Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 21, 2013
Speaker Pérez seeks future in education policy

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Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said he is looking for opportunities to work on education issues after he terms out of office in 2014.

"I would love to stay in the Legislature. That is what I would love to do. I'm just not allowed to do it under the law," Pérez said in a public conversation today with Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California.

He went on to say that enacting term limits is "one of the most negative decisions the voters have made."

"It has hurt us as a state," Pérez said.

Pérez said he "may very well not run for another office for a while" because he is termed out of the Assembly and the Senate seat representing his Los Angeles district is filled.

"There's nothing that's really out there," he said.

"I want to do something where I can still be engaged in public policy discussions. But I also want to do something where I still interact with other folks that I enjoy. The greatest enjoyment I get is working with students, whether K-12 students or university students. So I want to do something where I can interact with students."

March 21, 2013
Steinberg pushes privately funded career training program

steintotheb.jpgCiting a desire to get the business community involved in public education, Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is promoting a bill that would encourage industry to invest in what he's calling "social investment bonds."

Steinberg's SB 594 would authorize California to issue bonds aimed at curbing high school dropout rates by creating programs that train high school students for specific careers. Businesses would be encouraged to put money into those bonds with a promise of a high return on their investment if the program met certain measures of success like graduating more students.

"The principle behind it, which is unique and could be far-reaching in the state and the country, is to say to private industry 'you can do better financially by investing in high schools than you do investing in Wall Street,'" Steinberg said.

The bill would also establish regional trust funds that would be governed by district superintendents, community college leaders and business and industry leaders. Those funds would be used to pay for initiatives like developing new curricula tailored to certain careers and funding fellowship or apprenticeship programs.

March 21, 2013
Advocates celebrate Affordable Care Act's third anniversary

APTOPIX_Supreme_Court_Health_Care.jpgLove it or hate it, here it comes. Health-care advocates held a series of events throughout California on Thursday to celebrate the third anniversary of Congress' passage of the Affordable Care Act and to urge state officials to move quickly in preparing for its implementation in January.

"We think this is important to California's future, as transformative, as the building of the railroad or the establishment of the University of California," Anthony Wright, director of Health Access, said of Obamacare. "We need to embrace it fully and urgently."

Federal health-care reform cleared its final congressional hurdle and was sent to President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Hotly contested, the massive reform measure was designed to overhaul health insurance in a way that ensures that nearly all Americans purchase at least a basic level of medical coverage or pay a penalty.

Health Access, a nonprofit group supporting Obamacare, released a report Thursday that concluded millions of Californians already have benefited from consumer protections, subsidized care, business tax credits, or changes in insurance coverage sparked by the Affordable Care Act.

March 21, 2013
Pay panel boss says changes to CA lawmakers' pay unlikely

thomas.JPGThe chairman of the state panel that sets pay for California legislators and statewide officials said today he expects the salaries to remain the same next year, even if the state's finances are strong enough to justify raises.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission met for about an hour today in Sacramento, but decided to delay a decision until after the panel gets an updated report on the state's fiscal health from the Department of Finance. By law, the commission cannot raise officials' pay unless the state shows a surplus in May.

Commission Chairman Thomas Dalzell said he sees it as "very unlikely" that members decide to increase -- or reduce -- pay levels when they meet again on June 13. Giving raises in the first year of a projected surplus, he said, would "probably be unseemly."

"The economy's fairly volatile and things could flip around and I think there are priorities greater than the legislator and constitutional officer salaries," he said after the meeting. "What we do is largely symbolic because it has no significant effect on the budget, but I think it's important symbolically to not rush ahead and to restore the cuts on the first year out."

March 21, 2013
Ben Hueso takes Senate seat, restores Democratic supermajority

photo.JPGSen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, was sworn in Thursday morning, restoring a two-thirds supermajority Senate Democrats had temporarily lost.

At his swearing in, Hueso spoke about his father's experience of emigrating from Mexico, obtaining an education at San Diego State University and eventually sending several children to college. Flanked by his wife and four sons, he talked about sustaining those types of opportunities.

"I want to dedicate my service here to ensure that, together," lawmakers can "offer [Californians] in the future opportunities they do not have today," Hueso said.

The homage to Hueso's Mexican heritage continued when he left the Senate chambers, where a traditional mariachi band greeted him.

Hueso formerly served in the Assembly. He won the 40th Senate district seat that U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, surrendered after his election to Congress in November.

PHOTO CREDIT: Newly sworn in Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, speaks at a reception on March 21, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White

March 21, 2013
Jerry Brown's communications office shrinks further

RB_Jerry_Brown_Budget_4.JPGGov. Jerry Brown's shoestring communications office is shrinking even further.

Elizabeth Ashford, Brown's chief deputy press secretary, will leave the administration in April.

Her resignation follows the resignation last month of Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran. That position has not been filled.

In an email, Ashford cited family concerns and said she plans to work as a communications and public affairs consultant.

"I'm indebted to the Governor and Anne (Gust Brown) for the opportunity to work here over these incredible two years," she wrote.

Ashford, 38, was chief deputy communications director and chief deputy Cabinet secretary in former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, and she later worked as a spokeswoman for BP.

Brown's communications office will be down to three people when Ashford leaves. That is the same number it had during the first month of Brown's term, before the administration staffed up.

"After more than fulfilling her two-year commitment to the administration earlier this year -- and recently tying the knot with her now LA-based husband -- we knew we'd lose Elizabeth soon," Evan Westrup, Brown's deputy press secretary, said in an email. "We're sad that day has come, but we're incredibly grateful for her service."

PHOTO CREDIT: California Gov. Jerry Brown explains his budget proposal during a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee

March 21, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: High-speed rail's declining popularity

Public support for high-speed rail is declining even as Gov. Jerry Brown and allies push forward on the project, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

March 21, 2013
AM Alert: What will Affordable Care Act mean for California?

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It's been just under three years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and the gradual march toward implementation continues. Covered California, the state's ACA-mandated insurance exchange, is taking stock of California's progress with a meeting today.

Board members will cover such topics as eligibility, enrollment and proposed federal rules during a day-long meeting at the California Department of Health Care Services Building, 1500 Capitol St.

Also this morning, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is joining a 10:30 a.m. conference call to discuss a new Health Access report on how California is adjusting to the health-care overhaul.

Meanwhile, a panel of experts will be talking about what it will all mean for California, from the millions of residents who stand to gain insurance to the businesses that will see new requirements for covering employees. The discussion will be moderated by Christopher Flavelle, a health care analyst for Bloomberg Government, and will feature Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation; Dr. Dylan Roby of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research; and Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand.

VIDEO: Dan Walters notes that public support for high-speed rail is shrinking as the project's price tag continues to rise.

The Senate gets a fresh face today: Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, gets sworn in this morning at 9 a.m. in the Senate chambers. Hueso is claiming the 40th Senate District seat that U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, abdicated after he won election to Congress in November. Fun party conversation starter: Hueso will be the 1,145th person to serve in the California state Senate.



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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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