Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 1, 2013
Jerry Brown says UC, CSU leaders pledged to pursue online ed 'vigorously'

brownlcff.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said today that he vetoed his own budget proposal to earmark $20 million for online education at the University of California and California State University systems only after leaders of those institutions assured him they would pursue online course offerings on their own.

"I had an agreement from both the segments that they would carry out online vigorously," Brown told reporters at an event in Sacramento. "As the leader of both governing boards, I'm actively engaged with both the University of California and the Cal State."

One of a relatively small number of line-item vetoes made by Brown to the state's $96.3 billion spending plan last week, Brown left the $20 million in funding for the UC and CSU systems intact, but without tying it to online education. He said he is "completely confident" the UC and CSU systems will expand their online course offerings without a budget requirement.

Brown's tone was different last fall, when he started regularly attending UC meetings to call for spending reductions and increased efficiency.

"We are going to have to restrain this system in many, many of its elements," the Democratic governor said in November, "and this will come with great resistance."

This afternoon, Brown said of the university systems, "I didn't want them to be too tightly constrained."

Brown's remarks came during an event celebrating the passage of his proposal to shift more K-12 education money to poor and English-learning students, a priority of the governor's this year. A modified version of Brown's proposal was approved in budget negotiations last month, and Brown traveled to Los Angeles earlier today to sign legislation required to implement the overhaul.

The school funding bill also eliminates most of California's categorical funds - money that can be used only for certain purposes.

At California Middle School in Sacramento's Land Park neighborhood, Brown called the legislation a "step forward for local control."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown poses for photographs at an event in Sacramento to celebrate the enactment of a school funding overhaul on July 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

July 1, 2013
Data breaches accessed information of 2.5 million Californians

PK_DATA_0268.JPGElectronic data breaches put the personal information of 2.5 million Californians at risk in 2012, according to a new report released Monday by Attorney General Kamala Harris.

State law requires businesses and government agencies to notify consumers when a data breach might have put their personal information at risk. A bill passed in 2012 also requires companies to report a breach to the attorney general when more than 500 consumers' information has been accessed.

The report's description of 131 breaches of consumer information marks the first time the information has been made available to the public. California law requires companies to report breaches of information whether the breach was malicious or unintentional.

The report details when each breach occurred and what private information was affected. The list of organizations that experienced data breaches in 2012 includes the California Department of Health Care Services, the state Department of Child Supportive Services, American Express and State Farm Insurance.

July 1, 2013
Pink is order of the day at California Legislature

standwithwendy.JPGCalifornia Democrats rarely find themselves praising the decisions of Texas officials -- more often they're antagonists, if the airwave spat between Gov. Jerry Brown and Texas Gov. Rick Perry earlier this year is any indication -- but for at least a day, Wendy Davis changed that.

A Democratic state senator from Texas, Davis became an instant icon for reproductive rights after her filibuster against an abortion-related bill last week. Inspired by her example, the California Legislative Women's Caucus asked lawmakers and staff to wear pink to work on Monday.

You can see the results above. Style choices ranged from pink dresses to pink ties to pink sneakers, the final category a nod to the red running shoes Davis wore during her ordeal (because when you're forced to stand for hours, comfort comes first).

PHOTO: California lawmakers and staff pose in their pink outfits on the steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento on July 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

July 1, 2013
Ratings agency: California finances better, but debt issues linger

brownsigns.jpgThe Wall Street credit rating agency Standard & Poor's said today that California is in a better financial position than it has been in years, but it criticized the politicization of state revenue estimates and warned long-term spending commitments could frustrate efforts to pay down debt.

"Overall, we believe the state ... begins its fiscal year in a stronger position than it has in several years," the rating agency said in a report on the first day of the new fiscal year. "Its liquidity and structural budget positions both reflect materially better conditions."

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the main budget bill last week after persuading legislative Democrats to accept his relatively modest revenue estimates. In a concession to lawmakers, however, Brown reduced by about $650 million the amount of money he originally proposed to pay down debt owed schools under Proposition 98, California's school-funding guarantee.

"Standard & Poor's Ratings Services believes the higher-than-expected cash receipts presented the state an opportunity to accelerate its plans for retiring the $26.9 billion in budget liabilities that remain leftover from prior years' deficits," S&P said. "Compared with what the governor recommended in May, however, the final budget agreement moves in the other direction, decelerating somewhat the repayment of a portion (of) these debts."

That Brown and lawmakers could negotiate at all about the amount of tax revenue they expect the state to collect this year troubled S&P. More than half of states rely on independent revenue bodies, the ratings house said, and it criticized the budget process in California for highlighting "what we view as one of the weaker elements of California's fiscal institutions - that of allowing political negotiation to influence the revenue estimates used in the budget."

California's $96.3 billion spending plan includes additional money for the state's welfare-to-work program, college scholarships and dental care for poor adults - with commitments to spend an increasing amount in future years.

S&P expressed concern about revenue volatility. By enacting even a modest expansion of ongoing spending commitments, the agency said, "we detect a softening of resolve when it comes to paying down the internal debts."

The report said, "We believe that by opening the door to new programs while waiting for future (uncertain) revenue to repay some internal debts, the state delays, or jeopardizes altogether, its ability to confront the long-term liabilities."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, far left, celebrates after being presented one of the pens that Gov. Jerry Brown, seated, used to sign a copy of the state budget at the Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday, June 27, 2013. Associated Press/ Rich Pedroncelli

July 1, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers go pink for Wendy Davis

US_NEWS_TEXAS-ABORTION_10_DA.jpgThose who make a living at the California Capitol sure seem fond of symbolic style choices, from awareness-raising denim to summer-celebrating white linen. Today it's pink.

The California Legislative Women's Caucus is encouraging people to wear pink sneakers and/or ties in honor of Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who riveted much of the nation last week with a filibuster to block a controversial abortion-related bill. Participants can join a group photo on the Capitol's south steps at 11:45 a.m.

VIDEO: The California Chamber of Commerce-headed business coalition continues to run up a remarkable winning record, Dan Walters says.

MIDWIFE MOVEMENT Members and supporters of the organization California Families for Access to Midwives will be rallying on the west steps at 11 a.m. against what they call onerous regulations that make it difficult for midwives to practice. With them will be Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who has a bill before the Senate Business, Professions And Economic Development today that would loosen some of those restrictions.

KENNEDY IN CALIFORNIA: Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, to be exact. The erstwhile Rhode Island Democrat will be in the building to testify at a Senate Select Committee on Mental Health hearing on the future of mental health services, something he championed in Congress, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in room 4203.

LIMO LEGISLATION: Lawmakers have been looking for ways to enhance limousine safety after a string of limo fires, and today an urgency bill by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, requiring fire extinguishers in limousines goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

LATINO NUMBERS: Much has been made of the demographic forces reshaping California's population and electorate, and today the Latino Democratic Club of Sacramento celebrate a milestone. Members will be gathering on the north steps at noon today to mark, imprecisely, the moment when the number of Latinos in California matches the number of non-Hispanic whites. (Latinos could surpass whites and become the state's largest ethnic group soon, perhaps as early as the end of this year.) Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, is expected to attend.

HOT TICKET: What could that phrase describe? A Beyoncé concert? A political fundraiser, perhaps? How about both? Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, is pulling in some campaign cash by inviting donors to join him in a private suite during Ms. Knowles' show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight. No word on how many of Hall's supporters are single ladies.

ABOUT FRACKING TIME As we've noted, since we started out this session with a gusher of legislation aimed at regulating hydraulic fracturing, lawmakers have drilled down to a single bill. The sole remaining fracking bill, by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, goes before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee today. In room 447 after session ends.

PHOTO: Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis spends a quiet moment after her filibuster was halted on the final day of the legislative special session, as the Texas Senate considered an abortion bill in in Austin, Texas, on June 25, 2013. Dallas Morning News/Louis DeLuca.

July 1, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: 'Job killer' bills biting the dust in California

So far, Dan says, the California Chamber of Commerce is doing a good job killing the "job killers" in the Legislature.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.


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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