Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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

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.


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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