Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 30, 2013
Cal-Tax estimates California's state and local debt at $443 billion

HJA_7844.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has repeatedly pledged to tear down what he calls California's "wall of debt."

But Brown's definition of that debt wall - about $30 billion in accumulated deficits from recent state budgets - is less than 10 percent of the debt that state and local governments have amassed, according to a new compilation by the California Taxpayers Association, if one includes unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions.

Cal-Tax researchers counted $443 billion in state and local debts, roughly two-thirds of it carried by the state and the other third by local agencies. That's the equivalent of a fifth of the state's annual economic output and amounts to $11,600 for each of California's 38 million residents.

September 30, 2013
Shutdown, or not - California launching health law Tuesday


California will forge ahead with the launch of its health insurance marketplace Tuesday, regardless of whether Congress fails to reach a last-minute deal to avert a federal government shutdown.

A possible shutdown would not stop the state because it has already received federal funding to implement the law. Much of the health care law, including federal subsidies for lower-income customers, was established through mandatory spending and not tied to annual appropriations.

On Friday, President Barack Obama promised that the insurance exchanges would open for business even if there's a government shutdown.

"That's a done deal," he said.

Indeed, Covered California - the state's version of the federal health care law - is preparing to begin enrolling customers in its health insurance exchange on Tuesday. Parts of the government would close on the same day if lawmakers in Washington don't act on legislation to extend discretionary spending.

September 30, 2013
AM Alert: California policymakers consider climate-change risks

WesternWildfireYosemite.jpgAfter the Rim fire incinerated a record-setting chunk of California this year, a spokesman for the Republican co-author of a bill to log larger trees was unequivocal about the scientific backdrop: With climate change, blazes affecting California could become more intense.

As life has begun reasserting itself in the 400 square miles scorched by the Rim fire, policymakers are still formulating responses to the risks of climate change. A California Natural Resources Agency meeting in Sacramento today will take a look, the first in a series of public meetings aimed at gathering input for an updated "Safeguarding California Plan." From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Natural Resources Building.

VIDEO: Dan Walters takes a look at one of the most successful constituencies of the 2013 session.

TRUST US: As Dan notes above, immigrant advocates have tallied some major victories this session, from legislation giving overtime pay to domestic workers to a bill granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Bills addressing both have perished via veto in recent years. Soon we'll see whether another reiterated bill, one that would limit local law enforcement's ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, will win Gov. Jerry Brown's blessing or die on his desk, as it did last year. Advocates will be rallying for Assembly Bill 4, also called the "Trust Act," on the Capitol steps today at 10 a.m.

TRUANCY TROUBLES: Millions of missing students and billions of forfeited funds: That is the central thrust of a new report on truancy in California's elementary schools. Attorney General Kamala Harris will detail the findings alongside Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and others in Los Angeles from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the California Endowment building.

PHOTO: In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 25, 2013, a trail cuts through some of the forest land of the Stanislaus National Forest, destroyed by the Rim fire, near Tuolumne City. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

September 30, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California immigrants win big in 2013

Immigrants who are in California illegally turned out to be one of the biggest benefactors of state legislation this year, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 28, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bills extending fees to reduce emissions

brownsf.jpgGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Saturday extending a fee on vehicle registrations and tire sales to pay for programs designed to reduce emissions.

Assembly Bill 8, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will extend until 2024 a $3 increase in vehicle registration fees that was scheduled to expire in 2016. It requires the California Energy Commission to spend as much as $220 million in vehicle registration fee revenues over the next decade to fund the development of up to 100 hydrogen-fueling stations.

Brown also signed Senate Bill 359, by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, which includes $20 million for rebates to Californians who purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or battery or fuel cell electric vehicle.

The Democratic governor said last week that he would sign the measures, and they were among a package of bills promoted by his office as supporting the state's "burgeoning electric vehicle market."

"Today, we reaffirm our commitment in California to an electric vehicle future," Brown said in a prepared statement.

While the Perea bill provides funding for the development of hydrogen stations, it also repeals the California Air Resources Board's authority to require oil refiners to ensure the availability of hydrogen fueling stations once a certain number of vehicles are on the road. The Sierra Club objected to stripping the air board of that authority, according to a legislative analysis.

Brown also signed Assembly Bill 266, by former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, and Senate Bill 286, by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, extending by four years, to 2019, allowances for certain clean air vehicles to use carpool lanes regardless of how many people are in the car.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at an event in San Francisco on Sept. 13, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 27, 2013
Jerry Brown calls looming fight over Madera casino 'unfortunate'

browntribalday.jpgWith a referendum looming over the California Legislature's approval of a controversial Indian casino in Madera County, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday morning said that casino opponents are setting a bad precedent in what is likely to be a multimillion fight between casino interests.

"I think this is a dispute about money, mostly, money and competition," Brown told reporters after addressing tribal leaders at the Capitol.

At issue is the Legislature's approval this year of a casino for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians along Highway 99, more than 35 miles from the village where tribal members live. Opponents of the casino, including New York-based financial interests and Table Mountain Rancheria, which operates a casino near the North Fork site, have raised nearly $1.7 million to support a referendum.

September 27, 2013
Former California Sen. Dave Cogdill to lead Building Industry Association


Former Senate Republican leader David Cogdill will be taking over as president of the California Building Industry Association, the organization announced today.

Currently serving as a Stanislaus County Assessor, Cogdill will become president and CEO of the housing and construction-focused industry association on October 21st. During his time in the Legislature, Cogdill periodically drew campaign contributions from the CBIA.

"It will be a privilege to lead CBIA in these dynamic times," Cogdill said. "CBIA has forged its reputation in Sacramento based on trust, integrity and working collaboratively toward thoughtful policy solutions to some of our state's most pressing challenges. I am honored to build on this strong history and lead CBIA into the future."

Cogdill served in the Legislature from 2000 to 2010, serving for a time as head of the Senate Republican caucus. He gained notoriety as one of the "Sacramento Six" who joined with Democrats to raise taxes and vehicle license fees during the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That support contributed to Cogdill being ousted from his leadership post. Rumors of Codgdill being on the short list to be appointed lieutenant governor never panned out. Instead, Schwarzenegger tapped fellow Sacramento Six member Abel Maldonado.

PHOTO: Then-Senator Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto speaks at a press conference that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, held at his office on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 27, 2013
Tea party to push voter ID law at California GOP convention

Jim_Brulte_Rich_Pedroncelli_AP_030313.JPGOne of the California Republican Party's many problems in recent years has been its inability, when talking about immigration and other controversial policy issues, to appease party activists without alienating Latino or independent voters.

It is a hard balance to strike, and when Jim Brulte was elected chairman of the party earlier this year, he suggested it focus on other things. Let candidates and elected officials talk about issues, he said, while the party works on fundraising, voter registration and turnout.

It is a message that resonated with members of the party's donor and political classes, but it may be tested when the party convenes next week in Anaheim for its fall convention.

The Tea Party California Caucus, a newly-formed coalition of tea party groups, plans to propose five resolutions at the convention, including one advocating for a voter identification law in California and another "supporting following the immigration laws that we already have on the books," said Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau, a tea party organizer.

The group's other resolutions involve the environment, education and California's $68 billion high-speed rail project.

September 27, 2013
AM Alert: Elected officials to flock to Sacramento voter event

JM_VOTER_EDUCATION_CSUS.JPGFor sheer numbers of elected officials in one place, it would be tough outside of floor sessions to top a voter education event at Sacramento State this Sunday.

Speakers expected to touch on health care, immigration and the general trajectory of California's economy and housing market include Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, Senate GOP leader Bob Huff and Sens. Ted Lieu and Jim Nielsen; Assembly members Richard Pan and Roger Dickinson; U.S. Reps. Ami Bera, Doris Matsui and Mike Honda; Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson; Board of Equalization member Betty Yee; and State Controller John Chiang.

And that's just the confirmed ones.

EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE: Some of the biggest names in education policy will join State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at an event tonight focused on public education. They include Linda Darling-Hammond, a prominent researcher and chair of the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and No Child Left Behind architect-turned-antagonist Diane Ravitch. From 6:30 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium on J Street.

REPUBLICAN RETREAT: Republican party officials and lawmakers will be jetting to San Diego this weekend for a California Republican Leadership Fund fundraiser. A party spokesperson declined to share a list of attendees, but it looks like tickets will run from $15,000 for a regular pass to $100,000 for a sponsorship.

WOMEN'S WORLD: Scores of successful women will be in Sacramento today for a Capitol Region Women's Conference at the convention center. Speakers will include California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross in addition to journalists, CEOs, entrepreneurs and a certain ex-astronaut.

NATIVE AMERICANS: If things around the state Capitol seem a little more colorful today, it's probably because it's the 46th annual Native American Day. People will be marking the occasion with dances, cultural displays and educational setups on the south steps and around the Capitol grounds. On a related note, the proponents of a measure to overturn freshly inked tribal gaming compacts have until Tuesday to collect enough signatures.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, who turns 44 on Saturday.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this post misstated Pérez's birthday: it is Saturday, September 28th, not Friday.

PHOTO: A student at Sacramento State dons a a "Rock the Vote" pin during a voter education event at the campus on Oct. 4, 2000. The Sacramento Bee/Jay Mather

September 26, 2013
California employment office lowers estimate on late jobless claims

unemploymentdelay.jpgThe state Employment Development Department, which said last week that about 185,000 Californians had been affected by a computer problem delaying unemployment checks for weeks, downgraded its estimate this afternoon, putting the total at about 148,000.

Loree Levy, a department spokeswoman, said in an email that the original estimate counted some people twice.

The Brown administration this week ordered EDD to begin paying backlogged claims for continued benefits before determining if claims are eligible for payment. It said the backlog could be cleared by Tuesday.

EDD, which is upgrading its 30-year-old unemployment insurance processing system, said about 148,000 of the state's nearly 800,000 people receiving benefits had claims delayed at some point by a computer problem that started over the Labor Day weekend.

As of this afternoon, about 47,000 of those people have claims remaining in the backlog, EDD said.

PHOTO: Binders full of job resources at the Employment Development Department office in Sacramento on Thursday February 14, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

September 26, 2013
Holly J. Mitchell becomes latest California state senator

MITCHELL.JPGCalifornia's state senate can again claim a full house.

In front of a Senate chamber humming with friends, family members and a handful of fellow lawmakers, former Assemblywoman Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, took the oath of office Thursday afternoon to represent the 26th Senate District.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, lavished praise on the newest Democratic senator.

"She has demonstrated over her years in the Legislature on the green carpet a tenacity, a purpose and a willingness to fight for the least among us," Steinberg said, alluding to the green color scheme decorating the Assembly chambers. (The Senate's is red.)

For her part, Mitchell fought back emotion as she vowed to focus on working families and noted that her presence in the Senate marks a milestone.

"I will be the first black woman (to serve in the Senate) in over 10 years," Mitchell said, "and I am going to wear that badge with honor."

Mitchell's chances of claiming the seat former senator Curren Price vacated after winning election to the Los Angeles City Council were never seriously in doubt. Democrats now control 28 seats in the Senate, one more than they need for the two-thirds majority that allows them to raise taxes, pass urgency measures or put constitutional amendments on the ballot without Republican assent.

PHOTO: Senator-elect Holly J. Mitchell shares a moment with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on Sept. 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

September 26, 2013
Ballot proposal to decriminalize pot cleared to collect signatures

MC_POTFARM_05.JPGAs a new poll finds that a majority of California voters back legalizing marijuana, proponents of a ballot proposal to decriminalize cannabis have the green light to collect signatures to put it on the 2014 ballot.

The ballot initiative -- which "decriminalizes marijuana and hemp use, possession, cultivation, transportation, or distribution" -- has been cleared for circulation, the Secretary of State's office announced Thursday.

In addition, the proposal would institute case-by-case reviews of nonviolent marijuana convictions and charges. It would also have the Legislature enact laws to tax and regulate the plant, allow doctors to prescribe pot regardless of a patient's age, and ban state or local governments from enforcing federal marijuana law.

September 26, 2013
Jerry Brown signs domestic workers bill

brownnga.jpgGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today giving some domestic workers, including in-home nannies and health care workers, overtime pay for working more than nine hours a day or 45 hours in a week.

Assembly Bill 241, a diluted version of San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's so-called "Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, was amended before passage to exclude meal and rest break provisions, to exempt occasional babysitters from overtime requirements and to include a three-year sunset provision.

The Democratic governor vetoed a broader version of the bill last year.

The narrower legislation overlaps with a federal ruling last week to provide minimum wage and overtime to home health care workers. Brown's action is significant primarily to in-home child care workers, who are not included in the federal rule.

Brown announced the bill signing on Twitter:


PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown at a meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington on Feb. 24, 2013. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

September 26, 2013
Republican George Radanovich weighs California governor run

RADANOVICHGEORGEMCT.jpgWith former Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado's gubernatorial bid foundering, another Republican candidate is dipping his toe in the 2014 race.

Former Republican congressman George Radanovich announced that he is mulling a run with an email Thursday touting a "program of rebuilding the private sector and then cutting government."

"I believe Californians are ready for change and the time is ripe for a new approach," Radanovich said in the email. "That is why I am considering entering the race for governor of California."

Gov. Jerry Brown appears so far to be in prime position to win a second term. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll gave the governor an overall approval rating of 49 percent among likely voters. Though a mere 23 percent of Republicans approved of the job he's doing, 65 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents backed him.

Brown's chief challenges so far have come from Maldonado, who has framed his campaign as a referendum on Brown's response to California's prison overcrowding crisis, and from Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, a reliable antagonist of legislative Democrats whose far-right positions have endeared him to conservative constituents but throw into question his mainstream viability.

Maldonado's campaign has shown signs of serious disarray lately, including the departure of some top advisers and anemic fundraising figures that Brown easily eclipsed.

Enter Radanovich, a former Mariposa County supervisor who served in Congress from 1995 to 2010. In his email, he trumpeted his work with the Fresno-based Restore California pilot project, which seeks to reduce "social pathologies" such as out-of-wedlock births and children growing up without fathers.

"Restore California places the private sector ahead of California government and parents ahead of the village," Radanovich wrote. "In so doing, the cost of education will drop because more and more California children will enter school from a good foundation of parental support and ready to learn. The cost of fighting crime and housing criminals will decrease because more and more California children will enter society from this same foundation."

PHOTO: Former Rep. George Radanovich in 2007. Handout.

September 26, 2013
Live chat replay: Which bills will Gov. Jerry Brown sign, veto?
September 26, 2013
George Zenovich, former California lawmaker, dies at 91

Zenovich.jpgFormer Democratic legislator and appellate court justice George Zenovich, who helped write landmark legislation on behalf of agricultural workers, arts and culture and low-income housing while championing the cause of handicapped children, has died. He was 91.

Zenovich was a member of the state Senate and Assembly after serving a tour in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. In the Legislature, Zenovich co-authored a first-in-the-nation law recognizing the right of farm workers to collectively bargain.

He also co-authored a measure to create the California Arts Council and another to established the California Housing Finance Agency.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the 5th District Court of Appeals in 1979. On Wednesday, Brown traveled to Fresno to visit with Zenovich, but arrived too late.

"George was a longtime friend and a rare public servant who combined wisdom, skill and basic practicality. His many friends will miss him," the governor said in a statement.

John Ellis of The Fresno Bee has a full obituary on Zenovich.

PHOTO: George N. Zenovich and his wife Kika Zenovich during the dedication of the new Court of Appeal Fifth Appellate District building in Fresno on Thursday September 13, 2007. The Fresno Bee/Darrell Wong

September 26, 2013
Teachers union, SEIU open wallets to California Republican Party

seiuprotest.jpgOne of the reasons Republicans elected Jim Brulte to be chairman of the California Republican Party earlier this year was their faith, among other things, in his ability to raise money.

The former Senate Republican leader is well connected to the donor class, and the party has raised more than $3 million so far this year.

In recent days, those contributions have included an unlikely source: public employee unions.

On Tuesday, Service Employees International Union Local 1000 donated $15,000 to the party.

A California Teachers Association political action committee donated $10,000 earlier this month. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association donated $3,000 to the party in August.

It has been years since these large public employee unions opened their wallets to the state party. The peace officers made donations in 2005 and 2007, and the teachers gave the party $10,000 in 2004.

Labor officials said Brulte has met with their members this year, and that the donations reflect a tentative effort by unions to work with the GOP.

Brulte said, "I reach out to everybody" and that with Republican voter registration under 30 percent in California "you've got to get outside your comfort zones."

However, he noted that the unions that gave money to the party include Republican members, not just Democrats.

"These Republicans have encouraged their leadership to be more bipartisan," he said. "Their leadership is trying to be a little bit more bipartisan. We think that's a good thing."

The donations are unusual, but not large. For bigger contributions the party has Charles Munger Jr. The Republican activist on Wednesday donated another $597,982 to the party.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:25 p.m. to include Brulte's remarks.

PHOTO: Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1000 rally at the Capitol on Wednesday, July, 1, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 26, 2013
AM Alert: Sacramento event takes stock of health care overhaul

LSCOVEREDCA3.JPGWith open enrollment for California's health insurance exchange just days away, an event co-sponsored by Capitol Weekly and the University of California Sacramento Center will take stock of the much-maligned, endlessly debated federal health care overhaul and evaluate what comes next.

Attendees will hear from a long roster including officials with Covered California and business representatives.

Speakers will include Diana Dooley, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency; California Medical Association CEO Dustin Corcoran; John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business; Matt Cate, head of the California State Association of Counties; Duane Dauner, president of the California Hospital Association; and Charles Bacchi of the California Association of Health Plans. The conference runs all day at the Crest Theater on K Street in Sacramento.

POLLS VAULT: From fracking to prisons to the Legislature's approval rating, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll plumbs public opinion on a wide range of issues. Our writeup is up now on Capitol Alert, and PPIC research associate Jui Shrestha will be breaking down the results during a noon to 1:30 p.m. talk at the CSAC Conference Center.

REHAB REACTION: You may remember a story from the inimitable Center for Investigative Reporting exploring fraudulent billing practices by drug rehab centers. Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, responded by calling a hearing to investigate the problem. It convenes today, in conjunction with the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in room 4202 of the state Capitol building.

THE NEWEST SENATOR: The lawmaker formerly known as Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell officially becomes Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, today with a 2 p.m. swearing-in ceremony on the Senate floor. Mitchell cruised to her new seat, picking up four-fifths of the vote.

RETIREMENT RECKONING: Per usual, the tenuous prospects for California's public retirement systems hover in the background of projections about the state's fiscal future. The Northern California Public Retirement Seminar will meet the topic head-on today with a daylong meeting in the CalPERS Auditorium on Q Street, with a speech by Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee chair Rob Bonta, D-Alameda.

ALL ABOARD: We tend to hear more about his involvement with the speedier kind of train, but Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver the keynote to attendees of an annual Friends of Light Rail & Transit meeting at the California Railroad Museum tonight. The meeting runs from 6 to 8 p.m.

Earlier in the day, the governor and Attorney General Kamala Harris will be bestowing Medal of Valor awards upon 14 public safety officials, starting at 11 a.m. at the state Capitol building.

PHOTO: The executive director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee, addresses the media at the California Museum on May 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

September 25, 2013
Californians back prison plan but are wary of overcrowding fixes

20130918_PK_SAN QUENTIN_0037.JPGCalifornians narrowly favor Gov. Jerry Brown's new prison plan but remain anxious about the consequences of prison reform, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll finds.

When asked about the recent deal between Brown and legislative leaders, 52 percent of adults and likely voters gave their approval. The recently signed plan will spend $315 million more on prisons while asking for a three-year extension on lowering inmate numbers. Federal judges just granted the state a brief extension.

But when reflecting on the strategy of shifting lower-level inmates from state prisons to county jails, 57 percent of adults and 61 percent of likely voters said they were "not too confident" or "not at all confident" that local governments have the capacity to absorb new inmates under what's known as "realignment." In addition, more than three-quarters of the respondents -- 78 percent of adults and 77 percent of likely voters -- were either "very" or "somewhat" concerned about early prisoner releases.

The poll also gauged residents' opinions on many other issues ranging from violence to health care to marijuana.

September 25, 2013
Boxer-Vitter dispute could make things bumpy on highway bill

vitter.jpgSens. Barbara Boxer and David Vitter rarely agree on much. But the California Democrat and Louisiana Republican have proved they can cross party lines and work together on transportation and water-infrastructure issues.

On Wednesday, however, in a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee, there was awkwardness in the air, after the Senate Select Committee on Ethics dismissed a complaint filed last week by Vitter against Boxer.

Boxer leads both committees.

Vitter is the ranking member of the environmental committee and sits next to Boxer during hearings. As most committee leaders do, they frequently lean over to talk to each other during testimony. But Wednesday, Boxer acknowledged Vitter's arrival, then focused her attention on the testimony from a large panel of transportation officials.

Vitter rocked uncomfortably back and forth in his chair.

September 25, 2013
Freddie Rodriguez bests independent in tight Assembly race

RBVoters2.JPGDemocratic Pomona Councilman Freddie Rodriguez narrowly defeated independent Paul Leon to claim an open Southern California Assembly seat.

The Associated Press called the race Wednesday as Rodriguez clung to a 345-vote lead. Leon, the mayor of Ontario, would have needed to secure more than two-thirds of the roughly 1,000 uncounted votes to stage a come-from-behind victory.

"I look forward to being a voice for all of the people of the Inland Empire, and for safer neighborhoods, at the State Capitol," Rodriguez said in a prepared statement.

The tight margin gave Democrats little breathing room despite party voters commanding a 20-percentage point registration edge in a district that takes in parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Leon switched his party affiliation to "no party preference" from Republican after losing the Senate race to Norma Torres, D-Pacoima.

Rodriguez's win moves Democrats a seat away from reclaiming a veto-proof supermajority in the Assembly after Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles claims her seat in the Senate.

Democrats could pick up another seat on Nov. 19 if Matt Dababneh defeats Republican Susan Shelley to fill the San Fernando Valley seat vacated by Bob Blumenfield.

PHOTO: Voters cast their ballots on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

September 25, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown, labor secretary address jobless backlog

morgensternreporters.jpgOAKLAND - The Brown administration said Wednesday afternoon it hopes to finish paying thousands of backlogged claims for jobless benefits by next Tuesday, after ordering the Employment Development Department to begin paying backlogged claims for continued benefits before determining if they are eligible for payment.

"I just felt it was an intolerable situation, and we've got to get people their money," Marty Morgenstern, secretary of the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency, told reporters before an event in Oakland to celebrate Gov. Jerry Brown's enactment of a bill to raise California's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016.

EDD, which is upgrading its 30-year-old unemployment insurance processing system, said Friday that about 185,000 of the state's nearly 800,000 people receiving benefits had been affected by a computer problem that started during the Labor Day weekend. The department said earlier this week that about 80,000 backlogged claims had yet to be cleared.

Asked whether the administration had moved quickly enough to intervene, Brown said, "I think they're moving fast."

The Democratic governor said EDD has been hampered by federal budget cuts.

"We all know about computers, they do break down," he said. "The department will get those checks out just as quickly as they can."

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said his office has fielded numerous telephone calls from claimants waiting for checks.

For those people who are unemployed, he said, "It's awful."

PHOTO: Marty Morgenstern, secretary of the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency, speaks with reporters in Oakland on Sept. 25, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters in Oakland on Sept. 25, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 25, 2013
Democrat Rodriguez controls small lead in Assembly special election

Rodriguez.jpgDemocrat Freddie Rodriguez was clinging to a slim lead Wednesday over independent Paul Leon for the inland Southern California Assembly seat formerly held by Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona.

Rodriguez, who declared victory late Tuesday, was leading with 51.3 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting. But Leon, the mayor of Ontario, had yet to concede the race.

The margin separating the candidates was 365 votes in a district where Democratic voters hold a roughly 20-percentage point registration edge.

As of Wednesday, there were nearly 800 ballots left to be counted in San Bernardino County and another 273 in Los Angeles County, according to registrars of voters in both counties.

Leon switched his party affiliation from Republican to no party preference after losing the Senate race to Torres. In the primary to fill her 52nd district seat, Democrats and their allies in organized labor were forced to commit considerable resources to get Rodriguez into the top-two.

A victory for the Pomona city councilman would move Democrats a seat away from reclaiming a two-thirds supermajority in the lower chamber after Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles claims her seat in the state Senate. They could pick-up another seat on Nov. 19 if Democrat Matt Dababneh defeats Republican Susan Shelley to fill the seat vacated by Bob Blumenfield in the San Fernando Valley.

PHOTO: Freddie Rodriguez. Photo courtesy of Freddie Rodriguez for Assembly.

September 25, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to raise California minimum wage

jerrybrownstate.jpgGov. Jerry Brown this morning signed legislation to raise California's minimum wage by 25 percent, from $8 an hour to $10 an hour by 2016.

The bill, celebrated by Brown and his labor union allies at an event in Los Angeles, promises the first increase in California's hourly minimum since 2008, when the minimum wage was raised 50 cents to $8.

After appearing in the state's biggest media market this morning, the Democratic governor is scheduled to fly to Oakland to promote the bill at a second event this afternoon.

Assembly Bill 10, by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, will raise the minimum wage from $8 to $9 an hour on July 1, 2014, and to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.

The bill was the only one of 38 bills designated by the California Chamber of Commerce as a "jobs killers" to make it out of the Legislature this year.

The chamber and other business groups said raising the hourly minimum would unfairly increase business costs and jeopardize California's economic recovery.

California is one of 18 states and the District of Columbia that have minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and California's $10 minimum is likely to be among the highest in the nation in 2016.

Washington currently has the nation's highest state minimum wage, at $9.19 an hour, but that state is one of 10 that provide for automatic adjustments to their minimum wages based on cost of living measures, a provision eliminated from an earlier version of the bill Brown signed.

September 25, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown to sign California's minimum wage bill

LSBUDGETSIGNING3.JPGWith a scrawl of Gov. Jerry Brown's pen, California's minimum wage will be set to begin rising incrementally for the first time in years, eventually to $10 an hour.

Democrats advanced Assembly Bill 10, by Watsonville Democrat Luis Alejo, over the protestations of Republicans warning about a detrimental effect on California's economy, with Brown taking the rare step of signaling his plans for a bill while the Legislature was still debating it.

The governor will attend two signing ceremonies today, something for which lawmakers who plan to be photographed next to the governor will no doubt be thankful: first in Los Angeles' Ronald Reagan State Building at 9 a.m., and then during a noon event at the Cypress Mandela Training Center in Oakland.

RURAL REPS: The Bee's Dan Walters has written about the perceived gulf between the urban lawmaker-dominated state Legislature and the concerns of rural residents. Similar topics will surface at a three-day conference of the Rural County Representatives of California that begins today in South Lake Tahoe. Expected speakers include Board of Equalization members Betty Yee and George Runner, California Republican Party chair Jim Brulte and former state Sen. Gloria Romero.

GOLF TOGETHER NOW: A quick scan of today's fundraisers reaffirms an important fact: lawmakers of opposing parties may differ on legislation, but they can agree on the cash-generating power of golf. Democratic Assemblywoman Nora Campos and Republican Sen. Tom Berryhill are inviting supporters to tee off in support of their 2014 bids today. Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, will host his own golf classic.

RESPECT YOUR ELDERS: A meeting of the California Commission on Aging meeting convenes today at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento. After going through the day's business, commission members will meet with representatives of the California Elder Justice Coalition, which is hosting a day-long summit Thursday on preventing elder abuse.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, who turns 63 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget during a ceremony at the Capitol, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

September 25, 2013
Brown official orders EDD to pay jobless claims first, check eligibility later

unemploymentdelay.jpgWith thousands of Californians still waiting for unemployment checks because of a computer problem that has delayed payments for weeks, the Brown administration on Tuesday ordered the Employment Development Department to begin paying backlogged claims for continued benefits before determining if they are eligible for payment.

Calling the backlog "unacceptable," Marty Morgenstern, secretary of the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency, told EDD Chief Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard in a memorandum that without such action "it is unlikely that the claims backlog will be reduced quickly enough to respond to the very real financial hardship now being experienced by too many of our residents relying on timely payment of their UI benefits."

Morgenstern said, "Consequently, I am directing EDD to immediately begin the process of paying backlogged claims for continued UI benefits prior to a final determination of eligibility."

Final determinations of eligibility for backlogged claims "will have to be completed later and at that time EDD will act to recover any resulting overpayments that might occur," the memo said.

Loree Levy, an EDD spokeswoman, said in an email late Tuesday night that Hilliard received Morgenstern's memo and that EDD "will begin paying all backlogged UI claims without any further delays."

She said claimants who currently have claims in the backlog will begin receiving payments as soon as Thursday.

September 24, 2013
Nonprofit takes California lawmakers to Scandinavia


In an annual tradition, a union-and-corporate-backed nonprofit has spirited recessing California lawmakers away to Sweden, Norway and Denmark for an educational trip.

The California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy has faced scrutiny in the past for furnishing lawmakers with paid trips abroad. In recent years, that has included jaunts to Spain, Brazil, Italy, Japan and South Africa.

This year, legislators and officials are touring Scandinavia. Scheduled participants include Sens. Kevin de León, Anthony Cannella, Ricardo Lara and Bill Emmerson; Assembly members Travis Allen, Cristina Garcia, Steven Bradford, Kristin Olsen and Shirley Weber; and a collection of board members representing energy companies, labor groups and environmental organizations.

The California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy chose Scandinavia because the region -- Sweden especially -- has emerged as a leader in encouraging the use of renewable energy, said P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for the organization. Johnston said the organization has come to anticipate criticism of such trips but emphasized that the focus remains on developing thoughtful public policy.

"I know there are critics of any kind of travel but the fact is this organization was founded a long time ago ago and has been doing essentially the same thing for all those years, which is having working trips to places around the world that can give insight with regard to best practices," Johnston said. "These are not golf trips to Maui."

A lawsuit filed this week by a Pacific Gas & Electric Company shareholder would beg to differ. The lawsuit linked alleged negligence leading up to the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion to past California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy trips, saying they allowed state regulators to become cozy with industries they are responsible for overseeing.

The complaint faults California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey for participating in "lavish junkets that are represented as necessary excursions to improve California's energy situation" but that in fact serve to "reduce the amount of regulation PG&E is under."

PHOTO: Sen. Kevin de León posted this photo of himself shaking hands with U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski on Twitter.

September 24, 2013
Jerry Brown signs paparazzi, earthquake-warning bills

Jerry_Brown_Online_Education.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation backed by actress Halle Berry to restrict paparazzi access to children, his office announced Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 606, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, clarifies that misdemeanor harassment of a child based on parents' profession includes attempting to record the child's image or voice.

The bill was opposed on First Amendment grounds by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Motion Picture Association of America and the California Broadcasters Association.

Berry gave emotional testimony at the Capitol about the need to restrict overzealous photographers, and some law enforcement officers said it would protect their children from harassment and threats made because of their parents' work in law enforcement.

The bill was one of 12 Brown announced signing Tuesday.

He also signed Senate Bill 135, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, which provides for the development of a statewide earthquake early warning system.

In a prepared statement, Padilla said that with Brown's signature, "the process of developing a statewide earthquake early warning system has begun."

Presumably, Brown studied up before signing the bill. When asked for his position on the bill earlier this month, the Democratic governor said, "I couldn't give you a stance on that because I don't know what the hell it is."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference in San Francisco on March 13, 2013. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

September 24, 2013
Birman gets nod over Ose from FreedomWorks PAC in Sacramento race

Birman.jpgRepublican jockeying to unseat Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, continued Tuesday, with Washington-based FreedomWorks PAC endorsing former congressional aide Igor Birman over former Rep. Doug Ose in the 7th district.

Birman, the ex-chief of staff to Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, is taking on Ose, who relinquished his seat after serving three terms in the House, and autism activist Elizabeth Emken, who last year finished a distant second to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The support of FreedomWorks, which typically backs tea party candidates and causes, could help Birman brandish his conservative credentials in the suburban district that's nearly evenly divided between registered Republicans and Democrats. The group spent $19.6 million in the 2012 election cycle, nearly all of it supporting Republicans or opposing Democrats.

Birman was the clear choice for limited-government voters looking to preserve economic freedom and rein in Washington's out-of-control spending, FreedomWorks PAC President Matt Kibbe said in a release.

"Congress has been auctioning off our rights for years, and both Republicans and Democrats are to blame. The constituents of California deserve better than a rank and file follower or a recycled politician searching for another turn in the spotlight," Kibbe said. "Igor is a policy expert who understands exactly what needs to be done to get our country back on track and he has the spine to stand up and make sure it happens."

Ose noted the unanimous support he's received from elected councilmembers in Folsom and Citrus Heights.

"I offer real solutions for the people here in the greater Sacramento area and have a proven record of cutting taxes, budget reform and creating jobs," he said. "This is why I have earned the support of so many local leaders who want their community's interests well served in Washington DC."

The district has been described as a virtual toss-up and is again expected to produce one of the most expensive races in the country.

Birman, who with his family emigrated from Russia to the U.S. in 1994, has largely framed his campaign as a fight for freedom.

"His personal experience with central government control of daily life gives him a unique and valuable perspective that too few others in Congress have," Kibbe added.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 2:25 p.m. with Ose's response.

PHOTO: Igor Birman, left, poses with his former boss, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, at Birman's campaign kick-off this month. The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.

September 24, 2013
AM Alert: Election inches Legislature closer to full strength

20121106_AOC_YoloVote_178w.JPGPoliticians love trumpeting California's uniqueness. Given the number of special elections this year, the state -- or at least its politics -- seems to be very special indeed.

Today's contest will fill the 52nd Assembly District seat that Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, bid farewell to once she won election to the Senate, and its outcome could get Assembly Democrats within a seat of reclaiming their two-thirds supermajority. If Democrat Freddie Rodriguez prevails over Ontario Mayor Paul Leon (an avowed Republican candidate in prior races, Leon decided to ditch party affiliations for this one), Dems will hold 53 Assembly seats.

After the victor of today's race gets sworn in, the Assembly will still be two members away from maximum occupancy, thanks to two seats opening after former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield and former Sen. Curren Price gravitated to the Los Angeles City Council, as Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell just won Price's old seat.

BONDING TIME: As the 2014 ballot creeps closer, talk of a planned water bond measure is approaching a low boil. Today a joint hearing of the Senate Environmental Quality and Senate Natural Resources and Water committees takes a look, with Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, presenting legislation -- one bill by Rendon and another bill by Wolk -- that would drastically change the content of the bond. (In a related development, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan folks just rolled out a revamped website.) From 9 a.m. in the Capitol's room 4203.

SUICIDE STUDIED: In another out-of-session hearing, the Select Committee On Mental Health will be discussing suicide at the State Building in San Francisco. Witnesses will include Sgt. Kevin Briggs of the California Highway Patrol, a couple of suicide survivors and a prevention advocate whose son died by suicide, Lilyana Hudson of San Francisco Suicide Prevention and Rajeev Ramchand, a behavioral scientist at the RAND Corp.

ENERGY INFO: Sophisticated data analysis has come to pervade everything from baseball to presidential campaigns, and today a talk hosted by the California Energy Commission and Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, will examine how to apply data analysis to energy goals. Speakers will include CPUC Commissioner Carla Peterman, California Energy Commission chief Andrew McAllister and Ken Alex, director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. From 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol's room 4202.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who turns 62 today.

PHOTO: A UC Davis freshman votes for the first time at a polling place set up at the university's Memorial Union on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Payne.

September 23, 2013
Boxer gives climate award to George W. Bush library

Boxer-Bush.jpgIn the eyes of Sen. Barbara Boxer, former president George W. Bush has gone from an environmental villain to a hero - at his presidential library, at least.

The California Democrat, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committtee, presented a "Climate Hero" award Monday to the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The building achieved the coveted LEED, or Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design, Platinum certification for its sustainable design, construction and operation.

September 23, 2013
Jerry Brown signs law requiring cars to give bicyclists space

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing on a California roadway, after vetoing similar legislation during the last two years.

Assembly Bill 1371, by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, requires motorists to slow down if they can't give room and makes failing to comply an infraction punishable by a fine of $35.

Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2011 and 2012. Last year, the Democratic governor objected to language that would have permitted a motorist to cross a double yellow line to make room for a bicyclist. Brown objected in 2011 to language he said would have required drivers unable to move over to slow to a certain speed, regardless of the speed limit.

The bill was one of 15 Brown announced signing today. Also signed was Senate Bill 568, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, which requires Internet and social media sites to let users under 18 delete items they post, and Assembly Bill 329, by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, which seeks to curb the use of robotic ticket buying software by scalpers.

Brown vetoed legislation by Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, to increase to 20 from 18 the number of members on the California Commission on Emergency Medical Services, adding representatives from air ambulance and air rescue and transport backgrounds.

Brown noted in his veto message on Senate Bill 535 that he had proposed eliminating the commission in 2011.

"For as long as the commission continues to perform its work," Brown wrote, "there should be no shortage of expertise or willingness of an 18-member body to address all aspects of the system, including air ambulance and air rescue."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

September 23, 2013
FPPC's Ravel confirmed to Federal Election Commission

RCB_20130917 FPPC CHAIR 0921_0121 (2).JPGAnn Ravel, chair of the state's ethics watchdog, today received unanimous confirmation to serve on the Federal Election Commission.

The U.S. Senate's vote to confirm Ravel, a Democrat, and Lee Goodman, a Republican, gives the six-member panel their first new commissioners since President Barack Obama took office.

Ellen L. Weintraub, chair of the Federal Election Commission, congratulated the pair in a tweet.

Ravel's departure from the FPPC would clear the way for Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint the agency's second chair of his third term.

As The Bee reported last weekend, the 64-year-old Los Gatos resident has received a fresh wave of attention after delivering on an early promise to focus on major offenses rather than targeting less-significant transgressions. Last week, the FPPC settled with a trio of consultants who agreed that they should have registered as lobbyists.

Ravel also has pursed cases more quickly, particularly on the eve of elections. Last fall, she sued to unmask the source of an $11 million donation from an unknown Arizona group to oppose Brown's Proposition 30 and support Proposition 32.

"If you don't have the ability and the gumption to actually enforce your laws that are significant and go to the heart of the trust prior to an election, then you might as well not be in business," Ravel said in an interview last week.

Ravel and Goodman were nominated by Obama in June.

Ravel worked as a U.S. Justice Department official in Washington when Brown appointed her chair three years ago. The Federal Election Commission -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- administers and enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act.

FPPC Chair Ann Ravel gestures during an interview in her office last week. The Sacramento Bee / Renée C. Byer

September 23, 2013
AM Alert: It's cattle call for Sacramento along Capitol Mall

RCB_20110510_PLACERWATER_0074.JPGWell, this gives the term "cowtown" a whole new meaning.

Those of you still in Sacramento despite the Legislature's summer recess might notice a distinctly rural smell coming from Capitol Avenue this morning. That's because cattle from a Yuba County ranch will be crossing the Tower Bridge and ambling along the downtown thoroughfare that leads to the California Capitol building.

The livestock procession comes courtesy of Sacramento's Farm to Fork Festival, a celebration of the River City's record of putting one of the world's most vibrant agricultural regions to good use. We doubt it will help those seeking to refute the provincial reputation Sacramento has a tendency to attract, but it should be fun regardless.

POT POLICY: The U.S. Department of Justice recently joined Washington and Colorado, not to mention some California lawmakers, in pushing to rethink criminal justice by relaxing drug laws. Today the other side of the argument gets aired at a Coalition for a Drug Free California-sponsored marijuana policy conference aimed, according to the event's website, at "revers(ing) current efforts to legitimize the drug."

Speakers at the event, held today and Tuesday in Rancho Cucamonga, will include Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Coalition for a Drug Free California founder and former White House drug adviser Paul Chabot, former state senator Nate Holden, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, California Police Chiefs Association lobbyist John Lovell, and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles.

INSIDER ACCESS: A few new goodies are available now on Capitol Alert's new politics app for tablet and iPhone: a fresh caricature of a Sacramento insider and the latest in our series of profiles of new lawmakers, helping you make sense of a record-breaking freshman class. Available now on the Capitol Alert Insider Access app.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who turns 36 today.

PHOTO: Cattle belonging to a rancher in Lincoln do some ambling on May 10, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer.

September 21, 2013
Jerry Brown puts another voluntary check-off on state tax form

cleanup.JPGGov. Jerry Brown marked California Coastal Cleanup Day by announcing he has signed legislation creating a voluntary check-off box on the state's income tax form for a fund supporting coastal conservation.

The fund has lots of company - 18 existing voluntary contribution funds support everything from cancer research to school supplies for homeless children - and is one of the least controversial measures Brown will sign this year.

In addition to a handful of Republican lawmakers, however, was one entity close to Brown that registered its opposition.

"This bill is of limited value as there is nothing currently preventing California taxpayers from contributing directly to this cause if they so choose," Brown's own Department of Finance said in a bill analysis. "It is not clear that a special preference should be given to the grants and programs supported by this tax check-off, as compared to other organizations also dedicated to preserving and enhancing California's coastal resources."

Because taxpayers who contribute to the fund are allowed to claim an itemized deduction in the following year, the department said the bill could result in lost revenue to the general fund of $10,000 annually.

Brown issued a statement touting the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day and Assembly Bill 754, by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance.

"The beauty and allure of California's coast is unrivaled," the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement, "and this bill gives taxpayers a simple way to help keep it that way."

PHOTO: A family prepares to cross a bridge over the Calaveras River in Stockton on their bicycles, while a sign marks a gathering place for volunteers picking up trash in the area on Sept. 21, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 20, 2013
California fracking bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown

JV_061013_FRACKING 214.JPGAfter publicly endorsing the measure to ease its passage in the Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill establishing a permitting system for hydraulic fracturing in California, the governor's office announced this afternoon.

Brown took the unusual step of declaring his support for the bill with final legislative votes still pending, and on Friday he followed through by signing Senate Bill 4, by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills.

In a signing message, Brown said he would seek additional "clarifying amendments" to the legislation and would direct the California Department of Conservation "to develop an efficient permitting program for well stimulation activities that groups permits together based on factors such as known geologic conditions and environmental impacts, while providing for more particularized review in other situations when necessary."

Fracking, the shorthand name for hydraulic fracturing, extricates energy locked in underground formations with a pressurized blast of sand, chemicals and water.

In addition to mandating permits for new fracking wells, the bill strengthens groundwater monitoring while requiring energy companies to notify neighboring communities when they plan to frack and to release more information about the chemicals they use. Energy companies fought Pavley's attempt to win more disclosure, saying the recipe for the particular mix of fracking chemicals they use qualify as trade secrets worthy of protection.

Several Democratic lawmakers authored bills this session to regulate fracking. But while the governor's signature would appear to mark a major victory for environmental groups, prominent California environmental advocates -- a list of groups that includes the Natural Resources Defense Council and the California League of Conservation Voters -- abandoned the bill as it headed toward a final vote in mid-September.

Late amendments weakened the bill unacceptably, environmentalists said, diluting language intended to ensure new wells go through adequate environmental review. While oil industry representatives had said the regulation is unnecessarily burdensome, environmentalists said it would give oil companies nearly unfettered freedom to drill.

Brown has a tenuous relationship with environmentalists, which his signature on the fracking bill is only likely to strain further.

PHOTO: Fracking wells run day and night off Jack and Shafter Roads in Shafter, California on June 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

September 20, 2013
UPDATE: Sacramento County Democratic official resigns over tweet

SocialMediaTeens.jpgUPDATE 3:58 p.m.

A Sacramento County Democratic Party official has resigned over an offensive tweet that involved a fellow Twitter user's children.

Tempers flared Friday as House Republicans voted to defund President Barack Obama's signature health care law, which led to some questionable Twitter decisions.

Amanda Carpenter, a speechwriter for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted to urge Republicans on. Then Allan Brauer, communications chair for the Democratic Party of Sacramento County, lashed out with a response involving Carpenter's kids.

That didn't sit too well with Twitter users, who raised a chorus of condemnations. The exchange made it to the website of the National Review and to the Drudge Report, both prominent conservative outlets.

"Publicly wishing death on a mother's children for her political views is an utterly unacceptable tone in partisan discourse," Sue Blake, chair of the Sacramento County Republican Party, wrote in an email to The Bee. "I ask that my counterparts in the Sacramento Democrat Party repudiate this type of rhetoric and immediately separate themselves from these kinds of partisan attacks on women.

Brauer ultimately apologized, writing to Carpenter that "I am truly sorry for my tweet" and "Your kids are not fair game." Carpenter accepted his apology.

But it did not end there. In an email, Democratic Party of Sacramento County chair Kerri Asbury said the party had sought and accepted Bauer's resignation.

"The comments by our volunteer communications chair are appalling and inexcusable," Asbury wrote. "No matter what our political disagreements may be, wishing harm is never an acceptable response during heated public debate or any other time."

Here is the original exchange:

PHOTO: A view of an iPhone in Washington on May 21, 2013, shows Twitter and Facebook apps, among others. The Associated Press/Evan Vucci.

September 20, 2013
AM Alert: How have political changes affected California?

RB_Capitol_Dome.JPGRedistricting, term limits, top-two primaries: These are among the reforms California has enacted over the last few years to make its political system less partisan and more accountable. Today, some prominent experts will look at how those changes have affected the state's political dynamics and will consider what comes next.

Speaking at the event will be former lawmaker Sam Blakeslee, founding director of Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy; John Cox, chairman of the Rescue California Educational Foundation; Phillip Ung, of California Common Cause; and Christopher Weare of the University of Southern California's public policy school.

Former Fair Political Practices Commission chair Dan Schnur will be moderating, so we're going to go ahead and say a ban on fundraising while the Legislature in session may be a discussion topic. At Mulvaney's from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

VIDEO: Another session finished, another missed opportunity to address California's pension issues, Dan Walters says.

2014 WATCH: In case you needed verification that former Republican congressman Doug Ose is gunning for the 7th Congressional District seat currently held by freshman Democratic Rep Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Ose is holding a $250-minimum barbecue fundraiser in Wilton this Sunday.

CELEBRATIONS: We have a few this weekend. Today, Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, turns 48 (naturally, he's throwing a Brian Dahle for Assembly 2014 birthday bash fundraiser).

On Sunday we have two: Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, celebrates his 42nd and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, rings in his 63rd year.

September 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Teacher pension plans may punish California

Once again, Dan says, the Legislature adjourned without tackling the huge deficit in California's teacher retirement system.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 19, 2013
FPPC approves new rules for political bloggers

MaviglioFPPC.jpgBloggers and others who are paid to post political messages online are subject to new disclosure rules under regulations the Fair Political Practices Commission approved Thursday.

Campaign committees will now have to report who they pay to post "favorable or unfavorable" content on blogs, social media or online videos on their campaign finance statements, and report the name of the website where the content appears.

"The purpose overall is to let the public know that they can go compare what the campaign is paying for to what is showing up online," said FPPC attorney Heather Rowan.

"I think that's going to help people see through a lot of these names and/or alert them that there's maybe something they should look at, or take with a grain of salt," she said.

Another FPPC lawyer, Zackery Morazzini, said the new reports would help the public discern between genuine opinions and campaign material.

"What the commission's concern is, is people thinking they're reading a neutral posting when in fact it's the furthest thing from it -- the individual is getting paid to sway a voter one way or another," Morazzini said.

Democratic campaign consultant Steven Maviglio, who writes for the California Majority Report blog and has been working with the FPPC on the regulations for more than a year, said he was unhappy with the final product.

"The goal has always been righteous. Implementation is going to be an avalanche of paperwork that is unenforceable," he said.

"Technology is going to leave this regulation behind before the next election season begins."

GOP consultant Rob Stutzman saw it the same way.

"If that's distasteful to people that a blogger is paid to opine in a certain way, this regulation is not going to stop that," he said. "It just creates this ridiculous regulatory road block for basic communication like tweeting."

PHOTO: Steve Maviglio, a political consultant and co-publisher of a Democratic blog, speaks at the Fair Political Practices Commission meeting on Sept. 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 19, 2013
Ex-Speaker Fabian Nunez proposes to girlfriend of six months

nunez.jpgWhile vacationing in London, former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez proposed Thursday to Gabriela Dias, the Brazilian-born bathing suit model he's been dating since March.

Núñez's former spokesman Steve Maviglio said the engaged couple have not yet set a wedding date. Núñez and his wife, Maria Robles, filed for divorce last year, Maviglio said.

Núñez, a Democrat from Los Angeles, was elected three times to the State Assembly before leaving office in late 2008. That year, Núñez's family life was upended after his son, Esteban Núñez, was accused and later convicted in the stabbing death of a San Diego student. In a controversial move, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger shortened the sentence of his political ally's son in 2011.

Núñez is now a partner with the lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs.

PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Gabriela Dias. Courtesy of Steve Maviglio.

September 19, 2013
FPPC approves $40,500 fine for California Strategies firm

hickox.jpgThe California Strategies public affairs firm and three of its partners will pay a combined $40,500 fine for breaking the state's political ethics laws under a settlement the Fair Political Practices Commission approved today.

The commission voted 4-0 to approve the agreement made public last week that requires Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox to pay the fine, register as lobbyists and disclose their clients. In the agreement, the three well-connected Democrats admit they lobbied the Legislature and the Air Resources Board without disclosing themselves as lobbyists and filing disclosure documents, as state law requires.

"This is the first time that the commission has ever dealt with an issue like this, of shadow lobbying," said FPPC chair Ann Ravel.

"It's something that is very significant, and is part of our emphasis now on looking at more significant matters that impact the public trust. This is exactly that kind of a case."

The commission voted to approve the settlement over objections from environmental activists who said it doesn't go far enough in requiring California Strategies to disclose all its clients.

"We are particularly concerned that the failure by Mr. Hickox and California Strategies to disclose apparent lobbying on behalf of the Boeing company is not addressed in the decision," said Daniel Palay of Consumer Watchdog.

He alleged that Hickox, a former secretary of the state Environmental Protection Agency, used his influence at the agency to help Boeing get out of cleaning up a toxic site near Los Angeles called Santa Susana.

California Strategies declined to respond to the allegation or answer The Bee's question about whether the firm represents Boeing.

Boeing is not listed as a California Strategies lobbying client but the aviation company could hire the firm without publicly disclosing it for consulting work that does not meet the legal definition of lobbying.

Lobbying is defined by California's Political Reform Act, which says lobbyists must register with the secretary of state if they spend more than a third of their time or are paid at least $2,000 a month to influence state government decisions on behalf of a client. Once registered, lobbyists must disclose who's paying them to lobby - and how much.

Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement, said he had reviewed California Strategies' work for Boeing as part of his review of the firm.

"In our estimation, from what we were able to determine, there was not lobbying happening on that specific issue," Winuk said.

The FPPC's settlement with California Strategies requires Kinney to register as a lobbyist for real estate developer Focil-MB, which is managed by the Mission Bay Development Group in San Francisco; Areias to register as a lobbyist for Kaiser Ventures, a mining company trying to sell its land at Eagle Mountain in Riverside County; and Hickox to register as a lobbyist for investment company CE2 Carbon Capital.

PHOTO: Winston H. Hickox, former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, is a principal with the consulting firm California Strategies.

September 19, 2013
Jerry Brown: From Plymouth to Pontiac to Schwarzenegger-era SUV

brownsuburban.jpgGov. Jerry Brown made his mode of transportation a point of interest when, as governor before, he sold his predecessor's limousine and rode around Sacramento in a blue Plymouth sedan.

When he returned to office in 2011, his car of choice was a 2008 Pontiac G8.

In recent months, however, the Democratic governor has appeared less and less frequently in the Pontiac and more often in a more traditional choice, a 2008 black Chevrolet Suburban.

Before climbing into the SUV after an event in Oakland on Monday, Brown lamented the amount of work his old G8 required, saying, "There's a reason why Pontiac went out of business."

Brown's office confirmed today that the Pontiac has been retired. It had racked up more than 100,000 miles and "was at the end of its serviceable life," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said.

"There were a number of persistent service issues with the vehicle, and it got to a point where it was necessary to no longer use it," he said.

Westrup said the Suburban was purchased in 2008 and used as part of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's detail.

brownredcar.jpgWestrup said it is only being used "as a temporary vehicle while a permanent replacement for the Pontiac is considered."

Brown suggested Monday he has an idea what he might like. Among a handful of electric vehicles at an event in San Francisco that day was a red Smart car.

Brown admired the convertible and said, "This looks like a good gubernatorial limousine."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in front of his state-issued SUV in Oakland on Sept. 16, 2013 (top), after looking at electric cars at an event in San Francisco earlier in the day. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 19, 2013
AM Alert: FPPC votes on high-profile cases

ravel.jpgIt's judgment day at the California Fair Political Practices Commission for a few high-profile political operatives who have admitted to unkosher practices.

We brought you news already of the cases against a trio of prominent employees of California Strategies (Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox) and against Chris Hansen, the Seattle financier and would-be part owner of the Kings whose clandestine money machinations handed Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg an easy villain in the push to hasten the Kings arena building process. On top of those comes a late filing fee assessed on lobbyist Barry Broad.

FPPC staff have already negotiated the terms of settlements with the parties involved, but today those decisions come to a vote. Stay tuned to see how things shake out: Capitol Alert will have someone on the scene.

VIDEO: After months of trying to finagle favors from lawmakers, Dan Walters says, the Sacramento lobbying universe now turns its powers of persuasion on Gov. Jerry Brown.

ABORTION ACCESS: In the growing mound of bills on the governor's desk sits Assembly Bill 154, a measure that would allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to conduct certain types of early abortions. Abortion advocates will meet on the Capitol's west steps at 11 a.m. to deliver Brown a petition urging him to sign the legislation.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: Less than two weeks remains in the countdown until open enrollment in Covered California, the state's federally inspired health insurance marketplace. Board members will provide updates on how things are proceeding today, including progress on creating the website that will serve as the portal for uninsured Californians seeking coverage. From 10 a.m. at the East End Complex Auditorium.

WATER WAYS: The Bay Delta Conservation Plan public charm offensive continues with a panel talk in San Francisco tonight. Elucidating the plan's ins and outs will be California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council, Karla Nemeth of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and David Sunding of the UC Berkeley Water Center. From 6 p.m. at the PG&E conference center.

STUDENT AID: Implementation of the California Dream Act for undocumented students and of the middle-class scholarship, a coveted project of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, are among agenda items for a meeting of the California Student Aid Commission today. From 1 p.m. at 11040 White Rock Road in Rancho Cordova.

PHOTO: FPPC Chair Ann Ravel is pictured on Dec. 5, 2012, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer.

September 19, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Gauging Gov. Jerry Brown's bill decisions

With the fate of many bills now in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown, Dan says the governor will discover friends and allies he didn't realize he had.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 18, 2013
Tobacco giant, drug companies give money to Jerry Brown

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgTobacco giant Philip Morris USA has pumped another $27,000 into Gov. Jerry Brown's re-election campaign, according to a campaign finance statement Brown filed with the state Wednesday.

The contribution is in addition to $26,000 the company gave Brown last year.

The Democratic governor has not yet said whether he will seek re-election next year, but he has raised more than $10 million for the effort and is widely expected to run.

Brown is currently in the process of deciding whether to sign or veto hundreds of bills sent to him before the Legislature adjourned last week for the year.

Among donors opening their wallets after the close of session was Genentech Inc., one of a number of drug companies supporting a controversial bill on "biosimilars." Senate Bill 598, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would establish conditions under which pharmacists may distribute the new type of drugs once they are approved by the federal government.

Genentech gave Brown $15,000 on the final day of the legislative session.

A few days later, on Tuesday, a drug company that opposes the bill, Boehringer Ingelheim USA, donated $5,000 to the governor's campaign.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual host breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

September 18, 2013
California school aid change already enmeshed in controversy

lunch.jpgA brand-new overhaul of how state aid is distributed to California schools - focusing more money on districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students - is already generating controversy.

Big school districts that would be in line for much of the extra money are chafing at new requirements from the state Department of Education on counting eligible students. The law says that children who qualify for free or reduced meals are considered to be poor for purposes of calculating the extra money.

"Never has school lunch meant so much for California education," writer Jane Meredith Adams comments in her article on the dustup on the EdSource website devoted to California public education.

Adams says officials in Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified, which stand to benefit greatly from Gov. Jerry Brown's new distribution system, are angry "over a last-minute change in how children who receive free means are counted."

More than half of LA Unified's 650,000 students would be considered poor by qualifying for reduced price meals under federal guidelines. But the Department of Education now wants school systems to re-certify that eligibility.

Local and state education officials have been squabbling over the new requirement for several weeks with John Deasy, LA Unified's superintendent, beating the drums of protest the loudest.

"People will become unglued" if the new requirement makes a significant difference in the money flow, Adams quotes Deasy.

State officials say that recertification is necessary to avoid double- or even triple- counting of students as poor, English-learner or foster children, a third category of qualification for the extra aid.

PHOTO: Fourth-grader Isidro Vasquez, 10, eats a breakfast provided by the school district at Woodbine Elementary School in south Sacramento on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

September 18, 2013
Jerry Brown promises brown-bag lunch in UC fundraising effort

Brown_Enterprise_Zones_California.jpgUniversity of California regents spent much of Wednesday morning cheering a new fundraising initiative to encourage faculty, students and other people to raise money through their social networks for students who demonstrate financial need.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who sits on the UC board and is attending its meeting in San Francisco, pledged to raise $10,000.

If successful, the Democratic governor promises to "host a 'brown bag' lunch at my office in Sacramento with a student from each UC campus."

As of Wednesday morning, Brown had received four donations totaling $131.

The program, Promise for Education, is new, but Brown's showing so far compares favorably to at least one other notable donors. Mike Love of the Beach Boys has raised nothing despite his promise "to bring one fan up on stage to sing 'Barbara Ann' with me at a concert of their choice."

Jamie Foxx, who promises to "rap a song like Bill Clinton, President Obama and Monique from the movie 'Precious,' " had raised $10,000, half of his $20,000 goal.

The program is intended to fund need-based grants and scholarships for undergraduate students from California.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, center, visits San Diego biotech firm Takeda, where he signed legislation overhauling California's economic development program on July 11, 2013. U-T San Diego/ Carolyne Corelis

September 18, 2013
Holly Mitchell slides to Senate, 45th Assembly district moves to runoff


As expected, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, cruised to victory in a special election to fill a Senate seat former senator Curren Price vacated when he moved to the Los Angeles city council.

Mitchell collected a resounding 80 percent of the vote, crushing fellow Democrat Mervin Evans. Her move to the state Senate could rekindle speculation of her becoming the next Senate president pro tem after current President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, terms out next year.

Returns from the 45th Assembly District reflected a far more crowded field. In the race to replace former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who like Price traded a spot in the state Legislature for a seat on the L.A. city council, Democrat Matt Dababneh and Republican Susan Shelley emerged as the top two vote-getters in a field of 11.

Both secured about a quarter of the vote. Dababneh, an aide to Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, bested several other Democrats. Shelley, a constitutional scholar, easily eclipsed fellow Republican Chris Kolski.

Assuming those results hold, the two will face off in a November 19 general election.

Democrats now hold 52 seats in the Assembly: two short of what they need for a supermajority. They could regain one in a week, when Republican-turned-independent Ontario mayor Paul Leon and Democrat Freddie Rodriguez vie for a 52nd Assembly District seat Norma Torres left to seek a state Senate post.

If Rodriguez prevails and Dababneh defeats Shelley in the San Fernando Valley runoff, Democrats will regain their two-thirds margin in the lower house when lawmakers reconvene in January. With Mitchell's win, Democrats hold 28 of 40 seats in the Senate, one more than a supermajority.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, talks during a Legislative informational hearing on gun laws at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 18, 2013
AM Alert: California's cities come to Sacramento


The state Legislature's work has paused until January, but California's cities keep churning away. Today, representatives from municipalities across the state will begin arriving in Sacramento for a three-day meeting of the League of California Cities.

Attendees will hear from artist and motivational speaker Erik Wahl and Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka and attend talks covering hot government topics, from the California Environmental Quality Act to federal health care reform to municipal bankruptcy.

VIDEO: Think legislative recess in an odd-numbered year means a pause in politicking? Not so fast, Dan Walters says.

PARSING PARKS: It has not been a good year for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, with a recent unflattering audit compounding the fallout from the revelations of a secret cash stash. Today comes the cleanup effort: the Parks Forward Commission, announced back in June, holds its first meeting today at the Grand Capitol Ballrooms, starting at 9:30 a.m.

PARCELING OUT POLICY: Should the Legislature make it easier to lower the current 2/3 vote threshhold for school districts to raise parcel taxes? The on-hold supermajority, assuming Dems reclaim it, could enact the change via a constitutional amendment; today Margaret Weston of the Public Policy Institute of California will examine the potential implications during a lunchtime talk. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at the CSAC Conference Center.

PLANE POLLUTION: This week has already featured ample talk of emissions-lowering alternatives, including an announcement by Gov. Jerry Brown that he would sign some bills to that end. Today Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, shifts the conversation to cleaning up aviation fuel with a Select Committee On Air Quality hearing. Expected attendees at the hearing, to be held at the Westchester Municipal Building in Los Angeles, include Phil Fine of the South Coast Air Quality Management District; John Froines of UCLA; Susan Cline, Santa Monica's assistant director for public works; and Martin Rubin of Citizens Against Airport Pollution. Starting at 1:30 p.m.

BIOFUELS: Speaking of new fuel technology, the California Bioresources Alliance Symposium will be in town for the next couple of days. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, is expected to talk legislation with participants and Carla Peterman, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, will deliver the keynote. At the CalEPA building on I street.

PHOTO: Executive director of the League of California Cities, Chris McKenzie, discusses the scandal in the city of Bell alongside Ken Pulskamp, then president of the League's City Managers' department, on July 28, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz.

September 18, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: In California, campaigns never cease

Despite a legislative recess in a non-election year, Dan finds plenty of political action -- including some of the "heavy-duty" variety.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 17, 2013
Ravel's FEC nomination heads to floor of U.S. Senate


Ann Ravel, chair of the state's ethics watchdog, today received unanimous approval from a U.S. Senate panel in her quest to join the Federal Election Commission.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee's action on two of President Obama's nominees clears the way for vote of the full Senate.

"It's nice that it was unanimous, that there weren't any issues today," Ravel told The Bee. "But who knows what's going to happen once it gets to the floor, especially given all of the other issues swirling around."

Ravel's nomination was supported by several California Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Mike Honda. Support also came from former FPPC Commissioner Ronald Rotunda, a law professor at Chapman University.

Rotunda was among Ravel's harshest public critics upon her nomination to the FPPC.

"I have read criticisms that the FEC staff sometimes exceeds its powers under the law when they initiate investigations without FEC approval," Rotunda wrote in a letter to Rep. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and chairman of the rules committee. "If that criticism is true, I am confident that Ann will treat the staff with the utmost respect while not supporting unsanctioned investigations."

As chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Ravel waged a tough legal battle to uncover the source of an $11 million donation from a mysterious Arizona group. She later backed a stack of unsuccessful bills to curb the practice after the entity in question donated money to a committee opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure and supporting an initiative targeting labor unions.

Ravel worked as a U.S. Justice Department official in Washington when Brown appointed her chair three years ago. The six-member Federal Election Commission administers and enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Ann Ravel, chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission, in her office in December 2012. The Sacramento Bee / Renée C. Byer

September 17, 2013
Better pay for home care workers under U.S. labor rule, CA bill

t.perez.JPGThe U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday that federal minimum wage and overtime requirements will be extended to home health aides, certified nursing assistants and other workers who provide home care to the elderly, injured and disabled.

California currently requires employers, including individuals and families who privately pay for the services, to pay minimum wage, but not overtime. The federal rule change would require overtime at time and a half for those workers who log more than 40 hours a week beginning in 2015.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said Tuesday's announcement will ensure home care workers are paid a fair wage and "no longer treated like teenage baby-sitters."

Of the nearly 2 million people employed as home health care workers, approximately 90 percent are women and 40 percent rely on some type of public assistance.

"It's really a simple matter of fairness," said Henry Claypool, executive vice president of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

The federal mandate comes on the heels of a California bill calling for some domestic workers - in-home nannies and caregivers - to receive overtime pay for working more than nine hours a day or 45 hours in a week.

Assembly Bill 241 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, passed the Legislature last week and is awaiting consideration by Gov. Jerry Brown. While there is overlap between the two, Ammiano's office said they are still urging Brown to sign their bill because there are some differences in who and when a person is eligible for overtime.

If signed, Ammiano's bill would be on the books in January and provide overtime protections beyond nine hours a day, instead of the weekly threshold under the federal rule. Ammiano's bill includes in home child care workers, whereas the federal law does not.

PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in a 2013 file photo. Associated Press/Molly Riley.

September 17, 2013
Linda Ronstadt recalls Jerry Brown who lived with discipline, repurposed flowers

brownronstadt.jpgLinda Ronstadt says in her new memoir, "Simple Dreams," that she and Gov. Jerry Brown "had a lot of fun for a number of years," but that they never thought they would spend their lives together.

Ronstadt, whose memoir was released today by Simon & Schuster, dated Brown when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. He is mentioned a handful of times in the book, including in a dinner scene that will ring true for anyone familiar with his scheduling habits and frugality today.

Ronstadt writes she was preparing to leave for a dinner with Rosemary Clooney when Brown stopped by unexpectedly, "said he was hungry and wanted to go too." As they were about to leave, he noticed a box of roses someone had sent Ronstadt.

"Probably feeling a little sheepish about inviting himself to dinner, and being a person who is notoriously tight with a dollar, he picked them up and said, 'We can take these to Rosemary,'" she writes.

When she protested, "He shot me a mischievous grin. 'If I take the card out, they'll be hers.'"

Ronstadt says Brown was different from many men she knew in rock and roll.

"Jerry Brown and I had a lot of fun for a number of years," she writes. "He was smart and funny, not interested in drinking or drugs, and lived his life carefully, with a great deal of discipline."

She says, "Neither of us ever suffered under the delusion that we would like to share each other's lives. I would have found his life too restrictive, and he would have found mine entirely chaotic."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and rock singer Linda Ronstadt arrive in Monrovia, Liberia on April 8, 1979. UPI/S.Black

September 17, 2013
Parcel tax vote change may not change much, PPIC concludes

school.jpgParcel taxes are applied evenly to property parcels regardless of value, unlike regular property taxes, and thus don't run afoul of Proposition 13's constitutional limit.

Some affluent school districts have gained voter approval for parcel taxes. However, they require two-thirds approval and there's been a movement in the Legislature to lower that threshold to either a simple majority or the 55 percent level required of school bonds, saying it would provide much-needed funds for schools.

Legislative leaders have postponed any consideration of a constitutional amendment on parcel taxes at least until next year because changing the vote margin would itself require a two-thirds legislative vote and then statewide voter approval.

Anti-tax groups are geared up for a battle on parcel taxes in the Legislature and, if necessary, at the ballot, while school employee unions and their allies would finance a campaign for change.

It may be much ado about nothing, a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California indicates.

PPIC's researchers studied parcel tax and school bond election results and concluded that even with a lower vote threshold, it's unlikely that many new taxes would be imposed in poor communities, where the need is greatest.

Parcel taxes have been approved in relatively small, affluent districts, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area but tend to be rejected by strong margins in poorer communities, whose residents are less willing to tax themselves.

"A lower vote threshold for parcel tax passage is unlikely to do much to bridge these basic inequalities," PPIC's study team said.

"It is hard to say that lowering the vote threshold for parcel tax passage would expand their reach into new areas of the state or to more disadvantaged students," researcher Eric McGhee said. "This change would likely make it easier for more of the same kind of districts to pass parcel taxes and for districts that already have them to pass more."

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

September 17, 2013
Democrats target Denham, Valadao in robocalls

Thumbnail image for HA_denham.JPGDemocrats today are launching a flurry of robocalls charging two Republican San Joaquin Valley congressmen with contemplating shutting down the government and withholding financial support to implement the new federal health care law.

The automated calls targeting Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and David Valadao, R-Hanford, implore the recipients to ask their representatives to "stop the nonsense and focus on common sense solutions that protect our health care and grow our economy."

In a statement Tuesday, Valadao said he strongly opposed a government shutdown.

"The federal government has a responsibility to seniors who depend on Social Security and Medicare. Most importantly, we must fulfill commitments to those in the military and their families," he said.

"Congress should continue to debate the problems facing this country, including ObamaCare, with the intent on finding solutions and compromise, but we should not hold the most vulnerable, our military, and our economy hostage."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's paid effort continues through the end of the week and mirrors a nationwide attempt to target vulnerable incumbents. The calls come as top Democrats in Washington predict a protracted fight to avert a partial government shutdown come Oct. 1.

PHOTO: Then-state Sen. Jeff Denham attends a presentation of seven housing bills by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Merced on Monday, October 19, 2009, THe Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:40 to reflect Valadao's statement.

September 17, 2013
California seeks to turn public gaze to fake seeing-eye dogs

AOC_BODRuthComp_318w.JPGA public policy-related joke:

Two men approach a bar with their dogs and notice a "no pets allowed" sign outside. The first man, not wanting to find a new watering hole, gets an idea: he puts on some sunglasses, walks up with his golden retriever and explains it's his guide dog. They let him in.

His friend attempts the same thing with his pet chihuahua. The skeptical bouncer says, "your seeing-eye dog is a chihuahua?" To which the man replies:

"They gave me a CHIHUAHUA?"

Having trouble spotting the public policy angle? Well, as it turns out, seeing-eye dog fraud represents a real problem -- so much so that a division of the California Department of Consumer Affairs plans to launch a public information campaign to combat the issue of seeing-eye shysters.

"For guide dog users in particular they are impacted, because some people pose their pets as service animals and those dogs may end up impeding a dog going from point A to point B, or distracting or getting in the way of a guide dog that's working with their partner," said Antonette Sorrick, an executive officer at the State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Basically, dog owners want to bring their beloved pooches into normally prohibited areas -- "the benefit is you get to dress up Fifi in a vest that says service animal and you get to bring him to restaurants, hotels, airlines what have you," Sorrick explained.

The issue has become widespread enough that guide dog users have suffered detrimental effects, Sorrick said, including establishments treating helper dogs skeptically. The state board heard from a legitimate helper dog owner who had stayed at a hotel and was charged a pet fee.

"The hotel person said 'look, I'm sorry, but there's so many people who say their pets are service dogs,'" Sorrick said.

Misrepresenting a pet as a service dog is already a misdemeanor in California, but the State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind wants to add a public education campaign. The seven-member board decided on Monday to pursue the project and will begin exploring what comes next, from mulling some potential slogans to seeing if an actual policy change, perhaps enacted via the Legislature, would be necessary.

PHOTOS: Ruth Welland gets a treat and some water out for her guide dog, Sylvia, after classes at Sacramento City College. November 9, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz.

September 17, 2013
California unemployment checks delayed amid computer upgrade

unemployment.jpgThe state Employment Development Department said today that about 50,000 unemployed Californians have had their benefit checks delayed as the department struggles to implement a computer system upgrade.

An EDD spokeswoman, Loree Levy, said the department processed about 15,000 of those claims overnight and hopes to finish the rest by the end of the week. The delayed claims are from the first two weeks of September.

"We really are all hands on deck to get these folks taken care of," Levy said.

The department said on its website Monday that delays affected about 16 percent of bi-weekly claim forms received in the first two weeks of the month. It said there had been "some payment delays for a subset of our customers with more complexity associated with their claims."

The statement said employees are "working around the clock and through the weekends to try and get these payments issued for the customers eligible and waiting for benefits."

EDD said it has been working for months to upgrade its 30-year-old payment processing system. The department pays benefits to about 800,000 Californians, Levy said.

PHOTO: Sergio Fuentes, right, gets some help from a state worker at the state Employment Development Department in San Jose on Sept. 1, 2009. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

September 17, 2013
AM Alert: Special elections reshuffle California Legislature


For you political junkies and journalists ruing the fallow months between now and the Legislature's return in January, thank goodness for special elections.

Today we get a pair of primaries, part of the never-ending cascade of open seats begetting special elections begetting open seats -- in this case, both vacant posts stemming from Los Angeles City Council elections that saw two former state legislators swap jobs.

Over in the 26th Senate District, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, remains the odds-on favorite to replace former senator and now L.A. council member Curren Price -- so much so that Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, essentially bid Mitchell farewell during an end-of-session monologue late on Thursday night's session finale.

The race to replace former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield in the 45th Assembly District presents more of a puzzle. We have a packed Democratic field that includes: Matt Dababneh, an aide to Rep. Brad Sherman; longtime political staffer Damian Carroll, who worked most recently for L.A. Councilmember Paul Krekorian; Jeff Ebenstein, who works for L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz; and Glendale College professor of politics Andra Hoffman, who has Blumenfield's blessing and the backing of the California Federation of Teachers. On the Republican side are constitutional scholar Susan Shelley and engineer Chris Kolski.

VIDEO: California's uneven economic recovery could falter along for years, Dan Walters says.

REGENTS: The University of California Board of Regents kicks off a three-day meeting at UCSF Mission Bay today. No word on whether Gov. Jerry Brown will reprise his heavily-involved presence from earlier this year, when he alighted on regents meetings to push a new program of online learning.

SAN-BANKRUPT-DINO: San Bernardino's bankruptcy case gets examined today during a meeting of the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, which will take a look at where the proceedings stand. From 2 p.m. at 980 9th Street.

CELEBRATIONS: A few different lawmakers advance in age today. Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, turns 54; Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, celebrates his 52nd; and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, rings in her 51st year.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, listens during a Legislative informational hearing on gun laws at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 17, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California not done singing recession blues

Despite California's gradual economic recovery, Dan says, the results have varied widely across the state.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 16, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill giving prisoners convicted as juveniles shot at parole

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring special parole hearings for prisoners who were prosecuted as adults and sent to prison for crimes they committed as juveniles, his office announced late Monday.

Senate Bill 260, by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will make inmates imprisoned for crimes they committed before turning 18 eligible for parole during their 15th, 20th, or 25th year of incarceration, depending on the severity of their sentences.

The bill excludes certain sex offenders, people sentenced under the state's "three strikes" law and those sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The bill was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Prison Law Office and Human Rights Watch, among others. Supporters argued existing law fails to afford people given lengthy sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles a chance to demonstrate rehabilitation and maturity.

The bill was opposed by many law enforcement groups, who said the new hearing process could lead to the release of dangerous offenders. According to a legislative analysis, opponents objected specifically to a provision of the law requiring the state Board of Parole Hearings to give "great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the prisoner in accordance with relevant case law."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 16, 2013
Jerry Brown touts video games, his own 'creative hand'

brownvideo.jpgOAKLAND - The last time now-Gov. Jerry Brown made any news to speak of about video games was in 2009 when, as state attorney general, he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a state law seeking to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.

"California's children are exposed every day to video games that glamorize killing sprees, torture and sexual assault," Brown said in a statement at the time. "In the face of this brutal and extreme violence, I am petitioning the Supreme Court to allow the state to enforce its reasonable ban on the sale or rental of violent video game sales to children."

The Supreme Court sided with an industry group in 2011, finding the restrictions California hoped to impose violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The law never took effect, and the state paid more than $1 million in opposing attorney fees.

This afternoon, the Democratic governor attended a news conference at which the California Endowment and the Entertainment Software Association, an industry group, announced a video game design program for underserved youth in Oakland and Sacramento.

The games being developed, presumably, are not the kind Brown was seeking to ban. But organizers noted that ESA's financial contribution to the project - $150,000 of the $450,000 total, according to the California Endowment - would come from attorney fees paid by the state in its failed defense of the video game law.

"I think that shows the creative hand that I bring to the governmental process," Brown said at the event at Oakland School for the Arts, one of two charter schools Brown started when he was mayor of Oakland. "They won, they got lots of money. Let's pour it into our schools and kids, and particularly kids of color and kids that are low income."

In his remarks, Brown touted the value of technology in education, generally, and the $100,000-a-year salaries he said he hears the video game industry pays.

"Secondly," he said, "the combination of art, of gaming, of skill, technology, of aesthetic - that comes together truly as the aesthetic experience."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in Oakland on Sept. 16, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 16, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown says time for sides to 'get real' on BART talks

brownelectriccars.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - Gov. Jerry Brown said today he was prepared to introduce legislation to avert a potential Bay Area Rapid Transit District strike, before determining the Legislature would not pass such a bill.

"I was prepared to introduce a bill to stop the strike," Brown told reporters after an event here. "But that, after discussions with various leaders, that was not thought as something we could pass."

Brown's office declined to elaborate on the governor's remarks, which came after Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, asked Brown to call the Legislature into an emergency session to prevent a strike in October. Huff has proposed legislation that would take away BART employees' right to strike.

"Governor, BART is only one of two major metropolitan mass transit systems in the nation that are allowed to strike," Huff said in a letter to Brown on Friday. "That ability, when acted upon by the unionized employees, will place a severe strain on the citizens who daily rely on BART to get to their classroom to teach, to arrive safely at their schools, to make it quickly to their place of business, and for tourists of the world to enjoy the splendor that is the Bay Area."

Following a BART worker strike in early July, Brown stepped in last month to avert a second strike, helping secure a 60-day cooling off period.

With the prospect of strike next month looming, the Democratic governor said today, "I think the folks at BART and the union better sit down, because it could be ... a real problem."

He was dismissive of Huff's call for an emergency session, however.

"The matter was discussed and rejected," he said. "Neither the management nor the union have shown any appetite for binding arbitration. I do not want to see a strike. I urge the parties to get real."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in San Francisco on Sept. 16, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 16, 2013
Legislative fight: Diane Harkey files lawsuit against Mark Wyland


Assemblywoman Diane Harkey has filed a $5 million defamation lawsuit against Sen. Mark Wyland, alleging her fellow Republican verbally attacked and bullied her to gain an advantage in their California Board of Equalization race.

Harkey, R-Dana Point, claims Wyland's comments to a tea party group in San Diego County painted her in a false light and caused emotional distress.

In his comments, the Escondido Republican referenced a separate lawsuit brought against Harkey's husband, Dan, and Aliso Viejo-based Point Center Financial by a group of real estate investors claiming they were defrauded out of tens of millions of dollars.

A jury in July found Dan Harkey and the company liable for $9 million to investors and added to the award roughly $1 million in punitive damages. Other claims remain unresolved.

"The speech clearly exposes (Diane) Harkey to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because of the very nature of the public office for which she is seeking as a member" of the tax board, Harkey states in the lawsuit filed Aug. 26 in Orange County Superior Court.

September 16, 2013
Jerry Brown will sign bills extending fees, incentives to reduce emissions

browncars.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he will sign legislation extending a fee on vehicle registrations and tire sales in California to pay for programs designed to reduce emissions and promote alternative fuels.

Assembly Bill 8, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will extend until 2024 a $3 increase in vehicle registration fees scheduled to expire in 2016.

Brown also said he will sign legislation providing money to the California Air Resources Board for programs to encourage the use of zero-emission and hybrid vehicles. Senate Bill 359, by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, includes $20 million for rebates to Californians who purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or battery or fuel cell electric vehicle.

"I can remember 35 years ago when solar energy was associated with, I don't know, bean sprouts and whatever else alternative people were doing in those days," Brown said at an event in San Francisco to promote electric vehicles. "Well, this is not alternative anymore."

Brown has made climate change a focus of his administration but has tangled frequently with environmentalists.

September 16, 2013
LIVE CHAT: Calif. immigration issues, state bills, federal debate

Join The Bee's Jeremy White for a live discussion of legislative issues, including immigration, beginning at 11:30 a.m.


September 16, 2013
AM Alert: Gov. Jerry Brown boosts video game program

20130909_HA_PRISONS0252.JPGYes, you read the headline right. With a pile of bills on his desk, courtesy of lawmakers who have departed Sacramento for the duration of 2013, the oldest governor in the nation will be in Oakland to help launch a video game design program.

And not just any video game program: This one, dubbed "Project A-Game," aims to help underserved youth. The project is funded by the Entertainment Software Association and the California Endowment, with the ESA's largess coming after the company successfully sued California over restrictions on video games. Gov. Jerry Brown will be speaking at the launch event this afternoon at the Oakland School for the Arts.

As long as we're on the topic of gubernatorial duties: Brown has until Oct. 13 to act on the bills lawmakers have sent him. As of Friday afternoon, that left the governor with 182 bills awaiting his verdict, with plenty more to come. So far he has vetoed only five.

VIDEO: No session would be complete without some last-minute drama, and Dan runs down the late-night furor over a Kings arena cleanup bill.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: You may recall the news a few months back that a customer-help call center for Covered California, the state's soon-to-be-launched health insurance marketplace, would be located in Rancho Cordova. Today Dana Howard, deputy director of Covered California, and a service center employee will walk reporters through the most common questions they receive from customers curious about the new insurance exchange. Starting at 4 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who turns 42 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown announces Sept. 9, 2013, that his office has come to an agreement with California's four legislative leaders on a prison housing plan. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 16, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Steinberg overreaches on CEQA

In the last hours of the 2013 legislative session, Dan says, we saw a rare misstep by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 13, 2013
Jerry Brown says federal inaction changed his mind on license bill

brownsf.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - Gov. Jerry Brown, who spoke against providing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants during his run for governor in 2010, said today that he supports the idea now because of "foot-dragging" in Congress on an immigration overhaul.

"The foot-dragging on the part of Congress and not creating immigration reform," the Democratic governor said when asked at an event in San Francisco what changed his mind. "I said at the time the answer is immigration reform, and that's true, but because Congress has been so slow, I think they need a good push, and that's what I think this driver's license bill does. It says California recognizes these human beings are very important to our communities, to our economy and hopefully the people in Washington will get the message."

Brown did call for immigration changes during the 2010 campaign, when he called driver's license legislation a "little piecemeal" solution that "sends the wrong signal."

In recent weeks, Brown negotiated amendments to a driver's license bill authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, and he signaled Thursday he will sign it.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at an event in San Francisco on Sept. 13, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 13, 2013
Vitter floats ethics complaint against water-bill partner Boxer

vitter.jpgOnly months ago, Sen. Barbara Boxer and her Republican colleague, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, sang each other's praises on the Senate floor as lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the water-infrastructure legislation they crafted together.

It's all water under the bridge now.

On Friday, Vitter fired off a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics asking the panel to investigate Boxer and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada over what Vitter describes as an "intimidation and payoff scheme."

Vitter accused Reid and Boxer of attempting to punish him for insisting that the Senate vote on an amendment related to the federal health care overhaul. Vitter this week blocked the Senate from moving forward on a bipartisan energy bill, irritating Reid and other Democratic leaders.

The newspaper Politico reported this week that Senate Democrats were drafting a countermeasure aimed at Vitter and the Republicans who support his amendment.

Vitter's amendment aims to end health-insurance subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs when the president's health-care law takes effect in January.

According to the Politico report, the draft language of the Democrats' amendment threatened instead to end the health-care payments for the senators and staffs of senators who voted for Vitter's amendment - and to any lawmaker or aide who was determined by the ethics panel to have "engaged in the solicitation of prostitution."

In 2007, Vitter's name surfaced in the "D.C. Madam" prostitution scandal. Vitter apologized then what he described a "very serious sin." The ethics committee declined to investigate Vitter, and he won re-election in 2010.

Citing the Politico report in his letter Friday, Vitter asked the ethics committee to investigate whether Reid and Boxer were engaged in "political scare tactics, personal attacks, and threats that would affect each Senator's personal finances (i.e. bribery)."

Vitter made another request: that Boxer, who happens to chair the ethics committee, recuse herself unless she could prove that neither she nor her staff participated.

And if the committee found that Boxer had been involved, he wrote, "the minimum consequence for such behavior should be her removal from the committee."

Through a spokesman Friday, Boxer had this to say:

"Senator Vitter has manufactured a bizarre and phony attack that demeans the Senate."

PHOTO: In an April 15, 2008 file photo Sen. David Vitter, R-La., asks a question of a witness during a subcommittee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Associated Press/ Susan Walsh.

September 13, 2013
Pérez says California water issues on next year's agenda

perezfile.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez appeared tired, but relaxed inside his office Friday as he outlined highlights of the legislative session and talked about his priorities for next year.

Nearly 10 hours after the Legislature wrapped up its final session of the year, Pérez said bills to increase the minimum wage and expand healthcare to more than a million Californians will better position the state economically and improve the lives of the working poor.

"There is always stuff you wish you could have accomplished," Pérez said.

The Legislature will reconvene in January, during which time Pérez said issues surrounding water infrastructure and water quality need to be addressed. Pérez held up a bottle of brown water collected from a home in Maywood, a city in southeast Los Angeles County, to illustrate his point.

"There are so many people in the state that deal with substandard water," he said. "It comes out yellow, green or brown. It smells awful."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, in a 2013 file photo. The Sacramento Bee / Hector Amezcua

September 13, 2013
California Chamber kills all but one bill on its 'job-killer' list

JV_MATSUDA_073.JPGScore another win for the California Chamber of Commerce's annual "job-killer" campaign.

At one time or another, the chamber had listed more than three dozen bills in the 2013 legislative session that it said would discourage job-creating investment.

When the session ended Thursday night, just one had reached Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

The Legislature sent the governor Assembly Bill 10, a two-step increase of $2 per hour for the state's minimum wage after he said he would sign it.

All other bills on the chamber hit list had either been held in committee, defeated in floor votes or amended to remove the business organization's opposition.

By sidetracking all but one of the bills on the list, the chamber's lobbyists actually improved their track record. Typically a handful of targeted bills won legislative approval, but most would be vetoed.

PHOTO: A foreman at Matsuda's Nursery in Sacramento makes his rounds on May 24, 2011. After the nursery was forced to fire about 61 workers without papers, it had a difficult time filling the positions, with many finding the work too difficult for the minimum wage pay. The Sacramento Bee/José Luis Villegas

September 13, 2013
AM Alert: Legislators pack it in; Jerry Brown signs climate deal

China_California_Governor_Jerry_Brown.jpgWith lawmakers' work done, it's now time to figure out exactly what they did during the legislative session's final hours.

As political junkies are also no doubt aware, Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays, starts at sundown. In the meantime, Capitol Alert will be sorting through all the trees that got killed before lawmakers packed up.

Dan Walters says that Willie Brown, gone from the Capitol for years, was there in spirit this week.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown will be signing a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese official, and he won't have to go to China to do it.

Brown will join Xie Zhenhua, the vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission and that country's lead international climate negotiator, to ink the document in the Bay Area this afternoon.

Brown signed several non-binding agreements with Chinese officials back in April during his trade mission to that country. He focused on climate change on that trip, as The Bee's David Siders reported in this post, telling an audience in polluted Beijing that dealing with climate problems wasn't optional.

This will be the first agreement on climate change, clean energy and low carbon agreement between the Chinese commission and what Brown's office calls "a subnational government" -- translation, not the feds. The ceremony starts at 4 p.m. at the Bay Area Council's office on Sacramento Street in San Francisco.

CELEBRATIONS: Birthday wishes go to Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, who turns 40 on Saturday.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, left, unveil the emblem for the California-China Office of Trade and Investment with Hu Wenjun, deputy director of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, right, during the official opening ceremony on April 12, 2013, in Shanghai, China. The Associated Press

September 13, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Willie Brown returns to the Capitol

Willie Brown has been gone from the Capitol for nearly 20 years, but Dan says the former speaker was here in spirit this week.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 12, 2013
Legislature rejects late night attempt to tweak Kings arena bill


In a final flare of end-of-session drama, Assembly Republicans led the defeat of a last-minute labor-inspired cleanup bill related to legislation passed earlier in the evening to hasten the building of a new arena in downtown Sacramento.

Assembly Bill 852 surfaced late on Thursday evening, after both houses had passed Sen. Darrell Steinberg's SB 743 to streamline the construction of a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. AB 852 was cast as a minor cleanup bill, making just a small change to the arena bill by further restricting which projects could be exempted from some environmental review.

It was requested by labor unions, Steinberg said, who feared that other businesses would get in on the streamlined environmental review procedures intended for the arena.

"The concern from labor was that Wal Mart and the big box stores could potentially take advantage of that part of (SB) 743 to get an exemption," he said.

The bill got out of the Senate with little debate but Republicans in the Assembly implored their colleagues to reject a measure they lambasted for being pushed through at the last minute.

"It seems disingenuous to bring this bill when we just voted on one," said Republican Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, adding that "no one likes to feel they've been deceived, and I'm telling you that's how I feel right now."

Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, was even more vehement in his denunciation, saying he had "never been as ashamed of this place as I am now."

The bill garnered only 26 "yes" votes in the 80-member house, falling far short of what it needed to pass. Afterward, the bill's author, Sacramento Democrat Roger Dickinson, said the cleanup bill didn't significantly alter main arena legislation, so its defeat was not a big deal.

"The core and the substance of what we did earlier tonight is undisturbed," Dickinson said.

Steinberg also said the defeat of the companion bill would have no impact on the construction of the Sacramento arena.

Bee reporter Laurel Rosenhall contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Connie Conway urged colleagues to vote down the bill. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 12, 2013
California Legislature sends undocumented immigrant driver's license bill to Gov. Jerry Brown

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In the waning hours of the 2013 legislative session, the California Assembly sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses.

The 55-19 vote moved California a signature away from putting into law a measure immigrant advocates have sought fruitlessly for years, with past attempts thwarted by legislative vote and gubernatorial veto.

"This is a moment, members," author Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, said in closing remarks on the Assembly floor as Latino lawmakers stood clustered together, "that years from now you're going to look back on."

In a statement released shortly after the vote, Brown signaled he would likely sign the bill.

"This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally," Brown said in the statement. "Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due."

Earlier Thursday, the state Senate resuscitated the left-for-dead bill and sent it back to the Assembly, marking an apparent reversal: Alejo had said on Wednesday evening he would defer a final vote until the 2014 session begins in January.

But amid a late push from proponents -- including members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus and Gil Cedillo, a Los Angeles City Council member and former state lawmaker who perennially carried bills to offer undocumented immigrants driver's licenses -- legislators pushed Assembly Bill 60 across the finish line.

By extending licenses to undocumented immigrants, Alejo said, California would open a legal umbrella for everyone on the road to prevent situations in which immigrants face arrest, heavy fines and car impoundment when they are pulled over.

"Just know this bill is going to have a positive impact on the lives of over two million immigrants in the state of California," Alejo said on Thursday evening.

Other supporters said the legislation emphasized bringing all drivers under a legal umbrella, helping to ensure all drivers receive proper training and obtain car insurance and to discourage hit-and-runs in which immigrants, fearful of the consequences of driving without a license, flee the scene.

"Common sense tells us that licensing those drivers who are already on the streets and highways makes sense," said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.

In discussing on Wednesday why he planned to hold the bill, Alejo referenced concerns among immigrant advocate about how the new cards would be distinct in appearance from drivers licenses available to citizens and legal permanent residents.

During floor debate on Thursday, Alejo said the licenses would carry "recognizable features on front and back" but maintained the new cards would remain the "most discreet" of any offered by states that have approved similar laws.

But for opponents of the bill, privacy protections embedded in the bill -- including language prohibiting employment and housing discrimination based on the new licenses -- represented a step too far.

"As an employer, if they produce this driver's license what am I supposed to do?" asked Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Luis Alejo.

September 12, 2013
Legislature approves bill to build new arena for Sacramento Kings

The fight to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings is now in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown, as the Legislature on Thursday night approved a bill to streamline development of a downtown arena for the pro basketball team.

The California Senate voted 32-5 in favor of Senate Bill 743, written by Sacramento Democrat Darrell Steinberg. The bill seeks to speed the judicial process for handling environmental lawsuits, limit the courts' ability to stop construction and change the way traffic impacts are measured in environmental reviews. It represents fewer changes to the California Environmental Quality Act than Steinberg originally hoped to achieve but would be sufficient, he said, to develop an arena that would keep the Kings in Sacramento.

"The NBA has said... if we don't meet this timeline, if we don't get this project started in 2014, we're at risk of losing it," Steinberg said. "The opponents are still out there."

Steinberg and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, showed team pride by wearing purple ties for the occasion.

Republican Sen. Tom Berryhill voted for the bill but voiced frustration that it was flawed because it favors one project above others.

"It seems like the only time we have CEQA reform is when we want a new stadium," he said, referencing past votes on arenas in San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco.

"Professional sports teams are not the only ones worried about CEQA laws delaying projects... Regular joes trying to expand their businesses in my district and in your districts throughout California would like to see their projects approved more quickly too."

Berryhill called on the Legislature to continue working on changing California's landmark environmental law, an effort that failed this year.

As the debate took place on the last night of the Legislative session, Sacramento Kings President Chris Granger and others from the team's ownership group gazed down on the Senate from the viewing gallery above. Steinberg acknowledged them as he spoke, along with the Sacramento-area Assembly members who came into the upper house to watch the vote.

PHOTO: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson clasps hands with California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in April following the announcement that the NBA would not allow the Kings to move to Seattle. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

September 12, 2013
Minimum-wage hike heading to Gov. Jerry Brown

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Lawmakers voted Thursday evening to send a measure boosting California's minimum wage to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has already promised his signature.

The governor buoyed the effort to raise California's minimum wage by announcing on Wednesday that he would support Assembly Bill 10. After a debate in which supporters frequently invoked a widening national gulf between rich and poor, the Assembly voted 51-25 to send Brown the bill.

Some lawmakers recounted growing up in households supported by parents making the legal minimum. Others sought to refute a common argument that minimum wage jobs largely go to young people just entering the workforce, speaking of constituents working multiple minimum-wage jobs.

"This bill is a modest down payment that is predictable and that makes huge differences in the lives of those who get the increase," said Assembly Speaker John A Pérez, D-Los Angeles. "It is easy for those in the room who make $90,000 a year plus to discount the struggle of those who are getting by on minimum wage."

The legislation drew a chorus of disapproval from legislators who said a minimum wage hike would hobble businesses and stunt economic growth in California, whose unemployment rate is markedly higher than the national average.

"If we really want to create jobs for our residents in California we need to listen to employers," said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R- Chino Hills. "What can we do to get them to be competitive with other states and each other to attract people to California?"

September 12, 2013
Contested teacher dismissal bill heads to Jerry Brown

Buchanan.jpgA union-backed teacher discipline bill is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown, despite concerns from school districts, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators that it falls short of improving the current process.

Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo said the legislation she authored - Assembly Bill 375 - will streamline due process and save schools time and money.

The bill failed in a Senate committee in July, but was revived and on Thursday -- the last day the Legislature plans to meet this session -- the bill cleared both houses.

"I still think it's better than status quo," said Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego. "I will support this bill knowing it's flawed."

CSBA officials say the bill could force school districts to settle with bad teachers due to an "unworkable" proposed time limit for completing dismissal hearings.

Buchanan's bill prevailed over another teacher discipline bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles. Padilla's bill faltered in part because of opposition from the California Teachers Association, which supported Buchanan's legislation.

Padilla began pushing his bill last year as a way to expedite the process for firing teachers. His efforts came in the wake of public outcry in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where a teacher received a $40,000 payout to settle an appeal after he was fired for allegedly sexually abusing students.

September 12, 2013
Bill to let undocumented immigrants practice law heads to Jerry Brown


Legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to practice law in California is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown after a final 60-3 Assembly vote.

Emerging last week as a gut-and-amend bill, Assembly Bill 1024 represents a direct response to a case before the California Supreme Court in which Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the country as a young child and eventually passed the state bar exam, argued that his immigration status should not interfere with his ability to practice law.

"This bill is about bringing justice to deserving individuals and equality for all," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, the bill's sponsor. She pointed to enrollment data showing that multiple undocumented immigrants are currently enrolled in California law schools.

Proponents of the bill said the high court affirmed Garcia's right under federal law to practice, but only if California law spells out his ability to do so. Assembly Bill 1024 seeks to remedy that situation.

While some Republicans cited the absence of a conflict with federal statute in supporting the measure, detractors called the bill an unwise addition to immigration law. While Assemblyman Tim Donnelly called Garcia "extremely deserving," he called the bill a "mistake."

"What we are talking about is admitting someoen to the bar who the moment he swears his oath would be in violation of that oath," Donnelly said.

Most members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus signed on as co-authors. As an urgency measure, the bill would take effect immediately with the governor's signature.

PHOTO: Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, receives applause from lawmakers as she walks down the center isle of the Assembly to take the oath of office at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, May 28, 2013. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

September 12, 2013
Narrowed domestic workers bill heads to Gov. Jerry Brown

ammiano.JPGIn home nannies and caregivers will receive overtime pay for working more than nine hours a day or 45 hours a week under a bill headed to the governor.

A watered down version of San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's so-called "Domestic Worker Bill of Rights" cleared its final Legislative hurdle Thursday following a 52-25 vote along party lines in the Assembly.

Assembly Bill 241 will now head to Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar bill last year.

Recent amendments narrowed the bill to exclude meal and rest break provisions, exempted occasional babysitters from overtime requirements, called for a review commission to evaluate the bill's impact and added a three-year sunset provision.

"I amended this bill to reflect some concerns that had been expressed earlier," Ammiano said in a statement. "As a result, important opponents have withdrawn their opposition and I'm hopeful that Gov. Brown will add his name to this important milestone in labor rights."

During floor debate, Ammiano specifically named the California Chamber of Commerce as having removed opposition. Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill.

"Our members in California have worked tirelessly for this moment," said Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Coalition, in a statement. "This vote gets us one step closer to extending equal labor rights to domestic workers in California."

The Senate passed the bill Wednesday 23-12.

Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, presented the bill on the Senate floor, recalling childhood memories of riding the bus to work with his mother, who cleaned homes in wealthy coastal enclaves.

Republicans spoke against the bill, saying it would make it too costly for families to hire aides to help care for the elderly.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, in a 2009 file photo. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 12, 2013
Sacramento Kings arena bill passes Assembly

ARena.jpgWith Sacramento-area lawmakers emphasizing a potential economic and development boom, the Assembly on Thursday passed a bill expediting the environmental review process for a planned arena in downtown Sacramento.

The 55-6 vote sends the bill to the Senate for final action before lawmakers adjourn for the year, likely tonight.

The arena project stems from Sacramento's successful campaign earlier this year to prevent the Kings, a professional basketball team, from being bought by a group of Seattle investors. In order to secure the National Basketball Association's blessing, the Sacramento ownership group committed to building a new arena.

Legislation streamlining the process, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would help Sacramento hew to a tight NBA-imposed timeline, said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. Dickinson predicted the arena would have a "catalytic" effect on job creation and urban development, pointing to rising downtown property values since the arena deal was solidified.

"In order to succeed with this very aggressive time requirement, this legislation not only ensures we retain a professional sports team here in California and the only major league team here in Sacramento," Dickinson said. "It further ensures we replace a outdated, transit-inaccessible arena."

Opponents hammered what they described as preferential treatment for a project benefiting a handful of lawmakers' constituents, particularly since the late-surfacing Kings bill appears bound for the governor in lieu of a broader overhaul of the California Environmental Quality Act.

"We're here to govern for the whole state," said Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, arguing that the bill allows "unequal treatment under the law."

But supporters said Senate Bill 743's effects would extend beyond the Kings arena. In response to a question from Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, about an Apple construction project in his district, Dickinson said the bill would restore fixes enacted in a 2011 CEQA reform bill that a California court invalidated.

"One of the principal components of this bill is to restore Assembly Bill 900 and make it constitutionally sound," Dickinson said.

PHOTO: A conceptual drawing of the proposed downtown Sacramento Arena released by AECOM and city of Sacramento.

September 12, 2013
Jerry Brown signs prison housing bill

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation in which the state will seek more time from federal judges to reduce California's prison population, while committing hundreds of millions of dollars to house inmates out of state and in local facilities if the request is denied.

The bill appropriates $315 million this fiscal year for inmate housing if the request for additional time falls short.

The legislation was the product of a compromise between Brown and legislative leaders over how to address a court order to reduce overcrowding in California's prisons. The agreement was announced Monday, and the bill, Senate Bill 105, passed in the Assembly and Senate on Wednesday.

Brown is likely to outline options for federal judges overseeing the prison crowding case in a status update next week.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 12, 2013
Calif. Senate revives, passes immigrant drivers license bill

MC_DELEON_06.JPGState senators on Thursday revived and approved legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to receive a drivers license in California.

Assembly Bill 60 by Democrat Luis Alejo of Watsonville would allow state residents to apply for drivers licenses regardless of their immigration status. Current law generally requires drivers to carry a license to operate a vehicle -- with limited exceptions such as for farm machinery and off-road highway vehicles.

The 28-8 vote follows Alejo's comments on Wednesday that he would delay the bill until January to address the concerns of immigrant advocates about how the card could be distinguished from traditional licenses.

On Thursday afternoon, Alejo said he's inclined to hold the bill and not take it up for a final vote in the Assembly, but isn't sure. If it gets through the Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown is likely to sign it.

Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said late amendments to the bill include a recognizable feature on the front and back of the license as well as various provisions to guard against discrimination.

Some supporters said it was unfortunate that the licenses would need special markings, in part to satisfy federal requirements, but said the tradeoff was worth it.

"This measure will ensure that all drivers on California highways are properly trained, properly licensed and properly insured," de León said, adding that 10 other states allow undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses.

"We are actually quite behind," he said.

September 12, 2013
Abel Maldonado advisers leave troubled campaign

maldonadopresser.jpgAbel Maldonado's chief strategist, media strategist and campaign manager have all left his campaign for governor, the latest in a series of setbacks for the Republican former lieutenant governor.

Fred Davis, Maldonado's media strategist, and Jeff Corless, his campaign manager, left the campaign within the last several weeks, as did communications, fundraising and digital staff. John Weaver, Maldonado's chief strategist, left the campaign shortly before the others, Davis said.

Davis said Maldonado was resistant to advice from advisers to focus more on raising money. Maldonado finished the first half of the year about $3,348 in debt, raising little money while spending more than $185,000 on campaign consultants between mid-April and June.

"Abel is a really, really nice guy, but he likes to run his own show, and raising money is not his favorite thing to do," Davis said. "Weaver and Abel got along great for a while, and then they battled a bit. Abel, he likes to run his own thing."

Maldonado nodded at campaign costs when asked about his advisers' departure.

"My campaign has never been more financially sound, efficient and moving in the right direction, and I owe it to everyone who has invested in my campaign to make sure every penny is spent wisely," he said in a text message.

Weaver, who advised John McCain in his failed presidential bid, had denied he was leaving the campaign when he was first asked about it in July.

Maldonado, the former lieutenant governor, is preparing to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in next year's election. His campaign has stumbled from the start.

Following a news conference in May at which Maldonado announced a ballot initiative to repeal California's prison realignment program, he came under criticism for highlighting a photograph of an offender who was not released from prison under the program.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The state is so heavily Democratic even Republicans believe the third-term governor will be difficult to defeat.

"We'll be able to see how successful Abel's strategy is," Davis said.

Asked what that strategy is, he said, "I don't really know."

Maldonado did not immediately return a telephone call for comment.

Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party, said he is helping Maldonado assemble a campaign team and will have one in place by early October.

Asked about the contention that Maldonado focused too little on fundraising, Nehring said, "I think that Abel Maldonado is one of the hardest working candidates I've met in my 25 years in politics."

He said a campaign takes a "terrific amount of synergy" and that "sometimes it takes some changes" in the campaign team.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:30 p.m. to include Nehring's comments and at 4:25 p.m. to include Maldonado's remarks.

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 12, 2013
California lawmakers ice bill targeting Boy Scouts

BoyScouts.JPGLawmakers today shelved a bill that sought to revoke the Boy Scouts of America's tax-exempt status because of the organization's long-held policy not to permit the participation of openly-gay adults.

The measure, Senate Bill 323 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, called for stripping the nonprofit status of youth groups that discriminate against participants on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification. On Thursday, without comment, the bill was put on the inactive file by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton.

In May, it passed the Senate 27-9, garnering the bare minimum of votes required. The measure needed two-thirds support because it sought to change the state's tax code. The bill had moved through the Legislature even as the Boy Scouts lifted the ban on gay youth participating in its troops.

PHOTO: A Boy Scout troop from Citrus Heights participates in a 2009 Veterans Day ceremony. The Sacramento Bee/Anne Chadwick Williams

September 12, 2013
Republican lawmakers urge action on immigration bill

cannellapress.jpgFifteen Republican state lawmakers today joined a chorus of business interests from California urging Republican representatives to act on an immigration bill stalled in the House.

"There is no policy debate more important to the future of California and America than passing comprehensive immigration reform," the lawmakers said in a letter to House Republicans from California. "By providing legal clarity to the status of millions of people in California, we can spur an economic renaissance, solidify families, and create an entirely new population of full taxpayers, many of whom who have strong entrepreneurial and work ethics."

The push by legislative Republicans follows similar lobbying efforts by GOP donors and business interests this year. Still, the lawmakers who signed the letter to Republican representatives today represent fewer than half of Republican lawmakers in Sacramento.

The U.S. Senate in June approved legislation that would pay for increased border security and create a guest-worker program and path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The bill is stalled in the House.

At a news conference at the Capitol this morning, Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, said, "For Congress to put off once again enacting a policy that allows a reasonable path to citizenship for a group of people that contribute so much to the California economy is just wrong."

September 12, 2013
California lawmakers approve naming Bay Bridge for Willie Brown

WillieBrown2010.JPGOver the objection of Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers today overwhelmingly approved renaming a stretch of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

The proposal to rebrand the western span of the bridge, which does not require the governor's signature, faced stern opposition from a trio of former San Francisco supervisors. They noted it violated several legislative rules, among them that the subject must be deceased.

Willie Brown, once known as the "Ayatollah of the Assembly," is very much alive.

Critics also objected because the lawmaker carrying the resolution, Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, does not represent the district housing the facility in question.

Still, Hall's proposal received strong support from the Legislature. The Senate passed the resolution 26-7 Thursday morning after the Assembly voted 68-0.

September 12, 2013
AM Alert: The longest day awaits California lawmakers

Senate1.jpgIt's the day we've all been waiting for. Well, kind of.

When the Legislature finishes business today (or maybe sometime in the morning Friday), the 2013 regular session will be in the books. Technically, the Assembly and Senate have until midnight Friday to mop up, but Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays, begins at sundown on Friday, and legislative leaders want to give their charges time to get home to their families.

While it looks like fracking, school testing, prison housing and minimum wage issues have been resolved, dozens of bills remain, despite the relatively heavy session schedule already this week.

VIDEO: Dan Walters says the state's prison saga will continue despite compromise legislation.

IMMIGRATION: Before things get under way in earnest upstairs in the legislative chambers, GOP lawmakers will gather for a news conference with others to push for Congress to act on immigration issues. The GOP says more than a dozen members will show up at the 9 a.m. event in Room 1190.

RECIDIVISM: The Board of State and Community Corrections meets in Irvine to talk about realignment and hear from Edward Latessa, who will speak on "What Works and What Doesn't in Reducing Recidivism." Things get underway at 10 a.m. at the Marriott.

DATA: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom takes his data roadshow to Berkeley to keynote a conference titled "Can Open Data Improve Democratic Governance?" From 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Banatao Auditoium/Sutardja Dai Hall. Carole Post, the former chief information officer for New York City, is on the panel.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, has two reasons to celebrate today -- the session is ending (well, kind of), and she's celebrating her 72nd birthday.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on July 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

September 12, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's prison saga will continue

Dan says the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown may have approved a prison housing plan, but it is far from certain that it will succeed.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 11, 2013
Wage garnishing bill fails in California Senate

A bill that sought to make it harder for debt collectors to garnish the wages of Californians who are behind on their college student loan payments failed to garner the necessary support in the state Senate Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 233 by Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, got only 14 votes when the Senate took it, falling seven votes short of passage. The bill would have prohibited the garnishing of wages to collect on non-governmental student loans. It was supported by student groups and labor unions, and opposed by banks and debt collecting companies.

PHOTO: Student Research Assistant Geraldine Cayanan, center, prepares samples at the Veterinary Medicine Research Facility 3B on the campus of UC Davis in Davis on Friday, March 15, 2013.The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

September 11, 2013
California Legislature sends school-test bill to Gov. Jerry Brown

LS_STAR_TESTS_1.JPGAfter debating the relative merits and drawbacks of standardized testing, the Assembly on Wednesday sent Gov. Jerry Brown legislation allowing California schools to opt out of current statewide assessments.

California has been preparing to implement tests aligned to new national Common Core standards, but late bill amendments broadened the number of schools that can drop the current Standardized Testing and Reporting so teachers would not teach to new standards while old tests loom.

Brown has backed Assembly Bill 484 despite warnings from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that the bill sidesteps California's obligations to gauge the performance of schools and educators through year-to-year test score comparisons. Critics of the bill articulated similar concerns on the Assembly floor.

"Is testing for teacher accountability, or is it for feedback?" asked Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, vice chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

"Californians want testing," she added, "but Assembly Bill 484 guts testing by eliminating it."

Lawmakers backing the bill said it would help California transition into a new framework for classroom instruction and testing.

"The train has left the station," said Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside. "Common Core is here. The teachers are out there doing it."

PHOTO: Sacramento area second graders prepare for the annual state school exams on April 26, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

September 11, 2013
California prison spending bill on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown

20130909_HA_PRISONS0284.JPGThe California Legislature is sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that takes a two-pronged approach to the federal court order to reduce prison crowding, asking the court for an extension to meet the obligation while appropriating $315 million to send inmates to private and out-of-state prisons, in case the extension is rejected.

Senate Bill 105 reflects a compromise between the governor and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. The two Democrats had split over how California should respond to the court order to reduce prison crowding by the end of this year. The order results from many years of litigation against the state alleging that California prisons are inhumanely overcrowded.

September 11, 2013
Jerry Brown urges passage of California fracking bill

Thumbnail image for brownsigns.jpgGov. Jerry Brown will sign a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in California if the legislation reaches his desk, Brown's office said Wednesday afternoon.

"The administration has worked collaboratively with the Legislature to craft a bill that comprehensively addresses potential impacts from fracking, including water and air quality, seismic activity and other potential risks," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email.

Westrup called the legislation "an important step forward" and said Brown "looks forward to signing it once it reaches his desk."

The statement from Brown's office came hours after Senate Bill 4 moved through the Assembly. It awaits action in the Senate.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and his legislative affairs secretary, Gareth Elliot, right, confer at the Capitol on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, as the governor considered dozens of bills awaiting his signature or veto. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

September 11, 2013
Jerry Brown urges OK of amended bill to raise minimum wage

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that he supports raising the minimum wage in California to $10 an hour, urging lawmakers to approve a bill that was amended Wednesday and awaits action in the Senate.

The Democratic governor's announcement came after Assembly Bill 10, by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, was amended to raise the minimum hourly wage to $10 sooner than previously proposed.

The measure would raise the minimum hourly wage from $8 to $9 on July 1, 2014, and then to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016. Under an earlier version of the bill, the minimum hourly wage would not have reached $10 until 2018.

"The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs," Brown said in a statement. "This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy."

September 11, 2013
Legislature drops licenses for undocumented immigrants


An effort to allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver licenses in California is on hold for this year.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, wrote Assembly Bill 60 to allow Californians to apply for drivers licenses regardless of their immigration status.

Wednesday evening, Alejo said he would delay the bill until January of next year to address the concerns of immigrant advocates about how the card would be visually distinct from other licenses.

"We're just taking a few more months to try and build some more consensus within the immigrant rights community," Alejo said.

Alejo said he favors something "more discreet" than the approach states with similar laws have taken to distinguishing licenses for undocumented immigrants.

"The main concern on the bill is that we make anything different on the license," Alejo said.
"There are some groups that want the same license as everyone else."

Bee reporter Jeremy B. White contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 8:38 p.m. Tuesday to reflect Assemblyman Alejo deciding to hold the bill.

PHOTO: A customer waits in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in south Sacramento on Aug. 17, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

September 11, 2013
Fracking bill passes California Assembly

fracking.jpgA closely watched bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in California moved closer to the governor's desk on Wednesday, advancing out of the Assembly on a 53-18 vote.

Of the bills to regulate "fracking" that surfaced this session, only Senate Bill 4 remains.

Legislators pushing for tighter regulation of fracking, which involves shattering underground rock formations with a pressurized cocktail of water and chemicals, have cited the potential for a drilling boom in California's Monterey Shale.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, spoke of the "tremendous economic opportunity" that harvesting the tough-to-reach underground reserves would bring but spoke of the need to create a framework around a potential gold rush.

September 11, 2013
AM Alert: It's union vs. union on California gut-and-amend bill

California-Refinery.jpgBill rallies have populated the Capitol steps for the last eight months, but the fast-approaching deadline to pass legislation has us down to our last handful of vote-swaying demonstrations. (Rallies urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills on his desk are a different story.)

Today's rally targets a labor-fracturing gut-and-amend that has unions lining up on both sides. Steelworkers have come out in force against Senate Bill 54, a State Building and Construction Trades Council-sponsored bill carried by Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock of Berkeley that would require a training baseline for outside contractors' employees working at hazardous refineries. The workers who get the stipulated level of training would also need to receive the industry-standard prevailing wage.

Hancock's office calls it a public health and safety guardrail, and the State Building and Construction Trades Council folks argue that it would stem an influx of underpaid, undertrained contract employees. (For what it's worth, the union's PAC gave Hancock's 2012 campaign $11,800.) Opponents -- including the United Steelworkers, the Western States Petroleum Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors of California -- warn that it would raise costs and displace workers. The critics make their case on the south steps today, starting at 10:30 a.m.

VIDEO: Dan Walters examines signs that California lawmakers are losing their motivation on gun control.

COMMEMORATION: Members of the Northern California Tea Party will be marking the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, starting at noon on the west steps today. With them will be actor and crooner Pat Boone, who plans to perform some music. Another 9/11 event will take place simultaneously at the Capitol Park Vietnam War Memorial.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE CHECK-IN: Brice Harris, chancellor of California's community college system, will provide an update during a phone briefing this afternoon on fall enrollment and how a windfall of Proposition 30 money is being spent.

PHOTO: In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007, file photo, the sun sets behind an oil refinery on Rosedale Highway in Bakersfield. The Associated Press.

September 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Whither gun control in California?

Dan wonders if the momentum for gun control, so vigorous at the start of 2013, is subsiding in the final days of session.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 10, 2013
Jerry Brown opposes naming bridge for Willie Brown

WillieBrown3.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has come out against a proposal to rename part of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, as the measure makes its way through the Legislature.

"Governor Brown believes that the iconic Bay Bridge should keep the name it has had for nearly 77 years, a name that lives in the hearts and minds of all Californians," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email this afternoon. "And he feels the same way about the Golden Gate Bridge. "

The Democratic governor typically refrains from commenting on pending action in the Legislature. But unlike with a bill that he could veto, Brown may have no final say on the effort to rename the bridge. The proposal to rename the western span of the bridge for Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, is contained in a concurrent resolution that does not require the governor's approval.

The measure, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 65, sailed through the Assembly without opposition, and it is expected to reach the Senate floor before session ends this week.

The resolution touts Willie Brown's contributions to transportation, affordable housing and higher education in San Francisco, among other accomplishments. It says he "is widely regarded as one of the most influential politicians of the late 20th century, and has been at the center of California politics, government and civic life for an astonishing four decades."

Three former presidents of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last month sent a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg opposing the measure, saying it does not "reflect a community consensus" that naming the bridge for Willie Brown is appropriate.

The airing of the governor's opinion on the matter follows the Labor Day opening of the bridge's new eastern span, a $6.4 billion project that came in years late and billions of dollars over budget.

PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 10, 2013
California Public Records Act amendment going to June ballot

MC_LEGIS_16.JPGCalifornia voters will get a chance to weigh in on whether local governments must comply with, and pay for, public records requests.

The Assembly passed a constitutional amendment on Wednesday that would enshrine the 1968 California Public Records Act in the state's constitution, clarifying that local agencies cannot reject requests for publicly available documents. The proposed amendment will appear on the June 2014 ballot.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, authored the measure in response to the fallout from a budget trailer bill that would have made providing some information optional for local governments.

Part of the issue -- and the reason the matter surfaced in a budget bill -- involved the state's costs for reimbursing local governments for their response to public records requests. The constitutional amendment headed to the ballot would require that local governments pay for those inquiries in full.

"Today's action by the Assembly allows California voters to debate the importance of strengthening the state's most critical open government laws by requiring compliance in the Constitution," Leno said in a statement. "If approved by voters, SCA 3 would permanently uphold and protect a person's right to inspect public records and attend public meetings, which are principles we all respect and treasure."

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno hugs then-state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod after a vote on pension reform during session at Senate chambers at the state Capitol on Aug. 31, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

September 10, 2013
California tree-cutting measure raises environmentalist hackles

SIERRA_LOGGER.JPGA late-blooming bill allowing Californians to topple larger trees has pitted environmental groups against lawmakers citing the need to combat forest fires.

As things now stand, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection must review timber plans before cutting can begin -- unless the chopping relates to specific ends such as fire prevention. Those exemptions come with guidelines stipulating that the trees can be no larger than 18 inches in diameter.

Legislators want to expand the maximum diameter to 24 inches through 2019 via gut-and-amend legislation, introduced by Assemblymen Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, and Rich Gordon,D-Menlo Park, and co-authored by Sens. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, and Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, that looks similar to a timber-harvesting bill that died in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, its first stop, back in April.

A series of massive fires, including the ravenous Rim fire that swept across hundreds of acres of California in recent weeks, prompted the bill, according to Josh Cook, Dahle's chief of staff. He stressed that the bill creates a five-year pilot program to see if facilitating the process for harvesting larger trees would help stymie catastrophic blazes.

"With climate change we have drier years and need to adapt our practices," Cook said. "Clearly we have a problem. With the amount of structures being lost and watershed destruction, this is clearly the biggest environmental issue in the state."

Six inches may seem like a small difference, but environmentalists say the bill carries large implications for complex forest ecosystems and the habitats they contain.

"The bill would actually focus the cutting on the large, merchantable trees, which are not the trees that are the biggest part of fuel load in fire risk," said Brian Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Large trees are the more fire-resistant trees."

PHOTO: A logger working in the Tahoe National Forest trims off branches and cuts trunks to the proper length for loading onto a logging truck in 1992. The Sacramento Bee/Jay Mather.

September 10, 2013
Brown backs school-test measure despite federal opposition

RP_School_TEST_SCORES_JENNIFER.JPGGov. Jerry Brown says he'll push forward with school-testing legislation despite U.S. Department of Education threats to withhold federal funds.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said California's request for a one-year reprieve from using STAR tests in math and English for the current school year is unacceptable and may force his department to "take action."

"No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students' achievement, you need to know how all students are doing," Duncan said in a statement Monday night.

Assembly Bill 484 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, was amended last week to allow all schools to opt in to computer-based assessments aligned to new curriculum standards called Common Core, while ending the 14-year-old STAR tests.

Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown, said Tuesday in a statement, "We support the legislation."

"There is no reason to double-test students using outdated, ineffective standards disconnected from what's taught in the classroom," Evans added.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who is sponsoring Bonilla's bill, was in the Capitol on Tuesday talking to lawmakers about the importance of AB 484. The former legislator said it is a better investment to redirect the $25 million used to give the outdated STAR tests to instead allow more students to try new computer-based assessments.

"I'm disappointed someone in Washington would want to interfere in the legislative process in California," Torlakson told The Bee.

"We are all for accountability and measuring student achievement," he said. "This is a transition year."

September 10, 2013
Jerry Brown signs anti-swatting, rape impersonation bills

brownsigns.jpgLawmakers trudging through the final days of session are getting regular doses of good news from Gov. Jerry Brown, who on Monday alone signed more than 50 of their bills.

Since the first of the year, the Democratic governor had signed 314 bills and vetoed just five.

Brown's veto rate so far this year, 1.6 percent, is far lower than in the first two years of his term - 14 percent in 2011 and 12 percent in 2012.

That may change, of course, when Brown looks over the flurry of bills heading his way this week. End-of-session bills are sometimes late in coming because they are the more controversial, harder ones to pass.

Among a raft of bills Brown signed Monday were laws expanding the scope of practice for physician's assistants, stiffening penalties for "swatting," or filing a false emergency report, and closing a loophole in the state's rape law to cover attackers who impersonate people victims know to coerce them into having sex.

The governor also announced a rarity, a veto.

Assembly Bill 902, by Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, would have doubled the fine for motorists who fail to move over or slow down for stopped emergency or service vehicles on freeways.

"No showing has been made that piling on an additional $252 will protect anybody," Brown wrote in a veto message. "This enhanced amount strikes me as more punitive than deterrent."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and his legislative affairs secretary, Gareth Elliot, right, at the Capitol on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Brown is pouring over dozens of bills awaiting his signature or veto. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

September 10, 2013
Legislature sending Jerry Brown bill making drug possession a 'wobbler'

ha_Mark_LENO_2011.JPGThe California Legislature is sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill to change drug sentencing laws in the state.

Under Senate Bill 649, local prosecutors would have discretion to decide whether a person charged with possessing a small amount of illegal drugs should be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.

"It gives district attorneys more authority than they have today," said Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who wrote the bill.

The Senate passed the bill today on a concurrence vote of 23-13. It now heads to the governor for consideration.

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 10, 2013
Hollywood Park wins skirmish over card room bill

Thumbnail image for RBGambling5.JPG

No legislative end-of-session would be complete without at least one clash over gambling. This year's appears to be a bill that would allow Hollywood Park, a storied Southern California horse racing track, to shut down racing but continue to host wagering as a card room.

The legislation, Senate Bill 472, would give Hollywood Park a temporary exemption from California laws governing ownership and operation of a cardroom.

Hollywood Park intends to shut down horse racing at the end of the current season, but its continued use as a card room site runs afoul of state laws that bar the owners of a California casino from also owning a gambling operation that offers gambling games that are banned in California.

The public pension funds that own Hollywood Park also own the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, which is now closed for remodeling, so the owners would have three years, under state law, to divest itself of one operation or the other.

AB 472, carried by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would give a three-year divestment period that would begin only after the Sahara reopens.

It drew opposition from other Southern California card rooms and Indian tribal casinos, which said Hollywood Park shouldn't receive special treatment, but the measure was sent to the Senate floor for a final vote on a 6-0 vote of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee.

September 10, 2013
Teacher dismissal bill, once stalled, moves to Senate floor


Union-backed legislation to revise how teachers can be dismissed, which had been rejected by the Senate Education Committee in July, was resurrected Tuesday, two days before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment.

It moved to the Senate floor after several committee members changed their votes.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, made some minor revisions to the legislation, Assembly Bill 375, last week and then asked the committee to consider it again.

The Buchanan bill was introduced as an alternative to a much-tougher measure that Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, had written in response to a sex abuse case involving a Los Angeles teacher.

Opposed by the California Teachers Association and other unions, the Padilla bill was blocked in the Assembly after clearing the Senate. But Buchanan's measure, which she said would streamline dismissal procedures, was stalled in the Senate committee after winning Assembly approval.

Last week's amendments didn't seem to change the lineup of supporters - unions and state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson - or opponents, a coalition of school districts, administrators and school reform groups.

The latter complained that although the measure changes procedures, it would make some aspects of teacher dismissal, especially in sex cases and other criminal and moral matters, more difficult.

However, Padilla told the committee that he's supporting AB 375, even though it is "a slightly different approach than my bill."

In July, four Democrats voted for AB 375, but three other Democrats, including the committee's chairwoman, Carol Liu, refused to vote, thus leaving it one vote short of passage. On Tuesday Liu voted for the bill, and with other vote changes, it got the five votes it needed to move to the floor.

September 10, 2013
Kathleen Brown won't 'disintermediate' Sutter Brown

Thumbnail image for sutterbrown.jpgThe big question about Kathleen Brown's return to California, announced Monday, was whether the former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate might run again for public office.

She won't, she said.

"No, no thank you."

But then there is that other matter - the family dog.

When Brown left California for Chicago following her brother's election to be governor in 2010, she was moving to an apartment and a "pretty brutal winter," so she left her Pembroke Welsh corgi, Sutter, in her brother's care.

The dog became a fixture at the Capitol, and the governor's office began referring to him as California's "first dog."

Kathleen Brown, who is moving to Los Angeles for a job at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, was asked if she would be taking him back.

She won't, she said.

"The dog is happily situated," Brown said, "and I wouldn't presume to disintermediate his celebrity status and special relationship with the first lady and the governor."

PHOTO: Sutter Brown makes an appearance at the Capitol on Feb. 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 10, 2013
AM Alert: California braces for another dry year in 2014

JV_071913_WATER_Folsom_124.JPGDry and getting drier. That's the potential prognosis for the coming year, according to California Department of Water Resources officials, who have warned that 2014 could continue a recently parched pattern for California.

The repercussions could ripple across the state, from diminished agricultural yields to reduced reservoirs to increased risk of wildfires to heightened conflict over precious and dwindling groundwater. A meeting today jointly administered by the State Board of Food and Agriculture and the California Water Commission will examine the potential implications.

Expected speakers include Mark Cowin of the Department of Water Resources, Randy Record of the Association of California Water Agencies, Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition, Karla Nemeth of the California Natural Resources Agency, and Victoria Whitney of the State Water Resources Control Board. Starting at 10 a.m. at the Department of Food and Agriculture building on N Street.

VIDEO: There are plenty of contingencies and caveats in the prison overcrowding deal struck Monday, Dan Walters says.

September 10, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Inmate lawyers control prison plan's fate

California legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown are touting a compromise on prison overcrowding, but Dan says that the issue looks likely to be around for a long time.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 9, 2013
Immigrant detention bill wins California Senate OK

MC_DELEON_06.JPGBy Christopher Cadelago

Local law enforcement would be barred from detaining people based on their immigration status unless they were convicted of a felony or serious crime under a measure approved today by the Senate.

The 24-10 vote advances the bill to the Assembly for a final vote later this week.

Assembly Bill 4, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has set off demonstrations across the state since Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar version of the measure last year.

Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said the bill seeks to curb what supporters believe are abuses of the federal Secure Communities program. They argue the measure will establish reasonable limits for local responses to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement program's "detainer" requests, which remain voluntary.

"As we've seen time and time again this program has cast too far wide a net," de León said.

September 9, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to monitor Parks Dept. payroll

stateparks.JPGPayroll practices at the state Department of Parks and Recreation should get more scrutiny now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Assembly Bill 757.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, wrote the legislation following an investigation by The Bee last year that revealed a secret vacation buyout program offered to some parks department employees. The buyouts -- which violated state regulations -- cost taxpayers more than $271,000 at a time the state was considering closing parks because the budget was so tight. Later, the department admitted it had also hidden $54 million from state budget officials.

The Bee's investigation triggered a review by the state controller, who found that parks officials routinely violated rules on how long employees can work outside their job classification, potentially costing taxpayers even more. The controller's audit issued a number of recommendations on how the department should improve its payroll practices.

AB 757 requires the department to report to the Legislature by the middle of next year on its progress toward implementing the recommendations in the controller's audit.

PHOTO: The Irvine-Fern Canyon Loop in the Prairie Creek Redwood State Park features trails that wind between some of the coast's biggest redwoods, leading to the ocean. The Sacramento Bee/Sam McManis.

September 9, 2013
Bill limiting 'willful defiance' discipline in schools done for year

DICKINSON.jpgA bill to restrict how students are disciplined under the broadly used grounds called "willful defiance" is being shelved for this legislative session.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said more time is needed to bring the education community and civil rights advocates together on Assembly Bill 420. Dickinson said he plans to take the bill up again next year.

"This subject isn't going away," Dickinson said. "If anything, it's becoming more poignant as there is more research around the subject."

Dickinson was joined by civil rights advocates in calling for school districts to address the disproportionately high number of expulsions and suspensions among several groups, including black, Hispanic, students with disabilities and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender youth. AB 420 cleared an Assembly floor vote 52-23 in May and was up for a Senate floor vote prior to being sent to the inactive file.

September 9, 2013
Calif. Senate approves bill to provide condoms in state prisons

bonta.JPGState senators voted 21-13 today for a measure requiring state officials to expand the availability of condoms in all California prisons.

The bill by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, requires the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to develop a five-year plan that increases access to condoms -- despite sex being illegal in prisons.

Under Assembly Bill 999, which awaits a final vote in the Assembly, the corrections and rehabilitation department must initiate and incrementally expand a distribution program, including mounting dispensers in discrete locations to provide confidential access.

It also asks the department to consider making condoms available confidentially upon request during medical visits.

Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said inmates returning to their communities risk spreading HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, among other diseases.

"This is a public-health issue," Beall said.

First-year costs for the program are estimated at $200,000 based on a formula of $1.50 an inmate. Future costs could drop to $100,000 annually.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Bob Bonta D-Alameda in Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 9, 2013
FPPC fines Kinney, Areias and Hickox for covert lobbying

RCB_20100324_BROWN_ 060_b.JPG

Three well-connected partners in the prominent California Strategies public affairs firm have agreed to pay fines to California's political watchdog agency for trying to influence state government decisions without registering as lobbyists.

Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox violated state law when they "crossed over the line which separates policy consultants from lobbyists," says a proposed settlement the Fair Political Practices Commission released today.

It's just the second time in recent history that the FPPC has prosecuted anyone for failing to register as a lobbyist, the settlement says. But it reveals a practice many Sacramento lobbyists say has become pervasive at the Capitol: "shadow lobbying" by former politicians and high-level staff members who leave government to consult for private industry without disclosing themselves as lobbyists.

California Strategies released a statement saying the business "has already put stronger internal reporting controls in place."

"The firm takes full responsibility for this matter and all of our principals are committed
to ensuring it never happens again," said a prepared statement emailed by managing partner Camden S. McEfee.

The settlement follows an investigation by The Bee earlier this year that documented a severe lack of detail in California's lobbying reports. Interest groups that spend the most money to influence policy in the Capitol spend the bulk of it in secret, The Bee found, including hiring former politicians as consultants and launching ad campaigns to push their agenda with virtually no financial disclosure.

Areias was a state legislator for 12 years who then headed the state Parks Department; Hickox was an adviser during Gov. Jerry Brown's prior administration and secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency under Gov. Gray Davis; Kinney was communications director for Senate leader Don Perata, then Davis' speechwriter and is now a political consultant to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

In settling with the FPPC, the three acknowledge that over the last two years they lobbied the Legislature and Air Resources Board without publicly reporting their clients and income, as state law requires of lobbyists.

"This activity violates one of the (Political Reform) Act's central purposes - the activities of lobbyists should be regulated and their finances disclosed in order that improper influences will not be directed at public officials," the FPPC settlement says.

"The public harm inherent in these violations is that the public is deprived of important and timely information... such as the identity of the person ultimately seeking to influence legislative or administrative action and the amount of money expended by that person to influence such action."

Kinney, Areias and Hickox will register as lobbyists and pay a combined fine of $40,500, according to the proposed settlement, which is scheduled for a vote by the Commission on Sept. 19.

September 9, 2013
Agreement reached on California prison housing plan

prisondeal.jpgA modified version of Gov. Jerry Brown's prison housing plan appears headed for approval after Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the plan's chief critic, announced today they reached a compromise.

The state will proceed with Brown's plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce California's prison population by moving thousands of inmates to local lockups and out of state, but only if federal judges overseeing California's prison overcrowding case do not give the state more time to address overcrowding.

If the court does give the state additional time, California would invest money it would have in additional prison capacity instead on diversion and recidivism-reduction programs.

Brown, who is under a federal court order to reduce California's prison population by nearly 8,000 inmates, has estimated the cost of his plan at $315 million this budget year and $415 million in each of the following two years.

The agreement, which has the support of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and the Republican leadership in both houses, was announced in front of the governor's office today.

Asked if Brown or lawmakers had any expectation the court would grant a delay, Steinberg said, "The default position here, again, is the capacity plan that I have been critical of. But I'm willing to take that risk."

Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers announce a prison housing deal to reporters at the Capitol on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 9, 2013
Gut and amend: a list of last-minute bill changes


Friday's deadline to pass bills edges closer by the minute, which signals peak time for Sacramento's least lauded legislative practice.

Yes, we have entered the high season for gut-and-amends, those bills that have re-emerged in different vessels or appeared for the first time in the waning days of session. Here's a quick rundown of some of the newcomers:

Condoms in pornography: Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, couldn't get a version of this bill earlier this session despite his warnings about the public health risks of unprotected pornographic sex. Now, with new cases of HIV-positive adult performers surfacing, Hall is trying again via AB 640, with the backing of a robocall campaign.

September 9, 2013
Kathleen Brown returning to California, says no plans for public office

kathleenbrown.jpgKathleen Brown, the former state treasurer and Goldman Sachs executive who moved to Chicago after her brother, Jerry Brown, was elected governor in 2010, is coming back to California.

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, announced today that Brown has joined the law firm as a partner, focusing on business counseling, government and regulatory affairs.

Brown, a former gubernatorial candidate, worked for Goldman Sachs for nearly a decade before moving to the company's investment banking division in Chicago. A Goldman spokesman at the time said the move gave Brown a "broader platform," but he also said the company was aware, given her brother's election, that continuing to work in the company's public sector and infrastructure banking division in California might create the perception of a conflict of interest.

In its release today, Manatt said Brown will perform work related to the healthcare, energy and financial service industries. It touted her experience with municipal utilities in California and with bond financing here.

The statement by Manatt included prepared remarks by one of its lawyers, George Kieffer, who also heads up the nonprofit groups used by Jerry Brown to pay for his housing in Sacramento and for other government-related activities.

"She is one of a kind," Kieffer said in the statement. "Her ability to bring practical solutions to real-world challenges is a perfect fit with our culture and strategic priorities."

September 9, 2013
AM Alert: California statehood, revisited

20130828_HA_GOLD_RUSH0666.JPGToday marks the 163rd anniversary of the California's admittance to the union, so don't be surprised by a surge of activity on the Capitol stairs today.

Representatives of Occupy Sacramento will be holding teach-ins and dancing on the west steps; members of the Native Sons of the Golden West and Native Daughters of the Golden West will be marking the occasion on the south steps; and perhaps most importantly, the California State Capitol Museum Volunteer Association will be serving ice cream and cake (decorated with the Great Seal, naturally) on the north steps at 11:30 a.m.

No word yet on whether our history-loving governor will indulge his didactic tendencies to regale us with stories about the state's illustrious past. He does have a lot on his desk these days, with more coming by the Friday deadline marking the conclusion of this week's end-of-session mania.

VIDEO: Dan Walters wonders why lawmakers save so much of their business until the final days of session.

September 9, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Hundreds of bills await California lawmakers

With the California Legislature entering its last week of the 2013 session, Dan says lawmakers have their work cut out for them.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 6, 2013
Robo-calls attack California lawmaker over porn-condom bill

condoms.JPGAssemblyman Isadore Hall has revived his attempts to require adult film actors to use condoms during filming, and proponents aren't taking chances that the legislation will stall a second time this year.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has launched a campaign that includes targeting a lawmaker they say is "single-handedly blocking" Hall's bill. Its efforts follow a porn industry announcement Friday that a third adult film actor has tested positive for HIV, prompting a call for an immediate halt to all production.

"That's three in past three weeks," said Ged Kenslea, spokesman for the foundation. "How many more people need to get infected before action happens?"

Hall, a Compton Democrat, authored a bill earlier this year mirroring the Los Angeles County measure that prohibits unprotected sex by porn actors. Hall's bill would take the ban statewide. His first attempt this year, Assembly Bill 332, failed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in May.

September 6, 2013
Senate approves bill limiting out-of-state athlete compensation


A measure aimed at limiting workers compensation claims by out-of-state professional athletes breezed through the state Senate Friday on a 34-2 vote.

The measure by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, would dramatically reduce the circumstances under which out-of-state athletes could file workers compensation claims, closing a loophole and cutting costs for professional organizations, supporters say.

"These changes are necessary to ensure that the California workers compensation system is no longer unjustly exploited and burdened by professional athletes from every state in America," said Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who co-authored the measure with Ted Lieu, D-Torrance.

"There is no reason an out-of-state athlete should seek these benefits in California if he never was employed by a California team."

Supporters of the measure say such practices by outside athletes have clogged court dockets and caused employers to absorb escalating costs.

The measure, which must go back to the Assembly for a final vote, requires an athlete to have played for a California-based team for at least two years and to have spent no more than seven seasons with an out-of-state team in order to file for benefits.

September 6, 2013
Measure to extend statute of limitations for sex abuse victims advances

SB131.jpgA bill to extend the statute of limitations for some sex abuse victims narrowly passed the state Senate on Friday.

The vote was 21-8 in the 40-member house, the minimum required for passage. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill, which was resurrected after failing last month amid fierce lobbying from the Catholic Church and others, would open a yearlong window for those excluded from a 2003 law that extended the time during which sexual abuse victims can file a civil lawsuit.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, punctuated the debate with moving testimony about his own struggles arising from the abuse he suffered from a member of his own family. Lara, who referred to himself as a "high-level survivor," said he knows many of his legislative colleagues have been pressured by the church not to support the bill.

Still, he urged them to support the measure on behalf of countless abused children, including those that have contemplated suicide.

"You never really forget," Lara said. "It's always in the back of your mind."

September 6, 2013
Energy industry pushing late-hour changes to California fracking bill


A formidable energy lobbying group has been pushing to relax permitting requirements in a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing, a move advocates say would undercut the type of environmental review the bill seeks to establish.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking," involves firing a cocktail of chemicals and pressurized water deep underground to dislodge oil and gas locked in geological formations. It has become a prominent issue this session, with legislators floating several bills to regulate the process and bolster what they call lax oversight from the Department of Conservation arm responsible for oil and gas drilling.

All but one of those bills expired amid strenuous opposition from the energy industry. Senate Bill 4, by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, has passed the Senate and awaits an Assembly floor vote.

The bill would have energy companies inform communities about planned fracking projects, mandate more disclosure of the type of chemicals used for various fracking jobs and create a permitting system for fracking -- triggering the type of environmental review associated with conventional oil and gas wells that currently require permits.

Now, with the window to send bills to the governor rapidly narrowing, the industry has begun lobbying legislators over the environmental review the bill would impose on fracking jobs. Industry representatives have warned that those requirements would bog down new projects, potentially entangling them in time-consuming litigation brought via the California Environmental Quality Act, according to several environmental groups that have sounded the alarm about the late lobbying effort.

September 6, 2013
Bill expanding paid family leave heading to Gov. Jerry Brown


Legislators have sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would expand California's paid family leave program, allowing workers to take paid time off to care for a greater variety of family members.

Currently, California workers can take up to 6 weeks of paid family leave to care for a seriously ill parent, child, spouse or domestic partner. Senate Bill 770 would allow workers to take paid time off to care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws. The partial pay workers receive during the leave comes from deductions from employee paychecks.

The bill by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, passed the Senate on a 25-11 concurrence vote today, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento; Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara; and Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, in the Senate chambers on May 20, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 6, 2013
AM Alert: All-day sessions lie ahead for California lawmakers

RB_Capitol_Dome.JPGBack from a one-day hiatus for Rosh Hashanah, lawmakers return today for what are expected to be daylong sessions sorting through the mass of bills awaiting floor votes.

Things get started at 10 a.m. for both the Senate and the Assembly and continue through happy hour, until about 6 p.m., as we roll along into the final week of the 2013 legislative session, which ends next Friday.

VIDEO: The most interesting bill remaining before the Legislature has yet to get a hearing. Dan Walters explains.

TRANSIT BILL MOVING: We brought you news earlier this week of Gov. Jerry Brown moving to keep the federal transportation funding spigot open by releasing transit workers from the new pension law. The bill serving as a vessel for the exemption is double-booked today -- it stops first in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee before chugging over to Senate Appropriations -- reflecting an expectation that this legislation will zoom, with bullet-train-like speed, to Brown's desk.

YOUNG REPUBLICANS: Members of the California Young Republican Federation will gather in Long Beach this weekend for a convention, where the state's conservatives will hear from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Lakeside; Assembly members Eric Linder, Diane Harkey, Travis Allen and Mike Morrell; Sens. Bob Huff and Mimi Walters; and California Republican Party Chair Jim Brulte.

LABORLAND: Also beginning this weekend is a five-day national convention of the AFL-CIO in Los Angeles, featuring bigwigs like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka. President Barack Obama

CELEBRATIONS: Several lawmakers are marking birthdays this weekend. Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, turns 72 today; Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, celebrates her 49th birthday on Saturday; and Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, will be 68 on Sunday.

September 6, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Will Kings arena bill survive?

Dan Walters ponders the fate of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's last-minute push to help his home city of Sacramento build a new arena.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

September 5, 2013
Republican Igor Birman, McClintock aide, to challenge Ami Bera

Birman.jpgRepublican congressional aide Igor Birman formally launched his campaign to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera on Thursday, saying his family's journey here nearly two decades ago from the Soviet Union inspired him to fight for freedom.

"This is actually pretty easy to sum up," said Birman, the chief of staff to Rep. Tom McClintock, R- Elk Grove, after recounting his immigrant story. "My parents risked everything down to their lives to get me out of the Soviet Union where freedom did not exist and into the United States, which was founded on freedom. How could I possibly not dedicate my life to ensuring my children grow up to know the same freedom that I came here to find?

"That freedom now is in great jeopardy based on the policies of some leaders in our government."

Birman's event at the Folsom Amphitheater comes two days after former Rep. Doug Ose joined the list of Republicans vying for Bera's 7th Congressional District seat. Ose lost a congressional primary to McClintock in 2008, three years after relinquishing his own seat to fulfill a campaign promise. On Thursday, he released a list of Folsom supporters including Mayor Steve Miklos and Councilmen Andy Morin, Jeff Starsky and Ernie Sheldon.

"Having worked with Folsom leaders in the past, I understand what it takes to rebuild the local economy and create jobs, and how to work with local communities to ensure that their interests are well served in Washington D.C," Ose said.

The other Republican challenger is Elizabeth Emken, a former nonprofit executive who last year challenged U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The 7th Congressional District has been identified as a virtual toss-up that's expected to produce one of the most competitive and expensive races in the nation. The electorate is nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and GOP power brokers in Washington are expected to help their standard-bearer saturate the airwaves to avenge Bera's defeat of former Rep. Dan Lungren.

September 5, 2013
FPPC-sponsored disclosure bill draws concern from nonprofits

RCB_20110930_DURKEE 0068.JPG

A proposed California campaign finance reform law could backfire and hurt good actors rather than rein in shadowy interest groups, according to watchdog organizations.

After difficult to detect out-of-state money poured into the 2012 election -- most notably, an Arizona nonprofit funneled $11 million into two ballot measures in California -- the California Fair Political Practices Commission has considered a range of responses, including a slate of bills that would fortify disclosure requirements.

But some California nonprofits have become concerned that one of those bills, intended to illuminate the path of political money, would end up penalizing smaller entities that follow the rules and freely disclose their spending.

Assembly Bill 914, introduced by Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, on behalf of the FPPC, would introduce a new form on which nonprofits that spend at least $50,000 in a given election cycle would need to list their donors. That could translate into costly, redundant and time-consuming paperwork for nonprofits that already comply with regulations, according to Phillip Ung, a policy advocate for the California branch of Common Cause.

"It would be a headache for them," Ung said. "It would be burdensome. There are times when people overstep their ambition on these issues and they step on the little guys who are just trying to follow the rules."

That wouldn't be the case, the FPPC's chief of enforcement countered. Gary Winuk noted that nonprofits already need to carefully track any political spending to make sure they don't lose their tax-exempt status.

"I think they're completely mistaken about what the bill does," Winuk said, calling AB 914 -- coupled with a Senate bill also aimed at deeper disclosure -- an effort "to make sure no one falls through the cracks, that the public knows who is making these campaign contributions or expenditures."

September 5, 2013
AM Alert: Happy new year, California Legislature!

emptysenate.JPGWe get an oasis in the midst of the end-of-session mayhem today, with floor sessions canceled in deference to Jewish lawmakers and staff (not to mention some reporters) who will be at Rosh Hashanah services ringing in the Jewish new year. L'shanah tovah, everybody! We'll make up for it tomorrow with some all-day marathon sessions.

VIDEO: It shouldn't take a federal court order to get California lawmakers focused on prison reform, Dan Walters says.

WAL-MARTENSION: Just because the Wal-Mart wage bill is dead doesn't mean the retail giant is off the hook. The Assembly voted down legislation dubbed "The Wal-Mart bill," which would have punished large employers who don't pay enough to keep their workers off Medi-Cal and was seen as a gauge of the Democratic supermajority, back in June.

But lawmakers continue to assail the store for its labor practices, which today entails a 4 p.m. rally in Cesar Chavez park at which advocates will denounce Wal-Mart for failing to meet demands for better wages and less retaliation against workers. Expected to attend are Assembly members Roger Dickinson, Richard Pan, and Lorena Gonzalez -- all of whom voted in favor of AB 880.

AFTER AB 32: Those of you who have been reading our Freshman Facts series, available on our new Capitol Alert Insider app, should be familiar with the impressive resume of Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, who is a real, non-hyperbolic rocket scientist: He received a degree in astrophysics from Columbia University and used to work for NASA.

That background has given Quirk an interest in science-based policy, stoked by some early climate-modeling technology. Today he'll be presiding over a hearing touching on that matter. Assembly Bill 32, the landmark 2006 law setting emission standards and launching a carbon-auction market, seeks to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020. But what happens after that? The hearing will consider some options, drawing on testimony from Tiffany Roberts of the Legislative Analyst's Office, Alex Jackson of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Dorothy Rothrock of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. 10 a.m. to noon in room 127.

PHOTO: Once again, the Senate floor will be bereft of lawmakers. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

September 5, 2013