Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 27, 2014
Farm bill deal keeps California rules intact

By Michael Doyle
McClatchy Washington Bureau

California can keep its strict animal welfare standards after all under a long-awaited farm bill finished by congressional negotiators early Monday evening.

As they wrapped up the overdue legislation, lawmakers dropped a controversial House provision that would have blocked California and other states from imposing stricter animal confinement rules. The decision clears the way for more California lawmakers to support the multi-billion dollar bill that funds both crop subsidies and food stamps.

"This is a victory for state's rights," Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., declared Monday, adding that that the omitted animal welfare provision "would have led to a race to the bottom for agriculture production laws nationwide...and imperiled the fate of California egg producers."

Two years late, the farm bill now set for House approval on Wednesday spans 959 pages and authorizes myriad agriculture, conservation, research and nutrition programs. Once a relatively routine legislative exercise conducted every five years, this latest farm bill has until now stymied House Republicans who had initially pushed for much steeper cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

The final farm bill cuts the supplemental feeding program by roughly $8 billion over 10 years, compared to a $39 billion cut originally passed by House Republicans. The savings primarily come from tightening a current system that has tied nutrition program eligibility to receipt of a very small amount of fuel aid.

"We're still providing support for those who are most in need," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said Monday. "I think, given all the difficulties we've faced, and while there are things I wish were different, that this bill seems like something I can support."

January 27, 2014
Second try for bill to extend deadlines for sex abuse lawsuits


A three-page veto message from Gov. Jerry Brown isn't stopping Sen. Jim Beall from his effort to allow victims of molestation more time to sue their abusers.

The San Jose Democrat said today that he plans to introduce two new bills on the issue later this week, despite the unusually long veto message his SB 131 got from the governor last year. In rejecting Beall's measure to extend the statute of limitations for civil suits against abusers, Brown wrote that limiting the window of time for seeking retribution goes back to Roman law and is an issue of basic fairness.

SB 131 was one of the most heavily lobbied bills of 2013, with the political arm of the Catholic Church working hard to defeat it. Opponents argued the bill unfairly went after abusers in the private sector while not allowing victims of public institutions any additional opportunity to sue. Supporters said the extra time would allow people who had suppressed memories to seek justice when they are recovered.

Beall said his new bills -- one addressing criminal law, the other civil law -- include some major changes he hopes will satisfy the governor. Instead of opening up an opportunity for past victims to sue their abusers, the new bills would address future cases. The bill changing the civil statute of limitations would apply to both public and private entities, and change the current age cut-off from 26 to 40 for victims to sue.

"Hopefully he'll find more agreement with these two bills that look forward prospectively in terms of the statute of limitation laws, similar to Minnesota, Illinois, Florida and other states, as opposed to the previous bill, which looked backwards," Beall said.

"These two bills both apply to any and all people, not public versus private. That issue has been dealt with in these two bills."

PHOTO: Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose, in the Senate chambers on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 27, 2014
California health exchange locks down six-figure consultants

ANA.JPGThe state's health insurance exchange is handing out six-figure contracts to a pair of consultants and a new marketing director that officials say will enhance the sustainability and help expand the program.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the consulting contracts would give the agency the "the exceptional staff and resources we need to make history."

Jeffrey Rideout will stay on as senior medical adviser on a one-year contract worth more than $411,000. A consultant in the areas of clinical quality, network management, delivery system reform and clinical and network analytics, Rideout previously served in senior executive and chief medical officer positions with Cisco Systems and Blue Shield of California.

"I think Jeff really has provided great leadership to us partnering with consumer advocates, with clinicians, with out health plans, really about how do we make sure that our consumers get the best quality care possible," Lee said last week.

Rideout is on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business. He also works as a consulting professor at Stanford University in the Department of Health Research and Policy. Terms of his previous contract were not immediately available.

Ana Matosantos, who until recently served as the state's finance director, will advise state exchange leadership and staff in "financial sustainability and budgeting issues, and evaluation analytics," according to a news release.

Matosantos, who will earn $20,000 a month on a six-month contract, served in the administrations of Govs. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger. She previously worked in the California Health and Human Services Agency and for the state Senate.

"There's few people as sharp as Ana in understanding not just numbers but how to put the numbers in context," Lee said.

To help oversee tens of millions in advertising and dollars, Garrison Rios was named director of communications and marketing. Rios was a director for Monterey Park-based Care1st Health Plan. At Covered California, he will lead the a newly created position in charge of planning, monitoring and controlling communications, public relations and marketing, Lee said.

Rios is tentatively scheduled to start Feb. 3, and will earn $165,000 a year.

PHOTO: Ana Matosantos, then the state finance director, converses with Natalie Cardenas of Anthem Blue Cross after Matosantos spoke to business leaders about Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal on Jan 13, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 27, 2014
California school-construction needs as high as $12 billion, subcommittee reports

cityschools.JPGCalifornia needs as much as $12 billion in additional school-building money and almost $5 billion in modernization money, according to estimates in a report to the state board that oversees school-construction dollars.

Voters have approved about $35 billion in school-construction and modernization bonds since 1998, most recently in 2006. But the money is nearly exhausted amid talk of crafting another school bond for a future ballot.

Officials, though, have called for changes to the state School Facility Program that awards bond funding. Last Wednesday's report to the State Allocation Board by the subcommittee on the school facility program included recommendations to discourage the use of bond money for portable classrooms, to require districts to commit to spend money maintaining bond-funded buildings, and to conduct an inventory of all school facilities.

The report does not suggest a specific dollar amount for a future school bond. The state needs anywhere from $6 billion to $12.3 billion in school-construction dollars, according to the report, and about $4.7 billion in modernization funding.

Gov. Jerry Brown also has raised concerns about the cost to the state of borrowing to build schools. In his budget proposal earlier this month, Brown wrote that a revamped school-construction program should "avoid an unsustainable reliance on state debt issuance that characterizes the current school facilities program."

The subcommittee included representatives of the Brown administration, schools superintendent Tom Torlakson, Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who leads the Assembly Education Committee.

Buchanan is crafting school-bond legislation for the November ballot that will reflect some of the report's recommendations.

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

January 27, 2014
California court denies law license for Stephen Glass


Stephen Glass, a former journalist whose career came crashing down after he was found to be a serial fabricator, has had his quest for a law license stymied by the California Supreme Court.

Glass in his 20s wrote acclaimed stories for The New Republic and Rolling Stone, repeatedly concocting events in more than 40 articles during the late 1990s.

A person must be of good moral character to practice law in the state. After a state bar court hearing four years ago, Glass presented several character witnesses and introduced evidence regarding a lengthy course of psychotherapy along with his own testimony and other evidence.

Many of those efforts, stretching from the time he was exposed in 1998 to the hearing in 2010, "seem to have been directed primarily at advancing his own well-being rather than returning something to the community," the justices wrote in their 35-page decision Monday.

"His evidence did not establish that he engaged in truly exemplary conduct over an extended period," the decision said. "We conclude that on this record he has not sustained his heavy burden of demonstrating rehabilitation and fitness for the practice of law."

The story of Glass' fall was depicted in the movie "Shattered Glass."

PHOTO: Stephen Glass, former writer for The New Republic, is seen in this video framegrab released by CBS' "60 Minutes, " Wednesday, May 7, 2003, in New York. Next week Simon & Schuster will publish Glass' "The Fabulist, "an autobiographical - but invented - account of his rise and fall at The New Republic. The magazine fired Glass in 1998 after determining there were fabrications in 27 of the 41 articles he had written. AP Photo/ CBS News

January 27, 2014
AM Alert: With deadline looming, a busy week of floor sessions

Assembly_chamber.JPGIt's do-or-die time for legislation introduced in 2013.

Many of last year's holdover bills met their demise last week when they failed to advance from committee, and this Friday, they face another major deadline to get out of their house of origin.

As a result, the Legislature will be in overdrive this week. Though they typically only meet on Mondays and Thursdays, both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled up to four floor sessions to get through everything. About 30 2013 bills are pending in the Senate, while the Assembly has more than 50.

The Senate plans to meet Monday at 2 p.m., Tuesday at 10 a.m., Wednesday at 10 a.m. and Thursday at 9 a.m. The Assembly has scheduled floor sessions for Monday at noon, Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Thursday at 9 a.m., with a Friday session on call if necessary.

VIDEO: New term limits and a majority freshman Assembly are leading to big changes in the Legislature, Dan Walters says.

GRAND OLD PARTY: The California Republican Party hosts its annual back-to-session bash tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Ella on K Street. Tickets start at $2,500. Here's hoping Coolio makes an appearance!

CUT THE RIBBON: And the soirees continue. Elizabeth Emken -- who ran against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012 and is one of three Republican challengers to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove -- hosts the grand opening of her campaign headquarters in Rancho Cordova at 5:30 p.m. Assembly members Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, and Don Wagner, R-Irvine, are scheduled to make an appearance at the event. Bera's 7th Congressional District is expected to be among the state's most competitive House races this year; Bera won with 51 percent of the vote in 2012.

NEW JOB: Congratulations to Elizabeth Stitt, former senior press aide to Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez, who starts work as a consultant with public affairs firm Swanson Communications today.

SNEAK PEEK: Why wait for the morning paper? We give you an early look at Sacramento Bee editorials and cartoons with Capitol Alert Insider Edition. You can download the app for iPad or iPhone here.

PHOTO: Twenty-eight of the new Assembly Members undergo orientation inside the Assembly Chambers on Nov. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

January 27, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: New leadership not Legislature's only big change

de_Leon_Wright.JPGWith Southern California politicians set to take control of both houses, new term limits and a majority freshman Assembly, the California Legislature could begin to look very different, 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: Senators Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles talks with Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood during legislative informational hearings on gun laws on Jan. 29, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua


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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