Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 3, 2014
California lobbying firms made more money in 2013

StatueCrownCoins.jpgLast year proved to be a good one for California firms lobbying state government - their collective income grew by nearly 3 percent over 2012.

Registered lobbying firms in the Golden State brought in $177,359,844 in 2013, according to the latest filings at the Secretary of State's office. That compares with a haul of $172,620,708 the year before.

KP Public Affairs resumed its spot at the top in 2013 after dropping to second-place in 2012. KP's oil industry client -- the Western States Petroleum Association -- spent $4,670,010 on lobbying last year, more than any other interest group registered to lobby California state government. The group worked hard to influence Senate Bill 4 last year, which set new regulations for extracting oil through hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.

Sacramento lobbying firms also benefited last year from expensive fights over changing workers compensation benefits for professional athletes; a push by the North Fork Rancheria to open a casino in Madera; and a proposal to regulate a new kind of drugs called biosimilars, among other industry turf wars.

Here's a look at how much money California lobbying firms have made over the last decade.

And here's a look at the 20 firms that brought in the most money in 2013.

Below are the 20 interest groups that spent the most money on lobbying in 2013:

PHOTO: Coins sit inside the crown of a statue of Queen Isabella in the rotunda of the State Capitol on May 17, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

February 3, 2014
California's school money fight heads to new venue

kirst_blog.jpgThe Office of Administrative Law is an obscure branch of the governor's office that was created more than three decades ago, during Jerry Brown's first governorship, to ensure that rules issued by state agencies comply with the law.

That function makes it the next venue for opponents of the state Board of Education's newly adopted rules governing the expenditure of billions of extra dollars meant to enhance the educations of poor and "English learner" students.

It's Brown's pet education reform and he supported the state board's embrace of "flexibility," giving local school districts leeway in determining how best to spend the extra money on the targeted kids, who are nearly 60 percent of the state's six million K-12 students.

However, critics - civil rights advocates and business-backed reform groups - say that the flexibility could mean that the additional spending is diverted into other uses, such as raises for teachers. And one of the opposition groups, EdVoice, is asking the Office of Administrative Law to declare that the new rules - which are technically emergency regulations - violate the authorizing legislation enacted last year.

EdVoice has submitted a letter to the OAL, detailing how it believes that the state school board acted beyond its statutory authority.

"The unlawful elements must be cured and ambiguities must be resolved within the formal rulemaking process," Ed Voice president Bill Lucia told the OAL.

PHOTO: Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 3, 2014
Jerry Brown blasts bill as 'divisive intrusion' in drought

brownfresnopresser.jpgGov. Jerry Brown lashed out Monday against a water bill moving quickly through the Republican-controlled House, calling it "an unwelcome and divisive intrusion" into California's effort to manage the state's drought.

In a letter to the ranking members of the House Natural Resources Committee, the Democratic governor amplified opposition already registered by his administration to the bill, which has pitted irrigation interests in the Valley against environmental concerns.

"H.R. 3964 is an unwelcome and divisive intrusion into California's efforts to manage this severe crisis," Brown wrote. "It would override state laws and protections, and mandate that certain water interests come out ahead of others. It falsely suggests the promise of water relief when that is simply not possible given the scarcity of water supplies."

Brown said the bill would also "re-open old water wounds undermining years of progress toward reaching a collaborative long-term solution to our water needs."

Republicans have said the bill, which would undo a San Joaquin River restoration program, would improve water access for Valley farms.

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

February 3, 2014
California only mediocre in use of Internet

Google.JPGCalifornia, the birthplace of the personal computer, is only mediocre in its Internet use vis-à-vis other states, a new Census Bureau report reveals.

California's 35.9 million residents over the age of 3 are less likely to access the Internet from home or other locations than those in other states.

California's home access rate in 2012 was 68.5 percent, under the national average of 69.1 percent, while its non-home access rate, 73.5, is below the 74.7 percent national rate.

Only in a third category, living in a home with Internet access, does California's 81.3 percent surpass the national rate of 79.3 percent.

The Census Bureau survey found that Oregon had the highest percentage of residents with Internet access at home, 87.9 percent, while Mississippi was lowest at 64.8 percent.

California's relatively mediocre use of the Internet may reflect its racial and ethnic complexity and wide income disparities. The survey found that home Internet use was highest among Asians at 85 percent, followed by whites at 78.6 percent, with use by Latinos (64.5 percent) and blacks (61.9 percent) much lower.

Likewise, 91.7 percent of Americans with college degrees accessed the Internet from home, dropping down to as low as 39.3 percent of those with less than high school educations.

Therefore, states with large white majorities, such as Oregon, and/or relatively high levels of education had the highest rates of Internet access and use.

Educators have tabbed Internet access as a key ingredient in overcoming what they call the "achievement gap" between white and Asian students on one end and black and Latino youngsters on the other. Los Angeles Unified and some other school districts with high levels of non-white students are trying to overcome the Internet gap by issuing tablets to their students.

PHOTO: In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, file photo, Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman, speaks during a press conference in New York. Associated Press/Bebeto Matthews.

February 3, 2014
AM Alert: Water affordability flows onto legislative agenda


Good morning from drought-stricken California, where the lack of precipitation has become dire enough that officials on Friday nixed further water deliveries to southern users for the first time in the state's history.

That came the day after a pair of Central Valley Republicans introduced yet another water bond measure, the fourth circulating this session. As a lack of rain continues to parch the state — shriveling the livelihoods of cattle ranchers, displacing birds and disrupting fishing — lawmakers have amplified their call for a water bond measure on the 2014 ballot.

This morning, water affordability - specifically, the rates various users pay - will be in the spotlight during a joint hearing of the Assembly committees on Utilities And Commerce and Aging And Long-term Care from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m in room 437.

It's a relevant topic considering concerns that the burden of paying for the other big-ticket water item on the agenda - Gov. Jerry Brown's Delta tunnels project - could fall heavily on ratepayers.

VIDEO: A worsening drought means intensifying water politics, Dan Walters says.

RAIL REACTION: The legal fight over high-speed rail keeps chugging along. The California Supreme Court sent a challenge over the project's financing back to an appeals court last week, and today is the deadline for the Central Valley landowners suing the state to file briefs. The state's deadline comes next Monday.

GUNG HAY FAT CHOY: In honor of the Lunar New Year, the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus Foundation and the Asian Pacific Islander Capitol Association are co-hosting a celebration at Frank Fat's this afternoon. Potential attendees include both Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles.

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

February 3, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Less water means more water politics

delta_aerial.JPGFriday's major announcement on water deliveries is just the latest major policy consequence coming out of California's drought, 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: Aerial photos of the region to be affected by the Delta water tunnels and intakes in the Courtland area on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Highway 160 and Randall Island Road are seen near the top of the frame. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton


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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