Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 24, 2014
FPPC upholds $40,000 penalty against Sen. Tom Berryhill


California's political-ethics panel Thursday unanimously approved a $40,000 money-laundering penalty against state Sen. Tom Berryhill, agreeing with an administrative law judge's recommended decision that the Twain Harte Republican committed "serious and deliberate" violations of campaign-finance rules.

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced the fine after a brief special meeting in Oakland conducted by telephone. Last week, the panel took the case under submission after hearing from the commission's enforcement chief and Berryhill's attorney.

Authorities allege that Berryhill, seeking to bypass contribution limits, colluded with his brother — former Assemblyman Bill Berryhill — and GOP central committees in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to move $40,000 in Tom Berryhill campaign money into Bill Berryhill's campaign in the days before the November 2008 election.

"The commission has unanimously voted to adopt the ALJ's proposed decision with limited, minor and technical changes noted by the enforcement division," Commissioner Eric Casher said after the closed session.

Chuck Bell, Berryhill's attorney, called Thursday's decision disappointing. The Berryhills and county committees never engaged in contribution earmarking and the administrative law judge applied the law incorrectly, he said.

Bell said his clients will decide whether to appeal to the Superior Court in the coming weeks.

Thursday's outcome has significant implications for campaign finance, especially for the millions of political dollars that flow through Republican and Democratic committees before arriving in candidates' treasuries. Commission enforcement chief Gary Winuk said the ruling makes it clear that coordinating money moves is illegal. But Bell called the decision vague and "will leave donors and party committees highly uncertain about what they can and can do in this environment."

Berryhill is the fourth senator facing serious ethical problems. State sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee have been indicted on corruption and other charges, and state Sen. Rod Wright was found guilty of lying about his residence when he ran for office in 2008. The Senate has suspended the other three senators.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:06 p.m. April 24 to include comment from Charles Bell.

PHOTO: State Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, far right, with (left to right), brother Bill Berryhill, attorney Charles Bell, and Tony Amador, chairman of the San Joaquin County GOP, outside the FPPC meeting April 17, 2014 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Jim Miller

April 24, 2014
California space industry tax break heads to Gov. Jerry Brown


With no debate, the California Assembly on Thursday voted 70-2 to send Gov. Jerry Brown a bill offering a ten-year property tax break to private space firms.

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, has promoted the bill as ensuring California can become a hub for the burgeoning private space industry, led by firms like Hawthorne-based SpaceX. Reviving southern California's once-mighty aerospace industry has been a recurring theme for Muratuschi, who has also touted the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.

The bill, Assembly Bill 777, passed the Senate easily earlier this month. While Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, had previously warned about favoring a specific industry with a tax break that could prove difficult to erase, the legislation garnered more than enough support on Thursday to advance.

PHOTO: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 18, 2014. Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT.

April 24, 2014
Bill requiring mobile phone 'kill switch' falls short in Senate


California legislation requiring a "kill switch" to render stolen smart phones inoperable met a premature death on Thursday.

The measure from Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, fell two votes short of a majority, despite receiving strong support from law enforcement groups and officials.

Senators took up Senate Bill 962 after several leading wireless phone providers such as AT&T and Verizon announced plans to install software allowing customers to delete information and permanently turn off devices. Opponents contended that the bill was no longer necessary.

"When you find yourself in the end zone, declare victory and move on. The industry is voluntarily doing it," said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. "One of the biggest criticisms we get in the state is they don't have a 'kill switch' on us when we come up with crazy ideas."

Leno argued the bill was still needed because it would mandate phones made and sold in the state beginning next summer to carry the technological deterrent as a default. Consumers would still have the option to opt-out of the technology.

He said phone makers had opposed voluntarily adopting kill switches — or acknowledge having the capability to do so — over the last two years even as the crime soared. In 2012, more than half of all robberies in San Francisco and two-thirds in Oakland involved mobile device thefts.

"I am not connecting any dots, but let me just state a fact," Leno said. "The industry makes billions, tens of billions of dollars replacing lost and stolen phones each year. They also make many billions of dollars selling you and me insurance in case you are robbed.

"If we end the robbery, there will be an obvious impact to their bottom line."

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talking to reporters at the Capitol June 19, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

April 24, 2014
Jerry Brown makes Time's 100 list, with blurb by Gray Davis

brownanddavis.jpgGov. Jerry Brown made Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people.

The author of his blurb?

Gray Davis, the former governor and Brown's former chief of staff.

"Things are looking up in California," Davis writes in the magazine. "Governor Jerry Brown has eliminated a $26 billion deficit, getting legislators to make painful cuts and persuading voters to increase their taxes."

He credits Brown for preaching restraint and attributes his frugality, in part, to the time he spent as a Jesuit seminarian.

"I recall his refusal, in 1975, to replace the old carpet he inherited from Governor Reagan," Davis writes. "When it became threadbare, with a sizable hole, he still refused to repair it -- believing if he lived modestly others might too and would save the state money."

Brown's inclusion in the list is the latest addition to a heap of praise afforded him by national media. His public approval rating in California is soaring, and Republican complaints about the state's still-high poverty and unemployment rates appear not to resonate.

Brown is joined on Time's list by Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist who is considered a potential future candidate for statewide office. Former Vice President Al Gore writes for the magazine that Steyer is fighting climate change "with passionate intensity, commitment and political skill." The only other governor on the list is the Republican chief executive of Wisconsin, Scott Walker.

Here is an Associated Press video explaining how Time comes up with the list every year:

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, right, and Gray Davis appear at an event together in 1980. The Sacramento Bee/Dick Schmidt

April 24, 2014
California's smallest businesses recover from recession


California's smallest businesses — those without any employees — took a big hit during the state's Great Recession, but appear to have recovered, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The number of such businesses — self-employed consultants, technicians, landscapers, remodelers, etc., and small partnerships — dropped and so did their revenues when recession hit, bottoming out in 2009 at 2.7 million firms and $133.8 billion in revenue.

Since then, the Census Bureau data indicate, the number of California's no-employee businesses climbed to 2.9 million in 2012 and their receipts reached $149.4 billion, moving past pre-recession levels. That was an average of $51,517 per business.

Both numbers were the highest of any state and among the nation's counties, Los Angeles had the nation's highest number at 17,241 and the highest revenues at $47.2 billion.

California's gain of 39,051 such businesses from 2011 to 2012 was the second highest of any state, surpassed only by Florida's 57,978.

PHOTO: Dean Sims of El Dorado Hills shops at the Cresco restaurant supply store in December 2013. Cresco and the cluster of nearby establishments, believed to be the largest group of such businesses in California, do business with restaurant owners, managers, designers, contractors and chefs from Fresno to the Oregon border. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

April 24, 2014
AM Alert: Legislature fishes for drought solutions

salmon_trucking.JPGOne fish, two fish, red fish, blue state fish.

The Legislature's Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture holds its annual forum on California's fisheries today, starting at 10 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol. Fishermen and scientists from across the state will report in throughout the all-day event, which is headlined by Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and Charlton Bonham, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, in the morning.

Part of this year's forum will focus on the impact of the drought on California fisheries and the state's response. Salmon migration has been particularly affected and an effort to truck hundreds of thousands of fish downstream made headlines last month.

VIDEO: This year's Secretary of State race makes clear that Debra Bowen has left a legacy worth changing, Dan Walters says.

WEIGHING IN: California is currently undergoing major changes to its K-12 education system with the implementation of Common Core standards and a new funding formula for school districts. The Public Policy Institute of California has surveyed statewide views on those programs, as well as proposals such as universal preschool, and will present the findings at noon at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on 11th Street.

IT'S ELECTRIC!: The state's independent oversight agency, the Little Hoover Commission, will take a look at how policy changes have affected the affordability and reliability of energy supplied by California's public utilities, 9:30 a.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

GET INSIDE YOUR HEAD: This might go over better than the Strollin' Colon: As part of its Epilepsy Awareness Day at the Capitol, Epilepsy California will host a giant inflatable brain on the south lawn. The public can tour through the brain and learn about seizures starting at 8 a.m.; California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley will visit at 10:30 a.m.

SAFER STREETS: Community-organizing network PICO California sponsors a legislative briefing on local approaches to reducing gun violence and supporting reentry of former inmates, 2 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol. The discussion will focus on efforts in Oakland, Richmond and Stockton and how to scale up policies for statewide implementation.

RISKY BUSINESS: UC Irvine criminology professor Susan Turner discusses the integration of a risk assessment tool into the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's parole practices over the past decade, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: Chinook salmon smolts are released from a tanker truck on March 25, 2014 in Rio Vista, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 24, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Debra Bowen leaves legacy worth changing

Bowenha_APAPA13992.JPGEvery major candidate for Secretary of State is campaigning to overhaul the office, an indictment of Debra Bowen's two terms of stewardship, 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: Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen talks to the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association during a candidates forum at Sacramento State. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua


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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