Capitol Alert

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EDDOffice.JPGFeeling fatigued by all those stories about issues undermining Obamacare's new federal health insurance website? Good news: Today you get a distraction in the form of a hearing reminding us that California, too, struggles to surmount computer glitches that separate citizens from benefits.

We're talking, of course, about the recent delay in processing unemployment insurance payments, which turned out to have unfolded despite officials knowing ahead of time of potential tech issues. Gov. Jerry Brown has since flagged "multiple screw-ups" being behind the snafu. While the governor didn't elaborate, an Assembly Insurance Committee hearing today promises to illuminate what went wrong.

Several officials from the Employment Development Department have been summoned to testify, including its chief deputy director Sharon Hilliard; the chief of the Unemployment Branch, Sabrina Reed; and the chief of Information Technology, Gail Overhouse. Others listed include executives from the contractor, Deloitte Consulting, that managed the computer upgrade preceding the flareup, as well as representatives of SEIU Local 1000, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. and the California Labor Federation. The hearing starts at 11 a.m. in the Capitol's room 437.

VIDEO: Dan Walters looks at the true motives of the two Republicans who have announced that they're challenging Gov. Jerry Brown.

FARMLAND: Also getting a committee hearing today is the issue of diminishing farmland in California. The Assembly Agriculture Committee is looking at farmland conservation, with speakers on behalf of the California Farm Bureau Federation, the California Council of Land Trusts and the California State Association of Counties, in addition to John Lowrie of the Department of Conservation's Division of Land Resource Protection. Starting at 10 a.m. in room 126.

HIGHER ED: As public officials and policy analysts continue to call for an overhaul of California's sprawling higher education system, a pair of lawmakers plans to announce a new effort today. Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will join University of California students and workers today at 1:30 p.m. in room 317 in launching the "Take Back UC" project.

RAPID RAIL: High-speed rail evangelists are gathered at a national conference in Los Angeles, where they'll hear from a couple of supportive California officials: Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. At the MTA Headquarters Building.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, who turns 63 today, and to Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, who celebrates his 43rd.

PHOTO: Binders display resources at the Employment Development Department office in Sacramento on Feb. 14, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.


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