Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 27, 2013
Rhee's CA strategy will be shaped by former Speaker Núñez


Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has landed a new client for his Mercury Public Affairs firm: StudentsFirst, the education advocacy group headed by Michelle Rhee.

The contract with the former Democratic lawmaker is yet another sign that Rhee plans to push her brand of education policy in California, even though unions and many Democrats reject her ideas -- and her attempt last year to get a bill introduced in the Legislature failed.

Núñez will be advising Rhee's group on its political and legislative strategy for California.

"My role here is one of helping them provide strategy, and to the extent necessary, direction in helping to solve some of these issues and how to get the job done," Núñez said in a phone interview with The Bee.

"There are some things you will see in the next few weeks and months that will make it very clear that StudentsFirst is coming to the table."

Rhee advocates in favor of charter schools, publicly-funded vouchers for children to attend private school, linking teachers' job performance with their students' test scores and doing away with seniority as a criteria during lay-offs. She founded StudentsFirst as a lobbying organization aimed at curtailing the power of teachers unions in state and local politics. The group poured $250,000 into backing three school board candidates in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the area Núñez represented as a lawmaker.

"Fabian has a long record of fighting for our children, and his leadership and guidance will be critical to our efforts to ensure that all California students - regardless of their background, their zip code, or their parents' income - receive the great education they deserve," Rhee said in a statement.

Photo credit: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, 2008. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

March 27, 2013
CA lawmakers spending spring break in Poland, Taiwan

Connie_Conway_SOTS.jpgAt least two groups of lawmakers are spending their spring recess from the Capitol on overseas trips underwritten by outside groups.

Six lawmakers and the president of the Public Utilities Commission are in Poland on an eight-day trip paid for by the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy, a nonprofit group bankrolled by dozens of donors, including labor, energy, environmental and telecommunications interests.

In a separate trip, a nine-member delegation of the Assembly, including GOP leader Connie Conway, is in Taiwan to promote bilateral exchanges in trade and culture.

Lawmakers took $329,000 in free trips last year, according to financial disclosure statements filed in March.

March 27, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown meets fourth graders, talks mule meat

brownhistory.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's interest in history is expansive, but there are two things he appears to enjoy more than most.

The first is quizzing schoolchildren about California's earliest explorers, as he has done since before taking office in 2011. The second is mule meat.

Happening by a group of fourth graders on the Capitol steps this afternoon, Brown asked if anyone had heard of the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola, and if anyone knew what year he came to California.

The students and the Democratic governor settled on 1769, and Brown went on to recount a story he told in his State of the State address in January about the fortitude of explorers who were "forced to eat the flesh of emaciated pack mules."

Brown toned it down slightly for the students, saying "they ate mule meat, and the mules weren't very healthy."

Brown, who was returning to his office from having his portrait taken on the Capitol grounds, went on to discuss how long it took for settlements to take hold in California.

As he left, he said, "That's it. That's the history lesson for the day."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to students outside the Capitol Wednesday. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 27, 2013
Willie Washington, longtime manufacturers' lobbyist, dies

williewashington.jpegFuneral services for Willie Washington, a lobbyist for California manufacturers for more than a quarter century, will be held Friday.

Washington, who retired from the California Manufacturers and Technology Association in 2006, died March 19. He was 77.

Washington, a native of North Carolina, served 22 years in the Air Force , much of that time in Sacramento, before joining Lockheed Aircraft Service Co. in 1977, working for the company in Iran and experiencing the country's bloody revolution in 1979. He returned to the United States that year and moved back to Sacramento as a lobbyist for Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel.

Eight years later, he joined the manufacturers' association and represented its 400 members in the Capitol for the next 19 years. He once told an interviewer for the Sacramento Business Journal that his pet peeve was encountering "preconceived assumptions of my views on social issues" because he was black.

"People look at me and if they are blacks or liberals, assume that I have the same views on issues that they do," Washington told the Journal in 2001. "Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't."

March 27, 2013
Jerry Brown names Evan Westrup press secretary

RB_Jerry_Brown_Budget_4.JPGFollowing the resignations of his press secretary and chief deputy press secretary, Gov. Jerry Brown has promoted a spokesman from within his office to oversee the administration's Spartan communications effort.

Evan Westrup, 31, was Brown's deputy press secretary in his 2010 campaign for governor and joined the administration in the same capacity when Brown took office in 2011.

Westrup's appointment, announced today, follows the resignations of press secretary Gil Duran and chief deputy press secretary Elizabeth Ashford. Duran has already left the administration. Ashford will leave next month. When she does, Westrup will oversee a shoestring office of three people, including himself.

Like Brown, Westrup is a Democrat. He will be paid $130,000 a year.

Westrup previously worked as a deputy press secretary for Brown when Brown was state attorney general, and as an associate communications director for Brown's predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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 27, 2013
Jerry Brown touts clean tech, but CalPERS sees it as a loser

Joe Dear.JPGGov. Jerry Brown and other California political figures, especially Democrats, have frequently touted "clean tech" as the key ingredient in the state's economic future.

However, the state's own big pension fund, the California Public Employees Retirement System, apparently sees it as a loser.

While running for governor in 2010, Brown promised to fast-track permits for solar energy projects and take other steps to move the state away from dependence on oil and other carbon-based energy sources, promising that it would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

A few months after becoming governor again, Brown flew to Blythe in the middle of summer to break ground on what would become, he and others said, the largest solar energy project in the world, saying, "This is really big."

"It's not for the faint of heart," Brown told a conference on renewable industry. "Scientific and technological progress moves by trial and error."

It's apparently mostly error, however, in the view of CalPERS. Joseph Dear, its chief investment officer, told a Wall Street Journal-sponsored conference on the environment and the economy last week that CalPERS is reducing its investment in such technology because it's a loser.

March 27, 2013
Special election set for Assembly District 80

Ben_Hueso_Special_Election.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has announced special election dates for the 80th Assembly District seat Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, vacated earlier this month.

The primary election will be held May 21. If no candidates attains the 50-percent-plus-one vote share needed to avoid a runoff, the top two finishers will square off in a July 30 general election.

The Legislature has been in flux somewhat since former state senators Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, ascended to Congress in November. Hueso took over Vargas' old Senate seat; Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, and Ontario Mayor Paul Leon will face off for McLeod's seat in a May runoff.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Ben Hueso, seen last year when he was serving in the Assembly. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 27, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Sweeping decision unlikely in Prop. 8 case

There's been a lot of fanfare as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs arguments for and against Proposition 8, but Dan says a sweeping ruling that settles the issue of same-sex marriage is unlikely.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

March 27, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown adviser kicks off manufacturing summit

manufacturing.JPGRepresentatives from dozens of universities, economic development firms and manufacturing associations are descending on Sacramento today for a summit on revitalizing manufacturing that's being hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown's Office for Business and Economic Development.

Mike Rossi, Brown's senior jobs adviser, will kick off the all-day event in the Governor's Press Room. Brown's office has cast it as a response to President Barack Obama's call to spur more domestic manufacturing.

A few hundred miles south, California lawmakers will be taking on another of Obama's priority issues this term as Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, and state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, discuss immigration reform at an event hosted by the organization LA Voice. The event starts at 8:30 p.m. at Los Angeles City Hall.

VIDEO: There's a lot of excitement swirling around the U.S. Supreme Court taking on gay marriage, but Dan Walters says the issue will still be far from settled when the justices rule.


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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