Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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

More Capitol Alert

Capitol Alert on Twitter

Popular Categories

Now on


November 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Monthly Archives

Latest California Clips