Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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

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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

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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

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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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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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