Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 6, 2014
California school spending goal would cost $36 billion more

schoolkids.JPGRepresentatives of the Education Coalition told a state Senate budget subcommittee Thursday that despite increases in school spending in the current state budget and promises of more in the next one, California still needs to spend much more money on education.

The Education Coalition, a consortium of unions, school boards and administrators, backed voter approval of Proposition 98, the state's school finance law, in 1988 and lobbies for higher school spending continuously.

How much more would be needed to meet its goal?

Steve Henderson of the California School Employees Association, representing the Ed Coalition, told the committee that its aim, implied in Proposition 98, is to raise spending to the per pupil average of the nation's 10 highest-spending states on education.

No number was mentioned, but Census Bureau data indicate that reaching that goal for six million K-12 students would cost about $36 billion more a year.

The latest data Census Bureau report on school spending is three years old, and pegs California's per pupil spending from all sources at $9,139 per pupil in 2011 and the national average at $10,560. Individual states ranged from a high of $19,076 in New York to $6,824 in Idaho.

The average for the 10 highest-spending states was $15,181, $6,042 above California, and raising it to that level would translate into $36.3 billion more a year. Since 2011, California has increased spending substantially - to at least $10,000 per pupil from all funds - but other states have done so as well, so the California's relative standing probably hasn't materially changed.

The Education Coalition cites Education Week magazine's rankings, which count only state and local funds and omit federal funds, that peg California's spending at $8,341 per pupil, $3,523 under the average of $11,864 for all states. Raising California school spending to that level would cost about $20 billion more a year.

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 6, 2014
Kashkari: Brown's legacy is 'destruction of the middle class'

kashkaripressclub.jpgLeveling his most partisan attack yet in California's gubernatorial campaign, Republican Neel Kashkari on Thursday accused Democrats around the nation of "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids" while, in California, he said Gov. Jerry Brown has destroyed the middle class.

In a speech to the Sacramento Press Club, the former U.S. Treasury Department official faulted Brown for unemployment, public education problems and the state's nation-high poverty rate.

"Jerry Brown's legacy is the destruction of the middle class of California," Kashkari said.

Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, are the main Republicans competing in an uphill effort to unseat Brown, a third-term Democrat.

Kashkari, who has made education a focus of his campaign, said there are examples in which the "Democratic establishment" is "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids," criticizing the U.S. Justice Department's involvement in a voucher program in Louisiana and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's policies on charters schools in his city.

Kashkari has not provided detailed policy proposals of his own, but he said he will release education and jobs plans "soon." He said he has not released them yet because "most voters aren't paying attention to the election yet, and we want to roll these out when people are paying attention."

March 6, 2014
Senate Dems to propose new limits on gifts, fundraising

MC_CALDERON_01.JPGFollowing a spate of ethical problems to hit the state Capitol in recent months -- including two senators taking leaves of absence to fight criminal charges, and two lobbying firms paying record-setting fines for violating lobbying laws -- California lawmakers are poised to introduce a package of bills to reform the way they do business.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, along with Senators Ricardo Lara and Kevin de Leon have called a press conference for Thursday to announce a package of bills they tout as "major upgrades to public service accountability rules and practices."

De Leon said the bills would include proposals to:

- Ban fundraisers at lobbyists' homes
- Ban all gifts from lobbyists - even those under $10 that are now currently allowed
- Lower from $440 to $200 the limit on the value of gifts officials can receive from a single source

Other sources said the package would also include proposals to:

- Prohibit officials from receiving as gifts tickets to concerts, sporting events and other types of entertainment
- Increase the frequency of campaign finance report filings

"I think it has the ability to restore the public's confidence and the public's trust," de Leon said of the bill package.

"It's the most far reaching, comprehensive (change to the) Political Reform Act in over two decades."

De Leon and Lara have together introduced four spot bills that call for changing California's Political Reform Act, which governs campaign finance laws, lobbying and other areas of political ethics.

Lara's SB 1441 says the Legislature intends to alter the limit on the value of gifts government officials may receive. His SB 1442 says the Legislature intends to alter campaign committee reporting schedules.

De Leon's SB 1443 and SB 1444 are even more vague but would, respectively, make changes to the Political Reform Act and review the responsibilities of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Lara and de Leon are part of the Senate's "ethics working group," a band of Democrats who have been meeting behind closed doors to come up with political reform proposals. The group also includes Sens. Ellen Corbett, Jerry Hill, Bill Monning, Richard Roth and Norma Torres.

The proposals come weeks after nearly 40 state officials received warning letters from the Fair Political Practices Commission for having campaign fundraisers at the home of Sacramento lobbyist Kevin Sloat. Sloat's lavish hospitality at the events -- including fine wines, top shelf liquors and expensive cigars -- amounted to prohibited campaign contributions because they exceeded the limits of how much lobbyists can give to officials whose votes they seek to influence.

The $133,500 fine Sloat paid last month set a new record in California as the highest fine paid for violating lobbying regulations. The previous record was set in September, when the California Strategies public affairs firm and three of its partners agreed to pay a $40,500 fine for working to sway government decisions without registering as lobbyists. One of those partners, Jason Kinney, is a political consultant to the Senate Democrats.

Two Senate Democrats are now on leaves of absence while they fight criminal charges. Sen. Rod Wright was found guilty of perjury in January for lying about where he lived. Sen. Ron Calderon was indicted by a federal grand jury last month on 24 counts of corruption. Both men contest the charges.

De Leon, who is in line to become the Senate President pro Tem later this year, said the bills would heal some bruises the body has taken in recent months.

"This is an amazing institution," he said. "The men and women of the Senate work extremely hard for their constitutents. We've had a few bumps in the road because of the trails and tribulations of a couple of members. But nonetheless that's not a reflection of the hard work that Democrats and Republicans do or produce for their constituents."

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Calderon

March 6, 2014
AM Alert: Senate Dems announce political ethics bills

de_Leon_Wright.JPGA trio of Democratic senators — President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Kevin de León of Los Angeles — are scheduled to unveil a package of bills to change ethics and campaign rules for California officials during an 11 a.m. press conference in Room 1190 at the Capitol.

Lara and de León are part of an "ethics working group," a band of Senate Democrats who have been meeting behind closed doors in recent weeks. The group formed after a spate of problems hit the Capitol: Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, was found guilty of perjury; Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was arraigned on federal corruption charges; and two of the most high-profile lobbying firms in town were slapped with fines for breaking ethics laws.

The latest proposals follow a bill package from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, that includes a ban on fundraising within 100 days of the end of session, and a bill package from Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, that includes a ban on fundraising at lobbyists' homes.

VIDEO: California's state workers earn about as much annually as the entire economy of Vermont, Dan Walters says.

PARTYLESS POLITICIAN: Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, will join with former Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and former Assemblyman Fred Keeley in Room 126 of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. to announce a constitutional amendment that would make the Secretary of State a non-partisan office. The measure, which would also move the responsibility of writing titles and summaries for statewide ballot initiatives from the Attorney General to the Secretary of State, needs a two-thirds vote from both houses of the Legislature to pass. If the governor signed it, the amendment would then go to the ballot for a public vote. Fourteen other states currently have Secretary of State offices that are non-partisan.

STUMP SPEECH: The Sacramento Press Club hosts Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari to talk about his campaign to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown and his plans for California. The lunch event takes place at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom on 9th Street at noon.

BUDGET CONFERENCE: The California Budget Project, a group focused on budget policies affecting low- and middle-income Californians, holds an all-day conference about creating "shared prosperity." Among the scheduled speakers are state Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, as well as local journalist and author Sasha Abramsky. The conference begins at 9 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW: UC Davis law school professor Richard Frank discusses the role of courts and litigation in creating California's environmental policy at noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

HAPPY HOUR: The New Leaders Council, which trains "progressive political entrepreneurs," hosts a networking happy hour with its 2014 fellows at the Fox & Goose Public House on R Street at 5:30 p.m.

PHOTO: Senators >Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, talks with Senator Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, during an informational hearing on gun laws in January 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 6, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: California is own biggest employer

DMVoffice.jpgAnnual salaries and benefits paid to state workers equal the entire economy of Vermont, 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: The DMV office on La Mancha Way in south Sacramento on June 27, 2007. 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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