Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 6, 2014
U.S. Chamber ads tout Republicans Doug Ose, David Valadao


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is rolling out a series of television ads in competitive House races, including a 30-spot in the Sacramento region encouraging voters to support former Republican Rep. Doug Ose.

Ose, part of a trio of GOP challengers to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, is portrayed in the upbeat ad as a businessman with close ties to the region — echoing major themes of his campaign.

"As a small business leader, Doug Ose created jobs in Northern California," states the ad set to air across suburban Sacramento's 7th district. "As our congressman, Doug Ose fought for families and jobs.

"We need a leader in Washington who gets things done. We need Doug Ose: a local leader with a proven record."

While the ad does not mention Ose's opposition to the health care law (some of the other chamber spots do), a group webpage established for the candidate reflects his view on the issue as well as his position on lowering taxes and reducing regulations.

The chamber is reportedly spending more than $3 million to air the ads on behalf of 11 House and 2 Senate candidates. The total buy in the region was not immediately available Tuesday.

Ose, with his 92-percent rating from the organization, is getting its pre-primary nod over Republicans Igor Birman and Elizabeth Emken. Birman has received modest outside support in the form of phone calls, mailers and internet advertisements from tea party-aligned and gun-owners groups.

The chamber rollout, which includes a spot championing Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, is among the first signs of what is expected to be a surge of television advertising in the Central Valley. Valadao is being challenged by Democrat Amanda Renteria.

PHOTO: Congressional candidate Doug Ose speaks at an Arden Arcade Rotary Club luncheon at Ruth's Chris Steak House on March 18, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/ Renee C. Byer

May 6, 2014
Cigarette tax evasion declines, says state board

Thumbnail image for RB BOE Tobacco CigaretteTax Stamps.JPG

Tougher enforcement is reducing cigarette tax evasion, the state Board of Equalization says in a new report.

The report estimates that cigarette tax evasion declined from $276 million in the 2005-06 fiscal year to $214 million in 2012-13 and from 18 percent of cigarette sales to 16 percent.

Board officials credited a joint federal-state enforcement program named "Operation Big Pinch" for the decline. It refers to the nine illegal operators who were "pinched" in 2012 and 2013.

PHOTO: Two packs of cigarettes with California tax stamps at the State of California Board of Equalization office in Sacramento on Tuesday July 18, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

May 6, 2014
California immigrant license design rejected by feds


The federal government has rejected California's initial design for new driver's licenses to be offered to immigrants in the country illegally, saying the cards fall short of security safeguards.

Immigrant advocates embrace the licenses as a way to ensure immigrants can drive safely and without fear of reprisals. But they have expressed concern about what exactly the licenses will look like, fearing visually distinct licenses will amount to a scarlet letter branding the holder as being in the U.S. unlawfully.

That worry clashes with federal guidelines intended to guard against counterfeit or fraudulent documents. The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005, established minimum standards for drivers licenses and stipulated that licenses for residents without legal status must bear a distinctive marking. In Illinois, for example, immigrant drivers licenses carry a purple band.

California's solution was to have the licenses include the marking "DP," for "driver's privilege," rather than the standard "DL" signifying "driver's license," and language saying the card is ineligible for federal purposes. That did not pass muster.

Instead, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggested more obvious markings, like a distinct color scheme or prominent language stating "in machine readable code that it is not acceptable for official Federal purposes."

The DMV will need to reconfigure the design. The bill launching the new licenses requires California to offer the cards by the start of 2015, and the California Latino Legislative Caucus has already urged the agency to hurry things up.

Reacting to Tuesday's news, the caucus released a statement calling the federal repudiation "disappointing and troubling."

"We strongly believe that the design submitted by California satisfies the intent of the law, by including a distinctive mark on the front, and the required statement on the surface of the license," the 24-member caucus' statement said.

The California DMV also released a statement vowing to press forward.

"While we are disappointed by this ruling, the DMV will continue to work vigorously with lawmakers, affected communities and federal officials to design a license that complies with federal law and allows over a million undocumented California residents to drive legally and safely on state roads," the statement said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:01 p.m. to include the California Latino Legislative Caucus statement.

PHOTO: The DMV office on La Mancha Way in South Sacramento, on Wednesday June 27, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

May 6, 2014
In four-way primary, Republican Igor Birman gets some outside help


FreedomWorks for America, a tea-party aligned super PAC, has reported spending nearly $20,000 to boost the prospects of Igor Birman, one of three Republicans challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove.

With just a month to go until the primary election, the group paid more than $18,000 for phone calls to promote Birman, on leave as the chief of staff to Republican Rep. Tom McClintock. It also helped to send emails, hang signs and push out social media and web ads, according to figures reported this week.

"Igor is an important race to us and we are going to do what we can," said Adam Brandon, executive vice president of FreedomWorks. "Not to give anything away, but you'll definitely see more grassroots" activity.

Internal polls show Birman in third place behind Bera and former Republican Rep. Doug Ose, though the margin in two of the private surveys has Birman within striking distance of second place. The top-two finishers on June 3 advance to November.

The fundraising picture has been less fluid. Ose, who contributed $250,000 on his own behalf, far outpaces his GOP rivals Birman and Elizabeth Emken in money raised and cash on hand to use in the primary and general elections.

The relatively modest outside expenditures to flow into the race so far include an additional $16,000 in mailers attacking Ose from the organization Gun Owners of America.

The 7th district, which includes much of suburban Sacramento County, is expected to host one of the most expensive contests in California.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct the amount spent by FreedomWorks. The figure was inadvertently double counted on federal reports.

PHOTO: Republican Igor Berman, running in the 7th Congressional District, listens to his parents talk before speaking with voters at a small private gathering in Elk Grove in February. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

May 6, 2014
Hospital pricing, executive pay ballot measures nixed as union, hospital strike deal


Averting a costly ballot fight, a prominent labor union has agreed to pull a pair of measures that would limit how California hospitals price medical care and compensate their executives.

The union dropped the effort after reaching what officials described as a sweeping labor agreement with the California Hospital Association, an organization that had been poised to battle the union over its ballot campaign. Officials from the two organizations described the agreement only n vague terms.

Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers had described wildly inflated hospital prices as a burden on the healthcare system, pointing to hefty price tags on everything from medical procedures to bandages. The union also argued for caps on executive compensation at nonprofit hospitals.

All along, medical industry critics depicted the two-pronged campaign as a union ploy to put more pressure on hospitals and win more concessions for workers. Money had already started flowing for the ballot push, with SEIU reporting having raised $5.7 million through March of this year.

Now the two sides have found a compromise. The California Hospital Association and SEIU-UHW announced they struck a deal on Monday night to enshrine a new labor agreement and to launch a $100 million campaign for changes to Medi-Cal, the state's insurance program for the poor and indigent.

"We have continuously been striving to find a non-initiative solution," C. Duane Dauner, president of the California Hospital Association, said in a conference call on Tuesday morning.

In a deal that will run through the end of 2017, the two sides have agreed to what SEIU-UHW president Dave Regan called a "set of reciprocal commitments." He offered no concrete details about what those commitments entail, saying only that they surpass what the National Labor Relations Act requires.

"There's a lot of different segments to it but the commitments are substantial and clearly cover a majority of the industry," Regan said.

Without elaborating on the specifics, Regan suggested the that the deal effects sweeping changes to the relationship between hospitals and their employees. He portrayed the new configuration as a way to keep unions relevant.

"I think it's obvious that unions in America are in steep decline. That's just an obvious truth," Regan said, adding that "we don't want to look at unionism in the way its traditionally been, which is a zero-sum game between unions and employers."

A centerpiece of the new relationship will surround deploying a $100 million joint advocacy fund in an attempt to address Medi-Cal issues, although the specific area of advocacy remains undecided. If a legislative or regulatory fix hasn't yet emerged, Regan said, the effort could go to to the November 2016 ballot.

Dauner declined to elaborate on who will pay what into the fund but said the political effort could encompass everything from helping California do a better job of obtaining federal matching funds to dealing with reimbursement rates.

"It's broader than just saying we are going to go and try and get a lot of money out of the general fund to increase payments," Dauner said. "It is a broad and comprehensive approach to fitting Medi-Cal into the changing health care system."

This is the second consecutive year the union had pitched a pair of similar ballot initiatives. Last year, SEIU pushed measures to harness excessive billing and increase health care for the indigent, but withdrew the proposals after reaching an agreement that enlisted the hospital industry in various organizing efforts. Both Dauner and Regan described the new deal as stronger.

"We had disagreements and there were disappointments in the way we accomplished things under the first agreement," Dauner said.

Christopher Cadelago of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

PHOTO: A registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center with some of the blue polypropylene wraps used to package surgical kits on July 26, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

May 6, 2014
VIDEO: Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard retires amid controversy


Tony Beard, the long-time head of the California Senate's in-house law enforcement unit, announced his retirement Tuesday following the revelation that he withheld information from Senate leader Darrell Steinbergabout drug use by a Senate sergeant.

Steinberg fired the employee, Sergeant-at-Arms Gerardo Lopez, after The Sacramento Bee raised questions about court testimony that describes Lopez having cocaine and marijuana in his system the night he was involved in an off-duty gunfight that left three people injured and one man dead.

Steinberg said he first learned of Lopez's toxicology report last week from The Bee. But before he fired Lopez late Thursday, Steinberg said he met with Beard, who confirmed that he had known that a toxicology report showed Lopez had consumed illegal drugs the night in December 2012 when he participated in a shootout outside his Greenhaven-area home.

"He thought at the time that he couldn't disclose the information because he heard it through the process of a confidential investigation," Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund said.

"He understands that he made an error in judgment on that."

Beard's departure from the $171,480 per year job marks the end of a 46-year career in the state Senate, including 34 as its chief sergeant-at-arms. Beard, 64, is stepping down immediately as the chief sergeant-at-arms and will begin his retirement later this summer, Hedlund said.

In a letter to Steinberg, Beard said he had "always acted with integrity, dedication and the utmost loyalty to the state Senate and the people of California. To leave a lifelong career is not an easy decision. But nature itself suggests to us when it is time to go. A new eye is needed. A fresh start is necessary."

The criminal case stemming from the shooting outside Lopez's home is heading to trial next month in Sacramento. Prosecutors consider Lopez the victim of a home invasion and are charging three men with robbing his house. Testimony in a preliminary hearing revealed that the shooting happened after Lopez and his wife, Jennifer Delao -- who is a secretary in Steinberg's policy unit -- had invited friends over for a party after a night out at a bar.

Steinberg issued a statement:

"Tony Beard has served California's Legislature with great distinction and honor for more than four decades. Throughout his tenure as Chief, he has raised the standards of the Senate Sergeants-at-Arms office and brought more diversity to his staff. His exemplary service deserves recognition and celebration, which we will do at the appropriate time.

"With Tony's pending retirement, I am asking that effective immediately, Deputy Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Katrina Rodriguez become the interim Chief until such time as the Senate Rules Committee elects a new Chief Sergeant-at-Arms."

Steinberg met with reporters after Tuesday's announcement, saying, "I am dealing with the business that I need to deal with here." See video below.

Editor's note: This post has been changed to correct a grammatical error.

PHOTO: Tony Beard, the state Senate's chief sergeant at arms, escorts FBI agents to Senator Ron Calderon's office in the Capitol on June 4, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

May 6, 2014
Debra Gravert to head Assembly Rules Committee, replacing Jon Waldie


With current Assembly Rules Committee boss Jon Waldie retiring, Debra Gravert has taken over as the powerful committee's chief administrative officer.

Gravert will oversee issues like legislative pay, staffing and the internal laws governing how the Assembly functions. Before winning the new position, Gravert had worked as chief of staff to Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and twice ran unsuccessfully for a Sacramento-area Assembly seat.

Waldie will officially retire in November, and in the meantime will be working in the office of outgoing Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez, D-Los Angeles. His departure will cap a 34-year career working for the Legislature that began in the mail room, complementing nighttime courses at the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. He has been working for the Rules Committee for well over a decade, spanning multiple Assembly leaders.

"You know when it's time," Waldie said of his retirement. "17 years is a long time doing one gig."

Now Waldie plans to spend some time with his family, including attending to his oldest daughter's June wedding.

"That's consuming a lot of our day right now," he said.

PHOTO: Jon Waldie, walks down the small staircase on top of the interior dome inside the Exterior dome at the Capitol, Thursday, March 6, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer.

May 6, 2014
AM Alert: Steinberg moves to revoke pay for suspended lawmakers

Steinberg_suspension.JPGWhen the state Senate took the unprecedented step of suspending three members back in March, one major criticism of the move was that the senators would continue to be paid.

Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, cast the lone vote against the suspensions, calling them "paid holidays for bad behavior."

To address that concern, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has introduced a bill that would allow legislators to revoke pay and benefits upon suspending a member from the Legislature.

As a constitutional amendment, it will require a two-thirds vote in both houses and approval by voters. It has its first hearing today in the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, 1:30 p.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: The recovering real estate market isn't all good news for homeowners, Dan Walters says.

SAVING HOLLYWOOD: As film and television jobs head for other states, Los Angeles-area lawmakers have pushed to expand California's tax credit program. (One such effort got Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, into trouble.) On the tail of a new report that discounted the program's benefits, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, will discuss his latest proposal with the California Film Commission, 11 a.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol.

IN MEMORIAM: Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris will attend a memorial ceremony for California Highway Patrol officers who have been killed in the line duty, 9:30 a.m. at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento.

PPAC ON PARADE: Members and supporters of the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California march from their "day of action" at the Sacramento Convention Center to the west steps of the Capitol at 12:40 p.m. in support of reproductive health care, health care for undocumented immigrants and restoration of Medi-Cal cuts. State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, will speak at the Capitol rally at 1:30 p.m.

BONE MAY-RROW: Citing a "critical need" for more bone marrow donors, especially in minority communities, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Roseville, commemorates May as Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Month, 10:30 a.m. at the Capitol Mall traffic circle. A bone marrow donor drive will follow in the Capitol basement from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

HEAR YE, HEAR YE: The Assembly Health Committee holds an informational hearing on results from the first year of open enrollment for Covered California, 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. The Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee discusses aging in the Asian-Pacific Islander community, 2 p.m. in Room 127. The Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care examines recent trends in the foster care system, including human trafficking among foster children, 1:30 p.m. in Room 126.

STAYCATION: As part of its advocacy day, the California State Parks Foundation will hold an expo on the north steps of the Capitol from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Celebrating 150 years of California state parks, the event will have butter-churning, musical performances, food samples and kayaking demonstrations, among other activities.

NAF-TALK: The California Chamber of Commerce hosts a panel discussion on the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, 12:45 p.m. at the CalChamber building on K Street.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER: While most political observers have dismissed the prospects of the Six Californias initiative, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper is carrying on his campaign to get the measure on the November ballot. He address the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco at 6 p.m.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduces a resolution to suspend Sens. Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 6, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: With home prices rising again, so are taxes

MC_REALTOR_04.JPGThe recovering real estate market isn't all good news for homeowners, 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: Real estate agent Pat Quan of Coldwell Banker puts flyers in front of one of his home listing in El Dorado Hills, Calif, on October 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo


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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