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.


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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