Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 24, 2013
Covert PUC recording spurs calls for ratepayer group autonomy

San_Bruno_Broken_Pipeline_Explosion.jpgA covert and illegal recording earlier this month by a California Public Utilities Commission director was an effort to intimidate the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, according to a staff report for an Assembly Budget Subcommittee on resources and transportation hearing today.

PUC Energy Division Director Edward Randolph was caught earlier this month recording a briefing for a Senate budget subcommittee hearing at the state Capitol when his smartphone interrupted with an announcement that the recording space on his device was full.

Many of the attendees were surprised and angered that Randolph was recording the off-the-record, private meeting that included representatives of the office of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the Department of Finance and the DRA, which has clashed with PUC leadership.

According to the subcommittee staff report, those in attendance said Randolph was attempting to record DRA officials' interpretation of their responsibilities regarding audit obligations. PUC officials lately have faced continued scrutiny, including from members of the Assembly, over the agency's handling of several special funds.

April 24, 2013
Smartphone app lets CA lawmakers track special interest gifts

Screenshot_2013-04-12-12-09-39.pngHaving trouble keeping track of all those concert tickets, reception tabs and bottles of wine you have to report as gifts as a California elected official or legislative staffer?

There's an app for that.

The Fair Political Practices Commission is set to unveil a new smartphone app to let officials record receipts of reportable gifts from special interests in real time. The log could be exported when the time comes to file an annual statement of economic interest form detailing all the gifts from the past year, a function FPPC officials hope will make complying with the disclosure rules easier.

"If you're at an event, if you're at a meeting, if you're giving a speech, if you're in a reception, you can just log in what the gift is," FPPC Enforcement Division Chief Gary Winuk said.

The Gift Tracker app was built by a staff member who joined the agency after participating in a "hackathon" event promoting open government data. The app allows the user to enter information about the gift and the giver and track how close they are to hitting the $440 annual limit on gifts from that specific source.

While the logs won't be available for public review immediately, Winuk said the app goes a long way in reaching the commission's goal of using technology to increase disclosure and make it easier for people to meet requirements of the state Political Reform Act.

The app is initially available only for Google devices, but Winuk said the FPPC is hoping to have an iPhone and iPad version approved and available through the Apple store soon.

FPPC Chair Ann Ravel called the app "a win for everyone" in a statement.

"It is important that it is not too burdensome to comply with our rules, so that people are encouraged to participate in government," she said. "And, it is important for the public that the information disclosed to them is accurate."

Trips, beer and crystal ducks: California lawmakers report gifts
DATABASE: See every gift given to state leaders, aides

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:27 to include a quote from Ravel.

PHOTO CREDIT: Screenshot of the new FPPC app. Courtesy of the FPPC.

April 24, 2013
Unlikely coalition vows joint battle against Medi-Cal rate cuts

JS_Medi-Cal_pic.JPGA veritable army of politically powerful but unlikely partners vowed today to jointly fight California's planned rate cut to Medi-Cal providers.

The broad-based coalition includes groups representing physicians, health plans, hospitals, dentists, first responders, and the state's largest labor union of health-care workers - Service Employees International Union.

Dr. Paul R. Phinney, president of the California Medical Association, described the gathering as an "unprecented coalition of providers of health care in our state to make sure that the Affordable Care Act is implemented in a smart and sensible way."

"Quality health care is going to be less available and less affordable in California if we continue to cut our system to the bone," Phinney said.

April 24, 2013
Jerry Brown promises opponents 'battle of their lives' on education overhaul

RCB_20130424_SCHOOLS_0342.JPGFacing resistance at the Capitol to his proposal to overhaul California's school financing formula and to shift more money to poor and English-learning students, Gov. Jerry Brown said today he considers the matter one of civil rights and will give opponents "the battle of their lives."

"This is a matter of equity and civil rights," the Democratic governor told reporters at the Capitol. "So if people are going to fight it, they're going to get the battle of their lives, because I'm not going to give up until the last hour, and I'm going to fight with everything I have, and whatever we have to bring to bear in this battle, we're bringing it."

Brown's appearance featured appeals by school superintendents from Los Angeles, Sacramento and Santa Ana and comes as Assembly Democrats prepare to debate the merits of his proposal at a committee hearing this afternoon.

Senate Democrats less than 24 hours ago suggested reservations about major parts of Brown's plan, announcing they will propose an alternative measure Thursday.

Brown is seeking in his annual budget proposal to give K-12 school districts greater flexibility over how they spend their money, while also directing more money to districts that serve poorer students and English learners.

April 24, 2013
Mark Vargas fills California Coastal Commission vacancy

COASTAL COMMISSION.jpgAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez has named a green building specialist to the California Coastal Commission.

Mark Vargas's appointment to the 12-member commission begins today. Vargas, an alumnus of the Gov. Gray Davis administration and the secretary of state's office, resigned from the Little Hoover Commission yesterday to take this new post.

"California's coast is one of our most important environmental and economic assets," Pérez said in a statement. "Mr. Vargas will provide an important voice in the Commission's ongoing work to ensure the sustainability of this vital resource."

Vargas replaces former commissioner William Burke, who stepped down last week amid controversy over remarks he made about a proposal to ban beach bonfires and questions about whether it was proper for him to serve on both the Coastal Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Albion River, lower left, flows into the Pacific Ocean in Albion, Calif., in this 2002 file photo. AP Photo/ Eric Risberg, File)

April 24, 2013
Man outside Jerry Brown's home cited for needle possession in 2011

brownpresser.JPGIn an incident predating the arrest of a suspected prowler at his Sacramento loft building over the weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown expressed frustration Tuesday with officials' handling of three men found lurking at his home in the Oakland hills in late 2011.

In a speech at a Crime Victims United rally at the Capitol, Brown said his wife, Anne Gust Brown, was home alone when "three gentlemen show up ... about 1 o'clock trying to break in." Brown said California Highway Patrol officers detained the men but let them go after consulting with Oakland police.

"They said they were looking ... to buy real estate in the neighborhood, and the Oakland police let them go, because the CHP deferred to them," said Brown, a former mayor of Oakland. "Well, that's not going to happen anymore."

In an email to The Bee, Oakland Police Sgt. Chris Bolton said three people in a vehicle were stopped at Brown's home on Nov. 30, 2011 and that one of suspects was issued a citation for possession of a hypodermic needle. Bolton described the circumstances of the vehicle's presence on the property as suspicious but did not elaborate.

Bolton said the three people were released from the scene following a preliminary investigation.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.The Sacramento Bee/ David Siders

April 24, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers don denim for abuse awareness

AOC_Jeans2_007a.JPGIf you're getting the impression that things are more casual at the California Capitol today, it may be because some lawmakers are wearing jeans in honor of Denim Day, a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month intended intended to highlight that outfit choices are never an excuse for sexual assault.

A 10 a.m. rally on the west steps is expected to feature Democratic Sens. Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa, Mark DeSaulnier of Concord, Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara and Kevin de León of Los Angeles, and Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens.

INDIAN CASINOS: The Governmental Organization Committee is holding an informational hearing today on where two Native American tribes should be allowed to build their casinos, an issue that has sparked debate about whether tribes should be able to operate casinos far from their land. The hearing begins after the committee wraps up its business on other bills, which it will dig into at 1:30 p.m. in room 4202.

STUDENTS FIRST: Also on our radar today is a bill by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, that deals with teacher evaluation. We brought you news earlier of how education reform crusader Michelle Rhee's Sacramento-based organization StudentsFirst has had a light legislative fingerprint thus far, but StudentsFirst advises us that it's supporting Calderon's Senate Bill 441. It comes up for a vote in the Senate Education Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. in room 4203.

SUPERINTENDENTS GET AUDIENCE: Speaking of education, Gov. Jerry Brown is meeting this morning with school superintendents from across California to discuss his plan for overhauling how school funding is doled out. The closed-door meeting is happening at the state Capitol.

IMMIGRATION REFORM: Several Catholic bishops and archbishops -- including Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez -- will be talking (in English and in Spanish) about federal immigration reform and its impact in California at a news conference at Sacramento's Citizen Hotel. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. in the hotel's Library Room at 10th and J streets.

DOMESTIC WORKERS: It's been a big week for rallies related to bills carried by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. Homeless Californians gathered Monday to support his so-called homeless "bill of rights," and today domestic workers rally at 10:30 a.m. on the east steps in support of his Assembly Bill 241, which would set labor standards for domestic workers.

EDUCATION LAWSUIT: The American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center are announcing a lawsuit against the state for allegedly falling short in instructing English language learners at public schools. The news conference starts at 10:30 a.m. at the ACLU of Southern California's Los Angeles offices.

SWINGERS: How do you get lawmakers to participate in your event? Incorporating golf can't hurt. The California Physical Therapy Association is offering free screenings to elected officials and their staff on the east lawn of the Capitol today, including a chance to gauge their grip strength and swing mechanics.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeans, the iconic denimwear. Autumn Payne / Sacramento Bee file, 2006


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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