Around The Capitol

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AroundTheCapitol Headlines | California Legislative Directory | Premium Subscribers


SacTown Talks by The Nooner

Happy Thursday! It's the Big Day! No, not THAT day. Campaign finance reports in SD01 (Northeast Cal.) and SD33 (Long Beach) are due by midnight.

You're almost there and I hope you had a swimmingly good day yesterday. It was a bit cray-cray out there as I ventured around the Capitol. Not my normal pleasant post-writing stroll over there. 

OMG: A little story from Nooner Global HQ. Readers know that I wrote yesterday about homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. I received lots of great feedback from readers about the write-up on a day when almost everything was about the curtailing of the current high-speed rail ambitions. More on that after the jump.

As I was reading your feedback yesterday afternoon, I had a loud knock on my door. It was a process server. "Are you Scott Lay?" "Yes," I answered. He handed me a card and told me that he was a process server. He asked me if I was behind in my (expensive!) rent. "No," I answered. He said "Maybe they are selling the place. You should call the property manager." 

He was a really nice guy (and I was nice to him). He handed me a "60 DAY NOTICE TO QUIT." He said "The good news is that you have 60 days to find a place."

A great day all of a sudden caused my stomach to drop. I thought about finding a place that fits my life of walking near the Capitol. I thought about all of my books. I thought about my kale growing on the balcony. My life was thrown into turmoil--for the last 20 hours. I co-owned a home in Davis and this was greater uncertainty than after the divorce.

Immediately, I reached out to the property manager (and cc'd the attorney, who is in a small firm with a legislator as a partner). The property manager got back to me that she knew nothing about it.

I waited overnight. It's 10:45 and I just heard back from the attorney. He said that it was sent to me by mistake and the notice is rescinded. 


Exhale, but oh how relevant this is. I have nice retirement accounts including PERS. I have a revenue stream that pays the rent and puts food on the table. But, if I can feel that housing (and thus everything else) insecurity, it puts the discussion of homelessness, mental illness, and addiction into even greater perspective. For Nooner newbies, I share personal stuff occasionally. You get me over time.

Let's move on to some happier stuff. We'll come back to social problems to close today.  

THE PODCAST: We've teased it for a couple of weeks and Gibran and I sat down with our first guest after the State of the State on Tuesday. First, you know who I am, I suppose. If not, here's the likely neglected about page. I'm joining with Gibran Maciel, host of SacTown Talks, for a series of podcasts featuring interesting state figures.

STT DuoGibran is a former Capitol staffer and now follows his passion of teaching jiu jitsu and using his gift of gab. His existing podcast has had a range of Sacramento movers, shakers, and eclectic personalities. No, when I was a guest, I did not ask which category I fell in. I'm guessing door #3. 

We are not looking for to compete with the other podcasts, which each have their own niche. You know I am a fan of ear ticklers and given my walks and nocturnal listening, I run out, and there are many more voices to hear. We don't plan for it to be just legislators, but rather gamut of politics and policy that you find in The Nooner. We're fans of the people and process and not reporters. We many not don ties and, yes, these are on video. I promised Gibran's wife that I would wear pants, even if my legs are out of the picture. 

Brian MaienscheinOur first guest was perfect--Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego). As you likely know Assemblymember Maienschein switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. On January 24, he became the first sitting lawmaker to switch from the Republican to Democratic Party since Jean Moorhead Duffy (Sacramento) took the same step on February 19, 1980 [h/t Alex Vassar/]. 

Interesting political notes about Duffy. She:

  • was a lobbyist for the California Nurses Association before being elected as a Republican to the State Assembly
  • was elected as a "Prop 13" baby in 1978
  • was the 23rd woman elected to the California Legislature
  • switched parties in the 1980 "Speaker War"
  • went on to win two elections as a Democrat after changing parties
  • married a legislative colleague in 1984. Gordon Duffy had ran for Secretary of State and lost to March Fong Eu, and then went to work inthe Deukmejian administration
  • has an oral history (transcript) through the State Archives

Gordon (94) and Jean (80) live in Santa Rosa and Jean is still a Democrat.

Brian Maienschein was the biggest newsmaker of the month outside of Governor Newsom, so who else could we sit down with?

Here's where to find the podcast/videocast:

I had never met Brian before but we were familiar with each other. We're close in age and both went to a UC and on to law school. His district is to the north San Diego and the city of Poway. He represented District 5 on the San Diego City Council from 2000-2008, at the same time as Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins represented District 3. They worked closely together on issues and had voting records that predominantly overlapped. He's a single father of two teenage girls.

From the moment I met him, I felt like I had just run in to an old buddy. 

As Gibran and I expect for future episodes of SacTown Talks by The Nooner episodes, the discussion is unscripted and runs about an hour. Gibran had no notes and mine were data because, well you know me. There is no editing and frankly there was no need to have any. If someone screws up (nobody did), we'll just say "Whoops!" and correct ourselves, like I do in The Nooner.

Share your feedback with us. There's a Facebook page for it and you know how to get a hold of me. I'll post new episodes here and I hope you'll subscribe on iTunes. If you like what you see and you are interested in sponsoring the podcast either standalone or in conjunction with Nooner advertising, contact or We're still working out pricing since this is a new launch. I anticipate the advertising model will be like you hear on other podcasts--we read your script in a flow that fits into the cast. 

While have invites out to future guests, let us know if there is someone who we should move to the top of our list. There are lots of conversations to be had. We record across from Capitol Park. Get a sense our inaugural episode and let us know who'd you like to fill your ears and we'll see what we can do.   

C'MON 'N RIDE IT (THE TRAIN): The ish got real between President Trump and President Newsom last night. President Trump took note of the change of plans in the high-speed rail project announced in Governor Newsom's State of the State address on Tuesday and asked for the federal money back.

Now, whether or not you are for or against the train and happy with the announcement, Newsom's "in the middle" strategy is meant to comply with the grant application submitted by California and funded by the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

As I understand it, Newsom's plan is to complete 171 miles from Merced to Bakersfield, but also to complete planning and environmental review for the entire project from San Diego to San Francisco. The thought is to then allow public-private discussions to continue about the completion of the project.   

The $3.5 billion is not just for around one-quarter of the cost of the first Central Valley segment but also the costly planning and environmental review that is required under both state and federal law. 

By suggesting that the funds should be taken away now, it's like President Trump brought a chocolate torte to his Valentine's dinner and didn't like the cut of steak being served and wants to go home.

So, at 5:29 PST, President Trump tweeted:

 In response, Governor Newsom tweeted:


Meanwhile, while the Los Angeles Times editorial board criticized Newsom's reshaped plan for high-speed rail yesterday, George Skelton is all aboard Newsom's compromise:

"Bullet train dreamers have always argued that California is the fifth largest economy in the world, so there’s no reason it can’t afford to build a high-speed rail system. Smaller countries have. That’s rubbish.

California is a state. It doesn’t print money. It must balance its budget books annually. Those other bullet train builders are nations and they usually partner with private enterprise. No private investor is interested in California’s project."

Gavin was in the Central Valley yesterday to talk about his plans for the train and other priorities highlighted in the budget and State of the State. At Riverview Elementary School in Parlier southeast of Fresno, he signed AB 72, the mid-year budget bill adopted by the Legislature earlier this month. Among other things, the bill approves one-time funds for pressing drinking water issues, funds to backfill property taxes for counties affected by wildfires, and money to support rapid response efforts by organizations assisting asylum-seekers.

Today, Newsom heads north to Pine Ridge Elementary School in Magalia (Butte County) to talk about the wildfire provisions of the bill. The bill also provides $15 million to the Department of Finance to retain legal counsel and audit services for any public utility liability issues.

GAME ON, HOME BOY: Senate Budget Chair Holly Mitchell, who is termed-out in 2022, has filed for the second district on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. For home-gamers, that is the Mark Ridley-Thomas (MRT) seat, which most saw destined for his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (SRT). MRT spent a combined six years in the Assembly and State Senate before the Board of Supervisors, on which he is serving his third and final term. But the plan for SRT to be the heir apparent fell apart in 2018. SRT resigned for "serious health reasons" on December 31. While he had experienced health problems, the Sacramento community knew there were also #METOO allegations, which have subsequently been documented as "more likely than not have been true."

So, the chatter has been that former Assembly Speaker and current Los Angeles City Council president Herb Wesson wants the supe seat, possibly on a path for a "free ride" run for mayor. However, now Kevin de León is running for council in 2020 with the same "free ride" mayoral plans. 

We may be "Around the Capitol," but make no mistake that we'll be talking these races in this space.

LAO-LAO LAND: The Legislative Analyst's Office is out with two new analyses of the proposed budget: Proposition 98 and Medi-Cal. For the newbies, these reports used to all be bundled up in one thick print book. We'd wait for the release and then scramble to find our pages. The LAO now rolls them out by subject and on a more timely basis. Kudos Team LAO!

2020, LA Times, Kay Street, and #CAKEDAY after the jump...



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PERSONS OF INTEREST: Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports on the three Democratic candidates Team Trump are focusing on for opposition research, and they include Kamala Harris. The op research reportedly also focuses on Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren

"Interviews with more than two dozen of the president’s closest advisers reveal that the Trump operation is watching the opening days of the Democratic primary with a mix of relief over the field’s sprint to the left, surprise over Harris’ impressive launch, and trepidation over the prospect of Joe Biden and Sherrod Brown threatening Trump’s Midwest stranglehold."

NOT SO LA-LA LAND: From the outside, things may look rainbows and unicorns at the Los Angeles Times. They have a new deep-pocketed private owner and broken off from The Tribune Company-turned Tronc-turned Tribune Company again. While folks miss the iconic downtown building, for those on assignment to anywhere other than right off Metro, the new headquarters in El Segundo is proving convenient. The newsrooms are being reinvested in from beat reporters to digital experts. If you're looking for a political reporter at the Bee, they are likely either at CALmatters or the Times.

However, another carry-over from the Tronc era is that the newsroom is now part of the Writers Guild of America. While operational staff had been union before, representatives of newsroom staff are now negotiating their first contract.

Cupid who had been showering love through a loose wallet is now Chuckie. Now, that's taking it to the extreme, as Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is not involved in these negotiations. The fight is over ownership rights from stories covered by a reporter that lead to a future project including on unpaid leave.

While there are several, the example that you are likely most familiar with is "The Soloist," the movie in which Jamie Foxx plays a schizophrenic homeless man in Los Angeles after being a childhood cello prodigy. In the movie, Robert Downey Jr. played a Los Angeles Times reporter who discovered the man living on the street. While it lost money for various reasons (56% on Rotten Tomatoes), I think it is a great movie worth a watch. You can find it on the various streaming services.

Before the movie was a New York Times bestseller of the same name, written by longtime columnist Steve Lopez. If you're familiar with Lopez's writing, you know it's a great read.

As I understand it, in contract negotiations, management argues that because the book spun from original reporting "on the clock," it should have at minimum first right of refusal of ownership. That would likely involve negotiations over compensation for the composition in exchange for a royalty share for the "paper." That would also include derivative rights, such as a movie and soundtrack as in "The Soloist."

The writers' side is that if they are taking time off or working nights and weekends to work on something and meeting the regular assignments of the job, why should the employer own that time and work? It's not like reporting is an 8-5 job. Reporters are always thinking about stories. Papers move on from them but the story may live on, as it did with "The Soloist."

This reflects the changing nature of "newspaper" companies that used to be limited to print and, in many cases, local television stations. They are now multi-media companies seeking a diversity of revenue streams. The "newspaper" world in 2019 is completely different in than when the book "The Soloist" was published. Would we have had a book and movie had the new contract terms been agreed to? Obviously, management and labor would disagree.

At the Times, both sides of the table are learning that just because Cupid's arrow hits you, it doesn't mean it's smooth sailing.

KAY STREET: Thank you for the comments on yesterday's writing on homelessness, mental illness, and addiction on Kay Street. For readers not familiar with the Capitol area here in Sac, Kay Street parallels L Street, which is the street immediately north of the State Capitol. On Kay, there has been major redevelopment on the west end near 7th, where Downtown Commons (DOCO) includes the new arena, plentiful new restaurants, and boutique hotel have opened. Another hotel and many more restaurants and shops are forthcoming. On the east end around 13th, the aging Sacramento Convention Center is undergoing a major remodel.

"Mid-Kay" as I'll call it, between those bookends, much of the Capitol community spends their lunchbreaks. While there can be interesting street drama during that time, it pales compared to what area residents, business owners, employees, and would-be patrons find before and after the lunch crowd passes through. I've talked to many people that are socially liberal but they admit that they don't go before or after the lunch hour because of human waste and  open drug sales and abuse.

These are people who dig in their pockets to help the guy buy a turkey sandwich or "purchase" a Homeward Bound from others in front of Chicory on 11th and L. I watched a distinguished State Senator do that yesterday in the midst of the rainstorm.

I don't want to talk down mid-Kay. I want to talk it up and plan to chronicle it in this space. Take it or leave it but I think it's not a once-a-year story in the hometown paper. I'm talking to the business owners there and, let me tell you, they have huge ambitions and desires. They see their personal investments as part of the hopeful renaissance of a troubled street. It's frustrating to see the public investment at the 7th and 13th street bookends, but so be it. There is public attention to all of Kay Street, but attracting private investment to fill the empty storefronts is one of the top priorities. 

So, stay tuned to this space and let's hope to have success with mid-Kay so you can feel good about walking from your office, stopping at a cafe opened later, buying a book at the forthcoming Capital Books, catching a movie at the beautiful Crest, or strolling up to a game or event at DOCO.

I shouldn't have to say this, but I will. I have no interest in this other than someone who has experienced Kay Street for the last 25 years. I am just an area resident and someone who believes in local business. I am meeting business owners by introducing myself and telling them I want their business to succeed. 

Probolsky Research

#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Travis Legault, Dan Troy, and Angie Wei!


  • At 10th & L, the short-lived restaurant and bar was the Grid, not The Rind. The Rind is alive and well in midtown.
  • Steve Ly is a directly elected mayor in Elk Grove, so replace Elk Grove in yesterday's write-up with Davis, which has a rotating mayor.



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