Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 16, 2014
Jerry Brown to declare drought on Friday in San Francisco

browntwo.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will declare a drought emergency Friday, sources said, after weeks of intensifying pressure on him to take action.

The declaration, which Brown is scheduled to announce at 10 a.m. in San Francisco, comes during one of the driest winters on record in California, following two dry years that already have left many reservoirs depleted.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno and several state lawmakers began urging Brown last month to declare a drought emergency. Brown appointed a committee to review conditions on the ground.

A formal declaration is considered significant as a public relations tool, increasing awareness of residents and, perhaps, federal officials who could accelerate some relief efforts.

Brown's office said Thursday that Brown would "make a major announcement" in an appearance Friday in San Francisco. The administration declined to disclose the nature of the announcement.

But a declaration has been expected, with Brown indicating repeatedly in recent days that he was close to declaring the emergency. Facing calls for a drought declaration while on a two-day swing through inland California this week, Brown said "nobody should discount the seriousness of what we're facing."

Still, Brown has suggested the significance of a formal declaration may be overstated.

"I'm trying to understand what physically we can do in the face of this drought, and then legally what steps can I take," the Democratic governor told reporters in Bakersfield on Tuesday.

Brown said a drought declaration could be helpful, "but at the end of the day, if it doesn't rain, California's in for real trouble. And the governor, through a declaration, can't make it rain."

Brown managed a drought in the late 1970s, when he was governor before. At the time he called for a 25 percent reduction in personal water use statewide and lobbied Washington for federal aid.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 14. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 16, 2014
Sandra Fluke says women's issues go beyond abortion


Liberal women's rights activist Sandra Fluke urged a roomful of 600 policymakers and advocates in Sacramento today to work on issues beyond abortion access, touting efforts to provide fertility treatment to injured veterans, health care to transgender people and additional payments to women who get pregnant while receiving welfare.

"If you believe in a woman's right to decide it's not the time to have a child, then you also believe in her right to decide that it is time to have a child," Fluke, a lawyer, said during a speech at the California Women's Policy Summit.

The comment was a reference to Senate Bill 899 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, which seeks to overturn a law that forbids women who get pregnant while on welfare from receiving additional payments if she has the baby.

"We should never lose sight of our core fight — the ability to have access to the abortion care that we need," said Fluke, who gained nationwide attention in 2012 when radio commentator Rush Limbaugh called her a slut after she testified before congressional Democrats in favor of health plans covering birth control.

"This doesn't mean turning away from the fights we've historically fought, but it means making sure we are moving to these new frontiers," she said.

At that point Fluke broke out in a sweat, said she was feeling dizzy and sat down. Seated next to her were Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. They tended to Fluke with glasses of water and napkins dipped in ice. After several minutes, Fluke took off her jacket and returned to the podium.

"What did you learn about women's health at this conference?" Fluke said. "That it's important to eat breakfast and lunch."

Then she complained that her high heels were hurting, took off her shoes and offered some advice to the audience before finishing her speech in bare feet:

"Reject ridiculous beauty standards," she said. "Wear shoes that don't make you feel like you're going to fall over when you're giving a speech."

PHOTO: Lawyer and women's health activist Sandra Fluke at a campaign event for Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, in October 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

January 16, 2014
Pass a bond measure for water, California lawmakers urge at rally


Lawmakers representing drought-stricken districts joined with hundreds of their constituents at the state Capitol on Thursday to press for a new water bond measure and the declaration of a drought emergency.

"I see farmers, I see farmworkers; I see people from urban communities and from rural communities, all here today to send one message: that we need water," said Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno.

A procession of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, most representing the Central Valley, took the podium to issue similar pleas. Many called for money to ensure clean drinking water and for more storage capacity, saying it would offset dry years by allowing the state to capture more during years of plentiful rain.

"Additional storage is the key," said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte. "This year's drought simply underscores how critical the situation has become."

A sea of blue signs reading "sin agua=no ay futuro" (no water, no future) or some variation backdropped the speakers, highlighting the California Latino Water Coalition's role in organizing the rally.

"2014 is going to be one of California's worst water supply years in recent history," said Mario Santoyo, director of the coalition. He called the shortfall an issue not just for reduced food production, "but more importantly for those that are here, the issue is that when there is no water, there's no jobs."

January 16, 2014
Condoleezza Rice tapped to address state, national Republicans


Condoleezza Rice is in demand.

The former secretary of state is scheduled as the keynote speaker at two upcoming events, including the California Republican Party's spring convention March 15 in Burlingame. The lunchtime speech comes as GOP Chairman Jim Brulte works to revive the party here and begin chipping away at the California Democratic Party's dominance.

"Secretary Rice is one of our most respected and popular leaders in our country and her personal story is a powerful example of strength, intelligence, and dignity," Brulte said in the announcement Thursday. "This is a terrific opportunity for our party members to spend time with a true pioneer of foreign policy and we're honored to have her join us."

Rice, who teaches at Stanford University, received praise from inside the party for the speech she gave at the Republican National Convention in 2012. She is expected to be a key voice for the party on economic inequality as the midterm elections approach.

On Tuesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee chose Rice as its keynote speaker at the committee's annual fundraising dinner in March. In its statement, NRCC Chairman Greg Walden said Rice's life embodies the American dream.

"From growing up in the Jim Crow-era south to traveling the world as the nation's top diplomat, she is living proof that our country is the land of opportunity," he said. "The House Republican majority is committed to ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to live a full and prosperous life--free from government intrusion. We look forward to hosting her and working with her to grow that majority in 2014."

PHOTO: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to the delegation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 29, 2012. (Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/ MCT)

January 16, 2014
Abel Maldonado confirms he is dropping out of governor's race

maldonadowalking.jpgRepublican Abel Maldonado confirmed Thursday he is dropping out of the race for governor, abandoning a campaign that struggled from the start.

"Today I'm withdrawing my candidacy for governor of California," Maldonado said at a news conference in Santa Maria, his home town. "Now is my time to step away."

Though no Republican is likely to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown in this heavily Democratic state, Maldonado was once thought the likeliest Republican to advance to the runoff against him in November. Many Republicans believed fielding Maldonado, a moderate Latino, could improve the diminished party's standing with Latino voters.

But Maldonado's support for temporary tax increases while in the Legislature alienated many conservatives, and his efforts to raise money fell flat.

Maldonado's campaign announced late Wednesday that he would make a "major announcement" at the news conference, but his advisers declined to comment ahead of the event. The Bee this morning reported he was quitting the race.

In exiting, Maldonado will record his third straight campaign failure. He lost his campaign for a seat in Congress in 2012 and, two years before that, his bid to keep his appointed post as lieutenant governor.

Maldonado's exit leaves Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a more conservative candidate, as the only Republican actively campaigning against Brown.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

As part of his campaign, Maldonado announced last year that he would file a ballot initiative to repeal California's historic prison realignment, the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders to counties.

No initiative has been filed, and Maldonado sidestepped a question about the initiative's future at his news conference Thursday.

"It just needs support, and I hope we can get that in the future," he said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:48 a.m. to include Maldonado's remarks and reporting by Matt Fountain of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo.

Matt Fountain of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Republican Abel Maldonado walks to a news conference in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 16, 2014
Abel Maldonado said to be dropping out of CA governor's race

maldonadopresser.jpgAbel Maldonado, whose campaign for governor sputtered for months and failed to gain the support of Republican donors, has told other Republicans he will drop out of the race today, sources said.

The former lieutenant governor is expected to make the announcement at an 11 a.m. news conference in Santa Maria, his home town.

The announcement will end weeks of speculation about Maldonado's political future. After heavily promoting the re-launch of his campaign last fall, Maldonado has largely faded from public view. It has been nearly two months since he last reported receiving a major contribution.

Maldonado's exit leaves Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a more conservative candidate, as the only Republican actively campaigning against Gov. Jerry Brown.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

No Republican is expected to unseat Brown in this heavily Democratic state, but Maldonado, a moderate, was once considered the likeliest Republican to advance to the November runoff against him.

But Maldonado's campaign was damaged by missteps from the start. Maldonado came under criticism in May when he announced a ballot initiative to repeal California's prison realignment program but highlighted a menacing photograph of an offender who was not released under the program.

Then, after finishing the first half of last year in debt, Maldonado and his original team of advisers split. Maldonado assembled a new group of advisers, including Ron Nehring, the former California Republican Party chairman, and he presented the team at the state party's convention last fall.

Neither Maldonado nor his advisers responded to repeated requests for comment. The candidate said on Twitter late Wednesday, "Jerry Brown is a good Governor; I'd be a better one."

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 16, 2014
AM Alert: California education board finalizes plan for low-income students

RPSOMMERSCHOOLREAd.JPGDebate has raged over how best to regulate spending under the state's new "Local Control Funding Formula," which would allocate millions of extra dollars to school districts to support low-income and English-learning students. Civil rights groups and school officials have been sharply divided, with advocates calling for tight oversight of how the money is used while school districts seek more flexibility.

The plan was championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, but the decision ultimately comes down to the state Board of Education, which will vote on final regulations today during their meeting at the Department of Education on N Street. The hearing begins at 8:30 a.m. and dozens are expected to testify.

The stakes are high, so whatever the outcome, this decision certainly won't be the end of the story. Dan Walters has more on the controversy in his column.

VIDEO: A new bill from Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would ban "affluenza" as a legal defense, but that's just common sense, Dan Walters says.

APP-Y NEW YEAR: 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.

H2-OH NO: As California's water crisis deepens, farmers continue to wait for Gov. Jerry Brown to make the official drought declaration. Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, and a dozen other legislators, mostly from the Central Valley, will gather on the west steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m. to call for a drought declaration and rally in support of placing a water bond on the 2014 ballot.

POWER UP: A star-studded line-up of Sacramento politicians is joining the California Center for Research on Women & Families for today's policy summit on women's health, wealth and power at the Sacramento Convention Center from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Among those slated to speak are Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara; Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles; state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La CaƱada Flintridge; Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens; and Diana S. Dooley, the state secretary of health and human services. The event's keynote speaker is Sandra Fluke, who first made headlines when she testified before Congress that insurance plans should cover birth control.

GOING UNDER: The Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise & the California Economy will hold its fourth and final hearing from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol. State agencies such as the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Coastal Commission will testify on how they are addressing the threat. The committee plans to release a report with legislative recommendations in late February.

IN THE BIG HOUSE: The leaders of California's three public higher education systems--Janet Napolitano of the University of California, Timothy P. White of California State University and Brice Harris of the California Community Colleges--will all be in Washington, D.C., today for President Barack Obama's summit on increasing college access for low-income and disadvantaged students. The event begins at 9 a.m. EST and continues through the day. Follow the action from 3,000 miles away on Twitter with the hashtag #OpportunityForAll.

HEALTH CARE CONCERNS: The Sacramento Press Club hosts former Congressman and California Department of Finance director Tom Campbell for a luncheon at the Capitol Plaza on Ninth Street at noon. Campbell, who is now the dean of Chapman Law School, will discuss how non-profit hospitals are adjusting to the Affordable Care Act and potential new state insurance mandates.

ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY?: The jackpot isn't quite as big as last month's Mega Millions lottery, but candidates for April's local elections will find out the order their names appear on the ballot at 11 a.m., when the Secretary of State's office holds a randomized alphabet drawing.

Editor's Note: This AM Alert was updated at 10:26 a.m. Jan. 16 to correct that the Select Committee on Sea Rise & the California Economy is in the Assembly.

PHOTO: A second-grader reads her assignment in her English language learning class at Cordova Villa Elementary School on Monday, June 10, 2013 in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

January 16, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Affluence is no excuse for bad behavior

Thumbnail image for Gatto.JPGA new bill from Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would outlaw "affluenza" as a legal defense, but that's just common sense, 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: Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D- Los Angeles, leaves a hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.


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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