Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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. PĂ©rez, 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


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.


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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