Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 31, 2013
Former State Board of Education head C. Hugh Friedman, dies

C. Hugh Friedman, a past president of the California State Board of Education who was married to former Democratic Rep. Lynn Schenk, died Tuesday.

Friedman, whose death was reported by the U-T San Diego today, had leukemia. He was 81.

The Board of Education wasn't the only political appointment received by the longtime University of San Diego School of Law professor. The U-T recaps his service:

Mr. Friedman also served on numerous national, state and local boards and commissions, having been appointed by President Bill Clinton and California Govs. Gray Davis, Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan.

Among his many positions, Mr. Friedman served on the California State Air Resources Board from 1999 to 2004 and on the White House Conference on Small Business Commission from 1993 to 1996. He was the president of the California State Board of Education from 1982 to 1984, and he served as the president, vice president and director of the Del Mar Fair Board between 1982 and 1986.

Friedman's wife, a Democrat, was secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency during Gov. Jerry Brown's first two terms in office and chief of staff to former Gov. Gray Davis. She served one term in Congress in the 1990s.

Click here to read the full U-T San Diego obituary.

January 31, 2013
FPPC examining changes to California lobbyist disclosure

RCB_20121205 ANN RAVEL 0091.JPGCalifornia's political watchdog agency is moving to crack down on loose lobbying reporting requirements that have allowed interest groups to hire former politicians as consultants and launch ad campaigns to push their agenda with virtually no financial disclosure.

Ann Ravel, chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission said today that she has assigned a working group to take on issues raised by a Bee investigation earlier this month. Interest groups that spend the most money trying to influence policy in California's Capitol spend the bulk of it in secret, The Bee found, because disclosure forms allow them to report huge sums in a catch-all "other" category that requires no detailed reporting to authorities.

"We're going to make it a fairly broad mission to look at any issues relating to lobbying that should be cleaned up with respect to the payments -- things included that shouldn't be, and lack of clarification -- as well as any other matters that are in the scope of the FPPC's authority," Ravel said.

"We're happy to talk about making recommendations for legislation as well," she added.

The FPPC could require more detailed disclosure by lobbyists and the groups that hire them, but other aspects involved in regulating the lobbying industry -- such as changing the definition of who must register with the state as a lobbyist -- would have to be changed by the state Legislature.

Ravel said the working group would include representatives of various Capitol interests, including lobbyists, watchdogs and political lawyers. Jim Cassie, president of the Institute of Governmental Advocates, the association that represents Sacramento lobbyists, said his group would be happy to participate.

"We think we can make a difference in this debate," Cassie said. "Clearly we're part of it."

January 31, 2013
Assemblyman gets a firsthand look at crime -- as burglary victim

State of the State Curt Hagman.JPGMemo to thief: Wrong victim.

When Sacramento thieves stole his briefcase from a state-owned car, Assemblyman Curt Hagman took matters into his own hands Monday night -- tracking two suspects to a gasoline station off Interstate 80.

"We start walking toward the car, then they gun the engine and try to run us over," said Hagman, who is no stranger to confronting crime suspects as the owner of Apex Bail Bonds. He also is a longtime volunteer captain for a sheriff's disaster assistance team.

Hagman and California Highway Patrol Lt. Rick Campbell gave the following account of the Chino Republican's firsthand look at Sacramento crime Monday -- as a burglary victim:

January 31, 2013
How does California economy compare to other states?

Comparing California to other states has become a common exercise among politicians, academicians and in the media.

So how does California really shape up? Next 10, an organization dedicated to looking into California's future, commissioned David Neumark and Jennifer Muz of the University of California, Irvine, to produce a voluminous study of California's economy vis-à-vis other states. Among its findings:

January 31, 2013
Bipartisan group of California lawmakers backs immigration overhaul


A bipartisan group of state lawmakers lauded the federal government's pursuit of immigration changes in a press conference today, saying the issue is particularly urgent in California given the state's huge immigrant population.

"Modernizing our antiquated and dysfunctional immigration system will uphold our nation's basic values of fairness, equality as well as opportunity," said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, author of a resolution urging the federal government to act.

January 31, 2013
As California grows slowly, Latinos will be biggest bloc

Although California's once-soaring population growth has slowed markedly, the state will surpass 50 million by 2050, and by then, Latinos should be nearing a majority, according to a new set of population projections by the state Department of Finance.

Meanwhile, the state's once dominant white population will continue to shrink, becoming smaller than the Latino contingent by early 2014, and the state will become markedly older as the huge Baby Boom generation moves into retirement years.

The 2010 census counted 37.3 million Californians, and population growth, once well more than 2 percent a year, has dropped to under 1 percent. The new projections see 40.6 million by 2020, 44.3 million by 2030, 47.7 million by 2040, 50.4 million by 2050 and 52.7 million by 2060.

January 31, 2013
California climbs out of bond ratings basement

Standard & Poor's upgraded California's general obligation bond rating from A-minus to A today, a significant move that lifts the state out of the ratings agency's basement.

In the midst of recessionary state budget woes, S&P lowered California from A-plus to A in February 2009 and down to A-minus in January 2010. The agency last week dropped Illinois to A-minus in the face of pension funding problems, a downgrade that now gives the Midwest state the dubious worst-in-the-nation status.

S&P last year signaled that California might eventually be due for an upgrade after the state's finances and cash flow showed signs of strength. The agency has embraced recent efforts by Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and voters to raise taxes and restrain spending.

January 31, 2013
Jerry Brown recruiting business delegates for China trade trip

Organizers of Gov. Jerry Brown's April trade mission to China are recruiting prospective delegates with the promise of meetings with "high ranking officials" and events to promote California to potential Chinese investors, among other activities.

The cost? A "participation fee of $10,000" to cover expenses, according to an invitation posted online and linked to on Twitter by Michael Ammann, president and CEO of the San Joaquin Partnership, an economic development group.

January 31, 2013
Michelle Rhee talks romance and CA politics in new book

MichelleRhee.jpgAfter her speech Tuesday night as part of the Sacramento Speakers Series, education advocate Michelle Rhee sold early copies of her new autobiography, "Radical: Fighting to Put Students First."

The book, which will be released publicly on Tuesday, includes many anecdotes about her relationship with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a description of her advocacy group's fledgling attempts to shape policy in California's Capitol.

The book release follows The Bee's look at Rhee's organization on Sunday. Read some excerpts from the book on the jump.

January 31, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Hidden money and false poverty

Like the state parks department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has been caught hiding money after pleading for more funding. Dan wonders if that's a coincidence.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 31, 2013
AM Alert: Getting behind the immigration overhaul

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses the latest revelations of a supposedly cash-strapped state agency getting caught with a hidden pot of money.

Lawmakers are holding a press conference pledging their support for a federal immigration overhaul. Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, will be joined by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens; Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella; Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo; Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento; and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo. Starting at 10:30 a.m. in room 317 of the State Capitol.

There's obviously a good deal of wrangling to come before the Senate bill assumes its final form, but it bears noting that it calls for a commission of governors, attorneys general and border denizens to help shape a tougher enforcement framework. Gov. Jerry Brown has already said he hopes to play a role in the national immigration push, so it will be interesting to see how he might interact with gubernatorial counterparts like Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, a Republican and leading antagonist of the Obama administration.

January 30, 2013
PPIC poll shows Jerry Brown's public approval rating rising

Following passage of his November ballot initiative to raise taxes, Gov. Jerry Brown's public approval rating is higher than at any previous point in his term, according to a new poll.

Fifty-one percent of California adults and 50 percent of likely voters approve of the job Brown is doing, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released tonight. The Democratic governor's job approval rating was 41 percent when he took office in 2011 and 46 percent one year ago.

The Legislature's traditionally dismal public approval rating has also improved, though it remains well below 50 percent. Forty-one percent of Californians approve of the job the Legislature is doing, up from 28 percent a year ago, according to the poll. Forty-two percent of Californians disapprove of the job the Legislature is doing.

Brown's improving image follows passage of Proposition 30 and the release this month of a relatively popular budget plan.

Sixty-nine percent of Californians favor Brown's annual budget proposal, while 75 percent of Californians favor his controversial proposal to overhaul the state's K-12 funding system to direct more money to districts with more poor students and English learners, according to the poll.

Californians remain concerned about the economy, but their outlook has improved. Forty-nine percent of adults expect good economic times in the next 12 months, up from 35 percent a year ago. The proportion of residents who say things in California are generally going in the right direction -- 51 percent -- is above 50 percent for the first time since January 2007, according to the poll.

Fifty-seven percent of Californians expect the governor and Legislature to work together to accomplish a lot this year, up 13 percentage points from a year ago.

January 30, 2013
Jerry Brown, lawmakers 'breaking bread' in series of dinners

A week after delivering his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown will hold the first of a series of dinners with lawmakers in Sacramento tonight.

Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran, said in an email that the Democratic governor is "breaking bread with legislators - renewing old friendships and starting new ones - in a series of dinners at the Governor's Mansion."

Brown is hopeful lawmakers this year will approve his budget plan and other policy initiatives, including overhauling the state's K-12 funding system modifying its signature environmental regulation.

Brown attended a reception for newly elected Assembly members in December. The Legislature this year is convening its largest freshman class since 1966.

Duran said Brown worked with legislative leaders to plan the dinners.

Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, said Pérez felt "it was important for his members to have time with the governor."

"Why not start off the year breaking bread and balancing budgets?" she said.

January 30, 2013
State analyst: California now $5 billion ahead

California's top fiscal review office said today the state is now poised to finish January $5 billion ahead for the month in the wake of state and federal tax changes.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office told The Bee last week that it believed the state would finish the month $4 billion ahead based on record payments from quarterly tax filers through the middle of January. The overages are compared against a monthly forecast that Gov. Jerry Brown issued just 20 days ago.

California income tax revenues are notoriously difficult to predict in any year, but a mix of rare state and federal tax changes that affect top earners have complicated this particular tax season. The bulk of unanticipated January money comes from taxes paid on income for the final three months of 2012.

As we wrote last week, the LAO believes that three factors could be at play: 1) the prospect of higher 2013 federal tax rates prompted top earners to take more capital gains and dividends in 2012; 2) a retroactive state income tax hike could have prompted wealthy earners to pay the state earlier than expected; and 3) improvements in the economy beyond those predicted by fiscal experts.

That last factor could include more Facebook-related income than anticipated, the analyst said.

The LAO raised its estimate for January by another $1 billion based on more than $500 million in extra tax withholding, as well as fewer income tax refunds paid by the state than expected. The refund factor could be yet another twist resulting from this year's tax changes, said LAO chief forecaster Jason Sisney. Because federal leaders waited until the last minute to extend and update 2012 tax provisions like the Alternative Minimum Tax, taxpayers have faced delays in filing and obtaining refunds this year.

January 30, 2013
Sacramento's Phil Serna to serve on CA Air Resources Board

JV_TWIN_RIVERS 104.JPGSacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna has been named a member of the California Air Resources Board by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Serna, who was elected to the board of supervisors in 2010, is also currently the chair of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. He previously ran his own consulting firm and served as vice president of governmental affairs at the Home Builders Association of Northern California.

He will fill a seat created by Assembly Bill 146, 2012 legislation by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, that increased membership of the board to include someone representing air districts in the Sacramento region.

The 12-member regulatory board's duties include running the state's new cap-and-trade carbon market.

Serna won't receive compensation for the appointment, which must be approved by the state Senate.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include Dickinson's legislation and reflect that the board now has 12 slots.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento Supervisor Phil Serna speaks to the school board members about the culture in the Twin Rivers Police Dept. on Nov. 1, 201. Jose Luis Villegas/The Sacramento Bee

January 30, 2013
California ranks low in family economic security

The theory that California has evolved into a two-tier society is getting another dose of statistical support from a new nationwide survey of family economic security.

The Washington-based Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) found that Californians rank 38th among the states in economic security by such indices as poverty rate, savings, and net worth. It means, CFED's report said, that nearly half of California residents have no savings on which to rely in the event of job loss, illness or "other income-depleting emergency."

The state would rank even lower were the federal government to adopt a proposed new standard of gauging poverty. Under the current system, which is reflected in the CFED report, the state ranks 29th in poverty rate at 14.6 percent, but under the proposed new system, which takes into account living costs and other factors, the state would have the nation's highest poverty rate.

The detailed section of the report on California cites as major factors in the state's low economic security ranking its high level of average credit card debt ($13,825; ranked 48th) and its high bankruptcy rate, 6.2 per 1,000 residents, nearly 50 percent higher than the national rate (ranked 45th).

January 30, 2013
Tim Donnelly bill would arm California school employees

20120104_PK_TIM_DONNELLY.JPGAssemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, introduced a bill on Wednesday morning that would let schools guard against shootings by arming staff.

Assembly Bill 202 would allow schools to spend money on "schools marshals" who would be trained and permitted to carry concealed weapons at all times.

The bill would exempt marshals from a provision in the California Public Records Act requiring disclosure of concealed weapons permit holders, allowing schools to keep secret which staff members are armed.

Donnelly said concealing the identity is a key component of the bill, a measure that would keep would-be assailants in the dark while drawing "an invisible line of defense" around children.

"We have a moral obligation that the next Vicki Soto, who is faced with inexplicable evil, that she not be left defenseless," Donnelly said, alluding to a teacher at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School who shielded her students with her body during a December massacre.

January 30, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California and immigration reform

Dan says California's large immigrant population means a federal immigration overhaul could have powerful repercussions.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 30, 2013
AM Alert: Senate Republican field trip

VIDEO: With a federal immigration reform push under way, Dan Walters says the stakes are high in California.

Capitol Alert has learned that Senate Republicans will be descending on the Fox and Goose today for what they're calling a "legislative retreat." The day-long confab will involve strategizing for the 2013-2014 session and some presentations from policy staff.

January 29, 2013
Former assemblyman registers as a lobbyist

Former Assemblyman Alberto Torrico registered as a California lobbyist last week after two years of working as a lawyer and consultant in the state Capitol - but not registering as a lobbyist.

Torrico registered his law firm, the Law Offices of Alberto Torrico, as a lobbying firm and signed the State Coalition of Probation Organizations as a client. He said he will remain an "of counsel" attorney for the lobbying firm Capitol Advocacy, which is owned by lobbyist John Latimer.

Torrico said he registered as a lobbyist because the probation officers group intends to sponsor a few bills this year.

"So it is going to require me to be in the building and trying to impact the continuation of realignment," Torrico said. "They need me to be a lobbyist. They need me to work their bills."

January 29, 2013
Steinberg vows legislation to pay firms for investing in schools

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg vowed this week to craft legislation that would provide a money-making incentive for businesses to invest in high school or community college career education.

"I'm going to introduce that bill this year," he told the Community College League of California, representing the state's 72 community college districts, at its annual conference Monday in downtown Sacramento.

"Make it worthwhile," Steinberg said. "Make it part of the business model that says you can make more money if you invest in a community college career pathway or a high school career pathway than you can on Wall Street."'

Steinberg said his legislation would be a complement to Senate Bill 1458, signed into law last year, that de-emphasizes standardized test scores when measuring the performance of California schools.

January 29, 2013
Jerry Brown adviser Steve Glazer to run for state Assembly

Gov. Jerry Brown's political adviser, Steve Glazer, will run for a state Assembly seat in 2014, Glazer announced this morning.

The Orinda councilman will seek election in the Democratic-leaning Assembly District 16, the East Bay district from which Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, will be termed out.

Glazer cast himself as a moderate in a prepared statement, criticizing a legislative process he said is captive to "the extremes of both political parties."

Glazer has been an unpaid adviser to Brown since managing Brown's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The 55-year-old Democrat raised money for Proposition 30, Brown's November ballot measure to raise taxes, and was an adviser to the California Chamber of Commerce's political action committee on legislative races in the 2012 election cycle. He was appointed by Brown to the California State University Board of Trustees.

January 29, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: MediCal's uncertain expansion

As California begins erecting its health insurance exchange, Dan wonders about the immensely expensive and complex process of expanding MediCal.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 29, 2013
AM Alert: Guns get a hearing

VIDEO: Dan Walters says California's Affordable Care Act-mandated health exchange is going to impose huge new costs for MediCal.

Guns are on the agenda today. Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who lead the public safety committees in their respective chambers, are leading a special informational hearing on gun violence and California firearms laws.

The hearing accompanies a surge in new gun control legislation introduced since the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. Ammiano's office sent out a press release yesterday touting the fact that Democratic members were introducing nine new measures.

January 28, 2013
John A. Pérez proposes to expand Medi-Cal by a million people

More than 1 million low-income Californians would become eligible for health care coverage through Medi-Cal under legislation proposed Monday by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

The measure is meant to lay groundwork for President Barack Obama's federal health-care reform, which requires all Americans to obtain insurance by next year or pay a penalty.

Pérez's proposal, Assembly Bill 1X-1, would provide coverage to single adults whose income is less than $15,400 per year, representing roughly 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

"California is the national leader on implementing health care reform, and I am pleased to be authoring this critical measure which will ensure more Californians have access to quality, affordable health care," Pérez said.

January 28, 2013
Health care providers ask court to block Medi-Cal rate cut

Health care providers are asking federal judges today to reconsider a December decision by a three-judge panel that allows California to slash Medi-Cal rates.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers approved a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal reimbursements to doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and other providers as part of their 2011-12 budget. The reduction had been tied up in litigation since 2011, but a three-judge panel at the U.S.9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the state could move ahead.

When Brown declared this month that California's budget is finally balanced, he assumed the state would save $488 million general fund from the court-approved Medi-Cal cut.

January 28, 2013
Microsoft says it's 'not involved' in Kings move to Seattle

Microsoft is distancing itself from CEO Steve Ballmer's involvement in an investor group seeking to buy the Sacramento Kings, saying the software corporation has no stake in the matter.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg stirred controversy last week when he sent the Department of General Services a letter asking for information about California's business dealings with Microsoft. Critics interpreted the move as an unwarranted threat, but Steinberg, who represents Sacramento, said he was merely serving his constituents.

In response to a query from the Bee, a Microsoft spokeswoman said that Ballmer's role in the group seeking to move the Kings to Seattle is unrelated to Microsoft's business operations.

"The effort to build a new professional sports arena in Seattle was initiated and is led by San Francisco-based developer, Chris Hansen, who has announced a number of investors, including Steve Ballmer," said the spokeswoman, who declined to be identified. "Microsoft Corporation is not involved in the effort."

January 28, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Serious budget problems still possible

Better news from ratings' agencies aside, Dan says, California's state budget situation remains shaky.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 28, 2013
AM Alert: Community college leaders hear from Capitol crowd

VIDEO: Dan Walters warns that, credit ratings aside, California could still face serious budget problems.

HIGHER ED: Community college leaders from around the state are in Sacramento today, meeting with legislators in the Capitol and attending day two of the Community College League of California's annual legislative conference. They'll hear from a long roster of speakers including Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Marty Block, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, Assemblyman Das Williams and California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White.

MEDI-CAL: Today doctors and hospitals who sued the state for cutting the rates at which they get reimbursed for serving people on Medi-Cal will ask for a new review of their case. They want the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case, after a three-judge panel ruled in December that the rate cuts were permissible. It's been an ongoing fight between the Brown administration and the California Medical Association, the California Hospital Association and other medical interests that oppose the rate cuts Gov. Jerry Brown proposed back in 2011.

DISTINGUISHED GUEST: Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner and members of the Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce are welcoming a South Korean dignitary to the Capitol today. Tae Hee Yim, South Korea's national minister of labor and former chief of staff to the country's president, will be in California for two weeks trying to establish business partnerships between his country and our state. At a 1 p.m. press conference in the Capitol, Wagner will present a resolution to honor Korean War Armistice Day in July.

EARTHQUAKES: Sen. Alex Padilla is announcing a bill to create a statewide early warning system for earthquakes. He'll be joined at a 10 a.m. presser in Pasadena by experts from the U.S. Geological Survey, Caltech, UC Berkeley and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

FLU SHOTS: Anyone who hasn't gotten a flu shot yet can get one for free today in the Capitol. Anthem Blue Cross is providing them to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. in rooms 126 and 127. Not that we're pointing out any possible PR stunts, but it was just two weeks ago that the health care company was blasted for raising its rates.

January 25, 2013
Mark Johannessen, son of former senator, to run for Assembly

Mark Johannessen.jpgA Democrat who currently serves as a West Sacramento councilman and is the son of a former state senator has created a campaign committee to run in 2014 for an Assembly seat covering much of Sacramento.

Mark Johannessen's formation of a 7th Assembly District campaign committee does not commit him to run, but he said Friday that he's "in it to win it."

"Now is a good time to start the dialog of reinforcing regionalism," he said.

Johannessen, 56, is an attorney and certified public accountant. His father is Maurice Johannessen, a Redding Republican who served in the Senate from 1993 to 2002.

Johannessen is jockeying to succeed Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, who has created a campaign committee to run for the Senate seat to be vacated by President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in 2014.

January 25, 2013
Free flu shots offered at the Capitol

Anthem Blue Cross is used to patrolling the halls of the state Capitol, watching out for its interests.

On Monday, Anthem officials will be carrying flu vaccine. The health insurer is offering free flu shots from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in rooms 126 and 127 of the Capitol.

California is experiencing "widespread" flu activity this year, according to the state Department of Public Health.

January 25, 2013
California no longer alone in S&P fiscal ratings basement

California now has company in the Standard & Poor's credit basement.

S&P lowered Illinois' rating to A-minus, the same as California's. But the Midwest state is heading in the opposite direction, as the ratings house added a negative outlook. On the contrary, S&P gave California a positive outlook last year and indicated the state could eventually earn an upgrade if its finances get back on track.

S&P dinged Illinois for ever-growing pension liabilities that are unfunded.

"The downgrade reflects what we view as the state's weakened pension funded ratios and lack of action on reform measures intended to improve funding levels and diminish cost pressures associated with annual contributions," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Robin Prunty in a statement.

Moody's Investors Service dropped Illinois below California last year for similar reasons. A third agency, Fitch Ratings, still ranks California one notch below Illinois but has warned that Illinois could face a downgrade in the next six months.

January 25, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: State of the State hints at Brown's legacy

Don't believe it when Gov. Jerry Brown says he doesn't care about his legacy, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 25, 2013
AM Alert: Bay Area lawmaker pushing mountain lion protections

VIDEO: Based on Thursday's State of the State speech, Dan Walters says Gov. Jerry Brown is thinking about his legacy.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is introducing legislation today that's designed to prevent employees of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife from killing mountain lions when they wander into areas settled by humans. Hill is announcing the measure at the CuriOdyssey wildlife museum in San Mateo at 10 a.m. Two cubs were shot to death in early December in Half Moon Bay, and its mayor is joining Hill at the presser.

A quick refresher: California has some pretty stringent safeguards against killing mountain lions, with voters approving a ballot measure back in 1990 to prohibit sport hunting of the animals. Bobcats, which are often mistaken for mountain lions, also got some extra protections last session from SB 1221, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, that prohibits people from using dogs to hunt bobcats and bears.

Down in the south state, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, is holding a hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Fiscal Oversight and Bonded Indebtedness today to examine options for using the revenue from newly passed Proposition 39. The hearing will run from 2 to 5 p.m. at San Diego's Perkins Elementary School.

In case you missed our coverage of Brown's State of the State address yesterday, the governor got generally positive responses for promising to carefully steward California's budget stability while giving K-12 schools more flexibility. The reactions to his proposals on high-speed rail and two tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were more mixed.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones notes in David Siders' story in today's Bee that the speech "managed to quote three philosophers and a children's story -- 'The Little Train That Could' -- and the Bible, too."

January 24, 2013
Karl Rove to headline California Republican Party convention

Rove Rage.jpgThe California Republican Party is turning to GOP strategist Karl Rove, the "architect" of former President George W. Bush's political campaigns, as it works to rebuild its own brand in the Golden State.

The party has tapped Rove as the keynote speaker for its spring convention in Sacramento, which will take place the first weekend in March. He'll address members at a Saturday night banquet at the Hyatt Regency.

Rove, who served as a senior adviser and chief of staff to Bush in the White House, has more recently been the figurehead for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two groups that have spent millions backing GOP candidates across the county.

The convention will mark the first official gathering of GOP operatives and delegates since the 2012 election, when Democrats dominated at the polls. Voters ousted several GOP congressional incumbents, gave Democrats a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature and approved a $7 billion tax measure backed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. The GOP's share of the electorate fell to less than 30 percent of registered voters.

Former GOP Senate leader Jim Brulte is expected to take the reins as party chairman in leadership elections conducted during the convention. Many within the party are counting on him to improve the party's fundraising and prospects for political success.

PHOTO CREDIT: Then White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove listens as President George W. Bush, not shown, speaks with reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington in this April 2, 2007, file photo. AP Photo/ Gerald Herbert.

January 24, 2013
Steinberg defends letter to Microsoft over possible Kings exit

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is not backing down from a request for information about Microsoft's dealings with California, a gesture that many interpreted as a warning to prospective Sacramento Kings buyer and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

After reports emerged that Ballmer was one of the investors seeking to purchase the Kings and relocate them to Seattle, Steinberg sent a letter to the Department of General Services asking for data about California's contracts with Microsoft and the monetary value of the state's past purchases from the technology giant.

January 24, 2013
Assembly sets pay ranges for newly created job classifications

BB NEW MEMBERS 169.JPGNow for the money: The California Assembly has set salary ranges for a handful of new job classifications it created this month.

Dozens of aides potentially could receive pay increases if chosen for the new posts. The 80-member Assembly currently employs about 1,200 people for Capitol and district offices, policy committees, administration, security and other functions, records show.

Administrator Jon Waldie said the purpose of increasing the number of job classifications was to create promotional opportunities for existing personnel, not to expand hiring.

The changes came in the wake of voters' decision to alter California's legislative term limits, which now allow Assembly members to serve up to 12 years in the lower house, rather than six.

Anticipating that less frequent turnover of legislators will resort in more stable office staffs and fewer vacancies, the Assembly created two new positions and basically two step increases, with expanded duties, for existing office posts.

January 24, 2013
Former California state parks chief dies

By Robert D. Dávila

Henry R. Agonia, who was appointed to oversee California state parks by Gov. George Deukmejian, died Jan. 18 of leukemia, his family said. He was 70.

Agonia was parks chief for the city of Glendale when Deukmejian named him in 1987 to be director of the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

He led efforts to manage resources at California parks, campgrounds, beaches and historic sites as public attendance grew while state funding declined. He apologized after stirring up controversy with remarks suggesting state parks should play a role in promoting religion.

A Sacramento resident, Agonia worked as a consultant after leaving state government in 1992. He ran an environmental planning and communications firm and served as executive director of the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts.

Besides his wife, Marlene, he is survived by his mother, three children, a sister, two brothers and eight grandchildren. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Friday at East Lawn Memorial Park, 43rd Street and Folsom Boulevard, Sacramento.

A full obituary will appear tomorrow in The Bee.

January 24, 2013
Rapid Response: Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State reaction

Reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address have already started pouring in. Here are some highlights, updated as we get new material.


Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville

We have to make sure education remains on the top of our list of priorities. California is seeing some tough times, but if we work together with the Governor and our Democrat colleagues, we can get this state back on track again. As Governor Brown mentioned today, the time is now for action. We all need to take a hard look at the issues this state is facing and come up with real, practical solutions.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco

Thanks to the actions of the Governor, the Legislature, and the people of California, our state is clearly heading in the right direction. Jobs are being created and our economy has significantly improved. While we should not go on a spending spree, we should begin to restore critical services that were decimated in the past several budgets. I am extremely pleased to see the Governor's commitment to our public universities and his declaration that tuition hikes are off the table.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto

Governor Brown's tunnels plan is not the answer to our water crisis. We need to pursue less expensive alternatives that supply southern communities with quality water without devastating Delta farmers and families. Also, while our economy is showing some signs of recovery and there are stories to celebrate, California still has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation and Central Valley families suffer even more. I wish the Governor gave a more detailed plan for spurring job creation, but I'm pleased that he at least wants to reform CEQA and provide more certainty to businesses.

Barring any budget gimmicks, I am pleased with Governor Brown's growing commitment to focus on funding K-12 schools and universities while providing districts with more local control and flexibility. It is what families, students and teachers alike deserve. Investing in education is integral to our future economic health, and I am hopeful that the Legislature will uphold its commitment to using Prop 30 funds to boost our education system and ultimately our economy.

January 24, 2013
Jerry Brown says California has 'confounded our critics'

_HJA3608.JPGGov. Jerry Brown said in a triumphant State of the State address this morning that "California is back," arriving at a balanced budget after years of deficits.

"California has once again confounded our critics," he said. "We've wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget. And by God, we're going to preserve and keep it that way for years to come."

In a wide-ranging and, at times, seemingly rushed 24-minute address to a joint session of the Legislature, the Democratic governor credited lawmakers for casting "difficult votes to cut billions from the state budget," and he praised voters for approving Proposition 30, Brown's November measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

"Two years ago, they were writing our obituary," Brown said. "Well, it didn't happen. California is back, its budget is balanced and we are on the move."

Still, the governor who famously declared in his 1976 State of the State address that California was "entering an era of limits" also cautioned lawmakers to "guard jealously the money temporarily made available" by Proposition 30.

"This means living within our means and not spending what we don't have," he said. "Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our good intentions, but the basis for realizing them. It's cruel to lead people on by expanding good programs, only to cut them, cut them back when the funding disappears."

January 24, 2013
Read the text of Jerry Brown's speech

Here is the text of Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State speech, as provided by the Governor's Office:

The message this year is clear: California has once again confounded our critics. We have wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget. And, by God, we will persevere and keep it that way for years to come.

Against those who take pleasure, singing of our demise, California did the impossible.

You, the California legislature, did it. You cast difficult votes to cut billions from the state budget. You curbed prison spending through an historic realignment and you reformed and reduced the state's long term pension liabilities.

Then, the citizens of California, using their inherent political power under the Constitution, finished the task. They embraced the new taxes of Proposition 30 by a healthy margin of 55% to 44%.

January 24, 2013
Live Blog: Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State

January 24, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Good government falls victim to power

Don't count on the Democratic majority supporting a bill that would require more bill transparency in the California Legislature, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 24, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown lays out his view of the state of the state

VIDEO: Dan Walters laments the fact that a Republican-authored good government bill is unlikely to get any traction in California.

Today's the big day: Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State speech at 9 a.m. in the Assembly chambers. Buoyed by his Proposition 30 victory and a subsequent budget that restores a long-absent degree of fiscal stability to California, Brown is expected to expand upon his proposal to revamp education funding, among other things.

The Bee will be blogging live on his address, and will also stream it live. Look for both at

If you're looking for more context, our colleagues over at Capital Public Radio have put together this nifty archive of previous state of the state speeches. The collection spans back to 2004 and features audio and text.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is joining other members of Congress and advocates on Capitol Hill in announcing a bill to reinstate an assault weapons ban. at 11 a.m. EST (8 a.m. Pacific).

The University of California Center, Sacramento, is hosting an event on how the youth vote plays into California's voting trends. It features Jonathan Fox, a professor and chair of Latin American and Latino studies at UC Santa Cruz, and Mindy Romero, project director of the California Civic Engagement Project. Click here to learn more.

CalChamber is hosting a memorial service for the late Michael Kahl, who served as an aide to California lawmakers. Kahl, who died in November, helped erect what would become the Environmental Protection Agency and became an influential lobbyist upon returning to California. The service runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 1215 K St., 14th floor.

Happy birthday to Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who turns 55 today.

January 23, 2013
Ex-Treasury official Neel Kashkari mulling run for CA office

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari, a Republican executive who worked for the U.S. Treasury Department at the height of the financial crisis, is reportedly weighing a run for public office in California.

Kashkari, 39, announced today that he is stepping down from his job as management director for Pacific Investment Management Co., a Newport Beach investment firm. He expressed an interest in entering public service in California in multiple interviews published today and has launched a website touting his biography and leadership bona fides.

"I'm not the typical California Republican. I'm the son of immigrants," Kashkari told the Wall Street Journal. "I come from modest upbringing. I have a successful track record. I'm an optimist. And I think something can be done if people work together."

Kashkari, who says he now lives in Orange County, was a key figure in implementing the $700 billion bank bailout effort, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, during President George W. Bush's second term. He stayed at the department for the start of Barack Obama's presidency before leaving to join Pimco in 2009.

January 23, 2013
New proposal would lower voter threshold for police, fire taxes

20121208_Sacramento_Police_Fire.JPGA newly proposed constitutional amendment would lower the threshold for California's local voters to pass special taxes for police or fire agencies.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3 is the latest in a string of measures that would allow local voters to approve revenue-raising tax proposals by a 55 percent majority rather than by two-thirds.

Democrats could place such constitutional amendments on the ballot without Republican support, since they control the governor's office and have supermajority control of both legislative houses.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the legislative push to ease voter tax thresholds is a reflection of state and local government's "insatiable appetite" for money.

January 23, 2013
Sacramento GOP consultant files suit against Lance Armstrong

JV AMGEN LANCE START.JPGSacramento-based Republican strategist Rob Stutzman and local chef Jonathan Wheeler have filed a class-action lawsuit against Lance Armstrong and his publishers, alleging that the infamous cyclist deceived readers in a 2001 best seller.

The 59-page suit lays out various "misrepresentations" in Armstrong's "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life." It says Armstrong credited his Tour de France success to training, diet and drive while denying that he ever used banned substances.

The suit was filed Tuesday in Sacramento's U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleging unfair business practices, fraud, false advertising and deceit. The complaint seeks, among other things, attorney's fees and refunds for California customers who purchased the book.

In the face of overwhelming evidence that he used drugs during his career, Armstrong was stripped last year of his seven Tour de France titles before revealing to Oprah Winfrey last week that his perfect comeback from cancer was a "myth."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Stutzman declined to comment on the suit.

Not known for working with trial lawyers, Stutzman served as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's communications director during the former bodybuilder's first term in Sacramento. The suit says Stutzman read Armstrong's book cover to cover.

January 23, 2013
California unions gain membership, bucking national trend

Union Membership.JPGBucking a national trend of declining labor union membership, California's unions saw a tiny uptick in 2012, according to a new report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nationwide, the proportion of wage and salary workers belonging to unions dropped from 11.8 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2012, the BLS said, but in California, it increased from 17.1 percent to 17.2 percent.

California was one of just 14 states that saw union gains. That translated into an increased in union membership from 2.4 million to 2.5 million, the majority of them state, school and local government employees.

New York has the nation's highest union membership proportion, 23.2 percent, while North Carolina has the lowest, 2.9 percent. California's rate is fifth highest behind New York, Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Washington state, but the Golden State's number of union members is by the far the largest of any state.

PHOTO CREDIT: This Feb. 28, 2011 file photo shows protests at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. The nation's labor unions suffered sharp declines in membership last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday. (AP Photo/ Andy Manis, File)

January 23, 2013
Debt ceiling vote gives Ami Bera chance to act on campaign pledge

LS AMI_BERA_FLUKE 4.JPGA political maneuver by House Republicans to include a "No Budget, No Pay" provision in legislation to temporary suspend the federal debt ceiling has given freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera the chance to act on one of his key campaign pledges.

The main purpose of the bill, which passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 285-144 today, was to prevent the government from going into default for at least four months by temporarily lifting a $16.4 trillion cap on federal borrowing.

But it also included language to withhold pay for members if their chamber doesn't pass a budget plan. The move was seen as a political poke at the Senate, which hasn't adopted a full budget resolution in years.

January 23, 2013
Social scientist, football star among inductees to California Hall of Fame

MONTANA RETIREMENT.JPGA social scientist, labor activist and football star are among the newest class of inductees named by Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown to the California Hall of Fame.

The inductees, announced today, are the late anthropologist and social scientist Gregory Bateson, actor Warren Beatty, football star Joe Montana, labor activist Dolores Huerta, the late designers Charles and Ray Eames, the founding brothers of Warner Bros., and Ishi, the famous American Indian.

At least one of the inductees - Bateson - impressed Brown long ago. While governor from 1975 to 1983, Brown appointed Bateson to the University of California board of regents.

"The Golden State shines brighter thanks to the talent and creativity of
these trailblazers," Brown said in a prepared statement. "Their contributions to
California are truly inspiring."

The annual Hall of Fame event was started by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and first lady Maria Shriver in 2006. Brown and Gust Brown will present medals to the living inductees and to family members of posthumous inductees at a ceremony on March 20 at The California Museum.

PHOTO CREDIT: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana is seen in this Jan. 12, 1990 file photo. AP Photo/ Jack Smith

January 23, 2013
Ohman: Darrell Steinberg's Microsoft play

Ohman123.jpegCheck out Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman's latest effort on Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and the Kings. See other Ohman cartoons here.

January 23, 2013
New bill would offer holiday 'thank you' to California's soldiers

TRAVEL CALIF PARKS032.JPGFor serving the country, California active-duty soldiers or war veterans could use state parks for free on Memorial Day and Veterans Day under newly proposed legislation.

Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 150.

The bill would require participants to be California residents and to show current military identification or proof of honorable discharge.

Park entrance fees also would be waived for anyone riding in the same vehicle as the participating armed services member or veteran.

PHOTO CREDIT: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Lawrence K. Ho. / Los Angeles Times file, 2009.

January 23, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Phil Mickelson and taxes on the wealthy

Dan says golfer Phil Mickelson had a point when he threatened to leave California to escape high taxes.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 23, 2013
AM Alert: Education on the agenda

VIDEO: Dan Walters says golfer Phil Mickelson probably isn't the only affluent person reconsidering his decision to live in California.

State education officials will face more criticism today for what advocates see as a failure to provide adequate instruction to English learners in public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center are holding a press conference at the ACLU of Southern California's Los Angeles office, starting at 10 a.m.

The Public Policy Institute of California is holding a forum on accountability in K-12 education. Participants will include Susanna Cooper, principal consultant in Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office; Jonathan Raymond, superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District; David Lesher and Paul Warren of the Public Policy Institute of California; and Crystal Brown, president of the organization Educate our State. Starting at noon at the CSAC Conference Center.

A little context: the federal government recently rejected California's application to be exempted from some of the more punitive parts of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying California's proposal (states need to submit a blueprint of reforms to be considered) did not do enough to incorporate student test scores into teacher evaluations. The push to work test scores into teacher accountability measures has been a major part of the national education reform debate.

A reminder that Gov. Jerry Brown will be delivering his State of the State address tomorrow, starting at 9 a.m. in the Assembly Chambers.

Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, is holding a community forum in San Jose to get input on spending the money for energy efficiency the recently passed Proposition 39 is likely to generate. From 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Independence High School's multi-purpose room.

Robin Umberg, deputy secretary for veterans homes in the California Department of Veterans Affairs, will be speaking to reporters at the Veterans Home of California in Fresno today, starting at 11 a.m. On Tuesday, the Little Hoover Commission, a watchdog agency, began probing whether the state's Veterans Affairs Agency is doing enough to provide services.

The Greenlining Institute is holding a discussion on covering election reform in California. Speakers will include Eugene Lee, director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center's voting rights project; Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause; Dean Logan, registrar of voters for Los Angeles County; Rosalind Gold of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund; Mindy Romero, director of the UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project; and Michelle Romero of the Greenlining Institute. The event begins at noon in the Sacramento Convention Center Complex, room 201.

January 22, 2013
Assembly Democrat wants grocery store ban on plastic bags

Assemblyman Marc Levine announced today he will revive a proposal banning all single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores.

Under the proposal, most grocery retailers could no longer provide thin plastic bags for customers starting in 2015. For 18 months, retailers could offer paper bags made of recycled materials or reusable plastic bags for customers to bag their milk, eggs and other groceries.

Starting in July 2016, grocery retailers could only provide reusable plastic bags, which many stores already offer at a fee. The new proposal, Assembly Bill 158, also leaves room for stores to provide recycled paper bags at a charge.

January 22, 2013
New bill would expand early abortion providers in California

More medical professionals, including nurses and midwives, would be permitted to perform certain early abortions under a new bill unveiled on Tuesday.

In a press conference at the Capitol that served both to introduce the bill and to mark the 40-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, lawmakers and women's health advocates said the measure is necessary for women in communities without abortion providers.

They cited a statistic that 52 percent of California counties do not contain a provider, other than hospitals, which often have only limited services.

"California will not go back. We are going to go forward," Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said. "And we are doing that by making sure that reproductive healthcare, that abortion services are available to every woman, to make sure that we all have access, whether we live in rural areas or urban centers, whether or not we are able to afford the procedure or whether we require assistance."

Assembly Bill 154, authored by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would revive last year's push to expand abortion access by allowing nurse practitioners to perform non-surgical early abortions.

January 22, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California government's tech ineptitude

The CalPERS overtime pay controversy reminds Dan of California's poor track record with launching computer projects.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 22, 2013
AM Alert: Next phase for special elections

VIDEO: Dan Walters is mystified about tech-savvy California's poor record with government-sponsored online projects.

Today California enters the next phase in setting special elections for Senate seats in the 32nd and 40th districts, which Rep. Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, respectively vacated when they ascended to Congress in November.

It's the last day for Secretary of State Debra Bowen to send county election officials a certified list of candidates. Four registered Democrats have filed their intention to run in the 32nd, among them Assemblywoman Norma Torres and San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller Larry WalkerBen Hueso, D-San Diego, looks like the candidate to beat in the 40th.

Bowen's office will be holding a lottery at 11 a.m. to randomly determine the order in which candidates for the two elections will appear on the ballot.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is staying on in Washington, D.C. post-inauguration to lobby for a national mental health plan. On his schedule today are meetings with Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA, Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, the vice president's office, the Department of Health and Human Services and some advocacy organizations.

The Little Hoover Commission will convene a hearing to examine the quality of veterans' programs in California, starting at 9 a.m. in Room 2040 of the State Capitol building.

The California Women's Health Alliance holding a rally on the capitol buildings south steps today to mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, starting at 1 p.m.

Finally, a happy belated birthday to Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, who turned 39 on Friday.

January 21, 2013
Which California politicians got inauguration seats?

US_NEWS_INAUGURATION_182_TB.jpgPlenty of California elected officials traveled to Washington, D.C. for President Barack Obama's inauguration -- Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will use his time in the nation's capital to push for more mental health funding -- and a lavish ceremony hosted by the California State Society attracted a fair number of heavyweights.

But if proximity to power is a gauge of clout in Washington, only a few California politicians made it to the inner circle. That would be the rarefied space on stage, close to the president as he delivered his inauguration address.

Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were there, seated alongside fellow Senate Democrats, as well as Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who wore a white cowboy hat for the occasion.

Also on stage were Californians representing opposite ends of the House's ideological spectrum: Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, shared the space with Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who was seated directly behind several Supreme Court justices.

Outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta and departing labor secretary Hilda Solis, both of whom got their start in California politics before ascending to Cabinet-level positions, were there as well. Solis served in the California Legislature from 1992 to 1997 and then represented El Monte in Congress from 2001 to 2009; Panetta, who is originally from Monterey, represented California in the House.

PHOTO: Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi can be seen in the upper left of this photo, as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama at the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2013. Brian Cassella/ Chicago Tribune/ MCT.

January 18, 2013
Court ruling in Prop. 30 case limits use of 'spot bills' in budget

The California Legislature acted unconstitutionally when it approved a bill moving Gov. Jerry Brown's initiative to raise taxes to the top of the November ballot, an appeals court ruled today.

The opinion does not affect the passage of Proposition 30 but could limit the Legislature's future use of so-called "spot bills," placeholder bills included in budget packages and passed as urgency measures only after they are filled with language later. Such budget-related bills are useful to lawmakers because they require only a majority vote and take effect immediately.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that the state Constitution does not allow the Legislature to include empty spot bills in the budget package and to fill them with content as urgency bills later.

The measure that gave Proposition 30 top billing on the November ballot "was nothing but a number, a placeholder, an empty vessel at the time the budget bill was passed," the court ruled.

That bill, Assembly Bill 1499, gave ballot order priority to signature-based constitutional amendments over other initiatives. A higher position on the ballot is considered advantageous.

Legislative Democrats said a $1,000 expenditure included in the bill qualified it as an appropriation. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association challenged the legislation, saying it had nothing to do with the state budget.

The taxpayers association heralded the ruling in a news release, calling it a case of "huge significance for the budget process."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office said it was reviewing the decision and conferring with counsel.

January 18, 2013
Legislature won't say where lawmakers drive on taxpayers' dime

By Torey Van Oot and Jim Sanders

State legislators billed taxpayers more than $450,000 for on-the-job driving in the last legislative year, but officials won't say where the lawmakers went.

The Legislature began reimbursing members for work-related travel in their personal cars, including trips from their home to the Capitol, in Dec. 2011, after a program providing state-leased cars to members was cut by the Citizens Compensation Commission. The change saved taxpayers nearly $240,000 in its first year, a Bee analysis found.

The mileage reimbursements varied significantly by member, however. Some legislators declined to seek reimbursement, while others received large sums for driving thousands of miles for legislative or other official business. While some of the members logging the most miles represent vast, rural districts within driving distance of the Capitol, others from geographically compact districts in Southern California also racked up thousands of dollars in reimbursement costs.

January 18, 2013
Resolution on domestic violence delayed mid-presentation

A routine resolution urging Congress to reauthorize federal legislation aimed at curbing domestic violence was temporarily shelved in an unusually public fashion today, as the Senate's top Democrat stepped in to appease concerned female legislators.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was interrupted by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg shortly after he began introducing his Senate Resolution 8, which calls on Congress to re-introduce and renew the Violence Against Women Act, on this Senate floor this morning. After a brief discussion on the floor, Yee announced that he would hold off on bringing the resolution up for a vote.

Steinberg told reporters after session that the confusion was caused by an "innocent miscommunication."

January 18, 2013
UC President Mark Yudof to step down Aug. 31

University of California President Mark Yudof is stepping down from the position he's held for the last five years as head of the prestigious 10-campus system.

Yudof announced today that he will resign on Aug. 31 and assume a new job teaching law at UC Berkeley.

"The prior 18 months brought a spate of taxing health issues. Though these challenges have been largely overcome, I feel it is time to make a change in my professional lifestyle," Yudof wrote in a statement.

He also said the time is right for UC to seek new leadership because a spate of budget cutting appears to be near an end.

"When I arrived in 2008, the economy had begun to unravel and state coffers were tumbling deep into the red. With its budget slashed, the University was presented with one of the most severe challenges in its history. Now, it appears the storm has been weathered. We are not fully in the clear, but we are much closer than we were even a few months ago. I look forward to working closely in the months ahead with Governor (Jerry) Brown, Assembly Speaker (John A.) Pérez, Senate President Pro Tem (Darrell) Steinberg and other state leaders to ensure that the University is positioned to continue on this forward course, which ultimately will benefit all Californians."

January 18, 2013
Manufacturing stages U.S. comeback, but not in California

Manufacturing is staging a big comeback in the United States, according to a new U.S. Commerce Department report, but a new state employment report indicates that manufacturing is continuing its years-long slide in California.

The federal report says that between the start of 2010 and the end of 2012, manufacturing accounted for 500,000 new jobs. But a state-by-state survey indicates that the effects are being felt mostly in the Upper Midwest and the South.

In Indiana, for example, manufacturing accounts for 13.1 percent of jobs and 22.3 percent of earnings, making it the No. 1 state in terms of economic impact. All other states with high-impact manufacturing sectors, except for New Hampshire, are in the two regions.

Meanwhile, a monthly report on employment in California, also released Friday, shows that government and manufacturing are among the categories to show declines over the past year.

Manufacturing, once a major component of the California economy, now accounts for less than 9 percent of the state's non-agricultural payrolls. It shed 11,400 jobs between December 2011 and last month.

The federal report's manufacturing employment map indicates that only in a handful of San Francisco Bay Area counties do manufacturers account for more than 10 percent of employment.

January 18, 2013
Record number of students apply to UC

The demand for a college education keeps growing in California, with the state's premier university system announcing today that it's received a record number of freshman applications for the fall term.

The University of California reports that it's received 99,129 applications from California high school seniors, a jump of 6.2 percent from last year. Applications from out-of-state and international students are also up - by 14.9 percent and 34.5 percent respectively.

All of UC's nine undergraduate campuses saw increases in freshman applications, ranging from a 9.7 percent rise at UC Berkeley to a 16.9 percent rise at UC Santa Cruz. UCLA remains the most sought after campus, with 80,472 high school seniors applying. See a breakdown of applications to each campus at this link.

January 18, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: CalPERS revelations feed cynicism

Revelations in The Bee about CalPERS managers making extra money at second jobs remind Dan why people are cynical about politics.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 18, 2013
AM Alert: Los Angeles event taps into U.S. immigration debate

Editor's note: this post was corrected to reflect the fact that Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod represents Chino, not Chico.

VIDEO: Dan Walters says news that some CalPERS managers are getting extra pay should come as no surprise.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles is holding a press conference at Los Angeles City Hall to call for comprehensive immigration reform, staring at 10 a.m. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, is scheduled to be there, along with labor groups and immigration advocates.

Immigration seems likely to be on the national agenda, with President Barack Obama reportedly poised to unveil his plan for an overhaul, and Capitol Alert's Jim Sanders has reported that it could get play in California, too. Gov. Jerry Brown said yesterday that he "expected to be involved" in the national debate.

Today, meanwhile, is the last day to file for upcoming special elections in two state Senate districts.

Assemblywoman Norma Torres, San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller Larry Walker and former Downey City Council candidate Gabriel Orozco, all Democrats, have filed statements of intention to run. Up for grabs is the 32nd Senate District seat that Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, vacated.

Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, resigned his seat when he was elected to represent California's 51st Congressional District. Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, is the odds-on favorite to win in the 40th Senate District.

The special primaries will be held March 12, with the general elections scheduled for May 14.

If there seems to be a larger number of lawmakers around the Capitol than is usual for a Friday, it could be because of the state holiday on Monday, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed. Legislators lose their per diem payments if they don't meet every three days.

January 17, 2013
Jerry Brown, GOP Ohio governor both fans of startup Udacity

Gov. Jerry Brown may not have much in common with John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, but in the world of online education they appear to have a mutual friend.

"I talked to the governor of Ohio just yesterday, and I went to the governor of Texas last week, last Friday, and I told them what Jerry Brown is doing in California," Udacity Inc. founder Sebastian Thrun said the other day.

Thrun, whose Palo Alto-based startup this week announced a partnership with San Jose State University to provide online courses, was in Ohio on Monday to meet with Kasich. Mark Kvamme, the high-profile venture capitalist who has been involved in economic development efforts in Ohio, recommended the meeting to Kasich, the governor's office said.

In a written statement, Kasich said a "powerful tool like Udacity is tailor-made for us because it's nimble, easily accessible and low-cost."

He said, "It's a break-the-mold approach that's driving what we're doing in Ohio, and I'm very excited to see how we can take full advantage of it to help meet our goals of developing a stronger workforce."

Brown, a Democrat, has been lobbying the University of California and California State University systems to expand their online offerings. He concluded two days of meetings with UC regents today, and he is expected to attend a meeting of CSU trustees in Long Beach next week.

January 17, 2013
Jerry Brown plans to fight for immigrant 'pathway to citizenship'

Gov. Jerry Brown is thrusting himself into the federal fight over creating a "pathway to citizenship" for millions of undocumented immigrants who entered the United States illegally.

"I expect to play a role in the national effort for comprehensive reform," Brown said in a statement released by his office Thursday. "I'll be directing some efforts on national reform."

Brown's personal involvement is significant because California is home to an estimated 2.9 million undocumented immigrants, about one of every four nationwide.

Gil Duran, Brown's spokesman, said the governor will "carry the message to Washington" that comprehensive immigration reform is needed, underscoring its importance to California's economy.

Brown has been talking to business, agriculture, labor and other groups about "how best to be part of that conversation," Duran said.

"It seems that in both Washington and certainly here in California, people recognize the importance of addressing comprehensive immigration reform," Duran said. "It does appear there may be some bipartisan support. The time to act has come."

January 17, 2013
California high on gas tax, low on user-financed transportation

Gas Pump.JPGCalifornia has the nation's third highest fuel taxes, but nevertheless has one of the nation's lowest rates of charging users for highways and other transportation services, according to a new study by the Tax Foundation.

Despite fuel taxes of over 50 cents a gallon, the Washington-based organization found, those and other "user" taxes and fees account for just 30.3 percent of state and local government spending on transportation services, including mass transit, and just 22.7 percent of spending on roads, streets and highways.

The state is the 33rd lowest state in the first category and 39th in the second. On average, states finance 35.8 percent of all transportation spending from user revenue, and 32 percent of roads, streets and highways.

The Tax Foundation argues that most transportation costs should be covered by user taxes and fees, rather than general revenues. Delaware ranks No. 1 in that approach, covering well over 50 percent of its costs with user revenue.

PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press file, 2008

January 17, 2013
Audit finds 'general confusion' at PUC budget office

A new Department of Finance audit found "general confusion and lack of knowledge" in the California Public Utilities Commission budget office, The Bee reported today.

Those weaknesses led to accounting discrepancies and poor forecasting related to consumer-funded programs run by the PUC, auditors found. In 2011, the commission told lawmakers and the Department of Finance that it had $422 million more than actually existed in seven funds. The audit also discovered that one PUC employee had made an $81 million typographical error.

You can read the audit here.

January 17, 2013
Former GOP Sen. Tony Strickland takes fellowship at USC

Former GOP Sen. Tony Strickland is going from practicing politics to preaching it as a fellow at the University of Southern California's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

The Ventura County Star's Timm Herdt has the details on the Moorpark Republican's new gig:

Strickland, a Republican, will become one of about six former legislators to participate in the program since its start three years ago. The unpaid fellowship involves participation in panel discussions on political and public policy issues and interaction with students in small group discussions.

In addition, plans are being made for Strickland to partner with Dan Schnur, the institute's director, in teaching a class in the fall called "The Future of California." That position would be paid.

Strickland, who lost a 2012 bid for an open House seat to former Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, might not stay on the campaign sidelines for long. The two-time former state controller candidate told Herdt he is "seriously considering" challenging Brownley again in 2014.

January 17, 2013
Bill would let California teens 'pre-register' to vote at age 15

California teens could submit paperwork to get on the state's voter rolls three years before they are allowed to cast a ballot under legislation introduced in the state Senate this week.

Senate Bill 113, by Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, would allow Californians to "pre-register" to vote at age 15, giving the state the nation's youngest minimum age for submitting an affidavit of registration.

While the pre-registrants would not be able to vote until they turned 18, the Santa Barbara Democrat said she hopes the change would increase the state's active voter population by linking the "positive experience" of getting a learner's permit at the Department of Motor Vehicles with registering to vote. Teens could also use the state's new online registration system under the measure, which is sponsored by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

"I see this as an opportunity to encourage teens to make sure they register to vote when they go out and register to get their learner's permit," Jackson said. "We really need to have people at all ages voting and voting in large numbers, and it also encourages more lifelong engaged voters so we end up with a vibrant and healthy democracy."

Bowen touted the proposal as a "powerful tool" to motivate more Californians to vote regularly.

"Young people are more likely to become lifelong voters when they are engaged early, so offering the opportunity to pre-register will be a powerful tool in getting them hooked on democracy," she said in a statement.

January 17, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Parkinson's first law holds sway at Capitol

Only a sliver of the Legislature's year involves productive work, and Dan wonders whether California should go back to a part-time Legislature.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 17, 2013
AM Alert: UC regents discuss budget as Jerry Brown sits in

VIDEO: Dan Walters says that, considering how little work lawmakers seem to do in Sacramento, the part-time legislature California used to have may have been more effective.

Gov. Jerry Brown is once again attending the University of California Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco, at the Mission Bay Conference Center.

The regents are scheduled to discuss Brown's budget, which has earned praise from university officials for giving them enough money to stave off another tuition hike.

Already this week, Brown has touted the prospect of using online instruction to lower education costs and bring in more potential students and has gotten the regents' support.

The Judicial Council, the policy-setting arm of California's Administrative Office of the Courts, will also be talking about the proposed budget at its meeting at the Ronald M. George State Office Complex in San Francisco. The meeting runs from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., with Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye giving her report early in the meeting, followed by a staff report on the governor's proposal. Listen via audio stream on the California court system's website. Find the agenda at this link.

A costly California project is on today's agenda -- officials from the California High-Speed Rail Authority will be in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of high speed rail. Authority Chair Dan Richard and CEO Jeff Morales will be joined by Joe Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, and U.S. Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari.

Back on the West Coast, the board of Covered California, the entity responsible for overseeing the new California health insurance exchange mandated under the Affordable Care Act, is meeting in Los Angeles from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will be speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility to train workers in green technology, a project co-sponsored by the Sheet Metal Workers' Local 104, Sheet Metal Air Conditioning National Association, and Bay Area Industry Training Fund. The ceremony is at 2 p.m. in Fairfield.

The Leadership California Institute is hosting a screening of the PBS documentary "Race 2012," an examination of the presidential election's perceptions of race in America. The screening, to be held at Sacramento's Crest Theatre, will start at 11:30 a.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion with Paul Mitchell, the vice president of Political Data Inc; Debra Dickerson, an editor at U.S. News & World Report; campaign strategist Bill Wong; and journalist Pilar Marrero. Mike Madrid, a political consultant with GrassrootsLab, will moderate.

The University of California Center Sacramento is holding a talk on how foreclosures affected the election, hosted by Martin Johnson, chairman of the political science department at UC Riverside. The talk is from noon to 1:30 p.m., at 1130 K St., Room LL3.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is holding an open house at his district office, 915 L St., Suite 110, from 5 to 7 p.m.

January 16, 2013
Steinberg heading to D.C. to talk mental health with officials

20121203_HA_ASSEMBLY0856.JPGCalifornia's top Senate Democrat will be in Washington next week to urge leaders to put a greater focus on mental health services in the wake of last month's mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that he is extending his trip east for the presidential inauguration to meet with administration officials and congressional leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the state's two U.S. senators, about increasing aid for preventative and treatment programs for the mentally ill.

The Sacramento Democrat has asked the administration to consider an approach based on California's Proposition 63, the voter-approved tax on millionaires to pay for mental health programs that Steinberg authored and championed.

"We have in California, as we do in so many other areas, led the way by investing a billion dollars a year in a system that is centered on prevention, early intervention and recovery for people who are most ill," he said. "That's worth sharing with the rest of the country."

January 16, 2013
University of California officials to push ahead with online education

RP YUDOF SPEAKS.JPGSAN FRANCISCO - University of California officials said today that they will move to expand the university's online course offerings, in an apparent political victory for Gov. Jerry Brown.

If successful, the effort could result in a new class of online students treated like those at community colleges, with the opportunity to transfer their credits to UC campuses and enroll.

"The idea would be to create another entry point to the University of California," UC President Mark Yudof said.

Yudof said that within two months he will announce an incentive program for UC professors to develop online courses, focusing on introductory or other high-enrollment courses that can be difficult to get into. He said the UC will establish a system to let students on one campus take online courses at another campus for credit, envisioning a day when 10 percent to 15 percent of all undergraduate courses are taken online.

Yudof said the university has "hit a wall" with regard to traditional instruction and that "it's not the time to be timid."

He said, "Intellectually, emotionally, we're ready."

January 16, 2013
American Lung Association critiques California on smoking

smoke 044.JPGCalifornia has one of the nation's lowest rates of smoking -- just 13.6 percent of adults light up -- but the American Lung Association gives the state low marks for reducing tobacco use, primarily for not taxing cigarettes more and not spending more on anti-smoking programs.

The critique of California is contained in the organization's annual state-by-state "report card" on anti-smoking efforts.

While praising the state as an early leader in persuading its residents to give up cigarettes, the association raps the state for not raising cigarette taxes higher than the current 87 cents a pack and decried voter rejection of a $1 per pack increase last year (Proposition 29). It said California is one of only three states that haven't raised smoking levies since 1999. It also singles out the Legislature for stalling action last year on Senate Bill 575, which would have removed exemptions from smoke-free places.

January 16, 2013
Politico says Sherman facing wrath of Berman's friends

BermanSherman.jpgFormer congressman Howard Berman's friends in Congress are making political life difficult for congressman Brad Sherman, who defeated Berman when the two Democratic incumbents were thrown into the same Southern California district, the Politico website reported Wednesday.

The Politico article indicated that the revenge - Sherman being aced out of committee positions he sought - was being orchestrated by Berman's long-time friend and political partner, Henry Waxman.

Waxman and Berman, along with the latter's brother, Michael, an expert on redistricting and mail campaigning, had headed a powerful political organization in Los Angeles for decades. Michael Berman was hired every 10 years by the state's Democratic politicians to handle redistricting matters.

January 16, 2013
To err is human, to propose it in legislation is Assembly Bill 122

Can you spot the mistake?

Raise your hand when you do.

To promote energy efficiency, freshman Assemblyman Anthony Rendon this week proposed the Nonresidential Building Energy Retrofit Financing Act of 2012 to create a state loan program for projects that reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings.

In its findings, Assembly Bill 122 says that a lack of accessible and affordable financing for retrofits results in "energy-inefficient buildings that are estimated to consume up to 50 percent more energy than required to achieve the same level of comfort."

Through the California Energy Commission, Rendon's bill would use bond funds to bankroll loans. Startup costs would come from a $7 million loan from the state's general fund, to be repaid by 2023.

Here's the catch:

No way can the Legislature pass the Nonresidential Building Energy Retrofit Financing Act of 2012.

It's now 2013.

An aide to Rendon, D-Lakewood, said the error was an oversight stemming from the fact that AB 122 is a reintroduction of Senate legislation from last year, which died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Nobody read the fine print, apparently.

January 16, 2013
Jerry Brown says California not losing to Texas on economy

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has occasionally been prickled by claims that Texas is a better place to do business than California, was asked on Marketplace Morning Report today if the Golden State was falling behind.

Noting that the "debt burden per resident in Texas is actually one-fifth of what it is in California," host Jeremy Hobson asked Brown, "Are you losing, do you think, the economic battle in the long term to a state like Texas?"

Brown countered with another statistic - that the percentage of people working at or below the minimum wage in Texas is far higher than in California.

"That devastates families," he said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has boasted about recruiting businesses from California, while Brown, a Democrat, has emphasized California's green-energy industries and venture capital investments. This morning, Brown suggested Texas might benefit from investments that increase debt.

"They're doing well in manufacturing, they're doing well in investing in wind," Brown said. "Maybe they have a lower debt. Maybe their debt's too low. Maybe they should be investing in the kinds of innovation and technology that will serve their citizens in the future."

January 16, 2013
Bill to shield addresses of concealed weapons permit holders

California counties would be prohibited from releasing the addresses and telephone numbers of residents who carry concealed weapons under legislation proposed today by two Republican assemblymen.

Dan Logue of Marysville and Allan Mansoor of Costa Mesa are joint authors of the proposal, Assembly Bill 134.

The bill would require counties to continue releasing the names of concealed weapons permit holders, but addresses and telephone numbers would be available only to law enforcement agencies.

"There is no reason for us to provide criminals with a list of who does (and) does not choose to protect their household by carrying a firearm," Mansoor said in a prepared statement.

The bill is meant to enhance public safety by keeping out of criminals' hands a list of addresses where they might go to steal a gun, said Saulo Londono, Mansoor's spokesman.

State law already bars the public release of names and addresses of peace officers, elected officeholders, judges and various other public officials who carry concealed weapons.

"Let's provide the same peace of mind to California families," Mansoor said.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday to say that the bill was introduced jointly by Assemblymen Dan Logue and Allan Mansoor.

January 16, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Stanley Cup 'as exciting as it gets' nowadays

Dan says that with the "midwinter doldrums," it will be a while before the legislative session really gets going.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 16, 2013
AM Alert: UC regents to discuss online education

Editor's note: the original version of this alert mistakenly said the Greenlining Institute panel discussion was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan 16. It will be held on Wednesday, Jan 23.

VIDEO: Dan Walters says it will be a little while before the Legislature truly gets to work.

The University of California's Board of Regents continues its meeting today, and online education is on the agenda. Several elected officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, have shown an interest in using online instruction to expand access and reduce costs.

Brown plans to attend the regents meeting, which starts at 8:30 a.m. at UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus. Also attending will be Sebastian Thrun, CEO and co-founder of the company Udacity, whom Brown sought out for guidance on MOOCs, or massive online open courses.

Anant Agarwal, president of edX, and Daphne Koller, co-founder and co-CEO of Coursera, both working on developing MOOCs, will be there as well.

Back in Sacramento, the Senate Rules Committee will be vetting a few more of Brown's appointments today, starting at 1:30 p.m. On the agenda: John R. Wallauch, chief of Bureau of Automotive Repair; Brian R. Leahy, director of pesticide regulation; and Robert Z. Wasserman, a member of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

The Greenlining Institute, meanwhile, is holding a symposium next week on California politics, with a panel discussion on Wednesday, Jan. 23 called "Journalism Forward: Reporting on Election Reform in a Diverse State" from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Speakers will include Eugene Lee of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Rosalind Gold of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund and Michelle Romero of the Greenlining Institute.

January 15, 2013
Assembly Speaker John Pérez hosts Stanley Cup at Capitol

photo.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez got to play King for an afternoon.

Pérez received a Los Angeles Kings jersey with his name emblazoned across the back as he welcomed the Stanley Cup to the California Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. He held the event to honor the reigning National Hockey League champion Kings, who defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games to capture their first championship.

"Entire generations have grown up mystified by the skill, the tenacity and the dedication it takes to become a world champion and earn the right to have possession of this cup," Pérez said, standing next to the gleaming silver trophy.

Pérez was flanked by Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of AEG and governor of the Los Angeles Kings, and Luc Robitaille, a Hall of Fame hockey player who is now the Kings' president for business operations.

A line of hockey fans, many of them sporting Kings colors, stretched out of the room and wrapped around the hallway.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez smiles as he receives an honorary Los Angeles Kings jersey, Jan. 15, 2013 by Jeremy B. White / Sacramento Bee.

VIDEO: AEG's Tim Leiweke, at the state Capitol with the Stanley Cup and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, talks about his company's interest in the Sacramento Kings and an arena project here.

January 15, 2013
How Udacity's leader met 'a guy named Jerry Brown'

SAN JOSE -- At the announcement today of an agreement between San Jose State University and Silicon Valley startup Udacity Inc., to provide online courses, Udacity's Sebastian Thrun said the foundation for the agreement was laid in June, when he awoke to find "in my inbox an email from a guy named Jerry Brown."

The governor of California, Thrun said, wrote, "We need your help," then followed up with a telephone call a few minutes later.

Brown might have chosen to contact any of three leaders in the offerings of MOOCs, or massive open online courses.

Why Udacity?

"I was reading The New York Times on the weekend, since I don't take it during the week, and I saw his name, and it looked interesting to me, so I just went online, found out his email and sent him an email, and that's how it worked," Brown told reporters.

He said he looked at the other providers, Coursera and edX, but "wherever it was, I got to his email quicker."

"I said, 'Give me a call,' " Brown said. "And then I found his number."

Thrun was standing behind Brown, beaming. He is a part-time research professor of computer science at Stanford University and a fellow at Google. Someone in the crowd suggested the latter connection might have had something to do with Brown finding Thrun so easily.

The man said, "Helps to work at Google, doesn't it?"

January 15, 2013
Jerry Brown: 'Oakland has to solve its own problems'

SAN JOSE -- Gov. Jerry Brown, the former mayor of Oakland, said today that his home city "has to solve its own problems," after a surge in crime has prompted Oakland's vice mayor to call for a state of emergency to free up state aid.

"Certainly I want to help where we can, but Oakland has to solve its own problems," the Democratic governor told reporters here. "The clergy, the Police Department, the Fire Department, the mayor, you've got to pull together in extraordinary ways to respond. And as a citizen of Oakland, I wish you well and I'll do my part."

Oakland Vice Mayor Larry Reid told the Oakland Tribune last week that the city had "lost control" and should call a state of emergency, though the newspaper reported today that other city leaders have rejected that idea.

Brown said that with "everybody working together, we can drive that crime in Oakland down, I'm confident."

Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, own a house in the Oakland hills. They stay in a rented loft in Sacramento when they are at the Capitol.

January 15, 2013
Jerry Brown touts online education pilot at San Jose State

SAN JOSE -- Amid a push by Gov. Jerry Brown to expand online course offerings at public colleges and universities, San Jose State University and an online education startup today announced a deal to provide three entry-level courses for credit online.

The pilot program, if successful, could eventually be expanded statewide, officials said. It is unique because of the low price -- $150 a course -- and because it makes courses available to students who are not enrolled at the university.

The deal with Palo Alto-based Udacity Inc. was announced after Brown approached Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun in June.

"We're talking about our society, our future and how we can all improve our skills, how we can exercise our imagination, and we can come to understand this great learning environment called California," Brown said at a news conference here. "We're about inquiry. We're about knowledge, and we're about reflection and wisdom. Technology helps that."

The Democratic governor is lobbying the University of California and California State University systems to expand online offerings to reach more students. He is also encouraging them to reduce costs, and he is expected to attend a meeting of University of California regents on Wednesday.

January 15, 2013
Jerry Brown names new Board of Education executive director

Gov. Jerry Brown has nominated the former advocate for a group that represents school administrators in the Capitol as executive director of the California State Board of Education.

Karen Stapf Walters, a former teacher and state Senate aide, most recently served as interim executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. The former assistant executive director for governmental relations at the organization first joined ACSA as an advocate in 1999.

Stapf Walters will also advise the governor on education policy in her new role, which pays an annual salary of $175,000. The executive director appointment must be approved by a vote of the board.

She succeeds former Board of Education executive director and Brown education adviser Sue Burr, who retired at the end of 2012. The former assistant superintendent of Elk Grove Unified and state undersecretary of education was named a member of the board by Brown earlier this week.


Sue Burr appointed director of State Board of Education

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:48 a.m. with additional information about the confirmation.

January 15, 2013
California sees slower population growth, Latino plurality this year

With a declining birthrate and ebbing migration into California from other states and nations, the historically fast-growing state will see only relatively slow population expansion in the foreseeable future, the state's own demographers conclude.

However, these trends also mean that Latinos are likely to become the state's largest single ethnic group sometime this year, a data-packed section of Gov. Jerry Brown's new state budget plan concludes.

That's a couple of years earlier than previous demographic expectations.

January 15, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Budget boredom

Dan wonders what we'll do for fun now that Gov. Jerry Brown has produced a minimally criticized budget.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 15, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown touts online education

VIDEO: Dan Walters says that, for once, Gov. Jerry Brown's budget has gotten a generally favorable reception.

The University of California's Board of Regents convenes for its annual meeting this morning, with a sunnier budget outlook suggesting the university system may avert another tuition hike.

January 14, 2013
Mark Nechodom, fracking regulator, confirmed in CA Senate

The Senate unanimously confirmed Mark Nechodom's appointment to head the Department of Conservation on Monday, with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg pronouncing himself satisfied with Nechodom's commitment to managing hydraulic fracturing.

"...Assessing the qualifications as well as the direction of the director of this department, I am satisfied. I think he'll make a fine director," Steinberg said.

Nechodom had faced stiff questioning over his department's role in crafting regulations governing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an energy extraction process that involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into the ground.

Critics worry that fracking could endanger public health by compromising drinking water supplies, and Steinberg last week sought an assurance from Nechodom that the need to safeguard public safety would trump energy companies' desire to keep secret the identity of the chemicals they use.

January 14, 2013
State fiscal analyst says California budget 'roughly in balance'

Though the state still faces financial risks ahead, California's spending and revenues are "roughly in balance," the state's top fiscal analyst confirmed Monday in a new review of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office in November had forecast a $1.9 billion deficit, while Brown said Thursday that the imbalance had been wiped out. The Analyst's Office said the governor had assumed about $1 billion more in tax revenue between July 2011 and June 2014, as well as $1 billion more from eliminating redevelopment agencies and new clean energy revenues.

Brown also assumed the state would repay $500 million less back to state special funds and assumes nearly $700 million from health-related taxes on managed care plans and hospitals to help build a $1 billion reserve.

January 14, 2013
Former state legislator, wine lobbyist Paul Lunardi dies at 91

Paul Lunardi , a former Democratic legislator who represented the wine industry in the Capitol for two decades, died Friday. He was 91.

The lifelong Roseville resident started his career in public service on the Roseville City Council in 1950, becoming the city's youngest mayor several years later. He won a seat in the state Assembly in 1958 and served three terms before being elected to the state Senate in a 1963 special election. He stepped down in 1966 because of redistricting, according to an obituary prepared by his family.

While in the Legislature, Lunardi's key accomplishments included fighting to keep part of the route linking Truckee and Lake Tahoe's North Shore open year-round, providing a boost to the ski and tourism industries, and authoring legislation to create the Lake Tahoe Joint Study Commission.

The Roseville Democrat went on to act as a legislative advocate for the Wine Institute, a position he held for two decades. He continued to represent other groups in the Capitol until 1994.

He is survived by children Nancy Lunardi, Carol Kennedy, Janet Bedrosian, and Richard Kennedy,11 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

January 14, 2013
Jim Brulte confirms bid for California Republican Party chair

Jim Brulte is making it official: The former Senate Republican leader said this afternoon that he is a candidate for chairman of the California Republican Party, a position he is widely expected to win.

Brulte told The Bee he will announce his candidacy tonight at a gathering of Republicans in San Diego. Following the announcement, Brulte will meet with a series of Republican groups throughout the state ahead of an election at the state party's spring convention in March in Sacramento.

January 14, 2013
Public health will be main fracking consideration says conservation department nominee

Ensuring public safety will be the Department of Conservation's main imperative as it moves to regulate the disputed extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, director Mark Nechodom said in a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on Friday.

Nechodom faced a barrage of questions about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Rules Committee last week. California is still in the early stages of regulating fracking, and several senators criticized the department's draft regulations as weak and vague.

Before the committee voted unanimously to advance Nechodom's nomination, Steinberg extracted a promise that Nechodom would put his commitment to public health in writing. The letter makes good on that promise, stating that "protection of public health and safety in all aspects of oil and gas production is the Department's paramount concern."

January 14, 2013
Watch: Kevin Yamamura, lawmakers talk budget

The release last week of Gov. Jerry Brown's 2013-2014 budget proposal has kept reporters busy, particularly Capitol Alert's resident budget expert, Kevin Yamamura.

In the video below, Kevin hosts a California Connections discussion analyzing whether this budget marks California moving beyond the era of gaping budget deficits. He is joined by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff; Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who sits on the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, and H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for California's Department of Finance.

January 14, 2013
Study says more than third of California cigarettes are smuggled

More than a third of the cigarettes that are smoked in California have been smuggled from other jurisdictions, according to an updated study by the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The conservative think tank said that California's illegal cigarette rate, 36.08 percent in 2011, was slightly lower than the 36.29 percent rate calculated in 2009 and ranked it seventh highest in the nation, down from fifth highest in 2009.

The Mackinac study cited a strong correlation between "buttlegging" rates and the level of cigarette taxation. It said New York had the highest rate of smuggled cigarette use 60.4 percent, as well as the highest cigarette tax, $4.35 per pack statewide and an additional $1.50 in New York City.

Meanwhile, it rated New Hampshire as being the biggest exporter of cigarettes to other states because its tax is lower than those of most surrounding states. For every 100 packs of cigarettes smoked in New Hampshire, 27 were taken elsewhere.

January 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California rethinks school finance

As Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to tackle the "big mess" of school funding, he's "trying to rationalize an irrational system," Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 14, 2013
AM Alert: Legislators head back to Sacramento

VIDEO: Dan Walters expects "a whole lot of fighting" over Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to overhaul California's system of school funding.

Both houses of the Legislature have floor sessions today, the Assembly at noon and the Senate at 2 p.m.

The Senate will take up the nomination of Mark Nechodom, the Department of Conservation director who faced stiff questioning last Wednesday over his department's role in regulating "fracking."

Other Brown appointees on the Senate agenda include Kimiko Burton, who was named to the State Personnel Board last February, and Mark Ghilarducci, named California's secretary of emergency management last March.

Burton is the daughter of former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton. The state Democratic Party chairman attended her hearing in the Senate Rules Committee last week.

As for the week ahead, expect more discussion of the new weighted formula for school funding Brown has proposed. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have tentatively backed the idea without getting into details. If you want to read up on the subject, you'll find the "K-12 Education" section of Brown's budget summary at this link.

Happy birthday to Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, who is 56 today.

January 11, 2013
Gov. Jerry Brown seeks rollback of employer tax credit

Brown administration officials released a new set of rules Friday restricting how employers claim tax credits for hiring workers in distressed areas.

The proposal saves an estimated $60 million through June 2014 and $310 million in the first five years, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Under the state's enterprise zone program, employers can receive tax credits for hiring employees who live or work in areas with high unemployment. The credits are as large as $37,440 over five years per employee.

Brown took dead aim at the program in his 2011 budget proposal, asking lawmakers to eliminate enterprise zones the same way they ultimately did redevelopment agencies. Lawmakers resisted that call, and Brown is now seeking to curb what he considers the worst abuses. The state gave out $732 million in credits through the program in 2010.

January 11, 2013
UC official: Brown's budget likely enough to avert tuition hike

Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan appears to provide sufficient funding to avoid tuition increases at the University of California next year, a UC administrator said this afternoon.

"When you add everything up, I think our initial reaction is that we can manage without a tuition increase for '13-14," Daniel Dooley, senior vice president of external relations at the UC, told The Bee. "We're pretty excited about what he's proposed."

Brown promised while campaigning last year for Proposition 30, his initiative to raise taxes, that its passage would avert tuition increases at public universities this school year. The prospect remained, however, of tuition rising in the fall.

Brown's budget proposal includes an additional $250 million for the University of California system. That amount is less than the UC requested, and the Democratic governor said he would lobby regents to hold tuition steady.

Dooley said, "We think we can get there."

January 11, 2013
CA Assembly approves new staff promotional opportunities

Responding to changes in California's legislative term limits, the Assembly has approved a handful of new job classifications to create higher-paying promotional opportunities in an era when staff turnover is expected to be less frequent.

Calling it a staff retention plan, Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said the Rules Committee has authorized two new positions and basically two step increases for existing classifications, with expanded duties.

Voter passage of an initiative allowing lawmakers to serve 12 years in one legislative house, rather than six, means that aides can find themselves at the same job within a lawmaker's office for many years, with no vacancy to be promoted into, Waldie said.

"Your ability to rapidly move up in this organization is going to be stifled," Waldie said.

January 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's budget larger than it appears

Dan says Gov. Jerry Brown isn't giving the whole picture when he touts the fiscal restraint of this year's budget.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 11, 2013
AM Alert: Finance director to parse California budget numbers

VIDEO: Dan Walters says the California budget is larger than it appears.

On the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown's latest budget release, Finance Director Ana J. Matosantos will be breaking down the numbers at a luncheon forum sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce.

The Bee's Kevin Yamamura, who will be at said luncheon, reported in this post that Brown's proposal includes an additional $2.7 billion in spending on K-12 and community colleges, an education boost promised in the successful campaign for Proposition 30, as well as slight increases in spending on Medi-Cal and higher education.

State workers also stand to get more money, although the total size of the workforce seems likely to remain the same. Jon Ortiz has details in today's Bee in a story that also looks ahead to future contract talks.

The budget got a generally positive review from both sides of the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento lauding Brown for increasing education funding but keeping overall spending under control.

Meanwhile, freshman member of Congress Ami Bera will be holding his first constituent event, a noon "Congress on your Corner" meet and greet at the Citrus Heights Community Center. Bera won his seat in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District from Republican Rep. Dan Lungren, whom the Democrat unsuccessfully tried to unseat in 2010.

Happy early birthday to Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, who will be 52 53 on Saturday. (Capitol Alert regrets the error.)

January 10, 2013
Brown fudges a bit on scope of California's budget spending

Gov. Jerry Brown's new budget boasts that even with new taxes, general fund spending is below the record $103 billion that it reached in 2007-08, just before a severe recession hit the state.

But that claim is fudging a bit. Brown's budget would spend, he says, $97.7 billion in 2013-14, but the number doesn't include $5.3 billion that the state is now sending to counties to pay for "realignment" of some social and correctional programs to local control.

That's money that used to flow into and out of the general fund. When it's added to the projected spending for 2013-14, the total is $103 billion -- thus equaling the record set six years earlier, not taking inflation into account.

The budget also says that general fund spending "remains at its lowest level since 1972-73" by inflation-adjusted measures such as a proportion of personal income. But that, too, doesn't take into account big changes that have been made since then in how money is allocated, such as "realignment" and dozens of other shifts between local and state levels.

The realignment funds, for instance, are now counted as a "special fund" expenditure. When the general and special funds are merged, spending rises to $138.6 billion. And when $7.2 billion in bond spending and about $80 billion in federal funds are included, the total budget jumps to about $225 billion.

January 10, 2013
TV reporter wins sweepstakes on asking Brown first question

Nannette.BMPThere was a flurry of tweeting and other on-line speculation about which journalist would jump in with the first question Thursday when Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his new budget at a Capitol press conference -- and even a bit of odds-making.

Television journalist Nannette Miranda, however, defied the odds by asking a question of Brown even before he began his presentation -- an innocuous inquiry about his well-being.

That not only earned her bragging rights but an autographed budget summary from Brown saying it was a "great question" to certify her triumph.

"Coolest 1st Question Prize ever!" tweeted Miranda, who is the Sacramento bureau chief for ABC-owned stations in California, when Brown aide Steve Glazer informed her she could come by the governor's office to pick it up.

PHOTO CREDIT: Twitpic posted by Steve Glazer @steve4jerry

January 10, 2013
Rapid Response Roundup: Jerry Brown's proposed budget

It didn't take long for California's lawmakers, officials and advocates to start issuing statements responding to the budget proposal that Gov. Jerry Brown released this morning.

You'll find them after the jump. We'll be adding statements as they come in.

January 10, 2013
Gov. Jerry Brown: California's budget deficit is gone

RB Budget 1A.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that California faces no budget deficit for the first time since the recession.

"This is new. This is a breakthrough," Brown said.

But Brown allowed that the state still faces fiscal risks, notably uncertainty in the federal government's fiscal affairs and the still-unknown cost of federal health care reform.

"It is best to maintain a very solid budget and a good reserve...or we'll go back to the boom and bust, borrow and spend," he said.

The governor's declaration that the deficit is gone contrasts with the November projection from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office that the state still faced a $1.9 billion shortfall, despite voters' approval of new income tax rates on high earners and a temporary hike in the sales tax.

Brown said he is unwilling to restore funding for social service programs that have been cut during the recession. "That kind of yo-yo political economy is not good," he said. "I want to advance the progressive agenda, but consistent with the amount of money the people made available."

The spending plan Brown released this morning calls for small increases to education funding in a $97.7 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 but generally holds the line elsewhere.

The governor's budget will give each state university system an extra $250 million. The addition is not as much as the University of California and California State University had hoped, so it remains to be seen whether university officials will pursue tuition hikes.

As part of his plan, Brown will demand each system cap the number of classes that students can take at 150 percent of what is necessary to complete most degrees - 270 quarterly units at UC and 180 semester units at CSU. That cap will shrink further after two years. Students could continue taking classes but would have to pay full price rather than the subsidized in-state rates. The governor believes this will force more students to finish on time and free up resources.

January 10, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Governor also shifting prison responsibility

Dan says Gov. Jerry Brown is blaming the federal courts for problems with prison realignment, but California's counties have their own issues with the state.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 10, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown lays out his latest budget proposal

VIDEO: Dan Walters draws parallels between Gov. Jerry Brown's criticism of the federal courts and California counties' criticism of the state, both over the prison system.

It's the day we've all been waiting for: Gov. Jerry Brown unleashes his budget at a 10 a.m. press conference in the Capitol building. Check back with The Bee's Capitol Alert for coverage throughout the day.

His proposal will contain a new "Local Control Funding Formula" designed to simultaneously give K-12 districts more control and direct more money to at-risk students, as Kevin Yamamura reports today. The Bee explained last month the background behind the changes and how the new system could lead to significant funding differences between suburban and urban districts.

Health and human services advocates will mark the occasion with a series of rallies urging lawmakers to restore funding that has been steadily trimmed in recent budgets. The demonstrations are happening across the state, and the Health and Human Services Network will hold its Sacramento iteration in Room 126 of the Capitol building.

But the state budget isn't the only thing on the agenda. Republican Jim Nielsen prevailed in Tuesday's special election in the 4th Senate District and will be heading back to the upper house, where he was once Republican leader. His swearing-in is the first order of business this morning at 9 a.m. with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg presiding.

St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Sacramento will be holding a funeral Mass for former Assembly Chief Clerk R. Brian Kidney, who spent nearly three decades working in the Legislature. The service is at 12:30 p.m.

Happy birthday to Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, who is 48 today.

Post updated at 7:30 a.m. with a link to today's story on Brown's budget.

January 9, 2013
CA Senate panel approves nominee amid 'fracking' concerns

The Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously today to advance Gov. Jerry Brown's appointment to head the state's Department of Conservation, but not before subjecting Mark Nechodom to pointed questions about regulating the controversial oil drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking, as it is commonly known, has been a lightning rod for environmental advocates who say the method of firing a mix of chemicals, water and sand deep underground is poorly regulated and imperils public health.

Nechodom's predecessor, Derek Chernow, lost his job after pushing back on Brown's request to expedite the permitting process by easing restrictions on underground injection.

January 9, 2013
DA opts not to charge Roger Hernandez with domestic violence

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has decided not to file domestic violence charges against Assemblyman Roger Hernandez in response to a complaint months ago by a female acquaintance.

Investigators determined there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction, spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

Today's announcement comes nearly three months after the female complainant obtained a temporary protective order after complaining that Hernandez caused "visible injury" by striking her with a belt and slamming her against the wall during a prior argument.

The woman's complaint to police and the alleged domestic violence also occurred months apart. She told officers about the incident when they were called to West Covina's Lazy Dog Restaurant in late October in response to a nonviolent argument between the woman and Hernandez.

January 9, 2013
Curious about new bills? Website tells you what's in pipeline

What will Democrats do with their newly minted supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature?

Will they pass a batch of new constitutional amendments, raise taxes higher, make it easier for local governments to raise taxes, re institute redevelopment, seek voter approval of new water and school construction bonds, protect the civil rights of the homeless, give public employees new benefits or expand health care and other government services?

Perhaps all of the above - and many other things - if the early submissions of proposed legislation are any guide. Of course, dropping a bill in the legislative hopper is just the beginning of the process and many, if not most, of the measures being proposed in the first days of the biennial session will fall by the wayside.

January 9, 2013
Former CA lawmaker Hilda Solis resigns as U.S. Labor secretary

solis.jpgU.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a former California state lawmaker and member of Congress, announced her resignation today.

Here is President Barack Obama's statement:

Over her long career in public service - as an advocate for environmental justice in California, state legislator, member of Congress and Secretary of Labor - Hilda Solis has been a tireless champion for working families. Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class. Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers' health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work. I am grateful to Secretary Solis for her steadfast commitment and service not only to the Administration, but on behalf of the American people. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.

The 55-year-old Solis, a Democrat, served in the Legislature from 1992 to 1999 and in Congress from 2001-2009, representing El Monte. The Associated Press said she is expected to run for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

See Solis' letter after the jump.

January 9, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Dems Getting 'Wild And Crazy'

Dan says Democrats are already at risk of squandering the public support that brought them a supermajority.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 9, 2013
AM Alert: Job moves galore

VIDEO: Dan Walters says Democrats are already risking a pledge to responsibly use their supermajority.

A handful of Gov. Jerry Brown's appointments are up for Senate confirmation today. Among them are two nominees with connections to other California politics figures: Kimiko Burton, nominated to the State Personnel Board, is the daughter of California Democratic Party chairman and former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton; Mark Nechodom, who is in line to become director of the Department of Conservation, is married to Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Budget countdown: Gov. Brown is set to spell out the terms of this year's fiscal battleground tomorrow, on Thursday, Jan. 10.

New jobs: DeAnn Baker will become director of legislative affairs for the California State Association of Counties. Baker had been the organization's senior legislative representative for housing, land use & transportation.

Judy Cias will serve as the State Board of Education's acting commissioner, stepping into a vacancy created by Susan Burr's retirement in December. Cias has been serving as the board's chief counsel.

January 8, 2013
Jim Nielsen wins election to open state Senate seat

ha_APAPA13699.JPGRepublican Jim Nielsen is heading back to the Legislature.

The Gerber Republican easily won election to the vacant 4th Senate District seat in a special contest held Tuesday. He led Democrat Mickey Harrington by double-digits, 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent, in early returns. The Associated Press called the contest for Nielsen about 10 p.m.

Nielsen, who spent the last four years representing the 2nd Assembly District, served as Senate GOP leader during an earlier stint in the state Legislature in the 1980s. He succeeds former Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who stepped down ahead of his election to Congress. LaMalfa had hoped that his September resignation would allow his replacement to be elected in a primary consolidated with the November general election, avoiding the cost of a separate runoff vote. But Nielsen fell just below the more than 50 percent threshold needed to win outright in the special primary election.

Nielsen will be eligible for two full four-year terms in the Senate after filling out LaMalfa's remaining two years representing the safe Republican Northern California district, which covers all or part of a dozen counties.

Click here to see the updated election results.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, speaks at a 2010 forum in Sacramento. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

January 8, 2013
Speaker Pérez modifies Assembly restrictions on press access

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has modified newly imposed restrictions on reporters' floor access to legislators by designating a section in the back of the Assembly's chambers for interviews.

The development marks a significant change from Monday, when Pérez ended the longstanding practice of media interviews in the back of chambers during floor sessions. Reporters were required to conduct such talks in a hallway.

The revision announced Tuesday restores back-of-chamber press interviews but restricts them to a designated spot. Robin Swanson, Perez's spokeswoman, said the speaker's goal has been to enhance decorum and curb noise during floor sessions.

Another rule change ordered by Pérez was not altered Tuesday.

Reporters no longer can approach lawmakers on the Assembly floor once the gavel ends a daily session. Reporters will be kept at bay until lawmakers leave the chambers.

January 8, 2013
California's first legislative squabble of 2013 -- over calendars?

Can't we all get along?

Democrats control the Legislature, but the two houses can't agree on a calendar of deadlines for 2013.

Take summer recess, for example.

For the first time in memory, the Senate and Assembly tentatively have slated different dates for their monthlong recess. The lower house plans to adjourn July 3, the upper house July 12.

The discrepancy would create a week in which the Senate would be in public session while the Assembly is in recess - then vice versa. Many vacationing members of one house would have to return for hearings of the other.

Dueling calendars require the Senate to move all bills from its policy committees to its Appropriations Committee by July 12, while the Assembly would have an additional month, until Aug. 16.

For the Assembly, where 38 of 80 members are freshmen, the schedule would allow more time to conduct public hearings, weigh controversies, make amendments - and solicit funds from interest groups, perhaps, while the fate of key proposals is in doubt.

Behind the scenes, the two houses are trying to iron out their differences and create a joint calendar.

Publicly, officials representing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez say only that they believe agreement will be reached, just like it has in years past.

If not, they could always blame the Republicans.

January 8, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown defiant in fight over prison inmate crowding

RB Jerry Brown 4.JPGGov. Jerry Brown railed this morning against federal oversight of California's troubled prison system, calling it "intrusive" and "nit-picky" and vowing to fight in court to get the state out from under federal control.

A defiant Brown also lifted a state of emergency declared in 2006 by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, due to prison overcrowding.

"The prison emergency is over in California," Brown said.

January 8, 2013
CA Gov. Jerry Brown calls 2013 'Year of Fiscal Discipline'

RB Jerry Brown 2.JPGOffering a brief glimpse of his new spending plan, Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday he will propose a "live-within-our-means" budget this week that spends more money on higher education and K-12 schools in the next fiscal year.

"We're proposing increases in education at the higher level and in K through 12," Brown said at a press conference in which he rejected court-driven mandates to further cut the prison population. "If people think it's a better investment to divert that money to prisons, they can try. But I'm going to fight it.'

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said in November that it expected California to boost spending on K-12 schools by $2 billion, or 3.7 percent, from $53.8 billion to $55.8 billion next fiscal year. Under current law, the state is also supposed to give each state university system a $125 million increase after passage of tax initiative Proposition 30.

Brown is scheduled to release his 2013-14 budget on Thursday morning.

January 8, 2013
Roger Dickinson, Jim Cooper create committees for 2014 campaigns

The newly-elected Legislature has barely gotten back to work, but the jockeying for Sacramento-area seats up for a vote in 2014 is already underway.

Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson created a campaign committee to run for the Sacramento Senate seat that will be open when Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg steps down due to term limits in 2014.

Bryan DeBlonk, a campaign adviser for the Sacramento Democrat, said while an official announcement is likely months away, the committee filing is "definitely a step in the process for running for Senate."

January 8, 2013
Video: Jerry Brown's cancer treatment done, says he's 'raring to go'

Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning treatment for his prostate cancer is finished and that he is "raring to go."

"I'm ready, I'm raring to go, and don't expect me to leave too soon," the 74-year-old, third-term governor said at a news conference at the Capitol.

Brown's remarks were his first about his illness, which his office announced last month. The Democratic governor underwent a short course of conventional radiotherapy for early-stage, localized prostate cancer, his office said.

Brown discussed the matter only briefly at a news conference about California's prison system.

Asked if he is better following treatment, Brown joked, "You choose."

January 8, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: More and more legislation 'ripped from the headlines'

Dan suggests lawmakers act more deliberately when proposing new laws.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 8, 2013
AM Alert: New California prison plan on the table

VIDEO: Dan Walters counsels caution for legislators planning to introduce legislation piggybacking on recent events.

California corrections officials are unveiling their latest blueprint for prison realignment on Tuesday morning. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation faced a court-ordered deadline of midnight on Monday to submit a new plan for relieving the state's overcrowded prisons.

If you've spent the weeks since Nov. 6 lamenting the lack of electoral activity, today is your lucky day: California's 4th district is holding a special election for the state Senate seat vacated by Doug LaMalfa. None of the contestants broke the 50-percent-plus-one-vote threshhold on Nov. 6, so today's contest features the top two finishers. Republican Assemblyman (and former state senator) Jim Nielsen, who garnered 49.8 percent of the vote, will go up against Magalia Democrat Michael "Mickey" Harrington, who finished with 27.7 percent.

The future of education will be the focus of a UCLA conference today entitled "Rebooting California Higher Education." Participants at the event, which will explore ways to deliver cheaper and more effective higher education via online instruction, include Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Mark your calendars: Gov. Jerry Brown's office has announced the governor will deliver his State of the State address on Thursday, January 24 at 9:00 a.m. before a joint legislative session.

The more pressing date on the gubernatorial calendar, of course, is the much-anticipated release of this year's budget, slated for this Thursday (January 10) at 10:00 a.m. So far, Gov. Brown's plans to streamline education spending have dominated the early discussion of what the budget could contain.

As the California Public Utilities Commission convenes its first hearing on the embattled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, activists will gather to demand that the commission cut off funding to the plant. San Onofre has been partially offline since January, a reaction to a small leak of radioactive gas.

A report on combating youth homelessness, commissioned by state Senator Carol Liu's office, will be released today in a 10:00 a.m. meeting at the State Capitol, Room 2040. Capitol Alert obtained an early copy of the report, whose recommendations largely focus on more robust education, health care and family counseling services. Homelessness has been back on the agenda in Sacramento, most recently with a proposal by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) for a "Homeless Bill of Rights."

Giants pride comes to Sacramento today, with a members-and-staff only viewing of the San Francisco squad's 2012 World Series trophy at the statehouse. The team's 2010 trophy will also be on display.

January 8, 2013
Number of California children declines, poor in poverty

The number of California's children is shrinking, and more of them are living in poverty, according to two new reports by private organizations.

The release of reports from the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health and the Center for the Next Generation. was coincidental, but both explore the same phenomenon of change in the state's under-10-year-old population.

The Packard Foundation study, using Census Bureau data, reveals that the number of California children declined by nearly 200,000 between 2000 and 2010 and is likely to drop by another 100,000 in this decade. Proportionately, the study found, children are declining from 33 percent of California's population in 1970 to a projected 21 percent by 2030.

January 7, 2013
UC study sees 'minimal' state costs from Medi-Cal expansion

California will face "minimal" new costs from federal health care expansion, and most of the initial burden will occur regardless of whether the state expands Medi-Cal eligibility to new categories of low-income residents, according to a new University of California study.

In 2014, California would pay between $188 million and $453 million more because of widespread changes in the federal law intended to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The state is expected to spend $14.6 billion this fiscal year on Medi-Cal, which funds health care for certain low-income residents.

The state would spend more than three-quarters of that additional money on serving people already eligible for Medi-Cal, such as low-income children, parents and disabled residents. The federal act would spur them to sign up because of increased awareness, lower enrollment hurdles and potential penalties for lacking health insurance - changes that are due to occur regardless of any state decisions.

One of the biggest health care decisions facing Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers this spring is whether to extend Medi-Cal to additional low-income groups now excluded from the program - principally childless adults and parents between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

January 7, 2013
New Assembly rules tighten reporters' floor access to legislators

Reporters will be barred from interviewing legislators in the back of the Assembly chambers under new rules ordered by Speaker John A. Pérez before Monday's first session of 2013.

The prohibition is among several rule changes imposed by Pérez that restrict press movement within chambers during floor sessions and tighten access to legislators immediately afterward.

Assembly sergeants-at-arms said they have been told only about new restrictions involving the press, not legislative aides. But Pérez's spokeswoman Robin Swanson said the spirit of the new rules is expected to extend to staff, too.

January 7, 2013
Jerry Brown's State of the State speech set for Jan. 24

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has limited his public appearances since the November election, will deliver his State of the State address on Jan. 24, after releasing his annual budget proposal at a news conference Thursday, his office said this afternoon.

The State of the State speech will be unusually early, at 9 a.m. The Democratic governor spoke to a joint session of the Legislature at 5 p.m. in 2011 and at 10 a.m. last year.

Brown's agenda this year includes overhauling California's environmental regulations and school funding system, starting construction of the state's high-speed rail project and pushing forward a controversial plan to move water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south.

Brown has been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. The governor's office said last month that it expected treatment to be completed this week.

January 7, 2013
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's wife pregnant with baby girl

Thumbnail image for Gavin Newsom inaugurationLt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's wife is pregnant, with the couple expecting a baby girl in July, Newsom's office confirmed this afternoon.

Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend that he was elated by the news. The former San Francisco mayor said the child will be the couple's "third and last," according to the newspaper.

Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, have two children, Montana, 3 1/2, and Hunter, 1 1/2.

Photo: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during his inauguration ceremony on Jan. 10, 2011, at the state Capitol. (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee)

January 7, 2013
Jerry Brown sets election dates for two open state Senate seats

Two open seats in the state Senate could be filled as soon as mid-March.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that special primary elections for the Inland Empire's 32nd Senate District and the San Diego-area 40th Senate District will be held March 12. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held May 14.

The vacancies were created when former Sens. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, stepped down to take seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both won election to the Congress in November.

January 7, 2013
Darrell Steinberg announces CA Senate committee assignments

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has released the full Senate committee roster for the 2013-2014 legislative session.

The assignments, posted after the jump, are expected to be ratified by a vote of the Senate Rules Committee later today. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced the Assembly committee lineups last week.

Both houses convene today for the first legislative sessions of 2013.

January 7, 2013
Nancy Skinner unveils bill to crack down on ammunition sales

With lawmakers reconvening at the Capitol today to start their new legislative year, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner unveiled another in a wave of new bills to crack down on guns or ammunition.

Skinner's measure comes in the wake of last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed before the gunman committed suicide.

The Berkeley Democrat is proposing Assembly Bill 48, which would require sellers of ammunition to be licensed and for purchasers to show identification. All sales would be reported to the Department of Justice.

January 7, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: New year, new Legislature, but old issues

Dan says it'll be an interesting year under the dome, given the old issues (think budget, water and education reform) that the new California Legislature must confront.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 7, 2013
AM Alert: California legislators now back at the Capitol

VIDEO: Dan Walters welcomes California's legislators to town and names a few issues they'll be mulling.

They're back: The Legislature meets today for the first time this year, the Assembly at noon and the Senate at 2 p.m.

An interfaith prayer service at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament marks the occasion. Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto will host the service, which the Interfaith Council of Sacramento is sponsoring. Find it at 1017 11th St., north of the Capitol, starting at 9 a.m.

As for the rest of the week, Capitol junkies no doubt know that Gov. Jerry Brown must unveil his proposed budget by Thursday. As Kevin Yamamura reported in this story late last month, the Democratic governor wants to overhaul the way that the state funds its schools. Be on the lookout for more details on how he would give K-12 districts more control over spending funds plus direct more money to poorer students and English learners.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have until Jan. 25 to submit bill requests to the Legislative Counsel's Office in advance of their Feb. 22 deadline for introducing measures.

There promises to be no shortage of legislative proposals, especially those ripped from the headlines. As Jim Sanders reported last week, several legislators are already vowing to change state law so the overturning of a rape conviction because the victim was not married won't happen again.

Then there's the Connecticut school massacre. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, touts her Assembly Bill 48, which would regulate ammunition, at a news conference at 9:30 a.m. at the Elihu M. Harris State Building in Oakland. Joining her will be first-term Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, and several local and education officials.

At last count, Assembly members had already introduced 52 bills, while members of the Senate had introduced 55. That doesn't include the proposed resolutions and constitutional amendments. Expect the numbers to rise -- and soon.

January 4, 2013
Legislators vow to shut legal loophole in Los Angeles rape case

Three California lawmakers vowed separately Friday to eliminate a legal disparity that allowed a man to escape a rape conviction in Los Angeles County this week because the victim was not married.

Assemblymen Jimmy Gomez, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and state Sen. Noreen Evans moved quickly in the wake of a state appellate court decision that derailed a rape conviction, at least temporarily.

Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris vowed to work with the Legislature on the issue, saying "the evidence is clear that this case involved a nonconsensual assault that fits within the general understanding of what constitutes rape."

Lawmakers are targeting the issue after a state appeals court overturned the conviction of Julio Morales, who walked into the bedroom of a sleeping woman and began having intercourse after her boyfriend walked out, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.

When the woman realized that Morales was not her boyfriend, she screamed and resisted, the Times said.

Gomez, D-Los Angeles, told The Bee today that he has asked the legislative counsel's office to draft language to eliminate that loophole. He also has begun reaching out to law enforcement and to women's groups for suggestions, aides said.

"Rape is rape, and we need to do something about this," Gomez said.

Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, said he will introduce legislation to solve the problem by expanding the definition of rape to include cases where a perpetrator deceives a victim into sexual activity by impersonating the person's boyfriend or girlfriend.

"Californians are justifiably outraged by this court ruling, and it is important that the Legislature join together to close whatever loopholes may exist in the law and uphold justice for rape victims," Achadjian said in a prepared statement.

Evans, D-Santa Rosa, plans to reword the penal code statute to cover cases involving a "sexually intimate partner," which would include domestic partners and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender lovers.

"Having sex with an unconscious person is rape -- period," Evans said in a written statement Friday.

Gomez said he does not have a specific proposal but has begun the process of devising one.

In overturning Morales' conviction Wednesday, the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal urged the Legislature to alter the 1870s law that prompted their ruling. Morales' case was returned to lower courts for retrial.

Of Morales, the apellate court said:

"Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes."

Updated at 2 p.m. Friday to include a statement by Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris and to say that state Sen. Noreen Evans plans to introduce legislation.

January 4, 2013
AG report: Parks officials systematically squirreled away money

The office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris has just released the results of its investigation into the Parks and Recreation Department's reporting and use of special funds, which was triggered by the revelation of a secret leave-cashout program.

Here's the executive summary of the AG's findings, which concludes that officials for 15 years systematically squirreled away money in the department's State Parks and Recreation Fund:

Discrepancies in Financial Reports Submitted by the California Department of Parks and Recreation

January 4, 2013
Funeral services scheduled for former Assembly chief clerk R. Brian Kidney

Kidney.jpgFuneral services for former Assembly Chief Clerk R. Brian Kidney are planned Thursday at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Sacramento.

Mr. Kidney, a longtime Sacramentan, died Dec. 22 from injuries sustained in an auto accident. He was 82.

Mr. Kidney served for 28 years as an Assembly employee, including four years as chief clerk and parliamentarian under then-Speaker Willie L. Brown. His resume included stints in the Assembly's engrossing and enrolling department, and as assistant chief clerk.

After his retirement from the Assembly in 1991, Mr. Kidney served as a parliamentary consultant to governments in Hungary, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa. He also worked as a lobbyist for the Gualco Group.

A native of San Mateo, Mr. Kidney earned an undergraduate degree in Russian history from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in government studies from the University of San Francisco.

He is survived by a sister, Brenna Quebbemann, of Newport Beach, and by two nephews and two nieces.

Mr. Kidney's funeral Mass is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Ignatius, 3235 Arden Way. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to the Father Leo McAllister Scholarship Fund, care of the Sacramento Regional Community Foundation, 955 University Ave., Suite A., Sacramento, CA 95825.

PHOTO CREDIT: Court of Appeals Justice Ronald Robie, left, chats with retired Chief Clerk Brian Kidney during a April 1, 2008 Assembly floor ceremony. Photo courtesy California State Assembly

January 4, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Board is a resting place for ex-lawmakers

Dan takes on the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.