Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 11, 2014
Joyce Kennard, California Supreme Court Justice, to retire

Kennard1.jpgCalifornia Supreme Court Associate Justice Joyce Kennard has announced her intention to leave the state's highest court later this year.

Kennard, 72, plans to resign effective April 5, giving Gov. Jerry Brown his second opportunity to fill a California Supreme Court vacancy after having appointed Justice Goodwin Liu in 2011.

Brown's selection to replace Kennard will be subject to confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments - a body composed of State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Justice Joan Dempsey Klein - and would then go before voters during the following election. The successor would be up for a potential re-election in 2018, at the end of Kennard's current term.

The April 5 resignation date will mark the 25th anniversary of Gov. George Deukmejian originally appointing Kennard, back in 1989. She subsequently won re-election in 1990, 1994 and 2006.

"The state and its people have been very well served by Justice Kennard and her independence and intellectual fortitude have left a lasting mark on the Court," Brown said in a statement.

PHOTO: Associate Justice Joyce Kennard, in 2008. Associated Press/Paul Sakuma

February 11, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly in 'heaven' at Stockton gun store

donnellygunstore.jpgSTOCKTON - Tim Donnelly found his paradise at a gun store Tuesday.

"I feel like I've died and gone to heaven," the Republican candidate for governor said as he walked in.

At the counter, among the firearms and mounted animal heads at Outdoor Sportsman in Stockton, the Twin Peaks assemblyman handled a 12-gauge shotgun and admired an antique rifle.

"Oh, my God," he said.

Donnelly lingered at the counter, and he shook his head when he saw a customer filling out paperwork required to buy a gun in California.

"That's what you ought to be filming," the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights advocate told his videographer. "Look at all the paperwork you've got to do to exercise your Second Amendment rights."

It wasn't until Donnelly introduced himself to the store owner, Eric Johnston, that the candidate's own history with guns came up. Donnelly pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor gun charges related to the discovery of a loaded firearm in his carry-on bag at Ontario International Airport.

Donnelly, who has said he forgot the gun was in his bag, told Johnston that all the press surrounding that incident may be beneficial.

"If you're a single-issue voter on the gun issue," Donnelly said, "you have now had my message communicated to you very effectively."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 11, 2014
California solitary confinement changes questioned at hearing


Lawmakers on Tuesday cast doubt on proposed changes to how California prison officials identify gang members and place them in solitary confinement.

The issue burst into prominence during a widespread hunger strike this summer, the third in two years, during which convicts and their allies liken prolonged physical isolation to torture.

Isolated cells are used to punish inmates who commit violent offenses while in prison and, more controversially, to separate purported gang members from other prisoners. Advocates for prisoners call the technique inhumane and psychologically devastating, particularly the use of indefinite terms that can leave offenders in solitary cells for decades.

Corrections officials have touted a new pilot program allowing inmates to ease their way out of solitary confinement, and regulations recently submitted to the Office of Administrative Law would allow the pilot to be applied throughout the prison system.

But legislators seemed skeptical that the changes would substantially reduce the practice of walling off inmates in the "Security Housing Units," or SHU, that exist in four state prisons.

"What we've set up here is something that's more complicated than the existing policy, it changes some names," said Senate Public Safety Committee chair Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, but "I am not sure it changes the general thrust of what's happening."

Hancock's Assembly Public Safety Committee counterpart, Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, also questioned the rubric officials use to gauge gang affiliation based on "source items" like legal documents, written notes and tattoos.

"To this eye, there's a vagueness," said Ammiano, adding in regards to the proposed new system that "a lot of it is lip service."

Later in the day, Ammiano announced a bill that would cap "administrative" terms in the SHU - those not related to a specific incident, which would include stays stemming from gang affiliation - at 36 months. The legislation would also allow inmates to exit more quickly by accumulating good behavior credits.

February 11, 2014
Bill would expand, alter California health insurance board


Citing poor customer service and struggles to enroll Latinos, California lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation to expand and alter the makeup of the state health insurance exchange's five-member board of directors.

"Accountability starts at the top," said Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona. "After almost three years on the job, it is indisputable this board of directors needs additional expertise to provide oversight of staff in areas where improvement is needed."

Torres and members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus have been among the most vocal critics of Covered California's efforts to outreach to young people and Latinos.

Senate Bill 972 would expand the board to seven members and add four new types of experience to the list of expertise areas: Marketing of health insurance products, information technology system management, management information systems and consumer service delivery research and best practices.

Torres said board members must currently demonstrate command of only two of the following areas: Individual health care coverage, small employer health care coverage, health benefits plan administration, health care finance, administering a public or private health care delivery system and purchasing health plan coverage.

February 11, 2014
Tim Donnelly criticizes party politics, proposes high-speed rail money for water

donnellylockeford.jpgLODI - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Wednesday that the state should ask voters to use money earmarked for California's troubled high-speed rail project to instead build dams and other water infrastructure.

"That is something that I think would be wise, and I think there's broad support for that," he told reporters after an appearance in Lodi.

Donnelly said the state should also explore water desalinization.

Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the other main Republican bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, have both criticized high-speed rail. Donnelly also went after Brown's $25 billion water project, calling it "flat-out insane."

Donnelly said the water project, in which Brown proposes building two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south, would result in a "massive disturbance of the ecosystem."

Before arriving in Lodi, Donnelly spoke to about 20 supporters in the parking lot of Young's Payless Supermarket on a foggy stretch of highway east of the city, in Lockeford.

The tea party favorite criticized the Democratic and Republican parties, saying "the parties haven't served us well."

He said his grandparents were Democrats. Though the party has been "hijacked by Marxist progressives," he said, partisanship only prevents Republicans from getting Democratic votes he said are "up for grabs."

Donnelly, nearing the end of a 10-day push through parts of central and northern California, did not mention Kashkari, but a supporter brought up Brown.

"What do you think your chances are against him?" she asked.

Said Donnelly: "No, you should be asking, 'What are his chances against me?'"

PHOTO: Republican Tim Donnelly speaks with supporters at a rally in Lockeford on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 11, 2014
Kevin Sloat fallout hits California Secretary of State race


The political fallout from the record-breaking fine of lobbyist Kevin Sloat has begun, with a candidate for Secretary of State calling on an opponent to return money he has raised from clients of the embattled lobbyist.

Sloat reached a settlement with the Fair Political Practices Commission to pay a $133,500 fine for contributing liquor, cigar and other items toward lavish political fundraisers in his home. The hospitality amounted to non-monetary campaign contributions beyond what the law allows lobbyists to give.

Sen. Alex Padilla, who is running for Secretary of State, was one of 37 politicians who received warning letters from the FPPC for holding political fundraisers at Sloat's home that included non-monetary contributions from Sloat that they were unaware of. The fine against Sloat and the list of politicians who benefited from his hospitality were made public by the FPPC on Monday in a document that says Sloat hosted a fundraiser for Padilla and then-Sen. Michael Rubio in June 2011.

One of Padilla's opponents, fellow Democrat Derek Cressman, seized on Monday's news by sending a letter to Padilla asking him to give back the money related to Sloat.

"I am writing to ask that you return any campaign contributions you have received from events at Mr. Sloat's home or from any of the clients of Sloat Higgens Jensen & Associates," Cressman's letter to Padilla says.

February 11, 2014
Democrat Kris Johnson drops challenge to Tom McClintock


Democrat Kris Johnson has suspended her challenge to Rep. Tom McClintock, saying she was injured a week ago and "cannot fulfill the rigors of a sustained campaign."

The departure leaves McClintock, R-Elk Grove, without a Democratic challenger. The filing deadline is March 7.

"It truly breaks my heart to drop out of this campaign, with hundreds of supporters reaching out to me as soon as my candidacy was announced," Johnson wrote in a message to supporters. "I am hopeful another candidate will quickly step forward to take my place to serve as a true representative of the people and resources of our district, which has not been well represented by the incumbent for over five years."

Johnson, a Granite Bay businesswoman, launched her campaign for the Republican-heavy district less than a month ago, criticizing GOP representatives for their role in the partial government shutdown and for repeated votes to repeal all or parts of the federal health care law.

She faced an uphill climb in a district that's 45 percent Republican, 30 percent Democratic and 21 percent independent. Taking in portions of Roseville; it extends from Lake Tahoe past Yosemite National Park.

While not life threatening, Johnson said her injury would require a long rehabilitation period.

"For those who contributed to my campaign, we are returning the full amount of your donation," Johnson said in the note. "Thank you for your support, both emotional and financial."

4th Congressional District

PHOTO: Kris Johnson for Congress

February 11, 2014
AM Alert: Prison officials, activists gather at Capitol over solitary confinement

CALIFORNIAPRISONSOLITARY3.JPGPrisoners across California drew widespread attention last summer when they embarked upon a two-month long hunger strike to protest what they considered excessively cruel use of solitary cells. During a legislative hearing in October, prison officials defended the tactic as a crucial strategy for controlling gang activity.

However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has also been working on a "step-down" program that would allow inmates to be released from their solitary placement. A follow-up hearing on that proposed reform, jointly hosted by the Legislature's public safety committees, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. Among those slated to testify are George Giurbino and Suzan Hubbard, the former and current directors of the CDCR's division of adult institutions.

The hearing has also attracted the attention of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, a community organization from the Bay Area that considers solitary confinement to be "cruel, inhumane and tortuous." The group will hold a rally at noon on the west steps of the Capitol before heading to meetings with legislators.

VIDEO: The San Diego mayor's race is the first big election of 2014, Dan Walters says.

ELDERLY ABUSE: Following media investigations last year that revealed inadequate oversight of workers at many assisted-living facilities, the state Senate and Assembly will hold two joint hearings today to review safety regulations. The first, from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 4203 of the Capitol, examines the role of the state Department of Social Services in licensing and inspecting assisted-living homes for seniors. A second hearing, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 4203, focuses on employees who work in the homes.

BRIDGE BLUNDERS: After last month's revelations about a possible cover-up of construction problems on the new stretch of the Bay Bridge, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will hold another hearing on reforming Caltrans at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the committee, has previously blamed Caltrans' "insular culture" for the construction issues.

DROUGHT DILEMMA: As legislators seek solutions for dealing with California's drought, a host of water bond bills are making their way through the Capitol. One from state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is scheduled to be heard before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee at 9:30 a.m. in Room 112. The committee will also discuss broader priorities for water policy and using existing resources more efficiently.

PUBLIC PAY: The Sacramento Bee's state worker salary database has been updated with 2013 pay, and has been upgraded to give faster results. Check it out here.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, who turns 54 today.

CORRECTION: Yesterday's AM Alert incorrectly identified Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, as part of the Legislative Women's Caucus leadership. Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, is chair of the group. We apologize for the error.

PHOTO: Lt. Rick Graves stands in the exercise yard at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City on Feb. 9, 2012. The New York Times/Jim Wilson.

February 11, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: San Diego mayoral race is 2014's first big election

Bob_Filner.jpgWhat happens in the race to replace disgraced former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner may set the tone for the rest of the year, 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: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner speaks after agreeing to resign at a city council meeting on Aug. 23, 2013. The Associated Press/Gregory Bull


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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