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May 6, 2013
FPPC proposes $2,500 fine related to Chris Kelly's 2010 AG bid

ChrisKelly.jpegPotential Sacramento Kings partial owner Chris Kelly has agreed to pay California's political ethics watchdog agency a $2,500 in fine to settle bookkeeping issues from his 2010 attorney general run.

An investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission found that Kelly's campaign failed to accurately report more than $7 million in expenditures during his 2010 Democratic primary campaign, which he lost to Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The fine is on the agenda for approval at the commission's May 16 meeting.

A spokesman for Kelly's campaign wrote in an email that the the former Facebook chief privacy officer "cooperated with the investigation and has agreed to pay the minor administrative penalty levied for the one violation."

Kelly, who has remained active in policy issues related to public safety since his attorney general run, is part of a group of investors seeking to purchase the Kings to keep the team in Sacramento.

PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Kelly. Sacramento Bee file photo

May 6, 2013
White House 'deeply concerned' about Boxer's levee bill

JV_BOXER 017.JPGIt seemed like it could be a slam-dunk in a Congress that can't agree on much of anything.

But California Sen. Barbara Boxer's bipartisan effort to pass legislation to fund flood control, navigation and storm recovery projects hit a snag Monday when the White House issued a statement highly critical of the bill, which Boxer's Environment and Public Works Committee approved unanimously in March.

The Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes projects such as the Natomas Levee Improvement Program, was expected to move to the Senate floor for debate Tuesday, but the fate of some of its more controversial provisions wasn't clear. Committee staff said Monday night that amending language would be announced Tuesday to address concerns about the bill, and noted that the White House statement did not actually oppose its broader goals.

The White House said it was "deeply concerned" about language in the bill that would fast-track environmental reviews for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects. Critics, especially Republicans, say that such studies take far too long and burden communities with government bureaucracy. But environmentalists say the process is necessary to protect communities, the environment and taxpayer funds.

May 6, 2013
FPPC: Michael Rubio real estate transactions didn't break laws

MicahelRubioPicture.JPGCalifornia's political watchdog agency has determined that a former state senator who engaged in real estate transactions with a friend and campaign donor did not violate the state's political ethics laws.

The Fair Political Practices Commission had been reviewing both a short sale and a loan related to properties owned by former Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio, who resigned in February to take a job directing California governmental affairs for Chevron Corp.

Shortly after Rubio stepped down, it was revealed that a company managed by San Joaquin Refining Co. President Majid Mojibi purchased a Bakersfield home Rubio put up for a short sale after he had to move to remain eligible to represent the Central Valley's 16th Senate District. That company, DCM Asset Management, also provided Rubio with a loan to purchase a $681,000 home in El Dorado Hills last year when he was unable to receive a traditional mortgage. Rubio later sold the five-bedroom house back to Mojibi, whom he describes as a close personal friend, and began renting it.

The El Dorado Hills transactions, first reported by The Bee, was later disclosed in Rubio's annual Statement of Economic Interests form. That form also showed that Rubio was involved in another real estate deal with ties to the Mojibi family.

Those exchanges raised questions about whether the loan and the sale violated the Political Reform Act, which limits elected officials to $440 in gifts from a single source per year. A central issue for the ethics agency officials was whether the terms of the loan Rubio received would have been available to the general public.

May 6, 2013
Jerry Brown calls climate change reason for budget restraint

firebrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, who is preparing to submit a revised budget proposal for the coming fiscal year this month, has found a new argument for financial restraint: Climate change.

At a news conference today to kick off Wildfire Awareness Week, the Democratic governor said he will "do everything I can to deal with forest fires," but he said the bigger problem is how people adapt to climate change.

"It doesn't look like the people who are in charge are going to do what it takes to really slow down this climate change, so we're going to have to adapt, and adapting is going to be very, very expensive," Brown said. "That's another reason why we have to maintain some budget discipline."

Brown, who has urged lawmakers of his own party to resist spending despite the state's improving revenue outlook, said weather is "becoming more intense" as a result of climate change and will "cost a lot of money and a lot of lives."

Brown's remarks come amid a fire season that is off to an unusually fast start, with firefighters battling blazes throughout the state.

In that effort, officials said they will spend whatever is necessary.

Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said an emergency firefighting fund is in "reasonable shape," but that, "The message is clear: We will do whatever it takes to fight the fires and worry about that later, because public safety is first."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown leaves a news conference that was to start Wildfire Awareness Week at a hanger at the CAL Fire Aviation Management Unit at McClellan on Monday, May 6, 2013. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

May 6, 2013
Jerry Brown calls prison case 'mystifying,' vows appeal

brownmemorial.JPGGov. Jerry Brown today called "mystifying" the continuing legal pressure on his administration to reduce California's prison population, as he reiterated his pledge to appeal the case as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I find it rather mystifying why we're in this predicament, but I am following the law, and I'm exercising my rights as an American citizen to present the arguments as I see them and to seek final adjudication in our highest courts," Brown told reporters after a memorial ceremony for law enforcement officials in Sacramento.

Brown's remarks follow his administration's submission Thursday of a court-ordered plan to reduce the state's prison population, even as state officials vowed to appeal. The administration claims overcrowding in state prisons has been addressed and that inmate health care is sufficient.

A special, three-judge panel ordered the state in 2009 to reduce its prison population to improve health care conditions in the prison system, and a federal judge in April denied Brown's bid to remove prison health care from federal control. The three-judge panel is insisting that the state reduce its prison population by about 9,500 more inmates by the end of the year.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the three-judge panel in 2011. Asked why he thinks the state could prevail in court this year, Brown said, "Well, because it's many years later."

He said the state has spent billions of dollars on the prison system since the nation's highest court last considered the matter.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown attends a memorial ceremony for law enforcement officers on Monday, May 6, 2013 in Sacramento. David Siders/Sacramento Bee

May 6, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Brown 'not a wily old politician for nothing'

It may look like Gov. Jerry Brown is playing a high-risk game by tussling with the feds over California's prison population, but Dan says it reflects the governor's political skill.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 6, 2013
AM Alert: Cannabis advocacy groups lobby California Capitol

20120410_PK_POTCLUB_0627.JPGAfter legalizing medical pot back in 1996, California has lagged behind decriminalization standard-bearers such as Colorado and Washington state. Americans for Safe Access and its California counterpart are in Sacramento today, arguing for updated legal standards as part of their lobby day.

Bills of interest include Assembly Bill 473, which would establish a marijuana-regulation arm within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and Senate Bill 283, which would keep people convicted of drug offenses from losing their eligibility for CalWORKs and CalFresh.

Separately, marijuana activists will be protesting a crackdown on dispensaries with a series of rallies across California. The demonstrations, organized by the Patient Advocacy Network, include a noon protest outside the Sacramento Federal Building. The cannabis confluence is apparently a coincidence -- Americans for Safe Access and the Patient Advocacy Network did not coordinate their efforts, a spokeswoman tells Capitol Alert.

Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to challenge the federal government over California's prison population is a "win-win" for the governor, Dan Walters says.

PEACE OFFICERS MEMORIAL: The California Peace Officers Memorial Foundation is holding a ceremony today to honor officers who have fallen in the line of duty. The service is this morning, near the California Police Officer Memorial off 10th Street. The memorialized officers are Deputy Robert Lee Paris Jr. of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and Officer Kenyon M. Youngstrom of the California Highway Patrol. Speakers at the ceremony will include Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joseph Farrow and Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana.

LATINO SPIRIT AWARDS: The California Latino Legislative Caucus hosts its 12th annual Latino Spirit Awards celebration to honor leaders for the work in public service, film, athletics, literature and art. Honorees this year include former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who previously served in both the state Senate and the Assembly. Click here to see the full list and their bios. They'll receive their awards on the Assembly floor.

MOTORCYCLE MANDATES: Bike enthusiasts from the American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education are rolling into town today for a "motorcycle and freedom awareness" rally on the east steps at 11 a.m. (apparently we are in the midst of National Motorcycle Awareness Month). Expected attendees include Sens. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar; Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield; Rod Wright, D-Inglewood; and Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; as well as Assembly members Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks; Brian Jones, R-Santee; Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga; and Marie Waldron, R-Escondido.

EDUCATIONAL EXCHANGE: In honor of California-Mexico Advocacy Day, a delegation from our neighbors down south will be meeting with legislators today. In keeping with this year's theme of bolstering California and Mexico working together on higher education, Mexican higher education officials will be meeting with representatives from the University of California system and the Senate's Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation is holding a 3:30 p.m. hearing on educational exchanges.

PHOTO CREDIT: An employee collects money from customers after they bought marijuana at HopeNet in San Francisco. Paul Kitagaki Jr./ Sacramento Bee file, 2012

May 4, 2013
Ex-lawmaker Nathan Fletcher switches again - now a Democrat

nathanfletcher.jpgFormer Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who was considered one of the Republican Party's likeliest future contenders for statewide office before abandoning the party to become an independent last year, announced today that he has become a Democrat.

Fletcher, 36, abandoned the Republican Party in his failed campaign for San Diego mayor. It is unclear what ambition he may have within the Democratic Party.

Fletcher announced his change of registration on his Facebook page this morning, in a message he said he also sent donors and supporters.

"I was reluctant to make this move," Fletcher wrote. "It wasn't due to any doubt about where I belong. It was simple dread over the criticism I would face."

Fletcher said he does not know if he will run for office again but has no current plan to. He went to work for one of his district's largest employers, Qualcomm, when he left the Assembly in December.

Fletcher said in his Facebook post that the Democratic Party "reflects my values and beliefs." He said he watched President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention last year three times "trying to find something I disagreed with."

"I couldn't," Fletcher wrote. "It was clear - at least to me - that I was a Democrat."

PHOTO CREDIT: Nathan Fletcher speaks during an Assembly session on Jan. 30, 2012. AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli

May 3, 2013
Steinberg doesn't see Senate passing Brown's CA prisons plan

SteinbergLeg.JPGThe plan for reducing California prison population that Gov. Jerry Brown's administration proposed in response to a court order doesn't have fans in the Legislature so far.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that he doesn't see the Senate adopting the proposals the governor submitted to a three-judge panel last night.

"I'm sympathetic with the governor here," Steinberg said today. "He put out these untenable choices under protest but I'm not for that."

Steinberg said aspects of the proposal that would allow more inmates to be released, such as expanding good behavior credits for felons, are not "consistent with public safety." Spending to contract with counties or building facilities to increase bed capacity also doesn't make sense, he said.

Steinberg said he'd rather try to increase funding for rehabilitation programs, an option he said could provide more stable, long-term reductions to the inmate population. He said he hopes the courts address that in future decisions.

"The federal courts don't have to consider the very true dilemma that if we spend more money in building more prisons or jail beds, that's less money to invest in mental health, substance abuse, treatment and vocational training for parolees and probationers," he said. "The key is to reduce recidivism, not to keep building more capacity."

May 3, 2013
Advocates for CA inmate rights blast Jerry Brown's prison plan

RBJerryBrown3.JPGGroups that advocate for inmates' rights and against the expansion of the prison system railed Friday against Gov. Jerry Brown's latest plan to reduce the state's prison population, saying the governor is resorting to "fear mongering" instead of pursuing changes that will lead to fewer people being incarcerated in the state.

The Brown administration filed the court-ordered plan under protest Thursday night, maintaining that the state has done enough to cut its prison population and provide sufficient access to health care. California Corrections Secretary Jeff Beard called the plan -- which includes proposals to release hundreds of inmates who have received good behavior credits or are elderly or ill -- "unnecessary and unsafe." The state plans to appeal a three-judge panel's ruling that further reductions are needed to comply with a 2009 court order.

Representatives from the prisoners' rights groups blasted both Brown administration's premise and the policies it included in the report during a late morning press call.

May 3, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Where are California's gas taxes going?

Dan wonders why California has awful traffic congestion and road conditions despite having gasoline taxes that are the highest in the nation.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 3, 2013
AM Alert: Highway 50 interchange named for Sen. Dave Cox

ha_dave_cox_memorial_2010.JPGCalifornia lawmakers are honoring former state senator Dave Cox today with a ceremony christening the Highway 50 interchange at Hazel Avenue as the Sen. Dave Cox Memorial Interchange.

Husband-and-wife legislator team Sen. Ted Gaines and Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, both Rocklin Republicans, will be joined by Cox family members as well as Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan and others in commemorating the longtime legislator at 10:30 a.m.

Cox was first elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving for six years in the Assembly. He died in 2010 at age 72. The interchange isn't far from where he'd lived.

FISCAL BILL DEADLINE: Today is the last day for policy committees to hear and report fiscal bills to fiscal committees -- so, because there are no committee meetings on the file today, the deadline has for all intents and purposes passed. Here at Capitol Alert, we know a thing or two about keeping up with deadlines.

VIDEO: Dan Walters is perplexed by the fact that California's relatively high gasoline taxes don't translate into less traffic and better roads.

May 2, 2013
Former Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia to run for state Senate

BonnieGarcia.JPG Former Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia is looking to return to the Legislature.

The Palm Desert Republican announced this week that she will run for the 28th Senate District in the 2014 election, rolling out a list of local GOP endorsements along with word of her candidacy.

The Riverside County-centered district will be up for grabs next year.

Garcia represented the 80th Assembly District, which at the time covered Imperial County and part of Riverside County, from 2002 to 2008.

She was later appointed by GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to a six-figure post on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. She now runs her own public affairs firm.

Plescia, Garcia land $128K gigs from governor

PHOTO CREDIT: Then Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Palm Desert, talks during a 2007 legislative briefing inside the state Capitol. Brian Baer / Sacramento Bee file, 2007

May 2, 2013
CA Assembly OKs denying out-of-state athletes compensation

20130415_ATHLETES_0073.JPGProfessional athletes like Reggie Williams and Lorenzo Neal are accustomed to helping their teams win on the football field. They've been less successful in winning over California lawmakers.

The Assembly overrode opposition from current and former professional athletes Thursday in approving a measure to limit workers compensation claims by out-of-state athletes.

The National Football League Players Association brought Williams, Neal and other athletes to the state Capitol last month in an effort to persuade legislators to kill the legislation.

But Assembly members voted 57-1 for Assembly Bill 1309. Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, called his legislation an attempt "to ensure that California's workers comp system is no unjustly longer exploited by every professional athlete from every state in America."

"If you've at least just dressed out, maybe pitched one inning, maybe you got to play one game, maybe you suited up but never left the bench," Perea said on the Assembly floor. "But that still qualifies you to file for a California workers comp claim, even though the vast majority of your time played could have been in Florida, could have been in Texas or Massachusetts."

Perea said he wasn't trying to deny workers compensation to athletes for whom injuries are an unavoidable occupational hazard. The bill allows athletes to seek California workers compensation if they spent at least 80 percent of their career with a California team.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Oakland Raider Nick Bell, 44, left, waits April 15 as former Cincinnati Bengals Reggie Williams uses crutches as he walks to the podium to talk about his opposition to Assembly Bill 1309. Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee.

May 2, 2013
North Fork casino compact passes Assembly

RBGambling5.JPGCalifornia's North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians is a step closer to getting a casino after the Assembly narrowly ratified a gambling compact on Thursday morning.

The floor vote came months after Gov. Jerry Brown affirmed the federal government's determination that the North Fork tribe could acquire property about 35 miles from their ancestral lands to build a casino in Madera County. The unconventional process has spurred intense lobbying, with opponents saying it contradicts the principle of Native Americans building on existing tribal lands. The compact also are opposed by competing tribal casinos.

But Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, who carried Assembly Bill 277, cast the bill as a sorely needed economic boost for the North Fork tribe, who he said merely want "the same right granted to every other sovereign tribe in the state of California."

"This compact would put Californians back to work," Hall said in a speech on the Assembly floor, adding that "tribal gaming has replaced welfare with work. "Tribal gaming has replaced despair with hope and dependency with self-reliance."

May 2, 2013
Assemblyman's home threatened by Southern California fire

fire.JPGAssemblyman Jeff Gorell is hurrying home from Sacramento after his wife and two children were evacuated from their Camarillo Springs home, which is being threatened by a Southern California brush fire.

The fire broke out at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and has consumed 2,000 acres along the 101 freeway near the Camarillo and Newbury Park communities. Gorell's home is a few blocks from the fire and can be seen in television footage showing the blaze, said Gorell's spokesman Douglas Lorenz.

Ventura County fire officials have ordered hundreds of homes to be evacuated due to the threat of the advancing fire. Gorell, the Republican Outreach Chair, had planned to return to his district after the Assembly floor session Thursday morning. As of 11 a.m. Thursday, he was attempting to find an earlier flight.

PHOTO CREDIT: Reuben Ruiz makes a phone call as he watches the flames from a brush fire in Camarillo, Calif., Thursday, May 2, 2013.
Troy Harvey / AP

May 2, 2013
Chris Kelly joins bid to expand CA law on sex crimes against kids

ChrisKelly.jpegThree years after losing a bid to become California's top cop, former Facebook executive Chris Kelly is taking on yet another high-profile public safety issue.

Proponents of a 2010 California law strengthening sentencing requirements for sex offenders who target children with violent crimes announced today that Kelly, a wealthy former Facebook chief privacy officer, has signed on to support and finance an effort to pass what's known as Chelsea's Law in other states. Kelly said in a statement that he is proud to push to bring "common sense public policy around attacks on children to all 50 states."

Kelly, who lost the Democratic primary for attorney general to Kamala Harris in 2010, stayed in the political game last fall by bankrolling a successful ballot measure aimed at curbing human trafficking. Proposition 35 also requires registered sex offenders to report social media profiles and other online aliases, a change Kelly had tried unsuccessfully to pass through the Legislature.

Kelly's continued political advocacy has kept alive buzz about what office the wealthy Democrat may seek. He's also made headlines in Sacramento in recent weeks for joining a group of bidders trying to buy the Sacramento Kings to keep the team in the capital city.

Kelly said Thursday that he expected "at some point in the future I'll run for office again," but didn't have any specific personal political plans right now. He also hasn't ruled out running in 2014, he said, when all the statewide constitutional offices will be up for a vote.

"We'll see how the 2014 musical chairs, dominoes, whatever you call it, begin to fall," he said. "I'll be looking at a number of options."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:15 p.m. with a quote from Chris Kelly.

PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Kelly. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2010.

May 2, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Legislature takes 1st step on CEQA overhaul

Don't be fooled by how easily a Senate panel approved a bill to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act, Dan says: A lot of work lies ahead.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 2, 2013
AM Alert: Jerry Brown faces deadline for filing prison plan

Pelican_Bay_State_Prison.jpgThe clock is ticking: Federal judges have given Gov. Jerry Brown until midnight tonight to file a plan for reducing California's prison inmate population.

Brown said when he was in China last month that his administration would prepare to release as many as 10,000 prisoners if the state isn't released from the court order demanding the reduction.

"We're going to try to find the nicest of the nice, but I have to tell you, it's harder to get into prison now," the governor said then, as David Siders reported from Shenzhen.

The clock is also ticking for implementation of the new federal health care law, and many people don't understand what it does. In fact, four in 10 Americans surveyed recently aren't even sure the law still exists.

A University of California Center Sacramento event today tries to cut through the confusion, breaking down what exactly it will mean when the Covered California health insurance exchange is up and running.

Appearing on the discussion panel will be David Chase, director of Small Business Majority's California operations; Ken Jacob, a labor specialist at the UC Berkeley Labor Center; David Panush, director of external affairs for Covered California; and Daniel Weintraub, editor of the California Health Report (and a former member of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board). Noon to 1:30 p.m. at 1130 K St.

VIDEO: A legislative committee made it look easy by unanimously approving a CEQA reform bill by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, but Dan Walters says there is a long slog ahead.

CONSTRUCTION PLANNING: The Assembly Budget Committee is taking up some bills today that would govern new building projects. A bill by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, would required five-year infrastructure plans offered by the governor to incorporate housing construction, and a separate bill from Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, would put money toward an Alameda County courthouse construction project.

IMMIGRATION RALLY: Organizing for Action, the nonprofit that has morphed from a cog in President Barack Obama's campaign machine to a tool for pushing Obama's second-term agenda, is organizing a rally outside the office of Sen. Barbara Boxer to encourage the California senator to keep pushing for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. From noon to 2 p.m. at 501 I St.

BOXER HONORED: Speaking of Boxer, she's the keynote speaker tonight at an event put on by the organization Emerge CA, which focuses on getting more Democratic women elected to public office. The event is at San Francisco City Hall.

PHOTO CREDIT: A guard watches from a tower at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press file, 2011

May 1, 2013
Bill to change California's environmental review law advances

Steinberg.JPGA bill that would make changes to California's landmark environmental review law moved forward in the state Senate Wednesday, as Democrats rejected a GOP-backed proposal as "too broad and comprehensive a change."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg defended his Senate Bill 731, which passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee Wednesday, as an attempt to cut down on project delays the business community has long blamed on the California Environmental Quality Act without undermining the environmental protections the 1970 law provides. He acknowledged that the current bill is a work in progress.

"I'm trying to find the middle path, not just to make a deal, because I'll walk away from it if it's just about that, but to substantively approve the statute, to modernize it and to make sure we are giving genuine streamlining incentives and priorities to the projects we want to see more of," Steinberg said.

The bill focused on changes supporters say could boost prospects for "infill projects," especially in urban areas, such as the planned arena in downtown Sacramento, though what qualifies as an infill project is expected to be the subject of continued debate. It also makes changes to the paperwork and legal filing process Steinberg says could speed up CEQA-related lawsuits.

May 1, 2013
California teacher evaluation bill fails again


Legislation that would alter how California schools judge teachers flunked another test on Tuesday, failing to advance for the second time in a week.

The Senate Education Committee decided to reconsider the bill after deadlocking last week on a 4-4 vote (it needed five to pass), with Democrats and Republicans falling on both sides. The bill's author, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, said he had altered his legislation to try and persuade opponents to shift their stance.

Currently, districts are required only to rank teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Senate Bill 441 would create four different grades, which Calderon said is essential for allowing schools to flag the lowest-performing educators, and would increase the frequency of evaluations for veteran teachers from at least every five years to at least every three years.

Calderon said he had amended the bill to emphasize that a section calling for more parent input would not affect collectively bargained contracts. He said he had no intention of dictating how schools would implement the new four-tiered grading system.

"I am not, in this piece of legislation, prescribing what those levels should be or what they should say," Calderon said.

May 1, 2013
StudentsFirst under scrutiny from the left

Thumbnail image for MC_RHEE.02.JPG

Michelle Rhee frequently says her StudentsFirst lobbying group is a bipartisan organization that backs Democrats and Republicans who support her vision for education: charter schools, vouchers and performance pay for teachers.

But left-leaning critics of the group routinely cast StudentsFirst as a Republican outfit, out of step with the union values many Democrats hold dear. Last month, California Democrats wouldn't let StudentsFirst have a booth at the party's state convention and Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, gave a speech saying the group is "backed by moneyed interests, Republican operatives and out-of-state Wall Street billionaires dedicated to school privatization and trampling on teacher and worker rights."

Now StudentsFirst is again under attack from the left, with liberal blogs pointing out the group's support for lawmakers who have taken positions against immigrants and gay people. The Daily Kos wrote a few posts last week criticizing StudentsFirst for naming John Ragan, a member of Tennessee's state Legislature, its "reformer of the year." Ragan wrote an unsuccessful bill that would have prevented teachers from talking about homosexuality in the classroom. The Los Angeles County Democratic Party seethed in response.

StudentsFirst put out a statement saying Ragan's bill was "an ill-conceived, harmful piece of legislation" that it did not support. The group said it honored Ragan for his votes to change the teacher tenure system, expand the number of charter schools and bring in more math and science teachers.

But the criticism continued this week, with Salon writing that Rhee's group "stands by anti-gay honoree."

PHOTO CREDIT: Michelle Rhee. in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

May 1, 2013
California Senate committee OKs bill to block retroactive taxes

Ted_Lieu_2012_Pedroncelli.jpgLegislation that would protect thousands of Californians from paying retroactive income taxes on their sales of business investments won initial committee approval Wednesday.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved the legislation, Senate Bill 209, by a 6-1 margin with the committee chair, Davis Democrat Lois Wolk, casting the lone "no" vote.

The legislation, carried by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, would overturn a 2012 judicial decision that a 1993 tax break for those who invest in small California companies was an invalid interference in interstate commerce.

The tax break cut in half the taxes on capital gains from such investments. After the decision was rendered last year, the Franchise Tax Board declared that everyone who took advantage of the tax break after 2008 would have to repay their tax savings, plus interest and penalties. It amounted to at least $120 million.

The affected taxpayers began protesting. Lieu and Gorell introduced SB 209 to shield them from the retroactive taxes.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, talks on the Senate floor. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press file, 2012

May 1, 2013
UPDATE: NYC hedge fund correcting its first quarter CA lobbying reports


UPDATE: Three hours after this story went up on Capitol Alert, the New York City hedge fund called to say it's not, after all, California's biggest spender on lobbying.

"Our first quarter filing contains a manifest error which we are working to correct," said Stephen Ellwood, chief compliance officer for Arrowgrass Capital Partners.

The company did not immediately have the correct figure for how much it spent on lobbying, but representatives said it will be significantly lower than the $2.2 million initially reported to the Secretary of State, knocking Arrowgrass Capital off the list below of the top 20 interest groups that spent the most money lobbying California government in the first three months of this year.

Ellwood also said Arrowgrass's three registered lobbyists are in-house employees, not placement agents as the Secretary of State's Office reported earlier.

The original Capitol Alert post is below:

A review of California lobbying reports from the first quarter of 2013 shows heavy spending by a lot of Sacramento's usual interest groups: the oil industry, the California Chamber of Commerce, labor unions, health care companies and utilities.

But there's a new player on the list too, one that, at first glance, appears to be outspending everyone else. Arrowgrass Capital Partners spent $2.2 million on salaries for its three in-house lobbyists during the first quarter of the year, according to its reports to the Secretary of State, which were released today. That's more than double what was spent during the same period by the Western States Petroleum Association, typically Sacramento's biggest-spending interest group.

Arrowgrass Capital is a hedge fund based in New York City. Its three registered lobbyists are actually placement agents who pitch investments to California's public pension funds, said Allie Schembra, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's Office. A 2010 law passed in the wake of a scandal at CalPERS requires placement agents to register with the state as lobbyists.

"We're not really lobbyists but we get caught by the California lobbyist law," said Stephen Ellwood, chief compliance officer for Arrowgrass Capital.

The chart below shows the 25 interest groups that spent the most money on lobbying during the first quarter of this year, according to fillings with the Secretary of State.

Interest group spending on lobbying Q1 2013

PHOTO CREDIT: An oil well pump jack is shown working as cars and trucks roll along a stretch of road in Coalinga. The Western States Petroleum Association ranked second in California lobbying spending for the first quarter of 2013. AP Photo/ Gary Kazanjian, 2008 file

May 1, 2013
Census Bureau charts California economy's rise and fall

RCB_20121031_NEWHOMES_0003.JPGMost California workers are payroll employees of private businesses, and the rise, fall and slow recovery of that employment during the last decade is laid out in a new Census Bureau report.

The report -- which excludes government workers and the self-employed from its calculations -- reveals that in 2001, there were 806,733 "business establishments" employing 13.2 million Californians and paying them $521.8 billion a year.

Five years later, during an historic housing boom that helped drive the state's unemployment rate below 5 percent, there were 878,128 businesses with 13.8 million workers, and payroll outlays hit $633.8 billion.

As the housing bubble burst, however, the state slid into its worst recession since the Great Depression, and the statewide unemployment rate surged over time to more than 12 percent. By 2010, the number of employers had dropped to 849,875 and business employment had declined to 12.5 million - a decline of 1.3 million workers - but payroll costs were virtually the same at $635.6 billion.

The latest employment data files for 2011 show a slight uptick from 2010 as the state's economy began to recover. In 2011, there were 849,316 employers with 12.7 million employees, and they were paying out $663.6 billion in wages and salaries.

PHOTO CREDIT: Construction workers smooth out foundations at a new housing development in Folsom. Renée C. Byer / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

May 1, 2013
Kevin McCarty to run for Dickinson's Assembly seat

mccarty.jpgSacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty will run again for the Assembly in 2014, four years after losing a close race for a legislative seat.

McCarty, a Democrat, seeks to replace Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, who has formed a campaign committee to run for the state Senate when President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is termed out next year.

"Targeting absentee landlords, creating green jobs, launching anti-truancy programs and getting illegal guns off our streets are just a few of the things that I focused on as a member of the City Council," McCarty said in a written statement. "I'm running for the state Assembly because I know I can do more."

May 1, 2013
California's out-of-wedlock birth rate lower than that nationwide

AOC_Baby_Hand.JPGMaybe California is not such a wild and crazy place after all.

The Census Bureau reported Wednesday that 35.7 percent of U.S. births were to unmarried mothers in 2011, but California's rate was markedly lower at 33.9 percent.

A number of other states had higher rates than California's, including rival Texas at 35.8 percent.

Among the states, Louisiana had the highest rate of births that year to unmarried mothers, 48.7 percent, although that was surpassed by the District of Columbia at 50.8 percent.

Utah was lowest at 14.7 percent.

PHOTO CREDIT: A care-giver holds the hand of a 4-month-old baby. Autumn Payne / Sacramento Bee file, 2006

May 1, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to step up California gun enforcement

brownup.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to increase funding for a state effort to confiscate weapons from people who are prohibited from owning them because of mental illness or violent criminal pasts, Brown's office announced today.

Senate Bill 140 was one of a number of gun control proposals introduced by California Democrats following the December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. The measure found bipartisan support in the Legislature, despite opposition from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups.

The legislation directs $24 million to the state Department of Justice to improve enforcement efforts associated with the state's Armed Prohibited Persons System, a database that helps officials identify people who are no longer allowed to possess guns.

"Today, each California community is a step closer to being safer," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a prepared statement. "This swift action by the Legislature and the Governor to enforce the laws we already have is a wise and worthy investment to reduce gun violence."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Hector Amezcua / The Sacramento Bee

May 1, 2013
GOP SOS nominee runs for Long Beach mayor as independent

HJA_5749.JPGA former California candidate for statewide office seen as a "rising star" in GOP circles is again running for office, but this time as an independent.

Damon Dunn, a former professional football player who described himself as "truly conservative" during his 2010 secretary of state run, announced earlier this year his plans to run for mayor of Long Beach. Dunn, who lost the 2010 race to Democrat Debra Bowen by 15 percentage points, said he changed his registration to decline to state ahead of joining the mayoral race.

Though he is critical of his former party's handling of issues like same-sex marriage and poverty, as well as its ability to attract women and minority voters, Dunn said his decision to shed his GOP registration ahead of this run was not intended to be a political statement.

"Local politics mandates that I stand for my own ideas," said Dunn, who was once registered as a Democrat years ago. "I've got to run as my own man. There are problems here in Long Beach and the fixes here are not ideological."

Dunn's bid for mayor is already attracting big-name support. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice headlined a reception to raise money for his race in Menlo Park Tuesday. The two met years ago at Stanford, when Dunn was a student and Rice was a provost.

"We've been friends for a long time," he said.

Damon Dunn is named fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution

PHOTO CREDIT: Damon Dunn, Secretary of State candidate, speaks at Solar Gard Window Films in San Diego on Friday, August 20, 2010. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

May 1, 2013
California population growth remains low

MC_TRANSAMERICA_G.19.JPGThe California Department of Finance's demographic unit calculated that California gained fewer than 300,000 new residents in 2012 for a growth rate of 0.8 percent.

Numerically, that's about half the annual growth California experienced during the 1980s, when high immigration and birth rates hit the state, and proportionately it's scarcely a third of the 1980s rate.

Working off 2010 census data, state demographers estimated the state's population at 37,966,000 on January 1, up 298,000 over the previous year.

The state's still-struggling economy may have something to do with population trends, the report indicated. The San Francisco Bay Area, whose economy is booming, was the fastest growing region last year, with Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley, growing twice as fast as the state as a whole.

Population growth last year was lowest in rural counties, where unemployment rates are the highest, and several actually lost population - Alpine, Calaveras, Del Norte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Tuolumne.

Although regionally the Bay Area saw the highest rate of population growth, Santa Clarita, a suburban enclave north of Los Angeles, was the state's fastest growing city at 15.4 percent, followed by Dublin in Alameda County at 6.8 percent.

Despite scant population growth, however, California saw a resurgence of residential construction last year, with a 27 percent increase in new housing units from the previous year. The amount of residential construction in 2012, 45,309 units, was, however, just a fifth of what California was building during the height of the housing boom in the last decade.

PHOTO CREDIT: The San Francisco Bay Area had California's highest regional growth rate in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo 2010 file.


Capitol Alert Staff

Torey Van Oot Torey Van Oot covers the California Legislature and state politics. tvanoot@sacbee.com. Twitter: @CapitolAlert

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

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

Melody Gutierrez Melody Gutierrez covers the state Legislature. mgutierrez@sacbee.com. Twitter: @MelodyGutierrez

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

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

Jim Sanders Jim Sanders covers the state Legislature. jsanders@sacbee.com

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

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

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

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