Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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 "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


By Jeremy B. White

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.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

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


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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