Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 5, 2013
VIDEO: Anti-fracking protesters dog Jerry Brown

govmansion.jpgGov. Jerry Brown endures the occasional protest at the California Capitol, but he has largely avoided the inconvenience of any heckling-from-the-sidewalk, traveling demonstrations for nearly three years.

In recent weeks, however, the Democratic governor has been met at his events by a smattering of environmentalists protesting his support for hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking.

About 30 demonstrators were on hand for a function at the historic governor's mansion in Sacramento on Monday night, and they were loud enough that staff members moved Brown's podium to a side of the house farther from the street.

"We're going to have to yell really loud," one of the organizers, Zack Malitz, told fellow demonstrators.

Brown signed legislation this year establishing a permitting system in California for fracking. The measure has further strained his relationship with environmentalists, who already are upset with Brown for his efforts to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act. The discord comes as the Democratic governor holds his administration out as a national leader on environmental policies.

Brown acknowledged the protesters at the mansion Monday, saying it was "wonderful that this has now become a public square."

"Even though it's slightly loud," he said, "it's powerful, it's dynamic, and this house is still alive."

PHOTO: The California State Historic Governor's Mansion is bathed in the glow of a new LED lighting system after ceremonies to celebrate improvements of the 136-year-old mansion in Sacramento on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

November 5, 2013
Republican Tim Donnelly announces bid for California governor

PK_Tim_Donnelly_2012.JPGRepublican Tim Donnelly formally announced his candidacy for California governor Tuesday, criticizing incumbent Jerry Brown for his prison policies and a state business climate Donnelly said is unduly burdensome.

The Twin Peaks assemblyman said at an event in Baldwin Park that government should "stop telling us what to do."

Donnelly, a former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, joins former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a moderate Republican, in the race.

Brown, a Democrat, is widely expected to seek re-election. He has raised more than $11 million for the effort, and even Republicans believe he will be difficult to defeat.

Donnelly, who is also backing an effort to recall a handful of lawmakers who supported gun control legislation this year, has been promoting himself as a candidate for governor for weeks.

November 5, 2013
Blue Shield gives California policyholders three-month reprieve

Thumbnail image for DAVEJONES.JPG

Roughly 113,000 Californians whose individual health plans were set to expire at the end of the year will be given the option to extend their coverage though the end of March.

Those with individual plans issued by Blue Shield of California Life & Health Insurance Company will be allowed to retain their plans for an extra three months regardless of whether they purchased coverage after the March 2010 passage of the federal health care law - the cutoff for "grandfathered" policies.

State officials estimate upward of 1 million Californians were receiving cancellation notices. Nearly 600,000 residents who buy their own health insurance are bracing to pay more for new plans in large part because of the federal health care overhaul. Blue Shield had given a three-month notice to 119,000 subscribers that their plans would be withdrawn from the market and replaced with new compliant policies.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones suggested the cancellations required a six-month warning and threatened legal action if existing policyholders were not allowed to retain their plans until March 31.

"Our action today is solely related, as it should be, to the question of whether Blue Shield complied with the notice requirement. They did not," Jones said. "We told them they needed to comply, and we reached this agreement with them."

The cancellations have enraged customers nationwide and caused headaches for President Barack Obama, who last week was forced to walk back repeated assertions that Americans who were satisfied with their health plans could keep them.

Stephen Shivinsky, a spokesman for the company, said it was able to accommodate Jones' request because the insurance plans in question are regulated by the Department of Insurance. New plans offered on the state insurance marketplace, Covered California, are regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care and are bound by the model contract between the exchange and insurance companies.

Blue Shield is mailing letters to 80,000 households informing them of the change and letting them know that they would have to ask to extend their coverage in their current plan. The deadline to retain current coverage is Dec. 6.

Still, Shivinsky said the company is warning customers that an extension is not without complications. Significant risks include: Having to pay a deductible twice in one year; missing tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies for plans that meet new requirements of the federal health care overhaul and are purchased via the exchange; and needing to enroll in a new plan by March 15, 2014 to avoid a gap in coverage after March 31.

"We are providing a lot of cautions to our subscribers if they choose to extend their coverage," Shivinsky said.

PHOTO: Then-Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, holds a news conference to announce legislation on March 13, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer.

Editor's Note: Updated at 11:30 a.m. to reflect comments from Jones.

November 5, 2013
AM Alert: California panel wades into groundwater policy

RPCOSUMNESWATERrELEASE.JPGWith water issues on the agenda for the coming session in the California Legislature, given a pair of 2014 water bond proposals, it's a good time to take a look at groundwater.

Unlike with other bodies on water policy, there is no state-level entity overseeing groundwater withdrawals, despite the pace at which California is depleting some aquifers as well as issues with access to clean drinking water. Some policymakers, particularly those skeptical about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnel project, wonder why we haven't focused more on replenishing and preserving groundwater.

Today the State Board of Food and Agriculture will wade into the issue. A daylong meeting covering everything from local groundwater authority to the role of the Sierra snowpack will marshal a roster of academics in addition to representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County. Starting at 10 a.m. at 1220 N St.

VIDEO: Bills change, and elected officials come and go, but the last couple of weeks have reminded Dan Walters of a constant in Sacramento.

FRACKTASTIC: Just as hydraulic fracturing requires a trade-secret-protected cocktail of different chemicals, a panel at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club today will feature a potentially volatile mix of fracking views. Speakers include Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, author of the controversial new fracking law; Annie Notthoff of the Natural Resources Defense Council, representing the environmentalists who abandoned the bill en masse; and Paul Deiro, who questioned fracking regulation as a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Association. The earth-shattering talk kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

BROWN ON BOARD: Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to drop by a meeting of the California State University trustees in Long Beach today. The governor has spent recent visits with the heads of one of the state's public university systems emphasizing students earning their degrees faster and pushing for greater use of online education. Stay tuned to see what he focuses on during this round.

CAREER EDUCATION: The Linked Learning victory lap continues. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will continue trumpeting a quarter-billion-dollar budget outlay for linked learning, or schools with curricula tailored to specific careers, during an appearance at De Anza High School in El Sobrante this morning.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who turns 39 today.

PHOTO: Two miles south of Sloughhouse, near Sacramento, water flowing at 40 cubic feet per second is released from the Folsom South Canal into the Cosumnes River on Oct. 17, 2005. The Sacramento Bee/ Randy Pench.

November 5, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Sacramento no stranger to scandals

Sordid revelations have Dan wondering whether things ever really change in California's capital city.

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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