Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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