Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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,

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


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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