With four candidates for state controller virtually tied on election night, it’s been a daily drama ever since.

A Los Angeles judge’s declaration that teacher job protection laws are unconstitutional is a big win for school reformers.

Months ago, without saying it publicly, Democrats gave up hopes of regaining control of the House of Representatives and began concentrating resources on saving their command of the U.S. Senate.

There are probably a few people living off the grid in the backcountry of California, but the other 38 million of us depend on our local utilities for electric power. That makes us stakeholders in how that energy is produced, distributed and priced – the latter accounting for many, many billions of dollars. One would think that the nearly universal experience of buying electricity – not to mention its indispensable economic importance – would make politicians reluctant to mess with it.

The Legislature’s approval ratings have improved, but it still ignores important issues.

The outcomes of this week’s primary election indicate that the California Republican Party may be making a comeback.

It’s been nearly a decade since the Capitol’s politicians last had a substantial amount of extra money to spend. During the mid-2000s, a short-lived housing boom poured billions of extra dollars into the state’s coffers, and politicians pumped them out as fast as they came in. General fund spending exploded by nearly 30 percent in three years.

It’s a pretty strange election when the most interesting contest is between two Republicans vying for the right to be buried in a Jerry Brown landslide. The duel between Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the darling of the Republican right, and Neel Kashkari, a moderate whom the GOP establishment hopes will eke out a win, gets a lot of media attention simply because there’s not much else to stir interest.

California’s government policies drive up living costs, which create more poverty.

California highways deteriorated when state moved away from users-pay financing and it should be restored.

The Legislature’s budget analyst says Caltrans has 3,500 too many positions, but Legislature doesn’t act.

Voting in this year’s primary election may hit a new low because there’s nothing to excite voters.

There are just two measures on the June 3 statewide ballot, Propositions 41 and 42, and both were placed there by the Legislature. Proposition 42 more or less cleans up a decision by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators to save money by no longer paying local governments for some state-mandated services they provide.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget is studded with reminders of the state’s massive debt.

As Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators wrangle over budget, spending cap-and-trade fees is major conflict.

Medi-Cal, the state’s medical care program for the poor, now covers 30 percent of Californians.

​The perpetual conflict between business and liberals over legislation spills over into Democrat vs. Democrat battles for seats.​

Two pending measures billed as reforms would solidify Democrats’ power

A holdout by creditor means that Stockton’s bankruptcy may hinge on pension issue.

Gov. Jerry Brown faced the politics of poverty and now faces the politics of prosperity

This is the drill in the state Senate this year, a least so far: A scandal of some type erupts and Senate leaders respond with some supposedly corrective changes in rules governing the political game. So far, three senators have run afoul of criminal laws this year and have been suspended while their cases meander through state or federal courts.

Next month marks the 36th anniversary of Proposition 13, California’s iconic property tax limit, and time has not healed its political wounds. Conservatives still love it, liberals still hate it and it’s perpetual fodder for academic, journalistic and political cogitating.

Three Republican candidates for statewide office may not win, but light way to GOP revival

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators are ready to put “rainy-day fund” measure on ballot, but it’s not best option.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg must act decisively to clean up scandal-ridden state Senate.

As the Legislature recessed last month for an 11-day spring break, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg described the first months of the session as “a little rough.” It was his oblique reference to the suspension of three fellow Democratic senators who were facing criminal charges. But if Steinberg hoped that the Capitol’s extracurricular turmoil was over, he was dead wrong.

As California’s population surged from migration and a postwar baby boom in the 1950s, education and political leaders wrote a Master Plan for Higher Education that envisioned a seamless array of low-cost, high-quality coursework.

As he ends his third term as governor and seeks a fourth, Jerry Brown has pursued the agenda laid down by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

California’s ambivalent dependence on oil created nonsensical politics

Two voter-passed measures from the 1990s, reflecting culture wars of the era, could be undone by the Legislature.

California’s high school graduation rate rose to over 80 percent last year, but an achievement gap remains.

Free money? There is, of course, no such thing, but politicians consider money borrowed via bonds, federal aid and money from fees “free” because they can spend funds as they wish without directly tapping constituents’ wallets. So it means free of voter backlash.

Writing California ballot measures has become a game of hide-the-pea, in which real motives are obscured.

While the state budget is runnng multibillion-dollar surpluses, California’s cities face tough fiscal times.

A looming tax break for SpaceX reveals favoritism in corporate tax breaks.

The State Bar’s effort to expand its enforcement powers was rebuffed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, but it’s trying again.

As a young man 40-plus years ago, Gilbert Hyatt invented – and eventually patented after a two-decade-long struggle – a microprocessor chip that earned him many, many millions of dollars in payments from companies that transformed the technology into digital devices that have become indispensable to, or at least ubiquitous in, modern life.

In seeking to create a “rain day fund” to soak up some revenues, Capitol politicians admit to failures of the past.

The 2014 legislative session began with high liberal hopes, but turned sour with scandal and conflict.

As the weather warms and legislative deadlines approach, the state Capitol comes alive with rallies and demonstrations of all ideological stripes.

New legislation gives the Fair Political Practices Commission some new powers, but Brown dallies on naming a new chairperson.

The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down a portion of the federal Voting Rights Act last year, saying its 1960s-era provisions were no longer applicable to 21st-century conditions.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority plans to begin construction this year on a bullet train system that is supposed to eventually stretch 500 miles from Sacramento to San Diego.

The death of disgraced savings and loan tycoon Charles Keating a reminder of how California started debacle.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg in full crisis response, but is it real reform or just image control?

When the initial shock of last week’s corruption and gunrunning charges against state Sen. Leland Yee wore off a bit, politicians and pundits began talking and writing about the larger meaning, if any – especially since Yee is the third Democratic senator this year to face criminal charges.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s chances of enacting a comprehensive public pension reform ballot measure were scant even before Attorney General Kamala Harris gave it an unfriendly official summary.

Capitol politicians say they’ve balanced the state budget, but they ignore billions of dollars in mounting debt.

The sensational indictment of state Sen. Leland Yee and others should bury California’s pretensions about being free of organized crime.

Treatment of an Assembly water bond bill in a Senate committee indicates that writing a measure for the 2014 ballot will be a tough slog.

Dan Walters, political columnist

Dan Walters

Dan Walters has been a journalist for more than a half-century, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. At one point in his career, at age 22, he was the nation's youngest daily newspaper editor.

He joined The Sacramento Union's Capitol bureau in 1975, just as Jerry Brown began his first governorship, and later became the Union's Capitol bureau chief. In 1981, Walters began writing the state's only daily newspaper column devoted to California political, economic and social events and, in 1984, he and the column moved to The Sacramento Bee. He has written more than 7,500 columns about California and its politics and his column now appears in dozens of California newspapers.

Email: dwalters@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1195
Twitter: @WaltersBee

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