Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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. PĂ©rez, 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.


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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