Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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