Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 13, 2014
Lady Gaga gets letter of thanks from Jerry Brown

ladygaga.jpgFirst California posted drought alerts on freeway signs.

Now it's turning to Lady Gaga.

The pop superstar, who wanted the iconic but leaky pool at Hearst Castle filled for a "creative project" she is shooting, got approval for the shoot after she and her parents and associates agreed to make a $250,000 donation to help maintain and repair the castle, including repairs at Neptune Pool, according to the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation.

Gaga also agreed to promote the castle and water conservation on social media, and to shoot a water conservation PSA.

The Hearst San Simeon State Park is part of the California state park system, and the arrangement caught the attention of Gov. Jerry Brown.

"I want to personally thank you for the aid and assistance you are providing to Hearst Castle, the communities surrounding San Simeon and the state as a whole," the governor said in a letter to Lady Gaga on Wednesday. "I've called on all Californians to conserve water in every way possible and the assistance you are providing will aide in that effort."

The castle foundation said the pool was filled with water from storage facilities on the Castle property and that the water will be returned when filming is done.

PHOTO: Lady Gaga performs at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 13, 2011. The Associated Press/Matt Sayles

February 13, 2014
Sugary drinks would get warning labels under Monning bill

MonningSoda.JPG

Cigarettes, carcinogenic chemicals - and soda?

Sugary beverages could become the latest consumer products to bear warning labels under a new bill, introduced by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, intended to contain spiraling obesity rates.

"We're in the midst of an obesity and diabetes epidemic that's wreaking havoc on the public's health," Monning said at a Thursday press conference, standing beside mock-ups of soda cans with labels warning about the hazards of tooth decay and diabetes.

"With daily consumption of these sugary drinks becoming the norm in the American diet," Monning added, "it is critical that consumers have the right to know the unique health problems associated with these sugar-sweetened beverages."

As currently written, the legislation would apply to beverages containing over 75 calories per 12 ounce serving. Co-sponsors include the California Medical Association, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the California Black Health Network and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

The bill follows other high-profile public policy efforts to limit soda consumption, notably a failed and deeply divisive proposal by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban large sodas. In past years, Monning has unsuccessfully sought to impose a tax on sweetened beverages.

"The support has not been there for a tax," Monning said, but he believes approaching the issue via labeling "will face less resistance in the Legislature."

Increasing diabetes rates are the leading contributor to swelling healthcare costs, said Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. He cited studies finding that the average American imbibes 39 pounds of sugar a year.

"There is now overwhelming evidence that soda and other sugary drinks play a central and unique role in the development of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay," Goldstein said.

Childhood obesity and its associated health effects has become a pressing public health issue. Around 40 percent of California's children are overweight, and Goldstein pointed out that children born after 2000 have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

Young people of color are especially susceptible. Fully half of African-American children are likely to develop type 2 diabetes, said Darcel Lee of the California Black Health Network.

"This is a public health outrage," Lee said.

But Calbev, which represents the soft drink industry in California, issued a statement deflecting responsibility for increased obesity rates.

"We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue," the statement says. "However, it is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain. In fact, only four percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda. According to government data, foods, not beverages, are the top source of sugars in the American diet."

The group also noted that the industry in 2010 launched an initiative in which calories counts are displayed on soft drink packaging.

Should the bill become law, it could present beverage manufacturers with a choice between altering their labels or exiting the vast California market. As has been the case with California raising standards in the past, Monning said his bill could set off a national ripple effect.

"Our hope would be that it would pave the way for a national standard," Monning said.

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Monning unveils his soda labeling bill in Sacramento on February 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

February 13, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown meets with Obama administration on climate change

Brown_climate_change.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has made climate change a prominent issue in his return to the governor's office, calling it the greatest threat to young people's future and focusing on the reduction of greenhouse gases during his trip to China last year.

He will discuss the matter further today with President Barack Obama's task force on climate preparedness, which meets for the second time at 11:30 a.m. in Los Angeles City Hall. State and local leaders, including Brown, will gather with senior Obama officials to advise the administration on how the federal government can help communities dealing with the effects of climate change.

Brown is expected to meet with the President himself when Obama visits Fresno on Friday to address federal response to California's drought.

VIDEO: A big victory in the San Diego mayoral race suggests things could be turning around for California Republicans, Dan Walters says.

IN WITH THE NEW: Though the Senate and Assembly usually meet on Thursdays, there are no floor sessions today. Monday is off for President's Day, so in order to get their per diem allowances, which require legislators to gather at least every three days, they will hold floor sessions tomorrow and Tuesday instead.

Never fear, though. Civic-minded high schoolers will fill the political void when they descend upon Sacramento today for the California YMCA Youth & Government's 66th annual Model Legislature & Court Conference. The program, in which students elect a "youth governor" and pass mock legislation, continues through Monday at the Capitol.

TECH TALK: The role of laptops, tablets and other technology in K-12 education is heavily debated, even as school districts like Los Angeles Unified jump into new programs. UC Irvine education Professor Mark Warschauer will review research on the use of digital media in children's education during this presentation at noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

BEHIND THE BARS: Members of Sacramento State's debate team, university professors and policy experts from the Project for an Informed Electorate debate California prison policy, overcrowding and realignment during a public forum at Sac State's Del Norte Hall at 6 p.m.

NEW JOB: Congratulations to Erin Shaw, previously the deputy national press secretary for StudentsFirst, who has joined Stutzman Public Affairs as its new vice president.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown gives opening remarks at the Governor's Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California's Future at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Dec. 15, 2011.The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

February 13, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: 2014 could be good year for California Republicans

Kevin_Faulconer.JPGA big victory in the San Diego mayoral race suggests that things could be turning around for California's struggling Republican Party, 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 mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer speaks to his supporters outside his campaign headquarters on Feb. 11, 2014. The Associated Press/Lenny Ignelzi



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Capitol Alert Staff


Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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