Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 7, 2014
VIDEO: John Burton says supermajority not a priority

burton.jpgLOS ANGELES - Two years after the California Democratic Party gained supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature for the first time in more than 100 years, California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said Friday that maintaining the position is not a priority, in part because Democratic lawmakers have been unwilling to use the power to raise taxes.

"They haven't done anything with it, because the only thing it allows them to do is raise taxes, and I don't see them raising taxes," Burton told reporters as the party opened its annual convention here this weekend.

Burton said the "main goal is really to try to pick up two or three more congressional seats." In the state Legislature, he said, a "supermajority is not as important as it used to be" since voters in 2010 lowered the threshold for budget passage to a simple majority.

The California Republican Party believes it has a chance to undo the Democrats' two-third majority this year, and it has made pick-ups in the Legislature a priority. If Burton was seeking to lower expectations in his remarks to reporters, he told delegates on a patio at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites that the party will work to keep two-thirds majorities in the Senate and Assembly "just to prove we can keep them and two years ago wasn't a fluke."

The Legislature's Democratic leadership comes into the convention with fresh controversies over two senators, Rod Wright and Ron Calderon, who are on paid leave of absence while dealing with legal problems. Wright, of Baldwin Hills, was convicted of eight felonies related to lying about where he lived, while Calderon, of Montebello, has been indicted on corruption charges.

Burton said Republicans hammering Democrats on the subject "have to jump on something, because they've got nothing" else. While acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Calderon, Burton suggested Wright's crime was less than heinous.
"As a Catholic," he said, "I think that would be more a venial sin than a mortal sin."

PHOTO: California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton addresses delegates at the party's annual convention in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 7, 2014
Primary fights between Democrats take center stage at state convention

padillaconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - As the California Democratic Party opened its annual convention here Friday, candidates in the two most competitive statewide primary contests - controller and secretary of state - set up satellite offices and flooded the convention hotel with volunteers.

But as they circled each other at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, it was not the candidates' own credentials that filled the air, but a question about whether the party should endorse any Democrat in these races at all.

"Party unity is the way to go," Stephanie Ng, a volunteer for state Sen. Leland Yee, told passers-by she stopped in the hall. "So, no endorsement."

Yee is one of three Democrats running for secretary of state. The others are former California Common Cause official Derek Cressman and state Sen. Alex Padilla, whose name was emblazoned on room keys at the hotel.

Padilla is pushing for an endorsement.

"We're Democrats," he said, "and this is a Democratic process."

yeeconvention.jpgJohn Burton, the party's chairman, asked the candidates for secretary of state and controller not to seek the party's endorsement, but Padilla and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who is running for controller, pushed ahead.

The other Democrat running for controller, Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, said she can "see it both ways." She expects some activists in Los Angeles this weekend will be "very uncomfortable" with the competition between members of the same party.

On the other hand, she said, endorsing candidates is a "primary responsibility of delegates."

PHOTO: State Sens. Alex Padilla (top) and Leland Yee (bottom) work the crowd at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 7, 2014
California audit questions casino mitigation payments

Thumbnail image for CASINOSLOTS.JPG
There are dozens of special funds in state government, but few have gotten as much attention from state auditors in recent years as the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund.

The scrutiny continued this week, when the Bureau of State Audits released its third review of the SDF's operation. And as with audits in 2007 and 2011, the latest review flags similar types of problems in how the money is spent.

The fund is a product of the state's legalization of casinos on tribal land in 2000. Various tribes with casinos have paid into the distribution fund over the years to help mitigate casino impacts. In 2012-13, $9.1 million was allocated to local benefit committees to distribute.

March 7, 2014
Neel Kashkari got stock payment, World Series ticket

kashkaripressclubscrum.jpgNeel Kashkari reported receiving salary of more than $100,000 from Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. last year, while holding no reportable investments, according to a financial disclosure filed Friday.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate's salary payment, the exact amount of which is not required to be disclosed, came in the form of a lump sum payment of stock Kashkari earned while at the firm, his campaign said. Kashkari left the job in January 2013.

Kashkari reported that in October, friends Lew and Kelly Jacobs gave him a baseball ticket worth $1,500 and a football ticket worth $100, and they paid $3,146 for a flight and hotel to attend the games. Kashkari's campaign said the baseball ticket was for a World Series game, and the football ticket to see the Cleveland Browns.

Kashkari's disclosure noted the gifts and travel payments were received before Kashkari became a candidate for governor "and are therefore reportable, but not subject to limits."

In June 2013, Accel-KKR, a Menlo Park-based private equity firm, paid $2,775 in flight, hotel and meals for Kashkari, who traveled to Denver to give a speech.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official and Goldman Sachs executive, has put his net worth at less than $5 million, not enough to self-finance his campaign.

March 7, 2014
Skunk wrinkles noses of California legislative staff


Something stinks in Sacramento.

Not just in the metaphorical sense. A faint but unmistakable sour odor pervaded the California State Capitol building on Friday afternoon - the legacy, evidently, of a wayward skunk.

A staff member's iPhone video showed the black-and-white critter flopping and skittering in the bushes outside the north entrance before animal control workers, armed with a net, apprehended the animal.

Because the fumigating occurred on a Friday, when legislators have generally returned to their districts for the weekend, it was the legislative staff that endured the malodorous matter. Naturally, some took to social media to air grievances.

"Ramifications are being felt throughout the Capitol," Rhys Williams, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, wrote on Twitter.

PHOTO: A skunk roams around at Miller Park on Thursday, September 1, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

March 7, 2014
Republican Art Moore to take on veteran Rep. Tom McClintock


Republican Art Moore has taken out papers to challenge GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, casting himself as a pragmatic supporter of limited government with deep roots in the foothill-based 4th Congressional District.

"It's very clear that federal government is not working for this district," Moore, a businessman and military officer from Auburn said in a video posted on his campaign website. "The leadership that is going to get us through this is not going to be provided by career politicians. It's going to be provided by people like me, who have a totally different perspective of public service."

Moore, a 35-year-old graduate of Placer High School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, brings to the campaign a combined 14 years of active duty and National Guard service. He spent 30 months deployed overseas and currently is a major in the Army National Guard.

Moore also has worked as an executive in the building products industry and as a management consultant serving government clients in the intelligence community.

McClintock, a lion of conservative causes for decades, secured the congressional seat in a tough race six years ago and since has had little trouble retaining it. Despite his long record and high profile, he holds just over $350,000 in his campaign account.

His role in the protracted fight over the partial federal government shutdown received criticism and helped draw a Democratic opponent out of the woodwork. But Kris Johnson, a Granite Bay businesswoman, dropped out of the race for personal reasons.

TV newsman Walt Gray also flirted with a run, but ultimately decided against it.

The 4th district takes in portions of Roseville and extends from Lake Tahoe past Yosemite National Park. A native of Thousand Oaks, McClintock represented Ventura-area districts in the state Legislature and mounted unsuccessful runs for controller, lieutenant governor and governor.

4th Congressional District

"One of the dynamics of this campaign is a career politician versus somebody that has a business career and a military officer career who wants to just go and make Washington work," said Moore, who moved to Roseville from the Washington D.C area in December.

March 7, 2014
AM Alert: Cyber-bullying, sexual assault are focus of Sen. Beall bill


Now that merciless teenage taunting has migrated from locker rooms and high school hallways to the Internet, policymakers are paying more attention to the types of harassment and bullying that happens on Facebook and other social media venues.

Citing the role online viciousness seems to have played in the suicide of 15-year-old Audrie Pott, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, will unveil today a bill he is calling "Audrie's Law." The legislation would criminalize maliciously distributing sexual images and would toughen penalties for sexual assault committed against unconscious or developmentally disabled victims.

Beall will introduce the bill alongside Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office drafted the bill, at the Saratoga Library from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

VIDEO: A Democratic bill package meant to address gift-giving and money reporting doesn't inspire much confidence, Dan Walters says.

DEMS CONVENTION: Break out the business cards and the buttons, because today the California Democratic Party launches its spring 2014 convention in Los Angeles.

We'll bring you more on the confab as it unfolds, but speakers will include Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Sacramento legislative leaders current (Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez) and future (Assemblywoman Toni Atkins and Sen. Kevin de León). And because who can resist a trip to California, prominent out-of-state attendees will include Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

CAREERISM: Before he gets into convention mode, Steinberg will be promoting a policy that's dear to his heart: career-tailored education. He'll be joined by Los Angeles education officials and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to discuss the state's new $250 million career-linked learning fund.

THEY SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY: Happy birthday to Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, who turns 53 today.

PHOTO: A student learns how to type on a laptop computer at River Oaks Elementary School on Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Galt, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

March 7, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Gift-giving reforms miss the mark

Democrats are touting a package of political-ethics reforms, but Dan says they're avoiding the central issue.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.


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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