Dan Walters

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.

Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez gave up his vote recount, but it revealed flaws in system that should be corrected.

This fall’s most interesting political contest may be the one for a rare vacancy on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, pitting ex-Senator Sheila Kuehl against Kennedy clan member Bobby Shriver.

Career technical education classes are important to students and the state, but they face a crisis.

Democratic legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown have placed an advisory measure on the Nov. 4 ballot who’s real purpose may be to goose voter turnout.

Two state agencies have done multibillion-dollar deals with private equity tycoon Leon Black, and scandal followed both.

It’s a good time to be a rent-seeker in the Capitol, with Elon Musk topping the list.

Christopher Klein, who is presiding over Stockton’s bankruptcy, wants to definitively establish status of pensions.

Were California a nation, its $2.2 trillion economy would be the globe’s eighth largest, but reality is a mixed bag.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen has opportunity to overcome lackluster record and end on a high note.

A bill to provide a state tax subsidy for construction of a new nuclear bomber in California creates a dilemma for liberal legislators.

California politics is meandering into uncharted procedural and legal territory with former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez’s go-for-broke decision to seek a vote recount in his duel with Board of Equalization member Betty Yee for a spot on the November state controller ballot.

At any given moment, dozens of comatose bills float around the Legislature – vessels to be filled with whatever the powers-that-be want to enact quickly and semi-clandestinely. A journalistic wag once dubbed them “mushroom bills” because they grow in the dark, nurtured in excrement, and sprout just long enough to be passed, sometimes within hours.

California’s population growth has slowed to a fraction of its previous level, and its aged population is now growing rapidly.

One wouldn’t think that a resolution marking the Fourth of July would have a partisan backstory. But it does.

One bidder for the contract to build a new Air Force bomber wants a big subsidy from California.

It’s high time that the Legislature’s employees should join civil service to avoid abuses.

California judges thought they were getting financial stability when the state assumed financial responsibility, but got instability instead.

Whom do Californians hold accountable for the most vital services? There’s no way to tell.

California politicians are handing out tax subsidies for some favored industries and corporations, rather than improving business climate.

Jerry Brown may not be universally admired, but polls indicate that he’s virtually certain to win a record fourth term as governor, perhaps even in a landslide, and thus four more years to cement his place in political history.

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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