Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.

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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