Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.


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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