Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 27, 2014
Pressure mounts on Leland Yee to leave Senate

Yee_desk.JPGA day after Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was charged with corruption and conspiracy to traffic weapons, the state Senate's Republican leader introduced a resolution to suspend him and California's two U.S. senators called on him to resign.

"The allegations against Senator Yee are shocking. It has become clear he has lost the confidence of his colleagues and for the good of his constituents should step down," said a statement from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said in a statement that she agreed with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's demand Wednesday that Yee step down.

"If these allegations are true, they are beyond outrageous," Boxer's statement said.

The state Senate's Republican Leader, Bob Huff, introduced a resolution calling for the Senate to suspend Yee, an action that would require a majority vote of the 40-member house.

"We need to act decisively in order to begin restoring the public's trust," Huff said in a statement. "Senate Republicans agree with Senate President pro Tem Steinberg that Leland Yee is not welcome here anymore and he must resign from the Senate or face swift suspension by his colleagues."

Huff also called on the Steinberg-led Senate Rules Committee to act on two other resolutions he wrote that would suspend two other disgraced senators, Ron Calderon of Montebello and Rod Wright of Baldwin Hills, who are both Democrats. A grand jury last month indicted Calderon on corruption charges. In January, a Los Angeles jury found Wright guilty of eight felonies for lying about his residence when he ran for the Senate in 2008.

Huff had asked for the Senate to suspend Wright and Calderon a few weeks ago but Steinberg blocked a vote on the measures by sending them to the Rules Committee.

"While I appreciate Senator Steinberg's assurances that 'neither Calderon nor Wright are coming back,' we must treat all three equally," Huff's statement says.

"Only then can the Senate move beyond this dark cloud of ethics violations and corruption."

The Senate is scheduled to meet Friday at 9 a.m.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, speaks to members of the press in his office at the Capitol in Sacramento on February 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 27, 2014
Ami Bera honors pledge to return pension to taxpayers


Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, two years ago promised not to take a congressional pension until key entitlement programs were secured for years into the future.

In addition to underscoring his support for reinforcing Medicare and Social Security, Bera's pledge also helped draw a contrast in his grudge match with Dan Lungren, who is entitled to taxpayer-funded retirement benefits from service in state and federal office.

As Bera prepares for a tough reelection bid in the 7th district, his office announced Thursday that he's made good on that oath, issuing a check for $4,915 to the U.S. Treasury Bureau of the Public Debt. The sum reflects the amount he accrued in pension benefits last year.

In a prepared statement, Bera said the country must honor the promises it made to parents and grandparents to provide them with the health care they need and a dignified retirement after a lifetime of work.

"My constituents should not be forced to pay for my retirement when many of their own retirements are still vulnerable," he said. "That's why I have pledged to not take a congressional pension until Medicare and Social Security are secure for this and future generations."

Bera's pledge could again put a Republican opponent in a difficult spot. His GOP challengers include former Rep. Doug Ose and congressional aide Igor Birman.

Ose, 58, estimates he will be eligible to receive about a $1,200 monthly pension when he turns 62. He has declined to make any pledges about his pension or congressional pay.

March 27, 2014
Leland Yee pulls out of race for California secretary of state


Sen. Leland Yee has withdrawn from the secretary of state's race, but his name will remain on the June ballot.

Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, was charged in federal court Wednesday on charges including corruption and conspiracy to traffic weapons. He sent a letter to Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announcing his immediate resignation from the race for the office that oversees California elections.

But state law prohibits Yee's name from being removed from the ballot because he's already declared his candidacy, said a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office.

A 137-page FBI affidavit alleges that Yee operated in a pay-to-play fashion as he raised money for his secretary of state campaign, performing favors in the Capitol for donors who turned out to be undercover agents.

March 27, 2014
AM Alert: High-speed rail's 'potential for success' evaluated

HSRail.jpgCalifornia's drought has pushed high-speed rail out of the headlines in recent months, but the controversial project isn't forgotten. Republican legislators continue to introduce bills to defund the project and, in February, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom pulled his support, suggesting the state should instead reallocate voter-approved rail bonds.

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee holds a hearing to evaluate the project's potential for success at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol. Among those scheduled to testify is Jeff Morales, chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

VIDEO: With Democrats in the state Senate now below the supermajority threshold, Republican members could swing some key issues this session, Dan Walters says.

LEADER OF THE PACK: As David Siders reported last night, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, leads all Republican opponents in the race for governor. A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that Donnelly has five times more support among likely voters than rivals like Neel Kashkari.

HEALTH REFORM REFORM: As the first open enrollment session for Covered California comes to a close, Republican lawmakers plan to introduce a bill package that would put new restrictions on the health care exchange. Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway and other members of her caucus will gather at the Urban Hive on H Street at 10:30 a.m. to announce legislation aimed at ensuring privacy protections, affordable options and public accountability.

ILLEGITIMATE INDUSTRY: The Little Hoover Commission, the independent state oversight agency, holds a public hearing on California's underground economy, including the impact of black market sales on taxes and law enforcement, at 9:30 a.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY?: A pilot program at more than 100 gas stations in Sacramento and Los Angeles would promote the California lottery and allow for the purchase of tickets as shoppers are buying their gas. The California State Lottery Commission will hear a presentation on the proposed Play at the Pump program, 10 a.m. at the lottery commission building on 10th Street.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Last year, economic think tank the Milken Institute released a report examining California's position in the science and technology sector. The report's author, Kristin Keough, will present the results in a policy briefing at 2 p.m. in Room 125 of the Capitol, which will be followed by panel discussion including Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank.

TO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who bankrolled 2012's successful Proposition 39 closing a tax loophole for out-of-state corporations, is among the panelists who will be talking about the energy and economic potential of California's Monterey Shale formation, 2 p.m. at the Citizen Hotel on J Street. The conversation is sponsored by Next Generation, the Post Carbon Institute and Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, who turns 40 today.

PHOTO: A view of a high speed train moving through a wind farm in the proposed high speed rail network. Rendering by Newlands and Company Inc.

March 27, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Another Senate indictment puts Republicans back in mix

Leland_Yee.JPGWith Democrats in the state Senate now below the supermajority threshold, Republican members could swing some key issues this session, 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: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, speaks to members of the press in his office at the Capitol in Sacramento on February 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton


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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