Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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