Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

August 30, 2013
Assembly panel halts nurse practitioner expansion

Gatto.jpgProposed legislation to expand the independence of nurse practitioners failed to make it out of the Assembly's fiscal committee on Friday, joining 42 other bills likely done for the year.

Among the bills moving on to the Assembly for a floor vote are Senate Bill 4, the sole piece of legislation remaining that would regulate fracking, and SB 731, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg's bill calling for changes to the California Environmental Quality Act.

"It continues to be a work in progress at this late date and I think that reflects the delicacy of the issue," said Assembly Appropriations Chair Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles. "It's a very difficult issue. I hope he gets consensus and a product that we would be happy to vote for on the floor."

The Assembly Appropriations Committee considered 152 bills calling for $600 million in spending on their "suspense file," which is reserved for bills with annual costs of more than $150,000. Lawmakers moved through the list rapidly, passing 110 bills with a $17 million price tag.

Among those stalled in the committee were Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock's Senate Bill 283, which would allow drug felons to access food stamps, and Senate Bill 38 by Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon. It would create an amnesty program for people prohibited from possessing guns to surrender them to law enforcement.

DemocratiscSen. Ed Hernandez's bill expanding the duties of pharmacists passed, but his measure to expand the duties of nurse practitioners -- Senate Bill 491 -- was halted. It lost the support of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners following recent amendments. The California Medical Association, which represents doctors, has staunchly opposed SB 491.

Hernandez said he will push forward with the bill next year.

"Despite numerous studies showing the safety of expanded practice for nurse practitioners, and not a single piece of contrary data offered by opponents, politics prevailed over sound public policy," Hernandez said in a statement. "The unfortunate result is that California will fall further behind in its ability to provide quality health care to our neediest population."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D- Los Angeles, in a 2011 file photo. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

August 30, 2013
See the bills that made it out of Senate Appropriations Committee

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The Senate Appropriations committee announced the fate of nearly 200 bills on the suspense file today. Here is a list of how different pieces of legislation fared:

Senate Appropriations

August 30, 2013
Poll: Who has the best health care ads?

Just weeks before launching an insurance marketplace under the new federal health care law, California provided an early peek at its $80 million ad campaign Thursday.

So, what do you think of the first television commercials (English and Spanish)?

Do they compel you to get online and buy health insurance?

Other states have been airing their televised offerings for weeks, if not months, and the stakes are high. Pretty soon everyone will have to carry health insurance or pay a penalty under the new law.

Check out what some others are pitching, then scroll down to take our poll. (The poll may not appear if you are using a Firefox web browser)

Connecticut

Nevada

Oregon

August 30, 2013
California Assembly 'family cap' welfare bill halted in Senate

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Lawmakers have halted the progress of a bill that would allow mothers who get pregnant while enrolled in CalWORKS to claim benefits for the child.

There were few casualties as the Senate Appropriations Committee weighed a final slate of Assembly bills on Friday, with several contentious or heavily lobbied Democratic measures advancing to the Senate floor. But lawmakers blocked Assembly Bill 271, by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles.

Committee chair Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, cited the cost in holding the bill but still paused from a rapid-fire hearing to voice his "unequivocal" support for the measure and decry the current so-called "family cap" policy, which bars women who become pregnant while on welfare from drawing more money.

In an interview, Mitchell compared a late-session push to expand California's prison capacity to her bill's failure, suggesting that a ragged social safety net contributes to prison overcrowding by pushing impoverished Californians towards crime.

"Deep poverty has a direct correlation to criminal activity," Mitchell said, "and children born into these families, whose household incomes and payments from CalWORKS are not adjusted, leads them into deep poverty."

Bills that survived and will next face floor votes included legislation to raise the state's minimum wage, to offer drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, to prohibit lead ammunition, to allow medical translators to acquire union representation and collectively bargain, and to provide labor protections to domestic workers.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 30, 2013
Opposition arises to naming Bay Bridge span for Willie Brown

WillieBrown3.jpgLegislation that would name the western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown sailed through the Assembly on a 68-0 vote.

However, the measure, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 65, is facing opposition in the state Senate led by three former presidents of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

On Thursday, the three - Aaron Peskin, Matt Gonzalez and Quentin Kopp - sent a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, asking him to hold ACR 65 in the Senate Rules Committee and thus block a Senate floor vote.

The letter contends that the naming measure, introduced by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, violates legislative rules on the naming of public facilities because it is being carried by someone who does not represent the area where the facility is located, and does not "reflect a community consensus" that the naming is proper.

The same issues were raised in an Assembly staff analysis of the measure. Just before the Assembly vote, San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting was added as a co-author of the bill, along with other legislators, but he doesn't represent the Bay Bridge. San Francisco's other assemblyman, Tom Ammiano, does represent the bridge, but he's not a co-author and, in fact, abstained when ACR 65 went through the Assembly.

"Most importantly," the letter says, "the proposed designation does not, as required by Senate rules, 'reflect a community consensus.' While we respect Mr. Brown's years of public service, Mr. Brown remains a very controversial figure in San Francisco and there exists significant concern in our community that naming the Bay Bridge for him is not appropriate."

All three of the former supervisors clashed with Brown on various occasions - particularly Kopp when Brown was Assembly speaker in the 1980s and 1990s and Kopp was a state senator.

PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown during a roundtable meeting Thursday, July 8, 2010 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 30, 2013
California has nation's 10th highest medically uninsured rate

healthcare.jpgWith the new federal medical insurance program on the verge of implementation, California has the largest number of medically uninsured residents of any state, but its percentage of uninsured is only 10th highest, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Just over 20 percent of Californians under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2011, the last year for which data are available. Texas had the highest rate, more than 25 percent, while Massachusetts had the lowest, less than 5 percent.

The report covers counties as well as states and reveals that in California, wealthy Marin County has the lowest rate of uninsured at 12 percent -- about the same as Iowa's rate, the nation's eighth lowest.

California has more than six million residents without medical insurance and is among the states that have most vigorously embraced the Affordable Care Act. It is implementing the optional extension of Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) to more low-income residents and has set up an exchange, Covered California, to facilitate acquisition of insurance by individuals and employers. State officials believe that the state's medically insured total will be reduced at least by half with those steps.

PHOTO: Nurse Practitioner David Weller, left examines patient Jose Andino at The Effort medical clinic in North Highlands on Friday, July 13, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

August 30, 2013
Steinberg pushes bill to help Sacramento arena project

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By Jeremy B. White
jwhite@sacbee.com

A bill hastening the environmental review process for the planned downtown Kings arena would forestall the threat of lawsuits while keeping to a tight NBA-imposed deadline, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said on Friday.

On Thursday night, The Bee's Tony Bizjak reported that the Democratic leader and other area lawmakers would advance a bill to speed up the arena review process. In an interview with reporters this morning, Steinberg called the bill a mechanism for keeping the arena project on track.

"I have been an unabashed supporter of this once in a generation economic development opportunity in the hub of our region, and I will be backed by a majority if not all the members of the greater Sacramento delegation," Steinberg said.

Steinberg stressed that the bill would not exempt the arena building from the environmental oversight required by the California Environmental Quality Act. But it would allow the city to exercise eminent domain and claim land for the arena while the environmental review is under way.

"We just want to make sure that while whatever is required by the environmental document is done by the project developers and the city, that the project is not held up by months or years by a lawsuit which lingers for a long time," Steinberg said.

Similar concerns about lawsuits bogging down development have surrounded this year's push to alter the California Environmental Review Act. Steinberg has carried the CEQA overhaul bill, which is before the Assembly Appropriations Committee today, and while he said the Kings arena language would not go into the CEQA bill he drew a parallel between the two.

"When it comes to infill projects, when it comes to high wage, big job-opportunity projects, we ought to do all that is reasonable to expedite the process," Steinberg said.

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

August 30, 2013
AM Alert: Appropriations apocalypse hits California Legislature

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Forget floor votes and the governor's pen -- the road by which bills become law travels first through Appropriations. And with today being the final day for bills to get out of fiscal committees, we'll know by the close of business which bills march on to the next step and which ones will expire or be left to shrivel on suspense file. Some of the more significant legislation whose fate will be revealed:

Senate

-A bill that would hike California's minimum wage
-Several different gun control bills
-A bill to grant drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants
-A bill altering which agency oversees the state's drinking water fund
-This year's loudly trumpeted attempt at a so-called "Domestic Workers Bill of Rights"
-A bill tweaking CalWORKS rules to allow women who get pregnant while on welfare to claim benefits for the child
-A bill nixing the use of lead bullets
-A bill creating a new program allowing medical translators to gain union representation
-A bill expanding the time frame in which the families of fallen cops and firefighters can claim compensation

Assembly

-A bill restricting nonprofit campaign activity that has unified counties and cities in opposition
-A bill expanding what nurse practitioners can do and a scope-of-practice bill affecting pharmacists.
-A bill punishing cities whose charters exempt them from prevailing wage requirements
-Even more in this year's raft of gun control bills
-A bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking"
-An earthquake warning system bill
-Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's CEQA bill
-A bill restricting the use of solitary confinement for juveniles
-A bill cracking down on parolees who remove their tracking devices

VIDEO: The Legislature reaches an important milestone today, Dan Walters says.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: A day after California's coming-soon health insurance marketplace revealed its advertising campaign, Covered California executive director Peter V. Lee will hold a town hall on what to expect. At Sacramento City college, starting at 2 p.m.

BIRTHING DAY: Well, this adds some meaning to the term "Labor Day." On Monday, people affiliated with the organization ImprovingBirth.org will be rallying at the State Capitol building to advocate for fewer Cesarean section births. Starting at 10 a.m. on the west steps.

PHOTO: Senate Appropriations Chair Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles at the Senate Chambers at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday June 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

Editor's note: A previous version of this post misstated the number of scope-of-practice bills being heard. There are two, not one.

August 30, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Last per diem session for California lawmakers

Today marks the final time this year the Legislature will meet on Friday in order to claim their $140-a-day stipend, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 29, 2013
Jerry Brown outlines prison plan for federal judges

brown.jpgTwo days after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed moving thousands of prisoners to local facilities and out of state to comply with a court order to reduce California's prison population, the administration outlined the plan in a court filing this evening but suggested it is still preparing for potential inmate releases if the plan fails in the Legislature.

In a status update filed with a three-judge panel overseeing the case, the administration said the Legislature is "now actively engaged" in considering the measure. While the plan has the support of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and the Republican leadership of both houses, the court filing did not mention significant opposition in the upper house, from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

The administration called the legislation "an additional means of complying with the population cap to avoid placing undue stress on the state's criminal justice system." However, officials said the state is "continuing to diligently develop the measures in the court-ordered plan."

In its filing, the administration said it has finalized the framework for a court-ordered early release system, ranking offenders based on criteria including a risk assessment, prior felonies and behavior while incarcerated.

Among other measures, the administration said it has identified about 1,300 inmates who could be eligible for a new parole process for low-risk elderly inmates, though it said further screening of those inmates is required. Officials said they have also identified an initial group of 42 inmates who are eligible for release under an expanded medical parole program.

Brown is under pressure to reduce the state's prison population after the U.S. Supreme Court this month rejected his effort to delay a 2009 order that the state reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity to relieve overcrowding. The administration estimates it would have to reduce the prison population by nearly 8,000 inmates to meet that target.

Under Brown's proposal, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could move 5,000 or more prisoners out of state and house others at a privately-owned facility in the Mojave Desert and at two community correctional facilities in Kern County.

The administration has estimated the cost of the plan at $315 million this budget year and $415 million in each of the following two years.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the breakfast in Sacramento on Thursday, May 19, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

August 29, 2013
Jerry Brown enjoying flattery from afar

brownmics.jpgThe national press has been so good to Gov. Jerry Brown lately it was hardly surprising to see this headline above a profile in Rolling Stone: "Jerry Brown's Tough-Love California Miracle: The 75-year-old governor rescued the Golden State from financial ruin - and is reshaping a national progressive agenda."

The article, published on the magazine's website Thursday, follows recent spreads in The New York Times and The Atlantic magazine, the latter of which shimmered in the glow of a governor who "moves, talks, reacts, and laughs like someone who is in no mood, and feels no need, to slow down."

And it isn't only Brown's reaction time that impresses observers from afar. He is praised for passage of his November ballot initiative to raise taxes, for California's improving budget outlook and for his political dominance at the Capitol.

It isn't all flattery. Former California Democratic lawmaker and Brown contemporary Tom Hayden took a mild shot in the Rolling Stone piece, saying Brown is "the kind of guy who, when he knows he's wrong, argues harder."

Still, on the East Coast, there is even talk that Brown might run again for president.

He isn't, but "don't be surprised" if he does, NBC News' First Read blog said this month.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 29, 2013
Whites a minority in California, but still majority of voters

ELECTION02.jpgAlthough whites have dropped to well under 50 percent of California's population, they are still a strong majority of the state's voters, according to new studies by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The PPIC reports also confirm the state's shift to dominance by the Democratic Party, even though its share of registered voters has declined to well under 50 percent - largely because the increasing numbers of independents lean Democratic.

The statistical studies of the partisan leanings of the state's registered voters, as well as likely voters, were generated from both official statistics and PPIC's polling.

PPIC's research found that while whites are now just 44 percent of California's adult population, they are 62 percent of the state's likely voters. In contrast, Latinos are 33 percent of adult population and just 17 percent of likely voters. With all ages counted, the white and Latino populations are virtually equal at about 38 percent each.

As past studies have shown, likely voters are "older, more educated, more affluent; they are homeowners, and born in the U.S."

Another finding: 45 percent of likely voters are Democrats, 32 percent are Republicans, 19 percent are independents and 5 percent identify with other parties. But 41 percent of independents lean toward Democratic Party candidates, while 29 percent lean toward Republicans.

PHOTO: Caption: Naomi Johnson, 93, never thought she would see the day that a black president might win as she left the voting booth where she cast her vote for Obama on Nov. 4, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

August 29, 2013
California Assembly committee OKs prison expansion bill

jerrybrown.jpgThe Assembly Budget Committee has approved an emergency measure that would send $315 million to move roughly 9,000 inmates to out-of-state facilities and leased prison spaces run by state employees by years' end.

The measure, Assembly Bill 105, doesn't cover costs for fiscal 2014-15 -- an estimated $415 million -- or beyond.

The Brown administration's proposal enjoyed support today from a number of law-and-order groups. They noted that the state has already responded to federal court orders to reduce the prison population by sentencing more convicts to local jails.

"We've reached critical mass," said Ron Cottingham, president of Peace Officers Research Association of California.

Opponents, including the ACLU and inmates' rights organizations, blasted Brown's plan for spending money on more prison beds that could go to education, rehabilitation and programs for the poor.

Jim Lundberg of Friends Committee on Legislation in California, a Quaker-based group, said Brown's plan "is not a balanced approach" that ignores early release and parole options. He feared a plan sold as a temporary fix would become a permanent fixture instead of a temporary fix.

"Why, once given this money, Lundberg said, "what would be the administration's motivation for giving it back?"

The budget committee approved the measure 21-0.

August 29, 2013
VIDEO: California previews ad campaign to promote health insurance

coveredcalifornia.pngCalifornia previewed its much-anticipated health-care advertising campaign Thursday, less than a month before the state launches a new insurance marketplace under the federal health care law.

The immense public-education effort -- comprised of television, radio, digital, social media and an updated website -- will endeavor to saturate the homes, workplaces and street corners of nearly 40 million residents to change lifestyles and health-care habits.

"The ads will explain that Californians will get access to low-cost or no-cost insurance and will benefit from new rules that allow everyone to have coverage," said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. "This will mean peace of mind for many Californians who have either been putting off medical care or going into debt because of health care costs."

All Americans will have to carry health insurance or pay a penalty under the new law.

Other states have already introduced elaborate marketing campaigns to promote their insurance marketplaces to consumers. California, which originally planned to launch its campaign in July, opted to delay the push until closer to the launch date.

Versions of the marketing on display here will begin rolling into test markets in the coming days.

Here are two ads released today, the first in English and the second in Spanish:


PHOTO: A frame from the Spanish-language television ad run by Covered California.


August 29, 2013
AM Alert: Block party in the California statehouse

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It's a weighty time of year for the California Legislature. The deadline for bills to make it out of fiscal committees looms tomorrow; the window for sending bills to the governor's desk is rapidly narrowing; and policymakers are now contemplating two different plans -- one backed by Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly leadership, the other by Senate Democrats -- for resolving California's prison overcrowding crisis.

In other words, time for a party!

Yes, as the decision days dwindle, legislative offices will be opening their doors and inviting other staffers and lawmakers to drop in, mingle and take a load off for what is being dubiously called an end-of-session block party. At least two offices will offer tacos; no word on who will be handling the sound system. BYOCutlery.

VIDEO: California's much-lauded budget reserve could be gone sooner than you think, Dan Walters says.

PRISON PROGNOSIS: Speaking of that late-blooming clash over prison spending, the Assembly Budget Committee will examine the bill now containing the governor's plan during a 10 a.m. hearing in room 4202 today.

PITCHING HEALTH CARE: The open enrollment date for Covered California, the state's federally mandated health insurance marketplace, beckons. In anticipation of the October 1 launch, Covered California will unveil today the advertising and marketing campaign it will use to try and persuade the uninsured to acquire coverage. The unveiling will be from 11 a.m. to noon at the Century Movie Theater in the Downtown Plaza.

PROVIDING HEALTH CARE: Also on the health care agenda today is a meeting of the California Health Facilities Financing Authority that will discuss, among other things, how to dole out mental health grants per the terms of a budget bill championed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

BUDGET BAGGAGE: Speech pathology, dentistry, land surveyors: these are all things that enjoy dedicated special funds in California. And over the years, many of them have lent money to the General Fund in an effort to ease fiscal woes. Today the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review will take a look at the status of those loans.

PHOTO: Comedian Dave Chappelle knows about block parties -- he even made a movie about one -- but he might not recognize the one in Sacramento. Sunday April 15, 2007. The Associated Press/Stefano Paltera.

August 29, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California budget reserve dwindling fast

It wasn't that long ago that Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers were celebrating a budget reserve, but Dan points to developments threatening to drain the extra funds.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 28, 2013
Jerry Brown, John Perez reject Darrell Steinberg's prison plan

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Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez do not appear receptive to Senate leader Darrell Steinberg's proposal to settle the lawsuit inmate advocates have brought against the state over crowding in California prisons.

Brown's prepared response to Steinberg's settlement proposal says, "It would not be responsible to turn over California's criminal justice policy to inmate lawyers who are not accountable to the people."

He defended his own plan to spend $315 million on new prison beds, saying it "avoids early releases of thousands of prisoners and lays the foundation for longer-term changes, and that's why local officials and law enforcement support it."

Perez criticized Steinberg's proposal and said Brown's "is the right plan given our circumstances."

It keeps inmates behind bars and develops long-term cost-effective solutions that protect public safety," said a prepared statement from Perez.

"The Governor's plan achieves what the Senate says they want--without kicking the can down the road to achieve it. Some of the elements of Senator Steinberg's proposal are already included in our bipartisan plan, but I am deeply skeptical about Senator Steinberg's approach that gives prisoner plaintiffs who favor mass release of prisoners the power to set our prison population and effectively takes the people's elected representatives out of the equation. Safe communities shouldn't be the hope for Californians - -they should be the reality, and our bipartisan plan, supported by law enforcement, keeps communities safe."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State speech on Jan. 24, 2013. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, is at left and Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is at right. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 28, 2013
Judge tentatively sides with California in carbon auction challenge

smokestack.jpgCalifornia's cap-and-trade carbon auctions are within the authority of the state Air Resources Board under a seven-year-old law aimed at addressing global warming, a Sacramento judge has tentatively ruled.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley said in the ruling that Assembly Bill 32 gave the Air Resources Board discretion to decide whether to adopt a cap-and-trade program and design the method for distributing pollution allowances.

The program subjects hundreds of large-scale polluters to an annual "cap" on the amount of carbon they can emit; with the cap declining slightly each year. Companies exceeding the cap can either reduce their pollution or purchase additional emissions credits -- from the state or other companies.

A small percentage of the credits are being auctioned every three months. Frawley stopped short of ruling on whether the multibillion dollar program constitutes an illegal tax.

The judge heard arguments Wednesday from attorneys for the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation and the California Chamber of Commerce, which filed similar lawsuits earlier this year and last fall as the carbon program was getting underway.

"That was one of the major aspects of our lawsuits -- that CARB did not have the authority," PLF attorney Ted Hadzi-Antich said outside the courthouse. "We are hopeful that the final ruling will be different, but it's difficult to guess what it's going to say."

The organizations argue the program is unconstitutional because it was not passed by at least a two-thirds majority of the Legislature. Attorneys for the state and environmental groups contend it isn't a tax and was not put in place to raise money.

Auction participants are walking away with something of value, David Clegern, a climate change spokesman for the Air Resources Board, said at the courthouse.

"The people who get them, if they reduce their emissions enough, they have the ability to sell or trade these things," Clegern said. "There is value there."

PHOTO: This Jan. 10, 2009 file photo shows a flock of geese flying past a smokestack at the Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmitt, Kan. Associated Press/Charlie Riedel, File

August 28, 2013
Under pressure, Bowen puts California raw finance data online

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After months of pressure from open government advocates, the California Secretary of State's office has made a mountain of campaign finance data available online.

While the secretary's office already puts some data online, the information had been broken up into discreet, separate filings. Anyone seeking to get all the information in a single digital forum had to request a CD-ROM.

Transparency watchdogs like Common Cause argued that system made it difficult to search through and organize the voluminous amounts of campaign finance and lobbying data that flows through the secretary of state's office. Secretary of State Debra Bowen pushed back, arguing that the process of putting that amount of data online would be overly costly and time-consuming.

Now Bowen's office has reversed its stance, putting the raw data online. That will make it easier to plug information on political money into sophisticated databases able to find trends and patterns.

"Following the money in politics and government is essential for making informed decisions at the ballot box," Bowen said in a press release. "The Secretary of State website is always evolving to ensure that everyone, from the occasional user to the information technology expert, can obtain public information in the way most useful to them."

Phillip Ung, a policy advocate for the California branch of Common Cause, called the change a "stark improvement," saying it "brings full access to behind the scenes raw data."

"We're always happy whenever a public agency is willing to embrace the 21st century," Ung said.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Debra Brown presents her argument during a legislative hearing on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

August 28, 2013
Steinberg's prison plan asks for 3 more years to reduce population

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California would get three more years to reduce its prison population to court-mandated levels while counties would get $200 million a year to expand drug treatment and mental health care for criminal offenders under a proposal Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg unveiled today that calls for settling a long-standing lawsuit against the state over its crowded prisons.

Steinberg presented the plan a day after Gov. Jerry Brown introduced legislation that calls for spending $315 million on additional prison beds to meet a federal court order to reduce crowding in the state's prisons by the end of this year. Brown's plan has the support of Republican leaders in the Legislature, Sen. Bob Huff and Assemblywoman Connie Conway, as well as Democratic Assembly Speaker John A. Perez.

But Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, is advancing a counter proposal that seeks to address the problem of crowded prisons without paying for more prison space or the early release of inmates. More than a dozen Democratic state senators stood behind Steinberg as he presented his plan to the media this morning, including a spectrum of liberal and moderate Democrats.

In addition to the grants, Steinberg's plan also calls for creating an an Advisory Commission on Public Safety to examine changing California's sentencing laws and suggests that an independent state panel should evaluate and determine the appropriate population for California prisons based on prison practices across the country.

"We cannot build or rent our way out of overcrowded prisons," Steinberg said in a statement.

"Relying solely on more prison beds is repeating the same failed investments of the past. We need solutions rooted in effective strategies to reduce crime, and we need the time to implement these real reforms. That's where I hope the Governor and the plaintiffs will find common ground."

Steinberg's plan calls on the inmate advocates who sued the state over prison crowding to settle their lawsuit against the state by Sept. 13, the last day of the legislative session. His proposal is being put into a bill that will be heard in the Senate budget committee next week.

The legislative wrangling follow court rulings that prison conditions are inhumane, and an order that the state to alleviate crowding. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by Brown to delay a 2009 order that the state reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity. Steinberg's plan asks the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to give the state three more years to get the prison population down to that number.

He says his proposal to give counties grants for drug treatment and mental health care is modeled after a 2009 effort that reduced new prison admissions by more than 9,500 and saved $536 million over three years.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the overcrowding cases issued a joint statement praising Steinberg's plan, saying they were "open to an extension of the date for compliance with the three judge court's order if an agreement produces an effective and sustainable approach that will resolve the chronic overcrowding problem in the state's prisons."

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

August 28, 2013
AM Alert: California cities, counties fight ballot bill

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In the 2013 Gut-and-Amend-Games, a bill regulating how nonprofits disclose and spend campaign cash has become a flashpoint. Organizations who would be affected, like the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities, argue the bill would handicap their ability to fight or back ballot measures and have marshaled an assault on the legislation (full disclosure: the Bee's Editorial Board has linked arms with the bill's opponents).

Today they bring the fight to the State Capitol with an 11 a.m. rally at the fish pond. Expected speakers include Matt Cate of the California State Association of Counties, Nick Warner of the California State Sheriffs Association, Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, Brian Rivas of the California School Boards Association and Jose Cisneros of the League of California Cities.

VIDEO: A freshly proposed prison plan injects some fresh drama into the waning legislative session, Dan Walters says.

STEINBERG'S PRISON PLAN: Gov. Jerry Brown sought to project bipartisan backing yesterday when he announced a new prison spending plan while flanked by leaders from both parties, but one legislative bigwig was glaringly absent. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had already faulted Brown's plan as a shortsighted attempt to provide extra capacity that would inevitably fill up, and at 10 a.m. today he'll offer his counterproposal. Check back in for updates.

CAP-AND-TRADE CHALLENGE: A lawsuit labeling California's recently inaugurated carbon auction system an unconstitutional tax appears on the Sacramento County Superior Court's docket today. An attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed the challenge on behalf of a range of business groups, will present the arguments for nullifying the landmark emission permit market.

ATMOSPHERICS: Speaking of air pollution, lawmakers are rallying today to urge California to clear the air in some of the more polluted places identified by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego will be speaking on the west steps at noon.

MLK: Gov. Jerry Brown and several lawmakers will mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech with a noon rally on the south steps.

DUELING DOCS: The Crest Theater has a crowded agenda today. It's showing "Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire," a documentary casting a skeptical eye on gun control (Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, is hosting a screening in the State Capitol at noon) and hosting the premier of the documentary "Through the Heart of Tango" after a reception that Steinberg plans to attend.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, who turns 61 today.

PHOTO: The weather was cloudy and bright at the California State Capitol Building, Sacramento, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Michael Allen Jones.

August 28, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Prisons fight caps California legislative session

An end-of-session plan to reduce prison overcrowding faces a rocky path through the Senate, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 27, 2013
Brown signs bill allowing noncitizens to serve as poll workers

bonta.JPGLegal immigrants who are not citizens will be able to serve as poll workers in California after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that was heavily opposed by Republicans.

Brown's office announced Tuesday that he had signed Assembly Bill 817 by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Alameda. It will allow election officials to appoint up to five noncitizens at each precinct to work as poll workers, as long as they meet all requirements for voter eligibility, except for U.S. citizenship.

Bonta argued that his bill would increase language access at polls for nearly 3 million voters with limited English.

"Without language assistance, these citizens face challenges in exercising their fundamental right to vote and casting an informed ballot," Bonta said Tuesday in a statement.

Republicans argued that there is limited language assistance a poll worker is allowed to provide and that only citizens should be included in the election process.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, in Assembly chambers in March. The Sacramento Bee / Hector Amezcua

August 27, 2013
Read Gov. Jerry Brown's prison plan

Here is a copy of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan for prisons:

Prison Plan

August 27, 2013
Jerry Brown seeks $315M to avoid mass release of prisoners

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Under court order to reduce California's prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year, Gov. Jerry Brown asked the Legislature this afternoon to authorize about $315 million to avoid a mass release.

Legislation proposed by the Democratic governor would ease overcrowding in the short term and and "make thoughtful changes over the longer term," Brown said. "This is the sensible, prudent way to proceed."

The bill would allow the state to lease more private prison space and send more prisoners to out of state facilities.

The bill's prospects are far from certain. While Brown was joined by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and Republican leadership from both houses for the announcement, noticeably absent was Darrell Steinberg, the Senate president pro tem.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has suggested the state should put more emphasis on mental health and drug treatment programs than on expanding jail capacity.

He issued a statement after Brown's announcement:

"The Governor's proposal is a plan with no promise and no hope. As the population of California grows, it's only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow and the Court demands mass releases again. For every ten prisoners finishing their sentences, nearly seven of them will commit another crime after release and end up back behind bars.

"More money for more prison cells alone is not a durable solution; it is not a fiscally responsible solution; and it is not a safe solution."

The proposed legislation follows the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection this month of a request by the Brown administration to delay a federal order to reduce its prison population to ease overcrowding. Brown and lawmakers have been in talks since the ruling came down.

Steinberg was asked last week about the prospect of spending additional money to house more inmates. At the time, he said, "And my response is there are two paths. One is to expend money to expand jail capacity with no impact on long-term population. The second path is to take those resources and instead invest them in mental health courts, drug treatment, mental health treatment, vocational rehabilitation, evidence-based programs, and seek to reduce the population in a more sustained way. And in a way that shifts the criminal justice debate to a smart on crime discussion."

Part of the legislation involves leasing a privately-owned facility in the Mojave Desert and staffing it with state employees. The bill would authorize funds to send prisoners to Corrections Corp. of America's 1,200-cell facility in California City, but run it like a state-owned prison. Since each cell is designed for two inmates, the move would add up to 2,400 beds.

The arrangement to use a private prison staffed with state workers would do more than ease prison overcrowding. It would also please one of Brown's prime backers, The California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

The union, which reached a tentative contract over the weekend, has suffered heavy membership losses from realignment, the two-year-old policy that has sent more criminals to local jails and shrunken the state prison population through attrition. Opening a de facto 34th adult state prison would save officers' jobs.

Jon Ortiz contributed to this report

August 27, 2013
Activists urge Gov. Jerry Brown to release prisoners

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Anticipating that Gov. Jerry Brown will soon release a plan to expand California's prison capacity in response to a federal court order to reduce inmate crowding, activists who say the state should not spend any more money on its prisons protested at a rally outside the Capitol today.

"Money for schools and education, not for incarceration," chanted protesters representing liberal groups including the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Courage Campaign, PICO California and the ACLU.

"The governor is planning to raid the reserves to expand prisons," said Zachary Norris, executive director of the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

"If we are raiding the state's meager reserves to pay for prisons, we are not investing in the future of this state."

Emily Harris, a representative of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, urged the governor to release sick and elderly inmates rather than pay for more prison space.

"We believe the only sustainable solution to reducing overcrowding in California's deadly prisons is actually reducing the number of people we lock up in those prisons," she said.

August 27, 2013
VIDEO: Peace activist Cindy Sheehan announces for California governor

SheehanForGovernor.jpgAntiwar activist Cindy Sheehan on Tuesday announced plans to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown, saying her nascent campaign would focus on bringing peace, economic equality and environmental stability to California.

"One of the goals of this campaign is to break the stranglehold on this state's politics by the two parties of, by and for the corporations and the 1 percent," Sheehan, of the Peace and Freedom Party, told supporters outside the Capitol. "I am devoted to improving
the lives of the working and poor classes, and protecting our precious and compromised environment."

Californians want education, jobs and health care, she said, "not more empty promises and pandering to the wealthy."

She also touched on what she described as a lack of diversity in the governor's office.

Sheehan, who rode her bike to Sacramento from Davis, admitted that her campaign had not secured a permit for the event. Instead, she decided to piggyback on a news conference held by critics of the Brown administration's handling of prisons.

"We have to do this quickly because we don't want them to take the podium," Sheehan said. "This is, like, serendipitous, for us. We didn't get a permit.

"I guess I shouldn't announce that."

August 27, 2013
AM Alert: Tech industry talks with California lawmakers

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Last week, as Sheryl Sandberg-mania engulfed the capital community, we looked into how Sandberg's employer is deploying its considerable resources on California politics. As it turns out, Facebook has spent enough money to get a few friend requests accepted.

Today, tech titans get another chance to mingle with California's policy sculptors. TechAmerica -- an industry group that has been among the powerful players pushing for an immigration reform package that would accommodate more tech workers -- will host a legislative reception at Mayahuel this evening. Companies expected to send a representative include Verizon, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Qualcomm, eBay, Blackberry and Xerox.

VIDEO: Lawmakers are indulging in one of their favorite behind-the-scenes rituals, Dan Walters says.

PRISON PLAN PUSHBACK: A coalition of different advocacy groups, predominantly the California Partnership and Californians United for a Responsible Budget, will rally today against a recently floated plan to ease California's prison overcrowding crisis by spending more money. Starting at 10 a.m. on the north steps.

LOW CARBON DIET: Some alternative transportation groups, including CalSTART and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, are hosting a summit today on low-carbon fuel at the Sheraton Grand, featuring panel discussions with energy industry folks, academics and lawmakers. Expected attendees include Wade Crowfoot from the governor's office; Senators Hannah-Beth Jackson and Ben Hueso; and Assembly members Phil Ting, Susan Eggman, Al Muratsuchi and Henry Perea. Something interesting to watch for: whether those touting natural gas, which emits less carbon when burned than other fossil fuels, discuss this session's push to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Jackson, for one, has been a big fracking critic.

SHEEHAN STARTS: Peace activist Cindy Sheehan will formally launch her outsider gubernatorial campaign during a 10:15 a.m. press conference on the north steps today.

TALKING IMMIGRATION: What's the status of that federal immigration reform bill? The California Latino Legislative Caucus will hold a briefing on the current state of affairs today, with speakers including Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation, Diana Tellefson Torres of the United Farm Workers, David Huerta of SEIU and Mike Winn of the California Building Industry Association. Starting at 2 p.m. in room 447.

BURTON, BENEFACTOR: Everyone's favorite profane ex-legislator is hosting a fundraiser aimed at sending foster kids to college. The John Burton Foundation for Children without Homes will seek to generate some money with an event at Chicory tonight, anticipated to feature appearances by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, and of course former Pro Tem John Burton. From 5 to 8 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, who turns 60 today.

PHOTO: One of the last trains for the night travels in front of the Capitol building on Wednesday, August 29, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 27, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Lawmakers keeping bills, constituents in suspense

Dan Walters reflects on how bills get exiled to -- and return from -- the Suspense File, one of the Legislature's preferred tools for behind the scenes decision-making.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 26, 2013
California Senate approves change to drug law

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State law would go easier on people who are busted for carrying illegal drugs for personal use under a bill approved by the California Senate today.

Assembly Bill 721 changes the definition of "transporting" a drug to mean transporting it for sale, eliminating an additional charge for someone who might otherwise only be charged with drug possession.

"If you're in possession of a drug and you're walking down the street, you could be charged with transporting a drug even though your 'transporting' is just walking," said Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, as he presented the bill on the Senate floor.

The bill by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, would not make it harder to prosecute drug dealers, Wright said, who would still be charged with transporting illegal drugs for sale.

"It simply says that... walking down the street does not qualify as transporting," Wright said.

"What this bill is intended to fix is that someone who would have been charged with simple possession, because their quantity was small, not end up with transportation for sale because (prosecutors) wanted to add charges."

Republicans argued against the bill, saying it would be too soft on criminals.

"This bill gives you a greater chance to get away with it or have it go easy on you," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. "It is not a step in the right direction."

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, countered that the bill could help chip away at the problem of crowding in California prisons.

"We're talking about a universe of people who will still be charged with one or more felonies. They will likely be going to state prison," Leno said. "The question is, do we want them to take up limited bed space for two or three years, or five or ten or 15 years?"

The state Senate passed the bill on a vote of 24-15. It now heads back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, in the Assembly chambers in March 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 26, 2013
Biosimilar drug bill wins overwhelming Assembly support

jerryhill.JPGA controversial and heavily lobbied bill establishing a protocol for when pharmacists may substitute a "biosimilar" drug passed 58-4 in the Assembly on Monday.

Senate Bill 598 is supported by drug companies and some labor groups who say regulation will protect consumers once biosimilars are approved by the federal government. The bill would allow pharmacists to substitute biosimilars in the same way they currently substitute generic drugs for name brands.

However, unlike generic medicines, a biosimilar is not identical to the brand name drug being replaced.

Opponents of the bill, which include health plans and the state Board of Pharmacy, say it sets arbitrary barriers to providing affordable replacements.

The bill, by Democrat Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo heads back to the Senate later this week for concurrence in amendments.

PHOTO: Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, in a 2008 file photo with Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis. The Sacramento Bee / Brian Baer

August 26, 2013
California Senate approves bill to expand abortion access

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It would be easier for California women to get abortions under a bill the state Senate approved today.

Assembly Bill 154 expands the types of medical providers that can offer abortions by allowing nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants to perform the procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The bill by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, cleared the Senate on a vote of 25-11. Supporters, all Democrats, argued that the policy is necessary because remote parts of California do not have many doctors, requiring women who seek an abortion to travel for hours.

"The growing shortage of abortion providers creates a significant barrier for women," said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

Opponents, mostly Republicans, said the proposal puts women at risk.

"It is a leveling down of health care for women," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. "The individuals here do not have the training, do not have the experience.... that doctors do."

AB 154 now heads back to the Assembly for a vote on Senate amendments before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D- Los Angeles, in June 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 26, 2013
California's firefighting costs hit $44 million

fire.jpgThe Rim fire raging near Yosemite is contributing to a run-up in California's firefighting expenses early in the season.

The Department of Finance estimated this morning that the state has spent $44 million fighting fires thus far. Lawmakers budgeted $172 million for the entire season.

"We're eight weeks in (the fiscal year) and we've spent roughly a quarter of what's budgeted," said H.D. Palmer, the spokesman for the department.

Palmer noted that the budget also includes a $1.1 billion reserve that the state can tap if costs exceed what has been budgeted. And the state can expect some reimbursement from the federal government once the fires have subsided and officials sort out how many resources state and federal teams expended on fires on state and federal lands.

The $172 million budgeted for firefighting this fiscal year is more than has been set aside the last four years, but costs exceeded the budget last year. The state budgeted $92.7 million last year, but costs have hit $221 million and 4th quarter expenses are still being reconciled, Palmer said.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama called Gov. Jerry Brown and committed federal resources to help the state, according to a statement form the White House.

Following that telephone call, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced today it had authorized federal funds to help fund the firefight. The agency said it would reimburse the state for as much as 75 percent of eligible costs, including expenses for field camps, materials and supplies and mobilization and demobilization efforts.

This post was updated at 1:35 p.m. Monday to include information about the Federal Emergency Management Agency's funding announcement.

August 26, 2013
AM Alert: Biosimilars, abortion bills ready for votes

jerryhill.jpgBoth houses of the Legislature start the week with floor sessions at noon, with a controversial bill on "biosimilars" eligible for a vote as early as today in the Assembly.

Senate Bill 598, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would establish conditions under which pharmacists may distribute the new type of drugs once they are approved by the federal government. Like generic versions of brand-name pain relievers, biosimilars are used in Europe to substitute for band-name biologic products, including vaccines and complex medications for diseases such as cancer.

Unlike everyday generics, biosimilars are not identical to the brand-name drugs they are intended to replace.

As with similar legislation in other states, the bill is supported by drug companies and opposed by several health plans and manufacturers of generic drugs. Supporters say regulation will protect consumers, while opponents say it will hinder access to lower-cost replacements.

VIDEO: Dan Walters wonders if Gov. Jerry Brown isn't happy to be missing next week's opening of the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

ABORTION: In the upper house, senators could take action as early as today on a bill that would allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to conduct a type of early abortion using a method called aspiration.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 154, by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is eligible for a vote.

WOMEN: Senators are expected to vote on a resolution by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to encourage publicly held companies to include more women on their boards of directors.

SHEEHAN: Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan is preparing to formally announce her longshot candidacy for governor in 2014. Sheehan, of the Peace and Freedom Party, has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday at the Capitol. Sheehan ran a failed campaign for vice president last year alongside Roseanne Barr.

FRESHMAN FACTS: Read our little-known fun facts about freshmen legislators on the Capitol Alert Insider Edition. Today's subject: Assemblyman Bill Quirk.

PHOTO: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, talks with Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, at the Capitol on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

August 26, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Michigan looking good to Gov. Jerry Brown

Dan thinks it's a little too convenient that Gov. Jerry Brown will miss the Bay Bridge opening.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 23, 2013
Noreen Evans raising campaign money... but not running for office

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Democratic Sen. Noreen Evans hosted a fundraiser at her Santa Rosa home last night, billed as a "night under the redwoods" for those willing to give at least $1,000 to her 2014 re-election campaign.

Donors were invited to "enjoy a catered, multi-course meal of delicious, organic local foods," according to the invitation, ingesting and imbibing "the best that Sonoma County has to offer."

Thing is, Evans announced 10 days earlier that she doesn't plan to seek re-election next year.

The Senator wouldn't answer The Bee's questions about why she's raising money after announcing she's not seeking re-election, but had her campaign consultant Terry Price give us a call. He said Evans' campaign committee has certain ongoing expenses -- such as bookkeeping and office supplies -- that continue even though she's not actively campaigning.

"There are some things that need time to wind down and she needs a little money to pay off those expenses," Price said.

As of June 30, Evans' 2014 account had about $10,600 on hand, records show. Campaign expenditures include payments to her son Joel Evans-Fudem, who does what Price described as secretarial and database work. Evans paid her son $19,113.39 between January 2011 and June 30 of this year.

PHOTO: Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, speaks with Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, in the Capitol on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 23, 2013
AM Alert: Capitol types get legacy treatment, but all eyes on San Diego

Jason-Kinney.jpgFollowing a launch party Thursday, photographer Charr Crail's "The Legacy Project" is up and running, with a collection of photo illustrations of such notables as Gov. Jerry Brown, former first lady Maria Shriver and former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.

The project is meant to chronicle people "who make a difference for somebody else, or many other people," Crail said.

At least one of Crail's subjects has been asked repeatedly about his legacy - and he bristles just about every time.

"I don't think about my legacy," Brown told Capital Public Radio this week. "That's a word that ... I conjure up gothic architecture or something."

The images of Brown and others on Crail's website. Crail, a former employee of The Sacramento Bee, plans to take nominations and add at least one person a month to the list of honorees.

VIDEO: Dan Walters discusses San Diego's trouble with mayors in this video, even before the current one (as of this writing), Bob Filner.

FILNER: Speaking of Filner, Walters won't be the only person watching San Diego's embattled mayor, with speculation Filner is set to resign. The City Council is expected to meet today to consider a settlement in the case, part of a scandal in which a parade of women have claimed Filner sexually harassed them.

Filner has acknowledged disrespecting women but has denied sexually harassing them.

GUNS: The Assembly Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay heads to Stockton for a hearing on "prevention strategies and success stories." After posting a record number of homicides last year, violent crime in the Central Valley city has fallen in the first half of this year. The committee meets at 9 a.m. at 44 N. San Joaquin Street, 6th floor.

Who will be the latest pol or policy skewered on the pen of cartoonist
Jack Ohman? Find out early with our new Capitol Alert Insider Edition app.


PHOTO CREDIT: Democratic political consultant Jason Kinney in his downtown Sacramento office. Photo illustration by Charr Crail.

August 23, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: What's wrong with San Diego's mayors?

Dan says Bob Filner is just the latest San Diego mayor to flame out in scandal.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 22, 2013
Could online disclosure rule out Sutter Brown?

sutterbrown.jpgThe state's Fair Political Practices Commission on Thursday put off until next month a proposal to make it easier to identify bloggers and social media users who get paid by campaigns for their posts.

The regulation, which is likely to be adopted in some form, would require campaigns to disclose the names of people paid to post online content and say where it appears, unless the post itself mentions the author is being paid.

The purpose, said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the FPPC, is to inform the public when online content "is masquerading as someone's opinion, as opposed to paid opinion."

Steve Maviglio, a political consultant and co-publisher of the California Majority Report, a Democratic blog, spoke against the measure at the commission meeting. He said it is unnecessary, unenforceable and overly broad.

He mused about the potential effect of the regulation on one Twitter account, in particular - that of Gov. Jerry Brown's dog.

The person who runs the account is a mystery, but that could change depending on who the handler is and how the account is used, if at all, in a future campaign.

"Sutter Brown will be outed by this regulation," Maviglio said, adding he doesn't know if that is a good or bad thing.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sutter Brown makes an appearance at the Capitol on Feb. 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 22, 2013
With new money, California schools report less stress

.SCHOOLS_0154.JPGWith billions more dollars to spend, California's school districts are exhibiting fewer signs of financial stress, a new survey from EdSource, a California public education research organization, concludes.

EdSource surveyed officials in California's 30 largest districts, which together account for a third of California's 6 million students.

"Our 2013 survey shows that these school districts are experiencing fewer stresses this year compared to last," the report concluded. "Most notably, there has been a dramatic reduction in teacher layoffs. In addition, many districts have been able to restore some or all of their instructional days trimmed in the prior three years because of budget cuts.

"The foreclosure crisis has eased significantly, and unemployment is lower than it has been in five years, which means some students are likely to be experiencing less stress at home. That should relieve at least some of the pressures on schools to provide a range of support services to ensure that students succeed."

The 2013-14 budget enacted in June provided enough money to keep school spending roughly flat, in comparison to the cuts that had been enacted in previous years, when the state faced severe deficits. The new money came from a temporary sales and income tax increase approved by voters in 2012, along with revenues from a slowly improving economy.

August 22, 2013
California's public workers among nation's best paid

RB_Capitol_Dome.JPGCalifornia's 2.2 million state, local government and public school workers were among the nation's highest paid public employees in 2011, according to an annual survey by the Census Bureau.

At an average of $4,604 per month, California's public employees - both full-time and part-time - had the nation's third highest salary levels among the states, slightly behind New York's $4,679 and New Jersey's $4,642. The District of Columbia topped all at $5,862. California's salary level was 26.1 percent above the $3,652 national average.

California's full-time public employees ranked No. 1 among the states at an average of $5,952 per month but were No. 2 when the District of Columbia was included. New Jersey was No. 3.

The state's 2.2 million public workers were by far the nation's highest total, but with 11.1 percent of the nation's 19.3 million state and local government employees, California's share was slightly lower than its share of the U.S. population.

However, because of its high salaries, the roughly $119 billion spent on California's state and local government payrolls in 2011 was about 14 percent of the nation's total, above its percentage of the national population.

PHOTO: The California Capitol dome. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

August 22, 2013
AM Alert: Medical translators push California lawmakers

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The gradual phase-in of the new federal health care law has spurred plenty of action at the state Capitol: legislation to expand access to Medi-Cal, as well as bills to enlarge the scope of practice for various types of medical professionals. Today the focus turns to a bill by Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, that would establish a program for medical interpreters, allowing them to join public unions and collectively bargain while drawing on newly available federal money for interpreters.

Supporters will be rallying on the north steps for Assembly Bill 1263, which currently resides on the suspense file. Attendees will include foreign-language speaking constituents who represent a wide range of ethnic groups and representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- which could get a new source of dues it if ends up representing translators -- in addition to Pérez and Assembly members Richard Pan, Phil Ting and Sharon Quirk-Silva.

VIDEO: It's that time of year again: Dan Walters is officially in gut-and-amend watch mode.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: Speaking of implementing the health care overhaul, California's new insurance health exchange meets today. The board of directors will furnish updates on what standard plans include, enrollment regulations and the 2014-2015 contracting schedule, starting at 10 a.m. at the California Department of Health Care Services building.

PUBLIC RECORDS: Remember the furor over the budget bill that would have given local governments more authority to turn down public records requests? Today an Assembly budget subcommittee will review a proposed constitutional amendment, produced in response to the public records bill fallout, clarifying that local agencies must pay for such requests. In room 444, after session.

THE WATERS AROUND YOU: From insurance premiums to public policy to environmental protection, climate change could sent ripples through California governance. A Little Hoover Commission hearing today examines some of the effects. With Charles Lester of the California Coastal Commission, Ann C. Chan of the California Natural Resources Agency, Stephen G. Bushnell of the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company and experts on environmental law and public policy. Starting at 9:30 a.m. in room 437.

HERE THEY STAY: High drama has trailed the process of building the Sacramento Kings a new arena, particularly last week's bombshell revelation that would-be Seattle financier Chris Hansen had funded an anti-arena drive. Today Bee reporter Ryan Lillis, who helped break that story, hosts a Sacramento Press Club talk on whether the arena is good public policy. Joshua Wood of Region Builders and Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen will represent the "pro" side, while consultant Tab Berg and Jim Cathcart, founder of Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, will speak on behalf of those who would like a public vote on the project. At The Broiler Steakhouse, starting at noon.

TRAVEL TRAVAILS: The rules for disclosure requirements around travel payments will be one of the topics the California Fair Political Practices Commission considers at its meeting today, from 10 a.m. at 428 J street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, who turns 36 today.

Our new Capitol Alert Insider Edition app is already getting some glowing bipartisan reviews. Check it out, and check the app out here:

PHOTO: A trauma team at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, finishes an operation on a gunshot victim on June 23, 2013. Barbara Davidson/ Los Angeles Times.

August 22, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: At session's end, 'mushroom bills' proliferate

With the remaining days to pass bills dwindling, Dan says to be on the lookout for bills whose intent suddenly and drastically changes.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 21, 2013
Panel denies bid to audit land acquisitions for high-speed rail

railland.jpgThe Joint Legislative Audit Committee declined a request by two Republican lawmakers today to audit how the state is acquiring private land for California's high-speed rail project.

Assemblymen Jim Patterson, of Fresno, and Frank Bigelow, of O'Neals, said they feared Central Valley landowners were being treated unfairly as the California High-Speed Rail Authority moves to acquire land for the project.

Their request failed on a party-line vote. Democratic lawmakers said an audit is unnecessary because information about land acquisition can be obtained directly from the rail authority.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said an audit would have taken about six months. The state auditor has examined elements of the high-speed rail project twice before, first in 2010 and again in 2012.

Rail officials plan to begin construction of the $68 billion system in the Central Valley this year. The project has been a source of controversy at the Capitol for years, and opponents are seeking to block its construction in court.

PHOTO: Fresno Inn residents, given a 3-day eviction notice, say they are being told by the landlord that the property will be demolished to make way for high-speed rail, on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. The Fresno Bee/John Walker

August 21, 2013
California Business Roundtable debuts new economic database

The California Business Roundtable will unveil its new database on the state's economy Thursday morning.

The organization of corporate leaders has set up a nonprofit subsidiary, the Center for Jobs and the Economy, to maintain the database, which is open to the public free of charge.

The database uses data from federal, state and local government sources on economic issues, such as employment and unemployment numbers and rates, not only for the state as a whole, but for regions, counties, legislative districts and demographic groups. The organization says it intends to expand the parameters of the site as more data become available and users express preferences.

Robert Lapsley, president of the Business Roundtable, says while the organization has political goals relating to the business climate, the new organization will deal strictly with data from official sources and will not be used for any political efforts.

August 21, 2013
Facebook revs up political giving in California Capitol

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Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg took her feminist speech to Sacramento today, giving a luncheon talk promoting her book to the legislative women's caucus, and making a round of office calls inside the Capitol.

"What 'Lean In' is trying to do, both my book and my foundation, is we're trying to get more women into leadership positions like yours," Sandberg told the audience made up largely of lawmakers and lobbyists.

"We want every woman to ask herself, 'What would I do if I weren't afraid? If I believed I could do anything, what would I do?'"

Sandberg's visit comes as Facebook is working to increase its juice in California's Capitol. The social networking company dumped about $79,000 into legislative campaign accounts earlier this summer. That's slightly more than Facebook spent on California politics during all of last year -- an election year -- and more than double what it spent on politics in 2011, the first year the Silicon Valley company made political donations in its home state.

Facebook's lobbying records show it has been active on more than a dozen bills this year, and in May, it took eight Assembly members to an $1,100 dinner at Ella. The company has successfully fought several bills that sought to create more privacy for Internet users.

One of them, SB 501 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, would require that social networking web sites remove personal information within 96 hours of a user requesting it be taken down, and would require those sites to remove personal information about minors if their parents ask that it be deleted.

"That's been the biggest sticking point," Corbett said of her negotiations with Facebook and other technology companies opposed to the bill, who argue that it violates minors' rights to free speech.

"But I am committed to protecting individuals privacy and I'm willing to try to figure out how to work those issues out. I believe my conversations with Facebook, I believe they agree we may be able to work something out."

The bill is stalled in the Assembly, though Corbett said she hopes to continue working on it next year. She posed for pictures with Sandberg at the women's caucus luncheon.

Sandberg did not answer questions from the press at the event. In an interview earlier this week, she told The Bee that "privacy laws are important."

"Our job is to work with the government to protect people," Sandberg said.

PHOTO: Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, escort Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg (center) as she attends a women's caucus lunch in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:24 p.m. to clarify that Facebook opposed one of two Internet privacy bills by Sen. Ellen Corbett. It was also updated at 1:50 p.m. on Aug. 22 to correct that Facebook treated eight lawmakers, not four, to a $1,100 meal at the Ella restaurant in May.

August 21, 2013
Just five 'job killer' bills alive as legislative session nears end

job-killers.jpgThe more than three dozen bills that the California Chamber of Commerce labeled as "job killers" because they would increase regulation or raise taxes have been whittled down to just five as the 2013 legislative session enters its last days.

All of the others have either been held in committee or defeated in floor votes, but technically, will still be alive for the second half of the biennial session that begins in January.

The highest-profile survivor of the original 37 bills is Assembly Bill 10, carried by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, which would raise the state's minimum wage by $2 per hour over the next five years.

The measure was approved by the full Assembly and reached the Senate floor, awaiting another vote, after Alejo agreed to remove an automatic cost-of-living escalator.

The other four bills on the list that remain alive include:

  • Senate Bill 404 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, which would extend the Fair Employment and Housing Act's protections against discrimination to employees who are engaged in family care duties;

  • Senate Bill 365 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, which would place a 10-year time limit on business tax exemptions;

  • Senate Bill 691 by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, which would increase penalties for non-vehicular air quality violations; and

  • Assembly Bill 769 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which would repeal the net operating loss carry back deduction for business.

Seven constitutional amendments aimed at lowering the vote threshold for local government and school taxes are technically still alive, but would require two-thirds legislative votes to be placed on the 2014 ballot. Legislative leaders have put them on hold until next year.

PHOTO: California Chamber of Commerce logo.

August 21, 2013
Jerry Brown will skip Bay Bridge opening

baybridge.jpgGov. Jerry Brown was looking forward to a big celebration of the opening of the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge when he went to the site in February to start a countdown on live TV.

In a post-Super Bowl special on the Bay Area's KPIX-TV, Brown said he expected thousands of people to attend a public event, with festivities including running and a bicycle race.

But then a broken-bolt problem threatened to delay the opening of the $6.4 billion project, and uncertainty hindered plans for a celebration. By last week, when state transportation officials announced the bridge would be finished on time and open to traffic the morning after Labor Day, they said it was too late for the celebration originally envisioned.

Instead, officials proposed a smaller, ribbon-cutting-like ceremony involving the cutting of a chain.

The event will not include Brown, who has faced questions about the bridge's structural integrity all year.

The governor and first lady Anne Gust Brown are expected to be in Michigan over Labor Day weekend, attending a Gust Brown family reunion.

PHOTO: This photo taken Aug. 1 shows the new eastern section to the left of the current eastern span of San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Associated Press/Eric Risberg

August 21, 2013
From failed to approved, Assembly revives sex abuse bill

beall.JPGThe Assembly Appropriations Committee resurrected a bill extending the statute of limitations for some sex abuse victims after it failed last week amid fierce lobbying.

Senate Bill 131 by Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would open a one-year window for victims who were excluded from a 2003 law that extended the time during which sexual abuse victims can file a civil lawsuit.

Opponents have argued that the bill unfairly excludes public agencies, such as school districts, and instead only revives abuse claims against private institutions, such as the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts.

An umbrella organization of groups like the California Catholic Conference and California Association of Private School Organizations spent $250,000 in the fist six months of this year to fight the bill.

SB 131 fell three votes short in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week after six of Beall's fellow Democrats did not vote. Beall asked for reconsideration and, despite no recent amendments, it passed on Wednesday 11-3 with three members not voting. SB 131 is now headed to the full Assembly for a floor vote.

PHOTO: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, during session in the Senate chambers in March. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 21, 2013
Jerry Hill offers donors a magical night

20130311_HA_LEGISLATORS1431.JPGFor his next trick, the senator will need some volunteers.

Preferably with deep pockets.

The end of the legislative session has brought a barrage of fundraisers. As they perpetually push for campaign cash, some lawmakers offer tickets to Dodgers and Giants games; some host wine tastings at glittering downtown venues; some organize golf outings.

Sen. Jerry Hill's idea is magic.

The San Mateo Democrat - or the "Master of Marvels," as the invitation to a fundraiser dubs him - has invited supporters to a Wednesday night reception, where they will have the privilege of seeing a California senator perform some illusions.

As it turns out, Hill has been a member of the Society of American Magicians (it exists, we checked) for decades. He has performed at the birthday parties of friends' children, or at other fundraisers, and is drawn back by the thrill of discovery - tonight, he will attempt a table levitation trick he saw a professional magician perform about six months ago.

"It's always been a marvel to me," Hill said, "and it's fun to learn (tricks) and do them and provide some pleasure I think people get out of watching magic."

Senate sorcery doesn't come cheap. Ticket prices on the invitation run from $1,000 to $4,100 for sponsors, payable to Jerry Hill for Senate 2016. The campaign committee raised $166,705 through the first half of 2013 and reported having $133,211 on hand.

PHOTO: Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 21, 2013
AM Alert: California women's caucus leans in to Sheryl Sandberg talk

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg -- author of a much-dissected book on the fate of female professional trajectories -- will be in Sacramento today for the inaugural edition of a new "'Women's Voices" speaker series hosted by the California Legislative Women's Caucus. Sandberg will speak at 1201 K street from noon to 1:15 p.m.

Don't count on embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner being in office come Christmas, Dan Walters says.

AUDIT-ACITY: The Joint Legislative Audit Committee will hear several audit requests today. Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, plans to request a probe of policies for dealing with sexual violence on college campuses, citing complaints from young women who said campus security didn't assist them and in some cases discouraged them from reporting assaults. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O'Neals, will seek an audit of how the California High-Speed Rail Authority has acquired public land, the latest Republican salvo against high speed rail coming after a ruling questioning the validity of the state's spending plan. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, want more information on sterilizations of female inmates.

APPROPRIATIONS WATCH: Some bills of interest whose fate falls in the hands of Assembly Appropriations today: a bill to regulate fracking, legislation to institute an earthquake early warning system, a bill denying tax-exempt status to youth organizations with discriminatory membership rules, a few more in this year's round of gun control bills, and a CEQA reform bill.

ELECTION ENTRY: We're getting flashbacks to Ronald Reagan with the news that Ned Vaughn, an actor and the executive vice president of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), will be running as a Republican candidate for the 66th Assembly district. Vaughn announces today.

MADDY MASH: Bigwigs from both parties will be at the Stanford Mansion tonight, raising money for the Maddy Institute's legislative intern program. Emceed by former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, the event will feature Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.

SOLAR SALES PITCH: Lawmakers will hear today from members of the Alliance for Solar Choice, in the building for their lobby day. The sun-fuel promoters want to alter caps on net metering, the process by which customers with solar panels on their homes are credited for the energy they capture and put back into the electrical grid. An evening legislative reception at Mayahuel will follow.

Interested in taking a look at our new app? Capitol Alert's Insider Edition is available for download in iTunes for either your iPhone or iPad. You'll be prompted to pay - $19.99 a month or $199 a year.

PHOTO: This Jan. 15, 2013 file photo shows Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu.

August 21, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Filner finale forthcoming

As the drumbeat calling for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to resign gets louder, Dan sees little chance the encircled pol will survive.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 20, 2013
Maviglio finds comfort in Clinton aide Huma Abedin

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Communications pro Steven Maviglio was not thrilled when he wound up on the front page of The Sacramento Bee earlier this month, the focus of a story that raised questions about his dual roles working for both Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and various interest groups that lobby the Legislature.

The story renewed criticism from Maviglio rival Jamie Court, who sent out a press release saying he'd asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to review whether Maviglio "broke the law by having economic interests as a private consultant on legislation while influencing Assembly decisions about that legislation, and for holding stock in fracking companies while influencing anti-fracking legislation."

Maviglio took to Twitter to complain that he was not having a good day. Then came an unflattering editorial and a Jack Ohman cartoon that portrayed Maviglio as a dog named "Spinner."

Things perked up for him this weekend though, when the New York Times wrote a story about Huma Abedin, the wife of New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner who was a top aide to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. The story questioned Abedin's dual roles working for both the State Department and a consulting firm with private-sector clients.

"I'm in good company," Maviglio told The Bee this week. "If it's good enough for the State Department, it's good enough for the Legislature."

PHOTO: Huma Abedin and Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2011 when Clinton was Secretary of State. Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

August 20, 2013
AM Alert: California examines renewable energy industry

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With California on a timeline to steadily reduce carbon emissions -- a push buttressed by measures like last year's energy-efficiency boosting Proposition 39 -- the renewable energy industry is looking to expand its market share. An event today hosted by the trade organization Advanced Energy Economy will examine what lies ahead.

Speakers will include Michael Picker, who advises Gov. Jerry Brown on renewable energy facilities; Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board; Kish Rajan, director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development; Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Tom Steyer, champions of Prop 39; and wide range of business folks representing everything from renewable energy firms to manufacturers to banks. Starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel

VIDEO: Dan Walters takes a look at one of the last big policy battles before the Legislature this session.

GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY: We spend a fair amount of time covering California's spotty record on government technology projects, but a two-day government technology conference convening in Sacramento today will offer a different look. Speakers will include technology executives, IT officials from various state agencies and Carlos Ramos, director of California's Department of Technology. They'll also be giving out some "best of California" awards, including one for the Secretary of State's online voter registration application. Today and tomorrow at the convention center.

TOP 100: There are few things the people inhabiting the world of California politics like better than gauging power and influence. Capitol Weekly will scratch that itch tonight at an event celebrating the publication of their Top 100 list of the chiefs of California clout. At the Park Ultra Lounge, starting at 5:30 p.m.

BOE BUILDING: As we've documented, California has spent millions trying to repair the deteriorating Board of Equalization building in downtown Sacramento. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee #4 on State Administration meets today to discuss the possibility of moving BOE employees out of the dilapidated structure and consolidating them in a new building.

BE PREPARED Wildfires, disease epidemics, the Big One -- the list of potential emergencies to afflict California is sizable. Today the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management will hold a hearing examining the state's response capabilities. Planned witnesses include Mark Ghilarducci of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, Chief Ken Pimlott of CAL FIRE, Major General David S. Baldwin of the California State Military Department and Dan Smiley of the California Emergency Medical Services Authority. From 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in room 112.

TOURISM TALK: How's California's tourism industry doing? Caroline Beteta, president of Visit California, will offer a briefing in room 317 of the State Capitol today at 4:30 p.m. Expected attendees include AssemblymanIan Calderon, D-Whittier, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, who turns 62 today.

PHOTO: Recurrent Energy solar facility in Elk Grove Friday January 15, 2012, where Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the Memorandum of Understanding on renewable energy. The Sacramento Bee/Andy P. Alfaro.

August 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Chances of CEQA consensus

Will lawmakers strike a deal on the California Environmental Quality Act before the end of the legislative session? Dan weighs the odds.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 19, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown, Harry Reid criticize environmentalists' challenge to Tahoe plan

brownwestrup.jpgINCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Three months after California Gov. Jerry Brown and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval reached an agreement on the governance of the basin surrounding Lake Tahoe, the governors praised the accord here Monday, and Brown fired back at environmentalists who fear it will lead to more development.

"This is the same group that's criticizing the Delta restoration plan, and a whole bunch of other things we're doing," the Democratic governor told reporters at the Lake Tahoe Summit. "Trying to be absolutely perfect means you don't get anything done."

Brown said California has to work with Nevada and other groups and that, "It isn't just what some Sierra Club chapter around Tahoe wants."

Brown and Sandoval announced earlier this year they would continue the two-state partnership known as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, after Nevada passed a law in 2011 in which it would have withdrawn from the compact unless California made concessions to allow more development.

The Sierra Club and other environmentalists filed a lawsuit in federal court, objecting, among other things, to a provision of the accord that would delegate many planning decisions to local governments.

The plan update "revises and loosens standards by which new projects are reviewed and approved, while increasing the potential for new development throughout the region," the environmentalists said in their filing in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

August 19, 2013
Jerry Brown, lawmakers mull more prison spending to avoid inmate releases

Thumbnail image for ha_jbrown00189.JPGFacing a court order to reduce California's prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature are mulling potential legislation to spend hundreds of millions of dollars housing prisoners who might otherwise be released.

Talks between the governor's office and legislative leaders follow the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection this month of California's request to delay a federal order to reduce its prison population to ease overcrowding.

Prison officials previously said they are preparing to implement an expanded parole program for sick and elderly inmates, while also identifying inmates who may be eligible for credits for good behavior.

Brown is seeking to avoid a large-scale inmate release.

"We are not going to do a mass release," Brown told the Los Angeles Times at an event in Incline Village, Nev., on Monday.

Brown did not say if the money, if approved, would be spent housing prisoners in California or out of state, and the Democratic governor refused to discuss the matter with reporters later in the day.

Jim Evans, a Brown spokesman, said in an e-mail, "The administration is pursuing all options to comply with the court order while maintaining public safety - this includes working with the Legislature to avoid the prospect of inmate releases."

Meanwhile, a group of state senators gathered Monday afternoon to discuss the prison issue in the office of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Asked about Brown's remarks in Nevada and the prospect of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to house more inmates, Steinberg said, "And my response is there are two paths. One is to expend money to expand jail capacity with no impact on long term population. The second path is to take those resources and instead invest them in mental health courts, drug treatment, mental health treatment, vocational rehabilitation, evidence based programs, and seek to reduce the population in a more sustained way. And in a way that shifts the criminal justice debate to a smart on crime discussion."

In an interview, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said, "We don't believe in throwing money at problems. We're going to talk to the governor and we're going not going to spend a penny more than necessary."

The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall and Melody Gutierrez contributed to this report

PHOTO: Governor-elect Jerry Brown, speaks at a press conference a day after he defeated Republican Meg Whitman at his Oakland campaign headquarters on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 19, 2013
Assembly narrowly passes Steinberg's farm worker contract bill

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A controversial bill to change mandatory mediation procedures in farm labor contract disputes narrowly cleared the Assembly Monday.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, monitored the 41-24y vote from the Assembly floor after working to thwart what he described as fierce lobbying to kill Senate Bill 25.

Proponents, including the United Farm Workers union, say the bill is needed to avoid lengthy delays in contract disputes by forcing agricultural employers into mediation.

Farmers that oppose the bill have argued that it limits the ability of farm workers to vote on contracts and hurts relations between management and agricultural employees.

August 19, 2013
Civil rights activists call for end to 'willful defiance' discipline

jessjackson.JPGAs students across the state return to school, civil rights activists are hoping a bill working its way through the California Legislature will decrease the disproportionately high number of expulsions and suspensions among some student groups.

For a second year, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, has introduced a bill to restrict how students are disciplined under the broadly used grounds called "willful defiance." Last year's bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who wrote that it's "important that teachers and school officials retain broad discretion to manage and set the tone in the classroom."

Dickinson said Friday that Assembly Bill 420 is needed to address the disparity in willful defiance suspensions and expulsions that are highest among several groups: black, Hispanic, students with disabilities and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender youth.

"If a student is kicked out of school, their chances of dropping out and becoming involved in the criminal justice system go up drastically," Dickinson said.

August 19, 2013
Jerry Brown says high-speed rail ruling won't stop project

brownsandoval.jpgINCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that California's high-speed rail project will not be stopped by a judge's ruling that project officials failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the initiative in which voters approved initial funding for the project in 2008.

"It's not a setback," Brown told reporters at the Lake Tahoe Summit.

He said the ruling "didn't stop our spending, so we're continuing. As we speak we're spending money, we're moving ahead."

In a decision Friday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny said the California High-Speed Rail Authority abused its discretion when it approved a funding plan in 2011 that failed to identify adequate sources of funding for the rail project.

Kenny did not halt construction of the project, and the effect of the ruling is unclear. The decision concerned a 2011 funding plan - which was revised by the rail authority last year - and the judge asked for more information from both proponents and opponents of the project before taking up the matter again.

Brown said the ruling "didn't stop anything ... It raises some questions, and I think they'll be answered within that judge's framework."

August 19, 2013
Transgender rights bill draws referendum challenge

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Opponents of a new law allowing transgender students to use the school facilities reflecting their gender identity have submitted a referendum to nix the law.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1266 last week, angering opponents. They said the law, written by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, (right) would undermine parental choice and cause discomfort for students. Republican lawmakers denounced the move on social media, and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, said he would pull his children from public school.

On Friday, some of those detractors filed a referendum to overturn the law, which they have dubbed the "the co-ed bathroom bill."

"We respect that some students are struggling with their own sexual identity, but we ask for respect for the other students who will be humiliated when a boy walks into the (girls') locker room," said Karen England, who is executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute and the contact point on paperwork submitted to the attorney general's office. "This is a privacy issue, a safety issue, and a common sense issue."

In response, the executive director of Equality California, one of the sponsors of AB 1266, issued a statement dismissing the referendum as "a predictable move by fringe groups that oppose all pro-equality measures."

"AB1266 is an historic civil rights bill ensuring all students have the opportunity to participate and succeed in schools, including transgender students," John O'Connor said in the statement. "EQCA and our partners will remain vigilant about monitoring the situation."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco listens to comments at an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on Wednesday, October 22, 2009 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 19, 2013
Capitol Alert Insider Edition app available today

Capitol_Alert_Insider_Access_logo.JPGIf you're reading this, you're likely accustomed to the dogged reporting Capitol Alert has provided to readers since our launch in 2007. We strive to offer the sharpest, most immediate look at the vibrant world of California policy and politics.

Today, we take it to the next level with the launch of Capitol Alert's Insider Edition app.

For politicians, political operatives and policy junkies - anyone whose job depends on knowing what's happening at the Capitol and in the 2014 elections - Insider Edition offers a comprehensive set of services designed to keep you in the loop and ahead of the curve. A sampling of what to expect:

• All of the stories you can find on Capitol Alert and The State Worker, accessible on your smart phone or tablet at the touch of a finger.

• Exclusive early access to Field Poll stories, Bee editorials, Dan Morain's columns and Jack Ohman's political cartoons at 8 p.m. every evening.

• A comprehensive database of state legislators, including snapshots of lawmakers and their districts, contact information (email key staff members directly from the app) and a list of committee assignments.

• A bill-tracking feature that provides automatic updates on the progress of key legislation hand-picked by Capitol Bureau reporters.

• A curated Twitter feed that cuts through the noise and relays what's worth knowing in the California state politics Twitterverse.

• Extra features, including little-known fun facts about freshmen legislators and caricatures of Capitol insiders by cartoonist Jack Ohman, exclusively available on Insider Edition.

Interested in taking a look? Insider Edition is available for download in iTunes for either your iPhone or iPad. You'll be prompted to pay - $19.99 a month or $199 a year.

We'll be looking for your feedback. Contact Jeremy B. White, jwhite@sacbee.com, or Amy Chance at achance@sacbee.com.

August 19, 2013
AM Alert: Capitol Alert launches new California politics app

MAJ_CALIFORNIA_STATE_CAPITOL_2008.JPGWe'll get to today's agenda in a moment, but first a little shameless self-promotion: We're excited to announce the debut of Capitol Alert Insider Edition, a new app for iPhone or iPad that officially launches today. A sample of what to expect: Subscribers will get access to our Field Poll stories, including this week's series exploring health care, the evening before everyone else. You can read more about it here.

OK, now we turn our eyes to the east, where Gov. Jerry Brown will join other elected officials today for a Lake Tahoe summit. Joining the governor on the shores of Tahoe's pristine waters will be former Vice President Al Gore: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. If you're looking for context, here's a primer on the background issues.

VIDEO: Two separate reports on poorly managed state funds have a link to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Dan Walters says.

August 19, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Blame all around for shoddy state spending

Soon after staff working for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg issued a report faulting state spending on a payroll project, one of Steinberg's big policy accomplishments also came in for criticism.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 16, 2013
Californians rated as being nation's 11th least obese

Obesity_Rates_States.jpgA quarter of Californians are overweight, but the state has the nation's 11th lowest rate of obesity, according to a new report from the Washington-based Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Generally, the report found that obesity rates are highest in Southern and Midwestern states, with Louisiana having the highest at 34.7 percent, and markedly lower in Northeastern and Western states, with Colorado having the lowest at 20.5 percent.

The years of data collection on obesity discovered a trend toward equalization of the genders. A decade ago, American women had obesity rates six points higher than men - 33.4 percent to 27.5 percent - but the latest data indicate that rates are very similar, albeit much higher for both genders. They are 35.8 percent for men and 35.5 percent for women.

Both numbers are lower in California, but men are higher in this state as well - 26.2 percent for men and 23.8 percent for women. The study also found that California's baby boomers, overall, have an obesity rate of 31 percent, while for older Californians it's 21.1 percent. For young adults aged 18 to 25 years old, it's 13.7 percent.

The details on California are available here.

PHOTO: Two women speak to each other in New York on June 26, 2012. The Associated Press/ Mark Lennihan

August 16, 2013
Rumor at California Capitol shows how 'telephone game' works

RogerHernandez4.JPGThe cellphones of California Capitol insiders were buzzing early Thursday with the words "Hernandez" and "police," making for an enticing rumor.

Witnesses said they saw police entering loft apartments near the state Capitol and that one of them belonged to someone with the last name of Hernandez.

That sparked speculation -- and what some described as a texting frenzy -- about an incident involving Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, who lives in the building where police were seen.

Hernandez has been the subject of several accusations of criminal or ethical misconduct in the past few years.

But Thursday?

August 16, 2013
AM Alert: Opponents of cap on medical damages make case

MICRA.JPGThe doctors and lawyers are at it again. We've been keeping tabs on formidable foes clashing over the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damage awards in medical lawsuits, imposed by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, also called MICRA. Today, supporters of raising the cap take their case to legislative staff.

In the good cop/bad cop, fix-it-through-legislation vs. expensive-ballot-battle split, Consumer Attorneys of California is playing the reasonable party advocating the legislative route. (Consumer Watchdog drafted the language for the looming ballot measure.) The group is hosting a legislative briefing in the state Capitol today on the cap and, presumably, why it should be raised.

Speakers will include Jay Angoff, former Director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, lobbyist Barry Broad and Bob Pack, who lost two children to a driver with a prescription drug abuse problem and has filed the ballot measure under the auspices of Consumer Watchdog. From 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in room 437.

VIDEO: The long delays in repairing the Bay Bridge, whose new span is finally poised to open, remind Dan Walters of California's struggles with executing big projects.

BILL CLOCK: Technically, today is the last day for Assembly policy committees to meet and pass bills. But since the Daily File is blank today, and lawmakers have already headed for their districts, the deadline has for all intents of purposes passed. We find ourselves now in the home stretch of Appropriations meetings, urgency bills, hearings and floor votes.

PHOTO: This West Sacramento billboard launched this year's fight to overturn a state law capping pain-and-suffering damages in medical negligence cases. Photo by Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group.

August 16, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California bucks big projects

With the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge span finally set to open, years behind schedule, Dan wonders what took so long.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 15, 2013
Jerry Brown fills cabinet secretary post, after all

RP_GOV_Jerry_BROWN_BREAKFAST.JPGGov. Jerry Brown, who previously declined to have a cabinet secretary, has promoted a senior adviser to the position, his office announced this afternoon.

Dana Williamson will assume the position, to which other agency secretaries traditionally report.

Brown, a Democrat, oversees an unusually flat administration, announcing when he took office in 2011 he would not employ a cabinet secretary. At the time, Brown said his decision was part of an effort to reduce annual spending in the governor's office.

Brown has declined to name a chief of staff, though Nancy McFadden, an executive secretary, performs the duties of one.

Williamson, 41, has been a senior adviser to Brown since 2011. Williamson, a Democrat who worked previously as director of public affairs at Pacific Gas and Electric Co., will be paid $160,008 a year.

Her appointment was one of seven announced late this afternoon.

Wade Crowfoot, deputy director at the Governor's Office of Planning and Research since 2011, has been appointed deputy cabinet secretary and senior adviser to Brown. The 40-year-old Democrat will be paid $142,008 a year.

Brown named Joginder Dhillon senior adviser for tribal negotiations, Daniel Powell deputy legal affairs secretary and Julie Lee director of operations.

In the governor's communication's office, Brown named Jim Evans chief deputy press secretary and James Lynch communications deputy.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California State Prayer Breakfast in Sacramento on Thursday, May 19, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

August 15, 2013
California 'revenge porn' bill passes Senate

SND_P0219_2W19CHINA2.JPGBad breakups can produce all kinds of painful and unhealthy fallout: severing relationships with friends, dividing your mingled possessions, seeking solace in alcohol, putting nude pictures and videos of your ex on the Internet.

Yes, that last one happens too. Commonly referred to as "revenge porn," the practice of posting or disseminating lascivious images and footage without someone's consent is apparently a serious enough problem that the California Senate has passed a bill penalizing its perpetrators.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and backed by organizations like the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and the California Sheriffs' Association, makes revenge porn a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or jail time. Cannella floated Senate Bill 255 after being approached by a constituent dismayed that an ex had shared photos that "were intimate in nature."

"That was the initial exposure," Cannella said (no pun intended).

August 15, 2013
Former California legislator Patricia Wiggins dies at 73

wiggins.JPGFormer Democratic legislator Patricia "Pat" Wiggins, who championed smart growth and the use of alternative energy sources, died Thursday. She was 73.

Wiggins was on the Santa Rosa City Council before she was elected to the California Assembly in 1998. She served in the state Senate from 2006 to 2010, when she did not seek reelection due to an undisclosed medical condition.

Lawmakers praised Wiggins in statements noting her death, calling her a dedicated legislator who took on tough issues.

"I will always remember Pat as a gracious, thoughtful and visionary public servant, but more importantly, a reliable and trusted friend," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

"Pat Wiggins was one of the Legislature's leading advocates for policies that encourage smart growth and discourage sprawl," said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. "She also cared deeply about the people she represented and the state of California."

"Pat Wiggins will be missed," said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael. "She was an enthusiastic leader on the environment, local government issues, and smart growth in the state Capitol. She also had a great passion and tenacity in representing her community. "

Wiggins is survived by her husband, Guy Conner; two stepsons, Steve Silverman of Scottsdale, Ariz., and James Silverman of Owings Mills, Md.; and her four grandchildren, Shane, Ava, Leah and Solana.

A celebration of her life will be held at 1 p.m. on Nov. 3 at the Friedman Center in Santa Rosa. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Sonoma Land Trust, or to the Pat Wiggins Fund at Conservation Action Fund for Education.

PHOTO: Then Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, unveils a constitutional amendment on local funding for sheriff, police and fire departments on April 9, 2003. The Sacramento Bee / Brian Baer

August 15, 2013
Troubled Bay Bridge set to open after Labor Day weekend

baybridge.jpgThe new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will open after Labor Day weekend as originally scheduled, after a broken-bolt problem prompted officials last month to announce the opening would be delayed, state transportation officials announced this morning.

The announcement by the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, which oversees construction, comes after the officials in July said the opening would be postponed. The committee, which includes the directors of Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, embraced a temporary retrofit for a broken-bolt problem. The temporary fix involves "shimming" seismic bearings with steel plates.

The Federal Highway Administration said last week its review team "was impressed with the level of expertise used to fashion this interim" solution. The FHA said shimming the bearings would improve the bridge's ability to withstand seismic forces.

It said "we see no reason to delay opening the bridge to traffic" before a permanent fix is made.

State transportation officials said shims already have been fabricated, at a cost of about $250,000.

An ongoing Bee investigation has raised questions about the bridge's structural integrity. Completion of the $6.4 billion span has been mired in controversy about cost overruns and construction and testing lapses.

The bridge is expected to be closed for as many as five days, beginning Wednesday evening, Aug. 28 and re-opening early in the morning of Sept. 3.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:54 a.m. to include the committee's vote on the bridge's opening date and at 12:24 p.m. to provide more detail about days on which construction is expected to be done.

This photo taken Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 shows the new eastern section to the left of the current eastern span of San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

August 15, 2013
Auditor: California should step up oversight of mental health spending

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State agencies have not properly overseen how California counties are spending billions of dollars on mental health care programs generated by Proposition 63, according to a state audit released today.

The 2004 ballot initiative, written by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, levies a 1 percent tax on people who make more than $1 million, to be spent by counties on mental health services. The state Department of Mental Health and the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission are supposed to oversee how counties use the funds.

But today's review by state auditor Elaine Howle says the state agencies are not adequately monitoring the effectiveness of county programs.

"Because of the minimal oversight Mental Health and the Accountability Commission
provided in the past, the State has little current assurance that the funds directed to counties--almost $7.4 billion from fiscal years 2006-07 through 2011-12--have been used effectively and appropriately," Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Her audit of the Mental Health Services Act found that:

August 15, 2013
AM Alert: California's fracking fight turns offshore

OffshoreFracking.jpgWe've seen plenty of ink spilled (and blog space filled) this session over the legislative push to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wherein a mix of chemicals and water is shot underground to shatter rock formations containing oil and gas. Much has been made of the implications for towns sitting atop California's vast Monterey Shale, and the risks to wells and water supplies.

The concerns don't stop at the coast. A recent series of reports have detailed fracking in the Pacific Ocean, prompting California lawmakers to disseminate letters asking the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Coastal Commission to investigate.

The state Coastal Commission responds today, with deputy director Alison Dettmer discussing offshore fracking during a commission meeting in Santa Cruz. Plenty of questions remain -- it's unclear who the lead regulatory agency would be, for example, as things get murky depending on if you're in federal or state waters. Today's meeting should provide some clarity, or at least a gauge of how seriously the coastal commission views the issue.

VIDEO: Speaking of fracking, Dan Walters says the effort to create a regulatory framework for fracking is one of the key remaining issues this session.

August 15, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California Legislature faces fracking finale

Will California lawmakers find a way to pass regulations of hydraulic fracturing before session ends on Sept. 13? Dan isn't sure.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 14, 2013
Steinberg still trying to get California environmental law deal

JM_INFILL_TERRASSA_BUILD.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told his fellow legislators Wednesday that he's still trying to find a middle ground on reforming the California Environmental Quality Act, but he's determined to enact something by the end of the legislative session next month.

"Let's get something done," Steinberg told the Assembly Local Government Committee.

On a 5-0 vote, the committee approved the current version of his reform measure, Senate Bill 731, on assurances that it's a "work in progress."

The current version still lacks support from business groups and some local governments seeking big changes in the four-decade-old law and union and environmental groups that oppose big changes. Gov. Jerry Brown has also made CEQA reform a major cause and has given Steinberg his own list of reforms.

August 14, 2013
House Democrats press Jerry Brown to sign immigrant bill

sitinbrown.jpgHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other members of California's Democratic congressional delegation urged Gov. Jerry Brown in a letter this week to sign state legislation to prevent local police from detaining people based on their immigration status unless they have been convicted of a felony or serious crime.

The letter, signed by 28 lawmakers and dated Monday, comes after immigration activists staged a sit-in at the Democratic governor's office last month in support of Assembly Bill 4.

In their letter, the lawmakers said the bill "sets clear, uniform standards to limit burdensome detentions of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement solely on the basis of federal immigration detainer requests."

Brown vetoed similar legislation last year but signaled in his veto message that the legislation could be amended to gain his support.

The lawmakers said in their letter that the current version of the bill gives law enforcement "much broader discretion to honor detainer requests than last year's vetoed bill."

The bill, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, was passed by the Assembly in May but has yet to clear the Senate.

PHOTO: Five immigration activists, including a legal observer, sit in Gov. Jerry Brown's reception area to lobby him on an immigration bill on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. Pictured, from left to right, are Hugo Gonzalez, Kenia Alcocer and Alex Aldana. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 14, 2013
Unions, local governments clash over campaign restrictions

130814_HA_LEGISLATORS1392.jpgAn unusual alliance of unions, Common Cause and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association lined up Tuesday behind late-blooming legislation that would crack down on use of public resources to promote ballot measures.

The legislation, Senate Bill 594, is clearly aimed at local government umbrella groups such as the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties that frequently turn to the ballot to pursue their political causes. And the chief promoters of the legislation are the unions that represent city and county employees.

While the use of taxpayer funds for political purposes is banned by law now, critics say governments have skirted the law by using non-profit subsidiary organizations to campaign for ballot measures. The legislation would impose tighter restrictions on non-profit groups' use of funds and other resources paid by taxpayers for campaigning.

However, city and county representatives complained to the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee that the bill singles them out to limit their ability to use the ballot while exempting school districts and other public agencies from the measure's new restrictions. Later, the bill's new author, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, agreed to extend the measure's provisions to school districts, and it won committee approval on a 5-0 vote.

SB 594 originally went through the Senate with entirely different language and dealing with an entirely different subject, but last week, through a "gut and amend" maneuver, it was changed to a new purpose and Hill became its author.

"This is a very strange set of bedfellows," Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Two Peaks, said of those lined up behind the bill.

PHOTO: Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, talks with Senator Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 14, 2013
AM Alert: Kevin McCarthy faces immigration heat

RBMcCarthy6.JPGAfter passing the Senate by a broad margin in late June, the federal immigration bill arrived at the House of Representatives and promptly got bogged down. But while the legislation is stalled, its supporters are moving.

Immigration advocates from across the state -- 45 cities at last count -- stream into Bakersfield today for a rally and a march to the district office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, urging the House majority whip and his Republican colleagues to take up the immigration reform bill. Speakers at the event include Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer of SEIU; Maria Elena Durazo of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and labor icon Dolores Huerta.

VIDEO: The end of session legislative scramble has set off the typical lobbyist feeding frenzy, Dan Walters says.

BACK FROM THE DEAD: The deadline for Assembly bills to make it out of Senate policy committees passed weeks ago, but this morning members of the upper house will consider waiving that restriction to revive four bills that, if the procedural move works, will be eligible to go before committees next week. It requires a two-thirds vote -- which the Democrats have just enough bodies to muster, if they get support from every senator -- so there's a fair chance of some Republican howling if this goes through. The bills facing revivification are AB 199, AB 401, AB 906 and AB 1008.

August 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: With California session's end, fundraising flares

The end of session brings busy days at the State Capitol, Dan says - and busy nights for the various Capitol restaurants and venues hosting fundraisers.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 13, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes bill to let women sell eggs for research

brownmics.jpgWriting "not everything in life is for sale nor should it be," Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday vetoed legislation seeking to repeal a California law prohibiting women from selling their eggs for medical research.

"The questions raised here are not simple; they touch matters that are both personal and philosophical," the Democratic governor said in a veto message released late in the day. "In medical procedures of this kind, genuinely informed consent is difficult because the long-term risks are not adequately known. Putting thousands of dollars on the table only compounds the problem."

Proponents of the legislation said the current restriction on compensating women for their eggs has stymied fertility research in California, while opponents said eggs should not be treated as a commodity.

The bill, Assembly Bill 926 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would have replaced an existing law that prohibits paying women for eggs for medical research beyond reimbursing them for direct expenses. The current law does not prohibit compensation to women who donate eggs for fertility purposes.

Brown wrote in his veto message, "After careful review of the materials which both supporters and opponents submitted, I do not find sufficient reason to change course."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 13, 2013
California nurse practitioner bill moves on with major changes

nurse.JPGA watered-down bill allowing nurse practitioners to operate independently of physicians passed during reconsideration in an Assembly committee Tuesday after failing to earn enough votes last week.

Senate Bill 491 by Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, increases the scope of practice of nurse practitioners by allowing them to practice independently of physicians in certain medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics and skilled nursing facilities. Amid fierce lobbying in opposition, including by the California Medical Association, which represents doctors, Hernandez removed language in the bill that would have allowed nurse practitioners to operate completely independent of physician oversight after 6,240 hours of supervised practice.

"We heard thoughtful testimony last week and it was clear that members wanted to find common ground to help California bridge the provider gap and ensure that we all have access to quality healthcare," Hernandez said in a statement.

August 13, 2013
Hollywood drama plays out in California legislative hearing

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It was an interesting day in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The panel that normally deals with issues like civil law and tort liability was instead the venue for a whole lot of Hollywood baby mama drama.

Three celebrities who testified on two unrelated bills all told emotional stories of their small children.

Actresses Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry described a stalking episode and a custody battle as they spoke in support of a bill that would restrict the ability for paparazzi to photograph kids.

Jason Patric, who starred in the 1980s film "Lost Boys," talked about his troubled relationship with former girlfriend Danielle Schreiber as he testified for a bill that would allow sperm donors, in some situations, to gain rights as parents. Schreiber, with whom he is locked in a custody battle, did not testify but sat in a stairwell outside the hearing room.

In the end, the star power may have helped Sen. Kevin de Leon's anti-paparazzi bill pass unanimously out of committee. But it didn't persuade enough lawmakers to support Sen. Jerry Hill's bill to define parenting rights. That bill, SB 115, is done for now, but could get further debate next year.

"I have become a voice of an issue that I never wanted to be a voice for," Patric said to the committee.

"But I'm also here mainly because I have to be Gus's voice. My son. A voice I have not heard in 25 weeks. A voice that is not allowed to mention my name in his mother's home. a voice that has sent me here to speak to you all."

August 13, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Salary-severed Senate strikes back

Two years after State Controller John Chiang deprived lawmakers of their salaries, the state Senate has gotten its revenge, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 13, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers continue focus on LGBT youth

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Originally, this is where we were going to tell you that today is Decision Day for Gov. Jerry Brown on a bill allowing students to use the facilities and try out for the teams the reflect their gender identities. But Brown signed the bill ahead of schedule, so today we turn to a different piece of legislation aimed squarely at LGBT kids.

Incensed that organizations like the Boy Scouts of America can retain their tax-exempt status despite what he calls discriminatory policies, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has a bill that would revoke tax breaks for youth groups that discriminate based on gender. Before the bill goes to the Assembly Judiciary Committee today, Lara will host a 10:30 a.m. rally on the north steps along with John O'Connor from Equality California, Assembly members Susan Eggman and Phil Ting, and the father of a former boy scout expelled from the organization.

VIDEO: State Controller John Chiang has learned that you can't cut off a lawmaker's paycheck and not expect consequences, Dan Walters says.

DOMESTICITY: Today witnesses the latest big push for the domestic workers rights bill carried by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. Domestic workers and their allies have been traversing the well-trod San Diego-to-Sacramento route in support of the bill (which goes before Senate Appropriations next Tuesday), and today they arrive in Sacramento for a 2:30 p.m. rally also expected to feature Angie Wei of the California Labor Federation, Alice Huffman of the California NAACP, and nearly a dozen lawmakers.

BILL ROUNDUP: Some legislation of note today: coming a few days after a State Auditor's report faulted the state's management of funds for updating voting systems, the Assembly Elections And Redistricting Committee considers a pair of bills of to streamline the process; a barrage of gun control bills goes before the Assembly Public Safety Committee, along with legislation to regulate drone surveillance; and a medical marijuana bill that has become the remaining priority this session for cannabis advocates awaits the judgment of the Assembly Health Committee.

STERILIZATION SCRUTINIZED: You may remember this particularly gruesome story detailing how California prisons sterilized some female inmates. Today, the Senate Public Safety Committee convenes a 10:30 a.m. hearing to investigate.

SANS SAN ONOFRE: With the San Onofre nuclear power station offline, officials are looking at how to decommission the plant and compensate for the lost energy. Witnesses at today's Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee hearing on the matter include Michael Weber of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Edward Randolph, energy division director for the California Public Utilities Commission; and Stephen Pickett of Southern California Edison.

DELTA DOLLARS: The proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan's price tag comes under the magnifying glass again today with a 9:30 a.m. joint hearing of the Senate committees on Natural Resources and Water and Governance and Finance. Witnesses will include Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird and Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton "Chuck" Bonham.

PHOTO: Members of California's LGBT Legislative Caucus -- from left to right Senators Ricardo Lara and Mark Leno, Assembly members Richard Gordon and Susan Eggman-Talamantes, and Senator Toni Atkins, D-San Diego -- huddle in before a press conference after the Supreme Court announced its decision on California's same-sex marriage ban and DOMA on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at the State Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 12, 2013
California bill expanding optometrists' authority on hold

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State Sen. Ed Hernandez is giving up for this year his effort to expand the kinds of medical services optometrists can offer in California.

The Democrat from West Covina said Monday that he is pulling his Senate Bill 492 from any further action in the Legislature this year, and will instead push for its passage in 2014. The bill would allow optometrists to diagnose and treat all kinds of ailments related to the eye, including conditions such as diabetes.

"We turned that into a two-year bill just to make sure we can continue working on it in committee, continue to work with the opposition," Hernandez told The Bee.

"What we wanted to achieve we felt needed a little more conversation, and we felt it would just be better to work over the break on it."

The bill is one of three Hernandez carried this year that would expand the so-called "scope of practice" for various medical professionals. He argued the bills were necessary to allow more people access to health care as federal law soon begins requiring everyone have health insurance. But the bill package set off a war with the California Medical Association, a powerful force in the Capitol that lobbies on behalf of doctors and worked hard to kill Hernandez's bills.

His SB 491, which would allow nurse practitioners more authority, was rejected by the Assembly business and professions committee last week and is up for reconsideration tomorrow. His SB 493, that expands the duties pharmacists may perform, is making its way through the Assembly. The optometry bill was scheduled for a committee vote tomorrow before Hernandez pulled it.

Molly Weedn, a spokeswoman for the California Medical Association, said doctors hoped to reach compromise with Hernandez on the optometry bill the way they had on the bill regarding pharmacists.

"We're glad there is extra time to work out what some of those difference are," she said. "Our biggest concern has been and remains that patients are being treated by qualified health care professionals."

Hernandez said it's too soon to say what kind of compromise is in order:

"We're not willing to give up on anything because we haven't had that conversation yet with the opposition."

PHOTO: Optometrist Aaron Lech does an eye exam on Melanie Kearns on April 11, 2013. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

August 12, 2013
Workers compensation hike on California employers proposed

Last year, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown enacted a major overhaul of the state's multi-billion-dollar system of compensating workers for job-related injuries and illnesses, aimed at stabilizing its costs.

The Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, however, believes that premiums for insurance that most employers carry to cover claims for treatment and cash benefits still should rise next year.

The independent bureau announced that taking into account the legislation's changes, premiums should rise by 3.4 percent next year to an average of $2.62 per $100 of payroll.

The recommendation is not binding, and insurers in the highly competitive workers comp market can charge whatever they wish. State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones also will weigh in with his recommendation.

The bureau also put another caveat on its recommendation - that it could be changed, depending on whether the state Division of Workers Compensation adopts a proposed new schedule of payments for physicians who treat job-related disabilities.

Last year's overhaul of the system, contained in Senate Bill 863, was a deal among most of the major stakeholders in the system, employers and labor unions most prominently. It followed a pattern of making major changes in the system roughly once a decade, usually after years of maneuvering by the major stakeholders.

August 12, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill empowering transgender students

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California students will soon be able to use the bathrooms and join the teams that best match their gender identity, with Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill enshrining new rights for transgender youth.

The legislation, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, advanced from both houses of the Legislature on largely party-line votes. Advocates called the bill a needed protection for young people who often endure discrimination.

Brown's decision to sign the bill on Monday, ahead of a deadline to act by midnight on Tuesday, dissolved the suspense surrounding the bill's fate.

With his signature, Brown overrode the objections of Republican lawmakers who said the bill would undermine parental choice and put school children into uncomfortable situations. Critics also questioned how the bill would affect the integrity of school athletic records.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget during a ceremony at the Capitol, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Sacramento as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, right, celebrate in the background. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

August 12, 2013
Don't turn off cell phone Amber Alerts, California officials say

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California emergency officials and the leader of the state Assembly are urging Californians not to disable emergency alerts from their cell phones, saying the rescue over the weekend of 16-year-old Hannah Anderson proves how useful the text messages can be.

An FBI agent rescued the teen from a remote wooded area of Idaho on Saturday and killed her abductor after officials had issued Amber Alerts with information about the car they believed the suspect was driving. The text alert went out on cell phones across California last Monday night, accompanied by a blaring buzz on many phone models.

The message prompted complaints from some consumers - that it was noisy, invasive, repeated too many times or hard to make sense of because the text disappeared quickly. Media reports described some people saying they would disable the alerts from their phones.

"Californians need to know that by opting out of the system they could be trading a moment's annoyance for the possibility of real harm to themselves and their families," Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, said in a phone call with reporters today.

August 12, 2013
California Sen. Noreen Evans to step down at end of term

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Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, will not seek re-election at the end of her current term.

While term limits allow Evans to remain in office until 2018, she announced in a Facebook posting that she intends to step down at the end of next year to return to her private law practice. That will put her seat in play in 2014.

"Sacramento is not my home and politics not how I planned to spend my life," Evans wrote in the post. "Though I enjoyed my job as a lawmaker, my first love is the administration of justice."

Evans won her Senate seat in 2010 after serving three terms in the Assembly. As chair of the Senate Judiciary committee, Evans has been vocal in pushing back on cuts to the court system budget that she saw as endangering the swift administration of justice.

PHOTO: Senator Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 12, 2013
AM Alert: California Senate returns to appropriations mountain

20130606_HA_SENATE0006.JPGThe final third arrives: A week after Assembly members returned to Sacramento from summer recess, the state Senate reconvenes today, ending a curiously staggered summer sojourn.

And its members have plenty to keep them busy. The Senate Appropriations Committee stands poised to churn through a stack of legislation that includes, at last count, more than 150 bills -- some of them momentous or robustly disputed pieces of public policy -- before its Aug. 30 deadline.

Among the bills now before the judgment of Senate Appropriations are one to raise the state's minimum wage; a bill allowing more medical professionals to perform certain abortions; legislation aimed at quenching the thirst of communities that lack drinking water; and a few more gun control bills.

The first trickle in a coming deluge of bills headed for Gov. Jerry Brown's desk is a transgender rights bill that has provoked some strong reactions, Dan Walters notes.

August 12, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown faces transgender decision

A controversial bill on transgender students sits on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, but Dan says the bill is "just practice" for an impending surge of decisions on which bills become law.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 9, 2013
Jerry Brown says he'll seek cooling-off period in BART dispute

LS BUDGET SIGN 3.JPGGov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he will ask for a court-ordered cooling off period if BART and transit worker unions do not resolve their contract dispute by Sunday.

If BART and its unions can't come to an agreement over the next two days, Brown said he will ask the San Francisco Superior Court to enforce a 60-day cooling-off period. BART workers would not be able to strike within those 60 days.

"I urge all parties to think of the public and resolve this matter without delay, but if there's no resolution by Sunday, I will seek a 60 day cooling-off period," Brown said in a statement.

Brown first stepped in last Sunday, when he appointed a three-person board of investigation to study the labor dispute. The board released a report Friday saying "a strike will cause significant harm to the public's health, safety and welfare."

The report cited a spike in traffic, higher risk of traffic accidents, and slower emergency response times as the potential negative consequences of a strike.

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

August 9, 2013
Boxer asks San Diego Mayor Filner to step down 'immediately'

APTOPIX_San_Diego_Mayor_Bob_Filner.jpgSen. Barbara Boxer asked embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to step down "immediately" Friday, after at least 12 women came forward in recent weeks to accuse him of sexual harassment, including two veterans.

Boxer had already joined a growing chorus of California officeholders to publicly call for Filner to quit, but in Friday's letter, she asked him directly.

"Bob, you must resign because you have betrayed the trust of the women you have victimized, the San Diegans you represent and the people you have worked with throughout your decades in public life," Boxer wrote.

Filner, a 70-year-old Democrat, represented the San Diego area in Congress for 20 years before he was elected mayor in November.

Filner had served as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives and had even introduced legislation to protect women in the military from sexual harassment. But this week, two female veterans accused him of the very behavior he'd spoken out against.

A series of shocking sexual assault and harassment cases in the armed forces recently moved Boxer and several of her colleagues to introduce legislation to make it easier for victims to come forward and for their attackers to be prosecuted.

Last month, Filner apologized for his behavior, saying he'd "diminished" his office and said he'd seek therapy.

"You have every right to be disappointed in me," he said in a statement. "I only ask that you give me an opportunity to prove I am capable of change, so that the vision I have for our city's future can be realized."

But Boxer said that wasn't good enough.

August 9, 2013
AM Alert: Covered California backers gather in San Francisco

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California is now less than two months away from the open enrollment date for the federally mandated health insurance exchange taking shape. Lawmakers and community leaders are gathering in San Francisco this morning for an update.

Participants in the Covered California forum include Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, state Sens. Leland Yee and Mark Leno, Assemblymen Phil Ting and Tom Ammiano, and Covered California executive director Peter V. Lee. The event starting at 10 a.m. at the University of California, San Francisco's Mission Bay conference center.

VIDEO: Secretary of State Debra Bowen's campaign promise to modernize voting systems hasn't borne fruit, Dan Walters says.

VALLEY WATER: With access to water of keen interest to the Central Valley, Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, presides over a hearing today of the Select Committee On Regional Approaches To Addressing The State's Water Crisis. Joining him are Brent Walthall of the Kern County Water Agency, Jason Peltier of Westlands Water District, Dave Orth of the Kings River Conservation District, and Roger Patterson of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. From 9:30 a.m. at the Board of Supervisors chambers in Hanford.

NEWEST SENATOR: Speaking of Central Valley politics, the victor of the hard-fought race for control of the Seat Formerly Belonging to Michael Rubio gets formally elevated to office this weekend. Republican Andy Vidak will be sworn in as the new senator representing the 16th District during a 10 a.m. ceremony Saturday at the Hanford Civic Center, with Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, presiding.

AEROSPACE APPEAL:The diminished stature of Southern California's aerospace industry is well documented, and Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, is the latest hoping to jolt the dormant sector. He's hosting a Select Committee on Aerospace hearing focusing on aerospace manufacturing in California, joined by Kish Rajan from the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, Jack Stewart from the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, and representatives from Northrop Grumman, Boeing and SpaceX, the firm working to spearhead commercial spaceflight. Starting at 10:30 a.m. in Redondo Beach.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, who turns 45 today.

PHOTO: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi checks her watch to begin a press conference at the California Democratic Convention at the Sacramento Convention Center in Sacramento on Saturday, April 13, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

August 9, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Shoddy voting procedures not to be tolerated

A new state auditor's report is the latest blot on Secretary of State Debra Bowen's tenure in office, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 8, 2013
Covered California delays offering 'embedded' dental plans

RP_COLUSA_DENTAL_WORK.JPGBoard members of the California Health Benefit Exchange voted Thursday to delay soliciting bids for medical plans that include pediatric dental care until next year.

Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, has said it will offer five stand-alone pediatric dental plans for 2014 as well as what's called a "bundled" plan in which insurers pair a stand-alone dental plan with a medical plan.

Critics have argued that Covered California should also offer so-called "embedded" pediatric dental plans that are included in medical plans.

But Leesa Tori, senior adviser for plan management, told the board at its special meeting that too many questions remain for the exchange to offer embedded pediatric dental plans before 2015.

August 8, 2013
Bill to let non-citizens work at California polls heads to governor

pollworkers.JPGA bill that would allow legal immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to serve as poll workers is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk after passing its final vote Thursday.

After some partisan discussions, the Assembly agreed to technical amendments made in the Senate to Assembly Bill 817 by Democrat Rob Bonta of Alameda.

AB 817 would allow an election official to appoint up to five people who are not U.S. citizens to serve as poll workers at each precinct. The non-citizens would have to be lawful permanent residents who meet all the other requirements for being eligible to vote except for citizenship.

Bonta said the measure would increase language access for voters.

"There are nearly 3 million citizens who are fully eligible to vote and not English proficient," Bonta said.

"We have a shortage of multilingual poll workers in the state of California," he added. "There has to be language access at the polls."

Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto said she didn't buy into that logic.

"Let's keep in mind what poll workers can and cannot do," Olsen told fellow Assembly members during floor debate. "Poll workers cannot go into a voting booth with a voter, cannot read the ballot to the voter, cannot help them understand what they are voting on."

August 8, 2013
Auditor: California mismanaging federal voting funds

20121106_AOC_YoloVote_142w.JPGConfusing and inconsistent direction from the California Secretary of State's Office has led the state to misuse millions of federal dollars earmarked to improve voting systems, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Widespread allegations of uneven vote-counting practices accompanied the 2000 presidential election, which the U.S Supreme Court effectively decided. The Help America Vote Act, enacted two years later, allocated money for states to train poll workers and update their voting systems -- in some cases, counties continued to rely on punch-card systems.

California received more than $380 million, according to the auditor's report. But the state's methods for distributing that money were plagued by murky standards and a lack of clarity about whether counties could use new voting systems, State Auditor Elaine Howle's office found. At least $22 million went to new voting machinery, like touch-screens, that counties ended up mothballing.

"Some counties have collectively spent millions of federal HAVA funds on voting systems they cannot fully use," the report reads. "Under state law, counties cannot purchase new voting systems unless such systems have been approved by the secretary of state. However, different secretaries of state have reached different conclusions on the suitability of counties using certain voting systems."

The audit was requested by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is running for secretary of state in 2014.

In an interview, spokeswoman Shannan Velayas argued that California has led the nation in tackling voting issues and pointed to a comprehensive review of voting regulations that current Secretary of State Debra Bowen called for when she took office in 2007.

August 8, 2013
California student test scores slip for first time in several years

By Phillip Reese
preese@sacbee.com

After years of steady increases, student test scores slipped slightly across California last year, a shift that education leaders blamed on budget cuts and changing curriculum standards.

About 51.2 percent of students performed at the proficient level or better on STAR math tests last year, down from 51.5 percent the prior year. Proficiency levels on language arts tests fell from 57.2 percent to 56.4 percent.

Previously, math test scores had increased for five straight years and language arts scores had increased for eight straight years.

State leaders tried to put a positive spin on the numbers, noting that far more students test proficient today than a decade ago.

"The big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a release.

August 8, 2013
AM Alert: How does technology affect California students?

20120426_PK_FORTUNE_0182.JPGHow does the Internet affect what California kids experience in school, from classroom learning to the hazards of cyberbullying? The answer gains importance given the technology-related standards running through the Common Core curriculum for which schools have been allocated $1 billion. Members of Congress, education officials and state lawmakers tackle the topic today during a Comcast-sponsored symposium at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Speakers include Assembly members Roger Dickinson and Marc Levine; Carlos Ramos, director of the California Department of Technology; U.S. Reps. Jerry McNerney and Doris Matsui; and Elk Grove Unified School District Superintendent Steve Ladd.

VIDEO: Judging by the hearings that the Legislature convenes, Dan Walters concludes the state's public safety priorities are crooked.

DELTA DOLLARS: Bay Delta Conservation Plan plan watchers got some economic answers with the release last week of a study trumpeting the project's potential economic upsides, although critics immediately assailed the report's methods and assumptions. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan's finance working group will review the findings at a 9 a.m. meeting at West Sacramento's Civic Center Galleria.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: A day after announcing that it had solidified agreements with insurance companies that will soon be offering health plans to Californians, the state's burgeoning new insurance marketplace will meet today to hammer out details on, among other things, dental benefits to be included in plans. Starting at 9 a.m. at the Fair Political Practices Commission building on J Street.

TORLAKSON ON TESTS: One of California's major benchmarks for students progress is the Standardized Testing and Reporting Standards, or STAR, tests kids take each year. Today State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will review how students performed on the 2013 version. Torlakson will provide a briefing at the California Department of Education building at 11 a.m.

MINORITY REPORT: The Assembly Select Committee on Status of Boys and Men of Color in California convenes from 1 to 4 p.m. today to discuss policy approaches focusing on young men of color in California. Those expected to testify include Daniel Zingale of The California Endowment; Brian Nelson from the Attorney General's office; Tim Rainey, director of the California Workforce Investment Board; and Eleanor Silva, associate director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Ahead of the hearing, state lawmakers on the committee will attend a breakfast at the Sheraton Grand along with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Campbell Mayor Evan Low, Stockton City Councilman Michael Tubbs and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

TWITTER TALK: UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin recently made history as the first Muslim appointed as student regent-designate to the University of California Board of Regents. Saifuddin takes to the Twitter-verse this afternoon at the handle @She_Shares to talk about her plans. The live Twitter chat, produced by Sacramento's Dewey Square Group, will run from 3 to 3:30 p.m. at this link.

PHOTO: Kindergarten students reads book, including on the computer, at Fortune Charter School in Sacramento, Calif., April 26, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr..

August 8, 2013
Dan Walters: Assembly's priorities on public safety are puzzling

With California facing a U.S. Supreme Court directive to release more prisoners, the Assembly Public Safety Committee held a hearing on ... drones? Dan is confused.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 7, 2013
Ex-lawmaker aims at altering California's presidential primaries

JD_STEINBERG_PEACE_CORREA.JPGA ballot measure proposed by former California legislator Steve Peace would attempt to eliminate partisan primaries during the state's presidential elections by cutting off public funding.

Peace helped draft the state's Proposition 14 of 2010, which opened primary elections for partisan statewide offices, the Legislature, the Board of Equalization and Congress to all voters regardless of party affiliation.

He hopes his latest proposal would extend the "top-two" primary to the presidential election.

Peace and Jeff Marston, both of the Independent Voter Project, submitted the proposal in June to "prohibit the expenditure of public funds for the private activities of political parties."

The proposed initiative, which is pending at the state attorney general's office, would discontinue the use of public funding to hold party elections, such as county central committee and presidential primary elections.

By cutting off the public funding, Peace hopes political parties would open their primaries to all voters, not just members of their own party. The secretary of state and elections officials currently use public funds to certify candidates, draw up ballots, run polling places and tally votes.

Peace said in a recent interview that parties would not be legally required to open their primaries to voters -- they would just have to fund a closed primary independently.

"If you, the Republican Party, want to say independents can't participate, fine, but you're going to have to pay for the costs to tally that vote," said Peace, who was appointed finance director by then-Gov. Gray Davis after being termed out of the Legislature.

PHOTO: Then-Finance Director Steve Peace, center, talks with then-Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, left, and then-Assemblyman Lou Correa, about budget issues during the early morning hours on July 29, 2003. The Sacramento Bee/John Decker

August 7, 2013
California reveals insurance firms to participate in exchange

CoveredCA.JPG

Californians shopping for health insurance through the state's new marketplace will have a dozen options to choose from, officials announced Wednesday.

Covered California, the insurance exchange created under the new federal health care law, announced a list of insurance firms that have signed contracts to sell health plans on the exchange. The list includes major players like Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente as well as smaller companies like Molina Healthcare and Chinese Community Health Plan.

Six of those firms will also offer insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program, a program aimed at helping small businesses offer insurance to employees.

Unlike Republican-led states that have resisted implementing the health care law, California has moved to erect a marketplace and passed legislation that will enroll in more than a million new Medi-Cal customers.

It solicited competitive bids and negotiated with insurers on the plans to be offered through Covered California, where consumers will be able to comparison shop for health plans - for lower-income Californians, with the help of a government subsidy. Wednesday's announcement marked the next step toward Covered California enrollment, which begins Oct. 1.

California in May unveiled the costs for premiums under the new marketplace. Since then, state regulators have reviewed proposed rates and benefits to be offered.

"This is what was necessary to put everything in place, and now the computer programmers can put these options into the portal that will be available in about 50 days," said Anthony Wright, executive director of the organization Health Access California.

The firms that will participate in Covered California are Alameda Alliance for Health, Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Contra Costa Health Plan, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, L.A. Care Health Plan, Molina Healthcare, Sharp Health Plan, Valley Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.

The small business program will offer plans from Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Sharp Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.

PHOTO: Executive Director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee addresses the media as California's health exchange held a news conference to announce how much it will cost to buy premiums under the new federal health care program in the state, at the California Museum, Thursday, May 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

August 7, 2013
AM Alert: California considers clean energy construction

Clean_Energy_Schools.jpgWith the passage and implementation of Proposition 39, California stands to receive billions of dollars earmarked for making buildings, particularly school facilities, more energy efficient. That has already generated ample debate about the best way to spend the money.

Today, the Assembly Select Committee On California's Clean Energy Economy examines some different approaches. Witnesses testifying include Andrew McAllister, commissioner of the California Energy Commission; Simon Baker of the California Public Utilities Commission; Steven Schiller of the Energy Efficiency Industry Council; and Howard Choy of Los Angeles County's office of sustainability.

VIDEO: With billions of dollars at stake, Dan Walters expects health care issues to dominate much of the Legislature's remaining time.

BOYS OF COLOR: Ahead of a meeting Thursday of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, more than 100 young men will be fanning out through the state Capitol today and talk to lawmakers about the unique hurdles that they face. They have meetings scheduled with 33 lawmakers and representatives of an additional 34 offices, as of the most recent count.

MARIJUANA MEETING: The Bee's Dan Morain wrote this past weekend about how large-scale marijuana growers are skirting regulations and damaging the environment, to the consternation of officials who have scant capacity to crack down. Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, who served as Morain's guide for the piece, and Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, will discuss solutions at the state Capitol today with representatives from the state water board and from the governor's office.

OBAMA ORATION: Fresh off of a jaunt to Burbank for a taping of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," President Barack Obama will be speaking to service members today at Camp Pendleton.

CENTRAL VALLEY CONSERVATION: Efforts to preserve water habitats have occupied plenty of page space and air time lately with discussion of the proposed Bay Delta plan, and today the Central Valley gets a look. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation will hold a joint public meeting seeking comment on plans for fish and wildlife protection and water management in the Central Valley. From 1 to 4 p.m. at California State University, Sacramento.

PHOTO: Billionaire Tom Steyer, the chief financier behind the successful Proposition 39 campaign, discusses a proposal to fund energy efficiency projects at schools during a news conference at Sacramento's Mark Twain Elementary School on Dec. 4, 2012. The Associated Press/ Rich Pedroncelli

August 7, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Medical-related issues mark session's end

With California lawmakers looking at the home stretch of the legislative session, health care issues with billions at stake will receive prominent attention. Dan surveys what lies ahead.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 6, 2013
Activist Cindy Sheehan plans run for California governor in 2014

sheehan.jpgAntiwar activist Cindy Sheehan plans to run next year for California governor, according to state Peace and Freedom Party officials.

Sheehan won the endorsement of the party's state central committee and is expected to announce her candidacy or the formation of an exploratory committee "probably in a couple of weeks," C.T. Weber, a member of the state party's executive committee, said Tuesday.

A statement on a Peace and Freedom Party website quoted Sheehan as saying she wants to run for governor "primarily because I believe that California should be leading the nation in peace, education, health care, sustainable/renewable energy and democracy."

Sheehan, 56, gained notoriety for protesting outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch after her son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004. She made a failed bid for vice president last year alongside Roseanne Barr as the Peace and Freedom Party's candidates.

Running as an independent against U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi in 2008, Sheehan came in second with about 16 percent of the vote, finishing ahead of the Republican in the race.

Her gubernatorial prospects may be long. The incumbent, Democrat Jerry Brown, has raised more than $10 million for his re-election campaign. The Peace and Freedom Party's last gubernatorial candidate, Carlos Alvarez, received just less than 1 percent of the vote in 2010.

Because of her notoriety, Sheehan should do better than that, Weber said. Asked if he thought she has a chance of defeating Brown, he said, "I would really appreciate it if she did."

A Sheehan representative did not respond to a request for comment.

PHOTO: Cindy Sheehan speaks at a public meeting in Sacramento in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/José Luis Villegas

August 6, 2013
Assembly Republicans to vote on leader after session ends

HA_ASSEMBLY0618.JPGFor the second time this year, Assemblywoman Connie Conway faces the possibility of surrendering her leadership of the Assembly Republican Caucus.

Assembly Republicans will hold a leadership vote after the current legislative session ends on Sept. 13. Conway, a Tulare Republican who weathered a quickly quashed challenge in February, will seek re-election, spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said.

"Historically, this has happened at the end of session and after elections, so she wanted to gauge her caucus after we work through the last final weeks of session," Lockhart said.

"We have a large class of new members, so she wants the caucus to decide what the year ahead will look like," Lockhart added.

Rumors of a potential ouster reverberated through the caucus earlier this year, with Republicans stinging from an election cycle that saw Democrats claim enough seats to establish a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature.

The Assembly supermajority is currently on hold pending the outcome of special elections to fill vacant seats.

PHOTO: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, during the first day of session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 6, 2013
Nurse practitioner bill fails in California Assembly committee

nurse.JPGA bill that would give California's nurse practitioners more autonomy failed 6-3 Tuesday in an Assembly committee after four Democrats did not vote.

Senate Bill 491 is one of three "scope-of-practice" bills by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, that would increase the medical duties of optometrists, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

Senate Bill 493, on pharmacists' roles, passed 12-0 in the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee before members heard the nurse practitioner measure. That bill was granted reconsideration for next week, when Senate Bill 492, which covers the role of optometrists, is scheduled to be heard.

Before the committee voted on SB 491, Hernandez said he knew the vote would be tough.

Not voting were Assembly Democrats Raul Bocanegra of Los Angeles, Nora Campos of San Jose, Richard Gordon of Menlo Park, Chris Holden of Pasadena and Republican Curt Hagman of Chino Hills.

August 6, 2013
AM Alert: California Legislature looks at drones

RBDrones9.JPGIf it seems like the media has been droning on about unmanned aircraft lately, the additional attention reflects the fact that the pilot-less vehicles could be coming closer to home: there is a scramble under way to explore domestic uses for unarmed drones.

That has raised questions about surveillance and civil liberties, which will get a public airing during an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing this morning (9:30 a.m., room 126). Speakers include those questioning the constitutional implications, like Linda Lye of the ACLU, and those who could stand to benefit, like deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Andy McMurry.

The Legislature has dabbled in drones already this session, from hearing about why California lagged behind other states in a push to establish testing sites to a bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, that would clarify when drones require warrants and lay out how drone-generated data can be shared.

VIDEO: The Legislature's return from recess is cause for concern for many, Dan Walters says.

August 6, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Bill opponents brace for home stretch

Gun owners and taxpayers associations are among the interest groups playing defense now that the Legislature is returning for the waning weeks of the 2013 session, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 5, 2013
Ratings agency cites California's spending restraint, upgrades credit

budgetsign.jpgFitch Ratings upgraded California's general obligation bond rating from A-minus to A on Monday, citing restrained spending in recent budget cycles and a reduction in budgetary debt.

Fitch's action follows a similar upgrade by the ratings house Standard & Poor's earlier this year.

"The upgrade is based on institutionalized changes to fiscal management in recent years, which combined with the ongoing economic and revenue recovery have enabled the state to materially improve its overall fiscal standing," Fitch said in a statement. "Notable progress includes timely, more structurally sound budgets, spending restraint, and sizable reductions in budgetary debt."

Fitch cheered deep spending cuts in recent budgets and "a restrained approach to restoring past cuts." However, the agency said California remains vulnerable to swings in personal income tax revenue and a lack of reserves.

August 5, 2013
Prisons chief outlines response to court-ordered reductions

By Brad Branan
bbranan@sacbee.com

California will rely on county jails, community correctional facilities and out-of-state prisons to reduce its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year, the state's corrections secretary said Monday.

Jeffrey Beard outlined the planned response during a meeting with The Bee's Editorial Board three days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's request to delay a federal court order to reduce prison crowding by December. The reduction is necessary to improve substandard health care in the prisons, the courts have ruled.

How much the state will use each reduction option depends in part on how the three-judge panel overseeing the case responds to questions from the state, Beard said. The Brown administration needs to know if it can appropriate funding without legislative approval to pay for increased incarceration costs, he said.

August 5, 2013
Jerry Brown's intervention to avert BART strike has decades-old precedent

brownsigns.jpgIt's been more than a decade since a governor stepped in to avert a Bay Area Rapid Transit District strike, but the law giving the governor authority to do so was once used with some regularity, and Gov. Jerry Brown invoked it in a less-publicized, non-BART action just last year.

Finding that a BART strike would "significantly disrupt public transportation services and will endanger the public's health, safety, and welfare," Brown late Sunday appointed a board to investigate a labor dispute between BART management and employees. State law prohibits a strike or lockout while the board prepares a report to submit to Brown within seven days.

Brown's action, just hours before a potential strike, came as BART and union officials continued talks over the weekend in a labor dispute that produced one strike already, for 4 ½ days in early July.

In a letter to BART and union officials Sunday night, Brown said, "For the sake of the people of the Bay Area, I urge - in the strongest terms possible - the parties to meet quickly and as long as necessary to get this dispute resolved."

Brown did not suggest any action beyond the seven-day investigation and report deadline. However, state law allows the governor after receiving such a report to ask the state attorney general to petition a court to prevent a strike or lockout for 60 days.

According to the governor's office, cooling-off periods to help resolve BART contract disputes were sought by Govs. George Deukmejian in 1988, Pete Wilson in 1991, 1994 and 1997, and Gray Davis in 2001.

August 5, 2013
Business uses digital media, but not in its California campaigns

Big money ballot measure campaigns in California spend the vast preponderance of their money on fairly traditional forms of voter outreach, such as television and radio ads and direct mail, but that will have to change as voters' habits evolve, a new study suggests.

The statistical study of how business-backed ballot measure campaigns spend their funds - contrasting with how commercial business now operates - was produced by Forward Observer, a Sacramento-based political consulting firm headed by Joe Rodota, a one-time top aide to Republican Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as the Reagan White House.

It analyzed five 2012 business-supported ballot measure campaigns and found that they spent 78.5 percent of their funds on traditional media, and another 12.5 percent on direct mail appeals, with the remaining 9 percent distributed among consultants' fees, polling, legal services and miscellaneous costs.

Less than 1 percent was spent on digital messages, even though voters increasingly rely on the Internet and social media for news and discussion about political issues, even though business is increasingly oriented toward digital commerce and even though business groups provided much of the money spent by the ballot measure campaigns.

August 5, 2013
Pérez talks transgender rights bill, San Diego mayor controversy

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said Monday he is optimistic that Gov. Jerry Brown will sign a transgender access bill as he fielded questions about the legislative agenda for the remainder of session.

The bill, AB 1266 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would allow transgender students to use the facilities and join the teams aligned with their gender identity.

How important is AB 1266? Pérez addresses that here:

Pérez also offered his take on sexual harassment allegations against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, saying his fellow Democrat is now "incapacitated."

"For the life of me, I can't figure out why the mayor has not stepped down," he said.

Pérez said he doesn't believe a recall is the best option:

August 5, 2013
Legislative analyst charts decline of California sales tax revenue

Dramatic changes in Californians' consumer spending have sharply eroded the sales tax as a source of state revenue, a new report by the Legislature's budget analyst concludes.

Spending on taxable goods such as cars and clothes hit a high point of 53 percent of personal income in 1979 and has been declining ever since to 33 percent currently, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor's report found.

The relative decline of taxable sales has been only partially offset by increases in the sales tax rate, so it has been supplanted as the state's largest revenue source by the personal income tax, which now generates nearly twice as much revenue.

August 5, 2013
President Obama headed to California for Leno appearance

Obama.jpg

For a president sometimes faulted for his frosty relation with the media, Barack Obama has a decent - and growing - track record with talk show hosts.

The president will make his latest foray into late-night TV land when he arrives in Burbank on Tuesday to tape a spot on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The interview will air on Tuesday night's show.

In his advanced-hours television time thus far, the president has shown a certain affinity for Leno. He has appeared on the show five times already, three while serving as president.

David Letterman, by contrast, has hosted the president seven times, including two while Obama was the nation's chief executive. Jimmy Fallon has traded quips with the president once, during which Obama hoisted a microphone to "slow-jam the news." Jimmy Kimmel got then-candidate Obama via satellite back in 2008.

Flame-headed fan favorite Conan O'Brien has not had the pleasure since taking over at TBS, although he and Obama shared a spotlight when O'Brien cracked jokes at the most recent White House Correspondent's Dinner.

Obama has been broadcast on The Daily Show, the liberal Comedy Central touchstone, six times, two of those as president. He has also put in multiple appearances on The View, prompting criticisms that he prefers the softball questions inherent to the gentler conversing-on-a-couch format to tougher forms of media scrutiny.

The president has also faced flak -- including from The Bee's editorial board - for flying over the sprawling majority of California during his sojourns here.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama waves to the media as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington after returning on Marine One from Camp David, Md., where he spent his birthday Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013. Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin.

August 5, 2013
AM Alert: California Assembly returns from recess

20130124_HA_BROWN0118.JPGThey're back!

Well, not all of them. School's still out for the Senate, with members of the upper house returning next week.

But Assembly members are back in Sacramento today, and things kick off with a morning press availability by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles -- we'll give you the skinny. Session convenes at noon.

VIDEO: With lawmakers come back to work, Dan Walters takes a look at what remains to be done -- including some big-ticket items.

TRUTH IN LABELING: Voters rejected Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically modified products, but California still has rules governing which products can be marketed as "organic." The Select Committee on Sustainable and Organic Agriculture will examine the effectiveness of those guidelines at a 3 p.m. hearing in the Capitol's room 126.

TRANSGENDER TASKS: A bill that would allow students to use the facilities and join the teams aligned with their gender identities is bound for Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, giving the governor just over a week (as of today) to consider the pros and cons -- the latter including opponents' arguments that Assembly Bill 1266 could allow biologically male students to join women's teams and upend athletic records.

The California State Athletic Commission considers a similar topic at a meeting in Los Angeles today. Its agenda includes a proposed policy for licensing transgendered athletes. From 10 a.m. at the Junipero Serra Building in L.A.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, who turns 61 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State speech in Assembly chambers on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

August 5, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: 'Welcome to the circus'

With the Assembly back in session this week and the Senate to follow, bills will start coming out of the woodwork, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 2, 2013
Supreme Court rejects California request to halt prisoner release

Supreme_Court_California_Prisons.jpgA divided U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected California's bid to stay the court-ordered release of prisoners.

In what amounted to a 6-3 decision, issued without explanation, the court turned down California's request for more time. Conservative justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia broke from the majority decision, with Thomas and Scalia joining in a formal written dissent.

"California must now release upon the public nearly 10,000 inmates convicted of serious crimes, about 1,000 for every city larger than Santa Ana," Scalia wrote, adding that the court's order is a "terrible injunction."

Working with the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, attorney Paul Clement and the other prisoners' attorneys call California's request for more time "truly extraordinary" and denounce what they call "open defiance of the federal judiciary."

The prisoner-release order stems from a 2011 Supreme Court decision that upheld a three-judge panel's determination that the prison system population needed to be reduced to 137.5 percent of design capacity.

PHOTO: Several hundred inmates crowd the gymnasium on May 20, 2009, at San Quentin State Prison. Associated Press/ Eric Risberg

August 2, 2013
AM Alert: A day for (California and political) history

LSHISTORICCHINADOMIMAGE.JPGWhat gets preserved and what passes out of memory?

How about a Contra Costa County boarding school for Chinese American boys? An apartment complex displaying the epitome of International Style? A restaurant bound to the symbolism of Route 66? A cluster of buildings recording Southern California's bygone citrus industry?

Those are among the nominees to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which the State Historical Resources Commission will consider at a meeting today in the Resources Building Auditorium on 9th street, starting at 9 a.m.

In a related development, political junkies and history nerds will gather in Reno today for a conference of collectors devoted to campaign curios and presidential memorabilia. The American Political Items Collectors show runs through Saturday at the Atlantis Resort and Hotel in Reno.

VIDEO: Marin County recorded a minor but still important victory for government transparency, Dan Walters says.

August 2, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Marin County makes a good move

Dan praises Marin County for increasing transparency for taxpayers.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

August 1, 2013
Capitol lobbyists make more this year; oil group tops in spending

20130530_HA_LOBBYIST0097.JPGIncome for lobbying firms at California's Capitol was up slightly for the first half of this year compared with the same time period last year.

Lobbying firms brought in a total of $86.3 million between January and June, up about 1 percent from the year before, according to quarterly financial disclosure reports filed with the California Secretary of State.

KP Public Affairs and Lang Hansen O'Malley Miller were neck and neck for the top two spots, with KP bringing in $2.931 million and Lang Hansen bringing in $2.928 million. KP benefited from contracts with Citigroup, Lockheed Martin, Google, the City of Los Angeles and the Western States Petroleum Association. Lang Hansen's top-billing clients for the second quarter of the year were the American Chemistry Council, the Altria cigarette company and the Hollywood Park Racing Association.

Interest groups that lobby California state government, meanwhile, have spent a total of $137.4 million on their efforts so far this year. As in years past, the Western States Petroleum Association spent the most on lobbying. Labor unions, health care companies and the California Chamber of Commerce also spent big to influence state government.

Here's a look at the 20 lobbying firms that brought in the most money between January and June of this year. Roll over the blue bars for more detail.

And below we list the 20 interest groups that spent the most money on lobbying in California during the first half of 2013. Roll over the orange bars for more detail.



PHOTO: Sacramento lobbyists Terry McHale and Carl London walk away from the Senate member entrance on Thursday, May 30, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 1, 2013
California pension funds took in $33.8B, paid out $28.2B last year

ACW CALPERS BLD.JPGCalifornia's state-managed public employee pension funds took in $33.8 billion from employer and employee contributions in 2012 and paid out $28.2 billion in benefits to 874,734 retirees, according to a new Census Bureau report.

There are five state-managed pension funds but the two biggest, the California Public Employees Retirement System and the State Teachers Retirement System, account for all but a fraction of their overall economic activity.

Collectively, the five held $430.2 billion in assets of various kinds - corporate stocks being the largest single bloc at $177 billion -- in 2012 but had $592.2 billion in calculated obligations for 1.9 million public employee members of the systems, the report said.

Investment earnings in 2012 were just under $14 billion, while employees contributed $6.2 billion and state and local governments kicked in another $13.7 billion.

August 1, 2013
Abel Maldonado in debt while Jerry Brown tops $10 M in gov's race

maldonadopresser.jpgAbel Maldonado, who is preparing to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in next year's gubernatorial race, finished the first half of the year about $3,348 in debt, while the Democratic governor further padded his multi-million fundraising advantage, according to financial statements filed Wednesday.

In a statement filed after 9 p.m. on the reporting deadline, Maldonado reported raising $314,222 and spending $317,570 in the first six months of the year. The Republican former lieutenant governor had $44,595 in cash on hand, with outstanding debts of $47,943.

Between mid-April and June, Maldonado spent more than $185,000 on campaign consultants and another $48,000 on office expenses. His non-monetary contributions included $18,147 from himself for the campaign's use of his personal plane.

Brown raised $2.8 million and spent far less than Maldonado in the first half of the year, posting $31,526 in expenditures and an ending cash balance of more than $10 million.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. In heavily Democratic California, even Republicans believe the third-term governor will be extraordinarily difficult to defeat.

Brown's donors include labor unions, Indian gambling interests, oil companies and other businesses. He appears to appeal to the entertainment industry, as well, receiving $27,200 donations each from Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen and Kate Capshaw on a single day in June.

Big-name contributors to Maldonado include Stephen Bechtel Jr., GOP activist Charles Munger Jr., former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Mike Curb, who sparred with Brown decades ago, when Curb was lieutenant governor and Brown was governor before.

Another Republican who is considering a gubernatorial run, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, reported raising $83,148 in the first half of the year.

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 1, 2013
California candidates file campaign disclosures for first half of 2013

Wednesday marked the semi-annual filing deadline for campaign finances, giving the public one of its first glimpses of how 2014 campaigns for statewide office are shaping up. Every committee received more than $1,000 in contributions had to disclose the amount they raised and spent in the first six months of 2013 to the secretary of state.

We compiled a spreadsheet with the reported data for every person seeking statewide office, including the amount each candidate raised during the first six months of the year and the amount of cash on hand as of June 30. Gov. Jerry Brown so far has the biggest war chest, with his total cash on hand topping out at $10,042,186.23.

Campaign Finance Disclosures August 2013

August 1, 2013
AM Alert: Geography is destiny? Sacramento doesn't think so

tr_20130116_river_morning_107B.JPGAs promised, today we get a full accounting of cash coming into California's campaign coffers through the first half of 2013 -- we'll have a summary up on Capitol Alert shortly.

(Here's a little tidbit to satiate you in the meantime: Gov. Jerry Brown has pulled $2.8 million into his re-election campaign, giving the aspiring two-termer a little over $10 million on hand.)

But since the topic of money leads often to the topic of political corruption, we want to talk about a little study that caused a big uproar Tuesday. NPR spotlighted research linking political malfeasance to the location of state capitals, with the upshot being that more remote statehouses are more prone to sordid business -- and California was noted as one such place.

"We're talking about isolated state capitals like California, which is a populous state, but the capital, Sacramento, is far away from anything," Morning Edition host David Greene noted.

That didn't sit well with the Capitol community. Twitter blew up with people pointing out Sacramento's proximity to the Bay Area, with plenty of them faulting NPR for a Beltway-centric sense of geography. Say what you will about Sacramento, its residents don't like being told they live on the periphery.

VIDEO: Lax oversight has allowed drug rehab centers to rip off taxpayers -- making Dan Walters wonder when the Legislature will start grilling some bad actors.

August 1, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Legislature needs to put people under oath

Dan wonders when the Legislature will start taking on more substantive issues now that a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN has found that drug rehabilitation clinics bilked the state of California out of millions of dollars.

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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