Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 14, 2013
Campaign posts video of Tim Donnelly performing Heimlich on choking woman

donnellypodium.jpgTim Donnelly dislodged a piece of bread from a choking woman's throat last week.

It was fortunate for her that he did — "He saved my life," the woman said — and for Donnelly, perhaps, that his campaign videographer was standing by.

The Republican candidate for governor posted video of the incident on YouTube on Thursday. The headline: "Assemblyman Donnelly to the rescue!"

Donnelly, of Twin Peaks, is shown in the video performing the Heimlich maneuver on Adrienna Schabert, a supporter, at a meeting of Republican women in Ontario.

Schabert, 50, of West Sacramento, said Thursday that Donnelly was posing for photographs at a nearby table when she choked on a piece of her dinner roll.

"I couldn't get it out," she said. "I couldn't do anything, so I stood up ... He turned around and just went and did it."

In the video, Schabert sits down and thanks Donnelly, and he says, "Thank God."

Donnelly, who is wearing a cowboy hat, says, "I'm sorry if I did it too hard," and he goes on to empathize with the woman.

"My wife is always telling me to cut it into really tiny pieces," he says, "and I never listen."

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, posted a link to the video on Twitter, giving Donnelly "sincere props ... for knowing and using Heimlich maneuver to help choking woman."

Donnelly is not the first politician to gain attention for using the maneuver. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee performed the Heimlich on a man at a Republican Party gathering in 2008.

And then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made headlines in 2004 for helping a distressed swimmer while vacationing in Maui.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. AP Photo/Nick Ut

November 14, 2013
Dave Jones says California customers should be allowed to keep health plans

Dave Jones.jpg

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said he's taken steps Thursday to allow more than 1 million residents with terminating insurance plans to keep them through next year.

Jones said he's asked Covered California to release insurers offering plans on the exchange from the requirement to cancel policies that don't comply with the health care overhaul.

"I've asked Covered California to take this action immediately so that health insurers are free then from this contract provision and can follow the president's request, and my request, that they allow their existing customers to renew their policies into 2014," Jones, a staunch supporter of the federal health law, said in a conference call from San Francisco.

His move came as President Barack Obama said insurance companies could extend for one more year plans for individual policyholders that otherwise are set to be be canceled by Dec. 31.

Jones also called on all insurers to issue new notices offering existing customers the option to renew existing policies.

"It's very clear to everybody who has been following this issue the federal government told people in California and throughout the United States they can stay in their existing plans," Jones said. "These are individuals and families who did exactly what we've been urging them for years to do, which is to purchase health insurance ... So, clearly there was a commitment made to them and I think it's important, collectively, that commitment be upheld."

A Covered California spokesman, Roy Kennedy, said in a statement the exchange was assessing the impact and analyzing its options on how it will incorporate the modification into existing policy.

He said the exchange is aware of the "urgent need for clarity around this segment of policy and is working closely with health plans, regulators, and policymakers to quickly determine how the president's new guidance will be fulfilled for Californians."

Other states operating their own insurance marketplaces, including Washington and Oregon, are rebuffing Obama's invitation to extend the canceled policies. Obama has come under increasing pressure from congressional Democrats to delay the cancellations in light of the administration's problematic launch of its online web portal for three dozen states.

"We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies," Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a prepared statement. "I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington."

Oregon Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali has said there were too many logistical difficulties to justify an extension.

In California, an estimated 1.1 million people have received cancellation notices informing them that their plans were out of compliance with the federal health care overhaul. Jones had foreshadowed his decision by negotiating temporary reprieves for about 225,000 customers with two large insurers - Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross of California.

Jones has said repeatedly that he disagreed with the state exchange's decision not to allow those plans to continue once the federal law took full effect.. Neither California nor federal law requires insurers to cancel noncompliant plans by Dec. 31. Jones noted that California insurers are not canceling small business customers -- "and I think that also is unfair," he said.

About 59,000 residents have enrolled in Covered California from its launch Oct. 1 through Tuesday.

PHOTO: Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones calls for Anthem Blue Cross to reduce its planned rate increase on small group major medical policyholders during a news conference in Sacramento on Jan. 8. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

November 14, 2013
Jerry Brown offers 'Jesuitical harshness' to Univ. of California

jerrybrownprisons.jpgIt will be another two months before Gov. Jerry Brown makes his budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year, but the Democratic governor already is moving to temper expectations.

At a meeting Thursday in San Francisco of the University of California's governing board, Brown called unrealistic a UC budget budget proposal seeking about $121 million more in general fund support than he is expected to propose.

Brown signed a budget this year increasing the university system's base funding by about $142 million. He has proposed another 5 percent increase next year as long as UC keeps tuition flat.

Brown told regents the Legislature is unlikely to offer UC any more than that. There are competing interests at the Capitol, he said, and "that's kind of the reality sandwich we have to chew on."

Sherry Lansing, a regent, said university officials may be able to "move the needle" by lobbying in Sacramento, but Brown said the prospects aren't high.

Even small budget victories aren't easy, Brown said.

The former seminarian told regents they may think his "Jesuitical harshness is not nice" but that he is only delivering "hard truths" and that "you have an ally, and a skilled ally, in the trenches of Sacramento."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

November 14, 2013
VIDEO: Steinberg denies ties to hospital linked to FBI investigation


Senate leader Darrell Steinberg today rejected a fellow senator's claim that he is the target of an FBI corruption investigation and said allegations in Sen. Ron Calderon's most recent court filing are "beyond the pale."

"I am not a target of this investigation, I am not a subject of this investigation," Steinberg said in a talk with reporters outside the Capitol.

Calderon, a Democrat from Montebello, filed a motion late Wednesday asking the federal court to hold the FBI and US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles in contempt for leaking an affidavit that alleges he accepted $88,000 in bribes from an undercover agent and a Long Beach hospital executive.

November 14, 2013
Tom Berryhill rejects FPPC's charges of money laundering

IMAG0346_BURST002.jpgState Sen. Tom Berryhill on Thursday rejected state investigators' assertions that he illegally laundered tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash in 2008 to help the Assembly campaign of his brother, Bill Berryhill.

Taking the stand on the third day of an administrative law hearing in Sacramento, the Twain Harte Republican testified he has long spread his political money among Republican county committees and candidates.

The fact that more than $40,000 he donated to GOP central committees in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties ended up going to his brother's race was a decision he had no role in, he said.

Asked by his attorney Charles Bell whether he had ever earmarked any money for a specific candidate, Berryhill answered, "Absolutely not."

"It's against the law," the senator said, adding later that there was no "wink and a nod" arrangement with the county parties.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission contends that Tom Berryhill and Bill Berryhill orchestrated the money shifts in the closing days of the fall 2008 campaign. The political ethics watchdog agency contends that the brothers' goal was to bypass individual contribution limits of $3,600 per election. County committees could give $30,200 to candidates at the time, but coordination is prohibited.

November 14, 2013
FPPC approves penalties for Dean Florez, Mike Roos


The Fair Political Practices Commission, California's political ethics panel, gave its stamp of approval to a number of high-profile settlements Thursday, including a record $60,000 penalty leveled against a former lawmaker for misusing campaign funds on personal airfare, dining and concert tickets.

Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, D-Shafter, also failed to refund $247,000 in general election contributions from his 2010 abandoned run for lieutenant governor.

Gary Winuk, chief of the enforcement division for the FPPC, said cases involving elected officials using campaign money to enrich their lifestyles are among the most serious.

"It's a betrayal to donors and to also to the public," Winuk said.

Florez did not immediately responded to a message seeking comment Thursday.

The FPPC also approved a settlement with Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, in which he refunded $21,092 in over-the-limit contributions from the independent expenditure group Voters for a New California for illegal campaign coordination.

Separately, former Assemblyman Mike Roos, D-Los Angeles, agreed to a $3,000 fine for making contributions to Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic Sens. Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and Alex Padilla of Los Angeles. California law forbids registered lobbyists, which Roos was from 2007 through last year, from donating to state campaigns.

In another matter, the FPPC's investigation into 221 officials across the state has so far yielded 86 penalties against those who failed to properly document gifts they received. The case involved four Sacramento-area school officials accepting free meals from bond advisers that were not disclosed.

Included in the settlement were Sacramento City Unified School District trustee Diana Rodriguez ($400); former Sacramento City Unified School District trustee Roy Grimes, ($200); Brian Rivas, vice president of the Sacramento County Board of Education ($200); and former Roseville City School District board member Rene Aguilera ($200).

In a money laundering case, Tim Do, also known as Thinh Thien Do, was fined $5,000 for using intermediaries to conceal a $5,000 contribution to Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty's 2010 Assembly campaign. McCarty finished a close second in the primary to then-Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson.

Editor's Note: This post and headline has been updated to remove a reference that Assemblyman Luis Alejo was fined. His committee was required to repay $21,092 the FPPC determined was illegally donated to his campaign by his campaign consultant. Updated at 2 p.m. Nov. 18, 2013.

PHOTO: Fair Political Practices Commission members Gavin Hachiya Wasserman, Sean Eskovitz , former Chairwoman Ann Ravel, Eric S. Casher, and Patricia Wynne at a meeting in September. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

November 14, 2013
Kamala Harris shutters 10 fake Covered California websites


California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday she has forced the removal of 10 private health insurance websites posing as the state's official online marketplace where customers obtain plans under the federal Affordable Care Act.

"These websites fraudulently imitated Covered California in order to lure consumers away from plans that provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act," Harris said in a prepared statement. "My office will continue to investigate and shut down these kinds of sites. I urge Californians to avoid healthcare scams by visiting"

Harris said her office two months ago launched investigations into the websites imitating, which began offering insurance coverage for sale on Oct. 1. The website operators were sent cease and desist letters telling them their sites violated state law and demanding their removal or transfer of their domains to the state exchange.

The sites were being run by private insurance brokers or companies, carried domain names similar to the state's health exchange and contained unauthorized references to the exchange's trademarked logo and name. Examples such as, and contained phrases like "Get Covered," "Covered California" and "California Health Benefit Advisers."

All of the sites contracted complied with the attorney general's demand.

Harris also warned customers to watch out for websites or telephone solicitors claiming to work for the government and asking for personal information. Covered California has issued several similar fraud warnings since the launch of its online portal.

Contact Covered California at

PHOTO: An example of what one of the websites in question looked like before it was shut down or redirected to Courtesy of the Attorney General's Office.

November 14, 2013
California assemblyman's father fatally shot in Los Angeles


The 78-year-old father of Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was found shot dead in his Southern California home Wednesday, a Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman confirmed.

"A little after 8 o clock last night our LAPD north division officers responded to a death investigation radio call" and discovered the body of Gatto's father, Joseph Gatto, spokeswoman Sara Faden said.

Assemblyman Gatto, who chairs the Assembly Appropriations Committee, could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman said in an email that Gatto is "absolutely devastated."

"The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating, and Assemblyman Gatto thanks them for their kindness and thoroughness," spokesman Justin Hager said in an email.

The LAPD's robbery homicide and scientific investigation divisions are examining the evidence, Faden said, but for now the circumstances of Joseph Gatto's death remain indefinite.

"It's unclear quite yet as to the motives of the crime itself," Faden said.

Joseph Gatto was a retired art teacher and a jewelry craftsman.

Here is a KTLA-TV report with more information on Joseph Gatto:

PHOTO: Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D- Los Angeles, in a 2011 file photo. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

November 14, 2013
AM Alert: FPPC votes on lawmaker fines; Tom Berryhill fights

20130311_HA_LEGISLATORS1617.JPGComes today the California Fair Political Practices Commission's judgments against a trio of lawmakers, past and present, involved with mishandled campaign money. The FPPC will likely sign off on tens of thousands of dollars in combined fines against former lawmakers Dean Florez and Mike Roos. Assemblyman Luis Alejo is being forced to repay $21,092 the FPPC determined was illegally donated to his campaign by his campaign consultant.

Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, on the other hand, is not going down quietly.

Accused of using a pair of county committees to launder campaign contributions for his brother Bill Berryhill, a former assemblyman, Tom Berryhill has been fighting the case, rejecting the FPPC's claim that he used the county entities to circumvent individual donation limits. Berryhill will testify before an Office of Administrative Hearings judge this morning, seeking to counter the FPPC's claims. His brother Bill is up next Tuesday.

VIDEO: How much of a problem is poverty in California? That depends on how you run the numbers, Dan Walters says.

CARBONATION: A year after California held its inaugural auction of emissions permits, the Air Resources Board is gathering some expert input on operating the newly created cap-and-trade marketplace. Members of the Emissions Market Assessment Committee will be conferring at the Cal-EPA Headquarters Building from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, a conference at UC Berkeley will examine how California can curtail its greenhouse gasses. Expected speakers are Mary Nichols, chair of the Air Resources Board; David Hochschild, a commissioner on the California Energy Commission; Cliff Rechtschaffen, an energy and environment adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown; and John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.

COVERED CALIFORNIA: We finally have some numbers on how many Californians bought insurance through the new state exchange as of mid-November. Expect Peter Lee, the exchange's executive director, to float those figures - and compare them favorably to the performance of other states - during a Commonwealth Club event tonight discussing the implementation of the health care overhaul. Starting at 6 p.m.

CARING ON: Speaking of health care, the Select Committee on Workforce and Vocational Development in California will hold a hearing today at CSU Bakersfield about what the federal health care law will mean for workers, particularly a graying workforce. Starting at 9:30 a.m.

Editor's Note: This post and headline has been updated to remove a reference that Assemblyman Luis Alejo was fined. His committee was required to repay $21,092 the FPPC determined was illegally donated to his campaign by his campaign consultant. Updated at 2 p.m. Nov. 18, 2013.

PHOTO: Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, is shown during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

November 14, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Playing with California's poverty numbers

Accurately gauging California's poverty rate can be a slippery process, 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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