Around The Capitol

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THE NOONER for December 31, 2014





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Good morning from the re-electrified Nooner Portland HQ. You have 12 hours left of 2014. I for one am happy to see this year come to an end and am looking forward to a much better 2015. For last-minute tax year contributions, I suggest:

It was a fascinating year in the State Capitol and politics. Here are some of my top moments:

  • Leland Yee. Yee would have been out of office in 2014 due to term limits, but the 56-year-old politician was seen as ambitious and was a very serious candidate for Secretary of State. However, an FBI investigation into San Francisco Chinatown corruption landed them an unexpected whale in Yee, who was caught allegedly accepting bribes and offering to furnish guns and shoulder-launched missiles to rebels in the Philippines.
  • Ron and Tom Calderon. While Leland Yee's case was a complete surprise, there had been whispers about the FBI investigating Ron Calderon and his dealings with Michael Drobot, a former executive with Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. 
  • The drought and water bond. Despite a wet December, snowpack is still significantly below long-term averages, with a December 30 reading in the Sierra at only 33% of the average. Despite fears that voters wouldn't be ready to approve a long-delayed water bond, it passed in November with 67.1% of the vote.
  • The loss of the Democratic supermajorities. Democrats lost supermajorities in both the State Assembly and the State Senate in the 2014 elections. The State Senate was going to be hard to hold, as Democrats needed a pick-up in the Central Valley or to hold an Orange County district that was very difficult in a mid-term election. The Assembly was lost in Democrat-held districts in Torrance, the Tri-Valley, and the Antelope Valley, in particular the former in which a bloody top-two fight among Democrats and outstanding candidate recruitment by Republicans led to the election of Catharine Baker.
  • The Democratic sweep of statewide offices. While the November election headlines frequently reflected the loss of the supermajorities, Democrats once again swept statewide offices, led by a 20-point drubbing of Governor Jerry Brown over Neel Kashkari. Two highly regarded Republican candidates--Pete Peterson for Secretary of State and Ashley Swearengin for Controller--found few resources for their campaigns as the California Republican Party and business allies prioritized the denial of Democrats of supermajorities in the Legislature. Peterson lost by 7.2%; Swearengin lost by 8%.
  • The residency-obsessed L.A. County district attorney and the willingness of other D.A.s to look the other way. Over the years, there has been a wink-wink acknowledgement that many state legislative candidates haven't lived in their districts at the time of election. In some cases, it's just a logistics issue, as it can be hard to launch an election campaign and shop for a house at the same time. In others, candidates have no intention of living in their districts because of children in schools or the desire to simply stay in the same neighborhood. However, this year saw the prosecution of former Assemblymember Richard Alarcon and State Senator Rod Wright. Unfortunately for Wright, his indictment occurred in the same year as Yee and Calderon, unfairly portraying him in many media stories with actual corruption.
  • The embarrassingly low voter turnout. At 42.2% of registered and 30.94% of eligible voters, general election voter participation was the lowest in recorded history. The abysmal turnout has a key benefit to political consultants--it will be much easier to qualify ballot measures for the next four years.
  • The bag ban and the referendum. At the end of the legislative session, Alex Padilla landed a victory on SB 270, the bill to have a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The industry immediately launched a referendum and turned in what it claims as sufficient signatures to put the law on held until the November 2016 election.
  • The new leaders. 2014 brought a big turnover in legislative leadership, with three of four positions turning over. Elevated to the posts were Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) as Senate President Pro Tempore, Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) as Assembly Speaker, and Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) as Assembly Republican Leader. Bob Huff (R-Walnut) continues as Senate Minority Leader.
  • Mental health. In August, then Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg shared that his daughter has had a lifelong battle with mental illness, which explained his passion for the issue, including 2004's Proposition 63 tax in support of services. In September, then Secretary of State Debra Bowen revealed that she has been battling severe depression and is living in a trailer.

#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Rocky FernandezChristian Griffith, and Louis Mendez



  • All are invited to Inauguration Party for Gov. Jerry Brown Jan. 5 on the North Capitol Lawn, L Street side. The People’s Inauguration Party: Working People Standing together is a celebration of the People’s Governor open to all the people. Hosted by the California Labor Federation, Orange County Employees Association and workers across the state. Free hot dogs, drinks, music and more! 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • University of California Office of the President
    The Executive Director to represent the University of California in Sacramento on the University's long range/annual budget, capital resource acquisition/allocation plans, and other finance-related topics including investments, procurement, risk management, and accounting. Salary: Commensurate with Experience.

  • Small, downtown Los Angeles boutique law firm is looking for a full-time political and election attorney.

    Qualifications: Two to five years of relevant experience; demonstrated interest in political and election law; strong writing skills, flexibility, attention to detail, excellent academic credentials; law review or journal experience preferred.

    Contact: Email resumes to Ana Simeonova, Office Manager,

  • Join Emerge California's 2015 East Bay Reception on Saturday, January 10 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at The Den at the Fox Theatre located at 1912 Telegraph Ave in Downtown Oakland. To join the Host Committee, please contact Nazneen Rydhan-Foster at or visit the event page here.
  • ASSEMBLYMEMBER RICHARD BLOOM (D-Santa Monica) discusses chairing Assembly Budget Subcommittee #3 in this exclusive interview:
    Know a current or former elected official in Southern California we should interview? Our TV program reaches California's #1 zip code for campaign contributions. Send suggestions to:
  • California State Association of Counties (CSAC) is seeking two legislative advocates. Great opportunity to work in a challenging, professional environment on behalf of California counties. Salary DOQ; excellent benefits. Interviews expected week of 1/26/15. More details available here. Send cover letter/resume to DeAnn Baker at



California's Budget Surplus? Look Again
Editorial @
Actuaries hired by outgoing state Controller John Chiang have found that paying for all the health benefits promised to current state employees when they retire will cost almost $72 billion, taking a much larger slice from the state budget than is now spent on retirees' coverage. The revelation is just the latest sign that the state's budget surplus isn't a real windfall, given the long-term fiscal problems festering in Sacramento. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to unveil a plan next month to start paying down the retiree health program's unfunded liabilities, which have grown by a third in the last eight years. It's commendable that the state at last is owning up to this issue, but its dithering has raised the price tag considerably.

Could 2015 Be The Year Of The Ferret?
Alexei Koseff @
With dozens of new lawmakers at the Capitol, might 2015 mark the dawn of a new era for California ferrets?

The Chronicleâ
Peter Fimrite @
Disaster and drama were prevalent on the pages of The Chronicle throughout the year, but no story touched Bay Area readers in 2014 quite like the tragic death of comedian Robin Williams. The comic actor’s suicide was chosen by Chronicle reporters and editors as the biggest news story of the year, beating out California’s historic drought and the magnitude-6.0 Napa earthquake, which were chosen as the second and third most impactful stories. The Chronicle’s annual top 10 list is full of the unusual and extraordinary — and, let’s face it, most of the news is bad — but the glorious World Series victory by the Giants stands out as an oasis of good. The Williams story is tragic, but it highlighted the ephemeral nature of fame and fortune and inspired people to talk about and get help for depression. The discovery of Robin Williams’ body inside his Tiburon home Aug. 11 was a shattering blow to his fans, especially when it was revealed that he had committed suicide. California suffered throughout the year from one of the worst dry spells in the state’s modern history, a three-year period that has depleted the water supply. The drought led to drastic reductions in water allotments, forced residents to ration water and caused farmers to leave vast tracts of land fallow. The region’s strongest earthquake in a quarter century rumbled through Napa at 3:20 a.m. Aug. 24, sending glass shards flying, wine barrels tumbling and large chunks of historic downtown buildings crashing into the street. The Napa Valley’s fabled wine industry took an $80 million hit in shattered barrels, bottles and equipment. At least 120 of the valley’s 500 vineyards, wineries and production facilities reported quake damage to their wine or structures, most of it caused by tumbling barrels. The saga of state Sen. Leland Yee is a kaleidoscope of racketeering, bribery, weapons trafficking, money laundering and a few other schemes and intrigues, according to FBI records. The FBI investigation began with alleged Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, who is accused of agreeing to launder $2.3 million in criminal proceeds, and then proceeding to include Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president, and Yee. The FBI says Yee and Jackson solicited contributions to the senator’s unsuccessful campaign for San Francisco mayor in 2011 and his recent campaign for California secretary of state in exchange for promises of political favors. The star this time was Madison Bumgarner, who won Game 1 of the Series, tossed a four-hit shutout in Game 5 and then shut the door on the Royals in the final game on short rest, a feat that won him Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award. Thousands of demonstrators blocked streets and highways, broke windows and played cat-and-mouse with police in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley for weeks in December to protest grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the killings of unarmed black men. The sign-waving throngs marched, chanted and, at times, confronted merchants who got in their way during a series of actions designed to draw attention to the deaths of Eric Garner, in New York, and Michael Brown, in Missouri, and the decision not to prosecute the officers who killed them. The protesters, at various times, blocked Market Street in San Francisco, shut down East Bay freeways and chained themselves to the front doors of Oakland police headquarters. Anger is percolating in the Mission, Excelsior, Richmond, Cole Valley and Sunset districts of San Francisco as technology workers with lots of money replace longtime blue-collar residents. The most dramatic transformation is occurring in the Mission District, where increasing rents and soaring real estate prices are changing the community into a more upscale district. Some were submerged in several feet of water in part because not enough grout had been pumped into protective sleeves to keep them dry, officials told members of a bridge project oversight committee. [...] an investigative report on the quality-control processes for the Bay Bridge project said Caltrans “gagged and banished” at least nine engineers who raised concerns about cost overruns or construction defects on the new span. The Boles Fire forced 2,000 residents of Weed and the surrounding communities to flee as homes and buildings erupted in flames and crews struggled to control an inferno that caught them by surprise. Fanned by gusting winds, the Boles Fire jumped Highway 97, raced into the community and damaged or destroyed 100 structures before firefighters had a chance to respond. The problems during the regular season opener were echoes of previous complaints of gridlocked traffic, overwhelmed transit service, and parking and access problems during the first four events at the stadium, starting with a San Jose Earthquakes soccer match.

Indian Casino, Nixed By Voters, May Not Be Dead
John Myers @
Long before Californians weighed November’s referendum of a proposed Central Valley tribal casino, powerful forces on both sides quietly admitted something that wasn’t being talked about: the ballot measure wouldn’t be the final word.

The New Health Care: New Enrollment Numbers Show Importance of Coming Supreme Court Case
The subsidies that the court may eradicate are helping a large majority of customers pay for their health insurance.

William Gerberding dies at 85; longtime University of Washington head
William Gerberding, president of the University of Washington during a tumultuous era in the 1980s and early '90s when the university faced state budget cuts and football-team sanctions, died Saturday in Seattle. He was 85.

New Health Laws Set To Take Effect In California
Lisa Aliferis @
The new year will bring in hundreds of new laws in California, including a landmark law that permits undocumented individuals to obtain a driver’s license and another requiring that all eggs sold in California come from chickens living in bigger spaces.

Governor’s Choice To Lead CpUC Dismisses Concerns Of Improper Ties With Pg&e | News Fix | Kqed News
The PG&E logo is displayed on a hardhat at a work site.

Hollywood Isn't A Threat To America
Just off the top of my head, how about unregulated derivative trading, gerrymandering and voter suppression, unlimited dark money in political campaigns, an unequal education and justice system and a "news" media more interested in making a buck than informing, just to name a few?

Enron billionaire frets about public pensions' solvency
The Texan gives generously to politicians who support pension benefit cuts.

How to get more Angelenos to the ballot box
Los Angeles' budget for 2014-15 tops $8.1 billion, which is bigger than the budgets of about a dozen states. In the coming months, the city must grapple with some serious questions, many related to how to spend that money, such as the funding of pensions; hiring and retention of police...

California Gas Prices Going Up In 2015
Josh Richman @
But how much more we'll pay, and whether it's worth it, remains bitterly debated among oil companies, some state lawmakers and environmentalists.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack Levels Are Greater Than A Year Ago
Matt Stevens @
Measurements of Sierra Nevada snowpack on Tuesday showed more snow than surveyors recorded a year ago. But state water officials said it was far from enough to signal a potential end to California's continuing drought.

All'Acqua serves wood-fired pizza, pasta and budino in Atwater Village
Name of restaurant: All'Acqua. Because, apparently, it's Italian for Atwater, which is of course where you're eating. You're on Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village. The place opened about five weeks ago.

Add Street-sweeping Tickets To Dense Neighborhoods' Parking Problems
Few things cause more anxiety for Los Angeles motorists than the sight of a parking enforcement officer writing tickets on street-sweeping day.

Maryland Governor Commutes Death Sentences, Emptying Death Row
Malley came two years after Maryland lawmakers abolished the death penalty in the state.

Arts Districts activists encouraged by zoning hearing delay
Arts District residents battling a proposal to rewrite downtown Los Angeles zoning laws to permit up to 1,500 new residential units say they are encouraged by two recent developments.