Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

June 30, 2014
Yee edges out Pérez in state controller's race


A month after the primary election, Democrat Betty Yee finished 484 votes ahead of John A. Pérez for second-place in the state controller's race, officials announced Monday.

Lake County Registrar Diane Fridley used nearly all of her allotted 28 days to certify the results in the down-ballot contest that sparked a daily ritual of political junkies refreshing their web browsers.

Republican Ashley Swearengin secured a first-place finish to advance to the general election in November. Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, had dropped from second to third to fourth place and then back into second in the see-saw battle with Pérez, the former Assembly speaker.

The latest tally Monday had Yee at 878,191 votes and Pérez at 877,707.

Many are predicting the exceedingly close margin would spur one or both of the candidates to request a costly and time-consuming statewide recount. There were just 23 recounts out of 4,100 statewide elections nationwide from 2000 to 2013.

PHOTO: Betty Yee. Photo courtesy, Board of Equalization.

June 30, 2014
California Senate approves $305,900 for wrongfully convicted man

MC_DELEON_06.JPGThe California Senate on Monday approved paying $305,900 to a man who was imprisoned for a decade after being wrongfully convicted of murder.

The payment spelled out in Senate Bill 1031 is the latest twist in the tale of Mario Rocha, who was convicted along with two others of killing Martin Aceves at a party in Los Angeles in 1996. Rocha was sentenced to 29 years to life in prison. He filed numerous challenges while in prison and in late 2005 a Court of Appeals ruled that Rocha should be set free because he had had ineffective legal representation. In 2008, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office dismissed the charges against him.

"Mario was wrongly convicted at the age of 16 of participating in a gang shooting even though he was never in a gang. Mario spent 10 years in California juvenile justice system as well as our correctional facilities, our prison system," Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in presenting the bill on the Senate floor.

"He proved by the preponderance of the evidence that he did not commit the crimes of murder or attempted murder."

Rocha filed a claim against the state for the wrongful conviction. The $305,900 proposed payment reflects the state's standard for paying wrongfully convicted people $100 per day they are imprisoned after they are convicted.

The Senate voted 27-3 to approve the payment, with Republican Sens. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte and Anthony Cannella of Ceres voting with majority Democrats. The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

De León said Rocha is finishing up his degree at George Washington University. The Washington Post wrote this profile of him beginning his studies there in 2009.

PHOTO: Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles at the Senate Chambers at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday June 10, 2013. The Sacramento/Manny Crisostomo

June 30, 2014
Looming California laws address abortion, campaigns, state workers


Abortion providers, gun owners, state job applicants and school budget chiefs will be among those affected by a wave of California laws kicking in on Tuesday.

Bills signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown typically become effective the following Jan. 1. But implementation of all or part of some laws is delayed, often to July 1.

Leading the list of late-blooming legislation is a measure pushing California's minimum wage to $9 an hour starting Tuesday. Other measures are less heralded. Among the coming changes:

Family leave -- The universe of eligible family members will expand to allow Californians to take paid time off to care for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law, under Senate Bill 770.

Job applicants -- State and local agencies will be unable to ask about an applicant's criminal history until later in the process. Assembly Bill 218 seeks to prevent discrimination against job applicants with past violations and came after The Bee reported the state hired an employee who had served a two-year term for embezzlement.

June 30, 2014
California's Ted Gaines fights for Tesla factory on trip to Texas


The turf war with Texas over one of California's glitziest businesses continued Monday as Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines tried to fend off the Lone Star State's efforts to recruit Tesla to build a factory there.

His shtick? Appearing in front of the state Capitol in Austin with a cardboard cut-out of the luxury electric car.

"A few weeks ago, Governor (Rick) Perry drove up to our Capitol in a Tesla. I was planning to do the same thing here in the spirit of healthy competition but it was impossible to even get a Tesla in Texas," Gaines said in a statement.

"That's not the case in California. They are already everywhere. I look forward to their expansion in my state and seeing them driven all over the country soon."

Gaines, a Republican from Roseville, and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, are carrying legislation to try to lure Tesla to build its factory in California, arguing that the plant would create 6,500 new jobs. Senate Bill 1309 declares the Legislature's intent to "utilize financial incentives, changes to regulatory and environmental processes, and other possible tools to expedite construction in California," according to Gaines' statement.

Gaines, who is challenging Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones in the Nov. 4 election, has been posting updates from his trip to Austin on Twitter. One picture showed him surrounded by Texas news media, and a "selfie" in front of the lush grounds at the Texas Capitol noted, "they even water their lawn!" The grass outside California's Capitol, by contrast, is looking pretty yellow these days with watering cut back due to the drought.

PHOTO: With the Texas Capitol looming, Sen. Ted Gaines, left, talks with the media in Austin. Photo by Brent Lowder.

June 30, 2014
California's huge 65-plus population poised for big growth

senior.JPGThanks to high birth and immigration rates over the last several decades, California has one of the nation's lowest proportions of over-65 residents - but it also has one of its higher elderly growth rates, a new Census Bureau report reveals.

With sharp decreases in birth and immigration rates in recent years and the aging of the huge baby boomer cohort, the report implies, California is poised for a big increase in its elder population, which is already the nation's largest.

The state Department of Finance's demographers have projected that California's over-65 population, 4.2 million in 2010, will rise to more than 6 million by 2020 and double to 8.4 million by 2030. And with the elder population growing much more rapidly than the state as a whole, it would rise from 11.4 percent of Californians in 2010 to nearly 19 percent in 2030.

At 11.4 percent in 2010, California's 65-plus population was tied with that of Washington, D.C., for sixth lowest. Alaska had the lowest proportion at 7.7 percent, followed by 9 percent in Utah, 10.3 percent in Texas, 10.7 percent in Georgia and 10.9 percent in Colorado.

However, the state had one of the nation's faster growing 65-plus populations between 2000 and 2010 in a bloc of mostly Western states recording growth rates in the 15 percent to 29.9 percent range.

Numerically, California's 4.2 million over-65 residents in 2000 was by far the nation's largest such population, followed by Florida's 3.3 million, but Florida had the highest proportion, 17.3 percent.

California also had the largest populations of 65-plus Latinos, 748,879; Asians, 561,229; and Native Americans, 26,804. Its over-65 population of African Americans, 224,133, was third highest behind New York and Florida

PHOTO: Eleanor Mitchell does some balance exercises during a fall prevention workshop at Kiwanis House in Sacramento on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

June 30, 2014
AM Alert: Campus sexual assault in spotlight at hearing

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Title_IX_complaint.JPGOver the last several years, the issue of sexual violence on college campuses has risen to national prominence as students at dozens of schools filed federal complaints alleging that their institutions mishandled sexual assault cases in violation of Title IX, the anti-sex discrimination law.

Fifty-five universities are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, including UC Berkeley, where a group of students and alumni filed a complaint in February arguing that the school had created a hostile environment for female students.

Last week, the state auditor concluded that California's public universities are not adequately training all of their employees on how to handle incidents of sexual violence and should do more to educate students as well.

California is grappling with how to respond. In March, University of California updated its sexual violence and harassment policy to expand protections for victims and increase reporting requirements. A bill from state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would set an "affirmative consent" standard for campus sexual assault investigations.

The Assembly Higher Education Committee and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee will examine those efforts during a joint oversight hearing at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. The hearing will explore whether California's institutions are meeting their obligations to comply with Title IX and protect students. Several universities and colleges will share how they are responding to sexual assault on their campuses.

VIDEO: Two efforts to get bond measures on the November ballot complicate Gov. Jerry Brown's campaign platform of fiscal responsibility, Dan Walters says.

EASTWARD HO: And the California-Texas rivalry grows. Following Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Tesla-fied visit to Sacramento in early June, state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, is headed east to promote California as the premier destination for business development. He will be at the Texas State Capitol in Austin this morning to discuss plans to win the proposed Tesla battery factory for California and to learn more about Texas' business climate.

WE SHALL OVERCOME: In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act, state Attorney General Kamala Harris hosts a celebration at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles at 11 a.m. The Civil Rights Act, which ended legal discrimination and segregation in voting, education and public facilities, was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964.

DOWN IN THE VALLEY: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is commemorating another anniversary important to California: 150 years since the land grant bestowing Yosemite National Park. The ceremony, 10 a.m. at the park's Mariposa Grove, will feature the groundbreaking of a $36-million restoration project for the grove of giant sequoias. Local congressmen Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and Jim Costa, D-Fresno, are also slated to attend.


California bill would set 'affirmative consent' standard for campus sexual assault investigations

UC Berkeley students file complaint on campus sex assaults

University of California updates sexual violence policy

Auditor: Sexual violence training lacking at California universities

PHOTO: UC Berkeley students Shannon Thomas, 21, left, and Sofie Karasek, 20, embrace after a press conference at UC Berkeley on Feb. 26, 2014. Thirty-one female students have filed two federal complaints against the university, alleging that they've violated Title IX anti-discrimination laws by failing to protect them against sexual assaults. Bay Area News Group/Jane Tyska

June 30, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Bond efforts at odds with Brown's image

micsjerrybrown.jpgTwo efforts to place bond measures on the November ballot complicate Gov. Jerry Brown's campaign platform of fiscal responsibility, Dan says.

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PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims on April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 28, 2014
Jerry Brown keeps gloves off California bartenders, chefs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for brownbudget.JPGThree days before health officers in California were expected to begin enforcing legislation requiring bartenders and chefs to wear gloves when handling ready-to-eat food, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday he has signed a bill repealing the legislation.

The measure reverses legislation Brown signed last year prohibiting retail food employees from handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands. The new legislation instead requires food employees to "minimize" bare hand contact.

The original bill was part of a broader food safety code package approved by lawmakers without opposition. Since the bill was enacted last year, however, many restaurant and bar owners raised objections, saying the rule would require employees to constantly change gloves and could lead them to wash their hands less frequently.

"It didn't sound that dissimilar to the existing law, which said that we should minimize hand contact and that there should be good hand-washing procedures," Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the author of both the original and revised bill, said in February.

After the original legislation passed, Pan said, "we started hearing from local restaurants, smaller restaurants, and also bartenders about the impact it would have on them."
Assembly Bill 2130, the legislation repealing the regulation, passed without opposition, and Brown signed it without comment.

The bill was one of 15 measures Brown announced signing Saturday. Among other bills, he signed Assembly Bill 129, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, legalizing the use of alternative currencies such as Bitcoin.

June 28, 2014
Jerry Brown elevates former aide's position on court

ha_david_siders_jim_humes_2011.JPGTwo years after naming longtime aide Jim Humes to the First District Court of Appeal, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday that he has appointed Humes presiding justice of the court's first division.

Humes, 54, of San Francisco, was an executive secretary to Brown in the governor's office and was chief deputy attorney general when Brown was attorney general. He will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James Marchiano, the governor's office said.

Humes is the first openly gay justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal.

The appointment was one of six judicial appointments announced Saturday, including two on the First District Court of Appeal.

Other than Humes, Brown named Therese Stewart, chief deputy city attorney in San Francisco, to the court's second division. She argued on behalf of San Francisco in litigation against Proposition 8, California's now-invalidated same-sex marriage ban, the governor's office said.

Like Brown, both Humes and Stewart are Democrats.

The appointments both fill vacancies created by retirements, Brown's office said. The pay for each position is $207,463 a year. The positions require confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

PHOTO: Jim Humes, right, talks to Bee reporter David Siders in January 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2011.

June 27, 2014
UC system reviewing employee use of Lyft, Airbnb

uber.JPGAs lawmakers and regulators work to create rules for an emerging sharing economy, the University of California system is grappling with its own set of safety and liability concerns when employees use popular services like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

It appeared earlier this week that the system had banned its staff from using the online-based services after a UCLA administrator emailed top campus officials a notice that the university was prohibiting such tools while traveling on business. The decision from the UC general counsel was prompted by "concerns that these services are not fully regulated and do not protect users to the same extent as a commercially regulated business," the email said.

After media reports and criticism, UC President Janet Napolitano's office clarified the policy. The services are allowed, the university told employees in a follow-up email on Thursday, but under review.

"We are actively seeking ways to overcome potential liability and safety concerns and would like to work proactively with companies such as (Lyft, Uber and Airbnb]) to get everyone to a point of complete comfort with the risks involved," the second email said.

The UC move comes at a time when state officials are considering new insurance requirements for ride-sharing services, including Uber and Lyft. Several cities, including San Francisco, have also taken steps to regulate Airbnb, an online marketplace for posting and finding rental housing.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a vocal supporter of ride-sharing and a UC regent, criticized the reported ban in a letter to Napolitano on Thursday. Newsom said he recognizes "legitimate regulatory questions" about the sharing economy, but warned that a ban could result in higher costs and would send an anti-innovation message.

"Sharing economy companies offer consumers more choices at often less cost than comparable services offered by traditional vendors," Newsom wrote. "This decision also sends an unfortunate message to UC students, faculty and countless Californians who are striving to create the next generation of innovative businesses and technologies."

PHOTO: A Lyft passenger steps into a car in San Francisco. Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

June 27, 2014
FPPC rejects Tuck ethics complaint against teachers union

Marshall_Tuck.JPGThe state's political ethics enforcement agency has rejected a complaint filed by state superintendent of public instruction challenger Marshall Tuck against the California Teachers Association for a series of television ads supporting incumbent Tom Torlakson.

Tuck filed the ethics complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission in late May, charging that the CTA had misleadingly characterized the ads as "issue advocacy" rather than a campaign expenditure. The spots applaud Torlakson's work as state schools chief and encourage viewers to "tell Tom Torlakson to keep fighting" for local control of school funding decisions and career training,

FPPC regulations specify that any political spending to influence voters for or against a particular candidate qualifies as an expenditure, but among the exceptions is spending "urging the public to adopt a particular position and to contact the candidate with respect to the matter or issue."

"After review of your complaint and the evidence obtained, we found no violation of the Political Reform Act," Gary Winuk, FPPC's chief enforcement officer, wrote in a letter to Tuck. "Although the television commercials occurred fairly close to the election, the commercials did not expressly advocate the election of a candidate at the June Primary."

Tuck spokeswoman Cynara Lilly disagreed with the ruling.

"Regardless of what the FPPC ruling says on a technicality, it's clear that the television commercials violated the spirit of the law," she said. "It's still part of a broader effort that CTA is doing to buy the election and influence the election for their chosen candidates."

In an e-mail, CTA spokeswoman Becky Zoglman said the decision was not a surprise.

"The ads were clearly advocating on issues important to students and public schools and the complaint was clearly a campaign gimmick by Tuck," she wrote. "We hope he will stop wasting taxpayer money by filing such baseless complaints in his fall campaign."

Tuck and Torlakson have been locked in a costly and ideologically charged race for state superintendent. During the primary cycle, it attracted more outside spending than any other race in the state--more than $4 million from CTA and Los Angeles businessman Bill Bloomfield, among others.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Marshall Tuck

June 27, 2014
PPIC study says realignment has not reduced recidivism rate

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CaliforniaPrisonsRealignment.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's "realignment" of criminal justice procedures, aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons by diverting more felons into local jails and probation, has not resulted in lower rates of new criminal activity among offenders, a study by the Public Policy Institute of California concludes.

New offenses by those released from custody are known as "recidivism" and putting felons under local control was supposed to include more drug treatment and other programs to reduce their criminal activity.

However, the PPIC study concludes, "We find that the post-realignment period has not seen dramatic changes in arrests or convictions of released offenders. In the context of realignment's broad reforms to the corrections system, our findings suggest that offender behavior has not changed substantially."

"Overall arrest rates of released offenders are down slightly, with the proportion of those arrested within a year of release declining by two percentage points," the authors of the study, Magnus Lofstrom, Steven Raphael, and Ryken Grattet, continue. "At the same time, the proportion of those arrested multiple times has increased noticeably, by about seven percentage points. These higher multiple arrest rates may reflect the substantial increase in the time that released offenders spend on the streets--a result of counties' limited jail capacity."

June 27, 2014
Californians cope with nation's highest housing cost burdens

Housing.JPGExcept for those living in the state's most remote rural areas, Californians must contend with the nation's highest housing costs, both rental and ownership, relative to their incomes, a new nationwide study by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies reveals.

The massive report underscores a Census Bureau conclusion that when the cost of living, particularly housing, is included, California has the nation's highest rate of poverty, with nearly a quarter of its residents impoverished.

The Los Angeles-Orange County region has the nation's highest "cost burden" among all large and small metropolitan areas, with just under half of its households -- 2.1 million -- struggling to maintain housing, and half of those having "severe cost burdens." The reason for that ranking is that the region's residents have only moderate personal incomes but must shoulder relatively high housing costs.

Conversely, San Franciscans have higher housing costs than Angelenos, but their incomes are much higher, proportionately, so the San Francisco-Oakland area is No. 32 on the housing burden list with 42.7 percent of its households having "cost burdens."

California's other coastal regions join Los Angeles-Orange with relatively high housing cost burdens among 381 large metropolitan areas nationwide. San Diego is No. 5, San Bernardino-Riverside is No. 6, Fresno is No. 8, Monterey-Salinas is No. 9, Oxnard-Ventura is No. 10 and Santa Barbara is No. 11.

New York-New Jersey is No. 7, incidentally, while Miami is No. 3.

Most of California's semi-rural smaller regions also rank high on the housing burden lists. Lake County is tied for No. 1 in the nation with 47.3 percent of its households feeling a "cost burden."

Updated at 11:54 a.m. with Lake County data.

PHOTO:Jon Ward and Jose Hernandez construct a roof on a home on the corner of Barcella Dr. and Caneria Way at The Ranch Madeira subdivision on May 22, 2013 in Elk Grove. The Sacramento Bee/ Jose Luis Villegas

June 27, 2014
AM Alert: Voter approval of Legislature trending down again

Assembly_chamber.JPGA steady increase in the Legislature's approval rating over the past two years sharply reversed course this spring, a new Field Poll shows.

Only 35 percent of California voters now view the Legislature favorably, down 8 percentage points from early April. Disapproval ticked up slightly to 47 percent.

Respondents in the April poll almost showed net satisfaction with the Legislature for the first time in over 13 years, marking a huge comeback from the depths of 2010, when fraught budget deliberations nearly pushed lawmakers into single-digit approval.

Then came the news of the corruption scandal involving state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, which immediately swung voter opinion back into the negative. It has continued to slide.

There remains a large partisan divide in views of the Democrat-controlled Legislature, however. Half of Democrats approve of the job lawmakers are doing, while 68 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of independent voters disapprove.

Daniel Rothberg has more in his story from today's paper. Here are the statistical tabulations, prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert, as well as the publicly released results from the poll.

VIDEO: Despite improving state finances, California has one of the worst credit ratings in the country, Dan Walters says.

SCHOOL SPIRIT: How are local educators managing the adoption of new Common Core curriculum standards? Is the program on track to deliver the improved instruction and student performance that were promised? Policy Analysis for California Education holds a day-long conference on the implementation of Common Core in California, starting at 10 a.m. in the Department of General Services Auditorium on Capitol Avenue with a welcome from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD: Effective July 1, a new rule for food trucks will allow vendors to sell their items with the presumption that tax is included in the sales price. Board of Equalization member George Runner discusses the change, which is intended to simplify things at the counter, 11 a.m. at 160 Promenade Circle.

JAILHOUSE ROCK: California has had one of the highest recidivism rates in the country for more than a decade, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Research fellow Magnus Lofstrom presents his findings on recidivism trends in the state, in the context of changes to the corrections system, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

ETERNAL FLAME: The Law Enforcement Torch Run team, carrying the Special Olympics Flame of Hope, stops by the west steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. on its way to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Northern California Summer Games, which begins at 7 p.m. at UC Davis.

CELEBRATIONS: An early happy birthday to state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who turns 64 tomorrow. Best wishes to two Sunday celebrants, as well: Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, will be 40, and Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, turns 37.

PHOTO: Twenty-eight of the new Assembly Members undergo orientation inside the Assembly Chambers on Nov. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

June 27, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: California credit rating uptick is only small step

capital_gains.JPGDespite improving state finances, California still has one of the worst credit ratings in the country, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget during a press conference at the state Capitol on May 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 26, 2014
Measure to reduce sentences for theft, drugs on California ballot

An initiative to reduce crimes such as drug possession and receiving stolen property from felonies to misdemeanors - and to use the savings for mental health and drug treatment programs - has qualified for the ballot in November, the secretary of state announced Thursday.

The push by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne would require misdemeanor sentences for petty theft and writing bad checks of $950 or less. It would require resentencing for those serving time for such nonviolent felonies unless the court finds it a risk to public safety.

Through March, proponents' "Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools" committee had raised $1.3 million and spent just over $1 million, including $938,000 on signature gathering.

The top contributors through March were the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, a New York-based charity established by billionaire Charles Feeney that gave $600,000, and businessman B. Wayne Hughes Jr., who gave $250,000.

The initiative comes two years after voters passed a measure to roll back the three strikes law by imposing life sentences only when new felony convictions are serious or violent. The latest effort still allows for felony sentences if the person was previously convicted of rape, murder or child molestation, or was required to register as a sex offender.

Budget analysts predict the measure could save hundreds of millions in annual court and criminal justice costs that could go to truancy prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment and victim services.

PHOTO: San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, right and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, left, smile during a news conference in front of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco on May 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

June 26, 2014
Audit slams community college accreditation process

Los_Rios.JPGAn inconsistent application of sanctions and a lack of transparency are weakening the accreditation of California's community colleges, according to a state audit released Thursday.

State Auditor Elaine Howle criticized the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges for its opaque accreditation process.

The audit was especially critical in the case of City College of San Francisco, which had its accreditation terminated in 2013, one year after the commission questioned its leadership and fiscal planning.

Federal regulations allow institutions up to two years to come into compliance, and the city sued to keep the college open. A judge granted a stay of closure in January, and CCSF has since been given two more years to meet accreditation standards.

June 26, 2014
California school bond measure advances


A multibillion dollar water bond isn't the only borrowing measure that could show up on voters' ballots this fall.

This week, legislation that would place a state school bond before voters Nov. 4 cleared another legislative committee with support from both sides of the aisle.

Yet there remain multiple unknowns about Assembly Bill 2235: the amount of the bond, whether it will get the backing of Gov. Jerry Brown, and if it can be approved in time to make it onto the November ballot. Today is the official deadline for the Legislature to place a measure on the fall ballot, but lawmakers previously have approved November ballot measures much later in the summer.

"Obviously it's not going to be put on the ballot without a dollar amount," Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, the author of AB 2235, told the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Wednesday. "Ultimately, just like with all bonds, we're going to have to have that big pow-wow where everyone comes to an agreement."

Voters have approved about $35 billion in school-construction and modernization bonds since 1998, most recently in 2006, when voters passed $10.4 billion in Proposition 1D. But the pot of construction money set aside for K-12 schools was tapped out about two years ago, and higher education has been without new construction money for even longer.

The State Allocation Board, which oversees the state's school construction and modernization programs, estimated earlier this year that California needs as much as $12 billion in additional school-building money and almost $5 billion in modernization money.

June 26, 2014
AM Alert: Californians doing better, but still not optimistic about economy

credit_card.JPGFor the first time since before the recession, more Californians report being better off than worse off compared to the previous year.

Forty-four percent of registered voters said they are in financially better shape than a year ago, a new Field Poll shows, compared to 28 percent who said they were worse off. That's a huge improvement from 2013, when only 30 percent said they were better off, while 44 percent felt they were worse off.

Nevertheless, a majority of California voters still think the state is in bad economic times overall. Fifty-three percent of poll respondents viewed California's economy negatively, primarily because of the difficulty in finding jobs in their area, while only 25 percent rated it positively.

That represents a 19 percentage point turnaround from last year, when 72 percent of voters described the state as being in bad economic times, and the lowest negative response on the question since 2007.

Christopher Cadelago has more in his story from today's paper. Here are the statistical tabulations, prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert, as well as the publicly released results from the poll.

VIDEO: Lawmakers are scrambling to reach a deal on a new water bond, the state's most confounding and contentious political issue, Dan Walters says.

BY THE LAKE: Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and political observers across the state have been watching the weeks-long vote count in the controller's race with baited breath. With over four million votes cast, Yee, also a Democrat, leads Pérez by a mere 861 votes, with a spot in the November runoff against Republican Ashley Swearengin on the line. Things will move closer to completion this morning, after the Lake County Registrar of Voters processes more than 5,000 vote-by-mail ballots, starting at 9 a.m. Then let the recount talk begin!

GOLDEN BOY: The parade of stars at the Capitol this week continues with Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Oscar De La Hoya. Recently inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, De La Hoya will be honored by state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Pérez for his career accomplishments, which also include 10 world titles, and his charity work. The Senate presentation takes place at 9 a.m., followed by a presentation in the Assembly at 9:30 a.m.

BRIDGE BARRIER: Golden Gate Bridge officials are preparing to meet Friday about approving construction of a $76-million suicide-barrier net. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. at the visitor's plaza on the south end of the bridge to urge officials to act on funding for the project made available in this year's budget.

MEDI-CALIFORNIA LOVE: The Little Hoover Commission, an independent oversight committee for state government operations, holds a public hearing on Medi-Cal, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol. The commission will revisit the recommendations from its 2007 report on transforming Medi-Cal for the future, including increasing its data and analytical capacity, and the progress the state Department of Health Care Services has made in implementing those initiatives.

IMMIGRANT LICENSES: The California Department of Motor Vehicles hosts its second public hearing on proposed regulations for granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, 10 a.m. at the Caltrans building in Oakland. Advocates will once again be there early to protest what they consider to be prohibitively expensive requirements.

DOWN SOUTH: Gov. Jerry Brown continues his trek through San Diego with a visit to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference, where he'll deliver remarks at noon at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Brown will be joined by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, to introduce a keynote address by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.

READ MORE: Recount possibility looms in California controller's race after canvass

PHOTO: Sara Dobbyn buys shoes using Visa credit card from Shoefly, a store in midtown Sacramento, on January 8, 2004. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 26, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Water politics complicate drought response

DroughtFarmer.jpgLawmakers are scrambling to craft a deal on a new water bond, the state's most confounding and contentious political issue, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Farmer Tom Muller walks out to a fallow field at his farm in Woodland on February 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

June 25, 2014
California taxi drivers push regulations for UberX, Lyft

taxi.jpgOne week after drivers for UberX and Lyft gathered at the Capitol opposing efforts to regulate ride-sharing companies, taxi drivers offered a counter-argument Wednesday. A swarm of cabbies drove their taxis around the Capitol, honking their horns and carrying signs that read: "Let's All Play By The Same Rules!"

Many cab drivers oppose Assembly Bill 2293, a measure by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, contending that it doesn't go far enough to strengthen insurance requirements for ride-sharing companies.

Beth Powder, a San Francisco taxi driver who helped organize the rally, said ride-sharing companies should, like cabs, be required to have around-the-clock commercial insurance for their drivers.

"It's not enough," Powder said of Bonilla's bill. "We have to strike a balance. But thus far it's completely unbalanced with people operating willy-nilly without any oversight."

To build support for AB 2293, Bonilla organized a separate press conference that included the family of Sophia Liu, a 6-year-old who was killed by an Uber driver in a San Francisco crosswalk on New Year's Eve. Liu's mother urged lawmakers to pass insurance requirements for ride-sharing ventures, saying the "company needs to be responsible for the harm" they cause.

Debate over the legislation, which cleared the Senate Insurance Committee on Wednesday, centers on how much commercial insurance the ride-sharing companies should be responsible for when their drivers are looking for prospective passengers.

Another regulatory proposal had called for full-time commercial insurance until its author, Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank, removed the language during a hearing last week.

PHOTO: A taxi driver carries a sign during a demonstration calling on legislators to regulate UberX, Lyft and other ride-sharing companies. Daniel Rothberg/Sacramento Bee

VIDEO: Daniel Rothberg/Sacramento Bee

June 25, 2014
Agreement on California business property tax bill blows up


It wasn't exactly a chorus of Kumbaya, but a few weeks ago, two lobbyists who have battled each other for decades over property tax policy sat together at a legislative hearing to praise a compromise bill.

Lenny Goldberg, who represents the California Tax Reform Association, praised the bill, which would alter the circumstances under which commercial property could be reassessed for tax purposes, as a "step forward."

"I get a little nervous sitting here with Rex Hime," Goldberg told the Assembly committee considering Assembly Bill 2372, referring to the president of the California Business Properties Association. "He and I have been at it for many, many years." Hime nodded in agreement.

However, when the bill, having passed the Assembly, reached the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Wednesday, Goldberg pulled his support, saying in a letter to the measure's author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, that it "does not provide real reform" and would allow business owners to escape reassessment with "slightly more sophisticated steps."

Under current law, adopted after Proposition 13 passed in 1978, business property is reassessed only when it changes ownership in one transaction. Goldberg and other critics have argued that it allows business deals to be structured in ways that avoid reassessment, mostly by never having more than 50 percent to be changed in any one transaction.

AB 2372, hammered out in weeks of private negotiations, says that property can be revalued for taxation when 90 percent changes ownership in a three-year period. It's backed by many business organizations as a way of staving off a long-threatened ballot measure that would create a complete "split roll" that treats business and residential property differently for tax purposes.

"We supported it as a means of opening up the discussion which we have always sought," Goldberg said in an email after Wednesday's hearing and committee approval, "but not as meaningful reform.

"Our concern is that, like many bills in the legislature, it projects the image of reform, allowing business to say, 'we closed the loopholes,' rather than the substance, since it in effect grandfathers in the thousands of properties which have changed ownership without reassessment."

Goldberg complained in his letter to Ammiano that his bill's change should apply retroactively to previous transactions that met its qualifications for reassessment. He also complained about amendments on the Assembly floor made after the hearing at which he appeared with Hime.

Goldberg's pullback drives a wedge between him and Ammiano, who has also been a long-standing champion of changing tax assessments on business property. Whether the split is fatal will depend on what happens when the bill hits the Senate Appropriations Committee and, perhaps, the Senate floor.

Were it to fail in those two venues, back in the Assembly or at Gov. Jerry Brown's hands, the long-pending issue might, indeed, find its way onto the ballot in a split roll initiative.

In a related action, the Assembly Revenue and Tax Committee rejected another business property tax bill, one aimed at making it easier to impose higher parcel taxes on commercial property.

The measure, Senate Bill 1021, would allow local school districts to impose higher parcel taxes on business than it did on residential property. Under current law, parcel taxes must be equal amounts on each parcel regardless of size or value.

SB 1021, carried by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, won Senate approval but faced stiff opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, which labeled it a "job killer," and other business groups, leading to rejection in the Assembly committee.

Wolk introduced the bill after a court ruled a differential parcel tax imposed by one school district to be illegal.

PHOTO: Lenny Goldberg is the executive director of the California Tax Reform Association. Photo courtesy of Lenny Goldberg

June 25, 2014
Bill again boosting California minimum wage fails


With multiple Democrats not voting, a California Assembly panel on Wednesday rejected a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage beyond the boost agreed to in 2013.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, repeated the arguments that last year drove lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to approve a bill boosting California's minimum wage to $10 a hour by 2016.

Leno's Senate Bill 935 would build on that, pushing the baseline to $13 an hour in 2017 and then allowing the wage to rise along with the cost of living thereafter.

"If we don't support this bill the outstanding question remains: What are we as the state of California going to do about paying poverty wages?" said Leno, who has called last year's legislation inadequate. "The phenomenon of income inequality and wealth inequality only continues to grow."

Business groups warned that Leno's bill could unhinge a faltering economic recovery and asked lawmakers to wait for last year's legislation to take effect. The hike included in 2013's Assembly Bill 10 kicks in on July 1, raising the minimum wage from $8 to $9.

"It is too much, too soon given that AB 10 is just going into effect next week, and we should allow that bill to implement," said Jennifer Barrera, a lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce.

That argument resonated with some Democrats on the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, the author of last year's minimum wage hike, said Leno's bill would mean reneging on agreements Alejo had made with business interests to not include a cost-of-living adjustment.

"The ink hasn't even dried on AB 10," Alejo said. "You've got to keep your word."

One vote separated the bill from passage. The final tally was 3-2 ( it needed four votes to move on), with Alejo and Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, not voting.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:19 p.m. to include the vote total and the fact that the bill was in the Assembly.

PHOTO: Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 25, 2014
Jerry Brown signs teacher dismissal bill

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation accelerating the teacher firing process in California, his office announced Wednesday.

Brown's action follows a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling this month declaring California's teacher dismissal rules unconstitutional, though the legislation's proponents began working on the issue before the ruling.

Assembly Bill 215, by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, attempts to limit the length of teacher dismissal appeals and contains an accelerated dismissal process for teachers accused of egregious offenses such as molesting children.

Brown signed the bill without comment. The Democratic governor vetoed a similar bill last year, writing in a veto message that he shared a "desire to streamline the teacher discipline process," but that the bill was an imperfect solution.

In a closely-watched decision earlier this month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that the state's rules for teacher tenure and dismissal deprive students of their constitutional right to a quality education, finding "no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently in California classrooms."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

June 25, 2014
Governor's bond plan seeks tunnel neutrality


Water bond politics look poised to dominate the remainder of California's legislative session, with Senate leadership and Gov. Jerry Brown billions of dollars apart on the size of a revised water bond for the November 2014 ballot.

But they agree on one thing: the bond can't be about the tunnels.

Earlier this week, the Senate failed to pass a $10.5 billion water bond to replace the $11.1 billion offering approved in 2009 but postponed twice.

In meetings with legislative leaders yesterday, Brown put out his preferences: a bond worth around $6 billion, with about $2 billion for storage (both lower than the leading legislative proposals).

A draft of Brown's blueprint obtained by The Bee also suggests $1.5 billion for water supply and water reliability, encompassing areas like safe drinking water and groundwater cleanup; $1.5 billion for watershed protection; $500 million for flood control; and $500 million for the Delta.

Those numbers likely represent only starting points for negotiations. The document also states a general rule shared by Senate leaders: the bond must be "Bay Delta Conservation Plan neutral."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, made the case Monday that any bond perceived to advance the conservation plan is destined to fail. The BDCP requires money to bolster the Delta's ecosystem, and opponents of a proposed pair of Delta tunnels fear that a bond with Delta habitat money would therefore help lay the groundwork for the massive tunnels.

Ensuring that there is not a connection between a bond and the BDCP would be in the governor's interest, since it could help prevent a water bond vote from becoming a referendum on the tunnels he strongly supports. Developments in recent days, though, suggest that as the Legislature debates a water bond, the BDCP will hover in the background.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, watches as the votes are posted for a measure he supported that would overhaul an $11.1 billion water bond on the November ballot, at the Capitol in Sacramento Calif., Monday, June 23, 2014. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

June 25, 2014
Moody's raises California's bond credit rating

California Budget_signing_2014_resized.JPG

Moody's Investors Service, one of the nation's largest credit rating organizations, upgraded its rating of California's $86 billion in general obligation debt Wednesday, citing the state's "rapidly improving financial position."

The upgrade from A1 to Aa3 came just a few days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2014-15 state budget whose revenues and outgo are balanced and includes a "rainy-day fund" that will, if approved by voters in November, absorb some excess revenues.

Moody's also cited the state's progress in reducing unfunded pension liabilities and its improving economy in its upgrade, but cautioned that the state's revenue structure remains volatile.

The firm also raised its ratings of other state and local debts in its report.

PHOTO: Looking on behind are, from left, state Sen. Ben Hueso, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Associated Press Photo/Gregory Bull

June 25, 2014
California OES releases crude oil train data, but requests more

One trainload of Bakken crude oil passed through Sacramento in the first two weeks of June, according to a report shared with the Bee by the California Office of Emergency Services.

But agency spokesman Kelly Huston told the Bee that it doesn't consider the information useful for emergency responders because it's old information about what's already come through, not what's expected.

"The whole point of this is to help local first responders better prepare for this increase in crude oil shipments," he said. "We encourage anything that's going to improve that, including better disclosures."

The agency decided to make the information public on Wednesday following several other states that released similar information, including Washington, Illinois, Florida and Virginia.

The U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroads last month to begin sharing basic information about large crude oil shipments with state and local officials.

The order followed a series of derailments across North America where fire departments were not told about the shipments and never had an opportunity to account for them in their response plans. Plus, federal regulators concluded that Bakken crude, extracted from hydraulic fracturing of shale rock, might be more flammable than conventional oil.

For weeks, the rail industry insisted that the officials keep the information only to those who "need to know." The reports were marked "confidential," "restricted" and "security sensitive" and some states, including California, initially respected the industry's wish.

But other states, and ultimately the federal government, concluded that the information was none of those things.

BNSF Railway, the largest hauler of crude oil by rail, sent OES two documents, one dated June 6 and the other June 13. They show the number of Bakken crude oil trains of 1 million gallons or more that traversed counties in the state every week.

The June 6 letter showed no shipments, while the June 13 letter showed one. Matching the counties with the rail lines, the train entered Northern California in Modoc County and followed BNSF's "Inside Gateway" line to the Feather River Canyon, where the train picked up the Union Pacific line that follows the river, eventually toward Sacramento.

It traveled through Sacramento County on its way to Contra Costa County. There, BNSF serves a Kinder Morgan crude by rail terminal in Richmond, according to a map available on the railroad's website.

The California Energy Commission estimates that the state could receive a quarter of its petroleum supply by train in a few years, and that could mean five or six trains a day, rather than just one every two weeks.

Union Pacific plans to haul two 50-car trains of crude oil a day from Roseville to the Valero refinery in Benicia, if a crude by rail terminal there is approved. The trains would pass through Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this entry misidentified the Northern California county where the BNSF crude oil train entered the state. It is Modoc, not Butte.

June 25, 2014
AM Alert: Shots fly at Capitol during national championship

shot_put_ring.JPGSurely more than a few angry citizens, and maybe even the occasional frustrated legislator, have wanted to throw something heavy at the state Capitol over the years. Now 37 world-class athletes will have the chance.

The west lawn of the Capitol plays host to the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships' opening shot put event today, where competitors will hurl the eight- and 16-pound balls from a raised shot circle toward the dome.

No worries, they'll fall well short hitting it. The event's shorter throws, which top out at about 75 feet, allow the event to be held in confined spaces – like an annual meet in Zurich that stages shot put in the city's train station.

"You couldn't be throwing the discus at the Capitol," said Bob Burns of the Sacramento Sports Commission, which organized the championship. "That wouldn't go well."

The free event, which also features a beer tent and other vendors, begins at 10 a.m. with the women's qualifying round. The men's qualifier follows at 11:30 a.m., then the top twelve athletes will advance to the finals, at 4:30 p.m. for the women and 6:15 p.m. for the men.

State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, a former shot putter at Fresno State, will kick off the festivities by putting the ceremonial first shot.

VIDEO: The controversial high-speed rail project presents an opening for Neel Kashkari in the governor's race, Dan Walters says.

JERRY IN CHARGE: Despite maneuvering a top-two finish in the June primary, Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari remains largely unknown to voters, according to the latest Field Poll. He could struggle to mount a serious challenge in the November runoff, even as Gov. Jerry Brown's popularity slips, David Siders reports. You can read more in his story.

Here are the statistical tabulations, prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert, as well as the publicly released results from the poll.

RUBBER SOUL: He got a ban on barehanded contact with ready-to-eat foods passed last year, but now he's had a change of heart. Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, makes a final push for a bill that would repeal the law, which effectively requires chefs to wear rubber gloves, 11:15 a.m. at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. on S Street. Pan is pushing the Senate to vote on the bill on Thursday, so that the governor could sign it before the ban takes full effect on July 1.

BIO-NIC GOVERNOR: After signing the budget there last Friday, Brown is headed back to San Diego to speak at the 2014 BIO International Convention, a conference for the biotechnology industry. He is scheduled to deliver his remarks at noon at the San Diego Convention Center – the same time as a keynote speech from former First Lady Hillary Clinton, which could present a hard choice for attendees.

FOR THE VETS: Lawmakers will honor veterans from their districts during the 7th annual Veterans of the Year luncheon, noon at the Sacramento Convention Center. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, are slated to speak at the event, which is sponsored by the Assembly.

PHOTO: Construction workers put the finishing touches on a concrete shot put ring on the west side of the state Capitol on June 19, 2014. The ring will be used on opening day of the USA Track and Field Championships. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 25, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Kashkari's chances may hinge on high-speed rail

kashkarisits.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari is trailing in the polls, but the controversial high-speed rail project presents an opening, 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: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

June 24, 2014
California fundraising blackout bill falters in committee


A bill barring California lawmakers from raising money in the final days of the legislative session faltered in an Assembly committee on Tuesday.

Other campaign finance reform bills moved closer to becoming law, including pieces of an ethics reform package touted by Senate leadership that would limit lobbyist gifts and require more frequent disclosure. Ethics issues have taken center stage this year with the suspension of three state senators and a record-setting fine for a prominent lobbyist.

But members of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee refused to advance a bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, that seeks to nix their fundraising during the frenzied final weeks of the legislative session and during budget negotiations.

Senate Bill 1101 would have barred lawmakers from seeking campaign contributions from mid-May to mid-June, the time when the Legislature negotiates and passes the governor's budget, and during the final month of session.

After initially failing on the Senate floor, Padilla's measure passed on the second attempt by a the required two-thirds margin. A resolution having senators forego fundraising during August of this year has also passed the Senate. The resolution applies only to senators, whereas Padilla's bill would affect all legislators.

The final vote was 1-1, with four members – all of them Democrats – not voting. Members voted to grant the bill reconsideration.

PHOTO: Senator Alex Padilla listens during a hearing in Sacramento, Calif. on August 1, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

June 24, 2014
Bera co-sponsors bill to ease hospital wait times for veterans


Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and a Republican House colleague from North Carolina, Mark Meadows, introduced a bill Thursday that would extend visas for U.S.-educated foreign doctors to ease a shortage that's affecting care in veterans hospitals, especially in rural areas.

The bill, named the Doctors Helping Heroes Act, attempts to help fix a widespread problem in the Veterans Administration health care system. Audits have revealed a high percentage of veterans in multiple states who have to wait 30 days or more for appointments with the VA.

"This is one of many steps we need to take to make sure our heroes get the health care they deserve," said Bera, a doctor who was elected to Congress in 2012.

The long wait times, and the agency's attempts to cover them up, stoked a bipartisan firestorm in Washington and forced the resignation last month of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The bill brings together two freshmen lawmakers from opposite parties. It also addresses another issue where it's been more difficult to find agreement: immigration.

Bera, the only member of Congress of Indian descent, often talks about making it easier for foreign-born scholars in science, technology and medicine to stay in the country after they've finished school.

Current law requires foreign-born physicians to return to their home country for two years after their visas expire before they can apply to return to the U.S. Under the Bera-Meadows bill, the physicians would be able to stay up to three years longer if they agree to practice in medically underserved areas.

"Along with helping rural communities in Western North Carolina," Meadows said, "this legislation will give more of our brave veterans access to quality care from talented doctors."

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, attends the California State Society's inaugural luncheon on Jan. 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C. McClatchy Tribune/Tish Wells

June 24, 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown relays water bond priorities to lawmakers


Breaking his silence on the push to get a new water bond on the Nov. 4 ballot, Gov. Jerry Brown spent Tuesday meeting with lawmakers and laying out his priorities.

Brown met with Republican and Democratic leaders from both the Senate and the Assembly, sources said, and the governor offered two numbers as starting points for negotiation -- a bond worth about $6 billion overall, with $2 billion in storage. The governor's office would not comment.

Both numbers fall considerably short of proposals moving through the Legislature. A $10.5 billion bond proposal that stalled in the Senate on Monday, for instance, would allocate $3 billion for surface storage. Democrats described those storage dollars as a concession to Republicans pushing to expand California's water supply.

In 2009, legislators and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hammered out a deal for a an $11.1 billion water bond. The measure has since been pushed back twice, and many lawmakers now cite its size in insisting it would fail if put before voters.

With a severe drought placing water at the center of public consciousness, a leaner bond on the upcoming November ballot has become a priority for multiple legislators. But Brown has declined to weigh in, consistently deflecting questions about the need for a new bond.

As yesterday's Senate hearing proved, the water bond debate could come to engulf one of Brown's signature proposals.

The governor's controversial project to build water tunnels under the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta also calls for spending on habitat restoration, and flowing through the debate over a water bond has been the question of whether bond money could pay for environmental rehabilitation, potentially easing the way for the tunnels.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters outside the Governors Mansion on election night in Sacramento on Tuesday, June 3, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

June 24, 2014
Leno drops bill to block condo conversions in San Francisco

LENO.jpegSen. Mark Leno, facing stiff opposition from landlords and other business groups, is dropping his bill aimed at thwarting investors who buy up San Francisco apartment buildings and evict tenants to convert units into pricey condominiums.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1439,. was backed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other local officials in response to tenant groups that had complained that the condo conversions were accelerating and hurting low- and moderate-income renters.

The conflict has been part of a larger kerfuffle in San Francisco over the social impacts of high-income employees of the burgeoning Bay Area technology industry.

The condo conversions are legal under a four-decade-old California law called the Ellis Act, which was enacted in response to local rent control ordinances that blocked landlords from taking rental units off the market. It allows evictions if property owners plan to exit the rental business.

SB 1439 would have blocked conversions in San Francisco by anyone who owned rental property for less than five years. It became one of the year's most heavily lobbied measures.

After passing the Senate, however, it failed to win approval in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee when two of the committee's Democrats voted against it in response to landlord opposition.

Although Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, got permission to seek a second vote in the committee, his office confirmed Tuesday that he's dropping the bill.

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talking to reporters at the Capitol June 19, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

June 24, 2014
Jerry Brown signs teacher pension fund bill

budget_signing_2014.JPGGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday to begin paying down an estimated shortfall of more than $74 billion in the California State Teachers' Retirement System, acting on the last of a raft of budget-related bills ahead of the July 1 start of the next fiscal year.

Brown's signature was strictly a formality. The pension fund measure was approved by lawmakers June 15 in a budget package negotiated with Brown. The Democratic governor signed the state's main budget bill and most of other legislation related to the $156.3 billion spending plan last Friday.

In a prepared statement highlighting the pension fund legislation, Brown said, "This bill will ensure a decent retirement for hundreds of thousands of teachers, both now and for decades to come."

The teacher pension bill requires increased CalSTRS contributions from school districts, teachers and the state, with much of the burden on districts. The bill had bipartisan support.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, signs the 2014-15 state budget on June 20, 2014, in San Diego. Looking on behind are, from left, state Sen. Ben Hueso, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. The Associated Press/Gregory Bull

June 24, 2014
Auditor: Sexual violence training lacking at California universities

berkeleycampus.jpgCalifornia's public universities do not ensure that all employees are sufficiently trained to handle incidents of sexual violence, especially those who students may turn to first for help, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

While key staff who handle complaints of sexual harassment and assault receive adequate training, state Auditor Elaine Howle said in the report, others who may be the first point of contact for a student, such as resident advisers and athletic coaches, are not prepared to respond to these incidents and risk mishandling them.

"When they are not sufficiently trained, employees may not know how to interact appropriately with students in these situations and may do something that would discourage students from engaging in the reporting process," the report stated.

The audit, which examined the handling of sexual violence at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Los Angeles, California State University, Chico and San Diego State University, also found that they must "do more to appropriately educate students on sexual harassment and sexual violence."

The issue of sexual violence on college campuses has gained national attention as students at dozens of universities have filed federal complaints that their institutions mishandled cases of harassment and assault. In May, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 universities that it is investigating, including UC Berkeley.

The audit included a survey of 208 students, and 22 percent said they were not aware of resources available should they or someone they know experience sexual harassment or sexual violence.

State law requires all CSU schools and requests that UC campuses provide educational and preventative information about sexual violence to incoming students during campus orientation, but does not specify when this must occur.

The report recommended that universities provide this training as soon after students arrive on campus as possible, "as they may be the most vulnerable to experiencing an incident of sexual harassment or sexual violence in their first weeks on campus," and then provide periodic refresher training at least annually.

June 24, 2014
Compromise 'Audrie's Law' bill passes committee

On its second attempt, a California bill toughening punishments for sexually abusing unconscious victims advanced out of committee on Tuesday.

Named for a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide after she was raped while unconscious, "Audrie's Law" also cracks down on offenders sharing photos on social media. Before taking her life, Audrie Potts wrote about being humiliated as photos of the crime circulated.

After Senate Bill 838 stalled in the Assembly Public Safety Committee last week, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, amended the measure by nixing a mandatory two-year confinement for juveniles convicted of sex crimes involving an unconscious or disabled victim, swapping it for a mandatory rehabilitation term. It passed unanimously with the amendment.

Most of the bill's provisions apply to adults or juveniles tried as adults. Depending on the severity of the offense, certain sex crimes allow juveniles to be tried as adults.

The version of SB 838 next headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee still imposes a one-year prison term for sexually assault on someone who is unconscious or disabled. If an adult assailant disseminates pictures or texts afterwards, judges could slap on a one-year sentencing enhancement.

It would also remove privacy protections for juvenile offenders, opening up to the public cases in which the victim is unable to resist.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office sponsored the bill.

PHOTO: Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 24, 2014
AM Alert: Immigrant driver's license regulations draw criticism

IMG_2_RP_LICENSES_SB60_S_2_1_M41H17VC_L35625083.JPGThe California Department of Motor Vehicles is holding the first of two public workshops this morning on its proposed regulations for implementing AB 60, the landmark state law that will issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Members of the Drive CA Coalition, a group of immigrant rights organizations, plan to rally outside the Junipero Serra Building in Los Angeles before the 10 a.m. hearing to express concerns about the regulations, which they argue could be prohibitively expensive.

The main point of contention is the DMV's proposal to verify an applicant's identity and California residence by requiring a foreign passport and consular ID. Securing both of those documents in Mexico, for example, would cost $128, according to the coalition.

"A lot of applicants make minimum wage, so it would represent a large percentage of their income," Refugio Mata, campaign manager for the Latino advocacy group, told Capitol Alert.

Not all countries issue consular IDs for their citizens living abroad, he added, so accessibility would not be guaranteed. The coalition is asking that the DMV require just one of the documents.

Immigrant advocates are also demanding assurances that applicants' personal information is kept secure and that they will not be treated differently by law enforcement if they show an AB 60 license.

"They don't really have mechanisms stated explicitly about how the information is going to be protected," Mata said. "We want to make sure it's not going to be shared with other federal agencies."

A second hearing will take place on Thursday in Oakland, 10 a.m. at the Caltrans Building.

VIDEO: The state controller's race has come down to thousands of votes in one rural Northern California county, Dan Walters says.

OBAMA FAVORED: Despite an unfolding scandal involving the Department of Veterans Affairs and growing unrest in the Middle East, a new Field Poll finds that California voters still largely approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing. Congress, however, doesn't fair nearly so well with the Golden State. Reporter Christopher Cadelago has more in his story.

Here are the statistical tabulations, prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert, as well as the publicly released results from the poll.

WORK IT: Sex worker groups, led by the Erotic Service Providers Union and the US PROStitutes Collective, will appear before the Assembly Public Safety Committee, 9 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol, to oppose SB 1388, which would create mandatory minimum punishments for a person who solicits prostitutes. The groups argue that the bill, which would require a minimum 48-hour jail sentence and a fine of at least $1,000 to fund local "victim assistance" programs, encourages corruption by giving a financial incentive to increase arrests and further stigmatizes sex workers.

OVERSEAS ABSENTEES: Current law states that all ballots must be received by Election Day in order to be counted, but a bill from Assembly members Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, would give members of the military stationed overseas an extra three days for their ballots to reach election officials, as long as they are postmarked on or before the day voters go to the polls. The legislators will be joined by state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, Assembly members Beth Gaines, R-Roseville, and Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, and veterans to discuss the proposal, 10:30 a.m. at the All Wars Memorial in Capitol Park.

WINE NOT?: In advance of the California State Fair, taking place next month in Sacramento, state Deputy Secretary of Food and Agriculture Jim Houston and others will announce the Best in Show winners from the fair's commercial wine competition, 10 a.m. on the east steps of the Capitol. There were 2,800 entries in this year's competition, which includes awards for red, white, pink, dessert and sparkling wines.

COMPUTER COMMUTER: As the cost of tuition continues to rise, advocates of public higher education are debating how to keep it affordable. Is online learning the solution? The Public Policy Institute of California presents research on outcomes of online classes at California community colleges and then hosts a panel discussion with members of the state's three public higher education segments, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

COLLEGE CONCERNS: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, the California Alliance of African American Educators and the California Student Aid Commission hold a briefing on the status of African American students in California higher education, starting at 1 p.m. in Room 125 of the Capitol. The briefing will cover topics including access to college, financial aid and gun violence in schools, to be followed by a reception at 4 p.m.

BATTLE OF THE BRULTE: California Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte will discuss primary election results and his "battle plan" for victory in November with the Republicans of River City club, 6:30 p.m. at the Elks Lodge in Rancho Cordova.

READ MORE: Immigrant driver's licenses prompt concerns about required documents, legal risk

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 January 28, 2014 in Sacramento, wore this sticker. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 24, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Lake County will determine controller's race

Lake_County.JPGThe state controller's race has come down to thousands of votes in one rural Northern California county, Dan says.

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PHOTO: Trees and clouds are reflected in the calm water of Cache Creek in Lake County, Calif on September 25, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 23, 2014
Wolk water bond proposal stalls in California Senate


With the governor's controversial Delta tunnel project looming in the background, lawmakers on Monday failed to advance a leading Senate proposal to put a revised water bond on the November ballot.

The Senate voted 22-9 for the $10.5 billion borrowing measure, five votes short of the required two-thirds threshold. It marked the first floor vote on any of a crop of new water bond proposals to replace a $11.1 billion bond placed on the ballot in 2009 and delayed twice.

Republicans who rose in opposition to the measure did not voice a unified reason for rejecting it. Some even sounded hopeful, with Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, saying the bill "is getting really, really close." But the caucus balked at the clout the bond affords to interests in the Delta region, according to Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

"The main issue was it was a conservancy, Delta-centric bond," Huff said after the vote. "When we look at our constituencies, most of them are flatly opposed to it."

A withering drought has whetted Sacramento's thirst for a new water bond. Lawmakers have introduced several water bond proposals intended to replace the 2009 measure currently slated for the November ballot. The general consensus among lawmakers is that the $11.1 billion bond, passed in a fall 2009 special session, would fail if put before voters.

As the field of potential new bond proposals has narrowed, Senate Bill 848 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, has remained one of the leading contenders. Recent amendments substantially bulked up the proposal, including additional billions for surface storage that Wolk and others described as a concession to Republicans.

"We have not done anything in major storage since the 60's," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who nevertheless did not vote for the bond. "This is the time, and that $3 billion is a fundamental, not-to-be-compromised element."

In a weekend television appearance and in remarks to reporters Monday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, placed Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to build massive water conveyance tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at the center of the water bond debate. Any link to the tunnels would doom a bond in the eyes of voters, Steinberg argued, brandishing polling that backs up his point.

"You can't pass a bond unless it's tunnel-neutral," Steinberg said on the Senate floor.

Already, anti-Delta tunnel advocates are mobilizing to fight any bond offering money for environmental mitigation in the Delta, one piece of the proposed tunnel project.

The key difference, said Steinberg and backers of Wolk's bond, is that SB 848 would give the Delta Conservancy a central role in managing $900 million for Delta restoration. Wolk has the deepest ties to the Delta region of any lawmakers sponsoring bonds, and she argued on Monday that the 11-member Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy should have a prominent role.

"In order to create a restoration project anywhere in the state, you need to have a local partner. You can't come flying in from 30,000 feet and use eminent domain," said Wolk. "The Delta conservancy gives the Delta community a voice."

That proposition also appeared to give some skeptics pause.

"I would argue to be careful of the amount of money we put into the Delta," Nielsen said.

PHOTO: A flooded rice field, left, reflects the rising sun alongside the Glenn-Colusa canal in the Sacramento Valley, May 24 2013, near the city of Williams, Calif. By Brian van der Brug/ Los Angeles Times.

June 23, 2014
California Legislature delays ban on alligator products

gator.jpgHigh-end California retailers are one signature away from continuing to stock their shelves with alligator belts and crocodile handbags -- for at least another five years.

Lawmakers sent Assembly Bill 2075 to the governor's desk Monday, again stalling a ban on the sale and importation of alligator parts, including skins and meat.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was known to wear a pair of gator-skin cowboy boots, signed legislation in 2006 that lifted a ban on the sale of alligator and crocodile parts. But because of a sunset clause, that ban was set to go back into effect on Jan. 1. With support from diverse set of interests -- the California Restaurant Association, Brooks Brothers and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu -- the Assembly voted to extend the sunset clause until 2020, pending the governor's approval. The original bill called for a 10-year extension but was watered down in the Senate.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, said letting the ban kick in would have a "chilling effect" on the economic activity associated with alligator sale.

"I assure you members that this bill will not bring you any crocodile tears," Alejo said.

Supporters of extending the sunset date argue that not doing so would have a devastating impact on California's economy, especially on the fashion industry, which often markets alligator accessories as high-end goods.

"Alligator products are a luxury item that is attractive and is part of the appeal of California's tourist industry, particularly in Beverly Hills," said Bill Dombrowski, president and CEO of the California Retailers Association. "The alligator is no longer an endangered species."

Dombrowski said the alligator trade provides environmental benefits, including wetland preservation.

June 23, 2014
California backs constitutional amendment limiting campaign money


Seeking to reverse a tide of money inundating politics, the Democratic-controlled California Senate on Monday called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting corporate campaign activity.

"If the only voice heard is the one with the most money," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, "what's become of our democracy?"

While Assembly Joint Resolution 1 does not by itself force any changes, both houses of the California Legislature have now embraced language that unequivocally pushes back on a landmark Supreme Court case equating corporate campaign spending with free speech. The 23-11 vote, with many Republicans in opposition, came the day after more than a dozen protesters were arrested at the State Capitol for demonstrating against money in politics.

The proposed amendment would narrow the doctrine of corporate personhood and would "declare that money does not constitute speech and may be legislatively limited." It states that corporations should have fewer rights than human beings, noting that corporations do not vote.

"Voters are clearly fed up, and polling shows this, with the notion that money is speech and that big money can drown out the speech of average Americans," said Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

For Congress to convene a constitutional convention empowered to amend the U.S. constitution, two-thirds of state Legislatures need to be on board. The bar is even higher to ratify a proposed amendment: three quarters of states must approve.

Given that math, translating the resolution into law is a long shot. Vermont has passed a similar measure and Illinois is contemplating one, but even with the assent of those two and California 33 additional states would need to petition Congress.

PHOTO: Dozens of activists led by the grassroots organization 99Rise march up Capital Avenue after culminating a 480-mile march to protest the corrupting influence of big money in politics and staged a rally and sit-in at the State Capitol Sunday June 22, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 23, 2014
Assembly Democrats fear gas price increase, urge change in environmental policy

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgBusiness-friendly Democrats in the state Assembly are urging the Brown administration to back off implementation of a greenhouse gas reduction measure that is expected to result in higher gas prices starting next year.

In a letter to Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, 16 Assembly Democrats last week urged delaying or changing a planned expansion of the state's cap-and-trade program to transportation fuels. As it stands, California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, Assembly Bill 32, will require that oil companies buy carbon credits for fuel they swell starting next year.

"We are concerned about the impact of the AB 32 cap-and-trade program on our constituents," the lawmakers wrote. "Fuel prices for consumers are going to be driven up once fuel is covered under cap-and-trade at the start of next year, weakening the economy just as California is recovering from the last recession, and hurting the most vulnerable members of our communities who must commute to work and drive long distances for necessary services like medical care."

Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, one of the lawmakers who wrote the letter, said an increase in gas prices of 15 cents per gallon or more could be expected if the rule goes into effect.

The letter comes amid heightened calls by Republican politicians and oil interests to delay expanding the cap-and-trade program to transportation fuels. Environmentalists have said it is appropriate to price gas high enough to change consumer transportation habits.

PHOTO: A tanker truck passes the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond on March 9, 2010. The Associated Press/Paul Sakuma

June 23, 2014
Northern California Dems want open door on California water talks

DianneFeinstein.jpgNorthern California Democrats on Monday warned against secret California water negotiations, and urged Sen. Dianne Feinstein to open up the talks.

In a show of regional force, the six House Democrats who represent districts ranging from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Oregon border asked for what they called "public and transparent negotiations" concerning legislation responding to the historic California drought.

The letter was directed to both Feinstein and her Democratic colleague, Sen. Barbara Boxer, though it's been Feinstein who's been leading talks, primarily with House Republicans.

The Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate have passed competing versions of a drought relief bill, though no hearings have been held.

"We are deeply concerned that it appears that negotiations with the House majority are being held out of the public eye. We believe the process by which Congress responds to this drought crisis should be transparent," the members wrote.

The letter was signed by Reps. Jared Huffman, George Miller, John Garamendi, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui, and Mike Thompson.

Feinstein sent her own letter to Huffman on Monday, declaring that she is "committed to doing my very best to provide assistance to Californians and the communities and businesses that are suffering severe hardships in the midst of this devastating drought."

PHOTO: In this April 18, 2012, file photo Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

June 23, 2014
AM Alert: Local energy providers ask lawmakers for support

AAJERRYSOLAR.JPGIn 2002, California established "community-choice aggregation," allowing local governments to create energy providers that serve as an alternative to the state's major investor-owned utilities. Two such companies now exist: Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power, which procure and sell electricity from renewable energy sources in competition with investor-owned utilities while still using their grid for transmission and distribution.

Those companies and their supporters are now sounding the alarm about AB 2145, a bill that would flip their operation from an opt-out system for customers in participating counties and cities to an opt-in system. The companies argue that the change would render them obsolete by defaulting energy provision in their communities back to investor-owned utilities, undermining their customer base and purchasing power.

Board members and local politicians from the Bay Area will lead a press conference at 1 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol urging lawmakers to reject the proposal, which they've dubbed the "Monopoly Protection Bill." The bill, which has already passed the Assembly, will appear before the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, 3 p.m. in Room 4203.

VIDEO: When it comes to California's budget, size is in the eye of the beholder, Dan Walters says.

KILL BILL: State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has had a rough time getting his proposed cell phone "kill switch" bill through the Legislature. Facing opposition from tech companies, the bill, which would allow owners to remotely disable phones if they are stolen, failed in a close floor vote in April before being revived, amended and passed a few weeks later. The bill is now working its way through the Assembly. It's up next in the Utilities and Commerce Committee, 2 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

BOND, WATER BOND: Lawmakers have floated nine different proposals in recent months to replace the water bond going before California voters on the November ballot, which many now believe has little chance of passing. A $10.5-billion plan from Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, which would combine $3 billion for new surface and groundwater storage projects with money for environmental restoration and drought response, is the first to make it to a floor vote. It will be considered by the Senate during floor session at noon.

LGB-TEE OFF: With the high-profile coming-out announcements of professional athletes like Jason Collins, Brittney Griner and Michael Sam over the past year, conversations about the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes have entered the mainstream. Now they'll enter the Capitol. The Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media will hold an informational hearing on discrimination against LGBT athletes in sports culture and the effectiveness of laws to overcome that bias, 2 p.m. in Room 127. Rick Welts, general manager of the Golden State Warriors, is among those who will testify.

CEREMONIALS: The California Legislative LGBT Caucus presents its 2014 LGBT Pride Recognition Awards at the start of the Assembly session at noon. Ten individuals will be honored for their career accomplishments and "outstanding leadership and activism to promote equal rights for LGBT Californians," including Welts and George Takei, who played Sulu on the original Star Trek series.

Today is the 20th anniversary of Proposition 187 qualifying for the state ballot, and the California Latino Legislative Caucus will hold commemorations of "that sad chapter in our state's history" during floor session in both the Senate and the Assembly. The measure, which prohibited undocumented immigrants from accessing health care, public education and other social services, was ultimately struck down by the courts. Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, is now pursuing a bill that would remove its language from California codes.

PHOTO: Recurrent Energy solar facility in Elk Grove on January 15, 2012, where Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the Memorandum of Understanding on renewable energy. The Sacramento Bee/Andy P. Alfaro

June 23, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: How big is the budget?

budget_signing_2014.JPGWhen it comes to California's budget, size is in the eye of the beholder, Dan says.

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PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, signs the 2014-15 state budget on June 20, 2014, in San Diego. Looking on behind are, from left, state Sen. Ben Hueso, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. The Associated Press/Gregory Bull

June 20, 2014
Sacramento group issues debate invitation to Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari

BrownWhitman.JPGDebate season has arrived in the California governor's race, at least the initial courtship.

A Sacramento-based consortium, including The Sacramento Bee, on Friday invited Gov. Jerry Brown and his Republican opponent, Neel Kashkari, to debate this fall.

Besides The Bee, the sponsoring group includes KCRA, Capital Public Radio and California State University, Sacramento. The same media partners sponsored a debate between Brown, a Democrat, and Republican Meg Whitman in 2010 that drew an estimated two million viewers statewide. This year's debate would be held at Sacramento State's 330-seat Capistrano Hall.

Kashkari has called for a series of 10 debates, and accepted an early invitation from a television station in San Diego. On Friday, he accepted the invitation from the Sacramento group.

"As Neel said last week and Gov. Brown said four years ago, it is critical for voters to hear directly from both candidates about their plans to address the big challenges facing our state, including how they intend to create good jobs and improve our schools," Pat Melton, Kashkari's campaign manager, said in an email.

Brown, with sizeable advantages in fundraising and public opinion polls, has not said whether he will debate Kashkari. "We look forward to taking a look at it," campaign spokesman Dan Newman said Friday after receiving the invitation.

PHOTO: Jerry Brown shakes hands with Meg Whitman at the start of the California gubernatorial debate at UC Davis' Mondavi Center on Sept. 29, 2010 in Davis. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 20, 2014
Pay panel gives California officials 2 percent raise

Payraise.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, California lawmakers and other elected officials will be getting a two percent raise this year.

Pointing to California's firmer fiscal footing, a panel that sets salaries for elected officials on Friday voted 4-1 to enact a pay boost. The raise will add $1,906 to lawmakers' annual $95,291 salary, giving them a yearly pay of $97,197. The raise for Gov. Jerry Brown, who makes $173,987, will be $3,480, taking him to $177,467 a year. The raises take effect Dec. 1

Years of yawning budget deficits have given way to a surplus, allowing California to pass an on-time budget this year with minimal friction. Those sunnier circumstances framed the debate among members of the California Citizens Compensation Commission.

"It would be hard to argue, I believe, that the state is not better off financially today than it was a few years ago," said commissioner Scott Somers. "If they get tarred when times are tough," he added in reference to elected officials, "they ought to at least get some credit when things are improving."

California lawmakers are the best-compensated of any state legislators. They lead the field even though their pay was cut twice during the recession, reductions that the pay commission partially reversed last year with a five percent boost. The next-largest paychecks go to legislators in Pennsylvania, who made $83,801 in 2013.

Despite earning more than their counterparts in other states, Sacramento lawmakers earn less than city and county officials in California. Members of the Los Angeles and San Francisco city councils both draw larger paychecks than state legislators, as do county supervisors in 16 separate counties.

"I think that where (members of the Legislature) are compensated is low based on all the indices that staff provided us," commissioner Nancy Miller said.

Complicating comparisons to other states and cities is the fact that California lawmakers cannot draw pensions, a prohibition voters enacted along with term limits back in 1990.

"It is very difficult to compare apples to apples for our Assembly members and senators," Somers said.

State lawmakers in New York and Ohio, for instance - both states that, like California, have full-time legislatures - receive retirement benefits, although their base salaries are lower. Lawmakers in Texas, where the part-time Legislature meets every other year, earn $7,200 in salary but are eligible for retirement money.

The sole dissenting vote came from commissioner Anthony Barkett, who repeatedly expressed reservations about acting so soon after the state has climbed out of a devastating recession. He urged members to first consider the broader question of whether the pre-recession base pay rates are appropriate.

"We raised taxes - that's why we have the money to do we've done," Barkett said, referencing the temporary tax hike enacted via Proposition 30. "We just got through a huge recession and I need a little time to make sure the economy's real."

PHOTO: Scott Somers, left, and Nancy Miller are among the members of The California Citizens Compensation Commission who voted for a 2 percent pay raise for state elected officials, Friday, June 20, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.

June 20, 2014
Jerry Brown signs $156.3 billion state budget

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown signed the state budget Friday, one of the earliest signings in recent history, his office announced.

The Democratic governor announced a relatively small number of line item vetoes to the $156.3 billion spending plan, many of which his office described as technical. The total value of the appropriations Brown eliminated or reduced was expected to be minimal.

"This on-time budget provides for today and saves for the future," Brown, who traveled to San Diego to sign the budget document, said in a prepared statement. "We're paying off the state's credit card, saving for the next rainy day and fixing the broken teachers' retirement system."

The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is a compromise plan between Brown and Democratic lawmakers. It includes an expansion of child care and preschool for poor children and more money for high-speed rail, Medi-Cal and welfare-to-work. It also puts about $1.6 billion into a special rainy-day account.

For Brown, the budget represents a dramatic improvement from four years ago, when the state faced a deficit of more than $26 billion. The budget he signed that year, the first of his third term, reduced higher education and social services spending. In 2012 he signed a budget that relied on additional cuts and a multibillion-dollar tax increase.

With the economy improving and the passage of that tax measure, however, Brown's last two budget negotiations have proved relatively frictionless. Except for in 2009, when lawmakers enacted a budget in February that fell out of balance and had to be re-opened in May, the budget Brown signed Friday was the earliest on record going back nearly 30 years.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

June 20, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown signs budget in San Diego

budgetsign.jpgFive days after the Legislature eked out a budget deal just hours before its deadline, Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the spending plan this morning in San Diego.

An unexpected choice, perhaps, but it's the home of new Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who will join Brown for the signing, 9:45 a.m. at the San Diego City Administration Building. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who all served on the Budget Conference Committee, will also be there.

This is the earliest a budget deal has been signed since at least 1977, reflecting the relatively peaceful nature of this year's process and illustrating how far things have come since just four years ago, when a partisan standoff amid the depths of the economic recession extended budget season until October.

The only questions that remain: What line items will Brown veto from the budget? And will he sign the 18 trailer bills, the implementing language of the spending, as well?

After the signing, Brown will head up to Los Angeles for a community celebration hosted by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and the California Latino Legislative Caucus. The event, noon at the Pico House, recognizes Brown's support of legislation helping immigrants and workers, including a landmark bill allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

VIDEO: The quirks of the top-two primary system have elevated Republicans in at least one Democratic-leaning district, Dan Walters says.

ON THE RADIO: In other gubernatorial news, Brown's Republican challenger, Neel Kashkari, will spend the afternoon as guest host on the popular conservative talk radio program The John and Ken Show. Kashkari will interview Republican politicians from across the state, including Ron Nehring, the candidate for lieutenant governor, as well as one Democrat: state superintendent of public instruction challenger Marshall Tuck. The show airs from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. on KFI 640 AM.

MAD MONEY: Do lawmakers deserve a pay raise after delivering an on-time budget? The California Citizens Compensation Commission will decide when it meets at 1 p.m. at Sacramento City Hall. With the state's financial outlook improving, the commission seemed open to raising salaries when it last met in March. California's legislators are the highest-paid in the nation, though their compensation remains below pre-recession levels. Last year, the commission approved a a five-percent boost to $95,291 annually, plus per diem.

MARCH FOR DEMOCRACY: A dozen activists with the group 99Rise have marched from Los Angeles to Sacramento over the past month to protest the "corrupting influence of big money in politics." They will arrive at the Capitol on Sunday at 2 p.m., where they will be joined by supporters, including Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, activist Dolores Huerta and recent Secretary of State candidate Derek Cressman, for a rally urging the Legislature to take action. The group also plans to stage a sit-in at the Capitol until lawmakers meet their demands, starting with the passage of several bills that would address the role of money in politics, such as SB 52, which would require political advertisements to display their largest funders.

LET IT GO: Members of the California Innocence Project, a program at the California Western School of Law aimed at overturning wrongful convictions, march from Raley Field to the west steps of the Capitol at noon asking Brown to grant clemency to 12 inmates across the state. Several past exonerees, including former NFL player Brian Banks, will also be in attendance.

GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Fresh off his unsuccessful bid for Secretary of State, Dan Schnur will join former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee at the Capitol to introduce a new tool designed to create searchable transcripts of legislative hearings using voice-to-text technology. The public are invited to test the online platform, created by the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, 10:30 a.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol.

MOVIN' ON UP: Congratulations to Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, who will be promoted to the rank of Commander in the United States Navy Reserve during a noon ceremony at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme. Gorell joined the Navy Reserve in 1999 after completing law school and has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, including from March 2011 until April 2012, during his first term in the Legislature.

CELEBRATIONS: It's a busy birthday weekend! Best wishes to Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, who is 63 today. An early happy birthday to a trio of Sunday celebrants: Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, turns 61, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, will be 54, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is 81.


Lawmakers approve California budget with midnight deadline looming

California immigrant driver's licenses bring many questions

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up a copy of the signed state budget at the Capitol on June 27, 2013, in Sacramento as Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, left, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, center, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, right, celebrate in the background. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

June 20, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Top-two primary brings political anomalies

voter.JPGThe quirks of the top-two primary system have elevated Republicans in at least one Democratic-leaning district, Dan says.

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PHOTO: Charles Rich, 61, of West Sacramento votes in a room at fire station #45 on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in West Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 19, 2014
California health exchange wants to analyze rate initiative


California's health insurance exchange pressed for answers Thursday to how an initiative slated for the November ballot would affect its operations.

Covered California board members said they want an expedited analysis of the measure, including its influence on the exchange and its consumers. The as-yet-unnumbered initiative, advanced by Consumer Watchdog and Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, would allow the insurance commissioner to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes.

The measure and a separate initiative to raise the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases are expected to produce two of the most contentious and expensive ballot-box fights this fall.

Susan Kennedy, a former aide to Govs. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said she was "painfully aware" of the agency's hesitation in weighing into the fierce political clash. But she urged officials to act aggressively so voters have time to sort out the findings.

"I am a little afraid that we are tiptoeing around this when the impact from my perspective could be really huge and very negative on our ability to function," Kennedy said. "And that inability to function will trickle down to the risk being padded into the rates on consumers."

June 19, 2014
California lawmakers seek ways to address oil train risks


With elected officials sounding alarms about crude-laden trains rumbling through California, state lawmakers on Thursday pressed for more information about safety risks to cities and water reservoirs sitting near rail lines.

"We need to make sure neighborhood schools and businesses located near crude by rail routes are as protected as possible," said Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata. "It's of utmost importance that we keep up to speed with the emergence of crude by rail. It's not acceptable for us to wait until something bad happens."

Energy companies have increasingly looked to rail as a way to transport oil, including through Sacramento, spurring concerns that California will witness the fiery derailments that have engulfed oil trains elsewhere. The budget lawmakers sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday imposes a 6.5 cent per barrel fee to fund inland spill response, while legislation seeks to crack open the secrecy often surrounding details about crude shipments. A separate Senate bill would charge oil transporter an additional fee to fund accident response.

A much-anticipated report released on Tuesday tamped down on those worries by depicting slim odds of an accident; in a sign of the dispute over the safety of transporting crude by rail, a prominent environmental group on Wednesday unveiled a report reaching the opposite conclusion.

June 19, 2014
Jerry Brown to sign budget Friday in San Diego

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will sign the state budget Friday in San Diego, his office announced Thursday, less than a week after both houses of the Legislature approved the spending plan.

Governors have the right to reduce or strike appropriations in budget bills before signing them, but it is unclear what line-item vetoes Brown will make to the $156.4 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Last year, the Democratic governor made only a small number of line-item vetoes, totaling about $40 million.

This year's budget plan is a compromise between Brown and Democratic lawmakers. It includes an expansion of child care and preschool for poor children and more money for high-speed rail, Medi-Cal and welfare-to-work. It also puts about $1.6 billion into a special rainy-day account.

Brown will be joined for the budget signing by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. Brown is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles after signing the budget to attend a celebration with Latino lawmakers.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 19, 2014
Measure to limit football practice heading to Jerry Brown

Full-contact football practice would be banned in the off-season and limited during the playing seasons for California teenagers under a bill that is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The state Senate on Thursday passed Assembly Bill 2127 by Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, which seeks to reduce brain injuries by putting new limits on full-contact football practice.

"There have recently been many scientific studies that contend that concussions and brain injuries due to football likely contribute to long term brain damage and early onset of dementia," Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in presenting the bill on the Senate floor.

Several states have already taken similar steps, Hernandez said, including 19 states that have banned full-contact practice in the off-season.

Though the measure drew no formal opposition, it squeaked out of the Assembly last month with just one more vote than necessary to pass. The measure passed the Senate Thursday on a vote of 23-5 but generated no debate.

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

June 19, 2014
Corinthian Colleges struggling financially as feds apply pressure

A for-profit college chain that has been sued by California Attorney General Kamala Harris faces financial issues as it grapples with simultaneous federal scrutiny, filings show.

Harris has targeted Corinthian Colleges for allegedly misleading students about the value of its degrees, a complaint echoed by struggling former students. Corinthian officials deny those allegations and defend schools that include Heald College and Wyotech branches, saying they offer a leg up to students unable to enroll in traditional universities.

Now it appears Corinthian has financial woes of its own. In a Thursday filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, the company references the U.S. Department of Education requesting data covering areas like placement and attendance rates. Government regulators want that information in part to trace student eligibility for federal financial aid, the document states.

That heightened federal oversight has included an order delaying financial aid money payouts to Corinthian. The action stems from allegations of "falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students and allegations of altered grades and attendance," according to a press release the Department of Education issued Thursday.

"We made the decision to increase oversight of Corinthian Colleges after careful consideration and as part of our obligations to protect hardworking taxpayers and students' futures," U.S. Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell said in a statement.

Because of that lag, Corinthian's "existing cash balances will be insufficient to sustain it," the SEC filing warns.

"If the Company is unable to timely obtain alternate financing, the Company's cash flows will not be sufficient to meet its obligations as they become due, which would cause the Company to be unable to continue as a going concern," the document states.

Corinthian officials had no further comment.

PHOTO: In this June 30, 2009 file photo, Larry Wostenberg teaches an engine management systems class at the WyoTech technical school campus in Laramie, Wyo. Associated Press/Mead Gruver.

June 19, 2014
Audit faults lack of consent for California inmate sterilizations

kjeffrey.jpgMore than one-quarter of inmate sterilizations performed in California from mid-2005 to mid-2013 followed deficient consent procedures, including 18 cases in which the waiting period between consent and surgery was potentially violated, the state auditor said Thursday.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report that of 144 inmates sterilized using bilateral tubal ligations, 39 inmates were sterilized "following deficiencies in the informed consent process." In addition to cases in which the auditor said waiting periods may have been violated, the auditor found no evidence in 27 of 39 cases that the inmate's doctor had signed a required consent form.

"Our legal counsel has advised us that, based on these facts, a court would likely conclude that these 39 inmates' consent was not lawfully obtained," Howle said in her report.

The federal health receiver's office, which oversees medical care in state prisons, said in a written response that the audit's findings "date back to policy that was in effect in 1999, or possibly even before," noting the audit's finding that the use of sterilization has decreased significantly in recent years.

It said many of the auditor's concerns will be addressed by adopting an auditor's recommendation that the receiver defer the procedure for obtaining consent to hospitals where sterilizations are performed.

The state Senate passed legislation in May that would forbid jails and prisons from sterilizing inmates for the purpose of birth control, after the Center for Investigative Reporting found doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 inmates without required approvals.

PHOTO: Former Valley State Prison for Women inmate Kimberly Jeffrey with her son Noel, 3, shown in June 2013. During her imprisonment in 2010, Jeffrey says a doctor pressured her to agree to be sterilized, but she refused. Noah Berger/ For The Center for Investigative Reporting

June 19, 2014
AM Alert: Crude oil rail transport comes under scrutiny

crude_oil_rail.JPGThe volume of crude oil being shipped to California by rail surged last year, growing more than tenfold and raising concerns about public safety and transparency as these flammable cargoes roll through urban areas like downtown Sacramento.

Legislators have responded with bills that would require more communication by rail carriers to state emergency officials about crude oil shipments and impose a fee to train first responders to deal with major spills and fires on railway lines. Several safety provisions were also added to the budget, creating a fee for every barrel of crude that arrives in California by rail, to be used for oil spill prevention and emergency cleanup.

Lawmakers will explore the matter further during a hearing at 10 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol. The session, jointly held by the Senate and Assembly natural resources committees and the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, will explore whether the state is prepared for a "boom" in crude oil rail transport, as well as the risks to local communities.

VIDEO: Lawmakers are hurriedly pushing through hundreds of bills before summer recess, Dan Walters says.

PIT STOP: Ahead of this weekend's Toyota/Save Mart 350 race at the Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR haulers will parade over the Tower Bridge and around the Capitol at noon. The massive race car-carrying trucks are 56 feet long, and a law was passed two years ago to allow them to drive on state roads. The Legislature is considering another bill this year that would extend that exemption. State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, will launch the festivities at 8 a.m. at the 49er Travel Plaza on El Centro Road, presenting a resolution to NASCAR and Sonoma Raceway officials declaring today NASCAR Day in Sacramento.

HOSPITAL SAFETY: Nurses and other healthcare workers represented by SEIU gather at the State Resources Building on 9th Street at 9:30 a.m., urging California to adopt regulations protecting all healthcare workers from workplace violence. At 10 a.m., the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will consider their petitions to create comprehensive regulations for preventing workplace violence in healthcare settings. Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is scheduled to attend the demonstration, which has been prompted by two recent stabbings at Los Angeles hospitals, among other incidents.

INMATE HEALTH: With the expansion of Medi-Cal coverage under the Affordable Care Act, California's county jails could begin enrolling their "high-need, hard-to-reach populations" in health insurance, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Researcher Mia Bird will discuss the "role of jail systems as health care providers" and the potential benefits of enrolling inmates in insurance plans, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th street.

EQUAL TREATMENT: Mental health advocate Rose King and former Assemblywoman Helen Thomson lead a rally calling for an end to what they consider discrimination against mental illness treatment in Medi-Cal coverage and misuse of Proposition 63 funds for mental health services, 10:45 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol.

MATERNITY CARE: Researchers and practitioners in the maternity health care field meet for a two-day symposium on "improving outcomes for mothers and babies in Medi-Cal," beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. The event is sponsored by the California Department of Health Care Services, the UC Davis Health System and the California HealthCare Foundation.

ON THE ROAD: The Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color hosts a hearing on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, with a focus on health, workforce training and higher education, 4 p.m. at the Milton Marks Auditorium in San Francisco.

PHOTO: A crude oil train operated by BNSF snakes its way through James, California, just outside the Feather River Canyon in the foothills of Sacramento Valley, on June 5, 2014. Special to The Bee/Jake Miille

June 19, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Legislative activity booms before summer recess

20130530_HA_LOBBYIST0097.JPGThe Legislature is hurriedly pushing through hundreds of bills before a month-long break, Dan says.

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PHOTO: Sacramento lobbyists Terry McHale and Carl London walk away from the Senate member entrance on May 30, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 18, 2014
Anti-Delta tunnel groups gear up to oppose water bonds


California lawmakers haven't finished maneuvering to get a new water bond on the ballot in November, but opponents have already begun mobilizing.

Critics of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to build massive water conveyance tunnels under the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta are launching a political action committee to battle any water bond that could facilitate the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Their goal is to raise at least $1 million for the effort.

"If there's backdoor BDCP funding, we're going after it," said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for the anti-tunnel group Restore the Delta.

The water bond proposals flowing through the Legislature explicitly forbid any money going to the tunnels themselves, and the lawmakers pushing their bond measures have taken pains to disentangle the push for a new water bond from the deeply contentious Delta tunnels debate.

But the key water bond bills all include money for safeguarding and replenishing the Delta's ecosystem. For the BDCP to pass muster with regulators it must satisfy the so-called "co-equal goals" of water supply reliability and habitat restoration.

"Legally they cannot build the tunnels unless they fund the mitigation of it, and this is the mitigation," said Hopcraft. "The water exporters are paying for the construction and then they're sticking the taxpayers with the bill for all the mitigation of the damage."

Aiding the effort will be former state senator Mike Machado, a Linden Democrat, and Tom Zuckerman, an attorney for the Central Delta Water Agency and vocal Delta advocate.

If the Legislature does not act, Californians entering voting booths in November will have before them an $11.1 billion bond measure that was initially passed in 2009 but has since been pushed back twice. Advocates of a new bond say the 2009 measure is too costly and unwieldy to win approval.

PHOTO: Aerial photo of the region to be affected by the Delta water tunnels and intakes in the Courtland area on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

June 18, 2014
Assembly committee rejects Ellis Act amendment for SF

One of the year's most heavily lobbied bills, aimed at restricting the conversion of rental apartments into condominiums in San Francisco, was rejected Wednesday in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.

The measure, Senate Bill 1439, would allow San Francisco's city government to restrict or prohibit the conversions of apartment houses if their owners had held the property for less than five years.

It would carve out an exception to the Ellis Act, passed by the Legislature three decades ago to counter local rent control ordinances that barred rental owners from making such conversions. The Ellis Act allows rental units to be withdrawn from the market, and tenants evicted, if their owners go out of the rental housing business.

The San Francisco housing market is one of the nation's hottest, creating an incentive for investors to buy apartment houses (and some single-family rental homes) and make Ellis Act conversions. That trend has drawn a sharp reaction from city officials and local housing advocates, who complain that low- and moderate-income renters are being evicted without cause by greedy investors.

The city is exploring curbs on conversions that it can enact without an Ellis Act amendment, but broadly restricting conversions would require the amendment that SB 1439, carried by Sen. Mark Leno, would provide.

June 18, 2014
Calif. Supreme Court Justice Marvin R. Baxter to retire next year


California Supreme Court Justice Marvin R. Baxter announced Wednesday that he will retire when his term ends in January, providing Gov. Jerry Brown another opportunity to reshape the state's high court.

Baxter, 74, will have served 24 years. His retirement follows Justice Joyce L. Kennard's departure in April and further signals the coming changes to the court.

"I have been privileged to have such an interesting and fulfilling career in the law, serving as a deputy district attorney, in private practice, as Appointments Secretary to Governor George Deukmejian, and as an Associate Justice on the California Court of Appeal and Supreme Court," Baxter said in a statement Wednesday.

"It is a great honor to have served on the state's high court since 1991. With three Chief Justices, twelve Associate Justices, and excellent staff, I have been able to contribute to its substantial body of opinions and case law. At the local and statewide levels I was gratified to have the opportunity to assist Governor Deukmejian in the appointment of more than 700 judges and numerous executive branch appointees, and to have supported the evolution of our judicial branch of government as a member of the Judicial Council of California and its committees. Jane and I look forward to an active retirement and will focus our time and attention on family and friends, traveling, hobbies, and charitable activities."

Baxter was nominated to the court by Deukmejian in 1990 and confirmed to a second 12-year term in 2002. A native of Fowler, Baxter attended Fresno State University and Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

"Marv Baxter has been a good friend and trusted advisor for over 30 years. His quiet yet thoughtful demeanor served as a steady influence during some troublesome times that I experienced in the Governor's Office," Deukmejian said. "His endless efforts resulted in well established recommendations that I grew to rely upon, especially in the selection of individuals for judicial appointments. His accomplishments both on and off the bench have been justifiably praised by all who know him."

June 18, 2014
AM Alert: Early education back in spotlight after budget

Headstart.JPGOne of the year's biggest budget battles was over pre-kindergarten. State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg came out early in the session with a proposal to create a "transitional kindergarten" year for all California four-year-olds, and he pushed hard for the program in the face of doubts from Gov. Jerry Brown. A final deal largely scaled back the plan to preschool for low-income children.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, will join mothers and child care providers at 11 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol to applaud the new program as an opportunity help lift families out of poverty and to call for expansion of child care and early education in the future.

Karen Skelton, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Shriver Report, will also be on hand to announce a three-city tour of the HBO documentary Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert. The film, based on last year's report about women and children in poverty, will screen at 6 p.m. at the SEIU State Council on 7th Street, then head to Oakland and Los Angeles.

VIDEO: In contrast to the judicial branch, little disclosure is required for the communications that inform the Legislature's policy-making, Dan Walters says.

NO MONEY MO PROBLEMS: Sacramento State's Center for California Studies sponsors a symposium on municipal bankruptcies, starting at 10 a.m. at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street. Academics and former mayors from Riverside and Modesto will discuss the underlying factors that have led California cities to declare bankruptcy.

THE MAN-UFACTURING SHOW: Sierra Nevada Brewing, Parallax and California Steel Industries are among the companies that will be honored by the California Manufacturers & Technology Association at its "Champions of Manufacturing" event recognizing companies that have shown commitment to the state, their employees and innovation, 10 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Kish Rajan, director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, and comedian Adam Carolla are scheduled to speak.

PLATINUM ANNIVERSARY: In honor of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the GI Bill of Rights, which provided home loans and college tuition among other benefits, the state Department of Veterans Affairs is holding a reception, 1 p.m. at the CalVet Medal of Honor Hall on O Street. Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, and Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, are expected to attend.

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: The Greater Sacramento Urban League recognizes legislators who have "championed for equality and justice for Californians" during its annual legislative reception, 5:30 p.m. in the Capitol Basement Rotunda. Steinberg, Liu and Assembly members Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, and Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, are set to be honored. The reception coincides with the release of the organization's latest "State of Black America" report on minority unemployment.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Pérez, who turns 42 today.

PHOTO: Headstart students Adani Devlin, 5, left, and Jocelyn Walls, 4, work on their paintings during class at Washington Elementary School in downtown Sacramento on August 21, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 18, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Legislative process lacks transparency

RBCapitolDome.JPGIn contrast to the judicial branch, little disclosure is required for the communications that inform the Legislature's policy-making, Dan says.

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PHOTO: The Capitol dome on December 11, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton

June 17, 2014
California soda warning label bill stalls in committee

California lawmakers on Tuesday turned back legislation that would require warning labels on sugary beverages, voicing skepticism about the public health benefits.

"It's an honorable effort but I feel it's ineffective," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who acknowledged that soda manufacturers are prominent job generators in her district. "I think this bill creates as much confusion as it does information. A label which will appear on soda and sports drinks with no labels appearing on chocolate milk, juices or alcoholic beverages sends the wrong message."

Senate Bill 1000 slipped out of the Senate last month with the bare minimum 21 votes needed to advance. Legislators on the Assembly Health Committee halted its progress, with two Democrats voting against the measure and four others abstaining. The measure fell three votes short of the 10 needed to pass.

After trying unsuccessfully in the past to impose a tax on sugar-suffused drinks, Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, this year sought to drain soda consumption by having the drinks bear warning labels. Monning and public health officials backing the legislation called sugary drinks a key culprit in the nation's swollen obesity rate.

"The label is based on the science that says liquid sugar is a unique driver in today's obesity and diabetes epidemics," Monning testified.

June 17, 2014
Audit hits Public Utilities Commission's transportation arm on fines, passenger safety


In the latest public criticism of California's Public Utilities Commission, a state audit faults the agency's transportation branch for lax oversight and failing to regularly collect penalties.

The PUC's transportation enforcement arm regulates drivers like limousine operators, airport shuttles, coach buses and more recently so-called "transportation network companies" like Uber and Lyft (taxi cabs are not in its purview). That responsibility includes ensuring transportation companies have the proper permits and launching investigations in response to public complaints about wayward operators.

According to the state audit, the PUC has fallen short. The official analysis found that the agency lacks a robust system for dealing with claims of violations and responds slowly when it does act, taking an average of 238 days to complete investigations.

June 17, 2014
Speaker Atkins: Still more to do to advance gay rights in California


The new Assembly leader may have kissed her spouse on the Assembly floor after being sworn in as one of the state's most powerful politicians, but gay people have not yet attained full equality in California, Speaker Toni Atkins said Tuesday.

"Even in California, there are places and times and ways that I probably wouldn't feel very comfortable taking Jennifer's hand. So we still have work to do," Atkins said as she addressed a crowd of women lobbyists, lawyers and other Capitol power brokers at the She Shares conversation series.

Atkins talked about her upbringing in a poor family in Virginia and touched on her experience of coming out as a lesbian in her late teens. She said she found it easier to be openly gay after leaving a more conservative community for San Diego.

Now that she's risen to such a powerful position in California politics, Atkins said, her hometown is taking notice. She pointed to an article about her in the Roanoke Times that included a picture of her kissing her spouse, Jennifer LeSar, on the day she was sworn in as Assembly speaker.

"For that picture to be in the paper in Virginia is important because it gives permission. The speaker of the California state Assembly can be a lesbian, and it's OK. That's the movement. But it takes a lot of those actions," Atkins said.

She said she hopes her story will help others feel comfortable about being gay, and inspire girls to seize professional opportunities.

"For young women and individuals, not just women, to see that I could be there and and here today is a story that I think is important for everyone. Because it isn't about me. It's about their hope, and their possibility."

PHOTO: Spouses Toni Atkins and Jennifer LeSar kiss after Atkins was sworn in as Assembly speaker on May 12, 2014. Outgoing Speaker John A. Perez and Atkins' nephew Thomas Phillips stand next to them. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 17, 2014
'Audrie's Law' juvenile rape bill stalls in Assembly committee

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill toughening penalties for juveniles who commit sex crimes, dubbed "Audrie's Law" after a 15-year-old assault victim who committed suicide, but the measure stalled Tuesday in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Civil rights groups and children's protective groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, oppose the bill, Senate Bill 838, as a major change in juvenile criminal law - especially its mandatory two-year term of incarceration for violation. And those criticisms were echoed by the committee's liberal members, including chairman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat.

Ammiano suggested - and the bill's author, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, very reluctantly agreed - to postpone a committee vote until next week. The measure faces an June 27 deadline for committee approval or rejection.

Beall's measure would expand juvenile sexual offenses to include sex with an unconscious or disabled person, make a crime of disseminating photos of sex crime victims via the Internet or other social media, and require the two-year mandatory terms.

He introduced it in response to the suicide in 2012 of Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old Saratoga high school student who was assaulted while unconscious from drinking at a party. Pictures of her naked, unconscious body were circulated via text messages and the Internet, forcing her - as her parents later testified - to repeatedly relive the humiliating experience and leading to her hanging suicide several days later.

The three 16-year-old youths involved in the assault were each given just a few weeks in juvenile detention. Current juvenile law does not mandate incarceration for assault of an unconscious or disabled victim.

Beall described the current law as "our fault and we need to correct the problem" but Ammiano insisted on delaying action in hopes of amending the bill to get enough votes to move out of the committee.

"There is a sweet spot here, I know there is," Ammiano said.

PHOTO: Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 17, 2014
AM Alert: Battle over ride-share apps reaches Capitol

Lyft.JPGAs the ride-sharing industry grows, the question of how much to regulate companies like Uber and Lyft, which match passengers with drivers through smartphone apps, has reached the Capitol.

Lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would require drivers, who usually use their own vehicles to ferry passengers, to carry higher-level commercial insurance--either whenever they are logged onto a company's app or at all times. The bills, which are backed by the insurance and taxi industries, have received serious pushback from ride-sharing companies and their allies, who argue that the regulation will "stifle innovation."

Supporters of Uber and Lyft, led by the Internet Association's Robert Callahan, will rally on the north steps of the Capitol at 9 a.m. urging the Senate to reject the measures, both of which already passed the Assembly almost unanimously. They will then testify before the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee, which is hearing the bills at 9:30 a.m. in Room 3191.

VIDEO: A rare open seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors provides a high-stakes race in this low-key election year, Dan Walters says.

AUDRIE'S LAW: In September 2012, 15-year-old Audrie Pott committed suicide after she was sexually assaulted by several classmates while passed out at a party and pictures of the incident were shared with other students. The tragedy led to "Audrie's Law," Senate Bill 838 from state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, which would require two years in an out-of-home probation program for juveniles convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or developmentally disabled victim, with an additional year for those who share pictures or texts of the assault.

The bill passed with no dissenting votes in the Senate, but opposition has emerged from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Public Defenders Association and Human Rights Watch, who argue that courts should retain discretion in removing teenagers from their homes because of the "high human cost, as well as a high financial cost" of placing them in detention facilities. It will next be heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, 9 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

WHOSE MONEY?: In May, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that would require politically active nonprofit organizations in California to disclose their big donors. The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's political ethics watchdog, holds a meeting at 10 a.m. at 428 J Street to get public comments on its proposed regulations for implementing the new oversights, which go into effect July 1 of this year. The commission will consider the regulations at its July 17 meeting.

TALK THAT TALK: Fresh off her first budget as Assembly Speaker, Toni Atkins is the latest guest for the "She Shares" conversation series. Atkins will discuss her personal journey with Dewey Square Group's Karen Breslau, 9:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand hotel on J Street.

Kish Rajan, director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, speaks at luncheon sponsored by the Northern California World Trade Center, 11:30 a.m. at the NorCalWTC building on Capitol Mall.

WOMEN IN POVERTY: One in four California women is living in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures cited by the Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality. The panel was created earlier this year to examine policy opportunities to promote gender equity, and it holds its second informational hearing today, a general review of issues for women in poverty that will help determine its agenda for the rest of the year. The hearing, scheduled for 4 p.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol, will be headlined by Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby organization NETWORK.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, who turns 57 today.

PHOTO: A Lyft car crosses Market Street in San Francisco on Jan. 17, 2013. The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

June 17, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Keep an eye on LA County supervisor race

Sheila_Kuehl.JPGA rare open seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors provides a high-stakes race in this low-key election year, Dan says.

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PHOTO: Senate Health Committee chairman, Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, listens to Senate Pro tem, Don Perata, D-Oakland, following the failed vote on AB X1, inside the Capitol on Jan. 28, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

June 16, 2014
Senate investigations probe sergeant-at-arms shooting

The California Senate will spend more than $40,000 on private contractors to investigate security concerns raised by an in-house law enforcement officer who was found to have used cocaine and marijuana the night he was involved in a fatal off-duty shooting.

In March, attorney Sue Ann Van Dermyden and threat assessment expert James Cawood completed their investigation of issues raised by the December 2012 shooting outside the Sacramento home of Gerardo Lopez, who was a sergeant-at-arms for the Senate until he was fired last month. The investigators billed the Senate $41,486 for the work, according to information provided by Mark Hedlund, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

The results of their investigation fall under attorney-client privilege and will not be released by the Senate, Hedlund said.

"The Senate is now in the process of drafting new, updated operating procedures and codes of conduct for the Sergeant-at-Arms office," Hedlund said in a statement.

Steinberg fired Lopez after The Sacramento Bee raised questions about court testimony that showed Lopez had used illegal drugs the night he engaged in a gunfight outside his house that left three people injured and one man dead. The Senate's chief sergeant-at-arms, Tony Beard, stepped down from his position after it came out that he had withheld information from Steinberg about the toxicology report showing Lopez had used cocaine and marijuana that night. Prosecutors consider Lopez the victim of a home invasion and are charging three people with robbery in a case scheduled to go to trial this week.

The incident triggered fear among some Senate employees, as well as allegations that Lopez benefitted from nepotism in holding on to his job as long as he did. His mother, Dina Hidalgo, is the Senate's head of human resources.

The Legislature's lawyers, known as the Legislative Counsel Bureau, signed a contract with outside attorneys on May 28 to investigate the claims of nepotism, according to the information from Hedlund. That work went to Heather Irwin of the Gordon & Rees law firm. Her hourly rate is $325 but she has not yet billed the Legislature, Hedlund said.

"She was told the target date of completion was mid-June. However about one week ago, she asked for more time because she had not yet been able to complete her final interviews," Hedlund's statement says.

"We believe that will happen shortly and she will then be able to complete the report."


Editor's note: This post was updated at 9:45 p.m. to say three people were injured in the shooting outside Lopez's home.

June 16, 2014
California Senate passes fundraising ban it killed last week


The California Senate reversed course Monday by approving a fundraising ban it rejected last week.

Senate Bill 1101 would prohibit anyone running for the state Legislature from accepting or soliciting campaign donations during two one-month periods: when lawmakers deliberate over the state budget from mid-May to mid-June, and during the final month of session as they vote on scores of contentious bills.

The bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is similar to a rule the Senate passed last week to ban campaign fundraising in the upper house during two blackout periods. But the rule would apply only to the Senate and need to be renewed each session, while SB 1101 would create a law that applies indefinitely to both houses of the Legislature. Because the bill amends California's Political Reform Act, it requires approval from two-thirds of state lawmakers.

It fell short of that margin last week when Senate Republicans argued that the bill didn't make clear that it covered all legislative candidates -- not just incumbents. Padilla got their votes when he brought it back today by saying he promised to make that amendment as the bill moves through the Assembly. It passed today with bipartisan support from 32 senators.
Republican Sen. Joel Anderson voted "no" and four senators withheld their votes: Democratic Sen. Bill Monning and Republican Sens. Tom Berryhill, Ted Gaines and Mimi Walters.

"With today's vote, we are one step closer to improving the public's confidence in state government," Padilla said in a statement. "A fundraising blackout will help reduce the unseemly overlap of public policy and campaign contributions."

PHOTO: Sen. Alex Padilla, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, listens to testimony on why the state Energy Commission has been unable to spend millions of federal stimulus dollars on August 1, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas.

June 16, 2014
Burton in spotlight as California Democratic Party headquarters open

PelosiCalifornia.jpgAdulation rained down on California Democratic Party chair John Burton during a Monday event launching a new party headquarters bearing Burton's name.

An impressive roster of statewide elected officials, members of the state Legislature and denizens of Congress converged on the corner of S and 9th street in Sacramento for the dedication. Formerly a Wishing Well party store, the building has since has transformed into a sparkling new LEED-certified structure boasting solar panels and electrical vehicle charging stations.

But the building itself took a backseat on Monday to Burton, a longtime figure in Democratic politics who most recently led the Democratic caucus in the state Senate before becoming head of the state party in 2009. Gov. Jerry Brown and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, were among those recounting Burton's accomplishments before a crowd stocked with elected officials.

"I've seen the Democratic party for all of my life, and never has it had such a following, a solidity of organization or a leader in John Burton," Brown said.

"He's mastered inner discord," Brown added of the notoriously foul-mouthed Burton, "and therefore can master the outer discord."

Among the donors helping to get the project off the ground was environmental activist and billionaire Tom Steyer, who contributed an undisclosed amount to the cause. The building was purchased for $830,000 and required just over $2 million worth of work, according to party spokesman Tenoch Flores.

"It took a lot of money to get it to where it is now," Flores said. "It was essentially a renovation project."

The party had formerly been paying $14,000 a month in rent for a space at 21st and N streets, Flores said. Speakers at the event suggested the project could pay for itself, touting it as a space to host party fundraisers.

PHOTO: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is greeted by California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton at dedication ceremonies of the new John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento, Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

June 16, 2014
Kevin de León formally voted in as the next Senate leader

DeLeonSteinberg.JPGThe California Senate unanimously voted in a new leader Monday, formally naming Sen. Kevin de León as its next president pro tem.

The Los Angeles Democrat is scheduled to take the reins of the Legislature's upper house from Sen. Darrell Steinberg on Oct. 15, Steinberg's 55th birthday.

Lawmakers lauded the vote for de León as an historic action, marking the first time in modern California history that a Latino has led the state Senate. The last Latino to have the position was Sen. Reginaldo del Valle, who led the Senate briefly in 1883, Steinberg said.

"While history unfortunately will not long remember Pro Tem Del Valle, I can guarantee you that history will remember Pro Tem Kevin de León," Steinberg said in a speech nominating his colleague for the post, with several Assembly members who are part of the Legislature's Latino caucus looking on.

Senators cast their vote after an hour and a half of accolades for de León, 47. Colleagues praised him for his determination in pursuing environmental and immigrant-rights policies, his devotion to his daughter and a personal story of growing up with a single mother who immigrated from Mexico.

"Kevin was raised in one of those households that was truly, truly very poor and disadvantaged," said Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, as he recalled their shared childhood in San Diego.

"We saw a lot of horrible things. We saw our friends and family members get gunned down."

Republicans also voiced support for de León.

"When I think about the American Dream, I can't think of anybody who embodies it as much as Senator de León, growing up in the barrio of Logan Heights in San Diego and graduating from Pitzer College," Republican leader Sen. Bob Huff said.

De León thanked colleagues and said he looked forward to cooperating as they continue to work to "improve the human condition." He pointed out that his childhood of poverty is not unique.

"My story actually is the story of millions of other Californians. Many of them are your constituents, whether they are in South L.A., or Bell Gardens... or Richmond or Pomona," he said. "It's a story of so many of us."

In a meeting with reporters after the floor session ended, de León said he will work hard in Senate Democrat political campaigns this year to get more Democrats out to vote in November. He said he is hoping to help Democrats restore the two-thirds supermajority they lost this year when three senators were suspended while they fight criminal charges including bribery, perjury and conspiracy to traffic weapons.


Kevin de León aims to move past Calderon scandal to lead Senate

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, congratulates Sen. Kevin De Leon after he was voted into the leadership position on Monday, June 16, 2014. De Leon, who will take over Oct. 15, will be the first Latino Pro Tem since Reginaldo Francisco Del Valle in 1883. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 16, 2014
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Joan Didion named to California Hall of Fame

The eighth class of inductees to the California Hall of Fame includes a basketball legend, a literary icon, a celebrated filmmaker and a civil-rights heroine, officials announced Monday.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Joan Didion, Francis Ford Coppola and Charlotta Bass are among the luminaries celebrated for exemplifying the Golden State's spirit of innovation.

The class also includes community organizer Fred Ross, Sr; environmental scientist Stephen Schneider; and social-activism innovator Mimi Silbert, according to the announcement from California Gov. Jerry Brown and Anne Gust Brown along with The California Museum.

"These talented pioneers represent the very best of California," Brown said in the statement. "Their determination, intelligence and creativity continue to inspire us."

"I am honored to be chosen for the California Hall of Fame," Abdul-Jabbar said. "It is a significant achievement to join the ranks of the other honorees. They have set an example of achievement that every Californian can admire and emulate."

Previous inductees include the actor Jack Nicholson, labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, photograpther Dorothea Lange and chef Alice Waters.

Inductees or their families will receive a Spirit of California medal from the Browns at an official ceremony planned for 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at The California Museum in Sacramento. A public viewing of the arrivals begins at 5 p.m. and a live webcast of the ceremony will be streamed on the Museum's website.

PHOTO: NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson embrace during a news conference outside City Hall in Los Angeles on April 29 after Johnson's comments on the decision by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from basketball for life. (AP Photo)

June 16, 2014
AM Alert: Senate votes on Steinberg replacement

steinberg_leon_blog.jpgWith the primary election season and budget drama (mostly) behind us, the state Senate is finally ready to pick a new leader. They'll vote to elect the next president pro tem during today's floor session, which begins at noon.

Don't expect any surprises: Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, has been waiting in the wings for months. Current Senate leader Darrell Steinberg announced his successor early in the session, with plans to hand over the reins on Oct. 15.

"I think he will be a great leader," Steinberg said of de León in January. "He's adept at both the policy and the political side."

Despite speculation that de León's ambitions to be pro tem could be thwarted by his connection to suspended Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, who has been embroiled in a corruption scandal, no real challengers emerged.

A nascent campaign by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was abandoned when he got a shot at Rep. George Miller's seat in Congress, and Democrats quickly settled the leadership debate during a caucus meeting the next day.

VIDEO: A court ruling striking down several teacher protection laws has shaken up the race for state superintendent of public instruction, Dan Walters says.

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN: How does the California Republican Party plan to increase GOP representation in the Legislature this November? What districts are they targeting to prevent another Democratic supermajority? The Republican leaders of the Senate and Assembly, Bob Huff and Connie Conway, address the Lincoln Club of Placer County, 6:30 p.m. at the Timber Creek Ballroom in Roseville.

KEEPING BIZ-Y: The California Small Business Association sponsors California Small Business Day, starting at 9 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand hotel on J Street. Legislators including Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Assemblymen John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, Dan Logue, R-Marysville, and Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank, will present awards to small business owners from their districts and deliver remarks.

AT THE MOVIES: Over the past thirty years, college tuition has spiraled and student loan debt has soared past $1 trillion. The new documentary Ivory Tower explores some of the causes of the rising cost of higher education, and includes thoughts from Gov. Jerry Brown and others on possible solutions. Participant Media and the Michelson 20 Million Minds Foundation sponsor a free screening of the film, 6 p.m. at the Crest Theater on K Street, to be followed by a panel discussion including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton.

SCHOOLS RULES: In August 2013, seven California school districts representing about one million students -- including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno and Long Beach -- were granted a federal exemption from No Child Left Behind achievement standards. Their alternate, self-designed accountability standards for improving student performance and school climate is overseen by the School Quality Improvement System Oversight Panel, which meets at 10 a.m. at WestEd on G Street for its biannual review of the districts' progress.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, who turns 50 today.

PHOTO: Sen. Kevin de León, talks with Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, during the California Senate session Jan. 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 16, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Vergara decision boosts state schools chief debate

rally_tom_torlakson_resize.JPGA court ruling striking down California's teacher protection laws shakes up this year's race for state superintendent of public instruction, 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 Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, urges legislators to support the tax extension proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown on March 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 15, 2014
Lawmakers approve California budget under looming deadline

budgetphoto.jpgby David Siders and Jeremy B. White

California lawmakers passed the state's main budget bill Sunday, less than six hours before the constitutional deadline.

The vote comes after Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders last week reached a compromise on a $156.4 billion budget package for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The spending plan includes more money for Medi-Cal and welfare-to-work and an expansion of child care and preschool programs for poor children. It also begins to pay down an estimated shortfall of more than $74 billion in the teachers' pension fund, puts about $1.6 billion into a special rainy day fund and holds about $460 million more in reserve.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly were beginning late Sunday to take up the first of 18 related "trailer bills," legislation attached to the budget.

The Senate approved the main budget bill 25-11. Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, broke ranks with Republicans to cast a vote for the budget.

The vote in the Assembly was 55-24.

"This is a much brighter day than what we've seen in years past," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, adding that only recent years have lawmakers been able to begin restoring cuts made during the recession.

Among trailer bills lawmakers took up Sunday were items inserted with little public review in recent days, including controversial language capping the amount of money school districts may set aside for economic uncertainties if state-level reserves reach certain levels.

The measure, backed by California's influential teachers unions, was opposed by school administrators, and some Democrats who supported the proposal criticized the late hour at which it appeared.

"My main concern truly is with the process," Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, said before the measure cleared a budget committee Sunday. "This is clearly a major policy deviation from the way we've done business, and this is something that could have been discussed over the last several months."

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said, "To say that this process is inconsistent, I think, is somewhat of an understatement and is the politest word I can think of."

The budget's main points, however, were settled by late last week. In a prepared statement Friday, Brown called the spending plan a "solid and sustainable budget that pays down debt, brings stability to the teachers' pension system and builds at long last a reliable Rainy Day Fund."

In debate in the Assembly on Sunday, Democrats and Republicans split on both the main budget bill and several trailer bills. Members of the majority party praised what they called a balanced approach to spending, while Republicans decried plans to spend carbon-reduction funds on high speed rail and said spending on education is inadequate.

"We do not live up to the promises of Prop 30 in this budget," said Jeff Gorell, vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, referring to the tax measure Brown and others promoted in 2012 as a new funding stream for schools.

The budget and it's $108 billion general fund are a product of negotiations between the Democratic governor and majority Democrats in the Legislature. Republican support was required for a two-thirds vote on a reserve fund measure in May, but the minority party was largely sidelined in budget talks.

Hours before lawmakers took up the budget, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said on Twitter, "Usually on Father's Day, I barbecue meat. I wish I could roast a few Dem priorities."

PHOTO: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, right, receives congratulations from Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, after the Senate approved the state budget at the Capitol Sunday. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

June 13, 2014
Jerry Brown, legislative leaders tout budget agreement

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders made it clear Friday that they have reached an agreement on a new state budget.

"The leaders of the Legislature have worked very hard to build a solid and sustainable budget that pays down debt, brings stability to the teachers' pension system and builds at long last a reliable Rainy Day Fund," Brown said in the statement, which included comments from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

The statement, instead of a joint appearance that once routinely accompanied budget deals, arrived some 17 hours after the Legislature's budget-writing committee finished work on a package of spending items that reflected compromises with the administration.

The $108 billion general fund agreement contains more money for preschool, home caregivers and welfare payments, and allocates hundreds of millions in cap-and-trade revenue to high-speed rail, sustainable development, and other green causes. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the package Sunday afternoon.

In Friday's statement, Atkins praised the agreement as "building a foundation for the future."

"We help reduce child poverty, so every child can learn and grow to reach their greatest potential, and we improve preschool, and child care for working families," Atkins said in the statement.

Steinberg said the deal "proves once again that negotiation and cooperation can achieve a great outcome."

"We're expanding preschool for our youngest and career pathway programs for our older students," Steinberg said. "In addition, we're changing the course of our failed corrections system with better solutions to help offenders become productive citizens, and making smart investments to fight climate change with permanent funding for mass transit and affordable housing."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown leaves the podium with Senate Presdient Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg after he delivered the 2014 State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 at the State Capitol.The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 13, 2014
Democrats Bera, Peters say they're eager to debate GOP rivals


A pair of targeted freshman California Democrats are as eager as their Republican challengers to debate in the general election.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a press release the day after the June 3 primary saying he hoped Republican Doug Ose would agree to a debate "so that the voters get the opportunity to see where we stand."

Ose is also ready to debate, saying on election night he's willing to engage "anytime, anywhere." On Thursday, he sent a formal letter to his rival inviting him to a series of five debates because "the issues facing our great nation are too important to be left to 30-second TV ads and sound bites."

Challengers, who have less to lose, most often push hardest for debates. But it certainly isn't unheard of for incumbents to demand engagement.

In San Diego, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, upped the ante the day after the primary, prodding Republican Carl DeMaio to participate in 10 debates, including five issue-specific forums.

DeMaio, who even before the primary signaled his willingness to stand toe-to-toe, said he looked forward to working out a debate schedule.

Editor's Note: This post was recast at 4:36 p.m. June 13, 2014 to reflect that Ose suggested a debate on the night of the election.

PHOTO: Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, attends his primary election party with supporters at Lamppost Pizza on June 3 in Elk Grove. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 13, 2014
VIDEO: No dancing, but Chris Christie calls success in blue state proof Kashkari has a chance

christiekashkari2.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that his own victory in a Democratic-leaning state in 2009 is evidence a Republican can win the governorship in California, but he stopped short of committing resources from the Republican Governors Association to the state's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Neel Kashkari.

"No one thought I was going to win in 2009," Christie, chairman of the RGA, told reporters at a flower store in San Francisco. "I'm out here to support Neel to let him know it can happen, but what you have to do is reach out to everybody."

The appearance was Kashkari's first major event since advancing from the primary election last week, defeating tea party rival Tim Donnelly. But Kashkari faces an uphill climb against incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown. Kashkari finished about 35 percentage points behind the third-term Democrat in the primary election, and Brown enjoys a massive fundraising advantage.

Christie, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, overcame a Democratic registration advantage to win election in New Jersey in 2009. His opponent, Jon Corzine, was highly unpopular, however, while Brown's job approval ratings are soaring.

Christie was in California raising money for the governors association. He suggested any direct financial assistance to Kashkari is not imminent.

Watch: Christie busts a move on "Tonight Show"

"I will do whatever is possible for us to do to make this race competitive," Christie said. "Now, at the end of the day it's up to him. You know, as I said before, each race is up to the individual candidate. And what the RGA can do is when we have a close race we can be the folks who help to push that person over the finish line. He's got work to do. He knows he's got work to do. He didn't just wake up this morning, OK? He knows how difficult this race is. But I believe he's going to do the work, and when he does do the work you're going to see not only the RGA but lots of Republicans across the country, when they see an opportunity to win here in California, are going to be really rushing here to try to make that statement."

PHOTO: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigns with California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari in San Francisco on June 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 13, 2014
VIDEO: Chris Christie calls Rick Perry 'wrong' on homosexuality

christiekashkari.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry's remarks comparing homosexuality to alcoholism are "wrong," as Christie campaigned in San Francisco with Neel Kashkari, California's Republican candidate for governor.

Asked about Perry's comments, which caused a stir in San Francisco, where he made them, Christie said, "I'll just say that I disagree with them, and I don't believe that's an apt analogy and not one that should be made, because I think it's wrong."

Perry and Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, are both potential presidential candidates. Asked about another comment of Perry's, in which the Texas governor reportedly praised Hillary Clinton for her time as secretary of state, Perry demurred.

"I have to tell you the truth," he said. "I haven't spent a lot of time analyzing Secretary Clinton's time at the State Department. If there comes a time when I need to, then I'll give you my analysis then, but I don't have one now."

PHOTO: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigns with California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari in San Francisco on June 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 13, 2014
AM Alert: California budget deadline looms

budgetsign.jpgAgreements have been reached on controversial issues involving overtime pay for home care workers, the use of cap-and-trade money and expansion of pre-kindergarten, but some details of next year's budget still need to be hammered out.

With the deadline just two days away, look for the deal to be mostly wrapped up today. If lawmakers don't pass a budget by midnight Sunday, they begin losing wages, and legislators are scheduled to return to Sacramento for floor sessions on Sunday afternoon.

Sorry, Capitol dads. Looks like this year's Father's Day will be a little less relaxing than the standard breakfast in bed.

VIDEO: Rep. Kevin McCarthy's likely ascension to House majority leader is bad news for California's high-speed rail proponents, Dan Walters says.

DEAR GRADUATES: Just a month after his last visit to the state on a fundraising tour through Southern California and Silicon Valley, President Barack Obama returns to California to deliver the commencement address at UC Irvine. Obama arrives in Palm Springs tonight and will be there for most of the weekend. He will attend a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Los Angeles Saturday morning before heading to Angel Stadium in Anaheim to speak at UC Irvine's graduation ceremony, which kicks off the school's 50th anniversary celebration.

CLASH OF THE GOVS: Texas Gov. Rick Perry fanned the flames of his political rivalry with Gov. Jerry Brown during a visit to the Capitol this week. Is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie next to enter the fray? He'll appear with Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari during a "small business tour" of San Francisco at 8:30 a.m.

OH FATHER: Father's Day isn't just for family celebrations; it's also an opportunity for political action. The Fathers' Rights Movement and the Grandparents' Rights Association of the USA hold a rally at 8 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol calling for greater rights for fathers and grandparents in raising children. Fathers for Justice will be on the north steps at 11 a.m. urging an overhaul of the divorce and family law courts that allows for "equal parenting rights."

CELEBRATIONS: An early happy birthday to Assembly members Nora Campos, D-San Jose, who turns 49 on Sunday, and Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, who turns 44. And, of course, a happy, mostly budget-free Father's Day to all of the dads in the Capitol community.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up a copy of the signed state budget at the Capitol on Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Sacramento as then-Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, left, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, center, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, right, celebrate in the background. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

June 13, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: McCarthy ascension could doom high-speed rail

Kevin_McCarthy.JPGRep. Kevin McCarthy's likely ascension to House majority leader is bad news for California's high-speed rail proponents, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, at the Republican National Convention inside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 1, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

June 12, 2014
Budget includes $2.5 million to fix up governor's mansion


The next California budget will contain $2.5 million to renovate Sacramento's historic governor's mansion, which has longstanding structural and maintenance problems.

The Legislature's budget conference committee added the money Thursday afternoon, one of many items the panel acted on to flesh out a spending package still being finalized by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders.

The $2.5 million will come from the proceeds of the sale of a Carmichael home built for then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were the last to live at the 137-year-old downtown mansion, before decamping for a home in the Fab 40's after Nancy Reagan deemed the mansion and surrounding area to be unsafe.

Brown, when he was governor from 1975 to 1983, lived in an apartment across from the Capitol. Govs. George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis lived at a modest house in Carmichael, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lived out of a suitcase at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento or flew home to Southern California. Brown, since returning to the Capitol, has split his time between a midtown apartment and his home in the Oakland hills.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, accompanied by his wife Ann Gust Brown, walk from the governor's mansion in midtown Sacramento to meet with reporters the evening of the June 3 primary election. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

June 12, 2014
Bera, other vulnerable Democrats vote to block high-speed rail

Thumbnail image for officeRB Ami Bera 1.JPG

Health care isn't the only issue where Rep. Ami Bera finds himself breaking with his party as he runs for for re-election in one of the most competitive congressional races in the country.

On Tuesday, the Elk Grove Democrat voted with three other California Democrats to block California's beleaguered high-speed rail project from receiving federal funds.

The amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, sponsored by high-speed rail foe Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 227-186. However, it's not likely to survive in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority.

Including Bera, four of the six Democrats who voted with Republicans were freshmen from California, underscoring the number of tight House races in the state this year.

The others were Rep. Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, Julia Brownley of Westlake Village and Scott Peters of San Diego. The remaining two, Reps. John Barrow of Georgia and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, belong to a shrinking group of fiscally conservative Democrats known as "Blue Dogs."

"If you're facing a competitive election in California," said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont-McKenna College, "opposition is probably the smart move."

The $68 billion high-speed rail project is one of the signature efforts of Gov. Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama. But like Obama's Affordable Care Act, it's also encountered near-universal opposition from Republicans. Denham, who's chairman of the House Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, has made numerous attempts to kill the project.

Bera supported high-speed rail when he ran for Congress in 2010, losing to Republican Rep. Dan Lungren. Bera narrowly won a rematch with Lungren in 2012, but by then had turned against the project after the cost had nearly tripled.

"With the many critical infrastructure projects that need funding in California right now like our levees, our bridges and roads, and other more highly traveled train routes," Bera said in an emailed statement, "now is not the time to be spending billions in taxpayer dollars on this project."

Bera has criticized the president's health care law and has voted with Republicans on different attempts to make changes. But former Republican Rep. Doug Ose, is betting that his staunch opposition to the law will help him defeat Bera in November.

Pitney said high-speed rail isn't as potent a weapon for Republicans as health care, but it's on the radar in California this year because of the governor's race, putting even more pressure on Bera and his fellow freshmen.

"Early on, you're shoring yourself up," Pitney said. "You don't want to be a one-term wonder."

PHOTO CREDIT: Ami Bera greeted volunteers in his Carmichael field office while he campaigned for the 3rd Congressional District on Saturday, October 16, 2010. Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee.

June 12, 2014
Budget deal to reject home-care overtime restrictions

brownbudgetrevise.jpgThe budget pact coming together at the state Capitol will reject limits on overtime for in-home care workers sought by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown's $107.8 billion general fund plan capped the number of hours for in-home workers, with the goal of preventing payments required by federal regulations set to take effect next January. The administration had warned that the rule could increase home-care costs by more than $600 million by June 2016.

But in-home care workers, the unions that represent them and many of their Democratic allies in the Legislature criticized the proposal, saying it would sharply reduce their take-home income and disrupt their clients' lives. The Assembly and Senate budgets contained $66 million for overtime payments.

It was unclear, though, if the plan would restore a 7 percent cut in home-care service hours. Assembly and Senate budgets included $140 million for the restoration.

Brown and legislative leaders continued to meet Thursday to iron out details of the final package, with the Legislature's budget-writing committee expected to convene later to take up items dealing with resources, health, welfare and other issues.

Lawmakers have been getting briefed on the deal, with a planned vote Sunday, the constitutional deadline to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Other parts of the agreement address growth in Medi-Cal caseloads and costs as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act. Brown's revised budget pegged the unanticipated cost at $1.2 billion, but it looked increasingly likely that the final pact will reflect the viewpoint of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, which has said the administration overstates the expense by some $300 million.

The overtime issue has been among the main outstanding budget sticking points, along with how to spend cap-and-trade revenue. The agreement allocates 25 percent of cap-and-trade money to high-speed rail in 2015-16 and beyond. That is roughly comparable to the project's share of the estimated $870 million in cap-and-trade money forecast for 2014-15.

Other recipients include affordable housing projects, which would be eligible for about $130 million of cap-and-trade money in the coming fiscal year. "We think this is a great step," said Shamus Roller, executive director of Housing California.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget plan at a news conference at the Capitol on May 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

June 12, 2014
Census Bureau charts ups and downs in California's economy


The rise, fall and recovery of California's economy - and its changing nature - are graphically displayed in a new Census Bureau tool.

The interactive website charts business patterns - the number of businesses, the type of businesses, their payroll costs and numbers of employees - and allows comparisons from state-to-state, as well as county-to-county within each state.

The tool reveals, for instance, that in 2002, manufacturing was the state's largest private economic sector by employment, with 1.6 million workers, but by 2012, factory employment had fallen to 1.1 million. It has been surpassed by health care and social services, with 1.7 million workers, up from 1.4 million a decade earlier.

Overall private employment remained virtually static during the 10-year period, rising from 12,856,426 in 2002 to 12,953,818 in 2012.

However, it had been as high as 13,824,264 in 2006, just before a severe recession struck the state, and fell as low as 12,536,402 in 2010 before recovery began. Meanwhile, the state's population increased by about 3 million during the 10-year period.

The number of businesses also rose and fell during the period, from 820,997 in 2002 to 891,997 in 2007, then declining sharply during the recession but recovering to 864,913 in 2012.

Annual private payrolls in the state increased from $510.8 billion in 2002 to $700.1 billion in 2012.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dr. Sonia Nagda displays a pin supporting the Affordable Care Act as she gathers with other health care professionals in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 26, 2012. New data says health care jobs are increasing. Charles Dharapak / AP Photo file, 2012

June 12, 2014
California teacher firing bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown


Against the backdrop of a ruling declaring California's teacher dismissal rules unconstitutional, the Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown legislation speeding the teacher firing process.

Years of wrangling and failed attempts preceded Assembly Bill 215, with Brown vetoing last year's iteration. In addition to attempting to limit the length of appeals, AB 215 contains a measure hailed as a major breakthrough -- a separate, accelerated process for teachers accused of egregious offenses such as molesting children.

Efforts to streamline the teacher firing process have come partly in response to the scandal of a Los Angeles teacher paid to resign after having sexually abused children. But they also reflect a consensus that, in California, it can be extraordinarily difficult, costly and time-consuming to fire a teacher.

"We all agree that the current dismissal appeal process for certificated employees takes too long and costs too much money," said Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, AB 215's author. "The only ones who benefit from the current process are the attorneys."

In a Tuesday ruling invalidating several of California's teacher employment rules, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu pressed a similar point. He wrote that the dismissal process is ""so complex, so time-consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory."

Buchanan began targeting the teacher firing process before the lawsuit, Vergara v California, and Treu's ruling. But AB 215 could mark one facet of a broader legislative response to the decision. The final vote was 76-0.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, seen here during Livermore's Downtown 22nd Annual Trick or Treat on October 29, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 12, 2014
Budget deal gives 25 percent of cap-and-trade money to high-speed rail

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders have agreed to a proposal to use 25 percent of future cap-and-trade revenue - money polluters pay to offset carbon emissions - to provide ongoing funding for construction of California's high-speed rail project, according to part of a budget deal legislators will consider Thursday, sources said.

The amount falls short of the 33 percent Brown originally sought but is more than the Senate Democrats proposed.

The use of cap-and-trade money is one of the most controversial elements remaining in a spending plan Brown and lawmakers are finalizing this week. Lawmakers are expected to finish committee work on the budget Thursday, with floor votes Sunday, the constitutional deadline.

Cap-and-trade auctions could generate as much as $1 billion in 2014-15. The deal lawmakers are considering for the $68 billion high-speed rail calls for ongoing funding beginning in the 2015-16 budget year.

In addition to high-speed rail, the deal calls for 15 percent of cap-and-trade revenue to go to other transportation projects and 20 percent to go to affordable housing projects and other programs that help reduce greenhouse gases.

The remaining 40 percent of cap-and-trade revenue would go to various transportation, natural resources, energy and other projects.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 12, 2014
AM Alert: Hernández, Hoffa push workplace protections for temps

RogerHernandez4.JPGAssemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, and Teamsters President Jim Hoffa hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol to discuss legislation that would make companies fully responsible for temporary employees brought in by a labor contractor.

The bill is co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation, which alleges that companies are attempting to circumvent workplace safety and compensation standards by using staffing agencies to supply "temporary" workers for full-time positions instead of hiring them.

VIDEO: A budget deal is a sure thing this week, Dan Walters says. But it will be something we can all be proud of?

MEASURE FOR MEASURE: As part of its mission to develop and promote alternative and renewable fuel sources and advanced transportation technologies, the California Energy Commission must every two years assess how its investments are helping California meets its climate change policy goals. The commission continues its annual update of the state's Integrated Energy Policy Report with a public workshop on the metrics it uses in its program evaluations, 10 a.m. at the California Energy Commission building on 9th Street.

A BEAUTIFUL MIND: How the brain works largely remains a mystery, but scientists are hoping that efforts to map the organ could finally crack the code. Ralph Greenspan, director of the Center for Brain Activity Mapping at UC San Diego, and William J. McGinnis, a professor of cell and development biology, will discuss how projects like the Obama administration's BRAIN Initiative could change our understanding of the human mind and provide an economic boon to California, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Hernández listens to colleagues at the Capitol on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

June 12, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Is budget deal something we can all be proud of?

LSBUDGETSIGN4.JPGWith the budget deadline looming, the Legislature is bound to reach a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown this week, Dan says. But will it be a good one for California?

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up the state budget he signed during a ceremony at the Capitol on June 27, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

June 11, 2014
John Vasconcellos remembered for his 'politics of trust'


Former California lawmaker John Vasconcellos, who spent decades championing humanity, much of it from the powerful perch overseeing billions of dollars in state spending, was remembered by friends and colleagues as a fierce revolutionary of ideas and the social conscience of the Legislature.

The face of the Silicon Valley in the Legislature from 1966 to 2004, Vasconcellos pushed for groundbreaking proposals in early childhood education, medical marijuana and self-esteem. His passing late last month was marked in a well-attended ceremony Wednesday in the state Senate chambers.

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown said he was not alone in feeling that he was never liberal enough for Vasconcellos. But it didn't take Brown long to discover Vasconcellos would be key to his leadership of the lower house.

"I knew I could never be deemed a reformer," Brown said. "But I could always have John to speak for me in that area, particularly if I explained to John how he could do some damage to all of us if he took the reform too far."

All 16 times Brown was up for the speakership, he said, it was Vasconcellos who nominated him.

Vasconcellos began in state government working for then-Gov. Pat Brown as his travel secretary. On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown said he later questioned Vasconcellos about whether people really needed more self-esteem, or less.

Jerry Brown said he and Vasconcellos were imprinted, or perhaps scarred, by their Jesuit education and Catholic upbringing. He described him as a "different, but kindred spirit."

"John believed that everybody was good and I couldn't get out of my mind that there was something like Original Sin. That people really weren't that good," the governor said.

Vasconcellos spent years as chairman of the influential Ways and Means Committee, and Jerry Brown credited him with having a deep understanding of the state budget.

"He was a person who had a drive and a belief and a respect that I think is sorely needed in our particular age of politics that is not built on self-esteem or many of the values that John Vasconcellos (lived) for," Jerry Brown said. "Maybe some day when we get rid of term limits we'll have those characters again."

Former Senate leader John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said it was amusing to look back and muse about how Vasconcellos was initially considered a moderate before morphing into a liberal firebrand.

"Was it pot, was it LSD, or was it just a natural progression?" Burton asked. "We leave that to others to think about."

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Secretary of State Debra Bowen remembered Vasconcellos' flurry of emails landing in the inboxes of his large network of friends.

Leno described his membership in the email tree as "a blessing and a curse." Just to keep up with the 10 to 15 emails a day took time and effort, he said. Bowen said she filed the all-caps missives in a separate file folder called "Vasco World."

"He would lay out his 20-point plan to fix the Legislature with 'the politics of trust,'" she said. "And then he would send it off to everyone for comment."

Former Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata recalled the pained look of Vasconcellos when he told Perata he couldn't support him for the post of Senate leader. Vasconcellos believed it was time for a woman and person of color to lead the body, Perata said.

Perata relayed to him that he understood. "I said 'John, you are who you are, and I knew that before you got here,'" Perata said.

But he said the conversation had a lasting impact.

"You have to think that a guy like John Vasconcellos served 38 years in constant turmoil within his soul because he was so good that having to encounter some of the politics of division, some of the hatred seen in our business, was very, very difficult for him.

"No one will walk again in the path that John chose."

PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown Jr. and and former Sen. Art Torres remember their colleague, former Sen. John Vasconcellos, as they look at a photograph of him following a memorial service at the State Capitol Wednesday. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 11, 2014
Tuck to Torlakson: Don't appeal Vergara ruling

Marshall_Tuck.JPGPortending what could become a major policy issue in November's runoff for state superintendent of public instruction, challenger Marshall Tuck called on incumbent Tom Torlakson Wednesday to support a recent court decision striking down California's teacher tenure laws.

"As one of the named defendants in the lawsuit and California's top education official, you are not merely a bystander in this case; legally and morally, you play a central role," Tuck wrote in an open letter to Torlakson.

"That is why I am writing to urge you to immediately drop any plans to appeal the Vergara ruling, and stop wasting taxpayer resources defending a broken system."

The decision issued Tuesday in Vergara v. State of California declared unconstitutional California rules establishing a two-year probationary period for teacher tenure, the process for firing teachers and seniority-based layoffs.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu argued that these laws deprive students of their constitutional right to a quality education by keeping subpar teachers in the classroom. Teachers unions sharply criticized the ruling and will likely appeal.

Torlakson, who was among those named in the lawsuit and would have a role in deciding whether to appeal the ruling, did not respond to Tuck's letter.

"He's focused on improving education for children and doesn't have time to waste on political stunts by his opponent," spokesman Paul Hefner said.

Torlakson issued a brief statement Tuesday that removing protections might make it more difficult for schools to attract, train and nurture top talent.

"Teachers are not the problem in our schools, they are the solution," he said.

Tuck and Torlakson have been locked in a costly and ideologically charged battle for the office of state schools chief. Millions of dollars in outside spending have poured into the race, with organized labor backing Torlakson and Tuck receiving big support from the private sector.

Tuck has been vocal about overhauling California's public education system, which ranks perennially low in national exams, and he has heavily criticized Torlakson's close relationship with teachers unions.

"Do you stand with California's kids, or with your Sacramento political supporters?" he wrote in Wednesday's letter.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:50 p.m. to include comments from Torlakson spokesman Paul Hefner.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Marshall Tuck

June 11, 2014
Education officials rip draft budget language limiting district reserves

Thumbnail image for brownbudget.JPGSchool officials are raising opposition to last-minute budget language that would cap the amount of money California school districts may set aside for economic uncertainties.

The draft trailer bill language, which education lobbyists distributed Wednesday, would limit districts' fund balances in most cases to two or three times the minimum required, a potential victory for public employee unions resistant to tying money up in reserves.

In a letter to Brown administration officials and lawmakers Wednesday, the Education Management Group, which represents school boards, administrators and superintendents, said the bill language is "fiscally irresponsible" and inconsistent with principles of local control.

"For most of the last two decades, California has focused on preventing school district bankruptcies by enacting laws that require multiyear projections, enforcement of strict fiscal standards by county offices of education, early intervention, and even the authority to override the spending decisions of local governing boards," the letter said. "It is therefore ironic that, at the very time an initiative has been placed on the statewide ballot to strengthen the state's rainy day fund, that the Legislature and Governor would consider statutory changes that eviscerate provisions at the local school district level that are based on the same premise of fiscal prudence and responsibility."

The Education Management Group also objected to the last-minute insertion of the language in a months-long budget process.

"People's jaws are still agape," said Bob Blattner, an education lobbyist. "At the very last second, it's such a significant policy issue to drop."

The trailer bill language comes as lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown move closer to a deal in this year's budget negotiations, with the Legislature expected to vote Sunday on the main budget bill. Brown and lawmakers last month agreed to a major component of the spending plan, a rainy-day fund measure that, if approved by voters, would increase statewide reserves.

Public employee unions had objected to a rainy day fund measure previously scheduled for the ballot. Kevin Gordon, a longtime education lobbyist, said he suspects "some linkage here to the rainy day fund and the fact that the California Teachers Association didn't object" to the new rainy day fund measure. Jeff Vaca, one of the Education Management Group letter's authors and deputy executive director for governmental relations at the California Association of School Business Officials, said the bill language is "probably as much political as it is policy."

The Brown administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Mike Myslinski, a spokesman for CTA, said he was unaware of any link between the rainy day fund measure and the trailer bill, but he said his organization supports the trailer bill language.

"This is all about understanding that school districts really must spend the taxpayers' dollars that they receive in the classroom," he said.

Fred Glass, of the California Federation of Teachers, said the organization is supportive of limiting reserves, too.

While a prudent reserve account is responsible, Glass said, "there are some districts that have 15, 20, 25 percent ending balances."

He said that "may translate into fiscal security for administrators, but it means limiting programs for students."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:28 p.m. to include Myslinski's remarks

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, left, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, celebrate a budget deal with a formal announcement at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 11, 2014
Eric Cantor was big contributor to Calif. lawmakers, candidates


House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, felled in a shocking upset by tea party challenger David Brat on Tuesday, helped channel at least $570,000 to California candidates over the last decade.

Cantor is considered one of the Republican Party's most skilled fundraisers, using his leadership PAC to support colleagues and challengers running across the country, according to a review of data compiled by CQ Roll Call's Political Moneyline.

Cantor's PAC, the aptly named Every Republican is Crucial, or ERIC PAC, contributed $30,000 each to Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock and Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine and $20,000 apiece to Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale.

Brat challenged Cantor on his willingness to support "amnesty" for those in the country illegally, a point Cantor strongly denied in mailers to voters across Virginia's 7th district.

Michael Eggman, a Turlock farmer and Denham's opponent in November, seized on the issue and the PAC's contributions to his rival, contending Cantor's loss was a "resounding rebuke to a career politician who talked out of both sides of his mouth on immigration reform." "Congressman Jeff Denham has been put on notice," Eggman said.

Former Reps. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, Brian Bilbray, R-San Diego and Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, each received donations totaling $40,000, $40,000 and $35,000, respectively, according to the group's database.

Cantor's PAC also is supporting a handful of Republicans expected to face or pose tough competition in November.

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, got $20,000 and is fielding a challenge from Sanger Democrat Amanda Renteria.

Republican Tony Strickland, a former state lawmaker who lost a congressional race in 2012, has taken in $20,000. He's in an intraparty general election with Sen. Steve Knight.

Republican Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman in San Diego, received $10,000. He's taking on Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande netted $5,000 in his race against Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert.

And Republican Elan Carr, a gang prosecutor pitted against Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu, got $5,000 in his quest to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills.

PHOTO: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., speaks to reporters after a House Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday. Repudiated at the polls, Cantor intends to resign his leadership post at the end of next month, officials said, clearing the way for a potentially disruptive Republican shake-up just before midterm elections with control of Congress at stake. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

June 11, 2014
Cops would use gun database before welfare checks under California bill


The state senator who represents the Isla Vista community that was ravaged by a mass murder last month has introduced legislation to require law enforcement to check California's gun-purchase database before going out on a welfare check, and provide grants to help police take guns from people who are not allowed to own them.

Police checked on Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old authorities say killed six people in Isla Vista before killing himself, after his parents alerted them of his violent video rants just a couple weeks before the shooting. The officers did not find evidence that Rodger posed a threat to himself or others.

"Although law enforcement may not have had the legal authority to seize Elliot Rodger's three guns had they known about them, a gun database search could have provided additional information that might have helped them better assess the danger that Rodger posed to himself and others," said a statement from Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

Her Senate Bill 505 would require officers to search the state Department of Justice's Automated Firearms System database before checking on someone who may be in danger of committing violence.

Jackson's Senate Bill 580 would provide funding to help enforce California's existing gun laws: $5 million in grants for local law enforcement agencies to take guns from people who are not allowed to own them; $10 million over three years to upgrade the Department of Justice's data systems used to register gun ownership and conduct background checks; and $50,000 for training police in using the gun-purchasing database.

"Both of these bills are about making better use of the tools and the laws at hand to help prevent gun violence," Jackson's statement said.

June 11, 2014
Bill would deny Donald Sterling a deduction for NBA fine


The Donald Sterling drama reached the Capitol Wednesday when a Senate committee approved legislation that would prohibit the Los Angeles Clippers owner from claiming a state tax deduction for a $2.5 million fine by the National Basketball Association for making racist remarks.

Members of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee didn't defend Sterling but several worried aloud whether the legislation, which would apply to any professional sports team owners who are fined by their leagues for any reason, would violate freedom of speech.

The measure, Assembly Bill 877, was drafted by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles, as Sterling was engulfed in controversy over remarks about African-Americans that a woman friend had revealed.

The NBA fined Sterling and has been pressuring him to sell the basketball franchise. At one point, it appeared the team would be sold to former Microsoft honcho Steve Ballmer, but the deal is now in flux.

Bocanegra and other supporters said that allowing Sterling to deduct the fine as a business expense would reward bad conduct, but Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, said it would impinge on 1st Amendment free speech rights.

The committee's chairwoman, Davis Democrat Lois Wolk, at first agreed with Walters and opposed the bill but then switched and called for its approval. With her support, the bill moved out of committee on a 4-1 vote although Wolk observed, "It's going to be hard to get a signature (from Gov. Jerry Brown)."

The bill might not get to Brown because as a tax increase it would require a two-thirds vote from both legislative houses, which means it would need at least two Republican votes in the Senate.

PHOTO: Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watched the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in December 2011. Associated Press Photo/Danny Moloshok

June 11, 2014
AM Alert: Lawmakers pay respects to late John Vasconcellos

John_Vasconcellos.JPGFriends and former colleagues of John Vasconcellos will gather in the Senate chambers at 3 p.m. to honor the Sacramento stalwart, who died last month at the age of 82 after struggling with kidney problems.

During nearly 40 years representing Silicon Valley in the California Assembly and Senate from 1966 to 2004, Vasconcellos was respected around the Capitol for his mastery of state fiscal details and widely known for his interest in human development. A committed liberal, his championing of outside-the-box policy areas like self-esteem and medical marijuana earned him national attention and sometimes ridicule.

A long list of prominent former lawmakers is expected to pay tribute to Vasconcellos, including Willie Brown, John Burton, Dede Alpert and Debra Bowen. The memorial will also be broadcast live on The California Channel, and a separate service is planned for June 21 in Santa Clara.

VIDEO: A court decision on California's teacher tenure system puts pressure on the governor and Legislature to resolve an issue they've long avoided, Dan Walters says.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST: Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made a favorite game out of needling California about its business climate. Yesterday he rolled down L Street in a Tesla, a reference to the electric carmaker's consideration of building a new battery factory outside the state, and he continues his latest tour of taunts in San Francisco with a speech before the Commonwealth Club, 7 p.m. at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, in which he sells his state as leading the way for energy independence in the U.S.

A NIGHT AT THE LIBRARY: When former reporter Greg Lucas was appointed state librarian in March, it drew some criticism from librarians who felt he was unqualified for the job. Will they feel differently after tonight? Lucas gives his first public talk as head of the California State Library, 5:30 p.m. at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building on Capitol Mall, to discuss the issues facing the institution and public libraries in California.

GRADUATION GIFTS: Cable giant Comcast awards $210,000 in college scholarships to 191 high school seniors in recognition of their leadership skills and community service, noon on the north steps on the Capitol. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is slated to speak at the event, as are Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Assembly members Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, Frank Bigelow, R-O'Neals, Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo.

ANIMAL HOUSE: As part of its annual lobby day, the Humane Society holds an informational fair on programs to prevent animal cruelty, including "puppy mills" and abuse of farm animals, 11 a.m. on the south lawn of the Capitol.

PHOTO: Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, chats with Sen. Dede Alpert, D-Coronado, during a session of the state Senate on Aug. 10, 2004. The Sacramento Bee/John Decker

June 11, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Court advances tenure issues long ignored by lawmakers

RP_School_TEST_SCORES_JENNIFER.JPGA judge's ruling that California's teacher tenure system is unconstitutional puts pressure on the governor and Legislature to resolve an issue they've long avoided, 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: A California Middle School teacher helps a student with a district test during class in Sacramento on Dec. 5, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 10, 2014
Tesla-driving Rick Perry jabs California on jobs

perrysacramento.jpgFor the latest round in the Jerry Brown-Rick Perry rivalry, the photo opportunity was especially promising: Perry, the Texas governor and self-proclaimed hunter of California jobs, cruising down L Street in a Tesla just days after the Brown administration announced it is considering steps to persuade the car's maker to build a massive battery factory here.

The Palo Alto-based company's Model S, Perry told reporters after pulling into the Hyatt Regency Hotel, would look good with a "Made in Texas" bumper sticker.

Perry has long boasted about recruiting businesses from California to Texas, but the rhetoric increased last year, when Perry ran a radio ad in California and Brown dismissed his effort as "barely a fart."

On Tuesday, Brown's office referred to that quote when asked for comment.

With the Tesla behind him and his shades on, Perry criticized California's tax and regulatory climate, as he has on previous visits, and he trumpeted the value of competition between states for jobs. Trying to recruit Tesla, he said, is "one of our goals, obviously."

But when asked what incentives Texas was offering the company, he said, "I don't know all of the different details about the incentive packages and what have you."

In fact, Perry is not meeting with Tesla officials on this trip to California.

Who he was visiting with were Republican lawmakers, candidates and at least one very deep-pocketed GOP donor, Charles Munger Jr. Perry, a former presidential candidate who may run in 2016, talked briefly with Munger in the hotel lobby, before former state Sen. Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party, put his arm around Perry and walked with him to a meeting with lawmakers upstairs.

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses reporters in Sacramento on June 10, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 10, 2014
Brown administration recommends tax breaks for companies


From e-commerce to pet cremation, 31 companies from around the state would get almost $30 million in tax breaks under recommendations by Gov. Jerry Brown's office of business development.

The "California Competes" income and franchise tax benefits would generate almost 6,100 jobs and more than $2.3 billion in investment, according to the recommended companies' application paperwork.

California Competes is part of a package of economic development programs that replaced enterprise zones, a 30-year-old program that the Legislature voted to shut down a year ago with Brown's backing. Demand for the $30 million in available credits for the program's first year far exceeded supply, with almost $560 million in applications. Next year, $150 million in credits will be available.

The California Competes Tax Credit Program committee will consider the awards when it meets June 19 in West Sacramento.

The largest recommended tax credit – $6 million – would go to San Jose-based Samsung Semiconductor, Inc., which promises that the credits would generate almost $358 million in investment and 400 jobs. That translates into about $60 in investment for every dollar of tax credit, and $15,000 in credits for every job to be created.

The smallest recommended tax credit – $20,000 – would go to Novato-based XCell Science, Inc., which promises $213,103 in investment and eight jobs created. That translates into $11 in investment for every tax credit and $2,500 in credits for every job to be created.

Here is the full list of recommended California Competes awards:

NameIndustryPrimary locationNet increase of full-time employeesInvestmentsAmount of tax creditsLink to agreement
The Sacramento Bee
Samsung Semiconductor, Inc.Semiconductor Research & DevelopmentSan Jose400$357,764,000$6,000,000
CE&P Imperial Valley 1, LLCEthanol / Biofuel ManufacturingBrawley222$526,700,398$3,100,000
Petco Animal Supplies, Inc.Retail and Corporate ManagementSan Diego263$84,000,000$2,600,000http://bit.lyhih4rxa
Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc.Pharmaceutical Research & DevelopmentNovato180$16,331,892$2,100,000
Samsung Information Systems America, Inc.Electronic Device Research & DevelopmentMountain View210$128,333,935$2,000,000
Amazon Fulfillment Services, Inc.Online Retail Warehouse & DistributionMoreno Valley, Tracy, Newark & San Bernardino1,550$225,000,000$1,575,000http://bit. ly/1pdnksy
Iso Nano International LLC dba BST NanoCarbon LLCHigh-Tech Commercial Fiber Design & ManufacturingSan Diego, Temecula632$22,825,000$1,450,000
A2Z Development Center, Inc.Electronic Device Research & DevelopmentSunnyvale, Cupertino798$55,000,000$1,200,000
Graphic Packaging International, Inc.Food and Beverage Packaging Design & ManufacturingOroville, Irvine, Santa Clara138$54,228,200$1,150,000
Macy', Inc.E-Commerce TechnologySan Francisco193$206,307,830$1,000,000httP://
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.Pharmaceutical ManufacturingSan Carlos28$104,800,000$1,000,000http://bit.lvAtZgRPN
Weber Metals, Inc.Aerospace Metal ForgingLong Beach60$170,703,000$1,000,
Hyundai Capital AmericaAutomobile Consumer Financial ServicesIrvine120$0.00$885,000
iHerb, Inc.Online Retail Warehouse & DistributionRiverside County150$15,000,000$815,000http://bitiviSsXFh7
Deckers Outdoor CorporationFootwear Design, Marketing & DistributionMoreno Valley, Goleta125$149,475,624$800,000
Al California, LLCGrocery Regional Headquarters, Distribution & Retail StoresMoreno Valley & Counties of Orange, San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura182$150,000,000$700,000
Fresh Select, LLCLarge Scale Produce Refrigeration & DistributionDinuba341$5,923,906$500,000
Flowers Baking Co. of Modesto, LLCProduction of Packaged Bakery GoodsModesto121$25,000,000$300,000
Duarte Nursery, Inc.NurseryHughson33$33,082,533$250,000http://bit.lyhuNcoBZ
Sparsha USA, Inc.Transdermal Patch Development & ManufacturingOceanside21$4,400,000$250,000
CTP Transportation Products, LLCCommercial Vehicle Wheel & Component ManufacturingOntario33$1,000,000$150,000 http://bit.lyhxzlRxP
Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc.Industrial Gas SupplierRancho Cucamonga, Santa Rosa, Newark, Los Nietos53$5,923,906$100,000
Professional Asbestos and Lead Services, Inc.Hazardous Materials Remediation & RemovalStockton71$650,000$100,000
Systena America, Inc.Information Technology & Communication Device Software Engineering & TestingSan Carlos42$789,600$100,000
Salient IT, Inc.Information Technology Consulting & Data Center ManagementSacramento, Oakland21$460,000$77,500
Lynam Industries, Inc.Sheet Metal ManufacturingFontana69$6,512,552$68,000
Technical Engineered Coatings, Inc.Commercial Concrete TreatmentFolsom13$239,000$55,000
Health One Pharmaceutical Inc.Health Supplement ManufacturingCity of Industry10$5,643,008$50,000
Animal Memorial Service, Inc.Pet Cremation ServicesGilroy5$370,000$40,000
American Marine Abatement Services, LLCUS Navy Ship Maintenance & Repair ServicesNational City6$110,000$30,000
XCell Science, Inc.Stem Cell Biotechnology Research & DevelopmentNovato8$213,103$20,000

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown visits Takeda, a biotech firm, in San Diego, where he signed signed legislation phasing out enterprise zones and replacing the program with California Competes and other incentives. U-T San Diego/Carolyne Corelis

June 10, 2014
California judge declares teacher employment rules unconstitutional

schoolkids.JPGIn a decision that could reverberate through the nation's largest network of public schools, a Los Angeles judge has declared some key California teacher employment rules unconstitutional.

The decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu dealt a serious blow to teachers unions who defend California's laws, including those governing when teachers win permanent employment status and when they can be fired. An organization that brought the case on behalf of public school students, Students Matter, framed the lawsuit in the context of California students having a fundamental right to a quality public education.

In a decision that referenced landmark education equity cases like Brown v Board of Education and Serrano v Priest, Treu wrote that evidence of ineffective teachers running classrooms "shocks the conscience."

"All sides to this litigation agree that competent teachers are a critical, if not the most important, component of success of a child's in-school educational experience," Treu wrote.

Rules that keep ineffective teachers in the classroom, attorneys for Students Matter argued, deprive many students - particularly low-income ones - of their constitutional right to a useful education.

The lawsuit challenged the two-year time frame after which teachers are eligible to win tenure, the guidelines for firing teachers and the requirements, known as "last in first out," that teachers with the least service time go first during budget-driven layoffs.

Treu agreed. He said the current permanent employment statute undercuts teachers and students alike, called last-in-first-out a "lose-lose situation" and decried the "tortuous" process for firing teachers as "so complex, so time consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory."

With the state likely to appeal, the case could continue to wind its way through the courts. That could open a window for a legislative response in Sacramento, where a push to streamline the teacher dismissal process has emerged in a key bill this year.

In a statement, the California Teachers Association called the ruling "deeply flawed" and vowed to appeal.

"Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools," the union said. "This lawsuit has nothing to do with what's best for kids, but was manufactured by a Silicon Valley millionaire and a corporate PR firm to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools."

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

June 10, 2014
AM Alert: Republican candidates train for November wins

Conway_budget.JPGState GOP chairman Jim Brulte's goal of reviving the Republican Party in California this year includes winning enough legislative seats to eliminate Democrats' two-thirds supermajority.

It will be a close fight come November, but California Trailblazers is on board. The program, which works to recruit and elect Republicans to the Legislature, is holding a training session in Sacramento today for a dozen candidates it has supported that advanced from last Tuesday's primary.

The all-day training, held at the Hyatt Regency on L Street, will include visits from Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway and members Brian Jones, R-Santee, and Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, as well as Kevin Riggs of Randle Communications and Mark Bogetich of MB Public Affairs. The training will cover messaging, grassroots outreach, voter contact, finance and opposition research.

VIDEO: The state controller's race is headed for a photo finish, with the top two changing daily, Dan Walters says.

SAVE OUR SEAS: The Ocean Protection Council, created to manage and conserve California's coastal ecosystems, holds a public workshop to get feedback on its plan for "collaborative stewardship" of the state's marine protected areas, 9:30 a.m. at the Natural Resources Agency Auditorium on 9th Street.

LGBTROOPS: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, honors lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans during a ceremony at 11:30 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol. Dickinson is sponsoring a resolution that would mark June 11 as LGBT Veterans Day.

WHAT'S MY AGE AGAIN?: The Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care continues its series of informational hearings about the "faces of aging" in California with a look at aging in LGBT community, 2 p.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol.

LESS WATER, PLEASE: Among the steps Gov. Jerry Brown took earlier this year to address California's severe drought was urging a 20 percent reduction in water use. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pacific Institute have prepared an analysis of potential water savings across the state, to be released at 10 a.m.

PHOTO: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway speaks at a press conference in Sacramento on June 30, 2011 to celebrate the demise of a higher sales tax rate and vehicle license fee. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 10, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: State controller's race down to photo finish

swearengin_controller_resized.jpgAs California finishes counting hundreds of thousands of ballots, the top two in the controller's race changes daily, Dan says.

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See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin gives her State of the City address at a lunch meeting at the Fresno Convention Center Wednesday, June 1, 2011. The Fresno Bee/Craig Kohlruss

June 9, 2014
California Senate passes one fundraising ban, kills another


Responding to an unusual spate of corruption allegations and the revelation that an in-house law enforcement officer had used drugs the night he was involved in a fatal off-duty shooting, the California State Senate passed new rules Monday that will create an ethics ombudsman, update the Senate's code of conduct and ban senators from collecting campaign checks during the last four weeks of the legislative session.

But the Senate also shot down a bill that sought a broader fundraising ban and passed a watered-down political ethics bill that lacks limits on lawmakers' travel paid for by interest groups who lobby them.

In passing Senate Resolution 44, the upper house agreed to give up campaign fundraising for the month of August this year, a time when lawmakers are typically voting on hundreds of bills that affect the wealthy interests who fund their campaigns. In future years, it would ban fundraising during the month leading up to approval of the state budget as well as the final month of the legislative session.

The rule "ensures that members of the Senate are solely focused on legislative business during the most critical times of the year," Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in presenting the measure on the Senate floor.

Sen. Alex Padilla, the Los Angeles Democrat who had pushed for a broader fundraising blackout, said he'd keep working on his SB 1101 and bring it back for another vote. The bill originally sought to ban fundraising for the last 100 days of the legislative session. After amendments, it would cover the same time period as de León's rule. The major difference between the two is that the rule applies only to the Senate while Padilla's bill would apply to both houses of the Legislature.

It needed approval from two-thirds of the Senate to pass but failed to garner support from Republicans.

"We don't believe this bill goes far enough," said Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, adding that his caucus wants the ban to apply to anyone running for state Legislature – not just the sitting incumbents.

Republicans did give some support to Sen. Jerry Hill's measure to restrict how officials can spend their campaign funds and require more disclosure of who pays for gifts of travel, allowing SB 831 to pass.

But the bill had been amended in the appropriations committee to delete three key provisions: an $8,000 limit on travel gifts; increased reporting of "behested" payments; and prohibitions against using campaign funds for criminal defense. Hill added the last provision after Sen. Leland Yee was charged in federal court with taking bribes and conspiring to traffic weapons.

De León, who chairs the appropriations committee, said the cap on travel gifts was deleted because "we have to travel."

California lawmakers were treated to more than $550,000 in travel-related expenses in 2013, according to a Bee analysis. De León accepted more than $20,000 worth of travel gifts last year, including trips to Scandinavia, Mexico and Washington, D.C. Lawmakers help California by making the trips, he has said in the past, pointing to a trip he took to Mexico to meet with officials about drug trafficking.

PHOTO: Sen. Kevin De Leon, talks with Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, during the first California Senate session Jan. 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 9, 2014
California Legislature split on local ethics-training mandate


The suspension of three state senators and a six-figure penalty against a prominent lobbyist have made political ethics a dominant issue at the California Capitol this year, prompting special ethics training in the state Senate.

The next state budget, though, could allow some local governments to opt out of ethics training for their officials.

Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget calls for suspending dozens of mandates on local government – including for the first time a mandate that requires ethics training for officials in some general law cities and counties and certain special districts.

Without the mandate suspension, the state would be on the hook to reimburse eligible local governments for travel, meals and other ethics training expenses, at an estimated $35,000 cost.

The Legislative Analyst's Office has said the mandate is inconsistent, because it only applies to local governments that are required to compensate their elected officials, and not others.

The two houses have split on the issue. The Assembly rejected the governor's proposal, noting in a subcommittee report that the mandate's cost "is minimal and the risk may be significant that local governments could decrease transparency because of the statute being deleted."

The Senate, though, accepted the governor's proposal. Now it's up to the Legislature's budget conference committee to reconcile the different versions. The conference committee has yet to act on the local ethics training mandate.

Last year, Brown called for suspending the mandate on local governments to comply with parts of the California Public Records Act. The Senate accepted it and the Assembly rejected it.

The suspension later became part of the budget package that passed the Legislature – but not before triggering an outcry from open-records advocates who feared that some local agencies would use the suspension as an excuse to cut off public access to government records. Lawmakers later rescinded the mandate suspension and put the issue before voters.

Proposition 42, which requires local governments to comply with the open-records law without state reimbursement, passed with 62 percent of the vote.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff discuss ethics training for members of the Legislature on April 23, 2014 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 9, 2014
Neel Kashkari presses Jerry Brown to debate, recalling Brown's words

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari is challenging Gov. Jerry Brown to debate him 10 times in the race for governor, echoing a call Brown made four years ago for 10 debates with Republican Meg Whitman.

Brown, a third-term Democrat, has been noncommittal about debating, while Kashkari, who is far behind in fundraising and public opinion polls, could benefit from the exposure debates afford.

Four years ago, when Brown was outspent by Whitman, he said the campaign should not be "decided on the airwaves in a scripted, prepackaged advertisement," but "mano a mano, one candidate against the other."

Kashkari used Brown's remarks in recent radio interviews and in a letter to Brown on Monday to press the issue. He challenged Brown to at least one town hall-style contest and one formal debate in five regions: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Central Valley.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, said in an email that Brown would consider the request.

"We'll certainly consider debating," he wrote, "providing we can work out the scheduling and details to offer something substantive and worthwhile to voters."

Brown and Whitman ended up squaring off in three televised debates in 2010.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 9, 2014
Jones-Sawyer agrees to $10,000 FPPC fine


Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer has agreed to pay California's political watchdog a $10,000 fine for hiding the source of a $50,000 loan to his 2012 campaign.

The Los Angeles Democrat accepted the loan from his girlfriend, Maria Ann Chachere, in December 2011, according to a proposed settlement he reached with the Fair Political Practices Commission. Jones-Sawyer deposited the money into his personal checking account and then wrote a $50,000 check in his own name to his campaign committee, the agreement says.

The transaction amounts to two violations of the state's Political Reform Act, the settlement says -- first for accepting a political contribution above the $3,900 limit in effect that year, and second for hiding the source of the funds.

The FPPC is recommending the maximum penalty of $10,000 arguing that Jones-Sawyer should have known the $50,000 loan went beyond legal limits and that the source of political contributions must be disclosed.

The commission meets June 19 to vote on the proposed penalty. At the same meeting it will also consider:

- A $2,000 fine for Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, for late reporting of 11 campaign contributions in 2011

- A $3,600 fine for lobbyist Marcie Berman for late filing of four quarterly financial reports

- A $400 fine for former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado's ballot measure committee for failure to file a 2013 campaign statement

- A $200 fine for Assemblyman Tim Donnelley's California Patriots PAC for late filing of a 2013 campaign statement

- A $200 fine for Dan Schnur, a former FPPC chairman and former candidate for Secretary of State, for not reporting a gift of travel expenses on his statement of economic interest

PHOTO: Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 9, 2014
Local tax and bond issues fared well in June primary

Local school districts and governments fared well in getting voter approval of their bond issue and tax increase measures last week, according to a compilation of results by the California Local Government Finance Almanac.

Overall 65 of 85 local bond and tax measures, 76 percent, gained voter approval, according to the compilation by the almanac's founder, Michael Coleman, a veteran of local government finance – the highest rate of any recent election.

Forty-four of the measures were school district bond issues totaling $2.36 billion, according to a separate breakdown by the California Taxpayers Association, and 33 of them achieved the required 55 percent vote margin, plus one that required a two-thirds vote. The largest of the bond measures, $650 million, was sought by the Fremont Unified School District and it was one of those approved.

There were only five school district parcel tax measures offered to voters and all five achieved the two-thirds vote required. That's fewer than other recent elections, indicating that school officials elsewhere are waiting to see whether the Legislature votes to lower the vote requirement for parcel taxes.

Seven of eight city-sponsored general tax increase measures were approved but just two of five county special tax proposals, which required two-thirds votes, made it. Twelve of 17 non-school parcel taxes won approval, including all six aimed at improving library services.

The passage rate of local tax and bond measures, 76 percent, is higher than in any other recent election. It was 67 percent in June, 2012.

PHOTO: A student drinks from one of the few drinking fountains that work on the campus of Isleton Elementary School in September 2006, two months before California voters approved a $10 billion school construction bond. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

June 9, 2014
AM Alert: KJ, local leaders weigh in on water bond

There's nothing like a drought to make everyone care even more than usual about water, and the water bond-centric conversation at the State Capitol has lawmakers, water agencies and conservationists all laying out priorities for the multi-billion dollar question voters could be asked in November.

Today, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, local elected officials and Assembly members, and a group of water, farming and business associations will lay down a marker on the north steps of the State Capitol.

Attendees in addition to Mayor KJ will likely include the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Northern California Water Association and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Since geographic priorities often seem to trump partisan loyalties in the water bond debate - something you can see in Central Valley Republicans signing on to Democratic proposals, for instance - the event could offer a decent taste of where a slice of the North State stands.

VIDEO: We'll be talking about this primary election for a while, Dan Walters says, but not for ideal reasons.

LICENSE TO DRIVE: As the tug-of-war over forthcoming licenses for undocumented immigrants continues, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles will be rallying in L.A. against a federal decision that California's proposed design is too subtle. CHIRLA and allies, including legislative leaders and the Latino Caucus, want the new cards to be as discreet as possible; the feds want them to be distinct.

BUDGET BATTLES: Lest you forget, the Sunday deadline for lawmakers to pass a budget or forfeit their salaries is inching closer. The budget conference committee meets again today to hammer out remaining differences; you can read about the distances between various parties in today's Bee, and stick with us throughout the week for the latest budget news.

June 9, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Low-turnout election fodder for bigger debate

Historically paltry turnout numbers in Tuesday's primary election spur Dan and others to ask: how did this happen, and is our political system in trouble?

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

June 6, 2014
Tom McClintock's GOP rival clinches spot in November election


Republican Art Moore has advanced to a same-party showdown with Rep. Tom McClintock in the Roseville-based 4th Congressional District.

Moore was outpacing independent Jeffrey Gerlach by about 1,500 votes Friday. He owes the fall challenge to the new top-two election system that allows candidates from the same party to advance to November rematches.

McClintock's campaign acknowledged Moore's top-two status in a memo issued to reporters that carried the tongue-and-cheek title "Moore is Less."

Chris Baker, the general consultant to McClintock, wrote that Tuesday's results, in which the incumbent drew 56 percent of the vote demonstrate Moore is not a serious candidate. Baker notes that Gerlach spent virtually no money, made few campaign appearances and received scant press attention -- "in effect not really running a campaign."

Strategist Rob Stutzman said Moore, a combat veteran, was carrying out his National Guard duties and unavailable to comment.

"We are very gratified and looking to the fall," Stutzman said. "It's clear that even in a low-turnout primary that nearly half the voters went against the incumbent without there even being much of a campaign. We're optimistic about November."

PHOTO: Congressional challenger Art Moore, a Republican taking on Rep. Tom McClintock, talks with folks during a Political Awareness Day at Sierra College in Rocklin on April 30. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

June 6, 2014
Republican, ex-GOPer in top two of Davis-based Assembly race


With ballots still being counted, preliminary results in the strongly Democratic 4th Assembly District show a Republican and Republican-turned-Democrat advancing to November.

Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, a business-backed Democrat who left the GOP less than two years ago, believes he'll receive enough votes to be among the top two vote-getters in Tuesday's primary election.

"Based on the number and county origin of the remaining ballots it is a statistical improbability for Dodd to finish outside the top two vote-getters," campaign strategist Matt Reilly said in an emailed statement.

Dodd finished election night trailing Republican Charlie Schaupp by a single vote in the district that covers Yolo and Napa counties. On Friday, an updated tally had Schaupp at 26.1 percent and Dodd at 25.4 percent.

Democratic Davis Councilman Dan Wolk trailed Dodd by 522 votes. In a statement, he said there remained as many as 20,000 votes left to count.

"We are still optimistic that, in the end, we'll be moving on to November's General Election!" the statement said.

The Democrat who advances will be a heavy favorite in the fall. Schaupp, a farmer and military veteran, raised no money and had $100 on hand at the end of the last reporting period. There also was no spending on his behalf by outside groups.

Meantime, corporate allies of Dodd and labor union supporters of Wolk, the son of Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect their preferred successor to liberal Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

The outside spending ranked fourth in races across California.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Bill Dodd.

June 6, 2014
Patrick Johnston retiring from health plans association


Lobbyist Charles Bacchi will take over as president of the California Association of Health Plans when its current leader, former state Sen. Patrick Johnston, retires at the end of this year, the organization announced Friday.

Bacchi has worked for the group that advocates for health insurers for the last eight years, first as vice president of government relations and more recently as executive vice president. He has lobbied for insurance plans as California implemented the federal Affordable Care Act and expanded Medi-Cal.

"I am excited to work with California's health plan leaders on improving our health care system, delivering affordable coverage, and bolstering our partnership with the state of California," Bacchi said in a statement.

Johnston, who served in the Legislature from 1981 to 2000, is retiring after five years at the helm of the association. In a statement, he said:

"I have been fortunate to have had a fulfilling and enriching career engaged in public policy issues confronting California."

PHOTO: Former state Sen. Patrick Johnston is president of the California Association of Health Plans.

June 6, 2014
'High-needs' student counts fall short in three big districts


California's new formula for financing schools provides more money to districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students, giving local officials an incentive to count as many of those "high needs" students as possible.

The Local Control Funding Formula, enacted last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature, is aimed at closing what's called the "achievement gap."

However, the actual count of those students is falling short of estimates in three of the state's five largest districts, according to a survey by EdSource, a website that reports on education trends in California.

Los Angeles Unified, the state's largest school district with about 10 percent of the state's six million K-12 students, had expected that 86 percent of its students would qualify for the extra money, but has found that just 81 percent meet the criteria.

Similar shortfalls were discovered in San Diego Unified and Elk Grove Unified. However, the hard counts in Fresno Unified and Long Beach Unified were slightly above estimates. The state has yet to release the official counts of high-needs students.

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

June 6, 2014
Kamala Harris' GOP challenger favors pot legalization

Ronald_Gold.jpg.JPGRepublican Ron Gold, the presumptive challenger to Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris, wants California to legalize and tax marijuana and use the proceeds for substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Gold, a Woodland Hills lawyer and former deputy to Attorney General Evelle Younger, told The Bee that decriminalizing pot would decrease the costs of enforcing victimless crimes and allow the state to direct more resources to serious criminals.

"I just think that police resources are so few, and we have so much to do, that going after someone who is having a joint in West Hollywood is about as useful as having another Carter's Little Liver Pill," Gold said.

"An adult is an adult," he added. "If you use those things - and you're stupid - we can't bar stupidity."

Harris is an overwhelmingly favorite to win reelection in November. A rising star of the Democratic Party, she's received 53 percent of the votes tallied so far in the seven-candidate primary election Tuesday.

Gold's stance puts him at odds not only with Harris but other high-profile Democrats like Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Gold favors adopting a version of Colorado's law.

"Basically, I am to the left of Harris on an issue that's always been very popular and critical in California," he said. "I view it as a matter of principle."

Gold's chief GOP rival in the primary was former veteran lawmaker Phil Wyman. He said in a recent news release that state lawmakers found guilty of certain crimes should face the death penalty.

Gold paused when asked what he thought of Wyman's suggestion.

"I think it's a little absurd," he said.

PHOTO: Ron Gold. Courtesy of the Ron Gold campaign.

June 6, 2014
AM Alert: California primary election postmortem time


The tumult of Primary Election Night has given way to bleary-eyed day-after commentating as vote totals ticked upwards, which in turn has given way to a more thorough look at What It All Meant.

The experts will take on the perennial Why Does Nobody Vote question today during a Public Policy Institute of California talk. To no one's surprise, turnout on Tuesday was pitiful - historically so, it seems - a showing that will be dissected by a roster including Ethan Jones, chief consultant for the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, and Sacramento County registrar of voters Jill LaVine.

Discussion gets under way at noon at the CSAC conference center on 11th street. In the meantime, let us refresh your recollection of the election:

-How Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari clawed back in the end, and how Republican gov voters divided geographically
-What Tuesday's results meant for the Top Two system
-Whether ballot tea leaves foretell anything about the odds of the Democratic supermajority persisting
-And how races for state controller and for top education guru became competitive

CAP AND TRADE: Having made clear where he wants to spend anticipated billions from California's cap-and-trade law, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will elaborate on his plan with some Los Angeles bigwigs today. Joining Steinberg at an L.A. Metro Facility will be his incoming replacement as Senate head honcho, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

ACCREDITATION CONSTERNATION: The battle for City College of San Francisco continues. California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt will join community college faculty members and students at a rally outside the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges meeting today, urging the body to reconsider its decision to revoke City College's accreditation. Follow the chants to the Citizen Hotel starting at 11.

PHOTO: The garage of a two-story home in Davis is used as a voting location on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in Davis, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

June 5, 2014
Boxer, Feinstein, Capps introduce gun bill

DianneFeinstein.jpgNearly two weeks after a mass shooting in Isla Vista, Calif., a trio of the state's Democratic lawmakers introduced federal legislation intended to keep guns out of the hands of people who pose a risk of committing violence.

The Pause for Safety Act, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein with Rep. Lois Capps of Santa Barbara, would enable family members and others to seek a court order to stop a dangerous person from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

"We must do everything in our power to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or to others," Feinstein said.

On May 23, 22-year-old Elliott Rodger stabbed three people and shot three others in a rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara. He then died of a self-inflicted gunshot. Rodger was undergoing treatment for mental illness and family members worried he might hurt himself or others. But law enforcement officers didn't see any red flags when they interviewed him before the burst of violence.

"It is haunting to me that the family of the gunman was desperate to prevent an act of violence and alerted police, but they were still unable to stop this tragedy," Boxer said.

Feinstein knows the issue personally. In November 1978, former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White shot and killed both Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at city hall. Feinstein, then president of the Board of Supervisors, found her colleagues' bodies, and it fell to her to deliver the shocking news to the media.

Though a series of horrific mass shootings in recent years in Virginia, Arizona, Colorado and Connecticut has driven a new push for stricter gun laws, gun-rights groups have pushed back. A bipartisan bill to broaden background checks for gun purchases failed in the U.S. Senate last year, as did an effort by Feinstein to renew a ban on military-style assault rifles.

The latest bill comes as members of Congress are preoccupied with midterm elections. The National Rifle Association has typically opposed any legislation, state or federal, that seeks to limit firearms possession, and has funded efforts to defeat lawmakers who support such measures.

Three state lawmakers, meanwhile, are pushing a similar bill in California.

"We need reasonable, common sense solutions so that we all feel safe in our homes and out in our communities," Capps said.

CORRECTION: This post has been edited to reflect the number of people who died of gunshots in Isla Vista. It is four, not seven.

PHOTO: In this April 18, 2012, file photo Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

June 5, 2014
Teenage birthrates continue decline in California

babyhand.JPGThe number of babies born to teenage mothers in California continued a years-long decline in 2012, and the birthrate also fell, according to a new report from the state Department of Public Health.

Between 2000 and 2012, the department reported, the number of births to mothers 15 to 19 years old declined from 55,373 a year to 34,921 a year, and the birthrate declined by about half. For those 15 to 17, the birthrate dropped from 26.5 per 1,000 girls in that age group to 13.1, and for those 18 and 19 years old, it dropped from 77.1 to 43.1.

The decline closely paralleled a national decrease in teenage motherhood and also was experienced in all ethnic groups, but significant differences among ethnic groups remained.

The birthrate among Latino teenagers dropped from 77.3 per 1,000 in 2000 to 38.9 in 2012, among whites from 22.3 to 10.2, among African-Americans from 59.1 to 30.8, and among Asian-Americans from 15 to 5.

The report also found wide disparities among the state's 58 counties, ranging from a low teenage birthrate of 10.1 per 1,000 girls in wealthy, suburban Marin County to a high of 53.7 in rural, largely Latino Tulare County.

PHOTO: Grandmother Oi Nguyen, of Stockton feels the hand of her granddaughter and Sacramento's 2014 New Year baby, Milan Le Dao. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

June 5, 2014
AM Alert: State parks overhaul commission holds public workshop

RB_Russian_Gulch_State_Park.JPGTwo years ago, an investigation by The Bee uncovered a major financial scandal in the California Department of Parks and Recreation: The agency had hidden more than $20 million in "surplus" money, even as it set about closing 70 state parks amid massive budget cuts.

The revelations led to the resignation of state parks director Ruth Coleman, the firing of several top officials in the department and the creation of a volunteer commission to analyze and overhaul the state parks system. Among its other troubles, the agency had deferred more than $1 billion in maintenance at its 280 parks.

The Parks Forward Commission has prepared a draft report on its recommended operational and cultural changes to the department, and it will hold a public workshop to solicit feedback at 3 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom on 9th Street.

VIDEO: Despite his federal indictment on corruption charges, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, had a surprisingly good election night, Dan Walters says.

ELECTRIC FEEL: Looking ahead to a more eco-friendly future, the California Energy Commission is pushing to have 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. The commission continues its annual process of updating the state's Integrated Energy Policy Report with a public workshop assessing California's plug-in vehicle infrastructure, 9 a.m. at the California Energy Commission building on 9th Street.

UNCAPPING CARE: By now regular visitors to the Capitol, in-home caregivers funded by the state continue their push to overturn a proposed budget cap on the number of hours they can work with a rally at 10:15 a.m. on the south steps. Thousands of workers are expected to attend, as are state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Democratic Assembly members Richard Pan of Sacramento, Roger Hernández of West Covina, Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego and Al Muratsuchi of Torrance.

WHAT A CATCH: It's not quite the frog jump, but friendly competition returns to the north lawn of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. with a casting competition hosted by Trout Unlimited and California Trout. Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, and Assemblymen Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, are scheduled to participate in the event, which promotes sport fishing and the conservation of California's trout and salmon populations.

I SPY: Much has been made of the United States government's domestic surveillance programs, but what about surveillance efforts abroad? UC Davis law professor Anupam Chander discusses mass surveillance between the U.S. and China, and how it's affecting the Internet and international commerce, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: A waterfall in Russian Gulch State Park in Mendocino on November 8, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

June 5, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Leland Yee has surprisingly good election night

yee_press_resized.jpgDespite a federal indictment on corruption charges, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, performed strangely well in Tuesday's secretary of state primary, 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 Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, leaves Federal Court in San Francisco on March 26, 2014. Bay Area News Group/Karl Mondon