Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 10, 2014
Tim Donnelly challenges Neel Kashkari to debate

donnellygunstore.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly challenged rival Neel Kashkari on Monday to an "old-fashioned debate" at this weekend's gathering of the California Republican Party, an invitation immediately dismissed by Kashkari and party leadership.

The challenge, issued in a letter on Donnelly's website, came just days before the CRP opens its Burlingame convention.

"While we are both attempting to sway convention goers to ride along with our respective campaigns, it is imperative our fellow Republicans learn as much about our plans, our backgrounds, and our campaigns as possible," Donnelly wrote. "Even though we both have an 'R' behind our names, you and I have different life experiences, ideas for California, and campaign focuses."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, said "a good old-fashioned debate at the upcoming California Republican Party convention is the perfect place to make that happen."

Donnelly, who is far more conservative than Kashkari, is embraced by tea party activists but faces resistance within the party's professional ranks. Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, would have little reason to engage Donnelly at a meeting of party activists.

"It's our understanding from the CRP that there will not be a debate at this weekend's convention," Jessica Ng, a Kashkari campaign spokeswoman, said in an email. "That being said, Neel looks forward to continuing to share with voters his vision for California, and there will surely be many opportunities for voters to hear from him and all the gubernatorial candidates in the coming months, including in a debate setting."

Mark Standriff, a spokesman for the party, said, "The CRP doesn't involve itself in discussions between primary candidates in a contested race."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 10, 2014
Democrats block GOP move to suspend Wright and Calderon


For the third time in less than two weeks, Democrats in the California state Senate have blocked Republican attempts to formally oust two Democratic senators who are involved in criminal cases.

The latest move came Monday after Senate Republican leader Bob Huff introduced two resolutions, one calling for the Senate to suspend Sen. Rod Wright and the other to suspend Sen. Ron Calderon. Republicans have previously asked for Wright to be dismissed but Monday was the first time they asked for a vote on Calderon's fate in the Senate. The resolutions, SR 34 and SR 35, call for temporarily removing the senators, with pay, until their legal cases are resolved.

Wright, of Baldwin Hills, has been found guilty of eight felonies including perjury for lying about whether he lives in the Inglewood-area district he represents. Calderon, of Montebello, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on 24 counts related to corruption. Both men are on a voluntary paid leave of absence from the Senate.

"I believe we should have the opportunity to weigh in on something that is not breaking new ground... it's merely out there and codifying what's already been done," said Huff, of Diamond Bar.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, called the resolutions a waste of time and ordered them sent to the Rules Committee, where they could permanently stall.

"Another day here on the floor of the Senate, another drill," Steinberg said. "Senators Wright and Calderon have already left the building."

The Senate voted 22-12, largely along party lines, to support Steinberg's maneuver to delay action on the resolutions. Sen. Ted Lieu, a Torrance Democrat running for Congress, and Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, a Stockton Democrat in a competitive district, joined Republicans in the vote.

Monday's votes followed an attempt on Thursday by Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, to permanently expel Wright, which Steinberg quickly shot down, and a similar effort by Anderson and three fellow Republicans the week before.

PHOTO: Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento speaks with Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff on Thurs., Feb, 27, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 10, 2014
Financial aid program sees big boost in electronic submissions

financial_aid.JPGThe California Student Aid Commission reports a rise in the number of high schools submitting students' grade-point averages electronically, as state legislators weigh whether to require the electronic GPA reports.

The commission, which runs the Cal Grant scholarship program, said it has received 383,948 electronic GPA submissions for this year's awards, up from 290,468 in 2013. Verification of GPA is the second part of a two-step process for determining whether students qualify for the scholarships.

Diana Fuentes-Michel, executive director of the student aid commission, credited pilot partnerships with school districts such as Los Angeles Unified for the boost in electronic GPA submissions. The commission is still sorting through another 30,000 paper applications.

"The numbers continue to show that students, especially those trying to enter college, have gotten the message that there is student aid available," Fuentes-Michel said. "But we need to do more to streamline the process."

That is the goal of the bill introduced last month by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which would require high schools to submit electronic GPAs for all graduating seniors to the student aid commission. About 50,000 Cal Grant applications last year were not considered because the GPA could not be verified.

PHOTO: Prospective student Eva Vega, left, is counseled by financial aid technician Sonia Diaz during a college workshop at the Mexican Consulate office in Sacramento on February 1, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 10, 2014
Citing truancy 'crisis,' Kamala Harris, lawmakers seek action

Emphasizing that young students who frequently miss school are far more likely to fall behind and commit crimes later in life, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and half a dozen lawmakers introduced an anti-truancy bill package on Monday.

The legislative effort ties to a a report from Harris' office that depicts the repercussions of an estimated one million truant elementary school students a year, good for a 29.6 percent truancy rate among California youngsters.

Missing a substantial amount of school carries cascading consequences, Harris said: children who are already behind reading level by third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school. In turn, high school dropouts suffer higher unemployment rates and become more likely to turn to crime.

"There's a direct connection between education and public safety," Harris said.

School districts also incur an economic cost, Harris said, given that funding is linked to school attendance rates. The report estimated that absent students cost districts $1.4 billion annually.

Legislators promoted a set of five bills focused on data collection and reporting, from requiring the State Department of Education to track truancy rates to having district attorneys explain the outcomes of school attendance-related prosecution.

A bill by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, would require all counties to create entities called school attendance review boards, which some counties already use to give chronically absent students an alternative to entering the juvenile justice system. A bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, would have existing school attendance boards share more data.

Harris and lawmakers acknowledged that enhanced data collection will not by itself affect the outside issues that keep kids out of school, from poor health to volatile homes to overworked parents. But they said it is a starting point, allowing policymakers to understand why desks stay empty.

"If we don't know what the problem is or where the problem is, we can't solve it," said Buchanan.

Low-income students whose families lack the resources to compensate for missed classwork suffer acutely from skipping school, lawmakers said, as do children of color. Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, called addressing early childhood truancy key to breaking the cycle of poorly performing students churning through the criminal justice system.

"Stemming the tide of truancy is a critical component to disrupt the school to prison pipeline," Monning said.

PHOTO: Attorney General Kamala Harris greets Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at a press conference at the Capitol on Monday March 10, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 10, 2014
Two decades of budget expenditures, revenue


Legislative budget subcommittee hearings on Gov. Jerry Brown's January spending plan are in full swing, with lawmakers, administration officials, the Legislative Analyst's Office and others debating the proposal's finer points.

And then there are the numbers themselves. Democrats and Republicans debate what is the most accurate way to depict the changes in state expenditures and revenues over the years.

Below are charts showing California expenditures and revenue since 1992-93. The top chart summarizes general fund, special fund, and bond spending and includes adjustments for inflation based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It does not reflect the federal money that runs through the state.

The bottom chart shows the pieces of the state's revenue stream during the same time period.

Click on the legend to highlight a category.

Source: Governor's January budget, schedule 6 and schedule 3. Revenue numbers for 2012-13 are preliminary and are estimates for 2013-14 and 2014-15.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget plan at a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Renée C. Byer / Sacramento Bee

March 10, 2014
AM Alert: Kamala Harris, lawmakers take aim at truancy


Determined to keep kids attending school, Attorney General Kamala Harris will stand alongside a half-dozen lawmakers today to promote anti-truancy legislation.

Skipping school carries more consequences than missed tests: a report released last year by Harris' office estimated the annual fallout in the billions of dollars and linked chronic absences to unemployment and crime.

It's not a new issue for Harris, who made a push to police truancy while serving as San Francisco's district attorney and touched on the issue in her first speech as California's top law enforcement official. Slated to join her at today's announcement of a truancy-focused bill package are State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Sen. Bill Monning and Assembly members Raul Bocanegra, Rob Bonta, Joan Buchanan, Isadore Hall and Chris Holden. It starts at 10:45 a.m. in room 1190 of the State Capitol.

VIDEO: Add another item to the list of worrisome public-employee obligations, Dan Walters says.

HAPPY ENDINGS: We brought you news earlier this year of how cities and cops want California to work out the kinks in soon-to-sunset massage parlor regulations. A sunset oversight hearing, conducted jointly by business and professions committees in both houses, will offer a preview of the looming debate about the California Massage Therapy Council. Also coming under the microscope will be the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the California Tax Education Council. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. in room 4203.

LGBT-ERRIFIC: Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will be among the honorees at an Equality California event tonight, with Brown receiving accolades for his support of a bill for transgender students that recently survived a referendum challenge. Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, both have roles in the ceremonies.

WARMING PLANNING: Several years after California passed its landmark cap-and-trade law, lawmakers are poised to debate some major changes. Today we'll get an update on how California is doing on Assembly Bill 32's other key component, the requirement that the state cut down on emissions. Mary Nichols of the Air Resources Board, Tiffany Roberts of the Legislative Analyst's Office and a slate of experts will discuss the current plan during an afternoon hearing of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

PHOTO: Attorney General Kamala Harris prepares to talk before a hearing in Sacramento on April 22, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

March 10, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Health care another looming liability for California

hospital_mask.JPGThe state has billions of dollars in unfunded healthcare costs for public retirees, but it's not doing anything about the problem, 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: Jose L. Beltran, an RN and Assistant Nurse Manager in the telemetry unit, wears a face mask while working at Sutter General Hospital on February 17, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz


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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