Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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