Chris Carlson/ AP
Republican candidate for state controller Ashley Swearengin sands onstage after being introduced at the California GOP convention on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES – Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for state controller, came to the California Republican Party’s fall convention Friday, delivered a dinner banquet speech and, on her way to catch a flight out, continued to leave open the possibility she will vote for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown – not Republican Neel Kashkari – in November.

Swearengin said in August that she was still “evaluating the candidates” for governor. The Fresno mayor supports California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project, which Kashkari mocks, and the week Kashkari spent posing as a homeless man in Fresno did nothing to help her promotion of her record as the city’s mayor.

Yet while Kashkari has heaped praise on Swearengin, she has remained reluctant to discuss his candidacy. She told reporters after addressing delegates here that her own campaign has “really been my focus, and hopefully I’ll have a chance to talk with Neel very soon.”

Swearengin refused to answer whether Kashkari asked for a meeting at the convention.

Randy Pench/ rpench@sacbee.com
People who attended a DMV public hearing on new driver’s licenses for immigrants fashioned this sticker at the the Secretary of State building at 11th and O streets on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.
California Department of Motor Vehicles

Removing a stop sign for immigrants who live in California illegally but hope to become legal drivers, federal officials have signed off on the design of licenses for foreign-born residents.

Immigrant advocates achieved a landmark goal in 2013 by winning Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval of a measure allowing undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. But the federal government dealt the effort a setback earlier this year, rejecting California’s design because it was not distinctive enough. That raised questions about making the licenses available for the Jan. 1, 2015, date required by law.

Now the Department of Homeland Security has given its blessing, allowing California to proceed.

“DHS commends California’s efforts to improve the security of its licenses and identification cards and looks forward to continuing to work with you on this matter,” a Sept. 17 letter to California Department of Motor Vehicles director Jean Shiomoto reads.

Randy Pench/ The Sacramento Bee
Democratic Assemblyman Steve Fox of Palmdale seen during a floor session at the Capitol in August.

A former legislative director has filed a discrimination lawsuit against freshman Assemblyman Steve Fox, alleging that the Palmdale Democrat forced her to perform menial tasks for his private law office and created an untenable work environment that included exposing himself at his apartment.

The suit was filed this week in Sacramento Superior Court by Nancy Finnigan, who claims she was fired in May 2013 after complaining about Fox and others in his office.

Shortly before her termination, Finnigan said she attended a meeting with Fox, unnamed stakeholders and their lobbyist where the assemblyman asked what they could do about his “precincts.” “Fox’s conversation implied that there could be a quid pro quo between them concerning legislation,” the lawsuit states.

Fox’s campaign consultant dismissed the allegations as politically motivated coming less than two months before the Nov. 4 election. Lisa Gasperoni said it was a “disgruntled” former employee “attempting to extort Mr. Fox in the middle of his re-election campaign.”

Hector Amezcua/ hamezcua@sacbee.com
A baby has her diaper changed at a program for teenage parents at Chana High School in Auburn in May 2013.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed two bills Friday that would have made baby-changing stations more accessible to men in public places.

SB 1358 from state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would have required buildings owned by a state or local agency, as well as public venues such as restaurants, movie theaters and grocery stores, to provide at least one diaper-changing table available to both women and men.

SB 1350 from Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, took a narrower approach, requiring businesses that install a diaper-changing station in the future to make it available to both sexes.

Both bills passed through the Legislature with strong bipartisan support.

David Siders/ The Sacramento Bee
Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari speaks at the California Republican Party convention in Los Angeles while Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, listens on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014.

LOS ANGELES – Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari insisted Friday he was joking when on a talk radio show he proposed mandatory drug tests for all California legislators and statewide officeholders earlier in the day.

“It was a joke,” Kashkari said in a brief interview after arriving at the California Republican Party’s fall convention here. “It was 6 a.m., I’m trying to entertain people.”

Early Friday morning, while guest hosting the Mark Larson Show on KCBQ 1170 AM in San Diego, Kashkari said, “I think we should drug test legislators.”

“Every statewide officeholder and everyone in the Assembly and the Senate, why don’t we just have an annual mandatory drug test?” he said.

Lezlie Sterling/ lsterling@sacbee.com
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Republican candidate for California controller, addresses the Sacramento Press Club on Aug. 26, 2014.

Several weeks after she pointedly left open the possibility of voting for his Democratic rival, Republican controller candidate Ashley Swearengin on Friday called in to a talk radio show hosted by GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari.

Kashkari was filling in on KCBQ’s Mark Larson Show and took calls from several Republican politicians, including Ron Nehring, who is running against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Assembly Republican Leader-elect Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto.

Then Swearengin, the Fresno mayor, was on the line with Kashkari, the first time the two had spoken. Kashkari praised Swearengin as being “heads and shoulders” above her Democratic opponent, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee.

“I’m really excited about your race, excited about what you’ve done in Fresno, and what you’re going to do as controller,” Kashkari told Swearengin near the end of the several-minute call.

Rich Pedroncelli/ AP
Republican Neel Kashkari speaks during a gubernatorial debate with Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari on Friday proposed mandatory drug testing for all California legislators and statewide officeholders.

“I think we should drug test legislators,” he said while guest hosting the Mark Larson Show on KCBQ 1170 AM in San Diego. “Every statewide officeholder and everyone in the Assembly and the Senate, why don’t we just have an annual mandatory drug test?”

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official in an uphill race against Gov. Jerry Brown, said he would not expect many lawmakers to agree to testing given the number of lawmakers involved in what he called “more and more trouble every week, it seems.”

Three Democratic senators have been suspended from the upper house in separate criminal cases this year, and a fourth was more recently accused of drunk driving. None of the incidents involved the use of illegal drugs.

In the November 2014 election, Democrats are struggling to hold their Sacramento supermajorities, while Republicans see mid-term opportunities to grow their ranks. Intra-party battles, meanwhile, are playing out in several districts. Track the money in the races and learn more about the districts here. For even more detail, including daily updates on individual contributions and independent expenditures, subscribe to the Capitol Alert Insider app in your app store.

Rich Pedroncelli/ The Associated Press
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, now the House Majority Leader, is one of the big guests at this weekend’s California Republican Party convention.

California Republicans are gathering in Los Angeles over the next three days for their biannual convention, hoping to stir up enthusiasm for the party’s slate before the November election. Chairman Jim Brulte is seeking to roll back the Democrats’ two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield are the convention’s big guests, delivering keynote addresses at the lunch and dinner banquets on Saturday, respectively. But for political aficionados, the stories to watch are how party activists, who favored Assemblyman Tim Donnelly at the March convention, react to gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari, and whether secretary of state hopeful Pete Peterson and controller candidate Ashley Swearengin, widely regarded as the best GOP prospects this fall, can gather momentum for their campaigns.

David Siders has a preview of the convention in today’s paper. Siders and Christopher Cadelago will have coverage from Los Angeles throughout the weekend.

VIDEO: Gov. Jerry Brown’s crony capitalism hurts home health care workers, Dan Walters says.

GEM31F24V.2Multimedia Photojournalist
Manny Crisostomo/ mcrisostomo@sacbee.com
More than 4,000 home care providers and the seniors and people with disabilities for whom they provide care rallied on the south lawn of the Capitol on June 5, 2014.

Gov. Jerry Brown argues the state can't afford to better compensate low-paid home health care workers, but he's found hundreds of millions of dollars for corporate tax breaks, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Eric Risberg/ The Associated Press
University of California President Janet Napolitano at a UC Board of Regents meeting on Nov. 12, 2013, in San Francisco.

The University of California Board of Regents on Thursday approved average 16 percent raises for four chancellors and hired a fifth at a 24 percent increase, amid discussions about increasing compensation across the board for its 10 campus leaders.

“Our chancellors have not had raises for years,” and they are paid far less than leaders of large public universities in other states, UC President Janet Napolitano said during a board meeting in San Francisco.

“The notion that we can continue to be so far off-market and still attract who we want as chancellors” is wrong, she said. “This is going to hurt the university in the long term if we don’t take corrective action.”

The board agreed to take steps over the next several years to raise the compensation packages for UC chancellors, which it said are in the bottom third compared to peer institutions, starting with salary bumps for the four lowest-paid campus leaders in the system.

Thursday, September 18 2014
Jerry Brown signs film tax credit bill
Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press
Gov. Jerry Brown holds up California Assembly Bill 1839, which he signed Thursday, in front of TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Brown and the bill’s proponents say it will keep entertainment jobs in California as the state competes with the subsidies other states offer. The Legislature more than tripled an earlier tax credit.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday to more than triple California’s film and television tax credit, a point of heavy lobbying by the state’s TV and movie industry.

Assembly Bill 1839 will expand to $330 million annually the state’s existing $100 million tax credit. Brown and legislative leaders announced an agreement on the bill last month, and his signature was not in doubt.

“Today, we remind the world that the Golden State is the home of the silver screen,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “This bill helps thousands of Californians – from stage hands and set designers to electricians and delivery drivers.”

Proponents of the bill said it would bring back to California productions that have left the state for tax incentives in other parts of the country, while the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has said there is no conclusive evidence that increasing California’s tax credit will reduce production losses.

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