Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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 PĂ©rez 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 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.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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