Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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partnership known as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, after Nevada passed a law in 2011 in which it would have withdrawn from the compact unless California made concessions to allow more development.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. PĂ©rez 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

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


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,, or Amy Chance at

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.


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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