Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 12, 2014
Toni Atkins becomes California Assembly speaker

speaker.jpgIn an historic transfer of power, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins on Monday became the first openly gay woman to ascend to the head of the California Assembly.

The inauguration filled the California Assembly chambers with an audience that included a roster of past legislative leaders, statewide officials and Gov. Jerry Brown. Former speaker Karen Bass, now a member of Congress, administered the oath to Atkins.

In her first remarks as speaker, Atkins praised California's gradual return to fiscal stability, urged more investment in education and pledged to bolster California's business climate. She won applause for lauding the enrollment success of Covered California, the state's new health insurance exchange, and reiterated her commitment to two longtime goals.

"If I have a personal priority, it is reducing homelessness and making sure we have affordable housing, not just to house the homeless but for all working Californians," Atkins said.

And with budget talks set to get underway, she touched on fiscal restraint but also talked about the need to assist California's teeming ranks of low-income residents.

"We must work to ensure stability, and that includes an adequate reserve for those rainy days when the economy again takes a downward dive," Atkins said, "and yet we must also realize that where we have our greatest challenge is at the same time expanding opportunity and lifting up the most vulnerable who have suffered a great deal and need us not to forget them now. While we have made difficult decisions during the recession, they have held on with white knuckles."

Atkins, who is 51, will also be the first Assembly speaker from San Diego since the Legislature became a full-time institution. After a working class childhood in rural Virginia, Atkins moved to San Diego and began her rise through politics with a focus on affordable housing and reproductive rights. She served on the San Diego City Council and briefly served as the city's interim mayor before winning a seat in the Assembly in 2010, building a reputation as a diligent worker.

"I'm still amazed at her endless capacity to get the job done," former Sen. Christine Kehoe, Atkins' mentor and former boss, said in introductory remarks.

March 25, 2014
Pérez holds large fundraising lead in controller's race

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Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez held a 17-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over fellow Democrat Betty Yee as of mid-March in the race for state controller, according to the latest campaign filings.

Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, and Pérez are running to succeed Controller John Chiang, who is running for state treasurer.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the top Republican in the contest, only declared her candidacy earlier this month and did not file a report by Monday's deadline.

The chart below compares Pérez and Yee's fundraising totals for Jan. 1 through March 17:

PHOTO: Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, talks with reporters after it was announced that he would replace Karen Bass, right, as the new California Assembly Speaker in December 2009. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli)

March 9, 2014
Betty Yee criticizes, John A. Pérez cheers state party in controller race

perezconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Betty Yee, the state Board of Equalization member competing against Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in the Democratic race for state controller, issued a vague but stinging indictment of the state party Sunday, suggesting its leadership has become too heavy-handed and is disconnected from grassroots activists.

Her remarks, on the final day of the California Democratic Party's annual convention here, highlighted the intensity of a fight for the party's endorsement in the race, one of the most competitive statewide contests.

In delegate voting following two days of lobbying, neither Yee nor Pérez received sufficient support to win the endorsement. The speaker, with nearly 48 percent of the vote, finished ahead of Yee by just more than 3 percentage points.

In his convention speech, Pérez, a former labor organizer, recounted legislative achievements and electoral pick-ups made by Democrats in the Legislature during his tenure.

"We're expanding the map everywhere," he said. "In California, red to blue is not a slogan. It's a reality."

Without offering specific examples, Yee accused some members of the party of bullying activists "so power may remain in the hands of a few political leaders." She said "grassroots activists often are relegated to ridicule."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez addresses the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

December 11, 2013
Assembly Democrats seeking to spend most of California surplus

ha_perez_III.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez unveiled a "blueprint for a responsible budget" Wednesday that appears to spend most, if not all, of the state's projected surplus in the 2014-15 fiscal year and may conflict with Gov. Jerry Brown's priorities.

Pérez didn't place a price tag on the new spending, which he termed "investment," but said he and his fellow Assembly Democrats want to boost state aid to colleges and expand safety net services to the poor, including a boost in welfare grants.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Pérez and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, said they want to end the 2014-15 fiscal year with a $2 billion reserve and build that to as much as $10 billion over the next several years.

Mac Taylor, the Legislature's budget analyst, forecasts that without new spending, the state would end the year with a $5.6 billion surplus, thus indicating that the price tag for the Assembly's expansion plans would be at least several billion dollars.

Pérez and Skinner said they want to restore money to some programs that were slashed during recession-induced budget deficits, especially those in education and safety net services.

The new spending would include a expansion of the earned income tax credit, expanded eligibility for welfare payments to low-income workers, expanding the "CalFresh" program of food benefits, raising Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, expanding child care, and making transitional kindergarten universally available to all four-year-old children.

PHOTO: Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, speaks during a press conference on Friday, December, 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

October 9, 2013
John A. Perez announces run for state controller in 2014

20130311_HA_JUDICIARY067.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced Wednesday he will run for state controller next year.

The Los Angeles Democrat opened a campaign account the same day and funded it with $1.5 million bankrolled while in the Assembly, his political strategist, Doug Herman, said.

Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a former California Department of Finance chief deputy director, has also announced her candidacy for the office. She had about $473,000 on hand at the end of June.

The race for controller opened wide after state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who was expected to seek the seat, announced this summer he would retire from politics when his term expires in early 2015. State Controller John Chiang, who is termed out next year, is raising money for a campaign for treasurer.

Pérez said he was running for controller at a town hall meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday, and he released a statement on a campaign website.

"Balancing our books is essential, but this job is about even more. It's about promoting the financial stability that can offer every Californian the opportunity to succeed and contribute to our state's prosperity," Pérez said in the statement. "I will continue to advance smart investment decisions that help businesses, create jobs and unleash California's full potential."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, in Assembly chambers in Sacramento on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua.

October 3, 2013
Mailer: 'Thank you, Assembly Speaker.' But for what?

PEREZ.JPGA contemplative Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez gazes into the distance as an excerpt on the same page declares his legislation to expand coverage for the poor the best path to health care reform in California.

An unsuspecting reader might assume from the glossy, multipage mailer that Pérez is gearing up to run for statewide office - a suspicion further fed by the fact that the piece landed outside his Los Angeles district from San Diego to Sacramento.

"Thank you, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez," the mailer states. But for what?

The group that paid for the mailer (and at least one similar piece on behalf of Democratic Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose) says it did so to promote political allies in the fight to protect access to health care.

Lisa Maas, executive director of Californians Allied for Patient Protection, described the group's mailers as a statewide education effort to raise awareness about unspecified policies that expand access to health care.

"These legislators have been staunch supporters of these policies," Maas said.

The mailer makes only a passing reference - next to the return address - that the group behind it spends much of its time and energy protecting the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975, which capped at $250,000 jury awards for pain and suffering in malpractice suits.

Maas wouldn't say how many other mailers went out to voters or how much the group was spending on mail.

Consumer Watchdog, which is gathering signatures for an initiative that would lift the cap, is doing mailers of its own targeting doctors who contributed. At a briefing in August, Pérez said he thought the Consumer Watchdog-backed initiative was a bad idea.

Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog, described the other group's mailers as vague and odd and said they don't really address MICRA.

Court said the 'thank you' mailer was a way of having a debate without having a debate.

"It is definitely a communication designed to let legislators know they are watched and that their constituents can be reached," Court said "And that's either a gift or a threat."

"When it's a carrot, it doesn't seem so bad. But it's also letting legislators know there's a stick if they need it."

Maas said her group was proud to feature its name and logo on the mail pieces.

"These are not political pieces," she said, adding, "You can be sure we are doing the correct disclosures and doing everything right."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, listens during the last day of the legislative session in September. (The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer)

August 12, 2013
Don't turn off cell phone Amber Alerts, California officials say

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California emergency officials and the leader of the state Assembly are urging Californians not to disable emergency alerts from their cell phones, saying the rescue over the weekend of 16-year-old Hannah Anderson proves how useful the text messages can be.

An FBI agent rescued the teen from a remote wooded area of Idaho on Saturday and killed her abductor after officials had issued Amber Alerts with information about the car they believed the suspect was driving. The text alert went out on cell phones across California last Monday night, accompanied by a blaring buzz on many phone models.

The message prompted complaints from some consumers - that it was noisy, invasive, repeated too many times or hard to make sense of because the text disappeared quickly. Media reports described some people saying they would disable the alerts from their phones.

"Californians need to know that by opting out of the system they could be trading a moment's annoyance for the possibility of real harm to themselves and their families," Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, said in a phone call with reporters today.

August 5, 2013
Pérez talks transgender rights bill, San Diego mayor controversy

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said Monday he is optimistic that Gov. Jerry Brown will sign a transgender access bill as he fielded questions about the legislative agenda for the remainder of session.

The bill, AB 1266 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would allow transgender students to use the facilities and join the teams aligned with their gender identity.

How important is AB 1266? Pérez addresses that here:

Pérez also offered his take on sexual harassment allegations against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, saying his fellow Democrat is now "incapacitated."

"For the life of me, I can't figure out why the mayor has not stepped down," he said.

Pérez said he doesn't believe a recall is the best option:

July 16, 2013
Pérez meets with federal officials to enhance partnership

perezfile.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez is in Washington, D.C., this week touting an improved California economy and progress he says has been made on issues like health care and veterans' access to benefits and services.

"The whole idea here is figuring out how the state can benefit by maximizing our partnership with the federal government," Pérez said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Pérez is scheduled to meet with federal leaders, such as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and several other members of Congress. The California Legislature is currently on summer recess.

On Tuesday, he spoke to the Golden State Roundtable, a non-partisan organization of people in business, government and academia with interests in California. Pérez noted that the state's economy is much improved from when he spoke to the Golden State Roundtable last year.

Photo: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, speaks at the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 29, 2013
California Roast: the clean jokes

blumenfield.jpgClean jokes at the California Roast? There weren't very many.

Lawmakers who gathered to roast Assembly Budget Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield on Tuesday at the Red Lion Hotel tore at him and one another with glee. But very little of what they said can be repeated here.

A few of the family-friendly highlights:

"Next year's roastee will be (GOP gubernatorial hopeful) Abel Maldonado, trying out his new slogan, 'Can I please start over?'" - Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

"That was riveting, in the Bay Bridge-Caltrans sense of the word." - Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, on Steinberg's admittedly lame roast performance.

"When in doubt, call the sergeants." - Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, with advice for Assemblyman Roger Hernandez following a judge's decision to dismiss his drunk driving charge.

"You try telling Dan Logue the Legislature can't impeach Obama." - Conway again, on the difficulty of her job.

The roast benefited the California Center for Civic Participation, which works to connect teenagers with the Capitol and involve them in public policy-making.

PHOTO CREDIT: The cover of the program for the roast of Assembly Budget Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield on Tuesday, May 28, 2013.

May 16, 2013
No A's for state lawmakers from UC students

Not a single member of the California Legislature earned an A from the tough graders at the University of California Student Association, who released their first-ever legislative scorecard at the regents meeting in Sacramento Wednesday.

Not Sen. Marty Block, a former professor who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Not even Sen. Leland Yee, who holds a doctorate in psychology and takes every possible opportunity to publicly bash university management.

"As students we get a lot of grades, and we're turning the table on legislators," said Justin Chung, a grad student at UC Irvine.

The legislative scorecard is a common lobbying tool for interest groups around the Capitol. They list the bills they care about and "grade" legislators on how they voted. For UC students, important bills from last session included Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's effort to create free digital textbooks, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins' stalled bill to put polling places on every college campus and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's failed attempt to give scholarships to middle-class students by taxing out-of-state corporations.

January 30, 2013
Jerry Brown, lawmakers 'breaking bread' in series of dinners

A week after delivering his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown will hold the first of a series of dinners with lawmakers in Sacramento tonight.

Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran, said in an email that the Democratic governor is "breaking bread with legislators - renewing old friendships and starting new ones - in a series of dinners at the Governor's Mansion."

Brown is hopeful lawmakers this year will approve his budget plan and other policy initiatives, including overhauling the state's K-12 funding system modifying its signature environmental regulation.

Brown attended a reception for newly elected Assembly members in December. The Legislature this year is convening its largest freshman class since 1966.

Duran said Brown worked with legislative leaders to plan the dinners.

Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, said Pérez felt "it was important for his members to have time with the governor."

"Why not start off the year breaking bread and balancing budgets?" she said.

January 15, 2013
Assembly Speaker John Pérez hosts Stanley Cup at Capitol

photo.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez got to play King for an afternoon.

Pérez received a Los Angeles Kings jersey with his name emblazoned across the back as he welcomed the Stanley Cup to the California Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. He held the event to honor the reigning National Hockey League champion Kings, who defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games to capture their first championship.

"Entire generations have grown up mystified by the skill, the tenacity and the dedication it takes to become a world champion and earn the right to have possession of this cup," Pérez said, standing next to the gleaming silver trophy.

Pérez was flanked by Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of AEG and governor of the Los Angeles Kings, and Luc Robitaille, a Hall of Fame hockey player who is now the Kings' president for business operations.

A line of hockey fans, many of them sporting Kings colors, stretched out of the room and wrapped around the hallway.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez smiles as he receives an honorary Los Angeles Kings jersey, Jan. 15, 2013 by Jeremy B. White / Sacramento Bee.

VIDEO: AEG's Tim Leiweke, at the state Capitol with the Stanley Cup and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, talks about his company's interest in the Sacramento Kings and an arena project here.

December 17, 2012
California casts Electoral College votes for Barack Obama

MC_ELECTORAL_01.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez called to order this afternoon California's members of the Electoral College, declaring 2 p.m. to have arrived on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

Electors across the country were gathering to ratify President Barack Obama's re-election, and in his Assembly chambers, Pérez was not taking the tradition lightly.

"Each of you are partaking in a ceremony and a process unique to the American experience," he said. "Though the role of elector has changed over time, the actions you take today are a timeless expression of our Democratic values."

The vote, said Pérez, D-Los Angeles, would "memorialize forever" that California voters on Nov. 6 chose Obama.

"This is a solemn duty," Perez said, "but one we carry out with joy."

December 17, 2012
Could Howard Berman finally become Assembly speaker?

Could Howard Berman finally become the speaker of the state Assembly three decades after he lost a bruising intraparty battle for the position?

Douglas Jeffe, a veteran Los Angeles political advisor and commentator, raises the intriguing possibility in a posting on the Fox & Hounds political website.

Berman lost his San Fernando Valley congressional seat this year in an expensive battle with fellow Democrat Brad Sherman, but as it happens, the local assemblyman, Bob Blumenfield, is seeking a seat on the Los Angeles City Council next spring, and if he gets it, a special election would fill his Assembly seat. Blumenfield is a former Berman aide.

Berman, Jeffe expostulates, could run for the Assembly and if elected, could succeed John A. Pérez because Pérez will be forced out of the Assembly in two years.

There's no word on whether Berman would be interested in returning to the Assembly, where he served in the 1970s and early 1980s, leaving for Congress in 1982. His departure followed a year-long battle with the late Leo McCarthy for the speakership culminated in the election of Willie Brown, who went on to become the longest serving speaker in state history.

Were Berman to run for the Assembly, he'd have the support of fellow septuagenarian Jerry Brown. Berman was one of Brown's closest allies in the Legislature during the governor's first stint, and Brown endorsed him during the duel with Sherman this year.

December 5, 2012
Perez, Steinberg set sights on lieutenant governor bid in 2018

Termed out of their California legislative posts in two years, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg are finding themselves on a collision course for higher office.

Pérez opened a campaign committee last Friday to raise funds for a possible bid for lieutenant governor in 2018, creating the specter of a same-party fight with Steinberg, who opened a similar committee early last year.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will be termed out in 2018, creating a vacancy for a position likely to be filled by a Democrat because of the party's dominance in voter registration statewide.

Doug Herman, Pérez's political strategist, said the Los Angeles lawmaker is considering the lieutenant governor post among his "serious options" for continuing public service after leaving the Assembly.

But creation of an exploratory committee does not obligate either Pérez or Steinberg to run for lieutenant governor.

"Six years is a lifetime in politics," Herman said. "I don't expect the two of those guys to run against each other."

Steinberg, a Sacramentan, currently has more than a half-million dollars in his lieutenant governor campaign coffers, while Pérez's newly created committee has not yet reported any donations.

Under California term limits, Steinberg would be ineligible to run for the Legislature after 2014. Pérez is not barred from seeking a state Senate seat and could serve up to eight years there.

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."

November 7, 2012
Assembly speaker says he has supermajority in lower house

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said tonight that Democrats have secured a supermajority in the lower house, a surprising development that could give the party the ability to raise taxes on their own if the Senate follows suit.

Democratic candidates led their GOP opponents in two swing Assembly districts early Wednesday morning, and an upset was brewing in a race between Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva and GOP Assemblyman Chris Norby. Quirk-Silva led Norby by 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent in the 65th Assembly District with 100 percent of precincts reporting. The difference amounts to 1,004 votes.

"This just gives us 54 people that we know are going to come together on day one to focus on improving the economy," Pérez said.

While Senate Democrats emphasized early and often their goal was to claim a two-thirds supermajority in the upper house, there was relatively little expectation the same would occur in the Assembly this year.

Gov. Jerry Brown asked voters for statewide tax hikes in Proposition 30 largely because he couldn't get them in the Legislature, where Republican votes were necessary for two-thirds approval. That may no longer be true.

"Let's be very clear," Pérez said. "This is something that nobody expected to be possible."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said early Wednesday he was not ready to declare victory but felt "very good" about his prospects for taking two-thirds control of the upper house.

Democrats only need to win one of three swing seats for that to happen, and two of those are in Los Angeles County, where results are lagging other parts of the state. If Democrats take both houses by a supermajority, it would be the first time a party has done that since 1933, Steinberg said.

"If we get there, and it's certainly possible, we will use it but also govern with humility," Steinberg said. "It's an even larger responsibility."

One irony: the two-house supermajority may have come on a night when Democrats asked voters for tax increases largely because they lacked the two-thirds control to do so on their own.

At least one Senate Democrat won a congressional seat Tuesday - Sen. Juan Vargas - so Democrats may need to win a special election before they can claim two-thirds control.

Kevin Yamamura contributed to this report.

September 21, 2012
Speaker Pérez to appear in reading of show about Prop. 8 trial

Two years after making an in-name-only cameo in the trial over California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is preparing to play a new role in the legal saga surrounding Proposition 8.

The Los Angeles Democrat announced today that he will participate next month in a reading of "8," a play about Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the challenge of the 2008 constitutional amendment now heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. He'll share the stage at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre with award-winning actors Dustin Lance Black and Holland Taylor.

Pérez will play Stanford Professor Gary Segura, who made the case during the 2010 court proceedings that gays and lesbians are underrepresented and targeted in the political process. As part of the cross-examination by Proposition 8 attorneys, Segura was pressed on whether Pérez's own role as the first openly gay Assembly speaker undercut his argument.

In a statement, Pérez praised the reading as an "opportunity to help tell a powerful story of a victory celebrated by LGBT People, and people of conscience all over the country."

"As someone whose own rights were taken away by Proposition 8, and Proposition 22 before it, I am deeply honored to be participating in a production that brilliantly and vividly captures the critical moments of the trial that led to Judge Vaughn Walker's groundbreaking ruling," he said of the federal judge's finding that the ban is unconstitutional.

Proceeds from the Oct. 7 performance will go to American Foundation for Equal Rights, which supports the legal case against the ban.

August 31, 2012
California scholarship tax deal dead for year

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's proposal to raise taxes on out-of-state firms for college scholarships is dead for the year, his office said Friday night after huddling with Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

The speaker wanted to tighten a corporate tax formula to generate $1 billion, most of which would go toward reducing tuition at California State University and the University of California. In a final-week struggle to win the necessary supermajority support, Pérez negotiated with Senate Republicans and moderate Democrats.

The proposed framework became unwieldy, sweeping in parts of other politically challenging proposals dealing with forestry regulations and Healthy Families coverage for lower-income families. Senate negotiators also sought exemptions for select companies, including tobacco firm Altria, according to sources.

Pérez officials would not verify which exemptions were in play but said the carve-outs had reduced the tax revenues too much in the end.

An hour before a midnight end-of-session deadline, a revival of Healthy Families appeared unlikely to pass on its own. A standalone lumber tax bill to pay for forestry regulatory activities and reduce wildfire liability also was in doubt.

August 31, 2012
Corporate tax hike campaign criticizes tobacco exemption

A well-financed initiative campaign for a corporate tax change similar to one being negotiated in the Capitol suggested Friday night that it may continue seeking voter approval if lawmakers grant an exemption for tobacco firms.

Backers of Proposition 39, including billionaire hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer, previously agreed to drop their effort if Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez could negotiate a change in the Capitol that would result in out-of-state firms paying higher taxes. Perez's proposal is designed to raise $1 billion, most of which would reduce tuition at California's public universities.

But a framework being negotiated with Senate Republicans and moderate Democrats could contain an exemption for out-of-state tobacco firms by classifying them as agricultural companies. The Proposition 39 campaign said in response to a Bee inquiry that the exemption was never part of its agreement to drop its campaign.

If both the legislative change and Proposition 39 pass, the initiative would likely take precedence.

"We're in the dark, like everyone else," said Alexa Bluth, spokeswoman for Proposition 39. "We agreed to drop our campaign if the tax loophole was closed for middle-class college scholarships. We did not agree to end the campaign for a partial-fix that also subsidizes Big Tobacco. We obviously hope the rumors aren't true, but we haven't seen a bill or any language yet."

August 28, 2012
Assembly sends public-safety death benefit measure to governor

The Assembly sent to the governor today legislation that would double the statute of limitations for families of police and firefighters to file for job-related death benefits that can exceed $300,000.

Assembly Bill 2451 cleared its final legislative hurdle, 51-18, when the Assembly concurred in amendments. Most Democrats supported the measure, while many Republicans opposed it.

The bill by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez would allow families to file for death benefits for up to nine years after the diagnosis of a job-caused illness or injury to a public safety official.

AB 2451 would apply to deaths from cancer, tuberculosis, blood-borne infectious diseases and what are commonly called MSRA skin infections, ailments presumed by law to be job-related when they afflict police or firefighters.

August 27, 2012
Assembly Democrats target four races for November election

Rancho Cordova City Councilman Ken Cooley is running in one of four California Assembly races that are being targeted by Democrats as priorities for funding and other assistance in the November election.

Besides Cooley, the other Democrats identified by Speaker John A. Pérez for campaign assistance are Rudy Salas in Kern and Kings counties; Jose Medina, Riverside County and Moreno Valley; and Al Muratsuchi, Los Angeles' south bay.

The California Democratic Party, beginning this week, will move $150,000 into each of the four competitive races, begin field operations, and launch paid media advertising efforts, according to Perez.

The Assembly leader, in a prepared statement, said the four candidates will stress a "powerful message of restoring opportunity for the people" and will remind voters that Democrats represent "the party of solutions."

Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in the Assembly by a large margin, 52-27, with one seat held by an independent legislator. Democrats would need to gain two additional seats to reach the supermajority necessary to approve tax increases.

Cooley, who works as a legislative staffer, captured 43 percent of the District 8 vote in the June primary. Republican Peter Tateishi, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, qualified for the November ballot by garnering 23.4 percent.

August 21, 2012
Democratic lawmakers urge legislative leaders to lay off CEQA

In the middle of an end-of-session bid to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act, 33 Democratic lawmakers urged legislative leaders in a letter released today to oppose any significant re-writing of the law.

"Like many important laws, CEQA is not perfect and could probably be improved while retaining its many benefits - but only if such improvements are undertaken in a good faith process and are crafted very carefully," said the letter, delivered today to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, both Democrats. "Unfortunately, the proposals we have seen and heard about reflect major changes that have not been vetted and are being advanced by special interests in an end-of-session power play."

The letter's release follows a business group's airing Monday of proposed changes to the law, California's signature environmental protection. In a proposal resembling draft legislation circulating at the Capitol, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other business interests are calling to exempt from CEQA projects that comply with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done.

Following the letter's delivery, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he has collected one more signature - from Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena - bringing the total number of signers to 34.

"This is the biggest blow to environmental laws in many years and it's being pushed through at the last minute," Huffman said. "And I just think we need to make sure that the whole world is watching."

Steinberg said Monday that he expects a CEQA-limiting bill to come up in the Assembly before the end of the legislative session. He said he is a "strong believer in the importance of our environmental laws" but is open to discussion.

Robin Swanson, Pérez's spokeswoman, said Pérez wants to protect CEQA while encouraging job creation.

"Any reforms that are adopted would be those that are good both for the environment and for job creation," she said. "It's all about finding a balance that makes sense."

CEQA Letter

Jim Sanders of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

August 8, 2012
California Assembly unveils new committee, caucus leaders

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced a spate of leadership and policy committee changes Wednesday, less than a month before the Legislature adjourns its regular session for the year.

Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, will assume the chairmanship of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee beginning Friday, shortly before the panel decides the fate of scores of Senate bills.

Other key changes in committee chairmanships, all involving Democrats, include these:

Joan Buchanan of Alamo taking control of the Education Committee;
Das Williams of Santa Barbara, Higher Education;
Felipe Fuentes of Los Angeles, Revenue and Taxation;
Bob Wieckowski of Fremont, Judiciary;
Rich Gordon of Menlo Park, Business, Professions and Consumer Protection;
Michael Allen of Santa Rosa, Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security;
• and Ben Hueso of San Diego, Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

All changes in Assembly committee chairs will take effect Friday, including two involving Sacramento Democrats: Roger Dickinson will lead the Banking and Finance Committee, while Richard Pan will assume the gavel of the Health Committee.

August 1, 2012
California Democrat writing bill to ban state contracts with tax foes

On the same week Proposition 39 backers attacked four companies for opposing a corporate tax change, a Democratic lawmaker is writing legislation to ban state contracts with such out-of-state firms.

Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, has drafted amendments that attempt to end state contracts with companies that legally choose to pay taxes under a longstanding formula that out-of-state companies generally find more beneficial. His proposal, Senate Bill 911, would also authorize the state Franchise Tax Board to disclose which formula companies use to calculate their taxes, information currently shielded under taxpayer privacy laws.

State lawmakers in 2009 allowed corporations to choose between two different formulas - one based solely on a firm's sales in California, which tends to be more favorable to in-state companies; or a formula that also accounts for property and payroll, some form of which has been in place for decades.

Democrats since 2009 have tried to require all companies to move to the sales-based formula, which the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates would generate $1 billion in additional taxes, mostly from out-of-state firms. California is unique in allowing firms to choose the cheaper of two formulas rather than making one system mandatory. Business groups have argued that the state should not raise taxes on any companies in this economy because they provide jobs in California even if based elsewhere.

June 22, 2012
Got budget deal? Now Assembly boss can fly to Disney World

Where does an Assembly leader go after a budget deal is reached?

To Disney World, of course.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is flying to Florida's world-famous resort to participate in a panel discussion Saturday at the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney are headliners of the three-day event, which began Thursday in Orlando and ends Saturday evening. Pérez will participate in a panel discussion during the event's congressional leadership luncheon.

Perez's spokesman, John Vigna, squashed a rumor Thursday that the speaker's Florida commitment would keep lawmakers from voting on a final package of budget bills this weekend.

Crafting and fine-tuning of the bills would have consumed the weekend anyhow, Vigna said.

Vigna said that Pérez had committed himself to the conference a long time ago and that the speaker plans to return in plenty of time to vote on the budget package early next week.

Whistling a Disney tune, perhaps.

April 18, 2012
Stalled mortgage bills headed for joint conference committee

Opposed by powerful business and finance groups, key mortgage reform bills sponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris are headed for a joint legislative conference committee.

The six-member conference committee will consist of two Democrats and one Republican from each house, according to multiple legislative aides who had been notified of the plan.

The maneuver would be a way to discuss amendments and move the legislation, considered lynchpins of Harris' mortgage reform plan, to the Assembly and Senate floors without a vote by finance committees.

March 27, 2012
John A. Pérez launches fight to alter tax formula for scholarships

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is drumming up public support for legislation touted as a billion-dollar relief plan for college students that is sure to be a Democratic centerpiece this year.

"This addresses the challenge of the middle class getting squeezed out," Pérez said today of his push to alter corporate tax law and divert money generated to students at colleges and universities.

While saving students money, Pérez's plan would raise taxes on out-of-state companies like Detroit automakers and cigarette-maker Altria by requiring that multistate companies calculate tax liability based on the portion of sales in California.

Pérez pitched his "middle-class scholarship" plan to The Bee's editorial board today, accompanied by three students who described the toll that soaring college fees are taking on their education, prospects and pocketbook.

The Assembly leader said his billion-dollar plan would cut fees by two-thirds for families earning under $150,000 per year - from $5,970 to $1,970 at California State Universities, and from $12,192 to $4,023 a the University of California.

Community colleges would receive $150 million statewide. Districts would decide how to spend it, in ways that could range from expanding the use of fee waivers to providing grants for buying books or other educational materials.

Pérez's package is designed to ease costs to students, primarily through scholarships, but it would not force colleges and universities to lower their fees or prevent them from increasing in the future.

February 10, 2012
Perez: Corporations not people 'until Texas executes one'

SAN DIEGO -- Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez may be nowhere more popular than at a labor caucus meeting at a Democratic convention, and so it was that he received a standing ovation here this afternoon and tried out a one-liner on the crowd.

"This year you've seen Mitt Romney and others talk about the fact that corporations are people," the former labor organizer said. "I won't believe corporations are people until Texas executes one of them."

Labor interests are a major force in the California Democratic Party, and as party activists arrived in San Diego today for their annual convention, Pérez said defeating a so-called "paycheck protection" measure is more important than any candidate election this year.

The ballot initiative would block unions and corporations from using automatic payroll deductions for political purposes. Supporters of the initiative say it will curb the influence of special interests in elections, while labor unions say it is a targeted effort to reduce their political clout. Labor unions spent millions of dollars helping Gov. Jerry Brown defeat billionaire Meg Whitman in the 2010 election.

"This ballot measure is a fraud, it's phony and it's a lie," said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation. "Imagine, just for a moment, a California where your mouths were taped the next time a Meg Whitman ran for governor."

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said Democrats will "fight like hell" to defeat the measure.

"Thank you, brothers and sisters," he said. "It is good to be in the house of labor."

January 18, 2012
VIDEO: Steinberg, Pérez on future of high-speed rail

Gov. Jerry Brown wants the green light to move forward with construction of California's proposed bullet train.

The Democratic governor called on the Legislature to approve funding for the high-speed rail project today, telling lawmakers in his State of the State address that a revised business plan that will allow construction on the project to start by the end of the year will be released within weeks.

Despite ongoing criticisms about the cost and blueprint for the voter-approved rail project, Democratic legislative leaders appear poised to back the governor's commitment to the bullet train.

See why Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg support the project and where they stand on the question of where to start laying the track in this video from their Capitol press conference today.

January 6, 2012
California Assembly releases member budgets under court order

Complying with a court order, the California Assembly released thousands of pages of documents about its members' expenditures today that it fought against providing to the public.

The documents detail budgets and spending by each of the Assembly's 80 members. The data should enable the public to better determine what portion of committee funds are used for lawmakers' personal staff.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley ordered the records to be released in a lawsuit filed by The Bee and Los Angeles Times. Frawley issued a tentative ruling in December, which the Assembly did not contest.

"How the government spends the public's money is an area of profound interest," said attorney Rochelle Wilcox, who represented the newspapers in the fight over interpretation of California's Legislative Open Records Act.

Documents released by the Assembly "provide significant information about Assembly spending of tens of millions of dollars annually," Wilcox said.

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown's budget glitch ... or his commitment to punctuality

Jerry Brown 1 5 2012 California Budget.JPEG-01c6.JPGIt was only a few hours and one computer glitch ago that Gov. Jerry Brown was freely dodging questions about his annual spending plan, telling reporters this morning to wait for its release next week.

"You got enough for today," the Democratic governor said after meeting with county officials in Sacramento. "This is a budget, it's got hundreds of pages. I want you guys to read it."

Sooner than later, it turned out.

"Due to a tech glitch, the state budget was posted to a public website today," Brown spokesman Gil Duran said on Twitter this afternoon. "Therefore, we will roll it out at 2:30 p.m. in (Room) 1190."

According to state Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer, a budget document that was intended to be uploaded to an internal site was instead posted mistakenly on the state's public budget website,

The document was up for only about an hour this morning, but, Palmer said, "in this day and age, you can't put that toothpaste back in the tube."

The administration seemed to take it in stride. When asked after Brown's news conference to explain what had happened, Finance Director Ana Matosantos said, "The budget got released, and I think we're about done."

Upstairs at the Capitol, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, was even spinning it for Brown.

"The governor is so committed to an on-time budget," Pérez said, "that he's even five days ahead of himself."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the cuts he has already made to help reduce the state's budget deficit from nearly $20 billion last year to a gap of about $9.2 billion as he unveiled his proposed $92.5 billion 2012-13 state budget at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)

November 14, 2011
Assembly Speaker John A. Perez names new chief of staff

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has promoted one of his chief consultants, Greg Campbell, to serve as chief of staff.

Campbell will replace Sara Ramirez Giroux, whose title will change to a chief consultant for Pérez, D-Los Angeles.

Prior to the job changes, Campbell's annual salary was $134,628 and Giroux's was $190,000. The two essentially will switch salaries as well as job titles: Campbell will receive $190,000 and Giroux about $136,000, said Robin Swanson, Pérez 's spokeswoman.

Officials of the speaker's office could not be reached immediately for comment today.

Campbell, 38, has served in leadership roles for each of the past four Assembly speakers, all Democrats.

A graduate of the University of California, Davis, Campbell has helped to develop numerous state budgets, helped manage Assembly operations, and assisted on issues related to pension reform, health-care reform, workers compensation law, raising California's minimum wage, and labor and workforce development.

Campbell also has served as a member of California's Employment Training Panel. At UCD, he played football with one of the current assemblymen, Republican Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita, according to a press release from Pérez's office.

October 6, 2011
Assembly underreporting personal staff costs, study concludes

The California Assembly underreports spending on personal staff in a way that clouds how the lower house spends its $146.7 million budget, a computer analysis by a Stanford-based nonprofit group announced today.

The findings by California Common Sense mirror a similar analysis by The Bee, which concluded that more than 170 personal staff salaries are being paid by committee funds and an additional 70 by leadership stipends. The augmentations exceeded $10 million for the first eight months of the legislative year.

Under the Assembly's method of accounting for salaries and reporting expenditures to the public, personal staff salary is "artificially inflated," California Common Sense said in a written statement.

"As more data comes to light, it becomes clearer that Assembly leadership is not presenting an accurate account of spending," said Dakin Sloss, executive director of the Stanford-based watchdog group.

Jon Waldie, Assembly administrator, has said that placing various Capitol office aides on a committee payroll is neither unreasonable nor unusual because duties tend to overlap at the Capitol.

California Common Sense analyzed roster and payroll data covering the first eight months of the current legislative year, from December 2010 through July 2011.

The Assembly balked recently at releasing member-by-member budgets, sparking a lawsuit by The Bee and the Los Angeles Times in an attempt to force disclosure.

Sloss characterized his group as nonpartisan. Its chairman is Joe Lonsdale, a Bay Area investor and entrepreneur. Donors include the Passport Foundation, Matthew Fournier, Processing Pledge, Koret Foundation, Draper Foundation and Charles T. Munger Jr.

The Bee found that the transfer of personal aides to committee payrolls allows some legislators to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more to run their offices than are reported as member expenditures.

October 4, 2011
Pérez cancels furloughs for Portantino's staff

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has canceled an order to furlough the staff of Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.

Portantino had been informed by the Assembly Rules Committee in July that his staff would be put on leave without pay this fall because of projections that his office would run tens of thousands of dollars over budget. The La Cañada-Flintridge Democrat disputed the stated reason for the cut, saying he was being punished for being the lone Assembly Democrat to vote against the state budget package approved earlier.

Pérez's office announced today that the furloughs were no longer needed "in light of two staff departures, and the requests of two additional staff members for leaves of absence."

"The Speaker again expressed his disappointment at Mr. Portantino's continued refusal to cooperate in resolving his office budget issues, and noted that any staff hires, including replacement hires, must be accompanied by a spending plan that details how Mr. Portantino's expenditures will remain within his allocation," Pérez communications director Robin Swanson said in a statement.

Portantino responded with a release trumpeting that he "CLAIMS VICTORY" on behalf of his constituents.

"Though I am thrilled for my staff and district, I am disappointed that the Speaker is holding on to the delusion that this was anything but retaliation for my independent budget vote," he said in the statement. "It never made any sense to single out my staff and the half-million residents of the 44th A.D. because I voted my conscience."

The dust-up over cuts to Portantino's budget sparked months of public feuding between the two Assembly Democrats and triggered a broader push for disclosure of office spending information, including a lawsuit filed by The Bee. After initially denying requests from Portantino and several news outlets, the Assembly released office budgets in August. Portantino remained unsatisfied, accusing leaders of "cooking the books" to mislead the public about the lower house expenditures.

The announcement canceling the furloughs came hours after Portantino took yet another public swipe at the speaker over the Assembly's budgeting practices.

October 4, 2011
Portantino takes swipe at Pérez's transparency task force

Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino is ramping up his ongoing feud with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, calling for the lower house leader to shed more light on his proposed transparency task force.

Pérez announced in August that he planned to create a committee to review legislative open records practices in the wake of growing pressure to disclose more information about the Assembly's spending, including a lawsuit filed by The Bee and the Los Angeles Times. Pérez said at the time that the task force would issue a proposal for updating policies by early next year.

Both the Assembly and the Senate released office spending information in late August. But Portantino, who has sparred with the speaker over his own budget, says action by the task force has yet to occur -- at least in the public realm.

October 3, 2011
Assembly to transfer $1.2 million to secretary of state's office

The California Assembly announced today that it will use a $1.2 million budget surplus to help the office of Secretary of State Debra Bowen speed up the processing of business filings.

The funding shift will be used to "confront the massive delay in the processing of business filings" by helping the office tackle a backlog of nearly 200,000 documents, according to a release from Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

"This money will pay for my staff to work overtime on weekends to reduce this backlog, and help new and existing businesses do what they need to do to comply with state law," Bowen said in a statement.

Pérez touted move as an example of the lower house's ongoing effort to "find ways to tighten our belt and spend what funding we have on smart, value-driven solutions that create jobs and increase California's economic output."

August 15, 2011
Speaker John Pérez forms legislative records task force

Under pressure from a state assemblyman and newspaper publishers to make more legislative spending records public, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said this afternoon that he is forming a task force on the matter.

The announcement followed Assemblyman Anthony Portantino's proposal to strip Perez of the power to set Assembly members' budgets and to assign their offices.

Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, accused Pérez of reducing his office budget as punishment for opposing the state budget's passage, and he proposed requiring the Assembly to make information about spending and contracts public.

July 7, 2011
Pérez calls for more disclosure of Latino Caucus fund donors

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has asked the chairman of the Latino Legislative Caucus to hold a meeting to "address the disclosure of donors, as well as broader governance issues" in the wake of questions surrounding contributions to the group's nonprofit foundation.

In a letter dated today to Democratic Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, who chairs the 23-member caucus, Pérez wrote that he is "deeply concerned" about the lack of transparency regarding donors to the Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation. As The Bee reported last week, the foundation -- which is not required by law to report contributors -- stopped the practice of disclosing its donors two years ago.

Mendoza released a partial list of large donors today, after issuing a statement Wednesday to respond to criticism that did not include the contributors. The speaker wrote in the letter that the initial statement "did nothing to address my concerns," indicating that he had reached an understanding with the group Wednesday that members would promptly move forward with disclosure.

In response to the list of seven contributors released today, Pérez spokeswoman Robin Swanson said the speaker is still asking Mendoza to report the remaining donors from 2009 and 2010 and to set up a formal policy and process for continuing disclosure.

The full letter is posted below:

Perez letter to Mendoza

Related stories:

Latino Caucus discloses some donors to its nonprofit fund

Veil drawn on donors to Latino caucus-controlled California nonprofit

June 27, 2011
Jerry Brown, Democratic leaders announce budget deal

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders announced today that they have reached an agreement on a new majority-vote budget plan.

"We've had some tough discussions, but I can tell you that the Democrats in both the Senate and the Assembly have now joined with the administration and myself and we have a very good plan going forward with the budget," Brown said at a press conference in his office this afternoon.

The proposal, outlined in this post, assumes that the state will bring in an additional $4 billion in revenues in the upcoming fiscal year, based in part on higher-than-expected revenue figures in recent months. If those revenues fail to materialize, steeper cuts to programs including K-12 schools, higher education, public safety programs and In-Home Supportive Services would occur later in the year.

"We have severe trigger cuts that will be triggered and go into effect (without the projected revenues)," Brown said. "And those are real."

Brown vetoed the majority-vote budget that lawmakers approved ahead of the Legislature's June 15 budget deadline, calling the package of spending cuts, funding shifts and one-time fixes "not a balanced solution." Legislators have also lost their pay in the wake of Controller John Chiang's decision that the plan approved earlier this month fails to meet the requirements for pay under the voter-approved initiative allowing the budget to be passed with a majority vote.

The governor, who has been working for months to secure Republican votes needed to hold a statewide election on expiring higher tax rates, said without a deal on his original proposal, leaders will have to "look very seriously" at using the initiative process to qualify a measure to secure future revenues.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said Brown and Democrats "have not wavered in our belief that new revenues are essential" to balance the budget over the long term.

"The conversation has been started and we will keep that conversation going as we move to the ballot next year," Pérez said.

Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton criticized the plan unveiled today as a "hope without change" budget.

"This latest budget is based on the hope that $4 billion in new revenues will miraculously materialize, but does absolutely nothing to change government as usual," he said in a statement.

Read more about the plan here.

June 16, 2011
Democratic leaders come out firing against Jerry Brown

UPDATE 6:43 p.m. to add video of the Democratic legislative leaders press conference

The state's two Democratic legislative leaders parted ways with Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday after he swiftly vetoed their budget plan, saying they were "deeply dismayed" by the governor's action in a hastily called Capitol press conference.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, blamed Republicans for not agreeing to a bipartisan deal to extend taxes. But the two leaders also took shots at Brown and said the governor's inability to secure enough GOP votes forced their hand.

"We are too far down the road for the governor to continue avoiding a specific proposal or specific set of proposals of what he intends to do or wants to be done if he can't gain those Republican votes," Steinberg said. "Governor, over the next two weeks, if you can't get the Republican votes, give us your specific changes to the budget that we passed yesterday that can be adopted by a majority vote."

"The governor's constant references to his January proposal ring hollow if he is unable to deliver Republican votes," Steinberg concluded.

Scroll down to see Hector Amezcua's video of their news conference.

Republicans praised Brown's immediate veto Thursday, but they denied that they were the cause of the state's budget woes.

Four Republicans who had been negotiating with Brown - Senators Tom Berryhill, Anthony Cannella, Bill Emmerson and Tom Harman - issued the following statement: "While the Governor did the right thing by vetoing the Democrats sham budget, we challenge his assertion that Republicans have blocked the right of the people to vote. In fact, it's the Democrats who are holding California hostage by refusing to allow the voters to weigh in on meaningful structural reforms -- not just Governor Brown's tax proposal.

June 1, 2011
Pérez , others, punch lines at raunchy California Roast

From the moment Assemblyman Tom Ammiano asked if anyone had an "objection to the f-bomb," it was clear that the tone of last night's roast of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez would be more appropriate for "The Hangover" than the Assembly floor.

The San Francisco Democrat and stand-up comedian and his fellow roasters, emcee Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Democratic Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, GOP Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and former GOP Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, didn't hold back when it came to cracking jokes at the expense of the Los Angeles Democrat. Or one another... or their current and former colleagues under the dome.

The smutty stand-up routines weren't the only entertainment on tap at The California Center for Civic Participation's annual event to benefit programs to engage youth in policy-making and political issues.

Former Assembly Speakers Herb Wesson, Karen Bass and Antonio Villaraigosa, cousin to the current speaker, starred in a spoof of the "It Get Better" video series, highlighting the benefits of life after giving up the speaker's gavel. And a trio of costumed assemblymembers -- Democrats Isadore Hall, Fiona Ma and Nancy Skinner -- performed a tone-deaf but spirited rendition of "Johnny's Got a Gun," a riff on recent coverage of the gun policies in the Assembly and the speaker's own firearm ownership.

Many of the swipes at Pérez were R- (and even XXX-) rated, with the bulk of the raunchy jokes hitting the Los Angeles Democrat's weight, race and sexual orientation. But we've collected a handful of the, well, printable lines that drew laughs from the crowd of more than 600 attendees below.

"Did you know that John Pérez actually tried out for The Biggest Loser TV show? Not surprisingly it didn't go well. He kept letting the team with the purple shirts win," Strickland on Pérez, referring to the purple-shirted SEIU protestors who frequent the Capitol.

"You know why he supported the Dream Act? Because he once had a dream he graduated from Berkeley," Blumenfield on recent media scrutiny over false statements that Pérez graduated from college.

"John is a godfather to many of us. A fairy godfather," Ammiano on Pérez.

"Connie trying to convince us that she's blonde is like Tim Donnelly trying to convince us he's going to have a second term," Smyth on Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway and freshman GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelley.

"Darrell is leading the anti-circumcision movement in San Francisco. It's linked to the all-cuts budget," Ammiano on Steinberg.

"Seriously John, if you vote for that tax on sugary goods, it would be just like Charlie Sheen voting on a tax on porn and meth," Strickland on Pérez.

"Working with Tom on legislation is always fun. It's gay rights, it's marijuana. This man is a walking Mardi Gras," Steinberg on Ammiano.

"Until the Chilean miners, Darrell was top runner for biggest caveman of 2010," Pérez on Steinberg's negotiating skills.

"I'm surprised we have Cameron's attention. It's usually in the mirror," Ammiano on Smyth.

"There's a list of press in Washington D.C., and Jim Sanders' name isn't on it," Democratic Rep. Karen Bass referring to The Bee's Jim Sanders, who covers the Assembly, in the "It Gets Better" spoof.

"In his first race he ran against the original Tea Party.... No one's asking to see this governor's birth certificate because they're worried it would crumble if it was exposed to air," Blumenfield on Gov. Jerry Brown's senior status.

"Everybody wants to know if Arnold used state money for his tryst. I don't know. But I can think of some government funds he should have tapped into: Planned Parenthood," Steinberg on former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent scandal.

"I was going through the Capitol this morning and chatting with a visitor and he said, 'You know, I always feel like we're getting screwed by legislators who don't know what they're doing.' And I was like, 'Tell me about it, it happens to me every night,'" Strickland, who is married to GOP Sen. Tony Strickland.

May 20, 2011
Pérez accepts 'full responsibility' for accounts of UCB degree

PerezPhoto.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez is accepting "full responsibility" for mischaracterizations in recent years that he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Los Angeles Democrat's Assembly Web site says he "attended" UC Berkeley but does not indicate whether he got a degree. In a written statement, he said he regrets not doing enough to correct accounts that he graduated.

"I take full responsibility for this mistake, and I regret it," Pérez said.

Robin Swanson, Perez's spokeswoman, said today that he left UC Berkeley for financial and family reasons after attending for about four years.

The issue was raised this week in a report by California Watch, which noted numerous occasions that Perez did not appear to challenge public statements or press releases that said he is a UC graduate.

California Watch reported that:

• In 2004, U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis inserted remarks in the Congressional Record that included the sentence, "After graduating from the University of California Berkeley, John began working on designing and organizing education programs."

• Over a number of years, three biographies distributed by the Los Angeles mayor's identified Perez as a UC Berkeley graduate, as did a press release from then-Gov. Gray Davis when he was named to a state elections board.

In his written statement late Thursday night, Perez said that he takes responsibility not only for the initial mischaracterization but "any other mischaracterizations about this that I or others may have made."

When Perez was named Assembly speaker in December 2009, his office did not try to hide his educational background. In response to a question from The Bee, aides said he attended but did not graduate from the school.

"I was surprised that these questions were raised because over the last several years as a candidate and legislator, I have worked to correct the record," Perez's statement said about the California Watch report.

"But obviously I wasn't diligent enough," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, talks about the California budget at the state Capitol on Tuesday, May 11, 2010. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

May 4, 2011
Vernon to Pérez: You want records? Pay up

How much are California taxpayers willing to spend to dissolve the state's tiniest city?

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is seeking piles of municipal records that Vernon city officials contend would cost millions in state funds to collect and copy.

Vernon's official response: Send us a $200,000 down payment to reproduce the most extensive documents, Speaker Pérez, and we'll be happy to comply.

Shannon Murphy, Pérez's spokeswoman, said the city's cost estimate is absurd and that the Assembly leader is not willing to spend big bucks for public information. Perhaps a compromise can be found, such as sending an Assembly aide and electronic scanner to Vernon to assist the records search, she said.

The fight marks the latest twist in Pérez's bid to dissolve California's smallest city, a Los Angeles County municipality with fewer than 100 residents, because of what Pérez characterizes as a long history of corruption by city officials.

April 26, 2011
LA labor, business groups come out against Vernon dissolution

Two powerful Los Angeles groups are turning thumbs down on legislation to dissolve the tiny city of Vernon that is being pushed by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and is co-authored by nearly 100 of the state's 120 legislators.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is announcing its opposition to Assembly Bill 46 today, and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is opposed to the measure unless it can be amended to preserve existing union jobs in Vernon.

"There is great anxiety about the long-term viability of (businesses) if Vernon if disincorporated and becomes a part of unincorporated Los Angeles County or is annexed by an adjacent city," the chamber wrote to Pérez.

Major changes proposed by the Vernon business community should be given a chance to transform the city's governance before disincorporation is considered, the chamber's letter said.

AB 46 cleared its first legislature hurdle without a no vote this month, passing the Assembly Local Government Committee, 8-0.

Pérez, in targeting Vernon, contends that the city is riddled with corruption and that its leaders have created a perpetual ruling class because the city owns and controls who lives in many of the several dozen housing units within its 5 square miles.

Vernon sparked headlines last year for the indictment of former city manager Donal O'Callaghan on conflict of interest charges, and for a probe by the attorney general's office into issues that included massive pay for the city's leaders in years past.

Only about 100 people live in Vernon, but more than 50,000 work in the unusual city, which was designed as an industrial hub and incorporated in 1905.


Labor Fed Letter

April 8, 2011
Pérez asks sergeant to revoke members' gun permission

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has asked the lower house's chief sergeant-at-arms to revoke authorization several members were given to carry concealed firearms in the Capitol "pending a full review of safety and security measures."

The request came hours after The Bee first reported that Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Ronald Pane had granted four members special permission to carry weapons under the dome and in legislative office buildings.

Perez spokesman John A. Vigna said in a written statement:

"The Speaker does not believe that members should bring weapons into the Capitol because the job of protecting the men and women who visit and work in the Capitol is best left to the well trained professionals in the Sergeant's office and the California Highway Patrol. The Speaker has asked members to work with his office to review safety and security concerns they may have about their district offices. The safety of the men and women who visit the Capitol, as well as their representative's district office is the highest priority for the Speaker."

March 25, 2011
Pérez, Padilla among '10 Latino Politicians to Watch'

PerezPhoto.JPGCalifornia elected officials snagged three out of 10 spots on a new list of Latino politicians to watch that's been compiled by MSNBC.

Two Los Angeles legislators -- Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla -- were named rising stars from the increasingly influential voting bloc.

The list cast Padilla, who is termed out of the Senate in 2014, as on a clear path to Congress, writing "he has the makings of a Washington power player."

Of Pérez, who was recognized for being an openly gay Latino politician, the site wrote: "If he keeps up his ambitious political track record, he may soon become more of a household name."

Former Democratic Rep. Hilda Solis, who now serves as President Barack Obama's labor secretary, also made the list. The post notes that Solis, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Senate, "doesn't show signs of slowing down any time soon."

Click here to see a gallery of the full list.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, talks about the California budget at the state Capitol on Tuesday, May 11, 2010. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

March 24, 2011
Lawmakers urge Californians to dig deep -- for Japan relief

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and the Legislature's Asian Pacific Islander Caucus are urging Californians to support efforts of a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit organization to raise emergency funds for Japan.

The politicians appeared at a Capitol press conference today to support Direct Relief International, which is teaming with the Japanese American Citizens League to provide emergency supplies.

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, called Japan's recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear threat a "disaster of epic proportions" and the "worst crisis to hit Japan since the second World War."

"As Californians, we've had our share of natural disasters and we understand how horrific the costs can be, not only in dollars and cents but more importantly in human terms," Pérez said.

"Lives have been ended, families torn apart, homes washed away by not only the earthquake but the ensuing tsunami," he said.

Thomas Tighe, president and chief executive officer of Direct Relief International, said 100 percent of funds raised in the yearlong campaign will be used for Japan food, water, shelter and medical services.

Officials of Cost Plus World Market and Amgen attended today's press conference to contribute.

Californians may donate $10 by texting "Give10" to 20222. They also may contribute at

March 15, 2011
Jerry Brown coy on budget talks, expects vote this week

Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that he expects floor votes on the budget in the Legislature this week, after talks with Republican senators appeared Monday to lose steam.

Brown had asked Democratic legislative leaders last week to delay any vote, citing progress in negotiations with Republicans. Brown lacks the GOP votes necessary to ask voters to extend tax increases, a central part of his budget proposal.

The Democratic governor had been negotiating with a splinter group of five Republican senators, but he declined to say how many of those Republicans he still is contacting, if any.

"I'm talking with some people," he said while walking from the Capitol to the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, where he was addressing a group. "That's all I can say."

Brown, who huddled with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez this morning for less than an hour, said he expects budget votes in the Legislature this week, even if those votes only address spending reductions, one part of his budget.

"I think there are some Republicans who are very committed to doing something, but so far there's no, there's no agreement," he said. "We'll have some votes, though, sometime during the week, and then we'll see where we are."

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he will make an announcement today about when the Senate might vote on Brown's budget. He said it will be "very soon."

"We're going to get to our floor, begin the debate and keep coming back day after day," Steinberg said.

It was less clear what to expect on the Assembly side.

"Still moving forward," Perez said. "We're hopeful to have a resolution soon, but we'll see how conversations proceed."

Brown maintained he will not try to push his tax measure through the Legislature on a majority vote. He said he wants Republican support and that, "No matter how many times you ask me, I'm going to say the same thing."

Brown is proposing a mix of spending cuts and tax extensions to resolve a $26.6 billion deficit.

He criticized Republicans for failing to propose spending cuts they could support.

"Most of the time they want to spend more money, like redevelopment or this project or that project," Brown said. "Those who really want to cut the budget appear to be more in the Democratic majority than in the other party."

March 10, 2011
Steinberg expects budget vote by early next week

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said this morning that budget negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown and Republicans will continue throughout the weekend, with a floor vote likely by next week.

"We are certainly shooting for, you know, at the very latest Monday, or early, early next week," Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said as he left the governor's office with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles. "We're going to work it hard through the weekend."

Brown, negotiating with a splinter group of Republican senators, asked Steinberg and Pérez on Wednesday to delay budget votes planned for today, missing his self-imposed deadline but affording him more time to negotiate.

"There comes a point in any process or negotiation where it's very hard to turn back," Steinberg said. "I hope that that's where we're at."

Steinberg and Pérez declined to be specific about negotiating points. The Republican senators have demanded pension, regulatory and other reforms.

Pérez said, "We've got some more work to do, but we're making progress."

March 2, 2011
Pérez: 'No' to sidestepping GOP in tax extension vote

Assembly Speaker John Perez.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez said today that he is not considering trying to place a multibillion-dollar tax extension on the June ballot by a simple majority vote of the Democrat-controlled Legislature, which would sidestep Republicans.

The Los Angeles Democrat downplayed a legislative counsel's opinion, sought by Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton, that said such a measure could be placed before voters by a majority vote of the Assembly and Senate, under narrow circumstances.

"No," Pérez said flatly today when asked if he is entertaining such a plan in light of Republicans' failure to support the extension, which is designed to raise $11 billion in sales, income and vehicle taxes over 18 months.

"There is not a single legal analysis that I think holds any water that says we could legitimately put this question before voters on a simple majority vote," Pérez told a lunch meeting of the Sacramento Press Club.

Pérez said voters made it clear last November, in passing Propositions 25 and 26, that they support allowing the Legislature to pass a state budget with a simple majority vote but want a two-thirds margin for hiking taxes or fees.

"I know that Senator Dutton has suggested that there's a way for us to do this as a simple majority effort. Had I proposed it, the Republicans would have been up in arms, saying that I was trying to thwart the will of the public," Pérez said.

February 10, 2011
VIDEO: Assembly Democrats show off lip-synch skills

Budweiser's latest Super Bowl commercial isn't the only video featuring Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" making the rounds on the Web this week.

A clip of Assembly Democrats, including Speaker John A. Pérez singing along to the famous tune (a la "Almost Famous") has surfaced. The video was taped on Election Day, during a final stretch statewide bus tour to boost Assembly Democrats on the ballot. Defying national trends, Democrats held on to (and in two cases picked up) all the districts on the tour. Perhaps serenading voters for support was part of the strategy?

The video, which was produced by Reelpolitik Campaign Media, was taken offline yesterday afternoon, but reappeared under a different YouTube feed today.

Watch it here:

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

February 2, 2011
Democrats, businesses tout renewable energy measures

LS AZTEC SOLAR 3.JPGFlanked by solar energy business people and investors, legislative Democrats announced today that they're resurrecting a bill to require utilities to buy at least 33 percent of California's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The bill is designed to inspire investor confidence and complement Assembly Bill 32, California's greenhouse gas reduction law. Voters last November rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended AB 32.

Legislators presented the proposal as well as related measures as a pro-business effort to help create jobs.

"The budget is and remains our top priority, and it is essential to the economic health of our state that we put our fiscal house in order as quickly as possible," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

"But while we do so," Steinberg said, "we must also continue to provide state and national leadership in our ongoing efforts to strengthen California's economy by supporting emerging industries, improving public education and creating jobs for Californians."

Two other measures described at the Capitol press conference would expedite permits for the location and construction of renewable energy projects in California, and create school curriculum for "green partnership academies" that use grants to provide students with skills to enter renewable-energy jobs.

Another bill would dedicate a portion of state ratepayer funds to loan guarantees that would help homeowners and business owners install energy-efficient technology.

December 15, 2010
Pérez announces leadership, committee assignments

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez today announced committee and Democratic leadership assignments for the new session.

Many chair and vice-chair posts vacated by termed-out members were filled by members of the freshman class, while most returning committee chairs retained their posts.

In several exceptions, new legislators were given the gavel of a returning member:

• Freshman Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, replaced Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, as chair of the Revenue and Taxation Committee.

• Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, replaced Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, in the top post on the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee.

• Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, was appointed chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, with former chair Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, shifting over to chair the Joint Sunset Review Committee, a panel created by a bill she authored in the last session.

Republican members retained chairmanship of two committees -- Local Government and Veterans Affairs -- continuing a move intended to show bipartisanship Pérez made when he was sworn in as speaker earlier this year.

The new lineup also included some changes in budget subcommittee responsibilities. The transportation and natural resources subcommittees have been combined, while the California Highway Patrol and courts and corrections systems were shifted out of the State Administration subcommittee's purview and into a new subcommittee on public safety funding.

All budget subcommittee chairs were also assigned to a Subcommittee on Budget Process, Oversight and Program Evaluation, a move staff said was intended to increase oversight and accountability in state spending.

Pérez elevated new members Michael Allen of Santa Rosa, Toni Atkins of San Diego and Roger Hernández of West Covina to vacancies in the Assembly Democratic leadership. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was assigned assistant speaker pro tempore, a spot previously held by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton.

Click here to see the full list of committee assignments. The full list of Pérez's Democratic leadership assignments are posted here.

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 24, 2010
John A. Pérez reassures young gay people: It gets better

Assembly Speaker
John A. Pérez
delivered a candid Thanksgiving Day video message today in which he describes coming out to his parents as a gay young man around one Thanksgiving Day and repeats the message that "it gets better" for gays and lesbians dealing with discrimination over their sexual orientation.

Pérez's video was part of a national effort sparked by sex columnist Dan Savage in which thousands of people have recorded videos describing their experiences of being gay, including the discrimination they suffered because of their sexual orientation and how they came out. The videos usually include the phrase "It gets better." The campaign follows news that several young people committed suicides after being harassed over their sexual orientation.

Pérez, California's first openly gay legislative leader, says in his video that he came out in college when he fell in love with a fellow student.

"Thanksgiving is a special holiday for me, because that's when I decided to come out to my family," Pérez says. "I was in college and coming home for the Thanksgiving break. I'd known for a while that I was gay. But growing up in a very traditional community on the east side of L.A. meant that coming out would make my life difficult and possibly dangerous."

Pérez says his parents at first cried when he told them the news but then accepted him.

"They showed me that I could be free to love and be loved by whomever I chose," Pérez says. "Not all of us are that lucky."

He ends his message with encouragement for young people struggling to cope with their sexual identities.

"When I was a teenager, I never thought I'd be able to live a successful and happy life as an openly gay man," Pérez says. "And now I have the privilege of serving in one of the top positions in California government. It got better for me, and I know with absolute certainty that it will get better for you too."

November 5, 2010
Perez: More than $40 million funding secured for child care cuts

More than $40 million in bridge funding has been secured to keep child care assistance for low-income families flowing through the new year, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced this morning.

The funding includes $6 million in funds Pérez ordered cut from the Assembly operating budget. First 5 Commissions in 31 counties have authorized a combined $34 million in tobacco-tax revenues for CalWorks Stage 3 Child Care, which provides child care assistance to former CalWORKS recipients who are gainfully employed.

First 5 Commissions in eight additional counties are scheduled to consider appropriating funds in upcoming meetings.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto pen to cut roughly $256 million from the program when he signed last month's budget.

Democratic lawmakers have pledged to restore the funding when the Legislature reconvenes. Pérez said the funding bridge should help keep the funding afloat through the end of January.

The cuts, which were estimated to impact more than 60,000 families, were scheduled to take effect Nov. 1. A judge has delayed the cuts until at least today, when he will issue a decision on a lawsuit seeking to stay the implementation by the state Department of Education.

November 4, 2010
Pérez re-elected Assembly speaker for second term

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez was elected unanimously today to lead the lower house for the coming two-year session.

The Los Angeles Democrat, who took the helm in February, will take the gavel for a second term when members of the 80-member Assembly are sworn in Dec. 6.

Pérez increased his 50-member caucus by two more seats in Tuesday's election, capturing the Sacramento-area seat formerly held by termed-out Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello of Fair Oaks and a Central Valley seat being vacated by Independent Assemblyman Juan Arambula, who voted Democratic on most issues.

San Mateo Assemblyman Jerry Hill, chairman of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, said that Perez has "focused the Assembly on the economy and jobs, and he fought hard for the values we share during the long and difficult budget negotiations."

"His current effort to prevent a crisis for thousands of working families who could lose their child care is the latest example of why we want his strong leadership to continue," Hill said.

Pérez, thanking his colleagues for his re-election, said it is a "humbling privilege" to serve as their leader.

"There is still a lot to do and I look forward to working with all my colleagues -- and a new Democratic governor -- on our key goals: creating jobs and helping California families and businesses who have been hurt by the recession," he said in a written statement.

November 2, 2010
Perez: Push to sink leader of gay marriage ban is 'not personal'

California's first openly gay Assembly leader pushed today to defeat Republican candidate Andy Pugno, author and general counsel for the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage and is under legal challenge.

But Speaker John A. Pérez denied that he is targeting Pugno because of the gay-rights issue or that defeating him in the 5th Assembly District would provide any extra degree of satisfaction.

"Every race we win is particularly sweet," Pérez said. "It's not personal."

In the homestretch of a four-day bus tour, Pérez and about a dozen other Assembly leaders stopped at the headquarters of Democratic candidate Richard Pan to thank several dozen of the candidate's supporters for get-out-the vote efforts.

Pugno and Pan are fighting for the Assembly seat of termed-out Fair Oaks Republican Roger Niello, who is running for the Senate seat vacated by the death of Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks.

October 20, 2010
Perez seeks advice on forming commission he wants to kill

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez sought the public's advice Wednesday to help him create a redistricting commission he wants to eliminate.

"I am eager to hear your voices," the Los Angeles Democrat said in convening the Capitol public hearing.

Six people testified during the 20-minute hearing on qualities they would like to see in members of the state's first independent commission to handle the once-a-decade task of redrawing political districts.

Under Proposition 11, passed by voters in November 2008, the 14-member commission is charged with determining legislative and Board of Equalization districts. The commission is not responsible for drawing congressional districts, although Proposition 20 on the Nov. 2 ballot would incorporate that into the panel's duties as well.

The irony of Wednesday's hearing was that Pérez has loaned $49,000 to Proposition 27, which aims to eliminate the redistricting commission and give the job of drawing political maps back to the Legislature.

Pending a final decision on the commission's fate, however, Pérez has a role to play in weeding out applicants from a pool of 60 finalists identified by a three-person panel of state auditors.

September 7, 2010
Democrats take softer approach to Schwarzenegger's Asia trip

BB SCHWARZENEGGER HONG KONG THROW.JPGGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's forthcoming trade mission in Asia seemed like an obvious opportunity for Democrats to attack the GOP governor, given that he will be on a six-day overseas trip while the state lacks a budget and IOUs loom in the horizon.

And given the references to Schwarzenegger's "vacation" coming out of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office last month and today, it seemed like attacks were inevitable.

But Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez softened their approach Tuesday following a 90-minute meeting with Schwarzenegger and GOP legislative leaders. Pérez even offered an economic argument for why the governor should go.

The change in tone seemed to be a budget peace offering.

"We live in the modern times, and if the governor is there or here, we can engage in important conversations," Pérez said. "Our objective is to try to get to resolution as quickly as possible. One of the things we've said is, we want to make sure we have budgetary solutions that make sense for the economic prosperity of the state. So the last thing we want to do is be an impediment to securing the trade relations and the benefit of those relations at the same time."

Steinberg acknowledged that it would be easier to solve the budget in face-to-face talks, but he added, "Look, we'll make anything work. As John said, with technology, we can get the job done either way."

Democrats have floated a new version of their tax swap to raise as much as $1 billion in the current fiscal year.

Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick, R-Solana Beach, said Republicans still have to examine the new proposal. But he added that any change would not take effect until 2011, in which case the plan would raise significantly less money than Democrats had hoped for. If the plan does not take effect until 2011, it would raise $250 million in the current fiscal year, according to Steinberg's office.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger throws shirts into the crowd at a California Grown event in Hong Kong on Nov. 19. 2005, the last day of his six-day trade mission to China. Sacramento Bee file photo/ Brian Baer

September 3, 2010
Speaker Perez stops enforcement of no-taping policy

Reporters can resume using recording devices in Assembly chambers, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said today.

The Bee's Jim Sanders wrote in today's Bee that Assembly sergeants-at-arms recently began confronting credentialed reporters who were recording or videotaping official business.

Assembly leaders in late July sought to reinforce old rules on the books, ranging from a dress code requiring women to wear a coat or sweater to enter the chamber to a rule allowing reporters to record only when granted permission.

The Assembly already suspended the dress code rule amid controversy, and Pérez has now directed sergeants not to enforce the recording policy.

"As I have consistently said, the public's business should be done in the most public way," Pérez said. "I am directing that media use of tape recorders in the Assembly chambers be allowed to continue as it routinely has been."

Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, told Sanders he wanted better enforcement of existing Assembly rules to "bring more predictability and more stability to how the house runs."

Disallowing routine tape recording of legislative conversations or floor debate does not necessarily inhibit the media, Calderon said.

"I don't think so, because there was a time that reporters didn't have tape recorders - and they used to be able to report. I think reporters are professionals, and they're pretty good at their craft."

August 16, 2010
Steinberg and Pérez to help kick off clothing drive

Don't fret, jobless Californians. Democratic legislative leaders are here to save the day.

While they can't "guarantee" approval of a package of job-creating bills or the signing of a budget solution that will keep CalWORKS up and running, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez want to make sure California's unemployed look their best in their quest for a job.

The two top lawmakers are joining Men's Wearhouse to launch the chain's national "Suit Up for Success" clothing drive.

Lawmakers, lobbyists and staff are encouraged to donate "gently used" business attire to help job-seeking citizens "dress for success," according to a press release.

"Looking professional not only affects the people who see you, but how you see yourself," Men's Wearhouse CEO George Zimmer said in a statement. "The State Capitol Suit Drive gives job-seekers an extra boost of confidence as they re-enter the market."

Given the styles we see in the chambers, we're not sure taking fashion cues from state legislators would actually boost an applicant's chances. But well-dressed do-gooders can drop off their clothing on Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1121 L Street. More info on the actual event is posted at The State Worker blog.

June 28, 2010
Villaraigosa stance muddled on local government measure

ha_perez_villaraigosa43941.JPGLos Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed concerns Monday about an initiative that would prevent the state from taking local government funds, even though he previously signed a letter endorsing the proposal now slated as Proposition 22 on the November ballot.

During a Capitol press conference to promote nearly $1 billion in additional local government funds in the Assembly Democratic budget, Speaker John A. Pérez said he opposed the ballot measure because it was an example of ballot-box budgeting that ties the hands of state officials.

Villaraigosa, a former Democratic Assembly speaker, jumped in and said he agreed with that position.

"We are so constrained by initiative, by structural frameworks, that make it very difficult to proceed ahead," Villaraigosa said.

When asked to clarify his position on the initiative, Villaraigosa said, "No, I'm not supporting it, either."

Yet he was one of nine big-city mayors to have signed a letter in March expressing support for the ballot proposal. Proposition 22 would prevent the state from borrowing or taking money from local government accounts, a response to a budget decision last year to borrow $2 billion from local governments and take $1.7 billion from local redevelopment agencies.

When pressed again, Villaraigosa said, "I haven't seen that initiative. I haven't read it. I'm not for governing by initiative, either. I may want to protect local government funding. I've been here a lot. And I'm pretty loud in my advocacy here. You know, I'm not a shrinking violet when it comes to defending my town. But, you know, I'm also not a demagogue."

Villaraigosa press secretary Arielle Goren said in a follow-up phone call that the mayor does support Proposition 22 and that it was "unclear to him that anyone was referring specifically to this measure" during the press conference.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, answers questions from the press as he is joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday, June 28. They were touting the Assembly Democrats' budget proposal. Hector Amezcua /

June 9, 2010
Smooth sailing for Pérez, other incumbents for primary

Perezassembly.JPG Not every candidate had to spend big bucks to secure a win in Tuesday's statewide primary.

A handful of candidates faced no opponents in their primary races, including Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. State Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, previously pledged to run for a third and final term in the 46th Assembly District but pulled those plans and ran for a neighboring Assembly district when Pérez won the speakership battle.

Pérez, who was noninated in 2008 with the votes of less than 5 percent of registered voters in the 46th Assembly District, faces smooth sailing through November. No one ran in the Republican or minor party primaries to challenge the Assembly leader in November.

Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, running for the 24th Senate District seat, also are shoo-ins come November. Both faced no challengers Tuesday and no opponents running from other parties.

By our count, 52 state legislative incumbents, including senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and 31 congressional incumbents, faced no opposition in their party primaries.

Incumbents running unopposed for statewide office included Treasurer Bill Locker, Controller John Chiang and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, all Democrats.

IMAGE: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez looks toward the gallery after he was sworn in as speaker. He is accompanied by Governor Arnorld Scharzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento on March 1, 2010. CREDIT: Hector Amezcua/SacBee.

May 25, 2010
Assembly Democrats' budget plan relies heavily on oil tax

Assembly Democrats issued a budget plan today that borrows nearly $9 billion from Wall Street this year and essentially pays that back over 20 years with revenues from a new tax on oil production.

The $9 billion loan, plus about $900 million in new oil production tax revenues, $2.1 billion in suspended corporate tax breaks and a $500 million loan from the Disability Insurance Fund, would help avoid most of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's $12.4 billion in proposed spending cuts. Assembly Democrats called it their "California Jobs Budget" because they say it would preserve an estimated 430,000 jobs compared to Schwarzenegger's budget.

This being the California Legislature, the loan maneuver isn't that simple.

May 20, 2010
Pérez: Arizona boycotts not the answer; Poizner 'easier' to beat

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez thinks Arizona's controversial new law targeting illegal immigration is "fundamentally flawed and fundamentally unfair" but he doesn't think boycotts to protest the law are the solution.

"I don't think you need to go boycott until you've exhausted all other kinds of remedies. I think boycotts are effective tools but ought to be used limitedly," he said this morning on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" with Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie.

Pérez, who was in Washington to attend President Barack Obama's State Dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderón, said he sees "adequate pathways to remedies through the courts" because he thinks the law is unconstitutional.

The speaker weighed in on the GOP gubernatorial primary, calling Steve Poizner the "easier candidate to run against" in November.

The main reason? Republican rival Meg Whitman's bank account.

May 11, 2010
VIDEO: Perez says Big 5 for sanding out 'rough edges' on budget

Video by Bee senior videographer/photographer Hector Amezcua.

April 28, 2010
Pérez, Steinberg pack for trip to Washington

Hoping to squeeze out more federal funds, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced today that they will meet with White House officials and congressional leaders next week in the nation's capital.

The two leaders, at a joint news conference, stressed that their goal is to seek billions legitimately owed to the state, not a handout.

"We're not going to Washington, D.C., to ask for a bailout of California," Pérez said.

They released a list of specific health-related programs for which they hope to secure additional funds from the Obama administration, addressing issues from medical care for the poor to federal matching funds linked to a new quality assurance fee to be imposed on hospitals by the state.

April 13, 2010
Schwarzenegger criticizes Pérez for delaying Maldonado confirmation

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger questioned Tuesday why Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has not yet asked his house to confirm Republican state Sen. Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor.

"I have no idea what Speaker Pérez is doing with the confirmation hearings," Schwarzenegger said Tuesday at a Capitol press conference. "I think we all are somewhat frustrated because he has been now promising me five times at least that he is putting him up for confirmation."

March 18, 2010
Republicans Cook, Smyth to chair Assembly policy committees

Republican Assemblymen Cameron Smyth and Paul Cook were named to chair policy committees Thursday, marking the first time in eight years that GOP Assembly members have been handed a committee gavel.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who became leader of the house this month, unveiled his caucus leadership team and composition of 47 policy committees and subcommittees.

Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, will chair the local government committee. Cook, a Yucca Valley Republican who earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam, will chair the veterans affairs committee.

Then-Assembly Republicans Richard Dickerson and Lynn Daucher were the last members of their party to serve as committee chairs. Both were appointed in 2002, according to the speaker's office.

"When I was sworn-in as Speaker I said we must embrace bipartisan cooperation in order to create jobs, turn the economy around and help solve the many other challenges facing the state," Pérez said in a prepared statement.

Pérez's key lieutenants will include Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, who was chosen as speaker pro tempore; Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, majority floor leader; and Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, majority policy leader.

Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, will serve as majority whip; Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, as Democratic Caucus chairman; and Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, as Rules Committee chairwoman.

Other members of Pérez's leadership team are Isadore Hall, D-Compton, assistant speaker pro tempore; Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, assistant majority floor leader; and Lori Saldaña, San Diego, assistant whip.

Felipe Fuentes, D-Los Angeles, will chair the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Click here for a full list of Assembly committee chairs and leadership appointments.

March 17, 2010
Rex Babin: Pérez's pay raises

Here's Bee political cartoonist Rex Babin's take on the pay raises new Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and GOP leader Martin Garrick gave some staff upon assuming their new gigs:


Click here to see a collection of Babin's work.

March 12, 2010
Perez orders deeper cuts to Assembly budget

The Assembly will cut about $7.5 million deeper into its spending next year by order of new Speaker John A. Pérez to demonstrate shared sacrifice during California's economic recession.

Pérez announced during a swearing-in ceremony Friday that he is directing the Assembly's budget to be cut by 15 percent, which would total about $22.4 million in a projected budget of $149.4 million next year.

Shannon Murphy, Perez's spokeswoman, said the speaker's cut is expected to be implemented quickly, meaning it will encompass about three months of the current fiscal year as well.

No decision has been made on what the Assembly will do with the additional millions it saves. Murphy said that the Assembly Rules Committee will be asked to develop a budget-cutting plan.

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, did not elaborate at Friday's oath-of-office event in Los Angeles, which came 11 days after the Los Angeles Democrat was honored in a similar ceremony on the Assembly floor.

Rather than by imposing furloughs, layoffs or pay cuts, the 15 percent cut is expected to be implemented by cutting expenditures, such as furnishings, equipment, maintenance and perhaps travel, according to Jon Waldie, Assembly administrator.

The Assembly thus far has avoided the thrice-monthly furloughs imposed on most state workers or the once-monthly furloughs imposed on Senate aides.

Pérez's 15 percent reduction ups the ante in belt-tightening ordered by his predecessor, Karen Bass, who diverted about 10 percent of the Assembly budget in each of the past two years, and roughly the same percentage for the final six months of 2007-08.

Bass also voluntarily cut the Assembly's baseline budget by $1.7 million this fiscal year, which will result in permanent lost revenue of at least that amount each year under a funding formula in Proposition 140, passed by voters nearly two decades ago.

March 11, 2010
Perez to take oath as Assembly leader -- again

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez will be sworn-in as leader of the lower house Friday -- for the second time.

Déjà vu all over again.

Pérez will take the oath of office in a ceremony at the Japanese-American Museum in Los Angeles, 11 days after a similar swearing-in attended by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and numerous other elected officials was held on the Assembly floor.

Jon Waldie, Assembly administrator, said that Friday's event will not be financed with public funds.

Pérez, 40, will be sworn into office by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Pérez's cousin, is scheduled to attend the event.

Guests are expected to include former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat; Maria Elena Durazo, a leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton; former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles; and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, a former Democratic legislator and Board of Equalization member.

March 4, 2010
Perez says he is 'open' to voting yes on Maldonado

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said yesterday that he's "open" to voting yes when the Assembly reconsiders whether to confirm Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado for the vacant lieutenant governor post.

"We've had a series of conversations where he softened me a bit," Pérez said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau.

"I'm like a lot of people in the Legislature," he added. "I was frustrated by some of the way I thought he operated through the politics of attraction. We've had some conversations about that. We've had some conversations about the future, I've given him some advice, waiting to see if he takes it, so I'm open."

Pérez was one of the lower house lawmakers who voted "no" when the Santa Maria Republican's first attempt at clearing the Assembly failed 37-35. Schwarzenegger has since re-nominated Maldonado for the vacant post, giving lawmakers until May 17 to confirm or reject his nomination.

Echoing comments made after his swearing-in ceremony, Pérez said it is up to Maldonado to find the four votes he needs to win approval in the Assembly.

"He's got to come back to me when he's ready for us to take it up," Pérez said. "I can't unilaterally approve him. He's got to get 41 votes."

The new speaker, who was vocal in his opposition to the governor's decision to reappoint Maldonado, seemed to have a lighter take on the confirmation saga Tuesday.

"I was working under the assumption I could make him one of the chairs of one of my committee," he joked, referring to his pledge to give Republican members the gavel of two committees this session.

Video by The Bee's Alan LaGuardia.

March 4, 2010
Rex Babin: Proposed text ban? LOL

Here's Bee political cartoonist Rex Babin's take on Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's pledge to ban lawmakers from texting with lobbyists on the Assembly floor.

babin text.jpg

Click here to see a collection of Babin's work.

March 3, 2010
Perez to seek putting majority budget vote measure on ballot

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said today he is prepared to ask the Legislature to put California Forward's proposal to lower the vote requirement for passing a budget on the November ballot.

"I'm still waiting to hear from California Forward if they have finalized all the elements they have been tweaking, but I'm prepared to take it to (my caucus) rather quickly," Pérez said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Officials from the foundation-funded reform group said earlier this week that lackluster fundraising will likely sideline their push to qualify a pair of proposed initiatives encompassing various budget and governmental reforms, including lowering the vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.

The group, which would need to gather nearly 700,000 valid voter signatures for each measure by mid-May, is expected to make a decision tomorrow on whether to proceed with the qualification campaign.

Pérez, who also called for the change during his swearing-in ceremony, said he believes having a majority vote would provide more accountability and transparency in the budget process.

February 23, 2010
Schwarzenegger, Maldonado take confirmation battle to Spanish-language TV

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his lieutenant governor nominee Abel Maldonado continued their confirmation fight with legislators this past weekend -- in the parallel universe of international Spanish-language TV news.

Assembly Speaker-elect John A. Pérez, too, was pressed on Maldonado this weekend on Univision television's local Los Angeles channel.

Schwarzenegger went national, talking up embattled nominee Maldonado during an interview with the two that aired Sunday on Al Punto, a Univision broadcast with huge reach in the United States and abroad.

Top Univision anchor Jorge Ramos introduced the pre-recorded segment by describing it as a look at "the difficulty of being Latino and Republican in California."

Most members of the state Assembly's Latino Caucus voted against Maldonado, including Pérez, in a first round of voting on the confirmation Feb. 11.

The governor pulled the nomination and re-submitted it for consideration again last Tuesday.

January 8, 2010
Why tap Pérez for Assembly boss?

How skilled is new Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez?

Let us count the ways.

Assembly colleagues showered the Los Angeles Democrat with praise in seven nominating and seconding speeches consuming about 30 minutes Thursday on the Assembly floor.

Adjectives used to describe the first-term legislator included tough, generous, empathetic, passionate, fair, analytical, intellectual, respectful, engaging and articulate.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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