Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 26, 2013
California legislative leaders raise school-funding concerns

SteinbergAtHighSchool.jpgTop Democrats in the Legislature have poured cold water on proposed regulations to carry out the landmark overhaul of the state's school-funding formula.

Suggesting that the draft rules are "inconsistent with the intent and letter" of the Local Control Funding Formula law enacted in June, Monday's letter to Board of Education President Michael Kirst calls for changes that would provide "required state guidance to ensure that funds allocated for the neediest students are spent for their benefit."

"If statutory changes are needed to realize the promise of the of the LCFF, we are prepared to make them," concluded the letter from Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and the Democratic leaders of education and budget committees in both houses.

The Local Control Funding Formula, championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, aims to target more state money at English learners, students receiving free meals and foster children. The formula was part of this year's budget package, but lawmakers left the regulatory details up to the state Board of Education. The state board took testimony earlier this month and is scheduled to adopt final regulations in January to carry out the formula.

Brown champions the concept of "subsidiarity" and has said that local school officials are in the best position to decide how to use the money to best help students.

Some civil-rights and school-reform groups, though, want tighter rules to ensure that the money is actually spent to help the neediest students.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg talks with students at Health Professions High School in Sacramento on October 28, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall

November 26, 2013
Republican Jeff Gorell taking on freshman Rep. Julia Brownley

Jeff Gorell.JPG

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, plans to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in the 26th Congressional District, foregoing a final term in the Legislature's lower chamber and putting his seat in jeopardy.

In a statement announcing the decision, Gorell lamented the gamesmanship and gridlock that is gripping Washington.

"We deserve a congressional representative who will focus on uniting the community," he said. "In the Legislature, I have built a reputation as an independent leader
capable of working across the aisle.

"By placing people above parties, we achieved results on the important issues facing the district such as protecting homes in Port Hueneme against beach erosion; helping position our port to be more globally competitive and energy efficient; enacting new state tax incentives to protect our local manufacturing jobs; and launching the bipartisan 'Gold Team California' to attract new jobs."

26th Congressional District(Click on map for registration numbers.)

Gorell's entry appears to signal the path forward for fellow Republican Tony Strickland, a former state senator who lost to Brownley in 2012 and could seek the seat of GOP Rep. Buck McKeon should he retire.

The move also allows Democrats to mount an earlier-than-expected challenge for the 44th Assembly District, which has a slight Democratic registration advantage and has already drawn interest from several potential candidates.

A Navy reservist and former county prosecutor, Gorell was deployed to Afghanistan just a few months after he took office in 2011. He won reelection despite his district being redrawn in a way that increased its Democratic registration. Gorrell, the chairman of his party's outreach efforts, also worked in the administration of former Gov. Pete Wilson.

With the district's large share of unaffiliated voters, Democratic-aligned Super PACs spent heavily during the 2012 primary to rough up independent Linda Parks, a Ventura County supervisor and former Republican, to ensure that Brownley made it into the November runoff. She defeated Strickland by 5.5 percentage points.

Looking ahead to 2014, Gorell warned that Navy Base Ventura County would almost certainly be threatened for closure, taking with it thousands of jobs.

The federal health care overhaul may also figure predominately in the race.

"Local families are losing their insurance, premiums are skyrocketing, and many Californians will soon be losing their choice of doctors," Gorell said, adding that he's running to "fix the health care mess in Washington."

Editor's note: This post was updated at noon to reflect the voter breakdown in the 44th Assembly District.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. (The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua)

November 26, 2013
Diane Harkey drops lawsuit against Mark Wyland


A legal tussle between two Republican state lawmakers has ended, with Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, dropping her $10 million defamation lawsuit against Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Escondido.

The dispute grew out of comments Wyland made to a Tea Party group about a lawsuit brought against Harkey and her husband, Dan, alleging that he had defrauded investors. Harkey responded by suing Wyland for defamation, claiming that his remarks had "the sole purpose of embarrassing her politically" to gain an advantage in his campaign to sit on California's statewide tax board.

Harkey has since abandoned that effort, as reported by Cal Newsroom and confirmed by the docket record for the case, filed in Orange County Superior Court.

Both lawmakers are running for an open seat on the Board of Equalization. Termed-out incumbent Michelle Steel, who is running for Orange County Supervisor, has endorsed Harkey.

A spokesman for Harkey's campaign said that, despite the lawsuit being dropped, Wyland still distorted the facts when he addressed the tea party group. That should remain an active factor in the Board of Equalization campaign, spokesman Tim Clark said.

"We're going to let it play out on the campaign battlefield and let the voters see what Mark has done," Clark said. "We're going to take it straight to the voters."

Editor's note: this post was updated at 11:45 a.m. to include Clark's comments.

PHOTO: Diane Harkey watches votes during the Assembly floor session, Tuesday Dec. 16, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer.

November 26, 2013
Magic Johnson, Larry Flynt among latest donors to Jerry Brown

jerrybrownprisons.jpgIf Eli Broad disappointed Gov. Jerry Brown at all when his name appeared to be included in a sloppily redacted list of donors working at cross-purposes with the governor in California's initiative wars last year, he may have begun to make it up to him last week.

The developer and philanthropist donated $54,400, the maximum allowed, to Brown's re-election campaign. The donation was among more than $1 million in contributions Brown reported receiving Thursday, when he attended a fundraiser hosted by movie industry executives in Los Angeles.

Other donors who gave the maximum to Brown included Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the former basketball standout, Flynt Management Group LLC, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt's company, and Norman Pattiz, who founded the radio network Westwood One.

Actors Kirk Douglas and Thomas Jacob "Jack" Black each donated $5,000, according to campaign finance filings.

Brown also reported receiving $54,400 from businessman Milan Panic. Brown once sat on the board of directors of drug manufacturer ICN Biomedicals - now MP Biomedicals - which Panic founded.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election next year, but he is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised about $14 million for the effort.

Broad, who has donated previously to Brown's campaigns, appeared to be among a list of donors involved in an effort last year to support Proposition 32 - a ballot initiative designed to weaken the political clout of labor unions - and oppose Proposition 30, Brown's successful initiative to raise taxes.

A list of donors showed $500,000 coming from a man named Eli, whose last name was redacted but whose address was listed as being on the 12th floor of a building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, a location matching the location of Broad's foundation office.

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

November 26, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Will high-speed rail keep rolling ahead?

Dan breaks down how a mixed ruling will shape the fate of California's controversial high-speed rail project.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

November 26, 2013
AM Alert: Obama wraps up California trip with film studio visit


Nothing allays the sting of a polling plunge like returning to a place where you know you're loved.

President Barack Obama, buffeted by the shaky rollout of health care reform and grappling with new lows in his approval rating, is on another California jaunt. He headed to the Bay Area yesterday for a pair of DNC events and a speech urging immigration reform, after which he headed to Los Angeles for a pair of DCCC/DSCC events. Today he travels to where they make dreams a reality.

By that we mean Obama's planned tour of a DreamWorks Animation facility in Glendale, where he'll talk about the economy and tout the job creation prowess of the motion picture industry. It probably bears noting here that DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has been one of the president's most prolific financial backers.

VIDEO: Where does this train stop? Dan Walters addresses the confusing legal landscape for high-speed rail.

CAPTION CONTEST: Have you found yourself wanting to get in the head of embattled Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, in recent weeks? Here's your chance: submit your best guess at what Calderon has to say to Santa Claus by noon today for a chance to be mentioned in The Bee and get a framed cartoon keepsake. Any attempts to sway the process with envelopes full of cash will be rejected.

TURKEY TALLY: A little Thanksgiving rumination to start off the day: how many free turkeys are state lawmakers handing out in that time-honored tradition of constituent outreach?

Our avowedly nonscientific review of turkey giveaways scheduled for today has several lawmakers giving them away as part of Operation Gobble, a philanthropic venture run by the California Water Association that is working with 81 lawmakers to donate an estimated 25,000 turkeys this year. Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, has already parceled out more than 5,000 birds as part of a separate effort. So a conservative legislative baseline for the season is a minimum of 30,000 turkeys. Quite the flock.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks during a DNC fundraiser at the San Francisco Jazz Center, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in San Francisco. AP Photo/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais.


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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