Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 27, 2013
Near-wins for Assembly Republicans prompt talk of missed chances

Thumbnail image for 20121203_HA_CONNIE_CONWAY.JPG
Only 329 votes stood between Assembly Republicans and an upset special election victory last week in the San Fernando Valley's 45th Assembly District.

In September, a longtime Republican-newly-registered-independent finished just 400 votes behind the Democrat in the Inland Empire's 52nd Assembly District.

Wins in both seats would have eliminated Assembly Democrats' two-thirds supermajority in the lower house. Not only did Democrats barely eke out victories in districts where they have large registration advantages, an Assembly Republican caucus that regularly bemoans Democrats' dominance all but sat out the races.

Last week's close finish has prompted grumbling that the caucus missed another chance to increase its relevance and give a morale-boosting shot in the arm to the California GOP heading into an election year. In a special election in July, Senate Republicans picked up a Central Valley seat with strong Democratic leanings.

"Unfortunately we did miss an opportunity there," Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, said of last week's outcome in the 45th, where Democrat Matt Dababneh has declared victory over Republican Susan Shelley. Shelley has until Monday to request a recount.

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that turnout was going to be that low," Jones said. "When turnout is that low, Republicans tend to turn out to vote and Democrats don't."

August 6, 2013
Assembly Republicans to vote on leader after session ends

HA_ASSEMBLY0618.JPGFor the second time this year, Assemblywoman Connie Conway faces the possibility of surrendering her leadership of the Assembly Republican Caucus.

Assembly Republicans will hold a leadership vote after the current legislative session ends on Sept. 13. Conway, a Tulare Republican who weathered a quickly quashed challenge in February, will seek re-election, spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said.

"Historically, this has happened at the end of session and after elections, so she wanted to gauge her caucus after we work through the last final weeks of session," Lockhart said.

"We have a large class of new members, so she wants the caucus to decide what the year ahead will look like," Lockhart added.

Rumors of a potential ouster reverberated through the caucus earlier this year, with Republicans stinging from an election cycle that saw Democrats claim enough seats to establish a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature.

The Assembly supermajority is currently on hold pending the outcome of special elections to fill vacant seats.

PHOTO: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, during the first day of session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

May 14, 2013
VIDEO: Republicans react to 2013 California budget revision

gorellrevise.JPGRepublicans in California have taken to aligning themselves more with the fiscally cautious budget priorities of Gov. Jerry Brown than with their Democratic colleagues in the Legislature, and party leaders had some tentative praise for the governor's revised 2013-2014 budget on Tuesday morning.

Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, said it was "appropriate for the governor to have conservative revenue projections" given that a surge of surplus revenue is "probably short-lived." But he criticized Brown for moving to scale back enterprise zones, saying the proposal would undercut businesses who had "relied on this program in good faith," and called on the governor to dedicate more reserves as a cushion against a future downturn.

"To truly preserve the legacy for any sort of austerity for the governor, he needs to identify a very hard and fast, solid rainy day fund into which revenues are placed when they come in over projections so we can use those to buffer the peaks and troughs or the fits and starts of California financing and budgeting we've had over the last twenty years," Gorell said.

March 27, 2013
CA lawmakers spending spring break in Poland, Taiwan

Connie_Conway_SOTS.jpgAt least two groups of lawmakers are spending their spring recess from the Capitol on overseas trips underwritten by outside groups.

Six lawmakers and the president of the Public Utilities Commission are in Poland on an eight-day trip paid for by the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy, a nonprofit group bankrolled by dozens of donors, including labor, energy, environmental and telecommunications interests.

In a separate trip, a nine-member delegation of the Assembly, including GOP leader Connie Conway, is in Taiwan to promote bilateral exchanges in trade and culture.

Lawmakers took $329,000 in free trips last year, according to financial disclosure statements filed in March.

March 20, 2013
Assembly Republican leadership team takes shape

connie.jpgAssembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, has named nine members to the lower house's GOP leadership team for the 2013-2014 legislative session. Here is a list of the appointments:

Assistant Republican Floor Leader: Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills

Deputy Republican Floor Leader: Donald Wagner, R-Irvine

Assembly Republican Caucus Chair: Brian Jones, R-Santee

Assembly Rules Committee Vice Chair: Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita

Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair: Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo

Assembly Appropriations Committee Vice Chair: Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point

Chief Republican Whip: Dan Logue, R-Marysville

Republican Whips: Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego; Marie Waldron, R-Escondido

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, seen here after Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address on Jan. 23, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

February 21, 2013
Kristin Olsen to move to smaller office after failed GOP move

Kristin_Olsen.JPGAssemblywoman Kristin Olsen was ordered to move immediately into a much smaller office in the wake of a failed effort within the Assembly Republican Caucus to oust its leader, Connie Conway.

The move was widely regarded as punishment for Olsen, R-Modesto, who had been touted by some Assembly Republicans as a potential successor to Conway.

The caucus decided nearly unanimously Thursday to retain Conway, with only one person voting no, members said.

"I don't know the exact circumstances of the reason for the move, but I do know that Assembly member Olsen was not the vote to vacate the chair," said Kim Nickols, Olsen's spokeswoman.

February 21, 2013
Assembly GOP nearly unanimous in keeping Conway as leader

20121203_HA_CONNIE_CONWAY.JPGAssemblywoman Connie Conway can breathe a little easier now.

After caucusing for about an hour Thursday, the 25-member Assembly Republican Caucus voted nearly unanimously not to replace the Tulare Republican who has held the top post for two years.

A motion to vacate the chair received only one vote, two members said privately. Caucus sessions are held behind closed doors.

Conway, who is termed out of the Legislature next year, leads a caucus still reeling from the loss of three seats in last November's election, a stunning party defeat that handed Democrats a supermajority in the 80-member house.

But President Barack Obama's decisive victory in California and statewide redrawing of political districts tended to favor Democrats in other political races as well -- the GOP lost two state Senate seats, for example.

Conway replaced Assemblyman Martin Garrick, of Solana Beach, as Assembly GOP boss in November 2010. She became the fourth Republican leader of the lower house in an 18-month period. Garrick opted not to seek a second term as caucus chief.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, during the first day of session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

December 3, 2012
New Assemblyman Travis Allen assigned to Capitol 'doghouse'

AD72-Travis_Allen.jpgFreshman Assemblyman Travis Allen already is in the Capitol's "doghouse," but it's nothing personal, apparently.

Allen simply was unlucky.

"The only thing you could read into who's in the doghouse right now is that as they drew names, he had a lousy draw," Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said.

Allen, a Huntington Beach Republican, was assigned a shoebox-size, fifth-floor office that is nicknamed the "doghouse" because of its history: Assembly speakers often house members there as punishment for votes or actions taken.

Allen shrugged off the matter shortly after he was sworn into the Legislature on Monday, the first day of a two-year session.

"No vote has been cast yet, so I think it would be kind of difficult to offend anybody," Allen said, smiling.

"It's an honor to serve the people of California -- in any capacity and in any office," added Allen, a certified financial planner who won the 72nd Assembly District seat from Orange County.

Allen's cramped office, Room 5126, is just 391 square feet -- 135 tinier than the next smallest Assembly office and about 300 smaller than the norm.

Pérez said that he worked with Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway in assigning GOP Assembly offices. Conway handled requests from returning members of her caucus first, Perez said.

"Neither she nor I wanted to use that office punitively, so she went through a random process of selection to decide how to house the new Republican members. ... It was literally a drawing of lots," Pérez said.

Sabrina Lockhart, Conway's spokeswoman, confirmed Pérez's account Monday.

The doghouse was assigned last year to the now former Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, an outspoken Fresno Republican who was one of the most conservative members of a predominantly liberal Assembly.

Allen said, essentially, that size doesn't matter. No hard feelings.

"We're in the building, and we all get a vote," he said simply.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Assembly website.

November 8, 2012
Connie Conway re-elected as Assembly GOP leader

Connie Conway was re-elected as Assembly Republican leader Thursday, two days after the GOP took a shellacking statewide that appears to have given Democrats a supermajority of seats in both houses of the Legislature.

Meanwhile, Democrats chose Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez
to remain as their leader, a move that was expected because of his past service and the party's apparent capture Tuesday of two additional Assembly seats, which would give it 54 of 80 seats.

Selection of Conway and Pérez were unanimous decisions of their respective caucuses.

"I'm very pleased, but I also understand the obligation that comes with that - and it's a serious one," said Conway, a former Tulare County supervisor.

"To make sure we are really unified," she said. "And to make sure that as a team we have goals, we express those goals, and that we try to move California in what we believe is the right direction."

August 27, 2012
Most CA GOP legislators remain in Sacramento as RNC kicks off

As the Republican National Convention kicks off in Tampa, most GOP legislators can be found on the floor of their respective legislative chambers here in Sacramento instead of the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where former Gov. Mitt Romney will accept the Republican presidential nomination later this week.

Just two Republican legislators are confirmed attendees of this week's convention in Tampa. Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, is serving as a delegate representing the 50th Congressional District. Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, is heading to Tampa with her husband, Board of Equalization member George Runner, another Romney delegate, but a spokeswoman said she is ready to fly back to California if needed.

Senate GOP leader Bob Huff, whose wife is a delegate, spent the weekend with the California delegation at in St Pete Beach, but was scheduled to return home in time for Monday's floor session.

A spokeswoman for Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway said she was unaware of any Assembly Republicans planning to attend the convention.

The low attendance rate among state legislators is likely due to the legislative calendar. Both houses are set to work through hundreds of bills ahead of the end-of-session deadline on Friday.

May 2, 2012
Connie Conway shakes up Assembly GOP leadership team

20110630_ha_budget_sign25887.JPGSix Republican Assembly members gained new titles today as Republican leader Connie Conway expanded and altered her leadership team.

Conway's changes come in the wake of the GOP's Jeff Gorell returning from deployment to the Afghanistan War and Nathan Fletcher's decision to leave the party to register as an independent.

Two moderate Republicans formerly in leadership positions were not included in the new lineup: Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita, formerly an assistant leader; and Bill Berryhill of Ceres, formerly a chief whip.

Sabrina Lockhart, Conway's spokeswoman, said that the exclusions of Smyth and Berryhill were not punitive. Both are leaving the Assembly in December. Smyth is termed out and Berryhill is running for a Senate seat.

Conway, in announcing her leadership changes, vowed to "fight to protect Californians from higher taxes" and to push for "common-sense bipartisan solutions" to problems ranging from pension debt to education budget cuts.

January 18, 2012
VIDEO -- Rapid Response Roundup: State of the State

Gov. Jerry Brown began his speech Wednesday by chiding Republican lawmakers who responded a little too rapidly to his State of the State address. Assembly Republican leader Connie
Conway
and Senate Republican leader Bob Huff put out their videotaped response a day earlier.

"I noticed that Connie and Mr. Huff put out their critique of my speech 24 hours ago," Brown said. "I'll let you in on a little secret -- my speech wasn't finished 24 hours ago."

Given what he called their "powers of precognition and clairvoyance," Brown said he planned to check with Conway and Huff on some stock tips after the speech.

"We could use them -- especially the state," he said.

Here's an assortment of responses that arrived after Brown stopped talking:

June 30, 2011
Assembly Republicans celebrate 'death' of higher tax rates

conway.JPGYour wallets will start feeling heavier tomorrow.

That was the message from a handful of Republican Assembly members this morning as they applauded their resistance during budget talks to approving temporary tax extensions. The budget plan passed by the Legislature this week assures that those taxes will expire at midnight, which the legislators say will save the average Californian about $260 each year.

"This is a great day for California," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. "The death of these taxes is the rebirth of our economy."

As the legislators gathered in front of a pair of SUVs at Downtown Ford in Sacramento, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said that someone buying a $20,000 car this weekend would pay $300 less in taxes and fees than if they bought the car today.

"We've held the line. We've not negotiated. We're very happy that July 1st is coming," said Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.

Gov. Jerry Brown's original budget plan required at least two Republican votes each from the Assembly and the Senate. It would have held steady the rates for income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees. Instead, all of those rates will drop under the spending plan that Brown is expected to sign into law today.

Democratic leaders said Republicans missed out on a chance to enact significant pension, spending and regulatory reforms by not agreeing to temporarily extend those taxes.

But Conway said Brown walked away from the negotiating table because labor unions could not swallow the reforms that Republicans wanted.

"It was an opportunity to squandered by the governor," she said. "Our agenda is to honor and respect the taxpayers that provide the money for the budget."

PHOTO CREDIT:
Conway speaking at Thursday's event. Paresh Dave / Sacramento Bee.

June 23, 2011
Connie Conway: Why not listen to GOP budget plan?

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said in a speech today that her caucus is willing to help break the state's budget impasse - if Democrats abandon their call for tax extensions.

Conway suggested that it's time for a new approach, now that Gov. Jerry Brown's attempts to pick off two Republican votes for his own budget proposal have not worked, nor have Democratic lawmakers' attempts to dictate budget solutions.

Speaking to the Sacramento Press Club, Conway said she has made it clear to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez that her phone lines are open.

"We told him, he knows this, that we're willing to work with him on a budget that does not raise taxes but still could have bipartisan support," the Tulare Republican said.

Playfully, Conway pointed out that legislators do not necessarily have to march in lockstep with Brown, who vetoed Democrats' budget proposal last week.

"People have joked about, 'Who was the last governor who ever had a veto override?' Oh yeah, I remember that," Conway said, without stating explicitly that the answer is Brown, in the 1970s, during his first stint as governor.

Conway did not unveil a new proposal today, but she pitched the "road map" released by Republicans in May that relied on more spending cuts, fund shifts and a spike in state tax revenues to bridge a then-$15.4 billion shortfall.

The GOP plan called for funding education at the same level as Brown proposed in January. It also suggested slicing $1.1 billion from spending for state workers, saving about $1.1 billion by permitting more contracting for state services, and taking $2.3 billion from funds for First 5 children's programs and Proposition 63 mental-health services.

Conway said that Republicans will continue to fight any attempt to raise taxes or to suspend Proposition 98, the state's minimum guarantee for education funding.

The GOP leader left open the possibility of placing onto the ballot a measure to let voters decide whether to extend temporary taxes imposed two years ago. But she dismissed the notion of a "bridge tax" to retain such revenue pending balloting.

"Putting something to a vote, without a bridge tax, is a different conversation than (imposing) a bridge tax and then having a vote," Conway said.

She shrugged off Democrats' criticism of the Republican "road map" as a gimmick-filled approach that would do little to solve the state's ongoing imbalance between revenues and spending.

"It's politics, we all understand that," Conway said of the criticism. "At the Capitol, politics rules."

* Updated at 5:30 p.m. to include Conway's comment about a bridge tax.

March 14, 2011
Republicans say budget talks have broken down

Budget talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and five Senate Republicans are "done and over," Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway told KMJ radio this morning, though the governor's spokesman disagrees.

"It's my impression, after speaking to some of (the Senate Republicans), that the talks are done and over, and they walked away from the table," Conway said. "It's their impression that, even though the governor seems willing, labor has said 'no' to all of the requests. So I think everybody left very unhappy from the table."

Joe Justin, spokesman for Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, one of the five GOP senators negotiating with Brown, said Conway's remarks were accurate.

"We remain committed to work," Justin said. "The public employee labor unions wouldn't allow movement on a hard, meaningful spending cap and true, long-lasting pension reform."

But Brown press secretary Gil Duran disputed that budget negotiations with the five Republicans are done.

"Talks are continuing," Duran said. "It seems to me that some people are urgently trying to exaggerate and spread this other story, but that is not our understanding of the situation."

Click here to listen to the full radio interview with Conway.

February 3, 2011
Jerry Brown and legislative leaders: Tigers, roosters or boars?

China Tiger.JPGPaper Tiger?

In honor of Chinese New Year, the Assembly distributed a paper flier to members Thursday honoring the 12 animals of the Chinese calendar and listing 1938, the year of Gov. Jerry Brown's birth, as a "Year of the Tiger."

Brown is honest, strong, spirited, rebellious, brave and dynamic, according to the flier, provided by the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Council.

The Democratic governor shares those traits with Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton and Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway, both of whom were born in 1950, another "tigerish" year.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's birthdate is in 1969 -- five months after Brown celebrated his 31st birthday -- and he is listed as confident, precise, candid and optimistic within the "Year of the Rooster."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was born in 1959, a "Year of the Boar," and he is happy, gallant, reliable, courageous and generous, suggested the flier, which did not indicate whether it was printed by a Democrat or Republican.

In keeping with Chinese New Year, Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento presented Pérez with a drawing of a koi, honored in folklore for swimming against the current.

Symbolic? Indeed.

"We hope, like the koi, we will overcome our fiscal difficulties and bring jobs and abundance to the people of California," Pan said.

This year, by the way, is a "Year of the Rabbit."

PHOTO CREDIT: A white tiger rests inside an enclosure at Beijing Zoo in Beijing, China, Monday, Feb. 8, 2010. AP Photo/ Vincent Thian

January 10, 2011
GOP leaders: No votes to put taxes on ballot

In detailing his budget plan this morning, Gov. Jerry Brown said he is shooting for a two-thirds vote to put a proposal to extend higher tax rates set to expire on the ballot in a June statewide election.

That feat would require the votes of at least a handful of Republican lawmakers in each house, a scenario GOP legislative leaders shot down as unlikely at best shortly after the official unveiling of Brown's plan.

Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton predicted that "zero" members of his caucus would cast an aye vote under the current proposal outlined by Brown today.


"I am not open to the idea because nobody has demonstrated anything to me that shows we are going to do anything different than we have done before," the Rancho Cucamonga Republican said. "Voters were given this choice back in 2009 and they rejected it and frankly they were right to reject it. We didn't fix anything, so why would the voters believe you now that you're going to fix the problem even if they would give you five more years of the same thing?"

He called Brown's proposed spending reductions a start, giving the governor kudos for cutting his own budget, but said it was "too little, too late." Dutton and Senate Budget Committee Vice Chair Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, called for steeper spending cuts, changing the regulatory structure, and changing how the Legislature conducts business with steps like limiting bills with new programs that add costs.

"Nobody wants to be with a hatchet in hand, going off and cutting programs, and yet we absolutely have to do that," Huff said.

Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway, of Tulare, painted a similar picture of the party's lower house caucus. She issued a statement saying Assembly Republicans "stand united" against the plan to "place the same tax increases that voters overwhelmingly rejected less than two years ago back on the ballot."

"At this point, I think California voters have got to be feeling like the parent who consistently tells the child 'No.' How many times do we have to say no to taxes? I think they speak loud and clear," Conway told reporters today. "Jobs are leaving the state, people don't have a job. Why aren't we looking at more jobs and more people working as a way to increase our revenue?"

Whether Brown will ultimately get, or need, a two-thirds vote is still unclear. The Democratic governor said this morning that Republicans aren't "locked in stone in opposition" and that he is committed to working with them on his plan.

"I'm trying to forge a consensus," he said "A wide agreement."

Links:

Brown's Countdown, Day 1: Plan takes on powerful redevelopment forces

Legislators, left and right, dislike Brown budget


Steinberg: 'I hate these cuts,' but we are 'out of patches'

State Budget coverage

Gov. Jerry Brown coverage

Bee colleague Jim Sanders contributed to this report.


Photo above: Senate GOP leader Bob Dutto

December 8, 2010
Pérez talks taxes, irking Republicans at budget forum

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has been talking a lot about taxes at this morning's budget forum, suggesting most recently that an income/sales tax swap should be considered again this year.

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown has stayed mostly out of it, but the chatter appears to be irking Republicans.

Republican Assembly leader Connie Conway reminded the panel that the conversation this morning was meant by Brown to define the budget deficit, not address solutions.

"I'm so glad we're not talking about solutions and raising taxes," she said.

November 5, 2010
New GOP Assembly leader Conway boosted campaign coffers

Assemblywoman Connie Conway was elected Assembly GOP leader just yesterday, but campaign finance records show she was busy boosting the campaign coffers of Assembly candidates before the vote.

In the month leading up to the leadership vote, the Tulare Republican made maximum allowable contributions to the general election campaigns of 10 potential new members, including six of the 11 freshman Republicans just elected to the Assembly. She had already donated the limit to an seventh freshman's bid and maxed out to another new member during the primary.

Conway also donated the largest amount allowed per election to several Republicans who lost competitive races, including 5th Assembly District candidate Andy Pugno and made a $3,900 contribution to the state Senate bid of Republican Assemblyman Ted Gaines.

Support of freshman members could have been crucial for Conway's triumph. Assembly leader Martin Garrick declined to run for re-election at the mandatory caucus leadership vote. Those 11 freshmen form more than a third of the 28 members of the caucus for the upcoming legislative session.

Conway spokesman Dillon Gibbons said Conway told him she simply "gave money to people who asked for it."

Campaign fundraising and electing Republican members will be a major part of Conway's job as leader. Conway, who was up for re-election in the 34th Assembly District, raised $30,800 in her campaign account between Oct. 1 and Oct. 16, roughly half of what was raised by Garrick in the same time period.

A spreadsheet of contributions reported by Conway in the month of October is posted after the jump.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

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

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

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

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

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

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