Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

Emmerson.JPGCalifornia's 23rd Senate District was vacated last fall when former state Sen. Bill Emmerson abruptly announced he would resign effective December 1, saying his "passion has waned" after nine years in the Legislature. A month later, Emmerson joined the California Hospital Association to oversee its lobbying operation.

Voters in the Republican-leaning district, which takes in swaths of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, will head to the polls today for a special election primary to replace Emmerson. The top two are scheduled to face off on the June ballot, though the race could be over by tonight if one candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote.

The presumptive favorite is Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, whose 40th Assembly District overlaps with about half of the 23rd Senate District. He faces Republican San Jacinto councilwoman Crystal Ruiz, Libertarian Calimesa Councilman Jeffrey Hewitt, Democratic health care consultant Ameenah Fuller and Democratic real estate educator Ronald O'Donnell.

The special election is expected to cost at least $1.1 million for Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

VIDEO: The budget may be balanced on paper, but we're running up debts with deferred maintenance on our crumbling highway system, Dan Walters says.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN: The Advancement Project has put together a buzzworthy list of names to discuss educational and economic opportunities for young children at its sixth annual Water Cooler Conference, taking place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street starting at 8:30 a.m. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof will deliver the keynote address at noon. Also scheduled to speak are state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles; Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles; Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego; State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; and Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California.

BEHIND THE TIMES: New legislation from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, seeks to address a backlog of untested rape kits in California by outlining timeframes for law enforcement agencies and forensic labs to process forensic evidence from sexual assaults. The bill appears before Assembly Public Safety Committee at 9 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

COVER UP: The first enrollment period for Covered California ends March 31 and users won't be able to sign up for the health care exchange again until the fall. Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, joins with Diana Dooley, state secretary of health and human services, at Sacramento Fire Department Station #2 on I Street at 9:30 a.m. to publicize these final days of open enrollment.

FREE YOUR MIND: The Senate Select Committee on Emerging Technology: Biotechnology and Green Energy Jobs holds a hearing at 10 a.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol to discuss the BRAIN Initiative, a federal brain-mapping project announced last year, and the role California could play in the research.

MAZEL TOV: A new legislative caucus emerged earlier this session to focus on issues pertaining to the Jewish community. The Legislative Jewish Caucus, which includes nine lawmakers who identify as Jewish and several who do not but wanted to participate, kicks off its first event at 5:30 p.m. at Chops on 11th Street.

IT'S ALL DOWNSTREAM FROM HERE: Hoping to increase the odds of survival for salmon this year, state and federal fish and wildlife agencies are embarking upon a two-and-a-half month program to truck the fish from hatcheries to downstream release points, bypassing hazards in drought-depleted streams. The effort begins today with a demonstration in Rio Vista at 9:15 a.m.



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