Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 20, 2013
Jerry Brown talks Warren Beatty and California's 'many personalities'

JV_032013_Warren_Beatty.JPGGov. Jerry Brown followed Warren Beatty onto the red carpet at the California Museum this evening, where Brown inducted the movie star and several other people into the California Hall of Fame.

Beatty, a longtime supporter of Brown, called the Democratic governor the "most astute governor in the nation," while Brown called Beatty "somebody I've been talking to and arguing with for decades."

Brown told reporters the annual Hall of Fame event is important to honor Californians who have made significant contributions to the state.

"Tonight is just letting California express itself and its many personalities," the third-term governor said.

Behind Beatty and Brown came Joe Montana, and a cheer went up.

The football star shrugged off a question about Brown.

"Everybody must like him," Montana said. "He's back again, right?"

March 20, 2013
PPIC poll shows division over high-speed rail, water bond

brownrail.jpgCalifornians remain sharply divided about California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, even as officials prepare to start construction in the Central Valley this year, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released tonight.

Forty-eight percent of adults favor the project, while 50 percent oppose it, according to the poll. Opposition is even greater among likely voters, 54 percent to 43 percent.

In addition to division over high-speed rail, a majority of likely voters -- 51 percent -- oppose an $11.1 billion water bond scheduled for the November 2014 ballot. The bond, tied politically to Gov. Jerry Brown's effort to build two water-diverting tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, includes funding for dams, wastewater treatment and other water infrastructure projects.

March 20, 2013
Jerry Brown says panel shouldn't cut elected officials' pay

browncarpet.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said this evening that the commission that sets pay packages for lawmakers and constitutional officers, including the governor, should not further reduce any officials' pay.

Brown, appearing at a California Hall of Fame event in Sacramento, declined to say if he thought any pay raises are warranted.

"I'm not going to get into that," Brown said ahead of a meeting Thursday of the Citizens Compensation Commission. "I certainly don't think they should be reducing anybody's."

Brown's remarks come just hours after his office was forced to backtrack on two appointments to the panel. The governor's office determined, after announcing the appointees, that under state statute they could not serve.

The Democratic governor said "people should read the statutes more closely," but he added, "There are accidents."

The commission has sharply reduced pay and benefits for elected officials in recent years.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters on the red carpet at a California Hall of Fame event in Sacramento on March 20, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

March 20, 2013
Appointments to California pay panel yanked before meeting

Jerry_Brown_Online_Education.jpgOne chair will be empty when an independent commission convenes Thursday to consider whether pay for California's elected officials is too high, too low or just right.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday that he was naming Democrats LeRoy Chatfield and Nora Vargas to vacancies on the seven-member Citizens Compensation Commission, which sets pay packages for constitutional officers, including the governor, and state legislators.

But the Democratic governor's office backtracked just hours later, saying the appointments "were announced prematurely."

"Under statute, prior employment with the state of California precludes these individuals from serving on the commission," that statement says. "When new appointments are made, they will be announced."

Chatfield, who publishes an online literary journal and Web publication related to the farmworker movement, served as an appointee on several boards and commissions when Brown was governor in the 1970s and 1980s. A 1976 Newsweek article also identified him as travelling secretary on the young Brown's presidential campaign.

Vargas, the vice president of community engagement at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, is ineligible because she spent one year as a legislative relations specialist at San Diego State University.

Filling the two vacant seats would give Brown a majority of appointees on the commission. Three of the five members now serving were named to the commission by former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Later in the day, Brown named Nancy C. Miller, an attorney from Sacramento, to fill one of the vacancies.

The panel has slashed pay and benefits for elected officials over the last several years, most recently instituting a 5 percent salary cut and axing a program that provided on-the-job cars for state legislators. Annual pay for governor dropped from $212,179 to $165,288 between 2005 and December 2012, while starting salaries for members of the state Legislature went from $116,208 to $90,526 in that period. State legislators are also eligible for roughly $30,000 in per diem payments.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m.Thursday at Sacramento City Hall for their annual review of elected officials' pay.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/ Jeff Chiu)

Editor's Note: This post was updated to reflect Miller's appointment. Updated at 6:37 p.m. on March 20, 2013.

March 20, 2013
Former Oakland state Sen. Nicholas Petris dies

NicholasPetris.jpgNicholas Petris, who served in the California Legislature for 37 years, representing Oakland and other East Bay communities, died Wednesday morning. He was 90.

Petris died at Piedmont Gardens, an Oakland retirement and nursing facility, after a years-long struggle with dementia.

Democrat Petris was regarded as a leading liberal voice during his long career in the Assembly and the Senate before being compelled to retire in 1996 by term limits. He was a major advocate of tax reform, farmworker rights, mental health services (the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act) and environmental protection. He penned laws banning smoking on airplanes, trains and buses, and required redevelopment agencies to build housing for low- and moderate-income families.

Petris, who was of Greek ancestry, often peppered his floor speeches with references to ancient Greek scholars.

Services are scheduled for the Greek Orthodox Church in Oakland, 4700 Lincoln Ave., at 11 a.m. Tuesday. A viewing will take place Monday night at 7 p.m. at the church.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Nicholas Petris, D-Oakland, is honored on his last day in the Legislature in 1996. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 20, 2013
Assembly Republican leadership team takes shape

connie.jpgAssembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, has named nine members to the lower house's GOP leadership team for the 2013-2014 legislative session. Here is a list of the appointments:

Assistant Republican Floor Leader: Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills

Deputy Republican Floor Leader: Donald Wagner, R-Irvine

Assembly Republican Caucus Chair: Brian Jones, R-Santee

Assembly Rules Committee Vice Chair: Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita

Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair: Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo

Assembly Appropriations Committee Vice Chair: Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point

Chief Republican Whip: Dan Logue, R-Marysville

Republican Whips: Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego; Marie Waldron, R-Escondido

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, seen here after Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address on Jan. 23, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 20, 2013
California was No. 4 in tax burden before Proposition 30 passed

RP GOVERNOR PROP 30 SIGN.JPGCalifornians carried the nation's fourth highest state and local tax burden as a proportion of their personal incomes in 2010 - and that was before voters increased sales and income taxes last year - according to the latest national tax survey by the Tax Foundation.

California's state and local tax burden in 2010 was 11.2 percent of personal income, putting the state behind only No. 1 New York (12.8 percent), New Jersey (12.4 percent) and Connecticut (12.3 percent).

On a per capita basis, California's state-local tax burden in 2010 was sixth highest at $4,934.

Last year, voters passed Proposition 30, which raises the state's sales tax rate by a half-cent and imposes additional income taxes on the highest-income Californians. It is supposed to raise about $6 billion a year to close the state budget deficit, and that would add less than a half-percent to the tax burden, leaving it still below Connecticut's proportion.

Proposition 30 did, however, give California the nation's highest marginal income tax rate at 13.3 percent for those with taxable incomes of $1 million and above, jumping over Hawaii's 11 percent, the Tax Foundation reported.

March 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: The amazing shrinking California?

A confluence of demographic changes could halt California's population growth, which for decades has seemed unstoppable. Dan talks about the potential consequences.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

March 20, 2013
AM Alert: Agriculture Day comes to the California Capitol


The smell of livestock wafting down L Street can mean only one thing: It's Agriculture Day at the state Capitol. Festivities get under way at 10:30 a.m., when lawmakers and their staff are invited to explore the booths (and tractors) around the Capitol grounds near the west steps. The public gets to meander through from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

There will also be a lunchtime presentation of something called the World's Largest School Lunch Tray, which is precisely what it sounds like. An oversized recreation of the lunch trays familiar to California schoolchildren will be used to feed hundreds of elementary school students. The massive meal is being put together with some help from the people at the PBS program "Bringing It Home with Laura McIntosh," as she emcees the event.

Ag day also gives lawmakers with agricultural backgrounds a chance to display their bona fides. Freshman Assemblyman and rancher Frank Bigelow, R-O'Neals, easily identifiable around the building thanks to his trademark white rancher's hat, is going to speaking throughout the day, including at a steak and eggs breakfast for the California Cattlemen at the Sutter Club.

VIDEO: California's longstanding pattern of constant population growth could be changing, and Dan Walters says that could bring a wide array of changes.


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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