Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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.


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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