Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 18, 2014
Better credit cards, encryption considered to protect consumer data


Lawmakers pushed on Tuesday for ways to prevent the kind of consumer data breaches that claimed voluminous amounts of information during the recent holiday season.

Over a few weeks spanning the end of November to mid-December, hackers wielding malware programs penetrated Target's point-of-sale systems and purloined credit and debit card data for some 40 million American customers. An additional 70 million Target shoppers had additional personal information stolen. Neiman Marcus and Michaels Stores also saw consumer data lifted.

It wasn't the first time data breaches have endangered personal information. Attorney General Kamala Harris estimated last year that 2.5 million Californians had their privacy compromised, with retailers the most frequent target of attacks.

"We have to continue to believe that criminals will devote their time to trying to gain access to our personal information," Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said on Tuesday, adding that the data breaches "demonstrated new levels of sophistication as well as pointing out weaknesses in our current payment system."

Dickinson and Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, have co-sponsored legislation dealing with data breaches, including requirements around notifying consumers of an incident. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, also has a bill intended to safeguard credit card information.

Critics faulted Neiman Marcus for taking weeks to publicly acknowledge its data breach. Some speakers advocated requiring businesses to quickly inform customers of data thefts, saying it would help keep consumers informed and give businesses an incentive to shore up security and avoid damaging disclosures.

"Last year there were 619 data breaches in the United States," said Diana Dykstra, chief executive officer of the California Credit Union League. "People say, 'yes, the retailers want to notify,'" she continued. "Can you name 619? I surely can't."

February 18, 2014
Jerry Brown to skip meeting of governors in Washington

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will skip the annual meeting of the nation's governors in Washington this weekend, with an ongoing drought in California and his own re-election campaign on the horizon.

Brown last missed the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in 2011, the first year of his third term. In each of the past two years the Democratic governor used the occasion to lobby the Obama administration on policy matters while courting the East Coast media.

"The governor's focused on the work that needs to be done here in California," spokesman Evan Westrup said Tuesday.

The nation's governors are scheduled to meet with Obama and Cabinet secretaries and to discuss education, transportation and disaster response, among other subjects.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election this year, but he has raised millions of dollars for the effort and is widely expected to run.

He has had face time with the president recently, the two having appeared together in the Central Valley last week to address the drought.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 18, 2014
Both California parties losing ground among registered voters

pollingplace.JPGCalifornia's two major political parties are continuing to lose ground in voter registration as the ranks of independent voters continue to swell, a new report by the Secretary of State's office indicates.

The new report, required by law, deals with registration numbers as of Dec. 31 -- 154 days before the June primary election.

Democrats continue to have the highest proportion of the 17.7 million registered voters, 43.58 percent, but that's a more than a quarter-percentage point lower than it was a year ago and a full percentage point below what it was four years ago, 154 days before the 2010 primary.

Republicans, at 28.73 percent, are down slightly from 2013 and have dropped two percentage points from 2010.

Independents - known formally as "no party preference" - have picked up the major parties' losses, up nearly a full percentage point from 2010 at 20.9 percent. The smaller parties have also gained fractionally in the last four years.

Total voter registration has risen from 16.9 million to 17.7 million in the four-year period.

PHOTO: Voters cast ballots at the polling place in the Bible Baptist Church in El Dorado on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

February 18, 2014
California Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod won't seek re-election

gloria_negrete_mcleod.jpgRep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, announced Tuesday that she will run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors this year, ending her congressional career after a single term.

She becomes the sixth of California's 53 incumbents to announce they are leaving Congress after this year.

Negrete McLeod, who served a dozen years in the California Legislature before defeating then-Rep. Joe Baca in the redrawn 35th Congressional District in 2012, said she decided to leave Congress because "my desire to represent this community locally, where I have lived for more than forty years, and where I have long served as an elected official, won out.

"My federal, state, and local experience will allow me the opportunity to effectively represent the constituents of the Fourth District," Negrete McLeod, 72, added in a statement.

State Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, has been mentioned as a likely candidate for the 35th. She was elected to the Senate in a May 2013 special election to serve out the remainder of Negrete McLeod's Senate term.

35th Congressional District

Torres was not immediately available for comment. She has filed a statement of intent to run for re-election in the redrawn 20th Senate District.

In an interview, Baca all but ruled out another campaign in the 35th. He is running in the adjoining 31st.

"Things look good for me in the 31st. I'm staying there," Baca said, but added, "If you can convince me otherwise who knows. I'm not going to rule anything out."

Negrete McLeod becomes the second member of Congress from San Bernardino County to announce in recent days days that they won't seek re-election. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, announced his retirement last week in the 31st Congressional District.

Unlike Miller, whose re-election prospects were much in doubt, Negrete McLeod represents a safely Democratic seat and had no announced opposition for re-election.

Negrete McLeod has almost $900,000 on hand for a supervisorial campaign. Among her opponents is Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hill.

PHOTO: State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, speaks in the state Senate in June 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

February 18, 2014
Ron Nehring to challenge Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor


Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring Tuesday announced plans to run for lieutenant governor, framing his campaign as a challenge to the status quo and encouraging his beleaguered party to become standard-bearers of bold, serious reforms aimed at tackling the state's problems.

"Around the world, California is recognized for the innovation, creativity, and hard work of its people," Nehring said in a statement announcing his run. "But today we have a government that is failing in too many ways: sky-high unemployment, more poverty than any state in the nation, failing schools and a toxic environment for job creation. We can do better."

Republicans hold no statewide offices and have struggled to field candidates for races in June ahead of the March 7 deadline. California Republicans trail Democrats in registered voters by nearly 15 percentage points, 28.73 percent to 43.58 percent, respectively.

Voters selecting no-party preference, the fastest-growing group statewide, grew to nearly 21 percent, according to figures released Tuesday. Still, Nehring, a veteran operative who served as the state GOP chairman to from 2007 to 2011, has been among the most vocal to lament the dearth of challengers from his party.

He joins the race just days after Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom broke with many in his party in advocating for shifting high-speed rail money to more needy programs. Sean Clegg, a campaign spokesman for Newsom, was largely dismissive of Nehring's effort.

"It's hard to imagine someone basing a campaign for statewide office on leading a major political party to near extinction," Clegg said.

Nehing, a political protege of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, has been deeply involved in politics since his days as a student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His six-year stint as chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County saw the organization grow in influence.

After leaving to lead the state party, however, Nehring had a brush with controversy when an ex-officio county central committee member referenced anonymous allegations that Nehring abused a former partner. He strongly rejected the allegations and dismissed the episode as "witch-hunt politics."

In recent years, Nehring has taught governance, public policy and communications throughout the world and helped guide the unsuccessful campaigns of former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado for governor and Elizabeth Emken for U.S. Senate.

Nehring said the lieutenant governor's office has too often served as "a taxpayer-funded gubernatorial exploratory committee."

"I have a different vision: to make the office a positive platform to develop and advocate for bold reform of state government to modernize it and make the state more economically competitive: comprehensive tax reform, pension reform, regulatory reform, education reform, reining in frivolous lawsuits, and more," he said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:45 p.m. to include Clegg's comment.

PHOTO: Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party speaks at a rules committee meeting on Friday, March 18, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 18, 2014
AM Alert: Assembly panels dig into consumer data breaches

credit_card.JPGTime to shake off that "House of Cards" binge-watch hangover.

Holiday shoppers at Target and Neiman Marcus were hit with the worst kind of news in December: Massive security breaches had compromised the credit card information of tens of millions of people.

The Assembly Judiciary and Assembly Banking and Finance committees will hold a joint informational hearing on those attacks today, exploring the safety of our personal data and what steps can be taken to enhance its security. The hearing, which begins at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol, will feature testimony from consumer organizations, law enforcement, and representatives from MasterCard and Visa.

Though they attended a similar hearing in Congress earlier this month, Target and Neiman Marcus will not appear appear before the Assembly panel, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who chairs the judiciary committee, told Capitol Alert last week.

"It's a little slap on the face for the people of California," he said

VIDEO: The court ruling that a recent California law violated the Second Amendment could put a stop to the state's renewed push for gun control, Dan Walters says.

NO H2O: The drought is all too real for some California communities that are dangerously low on water. State officials revealed last month that 17 rural areas could run out completely within 60 to 120 days. The Assembly committees on environmental safety and health will address that crisis in a joint hearing on access to drinking water at 1:30 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

UNCHAINED: A law prohibiting prisons from shackling pregnant inmates went into effect in California in January 2013. Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who authored the legislation, will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol to review how public safety officials are complying with the change. A new report from Legal Services for Prisoners With Children says the results are mixed.

RAISE YOUR VOICE: Renters' rights organization Tenants Together is in Sacramento today for a march and rally protesting what they say is a lack of affordable housing in California caused by real estate speculators and rising rents. The march begins at 10 a.m. at 11th and L, and continues to the north steps of the Capitol for the rally at 11 a.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Lots of birthdays today! Best wishes to Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who turns 59; Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, who turns 66; and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who turns 50.

PHOTO: Sara Dobbyn buys shoes using a Visa credit card from Shoefly, a store in midtown Sacramento, on January 8, 2004. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

February 18, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Court gives big victory to gun rights advocates

gun.JPGThe ruling that one recent California law violated the Second Amendment may put a stop to the state's renewed push for gun control, 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: California Highway Patrol Range Officer J. Tomlinson demonstrates the CHP's new gun at the CHP Academy Range in West Sacramento on May 16, 2006. 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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