Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 11, 2013
Refilling that beer growler? California lawmaker has a plan

BeerGrowler.JPGBeer drinkers, take note: A California lawmaker wants to make it easier for beer enthusiasts to reuse "growlers" from one brewery when buying beer at another.

The glass and ceramic jugs have become a popular way to buy take-out beer from microbreweries. They typically come in half-gallons and are adorned with a brewery's logo.

When people finish the beer, they can bring them back for a refill. But current law, a legislative analysis says, only permits breweries to refill growlers from their own shop.

Enter Assembly Bill 647.

"The problem is that consumers would like to reuse their containers, not just at the original brewery but to use it to sample beers from many breweries," Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro said in a hearing this week on his bill.

The Arcata Democrat represents a huge swath of northern California that is home to many craft breweries. Among them: Lost Coast, Six Rivers, Anderson Valley, Bear Republic and Russian River, where beer lovers line up for hours at the annual release of the Pliny the Younger IPA.

Chesbro's bill would allow breweries to refill a growler from another brewery by covering the old logo with a sticker reflecting the new beer inside.

"This bill is good for the industry; it's good for our consumers," said Chris Walker, a lobbyist representing the California Craft Brewers Association.

The pleasure of cracking open a cold one appears to be a bipartisan issue: The bill cleared the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee on Wednesday on a unanimous vote.

And instead of the usual "aye" while voting, Republican Brian Jones of Santee said, "Cheers."

PHOTO CREDIT: A bottle, known among beer enthusiasts as a growler, is filled at the Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville, Fla., on March 29, 2013. California lawmaker Wesley Chesbro wants to make it easier to reuse growlers from one microbrewery when buying beer at another. Brendan Farrington / Associated Press

April 11, 2013
For Jerry Brown in China, it's strictly business class

IMG_1288.JPGSHANGHAI - When Gov. Jerry Brown boarded a bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai on Thursday afternoon, it marked the second time in less than a week that the Southwest Airlines-flying governor rode in a class that wasn't coach.

Brown sat in business class, as he did on his United Airlines flight arriving Tuesday in Beijing.

For a governor who has long used his mode of travel to highlight his frugality (when governor before, he was riding in a Plymouth), the latest seat assignments have been a departure.

The 75-year-old, third-term governor visited reporters Thursday in their section of the train and offered an explanation.

"I need it," he said. "My back's been a little sore, guys."

The ticket class is of no consequence to California taxpayers. Fees paid by business delegates joining Brown on his week-long trade mission to China are covering Brown's travel costs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters on the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai on Thursday, April 11, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

April 11, 2013
Steinberg: Banning digital-map use for drivers takes law too far

California_Hands_Free.jpgCalifornia lawmakers may give motorists the green light to use a smartphone map while behind the wheel in light of a recent Fresno County court ruling.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said this week that a three-judge panel in Fresno County took California's traffic laws too far when it ruled that a man using his smartphone to check a map at a stoplight violated the state's bans on talking on the phone without a hands-free device or texting while driving.

"Knowing where you're going while driving is actually a good way to avoid having accidents, as opposed to 'Shoot! I missed my turnoff. I better swerve three lanes and try to catch it before I drive by,' " the Sacramento Democrat said. "If that requires some clean-up legislation, I'm sure we can accomplish that."

The court found that the use of a smartphone for other reasons than talking or texting qualifies as the type of driver distraction that is the "primary evil sought to be avoided" by the laws. While the ruling applies only in Fresno County, the opinion suggests that lawmakers change the law to clarify their intent if they believe digital map use is OK.

Court: Fresno motorist can't use hand-held map

PHOTO CREDIT: A driver wears a hands-free ear piece for a mobile phone while waiting in traffic at the Bay Bridge toll plaza in Oakland. Jeff Chiu / Associated Press file, 2008

April 11, 2013
Jerry Brown presses for high speed rail while riding Chinese train

IMG_1293.JPGSHANGHAI - Gov. Jerry Brown, who has made building a high-speed rail system a priority of his administration, arrived in Shanghai on the bullet train from Beijing on Thursday night, admiring the station as he alighted.

"Yeah, it's good," he said. "Look at all this space, the trains, people moving."

The Democratic governor and senior officials traveled more than 800 miles in about five hours on the train, part of China's rapidly expanding high-speed rail network. Brown told reporters en route that "we've got to step up the pace in California," where officials plan to begin construction on a $68 billion high-speed rail system this summer.

California High-Speed Rail Authority officials traveling with the governor met privately this week with potential Chinese investors in the rail project, including the Chinese Investment Corporation, a major sovereign wealth fund. Brown was accompanied on the train by representatives of Tangshan Railway Vehicle Co., a Chinese company that designs and builds train-sets in China.

"What they've done here is impressive," said Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board

The Chinese government has built more than 5,000 miles of high-speed rail track in just more than five years, vastly expanding China's transportation infrastructure.

April 11, 2013
Padilla declares Secretary of State candidacy, will take on Yee


It's official: Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, formally announced his candidacy to be California's next secretary of state.

In a press release, Padilla emphasized boosting election turnout and called for tougher campaign finance laws. He also mentioned reducing a backlog in new business filings that has been hovering over the secretary of state's office.

"The strength of our democracy depends on the active involvement of all of our citizens," Padilla said. "Last November, more than 10 MILLION Californians did not vote. I'm running for Secretary of State to change that."

The announcement isn't a big surprise. The term-limited veteran legislator had already opened a committee seeking the office that current Secretary of State Debra Bowen will vacate at the end of her second term in 2014.

Padilla also has a campaign website up and running.

He will be vying with Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat who is also taking aim at the secretary of state gig. Yee got the jump on Padilla in terms of campaign launches, declaring his candidacy back in November. Yee struck a collegial tone in a Thursday morning press release.

"I welcome my colleague from Pacoima to the race for Secretary of State," Yee said. "I look forward to this campaign and discussing with Alex ways we can modernize the office of Secretary of State, improve our elections, and bring a more transparent government to California."

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, during a floor debate on Feb. 18, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

Editor's note: An initial version of this post incorrectly spelled Pacoima.

April 11, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown opens with Confucius, closes with eggs

IMG_1214.JPGBEIJING - Gov. Jerry Brown appeared to have put some thought into his big environmental speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Thursday, largely staying on point and book-ending his remarks with readings from the Chinese philosopher Confucius.

And then there was the encore.

Following a panel discussion at the Chinese university, Brown took the stage to offer closing remarks - Confucius out and eggs in.

"Anytime we make progress, we have to push opposition out of the way," Brown said. "So, what is the saying? 'You can't make an omelet unless you crack the egg.'"

The Democratic governor paused for just a moment and looked out at the audience.

"So that'll be my last statement," he said, before returning to his chair.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks about climate change at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Legislators shredding Brown's school plan

While Gov. Jerry Brown tours China looking for business partners, lawmakers back in California have been taking apart his school finance plan, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

April 11, 2013
AM Alert: Torlakson, Molly Munger talk at education conference

RCB_20110622_SALVATION_ARMY_0009.JPGEarly childhood education has gained some traction as a strategy for reducing schooling discrepancies -- President Barack Obama called for universal pre-K in his State of the Union speech this year -- and advocates are hosting a conference on the issue this week at the Sheraton Hotel in Sacramento.

Today is the second day of the symposium, co-hosted by the Advancement Project, Proposition 38 backer Molly Munger's group. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson gives opening remarks this morning after former state schools chief Delaine Eastin welcomes the group.

Other listed speakers include Erin Gabel of the California Department of Education, Thomas Schultz of the Council of Chief State School Officers, California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel, Democratic Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, and Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande of Palm Desert. Munger moderates an afternoon panel on funding priorities.

VIDEO While Gov. Jerry Brown is making his case in China, his agenda is starting to unravel in Sacramento, Dan Walters says.


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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