Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 19, 2013
CA lawmakers hear benefits of drone competition

DomesticDroneBill.jpgPlans to boost California's burgeoning drone industry could generate billions of dollars and thousands of jobs for the state, industry representatives told Assembly members on Tuesday.

Much of the public debate about unmanned aircraft has focused on armed drones that patrol the skies in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, hunting for militants. In a recent Senate filibuster, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul crystallized anxiety about the lethal technology being turned on Americans on U.S. soil.

But there is also growing interest in the potential domestic applications of unarmed drones. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directed the Federal Aviation Administration to start creating a system for regulating and licensing unmanned aircraft, a process that will entail launching six special test sites. At a Tuesday hearing, lawmakers talked about how to ensure one of those sites is in California.

"Simply put, unmanned aircraft systems are the next big thing in the aerospace industry," said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance. "We need to make sure that California continues to be a national and global leader in aerospace," he added. He said groups in 37 states have been working on applications.

March 19, 2013
Settlement reached in fight over In-Home Supportive Services

JD_IHSS_HEARING.JPGRecipients of in-home care services for low-income disabled and elderly California residents can breathe a little easier today, after a tentative settlement was announced in a court fight over proposed cuts to the program.

The pact will end three class-action lawsuits challenging proposals to cut hours, services and state reimbursement rates in an effort to help California survive years of budget crisis, from 2009 to 2012.

Service hours for In-Home Supportive Services will be cut by an additional 4.4 percent under the agreement beginning July 1, reflecting a nearly 8 percent cut since 2011. The state is expected to save an estimated $160 million in 2013-14. But the reduction is a far cry from the 20 percent cut that was ordered by the state in late 2011 but suspended by a federal judge.

Both sides expect the outlook to brighten in years ahead: 1 percent of the 8 percent cut will be restored in spring 2014, and the pact includes a strategy for rescinding the remaining cuts, perhaps in 2015.

Unionized in-home support services compensate caregivers, often relatives, for providing services such as cooking, bathing and driving to medical appointments. Without such help, many recipients would be forced into more costly nursing homes, advocates say.

Service Employees International Union and a nonprofit group, Disability Rights California, led the court fight against the state's proposed cuts. The agreement is tentative because its terms require legislative action.

PHOTO CREDIT: Supporters of In-Home Supportive Services watch then-Sen. Wesley Chesbro on a TV during a Senate subcommittee hearing in the Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday, May 20, 2004. John Decker / Sacramento Bee file, 2004

March 19, 2013
Assembly committee rejects adult education program shift

adulted.JPGAn Assembly budget subcommittee voted Tuesday to reject Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to shift adult education responsibilities from K-12 school districts to the California Community Colleges system.

Brown's proposal would shift $300 million in Proposition 98 funding to community colleges to provide adult education programs. Another $15.7 million was slated for apprenticeship programs at community colleges. In turn, the proposal would have eliminated the requirement that K-12 school districts provide adult education programs.

The shift was part of Brown's proposal to change how schools are financed through his "Local Control Funding Formula," which provides more money to at-risk children and gives school districts greater control over their money by eliminating most categorical funds earmarked for specific programs.

March 19, 2013
Darrell Steinberg endorses Leticia Perez to replace Michael Rubio

Darrell_Steinberg.jpgThe field is taking shape to replace Shafter Democrat Michael Rubio in the state Senate, and President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has endorsed Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez for the job.

As The Fresno Bee's John Ellis explains in this post, the race is now likely a three-way affair between Perez, fellow Democrat Fran Florez and Hanford Republican Andy Vidak.

"Leticia Perez is well known and respected for being a fiscal conservative and a proven advocate for equal rights, good paying jobs, public education, and safe neighborhoods," Steinberg said in a prepared release. "I am very happy she will be adding her voice to the State Senate to strongly advocate for the people of the Central Valley."

PHOTO CREDIT: Darrell Steinberg speaks on the Senate floor in 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 19, 2013
Republican lawmakers push bills challenging realignment

realignmentpress.jpgRepublican lawmakers, citing a number of high-profile crimes and presenting a victim in a wheelchair to reporters at a news conference, called this morning for adoption of a package of legislation to modify or roll back provisions of California's historic prison realignment.

In more than a dozen bills, the Republican lawmakers are seeking to return certain parole violators to prison, to increase penalties for offenders who disable court-ordered GPS devices and to increase funding for counties, among other measures.

The first of those bills, a measure by Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, was rejected by the Assembly Public Safety Committee last week. Democrats opposing the measure, which would send sex offenders who violate parole back to state prisons instead of county jail, said the bill runs counter to the state's effort to reduce its prison population under a court order.

Republicans expect many of the other bills to fail in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, as well.

The Republicans brought to their news conference a woman they said was attacked last year by a former boyfriend who had been arrested the previous month on a parole violation for failing to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced to 100 days in jail but served just two days due to overcrowding at the jail, according to the Republican lawmakers.

"This is beyond statistics," State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said, motioning to the 21-year-old woman, Brandy Arreola. "There, ask Brandy if crime is going up."

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, flanked by Republican lawmakers and supporters, addresses reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

March 19, 2013
Cal Lutheran economist sees California's population declining

Declining birth and migration rates have slowed California's population growth to a crawl and "it's only a matter of time before California's population declines," California Lutheran University economist Bill Watkins declares in a new report on the state's demographic and economic prospects.

Such a decline, Watkins says, would mean that "all of California's problems will be much harder to solve than they are today."

Although California appears to be adding jobs slowly as it recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression, Watkins continues, the state's economic future is cloudy. Despite recent real estate price increases, he doubts whether they imply that a new real estate boom is coming, particularly with much-slower population growth.

Watkins, the least optimistic of the economists who chart California's finances, released his new report today during a meeting of the California Taxpayers Association in Sacramento today.

March 19, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Are California's social tiers separating?

Dan says testimony at the Capitol about troubled water systems illustrated the gap between rich and poor in California.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

March 19, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers talk drones

drone.jpgOn a day filled with meetings about the budget, education and other more routine matters, drones are getting a shot at a committee hearing at the Capitol.

The Assembly Select Committee on Aerospace is scheduled at 3 p.m. to hear testimony on the Federal Aviation Administration's search for six test sites for drones - and a bid to make Ventura County one of them.

The presentation, "Manufacturing for Global Aviation: California's strategy to win a federal designation as an unmanned aerial vehicle test site," comes as interest in drones expands from the military to local law enforcement and civilian applications, with related privacy concerns.

Earlier in the day, a budget subcommittee on education finance will consider Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposals regarding adult education and online learning, while a budget subcommittee on state administration will get an overview of the state's failed MyCalPays payroll system upgrade, a quarter-billion-dollar project Controller John Chiang halted last month.

VIDEO: Is the gap between rich and poor widening in California? Dan Walters says the signs are there.

Senate and Assembly Republicans will roll out a package of bills seeking to change California's historic prison realignment.


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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