Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 4, 2014
Laguna Hills mayor joins race for governor, hits raceway

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, who has joined the field of Republican candidates running for governor, posted an introductory video from a Kern County raceway Tuesday, heralding the location - and his campaign - as an example of ingenuity.

Blount, a software developer who won election to the Laguna Hills City Council in 2012, laments California's regulatory climate in the video, in which he wears an untucked shirt and appears at a Kern County raceway beneath the headline "Andrew Blount On-Track."

"This used to be a field, and somebody decided that they wanted to be able to race cars, and so they built it, and they created it, and they made an audience, and they used their own two hands to do it," Blount says. "As you look around you, there's fields that have been created, there's trucks that have been created, there's trailers that have been created. People have ingenuity right here in California."

Without offering any specifics, Blount says "what's happening in our state today is that we're saying, 'No, what you create with your own two hands isn't good enough, it has to meet this regulation and that regulation.'"

He tells the camera "we have to create an environment where it's OK to build things here in California, it's OK to do things in California."

Blount joins two Republicans, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

Blount has developed a political application for mobile devices that he has said will help him reach voters at a low cost.

PHOTO: From Andrew Blount's website for his 2012 campaign for city council in Laguna Hills. Photo by Michelle Blount

March 4, 2014
Jerry Brown's pot remarks prompt animated sarcasm


California Gov. Jerry Brown's reservations about following Washington and Colorado into marijuana legalization are being playfully ridiculed in a ripped-from-the-headlines video by Taiwanese animators.

The tongue-in-cheek clip recounts an interview last weekend on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which the Democratic governor argued that a dangerous and competitive global landscape requires a more alert citizenry "than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

A pair of bong-toting couch potatoes point to images of Brown on television and recoil in laughter. "I know, right, what a fuddy duddy," the female narrator says in an English translation of the Chinese-language cartoon.

The report, which depicts the 75-year-old governor shuffling onto the television set with the help of a walker, pokes him for being out of touch with his state's seemingly lax regulations on medicinal marijuana.

"Come on, Moonbeam, does the governor totally not realize that Californians who want to smoke are already doing so?" the narrator continues. "Maybe we should just legalize, commercialize and export. That might level the playing field."

Brown's appearance on the venerable Sunday interview program came after he filed paperwork to seek an unprecedented fourth term. He stands as a clear favorite against a pair of Republicans: former U.S. treasurer official Neel Kashkari and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks.

Brown's campaign appeared to take the animated report in stride.

"More entertaining than Neel spouting empty platitudes in the big chair, but still not nearly as fun as Donnelly's videos," campaign spokesman Dan Newman said.

Brown is not the first California politician to get the snarky animation treatment. Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger all have been lampooned in recent years.

PHOTO: Screen grab from Brown report via

March 4, 2014
Obama's budget a mixed, short-lived bag for California

Obama.JPGClued-in Californians should quickly check out the Obama administration's proposed Fiscal 2015 budget, because it won't last long.

On its face, the $3.9 trillion budget unveiled Tuesday includes plenty for Californians to chew over. There's money for buying public lands, but not for helping states incarcerate unauthorized immigrants. There's more for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which currently aids 3 million California households. There's less for crop insurance subsidies used by the state's farmers.

Some specific California projects, too, get a budget shout-out, including $37 million for restoring the crucial San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Not far away, the budget calls for adding 475 acres to the Grasslands Wildlife Management Area, and 91 acres to the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.

"This is a solid budget," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters at a budget briefing. "It's responsible."

The detailed budget proposal that spans over 1,500 pages and multiple documents, though, is both short-lived and far-reaching. It includes some presidential priorities House Republicans disfavor. It also includes some putative cuts, like eliminating funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, that Congress invariably restores.

Roughly 13 percent of California state prison inmates are in the United States illegally, and in some county jails the percentage is even higher. The SCAAP program reimburses states and localities for a small part of the overall incarceration costs.

Last year, for instance, the program that the Obama administration now says it wants to end provided $52 million to California and more than half-a-million dollars each to Fresno, Sacramento and Tulare counties. California lawmakers, who have been through this political exercise many times before, will join with allies in other immigration-impacted states to restore least some of the funding.

PHOTO:President Barack Obama visiting Powell Elementary School in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

March 4, 2014
Candidates for California secretary of state make pitches


Six contenders for California's top elections post made their cases Monday night at a forum in Los Angeles, voicing many of the same positions while trading a handful of jabs.

Democrats Derek Cressman, Alex Padilla and Leland Yee, Republican Pete Peterson, independent Dan Schnur, and Green Party member David Curtis have declared their candidacies to succeed Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who cannot run again because of term limits.

There was little mention of Bowen during the 1-1/2 hour forum. But there was a lot of talk about what is wrong with the state's election and voting processes: the creaky Cal-Access campaign-finance system, years of delays in improving the state's voter-registration database, millions of eligible residents who are not registered to vote, and overall civic disengagement.

Yee, D-San Francisco, and Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who hold large fundraising leads in the contest, largely played it safe during the forum. They also were the main targets of criticism. Schnur demanded that they vote to expel Democratic state Sens. Rod Wright and Ron Calderon, Peterson contended that they had done nothing to limit fundraising during legislative sessions, and Cressman brought up Padilla's $79,000 fine for violating campaign-finance rules during a Los Angeles City Council race more than a decade ago.

Here are brief summaries of the candidates' main points Monday:

Cressman: Cressman called for same-day voter registration and completing improvements to California's voter-registration system. Also, he pledged to reduce the role of "big money" in politics. "The engine of our democracy is sputtering," he said.

Peterson: Peterson said his background in technology and marketing make him the best person for the job. He strongly supports touch-screen voting. "Ink-a-vote is not cutting it," he said.

Schnur: Schnur called for a fundraising ban during the legislative session to "break the link between political giving and government action." More civics classes and volunteering, and not just technological improvements, would increase voter participation, he said.

Yee: Yee said he would work to increase the state's voter registration rates. He also supports pre-registering teenagers before they turn 18. He said his support for reimbursing local governments' costs for complying with public-records requests shows he would improve the Cal-Access system.

Curtis: Curtis blamed a patchwork of different county voting systems for technological problems confronting state elections. "California has some people who can solve these problems," he said. The state needs to invest in modern voting machines, he said.

Padilla: Padilla said his degree in engineering and ability to work across party lines in the Legislature would make him an effective secretary of state. He also pledged to increase registration rates. And like Cressman, he supports same-day voter registration.

The main sponsors of Monday's forum were the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, and the California Endowment's Center for Healthy Communities.

PHOTO: Candidates for California secretary of state during Monday's candidate forum at The California Endowment in Los Angeles. Photo from LA36.

March 4, 2014
AM Alert: Reggie Jones-Sawyer seeks audit of judiciary spending

courthouse.JPGThe Joint Legislative Audit Committee will consider whether to investigate the finances of California's judicial branch when it meets today at 1:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol. [Update: The hearing has been rescheduled for March 12.]

The request from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, to look into spending and staffing of the courts' central administrative office would be the fourth audit of the judiciary in three years. Others have focused on a cancelled case management system, the branch's procurement practices and its information systems.

The audit has been pushed for largely by the Alliance of California Judges, a group of trial court judges that argues the budget of the Administrative Office of the Courts has swelled in recent years at the expense of courtroom operations, which experienced massive budget cuts during the recession.

"What we need to determine now is whether the priorities" of administrative projects "are higher than the priority of keeping courts open," Steve White, a Sacramento Superior Court judge and a director of the alliance, told Capitol Alert last month. "For judges to have confidence and trust in the AOC, there needs to be much more transparency."

In a statement, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said the Administrative Office of the Courts has already "provided to legislative staff eight binders totaling 4500 pages of audits and reports" over the last year, adding that the office has experienced its own cuts and the perceived budget increase comes from programs benefiting local courts that have been folded into its duties.

VIDEO: With Senate Democrats unlikely to regain their supermajority this term, plans to increase taxes or put constitutional amendments on the ballot have gone down the drain, Dan Walters says.

WATER MAP: Restore the Delta, a group that opposes Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed water conveyance tunnels, will release a new map via teleconference at 2 p.m. showing how the largest exports of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are used. The organization argues that Delta water exports are subsidizing unsustainable agricultural practices and could be used for the state's burgeoning fracking industry.

HEALTH HEARINGS: The Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol to examine implementation of a 2011 law requiring private insurers to cover behavioral health treatment for individuals with autism. The Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care convenes at 2 p.m. in Room 437 for a hearing on aging as a women's issue.

ALZHEIMER'S ADVOCACY: The Alzheimer's Association is in town for its annual lobby day, urging support for bills that would require training in dementia care for employees of residential care facilities, expand access to adult day health care centers, and establish standards for appointing a conservatorship.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:24 p.m. to reflect that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing has been rescheduled.

PHOTO: Ornate woodwork on the bar in one of the court rooms at the Yolo County Courthouse in Woodland on January 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 4, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Ron Calderon's leave shakes up Senate plans

MC_CALDERON_02.JPGWith the Democrats unlikely to regain their supermajority this term, hopes for raising taxes or placing constitutional amendments on the ballot have gone down the drain, 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: Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday June 10, 2013. The 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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