Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 14, 2014
Neel Kashkari meets with legislative Republicans, looks ahead to 'major speech'

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari, apparently close to announcing his campaign for governor, met Tuesday with the Republican caucuses of both houses of the state Legislature.

"It was important for me, before I make a final decision, that they had heard directly from me about the issues that I'm focused on, and that I could hear from them," the former U.S. Treasury Department official said. "The feedback was great."

Kashkari, who ran the Troubled Asset Relief Program during President George W. Bush's administration, is expected to join former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, in a small field of Republicans challenging Gov. Jerry Brown.

Kashkari is scheduled next Tuesday to give his first speech since leaving his job at Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. a year ago. He is listed as the keynote speaker at a business luncheon at Sacramento State.

Kashkari said it will be a "major speech," adding, "You should come to that."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari, then interim assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability, speaks during an event for the Institute of International Bankers on Oct. 13, 2008, in Washington. AP file photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

January 14, 2014
Extension of benefits for long-term jobless collapses in Senate

Thumbnail image for Barbara_Boxer_Senate_Races_US_Chamber.jpg

A Senate deal to extend unemployment benefits that expired last month fell apart Tuesday, leaving more than 1.4 million jobless Americans without aid, including 220,000 Californians.

The chamber failed to advance an unemployment extension measure on a largely party-line vote of 55-45. Though some lawmakers said they'd try again, it's unlikely to be soon. The Senate will pivot Wednesday to a $1.1 trillion spending bill agreed to by House and Senate leaders.

In the end, Democrats and most Republicans simply couldn't agree on how to pay for the proposed three-month extension in unemployment aid.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said no concessions were enough to satisfy Republicans, who demanded the measure be offset by spending cuts.

"I have to say what I think is going on," she said in a statement. "They don't want to extend unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed."

That wasn't true in the case of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who co-sponsored the bill. Nevada, like California, has suffered from high unemployment since 2008 after the recession and housing crash.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., warned that with long-term unemployment at its highest since World War II, the failure to agree on an extension could put more Californians at risk.

"It is incredibly disappointing that this all-important extension has been derailed by more partisan squabbling," she said in a statement.

PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., addresses reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 14, 2012. Associated Press/ Manuel Balce Ceneta.

January 14, 2014
Steinberg appoints long-time friend to lucrative post

Darrell_Steinberg_HA_031113.JPGThe state Senate's Rules Committee, led by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, has appointed a close friend of Steinberg's to a $128,000-a-year position on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

John Adkisson began the post yesterday, said Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Steinberg. He said Adkisson is filling a position left vacant by the resignation of Kathleen Howard. The board meets once a month.

Adkisson had been making $300,000 a year on contracts with the Senate's Oversight and Outcomes Commiitee and the Legislative Counsel. Those contracts are now over, Hedlund said.

The relationship between Steinberg and Adkisson dates back to their law school days. Adkisson ran Steinberg's first political campaign in 1992, when he ran for Sacramento City Council. Steinberg told The Bee in 2009 that he considers Adkisson "one of my dearest friends. "

Hedlund said Tuesday that Adkisson is a good pick for the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board because of his depth of experience in employment law.

January 14, 2014
Darrell Steinberg says Kevin de León will lead Senate

SteinbergKDL.jpgCalifornia Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that "it is clear" Sen. Kevin de León will be the next leader of the state Senate.

"I think he will be a great leader. He's adept at both the policy and the political side," Steinberg said as he and de León emerged from a meeting of Senate Democrats this afternoon, in which the majority party discussed leadership of the house but did not take a formal vote.

"It was a good conversation and the caucus embraced my message. I think we're well on our way. I support Kevin very strongly," Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he told fellow Democrats that he intends to remain the leader of the state Senate until his term ends in November, and that he will call for a vote on de Leon's leadership after the budget is complete in June. It remains unclear whether another candidate will emerge, although Steinberg said he doesn't anticipate anyone else jumping into the race.

"I'm looking forward to leading when my time comes up," said de León, D-Los Angeles.

"I'm deeply honored to have his support and the support of my colleagues. I love the Senate."

The announcement came a day after Sen. Mark DeSaulnier said he was pulling out of the race because he plans to run for Congress this year. The Democrat from Concord is running for the seat vacated by Rep. George Miller, who announced his retirement Monday.

De León said Tuesday that DeSaulnier had given him his support.

Both de León and Steinberg have been accused by their colleague, Sen. Ron Calderon, of being the focus of an FBI sting. They refuted the allegation again Tuesday, saying Calderon is the sole target of the federal corruption investigation.

PHOTO: Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, left, congratulates Sen. Kevin de León as they leave the Democratic caucus this afternoon. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall

January 14, 2014
VIDEO: Keep extra hours for in-home workers, advocates urge Jerry Brown

IHHSfotos.JPGAdvocates are decrying a budget proposal that would restrict hours for in-home helpers of elderly and disabled Californians.

In an effort to save money on Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for low-income Californians, Gov. Jerry Brown's budget seeks to bar people employed by the state's in-home supportive services program from putting in overtime.

By limiting those workers to 40 hours a week, Brown would sidestep a new federal rule -- which takes effect Jan. 1, 2015 -- requiring additional overtime pay for domestic workers. Currently, California's in-home supportive workers can work more than 40 hours a week but are paid straight time for the extra hours.

Advocates say the governor's call to prohibit overtime work, regardless of the pay level, would cause significant financial hardship for the in-home workers California dispatches to care for low-income residents who require extra assistance.

"Sending IHHS caregivers deeper into poverty not only harms the caregivers, but it puts seniors and people with disabilities at great risk," Gary Passmore of the Congress of California Seniors said during a Tuesday morning press conference on the steps of the state Capitol.

The rule would also disrupt the lives of people who rely on the program, many of whom find comfort in the stability of being consistently tended to by the same caretaker, advocates argued.

"Autistic individuals have a really hard time with changes, with new people and new situations," Martha Cobos, a Sacramento woman whose autistic twins require constant care, said on Tuesday. "The governor wants me to find another person to take care of them," she added. "With changes like that, they get really stressed."

In-home supportive services are not covered by a new law, enacted at the start of 2014, that secured overtime pay for other domestic workers. Many of the people who rely on in-home supportive services are low-income, so Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's office was wary of burdening them with an overtime pay requirement.

The proposed overtime ban seems especially inappropriate to advocates given that a surge of revenue has put California on its firmest fiscal footing in years. Brown has preached a cautious approach to the windfall, repeatedly invoking the word "prudence" as he unveiled his budget and seeking a constitutional amendment shoring up the state's rainy day fund.

"The governor talks a lot about a rainy day fund - well, Gov. Brown, it's raining," Passmore said on Tuesday. "For the people here who are caregivers, for the people they take care of, it's pouring."

PHOTO: In-home supportive services workers protest a proposed overtime cap at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on January 14, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff.

January 14, 2014
Mercury hires two as Salazar announces departure


Roger Salazar, a former spokesman for President Bill Clinton and Gov. Gray Davis, is leaving Mercury Public Affairs to open his own firm. Mercury separately announced today hiring two new staff for its Sacramento office.

Salazar's new firm, Alza Strategies, will provide media relations, crisis communication and public affairs services to clients that want to reach California's Latino market. The Legislature's Latino Caucus Leadership PAC and the Agua Caliente Indian tribe are among Alza's clients, Salazar said.

"'Alza' is Spanish for 'rise,'" Salazar said in a statement announcing his firm. "With California's economy, Latino population and political clout on the rise, Alza hopes to similarly raise the level of media communications on behalf of clients who want to tap into this market."

Also today, Mercury Public Affairs announced hiring Carolyn Becker, a former executive producer at KCRA, and Argelia León, who specializes in Spanish language media. Becker will be a senior vice president at Mercury and León will be a director.

"Carolyn and Argelia will give our clients an even broader and more diverse set of ideas, tactics and initiatives," Mercury partner Adam Mendelsohn said in a statement.

PHOTO: Sacramento County Sheriff candidate Capt. Jim Cooper gets campaign results from his campaign manager Roger Salazar in June 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

January 14, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown tours inland California, hints at re-election

browntwo.JPGGov. Jerry Brown began the second day of a two-day swing through inland California on Tuesday. It is a conservative region that has proved deeply skeptical of the Democratic governor, despite his high approval ratings statewide.

Brown has visited the Valley only a handful of times since taking office in 2011, but he said at a news conference in Bakersfield "you'll see me more often in the months ahead."

Brown is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Jan. 13, 2014 in Fresno. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 14, 2014
State keeps Wednesday, but insurers pushing payment deadlines


Beset by processing delays and customer confusion, two providers offering health coverage through California's new insurance exchange have pushed back their premium payment deadlines.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Anthem Blue Cross of California said the company was pushing back its payment deadline to Jan. 31. Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente set its new payment due date for Jan. 22.

Covered California had already extended its payment deadline for people with coverage beginning Jan. 1. The exchange's deadline is Wednesday, a change from the earlier deadline of Jan. 6.

A Covered California spokesman said the exchange's deadline would remain Wednesday.

"It's a deadline that was agreed unanimously to by the 11 health providers," spokesman Roy Kennedy said.

People who signed up for health coverage through the exchange have been complaining about long delays in receiving invoices needed to pay their first monthly premium. Others who made their payments are awaiting confirmation. Officials at Covered California and several insurance companies have acknowledged the raft of delays, including exceedingly long wait times for telephone customer service questions.

"We have extended the payment deadline for Jan. 1 coverage to Jan. 22 for those affected by processing delays, to allow all of our members time to receive and pay their invoices," Kaiser spokesman Chris Stenrud said.

"We have also started an outbound call campaign to reach members proactively to help them make payments on-line or by phone, and to know how to get needed care."

Stenrud noted that the "overwhelming majority" of those who enrolled in coverage that began this year have already received their invoices and paid for their coverage.

PHOTO: Enrollment operators take phone calls during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

January 14, 2014
Cigarette filters would be stubbed out by California bill


Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, wants to rid California of butts.

Intent on reducing the amount of non-biodegradable waste that lingers in California's waterways and clogs its beaches, Stone will introduce a bill on Tuesday that prohibits the sale of filtered cigarettes.

Unlike a bill introduced Monday to prohibit the sale of tobacco online, Stone's bill isn't designed to reduce tobacco consumption. Instead, it would fight what Stone called one of the most commonplace environmental threats.

"I am determined to try to address plastic pollution," said Stone.

Penalties for littering have not dissuaded Californians from dropping their filters in nature, Stone said, so he's trying to address the source. The spongy filters that keep many beach cleanups going are also excellent at absorbing toxins, Stone said.

"As soon as they're discarded in the environment, there's a little toxic bomb that's now out there to proliferate whatever toxins it's carrying," Stone said.

If enacted, the bill would mean Californians could only purchase unfiltered cigarettes, which tend to be harsher. Stone rejected the notion that the lack of filters would endanger public health, and his staff point to research questioning whether filters make cigarettes any less bad for you.

"Filters have never been proven to have any effect negative or positive on the effect on the smoker," Stone said.

PHOTO: A Sacramento man smokes a cigarette on the front porch of his home in Sacramento, Thursday, June 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

January 14, 2014
Jerry Brown's canine diplomacy at work in Fresno

brownfresnopresser.jpgFRESNO - Tucked into Gov. Jerry Brown's schedule of meetings here Monday was a tour of a pedestrian mall that, despite a variety of redevelopment efforts over the years, remains a dilapidated fixture of this city's downtown.

Brown was underwhelmed.

"I think I'll keep my thoughts to myself," he said at a news conference when asked for his opinion of the mall.

If the Democratic governor was committing a faux pas, he quickly righted himself, volunteering that parts of Oakland looked like Fresno's Fulton Mall when he was mayor.

"I know from Oakland that downtown can be transformed," he said.

Brown mentioned he saw a restaurant on his tour, and he called the eatery's establishment a "bold move."

The restaurant's owner, Craig Scharton, left his job as Fresno's business development director last year to open Peeve's Public House & Local Market.

Scharton heard Sunday that the governor was coming. Knowing he and Brown share an affinity for dogs, he was prepared.

Accompanied by Peeve, the boxer-shepherd mix for which his restaurant is named, Scharton presented Brown with a card for the governor's Pembroke Welsh corgi, Sutter.
Included were a couple of dog bones, Scharton said, and the message, "To Sutter: If you're ever in Fresno come by for a pint like any good Welshman would."

Sutter is not along for Brown's two-day swing through Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside, which concludes Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who showed Brown the pedestrian mall, described the occasion as "some nice, sort of diplomatic exchanges among the canine family."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 14, 2014
AM Alert: Brown's finance director sells budget to California business community

michael_cohen_blog.jpgCrafting a successful budget can be a high-wire balancing act, as the governor seeks broad support from the diverse and often conflicting interests.

One of the first and most important stops has become a meeting with the California Chamber of Commerce, which is often pushing lawmakers for greater fiscal restraint.

When Gov. Jerry Brown's director of finance, Michael Cohen, speaks about the 2014-15 budget proposal before the group today, he might find a more receptive crowd than in years past. With Brown emphasizing paying down debts over starting new public programs, and no new taxes on the docket, this year's agenda features fewer of the kinds of proposals that earn the Chamber of Commerce's dreaded "job killer" label.

Cohen speaks at approximately 12:45 p.m. during a luncheon at the California Chamber of Commerce on K Street.

VIDEO: The impending retirement of U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, sets up a game of musical chairs for California's legislative leadership, Dan Walters says.

EASY RIDER: The future is another step closer: Last year, the California Department of Motor Vehicles developed regulations for testing self-driving cars on the state's roadways. They were published in November, and the public comment period for the rules ended yesterday, but there's one more opportunity to participate in the process during a hearing at 10 a.m. at the DMV Headquarters on First Avenue. The regulations are expected to be finalized this spring.

CAP-AND-TRAIN: California's proposed high-speed rail project has been met with one controversy after another--and Gov. Brown's idea to use cap-and-trade funds to get construction started this year is no exception. The California High-Speed Rail Authority will discuss that proposal and other business at its meeting today at 10 a.m. in the Secretary of State's Auditorium on 11th Street.

DEMO DISCUSSION: There was much debate following the 2012 election over what impact increasing diversity might have on the future of national and California politics. Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project, takes a deep dive into those demographic shifts and where their effect is likely to be strongest during a talk called "Is Demography Political Destiny?" at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street at noon.

WAGE WAR: In-home caregivers and their allies will be at the north steps of Capitol at 10:30 a.m. to protest a proposal in Gov. Brown's budget they say would hinder their ability to make a living. The new rule would prohibit caregivers who serve low-income patients through the state's In-Home Supportive Services program from working more than 40 hours per week and earning overtime pay.

POOR MARKS: A report card on the state of education issued last year by StudentsFirst -- the controversial education advocacy group headed by Sacramento first lady Michelle Rhee -- was notoriously harsh, with two-thirds of states earning a D or worse. California was among the unlucky 11 to receive an F. Will the results be just as bleak this year? We'll find out today when the organization issues its report for 2014.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, who turns 57 today.

PHOTO: Michael Cohen, director of the California Department of Finance, testifies to the Senate budget committee in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 14, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Congressional retirement sets up game of musical chairs

George_Miller.jpgU.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has announced that he will step down at the end of the year, shaking up the entire conversation around California's legislative leadership, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Rep. George Miller talks about his 40-year career in the U.S. Congress at his Martinez, Calif., home on on Jan. 12, 2014. Bay Area News Group/Jim Stevens


Capitol Alert Staff

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. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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