Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 12, 2013
California environmental review law backers rally at Capitol

The battle over the future of California's environmental review law waged on Tuesday, as a coalition of environmental groups, tribal organizations and labor unions rallied against the prospect of changes.

A push to rewrite the California Environmental Quality Act appears to have gained some traction in the Legislature this year, with Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg saying the law is in need of an update. Steinberg, who has introduced a framework bill on the topic, has held a series of meetings with advocates on both sides of the fight.

The law's defenders, coming together under the flag of "Common Ground California," doubled down on their efforts at Tuesday's press conference on the Capitol steps. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary Treasurer Art Pulaski blasted the calls for changes Tuesday, saying the law is "under attack by corporations and large-scale developers."

"An attack on CEQA is an attack on our workers, is an attack on our families and is an attack on our communities," he said.

March 12, 2013
Assembly panel kills bill to shift sex offender parole violators to prison

prison.JPGThe first in a series of bills challenging the state's prison realignment received a cold reception today in the Assembly Public Safety Committee as members rejected legislation that would send sex offenders who violate their parole back to state prisons instead of county jails.

The 4-2 vote fell along party lines on Assembly Bill 2, which was authored by Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga. Democrats voting against AB 2 cited the negative impact on the state's efforts to satisfy a court-ordered mandate to drastically reduce the prison population.

The Assembly committee's analysis of the bill said "returning perhaps thousands of violators to state custody would erode realignment and not advance the goal of reducing the prison population to required levels."

March 12, 2013
$10,000 college degree just a 'sound bite,' says CSU chancellor

Tim White.jpg

During a visit with The Bee's editorial board today, the new chancellor of the California State University system shot down an idea Assemblyman Dan Logue has proposed to create a bachelor's degree that would cost students $10,000.

"A $10,000 degree is a good sound bite. But to be honest, it's flawed public policy because it's misleading," said Timothy P. White, who took the reins of the 23-campus system in December after spending four years leading UC Riverside.

Logue's Assembly Bill 51 calls for closer coordination between high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses, allowing students to earn some college credit in high school through Advanced Placement classes and greater access to community college courses.

White and other CSU leaders are in Sacramento for their annual day of advocacy and meetings with lawmakers. Building relationships with the large number of new legislators is a high priority, he said.

"If California cares about African American students being successful, we are a big part of the success story. Same for the Latino population. We graduate 17,000 Latinos every year. They are all going to vote, for these folks," White said, gesturing toward the Capitol.

"So I just want to remind them of the connection between our success and their success."

March 12, 2013
Stray animals 'killed'? Strike that

animalshelter040.JPGNo more killing of stray animals.

No more destroying them, either.

New legislation would strike those words from state law, requiring instead that animals be "humanely euthanized" if they are sick, stray or abandoned and an owner can't be found.

Assembly Bill 1045 would not alter the animals' fate, but it would change how the state describes it. Though it revises only a handful of words, the bill is 23 pages long because the words appear in multiple laws.

The purpose of the bill by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, is to "establish a more enlightened and humane law to guide animal control," said Anthony Matthews, Blumenfield's spokesman.

Among other things, the measure would replace the notion of "unwanted" animals with "surrendered" ones, housed in public facilities.

But don't call them "pounds."

AB 1045 would replace that, too.

With "animal shelters."

PHOTO CREDIT: Adult cats at the at the Sacramento County Animal Care Facility in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Andy Alfaro

March 12, 2013
California campaign pushes health care for undocumented immigrants

A television advertising campaign was launched in Sacramento, Los Angeles and the Bay Area this week to include undocumented immigrants in California's coming health-care reform.

The 60-second ad is the first in a yearlong, multimillion-dollar campaign by the California Endowment, a statewide health-care foundation, to push for preventive care and a strong safety net for undocumented immigrants or other residents who cannot afford private health insurance.

The TV ad is running in Sacramento on six broadcast stations and four cable stations, said Daniel Zingale, California Endowment senior vice president.

The ad features young, undocumented immigrants who note that the purpose of Obamacare is to ensure that Americans of all income levels have access to health care.

"Doesn't it make more sense to keep us all healthy instead of treating us after we get sick?" one immigrant asks in the ad.

March 12, 2013
California Legislature gets 'D' in online open records report

RB Leland Yee 1.JPGA new report sheds light on one place California's sun doesn't always shine: the state Capitol.

Golden State lawmakers' efforts to make public information accessible on the Web got a "D" grade in a report card released by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation this week.

The scores in the "Open Legislative Data Report Card" were based on assessments in six categories, including the completeness and timeliness of information available online and whether the formatting allows computer programs to "scrape" the data and put it in an easy-to-analyze form.

California was one of six states to receive a "D" rating. Eight states won the highest grade of "A," while six flunked.

March 12, 2013
Jerry Brown dines with Republicans, calls them 'good friends'

browndinner.jpgEver since Gov. Jerry Brown failed in budget talks two years ago to soften Republican lawmakers' resistance to higher taxes - a shortcoming Brown overcame with a ballot initiative in November - the Democratic governor has occasionally lamented the ineffectiveness of his social graces

"I poured a lot of good wine," Brown said last year. "I had them over to the loft ... but it didn't make any difference."

On Monday night, Brown dined once again with members of California's minority party - this time at the historic governor's mansion in Sacramento. The meeting is part of a series of dinners Brown is hosting for lawmakers this year, as the Legislature convenes its largest freshman class since 1966.

Brown is seeking legislative support for his budget plan and a variety of policy initiatives, including overhauling California's K-12 funding system and the state's signature environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act.

Brown first met with a group of Democrats at the mansion in January. For the Republicans' turn on Monday, Brown posted a photograph on Facebook and a message that belied any lingering hard feelings: "In the Governor's mansion, breaking bread with good friends!"

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican lawmakers sit down for dinner at the historic governor's mansion in Sacramento on Monday, March 11. Posted on Facebook by Brown.

March 12, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Profligate pension personnel

Local public employee pension fund officials are going to be discussing how to handle spiraling costs at an upcoming conference in Hawaii; Dan wonders how they don't appreciate the irony.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

March 12, 2013
AM Alert: Special Senate elections in California's 32nd, 40th

ZUMA_Curiosity Mars Landi.jpg

VIDEO: Another example of spending by public pension funds facing huge budget liabilities has Dan Walters scratching his head.

It's that magical time of year: the special Senate election primary day is today, with two races to fill the seats left vacant after former senators Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas moved on to Congress. In the 40th district, Vargas' old stomping grounds, Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, is the odds-on favorite; considering the dearth of strong opponents, Hueso looks like a decent bet to win the 50-percent-plus-one margin needed to avoid a runoff.


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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