Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 27, 2014
Attorney General Kamala Harris fights for concealed-weapon standard


Attorney General Kamala Harris announced on Thursday she would appeal a ruling overturning California's concealed-weapons law.

Two weeks ago, a three-judge federal appeals court struck down a California law requiring people to demonstrate "good cause" - beyond self defense - before they can carry a concealed handgun in public.

As a result of that rule, some counties have a more stringent standard for obtaining permits, requiring applicants to justify a need beyond self-defense. A group of San Diego County residents had sued after their permit applications were rejected in 2009.

Harris had until Thursday to declare the state's legal response, and she announced in a press release that she had filed a motion urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision.

"Local law enforcement must be able to use their discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon," Harris said in a statement. "I will do everything possible to restore law enforcement's authority to protect public safety, and so today am calling on the court to review and reverse its decision."

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has already decided to not appeal the ruling.

PHOTO: Handguns fill a display case at the Guns N' Stuff gun shop in North Highlands on Thursday, July 5, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

February 27, 2014
Court OK's Arizona redistricting commission's congressional power

remap.JPGWhen California voters endorsed a ballot measure to shift the decennial redrawing of legislative districts to an independent commission in 2008, congressional districts were pointedly excluded.

The reform groups backing the measure were openly fearful that if they attempted to expand the commission's reach, California's congressional members - of both parties - would pump big money into an opposition campaign.

Two years later, however, another ballot measure extended the commission's jurisdiction to Congress, even though there were some legal doubts, since the U.S. Constitution says that state legislatures are to draw congressional districts.

The commission did its work in 2011 and the newly drawn districts were used for the 2012 elections. But some political professionals still harbored doubts about the commission's congressional jurisdiction - or perhaps some hopes that it would be overturned.

There was, in fact, a legal challenge - but not to California's redistricting commission. Arizona's Republican-controlled Legislature filed a federal court lawsuit, contending that it had the exclusive power to redraw congressional districts after the 2010 census, not the state's redistricting commission.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th District Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 that the Arizona commission does have the power to draw congressional districts, thus presumably ending any doubt about the California commission's authority - unless, of course, the ruling is overturned by the full appellate court or the Supreme Court.

The Arizona Capitol Times has this account of the decision, including the full ruling text.

PHOTO: Kamal Preet, right, and other citizens from Fremont hold up signs during the Citizens Redistricting Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 7, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

February 27, 2014
California drought relief package heads to Gov. Jerry Brown


In a concerted effort to aid California's drought-stricken communities, the Legislature on Thursday sped a $687 million relief package to Gov. Jerry Brown.

One week after Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the emergency legislation, both houses of the Legislature approved the bill with little resistance. The Assembly passed the bill 65-0, and the Senate sent it to Brown's desk with only three dissenting votes.

Relying largely on unspent bond money, the measure sets aside more than $500 million to quench the thirst of afflicted communities with infrastructure projects like capturing storm water and distributing recycled water.

It also sets aside millions for drinking water in communities at risk of running out and allocates food and housing aid for Californians, like those in the agricultural industry, who have seen their livelihoods damaged by diminished water supplies.

In the Assembly, Republicans used the opportunity to call for more storage capacity, an issue being debated via a set of water bond proposals. But they agreed with their Democratic colleagues that the emergency water package marked a needed intermediate step.

"This is part of the puzzle, part of the solution for the entire state," said Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield.

Things went a little less smoothly in the Senate, where the water debate occurred against the backdrop of Republicans seeking to expel a state senator who has been convicted on eight felony charges stemming from lying about his residence. Senate Democrats rebuffed that attempt, preserving a status quo that has seen Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, accept a paid leave of absence.

The drought bills passed the Senate handily in the end, though during floor debate Republicans accused Democrats of maneuvering the procedure to avoid a two-thirds vote. Democrats do not have a supermajority this week because Wright and Sen. Ron Calderon, indicted last week by a federal grand jury, are out dealing with legal problems.

Republicans argued that the bills should be urgency measures -- which require two-thirds approval -- instead of budget trailer bills that take a simple majority to pass. They also argued that taking up budget trailer bills several months after the budget was approved violates a voter-approved initiative that the Legislature cannot get paid if it doesn't complete the budget by June 15.

"This bill is just another example of how our budget process has been twisted over the years," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, one of three opposing votes.

Laurel Rosenhall of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Aerial view of Folsom Lake looking northeast from near Beals Point on Thursday, December 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

February 27, 2014
California Gov. Jerry Brown to run for reelection


Gov. Jerry Brown announced Thursday that he has taken out the papers to run for re-election.

In his typically understated fashion, the 75-year-old governor posted the announcement and a photo to his Twitter account.

"If you had asked me 40 years ago--when I first ran for governor--what I would be doing in 2014, I could never have guessed. Nor could anyone else," Brown said in a statement posted on his campaign website. "Yet, by the grace of God and habits of perseverance instilled in me by my family, the Dominican nuns and the Jesuits, I am here and ready to go."

Brown, whose candidacy has long been suspected, is being challenged by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, and Republican Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. treasury official.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown takes out papers to run for re-election. Courtesy of Dan Newman.

February 27, 2014
Senate Dems delay Republican move to expel Rod Wright

Knight.JPGSenate Democrats delayed debate on a resolution to expel Sen. Rod Wright today by moving a Republican proposal to the Rules Committee, where it could permanently stall.

Sen. Steve Knight, a Republican from Palmdale, introduced a resolution to expel Wright from the Senate because a jury found him guilty of eight felonies last month for lying about living in the district he represents.

"This will be precedent setting," Knight said as debate on his measure was being quashed on a 21-13, mostly party-line vote.

"We have gone past any time period where someone has been convicted of a felony and not resigned."

Wright went on a paid leave of absence on Tuesday and has been removed from his committee assignments. Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg has said he does not want the Senate to permanently oust Wright unless a judge upholds the jury's verdicts at his sentencing, now scheduled for May 16. Wright is planning to ask the judge to overturn the jury's verdicts.

"Senator Wright has already left the building," Steinberg said during a speech on the floor, adding that he would not come back unless the judge overturns the jury's verdict against him.

Steinberg said that several Republican senators face allegations that they do not live in the districts they represent. He looked toward Senate Republicans as he quoted a passage from the New Testament in which Jesus says, "Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone."

PHOTO: Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 27, 2014
Denham to rail agency chief: Here's my number, so call me, maybe?

DENHAM.JPGSparks flew briefly at a House of Representatives hearing Wednesday, the first in Congress to examine a series of rail accidents in the past year.

It began with some unfinished business between Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, who chairs the rail subcommittee, and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

Denham scolded Szabo for not showing up at a hearing last month on California's beleaguered high-speed rail program. Denham has made many attempts to thwart the project, which is a priority for both President Barack Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Denham said he'd delayed the high-speed rail hearing by six weeks to accommodate Szabo's December schedule, which included his agency's investigation of a commuter rail crash in New York.

Denham blamed Szabo for delaying the hearing on rail safety, which Democrats had requested.

"You've held up our committee based on your schedule," Denham said.

Szabo responded that he'd agreed to testify on Jan. 14, but the hearing was changed to Jan. 15.

"I let you know I would not be available," he said.

But Denham said he only found out through a press release.

"You've got my cellphone," he said.

"I don't," Szabo replied, "but I'd be happy to take it from you."

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect that Denham is from Turlock.

PHOTO: Rep. Jeff Denham , chairman of subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials, grills a witness during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Pete Marovich/MCT

February 27, 2014
Former California assemblywoman joins Senate payroll

Garcia.JPGFormer Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, who is running for the state Senate, recently got a jump on getting a Senate paycheck.

With no public announcement, Garcia, R-Cathedral City, joined the staff of then-state Sen. Bill Emmerson in October. Garcia is the field representative in the Palm Desert office of the 23rd Senate District, which Emmerson represented until he resigned Dec. 1.

Garcia represented much of the Coachella Valley in the Assembly from 2002 through 2008, and before that was a field representative for former state Sen. Jim Battin. That background, she said, is why Emmerson picked her for the $1,006-a-month part-time job, which Garcia called "an honor and a privilege."

"It was an opportunity to make sure the community is still getting the representation it needs," said Garcia, who added that she receives no Senate benefits for the job.

She dismissed any suggestion that the job helps her bid for the new 28th Senate District, which includes Palm Desert, the rest of the Coachella Valley and other parts of Riverside County. Emmerson has endorsed Garcia, as have most state lawmakers.

"I seriously doubt that such a minimal amount of time gives anyone an advantage," Garcia said. Her campaign website includes no mention of her Senate position.

The Palm Desert office exists because of a quirk in the 2011 redraw of the state's political map. The area is not part of any Senate district in 2013-14, so Senate leaders made Emmerson its caretaker senator. The special election to replace Emmerson is March 25 and, if necessary, June 3.

Garcia is one of three well-funded Republicans running for the GOP-leaning 28th. The others are Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone and Indio Councilman Glenn Miller.

PHOTO: Bonnie Garcia cheers Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee as he speaks to delegates during the third day of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, September 2, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

February 27, 2014
AM Alert: Senate Republicans push to expel Rod Wright

wright.jpgAfter weeks of chatter over how the state Senate would handle the felony convictions of Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, and whether it was responding forcefully enough, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced Tuesday that Wright will be taking an indefinite paid leave of absence until his legal problems are resolved.

That solution has not satisfied everyone.

Three Republican senators--Steve Knight of Palmdale, Joel Anderson of Alpine and Andy Vidak of Hanford--plan to introduce a resolution during floor session today to expel Wright, who was convicted last month of eight felonies related to living outside of his district.

The resolution would require a two-thirds vote to pass, but it's possible that Steinberg could simply table the motion. In a statement, he said that "Senate leadership has already moved swiftly and decisively to address" the matter.

VIDEO: California's high fuel taxes are out of proportion with its broken transportation system, Dan Walters says.

MILITARY MEMORIAL: A 250-foot replica of Washington, D.C.'s famous Vietnam Veterans Memorial comes to Sacramento for the weekend. It will be on display for four days on the west steps of the Capitol, along with a mobile museum displaying letters and memorabilia left at the wall in D.C. Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, who helped bring the display to Sacramento, will preside over an opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. today and a closing candlelight ceremony at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

GOING GREEN: State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, convenes a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Energy Efficiency in Santa Clara at 2 p.m. to examine financing barriers for property owners who want to make energy-saving upgrades. De León has a bill to promote greater private investment in energy efficient retrofitting.

PRESS YOUR LUCK: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, are among those scheduled to speak at the iGaming Legislative Symposium on the possible legalization of online gaming in California. The event, sponsored by and Spectrum Gaming Group, takes place at 8:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street.

HONOR ROLL: The Academy Awards is only days away, but first Sacramento has its own star-studded ceremony to attend. The James Irvine Leadership Foundation Awards, noon at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street, recognizes individuals "advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant challenges in California" with a $125,000 prize. Presenters include state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine; Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore; Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles; Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton; State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; and California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley. The award recipients will also be recognized during the Senate floor session at 9 a.m.

LUNCHTIME TALK: UC Riverside political science professor Karthick Ramakrishnan speaks at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street at noon about the unmet needs of California's Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, which now comprise more than 15 percent of the state population.

PHOTO: Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, walks into the California Senate floor during the first day of session on Jan. 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 27, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: California's transportation system is out of whack

freeway_traffic.JPGDespite some of the highest fuel taxes in the country, California has among the worst roads and congestion, 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: Late morning traffic travels on Interstate 5, in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2014 photo. The Associated Press/Damian Dovarganes


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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