Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 26, 2013
California employment office lowers estimate on late jobless claims

unemploymentdelay.jpgThe state Employment Development Department, which said last week that about 185,000 Californians had been affected by a computer problem delaying unemployment checks for weeks, downgraded its estimate this afternoon, putting the total at about 148,000.

Loree Levy, a department spokeswoman, said in an email that the original estimate counted some people twice.

The Brown administration this week ordered EDD to begin paying backlogged claims for continued benefits before determining if claims are eligible for payment. It said the backlog could be cleared by Tuesday.

EDD, which is upgrading its 30-year-old unemployment insurance processing system, said about 148,000 of the state's nearly 800,000 people receiving benefits had claims delayed at some point by a computer problem that started over the Labor Day weekend.

As of this afternoon, about 47,000 of those people have claims remaining in the backlog, EDD said.

PHOTO: Binders full of job resources at the Employment Development Department office in Sacramento on Thursday February 14, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

September 26, 2013
Holly J. Mitchell becomes latest California state senator

MITCHELL.JPGCalifornia's state senate can again claim a full house.

In front of a Senate chamber humming with friends, family members and a handful of fellow lawmakers, former Assemblywoman Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, took the oath of office Thursday afternoon to represent the 26th Senate District.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, lavished praise on the newest Democratic senator.

"She has demonstrated over her years in the Legislature on the green carpet a tenacity, a purpose and a willingness to fight for the least among us," Steinberg said, alluding to the green color scheme decorating the Assembly chambers. (The Senate's is red.)

For her part, Mitchell fought back emotion as she vowed to focus on working families and noted that her presence in the Senate marks a milestone.

"I will be the first black woman (to serve in the Senate) in over 10 years," Mitchell said, "and I am going to wear that badge with honor."

Mitchell's chances of claiming the seat former senator Curren Price vacated after winning election to the Los Angeles City Council were never seriously in doubt. Democrats now control 28 seats in the Senate, one more than they need for the two-thirds majority that allows them to raise taxes, pass urgency measures or put constitutional amendments on the ballot without Republican assent.

PHOTO: Senator-elect Holly J. Mitchell shares a moment with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on Sept. 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

September 26, 2013
Ballot proposal to decriminalize pot cleared to collect signatures

MC_POTFARM_05.JPGAs a new poll finds that a majority of California voters back legalizing marijuana, proponents of a ballot proposal to decriminalize cannabis have the green light to collect signatures to put it on the 2014 ballot.

The ballot initiative -- which "decriminalizes marijuana and hemp use, possession, cultivation, transportation, or distribution" -- has been cleared for circulation, the Secretary of State's office announced Thursday.

In addition, the proposal would institute case-by-case reviews of nonviolent marijuana convictions and charges. It would also have the Legislature enact laws to tax and regulate the plant, allow doctors to prescribe pot regardless of a patient's age, and ban state or local governments from enforcing federal marijuana law.

September 26, 2013
Jerry Brown signs domestic workers bill

brownnga.jpgGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today giving some domestic workers, including in-home nannies and health care workers, overtime pay for working more than nine hours a day or 45 hours in a week.

Assembly Bill 241, a diluted version of San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's so-called "Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, was amended before passage to exclude meal and rest break provisions, to exempt occasional babysitters from overtime requirements and to include a three-year sunset provision.

The Democratic governor vetoed a broader version of the bill last year.

The narrower legislation overlaps with a federal ruling last week to provide minimum wage and overtime to home health care workers. Brown's action is significant primarily to in-home child care workers, who are not included in the federal rule.

Brown announced the bill signing on Twitter:


PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown at a meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington on Feb. 24, 2013. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

September 26, 2013
Republican George Radanovich weighs California governor run

RADANOVICHGEORGEMCT.jpgWith former Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado's gubernatorial bid foundering, another Republican candidate is dipping his toe in the 2014 race.

Former Republican congressman George Radanovich announced that he is mulling a run with an email Thursday touting a "program of rebuilding the private sector and then cutting government."

"I believe Californians are ready for change and the time is ripe for a new approach," Radanovich said in the email. "That is why I am considering entering the race for governor of California."

Gov. Jerry Brown appears so far to be in prime position to win a second term. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll gave the governor an overall approval rating of 49 percent among likely voters. Though a mere 23 percent of Republicans approved of the job he's doing, 65 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents backed him.

Brown's chief challenges so far have come from Maldonado, who has framed his campaign as a referendum on Brown's response to California's prison overcrowding crisis, and from Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, a reliable antagonist of legislative Democrats whose far-right positions have endeared him to conservative constituents but throw into question his mainstream viability.

Maldonado's campaign has shown signs of serious disarray lately, including the departure of some top advisers and anemic fundraising figures that Brown easily eclipsed.

Enter Radanovich, a former Mariposa County supervisor who served in Congress from 1995 to 2010. In his email, he trumpeted his work with the Fresno-based Restore California pilot project, which seeks to reduce "social pathologies" such as out-of-wedlock births and children growing up without fathers.

"Restore California places the private sector ahead of California government and parents ahead of the village," Radanovich wrote. "In so doing, the cost of education will drop because more and more California children will enter school from a good foundation of parental support and ready to learn. The cost of fighting crime and housing criminals will decrease because more and more California children will enter society from this same foundation."

PHOTO: Former Rep. George Radanovich in 2007. Handout.

September 26, 2013
Live chat replay: Which bills will Gov. Jerry Brown sign, veto?
September 26, 2013
George Zenovich, former California lawmaker, dies at 91

Zenovich.jpgFormer Democratic legislator and appellate court justice George Zenovich, who helped write landmark legislation on behalf of agricultural workers, arts and culture and low-income housing while championing the cause of handicapped children, has died. He was 91.

Zenovich was a member of the state Senate and Assembly after serving a tour in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. In the Legislature, Zenovich co-authored a first-in-the-nation law recognizing the right of farm workers to collectively bargain.

He also co-authored a measure to create the California Arts Council and another to established the California Housing Finance Agency.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the 5th District Court of Appeals in 1979. On Wednesday, Brown traveled to Fresno to visit with Zenovich, but arrived too late.

"George was a longtime friend and a rare public servant who combined wisdom, skill and basic practicality. His many friends will miss him," the governor said in a statement.

John Ellis of The Fresno Bee has a full obituary on Zenovich.

PHOTO: George N. Zenovich and his wife Kika Zenovich during the dedication of the new Court of Appeal Fifth Appellate District building in Fresno on Thursday September 13, 2007. The Fresno Bee/Darrell Wong

September 26, 2013
Teachers union, SEIU open wallets to California Republican Party

seiuprotest.jpgOne of the reasons Republicans elected Jim Brulte to be chairman of the California Republican Party earlier this year was their faith, among other things, in his ability to raise money.

The former Senate Republican leader is well connected to the donor class, and the party has raised more than $3 million so far this year.

In recent days, those contributions have included an unlikely source: public employee unions.

On Tuesday, Service Employees International Union Local 1000 donated $15,000 to the party.

A California Teachers Association political action committee donated $10,000 earlier this month. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association donated $3,000 to the party in August.

It has been years since these large public employee unions opened their wallets to the state party. The peace officers made donations in 2005 and 2007, and the teachers gave the party $10,000 in 2004.

Labor officials said Brulte has met with their members this year, and that the donations reflect a tentative effort by unions to work with the GOP.

Brulte said, "I reach out to everybody" and that with Republican voter registration under 30 percent in California "you've got to get outside your comfort zones."

However, he noted that the unions that gave money to the party include Republican members, not just Democrats.

"These Republicans have encouraged their leadership to be more bipartisan," he said. "Their leadership is trying to be a little bit more bipartisan. We think that's a good thing."

The donations are unusual, but not large. For bigger contributions the party has Charles Munger Jr. The Republican activist on Wednesday donated another $597,982 to the party.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:25 p.m. to include Brulte's remarks.

PHOTO: Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1000 rally at the Capitol on Wednesday, July, 1, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

September 26, 2013
AM Alert: Sacramento event takes stock of health care overhaul

LSCOVEREDCA3.JPGWith open enrollment for California's health insurance exchange just days away, an event co-sponsored by Capitol Weekly and the University of California Sacramento Center will take stock of the much-maligned, endlessly debated federal health care overhaul and evaluate what comes next.

Attendees will hear from a long roster including officials with Covered California and business representatives.

Speakers will include Diana Dooley, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency; California Medical Association CEO Dustin Corcoran; John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business; Matt Cate, head of the California State Association of Counties; Duane Dauner, president of the California Hospital Association; and Charles Bacchi of the California Association of Health Plans. The conference runs all day at the Crest Theater on K Street in Sacramento.

POLLS VAULT: From fracking to prisons to the Legislature's approval rating, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll plumbs public opinion on a wide range of issues. Our writeup is up now on Capitol Alert, and PPIC research associate Jui Shrestha will be breaking down the results during a noon to 1:30 p.m. talk at the CSAC Conference Center.

REHAB REACTION: You may remember a story from the inimitable Center for Investigative Reporting exploring fraudulent billing practices by drug rehab centers. Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, responded by calling a hearing to investigate the problem. It convenes today, in conjunction with the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in room 4202 of the state Capitol building.

THE NEWEST SENATOR: The lawmaker formerly known as Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell officially becomes Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, today with a 2 p.m. swearing-in ceremony on the Senate floor. Mitchell cruised to her new seat, picking up four-fifths of the vote.

RETIREMENT RECKONING: Per usual, the tenuous prospects for California's public retirement systems hover in the background of projections about the state's fiscal future. The Northern California Public Retirement Seminar will meet the topic head-on today with a daylong meeting in the CalPERS Auditorium on Q Street, with a speech by Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee chair Rob Bonta, D-Alameda.

ALL ABOARD: We tend to hear more about his involvement with the speedier kind of train, but Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver the keynote to attendees of an annual Friends of Light Rail & Transit meeting at the California Railroad Museum tonight. The meeting runs from 6 to 8 p.m.

Earlier in the day, the governor and Attorney General Kamala Harris will be bestowing Medal of Valor awards upon 14 public safety officials, starting at 11 a.m. at the state Capitol building.

PHOTO: The executive director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee, addresses the media at the California Museum on May 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.


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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