Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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