Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 18, 2013
Tobacco giant, drug companies give money to Jerry Brown

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgTobacco giant Philip Morris USA has pumped another $27,000 into Gov. Jerry Brown's re-election campaign, according to a campaign finance statement Brown filed with the state Wednesday.

The contribution is in addition to $26,000 the company gave Brown last year.

The Democratic governor has not yet said whether he will seek re-election next year, but he has raised more than $10 million for the effort and is widely expected to run.

Brown is currently in the process of deciding whether to sign or veto hundreds of bills sent to him before the Legislature adjourned last week for the year.

Among donors opening their wallets after the close of session was Genentech Inc., one of a number of drug companies supporting a controversial bill on "biosimilars." Senate Bill 598, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would establish conditions under which pharmacists may distribute the new type of drugs once they are approved by the federal government.

Genentech gave Brown $15,000 on the final day of the legislative session.

A few days later, on Tuesday, a drug company that opposes the bill, Boehringer Ingelheim USA, donated $5,000 to the governor's campaign.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual host breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

September 18, 2013
California school aid change already enmeshed in controversy

lunch.jpgA brand-new overhaul of how state aid is distributed to California schools - focusing more money on districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students - is already generating controversy.

Big school districts that would be in line for much of the extra money are chafing at new requirements from the state Department of Education on counting eligible students. The law says that children who qualify for free or reduced meals are considered to be poor for purposes of calculating the extra money.

"Never has school lunch meant so much for California education," writer Jane Meredith Adams comments in her article on the dustup on the EdSource website devoted to California public education.

Adams says officials in Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified, which stand to benefit greatly from Gov. Jerry Brown's new distribution system, are angry "over a last-minute change in how children who receive free means are counted."

More than half of LA Unified's 650,000 students would be considered poor by qualifying for reduced price meals under federal guidelines. But the Department of Education now wants school systems to re-certify that eligibility.

Local and state education officials have been squabbling over the new requirement for several weeks with John Deasy, LA Unified's superintendent, beating the drums of protest the loudest.

"People will become unglued" if the new requirement makes a significant difference in the money flow, Adams quotes Deasy.

State officials say that recertification is necessary to avoid double- or even triple- counting of students as poor, English-learner or foster children, a third category of qualification for the extra aid.

PHOTO: Fourth-grader Isidro Vasquez, 10, eats a breakfast provided by the school district at Woodbine Elementary School in south Sacramento on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

September 18, 2013
Jerry Brown promises brown-bag lunch in UC fundraising effort

Brown_Enterprise_Zones_California.jpgUniversity of California regents spent much of Wednesday morning cheering a new fundraising initiative to encourage faculty, students and other people to raise money through their social networks for students who demonstrate financial need.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who sits on the UC board and is attending its meeting in San Francisco, pledged to raise $10,000.

If successful, the Democratic governor promises to "host a 'brown bag' lunch at my office in Sacramento with a student from each UC campus."

As of Wednesday morning, Brown had received four donations totaling $131.

The program, Promise for Education, is new, but Brown's showing so far compares favorably to at least one other notable donors. Mike Love of the Beach Boys has raised nothing despite his promise "to bring one fan up on stage to sing 'Barbara Ann' with me at a concert of their choice."

Jamie Foxx, who promises to "rap a song like Bill Clinton, President Obama and Monique from the movie 'Precious,' " had raised $10,000, half of his $20,000 goal.

The program is intended to fund need-based grants and scholarships for undergraduate students from California.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, center, visits San Diego biotech firm Takeda, where he signed legislation overhauling California's economic development program on July 11, 2013. U-T San Diego/ Carolyne Corelis

September 18, 2013
Holly Mitchell slides to Senate, 45th Assembly district moves to runoff


As expected, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, cruised to victory in a special election to fill a Senate seat former senator Curren Price vacated when he moved to the Los Angeles city council.

Mitchell collected a resounding 80 percent of the vote, crushing fellow Democrat Mervin Evans. Her move to the state Senate could rekindle speculation of her becoming the next Senate president pro tem after current President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, terms out next year.

Returns from the 45th Assembly District reflected a far more crowded field. In the race to replace former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who like Price traded a spot in the state Legislature for a seat on the L.A. city council, Democrat Matt Dababneh and Republican Susan Shelley emerged as the top two vote-getters in a field of 11.

Both secured about a quarter of the vote. Dababneh, an aide to Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, bested several other Democrats. Shelley, a constitutional scholar, easily eclipsed fellow Republican Chris Kolski.

Assuming those results hold, the two will face off in a November 19 general election.

Democrats now hold 52 seats in the Assembly: two short of what they need for a supermajority. They could regain one in a week, when Republican-turned-independent Ontario mayor Paul Leon and Democrat Freddie Rodriguez vie for a 52nd Assembly District seat Norma Torres left to seek a state Senate post.

If Rodriguez prevails and Dababneh defeats Shelley in the San Fernando Valley runoff, Democrats will regain their two-thirds margin in the lower house when lawmakers reconvene in January. With Mitchell's win, Democrats hold 28 of 40 seats in the Senate, one more than a supermajority.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, talks during a Legislative informational hearing on gun laws at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

September 18, 2013
AM Alert: California's cities come to Sacramento


The state Legislature's work has paused until January, but California's cities keep churning away. Today, representatives from municipalities across the state will begin arriving in Sacramento for a three-day meeting of the League of California Cities.

Attendees will hear from artist and motivational speaker Erik Wahl and Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka and attend talks covering hot government topics, from the California Environmental Quality Act to federal health care reform to municipal bankruptcy.

VIDEO: Think legislative recess in an odd-numbered year means a pause in politicking? Not so fast, Dan Walters says.

PARSING PARKS: It has not been a good year for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, with a recent unflattering audit compounding the fallout from the revelations of a secret cash stash. Today comes the cleanup effort: the Parks Forward Commission, announced back in June, holds its first meeting today at the Grand Capitol Ballrooms, starting at 9:30 a.m.

PARCELING OUT POLICY: Should the Legislature make it easier to lower the current 2/3 vote threshhold for school districts to raise parcel taxes? The on-hold supermajority, assuming Dems reclaim it, could enact the change via a constitutional amendment; today Margaret Weston of the Public Policy Institute of California will examine the potential implications during a lunchtime talk. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at the CSAC Conference Center.

PLANE POLLUTION: This week has already featured ample talk of emissions-lowering alternatives, including an announcement by Gov. Jerry Brown that he would sign some bills to that end. Today Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, shifts the conversation to cleaning up aviation fuel with a Select Committee On Air Quality hearing. Expected attendees at the hearing, to be held at the Westchester Municipal Building in Los Angeles, include Phil Fine of the South Coast Air Quality Management District; John Froines of UCLA; Susan Cline, Santa Monica's assistant director for public works; and Martin Rubin of Citizens Against Airport Pollution. Starting at 1:30 p.m.

BIOFUELS: Speaking of new fuel technology, the California Bioresources Alliance Symposium will be in town for the next couple of days. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, is expected to talk legislation with participants and Carla Peterman, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, will deliver the keynote. At the CalEPA building on I street.

PHOTO: Executive director of the League of California Cities, Chris McKenzie, discusses the scandal in the city of Bell alongside Ken Pulskamp, then president of the League's City Managers' department, on July 28, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz.

September 18, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: In California, campaigns never cease

Despite a legislative recess in a non-election year, Dan finds plenty of political action -- including some of the "heavy-duty" variety.

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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