Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 7, 2014
Realignment puts heavy pressure on jails, PPIC report says

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The "realignment" that Gov. Jerry Brown championed to reduce overcrowding in state prisons has, in turn, created overcrowding in county jails that were already in some distress, according to a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California.

"We show that a number of facilities are old and likely in need of costly updates or replacement and that growth in the state's population is likely to exert significant pressure on the county jail system," PPIC's report, released Wednesday, says.

The state has been under heavy pressure from federal courts to reduce prison crowding and with a judicial takeover of the system looming, Brown negotiated a deal with county officials under which felons deemed to be non-dangerous would be diverted into local jails, rather than sent to state prisons.

In addition, the state would release some inmates from prison into locally managed parole and pay for all of the diversions by giving counties a bigger share of sales taxes.

The prison population has dropped dramatically to near the level fixed by the courts but there have been complaints from some local law enforcement officials that filling county jail cells with felons has forced them to incarcerate fewer misdemeanor offenders and thus put more of them back in the community. There also have been complaints that the money from the state isn't enough to cover costs.

While the state has provided some money to build new jails, not only do they face crowding but many are aged and deteriorating, so more money is needed to expand capacity and bring facilities up to date, the PPIC report says. To do what's needed, it says, as many as 14,600 new jail beds will be needed by 2040 at a cost of $4 billion.

However, those capital costs can be mitigated by more aggressive use of non-incarceration programs to prevent offenders from repeating their crimes.

"Our analysis suggests that the jail capacity challenge is unlikely to be met exclusively through either increased jail construction or decreased reliance on incarceration," PPIC says. "Meeting this challenge will probably require a thoughtful combination of efforts carried out jointly by the state and the counties."

PHOTO: Inmates inside the jail cells in the old Stanislaus County downtown main jail in Modesto on Wednesday June 19, 2013.The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

May 7, 2014
Cigarette butt ban bill extinguished in committee

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Filtered cigarettes will keep burning in California for the foreseeable future.

An Assembly committee on Wednesday resoundingly voted down legislation that would ban cigarette filters in an attempt to limit litter. The final vote was 2-13.

Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, framed Assembly Bill 1504 not as a public health measure but as a way to fight the scourge of cigarette-generated waste clogging California's waterways and dotting its beaches.

Since research does not conclusively prove that filters protect smokers from lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases, Stone argued, stubbing out the filters would be a public good.

"There's really no health benefit to the smoker to having the filter there, so what I'm trying to deal with in this bill is what happens once the smoker casts aside their cigarette," Stone said.

Stone argued that current anti-littering laws, including a thousand dollar fine for pitching butts into the environment, have done little to dissuade smokers.

"Next time you're driving in the evening and you see that little orange arc flicked out of a car window, recognize that that person who flicked the cigarette out of the window is facing a thousand dollar fine," Stone said. "It's a smoke and toss habit. They will continue to toss."

But other lawmakers on the Governmental Organization Committee said that Stone's tactic was too broad and could carry unintended consequences like decreasing revenue for the state, increasing health and fire risks or shunting more smokers into the black market.

"Even though I agree with you that the cigarette butt is a huge problem in the community I disagree with the approach," said Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, the committee's chair. "There are currently enough fines on the books to address some of the littering issues you have."

Opponents included the California Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, whose representatives argued that a California-specific standard would put a costly burden on businesses.

"It's a de facto ban on smoking in California," said Ken DeVore, a lobbyist with the California branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

PHOTO: In this Feb. 7, 2011 file photo, a soul patch smokes a cigarette in Hialeah, Fla. AP Photo/Alan Diaz.

May 7, 2014
California races surpass $5.5 million in independent spending

ha_schnur7656.JPGThe San Francisco Bay Area's 16th Assembly District remained the leader in independent campaign expenditures reported through Tuesday, but a trio of Democrats in Sacramento-area legislative races are drawing independent support from business groups.

Unions, charter schools, and others have poured more than $5.5 million into legislative and statewide contests, according to state filings through Tuesday evening. Almost a fifth of that has come from businessman and 2012 congressional candidate William E. Bloomfield, Jr., who has spent almost $1.1 million, including six-figure expenditures in recent days to help elect state schools superintendent candidate Marshall Tuck ($376,200), secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur ($243,931), who has no party preference, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari ($141,867.)

See a searchable list of all independent expenditures below.

An independent expenditure committee linked to business-friendly Democrats in the Legislature — Californians For Jobs And A Strong Economy — so far has spent $119,000 supporting a trio of Democrats in contested Sacramento-area races: Steve Cohn in the 7th Assembly District ($44,732), Jim Cooper in the 9th Assembly District ($68,932), and Richard Pan in the 6th Senate District ($5,910.)

In the 16th, unions have spent $865,000 to support Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a teacher, or oppose his main rival, fellow Democrat Steve Glazer, the Orinda vice mayor who advised Gov. Jerry Brown's 2010 campaign.. Real-estate interests and other groups have spent about $1 million spent to support Glazer or oppose Sbranti, according to state filings.

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). At the bottom, there's a searchable list of all independent expenditures in legislative and statewide races.

PHOTO: Secretary of State candidate Dan Schnur in September 2010, when he was chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 7, 2014
Report says California owes $340.7 billion, some being ignored

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The state of California is $340.7 billion in debt and while it is on track to repay much of the sum, it's not doing anything about unfunded liabilities for teacher pensions and state retiree health care, the Legislature's budget analyst said Wednesday.

Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor issued a comprehensive report on all state debts, including the "Wall of Debt" that Gov. Jerry Brown has cited.

The Wall of Debt, which was more than $30 billion when Brown resumed the governorship in 2011, is borrowing that predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature approved to cover operating deficits. It is, however, only about 10 percent of what the state owes.

Brown has pledged to repay the deficit debt — most of it money owed to school districts — but has not yet addressed other unfunded liabilities, such as those in the State Teachers Retirement System and retiree health care obligations.

The $340.7 billion figure cited in the report also could be larger because there is sharp disagreement on how the state's retirement funds have calculated their liabilities. Critics say that the funds use estimates of future earnings that are too high and were they to be adjusted downward, the debts would increase.

Taylor's report divides the $340.7 billion in debt into two categories — $200-plus billion "that merit further legislative attention" and $140.6 billion "that the state is addressing."

The biggest chunk of the first category is $73.7 billion in unfunded liabilities for teacher pensions. STRS has said it needs $4.5 billion a year in additional financing to keep the fund solvent. It also includes an estimated $64.6 billion in projected retiree health care.

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

May 7, 2014
AM Alert: Barack Obama swings through California for fundraisers

Oabam_speaking.JPGPresident Barack Obama touches down in California today for a three-day swing through Democratic fundraising hotspots in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Obama begins his trip in Los Angeles this evening headlining a joint fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the Bel Air home of Disney Studios head Alan Horn, according to an online invitation. He then heads over to the 20th anniversary gala for the University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation, an institute for visual history and education, hosted by Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg.

On Thursday, he'll make appearances at Democratic National Committee fundraisers in Beverly Hills and at the La Jolla home of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs before heading up to the Bay Area, according to online invitations. In the evening, he's slated for events at the Los Altos home of 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki and a major fundraiser co-hosted by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer and Sam Altman, president of start-up incubator Y Combinator..

Before flying back to Washington on Friday, Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks on energy efficiency, 9:55 a.m. at the Walmart in Mountain View.

VIDEO: The Legislature has a long and pointless history of weighing in on foreign affairs, Dan Walters says.

BREAST HEALTH: State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, help launch a new initiative from the Susan G. Komen organization to address racial disparities in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, 9:30 a.m. at the Capitol Park trout pond.

CHILD CARE CUTS: Child care advocacy organization Parent Voices rallies to restore cuts to child care funding, 11 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol. Mitchell and Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywomen Lowenthal, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, are scheduled to attend.

PET ADOPTION: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sponsors an adoption event for shelter animals from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will be there to advocate for his bill making rescue animal adoptions tax deductible.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The California Charter Schools Association gathers for its annual lobby day at 10 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol. Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, will deliver remarks.

ENGLISH PROFICIENCY: Nearly one in four students in California's public schools is now an English learner, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The group holds a briefing on its research examining the relationship between when students are classified as fully English-proficient and their later academic success, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

CESAR CHAVEZ: Author and former journalist Miriam Pawel discusses her new biography of Cesar Chavez, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Ukraine on the South Lawn of the White House on March 20, 2014. Abaca Press/Olivier Douliery

May 7, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Azerbaijan conflict doesn't need Legislature's input

Azerbaijan_president.JPGThe California Legislature has a long and pointless history of weighing in on foreign affairs, 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: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev arrives for a meeting on the 5th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership at the Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic on April 24, 2014. The Associated Press/Petr David Josek



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

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

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

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

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

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