Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Senate probes California’s gas prices

A Woodland man pumps gas into his car at an Arco gas station.
A Woodland man pumps gas into his car at an Arco gas station. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Few numbers carry the political heft of gas prices.

An expected bump at the pump from including oil companies in the cap-and-trade process figured heavily into political campaigns last year, although low gas prices may have blunted the effectiveness of those attacks. The cost of gas has since risen rapidly, and people are looking for an explanation. In a recent visit to The Bee Capitol Bureau, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, questioned the source of the swift price spike. The caucus has raised the possibility of the industry rigging the market, sending the attorney general’s office a letter warning of “potential manipulation of gasoline prices by oil companies.”

Today the Senate will take a look at the underlying reasons for fluctuating prices during a joint hearing of the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and the Transportation and Housing Committee. Witnesses will include officials from the California Energy Commission and representatives of the oil industry. Also testifying will be top anti-trust attorney Kathleen Foote of the California Attorney General’s Office, who will likely field questions about the serious allegation of price-rigging raised by Senate Democrats.

VIDEO: Monday saw the first examples of a well-worn and ethically dubious Sacramento maneuver, Dan Walters explains.

SHE-CURITY: As California’s fiscal health has mended, Democrats have increasingly been promoting women-centric issues like more money for childcare and for early education. Today members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, will be promoting a bill package that addresses those areas, along with pay inequity and work scheduling. Caucus members will be speaking at 11 a.m. in room 317.

EDUCATION: While Atkins is discussing the prospects of women in California, her Senate counterpart will be in Washington, D.C. talking public education. As part of his swing through the nation’s capital, de León will be talking to members of the National Education Association at the formidable teachers union’s headquarters. Topics on the agenda include implementing the Common Core and college affordability, the latter being much on the minds of Senate Democrats these days.

DISABLING LAWSUITS: Democrats and Republicans can agree on hating frivolous lawsuits. That’s the message from supporters of a bill seeking to curb Americans with Disabilities Act litigation, a group that includes Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, and centrist Democrats like Assembly members Henry Perea, Rudy Salas and Adam Gray. Lawmakers will be touting Assembly Bill 52 during a morning press conference on the north steps.

SCHOOLSENEGGER: With after school programs potentially on the federal budget chopping block, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be talking up the need for more post-class activities today during an event hosted by the University of Southern California institute bearing his name. You may recall Schwarzenegger sponsored a 2002 after-school funding measure and also tried to generate more cash for such programs by offering to share his tank.

JUST KIDDING: Term limits mean Tom Ammiano can no longer crack jokes on the Assembly floor, so now he’s back to generating guffaws as a private citizen. The standup-turned-politician will be at San Francisco’s Hemlock Tavern this evening for an event advertised as “San Francisco’s longest-running experimental comedy show.”

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.