Capitol rotunda now through Christmas. Today at noon, it's the Capital Valley Harp Circle. Saturday at 11 a.m., the Camellia City Flute Choir performs, followed by the River Bells bell ringers at 1 p.m. Sunday, look for the Sacramento Youth Symphony Symphonic Band at noon, then the Renaissance Choir of Sacramento at 1 p.m. For a full list, visit the Capitol Museum website.

MORE CAKE AND CANDLES: Two current legislators also mark their birthdays this weekend. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, turns 71 on Saturday, and Sen. Curren Price, D-Inglewood, turns 62 on Sunday. Natal wishes to both.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton attends a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday, March 9, 2009. Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee file

December 13, 2012
Federal appeals court OKs lower payments to Medi-Cal providers

RCB_20110915_MEDI CAL 0013.JPGThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled today that California can cut rates to doctors, pharmacists and other providers for serving Medi-Cal patients, overturning a lower court decision that blocked a state budget cut from last year.

A three-judge appeals court panel determined that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has authority to determine whether California and other states can cut Medicaid rates -- the federal program of which Medi-Cal is part -- and still comply with the program's rules.

"The Medicaid program is a colossal undertaking, jointly funded by the federal government and the States," the 9th Circuit panel wrote. "Congress explicitly granted the Secretary authority to determine whether a State's Medicaid plan complies with federal law."

Sebelius approved California's cuts in October 2011, but U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder blocked them in December of last year. At the time, the cuts were expected to save $623 million annually.

California appealed the decision, and the 9th Circuit ruled in the state's favor today. It remains to be seen whether California will follow through with a 10 percent reduction to provider rates, and when that might occur.

Lynn S. Carman, who represents pharmacists as chief counsel for the Medicaid Defense Fund, said plaintiffs plan to ask the court for en banc review, meaning the full 9th Circuit bench would reconsider today's decision. If that is denied or the review does not block the rate cuts, Carman said his side would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.

December 13, 2012
Report: Smokeless tobacco use up among California students

Though the prevalence of cigarette smoking among California high school students has declined over the past decade, smokeless tobacco use has risen among high school students, from 3.1 percent in 2004 to 3.9 percent in 2010, according a report released this morning.

The report, by Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, attributed the increase in part to a rise in the promotion and availability of snus and other smokeless tobacco products.

The study found the prevalence of smoking was higher at schools in neighborhoods with five or more stores that sell tobacco than at schools in neighborhoods without any stores selling tobacco.

The study also documented a rise in the illegal sale of tobacco to minors. According to the survey, 8.7 percent of retailers sold tobacco to minors this year, up from 5.6 percent in 2011.

"For the first time in the last three years, tobacco retailers are selling tobacco to our youth more often," Chapman said in a conference call with reporters this morning.

December 13, 2012
California continues to see modest population growth

California's population grew last fiscal year by 256,000 residents due to natural births, a 0.68 percent increase that brings the state's total to 37,826,000 people.

The data are contained in a new release from the state Department of Finance, whose demographers update population statistics each year.

The state has seen annual population growth rates below 1 percent since 2004-2005. The new report shows California had 503,000 births last fiscal year, 234,000 deaths and a net migration of 13,000 people who left the state.

Placer County again topped the list in population growth with 1.21 percent growth to 360,680 residents. Santa Clara County was close behind with 1.20 percent growth to 1,828,597 residents.

Lassen County saw the biggest population decrease, losing 2.94 percent down to 33,650 residents. Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the county suffered significant population declines after the state began shifting lower-level prisoners and parolees to counties, resulting in fewer people at Lassen's California Correctional Center and High Desert State Prison.

December 13, 2012
Former Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger: 'I love paying my taxes!'

schwarzeneggerha_medal_valor8885.JPGDon't expect to hear much grumbling from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when his post-Proposition 30 tax bill arrives.

"I always tell my accountant, If you're in doubt about taxes, pay more," Schwarzenegger told Esquire magazine. "No Cayman Island offshore investments. No gimmicks. I love paying my taxes!"

In an interview covering everything from sex at 65 to proper tipping rates, the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician-turned-actor also bashed efforts to start a California Blueberry Commission during his time as the state's chief executive.

"I remember when I went into politics, the legislature wanted to create a blueberry commission. Who's gonna say no to a blueberry commission? Well, I said no. I thought they should fix the budget before they do the f***ing blueberry commission."

December 13, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Villaraigosa tiff sign of Democrats' infighting

Dan says California may be an increasingly blue state, but the intramural battles have only just begun.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 13, 2012
AM Alert: Cost of currying political favor is going up

VIDEO: Dan Walters says Democratic infighting has only begun.

The cost of gas, the cost of milk, the cost of everything seems to keep rising.

That includes currying favor with your favorite politician.

As it does every two years, the Fair Political Practices Commission will consider inflation-adjusted increases in campaign contribution limits at its meeting Thursday in San Diego. Maxing out toward the 2014 governor's race goes from $26,000 to $27,200 per election, while you can give $4,100 to each state lawmaker instead of $3,900.

The political watchdog agency also will consider a rule that requires more disclosure for campaign committees that spend more than $100,000 to circulate petitions in California. Under the change, such committees must disclose initiatives on their statement of organization.

Another change would require campaigns that distribute over 200 e-mails to disclose the candidate or committee's name on the missive. The FPPC says the change responds to a 2010 incident in which an attorney general candidate was attacked by an e-mailer claiming to be "the Hardy Boys" and "Nancy Drew."

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton becomes an octogenarian Saturday. But what do you give a Democrat who's already received the gifts of a legislative supermajority, tax increases and a Daily Show appearance?

Perhaps a table at his big bash Thursday night at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where longtime Burton friend Willie L. Brown will preside as master of ceremonies. Prices range from $1,000 for an individual ticket to $50,000 for a top-tier table, with proceeds going to The John Burton Foundation to help homeless youth.

If you still have money left after the Burton party and maxing out to candidates, you might consider stashing more away for your kids' college fund. The state Scholarshare Investment Board, which oversees California's 529 tax-advantaged college savings plan, will consider raising account limits Thursday from $350,000 per beneficiary to $371,000.

Bill Ainsworth, a spokesman for the state Treasurer and Scholarshare Investment Board Chairman Bill Lockyer, said the board will consider "upping the max based on the increasing costs of tuition."

December 12, 2012
Jerry Brown has early-stage prostate cancer

Gov. Jerry Brown is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, his office announced this afternoon.

The governor's office described the condition as a "localized prostate cancer" and said Brown is continuing to work a full schedule while being treated with a short course of radiation.

It released a statement from Eric Small, Brown's oncologist at University of California San Francisco.

"Fortunately, this is early stage localized prostate cancer, which is being treated with a short course of conventional radiotherapy," Small said in the statement. "The prognosis is excellent, and there are not expected to be any significant side effects."

Brown's office said the treatment is expected to be completed the week of Jan. 7.

The 74-year-old governor underwent a procedure in April 2011 to remove skin cancer from his nose.

Editor's note: Comments on this post are closed because of inappropriate comments and personal attacks.

December 12, 2012
L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa taking heat from Democratic left

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who's seeking a political platform after his mayoral term ends next year, attached himself to a bipartisan organization that seeks to close the federal budget deficit - but that's bringing heat from the activist left wing of his Democratic Party.

A coalition of liberal groups this week delivered petitions with more than 21,000 names to Villaraigosa's office, demanding that he resign from the Campaign to Fix the Debt, which those on the left consider to be a right-wing plot to slash Social Security, Medicare and other social service and support programs, and protect the wealthy against tax increases.

December 12, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Gut-check time in Berkeley

Dan wonders whether University of California officials will abandon its new logo.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 12, 2012
AM Alert: Trains, oysters and toys

VIDEO: Dan Walters says it's gut-check time for University of California officials.

TRAINS: The California High-Speed Rail Authority is holding meetings today and tomorrow in areas where the first segment of track is supposed to be laid. The meetings in Madera and Merced are supposed to let farmers, business owners and residents know what to expect as the project rolls out. Land acquisition issues, job opportunities and other subjects will be discussed at the open house sessions that begin today in Madera.

OYSTERS: The saga of the oyster farm that has to leave its historic home in the Point Reyes National Seashore gets another airing today at the meeting of the Fish and Game Commission in San Diego.

TOYS: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is working with Yellow Ribbon America and the National Guard Association of California today to promote a toy drive that collects gifts for military kids whose parents are overseas. You'll find Dickinson outside the Arden Fair Mall during today's kick-off event, but you don't have to go that far to donate a toy. New, unwrapped toys for the drive can also be left at these Capitol offices: Assemblywoman Connie Conway, room 3104; Sen. Jean Fuller, room 3063; Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, room 2130; Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, room 4009, Assemblywoman Norma Torres, room 2179; and Dickinson's office in room 2013.

December 11, 2012
Bill pushes to expand rights of some undocumented immigrants

Legislation introduced Tuesday would give about 400,000 undocumented immigrants in California the same rights as citizens to unemployment benefits and various other government services.

Assembly Bill 35 targets a select group of undocumented immigrants, participants in President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, who came to the United States as youth and have lived generally productive lives for numerous years.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation, effective Jan. 1, that enables participants in the federal program to obtain California driver's licenses. AB 35 would provide them with rights to a state ID card, unemployment benefits and state-administered medical services, among other things.

AB 35 was proposed by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, a West Covina Democrat who was named chairman of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee this month.

"California embodies the greatest diversity in the world," Hernandez said in a written statement. "We recognize we will need the collective skills and talents of these young immigrants to aid our state in reaching our true potential."

As labor committee chairman, Hernandez said, "I am ready to carry my part in making sure their integration into our workforce, economy and society becomes a reality."

December 11, 2012
New Census Bureau tool makes finding detailed data easy, fast

Let's say you'd like to know how many Asian residents of Sacramento County moved in the last year, either to a new address within the county or somewhere else.

A new Census Bureau online tool, dubbed Easy Stats, makes finding that information not only easy but instantaneous.

Results from the 2010 Census and other Census Bureau research into demographics, economics, living arrangements and just about everything else are available for every state, every county and every community.

By the way, Easy Stats tells us that about 31,000 Asians living in Sacramento County a year ago have since moved, nearly 24,000 of them to other homes in the county, more than 5,000 to somewhere else in California and more than 2,000 to another state.

December 11, 2012
Newspaper says defeated Macks may get own TV show

The November election was not kind to the Mack family - Florida Rep. Connie Mack and his wife, California Rep. Mary Bono Mack. Both Republicans lost to Democratic challengers.

However, the Tampa Bay Times notes that the couple has been making very frequent appearances of late on CNN's political shows and speculates that they may be auditioning, in effect, for their own TV show.

Both will remain in office until the new Congress is seated in January and thus may get a chance to vote on any deal between Republican leaders and the White House to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff."

December 11, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Will the face of the electorate change in 2014?

Dan ponders whether the thousands of new voters at last month's election will become regular voters.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 11, 2012
AM Alert: Former Assemblywoman joins law and lobbying firm

VIDEO: Dan Walters wonders whether all those lawmakers elected by slim margins will survive in 2012 when the electorate shrinks.

REVOLVING DOOR: Former Assemblywoman Alyson Huber may have left the Legislature but she's staying close to the Capitol. She'll be just a block away at the K Street office of law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig, where she's been hired on as a lawyer in the government affairs and litigation practices.

Huber was a business litigator for nine years before being elected to the Assembly in 2008. She decided not to run for re-election last year after redistricting left the Democrat in a district dominated by Republicans and the news came out that she was going through a contentious divorce that involved defaulting on the million-dollar mortgage of her El Dorado Hills home.

RETIREMENT: One of Gov. Jerry Brown's key education advisers has announced she'll be retiring at the end of the year. Sue Burr, executive director of the state Board of Education, served many local and state education agencies during her 40 year career. She was assistant superintendent of Elk Grove Unified, undersecretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, and a consultant to the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee. In her retirement letter to Brown, Burr thanked him for "providing a wonderful coda to my career."

EDITORIALIZING: The editor of The Bee's editorial page holds a public discussion today about how the editorial board works. Stuart Leavenworth will talk about how the editorial board selects topics, makes decisions, divides beats, chooses op-eds to publish and makes political endorsements. It's at 11 a.m. at KP Public Affairs, 1201 K Street, Suite 800. RSVP to Chelsea Minor at Cminor@ka-pow.com or 916-448-2162.

ELECTION DE-BRIEF: The Public Policy Institute of California hosts a discussion at 4 p.m. exploring the outcome of the November election and its implications for the state's future. Panelists include San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and Warren Olney, KCRW public radio host and producer. The event is in San Francisco but will be broadcast live online. Register for the webcast here.

December 10, 2012
California lost more people to other states than it gained in 2011

About 100,000 more Californians moved to another state in 2011 than California gained from other states, a new Census Bureau report reveals.

However, more than a quarter-million persons relocated into California from other countries during the year and that, coupled with what demographers call "natural increase" - births minus deaths - meant that the state still gained population.

The Census Bureau calculated that 562,343 Californians moved to other states during 2011 with the most popular destinations being Texas (58,992), Arizona (49,635), Nevada (40,114), Washington (38,421), Oregon (34,214), New York (25,761), Colorado (23,234) and Florida (22,420).

Meanwhile, 468,428 residents of other states moved to California during the year, with the most numerous domestic immigrants coming from Texas (37,387), Washington (36,481), Nevada (36,159), Arizona (35,650), New York (25,269) and Florida (22,094).

Finally, the Census Bureau tallied 269,772 persons who moved to California from outside the 50 states, almost all of whom came from foreign countries, but with relative handfuls from Puerto Rico (1,344) and islands under U.S. control (2,817).

December 10, 2012
California leads nation with nearly 6,000 centenarians

California is home to more Americans 100 years or older than any other state, according to a new Census Bureau report, but its percentage of centenarians and other over-70 residents is below the national average.

The report says that in 2010, 53,364 Americans were over 100 years old, including 5,921 in California, topping No. 2 New York's 4,605 and Florida's 4,090, but with just 1.6 percent of its population listed as centenarians, it was a bit below the national average of 1.7 percent and way below the leading centenarian state, North Dakota, at 3.3 percent.

California also fell under the national average in residents aged 70-79 (4.7 percent), 80-89 (2.7 percent) and 90-99 (0.53 percent).

December 10, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: California's debate over taxes just beginning

Dan says that the passage of Proposition 30 in November hasn't ended California's debate over taxes.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 10, 2012
AM Alert: Proposition 8, California state budget still in the news

VIDEO: Dan Walters takes another look at California's debate over taxes and the state budget.

Was it really only a year ago that three federal appellate judges were hearing arguments in San Francisco in two cases related to Proposition 8?

And was it merely two years ago that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was spending his last month in office as Gov.-elect Jerry Brown presided over a budget summit letting lawmakers how bad the situation was?

Ah, the memories. Now we can look forward to speculation about how big California's state budget deficit will be -- although certainly smaller than in recent years -- as well as how the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on the two gay marriage cases it has decided to hear next year.

At the moment, however, things at the California Capitol are moving a bit slowly.

Sure, there's the ceremony on the west steps at noon dedicating wreaths to be placed at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon. Another ceremony at 5:30 p.m., also on the west steps, marks the 19th annual lighting of the Chanukah menorah.

Inside the building, the holiday music program continues with the Franklin High School choir performing in the rotunda at 11 a.m., followed by the Roseville Sun City Singers at noon.

Elsewhere, pediatrician and Assemblyman Richard Pan joins Heather Conway of the Breastfeeding Coalition of Greater Sacramento and others to urge mothers to sign up to donate breast milk for feeding premature babies at local hospitals. Their presser starts at noon at Sutter Medical Plaza, 1625 Stockton Blvd.

The November election, meanwhile, gets dissected starting at 6 p.m., with Dan Schnur moderating a panel discussion at the University of Southern California's State Capital Center, 1800 I St. Panelists include The Bee's Amy Chance as well as Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times and the USC's Raphael Bostic and Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. They'll also be looking at what happens next. Click here for more information.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, turns 41 today, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, turns 46. Birthday wishes to both.

December 7, 2012
Supreme Court to hear DOMA and Prop. 8 gay marriage cases

Prop8.JPGThe Supreme Court on Friday kept alive a legal challenge to gay marriage in California, by agreeing to review the state's ballot measure that banned same-sex marriages after thousands had already been performed.

In an ambitious move that stunned some legal observers, justices agreed to second-guess a lower court's decision striking down California's Proposition 8. The move means the high court, dominated by conservatives, could put the Proposition 8 gay marriage ban back into effect.

Simultaneously, justices also agreed to consider challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks gay married couples from receiving a host of federal benefits.

December 7, 2012
California revenue lags due to Facebook, corporate refunds

ha_jchiang48627.JPGCalifornia missed its November revenue target by $806.8 million, or 10.8 percent, after a bad projection about tax proceeds from Facebook insiders and an unexpectedly high amount of corporate refunds, the State Controller's Office said Friday.

State budget writers assumed that Facebook insiders would sell a large batch of stock in November at $35 per share, resulting in a tax windfall for the state. But those insiders executed their transactions a month early, state officials say, resulting in more money than expected in October but far less in November. Not only that, but until late November, Facebook shares had been trading below $25 per share.

Those factors contributed to California missing its November personal income tax target by $842.5 million, or 19.0 percent. By comparison, the state exceeded its October target by $378.4 million.

December 7, 2012
Ken Cooley joins seven NorCal legislators in nixing per diem

20121203_HA_ASSEMBLY_Ken_Cooley.JPGNewly elected Sacramento County Assemblyman Ken Cooley has joined six other capital-area legislators in rejecting the $142 per day in living expenses that lawmakers are entitled to while the Legislature is in session.

The decision will cost Cooley and each of the other local legislators between $25,000 and $30,000 for the upcoming year, based on the number of days that per diem was paid in 2012, records show.

Three other Sacramento-area assembly members who rejected per diem in 2012 have submitted letters to the Assembly asking to do the same for 2013: Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento; Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin; and Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

Late Friday, the Assembly added another name to the list of those turning thumbs down to per diem for the coming legislative session: Freshman Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton.

Newly re-elected Assemblyman Richard Pan opted to begin accepting per diem last January after obtaining a second residence, in the Pocket area, to run for a newly drawn Assembly seat that had no incumbent. He has not rescinded last year's request to accept the $142 per day compensation, records show.

December 7, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: GOP no longer ignoring Jim Brulte's advice

Dan says that California Republican Party officials ignored former legislator Jim Brulte's advice years ago, but now they're tapping him to help reverse the party's decline in the Golden State.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 7, 2012
AM Alert: Assembly Republicans form diversity outreach team

VIDEO: Dan Walters says the California Republican Party ignored former Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte's advice years ago, but given the November election results, its officials are tapping him now.

California Republicans in the Assembly looking to revive their party have a new team on their side.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway on Thursday announced a new "Diversity Outreach Team" made up of government staff members. A news release says the group will focus on "helping strengthen Republican ties with women, ethnic communities and young people."

"We know that most Californians share our common-sense ideas, but we need to do a better job communicating that message," Conway said in a statement. "To become the majority party again, we must not only talk to diverse communities but also listen and that's what our Diversity Outreach Team is all about."

Conway spokeswoman Sabrina Demayo Lockhart (whose Twitter account is at this link) will head the team:

Ivette Barajas, the Spanish-language press secretary for the Assembly Republicans, will oversee outreach to Latinos. (She's on Twitter here.)

Ronald Ongtoaboc, a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Capitol Association and a communications consultant for the Assembly Republican Caucus Office of Member Support and Outreach, will focus on outreach to Asian Americans.

Roleeda Statham, the community outreach consultant for that caucus office, will focus on outreach to African Americans.

Michele Kane, now the caucus office's deputy director for news videos, will focus on outreach to women. (Her Twitter account is here.)

John Bockweg, a UC Davis junior and a student intern with that caucus office, will focus on outreach to young voters.

Today in Sacramento, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg speak today at services for Mort Friedman, the philanthropist who died Wednesday at age 80. The funeral starts at 11 a.m. in the Friedman-Lichter Sanctuary of Mosaic Law Congregation, 2300 Sierra Blvd. Click here to read more about Friedman's life and his impact on Sacramento culture.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: Today's lineup in the Capitol rotunda includes the Broadway-style group High Voltage at 11 a.m., the Cosumnes River College Chamber Choir at noon, and the Golden State Accordion Club at 1 p.m. Click here for information about this weekend's schedule.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, celebrates his 61st birthday today.

December 6, 2012
California State University applications keep going up

For the fourth year in a row, the California State University has received a record number of applications.

During the application period that ended Nov. 30, nearly 295,000 students applied for fall admission to at least one school in the 23-campus system, CSU officials reported today. That was an increase of 10 percent from last year.

Freshmen applications were up to 173,985 from 166,028, while transfer applications grew to 108,726 from 92,806. Officials attribute the increase in transfer applications to limits they put on transfer admissions this year because of an uncertain budget situation before voters decided on tax increases in the November election.

"Every CSU campus received more applications from first time freshmen and transfer applicants than last year," said a statement from the CSU Chancellor's Office.

University of California officials plan to release application data for their system in January.

December 6, 2012
California budget spends less than U.S. average on education

Education may be the largest single segment of California's budget, but the state proportionately spends less of its money on elementary and high schools and colleges than the national average, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The statistic is gleaned from the bureau's annual report on state government finances, the latest of which covers 2011.

The report tallies California's "general expenditures" last year at just under $225 billion -- spending from both the state's own taxes and other resources as well as $64.5 billion in federal funds. Education is almost $75 billion of that, according to the report -- or exactly one-third, somewhat below the national average of 35.8 percent.

California's level of education spending in 2011 was fractionally lower than in 2010. Other states ranged from a high of 46.6 percent in Georgia to a low of 24.9 percent in Alaska.

December 6, 2012
Assemblyman wants Prop. 13 change for commercial property

BB AMMIANO 027.jpgDemocratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said Thursday he will try to rewrite state tax laws that he believes allow businesses to avoid higher taxes when commercial property changes hands.

Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 California tax change, limits annual tax increases on both commercial and residential properties at 2 percent each year after a sale takes place. When property is sold, the new owner typically pays property taxes based on the new market value.

But Ammiano, D-San Francisco, believes businesses are structuring property transactions specifically to avoid triggering reassessment at the sales price. The technique involves ensuring that the new ownership consists of partners, not one of which owns more than a 50 percent stake.

Ammiano is not pursuing a voter amendment that would change Proposition 13 in the state constitution. Instead, he wants to write new laws that prevent businesses from avoiding reassessment in such a manner.

December 6, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Californians more optimistic

Dan says a new survey shows Californians are more optimistic, but there's still a long way to go.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 6, 2012
AM Alert: PPIC poll finds support for 'split-roll' property tax

VIDEO: Dan Walters says the state has a way to go to achieve its trademark optimism.

Stop the presses: Proposition 13 is still popular, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.

But 58 percent of likely voters surveyed support changing it to allow for what's called a "split roll" property tax in which commercial properties are assessed at their current market value. Two-thirds of Democrats and 58 percent of independents favor such a move, but Republicans are divided on the issue, with 47 percent for it and 48 percent against it.

Mark Baldassare, PPIC's president and its survey director, joins policy associate Jui Shrestha at a luncheon today to discuss the results of the wide-ranging survey, which you can read at this link.

The event runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacramento, 1017 11th St. Click here for more information and to register in advance. Lunch will be provided at no charge.

Also in Sacramento, state schools chief Tom Torlakson gives welcoming remarks at a UC Berkeley symposium on K-12 schools and sustainable communities. Click here for the agenda of the all-day event, which starts at 10 a.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St.

Tonight, the group California Women Lead hosts a panel discussion at the University of Southern California's Sacramento Center about women's impact on politics. Panelists include Beth Miller of Miller Public Affairs, Karen Skelton of Skelton Strategies, and Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. The group's executive director, Rachel Michelin, will moderate. It's too late to register, but you can read more at this link.

CAPITOL STEPS: Members of the group Intactivist protest the practice of infant circumcision. They plan to gather on the west steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: It's that time again. The American River Chorus performs at the Capitol rotunda at 11 a.m., followed by the Davis High School Advanced Treble Choir at noon. Click here for the full schedule.

December 5, 2012
Optimism up about Jerry Brown, Legislature, California's future

Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and the state's future all looked brighter to residents after last month's passage of the Proposition 30 tax hike, according to a new poll released tonight by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

Brown's approval rating hit 48 percent among all California adults and slightly higher, 49 percent, among likely voters.

Legislators are less popular, the poll found, but the mercury is rising. Thirty-four percent of California adults gave the Legislature a thumbs up, the highest PPIC total since January 2008, when its approval rating was 39 percent.

Forty-four percent of respondents said things in California generally are going in the right direction, the highest tally since June 2007 -- and up 30 points from a low of 14 percent in July 2009.

"Many Californians are feeling positive about the state's outlook now and optimistic about the future," Mark Baldassare, PPIC president, said in a written statement. "But they also are feeling fiscally frugal. They are strongly opposed to raising their state taxes and strongly in favor of spending limits."

Among other findings:

December 5, 2012
High-income Californians may pay nation's highest tax rate

Thanks to passage of Proposition 30 last month, high-income Californians would pay the nation's highest marginal income tax rates -- nearly 52 percent -- if President Barack Obama and Congress fail to make a deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," according to a new study.

Without a fiscal cliff deal to the contrary, the Bush era tax cuts on high-income taxpayers would expire next year and rates would return to their previous levels.

Gerald Prante, an economics professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia, and Austin John, a Lynchburg economics student, calculated marginal tax rates -- the highest rates on the highest levels of income -- for all 50 states. They combined state, federal and, where applicable, local income taxes, plus payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare and included the deductibility of some taxes.

Proposition 30 added three percentage points to the marginal state income tax rate for California's highest-income taxpayers, bringing it to 13.3 percent. That action raised California over other high-tax jurisdictions to a marginal rate of 51.9 percent, slightly higher than New York City's level. Hawaii was the only other place with a calculated rate above 50 percent.

Their report was published by the Social Science Research Network.

December 5, 2012
Perez, Steinberg set sights on lieutenant governor bid in 2018

Termed out of their California legislative posts in two years, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg are finding themselves on a collision course for higher office.

Pérez opened a campaign committee last Friday to raise funds for a possible bid for lieutenant governor in 2018, creating the specter of a same-party fight with Steinberg, who opened a similar committee early last year.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will be termed out in 2018, creating a vacancy for a position likely to be filled by a Democrat because of the party's dominance in voter registration statewide.

Doug Herman, Pérez's political strategist, said the Los Angeles lawmaker is considering the lieutenant governor post among his "serious options" for continuing public service after leaving the Assembly.

But creation of an exploratory committee does not obligate either Pérez or Steinberg to run for lieutenant governor.

"Six years is a lifetime in politics," Herman said. "I don't expect the two of those guys to run against each other."

Steinberg, a Sacramentan, currently has more than a half-million dollars in his lieutenant governor campaign coffers, while Pérez's newly created committee has not yet reported any donations.

Under California term limits, Steinberg would be ineligible to run for the Legislature after 2014. Pérez is not barred from seeking a state Senate seat and could serve up to eight years there.

December 5, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Seat juggling will leave vacancies in CA Legislature

Dan says it could take nearly a year for the California Legislature to have a full roster of members.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 5, 2012
AM Alert: Movie break

VIDEO: In today's video, Dan Walters says the Legislature's seat juggling is already underway.

Now that you've recovered from the hubbub of swearing-in ceremonies and receptions, it's time to kick back and take in a movie or two. Of the political variety, of course.

Two films screening near the Capitol this evening are likely to catch the interest of Alert readers:

California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown is a documentary about Gov. Jerry Brown's father, the former governor who oversaw creation of landmark fair housing and employment laws, the expansion of California's highway system, the development of the California Aqueduct and the creation of the state's Master Plan for Higher Education. The 7 p.m. screening at the California Museum (1020 O Street) includes a panel discussion with filmmaker Sascha Rice and journalist Phil Bronstein, executive chair of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The group is sponsoring a full-day of workshops and talks related to the film. More details are here.

Knife Fight is a full-length feature film co-written by Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. The political thriller stars Rob Lowe (as a Lehane-ish political consultant), Carrie-Anne Moss, Julie Bowen and Eric McCormack. Bee columnist Dan Morain makes a cameo appearance in the film, which he wrote about in this column last year. Tonight's screening at the Crest Theater is a fundraiser for scholarships handed out by the Sacramento Press Club. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m., with the screening starting at 7 p.m. More information is here.

Both screenings follow the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree at 5 p.m. on the West Steps. Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to light the 50-foot tall white fir tree with 10-year-old Christian Anderson of Costa Mesa. KFBK's Kitty O'Neal will emcee the ceremony, which includes performances by the California Army National Guard's 59th Army Band, Galena Street East, St. Paul's Baptist Church Choir and students from Brown's two charter schools, the Oakland Military Institute and Oakland School for the Arts.

December 4, 2012
Jerry Brown appoints wife's friend to State Personnel Board

A friend of first lady Anne Gust Brown has been appointed by Brown's husband, Gov. Jerry Brown, to the State Personnel Board.

Lauri Shanahan, 50, held various positions at Gap Inc. from 1992 to 2008, replacing Gust Brown as chief administrative officer at the company in 2005. Shanahan's appointment was announced this afternoon.

Shanahan, of Woodside, is currently a principal at Maroon Peak Advisors, a retail and consumer products consultancy, according to the governor's office. Like the governor, she is a Democrat.

The personnel board settles disputes between employees and the state. The position pays $40,669 a year, and the appointment requires Senate confirmation.

December 4, 2012
Assemblyman Ben Hueso to run for open San Diego Senate seat

Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, is already readying a run for the Southern California Senate seat set to be vacated by state Sen. and Democratic Rep.-elect Juan Vargas in the coming weeks.

Hueso confirmed his decision to U-T San Diego reporter Michael Gardner Monday -- the same day he was sworn in for a second term in the state Assembly. Vargas, who has yet to announce when he will give up his Senate seat, has already endorsed his candidacy.

Hueso, who just took the oath of office Monday for his second term, said he wants to move up to the Senate because it offers a "bigger base of support" to accomplish key goals. One of those is improving trade between Mexico and the U.S. and easing border crossing gridlock.

"Mexico is our largest trading partner -- larger than China," Hueso said in an interview. "They are big friends of ours."

Once Vargas resigns, Gov. Jerry Brown will call a special election to fill the seat. The primary contest will be held about sixteen weeks from that date. Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, will also step down from the Senate to take a seat in Congress.

Because both senators were last elected to their seats in 2010, the contests will be held using the state's pre-redistricting political maps.

December 4, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Legislature's 'new era' will include juggling

Dan sees "a new era dawning in the Legislature," with some juggling going on.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 4, 2012
AM Alert: Bill Clinton in north state, Jerry Brown in south state

VIDEO: Dan Walters pronounces a "new era" for the California Legislature and foresees some juggling among the Democrats.

If you have a Bill Clinton sighting today, rest assured that the former president is indeed in Sacramento making use of his Arkansas twang.

Clinton headlines tonight's installment of the Sacramento Speakers Series at the Community Theater on L Street across from the Capitol. The event starts at 8 p.m. Last time Capitol Alert checked, single tickets were still available.

As for Gov. Jerry Brown's schedule, he heads to Southern California for the Democratic Governors Association's winter meeting being held at the Beverly Wilshire.

Even so, there will be no shortage of official appearances in the capital city. Proposition 39 backer Tom Steyer joins a host of elected officials, environmentalists and labor activists to talk up legislation to implement the energy efficiency part of the ballot measure voters approved in November.

The measure is expected, among other things, to furnish about $500 million a year for five years to retrofit schools and government offices, as the Bee's Kevin Yamamura reported in this story before the election.

The presser, which begins at 11 a.m. at Sacramento's Mark Twain Elementary School, will be crowded. Among those listed to attend are Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, campaign co-chairman Sen. Kevin de León, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, state schools chief Tom Torlakson, Sens. Ricardo Lara, Fran Pavley and Curren Price and Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner and Norma Torres.

Health Access, meanwhile, sponsors a post-election symposium on implementing President Barack Obama's health care reform. Listed speakers include Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, legislators Ed Hernandez, Richard Pan and Holly Mitchell, and representatives of health and budget groups. That event runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at Sacramento's Citizen Hotel.

TWITTER: The Bee's Torey Van Oot has put together a public list of California legislators' Twitter accounts, which you'll find at this link. You can even subscribe. The list now stands at 94 members. If we've overlooked your account, send Torey an email at tvanoot@sacbee.com.

December 3, 2012
CA leaders take different approaches to marking supermajority

Democrats started the 2013-2014 legislative session today with a supermajority in both houses, but the respective leaders took different approaches to marking the occasion.

In the Senate, members were serenaded by a children's choir singing "What a Wonderful World." Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg cheered when a letter certifying the unofficial election results was read.

The Sacramento Democrat addressed the supermajority power, which could allow Democrats to raise taxes or put measures on the ballot without GOP votes, throughout his address on the floor. He called the results of the election "a validation that the Legislature faced incredible challenges with strength, with decisiveness and we never flinched from the hardest of hard decisions," chronicling the deep cuts that helped the state climb back toward the black from a $42 billion budget deficit.

December 3, 2012
New California legislative session brings new leadership posts

Some of the California Legislature's newest members are adding more than an elected title to their resume as the 2013-2014 session begins.

New leadership assignments announced by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez today put five Democratic freshman members of the Assembly in a caucus post, with more than a dozen more controlling a committee gavel as they begin what could be 12 years in the lower house. Returning Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernández, who has been in the news over allegations of driving under the influence and other bad behavior, will not serve as Democratic whip, a position previously announced.

The Senate has not released its full committee chair lineup for the new session, but Democrats announced that they have retained Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, as majority leader. Newly elected Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, was added to the Rules Committee roster, along with Democratic Sen. Kevin de León and Republican Sens. Bill Emmerson and Jean Fuller. Senate Republicans announced that Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, will serve as caucus chair.

Pérez , Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and Senate GOP leader Bob Huff will all remain in their leadership posts.

The full list of Assembly leadership assignments is posted after the jump, with new members designated with an asterisk.

December 3, 2012
New Assemblyman Travis Allen assigned to Capitol 'doghouse'

AD72-Travis_Allen.jpgFreshman Assemblyman Travis Allen already is in the Capitol's "doghouse," but it's nothing personal, apparently.

Allen simply was unlucky.

"The only thing you could read into who's in the doghouse right now is that as they drew names, he had a lousy draw," Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said.

Allen, a Huntington Beach Republican, was assigned a shoebox-size, fifth-floor office that is nicknamed the "doghouse" because of its history: Assembly speakers often house members there as punishment for votes or actions taken.

Allen shrugged off the matter shortly after he was sworn into the Legislature on Monday, the first day of a two-year session.

"No vote has been cast yet, so I think it would be kind of difficult to offend anybody," Allen said, smiling.

"It's an honor to serve the people of California -- in any capacity and in any office," added Allen, a certified financial planner who won the 72nd Assembly District seat from Orange County.

Allen's cramped office, Room 5126, is just 391 square feet -- 135 tinier than the next smallest Assembly office and about 300 smaller than the norm.

Pérez said that he worked with Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway in assigning GOP Assembly offices. Conway handled requests from returning members of her caucus first, Perez said.

"Neither she nor I wanted to use that office punitively, so she went through a random process of selection to decide how to house the new Republican members. ... It was literally a drawing of lots," Pérez said.

Sabrina Lockhart, Conway's spokeswoman, confirmed Pérez's account Monday.

The doghouse was assigned last year to the now former Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, an outspoken Fresno Republican who was one of the most conservative members of a predominantly liberal Assembly.

Allen said, essentially, that size doesn't matter. No hard feelings.

"We're in the building, and we all get a vote," he said simply.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Assembly website.

December 3, 2012
Jones proposes workers' comp premium boost

Warning about potential insolvency among workers' compensation insurers, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is supporting an increase in employer-paid premiums -- even though an overhaul of the compensation system for injured and ill workers, passed by the California Legislature this year, promised savings to employers.

Jones' "recommendation" is not binding on insurers, who are free to set their own premiums, but the insurance commissioner's positions are generally followed in the industry. He is, in effect, responding to insurers' complaints in recent years that their costs of providing cash benefits, medical care and rehabilitation to disabled workers have outstripped their revenues.

Jones described his "pure premium" recommendation of $2.56 per $100 of payroll as "a modest 2.8 percent increase" over the current "filed rate" of $2.49.

With workers' compensation insurance premiums running about $12 billion a year, Jones' recommendation, if adopted by insurers, could cost employers more than $300 million a year.

December 3, 2012
Live blog: California Legislature's new session begins

December 3, 2012
Bills to target disclosure by nonprofits giving to CA campaigns

A pair of Democratic state senators announced today plans to introduce legislation aimed at requiring more disclosure of campaign contributions made by nonprofits.

Senate Bills 2 and 3, by Sens. Ted Lieu and Leland Yee, are being crafted in response to an $11 million contribution an Arizona-based nonprofit made to influence two November ballot measure campaigns in the state. The Fair Political Practices Commission's efforts to force the group to reveal the source of the funds, which were used to support Proposition 32 and oppose Proposition 30, led to transactions involving two additional nonprofits that do not have to disclose their donors. Current law requires disclosure only when the donation is given to the nonprofit for the purpose of becoming a campaign contribution.

"Laundering money through nonprofits in an attempt to avoid transparency is fundamentally undemocratic," Yee said in a statement. "Our democracy should not be bought and sold in shady backroom deals."

December 3, 2012
Sky is falling? No -- but close for freshman Assembly Republican

office.jpgFor freshman Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, things already are falling apart at the Capitol.

Specifically, her office.

The Escondido Republican will report for her first day of legislative duty today to find her office carpet soaked, a ceiling tile collapsed, and water leaking from a fixture housing two fluorescent lights.

Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said the damage is due to the severe storm that ripped through the Sacramento area this weekend. The specific source of the leak affecting Waldron's office has not been found, he said.

Computers from Waldron's fifth-floor office were removed Sunday to prevent possible damage, Waldie said.

Meanwhile, Waldron will be relocated temporarily to the Capitol's first floor.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo courtesy of the office of Assemblywoman Marie Waldron.

December 3, 2012
No Supreme Court decision on Prop. 8

The Supreme Court on Monday kept the political world in suspense, as justices once again made no announcement concerning California's Proposition 8 and challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The justices had met in private last Friday, to consider which petitions they would grant for a full hearing next year. High on the stack is the appeal by conservatives of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Proposition 8. The ballot measure outlawed same-sex marriage, after thousands had already been performed.

Among court-watchers, the case is generally considered less likely to be granted a full hearing than the multiple Defense of Marriage Act cases. But in the court's orders issued promptly at 9:30 a.m. eastern time, the gay marriage cases were noticeably absent.

The court meets in private again on Friday. At least four justices must agree to hear a case before it's taken up for a full hearing.

December 3, 2012
Dan Walters Daily: Is Prop. 13 on the table?

Dan Walters says the move to make it easier for voters to approve parcel taxes for schools signals a move on Proposition 13.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 3, 2012
AM Alert: Pomp, circumstance and a few drinks

VIDEO: Dan Walters says the move to make it easier for voters to approve parcel taxes for schools signals a move on Proposition 13.

The Capitol will be abuzz today as the Legislature convenes its new session, lawmakers take their oaths of office and lobbyists make the rounds to at least 10 different receptions in honor of the members being sworn in.

The Senate begins its ceremony at 11:45 a.m., with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom presiding in his role as President of the Senate. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye will administer the oath of office. After the ceremony, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will hold a press conference, to be streamed live on CalChannel.com. The lower house begins its ceremony at noon.

Then it's time to hit the bars, restaurants and night clubs that surround the Capitol:

  • A reception in honor of East Bay lawmakers Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Assembly members Nancy Skinner, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla, Jim Frazier and Bill Quirk takes place at 2:30 p.m. at the Mayahuel tequila bar, 1200 K Street.
  • Central Valley Assembly members Kristin Olsen, Henry T. Perea, Frank Bigelow, Rudy Salas and Adam Gray will be honored at a 6:30 p.m. reception at K-Bar, 1000 K Street.
  • The Democratic Party of Sacramento County hosts a volunteer appreciation and swearing-in party in honor of local assemblymen Richard Pan and Ken Cooley at 6:30 p.m. at 1201 K Street in the 15th floor rotunda.
  • The real party animals will hit the Park Ultra Lounge (1116 15th Street) at 10 p.m., where a group of Democratic legislators who call themselves the D7 are hosting a party in celebration of the "Democratic Knockout" in this year's election. The D7 hosts are Sen. Ricardo Lara and Assembly members Luis Alejo, Nora Campos, Roger Hernandez, Ben Hueso, Henry T. Perea and Das Williams.
  • BILLS: But it's not all about glad-handing today. A handful of legislators are also planning to introduce bills. Assemblymen Tom Ammiano and Luis Alejo, along with Sen. Kevin De León, are holding an 11 a.m. presser to announce the reintroduction of the so-called "Trust Act." The bill, which aims to curtail the deportation of undocumented immigrants arrested for minor or non-violent offenses, was vetoed in September by Gov. Jerry Brown. Author Ammiano said in a statement that he "wanted to reintroduce this immediately because these policies have been hurting people every day."

    SHE SHARES: The "She Shares" speakers series featuring conversations with Capitol women continues tonight with a talk by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film maker who is married to Lt. Gov. Newsom. Siebel Newsom wrote, produced and directed "Miss Representation", a documentary about media portrayals of women. She will be interviewed by Karen Breslau, a former political reporter who now works for the Dewey Square Group. The event starts at 5:30 at the California Museum, 1020 O Street. Ticket info is here.

    CAKE AND CANDLES: We send best wishes to Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner, R-Irvine, for an especially festive swearing-in day as he turns 52.

    December 2, 2012
    Democrat pulls ahead to win Southern California Assembly seat

    The final vote update from Los Angeles County has given Democrat Steve Fox a slight lead over the presumed Republican victor in the 36th Assembly District, putting the seat in Democrats' column by a margin of just 145 votes.

    Fox trailed Republican Ron Smith by about 2,000 votes the day after the Nov. 6 election, according to local reports, but the gap has narrowed in recent weeks as remaining absentee and provisional ballots were counted. The final count by Los Angeles County, which is one of three counties in the district, put Fox ahead with just over 50 percent of the vote.

    A win in the 36th Assembly District gives Democrats control of 55 seats in the lower house -- one above the supermajority Assembly Speaker John A. Perez secured with another Election Day upset. Fox is unlikely to be a sure vote for Democrats in the 2013-2014 Legislature, however. The attorney and teacher ran as a Republican in a 2008 Assembly contest and has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge against raising taxes.

    Smith said Sunday he is planning to seek a recount. He said a stronger than usual Democratic tilt for provisional ballots in his district and other races has left him with the belief that "there is a political group that has learned how to manipulate the election by playing with provisionals," which are ballots that are cast in cases where a voter who has requested an absentee ballot, has moved within a district without updating his or her registration, or is not on the polling place voter roster shows up in person to cast a ballot.

    "No one, including myself or any consultant, could have conceived that I was over 3 percentage points ahead after the election...and now the provisionals came in... that it would overturn the (results)," he said. "Mathematically, statistically, that just doesn't happen."

    Given his lead, Smith had been preparing to be sworn into the state Legislature along with the other 79 members of the Assembly tomorrow.

    "I had most of my staff getting ready to be hired, my picture was up on the wall, I had my office that was assigned to me, and I already had two pieces of legislation that were going to be introduced Monday," he said.

    Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, were celebrating plans to add another member to their supermajority during today's swearing in ceremony.

    "This is icing on the cake-- a tremendous win and part of the Democratic wave in our state in an area the Republicans took for granted," Steve Maviglio, a strategist and spokesman for Assembly Democrats, said. "We'll be rolling out the welcome mat on Monday."

    Editor's note: This post was updated with comments from Smith and Maviglio.



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    Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

    Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

    Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

    David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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