Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 2, 2014
Toni Atkins will take over as California Assembly speaker in May


Assembly Speaker-elect Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, will take the leadership baton from current Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, in May.

Democrats unified behind Atkins in January and officially voted to make her their next leader in March. At the time the timeline for the transition remained unclear.

Democrats now have determined that Atkins will replace Pérez, who is termed out at the end of 2014, on May 12 - a full month before the Legislature must pass a budget without forfeiting pay. Atkins would also steer the Assembly through the May 30 deadline to pass Assembly bills and send them to the Senate.

April 2, 2014
California Latino Caucus backs bilingual education, paid sick days


Changes to California's health care, education and labor laws are among the bills the Legislature's Latino Caucus will prioritize this year.

Statistics show Latinos are more likely than other Californians to live in poverty, lack health insurance and attain little formal education, caucus chair Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said in announcing the group's priorities Wednesday.

"Fighting to turn these numbers around is why most of us got into politics and are now in the Legislature. California as a state cannot succeed unless we educate, employ and keep healthy the fastest growing sector of our work force, which is the Latino community," Lara said.

The caucus threw its support behind eight bills, including:

- Senate Bill 1174 by Lara, to place an initiative before voters in 2016 to repeal Proposition 227 and allow public schools to teach bilingual education.

- Senate Bill 972 by Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pamona, to expand the number of people on the state's health exchange board and require some expertise in marketing health plans.

- Assembly Bill 1522 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, to grant workers three days of paid sick leave.

"Studies show that in fact Latino workers in the state of California are 20 times more likely to not have paid sick days than their... Caucasian counterparts," Gonzalez said.

"So this is an important bill not only to low-wage workers, it's a very important bill to Latinos and in particular, single moms."

The California Chamber of Commerce has put Gonzalez's bill on its "Job Killers" list this year, saying the measure increases employer mandates and threatens them with penalties and litigation.

PHOTO: Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, with other members of the Legislature's Latino Caucus on April 2, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall.

April 2, 2014
California controller candidate Betty Yee: 'I'm a different Yee.'


Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a candidate for state controller, said she was shocked at the news of last week's arrest of state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, on corruption and weapons charges.

And she quickly realized that she had to make clear that, "I'm a different Yee."

"There were some tweets that day about, `Gee, another statewide official with Yee as the last name,'" Betty Yee said in a meeting with The Bee's Editorial Board. "That's awful. We're just keeping a focus on what we have to do."

Betty Yee, who has worked in the Legislature and for the Davis administration, added, "The Leland Yee that I think we all kind of knew as the public person was certainly not the person that we thought."

Betty Yee said she has reached out to California's Chinese-American community for support in the controller's race. Its members have been stunned by Leland Yee's arrest, she said, adding there have been "rumblings" about the San Francisco Democrat's style of campaigning.

"It was, you know, a little bit of a shakedown," Betty Yee said. "It wasn't about establishing relationships or anything meaningful. It was about one transaction."

Leland Yee's lawyer has said he expects his client to plead not guilty.

PHOTO: Betty Yee, a member of the Board of Equalization. Photo courtesy of BOE.

April 2, 2014
EpiPen bill advances, with testimony from Natalie Giorgi's mom

giorgi.jpgA bill to increase the prevalence of emergency epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, in California schools, would not have helped Natalie Giorgi, who died from an allergic reaction after biting into a Rice Krispies treat at Camp Sacramento last year.

The 13-year-old girl died despite the administration of epinephrine.

But Natalie's mother, Joanne Giorgi, told lawmakers Wednesday that access to the medication could help other children.

"You will save a life," she told the Senate Education Committee, which voted without dissent to move the bill forward.

Senate Bill 1266, by Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, would require school districts to give EpiPens to trained personnel to provide emergency medical aid to anyone suffering from a severe allergic reaction. The bill would expand existing law, which allows - but does not require - school districts to stock the medicine.

The proposed legislation is supported by health care and allergy groups, but it is opposed by the California Teachers Association, the California School Employees Association and the California Federation of Teachers.

The CTA said in a letter that it worried about "the potential for probationary or temporary educators and/or classified employees to be 'highly encouraged' to become trained in administering medication against their will."

April 2, 2014
Dianne Feinstein recasts California water bill

FEINSTEIN.JPGIn a move designed to lure Republican support, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced a revised California water bill that could move lawmakers closer to meaningful negotiation.

The new bill drops spending proposals that had been included in the original California water bill introduced by Feinstein and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer on Feb. 11. The $300 million in spending, in turn, had stuck in the craw of some Senate Republicans.

"It was a problem on the Republican side," Feinstein acknowledged at a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

By cutting the bill's costs, and tweaking other elements, Feinstein hopes the bill reintroduced this week can secure the 60 Senate votes needed to avoid going through the standard committee review.

Speedier Senate consideration under what's called Rule 14, in turn, is designed to pass something that can form the basis of a compromise with a far different California water bill passed in early February by the Republican-controlled House.

The redrawn Senate bill mandates that federal agencies operate California water projects with "maximum flexibility" to boost irrigation deliveries, among other provisions. It also takes a number of technical steps, some going beyond California, but unlike the House bill it does not specifically authorize big new water projects and it leaves intact the current San Joaquin River restoration program.

PHOTO: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., left, talks with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013.Associated Press/ Evan Vucci.

April 2, 2014
SeaWorld tells California lawmakers orca shows help whales


Not only are SeaWorld's orca shows safe for human trainers, they also help ensure the highly intelligent killer whales are healthy and happy.

That was the message SeaWorld San Diego delegates relayed during a visit to the Capitol on Wednesday. A bill by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, would prohibit the orca performances that are a major selling point for a prominent San Diego tourist attraction, and SeaWorld's informational hearing previewed the arguments they will likely level against the bill.

Bloom's bill follows a widely discussed documentary, Blackfish, that suggests SeaWorld's system of raising whales in captivity and enlisting them to perform is detrimental to the orcas compared to their wild counterparts. It also argues the shows put trainers in danger, linking the park's practices to the deaths of trainers like Dawn Brancheau.

April 2, 2014
Website allows tracking of Prop. 30 money to schools

PROP30.JPGProposition 30, enacted by voters in 2012 to temporarily raise sales taxes and income taxes on the wealthy, was touted by Gov. Jerry Brown and other proponents as an alternative to making billions of dollars in cuts to state school spending due to state budget deficits.

Since its enactment, state Controller John Chiang reported Wednesday, Proposition 30 has pumped about $13 billion into local school district coffers. Chiang unveiled a new website, entitled Track Prop. 30, that allows users to plug in their local school districts and see their total budgets and the portions being financed through Prop. 30.

As large as the $13 billion may be, it's still a relatively small portion of K-12 and community college finances, which approach $70 billion a year from all sources. The website reveals, for instance, that during the 2012-13 fiscal year, the latest for which complete data are available, Los Angeles Unified, the state's largest district, had $5.7 billion in revenues from all sources, but Proposition 30 provided just $659.4 million or 12 percent.

Proposition 30, which raised sales taxes fractionally and imposed surtaxes on high-income taxpayers, generates about $6 billion a year and by long-standing constitutional law, a large chunk of the revenue stream must go to schools.

The tax hikes will begin expiring in 2017-18, however, and whether - and how - their revenues to schools will be replaced is still uncertain. Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, has called for making the tax increases permanent, but that would take another ballot measure or two-thirds votes in both houses of the Legislature, plus Brown's signature.

PHOTO: Students, dignitaries and supporters cheer on Gov. Jerry Brown who holds up a campaign sign and encourages students to vote yes for Proposition 30 at Sacramento City College. Thursday, October 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 2, 2014
AM Alert: SeaWorld comes to Sacramento


Last time the folks from SeaWorld made the official trip from San Diego to Sacramento, it was a pretty low-intensity affair: mostly it involved some cute animals delighting staffers, who lined up for the chance to meet a penguin.

Amazing how much a documentary can change things.

The film Blackfish, which argued that SeaWorld uses unsustainable orca management techniques that led to the deaths of human trainers, has prompted a fierce SeaWorld PR counteroffensive. It has also helped convince Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, to introduce a bill that would ban captive orca breeding and end the elaborate orca shows that are a SeaWorld staple. It should be fascinating to watch the legislation's arc, particularly since the incoming Assembly speaker will be the first ever from San Diego, where SeaWorld is a major tourist draw and money-maker.

Half a dozen SeaWorld San Diego representatives, including park president John Reilly, a veterinarian and a trainer, will appear at an informational briefing in room 126 this morning, and you can probably guess what they'll be asked about. They'll then fan out for legislative visits, and you can probably guess what they'll be talking about.

LAW AND ORDER: Also on their lobby day today are representatives of a law enforcement coalition that includes the California Police Chiefs Association, the California District Attorneys Association and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Before walking the halls of the Capitol they'll get to hear from Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown will be speaking at 1 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center, where other speakers will include presumptive future legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker-elect Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.

SHOTSTOCKING: Up in committee today is a bill by Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, that would require public schools to keep a supply of epinephrine auto injectors. The mother of a Sacramento teen who died of an allergic reaction to peanuts last year will testify.

ONCE MORE UNTO THE DATA BREACH: Millions of Target and Neiman Marcus customers having their data stolen has focused lawmakers on consumer data security, and today Assemblymen Roger Dickinson and Bob Wieckowski will announce their legislative response. In room 127 at 9:30 a.m.

FUELING POLICY: Lawmakers will hear about the world of low-emission fuels at a summit sponsored by biofuel, natural gas and electric industry officials. Expected attendees at the Low Carbon Fuel event include Democratic Assembly members Bill Quirk, Henry Perea, Chris Holden and Nancy Skinner.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, who turns 62 today.

PHOTO: A SeaWorld trainer performs with a killer whale during the first show after an orca killed a trainer at theme park three days earlier in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack.


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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