Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 8, 2013
Sen. Bill Emmerson says he's calling it quits come Dec. 1

Emmerson.JPGState Sen. Bill Emmerson announced late Friday that he was resigning his seat effective Dec. 1.

In the abrupt announcement posted on his website, the Redlands Republican called his nine years in the Legislature "some of the most fulfilling years of my life."

"It has been an honor to work alongside my colleagues in both the State Assembly and the State Senate - institutions that I hold in the highest regard," Emmerson said. "But it's time for me to move on."

Emmerson, who turned 68 Oct. 28, did not immediately return a message on the reason for his departure.

But in the statement, he said he has always felt one must be passionate about their work.sd23_map.jpg

"In these past few months, my passion has waned and my constituents deserve a Senator with the level of commitment that I once had," he said of serving in the Democratic-controlled body.

"My health is perfect and I leave with the satisfaction that I worked hard and did my very best."

Emmerson was elected to the Assembly in 2004. He won a 2010 special election in Riverside County's former 37th Senate District to replace former state Sen. John Benoit after Benoit resigned to take a seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

Emmerson easily won re-election last November in the redrawn 23rd Senate District, which takes in swaths of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. He faced term limits in 2016.

Viewed as a moderate voice in the caucus, Emmerson was part of the group of five Republicans courted by Gov. Jerry Brown when the governor sought the Legislature's help to raise taxes. The career orthodontist spent several years working in the Legislature during the Reagan era before attending graduate school.

He later went on to head up a political action committee for the influential California Dental Association before his return to Sacramento. Emmerson currently serves as vice chairman of the budget committee as well as the committee on business and economic development.

Among the potential candidates to replace Emmerson in the Republican-heavy district are Assemblymen Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

Donnelly, a conservative firebrand, this week kicked off his nascent challenge of Brown.

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, listens to discussion on the main budget bill as senators prepared to vote on the state budget in June 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

November 8, 2013
Ron Calderon calls request that he resign 'outrageous'

CristinaGarcia.jpgIn Sen. Ron Calderon's first public comments since an FBI affidavit alleging he accepted $88,000 in bribes became public last week, the Montebello Democrat blasted an assemblywoman who has been calling for his resignation.

"It is outrageous in a democratic society for Cristina Garcia, an elected official, to trample on the Constitution by making a mockery of the presumption of innocence, a fundamental right, and seek political gain by embracing the criminal acts of media outlets that violate federal law by revealing the contents of sealed federal documents," Calderon wrote in a statement emailed to the media.

He added that Garcia "would best serve her constituents by reviewing her notes from her eighth-grade civics class."

Garcia, a Democrat who defeated Calderon's brother Tom Calderon in the race for the 58th Assembly District, ran for her Assembly seat on a platform of ousting corruption in the Los Angeles city of Bell. She has been the only legislator who has publicly called for Ron Calderon to step down in the wake of the federal corruption investigation.

November 8, 2013
Health care union takes aim at hospital CEO pay, overbilling


A labor union representing health care workers filed two ballot initiatives today that seek to prohibit hospitals from overcharging patients and tamp down executive compensation at nonprofit facilities.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West delivered the measures to the Attorney General's Office on Friday. The union is aiming to qualify them for the November 2014 ballot.

The Fair Healthcare Pricing Act would forbid hospitals from charging more than 25 percent above the cost of patient care while the Charitable Hospital Executive Compensation Act would bar nonprofit hospital executives from receiving more than $450,000 in annual compensation. Proponents estimate the measures would reduce prices by more than $2.5 billion a year.

Dave Regan, president of the 150,000-member SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said the union endeavors to engage the hospital industry in a public debate about rising costs.

"Their unwillingness to date to really take seriously the call to reform the increasing cost and frankly uneven quality around the state has led us here today," Regan told reporters in Sacramento. "We fundamentally believe that these measures are not only good policy but they represent the desires and the aspirations of a huge majority of Californians."

Jan Emerson-Shea, a spokesman for the California Hospital Association, said the organization was disappointed the union filed the initiatives.

"They put a cloud over the accomplishments that have been mutually beneficial to health care workers, hospitals and patients," Emerson-Shea said.

This is the second consecutive year the union has pitched a pair of similar initiatives. Last year, SEIU pushed measures to harness excessive billing and increase health care for the indigent, but withdrew the proposals after reaching an agreement that enlisted the hospital industry in various organizing efforts.

Critics at the time charged that the union was operating with ulterior motives, including dangling the proposals as leverage in contract negotiations and as a way to boost its membership ranks.

Regan said the union doesn't believe hospitals "lived up to their commitments," a point refuted by the hospital association.

Emerson-Shea said the association and union jointly accomplished many of the goals established in their May 2012 agreement, including collaborating on legislation, efforts to improve people's health and reduce chronic disease and creating a healthier workforce.

"What CHA is not able to do is produce additional union members for SEIU-UHW," she said. "CHA is not an agent for hospitals in labor matters."

On Friday, the proponents sought to focus attention on the need to hold down costs and keep executive compensation in check. They argued that hospitals charge patients significantly more than the actual cost of providing care and produced research suggesting the 10 highest-compensated nonprofit hospital executives earned an average $2.6 million annually, with the highest bringing in $7.8 million.

Photo: Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, unveils a pair of ballot initiatives Friday outside the Attorney General's Office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.

November 8, 2013
Effort to overturn transgender bathroom law down to the wire

KJPATROLBATH.JPGProponents of a referendum to overturn a California law protecting transgender students are rushing to gather and deliver a final pile of signatures before their deadline Sunday.

The group Privacy For All Students sent out an email Friday morning estimating that it has the minimum number of signatures to qualify the measure but warning that organizers need tens of thousands more to serve as a buffer against signature challenges.

"What each of us does in the next day and a half will determine the outcome of this referendum qualifying effort, and it will reveal just how much we are willing to do in such a crucial battle," the email reads.

If backers collect at least the requisite 504,760 signatures, the Secretary of State's Office would then instruct county elections officials to run a random sample to determine what percentage of them are valid. The result determines whether a full check of signatures is required. If the referendum is qualified for the ballot, the law would be suspended until voters can weigh in.

Authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, the targeted law allows transgender students to use the school facilities, and sign up for the sports teams, that match their gender identities. Supporters cast it both as a needed protection for transgender students who endure bullying and ridicule and as a way to enshrine tolerance in the law.

Republican opponents denounced the bill as a radical measure that puts students in an awkward position and undermines the will of parents.

The proposed ballot measure isn't the only challenge from the right to new laws on the books. On Thursday, proponents were given clearance to begin collecting signatures for two proposed referenda to overturn two other measures.

The first, by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwifes, and physician assistant to perform certain types of early abortions.

The second, by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, eliminates separate building standards for primary care clinics that offer abortions.

Backers have until Jan. 7 to submit petition signatures to county election officials.

PHOTO: Parents of Granite Bay High School students check for signs of smoking in the bathroom during lunch on Aug. 31, 1999. The Sacramento Bee/Kim D. Johnson.

November 8, 2013
California again scores low in nationwide academic tests


California again scored very low in the latest round of nationwide biennial testing of elementary students' reading and mathematics skills.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests were administered earlier this year to fourth and eighth graders and fewer than a third of California's students were rated as proficient in the two skills. Overall, the state ranked in the bottom 10 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia; its worst score was 47th in four grade reading, and its best was 42nd in eighth grade reading.

The brightest spot in the NAEP report on California is that it was one of only 13 states that saw gains in eighth grade reading scores.

While State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the scores showed "that we are moving in the right direction," the continued low - and largely flat - performance of California students was another black eye for the state's largest-in-the-nation education system.

As with past state and federal tests, the newest NAEP results for California also showed a wide gap between the achievements of white and Asian youngsters and black and Latino students - a gap that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature are addressing with a new way of distributing state aid.

Under the new system, school districts with high numbers of poor and/or English-learner students will receive extra money. The state is also at work implementing the Common Core curriculum, a multistate effort to raise academic achievement.

PHOTO: A second-grader reads her assignment in her English language learning class at Cordova Villa Elementary School on Monday, June 10, 2013 in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

November 8, 2013
AM Alert: California lawmakers, labor push veteran jobs initiative

JV_072513_KOREANVETS 137.JPGCalifornia state government will take a break Monday in honor of Veterans Day, and today lawmakers and labor leaders will launch a program to connect vets to work.

The new "Veterans and Labor -- Partners in Service" program will introduce some policy priorities that would encourage hiring veterans, bolster job training and increase veteran housing. Some bigwigs are coming out today to trumpet it, including Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation, Yvonne Walker of SEIU 1000; and Lorraine Plass, of the organization California AMVETS. Joining them will be Assembly members Richard Pan, Roger Dickinson and Ken Cooley.

VIDEO: Is an FPPC action finally shining a spotlight on one of Sacramento's "dirty little secrets"? Dan Walters wonders.

HOSPITALITY: On the subject of union-backed initiatives, members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West will converge on Attorney General Kamala Harris's office today to file a pair of ballot initiatives that seek, respectively, to cap hospital executive pay and limit how much hospitals can charge patients for care. Proponents will be holding a 12:45 p.m. news conference in front of the AG's office.

FILM FLAM: For the first time since Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg booted Sen. Ron Calderon off the California Film Commission, the panel will meet in Los Angeles. It should be interesting to see if the Calderon case comes up, given that a central allegation in the leaked Calderon affidavit involves an undercover FBI agent bribing Calderon to try to lower the film credit threshold, and the film tax credit program is on the agenda. No word on whether Rocky Patel plans to attend.

ECONOMICS: We're in day 2 of the California Economic Summit, also being held in Los Angeles, and today a handful of elected officials will be voicing their thoughts. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will deliver the luncheon keynote, with the list of other lawmakers participating throughout the day including Assembly members Ed Chau, Al Muratsuchi, Rudy Salas, Nora Campos, Jeff Gorell, Kristin Olsen, Jose Medina and Cristina Garcia, in addition to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Bill Emmerson.

PHOTO: A Citrus Heights man and Korean War veteran salutes during the National Anthem at Raley Field in West Sacramento on July 27, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

November 8, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Funds among 'Capitol's dirty little secrets'

A whopping fine could change how California politicians think about spending the money they pull in from donors, Dan says.

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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