Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 23, 2011
California Senate Republican leader to step down in January

Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton said today he will step down in January, and Sen. Bob Huff expects to replace him as the legislative session kicks back into gear.

Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said this morning that the minority caucus must still vote, but that he has enough commitments from colleagues to take over the job.

"I have the signatures for that, which signifies intent, so I anticipate that happening," Huff said in a phone interview.

Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, officially assumed the post last October and served as Senate GOP leader during Gov. Jerry Brown's first year back in office. In a departure from recent Capitol protocol, Brown mostly negotiated with five members of Dutton's caucus rather than the GOP leader himself on the budget.

In a statement today, Dutton said, "It makes sense that we have a new leader in place before the governor announces the new budget, so he or she can begin to negotiate immediately with the majority party on a budget solution that ends California's fiscal crisis and the state's economic uncertainty."

But Brown has shown little desire to reopen budget talks with Republicans. Under a 2010 voter-approved law, Democrats can pass the budget on their own, while the governor is going straight to the voters to ask for higher taxes. He said recently that he'd be willing to talk with Republicans over drinks - if they buy, he mused - but didn't expect serious negotiations to take place.

Huff, who served as his caucus' point man on the budget, said, "There's always a role, even if we're outside the door banging on it. We're willing to work with him if he's willing to."

September 8, 2011
Senate GOP leader asks Brown for special session on tax plan

Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton has asked Gov. Jerry Brown to hold off pushing his corporate tax package in the final two days of the legislative session and instead call a special session on jobs and tax reform.

"There is nothing more complex than tax reform, and trying to jam through a proposal on the last day of session without transparency or input from the public and tax experts is irresponsible," the Rancho Cucamonga Republican wrote in a letter to Brown.

The Democratic governor held a press conference early this afternoon to announce that he had reached a deal to win the two GOP votes in the Assembly needed to pass his proposal, which was first unveiled last month. But Brown still needs the votes of at least two Senate Republicans in order to pass the plan, which includes a change to corporate tax calculations that is projected to raise about $1 billion annually that would be directed to specific tax breaks.

Dutton was noncommittal when asked whether there was support in his caucus for the governor's plan, saying "I can't say I'm not going to support something I haven't even seen." But language used in the letter doesn't suggest much interest in supporting the package in its current form-- it describes Brown's plan as a "tax increase proposal that was developed behind closed doors without any input from Senate Republicans."

Republican Sen. Bob Huff, vice chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told The Bee he'd have to "see what's actually in there" before taking a stance.

But Brown responded to Dutton's letter by saying Californians "need action now."

"Mr. Dutton should join his colleagues in the Assembly and help pass this bipartisan jobs plan. Don't talk about tomorrow when you can act today," he said in a statement.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:24 p.m. with comments from Brown.

June 24, 2011
Jockeying to succeed Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton begins

An early leadership fight is brewing in the Senate Republican Caucus as two members begin jockeying to succeed Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton.

Sens. Joel Anderson and Bob Huff have both told other members that they are interested in serving as leader of the 15-member Republican Caucus. Dutton, who is termed out next year and considering running for Assembly, has yet to signal when he will step down from the leadership job.

But discussions about the future began to heat up this week.

"There has been some desire to start that move but there's no resolution," said Huff, the vice chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

Huff said he does not think now is the best time for a leadership battle, but confirmed his interest in becoming Senate minority leader.

"I am interested if the caucus is willing to support me, absolutely," the Diamond Bar Republican said.

Anderson spokesman Jim Kjol declined comment on whether the Alpine Republican is vying for votes to become leader, saying only "Senator Anderson is a strong supporter of Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton."

Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, called Anderson and Huff "the two naturals" to take the reins as caucus leader.

"They're both well respected within the caucus... Dutton hasn't expressed his timeline (for stepping down), but both of those members are very well respected," he said.

Bee colleague Kevin Yamamura contributed to this report.

March 29, 2011
Read Jerry Brown's letter to GOP leader Bob Dutton

Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has pulled the plug on budget negotiations with legislative Republicans, he's also pulled the veil from the letter he sent to Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton last Friday.

The letter asks Dutton to drop back from the list of 53 demands that the Republicans released that day and focus on three main issues: pension reform, a spending cap and regulatory reform.

"Let's get moving!" Brown scribbles at the end of the letter.

Click here to read the letter.

March 1, 2011
Dutton: No 'side deals' being cut with GOP senators on budget

20110216_HA_bob_dutton_4640.JPGWith the target for a budget deal next Thursday, Republican Senate leader Bob Dutton said today that the 15 members of his caucus should still be considered "no" votes on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to put tax hike extensions on the ballot.

Dutton confirmed Capitol chatter that some Republicans have been meeting privately with Brown in recent days. But the Rancho Cucamonga Republican, who had previously told The Bee he asks members of his caucus to inform him when they have budget-related meetings with Brown, maintained that the discussions were "not about tax extensions."

"They aren't cutting any side deals," Dutton said in an interview with The Bee on his way into a meeting in a building near the Capitol. "There's members looking at options, but they really have nothing to do with tax increases. It has to do with things necessary to make (government) more efficient, more effective and to promote economic growth in the private sector."

Though Democratic leaders in both houses have publicly said they will deliver votes on steep cuts, the Rancho Cucamonga Republican said there is "nothing to talk about" on the tax front because Democrats in private talks have yet to commit to putting up the votes to approve the proposed spending reductions.

Brown wants a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to put his tax-extension proposal on the ballot. For that to succeed, two Republicans in each house would have to vote "yes" along with all Democrats.

"We aren't even talking taxes, we're talking spending cuts right now," Dutton said. "We can't even get the Dems to do that and until they do that, we can't address our agenda."

Dutton at first deferred on whether legislators will meet Brown's March 10 deadline for approving the plan, saying "it's not up to me" due to the majority Democrats' control of the process and committee schedules. But he then said from his vantage point, a March 10 resolution is unlikely at best.

"I know everybody would like to see that happen, but I don't see it happening," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate Republican leader Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, in a meeting with the Bee Capitol Bureau ton Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

February 26, 2011
Read the legislative counsel's tax opinion

The Legislature's lawyers have told Republicans that Democrats could put taxes on the ballot with a majority vote - but only under narrow circumstances.

Read the opinion, sought by Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton:


Kevin Yamamura has more on the letter in today's Bee. Download a PDF of the document here

February 22, 2011
Steinberg responds to GOP opposition to Brown's budget plan

20110120_HA_STEINBERG1217.JPG Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that Republicans opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax extension election proposal without signaling a willingness to compromise need to understand that voters elected Brown and a Democratic majority in the Legislature.

Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton said last week in an interview with The Bee that he's "not interested in providing any votes" for the plan, which needs two-thirds approval to pass, and doesn't expect members of his caucus will be either.

Steinberg called the Rancho Cucamonga Republican a "good guy and a good Californian," but said taking the approach of "if I can look at this and say that it will solve the problem, I'll vote for it" doesn't hold up because "his view of how to solve the problem is different from the majority party's."

"That's where compromise is required," Steinberg said, adding: "We get nowhere when you take the position that if we were in the majority we would do things this way. They're not in the majority and that's the decision of the people, so help us create fiscal stability in ways that are, I think, consistent with the views and the values of the majority of California voters as reflected in the last election."

Steinberg said he believes a majority of Republicans "know that this (budget proposal) is the most responsible and down-the-middle framework that has been advanced."

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, speaks at the Capitol Bureau on Jan. 20, 2011. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

February 17, 2011
Dutton critical of Jerry Brown appointments

Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton on Wednesday criticized appointments made by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown as discouraging to business, including Brown's choice for natural resources secretary and his appointments to the California Public Utilities Commission.

"We're not changing the way we're doing business," Dutton, of Rancho Cucamonga, said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau. "I haven't seen anything that's encouraging to me with some of the appointments that have been made."

When asked which of Brown's appointments discouraged him, Dutton said, "I'd rather not name individuals," but he said, "You've got PUC, and you know, John Laird's appointment, and some of the others."

The appointment of Laird as secretary for natural resources was praised by environmentalists. The Santa Cruz Democrat is a former assemblyman.

Brown last month appointed Mike Florio, a ratepayer advocate, and Catherine Sandoval, a law professor, to the PUC. The appointments were widely viewed as pro-consumer choices.

Dutton did offer praise for Sutter, who was recently appointed first dog.

"I like Sutter," he said. "He's cool."

VIDEO: Dutton answers questions on whether Senate Republicans will vote to put tax extensions on the ballot and what impact Proposition 14 and the Citizens Redistricting Commission will have on his caucus next cycle. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

February 7, 2011
GOP Assembly, Senate caucus meet this week at Farm Bureau

Republican lawmakers are gathering Tuesday and Wednesday for a two-day policy conference with guest speakers -- including Gov. Jerry Brown -- at the spacious California Farm Bureau building in Sacramento.

Not surprisingly, the Republicans intend to focus heavily on the budget crisis and job creation at their annual conference, according to Jann Taber, spokeswoman for Senate minority leader Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga. The caucuses of both houses also expect to hear talks on business regulatory reform ideas, which has been a perennial issue for both minority caucuses.

Senate and Assembly members plan to hold separate meetings for each house as well as joint gatherings. In addition to Brown, speakers will include Mike Genest, former finance director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Peter Schaafsma, who worked for 11 years as fiscal staff director for the Assembly Republican Caucus.

Schaafsma recently joined Genest's private consulting firm.

Stuart Drown, executive director of the Little Hoover Commission, is scheduled to talk about regulatory reform ideas, Taber said.

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

China Tiger.JPGPaper Tiger?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symbolic? Indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Legislators, left and right, dislike Brown budget

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

State Budget coverage

Gov. Jerry Brown coverage

Bee colleague Jim Sanders contributed to this report.

Photo above: Senate GOP leader Bob Dutto

December 8, 2010
VIDEO: Dutton on staying off stage at Brown's budget forum

GOP Senate leader Bob Dutton didn't join his fellow legislative leaders and Gov.-elect Jerry Brown on stage during this morning's town hall-style forum on the state budget.

The Rancho Cucamonga Republican's decision to remain in the audience was publicly pointed out by at least one local government official at the two-hour event, as Bee colleague Kevin Yamamura reported live from Memorial Auditorium.

See Dutton explain himself why he was absent from the stage in this video from Bee photographer Hector Amezcua:

November 5, 2010
Senate GOP leader has skirmished with Jerry Brown before

Bob Dutton.JPGSen. Bob Dutton, the new Republican minority leader of the state Senate, said he meets today with Gov.-elect Jerry Brown with "an open mind" -- but with the memory of having done battle with Brown before.

Brown as Attorney General sued Dutton's home turf of San Bernardino County in 2007, charging that the county needed to update its land use and population-growth planning to quantify and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.The county, the suit said, needed to get in shape to follow AB 32, the state's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law.

"He was suing my county, so I had to get involved," said Dutton, a Rancho Cucamonga Republican who remains an ardent foe of AB 32 and would like it suspended for now because he believes it will hinder economy recovery.

Dutton said Brown, who eventually reached a settlement with the county, was "very professional" when Dutton negotiated with him over the lawsuit. And Dutton said the governor-elect has been "very much a gentlemen" with Dutton so far.

The day after the election, Brown offered to fly to Rancho Cucamonga to meet Dutton, but Dutton told him he would be happy to come north to see him. They meet in San Francisco today at 2 p.m.

October 11, 2010
Dutton takes over as Senate GOP leader

Sen Bob Dutton takes the reins as Senate Republican leader today.

The caucus picked the the Rancho Cucamonga Republican to replace outgoing GOP leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, earlier this year. But the transition, originally set for Sept. 1, was delayed because of budget negotiations.

Hollingsworth, who is termed out this year, said in a statement that the Republican "caucus will be in good hands under the sure leadership of Senator Dutton." Hollingsworth's office and the caucus issued a press release this morning announcing that the official transition has occurred.


Capitol Alert Staff

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

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.

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

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

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

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

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