PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: Darrell Steinberg

Senator gets free trip to Super Bowl for campaign fundraiser

Super Bowl
State Sen. Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles is getting free travel expenses and a ticket to Sunday's Super Bowl game in New Orleans, and all he has to do is glad-hand some donors who are helping replenish the campaign account used to elect Democrats in California.

The Senate Democratic Caucus political staff "planned and organized a small but successful fundraising event at the Super Bowl this weekend to benefit the California Democratic Party," said Jason Kinney, a member of the staff. The party is paying the expenses for the event, including De Leon's attendance.

De Leon said the arrangements had been vetted by an attorney to make sure he does not violate the state’s $440 limit on gifts to legislators, which has an exemption for political party fundraisers. "It’s all reportable" to the public, De Leon said.

Tickets to the NFL championship game have face values starting at $850, and those for the fundraiser were purchased from the NFL.

Kinney said De Leon stepped in to attend the fundraiser when Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento had to bow out at the last minute. "Personally, I think it demonstrates impressive generosity of spirit that Los Angeles' own Kevin de Leon is willing to show up and pretend to root for a San Francisco team for three whole hours,'" Kinney said.

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Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stretches with teammates including center Jonathan Goodwin (59) during practice Friday as they prepare for Sunday's Super Bowl. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press


 

Senate leader targets Microsoft over Kings deal

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Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is none too happy that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is part of an effort to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle. 

The Sacramento Democrat is sending a letter to Fred Klass, director of the state Department of General Services, asking for details on all the taxpayer money California state government spends on Microsoft products and services. 

"I am troubled that a company and a CEO that has for so long enjoyed a prosperous and beneficial working relationship with the State of California and its taxpayers would blatantly engage in activities which are clearly and measurably detrimental to our State's job and revenue base," Steinberg wrote.

Although Steinberg doesn't have direct authority over the state's technology contracts, he clearly intends to turn up the heat. 

"I cannot stand idly by while a prominent out-of-state company that has significantly profited from business with the State of California actively attempts to acquire and remove one of my State and my region’s leading private assets," he wrote.

The family that owns the Kings has agreed to sell the basketball team to a Seattle group. However, it could still be rejected by the NBA's Board of Governors, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is racing to put together a counteroffer to keep the team in California's capital. 

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Sacramento Kings are sold; next stop Seattle? 

State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

Lawmakers assigned to serve areas temporarily without representatives

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/chrismegerian

Photo: Sacramento Kings fans show support for their team in February 2011. Credit: Steve Yeater / Associated Press

California Senate leader proposes $10-billion U.S. mental health plan

President Obama's proposal to expand mental health programs in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre is a good start but much more should be done, according to California state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg
President Obama's proposal Wednesday to expand mental health programs in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre is a good start but much more should be done, according to California state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Steinberg said he is traveling to Washington next week to urge federal officials to spend $10 billion more on mental health early intervention, school-based services and treatment modeled after the system funded in California under Proposition 63.

"We believe that $10-billion investment nationally would save untold numbers of lives and help untold numbers of people," Steinberg told reporters at the state Capitol as he previewed his trip.

Steinberg said he hopes to meet with Vice President Joe Biden or his staff, given that Biden was tasked by the president to come up with a comprehensive plan to address gun violence after the Newtown shooting. The Senate leader also plans to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and other congressional leaders during the trip, which also includes attendance at the presidential inauguration.

Voter-approved Proposition 63 raises $1 billion annually for mental health programs in California, although Steinberg complained that previously available funding has been cut by $750 million a year.

Steinberg said his emphasis on expanding mental health programs should not take away from his plan to also pursue new gun control legislation, including the plugging of loopholes in the state's ban on assault rifles.

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Gov. Jerry Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

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Democratic legislative leaders relieved by Gov. Brown's budget

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, left. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Lawmakers condemn school shooting, say more gun control needed

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The shooting and wounding of a student at Taft Union High School near Bakersfield on Thursday happened  as momentum was already building for new gun control laws in California.

"I don’t think we need another tragedy to motivate us to do something real and significant in this area," Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said when asked how the Taft shooting might affect the gun control efforts. "We’re willing to take this on."

The real change in the dynamic of the debate happened after the December mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school killed 20 children and six adults.

In the weeks that followed, lawmakers introduced more than a half dozen bills, including a measure to track the sale of ammunition and restrictions on kits that can allow rifles to fire more shots more quickly.

"No law can prevent 100% somebody who is sick or twisted from doing awful things," Steinberg said, but he argued that additional restrictions could help reduce gun violence.

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris noted that the budget proposed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown will help in the effort, by providing "support for law enforcement programs that reduce the number of illegal firearms on our streets."

Assemblyman John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) began a news conference on the new state budget by acknowledging the latest shooting in California.

"It really is just another very sad moment as we deal with the ongoing reality of gun violence that has captured so much of our attention this last year," Pérez told reporters.

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Gov. Jerry Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Gov. Jerry Brown wants changes at state university systems

Democratic legislative leaders relieved by Gov. Brown's budget

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Parents, family members and friends wait behind police tape outside Taft Union High School on Thursday morning. Credit: Casey Christie / The Californian

 

Senate appointments set up battle over revamping environmental law

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State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has said reform of the state’s environmental protection laws is a priority this year, but his appointments to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Monday had some people doubting dramatic changes are in the offing.

Steinberg appointed Sen. Michael Rubio (D-East Bakersfield) as the committee’s chair after the lawmaker spearheaded an effort last year to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Rubio has been in talks with a group of business leaders on changing CEQA to streamline and limit legal challenges to projects judged environmentally friendly.

But some Capitol insiders say it looks like Steinberg has made it harder for dramatic changes to be made to CEQA by stacking the nine-person panel with five staunch supporters of the state environmental laws.

Some said it looks like major changes are less likely to get out of a committee that includes Democratic state Sens. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, Hannah Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, Loni Hancock of Berkeley and Mark Leno of San Francisco.

Bruce Reznik, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, has fought previous attempts to create loopholes in CEQA. He said Monday he is encouraged by the number of what he described as "greenies'' on the panel. "It is a good group,'' he said, adding he is gearing up for a big push on the issue.

A push for change this year was confirmed by Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

``We believe CEQA is a great law, which has sadly been greatly abused for non-environmental purposes,’’Guardino said, adding support for CEQA reform from legislators including Rubio and Gov. Brown are ``good signs.’’

 

 

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--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has stacked a committee with some of the most vocal defenders of California's environmental quality law. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

 

 

California Senate leader reshuffles committee chairmanships

California state Senate

With last month’s election replacing a quarter of the state Senate, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) on Friday reshuffled committee chairmanships and plugged holes in the leadership ahead of the new two-year session.

Steinberg gave committee chairmanships to four of the 10 rookie senators, including former Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who was appointed chairman of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and the Democratic Caucus.

Another new senator, former Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Tracy), was appointed chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, while former Assemblyman James Beall (D-San Jose) was named to head the Public Employment and Retirement Committee.

The assignments, set for confirmation by the Rules Committee next month, also put new Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) in charge of the Legislative Ethics Committee and a subcommittee on the budget regarding state administration.

 Steinberg’s removal of Republican Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel as head of ethics comes after she became the subject of an investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. That agency is looking into phone calls made by her office to prison officials regarding a billing dispute involving her husband’s medical contracting firm, which until recently did business with the prisons department.

Asked whether the investigation affected Steinberg's decision, spokesman Mark Hedlund said "The pro tem made his decision based on who he thought was the best person for the job.''

Reelected Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) kept the chairmanship of the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, and Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) takes over the powerful Appropriations Committee from Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) who left office because of term limits.

Steinberg kept Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles) as chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee that oversees gambling issues even though Wright is currently battling criminal charges of  voter fraud and perjury. "That's yet to be adjudicated,'' Hedlund said.

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More valuable gifts, contributions allowed to politicians in 2013

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento), left, shakes hands with Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), after a budget vote in June. Steinberg retained Leno as chairman of the powerful Budget and Fiscal Review Committee on Friday. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press.


State Senate leader backs Medi-Cal expansion

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, the Democratic leader of the state Senate, urged Gov. Jerry Brown to expand the state's public health system as part of the implementation of the federal healthcare overhaul

The Democratic leader of the state Senate urged Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday to expand the state's public health system as part of the implementation of the federal healthcare overhaul signed by President Obama in 2010.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) told reporters Thursday that he looked forward to an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's public insurance system for the poor, during the next year.

In its ruling upholding the federal law earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme court said the federal government could not force states to expand their public insurance programs. In California, the Medi-Cal program already serves about 8 million people, and could serve hundreds of thousands more as insurance coverage is expanded. Expansion of the program would require a bill to pass through the Legislature and receive Brown's signature. 

States have the option of making of making insurance available to more people through their public programs or through health benefit exchanges that will be run by either the state or federal government.

The federal Affordable Care Act will allow single adults under the age of 65 to qualify for Medi-Cal for the first time, and will pay the bulk of the costs associated with those new enrollees. The law will allow anyone who earns to 138% of the federal poverty limit -- about $25,000 a year for a family of three -- to qualify for public coverage.

The Brown administration has been tight-lipped about whether it intends to expand the Medi-Cal program. A recent report from a healthcare task force co-chaired by Brown's health and human services director said the expansion would play a key role in improving the state's healthcare system.

But HHS Secretary Diana Dooley said that report should not be interpreted as an administration endorsement of Medi-Cal expansion. Brown is expected to outline his plans when he releases his state budget on Jan. 10.

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California Senate leader asks feds for more mental health funding

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Sen. Darrell Steinberg, right, and Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Bryan Patrick

California Senate leader asks feds for more mental health funding

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg

Days after a gunman massacred children at a Connecticut elementary school, the leader of the California state Senate proposed Thursday that the federal government step up and begin fully matching state spending to help the mentally ill.

In California, for every dollar spent on mental health programs, the federal government provides only 32 cents, which Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said is inadequate given the need for mental healthcare in the state.

"There is no question that the system in California and throughout the country is woefully underfunded,'' Steinberg said at a Capitol news conference. Steinberg is an author of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which was approved in 2004 by California voters and provides $1 billion annually for programs.

He estimated that it would cost the federal government an extra $20 billion annually to match what states are spending on mental health programs.

At a gathering of mental health experts at the Capitol, Steinberg also proposed that the new Biden Commission, set up by President Obama in the wake of the Connecticut shooting, use California’s Mental Health Services Act as a blueprint for programs nationally. "These services are a model for the nation,'' he said.

Information about the mental health of the Connecticut shooter is still fuzzy, but Steinberg said the incident calls for a conversation on improving services. "Will a better-funded mental health system that focuses on prevention and early intervention provide the real possibility of averting such tragedies? You better believe it,'' Steinberg said. 

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Court decision a boost for California's budget

Sanchez dances close to "fiscal cliff" on holiday card

More valuable gifts, contributions allowed to politicians in 2013

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento). Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

 

Changes to California children's healthcare won't be delayed, official says

Diana Dooley

A top official in Gov. Jerry Brown's administration said Tuesday that California will begin transferring poor children into a cheaper healthcare plan on Jan. 1, despite concerns from some lawmakers and advocates that the state's plan is inadequate.

California is eliminating the Healthy Families program next year and shifting nearly 900,000 children into Medi-Cal, which reimburses doctors at lower rates, in hopes of saving $73 million annually. The transition will happen gradually, starting with the easiest cases.

Diana Dooley, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said children won't be shifted unless the state is sure they will still get healthcare under the new plan.

“If they can’t meet those conditions, we will delay the transition," she told reporters after speaking at a conference in Sacramento. "At this point, everything is on track."

Democratic lawmakers agreed to eliminate the Healthy Families program as part of a budget deal with Brown earlier this year.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) wrote in a letter to Dooley last week that he's concerned the state is moving too quickly.

"Without additional time, the likelihood of children losing health, dental and mental health care coverage and access to critical services increases exponentially," he wrote.

Norman Williams, a spokesman for Department of Health Care Services, defended the state's schedule, saying officials have "thoughtfully planned this transition."

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-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/chrismegerian

Photo: Diana Dooley, the secretary of health and human services appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, in her office in January 2011. Credit: Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

State schools chief wants lawmakers to approve new bond measure

Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Tuesday he would like state lawmakers to place a new school bond on the ballot in 2014.

"The need is definitely there," he said in an interview. "The accounts are empty."

Torlakson said California's public schools need more than $100 billion to pay for new buildings as well as renovation and updating of existing buildings. Any bond would be a fraction of that amount.

The state's last school bond was approved in June 2006. Torlakson said nearly all of the $10.4 billion in that bond has been spent.

When asked about the idea, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), said his first priority would be to tweak, and probably shrink, a water bond scheduled for the 2014 ballot. The water plan was originally scheduled for the 2012 ballot, but was delayed by lawmakers at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown, who thought the measure could interfere with his call for higher taxes this year.

With their two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses, Democrats could place a bond measure on the ballot without any Republican support.

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-- Anthony York in Sacramento

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