Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 19, 2014
Dianne Feinstein reluctant to legalize marijuana in California

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U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein still has doubts about legalizing marijuana in California, adding her voice Wednesday to mounting debate about the wisdom of legitimizing the drug following tax-generating efforts in Colorado and Washington.

"The risk of people using marijuana and driving is very substantial," Feinstein, D-California, told the Associated Press in an interview.

It has been 18 years since California became the first state to decriminalize marijuana for medical purposes. Four years ago, voters here rejected Proposition 19, which would have lifted the ban on adults 21 and older from smoking, growing and transporting pot for recreational purposes.

At the time, Feinstein signed the ballot argument against the initiative. She called the proposal "a jumbled legal nightmare that will make our highways, our workplaces and our communities less safe."

In the interview Wednesday, Feinstein said it was unclear how the culture would improve through legalizing marijuana. She said serving during the 1960s on the California Women's Board of Terms and Parole gave her first-hand experience of how marijuana negatively impacted the lives of women inmates.

Said Feinstein: "I saw a lot of where people began with marijuana and went on to hard drugs."

Feinstein's remarks closely follow a nationally televised interview with Gov. Jerry Brown in which the Democrat questioned whether pot legalization would stymie the state's competitive advantages.

March 19, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown talks drought at agriculture event

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Gov. Jerry Brown touched on California's worsening water shortage Wednesday in brief remarks to representatives from the state's agriculture community.

"We're doing everything we can to respond to the drought," Brown said outside the state Capitol as the California Department of Food and Agriculture hosted its annual Ag Day. "We've got to emphasize water conservation, and water recycling and managing the water."

But the governor avoided a reporter's question about new proposals to boost water storage.

On Wednesday, Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, trumpeted legislation to construct a massive reservoir in Northern California. In Fresno, the House Natural Resources Committee held a field hearing about the drought.

Several storage-related proposals are being weighed by state and federal lawmakers.

Brown on Wednesday did not address the prospects for a water bond on the ballot this November. Instead, he again framed the issue as part of a broader effort to reduce greenhouse gasses and combat global climate change.

"Whether it's in agriculture, or our homes, or businesses, or in how we travel, we've got a lot of big challenges," he said.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the annual Ag Day at the state capitol, March 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago

March 19, 2014
University of California regents debate lifting tuition freeze

UC_regents_meeting.JPGFacing a budget shortfall of more than a hundred million dollars, the University of California Board of Regents expressed doubts at its bimonthly meeting Wednesday that it could sustain the current tuition freeze for students.

"Obviously, none of us want to increase tuition," board chairman Bruce D. Varner said. But realistically, "we will need to have increases that make sense" going forward.

Tuition has been held at 2011-12 levels--$12,192--for the past three years and Gov. Jerry Brown has offered modest annual funding increases for UC as long as fees remain flat through the 2016-17 academic year.

But Brown's January budget proposal, which would allocate another $142 million, or 5 percent, to the university, still falls $124 million short of the UC budget that regents approved last November, said Nathan Brostrom, UC's executive vice president of business operations.

The difference covers three major areas, he added: enrollment funding, deferred maintenance and $64 million in pension contributions.

"Those are the areas we should be hitting on in our meetings with the Legislature and the governor's staff," Brostrom said.

Regent Hadi Makarechian argued that it is not viable to keep freezing tuition when fees are the university's biggest source of income. He suggested that recent borrowing and overspending could put UC on the path to bankruptcy.

Some regents strongly disagreed with the prospect of raising tuition. Regent Sherry L. Lansing said that the university should ask for help from the state in funding its pension and retiree health care commitments, as the state does for the California State University system.

"Why are we treated differently?" she said. "It makes no sense."

Student regent Cinthia Flores said she hopes the university will be "honest and upfront" about the possibility of a fee increase, so that students won't be hit with another 32 percent jump in tuition "out of nowhere" like in 2009.

UC also released the results of a new campus climate report during the meeting. The survey of more than 100,000 students, faculty and staff followed a series of racially charged incidents, including a "Compton Cookout" party at UC San Diego in 2010 that mocked Black History Month.

The report showed that more than three-quarters of respondents felt comfortable with the climate at their location, but those numbers were slightly lower among members of minority groups. About 9 percent of respondents said they had experienced exclusionary behavior that affected their ability to work or learn.

Aimée Dorr, executive vice president for academic affairs, said each campus will be expected to develop "two or three areas where they can improve" and "have goals, metrics and be working on it" by the end of the year.

"The ultimate goal needs to be, in part, to get a critical mass of folks" from underrepresented minorities on campuses so they don't feel excluded, added Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley's vice chancellor for equity and inclusion.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 2:54 p.m. to specify that UC tuition is $12,192 annually.

PHOTO: Janet Napolitano speaks at a University of California Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco after being elected president of the UC system on July 18, 2013. The Associated Press/Eric Risberg

March 19, 2014
LaMalfa, Garamendi introduce Sites Reservoir bill

sites1.jpgMAXWELL -- In a rare moment of unity for two ideological antagonists, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, on Wednesday unveiled legislation to build a new large-scale reservoir in Northern California.

That Garamendi and LaMalfa found common ground illustrated how the drought desiccating California has led both Republicans and Democrats to clamor for more water storage. If the state is to endure droughts, storage proponents say, it must build more capacity to trap precipitation in wetter years.

"There's a world of hurt in the fields and orchards around us because we failed in the past to prepare for the inevitable drought," Garamendi said, gesturing to fields bordered by the languidly flowing Glen Colusa canal.

The Sites Reservoir, for which the bill would direct a feasibility study and authorize construction, would be capable of holding up to 1.9 million acre feet of water.

Proponents said pouring that extra water into California's existing plumbing system would. benefit a multitude of users: farmers and urban faucets in addition to protected fish who could see additional discharges through the Delta.

"The more storage we have anywhere in California helps all of us," LaMalfa said.

The bill does not guarantee any federal funds. LaMalfa said that would ease its passage by reassuring critics wary of earmarks, and he predicted that other funding sources would surface.

"We have private sector funding that is waiting to happen if they have confidence in this project," LaMalfa said.

The so-called Sites Reservoir - technically called the North of the Delta Offstream Storage project - sits on a short list of storage projects California officials are trying to push forward, goaded by the historically devastating drought.

Other projects included in active bills before Congress include efforts to raise Shasta Dam, enlarge the San Luis Reservoir and construct a dam on the Upper San Joaquin River, popularly referred to as Temperance Flat.

"This is one of several storage projects that have to take place," Garamendi said, but he called Sites "the best of all."

In a recent speech to the Association of California Water Agencies, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, mentioned all four.

"The lesson is clear: we must build more storage to prepare for the next drought which is sure to come," Feinstein said.

And the calls for more water storage haven't been confined to Congress. The halls of the state Capitol in Sacramento hum with talk of placing a water bond on the 2014 ballot, with seven separate proposals on tap to replace a politically unpopular $11.1 billion measure currently scheduled to go before voters in November.

All include some amount of money for storage. But one authored by Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, is aimed predominantly at the Sites Reservoir and the Temperance Flats projects, offering $4.8 billion for those two dams.

Logue is challenging Garamendi this year, seeking to unseat the Democrat in the recently redrawn 3rd Congressional district.

PHOTO: Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, left, and John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, at a press conference to introduce a bill to study a possible reservoir near Maxwell, Calif., on March 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

March 19, 2014
AM Alert: Ag Day returns to the Capitol

Ag_Day.JPGAn electronic milking cow named Buttercup and exhibits on advances in aquaculture take over the west steps of the Capitol as the California Department of Food and Agriculture once again hosts its annual Ag Day. The informational event, celebrating the state's agricultural community, starts at 10:30 a.m. for elected officials and their staff, then opens to the public for education and healthy treats at 11:30 a.m.

At noon, California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross and Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, announce a new marketing campaign to promote California as a destination for food tourism.

Over on the north steps at 11 a.m., Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, and a bipartisan group of more than a dozen other legislators are scheduled to welcome hundreds of young people from Future Farmers of America to the event and to discuss a new bill that would offer grants for technical education in agriculture fields.

VIDEO: Despite evidence that charter schools are outperforming their public counterparts, Los Angeles is squandering their promise, Dan Walters says.

MOVIE NIGHT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will join President Barack Obama and others at the White House today for a private screening of the feature film "Cesar Chavez." The film's director, Diego Luna, and cast will be there, too.

EXTRA CREDIT: The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development is launching California Competes, a tax-credit program worth $180 million over the next two years for businesses that want to expand or relocate to California. The month-long application period begins today with a registration workshop at Sacramento City Hall at 9 a.m.

THE PEOPLE'S COURT: Groups representing businesses that say they have suffered abusive lawsuits call on the Legislature to change a legal system they argue is hurting job creation in California. Representatives from California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and the Civil Justice Association of California, among others, will be at Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I Street at noon.

VEGGIE TALES: If it wasn't already clear that the drought is California's hottest political issue these days, even PETA is using it for leverage. Arguing that producing meat takes too much water, members of the animal-rights organization will be showering in front of the Capitol at noon to encourage veganism.

HIGH FIVE: First 5 California, which funds programs meant to improve early-childhood development, began fifteen years ago when voters passed a tobacco tax. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and the directors of county First 5 commissions celebrate that anniversary at 5 p.m. in the Eureka Room at the Capitol.

POLS IN TOYLAND: It could be Christmas in March for lawmakers and their staff who attend the Toy Industry Association's legislative reception, 5:30 p.m. at the Senator Hotel on L Street, where the trade group hands out goodie bags with toys and games produced by its members.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank, who turns 41 today.

PHOTO: Jonathan Vera, 8, attempts to rope a fake bull during California Agriculture Day at the State Capitol on March 20, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

March 19, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Los Angeles squandering charter school promise

LAUSD_protest.JPGDespite evidence that charter schools are outperforming their public counterparts, California's largest school district is discouraging their development, 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: Parents protest a Los Angeles Unified order to reorganize elementary school classrooms by English language fluency on October 18, 2013. Los Angeles Times/Al Seib



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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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