Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 19, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown presses for action on climate change

JERRYBROWN.jpgGov. Jerry Brown called Monday for urgent action on climate change, while lamenting that the issue "has yet to fully capture the public imagination."

"This is a path that must be pursued today, the next decade, the next 100 years, and it's something that has yet to fully capture the public imagination," the Democratic governor said at a conference on climate change at the California museum. "There's still great denial."

Brown has made climate change a priority of his administration, and his speech Monday covered familiar ground.

"If something is discrete and it happens, like a forest fire or an accident or a tornado, it's easy to grasp and we can react to it," Brown said. "But when we have the buildup of these heat-trapping gasses globally and then you say, 'What do we do?' And this is the kind of challenge where it's not just California. We're 1 percent of the problem. We have to get other states and other nations on a similar path forward, and that is enormously difficult, because it requires different jurisdictions, different political values to unite around this one challenge of making a sustainable future."

Brown was protested outside the museum by about 30 activists opposed to the Brown administration's permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial form of oil extraction. The activists, who have dogged Brown at public appearances since last year, marched on the sidewalk and chanted, "Climate leaders don't frack!"

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democratic Party's convention on March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Associated Press/ Jae C. Hong

May 19, 2014
Source of money to help California tribes, other programs almost empty

The state fund that helps provide a lifeline to dozens of poor tribes is almost tapped out, the Legislative Analyst's Office said in a new report, which notes that the state has no plan to cover the costs.

Created by the law that legalized Las Vegas-style gambling on tribal lands, the special distribution fund has paid for gambling regulators, problem gambling programs and local grants to help communities deal with casino impacts. It also subsidizes a separate fund that pays tribes who only have small casinos or no casinos at all.

But after running large surpluses a decade ago, the fund has spent much more than it's taken in since the late 2000's. That's when several large tribes started making revenue-sharing payments to California's general fund instead of paying into the distribution fund.

The distribution fund is on track to be empty by the end of June 2015, the LAO reported. There are no easy fixes — ultimately, the analyst said, lawmakers might have to tap the state's general fund to pay for programs now covered by the distribution fund.

Other possible solutions include crafting future tribal casino deals that provide more money for poor tribes and requiring tribes to negotiate casino-mitigation agreements with surrounding communities, the analyst said.

PHOTO: Dealers practice before the opening of the 340,000-square-foot Graton Casino & Resort in October 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

May 19, 2014
Bonnie Garcia's campaign blasts GOP rival for 'oldest profession' link


Republican Bonnie Garcia's campaign denounced a comment attributed to Jeff Stone, saying the GOP rival in Riverside County's 28th Senate District is equating her fundraising efforts to prostitution.

Stone and fellow Republican candidate Glenn Miller teamed up last week to condemn the influx of money to support Garcia in the GOP-dominated district. Among the contributors is moderate Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford physicist whose Spirit of Democracy California committee has spent more than $300,000 on behalf of Garcia, a former assemblywoman from Cathedral City.

"Ronald Reagan once said: 'Politics is the second oldest profession, although it bears a close resemblance to the first,'" Stone said in the news release. Prostitution is often called the oldest profession. "We can see this now first hand in this election."

Garcia strategist Matt Rexroad said Stone's critique goes too far.

"They basically call Bonnie Garcia a whore," Rexroad told The Bee.

"This is politics at the worst, and should be denounced by any group that wants to see women elected to office at any level," he added.

Stone's campaign rejected the link.

"Those are their words, not ours," Dave Gilliard said. But he stuck by the campaign's assertions that Garcia would represent the interests of her financial supporters.

Stone and Miller charged Garcia with cozying up to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by supporting the state budget to receive an appointment to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

"She is selling out her votes – like she has done in the past – in order to fund her campaign," Gilliard said.

The rivalry between Garcia, a former lawmaker, and Stone, a county supervisor, has grown more personal as the June 3 primary nears. Each has accused the other of ethical lapses.

While there are two Democrats in race, new election rules allow the pair of Republicans to prolong the competition by advancing to the general election in November.

This isn't Munger's first foray into Riverside County politics. In late 2012, Munger largely bankrolled a Republican voter registration effort meant to help GOP candidates in the county.

PHOTO: Ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger explains tape-recorded remarks about Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia at a news conference in 2006. Schwarzenegger apologized for saying during a closed-door meeting that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are temperamental because of their combination of "black blood" and "Latino blood." Garcia said she was not offended by the governor's comments. AP/Reed Saxon

May 19, 2014
Senate approves bill to halve gifts to lawmakers

deleonethics.JPGThe California Senate on Monday advanced a measure to crack down on special-interest gifts to lawmakers.

The upper house unanimously passed Senate Bill 1443. It would reduce the value of gifts officials can receive from a single source to $200 from the current $440.

Sen. Kevin de León, the author of the measure, said it amounted to one of the most significant reforms since passage of the Political Reform Act of 1974. It follows federal corruption charges against Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and a record fine by the state ethics watchdog against lobbyist Kevin Sloat for hosting fundraisers at his Sacramento home.

De León's bill would ban all gifts from lobbyists (they currently can give a gift of up to $10 a month to each elected official), and prohibit elected officials from accepting certain gifts that the author believes lack legislative merit. Such gifts include tickets to concerts, sports venues and amusement parks; spa services and rounds of golf; cash and gift cards.

The bill is part of a package of proposed changes that, among other things, would ban campaign fundraisers at lobbyists' homes and require fundraising committees to file campaign finance reports four times a year.

PHOTO: Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, talks about the proposed California Accountability in Public Service Act during a Capitol news conference where he and other Democratic lawmakers announced a package of bills intended to impose new rules on public officials, on March 6, 2014. At right is State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and at left is Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. The Sacramento Bee/ Renée C. Byer

May 19, 2014
Moody's praises California for rainy-day fund proposal


Lawmakers' passage of "rainy-day fund" legislation championed by Gov. Jerry Brown won plaudits Monday from Moody's Investors Service, a major credit rating house.

"This credit positive development reflects the new emphasis that California...places on building reserve to cushion its finances from economic downturns," Moody's says in its periodic bulletin on credit trends.

The bulletin, echoing Brown's words, notes that California has had many more deficit budgets in recent years than positively balanced ones, citing the state's historic tendency to spend windfall revenues rather than save them.

The reserve fund would absorb some state revenues and make them available during an economic downturn. Last week's measure, ACA 1 in the second extraordinary session, was approved overwhelmingly by the Legislature, but still must be ratified by voters in November. Moody's current credit rating for California is A1 stable.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez appear before the Assembly Budget Committee on April 28 to talk about ACA 1 in the second extraordinary session.

May 19, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown discusses California climate change response

Brown_climate_change.jpgGov. Jerry Brown will discuss California's response to climate change during an all-day forum hosted by the University of California's Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. The event, which will explore the impact of climate change on the state's agriculture and natural resources, begins at 8:30 a.m. at the California Museum on O Street and Brown is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m.

Brown has made climate change a focus of his administration, calling it the greatest threat to young people's future and pushing for the reduction of greenhouse gases during his trip to China last year.

But he has also drawn the ire of environmentalists for backing hydraulic fracturing, the controversial procedure for mining fossil fuels. Brown was loudly protested during his speech at the California Democratic Party convention in March.

Brown has defended his position as a way to secure broad support, including from the oil industry, for reducing the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. "I'm kind of a missionary here," he said during an appearance in March.

VIDEO: A ballot measure to raise the cap on medical malpractice damages is the culmination of a decades-long, big-money battle, Dan Walters says.

IMMIGRANT DAY: Immigrants from across the state and their supporters from the California Immigrant Policy Center gather at the Capitol today to lobby for bills that would expand health care to undocumented immigrants and lower the cost of phone calls at local jails. A rally at 10 a.m. on the west steps includes Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward.

UTILITY DIVERSITY: The Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee holds an oversight hearing on increasing diversity within California's energy industry, particularly in board, executive and management positions, 3 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

HEALTH CARE UPDATE: Now that the first year of open enrollment for the health care exchange has ended, the focus shifts to implementing the program. How is it going in California? The Public Policy Institute of California hosts a discussions with state Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley and others, noon at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel on J Street.

LAST CALL: If you want to vote in the primary election on June 3 and have not yet registered, today is the deadline. Head over to for online voter registration.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who turns 64 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown gives opening remarks at the Governor's Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California's Future at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Dec. 15, 2011. The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

May 19, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Medical malpractice initiative promises big-money battle

MICRA.JPGA ballot measure to raise the cap on medical malpractice damages is the culmination of a decades-long, big-money battle, 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: This West Sacramento billboard launched this year's fight to overturn a state law capping pain-and-suffering damages in medical negligence cases. Courtesy of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group.


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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