Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 15, 2013
Controversial bills to repeal fire fee pass Assembly committee

fire.JPGTwo Republican-backed measures to repeal a fire prevention fee levied on some rural California residents cleared an Assembly committee Monday.

Similar bills by Assemblymen Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga (Assembly Bill 124), and Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks (Assembly Bill 23), passed on bipartisan 5-2 votes in the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, but their prospects are already being questioned.

Revenue from a fee must be spent to benefit those who pay it. Otherwise, it is considered a tax requiring a two-thirds vote. The fire fee was approved on a majority vote in 2011.

Morrell and Donnelly contend that the fee is actually a tax. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has sued the state on those grounds.

"Because this fee was approved in a budget trailer bill, it did not receive proper scrutiny by the Legislature during the committee process. ... The public was once again denied their right to weigh in on this important public policy change," Morrell said.

April 15, 2013
NFL players speak out against Perea's workers comp bill

Legislation that seeks to limit the ability of professional athletes in other states to file workers compensation claims in California is meeting push back from the National Football League Players Association, which held a press conference on the Capitol steps today denouncing Assembly Bill 1309.

"This bill is about trying to make a small group of people richer, at the expense of people who got hurt at work," DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said during the event, as he was surrounded by former players including Reggie Williams, a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Lorenzo Neal, a fullback for the San Diego Chargers.

The bill by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, pits players and other labor unions against team owners and league management. It is being pushed by the five professional sports leagues - football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer - and is the subject of heavy lobbying in the Capitol.

April 15, 2013
CA pushes to fine 'independent' campaign committee for supporting lawmaker

luis_alejo.jpgFor perhaps the first time, California's political watchdog agency is cracking down on an independent expenditure committee for illegally coordinating donations with a legislative candidate's campaign.

Joaquin Ross and an IE committee he helped run, Respondent Voters for a New California, have agreed to pay a $6,500 fine, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission, which will consider the settlement April 25.

Ross is the son of veteran Democratic political consultant Richie Ross, and the IE involved in the case was the recipient of funds raised by an official of the California Latino Legislative Caucus in hopes of boosting Latino candidates.

Ross did not immediately return a call for comment Monday and Gary Winuk, FPPC enforcement officer, said he could not discuss the case before FPPC action on it next week.

Independent expenditure committees are not bound by contribution limits that apply to donations made directly to candidates, but they are not allowed to coordinate campaign activities with the candidates they are supporting.

Capitol watchdogs have long suspected illegal coordination between IEs and candidates, but such accusations are hard to prove. The Ross case may be the first in which the agency has negotiated a fine over such a violation.

Ross acknowledged being the conduit for illegally spending $28,892 for three mass mailings in support of Luis Alejo during a primary election for an Assembly seat stretching from Santa Clara to Monterey counties.

Alejo, a Watsonville Democrat, beat two party challengers in the June 2010 primary for the open seat, and he won the general election by 25 percentage points.

April 15, 2013
Sen. Padilla pushes plastic bag ban, says business on board

bagspresser.JPGStores across California would need to ditch single-use plastic bags under legislation authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, that has drawn some interest from a key business lobby.

Dozens of municipalities have already adopted ordinances prohibiting stores from offering the bags, citing the environmental costs of proliferating plastic. Padilla said his bill would build on that process with a needed statewide standard.

"There's no such thing as a free lunch, and there's no such thing as a free bag," Padilla said at a Monday morning press conference on the steps of the State Capitol building.

And while the Legislature has fallen short in its attempts to institute a ban before, Padilla said his bill's prospects were brighter given "the business community that's coming around and seeing the wisdom in a statewide policy."

The California Grocers Association has not yet taken a formal position on the bill, but president and CEO Ronald Fong endorsed a statewide approach that would offer "consistency and predictability" both to consumers and to businesses trying to navigate a patchwork of varying county and city rules.

"We're looking for competitive fairness for retailers," Fong said at Monday's press conference. "Retailers don't want to be in a position where they need to abide by 70 to 85 different local ordinances."

April 15, 2013
Jerry Brown toasts delegates on last night in China

IMG_1624[1].JPGGUANGZHOU, China - On the final night of his trade mission to China, Gov. Jerry Brown walked into the Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou, looked up 30 stories from an atrium on the 70th floor and said, "Wow, this must be expensive."

The businesspeople, campaign donors and friends accompanying Brown on the trip assembled over a lavish dinner of sushi and Australian beef sirloin in a hotel restaurant overlooking this humid city of more than 12 million people.

The Democratic governor offered a toast.

"To all you people who came on this trip not quite knowing what you were going to get, I think we've all seen more than we expected and maybe more than we deserve," he said.

Brown went on, "To all our California and Chinese friends, many years of prosperity and happiness and good fortune."

IMG_1619[1].JPGWine flowed throughout the evening, and the Bay Area Council, the business group helping organize the trade mission, gave Brown a likeness of himself in traditional garb.

Brown's office gave staff members California license plates that read, "DREAMER." They were signed by Brown and his wife, first lady Anne Gust Brown.

The event marked the end for most delegates of the week-long trade mission to China. Brown and his advisers are planning to make one more stop on Tuesday, in Shenzhen, before flying home later this week from Hong Kong.

PHOTO CREDIT: A California license plate Gov. Jerry Brown's office gave staff members on his trade mission to China (top) and a figure given to Brown by the Bay Area Council (bottom). David Siders / The Sacramento Bee

April 15, 2013
Brown administration signs carbon-reduction agreement in China

IMG_1574.JPGGUANGZHOU, China - In a cab ride this morning through the muggy streets of Guangzhou, Thomas Peterson, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Center for Climate Strategies, acknowledged skepticism in China about the friendly agreements government officials sign promising to combat climate change.

The country is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and while Gov. Jerry Brown is in the country promoting greenhouse gas reduction policies, pollution fills the skies. Brown and members of his trade mission took a cruise on Saturday down the Huangpu River in Shanghai, where an army of barges ferried coal down the river earlier in the day.

Yet good may come of an agreement signed today between California state officials and representatives of Guangdong, a South Chinese province of about 105 million people, said Peterson, whose group helped develop the accord. The non-binding agreement calls for cooperation in efforts to increase energy conservation, to expand the use of green energy and to promote carbon-reducing technologies, among other things.

April 15, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Gov. Brown's prison pushback plan

History does not favor Gov. Jerry Brown winning his fight against federal rulings on California prisons, Dan says, but the governor may be making a savvy political move.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

April 15, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers target prescription drug abuse

RCB_20130311_MEDBOARD_0098.JPGThere has already been a fair amount of attention in Sacramento to prescription drug abuse -- earlier this year, grieving parents testified that the California Medical Board hasn't done enough to crack down on unscrupulous doctors who overprescribe. Today the Legislature is taking up bills to deal with the issue.

First comes an 11 a.m. press conference trumpeting Senate Bill 809, by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, which would bolster a Department of Justice program that allows pharmacists and prescribers to better track prescription data and identify patterns of abuse. Attorney General Kamala Harris is sponsoring the bill and will be at the press conference, in room 3191 of the State Capitol, after which the bill will go before the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development.

The committee will also take up Senate Bill 62, by Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, which would require coroners to file a report with the state Medical Board if they uncover information linking a death to prescription drugs.

VIDEO: What do Gov. Jerry Brown and George Wallace, the segregation-era governor of Alabama, have in common? Dan Walters will tell you.

FOOTBALL INJURIES: DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, and a special team of retired and active professional athletes are in town to lobby against Assembly Bill 1309, a bill that would exempt athletes who play for non-California teams from being covered by California's workers' compensation laws. They will be holding a press conference on the north steps at 1 p.m.

AMMO TAX: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, is holding a press conference for a bill that would impose a 5-cents-a-bullet tax on ammunition sold in California and use the proceeds to fund school-based mental health programs. Dickinson will be urging passage of Assembly Bill 760 at an 11 a.m. event at the William Land Elementary School library.

FIRE FEE: Republicans are taking another shot at repealing a fire fee on rural residents after a bill by Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, died in committee last week. This time measures by Assemblyman Mike Morrell (Assembly Bill 124) and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (Assembly Bill 23) are scheduled to go before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee at 2 p.m. during its hearing this afternoon. Also on tap is Assembly Bill 468 by the committee's chairman, Democrat Wesley Chesbro, which would repeal the fire fee and impose a surcharge on commercial and residential insurance policies.

D.C. DELEGATION: Elected officials and business types from the Sacramento region are holding meetings in Washington, D.C. this week for a "Capitol-to-Capitol" program hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber.

PHOTO CREDIT: Bereaved families who lost a loved one to prescription drug overuse rallied on the steps of the Sacramento State Capitol after asking for the California Medical Board to be disbanded on March 11, 2013. By Renée C. Byer/The Sacramento Bee.


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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