Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 18, 2014
Democratic super PAC reserves TV airtime in California


In politics, it's never too early to plan.

A Democratic super PAC announced Friday that it has reserved more than $800,000 in television time for the home stretch of the general election in California.

House Majority PAC, which wades into contested congressional races, secured TV time in Sacramento, Riverside and San Diego counties for the weeks leading up to Nov. 4.

It includes $112,219 to protect Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, $189,610 on behalf of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and $512,190 in the district held by Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego. The initial reservation for broadcast and cable nationwide is $6.5 million and covers 24 districts.

Early reservations typically allow candidates and outside groups to lock in lower advertising rates. A spokesman for the House Majority PAC said the group didn't make its initial television reservations last cycle until July. It spent money in more than 50 races, said Matt Thornton.

Ruiz, Bera and Peters swept into office as part of the Democratic wave in 2012. All three have outraised their closest Republican challengers Brian Nestande, Doug Ose and Carl DeMaio, respectively. In Sacramento County's 7th district, trailing Ose in fundraising are Republicans Elizabeth Emken and Igor Birman.

Separately Friday, Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call downgraded Nestande's chances of unseating Ruiz in the 36th district, shifting the race from leaning Democratic to Democratic-favored.

PHOTO: Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, is seen in his Longworth Building office in the U.S. Capitol complex on February 11, 2014. MCT/J.M. Eddins, Jr.

April 18, 2014
FPPC investigating disclosure compliance by Tim Donnelly's PAC

donnellygunstore.jpgThe state agency overseeing campaign finance rules in California says Republican Tim Donnelly has failed for more than a year to file campaign finance statements for a political action committee he formed in 2012.

The Fair Political Practices Commission said Friday it has opened an investigation into the California Patriots PAC, a small fund whose stated purpose is to "support conservative candidates for public office throughout the state of California."

The investigation follows an inquiry letter the FPPC sent Donnelly, a gubernatorial candidate and Twin Peaks assemblyman, late last month. The letter, provided to The Bee in response to a California Public Records Act request, said the committee failed to file required campaign statements since October 2012.

At the time the FPPC wrote Donnelly, Donnelly's campaign said it had filed the statements and did not know why they did not appear on the Secretary of State's website, while the Secretary of State's office said it had not received the filings.

Donnelly's campaign said Friday that copies of the documents were re-sent Thursday. It provided copies of the filings to The Bee, which showed $18,470 in committee expenditures in 2012, including $8,783 for a mailer opposing West Covina Democrat Roger Hernandez's successful state Assembly campaign. The committee had $411 in cash on hand at the end of 2014.

In documents filed by recipients of the committee's money, the California Patriots PAC appears to have spent little since its formation, giving $3,947 to three unsuccessful Republican candidates for Assembly in 2012. The contributions reported by candidates include a non-monetary contribution of a banner worth $2,447 to Donna Lowe, who lost to Chris Holden, D-Pasadena. The committee gave $1,000 to Craig Huey's race in Los Angeles County, and $500 to JD Bennett's campaign in the Central Valley.

Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement, said a failure to file campaign statements runs counter to "the whole point of disclosure."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 18, 2014
Jerry Brown grants 63 pardons


Gov. Jerry Brown announced 63 pardons Friday, with the vast majority of the recipients convicted of long-ago drug crimes.

The people pardoned, Brown wrote in the pardon messages, have "lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character" and conducted themselves as law-abiding citizens.

Of the 63 pardons, more than two-thirds were for people convicted of crimes for selling, transporting or manufacturing controlled substances, including marijuana. Other pardoned convictions included burglary, stolen property, vehicle theft, and evading a police officer.

Only one of the crimes, a 1982 purse theft in Los Angeles County, involved the threatened use of a gun, according to the pardon messages. Constance Clark, was convicted of robbery and served eight months in prison, three years probation, and has stayed out of trouble since.

"Indeed, Ms. Clark is active in her church, and volunteers her time there," the governor wrote.

Friday's order does not mention Easter or religion. But since returning to the statehouse in 2011, the seminary-trained governor has announced blanket pardons near major days on the Christian calendar.

On Christmas Eve last year, Brown announced pardons for 127 people. On the day before Easter last year, Brown pardoned 65 people. And he announced 79 pardons on Christmas Eve in 2012.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, shown here in a Jan.10, 2013 file photo. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

April 18, 2014
UC Berkeley acceptance rate plunges amid new admission process

berkeleycampus.jpgUniversity of California, Berkeley's freshman acceptance rate for fall 2014 plunged 3.5 percentage points amid changes to its admission process, including a greater emphasis on admitting out-of-state students.

Preliminary University of California admission data released Friday showed Berkeley's acceptance rate falling to 17.3 percent, from 20.8 percent in 2013, with more than 1,300 fewer students admitted to the campus this year despite a huge increase to a record 73,771 applications.

The overall acceptance rate across the UC system also fell, to 58.4 percent this year from 59.2 percent in 2013, though California admits increased slightly to 61.2 percent. UC admitted 86,865 students, about 4,000 more than last year.

Latino students made significant gains, increasing to 28.8 percent of the admitted student population and surpassing white students to become the second largest ethnic group of UC admits, behind Asian Americans.

University of California, Los Angeles, which has been the most selective UC campus for the last several years, dipped nearly two percentage points to 18.2 percent admission. This appears to be the first time that UC Berkeley and UCLA admissions have fallen below 20 percent.

University of California, Davis acceptance ticked up to 40.6 percent, from 39.4 percent in 2013, with a large increase in the number of out-of-state and international students admitted.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks wrote a letter to the campus community Friday morning to address the huge decline in its acceptance rate, which saw more than 800 fewer California students admitted to the flagship UC campus this year.

"We actually anticipate enrolling at least 50 more in-state freshmen than we did in 2013," he said. "The discrepancy is simply a reflection of changes in our admissions and enrollment process."

In the past, the university admitted more students in the spring and wound up with more commitments to attend than it was prepared for, Dirks said.

Under a new process, Berkeley will initially accept a smaller number of students, designed to generate commitments at a lower level than its enrollment target. It will then fill the rest of its freshman class from an expanded waiting list -- a move that Dirks said is in line with best practices at other select universities, including most other UC campuses.

Dirks also announced that the university would be targeting an increase of non-resident enrollment. He said Berkeley anticipated enrolling about 100 more out-of-state and international students this year compared to last year, with plans to grow their portion of undergraduate population from 20 percent to 23 percent over the next three years.

The decision was "driven primarily by our commitments to maintain Berkeley's academic excellence, access and robust financial aid programs," Dirks wrote. "In order to sustain the excellence of our programs and the student experience, tuition from out-of-state and international students is crucial."

With tuition frozen and state funding recovering slowly from recession cuts, he added, "the fact remains that we have an unavoidable need to increase revenue in line with rising expenses."

Tuition and fees for in-state students at Berkeley are $12,864, compared to $35,864 for non-residents.

The map shows shows freshman admission data at UC campuses for 2014.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 10:19 a.m. to correct the non-resident tuition. Out-of-state and international students pay $35,864 annually, $22,878 of which is a supplemental fee.

PHOTO: People walk through Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley campus on June 1, 2011. The Associated Press/Eric Risberg

April 18, 2014
AM Alert: Californians support transitional kindergarten proposal

kindergarten.JPGIn his final year in the Legislature, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has made it a priority to expand pre-kindergarten to every 4-year-old in California, giving families the option of an extra year of schooling before their children start kindergarten.

As subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app learned last night, California voters largely support his proposal. In a new Field Poll, 57 percent of voters believe it would be worth the estimated $1.4 billion annual cost for the transitional kindergarten initiative.

Support was especially high among Latino and African-American voters, as well as parents of young children. Seventy-five percent of Latinos and 72 percent of African-Americans favored the measure, while 69 percent of parents with a child younger than 5 thought it was worth the investment.

Reporter Laurel Rosenhall has more on Californians' opinions of transitional kindergarten in her story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

MAKING THE GRADE: In an effort to turn around its lowest-performing schools, Los Angeles Unified School District created a "school choice" initiative in 2009 that allows groups to compete to run its failing campuses. Policy Analysis for California Education hosts a briefing with University of Southern California researchers Julie Marsh and Katharine Strunk to examine the effectiveness of the program, 11:30 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

INSIDE SCOOP: For those looking for more information on how to navigate the legislative process, the California Latino Capitol Association sponsors a "Bill 101" workshop at noon in Room 126 of the Capitol.

DO UC WHAT I SEE?: Preliminary data on University of California freshman admissions for next year, including the ratio of resident to out-of-state students, will be released at 9 a.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who turns 67 today.


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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