Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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

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


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. PĂ©rez, 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.


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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