Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 28, 2014
Tom McClintock snags endorsement of California Republican Party

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Northern California Rep. Tom McClintock was endorsed Wednesday night by the California Republican Party, an unconventional step initiated by party activists after the conservative icon drew an intraparty challenger.

State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte announced the unanimous decision at the end of a telephone meeting in which McClintock pressed for the endorsement and his Republican rival, Art Moore, urged the state party board to remain neutral.

McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and a veteran of state politics, said he's devoted his life to the party's principles and to electing Republicans to office. He said he's contributed more than $700,000 to the party and GOP candidates over the last five years and has the support of party leaders from Washington, D.C. to Tuolumne County. Endorsements from groups as diverse as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the tea-party aligned FreedomWorks PAC demonstrate that there is no rift in the party's ranks over his candidacy, he said.

"The press is desperately trying to portray this as a Republican civil war. They want this party to be divided in the November election with the focus on Republicans fighting Republicans instead of all of us uniting behind our candidates," McClintock said by phone Wednesday. "But this is not a Republican civil war."

The California GOP has made it tougher of late for candidates to get its endorsement over fellow Republicans. California Democrats, on the other hand, have a regular process in which the party wades into contested intraparty races.

McClintock, who was elected to Congress in 2008, seemed poised to easily win another term this fall. But after Moore, a businessman and military veteran, entered the race on the day of the filing deadline, 10 county central committees across the massive district informed Brulte that there was widespread support for McClintock.

Many of the activists from Placer and El Dorado counties took issue with the 36-year-old political newcomer's attacks on their congressman. Moore, who grew up in the region, assailed his rival for living outside the Roseville-centered district and for accepting a taxpayer-funded pension despite refusing to do so in the past.

McClintock has hit back at Moore for never voting in an election. Later, he sent a mailer that contrasted his positions with independent Jeffrey Gerlach. Democratic activists who saw Moore as their best shot at taking out the incumbent were furious, accusing McClintock of trying to slyly boost Gerlach's standing given his pledge not to spend more than $5,000 in the primary.

GOP constituents from the 4th Congressional District thanked Moore for his military service – with at least one suggesting that they would consider supporting him in another race – but they questioned the wisdom of taking on a solid Republican.

On Wednesday, Moore said he believes the competition he would provide should he advance to the general election in November would be healthy for the party. Regardless of who wins, the 4th district will remain in the hands of Republicans, he noted.

"If I win, there is going to be a Republican who will bring a new set of skills to Congress, who will be a team player, and who will work hard with Chairman Brulte and Kevin McCarthy to fundraise and help other Republicans get elected," Moore said. "And if Tom wins, we all know what he brings to the table."

PHOTO: Rep. Tom McClintock at a November 2009 hearing on Capitol Hill. Abaca Press/Olivier Douliery.

May 28, 2014
Fracking moratorium dies in California Senate

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An effort to halt the oil extraction process known as fracking failed in the California Senate as lawmakers rejected a bill that would have banned the practice until a state-commissioned study proves it is safe.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, argued that her measure amounted to hitting "pause" on an oil extraction method that has raised concerns among environmentalists as it's become more common in California and across the nation. Opponents argued that Senate Bill 1132 didn't make sense because California passed a law last year to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Abandoning the practice, they said, would cause some people to lose their jobs.

Mitchell's bill failed when four business-friendly Democrats voted against it and three more Democrats withheld their votes. Its defeat illustrates the influence big business has on moderate Democrats in the California Legislature. Some of the same lawmakers also cast swing votes in the Senate Wednesday that killed bills to limit evictions in San Francisco and require the labeling of genetically-modified foods.

SB 1132 is eligible for reconsideration Thursday.

PHOTO: Fracking wells run day and night near Jack and Shafter roads in Shafter on June 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/José Luis Villegas.

May 28, 2014
California lawmakers reject bill to label GMO foods

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California lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a proposal to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients despite calls from advocates who say consumers should know when they're buying food that has been bioengineered.

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said her measure would have added California to the 64 countries around the world that have laws requiring labeling on genetically-engineered foods. Senate Bill 1381 would allow people who are concerned about their diets to have more information about what they eat, she said.

Opponents of GMO labeling – including major growers and biotech companies – have argued that genetic engineering is safe and labels are not necessary. The process is so common with certain crops, opponents argue, that labels would be required on most packaged food that is not organic. Most of the corn, sugar beets and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically engineered, and those commodities make their way into many common foods.

Evans' bill was supported by organic farmers and environmental organizations, and opposed by major business interests, including grocers, retailers, chambers of commerce and non-organic growers. The same interests engaged in a multi-million dollar battle in California in November 2012 when voters rejected Proposition 37 to label genetically-engineered foods.

Evans' bill fell two votes short of passage in the 40-member Senate. The measure is eligible for reconsideration Thursday.

PHOTO: Dr. Eduardo Blumwald holds genetically modified rice in a greenhouse at UC Davis in March 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

May 28, 2014
Tim Donnelly phones in to Andrew Tahmooressi rally

donnellypunjabi.jpgWhen Tim Donnelly was asked at a debate this month about the plight of a Marine Corps veteran jailed in Mexico on a gun matter, Donnelly said if he was governor he would go to the border to lobby for the American's release.

"We need to make a lot of noise," Donnelly said, "and if I was the governor of the state of California, I would have taken a helicopter, and I would be landing on the border and holding a protest and demanding that they free our Marine."

On Wednesday, Donnelly said on Twitter that he called in to just such a rally, in San Ysidro, south of San Diego. He lacked the imprimatur of the governor's office but took the opportunity to make noise.

"Just spoke via phone at the SD protest rally demanding his release!" Donnelly wrote. "Let us not rest until he is home! Godspeed."

The controversy surrounding the incarceration of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi involves not only a border crossing but carrying guns where they are not allowed. Donnelly knows something about that: The former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project is on probation for carrying a loaded firearm into Ontario International Airport in 2012.

Tahmooressi said he mistakenly crossed the border when he made a wrong turn, according to the UT San Diego. Donnelly said he forgot he had the gun in his carry-on.

For the purposes of the governor's race, Donnelly has said his gun case will only help him with Second Amendment advocates. And with rival Neel Kashkari closing on him in public opinion polls less than a week before the June 3 primary election, the opportunity to remind voters of his credentials may not hurt, either.

PHOTO: Tim Donnelly campaigns at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City on May 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 28, 2014
Senate Dems push for spending on mentally ill criminals

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As budget negotiations reach their final weeks in the state Capitol, state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is pressing for more spending to treat mental illness among inmates and people being released from prison, arguing that the proposals will reduce prison crowding and promote public safety.

The proposals by Senate Democrats to spend $132 million on reducing recidivism among mentally ill offenders are based on suggestions by professors at Stanford Law School, who studied the proliferation of mental illness within California's prison population. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed $91 million in spending.

The Senate Democrats' package comes as lawmakers respond to Friday's rampage near UC Santa Barbara in which a disturbed student killed six people and injured 13 in a spree of stabbing and shooting.

"These proposals finalized earlier this month are now cast under a different light than any of us had originally planned," Steinberg said during a press conference Wednesday. "It's a cruel and of course sad coincidence that the significance of one proposal – to improve training among front line law enforcement to recognize the warning signs of mental illness – was illustrated by a gun rampage in Santa Barbara County."

The proposals from Senate Democrats include:

* $12 million to train law enforcement officers and $24 million to train prison employees in dealing with people who are mentally ill
* $25 million to expand re-entry programs for mentally ill offenders
* $20 million to help parolees by providing case managers to make sure they get treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse
* $20 million to expand so-called mental health courts that manage offenders who are mentally ill or addicted to drugs
* $50 million to re-establish a grant program for counties offering substance abuse treatment, job training or other programs to help mentally ill offenders after they're released from prison

Steinberg touted the $50 million grant program back in December – this video describes the proposal.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, gestures during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

VIDEO: The Sacramento Bee/Daniel Rothberg

May 28, 2014
California Republicans are shrinking. Here's where:

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California Republicans are a shrinking group. But where are they diminishing fastest?

The Bee's data expert takes a county-by-county look at Republicans' share of registered voters.

Traditionally Democratic areas like San Francisco and Marin counties saw the largest proportional drop in Republican voters, writes Phillip Reese. No county in the state is now majority Republican. Only two small counties – Lassen and Modoc – increased the proportion of voters registered as Republicans over the last decade.

Read the post and check out the map for yourself here.

PHOTO: President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan at the Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Mitch Toll

May 28, 2014
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May 28, 2014
AM Alert: After shooting, Senate Dems introduce mental health legislation

IslaVista.JPGMeeting for the first time since the mass shooting that shook Santa Barbara over the weekend, Democratic lawmakers yesterday called for new efforts to keep mentally ill people from obtaining guns.

First up is a package of bills and budget proposals from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to address mental healthcare in California's criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety. Steinberg will be joined by Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Jim Beall, D-San Jose, to present the legislation at 11 a.m. in Room 211 of the Capitol.

Steinberg said he was planning to introduce the legislation regardless of the events in Isla Vista, where six students were killed and another 13 were injured Friday night, but the incident creates new urgency for the conversation. Among the package is a proposal to strengthen statewide protocols to help law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.

VIDEO: As deadlines loom, the Legislature becomes more of a sausage factory than a deliberative body, Dan Walters says.

BAD BEHAVIOR: In response to a scandal-plagued year that has led to the suspension of three senators, Senate Republicans will introduce a package of legislation aimed at preventing ethics abuses, noon in the office of Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. The bills will focus on closing campaign finance loopholes, toughening reporting requirements, preventing the use of campaign funds for criminal defense and increasing penalties for lawmakers who accept bribes.

GOING UNDER: Rising sea levels and storm surges create a flood risk for nearly 3,500 miles of California roadways and 280 miles of rail lines, according to the California Energy Commission. As part of its annual update of the state's Integrated Energy Policy Report, the commission will conduct a workshop on this and other potential threats of climate change to the state's transportation system, 3 p.m. at the California Energy Commission building on 9th Street.

WIC-KED AWESOME: In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the California WIC Assocation sponsors a health fair and picnic at noon on the west steps of the Capitol.

ALL TOGETHER NOW: The California Financing Coordinating Committee, which helps arrange financing for public-works projects, holds a funding fair about available grants for drinking water, energy efficiency, flood management and other projects, 8:30 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street.

DROUGHT WARRIOR: Last December, Gov. Jerry Brown convened an interagency task force to review the state's water allocations and drought preparedness. California's food and agriculture secretary, Karen Ross, who is leading the task force, will discuss the impacts of the drought and possible solutions during a speaking engagement at Santa Clara University at noon.

PHOTO: State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who represents the community of Isla Vista where six young people were killed on May 23, leads senators in a moment of silence in their memory, at the Capitol on May 27, 2014. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

May 28, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Legislative 'crunch week' instructive for public

last_day.JPGWith hundreds of bills facing a Friday deadline, the Legislature resembles more a sausage factory than a deliberative body, 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: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, center right, celebrates with Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva on the Assembly floor during the last day of the legislative session on September 12, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer



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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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