Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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