Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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