Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 7, 2014
State income tax revenues stay up, beat projections in December

brownbudget.JPGCalifornia income tax collections came in $1.6 billion, or 20 percent, above projections in December, the Legislative Analyst's Office said Tuesday, just days before the Brown administration releases its annual spending plan.

December is a significant month for personal income tax payments by California's wealthiest taxpayers. Including that month, the nonpartisan analyst's office said revenue from personal income and corporation taxes were running $2.1 billion above projections so far this budget year.

Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to release his annual budget proposal at the Capitol on Friday, before traveling to San Diego and Los Angeles to promote it in big media markets later in the day.

The Democratic governor has approached improving budget indicators with caution, urging lawmakers to bolster reserves. In his budget plan, he is expected to support a proposal by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to put a rainy-day fund constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

The Legislative Analyst's Office projected last fall that the state could post a $5.6 billion surplus by June 2015, with annual surpluses reaching $8.3 billion by the 2016-17 budget year.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, left, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, celebrate a budget deal with a formal announcement at the California Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

January 7, 2014
Walt Gray says he won't run for Congress


The Sacramento TV news anchor approached to challenge GOP Rep. Tom McClintock says he isn't running for Congress after all.

Earlier today, KXTV-TV anchor-reporter Walt Gray said he had been courted to run in the 4th Congressional District.

"I've always had a strong advisory group of rogues, friends and motorcyclists to raise money for charity and assist in all my endeavors in Sacramento the past 26 years," Gray told The Bee. "Should I need them ... they're here."

Gray, known for his annual motorcycle trek benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said in a statement hours later that he isn't running.

"I am humbled and flattered to have been contacted about running for the 4th District Congressional seat," he wrote. "I truly love spending time in that part of the state. It's just not something that I can see doing. I enjoy serving the people in my current role at News10 and hope to focus my attention on that and being around to help my wife, Monica, raise our three young kids. I will see you on News10 on Saturdays and Sundays at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m."

Gray spent 24 years as an anchor and reporter at KCRA-TV and made a brief stint hosting morning radio before returning to the television airwaves.

For what it's worth, Jon Huey, McClintock's campaign manager, had this to say about a possible run by Gray: "Tom has known and liked him for many years and believes he would be an interesting and articulate voice in the race."

PHOTO: Walt Gray. KXTV-TV News10

January 7, 2014
Assemblywoman Connie Conway planning to tie the knot


Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway might be losing her seat at the end of the legislative session because of term limits. But she's gaining something else entirely: a husband.

Conway's fiancé, Tulare City Councilman Craig Vejvoda, popped the question just before Thanksgiving while lawmakers were away for the winter break, Conway spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said Tuesday.

Vejvoda works as a financial advisor with the Principal Financial Group.

Last September, Assembly Republicans reaffirmed their support for the 63-year-old Conway to continue serving as their leader. Conway, who has identified the budget, economy, education, healthcare and public safety as key issues for the caucus, was spotted flashing her engagement ring on the opening day of session. She is divorced and has 2 grown children.

A wedding date has not been set, Lockhart said, but the assemblywoman does not plan on getting married prior to her term ending in November.

PHOTO: Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, speaks at a press conference on June 30, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 7, 2014
VIDEO: Plenty of money for budget priorities, Darrell Steinberg says

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the state's improving budget outlook allows lawmakers to create universal pre-kindergarten without taking money from other priorities.

January 7, 2014
A shocker — San Francisco is No. 11 among gayest U.S. cities


Wouldn't San Francisco, which has had a thriving gay community for decades and where the same-sex marriage revolution began, automatically be considered the gayest city in America?

Well, The Advocate, a major gay publication, doesn't even put San Francisco in its top 10 gayest cities.

No. 1, The Advocate says, is Washington, D.C., and one has to go all the way down to 11th place to find San Francisco — nine places lower than No. 2 Pasadena, described by the publication as "a kind of bedroom community for gays who like to garden..."

In fact, San Francisco ranks behind No. 10 Arlington, Va., No. 9 Oakland, No. 8 Salt Lake City (a real shocker, given the prominence of the anti-gay marriage Mormon Church), No. 7 Madison, Wis., No. 6 St.Louis, No. 5 Atlanta, No. 4 Cambridge, Mass., and No. 3 Seattle. Long Beach is No. 14.

The Advocate's rankings are admittedly subjective, as it explains:

"It's not all piano bars, gender-specific music festivals, and giant disco houses (although we all love some of those things) that make these cities the gayest in America.

"You say you're shocked Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City aren't at the top of the list, this year and every year? What kind of fun would that be? (Spoiler alert: San Francisco comes in at No. 11.)

"This year's criteria, designed to uncover the hidden factors that give a city its queer cred, include points for a city's LGBT elected officials (and fractional points for the state's elected officials), points for the percentage of the population comprised by lesbian-coupled households, a point for a gay rodeo association, points for bars listed in Out magazine's 200 Best Bars list, a point per women's college, and points for concert performances by Mariah Carey, Pink, Lady Gaga, or the Jonas Brothers.

"The raw score is divided by the population to provide a ranking based on a per capita LGBT quotient."

Despite its relatively low ranking in the gayest city evaluation, The Advocate says of San Francisco:

"Calm down, San Francisco. Everyone knows you're still the gayest thing going. The beautiful, panoramic City by the Bay is home to both well-heeled queers and a vibrant counterculture (witness the uproar over the recently announced ban on public nudity).

"LGBT life here is not limited to the Castro neighborhood, though that's a tourist draw for good reason - it's a queer Disneyland. You'll find us in every neighborhood, and gay-owned and gay-popular bars, restaurants, and business are everywhere. San Francisco is home to more nightlife than you can shake a go-go boy at, as well as vibrant bear and trans communities."

PHOTO: A picture-perfect view of San Francisco, as seen from the Marin Headlands. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

January 7, 2014
California Senate Democrats call for universal pre-kindergarten


Declaring it a caucus priority for coming budget talks, Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would make all four-year-olds eligible for pre-kindergarten classes.

The proposal builds upon a transitional kindergarten program that was part of a 2010 law requiring children to be older when they enroll in kindergarten. That program, though, covers only one-quarter of four-year-olds, about 120,000 children, whose birthdays fall within the last three months of the year.

Tuesday's proposal would phase in all four-year-olds over five years, at an estimated cost of $198 million annually. The total cost for 350,000 pre-kindergarten students would reach almost $1 billion annually by 2019-2020, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said at a news conference at Harkness Elementary School in south Sacramento.

Steinberg acknowledged the expense, but said universal pre-kindergarten was an appropriate way to spend some of California's expected budget surplus because students would benefit greatly.

"I am proud to call this wise spending in California," Steinberg said.

Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner added that students who do well in school are less likely to commit crimes.

Assembly Democrats included universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds in a blueprint of budget priorities released last month. Their plan's phase-in is similar to Tuesday's proposal.

January 7, 2014
Newsman Walt Gray being courted to take on Rep. Tom McClintock


Is veteran Sacramento news anchor Walt Gray considering a challenge to Republican Rep. Tom McClintock in the 4th Congressional District?

Gray, who is not affiliated with a political party, called the possibility of a run "premature."

But the television personality and motorcycle enthusiast said he believes the Northern California district represented by McClintock is full of citizens concerned that their voices are not being heard. "I've been contacted by some of them about my interest in running for Congress," Gray confirmed in response to an inquiry from The Bee.

In the carefully worded email Tuesday, Gray said while he's never held elective office, "I think that's a positive. People want fresh ideas."

Gray spent 24 years as an anchor and reporter at KCRA-TV and made a brief stint in radio hosting the morning show on 96.9 The Eagle before returning to the television airwaves at KXTV-TV, where he works as an anchor-reporter. He also is known for his Walt Gray Ride, an annual motorcycle trek benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"I've always had a strong advisory group of rogues, friends and motorcyclists to raise money for charity and assist in all my endeavors in Sacramento the past 26 years," he wrote. "Should I need them ... they're here."

McClintock, a conservative stalwart, represented Ventura-area districts in the state Legislature and periodically mounted unsuccessful runs for statewide office, including for controller, lieutenant governor and governor. He won a close congressional race in 2008 and since then has cruised to re-election. His Elk Grove home remains outside of the Foothill-based 4th district.

4th Congressional District

Gray, whose Land Park home is also outside the 4th district, said he's nonetheless spent "countless hours ... years really" reporting on news events and riding his motorcycle from town to town there. "It's one of my favorite places in the world to spend time in," he said.

Gray added that his father, Walt Gray, Sr., served two terms as a state senator in Rhode Island.

"Politics is hard job," Gray said. "You have to be all in."

PHOTO: Anchor Walt Gray rides down J Street during Saturday's car cruise through the streets of Midtown in Sacramento on July 30, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

January 7, 2014
Michelle Obama to join Nancy Pelosi at fundraiser in San Francisco


First lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to make a fundraising trip this month to San Francisco, a White House official confirmed Monday.

Obama will appear with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for a "Women's Lunch" and reception on Jan. 31 at the Fairmont Hotel benefiting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It's unclear whether the first lady is attending other events during the West Coast swing.

An invitation for the San Francisco luncheon lists the tickets at $500 apiece. Co-chairs receive a ticket for the photo line and a table of 10 for $10,000 while chairs get two tickets to a VIP reception and photo line, along with a table of 10, for $32,400.

Obama was to attend a series of fundraisers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area last October, including a brunch alongside Pelosi at the Fairmont Hotel, but rescheduled the trip amid the partial federal government shutdown.

With control of the House of Representatives in the balance, President Barack Obama and the first lady have reportedly agreed to headline a handful of fundraisers ahead of the midterms.

PHOTO: First Lady Michelle Obama looks out from the stage as President Barack Obama speaks to members of the military and their families in Anderson Hall at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Dec. 25, 2013. Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

January 7, 2014
AM Alert: Steinberg proposes extension of transitional kindergarten

kindergarten.JPGAmong the highlights of yesterday's return of the Legislature were an extended series of adjourn-in-memories for Nelson Mandela, who passed away last month during the legislative recess, and some interpersonal intrigue over new seating arrangements in the Senate.

But policy priorities for legislators continue to emerge. Today state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg plans to announce a new bill for universal transitional kindergarten in California.

The proposal builds on the Sacramento Democrat's 2010 legislation moving up the cutoff date for entering kindergartners so that all students are at least five years old. That law also created new "transitional kindergarten" classes for the older four-year-olds who were no longer eligible to start school, providing adapted instruction to continue their development. Steinberg's bill would extend that opportunity to all four-year-olds in the year before they enter kindergarten.

Steinberg will be at Harkness Elementary School in Sacramento at 10 a.m. for the announcement. He will be joined by California's Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and several Democratic senators who are co-sponsoring the legislation: Carol Liu of La Cañada Flintridge, Marty Block of San Diego, Jerry Hill of San Mateo, Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Lois Wolk of San Francisco.

VIDEO: The start of a new legislative session is like the first day of school, Dan Walters says.

THREE-PEAT: California is experiencing one of the driest starts to winter it has ever recorded: A snow survey in the Sierra last week confirmed that snowpack is currently at 20 percent of its average for this time of year. With the state now preparing to enter its third straight drought year, the State Board of Food and Agriculture holds a hearing on how the agricultural community can prepare, 10 a.m. at the Dept. of Food and Agriculture building on N Street.

LOW ACHIEVER: Oakland-based advocacy group Children Now has released its annual Children's Report Card evaluating the state's performance in education, health and child welfare issues. The report is fairly critical, awarding no grades of A and 13 D's in its 27 categories. You can read the report in its entirety here.

HEALTH SCARE: Last summer's Rim fire was the third-largest forest fire in state history, and California could be facing more troubles ahead should the extremely dry conditions continue. One unforeseen consequence of such disasters is long-term adverse effects on the immune systems of children exposed to high levels of air pollution during their infancy. UC Davis researcher Lisa Miller discusses more in a seminar at the Cal EPA Headquarters on I Street at 10 a.m.

PHOTO: Kindergarten teacher Katherine Hoffmore, 48, left, works on a bead project with McKayla Parker, 6, right, where they learn to repeat patterns at Greer Elementary School in Sacramento on Jan. 17, 2013.

January 7, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: New legislative session is like first day of school

Lawmakers were like eager students on the first day of session, Dan says, though one has already been sent to detention.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

January 7, 2014
Children Now faults California for well-being of its children

Thumbnail image for childrenrun.jpg

California is doing a poor job of meeting the health, education and economic needs of its children, Children Now, an Oakland-based advocacy organization, says in its latest Children's Report Card.

The unmet needs for well-being are especially acute among the nearly half of California's children who live in low-income households, the organization's president, former Assemblyman Ted Lempert, said.

"The declining status of kids in California is the biggest threat to the health and economy of our state," Lempert said in a statement accompanying the report. "Californians across the board want to see children doing better and we need to hold the state's policymakers more accountable this year for making that happen."

The annual report covers 27 issues, giving the state a grade in each, noting where there has been progress and making recommendations for action. It praises, for example, the newly enacted overhaul of state school finance that directs more money to school districts with large numbers of poor and English-learner students, but says that overall financing of the state's schools remains about $3,500 per pupil below the national average.

All of the Children Now recommendations would cost substantial amounts of money. Just raising school spending to the national per-pupil average, for instance, would take another $21 billion a year. But the organization's report contends that spending the money would pay economic dividends for the state in the future.

PHOTO: Children participate in the 10 years-old and under race during the Superheroes 5K run on June 16, 2013 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.


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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