Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 8, 2014
AM Alert: Latino lawmakers visit immigrant detention facility

Murietta_protest.JPGThough illegal immigration into California has declined in recent years, the state has recently become a flashpoint for the national debate on immigration reform.

As Texas has been overwhelmed by a flood of migrants fleeing gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, many of those detainees have been sent to Border Patrol facilities in other states for processing. But a bus carrying immigrants to a facility in Murietta last week was stopped by hundreds of protesters, amplifying criticisms over how the federal government is handling the surge of border crossings.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus has expressed its own concerns with the efforts, particularly the conditions that immigrants, many of whom are unaccompanied minors, face when they arrive in the U.S. Last month, the caucus sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for "the humane treatment of all detained immigrant children" and demanding an immediate moratorium on deportations.

Members of the caucus, including state Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, Norma Torres, D-Pomona, and Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, and Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, will visit a makeshift detention facility at the Ventura County Naval Base today to inspect the care immigrants are receiving. The tour begins at 1 p.m.

VIDEO: Not all Californians are sharing in the state's improving fortunes, Dan Walters says.

ANOTHER DAY OLDER: Despite the summer recess for legislators, a few committee hearings are scheduled this month. State Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, will preside over an informational hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care to discuss service delivery for older adults, 10 a.m. at the Glendale Central Library.

FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS: Is the combined power of three legislators enough to help dogs, cats and rabbits in the San Gabriel Valley find new homes? Assemblymen Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, and Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, team up with the Pasadena Humane Society for a pet adoption drive, starting at 9 a.m.

ROLLING IN THE DOUGH: The Sacramento Bee has updated its state worker salary database with 2013 payroll data from the University of California. UC employees comprised all of last year's top ten state salaries, most of which were athletic coaches at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses. Steve Alford, UCLA's head basketball coach, topped the list with $2.64 million. Former Cal football coach Jeff Tedford was second with $2.44 million. Tedford received a buyout last year after his firing at the end of the 2012 season.

PHOTO: A demonstrator that opposes illegal immigration, left, shouts at immigration supporters on July 4, 2014, outside a U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif. The Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill

July 7, 2014
AM Alert: Community college board reappoints CCSF trustee

Good news for Android users! Capitol Alert's Insider Edition app is now available for your phone or tablet. Learn more at www.sacbee.com/insider.

AOC_CityCollege_052w.JPGIt's summer recess for legislators, most of whom have headed back to their districts, and for your humble AM Alert crew, it feels like all our friends went away to camp and left us with nothing to do.

On this quiet Monday, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors gathers for its bimonthly meeting, starting at noon in the chancellor's office on Q Street.

On the agenda is a resolution to reappoint the special trustee that has been working with City College of San Francisco to improve its management and finances since it was stripped of its accreditation last year. City College's accreditation woes have been highly controversial and were the subject of a scathing state audit last month.

VIDEO: Despite California's pressing drought crisis, lawmakers aren't showing much urgency on a new water bond, Dan Walters says.

DELTA FORCE: Can natural processes be used to guide restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta? UC Merced professor Joshua Viers discusses lessons from three decades of restoration efforts on the Cosumnes River in a seminar hosted by the Delta Science Program, noon at the Park Tower Building on 9th Street.

GI-LY: Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, is beginning his vacation with a visit to the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, the largest veterans home in the country. Frazier will tour the facilities, which house more than 1,000 veterans, at 3 p.m.

READ MORE: Audit slams California community college accreditation process

PHOTO: A student looks over a textbook while waiting for class to begin on the first day of school at Sacramento City College on Aug. 24, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Payne.

July 2, 2014
AM Alert: Dissatisfied with wealth gap, voters disagree on solution

Good news for Android users! Capitol Alert's Insider Edition app is now available for your phone or tablet. Learn more at www.sacbee.com/insider.

Money.JPGMajorities of Californians, regardless of political affiliation, are dissatisfied with wealth and income distribution in the state, according to the latest Field Poll. But voters are politically divided over what the state should be doing to address the gap between the rich and everyone else, which they tend to agree is greater than in the past.

Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents believe the government should be doing a lot or some to reduce the wealth gap, compared to 46 percent of Republicans. While 45 percent of Republicans believe the government should be doing not much or nothing, only 20 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

One proposed solution that has gotten plenty of attention in the Legislature is raising the minimum wage. It increased to $9 an hour Tuesday, but a failed bill this session would have boosted it to $13 an hour by 2017.

A majority of Democrats and independents believe the state should be raising the minimum wage above its already scheduled increases, but slightly over half of Republicans think the current increases are adequate.

David Siders 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: Though the votes have finally been counted, the drama is not over yet in the state controller's race, Dan Walters says.

ART BREAK: In memory of Hassan Alawsi, an Iraqi artist and refugee who was killed in an apparent hate crime in south Sacramento in March, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will display Alawsi's work in his office for the month of July. The art will be unveiled during a reception at noon in Room 6005 of the Capitol.

RISING RATES: Arguing that almost 1 million Californians are charged unreasonable health insurance rates, Consumer Watchdog and the California Nurses Association will rally at 12:30 p.m. at the north entrance of the Capitol in support of Proposition 45, a November ballot measure that would allow the insurance commissioner to reject rate increases. The initiative will be the subject of an informational hearing, jointly held by the Senate and Assembly health committees, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

HEAR ME OUT: The Senate and Assembly public employee and retirement committees hold a joint hearing on equal employment opportunity and diversity in the state civil service, 10 a.m. in Room 113. The Senate Select Committee on Mental Health examines the impacts of California's behavioral health programs, 11 a.m. in Room 112.

FAREWELL: Congratulations to Mark Hedlund, communications director for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, who is retiring this week. Steinberg's office hosts a sendoff for Hedlund, who also spent 34 years as a journalist, 4 p.m. at de Vere's Irish Pub on L Street.

PHOTO: What $3.2 million dollars in a stack $20 bills will look like - one of the exhibits on the first floor of the Federal Reserve Bank's San Francisco district headquarters. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

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

The Capitol Alert Insider Edition app for Android is here! Get Capitol news, early access to editorials, a curated Twitter feed and more on your phone or tablet. Just search for Capitol Alert in the Google Play store.

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.

READ MORE:

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 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 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 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 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 Presente.org, 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 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 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.

READ MORE:

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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 4, 2014
AM Alert: Brown and Kashkari advance to November, with close races in other Tuesday contests

kashkarireporters.jpg

The votes have been cast. Here's a rundown of the latest from California statewide, congressional and legislative races, with thousands of mail and provisional ballots still to be counted from Tuesday's election.

Neel Kashkari, Alex Padilla, and Pete Peterson will advance to November while the outcome in other statewide races Tuesday remained uncertain.

Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck seem headed for a November showdown in the race for state superintendent of public instruction.

The race for state controller remains tight, with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin holding a slight lead for the top slot

Democrat vs. Democrat runoffs loom in Sacramento-area legislative contests.

A major House battle is set for November, as Bera and Ose advance in the targeted 7th Congressional District.

And in other news:

ERASING 187: It's been almost 20 years since 59 percent of California voters approved Proposition 187, which banned most public services for people in the country illegally. Courts later deemed the law unconstitutional, but it remains on the books. Members of the Legislature's Latino and Asian and Pacific Islander legislative caucuses will announce a new bill to erase Prop. 187's language from the code books, 11:30 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol. Attendees at the press conference, including state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who began his political career organizing against Prop. 187, will also discuss two bills that would place advisory questions on the November ballot asking voters if Congress should pass an immigration overhaul with a pathway to citizenship and if the U.S. government should halt the deportations of noncriminal mothers and fathers of U.S.-born children.

CANDLES IN THE WIND: In-home caregivers funded by the state have waged a very public campaign this year to overturn a proposed cap on the number of hours they can work. As budget negotiations draw to a close, workers are making a final push to change Gov. Jerry Brown's mind. Tonight they'll hold a candlelight vigil with some of the seniors and people with disabilities that they serve, 7:30 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol.

CRIMINAL MINDS: To address what they say is a rising criminal population in state hospitals since the implementation of California's three-strikes law, Assembly members Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, and Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, will discuss legislation that would establish enhanced treatment units for aggressive patients, 1 p.m. on the west steps of the Capitol.

DROUGHT BRIEFING: The California Department of Water Resources and the Water Education Foundation sponsor a day-long briefing on how the drought is affecting state water project operations, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Convention Center on J Street. The event will cover how this year's drought compares to previous droughts, what actions are being implemented under Brown's drought emergency proclamation and expected operation conditions for water projects this summer.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari speaks to reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 3, 2014
AM Alert: Voters head to polls for primary election

ballot_box.JPGAfter months of campaigning, tens of millions of dollars in outside spending and plenty of hand-wringing over whether turnout would reach a new low, California's 2014 primary election is finally upon us.

Across the state today, voters (though probably not very many of them) will be selecting the top two candidates for eight statewide offices, 100 legislative seats and 53 congressional races, as well deciding the fates of two propositions and countless local initiatives, county supervisor positions and judgeships.

Capitol Alert will be bringing you results, analysis and video all night long on sacbee.com. Check back for complete coverage after the polls close at 8 p.m.

If you're still figuring out who to vote for, all of The Bee's candidate profiles, campaign dispatches and ad watches are available at our election hub. Christopher Cadelago has more about eight legislative races and seven congressional races to watch, exclusively on our Insider Edition app.

VIDEO: Despite the lack of interest, there's plenty at stake in today's primary election, Dan Walters says.

ON DUTY: Most legislators will be back in their districts today for last-minute campaigning and election results parties. The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, however, will be at the Capitol this morning for an informational hearing on developing a long-term expenditure plan for the state's cap-and-trade program, 9:30 a.m. in Room 4203.

HIGH AND DRY: California's severe drought has led the state to order thousands of water agencies and users to stop pumping directly from streams, a drastic response that hasn't occurred since 1977. Many of them will now look to backup supplies, such as groundwater, though plenty of difficult decisions are left to be made. The State Board of Food and Agriculture discusses how to improve the management of California's groundwater supply, which will be particularly crucial for the agricultural industry in this dry year, 10 a.m. at the California Department of Food and Agriculture building on N Street.

THE GONG SHOW: Members of Falun Gong, the spiritual movement that has been banned in China for heresy, hold an art exhibition on the north steps of the Capitol from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. showcasing work that highlights how the discipline has impacted their lives and the treatment of practitioners by the Chinese government.

LEAD THE WAY: Among the controversial gun control legislation that Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year was a bill that bans lead ammunition in hunting. The Department of Fish and Wildlife holds a public meeting in Eureka, 7 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, to discuss its implementation plan for the ban, which must be in place by July 1, 2019.

PHOTO: Voters cast their ballots inside the County Registrar's office in downtown Modesto on November 5, 2012. The Modesto Bee/Elias Funez

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.

May 30, 2014
AM Alert: Legislature finishes big deadline week

Assembly_chamber.JPGToday is the last day for bills to pass out of their house of origin, but both chambers of the Legislature are quiet. Despite concerns that the Senate and Assembly, with long lists of legislation to get through in this shortened Memorial Day week, would be bumping up against their deadline, they made it through the hundreds of remaining bills by Thursday afternoon.

Labor and business interests both scored big victories on controversial proposals. A bill requiring paid sick leave for workers passed out of the Assembly and the Senate approved a plan to tie annual minimum wage adjustments to inflation. Meanwhile, a moratorium on fracking and a bill to label genetically-engineered food, which had been strongly opposed by the oil and agriculture industries, died in the Senate.

Though the GMO legislation did not pass, two other food-labeling proposals did. The Senate approved bills that would put warnings on sugary drinkings and require fish for sale to be identified by their common name.

VIDEO: Is there a future for elections without traditional polling places? Dan Walters wonders.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: One of two propositions on the June ballot would enshrine California's open meetings and public records laws in the state constitution. It would also require local governments to pay the cost of complying with the laws, an expense the state was previously required to pay. Before voters weigh in on the measure, however, the Commission on State Mandates will consider approving $9.6 million in reimbursements to local agencies and school districts for additional information services required under the Public Records Act over the past decade, 10 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol.

TOM-FUEL-ERY: Among the state's efforts to comply with AB 32, the landmark 2006 law mandating a reduction of California's greenhouse gas emissions, is the "low carbon fuel standard," which requires producers of petroleum-based fuel to reduce the carbon intensity of their product by 10 percent by 2020. The Air Resources Board holds a public workshop on proposed revisions to the fuel standard beginning at 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA building on I Street.

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

May 29, 2014
AM Alert: Capitol Alert wants your opinion

Capitol_repaint.JPGThank you for being a loyal AM Alert reader. Capitol Alert would like to know a little more to help us better understand your interests.

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Please take this short survey to help us meet your Capitol news needs.


HEALING HAND: The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, which works on neighborhood safety, juvenile justice and education issues, sponsors a briefing on the effects of trauma on youth and community healing practices, 12:30 p.m. in Room 127 of the Capitol. Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, delivers opening remarks. Later in the program, Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles, Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, discuss legislative response.

WHO'S WATCHING?: Revelations of government spying and massive data breaches during the holiday shopping season made information security a hot topic last year. Paul Dourish, a professor of informatics at UC Irvine, will discuss online privacy in the age of social media and big data, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

CAPITOL EVENTS: The California Highway Patrol, which issues the permits for the Capitol events that you read about daily in the AM Alert, is moving to a new online system that offers paperless applications and a calendar updated in real time. You can check it out here.

AMEN: The 53rd annual California Prayer Breakfast, chaired this year by state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, begins at 6:45 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street.

PREVENTATIVE CARE: As part of its legislative advocacy day, community health and welfare organization Prevention Institute leads a rally calling for the passage of bills that would require warning labels on soft drinks, raise fines for traffic violations in school zones to fund safety projects, and give students enough time to eat lunch, noon on the north steps of the Capitol.

NEW IDEAS: Tomorrow is the deadline for bills to make it out of their house of origin, but legislators already looking for new ideas can pop in to room 126 of the Capitol at 3:30 p.m. Graduate students from Sacramento State's public policy and administration program will present their theses and policy recommendations on Medi-Cal, marijuana regulation and smog checks, among other topics.

PHOTO: Construction workers erect scaffolding around the Capitol dome on May 1, 2002 in preparation for painting. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 28, 2014
AM Alert: After shooting, Senate Dems introduce mental health legislation

IslaVista.JPGMeeting for the first time since the mass shooting that shook Santa Barbara over the weekend, Democratic lawmakers yesterday called for new efforts to keep mentally ill people from obtaining guns.

First up is a package of bills and budget proposals from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to address mental healthcare in California's criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety. Steinberg will be joined by Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Jim Beall, D-San Jose, to present the legislation at 11 a.m. in Room 211 of the Capitol.

Steinberg said he was planning to introduce the legislation regardless of the events in Isla Vista, where six students were killed and another 13 were injured Friday night, but the incident creates new urgency for the conversation. Among the package is a proposal to strengthen statewide protocols to help law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.

VIDEO: As deadlines loom, the Legislature becomes more of a sausage factory than a deliberative body, Dan Walters says.

BAD BEHAVIOR: In response to a scandal-plagued year that has led to the suspension of three senators, Senate Republicans will introduce a package of legislation aimed at preventing ethics abuses, noon in the office of Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. The bills will focus on closing campaign finance loopholes, toughening reporting requirements, preventing the use of campaign funds for criminal defense and increasing penalties for lawmakers who accept bribes.

GOING UNDER: Rising sea levels and storm surges create a flood risk for nearly 3,500 miles of California roadways and 280 miles of rail lines, according to the California Energy Commission. As part of its annual update of the state's Integrated Energy Policy Report, the commission will conduct a workshop on this and other potential threats of climate change to the state's transportation system, 3 p.m. at the California Energy Commission building on 9th Street.

WIC-KED AWESOME: In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the California WIC Assocation sponsors a health fair and picnic at noon on the west steps of the Capitol.

ALL TOGETHER NOW: The California Financing Coordinating Committee, which helps arrange financing for public-works projects, holds a funding fair about available grants for drinking water, energy efficiency, flood management and other projects, 8:30 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street.

DROUGHT WARRIOR: Last December, Gov. Jerry Brown convened an interagency task force to review the state's water allocations and drought preparedness. California's food and agriculture secretary, Karen Ross, who is leading the task force, will discuss the impacts of the drought and possible solutions during a speaking engagement at Santa Clara University at noon.

PHOTO: State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who represents the community of Isla Vista where six young people were killed on May 23, leads senators in a moment of silence in their memory, at the Capitol on May 27, 2014. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.

May 27, 2014
AM Alert: California party chairs get roasted

turbo_roaster.JPGDemocrats and Republicans will square off on the political battlefield next Tuesday, so why not prepare with a partisan showdown of a more lighthearted nature?

The California Roast, that annual tradition of raunchy jokes and even raunchier jokes, features state Democratic Party chairman John Burton and state Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte as co-honorees this year. Rumor has it that whoever is funnier will win the governor's office in November.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle are slated to do the roasting. The festivities, hosted by the California Center for Civic Participation to benefit its youth education program, begin at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street. Tickets are $300.

VIDEO: The only thing that will stop the oil industry from pursuing California's Monterey Shale formation is economics, Dan Walters says.

DOWN TO THE WIRE: The deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin is Friday. With hundreds left to consider and committees not allowed to meet this week, the Senate and Assembly will be spending more time than usual in their chambers, debating and voting on legislation. (How much time, exactly, is not yet clear). The fun begins when both houses convene at noon for floor session.

LIEN IN: Janitors, security guards and other members of the Service Employees International Union rally on the north steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. to call for the passage of legislation that would allow workers to place wage liens on their employers for compensation that they are owed.

I SPY: If a roast is not your thing, the Sacramento Press Club and the Center for Investigative Reporting host a screening of the short documentary "The State of Surveillance" and a panel discussion on the increasingly sophisticated surveillance capabilities of California law enforcement, 5:30 p.m. at Beatnik Studios on S Street.

PHOTO: A chicken takes the heat. The Sacramento Bee

May 23, 2014
AM Alert: Suspense bills get final shot in fiscal committees

Assembly_chamber.JPGToday is the last day for fiscal committees to meet and report to the floor bills introduced in their house, so both the Senate and Assembly appropriations committees will be running through their suspense files - lists of legislation the committees have held off on considering until a clearer picture of available revenue emerged.

Both houses have extensive lists to consider: There are in 232 bills in the Senate's suspense file, and 319 in the Assembly. Among them are many of Capitol Alert Insider Edition's Bills to Watch for 2014.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which meets in Room 4203 of the Capitol upon adjournment of morning floor session, will consider legislation that would expand pre-kindergarten for all California four-year-olds, provide access to subsidized health care and student loans for undocumented immigrants, mandate labeling of genetically-modified foods, speed up the process for firing teachers accused of egregious misconduct, and create a fundraising blackout period for the Legislature.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee, which meets in Room 4202 of the Capitol upon adjournment of morning floor session, will consider legislation that would deal with a backlog of untested rape kits, require paid sick days for employees, make it easier for undocumented immigrants to pay taxes and extend the film tax credit.

VIDEO: Even with a scaled-back proposal, it's unclear whether pre-kindergarten expansion will make it into the final budget, Dan Walters says.

PUMP UP THE JAM: Under California's landmark cap-and-trade law, oil producers in the state will have to buy carbon credits for all the fuel they sell beginning next year. A coalition of businesses, consumers and advocates called Fed Up at the Pump launches a campaign against the tax, which is expected to raise gasoline prices by several cents per gallon, 10:30 a.m. at Three B's Auto and Truck Plaza in Lodi. State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, will join the group in asking Gov. Jerry Brown to halt the law before it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Fed Up at the Pump argues that the rising cost of gas will have negative impact on motorists as well as industries such as agriculture, trucking and construction.

CONGRADULATIONS: The 2014 commencement season continues this weekend with another speaker from under the dome: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, delivers the address at Sacramento State's College of Health and Human Services ceremony, Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Sleep Train Arena.

IN MEMORIAM: In honor of Memorial Day and those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, the Legislature will be out of session until Tuesday. But there is plenty of action around the Capitol this long weekend, including a "reading of the names" at the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Capitol Park at 7 a.m. on Sunday and a program at the Mexican-American Veterans Memorial on 10th Street at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to eliminate a reference to the bill requiring porn actors to wear condoms. That bill is not on the suspense file -- it was sent to the floor for a vote.

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

May 22, 2014
AM Alert: Darrell Steinberg refocuses pre-kindergarten proposal

Headstart.JPGIn his final year in the Legislature, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has made the expansion of pre-kindergarten to all California four-year-olds one of his biggest policy priorities.

While public support for the idea was high in a Field Poll released last month, Gov. Jerry Brown has never gotten on board with the proposal.

So with the final budget due in less than a month, Steinberg is scaling down his plan. He will present a revamped transitional kindergarten proposal that focuses on early learning and child care for low-income children during the Senate budget committee's education subcommittee hearing at 1:30 p.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: Do proposed ethics reforms in the scandal-ridden state Senate go beyond damage control?, Dan Walters wonders.

OM(KENNY)G: Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G is one of the best-selling musical acts of all time, as well as an eternal pop culture punchline. Now he can add "legislative advocate" to his resume. He'll join state Sens. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, to advocate for funding of musical education in schools, noon on the west steps of the Capitol. The event is part of Stand Up 4 Music's lobby day, which begins at 9 a.m. with performances by school bands from across California.

ANTE UP: A push and pull of competing interests has kept efforts to legalize Internet poker in California on hold for several years. Capitol Weekly and the UC Center Sacramento sponsor a daylong conference to discuss the issues surrounding the effort, including regulation and the effect on tribal gambling, starting at 9 a.m. at the Masonic Temple on J Street. Among the speakers is Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, the author of one of two current bills that would authorize Internet poker.

MILK AND CAKE: The California Legislative LGBT Caucus – including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, state Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Lara, and Assemblymen Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – hold a reception for what would have been activist Harvey Milk's 84th birthday, 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol Park fish pond.

EXPANDING CARE: How will insurers adapt to meet the diverse needs of those newly covered under the Affordable Care Act? The California Association of Health Plans holds a daylong seminar to discuss new strategies and trends in health care, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites on Capitol Mall.

FOSTER STUDENTS: With a new school funding formula in place that provides additional money to districts with low-income and other needy students, foster youth advocates are asking schools to look out for students from foster care. The Stuart Foundation sponsors a legislative briefing on the educational outcomes and needs of foster youth at 10 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, who turns 45 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

May 21, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown wakes up with CalChamber

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgThe California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast brings together industry and civic leaders from across the state to discuss California's business climate. Gov. Jerry Brown will be there as usual to offer his thoughts at 8:35 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Last year, Brown downplayed optimistic revenue projections and urged caution on new spending in the final budget deal. He also said Latin "makes you smarter than everybody."

One of those points could very well surface again today, though Brown has also been on the defensive lately about California's regulatory environment and may have other pressing matters he wants to address.

The California governor is the event's usual keynote speaker, though Brown has skipped the breakfast once before, in 1975. President Gerald Ford was invited instead, and it was on that visit that he survived an assassination attempt by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.

VIDEO: If the state can't get small construction projects right, how are we supposed to trust them with major endeavors like high-speed rail?, Dan Walters asks.

THE SPEAKER SPEAKS: In one of her first appearances since becoming the new Assembly Speaker last week, Toni Atkins will address the Sacramento Press Club for its monthly luncheon, 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom.

HEALTH CARE COSTS: A proposal to subsidize health care for undocumented immigrants has won conceptual approval from the state Senate, but its author, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said in early May that he had not yet identified a funding mechanism for the initiative. Lara and University of California researchers will unveil an economic analysis of the legislation, one of Capitol Alert's Bills to Watch, at 11 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

HELP AT HOME: At the annual Disability Capitol Action Day, seniors, disabled individuals and their advocates will continue the campaign against a budget proposal that would limit the number of hours in-home caregivers can work. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, will deliver remarks at 11 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol.

BOOTING UP: The Internet Association, which announced in March that it was expanding into California, celebrates the opening of its new office with a reception at 5:30 p.m. at Mayahuel on K Street. Members such as Facebook and Uber will show off their technology and there will be a demonstration of Google's self-driving car.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

May 20, 2014
AM Alert: California water board considers drought cutbacks

MC_DELTA_file.JPGFor the first time since the 1977 drought, California water officials are considering widespread curtailment of longstanding water rights because of a scarcity of supply. Over the next few weeks, the state is expected to begin issuing orders to many water agencies, farmers and other property owners to stop diverting water from streams and rivers.

During its bimonthly meeting today, 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street, the State Water Resources Control Board will vote on an emergency regulation to curtail diversions on three Sacramento River tributaries important for fish passage if minimum flows are not met.

The discussion will continue tomorrow at 9 a.m. with a public workshop about proposed emergency regulations for cutbacks on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta Watershed, which is the largest in the state. Water rights are currently based on seniority, and "junior" rights holders -- mostly those who acquired water rights after 1914 -- are the first to be affected by curtailment. But the board is considering exceptions for fish and wildlife protection, as well as for public health and safety, which would allow municipalities to continue drawing some water after a curtailment order is issued.

VIDEO: California's growing battle between teachers unions and education activists has raised the stakes in this year's race for state schools chief, Dan Walters says.

BUDGE IT As budget negotiations enter their final weeks, Democratic members of the California Legislative Women's Caucus call for a greater priority on programs assisting women, families and children, 9:30 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol.

TENURE TRACK: A lawsuit winding its way through the California courts right now is challenging the state's teacher tenure laws, claiming they deny students the constitutional right to a quality education. What would happen if the plaintiffs prove victorious? The UC Berkeley School of Law hosts a discussion exploring the potential ramifications of the case, 11:45 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

VROOM VROOM: As part of its lobby day, the Association of Global Automakers will display its newest eco-friendly models, including electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, outside Chops on 11th Street starting at 11:30 a.m. The party begins inside at 5 p.m. for legislators and their staff.

ON A DIME: Volunteers from the baby health organization March of Dimes gather in Room 100 of the Legislative Office Building at 9 a.m. to kick off their legislative advocacy day, which will urge for restoration of funding to the Black Infant Health Program. The organization will honor state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, and hear from Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank.

TICKET TO RIDE: Participants in the Climate Ride, a four-day bicycling tour to benefit sustainability, active transportation and environmental nonprofits, cross the finish line at 3:30 p.m. at the south steps of the Capitol, where they'll hear from Assembly members Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

PHOTO: Aerial view of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta on Nov. 11, 2008. The islands separated by the Franks Tract in the foreground, San Joaquin river in the middle and the Sacramento River in the background. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

May 19, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown discusses California climate change response

Brown_climate_change.jpgGov. Jerry Brown will discuss California's response to climate change during an all-day forum hosted by the University of California's Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. The event, which will explore the impact of climate change on the state's agriculture and natural resources, begins at 8:30 a.m. at the California Museum on O Street and Brown is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m.

Brown has made climate change a focus of his administration, calling it the greatest threat to young people's future and pushing for the reduction of greenhouse gases during his trip to China last year.

But he has also drawn the ire of environmentalists for backing hydraulic fracturing, the controversial procedure for mining fossil fuels. Brown was loudly protested during his speech at the California Democratic Party convention in March.

Brown has defended his position as a way to secure broad support, including from the oil industry, for reducing the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. "I'm kind of a missionary here," he said during an appearance in March.

VIDEO: A ballot measure to raise the cap on medical malpractice damages is the culmination of a decades-long, big-money battle, Dan Walters says.

IMMIGRANT DAY: Immigrants from across the state and their supporters from the California Immigrant Policy Center gather at the Capitol today to lobby for bills that would expand health care to undocumented immigrants and lower the cost of phone calls at local jails. A rally at 10 a.m. on the west steps includes Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward.

UTILITY DIVERSITY: The Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee holds an oversight hearing on increasing diversity within California's energy industry, particularly in board, executive and management positions, 3 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

HEALTH CARE UPDATE: Now that the first year of open enrollment for the health care exchange has ended, the focus shifts to implementing the program. How is it going in California? The Public Policy Institute of California hosts a discussions with state Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley and others, noon at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel on J Street.

LAST CALL: If you want to vote in the primary election on June 3 and have not yet registered, today is the deadline. Head over to registertovote.ca.gov for online voter registration.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who turns 64 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown gives opening remarks at the Governor's Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California's Future at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Dec. 15, 2011. The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

May 16, 2014
AM Alert: Health and human services budget committee discusses May Revision

Capitol_repaint.JPGLegislators are usually back in their districts on a Friday, but with Gov. Jerry Brown presenting his revised budget proposal this week, there's enough to discuss to keep some of them in town today. The Assembly Budget Committee's Subcommittee on Health and Human Services meets in Room 4202 of the Capitol at 9 a.m.

Whether Brown has restored enough of the recession-era spending cuts to health programs and social services is one of the biggest points of contention surrounding the budget. With the first surplus in years, liberal lawmakers and advocacy groups have pushed the governor to spend the additional billions rather than socking them away in a proposed rainy-day fund. In-home caregivers have been especially vocal in pushing back against Brown's budget, which would limit the number of hours they can work.

VIDEO: Final budget negotiations become a political bargaining chip for those holding the purse strings, Dan Walters says.

COLLEGE READINESS: California's high school graduation rate is on the rise, but are those students prepared for college? Policy Analysis for California Education sponsors a talk with researchers from Stanford University on a college readiness indicator system that could help schools and districts better prepare their students for future success, 11:30 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

COMMENCE THE COMMENCEMENTS: With the school year coming to a close, graduation season is in full swing and members of the Capitol community are beginning their visits to colleges and universities across the state. Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, will deliver the commencement address at the UC Davis School of Law today at 4 p.m. at the Mondavi Center, while Jennifer Siebel Newsom, documentary filmmaker and wife of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaks to graduates of Dominican University of California in San Rafael on Saturday.

LONG RIDE TO FUNDING: Cyclists will ride from Vacaville, Suisun City and Oakland to Sacramento on Saturday calling on California to reinvest in public education. They will finish at the west steps of the Capitol, where Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Karen Stapf Walters, executive director of the State Board of Education, are scheduled to speak at 4 p.m.

PHOTO: Construction workers erect scaffolding around the Capitol dome on May 1, 2002 in preparation for painting. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 15, 2014
AM Alert: Neel Kashkari, Tim Donnelly face off in radio debate

kashkarikfbk.jpgWhen Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly challenged rival Neel Kashkari to an "old-fashioned debate" at the California Republican Party convention in March, the invitation was immediately dismissed by Kashkari and party leadership.

It seems the second time's the charm for this political showdown, as Kashkari and Donnelly will square off in a live 90-minute debate at 5 p.m. on The John and Ken Show, a popular conservative talk radio program on KFI-AM in Los Angeles.

Though Donnelly maintains a significant lead in the polls, Kashakari has turned up the heat in recent weeks, announcing a series of high-profile endorsements and pouring $1 million of his own money into his campaign. The two camps also came to very public blows last week over some Donnelly social media posts linking Kashkari to Sharia law, which sets the stage for a very interesting discussion when the candidates finally meet up tonight.

VIDEO: After decades of fighting over Proposition 13, this week's compromise was a surprising step forward, Dan Walters says.

GREEN MONEY: Last month, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg unveiled a proposal to dedicate California's "cap-and-trade" funds to affordable housing, mass transit and high-speed rail. Today, he will be joined by state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at noon at the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland to further discuss the plan and its potential benefits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

POT SHOTS: Could California follow Colorado's lead and legalize marijuana? The Sacramento Bee's pot expert Peter Hecht, author of the new book Weed Land, discusses the changing political, legal, economic and social dynamics of marijuana policy, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

BLOOD DRIVE: Capitol employees who want to do a quick bit of good and don't get too squeamish at the sight of a needle can head to the blood drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the fish pond in Capitol Park, sponsored by Capitol Health Services.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 14, 2014
AM Alert: UC regents, student protesters meet in Sacramento

UC_regents_meeting.JPGThe University of California regents make their annual trek to Sacramento for a two-day board meeting, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. The event coincides with an advocacy day at the Capitol in which the regents and students will be lobbying for greater funding for the UC system.

On the agenda is the issue of community college transfers to UC campuses. As Gov. Jerry Brown has pushed the state's public universities to cut down on time to degree for students, UC has lagged behind on transfer initiatives compared to California State University, which has partnered with the California Community Colleges to implement an associate degree for transfer.

Outside the meeting, students will be staging a protest against UC's investment in fossil fuels, beginning at 8 a.m. Last week, Stanford University made international headlines by announcing that it would be divesting from its coal stocks, and the students are calling upon the UC regents to follow suit.

VIDEO: Gov. Brown engaged in some budget trash talk during his May Revision announcement, Dan Walters says.

PLASTIC BAG BAN: A controversial proposal to ban disposable plastic bags in California gets its first hearing today in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, 11 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol. The legislation, which has drawn major opposition from plastic bag manufacturers, is one of Capitol Alert's Bills to Watch.

SEAWORLD IN SACTOWN: Last month, representatives from SeaWorld made their way up to Sacramento to oppose the groundswell of support for the "Blackfish bill," which would have banned the San Diego theme park's signature orca shows. With that legislation now dead for the year, SeaWorld makes a happier return to the Capitol for its annual advocacy day. The park will celebrate 50 years with an animal show, including penguins, lemurs, peregrine falcons and a kangaroo, on the north steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m.

FUN WITH SCIENCE: State Scientist Day brings scores of students between third and sixth grade to the west steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. for hands-on exhibits including a mobile vet lab, live insects and an earthquake machine. Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who will be honored by the California Association of Professional Scientists, participates in a "mad science experiment" at 10:30 a.m.

RAINY-DAY FUND: Gov. Brown finally got the rainy-day fund he's been wanting last week when he announced a deal with legislative leaders that could put a measure before voters on the November ballot. First, though, the bill has got to make it through both houses of the Legislature with two-thirds votes. It begins its journey in the Senate Budget Committee at 3:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, who turns 52 today.

PHOTO: Janet Napolitano speaks at a University of California Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco after being elected president of the UC system on July 18, 2013. The Associated Press/Eric Risberg

May 13, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown announces budget revise

brownbudgetrevise.jpgTemperatures are heating up, the school year is coming to a close and Memorial Day is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing: Budget season is upon us.

Discussions in and around the Capitol about the 2014-15 budget are about to get serious as Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his revised budget proposal today at a series of press conferences across the state.

Brown's draft proposal in January, which projected California's first revenue surplus since the recession, emphasized paying down state debts and modest spending increases. Brown has maintained a drumbeat for fiscal responsibility in the months since, announcing a deal on a rainy-day reserve fund last week.

But many lawmakers and outside interest groups have been looking to use the additional money to reverse spending cuts implemented during the recession or fund major new programs such as universal pre-kindergarten. With state tax revenues running even higher than estimates, those calls are likely to get even louder as Brown and the Legislature negotiate a final budget over the next month.

Brown will first present his revised budget proposal at the Capitol at 9 a.m., with later stops in Los Angeles and San Diego.

VIDEO: In his campaign for state Senate, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is playing down his political career, Dan Walters says.

BRINGING IT HOME: In-home caregivers have made repeated trips to Sacramento this year to protest a budget proposal that would restrict their hours. They will be outside the Capitol, near 12th and N streets, following the governor's press conference for another rally. Sens. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Jose Medina, D-Riverside, V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, and Pan are scheduled to attend.

HEALTHY MINDS: The Each Mind Matters campaign, which works to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, sponsors Mental Health Matters Day, with a rally on the south steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m. featuring state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, among others.

ALWAYS LEARNING: The California School-Age Consortium, which advocates for programs for students outside of school time, will be joined by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to call for the passage of SB 1221, which would expand access to after-school and summer programs, 11:45 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

PROPOSITION PROTEST: In 2004, voters passed Proposition 63, which taxes millionaires to help pay for mental health services. One of the initiative's authors, Rose King, will be at the south steps of the Capitol at 10:15 a.m. to protest what she considers a waste of the program's funds. Last August, an audit found that state agencies had not properly overseen how counties were spending billions of dollars generated by Prop 63.

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

May 12, 2014
AM Alert: Toni Atkins sworn in as Assembly Speaker

Toni_Atkins.JPGThough she was chosen as the next Assembly Speaker in January and formally elected in March, Toni Atkins will finally take over the lower house today. Among those in attendance for her swearing-in ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers will be Gov. Jerry Brown.

Atkins, a former San Diego city councilwoman who was elected to the Legislature in 2010, will be the 69th Speaker of the Assembly. She is only the third woman, and the first openly gay woman, to lead the house.

An "unabashed progressive Democrat," as one former colleague called her, Atkins is a major supporter of gay rights, affordable housing and reproductive health. Read more about her rise from a humble upbringing in rural Virginia to the head of California politics in Jeremy B. White's profile of Atkins.

VIDEO: Should California fund new jail construction or rehabilitation programs to address prison overcrowding? A small but important budget battle is underway, Dan Walters says.

POLITICAL REFORM: In a year plagued with scandal, a number of different efforts to address the influence of money on the Capitol are winding their way through the Legislature. A package of bills from state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, which would institute a fundraising blackout period at the end of the legislative session among other reforms, goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee at 10 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol. As amendments to the Political Reform Act, the legislation faces an uphill climb: The bills will require a two-thirds vote from both houses. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg seems to already have a back-up plan in place, announcing a series of new rules last Friday that address some of the issues raised by Padilla's bills and other current legislation.

POWERFUL WOMEN: Political development group California Women Lead hosts Women's Empowerment Day at the Capitol, an all-day leadership conference beginning at 10 a.m. at the Residence Inn Sacramento Downtown on 15th Street. State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, are slated to participate in a morning panel on leadership style and Karen Skelton, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Shriver Report, will deliver the lunchtime keynote. More than 40 members of the Legislature are scheduled to attend a reception at 5 p.m.

NURSES RALLY: As part of its annual advocacy day, the California Nurses Association will march from the Sacramento Convention Center to the Capitol at 11:30 a.m. to support bills that would mandate workplace violence prevention programs, require uniform standards for reporting charity care at hospitals and limit higher out-of-pocket costs for patients seeking care outside their provider networks.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, who turns 63 today and to state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who turns 68. And a belated happy Mother's Day to all of the moms in the Capitol community.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego on Jan. 23, 2014 at her office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 9, 2014
AM Alert: Kamala Harris pitches anti-truancy bills to educators

kamala.jpgParents and teachers gathered in Los Angeles this week for the California State PTA's annual convention, where attendees have discussed education policy, advocacy and heard from guests such as state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

As the meeting comes to a close this weekend, California Attorney General Kamala Harris headlines today's events with a keynote address, 11 a.m. at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Harris will discuss the package of anti-truancy legislation she is sponsoring that would use enhanced data collection and reporting to address school attendance issues sooner.

VIDEO: It's a new era of "politics of plenty" for California, Dan Walters says, and with it come new budget battles.

VOTER GUIDE: Don't forget to pick up Sunday's Sacramento Bee for our voter guide to the 2014 primary election. If you just can't wait that long, it's already online with a customizable ballot and options to share your picks.

HEY HEY HEY GOODBYE: President Barack Obama closes out his fundraising tour through California this morning with a visit to the Walmart in Mountain View to discuss energy efficiency. The event has drawn the ire of organized labor and its supporters who oppose the company's labor practices, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

LAX-MINATION: Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, holds an informational hearing on the health and safety conditions of workers employed by airline contractors at LAX, 1:30 p.m. at the Junipero Serra State Building Auditorium in Los Angeles.

BENEFITS FAIR: A two-day CalPERS benefits education fair to inform members about the programs and services available to them begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, who turns 48 today.

May 8, 2014
AM Alert: Latino groups gather in Sacramento

Brownlicenses.JPGLatinos' public-policy priorities will be the focus in Sacramento this morning, with groups from around the state converging on the convention center for a Latino Community Foundation summit.

The event will involve leading advocacy organizations like the National Council of La Raza alongside smaller community-based organizing and services groups. Attendees will hear about the budget process from Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and about the implementation of some prized laws from senators Kevin de León and Ricardo Lara, along with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

Laws of interest include the new healthcare overhaul and two landmark immigration laws passed last year: one offering driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants (which hit a bit of a snag yesterday) and one protecting non-criminals from deportation. Attendees will also hear about Lara's bill seeking to insure the undocumented.

VIDEO: Despite a disturbing new report on the size of California's debt, Dan Walters sees little hope for a fix any time soon.

STUDENTS SPEAK: Latino Community Foundation attendees will also hear about California's new school funding plan, and they're not the only ones paying attention. The California Teachers Association will be holding a press conference outside of a State Board of Education meeting today to press policymakers to let students weigh in on the Local Control Funding Formula's phase-in.

CALIFORNIA RAISIN': In a recurring ritual of mining California's deep reservoir of Democratic wealth, President Barack Obama will be in the state today for a pair of party fundraisers. Air Force One will carry the chief executive to Beverly Hills and La Jolla this morning for a pair of Democratic National Committee fundraisers, and then Obama will head north for two more events on behalf of the DNC: a Los Altos confab and an event at the home of Yahoo executive Marissa Meyer.

LEAVE US: Continuing the fight for a cherished Democratic idea, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez will describe a new push for her paid sick leave bill alongside labor and working moms today. The San Diego Democrat will be joined by California Labor Federation president — and 20th Senate District candidate — Connie Leyva — and hourly wage industry workers at a press conference announcing a statewide campaign for Assembly Bill 1522. At 11:30 a.m. in room 317.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to longtime California politico and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who turns 73 today.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs a driver's license bill for undocumented immigrants in Fresno City College in Fresno, Calif on Oct. 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

May 7, 2014
AM Alert: Barack Obama swings through California for fundraisers

Oabam_speaking.JPGPresident Barack Obama touches down in California today for a three-day swing through Democratic fundraising hotspots in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Obama begins his trip in Los Angeles this evening headlining a joint fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the Bel Air home of Disney Studios head Alan Horn, according to an online invitation. He then heads over to the 20th anniversary gala for the University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation, an institute for visual history and education, hosted by Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg.

On Thursday, he'll make appearances at Democratic National Committee fundraisers in Beverly Hills and at the La Jolla home of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs before heading up to the Bay Area, according to online invitations. In the evening, he's slated for events at the Los Altos home of 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki and a major fundraiser co-hosted by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer and Sam Altman, president of start-up incubator Y Combinator..

Before flying back to Washington on Friday, Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks on energy efficiency, 9:55 a.m. at the Walmart in Mountain View.

VIDEO: The Legislature has a long and pointless history of weighing in on foreign affairs, Dan Walters says.

BREAST HEALTH: State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, help launch a new initiative from the Susan G. Komen organization to address racial disparities in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, 9:30 a.m. at the Capitol Park trout pond.

CHILD CARE CUTS: Child care advocacy organization Parent Voices rallies to restore cuts to child care funding, 11 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol. Mitchell and Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywomen Lowenthal, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, are scheduled to attend.

PET ADOPTION: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sponsors an adoption event for shelter animals from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will be there to advocate for his bill making rescue animal adoptions tax deductible.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The California Charter Schools Association gathers for its annual lobby day at 10 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol. Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, will deliver remarks.

ENGLISH PROFICIENCY: Nearly one in four students in California's public schools is now an English learner, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The group holds a briefing on its research examining the relationship between when students are classified as fully English-proficient and their later academic success, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

CESAR CHAVEZ: Author and former journalist Miriam Pawel discusses her new biography of Cesar Chavez, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Ukraine on the South Lawn of the White House on March 20, 2014. Abaca Press/Olivier Douliery

May 6, 2014
AM Alert: Steinberg moves to revoke pay for suspended lawmakers

Steinberg_suspension.JPGWhen the state Senate took the unprecedented step of suspending three members back in March, one major criticism of the move was that the senators would continue to be paid.

Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, cast the lone vote against the suspensions, calling them "paid holidays for bad behavior."

To address that concern, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has introduced a bill that would allow legislators to revoke pay and benefits upon suspending a member from the Legislature.

As a constitutional amendment, it will require a two-thirds vote in both houses and approval by voters. It has its first hearing today in the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, 1:30 p.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: The recovering real estate market isn't all good news for homeowners, Dan Walters says.

SAVING HOLLYWOOD: As film and television jobs head for other states, Los Angeles-area lawmakers have pushed to expand California's tax credit program. (One such effort got Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, into trouble.) On the tail of a new report that discounted the program's benefits, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, will discuss his latest proposal with the California Film Commission, 11 a.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol.

IN MEMORIAM: Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris will attend a memorial ceremony for California Highway Patrol officers who have been killed in the line duty, 9:30 a.m. at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento.

PPAC ON PARADE: Members and supporters of the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California march from their "day of action" at the Sacramento Convention Center to the west steps of the Capitol at 12:40 p.m. in support of reproductive health care, health care for undocumented immigrants and restoration of Medi-Cal cuts. State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, will speak at the Capitol rally at 1:30 p.m.

BONE MAY-RROW: Citing a "critical need" for more bone marrow donors, especially in minority communities, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Roseville, commemorates May as Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Month, 10:30 a.m. at the Capitol Mall traffic circle. A bone marrow donor drive will follow in the Capitol basement from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

HEAR YE, HEAR YE: The Assembly Health Committee holds an informational hearing on results from the first year of open enrollment for Covered California, 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. The Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee discusses aging in the Asian-Pacific Islander community, 2 p.m. in Room 127. The Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care examines recent trends in the foster care system, including human trafficking among foster children, 1:30 p.m. in Room 126.

STAYCATION: As part of its advocacy day, the California State Parks Foundation will hold an expo on the north steps of the Capitol from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Celebrating 150 years of California state parks, the event will have butter-churning, musical performances, food samples and kayaking demonstrations, among other activities.

NAF-TALK: The California Chamber of Commerce hosts a panel discussion on the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, 12:45 p.m. at the CalChamber building on K Street.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER: While most political observers have dismissed the prospects of the Six Californias initiative, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper is carrying on his campaign to get the measure on the November ballot. He address the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco at 6 p.m.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduces a resolution to suspend Sens. Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 5, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown attends peace officers' memorial

peace_officers_memorial.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has had a packed calendar lately. After making the rounds in Los Angeles last week, he'll be at two events in Sacramento today.

The first is the California Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony, an annual event recognizing officers who have died in the line of duty. Thirteen names will be added to the monument on Capitol Mall, including eight who were killed last year. Brown will join the walk of honor, starting at 10:30 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol, then speak at the enrollment ceremony at 11 a.m.

In the afternoon, Brown will head over to McClellan Airfield to kick off Wildfire Awareness Week with state fire and emergency officials. The event begins at 2:30 p.m. at the Cal Fire Aviation Management Unit.

VIDEO: What if they held an election and nobody came?, Dan Walters wonders.

DONATION DRIVE: Legislators launch a donation drive for homeless mothers and families with children, 1:30 p.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol. Items such as diapers, baby food and wipes can be dropped off through May 9 at legislative offices, including those of state Sens. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assembly members Don Wagner, R-Irvine, Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, and Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills.

LATINO SPIRIT: The California Latino Legislative Caucus hosts its annual Latino Spirit Awards, honoring members of the Latino community who are pioneers in their fields, noon on the Assembly floor. Among this year's honorees are former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and actor Danny Trejo.

POPULATION BOOM: The Governor's Office of Planning and Research holds a public workshop seeking comments on a draft report identifying key actions the state should take to prepare itself for the next several decades, when the population is expected to reach 50 million, 10:30 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Building on I Street.

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: As part of its spring conference at the Citizen Hotel on J Street, the Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee will get visits today from state Sens. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly members Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, and Connie Conway, R-Tulare. The organization will also recognize Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, as its Legislator of the Year during a noon luncheon.

GETTING STEAMY: Power company Calpine hosts Geothermal Awareness Day to promote renewable energy with a legislative reception at 5:30 p.m. at Mayahuel on K Street. State Sens. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Assembly members Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, and V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, are scheduled to attend.

KINKY BUCKS: Here's a unique way to raise XXX-tra campaign cash: David Campos, a candidate for the 17th Assembly District, hosts a fundraiser at Kink.com's pornography studio in San Francisco at 7 p.m.

PHOTO: A white dove takes flight after the name of a fallen officer is read during the 37th Annual Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony in Sacramento on May 6, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 2, 2014
AM Alert: Assembly Democrats hit the links at Pebble Beach

Pebble_Beach.JPGOne of the signature fundraising events for Assembly Democrats, the annual Speaker's Cup golf tournament, tees off today at the famed Pebble Beach resort in Monterey County.

The two-day event, presented by AT&T, will set donors back $30,000-$65,0000 for lodging, dinner, commemorative gifts and perhaps a chance to play a round with a legislator.

Last month, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg cancelled a similar fundraiser for Senate Democrats at Torrey Pines, in the wake of the arrest of state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and other political scandals at the Capitol.

VIDEO: The proposal to extend California's health care exchange to undocumented immigrants has dim prospects, Dan Walters says.

TOUR OF DUTY: Continuing his recent string of appearances in Southern California, Gov. Jerry Brown will speak at the kickoff breakfast for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce's annual World Trade Week, 9:30 a.m. at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE Hotel.

PROTECTION PLAN: The Senate Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions holds a rare Friday hearing today at 10 a.m. at the Santa Rosa City Hall. The panel focuses on the successes and failures of 2012's "homeowner bill of rights," a package of legislation aimed at protecting homeowners during the foreclosure process.

HEALTH SAVINGS: The Script Your Future campaign hosts a policy roundtable on the importance of taking medication as prescribed and the potential for saving on health care costs, 10 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street. Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will also be recognized at the event for his work with the campaign.

CHOSEN ONE: California Women Lead and Mona Pasquil, appointments secretary in the Office of the Governor, present an appointments training workshop for women attending the California Association of Realtors conference, 6 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Participants will discuss how to find openings on state boards and commissions and how to navigate the appointments process.

CELEBRATIONS: An early happy birthday to Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, who turns 55 on Sunday.

PHOTO: Brandt Snedeker follows his shot on the ninth fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Course during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament on Feb. 10, 2013. The Associated Press/Ben Margot

May 1, 2014
AM Alert: Caltrans honors fallen workers

highway_construction.JPGCalifornia recognizes April 28 as Workers Memorial Day for those who have died or been injured on the job. In 2012, 339 workers in the state lost their lives, according to the proclamation Gov. Jerry Brown signed this week.

Caltrans will be at the Capitol today to honor the 183 employees of the state Department of Transportation who have been killed on the job since 1921. Many of them were highway maintenance workers hit by errant vehicles.

California Secretary of Transportation Brian Kelly, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty will deliver remarks

VIDEO: Many California programs with high costs produce lackluster results, Dan Walters says.

LAST CALL: Tomorrow is the last day for fiscal bills to make it out of their policy committees, which has led to some very lengthy hearings this week. A final few Assembly committee are scheduled to meet today: Natural Resources in Room 444 of the Capitol, Transportation in Room 4202 and Revenue and Taxation in Room 3162, all following the conclusion of floor session.

ECO-LIFORNIA: Daniel Sperling, a professor of civil engineering and environmental policy, analyzes the effectiveness of California's programs for zero-emission vehicles, low-carbon fuel standards and cap-and-trade, and whether they can be duplicated in other states, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

C-LOW-2: UC Davis transportation researchers Sonia Yeh and Christopher Yang discuss models for transitioning to a low-carbon economy in California, 10 a.m. at the Cal/EPA building on I Street.

PHOTO: Construction work on Highway 50 in the Sierra Nevada on May 10, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 30, 2014
AM Alert: Legislators hop to annual Capitol frog jump

From Congress to the Legislature to the governor's office, The Sacramento Bee's online voter guide is here to help you navigate the June primary election. Learn the candidates and issues, create a customized ballot, and share your picks on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail.

frog_jump_Cheryl_Brown.JPGHOP HOP HOORAY: Calling all amphibian whisperers: It's your time to shine!

Today marks the 40th annual Capitol Frog Jump, in which legislators, their staffers, the media and members of the public "jockey" frogs to hop the farthest (or the shortest). The event, hosted by state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, promotes the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee in May.

Among those slated to compete are Assembly members Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino; Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles; Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton; Steve Fox, D-Palmdale; and Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, who will jockey the excellently named "Smooth Hoperator."

Sen. Berryhill's office said one competitor has promised to appear in full frog costume, complete with a princess hat and fly bow tie. Check out all the leaping action on the east lawn, near the trout pond, at 11:30 a.m.

VIDEO: The battles of Proposition 13 have been revived by a parcel tax bill, Dan Walters says.

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: A plan from state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, to expand California's health care exchange to undocumented immigrants, one of Capitol Alert's bills to watch, gets its first hearing today before the Senate Health Committee, 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol. Lara and immigration advocates will rally for the bill at 11 a.m. on the west steps of the building, where they will be met by the "CARE-van," which drove from San Diego to Sacramento drumming up support for the legislation.

SCHOOL STANDARDS: Calling it a "covert privately-backed Federal takeover of the State-run education system," opponents of Common Core will rally against the new K-12 education standards at 10 a.m. in Capitol Park near 12th and N streets. The event, organized by Democrats Against Common Core, Californians United Against Common Core and Eagle Forum of California, will feature Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly and State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Lydia Gutierrez. Donnelly has a bill allowing schools to opt out of Common Core that will be heard by the Assembly Education Committee at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol.

SHE'LL BE BACK: The "Kid Governor," 8-year-old Celeste Umaña, returns to Sacramento to deliver her State of the State address calling for more investment in early childhood education. The rally at 12:30 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol, organized by Raising California Together, will also feature Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.

AUTISM AWARENESS: Autism advocates, including the Special Seeds Network, will hear from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, during a rally to highlight Autism Awareness Month, 11:30 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

DOWN SOUTH: Gov. Jerry Brown, clearly preferring dogs, will skip the frog jump to attend the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills today. He participates in a panel on precision medicine at 2:45 p.m. at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, reluctantly holds her competitor in the annual frog jump competition at the Capitol on April 30, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 29, 2014
AM Alert: Teachers, welfare advocates rally for oil extraction tax

oil_rigs_sunset.JPGThough Gov. Jerry Brown rejected the notion during his January budget proposal, another effort to introduce an oil severance tax in California is winding its way through the Legislature.

The bill--which would impose a tax on companies that extract oil in California to fund higher education, state parks and health and human services--is supported by many groups seeking to reverse the budget cuts of recent years, including a coalition of organizations calling for another $5 billion for education, health and welfare spending.

Members from the California Partnership, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the California Federation of Teachers will march and rally against the influence of oil money in politics and call for the new tax starting at noon on the north steps of the Capitol.

In town for its lobby day, CFT, one of the state's major teacher unions, is also pushing efforts to increase funding for school nurses and extended library hours, change community college accreditation and make it easier for classified employees to receive unemployment benefits.

VIDEO: It's crunch time at the Capitol, as hundreds of bills are facing a deadline to pass out of their policy committee, Dan Walters says.

WE SHALL WOOF WOOF WOOF: Rescue beagles and their human friends hit the streets of Sacramento to support a bill by Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Sherman Oaks, that would connect publicly-funded laboratories with animal rescue organizations to help place research dogs and cats up for adoption. Dababneh and the Beagle Freedom Project begin their canine march at 10:30 a.m. at Roosevelt Park on 10th and P Streets.

GROUP PROJECTS: As part of a joint advocacy day at the Capitol, the leaders of the state's three public higher education systems--University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges Brice Harris--discuss their collaborative efforts to improve student success, access, workforce development and research, 1:30 p.m. at the California Dental Association Building on K Street.

FIFTY AND COUNTING: With an expected budget surplus this year for the first time since the recession, Democratic lawmakers and social service groups have been lobbying to restore funding to the social safety net. The latest to make their case in Sacramento are community action agencies, who will be showcasing their work on the south lawn of the Capitol at 11 a.m. Assembly members Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley will join at 11:30 a.m. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty.

ANTE UP: Communities for California Cardrooms, which promotes the local gambling clubs, hosts a "casino night" with blackjack tables and a trophy for the evening's biggest winner, 5 p.m. at Chops on 11th Street.

PHOTO: Oil rigs pump oil from the ground in Baldwin Hills of West Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

April 28, 2014
AM Alert: LGBT youth lobby for safer schools

LGBT_flag.JPGStudent leaders from high school Gay-Straight Alliance clubs across the state are in Sacramento for Queer Youth Advocacy Day, pushing for greater school safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Members from the California Legislative LGBT Caucus will address the students at 10:45 a.m. on the east steps of the Capitol, including Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Assemblymen Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and state Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

The students are lobbying on efforts to require schools to develop anti-bullying policies and end "willful defiance" discipline, as well as promoting the implementation of last year's controversial legislation allowing transgender students to access school facilities corresponding with their gender identity, which faced an unsuccessful repeal effort.

VIDEO: A modest state revenue increase favors Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal over fellow Democrats' calls to restore spending, Dan Walters says.

READY, AIM, FIRE: Though he's turned his attention to the governor's race, where he's leading the Republican field of contenders, Tim Donnelly's work in the Legislature isn't done yet. The Twin Peaks assemblyman will promote his bill to overhaul California's handgun carry licensing system, 11 a.m. in Room 444 of the Capitol. He will be joined by Brandon Combs, president of the gun rights group California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Assembly members Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, are addressing California's affordable housing crunch with a tax credit for low-income renters that they say will bring together tenants and landlords. The lawmakers will be joined by representatives from the California Apartment Association and Tenants Together to unveil the details, 11 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

BREAKING AWAY: A bipartisan group of lawmakers is aiming to increase military energy independence in California with a pair of bills that would allow military bases to sell back more renewable energy to the grid and receive greater state support for energy efficiency goals. Assemblymen Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, and Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, will discuss their proposals at 10:30 a.m. at the traffic circle just west of the Capitol between 9th and 10th streets.

WATER POLITICS: Another day, another water bond. As the the drought remains a hot political issue in California and legislators seek to replace a measure currently on the November ballot, Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, will introduce his $9.45 billion solution to the water crisis, 10 a.m. on the east steps of the Capitol.

STRONG START: Community college educators discuss how they are redesigning basic English and math education to improve student success, 10 a.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol. The talk is sponsored by the Campaign for College Opportunity.

PHOTO: A pride flag and the American flag hang over the Sacramento LGBT Community Center on June 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 25, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown heads south for sustainability summit

ha_jbrown00189.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will be down in Los Angeles today to deliver the keynote address at a sustainability summit hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council.

The focus of the event is California's energy and water policy and whether it is driving job growth and investment in Los Angeles. State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, will participate in a panel on the city's renewable energy sector.

The summit begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Getty Center and Brown will deliver his remarks at 1:20 p.m.

VIDEO: Facing unknown rivals in his reelection bid, Brown looks to have the support of even many Republican voters, Dan Walters says.

WHERE HAS ALL THE WATER GONE?: In other water news, the University of California hosts a daylong science, policy and management conference on the state's drought, starting at 8:30 a.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. Faculty from across the UC system will discuss the current crisis, its impact on the economy and endangered species, how to cope with drought, and state policy for the future.

MONEY IN POLITICS: Capitol Alert's own Dan Walters is part of a panel discussion on campaign finance reform and legislative ethics at noon in Room 4203 of the Capitol. The event, sponsored by the Capitol Fellows Alumni Association, also features Erin Peth, executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, and Phillip Ung of California Forward.

BEHIND THE SCENES: For a peek inside the budget process, the California Capitol Black Staff Association hosts a briefing with representatives from the California Budget Project, the Department of Finance and the Assembly Budget Committee, 10 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol.

BEING GREEN: The Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the LegiSchool Project, a public policy outreach program, hold a scholarship art competition for high school students at 11 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol. Students who attended an energy forum in January will display their artistic renderings of a "green" lifestyle for judging and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will present the winners at 2 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, who turns 56 today, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who turns 40 tomorrow.

PHOTO: Governor-elect Jerry Brown, speaks at a press conference at his Oakland campaign headquarters at his Oakland campaign headquarters on Nov. 3, 2010, a day after he defeated Republican Meg Whitman. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 24, 2014
AM Alert: Legislature fishes for drought solutions

salmon_trucking.JPGOne fish, two fish, red fish, blue state fish.

The Legislature's Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture holds its annual forum on California's fisheries today, starting at 10 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol. Fishermen and scientists from across the state will report in throughout the all-day event, which is headlined by Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and Charlton Bonham, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, in the morning.

Part of this year's forum will focus on the impact of the drought on California fisheries and the state's response. Salmon migration has been particularly affected and an effort to truck hundreds of thousands of fish downstream made headlines last month.

VIDEO: This year's Secretary of State race makes clear that Debra Bowen has left a legacy worth changing, Dan Walters says.

WEIGHING IN: California is currently undergoing major changes to its K-12 education system with the implementation of Common Core standards and a new funding formula for school districts. The Public Policy Institute of California has surveyed statewide views on those programs, as well as proposals such as universal preschool, and will present the findings at noon at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on 11th Street.

IT'S ELECTRIC!: The state's independent oversight agency, the Little Hoover Commission, will take a look at how policy changes have affected the affordability and reliability of energy supplied by California's public utilities, 9:30 a.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

GET INSIDE YOUR HEAD: This might go over better than the Strollin' Colon: As part of its Epilepsy Awareness Day at the Capitol, Epilepsy California will host a giant inflatable brain on the south lawn. The public can tour through the brain and learn about seizures starting at 8 a.m.; California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley will visit at 10:30 a.m.

SAFER STREETS: Community-organizing network PICO California sponsors a legislative briefing on local approaches to reducing gun violence and supporting reentry of former inmates, 2 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol. The discussion will focus on efforts in Oakland, Richmond and Stockton and how to scale up policies for statewide implementation.

RISKY BUSINESS: UC Irvine criminology professor Susan Turner discusses the integration of a risk assessment tool into the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's parole practices over the past decade, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: Chinook salmon smolts are released from a tanker truck on March 25, 2014 in Rio Vista, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 23, 2014
AM Alert: Senate breaks for 'day of reflection' on ethics

YeeCalderon.jpgFollowing a scandal-ridden early 2014 that ultimately saw three members suspended in an unprecedented move, the California Senate will hold a "day of reflection" on ethics today.

Regular business has been cancelled so senators and office staff can attend training sessions led by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics education and consulting firm, starting at 9 a.m. at the State Library and Courts Building on the Capitol Mall.

Earlier this week, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he did not think the training would have prevented the kind of corruption alleged against senators Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. "But that's only half the point," he added.

"It is always important to look inside and to be reflective and to ask, 'Well, what practices are there that we ought to be looking at? What should we change?'"

The training, which will also include a panel discussion with three attorneys expert in political and campaign issues, is intended to reinforce best practices so lawmakers do not put themselves in legally dubious territory.

"Money in politics is a reality," Steinberg said. "We need to talk about those kinds of situations and make sure the reaction is always to separate the question of campaign and money from public policy decision-making."

The Assembly will continue as normal with committee hearings, including an informational hearing on Internet poker at 1 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: In reflecting on ethics, legislators should consider not just how they fund their campaigns, but the policy decisions they make, Dan Walters says.

IN THE BAG: The contentious issue of a statewide plastic bag ban seemed to reach a resolution in January when a deal was struck between lawmakers and manufacturers. The battle is clearly not over, however, as representatives from the plastic bag manufacturing industry will gather on the south steps of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. to protest the latest version of the bill as a "job killer."

ROUND TWO: Since the last Secretary of State debate in March, one candidate has been arrested by the FBI and subsequently withdrawn. The field remains deep, however, and the race wide open, so other candidates will gather at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom on 9th Street for another debate hosted by the Sacramento Press Club. Democrats Alex Padilla and Derek Cressman, Republican Pete Peterson and Dan Schnur, who has no party preference, are all scheduled to attend, but it is unclear whether Green David Curtis will be allowed to participate.

WHAT'S THE RUB?: A boom in massage establishments over the last few years has also augmented concerns that many of them are selling sex behind closed doors. Assembly members Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, and Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, along with the California League of Cities, will introduce legislation to give local governments more authority over regulating the massage industry, 11:30 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol.

MONEY BACK GUARANTEE: Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, will join with United Service Workers West to call for the passage of his bill allowing workers to place wage liens on their employers for compensation that they are owed. Following a press conference at 10 a.m. in Capitol Park near 12th and N streets, they will march to the California Chamber of Commerce to present a giant invoice representing $240 million they say is still owed to employees.

LET'S GET FLEXIBLE: Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, will be joined by the California Chamber of Commerce and fellow Assembly members Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, and Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, to discuss a bill that would permit employees to request alternative scheduling for their workweeks, 11 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

LATINA ACTION DAY: Hispanas Organized for Political Equality has secured a full slate of Capitol players to speak at its policy and advocacy conference for Latina women, today at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street. Assembly members Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, kick things off at 10 a.m. with a webcast discussion about Latina representation in elected office. State Sens. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, and Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles; Assembly members Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Jose Medina, D-Riverside, Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, Connie Conway, R-Tulare, and Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno; California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Secretary of State Debra Bowen are also scheduled to speak throughout the day.

DENIM ON DENIM: Wearing denim in protest of a 1999 Italian Supreme Court decision overturning a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and supporters will rally on the south steps of the Capitol at 1:15 p.m. to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month. State senators Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and de León, and Assemblywomen Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, are scheduled to speak.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, left, speaks on a bill, while his seat mate Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, works at his desk at the Capitol on January 28, 2014. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

April 22, 2014
AM Alert: Kevin Mullin seeks limit on agricultural antibiotic use

cows.JPGAs antibiotics have become a widespread medical tool, they've actually lost some of their effectiveness -- a concern underpinning ongoing legislative efforts to restrict the use of antibiotics on livestock.

Both state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, have introduced bills this session that would place limits on feeding antibiotics to farm animals, which has been linked to resistant strains of bacteria.

Mullin will be joined by doctors and consumer advocates to discuss his bill, AB 1437, during a press conference at 8:30 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol.

AB 1437 is one of Capitol Alert's bills to watch for the 2014 legislative session. Keep tabs on all of them on our Insider Edition app.

VIDEO: It's all about the money as legislators return from spring recess, Dan Walters says.

HEALTH CARE ACCESS: As part of the California Medical Association's lobby day, physicians and legislators will discuss a package of bills that they say would increase access to health care, 11 a.m. on the north steps. Assembly members Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Richard Pan, D-Sacramento; V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella; and Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, will present legislation.

WHAT'S UP, DOC?: Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are scheduled to address the California chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians during the group's legislative conference, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

A YEAR IN REVIEW: During the first year of enrollment, nearly 1.4 million Californians signed up for health insurance through the state exchange. UCLA health policy and management professor Gerald Kominski will dive into what that number means and what Covered California can learn from it, 11:30 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

MUSLIM DAY: The Council on American-Islamic Relations gathers on the south steps at 10 a.m. for its third annual Muslim Day at the Capitol to call for support of legislation including SB 1005, which would extend health care subsidies to undocumented immigrants.

TO SERVE AND PROTEST: Members of the California Libertarian Party rally to oppose a measure that would change the state constitution to fill legislative vacancies by gubernatorial appointment and to promote some of their 2014 candidates. Noon at the corner of 12th and L streets.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, who turns 59 today.

PHOTO: Cows in Sacramento County feed on hay due to drought conditions on January 23, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

April 21, 2014
AM Alert: Is realignment working?

MC_JAILCROWDING_09.JPG

Welcome back from legislative spring break, everybody! Returning lawmakers will be delving right back in to a contentious policy issue during a daylong hearing on prison realignment.

Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to shift low-level offenders from prisons to county jails, spurred by court-ordered reductions in the state's bulging prison population, has won praise for considering alternatives to incarceration and attracted condemnation for releasing dangerous criminals and overwhelming local facilities. A Public Policy Institute of California event at the Sheraton Grand today will step back to take stock.

Expected attendees include Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, and Matthew Cate, who is deeply immersed in the issue: currently head of the California State Association of Counties, he helped oversee realignment's implementation as chief of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

VIDEO:Lawmakers are returning to a host of challenges, both fiscal and ethical, Dan Walters says.

GRADING SCHOOLS: The state bureau responsible for certifying trade schools flunked a recent state audit, and today a joint Assembly and Senate committee hearing will mull the fate of the sunsetting Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. Testifying at the 10 a.m. hearing will be State Auditor Elaine Howle and Joanne Wenzel, chief of the bureau.

DOGGING IT: With an eye to preventing animal cruelty, California in 2012 outlawed using canines to hound bears and bobcats. The California Houndsmen for Conservation want to roll back the prohibition, and they'll be rallying today for a bill by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, that would allow hunters to release the dogs if they obtain special permission. 11 a.m. on the west steps.

SALON AND ON: Usually talk around the Capitol of cuts implies tough budgetary choices, but today it references something a little more welcome. In the latest iteration of Interest Group Freebies, the Professional Beauty Federation of CA will be offering gratis hair cuts, manicures and massages for legislators and staff on the North steps this afternoon.

BRINGING IT HOME: We brought you news before of the pushback to Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to cap hours for in-home supportive services, which caregivers say will limit their flexibility in offering help - often to disabled family members - and thrust some into poverty. The Service Employees International Union will start dropping in on legislators today to urge rejection of governor's plan, a campaign SEIU says they will continue multiple days a week until the budget passes.

PHOTO: Inmates inside the jail cells in the old Stanislaus County downtown main jail in Modesto on Wednesday June 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

April 18, 2014
AM Alert: Californians support transitional kindergarten proposal

kindergarten.JPGIn his final year in the Legislature, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has made it a priority to expand pre-kindergarten to every 4-year-old in California, giving families the option of an extra year of schooling before their children start kindergarten.

As subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app learned last night, California voters largely support his proposal. In a new Field Poll, 57 percent of voters believe it would be worth the estimated $1.4 billion annual cost for the transitional kindergarten initiative.

Support was especially high among Latino and African-American voters, as well as parents of young children. Seventy-five percent of Latinos and 72 percent of African-Americans favored the measure, while 69 percent of parents with a child younger than 5 thought it was worth the investment.

Reporter Laurel Rosenhall has more on Californians' opinions of transitional kindergarten in her story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

MAKING THE GRADE: In an effort to turn around its lowest-performing schools, Los Angeles Unified School District created a "school choice" initiative in 2009 that allows groups to compete to run its failing campuses. Policy Analysis for California Education hosts a briefing with University of Southern California researchers Julie Marsh and Katharine Strunk to examine the effectiveness of the program, 11:30 a.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

INSIDE SCOOP: For those looking for more information on how to navigate the legislative process, the California Latino Capitol Association sponsors a "Bill 101" workshop at noon in Room 126 of the Capitol.

DO UC WHAT I SEE?: Preliminary data on University of California freshman admissions for next year, including the ratio of resident to out-of-state students, will be released at 9 a.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who turns 67 today.

April 17, 2014
AM Alert: Californians open to changing Prop 13

no_taxes.JPGAs subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app learned last night, Californians are open to making changes to Proposition 13, the 1978 tax-limiting measure that is a cornerstone of the state's political foundation.

A new Field Poll reveals that about one-half of California voters generally support changing some parts of the law, while 69 percent support restructuring commercial property transactions so that their taxes are always reassessed when the properties are sold or transferred.

That idea has long been controversial, especially among the business community; a legislative effort last year was labelled a "job killer" by the California Chamber of Commerce and died in committee. But the poll showed strong bipartisan support for amending commercial property assessments, with 71 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans in favor.

Reporter David Siders has more about California voters' views on Prop. 13 and other tax issues in his story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

POLITIC-OIL ACTION: Train shipments of crude oil to California have risen dramatically over the last year, drawing opposition from many communities along rail lines over potential safety and environmental hazards. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will introduce legislation to address concerns about rail accidents involving crude oil, 11 a.m. at the Sacramento Rail Depot on I Street.

MO MONEY, MO PROBLEMS: The Fair Political Practices Commission will consider whether to go along with a recommended $40,000 fine against state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, and others for allegedly laundering campaign money when it meets today at 10 a.m.

LUNCHTIME TALK: The UC Center Sacramento begins its spring lecture series with a visit from Heather Young, dean of the UC Davis school of nursing, to discuss her research on healthy aging, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

PHOTO: The Sacramento "tea party" drew more than 5,000 protesters to the state Capitol on March 17, 2009 to oppose higher taxes in California and the Obama administration's national policies. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

April 16, 2014
AM Alert: Californians divided geographically over water shortage

AmericanRiver.jpgThough nearly all Californians agree the state is experiencing a serious water shortage, they are divided over the causes of the problem.

A new Field Poll shows that 88 percent of California voters believe the state is facing a serious water shortage, with 60 percent labeling it extremely serious. About 27 percent blame a lack of storage, while 37 percent think it is due to inefficient water use. Another 24 percent believe that both are equally responsible.

The question of cause also takes on a regional split: Voters in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California are more likely to blame inefficient use, while Central Valley residents point to insufficient storage.

What do Californians make of possible solutions to the water shortage, like reducing agricultural use and bypassing environmental regulations? Reporter Jeremy B. White has more in his story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

The next Field Poll covers voter opinions on taxes and government spending. Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app can read the story early, at 8 p.m.

EN ESPAÑOL: State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is in San Francisco to announce SB 1174, a bilingual education bill that would ask voters to overturn Proposition 227, the 1998 initiative requiring all California public classes to be taught in English. Lara will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. at West Portal Elementary.

PROGRESS REPORT: As the state works to implement the new Common Core curriculum, the Public Policy Institute of California hosts a discussion between education researchers and officials on how school districts are adjusting to the new standards. Noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street. The event will also be webcast.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: In the wake of California's extended drought, representatives from the state Natural Resources Agency, Department of Food and Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency convene a public workshop to discuss potential legislative solutions to promote sustainable groundwater management. 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA building on I Street.

DIGGING IN: The California Research Bureau hosts a workshop on using census data, featuring Lia Bolden of the U.S. Census Bureau. 10 a.m. at the State Library on N Street.

UNDER ONE ROOF: Affordable housing advocacy group Housing California holds its two-day annual conference, starting at 10 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Anna Caballero, the state secretary of business, consumer services and housing, and local journalist and author Sasha Abramsky are scheduled to speak.

PHOTO: A pair of fishermen stand near the shallow water of the American River below Watt Ave. on Jan. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

April 15, 2014
AM Alert: Californians split on Congress, own representatives

Capitol_Building_Washington_Congress.jpgLike the rest of the country, California voters hold a deeply negative view of the job performance of the U.S. Congress: Just 13 percent approve of the work of the nation's lawmakers in a new Field Poll, compared to 79 percent who disapprove. That's a slight uptick from last fall, when Congress' approval rate in California hit a two-year low in the wake of October's government shutdown.

Things improve considerably, however, when Californians reflect on their own representatives: 44 percent of poll respondents gave their congressperson a positive assessment, while 33 percent gave them negative marks. That could be good news for House members facing tough campaigns this fall, as 46 percent of California voters are inclined to re-elect their representatives in November.

Who is most unhappy with Congress? Reporter Christopher Cadelago has more in his story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

GETTING OFF TRACK: Amid legal uncertainty for the project's funding plan, calls to cancel the state's proposed high-speed rail system and spend the money elsewhere have increased in recent months. Look for a response from Dan Richard, chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, when he addresses the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco at 6 p.m.

TAX DAY: Tax returns are due today, so state controller John Chiang kicks off the morning with tips and advice, 7 a.m. at the Franchise Tax Board on Butterfield Way.

Meanwhile, the NorCal Tea Party Patriots are hosting a "freedom march" to the Capitol, starting at 11 a.m. at the Tower Bridge. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association president Jon Coupal and local congressional candidate Igor Birman are among those scheduled to speak at a noon rally on the west steps.

PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol, with the Senate at right and the House of Representatives at far left, is seen in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2013. The Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

April 14, 2014
AM Alert: John Pérez trails in state controller's race

ha_perez_III.JPGCalifornia Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee have been waging a tight primary battle in the state controller's race. At the California Democratic Party Convention last month, they split delegate votes almost evenly, with neither garnering enough support for the party nomination.

But the results from a new Field Poll indicate that Yee now holds an advantage over Pérez among likely voters in the June primary, 19 percent to 14 percent. Will Pérez's fundraising lead enable him to close that gap in the next two months and claim a spot in the top two runoff?

Both Yee and Pérez trail Republican candidate Ashley Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno, who leads the field with support from 28 percent of likely primary voters. Nearly 40 percent remain undecided, however, so the race is still very much up for grabs.

Reporter Christopher Cadelago has more in his story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

The next Field Poll covers Californians' assessment of the job performance of Congress. Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app can read the story early, at 8 p.m.

CAP AND PIVOT: In February, State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg proposed a new carbon tax on fuel to replace a portion of the state's cap-and-trade program that he said would prove too unpredictable for consumers at the pump when it goes into effect next year. Steinberg is now backing away from that plan and will present a new investment strategy for California's cap-and-trade funds, 11 a.m. in Room 211 of the Capitol.

ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?: The California HealthCare Foundation sponsors a briefing on a new survey gauging user satisfaction after signing up for health insurance or Medi-Cal through Covered California, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

LUNCHTIME TALK: The Delta Science Program hosts a seminar with Maggi Kelly, a professor of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley, to discuss the use of remote sensors to quantify productivity and potential storage of the wetlands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, noon at the Park Tower Building on 9th street.

NEW JOBS: KP Public Affairs welcomes two new lobbyists to its practice: Brian White, who has worked for BP America and the California Forestry Association, and Vanessa Cajina, previously a lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez speaks during a press conference on December, 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

April 11, 2014
AM Alert: Pete Peterson leads wide-open Secretary of State field

Pete_Peterson.jpgCalifornia's struggling Republican Party currently holds no statewide office, but is there a possibility that could change this year?

As subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app learned last night, Republican Pete Peterson leads the pack of Secretary of State candidates by a wide margin heading into the June primary, with 30 percent of likely voters expressing support for the public policy institute director in a new Field Poll.

Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles trails with 17 percent, and none of the remaining three candidates garnered support from more than 5 percent of respondents. With more than 4 in 10 likely voters still undecided, however, the wide-open race could look very different two months from now.

It already underwent a big shift last month when state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, dropped out one day after being arrested by the FBI on corruption charges. Field was in the middle of polling when the news broke and its results caught a huge shift in public perception of Yee: After the arrest, his favorable rating swung 23 points in the negative direction, though about half of respondents continued to have no opinion on Yee.

Reporter Christopher Cadelago has more in his story. Read the statistical tabulations for the poll here.

VIDEO: Yee's arrest has also harmed the Legislature's fragile image with the public, Dan Walters says.

CRAM SESSION: The Legislature's spring recess has begun, but some lawmakers are kicking off their break with official business: Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, will be joined by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, for a select committee hearing on offshore oil and gas fracking along the California coast, 10 a.m. at the Santa Barbara County Administration Building.

Others are using the time to promote their legislation: Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, will be at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in Los Angeles at 9:30 a.m. to discuss a package of bills targeting child sex trafficking. Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will announce changes to a financial ethics bill for elected and appointed officials, 10:30 a.m. at the California Public Utilities Commission building in San Francisco.

STATE PRESERVATION: The University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law hosts a symposium on resource management in California, dealing with issues of urban land use, water and environmental protection, starting at 8:45 a.m.

NEW JOBS: Roger Salazar's upstart public affairs firm ALZA Strategies has announced its first hire: Irma Martinez, a former lawyer for the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

CELEBRATIONS: An early happy birthday to California Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte, who turns 58 on Sunday.

PHOTO: Secretary of State candidate Pete Peterson. Courtesy of Common Sense California

April 10, 2014
AM Alert: Leland Yee scandal blunts increasing approval of Legislature

yee_press_resized.jpgAs the old saying goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

It was good news for the California Legislature in December, when the Field Poll showed public support for lawmakers at its highest since 2007, and the outlook was only getting brighter. Early results from polling in March indicated voter approval of the Legislature at 46 percent, surpassing disapproval for the first time in more than a decade.

Then scandal hit: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested by the FBI in a sweeping corruption sting.

As Field finished its polling over the next week, voters' approval of the Legislature tumbled to 43 percent and disapproval jumped from 40 percent to 46 percent, representing a 9 percentage point swing in the negative direction. It's not the record lows that lawmakers saw during the depths of California's budget crisis, but public confidence has clearly been shaken by the string of recent criminal charges — and one conviction, so far — against their representatives.

Reporter Jeremy B. White has more in his story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

The next Field Poll will focus on the California Secretary of State election, which was upended by Yee's arrest and subsequent withdrawal from the race. Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app will have access to the story early, at 8 p.m.

PARTY TIME: Like schoolchildren and beach-bound coeds across the nation, our legislators also enjoy an annual spring break. The Senate and Assembly both meet at 9 a.m. for final floor sessions before a week-long recess.

ALL DRIED UP: The severe drought has spurred numerous efforts to address California's water resource management, but how will we pay for them? Local water officials, lawyers and engineers gather for a half-day conference on how to improve the state's water-finance system. The event, hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California, begins at 9 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

WIRED IN: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson discuss the need for Internet access and other educational technology in schools, 10 a.m. at the Sacramento Public Library on I Street. They will be joined by Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and AT&T Vice President Kathy McKim.

NEW JOB: Congratulations to Karen French, former associate director of legislative affairs for the University of California, who has joined Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who turns 74 today.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, leaves Federal Court in San Francisco on March 26, 2014. Bay Area News Group/Karl Mondon

April 9, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown's job approval climbs to new high

Brown_victims.JPGWith California's financial outlook brightening, voter approval of Gov. Jerry Brown has climbed to a new high for his third term in office. A new Field Poll reveals that 59 percent of registered voters in the state approve of his performance, nearly twice as many as disapprove.

That's great news for Brown as he once again runs for re-election this year. Just two months away from the primary, he holds a commanding lead over his Republican challengers: 57 percent of likely voters said they planned to vote for Brown, as compared to 17 percent for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, 3 percent for Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount and 2 percent for businessman Neel Kashkari.

Reporter David Siders has more in his story. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert.

The next Field Poll will focus on Californians' opinions of the state Legislature since Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested on corruption charges last month. Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition app will have access to the story early, at 8 p.m.

VIDEO: A controversial bill to ban orca shows in California was held in committee to die quietly, Dan Walters says, likely so as not to cause trouble for incoming Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego.

SUGAR, SUGAR: Two of Capitol Alert's Bills to Watch for the 2014 session get their first committee hearings today. Legislation from state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, that would put warning labels on soda cans faces the Senate Health Committee at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's proposal to extend pre-kindergarten to all four-year-olds in California appears before the Senate Education Committee at 9 a.m. in Room 4203. You can track all of our Bills to Watch on the Insider Edition app.

TUITION CONUNDRUM: In 2001, California granted in-state tuition to undocumented students at public universities, and three years ago, the Legislature opened new scholarship opportunities to them as well. But state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, says these programs still leave undocumented students, who do not qualify for most financial aid, with large funding gaps for their education. He will be joined by University of California President Janet Napolitano and Sacramento State University President Alexander Gonzalez to announce a new bill that would allow undocumented students to apply for loans, 11:30 a.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol.

STUDENT HEALTH: Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, seeks to make state funds available to school districts to hire more nurses and mental health professionals and extend daily library hours. He will introduce legislation for the program at 12:30 p.m. at the Sacramento Central Library on I Street, along with representatives from the California Federation of Teachers.

UNITED THEY STAND: The charity organization United Ways of California is at the Capitol for its annual lobby day, pushing for three bills that would expand the state's social services: Steinberg's universal pre-kindergarten proposal; a bill from Lara that would extend health care coverage to undocumented immigrants; and a real estate fee proposed by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, to fund more programs for affordable housing and the homeless. Assemblywoman Atkins, a big affordable housing advocate, meets with the group in the morning to deliver a keynote address.

PHOTO: Governor Jerry Brown speaks during the annual Victims Rights Rally on the west steps of the State Capitol on April 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

April 8, 2014
AM Alert: Social services, small businesses make Sacramento pitches

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Two distinct lobby days are attracting the interest and participation of California lawmakers today.

On the one hand are California's small businesses, gathering under the auspices of the National Federation of Independent Business. After some morning visits at the Capitol, members will head over to the Sheraton Grand to hear from former Gov. Pete Wilson, California State Controller John Chiang, and incoming Assembly speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

Meanwhile, social safety net menders will ask their legislators to re-invest in services that shrank during recession-driven slimming. Brought together by the Health and Human Services Network of California, advocates will be urged on by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, at a morning event on the south steps.

VIDEO: Happy birthday, Mr. Governor: with California's chief executive turning 76, Dan Walters reflects on the aging old guard of California politics and its waiting successors.

GONE BLACKFISHIN' An intensely monitored, heavily lobbied bill to ban orca shows and captive breeding at SeaWorld goes before its first committee today. We'll see if AB 2140 sinks or swims after what is sure to be one of the more heavily attended Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee hearings you'll see. Starting at 9 a.m. in room 437.

FRACK OFF: While California last year passed a law to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the legislation fell short of what many environmentalists and more liberal lawmakers wanted: an outright ban until the disputed drilling process is proven safe. The latest moratorium bill, this one by senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, goes before the Senate Natural Resources Committee today at 9 a.m.

RECONSIDERING SOLITUDE: Both public safety committees will hear bills today that rethink California's use of the Secure Housing Unit, or SHU, to house dangerous and gang-affiliated inmates. Spurred to action by a series of correctional system-wide hunger strikes, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has a bill to end indefinite SHU detention, while Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, has legislation to enact broad oversight of SHU policies. Assembly at 9 a.m. in room 126; Senate at 9:30 a.m. in 3191.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver his annual speech to a Crime Victims Rights Month rally sponsored by Crime Victims United of California and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, will also be speaking at the noon event on the west steps.

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

April 7, 2014
AM Alert: Lobby day for ACLU, University of California students

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Drug sentencing, school discipline, and student debt.

We're now entering the meat of the legislative calendar, as evidenced by the increasingly bill-packed hearings on the Daily File, which means it's prime time for groups to head to Sacramento and make their voices heard. Today we have some relatively less-moneyed interests: the American Civil Liberties Union and the University of California Student Association.

At the forefront for the ACLU are bills that would allow moms on welfare to receive extra money if they become pregnant, scale back so-called "willful defiance" school punishments and eliminate crack sentencing disparities. The students are focused on the mounting burden of student debt, a message they'll amplify at a morning rally alongside Assemblyman Das Williams, D- Santa Barbara, and Senators Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.

VIDEO: Name recognition is a good thing in an election year, right? Not always, Dan Walters says.

SEAFOOD CHICANERY: How's that sushi? Or more accurately, what's that sushi? A startling recent study showed widespread seafood mislabeling, with customers often buying a cheaper substitute for the cod or salmon they thought they were getting. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, will be at Taylor's Market on Freeport Boulevard this morning to stump for his legislation slapping criminal penalties on people who misrepresent the seafood they're selling.

ORCA-NIZED PROTEST With a closely watched bill to ban orca shows making its first committee appearance on Tuesday, bill proponents will be presenting an online petition with over a million signatures to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, chair of the committee weighing the bill's fate. This evening, the bill's author (Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica) and its sponsor (the Animal Welfare Institute) will host a screening of the inciting documentary "Blackfish" at the Crest Theater.

BEAD IT: Speaking of Bloom ban bills, the former Santa Monica mayor's legislation to nix the waterway-polluting microbeads embedded in many cosmetic products goes before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee today.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to the nation's oldest governor, our grizzled Gov. Jerry Brown. The third-term guv turns an august 76 today.

PHOTO: Students rallying during the University of California students annual lobbying day at the State Capitol, Monday, March 3, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer.

April 4, 2014
AM Alert: Traumatized California kids get a hearing

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When she unveiled a slate of anti-truancy measures last month, California Attorney General Kamala Harris acknowledged the bills were more about data collection than about directly addressing the out-of-the-classroom factors that keep kids from attending class.

A Select Committee On Delinquency Prevention And Youth Development today could help shed some light on the latter issue. The hearing, presided over by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will detail the effect that abuse and neglect have on kids and discuss how to treat traumatized students.

Expected speakers include Dr. Robert Ross of the California Endowment and Dr. Steve Wirtz of the California Department of Mental Health, in addition to numerous high school students. Starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Los Angeles Public Library.

VIDEO: We just got a glimpse of the post-supermajority reality for Senate Democrats, Dan Walters says.

ECONOMICS: An array of elected officials will be in Oakland today for an economic summit sponsored by the left-leaning Greenlining Institute, among them the California Energy Commission's David Hochschild, the California Public Utilities Commission's Catherine Sandoval and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who is winning something called the "Big Brain Award." Keynoting is Richard Cordray, head of the beloved-by-liberals-and-reviled-by-conservatives Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

CARBONATION: The pursuit of reduced emissions continues. On Wednesday it was a low-carbon fuel summit; yesterday it was geothermal energy; and today it's a pair of Air Resources Board workshops on new standards for California's fuel as the state tries to diminish emissions ahead of a 2020 deadline. At the Cal/EPA building.

PHOTO: A Del Paso Heights student reads the book "Street Life: Poverty, Gangs and a Ph.D, " by Victor Rios, a sociology professor at UC Santa Barbara and former Oakland gang member as he talked to Vista Nueva High School students on Wed., Feb. 26, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

April 3, 2014
AM Alert: Geothermal energy in the hot seat

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Will geothermal energy get hot?

California's policymakers are constantly looking at energy innovations or renewable sources that will help the state meet state-required limits on greenhouse gases — just yesterday, Assembly members visited a low-carbon fuel summit — and a hearing today will examine the potential of geothermal, or heat energy trapped beneath the earth's surface. A Geothermal Energy Association report estimates that geothermal accounted for about 4 percent of California's energy mix in 2012 but could be tapped for far more.

Witnesses expected to testify include David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission, Edward Randolph of the California Public Utilities Commission and representatives of the California Independent System Operator and the Independent Energy Producers Association. Starting after session in room 3191.

VIDEO: With two FBI raids in the space of ten months, Dan Walters says Sacramento staffers are nervous about what's coming next.

THE NEWEST SENATOR: With all the coverage of the three state lawmakers indefinitely booted from Sacramento, it would be easy to forget voters also decisively added a senator. Former Assemblyman Mike Morrell will be sworn in this morning after handily winning Southern California's 23rd district seat Bill Emmerson abandoned back in October.

PENSIONER: His push to get a pension law overhaul on the 2014 ballot may be dead, but that doesn't mean San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has lost interest in the issue. Reed will be talking retirement accounts during a lunchtime Sacramento Press Club event at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom today.

PHOTO: One of renewable geothermal firm Calpine's 15 geothermal power plants in the Geysers region. The Press Democrat/Christopher Chung.

April 2, 2014
AM Alert: SeaWorld comes to Sacramento

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Last time the folks from SeaWorld made the official trip from San Diego to Sacramento, it was a pretty low-intensity affair: mostly it involved some cute animals delighting staffers, who lined up for the chance to meet a penguin.

Amazing how much a documentary can change things.

The film Blackfish, which argued that SeaWorld uses unsustainable orca management techniques that led to the deaths of human trainers, has prompted a fierce SeaWorld PR counteroffensive. It has also helped convince Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, to introduce a bill that would ban captive orca breeding and end the elaborate orca shows that are a SeaWorld staple. It should be fascinating to watch the legislation's arc, particularly since the incoming Assembly speaker will be the first ever from San Diego, where SeaWorld is a major tourist draw and money-maker.

Half a dozen SeaWorld San Diego representatives, including park president John Reilly, a veterinarian and a trainer, will appear at an informational briefing in room 126 this morning, and you can probably guess what they'll be asked about. They'll then fan out for legislative visits, and you can probably guess what they'll be talking about.

LAW AND ORDER: Also on their lobby day today are representatives of a law enforcement coalition that includes the California Police Chiefs Association, the California District Attorneys Association and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Before walking the halls of the Capitol they'll get to hear from Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown will be speaking at 1 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center, where other speakers will include presumptive future legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker-elect Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.

SHOTSTOCKING: Up in committee today is a bill by Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, that would require public schools to keep a supply of epinephrine auto injectors. The mother of a Sacramento teen who died of an allergic reaction to peanuts last year will testify.

ONCE MORE UNTO THE DATA BREACH: Millions of Target and Neiman Marcus customers having their data stolen has focused lawmakers on consumer data security, and today Assemblymen Roger Dickinson and Bob Wieckowski will announce their legislative response. In room 127 at 9:30 a.m.

FUELING POLICY: Lawmakers will hear about the world of low-emission fuels at a summit sponsored by biofuel, natural gas and electric industry officials. Expected attendees at the Low Carbon Fuel event include Democratic Assembly members Bill Quirk, Henry Perea, Chris Holden and Nancy Skinner.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, who turns 62 today.

PHOTO: A SeaWorld trainer performs with a killer whale during the first show after an orca killed a trainer at theme park three days earlier in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack.

April 1, 2014
AM Alert: Political reform package up in the Assembly

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It has been a scandal-scarred 2014 so far for the Legislature. A legal storm has cost Senate Democrats their supermajority, culminating in the suspension of three members Friday. And the alleged wrongdoing hasn't been limited to elected officials, with a powerful lobbying firm earning a record-setting fine by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Today, a package of political ethics bills by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, introduced in the wake of the Sloat fine (but before Sen. Ron Calderon was indicted), comes before the Assembly Elections committee (1:30 p.m., in room 444). Most relevant to the FPPC's action is Assembly Bill 1673, which would bar lobbyists from hosting fundraisers at their homes.

The Senate is mulling a similar package of campaign-finance measures, including a bill that would prohibit the home fundraisers. Unlike with Garcia's package, the Senate push came with the blessing of legislative leaders who announced the effort at a press conference back in the more innocent, pre-arrest of Sen. Leland Yee days.

VIDEO: A 2013 special election that at the time seemed relatively inconsequential at the time has taken on huge significance, Dan Walters says.

SCHNUR THING: Lest there be any doubt that secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur would cite the cascading scandals in his campaign, the former FPPC chair plans to discuss the "Capitol culture of corruption" during a 10:30 a.m. news conference at the Stutzman Public Affairs office today. Yee allegedly took campaign cash from undercover FBI agents, fueling the arguments of Schnur and other critics that perpetual fundraising is an urgent problem.

ANTI-ANTIBIOTICS: You may recall reading about a pair of bills intended to limit feeding antibiotics to livestock, spurred by concerns about a new generation of drug-resistant bugs. The less sweeping of the two bills, this one by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is up in the Senate Agriculture Committee today at 9:30 a.m.

REGISTRATION CONSTERNATION: Are you a registered independent? Are you sure? Thousands of Californians trying to distance themselves from partisan affiliation instead register with the right-wing American Independent Party, according to a "Don't Be AIPrl Fooled" voter-information campaign being launched today with a mass email blast to AIP-registered voters.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens during session in the Assembly chambers on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

March 31, 2014
AM Alert: Leland Yee Edition

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Forget House of Cards and Scandal.

The hottest political soap opera of 2014 is the California Senate, and its latest plot twist is a doozy: Last Wednesday, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested by the FBI on charges of corruption and conspiracy to traffic weapons.

With the Capitol on holiday for Cesar Chavez Day, let's review what you may have missed during last week's crazy episode. Warning: spoilers ahead.


VIDEO: The state Senate's latest scandal is more ammunition for an election year battle over the Democrats' supermajority, Dan Walters says.

WEDNESDAY: The FBI arrested Yee at his San Francisco home Wednesday morning and raided his Capitol office as part of a sweeping sting of more than two dozen Bay Area figures suspected of selling drugs, smuggling guns and arranging murder for hire.

Among those connected to the case was Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a Chinatown gangster who had been honored in the past by elected officials for turning his life around.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was "extremely disappointed and upset" by the news, which follows the January conviction of Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, on felony charges related to living outside his district and the February indictment of Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, on corruption charges. Steinberg later called upon Yee to resign or he would be suspended.

The affidavit was unsealed in the afternoon, and it reads like a conspiracy thriller: illegal arms dealing, Muslim rebel groups in the Philippines, deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the nickname "Uncle Leland" all make appearances. The tangled web of San Francisco politicians, organized crime and undercover agents takes a map to keep track of.

THURSDAY: Pressure mounted on Yee to leave the Senate, with calls coming all the way from Washington, D.C. Though he ignored those requests, Yee did drop out of the race for California secretary of state. His name, however, will remain on the ballot.

FRIDAY: In what should have been a quiet per diem session before the long weekend, the Senate took an unprecedented step, suspending not just Yee but all three of its members facing legal troubles. The resolution says they can't resume office "until all criminal proceedings currently pending against them have been dismissed," but Yee, Wright and Calderon will continue to be paid.

Wright and Calderon had previously been allowed to take paid leaves of absence, but Steinberg said developments with Yee had changed his mind about how to deal with them. Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, was the sole dissenting vote. He argued that the measure did not go far enough and the disgraced members should be expelled.

That's a lot of plot development for one week, but the drama is not over yet. Stay tuned.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who turns 62 today.

March 28, 2014
AM Alert: What happens now to Leland Yee?

yee_press_resized.jpgThe Legislature is off Monday in observance of Cesar Chavez Day, so what should have been a quiet per diem session today will instead become the latest chapter in the bombshell saga of state Sen. Leland Yee, who was arrested by the FBI on corruption charges this week.

The floor session at 9 a.m. will be the first time the Senate meets since the explosive revelations of bribery and gun trafficking involving the San Francisco Democrat. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and both of California's U.S. Senators have called upon Yee to resign.

It is expected he will be suspended, but what form that action takes remains up in the air. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff has already introduced a resolution to suspend Yee, though the last time he tried that with a colleague, his measure was parked in the Senate Rules Committee.

VIDEO: Breaking with California's ignoble tradition of failed tech upgrades, a new financial management systems appears headed for success, Dan Walters says.

SÍ SE PUEDE: Cesar Chavez, the late labor icon who helped lead the movement to organize farm workers, is honored every year on March 31, his birthday, with a California state holiday. The Assembly plans to recognize the occasion by inviting 10 members of Chavez's family, including three of his siblings, to accept a resolution honoring the activist's legacy during the 9 a.m. floor session. The presentation was organized by Assembly members Nora Campos, D-San Jose, and Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.

GOING HOLLYWOOD: This weekend also marks the release of a biopic, Cesar Chavez, starring Michael Peña. The United Farm Workers, a union that Chavez helped start, holds a special screening and panel discussion at 8:30 p.m. at the Century Stadium 14 theater. The event is preceded by a reception at Seasons 52 Fresh Grill on Arden Way at 6 p.m.

GIRL POWER: Sacramento women doing great things will be honored by their local representatives, Steinberg, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson and Rep. Doris Matsui, during the inaugural Women's Appreciation Awards ceremony. The event, which starts at 6 p.m. at the California Museum on O Street, marks the ends of Women's History — or "Herstory," if you prefer — Month, celebrated in March.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, who turns 54 today, and state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who turns 45 on Saturday.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, leaves Federal Court in San Francisco on March 26, 2014. Bay Area News Group/Karl Mondon

March 27, 2014
AM Alert: High-speed rail's 'potential for success' evaluated

HSRail.jpgCalifornia's drought has pushed high-speed rail out of the headlines in recent months, but the controversial project isn't forgotten. Republican legislators continue to introduce bills to defund the project and, in February, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom pulled his support, suggesting the state should instead reallocate voter-approved rail bonds.

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee holds a hearing to evaluate the project's potential for success at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol. Among those scheduled to testify is Jeff Morales, chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

VIDEO: With Democrats in the state Senate now below the supermajority threshold, Republican members could swing some key issues this session, Dan Walters says.

LEADER OF THE PACK: As David Siders reported last night, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, leads all Republican opponents in the race for governor. A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that Donnelly has five times more support among likely voters than rivals like Neel Kashkari.

HEALTH REFORM REFORM: As the first open enrollment session for Covered California comes to a close, Republican lawmakers plan to introduce a bill package that would put new restrictions on the health care exchange. Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway and other members of her caucus will gather at the Urban Hive on H Street at 10:30 a.m. to announce legislation aimed at ensuring privacy protections, affordable options and public accountability.

ILLEGITIMATE INDUSTRY: The Little Hoover Commission, the independent state oversight agency, holds a public hearing on California's underground economy, including the impact of black market sales on taxes and law enforcement, at 9:30 a.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY?: A pilot program at more than 100 gas stations in Sacramento and Los Angeles would promote the California lottery and allow for the purchase of tickets as shoppers are buying their gas. The California State Lottery Commission will hear a presentation on the proposed Play at the Pump program, 10 a.m. at the lottery commission building on 10th Street.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Last year, economic think tank the Milken Institute released a report examining California's position in the science and technology sector. The report's author, Kristin Keough, will present the results in a policy briefing at 2 p.m. in Room 125 of the Capitol, which will be followed by panel discussion including Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank.

TO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who bankrolled 2012's successful Proposition 39 closing a tax loophole for out-of-state corporations, is among the panelists who will be talking about the energy and economic potential of California's Monterey Shale formation, 2 p.m. at the Citizen Hotel on J Street. The conversation is sponsored by Next Generation, the Post Carbon Institute and Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, who turns 40 today.

PHOTO: A view of a high speed train moving through a wind farm in the proposed high speed rail network. Rendering by Newlands and Company Inc.

March 26, 2014
AM Alert: Noreen Evans brings genetically modified food fight back to California

GMO_labels.JPGProposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically modified food, was one of California's most expensive ballot fights in the November 2012 election. The measure failed, but proponents pushed on to other states and have seen successes in the Maine and Connecticut state legislatures.

Now the fight returns to California with SB 1381, a bill by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, that would prescribe labeling requirements for foods that are genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Will taking their cause to lawmakers instead of voters change the outcome for anti-GMO advocates? That question could become clearer when the bill goes before its first committee, the Senate Health Committee, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: School districts and civil rights groups have been at odds over how to spend new school money to close California's "achievement gap," Dan Walters says. Now Democratic lawmakers have weighed in.

DRUG POLLUTION: New legislation from state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, aims to address potential environmental damage from people's disposal of medicine by creating a statewide drug take-back program for unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The Senate Environmental Quality Committee will hold an informational hearing on the bill at 9:30 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol and then vote on it.

MORE HEARINGS: The Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment meets at 10 a.m. in Room 444 of the Capitol to discuss resources available to female prisoners upon re-entry into society. The Senate Insurance Committee gathers at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol for a hearing on California's earthquake preparedness and the risk to businesses and the economy.

GLOBAL CONCERNS: How should the international community respond to North Korea? The World Affairs Council of Northern California sponsors a briefing with Philip Yun, a North Korea adviser in the Clinton administration, noon in Room 2040 of the Capitol.

VETS VISIT: The California chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America is in town for its lobby day, starting with a gathering at 8:45 a.m. in the Capitol Basement Cafeteria to discuss legislation of interest and honor state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley. Following legislative visits, the group will hold a public ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Capitol Park at 3 p.m.

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM: The California Grocers Association is also at the Capitol today and will host an ice cream social for legislators and their staffs on the south steps at 1:30 p.m., sponsored by Nestle Dreyer's Ice Cream.

POLICE FUNERAL: Last week, a Mendocino County sheriff's deputy was killed in a shootout with an armed kidnapping suspect. Gov. Jerry Brown will attend the funeral for the officer, Ricky Del Fiorentino, at 10 a.m. at the Cotton Auditorium in Fort Bragg.

PHOTO: Some packaged foods are labeled as being free of GMO at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op on September 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 25, 2014
AM Alert: Mike Morrell seeks to replace Bill Emmerson in SD23

Emmerson.JPGCalifornia's 23rd Senate District was vacated last fall when former state Sen. Bill Emmerson abruptly announced he would resign effective December 1, saying his "passion has waned" after nine years in the Legislature. A month later, Emmerson joined the California Hospital Association to oversee its lobbying operation.

Voters in the Republican-leaning district, which takes in swaths of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, will head to the polls today for a special election primary to replace Emmerson. The top two are scheduled to face off on the June ballot, though the race could be over by tonight if one candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote.

The presumptive favorite is Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, whose 40th Assembly District overlaps with about half of the 23rd Senate District. He faces Republican San Jacinto councilwoman Crystal Ruiz, Libertarian Calimesa Councilman Jeffrey Hewitt, Democratic health care consultant Ameenah Fuller and Democratic real estate educator Ronald O'Donnell.

The special election is expected to cost at least $1.1 million for Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

VIDEO: The budget may be balanced on paper, but we're running up debts with deferred maintenance on our crumbling highway system, Dan Walters says.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN: The Advancement Project has put together a buzzworthy list of names to discuss educational and economic opportunities for young children at its sixth annual Water Cooler Conference, taking place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street starting at 8:30 a.m. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof will deliver the keynote address at noon. Also scheduled to speak are state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles; Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles; Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego; State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; and Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California.

BEHIND THE TIMES: New legislation from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, seeks to address a backlog of untested rape kits in California by outlining timeframes for law enforcement agencies and forensic labs to process forensic evidence from sexual assaults. The bill appears before Assembly Public Safety Committee at 9 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

COVER UP: The first enrollment period for Covered California ends March 31 and users won't be able to sign up for the health care exchange again until the fall. Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, joins with Diana Dooley, state secretary of health and human services, at Sacramento Fire Department Station #2 on I Street at 9:30 a.m. to publicize these final days of open enrollment.

FREE YOUR MIND: The Senate Select Committee on Emerging Technology: Biotechnology and Green Energy Jobs holds a hearing at 10 a.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol to discuss the BRAIN Initiative, a federal brain-mapping project announced last year, and the role California could play in the research.

MAZEL TOV: A new legislative caucus emerged earlier this session to focus on issues pertaining to the Jewish community. The Legislative Jewish Caucus, which includes nine lawmakers who identify as Jewish and several who do not but wanted to participate, kicks off its first event at 5:30 p.m. at Chops on 11th Street.

IT'S ALL DOWNSTREAM FROM HERE: Hoping to increase the odds of survival for salmon this year, state and federal fish and wildlife agencies are embarking upon a two-and-a-half month program to truck the fish from hatcheries to downstream release points, bypassing hazards in drought-depleted streams. The effort begins today with a demonstration in Rio Vista at 9:15 a.m.

March 24, 2014
AM Alert: Medical malpractice damages initiative aims for November vote

Court.JPGEver since Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act during his first term in 1975, there have been efforts at the Capitol to overturn the law's $250,000 limit on medical malpractice awards for pain and suffering.

Passed to address medical providers' concerns that high damages payouts were drying up their insurance market, supporters of eliminating the cap argue that it shortchanges victims of botched medical procedures and makes attorneys less willing to take up their cases.

That battle may heat up once again if an initiative sponsored by Consumer Watchdog makes the November ballot. Though pushed as a measure to require drug testing for doctors, a provision that would eliminate the medical malpractice compensation cap could make it a big-money, fiercely contested contest this election cycle.

We'll find out soon whether the initiative has qualified: Consumer Watchdog and its allies have announced that they will turn in 830,000 signatures for the measure to the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters in Norwalk at 10:30 a.m.

VIDEO: Despite billions in unfunded liabilities that grow every day, legislators continue to ignore California's teacher pension woes, Dan Walters says.

BLAST OFF: Aerospace Week launches at the Capitol today, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance. At 3:30 p.m, Dr. Ed Stone, the project scientist for NASA's Voyager mission, discusses the venture in Room 113. Events tomorrow include a joint hearing on California's aerospace industry at 2 p.m. in Room 127 and an informational display with a flight simulator starting at 11 a.m. on the west steps. Legislative visits follow on Wednesday.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND: Last year, the Public Policy Institute of California released a report suggesting that the state would face a shortfall of 1 million college graduates by 2025. PPIC hosts a conversation and Q&A on the issue with University of California President Janet Napolitano at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street at 12:25 p.m. The event will also be webcast.

O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!: The Senate chamber gets a little more artistic this morning as the 35 finalists in California's high school Poetry Out Loud contest compete for a $200 prize and entry into the national championships in Washington, D.C., starting at 8:10 a.m.

BUTTING IN: Members from California Youth Advocacy Network, an organization that fights tobacco use among young adults, march and rally on the west steps of the Capitol at 1:30 p.m. to denounce tobacco companies, which the group says continue to target young people.

PASSING THROUGH: Surely this is one of the oddest events to ever hit the Capitol: Pharmaceutical maker Sanofi displays the "Strollin' Colon," an inflatable walk-through colon, on the north steps from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to demonstrate what a healthy colon looks like and provide information on getting screened for cancerous polyps.

PHOTO: Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. Photo by Kent A McInnis Jr.

March 21, 2014
AM Alert: Assembly committee explores racial biases on college campuses

SJSU_march.JPGSan Jose State University was embroiled in controversy last fall when news surfaced that an African-American student had allegedly been subjected to racially charged harassment by four white roommates, including being nicknamed "Three-fifths," as slaves were counted for census purposes, and having a bicycle lock fastened around his neck.

The incident led to a $5 million claim against the university by the student and to the creation of the Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate in January to explore issues of diversity, tolerance and student safety at California's public colleges and universities.

The committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and including a bipartisan roster of 14 other members, will hold its first meeting at 12:30 p.m. at San Jose State's Morris Dailey Auditorium. The university's president, Mohammad Qayoumi, is scheduled to testify, as are students and faculty from other Bay Area schools, local law enforcement and several anti-discrimination groups.

SWITCHING TRACKS: With California pushing to graduate more college students faster, the state community college system has been developing a new degree program that would ease transfers to a California State University campus. Colleen Moore, a higher education researcher at Sacramento State, discusses the effectiveness of the program at a talk sponsored by Public Policy Institute of California, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

READY TO RIDE: As transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft soar in popularity, the state and federal government face mounting questions over how to regulate them. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones leads an informational hearing on insuring this growing industry at 1 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol.

ACA-NNIVERSARY: The fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act is this weekend, so Health Access has released a report on implementation efforts in California, including pending legislation such as SB 1005, which would extend health care subsidies to undocumented immigrants.

TEACHER'S LOUNGE: The California Federation of Teachers holds its annual convention in Manhattan Beach this weekend. State Attorney General Kamala Harris is scheduled to deliver the keynote address on Saturday morning and state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, will be honored.

NEW JOB: Welcome back to Amanda Fulkerson, who joined the office of the Assembly Republican Caucus this week as press secretary. Before a stint as chief communications officer for Las Vegas' school district, she worked in the Capitol as chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado.

CELEBRATIONS: An early happy birthday to state Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who turns 41 on Saturday, and Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, who turns 45 on Saturday.

PHOTO: Champagne Ellison, left, a senior at San Jose State University, marches Nov. 21, 2013 in a protest over reported racial hazing of an African-American freshman by his dormitory roommates. San Jose Mercury News/Karl Mondon

March 20, 2014
AM Alert: California Forward lets the sunshine in

RBCapitolBuilding2.JPGIt's National Sunshine Week! While we here in Sacramento have indeed been blessed with great weather, this is actually an event promoting public access to government information. In observance, California Forward is hosting a summit on using government data to improve decision-making and solve policy challenges from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

Among those participating are Kish Rajan, director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development; Erin Peth, executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission; former Assemblyman Rick Keene; budget and campaign contribution data websites OpenGov and MapLight; and The Sacramento Bee's own deputy editorial page editor, Mariel Garza.

VIDEO: California is a leader in technological advances, Dan Walters says. So why does state government have such a bad record with updating its computer systems?

COMMITTEE CORPS: It's a budget kind of day for the state Senate. All five budget subcommittees are meeting at the Capitol starting at 9:30 a.m.: Education in Room 3191; Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation in Room 112; Health and Human Services in Room 4203; State Administration and General Government in Room 2040; and Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary in Room 113.

BORDER BATTLES: Ahead of a visit to Mexico next week, the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris will release a report Thursday examining the impact of transnational crime on California. Harris is scheduled to lead a delegation of state attorney generals to Mexico City from March 24-26 to increase collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico on issues including international money laundering and human, drug and firearms trafficking.

DRIVERLESS DEBATE: Self-driving cars may not be available for another decade, but California is getting a head start, allowing developers to test the vehicles on the road and working with the public on regulations. What are the advantages and risks of this new technology for traffic, safety and the environment? Nidhi Kalra, an information scientist at the RAND Corporation, hosts a policy briefing at noon in Room 125 of the Capitol.

NEW JOB: The Internet Association is expanding beyond Washington, D.C., opening a new office in Sacramento this week. The trade association has hired former TechAmerica lobbyist Robert Callahan to head its California operation.

March 19, 2014
AM Alert: Ag Day returns to the Capitol

Ag_Day.JPGAn electronic milking cow named Buttercup and exhibits on advances in aquaculture take over the west steps of the Capitol as the California Department of Food and Agriculture once again hosts its annual Ag Day. The informational event, celebrating the state's agricultural community, starts at 10:30 a.m. for elected officials and their staff, then opens to the public for education and healthy treats at 11:30 a.m.

At noon, California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross and Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, announce a new marketing campaign to promote California as a destination for food tourism.

Over on the north steps at 11 a.m., Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, and a bipartisan group of more than a dozen other legislators are scheduled to welcome hundreds of young people from Future Farmers of America to the event and to discuss a new bill that would offer grants for technical education in agriculture fields.

VIDEO: Despite evidence that charter schools are outperforming their public counterparts, Los Angeles is squandering their promise, Dan Walters says.

MOVIE NIGHT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will join President Barack Obama and others at the White House today for a private screening of the feature film "Cesar Chavez." The film's director, Diego Luna, and cast will be there, too.

EXTRA CREDIT: The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development is launching California Competes, a tax-credit program worth $180 million over the next two years for businesses that want to expand or relocate to California. The month-long application period begins today with a registration workshop at Sacramento City Hall at 9 a.m.

THE PEOPLE'S COURT: Groups representing businesses that say they have suffered abusive lawsuits call on the Legislature to change a legal system they argue is hurting job creation in California. Representatives from California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and the Civil Justice Association of California, among others, will be at Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I Street at noon.

VEGGIE TALES: If it wasn't already clear that the drought is California's hottest political issue these days, even PETA is using it for leverage. Arguing that producing meat takes too much water, members of the animal-rights organization will be showering in front of the Capitol at noon to encourage veganism.

HIGH FIVE: First 5 California, which funds programs meant to improve early-childhood development, began fifteen years ago when voters passed a tobacco tax. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and the directors of county First 5 commissions celebrate that anniversary at 5 p.m. in the Eureka Room at the Capitol.

POLS IN TOYLAND: It could be Christmas in March for lawmakers and their staff who attend the Toy Industry Association's legislative reception, 5:30 p.m. at the Senator Hotel on L Street, where the trade group hands out goodie bags with toys and games produced by its members.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank, who turns 41 today.

PHOTO: Jonathan Vera, 8, attempts to rope a fake bull during California Agriculture Day at the State Capitol on March 20, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

March 18, 2014
AM Alert: Bill Monning pushes for automobile data protections

CAR_PHOTO_RESIZED.jpgProtecting consumer data has been a hot topic around the Capitol this year: The Senate and Assembly both held hearings last month on the holiday data breaches that compromised credit card information for tens of millions of shoppers at Target and Neiman Marcus. New bills this session aim to stop educational websites and apps from compiling and selling information about K-12 students and to prohibit the California health care exchange from disclosing any personal information without an individual's permission.

Now state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, turns the attention to automobiles, which have increasingly sophisticated on-board operating systems that collect data about vehicles and their owners. Monning will announce new legislation at 10:30 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol that would give car consumers more access to the data, which is controlled primarily by automakers. He will be joined by representatives from AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah, the Automobile Club of Southern California and various business groups.

VIDEO: Once a leader on issues of open access to public records and meetings, California is now playing catch-up with other states, Dan Walters says.

PEEVEY PRESENCE Public Utilities Commission President Michael R. Peevey is among the scheduled witnesses for today's informational hearing on the PUC by the Senate Energy, Utilities And Communications Committee. The appearance by Peevey, who angered some lawmakers last year after rebuffing requests to testify to legislative panels, comes as state and federal lawmakers have raised alarm about last spring's sniper attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power substation and follows a recent state audit that found that the PUC had not reviewed large energy utilities' balancing accounts containing $37.6 billion. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. in Room 3191.

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?: The Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment will hear from juvenile justice experts and educators on the "school-to-prison pipeline," 10 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee speaks with California water experts, including Department of Water Resources director Mark Cowin, about challenges in managing the state's groundwater, 1:30 p.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol.

Senate and Assembly select committees on the wine industry and sustainable agriculture hold a joint hearing on sustainable wine-growing efforts and how they have been affected by the drought, 3 p.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol.

READY, SET, GO: An organization of retired military leaders, holds its legislative lobby day to encourage greater investment in education, health and physical fitness programs for young children. Mission: Readiness California meets at 8 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency on L Street before visiting with lawmakers.

BUSINESS DINNER: Following a legislative summit and office visits, the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce hosts a reception for elected representatives, 5:30 p.m. at Mayahuel on K Street.

GIVING KUDOS: The National Association of Social Workers honors Assembly members Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, for their service in the Legislature at 5 p.m. in the Eureka Room of the Capitol. Eggman and Yamada are both former social workers and introduced a resolution declaring March "Social Work Month."

POLITICAL PATH: California Trailblazers, a group that recruits and advises Republican politicians, celebrates its "Pathfinder" program candidates from more than a dozen legislative races at 5:30 p.m. at Hock Farm on L Street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, who turns 49 today.

PHOTO: New Honda automobiles are displayed at Mel Rapton Honda on Dec. 10, 2012 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

March 17, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown addresses California labor group

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgWhen California's largest union group comes to Sacramento, it gets the attention of top government officials from both sides of the aisle.

Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver the keynote address at the California Labor Federation's annual legislative conference tonight. The dinner program begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street. The conference, which is also sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council, features sessions on maintaining health benefits and changing the public perception of unions, as well as speaking appearances by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres.

On Tuesday, attendees head to the Capitol for visits with lawmakers, advocating for pro-labor legislation including a bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, that would require California employers to give paid sick days.

VIDEO: From the Bay Bridge to the high-speed rail, politicians' legacy projects often spell trouble, Dan Walters says.

COMMANDER-IN-CHEF: Who said the lieutenant governorship is a job without duties? Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will deliver remarks and present a scholarship during the awards ceremony for the ProStart Cup, a culinary and hospital management competition for high school students sponsored by the California Restaurant Association, 4 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

NEW BEGINNINGS: Freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, faces a tight re-election race against three Republican opponents in the 7th Congressional District. He will celebrate the opening of his new campaign headquarters in Elk Grove at 6 p.m.

DELTA RESTORATION: The Delta Stewardship Council hosts a noon seminar examining efforts to restore wetlands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a source of carbon offsets for the state's cap-and-trade program, at the Park Tower Building on 9th Street.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 14, 2014
AM Alert: Condoleezza Rice headlines Republican spring convention

Condoleezza_Rice.JPGThe California Democratic Party's annual convention last weekend exposed some intraparty tensions and produced some soul-searching about its future, but was mostly a celebratory affair.

The California Republicans face a more difficult challenge when they meet in Burlingame for their spring convention starting today -- whip up excitement for the election slate of a party that has become a superminority in the Legislature and no longer holds a single statewide office.

Leading the charge will be Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush and current professor at Stanford University, who will deliver the keynote address at Saturday's luncheon. Gubernatorial candidates Neel Kashkari, Tim Donnelly and Andrew Blount also have speaking slots. Newly-elected San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus kick off the festivities on Friday evening.

Stay tuned to Capitol Alert throughout the weekend for updates on the convention from reporters David Siders and Christopher Cadelago.

VIDEO: Election year raises create a political conundrum for legislators, Dan Walters says.

INTERNET SAFETY: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg attends Google's Online Safety Roadshow assembly at Leonardo Da Vinci School at 9 a.m. for a presentation to middle school students about being smart with the content they share online. Steinberg introduced a bill last month that would prohibit websites and apps used for educational purposes from compiling and selling information about K-12 students.

STEM THE TIDE: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will welcome high schoolers from across the state to the FIRST Robotics Competition and speak about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, 5 p.m. at the ARC Pavilion at UC Davis.

SACRAMENTO SPLASH: Actress Daryl Hannah joins environmental activists for a rally and march calling for an end to fracking in California, Saturday at 1 p.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

GIFT DATABASE: The Bee's Data Center has updated its database of legislative gifts with the 2013 filings. See every gift given to state legislators and their aides by lobbyist employers since 2000, now totaling more than $5 million.

PHOTO: Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivers a speech after unveiling the new statue of late U.S. President Ronald Reagan during a centennial commemoration in Budapest, Hungary on June 29, 2011. The Associated Press/Bela Szandelszky

March 13, 2014
AM Alert: State spotlights toxic consumer goods in California

chemicals.JPGNew regulations adopted last October by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control require manufacturers to seek safer alternatives to harmful chemical products used in consumer goods.

The agency will announce today the first batch of products it is asking companies to find new ways to make. These products contain at least one chemical the department has determined could potentially harm public health or the environment.

The announcement takes place at 10 a.m. at the Cal EPA building on I Street.

VIDEO: Even as they continue to receive their salaries, the Senate's refusal to acknowledge state Sens. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, and Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, is rather Orwellian, Dan Walters says.

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Is Gov. Jerry Brown making what he deserves? What about the Legislature? The California Citizens Compensation Commission meets at 10 a.m. at Sacramento City Hall to begin discussions on whether any changes should be made to state officeholders' and lawmakers' pay. Last year, the commission handed out five percent raises, undoing some of the cuts made during the recession.

IN MEMORIAM: Gov. Brown will be in Los Angeles this morning to attend the funeral of a police officer who was killed last Friday when his squad car collided with a big rig. The service for Nicholas Lee takes place at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

TECH TALK: From Twitter accounts to wiki bills, California legislators have been embracing technology in their public service. Camille Crittenden, deputy director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society at UC Berkeley, will talk about the impact these new online tools and resources can have on democracy and civic engagement, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

CHLORPYRI-FOES: Residents of Tulare County who say they found high levels of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in the air and their bodies are calling for a ban on its use across the state. They will be joined by farm workers and environmental advocates at 10:30 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol to present petitions to lawmakers.

CELEBRATIONS: Congratulations to Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and his wife, Laura, who welcomed a new baby boy, Steven Edward, Wednesday morning.

March 12, 2014
AM Alert: Senate committees review California's greenhouse gas progress

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgIs California meeting its goal to reduce greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels by 2020? Should it take a more global approach to addressing climate change or keep emission reduction programs such as "cap and trade" focused solely on California? What happens to the state's efforts after 2020?

The Senate Environmental Quality Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Climate Change will consider these and other questions related to the implementation of AB 32, the 2006 law mandating a reduction of California's greenhouse gas emissions, during an oversight hearing at 9 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, headlines the panel discussions on the current progress and potential future of the AB 32 programs. She also testified at an Assembly hearing about the law on Monday.

VIDEO: State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is the latest lawmaker to use an informational hearing to boost an election campaign, Dan Walters says.

BABY GENIUSES: A full hand of legislators joins First 5 California to announce a new campaign encouraging early brain stimulation for babies and toddlers. The press conference at 10 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol includes state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, and Assembly members Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego.

HOMELESS YOUTH: The Assembly Select Committee on Homelessness discusses the challenges and needs of homeless students in California's public schools at 9:30 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The California Trucking Association is rolling up to the Capitol for its lobby day with a high-tech trailer that simulates the experience of driving a big rig. Those interested in taking the simulator for a spin will find it on 10th Street between L and N streets from 3:30-6 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, who turns 37 today.

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

March 11, 2014
AM Alert: Senate committee pushes innovation in election management

RBVoters2.JPGCalifornia's election and voting systems have been criticized as creaky and outdated, resulting in civic disengagement and low voter turnout — even by the candidates seeking the state's top elections post.

The Senate Select Committee on Science, Innovation and Public Policy will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol to explore technological solutions for modernizing voter registration, improving access to election information and boosting voter participation. Among those scheduled to testify are California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

The hearing was called by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is in the midst of his own campaign for secretary of state. The office is one of the most competitive statewide races this year, with three Democrats, a Republican, an independent and a Green Party candidate running. At the California Democratic Party's annual convention this past weekend, no candidate won the official primary endorsement.

VIDEO: Anti-fracking activists scored political points for Gov. Jerry Brown at the California Democratic Party convention, Dan Walters says.

SWEET RIDE Have you ever wanted to see a legislator ride an electric skateboard? Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, will show off her skills in support of a new bill that would make the boards street legal, 11:30 a.m. at Gallegos Square on 11th Street.

FALLING BEHIND: California's food stamp program has the lowest participation rate of any state in the country among eligible residents. The Senate and Assembly human services committees hold a joint hearing at 1:30 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol to examine barriers to participation and efforts to increase the reach of the program.

LOOK MA, NO HANDS: When self-driving cars eventually make it onto the roads, should blind people be allowed to operate them? What about children? The California Department of Motor Vehicles has been working through those questions as it develops regulations for autonomous vehicles. Another public workshop to discuss requirements and safety standards will be held at 10 a.m. at the DMV headquarters on 1st Avenue.

INTERIOR INTEREST: As California's water woes continue to draw national attention, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will tour the C.W. "Bill" Jones Pumping Plant in Byron today to check out the waterworks and discuss the federal response to the drought. She'll continue on to Point Arena on Wednesday to celebrate the White House's recent designation of the coastal nature preserve as a national monument.

PHOTO: Voters cast their ballots on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 10, 2014
AM Alert: Kamala Harris, lawmakers take aim at truancy

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Determined to keep kids attending school, Attorney General Kamala Harris will stand alongside a half-dozen lawmakers today to promote anti-truancy legislation.

Skipping school carries more consequences than missed tests: a report released last year by Harris' office estimated the annual fallout in the billions of dollars and linked chronic absences to unemployment and crime.

It's not a new issue for Harris, who made a push to police truancy while serving as San Francisco's district attorney and touched on the issue in her first speech as California's top law enforcement official. Slated to join her at today's announcement of a truancy-focused bill package are State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Sen. Bill Monning and Assembly members Raul Bocanegra, Rob Bonta, Joan Buchanan, Isadore Hall and Chris Holden. It starts at 10:45 a.m. in room 1190 of the State Capitol.

VIDEO: Add another item to the list of worrisome public-employee obligations, Dan Walters says.

HAPPY ENDINGS: We brought you news earlier this year of how cities and cops want California to work out the kinks in soon-to-sunset massage parlor regulations. A sunset oversight hearing, conducted jointly by business and professions committees in both houses, will offer a preview of the looming debate about the California Massage Therapy Council. Also coming under the microscope will be the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the California Tax Education Council. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. in room 4203.

LGBT-ERRIFIC: Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will be among the honorees at an Equality California event tonight, with Brown receiving accolades for his support of a bill for transgender students that recently survived a referendum challenge. Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, both have roles in the ceremonies.

WARMING PLANNING: Several years after California passed its landmark cap-and-trade law, lawmakers are poised to debate some major changes. Today we'll get an update on how California is doing on Assembly Bill 32's other key component, the requirement that the state cut down on emissions. Mary Nichols of the Air Resources Board, Tiffany Roberts of the Legislative Analyst's Office and a slate of experts will discuss the current plan during an afternoon hearing of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

PHOTO: Attorney General Kamala Harris prepares to talk before a hearing in Sacramento on April 22, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

March 7, 2014
AM Alert: Cyber-bullying, sexual assault are focus of Sen. Beall bill

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Now that merciless teenage taunting has migrated from locker rooms and high school hallways to the Internet, policymakers are paying more attention to the types of harassment and bullying that happens on Facebook and other social media venues.

Citing the role online viciousness seems to have played in the suicide of 15-year-old Audrie Pott, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, will unveil today a bill he is calling "Audrie's Law." The legislation would criminalize maliciously distributing sexual images and would toughen penalties for sexual assault committed against unconscious or developmentally disabled victims.

Beall will introduce the bill alongside Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office drafted the bill, at the Saratoga Library from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

VIDEO: A Democratic bill package meant to address gift-giving and money reporting doesn't inspire much confidence, Dan Walters says.

DEMS CONVENTION: Break out the business cards and the buttons, because today the California Democratic Party launches its spring 2014 convention in Los Angeles.

We'll bring you more on the confab as it unfolds, but speakers will include Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Sacramento legislative leaders current (Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez) and future (Assemblywoman Toni Atkins and Sen. Kevin de León). And because who can resist a trip to California, prominent out-of-state attendees will include Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

CAREERISM: Before he gets into convention mode, Steinberg will be promoting a policy that's dear to his heart: career-tailored education. He'll be joined by Los Angeles education officials and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to discuss the state's new $250 million career-linked learning fund.

THEY SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY: Happy birthday to Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, who turns 53 today.

PHOTO: A student learns how to type on a laptop computer at River Oaks Elementary School on Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Galt, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

March 6, 2014
AM Alert: Senate Dems announce political ethics bills

de_Leon_Wright.JPGA trio of Democratic senators — President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Kevin de León of Los Angeles — are scheduled to unveil a package of bills to change ethics and campaign rules for California officials during an 11 a.m. press conference in Room 1190 at the Capitol.

Lara and de León are part of an "ethics working group," a band of Senate Democrats who have been meeting behind closed doors in recent weeks. The group formed after a spate of problems hit the Capitol: Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, was found guilty of perjury; Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was arraigned on federal corruption charges; and two of the most high-profile lobbying firms in town were slapped with fines for breaking ethics laws.

The latest proposals follow a bill package from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, that includes a ban on fundraising within 100 days of the end of session, and a bill package from Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, that includes a ban on fundraising at lobbyists' homes.

VIDEO: California's state workers earn about as much annually as the entire economy of Vermont, Dan Walters says.

PARTYLESS POLITICIAN: Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, will join with former Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and former Assemblyman Fred Keeley in Room 126 of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. to announce a constitutional amendment that would make the Secretary of State a non-partisan office. The measure, which would also move the responsibility of writing titles and summaries for statewide ballot initiatives from the Attorney General to the Secretary of State, needs a two-thirds vote from both houses of the Legislature to pass. If the governor signed it, the amendment would then go to the ballot for a public vote. Fourteen other states currently have Secretary of State offices that are non-partisan.

STUMP SPEECH: The Sacramento Press Club hosts Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari to talk about his campaign to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown and his plans for California. The lunch event takes place at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom on 9th Street at noon.

BUDGET CONFERENCE: The California Budget Project, a group focused on budget policies affecting low- and middle-income Californians, holds an all-day conference about creating "shared prosperity." Among the scheduled speakers are state Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, as well as local journalist and author Sasha Abramsky. The conference begins at 9 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center.

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW: UC Davis law school professor Richard Frank discusses the role of courts and litigation in creating California's environmental policy at noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

HAPPY HOUR: The New Leaders Council, which trains "progressive political entrepreneurs," hosts a networking happy hour with its 2014 fellows at the Fox & Goose Public House on R Street at 5:30 p.m.

PHOTO: Senators >Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, talks with Senator Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, during an informational hearing on gun laws in January 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 4, 2014
AM Alert: Reggie Jones-Sawyer seeks audit of judiciary spending

courthouse.JPGThe Joint Legislative Audit Committee will consider whether to investigate the finances of California's judicial branch when it meets today at 1:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol. [Update: The hearing has been rescheduled for March 12.]

The request from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, to look into spending and staffing of the courts' central administrative office would be the fourth audit of the judiciary in three years. Others have focused on a cancelled case management system, the branch's procurement practices and its information systems.

The audit has been pushed for largely by the Alliance of California Judges, a group of trial court judges that argues the budget of the Administrative Office of the Courts has swelled in recent years at the expense of courtroom operations, which experienced massive budget cuts during the recession.

"What we need to determine now is whether the priorities" of administrative projects "are higher than the priority of keeping courts open," Steve White, a Sacramento Superior Court judge and a director of the alliance, told Capitol Alert last month. "For judges to have confidence and trust in the AOC, there needs to be much more transparency."

In a statement, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said the Administrative Office of the Courts has already "provided to legislative staff eight binders totaling 4500 pages of audits and reports" over the last year, adding that the office has experienced its own cuts and the perceived budget increase comes from programs benefiting local courts that have been folded into its duties.

VIDEO: With Senate Democrats unlikely to regain their supermajority this term, plans to increase taxes or put constitutional amendments on the ballot have gone down the drain, Dan Walters says.

WATER MAP: Restore the Delta, a group that opposes Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed water conveyance tunnels, will release a new map via teleconference at 2 p.m. showing how the largest exports of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are used. The organization argues that Delta water exports are subsidizing unsustainable agricultural practices and could be used for the state's burgeoning fracking industry.

HEALTH HEARINGS: The Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol to examine implementation of a 2011 law requiring private insurers to cover behavioral health treatment for individuals with autism. The Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care convenes at 2 p.m. in Room 437 for a hearing on aging as a women's issue.

ALZHEIMER'S ADVOCACY: The Alzheimer's Association is in town for its annual lobby day, urging support for bills that would require training in dementia care for employees of residential care facilities, expand access to adult day health care centers, and establish standards for appointing a conservatorship.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:24 p.m. to reflect that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing has been rescheduled.

PHOTO: Ornate woodwork on the bar in one of the court rooms at the Yolo County Courthouse in Woodland on January 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 3, 2014
AM Alert: Ron Calderon gone; Senate Dems' advantage fades

MC_CALDERON_05.JPGWhen the state Senate convenes at 2 p.m. today, Democrats will be without Rod Wright and Ron Calderon -- and without the two-thirds majority they've held since the 2012 election.

Both Wright and Calderon are on paid leave of absence to deal with legal problems. Wright, of Baldwin Hills, faces sentencing in May after a jury convicted him of eight felonies for perjury and election fraud related to him lying about his place of residence. Calderon, of Montebello, announced Sunday night that he would go on leave to deal with a federal indictment on corruption charges. Calderon's statement said he would be gone through the end of session this year on Aug. 31, which is the end for him anyway. He's termed out after this year.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg will have to get by with only 26 Democrats, one short of the supermajority that allows Dems to raise taxes, approve constitutional amendments and pass urgency measures, among other things, without Republican help.

Senate Republicans have proposed votes today to suspend both senators. A Republican effort last week to expel Wright was blocked by Steinberg.

CANDIDATE FORUM: The Secretary of State race is one of California's most competitive statewide elections this year, with no incumbent and several prominent names in the mix, including state Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and former Fair Political Practices Commission chairman Dan Schnur. They, along with Derek Cressman, David Curtis and Pete Peterson, gather in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. for a candidate forum to discuss issues such as California's low voter turnout and accessibility for limited English-speaking or disabled voters. The event, hosted by the California chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters, will be streamed online.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Capitol Alert's own Dan Walters has argued that Caltrans lost its way as the transportation picture got more complicated, and it seems the Legislature agrees. The Assembly Committee on Transportation holds a hearing at 1 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol to discuss how to modernize the agency.

MARCHING BAND: In conjunction with the Faculty Association of California Community College's legislative lobby day, students and faculty will march from Raley Field to the Capitol calling for greater support for the state community college system. The march ends with a rally on the north steps at 11 a.m., where Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, is scheduled to speak.

ONLINE EDUCATION: Cyber school organization California Parents for Public Virtual Education is in town for its advocacy day, which includes a screening of the school choice documentary The Ticket at the California Museum on O Street at 10 a.m., along with awards honoring Assembly members Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who turned 49 Sunday, and to Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, who turns 71 today.

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, at right with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on June 10, 2013. Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

February 28, 2014
AM Alert: Republicans head south for party volunteer convention

Tim_Donnelly.JPGRepublican legislators, candidates and state party leaders are headed to Orange County this weekend for the California Republican Assembly's 2014 convention. The conservative Republican volunteer organization will meet for three days in Buena Park to elect officers and endorse candidates in this election year.

Gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, who is locked in a tight battle with Neel Kashkari to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in November, headlines the Saturday evening banquet and post-dinner reception.

Other notable attendees include Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, Assemblywoman Diane Harkey of Dana Point, state Sen. Mimi Walters of Irvine, Assemblyman Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Board of Equalization member Michelle Steel and California Republican Party Chair Jim Brulte.

VIDEO: His announcement got plenty of attention, but Brown's reelection bid is non-news, Dan Walters says.

AWAY WE GO: Several legislative committees are on the road today. The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs convenes in San Diego to discuss employment assistance programs for military veterans. The Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment meets in Los Angeles to get a Southern California perspective on prison realignment. The Assembly Select Committee on Local Emergency Preparedness also gathers in Los Angeles to discuss lessons learned from the recent LAX shooting.

HIGHER ED CONFERENCE: The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges holds its annual two-day policy and advocacy conference, starting on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the downtown Holiday Inn on J Street. Local author and journalist Sasha Abramsky, who writes about American poverty, delivers the keynote address.

BASEBALL BUCKS: Legislators often hold fundraisers outside their districts, but they usually keep them within state borders. The political action committee Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy is jumping over to Arizona this weekend for an event at the San Francisco Giants spring training in Scottsdale. Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, is among those expected to appear. Tickets start at $2,000.

GOODBYES: Sabrina Lockhart, communications director for Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, announced yesterday that she would be leaving Conway's office to pursue consulting opportunities in the private sector.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, announces he's running for California Governor, in Baldwin Park, Calif., on Nov. 5, 2013. The Associated Press/Nick Ut

February 27, 2014
AM Alert: Senate Republicans push to expel Rod Wright

wright.jpgAfter weeks of chatter over how the state Senate would handle the felony convictions of Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, and whether it was responding forcefully enough, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced Tuesday that Wright will be taking an indefinite paid leave of absence until his legal problems are resolved.

That solution has not satisfied everyone.

Three Republican senators--Steve Knight of Palmdale, Joel Anderson of Alpine and Andy Vidak of Hanford--plan to introduce a resolution during floor session today to expel Wright, who was convicted last month of eight felonies related to living outside of his district.

The resolution would require a two-thirds vote to pass, but it's possible that Steinberg could simply table the motion. In a statement, he said that "Senate leadership has already moved swiftly and decisively to address" the matter.

VIDEO: California's high fuel taxes are out of proportion with its broken transportation system, Dan Walters says.

MILITARY MEMORIAL: A 250-foot replica of Washington, D.C.'s famous Vietnam Veterans Memorial comes to Sacramento for the weekend. It will be on display for four days on the west steps of the Capitol, along with a mobile museum displaying letters and memorabilia left at the wall in D.C. Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, who helped bring the display to Sacramento, will preside over an opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. today and a closing candlelight ceremony at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

GOING GREEN: State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, convenes a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Energy Efficiency in Santa Clara at 2 p.m. to examine financing barriers for property owners who want to make energy-saving upgrades. De León has a bill to promote greater private investment in energy efficient retrofitting.

PRESS YOUR LUCK: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, are among those scheduled to speak at the iGaming Legislative Symposium on the possible legalization of online gaming in California. The event, sponsored by Pechanga.net and Spectrum Gaming Group, takes place at 8:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street.

HONOR ROLL: The Academy Awards is only days away, but first Sacramento has its own star-studded ceremony to attend. The James Irvine Leadership Foundation Awards, noon at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on J Street, recognizes individuals "advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant challenges in California" with a $125,000 prize. Presenters include state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine; Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore; Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles; Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton; State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; and California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley. The award recipients will also be recognized during the Senate floor session at 9 a.m.

LUNCHTIME TALK: UC Riverside political science professor Karthick Ramakrishnan speaks at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street at noon about the unmet needs of California's Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, which now comprise more than 15 percent of the state population.

PHOTO: Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, walks into the California Senate floor during the first day of session on Jan. 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 26, 2014
AM Alert: California groups push for bigger social safety net

RBCapitolBuilding2.JPGWith California experiencing its first budget surplus in years, advocacy groups from across the state are visiting Sacramento in hopes of convincing the Legislature to spend those billions instead of putting them into a rainy day fund, as Gov. Jerry Brown would like.

In town for its lobby day is the HHS Network of California, a coalition of health and human services organizations that is calling for the restoration of cuts to the state's social safety net. After a rally at noon on the north steps of the Capitol, members of the group will meet with lawmakers to push for anti-poverty legislation, including a bill from state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, that would authorize state welfare and food stamp benefits for individuals who have been convicted on drug charges.

Slated to join the HHS Network of California at their rally is Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, which is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: Democrats' Senate supermajority appears headed for the history books, Dan Walters says.

SEÑOR GOVERNOR: Brown may be a governor, but he'll play international diplomat today in San Francisco. He meets with the ambassador of Peru, Harold Forsyth, at 10 a.m. to sign an agreement expanding California's partnership with the country, and then at 11 a.m. with Portugal's President Aníbal Cavaco Silva.

EDUCATION LEGISLATION: State Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, announces a bill to change the process for dismissing teachers who have been accused of inappropriate conduct with students at 11 a.m. in Room 113 of the Capitol.

DEMOGRAPHIC OUTREACH: The Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus sponsors a roundtable discussion on engaging meaningfully with California's Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities at 10 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol. Among the guests is Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at UC Riverside who studies the politics of the AAPI community.

HEALTH CARE TALK: Following a coffee and dessert reception, Stuart Peacock, director of Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control, discusses the economics of health care and setting priorities for services in difficult economic times at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street at 3:30 p.m.

February 25, 2014
AM Alert: Senate wades into credit card data theft

credit_card.JPGA week after an Assembly hearing in which lawmakers pushed for better protections against the kind of massive data breaches that compromised millions of consumers' personal information over the holiday season, the state Senate takes up the issue with its own informational hearing.

Today's joint hearing of the Senate judiciary and banking and financial institutions committees will explore the technologies used by credit card companies and retailers that allowed for the security breaches, as well as ways to prevent similar mass data theft in the future. It begins at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol.

Legislators have already introduced several bills this session intended to protect personal information in online transactions. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, has one that would prohibit the collection of personal information when purchasing downloadable content, unless it is used to combat fraud or identity theft. The bill passed out of the Senate last month.

VIDEO: The Legislature has become a soap opera, Dan Walters says, full of twisty tales of scandal and corruption.

AIDING STUDENTS: Concerned that eligible high schoolers are missing out on millions in college aid dollars, Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will announce a new bill today aimed at helping more students complete their financial aid applications. The legislation addresses obstacles in the student aid process raised in a new report from The Education Trust-West, which will also be released during the press conference, 11 a.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol.

UP IN THE AIR: The California Department of Water Resources has partnered with NASA to develop applications of satellite imagery for drought preparedness and management. During a two-day conference, starting at 9:30 a.m. today at the Sacramento Convention Center, the agencies will discuss those potential uses, which include monitoring regional groundwater levels, assessing snowpack conditions and estimating the acreage of fallowed agricultural land.

ONE MAN ARMY: As the Legislature grapples over what to do with state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, who was indicted on corruption charges last week, one California citizen tries to bring the focus back to another recent political scandal. Don Bird of Red Bluff will be protesting on the L Street side of the Capitol from 10 a.m.- 1:30 p.m., calling for the Senate to expel Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, who was convicted earlier this month of eight felonies related to living outside his district.

PRO-LIFE DINNER: Abortion rights have strong support in California, but the California ProLife Council is pushing for legislation this year that would ban women from terminating pregnancies on the basis of gender. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, who plans to carry the bill later this year, will speak about that and other "right to life" issues during the ProLife Legislative Dinner, 7 p.m. at The Grand on J Street.

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.

February 21, 2014
AM Alert: Legislature hits bill introduction deadline

Assembly_chamber.JPGToday is the deadline to introduce bills, so expect a surge of new legislation on an otherwise sleepy Friday. Many of the measures will be spot bills, with the details left to be fleshed out in the coming weeks and months. Other ideas may still find their way into the mix later on through the gut-and-amend process.

So far this session more than 300 bills have been introduced in the Senate and more than 550 have been introduced in the Assembly. How high will that number climb by tonight?

VIDEO: California's cap-and-trade program is facing a legal challenge from the state Chamber of Commerce, Dan Walters says.

MED-IFICATION: Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, headline a policy forum on improving medication adherence from noon to 3 p.m. at the Sacramento City College Student Center. According to the Script Your Future campaign, which is sponsoring the event, one-third of people never fill their prescriptions and nearly three-quarters don't take them as directed, costing hundreds of billions of dollar each year.

ACADEMIC ADVOCATE: The Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel is in town for its advocacy day. The organization, which promotes programs that serve low-income, first-generation and disabled college students, gathers on the south steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. for speeches and a rally before visiting lawmakers' offices.

POLITICS IS PERSONAL: One of this year's more interesting political dramas is the election in the Long Beach-centered 70th Assembly District. Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, is termed out and running for her city's mayorship. Among the candidates to succeed her is former daughter-in-law Suja Lowenthal, a Long Beach city councilwoman who abandoned her own bid for mayor last fall. Adding another wrinkle to the race, the women have endorsed each other's opponents. Suja Lowenthal has found some support in Sacramento, however, including from state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who joins her for a fundraiser in Long Beach tomorrow.

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

February 20, 2014
AM Alert: FPPC rules on record Kevin Sloat fine

wine_bottles.JPGWhen the Fair Political Practices Commission cracked down on lobbyist Kevin Sloat earlier this month for hosting lavish political fundraisers at his home, it sent a shockwave through the Capitol.

Long accepted by Sacramento insiders as part of doing business, the FPPC determined that the events exceeded strict limits placed on lobbyists and amounted to illegal campaign contributions. Sloat was hit with a $133,500 fine, the largest ever for a violation of state laws regulating lobbyists.

The commission will consider whether to finalize that deal during its meeting at 10 a.m. at the FPPC building on J Street. Though this is likely the culmination of the process, it is possible the commission could reject the fine and order its staff to negotiate a new agreement with Sloat.

VIDEO: Progress has been slow, but at least California is finally confronting its massive pension problem, Dan Walters says.

WATER CONFERENCE: Between the proposed Delta tunnels and the drought, water issues have been dominating the headlines in Sacramento for months. For those who need to brush up on this complex topic, Capitol Weekly and the UC Center Sacramento host an all-day conference on the future of California's water, starting at 9 a.m. at the Sacramento Masonic Temple on J Street. State and local water officials and politicians including state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assemblywoman Connie Conway, R-Tulare, are slated to offer their expertise.

EARLY EDUCATION: Calling for greater access to early childhood education to close the achievement gap, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and advocates from Raising California Together rally on the north steps of the Capitol at 12:15 p.m. Joining them is 8-year-old "Kid Governor" Celeste Umaña, with corgi by her side. (Hmm, remind you of someone else around these parts?)

PRO TEM INSIGHTS: As he enters his final year in office, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has made a strong push for several new policy initiatives, including universal pre-kindergarten. Addressing the Sacramento Press Club at noon at the Capitol Plaza Ballroom on 9th Street, he outlines his remaining goals and how he believes the state should spend its budget surplus.

WORKPLACE VIOLENCE: Nurses and healthcare workers will appear before the Occupational Health and Safety Standards Board today to ask for the adoption of comprehensive violence prevention standards in their workplaces. The groups say that they regularly face violent assaults on the job. The meeting takes place at 10 a.m. at the State Resources Building on 9th Street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Sherman Oaks, who turns 33 today.

PHOTO: Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills offers 17 wines and champagne by the glass on January 21, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

February 19, 2014
AM Alert: Noreen Evans revives push for California oil extraction tax

oil_rig.jpgThough previous efforts have proved unsuccessful, state Sen. Noreen Evans has once again introduced a bill for a tax on companies that extract oil in California. The Santa Rosa Democrat will discuss the legislation during a rally at 10 a.m. at Sacramento State's Hinde Auditorium.

Evans notes that California is the only major oil-producing state in the country without an oil severance tax, and her bill would impose a 9.5 percent levy on oil companies to fund higher education, state parks and health and human services programs. Evans' office estimates that it would generate about $2 billion in annual revenue.

While introducing an oil severance tax in California has been a major goal for many environmentalists, and Evans has made it a priority for her final year in the Senate, the legislation faces a tough road. A similar bill she authored last year was held in committee. Gov. Jerry Brown also rejected the push during the announcement of his budget proposal in January, saying, "I don't think this is the year for new taxes."

VIDEO: The Legislature is more interested in playing political games than legislating so far this session, Dan Walters says.

BUDGET BRIEFING: Still got questions about Brown's budget proposal? Bring them to the California Budget Project's annual briefing, starting at 10:30 a.m. at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street. The nonprofit organization plans to discuss Brown's budget priorities, their implications for low- and middle-income Californians and how that could shape the budget debate in the months ahead.

CALSTRS CRUNCH: Though Brown's budget aims to address California's so-called "Wall of Debt," the state still faces tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, including the California State Teachers' Retirement System. The Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security will discuss the pension's long-term funding needs during a hearing at 10:30 a.m. in Room 444 of the Capitol.

HITTING THE ROAD: A couple of candidates for statewide office swing through Sacramento today on their campaigns: Attorney General Kamala Harris, who announced her re-election bid last week, headlines the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Governmental Affairs Day with an interview at 1:15 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari will speak with the Sacramento State College Republicans at 5 p.m. at Sac State's Sequoia Hall.

LIVING HISTORY: In honor of Black History Month, Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., the first African-American U.S. magistrate, reflects on the Civil Rights Movement and his work in the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s at the California Department of Education on N Street at 11 a.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who turns 74 today.

PHOTO: Waves crash in front of an oil rig at Seal Beach, Calif., on Jan. 20, 2010. The Associated Press/Nick Ut

February 18, 2014
AM Alert: Assembly panels dig into consumer data breaches

credit_card.JPGTime to shake off that "House of Cards" binge-watch hangover.

Holiday shoppers at Target and Neiman Marcus were hit with the worst kind of news in December: Massive security breaches had compromised the credit card information of tens of millions of people.

The Assembly Judiciary and Assembly Banking and Finance committees will hold a joint informational hearing on those attacks today, exploring the safety of our personal data and what steps can be taken to enhance its security. The hearing, which begins at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol, will feature testimony from consumer organizations, law enforcement, and representatives from MasterCard and Visa.

Though they attended a similar hearing in Congress earlier this month, Target and Neiman Marcus will not appear appear before the Assembly panel, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who chairs the judiciary committee, told Capitol Alert last week.

"It's a little slap on the face for the people of California," he said

VIDEO: The court ruling that a recent California law violated the Second Amendment could put a stop to the state's renewed push for gun control, Dan Walters says.

NO H2O: The drought is all too real for some California communities that are dangerously low on water. State officials revealed last month that 17 rural areas could run out completely within 60 to 120 days. The Assembly committees on environmental safety and health will address that crisis in a joint hearing on access to drinking water at 1:30 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

UNCHAINED: A law prohibiting prisons from shackling pregnant inmates went into effect in California in January 2013. Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who authored the legislation, will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. in Room 317 of the Capitol to review how public safety officials are complying with the change. A new report from Legal Services for Prisoners With Children says the results are mixed.

RAISE YOUR VOICE: Renters' rights organization Tenants Together is in Sacramento today for a march and rally protesting what they say is a lack of affordable housing in California caused by real estate speculators and rising rents. The march begins at 10 a.m. at 11th and L, and continues to the north steps of the Capitol for the rally at 11 a.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Lots of birthdays today! Best wishes to Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who turns 59; Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, who turns 66; and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who turns 50.

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

February 13, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown meets with Obama administration on climate change

Brown_climate_change.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has made climate change a prominent issue in his return to the governor's office, calling it the greatest threat to young people's future and focusing on the reduction of greenhouse gases during his trip to China last year.

He will discuss the matter further today with President Barack Obama's task force on climate preparedness, which meets for the second time at 11:30 a.m. in Los Angeles City Hall. State and local leaders, including Brown, will gather with senior Obama officials to advise the administration on how the federal government can help communities dealing with the effects of climate change.

Brown is expected to meet with the President himself when Obama visits Fresno on Friday to address federal response to California's drought.

VIDEO: A big victory in the San Diego mayoral race suggests things could be turning around for California Republicans, Dan Walters says.

IN WITH THE NEW: Though the Senate and Assembly usually meet on Thursdays, there are no floor sessions today. Monday is off for President's Day, so in order to get their per diem allowances, which require legislators to gather at least every three days, they will hold floor sessions tomorrow and Tuesday instead.

Never fear, though. Civic-minded high schoolers will fill the political void when they descend upon Sacramento today for the California YMCA Youth & Government's 66th annual Model Legislature & Court Conference. The program, in which students elect a "youth governor" and pass mock legislation, continues through Monday at the Capitol.

TECH TALK: The role of laptops, tablets and other technology in K-12 education is heavily debated, even as school districts like Los Angeles Unified jump into new programs. UC Irvine education Professor Mark Warschauer will review research on the use of digital media in children's education during this presentation at noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

BEHIND THE BARS: Members of Sacramento State's debate team, university professors and policy experts from the Project for an Informed Electorate debate California prison policy, overcrowding and realignment during a public forum at Sac State's Del Norte Hall at 6 p.m.

NEW JOB: Congratulations to Erin Shaw, previously the deputy national press secretary for StudentsFirst, who has joined Stutzman Public Affairs as its new vice president.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown gives opening remarks at the Governor's Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California's Future at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Dec. 15, 2011.The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

February 12, 2014
AM Alert: Assembly committee considers Delta tunnels funding

AerialDelta.JPGWith the recent debate over the cost of the California's proposed high-speed rail and whether the money would be better spent elsewhere, that other controversial infrastructure project touted by Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't been getting much attention lately.

But the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which would build two enormous water diversion tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, regains the spotlight today with a fiscal oversight hearing from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.

Held by the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, the series of three panels will examine uncertainties in the project's funding structure, which could affect water ratepayers, as well as the economic impact of tunnel construction on the Delta region and the effects of the drought on water delivery and revenues.

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown got the delay he wanted on prison reductions, but with some caveats that could be politically damaging, Dan Walters says.

ELECTION EXPO-SITION: The governor's race heads to Tulare today, as both Brown and possible Republican candidate Neel Kashkari attend the 47th Annual World Ag Expo. Brown will be there in the morning, while Kashkari swings by in the afternoon.

IN THE OTHER CAPITOL: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has been in Washington, D.C. this week meeting with members of California's congressional delegation and the Obama administration to discuss policy priorities such as mental health services, universal pre-kindergarten and the drought. He wraps up today with a keynote address at the California State Society's Golden State Roundtable, as well as meetings with Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, among others.

WORKING WOMEN: The California Applicants' Attorneys Association's Women's Caucus holds a symposium on working women's on-the-job injuries and policies to reduce them starting at 8 a.m. at the Citizen Hotel on J Street. The Legislative Women's Caucus is co-hosting the event, with members slated to speak including state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

CALL TO ACTION: Government transparency watchdog California Common Cause holds a press conference on the west steps of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. calling on legislators not to join or support model legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Common Cause maintains that ALEC abuses its nonprofit status to promote bills that directly benefit its corporate members.

NO BIZ LIKE SHOWBIZ: Following up on a report released last week by Otis College of Art and Design, the Joint Committee on the Arts holds a hearing examining the impact of the state's "creative economy" and opportunities for growth in sectors such as the entertainment industry. The hearing takes place at 10 a.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol.

IMMIGRANT HEALTH CARE: Last month, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, announced plans to introduce legislation that would extend health insurance to immigrants who are in California illegally. The California Immigrant Policy Center and the California Latino Legislative Caucus hold a legislative briefing on the proposals at 10:30 a.m. in Room 127 of the Capitol.

THE RE-UP: Attorney General Kamala Harris begins her campaign for re-election at San Francisco City Hall at 11 a.m., where she plans to take out papers with the San Francisco Department of Elections. In one of the most high-profile statewide races, a challenger to Harris has yet to emerge.

A NIGHT AT THE LIBRARY: Celebrating the recently-completed renovations of the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, the California State Library hosts an evening "show-and-tell" with some of its rare and priceless pieces. The program begins at 6 p.m. at the Mosk Building on Capitol Mall.

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

February 11, 2014
AM Alert: Prison officials, activists gather at Capitol over solitary confinement

CALIFORNIAPRISONSOLITARY3.JPGPrisoners across California drew widespread attention last summer when they embarked upon a two-month long hunger strike to protest what they considered excessively cruel use of solitary cells. During a legislative hearing in October, prison officials defended the tactic as a crucial strategy for controlling gang activity.

However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has also been working on a "step-down" program that would allow inmates to be released from their solitary placement. A follow-up hearing on that proposed reform, jointly hosted by the Legislature's public safety committees, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. Among those slated to testify are George Giurbino and Suzan Hubbard, the former and current directors of the CDCR's division of adult institutions.

The hearing has also attracted the attention of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, a community organization from the Bay Area that considers solitary confinement to be "cruel, inhumane and tortuous." The group will hold a rally at noon on the west steps of the Capitol before heading to meetings with legislators.

VIDEO: The San Diego mayor's race is the first big election of 2014, Dan Walters says.

ELDERLY ABUSE: Following media investigations last year that revealed inadequate oversight of workers at many assisted-living facilities, the state Senate and Assembly will hold two joint hearings today to review safety regulations. The first, from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 4203 of the Capitol, examines the role of the state Department of Social Services in licensing and inspecting assisted-living homes for seniors. A second hearing, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 4203, focuses on employees who work in the homes.

BRIDGE BLUNDERS: After last month's revelations about a possible cover-up of construction problems on the new stretch of the Bay Bridge, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will hold another hearing on reforming Caltrans at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the committee, has previously blamed Caltrans' "insular culture" for the construction issues.

DROUGHT DILEMMA: As legislators seek solutions for dealing with California's drought, a host of water bond bills are making their way through the Capitol. One from state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is scheduled to be heard before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee at 9:30 a.m. in Room 112. The committee will also discuss broader priorities for water policy and using existing resources more efficiently.

PUBLIC PAY: The Sacramento Bee's state worker salary database has been updated with 2013 pay, and has been upgraded to give faster results. Check it out here.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, who turns 54 today.

CORRECTION: Yesterday's AM Alert incorrectly identified Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, as part of the Legislative Women's Caucus leadership. Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, is chair of the group. We apologize for the error.

PHOTO: Lt. Rick Graves stands in the exercise yard at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City on Feb. 9, 2012. The New York Times/Jim Wilson.

February 10, 2014
AM Alert: Candidate filing period opens for June 3 primary

absentee_ballots.JPGAre you sick of the 2014 election yet? Too bad, because we're just getting started.

Though some campaigns have been ongoing for months, today marks the beginning of the candidate filing period for the June 3 primary. By March 7, we'll have a clearer picture of the candidate fields for California's 80 Assembly seats, 20 Senate races, eight statewide offices and four Board of Equalization jobs..

If you can't wait that long, then check out our Capitol Alert Insider Edition app. Last week, veteran political analyst Tony Quinn offered his take on the year's key legislative races, as Republicans seek to cut into Democrats' supermajority status this fall. All five parts are available as an Insider Edition exclusive. You can subscribe to the app for iPad and iPhone.

VIDEO: California is experiencing an eruption of corruption, Dan Walters says.

REMEMBERING THE PAST: As part of Black History Month, the Assembly's Black Caucus hosts a ceremony on the chamber floor at 9 a.m. recognizing "unsung heroes" of the Civil Rights Movement. Among those to be honored is Harold K. Brown, a former San Diego State University professor who fought housing discrimination and chaired the Congress on Racial Equality in San Diego. An exhibit is on display in the Capitol throughout the month of February.

CAMPUS CRIMES: State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, is joining with the leadership of the Legislative Women's Caucus -- Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara -- to introduce legislation addressing sexual assault on college campuses. The bill calls for California schools to adopt victim-centered sexual assault response policies, strengthen the adjudication process and ensure confidentiality protections for victims, among other requirements. It will be announced during a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol.

YOUTH ADVOCACY: Current and former foster youth will be at the Capitol today to advocate for legislation that improves sibling visitation rights for children in California's foster care system. The California Youth Connection will be joined by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, for a rally on the west steps at noon before members head to meetings with their representatives.

CAPITOL STARS: A new awards ceremony debuts tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Sacramento State's Union Ballroom, as the California College Democrats hand out their inaugural Hall of Fame Awards. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, and Sen. Mitchell are among the honorees.

CELEBRATIONS: A belated happy birthday to Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who turned 45 yesterday.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2014 to remove a reference to Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner as part of the leadership group of the women's caucus. Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, is the chair of the group and is attending the press conference.

PHOTO: Yolo County registrar seasonal workers get buried in some of the 30,000 plus absentee ballots prepared for the Feb. 5, 2008 presidential primary election. The Sacramento Bee/Anne Chadwick Williams

February 7, 2014
AM Alert: Mark Leno announces cell phone theft prevention bill

IPhone.jpgAs smartphones have become increasingly essential items for many Californians, they have also become a favorite target for thieves: The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 30-to-40 percent of all robberies nationwide now involve cell phone theft, and that figure is more than 50 percent in high-tech San Francisco.

The growing problem has prompted state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to announce new legislation that would require a so-called "kill switch" to render phones inoperable if they are stolen, discouraging theft. A wireless trade group opposed a similar proposal when carrier Samsung floated the idea last summer.

Leno will hold a press conference at 9 a.m. at the State Building in San Francisco to discuss the details of the bill. He will be joined by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, as well as Bay Area law enforcement officials and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

VIDEO: By demanding action on some pension debts while ignoring others, Gov. Jerry Brown has undermined his credibility on the issue, Dan Walters says.

ELECTION LUNCH: It's not often you get the executive directors of California's Democratic and Republican parties in the same room, but Shawnda Westly and Cynthia Bryant come together to discuss the 2014 election at a luncheon hosted by professional women's organization Capitol Network. Also participating in the conversation are Democratic strategist Robin Swanson and Sabrina Lockhart, communications director for Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway. The event takes place at the California Chamber of Commerce at 11:30 a.m. and is moderated by Marcey Brightwell of Grayling Communications.

NOT SO FAST: Is increased political participation always a good thing? It might not be when it comes to municipal budgeting. The American Society of Public Administration's Sacramento chapter hosts a discussion of a new report from Cal State Sacramento's Center for California Studies examining civic engagement and its impact on attitudes towards taxes and government spending. The event begins at noon in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

LOCAL HISTORY: The State Historical Resources Commission meets at Sacramento City Hall at 9 a.m. to discuss new nominations for the National Register of Historic Places. Of local significance on the agenda is New Helvetia Historic District, a public housing project constructed to improve the housing conditions of Sacramento's African-American community that was used as defense housing during World War II.

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition can get veteran political analyst Tony Quinn's take on key legislative races, as Republicans seek to cut into Democrats' supermajority status this year. In the fourth of five parts released this week, Quinn and reporter Christopher Cadelago look at key state Senate races in Northern California. You can subscribe to the Insider Edition app for iPad and iPhone.

PHOTO: Instagram is demonstrated on an iPhone. The Associated Press/Karly Domb Sadof

February 6, 2014
AM Alert: Assembly committee heads to SF for hearing on banking program

Bank_of_Rio_Vista.JPGThe Assembly Committee on Banking and Finance takes a field trip to San Francisco today for an informational hearing on the Bank on California program, an initiative encouraging poor and immigrant Californians to use mainstream financial services that got its start in the City by the Bay.

Launched statewide in 2008 by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the program is a collaboration between local governments, financial institution and community organizations that eases some requirements and lowers fees for opening a starter bank account. More than 214,000 accounts have been opened through the program, according to the office of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, but about 7.8 percent of Californians remain "unbanked."

Dickinson, the Sacramento Democrat who chairs the banking and finance committee, introduced a bill last year that would give Bank on California a permanent home in the Department of Business Oversight. It passed through the Assembly but was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

VIDEO: As the transportation picture has gotten more complex, Caltrans has lost its way, Dan Walters says.

PEANUTS POWER: The California Association of Museums and the DMV are debuting new specialty license plates featuring beloved beagle Snoopy that will benefit California museums. Among those scheduled to attend the launch event, 10 a.m. at the California Museum on O Street, is Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION: Hong Kong's economic and trade commissioner to the United States is in Sacramento to promote investment in China and Asia. Clement Leung will speak at the California Chamber of Commerce on K Street at noon about business opportunities in the Asian market and how California companies can gain a foothold.

THE BUSINESS OF ART: With support from the California Arts Council, Otis College of Art and Design has completed an analysis of the state's "creative economy," examining the impact of sectors such as the entertainment industry and nonprofit organizations. The report, an expansion of the school's annual assessment of the Los Angeles region, will be released today at 3:30 p.m. at a reception in Santa Monica. State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, plans to hold a hearing on the report next Wednesday.

MAKING THE JUMP: Are California's high school students ready for the transition to college? UC Davis researcher Michal Kurlaender discusses an evaluation of the state's Early Assessment Program, an academic preparation program for high school juniors developed by state education officials and the California State University system. The talks takes place at noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition can get veteran political analyst Tony Quinn's take on key legislative races, as Republicans seek to cut into Democrats' supermajority status this year. In the third of five parts released this week, Quinn and reporter Christopher Cadelago look at key Assembly races in Southern California. You can subscribe to the Insider Edition app for iPad and iPhone.

PHOTO: A customer leaves after using the ATM machine at the Bank of Rio Vista. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

February 5, 2014
AM Alert: State considers expanding historic fishing ban

fishing.JPGInterest in the drought around the Capitol has focused on the implications for farmers, but they're not the only ones squeezed out by the lack of water: Last week, state officials prohibited recreational fishing in dozens of streams across California because of concern over the impact of low flows on the spawning season of threatened salmon and steelhead trout.

Today the California Fish and Game Commission considers whether to extend that ban, already the broadest in state history. At the urging of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency may vote to close several more bodies of water to fishing through April 30, including a section of the American River near Folsom and Rancho Cordova.

Fishing groups have largely supported the bans in order to preserve vulnerable species for future fishing. The meeting takes place at 8:30 a.m. at the Resources Building on 9th Street.

VIDEO: California lobbyists are making more than ever, but it's just a drop in the bucket compared to the public funds at stake, Dan Walters says.

HANGING OUT: All is quiet on the legislative front as the Democratic and Republican caucuses hold off-campus retreats this week to discuss policy priorities and political strategies. Yesterday, Assembly Democrats got a visit from Robert Reich, former labor secretary under Bill Clinton, while Gov. Jerry Brown dropped in on Senate Dems.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN: Former congressman Doug Ose is seeking a return to the House this November in the 7th District. One of three Republican challengers to freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who narrowly won in 2012, Ose opens his campaign headquarters in Fair Oaks with a celebration tonight at 6 p.m. The party simultaneously commemorates late President Ronald Reagan's birthday, which is Thursday; former Reagan spokesman Doug Elmets will welcome guests. Jelly beans will be served.

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition can get veteran political analyst Tony Quinn's take on key legislative races, as Republicans seek to cut into Democrats' supermajority status this year. In the second of five parts released this week, Quinn and reporter Christopher Cadelago looks at key Assembly races in Central California. You can subscribe to the Insider Edition app for iPad and iPhone.

PHOTO: Tom Fox of south Natomas prepares to cast his line while fishing for salmon at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers on October 7, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

February 4, 2014
AM Alert: Tim Donnelly launches statewide bus tour

Tim_Donnelly.JPGWith about $54,000 in hand to take on Gov. Jerry Brown, the $17 Million Man, in November's election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly launches a "Save California" bus tour today that will hit more than 40 cities over the next ten days.

His ride on the Liberty Express kicks off in Roseville with a rally and fundraiser at the Glass Guru window repair store at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are a relatively modest $99, or $150 for a couple — only a fraction of the thousands that Sacramento politicians typically charge for events.

Donnelly continues with a speaking engagement at the Placer County Republican Assembly's annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner, 7 p.m. at the Old Spaghetti Factory. He will also hit Monterey County, the Bay Area and the Central Valley, as well as more locations in the Sacramento area, over the course of the trip.

VIDEO: Tackling the gap in Internet use among California's black and Latino population could also help with the achievement gap in test scores, Dan Walters says.

BACK IN ACTION: After cancelling last Tuesday, state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, has rescheduled a press conference to discuss his resolution calling upon President Barack Obama to stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants who are eligible to become legal citizens. This is the first piece of legislation Calderon has promoted since becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal last fall. The resolution now has seven co-authors, including Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco and Lou Correa of Santa Ana. The press conference takes place at 8:30 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

FARM BILL FOLLIES: Following months of debate over cuts to food stamps, Congress is poised to pass a long-delayed Farm Bill. At 10:45 a.m., California State Board of Food and Agriculture holds a panel discussion on the legislation, which would revamp agricultural subsidies and cut about $800 million from the food stamp program. The board's agenda also includes items on immigration and the drought. Today's meeting starts at 10 a.m. at the Department of Food and Agriculture's N Street headquarters.

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Subscribers to the Capitol Alert Insider Edition can get veteran political analyst Tony Quinn's take on key legislative races, as Republicans seek to cut into Democrats' supermajority status this year. In the first of five parts released this week, Quinn and reporter Christopher Cadelago looks at some of the most interesting Assembly races happening in Northern California. You can subscribe to the Insider Edition app for iPad and iPhone.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, announces he's running for California Governor in Baldwin Park, Calif., on Nov. 5, 2013. The Associated Press/Nick Ut

February 3, 2014
AM Alert: Water affordability flows onto legislative agenda

20140123_PK_CATTLE_0004.JPG

Good morning from drought-stricken California, where the lack of precipitation has become dire enough that officials on Friday nixed further water deliveries to southern users for the first time in the state's history.

That came the day after a pair of Central Valley Republicans introduced yet another water bond measure, the fourth circulating this session. As a lack of rain continues to parch the state — shriveling the livelihoods of cattle ranchers, displacing birds and disrupting fishing — lawmakers have amplified their call for a water bond measure on the 2014 ballot.

This morning, water affordability - specifically, the rates various users pay - will be in the spotlight during a joint hearing of the Assembly committees on Utilities And Commerce and Aging And Long-term Care from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m in room 437.

It's a relevant topic considering concerns that the burden of paying for the other big-ticket water item on the agenda - Gov. Jerry Brown's Delta tunnels project - could fall heavily on ratepayers.

VIDEO: A worsening drought means intensifying water politics, Dan Walters says.

RAIL REACTION: The legal fight over high-speed rail keeps chugging along. The California Supreme Court sent a challenge over the project's financing back to an appeals court last week, and today is the deadline for the Central Valley landowners suing the state to file briefs. The state's deadline comes next Monday.

GUNG HAY FAT CHOY: In honor of the Lunar New Year, the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus Foundation and the Asian Pacific Islander Capitol Association are co-hosting a celebration at Frank Fat's this afternoon. Potential attendees include both Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles.

PHOTO: Fields planted with forage seeds wait for rain at the Van Vleck Ranch Thursday January 23, 2014 in Sacramento County, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

January 31, 2014
AM Alert: California campaign money count coming

Dollars.jpg

As evidenced by our recent report on Republicans fretting over their grim prospects in statewide races, the 2014 election is closer than you think. Soon, we'll see where the donation dollars fell in the latter half of 2013.

Today marks the campaign finance filing deadline for the second section of 2013, which means we'll see who gave what to whom between July and December. Contributions over $5,000 have to be reported more frequently, which allows us to feed you a steady diet of posts on contributions to the technically nonexistent re-election campaign of Gov. Jerry Brown, but the more comprehensive information that has to be in today will include smaller donations and help illustrate the state of Assembly and Senate races.

VIDEO: Car taxes again entered the political arena, a move Dan Walters says points to California's dire need for infrastructure dollars.

LEGALLY A LAWYER: The long odyssey of Sergio Garcia ends tomorrow. Despite passing California's bar exam, Garcia was prohibited from practicing law because he was brought to the country illegally as a child. A bill passed last year led the California Supreme Court to reverse its opposition, and Garcia will be formally sworn