Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 26, 2014
Poll: Tim Donnelly leads all Republicans in race for governor

donnellyscrum.jpgTim Donnelly leads the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown early in this year's gubernatorial race, according to a new poll.

Donnelly, with 10 percent support among likely voters, outpolls his closest GOP competitors by 8 percentage points, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official and the best-funded Republican in the race, was supported by 2 percent of likely voters, as was Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

All Republicans trail Brown by an enormous margin. The third-term Democrat is supported by 47 percent of likely voters, while 36 percent of likely voters remain undecided, according to the poll.

March 26, 2014
Darrell Steinberg to Leland Yee: Resign or be suspended


Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he was shocked and sickened by the allegations brought against a member of his caucus Wednesday, saying Sen. Leland Yee has until Friday to resign from office or face certain suspension.

Flanked by at least 16 of his colleagues, Steinberg characterized the charges against Yee, D-San Francisco, as extraordinary and said they gathered together to express their anger and revulsion at the day's events.

He said while Yee is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the indictment itself is "sickening" and "surreal," comparing it to something out of a Hollywood movie. Yee would be stripped of his committee chairmanship and all of his committee assignments, Steinberg said.

"Leave," Steinberg told Yee, who is accused of conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption. "Don't burden your colleagues and this great institution with your troubles. Leave!"

"I am angry on behalf of the people and I am angry on behalf of the 37 other members whose hard work everyday on behalf of the people is being tarnished because of events outside of their control and outside of our control," he added.

Steinberg's caucus has been hit with a string of legal woes - including cases against Sens. Rod Wright of Baldwin Hills and Ron Calderon of Montebello.

Democratic Sens. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles and Mark Leno of San Francisco took the opportunity to forcefully defend Stenberg given the growing number of scandals gripping his house.

"It is our good fortune that the leader of this house is exemplary, a pillar of integrity," Leno said. "Darrell Steinberg sets a tone and we all respond to that."

De Leon, the incoming Senate leader, echoed many of his colleagues.

"There is nothing that Darrell does that enables or creates conditions for this type of behavior in this great institution," de Leon said.

"Let me underscore and let me emphasize, this legislative body, specifically the Senate, has moved forward some of the most groundbreaking policy measures in the last few decades - in a generation," he added.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento takes questions from members of the press earlier this month. (The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua)


Sen. Leland Yee arrested, Capitol office searched by FBI

Ex-con 'Shrimp Boy' linked to Yee arrest was honored by elected officials

Yee's arrest upends contest for California Secretary of State

VIDEO: FBI raids Sen. Leland Yee's office, carts away files

READ: 'Uncle Leland' involved in arms deal, FBI affidavit alleges

Yee criminal complaint "Word Cloud"

VIDEO: Steinberg says Yee arrest leaves him 'extremely disappointed and upset'

March 26, 2014
Tim Donnelly says past larceny case was college 'prank'

donnellyscrum.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, who has denied having any criminal record before carrying a gun into an airport in 2012, on Wednesday blamed a larceny case in Michigan in 1985 on a drunken "prank."

The candidate's case came at the end of Donnelly's freshman year at University of Michigan. He left the school, moved to California and enrolled at University of California, Irvine, that fall.

Asked previously whether he had any criminal convictions prior to the airport incident, Donnelly said, "No."

The Twin Peaks assemblyman told The Bee on Wednesday night that he was telling the truth.

"All I know is that I was never convicted, and that's it," Donnelly said. "I was treated as a minor, and it was explained to me then that it would not result in a conviction, it would result in you doing some community service, paying restitution, and if you did that successfully ... there would be no, there would be nothing. It would be as if it never happened, and that I could honestly say for the rest of my life that I've never been convicted."

Records searches in Michigan produced no evidence of criminal charges ever being filed against Donnelly. But The Ann Arbor News listed a Timothy Michael Donnelly as receiving a fine and three years of probation for "larceny in a building" in a brief item in June 1985.

Donnelly, asked by The Bee about the incident earlier Wednesday, instead called in to the conservative "John and Ken" show in Los Angeles to pre-empt the report. He complained the incident was an insignificant "prank" that happened years ago.

"They want to break a news story about a prank that I pulled in college," he said on the radio show. "I got busted 30 years ago."

Asked what he did, Donnelly said, "I got drunk with my buddy, and we left his Sony Walkman in the hallway, and somebody took it. So we started looking for somebody who might have it, and we wound up breaking into somebody else's room and stealing a stereo from them."

He said, "When we sobered up we called the cops and told them where it was and, you know, boy, they wanted to throw the book at us."

He said "the consequences were severe enough for me that I basically quit drinking not long after that."

Donnelly said he was treated as a minor and that the record was expunged.

Donnelly, one of two main Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, has said he left Michigan because he longed to escape Midwest winters and to see the beaches of Southern California.

Bee researcher Pete Basofin contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:20 p.m. to include information from Donnelly's radio interview and at 8:45 p.m. to include his comments to The Bee

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 26, 2014
VIDEO: Steinberg says he's 'extremely disappointed and upset'
March 26, 2014
Yee criminal complaint "Word Cloud"
March 26, 2014
READ: 'Uncle Leland' involved in arms deal, FBI affidavit alleges
March 26, 2014
Igor Birman touts support of Rand Paul, other Republicans


Republican Igor Birman announced the endorsement of GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Wednesday, adding to his growing list of high-profile supporters in the crowded field taking on Rep. Ami Bera.

Rand Paul joins his father, the former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, in supporting Birman, a 32-year-old aide to Rep. Tom McClintock. In an interview with The Bee, Ron Paul pointed to Birman's journey to the U.S. from the Soviet Union as evidence that he doesn't take his new-found freedom for granted.

"I think Igor recognizing that as great as we are, and as grateful as he is being here, he sees some changes in the attacks on civil liberties that have motivated him to speak out," Ron Paul said. "When I see someone like Igor come along, I think it's great that he's doing it, and I want to encourage him. I have as much conviction that you have to change peoples' minds on policy as I do just putting new people in office."

Rand Paul said he had no doubt Birman would stand with him "as a strong and passionate defender of liberty." "Our nation needs Igor in the halls of Congress and I will do all I can to help get his voice to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives," he said.

Birman's candidacy also is supported by Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, along with GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and tea party-aligned groups like FreedomWorks.

His chief Republican rival in the race, former Rep. Doug Ose, has been endorsed by a large share of the elected officials representing parts of suburban Sacramento's congressional district. That includes nearly two-thirds of the council members across the four cities and a majority from the five-member county Board of Supervisors.

Elizabeth Emken, the other major Republican, draws some of her support from elected state lawmakers.

The 7th district, captured by Bera two years ago in a close race, is expected to produce one of the most competitive and expensive House contests in the state and possibly the country.

PHOTO: Igor Berman, a Republican who is running in the 7th Congressional District, meets with voters in Elk Grove on Feb. 7. (The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas)

March 26, 2014
VIDEO: FBI raids Sen. Leland Yee's office, carts away files


Federal officials raided Democratic Sen. Leland Yee's office at the Capitol on Wednesday, carting away at least nine packages of possible evidence.

Yee was arrested as the FBI said it was executing multiple search warrants and "conducting arrests in multiple locations today." Multiple Bay Area media reports have said he is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. in San Francisco.

In Sacramento, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard told reporters that the officials arrived at Yee's fourth-floor office at the Capitol about 7 a.m. The officials, including representatives from the FBI, were seen leaving just before noon.

On their way out, Beard requested that photographers refrain from shooting their faces.

VIDEO: The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.

PHOTO: Senate and federal officials remove several boxes of documents from Sen. Leland Yee's Capitol office on Wednesday. (The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua)


Sen. Leland Yee arrested, Capitol office searched by FBI

Ex-con 'Shrimp Boy' linked to Yee arrest was honored by elected officials

Yee's arrest upends contest for California Secretary of State

READ: 'Uncle Leland' involved in arms deal, FBI affidavit alleges

Yee criminal complaint "Word Cloud"

VIDEO: Steinberg says Yee arrest leaves him 'extremely disappointed and upset'

Darrell Steinberg to Leland Yee: Resign or be suspended

March 26, 2014
Yee's arrest upends contest for California Secretary of State


This morning's arrest of state Sen. Leland Yee roils the race for Secretary of State, although the San Francisco Democrat's standing in the six-person field seemed to be slipping in recent weeks.

Yee, D-San Francisco, is one of three Democrats running for the post. The others are state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, and Derek Cressman, the former California director of Common Cause. Republican Pete Peterson, independent Dan Schnur, and Green David Curtis also are candidates.

In fundraising reports filed this week, Padilla and Schnur, headed into the final 2-1/2 months before the June primary with the most cash on hand. Padilla had more than $614,000 in his campaign treasury as of March 17. Schnur, a former Republican-turned-independent, had $260,000.

Yee, though, had only $134,000 cash on hand after raising just $70,000 since January. It's unclear how Yee's arrest will change the race, and if it makes it more or less likely that Schnur will advance to the November runoff.

The charts below show how much each candidate's campaign raised and spent, cash on hand, and debt.

PHOTO: Sen. Alex Padilla listens to Senate testimony in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas


Sen. Leland Yee arrested, Capitol office searched by FBI

Ex-con 'Shrimp Boy' linked to Yee arrest was honored by elected officials

VIDEO: FBI raids Sen. Leland Yee's office, carts away files

READ: 'Uncle Leland' involved in arms deal, FBI affidavit alleges

Yee criminal complaint "Word Cloud"

VIDEO: Steinberg says Yee arrest leaves him 'extremely disappointed and upset'

Darrell Steinberg to Leland Yee: Resign or be suspended

March 26, 2014
California minimum wage hike clears first Senate hurdle


Legislation that would sharply increase California's minimum wage and index it to inflation cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.

It's doubtful, however, whether Gov. Jerry Brown would sign another minimum wage boost a year after he and the Legislature enacted an increase.

The 2013 legislation raises the minimum wage, now $8 per hour, to $9 on July 1, then to $10 in 2016. Brown signed the increase after insisting that the Legislature remove an automatic inflation adjustment.

The new legislation,Senate Bill 935, is being carried by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and is backed by labor unions and advocates for the poor.

Leno told the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee that another boost is needed to stimulate the economy and combat poverty and the decline of California's middle class. Citing Wal-Mart and other employers, Leno said, "We, the taxpayers, are subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country."

Employer groups, particularly those representing restaurants and farmers, lined up against the Leno measure, saying it would raise their costs, make hiring new employees more difficult and doom some small businesses.

SB 935 would raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and then $12 in 2016 and $13 in 2017. Beginning in 2018, the wage would be automatically indexed to inflation each year.

It cleared the Senate committee on a party-line 3-1 vote with one Democratic member, Leland Yee, absent. He was in San Francisco to face federal charges stemming from a wide-ranging FBI investigation.

March 26, 2014
Mike Morrell elected to California State Senate


Assemblyman Mike Morrell won an easy election to the state Senate on Tuesday, filling the unexpired term of former state Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands.

Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, received 62.6 percent of the vote in a five-way special primary election, easily clearing the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a June 3 runoff, according to semi-official results. His closest rival, Democrat Ronald J. O'Donnell of Highland, received 15.3 percent of the vote.

"The residents of the 23rd Senate District will be in great hands through MikeĀ¹s commitment to public service," Senate GOP Leader Bob Huff said in a statement.

The 23rd Senate Districts large parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties and a sliver of Los Angeles County's eastern edge. Since 2010, Morrell has represented an Assembly district that wrapped from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands.

Emmerson easily won re-election to the redrawn 23rd Senate District in November 2012. He resigned Dec. 1, 2013 and shortly later became a senior vice president for the California Hospital Association.

Morrell barely won re-election in 2012 in the redrawn 40th Assembly District and faced a tough re-election in November. There will not be a special election to fill Morrell's vacancy after he resigns the Assembly because the vacancy will come after the candidate filing date in the final year of Morrell's two-year term.

PHOTO: The campaign website of state Sen.-elect Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga.

March 26, 2014
Ex-con 'Shrimp Boy' linked to Yee arrest was honored by elected officials


A former Chinatown organized crime figure reportedly arrested this morning in a sweep that also targeted Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has received awards in the past from California elected officials.

An avowed former soldier in the San Francisco-based Hop Sing Tong gang, Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow served time in prison after being convicted on gun trafficking charges. He was released early for providing testimony that helped bring down alleged Chinese organized crime boss Peter Chong.

Chow has publicly distanced himself from his criminal past since then, winning an award in 2012 for former offenders who have since become assets to their community. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, issued a statement in 2012 recognizing Chow and other honorees.

Also in 2012, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, bestowed a "change agent" award upon Chow, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee gave Chow an award recognizing his "willingness to give back to the community."

"We celebrate your tenacity and your exceptional service as a valued member of our community," the certificate from Ammiano says. "Your efforts to turn your life around and help others to do the same have been an inspiration to us all."

In a statement, Ammiano said the plaudit came in response to a San Francisco organizations' request.

"One of the ceremonial aspects of being in the Assembly is providing recognition to people in the district at the request of respected community organizations," Ammiano said. "It appears that my office provided such a recognition to Raymond Chow as a 'change agent' at the request of the Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services organization. The group acknowledged Chow's efforts at reform and helping others. That is all there is to it."

Updated at 12:57 p.m. to include Assemblyman Ammiano's response.

PHOTO: A screenshot from the Facebook page of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow shows him posing with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California.


Sen. Leland Yee arrested, Capitol office searched by FBI

Yee's arrest upends contest for California Secretary of State

VIDEO: FBI raids Sen. Leland Yee's office, carts away files

READ: 'Uncle Leland' involved in arms deal, FBI affidavit alleges

Yee criminal complaint "Word Cloud"

VIDEO: Steinberg says Yee arrest leaves him 'extremely disappointed and upset'

Darrell Steinberg to Leland Yee: Resign or be suspended

March 26, 2014
Sen. Leland Yee arrested, Capitol office searched by FBI

Yee_KPIX.jpgFBI agents are in the Capitol office of state Sen. Leland Yee this morning, and Bay Area news stations are reporting that the San Francisco Democrat has been arrested on suspicion of corruption.

FBI spokeswoman Gina Swankie would not confirm anything about Yee or others who may be targeted by the agency, but said "the FBI is executing multiple search warrants and conducting arrests in multiple locations today."

"At this time we are not elaborating due to the need for agent safety," Swankie said.

Yee's press secretary Dan Lieberman said he had no information but expected to provide a statement later today. Yee was photographed entering the federal building in San Francisco, apparently to be formally charged.

News reports said that a well-known former Chinatown gangster, Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, also had been arrested.

Yee, a child psychologist, has served in the Assembly and the Senate and is now running for secretary of state, with another state senator, Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, his chief Democratic foe. Yee has carried a wide variety of legislation during his career and is best known for his measures dealing with violence in video games and his advocacy for open records.

Two other Democratic state senators, Rod Wright and Ron Calderon, are already on leaves of absence due to criminal charges against them, and their departure erased the Senate's Democratic supermajority at least temporarily. Were Yee also to depart before his term expires, it would drop Democrats to 25 seats in the Senate and give Republicans a larger role in legislation that requires two-thirds votes, such as tax increases, constitutional amendments and a pending water bond issue.

A spokesman for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said the pro tem planned to talk to media this afternoon. Minority leader Bob Huff issued a statement by email saying he is "deeply troubled" by Yee's arrest.

"Once again, the Senate has been tarnished by another FBI raid of a Senator's capitol office. There are hundreds of visitors in the State Capitol each day, and those who witnessed this morning's events have every reason to be concerned about whether the Legislature is more concerned about serving themselves than the people."

Updated at 11:48 a.m. with additional details.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, arrives at the San Francisco Federal Building on March 26, 2014 after being arrested on suspicion of corruption charges. Courtesy of KPIX


Ex-con 'Shrimp Boy' linked to Yee arrest was honored by elected officials

Yee's arrest upends contest for California Secretary of State

VIDEO: FBI raids Sen. Leland Yee's office, carts away files

READ: 'Uncle Leland' involved in arms deal, FBI affidavit alleges

Yee criminal complaint "Word Cloud"

VIDEO: Steinberg says Yee arrest leaves him 'extremely disappointed and upset'

Darrell Steinberg to Leland Yee: Resign or be suspended

March 26, 2014
AM Alert: Noreen Evans brings genetically modified food fight back to California

GMO_labels.JPGProposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically modified food, was one of California's most expensive ballot fights in the November 2012 election. The measure failed, but proponents pushed on to other states and have seen successes in the Maine and Connecticut state legislatures.

Now the fight returns to California with SB 1381, a bill by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, that would prescribe labeling requirements for foods that are genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Will taking their cause to lawmakers instead of voters change the outcome for anti-GMO advocates? That question could become clearer when the bill goes before its first committee, the Senate Health Committee, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: School districts and civil rights groups have been at odds over how to spend new school money to close California's "achievement gap," Dan Walters says. Now Democratic lawmakers have weighed in.

DRUG POLLUTION: New legislation from state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, aims to address potential environmental damage from people's disposal of medicine by creating a statewide drug take-back program for unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The Senate Environmental Quality Committee will hold an informational hearing on the bill at 9:30 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol and then vote on it.

MORE HEARINGS: The Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment meets at 10 a.m. in Room 444 of the Capitol to discuss resources available to female prisoners upon re-entry into society. The Senate Insurance Committee gathers at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol for a hearing on California's earthquake preparedness and the risk to businesses and the economy.

GLOBAL CONCERNS: How should the international community respond to North Korea? The World Affairs Council of Northern California sponsors a briefing with Philip Yun, a North Korea adviser in the Clinton administration, noon in Room 2040 of the Capitol.

VETS VISIT: The California chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America is in town for its lobby day, starting with a gathering at 8:45 a.m. in the Capitol Basement Cafeteria to discuss legislation of interest and honor state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley. Following legislative visits, the group will hold a public ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Capitol Park at 3 p.m.

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM: The California Grocers Association is also at the Capitol today and will host an ice cream social for legislators and their staffs on the south steps at 1:30 p.m., sponsored by Nestle Dreyer's Ice Cream.

POLICE FUNERAL: Last week, a Mendocino County sheriff's deputy was killed in a shootout with an armed kidnapping suspect. Gov. Jerry Brown will attend the funeral for the officer, Ricky Del Fiorentino, at 10 a.m. at the Cotton Auditorium in Fort Bragg.

PHOTO: Some packaged foods are labeled as being free of GMO at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op on September 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 26, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Legislators push for more restrictions in new school funding

education_march.JPGSchool districts and civil rights groups have been at odds over how to spend new school money to close California's "achievement gap," Dan says. Now Democratic lawmakers have weighed in.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Students, parents and advocates from across the state march around the California Department of Education building on January 16, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench


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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