Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 5, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown warns against spending, throwing cigarettes out car windows

browncalfire.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, moving to tamp down expectations for increased spending ahead of his revised budget plan this month, said Monday he is "very wary" of funding new programs and discounted entirely the idea of extending tax increases approved by voters in 2012.

Asked at a news conference about Proposition 30, the sales tax increase he championed, the Democratic governor said, "That's a temporary tax and, to the extent that I have anything to do with it, will remain temporary."

Brown's remarks came after the San Francisco Chronicle reported over the weekend that state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, had suggested the possibility of an extension.

Brown in January proposed a $154.9 billion spending plan that includes modest increases for social service programs, but also billions of dollars to address long-term debt. As he prepares to revise his budget proposal this month, social service advocates and some Democrats are pressing him to expand spending in some areas, including for pre-kindergarten education.

"I'm going to err on the side of prudence and a sense of the past, which has, you know, taken two governors down to a very low level of popularity because they spent too much money too soon," Brown said at a news conference to mark Wildfire Awareness Week. "We're going to be careful, that's the goal, and I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to look out not just for June or July, but for the next several years. California's fiscal integrity is crucial to investment, to well-being and to the public confidence in their government."

As he has previously, Brown used the state's ongoing drought and expectation of a dismal fire season to frame his budget remarks.

"While there's always new desires and needs that seek validation through new spending, there are old responsibilities, like fighting fires, like fixing up the roads that are deficient," Brown said. "So, we have a lot of challenges just to do what the current set of laws tell us to do, so I'm going to be very wary of any expensive new ideas that people may want to put forward, however worthy they are in themselves."

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

"We are heading into a fire season that may be unprecedented," Natural Resource Secretary John Laird said.

Intense fires in recent years have strained the state's budget for wildfire fighting, but Laird said, "We're ready. Regardless of what's in the budget, there will be money to fight the fires."

Brown said the state "is going to have to spend more money" to fight fires. When asked how much might be required this year, he said he is reviewing the budget now. Brown also urged residents to avoid starting fires in the first place.

"The message is pretty simple," he said. "Be careful, watch it, don't throw cigarette butts out the car window, assuming anybody smokes anymore. And don't do anything else stupid."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a Wildfire Awareness Week event in McClellan on May 5, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 5, 2014
Sentencing delayed - again - for suspended Sen. Rod Wright


For the second time, the sentencing hearing for suspended state Sen. Rod Wright has been delayed for two months in the criminal trial that alleged he lied about where he lived when he ran for office in 2008.

A Los Angeles jury found the Democrat guilty in January of eight perjury and voter fraud felonies for claiming a home in Inglewood as his official address while he actually lived a few miles away in the tonier community of Baldwin Hills. Wright's sentencing was originally set for March but was delayed until May 16. Today it was delayed again, this time until July 21, according to Wright's lawyer Winston Kevin McKesson.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office confirmed that sentencing was delayed to give Wright's lawyers more time to prepare a motion for a new trial.

The Senate voted in March to suspend Wright with pay after two of his Democratic colleagues, Sens. Ron Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco, were indicted in separate federal corruption cases. The suspensions marked the first time in California history that the Senate suspended any of its members with pay.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg argued then that Calderon and Yee could not be expelled from the Senate -- which would rescind their pay -- because they had been charged with crimes, but not convicted. And he said it was too soon to expel Wright because his conviction wouldn't be final until ratified by the judge at sentencing. Wright's lawyer has said he plans to ask the judge to set aside the jury's guilty verdict.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:34 p.m. with input from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

May 5, 2014
Amended California dark money bill passes Assembly


Legislation cracking down on anonymous campaign donations, amended to protect donors who have given money for this election, advanced from the California Assembly on a 56-7 vote Monday.

Lawmakers have sought to rein in secretive campaign spending since out-of-state groups funneled $15 million against Proposition 30 and for Proposition 32 in 2012. Senate Bill 27, by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, would help that cause by triggering disclosure of the donors when donations hit a certain amount.

"The law needs to catch up with the way in which nonprofits avoid reporting requirements," Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, said on Monday.

The bill hit a snag in the Senate earlier this year. Correa and other backers want the law to be in place when voters hit the polls later this year.

Republicans pushed back, saying the bill would unfairly expose donors who gave money under the assumption they could remain anonymous. Democrats, who with two senators on leave had lost the two-thirds majority needed to move Correa's bill(the two senators and a third alleged lawbreaker have since been suspended), acquiesced and pulled the bill back.

Amendments clarify that contributors who gave money before the law kicks in on July 1 would not be outed under the new disclosure rules.

Now the altered version will go to the Senate, a test of whether the changes are enough to quell the Republican resistance.

PHOTO: Senator Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana during a joint session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

May 5, 2014
South rising again? Not from California's public gift shops, bill says


California is a long way from the Confederacy, but the Assembly took an extra step on Monday to ensure the Civil War's losers can't be honored by government entities.

Under a bill that easily passed the Assembly on a 72-1 vote Monday, state government agencies would be prohibited from displaying or selling Confederate flag imagery. There would be an exception for books that offer "an educational or historical purpose."

Compared to South Carolina, where the decision to fly the stars and bars over the statehouse attracted enormous controversy, the Dixie symbol is relatively rare in California.

Still, Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Los Angeles, unfurled his Assembly Bill 2444 after he said he came across Confederate currency in the State Capitol's basement gift shop. He said the Confederate flag remains a potent symbol of fear and discrimination.

"The state of California should not be in the business of promoting hate towards others," Hall said on Monday, adding that it "would not allow taxpayer resources to be used to market hate towards others."

While agreeing that the flag represents a violent chapter in American history, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, countered that Hall's bill infringes on freedom of speech.

"I am not standing here defending the symbol," said Donnelly, who cast the sole dissenting vote. "I am standing here defending the principle that the First Amendment should apply in all state buildings, of all places."

PHOTO: Marchers making their way along Old State Road are met by Confederate flag supporters Monday, April 3, 2000, near Moncks Corner, S.C. Associated Press/Mary Ann Chastain.

May 5, 2014
As California property values rise, owners see big tax bill hikes


The revival of California's economy and a rising housing market mean some hefty property tax increases for homeowners, the Legislature's budget analyst believes.

When property values were dropping sharply during recession, county tax assessors adjusted tax rolls downward, which then lowered property tax bills. Many property owners also applied for reductions.

The average homeowner saw a $1,600 property tax cut while those for commercial property averaged $7,500. "In total, temporary property tax reductions depressed local government property tax revenues by an estimated $7 billion in 2013-14, amounting to a 15 percent reduction statewide," the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) says in a new report.

But with a rising market, the LAO says those cuts are being rescinded, as state law allows, and some property owners may see tax increases as high as 20 percent. It notes that home values rose statewide by 12 percent in 2012, but those increases were not immediately reflected in property tax bills.

Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, limits annual increases in taxable values to 2 percent, but state tax law also allows temporary decreases in those values to be fully recovered later if the market increases. Increases of up to 20 percent were reported during the 2013-14 fiscal year, based on the 2012 market rise.

"Looking ahead, property tax payments for many owners that received temporary property tax reductions during the real estate crisis could increase by more than 10 percent annually for the next several years," the LAO said. "These increases likely will cause local property tax revenues to grow swiftly over the next several years as well."

The taxable value decreases were heaviest in communities — mostly in inland areas — that had felt the sharpest effect of the housing industry meltdown. Stanislaus County saw the steepest decline in home sale prices, 65 percent, and tax assessments were reduced for 51 percent of the county's properties, so it could see the one of the biggest upticks.

The $7 billion reduction in local property tax revenues also affected the state budget because the state was required to make up the schools' losses of about $3.2 billion. Therefore, the increases in property values and property taxes not only are increasing revenues to local governments but reducing the state's constitutionally required level of education spending.

PHOTO: Real estate agent Pat Quan, of Coldwell Banker, puts flyers in front of one of his home listings in El Dorado Hills on Oct. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

May 5, 2014
Neel Kashkari pumps $500,000 into campaign, releases TV ad

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, lagging behind GOP rival Tim Donnelly in the race for governor, released his first TV ad Monday and announced he has donated $500,000 to his own campaign.

The ad and the contribution come as Kashkari tries to make up ground on Donnelly in the final month of the campaign. Donnelly, a tea party favorite and assemblyman from Twin Peaks, leads Kashkari by a wide margin in early polls, but he lacks resources for traditional advertising.

Kashkari's fundraising, while more robust than Donnelly's, fell off after a fast start. His $500,000 contribution will increase the total amount he has reported raising to about $2.3 million. Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Treasury Department official, has put his net worth at less than $5 million.

Kashkari's campaign said the ad released Monday will air statewide on cable and broadcast television, but it declined to disclose the size of the ad buy or say in what markets it will play.

The 30-second ad features Kashkari chopping wood and a toy train engine, a reference to his opposition to California's $68 billion high-speed rail project.

"As governor I'll cut taxes, move people from welfare to work and take an ax to wasteful spending," he says in the ad. "First up? Jerry Brown's crazy train."

Brown, a third-term Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the June primary election. The race between Kashkari and Donnelly is for second place, to advance to a runoff against Brown in the fall.

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

May 5, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown attends peace officers' memorial

peace_officers_memorial.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has had a packed calendar lately. After making the rounds in Los Angeles last week, he'll be at two events in Sacramento today.

The first is the California Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony, an annual event recognizing officers who have died in the line of duty. Thirteen names will be added to the monument on Capitol Mall, including eight who were killed last year. Brown will join the walk of honor, starting at 10:30 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol, then speak at the enrollment ceremony at 11 a.m.

In the afternoon, Brown will head over to McClellan Airfield to kick off Wildfire Awareness Week with state fire and emergency officials. The event begins at 2:30 p.m. at the Cal Fire Aviation Management Unit.

VIDEO: What if they held an election and nobody came?, Dan Walters wonders.

DONATION DRIVE: Legislators launch a donation drive for homeless mothers and families with children, 1:30 p.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol. Items such as diapers, baby food and wipes can be dropped off through May 9 at legislative offices, including those of state Sens. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assembly members Don Wagner, R-Irvine, Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, and Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills.

LATINO SPIRIT: The California Latino Legislative Caucus hosts its annual Latino Spirit Awards, honoring members of the Latino community who are pioneers in their fields, noon on the Assembly floor. Among this year's honorees are former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and actor Danny Trejo.

POPULATION BOOM: The Governor's Office of Planning and Research holds a public workshop seeking comments on a draft report identifying key actions the state should take to prepare itself for the next several decades, when the population is expected to reach 50 million, 10:30 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street.

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: As part of its spring conference at the Citizen Hotel on J Street, the Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee will get visits today from state Sens. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly members Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, and Connie Conway, R-Tulare. The organization will also recognize Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, as its Legislator of the Year during a noon luncheon.

GETTING STEAMY: Power company Calpine hosts Geothermal Awareness Day to promote renewable energy with a legislative reception at 5:30 p.m. at Mayahuel on K Street. State Sens. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Assembly members Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, and V. Manuel PĂ©rez, D-Coachella, are scheduled to attend.

KINKY BUCKS: Here's a unique way to raise XXX-tra campaign cash: David Campos, a candidate for the 17th Assembly District, hosts a fundraiser at's pornography studio in San Francisco at 7 p.m.

PHOTO: A white dove takes flight after the name of a fallen officer is read during the 37th Annual Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony in Sacramento on May 6, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 5, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: June primary promises few exciting races, low turnout

pollingplace.JPGWhat happens if they held an election and nobody came?, 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


Capitol Alert Staff

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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