Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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



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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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