Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 31, 2013
California consumer-advocacy group's executive steps down

130530-doug-heller-4-2012-courtesy-heller.JPGNonprofit advocacy group Consumer Watchdog issued an email this afternoon announcing that its executive director is leaving, effective immediately.

Doug Heller is stepping down after 16 years with the Santa Monica-based organization best known for its battles with the insurance industry. As Consumer Watchdog's executive director, Heller was the oft-quoted face of the group for the last nine years.

In a telephone interview after the announcement, Heller said that he had discussed his departure with the organization's board some months ago. Despite the suddenness of today's news, he said, "there's zero acrimony" prompting his exit.

Heller intends to continue consumer-issues consulting work. Carmen Balber, Consumer Watchdog's Washington, D.C., director is the organization's new executive director.

PHOTO CREDIT: Doug Heller. Courtesy of Doug Heller / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

May 31, 2013
Pingpong party helps Gov. Jerry Brown's staff ring in weekend

pongping.JPGAre you enjoying your Friday? Gov. Jerry Brown's staff seems to be, judging by this photo of a little shindig in the enclosed outdoor space adjoining the governor's office.

According to Evan Westrup, a spokesman from the governor's office, the party was celebrating the birthday of an unnamed staff member.

Westrup also confirmed that there were two kinds of cake and multiple table tennis games.

The patio area visible in this photo used to house Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's notorious smoking tent. So it's no stranger to good times, although pingpong seems to be a more innocuous way to relax.

Thanks to the anonymous tipster who pointed Capitol Alert to the party. More on this breaking news as the story develops.

PHOTO CREDIT: The alleged pingpong party, seen from the vantage point of the sixth-floor cafeteria in the state Capitol. May 31, 2013, by Jeremy B. White/The Sacramento Bee.

May 31, 2013
Three-way conflict as California budget conference committee meets

The two-house conference committee tasked with resolving revenue and expenditure differences and writing a final 2013-14 state budget convened Friday afternoon, and the multifaceted conflicts quickly emerged.

Not only do the Assembly and Senate disagree on a number of specific spending issues, but they jointly disagree with Gov. Jerry Brown on how much money the state has to spend and proposed to commit about $2 billion more than he wants.

"At this point the administration is not comfortable with either of the budgets in conference," Brown's deputy finance director, Michael Cohen, told the committee.

The three-way conflict - Republicans on the committee generally back the governor - was laid out by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor in a summary report as the committee met and jousted over the macro-issues before beginning an item-by-item review.

The meeting began 15 days before the constitutional deadline for enacting a budget - one that, if not met, could result in legislators having their salaries suspended. That happened in 2011. Last year, the deadline was met.

May 31, 2013
Five of 37 California bills labeled 'job killers' survive the week

California_Minimum_Wage_Luis_Alejo.jpgDespite lopsided Democratic majorities in both legislative houses, the California Chamber of Commerce has been remarkably successful so far this year in softening, stalling or killing legislation it had labeled "job killers."

Just five of the 37 bills given that epithet by the business organization survived the first half of the legislative session that ended Friday with a deadline for measures to win approval from their original legislative houses.

The other 32 were either put on hold - including a raft of constitutional amendments that would make it easier to raise taxes - or they were rejected in floor votes, held in committee or amended enough that the chamber dropped its "job-killer" designation.

Just one Assembly bill on the chamber's list made it out of the lower house intact. Assembly Bill 10 by Watsonville Democrat Luis Alejo would raise the state's minimum wage by $1.25 per hour over the next three years to $9.25 and then automatically index it to inflation thereafter. It was sent to the Senate on a party-line 45-27 vote on Thursday.

Four Senate bills labeled as "job killers" made it out of the upper house:

May 31, 2013
UC Davis study: California's Latino vote increases but still lags

OBAMA_HISPANIC_VOTERS_Latino_NYT_2012.JPGVoting among California's Latinos has increased sharply in the last decade - more than doubling the group's rate of population growth - but it still lags that of other major ethnic groups, a new UC Davis study reveals.

Between 2000 and 2011, the university's Center for Regional Change said, the state's Latino population increased by 31 percent, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the state's overall growth during the period. That ethnic group is due to become California's largest sometime this year.

Between the 2002 and 2010 elections, "the Latino vote grew 67.1 percent ... in absolute numbers, outpacing the 37 percent growth ... in the overall vote during the same period," the report said, adding, "but disparities in electoral participation still exist for Latinos."

Latinos make up 26.3 percent of Californians qualified by age and citizenship to vote, but were just 19.7 percent of the state's voters last year. "Latinos are underrepresented in their share of California's vote because they both register and vote lower than the non-Latino electorate," the report continued. "These disparate trends have been historically consistent and are the case, again, for the 2012 election."

In 2012, the report said, eligible non-Latinos voted at a 57.3 percent rate while Latinos were much lower at 39.4 percent - five points lower than it was in 2008, the previous presidential election year, which usually draws the highest turnouts.

Regionally, the voting pattern study found, Latinos were least likely to vote in Los Angeles and rural counties, and most likely in the San Francisco Bay Area. It also found that while the Democratic bent of Latino voters remained high in 2012 at nearly 60 percent, that was lower than it had been in previous elections. Republican orientation also had declined with more Latinos opting to become independents, mirroring overall trends.

Looking to the future, the UC Davis analysis said that the state's Latino population, now about 39 percent of the total, is likely to hit 45 percent by 2040 while its share of potential voters, now 26.3 percent, will be close to 38 percent then.

PHOTO CREDIT: A volunteer with Mi Familia Vota, a national group that helps Latinos become citizens and register to vote, helps a man with voter registration papers at a Denver library. Matthew Staver / New York Times file, 2012

May 31, 2013
Marijuana regulatory bill stalls in California Legislature

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Lawmakers quashed a bill that would have created a state agency to tax and regulate California's overgrown medical marijuana landscape on Friday.

Since California voters gave the green light to medical cannabis in 1996, the state has seen cities and municipalities deal with quasi-legal pot in a variety of different ways, with critics saying many dispensaries serve all comers under the pretense of helping the sick.

Assembly Bill 473 would have established a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement, a regulatory agency housed in the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, to tame the cannabis jungle and establish some guidelines around the cultivation, sale and taxation of cannabis. It would have required dispensaries to register with the agency.

"The answer to many of the problems that many of our communities are having with medical marijuana is this bill, because without this regulation the bad actors will proliferate and the violence will proliferate," said the legislation's author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

Lawmakers were not being asked to vote on the merits of medical marijuana, said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, noting that Proposition 215 is the law despite the fact that "some of us may not have agreed with the voters."

May 31, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Dem vs. Dem 'a new wrinkle' in CA budget

There is "a new wrinkle" in the California budget battle, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 31, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers work on bills, turn to budget

JD_CAP_VIEWS_OBSCURED.JPGWe are now hours away from the deadline to pass bills out of their houses of origin. The Senate finished its business early -- not only did lawmakers there clear the file Thursday, they did so before the start of happy hour. The Assembly still has some work to do. We'll be bringing you updates throughout the day.

The other big piece of legislative business today is a conference committee that will be meeting to reconcile the Assembly and the Senate's respective budgets, although there's a good chance that more drama will come from the difference between the Legislature's approach and Gov. Jerry Brown's vision. In room 4203 at 1 p.m. or upon call of the chair.

VIDEO: The next few weeks of budget wrangling promise to feature some Democrat-on-Democrat battles, Dan Walters says.

GENEROSITY FOR GARCETTI: Just because a campaign is over doesn't mean the fundraising ceases. Lawmakers are hosting an early morning fundraiser for Los Angeles mayor-elect Eric Garcetti at Chicory today. The event is hosted by Sens. Kevin de León and Ricardo Lara. Also expected to attend are fellow Los Angeles area Democrats (and Assembly members) Jimmy Gomez and Isadore Hall, along with former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

REPUBLICAN 'RAISER: On the subject of fundraisers, the Sacramento County Republican Party is holding its Lincoln-Reagan dinner at House Kitchen and Bar in Sacramento tonight. California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte will be speaking at the event, for which tickets start at $75 a head and run to a $2,500 for "dinner sponsor" package that confers VIP benefits. The guest list includes Board of Equalization member George Runner, Sen. Ted Gaines of Rocklin, and Assembly members Beth Gaines of Rocklin and Dan Logue of Marysville.

PARSING POLLS: We brought you news already of the Public Policy Institute of California's latest survey of how Californians view the governor's budget and their elected officials. Today PPIC wonks are breaking down the numbers during a noon event at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on 11th Street.

JOB MOVE: There's a staff shuffle afoot in the office of Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare. Fiscal and policy director Deborah Gonzalez is taking over the chief of staff post from Ivan Altamura, who is leaving the public sector for a gig at Pacific Gas and Electric.

PHOTO CREDIT: View of the California Capitol, obscured by trees and buildings, from 8th between N & O streets in Sacramento. John Decker / Sacramento Bee file, 2005

May 30, 2013
California's one-person businesses show sharp rebound

RCB_Real_Estate_Agent_2009.JPGCalifornia's smallest businesses - those without any employees - saw sharp reductions in their incomes when recession hit the state a half-decade ago, but they have since rebounded, a new Census Bureau report indicates.

The number of those no-worker businesses - essentially one-person operations - remained stable during the recession at 2.7 million to 2.8 million, but their receipts declined from $144.5 billion in 2007 to as low as $133.9 billion two years later before beginning to recover. By 2011, the last year for which data are available, there were 2.9 million such businesses and receipts had climbed to $143.8 billion, an average of nearly $50,000 each.

The largest single category of California businesses without employees is "professional, scientific and technical services" - in essence, contract consultants. The Census Bureau counted 501,688 of those "nonemployers," as it calls them, in 2011. They took in just under $24 billion or an average of about $48,000 each. However, the 299,602 one-person operations in real estate garnered $33.4 billion in receipts for an average of more than $111,000 each.

PHOTO CREDIT: A Sacramento real estate agent drops off fliers in hopes of meeting future home buyers or sellers. Renée C. Byer / Sacramento Bee file, 2009

May 30, 2013
Leno, Blumenfield to co-chair California joint budget committee

bestbuds.JPGSen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, both Democrats, will co-chair the California Legislature's committee hammering out the two houses' differences on the upcoming budget, legislative leaders have announced.

The constitutional deadline for passing a budget is June 15, more than two weeks away, but it's a deadline lawmakers will need to respect if they don't want to forfeit their paychecks. The differences between the Assembly and the Senate plans are minor compared to the gap between the Legislature's approach and the governor's -- lawmakers in both houses are relying on a more robust revenue forecast than the conservative estimates that Gov. Jerry Brown has incorporated into his plan, whose restraint the governor has touted as a hedge against future fiscal turmoil.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, announced that his house's delegation will include Blumenfield, fellow Democrats Holly Mitchell and Nancy Skinner and Republican Jeff Gorell.

Over on the Senate side, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office confirmed that Democrats Leno, Kevin de León and Loni Hancock and Republican Bill Emmerson will serve on the committee.

The committee was originally scheduled to meet Friday, but that date is apparently no longer a sure thing.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has tapped Sen. Mark Leno, both pictured here during a floor vote last July, to serve on this year's budget conference committee. Lezlie Sterling / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

May 30, 2013
Bill to increase California minimum wage clears Assembly

luis_alejo.jpgA bill to raise California's minimum wage to $9.25 over the next three years won approval Thursday in the state Assembly.

Assembly Bill 10 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, passed 45-25 mostly along party lines. It would be the first bump in minimum wage since 2008, when it was raised by 50 cents to $8.

"The last time the minimum wage was increased, gas was $3.25 a gallon in California," Alejo said. "I don't know about you, but I haven't seen gas prices at that level in a long time."

Under AB 10, the hourly minimum wage would increase to $8.25 in 2014, $8.75 in 2015 and $9.25 in 2016. Beginning in 2017, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually according to the rate of inflation. There would be no changes in years in which inflation was negative.

May 30, 2013
Billboard launches 'war' on pain-and-suffering damage limit

billboard.JPGA West Sacramento billboard featuring an infant who died from whooping cough marks a formal declaration of war by groups targeting elimination of a cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence suits.

Bankrolled by trial lawyers, the billboard features Mia Chavez, a 6-week-old Los Angeles County child who died in July 2010, allegedly after a doctor examined her numerous times but failed to detect whooping cough in time to save her life.

"Medical Negligence Kills," reads the billboard on westbound lanes of Interstate 80 near Enterprise Boulevard. "But a 38-year-old law says Mia's life was worth only $250,000. Call your legislator."

May 30, 2013
California Senate trashes ban on plastic shopping bags

RB_Plastic_Bags_2007.JPGA proposal to ban plastic grocery bags in California went the way of so many plastic bags - into the trash can - on Thursday when it failed to garner enough votes in the state Senate to move ahead in the lawmaking process.

Senate Bill 405 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, would have prohibited supermarkets and drugstores from providing plastic shopping bags to consumers beginning in 2015. Paper bags would be available for purchase. Padilla argued that the ban would be good for the environment, reduce litter and help local governments that now deal with cleaning them up. Many senators said the bill would promote good habits among Californians, who would get used to carrying their own reusable shopping bags.

But several of Padilla's Democratic colleagues opposed the measure, saying it would cut jobs for constituents who work in Los Angeles-area bag factories and would hurt consumers who re-use their plastic bags for garbage, dog waste and other household needs. Republicans also opposed it, saying the Legislature had more important things to work on.

"I think there is an education campaign necessary," Padilla said after the final 18-17 vote on his bill.

Four senators did not vote - Democrats Ben Hueso, Curren Price, Lois Wolk and Rod Wright. Padilla said he hopes to persuade them to vote for his bill and wants to move it from the Senate's trash can to its recycling bin, so it can get another vote next year.

PHOTO CREDIT: Clerks fill plastic bags with groceries at the Safeway store in midtown Sacramento. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file, 2007

May 30, 2013
California Senate passes modified state tax break for investors

AP_Ted_Lieu_2012.jpgLegislation that would partially reinstate a tax break for investors in small California companies cleared the state Senate on Thursday despite complaints from some senators that it doesn't go far enough and others that it goes too far.

The tax break - a 50 percent exclusion from state income taxes on capital gains from investments in certain businesses - was enacted two decades ago, but a state appeals court last year declared it unconstitutional because it limited the benefit to California firms.

The Franchise Tax Board then declared that taxpayers who had taken advantage of the break in recent years would have to repay the tax savings, plus penalties and interest. That generated an outcry from business groups that said the move would discourage investment in job-creating business.

Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, introduced Senate Bill 209 to reinstate a modified tax break and protect those who got the tax savings from the repayment demands.

May 30, 2013
Two pro-business political consulting shops merge

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Two of the capital city's pro-business political consulting firms are shutting their doors as part of a merger to create a new public affairs shop.

The new firm, Redwood Pacific Public Affairs, joins the partners of Goddard Claussen/West and the Ginsberg McLear Group, and will focus on ballot measure campaigns, communications and political advertising.

Partners Rick Claussen, Josh Ginsberg, Aaron McLear, and Ned Wigglesworth plan to take many of their clients with them to the new firm, McLear said, including high-tech, venture capital, insurance and other business groups.

"Joining forces will allow us to enhance the services we can provide to our clients," McLear said.

The partners have experience working for anti-tax groups as well as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

PHOTO CREDIT: Aaron McLear talks with media in 2008 as press secretary to then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lezlie Sterling/The Sacramento Bee

May 30, 2013
Leticia Perez, Andy Vidak to vie in 16th Senate District runoff

LeticiaPerez.jpgThe saga of who claims Michael Rubio's old seat in California's 16th Senate District will get another chapter.

Rubio's surprise resignation in February spurred a special election in the district he represented, which has since been redrawn into oblivion. It initially appeared that Republican farmer Andy Vidak built a big enough lead in last week's 16th Senate District election to avert a runoff, but the Secretary of State's official results show Vidak dipping below the needed 50-percent-plus-one margin.

That means Vidak and his Democratic challenger, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, will square off in a July 23 general election. Vidak still bested Perez by a few percentage points -- the final tally gave him 49.8 percent to Perez's 43.9 percent -- but a field cleared of other candidates could shake things up.

A Vidak win would not deprive Senate Democrats of their two-thirds super majority, but it would reduce it to a more precarious 28-12 margin -- one more than what they need to retain their ability to do things like pass new taxes or constitutional amendments without Republican input.

PHOTO CREDIT: Leticia Perez has a reason to smile.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified Andy Vidak as Michael.

May 30, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown v. California counties

After Jerry Brown asks for $300 million from California counties, Dan says it is just one more chapter in the continuing conflict between the state and the counties.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 30, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown visits 'zero net energy' building

20130506_HA_BROWN_FIRE0100.JPGA few days after lambasting us reporter types for ignoring climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown is taking the opportunity to tout a success story. He'll be at the ribbon-cutting today for a San Leandro building that is, according to the governor's office, the first in the nation to satisfy the U.S. Department of Energy's "zero net energy" standards for a retrofitted building.

Back in 2010, a design team started revamping the structure to make it more energy efficient and to install energy-producing features that do things like integrate natural light into the building's mechanical system. Now the building, which houses training programs for electrical workers and contractors, has been recognized by the federal government. The event starts at 4:30 p.m. at the appropriately named Zero Net Energy Center, at 14600 Catalina St. in San Leandro.

VIDEO: Dan Walters delves into the latest installment in the long-running conflict between the state of California and the counties -- this time, over the governor's plan to take money from county coffers.

May 29, 2013
California Senate unanimously backs changes to CEQA

Unanimous and CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) are two words not often found in the same sentence, but Wednesday night was exception as the California Senate unanimously voted to pass the CEQA Modernization Act.

The 39-0 bipartisan vote on Senate Bill 731 was touted by the measure's author, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, after Wednesday night's session.

"We go into the Assembly with a lot of momentum," Steinberg said.

Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, spoke in the support of the bill.

"I think everybody would agree that it's not sweeping reform on one hand," Berryhill said. "But on the other hand . . . it's kind of the nature of this body that we incrementally move forward. And I think this bill does that."

Among the bill's many provisions, unsubstantiated opinion would no longer be allowed as new evidence in court and project aesthetics would not be be taken into consideration as a part of CEQA review.

The bill also seeks to speed up legal challenges and standardize state thresholds for environmental impacts.

May 29, 2013
Poll: Californians back governor's budget, school plan

RCB_20130514 BUDGET_0118.JPGWhile Democratic lawmakers push Gov. Jerry Brown for a more generous budget, clear majorities of Californians affirmed the governor's cautious approach in a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.

A solid 61 percent of California residents who were surveyed backed Brown's overall plan, including a majority of independents and just under half of Republicans.

Respondents to the poll, available at this link, also backed Brown's call to set aside a big chunk of a new surge in revenue rather than use it to restore social services. More than half, 55 percent, called for paying down the state's debt and establishing reserves, while 39 percent wanted to boost social services funding. The margin was buttressed by 75 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents who favored the more conservative option.

That puts those surveyed at odds with legislative Democrats and interest groups who are pushing the governor to alleviate cuts leveled over the last few years. The legislative push also comes amid continued reservations about California's fiscal situation and the pain it has inflicted: 61 percent of adults called the budget a "big problem," and 59 percent said local government services had been affected "a lot" by cutbacks.

May 29, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown says budget talks in 'quasi-collaborative mode'

browncounties.jpgFollowing budget hearings in which legislative Democrats urged about $2 billion more in spending on state services and programs than Gov. Jerry Brown proposed, the governor said today that he and legislative leaders remain in a "quasi-collaborative mode" on the annual spending plan.

Brown declined to say if he would veto a budget package that includes additional spending.

"We're in a exploratory, you know, quasi-collaborative mode, and I don't think edicts or pronunciamentoes will help that process," Brown told reporters after an event in Sacramento.

The Democratic governor was preparing to meet this afternoon with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. Asked how the budget negotiations would play out, Brown said, "A lot in private, and a little bit in public."

Brown's remarks followed an address to members of the California State Association of Counties. As the state moves to expand Medi-Cal under the federal healthcare overhaul, Brown has proposed shifting certain funding for indigent care from counties to the state, a move county officials oppose.

Brown's office has estimated savings of about $300 million next fiscal year, growing to $1.3 billion in the 2015-16 budget year. He joked with the county officials that if they could "share at least $300 million with the state" next year, they all could "call it a day."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks with reporters in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

May 29, 2013
California Senate wants Boy Scouts to pay taxes

BoyScouts.JPGEven as the Boy Scouts of America moves to allow gay youth to join its troops, the California Senate today passed a bill that would revoke the organization's nonprofit status because it does not permit the participation of openly-gay adults.

"They are out of line with the values of California and should be ineligible for a tax benefit paid for by all Californians," Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said in introducing his bill. "SB 323 brings our laws into line with our values."

The bill calls for revoking the tax-exempt status of youth groups that discriminate against participants on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification. While the text of the bill does not specifically mention the Boy Scouts, analyses of the legislation and discussion among senators today made clear that it targets the organization.

May 29, 2013
More gun regulations approved by California Senate

20130129_HA_STEINBERG_DE_LEON_GUNS.JPGThe California Senate today approved a package of bills that tighten the state's regulation of firearms by outlawing detachable and large capacity magazines, keeping track of people who buy ammunition and widening the category of offenders who are prohibited from owning guns for 10 years.

Senate Democrats drafted the bills in response to December's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"The package, if you look at the whole array of measures before this body today, are designed to close loopholes in existing regulations, keep the circulation of firearms and ammunition out of the hands of dangerous persons, and strengthen education on gun ownership," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said to his colleagues as he argued in favor of the legislation.

"These bills attempt to respond to those well-publicized tragedies and many more that go unpublicized."

Republicans, who hold a minority in the state Senate, voted against the bills, arguing that they would make it harder for law-abiding citizens to access weapons, while doing little to combat crime. They said mass shootings are caused by mental illness, not a lack of gun regulations.

The seven gun bills the Senate approved today are:

May 29, 2013
New survey underscores California's economic divide

TravelTripBikingSanFran.JPGThe economic bifurcation of California - prosperous coastal cities and struggling inland communities - was underscored again Wednesday by a national survey of local economic prospects by MarketWatch, an Internet business website owned by the Wall Street Journal.

Two coastal cities, San Francisco and San Jose, scored in the top 10 of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas in terms of economic growth prospects and two others, Los Angeles and San Diego, are only slightly lower.

However, six inland California communities are ranked in the bottom 10 by the survey, with one, Stockton, at No. 100.

Stockton, whose city government has filed for bankruptcy, was clobbered by the bursting of the housing bubble, the study notes. It places Modesto at No. 99, Fresno at No. 98, Riverside at No. 97, Bakersfield at 94 and Sacramento at No. 93, citing its lack of corporate infrastructure and its economic reliance on government.

Others in the bottom 10 are Scranton, Pa.; Lakeland, Fla.; McAllen, Texas; and Tucson, Ariz. Another Texas city, Austin, was rated No. 1 in potential for growth, followed by Boston, Houston, San Jose, Portland, Washington, San Francisco, Bridgeport (Connecticut), Salt Lake City and Raleigh.

PHOTO CREDIT: An escalating row of Victorian houses known as "Painted Ladies" sits on the edge of Alamo Square Park, overlooking the San Francisco skyline. Paula Froke/AP Photo

May 29, 2013
State orders department-wide review of Caltrans

baybridge.jpgThe Brown administration said today it has ordered an independent, system-wide review of Caltrans, the department at the center of controversy surrounding construction of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Brian Kelly, acting secretary of the Business, Transportation & Housing Agency, said in a prepared statement that experts from the State Smart Transportation Initiative, a group housed at University of Wisconsin, Madison, will "take a fresh look at Caltrans operations and help improve performance, communications and management."

The transportation group's members include 19 state departments of transportation, including California.

The review, which is expected to cost $270,000, is part of a reorganization of various transportation-related departments into one agency, officials said.

Kelly said members of the independent review group will interview Caltrans staff and people outside the department before providing a written review in about seven months.

Caltrans has come under scrutiny for its management of construction of a new, $6.4 billion span of the Bay Bridge. Following reports of broken and suspect bolts on the bridge, Gov. Jerry Brown said this month he does not know if it will open as scheduled on Labor Day weekend.

Brown told reporters after an event in Sacramento on Wednesday afternoon that the review has nothing to do with the Bay Bridge.

"No, it's to do with the reorganization and taking a fresh look at Caltrans as part of our government reorganization," he said.

When asked if he was concerned about the bridge, Brown said, "I'm concerned about everything."

Gareth Lacy, an agency spokesman, said the agency had been contemplating an outside review of Caltrans for months, and he said Kelly met with representatives of the review group in December.

Editor's note: This post updated at 3:35 p.m. to include comments from Brown and Lacy.

PHOTO CREDIT: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in this 2012 file photo. Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee

May 29, 2013
Salary-setting commission member alleges plot to oust him

stites.jpgJohn Stites came out swinging today, claiming that questions raised about his residency are a smokescreen to remove him from California's compensation commission - either as a political vendetta or to bolster hopes of hiking elected officials' salaries next month.

"I'm a voice for reason - they don't like that," said Stites, who was appointed to the commission in April 2009 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and has been a solid supporter of cutting officials' salaries during the budget crisis.

When asked who is leading the drive to oust him, Stites said only that the matter is being driven by Democratic political "handlers" of Commission Chairman Tom Dalzell - the "people who tell Dalzell what to do."

Stites concedes that he purchased a house in 2009 in Henderson, Nevada, and now uses it as his primary residence. But he maintains a house in Los Angeles County and spends weeks at a time there, he said.

The seven-member compensation commission, initially scheduled to meet Tuesday, now plans to meet June 19 at Sacramento City Hall to discuss raising or lowering salaries for state lawmakers and constitutional officers.

May 29, 2013
Former Assembly Speaker Hertzberg announces state Senate bid

hertzberg.jpgFormer Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg is seeking a second act in Sacramento.

After announcing Tuesday he will run for a state Senate seat next year, the Van Nuys Democrat said this morning he has the support of incumbent Sen. Alex Padilla and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is vacating the San Fernando Valley seat to run for secretary of state.

After leaving the Assembly in 2002, Hertzberg ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Los Angeles in 2005. He expressed interest in a different Senate seat last year but elected not to run against an incumbent Democrat in that race.

"I'm a guy who really believes in public service," said Hertzberg, 58. "And I just love the work."

PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Hertzberg flashes a thumbs-up sign after voting in the mayoral primary election in Los Angeles in 2005. AP Photo/ Ric Francis

May 29, 2013
California Roast: the clean jokes

blumenfield.jpgClean jokes at the California Roast? There weren't very many.

Lawmakers who gathered to roast Assembly Budget Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield on Tuesday at the Red Lion Hotel tore at him and one another with glee. But very little of what they said can be repeated here.

A few of the family-friendly highlights:

"Next year's roastee will be (GOP gubernatorial hopeful) Abel Maldonado, trying out his new slogan, 'Can I please start over?'" - Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

"That was riveting, in the Bay Bridge-Caltrans sense of the word." - Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, on Steinberg's admittedly lame roast performance.

"When in doubt, call the sergeants." - Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, with advice for Assemblyman Roger Hernandez following a judge's decision to dismiss his drunk driving charge.

"You try telling Dan Logue the Legislature can't impeach Obama." - Conway again, on the difficulty of her job.

The roast benefited the California Center for Civic Participation, which works to connect teenagers with the Capitol and involve them in public policy-making.

PHOTO CREDIT: The cover of the program for the roast of Assembly Budget Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield on Tuesday, May 28, 2013.

May 29, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: The sausage factory

The Legislature's rapid churn through a mass of bills reminds Dan of an old saying about the unpleasantness of politics.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 29, 2013
AM Alert: California counties make their case in Sacramento

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Gov. Jerry Brown has become enamored with what he likes to call "the principle of subsidiarity" -- in the context of his education plan, it boils down to "let districts do their own thing." Today he'll be visiting an organization with goals that are also locally focused. The California State Association of Counties is in town for its legislative day, which will include a 1 p.m. speech from the governor at the main ballroom of the Sheraton Grand.

Delegates will also be hearing from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Dale Hoffman-Floerki from the Department of Water Resources, who will be talking about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. California's plan for enacting the federal health care overhaul is expected to be a key topic during afternoon meetings with lawmakers -- the governor's budget plan calls for the state to take over some health care responsibilities from counties and offset the shift by taking back some $300 million in health care funding.

VIDEO: The Legislature's annual rush through hundreds of bills has Dan Walters cringing.

WATER PLAN RISING: Officials will unveil the final chapters in the governor's Delta water overhaul plan during a 1 p.m. meeting in Milpitas today. California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin will be there.

BILL CLOCK: Just a friendly reminder that the deadline to pass bills out of their houses of origin (the end of business on Friday) is now one day closer. Assuming that the last time you thought about it was yesterday morning.

FRACKING FILM: Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has been a prominent topic at the Legislature this year. Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, both of whom have authored bills to regulate the practice, will be at a screening of the documentary sequel Gasland 2 at the Crest Theater tonight. The event, which will feature a Q&A with director Josh Fox, is sponsored by organizations that include the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Californians Against Fracking. The movie starts at 6 p.m.

PHOTO CREDIT: The California state Capitol in Sacramento, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Michael Allen Jones / Sacramento Bee file photo

May 28, 2013
Labor groups launch three-pronged fight to pass 'Walmart' bill

jimmygomez.jpgCalifornia labor unions have launched a lobbying, direct mail and online advertising blitz in support of legislation to penalize large employers if wages they pay are not high enough to keep workers off Medi-Cal rolls.

"We're seeing that there's a small number of large employers that are trying to game the system, and this is something that the Legislature, I think, has a responsibility to address," said Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation.

The campaign has collected about 12,000 petition signatures in support of Assembly Bill 880, bought online advertising expected to be seen by a million people before week's end, and is bringing dozens of union members to the Capitol every day this week to lobby lawmakers, Smith said.

Political fliers also have been sent to constituents of Assemblyman Brian Nestande, a Palm Desert Republican, after he voted against the union-sponsored bill in the Assembly's Health Committee.

The campaign might end up costing six figures, Smith said.

"This is a huge issue for workers," he said of legislation supported by the campaign, Assembly Bill 880.

The labor federation and United Food and Commercial Workers are joint sponsors of AB 880, which has passed policy committees and is headed for the Assembly floor. Los Angeles Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez introduced the bill.

AB 880 would affect Walmart and various restaurant chains and janitorial firms, Smith contends. It would penalize employers of 500 people or more if their workers qualify for Medi-Cal coverage.

Existing federal law allows businesses of 50 employees or more to be penalized if their full-time workers are forced to buy health insurance from a new state exchange because they are neither covered by an employer plan nor eligible for Medi-Cal.

AB 880 would lower the threshold further and encompass part-time workers, but it would apply only to the state's largest employers. The penalty would be roughly the sum necessary to provide health insurance.

A Walmart spokeswoman referred calls about the bill to a business coalition opposing it, which released the following statement from Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association:

"AB 880 has overwhelming opposition from nearly every industry in this state. This is one of the worst bills introduced and it will have devastating impacts on jobs, our economy and the implementation of Obamacare."

Smith said that Nestande - who is eyeing a congressional run in 2014 against Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz - is the first lawmaker targeted by the union's AB 880 blitz but may not be the last.

"The goal certainly is to send a message to constituents in that district, and I think other Republicans are going to see it," Smith said. "It sends a signal that this is a serious issue and we're very serious about it."

AB 880 was opposed by Republicans and supported by Democrats in passing the Assembly Health and Appropriations committees.

Nestande, known as a relatively moderate Republican, said that he feels that labor leaders should push to amend the federal health-care law if a loophole exists - not punish California employers.

"This is the wrong way to fix it," he said. "They should go back and revisit the federal health-care law, not simply tax businesses."

PHOTO CREDIT: Freshman Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D- Los Angeles, is the author of union-sponsored Assembly Bill 880. Hector Amezcua//The Sacramento Bee

May 28, 2013
California's budget conference committee set to convene Friday

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A "conference committee" is a parliamentary device to reconcile differing versions of legislation passed by both houses of the Legislature, but in California's Capitol is rarely used except to produce a final legislative version of the state budget.

The 2013 budget conference committee is scheduled to convene on Friday - 15 days before the constitutional deadline for budget passage - but there are few major differences between the Senate's version of the 2013-14 budget and the Assembly's version.

That doesn't mean that there aren't some serious differences over the budget. However, the conflicts are not within the Legislature, but between its Democratic majorities in both houses and Gov. Jerry Brown. And they will be aired when Brown's representatatives appear before the committee.

Brown wants to take a conservative approach on estimating revenues while the Legislature's budgets embrace a projection by its budget analyst, Mac Taylor, that the state could have $3.2 billion more to spend than Brown assumes.

The legislative budgets would give most of the extra money, if it materializes, to schools, as the state education financing law dictates, and spend much of the remainder to bolster health and welfare programs.

Brown has warned the Legislature publicly that he'll resist any expansion of spending beyond his parameters.

Another point of budget conflict has to do with how the school money, whatever its size, will be distributed. Brown wants to shift more money into districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students but the Legislature has balked at Brown's plan and wants to scale back the extra spending on those students in favor or broader grants of aid to all districts.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown stands for applause with Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento before delivering his State of the State speech in January. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 28, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California prison blame game continues

Gov. Jerry Brown and his critics continue to wage "a war of words" over California's drive to reduce prison overcrowding, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 28, 2013
AM Alert: Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield gets roasted

FoodRibRoast.JPEG-46a7.JPGBefore he can flee Sacramento and settle into his new post on the Los Angeles City Council, Democratic Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield is getting a parting gift from his legislative colleagues: He's the beneficiary of this year's California Roast, hosted by the California Center for Civic Participation. That's a change from last year, when the event was canceled for lack of a target.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, is emceeing the evening's festivities. Aiming jabs and administering burns will be Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, and Democratic Assembly members Isadore Hall and Holly Mitchell.

Tickets for the annual charity event start at $225 for an individual unreserved seat. Things get started with a 6 p.m. cocktail reception, and the roasting begins a little after 8 at the Red Lion Woodlake Hotel in Sacramento.

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown and his detractors continue to toss the hot potato of blame for California's prisons, Dan Walters observes.

BILL MARATHON BEGINS: Now that we've run through the Suspense File Smackdown, we get the next big test: Friday is the deadline for passing Senate and Assembly bills out of their houses of origin. Sessions convene in both houses today at noon, followed by 9 to 5 sessions (or such is the optimistic wish of lawmakers and the reporters who cover them) on each subsequent day this week.

The Assembly has about 300 bills left to run through. On the Senate side there are approximately 300 bills awaiting judgment.

DOCUMENTARY SCREENING: It seems unlikely that senators will break away to watch, but the organization Step Up California and the office of Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, are hosting a screening of a documentary on poverty in America called "The Line." 11 a.m. in room 4203.

PHOTO CREDIT: No, not that kind of roast. Matthew Mead / Associated Press file, 2011

May 24, 2013
Condoms for adult films bill stalls in California Assembly

condoms.JPGThe Assembly Appropriations Committee moved 221 bills proposing $700 million in spending off the suspense file and onto the floor Friday in preparation for a vote next week.

The committee, which is tasked with reviewing all bills with a fiscal implication for the state, considered 365 bills in all.

Appropriations Chair Mike Gatto, D-Silver Lake, said the committee cut 80 percent of the $3.5 billion in proposed spending on the suspense file.

"I think we always have to weigh the costs and benefits of bills before us," Gatto said. "We did a good job of doing that."

Among the bills that failed to pass the committee were:

May 24, 2013
California's Senate District 16 could be headed to runoff

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It appears the announcement that Republican farmer Andy Vidak won outright former senator Michael Rubio's seat may have been premature: an updated vote count puts Vidak below the 50-percent-plus-one threshold he needed to surpass to avoid a runoff against his Democratic opponent, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez.

An updated total posted on the Secretary of State's website at 3:21 this afternoon gave Vidak 49.8 percent of the vote and Perez 43.8 percent.

The Secretary of State's office faces a May 31st deadline to certify the results of the election; so far none of the four counties that comprise parts of the former 16th Senate District (it has since been redrawn out of existence) have sent in their certified results, according to Secretary of State spokeswoman Nicole Winger.

Here are the current county-by-county vote margins:

May 24, 2013
California homeless rights bill fails in Assembly committee

ammiano.JPGAssemblyman Tom Ammiano's bill to create legal protections and support services for homeless people stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday.

Ammiano, D-San Francisco, proposed several protections for homeless people, including the right to counsel when accused of crimes like loitering. His bill also called for cities and counties to build hygiene centers, which would have cost as much as $216 million to build and another $81 million a year to maintain.

The California Chamber of Commerce included AB 5 on its annual "job killers" list, saying it imposed "costly and unreasonable mandates on employers."

In a statement, Ammiano said he was disappointed that the "Homeless Person's Bill of Rights and Fairness Act" failed, but that he understands the state's budget picture.

Ammiano said he plans to start working right away to pursue another approach to ensure homeless people are not treated as criminals.

Ammiano was more successful with AB 473, which would create a division within Alcoholic Beverages Control to regulate the production, transportation and sales of medical cannabis. The measure won passage in the committee Friday.

IIMAGE CREDIT: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, in a 2009 file photo. Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee

May 24, 2013
Federal appeals court upholds California's Medi-Cal rate cut

The full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday upheld Gov. Jerry Brown's 10 percent cut in payments to hospitals, doctors, pharmacists and other providers of medical care to the poor under the state Medi-Cal program.

The cut, adopted by Brown and the Legislature two years ago to help balance the state budget, was nullified by federal Judge Christina A. Snyder, but a three-judge appellate panel reversed the rejection. That decision was upheld Friday by the full appeals court. The cut had been suspended by court order while the appeal was under way.

The case was in federal court because of a series of suits challenging the federal government's approval of the state action. Friday's ruling upheld the right of the federal government to approve the reduction. Attorneys for the providers and health care advocacy groups said they may seek a rehearing of the case and/or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The provider rate reduction was aimed at saving the state several hundred million dollars a year and is included in Brown's latest budget, which is now undergoing scrutiny in the Legislature. It's the centerpiece of a larger conflict over reductions of "safety net" health and welfare services that pits Brown against their advocates, with Democratic legislators caught in the middle.

May 24, 2013
California Senate votes to regulate e-cigarettes

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Electronic cigarettes would be subject to the same prohibitions as regular cigarettes under a bill passed Friday by the Senate.

Perhaps you've had this experience: you're sitting in a bar and you see what appears to be someone smoking a cigarette, blatantly violating an indoor smoking ban; you get a little closer and realize that the person is in fact drawing on an e-cigarette, exhaling vapor that's distinct from the acrid smoke produced by conventional cigarettes.

That would no longer be possible under Senate Bill 648 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, that would ban e-cigarettes inside public buildings, near a playground, inside restaurants and on an airplane. It would also restrict the places where e-cigarette companies could advertise.

Corbett said she had authored the legislation in pursuit of "consistent regulation" that holds the burgeoning e-cigarette industry to the same standards as tobacco-based products, and added that studies of e-cigarette smoke had found harmful particles of metal components.

"This bill does not ban the use of e-cigarettes," Corbett said, "it just treats them the same as other cigarettes."

The measure passed on a 21-10 vote. One of the dissenting lawmakers, Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, argued that e-cigarettes are an effective way to help people quit regular cigarettes, something he asked senators to consider given the fact that "we spend tens of millions, billions of dollars trying to get people off cigarettes."

"While it may not be perfect, it's a step in the right direction," Anderson said of substituting the futuristic-looking smokes for conventional cigarettes, adding that e-cigarettes have given "a new lease on life" to constituents who have struggled to kick the habit.

PHOTO CREDIT: A pack of "blu" brand electronic cigarettes. Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 by Gerry Broome/The Associated Press.

May 24, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Lawmakers will heed budget deadline

How do you get a budget passed on time? Threatening to take away California lawmakers' salaries helps, Dan explains.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 24, 2013
AM Alert: Judgment day for California Assembly suspense bills

dailyfile.JPGWith a potentially per-diem-wrecking three day weekend ahead, a schedule shuffle has left us with an unusually busy Friday. Much of the action is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which will be sifting through more than 300 bills currently on the suspense file to decide which can advance and which are trapped in legislative limbo. (For a look at how the Senate suspense bills fared, click here.)

Other than that, we have some Assembly budget subcommittees and a meeting of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. We'll try to let you know how long lawmakers spend in the building before skedaddling back to their districts.

VIDEO: We're moving closer to crunch time on the budget, but Dan Walters expects lawmakers to finish their work on time.

GAVIN'S GRADUATION GAB: We've had a stretch of graduation ceremonies that have included commencement speeches from Gov. Jerry Brown (Berkeley) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (UC Davis law school). Today it's Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's turn. He'll be addressing students at the College of Marin starting at 6 p.m.

FUEL STANDARDS: California's landmark carbon emissions law requires, among other things, that the state establish a low carbon fuel standard that reduces by 10 percent the amount of carbon emitted by fuels sold in the state. The Air Resources Board is holding a public workshop to discuss some new proposals during a 9:30 a.m. meeting at Cal EPA on I Street.

MONSANTO MARCH: As part of an international day of protest, advocates are rallying Saturday in Sacramento against agro-giant Monsanto, whose seed patent protections were recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The demonstration starts at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's north steps and will include a march down the Capitol Mall. As of this writing, the Facebook group for the event lists about 1,800 people as attending.

PHOTO CREDIT: Does the Assembly Daily File contain a list of legislative triumphs or dashed dreams? We'll find out today. Jeremy B. White / Sacramento Bee.

May 23, 2013
Number of bills on Assembly suspense file vary for lawmakers

ammiano.JPGAssembly Democrat Tom Ammiano of San Francisco leads the pack of lawmakers with a slew of bills to be heard Friday on the suspense file in the Assembly Appropriation Committee. The Assembly has 328 bills on the suspense file, which will be taken up after the lower house meets in the morning.

On Thursday, the Senate considered 257 bills on the suspense file, moving along 185 of them.

All of the Assembly lawmakers with more than five bills on the suspense file are Democrats. The bills range from taxing firearm ammunition sales to increasing the minimum wage.

Here is the list of Assembly members with the most bills on the suspense file:

Tom Ammiano, D- San Francisco, 12

Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, 11

Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, 11

Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, 11

Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, 10

Mike Gatto, D-Silver Lake, 10

Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles, 9

Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, 9

Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, 9

Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, 8

Ken Cooley, D-Ranco Cordova, 8

Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, 7

Bob Bonta, D-Alameda, 7

Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, 7

Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, 7

Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, 7

Jose Medina, D-Riverside, 6

Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, 6

For updates from the Assembly floor or the Assembly Appropriations Committee, follow @MelodyGutierrez

IMAGE CREDIT: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, in a 2009 file photo. Hector Amezcua / The Sacramento Bee

May 23, 2013
Tax bills fail to advance out of California Senate committee

Cigarettes.JPGMeasures aimed at creating new taxes on Californians were held by the Senate Appropriations Committee today, making it extremely unlikely that taxes on cigarettes, soda, strip clubs, plastic bags or oil extraction will become law this year.

The committee, which reviews all bills with a cost implication for the state, considered 257 bills today as it went through the so-called "suspense file." Members allowed 185 of those to advance to the next stage -- a vote on the Senate floor.

All together, those bills, if enacted, would cost the state $347 million, said Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

The 72 bills that were held by the committee would have cost the state a cumulative $3.2 billion, Hedlund said, and would have created $5 billion in new taxes. Bills that are not moving forward include the following:

May 23, 2013
Jerry Brown: News media ignoring climate change

brownclimatechange.jpgMOUNTAIN VIEW - Gov. Jerry Brown complained bitterly this morning that the news media ignores climate change, in a speech attended by more than a dozen photographers and reporters.

"If you take a look at Google and type in 'global warming news,' I venture to say on most days in the news, 20 to 30 percent, if not more, of the news, will be by climate deniers or skeptics, whatever you want to call them," Brown said at a conference with climate scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center. "Everything these guys are saying either is not true, not relevant or totally distorted -- or it's not important."

The Democratic governor, who has made climate change a focus of his administration, compared interest in the event to recent news that the Bay Area will host football's Super Bowl in 2016.

"I mean, compared to getting the 50th Super Bowl, this stuff is silly," Brown said. "It's just a bunch of scientists talking. What really counts is the stuff you're going to read on the front page tomorrow. You're not going to hear about this. It's not allowed, because this is not news. News is something else. This may be true, it may be fundamentally important, but it's not news and therefore it cannot be printed in the American press."

May 23, 2013
California health exchange reveals premium costs

surgery.JPGCalifornians received the bottom line Thursday on which insurance firms will sell policies on the state's new health-care exchange this fall and how much those premiums will cost.

The announcement by Covered California, the marketplace for such policies, brings into sharper focus the impact of the nation's health-care overhaul on families and their pocketbooks.

Thirteen health plans were picked to sell plans, with none of the state's 19 designated regions having fewer than three plans to serve consumers, Covered California announced.

Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente were among the firms chosen. Their tentative selection is subject to rate review by state regulators.

California's 19 geographic regions will average five health plans from which to choose. Even in most rural areas, consumers will have two or three options - though in a small number of counties only one plan will be available, officials said.

May 23, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Loss of Rubio's seat hurts supermajority agenda

Kern County Democrat Leticia Perez has lost her bid to capture former senator Michael Rubio's Senate seat, but the real loser, Dan says, is the "Democratic left."

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 23, 2013
AM Alert: Covered California announces health insurance rates

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It would be easy to lose track of the steady metronome of new dates and benchmarks in the rollout of the federal health care law, but today is a big one: during a 9 a.m. meeting at the California Museum, officials from the state's new health insurance marketplace will unveil the plans that private insurance companies will offer to Californians once the insurance exchange, Covered California, goes live this fall.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee and Board Chair Diana Dooley will both be there. After the announcement they'll head to the California Secretary of State's office on I street for a Covered California board meeting, where they'll discuss topics that include the organization's budget.

VIDEO: Democrats will need to reconsider their ambitions for enacting a liberal agenda now that they've lost former senator Michael Rubio's seat, Dan Walters says.

BROWN COMBATS CLIMATE CHANGE: A few days after exhorting new graduates to take the lead on fighting climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown will be at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View this morning to join researchers and scientists in issuing a new call to action. The governor will speak around 10 a.m.

OH, THE SUSPENSE: The Senate Appropriations Committee is deciding the fate of a small galaxy of bills currently on the suspense file today -- more than 250 as of our last count. Most of this has already been decided by leadership, so don't look for too much drama. But it still is an important moment for seeing which bills might yet make it into law and which are to be consigned to the legislative landfill.

GARAMENDI ON DELTA: Brown's proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan continues to be a volatile topic, dividing the state into pro and con camps. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, will offer his take at a meeting in Courtland of the Delta Protection Commission tonight. The meeting starts at 6:15 p.m., at the Courtland Auditorium.

THE HISPANIC VOTE: The University of California Center Sacramento is hosting a talk today on trends in Latino voter turnout, which remains unpredictable even as the Latino electorate has grown in size and clout. Mindy Romero, the founding project director of the California Civic Engagement Project, will be speaking. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at 1130 K Street.

GAMBLING: A panel of experts discusses the implications of online gambling today. Dean Francis J. Mootz III of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law will moderate a panel that includes lobbyist Cathy Christian, attorney Howard Dickstein, attorney David Fried and Cheryl Schmit of Stand Up California.

PHOTO CREDIT: A doctor looks through a scope while operating on a patient in Rancho Cordova on Friday, May 10, 2013. By Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee.

May 22, 2013
Southern California weighs in on Jerry Brown's water plan

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Weather, terrain, culture, beach sandal-to-hiking boot ratio -- there are plenty of things to distinguish the north state from Southern California. Add to that list where congressional delegations stand on Gov. Jerry Brown's divisive plan to construct a massive new water delivery system.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan builds on a familiar dynamic: water from the rainier north goes to quench the thirst of the more heavily populated south. So it should come as no surprise that members of Congress representing the two halves of California have distinctly different reactions.

A group of Southern California lawmakers has sent a letter to Brown and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell trumpeting their "continued strong support" for the Delta plan and asking that it "remains a top priority of the Department of the Interior and the State of California."

"Our ability to increase our water supply depends on the reliability of water imported into the region," reads the letter, which is signed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Representatives Grace Napolitano (Norwalk), Henry Waxman (Los Angeles), Jim Costa (Fresno), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Los Angeles), Linda Sanchez (Lakewood), Judy Chu (Monterey Park), Brad Sherman (Sherman Oaks), Janice Hahn (San Pedro), Adam Schiff (Burbank), Tony Cardenas (Sylmar), Karen Bass (Los Angeles) and Julia Brownley (Santa Monica).

The letter adds that "California's economic and social future is tied to safe supply of reliable, high quality water" and cautions against "half measures."

Contrast that with the tone of a March missive from a Northern California delegation that called the Delta plan "flawed" and "reckless" and dismissed it as a "an expensive plumbing system that doesn't add a single drop to the state's water supply."

You can read the SoCal call to action here:

SoCal water letter


PHOTO CREDIT: Aerial photos of the region to be affected by the Delta water tunnels and intakes in the Courtland area on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. By Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee.

May 22, 2013
Disability-rights advocates flock to Capitol for day of lobbying

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Californians with disabilities and groups supporting them gathered at the Capitol today for a daylong push to make their voices heard and to lobby for restoration of past budget cuts affecting them.

To kick off the event, speakers exhorted hundreds of participants gathered near the Capitol's west steps to chant, "We're here, we're loud, we're disabled and we're proud."

"They certainly hear us, but that doesn't always mean they make the decisions we want them to make," Teresa Favuzzi, director of the California Foundation For Independent Living Centers, said of lawmakers who are weighing a revised state budget proposal unveiled by Gov. Jerry Brown this month.

The 10th annual "Disability Capitol Action Day" hoped to attract 3,000 people. Lobbying inside the Capitol was planned after the speeches and sign-waving ended. Sponsors included more than a dozen labor union, disability rights and retail groups.

A flier at the event listed some key issues affecting Californians with disabilities, including:

May 22, 2013
California teachers union backs governor's budget plan

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The California Teachers Association has chosen sides in the incipient conflict over Gov. Jerry Brown's school funding proposal, backing the governor's call to earmark additional money for disadvantaged and English language-learning students.

While emphasizing that many of the details still need to be hammered out, CTA President Dean Vogel for the most part lauded Brown's blueprint during a Wednesday morning press conference. He noted that California's student population includes big chunks of learners who are either poor enough to qualify for free or reduced price lunch or are still absorbing English. He said covering the higher cost of educating those students is a recurring problem.

Under Brown's proposal, districts with high concentrations of poor, English learning and foster students would be eligible for extra concentration grants on top of the base grants every district would receive.

"It's hard to say that you're in support of this local control funding formula the way it's presented by the governor and then say you don't like the concentration grants," Vogel said. "The concentration grant is the piece of the formula that basically says we're going to actually put our money where our mouth is. You can't say year in and year out that it costs more to educate kids in poverty without giving them the money."

The concentration grant provision has met with skepticism from Democratic lawmakers who worry that allocating the money on a district-by-district basis is too imprecise. Struggling schools or students in relatively prosperous districts could get left behind, critics argue.

"If a kid is in a school of concentrated poverty, why shouldn't that kid get the civil rights benefit that a kid in a concentrated poverty district gets?" Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg asked reporters last week.

The Democratic dissension underscores what is likely to be a key point of conflict as the Legislature takes up Brown's budget: the notion that the new school funding plan would produce winners and losers by diverting extra funds to some districts but not to others.

Local California Teachers Association chapter presidents from around the state are in Sacramento today for a lobby day.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. By Jeremy B. White/The Sacramento Bee.

May 22, 2013
Jerry Brown says Latin 'makes you smarter than everybody'

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, whose public remarks occasionally include a phrase or two in Latin, explained Wednesday two reasons he liked learning it.

"It's obscure and makes you smarter than everybody," he told about 1,000 people at a California Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Brown's statement was in English, and the audience laughed. It came as the Democratic governor discussed his week-old proposal to spend $1 billion to implement new English, math and other subject standards in California's public schools.

Brown said he was skeptical about a new curriculum but that the one he is proposing to fund will "make our schools more challenging, more interesting" and foster more critical thinking.

"I'm skeptical as hell about a new curriculum," Brown said. "I went to St. Ignatius, took four years of Latin. They told me you couldn't think if you didn't have four years of Latin. Now I can't find anybody that takes Latin."

However, Brown said, "I don't find that many people who think, either, so, maybe those priests were right."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli

May 22, 2013
Jerry Brown downplays analyst's budget forecast, pledges to 'stay the course'

brownbudgetrevise.jpgGov. Jerry Brown this morning downplayed an estimate by the nonpartisan legislative analyst that California will collect about $3.2 billion more in revenue than Brown projected in his budget revision last week, saying the difference is minor and he will hold the line on spending.

"We got the (budget) in balance, if we stay the course," Brown told about 1,000 people at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento. "And that's my intention."

The dispute over available revenue underlies an emerging conflict at the Capitol between Brown and legislative Democrats over spending on social programs, including mental health, child care and adult dental services.

Despite income tax revenue running about $4.5 billion ahead of expectations through April, Brown last week said economic growth will be slower than previously anticipated. He projected revenue next fiscal year down $1.8 billion from his January estimate.

The state's legislative analyst, Mac Taylor, predicted higher tax revenue next fiscal year based largely on an improving stock market and a more favorable economic forecast.

Like Brown, however, Taylor said revenue projections are volatile and that the state should approach spending with caution.

The Democratic governor said today that relying on uncertain revenue leads the state to "get into trouble."

"That's what happened before," Brown said. "You spend money that you think is going to be there year after year, and it isn't."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget plan at a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Renée C. Byer / Sacramento Bee

May 22, 2013
Cal State trustees name five new campus presidents

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California State University trustees named new leaders for five of the system's 23 campuses today, setting off a game of musical chairs in California's higher education landscape.

Two of the appointments are for new presidents, while three of them give permanent positions to men who had served as interim campus presidents. Their compensation packages will be made public in July, said CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp.

The new presidents are:

William A. Covino, provost and vice president of Fresno State, who becomes the new president of Cal State Los Angeles.

Joseph I. Castro, a vice chancellor at the University of California, San Francisco, who becomes the new president of Fresno State.

The presidents advancing from "interim" to "permanent" are:

Joseph F. Sheley, who leaves his post as executive vice president of Sacramento State to become permanent president of Stanislaus State.

Eduardo M. Ochoa, a former vice president at Sonoma State who served two years in the Obama administration, becomes the permanent president of CSU Monterey Bay.

Willie J. Hagan, a former CSU Fullerton administrator, becomes the permanent president of CSU Dominguez Hills.

The university touted the new presidents' long-standing connections to the CSU system, an apparent nod to earlier criticism by Gov. Jerry Brown that the university didn't do enough promoting from within.

The issue came to the fore two years ago, when trustees hired Elliot Hirshman from the University of Maryland to head San Diego State - and offered him a salary $100,000 higher than the outgoing campus president. Brown began advocating that the university should look within its own ranks for new leadership, rather than importing high-priced executives from out of state.

PHOTO CREDIT: Outgoing Fresno State University President John Welty waves good bye to graduates in the Save Mart Center Saturday, May 18, 2013 in Fresno, Calif. Gary Kazanjian/The Fresno Bee

May 22, 2013
Republican win shaves Democratic supermajority in Senate

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The Democratic supermajority in the state Senate thinned a bit Tuesday when Republican farmer Andy Vidak captured more than 50 percent of a special election vote to win in a heavily Democratic San Joaquin Valley district.

Vidak had nearly 52 percent of the votes in the low-turnout election early today, with some provisional and mail ballots yet to be counted. His opponent, Democrat Leticia Perez, a Kern County supervisor, conceded shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning.

The election was called when Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio unexpectedly resigned early this year to become an executive in Chevron Corp. It was conducted in the 16th Senate District, which no longer exists, because Rubio was elected from that district in 2010. Vidak will have to seek re-election in the new 14th Senate District, which was created by an independent redistricting commission.

Both districts have lopsided registration majorities, but the 16th SD is heavily weighted toward Fresno County while the new 14th SD is more oriented toward Kern County. Both also include counties in between those two.

"Special elections are unique voter-turnout environments and this is clearly not the last we've heard of the immensely talented Supervisor Perez," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in a statement. "I'm proud of how our Democratic Senate supermajority and our accomplished campaign team responded to this unexpected vacancy and rallied in support of Leticia's candidacy."

Vidak's victory shaves the Democrats' margin in the Senate, which had been 29-11, by one seat, but another Democratic senator, Curren Price, is due to resign to take a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. Thus chances have dimmed for the Democratic supermajority to pass a constitutional amendment or a tax increase, both of which would require two-thirds legislative votes.

Also Tuesday, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, a community organizer, easily won a special election in the 80th Assembly District in San Diego County, defeating another Democrat, and will succeed Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who left the Assembly after winning a special election for the state Senate. Gonzalez' victory does not affect the Democratic supermajority in the Assembly but it, too, is experiencing vacancies due to other looming resignations.

May 22, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California ignoring lawyer surplus

Even as law school graduates struggled to find work in a saturated market, California opened a new law school at the University of California, Irvine - and now Dan says, the consequences are surfacing.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 22, 2013
AM Alert: Gov. Jerry Brown breakfasts with CalChamber

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Some of us like to start our day off with a quiet and leisurely cup of coffee and a copy of the paper (hint, hint), but today Gov. Jerry Brown is easing into things at a breakfast with the California Chamber of Commerce. He'll be speaking at the 88th Sacramento Host Breakfast to an audience that will include Allan Zaremberg, Frederick E. "Fritz" Hitchcock and Larry Booth from CalChamber.

VIDEO: Too many lawyers walk into California. The punch line, Dan Walters says, is a lawsuit from disgruntled grads after the state built a new law school despite an overabundance of attorneys.

DISABILITIES DEMONSTRATION: Thousands of disability advocates are expected to arrive at the State Capitol today for a lobby day organized by the Disability Action Coalition. Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, will be speaking on the west steps at 11 a.m. In addition to calling for the Legislature to undo cuts to programs like in-home supportive services and Social Security disability payments, organizations under the coalition's umbrella are supporting several different bills that include some health care coverage-related legislation, a bill establishing new building standards and a bill to restore funding to a community college program for disabled students.

CTA CONFLUENCE: Chapter presidents representing branches of the California Teachers Association will be in town today to press lawmakers on topics like the incoming Common Core standards and the school funding overhaul proposed in the governor's budget. They'll be gathering for lunch in a tent near the south steps before proceeding into the building.

A TAXING MEETING: The Board of Equalization is meeting today to tackle an agenda that includes setting the tobacco tax rate and discussing a half-dozen bills dealing with California's contentious fire fee, a topic on which one Board of Equalization member has been pretty outspoken. Starting at 10 a.m. at 450 N Street.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. MILK: There are a few events today honoring the legacy of the slain gay rights champion Harvey Milk, whose birthday is today. Three openly gay California public officials will be receiving special "Harvey Milk Champions of Change" awards from the White House: California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, Redondo Beach Mayor Michael Gin and Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach. The LGBT Caucus is also hosting a reception lauding Milk at the fish pond near the east steps from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, who is 44 today.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Allan Zaremberg will be hearing from the governor today. August 10, 2010 by Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee.

May 21, 2013
$500 million cap-and-trade loan to state hits wall of opposition

BEALL.JPGGov. Jerry Brown's proposal to shift $500 million in cap-and-trade fees levied on business for greenhouse emissions into the state budget ran into bipartisan opposition Tuesday.

The two Democrats and one Republican on a Senate budget subcommittee denounced Brown's plan, which was included in a revision of his state budget last week.

The $500 million loan to the general fund is designed to partially offset the Brown administration's forecast that revenues will dip below earlier projections in the 2013-14 fiscal year by $1.8 billion, but members of the committee said it made little sense since the same budget proposes to repay some of the state's "wall of debt," which is mostly money owed to schools.

Money from the fees is supposed to pay for programs that reduce greenhouse gases, and the Legislative Analyst's Office had warned in the past that using the fees for other purposes could be illegal..

"It's a little bit of an odd exception to reducing the wall of debt,' Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, the subcommittee chairman, said. Republican Jim Nielsen of Gerber and Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara joined in the criticism. The committee was poised at one point to formally reject the loan, but decided to leave the issue open instead.

The hearing was conducted on the same day that the Air Resources Board revealed results of its third auction of carbon emission credits, raising $280 million. Business groups have complained about the program, saying it amounts to a new tax burden that will inhibit economic recovery. Environmentalists, meanwhile, have been critical of the proposed loan, saying it undercuts the purposes of the program.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose shown in the Senate chambers in March, was critical of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to shift cap-and-trade funds to the state general fund.

May 21, 2013
Sen. Ricardo Lara cancels Las Vegas fundraiser

20130311_HA_LEGISLATORS1424.JPGSacramento lobbyists and others looking forward to attending a mixed-martial-arts fight in Las Vegas with Sen. Ricardo Lara on Saturday will have to find another way to enjoy the holiday weekend.

Lara announced today that he has canceled a fundraiser that was to take place Saturday at an Ultimate Fighting Championship match in Las Vegas because of "an unfortunate case of coincidental timing."

The Bee reported today that the event was to be hosted by Station Casinos, which has been lobbying the Legislature to approve a gambling compact for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The Las Vegas-based casino company is in line to make millions if the compact is approved because it would operate North Fork's casino for seven years. The compact has cleared the Assembly and is now in the Senate.

Lara has declined interview requests, but his legislative staff released a statement today.

"Despite this event having been planned for more than a year, the unpredictability of our legislative calendar has created an unfortunate case of coincidental timing," Lara's statement says.

"To ensure there's no perception of any conflict, I felt it necessary to cancel the event, effective immediately. There has never been - and there will never be - any connection between my outside fundraising and my legislative duties as an elected official."

May 21, 2013
Census Bureau says California 36th in school spending

RP MATH HANDS UP.JPGCalifornia spent far more than any other state on K-12 education in 2011, but its per-pupil spending was $1,421 below the national average, putting it 36th in the nation, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The Capitol's ceaseless debates over school spending usually count only state and local funds, and education advocates say by that measure, after adjustment for California's high cost of living, the state ranks near the bottom vis-à-vis per-pupil spending in the other states. But the Census Bureau calculates revenue from all sources, including the federal government, and spending of all types, including capital outlay.

Gov. Jerry Brown is attempting to overhaul how state and local school funds are distributed, giving more to districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students. His latest budget revision pegs per-pupil spending in 2011-12 from state and local revenues at $7,175 and says it would rise to $9,929 by 2016-17, thanks largely to tax increases approved by voters last year.


May 21, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California playing cannabis catch-up

California is trying to reclaim the mantle of marijuana leadership it has ceded to states like Colorado and Washington, Dan says.

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May 21, 2013
AM Alert: Elections in Los Angeles, Senate District 16 and Assembly District 80

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We'll get a sense of what's next for California's perpetually evolving Legislature after the polls close on a few different races today. In addition to choosing a new mayor, the citizens of Los Angeles will decide whether Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, wins his runoff and secures a City Council seat (Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Los Angeles, secured a spot on the council back in March).

If Price prevails and swaps Sacramento for southern California, he would join the ranks of Democrats who have abdicated state Senate seats this year. Also on that list is former senator Michael Rubio, now employed by Chevron, whose former 16th district seat is the focus of a special election today that will feature five different candidates, chief among them anointed Democrat Leticia Perez and Andy Vidak, a Republican. Also up for grabs is the 80th Assembly district seat Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, represented before moving to the upper house. That race is a Democrat-on-Democrat contest between former Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda and secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Lorena Gonzalez.

VIDEO: Once a national trailblazer in cannabis policy, California is lagging behind other states as it seeks to clarify the hazy legal status of pot, Dan Walters says.

HISPANIC BUSINESS: The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce is convening its legislative conference at the Sheraton Grand today, where Senators Ricardo Lara and Hueso will speak to attendees. The evening reception is at the Park Ultra Lounge, where Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, will be offering a few words. The Chambers' legislative priority is a business development bill by Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, along with legislation dealing with enterprise zones.

COMMERCE CLAUSE: Ahead of its big breakfast tomorrow, the California Chamber of Commerce is hosting a legislative update at which President and CEO Allan Zaremberg will talk about the organization's legislative priorities, including the bills it has labeled "job killers" and "job creators." From 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Hyatt Regency.

AFTERSCHOOL ADVOCACY: Your kid might not be thrilled by the idea of spending more time at school, but the California School-Age Consortium is working to bolster after-school programs in California. Representatives of the organization will be meeting with lawmakers today toward that end, and a 10:30 a.m. rally on the west steps is expected to include Senators Mark Leno, Jean Fuller and Hannah-Beth Jackson, along with Assembly Members Richard Gordon and Joan Buchanan.

PHOTO CREDIT: The fate of the 16th district Senate seat formerly held by Michael Rubio, pictured here, will be a little clearer after today. By Felix Adamo / The Bakersfield Californian.

May 20, 2013
Bill to add class offerings at higher price passes Assembly

Community College Tuition.jpgA bill authorizing additional community college classes for students willing to pay higher fees divided Assembly Democrats on Monday as some questioned whether the proposed legislation would create a two-tiered system.

Assembly Bill 955 by Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, passed 48-12, with 18 lawmakers not voting. The bill allows California community colleges to create self-supporting programs during summer and winter intersessions where students pay nonresident tuition of around $200 a unit, versus the state-funded courses that charge $46 per unit. A third of the revenue collected from the courses would go to providing financial assistance to students eligible for fee waivers.

Williams said his bill is not a perfect plan to address reduced student access to courses necessary to transfer to four-year universities or obtain degrees or certificates. Williams said budget cuts have made it difficult to meet the educational needs of students.

"I realized this would be a very unpopular measure in some circles," Williams said. "Stakeholders ... want the perfect solution, and I understand why they do. But, holding out for the perfect solution when people are suffering is wrong. The conclusion I came to is it would be a failing on my part ethically to take the easy path."

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said the bill would segregate students based on their ability to pay higher fees. Weber noted that the bill would benefit her son, who is a community college student.

"I would never want him to believe that because mom has a little more money and this is a state-funded institution that I can afford to pay for him to have experiences faster than anyone else at the institution," Weber said. "For me, it's a fundamental issue of access and what the community college has stood for all these years in California."

Sacramento Democrats Richard Pan and Roger Dickinson did not vote on the bill.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, right, receives congratulations from Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, after his measure that will allow California community colleges to offer additional classes during shorter summer and winter sessions at a higher tuition rate, was approved by the Assembly. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)

May 20, 2013
CA Senate approves bill to regulate medical marijuana shops

Marijuana Dispensary.jpgThe California Senate passed a bill today that would shield pot shops following state guidelines for dispensing medical marijuana from prosecution for marijuana possession or sale.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the goal of his Senate Bill 439 is to keep criminals out of the medical marijuana business and clarify confusion between state and federal law. Federal authorities have gone after some dispensaries in California because while they are legal under California's Proposition 215, they are forbidden under federal law.

The Legislature can't change federal law, but Steinberg said his bill would make clear that marijuana collectives, dispensaries and other business entities may pay employees and provide benefits as long as they comply with guidelines the Attorney General wrote in 2008.

"We want to create more certainty where little or none exists now," the Sacramento Democrat said as he introduced the bill on the Senate floor today.

May 20, 2013
Former California Sen. Newton Russell dies at 85

newt.jpgNewton Russell, who represented a swath of the San Fernando Valley in the state Legislature for more than three decades, died Saturday at his Southern California home. He was 85 and succumbed, his family said, to lung cancer.

Russell, a Republican, was dubbed the "conscience of the Senate" for his frequent admonitions to colleagues about following procedural rules and understanding the details and potential consequences of legislation. He was particularly critical of expanding "peace officer" status to additional blocs of state and local employees that would qualify them for higher pension benefits.

Russell, an insurance agent by profession, was first elected to the Assembly in 1964 from a Glendale-centered district, and a decade later won a special state Senate election. He retired in 1996. The area he represented was dependably Republican during his career but after his retirement became dominated by Democratic voters and legislators.

Russell's brother, John, who preceded him in death, was best known as the star of a popular television series, "The Lawman," in the 1960s. Both brothers served in World War II, John in the Marine Corps and Newt in the Navy.

Newt Russell is survived by his widow, Diane The couple had three children and eight grandchildren. The family is planning private services. A public memorial gathering is planned, but the details have not been set.

May 20, 2013
Services scheduled for GOP consultant Stephen Kinney

bio_large_kinney.jpgServices have been scheduled for longtime Republican strategist and pollster Stephen Kinney, who died this weekend of prostate cancer at 69.

Over decades of work in California politics, Kinney's clients included GOP luminaries like former governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. He also served as Republican National Committee's regional political director for California in the 1980's, and more recently was a partner at the firm Public Opinion Strategies.

"He was a consummate professional who's been around for a long time and a wonderful man," Sacramento-based consultant Beth Miller told Capitol Alert. "He'll be missed."

The service will be held at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Redondo Beach on Tuesday, June 4 at 1 p.m. Donations in Kinney's name can be made to Sterling College in Kansas. Kinney is survived by his wife Cynthia.

PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Kinney, image courtesy of Public Opinion Strategies.

May 20, 2013
Jerry Brown urges college grads to tackle climate change

brownposing.jpgBERKELEY - Gov. Jerry Brown told college graduates in a commencement speech today that climate change is a greater threat to their future than any number of other problems, from the home mortgage crisis and student debt to growing inequality and war abroad.

"All these problems are serious and count as some kind of crisis," Brown said, before calling "even more threatening" the effect of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Democratic governor, who has made climate change a focus of his administration, warned of melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

"Of course the changes in our in our climate are not happening in political time," Brown said. "By Twitter standards, the pace is very slow but inexorable and, most troubling, soon to be irreversible."

Brown told the students, "That's the world you face. But you have the skills and the knowledge and the sense of the good. You can make change."

May 20, 2013
Jerry Brown on Bay Bridge: 'First we want to make it safe'

brownberkeley.jpgBERKELEY - Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning he does not know if the state will open the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as scheduled on Labor Day weekend, as officials respond to reports of cracked bolts on the structure.

"I'm not going to predict," Brown said of the bridge's opening. "First we want to make it safe."

Brown has previously dismissed concerns about the bridge's structural integrity. When asked about broken and suspect bolts on the $6.4 billion structure earlier this month, the Democratic governor said, "I mean, look, s--- happens."

Today Brown expressed a higher level of concern.

"I take it very seriously, and that thing's not going to open unless it's ready," he told reporters before addressing a graduation ceremony for University of California, Berkeley political science students. "And the engineers are telling me that they're doing the kind of work that will be needed for that."

Brown said a review of bridge construction documents will require analyzing records going back as far as the Gray Davis administration.

"It's a pretty big issue," Brown said. "I drive across that bridge, too."

It was only about three months ago that Brown, participating in a live television event from the bridge location, pressed a button starting a clock counting down to the new span's opening. He said that night that the state was planning to have a bicycle race and a run, among other activities, when the bridge opened to the public.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters in Berkeley on Monday, May 20, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

May 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: CA budget exposes Democratic divisions

Squabbling over social welfare spending in Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision shows the governor's biggest adversaries are his fellow Dems, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 20, 2013
AM Alert: Immigrant Day rally comes to Sacramento

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Immigrants from across California are arriving in Sacramento today to advocate for a package of immigration bills as part of an Immigrant Day organized by the California Immigrant Policy Center. Things kick off with a 10 a.m. rally on the north steps, expected to include Assembly Members Paul Fong, V. Manuel Perez, Holly Mitchell, Tom Ammiano and Rob Bonta, and Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation.

They'll be emphasizing several different bills, among them one by Ammiano that would shield immigrants from deportation and another that would establish more protections for domestic workers; a driver's license bill by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville; a bill by Bonta that would allow lawful permanent residents to serve as precinct board members; and a bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, that would create an immigrant integration task force.

VIDEO: The gap between the Gov. Jerry Brown's revised May budget and the Legislative Analyst's Office's take foreshadows conflict between the governor and Democratic lawmakers, Dan Walters says.

THE CLIMATE, IT IS A CHANGIN': California's prospects for coping with climate change are the subject of a daylong event hosted by The Nature Conservancy and the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy today. Planned speakers include Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley; Senators Hannah-Beth Jackson, Kevin de León and Ted Lieu; Nancy McFadden from the Brown administration; David Nawi, senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for California and Nevada; and CA Department of Fish and Wildlife director Chuck Bonham. At the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I street, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

BROWN IN BERKELEY: Students graduating from Berkeley today will be hearing from a prominent alum: the governor of California, who graduated in 1961 with a degree in classics, is delivering a commencement address to political science students this morning, starting at 9 a.m.

FUNDING FEUD: We've already brought you news of rumblings from advocates and Democratic lawmakers who'd like to see the governor's budget do more to restore social service funding that's been pared back over the last few years. At an 11 a.m. rally on the south steps, Assembly Members Holly Mitchell and Shirley Weber will be stumping for a resolution that calls on the governor to put money back into early care and education programs.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy belated birthday to Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who turned 63 on Sunday.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hundreds of marchers make their way up Capitol Mall during an annual Cesar Chavez march in Sacramento, during which participants rallied for immigration reform. On Saturday, April 6, 2013 by Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee.

May 17, 2013
Group urges parents to keep kids home on Harvey Milk Day

milk.JPGAn anti-gay rights group has purchased hourly radio spots in Sacramento to urge parents to keep their children home from school on Harvey Milk Day, which honors the gay rights pioneer.

Randy Thomasson
, president of the SaveCalifornia.com, said the group bought more than 100 time slots for a radio ad in Los Angeles and Sacramento. It urges parents to "protect your children from Harvey Milk indoctrination," by keeping them home from school Wednesday.

"This is harmful to children," Thomasson said. "This is not academic, it's brainwashing."

John O'Connor,
executive director of the gay rights group Equality California, said the radio spots "expose homophobia" and "encourage discrimination."

Milk served less than one year on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as the first openly gay elected official in California before he was fatally shot in 1978 along with Mayor George Moscone by colleague Dan White. Milk's life was depicted in the Academy Award-winning movie "Milk." In 2009, the state Legislature designated Milk's birthday, May 22, as a "day of special significance."

The law encourages schools to conduct "suitable commemorative exercises" to mark Milk's life.

Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, an openly gay legislator from San Francisco, called SaveCalifornia.com's efforts "pathetic."

"There will always be haters, but Milk said you must have hope," said Ammiano, who coauthored the bill creating Harvey Milk Day. "And we have hope that there are changing attitudes toward the LGBT community."

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco cuts a cake with the image of civil rights pioneer Harvey Milk during a 2009 celebration of the gay rights activist's birthday.
Hector Amezcua / The Sacramento Bee

May 17, 2013
Analyst projects $3.2 billion higher state revenues than Jerry Brown

taylor.jpgLegislative Analyst Mac Taylor projected state revenues Friday that are $3.2 billion higher than those projected by Gov. Jerry Brown this week in his revised budget proposal.

The difference translates into $400 million for the current fiscal year and $2.8 billion for the year that begins in July. The projection sets up a potential battle between Brown and fellow Democrats in the Legislature. who want to spend more than he proposes.

Both Brown and Taylor urge fiscal restraint, however, because revenue projections are largely dependent upon economic factors ranging from employment to housing prices. Both also agree that the bulk of the money will go to schools under state law.

Brown, in his new proposal, had lowered projected revenues by $1.8 billion from his January estimate.

Though tax revenue has run about $4.5 billion ahead of projections through April, Brown said much of that money is unlikely to carry over into future years.

May 17, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Realignment raising eyebrows

A new report on recidivism rates calls into question whether Gov. Jerry Brown's sweeping prison realignment plan has really had any effect, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 17, 2013
AM Alert: Analyst gives lowdown on the budget revision

taylor.jpgLegislative Analyst Mac Taylor, right, is releasing his take on Gov. Jerry Brown's revised May budget today.

The LAO questioned Brown's higher education plan and generally approved of his school funding overhaul back in February.

SENIOR LOBBY DAY: The phrase "lobby day" conjures an image of interest groups holding a rally on the steps of the Capitol, some sympathetic legislators in tow, before proceeding inside to meet with lawmakers. The California Alliance for Retired Americans is taking a different approach today, and not just because elected officials have vacated Sacramento for the weekend.

Because the organization's members are spread out throughout the state, they'll be visiting their representatives at various district offices today -- as of Thursday morning, Capitol Alert was told 112 lawmakers could be expecting visits. The seniors are pressing in particular for a bill by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, that has to do with posting traffic warnings to protect the elderly and a bill by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, that would create a program to collect expired prescription drugs.

VIDEO: The debate over prison realignment has come to feel like a circular argument, Dan Walters says.

KAMALA ON GUN VIOLENCE: Attorney General Kamala Harris will be talking about ways to reduce gun violence today, in particular the illegal gun tracking program that has an additional $24 million coming its way. Joining Harris will be Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley and former Assemblyman Mike Feuer.

GREENLINING GABFEST: The Greenlining Institute is hosting a symposium today on California's changing demographics and economic outlook. Speakers will include Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and former Obama administration adviser Van Jones. Starting at 9 a.m. at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

GO FORTH, SAYS PELOSI: Students graduating from law school at UC Davis will be welcomed into the legal world today by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who will be speaking during a 4 p.m. campus ceremony.

COVERED CALIFORNIA We've brought you news of how the federal health care rollout is proceeding with community organizations across the state receiving outreach grants. Today, constituents who want to learn more about obtaining insurance can stop into a hearing co-hosted by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and Peter Lee, head of the fledgling health insurance marketplace dubbed Covered California. Starting at 1:30 p.m. at the UC San Diego Hospital Auditorium.

PHOTO CREDIT: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, in 2011. Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee.

May 16, 2013
Assembly approves bill to limit immigration holds

ammiano.JPGThe Assembly passed a bill Thursday designed to reduce the number of deportations and immigration holds for people arrested, charged or convicted of minor crimes.

Written by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, Assembly Bill 4 would prevent local police from detaining people based on immigration status when they are arrested unless they have prior serious or violent felony convictions.

The bill, which Ammiano and supporters have dubbed the "Trust Act," is an expanded version of legislation proposed last year that was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

As the measure moves to the Senate, Ammiano is expected to offer amendments to win Brown's support.

The bill is designed to dictate how police deal with requests for information under the federal Secure Communities Program. Under current state law, police have the discretion to send information to federal officials, who automatically check the immigration status of people using fingerprints obtained upon arrest.

Ammiano said the Secure Communities Program is supposed to target serious offenders, but that hasn't been the case.

May 16, 2013
No A's for state lawmakers from UC students

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Not a single member of the California Legislature earned an A from the tough graders at the University of California Student Association, who released their first-ever legislative scorecard at the regents meeting in Sacramento Wednesday.

Not Sen. Marty Block, a former professor who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Not even Sen. Leland Yee, who holds a doctorate in psychology and takes every possible opportunity to publicly bash university management.

"As students we get a lot of grades, and we're turning the table on legislators," said Justin Chung, a grad student at UC Irvine.

The legislative scorecard is a common lobbying tool for interest groups around the Capitol. They list the bills they care about and "grade" legislators on how they voted. For UC students, important bills from last session included Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's effort to create free digital textbooks, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins' stalled bill to put polling places on every college campus and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's failed attempt to give scholarships to middle-class students by taxing out-of-state corporations.

May 16, 2013
California's health exchange to serve as voter registration hub

bowen1.jpgMillions of Californians who contact the state's new health exchange to buy insurance will be given the opportunity to register to vote, too, a move that some Republicans fear could benefit Democrats.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen made California the first state to designate its health exchange as a voter registration agency Wednesday but others are expected to follow suit, said Shannan Velayas, Bowen's spokeswoman.

"This is about making sure that all eligible Californians are offered the chance to register to vote," Velayas said Thursday.

A 1993 federal law requires states to designate their agencies and offices that provide public assistance or disability services as voter registration agencies, Velayas said.

The federal law commonly is known as "motor voter" because it ensured that applicants for drivers' licenses nationwide would be asked if they wanted to register to vote.

Public agencies in California that currently serve as voter registration outlets include the Department of Motor Vehicles and offices overseeing the state's welfare, tax collection, and in-home supportive services.

California's health-care exchange, Covered California, is creating a marketplace for millions of uninsured Californians to compare prices and buy health insurance policies this fall to take effect Jan. 1.

Many of Covered California's clients are expected to be families of low and moderate incomes. Some will be eligible for taxpayer subsidized policies and others will have incomes low enough to qualify for Medi-Cal.

May 16, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Muddled math in Gov. Brown's budget revision

Gov. Jerry Brown's revised 2013-2014 budget blueprint may pass political muster, but Dan's not so sure it passes an accounting test.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 16, 2013
AM Alert: 'Ambassadors' waddle and slither through Sacramento

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Most of the delegations that visit Sacramento to meet with lawmakers have a few bills they're advocating for, or at least a vague agenda, but it's a little hard to press your cause if you lack opposable thumbs and the capacity for abstract reasoning. Yes, a team of "animal ambassadors" from SeaWorld will be dropping in on the State Capitol today to spread some furry cheer.

The current guest list includes two penguins, two lemurs, a kangaroo, a peregrine falcon and a boa. You can come say hello on the north steps from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Assuming they're not feeling too temperamental, the penguins and the lemurs will be venturing into the building, first to meet legislators in the Senate Lounge and then to drop in on the governor's office (hopefully they don't get spooked by the bronze bear).

VIDEO: The revised budget Gov. Jerry Brown released on Tuesday balances the state's finances only if you ignore a few big prevailing costs, Dan Walters says.

CARBON AND CLIMATE COSTS: We're now a few months into California's experiment with creating a carbon market as mandated by AB 32, and today a select committee on 32 implementation and climate change is parsing the results. Witnesses expected to testify include Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, Mary Nichols of the California Air Resources Board, Alejandro Becerra of Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Dirk Forrister of the International Emissions Trading Association, Mark Fischer of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Linda Rudolph, director of public health for the city of Berkeley.

DELTA STEWARDS VOTE: Our watery week continues with a meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, an advisory agency that could vote on whether to lend its approval to the Delta conservation plan. The meeting runs all day and commences at 9 a.m., at 1250 Halyard Drive.

Meanwhile, the Department of Water Resources is holding the final of five public forums on its integrated regional water management plan. Instead of relying on a procession of speakers, the meetings are intended to be collaborative sessions where people stay for the duration. Today's workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District building.

REGENTS REMAIN: Today is the second day of the University of California Regents' meeting at the Sacramento convention center. This morning features a couple of closed-door sessions on finance and compensation, followed by a public comment period before the meeting wraps up.

DRINKING AGE DEBATE: The University of California Center Sacramento is holding a talk today on public health lessons gleaned from Canada's lower drinking age. Carlos Dobkin of the University of California at Santa Cruz will be delivering "The Mechanisms of Alcohol Control" from noon to 1:30 p.m. at 1130 K Street.

WORKERS WITH BENEFITS: The California State Employees Association is holding a fair on the south steps this morning, where vendors from around California will offer information on various member benefits.

PHOTO CREDIT: Can you imagine these little guys giving a speech on the Senate floor? We can. Image courtesy of Mike Aguilera for SeaWorld.

May 15, 2013
Jerry Brown wants college students to graduate faster. But how?

UCREGENTS.JPGGov. Jerry Brown wants to get Californians through college faster, arguing that a speedier education will open up seats for others so more students can get a degree.

But so far he's finding it's a lot easier said than done.

A day after Brown released his revised state budget that dropped a proposal to cap the number of units students can take at the cheaper in-state tuition rate - which was supposed to create incentives for them to graduate on time - the governor said he's still trying to figure out how to make higher education speedier.

"We are searching for ways to, as they say in the business world, align the incentives," Brown said to the University of California's governing board of regents, who were meeting Wednesday at the Sacramento Convention Center.

"I don't like that phrase, but we are searching for ways to push people along."

May 15, 2013
Brown, Legislature remain at odds on school finance overhaul

steinbergbrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown reiterated his resolve to remake how California finances public schools by giving districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students more money when he presented a revised state budget this week.

"I think it's fair. I think it's just," Brown declared, adding, "I think it has great moral force."

Defending his plan, Brown stressed that overall, schools will see substantial increases in state aid and 80 percent of the money would still be distributed in "base grants" on a per-pupil basis, with the remaining 20 percent going to districts based on their numbers of poor and English-learner students, and just 4 percent going into "concentration grants to districts with especially large proportions.

But Brown's school plans are continuing to take heavy flak in the Legislature as education factions outside the Capitol ramp up pressure.

May 15, 2013
Senate approves Barbara Boxer's bill for Sacramento levees

ha_boxerblack.JPGIn a rare display of bipartisanship on major legislation, the U.S. Senate passed Sen. Barbara Boxer's water resources bill Wednesday.

The $12.5 billion bill, which includes a long-sought authorization for levee improvements in Sacramento, drew overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans. The vote was 83-14.

"This type of a bill is not easy to get through. Every state has its own needs," Boxer said. "We were able to meet the needs of the entire country."

After the vote, Boxer praised the work of her staff, and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, her Republican partner on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which she chairs.

Vitter, who agrees with Boxer on little else, called her a "great partner."

"We can come together on the infrastructure side of our committee," he said.

May 15, 2013
Police arrest 13 union protesters at UC regents meeting

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By Laurel Rosenhall
lrosenhall@sacbee.com

University of California police arrested 13 people this morning who staged a noisy but orderly protest during the governing board of regents' meeting at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Hospital workers who are part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union are locked in bitter contract negotiations with UC management. UC officials say that union members are unwilling to participate in the university's plan for reduced pension benefits for new employees. AFSCME representatives say the university's proposals compromise patient safety.

Workers interrupted the meeting with chants of protest and sat on the floor with locked arms. Police gave them several warnings before beginning the arrests. After about 20 minutes, police arrested 13 people, said UC spokesman Peter King. They will be processed and released, he said, unless any have outstanding warrants.

Gov. Jerry Brown was expected to attend the regents meeting but had not arrived at the time of the arrests.

PHOTO CREDIT: Police arrest protesters at UC regents meeting in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 15, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's spot bill chicanery not healthy

The annual rite of passing a few dozen empty budget "spot bills" to be filled in later has increasingly become the way things get done in Sacramento, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 15, 2013
AM Alert: UC regents meet in Sacramento

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Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown's budget and his proposal to overhaul K-12 funding dominated the conversation in Sacramento. Today, higher education gets its turn, with the University of California Board of Regents convening at the Sacramento Convention Center for a two-day meeting. UC President Mark G. Yudof and Regents Chair Sherry Lansing will deliver opening remarks.

In January, the ascendance of online education was the big story, especially given Brown's rare appearance at a Regents meeting to push for more online instruction. Today's meeting occurs against the backdrop of a potential strike by workers at UC medical centers, which the university hopes to block via the courts.

VIDEO: It's getting closer to budget time in Sacramento, which reminds Dan Walters of one of the most insidious trends in state politics.

STUDENTS DO THE GRADING: While the UC leadership discusses its agenda, UC students will publicly grade their elected representatives. The UC Student Association has scheduled a 12:30 p.m. press conference at the convention center to release a series of report cards gauging legislators' support for higher education.

LATINO LEADERSHIP: The Latino Community Foundation will hold a conference at the Sheraton Grand today, where the group will be welcomed by Aída Álvarez, former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the first Latina woman to hold a cabinet-level position, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. An evening reception at the Mayahuel Tequila Museo, beginning at 4:30 p.m., is expected to feature speeches from Senators Mark Leno, Alex Padilla and Ben Hueso, along with Assembly members Shirley Weber, Mariko Yamada and Tom Ammiano.

SPECIAL DISTRICTS: The California Special Districts Association is in town for a two-day legislative conference. Today, attendees will hear keynote addresses from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, followed by roundtables hosted by organizations ranging from the California Public Employees' Retirement System to the California Association of Public Cemeteries.

OBAMACARE OVERTURE: Health care workers and advocates are mobilizing for a "Health Care Access 4 All" event today, where they will urge lawmakers to ensure the federal health care law goes into full effect. Speaking at the rally will be Senate Health Committee chair Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, and Assembly Health Committee chair Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, doctors both. 11 a.m. on the east lawn.

OFF-RESERVATION GAMBLING: The Senate Committee on Governmental Organization is holding a hearing on a pair of compacts between California and two Native American tribes, the Wiyot and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono. The basic upshot is that the agreements, which the Assembly ratified a couple of weeks ago, would permit the North Fork tribe to build a casino far from its existing land. 1:30 p.m. in room 4203.

TOO FEW DROPS TO DRINK: Why has California been sitting on nearly half a billion dollars earmarked for improving water delivery systems? That's the topic of a Senate Environmental Quality Committee hearing today, starting at 9:30 a.m. in room 3191.

SEA LEVELS KEEP ON RISIN': The Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy will hold a hearing today on, well, exactly what you just read. Expected to testify are Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Cat Kuhlman of the California Ocean Protection Council. Starting at 9:30 a.m. in room 444.

BUDGET BACKLASH: Gov. Jerry Brown was pretty blunt yesterday about the prospects for boosting social service funding ("Anyone who thinks there's spare change around has not read the budget"), but today advocates from the Women's Foundation of California will rally for Brown to restore funding. They'll be on the north steps from 11:45 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of California President Mark G. Yudof addresses an assembly of high-achieving students. October 1, 2010 by Randy Pench/The Sacramento Bee.

May 14, 2013
Plans to split Lake Tahoe oversight called off after compromise

RP LAKE TAHOE KAYAK.JPGEfforts to cut Lake Tahoe in half, or at least the governance of the basin surrounding California and Nevada's shared treasure, were put to rest Tuesday after an agreement was reached to continue the two-state partnership known as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Nevada passed a law in 2011 that had the Silver State withdrawing from the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact in 2015 following a longstanding dispute centered on how much development to allow and where. The two states have tussled over Nevada's calls for more development in order to boast the economy and California's efforts to preserve the natural environment.

California Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, introduced a bill earlier this year to create a contingency plan should Nevada officially end the 44-year marriage. The California bill will be amended to reflect today's agreement and Nevada will repeal their 2011 law.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a joint statement calling off the divorce: "This agreement renews our commitment to work together to do what's best for the environment and economy of the Lake Tahoe region."

The newly reached compromise, which needs approval from Congress, requires each state to consider economic impacts when adopting regional plans for the area and establishes a burden of proof for challenging a regional plan.

Both states still reserve the right to withdraw from the planning agency.

PHOTO CREDIT: A kayaker paddles along the south shore of Lake Tahoe under the watchful eye of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 14, 2013
State's health insurance exchange awards $37 million in grants

vaccinate.jpgThe UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities and the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency have a million reasons to celebrate today after the state agency overseeing a federal health-care overhaul announced 48 winners of education and outreach grants.

The two Sacramento-area groups were among 16 winners of million-dollar grants by Covered California, which is implementing federally mandated changes to health care by creating an exchange for buying health insurance. The agency cumulatively awarded 48 grants totaling $37 million.

"They're organizations that are connected with and trusted by the communities that we will serve," said Diana Dooley, the state's secretary of Health and Human Services and a member of the Covered California governing board. "They're engaged in social services, they're language assistance groups, they're food and nutrition groups - they're many kinds of groups at the local level."

The goal is to create a statewide community network to promote insurance coverage, answer questions and discuss options about the national health-care law, effective Jan. 1, that requires nearly every American to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Covered California's campaign will target 5.3 million uninsured Californians.

Thirty-seven grants target outreach to Latinos, while 32 focus on African American communities, 24 Caucasian, 20 Asian-Pacific Islander, and 11 Middle-Eastern, according to Covered California.

The largest single grant recipient was a nonprofit group at California State University Los Angeles, University Auxiliary Services, which is charged with reaching students and their families throughout the CSU system.

Other million-dollar grant recipients were the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, California Black Health Network, Community Health Councils, Infoline of San Diego County, John Wesley Community Health Institute, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Vision y Compromiso, Small Business Majority, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, the UC Regents, United Ways of California, and two units of Service Employees International Union.

Covered California's grants ranged from $250,000 to $1.25 million. Widely known groups chosen to receive grants included the Los Angeles Unified School District, $990,000; California Council of Churches, $750,000; Planned Parenthood of Mar Monte, $694,000; California NAACP, $600,000; and University of Southern California, $500,000.

The agency has reserved $6 million for additional outreach and education efforts next year.

See the full list on the jump.

May 14, 2013
VIDEO: Republicans react to 2013 California budget revision

gorellrevise.JPGRepublicans in California have taken to aligning themselves more with the fiscally cautious budget priorities of Gov. Jerry Brown than with their Democratic colleagues in the Legislature, and party leaders had some tentative praise for the governor's revised 2013-2014 budget on Tuesday morning.

Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, said it was "appropriate for the governor to have conservative revenue projections" given that a surge of surplus revenue is "probably short-lived." But he criticized Brown for moving to scale back enterprise zones, saying the proposal would undercut businesses who had "relied on this program in good faith," and called on the governor to dedicate more reserves as a cushion against a future downturn.

"To truly preserve the legacy for any sort of austerity for the governor, he needs to identify a very hard and fast, solid rainy day fund into which revenues are placed when they come in over projections so we can use those to buffer the peaks and troughs or the fits and starts of California financing and budgeting we've had over the last twenty years," Gorell said.

May 14, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget plan

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The terrain for the 2013 version of California's annual budget trek got a little clearer on Tuesday morning, with Gov. Jerry Brown releasing an updated blueprint..

Brown continued to emphasize restraint with a windfall of new money, but he detailed some new investments in schools. The revised budget would direct another $240 million towards the governor's plan to revamp education funding and send more money to disadvantaged students.

It also sets aside $1 billion to implement the new Common Core educational standards that California teachers, like their counterparts in states across the country, are beginning to implement in their curricula.

"This is a prudent budget," Brown said. "It's one that responds to our educational and our health challenges, but it's one that unlike those of the past will be very prudent, because we're sailing into some rather uncertain times, as we always have."

You can watch a piece of Brown's press conference below:

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks about his revised budget proposal in the Capitol. Jeremy B. White/The Sacramento Bee.

May 14, 2013
Rapid Response Roundup: Jerry Brown's May budget proposal

brownCaliforniaBudget.jpgCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown detailed his revised budget proposal this morning. Read The Bee's coverage of the plan here, then see what legislators, advocates and others are saying about the proposal in this rapid response roundup.

May 14, 2013
Jerry Brown lowers revenue estimates in budget revision

brownrevise.JPGThis post is being updated throughout the morning as details emerge.

Despite income tax revenue running about $4.5 billion ahead of expectations through April, Gov. Jerry Brown included relatively low revenue figures in the revised budget he released this morning, likely dampening expectations for greater program spending.

The budget Brown proposed will assume revenue in the current fiscal year only $2.8 billion ahead of expectations, with revenue next fiscal year down $1.8 billion from Brown's January estimate.

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's budget revision, speculation mounted that Brown could take advantage of $4.5 billion that rolled into state coffers unexpectedly this spring. But the governor took a more cautious approach, projecting that economic growth will be slower than previously thought because of federal spending cuts and a higher payroll tax on workers.

"Four percent growth has now become 2 percent," Brown said.

The governor also assumes that the spring revenue spike was partly due to wealthy taxpayers taking more income in 2012 in anticipation of federal tax changes. That means the state potentially would receive lower tax revenues in 2013-14 than Brown previously expected.

"We have climbed out of a hole with a Prop 30 tax," Brown said, referring to his initiative last year that hiked income taxes on the wealthy and sales taxes. "That's good. But this is not the time to break out the champagne."

The proposed budget includes a $1.1 billion reserve. It increases funding for Brown's effort to overhaul California's educational finance system by $240 million. In his education proposal, Brown also proposes $1 billion to implement English, math and other subject guidelines known as the Common Core Standards.

Brown continued to ask lawmakers to approve his new funding formula, which directs more money to K-12 districts with large numbers of impoverished students and English learners. He was skeptical of critics who consider his plan flawed because wealthier suburban districts stand to receive less money than they would otherwise.

"Ask somebody in Beverly Hills or Palo Alto or Piedmont, 'Would you like to move to Compton? Would you like to move to Watts?' And if they say, 'Yeah, let's do it because I want to get the extra money,' then I'll believe it," Brown said.

The governor has dropped his January proposal to cap the number of state-subsidized classes that public university students can take. He had pitched the idea as a way to make the University of California and California State University systems more efficient.

Brown proposed a statewide approach - not a county-by-county effort - to implement California's expansion of Medi-Cal under the federal health care overhaul.

The budget includes $500 million in additional Medi-Cal spending, and more funding for California's prison realignment, in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders to counties.

Brown seemed resistant Tuesday to Democratic proposals to raise additional taxes. He also dismissed calls to increase spending beyond education, mocking the Capitol as "a big spending machine."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown unveils the revision of his budget proposal. The Sacramento Bee/Melody Gutierrez

May 14, 2013
Daughter-in-law of former Sen. Don Perata drowns in pool

PerataInvestigation.jpgThe daughter-in-law of former Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata died over the weekend.

Catherine Perata, who was married to the son of the Oakland Democrat, drowned in a pool at the family's Napa home Saturday morning. She was 38.

The Associated Press reports:

Napa Police Capt. Jeff Troendly says 38-year-old Catherine Perata was found unresponsive Saturday morning by her husband in their backyard pool. ...

Troendly says while foul play is not suspected, investigators are waiting for a toxicology report before concluding the death investigation.

Don Perata served more than a decade in the Legislature, including four years as pro tem, before leaving office due to term limits in 2008. He lost a 2010 bid to become mayor of Oakland.

Read more from the Associated Press at SacBee.com.

PHOTO CREDIT: Don Perata, shown in 2008. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli


May 14, 2013
Jerry Brown to propose $1 billion for common core education standards

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown today will propose spending $1 billion to implement English, math and other educational standards in California's public schools, part of a revised budget plan he is scheduled to release this morning, a source said.

The revised budget proposal comes with state income tax revenue running about $4.5 billion ahead of expectations through April. Nearly all of the additional revenue could be required to go to schools and community colleges under Proposition 98, California's school-funding guarantee.

Brown is seeking a major overhaul of education funding, seeking to give local school districts greater flexibility in how they spend state money while directing more money to school districts with high proportions of poor students and English learners.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and other Democratic lawmakers have argued more money should be allocated to all districts on a per-pupil basis.

The $1 billion Brown will propose will be to implement the so-called Common Core State Standards adopted by California and more than 40 other states since 2010.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Jan. 10, 2013. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee

May 14, 2013
Jerry Brown pushes for 'smooth and rapid' path to citizenship

micsjerrybrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown called Monday for a "smooth and rapid" path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, telling U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a letter that he is working to find state money that may be used to implement potential changes to the nation's immigration system, including employment requirements and assistance learning English.

"In order to avoid dire consequences for our state, comprehensive immigration reform must occur this year and the resulting path to citizenship must be smooth and rapid," Brown said in a letter to Feinstein ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on a bipartisan immigration bill.

The Democratic governor said California and the nation "are choosing to accept the undocumented workers who have entered our country illegally because neither industry nor the workers themselves were ever given any viable option to fill our labor demands legally."

Brown said those workers should be afforded an expeditious path to citizenship, not "held in a state of purgatory for ten years."

May 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Serious tax reform still avoided in California

The Legislature continues to content itself with tinkering around the edges of tax policy rather than tackle a broad overhaul, something Dan says could come back to haunt California.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 14, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown's revised California budget plan arrives

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At last, the fiscal moment we've all been waiting for. We'll get a better sense of where things stand on Gov. Jerry Brown's 2013-2014 budget after he releases the updated version during a 10 a.m. conference at the state Capitol.

The governor has been telegraphing restraint in the face of projections of a multi-billion dollar surplus, so it should be interesting to see how signs that California is back on fiscal terra firma manifest themselves in his new budget plan. Look for a heavy emphasis on Brown's much-discussed plan to overhaul education spending, which should also come into clearer focus with today's release.

VIDEO: Rather than do some serious work to clean up the tangled thicket of California's tax code, lawmakers are just trimming the edges, and Dan Walters says they will come to regret it.

BAY BRIDGE BACKLASH: The governor's take notwithstanding, lawmakers are sufficiently concerned about the structural issues and delays plaguing the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to have called a hearing. The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will be hearing more from state auditor Elaine Howle about a recent report faulting the California Department of Transportation for testing lapses, and several different officials from Caltrans, including director Malcolm Dougherty, will also be testifying. Starting at 1:30 p.m. in room 4203.

SPECIAL ELECTION: It may get largely drowned out by the budget brouhaha, but today also features a special election to find a successor for former state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod's now-vacant seat in the 32nd district. A March primary winnowed the race to today's contest between Ontario mayor Paul Leon, a Republican, and Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona.

SEEKING SERVICES: A new budget release means a new opportunity for advocates to press their case, and today the Health and Human Services Network of California will be rallying across the state for restored social services funding. The Sacramento installment will feature a press conference in room 4202 after the governor has finished speaking.

NURSING NUMBERS: Speaking of health care-related demonstrations, the California Nurses Association is holding a 12:30 p.m. press conference on the south steps to discuss data on the gap between the costs hospitals incur and the fees they charge. CNA representatives will be joined by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, both of whom are authoring bills that the nurses are promoting: Wieckowski's would tighten the conditions hospitals would need to satisfy to claim nonprofit status and the associated tax benefits, while Yee's would have hospitals adopt violence protection plans.

COVERED COMMUNITIES: Covered California, the health insurance marketplace California has been busy setting up per the new federal health care law, is announcing 48 community partners who will help with the monumental task of getting Californians to participate. Board member Robert Ross and Executive Director Peter Lee are making the announcement today in Los Angeles.

WOMEN'S WORKPLACE WOES: Members of the Women's Caucus will be discussing workplace injuries common among women at a breakfast put on by the California Applicants' Attorneys Association. Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, will be speaking, and Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Assembly members Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, are expected to attend. Starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Eureka room.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, who is 51 today.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown explains his initial 2013-2014 budget proposal during a press conference at the California Capitol in Sacramento. Thursday, January 10, 2013. Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee.

May 13, 2013
Pérez makes point with biography question asking marital status

perez.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez said he feels it's important that he not ignore a common question included on biographies for state legislators that asks about marital status. In new handbook directories for the California State Assembly, Pérez said he answered the question so that it reflects the unequal marriage rights afforded to gay and lesbian people.

Under marital status, Pérez wrote "constitutionally prohibited."

"If it is important enough to have driven a ballot measure, it's important enough to be reflected in the record of who serves in this house," said Pérez, the Assembly's first openly gay speaker.

Two Assembly members, Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, included their same-sex spouses in their biographies. Both were married in California in 2008, before passage of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages.

Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, included her partner's name.

"The reality is that I, as well as a handful of other people in this body and a lot of other people in this state, are denied the constitution rights afforded to the vast majority of people," Pérez said.

The U.S,.Supreme Court took up a case challenging Proposition 8 and could make a ruling next month. In February, Pérez joined 22 legal scholars from across the nation to file an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles speaks at the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 in Sacramento. Hector Amezcua / The Sacramento Bee

May 13, 2013
Bill to hike taxes on commercial property stalls in Assembly

BB AMMIANO 027.jpgA controversial bill that would indirectly increase local taxes on commercial property was stalled - perhaps permanently - Monday in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 188, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, had support from labor unions and liberal groups, which said it would close a loophole that has deprived schools and local governments of much-needed revenue, but was opposed by business and the California Chamber of Commerce labeled it as a "job killer."

Revenue and Taxation Committee chairman Raul Bocanegra announced that the bill would be "on hold" as he went through a list of significant tax bills and declared which would be allowed to proceed to floor votes this year.

AB 188 would need a two-thirds legislative vote and Gov. Jerry Brown's signature to be enacted because it is a tax increase, and has been considered a test of the Democrats' newly minted supermajorities in both legislative houses that would, on paper, allow them to generate two-thirds votes without Republicans.

May 13, 2013
VIDEO: Steinberg calls Seattle group's new Kings bid 'desperate'

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg weighed in on the latest developments in the ongoing fight over the Sacramento Kings Monday, saying the hiked bid offered by a group of investors who want to bring the team to Seattle "looks desperate."

Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen.and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer have increased the price they've agreed to pay the Maloof family for a stake in the team to $406 million since a National Basketball Association committee recommended against approving a move. The NBA Board of Governors meets later this week to consider the team's future.

RELATED:

Crucial week ahead for Sacramento group's offer to buy Kings

May 13, 2013
California ranks second in boating accidents, fatalities

RB Hydroplane 2.JPGCalifornia is the nation's most populous state but ranks fourth in the number of boats plying oceanic and inland waterways.

Conversely, the state is second behind only Florida when it comes to the number of boating accidents and boating fatalities, according to a new data report from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Florida has the nation's highest number of boats, almost a million, followed closely by Minnesota, Michigan and California. Florida was also No. 1 in boating accidents in 2012 with 662, according to the Coast Guard, in fatalities with 50 and in injuries with 398.

However, California was second in accidents (365), in fatalities (49) and in injuries (249). The state has been trending downward in boating accidents, the report's five-year spreadsheet also showed, but the number of fatalities has remained fairly constant, ranging from a low of 45 in 2008 to 52 in 2011.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Peters & May hydroplane race boat driven by JW Myers at Granite State Beach in Folsom on Thursday, September 8, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

May 13, 2013
California lags nation in reduction of carbon dioxide emissions

EPA_AIR_QUALITY.jpgAlthough California fancies itself a leader in the reduction of greenhouse gases, the state has the nation's second highest level of energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide and has lagged the rest of the nation in reducing those emissions, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Under Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, California has adopted a mandate that utilities shift to at least 33 percent of its electrical power coming from non-emitting renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal by 2020. It's also adopted a "cap-and-trade" system to compel sources of carbon emissions to reduce their impact.

The EIA report, however, says that California's 369.8 million metric tons of energy-related carbon emissions in 2010 made it second only to Texas' 652.6 million metric tons. But between 2000 and 2010, while the nation's emissions were dropping by 4.2 percent, Texas' fell by 8.3 percent and California's by just 3 percent.

On a per-capita basis, California's energy carbon output dropped from 11.2 metric tons to 9.9 tons - one of the nation's lowest levels and barely half the national average of 18.2 tons. However, the state's per capita decline during that period, 11.2 percent, was lower than the national average decline of 12.6 percent. Texas' per capita decline during the decade was 23.8 percent.

PHOTO CREDIT: Smog covers downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 12, 2008. Monica Almeida/The New York Times

May 13, 2013
Environmental group's cable TV ad hits Jerry Brown on logging

clearcutad.pngA Northern California environmental group has begun airing advertisements on cable TV stations criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown for allowing clear-cut logging on thousands of acres of forest land.

Marily Woodhouse, co-founder of the Manton-based Battle Creek Alliance, said today her organization paid $3,000 to air spots this month on CNN, MSNBC and other cable networks in Sacramento.

The tiny ad buy is part of an ongoing conflict between environmentalists and business interests over the state's management of logging on private land. One ad features a photograph of the Democratic governor in a superimposed pair of sunglasses.

"Where's the real Gov. Jerry Brown?" a narrator says. "We don't know where this Jerry Brown impostor came from, but will the real one who values California's inhabitants and natural resources over the wealthy, special interest, short term profiteers please come back?"

The criticism is highly general, and Battle Creek Alliance neither objects to nor advocates for any specific policy in the ad. Woodhouse said she decided to air it because on logging issues, generally, "we've worked on this for a long time but really gotten nowhere."

Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency, said in an email that California has "the strictest timber harvest regulations in the country" and that the administration "remains committed to protecting and preserving our rich natural resources, while supporting important economic activities."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:10 p.m. to include Stapler's response.

PHOTO CREDIT: A screen shot of one of the ads.

May 13, 2013
Senate report details oversight issues with California drug counselors

pillbottles.jpgLax oversight has allowed sex offenders, other convicted criminals and individuals continuing to struggle with substance abuse to become certified drug and alcohol counselors in California, a state Senate report released today has found.

The report, by the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, details lapses with the reporting and oversight process for the state's 36,000 registered or certified substance abuse counselors, as well as cases of counselors who were able to continue to work in the field even if their original certification was revoked or they failed to complete required training requirements.

The investigation identified at least 23 registered sex offenders certified as drug and alcohol counselors, a finding the report calls "the most dramatic example of the pitfalls of the state choosing to ignore criminal histories." Two were convicted of sex offenses while they were approved to work as counselors.

Unlike most large states, California does not require criminal or other background checks for drug and alcohol counselors. The agency that regulates the counselors, the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, also does not track arrests or convictions that occur after certification, leaving it up to the employers and private certification agencies, including several based in Sacramento, to discover and report issues with counselors.

That arrangement had, in some cases, allowed individuals with criminal backgrounds or ongoing substance abuse issues to remain eligible to treat patients seeking help with their addictions.

May 13, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's lawyer glut spurs legislation

Dan notes a bill before the California Legislature that would make more work for the glut of lawyers passing the state bar exam.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 13, 2013
AM Alert: Sun, sun, sun, here it comes (to the Capitol)

Beatles.JPGSen. Kevin de León and Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, both Los Angeles Democrats, kick off the week by greeting a bunch of Los Angeles first-graders coming to the Capitol to promote solar power. Clean energy and schools are at the heart of a fight between de León and Gov. Jerry Brown over how to allocate half the roughly $1 billion expected from the tax code changes enacted by November's Proposition 39. Brown wants the money to go to schools and community colleges based on enrollment. De León says preference should be given to economically disadvantaged schools. It's probably just a coincidence that de León will be under the rotunda at 9:30 a.m. with dozens of children from Echo Park singing the Beatles' famous tune, "Here Comes the Sun."

APPROPS: Afterward, de León walks upstairs to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is scheduled to slog through nearly 100 bills today. Among those on the agenda: Senate Bill 700, by Sen. Lois Wolk, D- Davis, which would create a 5-cent tax on paper and plastic bags and direct the money toward local parks; and Senate Bills 491 and 493 by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, which would expand the kinds of services nurse practitioners and pharmacists may offer - a huge area of conflict with the doctor lobby.

IMMIGRATION HOLDS: The lower house gavels down at noon, with plans to take up several bills including an immigration proposal by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. Assembly Bill 4 is the San Francisco Democrat's second attempt to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants who are deported for minor infractions. The bill prohibits local law enforcement agencies from holding people they arrest for federal immigration authorities unless they've been convicted of a serious or violent felony. Last year Brown vetoed a similar measure, Assembly Bill 1081.

MOTHER'S MILK: We're not talking about money this time. Assemblyman Richard Pan and the Breastfeeding Coalition of Greater Sacramento will be honoring three companies today on the Capitol's West steps for being "Mother-Baby Friendly Workplaces." Employees of Golden 1 Credit Union, Aerojet and VSP Vision Care nominated their companies for providing comfortable spaces for them to pump breast milk at work after their babies were born.

PHOTO CREDIT: A press release from Environment California says students from Betty Plasencia Elementary School in Los Angeles will sing a Beatles tune inside the Capitol today. This 1967 photo by UPI Tony Gale / Pictorial Press London shows The Beatles: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison.

May 10, 2013
Abel Maldonado accuses Jerry Brown and 'buddies' of 'trying to make it about race'

maldonadopresser.jpgOne day after a civil rights leader accused him of using racially charged politics in his criticism of California's prison realignment, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado said this afternoon that Gov. Jerry Brown and "his buddies are trying to make it about race."

Maldonado, who is preparing to challenge Brown in next year's gubernatorial election, told The Bee he will "probably" stop using the image of a felon to which a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People objected, but that he will continue to cite the case.

Maldonado came under criticism after a news conference Wednesday at which he highlighted a photograph of an offender who was not released from prison under realignment -- the program Maldonado organized the event to criticize. Maldonado announced he will file a ballot initiative to repeal the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders from the prison and parole system to counties.

May 10, 2013
Four Democrats to seek Assembly seat of termed-out Yamada

Krovoza.JPGDemocrats are lining up for the race in Assembly District 4 next year, when termed-out Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada leaves office.

Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza, right, announced Friday morning that he intends to run in the Democrat-dominated district, joining Lake County Supervisor Anthony Farrington and Napa County Planning Commissioner Matt Pope in the race. Davis City Councilman Dan Wolk, son of Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, confirmed Friday that he will be announcing his candidacy in the coming weeks.

Assembly District 4 includes Napa and Lake Counties and parts of Sonoma, Solano, Colusa and Yolo counties. Sixty percent of voters in the newly redrawn district reside in Napa and Yolo counties. Women Democrats from Davis, including Lois Wolk, have represented Davis in the Assembly for two decades.

May 10, 2013
Former Jerry Brown official opens new business venture

ashford.jpgElizabeth Ashford, who left Gov. Jerry Brown's administration in April, has opened her own public affairs and communications consultancy, and to celebrate she hosted a party on Thursday at the K Bar in Sacramento.

Ashford, 38, was Brown's chief deputy press secretary and worked previously in former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration and as a spokeswoman for BP.

On her business website, EAshford Public Affairs & Communications, Ashford says she "helps businesses, organizations and individuals make sound policy and political decisions, and talk about them effectively."

Ashford declined to identify her clients, saying only that they are involved in climate change and transportation.

That she has business at all, she said, is "very encouraging."

"The alternative," Ashford said, "is quite grim."

PHOTO CREDIT: Elizabeth Ashford talks with associates at the K Bar in Sacramento on Thursday, May 9, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

May 10, 2013
NAACP state president accuses Abel Maldonado of using 'racial politics'

maldonadopresser.jpgAbel Maldonado's campaign for governor has stumbled even before the former lieutenant governor officially declares his candidacy.

After an adviser acknowledged this week that a felon Maldonado highlighted at a news conference Wednesday was not released under California's historic prison realignment - the program Maldonado called the news conference to criticize - the president of a civil rights group has accused Maldonado of engaging in racial politics.

Alice Huffman, president of the California state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a letter to Maldonado on Thursday that his use of Jerome Anthony Rogers' photograph at his event in Sacramento appears to be a "despicable attempt to drag the Willie Horton-style racial politics of the past into California."

May 10, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Expose California politics to sunlight

A revelation about secretive practices at California's soon-to-be-launched health-care marketplace is the latest piece of evidence suggesting that California politics needs to be exposed to sunlight, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 10, 2013
AM Alert: California water politics take center stage

US_NEWS_ENV-DELTA_2_SA.jpgInterest in Delta water issues continues to rise as details of Gov. Jerry Brown's ambitious water project pour out. Part of what makes the governor's proposal so complex is that it doesn't just concern water delivery -- while the tunnels that would send water south are a big part of it, the blueprint also calls for restoring and preserving the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Researchers and water officials will be discussing some of the hurdles to those goals during a half-day Public Policy Institute of California event today. Held at the Sheraton Grand on J Street, the "Prescriptions for a Healthier Delta Ecosystem" event will feature Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Peter Goodwin, lead scientist for the Delta Science Program; Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources; Phil Isenberg, chair of the Delta Stewardship Council; Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Felicia Marcus of the State Water Resources Control Board; and Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.

VIDEO: The fog of secrecy enveloping California lawmaking has thickened, and Dan Walters says something needs to be done about it.

May 9, 2013
Man arrested outside Jerry Brown's loft says he was addled and sleep deprived

micsjerrybrown.jpgJamal Maurice Johnson, the man Gov. Jerry Brown held out last month as an example of how crime has affected him personally, sat alone in a Sacramento courtroom Thursday, wearing dress slacks and a sweater.

Brown mentioned in a speech to crime victims in April that a man had been arrested "trying to break in" to the Sacramento building where he rents a loft.

"Luckily, I wasn't home," Brown said, and within hours Johnson hit the news.

Johnson, 26, was scheduled Thursday to be arraigned on misdemeanor charges of unlawful entry and prowling, but prosecutors said they needed more time to review the file.

Leaving court, Johnson said he was addled and sleep deprived and had been "running for three days" when police arrested him.

"I thought people were chasing me," Johnson said. "I was hearing things that weren't there."

Johnson, who works as a restaurant server, said he lives in Los Gatos and had no idea Brown lived in the building where he was arrested. He said he was neither drunk nor high but acting erratically, a state-of-mind he said he could illustrate with a story about how he managed to get up onto the building.

Johnson was about to tell that story when a public defender introduced herself to him and advised him not to talk publicly about the case.

The Sacramento Police Department this month denied a public records request for the agency's report on the incident, saying it is a confidential record. Johnson is scheduled to return to court in June.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

May 9, 2013
Michael Eggman, Pete Aguilar get support from national Dems

congress.jpgTwo California congressional hopefuls are among the beneficiaries of a new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee program aimed at nurturing promising candidates for 2014.

The DCCC effort, called Jumpstart, has identified an initial batch of eight candidates to support with financial help and strategic advice, including Californians Michael Eggman and Pete Aguilar.

Beekeeper and farmer Eggman, who's the brother of Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Eggman of Stockton, announced recently that he will challenge Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, in the 10th Congressional District.

Aguilar, now mayor of Redlands, is taking another shot at the 31st Congressional District seat held by Republican Rep. Gary Miller of Diamond Bar.

So far, Eggman doesn't face any opposition from other Democrats -- astronaut Jose Hernandez, who lost to Denham last year, has not yet declared his intentions. But Aguilar has already come under attack from former Rep. Joe Baca, who lost his congressional seat last fall to fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod. She's backing Aguilar in his bid for Miller's seat.

Jumpstart is distinct from a similar Democratic initiative, Red to Blue, that seeks to bolster the campaigns of key Democratic candidates. Six of the seven California Democrats backed by Red to Blue last year won their campaigns.

"(DCCC) Chairman (Steve) Israel began making calls to prospective candidates on Election Night 2012, and has assembled an aggressive Recruitment Committee chaired by Congresswoman Donna Edwards," says a memo announcing the program. You can take a look at the memo here:

First Jumpstart Candidates for 2014

PHOTO CREDIT: Californians Michael Eggman and Pete Aguilar are among a crop of DCCC-supported candidates trying to make it to Congress, whose dome is pictured here on Dec. 28, 2012. Susan Walsh / Associated Press

May 9, 2013
CA Assembly OKs bills to help transgender people

ha_lgbt_pride_month39948.JPGBy Melody Gutierrez
mgutierrez@sacbee.com

Two bills aimed at eliminating obstacles transgender people face cleared the Assembly along party lines on Thursday, including one that will allow students to select the bathroom and sports team that correlates with their gender identity.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said his Assembly Bill 1266 will force school districts to be in compliance with current laws that prohibit discrimination against transgender students.

May 9, 2013
CA Senate OKs hike in penalties for 'swatting' hoax 911 calls

thebeebs.jpgThe California Senate cracked down Thursday on a hoax trend that has targeted Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest and even a state legislator, approving legislation that would hike penalties for making false 911 calls.

Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu introduced Senate Bill 333 in response to a rash of "swatting" prank calls that sent police to the homes of Hollywood stars. The Torrance Democrat experienced the hoax first hand last month, when police responded to a false 911 call reporting that he had shot his wife at their home.

The bill, sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, would make the caller behind a false 911 report liable for the cost of the emergency response. While "swatting" is already a crime punishable by up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine -- with longer and higher penalties for calls that knowingly send emergency responders into harm's way -- supporters say the extra liability is needed because of the staff and financial burden the practice has put on local police.

"To add a further unnecessary and nonsensical strain on limited public safety resources has really created a public safety hazard," Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said during a floor debate on the proposal.

The bill passed the Senate on Thursday with bipartisan support, 33-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

PHOTO CREDIT: Justin Bieber, shown here in this 2012 file photo, is one of several high-profile celebrities to be targeted by "swatting" hoax 911 calls. Evan Agostini/Associated Press.

May 9, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Will Prop. 30 burnout kill cigarette tax plan?

California's low smoking rates make a proposed cigarette tax seem plausible, but that could run up against wariness about again raising taxes in the wake of Proposition 30.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 9, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers honor moms, domestic workers

MAJ_SHOPPER2.JPGDo you have Mother's Day plans yet? (Capitol Alert has already mailed a card). Well, the California Domestic Workers Coalition does: It's hosting a Mother's Day breakfast this morning to honor domestic workers and to unveil a new report on the status of nannies, caregivers and housekeepers in the state. The event is co-sponsored by the Latino Legislative Caucus and the Legislative Women's Caucus.

The coalition has also sponsored Assembly Bill 241, carried by San Francisco Democrat Tom Ammiano, that would enshrine new labor protections for home workers. But organizers say that the breakfast isn't explicitly related to or promoting that bill. Find the event in the Capitol's room 125, following session.

VIDEO: Dan Walters wonders what's stronger: health-conscious California's aversion to smoking or legislative Democrats' desire to avoid raising taxes so soon after Proposition 30.

ANNYEONG, GOV. BROWN: Gov. Jerry Brown is racking up the facetime with Asian leaders. First came his business-boosting China trip. Today he is meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a noon luncheon in Los Angeles.

May 8, 2013
VIDEO: Abel Maldonado touts initiative to repeal prison realignment

maldonado.jpgAbel Maldonado, who is preparing to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in next year's gubernatorial race, said today he will file a ballot initiative to repeal California's prison realignment, an issue Republicans consider a potential liability for Brown.

The former lieutenant governor provided few details about the initiative, but the circumstances of his announcement suggested Maldonado will make the issue a centerpiece of his campaign.

"I'm here to address an issue that threatens the lives of every Californian, an issue that is the most important issue in California in a generation," Maldonado said. "It is an issue that affects the quality of life and the safety of every citizen of my home state of California."

Brown has faced criticism for months from Republican lawmakers - and some Democrats - seeking to modify or repeal elements of realignment, the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders from the prison and parole system to counties. As Maldonado did at his event today, they highlight crimes committed by offenders they say were released under realignment.

The Democratic governor has said he is considering "some ideas" about potential changes to the law, but his administration is also under a court order to reduce California's prison population. Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said realignment has reduced the state's prison population while bringing "a more rational criminal justice system" to California.

The initiative Maldonado proposed would appear on the same ballot as the gubernatorial runoff election in November 2014, and his news conference had all the hallmarks of a campaign event. Maldonado addressed reporters from the top floor of a parking garage across the street from the Capitol. The location provided the Capitol dome as a backdrop, and Maldonado's strategist, John Weaver, was on hand.

Maldonado said his motivations are not political.

"This press conference is not about the governor's race," he said. "I said a couple of weeks ago that I was going to raise some resources to figure out if I was going to be a candidate for governor. I would venture to say that if you look at what I've been doing, there's a pretty good shot that I'm going to be running for governor. But I'm here to tell you today that this press conference is not about Abel Maldonado running for governor."

May 8, 2013
California Capitol fight between charities done for the year

Goodwillindustries.jpegAn ongoing political fight between Goodwill Industries and for-profit companies that accept used clothing in collection boxes has been put on hold in the California Capitol.

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, decided this week to pull her Senate Bill 450, ahead of a scheduled hearing before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. The move means the bill, which was aimed at making it easier for property owners to remove unauthorized collection boxes, is likely dead until next year.

A Galgiani spokesman said the senator needed more time to work out amendments to the bill. She plans to push an updated version in the second year of the 2013-2014 legislative session.

"I think we're just trying to find a way to alleviate some concerns from the opposition, obviously take into account what they are saying," aide Thomas Lawson said.

Galgiani and the bill's backers argued that the change in law was needed to protect property owners in light of what they called a surge in unattended donation collection boxes left at commercial lots and other sites without permission. Critics had characterized the bill as an attempt by Goodwill to sideline its competition for used items.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for the opposition coalition, called Galgiani's decision to put the bill on hold a win for "choice, common sense, transparency and the urgency of more recycling rather than less."

"We hope that this is now the last time Goodwill brings this sort of legislation forth, as this should now serve as a conclusive rejection of their win-at-all costs multi-year attempt to create a monopoly," he said.

RELATED POSTS:

Charities are engaged in California political fights

PHOTO CREDIT: A bill making it easier for property owners to get rid of unwanted donation boxes pits Goodwill, which backs the proposed legislation, against other operations which also seek contributions of secondhand clothing. Goodwill does not rely on donation bins. Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee file, 2010.

May 8, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: School funding woes not over yet

California got some rare good news about the financial situation of its school districts, although Dan warns that school deficits still pose a problem.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 8, 2013
AM Alert: California advocates mark 20 years of charter schools

20120426_PK_FORTUNE_0697.JPGWe here at Capitol Alert are happy to keep track of the various commemorative occasions that might otherwise escape your notice. For instance, it's National Charter Schools Week, and the California Charter Schools Association and its representatives will be at the state Capitol today for its 20th annual advocacy day, an event stretching back to the opening of the state's first charter school in 1993.

Assemblywomen Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, and Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, the respective chair and vice chair of the Assembly Education Committee, will be greeting parents and charter leaders during a 9 a.m. confab in a tent near the west steps. Attendees will meet lawmakers and, later on, head to a committee meeting in room 126, where legislators will consider a bill that would hold charter schools to some of the same conflict-of-interest standards as district schools.

VIDEO: School districts are increasingly passing the stable-finance test, but Dan Walters says not to celebrate just yet.

May 7, 2013
California senator wants to ban guns made with '3-D printers'

LelandYeephoto.JPGA Democratic state legislator has announced a push to ban technology that could let people make guns with a "3-D printer" in the wake of media reports of the successful test fire of such a weapon.

A Texas company called Defense Distributed says it has successfully fired a handgun made mostly of plastic using a 3-D printer.The group posted videos of the test online.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, announced Tuesday that he will introduce legislation to ban the process here, saying California "must be proactive in seeking solutions to this new threat rather than wait for the inevitable tragedies this will make possible."

A 3-D printer makes a three-dimensional object from a digital model, using a process that adds successive layers in different shapes. Traditional machining techniques subtract material through cutting, drilling and other methods.

"While I am as impressed as anyone with 3-D printing technology, and I believe it has amazing possibilities, we must ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences," Yee said in a statement.

Language for the bill is still being drafted, a spokesman for Yee said.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco speaks to members of the press in his office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Feb. 14, 2013. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

May 7, 2013
First 2 GOP amendments to Boxer's levee bill? They're about guns

TomCoburn.jpgThe Senate began consideration of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's Water Resources Development Act Tuesday, but thanks to the first two Republican amendments, the legislation won't merely address flood control, port and navigation improvements and storm protection.

If Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has his way, the bill could allow people to carry guns on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property. A similar effort three years ago lifted a gun ban in National Parks.

Coburn's other amendment would require federal agencies to report the firearms they own or that were lost or stolen -- with national security exceptions for the Pentagon and CIA, provided those agencies explain their reasoning to Congress.

After a contentious, four-month debate, the Senate last month failed to enact any new legislation aimed at curbing gun violence, and most observers didn't expect lawmakers to revisit the issue anytime soon. Amid other polarizing debates on immigration and the federal budget, the water resources bill, cosponsored by Boxer, a California Democrat, and David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, was expected to have relatively smooth sailing.

"I hope it doesn't get bogged down in extraneous amendments," Boxer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. Among other things, Boxer's bill would authorize projects such as the Natomas Levee Improvement Program.

Read more here.

Later, Boxer expressed frustration at Coburn's move but said the Senate would consider them. The bill moved unanimously out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer leads, though some environmental groups object to some of its provisions.

"We will deal with those amendments," she said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in 2008. Doug Mills/The New York Times

May 7, 2013
Brown administration joins push to amend Prop. 65

Gatto.jpgGov. Jerry Brown is throwing his weight behind a push to update Proposition 65, California's safeguard against exposure to toxic chemicals.

Passed by voters in 1986, Proposition 65 sought to shield the state's water supply from contamination and to protect consumers by requiring companies to post clear warnings about harmful chemicals in products.

The law has been "a resounding success" as a consumer safeguard, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Matthew Rodriquez said in a conference call with reporters today. But he said the time has come to amend the law, citing a proliferation of "abusive" profit-seeking lawsuits and scientific strides that make some of the standards set 27 years ago obsolete.

May 7, 2013
Darrell Steinberg calls for more investment in CA mental health

Steinbergmentalhealth.JPGCalifornia's top Senate Democrat called Tuesday for more investment in mental health services in the state, saying his proposal could improve lives, prevent future tragedies and reduce the burden mentally ill patients put on the state's prisons and hospitals.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is proposing significantly increasing mental health services in the state by adding 2,000 beds and at least 200 "triage personnel" to help individuals with mental health issues. His plan, which he hopes to enact through the state budget process, would also add 25 "Mobile Crisis Support Teams" to provide a range of resources to help people manage their mental illness without turning to emergency rooms or jails.

Steinberg said "invariably heart-breaking and often tragic" stories of what happens when mental illness goes untreated motivated him to craft the proposal. He highlighted the December mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, a federal appeals court's ruling on health care in California prisons and stories chronicled by The Bee of Nevada busing mentally ill patients to California and other states as recent examples of the need for care

"How many more sad stories must we hear? With Newtown, Nevada and the 9th Circuit it is time for action," he said at a press conference in the state Capitol.

The unveiling of the plan comes days after Gov. Jerry Brown submitted a court-ordered plan to reduce the state's prison population. Steinberg said while his mental health services plan might not satisfy the three-judge panel's call for further inmate reductions, it will lower the prison population and recidivism rate for mentally ill inmates over time.

"Ultimately, if we are going to reduce overcrowding over the long term, we have to provide more effective, cost effective ways to keep people who leave the prisons and the jails from returning," he said, citing the success one three-year project for mentally ill parolees has had in cutting down the rate of repeat incarceration.

Steinberg said he has not yet calculated the full price tag for the plan, which would include grants of up to $500,000 for eligible projects. He said he envisions paying for the added services through grant funding offered by the California Endowment, a nonprofit that promotes health care coverage, money from the Proposition 63 tax on millionaires for mental health services, general fund revenues and by enrolling eligible individuals for health care benefits under the new state-run marketplace. He argued that any additional investment would provide big returns for the state over time.

"We are paying already, and we are paying big time," he said. "Our current system is a budget buster, also it's inhumane."

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg describes his proposal on increasing investment in mental health services as Democratic Sen. Jim Beall, chair of the Senate's mental health caucus, looks on. Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot.

May 7, 2013
Jerry Brown on broken Bay Bridge bolts: 'S--- happens'

chpbrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, apparently unfazed by reports of broken and suspect bolts on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, said today when asked about the problem, "Look, s--- happens."

The Democratic governor said it would be "premature to pull our hair out" over the cracked bolts, which threaten to delay the $6.4 billion structure's scheduled opening in September.

"Don't know if it's a setback," Brown told reporters after a California Highway Patrol memorial event in West Sacramento. "I mean, look, s--- happens."

Brown since last summer has maintained unwavering support for the state's construction and oversight of the new bridge, dismissing questions about its structural integrity.

He said this morning, "There are very professional engineers that are looking at this thing, and when they're ready to give us their report, I think the public will be satisfied."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown, right, speaks with reporters in West Sacramento on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

May 7, 2013
California has 2.6 million illegal immigrants, USC study finds

ha_IMMIGRANTS0001.JPGCalifornia has 2.6 million residents who are in the country illegally and thus would be heavily impacted by any immigration reform legislation, a massive new study by the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration concludes.

The state's undocumented population is about a quarter of the nation's, and about 72 percent comes from Mexico.

The study also found that California's illegal immigrants have $31.5 billion in income but individually earn less than half of U.S.-born workers, even though 74 percent of working-age immigrants are in the labor force.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, right, talks at the state Capitol on April 30 about his SB 516 and SB 666 on ensuring immigrants' rights, regardless of legal status. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

May 7, 2013
New revenues ease California school district fiscal woes

RP GOVERNOR PROP 30 SIGN.JPGVoter approval of a multi-billion-dollar tax increase last year has reduced financial pressure on California's nearly 1,000 school districts and thus dropped the number of districts in fiscal distress, the Legislature was told Tuesday.

Joel Montero, who heads the Bakersfield-based Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, told an Assembly budget subcommittee that the number of districts in distress is half what it was a few years ago, when the state was routinely "deferring" billions of dollars in aid to local districts because of its own budget problems.

Last year, voters passed Proposition 30, which hikes sales and income taxes by about $6 billion a year, much of which will go to schools. Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants to spend much of the new revenue to repay the state aid deferrals.

"The impact of Proposition 30 has been positive," Montero said during his annual update on school financial problems.

May 7, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Legislature shows resolve on immigration

It was only a resolution, but Dan sees signs of bipartisan will in an immigration measure that sailed through the Assembly almost unopposed.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 7, 2013
AM Alert: Consumer attorneys lobby California lawmakers

TRAVEL UST-VIRGINIACITY 7 OC.JPG

The lobby day carousel continues to spin. Today it's the turn of the Consumer Attorneys of California, who will be in town to urge lawmakers to oppose a handful of bills, advocate for more funding for the court system and push to lift a $250,000 cap on damages in medical malpractice cases established by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. Representatives will start the day with a breakfast address from Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and dine on a luncheon address from Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Los Angeles.

VIDEO: Dan Walters is surprised to see a faint glimmer of cooperation at the Capitol, particularly on an issue as volatile as immigration.

PRO TEM PRISON PLAN: With California's standoff with the federal government over prison overpopulation continuing to smolder, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is holding a 10 a.m. press conference in room 211 on his plan to ease the strain on California's correctional system and raise the quality of mental health care.

ONLINE GAMBLING: Capitol Weekly and the University of California Sacramento Center are sponsoring an event that takes a look at the business and politics of online gambling today. Speakers are expected to include Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, who has authored a bill to regulate online gambling; Assembly Governmental Organization Committee chair Isadore Hall, D-Compton; and Leslie Lohse of the California Tribal Business Alliance. At 1215 K Street.

LONG-TERM CARE: As The State Worker's Jon Ortiz has been reporting, people who bought private long-term insurance plans via CalPERS are bracing for painful premium hikes. The the Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee is examining the implications today during a hearing that starts at 2 p.m. in room 127.

TOBACCO AWARENESS: Representatives from local health departments and community organizations will be meeting with lawmakers at the State Capitol today as part of an event organized by the American Lung Association's Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing. The day will be bracketed by a morning address from Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, in the morning and Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, in the afternoon.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Have you been thinking about the future of California's public universities and the students they produce? If so, you're in luck: a Public Policy Institute of California event in San Francisco will be taking a look with a conference headlined by University of California President Mark Yudof at the Bechtel Conference Center in San Francisco, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

PHOTO CREDIT: A statue of Lady Liberty who holds the scales of Justice on the Washoe County Court House in Virginia City, Nevada. Jebb Harris/the Orange County Register.

May 6, 2013
FPPC proposes $2,500 fine related to Chris Kelly's 2010 AG bid

ChrisKelly.jpegPotential Sacramento Kings partial owner Chris Kelly has agreed to pay California's political ethics watchdog agency a $2,500 in fine to settle bookkeeping issues from his 2010 attorney general run.

An investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission found that Kelly's campaign failed to accurately report more than $7 million in expenditures during his 2010 Democratic primary campaign, which he lost to Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The fine is on the agenda for approval at the commission's May 16 meeting.

A spokesman for Kelly's campaign wrote in an email that the the former Facebook chief privacy officer "cooperated with the investigation and has agreed to pay the minor administrative penalty levied for the one violation."

Kelly, who has remained active in policy issues related to public safety since his attorney general run, is part of a group of investors seeking to purchase the Kings to keep the team in Sacramento.

PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Kelly. Sacramento Bee file photo

May 6, 2013
White House 'deeply concerned' about Boxer's levee bill

JV_BOXER 017.JPGIt seemed like it could be a slam-dunk in a Congress that can't agree on much of anything.

But California Sen. Barbara Boxer's bipartisan effort to pass legislation to fund flood control, navigation and storm recovery projects hit a snag Monday when the White House issued a statement highly critical of the bill, which Boxer's Environment and Public Works Committee approved unanimously in March.

The Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes projects such as the Natomas Levee Improvement Program, was expected to move to the Senate floor for debate Tuesday, but the fate of some of its more controversial provisions wasn't clear. Committee staff said Monday night that amending language would be announced Tuesday to address concerns about the bill, and noted that the White House statement did not actually oppose its broader goals.

The White House said it was "deeply concerned" about language in the bill that would fast-track environmental reviews for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects. Critics, especially Republicans, say that such studies take far too long and burden communities with government bureaucracy. But environmentalists say the process is necessary to protect communities, the environment and taxpayer funds.