The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
There are no Assembly or Senate floor sessions today.
California Governor Jerry Brown is in Washington, D.C. at the National Governor’s Association meeting.
Thursday, Brown met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Today’s agenda includes a morning meeting with President Barack Obama, other Democratic governors and senior federal officials. Then there’s lunch with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, an afternoon meeting with State Department officials, and a Democratic Governors Association dinner — closed to reporters — at the Newseum’s Great Hall of News.
Saturday, it’s the association’s opening session. Early Sunday morning, it’s the Western Governors Association meeting. Then he’s appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he’s scheduled to share the lineup with Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer .
After that, there’s a meeting with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius plus the governors’ White House dinner. Monday, the association holds its closing session before meeting with Obama. Brown will meet later with the California congressional delegation.
And, the California Republican Spring Convention starts at the Hyatt, San Francisco Airport Hotel, in Burlingame, California today and runs through Sunday.
On to today’s California headlines:
Dan Walters: California Republican Party is an endangered species
Were California Republicans a biological genus rather than a political one, they could demand special protection under laws protecting endangered species like the kangaroo rat, to wit:
” New voter registration data show the GOP losing three percentage points in just the last four years and now trailing Democrats by a whopping 13-plus points;
” Republican Meg Whitman lost badly to Democrat Jerry Brown in 2010’s gubernatorial contest, despite outspending Brown by tens of millions of dollars, and the GOP now doesn’t hold a single statewide office;
” The independent redistricting that many Republicans hoped would block a Democratic gerrymander of legislative and congressional seats did the party no favors, with Democrats now likely to gain congressional seats this year and achieve a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate;
” With voters’ decision in 2010 to eliminate the two-thirds legislative vote on state budgets, Republicans now have almost zero power in the Capitol; and
” A sophisticated analysis of Californians’ ideological leanings, based on their votes on key ballot measures, by University of San Francisco professor David Latterman, finds that the state leans more liberal.
As California Republican activists gather for a convention this weekend, they should be mulling their near-demise as a political force, but most likely will pretend that they still matter and waste energy on internal feuds and squabbling over micro-points of ideology.
California Republicans meet in Burlingame to ponder their relevance
Less than two months into the new year, California Republicans are already reeling from a series of setbacks that reflects their sagging prospects.
As activists descend on the Bay Area this weekend for the state GOP’s spring convention, the California Republican Party has been struck with a few hard realities:
The Republicans’ registration numbers are down to an all-time low: 30.4 percent. They’re almost broke. And Gov. Jerry Brown began the year announcing he would pursue a tax-hike initiative and dismissed Republicans as politically irrelevant, after pursuing them like a desperate suitor in 2010.
“Since they’re out of power, the sole purpose of the Republican Party is to fight power,” said Bill Whalen, a fellow at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution. “Their only rally cry has been to fight tax increases. But they can’t just be the party that exists merely to fight the other side.”
Whalen and other political analysts say that the state’s GOP activists who will gather at a Burlingame hotel face hard choices, most of which revolve around one question: Should Republicans in an overwhelmingly blue state stick to their rigid principles or seek compromises with Democrats to make themselves relevant?
California Republicans seek roster of statewide candidates
As California Republicans gather this weekend for their biannual convention, they will do so with no statewide officeholder and no obvious stable of up-and-comers to compete for one.
Two years after Democrats swept Republicans in statewide races in the 2010 election, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is unlikely to face a serious challenge from any Republican in her re-election bid this year.
Though it’s early, there is almost no noise from Republicans about candidates for the gubernatorial election and other statewide races in 2014.
“This is the barest the cupboard’s ever been,” said Rob Stutzman, a GOP strategist in Sacramento.
For years the Republican Party in California has been shrinking, its membership growing older and more conservative as the electorate becomes increasingly diverse. The party is particularly beset by its failure to appeal to Latinos, whose proportion of the electorate is expanding.
The disparity between the parties’ prospects was nowhere more evident than in San Diego this month, during the California Democratic Party’s annual convention.
One of the Democrats’ rising stars, Attorney General Kamala Harris, roused delegates at the convention hall, and another, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, partied with them at a rooftop club.
The Republican most frequently mentioned as a future contender for statewide office, meanwhile, delivered his stump speech to about 12 people in a living room across town.
The candidate, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, is immersed in San Diego’s mayoral race. Fletcher is far from certain to win his prospects appear to be improving, though he still is trailing in local polls. But comparisons to Pete Wilson, the former assemblyman who went on to become San Diego mayor, a U.S. senator and then governor, are encouraging to many Republicans.
Dems seek state-run pensions for private workers
Two leading California Democrats introduced legislation Thursday that attempts to provide retirement savings for private-sector workers of modest means, creating a government-run program for private-sector workers whose employers do not offer pensions or 401(k) plans.
They said it could help an estimated 6.7 million California workers.
Sen. Kevin de Leon and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced SB1234, which would require employers with five or more workers to enroll them into what they have termed a “personal pension program” to be run by a state board. Their idea is to get small-business employees and hospitality workers who don’t make much money to save more for their retirement.
“We must take action on the impending retirement tsunami,” de Leon, of Los Angeles, said during a news conference in front of the state Treasurer’s Office. “We cannot afford the rampant poverty and devastation that awaits us if we continue on our present course.”
The lawmakers said they believed their program would be the first in which a state government established a retirement program for workers in the private sector. As a program with little or no precedent, several issues remain unsettled, such as whether California taxpayers would ever be on the hook if future investment returns failed to meet projections.
In Michigan, the state’s Municipal Employees Retirement System began offering retirement services to Indian gaming tribes in 2009 to manage benefits for tribal government employees.
According to a draft, SB1234 would establish the Golden State Retirement Savings Trust, which would be administered by a six-member board, including the state treasurer, controller, director of finance and an appointment each by the governor, Senate and Assembly. Private-sector workers would automatically have 3 percent of their earnings set aside in the trust, unless they opted out.
Unlike in an individual IRA or 401(k) account, their benefits – defined as their contributions plus earnings – would be guaranteed when they retire. The draft language does not specify how the earnings would be guaranteed. The board would then contract with a fund administrator, such as the California State Public Employees Retirement System, the state’s main pension fund.
Republican lawmakers warned that taxpayers or employers could wind up on the hook to cover any shortfalls if the government starts guaranteeing benefits to private-sector employees. Under proposed legislation, an employer who fails to enroll in the program or offer their own pension plan would be fined $1,000 per employee after a 90-day grace period.
Enjoy your morning and the GOP convention, if you are headed up that way.