Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 10, 2013
VIDEO: Darrell Steinberg wants MICRA negotiations

Darrell_Steinberg_HA_031113.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg sat down with the Capitol press corps today for a chat on a variety of issues. One question that came up was about the 1975 law known as MICRA -- the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act -- which limits the amount courts can award victims of medical negligence for pain and suffering to $250,000.

It's an explosive issue in the state Capitol that pits lawyers against doctors -- two influential interest groups that few legislators want to cross.

Attorneys have mounted a publicity campaign to make the case that the the $250,000 cap needs to be lifted. Many lawyers won't take on medical malpractice cases, they argue, because the award limit is too low to make it worth their time. While the cost of everything else has risen in the last 38 years, they argue, the MICRA cap has not, leaving families with injured loved ones inadequately compensated for their duress. Consumer Attorneys of California and Consumer Watchdog say they plan to file an initiative this summer if the Legislature doesn't take action to lift the cap.

Doctors, hospitals and other medical groups take the opposite view. They say lifting the $250,000 cap on damages would make malpractice insurance more expensive, ultimately making health care more costly for consumers and causing some clinics to go out of business. The California Medical Association and other health groups are urging lawmakers to maintain the status quo.

Steinberg thinks the sides need to get together.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, gestures during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

VIDEO: Senate leader Darrell Steinberg talks to the Sacramento press corps on July 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall

July 10, 2013
California tax revenue beats projections, Chiang says

brownsigns.jpgThe state collected about $1.2 billion more in tax revenue last month than Gov. Jerry Brown projected, ending the fiscal year about $2 billion ahead of expectations, the state controller reported today.

Controller John Chiang put tax revenue in June, the last month of the budget year, about 10 percent higher than Brown estimated the previous month, with revenue for the full year up about 2 percent.

Brown persuaded lawmakers in budget negotiations this summer to accept relatively modest revenue estimates for the fiscal year beginning July 1, resulting in a budget that increased spending on social services far less than many Democratic lawmakers hoped.

"Rising employment, economic expansion and voter-approved tax increases have generated revenues outperforming even the rosiest of projections," Chiang said in a prepared statement. "However, California's history of boom or bust revenue cycles should be a cautionary tale that informs our spending decisions and incentivizes policymakers to prudently pay down accumulated debt."

July 10, 2013
AM Alert: How best to decommission San Onofre nuclear plant?

US_NEWS_SAN_ONOFRE_3_OC.jpgWhat's the best way to decommission the San Onofre nuclear plant? How should California replace the electricity it used to generate?

Southern California Edison announced last month that it would permanently close the plant, whose official moniker is the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The Senate Energy Committee is looking at how best to shut down the nuclear facility, which has been offline for a year and a half.

The panel will hear from representatives of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, as well as Mike Florio of the California Public Utilities Commission; Robert Weisenmiller, the California Energy Commission's chairman; and Steve Berberich, the CEO of the California Independent System Operator. The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol's room 4203 and will be streamed live at the CalChannel website.

VIDEO: Dan Walters speculates about a Democrat vs. Democrat race that's shaping up in the Assembly.

VIDEO GAMES: Speaking of committee hearings, a subpanel of the Senate Public Safety Committee is examining research on the effects of the violence found in video games and other media on child development and public health, as well as possible solutions viewed through a constitutional lens. The hearing runs from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Capitol's room 113.

ATHLETES, ETC.: The Senate Labor Committee lists just two bills on its agenda. Assembly Bill 26, by Concord Democrat Susan Bonilla, would classify money from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund as public funds that could be used for work at an oil refinery only for specified reasons to cut emissions. Assembly Bill 1309, by Fresno Democrat Henry T. Perea, which would deny workers' compensation to out-of-state athletes, passed the Assembly 57-1 in May. That hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in room 2040.

SENATE LEADER SPEAKS: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is not only talking to The Bee's editorial board this morning, he's holding a press availability at 10:30 a.m. If you have any suggestions for questions to ask of him, shoot the Capitol Bureau's Laurel Rosenhall an email at

PHOTO: With the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station as a backdrop, a surfer walks along San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente on June 7, 2013. Orange County Register/Mark Rightmire

July 10, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Will labor pay big bucks to defeat Glazer?

Not only has organized labor placed Gov. Jerry Brown's former adviser Steve Glazer on its "do not hire" list, but things could get even more interesting now that Glazer is eyeing an Assembly seat, Dan says.

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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