Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

June 28, 2013
Prop. 8 backers slam 'outrageous' decision to lift stay

RA_AD5_ANDY_ANDREW_PUGNO.JPGA federal appeals court continued a "chronic pattern of lawlessness" by lifting a stay on a lower court decision striking down a voter-approved prohibition of same-sex marriage, supporters of the ban said Friday.

Same-sex marriage proponents celebrated on Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed a challenge to U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 ruling invalidating Proposition 8, a ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage in California. Proposition 8 proponents reacted to the ruling differently -- in a statement, ProtectMarriage.com's general counsel Andy Pugno vowed to continue seeking enforcement of the law.

That's less of an option now that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has lifted its stay.

"This outrageous act tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption," Pugno said in a statement.

"Homosexual marriage is not happening because the people changed their mind. It isn't happening because the appellate courts declared a new constitutional right. It's happening because enemies of the people have abused their power to manipulate the system and render the people voiceless."

"The resumption of same-sex marriage this day has been obtained by illegitimate means. If our opponents rejoice in achieving their goal in a dishonorable fashion, they should be ashamed."

PHOTO: Andy Pugno, in 2012. Photo by Randy Allen

June 28, 2013
San Francisco appeals court lifts stay on same-sex marriage

BN4b7LSCQAAuZ6H.jpgAnother barrier to same-sex marriage in California crumbled Friday afternoon, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco lifting its stay on same-sex marriages.

The move comes two days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a 2010 ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. By ruling that the Proposition 8 backers appealing Walker's decision had no standing, the Supreme Court paved the way for gay marriages to resume in California.

Still in place was a hold on same-sex marriages the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had imposed while the case made its way through court. The appeals court said earlier this week it would wait at least 25 days before enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, but Friday's news changes that.

See a photo gallery

Gov. Jerry Brown reacted by directing the California Department of Public Health to notify county clerks and registrar/recorders that they should immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to a statement from the governor's office.

"On my way to S.F. City Hall. Let the wedding bells ring!" Attorney General Kamala Harris said on Twitter. In a subsequent message, Harris said she was presiding over the wedding of Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Proposition 8.

"I am thrilled that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay to allow same-sex couples to legally marry in California," Harris said in a statement. "Gay and lesbian couples have waited so long for this day and for their fundamental right to marry. Finally, their loving relationships are as legitimate and legal as any other."

The first couple to show up at the Sacramento County Clerk's office Friday were Sacramentans Nicola Simmersbach and Diana Luiz, who have been together 7 years.

"I didn't think this would happen today," Simmersbach said. "This isn't really what we planned on wearing but we're here."

"We've been fighting on the Capitol steps for this moment," Luis said.

Jeffrey Dastin contributed to this post.

PHOTO: A photo posted to Twitter shows California Attorney General Kamala Harris with the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case, Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier.

June 28, 2013
Finance chief Ana Matosantos leaving Brown administration

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Some job shuffle news on a Friday afternoon: Ana Matosantos, the Department of Finance director whom Gov. Jerry Brown retained from the Schwarzenegger administration, is leaving.

The governor's office announced that Matosantos will be stepping down in September. Her deputy, Michael Cohen, will fill the vacancy.

"During very tough economic times, Ana carried out her duties as finance director with insight, boundless energy and uncommon effectiveness," Brown said in a statement. "Michael has been an excellent chief deputy director and I'm confident that he's fully up to the task of leading the department in the years ahead."

Matosantos' tenure has spanned some fiscally turbulent years, but she is stepping down after relatively smooth budget negotiations that accompanied an influx of new revenue this year. She referenced California's recently established fiscal stability in a statement accompanying her departure.

"It has been a privilege to serve the people of California during very difficult fiscal times, and now the state's economy is recovering and its budget balanced," Matosantos said in the statement.

It's unclear what her next move will be. H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance, said Matosantos had been planning to depart but hasn't talked with potential future employers.

Palmer added that the decision to leave the grind of heading the finance department isn't surprising.

"Being the director of finance and overseeing the largest state budget in the country is a tough job on its own," Palmer said, "but being the finance director in the greatest recession since the great depression makes that job exponentially more challenging."

PHOTO: Finance Director Ana Matosantos talks about Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal in Sacramento on Monday, May 14, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 28, 2013
AM Alert: Is prison realignment working in California?

CARealignment.jpgThere has been ample news lately about California's ongoing push to slim its prison population. That has included the legal tug-of-war between the federal courts and Gov. Jerry Brown, which most recently yielded a court order demanding that California immediately prepare to release more inmates, not to mention legislative pushback. It also looks likely to be a key issue in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, assuming a matchup between the Democratic governor and Republican Abel Maldonado.

A Public Policy Institute of California event today will try to cut through the noise and look at the concrete consequences of realignment, from county jails to public safety. Listed speakers include Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson; California State Association of Counties executive director Matthew Cate; and Linda Penner, chief probation officer for the Fresno County Probation Department. At the CSAC conference center, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

VIDEO: It was a busy day at the state Capitol Thursday, but Dan Walters says California's attention should be trained on Washington.

June 28, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California eyes Washington on immigration

California has the most at stake in the debate in Washington over immigration, Dan says, now that the U.S. Senate has passed an immigration overhaul bill.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 27, 2013
'Wal-Mart' bill fails in Assembly as Democratic caucus splits

gomez.jpgThe California Assembly rejected hotly contested legislation Thursday to penalize large employers that provide workers with wages and hours low enough to qualify them for Medi-Cal rolls.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, was granted reconsideration after his Assembly Bill 880 failed on three roll call votes.

Gomez conceivably could take the bill up again, but Democrats will lose their supermajority Sunday, clouding prospects for a future vote.

The final tally Thursday was 46-27, eight votes shy of passage.

The vote on AB 880 was closely watched statewide as a test of Democrats' supermajority because it forced moderate lawmakers in the party to stand with or to buck their more liberal colleagues in the lower house.

June 27, 2013
Rep. Valadao erects another hurdle to high-speed rail

High_Speed_Rail.jpgFreshman Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, has erected yet another hurdle to construction of the California high-speed rail project.

Using his seat on the House Appropriations Committee, Valadao on Thursday won approval by voice vote of an amendment that says the federal Surface Transportation Board cannot take action on initial construction phases until the board has given final approval to the entire project. The practical effect would be to stop initial construction for at least the foreseeable future, as a massive and necessary environmental impact study has not yet been completed for the project.

June 27, 2013
Assembly sends Jerry Brown enterprise zone revamp

010311_HA_brown_inaug_01.JPGGov. Jerry Brown's push to restructure an enterprise zone program of hiring tax credits that has been criticized as wasteful and ineffective passed Thursday with a 54-17 approval in the Assembly.

The lower house sent the Democratic governor Assembly Bill 93, which cleared the Senate late Tuesday night.

AB 93 targets an economic development program that Brown initially tried to kill in 2011. Lobbying has been intense over enterprise zones, supported by business groups and local communities.

Meant to stimulate job creation in areas of high poverty and unemployment, the enterprise zone program has been criticized for, among other things, giving tax breaks to strip clubs and allowing firms to claim tax credits for hiring decisions made years earlier.

AB 93 would overhaul the enterprise zone program and redirect about $750 million in business tax breaks.

The measure largely would retain the geographic boundaries of existing enterprise zones but significantly tighten and scale back hiring credits.

Hiring credits would be available only to employers paying at least 150 percent of the state's minimum wage. Temporary worker agencies, bars, retailers and restaurants would be excluded - with the exception of qualified small businesses.

New programs proposed by AB 93 include a sales tax exemption for manufacturing and bioresearch companies, and a program of tax credits next year negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the state - totaling up to $30 million next year and rising to $200 million in 2015-16.

June 27, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes own budget proposal on online education

brownsigns.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, who pressed California colleges and universities earlier this year to expand their online offerings, backed off Thursday, vetoing his own budget proposal to earmark $20 million in funding for online education.

Brown, who proposed in January to provide $10 million each to the University of California and California State University systems to expand the number of courses available online, will include that money in the college systems' annual allocation, but without requiring it to be spent on online education.

The action was one of a relatively small number of line item vetoes that the Democratic governor made as he signed the state budget Thursday for the fiscal year starting Monday.

June 27, 2013
California Legislature ratifies Madera casino deal for tribe

RB Gambling 4.JPG The Senate approved on Thursday a controversial gambling compact to allow the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians to build a casino in Madera County.

The vote marked the final step in a lengthy and unconventional ratification process. The North Fork tribe had to seek approval from the federal government, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature to build a casino some 35 miles away from their ancestral lands.

Allowing the tribe to choose this site sparked concern from legislators about setting a precedent of "reservation shopping" instead of building only on tribal lands. Competing tribal casinos also opposed the compact, and both sides spent heavily on campaign contributions and lobbyists to make their case.

After a heated debate, the compact cleared the 40-member Senate with one vote to spare, 22-11.

Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, touted the economic benefits the casino would bring Madera County residents, tribe members and the state.

"This is not a vote to say will there or will there not be gaming on the site that North Fork has. There will be gaming," Wright said. "The only thing that you are voting on today is whether or not the state will get any benefits from the gaming."

The compact also includes a revenue sharing agreement with the Wiyot tribe in Humboldt County. Wright also said that negotiations are ongoing for a possible revenue sharing agreement between the North Fork tribe and nearby Chukchansi tribe, which has opposed the casino.

Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said although he supported the North Fork compact, he hoped a working group of legislators and stakeholders could find a more streamlined process for confirming off-site reservation casinos for the future.

"We cannot piecemeal our way continuously and we cannot be caught in the cross hairs of so many interests," de León said.

PHOTO: People crowd around the Midi Baccarat tables at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Rocklin in June 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

June 27, 2013
Jerry Brown signs California budget bill

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown this morning signed a $96.3 billion spending plan that will shift more education money to poor and English-learning students and expand Medi-Cal coverage to more than 1 million low-income Californians under the federal healthcare overhaul.

The signing of the main budget bill, in a celebratory event with Democratic legislative leaders, followed a relatively frictionless budget negotiation ahead of the start of the new fiscal year Monday.

Brown used his line-item veto authority to cut $40 million from the spending plan.

Legislative Democrats initially urged about $2 billion more in discretionary, general fund spending than Brown proposed. They settled for about one-tenth of that amount, however, and accepted the governor's more conservative revenue estimates. After reaching agreement with the governor two weeks ago, they said the budget represented a significant step forward following years of budget cuts.

Republican lawmakers have said the budget does too little to reduce state debt, and they objected during the budget process to late-hour changes made to the budget and related legislation.

As Brown signed the budget, one piece of his initial proposal remains unsettled - an effort to overhaul California's enterprise zone program. After the state Senate on Tuesday approved a modified version of his plan, the matter is pending before the Assembly. It would significantly change a program that has provided tax breaks to employers in 40 locally-designated areas for years.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 27, 2013
Census Bureau charts California's housing meltdown

RP APT CONST ROOF.JPGThe meltdown of California's once-booming housing industry is graphically illustrated in a new Census Bureau report.

In the two years after the 2010 census, California added a net 27,305 units of rental or owner-occupied housing, a gain of just two-tenths of 1 percent, one of the nation's lowest rates, the report says. When the housing industry was booming in the middle of the last decade, it was adding as many as 200,000 units each year.

California's housing growth during the two-year period was the 42nd lowest in the nation and just a third of the national rate. A few states actually saw a reduction of housing, while it boomed in states seeing big economic and population gains from the surge of oil and gas production.

Oil-rich North Dakota had a 3.7 percent gain in housing during the period, the nation's highest rate, while Texas was No. 2 at 1.8 percent, nine times California's rate. Texas added 176,793 housing units, more than six times what California added.

June 27, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Basis for Prop. 8 ruling 'somewhat troubling'

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Proposition 8 might have given California more than it had bargained for, Dan warns.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 27, 2013
AM Alert: With Jerry Brown's signature, California gets a budget

RP_BUDGET_THREE_Brown_Steinberg_Perez.JPGThis year's budget process comes to a conclusion today: Gov. Jerry Brown is poised to make the pact between him and legislative leaders official at 11 a.m. in the Governor's Council Room. Fiscal year 2013-2014, its allocations and obligations set in writing, starts Monday.

If you'd like to reflect on how we got here, you can read about the dispute over Brown's push to roll back enterprise zones; the controversy over public records act requests; the debate over how to allocate revenue generated by Proposition 39; the disagreement aboutshuffling carbon permit auction revenue around; the argument overhow much money we'll really have; and, of course, the battle over the governor's school funding overhaul, including concerns about how districts get funded and which dedicated "categorical" programs would get axed.

VIDEO: Same-sex marriage supporters are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Proposition 8, but Dan Walters is worried about the high court's rationale.

June 26, 2013
Fresno County enterprise zone gets failing grade from state

RB_Jerry_Brown_Budget_4.JPGWith Gov. Jerry Brown's effort to overhaul California's enterprise zone program pending before the state Assembly, the Brown administration this afternoon notified a third enterprise zone it had failed a state audit, this one in Fresno County.

According to a report by the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Fresno County enterprise zone -- one of 40 statewide that have provided tax breaks to employers for years -- exhibited "an overall lack of achievement and documentation for budget commitments, voucher administration and timeliness of regulatory required reports."

The report said the program was marred by lack of appropriate documentation and "areas of weak internal controls," including insufficient self-evaluations.

June 26, 2013
VIDEO: Gavin Newsom calls DOMA, Prop. 8 decisions 'historic'

Supreme Court-Gay Marriage_Gavin_Newsom.jpgLt. Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed reporters Wednesday afternoon in his Sacramento office and expressed his elation over the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8, calling it "a profound day, and a historic day."

When Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, he made headlines in 2004 by telling city clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. About 4,000 couples were issued licenses before the California Supreme Court ordered the city to stop. Wednesday, he called the Supreme Court decisions a bookmark to those actions in 2004.

"The great thing about what happened today was not a legal brief that was filed and oral arguments that were made and the Supreme Court adjudicating on equality," Newsom said, adding that it was "the human element" that underlay it all, "the narrative of people's lives, these lives that were affirmed and now are celebrated."

VIDEO: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters in Sacramento on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Amy Gebert

PHOTO: Gay rights advocates acknowledge Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, during a celebration at San Francisco's City Hall on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, shortly after a Supreme Court decision cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California. As mayor of San Francisco in 2004, Newsom ordered city clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Associated Press/ Noah Berger

June 26, 2013
VIDEO: California's LGBT lawmakers praise rulings

Tears and jubilation mingled at the state Capitol this morning as openly gay members of California's LGBT legislative caucus lauded a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions solidifying the legal status of same-sex marriage.

"This is the first time in my life," Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said, "I've felt the law truly recognized me as equal to everyone else."

One of the Supreme Court's rulings invalidated key pieces of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples. In their other ruling, the justices decided that plaintiffs backing Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down in 2010, had no standing to challenge Walker's ruling.

June 26, 2013
Taxpayers group fears impact of gay marriage ruling on unrelated ballot measures

coupal.jpgFearing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage in California could hobble the proponents of other, unrelated ballot initiatives, the president of a taxpayers group said today he is considering an effort to enshrine in the state constitution the authority of initiative proponents to defend their measures in court.

After state officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown, declined to defend Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the proponents of the initiative lacked legal standing to defend the measure in court.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said he is considering a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define initiative proponents as agents of the state for the limited purpose of defending ballot measures in court.

June 26, 2013
Jerry Brown tells California counties to issue gay marriage licenses

jerrybrown.jpgIn the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling undercutting California's same-sex marriage ban, the Brown administration told county officials this morning the ruling applies statewide - with all 58 counties required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples once a lower court stay is lifted.

"After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California," Gov. Jerry Brown said in a prepared statement.

"In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state's counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted," the Democratic governor added.

In a letter to county clerks and records, the Department of Public Health said that "same-sex couples will once again be allowed to marry in California." However, the letter cautioned clerks, in bold type, to issue no marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a stay is lifted by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We do not know when the Ninth Circuit will issue this order, but it could take a month or more," the letter said. "County clerks and recorders should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until this order is issued."

June 26, 2013
Rapid Response: The gay marriage decisions

It was a history-making day at the U.S. Supreme Court today, with the high court striking down key aspects of the federal ban on same-sex marriage known as the Defense of Marriage Act. The justices also tossed a case appealing a lower court's decision to invalidate Proposition 8, California's gay marriage prohibition.

The responses have already started flowing in. Here's a sampling:

Gov. Jerry Brown


"After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California. In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state's counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted."

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco

"Thank you, Supremes, for stopping the Proposition 8 and DOMA madness in the name of love. Now any Californian will be able to marry the person he or she loves and the federal government will recognize that marriage. This is not total victory, of course. There are LGBT people in most states who don't have marriage equality yet. The fundamental questions are of justice and equality and the Supreme Court's recent rulings on voting rights and affirmative action make it clear that these struggles don't end all at once. We still have to watch out to protect the rights of lesbians, gays and transgender people - and all people who suffer discrimination or inequality for any reason. Let's keep building on the Bill of Rights, and make sure no one loses out because of where they come from, because of how poor they are or because of who they love."

June 26, 2013
Live Chat: Discuss U.S. Supreme Court's Proposition 8 ruling, 9 a.m.

Please join Dan Morain at 9 a.m. for a live chat focusing on the Supreme Court's ruling on the challenge to California's Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban.



June 26, 2013
Prop. 8 dismissed, defense of Marriage Act struck down

By Michael Doyle

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court made history Wednesday with two victories for marriage equality, in California and nationwide.

In a pair of highly anticipated decisions, the divided court effectively undercut California's Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage. Separately, the court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denies same-sex married couples federal benefits. Together, the decisions provide an emphatic, if incomplete, win for advocates of same-sex marriage.

Read the court's Prop. 8 decision here

The decisions address different issues, and neither declares a broad constitutional right to same-sex marriage that covers residents of all 50 states. But in each case, acting on the final day of the term that began last October, a slim 5-4 court majority endorsed a position that helps same-sex marriage cause as well as individual couples..

"We're proud of you guys," President Barack Obama said in a broadcast telephone call from Air Force One to the two same-sex couples who had challenged Proposition 8, "and we're proud to have this in California."

The Proposition 8 case involved a challenge to the 2008 California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, in somewhat of a strange-bedfellow alliance, the court concluded that the supporters lacked the legal standing to defend the measure. For same-sex couples in California, the real-world result could be they might be able to secure marriage licenses within about 25 days, if not sooner.

Read the court's decision on DOMA here

Standing is the legal term for being eligible to file a lawsuit. To have standing, an individual must have a significant interest in the controversy and must either have suffered an injury or face an imminent threat of injury.

"It is not enough that the party invoking the power of the court have a keen interest in the issue," Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., wrote for the 5-4 majority, adding that "because we find that petitioners do not have standing, we have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit."

The decision eliminates a lower appellate court ruling and leaves intact a trial judge's order blocking Proposition 8 from taking effect. At the very least, this means that two same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit against the ballot measure may marry. Advocates say that other same-sex couples in California should be able to take advantage of the ruling, though that same-sex marriage opponents suggest this might require further trial-level clarification.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Kamala Harris have advised county officials that they must resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses once a legal order is received from the appellate court. Typically, it takes about 25 days for a Supreme Court ruling to filter down to the lower courts, though advocates hope it can happen sooner.

June 26, 2013
Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

US_NEWS_SCOTUS-EQUALITY_6_MCT.jpgBy Michael Doyle
McClatchy Newspapers

The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the politically charged centerpiece of the Defense of Marriage Act, in a marked victory for marriage equality.

Issuing the first of two long-awaited decisions involving same-sex marriage, the divided court said the 1996 law violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

"DOMA divests married same-sex couples of the duties and responsibilities that are an essential part of married life," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

Kennedy joined court's four liberal justices in the 5-4 decision.

June 26, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Star power outshines the constitution

The legislature is starstruck at the expense of freedom of the press and the constitution, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 26, 2013
AM Alert: Sacramento braces for Proposition 8 Ruling

US_NEWS_SCOTUS-EQUALITY_6_MCT.jpg

It has been a momentous week for the U.S. Supreme Court, but in some ways it seems the daily drumbeat of decisions has been building up to today: at 7:00 a.m. PST, the justices are expected to announce the legal fate of Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage. Stay with The Bee throughout the day for updates.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is holding a press conference to discuss the anticipated (and by the time you're reading this, probably released) ruling in Los Angeles at 10:30 a.m. Here at the State Capitol, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and members of the LGBT Legislative Caucus will be reacting during a 10:30 a.m. press conference in room 317.

VIDEO: When it comes to press freedom, Dan Walters says the Legislature seems willing to make exceptions for celebrities.

June 25, 2013
California state Senate passes enterprise zone overhaul

steinbergleno.JPGThe state Senate late Tuesday passed a proposal to eliminate California's enterprise zones after Senate Democrats negotiated a series of last-minute amendments to mollify resistant lawmakers.

The legislation, a priority of Gov. Jerry Brown's, will now head to an uncertain future in the Assembly.

The proposed overhaul of the enterprise zone program, which has provided employers in locally designated areas large tax breaks for years, would largely retain those areas' geographic boundaries but with significantly scaled back hiring credits.

The measure also includes a sales tax exemption for manufacturing and biotech research companies and about $30 million in the budget year beginning July 1 for tax credits negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the state.

June 25, 2013
Senate committee slows fast-track bill for SF basketball arena

An effort by San Francisco city officials and new owners of the Golden State Warriors basketball team to fast-track construction of a new arena on the city's waterfront slowed down Tuesday in a state Senate committee.

As proposed and approved by the Assembly, Assembly Bill 1273 would have had the Legislature bypass local and regional authorities to authorize use of publicly owned tidelands for the project, which also includes a large retail and office complex. Proponents say the project would generate new business for San Francisco and pay for improvement of a deteriorating block of piers.

However, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee insisted that the decision on use of tidelands - without which the arena cannot proceed - would be made later in the project approval process by the State Lands Commission and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) after local studies and hearings.

"It's premature for us to make the decision at this time," the committee's chairwoman, Democrat Fran Pavley, told advocates, including the bill's author, San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting.

That means a slowdown and also gives project opponents - who include former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos - new venues to wage their campaign. The three-member State Lands Commission is composed of Gov. Jerry Brown's finance director, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom - who is also a former San Francisco mayor - and Controller John Chiang.

The BCDC, meanwhile, includes representatives of local governments surrounding San Francisco Bay, including those from Oakland and other East Bay communities who are opposed to moving the basketball team from Oakland to San Francisco, which was its original home. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was among those who spoke against AB 1273 Tuesday. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups also opposed fast-tracking approval of the tidelands use.

The proposed arena would be located on Piers 30 and 32, near the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park.

June 25, 2013
Abel Maldonado's campaign logo bears down

AFGLogoMain.jpegWhen they discuss how a candidate or event is perceived, campaign consultants like to talk about "optics" -- what the public sees and how it shapes judgments.

There have been some interesting optics thus far in former Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado's not-yet-officially-declared quest to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

First there was the launch of Maldonado's crusade against prison realignment, the initiative to reduce prison overcrowding that the former lieutenant governor is using to bludgeon Brown for damaging public safety.

There are plenty of publicly visible places suitable to making a major announcement, but Maldonado's choice of a Sacramento parking garage seemed bizarre to some people. (Maldonado's campaign clarified that the choice of venue was not meant to underscore the perilous nature of parking garages; it was a last-minute scheduling choice).

And then there's Maldonado's campaign logo, featured above from his website. The use of bear imagery in a California gubernatorial campaign isn't exactly groundbreaking, but the bear seems more contemplative than ferocious, like he's a little too worried about conditions at county jails to go salmon hunting.

Jeff Corless, Maldonado's campaign manager, said the unconventional image goes with what he expects to be an unconventional run.

"It's going to be a campaign that you've never seen Republicans run before," Corless said. "Republicans need to catch up with the times and find ways to market themselves better, and it starts with logos and branding, frankly."

June 25, 2013
VIDEO: Halle Berry testifies in favor of paparazzi restrictions

Actress Halle Berry testified today in favor of Senate Bill 606 at the California state Capitol:

June 25, 2013
Jerry Brown names former Schwarzenegger aide to agency post

batjer.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has appointed Marybel Batjer, one of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's former Cabinet secretaries, to oversee state procurement, information technology and human resources under a government reorganization taking effect Monday.

Batjer, who will become secretary of a new Government Operations Agency, was one of three appointments announced by Brown's office today. In a reorganization approved by the Legislature last year, former Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, will become secretary of the new Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.

Brian Kelly, acting secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, will become secretary of the new Transportation Agency.

Batjer, of Reno, has been vice president of public policy and corporate social responsibility at Caesars Entertainment Corp. since 2005, according to the governor's office. She was former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's chief of staff before joining Schwarzenegger's administration, where she worked from 2003 to 2005.

Like Brown, Batjer, 58, is a Democrat. So are Caballero and Kelly.

The appointments of Batjer, Caballero and Kelly all require Senate confirmation. The pay for each post is $180,250 a year.

PHOTO: Then-Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn gestures to Marybel Batjer during a news conference in Carson City, Nev., in 2003. AP Photo/Nevada Appeal/Cathleen Allison

June 25, 2013
Halle Berry testifies in support of paparazzi bill

People-Halle Berry (1).jpgThe Capitol got a taste of star power on Tuesday when Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry testified in favor of a bill that would restrict paparazzi access to children.

Sen. Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles, authored Senate Bill 606, which would expand the definition of harassing children to include actions like "alarming, annoying, tormenting or terrorizing conduct" as well as increase the punishment for those actions. It would make aggression from photographers and the press, as well as other attacks, illegal when directed at children.

Despite opposition from First Amendment groups, the bill passed the committee on a 5-0 vote, and will head to the Assembly Judiciary Committee next.

De León said the bill would "protect children who are particularly vulnerable to harassment because of their parents' employment." The senator said children of celebrities, law enforcement officers, and public figures are especially vulnerable to attack because of their parents' jobs.

De León said children in those families deal with hardships that a normal child should not have to understand, and that lawmakers often have a hard time understanding.

That's where Berry came in.

June 25, 2013
Sacramento flood-control projects get increased funding

HA LEVEE WORK.JPGThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $115 million for Sacramento region flood control projects, $17 million more than President Barack Obama requested in his 2013 budget.

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, said in a statement Tuesday that the increased funding "speaks to the recognition of our urgent need to bolster our flood defenses."

"This funding is critical for Sacramento's flood protection priorities and will help our region achieve 200-year flood protection, protecting lives, property and infrastructure," she said.

The corps allocations include more than $100 million alone for the Folsom Dam to support ongoing efforts to raise the dam and construct an auxiliary spillway.

It also includes more than $13 million for design work for levee improvements in Natomas and Sacramento, as well as improvements for flood protection in South Sacramento.

June 25, 2013
Six pediatric dental firms chosen for California health exchange

peterlee.jpgSix insurance firms will offer pediatric dental coverage on California's new health-care exchange beginning in October.

Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Delta Dental, Health Net, Liberty Dental and Premier Access Dental were the firms selected Tuesday by Covered California, the state exchange.

Unlike comprehensive health insurance, Californians are not required under federal law to purchase pediatric dental care, which is available to serve children and teenagers up to age 19.

But Covered California Director Peter V. Lee said that providing affordable dental policies is a key part of the exchange's mission to boost health statewide, particularly for young and vulnerable residents.

"Dental care is a vital component of overall health, and especially critical for our state's children," he said. "Access to dental services as a youngster means better health, both for children and as they get older."

June 25, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: It's rush hour in the Capitol this week

The Democrats are trying to speed things up and Republicans are trying to slow things down during the last week Democrats hold a supermajority in the Assembly, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 25, 2013
AM Alert: California looks at state centers for the disabled

MAJ_CALIFORNIA_STATE_CAPITOL_2008.JPG

We don't often use this space to give shoutouts to the competition, but you may not have had a chance to read Center for Investigative Reporting's series on abuse at California's centers for the developmentally disabled. In addition to winning general plaudits from the award-givers, the series shone light on a topic that's the center of a hearing today.

The Assembly's Select Committee On State Hospital And Developmental Center Safety is taking a look this morning at how the system is implementing new safety measures. Starting at 2:30 p.m. in room 127.

VIDEO: Why are Assembly Democrats suddenly in a rush to finish their business? Dan Walters explains.

SENTENCING SCRUTINY: Prison realignment is back in the news with last week's federal directive compelling California to immediately start releasing inmates. The Little Hoover Commission has been looking into realignment-driving sentencing decisions in California, and they'll be reviewing their findings during a hearing today in room 100 of the Legislative Office Building, starting at 9 a.m.

While we're on the subject, the Assembly Public Safety Committee is running through some crime-and-punishment bills that have been released from the Senate. That includes a bill by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, to penalize parolees who sever their monitoring devices and legislation by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, that would make it tougher to put juveniles in solitary confinement.

BERRY SPECIAL TESTIMONY: Sacramento is no stranger to movie stars, what with our action hero ex-governor and our baseball-assumption-upending advocate for California women, but the fact that Halle Berry is testifying at the State Capitol today should still generate some buzz. Berry will be speaking in favor of a bill by Sen. Kevin de León (also getting a Public Safety Committee hearing) that would crack down on paparazzi-type activity directed at children.

LOOK WEST, CALIFORNIA: Gov. Jerry Brown got a chance to bolster California's international ties during his recent business-building trip to China, and today the Legislature is picking up where he left off. A select committee is holding a hearing on strengthening California's investment and business dealings in Asia, starting at 2 p.m. in room 126.

WINNING WINES: "Top winery in California" seems like a pretty coveted title given the competition, and today lawmakers are giving out awards for five standouts in the upcoming California State Fair's commercial wine competition. On hand for the presentation will be Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata -- both of whom chair select committees on wine -- and California Department of Food & Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. The ceremony will be at 10 a.m. in room 127.

FREE LUNCH: Speaking of gastronomic Capitol events, lawmakers and staff will be treated to lunch today courtesy of Yum! Brands, the parent company of chains like Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut. The complimentary grub accompanies a food drive, with attendees encouraged to bring non-perishables that will be donated to the River City Food Bank. From 11:30 a.m. on the south steps.

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

June 24, 2013
Jerry Brown, Senate Democrats push enterprise zone plan forward

brownenterprise.jpgAfter Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate the state's enterprise zone program appeared to stall earlier this month, the Brown administration and Democratic legislative leaders rushed forward Monday with a slightly modified version of the plan, anticipating a floor vote in the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.

The modified proposal would largely retain the geographic boundaries of California's 40 enterprise zones, but with significantly scaled back hiring credits for companies in those areas.

The proposal released Monday would provide hiring credits only to employers paying between 150 percent and 350 percent of the minimum wage, currently between $12 and $28 per hour. Except for small businesses, the program would generally not apply to temporary worker agencies, retailers, restaurants or drinking establishments

The proposal also includes about $30 million in the budget year beginning July 1 for tax credits negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the administration's economic development arm. The proposal maintains Brown's original bid to create a sales tax exemption for manufacturing and biotech research companies.

The Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review voted 9-5 in favor of the measure on Monday, with Democratic lawmakers in support and Republicans opposed. Brown and labor groups have lobbied intensely against the enterprise zone program, saying it is wasteful and ineffective. They have pointed, among other things, to the use of enterprise zone tax credits by strip clubs.

Following the committee vote, H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Brown's Department of Finance, said in an email, "We're encouraged by the vote in Senate Budget Committee to reform what business leaders, workers and others agree is a broken tax incentive system."

The League of California Cities and the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the measure, and Republican lawmakers objected to receiving the bill in print only hours before the hearing.

They said eliminating enterprise zone hiring credits could harm businesses, particularly in the Central Valley, where wages are relatively low and unemployment high.

While the tax credits Brown proposed may benefit companies in the Silicon Valley and San Diego, said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, it would only hurt small companies in the Central Valley.

"For my area, it's a back-breaker," he said.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has estimated the enterprise zone program will cost state taxpayers $750 million this fiscal year and will exceed $1 billion within several years.

According to a legislative analysis, Brown's revised proposal would cost the state about $73 million more than under the existing enterprise zone program in the upcoming fiscal year, but result in a savings by 2016-17.

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

June 24, 2013
Assembly goes into overdrive to beat supermajority loss

blumenfield.perez.JPGThe Assembly will pack in at least one additional floor session this week as Democrats look to flex their supermajority powers before losing them.

Lower house Democrats will be one vote shy of holding a two-thirds majority after Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Los Angeles, leaves the Assembly to be sworn in on the Los Angeles City Council on July 1. Blumenfield's departure will leave two vacancies in the Assembly that likely won't be filled during this session.

The supermajority allows Democrats to pass tax increases and put constitutional amendments before voters without Republican support. A two-thirds vote is also needed to override a vetoed bill by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Among the bills needing two-thirds is Assembly Bill 880, which penalizes large employers, such as Walmart, whose workers qualify for Medi-Cal.

The Assembly has scheduled an additional floor session Tuesday at 1 p.m. to take up a state worker contract, said John Vigna, a spokesman for the Speaker's Office.

The Assembly will then hold its regularly scheduled 9 a.m. floor session on Thursday. Members will be on call of Speaker John A. Pérez on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Vigna said the on call sessions are a precautionary measure in case business remains.

"We wanted to give folks as much notice as possible," Vigna said. "I don't anticipate it's likely to happen."

The Assembly will go into recess after its floor session on July 3 until Aug. 5.

During that time, a special primary election is scheduled for July 23 to fill the seat vacated by Democrat Norma Torres of Pomona, who was elected to the Senate. Nine candidates -- including seven Democrats - have filed to run in that election. If a candidate doesn't receive a majority, the top two candidates will face a runoff in September -- after the legislative session ends.

An election date won't be set to pick Blumenfield's replacement until he resigns from office.

PHOTO: Assembly Budget Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield, left, speaks to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in a 2012 file photo. The Sacramento Bee / Randall Benton

June 24, 2013
CA Senate passes revised public records bill

California Budget Public Re (1).jpgThe Senate voted to reverse changes to the California Public Records Act on Monday, leaving the final decision on the records law to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Democratic governor will have the opportunity to choose between two nearly identical budget bills, Assembly Bill 76 and Senate Bill 71. Brown's spokesman has suggested the governor will support the revised bill.

Open government advocates and media groups spoke out against the original bill,AB 76, which would have made full compliance with the public records law optional for local agencies.

The Legislature then simply revised SB 71 to remove the changes the original bill made to the public records law. Senators passed the new bill on a party-line, 28-11 vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, supported the bill as a "stop-gap" measure until the constitutional amendment he and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg proposed on Friday goes on the ballot in June 2014.

Leno said the bill would calm anxieties that local agencies would stop complying with portions of the records law before the constitutional amendment could be voted on.

"We don't need a mandate for those cities and counties and public agencies that will recognize this as best practices. We need the mandate for those few who may not," Leno said.

Though most of his colleagues agreed with Leno, several senators raised concerns about other issues with the bill.

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, objected to the suspension of other sections relieving local agencies from complying with domestic violence protocol. Several other senators spoke out against the parts of the bill that limit restitution for crime victims.

Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, said that while he supports the idea of transparent government, he would not vote for something that only made a "bad bill less bad."

"It's the press's access to open government that keeps the government open and free," Anderson said. "And while I'd like to change it, I think the bill is moving in the right direction."

The Senate expects to take up the constitutional amendment that would incorporate the public records law into the state constitution on Thursday.

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talking to reporters at the Capitol, Wednesday June 19, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

June 24, 2013
Assemblyman Alejo takes heat from UFW for refusing to vote

Alejo.jpgAssemblyman Luis Alejo, a long-time supporter of the United Farm Workers Union, is taking heat from the union and its members for refusing to vote for a bill that would make it easier for the UFW to obtain contracts with growers.

Alejo, a Watsonville Democrat, startled observers at an Assembly Labor and Employment Committee last Wednesday when he refused to vote for the union-backed measure, Senate Bill 25, which is being carried by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Without his vote, the bill failed.

The day after the hearing, the Salinas Californian newspaper reported, a group of UFW members and their supporters demonstrated outside Alejo's Salinas office - and were countered by another group of Alejo supporters.

Alejo said he was to meet with UFW officials on Tuesday to discuss his concerns with the bill, but the union cancelled the meeting. UFW spokesman Marc Grossman said in an email Monday that the non-meeting with Alejo resulgted from a scheduling misunderstanding, and added, "The substance of SB 25 - whetehr or not farm workers' votes for a union in secret ballot elections are respected - is what is most important. We are confident Assemblymember Alejo has been fully briefed on the policy goals of SB 25 by the UFW in advance of the Assembly Labor Committee vote this Wednesday."

The measure, which has been approved by the Senate, would make to easier to refer contract disputes to a mediator, but farmers say it would undercut collective bargaining. The UFW and Steinberg say SB 25 would close a loophole in the state's mediation law.

Amended at 2:42 p.m. to include comments from UFW spokesman Grossman.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 24, 2013
California still ranked 41st in children's well-being

childrenrun.jpgCalifornia remains ranked 41st in an annual survey of children's well-being by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, based on a series of key indicators.

The 2013 version of the Kids Count Data Book says that California ranks particularly poorly -- 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia -- in children's economic well-being, while its highest ranking, 29th, is in children's health. It is 39th in education and 42nd in "family and community."

The specific report on California includes dozens of statistical charts and can be broken down by county, city and congressional district as well.

Ted Lempert, president of California's Children Now, said in a statement that the report "shows California leaders aren't giving enough attention to the fundamental issues undermining our children's -- and our state's -- success. It's a misprioritization problem. While our state ranks 11th nationally in per capita state and local tax revenues, we are well below the national average in per capita spending on education but 2nd in per capita spending on corrections and prisons."

Lempert, a former Democratic state assemblyman, has been an ardent advocate of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan, recently adopted by the Legislature, to steer more money into school districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students."

New Hampshire ranked the highest in children's well-being, followed by Vermont and Massachusetts. New Mexico was 50th, replacing Mississippi, which had held that dubious honor for a number of years, but Mississippi was second lowest and Nevada third lowest.

PHOTO: Children participate in the 10 years-old and under race during the Superheroes 5K run on June 16, 2013 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 24, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Is Brown's stance on prisons a political ploy?

Dan says Gov. Jerry Brown is playing a "high-stakes poker game" in battling the courts over California's prison population.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 24, 2013
AM Alert: California looks at potential of social investment

20120829_ha_LIGHTRAIL0001 (2).JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, raised some eyebrows when he proposed a bill that would boost schools by having the private sector invest in "social investment bonds" that would give an economic incentive for funding social goals. Corporations get a payoff if their contribution raises academic performance.

A joint hearing of the committee on Business, Professions And Economic Development and the Select Committee On Procurement today is examining the potential of other "socially innovative financing" plans.

Witnesses will include Ian Galloway from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; professor Jeffrey Liebman of Harvard's Social Impact Bond Technical Assistance Lab; and a beamed-in representative of the White House's Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. From 2 to 5 p.m. in room 4203.

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown is making a big strategic bet in his high-stakes prison crowding poker game, Dan Walters says.

APPROPRIATIONS AGENDA: The Senate Appropriations Committee is running through a few dozen bills today. One worth paying attention to is AB 711, legislation by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, to prohibit lead ammunition. The legislation is a priority for animal rights advocates, who say lead bullets can poison wildlife, and has drawn opposition from the firearms and shooting sports organizations.

TEACHERS UNION TRAINING: The arrival of summer means it's time for those of us on an academic schedule to adjust. For some members of the California Federation of Teachers, that will entail a visit to "CFT Union Summer School" to learn organizing and collective bargaining techniques. The weeklong labor training retreat starts today and takes place at the idyllic Asilomar Conference Grounds on the Monterey Peninsula.

PHOTO: One of the last light-rail trains for the night passes the California Capitol building on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 21, 2013
Jerry Brown's office courtyard goes 'from cigar tents to yoga mats'

yoga.jpgIt was a busy day Thursday for Gov. Jerry Brown, what with developments in the state's prison crowding case and a flap over public records.

At the end of it, the governor's press office posted a photograph on Twitter of about 20 barefoot administration employees practicing yoga in the governor's private courtyard at the Capitol.

Brown did not participate. But the group activity appeared to reflect the taste of the 75-year-old, health-conscious governor, who has studied religious teachings and espouses the benefits of exercise.

Before the yoga session, Brown had installed a ping pong table in the courtyard, once occupied by a tent in which the Democratic governor's predecessor, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, smoked cigars.

"From cigar tents to yoga mats," Brown's press office said in its tweet.

Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said Friday that Thursday's event was organized by Yoga Across America, a Sacramento-based nonprofit. There are no immediate plans for a follow-up session, he said, but added, "We certainly hope we can do it again."

"What it shows," Westrup said, "is our office is capable of both fiscal and spiritual balance."

PHOTO: Employees of Gov. Jerry Brown's administration practice yoga at the Capitol on Thursday, June 20, 2013. Governor's Press Office photo posted on Twitter.

June 21, 2013
California cities ramp up fight against union wage bill

AA_NO_NATOMAS_FIRE_station_30_DRILL.JPGThe League of California Cities is ramping up its campaign to defeat a high-profile, union-sponsored bill aimed at preventing charter cities -- those with their own governing systems -- from bypassing the state's "prevailing wage" law on some construction projects.

The measure, Senate Bill 7, is being carried by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on behalf of construction unions in response to a state Supreme Court decision. The court ruled that charter cities could build projects with their own money, not using any state funds, without requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages, which are generally those set by union contracts. It stemmed from a conflict over the construction of a fire station in Vista, a small San Diego County city.

June 21, 2013
Obama taps Ann Ravel for Federal Election Commission post

ravel.jpgPresident Barack Obama will nominate Ann Ravel, the combative chairwoman of California's Fair Political Practices Commission, to the Federal Election Commission, the White House announced Friday.

Ravel gained prominence during California's initiative campaigns last year, waging a legal battle to identify the source of an $11 million donation from a secretive Arizona group. That entity donated money to a committee opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's measure to raise taxes and supporting a controversial campaign finance measure.

The full-time, six-member Federal Election Commission administers and enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act. Ravel's appointment requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Ravel has experience in Washington, D.C. She was working as a U.S. Justice Department official when Brown appointed her chairwoman of the FPPC in 2011.

Ravel declined to comment about her nomination.

PHOTO: Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, in her office in December 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

June 21, 2013
California state Sen. Ron Calderon sets up legal defense fund

Calderon-FBI.jpgWell-known for fundraisers at out-of-state golf courses and plush resorts, state Sen. Ron Calderon has a new reason to solicit money from friends, family and the interest groups that do business in California's Capitol.

The Democrat from Montebello has established a legal defense fund to cover expenses related to his "public corruption investigation," according to a letter Calderon filed with the secretary of state this week.

"These funds will be only to pay the attorney's fees and other legal costs related to the defense of the candidate as well as administrative costs directly related to compliance with recordkeeping and reporting requirements," says the letter signed by Calderon and Yolanda Miranda, treasurer of Calderon's committee.

The FBI raided Calderon's Capitol offices on June 4, the same day the agency attempted to contact his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon. Federal authorities removed several boxes from Ron Calderon's offices but have not said what they are investigating.

Calderon's new legal defense fund is not his first.

June 21, 2013
Senators introduce constitutional amendment on California records law

California Budget Public Re (1).jpgSen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on Friday introduced a measure to incorporate provisions of the California Public Records Act in the state's constitution.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 would require cities, counties and other local government agencies to comply with the records law and the Brown Act, which regulates public meetings, and exempts the state from having to pay local agencies the cost of carrying out the laws.

Leno and Steinberg first proposed amending the constitution to solve the ongoing controversy raised by a budget bill making optional several pieces of the records law.

Media and open government advocates balked at the changes the bill made to the law, warning that removing local agencies' legal obligation to comply could hinder the public's right to access government documents.

Leno and Steinberg favored amending the constitution as a permanent solution to problem.

"All of the provisions of the Public Records Act are critically important to preserving open government, and that is why they belong in the California Constitution," Leno said in a press release.

The amendment needs a two-thirds vote to clear the Legislature and appear on the June 2014 ballot.

In the meantime, the Assembly passed a revised bill that does not include the changes to the records law. The Senate has said it will take up the bill, and Gov. Jerry Brown is also expected to support the change.

The amendment language is included below. Because of a technical error, the principal authors and co-authors listed are not correct, according to Leno's office. Leno and Steinberg are the only joint authors of the amendment.

SCA 3

PHOTO: State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate budget committee, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced that the Senate will take up a constitutional amendment to address a budget bill that threatens public access to information held by local governments, while talking to reporters at the Capitol on June 19, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli)

June 21, 2013
Winner crowned in Sutter Brown caption contest

sutter.JPGThe votes have been tallied, and one entry in the Sutter Brown caption contest broke away from the pack.

The lucky winner?

No. 3 "The Governor told me to either strike this ridiculous pose for the SPCA, or start digging the Delta tunnels."

Our readers went for a caption with more of a political bent than some of the other entries Capitol Alert staff was rooting for. We were also big fans of the canine humor in the second place winner:

No. 5 "I shouldn't have had that second drink at the duck pond."

For those readers who missed the earlier posts, the winning caption matches up with the above picture of First Dog Sutter Brown relaxing at the Sacramento SPCA's Doggie Dash.

Dan Cohen, a retired attorney whose career has also spanned stints in the Army and as a park ranger, penned the winning caption. Asked about his inspiration, Cohen said writing comes naturally to him. So naturally that he has already written the first in a series of children's books starring his dog Flapjack.

"I've always liked doing funny, clever stuff like writing captions," Cohen said. "If I'm good at anything, it's that. I'm the family clown and chief wisecracker."

Cohen takes home a gift certificate to Peet's Coffee & Tea for his win. You can check out the other contenders for the top prize on our earlier post listing the finalists.

Thanks to everyone who submitted captions and voted in this edition of the contest.

PHOTO: First Dog Sutter relaxes in the shade at the Sacramento SPCA's Doggie Dash in William Land Park on June 8, 2013. Photo by Sally McKeag.

June 21, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Legislative scramble a bit like Laurel & Hardy

Dan says the controversy over the California Public Records Act puts him in mind of some classic comedy routines.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 21, 2013
AM Alert: Netroots Nation gathers in San Jose

DEMOCRATS_NETROOTS_Nation_2010.jpgThe base is coming to California. Self-described as "this country's largest progressive gathering," Netroots Nation -- which has been bolder than other Democratic allies in assailing President Barack Obama for perceived shortcomings -- is in San Jose through the weekend for a conference featuring a constellation of Democratic luminaries.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, is delivering a keynote on Saturday afternoon. Other speakers hailing from the Golden State include U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento -- who will be on a panel today discussing gun violence -- and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez of Los Angeles, who spoke Thursday night.

Someone worth watching outside of the California delegation: Sen. Mark Udall, the Colorado Democrat who has warned for years about how U.S. government surveillance has infringed on civil liberties. Udall will no doubt get some pointed questions about it this weekend. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has had a close-up look as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, isn't expected to attend.)

VIDEO: The back-and-forth in Sacramento this week over the state's open records law has Dan Walters thinking of Laurel and Hardy.

June 20, 2013
Elizabeth Emken formally announces challenge to Ami Bera

Elizabeth_Emken.jpgFormer U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken will once again run for office, this time challenging first-term Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

The Republican formally announced her campaign in a letter sent to her donors on Thursday, spokesman Mark Standriff said.

Former congressman Doug Ose also seems likely to join the field of Republicans contending for Bera's seat in California's 7th Congressional District.

Standriff said Thursday that Emken has closed on a house in Fair Oaks in order to run in the district.

In a statement posted on her website, Emken said her decision to run for Congress came from "the need to send someone to Washington who understands the struggles of our families and who is concerned about the direction of our country -- and our government."

Emken ran last year against the longtime incumbent, Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein, but came up short at the polls.

Emken has also championed autism research, serving as vice president for government relations at the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

PHOTO: Then Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken speaks during a news conference in Sacramento on April 10, 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

June 20, 2013
Jerry Brown will support bill keeping Public Records Act intact

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown will support a bill reversing a proposed weakening of the California Public Records Act, apparently resolving the controversy that has swept over the Capitol in recent days.

The resolution follows an Assembly vote this morning to undo part of a budget bill that would have made compliance with some provisions of the act voluntary for local agencies. Brown and Senate Democrats initially said they would instead support putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year seeking to restore the full effect of the act, but without requiring the state to reimburse local agencies for the cost of compliance.

"We support the legislative leaders' approach, which will eliminate uncertainty about local compliance with the law and, on a permanent basis, ensure that local government pays for what has long been its explicit responsibility," said Evan Westrup, Brown's spokesman.

After initially saying they would not immediately act on the Assembly bill, Senate Democrats are now expected to take up the measure undoing changes to the records act. Brown plans to sign that revised language.

The Democratic governor will also continue to support putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year.

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

Editor's Note: This post was updated with Westrup's comment at 2:23 p.m. on June 20, 2013.

June 20, 2013
Chevron Corp. taking political fire from both right and left

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgIt's been a rough week, politically speaking, for Chevron, one of the state's oldest and largest corporations, as it takes fire from the left and the right.

Chevron, which has been dodging political and legal bullets over a 2012 fire at its refinery in Richmond, is under fire from farmers, especially Republican farmers, over hefty political contributions to a group that backs Democrat Leticia Perez in her state Senate battle with Republican farmer Andy Vidak.

What makes the situation especially dicey is that the San Joaquin Valley Senate seat that one of them will fill after a special election next month was vacated by Democrat Michael Rubio after Chevron hired him as a political affairs executive.

June 20, 2013
Jerry Brown has 'nothing to add' about public records flap

brownjanbudget.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - After the state Assembly voted to undo part of a budget bill that would weaken California's open-records law, Gov. Jerry Brown hustled backstage following a speech here Thursday morning, ignoring a trail of reporters.

His spokesman, Evan Westrup, said the Democratic governor had "nothing to add" about the controversy.

Brown is expected to sign legislation making part of the California Public Records Act optional for local agencies. He signaled his opposition Wednesday to a bill by Assembly Democrats to reverse proposed changes to the law. The governor suggested that he would instead support a plan by Senate Democrats to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year seeking to restore the full effect of the act, but without requiring the state to reimburse local agencies for the cost of compliance.

"We all agree that Californians have a right to know and should continue to have prompt access to public records, and I support enshrining these protections in California's constitution," Brown said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Brown's address Thursday morning was at a National Nurses United conference in San Francisco. The organization's California affiliate, the California Nurses Association, was a major supporter of Brown's election in 2010 and initiative to raise taxes two years later.

Brown spoke broadly about climate change and income inequality, familiar subjects for him.

"We have issues that are here today in this legislative session, and then we have issues that transcend the issues of today but are going to affect our lives in a very, very profound way," he said. "And sometimes we can get so caught up in the now that we forget about the tsunami that's coming at us."

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

June 20, 2013
Darrell Steinberg considering run for Sacramento mayor

SteinbergJohnson2.JPGFacing the end of his career in the state Legislature next year, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday that he is considering a run for mayor of Sacramento.

"I'm fairly clear for myself that there doesn't appear to be a statewide constitutional office that I'm interested in running for in 2014. So as I look at other possibilities down the line, that's one possibility," Steinberg said in response to a question from The Bee about his interest in returning to City Hall, where he was a councilman in the 1990s.

The Democratic Senate leader was quick to add that he has not made any firm decisions and that he is friends with Mayor Kevin Johnson, whose term is up in 2016.

"It's not about him," Steinberg said. "I think he's doing a very good job."

Steinberg and Johnson worked closely together during the recent fight to keep the Kings basketball team in Sacramento, frequently making appearances together to block the team's proposed move to Seattle. While Johnson has not discussed the possibility of running for a third term in 2016, he has said that he does not want any job that would require him to leave Sacramento. A call to Johnson's office this morning was not immediately returned.

Steinberg told The Bee he is "not inclined to pursue" a run for Sacramento district attorney in 2014, a post he had once expressed interest in. Democrat Maggy Krell and Republican Anne Marie Schubert have already announced their candidacies for that race to replace longtime DA Jan Scully.

Steinberg has nearly $800,000 in a campaign account opened to run for lieutenant governor in 2018.

Bee reporter Ryan Lillis contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson clasps hands with California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on April 29, 2013, following the announcement that the NBA would not allow the Kings to move to Seattle. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

June 20, 2013
Assembly sends Senate a bill reversing public records changes

blumenfield.JPGAssembly Democrats sent a bill reversing changes to the California Public Records Act to the Senate on Thursday following a 52-25 vote along party lines.

Assembly Republicans said that despite their support of the records act, they would not support the budget trailer bill because it was loaded with other provisions they opposed.

Just before noon Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez issued a joint statement saying that the Senate would take up the measure.

"We agree there needs to be both an immediate fix to ensure local entities comply with the California Public Records Act and a long-term solution so the California Public Records Act is not considered a reimbursable mandate," the statement said.

Senate Bill 71 now duplicates Assembly Bill 76 minus AB 76's public records changes. Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had said Wednesday that his house would hold SB 71 if the Assembly passed it and that he would instead support plans by Sen. Mark Leno , D-San Francisco, to seek a constitutional amendment restoring the records act, but without the requirement that the state pay for local governments to comply.

June 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Public records reversal 'victory for freedom'

The turn of events Wednesday related to the Public Records Act is "a victory for freedom" in Dan's book.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 20, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers get literate

RB_Capitol_Dome.JPGBudget season has produced the usual furor about whether California lawmakers read all the bills they pass, but today legislators will be showing off their literary chops with a "read-in" on the north steps. It's part of a "Summer Matters" campaign spearheaded by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who's seeking to expand access to summer learning options so kids' brains don't completely atrophy over the summer months.

Lawmakers expected to attend include Sens. Kevin de León and Mark DeSaulnier, along with Assembly members Susan Bonilla, Richard Pan and Henry T. Perea. They'll be talking with students about their favorite summer reading choices.

VIDEO: It looks like the Legislature is not immune to public pressure after all, Dan Walters says.

June 19, 2013
Jerry Brown says voters should decide open records question

ha_jerrybrown30191.JPGGov. Jerry Brown, who doesn't want to foot the bill for making local public records easily available to the public, indicated Wednesday he would support asking voters to require local compliance without any cost to the state.

"We all agree that Californians have a right to know and should continue to have prompt access to public records and I support enshrining these protections in California's constitution," Brown said in a one-line statement.

His move appeared to reject a proposal by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to send a bill to the governor's desk that would continue to provide the payments.

June 19, 2013
Senate plots own course in response to records act controversy

steinbergleno.JPGThe tussling over the California Public Records Act took a new turn Wednesday as Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the Senate will hold any bill from the Assembly that contains amendments meant to restore mandates to the law.

Instead, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, will introduce a constitutional amendment Thursday that would require local government ts to comply with the records act without receiving reimbursement from the state .

"The amendment will clarify that this controversy was never about weakening the Public Records Act," Steinberg said. "It instead is about whether state taxpayers pay the bill for what cities and counties should be doing on their own."

The Legislature has been battered by criticism from open government activists over Assembly Bill 76, which both houses passed on party-line votes last week. The budget trailer bill would make multiple provisions in the records act "optional best practices," instead of a mandate that requires the state to reimburse local agencies for complying.

Before Steinberg's press conference, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said in a statement that the Assembly plans to send a second bill to Gov. Jerry Brown that does not have the records act changes. That bill, SB 71, will be taken up by the Assembly on Thursday, Pérez said in the statement.

"To be clear, this means that the California Public Records Act will remain intact without any changes as part of the budget - consistent with the Assembly's original action," Pérez said.

An hour later, Steinberg said the Senate plans to hold that bill until "we get word from one public entity that they are not complying with the law."

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, discuss their plans for the California Public Records Act in a press conference Wednesday. The Sacramento Bee / Melody Gutierrez

June 19, 2013
Tom Calderon speaks: 'No idea' why Ron's office raided

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In his first comments since an FBI raid on his brother's legislative offices, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon denied any wrongdoing in his work for a Southern California water agency he has advised.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided offices belonging to Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, two weeks ago. Tom Calderon, who is Ron's brother, told The Bee in an interview on Wednesday that he had "no idea" what the agents were searching for.

When asked whether he has been contacted by the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's office, Calderon declined to comment.

"I'm not going to talk about that," Calderon said. "It's a complicated issue."

Calderon's name appears on a subpoena recently served to the Central Basin Municipal Water District, a Los Angeles-area water agency which Calderon served for years as a paid consultant.

That brought fresh attention to allegations that Calderon helped steer a contract to a firm, Water2Save, for which he is a board member. Calderon dismissed the notion that he had any role in contracting decisions at the Central Basin Municipal Water District.

"You know, the enemies of Central Basin, I'm sure have talked to people and are making allegations of what my role was, but my role is my role," Calderon said. "I didn't make any decisions over there, I didn't advise the board directly. They made all the decisions."

Two of Tom's brothers, Ron and former Assemblyman Charles Calderon, served in the Legislature and carried legislation that would have affected the water district. Tom said he did not communicate with his brothers about the bills.

PHOTO: California State Senator Ron Calderon, from left, talks with California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, while former state assemblyman Tom Calderon talks with a friend at a memorial service for Tom's wife Marcella Calderon at the Montebello Applied Technology Center High School in Montebello on January 14, 2012. Los Angeles Times/Genaro Molina.

June 19, 2013
Legislature changing course on Public Records Act challenge

perez1.JPGBattered by criticism from open government activists, the Assembly will vote Thursday to undo a budget bill that made some provisions of the state's Public Records Act optional for local governments.

In a statement Wednesday, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said the Assembly will move Senate Bill 71 without the records act changes requested by Gov. Jerry Brown.

"To be clear, this means that the California Public Records Act will remain intact without any changes as part of the budget - consistent with the Assembly's original action," Pérez said.

John Vigna, spokesman for Perez's office, said the Assembly "tried to stop" AB 76, one of several bills in the budget packet for the coming fiscal year.

"We didn't succeed, and it was part of the (budget) package," Vigna said.

If the Senate and the Assembly send Brown SB 71, the governor will have to choose which bill to sign -- the one with the records act changes or SB 71.

AB 76, which both houses passed on party-line votes last week, would make multiple provisions in the records act "optional best practices," instead of a mandate that requires the state to reimburse local agencies for complying.

Brown proposed the change to the records act in his January budget proposal as a way to save tens of millions of dollars. A Senate subcommittee approved the provision in April, while an Assembly subcommittee rejected it in May. The budget conference committee approved a compromise by the Legislative Analysts Office, which was OK'd by both houses.

The budget bill is now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature. Newspaper editorials across the state are calling on Brown to veto it.

"Because we fought against it and there was nary a peep for six months, this wasn't exactly on our radar screen when everyone started writing about it in the last few days," Vigna said.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, points to the desk of Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose before legislators are sworn in during the first day of session at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The Sacramento Bee / Hector Amezcua

June 19, 2013
Website lists earnings for California community college grads

RB_Medical_Class_3.JPGCalifornia Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris debuted a new tool Wednesday that students can use to scope out potential earnings for their course of study.

Salary Surfer lets users search through the median salary for community college graduates two years before, two years after and five years after completing a degree or certificate program. The data covers 179 community college programs and breaks down the colleges that offer each program.

While Salary Surfer caters primarily to current and prospective students who want to look at a specific course of study, Harris said the tool also could help counselors, college directors and policy-makers determine which courses are the most viable.

One of the highest earning programs include a one-year certificate in electrical systems and power transmission at a median salary of $123,174 five years after graduation. Certificate earners in this subject netted higher median salaries than students who earn the corresponding degree, according to the website.

June 19, 2013
Dan Logue launches congressional campaign

ha_dan_logue.JPGAssemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, launched a campaign for California's 3rd Congressional District on Wednesday morning.

That sets up a contest between Logue, who is termed out of the Assembly in 2014, and incumbent Walnut Grove Democrat John Garamendi, who handily defeated Colusa County Supervisor and Republican Kim Vann in November to claim the redrawn district.

In a press release, Logue touted his opposition to the new federal health care law and said he was running "to help create new jobs, stop the reckless spending that has put the nation $16.8 trillion in debt and help make Washington work better for working people."

Logue has been pondering his next move for some time. He initially contemplated moving so he would be eligible to run for the newly drawn 1st Assembly District and later ran for the open 4th Senate District seat that Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, vacated when he won election to Congress. Logue ultimately abandoned that race, citing health issues, and Gerber Republican Jim Nielsen picked up the seat.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, works on the Assembly floor on Monday, Feb. 8, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 19, 2013
District attorneys, victims' advocates urge veto of budget trailer

brownbudget.JPGWhile open-records advocates urge Gov. Jerry Brown to veto legislation that would weaken California's open-records law, crime victim advocates are raising objections to language in the same bill that would relax requirements for how local agencies handle domestic violence cases.

The language, included in a package of budget bills Brown is expected to sign this month, would make optional an existing law requiring local agencies to implement written policies encouraging the arrest of domestic violence offenders if there is probable cause a crime has been committed.

The bill would also make optional -- but encourage as a "best practice" -- a requirement that agencies maintain a record of protection orders related to domestic violence cases to help law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence calls.

June 19, 2013
Senate committee postpones action on school-bond legislation

SCHOOLS_0154.JPGLegislation aimed at curbing California school districts' use of bonds that have extended repayment periods and high costs stalled in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday after school officials mounted a heavy lobbying campaign against it.

The committee, without a vote, postponed action on the measure, Assembly Bill 182, to give its author, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, an opportunity to seek a compromise acceptable to the school officials.

The measure was sparked by revelations that many school districts had issued capital appreciation bonds, dubbed CABs, at the behest of bond lenders, without revealing their terms before seeking voter approval.

The bonds have maturity periods stretching into several decades rather than the more common 20 years, requiring districts to pay lenders several times the bonds' original face values by postponing principal repayment. They are analogous to widely criticized interest-only home mortgages.

June 19, 2013
Pay commission grants five percent raise for California lawmakers, officials

brownleaders.jpgPay for Gov. Jerry Brown, legislators and other top elected officials is going up, a state commission decided Wednesday.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission voted 5-1 to grant a five percent raise for the state's 120 lawmakers and 12 constitutional officers, partially restoring pay cuts imposed during the recession.

The seven-member panel of gubernatorial appointees, created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, is charged with annually setting pay for statewide elected officials.

Brown's current salary is $165,288 while pay for other constitutional officers ranges from $143,571 for the attorney general to $123,965 for the lieutenant governor and Board of Equalization members. Legislators make $90,526.

During California's budget crisis, pay for top elected officials was cut gradually by about 22 percent - chopping nearly $47,000 off gubernatorial pay, for example, and $26,000 off legislative pay.

Under the raise approved this morning, lawmakers will make $95,291.

June 19, 2013
Bera says Republican abortion bill 'is not going to go anywhere'

LS BERA VOTING 6.JPGRep. Ami Bera, a doctor who was elected to Congress last year, questioned Tuesday why his Republican colleagues brought a bill to the floor to restrict abortions beyond 20 weeks when they knew it had no chance of becoming law.

"Why aren't we talking about the things the public wants us to talk about?" the Elk Grove Democrat asked in an interview after he cast a no vote.

The measure passed the House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote of 228-196. Six Republicans broke with their colleagues against, as did six Democrats in favor. It's not likely to survive in the Democratic-majority Senate, and President Barack Obama said he'd veto it if it did.

The bill was designed to satisfy social conservatives after a Philadelphia abortion doctor recently convicted of murder in the deaths of three babies born alive. Kermit Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison.

June 19, 2013
House transportation bill denies high-speed rail funding in 2014

High_Speed_Rail.jpgCongressional skeptics of California's high-speed rail project make their feelings known in a draft transportation spending bill made public this week.

The bill from by the transportation subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee declares that "none of the funds made available by this act may be used for the California High-Speed Rail Program of the California High-Speed Rail Authority."

The language conforms with the views of skeptics like Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, a member of the appropriations committee, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, chair of the House railroad subcommittee and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the House majority whip.

Denham said Wednesday his intent is to ensure that "Valley dollars stay in the Valley."

"We're working together in concert with the other concerned members from the Valley," Denham said.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has already received some $3.5 billion in federal funds, and was not anticipating getting any more in the 2014 fiscal year.

The high-speed rail language was included in a bill that, overall, provides $15.3 billion for an assortment of federal transportation.

PHOTO: Rendering by Newlands and Co. Inc. of a station in California's proposed high-speed rail network. The Sacramento Bee file, 2008

June 19, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Will Gov. Brown gut the public records act?

What will Gov. Jerry Brown's course of action be, Dan wonders, as he faces pressure to veto provisions that his own Department of Finance wanted in the budget.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 19, 2013
AM Alert: California representatives roll rice for reward

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Yes, it's time again for California lawmakers to take a break from all that lawmaking, roll up their sleeves and see who can make the best California roll (it's made with the state grain, you know). The winner of the competition, put on courtesy of the California Rice Commission, gets a cool samurai sword trophy for their efforts. Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, and Assembly members Toni Atkins, Brian Dahle, Marc Levine and Richard Pan are expected to attend. Starting at noon at the Sheraton Grand.

VIDEO: It's time for the governor to show some leadership on protecting government transparency, Dan Walters says.

TIME FOR A RAISE? Whether lawmakers make enough money ranks fairly low on your average voter's list of concerns, but members of the Citizens Compensation Commission are tasked with thinking about such things -- and there's an indication that, after years of cuts, the commission could vote to boost elected officials' salaries. The other piece of drama likely to emerge at today's meeting, which gets under way at 10 a.m. at Sacramento City Hall, is whether a residency issue should deprive commission member John Stites of his vote.

June 18, 2013
California House members convene on Bay-Delta water plan

RB Delta Aerial 1.JPGWater brought California lawmakers together on Tuesday. Or, at least, it got a bunch of them in the same room.

In two separate sessions on Capitol Hill, one held for House Republicans and one held for House Democrats, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird briefed members of the state's congressional delegation on the touchy subject of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, or BDCP.

The ambitious plan, which includes construction of two tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento River and to reduce pumping from the south Delta, is favored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno as well as some big water districts in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. It also faces considerable skepticism from House members whose congressional districts include portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. More than 15 Democrats, including Reps. Doris Matsui, Mike Thompson, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney attended the late afternoon briefing, many of them skeptics.

"I was pleased to have the attention of Governor Brown's administration today and look forward to our meeting tomorrow; however, I will only be satisfied when I see concrete results," McNerney said.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, called the meeting a "very good exchange," and no shouting could be heard from outside the room during the hour-plus meeting. The enduring differences were clearly present, though, when Costa and BDCP skeptic Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, entered into a spirited and spontaneous hallway debate following the session.

PHOTO: Looking southwest with Mt Diablo in the background, an aerial photo of waterways between Staten Island, left, and Tyler Island, right, on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

June 18, 2013
Brown signs bill to launch hiring of hundreds in Rancho Cordova

LS COVERED CA 4.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to allow the hiring of hundreds of call center employees in Rancho Cordova and elsewhere to assist in selling medical insurance through the state's new health care exchange.

"Most definitely, it 's going to allow us to move forward with hiring," said Dana Howard, spokesman for Covered California, the health exchange. "This was the key thing we needed to have resolved."

Senate Bill 509, signed Monday by Brown, lays the groundwork for hiring by requiring criminal background checks of potential call center employees who would have access to clients' personal, medical, tax or financial information.

Applicants can be rejected for positions in the health care exchange if state or federal criminal records show a conviction for a felony or misdemeanor -- or a pending criminal charge -- involving moral turpitude.

"Without this bipartisan legislation, these positions would have been on hold indefinitely," said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, said in a written statement. "These security measures are essential for consumer protection."

June 18, 2013
Steinberg to endorse Dickinson for his Senate seat

DICKINSON.jpgSenate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg will be at Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's side when he announces his candidacy for Steinberg's Sacramento-area Senate seat on Wednesday.

Steinberg's support is a major coup for fellow Democrat Dickinson, who is likely to face Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, in the 2014 Senate race. Steinberg will be termed out.

Dickinson and Pan were slated for an intraparty showdown in the 7th Assembly District in 2012 before Pan moved to the Pocket area to run in the 9th district.

Dickinson was elected to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in 1994 and served for 17 years before his Assembly run in 2010. In addition to Steinberg, Dickinson will announce a lengthy list of endorsements, including US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sacramento County supervisors Phil Serna and Don Nottoli, Sacramento City Councilmembers Bonnie Pannell and Steve Cohn and former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo.

Pan has a campaign committee open and is fundraising, but will likely not announce his intention for the Senate seat while the Legislature is in session, said Doug Herman, Pan's campaign strategist.

Herman said Steinberg's endorsement of Dickinson is not a deal breaker.
"There will be a lot of support for Pan and Dickinson," said Herman, who was Assembly Speaker John A. Perez's campaign consultant. "In the end, it will come down to who they are. Endorsements won't make a difference in this race."

Editor's note: This post was updated with Herman's comments at 4:44 p.m. on June 18, 2013.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, in a 2010 file photo. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 18, 2013
Data supports raising CA state officials pay, panel chairman says

paypanel.jpgThe chairman of California's Citizens Compensation Commission has concluded personally that data supports full restoration of cuts made to state elected officials' salaries the past four years - but he hasn't decided whether to vote that way Wednesday.

Rather than push a specific plan, Chairman Tom Dalzell said he simply will ask the seven-member panel whether it wants to restore all, some or none of the pay cuts to officials ranging from governor to insurance commissioner to state legislator.

"I firmly believe the data suggests restoration," Dalzell said. "I don't know what my policy position is - I want to listen to (commissioners) before I decide, in the end, what I think."

The governor's salary has dropped from $212,179 to $165,288 in the past four years. Lawmakers saw their pay fall from $116,208 to $90,526, their benefits reduced, and their lease-car program eliminated during the same period.

California's officeholder salaries tend to be high compared to their counterparts in other states, but they pale in comparison to salaries paid to many city managers, district attorneys, county executive officers and other key local government administrators, the commission's surveys show.

Dalzell contends that the salary-setting panel must consider whether, despite the state's firmer financial footing, hiking state officeholders' pay would be appropriate so soon after the state's massive budget crisis.

Dalzell said he will not seek a vote on restoring the state's program of purchasing lease cars for lawmakers or increasing legislative per diem because he believes the board acted beyond its legal authority in cutting those benefits in 2009.

"I would propose letting the Legislature handle its affairs, which is what I think the statute envisions."

June 18, 2013
Jerry Brown posts banner fundraising week

brownbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown did his best fundraising of the year last week, collecting in two days about what he raised in the previous three months.

Of the nearly $253,000 raised by the Democratic governor last week, slightly less than half came from a group of automobile dealers who hosted a lunch for Brown in Los Angeles.

Brown collected other contributions from a handful of donors with ongoing business before the state. Those donations include $25,000 each from Time Warner Cable and the University of Phoenix's parent company, Apollo Group Inc., $27,200 from the Southern California-based Morongo Band of Mission Indians and $23,448 from a political action committee of the California Chiropractic Association.

Brown's haul for the week would hardly be outstanding for some other incumbent governors with a primary election less than one year away. Brown, however, has done relatively little fundraising since taking office. The contributions he reported receiving last week account for more than 40 percent of total large donations he has reported receiving this year.

Brown raised about $1.9 million last year and had money left over from this 2010 campaign. The third-term governor, who is widely expected to seek re-election next year, has about $7.8 million in cash on hand.

Brown's banner fundraising week was also the week he negotiated a $96.3 billion budget with lawmakers.

Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, said the lunch his group hosted for Brown was scheduled long beforehand.

"We're supportive of the governor and his re-election, and we were happy to get a number of dealers together that were supportive," he said.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his revised budget plan for the fiscal year at a press conference at the Capitol on May 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

June 18, 2013
Novel depicts California Capitol as full of sex and corruption

PARTY.jpgCalifornia's Capitol is full of hard-drinking, skirt-chasing, and corrupt hypocrites - or so Dianne Harman, the wife of a former state senator, would have readers of her new novel, "Tea Party Teddy," believe.

The title character is "Teddy Randall," newly elected Republican assemblyman from Orange County who hates illegal immigrants and wants to drive them out of the state, but is financially strapped from his campaign, owes money to a Mafia loan shark who's pressuring him for repayment, and is willing to be bribed to vote for an immigrant-friendly bill. Randall falls for an FBI sting, but not before learning that his wife is carrying on an affair with a Latino lawyer who champions immigrant rights.

Harman's husband, Tom, was a long-serving legislator from Orange County, and she says in her acknowledgements that he "day after day asked how the book was coming along, edited numerous drafts and gave tirelessly of his expertise on how things are done in Sacramento." She doesn't say, however, whether that expertise extended to the novel's explicit sex scenes.

"Tea Party Teddy" is a roman à clef that fictionalizes several well-known incidents, such as former Assemblyman Mike Duvall's 2009 bragging on an open mike in a legislative hearing room about his sexual exploits with a lobbyist. Duvall was forced to resign. It also draws on the FBI's undercover sting investigation of the Capitol a quarter-century ago that sent several legislators, lobbyists and staffers to prison.

The novel's Capitol readers will try to match up the fictional characters, especially the title character, with real-life politicians and lobbyists. But Harman makes one connection easy. The influential "FlashReport" blog, much loved by California conservatives, is called "FlushReport" in the book.

"Tea Party Teddy is a novel about political corruption, bribes, sex, and intrigue, which all come together in the story of a newly elected assemblyman," Harman said in an email promoting the book. "While you may think you recognize some of the books' characters as being members of the Sacramento political establishment, the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

"If you want to know what really goes on behind the scenes in Sacramento, you'll find out when you read Tea Party Teddy. As the wife of a former California state senator, I had 12 years of firsthand experience in observing politicians, lobbyists, and consultants, as they struggled to gain political advantage."

The novel, available on-line or in print via Amazon, is reminiscent of another novel, "Capitol Punishment," written by a politician's former wife, that also depicted sex and corruption in and around the state Capitol.

June 18, 2013
Derek Cressman announces secretary of state run

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Pledging to curb the political influence of big-money donors and update California's voting infrastructure, activist and former Common Cause vice president Derek Cressman announced today his candidacy for California secretary of state.

Cressman joins a field already populated by Republican Pete Peterson, who heads a public policy school at Pepperdine University, and two Democratic state senators, Alex Padilla of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco. Like Peterson, Cressman is positioning himself as an outsider with no interest in ascending the political career ladder.

"I'm running for secretary of state only to be secretary of state," Cressman said in an announcement on the south steps of the State Capitol, promising that if he were elected, he would not run for other public offices while serving as secretary of state.

"With the growing concentration of political power in the hands of an elite few," he added, "it too often feels as if our government has been conquered by an army of special interests, lawyers, lobbyists and career politicians who no longer act on our behalf."

June 18, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Assembly Dems flex their supermajority power

Democrats in the California Assembly flexed their supermajority muscles by passing a new constitutional amendment, but Dan wonders what exactly that means for the state and its future.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 18, 2013
AM Alert: California Democrats take aim at constitutional amendments

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During Saturday's budget bonanza, a triumphant Senate president pro tem celebrated the smooth passage of a tax measure by telling observers they had just witnessed the Democratic supermajority in action. Aside from being able to pass taxes without having to woo Republicans, the other benefit to having a two-thirds majority is, of course, the unimpeded capacity to put constitutional amendments on the ballot.

This weekend, we got a glimpse of the supermajority's effect on budget votes -- we'll get another hint today, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Elections And Constitutional Amendments. The committee is considering four proposed amendments that would lower the threshold for voter approval of various local taxes from its current 2/3 level to 55 percent. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. in room 3191.

VIDEO: Democrats are starting to embrace their newfound power, Dan Walters says.

STATE OF SECRETARY OF STATE RACE: We already have multiple contenders to be California's next secretary of state, but today the field expands a bit more: political money critic and former Common Cause vice president Derek Cressman, who had been mulling a run, will formally declare his candidacy on the south steps at 10 a.m. today.

ANOTHER FRACKING HEARING: Okay, today's hearing on California's gas and oil wells is not exclusively focused on hydraulic fracturing -- lawmakers will also hear about the menacingly named process of "acid stimulation," which energy companies have invoked as a way to possibly get at oil locked in the Monterey Shale. But fracking has attracted plenty of attention this session, and the hearing will touch on fracking-related points of contention like the disclosure of chemicals involved in well stimulation.

Speakers include Mark Nechodom, director of the California Department of Conservation; representatives of environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group; and, in lieu of executives from big firms like Halliburton and Chevron who declined invitations, representatives of the Western States Petroleum Association and the California Independent Petroleum Association. In room 4203.

REPUBLICANS PUSH IMMIGRATION: With both parties digging in as Congress debates immigration reform, two California Republicans are traveling to Washington to urge their federal colleagues to act. Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, will be in D.C. today and tomorrow making their case.

TOUTING TESLA: What are those Tesla Model S sedans doing on the West steps, you ask? The vehicle is there to trumpet California's role in the success of Tesla Motors, which along with Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, is sponsoring the automobile's appearance (the cars were manufactured in Wieckowski's district).

DRIVERLESS DIRECTIVES: Speaking of innovative car technology, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is conducting another public workshop on regulations for autonomous vehicles on California's roads, a process that raises some fascinating legal questions. Starting at 10 a.m. at the DMV headquarters on 2415 1st Avenue.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, who hits a milestone by turning 40 today.

PHOTO: Could this thing be poised for changes? The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

June 17, 2013
Matsui completes food-stamp challenge with a few cents to spare

matsuidinner.jpgThree days and $13.37 later, Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento said she was struck by how challenging it was to eat properly on a food-stamp budget.

Matsui was among 30 House Democrats who took part in the SNAP Challenge to protest cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program proposed in Congress. She and her colleagues lived on the average benefit of $4.50 a day.

"While this was temporary for me, it is reality for the millions of Americans who are never sure where their next meal will come from," Matsui wrote on her Facebook page. "As we debate the Farm Bill in the House this week I will continue to oppose outlandish cuts to the SNAP program."

What was on the menu: Bread, pasta, Ramen noodles, canned peaches, American cheese, eggs and coffee.

What wasn't: Meat or fresh fruits and fresh vegetables except broccoli.

Matsui began her challenge Thursday and concluded it Saturday. On the last day, she made French toast - and used the canned peach juice in place of syrup.

"I was struck by how challenging it was to find foods that would fit the tight budget and also provide meals for the three days," she said.

A Senate-passed version of the farm bill would cut $400 million a year from food assistance over a decade. The Republican-majority House of Representatives is considering even deeper cuts - $2 billion a year over 10 years.

Matsui said such cuts would deprive 2 million Americans of food assistance and 200,000 children of school lunches.

"This is unconscionable," she said.

PHOTO: From Rep. Doris Matsui's Facebook page, her dinner of pasta with broccoli, cheese toast and water.

June 17, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: New chapter for California school finance

Dan gives a history of school finance in California and says the latest budget adds another controversial chapter to that saga.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 17, 2013
AM Alert: 'You know you're the newest Assembly member ...'

Social_Media_Teens.jpgNow that the California Legislature's deadline for passing the state budget has come and gone, Capitol Alert takes advantage of Monday morning analysis to parse related bursts emanating from the Twitter-verse.

It was, of course, the first budget votes for Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the San Diego Democrat sworn in to the lower house May 28.

"You know you're the newest Assembly member when someone speaks & you have to ask your seat mate 'Who is that?' (Answer: Mr. Patterson)," she tweeted, referring to Fresno Republican Jim Patterson. (@LorenaSGonzalez)

Several other Assembly members took advantage of a lull Friday by playing off the NSA leak and the dark-humor meme "NSA called to tell me (fill in the blank)."

The latest state budget adds another controversial chapter to the saga of school finance in California, Dan Walters says.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles: "#TheNSACalledToTellMe that @Talk2Melissa needs to change her twitter handle and that @JeffGorell says @CurtHagman plays too many video games." (He was referring to Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore.)

He kept going. Apparently, 140 characters just weren't enough. (@mikegatto)

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, shot back: "#nsacalledtotellme my floor speech sucked." (@JeffGorell)

Melendez was not to be outdone: "#nsacalledtotellme that @JeffGorell and @mikegatto are jealous of @JoinTravisAllen hair," invoking fellow Republican Travis Allen of Huntington Beach. (@Talk2Melissa)

Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, weighed in from the upper house: "@JeffGorell #nsacalledtotellme I thought I'd let you know they told me first." (@tedlieu)

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, took a far more serious tone, tweeting often to explain his votes, which usually fell on the "no" side. (@AsmTimDonnelly)

Democrat Susan Eggman of Stockton took note, quoting Donnelly as saying, "I wish I had a semiautomatic no vote on my desk." (@SusanEggman)

Some of the snarkiest comments, sometimes posted with Twitter pics, came from the anonymous @VanityCaucus ("If they let me get close enough I plan on taking Donnelly's tie away") and @SanityCaucus ("I'm officially in love with a republican '@JeffGorell: bi-partisan boredom.' ").

Capitol Alert can't wait for end-of-session legislative bingo.

CELEBRATIONS: Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, celebrates his 56th birthday today.

PHOTO: A view of an iPhone on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Associated Press/ Evan Vucci

June 15, 2013
California Democrats wrap up budget, flex supermajority power

steinberg.jpg

As the state Senate finished voting today on a bill to extend a tax on managed care plans, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters at the back of the room, "That is what's called a supermajority."

The measure was a relatively modest part of the annual budget package wrapped up by the Legislature today, but it required a two-thirds vote and afforded Democrats an opportunity to flex the supermajority power they gained in November elections.

Democrats in the Assembly mustered two-thirds not only for the managed care tax, but also for a bill that would ask voters to lower from two-thirds to 55 percent the voter-approval threshold for a local government to incur bonded indebtedness for certain public improvements. It is one of several Democratic proposals to lower the voter-approval threshold on local tax and revenue measures.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, said the measure would give local agencies "tools so that they can make the choices and the investments in the infrastructure that they need to grow their economics and make their cities livable."

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, said, "You know and I know that bond is just a four-letter word for tax."

After every Assembly Democrat voted for the bill, Assembly Constitutional Amendment No. 8, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said on Twitter, "All Dems went up on ACA 8. Let's just say that, for a few of them, the targets on their backs just got a little larger."

Steinberg called the Assembly's vote a "good sign" and said he personally supports the measure. However, he said the upper house will not consider voter threshold issues until early next year, which is still in time to place them on the 2014 ballot.

After voting Friday for the state's main, $96.3 billion budget bill, lawmakers today finished voting on all but one of the numerous trailer bills required to implement the annual spending plan. Senators were expected in committee Monday to discuss the final measure, involving a coordinated care program for "dual eligibles" - people enrolled in both Medi-Cal and Medicare.

For the most part, however, the budget is done.

"I'm just very pleased," Steinberg said.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the spending plan before the next fiscal year begins July 1. After the Senate and Assembly adjourned for the day, he issued a statement on Twitter.

"After two and a half years of struggle and difficult times," Brown said, "California's budget is balanced and sustainable into the future."

The Bee's Jim Sanders contributed to this report.

PHOTO: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, right, pumps his fist after one of the state budget bills was passed by the Senate on Friday, June 14, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

June 15, 2013
With budget foregone conclusion, lobbyists quiet for day at Capitol

lobby.jpgA handful of lobbyists sat before a television in a Capitol hallway as the Legislature convened this morning for final budget debates, where 10 times as many might have minded the goings-on in previous, more contentious years.

One casualty of a frictionless budget, it would seem, is any drama on the constitutional deadline to pass a spending plan.

Lawmakers approved the state's main, $96.3 billion budget bill on Friday, four days after Democratic leaders reached agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers were casting final votes today on trailer bills required to implement the plan.

With a lack of remaining controversy about the budget - only Republicans, a super-minority, raised significant objections - lawmakers were trying to move quickly to start their abbreviated weekends.

Among the lobbyists in the hallway was Vanessa Cajina, of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. She said she likes to be present when votes happen, and the number of lobbyists around her increased to about a dozen by the time the Senate convened.

Still, a budget debate just isn't the same when it occurs at 11 a.m. on a Saturday.

For one thing, "Chops isn't open," Cajina said, referring to the popular restaurant/watering hole across from the Capitol.

PHOTO: Lobbyists watch Assembly proceedings on a television in a Capitol hallway on Saturday, June 15, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 14, 2013
Feds subpoena So-Cal water district with ties to Calderon brothers

Calderon-FBI.jpgFederal authorities have served a subpoena at the Central Basin Municipal Water District in Los Angeles County, an agency that has come under scrutiny in the past for its close ties to former Assemblyman Tom Calderon and his brother, Sen. Ron Calderon, whose Capitol offices were raided by the FBI last week.

A spokesman for the water district would say little about the subpoena, and did not answer questions about what authorities were looking for and who they wanted to question.

"I can't comment on the particulars of it," spokesman Jospeh Lagaspi said. "This is all brand new to us."

The Los Angeles Times - which has reported on allegations of cronyism in the water district and its ties to the Calderon brothers - wrote today that the subpoena seeks "documents related to contracts awarded by the water district, invoices, purchase orders, voicemails and information related to how officials there accepted or rejected bids."

Favoritism in awarding contracts was a problem Michael Franchek said he saw at the Central Basin district when he lost a bid to a firm with political ties to district board members. Last week, when Sen. Calderon's Capitol offices were raided, Franchek said he had been interviewed by the FBI twice in recent months.

The Central Basin water district covers an area of southeast Los Angeles County that includes the city of Montebello, where Democrats Ron and Tom Calderon reside. Take a look at the Calderon family tree here.

Legaspi said Friday that water district officials plan to "cooperate fully with the authorities."

PHOTO: Earlier this week Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, addressed the media for the first time following the FBI's June 4 raid of his Capitol offices. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

June 14, 2013
Rocklin lawmaker ambushed over 'undeserved' amendment

gaines.JPGRepublican Assemblywoman Beth Gaines of Rocklin got more than she bargained for when she wrote an amendment this week to a budget trailer bill on mental health services.

Gaines asked that the word "underserved" be changed to "undeserved" in language that calls for a program designed to prevent mental illness from becoming severe and disabling. The program in Senate Bill 77 would emphasize improving timely access to services for underserved populations.

Democratic lawmakers huddled on the Assembly floor for several minutes Friday before they broke to ambush Gaines in a floor debate. They voted to prevent her from discussing other amendments she proposed to the mental health bill, but asked her to read the portion on the one-word change.

Then the Democrats took turns voicing their objections.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, called the amendment "patently offensive."

Republicans came to Gaines' defense, arguing that the language was a bill-drafting error.

Speaker John A. Pérez of Los Angeles disagreed, pointing out that Gaines initially stood behind the amendment when forced to read it on the floor.

Gaines ultimately asked members to vote against her amendment. Lawmakers obliged.

Photo: Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, in a 2011 file photo. The Sacramento Bee / Autumn Payne

June 14, 2013
California lawmakers pass state budget bill

California Budget.jpgBoth houses of the Legislature passed the main budget bill today, four days after Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders reached a compromise on the state's annual spending plan.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly were beginning to take up more than 20 trailer bills associated with the budget and were expected to return for final votes on Saturday.

The $96.3 billion budget includes a modified version of the Democratic governor's proposal to shift more education money to poor and English-learning students, as well as commitments to spend money in the future on mental health services, college student aid and other programs.

The Senate approved the budget 28-10 along party lines. Democratic lawmakers hailed the plan for its reinvestment - however limited - in social programs cut during the recession.

"California's back," said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. "I think this budget is a reflection of that fact."

The vote in the Assembly was 54-25

Republican lawmakers, a super-minority all but irrelevant in budget talks this year, complained the budget failed to sufficiently address debt.

"We're not addressing the bigger financial issues that challenge California," said Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin.

The Republicans said they were shut out of budget talks and that the compromise was done without public vetting.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, disagreed.

"All of us have a vote," Blumenfield said. "No one was excluded from the meetings."

The Bee's Jon Ortiz and Melody Gutierrez contributed to this report

PHOTO: State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chair of the Senate Budget committee, urges lawmakers to approve the state budget, Friday, June 14, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. Associated Press/ Rich Pedroncelli

June 14, 2013
Proposed court records fees pulled from state budget

RCB_20130514 BUDGET_0118.JPGWhile open government advocates are celebrating part of California's budget, they are lamenting another.

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to allow courts to charge a search fee for access to public records fell short of making it into the spending plan. But his move to suspend a state mandate that requires local governments to follow the Public Records Act is included in the plan lawmakers are considering today.

The court fee proposal would have attempted to boost court revenues by placing a $10 price tag on any public records search requested by businesses, journalists and members of the public. Parties involved in the case would have been the only group exempt from the fee.

June 14, 2013
Sutter Brown caption finalists: vote on your favorite

sutter.JPGWhat is first dog Sutter Brown thinking?

We put that question to readers last week, and our exercise in interspecies telepathy produced more than 250 responses (Who's a good reader? You!).

The offerings were as varied as the spectrum canine breeds. Plenty of jokes about tummy rubs, pork and Latin, which Sutter's dad, Gov. Jerry Brown, enjoys sprinkling into speeches. A few readers wanted to tell us about their own pet corgis. One reader went with the stuff-the-ballot-box approach, submitting 18 offers.

After doggedly searching through the contenders, we've narrowed it down to the following. If you need a little context, Sutter was taking a break after gracing the Sacramento SPCA's doggy dash with his presence.

1. "If you scratch my belly...I'll scratch yours."

2. "I'm not wearing a wire. Rub my belly and check."

3. "The Governor told me to either strike this ridiculous pose for the SPCA, or start digging the Delta tunnels."

4. "Now that Steinberg and Pérez have rolled over for the governor, why shouldn't I?"

5. "I shouldn't have had that second drink at the duck pond."

Send your responses to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com by 11:59 p.m. Monday. You can remain anonymous if you wish, but we need to have your name to award the grand prize of a $25 coffee shop gift certificate.

June 14, 2013
Both houses of Legislature begin tackling 22 budget bills

budget.JPGAnd they are off. The first of the budget bills is being taken up in the Legislature as the Assembly and Senate both convened at 10 a.m. to talk money. The plan is for the two houses to take up about 16 bills today, with the remaining bills being pushed over to Saturday, said John Vigna, spokesman for the Speaker's Office.

If lawmakers are ahead of schedule, they will attempt to take up more bills in hopes of not having to come in Saturday, Vigna said.

There are 22 bills in the budget package. Each house has to approve the main budget and the accompanying trailer bills.

Check back here for ongoing coverage.

2013 Budget and Trailer Bills

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John Perez celebrate a budget deal with a formal announcement at the State Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: State's diversity creates political challenges

The only constant in California is change, Dan says, which means the state faces unique challenges.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 14, 2013
AM Alert: California's state budget deadline approaches

jerryBudget.JPGWill California lawmakers have to work this weekend? We'll find out by the end of business today: The deadline for passing a budget beckons, so if legislators don't ratify the latest budget accord today, they will have to do so Saturday before midnight.

The Assembly and the Senate both convene this morning, so stay tuned to see whether they manage to wrap things up in time to head back to their districts for the events they've planned for Saturday (of which there are plenty).

VIDEO: A look at California's changing demographics reminds Dan Walters why the state can claim the most complex society in the Western hemisphere.

June 13, 2013
CA lawmakers push to name Bay Bridge span after Willie Brown

BRIDGE TOLLS.JPGA group of legislators is proposing to name the western span of the Bay Bridge after former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 65 recognizes Brown's accomplishments, which include two terms as mayor of San Francisco, by naming the western span the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Bridge.

"He was able to bridge all kinds of people and I think he is very deserving of this," said Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, a co-author on ACR 65. "The caveat is that it is unfortunate that they are only naming the bridge that needs the most work after him. As I understand it, that span needs the most repairs."

The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is due to open later this year. The project has been embroiled in controversy involving faulty materials and questionable testing procedures, as reported in a series of stories by Charles Piller in The Sacramento Bee.

Brown was mayor of San Francisco when Gov. Pete Wilson signed legislation doubling tolls of five San Francisco Bay area bridges to pay for seismic upgrading and repairs on the Bay Bridge in 1997. Brown battled with lawmakers over the design and location of the bridge, which led to years of delays. In a column in the San Francisco Chronicle in February, Brown said it was worth the wait.

Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, and 10 co-authors introduced the resolution Wednesday to name the western span after Brown.

"Willie Brown has been a trailblazer in so many ways," said Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, who returned to the Capitol this week after a three week absence. Holden has been out on bereavement leave following the death of his mother, as well as a medical leave.

"My mom always said give people flowers while they can still smell them," Holden said. "(Brown) has touched so many lives in a positive way."

* NOTE: This version has been updated to delete a portion of a quote by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, who said she misspoke.

PHOTO: California Gov. Pete Wilson, center, talks with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, second from left, after the governor signed legislation doubling tolls of five San Francisco Bay area bridges as Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, left, Bill Lockyer, D-Hayward , and Quentin Kopp, I-San Francisco, right, listen Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1997, on Treasure Island, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay. The increased tolls are to pay for seismic upgrading and repairs on the Bay Bridge, shown in background. Associated Press//Thor Swift

June 13, 2013
Delayed release of budget bills angers Republican senators

20120104_PK_LEGISLATURE 0602.JPGWhen Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a motion in the Senate on Thursday to move the budget trailer bills to the floor, it sparked heated debate from several Republican senators.

Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, and Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, all urged the Senate not to send the bills out of committee without a public hearing.

Huff accused Senate Democrats of wanting "to skip another step" and questioned the fairness of the process. Without public debate, Huff said, the budget would not be a fair representation of the people's needs.

"Colleagues, ask yourself how comfortable you are with a final product produced by three people in a closed room that neither you, nor your constituents, have had a chance to review," Huff said.

Emmerson voiced similar concerns about what he called a "shameful" process, telling his colleagues that "the people of California deserve better."

Nevertheless, the motion passed 23-9. Links to the trailer bills were later posted online and are listed here. The Senate is expected to take up the budget Friday morning.

RELATED POST: Help us examine California's budget bills

PHOTO: Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and then state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, talk during a Senate session in Sacramento in January 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 13, 2013
Help us examine California's budget bills

BUDGETBLAKESLEE.jpgThe California Legislature has begun to release details of the so-called "trailer bills" that will accompany the budget bill for floor votes Friday -- and possibly Saturday.

The last-minute release of the policy bills needed to implement the spending plan has become something of a tradition at the Capitol, with open government advocates complaining that the public is not given enough time to evaluate the sometimes voluminous provisions.

The Senate this morning voted to send all the bills to the floor without committee hearings, drawing the ire of Republicans.

As we start to comb through the measures looking for heretofore unknown budget provisions, perhaps Alert readers can lend a hand. Below are links to the current versions of the bills, including the main budget bill, that have been released so far.

See anything interesting -- or fishy? Email David Siders at dsiders@sacbee.com

SB 66 - Human Services
SB 70 - Alcohol and Drug programs
SB 71 - State government
SB 74 - Corrections
SB 75 - Courts
SB 76 - Public Safety
SB 77 - Health
SB 82 - Mental Health
SB 83 - Developmental Services
SB 85 - Transportation
SB 86 - State government
SB 89 - Augmentations
SB 91 - School Finance
SB 92 - Seismic Safety
AB 110 - Budget Bill

PHOTO: Then Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, reads during discussion on the main budget bill on Tuesday, June 28, 2011, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 13, 2013
California Assembly committee stalls high-profile farm labor bill

BB_FARM_COND_0125_Labor.JPGA high-profile bill to help the United Farm Workers union secure contracts with growers has hit a roadblock in a California Assembly committee that's ordinarily very friendly to union-sponsored legislation.

The measure, Senate Bill 25, had cleared the Senate easily -- not surprisingly, since its author, Sacramento Democrat Darrell Steinberg, is the Senate's president pro tem.

However, it got just three votes Wednesday in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee -- one short of the four required -- as two Democrats on the committee refused to vote, including Salinas Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who has worn support for farmworkers' interests on his sleeve throughout his political career.

June 13, 2013
Single fracking bill remains before California Legislature

pavley.JPGThe drive to regulate the contentious extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has narrowed in focus: lawmakers have winnowed the file of fracking-related bills to a single piece of legislation.

Senate Bill 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, became the sole survivor after a bill by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, requiring greater disclosure about the chemicals and water deployed during fracking failed to advance in committee Wednesday.

Other fracking bills have been relegated to the inactive file on the author's request, perished during floor votes or sent to wither on the suspense file. Some of those bills, particularly those that would have imposed a moratorium on fracking in California, drew vigorous opposition from the energy industry.

Senators greenlighted Pavley's bill on a 28-11 floor vote, with every no vote coming from Republican lawmakers. The bill would set up a permitting system, require energy companies to share more information with the state and with property owners and have the California Natural Resources Agency commission a study on the environmental repercussions of fracking.

It is pending in the Assembly, with Pavley's office expecting a committee referral soon.

June 13, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's court system is in crisis

California legislators are busy giving themselves a pat on the back over the latest state budget deal while the state's court system is getting hammered, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 13, 2013
AM Alert: How diverse is California's state workforce?

LAdiversity.jpgMore than 16 years after California voters passed Proposition 209 prohibiting the state from factoring race, gender and ethnicity into hiring decisions, a bevy of public officials will be taking stock today at a state-sponsored employment workshop.

Speakers at the daylong event will include Anna Caballero, secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency; Julie Chapman, director of the California Department of Human Resources; Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP; E. Dotson Wilson, the Assembly's chief clerk; Cynthia Bridges, executive director of the State Board of Equalization; and Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, (who, incidentally, is getting married this weekend).

VIDEO: Even as Sacramento heralds a new budget deal, court closures highlight the fact that the fiscal pain isn't over, Dan Walters says.

June 12, 2013
Matsui to live on food stamp budget for 3 days to protest cuts

ha_doris_matsui46897.JPGRep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento on Wednesday pledged to spend only $13.50 on food the next three days, joining nearly 30 of her fellow House Democrats in protest of cuts to the federal food stamp program.

The Senate on Monday approved a 10-year, $955 billion farm bill that includes a $400 million a year cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. A House proposal would cut the program by $2 billion a year.

Matsui said via Facebook and Twitter that 200,000 residents of Sacramento County rely on food assistance and that she'd take part in the "SNAP Challenge" and live off the average benefit of $4.50 a day.

"Feeding a family on SNAP is already challenging, and these cuts would make it even harder," Matsui wrote on her Facebook page. "That is why I am taking the SNAP Challenge to raise awareness of hunger in our nation and to highlight the importance of SNAP."

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the food stamp program helped 45 million low-income Americans in 2011. Nearly half of the recipients of food assistance are children, and nearly 1 in 5 are elderly.

Northern California Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland and Jared Huffman of San Rafael are also participating. Lee will live on a $4.50 daily food budget for an entire week.

PHOTO: Rep. Doris Matsui listens to a speaker after U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took a tour of the new terminal construction at the Sacramento International Aiport on Wednesday, June 7, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 12, 2013
Pacific Hospital of Long Beach says it has 'no direct knowledge' of Calderon scrutiny

Pacific Hospital of Long Beach has made its first comments to The Bee since the paper began asking last week about its business relationship with the brother of state Sen. Ron Calderon, whose Capitol offices were searched by the FBI last week.

"Pacific Hospital of Long Beach has no direct knowledge of the recent scrutiny of Ron Calderon and his immediate family members. Commenting would be speculative and inappropriate," says the statement from Laura Salas Reyes, the hospital's director of public relations.

The statement goes on to say that Pacific Hospital executives will have nothing more to say in response to The Bee's inquiries, as "it remains focused - as always - on providing the highest quality medical care to its patients."

Tom Calderon listed Pacific Hospital of Long Beach as a client of his consulting business when he filed an economic statement of interest last year as part of his unsuccessful run for state Assembly. Also last year, on a campaign flier, he described serving on the hospital's board of directors.

Pacific Hospital of Long Beach has declined to answer The Bee's questions about its relationship with Tom Calderon, and his lawyer did not return a call from The Bee on Wednesday.

The hospital is known for performing spine surgeries for California workers compensation patients, and was the subject of a Wall Street Journal story last year that raised questions about the large amount it billed for performing back surgeries on injured workers - three times more than any other hospital in the state. The FBI raided Pacific Hospital of Long Beach in April searching for "evidence of criminal allegations," the FBI told The Bee.

June 12, 2013
Adult day care legislation dies after 'awkward conversation'

20130311_HA_JUDICIARY176.JPGDemocratic members of the California Senate Health Committee had what one of them called "a little awkward conversation" Wednesday with Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada over her bill to reinstate day care centers for adults with physical or mental disabilities, pleading with her to accept amendments.

Yamada refused to remove bill language to prohibit the state from allowing more for-profit firms to provide the care, characterizing her refusal as a philosophical objection to "making a profit off the public dollar."

And with that refusal, Yamada's measure, Assembly Bill 518, died without a motion or a vote. It was an unusual end for the measure, which had whizzed through the Assembly with nary a negative vote and bipartisan support.

Two years ago, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated the day care program under the state's Medi-Cal program as one of the reductions made in "safety net" services to balance the state budget, turning aside complaints that its elimination would force beneficiaries into more expensive institutional care.

June 12, 2013
Elizabeth Emken closer to challenging Ami Bera for House seat

emkendriveway.JPGThe field of potential challengers to freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, continues to grow, with former U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken filing a statement of candidacy.

Emken unsuccessfully took on incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012, losing by a wide margin. The Republican's statement of candidacy, filed with the Federal Election Commission last week, lists Bera's seat in California's 7th Congressional District.

While Emken has not formally launched her candidacy, spokesman Mark Standriff told Capitol Alert that "she's in it."

"She's committed to run," Standriff said.

Former congressman Doug Ose, who departed the House of Representatives in 2005 and is considered a top Republican contender for Bera's seat, told Capitol Alert that he is still mulling the possibility of a run. He said Emken has contacted him to seek an endorsement, which he declined.

"I'm in the process of figuring out, is there a path to victory? If there's a path to victory, it'll be obvious what I'm going to do," Ose said.

PHOTO: U.S. Senate candidate and autism activist Elizabeth Emken at her Danville home on April 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

June 12, 2013
Caption Contest: Dog days of summer

sutter.JPG Followers of state politics are familiar with Gov. Jerry Brown's corgi Sutter, who has his own bio on the governor's website, his own Facebook page and even his own Twitter account.

The First Dog made an appearance last weekend at the Sacramento SPCA's Doggie Dash in William Land Park. Sutter took a break from the canine 5K to make some two-legged friends, judging by this photo taken by Sally McKeag of California Strategies.

What was California's First Dog thinking here? Take a crack at captioning the charismatic corgi in the latest Capitol Alert Caption Contest.

For newcomers to the contest, here are the rules:

1. Look at the picture.
2. Write a caption.
3. E-mail it to us.

When sending in submissions, feel free to request anonymity. Only those willing to have their real names published, however, can win the grand prize: a $25 gift certificate to a capital coffee shop (entrants residing outside Sacramento can request any coffee chain).

Entries are due by Thursday, June 13 at 11:59 p.m. Send submissions to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com.

PHOTO: First Dog Sutter relaxes in the shade at the Sacramento SPCA's Doggie Dash in William Land Park on June 8, 2013. Sally McKeag.

June 12, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Budget deal lacks enterprise zone overhaul

Dan takes a look at the enterprise zone overhaul that Gov. Jerry Brown wanted but didn't get in the latest state budget deal.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 12, 2013
AM Alert: California SEIU lobbies lawmakers on health care

20120620_HA_WALKER0026.JPGThe Service Employees International Union California, fresh off a major local securing a tentative contract agreement that includes a raise, is marshaling its members this morning to lobby lawmakers.

Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, and Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, are scheduled to address attendees, who will be pressing health-related initiatives such as a Medi-Cal expansion as well as legislation to prohibit large employers from paying employees a wage low enough that they would qualify for Medi-Cal. The rally starts at 10 a.m. on the Capitol's south steps.

VIDEO: Dan Walters looks at why the latest state budget deal is missing the enterprise zone overhaul that Gov. Jerry Brown wants.

June 11, 2013
Jerry Brown, California legislative leaders tout budget deal

perezbudgetpresser.JPGOne day after reaching a compromise with legislative leaders on the state budget, Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday he has not agreed to consider increased spending if the economy outperforms his administration's expectations, but he did not dismiss the possibility.

Legislative Democrats had said Monday when they accepted Brown's relatively conservative revenue estimates that they could call for additional spending in January if tax revenue came in higher than anticipated.

"I haven't made any agreement," Brown told reporters at the Capitol. "Look, we have boom and bust, money comes in, money goes out. And I'm trying to be a good, prudent steward of the people's money."

"In general," he added, "I think prudence rather than exuberance should be the order of the day."

The Democratic governor appeared with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, to tout the deal days before a likely vote in both houses Friday.

"This is not only a balanced budget, but it's a real step forward," Brown said.

The budget deal includes a modified version of Brown's controversial proposal to shift more money to poor and English-learning students. The proposal was made more palatable to lawmakers by Brown's agreement to spread more money to more school districts statewide.

The agreement also includes commitments to spend money in the future on mental health services, college student aid and other programs. Brown agreed to spend far less than lawmakers hoped, however. Legislative Democrats had initially urged about $2 billion more in spending on state services and programs than Brown's figure. The $96.3 billion agreement reached Monday includes about $200 million more in discretionary, general fund spending.

"The budget not only is in balance," Steinberg said, "but it begins to provide some relief to the people who were hurt most over the last several years."

The budget agreement did not resolve Brown's proposal to eliminate the state enterprise zone program and to use the money instead for sales tax exemptions for manufacturing and biotech research companies.

Brown said today that the enterprise zone negotiation remains "out in front of us." The issue would not have to be resolved before a budget vote this week.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, center, speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, as Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, right, look on. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

VIDEO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento and Gov. Jerry Brown speak to reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Amy Gebert

June 11, 2013
Cap-and-trade loan in state budget deal irks environmentalists

California-Greenhouse Gases(2).jpgGov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers have cleared the air by announcing a budget accord, but environmental groups are choking on a piece of the deal that would borrow half a billion dollars intended for programs to curtail greenhouse gases.

California's fledgling cap-and-trade program auctioned off its first permits in November, following through on a landmark 2006 law, and has raised about $236 million to date, according to the Air Resources Board. Those proceeds are supposed to flow into programs to reduce emissions.

But the governor wants to shift $500 million generated by the auctions into the general fund. Brown defended the move Tuesday at a news conference by saying "we don't think we're quite ready yet" to start allocating the money.

"We're the most aggressive in the western hemisphere in terms of our clean energy goals," Brown said.

That has drawn the ire of environmental groups and questions from lawmakers who worry the governor is undercutting the greenhouse gas law's intent, or at least unnecessarily delaying implementation.

June 11, 2013
Campaigns funded holiday gifts between Calderon brothers

christmas.JPGChristmas presents don't typically show up on California state disclosure forms, but they do when brothers exchange gifts using campaign funds. Such is the case with Montebello Sen. Ron Calderon, who is the subject of an FBI investigation, and his brother Charles Calderon, a former state legislator.

On Christmas Day in 2010, Charles Calderon's campaign account for his Assembly run that year gave Ron Calderon a $420 "holiday gift," according to his statement of economic interests. The $420 price tag happens to have been the state's limit on gifts to legislators that year. This year, it is $440.

On Christmas Eve in 2009, Charles Calderon's campaign for the Assembly gave Ron Calderon a $400 "holiday gift card." That gift came three days after Ron Calderon's Senate campaign account gave then Assemblyman Charles Calderon a $182.70 pair of shoes for a golf event.

State campaign finance laws exempt gifts among family members from having to be reported by state lawmakers on annual disclosure forms. That is, unless campaign funds are used.

"We looked into the gifts between the two brothers," said Gary Winuk, the enforcement division chief of the Fair Political Practices Commission. "Their claim was that the gift was to improve legislative relations between brothers, which meets the technical legal standard."

June 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: It's time to test the Governor's education reform theory

With Gov. Jerry Brown's education spending proposal relatively unscathed in the new budget deal, Dan says its successes and failures fall on Brown's shoulders.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 11, 2013
AM Alert: Ron Calderon gets back to work

Calderon-FBI.jpg

The Calderon Watch is officially over, and we're not talking about screening Ian's surf videos: Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, surfaced yesterday for the first time since the FBI raided his offices, referred questions to his lawyer and vowed to get back to the daily tasks of being a lawmaker. Today that includes a 9:30 a.m. hearing of the Governmental Organization committee, on which Calderon sits.

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown for the most part got what he wanted out of yesterday's budget accord, and Dan Walters says that means the governor owns the policy proposals behind it.

GUN GAMUT: The Senate Public Safety Committee is taking up a raft of gun control measures that passed the Assembly today, while the Natural Resources Committee is looking at a hotly disputed measure to ban lead ammunition when hunting wildlife. The Natural Resources committee meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. in room 112, while Public Safety is meeting in room 3191.

WOMEN'S HEALTHCARE: We've already brought you news of the multi-front campaign for a bill that would punish employers who don't pay their employees enough to keep them off of Medi-Cal. Today advocates are framing the legislation in terms of its impact on women's health, with female leaders -- among them Patty Bellasalma, president of the National Organization of Women's California chapter -- joining Women's Caucus Chair Bonnie Lowenthal, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and California Labor Federation President Connie Leyva to push for the bill during a 10:30 a.m. press conference in room 317.

ELEVATING ELECTIONS: Is California's electoral system a source of disappointment for you? The Public Policy Institute of California will entertain some suggestions for alleviating the pain during an "Improving California's Elections" talk today that will include Fair Political Practices Commission chair Ann Ravel, California Chamber of Commerce president Allan Zaremberg, KQED reporter Scott Shafer, and Mark Baldassare and Eric McGhee of PPIC. The event, which runs from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., is in San Francisco, but you can follow it via live webcast.

TRANSPORTATION TRYST: Lawmakers who sit on transit committees will be breakfasting with members of the California Transportation Commission at the Sheraton Grand this morning, after which the commission will convene at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I street to weigh funding for new projects.

PHOTO: State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, right, reacts as a reporter tries to ask him a question at the end of his brief news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday June 10, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

June 10, 2013
Gavin Newsom jokes about tech mogul wedding controversy

20130115_PK_NEWSOM_0248.JPGAt a panel discussion hosted by The Sacramento State University's Hornets Policy and Politics alumni chapter on Monday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom kept the conversation centered on his latest book - but dropped in a joke about the controversy surrounding Napster-founder Sean Parker's multi-million dollar wedding.

Newsom took some flak last week for attending the Facebook co-founder's Big Sur wedding after news broke that Parker would pay a $2.5 million fine for building a multi-million dollar wedding site on coastal land without the proper permits.

"There's a lot of dust flying in the air around the controversy surrounding Sean Parker's wedding - coming from most people who weren't invited," Newsom quipped.

Newsom's book, "Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government," focuses on the "hyper-connected" digital world that government operates in today - a point he illustrated using the guest list at Parker's wedding.

Newsom noted that Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich - one of the most outspoken critics of Napster - was one of Parker's wedding guests. Though Parker and Ulrich may seem like strange bedfellows, Newsom said their friendship illustrates how far technology has come since Napster's birth in 1999.

"Technology [was] attacking the old model of music," Newsom said. "Meanwhile, as these guys are running around in the corner, a guy called Steve Jobs goes, 'You know what? I've got an idea.'"

Following his appearance, Newsom sidestepped a reporter's question on the wedding's environmental impact.

PHOTO: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has a new book, "Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government" about how social media can change the face of government. Photographed in his office at State Capitol on January 15, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 10, 2013
Jerry Brown, lawmakers reach budget deal

brownbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders have reached agreement on major elements of the state budget, including a controversial school funding proposal and other issues, sources said.

In a victory for the Democratic governor, sources said the agreement will largely assume the more conservative revenue estimates proposed by Brown. Legislative Democrats had urged about $2 billion more in spending on state services and programs than Brown proposed, after the state's nonpartisan legislative analyst issued a rosier economic forecast than Brown's.

In a compromise on Brown's proposal to overhaul the state education system and to shift more money to poor and English-learning students, all school districts would receive additional base revenue.

In addition, Senate Democrats are poised to get $206 million to improve mental health services, including $142 million in one-time general fund money. They are also expected to receive about $80 million to restore Medi-Cal adult dental benefits.

Assembly Democrats would receive approval for implementation of middle-class college scholarships, a priority of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

The college scholarship and mental health programs are expected to take effect next year.

Money was freed up for expanded programs by reducing the amount of money Brown proposed to give schools to pay down debts owed under Proposition 98, California's school-funding guarantee, the sources said. The agreement also assumes nearly $300 million in higher property tax revenue and savings of about $85 million to $90 million in the state expansion of Medi-Cal.

The Bee's Jim Sanders contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This post updated at 2:55 p.m. to include that college scholarship funding and a mental health program expansion would take effect next year under the budget deal.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his revised budget plan for the fiscal year at a press conference at the Capitol, on May 14, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

June 10, 2013
How California school districts fare in possible funding deal

Here is a list of how specific California school districts would fare under a school funding compromise circulating in the Capitol.

All Districts by Dan Smith

June 10, 2013
VIDEO: Sen. Ron Calderon returns to Capitol, makes statement

Here is the video from Sen. Ron Calderon's press statement at the Capitol this afternoon.

June 10, 2013
Ron Calderon speaks: "My intention is to do my job"

calderon.jpgIn his first public appearance since the FBI searched two of his offices last week, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, confirmed on Monday that he has retained counsel but declined to offer any details about the nature of the investigation.

Calderon asked that any inquiries be referred to his attorney, Mark Geragos, saying "I have a lot of my own questions." He said he remains committed to his work in the Legislature.

"My intention at this point is to do my job I was elected to do, attend my hearings, get my bills passed out of committee to the floor and do the work of the state," Calderon said.

The U.S. attorney's office has also been silent about the reason for the searches.

In a hint of the potential scope of the probe, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said on Friday that he had received a subpoena and would appear before a grand jury in July.

Aides to De León said they believed the subpoena was linked to the Calderon searches but that De León is not a target of an investigation.

Another Los Angeles-area lawmaker, Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, declined to comment on whether he had received a subpoena when asked by The Bee on Monday morning.

PHOTO:Sen. Ron Calderon, D- Montebello, speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

June 10, 2013
Legislative leaders circulate 'compromise' on school funding

RP MATH TEACHER AND STUDENT.JPGA deal apparently has been struck among legislative leaders, if not the governor, in the bitter battle over California school financing.

Legislative leaders were circulating documents to school districts today outlining a proposed compromise.

The Assembly and Senate joint budget conference committee has announced that it plans to conclude its business today, which would suggest a deal on the school funding and numerous other controversial issues.

The bottom line in the school funding battle is that all districts would receive additional base revenue under the legislative plan, with per-pupil grants increasing by $537 above the sums proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

"The compromise provides additional funding for an 'economic recovery payment' to ensure that virtually all districts get back to their 2007-08 state funding levels, adjusted for inflation," the documents said.

Matching funding to the 2007-08 level is important for districts because that was their highest funding year, prior to the state's budget crisis.

June 10, 2013
California just average in computer and Internet use

BIZ WRK-CPT-GADGETS SJ.jpgCalifornia, birthplace of the personal computer and home to Silicon Valley's tech giants, is only average when it comes to Internet connectivity - probably because the state has a very large population of low-use ethnic groups, a new Census Bureau report indicates.

The report says that 15.4 percent of Californians over two years old lack a home computer and have no other access to a computer and the Internet, only slightly lower than the 15.9 percent national average. Other states range from a low of 7.5 percent in Utah to a high of 26.8 percent in Mississippi.

Californians did rate relatively high, however, in two other indices - smartphone use and using multiple sources and platforms to access the Internet.

The Census Bureau found that computer access and use rates vary widely with ethnicity, with Asian households having the highest rates of Internet use at 82.7 percent, followed by non-Hispanic whites at 76.2 percent, Hispanics at 58.3 percent and blacks at 56.9 percent. The latter two comprise about 45 percent of California's 38 million residents.

PHOTO: Kim Gibbons, director of strategic marketing at Cisco Systems uses her own personal cell phone and iPad while working on a laptop at Cisco in San Jose on Friday, January 27, 2012. San Jose Mercury News/Patrick Tehan

June 10, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Who'll get what from California state budget?

California lawmakers face a constitutional deadline Saturday for passing a state budget, which is bringing a long-running conflict to the fore, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 10, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers ring in White Suit Day

LSWHITESUITWRIGHT.JPGNo, we aren't bringing you news of state Capitol weddings. California lawmakers are heralding the onset of summer by donning white suits today and rewarding staffers and lobbyists who do likewise. (The federal version involves seersucker.)

To ring in White Suit Day, Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Steve Bradford, D-Gardena, are hosting an evening reception at Ella Dining Room and Bar with free beverages for attendees who dress in white (including a "White Linen Cocktail" that Capitol Alert had to look up). Wright's website features photos from last year's event.

VIDEO: The budget debate is pitting two traditional Democratic constituencies against each other, Dan Walters says.

CALDERON WATCH: In non-sartorial news, it has now been more than a week since Sen. Ron Calderon was seen at the Capitol, before an FBI raid on his offices. While speculation continues about the probe, we're wondering when the Montebello Democrat will again show up to work.

AWOL WORKERS: The Senate Public Employment And Retirement Committee is taking up a bill that would make it harder to prematurely fire state workers who disappear from work without a good explanation. The State Worker wrote about the legislation back when it cleared the Assembly, and senators will take a look starting at 2 p.m. in room 2040.

TRANSGENDER ATHLETES: You may remember us writing about a Tom Ammiano bill that would give young transgender students the leeway to choose the bathroom facility and the team that best fits their gender identity. The State Athletic Commission is delving into a similar debate today as it considers whether to license transgender fighters. The meeting convenes at 10 a.m. at the State Building in Los Angeles.

GAVIN'S GOVERNMENT: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has gotten plenty of press -- and some profanity-peppered Stephen Colbert eyebrow arches -- for his new book on civic engagement in the digital era. He'll be discussing the subject today during a noon talk at the CSAC conference center on 11th Street that will also feature Santa Monica Mayor Pam O'Connor, Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen and Channel 10's John Myers.

JOB MOVE: We are told that Elizabeth Ashford, formerly of Gov. Jerry Brown's office, is taking a gig as chief of staff to California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 7:25 a.m. June 10, 2013 to correct that Kamala Harris is attorney general.

PHOTO CREDIT: Then-Assemblyman Roderick Wright, self-proclaimed head of the "White Suit Caucus," buttons up his jacket in his office on Monday, June 4, 2001. By Lezlie Sterling/The Sacramento Bee.

June 8, 2013
Jerry Brown says Chinese president adds 'sparkle' to California

brownjinping.jpgGov. Jerry Brown continued his courtship of China on Saturday, meeting with the nation's president, Xi Jinping, in Indian Wells.

The meeting followed Brown's week-long trade mission to China in April. The Democratic governor is seeking to attract Chinese investment in California, including in public infrastructure such as high-speed rail.

"I first of all told the president and his wife that they added sparkle and excitement to our state," Brown told reporters after the meeting, according to The Desert Sun. "And then we discussed the way that California can work with a number of provinces in China to advance our mutual goals of new energy technologies, agriculture, tourism and exchange of students and scientists."

The two leaders met for about 40 minutes, according to The Desert Sun. Xi said seeing Brown was like seeing "an old friend of mine," while Brown told the Chinese president "you grace our state with your presence," according to the newspaper.

Xi was in Rancho Mirage for meetings Friday and Saturday with President Barack Obama.

PHOTO CREDIT: Xi Jinping, left, then vice president of China, talks with Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, right, as they watch the Los Angeles Lakers play the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 17, 2012, in Los Angeles. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press file

June 7, 2013
U.S. Attorney subpoenas Senator Kevin de León

ha_no_text_levin_de_leon.JPG

Days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched two offices belonging to Sen. Ron Calderon, fellow Los Angeles-area Democrat Sen. Kevin de León said he received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles.

In a statement, de León said he received a subpoena on Thursday. He added that he intended "to cooperate fully" but would not disclose any details of the request because the U.S. attorney's office had requested confidentiality. Officials have also kept mum on the reason for the searches of Calderon's offices.

"We assume it's related," to the searches of Calderon's offices, Greg Hayes, a spokesperson for de León, told Capitol Alert.

De León will be interviewed by a grand jury in July, said his chief of staff, Dan Reeves. When asked whether de León is a subject in the investigation, he said, "We've been advised that he is not."

PHOTO CREDIT: Senator Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, looks at his phone during the confirmation hearing for Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, for lieutenant governor on the Assembly floor on Thursday February 11, 2010. By Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee.

June 7, 2013
California state parks officials plan flick-your-wrist admission

RP_Emerald_Bay_TAHOE_TOUR_BOAT.JPGNo, it's not called a California state "park" because cars get stuck in line at admission kiosks.

But park officials plan to speed up and simplify the entrance process, nonetheless, by installing equipment that will allow visitors to pay fees with the flick of a wrist, using ATM or credit cards. Legislation provided $750,000 to modernize the system in hopes of increasing revenue.

No longer would the emphasis be on asking visitors to pay with cash or check - and no longer would entrants have to drive up to an employee at a kiosk, spokesman Roy Stearns said.

Plans call for the automation to be installed soon at about a dozen locations, including Emerald Bay State Park at Lake Tahoe, Point Mugu in the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area near Pacheco Pass. The machines are equipped with encryption devices to deter ID theft, Stearns said.

The equipment will allow park visitors to pay for admission for an hour or two, perhaps a morning, not necessarily a whole day, Stearns said.

"Visitors can choose the payment and more closely tailor the hours of their visit to what they want," Stearns said.

Which could spice up lunch hours considerably, perhaps.

PHOTO: A tour boat circles around Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe. Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee file, 2005

June 7, 2013
Obama lauds California's work on health care law

Phone Records Obama.jpgBy Herbert A. Sample, Special to The Bee

SAN JOSE - California's soon-to-be marketplace for individual health insurance was lauded by President Barack Obama this morning as a symbol of what his signature health insurance law was intended to do.

The president cited the lower-than-expected prices of health policies recently released by the state agency implementing the law in California. He noted that 2.6 million state residents will be eligible for subsidies to help pay the premiums, half of whom are Latinos, he added.

"In states that are working hard to implement this law properly, we're seeing it work for people, for middle class families, for consumers," Obama said at a brief appearance before reporters here before he flies to Southern California for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

He also stressed that health insurance consumers, whether employer-paid or self-financed, are enjoying improved coverage and protections afforded by the federal law.

Many opponents of the law predicted the law would result in "doom and gloom" and skyrocketing costs, the president said. Instead, competition and choice is "pushing down costs in the individual market." But he stressed that to make the program work well, uninsured Californians should utilize the online marketplace, dubbed Covered California, when it opens in October.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in San Jose Friday, June 7, 2013. AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

June 7, 2013
Obama defends intelligence gathering

Obama.jpgBy Herbert A. Sample, Special to The Bee

SAN JOSE - President Barack Obama this morning vigorously defended recently-unveiled classified programs that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to capture huge amounts of telephone call data as well as monitor email and internet traffic.

Speaking to reporters before he flies to Southern California for a meeting with the Chinese president Xi Jinping, Obama emphatically stated that no agency or government employee "is listening to your telephone calls."

Congress and a special federal court have long authorized the programs, and continue to oversee it, he said. Furthermore, some constraints were placed on them by the Obama administration after it took office in 2009. The benefit of the programs is to look for patterns that could identify potential terrorists threats, he added.

"There are some tradeoffs involved" between the need to thwart terrorism and civil liberties, the president said. Given that all three branches of the federal government are aware of and have authorized the programs, the American people should trust they will not be abused, he added.

AP video: Obama: 'Nobody Is Listening to Your Phone Calls'

PHOTO: President Barack Obama gestures during a statement about the Affordable Care Act, Friday, June 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

June 7, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Education is biggest piece in budget puzzle

With less than a week to go, Dan contemplates California's unsolved budget issues, particularly Gov. Jerry Brown's education reform plan.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 7, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown to welcome Obama, meet with Xi Jinping

Xi_Jinping_Jerry_Brown_2012.jpgGov. Jerry Brown is looking at a schedule that takes him to the south state: President Barack Obama lands at the Palm Springs airport this afternoon, and Brown will be on the tarmac.

Obama starts the second day of his three-day visit to California at San Jose's Fairmont Hotel, talking up the federal health care overhaul.

Air Force One then heads to LAX to get Obama to a luncheon fundraiser. Former News Corp. bigwig Peter Chernin (whose new company's first feature film was "Rise of the Planet of the Apes") and his wife, Megan, are hosting the event, which benefits the Democratic National Committee, at their Santa Monica home.

Obama then heads to Palm Springs for his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping today and Saturday at nearby Sunnylands, the Annenberg estate in Rancho Mirage. Their agenda "is designed to take a longer view of the security, economic and strategic challenges that unite and divide the nations," according to this Washington Post story.

Brown is scheduled to meet with Xi on Saturday around noon at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa. The two met in California last year when Xi was still vice president (hence the photo above), and the Democratic governor led a trade mission to China in April.

VIDEO: Dan Walters says the biggest piece in California's state budget puzzle belongs to education.

Former President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, is also breathing California air. He's giving the keynote speech this morning at the annual conference in Los Angeles of the California Association of Physician Groups. This evening, Clinton (who endorsed Wendy Greuel) is slated at a "block party" saying goodbye to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and hello to Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti.

CAPITOL STEPS: The America 4 Boston prayer canvas will be displayed on the north steps from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, with event organizers urging people to write a message or paint a picture in support of the Boston Marathon bombing victims. The canvas has already made stops in Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky and Colorado.

STATE BUDGET: The Legislature's constitutional deadline for passing a state budget is June 15. Today is June 7. Just saying.

PHOTO: Xi Jinping, left, then vice president of China, talks with Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, right, as they watch the Los Angeles Lakers play the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 17, 2012, in Los Angeles. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press file

June 6, 2013
Steinberg calls Jerry Brown's education plan '80 percent there'

20121203_HA_ASSEMBLY0856 (1).JPGWith just nine days of budget negotiations left, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg called the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown "basically aligned" on public education funding.

In a conversation with Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, on Thursday, Steinberg credited Brown for including "significant augmentations" to public education in his version of the budget. Steinberg noted only a few points on which he differed from the governor.

"The governor suggested an equity formula that to me was about 80 percent there, but I still object to about 20 percent of it," Steinberg said.

Like Brown, Steinberg wants to include a 35 percent bump in funding for low-income or disadvantaged students. Steinberg, however, championed Senate Bill 69, which would use a different formula to dole out additional money to disadvantaged students in both low- and high-income districts.

"Kids that come from more disadvantaged backgrounds ought to have more resources -- spent well, that's the key piece -- in order to be able to achieve their dreams in life," Steinberg said.

Steinberg also downplayed the role that personality differences play in negotiations, saying his experiences working on budgets with three different governors have been relatively similar.

"In terms of some of the tension points as far as my frustrations at times, I can repeat the same things I've said this budget cycle that I've said in all previous budget cycles," Steinberg said. "The executive is the executive."

Steinberg seemed confident the Legislature and governor could work out the remaining kinks in the budget before the June 15 deadline.

"If there is no creative tension, we're not pushing each other hard enough," Steinberg said.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento during the first day of session at the State Capitol in December 2012. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

June 6, 2013
FBI raid should spark wider look at legislative ethics, group says

PEGGY.JPGWhether any wrongdoing is proved or not, the FBI's search of Sen. Ron Calderon's offices is a sobering reminder that California lawmakers are sent to Sacramento to represent voters, not special interests, according to a statewide advocacy group holding a Capitol news conference Thursday.

Officials of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment emphasized that they have no knowledge of Calderon's guilt or innocence in whatever the FBI is investigating. The law enforcement agency, which served a sealed search warrant Tuesday, has not disclosed the nature of its probe.

"We're saying to all our elected officials that either you work with the people or you work against them," said Peggy Mears, an organizer of the statewide group that advocates on behalf of low- and moderate-income Californians on taxes, health care, mortgages and other issues.

"Just like we put you in office, we'll take you out," she said.

June 6, 2013
Capitol brimming with rumors after FBI raids tied to Calderon

shed.jpgShortly after FBI agents began searching the offices of Sen. Ron Calderon this week, Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard began fielding phone calls asking whether the letters had arrived.

Letters?

Rumors were flying that the raid involved poisonous letters that had been sent to the Montebello Democrat, laced with the toxin ricin, Beard said.

Speculation about what the FBI is looking for and who its agents may interview at the Capitol is running rampant, but since the federal search warrant is sealed, all the chatter is guesswork, according to Beard.

The biggest whopper, Beard said, was that a little wooden shed next to Calderon's office was a secret hideaway for the FBI, used to monitor arrivals and departures from Calderon's fifth-floor office.

That stemmed from a joke by a Capitol employee to a companion, overheard by reporters standing nearby, Beard said.

Truth is, the enclosure is for a ventilation maintenance project, Beard said.

PHOTO: A shed outside Sen. Ron Calderon's Capitol office may be not so mysterious after all. The Sacramento Bee/Melody Gutierrez

June 6, 2013
California politicians still wrangling over Proposition 39 funds

RP_MATH_TEACHER_AND_STUDENT.JPGCalifornia voters last year passed Proposition 39, which changed the way multistate corporations are taxed, creating a big pot of money - about a billion dollars a year - with half required to be spent on energy-saving projects in schools, colleges and other public buildings.

Seven months later, the Capitol's politicians are still wrangling over how to divvy up the more than $400 million going to schools. It's one of the stickiest of several high-dollar issues still in limbo with scarcely a week remaining before the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget.

Just before the Legislature's budget conference committee recessed indefinitely late Wednesday, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, a co-sponsor of Proposition 39, engaged in a pointed exchange with Gov. Jerry Brown's budget point man, Michael Cohen, over Brown's plan to distribute the school money widely, based on attendance, with every school in the state getting at least a token amount.

That runs counter to plans by de León and other Democratic legislators to concentrate the money on fewer schools with, they say, the largest potential to achieve greater energy savings and create jobs in low-income areas.

June 6, 2013
High-speed rail board authorizes first contract for construction