Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 12, 2013
Urban Land Institute wants to recreate California redevelopment

redevelop.JPGHaving repealed the redevelopment authority of local governments two years ago, the state needs to implement an alternative method for improving communities and financing infrastructure and lower cost housing, the Urban Land Institute's California chapters say in a white paper.

And it can be done, the 22-page document says, without threatening the operational finances of local and state governments.

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished the six-decade-old redevelopment program, under which local governments could put together projects and collect the incremental tax revenues from their construction, they cited its effects on the state treasury.

Local government redevelopment agencies were taking about $5 billion a year, roughly 10 percent, off the top of the statewide property tax pool and the state was being forced, under a ballot measure enacted in 1988, to make up about $2 billion a year of that diversion to local schools.

Since then, the local redevelopment agencies' finances have been unwound, although a number remain to be phased out, and uncommitted assets have been dispersed to other taxing agencies. However, there have been a number of lawsuits filed over how the shutdowns have occurred.

December 12, 2013
Momentum high for state exchange as some demographics lag


Two months into its launch, 109,296 Californians have enrolled in health coverage through the state's new insurance marketplace, officials said Thursday.

The figures, which came a day after the latest federal release, show the exchange is steadily increasing enrollment even as it struggles to reach certain demographics.

In the first week of December, 144,000 Californians completed applications and 49,708 enrolled in a plan - a rate of 7,100 per day or 15 times the agency's initial rate.

"We are seeing momentum," said Peter V. Lee, the executive director of Covered California.

December 12, 2013
California conservative group reports IRS snafu


A conservative advocacy group in Sacramento says the IRS erroneously yanked its nonprofit status this summer, hampering the group's ability to raise money this year.

"I don't know if it's incompetence or if we were targeted. I honestly don't know," said Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute. "But I find it interesting."

The faith-based group opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. It has been active this year in pushing a referendum to overturn Assembly Bill 1266, which allows transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that reflect the gender they identify with, rather than the gender of their birth.

Other conservative groups complained this summer that they were receiving undue scrutiny from the IRS when applying for nonprofit status. Groups affiliated with the tea party said the Obama administration was targeting them because of their political orientation.

Federal tax authorities grant groups nonprofit status if they primarily engage in "social welfare" activities. But many of those groups are also active in politics, creating a murky area in the world of campaign finance. The Obama administration last month proposed a new set of rules to clarify the kinds of political activity nonprofit groups can perform, and California's political watchdog agency fined two political nonprofits this fall for not properly reporting campaign donations.

England said the IRS revoked her group's nonprofit status over the summer on grounds that it had failed to file all necessary paperwork. The action was in error, she said, because the organization had properly filed everything, but it took several months to sort out the mistake.

In the meantime, Capitol Resource Institute was unable to solicit donations. England said she skipped her salary for six months so that she could keep paying her staff while donations were not coming in.

An IRS spokesman said the agency cannot comment on specific cases. England provided a letter the IRS sent Capitol Resource Institute on Dec. 5 that says, "We have confirmed that you were erroneously put" on the list that revokes nonprofit status.

England is highlighting the snafu in an end-of-year fundraising appeal, saying "we hope that our donors rise to the occasion and see the harm that has been done."

PHOTO: Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, testifies in the Capitol in March 2007. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

December 12, 2013
Victim compensation board overturns rule denying sex workers' claims


California's three-member Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board voted unanimously Thursday to overturn a regulation barring victims of sexual assault from receiving restitution if they work in the sex trade.

The 14-year-old policy states that victims of a violent crime may be denied compensation if they were involved in the events leading up to that crime, including mutual combat, illegal drug-related activity, gang-related activity and prostitution.

Advocates for sex workers argued that the regulation was discriminatory, essentially blaming prostitutes for their own rape and putting other women at greater risk of attack.

"I find Rule 649.56 repugnant," board chairwoman Marybel Batjer said before the vote, "and I don't understand why it was passed in 1999."

The board will now begin a formal process to remove the policy from its guidelines, which it said should be completed and voted on next spring.

The decision followed testimony from sex workers and their advocates, including Kristen DiAngelo, a former prostitute who was raped in Sacramento in 1983.

Though her assailant was ultimately prosecuted and convicted, DiAngelo said, he was offered a plea bargain that allowed him to serve only 45 days in prison. He went on to assault eight more women, none of whom were in the sex trade, she said.

"What happens when you segregate a population that you deem unworthy," DiAngelo told the board, "is you give predators a training ground" to attack other women.

After the vote, DiAngelo said she was numb from excitement.

"We were able to add safety and protection into so many people's lives today," she said. The ability to apply for restitution "allows to have us a voice."

Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Union, one of the groups that led the push to overturn the regulation, called the decision "a big step forward for California."

Sex workers "contribute to society," she said, "and we contributed today by taking a stand for victims everywhere."

PHOTO: Former sex worker Kristen DiAngelo, facing, hugs sex worker activist Carol Leigh at a meeting in San Francisco on November 12, 2013. The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

December 12, 2013
California's household incomes trail Washington's suburbs


California has local pockets of high wealth — Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara, Hillsborough, etc. — but none of its counties can compete with communities in the immediate vicinity of Washington, D.C., a new Census Bureau report indicates.

The bureau calculated that five counties or "county equivalents" in Northern Virginia had the nation's highest median household incomes in 2012, topped by $121,250 in Falls Church, Va.

Meanwhile, residents of Maryland, on the other side of Washington, had the highest median incomes of any state, $71,169. California, at $58,322, was higher than the national median of $51,371, but was 10th overall.

In terms of income, Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, was California's most affluent county in 2012 with a median income of $91,195 while Trinity County, at $35,162, was the poorest.

PHOTO: Washington, DC. Fourth of July Fireworks on the Mall. U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument. Folio, Inc./Regis Lefebure

December 12, 2013
Rules on spending extra California school money redrafted


With a January deadline looming, the state Board of Education appears to be seeking a middle path between highly polarized positions among education stakeholders on how a new program aimed at raising achievement by poor and "English-learner" students will be implemented.

While school boards, administrators and unions want "flexibility" in spending the extra money going to districts with large numbers of the targeted students, civil rights groups and business-backed reform groups want more specificity in how the money is to be spent.

The latter sharply criticized the first draft of regulations and during a lengthy board hearing earlier in the fall and more recently, legislative leaders have joined in the criticism.

In response, a consultant to the board, WestEd, has published a revised draft of guidelines that appears to be more specific than the original, but still may not satisfy the critics.

The board is supposed to finalize its regulations by late January and both factions have been hammering Michael Kirst, the education professor who presides over the board and is the originator of the "weighted formula," which Gov. Jerry Brown embraced.

The new draft proposes more specific burdens on school districts to demonstrate that the extra money is being spent on the targeted students, rather than on broader categories. The civil rights and reform groups have said they fear that the money will be dissipated into higher salaries for teachers and other areas than don't directly impact the educations of children who have fallen behind their peers in education skills.

PHOTO: Pleasant Grove High School students get off their bus in 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

December 12, 2013
California's population up 332,000 to 38.2 million

ImmigrationProtests.jpgCalifornia's population growth, driven by a continued high production of babies, picked up a bit during the 12 months ending June 30, according to the latest estimate by the state Department of Finance.

The growth rate, .9 percent, was the highest since California was plunged into recession a half-decade ago. The state, according to state estimates, gained 332,000 persons during the 2012-13 period, and stood at 38.2 million.

While the 507,000 babies born in the state during the 12-month period were the major source of population growth, offset by 241,000 deaths, improving economic conditions also appeared to slow the outflow to other states and nations.

Net immigration, which had been negative, produced 66,000 new Californians during the period.

Alameda was the state's fastest growing county at 1.68 percent while tiny Sierra County lost nearly 2 percent of its population.

(Corrected at 1 p.m. to reflect that Sierra County lost nearly 2 percent of population.

PHOTO: People make their way north on Broadway Street during a march and rally for federal immigration reform and a protest against Arizona's controversial immigration law, in Los Angeles Saturday, May 1, 2010. (Associated Press/Jason Redmond

December 12, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Budget season kicks off with new spending plans

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez would like to use most of next year's projected budget surplus, but will Gov. Jerry Brown be on board, Dan wonders?

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 12, 2013
AM Alert: Sex worker advocates seek compensation for victims

prostitute_arrest.JPGFor months, advocacy groups have been pushing the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board to overturn a regulation that prohibits sex workers from seeking financial assistance if they are the victim of rape or another violent crime.

The board is expected to vote today on whether to scrap the regulation, which has also been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, during its monthly meeting, 10 a.m. at 400 R Street. Advocates for sex workers will also be in Sacramento for a protest at 8:30 a.m. outside the state Capitol.

The US PROStitutes Collective, one of the groups spearheading the campaign, said it is about getting all women the help they need. "It's a first step to greater justice and eventually ending criminalization" for prostitution, spokeswoman Rachel West said.

VIDEO: New spending proposed by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez for next year's budget may not make it to the final bill, Dan Walters says.

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE: As California emerges from a recession and years of state budget deficits, the electorate is growing cheerier about life in the Golden State, with 43 percent of respondents in a new Field Poll saying it is one of the best places to live. But there are growing divides in satisfaction between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between residents of coastal and inland counties. 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.

TECH TIME: Assembly committees on the judiciary, business and privacy are holding a joint informational hearing at Santa Clara University from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. focusing on issues of online commerce and personal privacy protection on the Internet. The event is co-chaired by Assemblymembers Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park; and Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

UNIVERSITY DIVERSITY: Representatives from the education advocacy group Campaign for College Opportunity will be at Room 126 in the State Capitol at 2 p.m. for a briefing on their recent reports about the state of Latinos and blacks in higher education in California.

DECK THE HALLS: Gov. Jerry Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown will be joined by eight-year-old Angel Valencia-Ceja of Vallejo to light the Capitol Christmas tree today. This year's tree is decorated with 500 ornaments made by children and adults with developmental disabilities. The ceremony takes place on the west steps of the Capitol at 4:30 p.m.

PHOTO: Oakland police officers arrest a suspected juvenile prostitute on May 21, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer


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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