Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 20, 2013
Tim Draper proposes splitting California into six states

sixstates.jpgSecessionists in California's rural, northernmost reaches may have found a kindred spirit in the Bay Area.

Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is proposing to split California into six states, according to an initiative filing received by the state Friday.

He'd let the northern counties have their state of Jefferson, while adding North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California.

Draper did not immediately return a telephone call for comment Friday, and the website Six Californias offers little information about his idea.

The website TechCrunch quoted Draper as saying a divided state would receive improved representation in the U.S. Senate while allowing each new state to "start fresh" with government.

That may be particularly appealing to a Republican like Draper living in what is now one large, increasingly Democratic state.

Draper's proposal comes after supervisors in Siskiyou and Modoc passed declarations this fall supporting withdrawal from California. The movement's prospects are dim. Even if Draper could get a ballot measure passed, redrawing state lines would require one other Herculean step: an act of Congress.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:10 p.m. to reflect the filing of the proposed initiative.

PHOTO: Image from, a website proposing to split California into six states

December 20, 2013
CA Rep. Loretta Sanchez releases her famous Christmas card

Sanchez_Christmas.jpgU.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez knows how to do Christmas cards.

Her wacky annual confections usually feature the Orange County Democrat in a place you wouldn't picture a congresswoman -- say, riding a motorcycle or sitting atop a fireplace -- and creatively incorporate her late cat, Gretzky. Original and attention-grabbing, they've become a cult sensation in political circles.

This year, however, she's gone more romantic than ridiculous: The card, sent out on Wednesday, is a picture of Sanchez and her husband, Jack Einwechter, posing in front of the castle at Disneyland. (Gretzky, rest assured, is still included.)

"There were so many ups and downs this year," she said. "The country is so divided still, I wanted to make it a positive card."

Where better than the "Happiest Place on Earth"?

A casualty of that good spirit was the political humor at the center of her fiscal-cliff and Occupy-themed cards the last two years. It could be back in 2014, however.

"Next year is after an election, so we'll probably have more fodder," Sanchez said.

PHOTO: The front and inside of Rep. Loretta Sanchez's 2013 Christmas card. Courtesy of Loretta Sanchez

December 20, 2013
Feinstein measure to double Forest Service firefighting aircraft


After a lengthy and destructive wildfire season in California, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., inserted language into a defense bill that will double the size of the U.S. Forest Service fleet of large air tankers.

Feinstein said that the amendment, which she cosponsored with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would transfer seven surplus HC-130H Hercules aircraft from the Coast Guard to the Forest Service. The planes can carry a combined 21,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, she said.

"This transfer is a critical step to help address our ability to defend forests and communities from the threat of wildfires," Feinstein said in a statement.

Feinstein and McCain included the language into the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate approved the bill late Thursday on a vote of 84-15.

The transfer will also include 15 smaller C23-B Sherpa aircraft to transport cargo and smokejumpers.

The announcement comes the same week as firefighters were working to contain a 500-acre wildfire in California's Big Sur south of San Francisco. The blaze destroyed more than a dozen homes, including the local fire chief's.

The Big Sur fire caps off a destructive year in California. The 250,000-acre Rim Fire scorched parts of Yosemite National Park between August and October, leaving more than $50 million in damage. Last week, President Barack Obama approved federal disaster assistance for the third-largest fire in California history, after Gov. Jerry Brown appealed a Federal Emergency Management Agency decision to deny the aid.

Arizona's wildfire losses weren't just economic: In June, 19 members of an elite firefighting crew died in the Yarnell Hill blaze south of Prescott.

"Wildfire suppression aircraft are vital to protecting human life and property," McCain said.

McCain said while his effort with Feinstein would help boost the Forest Service's firefighting capabilities, Congress needed to do more.

The senators noted that a Government Accountability Office report in August found that the agency's large air tanker fleet had dropped to eight planes in 2013, from 44 a decade earlier.

PHOTO:Inmate firefighters walked along Highway 120 during the Rim Fire in August. AP/Jae C. Hong

December 20, 2013
Jeff Gorell proposes measure to boost privacy on CA health exchange


Assemblyman Jeff Gorell plans to introduce a measure that protects the sensitive information of customers shopping for health insurance on the state exchange.

Seeking to close the deal with thousands of applicants, Covered California recently began providing customers' names and contact information to certified licensed insurance agents. Income and Social Security numbers were not passed along, exchange officials said.

Gorell, R-Camarillo, is challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in one of several closely-watched congressional races in the state where partisan rancor over the health care overhaul is expected to be a defining campaign issue.

"When people browse the Covered California website to learn about their health insurance options, the last thing they expect is for the state to hand their personal information to telemarketers," Gorell said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "This legislation will require that Covered California keep site visitors' information private unless the customer explicitly gives consent to be contacted."

Exchange officials acknowledged the pilot program to The Sacramento Bee two weeks ago when Moorpark consultant Robert Blatt complained his privacy was violated after receiving unsolicited emails from an insurance agent.

Last Week, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the program was just one of the ways the exchange was trying to reach out to customers in need of help, including those questioning whether their application had been completed.

December 20, 2013
VIDEO: Steinberg plan would treat mentally ill criminals

Mentally ill criminals could get new resources for treatment under a $50 million proposal Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg unveiled on Thursday. Learn more about the Sacramento Democrat's latest plan in this video:

December 20, 2013
Roger Hernandez to seek district elections for California cities


Arguing that the change would make city elections in California more fair and representative, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, is pushing to swap citywide elections for district-based affairs.

Under yet-to-be-introduced legislation, non-charter cities with more than 100,000 residents would be required to have voters select council members by district. Present law allows cities to have council elections citywide or by district.

The rationale is that citywide election results don't always reflect demographics, particularly in municipalities where substantial minority populations have failed to translate into equally diverse city councils.

"This bill would adhere to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by providing underrepresented groups throughout California an opportunity to have their voice represented," Hernandez said in a press release. "In certain communities, the voice of the electorate has been watered down limiting the power of significant populations."

If enacted the change would affect 27 cities across California, including Hernandez's home base of West Covina, spokesman Primo Castro said. A separate list compiled by Paul Mitchell, president of the firm Redistricting Partners, used data from the U.S. Census to determine that California contains 23 cities that have more than 100,000 residents and presently hold at-large elections.

The type of electoral mismatch Hernandez is targeting has generated legal challenges in multiple cities. Anaheim has reportedly entered into settlement talks for a lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing that the city's all-white council belies the fact that Anaheim is majority Latino.

Similarly, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Mark Mooney ruled in July that Palmdale's at-large city council voting system violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

Mooney handed down a separate ruling in November ordering Palmdale to dissolve its current city council, saying its members were selected by "an unlawful election," and have voters elect new representatives in a district-based special June election. Assistant city attorney Noel Doran said Palmdale plans to appeal.

Since they are charter cities, Anaheim and Palmdale would not be encompassed by Hernandez's law.

Mitchell's list of cities that would be affected by the law includes Antioch, Concord, Corona, Costa Mesa, Daly City, El Monte, Fairfield, Fontana, Fremont, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Murrieta, Norwalk, Ontario, Orange, Oxnard, Rancho Cucamonga, Richmond, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Temecula, Thousand Oaks and West Covina.

A separate review of population data by The Bee suggested that Rialto, a non-charter city of more than 100,000 residents with an at-large election system, may also belong on the list.

PHOTO: A woman leaves her polling place after voting at the Timber Creek Lodge at Del Webb's Sun City in Roseville. Calif. on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

December 20, 2013
AM Alert: Legislators prepare signature bills for new session

Brown_signing_bills.JPGWith the new session only weeks away, there has been a flurry of announcements for bills that legislators plan to introduce next year. Here are a few of the most interesting:

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, wants to require the implementation of "kill switches" that would render smartphones inoperable if they are stolen. According to the Federal Communications Commission, cell phone thefts account for about 30 to 40 percent of robberies nationwide — and more than 50 percent in San Francisco.

Livestock and poultry producers commonly use antibiotics to make their animals grow bigger and faster. Following the release of federal guidelines by the Food and Drug Administration, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is proposing legislation that would restrict the use of antibiotics in farm animals to medical care only.

In what is sure to be a controversial battle, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is seeking to replace special elections with gubernatorial appointments for legislative vacancies. Steinberg said he was fed up with expensive, low-turnout special elections, which has kept the Legislature below capacity throughout the session.

VIDEO: Dan Walters says a proposal to eliminate special elections is probably just as much about consolidating Democratic power as improving government efficiency.

LIGHT MY FIRE: With the Southern California tradition of beach bonfires at risk, Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, has been pursuing legislation to ensure they remain legal. The South Coast Air Quality Management District will discuss what position to take on his bill at its meeting today in Diamond Bar.

LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: In April, members of the California Innocence Project, a California Western School of Law program aimed at overturning wrongful convictions, began a march from San Diego to Sacramento seeking clemency for 12 inmates across the state. The group will be on the west Capitol steps again today at noon asking Gov. Jerry Brown to release the prisoners in time for Christmas. Among those attending the event are several past exonerees, including NFL linebacker Brian Banks.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

December 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Special election reform has undercurrent of power grab

There have been an unusually large number of special elections this year, but that's no reason to give even more control to the governor, Dan says.

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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