Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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

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.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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