Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 13, 2013
Steinberg, others 'hangout' to promote online college class bill

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 11.43.20 AM.pngWhen it came to unveiling a new push to create a series of online courses for California college and university students, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg thought it was fitting to deliver the news in a decidedly digital fashion.

So instead of holding a traditional press conference, the Sacramento Democrat and other supporters of the effort logged into Google to stage a "Hangout" video conference.

"(Technology) is overwhelmingly I think a positive force in our lives we want to use it to try to help as many young people, as many students, as possible be able to keep their dreams and compete in the modern economy," he said. "And so it felt like it was the right thing to do and consistent with that mission to hold this first-of-a-kind press conference using the very technology that we think can be part of the answer to the challenges our young people are facing today."

Reporters for several organizations, including The Bee, joined in via video chat as Steinberg, Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and several other backers of the online course proposal touted Senate Bill 520 as a way of improving access to higher education in the state. Other members of the press watched a live or via Web stream and submitted questions via email.

The bill would create what has been billed as the nation's first statewide offering of online college courses for credit. Under the proposal, a panel of college faculty would choose online options to offer for 50 heavily trafficked lower division courses in the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. The classes would be open to students who needed the credits to advance in their degrees but were unable to enroll in traditional, in-person coursework due to full classes or other limitations. Key details, such as what classes would be offered, how much the courses would cost students and the state and how teachers will conduct quizzes and exams still need to be ironed out.

As for the "hangout," Steinberg's office says 124 viewers tuned in at the most-watched point in the conference. Aside from the camera shot giving several speakers a hair (and head) cut during the live video feed, the technology performed just fine.

RELATED STORIES:

Online instruction destined to increase in California colleges


PHOTO CREDIT: Rich Copenhagen, president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, speaks via Google Hangout during a press conference on Senate Bill 520. Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot.

March 13, 2013
Jerry Brown: Glad Pope Francis is Jesuit but 'what ... do I know'

brownsanfrancisco.JPGSAN FRANCISCO -- Gov. Jerry Brown was answering a question at a news conference this afternoon about California's historic prison realignment when his thoughts turned to Rome.

"I'm certainly not saying we have a perfect situation," said Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian. "We don't have that prerogative that they have over there in Rome, of infallibility. We have impeccability, no peccability, I guess, that's the correct word. Yeah, we make mistakes, but we correct them as we go."

The answer prompted a follow-up question about the new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit from Argentina who has taken the name Pope Francis. Brown, like everyone else with a smartphone, had learned about the selection about an hour before.

"I'm glad he's a Jesuit," Brown said. "He's from Argentina, so that might give him a broader perspective. He sees the world from the Southern Hemisphere."

However, the third-term governor said, "What the hell do I know? I thought Jesuits were not allowed to consider higher office -- at least they weren't in my day."

Brown was in San Francisco for a meeting of the University of California's governing board, and for a news conference with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown takes a pause outside a meeting in San Francisco on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

March 13, 2013
Ed Hernandez's health care bills set stage for fight with doctors

Ed_Hernandez.jpgCiting a need for more medical professionals to be able to treat patients who will soon have health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, Sen. Ed Hernandez today introduced a package of bills allowing optometrists, pharmacists and nurse practitioners to expand the services they can offer patients.

The so-called "scope of practice" bills set the stage for a massive fight with the state's doctors, who will likely fight to protect their role as gatekeepers to medical care.

In a news conference at a Sacramento health clinic, Hernandez argued that because of a shortage of doctors in California, other kinds of medical professionals should be permitted to offer patients more care.

"Here in the state of California, we have a capacity issue. We have a work-force shortage," Hernandez said, adding that the problem is most severe in rural and inner-city areas.

With the federal health care overhaul kicking in, he said, nearly 5 million Californians who don't now have health insurance will be required to be insured as of next year.

"How is it that we're going to be requiring somebody to purchase health insurance, but yet they won't have access to a doctor?" Hernandez said. "This is what we need to address."

Hernandez's proposals will soon be spelled out in Senate Bills 491, 492 and 493. Sen. Fran Pavley is also working on Senate Bill 352, which would expand the scope of practice for physician's assistants.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, urges lawmakers to approve a Medi-Cal-related measure on Thursday, March 7, 2013. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

March 13, 2013
Report: Unsealed document details threat against CA senator

RB Leland Yee 4 (1).JPGNew unsealed court documents detail the explicit threats a Santa Clara man upset about efforts to tighten gun laws made against Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.

Everett Fred Basham was arrested last month after law enforcement officials identified him as the alleged author of a death threat received by Yee and searched his Santa Clara home. He has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including some related to the possession of explosive materials and a gun found at his residence.

In an email sent to Yee's office in January, Basham wrote that he had "39 confirmed kills in afganistan (sic)...Don't make me get to 40."

The Mercury News story, posted in full at this link, has more on the threat:

The message proceeds with a nine-point list in which the author claims, among other things, to be a trained Marine sniper with "over 200 rounds of ammunition" and a high-powered rifle that "can hit a spinal cord at 1.5 miles making a head become red mist."

The numbered points grow increasingly specific: "I know where your office and where the state capital (sic) building is in Sacramento. I have hiding spots around both with clean view," followed by "I can wait hidden for you to walk past my mil dot scope," the latter part referring to a specific type of rifle targeting scope.

Yee's office has declined to provide further comment on the unsealed documents. His office referred to an earlier statement in which the senator said "these threats and any others will not deter me and my colleagues from addressing the critical issues surrounding gun violence."

"This case is very troubling and only further demonstrates the need to address this epidemic," the statement reads.

RELATED STORIES:

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

Sen. Leland Yee receives threat after objecting to Limbaugh

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

March 13, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Odd job math

As lawmakers tout the job-generating potential of high speed rail and new water infrastructure, Dan says to be careful of the slippery way politicians count jobs.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

March 13, 2013
AM Alert: California Gov. Jerry Brown visits UC regents again

CaliforniaUniversityCuts.jpg

VIDEO: Dan Walters explains why he's wary of the job numbers lawmakers trumpet when they're trying to sell voters on big new construction projects.

Gov. Jerry Brown has shown an unusually keen interest in meetings of the University of California regents so far this year, stopping by to push his proposal for expanding online education. He'll be at it again today, dropping in to a meeting at the conference center on the University of California, San Francisco's Mission Bay campus.

Speaking of online education, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will be introducing a proposal today that would allow students to take courses online for credit. Appropriately, Steinberg will be unveiling the plan during an 11:30 a.m. Google+ hangout.

March 13, 2013
Senate Democrats get back supermajority with Hueso win

Ben_Hueso_Special_Election.jpgCalifornia Democrats have recaptured a supermajority in the state Senate as Democrat Ben Hueso sailed to victory in a special election for a vacant San Diego-area Senate seat Tuesday night.

Hueso, a state assemblyman from San Diego, had 52.3 percent of the vote in unofficial results in the race to replace former Sen. Juan Vargas in the 40th Senate District. Vargas resigned to assume a House seat he won in the November election. Because Hueso tallied above 50 percent, he won the seat outright, avoiding a later runoff election. He is scheduled to be sworn in on March 21.

The Senate briefly lost its supermajority status last month, when Sen. Michael Rubio, D-East Bakersfield, resigned unexpectedly to take a job with Chevron Corp.

The Assembly will hold on to its supermajority status when Hueso departs for the upper house, but not for long. At least one other Assembly Democrat, Bob Blumenfield, is expected to resign this summer to take a Los Angeles City Council seat he won in a recent primary. Successors to both Blumenfield and Hueso will be selected in later special elections.

The results of runoff elections for other Los Angeles seats being sought by current legislators and another vacant Senate district up for a vote Tuesday could also shift the balance of power in both houses.

Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, tallied 43.6 percent of the vote Tuesday night in a contest for the Inland Empire's 32nd Senate District, which was left open when former state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, joined Congress in January.

Torres will face Republican Paul Leon, who had 26.4 percent of the vote, in a May 14 runoff.

The supermajority status could allow legislative Democrats to pass new taxes, place measures on the ballot and override a gubernatorial veto without any GOP votes. Most of the seats that are expected to open up as a result of the upcoming election dominoes are considered safe Democratic districts, leaving leaders with little cause for concern about the temporary shifts in their majority power.

PHOTO CREDIT: In this May 29, 2012 file photo, Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, talks with Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen, R-Modesto, during the Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Hueso won Tuesday's special election for the 40 District Senate seat vacated by Juan Vargas, who was elected to the House of Representatives last November. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli, file)



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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