Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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
Dan Walters: California prison plan may be too little, too late

After years of lawmakers neglecting prison issues, Dan says, there is little hope they'll resolve the serious underlying problems in the remaining days of the current legislative session.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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