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Rich Pedroncelli/ The Associated Press
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, left, and Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, were both suspended with pay in March.

The Assembly was slow to take up a proposed constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to suspend their colleagues without pay. Dan speculates there’s a secret agenda.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

GLE2RG15K.5Staff Photographer
Randall Benton/ rbenton@sacbee.com
Voters cast their ballots at the El Dorado County Senior Center in El Dorado Hills on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

Even as voting by mail becomes increasingly common in California elections, more mail ballots are not being counted, according to a study of mail voting in three counties, including Sacramento.

The report, released Tuesday by the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, found that 0.8 percent of the mail ballots cast in four elections in Orange, Santa Cruz and Sacramento counties were never counted. Sixty-one percent of them arrived after Election Day. Twenty percent of the ballots had not been signed, and in 18 percent of the cases, election officials concluded that the signature on the ballot did not match the voter’s signature the office had on file.

Kim Alexander, the voter foundation’s president and the main author of the report, said she she is confident that its findings also apply to the state’s 55 other counties. Government, she said, has encouraged people to vote by mail, yet its laws and procedures have not kept pace to prevent what she called “a hidden problem.”

“I’ve seen these trays of election ballots stacked up, uncounted. It’s the saddest sight. A lot of work goes into casting those ballots,” Alexander said. “We’ve been building our vote-by-mail process on a piecemeal basis.”

GPF2R702V.2Senior Photographer
Manny Crisostomo/ mcrisostomo@sacbee.com
Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday June 10, 2013. He was suspended in March of 2014 but continues to receive his salary.

The Assembly on Wednesday deferred for two years the public’s vote on a constitutional amendment empowering lawmakers to strip wayward colleagues of their salaries.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 17 emerged from the Assembly on a 64-1 vote. But because lawmakers waited until mid-August to act, voters will not decide on the proposed amendment until the 2016 election. It will not appear on the Nov. 4 ballot already featuring two measures trumpeted by both parties and by Gov. Jerry Brown – a rainy-day fund and a new water bond.

Assemblymembers passed the measure without any debate on a 64-1 vote. Only Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, voted no. Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, initially appeared to vote against the measure but ultimately did not cast a vote.

In the aftermath of criminal cases ensnaring Democratic Sens. Rod Wright, Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, the Senate voted to suspend all three. But they have continued to receive pay because the constitution does not allow a legislator’s salary to be withheld unless he or she is expelled from office.

Wednesday, August 20 2014
Kashkari offers scholarship for TV ad
G1H2RM5IF.2Staff Photographer
Brian Nguyen/ bnguyen@sacbee.com
Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari speaks at a news conference in front of the River City Food Bank on Thursday, July 31, 2014 in Sacramento Calif.

Neel Kashkari, the long-shot Republican candidate for governor, is looking for a few good ads.

Apparently inspired by Frito-Lay’s “Crash the Super Bowl” consumer advertising contests, Kashkari, holding a bag of Doritos and addressing the camera in an online video Wednesday, said he will give a $25,000 scholarship to the college student who cuts him the best ad.

“Now your ad might make the case why I’d make a terrific next governor of California, or your ad might make the case of why we just need a change of leadership in Sacramento,” Kashkari says in the video. “Either of those will do.”

It remains unclear if Kashkari will be able to raise enough money to put any advertising on TV. The former U.S. Treasury Department official ended the first half of the year with just less than $200,000 in cash on hand and debts of about $164,000, though he has raised slightly more than $600,000 since then.

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Karl Mondon/ AP
File - In this May 12, 2014, file photo, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla leaves San Mateo County Superior Courthouse after testifying in Redwood City, Calif. California’s Coastal Commission is asking the public to document its use of Martin’s Beach in Half Moon Bay, Calif., after billionaire landowner Khosla closed the only access road to it.

Advancing an effort to ensure public access to a contested California beach, the Assembly on Wednesday narrowly passed and legislation compelling the state to step into a dispute over Martins Beach.

The stretch of shore near Half Moon Bay has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing debate over balancing private property ownership with the public’s right to the coast. The pristine beach’s new owner, billionaire Vinod Khosla, has ignited a fierce backlash and touched off a court battle by cordoning off a road leading to the property.

Senate Bill 968 would have the State Lands Commission intervene and hammer out a solution that restores public access. It squeaked out of the Senate on a 22-11 vote in May and emerged from the Assembly with the bare minimum of 41 votes, with numerous Democrats abstaining. It returns for a final Senate vote that would send it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Proponents argued that the bill would simply return a status quo that had prevailed for decades. Language pushing the state to guarantee a public entry point using eminent domain has been softened so that the State Lands Commission must first negotiate, turning to eminent domain only if a deal does not emerge by 2016.

GU42RLCMI.2Staff Photographer
Brian Nguyen/ bnguyen@sacbee.com
Actor Carl Weathers, backed by a line of California state legislators, speaks to the crowd in support of Assembly Bill 1839 on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 in Sacramento Calif.

Thirty-five members of California’s congressional delegation are pressing Gov. Jerry Brown to support an expanded film tax credit significant to California’s TV and movie industry, while actors and crew members rallied in support of the measure at the Capitol on Wednesday.

In a letter dated last week and released by U.S. Rep Judy Chu’s office on Tuesday, Chu and the other lawmakers lamented the loss in recent years of “tens of thousands of middle class jobs and significant revenue to other states that have more attractive tax incentive programs.”

Assembly Bill 1839, which is now working its way through the Legislature, would expand to $400 million annually a $100 million tax credit program for film and TV production.

Flanked by labor leaders and lawmakers on the north steps of the Capitol, actor Carl Weathers, of “Rocky” fame, called the current circumstances “so disheartening.” He said an expanded credit would “bring back larger productions – film and television – that are now totally absent from the California landscape.”

GV62RKHMG.2Photographer
Jose Luis Villegas/ jvillegas@sacbee.com
Case van Steyn looks out at some of the 400 cows at his dairy farm in Galt, California, in 2012. Dairy farmers, citing high feed costs, have complained that state-set milk prices have not kept up.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s agriculture department is trying – so far without success – to gain traction in the Capitol for a major overhaul of California’s regulation of milk prices.

With scarcely a week remaining in the Legislature’s session, those close to the closed-door negotiations say, writing something that could pass political muster is unlikely, given a long and bitter conflict between dairy farmers and processors over prices.

Steve Lyle, a spokesman for Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, confirmed the effort.

“Dairy producers and processors have been in almost around-the-clock discussions since last week to try to reach agreement on a modernized milk pricing system,” Lyle said in an email. “Discussions are continuing today. Secretary Ross is encouraged by the progress thus far. We hope a successful legislative proposal will be the result, but it will be up to the parties to find common ground.”

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Hector Amezcua/ Sacramento Bee file
Sutter Brown, the California governor’s Welsh corgi, was designated as stand-in to have a bucket of ice water dumped on his head.

At least one of the three people Mayor Kevin Johnson dared to take the Ice Bucket Challenge has declined. Sort of.

Gov. Jerry Brown has apparently passed on Johnson’s challenge from Tuesday. Instead, Sutter Brown – the governor’s Welsh corgi – posted a message on Twitter and Facebook saying he was “standing in for the Gov. Jerry Brown. A small bucket for a big cause.”

OK, a human probably wrote that. But a video that accompanied the message showed Sutter Brown standing in front of the Capitol. A handler then dumps a small bucket of water over the doggy’s head.

No word yet from the two other folks Johnson challenged: former California first lady Maria Shriver and basketball legend Hakeem Olajuwon.

GJM2RGARQ.2Multimedia Photojournalist
Manny Crisostomo/ mcrisostomo@sacbee.com
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has pushed for Proposition 45, which would give him more regulatory power over health insurance rates.

A new Field Poll has found strong early support for two contentious health care-related ballot measures.

Nearly 70 percent of likely voters back Proposition 45, which would give the state insurance commissioner regulatory power over health insurance rates, while 58 percent are inclined to support Proposition 46, which would require drug and alcohol testing of doctors and raise the cap on pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice cases. With potentially enormous financial stakes for insurance companies, hospitals and trial lawyers, these intiatives have stirred up costly political battles ahead of the November election.

Christopher Cadelago has more in his story from today’s paper. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert, and the publicly released results of the poll.

VIDEO: Once divided between the north and south, California politics now have an east-west split, Dan Walters says.

GO32REL7B.2Staff Photographer
Randall Benton/ rbenton@sacbee.com
No surprise: Berkeley is California’s most liberal city.

Once divided between the north and south, California politics now have an east-west split, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

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Randy Pench/rpench@sacbee.com
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks Tuesday at the 18th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit, citing the state water bond on November’s ballot as an example of consensus politics.
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Randy Pench/rpench@sacbee.com
As Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the 18th annual Lake Tahoe Summit on Tuesday, beach-goers enjoy the scenery. The lake level has been going down in the three-year drought, and that has forced dock closures and could stop the flow into the Truckee River.

One year after California and Nevada resolved a long-standing feud over development around Lake Tahoe, John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, arrived at a summit near the water’s edge Tuesday and said “peace is at hand.”

The annual gathering of politicians, environmentalists and researchers has been colored in previous years by tension over the governance of the basin surrounding Lake Tahoe, with Nevada passing a law in 2011 threatening to withdraw from a two-state partnership known as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency unless California made concessions to allow more development.

The two sides reached an accord last year, and California Gov. Jerry Brown in October signed legislation ratifying the agreement.

Now, Laird said, “people are talking.”

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Andy Alfaro/ Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
An Elk Grove pharmacist fills a prescription Pucci’s Pharmacy in midtown Sacramento Thursday May 12, 2005.

Shoddy oversight led California to approve almost $1 million for potentially ineligible drug rehabilitation providers, including for services supposedly rendered to dead people, according to a new state audit.

The probe analyzed how the California Department of Health Care Services and the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs oversaw substance abuse treatment paid for by Medi-Cal, the state health care provider for poor Californians that draws federal dollars. Counties contracted out substance abuse programs to nearly 700 providers in 2012-13.

In examining outpatient drug rehabilitation providers who billed the state for millions, the audit found a pattern of incomplete patient data and questionable billing. Uneven standards led state administrators to do a poor job of vetting clinics who sought certification and sniffing out potential fraud, according to the audit.

“Neither Health Care Services nor ADP implemented an effective provider certification process during our audit period, nor did they enforce laws and regulations designed to prevent fraudulent provider applications from obtaining program certification,” the audit states.

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