Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 30, 2014
Ads tie Bill Dodd to Bay Bridge morass in costly Assembly race

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Democrat Bill Dodd is being hit with a barrage of union-funded ads that blame the Yolo-Napa county Assembly candidate for faulty materials on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

Dodd, a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is pictured in a series of recent campaign mailers that question his ability to grasp the "nuts and bolts" of his post -- costing taxpayers $135 million.

The ads fault Dodd, a past chairman of the regional transportation agency and Napa County supervisor, for the nearly three dozen cracked steel anchor rods and assert he failed to properly inspect the manufacturing materials during two separate trips to China.

Dodd was a member of the Bay Area Toll Authority at the time of the trips, which exerts some oversight over bridge funding.

The Sacramento Bee has reported extensively on the issues facing the new $6.5 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The mailers leave out that the so-called bolts were made not in China, but in the United States. Dodd's campaign consultant, Matt Reilly, also noted that reports have largely placed the blame not on the commission, but on Caltrans and contractors.

"The distance between where they say the bolts are made in China when they are made in (Ohio) is about the same as the distance between these mailers and the truth," Reilly said.

The union attacks are part of a series of back-and-forth outside spending for and against Dodd and Democrat Dan Wolk, a Davis city councilman and the son of Sen. Lois Wolk. The outside spending ranks No. 4 in races across California.

A previous mailer from pro-business Dodd supporters erroneously claimed that Wolk voted to increase water rates without community input. The group has made other spurious claims about Wolk's record.

The 4th District race also includes Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza and a pair of Republicans.

May 30, 2014
AM Alert: Legislature finishes big deadline week

Assembly_chamber.JPGToday is the last day for bills to pass out of their house of origin, but both chambers of the Legislature are quiet. Despite concerns that the Senate and Assembly, with long lists of legislation to get through in this shortened Memorial Day week, would be bumping up against their deadline, they made it through the hundreds of remaining bills by Thursday afternoon.

Labor and business interests both scored big victories on controversial proposals. A bill requiring paid sick leave for workers passed out of the Assembly and the Senate approved a plan to tie annual minimum wage adjustments to inflation. Meanwhile, a moratorium on fracking and a bill to label genetically-engineered food, which had been strongly opposed by the oil and agriculture industries, died in the Senate.

Though the GMO legislation did not pass, two other food-labeling proposals did. The Senate approved bills that would put warnings on sugary drinkings and require fish for sale to be identified by their common name.

VIDEO: Is there a future for elections without traditional polling places? Dan Walters wonders.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: One of two propositions on the June ballot would enshrine California's open meetings and public records laws in the state constitution. It would also require local governments to pay the cost of complying with the laws, an expense the state was previously required to pay. Before voters weigh in on the measure, however, the Commission on State Mandates will consider approving $9.6 million in reimbursements to local agencies and school districts for additional information services required under the Public Records Act over the past decade, 10 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol.

TOM-FUEL-ERY: Among the state's efforts to comply with AB 32, the landmark 2006 law mandating a reduction of California's greenhouse gas emissions, is the "low carbon fuel standard," which requires producers of petroleum-based fuel to reduce the carbon intensity of their product by 10 percent by 2020. The Air Resources Board holds a public workshop on proposed revisions to the fuel standard beginning at 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA building on I Street.

PHOTO: Twenty-eight of the new Assemblymembers undergo orientation inside the Assembly Chambers on Nov. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

May 30, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Vote-by-mail is future of elections

pollingplace.JPGIs there a future without traditional polling places?, Dan wonders.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Voters cast ballots at the polling place in the Bible Baptist Church in El Dorado on November 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

May 29, 2014
Senate passes bill to put warnings on sugary drinks

soda.jpgState senators narrowly approved legislation Thursday requiring warning labels on drinks with added sugars, a move supporters hope will curb obesity and diabetes.

"This epidemic is not only damaging the public's health, it is costing all Californians," said Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, who wrote Senate Bill 1000. "Sugar-sweetened beverages represent the single largest contributor to the diabetes epidemic."

As currently written, the warning would caution consumers that beverages with added sugars, such as soft drinks and some juices, can play a role in causing obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

The legislation, which was sent to the Assembly on a 21-13 vote, would apply to sweetened drinks containing at least 75 calories per 12 ounces. Though the measure has the backing of health organizations, including the California Medical Association., it faces opposition from industry groups.

Opponents argue the bill is unnecessary because the federal government is considering a nutrition label overhaul. They also argue there are negative health effects from consuming most foods in excess.

"Putting government warning labels on more than 500 beverages will do nothing to change personal behaviors to teach people about healthy lifestyles," CalBev, the California arm of the American Beverage Association, said in a statement following the vote on SB 1000.

The legislation squeaked through when Sens. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and Norma Torres, D-Pomona, voted to push tally past the majority required for passage.

PHOTO: The Senate passed a bill that would require warning labels on drinks containing added sugar. Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

May 29, 2014
Bera calls for VA chief Shinseki to resign

Veterans.JPGRep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, called Thursday for the resignation of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the head of the Veterans Administration, amid a growing scandal over delayed medical care for veterans and attempts to cover it up.

The agency's inspector general published an interim report Wednesday that found that at least 1,700 veterans in the Phoenix area were never even placed on a waiting list for an appointment with a primary care physician.

While the inspector general's report noted that the review is ongoing, it found "significant delays in access to care" and evidence of data manipulation at 42 hospitals around the country.

In a statement, Bera, a physician, called the findings "deeply troubling."

"While General Shinseki's dedication and service to his country are indisputable," Bera said, "these failures that happened under his leadership are unacceptable and it is clear that he must step down."

Bera, a freshman, is seeking re-election in one of the most competitive House districts in the country.

Former Rep. Doug Ose, one of the three Republicans vying to challenge Bera, asked for Shinseki's resignation a week ago. In a statement, he called on his rivals, including Bera, to do the same.

"This is not about politics, but rather confidence and accountability," Ose said last week. "Right now, we need both."

PHOTO: This May 15, 2014 file photo shows Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. Associated Press/Cliff Owen.

May 29, 2014
Scaled back preschool plan passes California Senate

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A scaled-back proposal to offer public preschool to California's low-income 4-year-olds was approved by the state Senate today despite Republican objections to the $378 million annual cost.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg originally set out to provide public preschool for all 4-year-olds in the state. But Gov. Jerry Brown did not include the idea in his budget proposal. The bill the Senate passed today reflects the downsized plan Steinberg presented in a Senate budget subcommittee last week.

Senate Bill 837 passed the Senate 26-10 and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

PHOTO: A teacher leads a song with the children at Carmichael Parent Participation Preschool on Sept. 12, 2007. Sacramento Bee file / Florence Low

May 29, 2014
Demand for California Competes hiring credits outpaces supply

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Demand for the state's first round of business tax credits under the new California Competes program far exceeds supply, with applications totaling $559 million for only $30 million in credits available this year.

Gov. Jerry Brown's Office of Business Development this week notified 396 applicants who had applied between March 19 and an April 14 deadline.

"The demand for these tax credits demonstrates that there are a significant number of companies looking at expansion opportunities in California," Will Koch, the deputy director for California Competes, said in a statement Thursday. "We encourage any company looking to expand their existing business in the state, or interested in relocating to California, to apply when we open the application period again next fiscal year."

The income and franchise tax credits are available for businesses interested in relocating to California, as well as existing California businesses seeking "retention" credits meant to keep jobs in California. The credits are part of the package created by the Legislature and the Brown administration after lawmakers eliminated enterprise zones last summer.

There are 149 applicants that qualified for the second round of the California Competes selection process, representing about $155 million in requested credits.

Go Biz said 10 percent of the applications seek retention credits. That is much less than the figure – 60 percent – reported by the EZ Policy Blog, which follows the program.

The California Competes Tax Credit Committee will consider companies' requests for tax credits on June 19. Officials will consider the types of jobs created, potential future growth and other criteria.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5 p.m. May 29 to include Go Biz's percentage of applications seeking retention tax credits.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown visits Takeda, a biotech firm, in San Diego, where he signed signed legislation phasing out enterprise zones and replacing the program with California Competes and other incentives. U-T San Diego/Carolyne Corelis

May 29, 2014
California bill regulating medical marijuana fails in Assembly

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Once again rejecting a measure to broadly regulate medicinal pot, the California Assembly on Thursday stalled a bill that would create a state-level entity to oversee and license California's medical marijuana industry.

No lawmakers rose to explicitly denounce Assembly Bill 1894, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. Some with concerns about preserving local control said they had been persuaded that cities and counties could still pass and enforce their own rules around medicinal cannabis.

"We have medical marijuana dispensaries popping up next to schools, we have them popping up all over town," said Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino. "It's not a pretty sight in my community," she added, "so please, sign on to this bill."

But a large bloc of lawmakers from both parties withheld votes, ensuring that the measure would go no further. The final vote was 27-30, with 22 not voting.

California set the national tone for cutting-edge cannabis policies by legalizing medical marijuana in 1996, advocates say, but has since relinquished its lead. While Colorado and Washington have legalized personal pot, California has failed to enact strong statewide regulation.

As a result, Ammiano argued, the state has become overgrown with a garden of legitimate and illegitimate operations. Local governments and law enforcement are frustrated by what they see as a proliferation of bad actors. The oversight falls short of the "strong and effective regulatory enforcement systems" the federal government has said it needs to back off enforcing a federal prohibition that has led to raids on dispensaries.

"There is a general acknowledgment and recognition that the way things are now are not acceptable," Ammiano said. "There's chaos, there's no order, it allows for so many bad actors that the whole issue gets besmirched."

Seeking to equip California with better enforcement tools, Assembly Bill 1894 has as its centerpiece establishing a new statewide cannabis controlling agency within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The new entity would set minimum standards for cultivation and sales, require registration and fees, and and slap penalties on wayward pot shops.

Local governments could still pass their own ordinances or shut down shops. Lawmakers concerned about local control said they were persuaded the bill would let cities blaze their own marijuana policy trails. Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank, decried the inescapable "waft of marijuana" along a thoroughfare in his district but said Ammiano's measure would preserve a Los Angeles measure capping the number of dispensaries.

"I would have very great concern about any type of legislation we do here impacting the ability of that measure's full implementation," Nazarian said, but he had been reassured the rule could remain in place.

In past years the Legislature has proven reluctant to regulate medical marijuana, in part due to law enforcement opposition. Ammiano's previous attempts to create a statewide regulatory body burned out. Law enforcement groups like the California Police Chiefs Association oppose AB 1894.

On Wednesday the Senate easily passed the bill cops prefer. Senate Bill 1262 would tighten rules around pot-prescribing doctors and compel the Department of Consumer Affairs to license growers and dispensaries.

PHOTO: Members of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department dismantle a marijuana garden in a remote area of El Dorado county on Thursday, August 20, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

May 29, 2014
Doug Ose lashes out at Democratic group for meddling

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Republican Doug Ose is pushing back on an outside group that has spent more than $100,000 in recent days on ads that portray the former congressman as more concerned about his own salary than protecting benefits for military veterans.

The House Majority PAC, a left-leaning group known for its searing attacks on Republicans, had already booked $189,610 in fall TV airtime ads to help protect freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. With the primary election days away, the organization opted to begin advertising now.

The military-focused ads, which typically appeal to more conservative voters, are forcing Ose to protect his right flank as he campaigns against congressional aide Igor Birman and autism advocate Elizabeth Emken.

On Thursday, Ose called a news conference to denounce the attacks. Joined by combat veterans, he said the Democratic-affiliated PAC is mounting a deceptive campaign in an attempt to ensure Bera faces a weaker Republican in November.

"I don't think it comes as any surprise that Nancy Pelosi believes that I stand in the way of Democrats regaining the U.S. House Representatives' majority and that clearly she'll use her super PAC to advance that cause so that she can become speaker again," Ose said.

"Let's be clear about one very specific issue here: I stand with American veterans. I always have. I stand by my record. I stand by my commitment to those who have served out nation so faithfully and my record, my legislative record, my private activities, back that up."

The mailers and a 30-second television ad running in the 7th district contend Ose voted for a bill to slash $15 billion from veterans' retirement, pay and education benefits. They also attack him for a separate vote to allow for a congressional pay raise.

Ose said the outside group is distorting a vote he cast on a budget measure intended by Democrats to embarrass Republicans politically. He says that while he was in office, between 1999 and 2005, the Veterans Affairs budget swelled to $69 billion annually from $43 billion.

His campaign also issued a two-page list of legislation he supported to assist members of the military, veterans and their families by expanding healthcare, housing and retirement and noted that he represented two active and two decommissioned military bases.

As one of the House's wealthiest members, Ose said he never voted for his own pay raise but acknowledged casting a procedural vote that effectively allowed an automatic raise to take place.

"I made a mistake on that one vote in six years," Ose said. "I went back on the floor. I ate crow. I took my medicine. I clarified the record."

PHOTO: Former Rep. Doug Ose, a Sacramento Republican, chats with a group of military veteran supporters outside the state Capitol on Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.

May 29, 2014
Bert A. Betts, treasurer during Pat Brown era, dies at 90

betts.jpgFormer California state Treasurer Bert A. Betts, a Democrat who was elected to the post in 1958 and served two terms while Pat Brown was governor, died in Sacramento on Wednesday. He was 90.

At 36, Betts moved from an accounting career in San Diego to manage California's state finances in Sacramento. Betts secured savings for California by encouraging competitive bidding in selling state bonds and posted a solid track record investing the state's money, said his son, Bruce Betts.

"He was very driven to do the right thing and try to make things better," Bruce Betts said. "He was very organized and efficient in trying to do that."

Betts left the state treasurer's office after losing a bid for a third term in 1966, his son said.

After leaving public office, Betts created Bert A. Betts and Associates, a Sacramento-based business that provided bond consulting with three satellite offices across the West Coast.

But Betts did not leave politics completely. He sought public office one last time, running an unsuccessful campaign for state controller in 1974.

Betts was born in La Mesa in 1923 and was a 1950 graduate of California Western University. As a bomber pilot for the Army Air Forces, he flew 30 missions over Europe during World War II and received several accolades for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"He had a great sense of duty, whether it be World War II or as state treasurer or with his clients in private practice," his son said.

PHOTO: Bert A. Betts poses as California State Treasurer, a position he held from 1959-1967. Photo courtesy of the family.

May 29, 2014
California legislative leaders appoint budget conferees

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Leaders of the Assembly and Senate on Thursday appointed eight lawmakers to serve on the Legislature's budget-writing panel.

The budget conference committee will reconcile differences between the spending plans adopted in each house and produce a final package to go before lawmakers by the June 15 constitutional deadline.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, named Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley to the conference committee. Leno leads the Senate budget committee and Nielsen is vice-chairman. Hancock leads the panel's public safety subcommittee.

Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, named Asembly members Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, Jeff Gorrell, R-Camarillo, Shirley N. Weber, D-San Diego, and Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, to the conference committee. Skinner leads the Assembly budget committee and Gorrell is its top Republican. Bloom leads the panel's resources and transportation subcommittee and Weber chairs its health and human services subcommittee.

Skinner will chair the conference committee.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and then-Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Los Angeles, during a budget conference committee meeting in February 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 29, 2014
California Senate approves changes to initiative process

petition.JPGA bill to change California's initiative process passed the state Senate Thursday with some bipartisan support, setting up the possibility that lawmakers could have a greater role in shaping the measures that citizens send to the ballot.

Senate Bill 1253 would create legislative hearings as initiative proponents are gathering signatures on their measures, allowing lawmakers to negotiate with interest groups before a measure lands on the ballot. It would also require more disclosure of donors giving the most money for and against initiatives.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg pushed the bill, saying he hears complaints from voters who ask why they are often burdened with lengthy ballots featuring complicated measures when legislators have been elected to set policy for the state. The changes in SB 1253 would allow initiative backers and legislators more time to work out their differences and avoid some measures going to voters, the Sacramento Democrat said.

Some Republicans opposed the bill, saying the whole point of an initiative is to allow people to effect change when lawmakers don't resolve an issue. Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said Steinberg's bill would take away the direct democracy inherent in California's initiative process.

The bill passed the Senate 29-8 and now heads to the Assembly. Four Republicans joined majority Democrats in support: Republican leader Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte, Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres and Sen. Mark Wyland of Escondido.

PHOTO: Allen Cooperrider, center, wears a sign saying "Legal Petition for Ballot Initiative, No Genetically Engineered Crops in Mendocino County, " on Friday Sept. 12, 2003 while looking over signatures on a petition for an initiative at the United States Post office in Ukiah. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer.

Editor's note: This post was corrected at 4:36 p.m. to say that four Republicans voted for the bill.

May 29, 2014
California paid sick leave bill advances from Assembly

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As liberal policy priorities and business interests clashed, the California Assembly on Thursday passed legislation requiring employers to offer workers paid sick leave.

Legislators sent the bill to the Senate on a 48-20 vote. Demonstrating the issue's divisiveness, no Republicans voted for it.

Securing paid sick days for shift workers has been a priority for liberal politicians and labor unions across the country. Assembly Bill 1522 is sponsored by two prominent labor groups, the Service Employees International Union and the California Labor Federation.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, called her legislation a matter of basic fairness that would also keep ailing employees out of workplaces, like restaurants, where they could sicken others. The bill would let workers accrue hours towards days off, allowing employers to cap the total at three per year, and would not affect employers who already offer sick days.

"Most of these workers are low wage and hourly, disproportionately women and Latinos, and they have to choose in their jobs whether to go to work sick and be able to make ends meet or lose a day's pay," Gonzalez said, adding that it would be a boon to working parents who need to take time off to care for sick children.

For business groups and allied lawmakers, the bill would hamstring businesses by chipping away at their bottom line. The legislation holds a spot on the California Chamber of Commerce's annual "job killers" list.

"This bill adds another burden on employers that will make it difficult for them to compete. We just keep piling on," said Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, receives applause from lawmakers as she walks down the center isle of the Assembly to take the oath of office at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, May 28, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

May 29, 2014
Assembly approves bill for all-mail special elections

votebymail.JPGSeeking to improve low voter participation in special elections, the California Assembly on Thursday narrowly passed and sent to the Senate legislation that distribute all ballots by mail for elections to fill vacancies.

The constant shuffle of elected officials seeking new seats follows a familiar pattern -- a state legislator resigns or wins election to a new office, and a tiny sliver of the electorate chooses a replacement. Turnout in a recent pair of special elections hovered around 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Citing the expense, the Senate leader floated letting the governor fill vacancies.

An effective solution, according to proponents of Assembly Bill 1873, is to make mailboxes, not polling places, the nexus of special elections. Voters otherwise unaware that an election is going on would be looped into affairs currently dominated by the most diligent voters.

"It stands to reason that when a voter gets a ballot in their hand they become aware that a special election is happening and are more likely to engage in the process," said Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco.

Under the bill, which was sent to the Senate on a 42-30 vote, special elections to fill vacancies in the Legislature or Congress could be conducted exclusively by mail if the boards of supervisors in all involved counties agree.

While they praised the goal of boosting civic engagement, Republican opponents warned about the potential for voting fraud. They said prioritizing mail ballots over in-person voting would undermine election integrity and raised the specter of partisan manipulation.

"We are all for making sure that the voices of our constituents get heard," said Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, but "it is not appropriate that we allow for gamesmanship."

PHOTO: Vasili Polyzos, right, and Eli Strong, begin separating ballots at Sacramento County election office on Nov. 7, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/ Renee C. Byer.

May 29, 2014
AM Alert: Capitol Alert wants your opinion

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HEALING HAND: The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, which works on neighborhood safety, juvenile justice and education issues, sponsors a briefing on the effects of trauma on youth and community healing practices, 12:30 p.m. in Room 127 of the Capitol. Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, delivers opening remarks. Later in the program, Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles, Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, discuss legislative response.

WHO'S WATCHING?: Revelations of government spying and massive data breaches during the holiday shopping season made information security a hot topic last year. Paul Dourish, a professor of informatics at UC Irvine, will discuss online privacy in the age of social media and big data, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

CAPITOL EVENTS: The California Highway Patrol, which issues the permits for the Capitol events that you read about daily in the AM Alert, is moving to a new online system that offers paperless applications and a calendar updated in real time. You can check it out here.

AMEN: The 53rd annual California Prayer Breakfast, chaired this year by state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, begins at 6:45 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street.

PREVENTATIVE CARE: As part of its legislative advocacy day, community health and welfare organization Prevention Institute leads a rally calling for the passage of bills that would require warning labels on soft drinks, raise fines for traffic violations in school zones to fund safety projects, and give students enough time to eat lunch, noon on the north steps of the Capitol.

NEW IDEAS: Tomorrow is the deadline for bills to make it out of their house of origin, but legislators already looking for new ideas can pop in to room 126 of the Capitol at 3:30 p.m. Graduate students from Sacramento State's public policy and administration program will present their theses and policy recommendations on Medi-Cal, marijuana regulation and smog checks, among other topics.

PHOTO: Construction workers erect scaffolding around the Capitol dome on May 1, 2002 in preparation for painting. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 28, 2014
Tom McClintock snags endorsement of California Republican Party

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Northern California Rep. Tom McClintock was endorsed Wednesday night by the California Republican Party, an unconventional step initiated by party activists after the conservative icon drew an intraparty challenger.

State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte announced the unanimous decision at the end of a telephone meeting in which McClintock pressed for the endorsement and his Republican rival, Art Moore, urged the state party board to remain neutral.

McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and a veteran of state politics, said he's devoted his life to the party's principles and to electing Republicans to office. He said he's contributed more than $700,000 to the party and GOP candidates over the last five years and has the support of party leaders from Washington, D.C. to Tuolumne County. Endorsements from groups as diverse as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the tea-party aligned FreedomWorks PAC demonstrate that there is no rift in the party's ranks over his candidacy, he said.

"The press is desperately trying to portray this as a Republican civil war. They want this party to be divided in the November election with the focus on Republicans fighting Republicans instead of all of us uniting behind our candidates," McClintock said by phone Wednesday. "But this is not a Republican civil war."

The California GOP has made it tougher of late for candidates to get its endorsement over fellow Republicans. California Democrats, on the other hand, have a regular process in which the party wades into contested intraparty races.

McClintock, who was elected to Congress in 2008, seemed poised to easily win another term this fall. But after Moore, a businessman and military veteran, entered the race on the day of the filing deadline, 10 county central committees across the massive district informed Brulte that there was widespread support for McClintock.

Many of the activists from Placer and El Dorado counties took issue with the 36-year-old political newcomer's attacks on their congressman. Moore, who grew up in the region, assailed his rival for living outside the Roseville-centered district and for accepting a taxpayer-funded pension despite refusing to do so in the past.

McClintock has hit back at Moore for never voting in an election. Later, he sent a mailer that contrasted his positions with independent Jeffrey Gerlach. Democratic activists who saw Moore as their best shot at taking out the incumbent were furious, accusing McClintock of trying to slyly boost Gerlach's standing given his pledge not to spend more than $5,000 in the primary.

GOP constituents from the 4th Congressional District thanked Moore for his military service – with at least one suggesting that they would consider supporting him in another race – but they questioned the wisdom of taking on a solid Republican.

On Wednesday, Moore said he believes the competition he would provide should he advance to the general election in November would be healthy for the party. Regardless of who wins, the 4th district will remain in the hands of Republicans, he noted.

"If I win, there is going to be a Republican who will bring a new set of skills to Congress, who will be a team player, and who will work hard with Chairman Brulte and Kevin McCarthy to fundraise and help other Republicans get elected," Moore said. "And if Tom wins, we all know what he brings to the table."

PHOTO: Rep. Tom McClintock at a November 2009 hearing on Capitol Hill. Abaca Press/Olivier Douliery.

May 28, 2014
Fracking moratorium dies in California Senate

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An effort to halt the oil extraction process known as fracking failed in the California Senate as lawmakers rejected a bill that would have banned the practice until a state-commissioned study proves it is safe.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, argued that her measure amounted to hitting "pause" on an oil extraction method that has raised concerns among environmentalists as it's become more common in California and across the nation. Opponents argued that Senate Bill 1132 didn't make sense because California passed a law last year to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Abandoning the practice, they said, would cause some people to lose their jobs.

Mitchell's bill failed when four business-friendly Democrats voted against it and three more Democrats withheld their votes. Its defeat illustrates the influence big business has on moderate Democrats in the California Legislature. Some of the same lawmakers also cast swing votes in the Senate Wednesday that killed bills to limit evictions in San Francisco and require the labeling of genetically-modified foods.

SB 1132 is eligible for reconsideration Thursday.

PHOTO: Fracking wells run day and night near Jack and Shafter roads in Shafter on June 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/José Luis Villegas.

May 28, 2014
California lawmakers reject bill to label GMO foods

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California lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a proposal to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients despite calls from advocates who say consumers should know when they're buying food that has been bioengineered.

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said her measure would have added California to the 64 countries around the world that have laws requiring labeling on genetically-engineered foods. Senate Bill 1381 would allow people who are concerned about their diets to have more information about what they eat, she said.

Opponents of GMO labeling – including major growers and biotech companies – have argued that genetic engineering is safe and labels are not necessary. The process is so common with certain crops, opponents argue, that labels would be required on most packaged food that is not organic. Most of the corn, sugar beets and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically engineered, and those commodities make their way into many common foods.

Evans' bill was supported by organic farmers and environmental organizations, and opposed by major business interests, including grocers, retailers, chambers of commerce and non-organic growers. The same interests engaged in a multi-million dollar battle in California in November 2012 when voters rejected Proposition 37 to label genetically-engineered foods.

Evans' bill fell two votes short of passage in the 40-member Senate. The measure is eligible for reconsideration Thursday.

PHOTO: Dr. Eduardo Blumwald holds genetically modified rice in a greenhouse at UC Davis in March 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

May 28, 2014
Tim Donnelly phones in to Andrew Tahmooressi rally

donnellypunjabi.jpgWhen Tim Donnelly was asked at a debate this month about the plight of a Marine Corps veteran jailed in Mexico on a gun matter, Donnelly said if he was governor he would go to the border to lobby for the American's release.

"We need to make a lot of noise," Donnelly said, "and if I was the governor of the state of California, I would have taken a helicopter, and I would be landing on the border and holding a protest and demanding that they free our Marine."

On Wednesday, Donnelly said on Twitter that he called in to just such a rally, in San Ysidro, south of San Diego. He lacked the imprimatur of the governor's office but took the opportunity to make noise.

"Just spoke via phone at the SD protest rally demanding his release!" Donnelly wrote. "Let us not rest until he is home! Godspeed."

The controversy surrounding the incarceration of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi involves not only a border crossing but carrying guns where they are not allowed. Donnelly knows something about that: The former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project is on probation for carrying a loaded firearm into Ontario International Airport in 2012.

Tahmooressi said he mistakenly crossed the border when he made a wrong turn, according to the UT San Diego. Donnelly said he forgot he had the gun in his carry-on.

For the purposes of the governor's race, Donnelly has said his gun case will only help him with Second Amendment advocates. And with rival Neel Kashkari closing on him in public opinion polls less than a week before the June 3 primary election, the opportunity to remind voters of his credentials may not hurt, either.

PHOTO: Tim Donnelly campaigns at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City on May 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 28, 2014
Senate Dems push for spending on mentally ill criminals

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As budget negotiations reach their final weeks in the state Capitol, state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is pressing for more spending to treat mental illness among inmates and people being released from prison, arguing that the proposals will reduce prison crowding and promote public safety.

The proposals by Senate Democrats to spend $132 million on reducing recidivism among mentally ill offenders are based on suggestions by professors at Stanford Law School, who studied the proliferation of mental illness within California's prison population. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed $91 million in spending.

The Senate Democrats' package comes as lawmakers respond to Friday's rampage near UC Santa Barbara in which a disturbed student killed six people and injured 13 in a spree of stabbing and shooting.

"These proposals finalized earlier this month are now cast under a different light than any of us had originally planned," Steinberg said during a press conference Wednesday. "It's a cruel and of course sad coincidence that the significance of one proposal – to improve training among front line law enforcement to recognize the warning signs of mental illness – was illustrated by a gun rampage in Santa Barbara County."

The proposals from Senate Democrats include:

* $12 million to train law enforcement officers and $24 million to train prison employees in dealing with people who are mentally ill
* $25 million to expand re-entry programs for mentally ill offenders
* $20 million to help parolees by providing case managers to make sure they get treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse
* $20 million to expand so-called mental health courts that manage offenders who are mentally ill or addicted to drugs
* $50 million to re-establish a grant program for counties offering substance abuse treatment, job training or other programs to help mentally ill offenders after they're released from prison

Steinberg touted the $50 million grant program back in December – this video describes the proposal.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, gestures during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

VIDEO: The Sacramento Bee/Daniel Rothberg

May 28, 2014
California Republicans are shrinking. Here's where:

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California Republicans are a shrinking group. But where are they diminishing fastest?

The Bee's data expert takes a county-by-county look at Republicans' share of registered voters.

Traditionally Democratic areas like San Francisco and Marin counties saw the largest proportional drop in Republican voters, writes Phillip Reese. No county in the state is now majority Republican. Only two small counties – Lassen and Modoc – increased the proportion of voters registered as Republicans over the last decade.

Read the post and check out the map for yourself here.

PHOTO: President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan at the Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Mitch Toll

May 28, 2014
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May 28, 2014
AM Alert: After shooting, Senate Dems introduce mental health legislation

IslaVista.JPGMeeting for the first time since the mass shooting that shook Santa Barbara over the weekend, Democratic lawmakers yesterday called for new efforts to keep mentally ill people from obtaining guns.

First up is a package of bills and budget proposals from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to address mental healthcare in California's criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety. Steinberg will be joined by Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Jim Beall, D-San Jose, to present the legislation at 11 a.m. in Room 211 of the Capitol.

Steinberg said he was planning to introduce the legislation regardless of the events in Isla Vista, where six students were killed and another 13 were injured Friday night, but the incident creates new urgency for the conversation. Among the package is a proposal to strengthen statewide protocols to help law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.

VIDEO: As deadlines loom, the Legislature becomes more of a sausage factory than a deliberative body, Dan Walters says.

BAD BEHAVIOR: In response to a scandal-plagued year that has led to the suspension of three senators, Senate Republicans will introduce a package of legislation aimed at preventing ethics abuses, noon in the office of Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. The bills will focus on closing campaign finance loopholes, toughening reporting requirements, preventing the use of campaign funds for criminal defense and increasing penalties for lawmakers who accept bribes.

GOING UNDER: Rising sea levels and storm surges create a flood risk for nearly 3,500 miles of California roadways and 280 miles of rail lines, according to the California Energy Commission. As part of its annual update of the state's Integrated Energy Policy Report, the commission will conduct a workshop on this and other potential threats of climate change to the state's transportation system, 3 p.m. at the California Energy Commission building on 9th Street.

WIC-KED AWESOME: In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the California WIC Assocation sponsors a health fair and picnic at noon on the west steps of the Capitol.

ALL TOGETHER NOW: The California Financing Coordinating Committee, which helps arrange financing for public-works projects, holds a funding fair about available grants for drinking water, energy efficiency, flood management and other projects, 8:30 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street.

DROUGHT WARRIOR: Last December, Gov. Jerry Brown convened an interagency task force to review the state's water allocations and drought preparedness. California's food and agriculture secretary, Karen Ross, who is leading the task force, will discuss the impacts of the drought and possible solutions during a speaking engagement at Santa Clara University at noon.

PHOTO: State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who represents the community of Isla Vista where six young people were killed on May 23, leads senators in a moment of silence in their memory, at the Capitol on May 27, 2014. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

May 28, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Legislative 'crunch week' instructive for public

last_day.JPGWith hundreds of bills facing a Friday deadline, the Legislature resembles more a sausage factory than a deliberative body, 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: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, center right, celebrates with Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva on the Assembly floor during the last day of the legislative session on September 12, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

May 27, 2014
Tim Donnelly calls financial difficulties proof he can relate

donnellyscrum.jpgRepublican Tim Donnelly said Tuesday that his past financial difficulties are evidence he can relate to regular Californians, firing back at Neel Kashkari, his better-funded rival in the governor's race one week before the primary election.

"I'm not a millionaire, I didn't make a killing off the taxpayers by running TARP and bailing out Wall Street," Donnelly said in an interview on KMJ News Talk Radio in Fresno.

Kashkari, who managed the federal government's $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, made about $145,000 a year while working at the U.S. Treasury Department, his campaign said.

Donnelly's remarks come after Kashkari portrayed Donnelly in a mailer as financially irresponsible. Kashkari criticized Donnelly for a foreclosure on an investment property in South Carolina in 2012, and for a $2,829 tax lien the state filed against Donnelly's former business, Donnelly Plastic Equipment Inc. San Bernardino County listed the lien as being released in March.

"Hey, I lost a piece of property in the downturn," Donnelly said. "I did everything I could to save it. I put a lot of money into it ... And a balloon payment came due and there was nothing I could do."

Kashkari, appearing immediately after Donnelly on KMJ, said Donnelly's personal finances are part of a less-than-conservative fiscal record.

"It's fiscal conservatism for everyone but him," Kashkari said, "and I think people appreciate knowing the truth."

Gov. Jerry Brown is widely expected to finish first in the primary election, with Donnelly and Kashkari competing for a spot in a runoff election against Brown in the fall. Kashkari has donated $2 million to his own campaign in recent weeks, while Donnelly has reported debts exceeding cash on hand.

Kashkari defended his role managing TARP, as he has previously, saying the program helped avert an economic collapse.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday to include information from Kashkari's campaign about his pay while working at the U.S. Treasury Department.

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

May 27, 2014
California Senate passes bill to ban sterilizing prison inmates

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California jails and prisons would be forbidden from sterilizing inmates for the purpose of birth control under a bill the state Senate passed Tuesday.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, wrote Senate Bill 1135 after the Center for Investigative Reporting found that over a five-year period, doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates without required state approvals. Former inmates and their advocates said that prison officials coerced women into consenting to the procedures if the officials thought they were likely to return to prison.

"This measure is absolutely necessary to make sure sterilizations are not performed in a coercive prison environment," Jackson told senators Tuesday.

The bill spells out limited circumstances in which prisons would be allowed to sterilize an inmate, such as if it is necessary to save her life. It passed the Senate with unanimous support and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

PHOTO: Former Valley State Prison for Women inmate Kimberly Jeffrey with her son Noel, 3, shown in June 2013. During her imprisonment in 2010, Jeffrey says a doctor pressured her to agree to be sterilized, but she refused. Noah Berger/ For The Center for Investigative Reporting

May 27, 2014
Down-ticket statewide candidates take to California airwaves

padilla_ad.jpgWith the June 3 primary election less than a week away, candidates for a pair of lesser-known statewide offices have taken to the TV airwaves for a final push.

The campaigns of state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is running for secretary of state, and former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, a candidate for state controller, recently released upbeat ads in their respective contests.

Padilla's ad, "Anything is Possible," highlights Padilla's upbringing while not mentioning the secretary of state's office until almost the very end. "I'll protect voting rights for everyone and make it easier to start a business," Padilla tells the camera at one point.

Click here to see the Padilla ad.

The Padilla campaign said the ad is airing in the Los Angeles and San Francisco media markets. According to his latest campaign filing, Padilla spent $620,000 on TV and radio costs through May 17. The most recent Field Poll suggests that Padilla will clinch one of the two slots next week for the November runoff.

Pérez, though, is in a close race with Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a fellow Democrat, for the No. 2 spot behind Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican.

Pérez has started running an ad called "Turnaround." The commercial said Pérez "partnered with Gov. Brown to pass three balanced budgets on time for the first time in 30 years."

"Now John Pérez is running for controller to keep fighting for balanced budgets," the ad says.

Click here to see the Pérez ad.

Pérez's latest campaign filing does not show any significant spending on TV and radio ads through mid-May. In areas covered by Time Warner Cable Media, the Pére campaign paid about $26,000 for ads from May 24 through June 2, according to public records.

In another down-ticket contest, the race for California superintendent of public instruction also has gotten some TV time – but not from the candidates themselves.

The California Teachers Association has paid for ads promoting incumbent schools chief Tom Torlakson. Those commercials, though, are issue-advocacy ads and don't mention the election – unlike the more than $2.2 million in CTA-funded radio ads supporting Torlakson and opposing Torlakson's main rival, Marshall Tuck.

"Anything is Possible"

"Turnaround"

PHOTO: An image from a new campaign ad by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is running for secretary of state.

May 27, 2014
California Democrats call for gun restrictions after Isla Vista killings

IslaVista.JPGOn their first day back in the Capitol since the killing Friday night of six college students near UC Santa Barbara, Democrats in the California Legislature said the state should do more to keep mentally ill people from obtaining guns.

Democratic Assembly members Das Williams of Santa Barbara and Nancy Skinner of Berkeley announced they will introduce a bill that would allow concerned family members or friends to notify authorities when a loved one is at risk of committing violence, permitting law enforcement to investigate and potentially prevent them from buying firearms.

"The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing. Rather it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together," Williams said in a statement.

In the state Senate, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he plans to introduce a package of policy and budget proposals Wednesday that address mental health care, criminal justice and public safety, including more training for law enforcement.

He said he was planning to make the proposals regardless of the Isla Vista killing Friday, in which 22-year-old Elliott Rodger is suspected of killing six people and injuring 13 others before killing himself. But the incident creates new urgency for the conversation, Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he believed Rodger fooled police into thinking he was well-adjusted when they came to check on him after his parents alerted them of a violent rant he had posted online. He asked if the incident might have been prevented if police had also checked on Rodger's record of purchasing guns.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat, decried what she called a "culture of violence" in movies and video games and a society that has allowed mass shootings to continue. She was among the Democrats who called on the Legislature to take action to prevent more killing as the Senate eulogized the victims of Friday's rampage and held a moment of silence in their honor.

PHOTO: State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who represents the community of Isla Vista where six young people were killed on Friday, May 23, leads senators in a moment of silence in their memory, at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

May 27, 2014
California porn condom bill clears Assembly floor

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Responding to pleas to address a burgeoning public health issue in the adult entertainment industry, the California Assembly on Tuesday advanced a measure requiring the use of protection like condoms in pornographic movies.

Assembly Bill 1576 garnered the bare minimum 41 votes necessary for passage. Abstaining from voting were several Assembly members from the Los Angeles area, where the porn industry is a significant force.

Protecting adult actors has become a recurring focus for Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, whose attempt last year fell short. Hall argues that unsafe sex poses an imminent health hazard, pointing to a number of porn performers who have contracted HIV. AB 1576 is his latest effort.

"This industry has been largely self-regulated and has done an inadequate job of protecting its employees," Hall argued on the Assembly floor. "We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California," he added. "Legitimate businesses are required to protect employees from injury in the workplace."

Opposing the bill is California's powerful adult entertainment industry, represented by a group called the Free Speech Coalition. Rigorous testing for sexually transmitted diseases makes Hall's bill unnecessary, they contend. They warn that new restrictions would muffle an economic engine that generates $9 to $13 billion a year, according to a committee analysis.

Los Angeles County already requires condom use for adult movies filmed within county lines. If the rule blankets all of California, according to opponents like the Valley
Industry and Commerce Association, pornographic movies will join the trend of film productions relocating to other states.

Industry critics have also raised constitutional issues with the testing regimen, administered by California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, the bill would mandate. Studios would need to document that employees had consented to the release of testing data, an imperative skeptics called unworkable for employers.

"What this is is a mandate, and this is a mandate that I'm afraid these businesses are going to have trouble meeting," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

PHOTO: A health educator with the County of Sacramento opens a packet that includes condoms and information to get tested for SDTs during a public health fair at Sacramento State on April 12, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

May 27, 2014
California lawmakers paid most, national survey confirms

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California's legislators have seen their incomes go up and down in recent years due to decrees by the state's salary commission, but remain the highest paid in the nation, according to a new survey by Stateline, a Pew Charitable Trusts website.

With base salaries of $90,526 per year (leaders receive a bit more) and tax-free "per diem" payments of $141.86 per day, seven days a week as long as the Legislature is in session, California lawmakers' pay is approached only by salaries in No. 2 Pennsylvania, Stateline reports.

However, Stateline's data on California are a few months out of date. Last year, the California Citizens Compensation Commission voted to raise legislators' base salaries to $95,291 effective last December and is contemplating raising them again this year.

Legislators' pay in the Stateline report ranges downward to zero in New Mexico, although its lawmakers do receive $159 per day for living expenses.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown leaves the Assembly floor after he delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on Jan. 22, 2014 at the State Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 27, 2014
'Student success fees' part of California budget debate

tuition_protest.jpgDirectly challenging Gov. Jerry Brown's budget priorities, Senate and Assembly committees last week proposed spending another $95 million to $100 million for California State University next year.

CSU has been asking for the additional funding boost since January, when Brown suggested an increase of $125 million, or 5 percent, for the system in 2014-15.

But the Legislature's proposed added funding would come with a condition -- a moratorium on the controversial "student success fees" that have spurred protests at campuses across the state in the past few months.

"We don't want to saddle our CSU students with further debt," said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education. "We wanted to send a strong signal to our state and our students that the Legislature is making public higher education among our top priorities."

The fees, which vary by location but usually run several hundred dollars per semester, have been implemented at 11 of the 23 CSU campuses in recent years to generate revenue for initiatives that improve student success and completion rates. This includes hiring new faculty, adding more course sections and buying new technology.

But critics of the fees say they are a workaround to the tuition freeze implemented in 2012 in exchange for increased state support. As more schools considered new fees this spring, students demonstrated outside the CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach and at campuses from Sonoma to San Diego.

Meredith Turner, director of governmental relations for the California State Student Association, which represents CSU students, said they are not looking to eliminate the fees completely. Many campuses implemented them through a student vote, because students wanted to finish their degrees faster.

"While we don't think these fees are a great solution, do you really think it's a great idea to take away the ability for campuses to address their own needs?" she said.

But the moratorium, which would prohibit CSU schools from raising or implementing new success fees for at least a year, should be used to find improvements, such as greater transparency and student input in how the money is used, she added.

"Hopefully this will mean, moving forward, we won't have to look at additional means of getting funding," Turner said. "Hopefully fewer and fewer new fees will need to be added."

It's unclear how much of that additional money CSU will see. Brown has expressed repeatedly that he does not plan to increase higher education funding beyond the level in his January budget proposal.

If Brown rejected the Legislature's proposed funding increase, Muratsuchi said they could still pursue a moratorium on student success fees through legislation.

CSU was not available for comment.

PHOTO: Sarah Garcia, 19, joins a handful of other students at the California State University Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach on September 19, 2012, to protest a potential hike in fees. Los Angeles Times/Rick Loomis

May 27, 2014
California elections: AD 9 field narrows as Rodriguez-Suruki exits

Rodriguez-Suruki.jpgSolidifying the field days before a primary election, Diana Rodriguez-Suruki has ended her campaign for the 9th Assembly District race and thrown her support to fellow Democrat and Elk Grove City Councilman Jim Cooper.

"I have gotten to know Jim over the course of this campaign. He brings significantly more
experience to the job than his remaining opponents and is committed to working on the issues that affect children and their families," Rodriguez-Suruki said in a statement.

By bowing out, Rodriguez-Suruki - currently a Sacramento City Unified School District trustee - has left two Democratic candidates vying for a top-two spot in the heavily Democratic district. Cooper faces a challenge from Sacramento City Council member Darrell Fong. Rodriguez-Suruki's name will remain on the ballot, but she will not campaign for the seat.

Business security consultant Tim Gorsulowsky and computer technician Manuel Martin populate the Republican field in the district, seeking a seat that Assemblyman Richard Pan has vacated as he seeks a state Senate seat.

Voters go to the polls next Tuesday.

May 27, 2014
AM Alert: California party chairs get roasted

turbo_roaster.JPGDemocrats and Republicans will square off on the political battlefield next Tuesday, so why not prepare with a partisan showdown of a more lighthearted nature?

The California Roast, that annual tradition of raunchy jokes and even raunchier jokes, features state Democratic Party chairman John Burton and state Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte as co-honorees this year. Rumor has it that whoever is funnier will win the governor's office in November.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle are slated to do the roasting. The festivities, hosted by the California Center for Civic Participation to benefit its youth education program, begin at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street. Tickets are $300.

VIDEO: The only thing that will stop the oil industry from pursuing California's Monterey Shale formation is economics, Dan Walters says.

DOWN TO THE WIRE: The deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin is Friday. With hundreds left to consider and committees not allowed to meet this week, the Senate and Assembly will be spending more time than usual in their chambers, debating and voting on legislation. (How much time, exactly, is not yet clear). The fun begins when both houses convene at noon for floor session.

LIEN IN: Janitors, security guards and other members of the Service Employees International Union rally on the north steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. to call for the passage of legislation that would allow workers to place wage liens on their employers for compensation that they are owed.

I SPY: If a roast is not your thing, the Sacramento Press Club and the Center for Investigative Reporting host a screening of the short documentary "The State of Surveillance" and a panel discussion on the increasingly sophisticated surveillance capabilities of California law enforcement, 5:30 p.m. at Beatnik Studios on S Street.

PHOTO: A chicken takes the heat. The Sacramento Bee

May 27, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Low estimates for Monterey Shale won't cut interest

oil_rigs_sunset.JPGThe only thing that will stop the oil industry from pursuing California's Monterey Shale formation is economics, 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: Oil rigs pump oil from the ground in Baldwin Hills of West Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

May 26, 2014
VIDEO: California lawmakers extend deadline to improve monument

Soldado.jpegCalifornia lawmakers last week approved a bill aimed at rehabilitating and expanding a crumbling monument that honors Latinos who served in the armed services.

Both houses voted to send Gov. Jerry Brown Senate Bill 722 by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, to extend for two years the amount of time state officials have to raise private funds for the project. The monument, known as El Soldado, was first dedicated after World War II in 1951 and moved to its present location, at 10th Street and Capitol Mall across from the west steps of the Capitol, in 1975.

Previous legislation created a committee to solicit designs and private donations for the project. The monument is in disrepair and rehabilitation efforts have yet to succeed. Current law requires all the money in the account - about $300,000, to revert to the general fund on July 1 if the project is not done. SB 722 would delay that date for two years.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates the project's cost at about $1 million.

PHOTO: El Soldado monument across from the Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Dan Smith.

May 25, 2014
Kashkari, Donnelly hit festivals, fairs in final days of campaign

donnellypunjabi.jpgYUBA CITY - California is so large a state its gubernatorial campaigns are typically waged not door to door, but in television and radio ads, direct mail and, to a growing extent, online.

But tradition calls for candidates to wade into shopping malls, festivals and fairs in the final days of a campaign. So on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, Tim Donnelly put on his National Rifle Association hat and distributed literature at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City, while Neel Kashkari pet a baby goat and met with Republicans at the Sacramento County Fair.

Within hours they would be heading in opposite directions, Kashkari driving north to the festival Donnelly was attending and Donnelly considering a stop further south, in Bakersfield.

Just more than a week before the June 3 primary election, the two Republicans are locked in a close race for second place and a spot in the November runoff election against Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. The contest has drawn little outside money or interest, largely because neither Republican is expected to unseat Brown.

At the Punjabi American Festival, organizers were disinterested in controversy around comments Donnelly has made linking Kashkari, who is Hindu and of Indian heritage, to Islamic law. Interest in the candidates themselves was not exactly brimming over, either.

Tej Maan, a local councilman and one of the festival's organizers, pointed to U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who was waiting behind a stage. The presence of the federal lawmaker, Maan said, was "much bigger than the two governor candidates," and even that wasn't what the crowd came to see.

"Our focus is right in front of you, the youth," he said, as a group of youngsters began a traditional dance.

PHOTO: Tim Donnelly campaigns at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City on May 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 24, 2014
Longtime lawmaker John Vasconcellos, self esteem champion, dies at 82

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Former California lawmaker John Vasconcellos, who advanced groundbreaking measures during nearly 40 years in the Legislature, has died. He was 82.

Board of Equalization member Betty Yee said friends of Vasconcellos learned of his death early Saturday afternoon.

"Difficult day for many, myself included," Yee said.

Former lawmaker John Burton called Vasconcellos a "man of great heart, of great intellect and great compassion."

"John wore his compassion on his sleeve," Burton said, describing Vasconcellos as the Legislature's "conscience on the budget" and other issues.

"The bad part is he has left us. The good part is that he isn't suffering," Burton added of his former colleague.

Vasconcellos served from 1966 through 2004 in the Assembly and Senate, and for many years chaired the powerful then-Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly. He carried legislation on topics ranging from improving students' self esteem and improving the higher education system to increasing patients' access to medical marijuana.

Former lawmaker Art Torres said in an e-mail that Vasconcellos "was like a big brother to me and my family and especially my son Joaquin."

"I'm heartbroken," Torres said Saturday.

Photo gallery: John Vasconcellos' legislative days

PHOTO: Former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, makes a telephone call from the floor of the Senate chambers in February 2003, during his final term in the Legislature. The Sacramento Bee / Dick Schmidt

May 23, 2014
John Vasconcellos, longtime California lawmaker, is seriously ill

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Former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, a Santa Clara Democrat who served almost four decades in the Legislature, is gravely ill.

Vasconcellos has been in a San Jose hospital the past several days, where his condition has worsened. He has spoken with friends and colleagues in recent days.

"I hope everyone is praying for our dear friend John Vasconcellos," said Barbara O'Connor, a former Cal State Sacramento communications professor who has known Vasconcellos since 1972. "He's very ill and he needs all the help he can get."

Rich Robinson, a former aide to Vasconcellos who is with the senator, declined to comment Friday.

"Even giants need our prayers. Keep Senator John Vasconcellos in your thoughts today. Perform an act of kindness in his honor," former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, who served with Vasconcellos, posted on Twitter on Friday.

Vasconcellos served in the Assembly from 1966 through 1996, when he moved to the state Senate and served through 2004. He carried legislation on a variety of topics, especially education and government transparency. During his last term, Vasconcellos' Senate website referred to him as "a pragmatic idealist," "the conscience of the Legislature," and "the Johnny Appleseed of self esteem."

After leaving office, he founded Politics of Trust, a group dedicated to fostering "a new politics, based on our highest aspirations and a new, healing vision."

PHOTO: Former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, makes a telephone call from the floor of the Senate chambers in February 2003, during his final term in the Legislature. The Sacramento Bee / Dick Schmidt

May 23, 2014
Bill to extend health care to undocumented immigrants stalls

Lara_undocumented_students.JPGA bill to extend subsidized health benefits to undocumented immigrants stalled in the state Senate on Friday, but could be revived if its supporters identify a way to pay for the expansion.

Senate Bill 1005 aims to close a gap in the federal health care overhaul, which only makes insurance plans available to those in the country legally. Authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, the measure would open Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants as well as create a marketplace for new plans.

California counties currently provide health care to undocumented immigrants, but the coverage varies greatly among counties.

Health advocates contend the legislation is needed to fully achieve the promises of the federal Affordable Care Act in California. Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and chairman of the upper house's fiscal committee, described a "two-tiered" system that discriminates against millions of people that but "for lack of paperwork are Americans."

"SB 1005 is a necessary measure, but we need to continue to find responsible funding sources so that we don't already over-strain our safety net, and make sure it doesn't come apart," de León said.

Lara and advocates were given the summer to develop a funding mechanism for the expansion. At the hearing, Lara said he respected the decision.

"Expanding healthcare for all Californians is not a question of if but ... a matter of when," he said.

PHOTO: Sen. Ricardo Lara is joined, left to right, by UC Davis student Ana Maciel, UC President Janet Napolitano, Sacramento State student Deisy Caro and Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez at the State Capitol on April 9. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

May 23, 2014
California tribes still at odds over online poker

sdf_fund_resized.JPGCalifornia's tribes with casinos once were deeply divided about how, or even if, the state should legalize online poker, blocking any legislative deal.

Now tribes are talking, but a licensing measure remains elusive because of key disagreements, two influential tribal leaders said at this week's online poker conference sponsored by Capitol Weekly and the UC Center Sacramento.

Robert Martin, the chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Beaumont, said he would have no problem with legislation that allows race tracks and advanced-deposit wagering facilities to offer online poker.

"I can't answer for every tribe, but I can tell you that Agua Caliente would oppose that bill," said Jeff Grubbe, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians near Palm Springs. He noted that voters in 2004 rejected a ballot measure that would have expanded gambling at horse tracks.

And Grubbe said his tribe and others want any legalized California online poker games to exclude operators such as PokerStars, which critics say has violated federal law.

Such "bad actor" language would be a deal breaker, Martin responded. His tribe, which is working with PokerStars, thinks the state's gambling regulators should make that call, not lawmakers.

"If it disqualifies our partner without even giving them an opportunity to apply, we would have to fight that," Martin said of the measure.

The two online poker bills in play are Assembly Bill 2291 by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, and Senate Bill 1366 by state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana.

PHOTO: Dealers practice before the opening of the 340,000-square-foot Graton Casino & Resort in October 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

May 23, 2014
Three competing plans emerge for spending cap-and-trade fees

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And now there are three competing plans for spending about $1 billion in cap-and-trade fees on businesses that emit greenhouse gases, with three weeks to resolve the differences before the June 15 deadline for enacting a state budget.

The fees are, by law, supposed to be used to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to meet state goals.

Gov. Jerry Brown's 2014-15 budget would spend $870 million in fees, with the largest single piece being $250 million to bolster financial underpinnings of the state's bullet train project. Plus, Brown wants the Legislature to permanently commit a third of future cap-and-trade revenues to the project.

The Assembly's leadership, in a plan unveiled on Thursday, wants to raise cap-and-trade spending to just over $1 billion with two pots of $400 million each, one of which could go to the bullet train if the state's Strategic Growth Council – an agency of the governor's top appointees – agrees.

Moreover, the Assembly's plan would give Brown the authority to seek a $20 billion federal loan and issue a $20 billion revenue bond for the high-speed rail project, both of which would rely on future cap-and-trade fees to repay.

On Friday, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee adopted another version that would allocate $450 million for mass transit and intercity rail, including the bullet train, plus appropriations for smaller programs.

There are some other differences as well, including how much money, if any, should be spent on subsidies for buyers of low-emission vehicles and various programs to reduce solid waste, restoring wetlands and support "sustainable communities," however they may be defined.

The differences will be resolved – if they can be – during negotiations among Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.

PHOTO: A tanker truck passes the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond on March 9, 2010. Associated Press/Paul Sakuma

May 23, 2014
Legislature scales back Brown's teacher pension rescue plan

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State legislators heard a heavy litany of complaints from school officials this week about Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to make the State Teachers Retirement System solvent and in response temporarily toned down the bite on their budgets.

The Brown plan aims to close a $70-plus billion unfunded liability by eventually raising contributions to $5-plus billion a year, with the lion's share coming from the budgets of local school districts.

But school officials told a joint legislative hearing that the sharp increases would wipe out much of the gains in state aid they are scheduled to receive during the remainder of the decade.

In response, the chairs of the two legislative committees involved asked for a modification and on Friday, the Legislative Analyst's Office released a revised chart that would reach the same level of financing sought by Brown by 2020, but lower the increase in the early years and raise it later.

Brown wanted districts to raise contributions from 8.25 percent of payroll in 2014-15 to 9.5 percent, for instance, but the legislative plan scales it back to 8.88 percent. Districts' payments would ramp up gradually thereafter and surpass Brown's plan in 2018-19 at 17.75 percent, markedly higher than the 15.9 percent in Brown's plan for that year.

Both plans would top out at 19.1 percent in 2020-21, with school districts paying $3.8 billion that year into the pension system, over 70 percent of the $5.3 billion annual increase in revenue for STRS.

The state's contributions and those of teachers would remain virtually the same as Brown's plan, although the increase for teachers hired after Jan. 1, 2013, would be slightly lower for one year.

PHOTO: Joined by school officials, California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an April 2013 news conference in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Renee. C. Byer

May 23, 2014
Pérez holds fundraising lead in California controller's contest

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The leading candidates for state controller headed into the final weeks of the June 3 primary campaign with more than $2 million on hand to try to win over voters in the down-ticket contest.

Almost all of that money was in the campaign account of former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who continued to have a huge cash advantage over his main Democratic rival, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. Pérez, whose campaign this week began airing TV ads, reported having more than $1.8 million on hand May 17 compared to Yee's $116,000.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, had $70,198 on hand after raising more than $287,000 since March 18 following her late entry into the controller's race.

Recent polls suggest that Swearengin will easily make the November runoff, with the main battle between Yee and Pérez for the No. 2 slot.

The charts below show how much each candidate raised and spent from Jan. 1 through May 17, and their cash on hand.

PHOTO: Then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 23, 2014
AM Alert: Suspense bills get final shot in fiscal committees

Assembly_chamber.JPGToday is the last day for fiscal committees to meet and report to the floor bills introduced in their house, so both the Senate and Assembly appropriations committees will be running through their suspense files - lists of legislation the committees have held off on considering until a clearer picture of available revenue emerged.

Both houses have extensive lists to consider: There are in 232 bills in the Senate's suspense file, and 319 in the Assembly. Among them are many of Capitol Alert Insider Edition's Bills to Watch for 2014.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which meets in Room 4203 of the Capitol upon adjournment of morning floor session, will consider legislation that would expand pre-kindergarten for all California four-year-olds, provide access to subsidized health care and student loans for undocumented immigrants, mandate labeling of genetically-modified foods, speed up the process for firing teachers accused of egregious misconduct, and create a fundraising blackout period for the Legislature.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee, which meets in Room 4202 of the Capitol upon adjournment of morning floor session, will consider legislation that would deal with a backlog of untested rape kits, require paid sick days for employees, make it easier for undocumented immigrants to pay taxes and extend the film tax credit.

VIDEO: Even with a scaled-back proposal, it's unclear whether pre-kindergarten expansion will make it into the final budget, Dan Walters says.

PUMP UP THE JAM: Under California's landmark cap-and-trade law, oil producers in the state will have to buy carbon credits for all the fuel they sell beginning next year. A coalition of businesses, consumers and advocates called Fed Up at the Pump launches a campaign against the tax, which is expected to raise gasoline prices by several cents per gallon, 10:30 a.m. at Three B's Auto and Truck Plaza in Lodi. State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, will join the group in asking Gov. Jerry Brown to halt the law before it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Fed Up at the Pump argues that the rising cost of gas will have negative impact on motorists as well as industries such as agriculture, trucking and construction.

CONGRADULATIONS: The 2014 commencement season continues this weekend with another speaker from under the dome: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, delivers the address at Sacramento State's College of Health and Human Services ceremony, Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Sleep Train Arena.

IN MEMORIAM: In honor of Memorial Day and those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, the Legislature will be out of session until Tuesday. But there is plenty of action around the Capitol this long weekend, including a "reading of the names" at the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Capitol Park at 7 a.m. on Sunday and a program at the Mexican-American Veterans Memorial on 10th Street at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to eliminate a reference to the bill requiring porn actors to wear condoms. That bill is not on the suspense file -- it was sent to the floor for a vote.

PHOTO: Twenty-eight new Assembly members undergo orientation inside the Assembly chambers on Nov. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

May 23, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Pre-kindergarten expansion remains unresolved

kindergarten.JPGState Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has scaled back his proposal, but it's still unclear whether pre-kindergarten expansion will make it into the final budget, Dan says.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 22, 2014
Tim Donnelly holds about $70,000 for campaign's final stretch

donnellyscrum.jpgTim Donnelly, laboring to stay ahead of a surging Neel Kashkari in the Republican race for governor, is struggling to maintain even his shoe-string budget, reporting Thursday he had cash on hand of just more than $70,000 as of last week.

Donnelly also reported $155,667 of outstanding debt.

Kashkari, who still trails Donnelly in public opinion polls, has gained ground on the Republican frontrunner after pumping $2 million of his own money into the campaign. In his campaign finance statement Thursday, covering a period from mid-March through mid-May, Kashkari reported an ending cash balance of just more than $1.4 million.

Kashkari is also getting help from establishment Republicans concerned about the effect Donnelly, a tea party favorite, might have on the GOP if he beats Kashkari and advances to a November runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown. Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr. and billionaire Robert Day this week donated $350,000 and $50,000, respectively, to an independent expenditure committee financing mailers supporting Kashkari and opposing Donnelly.

One mailer incudes former Gov. Pete Wilson's public rebuke of Donnelly last week and brings up his past criminal cases. Donnelly has said Kashkari's self-financing and outside assistance is a sign of desperation.

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

May 22, 2014
Steinberg scales back California preschool proposal

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Senate leader Darrell Steinberg unveiled a modified version of his plan to offer free preschool to California 4-year-olds on Thursday, slashing the cost of the program to the state by more than two-thirds by focusing on children from the poorest families.

Steinberg's earlier plan would have provided preschool to all 4-year-olds regardless of family income and cost the state about $1.5 billion once fully rolled out. But Gov. Jerry Brown showed no interest in expanding state spending that much and left Steinberg's plan out of his budget proposals.

The Sacramento Democrat said his scaled back plan would cost an additional $378 million. It would offer preschool to 4-year-olds whose families qualify for free and reduced lunch -- about 234,000 children, Steinberg said.

"Every low-income child in California would have access to full-day, full-year quality preschool if (at least) one parent works," Steinberg said during a budget subcommittee hearing Thursday.

Children whose parents are poor but don't work would get a half-day of preschool under the plan, Steinberg said.

"Too many kids - especially low-income kids - are starting school far behind. And it's not right," Steinberg said. "This is an opportunity to do something assertive about it."

Brown's Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer pointed to a Standard & Poor's report issued Thursday that praised Brown's May budget proposal and warned the Legislature against spending more than the governor suggested.

"Like any other proposal from the Legislature we will certainly review the details," Palmer said. "That said, our overriding concern and caution is committing the state to higher levels of ongoing spending based upon revenues that are one-time in nature."

Steinberg also advocated for other approaches he said would help the youngest children learn more and make it easier for poor parents to work: changing the state's "transitional kindergarten" program and increasing state subsidies for child care.

Right now, transitional kindergarten is a year of prekindergarten for children who turn 5 between September 1 and December 1 -- those who are too young to meet the cutoff created a few years ago when the Legislature moved up the age for starting kindergarten. Transitional kindergarten is free to children whose birthdays fall in the three-month window, regardless of family income.

Under an idea Steinberg floated Thursday, transitional kindergarten would be available to all 4-year-olds, but on a sliding fee for those whose families earn too much to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

"I've always believed it is right to look at using existing dollars more effectively, and that is largely what we're doing here," Steinberg said.

He also advocated for a proposal Democrats in the Legislature's women's caucus made earlier this week to spend more on child care for children up to age 12. Steinberg called for spending an additional $550 million on child care subsidies to increase the rate the state pays providers and allow more children to attend.

Various pieces of Steinberg's proposals would roll out over the next five years.

PHOTO: A preschool class at Fairsite Elementary School in Galt, photographed on February 4, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

May 22, 2014
VIDEO: Neel Kashkari pressed on social views, vote for Obama

kashkarifederated.jpgFRESNO - Republican Neel Kashkari has gained ground on rival Tim Donnelly in the race for governor in recent days, aided by $2 million of his own money and support from establishment Republicans.

But the GOP's most conservative crowds remain problematic for Kashkari, who is repeatedly asked to explain his moderate social views and vote for Barack Obama in 2008.

When Kashkari took the podium at a lunch in Fresno on Thursday, a Donnelly volunteer was in the audience to press the case.

"How do I handle this with my child, when someone is calling themselves a Republican?" said Gina Wallace, who teaches political science at California State University, Fresno. "How do I explain to him, it's Ok, he voted, he voted for Obama."

Kashkari said, "To me, being a Republican is about personal responsibility, and it's about fiscal responsibility, and it's about economic growth."

Donnelly, a tea party candidate who also addressed the crowd, was unimpressed with Kashkari's answer.

"I think people want to know what your record is," he said. "I think they're going to vote based on what your record is."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari addresses a lunch hosted by the Fresno County and City Republican Women Federated in Fresno on May 22, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 22, 2014
S&P warns California Legislature on increasing budget spending

brownbudget.JPGStandard & Poor's, a major credit rating organization, praised Gov. Jerry Brown's revised 2014-15 budget Thursday, but warned the Legislature not to go beyond the budget and spend higher revenue estimates from its budget analyst.

Using the Legislative Analyst's Office revenue projections that are several billion dollars higher than Brown's "for the purposes of increasing ongoing spending", S&P said in a report, "could endanger our current and positive rating outlook."

The Legislature, however, appears to be doing exactly that this week as its budget subcommittees vote to increase spending on education and health and welfare services, based on the LAO's projection. However, the final budget will be negotiated by Brown and legislative leaders.

Overall, S&P said, Brown's budget "is continued good news for California's credit quality" and praises Brown and the Legislature for asking voters to create a "rainy-day fund" to absorb some revenues and save them for revenue downturns.

However, it notes that the budget does not address some major issues, such as unfunded liabilities for state retiree health care.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget, specifically related to his projected increase in spending on health care and teacher pensions during a press conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 22, 2014
Census Bureau: California 16th lowest in per-pupil spending in 2012

schoolkids.JPGCalifornia spent an average of $9,183 each on its six million K-12 public school students in 2012, about $1,500 below the national average and the 16th lowest level among the states, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The Census Bureau number, unlike many other state-to-state comparisons, includes funds from all sources. And it does not count substantial increases in California school spending since 2012 - nor changes in other states.

Gov. Jerry Brown's 2014-15 budget, if adopted, would spend $75.9 billion on K-12 schools from all sources, including $45.1 billion from the state general fund, and that would amount to more than $12,500 per pupil.

The national number in 2012 was $10,608 and the states ranged from a high of $19,552 in New York to a low of $6,659 in Idaho.

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

May 22, 2014
High population growth shifts from California to other states

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California cities once led the nation in urban population growth, but sharp declines in migration and birthrates have slowed the state's human expansion to well under 1 percent a year, a third of what was happening during the go-go 1980s.

Now, a new Census Bureau report indicates, rapid growth – for better or worse – has shifted to other states.

The nation's five fastest growing cities over 50,000 population in the year ending July 1, 2013, were in Texas and Utah and Texas also had four other cities in the top 15.

San Marcos, Texas, led the nation in municipal growth at 8 percent during the year, followed by Frisco City, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

The Dallas suburbs have become a major destination for movement of corporate headquarters, including, it was announced recently, Toyota's U.S. headquarters from Southern California. Smaller Texas cities, meanwhile, are enjoying an oil boom.

The Census Bureau's list of top numerical gainers included California's three largest cities – Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose – but in percentage terms, all lagged well behind other areas.

Three smaller California cities joined the 50,000-plus list during the year – Aliso Viejo, Dublin and Palm Desert.

PHOTO: In this 2013 file photo, a sign announces the future home of the Dallas Cowboys football team headquarters and training facility in Frisco, Texas, the second-fastest growing city in the U.S. Associated Press Photo/LM Otero

May 22, 2014
AM Alert: Darrell Steinberg refocuses pre-kindergarten proposal

Headstart.JPGIn his final year in the Legislature, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has made the expansion of pre-kindergarten to all California four-year-olds one of his biggest policy priorities.

While public support for the idea was high in a Field Poll released last month, Gov. Jerry Brown has never gotten on board with the proposal.

So with the final budget due in less than a month, Steinberg is scaling down his plan. He will present a revamped transitional kindergarten proposal that focuses on early learning and child care for low-income children during the Senate budget committee's education subcommittee hearing at 1:30 p.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: Do proposed ethics reforms in the scandal-ridden state Senate go beyond damage control?, Dan Walters wonders.

OM(KENNY)G: Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G is one of the best-selling musical acts of all time, as well as an eternal pop culture punchline. Now he can add "legislative advocate" to his resume. He'll join state Sens. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, to advocate for funding of musical education in schools, noon on the west steps of the Capitol. The event is part of Stand Up 4 Music's lobby day, which begins at 9 a.m. with performances by school bands from across California.

ANTE UP: A push and pull of competing interests has kept efforts to legalize Internet poker in California on hold for several years. Capitol Weekly and the UC Center Sacramento sponsor a daylong conference to discuss the issues surrounding the effort, including regulation and the effect on tribal gambling, starting at 9 a.m. at the Masonic Temple on J Street. Among the speakers is Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, the author of one of two current bills that would authorize Internet poker.

MILK AND CAKE: The California Legislative LGBT Caucus – including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, state Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Lara, and Assemblymen Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – hold a reception for what would have been activist Harvey Milk's 84th birthday, 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol Park fish pond.

EXPANDING CARE: How will insurers adapt to meet the diverse needs of those newly covered under the Affordable Care Act? The California Association of Health Plans holds a daylong seminar to discuss new strategies and trends in health care, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites on Capitol Mall.

FOSTER STUDENTS: With a new school funding formula in place that provides additional money to districts with low-income and other needy students, foster youth advocates are asking schools to look out for students from foster care. The Stuart Foundation sponsors a legislative briefing on the educational outcomes and needs of foster youth at 10 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, who turns 45 today.

PHOTO: Headstart students Adani Devlin, 5, left, and Jocelyn Walls, 4, work on their paintings during class at Washington Elementary School in downtown Sacramento on August 21, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 22, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Do Senate ethics reforms go beyond image?

steinberg.jpgOnly time will tell if new ethics rules make substantial changes to the scandal-ridden state Senate, 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: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, right, pumps his fist after one of the state budget bills was passed by the Senate on June 14, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

May 21, 2014
Outside donor group comes to Neel Kashkari's aid

kashkarikfbk.jpgNeel Kashkari will get a lift from a newly formed independent expenditure committee in the final days of the gubernatorial primary campaign, with Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr. and billionaire Robert Day financing mailers supporting Kashkari and opposing rival Tim Donnelly, according to reports filed with the state Wednesday.

A group called "Californians for Kashkari for Governor 2014" filed its statement of organization on Monday, with a $350,000 donation from Munger and $50,000 from Day, chairman of Trust Company of the West. James Hunter, vice chairman of Baron Real Estate, donated $10,000.

The group on Wednesday reported spending on mailers supporting Kashkari and opposing Donnelly.

The independent expenditure committee's formation comes as Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, tries to make up ground on Donnelly, a tea party favorite and the frontrunner among Republicans running for governor.

Kashkari has recently donated $2 million of his own money to his campaign.

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

May 21, 2014
Boxer: 'Stop the denial' on climate change

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Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and more than 40 of her colleagues Wednesday urged a crowd of environmental activists to push lawmakers to address the threat of climate change.

Boxer was flanked by other leading California Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. Henry Waxman of Los Angeles during the 75-minute event at the Dirksen Senate office building in Washington.

Boxer identified the worsening droughts and fires in California and storms and floods in other parts of the country as evidence of a crisis.

"Climate change is happening all around us and we need to take action now," she said.
"The first thing we need to do is stop the denial."

But underscoring the partisan divide over the issue, no Republicans were present. Democrats from states that produce coal, oil and natural gas were also absent.

Other California Democrats who spoke at the rally included Reps. Lois Capps of Santa Barbara, Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, Scott Peters of San Diego, Barbara Lee of Oakland, Mike Honda of San Jose and Jerry McNerney of Antioch.

Boxer repeated her call for a tax on carbon emissions. Virtually all climate scientists agree that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels is contributing to the warming of the planet.

"The scientists tell us it's unequivocal that climate change is taking place," said Waxman, who's retiring from Congress this year after four decades.

But most Republicans and some Democrats oppose taxes or caps on carbon emissions because they worry about the economic impacts. Others have gone further, calling climate change a "hoax."

Waxman accused skeptics of putting their heads in the sand. "They have nothing to propose, because they don't want to deal with this issue," he said.

Feinstein said that failure to limit global warming would be "catastrophic" for future generations.

"It's going to come much sooner than we think," she said.

Pelosi called climate change a threat to national security and the economy, but also noted that leading evangelical Christians have taken up the cause.

"It is a moral issue," she said.

PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., addresses reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 14, 2012. Associated Press Photo/ Manuel Balce Ceneta.

May 21, 2014
Senate panel passes fundraising blackout, ethics ombudsman

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With the California Senate beset by ethics scandals that have led to the departure of three senators and an in-house law enforcement officer, the chamber's Rules Committee moved on Wednesday to enact new fundraising restrictions and open a channel for whistleblowers.

The change "will not fix all of the challenges and the problems that have risen to public attention, but will have a demonstrable, positive effect on the culture of the Senate," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Members passed the policies on a unanimous 4-0 vote. One of the two Republicans who sits on the panel, Sen. Steve Knight of Palmdale, was not present.

One of the proposals would allow staff members to report potential violations to a new ethics ombudsman or an anonymous tip line. The formal rule embraces a proposal first floated by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, creating what Steinberg called a useful venue for staffers who do not want to submit a formal allegation or are worried about reprisals for speaking up. Per the rule, staffers submitting complaints would be protected whistleblowers.

"Many instances of questionable conduct, questionable ethics, could be dealt with appropriately and effectively and prevent a continuation of behavior that could inevitably lead to formal action or an indictment," Steinberg said.

A second rule would have broader fundraising implications. Campaign finance reform advocates have called repeatedly for restrictions on fundraising, noting that end-of-session circumstances - legislators weighing decisive votes on a wide range of bills - are ripe for special interest donors to influence votes.

Noting that fundraising is an indispensable part of the political process, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, pushed the rule to prohibit fundraising during the final month of the legislative session.

"They are frankly the busiest times of the year, when the Senate is making the most critical public policy decisions," de León said. "It's time, I believe, that we should reserve our full, undivided attention to the peoples' business."

The third rule greenlighted by Rules Committee members would tighten the Senate's code of conduct to discourage lawmakers attending fundraising events from speaking with donors about specific bills or budget line items.

"We want to reinforce that must be the culture. You separate your official business from your necessary and appropriate political and fundraising activities," Steinberg said.

From here, the proposed changes go to a full vote on the Senate floor. A simple majority would implement them.

Assembly leadership has not proposed comparable changes to the Senate's rules. Newly installed Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, pointed on Wednesday to a handful of ethics-related bills advancing through the Legislature and criticized a deluge of independent campaign spending.

But Atkins also questioned whether legislation could have prevented the alleged bribe-taking and weapons trafficking for which two former state senators faced federal charges.

"Would any of those measures have kept from happening some of the activities that have caused these pieces of legislation to come forward?" Atkins asked. "That in and of itself is a real issue and a real problem."

Steinberg was a little more optimistic. He acknowledged that the rules would not diminish the amount of money in politics. But he called them a start.

"What we put in place today, will it help avoid a bad situation five to ten years from now? We don't know the answer," Steinberg said. "But I think we certainly improve the chances."

PHOTO: Three of the senators who voted for the new rules unveil ethics bills in Sacramento Thursday March 6, 2014. From left to right: senators Ricardo Lara, Kevin de León and Darrell Steinberg. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer.

May 21, 2014
Schools chief candidate files ethics complaint against teacher union

Marshall_Tuck.JPGMarshall Tuck, one of two challengers in this year's race for state superintendent of public instruction, has filed an ethics complaint against the California Teachers Association for a series of television ads supporting incumbent Tom Torlakson.

The complaint filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission, California's political ethics enforcement agency, alleges that CTA misleadingly characterized the ads as "issue advocacy" rather a campaign expenditure, which involves more financial disclosure, in violation of the "transparency required by the letter and spirit of the Political Reform Act."

The trio of ads applaud Torlakson for his work as state schools chief and encourage the viewer to "tell Tom Torlakson to keep fighting" for either local control of school funding decisions or career training. (One ad is in Spanish.)

FPPC regulations specify that any political spending to influence voters for or against a particular candidate qualifies as an expenditure, but among the exceptions is spending "urging the public to adopt a particular position and to contact the candidate with respect to the matter or issue."

"Unlike true issue advocacy, no specific legislation which is currently pending before the State Legislature or the State Office of Education is mentioned," Tuck's complaint reads. The ads are "unmistakably, unambiguously suggestive of only one meaning -- to urge viewers to re-elect Torlakson"

CTA spokeswoman Becky Zoglman called the complaint "frivolous." She said CTA decided at its state council meeting in March to support several ongoing legislative efforts and that the $1.95 million ad buy, which aired for three weeks in late April and early May, was unrelated to June's primary election.

"This is a political stunt by the Tuck campaign," Zoglman said. "If this was actually a concern, why didn't they file the complaint back in April?"

Spokesman Jay Wierenga confirmed that the FPPC had received the complaint and is reviewing whether to pursue an investigation.

Within 60 days of an election, the commission can consider not just the text of the advertisement, but also its tenor and timing, to determine whether the ad "unambiguously urges a particular result" in a race.

Tuck and Torlakson are locked in a heated battle for state superintendent that has attracted big money from labor unions and the private sector. In early May, an independent expenditure supported primarily by CTA spent more than $2 million on radio ads supporting Torlakson and opposing Tuck, while Los Angeles businessman Bill Bloomfield has poured more than $700,000 into slate mailers and campaign literature in favor of Tuck.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Marshall Tuck

May 21, 2014
Anthony Jackson to retire as California parks chief

JACKSONPARKS.jpgJust 18 months after pledging to reform a troubled agency, retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson, 64, announced plans to step down as head of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Jackson's retirement, effective June 30, caps 40 years of public service, all but four of which he served in the Marines, officials said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

"I sincerely appreciate General Jackson's service to California and the Department of Parks and Recreation," Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said. "He came to the department during its darkest hour, bringing stability and consistency. After almost 40 years of public service, he has more than earned the right to retire to private life."

Jackson's position came vacant after Ruth Coleman resigned amid revelations that her department stashed away $54 million in two special funds, even as it was planning to close 70 state parks to meet state budget cuts.

Several other staffers at parks headquarters were fired or reassigned following the discovery. After being appointed to the post by Gov. Jerry Brown in November 2012, Jackson said he planned to become a student of the organization "putting my own nose to the grindstone," he told a reporter.

He gave no indication at the time that his tenure would end so soon.

"I want to thank Gov. Brown and the dedicated group of professionals at State Parks for the opportunity to return to public service and help earn back the public's trust in one of California's most valuable assets," Jackson said in the statement Wednesday. "It has been a challenging, but ultimately fulfilling tenure at California State Parks."

PHOTO: Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson, right, takes the oath office as he is sworn-in as director of California State Parks by Resources Secretary John Laird, left, on Nov. 16, 2012. (Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli)

May 21, 2014
Toni Atkins talks budget, fracking and taxes at press club

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Newly elevated Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, discussed balancing fiscal caution and calls for new spending in remarks to the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday.

Atkins assumed power earlier this month, taking over from Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles (who left behind, Atkins said, what she termed a "Speaker's book of secrets"). It will be a brief tenure thanks to term limits, which ensure Atkins will no longer be serving in the Assembly come 2017.

The timing thrust Atkins into a key role of leading Democrats through budget negotiations. Gov. Jerry Brown has cast himself as a responsible steward of a newfound surplus, running into calls from many Democratic members for more spending on social programs. Atkins talked about managing those tensions.

"I have a clear mandate from my caucus to negotiate a budget that strengthens our fiscal condition first and makes responsible investments second," Atkins said.

Discussing possible targets for spending, Atkins stressed transportation and housing. She also touched upon a handful of areas where advocates and lawmakers have focused their budget priorities: services for disabled or elderly Californians and expanded care and education programs for the youngest Californians.

"Even being fiscally prudent, there's some room to invest in these areas," Atkins said.

The energy extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has emerged as a rallying point for environmental advocates who warn the technique is unsafe and want Brown to institute a moratorium. Atkins seemed to align with the governor when asked about fracking, saying it should be regulated but could help satisfy California's energy needs.

"We are going to have to strike a balance in terms of how to protect the environment, deal with the concerns of public safety and the health concerns people may have, and also continuing to make sure we have oil," she said. "We are dependent on it."

She sounded a similar note about a Senate bill that would impose an oil severance tax, the latest incarnation of a recurring idea. Atkins stressed that the governor seems unlikely to accept a new tax hike after winning voter approval for his Proposition 30 tax boost.

"I don't think that's going to happen this year," Atkins said.

More likely, Atkins said, is that the Legislature extends a film tax credit intended to persuade filmmakers to keep production in California. She pronounced herself "pretty certain" that lawmakers would advance the policy.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, addresses the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

May 21, 2014
Neel Kashkari likens Tim Donnelly to Jerry Brown in latest ad

donnellybrown.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari is comparing GOP rival Tim Donnelly to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in a new attack ad being mailed to conservative primary voters in the gubernatorial race.

"Tim Donnelly & Jerry Brown: A crazy train of irresponsible spending," the mailer says in red letters.

Kashkari, a moderate Republican, criticizes Brown for his support of California's $68 billion high-speed rail project - a project Kashkari and Donnelly, a tea party favorite, both oppose.

The mailer goes on to call Donnelly a "wreck," saying "he didn't pay his company's taxes or his mortgage." Donnelly did have a foreclosure on an investment property he owned in South Carolina. The tax lien the mailer references was listed as being released this year.

The ad also says Donnelly "gamed the system" to get additional pay. But per-diem payments and a subsidized car are benefits available to lawmakers without any special maneuvering required.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari likens GOP rival Tim Donnelly to Gov. Jerry Brown in the most recent mail piece of the gubernatorial campaign

May 21, 2014
Jerry Brown calls California 'job creation engine'

hostbrown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that California is a "job creation engine," defending his administration's handling of the economy and state budget in a forceful election year speech.

"California is definitely back," Brown told about 1,300 people at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento. "Just a few years ago ... a few pundits, a few national publications were talking about California as a failed state. Well, just 3 ½ years later, that deficit and that credit rating have been utterly transformed. We've eliminated -- we, I mean the Legislature and my office working together -- have eliminated a $27 billion deficit. That's never been done before, but we did it."

Brown, a popular Democrat, is widely expected to win re-election in this Democrat-leaning state. Facing criticism from Republicans over the state's high poverty and unemployment rates, Brown lauded the state's job growth, venture capital and agricultural production.

"This is a job creation engine," Brown said. "It's a place of imagination."

Brown, who is negotiating a budget with Democratic lawmakers and social service advocates eager for increased spending, warned billions of dollars in unfunded, long-term retirement liabilities could grow even higher.

"God help us if medical technology has some breakthroughs," he said, "and these people who are retiring don't live to 80, but they live to 100."

Brown has enjoyed a favorable relationship with state business interests, and he was applauded Wednesday. He leads a small field of Republican challengers by wide margins in fundraising and public opinion polls. Brown reported Tuesday that he had raised just more than $1 million from mid-March through mid-May, leaving him with nearly $21 million on hand for his re-election campaign.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at Wednesday's Host Breakfast. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 21, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown wakes up with CalChamber

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgThe California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast brings together industry and civic leaders from across the state to discuss California's business climate. Gov. Jerry Brown will be there as usual to offer his thoughts at 8:35 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Last year, Brown downplayed optimistic revenue projections and urged caution on new spending in the final budget deal. He also said Latin "makes you smarter than everybody."

One of those points could very well surface again today, though Brown has also been on the defensive lately about California's regulatory environment and may have other pressing matters he wants to address.

The California governor is the event's usual keynote speaker, though Brown has skipped the breakfast once before, in 1975. President Gerald Ford was invited instead, and it was on that visit that he survived an assassination attempt by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.

VIDEO: If the state can't get small construction projects right, how are we supposed to trust them with major endeavors like high-speed rail?, Dan Walters asks.

THE SPEAKER SPEAKS: In one of her first appearances since becoming the new Assembly Speaker last week, Toni Atkins will address the Sacramento Press Club for its monthly luncheon, 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom.

HEALTH CARE COSTS: A proposal to subsidize health care for undocumented immigrants has won conceptual approval from the state Senate, but its author, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said in early May that he had not yet identified a funding mechanism for the initiative. Lara and University of California researchers will unveil an economic analysis of the legislation, one of Capitol Alert's Bills to Watch, at 11 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

HELP AT HOME: At the annual Disability Capitol Action Day, seniors, disabled individuals and their advocates will continue the campaign against a budget proposal that would limit the number of hours in-home caregivers can work. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, will deliver remarks at 11 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol.

BOOTING UP: The Internet Association, which announced in March that it was expanding into California, celebrates the opening of its new office with a reception at 5:30 p.m. at Mayahuel on K Street. Members such as Facebook and Uber will show off their technology and there will be a demonstration of Google's self-driving car.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

May 21, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Board of Equalization building is cautionary tale

HSRail.jpgIf the state can't get small construction projects right, how are we supposed to trust them with major endeavors like high-speed rail?, Dan asks.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: A view of a high speed train moving through a wind farm in the proposed high speed rail network. Rendering by Newlands and Company Inc.

May 20, 2014
Grover Norquist calls John Burton's Reagan support 'childish'

Perry_Norquist.JPGAnti-tax activist Grover Norquist's plan to name 3,000 items after former President Ronald Reagan - including a mountain overlooking Las Vegas - drew a tongue-in-cheek endorsement from California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.

Burton, a former state legislator, said in the open letter Monday that he remembers "fondly" when then-Gov. Reagan signed the largest tax increase in more than a century and approved a bill that "liberalized abortion," the Therapeutic Abortion Act.

"I think it's wonderful that you're willing to honor somebody who has such a liberal progressive record," Burton wrote to Norquist.

The president of Americans for Tax Reform wasn't amused, calling the letter "childish" and pointing to Reagan's role in ending the Cold War.

"How does he look Polish Americans in the eye and say that the legacy of Ronald Reagan was a tax increase in California or a vote on therapeutic abortions in California?" Norquist said.

In an interview with The Bee, he compared Burton's argument to "attacking Eisenhower for something he did when he was 40 and missing the Second World War."

He said Republicans were far more accepting of naming things after John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and suggested Democrats should be more open.

"It's a petty partisan jab at naming things after the greatest Californian in American history and one of the greatest presidents we've had who turned the economy around from a failure created by a House, Senate and president all from Mr. Burton's party," Norquist said.

This isn't the first time the two have sparred, with one notable exchange centering on Gov. Jerry Brown's successful push to raise taxes. Norquist said golf and cocaine would be "more constructive" ways to spend time than negotiating with Democrats.

"I have always considered golf a good walk spoiled," Burton responded. "As a recovering cocaine addict, I am surprised that anyone would think that it is at all constructive to spend one's free time using that drug."

"One would think that Mr. Norquist made this comment with a straw in his hand bending over a mirror full of white (powder)."

Norquist at the time shot back at California Democrats for their attention to him.

"Focus on cutting the spending, guys," he said.

PHOTO: Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, right, talks with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, before a panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md. The Associated Press/Susan Walsh

May 20, 2014
Matsui: With barrier to levees removed, 'now we're ready to go'

For Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, Tuesday was a good day.

The House of Representatives, on a vote of 412-4, approved legislation to move an array of Sacramento-area flood control projects forward, concluding Matsui's nearly four-year quest for the bill.

Matsui said the vote removes a barrier to the completion of the Natomas Levee Improvement Project, a relief to 100,000 of her constituents "who have been waiting a very long time."

"We had to figure out a way, and we figured out a way," she said after the vote.

Last week, the House and Senate came to a final agreement on the Water Resources, Reform and Development Act. Both chambers passed their own versions of the legislation overwhelmingly last year in a rare show of bipartisanship.

But the final bill was delayed by the differences between the two sides: The Senate, controlled by Democrats, wanted to give the executive branch more authority to select water infrastructure projects. The Republican-majority House wanted to maintain Congress' traditional role in project selection.

The difficulty stemmed from the House Republicans' ban on earmarks, or funds set aside by lawmakers for their states or districts. Fiscal conservatives complained that water infrastructure and transportation bills had become bloated with expensive pet projects.

Ultimately, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the heads of the two committees charged with the legislation worked out the differences.

"I think they did that quite well," Matsui said, praising her colleagues.

Congress last approved a water infrastructure bill in 2007 at a cost of $23 billion. The House, then controlled by Democrats, overrode a veto from President George W. Bush.

The current bill would cost about $12 billion over 10 years.

After the Senate votes on the bill this week, it will go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Matsui said she expected the Natomas project to begin very soon.

"Fortunately, we're beyond this, and now we're ready to go," she said.

Watch Matsui's floor speech on the bill:

May 20, 2014
Women's caucus seeks more money for early education, child care

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State-supported child care and education topped the list of budget priorities the California Legislative Women's Caucus laid out on Tuesday.

The emphasis on more programs for California's youngest residents offered the latest evidence that early education will be a priority for Democrats, and potentially a key sticking point as they try to break through Gov. Jerry Brown's reluctance to aggressively spend a budget surplus.

"As our economy rebounds, we cannot leave women and families behind," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach. "The evidence is clear. Access to quality early childhood education contributes to children's well-being, brain development and school readiness."

Those remarks echoed Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, focusing on universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds. The Democratic leader has made clear he believes investing more in early education programs is a crucial tool to bridge school achievement gaps.

Members of the women's caucus said they back Steinberg's proposal. But a letter they circulated to legislative leadership and the governor took aim more specifically at a range of state-sponsored childcare and preschool programs to support low-income Californians who are working or seeking employment, many of them single mothers.

"We've had conversations about pre-school, about transitional kindergarten," said Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton. "But when we look at the family in the holistic model we know it's those investments from the time they're born."

Among the budget spending they are urging: $300 million to fund 40,000 new early care slots to reverse recession-fueled cutbacks, increased reimbursement rates for providers and broader access to state preschool programs.

PHOTO: Members of the California Legislative Women's Caucus discuss their budget priorities at the State Capitol on May 20, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.

May 20, 2014
Joe Krovoza laments spending, ads in Yolo-Napa Assembly district

Krovoza.JPGIn the 1992 vice presidential debate, Admiral James Stockdale famously said he felt like he was watching a ping pong match between "expert professional politicians" Al Gore and Dan Quayle.

That sentiment, albeit on a considerably reduced scale, sums up a letter from Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza denouncing the "volley of negative attack ads" against a pair of fellow Democrats running to replace termed out Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

"There are plenty of policy decisions about which I disagree with my opponents, but the topics of these recent attacks are baseless and dishonest," Krovoza wrote in an open letter Monday about the string of independently funded hit pieces.

One of the misleading ads criticizes Davis Councilman Dan Wolk for joining with his colleagues to hike water rates without community input. There was ample participation in the process, according to local press reports.

Meantime, an attack on Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd rips the official for signing off on board member pay raises. The boosts were reportedly mandated by county ordinance.

The slew of outside spending for and against Wolk, the son of Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Dodd, a former Republican, has made the race for the Yolo and Napa County-centered district among the most expensive in the election cycle.

Much of the independent support for Wolk (nearly $150,000 through May 14) has come from labor unions while roughly $150,000 opposing him was from a group funded by insurance companies. Unions spent more than $125,000 hitting Dodd and supporters including realtors, dentists, insurance agents and energy companies spent $200,000.

"I do see a dire need for campaign finance reform," wrote Krovoza, the odd man out in the spending spree. "But in the meantime, the best we can do as voters is to be politically engaged and not be duped by the lies coming from special interests on both sides of the political spectrum."

PHOTO: Joe Krovoza in 2010. Sacramento Bee File Photo.

May 20, 2014
Fiscal analyst says Jerry Brown overstating Medi-Cal costs

Brown_signing_bills.JPGWhen Gov. Jerry Brown was asked last week about the reliability of his revenue estimates, which came in higher than he initially projected, Brown responded that while revenue may be out-performing his expectations, costs have come in higher than expected, too.

"Expenditures meet the revenues almost precisely," he said.

But according to the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst, Brown not only continues to underestimate revenue, but may be overestimating costs, as well. The estimate is significant because it potentially puts hundreds of millions of dollars on the table as Brown negotiates a final budget with legislative Democrats and advocacy groups lobbying for increased spending.

After estimating Friday that state general fund revenue through next June will be $2.5 billion higher than Brown predicted in his revised budget plan last week, the Legislative Analyst's Office over the weekend said costs in one of the budget's major spending areas, Medi-Cal, appear to be too high.

At issue is the estimated per-enrollee cost for people signing up for Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid. Brown has cautioned that the state faces about $1.2 billion in unanticipated costs from expanding Medi-Cal in the push to implement the federal health care overhaul.

But the LAO said the administration's projected per-enrollee costs appear to be too cautious. It said the administration may be over-estimating the cost by about $300 million through June 2015.

On Monday, administration officials told an Assembly budget subcommittee that Brown's Medi-Cal estimates are based on enrollment data that was not available when the initial budget proposal was released in January. The LAO said it would review additional information from the administration to provide a more precise estimate.

The committee held the matter open.

Gary Passmore, with the Congress of California Seniors, told the committee, "The budget estimates for Medi-Cal right now are not rock solid numbers. There are still some things in play, and we would urge you to give the state and advocates as much time as possible."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 20, 2014
AM Alert: California water board considers drought cutbacks

MC_DELTA_file.JPGFor the first time since the 1977 drought, California water officials are considering widespread curtailment of longstanding water rights because of a scarcity of supply. Over the next few weeks, the state is expected to begin issuing orders to many water agencies, farmers and other property owners to stop diverting water from streams and rivers.

During its bimonthly meeting today, 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street, the State Water Resources Control Board will vote on an emergency regulation to curtail diversions on three Sacramento River tributaries important for fish passage if minimum flows are not met.

The discussion will continue tomorrow at 9 a.m. with a public workshop about proposed emergency regulations for cutbacks on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta Watershed, which is the largest in the state. Water rights are currently based on seniority, and "junior" rights holders -- mostly those who acquired water rights after 1914 -- are the first to be affected by curtailment. But the board is considering exceptions for fish and wildlife protection, as well as for public health and safety, which would allow municipalities to continue drawing some water after a curtailment order is issued.

VIDEO: California's growing battle between teachers unions and education activists has raised the stakes in this year's race for state schools chief, Dan Walters says.

BUDGE IT As budget negotiations enter their final weeks, Democratic members of the California Legislative Women's Caucus call for a greater priority on programs assisting women, families and children, 9:30 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol.

TENURE TRACK: A lawsuit winding its way through the California courts right now is challenging the state's teacher tenure laws, claiming they deny students the constitutional right to a quality education. What would happen if the plaintiffs prove victorious? The UC Berkeley School of Law hosts a discussion exploring the potential ramifications of the case, 11:45 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

VROOM VROOM: As part of its lobby day, the Association of Global Automakers will display its newest eco-friendly models, including electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, outside Chops on 11th Street starting at 11:30 a.m. The party begins inside at 5 p.m. for legislators and their staff.

ON A DIME: Volunteers from the baby health organization March of Dimes gather in Room 100 of the Legislative Office Building at 9 a.m. to kick off their legislative advocacy day, which will urge for restoration of funding to the Black Infant Health Program. The organization will honor state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, and hear from Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank.

TICKET TO RIDE: Participants in the Climate Ride, a four-day bicycling tour to benefit sustainability, active transportation and environmental nonprofits, cross the finish line at 3:30 p.m. at the south steps of the Capitol, where they'll hear from Assembly members Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

PHOTO: Aerial view of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta on Nov. 11, 2008. The islands separated by the Franks Tract in the foreground, San Joaquin river in the middle and the Sacramento River in the background. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

May 20, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Schools chief race reflects education policy battles

rally_tom_torlakson_resize.JPGCalifornia's growing battle between teachers unions and education activists has raised the stakes in this year's race for state superintendent of public instruction, 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: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, urges legislators to support the tax extension proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. on March 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 19, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown presses for action on climate change

JERRYBROWN.jpgGov. Jerry Brown called Monday for urgent action on climate change, while lamenting that the issue "has yet to fully capture the public imagination."

"This is a path that must be pursued today, the next decade, the next 100 years, and it's something that has yet to fully capture the public imagination," the Democratic governor said at a conference on climate change at the California museum. "There's still great denial."

Brown has made climate change a priority of his administration, and his speech Monday covered familiar ground.

"If something is discrete and it happens, like a forest fire or an accident or a tornado, it's easy to grasp and we can react to it," Brown said. "But when we have the buildup of these heat-trapping gasses globally and then you say, 'What do we do?' And this is the kind of challenge where it's not just California. We're 1 percent of the problem. We have to get other states and other nations on a similar path forward, and that is enormously difficult, because it requires different jurisdictions, different political values to unite around this one challenge of making a sustainable future."

Brown was protested outside the museum by about 30 activists opposed to the Brown administration's permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial form of oil extraction. The activists, who have dogged Brown at public appearances since last year, marched on the sidewalk and chanted, "Climate leaders don't frack!"

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democratic Party's convention on March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Associated Press/ Jae C. Hong

May 19, 2014
Source of money to help California tribes, other programs almost empty

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The state fund that helps provide a lifeline to dozens of poor tribes is almost tapped out, the Legislative Analyst's Office said in a new report, which notes that the state has no plan to cover the costs.

Created by the law that legalized Las Vegas-style gambling on tribal lands, the special distribution fund has paid for gambling regulators, problem gambling programs and local grants to help communities deal with casino impacts. It also subsidizes a separate fund that pays tribes who only have small casinos or no casinos at all.

But after running large surpluses a decade ago, the fund has spent much more than it's taken in since the late 2000's. That's when several large tribes started making revenue-sharing payments to California's general fund instead of paying into the distribution fund.

The distribution fund is on track to be empty by the end of June 2015, the LAO reported. There are no easy fixes — ultimately, the analyst said, lawmakers might have to tap the state's general fund to pay for programs now covered by the distribution fund.

Other possible solutions include crafting future tribal casino deals that provide more money for poor tribes and requiring tribes to negotiate casino-mitigation agreements with surrounding communities, the analyst said.

PHOTO: Dealers practice before the opening of the 340,000-square-foot Graton Casino & Resort in October 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

May 19, 2014
Bonnie Garcia's campaign blasts GOP rival for 'oldest profession' link

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Republican Bonnie Garcia's campaign denounced a comment attributed to Jeff Stone, saying the GOP rival in Riverside County's 28th Senate District is equating her fundraising efforts to prostitution.

Stone and fellow Republican candidate Glenn Miller teamed up last week to condemn the influx of money to support Garcia in the GOP-dominated district. Among the contributors is moderate Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford physicist whose Spirit of Democracy California committee has spent more than $300,000 on behalf of Garcia, a former assemblywoman from Cathedral City.

"Ronald Reagan once said: 'Politics is the second oldest profession, although it bears a close resemblance to the first,'" Stone said in the news release. Prostitution is often called the oldest profession. "We can see this now first hand in this election."

Garcia strategist Matt Rexroad said Stone's critique goes too far.

"They basically call Bonnie Garcia a whore," Rexroad told The Bee.

"This is politics at the worst, and should be denounced by any group that wants to see women elected to office at any level," he added.

Stone's campaign rejected the link.

"Those are their words, not ours," Dave Gilliard said. But he stuck by the campaign's assertions that Garcia would represent the interests of her financial supporters.

Stone and Miller charged Garcia with cozying up to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by supporting the state budget to receive an appointment to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

"She is selling out her votes – like she has done in the past – in order to fund her campaign," Gilliard said.

The rivalry between Garcia, a former lawmaker, and Stone, a county supervisor, has grown more personal as the June 3 primary nears. Each has accused the other of ethical lapses.

While there are two Democrats in race, new election rules allow the pair of Republicans to prolong the competition by advancing to the general election in November.

This isn't Munger's first foray into Riverside County politics. In late 2012, Munger largely bankrolled a Republican voter registration effort meant to help GOP candidates in the county.

PHOTO: Ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger explains tape-recorded remarks about Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia at a news conference in 2006. Schwarzenegger apologized for saying during a closed-door meeting that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are temperamental because of their combination of "black blood" and "Latino blood." Garcia said she was not offended by the governor's comments. AP/Reed Saxon

May 19, 2014
Senate approves bill to halve gifts to lawmakers

deleonethics.JPGThe California Senate on Monday advanced a measure to crack down on special-interest gifts to lawmakers.

The upper house unanimously passed Senate Bill 1443. It would reduce the value of gifts officials can receive from a single source to $200 from the current $440.

Sen. Kevin de León, the author of the measure, said it amounted to one of the most significant reforms since passage of the Political Reform Act of 1974. It follows federal corruption charges against Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and a record fine by the state ethics watchdog against lobbyist Kevin Sloat for hosting fundraisers at his Sacramento home.

De León's bill would ban all gifts from lobbyists (they currently can give a gift of up to $10 a month to each elected official), and prohibit elected officials from accepting certain gifts that the author believes lack legislative merit. Such gifts include tickets to concerts, sports venues and amusement parks; spa services and rounds of golf; cash and gift cards.

The bill is part of a package of proposed changes that, among other things, would ban campaign fundraisers at lobbyists' homes and require fundraising committees to file campaign finance reports four times a year.

PHOTO: Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, talks about the proposed California Accountability in Public Service Act during a Capitol news conference where he and other Democratic lawmakers announced a package of bills intended to impose new rules on public officials, on March 6, 2014. At right is State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and at left is Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. The Sacramento Bee/ Renée C. Byer


May 19, 2014
Moody's praises California for rainy-day fund proposal

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Lawmakers' passage of "rainy-day fund" legislation championed by Gov. Jerry Brown won plaudits Monday from Moody's Investors Service, a major credit rating house.

"This credit positive development reflects the new emphasis that California...places on building reserve to cushion its finances from economic downturns," Moody's says in its periodic bulletin on credit trends.

The bulletin, echoing Brown's words, notes that California has had many more deficit budgets in recent years than positively balanced ones, citing the state's historic tendency to spend windfall revenues rather than save them.

The reserve fund would absorb some state revenues and make them available during an economic downturn. Last week's measure, ACA 1 in the second extraordinary session, was approved overwhelmingly by the Legislature, but still must be ratified by voters in November. Moody's current credit rating for California is A1 stable.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez appear before the Assembly Budget Committee on April 28 to talk about ACA 1 in the second extraordinary session.

May 19, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown discusses California climate change response

Brown_climate_change.jpgGov. Jerry Brown will discuss California's response to climate change during an all-day forum hosted by the University of California's Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. The event, which will explore the impact of climate change on the state's agriculture and natural resources, begins at 8:30 a.m. at the California Museum on O Street and Brown is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m.

Brown has made climate change a focus of his administration, calling it the greatest threat to young people's future and pushing for the reduction of greenhouse gases during his trip to China last year.

But he has also drawn the ire of environmentalists for backing hydraulic fracturing, the controversial procedure for mining fossil fuels. Brown was loudly protested during his speech at the California Democratic Party convention in March.

Brown has defended his position as a way to secure broad support, including from the oil industry, for reducing the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. "I'm kind of a missionary here," he said during an appearance in March.

VIDEO: A ballot measure to raise the cap on medical malpractice damages is the culmination of a decades-long, big-money battle, Dan Walters says.

IMMIGRANT DAY: Immigrants from across the state and their supporters from the California Immigrant Policy Center gather at the Capitol today to lobby for bills that would expand health care to undocumented immigrants and lower the cost of phone calls at local jails. A rally at 10 a.m. on the west steps includes Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward.

UTILITY DIVERSITY: The Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee holds an oversight hearing on increasing diversity within California's energy industry, particularly in board, executive and management positions, 3 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

HEALTH CARE UPDATE: Now that the first year of open enrollment for the health care exchange has ended, the focus shifts to implementing the program. How is it going in California? The Public Policy Institute of California hosts a discussions with state Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley and others, noon at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel on J Street.

LAST CALL: If you want to vote in the primary election on June 3 and have not yet registered, today is the deadline. Head over to registertovote.ca.gov for online voter registration.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who turns 64 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown gives opening remarks at the Governor's Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California's Future at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Dec. 15, 2011. The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

May 19, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Medical malpractice initiative promises big-money battle

MICRA.JPGA ballot measure to raise the cap on medical malpractice damages is the culmination of a decades-long, big-money battle, Dan says.

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PHOTO: This West Sacramento billboard launched this year's fight to overturn a state law capping pain-and-suffering damages in medical negligence cases. Courtesy of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group.

May 18, 2014
Jerry Brown: 'Humanity is on a collision course with nature'

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, blaming climate change for the increasing prevalence of wildfires in California, said Sunday that "humanity is on a collision course with nature."

"The state's climate appears to be changing," Brown said in an interview on ABC's "This Week." "The scientists tell us that definitely. So we've got to gear up here. And after all, in California for 10,000 years our population was about 300,000. Now it's 38 million. We have more structures, more activity, more sparks, more combustible activity and we've got to gear up for it and as the climate changes, this is going to be a radically different future than was our historic past."

Brown's remarks came as firefighters battle fires in San Diego County, where Brown declared a state of emergency last week. The Democratic governor has made climate change a focus of his administration, and he has used the state's dramatic blazes to illustrate concerns about the environment.

According to state fire officials, 1,108 wildfires burned more than 2,500 acres in California from Jan. 1 through late April, an increase over the 697 fires and 1,793 acres burned in the same period last year.

"As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we're seeing," Brown said. "So we've got to gear up. We're going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we're just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can."

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

May 16, 2014
Karl Rove warns Tim Donnelly will hurt GOP candidates nationwide

karlrovesits.jpgKarl Rove, the prominent Republican strategist, said Friday that Tim Donnelly will be a liability for Republicans nationwide if the tea party favorite finishes second in the gubernatorial primary election and advances to a November runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown.

"If the California Republican Party has as the leading candidate, the leading statewide candidate on the ballot this year somebody who has said the outrageous things that he's said and prone to the outrageous behavior that he routinely engages in, it will be used to tarnish not only the California Republican Party, but they'll throw it at everybody else on the ballot, and everybody else will, across the country, disavow the guy," Rove told the conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on his show.

Rove said, "Every time he goes out and says something, and as we've seen, Mr. Donnelly is quite prone to sharing the weird recesses and corners of his mind, it could be really problematic for the GOP."

Rove's remarks come a day after former California Gov. Pete Wilson issued a similar warning, and other prominent Republicans have rebuked Donnelly, a former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project. Among other controversies, he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors after carrying a loaded gun into Ontario International Airport in 2012 and tried recently to tie his opponent, Neel Kashkari, to Islamic law.

Donnelly has dismissed warnings against him as coming from elite Republicans out of touch with the party's base.

"When the GOP is talking about the threat (I pose), they're right," Donnelly told the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board on Wednesday. "I'm a threat to the country-club Republicans. I'm a danger because I might bring a little more country into the club."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, leads Kashkari, a more moderate Republican, in public opinion polls.

PHOTO: Then White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove listens as President George W. Bush, not shown, speaks with reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington in this April 2, 2007, file photo. Associated Press Photo/ Gerald Herbert

May 16, 2014
Neel Kashkari drops another $1 million into governor's race

kashkaridam.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari has dropped another $1 million into his run for governor, his campaign said Friday, re-doubling his efforts as he tries to make up ground on GOP rival Tim Donnelly.

Kashkari has now donated $2 million to his campaign, accounting for about half of all money he has reported raising. It also represents a personally significant sum. Kashkari, who previously said he did not intend to self-finance, put his net worth at less than $5 million before the campaign began.

Despite greatly outspending Donnelly, Kashkari lags behind the Twin Peaks assemblyman in public opinion polls. Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. Treasury Department official, has recently started paid advertising, while Donnelly is unlikely to have any traditional advertising effort before the June 3 primary election.

Donnelly and Kashkari are the two main Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown, a third-term Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the June primary election, leaving Kashkari and Donnelly to compete for second place. The top two finishers advance to a runoff election in the fall.

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 16, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown builds case for fourth term as governor

Gov. Jerry Brown stopped by The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board on Thursday. He touched on subjects ranging from education and water to why voters should give him another four years.

May 16, 2014
VIDEO: Fiscal analyst predicts more revenue than Brown's plan

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The Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst estimated Friday that state revenue through June 2015 would be $2.5 billion higher than what is in Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget plan, including $2.2 billion in additional money during the coming budget year.

But the Legislative Analyst's Office cautions that much of the additional revenue it forecasts would be consumed by larger obligations under the state's constitutional school-funding guarantee. It also acknowledges that its revenue numbers might turn out to be wrong.

"While our best estimates right now are for general fund revenues to be over $2 billion higher than the administration's projections in 2014-15, changes in asset markets and the economy could materialize that would result in less or more tax collections than our office now projects," it wrote in Friday's report.

Friday's review comes three days after Brown released a revised $156.2 billion spending plan that reflects $2.4 billion in extra revenue compared to his January proposal. It allocates most of the money to higher-than-expected Medi-Cal costs.

The plan features a rainy-day reserve he negotiated with legislative leaders and which would receive $1.6 billion in 2014-15. Also, the plan includes an extra payment to finally pay off $15 billion in deficit borrowing approved a decade ago.

The LAO offers warm words for the administration. "Overall, his plan takes a careful approach to state finances, and he deserves much credit for that," it said. "Under this approach, the state would improve its chances of managing the next significant state revenue downturn with little in the way of the drastic budget cuts required during the last few recessions."

Liberal advocacy groups, though, have said the governor's proposal fails to begin restoring billions of dollars in cuts during the recession. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, this week challenged the governor to "do a little lifting" to meet the concerns of his caucus members, suggesting that funding for the governor's prized high-speed rail project could otherwise be a tough sell.

The analyst's office earlier voiced support for the revised plan's proposal to spend $100 million toward paying off the $900 million the state owes local governments for complying with state mandates before 2004. It would be the first payment in almost a decade.

PHOTO: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 16, 2014
AM Alert: Health and human services budget committee discusses May Revision

Capitol_repaint.JPGLegislators are usually back in their districts on a Friday, but with Gov. Jerry Brown presenting his revised budget proposal this week, there's enough to discuss to keep some of them in town today. The Assembly Budget Committee's Subcommittee on Health and Human Services meets in Room 4202 of the Capitol at 9 a.m.

Whether Brown has restored enough of the recession-era spending cuts to health programs and social services is one of the biggest points of contention surrounding the budget. With the first surplus in years, liberal lawmakers and advocacy groups have pushed the governor to spend the additional billions rather than socking them away in a proposed rainy-day fund. In-home caregivers have been especially vocal in pushing back against Brown's budget, which would limit the number of hours they can work.

VIDEO: Final budget negotiations become a political bargaining chip for those holding the purse strings, Dan Walters says.

COLLEGE READINESS: California's high school graduation rate is on the rise, but are those students prepared for college? Policy Analysis for California Education sponsors a talk with researchers from Stanford University on a college readiness indicator system that could help schools and districts better prepare their students for future success, 11:30 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

COMMENCE THE COMMENCEMENTS: With the school year coming to a close, graduation season is in full swing and members of the Capitol community are beginning their visits to colleges and universities across the state. Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, will deliver the commencement address at the UC Davis School of Law today at 4 p.m. at the Mondavi Center, while Jennifer Siebel Newsom, documentary filmmaker and wife of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaks to graduates of Dominican University of California in San Rafael on Saturday.

LONG RIDE TO FUNDING: Cyclists will ride from Vacaville, Suisun City and Oakland to Sacramento on Saturday calling on California to reinvest in public education. They will finish at the west steps of the Capitol, where Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Karen Stapf Walters, executive director of the State Board of Education, are scheduled to speak at 4 p.m.

PHOTO: Construction workers erect scaffolding around the Capitol dome on May 1, 2002 in preparation for painting. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 16, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Budget serves as political bargaining chip

brownjanbudget.jpgThose holding the purse strings can push their favored policies in final budget negotiations, Dan says.

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PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

May 15, 2014
Neel Kashkari fires on Tim Donnelly in only scheduled debate

johnandkendebate.jpgANAHEIM - Republican Neel Kashkari tore into rival Tim Donnelly on Thursday, saying one reason many prominent Republicans are endorsing his candidacy for governor is because they fear Donnelly's impact on the party.

Donnelly, in the only scheduled debate of the campaign, responded by asserting his front-runner status among Republicans, and suggesting Kashkari's endorsers are out of touch.

"They don't kick a dead dog," Donnelly said. "They only attack you when you're the frontrunner."

Kashkari's remarks came after a relatively cautious initial 30 minutes of the campaign, when he was asked why Republians shouldn't vote for Donnelly. Kashkari referenced recent controversies in which Donnelly tried linking him to Islamic law, and to a vote in the state Assembly in which Donnelly opposed banning the sale of Confederate flags in state-run gift shops.

"You've managed to denigrate Latinos, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus," Kashkari said. "That's true."

The crowd erupted in jeers, with one audience member swearing at Kashkari.

The two candidates were set to debate for 90 minutes at the Ayres Hotel Anaheim, in a live broadcast of "The John and Ken Show," a conservative program on KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles.

The debate is the only one scheduled before the June 3 primary election, and the atmosphere was unusually boisterous for a gubernatorial debate. There was no ticketing. About 150 people, some of whom lined up hours in advance, filled a hotel conference room and adjoining buffet area for the debate. The hosts said they would take questions from anyone in the audience.

Neither Donnelly nor Kashkari is likely to beat Brown, a popular Democrat, and Brown has all but ignored them. The debate's hosts said Thursday that Brown did not respond to a request to join the debate, and in his place they put a skeleton with a "Jerry" name tag on the stage. The radio show hosts dressed the skeleton in a shirt and tie and one of them, John Kobylt, rubbed petroleum jelly on his head.

The race between Donnelly and Kashkari is a race for second place and a spot against Brown in the November runoff election.

Donnelly leads Kashkari by a wide margin in public opinion polls, but he lacks resources for traditional advertising. Kashkari has poured $1 million of his own money into the campaign and is airing what is likely to be a limited run of ads on TV.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is backed by many members of California's political and professional classes, and he has announced endorsements from prominent Republicans such as former California Gov. Pete Wilson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Donnelly has enjoyed fervent support from rank-and-file conservatives, and debating at the Ayres Hotel is something of a coming home. Donnelly said he came to a "John and Ken" event at the hotel when he was first running for the state Assembly, in 2010, distributing campaign literature and trying, unsuccessfully, to get on the air.

PHOTO: Republicans Tim Donnelly, right, and Neel Kashkari wait in Anaheim to start a debate hosted by "The John and Ken Show" on KFI AM 640 on May 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 15, 2014
Jerry Brown withholds judgment of GOP rivals, ignores debate stunt

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Gov. Jerry Brown, campaigning for a historic fourth term, said he has no preference which Republican challenger emerges from the primary to face him in November.

"My eleventh rule is don't interfere with the other party's selection," Brown said in a wide-ranging interview with The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board on Thursday.

The Democratic governor spoke as his two main GOP rivals -- Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari -- were preparing for a debate hosted by KFI AM-640's "John and Ken Show."

Instead of the customary empty chair to mark Brown's absence, hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou dressed a skeleton in shirt and tie and affixed bushy eyebrows and a name tag that reads "Jerry." Brown briefly glanced at a reporter's photograph of the stand-in but declined to comment on the stunt.

"I've talked to Jon and Ken and what I found is I could be in the middle of making a very impressive point and they turn down my volume and continue to talk," he said. "As long as those are the rules, I don't think I am going to play that game."

Brown did acknowledge how different this campaign is from his last, noting that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman had spent upward of $80 million by this time in the election four years ago.

"It's amazing how you can waste money in these campaigns," Brown said. "Cause they hire consultants, and then you don't know what the hell you're doing so you hire another consultant to advise you on the consultant you hired. And then you hire a few more. Pretty soon there you are."

Brown holds a commanding fundraising advantage and is far outpacing Donnelly and third-place candidate Kashkari. He added that there are other distinctions between the election cycles.

Said Brown: "Look, it's very different to be 76 then to be 71."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown meets with The Bee's Editorial Board for an endorsement interview Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

May 15, 2014
Medical malpractice initiative qualifies for California ballot

JamieCourt.JPGBy Christopher Cadelago
Bee Capitol Bureau

A decades-long fight among powerful California interests is finally coming before voters, as the proponents of a push to increase the sum victims can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits announced Thursday that they've qualified for the November ballot.

Supporters including Consumer Watchdog want to raise the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases. They argue the amount is inadequate to cover the cost of physician negligence and contend the current ceiling deters lawyers from accepting malpractice cases.

The initiative, the fifth to qualify for the fall election, would increase the limit on pain and suffering damages to about $1.1 million as well as peg it to inflation. The initiative's proponent is Robert S. Pack.

Enacted by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act in 1975, several efforts to lift the limit have stalled in the state Capitol. Now the initiative - combined with another ballot measure that would give the state's elected insurance commissioner the power to reject health insurance rate increases - is expected to produce a costly battle between special-interest groups including lawyers, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.

Opponents including the California Medical Association and California Hospital Association have argued the initiative would raise care prices by driving up liability costs. They also contend now is not the time given spiraling doctor shortages and the new health care exchanges swelling the pool of insured Californians.

The measure also mandates random drug and alcohol testing of doctors and requires that physicians check the state's prescription drug database before prescribing drugs to curb abuse.

"The patient safety protections in this ballot measure will save lives and protect families from dangerous, impaired and drug dealing doctors," Pack, whose two young children were killed by a impaired driver, said in a prepared statement. "Today, California voters have taken the first step in making sure that more families like mine don't have to experience the pain of losing a child due to dangerous medicine. No family should suffer because a doctor recklessly prescribes pills to an addict, is a substance abuser, or commits repeated acts of medical negligence."

As of March 31, proponents' main campaign committee – "Your Neighbors for Patient Safety" – had $42,378 cash on hand. It had spent $2.1 million, including $1.6 million on petition circulating, according to a state filing.

The measure's opponents have more money at the ready. The main campaign committee, "Patients, Providers And Healthcare Insurers To Protect Access And Contain Health Costs," had $31.9 million on hand March 31, according to its filing.

PHOTO: Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, in 2006. The Sacramento Bee/Anne Chadwick Williams.

May 15, 2014
Pete Wilson blasts Tim Donnelly, saying he would damage GOP

Petewilson2008.jpgFormer Gov. Pete Wilson urged California Republicans on Thursday not to support Tim Donnelly, the party's frontrunner in the gubernatorial race, saying his theatrics and personal controversies would drag down other Republicans on the ballot in the fall.

"Keeping public focus on the real and important issues facing California will require a candidate who does not have to defend Tim Donnelly's bizarre votes and statements or his irresponsible personal behavior," Wilson said in a letter first published on the conservative blog FlashReport.org. "With Tim Donnelly on the ballot, it would be a losing campaign, risking injury to our party and our state, and to other Republican candidates who deserve to win."

Wilson, who has endorsed Donnelly's main Republican opponent, Neel Kashkari, is the latest prominent Republican to publicly rebuke Donnelly. Many members of the GOP's political and professional classes fear Donnelly, a tea party favorite, could damage the party's effort to attract independent voters and minorities if he finishes first among Republicans in the June 3 primary election and advances to a runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown in the fall.

Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said "Donnelly is no longer a viable option for California voters," and the Lincoln Club of Orange County this week approved a vote of no confidence in Donnelly.

Wilson said in an interview Thursday that he was disturbed by Donnelly's past criminal cases. Donnelly has blamed a larceny case in Michigan in 1985 on a drunken "prank," while the assemblyman more recently pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors after carrying a loaded gun into Ontario International Airport in 2012.

Donnelly, a former member of anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, has also sparked controversy for his recent attempt to tie Kashkari to Islamic law.

"Most recently the thing that I found offensive, offensive notwithstanding its stupidity," Wilson said, "was attempting to, by implication, assert that Neel Kashkari is someone who has supported Shariah law."

In a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board on Wednesday, Donnelly said elite Republicans are out of touch because "they're too busy golfing or drinking together," the newspaper reported.

"When the GOP is taking about the threat (I pose), they're right," Donnelly said, according to the newspaper. "I'm a threat to the country-club Republicans. I'm a danger because I might bring a little more country into the club."

Wilson, a former U.S. senator, assemblyman and San Diego mayor, chaired Meg Whitman's failed gubernatorial campaign in 2010. His early endorsement of Whitman in that race was significant in the GOP primary, including for his declaration she would be "tough as nails" on illegal immigration.

But Wilson has been viewed as less of a public asset to Republican candidates in general elections. Many Latino voters still have a visceral reaction to Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative, later overturned by the courts, Wilson championed to restrict public services to undocumented immigrants.

Donnelly leads Kashkari by a wide margin in public opinion polls. The two Republicans will meet Thursday night in Anaheim for their only scheduled debate ahead of the primary election. Donnelly's campaign RV was parked outside the hotel and supporters were parking in the parking lot hours ahead of the highly-anticipated head-to-head.

PHOTO: Former California Gov. Pete Wilson give a thumbs up while looking at his PDA during the start of the Republican National Convention in 2008. Brian Baer/The Sacramento Bee

May 15, 2014
Assembly approves limits on football practice at California high schools

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By Jeremy B. White
jwhite@sacbee.com


Tackling the divisive issue of brain injuries in football, the California Assembly voted Thursday to limit high school athletes to two full-contact practices a week.

A growing body of evidence linking football to debilitating brain injuries has shined a spotlight on youth sports. Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, said his Assembly Bill 2127 should reassure parents that their kids are safe while still allowing teams to stay competitive.

"There's plenty of opportunities to work on skills, drills, conditioning, all kinds of things," Cooley said.

The measure was sent to the Senate for consideration on a 42-19 vote -- one yes vote beyond the 41 needed -- with 18 members not voting. While some lawmakers spoke of their own children's health in backing the bill, one critic took a different approach.

Noting that her son plays competitive soccer, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, worried about putting young athletes at a disadvantage.

"I want our student athletes to excel as much as they can," Olsen said, arguing that decisions about practice should rest at the local level.

A former critic of the bill, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, said he decided to lend his support once he was satisfied coaches were on board. Supporters of AB 2127 include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brain Injury Association of California, and the measure drew no formal opposition.

PHOTO: Del Oro High School's Trey Udoffia is taken down by a Bakersfield High School defender during their Div. I state football championship game on Dec. 20, 2013 in Carson, Cailf. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 15, 2014
Rainy-day measure headed to November ballot

Connie_Conway_SOTS.jpgLegislation to place a rainy-day reserve constitutional amendment on the November ballot won easy bipartisan approval Thursday morning.

The measure, negotiated by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders last week, would transfer 1.5 percent of general fund revenue to a reserve, along with capital gains revenue that exceeds 8 percent of general fund taxes. One-half of the money would go to pay down state debt.

Lawmakers said the measure would bring some control to a state budget marked by booms and busts since the dot-com windfall 15 years ago. It passed both houses unanimously.

"This is one of the most important measures we will vote on this year," Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway said. Recalling harrowing budget fights of past years, the Tulare Republican said, "A rainy day fund, had it been in place, would not have eliminated all of the painful cuts and issues we had to deal with. But it certainly would have softened the blow."

The measure, ACA 1 of the second extraordinary session, will replace ACA 4 that is already on the November ballot. It was the product of a 2010 budget deal between legislative leaders and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"If you graph the budget and tax revenue of other states you would have something that went up and down a bit based on business cycles," Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Silver Lake, the author of ACA 4, said Thursday before voting for ACA 1. "If you were to graph California's tax revenue, you would have something that looks like a seismograph."

The measure passed the Senate after similar bipartisan praise.

"It follows that very fine between fiscal responsibility and allowing for some flexibility for our opportunity to restore funding for the needs of the people of California," state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco said.

— Jeremy B. White, Laurel Rosenhall and Jim Miller

PHOTO: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, talks with reporters after Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address at the Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 23, 2013. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

May 15, 2014
AM Alert: Neel Kashkari, Tim Donnelly face off in radio debate

kashkarikfbk.jpgWhen Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly challenged rival Neel Kashkari to an "old-fashioned debate" at the California Republican Party convention in March, the invitation was immediately dismissed by Kashkari and party leadership.

It seems the second time's the charm for this political showdown, as Kashkari and Donnelly will square off in a live 90-minute debate at 5 p.m. on The John and Ken Show, a popular conservative talk radio program on KFI-AM in Los Angeles.

Though Donnelly maintains a significant lead in the polls, Kashakari has turned up the heat in recent weeks, announcing a series of high-profile endorsements and pouring $1 million of his own money into his campaign. The two camps also came to very public blows last week over some Donnelly social media posts linking Kashkari to Sharia law, which sets the stage for a very interesting discussion when the candidates finally meet up tonight.

VIDEO: After decades of fighting over Proposition 13, this week's compromise was a surprising step forward, Dan Walters says.

GREEN MONEY: Last month, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg unveiled a proposal to dedicate California's "cap-and-trade" funds to affordable housing, mass transit and high-speed rail. Today, he will be joined by state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at noon at the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland to further discuss the plan and its potential benefits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

POT SHOTS: Could California follow Colorado's lead and legalize marijuana? The Sacramento Bee's pot expert Peter Hecht, author of the new book Weed Land, discusses the changing political, legal, economic and social dynamics of marijuana policy, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

BLOOD DRIVE: Capitol employees who want to do a quick bit of good and don't get too squeamish at the sight of a needle can head to the blood drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the fish pond in Capitol Park, sponsored by Capitol Health Services.

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

May 15, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: After decades of battle, a Prop 13 compromise

no_taxes.JPGIt's only a modest change, but after decades of fighting over Proposition 13, this week's compromise is a surprising step forward, Dan says.

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PHOTO: The Sacramento "tea party" drew more than 5,000 protesters to the state Capitol on March 17, 2009 to oppose higher taxes in California and the Obama administration's national policies. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

May 14, 2014
Steinberg pushes for more spending in budget negotiations

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Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday that Gov. Jerry Brown's revised state budget doesn't do enough to acknowledge the Californians who have been damaged by years of program cuts and suggested the state could divert more money to them by taking a different approach to setting aside money for the rainy-day fund.

The Sacramento Democrat said he will continue to push for expanding California's public preschool program as the Legislature negotiates the state budget with Brown in the coming weeks. He also called out funding for courts, universities and Medi-Cal reimbursement as areas he thinks are inadequate in the budget proposal Brown released Tuesday.

"We have more than lifted to meet the governor's agenda, and his top priority on this. It's time that he do a little lifting as well to help meet our priorities," Steinberg said to reporters.

"It's a two-way street."

Brown's budget sets aside $3.7 billion in reserves and debt payments, Steinberg said. But California could instead set aside $2.4 billion for those purposes, he said, by applying the formula laid out in the rainy-day fund agreement legislative leaders have negotiated with Brown. That approach, if it passes the Legislature, will go before voters this November.

"So when the question gets asked, 'Where are you going to find the money?' Here is a place to start," Steinberg said of the $1.3 billion difference.

Proposition 58, approved by voters in March 2004, requires an annual transfer of 3 percent of general fund revenue to the Budget Stabilization Account. The requirement has been suspended in all but one year, though.

Brown's budget sets aside 3 percent of revenue — half of the money would go to paying off debt-refinancing bonds approved along with Prop. 58 and the other half would be saved.

"What it appears the Pro Tem is suggesting is that instead of a 3 percent deposit, a deposit of 1.5 percent of general fund revenues be made into the Budget Stabilization Account," Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said. "The governor's budget — both in January and as revised in May — makes that 3 percent deposit as required by Proposition 58, and does not reflect a suspension of that transfer."

PHOTO: Senate leader Darrell Steinberg presents his idea for a rainy-day fund approach to reporters on May 14, 2014.

May 14, 2014
Jerry Brown seeks savings in community college transfers to UC

Brown_regents.JPGWith an eye on the state budget and student diversity, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested Wednesday that the University of California consider decreasing freshmen enrollment in favor of more community college transfers.

Speaking at the UC Board of Regents meeting in Sacramento, Brown said that raising the proportion of transfer students would be "a way to maintain a high degree of quality, increase diversity and lower our cost structure. That would be my value proposition."

His comments followed the presentation of a report recommending how UC could strengthen its transfer pathways, including aligning its majors with the Associate Degree for Transfer program being implemented between the community college system and the California State University system.

Brown theorized that having more students complete part of their educations in the lower-cost community colleges would save money for the state. He asked the regents to seriously "rethink through here what is the role of the freshman and sophomore year. Where should that take place?"

Brown added that expanding transfer enrollment should come in conjunction with outreach to a broader swath of community college students across the state. Currently, more than half of the approximately 15,000 students who transfer to UC every year come from fewer than a quarter of California's community colleges.

"To increase diversity is crucial," Brown said. "To make sure that lower-income families have their shot at UC and to really maximize that potential, the number of transfers must be increased."

Outside of the event, several dozen student protesters from Fossil Free UC called upon the regents to divest the university's endowment funds from coal, oil and natural gas companies.

"As an environmental movement, we have to call out institutional drivers of climate change," said UC Berkeley freshman Jake Soiffer, who helped organize the rally. "We can't just act individually."

"This is really the issue of our generation," he added.

During the public comment period that opened the board meeting, students asked the regents to look into divestment over the summer and hold in September. They urged UC to follow the example of universities like Stanford, which announced plans to divest from coal last week.

When the public comment period ended before all the speakers were able to address the board, the demonstrators began chanting until they were granted more time, drawing the ire of some of the regents.

Later in the meeting, Regent Norman Pattiz acknowledged the student's concerns, calling their request "valid."

"Although I think they have a little bit of work to do on their method of presentation," he said, "I don't think there is a bigger problem facing humanity than climate change."

"I would encourage us to find ways within the university community," he added, "to deal with these kind of problems, which are monumental in scope."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks with UC President Mark Yudof during a UC regents' meeting on May 15, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 14, 2014
Jerry Brown signs law requiring political nonprofits identify donors

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Nonprofit organizations that make political contributions in California will have to disclose more information about the source of their money under a law Gov. Jerry Brown signed Wednesday.

Senate Bill 27 was inspired by the 2012 ballot measure wars in California, when two out-of-state nonprofit groups poured $15 million into fighting Proposition 30 and supporting Proposition 32. Because of the groups' nonprofit status, they were not required to report where their donations originally came from, leading some to describe the contributions as "dark money."

The state's political watchdog went after the groups and secured a $1 million settlement last fall when the Arizona nonprofits acknowledged an error in campaign finance reporting. But requiring politically-active nonprofits to disclose their donors required a change of state law.

And that's where Sen. Lou Correa's SB 27 comes in. The bill by the Santa Ana Democrat requires nonprofit groups disclose the names of donors who give them $1,000 or more to spend on political activity in California, if the group makes contributions of more than $50,000 in a year, or $100,000 over four years. The disclosure requirement kicks in with donations made after July 1 of this year.

The bill was sponsored by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission and supported by many open-government groups, including the California Clean Money Campaign, California Common Cause, California Forward, California Voter Foundation, and the League of Women Voters of California. Supporters hope the bill will have a ripple effect nationwide.

"Governor Brown's signature of SB 27 marks a turning point in the fight to reveal secret funders of political campaigns. It starts to shed light on dark money in California and serves as an example for the entire nation," said a statement from Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. "We must strengthen disclosure laws even further, because voters deserve to know who's trying to influence their votes."

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, hugs Senator Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, as the Senates passes the California State budget plan. Photo taken Thursday Feb. 19, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer.

May 14, 2014
California plastic bag ban bill clears first committee

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In its first test since a deal brought formerly opposed lawmakers on board, a bill banning single-use plastic bags in California passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

The Legislature has discarded the last few attempts to cut down on waste by banning single-use plastic bags. The most recent failure came last year on the Senate floor, where Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, was unable to muster enough votes as fellow Democrats balked.

Since then some of those Democrats have come around to support Padilla's new Senate Bill 270, encouraged by a deal offering $2 million to retrain displaced factory workers. Bag manufacturing plants are major employers in the districts of Sens. Kevin de León and Ricardo Lara, both of whom voted against last year's measure but are co-authors of the latest iteration.

"It is my strong belief that we can find a way to balance the health of our planet with the preservation of peoples' livelihoods," de León testified, adding that the bill "moves the economy forward into a green future."

Representatives of major corporations like RiteAid and Target lined up to voice support for the legislation. The California Grocers Association also backed the bill, saying a single statewide standard is preferable to a bewildering garden of different municipal ordinances. There are currently over 100. Padilla pointed to that proliferation as a sign the policy's time has come.

"Opponents of the bill have tried for years, successfully here in the Legislature, to block this bill, to block this proposal," Padilla said. "But what we have seen at a local level is success in advancing this concept."

The plastic bag industry has assailed the legislation and launched a campaign to kill it. A new industry-funded television ad airing starting today depicts the bill as a giveaway to grocers, who will pocket the ten cents consumers would need to pay for paper or reusable plastic bags.

"We see this revenue as serving no public purpose but going to the shareholders of these companies offering bags," said Paul Bauer, a Mercury Public Affairs lobbyist representing the American Progressive Bag Alliance.

Similar criticisms came from the paper bag industry. Kathy Lynch, a lobbyist for the American Forest and Paper Association, called the ten-cent minimum fee "excessive."

"The formula's been the same: Ban plastic, tax paper and leave the money at the retail level," Lynch said.

SB 270 heads next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

PHOTO: Two clerks fill plastic bags with groceries at the Safeway store in midtown Sacramento on Monday, June 11, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

May 14, 2014
Legislature may give tax relief for underwater mortgages

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The Legislature may be breaking up a political logjam over tax relief for beleaguered homeowners who receive writeoffs from lenders for their underwater mortgages.

On Wednesday, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, by a 5-0 vote, approved a newly amended bill, Assembly Bill 1393, to grant a retroactive income tax exemption for the 2013 tax year for home mortgage debt that is written off by lenders.

If the measure, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, is signed into law, however, homeowners who were hit with state income tax levies on the writeoffs will have to file amended returns to gain the relief.

Moreover, the relief in Perea's bill is less generous than the exemption allowed under federal income tax law. There is an upper limit on the amount of the writeoff that can be exempted from taxes and it doesn't apply to mortgage debt that was incurred for non-housing reasons, such as the purchase of a car on a line of credit.

Complicating the matter further, some homeowners who saw the their mortgages written down by lenders did not report the reductions as income because of an Internal Revenue Service letter to California Sen. Barbara Boxer that concluded that it didn't have to be reported.

Last year, the Senate passed a bill granting tax relief for 2013, extending a previous measure that applied to 2012, but not before Senate leaders inserted an amendment that made its enactment contingent on approval of another bill dealing with low-income housing.

The maneuver was aimed at forcing the California Association of Realtors, which backed the tax relief measure but opposed the other bill, to change its position. The Realtors refused to budge and the stalemate left both measures hanging in the Assembly when the session ended.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Henry T. Perea D-Fresno, right, talks with Senator Lou Correa D-Santa Ana, left, as they prepare to talk at a water rally on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 14, 2014
Condoleezza Rice throws support behind Neel Kashkari

kashkaridam.jpgFormer U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has endorsed Neel Kashkari in California's gubernatorial race, the Kashkari campaign announced Wednesday.

The endorsement in the latest of series of high-profile endorsements for Kashkari, a moderate Republican who trails tea party favorite Tim Donnelly badly in public opinion polls. Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have all endorsed Kashkari.

Rice is beloved by California Republicans, many of whom have hoped for years that she would run for governor. Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has said he would not have entered the race if she were running.

Rice spoke at the California Republican Party convention outside San Francisco in March, urging delegates "to rebuild this party, to rebuild our nation, and to rebuild our world."

Rice, a professor at Stanford University, has repeatedly said she is not interested in running for elected office.

In the endorsement release from the campaign, she said Kashkari's "focus on uniting Californians around fiscally conservative economic principles is the right message to help us grow the Republican Party in California and across the nation."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 14, 2014
Campaign spending surges as unions weigh in for Torlakson, Pérez

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Independent expenditures in California statewide and legislative races have more than doubled in the past week, with reported spending by dentists, teachers and dozens of other groups exceeding $11.4 million as of Tuesday evening. The total stood at about $5.5 million a week ago.

Click here for a searchable list of independent expenditures.

Almost half of the increase reflects a $2.7 million infusion into the race for state superintendent of public instruction by the California Teachers Association. With three weeks until the June 3 primary, a CTA committee supporting incumbent Tom Torlakson reported Tuesday spending $1.36 million on radio ads to support Torlakson and $1.36 million on ads opposing his main rival, Marshall Tuck.

In other statewide contests, the largest union representing state workers, SEIU Local 1000, reported spending $50,000 on radio ads to help former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in his race for state controller.

And in legislative contests, the primary fight in the Sacramento-area 6th Senate District exceeds $479,000 in independent spending. All of the money is either in support of Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, or opposing his Democratic rival, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. The district is one of seven where reported independent spending tops $400,000, including almost $2.8 million in the Bay Area's 16th Assembly District.

Independent spending on Pan's behalf is coming mostly from unions — the California Faculty Association and the California State Council Of Service Employees — and a group that includes doctors, dentists and Realtors.

The charts show the contests with the most independent expenditure activity as of Tuesday evening and the main sources of the money (hover over the charts for more information).

Type the name of a candidate, committee or contest into the filter box to find all reported independent expenditures.

PHOTO: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, urges legislators to support the tax extension proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. on March 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 14, 2014
Kevin Johnson endorses Marshall Tuck for state schools chief

SteinbergJohnson2.JPGSacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has spearheaded a series of education reform initiatives during his two terms in office, waded into the state superintendent of public instruction race Tuesday, backing upstart challenger Marshall Tuck.

Tuck, a former charter schools executive from Los Angeles and a political rookie, faces incumbent Tom Torlakson and Long Beach teacher Lydia Gutierrez for the nonpartisan post. He is running on a plan to jump start California's perennially low-ranking schools with proposals such as greater curriculum flexibility for local districts, a longer teacher tenure process and an increased role for parents in Sacramento's education policy-making.

"As Mayor, I know firsthand how important local control and parent involvement are for our schools," Johnson said in a statement. "Marshall has demonstrated through both his work opening new charter schools and turning around failing schools in some of LA's toughest neighborhoods that he has the vision and experience needed to bring major change to California public schools."

Tuck most recently served for six years as head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit that took over 17 of the city's lowest-performing campuses beginning in 2008. The Partnership was a signature program of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who endorsed Tuck last month.

Several of Tuck's proposals, particularly using student test scores in teacher evaluations and eliminating seniority-based layoffs, are strongly opposed by teachers but touted by education reformers like Johnson and his wife Michelle Rhee, a former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools who now runs advocacy group StudentsFirst.

PHOTO: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson clasps hands with California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in April following the announcement that the NBA would not allow the Kings to move to Seattle. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

May 14, 2014
AM Alert: UC regents, student protesters meet in Sacramento

UC_regents_meeting.JPGThe University of California regents make their annual trek to Sacramento for a two-day board meeting, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. The event coincides with an advocacy day at the Capitol in which the regents and students will be lobbying for greater funding for the UC system.

On the agenda is the issue of community college transfers to UC campuses. As Gov. Jerry Brown has pushed the state's public universities to cut down on time to degree for students, UC has lagged behind on transfer initiatives compared to California State University, which has partnered with the California Community Colleges to implement an associate degree for transfer.

Outside the meeting, students will be staging a protest against UC's investment in fossil fuels, beginning at 8 a.m. Last week, Stanford University made international headlines by announcing that it would be divesting from its coal stocks, and the students are calling upon the UC regents to follow suit.

VIDEO: Gov. Brown engaged in some budget trash talk during his May Revision announcement, Dan Walters says.

PLASTIC BAG BAN: A controversial proposal to ban disposable plastic bags in California gets its first hearing today in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, 11 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol. The legislation, which has drawn major opposition from plastic bag manufacturers, is one of Capitol Alert's Bills to Watch.

SEAWORLD IN SACTOWN: Last month, representatives from SeaWorld made their way up to Sacramento to oppose the groundswell of support for the "Blackfish bill," which would have banned the San Diego theme park's signature orca shows. With that legislation now dead for the year, SeaWorld makes a happier return to the Capitol for its annual advocacy day. The park will celebrate 50 years with an animal show, including penguins, lemurs, peregrine falcons and a kangaroo, on the north steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m.

FUN WITH SCIENCE: State Scientist Day brings scores of students between third and sixth grade to the west steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. for hands-on exhibits including a mobile vet lab, live insects and an earthquake machine. Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who will be honored by the California Association of Professional Scientists, participates in a "mad science experiment" at 10:30 a.m.

RAINY-DAY FUND: Gov. Brown finally got the rainy-day fund he's been wanting last week when he announced a deal with legislative leaders that could put a measure before voters on the November ballot. First, though, the bill has got to make it through both houses of the Legislature with two-thirds votes. It begins its journey in the Senate Budget Committee at 3:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, who turns 52 today.

PHOTO: Janet Napolitano speaks at a University of California Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco after being elected president of the UC system on July 18, 2013. The Associated Press/Eric Risberg

May 14, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown engages in budget trash talk

capital_gains.JPGGov. Jerry Brown took some oblique shots at his predecessors in his May Revision announcement, 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: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget during a press conference at the state Capitol on May 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 13, 2014
California public safety realignment formula needs overhaul, analyst says

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California's formula to distribute money to help pay for public safety realignment lacks incentives and transparency, according to a new report by the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst.

There have been two temporary realignment formulas since lawmakers approved the 2011 law that made counties responsible for lower-level felony offenders. The first formula covered the program's first year and the second formula is in effect through June. The Brown administration is scheduled to present a new allocation formula for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Lawmakers should insist on a formula that is better than the current one because it "impacts the success or failure of the realignment of felony offenders," the Legislative Analyst's Office wrote.

The current approach is flawed, the LAO said, because it lacks transparency and makes it hard for counties to plan for the future. It also allows counties to choose from several formulas, including some that offer no incentive for counties to reduce the rate at which it incarcerates felony probationers.

"The result is that each county's allocation is based on whichever formula is most advantageous for that county rather than on a clear policy justification, such as variations in county caseload or performance," the report reads.

The LAO suggests that the next formula take into account the number of offenders under county control, average per capita income in a county, the number of offenders a county sends to prison, and other metrics.

PHOTO: In this 2011 file photo, Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Chris Carroll opens a cell at a formerly closed housing unit at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center that will be reopened to handle the increase of inmates sentenced under the new prison realignment program. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

May 13, 2014
Compromise reached on Prop. 13 treatment of business property

JarvisGann.jpgDecades of political wrangling over how Proposition 13, the iconic property tax limit passed by voters in 1978, is applied to commercial property reached a climax of sorts Tuesday in a Capitol hearing room.

During a hearing of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, long-warring business groups and tax reformers agreed on modest change of law governing the reassessment of commercial property when it changes hands.

The committee chairman and co-author of the revised bill, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, announced during the hearing that a vote would be postponed, but later, the committee approved it and sent it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The compromise, written into Assembly Bill 2372, would trigger reassessment when at least 90 percent of a property's ownership changes in any three-year period. It would not apply, however, to incremental changes of ownership through stock market trades.

Currently, any property is reassessed to market value when a single buyer acquires at least 50 percent ownership in a single transaction. Critics say that's a loophole that allows businesses to avoid reassessment by clever structuring of sales.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, had been pushing AB 2372 to tighten up the change of ownership provision of state tax law, but faced stiff opposition from business groups.

The compromise falls somewhere between current law and Ammiano's original measure and wins support from opposing groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Tax Reform Association.

It's less than the latter wanted, and also falls well short of a full "split roll" which would completely remove Proposition 13's limits from business property, long a goal of liberal groups. A split roll would require a constitutional amendment.

A full split roll would have, it's believed, multi-billion-dollar impacts, while the change that surfaced Tuesday is, those involved said, likely to have much smaller impacts on both business tax bills and local government revenues.

Ammiano said in a statement the revised measure would "bring back some fairness to the tax system in a way that will benefit all Californians."

Updated at 6:12 p.m. to reflect committee approval.

PHOTO: Paul Gann, left, and Howard Jarvis, hold up their hands on the night of June 7, 1978, as their co-authored initiative Proposition 13, took a commanding lead in the California primary. Associated Press file.

May 13, 2014
On third attempt, Gov. Brown extends peace officer death benefits

JV_042814_RAINY_DAY_FUND080.JPGA day after he stepped down as Assembly speaker, John A. Pérez received a parting gift from Gov. Jerry Brown: A long-awaited signature.

For three consecutive years, Pérez authored bills giving the loved ones of fallen firefighters more time to file worker's compensation claims for workplace-related fatal diseases. Pérez argued that survivors should be compensated for diseases, like tuberculosis and cancer, that deceased public workers contracted on the job.

The governor was not convinced. He vetoed the measures in 2012 and in 2013, both times questioning if denial of benefits was a big enough problem to merit legislation.

This time, Pérez appears to have at last persuaded Brown. In his signing message for Assembly Bill 1035, the governor referenced a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study that better illuminated the scope of the problem.

"A review of this data anticipates that fewer than 20 cases a year throughout the state
would be affected if the provisions only apply to diseases diagnosed during active
service," Brown wrote.

Once the law takes effect, survivors will have 420 weeks from the date of injury to file a claim - far longer than the current 240 week cutoff. The extra filing time ends at the start of 2019 and, in the meantime, the Division of Workers' Compensation will be compelled to collect more data on the repercussions.

The California League of Cities remained opposed to the measure, arguing it would saddle local governments with increased costs.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown and Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez speak to an Assembly committee on April 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee.Jose Luis Villegas.

May 13, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown downplays additional revenue in budget revision

capital_gains.JPGReporter David Siders explains the changes in Gov. Jerry Brown's May Revision and how they'll affect final budget discussions.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget during a press conference at the state Capitol on May 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 13, 2014
Rapid response: Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision

Here are some reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision:

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins:

The Governor's revised budget provides a solid starting point for the final phase of our deliberations. I am particularly pleased the Governor has built upon the framework Assembly Democrats proposed for a STRS solution earlier this year. That, and the Rainy Day Fund we are poised to pass this week, are two great steps forward to ensure California's economic stability. As we finalize the budget over the next few weeks, we will also look to expand opportunity by combatting child poverty, improving access to higher education, increasing funding for transportation projects, and taking strides to expand affordable housing. Based on the Governor's May revision and the more than 50 hearings the Assembly has already held, I am confident we are on track for another on-time, balanced budget - one that will help solidify the state's fiscal position for years to come.

Republic gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari:

Once again, Jerry Brown is crossing his fingers and hoping for a roaring stock market to deal with California's unfunded liabilities. Hope is not a strategy. We need honest leadership and realistic forecasts to bring Californians together to solve our long-term fiscal challenges and rebuild the middle class.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare:

I am pleased to see Governor Brown once again show great caution in his revised budget plan. Fiscal responsibility must continue to the state's guiding budget principle, even with this year's one-time tax windfall. Time will tell if the Governor can get his fellow Democrats in the Legislature to embrace this same spirit of spending restraint as we work toward a final budget proposal.

It should be a wake-up call to all Legislators that almost our entire surplus is being eaten up by spending for government health care, welfare and pension costs. These fast-growing programs will consume more and more of the state budget and eventually reduce the amount we can spend on other important priorities such as education, public safety and transportation.

I am hopeful that we can build upon the progress of the bipartisan rainy day fund agreement to enact an on-time budget that protects funding for classrooms and public safety, uses the windfall responsibly to invest in one-time needs like transportation infrastructure, and makes further progress in paying down California's budgetary debt.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye:

The Governor's revised budget is encouraging because it identifies additional funding and recognizes the need for fiscal stability with a creative proposal for a two-year budgeting formula for the trial courts. I also appreciate the Governor's continued confidence in the statewide leadership of the judicial branch. I'm launching my blue ribbon commission on the future of the courts later this year and I believe this initiative dovetails with the Governor's desire that the judicial branch identify further efficiencies to promote access to justice.

As I outlined in my budget blueprint earlier this year, the trial courts will require a reinvestment to provide adequate services for court users. I look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature before the adoption of the Budget Act to ensure that all Californians have access to justice.

May 13, 2014
Jerry Brown releases $156.2 billion budget plan, ups Medi-Cal spending

budgetjerrybrown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown released a revised, $156.2 billion budget plan Tuesday, proposing to spend the bulk of a state windfall to cover vastly expanded rolls in the state's Medi-Cal program.

The May revision reflects the state's best projection of revenues for the coming fiscal year and touches off a rush of budget negotiations at the Capitol ahead of the adoption of an annual spending plan in June.

The budget replaces a $154.9 billion spending plan Brown proposed in January. It included modest increases for social service programs, but also billions of dollars to address long-term debt.

Brown's new plan says 1.4 million more people than projected in January signed up for Medi-Cal under the Obamacare roll out this year, which will cost the state about $1.2 billion more than the governor's predicted five months ago.

Brown's budget also confirmed that state revenue had grown enough to trigger a 2 percent pay increase for most state employees beginning July 1. Brown and 14 of the 21 bargaining units agreed to contracts that included the triggered pay hike. The budget projects that the raise will cost $183.7 for the fiscal year, $90.3 million of it from the general fund.

Brown's budget plan also includes $142 million to cover expenses from the ongoing drought.

The spending plan also lays out a 30-year road map to pay off the unfunded $73.7 billion liability in the State Teachers Retirement System by asking the state, school districts and teachers all to increase annual contributions.

After releasing the budget plan at a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning, Brown, who is running for re-election, was scheduled to hit the road to promote the plan in Los Angeles and San Diego.

The revised budget's release follows the announcement last week that Brown and legislative leaders had reached agreement on a major component of the annual spending plan, a rainy-day fund measure that, if approved by voters, would set aside 1.5 percent of general fund revenue every year, plus revenue from capital-gains taxes in especially lucrative tax years.

The measure would replace a reserve measure already on the Nov. 4 ballot but criticized by public employee unions and, in recent weeks, Republicans who acknowledged problems with its wording.

Brown has remained cautious about spending despite improving revenue estimates. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office reported Sunday that revenue for the current budget year from the largest general fund sources - personal income, corporation and sales taxes - was coming in about $1.8 billion above projections through the end of April.

May 13, 2014
California drags down nation's pre-kindergarten enrollment

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A new survey shows that spending on pre-kindergarten programs barely budged nationwide in 2012-13, with drops in California offsetting gains in some of the 40 other states that offer pre-kindergarten.

This morning's report from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey comes as Gov. Jerry Brown releases a revised version of his January spending plan. Like the January plan, the revised plan does not include money for pre-kindergarten. That sets the stage for negotiations on the issue — a priority for legislative Democrats — over the coming weeks.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Brown did not rule out signing a budget that included money for the program. Referring to the program's supporters, the governor said they believe the extra year of education would make everything "hunky dory."

The institute's report finds that pre-kindergarten programs around the country are just beginning to emerge from years of recessionary budget cuts. Total state funding nationwide increased by $30 million during 2012-13, to $5.4 billion, about a 1 percent increase.

In California, though, enrollment dropped by almost 15,000 spots. Another four states had decreases of more than 1,000 students, according to the report.

"While more states increased enrollment than decreased it, the size of the decrease in large states such as California and Pennsylvania pulled the national total down," the report reads.

The study also judged pre-K programs on their meeting the institute's quality standards, such as teachers having university degrees, receiving at least 15 hours in-service training, and other benchmarks. California was among the five states that met fewer than one-half of the 10 benchmarks in 2012-13, according to the report.

"Our nation has emerged from the recession, but preschool-age children are being left to suffer its effects," NIEER director Steve Barnett said in a statement.

California's transitional kindergarten program, when fully phased in, will cover only one-third of four-year-olds. Democrats in the Senate and Assembly want to expand transitional kindergarten to cover all four-year-olds. In addition, Senate Bill 1123 would create "Strong Start" early learning services for children from birth to three years old.

"I think we have a real opportunity to transfer California from one of the nation's biggest under-performers" to a national leader in early childhood development, said Deborah Kong, president of Early Edge California, which backs the proposals. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 9:15 a.m. May 13 to include comments from Gov. Jerry Brown.

PHOTO: Kindergarten teacher Katherine Hoffmore, 48, left, works on a bead project with McKayla Parker, 6, right, where they learn to repeat patterns at Greer Elementary School in Sacramento on Jan. 17, 2013.

May 13, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown announces budget revise

brownbudgetrevise.jpgTemperatures are heating up, the school year is coming to a close and Memorial Day is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing: Budget season is upon us.

Discussions in and around the Capitol about the 2014-15 budget are about to get serious as Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his revised budget proposal today at a series of press conferences across the state.

Brown's draft proposal in January, which projected California's first revenue surplus since the recession, emphasized paying down state debts and modest spending increases. Brown has maintained a drumbeat for fiscal responsibility in the months since, announcing a deal on a rainy-day reserve fund last week.

But many lawmakers and outside interest groups have been looking to use the additional money to reverse spending cuts implemented during the recession or fund major new programs such as universal pre-kindergarten. With state tax revenues running even higher than estimates, those calls are likely to get even louder as Brown and the Legislature negotiate a final budget over the next month.

Brown will first present his revised budget proposal at the Capitol at 9 a.m., with later stops in Los Angeles and San Diego.

VIDEO: In his campaign for state Senate, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is playing down his political career, Dan Walters says.

BRINGING IT HOME: In-home caregivers have made repeated trips to Sacramento this year to protest a budget proposal that would restrict their hours. They will be outside the Capitol, near 12th and N streets, following the governor's press conference for another rally. Sens. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Jose Medina, D-Riverside, V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, and Pan are scheduled to attend.

HEALTHY MINDS: The Each Mind Matters campaign, which works to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, sponsors Mental Health Matters Day, with a rally on the south steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m. featuring state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, among others.

ALWAYS LEARNING: The California School-Age Consortium, which advocates for programs for students outside of school time, will be joined by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to call for the passage of SB 1221, which would expand access to after-school and summer programs, 11:45 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

PROPOSITION PROTEST: In 2004, voters passed Proposition 63, which taxes millionaires to help pay for mental health services. One of the initiative's authors, Rose King, will be at the south steps of the Capitol at 10:15 a.m. to protest what she considers a waste of the program's funds. Last August, an audit found that state agencies had not properly overseen how counties were spending billions of dollars generated by Prop 63.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget plan at a news conference at the Capitol on May 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

May 13, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Richard Pan plays down political career

Richard_Pan.JPGYou wouldn't know that state Senate candidate Richard Pan is already a member of the Legislature by looking at his campaign materials, Dan says.

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PHOTO: Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento during the first day of session at the Capitol on Dec. 3, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 12, 2014
Plastic bag makers air TV ads opposing Padilla's bag ban

RB_Plastic_Bags_2007.JPGThe Capitol's years-long debate over plastic grocery bags is heading to a TV set near you, as a plastic industry association launches an ad campaign Wednesday opposing the latest attempt to ban disposable plastic check-out bags in California.

Under Senate Bill 270, lightweight plastic bags would be banned from grocery stores and customers would pay at least a dime for a paper bag or a sturdier, reusable plastic bag. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, introduced the bill in January, framing it as a compromise that would satisfy the industry that makes plastic bags and the environmentalists who view them as excessive garbage harmful to wildlife.

The bill allows plastic companies to apply for grants from a $2 million state recycling fund to help re-engineer their operations and make the kind of reusable plastic bags permissible under the bill. Command Packaging, a plastic bag maker in the Los Angeles county city of Vernon, supports the measure.

But major bag makers nationwide remain opposed. Their new ad blasts Padilla for putting "powerful special interests before working families," describing his bill as a giveaway to the grocery stores that will get to keep the 10-cents consumers would have to pay for bags if they don't bring their own.

The ad targets Padilla as he is campaigning in a hotly-contested race for Secretary of State. It calls the bill "Padilla;'s dirty deal," says grocers have paid millions in campaign contributions to state legislators and that Padilla is "paying them back" with the bill to ban plastic bags.

"What's most cynical about this legislation is the massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to shareholders of the grocery industry association," said Steve Schmidt, vice chairman of public affairs with the Edelman public relations firm, which is representing the plastics industry group known as the American Progressive Bag Alliance.

The industry association has spent almost $646,000 lobbying the California Capitol since 2012, retaining both the Mercury Public Affairs firm and Sloat Higgins Jensen. It is launching an all-out fight against Padilla's bill, commissioning an economic analysis from Tim Gage, the former director of the state Department of Finance, and hiring Schmidt, a GOP political strategist who has worked for John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush.

Schmidt would not disclose how much the group is spending on the new advertising campaign. He said it is timed to begin Wednesday when the Assembly Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on SB 270, and will continue airing for weeks or months depending on the fate of the bill. Sacramento will be the first market to see the ad.

Last year, a Padilla bill to ban plastic bags fell short in the Senate when some of his Democratic colleagues said it would eliminate too many industrial jobs in blue-collar parts of California. In the new version of the bill, Padilla worked to reduce potential job losses by creating the grant program for California factories to change their products and re-train workers.

The opposition that remains, Padilla said, comes largely from plastic bag companies based in other states. He denied the allegations in the ad.

"I don't agree, but I understand their economic interests," Padilla said.

"Just like Texas oil companies don't like our air-quality environmental protection laws in California, it's no surprise that out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers are not fans of this legislation as well."

Hilex Poly and Crown Poly are two of the plastic bag manufacturers opposed to Padilla's bill. Hilex is based in South Carolina, while Crown Poly is in Huntington Park, in Los Angeles County.

More than 90 California cities -- including Los Angeles and San Francisco -- have already banned plastic grocery bags. The grocery association supports Padilla's bill, arguing that stores would be better off working under one policy that is uniform across the state, rather than the mish-mash in effect now.

PHOTO: Courtesy clerks fill plastic bags with groceries at the Safeway store in midtown Sacramento on Monday June 11, 2007.The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton.

May 12, 2014
California Senate passes bill banning fundraisers at lobbyist homes

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California lawmakers would be forbidden from holding campaign fundraisers at the homes of registered lobbyists under a bill the state Senate passed today.

Senate Bill 1441 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, seeks to eliminate a loophole in California's campaign finance laws that allows lobbyists to host campaign fundraisers at their homes and offices if the cost of the event is less than $500, even though lobbyists may not otherwise contribute to a political campaign. A prominent Sacramento lobbyist and nearly 40 politicians got in trouble earlier this year with the Fair Political Practices Commission for home-based fundraising events that went past the $500 limit.

In February, lobbyist Kevin Sloat admitted in a settlement with the FPPC that he had hosted luxurious fundraising events at his Sacramento home that exceeded the $500 threshold, including expensive liquors and cigars. Sloat paid a fine of $133,500 for hosting the events, setting a new record for the highest fine ever paid in California for violating the state's lobbying laws. Nearly 40 politicians -- including legislative leaders from both houses as well as Gov. Jerry Brown -- received FPPC warning letters for benefiting from the fundraisers at Sloat's home.

SB 1441 passed the Senate without a single vote in opposition; it now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

PHOTO: Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, talks in March 2014 about his bill to ban fundraisers at lobbyists' homes, part of a package of legislation dubbed the "California Accountability in Public Service Act." The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

May 12, 2014
Toni Atkins becomes California Assembly speaker

speaker.jpgIn an historic transfer of power, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins on Monday became the first openly gay woman to ascend to the head of the California Assembly.

The inauguration filled the California Assembly chambers with an audience that included a roster of past legislative leaders, statewide officials and Gov. Jerry Brown. Former speaker Karen Bass, now a member of Congress, administered the oath to Atkins.

In her first remarks as speaker, Atkins praised California's gradual return to fiscal stability, urged more investment in education and pledged to bolster California's business climate. She won applause for lauding the enrollment success of Covered California, the state's new health insurance exchange, and reiterated her commitment to two longtime goals.

"If I have a personal priority, it is reducing homelessness and making sure we have affordable housing, not just to house the homeless but for all working Californians," Atkins said.

And with budget talks set to get underway, she touched on fiscal restraint but also talked about the need to assist California's teeming ranks of low-income residents.

"We must work to ensure stability, and that includes an adequate reserve for those rainy days when the economy again takes a downward dive," Atkins said, "and yet we must also realize that where we have our greatest challenge is at the same time expanding opportunity and lifting up the most vulnerable who have suffered a great deal and need us not to forget them now. While we have made difficult decisions during the recession, they have held on with white knuckles."

Atkins, who is 51, will also be the first Assembly speaker from San Diego since the Legislature became a full-time institution. After a working class childhood in rural Virginia, Atkins moved to San Diego and began her rise through politics with a focus on affordable housing and reproductive rights. She served on the San Diego City Council and briefly served as the city's interim mayor before winning a seat in the Assembly in 2010, building a reputation as a diligent worker.

"I'm still amazed at her endless capacity to get the job done," former Sen. Christine Kehoe, Atkins' mentor and former boss, said in introductory remarks.

May 12, 2014
Effects of California's workers compensation overhaul not yet certain

JD_COMP_STRETCHER.JPGTwo years ago, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown gave their blessing to an overhaul of California's multi-billion-dollar system of compensating workers who sustain job-related illnesses and injuries.

The overhaul, billed as a reform, had been worked out privately by employers and labor unions and was opposed, in the main, by two other major workers compensation interest groups — attorneys who specialize in disability cases and medical care providers.

The legislation, Senate Bill 863, raised cash benefits to disabled workers and promised to offset their costs by clamping down on medical costs.

It's too early to tell whether the changes will have their intended effect, the Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute says in a new study of California's system and those of 15 other states. The statistical compilation is aimed at setting benchmarks for the systems so that the impact of changes in benefits and costs can be more fully weighed.

In the absence of hard data, the study — which compares SB 863's changes to experiences in other states — suggests that the measure will, in fact, reduce medical and legal costs associated with claims for benefits in California. Prior to the overhaul, those costs were among the nation's highest, even though the prices paid for medical office visits in California were among the lowest.

The study attributes that anomaly to more frequent use of services, and fragmented billing practices in prior years, echoing complaints of employers.

SB 863 mandates the use of Medicare's medical fee schedule, drops fees for surgical procedures sharply, and puts new review processes in place. Those changes, the study said, will probably raise the incomes of primary care doctors who handle workers compensation cases but reduce incomes of surgeons and other specialists.

The study is available only by purchase here.

PHOTO: Beth Slavin of Modesto, who injured her knee on the job, lies on a stretcher at a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on April 19, 2005, protesting workers compensation legislation that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the year before. The Sacramento Bee/ John Decker

May 12, 2014
AM Alert: Toni Atkins sworn in as Assembly Speaker

Toni_Atkins.JPGThough she was chosen as the next Assembly Speaker in January and formally elected in March, Toni Atkins will finally take over the lower house today. Among those in attendance for her swearing-in ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers will be Gov. Jerry Brown.

Atkins, a former San Diego city councilwoman who was elected to the Legislature in 2010, will be the 69th Speaker of the Assembly. She is only the third woman, and the first openly gay woman, to lead the house.

An "unabashed progressive Democrat," as one former colleague called her, Atkins is a major supporter of gay rights, affordable housing and reproductive health. Read more about her rise from a humble upbringing in rural Virginia to the head of California politics in Jeremy B. White's profile of Atkins.

VIDEO: Should California fund new jail construction or rehabilitation programs to address prison overcrowding? A small but important budget battle is underway, Dan Walters says.

POLITICAL REFORM: In a year plagued with scandal, a number of different efforts to address the influence of money on the Capitol are winding their way through the Legislature. A package of bills from state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, which would institute a fundraising blackout period at the end of the legislative session among other reforms, goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee at 10 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol. As amendments to the Political Reform Act, the legislation faces an uphill climb: The bills will require a two-thirds vote from both houses. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg seems to already have a back-up plan in place, announcing a series of new rules last Friday that address some of the issues raised by Padilla's bills and other current legislation.

POWERFUL WOMEN: Political development group California Women Lead hosts Women's Empowerment Day at the Capitol, an all-day leadership conference beginning at 10 a.m. at the Residence Inn Sacramento Downtown on 15th Street. State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, are slated to participate in a morning panel on leadership style and Karen Skelton, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Shriver Report, will deliver the lunchtime keynote. More than 40 members of the Legislature are scheduled to attend a reception at 5 p.m.

NURSES RALLY: As part of its annual advocacy day, the California Nurses Association will march from the Sacramento Convention Center to the Capitol at 11:30 a.m. to support bills that would mandate workplace violence prevention programs, require uniform standards for reporting charity care at hospitals and limit higher out-of-pocket costs for patients seeking care outside their provider networks.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, who turns 63 today and to state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who turns 68. And a belated happy Mother's Day to all of the moms in the Capitol community.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego on Jan. 23, 2014 at her office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 12, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Realignment creates budget battle over new jails

Supreme_Court_California_Prisons.jpgLiberal legislators are pushing funding for rehabilitation programs over new jail construction to address prison overcrowding, 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: Several hundred inmates crowd the gymnasium at San Quentin State Prison on May 20, 2009. The Associated Press/Eric Risberg

May 9, 2014
Neel Kashkari drops another $500,000 into campaign

kashkaridam.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari is dropping another $500,000 into his run for governor, his campaign said Friday, as Kashkari tries to overtake GOP rival Tim Donnelly in the final weeks of the campaign.

The donation increases Kashkari's total personal contribution to the effort to $1 million. He announced the first $500,000 on Monday.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, lags behind Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and tea party favorite, in early polls. But Donnelly lacks resources for traditional advertising.

Kashkari has raised more money than Donnelly, but less than he had once expected. His second $500,000 contribution will increase the total amount he has reported raising to about $2.9 million. The former Goldman Sachs executive has put his net worth at less than $5 million.

Donnelly and Kashkari are the two main Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year. Brown, a third-term Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the June primary election, leaving Kashkari and Donnelly to compete for second place - and a spot in a runoff election against Brown in November.

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 9, 2014
Drought hits California's Capitol Park

drought.JPGThe lush grass that normally carpets downtown Sacramento's Capitol Park is turning into a blotchy green-and-brown rug this spring because state officials have decided not to water the lawn.

"What we're trying to do is set an example in our front yard for people to follow in their front yards," said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the Department of General Services. The department handles grounds maintenance for the park and other state-owned properties.

Parts of the lawn will continue to grow because crews will still water nearly 1,000 trees on the grounds via a complex underground irrigation system that hydrates roots and minimizes runoff.

Many of the trees date back to the earliest days of California's statehood and carry historical significance, said Les Strike, a General Service manager who oversees maintenance of the 40-acre park.

"We can replace the grass," he said. "The trees can't be replaced,"

The drought prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to order conservation measures throughout state government, but he doesn't solely control park maintenance. The Legislature also must sign off on the policy.

PHOTO: Jose Reyes, with Department of General Services cleans some of the dead leaves that he said have been falling from the trees at Capitol Park due to the lack of water to irrigate trees and other plants at the Capitol on Thusrday, Feb. 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

May 9, 2014
California Senate to consider whistleblower protection for staff

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Senate staff members would get whistleblower protection when reporting misconduct and senators would be banned from political fundraising during the last four weeks of session under a draft of new rules the California Senate will begin to consider this month.

The Legislature's upper house has been rocked this year by criminal charges against three of its members -- including one case of perjury and two of corruption -- and the recent revelation that its in-house law enforcement chief withheld information about an employee who used drugs the night he was involved in a fatal gunfight.

Now the Senate is considering the following rule changes, according to a draft obtained by The Bee:

Fundraising Blackout Period: Effective August 1, 2014, Senators would not be allowed to engage in fundraising during the last four weeks of the legislative session.

Whistleblower Protection: Senate employees would be given whistleblower protection when reporting suspected wrongdoing by senators or other employees.

Senate Ombudsperson: The Senate would create a new position of ombudsperson to act as an "independent and confidential avenue" for staff and senators to report unethical behavior. The ombudsman would establish a public hotline for reports of alleged misconduct.

The Senate Rules Committee, headed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will begin considering the rules. The Senate could set the new rules with a simple majority vote of the 40-member body. Unlike a change in state law, the rules would would not need approval by the Assembly or Gov. Jerry Brown.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff voiced objections to the proposal to ban fundraising during the end of session.

"The intentions are good, but it's unworkable," Huff said in a statement.

"If he truly wants to achieve this objective it should apply to all elected officials in the Legislature and in statewide office, as well as political candidates for those offices. That is a reform we can support. Unfortunately, this doesn't strike at the issue of the three Democrat Senators whose actions have perpetuated a cloud of scandal over this house."

Republican Senators Ted Gaines, Steve Knight and Mike Morrell made their own ethics proposal Friday, saying they want to double the prison sentence for officials convicted of bribery.

PHOTO: Darrell Steinberg during session in the Senate chambers on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:40 p.m. with a response from Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff.

May 9, 2014
California immigrants can get licenses with foreign ID, in-person interview

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Foreign government-issued cards, utility bills and marriage licenses could be among the documents immigrants living illegally in California can use to get driver's licenses, Department of Motor Vehicles officials said on Friday.

Immigrant advocates in the Legislature had tried fruitlessly for years to pass a law offering licenses to immigrants in the country illegally, finally succeeding with last year's Assembly Bill 60. Now the debate has turned to questions about what the licenses would look like - a question that brought a federal rejection earlier this week - and how immigrants can obtain them.

Advocates have sought an expansive list of documents immigrants can submit to get the licenses, suggesting everything from labor union cards to baptismal certificates. They have argued that many immigrants arrive in the country without any documentation.

During a Friday press conference, officials described a two-part process: immigrants can establish their identity with government-issued documents like foreign passports, birth certificates and national ID cards.

To prove California residency, immigrants will be able to use things like utility bills, leases, and school or medical records. The current proposed list is not yet finalized so it could be subject to change.

People who can't produce government-issued identity documents will be able to sign up for in-person interviews with DMV officials. There, immigrants could build their case with things like a marriage license, a school transcript or an income tax return. Officials described the interview option as the first of its kind in the nation.

"We heard from individuals that they may not have the more secure documents if you will," said Kristin Triepke, the DMV's policy chief for license operations, and "that is why we are proposing to have our investigative staff conduct this review."

The push to let undocumented immigrants drive legally hit a separate obstacle this week. The federal government rejected California's proposed design. Per a 2005 law intended to deter fraudulent identification documents like the ones terrorists carried on Sept. 11, 2001, IDs for people not in the U.S. legally must be obviously different from regular IDs.

California's pitch, which would feature a different letter on the front of the licenses and a small disclaimer on a back corner, was not sufficiently distinct. Now the California DMV must come up with a new idea and print the licenses in time to have them available for a Jan. 1, 2015 deadline.

"We are working on getting this law implemented from January 1st, and we're continuing on that," said Armando Botello, a DMV spokesman.

PHOTO: People who attended a DMV public hearing on the new licenses, held at the the Secretary of State's building at 11th and O streets on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in Sacramento, wore this sticker. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

May 9, 2014
AM Alert: Kamala Harris pitches anti-truancy bills to educators

kamala.jpgParents and teachers gathered in Los Angeles this week for the California State PTA's annual convention, where attendees have discussed education policy, advocacy and heard from guests such as state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

As the meeting comes to a close this weekend, California Attorney General Kamala Harris headlines today's events with a keynote address, 11 a.m. at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Harris will discuss the package of anti-truancy legislation she is sponsoring that would use enhanced data collection and reporting to address school attendance issues sooner.

VIDEO: It's a new era of "politics of plenty" for California, Dan Walters says, and with it come new budget battles.

VOTER GUIDE: Don't forget to pick up Sunday's Sacramento Bee for our voter guide to the 2014 primary election. If you just can't wait that long, it's already online with a customizable ballot and options to share your picks.

HEY HEY HEY GOODBYE: President Barack Obama closes out his fundraising tour through California this morning with a visit to the Walmart in Mountain View to discuss energy efficiency. The event has drawn the ire of organized labor and its supporters who oppose the company's labor practices, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

LAX-MINATION: Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, holds an informational hearing on the health and safety conditions of workers employed by airline contractors at LAX, 1:30 p.m. at the Junipero Serra State Building Auditorium in Los Angeles.

BENEFITS FAIR: A two-day CalPERS benefits education fair to inform members about the programs and services available to them begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, who turns 48 today.

May 9, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: California enters new era of 'politics of plenty'

Assembly_chamber.JPGWith tax revenue exceeding expectations, the Legislature's budget battles will center on what to do with all the extra money, 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: Twenty-eight of the new Assembly Members undergo orientation inside the Assembly Chambers on Nov. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

May 8, 2014