Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 6, 2014
Ray Haynes considers challenging Rep. Raul Ruiz in 36th district

Republican Ray Haynes is weighing a run for Congress in the Southern California desert.

In an email to supporters, the former state lawmaker said he may seek the 36th Congressional District seat held by freshman Rep. Raul Ruiz.

Haynes' entry would complicate what was expected to be a two-way race between Ruiz and GOP Assemblyman Brian Nestande, who has carved out a reputation as a moderate voice in the caucus. Ruiz emerged as a top target of Republicans after soundly defeating former Rep. Mary Bono Mack in 2012.

Republicans enjoy a nearly 1.5-percentage point voter registration advantage in the district that stretches from Hemet east to the California-Arizona border.

"The time to win the 36th Congressional district is this year, and so, if I am to re-engage in politics, this would be the time to do so," he wrote. "That is why I am looking at this seat now."

In his message, posted in its entirety here, Haynes said he believes the district wants a conservative Republican as its representative. He asks his network of supporters whether they would back him in a potential run.

"Over the last couple of years I have found myself becoming more and more frustrated by what is going on in Washington," Haynes wrote. "Quite frankly, I could live the rest of my life, never be in Congress, and believe that I have done well by my neighbors during my time in politics. However, there are times when I believe I can be value added to the country, my state, my county, and my neighbors by giving voice to their concerns and their needs in the political arena."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, a member of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, questions Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, not shown, about Leno's same sex marriage bill on Tuesday, April 26, 2005. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

January 6, 2014
Jerry Brown's cap-and-trade proposal for high-speed rail said to be $250 million

High Speed Rail Station (1).JPGGov. Jerry Brown's proposal to use fees paid by carbon producers to help finance the state's high-speed rail project is expected to amount to $250 million next budget year, a sum that could provide a significant lift to the project but frustrate environmentalists already upset about the diversion of fees.

Brown is expected to include the proposal in the annual budget plan he will release Friday, sources told The Sacramento Bee. The amount is included in about $750 million in total cap-and-trade funds the governor is expected to propose allocating among transportation, green energy and other programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, Brown is expected to propose paying back part of a $500 million loan from the cap-and-trade program to the state general fund included in this year's budget. The amount of the repayment is expected to be $100 million.

Many environmentalists criticized the loan last year and have bristled at the idea of using cap-and-trade money for high-speed rail, saying other projects could have a more immediate impact on greenhouse gas reduction.

Brown's office has declined to discuss the budget ahead of its release.

PHOTO: A view of the interior of a station in the proposed high speed rail network. Rendering by Newlands and Company Inc., 2008.

January 6, 2014
California campaign ethics watchdog marks record year


California's political ethics watchdog continued its proactive approach to enforcing the state's political reform act last year, with prosecutions of serious campaign cases and lobbying violations reaching record highs in 2013.

The Fair Political Practices Commission closed 854 cases with violations, according to its end-of-year report released Monday. The number of cases the agency opened surpassed 350, an increase of more than 300 from 2012.

Under its former chief Ann Ravel, who recently departed for the Federal Election Commission, the FPPC increased its focus on major misbehavior rather than less-significant offenses. Commission-initiated cases were virtually nonexistent before Ravel's tenure.

FPPC officials said they hoped to maintain the more aggressive pursuit, including launching investigations in the midst of elections where they could have a greater impact.

"We're trying to continue that past her tenure," said Gary Winuk, the agency's chief of enforcement.

In 2013, prosecutions into conflicts of interest and compliance with requisite financial disclosure statements both reached all-time highs. Overall, the number of complaints received and cases opened and closed rose significantly over the last year, the report shows.

Among the cases cited were the commission's record $1 million settlement with a pair of nonprofits for failing to disclose the source of contributions to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 tax increases and support an anti-union measure, Proposition 32.

Other prominent investigations involved leveling $40,500 in fines against three partners in a prominent public affairs firm in Sacramento and fining former Democratic Sen. Dean Florez of Shafter $60,000 for misusing campaign funds.

Of the total cases prosecuted last year, 29 percent involved major campaigns and 7 percent centered on lobbying. At 42 percent, the bulk of the agency's prosecutions involved failures to report required statements of economic interest.

PHOTO: Gary Winuk, the chief of enforcement, speaks in front of the Fair Political Practices Commission meeting in September. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 6, 2014
Fracking moratorium urged by California lawmakers


Reviving an issue that dominated the environmental agenda in 2013, California lawmakers are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

California is at work crafting regulations to govern hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which well operators blast a potent mix of chemicals and water underground to shatter energy-trapping rock formations. The new guidelines will set up a permitting system, require more groundwater testing and force companies to disclose information about where they plan to frack and what chemicals they will use.

Those forthcoming regulations are the product of a new law passed last year. Senate Bill 4, by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, was less stringent than other proposed fracking measures that would have halted the practice outright.

In the end, legislators sent Pavley's bill to Brown even as environmentalist groups forsook the legislation, saying it had been diluted to the point of ineffectiveness.

"I think almost everyone walked out of session feeling unsatisfied, so we want to make sure there is accountability on this industry," said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who last year carried an unsuccessful fracking bill.

Given concerns about the impacts of fracking on groundwater and public health, Levine said, he and three other Assembly members have sent Brown a letter asking for a statewide ban on fracking "until health and environmental concerns are addressed."

"Current studies show fracking threatens California's precious water supply, further disrupts our approach to mitigate the dangerous impacts of climate change, exacerbates our pollution problems, and the disposal of wastewater associated with fracking may increase seismic activity," the letter said.

In an interview with The Bee, Levine said he hoped the governor would defer continued fracking operations until regulators have finished the year-long process of laying down new fracking rules.

"I don't believe we have as much information as we need to continue allowing the oil industry to work unfettered before those regulations are in place," Levine said.

In response, a spokesman for the governor suggested that the letter's signatories focus on the unfolding regulatory process.

"After extensive debate, the legislature - including the authors of this letter - voted to enact SB 4, which became effective just 5 days ago," spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email. "Pursuant to this bill, the regulatory process has begun and we encourage these legislators and other interested citizens to actively participate."

The fracking issue has increasingly become the lens through which disenchanted environmentalists view Brown. Protesting activists have dogged the governor at events throughout California since he signed Pavley's bill.

Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 4 last year under the governor's auspices. Brown interceded as legislators were debating the bill, urging them to pass the measure and promising his signature.

PHOTO: A fracking facility with working wells sit as a backdrop to fieldworkers picking up potato's at the potato field on Madera Ave. near Mannel Ave on Monday afternoon in Shafter, California. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

January 6, 2014
Increasing density may not work in cutting greenhouse gases

populationdensity.jpgIncreasing the population density of California's urban areas is a key component of the state's plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 - but it may not be the most effective strategy, new research at the University of California, Berkeley, indicates.

Although suburbs, with their relatively low densities and dependence on autos for travel, are bigger generators of carbon dioxide than urban cores, the researchers said, "a 10-fold increase in population density in central cities yields only a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions."

"That would require a really extraordinary transformation for very little benefit, and high carbon suburbanization would result as a side effect," Christopher Jones, a doctoral student in the UC-Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group and co-author of the report, said in a statement accompanying the study's release Monday.

Trying to increase population densities in suburbs, which several state strategies propose, "appears to be an even worse strategy," Jones said, because it would encourage the development of new, high energy use suburbs further away.

What Jones and his co-researcher, Dr. Daniel Kammen, suggest is that one-size-fits all strategies to reduce greenhouse gases give way to locally designed plans based on local circumstances.

"Cities are not islands," Kammen said. "They exist in a complex landscape that we need to understand better both theoretically and empirically."

Toward that end, the study includes an innovative, interactive Internet tool that allows users to calculate not only the emissions of their own households, but of their communities and breaks down the individual components of those emissions.

The average American household is responsible for 48.5 tons of CO2 each year, and the interactive tool allows users to measure themselves and their communities against that number.

PHOTO: In this photo taken Nov. 2, 2008, apartment buildings crowd the skyline in Chongqing, China. Associated Press/Elizabeth Dalziel

January 6, 2014
Bill Monning tapped to replace Calderon on Senate insurance committee

Monning.JPGCalifornia state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg announced likely new committee appointments today, recommending that Democratic Sen. Bill Monning of Carmel become chair of the Insurance Committee that was previously headed by Sen. Ron Calderon, the subject of a federal corruption investigation.

Steinberg stripped Calderon of the position in November, after bribery allegations surfaced in a leaked FBI affidavit. The Senate also removed the Montebello Democrat as a member of the Banking, Environmental Quality and Governmental Organization committees.

Steinberg today said he would recommend that the Senate Rules Committee fill some of those positions, with Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, joining the Banking committee, and Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona joining the Governmental Organization committee.

Steinberg also announced filling a vacancy created by the unexpected resignation in December of Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, recommending Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, as vice chair of the budget and fiscal review committee.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, who is joining the Senate following a special election in September, got her committee assignments: Insurance, Public Safety and Budget and Fiscal Review.

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel during a joint session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 6, 2014
Tim Donnelly cuts video about great women: 'I've got two'

donnellypodium.jpgIn an apparent appeal to women voters - and also, perhaps, cigar smokers, trail runners and World War II enthusiasts - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly posted an online video Monday celebrating the promotion of his spokeswoman, Jennifer Kerns, to campaign manager.

"They say beside every good leader is a great woman," Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. "I've got two."

Kerns, who is also shown target shooting and smoking a cigar, criticizes Gov. Jerry Brown's prison realignment, in which the state transferred responsibility for certain inmates to county control, and makes an unusual point about Pearl Harbor and women.

"The war on women?" she says. "Really? You want to go there? World War II started because of Pearl Harbor. The war on women was started by consultants."

The comparison was not entirely explained, but it would seem Donnelly is a fan.

He tells viewers "I believe in women," and of Kerns, in particular, he says, "That woman doesn't know how to lose."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Associated Press/Nick Ut

January 6, 2014
Embattled California Sen. Ron Calderon gets a solo seat

Thumbnail image for MC_CALDERON_02.JPG

State Sen. Ron Calderon has lost committee assignments and campaign donors since the publication of a leaked FBI affidavit alleging that that the Montebello Democrat took bribes.

Now Calderon has lost his longtime desk. When the Legislature returns from its recess later today, Calderon will be assigned to a seat in the chamber's southeastern corner, not the more centrally located desk he occupied last year, according to the latest Senate seating chart.

Calderon also will be the only senator sitting all by himself. He will share a desk with the vacancy created in the 23rd Senate District by the Dec. 1 resignation of state Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, who used to sit in the chamber's northern half along with other Republicans.

Calderon probably can't expect a lot of colleagues stopping by to chat. Besides the specter of the FBI inquiry, Calderon has alleged that federal authorities retaliated against him because he refused to assist an alleged investigation of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, speaks to media representatives outside Senate chambers on June 10, 2013, at the state Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

January 6, 2014
Labor helps Jerry Brown raise $1.7 million in final week of 2013

micsjerrybrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown spent the final days of December posting one of his most profitable fundraising periods to date, collecting $1.7 million for his re-election campaign in the last week of the year, according to a campaign report filed over the weekend.

Donations from labor unions accounted for nearly half of the total, and the Democratic State Central Committee of California continued with its largess. The committee, which as a political party is not subject to contribution limits, donated $300,000 to Brown, increasing its total contribution for the year to $2.7 million.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The Democratic governor has now raised nearly $17 million for the campaign, while his Republican challengers have failed to raise even a fraction of that amount.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association and California Association of Professional Scientists were among donors contributing $54,400, the maximum allowed. Other unions contributing to Brown include groups representing plumbers, sheet metal and electrical workers.

In addition to labor, Brown collected $54,400 each from Chevron and BNSF Railway, and $27,200 from CBS Corp.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg contributed $27,200, maxing out to Brown after another contribution of the same amount earlier in the year.

Also contributing the maximum allowed to the third-term governor were Peter Guber, the film producer, and Joe Lacob, co-managing member and chief executive officer of the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

Two Republican candidates, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, have struggled to raise several hundred thousand dollars between them, while a prospective candidate, former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, has not yet started raising money.

Brown is considered exceedingly difficult to beat in this heavily Democratic state. Reflecting how hard it has been to raise money against him was an appeal Donnelly sent to supporters late last year. He said his campaign had surpassed its goal of raising more than $20,000 in the final eight days of 2013 and was becoming more ambitious.

The campaign's adjusted goal for its year-end fundraising sprint was less than Brown has collected in a single check from many of his donors: $25,000.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 6, 2014
VIDEO: Stories to watch as California's 2014 legislative session begins

The champagne has been uncorked and imbibed, the calendars flipped and the soon-to-be-broken resolutions crafted: 2013 has passed into history.

All of which means Sacramento is preparing for the 2014 legislative session. Things officially gets started when legislators return to the state Capitol today.

The coming legislative year will be marked by leadership transitions in both houses; tests of a Democratic supermajority that looming elections could erase; disputes over how to spend a fiscal windfall; wading into water wars; and the ongoing turmoil around a state senator who is under the FBI's microscope.

As we get ready to embark on another legislative odyssey, here are some of the stories we at Capitol Alert are watching.

January 6, 2014
AM Alert: Genetically modified food fight returns to California

GMO_labels.JPGIn the months since California voters rejected a November 2012 ballot measure on the subject, proponents of labeling genetically modified food have pushed their fight nationwide with mixed results.

Last summer, the Connecticut and Maine legislatures handily passed labeling bills within days of each other — albeit with major caveats that require, among other things, at least four more states in the region to pass similar bills for the laws to take effect. In November, a GMO-labeling measure in Washington failed by a large margin.

Now the effort returns to California with a rally on the west steps of the Capitol from 10 a.m. to noon. The event — organized by the California State Grange, an agricultural service organization, and the group Label GMOs — has the goal of getting a lawmaker to carry a labeling bill for the 2014 session.

VIDEO: Two internal elections this year could be just as significant for the Legislature's future as the November races, Dan Walters says.

AND SO IT BEGINS: After a four-month recess, the Legislature is back in Sacramento. The 2014 session kicks off today with floor sessions for the Assembly at noon and the Senate at 2 p.m.

Big stories to watch for in the early part of the year include potential budget battles with Gov. Jerry Brown over a large surplus and efforts to tighten political spending rules in the wake of corruption allegations against Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello.

Jeremy B. White has more in his video preview of California politics for 2014.

FRACK ATTACK: New rules for hydraulic fracturing in the state are set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and the California Department of Conservation is in the midst of a 60-day public comment period on the proposed regulations. A public hearing will be held today from 3-7 p.m. at the California Environmental Protection Agency building at 10th and I streets.

NEW JOB: Lobbyist Crystal Jack is leaving the firm Kahn, Soares & Conway for a new position at health insurance company Cigna. She begins on Jan, 21 and will oversee lobbying efforts for 11 states in the western region.

CORRECTION: Friday's AM Alert incorrectly stated the ages of California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton. Jones and Galgiani turned 52 and 50, respectively, on Saturday, not 51 and 49. We apologize for the error.

PHOTO: Some packaged foods are labeled as being free of GMO at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op on September 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

January 6, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Lawmakers also have an eye on internal elections in 2014

With both Senate and Assembly leadership up for grabs, internal politics will play a big role in the Legislature this year, 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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