Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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