Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 8, 2014
Democrats make no endorsement in heated statewide primaries

yeeconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Following two days of intense campaigning by candidates in the two most competitive statewide primary contests, delegates at the California Democratic Party convention reached no consensus Saturday on either race, issuing no endorsement for controller or secretary of state.

The campaigns had been at the center of delegate activity in Los Angeles, with a dispute about whether delegates should make any endorsement and, if so, who. The party chairman, John Burton, had recommended that candidates not seek an endorsement. His advice was ignored.

After balloting concluded Saturday, the party announced no endorsement had been reached.

"At the end of the day, we stand united as a party, dedicated to making our elections more inclusive and our democracy stronger," state Sen. Leland Yee, one of three Democrats running for secretary of state, said on Twitter.

He is competing in the race against former California Common Cause official Derek Cressman and state Sen. Alex Padilla.

The race for controller features Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee works the crowd at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated to expand on John Burton's position.

March 8, 2014
Darrell Steinberg pushes Jerry Brown on pre-kindergarten expansion

steinbergconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Saturday that Senate Democrats will make pre-kindergarten a priority in budget negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown this spring, calling last year's school funding overhaul inadequate to address shortcomings in public education.

"No funding formula will prevent a 16-year-old from dropping out of high school because she fell behind years earlier," Steinberg told delegates at the California Democratic Party's annual convention. "And no funding formula addresses the reality that the achievement gap is formed well before, well before children arrive in kindergarten."

Steinberg's remarks constituted a glancing response to Gov. Jerry Brown's continued focus on a school funding overhaul that shifts more money to low-income and English language learners. Brown has said he will consider any proposals by legislative Democrats to expand the state's pre-kindergarten program, but he did not propose funding for any such measure in his January budget plan.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and other legislative Democrats have proposed allowing every 4-year-old in the state to attend pre-kindergarten classes, at a potential cost of about $1 billion to the state general fund.

The pre-kindergarten proposal is one of several points of contention Brown is likely to have with members of his own party in the Legislature this year, with social service advocates and their liberal allies pushing him to approve increased spending.

Steinberg, who is terming out, said "there is plenty of unfinished business to take care of" at the Capitol this year.

He said, "This is our time."

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, addresses the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
For Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the crowd's already at the bar

newsomconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Oh, the indignity of a minor speaking spot - and the self awareness of its holder.

Only a smattering of Democratic activists remained when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the final speaker of the afternoon, took to the podium to address the state party's annual convention Saturday.

"Thank you very much," he said. "It's good to see all four of you."

The crowd applauded, thin though it was after a day of convention activities.

"I'm getting to finally live out a lifelong dream of achieving a profound and highly sought after honor of being the last speaker of the day," Newsom said. "The question I've been asking myself in the back is what did I do to deserve this spot? So I think I've come up with a few explanations. No. 1, Gov. Brown chose the speaking order."

Newsom and Brown have a distant relationship, and there were some howls in the convention hall. Newsom said, "I could have said (first lady) Anne Gust, or Sutter," the governor's dog.

Newsom offered two other possible explanations for his spot in the speaking order, then left the subject with one more.

"No. 4, and this may actually be the real reason," he said. "The party makes a lot of money if people leave early and head to the bar, which clearly I think folks have."

PHOTO: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
Tom Steyer calls for public votes on California fracking

steyerconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Hours after Gov. Jerry Brown drew protests from environmental activists over his permissiveness on hydraulic fracturing, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer called Saturday for legislation requiring a two-thirds vote of the electorate in any county before the controversial form of oil extraction can go forward in that area.

The remarks reflect the expansion of Steyer's effort to lobby the state Legislature on oil. He previously announced an effort to push for a tax on oil extraction in California, although such efforts failed to gain support in past years.

"In California, it takes a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to impose taxes, and in local communities it requires a two-thirds vote to impose taxes," Steyer told delegates at the California Democratic Party's annual convention. "The business community has argued for years that this two-thirds vote is important to make sure they are not taken advantage of. Well, that exact same logic should apply when it comes to fracking."

Steyer has refrained from criticizing Brown on his environmental policies, despite their differences. Asked after his speech if his remarks were a challenge to the Democratic governor, Steyer said, "No, we didn't write this speech in the two hours in between then and now."

PHOTO: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks to reporters at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown protested by environmentalists, calls for 'crusade' on climate

JERRYBROWN.jpgLOS ANGELES - Gov. Jerry Brown called on California Democrats on Saturday to join him on a "crusade" against climate change, even as a rift between Brown and environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing gained heightened attention.

Environmentalists frustrated with Brown's permissiveness of the controversial form of oil extraction held signs and chanted just feet from the podium where Brown addressed delegates, prompting him to engage them directly.

"All you guys who like to make noise, just listen a moment," Brown said.

He said "Californians, and most of you included, are driving over 330 billion miles a year," urging environmentalists to focus on a range of issues, not only hydraulic fracturing. He said the "challenge here is gigantic" and that California is "leading the way."

Brown has been heckled at public events by environmental activists since he signed legislation last year establishing a permitting system for fracking, but never before have the activists managed to engage him during such a a major speech.

"You can be sure that everything that needs to be done to fight climate change that we can accomplish, we'll do it," Brown said. "And I ask all of you, every one of you in this room, to join in a crusade to protect our climate, to find other ways of mobility, and to make sure this California dream is alive and well both now and for generations to come."
At the end of his address, he said, "Thanks a lot, and keep protesting, but add a bunch of more stuff."

Brown's speech comes after months of fundraising and his long-anticipated announcement a week ago that he will seek re-election.

The frustration of environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing can be awkward for Brown, who was celebrated by environmentalists when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. It is unlikely to hurt him in the election, however. Brown has raised more than $18 million and faces two lesser-known and underfunded Republicans, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari.

Still, the protest appeared to annoy California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. He told delegates when Brown finished speaking, "Just in the future, don't come up with signs."

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democrats State Convention on Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong

March 8, 2014
Tom Hayden finds an 'unusually sober oasis' at Democratic convention

haydenconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES — While the California Democratic Party's most fervent members opened the party's annual convention Friday with an "evening of Cumbia and cocktails" and a "funkfest" billed as "the convention's hottest hospitality dance party," the disillusioned assembled over coffee and desserts at a café on Flower Street.

The host was the Progressive Democrats of America, the featured speaker Tom Hayden.

"I wouldn't say this is like an AA meeting, but this is an unusually sober oasis in the middle of a Democratic convention," the former California lawmaker and legendary activist said. "People actually speaking and thinking. I don't know how long this can last."

Hayden's audience consisted of about 150 activists, most of them liberal Democrats frustrated with a party they complain has become too moderate on issues including the environment and healthcare.

"Let me start by really sharing what I'm depressed about, so that you can start drinking afterwards," Hayden told them. "What I'm really concerned about in the long run is the lack of real understanding of the crisis that our youngsters are facing. First of all, the evidence is that they will live shorter lives than their parents. Secondly, they will have more medical afflictions and health problems than their parents. Third, they will be the first generation that anyone can remember to experience downward economic mobility - downward. And when they listen to us, and they listen to scientists, the message that comes across is that the world as we know it is going to be fundamentally altered if not destroyed by climate change. So the world will end while you're getting sicker and living shorter."

It was not all so sour. Hayden, who was involved in protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, urged the activists to continue working to push the Democratic Party to the left, and he said progressive traditions of social justice can be kept alive.

"I have confidence that this generation will rise to the occasion in ways that I can't predict," he said. "But it is going to be a bad time."

PHOTO: Tom Hayden, the former California lawmaker and legendary activist, speaks at an event in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders


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

More Capitol Alert

Capitol Alert on Twitter

Popular Categories

Now on


March 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

Monthly Archives

Latest California Clips