Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 9, 2013
Opponents file referendum to block Madera County casino

CASINOSLOTS.JPGOpponents of a Madera County Indian casino have lost with the Legislature but are hoping they can win with California voters.

Cheryl Schmit, director of the gambling watchdog group Stand Up for California, filed a referendum with the Attorney General's Office today that seeks to reverse lawmakers' approval of a casino for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The casino is more controversial than most in Indian country because it would be built along Highway 99, more than 35 miles from the mountainous village where tribal members live.

Opponents consider the project an "off reservation" casino, and say approval will set a precedent for similar developments around the state near freeways and urban communities. Supporters say the North Fork tribe historically migrated between the casino land on the Valley floor and the tribe's current home in the mountains near Yosemite, and that few other tribes have a similar situation.

Gov. Jerry Brown supports the project as an economic development opportunity for the impoverished tribe, and labor unions lobbied hard for it. Many other gambling tribes oppose the casino because it would create competition for their business.

Lawmakers narrowly ratified the North Fork compact last month and the governor signed it last week.

For Schmit's referendum overturning the compact to reach the 2014 ballot, her group must gather 504,760 voter signatures in 90 days.

PHOTO: Pamela Stottlemyre of Sacramento plays a slot machine at the Colusa Casino in April, 2013. The tribe was one of several that opposed a new casino for the North Fork group of Indians. Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

July 9, 2013
Igor Birman considering 2014 race against Ami Bera

igorbirman.jpgIgor Birman, Rep. Tom McClintock's chief of staff, is thinking about joining the field of Republican challengers vying for Democratic Rep. Ami Bera's seat in 2014.

Birman, 31, said he has an exploratory committee looking at the possibility of a run in the 7th Congressional District, and the reception so far has been "very favorable."

"Having been active in Republican politics in California since my college days, everything I've heard has been encouraging," Birman said.

After Birman and his family emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1994, he lived in the Sacramento area and attended UC Davis. He cited his experience as an immigrant as his motivation to go into politics.

"My parents risked their lives and everything they possessed to escape (the Soviet Union) and eventually they did. I want to preserve the same freedom we found in this nation for other families," Birman said. "That's what has led me into politics and that's what has led me to consider this race."

If he runs and wins in 2014, Birman said he thinks he would be the first Russian American member of Congress. He is currently registered to vote in Oakland, but said he would move back into the district if he decides to run. Birman said he would announce his decision around Labor Day.

July 9, 2013
Boxer pushes for Senate vote on EPA nominee McCarthy

ha_boxerblack.JPGSen. Barbara Boxer, said Tuesday that the Senate could vote next week on Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer chairs, approved McCarthy's nomination in May, but with no Republican votes.

Asked if Boxer would support a rule change that would allow McCarthy's confirmation with a simple majority rather than the customary 60 votes, the California Democrat said, "I'd like to see her confirmed, period."

"She should get a huge majority," Boxer said. "She deserves it."

Many Republicans oppose Obama's plan to fight climate change by reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. McCarthy, who's currently an assistant EPA administrator, would help implement Obama's plan.

July 9, 2013
AM Alert: Are California card rooms gearing up for a fight?

Cards.JPGIt's a slow week in the Capitol, with the Assembly on summer recess and the Senate fielding several absences. The Senate whipped through many non-controversial bills yesterday, though seven senators did not attend the floor session, and the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee couldn't vote because it was short a quorum.

Today, at least two senators are doing business out of state. Sen. Kevin de León will be making a presentation in Colorado, while Sen. Ricardo Lara is getting schooled in Cambridge, Mass. De León is addressing the Aspen Institute's "Financial Security Summit" to talk about his bill from last year that paves the way for retirement savings plans for private-sector workers. Lara is attending a program at the Harvard Kennedy School for senior executives in state and local government. He's one of 10 gay public officials who are attending the $12,000 training on a fellowship sponsored by the Victory Fund and the David Bohnett Foundation.

KNOW WHEN TO HOLD 'EM: The state's card rooms appear to be gearing up for a fight, forming a new 501(c)4 association and hiring at least two Sacramento lobbying firms. "Communities for California Cardrooms" is trying to make the case that the state's 88 card rooms are important economic drivers for their localities. The group has retained Darius Anderson's Platinum Advisors as well as Rodney J. Blonien and Associates. Does that mean there's movement on an internet poker bill that might not sit well with card rooms? "That has not been on our radar screen yet," said Austin Lee, a spokesman for the new group. But Internet poker could soon become important, he said, "because there are some competitive issues there."

IMMIGRATION: Unions and other Democratic groups are staging events across the state today to put pressure on Republicans in Congress to support the so-called path to citizenship as they consider the nation's immigration policies. They'll be rallying in Burbank, Bakersfield, Fresno, Arcadia and Orange County.

WEDDING BELLS: Capitol Alert sends its congratulations to lobbyist Jodi Hicks and political number-cruncher Paul Mitchell, who were married Friday in San Francisco City Hall by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. The couple originally planned to marry in 2008, but decided to wait until the state's ban on gay marriage was lifted. And that, conveniently for the newlyweds, came just before the Legislature's summer recess.

PHOTO: Minh Chang of Sacramento plays Pai Gow poker at the Capitol Casino in downtown Sacramento, 2006. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

July 9, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Press reports pushed Bay Bridge delay

Dan says Monday's decision to delay opening the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is evidence of the press doing its job.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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