On politics in the Golden State

Category: Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown calls for special session of Legislature on healthcare

APphoto_Ca State of the State(4)
Healthcare and education reform were key themes of Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address Thursday in which he called for the Legislature to convene a special session to work out issues involving the state’s compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act.

"Our health benefit exchange, called Covered California, will begin next year providing insurance to nearly one million Californians," Brown said. "Over the rest of this decade, California will steadily reduce the number of uninsured."

But he said it will be "incredibly complex" to implement a broader expansion of Medi-Cal called for by the federal law.

"Working out the right relationship with the counties will test our ingenuity and will not be achieved overnight," Brown told legislators packed into the Assembly chamber. "Given the costs involved, great prudence should guide every step of the way."

On education, Brown called on legislators to approve his plan to cut categorical programs and put more decision-making authority back at the local level with school boards.

"I am asking you to approve a brand new Local Control Funding Formula which would distribute supplemental funds -- over an extended period of time -- to school districts based on the real-world problems they face," Brown said. "This formula recognizes the fact that a child in a family making $20,000 a year or speaking a language different from English or living in a foster home requires more help."

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the details would have to be worked out about how the money is spent and on what kind of educational efforts.

"The idea of giving lower-income, disadvantaged students more resources is absolutely the right direction," Steinberg said. "The question as we formulate policy going forward is how to make sure that that extra money actually goes toward the proven practices and the strategies that will help those students achieve. That’s where the work will be.''


State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

Assembly speaker warns UC officials against fee increases

State says crowding report for Valley State Prison was overstated

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento 

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown gives his State of the State address at the Capitol. To the left is Assembly Speaker John Perez; at right is Senate President Darrell Steinberg. Credit: Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

Lawmakers applaud optimism of State of the State address

APphoto_California BudgetGov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address drew praise from legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle, but his call for fiscal restraint was interpreted differently by Democrats and Republicans.

"The whole atmosphere now contrasting with the prior years is so much more hopeful, and I think the governor’s leadership and his speech embodies that,'' said state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). "It was just great."

Democratic leaders said they agreed with the governor that the state needs to be restrained in spending, but they said that does not rule out restoring money to programs cut in the past if it becomes available as the economy improves.

"We are in complete agreement that you don’t spend money that you don’t have and we need to focus on a reserve and paying down debt," Steinberg said. But, he added, "if the economy grows and if there is opportunity and if there is headroom to restore some of what was lost of course we are going to."

Republican leaders said they liked the governor’s emphasis on fiscal restraint, but are uncertain the Democratic-controlled Legislature will heed his call.

"He struck some good Republican themes," said Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. "I just hope the reality of the future matches the rhetoric of today."

Huff said he was disappointed that the governor "did not offer any substantive proposals for job creation or helping California’s working class.'' 

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare also liked the governor’s emphasis on fiscal restraint. "From his call to enact a ‘live within our means’ budget to making education the priority it should be, I see a lot of common ground between Republicans and the governor, and opportunities where we can work together with him," Conway said in a statement.

The only standing ovation during the speech by Republicans and Democrats occurred when the governor said about the financial problems of the state universities: "Tuition increases are not the answer. I will not let the students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities."


State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

Assembly speaker warns UC officials against fee increases

State says crowding report for Valley State Prison was overstated

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown at a press conference earlier this month. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

In pitch for bullet train, Jerry Brown cites children's story

Children's bookGov. Jerry Brown is known for liberally quoting famous texts, writers and philosophers in his public remarks, and his State of the State speech was no different.

He cited Irish poet William Butler Yeats on education, French writer Montaigne on laws, and the biblical story of Joseph and the Pharaoh on financial discipline.

But amid all the highbrow references, the governor also included a beloved children's story -- “The Little Engine That Could.”

The reference wasn't in the prepared remarks handed out by the governor's office, and it came toward the end of Brown's speech as he defended the controversial high-speed rail project as critical to California's future. 

“I think I can, I think I can,” Brown said. “And over the mountain the little engine went. We’re going to get over that mountain.”

The governor closed his speech with a rallying cry.

“Two years ago they were writing our obituary,” he said. “Well, it didn’t happen. California is back.”


Brown prods UC, Cal State to streamline

Jerry Brown to attend Cal State trustees meeting

Optimistic State of the State address expected from governor

 -- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Copies of "The Little Engine That Could." Credit: Los Angeles Times

Special master says prison mental health care inadequate, suicides increase

A court-appointed monitor on Friday told federal judges that mental health care in California’s prisons remains inadequate and in some areas is deteriorating, especially in regard to inmate suicides.

The legal filing is a setback to Gov. Jerry Brown’s push for California to take back full control of the prison system, which he argues no longer mistreats those in its custody. Brown last week asked a panel of federal judges to lift population caps on the state's 33 prisons and asked one of those judges to dismiss the 2001 class action over mental health care, Coleman vs. Brown.

Special master Matthew Lopes in his report Friday noted gains in how the state documents and reports mental health care, but not in how California is geared to improve those conditions. He cited needed changes that went undone because of a lack in statewide monitoring and central oversight -- steps he said California would need to address if it were to take over mental health care on its own.

Lopes was especially critical of suicide rates in California prisons.

He said there were at least 32 suicides in state prisons in 2012, averaging one suicide every 11 days. Lopes notes that translates to almost 24 suicides per 100,000 inmates, an increase over 2011, and well above the national suicide rate of 16 deaths per 100,000 prisoners.

The state's high suicide rate prompted a 2010 court order to adopt suicide prevention practices. Lopes said the state has made progress on those steps, but fewer than one out of four prisons hold suicide prevention team meetings as required, and only three prisons complied with the requirement for five-day follow-ups of inmates discharged from crisis care.

"The problem of inmate suicides in CDCR prisons must be resolved before the remedial phase of the Coleman case can be ended," Lopes wrote. "The gravity of this problem calls for further intervention. To do any less and to wait any longer risks further loss of lives."


State watchdog trains eye on veterans agency
Assembly speaker warns UC officials against fee hikes
State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

--Paige St. John in Sacramento




State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

Paying heed to cuts and shifts proposed in Gov. Jerry Brown's state budget, California's Judicial Council has put construction on courthouses in four counties on hold, including Los Angeles.

The council's vote Thursday halts almost all activity on those projects pending completion of the state budget for 2013-14, meaning delays even if lawmakers come up with money to go ahead. The projects are in Sacramento, Nevada, Los Angeles and Fresno counties. The council is allowing the Sacramento project to continue with any needed land purchases.

Brown's budget proposal relies on using courthouse construction money to pay for financing of one in particular, a courthouse in Long Beach named after former Gov. George Deukmejian. Brown proposes using an additional $200 million in construction money for general operation expenses -- a shift that would bring diversions from the fund to more than $2 billion.

It is a one-time fix for court operations, and Brown warns that spending cuts are needed for the years after that.

Justice Brad Hill, chairman of the Judicial Council's construction working group, said court officers are "scouring every opportunity" to free up funding for construction.

"We have watched as more than a billion dollars has been taken from the construction program," he said. "We don't know what to plan for, or what lies around the corner."

Hill sits as an appellate court judge in the Fifth District.

The council has also recommended dropping a proposal to create 50 new judgeships, in light of the state's failure yet to fund the creation of the previous set of 50 judgeships.


Brown looks to fee hikes for courts

Prison overcrowding report was in error

Lawmakers use Lady Gaga to attract campaign cash

--Paige St. John in Sacramento



Alameda County launches nearly nude campaign for healthcare

To help implement President Obama’s healthcare overhaul in California, officials around the state are rushing to raise awareness and enroll hundreds of thousands of Californians in Medi-Cal, the state’s public insurance program.

For its part, Alameda County has settled on a decidedly stripped-down message, launching an ad campaign this week that features scantily clad families holding strategically placed signs that read: "Cover Your Family."

The ads, which will be featured on billboards, buses and transit shelters, urge residents to call a help line and find out if they are eligible for Medi-Cal. County officials estimate that there are 15,000 children in Alameda County who are eligible for the program but not enrolled.

"Our message is that you wouldn't let your family go without clothes -- why let them go without health coverage," Lori A. Cox, director of the Alameda County Social Services Agency, said in a statement.

Most Americans face the requirement in January 2014 to buy health insurance or pay a penalty under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Jerry Brown earmarked $350 million in his proposed budget this month to help enroll more Californians in Medi-Cal. Under the proposal, enrollment rules would be simplified to cover residents who are currently eligible but not enrolled. Those costs would be split evenly between state and federal governments.


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

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


State misses prison benchmark on overcrowding

It's official. In a federal court filing Tuesday, California told federal judges that its prisons remain crowded beyond benchmarks set by the court nearly two years ago.

The state said its 33 prisons on average are at 149.4% of design capacity. Nearly half of the individual prisons are much higher than that: 172% at North Kern State Prison, 187% at the Central California Women's Facility, and the men's section of Valley State Prison in Chowchilla is now at almost 352%.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Wednesday that the last female inmates at Valley State have been moved out, freeing up 1,536 beds that can now be used for the male prisoners housed there. Starting next week, the state will begin moving female inmates into a converted 403-bed women's facility adjacent to Folsom State Prison.

The court-ordered target was 147% crowding by Dec. 27, and California is required to bring its prison population down to 137.5% capacity by June 30, a target the state for months now has admitted it can't meet.

The state's monthly status report to the court notes what Gov. Jerry Brown made very public last week -- that California contends it has improved living conditions within its prisons to the point it no longer needs to meet court-ordered caps on prison crowding.

"Based on the evidence submitted in support of the state's motions, further population reductions are not needed because the prison system already provides healthcare that far exceeds what is legally required under the Constitution," lawyers for the state told federal judges Tuesday.

The three judges, each overseeing class actions over inmate medical, dental and mental healthcare, have not yet responded to California's motions to shed federal oversight of the prisons. The state's federally appointed healthcare receiver, J. Clark Kelso, is expected later this month to provide his own report on the status of medical care in those prisons.


Brown takes a new tack with regents

Gov. Jerry Brown cheers new CSU online pilot project

Jerry Brown predicts California budget surplus by end of next year

--Paige St. John in Sacramento

--updated 10:57 a.m. to note transfer of female inmates out of Valley State Prison.


Jerry Brown takes a new tack with UC Regents

Brown and Henning

The University of California’s Board of Regents has long been considered among the most plum of gubernatorial appointments. It has been compared by past members to the College of Cardinals at the Vatican. Former Gov. Pat Brown said it was akin to “the order of the garter in England.”

Before Jerry Brown was first elected governor in 1974, the board was seen as a club of the affluent and well-connected that Times education writer Don Speich described as “a homogeneous lot, they were mostly white, mostly male and mostly wealthy friends and supporters of the governor who appointed them” who could be found “only at the most expensive hotels and eating only at the poshest restaurants.”

It was, in short, exactly the kind of institution a younger Jerry Brown wanted to turn on its ear.

During his first two terms as governor, Brown used his board appointments to change the makeup, and the culture, of the Regents. His appointees included a local YMCA director and a Zen Buddhist who seemed to have more faith in the intelligence of dolphins than of the university students he taught at UC Santa Cruz.

On  Wednesday, Brown will attend the Regents meeting in San Francisco, returning to the same board before which 30 years ago he argued faculty should be paid less because of the “psychic income” they derive from their jobs. His goals now are a bit more modest than they were decades ago – asking the university to embrace more online courses, hold the line on student fees and tighten its fiscal belt.

Brown has been meeting privately with university leaders for months, seeking a greater understanding of the university’s culture and its problems – a far cry from the political bomb-throwing approach of his past. “He’s appointed some of the best people, in my judgment, and some of the worst,” said the late Wilson Riles, the former superintendent of public instruction, of Brown’s appointees to the board in 1979. “There’s no pattern. He’s moved by the spirits.” Riles criticized Brown for naming members who had “no understanding of the university.”

That was confirmed by Regent Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist best known for his work with porpoises and named to the board by Brown. He once said he was “unable to have an opinion on most of the matters that come before our board … To correct my incompetence and ignorance,” he wrote in a letter to the UC president, “it would be necessary to do a great deal of work. But I am not motivated to do that work.”

Bateson went on to say that students “will get little from the university if they come to it, and when they leave will give back to society rather little of what they got.” Brown seems eager to avoid such confrontational appointees this time around. Despite three vacancies on the Regents, and two more spots set to open up in March, the governor has yet to name anyone to the board since returning to the governor’s office in 2011.

“I also know these boards are not affected by one or two people, so there’s no rush,” he said in an interview last fall. “I am more strategic now since I understand this better and I’m patiently looking for openings. I know that I don’t just want change for the sake of change because that’s superficial.”


Gov. Jerry Brown cheers new CSU online pilot project

Jerry Brown predicts California budget surplus by end of next year

Jerry Brown tells PBS "the budget is fixed"

--Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown, right, with John "Jack" F. Henning , executive–treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL–CIO at a meeting of labor leaders in Sacramento. Brown appointed Henning to the UC Board of Regents in 1977.  Credit: Los Angeles Times

Jerry Brown tells PBS "the budget is fixed"

Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown took a victory lap on "PBS NewsHour" on Tuesday night and said California's success in tackling the state's budget deficit is a model for the country.

"The budget is fixed," the governor declared. Last week, Brown released a $97.7-billion budget proposal showing the state's deficit has been wiped out.

The interview was a chance for Brown to juxtapose California's progress with gridlock in Washington, where a hyperpartisan Congress has struggled to reach an agreement on the country's financial challenges.

Brown said California would not be expecting budget surpluses if voters hadn't approved new taxes in November.

"Just austerity will never allow us to climb out of this hole," he said.

He criticized Republicans for refusing to cooperate on raising taxes.

"The ideology of the Republicans is different from the Democrats," he said. "They don’t mind the inequality."

The 74-year-old governor, who recently finished treatment for prostate cancer, also said his health is good.

"I'm doing well," he said. "Ask me in 20 years."


Gov. Brown unveils budget, says state is in the black

Analyst concerned about rising spending and pension costs

Analyst, lawmaker fault Brown's clean energy spending plans

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his budget proposal earlier this month. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Gov. Jerry Brown names new education advisor

Gov. Jerry Brown has named his new chief education advisor.

Karen Stapf Walters, a former teacher, state Senate aide and advocate for school administrators, will advise the governor on education policy, in addition to serving as executive director of the California State Board of Education, Brown's office announced Tuesday. The latter post requires board approval. The compensation is $175,000 a year.

Stapf Walters will be a critical voice in the administration as Brown proposes a radical shift in the way elementary and secondary schools are funded, seeking to direct more money to districts that serve poor students and English learners, who cost more to educate than other students.

Brown wants to give local districts more control over the money they receive from the state, eliminating mandates for smaller classes, spending on new technology and dozens of other requirements set in Sacramento.

Stapf Walters succeeds Sue Burr, who retired at the end of 2012. Brown appointed Burr to the state Board of Education this week.

Stapf Walters was a longtime advocate for the Assn. of California School Administrators, most recently serving as the group's interim executive director.


Debt still clouds state's future

Analyst calls Brown's budget 'reasonable'

Brown shifts schedule for repaying budget loans

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento



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