Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 12, 2014
Donnelly calls campaign manager's departure 'mutual' decision

donnellygunstore.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Wednesday he was "already looking for somebody else" before Jennifer Kerns, his campaign manager, announced she was quitting the campaign.

"I knew it was going to happen," he said. "It was just, the timing caught me by surprise."

When Kerns announced earlier in the day that she was quitting the campaign, Donnelly said, "That's news to me."

In an interview Wednesday night, the Twin Peaks assemblyman said, "I was already looking for somebody else. It just wasn't a good fit there, for either of us."

He called her departure a "mutual" decision, saying, "I don't know that my brand of grassroots suited her expectations of what a gubernatorial campaign would be like."

Donnelly said, "We don't ever stop. We don't sleep ... Everybody's working their fingers to the bone."

When he promoted her to campaign manager earlier this year, Donnelly released an online video celebrating her promotion and giving her high praise.

"They say beside every good leader is a great woman," Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. "I've got two."

He said Wednesday, "You go out and make a video like we did, and it makes it tougher to make the change you need to make."

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

March 12, 2014
Report: Taxes, fees needed to close California water funding gap

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California will need to find billions of dollars annually to improve its water system, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California report.

Lawmakers are currently debating several water bond proposals for the 2014 ballot, but the report cautions that the state cannot rely on uncertain bond money to improve water management. It advocates a "broader mix of funding sources" that includes new taxes and fees.

"Although this is a fixable problem," the report says, "it will not happen without a bold, concerted effort on the part of California's state and local leaders, who must convince California's residents to support the necessary changes with their votes and their pocketbooks."

Aging infrastructure and climate change represent pressing issues, the report says, while water agencies are constrained by constitutional restrictions on how much money they can reap from ratepayers. Bond money requires fickle voter approval and crowds out General Fund dollars for education and health care.

Despite those funding obstacles, the report estimates that California needs $2 billion to $3 billion annually, breaking that up into five distinct areas: furnishing small communities with safe drinking water; flood protection; stormwater management; nurturing ecosystems and the endangered species that live there; and integrated water management.

The report's authors are generally optimistic about local entities that perform such services as providing drinking water and managing wastewater or stormwater. User fees generate much more money than what comes from the state or federal sources.

But because local fees and taxes generate the bulk of water funding, the report warns, tax-related ballot initiatives like Propositions 13, Proposition 218 (1996) and Proposition 26 (2010) have made it hard to keep up with maintenance costs.

Higher water-quality standards present a looming cost, as does the need to treat water when chemicals like arsenic and nitrate seep in — a problem that "will get worse before it gets better, because the accumulated chemicals in the soil are slowly moving through the state's aquifers," the report says.

Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to construct two massive water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could also bring higher costs as users pay back the cost of construction, the report says. The expense will be less for urban users than for farms where "this price increase could be prohibitive for many agricultural activities," the report said.

Farms will also face issues like scarce groundwater, a symptom of overpumping, and increasingly salty soil.

"Because of these problems," the report says, "we expect a continued decline in agricultural water use and irrigated acreage and a rise in the share of higher-income farming activities that can support higher water costs."

PHOTO: A Folsom woman examines a drip irrigation emitter at her home on Friday, March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

March 12, 2014
Tim Donnelly's campaign manager quits campaign

donnellypodium.jpgJennifer Kerns, Tim Donnelly's campaign manager, quit Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign Wednesday.

The announcement comes just days before the California Republican Party's convention in Burlingame and is a setback to the Twin Peaks assemblyman's bid. Donnelly, reached Wednesday afternoon, said he was unaware of the departure.

"That's news to me," he said.

Kerns said in a prepared statement that she is "proud to have taken a candidate from the launch of a campaign as an unknown, underdog candidate to frontrunner status in the polls, as well as having cleared the field of our closest GOP competitor."

She said a filmmaker who produced campaign video ads for Donnelly has also left "making this now two top strategic advisers who have left."

Donnelly had made Kerns a significant part of his campaign, In January he posted an online video celebrating her promotion to campaign manager.

"They say beside every good leader is a great woman," Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. "I've got two."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday to include the statement from Kerns.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Associated Press/Nick Ut

March 12, 2014
Assembly speakership vote to be held Monday

AtkinsPerez.JPGAssembly Democrats will vote in their next leader on Monday.

After months of intrigue and speculation, Democrats in January removed any drama around who would replace termed-out Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez by unanimously backing Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat and the current majority floor leader.

The Monday vote represents the next step in the leadership transition. Atkins will likely take over from Pérez before June, although the exact timeline remains in flux.

"That is still to be determined," said John Casey, Atkins' chief of staff.

A former San Diego City Council member elected to the Legislature in 2010, Atkins will lead a large, but inexperienced Democratic caucus.

Democrats have a two-thirds majority allowing them to pass new taxes or enact effective-immediately "urgency" bills without Republican votes. As speaker, Atkins will direct Democratic efforts to preserve that edge come November.

Atkins will also be managing a class of relatively fresh-faced members: a majority of Democratic Assembly members are serving their first terms.

During her rise through politics, Atkins has focused on issues that include gay rights, housing development and reproductive rights.

PHOTO: Speaker John A. Pérez, and Assemblywoman Toni Atkins discuss Atkins becoming the next speaker in the State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif. on January 22, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

March 12, 2014
Rebel California judges win a skirmish with chief justice over money

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A years-long battle over the direction of the California court system, pitting the San Francisco-based state court bureaucracy against rebel judges and court employee unions, took another tack Wednesday.

The system's critics, led by the Alliance of California Judges, scored a win when the Joint Legislative Audit Committee directed State Auditor Elaine Howle to look into how
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the Judicial Council she chairs and the Administrative Office of the Courts are spending money.

The Alliance, paired with court employee unions, has claimed that trial courts are being starved for funds and have been forced to shut down courtrooms and furlough employees while money was wasted on an inoperative computer system and lavish salaries and fringe benefits for AOC employees.

The battle has been waged within the Judicial Council, in the Legislature and in the media, culminating in a request by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, for a comprehensive management audit that is expected to take six to seven months.

"I don't want anecdotes anymore," Jones-Sawyer, a member of the audit committee, said. "I want answers."

The unanimous committee vote for the audit essentially rejected a plea from Steven Jahr, the AOC's top executive, representing the chief justice, for it to be pared down and/or delayed.

Jahr said that Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council had already undertaken extensive studies of AOC staffing by an outside consulting firm and faced a financial audit by the state Department of Finance and that the staff had been "considerably...downsized" — a contention that critics dispute.

Members of the Alliance, including its president, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White, and union representatives said it was vital to resolve conflicting accounts over spending priorities.

The state cut financing for courts when it faced severe budget deficits, and while some of the money has been restored, trial judges complain that financing from the AOC has been inadequate.

PHOTO: California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye answers questions from The Bee's Editorial Board at the offices of The Sacramento Bee in Sacramento on Jan. 14, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 12, 2014
New ad campaign tells California parents to talk, read and sing

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Jack and Jill's climb up the hill received a rare mention at a Capitol press conference Wednesday morning, as several legislators touted a new $9 million publicity campaign to get California parents to spend more time talking, reading and singing with their children.

That kind of face-to-face interaction between parents and small children helps young brains develop and leads to greater achievement later in life, according to research promoted by First 5 California, which uses money from cigarette taxes to offer services for children up to age 5.

The agency is required to spend 6 percent of its funds on mass media efforts. It's spending $9 million on an advertising campaign that launches statewide on Thursday pushing a simple message on parents: "Talk. Read. Sing."

Several wriggly toddlers sat through the unveiling of the ad campaign Wednesday that included Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva leading the room in reciting the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme.

"Why do you remember that? Because you were taught it," said Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton.

"We have entered a decade where many of our favorite rhymes and songs have stopped being taught. We see people on their cell phones. We see people texting and they're not talking. I see moms with their strollers and they're not talking (to their children). They're talking on their phones."

Other legislators used the event to promote their bills on early childhood education. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, plugged his SB 837 which would create public preschool for all 4-year-olds at a cost of at least $1 billion a year.

"By age 3 kids born into low-income families have heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. That leaves many California children predestined for success or failure before they enter kindergarten," Steinberg said.

As he pointed to the front row of the press conference, where several parents tried to keep their children quiet with bottles and snacks, Steinberg said: "Parents, all parents, should understand that what they choose to do on a daily basis makes a huge difference. And these little ones are never too young to start learning."

PHOTO: Parents and children listen as legislators and advocates in the Capitol introduce a new ad campaign geared at them. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall

March 12, 2014
One family will dominate Long Beach ballot this year

Lowenthal.JPGBack in the 1970s, San Diego was a hotspot for political namephreakers because the city had three top-drawer politicians named Wilson.

Pete Wilson, later to become a U.S. senator and governor, was San Diego's Republican mayor, Democrat Bob Wilson was a local congressman and another Democrat Bob Wilson was a state senator.

None of the Wilsons was related, but the situation created great confusion among voters, especially when they were merely urged in billboards and other media to "vote for Wilson."

An even odder three-way situation is shaping up in Long Beach this year, because Congressman Alan Lowenthal will be seeking re-election while his former wife, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, runs for mayor and their former daughter-in-law, City Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, runs for the Assembly.

Suja Lowenthal's former husband Dan, a Superior Court judge, was re-elected in 2012, so at least his name won't be on the ballot this year.

As political junkie Scott Lay points out in his Nooner blog, "If no candidate receives 50 percent in April 8's mayoral election and Bonnie places in the top two, three of the four Lowenthals will appear on the June 3 ballot for Long Beach voters."

Update: Modified at 3:16 p.m. to clarify family relationships.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 12, 2014
Neel Kashkari says Jerry Brown 'born into a life of privilege'

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, rebuffing opponents' depiction of him as a wealthy financier, said Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown is the gubernatorial candidate of privilege and wealth, again challenging the Democratic governor to release tax returns.

"Jerry Brown owns a million dollars of Jack in the Box stock," Kashkari told the conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on his show Tuesday. "I eat at Jack in the Box. That's the difference between me and Jerry Brown."

Kashkari's remarks came less than a week after he filed a required financial disclosure with the state. He reported receiving salary of more than $100,000 from Newport Beach-based Pacific Management Investment Co. last year in the form of a lump sum payment of stock. Kashkari left the job in January 2013.

In addition to interests in real estate and retail concerns, Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, have reported owning more than $1 million in stock in Jack in the Box.

Kashkari said of Brown, the son of a former governor, "Nobody was born into a life of privilege like Jerry Brown."

Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Treasury Department official, said he will release his tax returns for any year Brown will release them.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, said in an email that "a wealthy banker who's spent his entire life on Wall Street is not credible lecturing about poverty to the governor who slept on a futon and assisted Mother Teresa."

But Brown's campaign dismissed - at least for now - Kashkari's invitation to release tax returns that would provide more detailed financial information about the candidates. Newman said "we'll spend more time responding to the incessant tweets, videos, and challenges of whomever emerges from the Republican primary."

Neither Brown nor Republican opponent Meg Whitman agreed to release tax returns in the 2010 election.

Whitman, a billionaire, also took criticism for her self-financing of her campaign, but she was also damaged by revelations that her former maid was an undocumented immigrant. The woman, Nicky Diaz Santillan, was represented by Gloria Allred, the famous Los Angeles lawyer.

On the air on Tuesday, Hewitt asked Kashkari, "Is there a Gloria Allred press conference in your future, on anything?"

Kashkari said he had undergone a background check before being confirmed to his Treasury post and that there is nothing scandalous in his past.

"No housekeepers, nothing?" Hewitt asked.

"I've got a guy who cleans my house," Kashkari said. "He gave me a copy of his U.S. passport before I hired him."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 12, 2014
Ailing holy man would benefit from Corbett bill

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Sometimes California lawmakers focus on the little things, crafting locally-tailored legislation known in Sacramento parlance as a "district bill."

But it would be difficult to find a more specifically-aimed bill than Senate Bill 124 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, intended for a single monk.

Abbot Archimandrite Theodor Micka, the founder of the Holy Cross Monastery in Alameda County, is gravely ill and nearing the end of his life. But burial permitting requirements make it difficult for Micka to be laid to rest beneath the grounds of the monastery that is the physical manifestation of his life's work.

"There's no where else he wants to be," said Father Stephen Scott, who helped Micka raise the monastery. "It's just where he feels God planted him, and he wants to be buried here."

So they sought the help of some Stanford Law students. The students reached out to Corbett, whose district includes the monastery.

Employing a common bill transforming technique known as gut-and-amend, Corbett slipped language allowing for Micka's swift burial into legislation about clean energy contracts that has already been voted out of the Senate and is ascending through the Assembly.

"A compelling request has been made of me and I feel it's my duty to bring this forward for my constituents," Corbett said, pointing out the Legislature offered a similar exemption for the 2005 burial of a Fresno County spiritual leader. "Under the circumstances, because of his failing health it's important that this move quickly and we're able to grant his request."

PHOTO: Abbot Micka (far left) on July 4, 2009. Image by Popadia Lisa Butrie, courtesy of Father Stephen Scott.

March 12, 2014
AM Alert: Senate committees review California's greenhouse gas progress

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgIs California meeting its goal to reduce greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels by 2020? Should it take a more global approach to addressing climate change or keep emission reduction programs such as "cap and trade" focused solely on California? What happens to the state's efforts after 2020?

The Senate Environmental Quality Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Climate Change will consider these and other questions related to the implementation of AB 32, the 2006 law mandating a reduction of California's greenhouse gas emissions, during an oversight hearing at 9 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, headlines the panel discussions on the current progress and potential future of the AB 32 programs. She also testified at an Assembly hearing about the law on Monday.

VIDEO: State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is the latest lawmaker to use an informational hearing to boost an election campaign, Dan Walters says.

BABY GENIUSES: A full hand of legislators joins First 5 California to announce a new campaign encouraging early brain stimulation for babies and toddlers. The press conference at 10 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol includes state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, and Assembly members Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego.

HOMELESS YOUTH: The Assembly Select Committee on Homelessness discusses the challenges and needs of homeless students in California's public schools at 9:30 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The California Trucking Association is rolling up to the Capitol for its lobby day with a high-tech trailer that simulates the experience of driving a big rig. Those interested in taking the simulator for a spin will find it on 10th Street between L and N streets from 3:30-6 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, who turns 37 today.

PHOTO: A tanker truck passes the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond on March 9, 2010. The Associated Press/Paul Sakuma

March 12, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Lawmakers use hearings for personal electoral gain

Padilla_hearing.JPGMany informational hearings are just an opportunity for legislators to promote their re-election campaigns, 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: Senator Alex Padilla, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, listens to testimony on why the state Energy Commission has been unable to spend millions of federal stimulus dollars on August 01, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas



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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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