Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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