Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 17, 2013
Brown's school funding plan gets thumbs up in statewide poll

jbbudget.jpgKey elements of Gov. Jerry Brown's school-funding proposal are getting passing grades from Californians, a new statewide poll shows.

Brown's push to eliminate most state-driven earmarks and to direct more money to districts with impoverished students was supported by more than two of every three adults surveyed, according to the Public Policy Institute of California poll.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank polled 1,705 adults on weekend days and weekday nights from April 2-9 on landlines and cellphones.

Brown's goal of giving school districts more spending flexibility by eliminating most state education earmarks -- funding restricted to specific programs -- was supported by 78 percent of adults surveyed.

Support dropped only slightly, to 71 percent, when pollsters asked about the governor's plan to direct more funding to districts with large numbers of impoverished students and English learners.

April 17, 2013
CA Legislature kills bill to shield identities of armed teachers

20130311_HA_TIM_DONNELLY.JPGA bill pushed by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly to train and shield armed "school marshals" failed to make it out of the Assembly Education Committee today after a 5-1 vote.

Assembly Bill 202 would exempt from public disclosure information on school employees authorized by a superintendent to carry a concealed weapon on campus. Under current law, the California Public Records Act requires disclosure of concealed weapon permit holders.

"It is disappointing at best that the committee members chose to lend their ears to anti-gun hysteria, rather than truly work to protect our kids and teachers," Donnelly said in a statement.

April 17, 2013
California senator proposes $2-a-pack increase in cigarette tax

Troubled Vernon.jpgA California state lawmaker is proposing a new $2-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes to pay for health-care programs.

Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, has amended his Senate Bill 768 to serve as the vehicle for the tax hike.

The estimated $1.2 billion in annual revenues from the increase would go to yet-to-be-specified health programs and causes, including promoting access to care and tobacco-related health services.

"The underlying direction will be absolutely on extending health care access," said Greg Hayes, de León's communications director.

The bill, which will be in print Thursday, is backed by a coalition that includes longtime proponents of increasing cigarette taxes, such as the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, as well as Service Employees International Union and the advocacy group Health Access California, Hayes said.

Anti-smoking advocates have struggled to persuade lawmakers and voters to raise California's 87-cent cigarette tax, even as per-pack tax rates have risen in states across the nation. By a narrow margin, voters rejected a ballot measure in June 2012 that would have enacted a $1-a-pack hike for cancer research and other programs. Efforts in the Legislature have repeatedly fallen short of the two-thirds vote needed to win approval.

Hayes said the senator hopes that Democrats' supermajority control in both houses -- as well as growing concern that smoking-related medical costs are adding to what he called the state's "institutional debt" -- will lead to a different outcome this year.

"It's not going to be a small challenge, but right now this body is one of the reasons that we face deficits," Hayes said. "It's because we are completely upside down in health care costs related to tobacco."

PHOTO CREDIT: State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, speaks on the Senate floor on Aug. 29, 2011. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press file, 2011

April 17, 2013
Feinstein vows to keep fighting for ban on assault weapons

Feinstein_022713.jpgBy Curtis Tate

WASHINGTON -- A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines fell well short of the votes needed to pass the Senate Wednesday, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., vowed to continue her long fight for such legislation.

"I'm disappointed by today's vote, but I always knew this was an uphill battle," Feinstein said in a statement after her amendment garnered only 40 votes. "I believe the American people are far ahead of their elected officials on this issue, and I will continue to fight for a renewed ban on assault weapons."

Feinstein's amendment was part of a series of gun-related provisions the Senate considered Wednesday. But as victims of recent mass shootings and their family members watched from the visitors gallery, all seven amendments failed to get the 60 votes needed for approval, including a carefully crafted compromise on background checks for gun shows and online sales, as well as a crackdown on gun trafficking.

Before the vote on Feinstein's assault weapons ban, she stood and implored her colleagues to "show some guts."

But her amendment drew support from only one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois. Fifteen of Feinstein's fellow Democrats voted against it.

In a speech Wednesday morning on the Senate floor, Feinstein all but conceded that her effort, spurred by December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed, would not succeed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photos of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims are displayed behind Sen. Dianne Feinstein as she speaks Feb. 27 about her proposal to ban assault weapons. Susan Walsh / Associated Press file

April 17, 2013
Feinstein concedes likely failure of assault weapon ban

Gun_Control_Feinstein.jpgBy Curtis Tate

WASHINGTON -- In a speech to a mostly empty Senate chamber, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., all but conceded Wednesday that her long push to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would not succeed.

The Senate was to vote Wednesday on a series of amendments to a broader gun bill spurred by December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed.

"Not every issue we vote on in the Senate is a life or death matter -- I believe this is," Feinstein said. "I urge my colleagues to stand tall and support this amendment."

But few senators were present during Feinstein's 30-minute speech. One was Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat who was presiding over the empty chamber. She opposed Feinstein's amendment.

Other amendments, including a measure to expand criminal background checks to gun shows and Internet sales, were also expected to fail, as was an effort by gun-rights supporters to require states to respect concealed-carry gun permits issued by other states.

Feinstein, who led a successful push for an assault weapons ban nearly 20 years ago, said that if the Senate didn't act, states would, creating a patchwork of laws.

"If this bill goes, down, I believe states will pass other legislation," she said. "It is only a question of time."

PHOTO CREDIT: This video frame grab provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as she speaks about gun legislation, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, on the floor of the Senate in Washington. (AP Photo/ Senate Television)

April 17, 2013
Bill to bar apartment smoking goes down in flames at Capitol

marclevine.jpgLegislation to bar millions of Californians from smoking inside their own homes was rejected today by an Assembly committee.

Assembly Bill 746 would have made California the first state to venture into personal bedrooms and living rooms with smoking restrictions. It targeted condominiums, duplexes and apartments.

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, proposed the measure to ensure that people who live in structures that share walls, ceilings, floors or ventilation systems with neighboring units are not subject to second-hand smoke.

The bill was rejected 5-2 by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee today despite several amendments, including one that would have delayed fines from being issued until January 2015.

Voting no were Democrats Norma Torres, Toni Atkins and Cheryl R. Brown and Republicans Beth Gaines and Brian Maienschein, according to Levine's office, and Democrats Ed Chau and Kevin Mullin voted yes.

April 17, 2013
Controversial animal cruelty bill killed before Assembly hearing

LS PUPPY STORE 3(2).JPGA controversial animal cruelty bill was killed today, just hours before it was scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Committee on Agriculture.

Assembly Bill 343 by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, would have required any person who willfully or knowingly documents animal cruelty to provide a copy of the evidence to law enforcement within 120 hours.

The proposed legislation, however, was seen as an attempt to make it harder for animal welfare advocates to investigate abuses in undercover food safety cases.

"My intention with this bill was - and remains to be - the prevention of animal cruelty," Patterson said in a statement. "The Chair of the Agriculture Committee, myself and the California Cattlemen's Association have agreed to hold a hearing in the future to discuss how we can move forward our goals of a safe food supply, strong agricultural industry and the humane treatment of livestock."

"We appreciate Mr. Patterson avoiding the glare of a hearing where a lot of concerns would have been voiced from a wide range of stakeholders," said the Humane Society's Jennifer Fearing. "Our biggest concern was that it seemed clearly aimed at stifling the documentation of animal cruelty and not stopping animal cruelty itself."

April 17, 2013
LA County porn condom law brings production to near halt

AHF REP Isadore Hall Condom Law Press Conference.jpgApplications for permits to film pornographic films and videos "have all but ceased in Los Angeles County" due to a new ordinance requiring porn actors to wear condoms, the Los Angles Daily News reports.

The Daily News article bolsters opposition to a current bill in the state Legislature that would make the condom requirement a statewide law.

Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, is carrying Assembly Bill 332, which is patterned after the Los Angeles County ordinance approved by voters last year, and like the local law, is backed by anti-AIDS and public health groups.

"This is a workforce safety bill," Hall told an Assembly committee prior to its 5-1 vote for it. "We have to protect our workforce."

The Daily News covers the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, where porn production is a major industry and where local boosters are worried that production will move to other counties due to the ordinance. They and the industry also have told legislators that a state condom law would push production to other states.

The Daily News said Film LA, a non-profit organization that processes film and video permits, has received only two applications for porn shoots this year. In the past, about 500 such permits have been sought each year.

The newspaper quotes Diane Duke, who heads the Free Speech Coalition, a porn trade group, that "most production companies have ceased shooting in LA County." Meanwhile,it says, city officials in Camarillo, which is just across the county line in Ventura County, have been bombarded with inquiries from porn producers - so many that the city council has imposed a 45-day moratorium on porn production while it decides what to do about the situation.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblymember Isadore Hall, III, right, speaks while Michael Weinstein, President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, looks during a press conference hosted by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to introduce AB 332, a statewide law requiring condom use by adult film performers. (Bret Hartman / AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation).

April 17, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: How much has changed with death penalty?

Very few death row inmates have been executed in California in the past 35 years, Dan says, calling into question whether much has really changed since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

April 17, 2013
AM Alert: Autism awareness day comes to California Capitol

HA_AUTISM_MASK.JPGThe avalanche of advocacy days continues today with "Stand Up, Speak Out," a push for policies that affect disabled and autistic Californians.

Things kick off with an 11 a.m. press conference on the Capitol's west steps featuring autism and special needs advocates alongside Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana and Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles.

VIDEO: Given how few inmates have been executed in California, Dan Walters wonders whether reinstating the death penalty has really altered the status quo.

GAY THERAPY: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is hearing arguments in a case challenging Senate Bill 1172, a 2012 measure that prohibits counseling aimed at "curing" minors of their homosexual urges.


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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