Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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. PĂ©rez, 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


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


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.


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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