Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 28, 2014
Rupert Murdoch among latest donors to Neel Kashkari

kashkarikfbk.jpgMedia mogul Rupert Murdoch is among the latest donors to Republican Neel Kashkari's gubernatorial campaign, according to financial disclosures reported Friday.

The News Corp. chairman met with Kashkari earlier this week and contributed a relatively modest $5,000 to his campaign. The donation was one of three Kashkari reported Friday, totaling $57,200. The sum raised Kashkari's total reported fundraising to more than $1 million.

Kashkari and his Republican rival, Tim Donnelly, lag far behind Gov. Jerry Brown in fundraising, a crucial component of statewide elections in California. The Democratic governor, who filed paperwork for re-election earlier Friday, has raised more than $18 million for the effort.

Of the Republicans, Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has posted the more robust numbers, raising more than twice as much as Donnelly early in the campaign.

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, has reported raising about $464,000.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
California software malfunction affects 37K health care applicants

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Computer problems that darkened Covered California's website last week will force as many as 14,500 customers with partially completed applications to either resubmit the changes or begin a new request, officials at the health exchange said Friday.

Overall, about 37,000 Californians were affected by a software malfunction that led officials to ground their enrollment portal for five days. Those who submitted updates between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19 may have to start over.

The state exchange plans to follow up with the customers to restore their information. Customers must finish their enrollment by March 15 for coverage to begin April 1. The deadline for the first open enrollment period is March 31.

"They also can call in and we can give them assistance if they want to do it by phone," said Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Covered California.

While personal data was not compromised during the outage, some of the data must still be recovered and checked for accuracy.

The exchange was forced to take offline the enrollment function of its website on Feb. 19 after the malfunction rendered some customer pages unreadable. The problems were discovered following scheduled 24-hour maintenance beginning at 1 a.m. Feb. 17.

All services were restored about 4 a.m. Monday.

About 6,500 customers that completed applications and selected plans between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19 are affected but need not worry, officials said. The information will be fully restored and processed by the health insurance plans.

Another 16,000 applicants likely eligible for Medi-Cal will have their paperwork restored and processed by counties. They should call their county human services agency with any questions, officials said.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the agency regrets any inconvenience caused by the outage.

"Our enrollment website has been up and running this week, and we look forward to helping consumers get the health coverage they want and deserve," Lee said.

Paper applications were not affected by the website malfunctions. More than 828,000 people have signed up for health insurance through the state exchange.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 3:55 p.m. Saturday March 1, 2014 to clarify that customers must finish their enrollment by March 15.

PHOTO: Covered California logo

February 28, 2014
Jerry Brown to sign economic pact with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu

brownwaits.jpgGov. Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sign an economic development, research and trade agreement at a meeting of the two leaders next week in Mountain View, Brown's office said Friday.

The governor's office characterized the pact as "a historic agreement that expands California's partnership with Israel on economic development, research and trade," but it offered few details ahead of the Wednesday meeting.

Brown's office said the agreement will emphasize "water conservation, alternative energy, cybersecurity, health and biotechnology, education and agriculture technology." It said the pact will also allow Israeli companies to access California's Innovation Hub program, a network of research parks, universities, federal laboratories and other groups.

Brown has taken a heightened interest in international relations since visiting China last year. But his interest in Israel is longstanding, going back to when he was governor in the 1970s and 1980s. In remarks welcoming Israeli President Shimon Peres to San Francisco in 2012, Brown suggested California and Israel could create a joint research program similar to a joint solar energy initiative Brown promoted when he was governor before.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown waits to address reporters after filing re-election papers in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
Analyst says Jerry Brown's prison plan is short-term fix

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Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to reduce prison overcrowding may satisfy a looming federal deadline but it does not represent a durable long-term solution, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

In a victory for the Brown administration, the federal panel adjudicating the struggle over California's prison overcrowdingrecently gave the state two more years to reduce its population to constitutional levels.

While the LAO concludes that California is on pace to slip under the federal cap, the nonpartisan analyst faulted Brown's plan for relying too much on the use of county jails and private prisons. Brown's budget would spend $481 million to place just under 17,000 inmates in so-called contract beds .

A strategy combining contract beds with other changes, such as increasing good time credits and expanding parole for the elderly, inmates with serious medical conditions and second-strikers, will likely get California under a federally-mandated cap by the new 2016 deadline, the LAO found.

But the state's prison population is projected to climb again in subsequent years. Relying on contract beds will also place a costly burden on the state, the LAO argues, to the tune of about $500 million annually.

"The plan contains relatively few measures that would help the state maintain long-term compliance other than relying indefinitely on costly contract beds," the report concludes.

Given those risks, the LAO urged the Legislature to craft some longer-term policy solutions. Its recommendations include reducing certain sentences and converting some crimes to "wobblers" that can be charged either as misdemeanors or felonies -- an approach Brown vetoed last year - allowing inmates to earn more early release credits for good behavior, and expanding programs that allow adult men to serve part of their sentences outside of state prison.

February 28, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown files for re-election: 'I like this kind of work'

brownfiling.jpgOAKLAND - Forty years after he first ran for governor, Jerry Brown, now 75 and with a lifetime of politics behind him, strode into a dimly lit elections office Friday and filed paperwork one more time.

"I just completed the papers to run for re-election," the third-term Democrat told reporters down the hall. "I do so with humility and a realization that there's a great responsibility in the work that lies ahead."

The filing follows months of fundraising and his widely expected announcement the previous day that he would seek re-election to an unprecedented fourth term. Brown is the clear frontrunner in a race against two Republicans in this Democratic-leaning state.
Brown did not mention either of his challengers by name, and he suggested he may not ever - at least not until after the primary election in June.

"No, not yet," Brown said when asked if he had an opinion about the Republicans, Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly. "I don't want to comment until, certainly until filing is closed, certainly not until after the primary, and even then we can talk about it."

Brown said wants to keep working on the state budget and on the implementation of education funding and prison policy changes he has overseen during his third term.
"Frankly, I like the work," he said. "I understand what it is."

Brown was joined in Oakland by first lady Anne Gust Brown and his political consultants Ace Smith and Dan Newman, whose company, SCN Strategies, ran Brown's ballot initiative campaign to raise taxes in 2012.

Brown and Earl Warren are the only California governors ever elected to three terms, and Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, would be the only one elected to four. Term limits preclude him from running for a fifth term, and he has said he does not plan to run again for president.

But Brown could not say that this would be his final run for office.

"I'm not going to say it's the last race, because there's always some races around," Brown said.

The former secretary of state, attorney general and mayor of Oakland said he gathered signatures for his re-election paperwork at Oakland's city hall, for example, and that it seemed an "exciting place to be."

Unless he loses and runs again, however, this will be Brown's last campaign for governor, a fact he appeared to take with some regret.

"I had the experience of ... walking through the governor's office and realizing the years go by so fast, and pretty soon it's time to leave," Brown said. "I like this kind of work, and I hate to leave."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown files paperwork for re-election in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown expanding plan for high-speed rail

Brownelectionsoffice.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday defended his plan to use carbon-reduction funds for years ahead to prop up California's high-speed rail project, saying uncertainty about the project's long-term financing is "one of the greatest questions of the critics" and that fees paid by carbon producers are an appropriate source of funds.

"I think that cap-and-trade is very appropriate because high-speed rail reduces greenhouse gases," the Democratic governor told reporters in an elections office in Oakland, where he came to file for re-election.

Brown in January proposed using $250 million in cap-and-trade revenue - the money polluters pay to offset carbon emissions -- to help finance the $68 billion rail project, and in a budget trailer bill he proposed dedicating one-third of all greenhouse gas reduction fund revenue to the project in future years. In addition, he proposed that $400 million loaned from the cap-and-trade program to the general fund last year be used for high-speed rail when that money eventually is repaid.

The cap-and-trade proposal is one of the most controversial elements of Brown's budget plan this year. Environmentalists have said money should be used for other projects, while the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has raised legal questions about the funding shift.

Cap-and-trade revenue is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a review of Brown's proposal, the LAO said the first phase of the rail project will not be operational until after 2020, and "the construction of the project would actually generate GHG emissions of 30,000 metric tons over the next several years."

Though acknowledging the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to offset emissions by planting thousands of trees in the Central Valley, the LAO said the administration's "emission estimates for construction do not include emissions associated with the production of construction materials, which suggests that the amount of emissions requiring mitigation could be much higher than currently planned."

The rail project, a priority of Brown's administration, has been beset by a fall-off in public approval and uncertainty about long-term financing. In addition, legal challenges have left state bond funding in doubt.

Brown said Friday that his "main focus" is on litigation and that he is "hopeful we'll get that resolved quickly."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters after filing for re-election in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
Tim Draper puts $750K behind effort to split California six ways

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The Silicon Valley investor proposing to carve California into six states has parked a chunk of his money behind the nascent effort.

Tim Draper, a Republican venture capitalist, donated $750,000 to his own cause, state records show.

The idea of secession is nothing new given the size, population and diversity of California. There have been dozens of proposals to split the state in various fashions - from east to west, north to south, and any number of other ways.

Draper's Six Californias include a northern state of Jefferson, North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California.

At a news conference Monday, Draper insisted his proposal was no stunt, but said he has not decided whether to shoot for the November ballot or aim to qualify the initiative for 2016. He previously spent $20 million on an unsuccessful school voucher measure in 2000.

In his latest initiative, Draper argues political representation of the state's diverse population and economies has rendered it "nearly ungovernable."

What's more, vast parts are poorly served by a representative government "dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically," he wrote in the summary.

Draper must collect 807,615 signatures by July 18. If approved by voters, the proposal would then need an OK from Congress.

PHOTO: Image from sixcalifornias.info, a website for the effort proposing to split California into six states.

February 28, 2014
Mark Wyland bows out of California Board of Equalization race

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Sen. Mark Wyland has withdrawn from the race for state Board of Equalization, clearing a path for Assemblywoman Diane Harkey and ending a vicious intraparty contest between the Republican lawmakers.

Wyland, R-Solana Beach, said his goals could be better realized through another venue, a point he realized after recalling a conversation with his late mother.

"It became clear to me that the personal resources that I had set aside to run for this office would be better spent on the education foundation I had formed many years ago," Wyland said in a written statement Friday. "At this point in my life, it is more important to me to help students rather than to achieve another political office."

The state board that administers sales and property taxes and hears tax appeals has been a prized office for GOP candidates given the political landscape of the Orange-to-San Diego County district. It is being vacated by Republican Michelle Steel because of term limits.

The high-stakes nature of the race between Wyland and Harkey was clear last year when the Dana Point assemblywoman filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against the veteran senator for comments he made about a lawsuit against Harkey and her husband, Dan, alleging he defrauded investors. Harkey dropped the lawsuit in November.

February 28, 2014
AM Alert: Republicans head south for party volunteer convention

Tim_Donnelly.JPGRepublican legislators, candidates and state party leaders are headed to Orange County this weekend for the California Republican Assembly's 2014 convention. The conservative Republican volunteer organization will meet for three days in Buena Park to elect officers and endorse candidates in this election year.

Gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, who is locked in a tight battle with Neel Kashkari to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in November, headlines the Saturday evening banquet and post-dinner reception.

Other notable attendees include Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, Assemblywoman Diane Harkey of Dana Point, state Sen. Mimi Walters of Irvine, Assemblyman Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Board of Equalization member Michelle Steel and California Republican Party Chair Jim Brulte.

VIDEO: His announcement got plenty of attention, but Brown's reelection bid is non-news, Dan Walters says.

AWAY WE GO: Several legislative committees are on the road today. The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs convenes in San Diego to discuss employment assistance programs for military veterans. The Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment meets in Los Angeles to get a Southern California perspective on prison realignment. The Assembly Select Committee on Local Emergency Preparedness also gathers in Los Angeles to discuss lessons learned from the recent LAX shooting.

HIGHER ED CONFERENCE: The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges holds its annual two-day policy and advocacy conference, starting on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the downtown Holiday Inn on J Street. Local author and journalist Sasha Abramsky, who writes about American poverty, delivers the keynote address.

BASEBALL BUCKS: Legislators often hold fundraisers outside their districts, but they usually keep them within state borders. The political action committee Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy is jumping over to Arizona this weekend for an event at the San Francisco Giants spring training in Scottsdale. Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, is among those expected to appear. Tickets start at $2,000.

GOODBYES: Sabrina Lockhart, communications director for Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, announced yesterday that she would be leaving Conway's office to pursue consulting opportunities in the private sector.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, announces he's running for California Governor, in Baldwin Park, Calif., on Nov. 5, 2013. The Associated Press/Nick Ut

February 28, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Hard to imagine Jerry Brown not winning re-election

micsjerrybrown.jpgThere was never any doubt Gov. Jerry Brown would seek a fourth term, 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: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims on April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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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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