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The Sacramento Bee

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  • AM Alert: Latino lawmakers visit immigrant detention facility

    Murietta_protest.JPGThough illegal immigration into California has declined in recent years, the state has recently become a flashpoint for the national debate on immigration reform.

    As Texas has been overwhelmed by a flood of migrants fleeing gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, many of those detainees have been sent to Border Patrol facilities in other states for processing. But a bus carrying immigrants to a facility in Murietta last week was stopped by hundreds of protesters, amplifying criticisms over how the federal government is handling the surge of border crossings.

    The California Latino Legislative Caucus has expressed its own concerns with the efforts, particularly the conditions that immigrants, many of whom are unaccompanied minors, face when they arrive in the U.S. Last month, the caucus sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for "the humane treatment of all detained immigrant children" and demanding an immediate moratorium on deportations.

    Members of the caucus, including state Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, Norma Torres, D-Pomona, and Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, and Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, will visit a makeshift detention facility at the Ventura County Naval Base today to inspect the care immigrants are receiving. The tour begins at 1 p.m.

    VIDEO: Not all Californians are sharing in the state's improving fortunes, Dan Walters says.

    ANOTHER DAY OLDER: Despite the summer recess for legislators, a few committee hearings are scheduled this month. State Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, will preside over an informational hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care to discuss service delivery for older adults, 10 a.m. at the Glendale Central Library.

    FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS: Is the combined power of three legislators enough to help dogs, cats and rabbits in the San Gabriel Valley find new homes? Assemblymen Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, and Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, team up with the Pasadena Humane Society for a pet adoption drive, starting at 9 a.m.

    ROLLING IN THE DOUGH: The Sacramento Bee has updated its state worker salary database with 2013 payroll data from the University of California. UC employees comprised all of last year's top ten state salaries, most of which were athletic coaches at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses. Steve Alford, UCLA's head basketball coach, topped the list with $2.64 million. Former Cal football coach Jeff Tedford was second with $2.44 million. Tedford received a buyout last year after his firing at the end of the 2012 season.

    PHOTO: A demonstrator that opposes illegal immigration, left, shouts at immigration supporters on July 4, 2014, outside a U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif. The Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill

  • Dan Walters Daily: California's economic growth tempered by unemployment

    unemploymentdelay.jpgNot all Californians are sharing in the state's improving fortunes, Dan says.

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

    See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

    PHOTO: Binders full of resources at the Employment Development Department office in Sacramento on February 14, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

  • Counties scramble to begin California controller recount


    Election officials across California began preparing Monday for hand recounts in thousands of precincts in the tight race for state controller.

    With July normally a slow time on the election calendar, counties were calling back employees from vacation, getting in touch with potential members of recount boards, and generally boning up on the state's complicated recount procedures after former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez filed papers Sunday seeking hand recounts in 15 counties where he defeated Board of Equalization member and fellow Democrat Betty Yee.

    "We've been working on this all morning," said Mary Bedard, registrar of voters in Kern County, No. 1 on the list of counties where Pérez seeks recounts. Bedard said employees on vacation have been summoned back to the office.

    Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office is scheduled to hold a conference call with election officials in the 15 counties at 4 p.m. today.

    It was still unclear Monday how long the recount could take and if that will hamper preparations for the Nov. 4 election.

    Pérez wants the first recounts to be in Kern and Imperial counties. Bedard did not have an estimate of how long it would take her county to do the requested recount, and Imperial County Registrar Debbie Porter said it would take her county an estimated week-and-a-half to finish the all-county recount sought by the Pérez campaign.

    But the Yee campaign said state law prohibits such simultaneous recounts. For now, Yee consultant Parke Skelton said, the campaign is watching and waiting and will consider seeking a recount of its own if Pérez's recount gives him the lead.

    Skelton left open the possibility of litigation, citing the legal fight after the 2000 presidential election when Vice President Al Gore sought recounts in just Democratic-leaning counties in Florida.

    "We're just assessing what our options are," Skelton said.

    PHOTO: Under the watchful eyes of observers for then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken, election official Kay Schuch sorts through ballots during the 2008 recount in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race. Mankato Free Press/John Cross

  • Sentencing for California Sen. Rod Wright delayed a third time


    The criminal sentencing hearing for suspended state Sen. Rod Wright has been delayed for a third time as his lawyers argue that the judge should throw out the jury's verdicts that found Wright guilty of eight felonies for lying about where he lived when he ran for office in 2008.

    Wright's sentencing hearing -- originally scheduled for March, then delayed until May, then delayed until July 21 -- is now scheduled for Sept. 3.

    "We filed a lengthy document and the prosecutor needs time to respond," said Wright's attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson.

    Wright's lawyers are asking the court for two things: to not enter, or ratify, the jury's guilty verdicts from January, and to grant Wright a new trial.

    Los Angeles prosecutors charged Wright with perjury and voter fraud, arguing that he broke the law in running to represent the Inglewood area in the state Senate because he lived outside the district in the tonier neighborhood of Baldwin Hills. Wright's lawyers argued that he owned homes in both areas, and that the Inglewood home is his legal domicile, allowing him to run for office in that district.

    Testimony at the trial noted that Wright rarely slept or prepared meals at the Inglewood home, which he rents to a family member, and prosecutors showed photos of Wright's clothing in the closets of the Baldwin Hills home with his cars parked outside.

    Wright's attorneys maintain that state law concerning residency requirements for legislative candidates is vague. A core argument in their request for a new trial is that the prosecution misled by focusing on where where Wright lives.

    "The statute doesn't require that you live in the district," McKesson said.

    "It was a problem with the continued use of the word 'live' -- not only by the court but by the media as well."

    The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office has not yet responded to the motions asking for a new trial and a not-guilty verdict, said spokeswoman Jane Robison.

    Many legislators own multiple homes or change their legal addresses as political opportunities arise. Political opponents have brought challenges in some instances, but Wright's case marks the rare criminal prosecution over the question of residency in a legislative race.

    Wright continues to earn his $7,543 per month pay as a state senator even though the Senate voted to suspend him in March, taking away his ability to participate in the legislative process. Senate Democrats quashed Republican motions to expel Wright and take away his pay, with Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg arguing that permanently expelling him from the Senate was premature because the jury's guilty verdicts could be overturned by a judge. Steinberg also said the state Constitution doesn't allow the Senate to yank the pay of members who are temporarily suspended.

    Facing an unprecedented spate of criminal charges for state senators -- including federal corruption indictments for suspended Democratic Sens. Leland Yee and Ron Calderon -- Steinberg this year wrote a constitutional amendment that, if approved by lawmakers and voters, would allow the Legislature to take away the pay of suspended legislators.

    Steinberg issued a statement Monday urging the court evaluating the case against Wright to decide whether the jury's verdicts stand before the Legislature begins its next session on Dec. 1.

    "This latest delay sought by the prosecution reflects the complexity of the case and ambiguities in existing law surrounding domicile and residency," Steinberg's statement says.

    "However, these deferments weigh upon our institution and they cannot continue indefinitely. With just one month of this legislative session remaining and with Senator Wright's defense brief already prepared and completed in time for July's hearing, I urge the court to resolve this issue before the new legislative session begins."

    Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:07 p.m. with response from Senate leader Darrell Steinberg.

    PHOTO: Sen. Rod Wright in the Senate chambers on Feb. 3, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

  • In Florida, Mike Curb can still stir the gubernatorial pot

    curb.jpgMike Curb, the former lieutenant governor who famously made trouble for Gov. Jerry Brown when Brown was governor before and traveled out of state, demonstrated over the weekend that he is still capable of stirring the gubernatorial pot.

    The Sporting News reported Friday that a political ad for Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist was removed from a car competing in a race at Daytona International Speedway after state Republican officials and Curb, a music producer and sponsor of the car, complained.

    "I did it out of respect to Mike Curb, who is a staunch Republican and he didn't feel comfortable and he's been a huge supporter and a partner to us from the very start," Phil Parsons, the car's owner, told the Sporting News. "In respect to Michael, we decided to take it off."

    Curb, 69, was lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1983, when Brown, a Democrat, was governor before. Brown traveled out of state frequently in those days, and Curb, left behind as acting governor, made mischief. Among other things, Curb tried to elevate a Republican judge to the appellate court - an appointment Brown rescinded - and signed a bill permitting a temporary increase in the lead content of gasoline.

    PHOTO: Acting Gov. Mike Curb with tax crusader Paul Gann on February 26, 1979. The Sacramento Bee/Harlin Smith

  • AM Alert: Community college board reappoints CCSF trustee

    Good news for Android users! Capitol Alert's Insider Edition app is now available for your phone or tablet. Learn more at

    AOC_CityCollege_052w.JPGIt's summer recess for legislators, most of whom have headed back to their districts, and for your humble AM Alert crew, it feels like all our friends went away to camp and left us with nothing to do.

    On this quiet Monday, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors gathers for its bimonthly meeting, starting at noon in the chancellor's office on Q Street.

    On the agenda is a resolution to reappoint the special trustee that has been working with City College of San Francisco to improve its management and finances since it was stripped of its accreditation last year. City College's accreditation woes have been highly controversial and were the subject of a scathing state audit last month.

    VIDEO: Despite California's pressing drought crisis, lawmakers aren't showing much urgency on a new water bond, Dan Walters says.

    DELTA FORCE: Can natural processes be used to guide restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta? UC Merced professor Joshua Viers discusses lessons from three decades of restoration efforts on the Cosumnes River in a seminar hosted by the Delta Science Program, noon at the Park Tower Building on 9th Street.

    GI-LY: Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, is beginning his vacation with a visit to the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, the largest veterans home in the country. Frazier will tour the facilities, which house more than 1,000 veterans, at 3 p.m.

    READ MORE: Audit slams California community college accreditation process

    PHOTO: A student looks over a textbook while waiting for class to begin on the first day of school at Sacramento City College on Aug. 24, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Payne.

  • Dan Walters Daily: Time running out on water bond

    AmericanRiver.jpgDespite California's pressing drought crisis, lawmakers aren't showing much urgency on a new water bond, Dan says.

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

    See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

    PHOTO: A pair of fishermen stand near the shallow water of the American River below Watt Ave on January 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

  • P&eacuterez seeks recount in California controller's race


    Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez filed paperwork Sunday requesting a recount in 15 California counties in a bid to advance to the November runoff for state controller after an extremely close finish in the June 3 election.

    Pérez, D-Los Angeles, trails Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, also a Democrat, by just 481 votes for second place – just one-hundredth of a percent of the more than 4 million votes cast in the race. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, finished first in June 3 balloting.

    Pérez topped Yee in all of the counties where he is requesting the recount, from mammoth Los Angeles County to Lake County, where only about 14,000 votes were cast in the controller's race.

    "Today, I am filing a request for a recount in the Controller's race,"
    Pérez said in a statement. "Never in California history has the vote difference between two candidates for statewide office been so narrow, 481 votes or 1/100th of one percent, out of more than four million ballots cast. It is therefore of the utmost importance that an additional, carefully conducted review of the ballots be undertaken to ensure that every vote is counted, as intended.

    "Throughout my career, I have made voter registration and the defense of voting rights a core part of my work. As the former Chair of the California Voting Modernization Board, I know first hand how difficult it is to have an error-free counting of the votes. Like all who have waited since Election Day, I seek a final determination as quickly as possible," he said.

    Pérez's filing, a day before Monday's recount filing deadline, is the largest recount request in California's modern era. There were a pair of ballot proposition recount requests after the November 2012 election, but they involved far fewer counties.

    In a statement, Yee accused Pérez of trying to pry additional votes only from those places where he did well.

    "My opponent in the June primary has stated that he is calling for a recount because he 'wants to ensure that every vote is counted,' Yee said. "But if he really wants to make sure every vote counts he should be counting every vote.

    "Cherry-picking only the 15 counties that he won, and sorting the precincts within the counties to reflect his strongest areas indicates that he has no interest in a fair and impartial recount."

    Yee or a supporter has 24 hours to request a recount in counties where she did well, which were concentrated in Northern California.

    Experts say there is no guaranteed recount strategy, with one strategist calling it a "crap-shoot" that could end up costing a lot of money without changing the outcome significantly.

    In addition, a lengthy recount could complicate preparations for the Nov. 4 election. Ballots are scheduled to go out to overseas voters in September.

    PHOTO: Then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez , D-Los Angeles, speaks during a press conference on Friday, December, 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

  • Undervote in California controller's race cost candidates


    The ultra-tight finish in California's controller race might have been a lot different if some 422,000 voters last month had completed their ballots.

    As of Friday, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee led former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez by 481 votes for second place. Monday is the last day to request a recount.

    There were 4.46 million ballots cast statewide, but only 4.04 million votes in the controllers race – a difference of almost 422,000 votes and an "undervote" rate of 10.45 percent.

    More than a quarter of those ballots were in Los Angeles County, where about 111,000 voters skipped over the controller's race, an undervote of 13.5 percent.

    Pérez topped Yee by 4.8 percent in Los Angeles County. In the more than 3,200 county precincts where the Los Angeles Democrat beat Yee, turnout averaged almost 16 percent – county turnout was 17 percent – and the undervote was 13.3 percent.

    In the more than 1,450 precincts where Yee outpolled Pérez, turnout averaged 20 percent but the undervote was almost 14 percent.

    Undervote ballots sometimes become part of the recount process, with campaigns checking if election officials missed actual votes. But Yee consultant Parke Skelton said he doubted that would happen.

    "You can inspect undervotes, but there is no reason to assume they will break differently than the electorate as a whole," Skelton said in an e-mail.

    PHOTO: Mike Lee marks his ballot while voting in Sacramento in the June 3 primary election. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

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