Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 29, 2014
Conservative radio hosts say Kashkari, Donnelly will debate

donnellyscrum.jpgIt appeared unlikely as little as a month ago that Republican rivals Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari would debate before the June primary election.

But conservative talk radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou said Tuesday that they will.

Kobylt and Chiampou, of KFI-AM's "John and Ken" show in Los Angeles, said they will host Kashkari and Donnelly at a gubernatorial debate in Anaheim on May 15. Kashkari confirmed he will attend, while Donnelly's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The debate comes after Donnelly, a tea party favorite, challenged Kashkari to an "old-fashioned debate" at a California Republican Party convention in March, but the invitation was dismissed by Kashkari and party leaders.

When Kashkari was asked on the air Tuesday if he was coming to KFI-AM's debate, he said he was "looking forward to it" and that "it'll be a lot of fun." The former U.S. Treasury Department official lags behind Donnelly, a tea party favorite, in public opinion polls.

The primary election is a top-two race, and the radio hosts said Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democratic incumbent, has been invited to attend. The incumbent Democrat is widely expected to finish far ahead of all Republicans in the race.

"Jerry Brown is invited," one of the hosts said. "He can come, and we'll bring ointments to rub on his head."

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 29, 2014
Jerry Brown signs tax break for private space companies

SPACEX2OS.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation offering a 10-year property tax break to private space companies, his office announced Tuesday.

The bill, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, was promoted by its author, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, as a measure to help California become a hub for the private space industry, including firms such as Hawthorne-based SpaceX.

According to a legislative analysis, Assembly Bill 777 is estimated to result in a reduction of local property tax revenue of about $1 million annually.

Brown signed the bill without comment, but his interest in space goes back decades to when, as governor before from 1975 to 1983, he proposed a $5.8 million communications satellite system. He was mocked for the idea, while proponents said he was ahead of his time.

"I actually wanted to have a state satellite, " Brown said in 2012. "Couldn't pull it off."

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 29, 2014
California lawmakers want to help men change baby diapers


Two bills that aim to give men more access to diaper changing tables in public restrooms cleared a state Senate committee today.

Senate Bill 1358 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would require restaurants, movie theaters, shopping centers and other public venues to provide diaper changing tables in the restrooms for both men and women. It would also require state and local government buildings that are being constructed or renovated to put diaper changing tables in the bathrooms for both sexes.

Senate Bill 1350 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, takes a narrower approach. It wouldn't require retrofits of existing bathrooms, but says that if a business is installing a diaper changing table, it must be accessible to both men and women.

"It requires that public facilities for changing babies' diapers are equally available," Lara said.

The bill accommodates modern families, Lara argued, where men are taking ever-greater roles in child-rearing, and some children are growing up without mothers. Proponents of Wolk's bill said it would help parents by requiring more public changing tables so that they don't have to change diapers on dirty bathroom floors or struggle to try to do it on their laps while sitting in a toilet stall.

Both bills passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee with some bipartisan support. Republican Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville remarked that when his twins were babies, he got diaper changing down to 18 seconds:

"But I can relate to what you're talking about in terms of where do you change a diaper in a public place?"

PHOTO: A baby has her diaper changed at a program for teenage parents at Chana High School in Auburn, May 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

April 29, 2014
VIDEO: Republican candidates at odds on film tax credits

kashkarikfbk.jpgTo all the things Republican gubernatorial candidates Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari disagree about, add film tax credits, a major issue to Southern California's movie industry.

Asked Tuesday about proposals to give more tax credits to production companies, Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, said he prefers tax and economic policies that are not industry specific.

"I don't like the idea of Hollywood leaving California, but I know that other states are subsidizing movies now, up to 30 percent of the cost of a movie, which is silly economic policy," Kashkari told The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board.

Kashkari said he would focus on improving the state's overall economy and that, "If other states or other countries are going to do silly things, then let them do silly things."

Donnelly, an Assemblyman from Twin Peaks, is a proponent of film tax credits, saying he is concerned about industry jobs leaving California.

"This is really an iconic battle," Donnelly said. "This is a battle for what California stands for."

He joked about another, more personal reason he's like to keep movie production in the Golden State.

"Let's say there's some small, tiny chance that I don't win the governorship," he said. "As I've told my wife ... I'm either going to have a new job or I'm going to be looking for one, right? Those are my two choices. Well, given all the travel I've done to the 58 counties -- and I've taken just in the last couple of months 5,000 photos on my iPhone -- I could be one of those guys who helps you find a set for a movie, which I've always been fascinated by."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

VIDEO: Republican Tim Donnelly discuses film tax credits with The Bee's editorial board on April 29, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Amy Chance

April 29, 2014
Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount pulls out of governor's race

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount pulled out of the governor's race Tuesday, citing health issues, according to a post on his Facebook page.

Blount, a little-known software developer, was nevertheless running second among Republicans with 3 percent support, far behind tea party favorite Tim Donnelly but one percentage point ahead of the best-funded Republican in the race, Neel Kashkari, according to the most recent Field Poll.

Blount said on Facebook that he has been "battling some health issues that have taken an unfortunate toll on me."

"While the long term prognosis is good, I have to concentrate on them in order to be here for my family," Blount wrote. "Due to this, I've been unable to put together the campaign that California deserves and in the event that I was to win the primary, I would be unable to put forth the energy necessary to continue the race."

Blount said he will continue on as mayor of his Orange County city. The candidate reported raising no money for his gubernatorial bid, and he said on Facebook, "I have no donations to refund, as I accepted none."

PHOTO: From Andrew Blount's website for his 2012 campaign for city council in Laguna Hills. Photo by Michelle Blount

April 29, 2014
California water bond fight in flux


The drought-driven quest to put a new water bond before California voters has fluctuated over the last few weeks, marked by new measures appearing, old ones evaporating and legislators shifting allegiances.

Lawmakers have introduced no fewer than nine water bond proposals, all vying to replace the $11.1 billion measure that is scheduled for the November ballot but widely believed to have little chance of passage.

Getting a new bond on the ballot would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, which means Senate Democrats would need to find a consensus with their Republican colleagues. But the ever-shifting dynamics in the Assembly so far have suggested that there, too, partisan politics will not be the main divide.

"In the end we're going to need both Republicans and Democrats to come together to pass this bond," Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, said on Tuesday.

April 29, 2014
California still owes big bucks for unemployment insurance

jobless1.JPGAs severe recession struck the nation a half-decade ago, California and most other states borrowed heavily from the federal government to prop up their unemployment insurance programs.

At one time, the states owed Washington more than $47 billion, but the debt has since been cut by more than half to $21 billion, and many of the debtor states have completely erased their negative balances, according to a nationwide survey by Stateline, a website on state government affairs maintained by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

But not California. The state began borrowing in 2009 and accounted for more than $10 billion of the debt at its peak, but it has declined only slightly - thanks to a political stalemate in the Capitol - and California now accounts for nearly half of the national debt total.

While other states have raised unemployment insurance taxes on employers and/or reduced benefits to put their programs in the black, the Legislature has spurned Gov. Jerry Brown's calls for changes in California, not only to whittle down the debt but to build reserves in the Unemployment Insurance Fund to cushion future downturns.

Republicans oppose any increase in taxes, while Democrats oppose any reduction in benefits or eligibility, and in the absence of state action, the federal government has hiked payroll taxes itself to gradually reduce California's debt, which stands at just under $10 billion.

The federal tax increase on employers will amount to more than $900 million this year and the state is also paying more than $200 million in interest on the loan this year.

PHOTO: Former and current high school students attend a junior college exploration workshop sponsored by the Greater Sacramento Urban League on Sept. 20, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 29, 2014
AM Alert: Teachers, welfare advocates rally for oil extraction tax

oil_rigs_sunset.JPGThough Gov. Jerry Brown rejected the notion during his January budget proposal, another effort to introduce an oil severance tax in California is winding its way through the Legislature.

The bill--which would impose a tax on companies that extract oil in California to fund higher education, state parks and health and human services--is supported by many groups seeking to reverse the budget cuts of recent years, including a coalition of organizations calling for another $5 billion for education, health and welfare spending.

Members from the California Partnership, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the California Federation of Teachers will march and rally against the influence of oil money in politics and call for the new tax starting at noon on the north steps of the Capitol.

In town for its lobby day, CFT, one of the state's major teacher unions, is also pushing efforts to increase funding for school nurses and extended library hours, change community college accreditation and make it easier for classified employees to receive unemployment benefits.

VIDEO: It's crunch time at the Capitol, as hundreds of bills are facing a deadline to pass out of their policy committee, Dan Walters says.

WE SHALL WOOF WOOF WOOF: Rescue beagles and their human friends hit the streets of Sacramento to support a bill by Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Sherman Oaks, that would connect publicly-funded laboratories with animal rescue organizations to help place research dogs and cats up for adoption. Dababneh and the Beagle Freedom Project begin their canine march at 10:30 a.m. at Roosevelt Park on 10th and P Streets.

GROUP PROJECTS: As part of a joint advocacy day at the Capitol, the leaders of the state's three public higher education systems--University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges Brice Harris--discuss their collaborative efforts to improve student success, access, workforce development and research, 1:30 p.m. at the California Dental Association Building on K Street.

FIFTY AND COUNTING: With an expected budget surplus this year for the first time since the recession, Democratic lawmakers and social service groups have been lobbying to restore funding to the social safety net. The latest to make their case in Sacramento are community action agencies, who will be showcasing their work on the south lawn of the Capitol at 11 a.m. Assembly members Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley will join at 11:30 a.m. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty.

ANTE UP: Communities for California Cardrooms, which promotes the local gambling clubs, hosts a "casino night" with blackjack tables and a trophy for the evening's biggest winner, 5 p.m. at Chops on 11th Street.

PHOTO: Oil rigs pump oil from the ground in Baldwin Hills of West Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

April 29, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: It's crunch time at the Capitol

Padilla_hearing.JPGHundreds of bills could meet their end this week if they don't make it out of their policy committee, 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: Senator Alex Padilla, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, listens to testimony on why the state Energy Commission has been unable to spend millions of federal stimulus dollars on August 1, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas


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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