Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

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


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

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

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

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