Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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.

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

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. PĂ©rez, 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


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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