Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 3, 2014
Hike in California 'car tax' would raise up to $4 billion

Thumbnail image for Downtown_Los_Angeles_Freeway_AP_2005.JPG

A proposed ballot measure to more than double California's vehicle license fee would raise $3 billion to $4 billion annually for state and local transportation programs, according to estimates by the Legislative Analyst's Office.

Both versions of the proposed ballot measure by Transportation California would phase in a surcharge to the fee, charging motorists an extra one percent of the vehicle's value each year. The fee has been .65 percent of a vehicle's market value since the late 1990s, with a temporary increase to 1.15 percent from May 2009 through June 2011.

Transportation California's Will Kempton, a former Caltrans director, has said that the measure's supporters will decide this month whether to commit the money to gather signatures to qualify the proposal for the November 2014 ballot. Signature collection could begin after the release of titles and summaries for the measure, which is expected Jan. 13.

Proponents would have up to 150 days to collect 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.

PHOTO: Traffic runs along the southbound 110 Freeway towards downtown Los Angeles, April 28, 2005. Associated Press/ Mark J. Terrill

January 3, 2014
Laguna Hills mayor may join field of Republicans challenging Jerry Brown

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount may join the field of Republican candidates bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year.

Blount, a software developer known in Orange County for his massive Christmas light displays, said Friday he will make a final decision on the campaign by early February.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised more than $14 million, far outpacing his Republican challengers both in fundraising and early polls.

Blount, who has developed real estate and stock-trading software, said he is working on a political application for mobile devices that will allow him to "run an election effectively for a really low cost."

He said the application, Skado, will scour volunteers' contacts for social media, demographic and other information, allowing the campaign to dispatch highly targeted campaign messages to voters, for example about state parks to someone interested in hiking.

Blount, 40, won election to the Laguna Hills City Council in 2012 and became mayor, a position voted on by council members, last month. He also puts on an annual Christmas light display and a holiday tour at his home. ABC featured the display on its program, "The Great Christmas Light Fight" last month.

If he runs, Blount said he will focus on jobs and education. He describes himself as a libertarian on social issues, supporting gay marriage rights, abortion rights and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Blount's positions are similar in some ways to those of Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who is also from Orange County and considering running for governor. Blount said he met with Kashkari at Blount's house last year.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, two Republicans who have declared their candidacies, have struggled to raise money, while Kashkari has said his assets total less than $5 million — not enough to self-fund a campaign.

Asked about his net worth, Blount said, "Less than Neel's."

PHOTO: From Andrew Blount's website for his 2012 campaign for city council in Laguna Hills. Photo by Michelle Blount

January 3, 2014
AM Alert: New political spending legislation emerges in wake of Calderon scandal

Thumbnail image for MC_CALDERON_05.JPGThe Legislature was in recess when revelations from the FBI's corruption investigation of state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, hit in late October. With the new legislative year beginning Monday, lawmakers may be ready to deal with the fallout.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, announced yesterday that he plans to introduce a bill prohibiting certain types of political spending, including contributions of campaign funds by elected officials to business entities and non-profits owned or operated by members of their same elected body or their family.

Among the eye-catching items in the FBI's Calderon affidavit: Last January, a political fundraising committee associated with the Latino Legislative Caucus made a $25,000 donation to a group run by Calderon's brother. At the time, Calderon had just finished serving two years as the Latino Caucus' vice chairman.

Hill's legislation would amend the Political Reform Act, which governs disclosure of political money, and would require a 2/3's vote to pass.

VIDEO: With groups advocating from inside and outside the Capitol, will 2014 be the year California raises taxes?, Dan Walters wonders.

SN-OH NO! The Department of Water Resources will conduct its first manual snow survey of the season today at 11 a.m. on Echo Summit. The state had near-record dry weather last year and remote electronic readings currently show snowpack at 20 percent of normal.

Water officials are bracing for a third consecutive dry year. According to the agency, snowmelt accounts for about one-third of the water that California uses each year. The low snowfall has pushed the state toward drought and could worsen the risk of wildfire.

CELEBRATIONS: An early happy birthday to California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who turns 52 tomorrow, and to state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, who turns 50.

Editor's Note: This AM Alert was updated at 10:32 a.m. Jan. 3 to correct that Dave Jones will turn 52 and Cathleen Galgiani will turn 50 on Saturday.

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, at right with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, on the Senate floor June 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

January 3, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Inside Capitol and out, groups push for new taxes

Dan asks whether 2014 will be the year to raise taxes in California?

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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