Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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. PĂ©rez, 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


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.


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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