Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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