Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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VIDEO: Another example of spending by public pension funds facing huge budget liabilities has Dan Walters scratching his head.

It's that magical time of year: the special Senate election primary day is today, with two races to fill the seats left vacant after former senators Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas moved on to Congress. In the 40th district, Vargas' old stomping grounds, Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, is the odds-on favorite; considering the dearth of strong opponents, Hueso looks like a decent bet to win the 50-percent-plus-one margin needed to avoid a runoff.

Things are more complicated in the 32nd, where a more crowded field includes Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller (and Democrat) Larry Walker, Ontario mayor (and Republican) Paul S. Leon and Ontario City Councilman Paul Vincent Avila, a Democrat. Walker and Torres have both nabbed some key endorsements -- Torres has the edge in elected officials, while Walker got the nod from McLeod.

Astute readers may recall that the Assembly hosted a group of Mars Science Laboratory engineers yesterday as part of Aerospace Week. Today, the fruit of their labor is visiting the Capitol: the Mars Rover will be touching down on the West steps. Well, not the real thing, which is currently busy exploring the red planet, but a replica.

There's more to Aerospace Week than just admiring rover replicas, though. NASA personnel will be speaking on practical applications of their work, from watching water use to tracking fires to monitoring earthquakes. The lunchtime event runs from noon to 1:30 pm in the Governor's Conference Room.

Last week, Capitol Alert's Melody Gutierrez wrote about some legislative proposals to crack down on criminals who are released from prison via realignment and then violate the terms of their parole. Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, is discussing his contribution today: Assembly Bill 2 would require sex offenders who fail to register to return to prison. Morrell will be detailing the bill during a 9 a.m. Public Safety Committee meeting in room 126 of the State Capitol.

Also last week, Jon Ortiz reported on a backlog at the Secretary of State's office in processing new business applications. The Assembly's Budget Subcommittee on State Administration will consider allocating money to alleviate the situation during a 1:30 p.m. hearing today in room 447 of the State Capitol.

With a CEQA reform push looming, labor and environmental organizations are mobilizing to protect the 33-year-old law. Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, is joining a rally to announce the launch of the pro-CEQA coalition Common Ground. The 11 a.m. event, to be held on the East steps of the Capitol Building, will also feature Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation, Robbie Hunter of the State Building Trades of California, Sarah Rose of the California League of Conservation Voters, Ann Notthoff of the National Resources Defense Council and DeAnn McEwan of the California Nurses Association.

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance is holding the latest in a series of hearings on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed school funding formula, which would channel more money to districts with higher proportions of low-income and English language learner students. 9 a.m. in room 444.

Poverty in California will be the topic of a joint hearing today. The Senate and Assembly Human Services Committees are convening the hearing to discuss why California's poverty rate has climbed higher than in other states. Starting at 1:30 p.m. in room 3191.

For those of you following Los Angeles politics, the L.A. County Democratic Party is meeting to decide which candidates to endorse in the May 21, 2013 election. That will include a mayoral runoff between City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti and several City Council races, including one that will decide the fate of state Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, who is facing Ana Cubas in District 9. The LACDP meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the United Teachers Los Angeles auditorium in Los Angeles.

Happy birthday to Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, who turns 36 today.

PHOTO CREDIT: You may not be able to see what Curiosity does, above, but you can still see what the rover looks like; Aug. 7, 2012 by NASA/

Editor's note: the initial version of this post misspelled Assemblyman Mike Morrell's town of residency -- it is Rancho Cucamonga, not Rancho Cucamango.


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