Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 23, 2014
Californians like Common Core education, finance overhaul

schoolkids.JPGTwo major changes in California's public education system - adoption of "Common Core" academic standards and giving extra money to school districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students - seem to have gained favor with the state's residents.

A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California tested the two changes now underway, along with a number of other education-related issues.

The poll found that 69 percent of adults support the Common Score approach to teaching, a system that's being adopted by a majority of the states as a way of ensuring that students leave public schools with skills in a variety of areas.

The change has been controversial, especially in other states, with those on the political right complaining that it will lead to federal control of school curricula. The concept was promoted by a bipartisan coalition of governors to replace the state-by-state determinations of what should be taught, how instruction should be given and how academic progress should be assessed.

The PPIC survey found that support was over 50 percent among all political subgroups but Democratic support was highest at 72 percent, while that among Republicans was 60 percent and among independents, 61 percent.

April 23, 2014
California senators' ethics scenarios: What would you do?

Steinberg.JPGCalifornia senators and their staff attended a special ethics training Wednesday, and were presented with a series of ethical scenarios. Below are the scenarios involving senators. What would you do?

Senate Members Ethics Review


Here are the scenarios related to Senate staff.

Senate Staff Ethics Review

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg waits for the Senate vote on high-speed rail funding in the Senate Chambers at the California State Capitol. Friday, July 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

April 23, 2014
VIDEO: California secretary of state candidates promise break from Bowen

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Would-be successors to Secretary of State Debra Bowen made their cases Wednesday that they would inject new energy into an office they said has become technologically inept and disengaged.

"A lot of people either see this job as a stepping stone or couch. And I think what we've been living through for the last eight years has been an administration that has seen this as a couch," Republican Pete Peterson said of Bowen, who took office in 2006, at Wednesday's debate hosted by the Sacramento Press Club.

State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, credited Bowen with preventing major ballot snafus akin to the Florida debacle in the 2000 election. "But can we, and should we, do much better? Absolutely," Padilla said after the panel. "You have to have the vision."

Peterson and Padilla were among four of the eight candidates for the top elections job at Wednesday's forum that also included Democrats Derek Cressman, a former official with California Common Cause; and independent Dan Schnur, an educator and former Republican strategist.

April 23, 2014
Jerry Brown appoints Jodi Remke new FPPC chair

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has appointed Jodi Remke, presiding judge of the State Bar Court of California, chairwoman of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, his office announced Wednesday.

Remke replaces Ann Ravel, who left the commission for the Federal Election Commission in October.

Remke, 48, takes over a commission that has risen in prominence in recent years, including prosecutions of money laundering and conflict-of-interest cases. Ravel gained national attention for her agency's probe last year of out-of-state groups that funneled money into California's initiative wars in 2012. A $1 million fine against two Arizona-based groups announced in October was the largest ever levied by the FPPC for a campaign violation.

Remke, of Oakland has been presiding judge of the State Bar Court, which rules on attorney discipline cases, since 2006. She was first appointed to the court as a hearing judge in 2000.

Like Brown, she is a Democrat.

According to the governor's office, Remke was a lawyer with the state Senate Judiciary Committee from 1997 to 2000 and worked at the Montana Legal Services Association from 1994 to 1996.

She is a graduate of University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law.

Remke's appointment comes nearly six months after Ravel left the FPPC for Washington, despite a rule in California's Political Reform Act requiring vacancies to be filled within 30 days.

Remke will be paid $136,144 a year.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 23, 2014
Mitt Romney backs Tony Strickland in California House race

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As part of his return to politics, Mitt Romney is choosing sides in the contest to succeed retiring Rep. Buck McKeon in Southern California.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee, on Wednesday endorsed ex-state Sen. Tony Strickland, calling him an experienced legislator, devoted husband and father and a longtime community leader.

"Tony Strickland is exactly who we need in Congress," Romney said in a statement. "Tony led the fight against the Democrats' excessive budgets in Sacramento and worked to bring California's crippling deficit under control. He will do the same in Congress."

The crowded field of eight candidates in the June 3 primary includes state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and Democrat Lee Rogers. Under the state's new primary system, the top-two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the November general election.

Democrats said Romney's endorsement underscored the misguided priorities Strickland would champion if elected to Congress.

"Tony Strickland would be nothing more than a lockstep vote for Speaker Boehner's reckless Congress that would end the Medicare guarantee, raise middle class taxes and give tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas," said Tyrone Gayle, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Strickland is coming off a loss two years ago to Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in the 26th district. He has maintained close ties to Romney over the years, serving as a state chairman for his presidential runs, hosting fundraisers on his behalf and hitting the trail to campaign with the Romney family in key swing states.

Strickland got to know 2010 California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman during Romney's first presidential run, and she recruited him to run for state controller.

Romney, a part-time resident of the seaside enclave La Jolla in northern San Diego County, has been laying low since losing the presidential race. One of his sons, Josh, recently took a photo of Romney waiting in line at a local post office to mail in his taxes ahead of the deadline.

A recent story on Romney's reemergence said he's publicly supported at least 16 candidates this cycle, many of them favorites of the establishment who backed his campaigns.

In Romney's latest endorsement, he said Strickland would fight to limit government spending and support economic policies designed to create jobs.

"He knows we cannot pass this unsustainable debt on to future generations, and Tony will face this problem head on so we can leave a stable, debt-free country for our children and grandchildren," he said.

Editor's note: Updated at 3:50 to add comment from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

PHOTO: Mitt Romney speaks to the VFW convention at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, before a major foreign policy address before he embarks on an international trip in July 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

April 23, 2014
VIDEO: California Senate pauses for ethics training

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The California Senate paused its normal routine of committee hearings today for a special training on the ethics of two essential duties that politicians are not supposed to mix: making laws and raising money.

The conversation comes in the wake of two senators being charged in FBI corruption stings, another being convicted of perjury and a record-setting FPPC fine of a prominent lobbyist that involved warning letters to dozens of politicians who had held fundraisers at his house.

Senators and their chiefs of staff participated in separate ethics trainings led by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles. They also heard from a panel of political lawyers: Lance Olson of Olson & Hagel; Charles H. Bell, Sr. of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP; and John Panneton, former Assistant U.S. Attorney.

"While there is no ethics class, as I've said many times, that teaches the dangers of gun running or taking money in envelope, that's not really what this session was about.
It was about the more subtle and sometimes insidious impacts of all the money that exists in politics," Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said afterwards.

"The takeaway is very clear... Regardless of who supports you in your campaigns, if you disagree with them, then you vote against them."

The Sacramento Democrat said he will soon introduce proposals to change some fundraising practices, beyond those laid out in bills now moving through the Legislature.

Though most of the scandals have involved Democrats, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff said responding to them requires bipartisan cooperation.

"We all get painted with the same broad brush of integrity when members struggle and lapse," Huff said.

April 23, 2014
California car data bill stalls in first committee

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Legislation requiring car manufacturers to open access to the data streaming out of computerized cars stalled in committee on Tuesday.

Only one lawmaker voted against Senate Bill 994 on Tuesday, but seven abstained from voting. The final vote count, 3-1, was three votes short of what the legislation needed to advance beyond the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

The bill pits its car insurance industry sponsors against the car manufacturers who currently hold a monopoly on the information cars emit, which has increased in volume as features like onboard GPS and entertainment systems become prevalent.

Backers of the bill said they want to empower consumers by giving them control over reams of data that can include where and how fast a car travels or diagnostic information detailing how smoothly the car is functioning, allowing them to then share that data with third parties like independent mechanics - several of whom showed up to express support on Tuesday.

"My customers don't want their vehicle service information going to manufacturers and new car dealers - they want it going to my shop," said Allen Pennebaker, who owns Orinda Motors and formerly led the Automotive Service Councils of California.

Manufacturers would need to tell drivers what they're collecting and get consent before selling data. The bill's author, Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said the interest his bill has generated illustrated the "significant financial interest" in potentially lucrative car data.

"Consumers who purchase or lease a car in California currently have no access to their car's information beyond what the manufacturer chooses to share with them," Monning testified on Tuesday.

Automakers have countered that the bill is a power play by the insurance industry, an argument that lawmakers appeared to have heard.

"What's in it for AAA, and why are you carrying this bill?" Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, asked an insurance executive.

"It doesn't give AAA an advantage over anyone else, it simply means the customer gets the benefit of the choice," replied Alice Bisno of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Opponents also said the bill would impose a costly demand on carmakers, raised questions about a provision allowing consumers to opt out of data generation and warned that broadening access to car information would compromise consumer security and privacy.

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Monning unveils his car data bill on the steps of the Capitol in on March 18, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

April 23, 2014
AM Alert: Senate breaks for 'day of reflection' on ethics

YeeCalderon.jpgFollowing a scandal-ridden early 2014 that ultimately saw three members suspended in an unprecedented move, the California Senate will hold a "day of reflection" on ethics today.

Regular business has been cancelled so senators and office staff can attend training sessions led by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics education and consulting firm, starting at 9 a.m. at the State Library and Courts Building on the Capitol Mall.

Earlier this week, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he did not think the training would have prevented the kind of corruption alleged against senators Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. "But that's only half the point," he added.

"It is always important to look inside and to be reflective and to ask, 'Well, what practices are there that we ought to be looking at? What should we change?'"

The training, which will also include a panel discussion with three attorneys expert in political and campaign issues, is intended to reinforce best practices so lawmakers do not put themselves in legally dubious territory.

"Money in politics is a reality," Steinberg said. "We need to talk about those kinds of situations and make sure the reaction is always to separate the question of campaign and money from public policy decision-making."

The Assembly will continue as normal with committee hearings, including an informational hearing on Internet poker at 1 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: In reflecting on ethics, legislators should consider not just how they fund their campaigns, but the policy decisions they make, Dan Walters says.

IN THE BAG: The contentious issue of a statewide plastic bag ban seemed to reach a resolution in January when a deal was struck between lawmakers and manufacturers. The battle is clearly not over, however, as representatives from the plastic bag manufacturing industry will gather on the south steps of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. to protest the latest version of the bill as a "job killer."

ROUND TWO: Since the last Secretary of State debate in March, one candidate has been arrested by the FBI and subsequently withdrawn. The field remains deep, however, and the race wide open, so other candidates will gather at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom on 9th Street for another debate hosted by the Sacramento Press Club. Democrats Alex Padilla and Derek Cressman, Republican Pete Peterson and Dan Schnur, who has no party preference, are all scheduled to attend, but it is unclear whether Green David Curtis will be allowed to participate.

WHAT'S THE RUB?: A boom in massage establishments over the last few years has also augmented concerns that many of them are selling sex behind closed doors. Assembly members Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, and Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, along with the California League of Cities, will introduce legislation to give local governments more authority over regulating the massage industry, 11:30 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol.

MONEY BACK GUARANTEE: Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, will join with United Service Workers West to call for the passage of his bill allowing workers to place wage liens on their employers for compensation that they are owed. Following a press conference at 10 a.m. in Capitol Park near 12th and N streets, they will march to the California Chamber of Commerce to present a giant invoice representing $240 million they say is still owed to employees.

LET'S GET FLEXIBLE: Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, will be joined by the California Chamber of Commerce and fellow Assembly members Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, and Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, to discuss a bill that would permit employees to request alternative scheduling for their workweeks, 11 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

LATINA ACTION DAY: Hispanas Organized for Political Equality has secured a full slate of Capitol players to speak at its policy and advocacy conference for Latina women, today at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street. Assembly members Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, kick things off at 10 a.m. with a webcast discussion about Latina representation in elected office. State Sens. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, and Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles; Assembly members Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Jose Medina, D-Riverside, Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, Connie Conway, R-Tulare, and Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno; California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Secretary of State Debra Bowen are also scheduled to speak throughout the day.

DENIM ON DENIM: Wearing denim in protest of a 1999 Italian Supreme Court decision overturning a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and supporters will rally on the south steps of the Capitol at 1:15 p.m. to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month. State senators Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and de León, and Assemblywomen Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, are scheduled to speak.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, left, speaks on a bill, while his seat mate Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, works at his desk at the Capitol on January 28, 2014. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

April 23, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Ethical issues abound with money in politics

Capitol_repaint.JPGAs the state Senate prepares for a "day of reflection" on ethics, legislators should consider not just how they fund their campaigns, but the policy decisions they make, 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: Construction workers erect scaffolding around the Capitol dome on May 1, 2002 in preparation for painting. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench



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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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