Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Ronald Reagan Day, a Capitol tradition, now with partisan controversy

Sculptor Douglas Van Howd, left, and Douglas Elmets, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Capitol Foundation, second from left, unveil the 8-foot-tall bronze statue of the former California governor and president in the Capitol basement on June 22, 2015.
Sculptor Douglas Van Howd, left, and Douglas Elmets, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Capitol Foundation, second from left, unveil the 8-foot-tall bronze statue of the former California governor and president in the Capitol basement on June 22, 2015. The Sacramento Bee file

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Honoring Ronald Reagan does not usually generate controversy at the Capitol. The late president and California governor remains a widely popular political figure – with a larger-than-life bronze likeness in the basement rotunda to show for it – and traditionally, when a Republican lawmaker annually introduces a resolution to declare his birthday “Ronald Reagan Day,” the measure sails through the Legislature unanimously.

But something changed last year. Two termed-out Senate Democrats who said they had “politely” voted for the resolution in the past – Mark Leno of San Francisco and Loni Hancock of Berkeley – mounted a miniature revolt, criticizing Reagan for ignoring the AIDS crisis, deregulating the economy, the Iran-Contra affair and his war on drugs. “I can remain silent no longer,” Leno said.

Though it ultimately passed, their comments inspired four more Democrats to join them in voting against the measure, while a handful of others abstained.

Partisan tensions in the Legislature have only deepened since the election of President Donald Trump in November: Democrats have repeatedly condemned Trump with floor speeches and bills, frustrating Republicans. Aggressive protests that forced the cancellation of a right-wing speaker at UC Berkeley last week generated heated debate in the Senate.

Will that anger reignite the Reagan dispute? The Assembly is set to take up the “Ronald Reagan Day” resolution today, the 106th anniversary of his birth, when it meets for floor session at 1 p.m.

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FREE THE WATER: California has more snow than it has seen in a decade and so much water flowing through its rivers that there isn’t space to store it all, but state officials still don’t want to declare the drought over. Concerned that the wet times won’t last, the state water board is planning to vote this week to extend emergency regulations it put in place two years ago during the worst of the crisis. Among those opposed to the move are Northern California water agencies and Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Jim Nielsen of Gerber and Ted Gaines of El Dorado Hills and Assemblymen Brian Dahle of Bieber, James Gallagher of Yuba City and Kevin Kiley of Rocklin. They will urge state regulators to end the water conservation mandates during a conference call at 10 a.m.

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BILL WATCH: The bill introduction deadline is two weeks away, so expect a flurry of announcements about proposed legislation as lawmakers’ policy agendas for the session coalesce. Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Assemblymen Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, and David Chiu, D-San Francisco, are planning to unveil a measure to “modernize California laws that criminalize and stigmatize people with HIV,” 10 a.m. at Strut community center in San Fracisco.

DIRTY BROWN: Though Gov. Jerry Brown has molded his late-career legacy on fighting climate change, some environmentalists don’t actually like him much. His permissiveness of the oil extraction method known as fracking, in particular, drew the ire of activists, who followed him to events for months to protest and heckle him. A dozen groups, led by Consumer Watchdog and Food & Water Watch, plan to release a report at 11 a.m. accusing Brown of not being so “green” after all. In addition to complaints about fracking, the report hits him for poor regulation of toxic emissions, weakening coastal protections and threatening water resources.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy belated birthday to Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, who turned 40 on Saturday.

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