Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 13, 2013
Environmentalist Tom Steyer calls for new oil tax in California

photo (38).JPGA wealthy environmentalist who has become an increasingly prominent force in California politics called on Democratic lawmakers today to use their supermajority powers to enact a new tax on oil pumped in the state.

Tom Steyer, the San Francisco billionaire who recently left his job as a hedge fund firm to focus on political and environmental activism, called the oil severance tax the one area of energy policy where California lags other states in the nation in a speech at the California Democratic Party convention Saturday.

"This isn't just a question of our taking a fair share from huge, hugely profitable oil companies," Steyer told delegates. "This is about doing the simple task - the walk and chew gum of government - to showing us that we can do the right thing for the citizens of California in opposition of some very, very big companies."

Previous attempts to set a tax on oil extracted in the state has failed to attract enough votes to win approval in the state Legislature. Steyer said the legislative supermajorities, which could allow Democrats to pass new taxes without GOP votes, and the potential that hydraulic fracking will lead to more oil production in the state make now the right time to act.

"We've missed a couple to chances over the last 150 years, but let's not miss another if we can afford it," he said.

Steyer has waged major battles over environmental policy on the ballot in recent years, spending $32 million in the November election on a successful attempt to change a corporate tax formula to raise revenue for green energy and conservation projects.

He declined to directly address whether he'll go to the ballot himself if the Legislature fails to act, saying he believes lawmakers will take action. He did, however, offer to provide any financial or other support needed to make the proposal a reality. That support could be key if lawmakers chose to put the issue in front of Californians to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown's pledge to put any new taxes up or a vote of the people.

April 13, 2013
Jerry Brown censored, lights up Shanghai skyline

IMG_1471.JPGSHANGHAI - Gov. Jerry Brown has enjoyed a relatively warm reception from Communist party officials while in China, but they also manage his exposure.

On Saturday, lights on the Citibank building in Shanghai lit up over the Huangpu River to "welcome Jerry & Anne Brown and California delegates to Shanghai."

The message required the approval of local publicity officials, and in the original script was one word to which they objected: governor.

For purposes of the massive Shanghai skyline, the governor and first lady of California would just be "Jerry & Anne Brown."

PHOTO CREDIT: A message welcoming Gov. Jerry Brown's trade mission to China lights up the Citibank building in Shanghai on Saturday, April 13, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

April 13, 2013
Pelosi says immigration farmworker deal reached

pelosi.jpgA House of Representatives working group has reached a deal on agricultural workers in the immigration bill it is crafting, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said on Saturday morning.

Immigration has emerged as a key focus for Congress after the November elections, and much of the attention has focused on a Senate overhaul bill. But Pelosi, speaking at a press conference during the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento, noted that a House group has also been at work on the issue. She said she received an early morning phone call on Saturday from Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, saying an agreement had been reached on the part of the legislation dealing with farm workers.

The Senate immigration group reportedly reached a tentative pact on farm workers earlier this week. When asked whether the provision in the House bill was aligned with the Senate piece, Pelosi said only that "it satisfies Arturo." She added that she would like to see Congress pass an immigration bill by the August recess.

April 13, 2013
VIDEO: Democrats get hands dirty in support of child care

IMG_3476.jpgThe second day of the California Democratic Party's spring convention was barely underway when state Sen. Curren Price got his hands dirty in the name of politics.

"Oooh squishy," the Los Angeles Democrat quipped as green paint was rolled over his palm.

Price was one of at least half a dozen Democratic officials who made handprint signs today to show their support for efforts to provide increased access to affordable child care and universal preschool Saturday morning. The art booth was sponsored by a coalition that includes Service Employees International Union, which is reviving a push to allow child care providers to unionize.

Previous attempts to unionize child care workers in California have fallen short, including a 2011 bill vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Sen. Kevin de León, who authored similar legislation that was vetoed by former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he thinks this year's effort could have a chance to make it through.

"I think it's a strong possibility," he said. "If we can invest in our children then we can reap the benefits later on and create a quality workforce in California."

And as for the paint?

"It's fun to get messy," de León joked as he made a purple handprint.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Curren Price gets his hand painted at The California Democratic Party convention in support of child care workers. The Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot

April 13, 2013
Betsy Butler will seek seat of termed out assemblyman

20120118_ha_state_of_state0463.JPGAfter a close loss last year, former Democratic Assemblywoman Betsy Butler announced she will seek the 62nd Assembly District seat of termed out Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, in 2014.

In a letter to friends and supporters, Butler said she moved back to her home in Marina del Rey after losing last year in the 50th Assembly District to Richard Bloom.

Butler is in Sacramento this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention.

Butler was elected to the 53rd Assembly District in 2010, but under 2011 redistricting, her district was chopped in thirds and she opted to run for re-election in the newly opened 50th Assembly District that includes Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Malibu and Beverly Hills. Bloom was Mayor of Santa Monica. Butler was backed by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

The 62nd District Butler will run in includes Venice, Playa del Rey, El Segundo, Inglewood and Westchester. Butler said in her letter that she has lived in the 62nd District for more than two decades.

"It would be an honor to return to the Assembly to build on the work we did to create healthier, safer, more fair communities and give a voice to the unheard," Butler said in the letter. "...We fought for consumer rights, regulations for the dangerous practice of fracking and for safe working conditions for our farmworkers."

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, D-Marina del Rey listens to Gov. Jerry Brown, as he delivers his State of the State address in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 13, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown meets Yao Ming, cruises Huangpu River

IMG_1453.JPGSHANGHAI - In a week in which Gov. Jerry Brown has demonstrated a significant degree of diplomatic acuity, it will likely not go down as an international incident.

On the other hand, the retired Chinese basketball player Yao Ming is a national icon, so it might have helped to know how injury prone Ming was before asking if he'd ever been hurt.

"Did you ever get injured?" Brown asked the former Houston Rockets standout before a dinner cruise on the Huangpu River on Saturday.

In fact, Ming said, injury was the reason he retired.

And no, it was not his knees, Ming said when Brown suggested basketball can be hard on them, but his ankle.

Ming, who owns a Napa Valley winery, met with Brown and posed for photographs before the governor and other members of his week-long trade mission to China left the dock.

Following the Brown-Ming injury exchange, Brown's wife, Anne Gust Brown, stepped in, a compliment coming.

"What do you do now to keep in shape?" she said.

When Ming said he isn't in shape, she replied, "You look in shape to me."

"OK," Ming said. "Thank you."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown and retired Chinese basketball player Yao Ming meet in Shanghai on Saturday, April 13, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

April 13, 2013
Chinese newspapers cover 'brief but eloquent' Jerry Brown

IMG_1333.JPGSHANGHAI - Gov. Jerry Brown is making the papers in China.

On Saturday, the Shanghai Daily reported Brown made a "brief but eloquent speech" at the opening of a foreign trade office in Shanghai.

The state-run China Daily ran a story Thursday about the non-binding trade agreement Brown and Chinese commerce officials signed in Beijing, and on Friday the newspaper published a photograph of the meeting between Brown and the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang.

Just more than halfway through a week-long trade mission to China, Brown is scheduled to leave Shanghai on Sunday for Nanjing, before flying later in the day to Guangzhou, a southern Chinese city on the Pearl River.

The Democratic governor spent his last day in Shanghai meeting with Han Zheng, the local Communist party secretary, and joining members of the governor's trade mission on a Huangpu River cruise. Brown's meeting with Han included a discussion of acupuncture and harmony, while on the river he had more basic ideas in mind.

"Thank you very much," Brown said. "Now, nobody fall overboard, OK?"

PHOTO CREDIT: Photographers gather around Gov. Jerry Brown before he speaks at the opening of a trade office in Shanghai on Friday, April 12, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee



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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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