Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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

RCB_20100324_BROWN_ 092.JPG

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.


Capitol Alert Staff

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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