Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 26, 2013
California's crime rates inch up in 2012

KamalaHarris.jpgThe number of violent crimes and property crimes in California inched up between 2011 and 2012, according to a new analysis of crime data released by the Attorney General's office on Friday.

A press release from the office stressed that crime rates are down drastically from their levels 20 years ago. Californians endured 160,629 violent crimes in 2012, far below a 20-year peak of 345,508 in 1992. That reduction comes despite California's population growing by more than six million people since 1992.

Nevertheless, the findings will likely serve as ammunition to critics of Gov. Jerry Brown's criminal justice policies. In an effort to reduce prison overcrowding known as realignment, Brown has presided over a push to send low-level offenders to county jails, in some cases spurring early releases.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican poised to challenge Brown for the governorship in 2014, has signaled that realignment will likely form a centerpiece of his campaign.

The statewide rates of homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault all ticked up in 2012 compared to 2011 levels. The same holds for the total numbers of burglary, automobile theft and larceny.

Violent crimes increased by less than 3 percent from 2011, marking a rare instance of year-to-year violent crime rates jumping since the level of offenses began receding from its peak two decades ago. The total number of violent crimes has steadily declined since its 1992 apex, rising in 2000 and 2006 before descending again.

Arrest numbers decreased slightly between 2011 and 2012, falling by about 30,000. Driving that was a drop in juvenile arrests: while the number of adults arrested remained essentially static, actually increasing by 143, the state witnessed 28,743 fewer arrests of juveniles.

PHOTO: California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks at a news conference at the State of California building in San Francisco, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. Associated Press/ Jeff Chiu

July 26, 2013
On 'The Daily Show,' Leticia Perez says no to Congress


As consolation prizes go, appearing on a wildly popular TV show isn't too shabby.

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez threw in the towel on Wednesday in a vigorously fought race for an open Central Valley Senate seat, conceding to Republican farmer Andy Vidak. The election attracted ample attention, including national media coverage.

On Thursday night, Perez got another chance to be in the national spotlight. She appeared in a segment on the Daily Show, Comedy Central's satirical news program. And it turns out that, while her bid to serve in the state Legislature fell short, Perez isn't losing any sleep over whether to run for Congress.

A Daily Show segment on aspiring young politicians in an era of Congressional dysfunction (titled "A**holes wanted") opened with Perez, referred to in a voiceover as "an up-and-coming young Democrat." It then cuts to a sit-down interview with Perez, taped nearly a month before Tuesday's election. She recounts being contacted by the Democratic National Committee, told she is a "rising star" and enticed with an offer to run for Congress.

"I had to say no," Perez says, adding that she did so "resoundingly."

"It's no secret there is remarkable gridlock in DC," she expands. "I don't want to be at a place where I have a good, fancy title but I'm not actually able to deliver for people."

PHOTO: Senate District 16 candidate Leticia Perez talks with staff members in her campaign headquarters in Fresno on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. The Fresno Bee/Craig Kohlruss

July 26, 2013
Calderon-connected water district sues contractor

aboutTheDistrict.JPGThe Central Basin Municipal Water District, a Los Angeles-area entity whose contracting practices and relationship with consultant and former Assemblyman Tom Calderon are under a federal magnifying glass, has sued a firm that reaped contracts worth millions.

Documents show that Pacifica Services has won multiple contracts from Central Basin over the years, including one to help construct a federally-funded pipeline whose utility and cost was challenged by local mayors and water workers.

Now Central Basin is suing Pacifica for overbilling more than $850,000. The water district directed Pacifica last month to stop charging on a contract for professional services, including engineering consulting, but Pacifica has persisted, according to Central Basin spokesman Joseph Legaspi.

"There's a certain amount they were approved to charge us and they went over that," Legaspi said.

The lawsuit comes as Central Basin's newly installed general manager, Antonio Perez, oversees a review of the water wholesaler's relationship with Pacifica Services. Legaspi confirmed that the district has hired someone to comb through old invoices for signs of overcharging or other irregularities.

"I think there's really a focus by the board and all of Central Basin's management to look at all expenses and see how we can reduce them," Legaspi said.

In June, days after FBI agents searched the Sacramento office of Sen. Ron Calderon D-Montebello, the Central Basin received a federal subpoena seeking more information about contracts - including those involving federal stimulus dollars - and about Ron's older brother Tom Calderon, who until recently made more than $11,000 a month as a consultant for Central Basin.

Now, Central Basin is also reconsidering a decision to retain two lobbying firms, Tres Es Consulting and Political Solutions LLC. Tres Es is led by former California State Senate Majority leader Richard Polanco, who is referred to in minutes from a Central Basin meeting as "an iconic figure in Southern California politics" capable of providing "quality state lobbying services and "exceptional local lobbying expertise."

The water district's board of directors voted in May to hire the two firms, but in July Central Basin's communications committee voted against that recommendation and sought to issue a new bid for lobbying services.

PHOTO: The Central Basin Municipal Water District offices are located in Commerce, Calif., seen here in this undated photo. Photo by Central Basin Municipal Water District.

July 26, 2013
Moody's gives blessing to California's additional school aid

brownbudget.jpgThe extra state aid flowing to California's school districts this year after a half decade of cutbacks is a "credit positive," Moody's Investor Service said Friday, while cautioning school officials against overspending the new money.

"The liquidity of all school districts will improve as the budget reduces payment deferrals and thereby improves the timeliness of aid payments," the credit rating house said in its weekly bulletin. "However, the credit positive budget measures are not a panacea because some school districts will continue to be challenged by expense pressures and growing pension costs."

It notes that under the school finance plan championed by Gov. Jerry Brown and adopted by the Legislature, all districts will receive more money, but those with large numbers of poor, English-learner students will receive markedly more.

"The added funding, which is an important credit factor, could enhance these districts' credit profiles," Moody's says. "Nonetheless, effective management and budgeting of the funding enhancements will shape their longer term credit profile."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget during a ceremony at the Capitol, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

July 26, 2013
AM Alert: A survey of California ballot initiatives so far

Thumbnail image for 130726_RCB_20121113_VOTE_0218.JPG

Yesterday's announcement of a potential ballot initiative to lift California's ceiling on medical practice offers a reminder that, even though we're closer to the 2012 election than the 2014 contest, the Attorney General's office has already fielded a dozen proposals. Since the State Capitol building remains vacant, it seems like an appropriate time to survey the direct democracy landscape and sample what has been submitted:

MICRA: Just filed on Wednesday (with language drafted by Consumer Watchdog), this would raise the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering medical damages and allow the maximum award amount to rise with inflation.

VIDEO: Another chapter in one of the Capitol's longest-running and most expensive political disputes -- one that has spanned both of Gov. Jerry Brown's administrations -- is beginning, Dan Walters says.

OIL TAX: With an oil extraction tax bill by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, stuck on the suspense file, a ballot measure to tax energy harvesting and channel the proceeds to education and parks becomes the next best thing. Filed by a Berkeley undergraduate, no less.

July 26, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: the battle over the state's MICRA cap is heating up

There is a lot of money and a lot of ego at stake as trial lawyers try yet again to raise or get rid of the cap on medical malpractice damages in California, 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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