Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 30, 2014
Maria Shriver returns to Sacramento to discuss women and poverty

Shriver_SheShares.JPGAfter more than three years away, former First Lady of California Maria Shriver returned to Sacramento Thursday to deliver a new report on women and poverty to the governor and legislators.

Her afternoon kicked off with a discussion of the report's findings at the California Museum, attended by dozens of the capital's most powerful women, including Secretary of State Debra Bowen and U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento.

Shriver emphasized that women's empowerment efforts must broaden from the "1 percent" and "talking about getting the corner office" to include the one-third of American women living in financial insecurity.

"They are looking for some help to give their family a life that's better than theirs," she said during the 45-minute conversation, part of Dewey Square Group's quarterly She Shares speaker series.

Calling on the government to get creative in how it helps women, Shriver said her work on this subject is largely influenced by her father, Sargent Shriver, who headed the War on Poverty in the 1960s. Shriver affectionately referred to him as "Daddy" as she spoke about initiatives like Head Start and low-income legal services.

When they're funded, Shriver said, "Those programs work."

Even as she spoke about raising a family, Shriver conspicuously avoided mentioning estranged husband Arnold Schwarzenegger. His name only came up once, when Shriver urged more bipartisan cooperation in the state and federal governments.

Having grown up a Kennedy, she joked, "I think the first Republican I met was Arnold."

With veteran U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman announcing his retirement earlier in the day, buzz also surrounded whether Shriver, a resident of his Los Angeles district, might enter the family business and run for his seat.

"No. Nope," she told The Bee after the event.

PHOTO: Maria Shriver meets event attendees before speaking about women and poverty at the California Museum on January 30, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff

January 30, 2014
Darrell Steinberg will not ask Rod Wright to leave California Senate


California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said today that he is removing Sen. Rod Wright from his position as chair of the Senate's Governmental Organization committee but is not asking the legislator found guilty this week of eight felonies to leave office.

"Where we stand today, there is no final conviction, but a jury verdict," Steinberg said. "Unless and until there is a final conviction for a felony I do not believe it is appropriate or necessary to expel Senator Wright or ask him to resign."

Steinberg said Wright plans to appeal Tuesday's convictions, in which a Los Angeles jury found him guilty of eight felonies for not living in the Senate district he represents. He said Wright asked to be removed from chairing the committee that oversees California's gambling and alcohol laws.

"What I'm trying to do, what I'm endeavoring to do, is to balance the fact that he has not been fully and finally convicted, with respecting the fact that a jury of his peers have rendered their part of the judgment, and to suggest a course of action that recognizes both of those things," Steinberg said.

Video: Sen. Steinberg talks about Rod Wright's future:

View video from any device

PHOTO: Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, shown inside the Capitol in February 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

January 30, 2014
Senate passes measure asking voters to repeal Prop. 209

Hernandez.JPGDemocrats in the California Senate used their two-thirds supermajority Thursday to pass a measure that would ask voters if they want to repeal the state's ban on race- and gender-based preferences in government hiring and contracting and university admissions.

With the bare minimum number of votes needed - 27 - the upper house passed and sent to the Assembly Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, which would ask voters if they want to repeal provisions that became law 18 years ago with the passage of Proposition 209.

The measure by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, prompted lively debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Senate floor. Democrats argued that California's preferences ban has hampered opportunities for Latino and African Americans in the state to get into college and ultimately achieve economic mobility. Republicans argued that the way to make college attainable for more students of color is to improve the K-12 schools in their communities.

"Why aren't we challenging the education system in California, which in many cases is doing a terrible job," said Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, adding that charter schools and vouchers would allow parents more choices.

Sen. Kevin de León, the Los Angeles Democrat who is in line to become the next President Pro Tem of the Senate, countered that California's earlier use of preferences advanced his opportunities in life.

"If it weren't for affirmative action, I,Kevin de León, wouldn't be here today," he said.

PHOTO: Senator Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

January 30, 2014
GOP senators propose $9.2 billion water bond

Folsom.JPGCalifornia politicians grappling with a drought now have a third proposal spelling out which water projects should be placed in a bond on the November ballot.

Republican state Sens. Anthony Cannella of Ceres and Andy Vidak of Hanford today announced a proposal to put a $9.2 billion bond on the ballot. That's nearly $2 billion less than the bond legislators approved in 2009 but have delayed placing on the ballot.

Two Democrats are also working on water bond proposals that would cost less than the 2009 measure: Assemblyman Anthony Rendon of Lakewood and Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis.

The Republican proposal announced today prioritizes water storage and clean drinking water. It eliminates funding originally proposed for water supply in San Diego and Maywood; University of California research on climate change; and a raft of conservation and watershed restoration projects throughout the state.

"Water is life, it's food, it's jobs," Vidak said during a Capitol press conference this morning. "It's a crying shame to let precious water wash out to sea."

PHOTO: Visitors at Folsom Lake experience the long walk to the shoreline in 2011 due to the low water level. Lack of snow and rain has delayed the filling of the local reservoir. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

January 30, 2014
VIDEO: Parliamentary game gave Rod Wright a taste of his own zingers


One of the most entertaining orators in the state Capitol is the Democratic state senator who was convicted Tuesday of eight felonies for not living in the Los Angeles-area legislative district he represents.

Sen. Rod Wright -- who routinely speaks out during debates over vocational education, gun rights, energy policy and gambling -- often peppers his testimony with the kind of zingers you don't usually hear from elected officials. He talked about the "po-po" in discussions about the police; spoke out against bills he believed were "robbing the hood"; and often argued something was obvious by saying, "even Ray Charles can see that..."

Wright's colleagues playfully tossed the one-liners back at him on the last night of the legislative session last year, as he presented Senate Bill 470 around 9 p.m. Here's a video clip of the Wright-themed round of legislative bingo, in which lawmakers try to insert a list of certain words into their floor speeches, including quips from Senators Ron Calderon, Lois Wolk, Fran Pavley and Ben Hueso.

PHOTO: Sen. Holly Mitchell covers her ears jokingly as Sen. Roderick Wright talks to her and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson earlier this month. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 30, 2014
Jerry Brown missed voting in a couple elections, too

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's political spokesmen took to Twitter to trash Neel Kashkari when the Republican's inconsistent voting record gained broader attention in recent days, and they jumped again when the shortcomings of another candidate, Tim Donnelly, came to light.

"The governor's been a regular voter his entire life," spokesman Dan Newman said, "and the Republicans haven't."

Both Kashkari and Donnelly failed to vote in many elections after turning 18, according to voter records, though they have voted in most presidential and gubernatorial contests in California.

Brown's voting record over the past two decades is far superior. But not perfect.

The Democratic governor has voted in 28 of 30 elections since the mid 1990s, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

One election Brown missed, in 1997, involved a tax for emergency medical services.

The other was more historic. Brown was mayor of Oakland when Audie Bock upset Elihu Harris, a former mayor, to win an Assembly seat in 1999. Bock became the first Green Party candidate in the nation to hold a state office. According to Alameda County officials, Brown didn't cast a vote.

Newman said Brown's recollection is that he did vote in that election.

Regardless, Newman said, in comparing the candidates' records "you've confirmed the stark contrast."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

January 30, 2014
Lieu, Pavley and Bloom considering run for Henry Waxman's House seat


Veteran Los Angeles Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's retirement is likely to set politicians scrambling for his 33rd Congressional District.

As was the case a few weeks ago when longtime Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said he would step down, those entertaining a run could emerge from the California Legislature.

Lawmakers living in Waxman's heavily Democratic district are Sens. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and Assemblyman Richard Bloom, the former mayor of Santa Monica.

Pavley said she this morning she is considering a run but hesitates to leave the state Senate, where Democrats hold a super-majority, for Congress, where Democrats are in the minority and may continue to be.

"I'll think about it, but my expertise is in state issues," Pavley said. "It's a wonderful district to represent. I know the people and the issues very well. But it's difficult times in Congress right now."

Bloom did not rule out a run but said he is still absorbing the news of Waxman's departure.

"I am considering it," Bloom told the Bee. "This news is very, very fresh, and I haven't even had a chance to have more than a 30-second conversation with my wife. So we'll be tossing this idea around over the weekend."

Lieu sent an email to supporters saying he is "seriously looking at running" for Waxman's seat and will make a formal announcement tomorrow. The email pointed out that Lieu's 28th Senate District includes over 80 percent of Waxman's congressional district.

"This morning I called Congressmember Henry Waxman and congratulated him on his remarkable service to our nation. Congressmember Waxman set the platinum standard for representing the best interests of his constituents as well as the overall quality of life for Californians and our nation," Lieu said in the statement. "Henry Waxman is a legend, not just in California, but in America."

33rd Congressional District

Rick Taylor, a political consultant for Zev Yaroslavsky, said the veteran county supervisor is weighing a run and is likely to make a decision soon.

"I think he's always wanted to be a congressman," Taylor said.

"If it was 20 years ago, I know the answer," he added. "Today, he's got to contemplate it."

Waxman's district, which runs along the coast taking in Malibu, Beverly Hills and south through Marina Del Rey and Torrance, is 44 percent Democratic and 27 percent Republican. It includes a high number of no-party preference voters.

Bill Bloomfield, the independent candidate who gave Waxman a tough race in 2012, is seriously considering running.

The list of other possible contenders is long and could complicate the battle for another highly-coveted prize in Los Angeles: a seat on the county Board of Supervisors. Do Sheila Kuehl or Bobby Shriver duck out of that race and take their shot at Congress?

Former City Controller Wendy Greuel, who waged a bruising race for mayor against Eric Garcetti could contend for the seat. As could termed-out Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who three years ago failed to make the runoff in a special election to replace Jane Harman for a South Bay-based congressional seat.

Laurel Rosenhall and Jeremy B. White of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Bloom, Taylor and .Lieu

PHOTO: Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., questions witnesses during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/ Manuel Balce Ceneta)

January 30, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown, Senate GOP offer plans for dealing with drought

dry_field.JPGSacramento's record winter stretch without rain has finally come to an end, but the California drought marches on -- and with it, California politicians' efforts to find a solution.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who yesterday spoke with President Barack Obama about the drought, continues his trip south with a visit to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in Los Angeles. Meeting with more than a dozen water leaders from across the region, he will discuss water management actions and the need for all Californians to conserve water.

Back in Sacramento, state Senators Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, are planning to announce new legislation to address the water crisis during a press conference in Room 3191 of the State Capitol at 8:45 a.m.

VIDEO: Until the state deals with its massive unfunded liabilities, calling the budget balanced is wishful thinking, Dan Walters says.

SHRIVER STRIKES BACK: Former First Lady of California Maria Shriver returns to Sacramento today to discuss recent findings from The Shriver Report on the financial security of women in America. The conversation, part of Dewey Square Group's "She Shares" series, takes place at the California Museum on O Street at 12:30 p.m. and will be streamed live. In her first visit back to the capital since estranged husband Arnold Schwarzenegger left office in 2011, Shriver is also expected to deliver her report to the governor's office and meet with members of the Legislature.

TUNNELS TIME: Those interested in learning more about the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan can attend an informational open house from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand on J Street. The events includes exhibits and will have project team members on hand for one-on-one discussions about the draft proposal and the draft environmental impact report, which were released last month.

PRISON POLICY: The Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review holds a hearing on the cost of incarceration and prisoner rehabilitation at 10:30 a.m. in Room 4203 of the State Capitol. Among those slated to testify is former Orange County Assemblyman Chuck Devore, now the vice president of policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.

LUNCHTIME TALKS: A new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California examines public opinion of Brown's 2014-15 budget proposal and a wide range of other fiscal issues, immigration and health care policy. PPIC research associate Sonja Petek will discuss the results at noon at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on 11th Street.

How is California doing compared to other states and countries in providing accessible, high-quality and affordable health care? Dr. Patrick Romano, a professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine, will address that question at noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: Fields planted with forage seeds wait for rain at the Van Vleck Ranch in Sacramento County on January 23, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

January 30, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Assembly seeks solution for teacher pension debts

CalSTRS_building.JPGUntil the state figures out how to deal with its massive unfunded liabilities, any claim of a balanced budget is wishful thinking, 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: A bicyclist keeps her sweater handy with dark clouds looming as she rides in the shadow of the CalSTRS headquarters building on Riverwalk Park in West Sacramento on September 30, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo


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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