Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 28, 2013
New school funding plan wins cautious praise in Capitol hearing

RB_Clean_School_3_classroom.JPGThe first legislative public hearing on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal for a new school funding formula drew scores of people Thursday who generally applauded the concept but criticized details.

Brown is pushing to consolidate funds for state-mandated programs in order to provide a "base grant" of about $6,800 per student, which would be supplemented with extra funds for districts with large numbers of poor students, English learners or foster youth.

The new formula would distribute $1.6 billion in the coming fiscal year.

The governor's goal is to let districts decide for themselves how best to spend money for various school-related "categorical" programs, such as summer school or foster youth programs, while targeting communities with special needs to receive a fiscal boost.

"Clearly a big step has been presented to us, a lot of moving pieces, and we want to do it right," state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said in closing Thursday's nearly five-hour public hearing of the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee he chairs.

February 28, 2013
Obama administration files brief opposing Prop. 8

BB_PROP_8_HEARING_1165_(1).JPGThe Obama administration on Thursday declared that gay marriage can be a right that deserves constitutional protection, supercharging a Supreme Court battle that started with California voters and is now shooting for the history books.

Shedding its earlier caution, the administration forcefully asserted in a key legal brief that the Constitution's equal-protection guarantees extend to same-sex couples seeking a California marriage license. The declaration was both voluntary, because the administration wasn't required to take a position on the state's Proposition 8, and emphatic.

"Proposition 8, by depriving same-sex couples of the right to marry, denies them the dignity, respect and stature accorded similarly situated opposite-sex couples under state law," Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. wrote.

Subtly, though, the administration indicates that the Supreme Court can focus on the "particular circumstances" found in California and seven other states that likewise grant domestic partnership rights but not full marriage benefits. The designation of marriage, Verrilli noted, "confers a special validation of the relationship between two individuals and conveys a message to society that domestic partnerships or civil unions cannot match."

February 28, 2013
Women, minorities each make up a third of Jerry Brown's judicial appointments

ha_david_siders_jim_humes_2011.JPGWomen accounted for slightly more than one-third of Gov. Jerry Brown's judicial appointments since he took office in 2011, with minorities claiming a similar share, according to data released today by the governor's office.

The percentage of women and minorities appointed by the Democratic governor falls below that of the statewide population but is more reflective of California's diversity than all the judges now on the bench.

Seventy-one percent of sitting judges and justices are white, and 69 percent are men, according to the governor's office.

Brown has made 90 judicial appointments since taking office in 2011. His appointments last year included Jim Humes, pictured above, a former senior aide to Brown and the first openly gay justice to serve on a California Court of Appeal.

Brown's office said another appointee, Halim Dhanidina, is the first American Muslim judge ever appointed in California. The governor named him to Los Angeles Superior Court last May.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Humes, right, talks to Bee reporter David Siders in January 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2011.

February 28, 2013
California trails other states in legalizing Internet gambling

AP887225967109_ONLINE_POKER_GAMBLING.JPGWith New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's signature Tuesday, three states have now approved Internet gambling bills -- a concept the California Legislature has kicked around for a few years without taking any action.

The debate will likely be rekindled in the Golden State this year, as lawmakers consider at least two measures that would legalize online gambling for players in California. Sen. Rod Wright's Senate Bill 51 would allow tribes, race tracks, advanced deposit wagering companies and other gambling businesses to apply for a license to operate an Internet gambling site. They would pay $30 million to the state's general fund for the license, and be permitted to offer a variety of games.

Sen. Lou Correa's Senate Bill 678 would authorize Internet poker only. The bill would require the California Gambling Control Commission to work out the details on who could be licensed to operate an Internet poker web site.

Rumors have swirled that a third bill is in the works, being pushed by a handful of Indian tribes.

February 28, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: High-speed rail hearing short on cost details

A recent California Senate committee hearing about the state's high-speed rail project contained few details about cost, and Dan finds it curious that the money isn't being spent on something else -- say, children's health.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 28, 2013
AM Alert: Cap-and-trade auctions, Prop. 8 case on the agenda

BB_FINAL_DAY_EARTH_AB_32.JPGVIDEO: The price tag on California's high-speed rail project undercuts Gov. Jerry Brown's reputation for thrift, Dan Walters says.

FIELD POLL: California voters have reversed their views on same-sex marriage since 1977, the first year that the Field Poll conducted a survey on the subject. Click here for statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert and The Bee. The poll itself is at this link.

California's landmark greenhouse-gas emissions law, AB 32, and its new cap-and-trade auctions are the focus of an all-day conference sponsored by Capitol Weekly and the University of California Sacramento Center. The state started auctioning off pollution permits last year.

Sen. Fran Pavley, AB 32's author, is delivering the keynote luncheon address. Panel participants include Timothy O'Connor of the Environmental Defense Fund, Dorothy Rothrock of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, former California EPA administrator Linda Adams, Anthony Eggert of the Policy Institute for Energy, the Environment and the Economy at UC Davis and Jan Smutny-Jones of the Independent Energy Producers Association. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the UC Sacramento Center at 12th and K.

Back at the Capitol building, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, is talking to the press this morning about the brief he is filing in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop. 8 case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Pérez's filing follows those of Attorney General Kamala Harris and of a group of Republicans, including former gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman, who have urged the high court to strike down the same-sex marriage ban.

February 27, 2013
California lawmakers bite into meaty issue of hot dogs

HOT_DOG_PLANT.JPGA decades-old Capitol joke is that crafting legislation is a lot like making sausage.

California lawmakers have not yet defined sausage-making, but they're moving in that direction, perhaps, by biting into another meaty issue: hot dogs.

You've bought them at ballparks, roasted them over campfires, slathered mustard on them, perhaps blown the Oscar Mayer wiener whistle. But what are they, exactly?

Assembly Bill 1252, a wide-ranging health bill that addresses matters ranging from employees' hand-washing to the size of food trucks' water heaters, contains a 44-word definition of the cylinder-shaped meat.

The bill is meant to expand upon an existing statute that lists steaming or boiling of hot dogs as a "limited food preparation" in which vendors can engage, but doesn't specify what a hot dog is.

Here's what will be inserted into the California Health and Safety Code if the Assembly Health Committee's proposal becomes law:

" 'Hot dog' means a whole, cured, cooked sausage that is skinless or stuffed in a casing, that may be known as a frankfurter, frank, furter, wiener, red hot, Vienna, bologna, garlic bologna or knockwurst, and that may be served in a bun or roll."

PHOTO CREDIT: Skinned hot dogs run through the sorting machine on their way to quality control at Miller Packing Co. in Oakland on March 1, 2001. Kat Wade / San Francisco Chronicle file, 2001.

February 27, 2013
Mark Leno proposes to make drug possession a 'wobbler'


Drug charges could become a little more wobbly in California.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has introduced a bill that would redefine simple possession of drugs -- essentially, having a small amount for personal use -- from a felony to a so-called "wobbler," meaning that district attorneys would have the flexibility to charge a defendant with either a misdemeanor or a felony.

The measure would not affect sentencing for marijuana. Simple possession of marijuana is currently an infraction, which is less severe than a misdemeanor.

In a conference call Wednesday detailing Senate Bill 649, Leno said altering the sentencing guidelines was an alternative to a "failed and expensive war on drugs" that he said has fed soaring incarceration rates.

He argued that locking up low-level drug offenders on felony charges sustains a vicious cycle in which those users become more likely to commit additional crimes, "perpetuating an underclass of citizens."

February 27, 2013
California files anti-Prop. 8 brief with Supreme Court

KamalaHarris.jpgCalifornia Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday filed the state's amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject Proposition 8 and give gay couples the "respect and dignity to which they are entitled."

In a 45-page brief, Harris declared that the same-sex marriage ban imposed by Proposition 8 violated the 14th Amendment's equal-protection and due-process guarantees. The ballot measure's "sole yet profound effect," Harris asserted, "was to take away the right of gay and lesbian couples to call their union a 'marriage' and to strip loving relationships of validation and dignity under law."

Harris further argued that the conservatives seeking to uphold Proposition 8 lacked the legal standing to sue. This is the boring-but-potentially important argument the court will consider first when justices hear oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case on March 26.

February 27, 2013
California appellate court dismisses school budget challenge

In the ongoing tussle over budget rules, a state appellate court has dismissed a challenge from school groups who said California leaders had illegally manipulated the state constitution when they wrote the 2011-12 budget.

The San Francisco-based First District Court of Appeal said Tuesday that even if it ruled in favor of the school groups, "there unquestionably is no effective relief that can be granted" because voters overrode potential legal problems by passing Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 last fall.

Besides increasing income taxes on top earners and the statewide sales tax, the initiative retroactively changed the state constitution so the state could divert just over 1 percentage point of sales tax to local governments without giving a share to schools.

The state's complicated school funding formulas remain an ongoing battleground in the Capitol, with rules still being defined 25 years after voters approved the underlying initiative, Proposition 98. As part of the 2011 budget deal, Brown and lawmakers sent about $6 billion to local governments so they could assume former state responsibilities, most notably housing inmates and watching parolees.

February 27, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Stockton's woes mount

A bankruptcy judge has said the City of Stockton must go to trial, and Dan says city officials have some explaining to do.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 27, 2013
AM Alert: Making budgets for minority-majority California

VIDEO: Stockton's bankruptcy case is advancing against the backdrop of serious questions about how the city paid its workers, Dan Walters says.

In case you haven't been keeping up with your demographics news, Latinos are poised to become California's single largest demographic group this year. California Latino Legislative Caucus chair Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is addressing how Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal would affect Californians of color -- who are, in the aggregate, the state's majority. Lara will be joined by members of the Greenlining Institute at from 10-11:30 a.m. in room 447 of the State Capitol.

While that's going on, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, and Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, will be taking aim at a more specific part of Brown's budget. They're introducing a bill to restore cuts to Cal Grants for private and technical schools. Starting at 10:30 a.m. in room 437.

It's shaping up to be a busy week for crime and punishment: Monday the Assembly looked at solitary confinement, and today Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, will discuss a bill that would allow prosecutors to charge certain drug-related offenses as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Leno will be joined by the ACLU of California and the Drug Policy Alliance in a 10 a.m. conference call, which you can access by calling (800) 288-8975 and requesting "SB 649 drug sentencing reform bill."

The road to Affordable Care Act implementation continues today with an extraordinary session discussing a Senate bill to expand access to Medi-Cal. Starting at 1:30 p.m. in the room 4203 of the State Capitol.

The massive expansion of Medicaid is a key element of Obamacare's push for universal coverage. While potentially more than a million additional Californians will become eligible, those who make more than the cutoff could still be eligible for vouchers to defray the cost of buying insurance through Covered California, the state's not-yet-launched insurance exchange.

For all of you hoping to catch a glimpse of your younger, more idealistic self, stop by room 4203 this morning. Teens from the California Association of Student Councils will be presenting their proposals for the state's education system to the Senate Committee on Education.

February 26, 2013
Who will run to replace Michael Rubio in the California Senate?

AP120417140783-thumb-250x316-29602.jpgA special election has yet to be called, but there's already no shortage of names being floated as possible candidates to succeed Shafter Democrat Michael Rubio in the state Senate.

Rubio resigned Friday, just over halfway into his first term representing the Central Valley's 16th Senate District, to become manager of California government affairs for Chevron Corp. The decision, which the senator attributed to family needs, surprised many in the Capitol.

The seat will be filled in an upcoming special election, which will soon be set by Gov. Jerry Brown. Fresno Bee colleague John Ellis has the low down on some of the potential candidates for the seat at this link.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, left, a member of the Senate Transportation and Housing committee, explains to Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Richvale, why he would vote against La Malfa's proposal to put a $68 billion high-speed rail plan back before California voters, Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

February 26, 2013
Seth MacFarlane's newest critic: California Legislative Women's Caucus

macfarlane.jpgAdd the California Legislative Women's Caucus to the long list of groups Seth MacFarlane has offended.

The creator of "Family Guy," a show known for its provocative and raunchy style of humor, got mixed reviews after hosting the Academy Awards on Sunday. MacFarlane's turn in the spotlight represented the latest attempt to inject some novelty into the awards with a youthful host, and not everyone was pleased.

"In a world where women have historically faced challenges and obstacles when it comes to their portrayal in popular culture, Sunday evening was a setback for women fighting hard to gain appropriate respect as contributors in this industry and society and general," read a letter from the women's caucus to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

MacFarlane's hackles-raising routine included a joke about R&B singer Chris Brown abusing pop star Rihanna and a song and dance about actresses who appeared topless. The letter from the women's caucus lambasted MacFarlane for relying on "caricatures and stereotypes" and said he "crossed the line from humor to misogyny."

You can read the letter here:

LetterMotionPicturePresident (1) by tvanoot

PHOTO CREDIT: Host Seth MacFarlane performs onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theater on Sunday. Chris Pizzello/ Invision/ Associated Press

February 26, 2013
The Bee's Kevin Yamamura moves to editing job; Gutierrez comes to Capitol

yamamura.jpgThe Sacramento Bee's Kevin Yamamura, who has worked in the newspaper's Capitol Bureau for 10 years and covered the state budget for the last six, is changing jobs.

Starting Monday, Yamamura will begin working as an editor on the Bee's Local News Desk, where he will oversee education and local government reporters. Ken Chavez, The Bee's senior editor for local news, said his team looks forward to Yamamura's expertise in government, politics and public finance.

Gutierrez.jpgMelody Gutierrez, who has been covering local education for The Bee, will move to the Capitol Bureau to cover the state Assembly. Jim Sanders will move from the Assembly to writing in-depth public policy pieces on a range of topics. David Siders, who covers Gov. Jerry Brown, will lead a team effort covering the state budget.

PHOTO CREDITS: Top -- Kevin Yamamura, waits outside a closed door meeting at the Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer
Bottom -- Melody Gutierrez. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz

February 26, 2013
5.3 million Californians received low-income aid in 2011

More than 5 million California adults received some form of income-based government assistance in 2011, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The report covered welfare grants, aid to the aged, blind and disabled and medical care through the Medi-Cal program, as well as several smaller programs in which aid is based on recipients' low incomes. But it excluded Social Security payments, public employee pensions and other public payment programs that are not tied to on recipients' incomes.

The 5.3 million Californians receiving aid in 2011 were the largest number of any state by far but the percentage, just under 19 percent of all California adults, was a percentage point lower than the national rate of means-tested public assistance.

Nationally, 30.4 percent of 46 million aid recipients were disabled, but in California it was 27.9 percent, one of the nation's lowest rates.

February 26, 2013
Meg Whitman voices support for gay marriage in Prop. 8 case

AA MEG RALLY7.JPGFormer GOP gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman has changed course on California's ban on same-sex marriage, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.

Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 and vowed to defend the voter-approved law against legal challenges during her 2010 gubernatorial bid, is one of dozens high-profile Republicans who signed a legal brief supporting gay marriage that will be submitted this week, according to The New York Times.

The Hewlett-Packard chief executive issued a statement through her LinkedIn page saying that she has come "to embrace same-sex marriage after a period of careful review and reflection."

"As a candidate for governor three years ago, I supported Proposition 8. At the time, I believed the people of California had weighed in on this question and that overturning the will of the people was the wrong approach," she wrote. "The facts and arguments presented during the legal process since then have had a profound impact on my thinking."

February 26, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Budget boasting ignores huge debt

Gov. Jerry Brown has started touting California as a model for fiscal soundness -- a scenario that makes sense only if you ignore a big backlog of debt, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 26, 2013
AM Alert: Hearing examines California water bond

VIDEO: Budget optimism has led Gov. Jerry Brown to start talking about a "California miracle," but Dan Walters says California must still contend a with mountain of accumulated debt.

It will be many months before Californians weigh in on an $11 billion water bond on the 2014 ballot, but that doesn't mean it's too early for a hearing. A joint effort by the Natural Resources and Water and the Governance and Finance committees, respectively, will examine the broader context of California's debt load in a "Priming the Pump for a Water Bond" hearing, starting at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4203. Committee chairs Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, be joined by representatives from the Legislative Analyst's Office and the Treasurer's office.

February 25, 2013
Jerry Brown fast-tracks review of Riverside County solar plant

California Renewable Energy(2).jpgIn an effort to insulate a massive solar power project in Riverside County from extended environmental review, Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that he has certified the facility as a special "leadership project," the second such certification he has granted under a 2011 law.

The designation is intended to expedite rulings on environmental litigation brought against McCoy Solar Project, fast-tracking any court challenges brought under the California Environmental Quality Act. The identification of such "leadership" projects is one of several ways in which Brown has sought since taking office to relax the use of CEQA on certain projects.

The Democratic governor last year approved the state's first "leadership" project, a new Apple Inc. campus in Cupertino.

Brown's office said the California Air Resources Board has certified that the $1 billion solar project will not generate additional greenhouse gas emissions during construction, and that it will provide enough electricity to power about 264,000 homes.

PHOTO CREDIT: Greg Bosscawen, manager of renewable energy for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., walks past solar panels at PG&E's Vaca-Dixon solar energy site near Vacaville, Calif., Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

February 25, 2013
Jerry Brown skips White House meeting, boards train for New York

markell.jpgWASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown skipped a meeting with President Barack Obama and boarded a train today for New York, where he will meet with several "thought leaders" before returning to California on Tuesday, his office said.

Brown, who left Washington on Amtrak, is scheduled to meet privately with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and economist William Baumol, spokesman Evan Westrup said.

February 25, 2013
Jerry Brown and Chris Christie say cheese, get sex advice

twitterpicbrownchristie.jpgWASHINGTON - Any hope of a push-up contest between California Gov. Jerry Brown and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was put on hold for at least a few hours Sunday, with Christie and Brown posing together -- all smiles -- for a photograph at a dinner at the White House.

Brown's wife, Anne Gust Brown, posted the photograph from her Twitter account with the message, "Jerry and Chris at the White House. Not doing push ups."

Brown and Christie, in Washington for a meeting of the nation's governors, feuded last year.

In a speech to California Republicans at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August, Christie called the 74-year-old Brown an "old retread" and said he could not believe Californians elected him to a third term.

Brown fired back at New Jersey's rotund governor a few days later. Brown said he may have less hair and be slower than he once was, but, "I have to tell you, I ran three miles in 29 minutes two nights ago ... and I hereby challenge Gov. Christie to a three-mile race, a pushup contest and a chin-up contest. And whatever he wants to bet, I have no doubt of the outcome."

February 25, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Rubio's resignation affects Dems' arithmetic

Dan Walters talks about what the surprise resignation Friday of state Sen. Michael Rubio means for the Democratic supermajority.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 25, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers' proposed measures top 2,000

MAJ_CALIFORNIA_STATE_CAPITOL_2008.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters says the decision of Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, to step down may wind up disrupting the best-laid plans of California Democrats.

FIELD POLL: California voters increasingly support the state's greenhouse-gas emissions law, Jon Ortiz reports in today's Bee. Click here to read the statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert. You'll find the publicly released poll at this link.

Friday was the deadline for California lawmakers to file bills, so we have a map of the legislative landscape. As of 5 p.m. Friday, here's the count: Assembly: 1,376 bills; Senate: 813 bills.

There are also 10 constitutional amendments proposed in the Assembly and 13 in the Senate, and there could be more -- there's no deadline for those.

Gov. Jerry Brown spent the weekend mingling with fellow governors at the National Governors Association conference, and today the state executives will assemble in the presence of the nation's chief executive: The governors will be spending today at the White House, where they dined last night.

In addition to the White House visit and governors-only meetings throughout the day, Brown and his colleagues also get to hear from Dr. Mehmet Oz, popular host of "The Dr. Oz Show" and recently the subject of a New Yorker profile.

Back in California, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is holding a Public Safety Committee hearing to look at solitary confinement in Pelican Bay State Prison. Corrections officials have been pressed to defend the practice of sequestering inmates in so-called security housing units since conditions there prompted hunger strikes in 2011.

Officials scheduled to speak at the hearing include California Deputy Inspector General Michael Stainer as well as Renee Hanson, Kelly Harrington and Michael Ruff of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 126.

Before the hearing, the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition is holding a rally at 11:30 a.m. on the Capitol's west steps.

PHOTO CREDIT: The California state Capitol in Sacramento, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Michael Allen Jones / Sacramento Bee file photo

February 24, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown warns nation is 'playing Russian Roulette' with climate

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown urged the nation's governors today to take action to combat climate change, warning weak environmental policies could prove catastrophic.

"I know there's not a lot of policy action going on in most places, but this is a real problem," Brown said at a meeting of the National Governors Association. "We know we're playing Russian Roulette with our climate, and I believe we have to take action."

In his only formal speaking engagement of the weekend, the Democratic governor distributed to other governors a copy of a December report by White house science adviser John Holdren.

"It's clear, it lays stuff out," Brown said. "You see there's real harm."

Brown, who has promoted alternative energy since he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, touted his effort to expand the state's reliance on renewable electricity, including a requirement that utilities obtain one-third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

"But we can't do it alone," Brown said. "We need other states. America can't do it alone. We need China, we need India."

Brown's remarks came at a committee meeting focused on extreme weather events. Many conservatives believe the effect of global warming is overstated, and they argue stringent environmental regulations have hurt economic growth in California.

Brown said California is facing early snow melts and a longer fire season, and he said a rising sea level threatens the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.

"This is a serious problem," Brown said. "If people don't believe in the science, we ought to debate it. But at some point, we've got to talk about what do we do. Because just like the debt that's piling up and at some point becomes absolutely unsustainable, the debt of carbon buildup will become unsustainable."

Brown said, "It's the responsible thing to do to take prudent action now."

February 23, 2013
Jerry Brown's Ouija board 'not operative' in Washington

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown was talking with reporters today about the Affordable Care Act and sequestration when Politico's Jonathan Martin asked him to weigh in on gun control and a few other matters of national concern.

"Look, I don't read these national papers," Brown said, as if he had not spent more than an hour and a half in a hotel lobby that morning with Thomas Friedman, the famous New York Times columnist.

Martin pressed, and Brown said, "So what's your point, you want me to comment on what's going on in Washington?"

Brown, in Washington for a meeting of the nation's governors, repeated opinions he has shared before about gun control, and Martin moved on. He noted the political success Democrats have had in California recently, and he asked, "What's the formula?"

"What's the formula?" Brown said. "You know that, it's like Coca-Cola, we don't reveal our formula. Why should we tell you guys?"

Brown did say Hillary Clinton would "probably" clear the Democratic field if she runs for president in 2016.

"But I don't know for sure," Brown said. "I mean, how do I know? These are all fortune telling questions, and my Ouija board is not operative in Washington."

February 23, 2013
Jerry Brown presses Washington for 'broad authority' on health care

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he remains concerned about California's ability to control costs as the state moves to expand health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, seeking assurances from the Obama administration that California will have "broad authority" to curb future spending.

"We need to be able to control costs, period," the Democratic governor told reporters at a meeting of the National Governors Association. "And the federal government has the tendency to send out broad mandates and limit the state's authority, and then we have to come hat in hand and say, 'Please, let us manage this thing that you have thrust on us.'"

His remarks come a year after Brown lobbied federal officials unsuccessfully for authorization to enact certain cuts to Medi-Cal, part of the federal Medicaid program.

February 22, 2013
Jerry Brown rooms with friends, likes 'refrigerator in the middle of the night'

browndctram.JPGWASHINGTON - One advantage of being in politics for more than 40 years is that Gov. Jerry Brown knows someone with a spare bedroom almost everywhere he goes.

In Washington this weekend for a conference of the National Governors Association, Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown will stay at the home of Lucie Gikovich, a former aide.

"I don't like hotels," the 74-year-old, third-term governor said while waiting for a tram at Washington Dulles International Airport.

He mentioned that his wife likes them, though, and she said, "You can see who gets their way."

The conference is at a respectable hotel, the JW Marriott, and Brown could have stayed there. He didn't last year, and he often rooms with friends when traveling.

"I like to be able to go in the refrigerator in the middle of the night," Brown said.

He and his wife joked about Brown's frugality - how he doesn't like the minibar prices.

"No," Brown said. "It's just, I like to be with friends."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown ride the tram at Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

February 22, 2013
Jerry Brown says he was counting on Michael Rubio

jerrybrowndc.JPGWASHINGTON - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that state Sen. Michael Rubio's resignation from the state Legislature took him by surprise, and he suggested it could complicate his effort to overhaul the state's signature environmental law.

"He's a good man," Brown said as he arrived here for a conference of the National Governors Association. "I was kind of counting on him for this year."

Asked if Rubio's resignation would hurt his effort to make changes to the California Environmental Quality Act, the Democratic governor said, "Well, he was certainly the foremost champion" of enacting changes.

Rubio announced today that he is leaving the Legislature to take a job at Chevron Corp. Brown had expected the Shafter Democrat to help him enact legislation limiting the reach of CEQA.

Brown said of Rubio's announcement, "That was a surprise."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

February 22, 2013
Pregnant on Dec. 31? California lawmaker proposes tax break

RP_YUBA_PRENATAL_CORTES.JPGA California lawmaker wants to give tax deductions for unborn children, piggybacking on a recent law making pregnant minors eligible for welfare.

If fetuses deserve public aid, why not tax breaks?

Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove is pressing that question this week by proposing Assembly Bill 673, which would grant a $321 child income tax deduction for an "expected child."

Robert Smith, Grove's legislative director, said the bill is not specifically intended to spark new debate over California's failure to recognize a fetus as a person for abortion purposes, but it spotlights the current inconsistency.

"If it can drive the discussion, that's an issue we'd love to have a real substantive and honest discussion about," Smith said. His boss, a Bakersfield Republican, opposes abortion.

February 22, 2013
California analyst says K-12 funding overhaul has merits

Thumbnail image for Brown.jpgThe nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says in a new report that Gov. Jerry Brown's school funding overhaul has many strengths but questions the retention of some "irrational" relics from the current system that benefit powerful constituents.

California for years has funded schools with a combination of general per-pupil dollars and earmarks dedicated for state-driven purposes. Brown, right, wants to blow up the earmarks and create a new system that gives districts more control and directs more money to schools with impoverished students and English learners.

The governor's proposal would generally help urban and rural districts while proving less beneficial to suburban districts with wealthier families. The Bee explained today how this would play out in the Sacramento region, based on Department of Finance estimates.

The analyst's office finds Brown's system "simple and transparent" compared to the current ways in which the state funds K-12 schools. It relies on a uniform funding formula and gives districts more say in how dollars get spent.

"Currently, the state's categorical programs, as well as the broader education funding system, are based on overly complex and complicated formulas," the report says. "Very few policy makers, taxpayers, school board members, or parents understand or can explain why a particular district receives a particular level of funding."

February 22, 2013
Elizabeth Emken eyes challenging Ami Bera in Sacramento seat

Feinstein.jpgWill the third time be the charm for Republican Elizabeth Emken?

The former GOP candidate for House and U.S. Senate is exploring a run against freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in Sacramento County's 7th Congressional District next year.

Emken, who lost to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein by double digits last year, has filed paperwork to raise campaign cash for a potential House campaign, her spokesman Mark Standriff said this week. While the Danville Republican has not made a final decision on where she might run, Standriff said her "focus is on CD 7 and Ami Bera" right now.

Bera, who narrowly defeated GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in a costly campaign last year, is expected to be a top target for Republicans, who believe lower turnout in the midterm elections could help them overcome Democrats' slight registration advantage in the new district.

A challenge to Bera would be Emken's third run for public office in the state. Before her loss to Feinstein, Emken came in last place in a four-way GOP primary for a Bay Area House seat.

February 22, 2013
State Sen. Michael Rubio resigns, will take job with Chevron

AP120417140783.JPGState Sen. Michael Rubio announced today that he is resigning from the state Legislature and taking a job directing California governmental affairs for Chevron Corporation.

The Shafter Democrat cited a desire to spend more time with his family in a statement released today, saying he "realized that my current professional path has left little opportunity to be home for those who are most important to me, which is why I am making a change."

"My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, from whom we have learned a great deal," he said. "Our youngest child, who has special needs, has given me great perspective as to life's priorities and our eldest has reminded me that the most critical decisions are made at home and not under the Capitol dome."

Rubio, who was elected to the state Senate in 2010, dropped plans to run for Congress in 2012 after his daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome. One of the upper house's most moderate members, Rubio was leading a push to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act. He was named chair of the Environmental Quality Committee last year and has worked closely with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on drafting legislation for the upcoming session.

Rubio said in the statement that his resignation is effective today. His decision means Senate Democrats will temporarily lose their supermajority, as two other Democratic seats are currently vacant. A special election will be held to fill his seat for the remainder of his term.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, left, a member of the Senate Transportation and Housing committee, explains to Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows why he would vote against La Malfa's proposal to put a $68 billion high-speed rail plan back before California voters, during a hearing at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Tuesday, April 17, 2012. After more than an hour of testimony La Malfa was granted his request to postpone the committee's vote on the bill. He did not say when he would seek a vote.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

February 22, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Big fight ahead over California school finance

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to revamp how schools are funded would produce big disparities in who gets what, and Dan says that will make for contentious debate.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 22, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown heads to national governors meeting

Brown.jpgVIDEO: The governor's proposed school funding formula will pick winners and losers in how it distributes money, and Dan Walters predicts that will fuel a battle in the Legislature.

FIELD POLL: Attitudes about immigrants are changing fast among Californians, but only toward those already in the state, Jim Sanders reports in today's Bee. Click here to read the statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert. The poll is at this link.

Gov. Jerry Brown left the state Thursday to make his way east to the National Governors Association's winter meeting this weekend in Washington, D.C. Capitol Alert's David Siders will be checking in with updates from the nation's capital, so stay tuned.

Anyone want to take bets on what happens when Brown crosses paths with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas? Health care and the Affordable Care Act will also be factors as governors weigh whether to set up health insurance exchanges and expand Medicaid -- Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida just made news by caving on the latter.

February 21, 2013
California analyst rejects Gov. Jerry Brown's clean energy plan

LS SAN JUAN ENERGY.JPGThe nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has so many complaints with Gov. Jerry Brown's plan for spending new clean energy money that it produced a separate 12-page pamphlet today to detail the problems.

Thanks to voter-approved Proposition 39, the state has $450 million to $550 million annually to spend on energy efficiency projects over the next five years. Brown proposed in his budget to devote all of that money to retrofitting K-12 schools and community colleges. The initiative did not specify that funds go toward education.

The money comes from a $1 billion annual tax increase that affects out-of-state corporations doing business in California.

The analyst's office found "many serious concerns" with Brown's plan from both a legal and economic perspective.

February 21, 2013
Kristin Olsen to move to smaller office after failed GOP move

Kristin_Olsen.JPGAssemblywoman Kristin Olsen was ordered to move immediately into a much smaller office in the wake of a failed effort within the Assembly Republican Caucus to oust its leader, Connie Conway.

The move was widely regarded as punishment for Olsen, R-Modesto, who had been touted by some Assembly Republicans as a potential successor to Conway.

The caucus decided nearly unanimously Thursday to retain Conway, with only one person voting no, members said.

"I don't know the exact circumstances of the reason for the move, but I do know that Assembly member Olsen was not the vote to vacate the chair," said Kim Nickols, Olsen's spokeswoman.

February 21, 2013
Cal Fire chief calls controversial fund 'an invaluable tool'

AP03102603912_PIRU_FIRE.JPGCalifornia's fire chief last week called his department's off-books fund "an invaluable tool" and said he "will not apologize for using it to improve our cost recovery efforts" in an internal memo obtained by The Bee.

Since 2005, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, has paid the nonprofit California District Attorneys Association to house a special fund for training seminars and high-tech investigatory equipment. The fund collected $3.6 million overall and is being dissolved this month at the nonprofit's request.

While the fund has drawn legislative criticism and prompted a Department of Finance audit, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott vigorously defended the Wildland Fire Investigation, Training and Equipment Fund in a "monthly message" he sent last week to his employees. He said "recent incomplete and sensationalized media coverage" had "needlessly detracted from our successes and wasted valuable staff time and resources that would have been much better spent directly serving the public."

February 21, 2013
Assembly GOP nearly unanimous in keeping Conway as leader

20121203_HA_CONNIE_CONWAY.JPGAssemblywoman Connie Conway can breathe a little easier now.

After caucusing for about an hour Thursday, the 25-member Assembly Republican Caucus voted nearly unanimously not to replace the Tulare Republican who has held the top post for two years.

A motion to vacate the chair received only one vote, two members said privately. Caucus sessions are held behind closed doors.

Conway, who is termed out of the Legislature next year, leads a caucus still reeling from the loss of three seats in last November's election, a stunning party defeat that handed Democrats a supermajority in the 80-member house.

But President Barack Obama's decisive victory in California and statewide redrawing of political districts tended to favor Democrats in other political races as well -- the GOP lost two state Senate seats, for example.

Conway replaced Assemblyman Martin Garrick, of Solana Beach, as Assembly GOP boss in November 2010. She became the fourth Republican leader of the lower house in an 18-month period. Garrick opted not to seek a second term as caucus chief.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, during the first day of session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

February 21, 2013
Republican PAC hires Ruben Barrales in effort to elect Latinos

RubenBarrales.jpgA political action committee formed to help elect Latino Republicans to office in California has hired Ruben Barrales, a former White House aide and San Mateo County supervisor, to be its president and chief executive officer.

The group, GROW Elect, said in a prepared statement that Barrales' appointment "is part of an aggressive expansion" of its effort to elect Latino Republicans to local, state and federal offices.

The group last year involved itself mostly in local races and was a relatively small operation, spending less than $150,000. It was funded largely by Charles Munger Jr., a wealthy Republican activist.

February 21, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Subpoenas needed in parks scandal

Dan says lawmakers have finally started asking tough questions about the California Parks and Recreation Department's hidden-funds scandal, but he thinks they could be doing more.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 21, 2013
AM Alert: Student discipline, testing on school officials' agendas

20110831_HA_priority_schools0782.JPGVIDEO: The California Legislature is finally getting serious about investigating the Parks and Recreation Department's hidden funds, but Dan Walters says it's time to take the next step.

FIELD POLL: Gov. Jerry Brown's public approval rating is above 50 percent for the first time since he took office, David Siders reports in today's Bee. Click here to read the statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert. Find the publicly released poll at this link.

Schools figure prominently today in Sacramento. It's day two of the California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators conference at Sacramento's Sheraton Grand, and state schools chief Tom Torlakson will be delivering remarks at 8 a.m.

Also in attendance will be Seth Galanter, the U.S. Education Department's acting assistant secretary for civil rights, discussing student discipline practices.

Nine blocks away, school officials will be taking a look at more than two decades' worth of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a crucial benchmark for measuring school progress, in the five so-called "mega-states" of Florida, Texas, Illinois, New York and, you guessed it, California.

February 20, 2013
Gov. Jerry Brown releases funding data for K-12 districts

RB Gov Brown 3.JPGGov. Jerry Brown's Department of Finance released a long-awaited table today that shows how each K-12 district fares in his new plan to direct more money to schools with low-income students and English learners.

The table can be seen here.

The Department of Finance says that no district will receive less than it has this school year, while the "vast majority" will get "moderate to significant funding increases." The governor's future funding expectations depend on significant growth in state revenues thanks to the economy and voter-approved tax hikes.

Locally, for example, the suburban Buckeye Union Elementary School District in El Dorado County would receive $5,948 per student in 2013-14 and $8,296 per student at full implementation of Brown's plan several years from now. Only 14 percent of Buckeye students qualify for free and reduced lunch, while 4 percent are learning English.

By comparison, Twin Rivers Unified in North Sacramento would go from $7,890 per student in 2013-14 to $11,993 per student at full implementation. At Twin Rivers, 82 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and 24 percent are learning English.

Brown last month said that he believes the state should spend more money on students living in poverty and those struggling with language barriers. Districts with such challenges generally qualify for additional federal and state aid now, but Brown and critics suggest state school funding formulas are convoluted and offer the wrong incentives.

February 20, 2013
Prosecutions of California lobbyists on the rise, FPPC reports

JD_CAPITOL_LOBBYISTS_02.JPGCalifornia lobbyists are facing increased scrutiny by the Fair Political Practices Commission, according to a new report by the state's political watchdog agency.

The FPPC prosecuted 14 lobbyists in 2012 for violations of the California Political Reform Act, up from just one lobbyist prosecuted two years earlier, says the commission's year-end report. The FPPC also sent 54 warning letters to lobbyists who violated the law in 2012, said the FPPC's enforcement chief, Gary Winuk. Warning letters go out when evidence shows the law was broken but circumstances do not warrant imposing a fine.

Lobbyists are required to file quarterly financial statements with the Secretary of State's Office that disclose who their clients are, how much they're being paid, and which bills or agencies they're lobbying. Any failure to file those reports can result in an investigation by the FPPC. Winuk attributed the rise in lobbying prosecutions to better coordination between the FPPC and the Secretary of State's Office.

"Every person who doesn't file with the Secretary of State after a short period of time, it gets sent over here as an enforcement referral, so no one can fall through the cracks," Winuk said.

February 20, 2013
California state auditor offers hypothesis on hidden parks funds

RB_Russian_Gulch_State_Park.JPGOne curiosity in California's state parks controversy is why department officials hid millions of dollars when they needed the Legislature's approval to spend the funds.

State Auditor Elaine Howle in hearings this week referred to the hidden surplus as a "useless reserve" because state Department of Parks and Recreation officials in theory couldn't spend the money without telling lawmakers of its existence. But that left some lawmakers unsatisfied.

"I can't get my head around the nature of this," said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, asking later Wednesday whether "sheer stupidity" was to blame. If officials couldn't spend the money, Blumenfield wondered, what was their motive for willfully hiding the funds?

February 20, 2013
California home ownership continues slide, now second lowest

RB_New_Home_Sales_4.JPGCalifornia's rate of homeownership continued a years-long slide in 2012 and is now the second lowest in the nation, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Just 54.1 percent of Californians lived in homes during the last quarter of 2012 that they or their families owned, the Census Bureau reported. Only New York, at 53.1 percent, had a lower rate.

The report covers the annual housing survey dating back to 2005, when California's home ownership rate was 60.1 percent. It has declined every year since.

Nationally, 65.4 percent of U.S. residents live in homes owned by themselves or their families. States range as high as 76.7 percent in West Virginia.

PHOTO CREDIT: New homes are under construction in West Sacramento on Thursday, July 8, 2010. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file, 2010.

February 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Uncertain road ahead for California health care

California is about to undertake a massive expansion of state-sponsored health care, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act, and Dan says it's anyone's guess how it will work out.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 20, 2013
AM Alert: California officials probe parks, higher ed and stem cell budgets

VIDEO: There are a lot of unanswered questions as California prepares to enthusiastically tackle a huge federally mandated health care expansion, Dan Walters says.

More fallout from the parks department's hidden funding scandal is expected today. Yesterday, lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee took a look at a new audit finding the problem existed far longer than was initially known; today the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee get a crack at it in a joint hearing. Starting at 9:30 a.m. in room 4202 of the State Capitol Building.

The renewed scrutiny from the Capitol stems from a state auditor's report, released last week, that traced unreported budget surpluses at the Department of Parks and Recreation stretching back two decades.

Just because there's an extra focus on the parks department doesn't mean other recipients of General Fund dollars are escaping examination.

February 19, 2013
Insurance commissioner touts new plan for CA health-care regions

Saying the Legislature's existing proposal could exacerbate rate shock, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones unveiled his own proposal Tuesday for dividing California into geographic regions for implementing federal health-care reform.

Jones vowed to appear Wednesday before Senate and Assembly health committees to push his 18-region plan instead of existing legislative proposals for six regions in 2014 and 13 regions in 2015.

"I believe very strongly that we should draw regions in a way that minimizes rate increases," Jones said.

Because costs of providing health care differ among communities, residents could find themselves paying higher or lower premiums based on the extent to which regions drawn by the state differ from those currently used by health insurance firms.

February 19, 2013
Sierra Club lobbyist faces FPPC fine

The Fair Political Practices Commission has proposed fining a former Sierra Club lobbyist $24,500 for failing to file quarterly disclosure reports for nearly two years.

Michael Endicott, a contract lobbyist based in San Francisco, did not file seven required reports to the Secretary of State from October of 2010 to June of 2012, according to the FPPC's case against him. It states:

"The failure to timely file lobbying reports violates one of the (Political Reform) Act's central purposes: that the activities of lobbyists should be regulated and their finances disclosed in order that improper influences will not be directed at public officials. The public harm inherent in these violations is that the public is deprived of important and timely information regarding the amounts and nature of lobbying activity. In this matter, (Endicott) failed to file seven consecutive quarterly lobbying firm reports. As a result, there was no disclosure of approximately $72,000 in lobbying activity."

The fine amounts to $3,500 for each report not filed, at the high end of the range for similar offenses. FPPC staff wrote that they recommend a steep fine because Endicott "recently received a warning letter for the same violation of the Act, did not cooperate with the investigation, and, to date, has refused to file the delinquent reports."

Endicott did not return calls from The Bee seeking comment.

The fine requires approval by the FPPC at its meeting on Feb. 28.

February 19, 2013
California bill targets drug users behind the wheel

loucorrea.jpgProsecutors would have an easier time convicting people in California for driving under the influence of drugs if a bill Sen. Lou Correa has introduced becomes law.

Senate Bill 289 makes it a crime for anyone to drive if their system contains any detectable amount of drugs classified by the government as Schedule I, II, III or IV. That includes marijuana, amphetamines, steroids, tranquilizers and other drugs - but not drugs classified as Schedule V, like Tylenol with codeine, according to information from Correa's office.

"We want to send a clear message that any level of being drugged is dangerous when driving, so the level should be zero," Correa, D-Santa Ana, said during a Capitol press conference this morning introducing the bill.

"This is about keeping our streets safe about keeping our families safe. It took decades to pound into people that you should not drink and drive, that it is dangerous to drink and drive. Then we started talking about texting and talking on the phone and driving. And today, this is about being drugged and driving."

February 19, 2013
Defense raises new questions in Chandra Levy case

Chandra Levy.jpgThe case against the man convicted of killing former intern Chandra Levy is "drastically undercut" by information that prosecutors kept to themselves "for the better part of a year," according to defense attorneys who now say they will seek a new trial.

In heavily redacted legal briefs and transcripts, defense attorneys quote prosecutors as acknowledging they had come upon "significant impeaching information" that potentially undermines the credibility of a prosecution witness. But though prosecutors received the information in roughly February 2012, the trial judge wasn't informed until November.

"We think we're being jerked around," defense attorney James Klein said, according to a previously sealed transcript of a Dec. 18 court hearing.

February 19, 2013
Fiscal analyst has legal concerns with Gov. Jerry Brown's budget

mactaylor.jpgState leaders have pushed the legal envelope trying to solve California's financial woes, and Gov. Jerry Brown's budget is no different even as the state heads toward firmer ground.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said Tuesday that Brown's budget proposal "raises serious legal concerns" in at least two instances where the governor wants to use fees to fund potentially unrelated programs. Ever since voters approved a business-backed initiative in 2010 more narrowly defining what fees can pay for - fee-based programs must directly affect the payer - state leaders have faced stricter limits in how they spend money.

February 19, 2013
Five California House members on 'most liberal' list

Does California's delegation in the House of Representatives lean to the left? So it would seem from an exhaustive ranking of 435 House members on their ideological positioning by the authoritative National Journal.

Five California Democrats are tied with nine Democrats from other states for the title of "most liberal," based on their voting records in 2012.

However, when it comes to "most conservative," the highest any Californian - San Diego County Republican Duncan Hunter - ranked was 18th.

February 19, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: The perils of unexpected revenue

A revenue windfall has given California more money than it expected, and Dan says that raises the risk that the Legislature will create programs it won't be able to pay for.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 19, 2013
AM Alert: Lawmakers scrutinize California parks accounting

VIDEO: Dan Walters worries that Democrats will squander an unexpected $5 billion budget surplus on programs that the one-time windfall won't pay for in the future.

The last few days have brought some new revelations about the Department of Parks and Recreation's secret stash of money. When The Bee broke the story last year, it was against the recent backdrop of deficit-driven park closures that the extra funds would have prevented.

February 15, 2013
New bill would bar California from honoring indefinite detention law

Tim Donnelly.jpgEnforce the law, go to jail?

A Republican assemblyman wants to make it a crime in California to enforce a federal law that allows terror suspects to be detained indefinitely, even when no charges have been filed.

Assembly Bill 351 by Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks would allow federal or state officials to be charged with a misdemeanor if they enforce the federal detention law in California.

Assembly Bill 351 must pass by a two-thirds margin in each house of the Legislature to reach Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. The supermajority requirement poses a major obstacle for a GOP lawmaker in a Democrat-dominated Legislature.

February 15, 2013
Matsui calls for investigation of Carnival Triumph incident

Disabled Cruise Ship.jpgU.S. Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento called on her colleagues in Congress Friday to investigate an engine fire on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship, which left 4,000 passengers and crew members stranded at sea in squalid conditions for four days.

The crippled ship was towed into the port of Mobile, Ala., late Thursday, and weary passengers were taken to hotels in New Orleans.

In a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Matsui cited safety concerns for the passengers, who lacked access to food and working toilets after the ship lost power and some rooms flooded.

"The cruise industry forcefully defends itself as being a provider of safe, luxurious vacations. Yet the experience on board the Triumph was anything but," Matsui wrote. "We owe it to the people who lived through this nightmare a swift and thorough investigation into what went wrong and why."

February 15, 2013
Jerry Brown upheld 80% of parole recommendations in 2012

California Budget Brown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown continued last year to use his power to block decisions of the state parole board relatively sparingly, letting about 80 percent of convicted killers' parole releases stand.

Brown reversed 91 of 470 parole grants in 2012 and returned two cases to the state Board of Parole Hearings for reconsideration, according to a report to the Legislature released today.

Brown's record in 2012 is similar to the first year of his term, when he let stand roughly 82 percent of parole board decisions.

February 15, 2013
Ben Shapiro to speak at California Republican Party convention

Conservative commentator and writer Ben Shapiro has been added to the agenda for the California Republican Party convention.

Shapiro, who is the editor-at-large of, will fill a dinner speaking slot that was originally set to feature GOP strategist Karl Rove. Rove's talk has been moved to the Saturday luncheon because of a scheduling conflict.

Shapiro won praise from the right for a heated exchange with CNN's Piers Morgan, posted above, in which he accused the host of being a bully on gun control and "standing on the graves of the children" killed in the December mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary schools.

The party had been seeking to book a speaker who would appeal to conservatives in light of a rift caused by Rove's newly announced Conservative Victory Project, a super PAC that has come under fire from Tea Party supporters. Former GOP Senate leader Jim Brulte, who is expected to be elected chairman at next month's convention, told The Bee this week that the party extended an invitation to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, but that a scheduling issue prevented the freshman senator and Tea Party favorite from accepting.

Other speakers at the spring convention, which takes place in Sacramento during the first weekend in March, include conservative comedians Eric Golub and Evan Sayet, author Travis Brown and former GOP Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, who moved to Texas to take a job with a think tank after leaving the Legislature.

The Saturday night keynote speech was the subject of some confusion this morning, after an initial email to members identified the guest as Ben Stein. That email, which led with a riff on the actor's role in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," was soon followed by a message clarifying the actual lineup.

"Clearly, somebody other than Ferris Bueller needs a day off. :-)" Chairman Tom Del Beccaro wrote in the second message.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post misspelled The Bee regrets the error.

February 15, 2013
Colbert to Gavin Newsom: 'What the (bleep) does any of that mean?'

colbertNewsom.jpgLt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was describing his new book, "Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government," on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" on Thursday when the host, Stephen Colbert, asked him, 'What the (bleep) does any of that mean?"

Newsom had been talking about the "broadcast model of governing" and about how "big is getting small and small is getting big."

Colbert flipped through the book.

"Is there a bull (bleep) translator?" he said. "What are you talking about?"

Newsom tried again.

"I want to democratize voices," the former mayor of San Francisco said. "I want real citizen engagement. I want two-way conversations. I want citizenship to be redefined. I don't want people to do things to me, I want ... people to do things with me. So it's all about building partnership and building capacity, building community."

February 15, 2013
Services on Sunday for former lawmaker Nolan Frizzelle

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle.JPGServices for former Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle, who died Jan. 31 at age 91, will be held Sunday in Folsom.

Services for Frizzelle, R-Huntington Beach, are scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at The Bridge Community Church, 511 Sibley Rd. in Folsom.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be directed to the church in care of Pastor Dennis Mandigo.

Related posts: Former GOP lawmaker Nolan Frizzelle dies at 91

February 15, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Condoms for porn stars -- what's that about?

A Southern California lawmaker's proposal to require all adult film stars in the state to wear condoms is more likely about protecting the porn industry than about protecting actors, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 15, 2013
AM Alert: California Legislature's bill deadline draws near

AHF_REP_Isadore_Hall_Condom.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters weighs in on Assemblyman Isadore Hall's proposal to require condoms for porn stars.

With Monday being the Presidents Day holiday, California lawmakers will put in an appearance this morning at per diem floor sessions to keep that money flowing. Both chambers are meeting at 9 a.m.

Time to get that legislative paperwork together: The last day to introduce bills is Feb. 22, a week from today (leaving aside maneuvers like gut-and-amend bills).

Here's a look at what this session has brought so far:

In the Assembly, the count late Thursday was 355 bills and eight proposed constitutional amendments. The overall total in the Senate was somewhat lower, with lawmakers in the upper house introducing 268 bills and 11 proposed constitutional amendments. Budget Committee bills related to the Budget Act of 2013 accounted for 39 of those bills in both houses.

Both houses have bills related to expanding Medi-Cal coverage in the upcoming special health-care session, which will be focused on implementing the Affordable Care Act in California.

The California Mental Health Services Authority's board of directors is meeting from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza in Sacramento. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has headed to Washington and New York in a national push for better mental health care following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Since we won't be around to say it this weekend, happy birthday to Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, who turns 45 on Sunday.

Happy birthday as well to Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who turns 58 on Monday; to Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, who will be 65 on Monday; and to U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who on Monday inches closer to the half-century mark with his 49th birthday. Congrats, guys, for having your special days fall on a long weekend.

PHOTO CREDIT: A copy of Assemblyman Isadore Hall's Assembly Bill 332 is displayed with condoms during a press conference to introduce a statewide law requiring condom use by adult film performers, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Bret Hartman / AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

February 14, 2013
VIDEO: Yee details threat, says it won't stop gun control effort

RB_Leland_Yee_3.JPGSen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has gotten menacing notes before, but this time was different.

The message that appeared in Yee's inbox about four weeks ago was much more explicit, Yee said at a press conference Thursday afternoon in his Senate office.

The email warned Yee to stop pursuing gun control legislation; if Yee persisted, the author -- who described himself as a trained sniper -- warned he would assassinate the senator in or around the state Capitol building.

"The threat was unlike any of the other ones I've received in the past," Yee said. "In the past I've received racial slurs, rants about my ethnicity and culture, about China. But instead this was a rather detailed, deliberate and exact set of strategies as to how he would carry out that threat."

Particularly worrisome were the signs of a concrete plan, Yee said. He said his training as a psychologist has taught him that detailed plans are usually a red flag indicating that someone is closer to action.

Yee said he immediately notified his chief of staff, who turned the case over to the Senate sergeants. They passed it on to the California Highway Patrol, and on Tuesday authorities arrested a suspect in Santa Clara County whose apartment contained explosive materials and a firearm. Authorities detonated some bombs they found onsite, Yee said.

The senator has been harassed before, notably when he received a disturbing fax after denouncing radio host Rush Limbaugh. Despite the most recent threat, Yee said he has not requested additional security and would not change his agenda.

"Let me make it very, very clear - I'm going to make it crystal clear - that despite this particular threat and any other threats I am not going to be deterred from addressing the issue of gun violence in this community and this state," Yee said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Leland Yee, D- San Francisco, speaks to members of the press in his office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee

February 14, 2013
Carry-a-condom law proposed by San Francisco assemblyman

LS_STD_1_CONDOM.JPGArrested for carrying condoms?

No longer, under proposed legislation to bar police from using condoms against prostitutes.

Assembly Bill 336 would disallow possession of one or more condoms as evidence of sexual solicitation in arrests or prosecutions.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano contends his bill could save lives.

The measure would eliminate the dilemma of sex workers choosing between carrying condoms to prevent disease or abandoning such protection for fear of arrest, according to the San Francisco Democrat.

"We have to encourage safe-sex practices, not frighten people into spreading disease," Ammiano said in a written statement.

AB 336 would not legalize prostitution or bar police from arresting offenders based on other evidence, including presence in suspect areas, manner of dress, approach to cars, or possession of sex toys, lubricants or cash.

"They can still arrest people under the law," Ammiano said. "They would only be prevented from using as evidence the one thing that protects public health: condoms."

PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Mori, a health educator with Sacramento County, opens a packet that includes condoms during a public health fair at Sacramento State. Lezlie Sterling / Sacramento Bee file, 2011

February 14, 2013
Ban on flea-market animal sales proposed by California lawmaker

Durell_20081003_0070_puppies.JPGPuppies, kittens and other live animals could not be sold at flea markets or swap meets under legislation proposed this week by a Sacramento legislator.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's measure, Assembly Bill 339, would make first offenses an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250. If an animal suffers or is injured, however, the charge can be hiked to a misdemeanor and the fine to $1,000.

Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said that puppies, kittens, baby rabbits, turtles, exotic birds, reptiles and birds commonly are sold at swap meets and flea markets, often in close proximity and sometimes in crowded pens lacking adequate food or water.

AB 339 would "alleviate the suffering of these animals, ensure that public health and safety is protected, and safeguard consumers," Dickinson said in a written statement.

California law currently bans the sale of live animals on streets, highways, parking lots, carnivals and boardwalks.

Eight local governments in California have passed ordinances banning or limiting animal sales at swap meets, Dickinson said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Two pitbull pups wait for adoption at Sacramento's Animal Care Services, Nov. 8, 2008. Robert Durell / Special to The Bee

February 14, 2013
Auditor: CA parks officials warned about hidden funds in 1999

MC_ CSP_BRANNAN.07.JPGState finance officials warned the parks department as early as April 1999 about unreported budget surpluses that went unresolved until last year, a new California State Auditor report finds.

Despite that warning, Department of Parks and Recreation officials continued to sweep accounting differences under the rug until last year, when state attorneys and The Bee investigated the issue.

The current parks budget officer told auditors that she discovered the difference in February 2011 when she joined the department. But two former high-level officials told her to keep quiet because state budget writers might impose deeper funding cuts to the department.

The new audit also questioned the way in which state officials threatened to close 70 parks in previous budget discussions. It said that threat was "premature" because the department had never determined the amount needed to operate all 278 state parks at the 2010 level, a comparison basis that would have been necessary to properly assess how many parks to shutter.

PHOTO CREDIT: A deck juts out into the water at Brannan Island State Recreation Area, a California state park that's a maze of waterways through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Manny Crisostomo / Sacramento Bee file, 2010

February 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Why no strings on higher education money?

Dan says allocating more funding for higher education isn't enough: Gov. Jerry Brown should help ensure that money is being spent wisely.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 14, 2013
AM Alert: Valentine's Day event pushes back against abuse

MAJ STATE CAPITOL.JPGVIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown could do more to make higher education more accountable and efficient, Dan Walters says.

The National Organization for Women is trying to transform Valentine's Day into an occasion for raising awareness of violence against women, with a day the organization is calling One Billion Rising.

Sacramento's contribution will be a noon to 1 p.m. event on the state Capitol's west steps, featuring a dance and a rally featuring representatives of the California chapter of NOW, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The broader political context points to the U.S. Capitol, where the federal Violence Against Women Act is awaiting a vote in the House after the Senate recently passed it. Republicans have been wary of reauthorizing the bill because of added protections for immigrants, LGBT women and Native Americans.

In another inventive use of Valentine's Day, Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, will be introducing legislation to require all pornographic actors to wear condoms. (Voters in Los Angeles County passed a similar measure last year.) Hall will be joined by Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Darren James, a former adult film actor who contracted HIV. The presser starts at 11 a.m. at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles.

February 13, 2013
Brulte: California GOP debt could be as high as $800,000

20130213_HA_JimBrulte028.JPGTo rebuild the California Republican Party, Jim Brulte will first have to climb out from under a mountain of debt.

The former GOP Senate leader, who is expected to take helm of the embattled party next month, said Wednesday that the CRP is between $500,000 and $800,000 in the red, a figure he says could vary based on the potential for legal battles with former vendors.

"This is more like a bankruptcy workout," Brulte said of setting up party infrastructure as chairman. "First of all you have to pay off your debt, hopefully while you're doing programs simultaneously. We have to increase our income and reduce our expenses, that's just prudent."

February 13, 2013
CA legislator wants to allow 17-year-olds to cast primary vote

GALT_VOTERS FIRST-TIME.JPGA new proposal introduced in the California Legislature would let the state's teens cast their first ballot at age 17.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, has authored legislation to amend the state Constitution to allow teens who will be 18 by the time the general election arrives to vote in the primary. Twenty states already allow such voters to participate in their primaries or caucuses.

"Most young people's first contact with politics is in their mandatory high school civics class; this is the perfect time to get them engaged and give them some ownership in the process by getting them to vote in primaries," Mullin said in a statement.

February 13, 2013
Robin Swanson leaving Assembly speaker's office for consulting firm

robinswanson.gifRobin Swanson is leaving her $140,000-a-year job as spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to launch a business venture.

"As a working mom, I'm going back into business for myself to inject a little more flexibility into my life," Swanson said Wednesday.

Swanson, the mother of an 8-month-old son, plans to reopen Swanson Communications. She operated the consulting and public relations company for three years before joining Pérez's staff in May 2011. Her last day at the Capitol will be March 1, she said.

February 13, 2013
Covered California unveils health insurance market's blueprint

photo.JPGMillions of uninsured Californians will soon be required to purchase health insurance, and Wednesday morning they got a glimpse of what to expect under the state's marketplace.

Covered California, the organization responsible for implementing the federal health insurance overhaul, released a blueprint for what types of coverage will be available on the state's insurance exchange. The federal Affordable Care Act requires state exchanges to be up and running by 2014.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the government-regulated exchange will add some much-needed standards and transparency to California's health insurance market.

"They are ready to play by the rules," Lee said of the insurance industry at a news conference at his organization's downtown Sacramento headquarters. "They are ready to embrace the opportunity to compete not based on a shell game of hidden benefits but based on quality and value."

There will be four plans available: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. The premium would cover 90 percent of the cost under the platinum plan, with copays making up the other 10 percent. Under the bronze plan, the premium would cover 60 percent, and copays would account for the other 40 percent.

February 13, 2013
Former assemblyman named Contra Costa elections chief

BB FINAL DAY CANCIAMILLA.JPGFormer Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla is the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors' pick to be the county's next elections chief.

Canciamilla, a former Democrat who is now registered without a party preference, will fill out the term of longtime Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters Steve Weir, who is retiring next month.

Bay Area News Group political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen has the details:

The board of supervisors unanimously chose Canciamilla over the retiring incumbent's brother and Pleasant Hill Councilman Jack Weir about 90 minutes ago after public interviews with both men. ....

The five supervisors praised Jack Weir's public service and his managerial and data management professional background.

But all said Canciamilla brought to the job a deeper understanding of county government and politics.

You can read Vorderbrueggen's full post here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla in 2006. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

February 13, 2013
New Assembly bill would ban hands-free texting while driving

DISTRACTED_DRIVERS_4.JPGCalifornia drivers would be banned from texting with hands-free mobile devices under legislation proposed Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 313 was introduced by freshman Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley.

State law currently prohibits drivers from texting with hand-held devices, but not those that operate on voice commands.

AB 313 would delete the existing exception for voice-controlled texting devices.

In its findings and declarations, AB 313 says that "there is no difference in the crash risk of hand-held or voice-operated devices. Furthermore, no study has determined that texting while driving is safe."

The bill also declares that distracted driving is a "dangerous epidemic" that killed 3,300 and injured more than 400,000 people nationally in 2011.

* Updated at 10:25 a.m. Wednesday to clarify that the bill would apply to California drivers.

PHOTO CREDIT: Researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City ask volunteers like Anne McLaren, seen on April 20, 2009, to use a cellphone in a driving simulator. Talking didn't cause a problem, but while texting she hit another car. (Jeffrey D. Allred/ The New York Times)

February 13, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's court cuts taking their toll

Dan says that balancing California's budget has involved unsustainable cuts to court funding.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 13, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown attends funeral of alleged Dorner victim

LA Police Shootings.JPGVIDEO: State financing of California's court system hasn't worked out as planned, Dan Walters says.

Gov. Jerry Brown will be attending a memorial service this morning for Michael Crain, a Riverside police officer who was allegedly slain by renegade former cop Christopher Dorner. The service starts at 10:30 a.m. at Grove Community Church in Riverside.

Are elements of the top-two primary constitutional? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is hearing arguments on that question in Pasadena, starting at 9 a.m in Chamness v. Bowen. Michael Chamness challenged the new primary system, which voters OK'd back in 2010, identifying himself as a member of the "Coffee Party." He has argued that the new rules force him to state on the ballot that he has "no party preference."

February 12, 2013
California issues prominent in Obama address

President Barack Obama may not have mentioned California by name in his State of the Union address Tuesday, but he did touch on several issues of importance to the state.


In a nod to California's efforts to improve fuel economy and cut greenhouse gas emissions, Obama proposed using oil and gas revenues to fund efforts to find alternatives to fossil fuel-powered automobiles.

"If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we," the president said. "Let's take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we've put up with for far too long."

Climate change:

Obama warned lawmakers that the country needed swift action to slow the effects of climate change amid a series of extreme weather events, including floods, fires and droughts, and some of the hottest years on record.

"I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy," he said.


Obama announced a "fix it first" approach to rebuilding the nation's roads and bridges and invited private companies to invest in upgraded ports, pipelines and schools.

"Ask any CEO where they'd rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids," he said.


Obama pointed to signs of recovery in a housing market that's struggled for more than five years. He asked Congress to vote on legislation that would allow homeowners who might be underwater on their mortgages, as many in California are, to refinance at historically low interest rates.

"Right now, there's a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today's rates," he said. "What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill."


With a steady stream of Asian-made goods flowing into the U.S. through California ports, Obama wants to send a larger quantity of U.S.-made goods the other way.

"To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership," he said.


Obama said he wanted to make preschool available to every child in America and better prepare high school students for future careers by teaching them skillsets they can use to find good jobs.

"Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on - by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime," he said.


Obama called on lawmakers to send him a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Such an achievement eluded Obama in his first term, as well as his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. If the early signs of bipartisan agreement on immigration hold, it could happen as soon as this year. But there are many sticking points, including border security, a path to citizenship and the rights of foreign-born same-sex partners and spouses of American citizens.

"Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants," Obama said. "And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform."

Gun violence:

Perhaps no single issue Obama mentioned Tuesday generated a more emotional response than this one.

The president mentioned lives cut short by recent mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. He acknowledged the parents of a 15-year-old Chicago girl who was gunned down by gang members not long after attending the inauguration. He acknowledged former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously injured in the Arizona shooting.

And without mentioning her by name, he acknowledged the efforts of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. It's by no means certain that such legislation will gain sufficient support in both parties in Congress. But Obama urged lawmakers to allow the issue to come up for a vote.

"If you want to vote no, that's your choice," the president said. "But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun."

February 12, 2013
Rick Perry declares victory in California trip

California v Texas Rick Perry.JPGAnd on the ninth day, Rick Perry declared victory.

The Texas governor, whose highly publicized foray into California began with a radio ad last week and will end when he leaves the state Wednesday, was on the phone this afternoon from Laguna Beach - promoting his business recruitment trip and suggesting California could go bankrupt.

"You know, thanks to some folks responding the way that they did to a $24,000 radio ad, it has been widely covered and discussed," Perry said. "So, from that standpoint, I'll declare a victory."

The Republican governor chuckled when asked if he had received any commitments from businesses to move to Texas.

"We have commitments to listen and ... to have good conversation," Perry said. "The goal wasn't to leave here with any list of people who are going to relocate."

February 12, 2013
Diane Harkey officially launches 2014 Board of Equalization bid

Harkey.JPGRepublican Assemblywoman Diane Harkey has made her plans to run for state Board of Equalization in 2014 official, announcing her candidacy in a piece posted on the conservative website today.

The Dana Point Republican, who has served in the lower house since 2008, has already opened a campaign account to run for a seat on the tax board when current Vice Chair Michelle Steel is termed out in 2014.

Harkey is one of several GOP members reportedly eyeing the Southern California seat.

In her announcement piece, Harkey talked not only about her own political future, but her ideas about rebuilding the Republican Party in the wake of 2012 losses. She urged fellow Republicans not to compromise their conservative principles, saying members "must 'expand' who we are, and not lose sight of what we stand for."

"While the hurdle is high, working together, with candidates that aren't afraid to engage outside Republican circles, we can win," he said. "People, especially the young, like winners; let's go forth and multiply to set the stage to win again.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblywoman Diane Harkey looks at the roster during an Assembly vote on March 17, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee.

February 12, 2013
Jerry Brown calls housing local issue, says he will 'stick to the core'

brownoakland.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown, who has paid relatively little attention to housing since taking office two years ago, was asked today why he bothered to participate in a forum on the subject.

"I know (Ken) Rosen," Brown said of the chairman of the University of California, Berkeley's Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, the group organizing the event. "He asked me, so I show up."

Yet housing is primarily a local issue, and Brown did nothing to suggest increased involvement by his administration.

"The governor's a bit remote, not like the city," Brown said. "The city's where you really build. What we do at the state level is pass laws, or hopefully repeal a few."

February 12, 2013
Jerry Brown spokesman leaving administration

RB Gil Duran 2.JPGGov. Jerry Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran, is leaving the administration..

Brown declined to comment.

"Maybe later," the governor said after an event in Oakland, "but nothing today that I can opine on."

Duran later sent out an email confirming his departure, calling it "a true honor" to work for Brown.

His next move? "I am returning to Oakland to continue my public service in the Office of the Attorney General."

Brown has been through numerous press secretaries since he first became governor in 1975. Duran, however, has lasted longer than most. The combative spokesman was an aide and press secretary to Brown when Brown was mayor of Oakland, from 2004 to 2007, and Duran joined the governors' administration in 2011, at the beginning of Brown's third term.

Like many press secretaries, Duran vehemently attacked his boss's critics - from Fox News to legislative Republicans, the latter of which he once called "basically moronic."
Duran could be especially acerbic. He once sent a video of a crying baby to the author of a critical editorial. On Election Night last year, after Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had criticized Brown's rhetoric in his campaign to raise taxes, Duran sent Newsom a clip on Twitter of Elvis Presley singing, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"

Before joining Brown's office, Duran was communications director for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein from 2008 to 2010. He was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's press secretary from 2007 to 2008.

Editor's Note: This post was updated to reflect Duran's confirmation of the move. Updated Feb. 12, 2013 at 5:16 p,m.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gil Duran, California Gov. Jerry Brown's press secretary, right, during a news conference in January. The Sacramento Bee/RandallBenton

February 12, 2013
California fiscal analyst assails 'high cost' of state's universities

UC Berkeley 2011.JPGIn a new report issued today, California's top fiscal analyst questioned Gov. Jerry Brown's desire to pour more money into state university systems without demanding a bigger detour from their "high-cost" model.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office believes Brown correctly identified inefficiencies in the state's higher education systems. But it disagrees with the governor's approach and recommends that lawmakers reject several of his higher education proposals, particularly his ongoing funding increases for University of California and California State University.

"Why the state would invest more in a system that is high cost and has poor outcomes without requiring explicit improvement is unclear," the report states.

February 12, 2013
Bill would require polling places on California college campuses

US NEWS ELN-ELECTION 93 SA.jpgDemocratic state Sen. Leland Yee is looking to bolster the youth vote with legislation to establish more polling places on California's college and university campuses.

Senate Bill 240 would require at least one polling place on each University of California and California State University campus and seek to expand the number of polling stations on community college campuses across the state.

While some campuses, including UC Davis, do serve as voting sites, the final decision of where to locate the voting stations is up to the county registrars. Yee said the bill is aimed at making it easier for the hundreds of thousands of students enrolled in the state's UC and CSU systems to vote.

February 12, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's wealth divide

There are two Californias, Dan says, one of immense wealth and one of abject poverty.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 12, 2013
AM Alert: Environment takes center stage

VIDEO: Dan Walters warns that California is at risk of becoming a two-tiered society.

It's a busy day in the Capitol and environs; President Abraham Lincoln, born 204 years ago today, would no doubt be happy to see democracy still humming along.

Things kick off with a joint hearing on hydraulic fracturing, administered by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee (chaired by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee (led by Sen. Michael Rubio, D-East Bakersfield), from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room 4203 of the State Capitol Building. Fracking has proved to be a contentious topic already this session, and Pavley has a bill to regulate the disputed extraction process.

February 11, 2013
Jeremy Renner to portray late Capitol reporter Gary Webb

RPGARY WEBB4NYTIMES.JPGModesto native Jeremy Renner is set to play late Capitol investigative reporter Gary Webb in the upcoming film, "Kill the Messenger," according to news reports.

Webb worked in the Capitol press corps for the San Jose Mercury News, which published the 1996 "Dark Alliance" series alleging CIA ties to the U.S. crack cocaine market. After several major publications disputed Webb's claims, the Mercury News reassigned him and he ultimately left the paper in 1997. He published a book in 1999, "Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion," that further detailed his story.

Webb later worked in the state Assembly as a committee consultant, investigating subjects such as a failed state Oracle Corp. contract, and at the Sacramento News and Review. He committed suicide in 2004 at his Carmichael home.

OC Weekly managing editor Nick Schou wrote the 2006 book "Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb" that serves as the basis for the new film.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gary Webb sits amid documents in his Carmichael home on June 2, 1997. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

February 11, 2013
National mental health push sends Steinberg to New York

RP STEINBERG TABLE.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is back on the East Coast this week as part of his ongoing push to expand funding for mental health services nationwide.

Steinberg announced plans to campaign for a $10 billion investment in preventing and treating mental health issues across the country in the wake of the December shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school. He took his call for creating a national mental health initiative modeled after California's Proposition 63 to Washington, D.C., last month, when he spent several days meeting with members of Congress and Obama administration officials.

Now, the Sacramento Democrat has flown to New York City for two days of media interviews and meetings with finance and political leaders, including former Gov. George Pataki.

February 11, 2013
Silicon Valley has nation's 2nd highest concentration of wealthy

A tony suburb of New York City has the nation's highest concentration of high-income households, but Silicon Valley ranks No. 2 and eight of the nation's 25 wealthiest communities are in California, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The Bridgeport, CT, area has the highest concentration with 17.9 percent of its households having incomes in the top 5 percent, the report said, with San Jose and other Silicon Valley communities in second place at 15.9 percent.

San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont ranks No. 4 at 13 percent, just behind Washington, DC, and its suburbs. Napa is No. 10, with the Santa Cruz-Watsonville area No. 11, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana No. 15, Santa Barbara-Santa Maria No. 16, San Diego and vicinity No. 18 and Santa Rosa-Petaluma No. 23.

February 11, 2013
VIDEO: Dancing for health care at California Capitol

The prospect of a single-payer health care system has advocates dancing in the streets -- or at least on steps of the state Capitol.

Health care professionals, medical students and advocates gathered at the Capitol for a raucous rally in favor of a single-payer system on Monday. The demonstration, which was organized by the California Health Professional Student Alliance, featured a sea of white lab coats -- many of them bearing the insignia of local medical schools -- and a choreographed number by scrubs-clad dancers.

Speakers urged the adoption of a government managed, single-payer health care system, saying anything short of that would be inadequate. Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said the Obama administration's health care overhaul bill was only a start.

"As you know, we're currently trying to move California forward with implementation of the affordable care act," Monning said. "In my view this represents a stepping stone to achieving true universal coverage and a healthcare system based on the promotion of health and wellness, not the treatment of disease and illness."

Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, called a single-payer system "the only model where we can achieve true universal healthcare." You can see the dance routine below:

February 11, 2013
Live chat replay: Texas vs California: Rick Perry, Jerry Brown and the fight for jobs

February 11, 2013
Bill targets use of smart car technology for California teens

Cell Phone Driving (1).jpgCalifornia minors are already banned from using their smart phones behind the wheel, even with a hands-free device. But new legislation introduced in the state Senate last week would expand those rules to include the use of new smart car technology while driving.

Senate Bill 194, by Stockton Democrat Cathleen Galgiani, would expand the state's ban on talking on the phone and texting while driving for motorists under 18, prohibiting those drivers from using any "electronic wireless communications device," even if it's hands free. The aim of that change is to make sure drivers with provisional licenses don't use touch-screen or voice-command technologies that have been introduced in new car models. Mercedes-Benz USA, for example, made headlines last month by announcing a new feature that provides Facebook access through a car.

February 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California cancels another tech boondoggle

California's State Controller John Chiang has nixed a multimillion-dollar IT contract, and Dan wonders why "the cradle of the technological revolution" has such a hard time installing new tech and computer projects.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 11, 2013
AM Alert: U.S. Geological Survey experts talk earthquake risk

US_NEWS_CALIF-EARTHQUAKE-WARNING_LA.JPGVIDEO: Another canceled contract reminds Dan Walters of California's chronic issues with government-managed technology projects.

We're hearing rumbles about a Senate talk today. Risk-reduction experts from the U.S. Geological Survey -- including Dr. Lucy Jones, pictured at right -- will be talking about the potential of an early earthquake warning system.

The floor presentation comes as Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, has introduced Senate Bill 135 to create a statewide early warning network.

Lone Star beer or pinot noir? Spurs or surfboards? As Gov. Rick Perry seeks to lure businesses from California to Texas, come back to Capitol Alert at noon today for a live debate about the relative merits of the two states, their job climates and their governors.

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters and reporter David Siders will discuss and take questions from readers. Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Smith will moderate. They'll be joined by Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy.

February 8, 2013
Super Bowl weekend, as told through political tweets

Sacramento at the Super Bowl

The California Democratic Party held an exclusive fundraiser last weekend - a trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans with a powerful state senator. Other Capitol types were also in the Big Easy for the big game - though not all were involved in the fundraiser. Here's a look at the fun had by all.

Storified by · Fri, Feb 08 2013 21:43:35

Jason Kinney, a communications consultant for the Senate Democrats, organized the fundraiser that involved tickets to the game, plus a cross country trip in a private plane with Sen. Kevin De Leon and lodging with him in a French Quarter rental home. Kinney posted these tweets from New Orleans on Friday night. He said these parties were not part of the fundraiser.
En route to Commissioner's Party. Does my Ronnie Lott jersey count as "business attire?" #NOLAJason Kinney
Now Rolling Stone party. Dress code doesn't seem to be an issue here. #NOlaJason Kinney
On Saturday, Sacramento political consultant Roger Salazar started tweeting about his trip to the Super Bowl. He said he was not part of the fundraiser, and flew on a commercial flight with two buddies.
Super Bowl Bound! SMF-LAS-MSY #sf2no #49ers #SB47 @49ersRoger Salazar
Flight full o' #49ers fans. #SF2NO @49ers_fans @49ers @ Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport... Salazar
Adam Keigwin, chief of staff to state Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, was already in New Orleans. He said he paid his own way to get there and bought his ticket to the game for $950 from the 49ers. 
@RogerSalazar hurry up and get downtown. Way too many Raven fans here.Adam Keigwin
Kinney, meanwhile, said he was lunching with his wife in New Orleans on Saturday when they ran into Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
By count of colors, Ravens dominating Commander's Palace. Only 2 Niner tables: Kinneys & Pelosis. And, yes, Madame Leader is Kaepernicking.Jason Kinney
Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, had said earlier in the week that she'd be at the game rooting for the Niners, despite her Baltimore roots.
Divided loyalties for Super Bowl? Baltimore-born SF Dem Nancy Pelosi tells all (VIDEO) | Politics Blog | an blogHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be in New Orleans Sunday to watch the Super Bowl LXVII matchup between the San Francisco 49ers an...
Kinney and Salazar hit some parties on Saturday night.
GQ party! #thankyouRogerSalazarJason Kinney
Salazar posted this picture showing him (top left, holding the trumpet), former state Assemblyman Rusty Areias (bottom left, holding the beer bottle) and Kinney's wife Mary (middle, playing the trumpet).
Of course Justin is on the phone. #SF2NO #49ers #nola @49ers #SB47 #GQuperBowlParty Salazar
Sunday was the big game. Dustin Corcoran, chief executive of the California Medical Association - the lobbying group for the state's doctors - posted these tweets from the stadium. Corcoran
Awkwardly dark in the Superdome.Dustin Corcoran
Charu Khopkar, political director of the California Faculty Association, posted this apparent joke:
NOPD id's suspects who cut Superdome power: @jasonkinney, @akeigwin, @RogerSalazar, @jeffgozzo. Suspects are dressed in red, drunk & ornery.Charu Khopkar
"This kind of travel provides the well-heeled interests the opportunity to have significant amounts of face time with elected and other party officials, something that is not available to average Americans," said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. "And it is important not to underestimate how important that is in politics - being able to have somebody return your calls, know who you are and socialize."

Read the full story below.

Capitol Alert: Who dat at the Super Bowl? Lobbyists and California lawmaker - sacbee.comBy Laurel Rosenhall and Torey Van Oot No matter that the 49ers lost, the Super Bowl was still a $60,000 win for the California Democratic...

February 8, 2013
Who dat at the Super Bowl? Lobbyists and California lawmaker

DeLeon.jpgBy Laurel Rosenhall and Torey Van Oot

No matter that the 49ers lost - the Super Bowl was still a $60,000 win for the California Democratic Party.

That's how much the party netted from an exclusive fundraising event in which a handful of Sacramento lobbyists spent Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans with a powerful state senator. The experience included a private plane ride across the country with Sen. Kevin de León, lodging with him in a French Quarter vacation home and tickets to the hottest football game of the year.

Organizers would not say who attended or how much they paid, but three Capitol advocates were with the group - Dustin Corcoran, chief executive officer of the California Medical Association; Scott Wetch, a lobbyist representing unions, insurance companies and health care groups; and Scott Govenar, a lobbyist representing finance interests and one Indian tribe.

Govenar and Wetch said they were there, but declined to comment further. Jason Kinney, a communications consultant for the Senate Democratic caucus who organized and attended the fundraiser, would not confirm or deny the names of attendees. Corcoran did not respond to requests for comment.

February 8, 2013
Rocky Chavez proposes telling California how to ask a question

Durell_shipbase_0161 Coast Guard.JPGA proposed California law would allow only these words to be used for a question the state already asks: "Have you ever served in the military?"

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, contends that asking the question in that manner, mandated by Assembly Bill 258, would put money in more Californians' pockets.

Here's the current problem: To determine whether residents are eligible for various benefits, the state asks respondents whether they are veterans or have served in the armed forces, said Anthony Zamarron, Chávez's chief of staff.

Some Californians say no when they should say yes, Zamarron said, because they think "veteran" means someone who has gone to war or they don't realize that it includes members of the Coast Guard and National Guard.

February 8, 2013
Logue opens state treasurer committee, but not to run for post

California Jobs.jpgRepublican Assemblyman Dan Logue has opened a campaign account to raise cash for a 2014 state treasurer bid.

But don't expect to see the Marysville Republican hitting the campaign trail any time soon.

He's not actually running.

In fact, Logue said he expects a statewide campaign to be "the last thing I do" when he leaves the Assembly due to term limits at the end of next year.

"I have no plans to run for treasurer," Logue told The Bee. "I'm using that to raise some resources to help some colleagues to bring more pro-business candidates to Sacramento down the road."

February 8, 2013
Controller: California $4.3 billion ahead of forecast in January

20111102_ha_JOHN_CHIANG0365.JPGCalifornia received $4.3 billion more in January than Gov. Jerry Brown predicted, state Controller John Chiang said in a new cash update this afternoon.

In an analysis, Chiang said "gains in jobs, incomes, and stock prices have underpinned the rise," while also alluding to higher tax rates on the wealthy that voters approved at Brown's urging in November.

But as the state saw a burst of tax revenue in mid-January, economists and fiscal experts suspected a third factor was largely to blame: a December run-up in capital gains and profit-taking ahead of the so-called federal fiscal cliff. Companies paid more dividends and bonuses in 2012 because of the likelihood that federal leaders would increase taxes on the highest brackets in 2013.

It remains to be seen whether the state's big January will result in lower tax collections than expected this spring and in 2014. The Legislative Analyst's Office has warned policy makers to remain cautious and wait until Brown's May budget update to judge whether the revenue increase is for real.

February 8, 2013
National Journal charts rise, fall of Berman-Waxman machine

howardberman.jpgWhen Howard Berman lost the most expensive congressional race in the country last year - falling to fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman after the two were thrown together in the same district - it marked the end of a fabled Southern California political machine.

Berman and Rep. Henry Waxman, along with Berman's campaign/redistricting consultant brother, Michael, had been major factors in regional and statewide politics for decades, making or breaking countless political careers.

The rise and fall of the Berman-Waxman machine is chronicled in a lengthy article in the National Journal.

Shane Goldmacher, a former Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times Capitol reporter, charts how the organization got its start in campus politics before Waxman and Howard Berman moved to the Legislature and then to Congress, becoming major forces in domestic and foreign policy.

February 8, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Rick Perry keeps California, self in spotlight

Dan says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is riding the latest flareup of the California-Texas rivalry for all it's worth, given that he knows Texans love to hate "those crazy people out there in California."

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 8, 2013
AM Alert: Rick Perry trip, nuclear initiative are portents of 2014

ZUMA_San Onofre Nuclear Plant.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters says there's a reason Texas Gov. Rick Perry keeps goading California: It helps his re-election prospects in his home state.

Here's another sign that the 2014 election cycle has already begun. Secretary of State Debra Bowen has cleared the signature collection phase of a proposed initiative to require stricter review for the troubled Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear power plants.

This isn't the first time sponsor Ben Davis Jr. has taken aim at California's nuclear power plants, but he has been unable to replicate his success in helping to shut down the Rancho Seco nuclear plant near Sacramento in 1989. Davis couldn't get enough signatures to qualify his current effort for the November 2012 ballot.

Sen. Kevin de León , D-Los Angeles, continues to push for some of the money from Proposition 39 to go towards school modernization grants. The latest effort is a new website promoting de León's bill to create the grant program.

Gov. Rick Perry leaves Texas on Sunday to begin his attempt at poaching California millionaires, his office said Thursday. He plans to visit San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and Silicon Valley.

According to the Dallas Morning News, public-private partnership TexasOne is paying for the trip. TexasOne also paid for the $24,000 radio ad buy, The Bee's David Siders reported in this post.

Happy birthday in advance to Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who will turn 44 on Saturday.

PHOTO CREDIT: A view from the San Diego county side of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, March 23, 2012. Ana Venegas/ The Orange County Register/

February 7, 2013
Villaraigosa: Ex-cop suspected of shooting 3 is a 'sick individual'

California Gun Control Antonio Villaraigosa.JPGLos Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today condemned the actions of a former police officer who is suspected of killing three as part of a plan to avenge his dismissal from the Los Angeles Police Department, calling the suspected shooter a "sick individual."

"There's no beef that someone can have to kill three innocent people in the way that he has," Villaraigosa said. "Whatever problem he has is mental and godspeed to our police officers that we find this individual as quickly as possible."

A widespread manhunt has been launched to capture Christopher Dorner, the alleged shooter. The ex cop published an online manifesto outlining his plan to go on a shooting rampage, listing specific LAPD members as some of his targets.

The Los Angeles Democrat, who was in Sacramento to attend a press conference on new gun-control proposals, called the situation a "very graphic and to-the-point illustration of what mayors have to do every day" in dealing with violent crime caused by firearms.

"This isn't about ephemeral, esoteric public policy issues," he said. "These issues go to the heart of civil society."

Massive manhunt on for ex-cop accused of killing 3

PHOTO CREDIT: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in red tie, discusses his support for a package of proposed gun control legislation at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)

February 7, 2013
Environmental groups, unions team up to oppose CEQA push

CAP1NEW.JPG.JPGThe battle lines are being drawn in the upcoming legislative fight over California's environmental review laws.

More than a dozen environmental, labor and social justice groups announced Wednesday that they are joining forces to oppose an expected push to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act.

Members pledged to fight "radical reforms that would limit public input into land use planning, threaten public health, and weaken environmental protections."

The group, CEQA Works, includes the California League of Conservation Voters, Planning and Conservation League, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club California, the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, State Building and Construction Trades Council, United Food & Commercial Workers and the League of Women Voters of California.

February 7, 2013
If 8th-grader can't read it, rewrite the darn thing

RB Tech Camp 3.JPGCut to the chase.

That's the message from Assemblyman Ed Chau to Web sites that require prospective users to scroll through page after page of privacy policy before they can register and view content.

The Monterey Park Democrat proposed legislation this week to require web sites that collect personal information to make their privacy policies short, sweet - and simple.

Lengthy legalese keeps many consumers from understanding such policies, he said.

"I think many privacy policies actually create a false sense of privacy for the average consumer," Chau said. "They're just so long that people skip over them and click 'accept' without knowing what they're signing onto."

Assembly Bill 242 would require Internet privacy policies to be written at an eighth-grade reading level, use concise wording, and to include a statement indicating what personal information is collected and how it is used.

AB 242 would limit privacy policies to 100 words. Chau practices what he preaches.

His bill is 64 words long.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dominick Lee, 12, works on an audio project with a laptop at John Still Middle School in south Sacramento on Thursday, June 30, 2011. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file, 2011

February 7, 2013
California Democratic lawmakers unveil gun control legislation

steinbergvilalr.JPGFlanked by police chiefs, big-city mayors and gun control advocates, a group of California Democratic legislators announced a series of proposals Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said would "once again make California's gun laws the very toughest in the nation."

Thursday's announcement was the latest gun control push from state lawmakers in the wake of December's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. The massacre, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has sparked calls for action across the country. Lawmakers in New York recently enacted measures making its laws the nation's strictest, a title previously held by California.

"We need to lead the way," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "New York has stepped up and stepped forward. California needs to answer the call."

February 7, 2013
Texas Gov Rick Perry heading to California to lure business

perry.jpgTexas Gov. Rick Perry is heading to California to recruit businesses, his office said this morning, after Perry released a radio ad Monday criticizing California's business climate and encouraging businesses to leave.

Perry's radio ad - and California Gov. Jerry Brown's response that the $24,000 media buy is so small it is "barely a fart" - are the latest in a war of words between Brown and Perry about which state is better for business.

Perry, a Republican, has criticized California's tax rate and regulatory environment, while Brown, a Democrat, has criticized Texas for its relatively large percentage of people working at or below the minimum wage.

February 7, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's diverse Asian population expands

It would be a mistake to think of California's immensely varied Asian-American population as a monolith, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 7, 2013
AM Alert: Senate Democrats renew gun control push

20130129_HA_STEINBERG_DE_LEON_GUNS.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters says it's easy to overlook the extraordinary diversity of Asian Americans, California's fastest growing ethnic bloc.

The concerted push for new gun control laws gets another shove at a press conference this morning, where Democrats led by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will be heralding the latest set of proposals. The event starts at 10 a.m. in room 1190 of the State Capitol.

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will be there, along with Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus and Emeryville Police Chief Ken James. So will senators Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, Marty Block, D-San Diego, Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Much of the momentum behind new gun laws has come from Democrats, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention some of the proposals Republicans have floated. They have included a bill from Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, that would anonymously arm teachers, and a proposal from Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, that would protect the personal information of gun owners.

February 6, 2013
California GOP wants probe of Bera cameo in super PAC video

6NHLX.Xl.4.jpegFor California Democrats facing a tough path to re-election in 2014, a simple thank you can fuel attacks from opponents already shifting into campaign gear.

Freshman Democratic Reps. Ami Bera and Raul Ruiz, learned that the hard way this week, when the California Republican Party asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate cameos both members made in a Web video produced by a Democratic super PAC.

February 6, 2013
Report: California Asians, Islanders are 'community of contrasts'

JV_052012_PACIFICRIM 055.JPGWhile Latinos are poised to become California's largest ethnic group within a few months, the state's Asian-Pacific Islander community has been growing even faster, according to a new report charting the community's status.

The state's 5.6 million Asians and nearly 300,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders easily make up the largest such concentration in the nation. Despite widespread belief that they are very prosperous, the group is actually the report's title, "A Community of Contrasts," with some nationalities doing very well economically and others among the state's poorest residents.

The report, produced by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Asian Law Caucus, breaks down the overall community into 23 specific Asian and 19 Hawaiian-Pacific Islander subgroups.

It declares, for instance, that while Taiwanese, Fijian, Malaysian, Japanese, Filipino and Indian Californians have levels of poverty below those of white Californians, those of other subgroups are higher, topped by 34 percent poverty among Hmong, more than twice the state's overall rate.

Income levels show a similarly wide spread in the report, with Hmong having per capita incomes of under $10,000 a year, less than a quarter of whites and the upper-income Asian communities, such as Indians, Malaysians and Taiwanese. The report also declares that Asians were hit particularly hard by the recent recession, both in terms of unemployment and housing foreclosures.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lincy Han of the Golden Turtle Lion Dance Association of UC Davis, prepares for the opening ceremony of the Pacific Rim Street Fest on May 20, 2012. José Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

February 6, 2013
Jerry Brown plans to build house on Colusa County ranch

BROWNCOLUSA.JPGCOLUSA - Gov. Jerry Brown said today he plans to build a house on land his family has owned for generations in Colusa County west of Williams.

The Democratic governor, who has a home in the Oakland hills and a loft in Sacramento, hikes on the Colusa County land and speaks frequently about the ranch his pioneer ancestors founded in the area. He retreated to the ranch to hike on Election Day last year.

"I'm going put some kind of house up there," Brown told reporters after touring a farm show here. "I'm thinking of a house where I can bring my relatives over and we can have Thanksgiving dinner, and I can get a little quiet."

Asked if it would be a retirement house, the 74-year-old governor said, "Who's talking about retirement?"

Brown said, "It's a good place to be, and it's very close to Sacramento ... So, certainly it's a good retreat for a governor."

February 6, 2013
Report: K-12 districts take kids' lunch money for other purposes

RB HealthyFood 5 School Lunch.JPGAs demand for subsidized school meals went unfulfilled, K-12 districts diverted food service money for other purposes such as a new roof and sprinklers, a new state Senate report finds.

Public schools provide 2.4 million free or reduced-price lunches every day in a system that serves 6 million schoolchildren in California. The federal government provides the bulk of funding at $2 billion, with an additional $145 million annually from the state, the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes report says.

But the federal government relies on California Department of Education officials to monitor school lunch programs and ensure the money is being spent appropriately. CDE has required eight districts to repay nearly $170 million in meal money, but the report says the education department is ill-equipped to ensure compliance and that districts may be raiding those funds on a broader scale.

February 6, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Rick Perry benefits from California criticism

Forget how Rick Perry looked in a radio ad dinging California's business climate, Dan says - the important thing is, it brought the Texas governor some cheap publicity.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 6, 2013
AM Alert: California Democrats plan Affordable Care Act strategy

VIDEO: Dan Walters details how Rick Perry is reaping the benefits of the latest skirmish between California and Texas.

Today is day two of a strategy retreat for Senate Democrats at the Stanford Mansion. The Dems heard from online education entrepreneur Sal Khan yesterday, and the focus today will be on implementing the Affordable Care Act. Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California -- California's ACA-mandated health insurance exchange -- will be there.

February 5, 2013
Gov. Jerry Brown, Republicans float bills to change fire fee

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to expand how the state can spend new fire fee proceeds, while Republican legislators want to kill the charge entirely.

In a series of new proposals, GOP lawmakers and the Democratic governor are jockeying over ways to change the controversial $150 annual fee on 825,000 properties mostly located in rural areas. State leaders approved the "fire prevention fee" in 2011 as a way to raise money for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and Brown said at the time that residential growth on the forest edges had led to higher state fire costs.

February 5, 2013
Would Pérez trade 'Assembly Speaker' for 'Labor Secretary?'

Welcome to the White House rumor mill, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

As President Barack Obama shakes up his cabinet for a new four-year term, tongues are wagging in Washington D.C. - and one name they're wagging about is Pérez for U.S. Labor Secretary.

Pérez's name surfaced in an Associated Press report today that listed him among a handful of candidates to replace Hilda Solis, who resigned last month, reportedly to consider a run for Los Angeles County supervisor.

Pérez, who worked for labor groups 15 years before coming to the Legislature, scoffed at the possibility of leaving the Assembly for an Obama Cabinet post - but he stopped short of squashing it.

"Look, I'm always flattered if somebody thinks my work is worthy of other consideration, but I'm focused on being speaker for these next two years," he said. "And continuing to build back our economy, and continuing to build on the fiscal discipline that we've created here in California. And getting people back to work."

So he wouldn't take the Cabinet post?

The Los Angeles Democrat laughed.

"Let them ask and I'll give you the answer then."

February 5, 2013
Jerry Brown calls Texas Gov Rick Perry's ad 'barely a fart'

One day after Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a radio ad in California criticizing the Golden State's business climate and encouraging businesses to relocate to Texas, California Gov. Jerry Brown said today that Perry's campaign is "barely a fart."

"It's not a serious story, guys," the Democratic governor told reporters at a business event here. "It's not a burp. It's barely a fart."

The ad buy Perry announced Monday is relatively small, at about $24,000, but it gained widespread attention in the media. Brown called the amount "the smallest entry into the media market of California."

"If they want to get in the game, let them spend $25 million on radio and television," Brown said. "Then I'll take them seriously."

Perry's ad - and Brown's reaction - is the latest in a longstanding back-and-forth between Brown and Perry about which state is better for business.

Brown's remarks came during an appearance at a UPS distribution center to celebrate the deployment of a fleet of all-electric vehicles.

"It's small, but it's important," Brown said. "Climate change is not waiting. Pollution doesn't wait. So we can't wait, either."

February 5, 2013
Jerry Brown downplays Cal Fire reports, dubs it 'boring story'

Gov. Jerry Brown said today that revelations that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection hid settlement funds for several years in a nonprofit account amount to a "boring story," though he said the administration would look into it.

The Democratic governor said at a business event in West Sacramento that he had not read The Bee's report this morning that his administration for two years used a share of new fire fees for wildfire investigations, an arrangement the Legislature's attorney considers illegal.

Nor, Brown said, had he read earlier reports by the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal that Cal Fire since 2005 directed a share of wildfire settlements to a $3.66 million, off-budget fund managed by the California District Attorneys Association.

"I find it a relatively boring story, to tell you the truth," Brown said. "I always like stories that say we've got more money than I thought we had."

However, Brown said he will "certainly look into it."

'We're not going to not take it seriously," Brown said. "If there's a few million bucks laying around and somebody didn't put in the right account, we'll figure it out."

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, issued a statement criticizing Brown's characterization of the revelations as "boring."

"After the $40 million state parks fund scandal, the governor assured us there were no other hidden pots of money to be found in the depths of state government," Huff said. "But just weeks later, we see there's a completely different money-hiding scandal unfolding at CalFire. I can't speak for the governor, but 'boring' is the last word I would use to describe these very disturbing revelations of hidden funds."

Editor's note: Post updated at 1:45 p.m. to include Huff's remarks.

February 5, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Beware unfunded liabilities

Gov. Jerry Brown's optimistic talk about a balanced budget ignores huge shortfalls in obligations to retirees, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 5, 2013
AM Alert: California Senate Democrats gather to strategize

Editor's note: a previous version of this post incorrectly spelled Mr. Khan's name. It is Khan, not Kahn.

VIDEO: Dan warns that massive unfunded liabilities for future retirees undermine Gov. Jerry Brown's case that California is in good fiscal shape.

Senate Democrats will be gathering for a policy retreat at the Stanford Mansion today (the Republicans convened last week at Fox & Goose). Democrats will be mapping strategy for the year ahead, and Capitol Alert has learned that online education guru Sal Khan will be speaking.

February 4, 2013
GOP leader Connie Conway getting heat from caucus critics

Whispers are getting louder.

Assembly Republicans are not talking publicly, but they're meeting in little groups and buzzing among themselves about the possible overthrow of their caucus leader, Connie Conway.

A key question is whether any Republican can corral enough votes for a coup. No Assembly member has pushed publicly to succeed Conway, though veteran Don Wagner of Irvine and freshman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach are touted privately as possibilities. They did not respond to interview requests Monday.

Republicans are still reeling over the loss of three GOP seats in last November's election, a stunning party defeat that handed Democrats a supermajority in the 80-member house.

Conway , a Tulare County Republican, has served for two years as leader of the Assembly GOP. But political caucuses, like professional baseball or football teams, often react to humiliating defeats by switching managers because their lineup is set.

February 4, 2013
Jerry Brown responds to Rick Perry: 'Texas, come on over!'

jerrybrownstate.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said today that the radio ads Texas Gov. Rick Perry is voicing in California are nothing more than a "few tricks," doubtful they would influence businesses to leave the Golden State.

"Do you think a few tricks from a politician is going to make any difference?" the Democratic governor told reporters at a business event in Los Angeles, according to a transcript provided by the governor's office. "People invest their money where these big things have occurred. The ideas, the structures, the climate, the opportunity is right here on the Pacific Rim."

Perry, a Republican, announced this morning that he is airing a new radio ad in California cities criticizing California's business climate and promoting Texas.

Asked by a reporter about Texans "coming here and poaching," Brown said, "Of course they're coming here. So are the British coming here, so are the French, so are the Russians, so are the Chinese. Everybody with half a brain is coming to California. So Texas, come on over!"

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown is escorted by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, left, and Assemblywoman Nora Campos to his right, as he enters the Assembly to present his State of the State speech at the state Capitol in Sacramento, California on Thursday, January 24, 2013. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

February 4, 2013
California teachers pension fund faces $64 billion deficit

The trust fund that provides pensions to retired teachers has a $64 billion deficit and would need a $4.5 billion per year infusion of revenue to become fully solvent, according to a new internal study.

The California State Teachers Retirement System produced the report in response to a legislative resolution.

Its release came just days after the Legislature's budget analyst, Mac Taylor, indirectly chided Gov. Jerry Brown for ignoring "huge unfunded liabilities associated with the teachers' retirement system and state retiree health benefits" in his new budget.

STRS receives money from the state, from local school districts and from teachers themselves, but is also highly dependent on investment earnings, which were clobbered during the recent recession. And while its larger cousin, the California Public Employees Retirement System, has the power take money from the state treasury as it sees fit, STRS must receive specific appropriations from the Legislature.

While fully funding teacher pensions would require $4.5 billion more a year --excluding projected investment earnings -- the system says in its report, the burden would be eased by setting lower funding targets and./or stretching out contributions. The most important decision, STRS said, is to begin closing the deficit, rather than allowing it to widen further.

February 4, 2013
Former GOP lawmaker Nolan Frizzelle dies at 91

Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle.JPGFormer Republican Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle, an Orange County conservative and backer of the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964, has died at his home in Folsom. He was 91.

Frizzelle died Thursday from complications of congestive heart failure, said his stepdaughter Sabina Pellissier.

Frizzelle, an optometrist, represented a Huntington Beach district in the Assembly from 1980 until 1992. He got behind Goldwater in 1964, and later became president of the California Republican Assembly, a conservative GOP organization. He championed toll roads during his legislative career, and his legislation eventually became the template for a bill allowing joint powers authorities to operate pay-as-you-drive roads in Orange and Riverside counties.

Born in Los Angeles in 1921, Frizzelle attended UCLA and Stanford before opening his optometry practice in Newport Beach. He served in the U.S. Marines during World War II.

He is survived by his wife Ina, and six children. Services are pending.

February 4, 2013
Texas Gov Rick Perry rips California business climate in new ad

perry.jpgTexas Gov. Rick Perry is criticizing California's business climate and promoting Texas in a new radio advertisement airing in the Golden State.

"Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible," the Republican governor says in the ad. "This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and I have a message for California businesses: come check out Texas."

The ad, airing this week on six stations in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Inland Empire and San Diego media markets, is the latest in a back-and-forth between Perry and California Gov. Jerry Brown about whose state is better for business. The ad cheers Texas' "low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system."

Perry has boasted frequently about luring companies from California, while Brown, a Democrat, has touted the state's green energy industries and venture capital investments. THe ad buy cost about $24,000.

February 4, 2013
Jerry Brown says 49ers 'screwed up' but showed 'intestinal fortitude'

Gov. Jerry Brown doesn't watch a lot of sports, but he caught the Super Bowl last night and offered an assessment of how the San Francisco 49ers played.

"Sure they screwed up," Brown said on the Bay Area's KPIX-TV. "But they came back, and that, that kind of energy and intestinal fortitude and guts and imagination, they still demonstrated. It was close. It's exciting. I mean, more than that you really can't ask for."

The 49ers allowed the Baltimore Ravens to take a 22-point lead before mounting a comeback that fell just short. San Francisco lost 34-31.

The Democratic governor was interviewed on "A Super Night on the New Bay Bridge" a post-Super Bowl program in which the CBS affiliate celebrated the upcoming opening of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The $6.4 billion project is scheduled to open in September, and Brown - live on location - pressed a button starting a clock counting down to the opening.

"It's a pretty darn good looking freeway, now that I look at it," Brown said.

February 4, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Immigration reform is 'good politics' for GOP

Some Republicans are getting on board with immigration reform, which Dan says is a reflection of California's demographic destiny.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

February 4, 2013
AM Alert: Lawmakers honor civil rights activist Rosa Parks

AOC_ROSA_PARKS.JPGVIDEO: Dan Walters says some Republicans are getting in touch with reality by backing immigration reform.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks' birth today, Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, and Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, are planning a floor resolution to honor the civil rights icon. They'll be joined by members of the women's, LGBT and Latino caucuses.

On the Senate side, lawmakers will recognize the winners of this year's James Irvine Foundation's leadership awards -- Aida Cardenas of Los Angeles, Karen Christensen of Capitola, José Quiñonez of San Francisco, and Stuart Cohen, Jeff Oxendine and Jill Vialet, all of Oakland.

Sen. Kevin de León, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Ed Hernandez and Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway will present the awards during a luncheon before the floor session.

In the Assembly, the Transportation Committee is taking a look at Assembly Bill 8, by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, that would provide grants and loans aimed at encouraging alternative fuel technology.

You may remember a story from back in early January about how ousted members of Congress didn't have district offices, leaving constituents with nowhere to direct suggestions, constructive criticism and general verbal abuse. Freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who unseated Republican incumbent Dan Lungren, was in a similar boat until today -- when Bera's district office in Rancho Cordova is opening its doors.

As part of a speaker series at the California Department of Education, the department is holding a talk on how educators use the California Career Resource Network to help students pursue their career goals.The event runs from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1430 N St. in Sacramento.

In judicial news, San Mateo County recently announced plans to lay off employees and close some courthouses. Officials in the court system have been pleading with Gov. Jerry Brown to restore some of the funding they've lost in years of cutbacks, which have led to reduced services and staffing.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lilyann J. Mitchell, 74, holds a book about her friend, Rosa Parks, who she met in Detroit about 40 years ago. Autumn Payne / Sacramento Bee file, 2005

February 1, 2013
State senator gets free Super Bowl ticket for fundraising duties

Super Bowl Football.jpgState Sen. Kevin de León is heading to New Orleans to watch the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens face off in the Super Bowl -- on the California Democratic Party's dime.

The Los Angeles Democrat is getting a free ticket to Sunday's game as part of a fundraiser to boost his party's bank account. The pass isn't subject to the $420 limit on gifts to lawmakers because the rules provide an exemption for admission to political and nonprofit fundraisers. Face value Super Bowl tickets start at $850.

Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats' political efforts, said de León, who serves as chair of the Democratic Caucus and the powerful Appropriations Committee, was asked to represent the caucus at the event when Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg could not attend.

Kinney declined to provide additional information about attendees or the itinerary, but said the state Democratic Party paid for all overhead costs and will report those expenditures as well as the contributions received as part of the fundraiser in its campaign filings.

"Personally, I think it demonstrates impressive generosity of spirit that Los Angeles's own Kevin de León is willing to show up and pretend to root for a San Francisco team for three whole hours," Kinney said in a prepared statement.

PHOTO CREDIT: San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52), practice squad member Kenny Wiggins (69), and tackle Anthony Davis (76) warm up during practice on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in New Orleans. The 49ers are scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game on Feb. 3. (AP Photo/ Mark Humphrey)

February 1, 2013
Jerry Brown reports pardoning 128 convicted criminals in 2012

Brownstate.jpgGov. Jerry Brown was in a forgiving state of mind last year.

The Democratic governor pardoned 128 convicted criminals in 2012, six times the number he granted the previous year, according to a report to the Legislature today by Brown.

In 2011, Brown issued 21 pardons. Even that number was more than any governor had granted for years. Brown's predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, commuted 10 sentences during his tenure and pardoned just 16 people. Schwarzenegger's predecessor, Gray Davis, granted no pardons.

Most of the people Brown pardoned in 2012 were convicted of drug or property crimes and discharged from prison or parole many years ago. Most of the pardons - 79 - were announced on Christmas Eve.

Brown also granted one commutation, which was widely reported when it was announced in April. That month, Brown commuted the prison sentence of a woman convicted of shaking her baby grandson to death in Los Angeles County in 1997, in a case an appeals court deemed a likely miscarriage of justice.

A pardon is often symbolically significant to its recipient, and it can help in job applications. It also allows an ex-felon to be employed as a parole or probation officer and, in most cases, to own a gun.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown gives his State of the State speech at the state Capitol in Sacramento, California on Thursday, January 24, 2013. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

February 1, 2013
Attorney Gavin Wasserman named to political watchdog panel

California Controller John Chiang has named Torrance attorney Gavin Wasserman to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Wasserman, who runs his own firm in Southern California, replaces termed-out Commissioner Ronald Rotunda on the political ethics agency's panel, which enforces the state campaign laws.

The Torrance Republican was selected from a list of candidates recommended by the California Republican Party, an arrangement required by law because Chiang and two other officials naming appointees are from the same party.

Wasserman fills one of three commission spots that open up this month. The other two appointees will be chosen by Attorney General Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

February 1, 2013
Poll: California business leaders see state's climate as difficult

More than two-thirds of California business leaders see the state as an extraordinarily difficult state in which to operate, a new survey by the California Business Roundtable has found.

The poll adds heft to the often-voiced complaints about the state's business climate from Republicans and business groups -- complaints that Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders say they want to address as the state struggles to emerge from a deep recession.

Brown and top legislators have pledged to reform the California Environmental Quality Act and examine other ways to make the state more attractive to investment, but environmental and consumer groups are leery.

The Business Roundtable polled 1,142 leaders of both large and small businesses and learned that more than 60 percent see the state's economy as worse than the nation's as a whole and 69 percent say it is harder to do business in California than in other states.

The survey also found that just 26 percent of business leaders believe that the results of the 2012 election, in which voters passed new taxes and expanded Democratic legislative majorities, will have a positive effect on the economy while 51 percent said it would have a negative effect.