Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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.

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

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


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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