Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 16, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill giving prisoners convicted as juveniles shot at parole

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring special parole hearings for prisoners who were prosecuted as adults and sent to prison for crimes they committed as juveniles, his office announced late Monday.

Senate Bill 260, by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will make inmates imprisoned for crimes they committed before turning 18 eligible for parole during their 15th, 20th, or 25th year of incarceration, depending on the severity of their sentences.

The bill excludes certain sex offenders, people sentenced under the state's "three strikes" law and those sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The bill was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Prison Law Office and Human Rights Watch, among others. Supporters argued existing law fails to afford people given lengthy sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles a chance to demonstrate rehabilitation and maturity.

The bill was opposed by many law enforcement groups, who said the new hearing process could lead to the release of dangerous offenders. According to a legislative analysis, opponents objected specifically to a provision of the law requiring the state Board of Parole Hearings to give "great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the prisoner in accordance with relevant case law."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 16, 2013
Jerry Brown touts video games, his own 'creative hand'

brownvideo.jpgOAKLAND - The last time now-Gov. Jerry Brown made any news to speak of about video games was in 2009 when, as state attorney general, he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a state law seeking to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.

"California's children are exposed every day to video games that glamorize killing sprees, torture and sexual assault," Brown said in a statement at the time. "In the face of this brutal and extreme violence, I am petitioning the Supreme Court to allow the state to enforce its reasonable ban on the sale or rental of violent video game sales to children."

The Supreme Court sided with an industry group in 2011, finding the restrictions California hoped to impose violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The law never took effect, and the state paid more than $1 million in opposing attorney fees.

This afternoon, the Democratic governor attended a news conference at which the California Endowment and the Entertainment Software Association, an industry group, announced a video game design program for underserved youth in Oakland and Sacramento.

The games being developed, presumably, are not the kind Brown was seeking to ban. But organizers noted that ESA's financial contribution to the project - $150,000 of the $450,000 total, according to the California Endowment - would come from attorney fees paid by the state in its failed defense of the video game law.

"I think that shows the creative hand that I bring to the governmental process," Brown said at the event at Oakland School for the Arts, one of two charter schools Brown started when he was mayor of Oakland. "They won, they got lots of money. Let's pour it into our schools and kids, and particularly kids of color and kids that are low income."

In his remarks, Brown touted the value of technology in education, generally, and the $100,000-a-year salaries he said he hears the video game industry pays.

"Secondly," he said, "the combination of art, of gaming, of skill, technology, of aesthetic - that comes together truly as the aesthetic experience."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in Oakland on Sept. 16, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 16, 2013
VIDEO: Jerry Brown says time for sides to 'get real' on BART talks

brownelectriccars.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - Gov. Jerry Brown said today he was prepared to introduce legislation to avert a potential Bay Area Rapid Transit District strike, before determining the Legislature would not pass such a bill.

"I was prepared to introduce a bill to stop the strike," Brown told reporters after an event here. "But that, after discussions with various leaders, that was not thought as something we could pass."

Brown's office declined to elaborate on the governor's remarks, which came after Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, asked Brown to call the Legislature into an emergency session to prevent a strike in October. Huff has proposed legislation that would take away BART employees' right to strike.

"Governor, BART is only one of two major metropolitan mass transit systems in the nation that are allowed to strike," Huff said in a letter to Brown on Friday. "That ability, when acted upon by the unionized employees, will place a severe strain on the citizens who daily rely on BART to get to their classroom to teach, to arrive safely at their schools, to make it quickly to their place of business, and for tourists of the world to enjoy the splendor that is the Bay Area."

Following a BART worker strike in early July, Brown stepped in last month to avert a second strike, helping secure a 60-day cooling off period.

With the prospect of strike next month looming, the Democratic governor said today, "I think the folks at BART and the union better sit down, because it could be ... a real problem."

He was dismissive of Huff's call for an emergency session, however.

"The matter was discussed and rejected," he said. "Neither the management nor the union have shown any appetite for binding arbitration. I do not want to see a strike. I urge the parties to get real."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in San Francisco on Sept. 16, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

September 16, 2013
Legislative fight: Diane Harkey files lawsuit against Mark Wyland


Assemblywoman Diane Harkey has filed a $5 million defamation lawsuit against Sen. Mark Wyland, alleging her fellow Republican verbally attacked and bullied her to gain an advantage in their California Board of Equalization race.

Harkey, R-Dana Point, claims Wyland's comments to a tea party group in San Diego County painted her in a false light and caused emotional distress.

In his comments, the Escondido Republican referenced a separate lawsuit brought against Harkey's husband, Dan, and Aliso Viejo-based Point Center Financial by a group of real estate investors claiming they were defrauded out of tens of millions of dollars.

A jury in July found Dan Harkey and the company liable for $9 million to investors and added to the award roughly $1 million in punitive damages. Other claims remain unresolved.

"The speech clearly exposes (Diane) Harkey to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because of the very nature of the public office for which she is seeking as a member" of the tax board, Harkey states in the lawsuit filed Aug. 26 in Orange County Superior Court.

September 16, 2013
Jerry Brown will sign bills extending fees, incentives to reduce emissions

browncars.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he will sign legislation extending a fee on vehicle registrations and tire sales in California to pay for programs designed to reduce emissions and promote alternative fuels.

Assembly Bill 8, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will extend until 2024 a $3 increase in vehicle registration fees scheduled to expire in 2016.

Brown also said he will sign legislation providing money to the California Air Resources Board for programs to encourage the use of zero-emission and hybrid vehicles. Senate Bill 359, by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, includes $20 million for rebates to Californians who purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or battery or fuel cell electric vehicle.

"I can remember 35 years ago when solar energy was associated with, I don't know, bean sprouts and whatever else alternative people were doing in those days," Brown said at an event in San Francisco to promote electric vehicles. "Well, this is not alternative anymore."

Brown has made climate change a focus of his administration but has tangled frequently with environmentalists.

September 16, 2013
LIVE CHAT: Calif. immigration issues, state bills, federal debate

Join The Bee's Jeremy White for a live discussion of legislative issues, including immigration, beginning at 11:30 a.m.


September 16, 2013
AM Alert: Gov. Jerry Brown boosts video game program

20130909_HA_PRISONS0252.JPGYes, you read the headline right. With a pile of bills on his desk, courtesy of lawmakers who have departed Sacramento for the duration of 2013, the oldest governor in the nation will be in Oakland to help launch a video game design program.

And not just any video game program: This one, dubbed "Project A-Game," aims to help underserved youth. The project is funded by the Entertainment Software Association and the California Endowment, with the ESA's largess coming after the company successfully sued California over restrictions on video games. Gov. Jerry Brown will be speaking at the launch event this afternoon at the Oakland School for the Arts.

As long as we're on the topic of gubernatorial duties: Brown has until Oct. 13 to act on the bills lawmakers have sent him. As of Friday afternoon, that left the governor with 182 bills awaiting his verdict, with plenty more to come. So far he has vetoed only five.

VIDEO: No session would be complete without some last-minute drama, and Dan runs down the late-night furor over a Kings arena cleanup bill.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: You may recall the news a few months back that a customer-help call center for Covered California, the state's soon-to-be-launched health insurance marketplace, would be located in Rancho Cordova. Today Dana Howard, deputy director of Covered California, and a service center employee will walk reporters through the most common questions they receive from customers curious about the new insurance exchange. Starting at 4 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who turns 42 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown announces Sept. 9, 2013, that his office has come to an agreement with California's four legislative leaders on a prison housing plan. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 16, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Steinberg overreaches on CEQA

In the last hours of the 2013 legislative session, Dan says, we saw a rare misstep by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

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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