Dan Walters

Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s farm labor law in 1975 to help the United Farm Workers union, but hands the UFW a setback with a veto.

Under a proposed plan, a felon would be considered a recidivist only if convicted of a new felony or misdemeanor committed within three years of release from custody or of being placed under parole or probation supervision.

California’s once-dominant Republican Party continues to lose voter base, could become irrelevant.

Would making California’s income tax increase on 1-percenters permanent spur exodus out of state?

The annual marijuana harvest is underway in California’s Emerald Triangle and so is growers’ war with cops.

A bill aimed at opening a private beach to public access puts Gov. Jerry Brown in the middle of class war.

Health care is now a $200-plus billion a year industry and that means political war over how the money is divvied up.

A bill carried by outgoing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would change ballot measure process.

Legislation to expand California’s voting rights law would empower judges to draw district lines.

Mayor changes in public policy get buried in flood of late-session bills.

Hilary Abramson is one of the most talented and prolific journalists ever to practice the craft in Sacramento. She’s also a personal friend for the past four decades, and thus it was horrifying to learn that she had been clobbered by a young bicyclist who was riding illegally on the sidewalk near her downtown apartment, causing very serious and permanent injuries.

Jerry Brown recalls a rosy 1950s that doesn’t comport with reality. The decade may have worked well for the pampered son of a prominent political family whose father, Pat Brown, was attorney general and soon to become governor. But for many people, it was a tough time.

Sharply higher taxes on incomes of California’s one-percenters closed California’s budget gap.

If Republicans have any chance this year of winning statewide office in this blue state, it probably rests on the shoulders of Pete Peterson, who’s running for secretary of state, or Ashley Swearengin, the GOP candidate for state controller.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s two big legacy projects, a bullet train and twin water tunnels, face legal, regulatory and financial hurdles that must be cleared for them to proceed. The next few months – a year at the most – may determine their fates.

Eight years ago, a state legislator named Debra Bowen was elected secretary of state, promising to use her expertise in technology to modernize what had been a ministerial backwater of California government.

As the state’s huge home care program shifts, it sets up a new relationship between care worker unions and the state.

Last weekend, as the Legislature’s biennial session was grinding to a close, The Sacramento Bee published a commentary by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, invoking the 2,000th anniversary of Roman dictator Caesar Augustus’ death and decrying the expanding powers of unelected bureaucrats and political appointees.

Republican Neel Kashkari was the aggressor in his only debate with Gov. Jerry Brown, but the governor keeps his cool.

The Legislature’s ritualistic practice of ending every session with a marathon a poor way to make policy.

Over the last six decades – mile by expensive mile – California’s transportation department has upgraded Highway 101 on the scenic North Coast from a narrow, twisting, two-lane road into a modern four-lane expressway.

As Gov. Jerry Brown runs for re-election, he has adopted “California Comeback” – voiced during his State of the State address in January – as his informal slogan.

As the Legislature adjourns, an activist Capitol era ends, but its long-term effect remains uncertain.

The California Legislature likes to pass gun control bills, but they sometimes collide with Bill of Rights.

The arrest of Sen. Ben Hueso on drunken driving charges extends a 164-year intertwined history of the Legislature and liquor.

With big public policy issues mostly done, the Legislature turns to special interest conflicts in last week.

It’s no secret that quite a few state legislators actually live outside districts they represent even though state law and constitution require them to reside in their districts, but only Los Angeles enforces it.

Severe drought is compelling California to rethink how it manages its water supply.

By approving pension fatteners, CalPERS reveals some very odd extra pay practices.

“Realignment” has diverted thousands of felons into local jails, forcing jailers to release other inmates.

As the biennial legislative session enters its final days, sneakiness abounds in legislation.

It turns out that the Employment Training Panel, which said it was broke, has more money than it thought.

As Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders hammered out a water bond deal last week, one very high priority was making it “tunnel-neutral.”

The state Supreme Court acted responsibly in knocking an advisory measure off the ballot, protecting it from becoming an opinion poll.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders are close to finalizing a new water bond, but it still lacks enough votes to win legislative approval.

Legislation that would phase out single-use plastic grocery bags faces key vote in the Assembly.

With just three weeks remaining in legislative session, the chances of a water bond diminish.

Maintaining public infrastructure isn’t politically sexy, which is why it gets short shrift.

The Legislature is ignoring a multibillion-dollar gasoline price increase.

When politicians’ egos are involved in big public works projects, the public pays.

Having procrastinated for years, politicians now may have no more than a week to fashion a new water bond for the Nov. 4 ballot to replace one that many fear is doomed because of its size – $11.1 billion – and obviously gratuitous pork.

Among some fans, the rap on professional basketball is that players run up and down the court for 45 minutes, exchanging buckets, but games are often decided in the final three minutes of intense physicality. The same could be said for the California Legislature, which spends months in session but typically delays big, difficult issues until the frantic final few days.

The soon-to-close 2012-14 session of the California Legislature has been an experiment in civic reform.

The dog days of summer generate speculative, but improbable, political scenarios.

Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy becomes the No. 2 leader in the House and could become speaker.

Whatever attention the public and media devote to state government is concentrated on the governor, other elected officials and the Legislature. But state government is mostly hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions that provide services, make regulatory rules, issue licenses and hand out money. Generally, they go about their business, whatever it might be, below the public radar, surfacing in the consciousness only when things go awry – which is what’s happening in one of the most obscure, the Employment Training Panel.

Nothing in California’s Constitution or statute law authorizes the Legislature or the initiative process to place nonbinding advisory measures on the ballot, soliciting voter sentiment on some issue. Despite the lack of legal authority, the Legislature did it twice before, in 1933, and an advisory measure was placed on the ballot via initiative in 1982.

The Capitol’s role in making public policy slipped behind the initiative process and now appears to be running third behind the courts.

With two appointments and at least one more coming, Gov. Jerry Brown is nudging the state Supreme Court leftward.

Capital punishment has burned intensely as a political issue but now may be dead.

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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