Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 11, 2014
No debate, but Kashkari, Donnelly get speaking spots at GOP convention

kashkaripressclubscrum.jpgNeel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly may not be debating at the California Republican Party's annual convention this weekend, but they will be offered speaking spots, Jim Brulte, the party chairman, said Tuesday.

Neither candidate was previously listed as a speaker. They are expected to address delegates Sunday, the final day of the convention.

Brulte said he heard from candidates "this morning, for the very first time, three days before the start of the convention" that they would like to address delegates. He said he told them, "Makes sense to me."

The announcement comes a day after Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and tea party favorite, challenged Kashkari to a debate at the gathering of party activists in Burlingame. Both Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, and party leaders dismissed the invitation.

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

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari, a Republican candidate for governor, speaks to reporters after addressing the Sacramento Press Club on March 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 11, 2014
Sen. Mike Lee endorses Igor Birman, touts reform agenda for Calif.

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Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Tuesday that his national conservative reform agenda could be applied by California Republicans to help narrow the chasm with state Democrats.

"I think one of the reasons why we have struggled as a party in a lot of places has to do with the fact that we don't always connect the dots between our conservative policies and where we are trying to go with them," Lee said.

Lee, a favorite of the tea party movement, made the remarks in a telephone interview with The Bee to endorse Republican Igor Birman, who is challenging freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, in suburban Sacramento's 7th district.

Birman, 32 and an aide to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, is hoping to emerge from a crowded field of GOP candidates that includes former Rep. Doug Ose and Elizabeth Emken, a former nonprofit executive who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012.

Birman and his family emigrated from the Soviet Union two decades ago and his campaign draws heavily from their shared experiences. He believes the freedom too many here take for granted is in jeopardy because of government policies.

"He has experienced first-hand what it's like to live under exactly the kind of government regime that is oppressive and wrong having been born in the Soviet Union," Lee said. "He has seen the reasons why we need limitations on the authority of government and he understands standing up for the limitations imposed on government through the constitution, and sticking to conservative values, will be the best way to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy."

Lee's comments come less than a week before California Republicans meet outside San Francisco for their biannual state convention. Last week, he urged conservatives to redefine their movement and said failure to adopt new ideas would land them on the losing end of future elections for years to come.

"It's time for the Republican Party to stop talking about Ronald Reagan and start acting like him," he told the Conservative Political Action Conference.

PHOTO: Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., March 6, 2014. Associated Press/Cliff Owen

March 11, 2014
Californians' food assistance use doubled during recession

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As recession gripped the state a half-decade ago, Californians receiving what used to be called food stamps more than doubled to more than four million, a legislative hearing was told Tuesday, but the state still has, relatively, a very low rate of utilization.

Californians' use of what is now called CalFresh may be the lowest in the nation, a report from the Legislature's budget analyst says.

The state's utilization rate of 57 percent of eligible low-income Californians was calculated by the federal government for 2011 and was tied with Wyoming for the lowest. The national average was 79 percent that year, indicating that were California to reach that level, another 1.4 million Californians would be receiving the electronic benefit cards that replaced food stamps and are used in grocery stores to purchase approved foods.

The report said that the food assistance program increased from two million persons in 2006-07 to more than four million in 2013-13 and showed an especially large jump — nearly 25 percent — in 2009-10, during the depths of the recession. While enrollment is still growing, the rate of increase has dropped to scarcely 5 percent a year as the economy has improved.

However, the report from Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor's office warned legislators that the federal data on utilization may be outdated and otherwise not a true picture of what's happening with the federally financed program in California, although it did not question that the state's use is below average.

The joint hearing by the Assembly and Senate human services committees was called to delve into ways to increase utilization. It heard from a variety of advocates for the poor, as well as state and local officials who administer the program.

PHOTO: Volunteers sort boxes of food at the Elk Grove Food Bank Services in Elk Grove on Feb. 20, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 11, 2014
VIDEO: Kristin Olsen shows off sweet skateboarding skills

Olsen_skateboard.jpgKicking off her high heels, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, demonstrated her skills on an electrically-motorized skateboard Tuesday in support of AB 2054, a bill that would legalize the boards for street use. After a wobbly first run, a barefoot Olsen led the crowd in rides up and down 11th Street across from the Capitol, looking confident enough to give interviews while skating backward.

Early versions of motorized skateboards were prohibited by the vehicle code in 1977 because of concerns over loud and bulky gas motors. Olsen is seeking to allow new electric prototypes, which she said are silent and environmentally-friendly, to operate where bicycles are allowed.

"It's a great, viable transportation option for those short commutes," Olsen said.

She also promoted the job-creating possibilities of companies that make the electrically-motorized skateboards, introducing the founders of ZBoard, a start-up that manufactures its boards in Riverbank, to share their story.

"It just doesn't make any sense to allow an industry to build in California, but not to grow roots here," Olsen said.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, rides an electrically-motorized skateboard across the street from the Capitol on March 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff

March 11, 2014
Warning of 'liberal takeover' McClintock raising cash against GOP opponent

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Three days after learning he would face an intraparty challenger, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock has come out swinging against what he's calling an attempted "total liberal takeover."

"It's obvious -- the liberals want to entice enough Republicans to break off and join Democrats to elect a liberal Republican in a district that won't elect a liberal Democrat," McClintock wrote in an email to his large network of donors.

The fundraising appeal follows Republican Art Moore's entry into the 4th district contest. Under the state's new primary rules, the top-two votegetters, regardless of political party, advance to the general election in November.

Jeffrey Gerlach, who is not affiliated with a political party, is also running.

McClintock's campaign noted that at least three prospective Democratic candidates pulled papers to run, but ultimately stayed out of the race.

Most of the voters live in Placer and El Dorado counties, but the district stretches south to Fresno County and is heavily Republican. With no Democrats on the ballot, the district's 117,765 registered Democrats may be inclined to choose the more moderate Republican candidate.

In his fundraising email, McClintock asserts that a well-funded liberal coalition, in coordination with Democrats, is testing a new strategy to silence conservatives in California. That contention, at this point, is more of a suspicion than anything else.

None of the Democrats have admitted to any coordination. Kris Johnson abandoned her campaign saying a recent injury would require a long rehabilitation period. Donald Colbourn suspended his campaign after a brief flirtation. El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who expressed interest in the race, did not return a call seeking comment about her decision not to run.

Moore, a military officer who lives in Roseville, touts himself as a conservative Republican who believes in individual liberty and limited government.

"Art hopes to elevate the dialogue of this race above petty fear mongering," said Rob Stutzman, Moore's campaign strategist. "He thinks voters aspire to better campaigns than that. And I assure you, this decorated infantryman is no liberal."

Meantime, McClintock is telling supporters it will require a full-blown and expensive campaign right through to November.

"There's good news," he wrote. The people in the 4th district know me and know where I stand, and I believe we will keep this seat as a conservative one."

PHOTO: Rep. Tom McClintock address the Northern California Tea Party Patriots at a rally Sept. 12, 2010 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

March 11, 2014
AM Alert: Senate committee pushes innovation in election management

RBVoters2.JPGCalifornia's election and voting systems have been criticized as creaky and outdated, resulting in civic disengagement and low voter turnout — even by the candidates seeking the state's top elections post.

The Senate Select Committee on Science, Innovation and Public Policy will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol to explore technological solutions for modernizing voter registration, improving access to election information and boosting voter participation. Among those scheduled to testify are California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

The hearing was called by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is in the midst of his own campaign for secretary of state. The office is one of the most competitive statewide races this year, with three Democrats, a Republican, an independent and a Green Party candidate running. At the California Democratic Party's annual convention this past weekend, no candidate won the official primary endorsement.

VIDEO: Anti-fracking activists scored political points for Gov. Jerry Brown at the California Democratic Party convention, Dan Walters says.

SWEET RIDE Have you ever wanted to see a legislator ride an electric skateboard? Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, will show off her skills in support of a new bill that would make the boards street legal, 11:30 a.m. at Gallegos Square on 11th Street.

FALLING BEHIND: California's food stamp program has the lowest participation rate of any state in the country among eligible residents. The Senate and Assembly human services committees hold a joint hearing at 1:30 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol to examine barriers to participation and efforts to increase the reach of the program.

LOOK MA, NO HANDS: When self-driving cars eventually make it onto the roads, should blind people be allowed to operate them? What about children? The California Department of Motor Vehicles has been working through those questions as it develops regulations for autonomous vehicles. Another public workshop to discuss requirements and safety standards will be held at 10 a.m. at the DMV headquarters on 1st Avenue.

INTERIOR INTEREST: As California's water woes continue to draw national attention, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will tour the C.W. "Bill" Jones Pumping Plant in Byron today to check out the waterworks and discuss the federal response to the drought. She'll continue on to Point Arena on Wednesday to celebrate the White House's recent designation of the coastal nature preserve as a national monument.

PHOTO: Voters cast their ballots on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 11, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Anti-fracking activists score points for Jerry Brown

brownconventionspeech.jpgA noisy demonstration at the California Democratic Party convention over the weekend helped Gov. Jerry Brown boost his image as a moderate, 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: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the California Democratic Convention on March 8, 2014, while a protester holds a sign against hydraulic fracturing. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders



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Capitol Alert Staff


Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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