Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 31, 2013
FBI seeks investigation of source of leaked affidavit


Earlier today, we pondered one of the many questions raised by last night's bombshell story on an FBI affidavit implicating Sen. Ron Calderon, D Montebello: Who leaked this information?

Reporters who have invested considerable time on unraveling the potential case against Calderon since federal agents swooped down on the senator's office back in June, so they would love know how Al Jazeera America -- not typically a major force in the Capitol press corps -- got the scoop.

As it turns out, the FBI would be interested in an answer too.

In an email to reporters, FBI Los Angeles field office spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said she could neither confirm nor deny details of the Al Jazeera America report first detailing allegations in the affidavit. But she said the FBI is looking into the report's source.

"I realize that many of you have questioned the suspected unauthorized disclosure of a sealed court document," Eimiller wrote. "In response, I can confirm for you that this matter has been referred to the appropriate authorities at the Department of Justice for investigation."

PHOTO: Tony Beard, the Senate's chief sergeant at arms escorts FBI agents to Senator Ron Calderon's office at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, California on Tuesday night, June 4, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

October 31, 2013
California Sen. Ron Calderon removed from Film Commission

Thumbnail image for Darrell_Steinberg_HA_031113.JPG

By Christopher Cadelago and Jon Ortiz
Bee Capitol Bureau

Sen. Ron Calderon, accused of accepting more than $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio owner, was removed today from the California Film Commission.

"If for no other reason the appearance of impropriety dictates that the senator no longer sit on that commission," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Calderon, D- Montebello, may also lose his posts on the remainder of his committees, including his chairmanship of the Senate Insurance Committee, Steinberg said.

"I certainly have my doubts," Steinberg said when asked whether Calderon should continue to serve in public office. "This is serious stuff."

The Sacramento Democrat said he was reluctant to dignify any of the more "off-the-wall" claims attributed to Calderon in a 124-page affidavit leaked to the news media. But he said it was important for him to set the record straight since his name was mentioned on several of the pages.

Steinberg said he has cooperated with authorities but is not a target of the investigation.

According to an affidavit, Calderon, told an agent posing as the film studio owner that he could influence film industry tax legislation that would lower the production-cost threshold for movie-makers to qualify for a tax-break. Earlier, Calderon had asked the undercover agent to secure jobs for his children.

Calderon invoked his personal relationship with Steinberg during the discussion, saying that the Senate's most powerful Democrat supported the bill, according to the FBI affidavit.

"Just the fact that (Steinberg) is behind pushing lowering the threshold, is huge. It's huge. And he did it because of our relationship," the FBI alleged. "And, I helped him, he helped me."

Steinberg said the film measure was never heard in committee and "neither I nor the Senate Democratic Caucus supported Senator Calderon's film tax credit proposal."

A month later, Calderon told the undercover agent that he had given Steinberg two VIP tickets to a San Francisco Giants baseball game and two tickets to oil industry executives so they could meet the Senator at the game and support his campaign.

Steinberg said that he disclosed the tickets on legally-required gift reports and that they had cost $37.50 each. (High-end seats at AT&T Park run $250 or more.) "I attended with a personal friend and at no point did I talk to or interact with anyone about any of the issues that were made in his ... claims," he said.

The affidavit also alleges Calderon hired a undercover agent as a staff member as a favor to another undercover agent, even though she lacked qualifications for the job.

Steinberg said Calderon "made a routine request" for an additional clerical position in his district office that was processed "through normal channels.

"As always, I have no involvement in who is selected by Senators to fill these staff positions. As I've been informed, once it was discovered that person did not show up for work, Senate personnel acted swiftly to demand and receive full reimbursement."

Steinberg said he hasn't talked to Calderon about the FBI investigation since June and wasn't aware of what would follow. He said the allegation that any of his elected peers would take money in exchange for an official action was "obviously beyond the pale."

But, he added, he only knows what he's read.

"People have the right to their due process and ultimately due process in at least the criminal context is through a court and before a jury of your peers," he said. "And, yet, I do want more information even before that might come to pass regarding what's in this affidavit and if it in fact is true."

PHOTO: Sen. Darrell Steinberg. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 31, 2013
More tidbits from the FBI's Calderon transcripts

aff.JPGFor those without time to read the 100-plus pages of the affidavit in the Ron Calderon case, here are a few of the notable passages:

Hiring a new legislative staff member

The transcript contains this exchange between Ron Calderon and an undercover agent, who asked him to hire his supposed girlfriend - actually another undercover agent.

Ron Calderon: So. If you wanna give her a shot in the district, I will see what I can do.
Agent: Okay. Let me kind of spell it out.
Calderon: Yeah.
Agent: So, her modeling thing...
Calderon: Yeah.
Agent: ...isn't working out the way she wanted
it to.
Calderon: Okay.
Agent: She is a little discouraged.
Calderon: Yeah.
Agent: And, it would mean, I think, a wonderful world to her if you talk to her on the 28th and were able to say, hey, we'd love to have you. Come in,
work for us.
Calderon: Okay. All right.
Agent: She comes with, you know, issues.
Calderon: Yeah,
Agent: It is not a big thing. But, if you are
willing to take that on... --
Calderon: Every girl has issues.

Hiring Jessica Calderon

In the chronology the affidavit lays out, Ron Calderon asks from the start about finding a way to support his daughter Jessica, telling the agent that "any help you could do for my kids" is "diamonds."

Jessica had been working as a line producer for the film American Gigolo 2, Ron told the agent. It would be a small-budget production, but the agent suggested the project could be made if the minimum film budget for winning film tax credits was lowered - a change Ron continually pushed for, communicating with the agent the entire time.

After the agent agreed to put Jessica on his payroll, doling out payments of $3,000 apiece, he remained unequivocal about his reasons for hiring her.

"Me hiring Jessica was not about her talent, right?" he told Ron Calderon, according to a recording cited in the affidavit. "It was more about accommodating something you needed." According to the affidavit, Calderon replied, "Right."

The high cost of higher education

The transcript says that Calderon held multiple conversations with an undercover FBI agent about his need to pay for his children's higher education.

"...All I need her to do is make enough money to pay for her - the rest of her schooling, which isn't a lot..." Calderon is quoted as saying, "and then buy her own insurance which is about four hundred, five hundred bucks a month...if she could work two-three days a week for you and make, you know, um, twenty five hundred bucks a month..."

At a meeting on Nov. 2, 2012, Calderon told the agent he needed $5,000 for a tuition payment for his son Zachary. He also noted that lawmakers' pay would be reduced, the result of an action by the California Citizens Compensation Commission.

"This particular semester coming up for Zach, um, they raised the fees and my salary is going down in December another five percent...I was gonna ask you one of two things. One, um, I need 5, I'm going to be short 5..."

He said one possibility was a loan from the agent, which he could pay back in March. The other was a direct payment from a $50,000 pot of money the agent said was available to him.

"Maybe," the affidavit quotes Calderon as saying, "we can get a $5,000 check to Berklee College of Music and Zach just turns it in."

The affidavit says that ultimately the agent gave Calderon a $5,000 check with the payee portion left blank.

October 31, 2013
How did media get the FBI's court-sealed Calderon papers?

Thumbnail image for Calderon-FBI.jpgAmong the many unanswered questions in the developing Ron Calderon corruption investigation: Just how did the media get hold of a FBI affidavit that lays out the details of the case?

James J. Wedick, a former FBI special agent who led another Capitol uncover sting in the 1990s, attributed it to carelessness.

"I find it hard to believe that an FBI agent would give someone that document," said Wedick, who lives in Gold River and was a source for the Calderon story that Al Jazeera America broke on Wednesday.

The 124-page document was filed with the court under seal to obtain a search warrant for the raid on Calderon's offices in June. But the Qatar-based news network published a redacted version online. (Capitol Alert has it posted here.) It's a treasure trove of detailed allegations that the Democratic state senator from Montebello sold his position and influence for money and favors.

But it probably wasn't leaked, Wedick said. More likely, a copy was accidentally left where someone found it.

"I guess you could say it's possible the document was leaked," he said. "but I would doubt that somebody would purposely take that document and release it."

Wedick recalled that when he headed up the "shrimpgate" undercover sting in the late 1980s that snagged 12 public officials using a phony shrimp business to expose corruption, that he carefully guarded his investigative documents. Wedick routinely summarized reports and parceled out pages, he said, with only information his agents needed for their particular part of the probe.

"I never thought that anyone would leak the documents," he said, "but I worried they might accidentally leave them somewhere,"

Nancy Savage, executive director of the Virginia-based Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI agreed, noted that federal law makes leaking an FBI affidavit a felony.

But if the document wasn't leaked, why was it redacted?

"Al Jazeera's lawyers did that," Wedick said, out of concern that leaving certain portions untouched would leave the network open to a lawsuit.

The FBI has not commented on the leak or whether there will be an investigation.

October 31, 2013
Hollywood interests pony up for Steinberg

steinberg.JPGTiming is everything in politics, although not always in a good way.

On the same day Al Jazeera America broke the story of a Hollywood-themed FBI sting ensnaring state Sen. Ron Calderon, a campaign committee of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg reported several contributions from Tinsel Town movie interests.

Steinberg's 2018 campaign for lieutenant governor collected more than $27,000 in donations from director Steven Spielberg, his wife Kate Capshaw, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn Katzenberg, according to a filing with the secretary of state's office.

Steinberg is mentioned several times in a 124-page FBI affidavit in which Calderon allegedly tells an undercover FBI agent that Steinberg supports his effort to lower the threshold on the state's film tax credit. Steinberg has not been implicated in the case.

"The senator is proud to be supported by thousands of Californians, including these individuals," Steinberg spokesman Jason Kinney said of the donations. "As is our strict policy, there was absolutely no connection between this outside fundraising and any policy or pending legislation."

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

October 31, 2013
AM Alert: Zombie bills haunt corridors of California Capitol


In the spirit of today's celebration of all things ghostly, we thought it might be instructive to reflect today on some of California's zombie bills: issues that seem to come back to life on an annual basis after being left dead the prior session.

One notorious example at last joined the realm of living laws this session: after years of trying, Democrats were finally able to push across a bill offering driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Former state lawmaker Gil Cedillo can now rest in peace (figuratively speaking).

But others perished, perhaps to await resurrection in January. For the second straight year, Sen. Mark Leno's bill to allow misdemeanor charges for minor drug possession failed, as did legislation seeking to streamline the process of firing teachers; the push to create a state-level agency to regulate marijuana gave up the ghost; and the quest to institute an oil extraction tax, propelled this time by ominous warnings about a coming boom in the Monterey Shale, suffered a familiar fate.

Then, of course, there is the unremitting battle over changing the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. Barring a legislative solution, MICRA reform could lurch its way to the ballot box come 2014.

TRICK OR TREAT: As if observing democracy up close isn't scary enough, offices in the State Capitol will be participating in the autumnal festivities today by offering up Halloween treats. It's unclear how many people will participate in the staffers-only event, or whether people will swap their recess-casual wear for costumes, but a staffer organizing the event assures us that, at a minimum, Shrek will be stalking the corridors; we're wondering whether the politically besieged Sutter Brown will get into the act.

TAXING TIMES: In California, "tax revolt" is a phrase typically associated with the anti-taxation ferment that led to the passage of Proposition 13. UC San Diego professor Branislav L. Slantchev will offer a broader and wonkier look today, laying out his research during a UC Center Sacramento talk on the general functioning of tax rebellions. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at 1130 K Street.

PHOTO: People dressed as zombies gather at Sub Q Piercing in midtown for a series of zombie related activities, starting with "zombies face off" where fx artists compete in horror makeup. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz.

October 30, 2013
Read the FBI affidavit in the Ron Calderon investigation

Here is a copy of the affidavit, obtained by the Al Jazeera America network, that the FBI used to obtain a search warrant in the investigation of California state Sen. Ron Calderon.

FBI affidavit.pdf

October 30, 2013
Ron Calderon FBI sting detailed in affidavit


Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, accepted $60,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents during a wide-ranging probe into his conduct as a legislator, according to a 125-page affidavit published online Wednesday by cable news network Al Jazeera.

No charges have been filed against Calderon. But the document says the Democrat from Montebello worked with interest groups in a pay-to-play fashion, accepting money from health care and film industry representatives in exchange for promises to carry or amend legislation to their benefit.

The document details one instance in which Calderon hired a female undercover agent as a staff member as a favor to another undercover agent, although he was told she had few qualifications for the job. It says Calderon asked agents he believed to be in the movie-making business to provide money for his children, Jessica and Zachary.

"One way you could be a real help to (my daughter) is, you got any work?" Calderon said to the undercover agent posing as the film studio owner during a June 2012 dinner in Pico Rivera, according to the affidavit.

"I told you man, anything you can do, any help you could do for my kids is, is - you know that's that's diamonds for me. That's diamonds."

The agent was asking Calderon to change California's tax credit program for film makers so that smaller productions would qualify for the credit. Under a bill Calderon carried in 2009 and an extension passed in 2012, productions that cost at least $1 million and are shot in California can enter a lottery to get a tax break. The affidavit describes Calderon talking to the undercover agent about working to lower the threshold.

The Al Jazeera report comes months after federal agents descended on Calderon's office in a rare Sacramento spectacle. Since then, The Sacramento Bee has explored questions orbiting the powerful Calderon family's connections to a Los Angeles-area water district and scrutiny over former Assemblyman Tom Calderon's ties to a hospital, also the target of a federal raid, that relates to a broader debate over worker compensation.

PHOTO: Senator Ron Calderon speaks to the media outside Senate chambers on Monday June 10, 2013, at the State Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

October 30, 2013
Schwarzenegger pays visit to Capitol, and lawmakers behave

schwarzenegger.jpgWith Congress behaving a bit like an unruly classroom lately, it seemed all too appropriate to call in the Kindergarten Cop.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie star and former Republican governor of California, paid a visit Wednesday to the Capitol to promote his After-School All Stars program, aimed at keeping kids out of trouble.

But Schwarzenegger's visit kept lawmakers out of trouble, at least for a day.

Barely a month after much of the federal government shut down and barely two weeks after the country came perilously close to defaulting on its debt, Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate were on their best behavior.

Speaking to reporters, flanked by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Schwarzenegger praised members of an institution that's received worse ratings from the public than a bad movie.

"You read so much about the partisanship here in the Capitol," he said, as reporters snapped pictures on their cellphones. "I have only seen the best of this Capitol."

But if things get out of hand again, maybe he'll be back.

PHOTO: Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, left, talks with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., before a meeting about funding after school programs, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

October 30, 2013
Nonprofit run by Tom Calderon got $25,000 from a Latino Caucus PAC


Early this year, a political fundraising committee connected to the Legislature's Latino Caucus gave $25,000 to a group run by Tom Calderon, the former assemblyman whose brother, Sen. Ron Calderon, had just concluded serving two years as the group's vice chairman.

The Jan. 2 contribution to "Californians for Diversity" came just a few weeks after Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, stood down from an earlier bid to become the caucus chairman -- and about five months before the FBI raided Ron Calderon's Capitol offices.

It was an unusual payment for the Yes We Can political action committee, a fundraising arm of the Latino Caucus that accepts donations from interest groups and gives money to support Latino candidates. The $25,000 contribution to Tom Calderon's nonprofit organization is the only "civic donation" listed on the committee's expenditures since it formed in 2011.

Chairmanship of the biggest caucus in California's Legislature was the source of some turmoil last year, with then-Assemblyman Tony Mendoza stepping down in February and Ricardo Lara -- who was an assemblyman at the time -- taking his place.

Ron Calderon was vice chairman of the caucus at the time, putting him in line to become chairman of the caucus in December, when legislators began a new two-year session. Instead, lawmakers in the Latino caucus voted on Dec. 3 to keep Lara as their chair. The contribution to Tom Calderon's group followed just a few weeks later.

"That was a nonprofit we were trying to raise money for to heighten public awareness of the Latino caucus," Tom Calderon told The Bee. "We had just started fundraising. We haven't done very much."

The group's tax returns show Tom Calderon as president of Californians for Diversity, receiving $2,500 in compensation in 2011.

It's unclear why the Latino caucus would give Tom Calderon's group a donation. Sen. Ricardo Lara, the Bell Gardens Democrat who chairs the Latino caucus, and Ron Calderon, who had been in line to become the caucus chair during the last legislative session, declined to answer questions for this report.

October 30, 2013
Hannah-Beth Jackson, advocates tout car sale ballot push


Add buying a car to the growing list of consumer transactions California voters could be asked to regulate during the 2014 election.

In a Wednesday morning conference call, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and the president of proponent Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety announce the filing of a proposed ballot measure that would impose new restrictions on automotive sales.

Car sale safety has already been a focus for Jackson, who last session authored a stalled bill that would bar dealers from selling or leasing cars that have been targeted by safety recalls unless they've repaired the cars.

"We should be able to rely on these vehicles as being safe, particularly when they're purchased from a car dealer," Jackson said during Wednesday's call.

The proposed ballot initiative includes similar provisions on selling calls under safety recalls. It would also tighten the rules around car purchases, prohibiting dealers from charging markups on loans and from altering contracts after a sale has been made, and eliminate the New Motor Vehicle Board's ability to overrule California Department of Motor Vehicle decisions disciplining dealers for consumer fraud.

"We need the DMV to be the cop on the beat for us," Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, said on Wednesday.

Protections against identity theft also play a role, including language prohibiting dealerships from hiring employees with past convictions for identity theft or forgery.

"The auto dealers hold the keys to the kingdom when it comes to identity theft" given their access to rich troves of personal data, Beth Givens of the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said on the conference call.

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety spent just over $65,000 on lobbying during the 2013 legislative session, according to filings with the California Secretary of State. Shahan said the organization has so far funded the polling and legal work surrounding the proposed initiative but is still recruiting potential funders for a signature-gathering campaign. Voicing support during the conference call was Boysen Anderson of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

PHOTO: New Honda automobiles are displayed at Mel Rapton Honda on December 10, 2012 in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

October 30, 2013
AM Alert: Janet Napolitano to lay out higher education plan


As former California Fair Political Practices Commission chief Ann Ravel's transition this week to the Federal Election Commission demonstrated, the California-to-Washington pipeline continues to function.

Moving in the opposite direction is Janet Napolitano, the former Obama administration cabinet secretary who has traded homeland security for higher education. The University of California regents confirmed Napolitano as president back in July, and tonight Napolitano will be in San Francisco to deliver a speech billed as the first major public address of her tenure.

While running a public university network may seem less daunting than overseeing America's sprawling national security and immigration systems, Napolitano will have plenty to keep her occupied. A recent report from the Little Hoover Commission called for a radical rethinking of California's public colleges, arguing that a cash infusion alone can't reverse stagnating graduation rates and access lagging behind demand.

Napolitano has also generated a backlash from Californians unhappy with her legacy at the Department of Homeland Security, particularly the record number of deportations. Protesters plan to denounce Napolitano when she arrives at Oakland Technical High School for a speech this morning.

LATTER-YEAR LAWMAKERS: The Assembly and Senate chambers will see their recess tranquility interrupted this week, with aged Californians in town for a meeting of the California Senior Legislature. After hearing yesterday from Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, the elder statespeople will hold legislative floor sessions this morning, break for committee hearings in the afternoon and then convene for an evening banquet at the Hyatt Regency.

WATER BOND: Lawmakers will be in Indio today for an Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee hearing focused on regional water needs and the potential solutions contained in a 2014 bond proposal by committee chair Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood. Expected attendees included Rendon and Assembly members V. Manuel Pérez, Brian Dahle and Mariko Yamada. Starting at 2 p.m. in the Indio City Hall Council Chambers.

LINKED LEARNING: Bipartisan alert: two days after Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was at an area high school touting a quarter billion dollars for high school courses tailored to career preparation, Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, will be in Rancho Cucamonga talking up the same program.

RANGER ARNOLD: For the third time in its history, the U.S. Forest Service will christen an honorary ranger. The recipient of this rarefied recognition? Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will be lauded for his climate change record during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture today.

PHOTO: Janet Napolitano, then director of the Department of Homeland Security, shown on April 17, 2013. Olivier Douliery/ Abaca Press/ MCT.

October 29, 2013
Audit slams California for not identifying mentally ill with guns

gun_petitions.JPGA new state audit faults the California Department of Justice and the court system for failing to communicate about enforcing rules meant to restrict gun ownership by the mentally ill.

The Bureau of State Audits report found that 34 of the state's superior courts did not file required firearm prohibition reports to the justice department's mental health unit from 2010 through 2012. Most of the courts didn't know about the reporting requirement, according to the audit.

Auditors also found cases where justice department employees made the wrong decision about whether a mentally ill person was "an armed prohibited person" who is not entitled to a gun. Auditors raised concerns that department supervisors do not review the decisions.

In a response to the audit, Stephen J. Lindley, chief of the justice department's bureau of firearms, said it will improve outreach to the courts, mental-health facilities and state hospitals about the prohibited person reporting requirements. The office also agreed with the audit's recommendation that supervisors review decisions on armed prohibited persons, although it may need to hire more staff.

The audit follows several bills this year meant to tighten the rules on gun ownership by the mentally ill. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1131 that increases from six months to five years the amount of time a person is prohibited from having a gun after threatening violence to a licensed psychotherapist.

But Brown vetoed a measure, Senate Bill 755, that would have added substance-abuse convictions and court orders to undergo outpatient mental-health treatment to the criteria that makes a person ineligible to have a gun for 10 years.

PHOTO: Brandon Combs, left, managing director with the Firearms Policy Coalition, and Craig DeLuz, legislative advocate with the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, prepare to deliver 67,000 petitions urging the veto of 14 gun bills to Gov. Jerry Brown's office at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Oct. 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

October 29, 2013
AM Alert: Gov. Jerry Brown continues his traveling ways


Back when he was still inundated with the end-of-session bill crush, Gov. Jerry Brown waxed poetic about escaping the weight of "all these damn bills" and getting out more.

Over the last week or so, the governor seems to be living up to that -- if not by exploring the on-the-ground nuances of California's prisons and schools and water infrastructure, then at least by logging some miles.

Brown has been in Bell Gardens to christen a new hotel casino, in San Francisco to ink a new climate pact and in Washington, D.C. to continue touting California's come-back story. This morning he arrives in San Bernardino to tour a newly opening Amazon distribution center. It will be the first Amazon distribution warehouse in California out of around 40 nationally.

ONLINE EDUCATION: California's public universities continue to grapple with diminishing access and students taking too long to graduate. This year's budget allocated a cumulative $36.9 million to address high-demand "bottleneck" classes, including via the increasingly popular but still controversial with faculty notion of online classes, and today representatives of the California State University system will discuss where CSU is spending the $10 million it received. From 10:30 a.m. in room 437 of the State Capitol.

HOMEKEEPING: More than three years after California got approval to help struggling homeowners fend off foreclosure with the Keep Your Home California program, lawmakers will examine how effective the initiative has been with a joint hearing of the Assembly committees on Housing and Community Development and on Banking and Finance. From 10 a.m. to noon at Alhambra City Hall, featuring speakers from the California Housing Finance Agency and a handful of banks and mortgage servicers, along with Assembly members Ed Chau and Roger Dickinson.

AEROSPACIN' OUT: As south state lawmakers continue their push to revive California's aerospace industry, a Select Committee On Defense And Aerospace hearing at Mojave Air & Space Port will take a look at topics like space tourism and drone test sites. Featuring Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and representatives from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

GUNS BLAZING: The Second Amendment backlash continues. A few days after gun advocates and gubernatorial longshot Tim Donnelly announced a plan to try and recall vulnerable Democrats who voted for gun bills, firearms fans sponsoring a gun-rights-fortifying amendment to the California Constitution will be touting their initiative on the west steps. Starting at 10:30 a.m.

PHOTO: Then-gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown gets in his old 1974 Plymouth Satellite car parked in front of his old apartment on N Street in Sacramento where Rusty Areias had a fundraiser for him on March 24, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer.

October 28, 2013
Man who threatened Leland Yee pleads to 10 counts

RB Leland Yee 1.JPG
A Santa Clara man pleaded no contest today to seven felonies and three misdemeanors in making threats against state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, for his pursuit of gun control legislation.

Everett Basham pleaded to felony counts of making terrorist threats, malicious possession of explosives, forging a military ID and illegal possession of assault weapons, said Alaleh Kianerci, a Santa Clara County deputy district attorney. She said he also pleaded to misdemeanors including carrying a loaded concealed weapon and possession of a destructive device, which was a modified explosive.

The crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, Kianerci said, adding that Basham is not eligible for probation.

The incident took place earlier this year, when Basham sent Yee an email warning that he would assassinate him if he continued pursuing gun control bills.

"The threat was unlike any of the other ones I've received in the past," Yee said in February. "In the past I've received racial slurs, rants about my ethnicity and culture, about China. But instead this was a rather detailed, deliberate and exact set of strategies as to how he would carry out that threat."

Yee issued a statement today thanking prosecutors for their action on the case and vowing to continue "pushing for common sense gun safety legislation."

"I appreciate that justice was served in this matter and I hope that this man receives all the help he needs," the statement said. "The professionalism of the California Highway Patrol, the FBI, the Santa Clara District Attorney's office and their partners, ensured that a dangerous threat was removed from our community before anyone was hurt."

PHOTO: Sate Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, discusses the death threat against him in February 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

October 28, 2013
VIDEO: Steinberg talks about trip to Switzerland

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and a small delegation of California state senators recently returned from a trip to Germany and Switzerland to learn about the way those countries teach high school. Today Steinberg visited Sacramento's Health Professions High School, where he talked about what he liked in the Swiss public education system:

October 28, 2013
Steinberg: Making high school relevant is 'top focus'


California high schools could see an infusion of new programs that link academics with career exposure to provide students a richer learning experience. That's the goal of a competitive $250 million grant process Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is promoting to schools and businesses.

The Sacramento Democrat joined several local education and business leaders at Health Professions High School today to highlight a piece of the 2013-14 state budget that he hopes will give high school a boost of relevancy by connecting students to the world of work. Steinberg encouraged schools and community colleges to collaborate with employers in their region and apply together for grants to create more opportunities for applied learning.

"We want business, we want lead industries to step up and see this not just as a philanthropic add-on or something that would be nice to do for kids, but to see this opportunity as the beginning of a change in our American culture," Steinberg said. "For business, helping educate and train the next century work force is an indispensable part of the bottom line."

High schools could use the grants, for example, to hire someone to serve as an internship coordinator to match students with businesses, or to train teachers to teach academic subjects in a more hands-on way that shows how they relate to careers.

Educators bill the approach as "linked learning," and hold up Sacramento's Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School as an example. The school teaches a college-prep academic curriculum but blends it with preparation for careers in health care. During a tour, Steinberg visited an English class where students had read "The Hot Zone," a book about the Ebola virus, and were doing a project about its symptoms.

"Linked Learning students understand how their high school education relates to their next step and beyond," said Deborah Bettencourt, superintendent of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District.

October 28, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown, other governors to sign climate accord


Fresh off his trip to Washington, D.C., Gov. Jerry Brown will join his West Coast gubernatorial brethren and Canadian officials today to ink a climate change accord.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and environmental officials from British Columbia will join Brown in San Francisco to sign the pact. Stay tuned for more details.

VIDEO: As the state's finances improve, Dan Walters says the court system finds itself in the same place as other state agencies scrambling for more money.

CAPITOL TO CAPITOL: Now that's what you'd call a memorable exit: California Fair Political Practices Commission Chair Ann Ravel put an exclamation point on her tenure by announcing a landmark $1 million settlement Thursday with nonprofits that secretively injected millions of dollars into the 2012 election cycle.

Now Ravel is migrating from California to the nation's capital, where she'll monitor monetary machinations for the Federal Elections Commission. The U.S. Senate confirmed her appointment to the panel back in September. Ravel was sworn in on Friday, and today is her first day working for the feds.

SEXUAL ASSAULT: The issue of sexual assault in the military has gained prominence on Capitol Hill recently, and today California lawmakers will examine the lingering repercussions of military sexual assault during a hearing conducted jointly by the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee and the California Legislative Women's Caucus, with witnesses including Lindsey Sin, deputy secretary of women veterans affairs at the California Department of Veterans Affairs and Jennifer Lucero, sexual assault response coordinator for the California National Guard. Starting at 10 a.m. in the Capitol's room 437.

LINKED LEARNING: The concept of high school education tailored to specific careers has apparently captivated Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for a while now. (He led a Senate field trip to study the concept in Long Beach and traveled to Germany and Switzerland this month to learn more.) Today he's touting a $250 million linked learning grant program included in this year's budget. At 9:30 a.m. at Health Professions High School in Sacramento.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who turns 48 today, and to Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, who turns 68.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his revised budget plan for the fiscal year at the Capitol in Sacramento on May 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer.

October 28, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California courts compete in clamor for cash

With a new agency aimed at ginning up cash, Dan notes, California's court system joins other state agencies in scrambling for a slice of the general fund pie.

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October 25, 2013
AM Alert: How would rising seas affect California infrastructure?

MAJPORTOFOAK.JPGFrom ports to airports to wastewater treatment plants, infrastructure across coastal California could suffer some of the deleterious effects of swelling sea levels.

A hearing today, conducted jointly by the Assembly select committees on Ports and on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy (respectively) will examine the implications. Assembly members Rich Gordon and Bonnie Lowenthal will preside over the proceedings.

Witnesses will include officials from the ports of Long Beach, Oakland and Los Angeles; representatives of airports in Santa Barbara, San Diego and San Francisco; and Garth Hopkins of the California Department of Transportation and Roger Johnson of the California Energy Commission. From 1 to 5 p.m. at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

VIDEO: The Coast Guard has gone overboard in trying to correct some shoddy practices, Dan Walters says.

KANYE KASH: His uncle Tom Calderon recently abandoned a bid to replace his other uncle Ron in the state Senate, but Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, is keeping the family tradition alive by seeking a sophomore term representing the 57th Assembly District. And he's maintaining his cred as the Legislature's youngest member with a fly fundraiser on Saturday. For $2,000, donors can back the 28-year-old legislator and snag a ticket to the Kanye West show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Although we're not sure how this compares to Assemblyman Isadore Hall's Beyoncé fundraiser back in July.)

DISNEY DEMS: If you have a few thousand dollars to burn and hip-hop isn't your thing, you can head over to Disneyland to back either the re-election bid of Democratic Sen. Marty Block of San Diego, former Assemblyman Jose Solorio's attempt to return to the Legislature, or Solorio's ballot measure committee Prosperity for California. The cost of magic runs from $1,500 to $5,500, depending on how much enchantment you're after.

CELEBRATIONS: We have two birth anniversaries this weekend, both on Sunday: Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solano Beach, turns 67, and Secretary of State Debra Bowen celebrates her 58th.

PHOTO: Container ships dock at the Port of Oakland on May 5, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Michael A. Jones.

October 25, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California National Guard going too far

Years after a Sacramento Bee investigation found lapses at the California National Guard, Dan says the guard has reacted overzealously.

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October 24, 2013
FPPC seeks repayment of $15 million in mystery money

Ravel.jpgIn a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars.

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced the settlement with the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership, two groups based in Arizona that the FPPC describes as part of a network operated by the conservative Koch brothers.

The groups acknowledge they broke California law by not appropriately reporting two campaign contributions.

The commission also sent letters to two California committees demanding they pay the state general fund more than $15 million they received from groups that didn't properly report the source of their funds.

Actually getting the money, however, will likely be a challenge.

Despite the size of the fine, the settlement brings Californians no closer to knowing the identities of the original individual donors.

Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement, said the case highlights the need to change California law to reflect that political spending is now largely being funneled through nonprofit organizations.

"They are being used to hide donors," he said.

The Arizona groups had not been active in California politics until last fall, when Democrats led by Gov. Jerry Brown were pushing for a tax increase known as Proposition 30, and Republicans were pushing Proposition 32 to limit how labor unions use the dues they collect. A few weeks before the November election, Americans for Responsible Leadership gave $11 million to the Small Business Action Committee, which was working to oppose Proposition 30 and support Proposition 32.

In September, a related group called the American Future Fund gave $4.08 million to something called the California Future Fund, which was also giving money to oppose Proposition 30 and support Proposition 32.

The FPPC and the Attorney General's Office set out to determine who was behind the mysterious donations.

Today's settlement answers part of the question, revealing that the money for the two donations came from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which acknowledges that it should have reported its contribution last year. But it does not compel the groups to report which individuals gave them the money.

The lawyer representing the Center to Protect Patient Rights said his client's lack of reporting amounted to a mistake.

"This was the first contribution they had ever made in the state of California," Malcolm Segal said, adding that the state's campaign finance laws amount to a "very complicated environment with many, many regulations."

"They believed they were in compliance," Segal said. "But the FPPC believed they were mistaken about their compliance and (under state law) even a mistake is punishable conduct."

The FPPC says the Center to Protect Patient Rights is affiliated with billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, who run a network of nonprofit groups around the country that solicit donations and then use the money to support Republican causes. The format allows donors to support political causes without being identified. When donors give directly to a political cause, their identities are reported in campaign finance reports. But when donors give to a nonprofit, the law does not require their identities be disclosed.

Because the groups acknowledge they did not report contributions as they should have, the FPPC can now go after the recipients of the money to pay the funds to the state. The agency sent letters today to Barbara Smeltzer, head of the California Future Fund, and Joel Fox of the the Small Business Action Committee, directing them, respectively, to pay $4.08 million and $11 million to California's general fund.

"It's required under state law," Winuk said. "Just receiving a contribution where the true source is not disclosed means you have to give it up."

But the attorney for the Small Business Action Committee said his group is not required to pay the money, arguing that the California laws governing so-called "disgorgement" apply to political candidates -- not ballot measures.

Furthermore, attorney Steve Churchwell said, his client was not found guilty of any violations and doesn't have $11 million anyway.

"Not one dime of this money is sitting in a bank account," Churchwell said.

"It all was spent on Props 30 and 32."

Here is the stipulation.

Here is the letter to the Small Business Action Committee.

Here is the letter to the California Future Fund.

PHOTO: FPPC Chair Ann Ravel in her office on Tuesday September 17, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Renee C. Byer

Editor's note: This post was updated at 2:10 p.m. with a reaction from the Small Business Action Committee.

October 24, 2013
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly, gun control opponents announce recall push


Having failed to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown to reject a wide-ranging package of gun control bills, pro-gun advocates announced on Thursday they will seek to punish Democrats who supported the measures at the ballot box.

"Every single assemblyman and state senator swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution," Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, told reporters before speaking at the conference. "And when they violate that oath by trying to erase the Second Amendment, then I think we have a duty" to "remove that threat."

The recall effort, trumpeted during a press conference on the west steps of the state Capitol building, comes after Second Amendment stalwarts successfully recalled two Colorado legislators last month over their votes for tough new gun control measures. Tim Knight, who launched the Colorado effort, spoke in Sacramento on Thursday about a groundswell of popular anger against California's gun control package, as did Sam Paredes of Gun Owners of California.

"Since the governor's action in signing the bills and vetoing bills, we have been inundated with calls and emails, communications with people all over the state of California asking us, what are we going to do about this?" Paredes said, adding that "the recall is one way to send a message: if you continue to do this, we're going to continue to fight."

Targeting the governor himself would have been prohibitively expensive and required a massive amount of signatures, said Jennifer Kerns, who is working on the recall effort and for Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign.

But she cited a number of vulnerable Democratic lawmakers the recall campaign will focus on: Senators Norma Torres and Ben Hueso, in addition to Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez, Sharon Quirk-Silva and Speaker John A. Pérez. That list could grow, Kerns said, brandishing a spreadsheet laying out how lawmakers voted on various gun bills and assessing voter registration splits in their respective districts.

In addition to Donnelly, Kerns said, Republican Assembly members Brian Jones and Shannon Grove have signed on to the recall effort.

October 24, 2013
Jerry Brown: Cutting inmates nothing to 'beat your chest about'

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown was wrapping up a speech in Washington on Thursday about the merits of California governance when, during a question and answer period, the subject of state prisons arose.

The Brown administration, which is under a court order to reduce California's prison population, has dramatically cut the number of inmates by measures including shifting responsibility in 2011 for certain low-level offenders from the state prison system to counties.

"There's about 42,000 fewer people in the state prison system than there were just five years ago, so that's a big change," Brown said at a policy conference hosted by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "There's more to be done, and I know there's more to be done because the federal courts have a gun at my head, and if I don't, they're going to throw me in the can."

The Democratic governor is widely expected to run for re-election next year and is by far the favorite to win, but Republicans have hammered him on prisons.

The political difficulty of the issue - if not a shortcoming in Brown's stagecraft - came just as he was about to leave the stage.

"And I want to tell you, reducing the number of felons in prison is not one of those things that you get up and beat your chest about," Brown said. "There are very few people who've run for office saying, 'And if I'm elected, you'll have thousands of felons in your neighborhood.' "

The crowd laughed, and Brown said, "But, it's happening in California."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 24, 2013
AM Alert: Gov. Jerry Brown trades Sacramento for Washington

GovernorsMeeting.jpgWednesday, we told you about Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez raising his profile by hosting a national event. Today, Gov. Jerry Brown trades Sacramento for Washington, D.C., to rub shoulders with public officials from across the country.

Brown is speaking at a policy conference hosted by the Center for American Progress, the influential liberal think tank, and the governor will add his name to an impressive roster. Filling out the guest list are Secretary of State John Kerry, former Vice President Al Gore, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi,, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

In keeping with the "California is back!" narrative, Brown is expected to talk in his lunchtime address about how California surmounted its reputation for dysfunction and got its financial house in order.

VIDEO: The state's management of an ancient home for veterans has Dan Walters scratching his head.

FPPC: They're skimping on the details, but the California Fair Political Practices Commission will make an announcement on a major case during a noon press conference. Stay with us for more information as this story develops.

BALLOT INITIATIVES: Big names from all three branches of government will appear on a Public Policy Institute of California panel today discussing the state of direct democracy in California. The panel includes former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, former Gov. Gray Davis and former chief justice of the California Supreme Court Ronald George, with Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison moderating. Communications pro Donna Lucas, will also be on hand. A recent PPIC report spotlighted recommendations to improve the ballot initiative process. The event is at the Sheraton Grand; registration has already closed.

HEALTH PLANS: We brought you news recently of grumblings from health insurance companies about the lack of health plan quality ratings on the website of Covered California, the state's new health insurance exchange. Board members will vote on how to deploy the quality rating system during a daylong meeting at the Secretary of State's Office today.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The Little Hoover Commission holds a hearing today examining how California will cope with climate change, with witnesses addressing the consequences for the state's major urban hubs: Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area and "Sacramento and the Rest," as the agenda terms it (sorry, SacTown apologists). Starting at 9:30 a.m. in room 437 of the state Capitol building.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters during the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. The Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana.

October 24, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California bungles Napa veterans home

Dan wonders why California continues to maintain an antiquated veterans home rather than converting it into some assets to build a new one.

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October 23, 2013
Source: Settlement in $11 million Arizona donation case

RCB_20130917 FPPC CHAIR 0921_0121 (2).JPGThe state's political ethics watchdog has reached a settlement following its probe into an $11 million donation that added last-minute drama to Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase initiative, a source close to the case told The Bee.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission is expected to announce the settlement at a news conference Thursday in Sacramento. Details of the settlement were not immediately available.

After the $11 million went to oppose Brown's Proposition 30 tax increase and support Proposition 32, a measure aimed at weakening the political power of labor unions, the FPPC sued to force more detailed disclosure. It eventually discovered that the money flowed to California through three nonprofits: Americans for Job Security, the Center to Protect Patients' Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership.

The true source of the donations has remained a mystery.

Both the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Job Security have funded campaigns against Democratic congressional candidates and President Barack Obama without disclosing their donors. The FPPC has accused the nonprofits of money laundering to hide donors from California voters in violation of state law.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights and its director, Sean Noble, have been connected to billionaire conservative activists David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch in the past, but spokespeople for the Kochs have denied any involvement 1n the Proposition 30 and 32 campaigns.

PHOTO: FPPC Chair Ann Ravel gestures during an interview in her office on Tuesday September 17, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Renee C. Byer

October 23, 2013
Tom Calderon drops bid for California Senate


Former Assemblyman Tom Calderon has dropped out of the race to replace his brother Ron Calderon in the state Senate next year.

"I'm not running," Tom Calderon said today in a phone call with The Bee.

"I just need to take time for myself and my family. I've been through a lot this year."

In June, the FBI raided the Capitol offices of Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and attempted to contact Tom Calderon, who works as a consultant. Federal authorities appear to be looking into businesses that have ties to Tom Calderon. This year they subpoenaed the Central Basin Municipal Water District and raided the Pacific Hospital of Long Beach -- both businesses that have been clients of Tom Calderon's consulting practice. Ron Calderon, meanwhile, has opened a legal defense fundraising committee to cover expenses related to his "public corruption investigation."

Tom Calderon said today that he has not testified before a grand jury in the case and has had no contact with federal authorities in recent weeks.

October 23, 2013
AM Alert: Speaker John A. Perez steps into national spotlight

20130805_ha__JohnAPerez0002.JPGWith his Sacramento duties discharged for the year's remainder, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez will be availing himself of an opportunity to commune with his legislative leader counterparts.

Accustomed to presiding over the California Assembly, Pérez will spend the next few days hosting a National Speakers Conference in Los Angeles. Run by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, the four-day event today through Saturday brings together speakers and chiefs of staff from democracy labs around the country. It seems appropriate that Pérez takes on the emcee's role as his final year in the Legislature looms; he has already served a one-year term as the conference's president.

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation, by the way, draws funding from an A-list of corporate backers that includes the American Beverage Association, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Verizon and GlaxoSmithCline. Its board of directors features state lawmakers from around the country, including California's own Assembly Majority Floor Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

VIDEO: A big upcoming California bond sale offers a test of how the state's finances are perceived, Dan Walters says.

REEXAMINING REALIGNMENT: During Monday's meeting of a newly launched committee on criminal justice policy, lawmakers peppered witnesses with questions about the quantifiable effects of shifting offenders to county jails over the last few years. Today, a Sacramento Press Club event will ask air similar questions. With Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, Nina Salarno Ashford of Crime Victims United and Michelle Scray Brown, chief probation officer of San Bernardino County. From noon at Capitol Plaza Ballroom.

MEDI-CALIBRATING: An Assembly Health Committee hearing today will take a look at Medi-Cal's managed care program. Witnesses include public health academics, attorneys for organizations that work on disabled advocacy and independent care and experts who will speak on shifting Californians enrolled in Healthy Families into Medi-Cal. From 9:30 a.m. to noon in room 4202.

DRONES: The growing use of unmanned aircraft continues to hover on the radar of policymakers, and a panel today in San Francisco will take a look at the implications for law enforcement and civil liberties. Joining Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and David A. Carrillo, director of UC Berkeley law school's California Constitution Center, will be Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored an unsuccessful bill last session that would have delineated how law enforcement could use data collected by drones. Starting at 6 p.m. at the Commonwealth Club.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, who turns 63 today.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 23, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Bond sale tests California's finances

Financial markets are closely watching California's ability to pay off bonds given an increasing dependency on wealthy Californians for revenue, Dan says.

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October 22, 2013
Antonio Villaraigosa says 'there's a lot I can learn' at Edelman

Villaraigosa_Press_Club.jpgFormer Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was on the phone Tuesday from Harvard University, where he is a visiting fellow, to talk about his new job at Edelman, the public relations giant where he will work as a senior adviser.

Villaraigosa said he hopes to help companies navigate "that place where ... the corporate world meets public policy and community," but also that "there's a lot I can learn here" about business.

The ability to say four years from now that he has spent time learning about the private sector could help the former labor organizer and Assembly speaker if he chooses to run for governor in 2018, but there are other interests Californians value. Villaraigosa demurred when asked how his appointment compared in resume-building terms to last week's announcement by another potential future candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. He will lead a panel to study legalizing marijuana.

"If you notice, I'm here at Harvard," Villaraigosa said - and also at Edelman and at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he is a senior fellow, and at Herbalife, the nutritional products company he is advising. Villaraigosa, 60, is on the lecture circuit, and he said he will soon announce an affiliation with another university.

"So I'm kind of continuing the 18-hour days," Villaraigosa said.

On this day the Democrat was between speaking engagements, and The Harvard Crimson, the college newspaper, was waiting for an interview.

"They're calling me here," he said, and with that he had to go.

PHOTO: Antonio Villaraigosa, then mayor of Los Angeles, speaks before the Sacramento Press Club, in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

October 22, 2013
Health plans rip Covered California for not posting quality ratings

RBCoveredCalifornia2.JPGKaiser Permanente and two other health plans criticized administrators of California's public health exchange Monday for postponing posting quality ratings for health plans on the exchange's website, saying the delay is a disservice to customers.

"We strongly urge that the display of health plan quality ratings go forward as originally planned, in the interest of both transparency to consumers and fair competition among Covered California's plan partners," the health plans said in a letter to members of the board of Covered California.

In the letter, Kaiser, Sharp Health Plan and Western Health Advantage said "it is unimaginable that consumers would prefer to be kept in the dark when quality information is readily available for their consideration."

Covered California announced this summer that it would delay posting quality ratings for health plans online, saying information used to rate the health plans was out of date.

The letter from Kaiser, Sharp and Western Health comes ahead of a Thursday meeting at which Covered California officials are expected to discuss the issue.

PHOTO: The executive director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee, speaks to members of the media during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Oct. 1. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 22, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown boosts casino hotel construction

20130909_HA_PRISONS0008.JPGThe Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens is getting a new hotel. It's also getting a visit from the governor of California.

Gov. Jerry Brown will be at the launch of the new hotel this morning, lending his blessing to a project that a gubernatorial news release touts for jolting the local economy and creating hundreds of jobs.

A press release from Bicycle estimates that casino revenue comprises nearly half of the Bell Gardens general fund. Joining Brown will be Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.

It bears noting that the casino has been a big Brown benefactor over the past couple of years. As The Bee's David Siders reported earlier, Bicycle poured $37,000 into his 2010 campaign, $25,000 to the Prop. 30 push and another $14,700 so far into the governor's re-election war chest.

JOB MOVE: Welcome to the private sector, Mr. Mayor: Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is joining PR titan Edelman as a senior adviser, the company officially announced today.

RALLY: Those protesters massing on the Capitol's west steps this morning are marking a nationally observed Day Against Police Brutality, highlighting instances in which people have died or suffered violence at the hands of law enforcement officers. Expected speakers include former California Supreme Court justice Cruz Reynoso.

COAST: The Pacific Ocean's vitality comes under the lens of a Select Committee on Coastal Protection hearing in Santa Cruz today. For the record, committee chair Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, was among the lawmakers who backed a thwarted bill empowering the California Coastal Commission to levy fines on violators. It should also be interesting to see whether offshore fracking surfaces as a discussion topic, given that Stone authored one of a few unsuccessful fracking bills this session. The hearing, featuring a scientist-heavy witness list, gets underway at 1:30 p.m.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters in Sacramento on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 21, 2013
Californians driving more, but using less fuel

California Clean Car Standards.JPGOver the last three decades -- roughly the period since Jerry Brown ended his first governorship -- California's population has increased by more than 50 percent and the amount of automotive travel has doubled.

California's 22 million drivers and 27.5 million cars and light trucks rack up more than 300 billion vehicle-miles of travel each year, which works out to an average of about 13,000 miles for each motorist.

Despite the sharp growth in both population and vehicular travel, however, gasoline consumption has increased only fractionally during that period, rising from about 12 billion gallons a year to 15 billion gallons or only about 25 percent more. And a new report from the state Board of Equalization points out that in recent years, consumption has actually been declining.

There was a sharp, 4.1 percent decline in 2008 as recession hit the state since then smaller declines have been recorded, including a drop of of 1.3 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Given the high level of vehicular travel, the years-long leveling off of fuel consumption and more recent declines have been attributed to much-improved mileage in newer cars. In 1983, cars commonly got only 15 miles to the gallon but today, 30 mpg is not uncommon and gasoline-electric hybrids can approach 100 mpg.

PHOTO: In this May 26, 2011, file photo, a motorcyclist rides between lanes as traffic backs up on U.S. Highway 101 before the start of the Memorial Day weekend in Mill Valley, Calif. Associated Press/Eric Risberg

October 21, 2013
Jerry Brown to give speech at Washington think tank

brownsandiego.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, who visits Washington infrequently and typically keeps a low profile when he does, will deliver a rare speech in the nation's capital Thursday.

The Democratic governor, who will speak at a conference hosted by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, has said in recent months that he wants to advocate for immigration and environmental policy changes on a national stage, but his remarks Thursday are expected to be focused more on budgeting.

"He's been asked to speak about how California is tackling its fiscal challenges and getting things done, at a time when gridlock and partisanship dominate national politics," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email Monday.

Also on the program Thursday are Secretary of State John Kerry, former Vice President Al Gore and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Brown made frequent appearances in Washington when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and running unsuccessfully for president, but he has sharply limited his out-of-state travel since returning to office in 2011.

October 21, 2013
AM Alert: How did California prisons get where they are today?

RCB_20120301_REALIGN_ 0024.JPGOne of the outcomes of the late-session push to mitigate California's prison overcrowding issues was the promise of a comprehensive look at the state's criminal justice policies. Gov. Jerry Brown even cited the forthcoming effort in vetoing sentencing-related legislation.

Today, things get underway with the first hearing of the new Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment, chaired by Democratic Assemblymen Tom Ammiano of San Francisco and Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles.

Drew Soderborg of Legislative Analyst's Office is expected to testify about how the prison population grew and how that increase affected inmates' health care. Don Specter of the Prison Law Office will address the role of the federal courts in the state's prisons. The public informational hearing convenes at 10 a.m. in room 126 of the California Capitol.

VIDEO: Dan Walters weeds out the intentions behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest big initiative on marijuana.

STATE CONTROLLER 2014: You may recall news from earlier this year about Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, running into a little trouble with the FBI. You'd think something so public might undermine a run for statewide office -- in this case, state controller. The recent announcement that Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez was entering the race probably hasn't helped, either.

But Calderon will be gathering supporters tonight at Capital Dime for a Monday Night Football-themed Ron Calderon for Controller 2014 fundraiser. It also bears noting that money continued flowing into Calderon's campaign committee even after federal agents came knocking in early June: Insurance industry organizations still pushed in thousands of dollars later in the month.

PHOTO: Inmates wait in the Roger Bauman intake facility for assessment before integrating into the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center on March 1, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer.

October 21, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Gavin Newsom goes to pot

Lt Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to position himself for his next move with a new push to legalize marijuana, Dan says.

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October 18, 2013
Nancy Pelosi, Doris Matsui talk up Dems' agenda in Sacramento

nancy_pelosi_doris_matsui_101813.JPGHouse Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that her Republican colleagues in Congress either "didn't know ... or didn't care" that shutting the federal government down for more than two weeks would injure the nation's economy.

"We lost $25 billion in our economy," Pelosi said while talking to members of the media following an appearance at Sacramento State.

"Either they didn't know that or they didn't care about it. I think they probably care about it. Now they know about it, and hopefully they will make different decisions."

The San Francisco Democrat was in Sacramento as part of a nationwide tour promoting congressional Democrats' agenda to raise the national minimum wage, support the expansion of subsidized preschool and increase the availability of paid medical leave for workers. She appeared alongside Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento.

October 18, 2013
AM Alert: Another California special election takes shape

RBVoters4.JPGA leisurely Friday offers as good a chance as any to do a little prognosticating about California's newest special election.

With Assembly Democrats again knocking on the door of a two-thirds supermajority, the steady stream of specials takes on additional significance. We already know that Democrat Matt Dababneh and Republican Susan Shelley will be squaring off on Nov. 19 for the 45th Assembly District seat formerly held by Bob Blumenfield.

Now we have a sense of the field vying for the seat recently vacated by another Los Angeles Democrat. Holly J. Mitchell's move to the Senate has produced a candidate list of three Democratic men hoping to represent the 54th Assembly District. They are accountant and former Culver City mayor Christopher Armenta, real estate broker John Jake and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, son of chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and formerly a policy adviser to former Sen. Curren Price. The special primary arrives Dec. 3, with a runoff on Feb. 4 if necessary.

VIDEO: Dan Walters reads some statistical tea leaves and finds a big change in how California consumers behave.

WINNING WOMEN: Two powerful California women will speak at an event laying out an economic agenda for women today. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, will be talking during a 2 p.m. forum at Sacramento State.

SOLITARY SOLIDARITY: A few weeks after advocates for prisoners in solitary confinement listened to sympathetic lawmakers address the issue at a Sacramento hearing, a United Nations torture expert will be speaking on panels in both Los Angeles and Berkeley. Juan Mendez will be at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles this morning and UC Berkeley's Valley Life Sciences building this afternoon.

CELEBRATIONS: We have a few different birthdays this weekend: On Saturday, Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, arrives at the ripe old age of 28. The slightly more august Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, turns 39 on the same day. On Sunday, Attorney General Kamala Harris celebrates her 49th.

PHOTO: Voters cast ballots at the polling place in the Bible Baptist Church in El Dorado Hills on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 18, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California consumers changing car customs

Despite California's population soaring over the last few decades, gasoline consumption hasn't kept pace. Dan takes a look at why.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 17, 2013
Tim Donnelly cites gun incident as evidence of political skill

donnellyconvention.jpgIt would be difficult for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly to point to his fundraising, which is anemic, or to his experience, which is limited, to inspire confidence in his campaign for governor.

But the Twin Peaks Republican and former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, has a new spokeswoman, Jennifer Kerns, and as of Thursday a memorandum detailing his "path to victory" in 2014.

This path involves any number of external factors, including the reaction of Republicans to the party's more moderate candidate, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, and to the effect, if any, of recent gun control legislation on the public approval rating of Gov. Jerry Brown.

It also includes a rather favorable reading of an incident involving Donnelly, his carry-on and a gun.

"While many people refer to Jerry Brown as 'Teflon Jerry' because political attacks historically haven't stuck to him, Donnelly is giving the political master a run for his money," Kerns wrote.

She called her candidate "Deft Donnelly" and offered as evidence of his skill his handling of his detention at a Southern California airport last year for having a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag.

Donnelly said at the time that he forgot the gun was in his bag and later pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors.

"Despite a flurry of press reports and some mild Twitter teasing," she wrote, "Donnelly has come out of that misstep fairly unscathed."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks to reporters at the California Republican Party's fall convention in Anaheim on Oct. 5, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

October 17, 2013
Republicans still recovering from anti-immigrant measures in California

Prop 187.JPG

Nearly two decades after its controversial passage, Gov. Pete Wilson's Proposition 187 continues to haunt the Republican Party in California and across the U.S.

A new report from Latino Decisions, a firm that analyzes demographics and voting trends, argues California could have remained a presidential battleground state -- with Democrats and Republicans vying for more congressional and legislative seats here -- were it not for Proposition 187 and later measures that mobilized Latino voters.

Proposition 187, most of which has been invalidated, would have denied various public services to undocumented immigrants. Latino partisanship has grown to more than 70 percent Democratic since the group first comprised more than 10 percent of the state electorate in 1996.

The massive shifts could have broad impacts on the nation, with Latinos nationally poised to swing 24 GOP-held congressional seats in 2014 and 2016 in states such as Nevada, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina, said Gary M. Segura, a politics professor at Stanford University who worked on the study.

Within the 24 districts, the firm identified 14 that are the most likely to flip into the Democratic column because of the sizable Latino electorate and close election results.

The dynamics are even more acute in the state Legislature, where Democrats already control near-supermajorities in both houses, Segura said. Five seats -- Assembly districts 40, 42, 44 and 60 and Senate District 4 -- remain competitive due mostly to the Latino vote, Segura said.

In response to the report, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said despite the registration advantages, turnout among Latinos remains comparatively low. "We are trying to as a Democratic Party and Senate leadership see what strategies we could use to increase the Latino turnout," he said.

Republicans in California and several other states recently mounted a multimillion-dollar effort to improve the party's standing among Latinos. Another partner on the study suggested that the GOP tone down some of the rhetoric from within the party and take an active role in national immigration reform to begin making inroads with Latinos.

"The very least the GOP can do is to say 'We want to start fresh,'" said Stephen Nuño, a professor of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona University.

Demonstrators hold up signs to protest immigration policies, including Proposition 187, outside City Hall where then-Gov. Pete Wilson was speaking on overhauling the juvenile justice system Jan. 16 1996 in Huntington Park, Calif. The Associated Press/Nick Utt

October 17, 2013
Audit blasts adventure park, tavern contracts at veterans home

yountvillehome.jpgThe California Department of Veterans Affairs wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars building an adventure park and running a café and tavern at the state's home for veterans in Yountville, the state auditor said Thursday.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report that the administrator of California's largest and oldest home for veterans entered into a contract to build and operate a nearly 200-acre adventure park on the grounds, including zip lines and a mountain biking course.

Top managers in Sacramento halted construction when they learned about the project in 2010, at a cost of $228,612, according to the audit.

Howle said the administrator at the Yountville home also contracted out the operation of a café and tavern at the home, at a cost of about $424,307 over nearly two years. Howle said the contract did not comply with state contracting requirements and that the café and tavern could have been operated by someone else at little or no cost.

The audit said the park and tavern contracts were "imprudent" and "violated state contracting requirements." The auditor's office also faulted oversight of the home administrator in Sacramento.

The auditor's office declined to identify either the home or the administrator involved. The California Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed the home is the one in Yountville.

The former administrator of the Yountville home, Marcella McCormack, retired last month.

According to the audit, the home held about $5 million in a fund to provide for the morale, recreation and welfare of residents as of June 2012. It used the recreation fund to operate businesses including a baseball stadium, recreational vehicle park, swimming pool, bowling alley, café and tavern on the home grounds, according to the audit.

Peter J. Gravett, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in a prepared statement "it is clear that poor decisions were made, and the Department has taken action to strengthen the internal controls" of recreation and welfare funds.

He said "the individuals who are the subjects of the BSA report are no longer employed by CalVet" and that an independent review of existing has been initiated "to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again."

The audit comes as the Department of Veterans Affairs prepares for opening celebrations at two new homes, one on Friday in Fresno and the other next week in Redding.

PHOTO: Blooming mustard brightens a rainy day in a field and vineyard near the home for veterans in Yountville in this 2008 photo. The Sacramento Bee/Janet Fullwood

October 17, 2013
AM Alert: California loses foil as Washington breaks deadlock

APTOPIX_Budget_Battle_Boehner.jpgComparing Sacramento favorably to Washington has become a popular pasttime around the California Capitol recently -- witness the self-congratulation about the Legislature's relative progress on immigration -- and the prolonged federal shutdown didn't exactly help matters.

In addition to ending the ceaseless stream of paralysis updates, a deal in Congress may offer fewer opportunities for the type of comparisons Gov. Jerry Brown used the other day when he said we Californians "can take care of ourselves" and also rejected the notion of paying to keep national parks open.

"Where we can be helpful, I'd consider it," Brown said Monday, "but I don't want to let the federal government off the hook."

That's not to say California lawmakers won't keep upholding the state's politics as a welcome contrast to the sordid state of federal affairs. It's an easy target, given an abysmal congressional approval rating that makes state lawmakers look positively beloved in comparison. But at least we may not have to hear about it for a little while.

VIDEO: Forget Gov. Jerry Brown's laments about all "these damn bills," Dan Walters says: compared to other years, Brown had it easy this year.

October 17, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's shrinking burden of bills

Despite Gov. Jerry Brown grumbling about a mountain of bills trapping him in the California Capitol, Dan points out that historically things used to be a lot worse.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 16, 2013
New nonprofit foundation to advocate for California courts

20130311_HA_JUDICIARY512.JPGSeveral prominent lawyers and civic leaders have banded together to form a new group to advocate on behalf of California's courts.

The private nonprofit Foundation for Democracy and Justice "seeks to increase awareness about the relationship between adequate state funding for the administration of justice - at the state and local level - and the ability to deliver equal access to justice for all," said a news release that the group sent out Wednesday.

The organization plans to educate the public about the branches of government, with a focus on the role of the judiciary. Its formation comes after years of cuts to court funding and an ongoing division among judges about how to manage the courts under a more austere budget.

The founders of the group include:

  • Carlos Moreno, retired state Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Lee Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff
  • Frank C. Damrell, retired U.S. District Court Judge in Sacramento
  • Joseph Dunn, chief executive officer of the State Bar of California and retired state senator
  • Arturo González, partner in the Morrison Foerster law firm
  • Larry Kramer, president of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  • Edith R. Matthai, partner in the Robie & Matthai law firm
  • Mark P. Robinson, Jr., partner in the Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc. law firm
  • Mark Yudof, professor at UC Berkeley Law School and former president of the University of California
  • Allan Zaremberg, president and chief executive officer of the California Chamber of Commerce

In addition, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Attorney General Kamala Harris serve as honorary directors of the group.

"I'm thrilled to be part of the foundation as an honorary director," Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. "It fits in with my own efforts to promote civics education in this state, as well as what former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is doing nationally with her iCivics initiative."

PHOTO: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye delivers her State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 16, 2013
With shutdown off table, House to vote on Sacramento levee bill

RCB_20130904_LEVEE_0083.JPGThe House of Representatives will consider a water infrastructure bill next week that would authorize the completion of levee improvements in Sacramento, a vote delayed by the now 16-day-old partial government shutdown.

A bipartisan agreement reached Wednesday in the Senate virtually assured the government would reopen and that Congress would raise the federal debt limit just in time to avert a default on its obligations.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that the chamber would vote on the Water Resources, Reform and Development Act next week.

The legislation has been a top priority for California lawmakers, especially Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. It was approved unanimously last month by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a similar bill in May.

October 16, 2013
As federal debt limits nears, California assured it will get paid

debtlimit.jpgIt's the kind of routine financial transaction that would typically go unnoticed.

But by sheer coincidence, California has $1.5 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds coming due on Thursday - the same day the Treasury says it will reach its debt limit if the federal budget impasse continues.

The significance of the date is uncertain. In placing the United States' credit rating on a negative watch this week, the ratings house Fitch Ratings noted "the Treasury would still have limited capacity to make payments," but it may be unable to prioritize debts.

Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, said the state is "extremely confident" it will get paid.

"The banks we work with have been in contact with folks in the U.S. Treasury Department," Dresslar said, "and they assure us that we're going to get all of our money."

About 59 percent of California's $56.6 billion Pooled Money Investment Account, which is used for state cash flow and other purposes, is invested in U.S. treasuries, he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: In this Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 photo, a pedestrian walks past the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington on a rainy day. AP Photo/J. David Ake

October 16, 2013
Ami Bera outperforms GOP contenders in third-quarter fundraising

LS BERA VOTING 4.JPGDemocratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove raised more than $462,000 in the third quarter of 2013, outpacing a trio of Republican challengers and bringing his total cash on hand to nearly $899,000.

Of the GOP contenders vying to unseat the freshman congressman, former Rep. Doug Ose raised $247,000 and finished the quarter with $256,000 in the bank, according to his July 1 through Sept. 30 report.

Igor Birman, the longtime chief of staff to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, took in nearly $163,000 and finished with $139,000 and autism advocate Elizabeth Emken amassed $64,000 to bring her campaign coffers to $337,000.

Bera, a creative fundraiser who last year defeated former Rep. Dan Lungren to win the redrawn 7th Congressional District, is a top target of the GOP given the electorate's nearly even split between Democrats and Republicans.

Bera has raised more than $1 million this year but said his focus remains on representing the district through tumultuous times in Washington.

"That means rebuilding an economy that works for middle class families and dealing with the very serious budget crisis our country is facing," Bera said. "That said, I remain humbled by the persistent grassroots support for our campaign, which is just further confirmation that Sacramento County families want a problem solver representing them in Congress who puts people before politics."

Ose, the former three-term congressman, retired a $250,000 debt from his primary defeat at the hands of McClintock in 2008. After entering the race early last month, he said the results demonstrate that his campaign is off to a strong start.

"Clearly the community is not satisfied with their representative in Congress, and believes our country is adrift at a time when the local economy is struggling and in need of jobs," Ose said.

Birman, casting himself as the lone conservative, said his report showed he's the only candidate with the resources to defeat the "liberal" Ose in June. Birman received 19 contributions of the maximum $5,200, of which only $2,600 could be spent in the primary.

Emken loaned her herself $35,000 in addition to the previous $250,000 she provided her campaign.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, leaves his polling place at Foulks Ranch Elementary School on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

October 16, 2013
Controller Chiang raps local governments for not filing reports


State Controller John Chiang sent letters Wednesday to nine cities and 117 special districts, chastising them for failing to file timely financial reports with his office as required by law.

Stockton, which has declared bankruptcy and is seeking voter approval of a sales tax increase next month, is one of the delinquent cities.

Chiang gave the tardy governments until Dec. 31 to file the documents his office uses to compile reports, including those on employee compensation, or face audits.

"Transparency in financial reporting - including public salaries - is necessary to protect communities against the misuse of taxpayer dollars and other abuses of public trust," Chiang said in a statement, citing financial scandals in Bell and other communities.

Besides Stockton, the cities receiving Chiang's letter are Beaumont, Firebaugh, Hercules, Imperial, La Habra, Lindsay, Taft and Westmorland. The special districts are scattered throughout the state, mostly in rural communities.

PHOTO: State Controller John Chiang at The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau on November 2, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 16, 2013
Prop. 39 energy retrofit funds heading to California schools

SCHOOLS_0154.JPGState officials have directed $381 million to California schools to retrofit aging campuses for energy efficiency, releasing a list Tuesday that shows how much each district will get.

The money comes from voter approval last year of Proposition 39, which raises taxes on out-of-state corporations. The ballot measure was pushed by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer and state Sen. Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat.

"Used wisely, school districts that are most in need will be able to put a big dent in their energy bills and direct more money to classroom needs," De León said in a statement today. "Everyone wins with energy retrofitting - the students, the environment and workers."

De León's hometown includes California's largest school district and stands to gain the most from the program. Los Angeles Unified is slated to get more than $26 million in grants for energy efficiency, according to the list released by the state Department of Education. The 20 school districts in line to receive the most money are listed below. Scroll over the blue bars to see more detail:

You can see the full list of school districts and charter schools eligible for Proposition 39 funds at this page. Click on the spreadsheet called "Proposition 39 - 2013-14 Entitlements."

PHOTO: A teacher keeps an eye on her class at Greer Elementary School in Sacramento on Jan. 17, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:50 p.m. to clarify that Los Angeles Unified is the state's largest school district.

October 16, 2013
AM Alert: California candidates convene in Sacramento

RBCapitolBuilding2.JPGJust because we're in an election off-year doesn't mean we can't do a little homework.

Dozens of candidates vying for seats in the state Legislature will attend a Leadership California Institute-sponsored forum for candidates today at the Citizen Hotel. They'll soak in pointers proffered by a roster of former legislative leaders, including Don Perata and Jim Brulte; some interest group illuminati, including Alma Hernandez, political director for SEIU California, Rob Lapsley, of the California Business Roundtable and Janus Norman of the California Medical Association; and current Assembly members Melissa Melendez, José Medina and Rocky Chávez.

We'd say check in for updates on the wisdom we glean, but press is banned from the event.

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown once again went to the plate against the feds on prisons, Dan Walters says, and this time he struck out.

NOT THE BEES!: Despite bees being sometimes depicted as horrific menaces, the fact that they've been mysteriously dying off en masse carries potentially dire implications for ecosystem stability and agriculture. Today's joint hearing of the Assembly committees on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials and on Agriculture will examine bee colony collapse (the latter committee's chair, Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman hails from a beekeeping family). Witnesses will include a hive of scientists, Brian R. Leahy of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and Jackie Park-Burris of the California State Beekeepers Association. From 2 to 4 p.m. in the Capitol's room 4202.

COMMUNITY SCHOOLS: Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, has been traversing the state for the last few days to spread the gospel of community schools, a model in which schools build their offerings by fostering ties with local government, nonprofits and business (Sen. Loni Hancock co-wrote an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee about it). The tour culminates in a Senate Education Committee hearing today from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in room 3191.

PHOTO: The California state Capitol building from the Tower Bridge in Sacramento on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 16, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown's prison problems persist

Gov. Jerry Brown continues to spar with the federal courts over California's prisons, and Dan says the feds just recorded a victory.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 15, 2013
California health exchange reports nearly 100K application starts


Two weeks after opening its doors, the state insurance marketplace announced today that nearly 1.6 million individual visitors had come to its online portal and more than 104,000 customers called into its service center through Saturday.

Covered California began enrolling customers on Oct. 1 for insurance plans that start Jan. 1. Average wait times at call centers improved significantly - to less than two minutes from 15 minutes - and roughly 94,500 applications were started at through Saturday.

Last week, Executive Director Peter V. Lee said he wasn't inclined to release data so early but began doing so to counter persistent criticism of the agency's initial performance.

The state health insurance exchange also has made progress on certifying those tasked with enrolling new customers - although in some cases not as quickly as officials wanted. The agency reported certified 279 enrollment counselors, 1,295 insurance agents and 5,287 county eligibility workers in the first 12 days.

Some 3,824 enrollment counselors, 3,382 insurance agents and 5,421 county workers were in the process. In all, 17,768 insurance agents have registered to sell plans on the state exchange. Licensed insurance agents must receive training through Covered California.

On Monday, Lee told The Bee that fewer than half of the registered agents have been through the training because of technological snags.

"We've had sticky wickets on our IT system for training," Lee said, adding that the problem was being addressed to remove the logjam.

PHOTO: The executive director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee, speaks to members of the media during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Oct. 1. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 15, 2013
VIDEO: Auburn woman urges McClintock to help end shutdown

7aSIX.St.4.jpegA Sacramento area cancer survivor whose potential treatment has been delayed by the partial federal government shutdown joined other activists Tuesday afternoon to deliver more than 140,000 signatures urging a compromise to GOP Rep. Tom McClintock's district office in Granite Bay.

Michelle Langbehn, whose ultimately unfruitful struggle to seek cancer treatment from the National Institutes of Health has received worldwide attention, said that thousands of fellow constituents in McClintock's Sacramento area district have been affected by the shutdown. She urged the congressman to put aside partisanship and break the stalemate.

"This needs to end tonight," said Langbehn, 30, of Auburn. "This needs to end right now."

McClintock, R-Elk Grove, said he appreciated Langbehn's leadership in trying end the impasse.

"She really has been an inspiration to a lot of people who want to see the government function as it was designed," McClintock said by phone from Washington.

Still, he noted that House Republicans earlier this month sent the Senate a continuing resolution that reopened the National Institutes of Health. The so-called "Research for Lifesavings Cures Act," passed 254-171. The Senate did not take up the measure, one of several piecemeal funding bills the House has passed.

"That's been supremely frustrating," McClintock said.

Langbehn and her allies say they want an "up or down" vote to end the shutdown.

VIDEO: The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.

PHOTO: Cancer patient Michelle Langbehn receives a kiss from her daughter Lula as her grandfather Juan Torres and other family member surround her after speaking about the federal government shutdown at Rep. Tom McClintock's district office Tuesday in Granite Bay. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 15, 2013
Willie Brown representing new cardroom group


Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown has a new gig. He recently signed a one-year contract to represent an association of cardrooms, said the group's executive director Jarhett Blonien.

Blonien, a Sacramento lobbyist, is the son of the late Rodney Blonien, who lobbied on behalf of cardrooms for 25 years before he passed away in 2012. Jarhett Blonien took over his dad's business and formed Communities for California Cardrooms earlier this year.

Blonien said he retained Brown to help the cardroom group build up its membership and salve tensions among frequently sparring gambling interests.

"That's what he does," Blonien said. "He's the ultimate peace broker."

Blonien said his relationship with Brown goes back to childhood, when he made the rounds at political fundraisers with his dad. Blonien and Brown traveled to China together earlier this year, he said, to visit gambling operations in Macau.

Last year, Brown represented a different group that was pushing for a bill to allow internet poker in California. It has since disbanded.

Brown will serve as a behind-the-scenes consultant to the cardroom group, Blonien said. The former speaker is not a registered lobbyist so his work on behalf of the cardrooms will not be evident in the public record. Unlike lobbyists, consultants do not have to publicly report who pays them or how much.

An investigation by The Bee this year documented a severe lack of detail in California's lobbying reports. Interest groups that spend the most money to influence policy in the Capitol spend the bulk of it in secret, The Bee found, including hiring former politicians as consultants and launching ad campaigns to push their agenda with virtually no financial disclosure.

Brown is among a cadre of former government officials -- including former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez -- who represent private sector clients without registering as lobbyists. The Fair Political Practices Commission recently fined three highly-connected consultants for engaging in lobbying without registering.

PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 15, 2013
AM Alert: California dreamin' of future energy consumption

RBTurbines2.JPGThe post-legislative lull has descended over Sacramento, but there's still energy in the air. By that, of course, we mean crafting policies around California's future energy consumption. Two different state entities charged with considering such matters will be seeking public input today.

Over at the Air Resources Board, staff members will be sparking discussion on a new blueprint for achieving the emissions reduction goals set out in 2006's landmark AB 32. The last framework emerged in 2008, and under the terms of the law, policymakers must come up every five years with a new map for cutting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The public workshop gets underway at the Cal-EPA Headquarters starting at 1 p.m.

And the California Energy Commission continues to cobble together its biennial, comprehensive overview of California's future energy needs and the attendant demands on sources of power, from nuclear energy to renewables to natural gas. The Integrated Energy Policy Report will also include data on updating buildings to enhance energy efficiency, transportation-related energy costs and how climate change will affect energy infrastructure. Today's workshop, featuring Commissioner Andrew McAllister, kicks off at 9 a.m. at the California Energy Commission building on Ninth Street.

VIDEO: New characters performed a familiar plot, Dan Walters says, as officials sought to deflect blame for yet another buggy technology project.

CHIEFS OF STAFF: Curious about the daily duties of the chiefs of staff serving California lawmakers? Several current No. 2's will be detailing their experiences at a 1:30 p.m. event sponsored by, as the "Jefe de Jefes" name suggests, the California Latino Capitol Association. In room 113 of the State Capitol building.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Senate President Pro Tem and Sacramento's own Darrell Steinberg, who turns 54 today. Maybe someone will get him season tickets for that new Kings arena?

PHOTO: Sheep graze among wind turbines near Rio Vista on May 1, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 15, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California flubs another technology project

An unemployment benefits backlog shows California's latest blunder in rolling out a state computer system, Dan says.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 14, 2013
Opt-out efforts won't play in California, insurance chief says

RB Peter V. Lee 3.JPG

The chief of California's health insurance marketplace said he has no concerns about advertising campaigns designed to derail the federal health care law, arguing there is no "echo chamber" for such efforts in the Golden State.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee has been crisscrossing the state for roughly two dozen town hall meetings and said he has been heckled just once - by an individual speaking out against U.S. intervention in Syria.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board Monday, Lee said the policies behind the health care overhaul were embraced by officials from both major political parties. Political roots of the law involve former Republican governors Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, he said.

"The fight over it today I really think is not really about the underlining policies. It's the fight over not liking the president, Obama, and wanting to play for Congress," Lee said, adding that the law adheres to market solutions and provides consumer choice.

Lee was responding to a question about whether he fears conservative marketing campaigns urging potential consumers, particularly young, health people to "opt-out of the health care law would have any sway with Californians. Among the efforts is the now-viral online advertisement from a group with financial ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

"I don't think the Koch brothers are going to spend a dime on having ads run in California," Lee said.

PHOTO: Peter V. Lee in his office in Sacramento on Dec. 11. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

October 14, 2013
Covered Calif.: Doctor, hospital directory release premature


Officials with the state's health insurance marketplace acknowledged prematurely releasing an online directory of doctors and hospitals on Tuesday, a week after opening enrollment for its version of the federal health care overhaul.

Covered California removed the directory within a day of release after discovering it was plagued by inaccuracies and sluggish performance. The search tool was designed to allow customers to determine whether their providers were included in health plans offered by the exchange.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board Monday, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the directory never should have been launched.

"Staff needs to do a better job of reining me in," Lee said. "I want to have great customer service and I push us to get stuff out there. But I and we need to be careful about not pushing too fast. That was an example of actually being out there too fast."

Lee said early criticism of the online federal marketplace and to a lesser degree the state exchange often fails to consider the rollout efforts involve implementing a massive system without what many in the private-sector would consider appropriate time for testing.

He described the directory as "best practice" in the corporate world and lamented that its late arrival and temporary removal were making news despite the state marketplace's comparatively smooth launch.

"Shame on us for stating that's how high of a bar we want to set up for ourselves for customer service," he said. "But if that's as bad as it gets, I am feeling pretty good."

The exchange anticipates reintroducing the directory within a week.

PHOTO: The executive director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee, speaks to members of the media during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Oct. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 14, 2013
Jerry Brown finishes bills for the year, signing nearly 9 in 10

20110914_ha_jerry_brown_bills_31994.JPGGov. Jerry Brown was reviewing bills in the courtyard outside his Capitol office one day this month when, during a break, he lamented the time required by "these damn bills" and suggested his inclination to sign many more of them was waning.

The economy, global warming and water and high-speed rail infrastructure all demanded his attention, he said.

"Those are all big issues," Brown said, "and then on top of that you have the endless desire of the Legislature for more and more activities or interventions or spending or law."

As Brown looked over to a table where a stack of bills and his advisers were waiting, he remarked on the Legislature's "pent-up desire" and said, "Going forward, there could be more 'No's.'"

In the following days the Democratic governor would veto legislation to ban the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons and to make some drug crimes "wobblers." He vetoed 12 bills on Saturday, including a measure to extend the statute of limitations for some sex abuse victims, and on Sunday he vetoed 18 more.

But for all his complaints about the deluge of legislation, by the time Brown finished acting on this year's legislation, he had accommodated the Democratic-controlled Legislature on all but about 11 percent of the bills it sent him.

The final count for the year, according to the governor's office: 800 regular session bills signed, 96 rejected.

Over the course of his career, the third-term governor has now signed more than 13,500 regular session bills.

After the final bills were dispatched on Sunday, Brown's press office posted a photograph on Twitter of Brown's desk. The chair was empty, a pen left behind.

"Festina Lente," the tweet said, or make haste slowly.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to sign a bill on Sept. 16, 2011, near his office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 14, 2013
AM Alert: Little Hoover report examines public higher education

AOC_CityCollege_052w.JPGBy the time you read this, Gov. Jerry Brown will have capped his pen and finished presiding over the transformation of bills into laws or failed legislation.

Until the Legislature reconvenes in January, we'll have to occupy ourselves with the implementation of those laws, Capitol fundraisers, state agencies and the occasional special election.Today, higher education takes the spotlight.

The Little Hoover Commission meets today to consider final release of a sweeping new report on public higher education in California. Twelve months in the making, the report looks at repercussions of declining state funding and calls on the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to construct a new framework incorporating new technology and boosting graduation numbers in the California State University system and at community colleges. The meeting starts at 11 a.m. at the Legislative Counsel's Office in Sacramento.

VIDEO: Despite the broad support for facilitating teacher firing, another dismissal bill has failed -- a clear sign, Dan Walters says, of dysfunction in Sacramento.

WHITHER PARKS? In other state-bureaucracy news, this week brings the Parks Forward initiative, introduced against the backdrop of Department of Parks and Recreation turmoil, particularly on the financial end. The group will be conducting meetings and gathering input throughout southern California this week, starting today in San Diego and ending up in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.

BROWN OUT (OF SACRAMENTO): His bill-signing duties discharged, the governor will be in Los Angeles this morning to attend the grand opening of a new exhibit on Anne Frank at the Museum of Tolerance. Things kick off at 11:30 a.m. (After all, he did say earlier this month that he wants to get a "real-world feel" of the state he governs.)

STEM CELLS: The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state entity tasked with regulating stem cell research, is co-hosting a major confab of industry types, academics and researchers in La Jolla over the next three days. Speaking will be Jonathan Thomas, chair of the governing board for the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee that governs the agency.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, who turns 61 today.

PHOTO: A student looks over a textbook while waiting for class to begin on the first day of school at Sacramento City College on Aug. 24, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Payne.

October 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California teacher termination bill tanks

Once again, Dan says, California has failed to enact a law making it easier for school districts to ax bad teachers.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 13, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes bill to give Medi-Cal interpreters union rights

RB_Jerry_Brown_Budget.JPGGov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Sunday that would have given thousands of Medi-Cal interpreters the right to join a public employee union and bargain collectively with the state.

Assembly Bill 1263, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, would have established a certification process and registry of medical interpreters, a measure proponents said would better regulate a service that is critical to patients who do not speak English.

But the bill was also significant to labor unions that believe implementation of the federal healthcare overhaul will result in a wave of new patients and medical professionals they hoped to add to their union ranks.

The Democratic governor avoided the matter of collective bargaining in his veto message, focusing only on the bureaucracy a new certification process would require.

"California has embarked on an unprecedented expansion to add more than a million people to our Medi-Cal program," he wrote. "Given the challenges and the many unknowns the state faces in this endeavor, I don't believe it would be wise to introduce yet another complex element."

The legislation was backed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and opposed by the National Right to Work Committee.

The bill would have given Medi-Cal interpreters the right to vote to unionize as non-public employees who are ineligible for state pension or other benefits.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the state budget at a news conference at the state Capitol in Sacramento in January. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

October 13, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes inclusionary housing bill

JM_INFILL_TERRASSA_BUILD.JPGGov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Sunday that would have authorized cities and counties to establish inclusionary housing requirements as a condition of development, allowing them to force developers to set aside units for low-income residents.

Assembly Bill 1229, by Assemblyman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would have effectively overturned a 2009 ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal that an affordable housing requirement in Los Angeles conflicted with state law that limited local rent control ordinances. The court ruling left inclusionary housing policies statewide in doubt.

In his veto message, the Democratic governor recalled his experience as mayor of Oakland and questioned the effectiveness of inclusionary housing policies.

"As mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it can be to attract development to low and middle income communities," he wrote. "Requiring developers to include below-market units in their projects can exacerbate these challenges, even while not meaningfully increasing the amount of affordable housing in a given community."

He said the California Supreme Court is currently weighing whether cities may require inclusionary housing in new developments and that "I would like the benefit of the Supreme Court's thinking before we make adjustments in this area."

The bill was backed by low-income housing advocates and the League of California Cities. It was opposed by the California Building Industry Association and apartment associations.

Proponents of the legislation said inclusionary housing policies are necessary to make homes affordable for poor people and to create diverse neighborhoods. Opponents said the bill is a form of rent control that would hurt the construction industry.

PHOTO: Houses go up in a south Sacramento infill project south of Franklin Boulevard and Mack Road on Dec. 13, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Jay Mather

October 13, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes public safety death benefits bill

brownmemorial.JPGGov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Sunday that would have extended the statute of limitations for survivors of public safety officers to file a workers' compensation claim for death benefits.

Assembly Bill 1373, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, would have extended the time limits for survivors' claims for injuries while on duty to 480 weeks from 240 weeks in cases involving cancer, tuberculosis or blood-borne infections diseases.

Brown vetoed a broader version of the bill last year, and in vetoing an unrelated bill Saturday regarding the timeliness of sex abuse victims' claims, the Democratic governor delivered a virtual treatise on the significance of statutes of limitation.

In his veto message, Brown said the measure is "identical to the one I vetoed last year."
"At that time, I outlined the information needed to properly evaluate the implications of this bill," he wrote. "I have not yet received that information."

In his veto a year ago of Assembly Bill 2451, Brown said there was "little more than anecdotal evidence" available to determine how to balance "serious fiscal constraints faced at all levels of government against our shared priority to adequately and fairly compensate the families of those public safety heroes who succumb to work-related injuries and disease."

This year's bill was backed by labor unions representing firefighters and law enforcement officers, who argued existing law fails to provide for the families of firefighters or law enforcement officers who die from a work-related disease more than five years after being diagnosed.

Opponents included the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities. They argued the bill would increase local government costs by millions of dollars.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown attends a memorial ceremony for law enforcement officers on Monday, May 6, 2013 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

October 13, 2013
Jerry Brown signs prevailing wage bill for charter cities

AA_NO_NATOMAS_FIRE_station_30_DRILL.JPGCalifornia will withhold state funds from charter cities that do not pay prevailing wages for local public works projects under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed Sunday.

Senate Bill 7, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was backed by labor unions who argued prevailing wage requirements protect middle-class jobs and ensure high-quality public works projects.

The League of California Cities and other opponents framed the legislation as a test of Brown's commitment to local control - a principle the Democratic governor has invoked frequently in other legislative and policy matters.

About 50 charter cities in California have provisions exempting contractors from paying prevailing wages.

PHOTO: A carpenter works on a fire station being constructed in the Sacramento area on Aug. 27, 2004. The Sacramento Bee/ Andy Alfaro

October 13, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes bill for AWOL state employees

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Sunday that would have granted state employees a better chance of being reinstated if they are fired for being absent without leave.

Existing California law allows state workers to be AWOL for five days without explanation before they can be terminated, but they can be reinstated if they explain to an administrative law judge why they were absent and failed to get leave.

Assembly Bill 855, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, would have required the California Department of Human Resources to reinstate an AWOL employee if he or she was terminated before being absent for five days.

"This bill seeks to remedy the rare circumstance when the state misapplies the absent without leave statute, forcing both the state and the employee to go to court to resolve the dispute," the Democratic governor said in his veto message. "In these cases, both the state and the employee incur both delay and significant expenses. This does not make sense."

Brown said he is directing his administration to reinstate employees in the "limited instances" in which an employee has been improperly dismissed" under the AWOL statute.

The bill was backed by Service Employees International Union Local 1000. Proponents argued it would strengthen due process rights for state employees. Republicans and a handful of Democratic lawmakers opposed the measure, which critics called an excessive benefit for state workers.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 12, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes restriction on paid signature gatherers

Brownprop30sign.jpgGov. Jerry Brown vetoed labor union-backed legislation Saturday that would have limited the use of paid signature gatherers to qualify statewide ballot initiatives in California.

PHOTO GALLERY: Track key bills. See what Brown has signed or vetoed.

Assembly Bill 857, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, would have required anyone seeking to qualify an initiative for the statewide ballot to use non-paid volunteers to collect at least 10 percent of signatures.

The measure would have excluded from the 10 percent any signatures collected using direct mail, while counting signatures gathered by an employee or member of a non-profit organization.

Critics said the bill would give labor unions, with their large memberships, an unfair advantage in California's initiative wars.

In his veto message, Brown said "the initiative process is far from perfect and monied interests have historically manipulated it at will."

But the Democratic governor, who was successful in Proposition 30, his own initiative to raise taxes last year, said "requiring a specific threshold of signatures to be gathered by volunteers will not stop abuses by narrow special interests - particularly if 'volunteer' is defined with the broad exemptions as in this bill."

He said the measure "falls short of returning to the citizen-driven system originally envisioned in 1911," the year California adopted the initiative process.

The bill was supported by the California Labor Federation and several other union groups. According to a legislative analysis, proponents of the measure said it would preserve the intent of the initiative process by ensuring measures have broad community support.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association opposed the legislation, saying it would make the initiative process more difficult in part because of cumbersome record-keeping it would require.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown campaigns for Proposition 30 at Sacramento City College on Oct. 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

October 12, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes 'biosimilars' drug bill

brownsandiego.jpgGov. Jerry Brown on Saturday vetoed a controversial bill that would have regulated how pharmacists distribute a new type of drug called "biosimilars" once they are approved by the federal government.

Senate Bill 598, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would have required pharmacists to notify prescribing doctors when substituting a biosimilar for brand-name biologic products, including vaccines and complex medications for diseases such as cancer.

Brown said in his veto message that he supports the use of biosimilars, and he appeared to be perplexed by the controversy surrounding the requirement that pharmacists notify prescribing physicians when using them.

"This requirement, which on its face looks reasonable, is for some reason highly controversial," Brown wrote. "Doctors with whom I have spoken would welcome this information. CalPERS and other large purchasers warn that the requirement itself would cast doubt on the safety and desirability of more cost-effective alternatives to biologics."

Brown said that because the federal government has not yet issued standards for the use of biosimilars, the legislation "strikes me as premature."

The bill was heavily lobbied, supported by drug companies and opposed by several health plans and manufacturers of generic drugs. Companies on both sides donated money to the Democratic governor's re-election campaign account after the Legislature sent Brown the bill.

Supporters had said the regulation would protect consumers, while opponents said it would hinder access to low-cost replacements.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in San Diego on Oct. 10, 2013. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

October 12, 2013
Jerry Brown invokes Roman law, vetoes statute of limitations bill for sex abuse victims

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgInvoking a legal tradition of "fairness" dating back to Roman law, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday vetoed legislation that would have extended the statute of limitations for some sex abuse victims.

PHOTO GALLERY: Track key bills. See what Brown has signed or vetoed.

Senate Bill 131, by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would have opened a yearlong window for sex abuse victims who were excluded from a 2003 law that extended the statute of limitations.

Opponents painted the bill as an attack on the Catholic Church, and the church's political arm called it a money grab by trial lawyers.

Brown, a former Catholic seminarian, issued an unusually lengthy, three-page veto message.

"Statutes of limitation reach back to Roman law and were specifically enshrined in the English common law by the Limitations Act of 1623," he wrote. "Ever since, and in every state, including California, various limits have been imposed on the time when lawsuits may still be initiated. Even though valid and profoundly important claims are at stake, all jurisdictions have seen fit to bar actions after a lapse of years."

The Democratic governor said the value of statutes of limitations is "one of fairness."

"There comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits," he wrote. "With the passage of time, evidence may be lost or disposed of, memories fade and witnesses move away or die."

The bill was backed by the National Center for Victims of Crime, the California Police Chiefs Association and the Consumer Attorneys of California. Supporters said the legislation was consistent with a growing understanding of the reasons victims of sexual abuse often wait years before reporting the crime.

Opponents of the legislation said the bill unfairly excluded public agencies, such as school districts, targeting private entities such as the Catholic Church.

The Rev. Gerald Wilkerson, president of the California Catholic Conference, issued a statement praising the veto.

He said the bill "was unfair to the vast majority of victims and unfair to all private and non-profit organizations."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

October 12, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes bill to make some drug crimes 'wobblers'

trafficstop.jpgGov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Saturday that that would have given local prosecutors discretion when deciding whether a person charged with possessing a small amount of illegal drugs should be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.

Under Senate Bill 649, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, possession of cocaine, heroin and other specified drugs would have been downgraded to the status of methamphetamine, Ecstasy or hashish, "wobblers" treated as felonies or misdemeanors depending on the circumstances.

Brown said in his veto message that state officials dealing with prison crowding in California are preparing "to examine in detail California's criminal justice system, including the current sentencing structure."

The Democratic governor said that "will be the appropriate time to evaluate our existing drug laws."

Supporters of the Leno bill had said it would reduce recidivism by eliminating some employment barriers resulting from a felony record. The California District Attorneys Association opposed the measure.

PHOTO CREDIT: A police officers conducts a traffic stop in Lincoln on Wednesday, September 29, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

October 12, 2013
Jerry Brown signs Tahoe governance bill

brownsandoval.jpgGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Saturday ratifying an agreement with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on the governance of the basin surrounding Lake Tahoe.

In the agreement, reached earlier this year, California and Nevada will continue the two-state partnership known as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, after Nevada passed a law in 2011 in which it would have withdrawn from the compact unless California made concessions to allow more development.

The Sierra Club and other environmentalists have filed a lawsuit in federal court, fearing the agreement will lead to more development in the region.

In announcing his enactment of Senate Bill 630, by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, Brown said in a prepared statement, "Today, California reaffirmed its longstanding partnership with the state of Nevada to protect and enhance the beauty of Lake Tahoe."

PHOTO CREDIT: California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, speaks with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval at the Lake Tahoe Summit in Incline Village, Nev., on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

October 11, 2013
Jerry Brown signs limo safety bill after deadly roadside fire

US_NEWS_LIMOFIRE_2_OX.jpgFollowing a fatal limousine fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he has signed a measure to boost safety on roadways by requiring additional exits in the passenger compartments of the vehicles.

Senate Bill 109 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, came after the bridge fire claimed the lives of five women in May and a separate accident a month later in which 10 women escaped serious injuries in Walnut Creek.

Corbett said in a statement that her bill will protect limousine passengers in emergencies.

"This important bill requires additional exit points to prevent a future tragedy similar to the one that occurred on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge last May," Corbett said.

October 11, 2013
Jerry Brown signs lead ammo ban, vetoes bill to ban semi-automatic rifles

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday banning the use of lead ammunition in hunting, but he vetoed the most controversial gun control bill the Legislature sent to him this year, a proposal to ban the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles.

The bills were among the highest profile in a package of gun control bills Brown acted on Friday. He signed legislation requiring long gun purchasers to take a firearm safety class and adding criminal liability for firearm storage that endangers a child, but he vetoed bills that would have limited the transfer of unsafe handguns and let Oakland enact its own, stricter gun control laws.

The broadest measure, Senate Bill 374, by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would have banned the sale of semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines capable of rapid shooting. It also would have required anyone who has legally owned an assault weapon in the past 13 years to register it with the Department of Justice.

"The State of California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including bans on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines," Brown said in a veto message. "While the author's intent is to strengthen these restrictions, this bill goes much farther by banning any semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine."

Brown said the law would ban rifles commonly used in hunting, firearms training and marksmanship.

"I don't believe that this bill's blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners' rights," Brown wrote.

October 11, 2013
Democrat Freddie Rodriguez sworn into California Assembly

FreddieRodriguez.jpgThe California Assembly swore in its newest member Friday morning, welcoming Democrat Freddie Rodriguez to the green carpet.

The former Pomona City Council member now represents the 52nd Assembly District, including the southern California communities of Pomona, Montclair, Ontario, and Chino.

He is taking the seat previously held by Democrat Norma Torres, who now serves in the state Senate.

As the legislative musical chairs continue with special elections, two vacancies still remain in the Assembly. Democrats in the lower house are one seat away from reclaiming a two-thirds supermajority.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, greets others at the reception following his swearing in at the California state Capitol on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall

October 11, 2013
AM Alert: California's bill-signing deadline looms large

LSBUDGETSIGN4.JPGAfter months of committee hearings, votes, behind-the-scenes lobbying and demonstrations on the California Capitol steps, it comes down to Sunday. Oct. 13, 2013, marks the terminus: the last day for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign bills on his desk.

As of this writing, Brown had already come down on many of the prominent and deeply-disputed bills, with a nixed teacher dismissal bill becoming the latest casualty.

But several measures still occupy Brown's attention in the final hours, including a gun control bills that have prompted volleys of debate, legislation to loosen sentencing requirements for non-serious drug offenses, a bill sanctioning cities that don't offer a prevailing wage and a resuscitated push to expand the statute of limitations for prosecuting sex offenders.

Stick with us. We'll be here to the bitter end.

VIDEO: Dan Walters looks ahead to what could be a pulverizing pension push on the 2014 ballot.

ASSEMBLY FRESHMAN: The latest beneficiary of California's special elections takes the oath of office today. Former Pomona City Council member Freddie Rodriguez gets sworn in on the Assembly floor this morning by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, with Sen. Norma Torres -- whose departure for the Assembly gave Rodriguez his shot -- looking on. With this latest addition, Assembly Democrats are one seat away from reclaiming a two-thirds supermajority.

FOOD FEST: Paying homage to California's agricultural riches, an "Envisioning California" conference at Sacramento State today will take a look at food policy, from farming practices to the intersection of immigration with agriculture to the future of the "Farm to Fork" movement Sacramento has sought so assiduously to sprout. From 9:30 a.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I Street.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up the state budget he signed during a ceremony at the Capitol on June 27, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

October 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California pension push could head to ballot

Of the ballot measures that could go before voters in 2014, Dan says an effort to rein in public pensions could be the most significant.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 10, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes teacher firing bill

CalifHomelessVeterans.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has rejected a bill intended to streamline the process for firing teachers in California.

Brown's veto of Assembly Bill 375 marks the second straight year that high-profile legislation aimed at facilitating the teacher dismissal process failed in California. Last year, a measure by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles died in committee.

Proponents of the bill have argued that districts face a prolonged, costly fight when they move to fire teachers. While this year's measure won the crucial support of the California Teachers Association, Brown repudiated it, saying in his veto message that the bill could "make the process too rigid and could create new problems."

The bill would have limited the amount of time that a case can take after a district formally files dismissal charges and would have lifted a ban on issuing dismissal notices during the summer months. In his veto message, Brown praised the bill for curtailing "opportunities for delay."

But the governor cited concerns about language limiting the number of depositions both sides can invoke in firing disputes - five total - and rules governing whether districts can use newly surfaced evidence to alter charges.

"I share the authors' desire to streamline the teacher discipline process," Brown wrote, "but this bill is an imperfect solution."

October 10, 2013
Kamala Harris sues for-profit parent of Heald College, WyoTech

RBDemConvention.JPGA for-profit college chain intentionally deceived prospective students and investors about the value of its degrees and sought out the socially isolated and disadvantaged, according to a lawsuit California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed Thursday.

According to the complaint, Corinthian Colleges Inc. boasted of unrealistically high job placement rates -- as high as 100 percent in some cases -- while discussing in internal documents how to recruit low-income and disillusioned students who are "impatient," have "low self-esteem" or can claim "few people in their lives who care about them."

Part of that strategy entailed "aggressive and persistent internet and telemarketing campaigns" and placing spots on daytime television shows.

Corinthian Colleges Inc. tried to lure students with connections to the military by using the seals of various branches of the armed forces without government approval, according to the attorney general's office.

Originally organized under Delaware state law and based in Santa Ana, Corinthian Colleges Inc. manages more than 20 campuses around the United States. That includes Heald College locations in Fresno, Modesto, Rancho Cordova, Roseville and Stockton and a WyoTech campus in Fremont.

October 10, 2013
Study: Calif. workers compensation overhaul too new to parse

JD_COMP_STRETCHER.JPGLast year, the California Legislature -- with the blessing of Gov. Jerry Brown -- enacted its traditional, once-a-decade overhaul of the state's multibillion-dollar-a-year system of compensating workers for job-related injuries and illnesses.

Employers, insurers, medical care providers and other players in the workers' compensation system are still sorting through what the Legislature and Brown wrought. Generally, the overhaul, Senate Bill 863, raised some cash benefits but also tightened up eligibility for, or even eliminated, other benefits. This earned rare joint support from employer groups and labor unions, which had worked on the changes privately.

A new 16-state study of workers' compensation systems, covering 60 percent of the nation's workers, says it's too early to tell what the real-world effects of SB 863 will be, specifically whether its cost-saving provisions will offset the costs of increased cash payments, as its sponsors promised.

Because the effects of the 2012 overhaul are still unknown, the study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute in Cambridge, Mass., concentrated its section on California on how it compared to other states during the years following the previous overhaul in 2004.

It found that disabled California workers were receiving permanent partial disability payments more often than those in other major states and that those payments tended to be longer in duration -- thus confirming one of employers' complaints, which the 2012 reforms addressed.

However, medical payments per claim were lower in California than in most other states, confirming that the 2004 reforms had an intended effect, although legal costs were higher, "which may be related to increasing disputes over medical treatment, utilization review denials and other issues," the study said.

PHOTO: Beth Slavin of Modesto, who injured her knee on the job, lies on a stretcher at a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on April 19, 2005, protesting workers compensation legislation that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the year before. The Sacramento Bee/ John Decker

October 10, 2013
Jerry Brown puts veterans housing measure on June ballot

jerrybrownprisons.jpgCalifornia voters will decide next June whether the state should restructure $600 million in bonds to help build apartments and houses for low-income veterans, under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday.

If approved by voters, Assembly Bill 639, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, will shift $600 million in unused bonding authority from Proposition 12, which voters approved in 2008 to provide money for home loans for veterans, to pay for the program.

"After veterans serve our country, it's our duty to serve them," Brown said in a prepared statement after signing the legislation in San Diego. "This new reformed housing program will make life better for veterans for years to come."

The funding shift would leave the state with about $530 million in bonds for its existing home loan program.

The bill was one of 13 veteran-related bills the Democratic governor announced signing Thursday. Among the others, Assembly Bill 556, by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, will add "military and veteran status" to the list of categories protected from discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 10, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown to sign veteran-housing bill in San Diego

20131003brown0115.JPGSince the legislative session ended last month, Gov. Jerry Brown has headed out of Sacramento to preside over signing ceremonies for contentious measures like a minimum-wage boost and driver's licenses for immigrants.

Today's item isn't controversial, judging by the number of lawmakers who voted against it (zero). Brown will be in San Diego to put his name on a measure authorizing the issuance of $600 million in bonds to build housing for veterans, an effort to combat veteran homelessness. During a 9:45 a.m. ceremony at the Veterans Village of San Diego, the governor will sign Assembly Bill 639 into law, joined by the bill's author, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. With Brown's signature, the proposal will go before voters on the June 2014 ballot.

VIDEO: We're about to enter a barren stretch for political junkies. Dan Walters take a look at what's doing in California politics after Sunday's deadline for the governor to sign bills.

DOGGING DOCTORS: Things get festive today in the rivalry between two potent interest groups, Consumer Watchdog and the California Medical Association. The CMA's board of directors will be in Anaheim for a meeting today, and they will be trolled by a truck circling the Disneyland Hotel and playing, on a loop, a series of 30-second musicals testifying to why doctors should be drug-tested (a word starting with the letter "P" features prominently). A closely watched, Consumer Watchdog-drafted ballot measure would mandate physician drug testing in addition to raising California's cap on pain-and-suffering payouts in medical malpractice cases.

COY-MALA HARRIS: Her office is being mysterious about it, but California Attorney General Kamala Harris will announce a "major lawsuit" at a noon press conference in San Francisco's State Building today. Stay with us to find out what the AG is unveiling.

LESSONS OF 2012: The election postmortem continues. Today, UC San Diego professor Thad Kousser will examine whether electoral reforms generated something new, or whether the 2012 cycle brought more of the same for California. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at 1130 K St.

DELTA DEFENDERS: They might disagree on other issues, but Delta-area lawmakers can at least find some bipartisan unity in their dislike of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed water conveyance tunnels. Comedian Jack Gallagher will entertain guests at a Restore the Delta fundraiser in French Camp tonight, with planned attendees including Sens. Lois Wolk and Cathleen Galgiani in addition to Assembly members Jim Frazier, Susan Eggman, Mariko Yamada, and Kristen Olsen.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to everyone's favorite photogenic elected: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom turns 46 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs the driver's license bill for undocumented immigrants in Fresno City College in Fresno on Thursday, October 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 10, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California politics heading into the off-season

We're in a non-election year and rapidly approaching the deadline for Gov. Jerry Brown to decide on bills -- which means, Dan says, that things are about to get awfully quiet in Sacramento.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 9, 2013
California's solitary-confinement policies scrutinized at hearing

CaliforniaPrisonsHungerStrike.jpgWith California inmates still recuperating from weeks of self-imposed starvation, state lawmakers pressed prison officials Wednesday for more information about the solitary-confinement policies that prompted prisoners to refuse nourishment.

"I'm grateful and relieved that it ended without further sacrifice or risk of human life," said Senate Public Safety Committee chair Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, "but the issues remain, and the issues that were raised during the hunger strike are real and concern about the conditions in California's supermax prisons cannot be ignored."

Hancock's Assembly counterpart, Assembly Public Safety Committee chair Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, opened the hearing by describing extended stays in solitary confinement as "beyond the pale" and chastising the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for "a very aberrant policy attitude."

October 9, 2013
John A. Perez announces run for state controller in 2014

20130311_HA_JUDICIARY067.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced Wednesday he will run for state controller next year.

The Los Angeles Democrat opened a campaign account the same day and funded it with $1.5 million bankrolled while in the Assembly, his political strategist, Doug Herman, said.

Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a former California Department of Finance chief deputy director, has also announced her candidacy for the office. She had about $473,000 on hand at the end of June.

The race for controller opened wide after state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who was expected to seek the seat, announced this summer he would retire from politics when his term expires in early 2015. State Controller John Chiang, who is termed out next year, is raising money for a campaign for treasurer.

Pérez said he was running for controller at a town hall meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday, and he released a statement on a campaign website.

"Balancing our books is essential, but this job is about even more. It's about promoting the financial stability that can offer every Californian the opportunity to succeed and contribute to our state's prosperity," Pérez said in the statement. "I will continue to advance smart investment decisions that help businesses, create jobs and unleash California's full potential."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, in Assembly chambers in Sacramento on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua.

October 9, 2013
Think-tank website compares schools in California, other states

LS_STAR_TESTS_1.JPGEver wonder how California's public schools compare to those of other states?

EdSource, an Oakland-based think tank devoted to California schools, has published an online "motion chart" that compares California's schools to those of other states, not only currently but how yearly comparisons have changed since 1970 with inflation adjustments for economic data.

The interactive website allows users to choose the states for comparison on 16 measures, including such overall factors as population and income, and specific school-related factors such as spending and national test scores. It also includes charts that merge factors, such as correlations between state spending on schools and test scores.

The charts, developed by Jeff Camp of the Full Circle Fund, reveal, among other things that California's spending on schools has decreased over time, both in comparison to other states and relative to such factors as personal income. In 1970, the state was spending 4.4 percent of its personal income on schools. By 2012, that had slipped to 3.2 percent, one of the lowest levels in the nation.

The charts also reveal that California teachers are among the nation's highest paid, while the state's student-teacher ratio is among the highest and its academic test scores are among the lowest.

PHOTO: Sacramento area second graders prepare for the annual state school exams on April 26, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

October 9, 2013
Jerry Brown expands type of providers who can do abortions

LS_BUDGET_SIGN_3.JPGGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday expanding the type of medical providers who can perform abortions in California.

Assembly Bill 154, by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, will allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants to perform certain first-trimester abortions.

Proponents of the bill, including Democrats in the state Legislature, said it will address a shortage of abortion providers and the need for women to travel long distances for the procedure.

Republicans said it would lower the standard of care for women seeking abortions and put patients at risk.

The bill was one of seven health-related bills the Democratic governor announced signing Wednesday.

Among the others was Assembly Bill 1308, by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, allowing licensed midwives to order medical supplies and devices and to administer drugs and tests without a physician's supervision.

Brown also signed Assembly Bill 219, by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, which will require health insurance policies that cover oral anti-cancer medications after Jan. 1, 2015, to limit out-of-pocket costs for those prescriptions to no more than $200 a month.

The Perea bill sunsets in 2019.

In a signing message, Brown said the limit on out-of-pocket expenses "provides good value for patients of modest means" but "is not without the potential for unintended consequences."

"Placing a price cap for a specific class of drugs for a specific class of diseases may not be a policy for the ages," he wrote. "This bill, with a sunset, permits us to examine what effects - intentional or unintended - this bill may have before we embrace it for the longer term."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget during a ceremony at the Capitol, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

October 9, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers look at solitary confinement

CALIFORNIAPRISONSOLITARY3.JPGCalifornia inmates locked in solitary confinement have resumed eating, but they're still hungry to have their grievances addressed.

Today, lawmakers will take a look at the state's correctional policies governing the use of the Security Housing Unit, or SHU, tiny cells whose prevalence recently prompted the third massive prison hunger strike in the last two years.

Prisoners starving themselves to protest the SHU found sympathetic ears in Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who will preside over today's joint hearing of the Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees. Advocates for the hunger strikes cited the planned hearing as one reason they halted their action.

Witnesses will include California Inspector General Robert A. Barton, Director Michael Stainer of the Division of Adult Institutions, Margaret Winter of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project and Dolores Canales, a family member of a SHU inmate and one of the key people speaking on behalf of the inmates. Reform advocates will be rallying on the Capitol's west steps before the hearing, which runs from 1 to 3:30 p.m. in room 4203.

VIDEO: What's bugging Gov. Jerry Brown? Perhaps it's a recent veto stirring up memories of his history with insects, Dan Walters says.

October 9, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown has a history with insects

Decades after a flying pest embarrassed a younger Jerry Brown, Dan notes that there's still a fly on a Capitol wall.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 8, 2013
Poll: Californians like ballot initiatives but want process altered

ACW_MAYOR_PETITION_(1).JPGCalifornians value the ballot initiative and want it to remain as a check on a political system they mistrust, but voters support major reforms in the process, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The poll found that voters support several changes, including giving the Legislature an opportunity to respond to proposed initiatives and reach agreement with their sponsors, beefing up financial disclosure requirements for those engaged in ballot measure campaigns, increasing the role of volunteers in collecting initiative petition signatures, and placing time limits on ballot measures so that they can be revisited.

"These reforms are likely to have an impact beyond the initiative process," Mark Baldassare, PPIC's president, said in a statement as he released the report. "They hold considerable promise for increasing citizen engagement, encouraging voter participation, and building trust in state government."

The number of ballot measures has exploded in the past three decades, ever since Proposition 13 placed tight limits on property taxes and raised barriers to other tax increases. In the last decade alone, 68 measures have appeared on the statewide ballot, the PPIC report noted, but fewer than a third of them were approved even as proponents and opponents spent $1.8 billion on campaigns.

The Legislature's majority Democrats have pushed bills to change the initiative process, including one this year that would limit the role of paid signature-gatherers. Gov. Jerry Brown is now deciding whether to sign or veto it.

PHOTO: A man signs a ballot measure petition in Sacramento on Jan. 9, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/ Anne Chadwick Williams.

October 8, 2013
Brown signs three FPPC bills, vetoes campaign finance bill

20110914_ha_jerry_brown_bills_31994.JPGGov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a handful of bills designed to promote government transparency, and vetoed one that would have required more training for people who manage finances for political campaigns.

Brown signed three bills sponsored by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission:

Assembly Bill 409 by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, creates an electronic filing system for public officials who report annual statements of economic interest, known as Form 700s. The new online system will replace an old paper system, allowing greater ability for the public to review the financial interests of hundreds of thousands of government officials in California.

October 8, 2013
Boxer: Shutdown stalling House vote on Sacramento levee bill

Barbara_Boxer_Senate_Races_US_Chamber.jpgSen. Barbara Boxer said Tuesday that the week-long federal government shutdown has delayed a vote in the House of Representatives on legislation that would help finish improvements to Sacramento's levee system.

The completion of the Natomas levee improvement project is one of the California Democrat's top priorities, but she said the legislation that authorizes it, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, has become "another casualty" of the shutdown.

"It was supposed to be on the floor this week," Boxer said. "Now, it's stalled."

Rep. Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat who's long pushed for the Natomas project in Congress, expressed frustration at the delay.

October 8, 2013
Reporter Jim Miller to join The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau

jimmiller.jpgWe're excited to announce that Jim Miller, most recently a state politics reporter for the Press-Enterprise, will be joining The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau as a reporter and editor.

Twitter scooped us on this announcement, but people in the newsroom remain giddy at the prospect of adding an experienced, well-respected reporter to our politics team.

Miller is no stranger to California reporting, having worked his way from the Hollister-based The Pinnacle and putting in a stint at The Modesto Bee, one of our sister papers.

His start date at The Bee will be Oct. 28.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Jim Miller.

October 8, 2013
Jerry Brown signs law changing California's athlete compensation

FootballPlayers.JPGProfessional athletes will have to prove they played a substantial chunk of their career in California to claim disability benefits under a law Gov. Jerry Brown signed Tuesday.

Supporters of Assembly Bill 1309, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, argued that professional athletes have exploited California's overly generous worker's compensation system, seeking disability benefits even when they played for out-of-state teams and rarely took the field in California.

Under the new law, former athletes will need to prove they played for California-based teams for either two years or 20 percent of their career in order to claim worker's compensation.

"Our workers' compensation system will no longer be unfairly targeted by out-of-state professional athletes and California businesses will finally be protected from these claims," Perea said in a statement. "This legislation has come a long way from its introduction and provides a fair, balanced and practical approach which still allows former California athletes to file here."

An alliance of different California teams backed the bill, from the Oakland Athletics to the Los Angeles Clippers to the San Diego Chargers. Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League also came out in favor.

On the other side of the debate stood unions representing professional athletes, including the National Football League Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association and other major labor organizations. In an unsuccessful campaign to defeat the bill, current and past professional football players gathered at the State Capitol earlier this year.

PHOTO: Former Oakland Raider Nick Bell, left, waits for former Cincinnati Bengals Reggie Williams, using crutches, as he walks to the podium to talk about his opposition to Assembly Bill 1309 at the California state Capitol on April 15, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

October 8, 2013
California insurance exchange reports 16K finalized applications

RB_Covered_California_3.JPGThe head of California's health insurance marketplace announced Tuesday that 16,311 households completed applications in the first week of enrollment.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the response Oct. 1-5 underscores the demand for health insurance in the state. Some 27,305 households have partially completed applications.

In addition, more than 430 small businesses have signed up.

Actual enrollment figures will not become available until customers start paying for and then receiving insurance benefits come Jan. 1.

Lee said the agency had not originally planned to release the figures but decided to do so to counter persistent criticism of the agency's activity.

October 8, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers getting schooled in Europe

20120909_PK_AIRSHOW_0529.JPGWith the California Legislature's lawmaking on hold until January, the autumnal globe-trotting continues.

We brought you news already of the all-expenses paid trip to marvel at Scandinavian renewable energy technology. The trip we're discussing today, which features a passel of lawmakers checking out career technical education in Germany and Switzerland, is a bit of different animal: It has been organized by the Senate Office of International Relations, and members are paying their own way (with the host countries picking up some of the tab), rather than accepting a gift.

But members are still logging some serious miles to examine a career-tailored educational model similar to the kind that, earlier this year, sent dozens of senators to faraway Long Beach. The travelers include Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, along with Sens. Bob Huff, Fran Pavley and Mark Wyland.

VIDEO: It's October, which has Dan Walters thinking baseball -- and pondering whether California politics and the national pastime could overlap.

October 8, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Recruit Billy Beane to run for political office?

With the perennially underfunded Oakland A's again in playoffs, Dan wonders whether Oakland manager Billy Beane could have a future in California politics.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 7, 2013
Steve Peace drops California privacy-inspired ballot initiative

JD_PEACE_BRULTE.JPGCiting a potentially inauspicious analysis, former lawmaker Steve Peace and retired trial lawyer Michael Thorsnes have pulled the plug on a proposed state ballot initiative that would have added new privacy protections to California's constitution.

Peace and Thorsnes turned some heads in the technology community after teaming up on the proposal, which would have enshrined in the state constitution the presumption that someone's personally identifying information -- including data on health and finances -- is confidential when collected for commercial or governmental purposes.

Peace told The Sacramento Bee on Monday that he decided to drop the effort after the Legislative Analyst's Office warned it could spur "unknown but potentially significant costs to state and local governments from additional or more costly lawsuits, increased court workload, data security improvements, and changes to information-sharing practices."

"We're back to the drawing board," said Peace, who was appointed finance director by Gov. Gray Davis after being termed out of the Legislature.

Proponents were inspired in part by the saga of former National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Peace recalled attending a fundraiser for fellow Democrats where Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and colleagues roundly condemned Snowden's leaking of classified information on government surveillance and called for swift U.S. action. Peace has said he believes Snowden could have been charged with crimes but said President Barack Obama's administration was wrong to bring charges of espionage.

Thorsnes, a longtime Democratic fundraiser, photographer and poet who published an anthology under the pseudonym Rowdy O'Yeats, got on board with the consumer privacy effort after becoming a mentor to Peace's law-school son, Chad Peace.

Supporters would have had to collect 807,615 signatures from registered voters by Feb. 24. But Peace said he struggled to coalesce the entire privacy community and "couldn't in good conscious ask people to spend 25 million bucks" on a proposal "where we were going to have to spend all of our time on defense" because of the analyst's analysis.

"We would never win the argument with the legislative analyst," Peace said.

"It was too big a hurdle."

PHOTO: Steve Peace, left, then budget director to Gov. Gray Davis, chats with Republican Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga during budget negotiations in July 2003. The Sacramento Bee/ John Decker

October 7, 2013
Jerry Brown vetoes bill on jury duty for legal immigrants

JerryBrownRecordTenure.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have allowed legal immigrants to serve on juries, saying in a veto message Monday that the responsibility should be reserved for U.S. citizens.

This has been a momentous legislative session for immigrant advocates, who have seen Brown sign measures that allow undocumented immigrants to practice law, shield immigrants from labor discrimination, allow driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and bar local law enforcement from detaining immigrants who have committed nonserious crimes.

But Brown drew the line at allowing non-citizens to preside over the legal fate of their peers, saying in a veto message that "jury service, like voting, is a quintessential prerogative and responsibility of citizenship."

"This bill would permit lawful residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury," Brown wrote in his message. "I don't think that's right."

Supporters of the legislation, Assembly Bill 1401, argued that it would relieve the strain on courts that have difficulty filling juries. They noted that the notion of who qualifies for jury service has evolved over time, since African Americans and women were once excluded, and suggested that the proposal would help legal permanent residents integrate into American society.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, center, walks through the state Capitol in Sacramento on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

October 7, 2013
AM Alert: Last week for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills

20131003_brown0115.JPGA week from today, it will be over.

By "it" we mean the 2013 legislative process: Lawmakers adjourned for recess back in mid-September, shifting the focus to Gov. Jerry Brown and his all-important pen. This coming Sunday, Oct. 13, marks the final day for the governor to decide which bills become law and which ones expire via veto.

Brown has already passed judgment on some high-profile measures, including legislation to regulate hydraulic fracturing, raise California's minimum wage and offer driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. (The latter two got multiple signing ceremonies.)

But a few heavily lobbied, closely watched measures still await, including bills that would ban lead ammunition, bar out-of-state athletes from claiming worker's compensation, and change the statute of limitation for sexual abuse cases. Stick with us to see what happens.

VIDEO: It's no accident that the governor has saved some of the most controversial bills for last, Dan Walters says.

RECALL RECOLLECTION: A decade has passed since the electoral free-for-all that saw then-Gov. Gray Davis recalled in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Today marks the 10-year anniversary of that fateful 2003 election. Some of the candidates will hold a reunion at the state Capitol this coming Saturday, and filmmaker Jayson Haedrich has a documentary on the recall that's expected to be screened at Sacramento State University later this month -- more details on both later.

COLLEGE COSTS: An Assembly Higher Education Committee hearing today will take a look at college access and affordability. Because it's a district event rather than one in the state Capitol, the event will be heavy on perspectives from UC Santa Barbara staff (committee chair Das Williams represents the area), but it will also include testimony from Judy Heiman of the Legislative Analyst's Office and from Jamillah Moore of the California Student Aid Commission. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 60, which allows driver's licenses to be issued to undocumented immigrants, at Fresno City College on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 7, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown faces key decisions this week

With decisions made on "low-hanging" legislation, Dan says, Gov. Jerry Brown must turn to the more momentous bills awaiting his verdict.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 6, 2013
Voter ID measure softened, embraced by California GOP

stee.jpgANAHEIM - The California Republican Party embraced a tea-party backed resolution urging adoption of a voter identification law Sunday, after the measure was softened considerably to remove any reference to photo identification.

The adopted resolution calls on the state Legislature "to enact a law which requires voters to identify themselves as registered voters whether they vote in person or by mail," but is sufficiently vague that at least some members of the party believed the identification could be verbal.

Leonard Stone, a tea party member and delegate from El Granada, in San Mateo County, said of the amendment, "I'm OK to see this happen progressively."

The newly-formed Tea Party California Caucus, a coalition of tea party groups from throughout the state, was a force at the convention, where ideological rifts have arisen in previous years between moderate and conservative elements of the party.

But the tea party members were applauded when party chairman Jim Brulte said at the general session Sunday, "If you're with the tea party, why don't you stand and let us welcome you."

The state party closed its biannual gathering with little drama on the convention floor, in stark contrast to the intensity in Washington around the government shutdown. In the time reserved for a report on goings-on in Congress, Brulte offered delegates just five words.

"Congress," he said, "is very, very busy."

PHOTO: Shawn Steel, the Republican National Committeeman from California, speaks to a delegate at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Anaheim on Oct. 6, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

October 5, 2013
Bullhorn in hand, Tim Donnelly warns Jerry Brown to 'keep his hands off our guns'

donnellyconvention.jpgANAHEIM - Perhaps it was so people could hear him over the wind or because his campaign for governor hasn't been getting much attention that Tim Donnelly, the assemblyman from Twin Peaks, took to a bullhorn at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

He sounded off on libertarian themes, warning Gov. Jerry Brown to "keep his hands off our guns" or "pay the price at the ballot box."

The Democratic governor has not yet said how he will act on several gun control measures sent to him this year by the Legislature. He is widely expected to win re-election in heavily Democratic California next year.

The expectations for Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign are considerably lower. But as the California Republican Party gathered here for its biannual convention, he set up a booth and posted signs calling himself a "Patriot Not Politician."

Donnelly, well known outside his district for his anti-immigration positions and for carrying a loaded handgun into an airport, addressed reporters outside the convention hotel shortly before Abel Maldonado, another Republican candidate for governor, spoke to delegates inside.

"I don't know why anybody's talking about him," Donnelly said. "I think Jerry Brown is the candidate to beat."

While talking with reporters about "socialism when it comes to our health care," Donnelly accidentally flipped the switch on the bullhorn, sounding its siren.

He turned it off and said, "I was just trying to underscore that point."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks to reporters at the California Republican Party's fall convention in Anaheim on Oct. 5, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

October 5, 2013
Voter ID measure clears first hurdle at GOP convention

brandau.jpgANAHEIM - Members of the California Republican Party will take up a proposal to call for a state voter identification law on the final day of their fall convention, after a tea party group successfully pushed the measure through a party committee Saturday.

The measure's prospects are uncertain. But even a public airing of the issue could be uncomfortable for the party's leadership, which is trying to attract Latino and independent voters to reverse a trend of electoral losses and declining voter registration statewide.

The measure, which would require voters to show photo identification, was one of four tea party-backed resolutions embraced at the committee level Saturday - with the others involving the environment, education and opposition to California's $68 billion high-speed rail project. The Tea Party California Caucus withdrew a proposal on immigration, said Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau, a tea party organizer.

He said that for the Tea Party California Caucus, a newly-formed coalition of tea party groups, "It's very encouraging to us" that the other four measures moved forward.

PHOTO: Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau, left, and Madera County Supervisor Rick Farinelli, members of the Tea Party California Caucus, attend the California Republican Party's fall convention on Oct. 5, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

October 5, 2013
At GOP convention, teachers union hosts hors d'oeuvres

gopties.jpgANAHEIM - It was if he was announcing his presence at a support group when a man in a red shirt said at a committee meeting of Republicans here Saturday, "I'm Todd Hancock, I'm a member of CTA."

The California Teachers Association, a major benefactor of Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democratic causes, is among three public employee unions that have made modest contributions to the California Republican Party in recent weeks. The CTA donated $10,000 last month, its first contribution to the party in nearly 10 years.

Service Employees International Union Local 1000 and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association are listed as sponsors of the state party's biannual convention.

Republican delegates, Hancock said, "are surprised to see us."

At a committee meeting to discuss efforts to increase party registration, turnout and volunteerism, Hancock, a high school teacher from Chino, invited his fellow Republicans to a reception Saturday night with "light hors d'oeuvres and lively conversation!"

Hancock and his wife, Mary, who is also a teacher, said 35 percent or more of CTA members are Republicans, representing untapped potential for the GOP.

"We're educating the next Republicans," she said of her students. "We need support from the party."

Labor officials have credited the state party's new chairman, Jim Brulte, with their inclination to give. They describe it as a tentative effort by unions to work with the GOP.

PHOTO: Ties, buttons and other political gear for sale at the California Republican Party's fall convention on Oct. 5, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

October 5, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to prohibit detention of some undocumented arrestees

ha_jerrybrown30191.JPGGov. Jerry Brown this morning announced he has signed a bill laying down guidelines that dictate when local law enforcement must detain arrested undocumented immigrants.

He also signed a measure, AB 1024 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, that will allow undocumented immigrants to be licensed as attorneys in California.

In a prepared release accompanying the signings of those bills and six other immigration-related bills, Brown repeated the rationale he recently gave for signing another measure offering undocumented immigrants driver's licenses: "While Washington waffles on immigration, California's forging ahead...I'm not waiting."

Brown vetoed a bill last year that would have barred local law enforcement from honoring most requests to hold arrested immigrants for federal authorities.

An updated version of the bill, Assembly Bill 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, emerged from the Legislature this year and made enough changes to earn Brown's signature. Still, that has fueled concern among law enforcement officials about the rigidity and scope of the new rules.

The undocumented attorney bill was inspired by the story of Sergio C. Garcia, who was brought to the state illegally by his farmworker parents when he was 17 months old, obtained a law degree and passed the bar exam but was unable to obtain a license from state authorities.

Brown also signed Senate Bill 666 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that allows revocation of a business license and a $10,000 fine for businesses that retaliate against workers based on their citizenship or immigration status.

October 5, 2013
Abel Maldonado touts 'retail, hardcore' gubernatorial campaign

maldonadopresser.jpgANAHEIM - As California Republicans gather this weekend for their biannual convention, Abel Maldonado has ensconced himself at the party hotel, telling anyone who will listen - reporters, party activists, busboys - he can beat Gov. Jerry Brown next year.

It is a difficult case to make. The former lieutenant governor, who has lost his last two campaigns for office, finished the first half of the year in debt, and he and his original team of strategists split.

But Maldonado, who announced a new group of advisers ahead of the convention, said in an interview Friday, "My campaign has never been in better shape than it is today."

He has invited delegates to a "campaign briefing" on Saturday afternoon.

Brown, who is about to surpass Earl Warren as California's longest-serving governor, has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but the Democratic governor has raised more than $10 million for the effort. Even among Republicans, he is widely considered likely to win.

Maldonado, a former state lawmaker and farmer from Santa Maria, described his campaign as an "uphill battle."

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when you run against an incumbent governor who's been elected and in office, the longest serving governor in the history of California ... it's going to be an uphill battle."

October 4, 2013
Jerry Brown signs California bill allowing more than two parents

ha_Mark_LENO_2011.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation allowing children to have more than two parents.

The announcement Friday comes a year after the Democratic governor vetoed a similar proposal, citing the potential for unintended consequences.

Senate Bill 274 authorizes a court to recognize more than two parents if endorsing fewer would be "detrimental" to the child. The bill that Brown vetoed last year would have provided judges the authority to identify multiple parents if doing so was "required in the best interest of the child."

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, stressed that his measure applies only to families with more than two people who meet the state's definition of a parent. It does not apply to stepparents, grandparents, girlfriends or caretakers. In an interview, Leno said he expected the law to be used sparingly, such as when a child could be at risk of unnecessarily entering the foster care system.

October 4, 2013
Rick Perry blames Barack Obama for shutdown, says his 'job is to negotiate'

California v Texas Rick Perry.JPGANAHEIM - Texas Gov. Rick Perry blamed President Barack Obama on Friday for the federal government shutdown, saying it is Obama's job to negotiate but that he is "hell-bent" on protecting implementation of the federal healthcare overhaul, his signature legislative achievement.

"The president of the United States' job is to negotiate," the Republican governor told reporters at the fall convention of the California Republican Party. "I have never seen a president stand up and just blatantly say, 'I'm not going to negotiate with you in any form or fashion."

Obama and House Republicans are at an impasse on a federal spending bill, with Republicans demanding changes to the three-year-old health care law.

Perry said, "The president seems to be willing to stop the government from functioning in all areas ... to make a political point."

Perry is at the convention to criticize the state's business climate and promote conditions in Texas, a reprise of a February visit in which he sparred over the airwaves with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Critics have said the trips have little value other than to keep Perry in the public eye ahead of a potential second run for president in 2016. Asked about a recent Bloomberg report in which Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was quoted suggesting as much, Perry noted that Newsom has taken trips to Texas seeking ideas that could be applied in California's to improve the business climate.

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the opening session of the 83rd Texas Legislature in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 8, 2013. Associated Press/Eric Gay

October 4, 2013
Sacramento sheriff, game wardens, come out against lead ban


When a measure banning lead ammunition for hunters cleared the California Legislature, detractors included the Alliance for Dogmen, the Mule Deer Foundation and Gun Owners of California.

With Gov. Jerry Brown set to weigh in soon, a handful of others have come out in opposition to Assembly Bill 711. Among them is a group of unions and labor leaders, the California Fish and Game Wardens' Association (The Department of Fish and Wildlife is a supporter) and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.

In a letter to Brown on Thursday, Jones wrote that he was concerned because the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined that most non-lead ammunition meets the criteria for "armor piercing" and thus has banned the manufacturing and sale of such ammunition without special permission.

As a result, Jones argues that non-lead bullets have become scarce in most hunting calibers.

"I believe that this bill, if signed, would enact an undue burden on the entire hunting community, which includes many members of law enforcement," Jones wrote.

In their letter to Brown on Wednesday, the game wardens' association, arguing they are on the front line of enforcing the current ban on lead ammunition for hunting near condors, wrote that "there is insufficient data to justify such a drastic action across the entire state."

Supporters of AB 711 by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, say lead-based bullets are one of the major sources of harmful lead discharge into the environment. Brown has until Oct. 13 to decide the fate of the measure.

PHOTO: Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

October 4, 2013
AM Alert: Rick Perry to address California Republicans

ProsperitySummit.jpgWhen last we checked in with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the former presidential candidate was busy prodding California Gov. Jerry Brown over the airwaves and trading jabs about whose state is better for what. Ever the thoughtful one, Brown eloquently dismissed the importance of the little flare-up.

But Perry has a receptive audience for his warnings about California's stagnating business climate: Golden State Republicans, who convene in Anaheim this weekend for their state party's fall convention featuring the Texas governor as a keynote speaker at Saturday's dinner.

Also addressing the delegates will be Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden. The weekend's theme is "Rebuilding from the Ground Up," reprising the back-to-basics theme that new state party chair Jim Brulte emphasized during his successful campaign at the spring convention.

VIDEO: Can California find the money to pay for badly needed road upgrades? Dan Walters says to not count on it.

BUSINESS BETS: Also on the topic of California business, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association will hold its 25th annual conference on the status of commerce in California today, neatly timed to coincide with the Republican convention. Business representatives and advocates will assemble at the Burbank Airport Marriott, where they will hear from panelists that include former U.S. senator and current Motion Picture Association of America chair Chris Dodd.

FIREFIGHTER MEMORIAL: On a more solemn note, a ceremony in Capitol Park on Saturday will mark the addition of 22 fallen firefighters to the names recorded on the California Firefighters Memorial. Speakers will include California Attorney General Kamala Harris, director Mark Ghilarducci of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, Lou Paulson of the California Fire Foundation and President Demetrious Schaffer of the California Fire Chiefs Association.

SUPREME SCHOLARS: California Supreme Court watchers can bask in legal analysis during a conference at Berkeley Law School today, co-hosted by the California Constitution Center. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar will be speaking.

NATIVE AMERICAN NEWS: It's the second day of a California Indian Conference at Sacramento State University, and today Judge Cynthia Gomez, tribal adviser to Brown, will be speaking.

LAWMAKERS LAUDED: We also get a paean to legislative integrity. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and former Republican leaders David Cogdill and Michael Villines will have a permanent exhibit dedicated in their honor, marking a Profile in Courage Award they won for putting together a deficit reduction deal back in 2009. The ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. inside the state Capitol's east annex entrance.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who turns 61 today.

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses attendees of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. The Associated Press/Phelan M. Ebenhack.

October 4, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: I-80 repair highlights California road woes

Dan is relieved that California finally got around to repairing a badly deteriorating stretch of highway across the Sierra Nevada, but says the state's roads as a whole remain in poor shape.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 3, 2013
Mailer: 'Thank you, Assembly Speaker.' But for what?

PEREZ.JPGA contemplative Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez gazes into the distance as an excerpt on the same page declares his legislation to expand coverage for the poor the best path to health care reform in California.

An unsuspecting reader might assume from the glossy, multipage mailer that Pérez is gearing up to run for statewide office - a suspicion further fed by the fact that the piece landed outside his Los Angeles district from San Diego to Sacramento.

"Thank you, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez," the mailer states. But for what?

The group that paid for the mailer (and at least one similar piece on behalf of Democratic Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose) says it did so to promote political allies in the fight to protect access to health care.

Lisa Maas, executive director of Californians Allied for Patient Protection, described the group's mailers as a statewide education effort to raise awareness about unspecified policies that expand access to health care.

"These legislators have been staunch supporters of these policies," Maas said.

The mailer makes only a passing reference - next to the return address - that the group behind it spends much of its time and energy protecting the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975, which capped at $250,000 jury awards for pain and suffering in malpractice suits.

Maas wouldn't say how many other mailers went out to voters or how much the group was spending on mail.

Consumer Watchdog, which is gathering signatures for an initiative that would lift the cap, is doing mailers of its own targeting doctors who contributed. At a briefing in August, Pérez said he thought the Consumer Watchdog-backed initiative was a bad idea.

Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog, described the other group's mailers as vague and odd and said they don't really address MICRA.

Court said the 'thank you' mailer was a way of having a debate without having a debate.

"It is definitely a communication designed to let legislators know they are watched and that their constituents can be reached," Court said "And that's either a gift or a threat."

"When it's a carrot, it doesn't seem so bad. But it's also letting legislators know there's a stick if they need it."

Maas said her group was proud to feature its name and logo on the mail pieces.

"These are not political pieces," she said, adding, "You can be sure we are doing the correct disclosures and doing everything right."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, listens during the last day of the legislative session in September. (The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer)

October 3, 2013
Capitol Hill shooting takes place only feet from Boxer's office

ha_boxerblack.JPGSen. Barbara Boxer's Washington office in the Hart Senate Office Building is only feet from the intersection of Constitution Avenue and Second Street Northeast on Capitol Hill, a quiet corner this week with the federal government partly shut down.

But Thursday, it was the scene of a shooting that left a woman dead and a police officer injured.

The California Democrat was preparing for a 2:30 p.m. press conference on the government shutdown's impact on federal functions such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Boxer is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees environmental matters.

About 10 minutes before the press conference, which was scheduled to take place in the adjacent Dirksen Senate Office Building, shots rang out. Boxer, her committee staff and a group of reporters took shelter for 45 minutes in a conference room while the Capitol was under lockdown.

Here is her account:

October 3, 2013
Jerry Brown OKs change to drug-law definition of 'transporting'

brownbudget.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation easing penalties for people accused of carrying illegal drugs for their own use in California, his office announced Thursday.

Assembly Bill 721, by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, will change the definition of "transporting" a drug to mean transporting it for sale, eliminating prosecutors' ability to bring an additional charge against someone who might otherwise be accused only of possession.

"Too many people are getting caught up in the prison system with nothing more than a small amount of drugs for personal use," Bradford said in a prepared statement. "The broad interpretation of existing law wastes resources going after users instead of dealers."

Opponents said the bill was unreasonably soft on criminals.

The bill was one of nearly 30 the Democratic governor announced action on Thursday. Brown has less than two weeks to sign or veto hundreds of more bills sent to him before the Legislature adjourned for the year.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, left, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, celebrate a budget deal with a formal announcement at the California Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

October 3, 2013
Abel Maldonado names new team in campaign for governor

maldonadopresser.jpgAbel Maldonado, whose split with his strategists this summer raised questions about the fitness of the Republican's campaign for governor, announced Thursday that he has assembled a new group of advisers.

Ron Nehring, the former California Republican Party chairman who came on to help Maldonado in the interim, will stay on as the former lieutenant governor's senior adviser.

Among the rest of the team, the highest profile adviser is Rick Tyler, former press secretary for Newt Gingrich. Tyler will be Maldonado's chief media strategist.

The campaign also named a pollster, Ed Goeas; a political director, Jimmy Camp; and a handful of other advisers.

The announcement comes as California Republicans prepare to gather in Anaheim this weekend for their biannual convention. Maldonado plans to address delegates on Saturday.

Maldonado faces a steep climb in heavily Democratic California. Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run for an unprecedented fourth term next year.

"Everyone knows it's an uphill fight," Nehring said, but added that Maldonado "is not a Republican candidate who's been sent down from central casting."

He said the campaign "has done a lot of work over the last two months. We've got a good team."

Maldonado's chief strategist, media strategist and campaign manager all departed from Maldonado's campaign for governor this summer. Whether they left at their choice or were asked to go is a matter of dispute.

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

October 3, 2013
Advocates urge Gov. Jerry Brown to veto gun bills

RP_GUN_BILLS.JPGWith Gov. Jerry Brown days away from deciding the fate of a stack of gun bills, Second Amendment advocates today delivered to the governor's office about 67,000 signed letters imploring him to veto the 14 prospective laws.

"California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and these 14 measures are particularly onerous," said Craig DeLuz, a legislative advocate for the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees.

Senate Bill 374 that bans detachable magazines in rifles and Assembly Bill 711 that prohibits the use of lead ammunition are among the measures the gun-rights groups want Brown to stop from becoming law.

SB 374 was authored by Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and AB 711 was from Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.

While Brown has tipped his hand on a number of controversial bills, the governor has been decidedly tight-lipped on the gun bills, many of which grew out of the outrage following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

DeLuz and his colleagues suspect the governor will take a reasoned look at the bills and sign some and veto others.

"Politically, we want to make sure he understands there are a lot of voters out there who believe in the Second Amendment -- and that we are watching what he does."

PHOTO: Brandon Combs, left, managing director with the Firearms Policy Coalition, and Craig DeLuz, legislative advocate with the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, prepare to deliver 67,000 petitions urging the veto of 14 gun bills to Gov. Jerry Brown's office at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Oct. 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

October 3, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill giving driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants

20131003_brown0159.JPGGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, reversing his position on an issue legislative Democrats have pressed for years.

Brown signed the bill at a ceremony in Los Angeles, the state's largest media market. The Democratic governor then traveled to Fresno Thursday afternoon for a second ceremony promoting the bill's enactment.

The legislation is the latest in a series of victories for undocumented immigrants in California. Brown signed legislation in 2011 allowing undocumented immigrant college students to receive public financial aid, and he approved a measure last year making driver's licenses available to some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and are allowed to work here under federal rules.

Brown said in his 2010 campaign for governor that he opposed making driver's licenses available to undocumented immigrants. He called the measure a "little piecemeal" solution that "sends the wrong signal," and he urged comprehensive immigration policy changes instead.

Brown said last month that he changed his mind because of "foot-dragging on the part of Congress and not creating immigration reform."

October 3, 2013
Boxer slams House Republicans, says shutdown hurts California

Shutdown.JPGSen. Barbara Boxer told House Republicans to "grow up" Thursday and end a three-day-old government shutdown that's put 800,000 federal workers out of a job, including 50,000 in California.

California has more federal workers than any other state - even Virginia and the District of Columbia, where many federal agencies are concentrated. They work for the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense and NASA, among others, and Boxer said they're hurting.

"They don't have a check," she said, meeting with reporters at her office on an unusually deserted Capitol Hill. "They're scared."

Boxer added that if the shutdown continues into next week, there could be local impacts in California. The national parks are closed for the duration, including Yosemite. The closure follows recent Rim Fire, which burned more than 300 square miles in and near Yosemite. The region depends economically on the park for the tourism it generates.

Boxer said about two-thirds of her 60 staff members are furloughed in Washington and California, including six who exclusively perform case work. That covers passport requests, veterans benefits, housing and mortgage assistance, Social Security and Medicare, immigration and education. She said her office received about 16,000 such requests in 2010.

"They're proud of the work they do," she said of her staff.

October 3, 2013
AM Alert: Gov. Jerry Brown to sign California immigrant driver's licenses

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After years of fruitless attempts, Gov. Jerry Brown will fulfill a longtime dream of immigrant advocates today by signing legislation offering driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants in California.

The governor will sign the bill during a ceremony at Los Angeles City Hall this morning alongside L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who championed the cause during his time in the Legislature. After that comes a second signing ceremony for the benefit of those more northerly inclined, at 12:30 p.m. at Fresno City College.

Once Brown signs the bill into law, the work of determining what the licenses will look like begins -- a fraught process, given that advocates expressed concerns throughout the bill's journey about how conspicuously different the new cards will be.

VIDEO: It seems obvious that a massive iPad giveaway would backfire on the Los Angeles Unified School District, Dan Walters says.

SCHOOL STANDARDS: If you've been around education policy over the last decade, you've heard the word "accountability" invoked with tide-like regularity. A conference organized by the Stanford-based Policy Analysis for California Education will take a look at what the principle means for California education, touching on topics that range from the state's newly enacted school funding formula to No Child Left Behind Waivers for the so-called CORE districts to a federally disputed law, signed yesterday by the governor, that will suspend California's current standardized tests to make way for assessments aligned with the new Common Core standards.

Speakers will include Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, Sue Burr of the California State Board of Education and Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. From 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the California Secretary of State's Office auditorium

FRACK THAT: Depending on whom you ask, California's new hydraulic fracturing law represents either a victory for environmental regulation or an energy industry giveaway that will encourage a hazardous drilling technique. The latter argument will be on display today when Environment California releases a new fracking report at the State Capitol. The press conference convenes on the west steps at 10 a.m.

POKER FACE: You may have noticed a piece by former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown this past weekend about curbing the power of special interests. So imagine our surprise to see Brown listed as the keynote speaker at an event marking the launch of Communities for California Cardrooms -- a new nonprofit that boasts in its press release of hoping to "grow quickly" into an "influential organization." (we wrote about them back in July). From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at One Market Restaurant in San Francisco.

PHOTO: Then-California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown gets in his old 1974 Plymouth Satellite car parked in front of his old apartment on N Street on March 24, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer.

October 3, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: iPad giveaway creates Los Angeles schools debacle

How, Dan wonders, could Los Angeles Unified School District officials think they could issue
$1 billion worth of tablets without running into trouble?

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

October 3, 2013
Ted Gaines announces insurance commissioner run


Possibly setting up a clash over health insurance regulation, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, announced he will run for California Insurance Commissioner in 2014.

Gaines, who terms out of office in 2020, said in a press release announcing his run that the California Department of Insurance has become an unwieldy bureaucracy. He also pledged to crack down on lawsuit abuse, saying current California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is "far too cozy with trial lawyers."

"When the Insurance Commissioner pushes insurers out of California just to score political points, the result is less competition and ultimately fewer choices and higher rates for all our citizens," Gaines said. "More competition means more choices and better rates for consumers."

That offers a marked contrast with Jones, who has made a call for the power to regulate health insurance rates -- an even more relevant topic given the launch this week of California's new health insurance exchange -- a centerpiece of his tenure.

The measure will go before voters in November 2014, having fallen short of the signature threshold needed to get on the 2012 ballot.

As of July, Jones had around $919,000 in his 2014 re-election war chest, according to the California Secretary of State's office.

Currently, Gaines faces no other obstacles: former Assemblyman Mike Villines, who secured the Republican insurance commissioner nomination in 2010 but fell to Jones despite heavy support from the insurance industry, had declared his intent to run in 2014 but terminated his campaign account back in 2011.

PHOTO: Senator Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 2, 2013
Never mind: California health exchange didn't overstate first-day activity

RB Covered California 3.JPG

Covered California now says a spokesman erred when he told the Los Angeles Times today that the agency overstated its online activity.

Communications Director Oscar Hidalgo said his deputy Dana Howard was confused about the exchange's web analytics when he blamed internal miscommunication for inflating the number of page views by nearly tenfold.

Late Wednesday, Hidalgo told The Bee the agency received about 514,000 unique visitors who reviewed more than 5 million pages on Tuesday. He said the state agency was proud of its first-day activity and never intended to mislead.

"That's the last thing I want," Hidalgo said. "I think the 514,000 is an incredible number."

The exchange received 7,143 applications for insurance and 19,000 calls into its service centers on opening day. Still, the website remained sluggish.

The enrollment function was taken offline at 9 p.m. Tuesday and restored about 7 a.m. Wednesday for unspecified optimization.

Enrollment was again suspended between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to address issues relating to the loading of health plan products, spokeswoman Anne Gonzales said earlier Wednesday.

"Since then, it's been up and running and working well. We will continue to make improvements along the way," Gonzales said.

Customers reporting their experiences online continued to point out sluggish performance, albeit with some improvements. Estimated wait times for the state agency's toll-free phone line dropped from highs of 30 minutes to 10 minutes when a reporter called Tuesday.

John Thomas Flynn, the state's first chief information officer under Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, has been monitoring the health insurance exchange website since its launch.

Flynn said he again tried to enroll, to no avail, and ended up having a less satisfying experience than Tuesday. Among the biggest challenges was the system freezing during several attempts to enter information, he said.

"I am going to keep trying. I am interested in this thing. I want to see it work," he said.

Enrollment operators take phone calls during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Tuesday. Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee

Editor's note, 7:06 p.m.: This post was changed significantly from its original version.

October 2, 2013
California says backlog of jobless benefits nearly cleared

unemploymentdelay.jpgThe Employment Development Department said it will finish Wednesday clearing a backlog of unemployment claims that delayed jobless benefits for thousands of unemployed Californians.

The department said in a statement that "final work on some more complex case work being finished today will mark completion" of the backlog.

The announcement comes after the Brown administration last week week ordered EDD to begin paying backlogged claims for continued benefits before determining if claims are eligible for payment.

EDD, which is upgrading its 30-year-old unemployment insurance processing system, estimated about 148,000 Californians had checks delayed at some point by a computer problem that started over the Labor Day weekend.

Some claimants as recently as Tuesday afternoon said they had yet to be paid.

"I go to the bank every day and slide that little card in hoping to see some numbers there," said Dini Freeman, 69, an unemployed medical billing specialist who lives in Novato.

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

October 2, 2013
Jerry Brown the critic: Pathetic TV and Anderson Cooper 'beating his chest'

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown does not watch a lot of TV. But he said he turned on the news last night to check on the mood in Washington over the government shutdown.

He flipped to CNN and public television. His wife, Anne Gust Brown, couldn't stand it, he said. She walked away.

Brown kept watching, but he was not impressed.

"There's so much noise, so much imagery, so much razzle-dazzle," he said. "I couldn't believe the amount of ads. It's about this, it's about that."

He said, "It was painful just watching that news."

Brown said he turned the TV off after 30 minutes, but it left him wondering how people follow the goings-on of government, not only politicians in Washington but his own administration.

"Is it interesting?" he said. "Or is it just another one of these frizzle frazzles that I saw last night, jumping from Anderson Cooper, you know, beating his chest ... it just all seemed pathetic to me."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Jan. 10, 2013. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee

October 2, 2013
Jerry Brown signs school testing reprieve

RP_School_TEST_SCORES_JENNIFER.JPGGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday suspending mandatory school testing for a year as the state transitions to new curriculum standards and computer-based assessments.

The Democratic governor pushed for the bill before its passage in the Legislature, despite a threat by the Obama administration to withhold federal funds.

Assembly Bill 484, by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, suspends K-12 standardized testing requirements for the school year now underway and the public posting of that data for potentially two years.

Proponents of the bill said it would spare students and educators from "double-testing" students during a period of transition. Opponents said it could potentially put schools out of compliance with No Child Left Behind.

Following a private event, Brown announced the bill signing on Twitter:

PHOTO: A California Middle School teacher helps a student with a district test during class in Sacramento on Dec. 5, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

October 2, 2013
California's debt service level drops below projections

lockyer.jpgFour years ago, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer projected that servicing California's bonded indebtedness would approach 10 percent of the state's general fund revenues by 2014 and suggested that the state needed a master plan to prioritize its borrowing.

Since then, Lockyer says in his latest "debt affordability report," improving state finances, lower interest rates and tight management of new borrowing have reduced debt service to under 8 percent.

"In the market," Lockyer said, "the state's general obligation bonds have become more competitive with higher-rated bonds, and investors have reduced the interest-rate premium they demand to buy our bonds.

"At the same time, the state refinanced billions of dollars of bonds at lower interest rates and reduced taxpayers' debt service payments by hundreds of millions of dollars. In part because of these steps, debt service now consumes less of the state budget. The 2009 DAR projected debt service payments would equal 9.8 percent of general fund revenues in 2013-14. This report estimates that ratio will be 7.7 percent."

As of June 30, the state had $86.28 billion in general obligation and lease-revenue bonds supported by the general fund outstanding, plus another $36.54 billion authorized by the Legislature and/or voters but not yet issued.

In relative terms, California is a high-debt state, the report reveals. Among the 10 most populous states, California ranks second only to New York in debt compared to personal income (5.8 percent), debt per capita ($2,565) and debt compared to total economic output (4.98 percent). Texas is the lowest-debt state among the 10.

The state plans to issue $12.5 billion in new general obligation and lease-revenue bonds during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years, including some of the $9.95 billion in bonds authorized for a bullet train system. Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators are also trying to write a new water bond issue for the 2014 ballot to replace an $11.1 billion measure now scheduled for a vote. The new water bond, if successful, is likely to be much smaller.

PHOTO: State Treasurer Bill Lockyer speaks at the Sacramento Press Club luncheon on June 21, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.