Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 3, 2014
Steinberg on loss of Wright, Calderon: 'We move forward now'

Darrell_Steinberg_HA_031113.JPGHis caucus having indefinitely lost two members to ongoing court cases, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, pledged on Monday to put weeks of strife behind him and press on with legislative work.

Amid a federal corruption case alleging that he accepted bribes in exchange for political favors, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, announced on Sunday he would accept a paid leave. Calderon followed Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, who has also taken a leave while he awaits a judge's final decision on eight felony counts spurred by living outside the district he represents.

"I'm ready to move forward here," Steinberg told reporters on Monday. "Both of the members are on indefinite leaves of absence, they're not going to come back to the Senate until they're cleared."

Steinberg has resisted Republican calls to expel Wright, arguing that the senator's legal case has yet to be fully resolved. The Democratic leader again defended that decision on Monday, noting that an expulsion vote would be irreversible.

Both senators will continue to draw pay while on leave, and Steinberg cited a Legislative Counsel opinion stating that the Senate can't suspend a senator's salary.

"We have two choices: expulsion or a leave of absence," Steinberg said, noting that Calderon has not been tried and that Wright "has a potentially viable claim before the trial judge within just a couple of months."

The loss of Calderon and Wright drops Democrats beneath the two-thirds majority threshold, rendering the party unable to pass taxes or move urgency measures without Republican assent, but Steinberg said the Senate's reputation takes priority over Democratic dominance.

"The supermajority is important but not nearly as important as the Senate itself," Steinberg said.

PHOTO: President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento during session in the Senate chambers on Monday, March 11, 2013.

March 3, 2014
Jerry Brown reports receiving $11,721 in gifts and travel

christmastree.jpgGov. Jerry Brown received $11,721 in gifts and travel payments last year, mostly to pay for his trip to China, according to his latest financial disclosure statement.

Brown received 21 non-travel gifts valued at $2,301 and four gifts of travel valued at $9,420, according to his filing Monday.

The vast majority of the amount - $8,455 - was from the Bay Area Council for Brown's trade mission to China last year. The business group helped organize and fund the trip.

Brown also reported $394 from the Placer County Sheriff's Department for a flight to Lake Tahoe to attend a meeting of the California State Sheriff's Association, and he ate more than a dozen free meals.

Brown reported a $295 gift of dinner from the San Francisco Symphony. The reported value of attending a holiday party at his own office - an event put on by the nonprofit California State Protocol Foundation - was considerably less: $34.37.

In a separate filing, Brown's office reported gifts involving the governor's travel on four other occasions, totaling $6,583.

The majority of that amount - $5,000 - was a one-way flight from Palm Springs to Bakersfield, paid for by the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, whose meeting Brown attended in November.

TriCal Inc., a distributor of soil fumigation products, provided a round-trip flight from Oakland to Fresno in October for Brown to attend and speak at the funeral of George Zenovich, a former lawmaker. The trip was valued at $1,092.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:13 p.m. Monday to include information about Brown's travel from an additional filing.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown attends the 82nd Annual Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 12, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

March 3, 2014
AM Alert: Ron Calderon gone; Senate Dems' advantage fades

MC_CALDERON_05.JPGWhen the state Senate convenes at 2 p.m. today, Democrats will be without Rod Wright and Ron Calderon -- and without the two-thirds majority they've held since the 2012 election.

Both Wright and Calderon are on paid leave of absence to deal with legal problems. Wright, of Baldwin Hills, faces sentencing in May after a jury convicted him of eight felonies for perjury and election fraud related to him lying about his place of residence. Calderon, of Montebello, announced Sunday night that he would go on leave to deal with a federal indictment on corruption charges. Calderon's statement said he would be gone through the end of session this year on Aug. 31, which is the end for him anyway. He's termed out after this year.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg will have to get by with only 26 Democrats, one short of the supermajority that allows Dems to raise taxes, approve constitutional amendments and pass urgency measures, among other things, without Republican help.

Senate Republicans have proposed votes today to suspend both senators. A Republican effort last week to expel Wright was blocked by Steinberg.

CANDIDATE FORUM: The Secretary of State race is one of California's most competitive statewide elections this year, with no incumbent and several prominent names in the mix, including state Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and former Fair Political Practices Commission chairman Dan Schnur. They, along with Derek Cressman, David Curtis and Pete Peterson, gather in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. for a candidate forum to discuss issues such as California's low voter turnout and accessibility for limited English-speaking or disabled voters. The event, hosted by the California chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters, will be streamed online.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Capitol Alert's own Dan Walters has argued that Caltrans lost its way as the transportation picture got more complicated, and it seems the Legislature agrees. The Assembly Committee on Transportation holds a hearing at 1 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol to discuss how to modernize the agency.

MARCHING BAND: In conjunction with the Faculty Association of California Community College's legislative lobby day, students and faculty will march from Raley Field to the Capitol calling for greater support for the state community college system. The march ends with a rally on the north steps at 11 a.m., where Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, is scheduled to speak.

ONLINE EDUCATION: Cyber school organization California Parents for Public Virtual Education is in town for its advocacy day, which includes a screening of the school choice documentary The Ticket at the California Museum on O Street at 10 a.m., along with awards honoring Assembly members Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who turned 49 Sunday, and to Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, who turns 71 today.

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, at right with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on June 10, 2013. Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo


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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