Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

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

immigrationmarch.JPG

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.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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