Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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



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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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