Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 13, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown defends cap-and-trade for high-speed rail

jerrybrownfresno.jpgFRESNO - Gov. Jerry Brown, touching off a two-day swing through inland California on Monday, defended his proposal to use fees paid by carbon producers to help finance high-speed rail and suggested he is close to declaring a drought emergency.

Brown is proposing to use $250 million in proceeds from the state's cap-and-trade program to help fund California's $68 billion high-speed rail project. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said earlier Monday the proposal "likely would not maximize the reduction" of greenhouse gas emissions and is "legally risky."

"I've looked at the law surrounding AB 32 and the cap-and-trade," the Democratic governor told reporters in Fresno. "I believe it's legal, my lawyers believe it's lawful. It's a very appropriate source of funding."

Some environmentalists have criticized the use of cap-and-trade money for rail, saying other projects could reduce greenhouse gas emissions more immediately.

"Yes, it's long-term," Brown said. "But we aren't all, you know, Twitter-holics that have to have instant gratification after 140 characters. We can take a few years and build for the future, and that's my sense here, that I'm coming back to be governor after all these years. ... It's been on my list for a long time, and I think we've got to get it done. And we do need that funding, and it's legal, and I hope the Legislature will support it."

Brown spent the day in Fresno meeting with law enforcement, agriculture, education and other interests and touring a downtown pedestrian mall. He was pressed at a meeting with water officials to declare a drought emergency, which could accelerate some federal relief measures.

Asked if he would declare a drought, Brown said, "Not today, but we're certainly getting ready."

Brown, who is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year, was scheduled to hold meetings in Bakersfield and Riverside on Tuesday, before returning to the Capitol.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters in Fresno on Jan. 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

January 13, 2014
Mark DeSaulnier pulling out of race to lead California Senate

DeSaulnier.JPGState Sen. Mark DeSaulnier said he is pulling out of the race to become the next leader of the California Senate to instead pursue a seat in Congress.

"Can't do both," DeSaulnier said Monday afternoon, a few hours after announcing he plans to run this year for the Congressional seat of retiring Rep. George Miller.

DeSaulnier, a Democrat from Concord, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, had been the front-runners in a bid to become the next President pro Tem of the state Senate. Current Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is leaving office at the end of this year.

DeSaulnier declined to say whether he would urge his supporters to back de León.

"He came in and said, 'I'd like your support,'" DeSaulnier said of de León. "I told him I'd like to talk to my supporters and see what they think."

De León said the race remains an "ongoing process" and declined to make any predictions, saying just that he plans to talk further with DeSaulnier in hopes of gaining his support.

"He's a senator who I respect tremendously and I'm looking forward to that conversation," de León said.

PHOTO: Sen. Mark DeSaulnier on August 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

January 13, 2014
Fiscal analyst issues early praise for Jerry Brown's budget

brownbudget.JPGThe Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst said Monday that Gov. Jerry Brown's new spending plan "would place California on an even stronger fiscal footing," broadly praising the budget plan in the office's initial review.

"The governor's emphasis on debt repayment is a prudent one," the Legislative Analyst's Office said. "Overall, the governor's proposal would place California on an even stronger fiscal footing, continuing California's budgetary progress."

Still, the LAO expressed reservations about the proposal's lack of strings attached to higher education funding and the use of fees paid by carbon producers for high-speed rail.

Brown last week released a $154.9 billion budget that includes modest increases for social services and schools, but also billions of dollars to pay down long-term debt.

The LAO praised Brown for proposing a rainy-day fund, saying that "in general, setting aside money for a rainy day is exactly what the state should be doing when revenues are soaring, as they are now." However, the analyst suggested the fund proposed by Brown may be too unwieldy, and it recommended considering simpler reserve plans.

The LAO also recommended putting some money aside to address the struggling state teachers' retirement fund. Brown's budget plan does not commit money to the fund but pledges to "begin working" on way to stabilize the fund.

Brown's proposal to use $250 million in proceeds from the state's cap-and-trade program to help finance California's $68 billion high-speed rail project is one of the more controversial elements of his plan. The LAO said the proposal "likely would not maximize the reduction" of greenhouse gas emissions, as the project will not be finished by 2020. It called the proposal "legally risky."

On higher education, the analyst criticized Brown for including broad goals for higher education — including reducing costs and increasingly timely degree completion — but tying funding only to keeping tuition rates flat.

"This approach diminishes the Legislature's role in key policy decisions and allows the universities to pursue their own interests rather than the broader public interest," the analyst said.

Brown released his annual spending plan last week, setting the stage for months of budget talks at the Capitol. The LAO said there is "a significant possibility" that revenue estimates "will rise by a few billion dollars" by the time Brown releases his budget revision in May.

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 13, 2014
Dickinson bill would ban online tobacco sales to Californians

Dickinson.JPGIn an effort to limit underage tobacco consumption, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, has introduced legislation that would prohibit internet sales of cigarettes and electronic cigarettes.

Young people looking to buy tobacco products can circumvent age requirements relatively easily by going online, Dickinson said in a Monday morning press conference. He cited statistics finding that between six and 14 percent of U.S. tobacco sales occur through the web.

"There's supposed to be age verification and notice. It's not working," Dickinson said, so "the next logical step is to simply ban sales through the Internet."

Since those age-checking requirements have proven ineffective, Dickinson said, his bill targets the shipping process. Companies would be barred from sending cigarettes to individuals with California addresses, although Dickinson noted shipments to retailers could continue.

"It doesn't interfere with the flow of commerce otherwise," Dickinson said. "I don't think it has an impact on the conduct of business by legitimate companies for legitimate purposes."

The legislation also addresses the burgeoning market for electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, which deliver a burst of nicotine in water vapor. While e-cigarettes proponents call them a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes that contain tar and other harmful ingredients, Dickinson warned that the health effects of e-cigarettes remain untested.

"Electronic cigarettes are especially of concern because they are currently largely unregulated," Dickinson said, adding that "the idea that an e-cigarette is simply benign is far from proven."

A bill to restrict e-cigarette use, introduced last year by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, made it out of the Senate but stalled in the Assembly.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 13, 2014
Live chat: David Siders breaks down Brown's budget proposal

brownjanbudget.jpgThe Sacramento Bee's state budget expert, reporter David Siders, takes reader questions about Jerry Brown's budget proposal.


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PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

January 13, 2014
George Miller to retire from Congress; DeSaulnier to run


By Christopher Cadelago and Laurel Rosenhall
Bee Capitol Bureau

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said Monday that he will retire after serving 40 years in Congress.

The announcement by the liberal stalwart has set off a scramble of Bay Area politicians seeking to replace him. Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord told The Bee he expected to run for the 11th Congressional District.

"I'm playing phone tag with him right now. George is a really good friend," DeSaulnier said. "I wish him well and I would love to replace him in Congress. "It was always my intention to run."

Click here for a map showing DeSaulnier's 7th Senate District and Miller's 11th Congressional District.

A DeSaulnier candidacy could be a big boost for Sen. Kevin de Leon, who was expected to challenge him to replace Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as Senate leader this year.

In a statement, Miller, one of the few remaining lawmakers elected in the Watergate era, said he was grateful to have chaired three committees over the last four decades and authored major laws affecting education, labor and health policy, and the protection of natural resources.

"This is a great institution and I cannot thank my family and my constituents enough for having given me the honor and privilege of representing my district in Congress these past 40 years," Miller said. "I have tried to repay them for their confidence by working hard every day to make our country a better place. I'm proud of what I have been able to accomplish on behalf of children, working people and the environment, in my district and for our country, especially passage of national health care reform. Now, I look forward to one last year in Congress fighting the good fight and then working in new venues on the issues that have inspired me. What a wonderful experience this has been."

PHOTO: Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Dec. 12, 2006 file photo. Associated Press/Dennis Cook

January 13, 2014
AM Alert: Bob Huff pushes for end to public transit strikes

The Sacramento Bee is pleased to announce a major update and new design for the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app.

The new 2014 version:

  • Works on both your iPhone and iPad with a single subscription.
  • Offers faster access to our bills-to-watch guide and legislative directory, along with new district maps.
  • Includes a new section on legislative committees.
  • Lets Insider Edition app subscribers comment and share with one another.
  • Includes all the previous Insider features, including early access to Field Polls and Bee editorials on state topics and a curated Capitol Twitter feed. Easily email chiefs of staff, schedulers and legislative directors from within the app.

To subscribe, go to It's free this week, $19.99 a month after that.

Current subscribers can find out how to update here.

Now back to your regularly scheduled AM Alert...

BART_strike.jpgTRANSIT STRIKES: California has traditionally been regarded as very supportive of organized labor, but that climate may be changing. A Field Poll released last month showed that public opinion on unions has plunged dramatically: For the first time ever, more voters say these organizations do more harm than good.

Last year's strikes by Bay Area Rapid Transit workers were especially controversial, raising debate over whether public employees should even be allowed to strike. California voters remain divided on that question, but state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar says the answer is clear. He introduced legislation last September that would prohibit public transit workers from striking in the future.

"If the public is going to have to rely on public transportation, we have to make sure public transportation is reliable," Huff said in a statement last week. "Police and firefighters can't strike; they provide a valuable public service. The same rationale applies here."

How far Huff's bill can go is a big question mark. It faces its first hurdle today, when it is heard by the Senate Committee on Public Employment and Retirement in Room 2040 of the Capitol, following the adjournment of floor session.

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown needs less talk and more action on the state's unfunded liabilties, Dan Walters says.

GHOST GUN-BUSTER: California lawmakers tackled the issue of control last year with mixed success, a new year brings new efforts. State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, plans to introduce legislation banning homemade and 3D-printed "ghost guns," which are untraceable and undetectable. De León will be joined by law enforcement, including Stephen Lindley, chief of the Bureau of Firearms in the California Department of Justice, for the announcement at 11:15 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol.

BURNING UP: Assemblyman Travis Allen's campaign to keep the state from dousing beach bonfires continues. The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources will consider the Huntington Beach Republican's bill to preserve the Southern California tradition at 1:30 p.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol.

LET'S GET TOGETHER: The California Community Colleges Board of Governors gathers for its two-day bimonthly meeting at noon in the Chancellor's Office on Q Street. Sure to be a hot topic is Gov. Brown's budget proposal, which boosted community college funding by 11.4 percent.

The CalPERS Board of Administration is also beginning a three-day meeting in Monterey where, among other agenda items, it will select new leadership.

BUDGET CHAT: The Sacramento Bee's state budget expert, reporter David Siders, takes reader questions about Gov. Brown's budget proposal in a live chat today at noon. Join the conversation at

CELEBRATIONS: Happy belated birthday to Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Garden, who turned 54 yesterday.

PHOTO: Supporters of Bay Area Rapid Transit workers hold up signs at a news conference outside of the BART 24th Street Mission station in San Francisco on June 25, 2013. The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

January 13, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Brown's debt talk is no action

brownbudgetrevise.jpgSimply acknowledging the state's billions in unfunded liabilities is not enough, Dan says. Gov. Jerry Brown must do more than hold a poster above his head at a press conference.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget plan at a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Renée C. Byer/Sacramento Bee

January 13, 2014
Update for Capitol Alert Insider Edition

Capitol_repaint.JPGWe are pleased to announce a major update and new design for the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app.

The new 2014 version:

  • Works on both your iPhone and iPad with a single subscription.
  • Offers faster access to our bills-to-watch guide and legislative directory, along with new district maps.
  • Includes a new section on legislative committees.
  • Lets Insider Edition app subscribers comment and share with one another.
  • Includes all the previous Insider features, including early access to Field Polls and Bee editorials on state topics and a curated Capitol Twitter feed. Easily email chiefs of staff, schedulers and legislative directors from within the app.

Current iPhone subscribers will need to convert to our new universal app. Just follow the instructions below.

iPhone app monthly subscribers:
If you currently have a monthly subscription, just install the new Insider Edition universal app when your current subscription expires.

iPhone app annual subscribers:
Please contact Vicky Amparan at 916-321-1889 or to get a full refund of your annual subscription. You'll then install the new Capitol Alert Insider Edition universal app and start a new subscription.

iPad app subscribers:
Just update your iPad app to the newest release through the iTunes store. When asked, select restore purchases from the menu. You will be asked to log in to your iTunes account.

Confused? Don't hesitate to call.

PHOTO: Construction workers erect scaffolding around the Capitol dome on May 1, 2002 in preparation for painting. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench


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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