Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 16, 2014
Tim Donnelly fires legislative chief of staff

donnellyscrum.jpgOne month after splitting with his campaign manager in his run for governor, Republican Tim Donnelly has fired Alex Vassar, his legislative chief of staff, sources said.

The reason was unclear. Donnelly, a state assemblyman from Twin Peaks, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Vassar, who went to work for Donnelly last year, declined to comment.

Donnelly, the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights and anti-illegal immigration advocate, leads all Republicans in recent polls in an uphill effort to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

Donnelly's former campaign manager, Jennifer Kerns, announced last month that she had quit his gubernatorial campaign, while Donnelly called her departure a "mutual" decision.

In an email Wednesday, Kerns said Vassar's firing "represents a continuation of poor judgment" by Donnelly.

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

April 16, 2014
Leland Yee shuts down ballot-measure committee

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State Sen. Leland Yee has closed his ballot-measure committee, only days after authorities indicted him on corruption and gun-running conspiracy charges.

The account, One California For All, was terminated effective April 9 after the roughly $1,300 in it as of March 17 was used to pay off campaign expenses. The termination statement was filed with the secretary of state's office Tuesday.

Yee created the committee in fall 2008 and it raised about $72,000 from 2009 through 2012, records show. Beginning in 2011, the committee's stated purpose was "school bond."

In the criminal complaint against Yee and more than 20 others that became public March 26, Yee allegedly encourages an undercover agent seeking contracts with the state to give to his ballot measure account.

"When (the agent) asked if there was some way that he could contribute money 'outside the campaign,' and not have to be worried, Senator Yee said that (the agent) could contribute unlimited sums to a committee supporting a ballot measure for school funding that Senator Yee also supported," the complaint reads, describing an October 2011 meeting between the senator and agent. "Senator Yee explained that the ads for the measure would feature Senator Yee in a positive piece supporting schools and education."

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, leaves Federal Court in San Francisco on March 26, 2014. Bay Area News Group/Karl Mondon

April 16, 2014
Rep. Ami Bera sitting comfortably in 7th district fundraising

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Rep. Ami Bera far outpaced his Republican challengers in first-quarter fundraising, bringing in more than $489,000 and elevating his cash on hand to $1.47 million.

The Elk Grove Democrat spent about $172,000 since the beginning of the year, doubling his rate from last quarter as the primary election approaches. His cash on hand again exceeds the combined amounts of Republicans Igor Birman, Elizabeth Emken and Doug Ose.

"It's just further confirmation that Sacramento County families want a problem solver who keeps his promises and puts them ahead of politics representing them in Congress," Bera said.

Ose, a businessman and former congressman, loaned his campaign $250,000, raised $227,000 and has $418,000 in the bank. A wealthy land developer, Ose has said he will spend what it takes to unseat Bera in the competitive 7th district.

"Our campaign is picking up steam because local folks know I'm going to serve them, not Washington, DC special interest groups," Ose said.

Emken, an autism advocate making her third bid for elected office, raised $110,000 and has about double that on hand. She owes her campaign $220,000 after repaying $65,000 toward a prior loan.

Birman, a congressional aide, raised $110,000. He has a combined $70,000 for the primary and general elections minus about $8,500 in debts.

April 16, 2014
Jerry Brown calls special legislative session on rainy day fund

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature for next week to address his effort to put a rainy-day fund constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

The proposed amendment would eliminate some provisions of a rainy day reserve measure already on the ballot. The original measure, ACA 4, was opposed by some of the Democratic governor's liberal allies, who complained it would collect too much money and make it too difficult to increase spending.

Brown has said the measure fails to address the volatility of capital gains revenue and didn't allow lawmakers to pay down debt, among other shortcomings.

"We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund," Brown said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

The original measure, ACA 4, was part of a 2010 budget deal between Democrats, Republicans and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and originally scheduled to go before voters in 2012, but lawmakers postponed it to 2014.

Republicans reacted skeptically to Brown's proposal when he first announced it, in January, saying they were happy with ACA 4. Brown's ability to push it through a special session will test Democrats' diminished standing in the Legislature. Democrats have lost their two-thirds majority in the Senate, with three senators suspended.

In calling a special session, Brown raises the profile of the issue but still must get supermajority support.

Brown's proposal, contained in his January budget plan, includes a $1.6 billion allocation to a new rainy-day fund. He proposes to increase deposits during years when capital gains revenue is high, to raise the maximum size of the fund to 10 percent of general fund revenue and to create a special reserve for school funding.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 16, 2014
AM Alert: Californians divided geographically over water shortage

AmericanRiver.jpgThough nearly all Californians agree the state is experiencing a serious water shortage, they are divided over the causes of the problem.

A new Field Poll shows that 88 percent of California voters believe the state is facing a serious water shortage, with 60 percent labeling it extremely serious. About 27 percent blame a lack of storage, while 37 percent think it is due to inefficient water use. Another 24 percent believe that both are equally responsible.

The question of cause also takes on a regional split: Voters in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California are more likely to blame inefficient use, while Central Valley residents point to insufficient storage.

What do Californians make of possible solutions to the water shortage, like reducing agricultural use and bypassing environmental regulations? Reporter Jeremy B. White has more in his story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

The next Field Poll covers voter opinions on taxes and government spending. Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app can read the story early, at 8 p.m.

EN ESPAƑOL: State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is in San Francisco to announce SB 1174, a bilingual education bill that would ask voters to overturn Proposition 227, the 1998 initiative requiring all California public classes to be taught in English. Lara will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. at West Portal Elementary.

PROGRESS REPORT: As the state works to implement the new Common Core curriculum, the Public Policy Institute of California hosts a discussion between education researchers and officials on how school districts are adjusting to the new standards. Noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street. The event will also be webcast.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: In the wake of California's extended drought, representatives from the state Natural Resources Agency, Department of Food and Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency convene a public workshop to discuss potential legislative solutions to promote sustainable groundwater management. 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA building on I Street.

DIGGING IN: The California Research Bureau hosts a workshop on using census data, featuring Lia Bolden of the U.S. Census Bureau. 10 a.m. at the State Library on N Street.

UNDER ONE ROOF: Affordable housing advocacy group Housing California holds its two-day annual conference, starting at 10 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Anna Caballero, the state secretary of business, consumer services and housing, and local journalist and author Sasha Abramsky are scheduled to speak.

PHOTO: A pair of fishermen stand near the shallow water of the American River below Watt Ave. on Jan. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton



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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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