Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 17, 2013
Jerry Brown ponders 'those guys on horses'

christmastree.jpgWhen Gov. Jerry Brown arrived in Mountain View for a speaking engagement Monday, he had on his mind two statues on the west pediment of the state Capitol building, architectural elements he said he "noticed for the first time" at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony last week.

"Have you ever stood on the west side, where the tree was and looked up at the facade of the building, where they have those guys on horses with an arrow?" he said.

Brown wondered who the figures were and said, "I'm going to find that out."

According to a Smithsonian American Art Museum catalog, the sculptures are "Indian Being Attacked by a Bear" and "Indian Woman Being Attacked by a Buffalo." Both are replicas of pieces originally installed in 1873 but removed — and lost or destroyed — during restoration of the Capitol in 1948.

The replicas were installed in 1982, when Brown was governor before.

According to the Smithsonian, the bear sculpture "represents the erosion of primitive life in California" while the other "represents a vanishing way of life for the Indian in the nation."

Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, specializes in facts about the building's restoration. He said in an email that the statues "represent America in its natural state or natural history."

Brown might find something there to talk about in his State of the State address next month.

"They'll never do that in a new building, right? They have all these more functional buildings," he said. "I think it's just kind of interesting, so maybe in my State of the State I'll explain why that's significant ... You know, the architecture expresses a certain view of the world. That's a different view than the world today. So, it's part of our collective learning here."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown hangs an ornament with Angel Valencia-Ceja, with Anne Gust-Brown and Rosa Valencia of Vallejo, California at the 82nd Annual Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 12, 2013 on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

December 17, 2013
Michelle Rhee's consultant introduces California ballot measure

A ballot measure submitted by a political consultant for education advocate Michelle Rhee seeks to remove seniority as a factor when California school districts lay off teachers, requiring that they instead base decisions on performance ratings. Performance, under the proposal, would be determined in part based on student test scores.

Those policy proposals have been at the core of Rhee's advocacy efforts as head of StudentsFirst, a national group headquartered in Sacramento. Rhee, who is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, has said she established the group to try to counter the influence that teachers unions have in decisions about public education. Unions generally reject the idea that teachers should be rated based on their students' test scores, and prefer contracts that call for the most recently hired teachers to be the first let go during layoffs.

The California ballot initiative was submitted Monday by Matt David, a political consultant to StudentsFirst. David was communications director to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and worked on the presidential campaigns of Republican Senator John McCain and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr.

David said he submitted the measure on his own behalf and that StudentsFirst has not yet endorsed it.

"I would hope to get their support on this, assuming the language isn't changed (by the attorney general)," David said. "But they haven't taken a position yet and I've advised other groups not to take a position until we get the language finalized."

StudentsFirst spokesman Francisco Castillo said the group has been in talks about advancing a ballot measure in California next year, but hasn't yet decided if this will be it.

"We're currently reviewing the language for this one, and we generally support the concepts behind it, but it's premature to say whether we will take a position on it right now," Castillo said.

The proposed initiative for California's 2014 ballot must receive a title and summary from the Attorney General's Office before proponents can begin gathering signatures from the public to qualify for the ballot.

The measure also would streamline the firing procedures for teachers convicted of sex crimes, setting up a possible conflict with another ballot measure recently proposed by an advocacy group called EdVoice, which generally shares StudentsFirst's anti-union approach to education.

StudentsFirst has been active in several states but has made little headway so far in California, where public employee unions hold big clout in the state Capitol. The organization recently hired labor lobbyist Jovan Agee, who previously represented the AFSCME union, to head up its California operation.

Students First pushed for a bill to add student test scores to teachers' performance evaluations earlier this year, but Senate Bill 441 died in its first committee.

The bill was carried by Sen. Ron Calderon, the Montebello Democrat whose office was raided this summer by the FBI. A sealed FBI affidavit made public by Al Jazeera America alleges Calderon accepted $88,000 in bribes from a hospital executive and an undercover agent posing as a movie studio owner.

In 2012, StudentsFirst pitched a bill in California that sought to remove seniority as a factor in teacher layoff procedures, instead basing layoffs largely on job performance, according to a confidential draft The Bee obtained last year. The bill also would have changed the teacher evaluation system so that at least half the ratings were based on student test scores.

Calderon's brother, Charles Calderon, who was an assemblyman at the time, said he was interested in introducing the bill, but ran out of time during the 2012 session.

StudentsFirst poured more than $1 million into legislative races in 2012, including support for Ian Calderon — the son of Charles Calderon and nephew of Ron Calderon — as well as Assembly candidates Cheryl Brown and Brian Johnson. All are Democrats who faced opponents backed by the California Teachers Association.

Ian Calderon and Brown won their races and now serve in the state Assembly.

Michelle Rhee at Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's State of the City address in January 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Bryan Patrick

December 17, 2013
New Census Bureau tool makes access to detailed data easy


Want to know more about your state, your community or even your neighborhood?

There's an app for that — or more accurately, a new Census Bureau website that allows users to drill down into a wide variety of data from past decennial censuses, as well as more frequent, updated information from the American Community Survey.

It's called Census Explorer and is, the Census Bureau says, particularly useful in showing demographic and economic change over time, since data from past censuses are included, down to the level of individual census tracts, which are fundamentally neighborhoods.

PHOTO: A building under construction at the corner of Broadway and 35th Street in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood in November 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

December 17, 2013
AM Alert: Cannella plans to expand revenge porn legislation

Thumbnail image for IPhone.jpgOne of the more unusual laws passed by the Legislature last session was a ban on so-called "revenge porn," the act of posting private, graphic pictures or footage of someone online with the intention of humiliating them. Doing so now qualifies as a misdemeanor carrying penalties of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

Signed by the governor on Oct. 1, the law has already led to one high-profile case. Last week, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced charges against a San Diego man who allegedly ran a website that allowed users to upload sexually explicit photos of a person without their permission, linking to their full name, age, location and Facebook profile.

Now state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, who authored the legislation, is back with a sequel: the Revenge Porn 2.0 Act, as his office is calling it. The new bill, which Cannella plans to introduce when the Legislature returns in January, will expand upon his original idea by including "selfies" among the protected material and by clarifying its language to make these incidents easier to prosecute. Cannella will be at the Old Courthouse in Madera at 11 a.m. for a public announcement.

VIDEO: The battle between school districts and education reformers over how to use new funding for low-income students has major implications for future education policy in California, Dan Walters says

GETTING SCHOOLED: With California taking a growing interest in "linked learning," the Department of Education has organized a conference in Sacramento today encouraging partnerships between educators and industry to develop curriculum giving students career-oriented training. The Pathways to Prosperity Institute takes place from 9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Department of Public Health Auditorium, 1500 Capitol Ave. Among those scheduled to attend is state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who is spearheading a grant program to further support these partnerships.

YULETIDE TUNES: The State Capitol continues its series of free daily holiday music concerts in the Rotunda with Trio Bella at 11 a.m. and the Salvation Army Brass Ensemble at noon.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, who turns 47.

PHOTO: Instagram is demonstrated on an iPhone on April 9, 2012, in New York. The Associated Press/Karly Domb Sadof.

December 17, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Education establishment and reformers battle

Dan says a big battle is looming between California school districts and reformers over education spending.

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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