Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 11, 2013
Feds: More than 100K select health insurance plans in California


About 107,000 Californians have obtained health insurance plans offered by the state's insurance marketplace, according to the latest figures Wednesday.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report that spans the launch of the exchange through November 30. Covered California has scheduled a more detailed airing of the figures Thursday.

The federal report showed a marked increase in enrollment nationwide since officials ironed out many of the kinks that have plagued activity on

Some 364,682 people selected a plan during the first two months of the initial open enrollment period. The figures include people who have yet to pay their first premium.

For California, the report includes two days of duplicate activity - Nov. 1-2 -- that have yet to be verified by the state and were removed from the total. In all, 158,435 of the residents were eligible to enroll in a plan with financial assistance.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks about the new health care law during a White House Youth Summit, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

December 11, 2013
New report details high costs for renters in California


The Census Bureau reported recently that under an alternative method of calculating poverty, California has the highest rate in the nation, with nearly a quarter of its 38 million residents impoverished.

A big factor in that calculation is that living costs are higher in California than almost anywhere else in the nation and a big chunk of those costs is housing.

A new report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies confirms that, declaring that more than half of the state's renters devoted more than 30 percent of their household income to rent payments in 2011. California's rate, 56 percent, is higher than any other state except Florida.

The 31 percent of California renters who must shell out more than half of their income for housing is higher than all but two states, Florida and Michigan. And the median rent in California, $1,140 per month, is also among the highest.

The situation stems from sharply rising rents and stagnant incomes, the study found.

PHOTO: Tuscaro Apartments advertised a move-in special in 2009 and $250 bonuses for residents who referred new renters. The Sacramento Bee/Michael Allen Jones

December 11, 2013
Jerry Brown still mum on campaign, mulls State of the State in new office

brownoaklandoffice2.jpgOAKLAND — Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet said if he will run for re-election next year, but he told supporters in a recent note to update their records to reflect a change of address: In addition to raising more than $14 million, "Brown for Governor" has a new office.

When Brown, first lady Anne Gust Brown and their dog, Sutter, arrived at The Packard Lofts building here Wednesday, the governor — who is widely expected to run — described his fourth floor space as a personal office, less "stuffy" than what he has at the Capitol or a state building in Oakland.

The office projects a mix of political and state work: On a circular wood table Brown used during his first campaign for governor, in 1974, sits a list of messages left for Brown and a copy of his administration's proposal to Boeing this week to try to persuade the aerospace giant to locate a production facility in California.

Brown declined to detail the proposal. Of the table, he said that in 1974, "Right around this table, I plotted."

The fourth-floor office, which Gust Brown estimated at about 1,000 square feet, is full of memorabilia from Brown's political campaigns and from his first two terms in office, from 1975 to 1983. On the refrigerator are stickers from his 2010 campaign for governor, and a bin of buttons from the campaign is in a bookcase by the door.

Asked if the 2010 paraphernalia isn't dated, he said, "We're not running yet."

Brown has more immediate concerns, including his annual budget proposal and State of the State address in January.

In preparation for the latter Brown said he is reading Josiah Royce, a philosopher who was born in Grass Valley in the 1800s and who Brown said "had something called the philosophy of loyalty."

Brown said he hasn't decided if Royce or his ideas about loyalty will make it into the address, but he said, "I'm thinking about whether that can apply to California ... You've got to have a sense that it's more important than your own particular interest."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown at his new office in Oakland, while first lady Anne Gust Brown works in the background on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

December 11, 2013
Assembly Democrats seeking to spend most of California surplus

ha_perez_III.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez unveiled a "blueprint for a responsible budget" Wednesday that appears to spend most, if not all, of the state's projected surplus in the 2014-15 fiscal year and may conflict with Gov. Jerry Brown's priorities.

Pérez didn't place a price tag on the new spending, which he termed "investment," but said he and his fellow Assembly Democrats want to boost state aid to colleges and expand safety net services to the poor, including a boost in welfare grants.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Pérez and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, said they want to end the 2014-15 fiscal year with a $2 billion reserve and build that to as much as $10 billion over the next several years.

Mac Taylor, the Legislature's budget analyst, forecasts that without new spending, the state would end the year with a $5.6 billion surplus, thus indicating that the price tag for the Assembly's expansion plans would be at least several billion dollars.

Pérez and Skinner said they want to restore money to some programs that were slashed during recession-induced budget deficits, especially those in education and safety net services.

The new spending would include a expansion of the earned income tax credit, expanded eligibility for welfare payments to low-income workers, expanding the "CalFresh" program of food benefits, raising Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, expanding child care, and making transitional kindergarten universally available to all four-year-old children.

PHOTO: Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, speaks during a press conference on Friday, December, 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

December 11, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California tackles its hostile business environment

California politicians deny that the state's high taxes and extensive regulations discourage business investments, but actions speak louder than words, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 11, 2013
AM Alert: Legislature looks to improve emergency cell phone alerts

amber_alert.JPGWhen a noisy late-night text alert about a San Diego abduction went out statewide in August, residents were startled and even annoyed by the interruption. The outcry was swift and widespread, leading Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, to urge Californians not to disable the emergency alerts on their phones.

State officials are now working to increase awareness of the Wireless Emergency Alert System, which is used to send public messages about kidnappings, imminent threats to public safety, and other events. The Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee and the Joint Committee on Emergency Management will hold a hearing today at 10 a.m. in room 437 at the Capitol, led by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

People expected to testify today include representatives of state and local law enforcement and emergency response agencies, with a focus on recommending improvements to the program. Among the witnesses is Holly Crawford, director of the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services, which sent out the AMBER Alert that kicked off the public firestorm before 16-year-old Hannah Anderson was rescued in Idaho a week later.

VIDEO: California is working to improve its reputation as a state hostile to business development, Dan Walters says.

INDEPEN-DON'T: Siskiyou and Modoc counties made headlines in September when they voted to secede from California and form a new state with southern Oregon called Jefferson. The news was met with skepticism — and immense disapproval from California voters, as a new Field Poll reveals. Reporter David Siders has the story, which was available to subscribers of the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app last night.

Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

FRACK, BABY, FRACK: With the goal of having controversial regulations for hydraulic fracturing finalized by January 1, 2015, the California Department of Conservation is hosting scoping meetings about the legislation's environmental impact report across the state over the next month. Department officials will be in Sacramento today from 4-8 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I Street.

CORRECTION: Yesterday's AM Alert incorrectly stated that Californians last voted on the issue of marijuana legalization in 2011. Proposition 19 was actually on the ballot in 2010. We apologize for the error.

PHOTO: CHP Captain Greg Ferrero and Sgt. Jennifer Pendergast at CHP's Emergency Notification and Tactical Alert Center, where AMBER Alerts originate, on July 23, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo


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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