Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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


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


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


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

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.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

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


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.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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