Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

June 2, 2014
California veterans bond gets some help

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There's no organized opposition to Prop. 41, the measure on Tuesday's ballot that would authorize $600 million in bonds to build apartments and other multifamily housing for low-income and homeless veterans.

But some Democratic lawmakers' ballot-measure committees have spent big in recent weeks to help the measure, records show.

The ballot-measure committee of former Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, a candidate for state Senate, spent $70,000 on pro-Prop. 41 independent expenditures, state filings show.

"Vote for Vets," reads one of the Solorio-funded signs, with "Jose Solorio" in equally large type underneath. Solorio is the only Democrat running in the 34th Senate District, which is expected to be among the most competitive Senate contests this fall.

Late last month, the ballot measure committee of Assembly Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez, a candidate for state controller and the author of the legislation putting Prop. 41 on the ballot , reported contributions of $29,000 and $60,000 to Prop. 41's campaign committee.

Also, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins recently changed the name of her ballot measure committee from "California Works: Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins Ballot Measure Committee" to "California Works: Yes on Prop. 41 for Veterans' Housing, supported by Speaker Toni Atkins Ballot Measure Committee."

The renamed committee, which had $215,000 on hand as of May 17, has not reported any late independent expenditures or late contributions.

Unlike candidates' campaign committees, ballot measure committees are not covered by contribution limits. As for Prop. 41, its campaign committee had $96,000 on hand as of mid-May, with no outstanding debt.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in October 2013 after signing legislative bill AB 639, which became Prop. 41 on Tuesday's ballot. Twenty-five percent of homeless veterans in the United States live in California. Associated Press Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

June 2, 2014
Feinstein asks VA to review wait times at California facilities

DianneFeinstein.jpgSen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Monday asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to review wait times at VA facilities in California amid a veterans health care scandal that led to the resignation last week of the agency's chief.

Feinstein wrote Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson that she was "deeply disturbed" by an interim report last week by the department's inspector general finding that the Phoenix VA system hid lengthy wait times for 1,700 veterans, including some who had to wait more than three months for a primary care appointment.

California is home to 1.8 million veterans, more than any other state, with a high concentration in southern California. Feinstein wrote that she'd been told some veterans in Long Beach and Los Angeles were waiting as long as three months for appointments.

"It is critical that your Department take steps to ensure that California's veterans do not suffer negative healthcare outcomes due to untimely delays in receiving medical appointments," she wrote Gibson. "I also believe that your Department should treat this matter as a public health crisis facing our nation's veterans."

Gibson inherited the VA crisis last week with the resignation of Gen. Eric Shinseki as the department's secretary. The scandal generated outrage on both sides of the aisle, with Republicans and Democrats calling for Shinseki to go.

Feinstein said in a statement Monday that Congress should make changes to how the VA operates, including giving the secretary the power to remove senior executives for poor job performance, giving veterans the option of using non-VA facilities for health care, providing the agency with more funding to boost staffing levels and changing its "antiquated" appointment scheduling system.

"It is unacceptable that veterans are forced to wait months for appointments," she said. "Congress must act quickly and decisively and I will support legislation to address this situation."

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 2, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly dismisses latest poll

donnellypunjabi.jpgPublic opinion polls have been favorable to Tim Donnelly for much of the year, and he ballyhooed them to assert his frontrunner status in the Republican race for governor.

Along with endorsements from local Republican groups, the polls served the tea party-backed candidate's efforts to counter attacks from establishment Republicans such as former Gov. Pete Wilson, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and strategist Karl Rove.

On Sunday, however, a USC/Los Angeles Times poll showed Donnelly's GOP rival, Neel Kashkari, ahead of Donnelly by a narrow margin, 18 percent to 13 percent among likely voters.

Donnelly was dismissive.

"The only poll that is going to matter is tomorrow, and we're close enough that I'm not worried about any other polls," Donnelly told reporters at the Capitol on Monday. "And at people's doorsteps, I've discovered that this whole thing is up for grabs, and it's going to be whoever turns out their votes, that's who's going to win."

Kashkari, in a spate of radio interviews Monday, said the poll is evidence his recent spending on mailers and TV ads is paying off.

Before he started advertising, Kashkari said on KGO 810 radio in San Francisco, "most voters had not been paying attention to the race," and all he needed was "to introduce myself to voters."

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

June 2, 2014
Most bills on Chamber's 'job killer' list have been killed

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Halfway through the annual legislative process, scarcely a third of the bills given the "job killer" epithet by the California Chamber of Commerce are still alive.

The legislative year began with 27 measures on the annual list but a number didn't make it out of committee and several others died when they faced floor votes before last week's deadline for bills to gain approval in their "house of origin."

Generally the bills on the list are sponsored by liberal groups such as labor unions, consumer advocates, environmental groups and personal injury attorneys. And while they and the chamber, backed by other business interests, do battle in the Legislature, they are also jousting in this year's elections, with each side trying to nominate and elect friendly lawmakers.

Last week's casualties included measures to impose a moratorium on "fracking" to develop California's oil reserves (Senate Bill 1132), to require disclosure labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients (SB 1381) and to raise taxes on corporations deemed to pay executives too much (SB 1372).

However, several others on the list survived last week's floor votes, including one requiring employers to grant paid sick leave to workers (Assembly Bill 1522), expanding liability for contractors wage and hour violations (AB 1897), allowing employees to file liens for unpaid wages (AB 2416), prohibiting enforcement of arbitration agreements (AB 2617), allowing school districts to impose differential parcel taxes on commercial property (SB 1021) and expanding the right to sue for product defects (SB 1188).

One major tax bill on the list, making it easier to raise property taxes on commercial property when it changes hands (AB 2372), was modified enough to gain support by the Chamber of Commerce and passed the Assembly.

A number of the measures on the list are either direct tax increases or constitutional amendments that would allow tax increases and that require two-thirds legislative votes to advance. But they went into limbo when the Democrats' "supermajority" in the Senate vanished as three Democratic senators were suspended after being charged (senators Leland Yee, D-San Francisco and Ronald Calderon, D-Montebello) or convicted (Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills) of crimes.

Overall, including those that had moved earlier in the biennial session, about 10 of the 27 original measures appear to be alive, having escaped from their original houses, but they still face committee and floor votes in the other side of the Capitol.

PHOTO: California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Allan Zaremberg, in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 2, 2014
Public memorial for John Vasconcellos in three weeks

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Friends of the late state Sen. John Vasconcellos have organized a public memorial service for Saturday, June 21 at the Mission Church at Santa Clara University.

The service begins at 9 a.m., said Ken Patterson, a former Vasconcellos chief of staff. More information about the event is available here.

Also, there will be a Capitol memorial service in the Senate chambers at 3 p.m. on June 11. Former colleagues of Vasconcellos, such as John Burton and Willie Brown, are expected to be among the speakers.

Other events are in the works, Patterson said. They include a private service in Maui, where Vasconcellos lived much of the year. His ashes will be dispersed there, Patterson said.

In addition, some Japanese leaders in the South Bay are talking about holding a service to honor Vasconcellos, who carried 2001 legislation to help preserve California's Japantown neighborhoods.

Vasconcellos died May 24 after leaving a San Jose hospital for hospice care. He was 82.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 6:50 p.m. on June 2 to include information about a Capitol memorial to Vasconcellos.

PHOTO: Former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, makes a telephone call from the floor of the Senate chambers in February 2003, during his final term in the Legislature. The Sacramento Bee / Dick Schmidt

June 2, 2014
AM Alert: Jewish leaders push for cap-and-trade plan

California-Greenhouse Gases(2).jpgReform Rabbis and other Jewish leaders from across California convene at the Capitol today to lobby in support of state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg's proposal for cap-and-trade funds.

The Steinberg plan would allocate revenues from the state's carbon tax to affordable housing and communities built around mass transit options, as well as high-speed rail. Reform CA, a joint initiative of several religious groups, calls those efforts to reduce greenhouse gases a "moral imperative."

Among the rabbis making legislative office visits is Rabbi Mona Alfi, who has served as the Senate Chaplain under Steinberg.

VIDEO: Expect lots more wheeling and dealing before a final budget deal is reached in two weeks, Dan Walters says.

CLOSING THE GAP: The Conference Committee on the Budget is expected to begin meeting today to reconcile the differences in the Senate and Assembly budget proposals ahead of final negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown. The Senate has proposed $109.985 billion in general fund spending for the 2014-15 fiscal year, compared to $110.824 billion in the Assembly. Both are significantly higher than the $107.766 billion budget proposed by Brown. The conference committee meets upon the call of the chair, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, in Room 4202 of the Capitol.

FAREWELLS: Cindy Burrell, a senior legislative aide to Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, is retiring after 32 years. She'll be honored at a reception in Room 211 of the Capitol at 11 a.m. and on the Senate floor at noon.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, who turns 63 today.

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

June 2, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Attention returns to budget negotiations

Brown_signing_bills.JPGExpect lots more wheeling and dealing before a final budget deal is reached in two weeks, 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: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills making $11.2 billion in cuts to California's budget, raising community college fees and slicing support for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill on March 24, 2011 in Sacramento as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco stand behind him. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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Capitol Alert Staff


Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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