Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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