Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Charting a course for California charter schools

The Grass Valley Charter School is one of several schools in Grass Valley.
The Grass Valley Charter School is one of several schools in Grass Valley. Ed Andersen

Sacramento can be a tough place to represent the interests of charter schools. With teachers unions occupying the highest echelons of political influence, charters – publicly funded but run under rules that mean fewer union educators – often find themselves playing defense.

That’s not to say representatives of the state’s 1,230 charter schools wield no political clout. The schools remain popular with plenty of elected officials; Gov. Jerry Brown founded a couple in Oakland. Also, they play in elections.

The California Charter Schools Association’s independent expenditure committee had close to $6 million in the bank as of April and, as its political director candidly pointed out, playing nice with charter champions could mean dodging “a multi-million dollar” hit. Through Sunday, charter school-linked outside spending groups had spent almost $1.3 million in legislative races on the June 7 ballot. And in the Capitol, the California Charter Schools Association has spent around $315,000 on lobbying since the start of 2015.

Today is the organization’s lobbying day, which means addresses from Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, and Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Los Angeles, as well as student performances. They’re opposing more bills than they’re supporting, but their legislative wish list includes changing the process for authorizing new schools and getting better access to facility funding.

LOADED: Some jousting among Democrats underlies a gun control hearing today. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's ballot initiative to require background checks for ammunition has garnered around $2.6 million and gets a joint legislative hearing today, as required by a 2014 law. Senate Democrats who will help preside over that hearing answer to a Senate leader who has warned Newsom focusing exclusively on the ballot initiative would derail gun control efforts and has urged the LG to back off. The pros and cons of Newsom's plan will be aired today during a 9:30 a.m. hearing in room 4203, with supporters hailing from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the California State Sheriffs’ Association joining the opposition.

PARKING: California’s natural beauty is legendary, but the state’s parks system has faced some issues of late. Revelations of squirreled away funds in time of budget scarcity fueled outrage and launched a top-down look at how the system functions. More recently a trademark dispute producing new names for famous landmarks has sparked legislation. Today the California State Parks Foundation will make its case to lawmakers during the organization’s lobby day, kicking off with a 10 a.m. Sacramento Convention Center event that includes planned addresses from de León, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, and several other legislators.

SHEROES: Powerful California women will be honored during a Women's Foundation of California event at the Sterling Hotel this evening, with those winning awards including Brown aide Nancy McFadden, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego and Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. Also getting plaudits is Western Center on Law and Poverty lobbyist Jessica Bartholow, who was front and center when Brown signed legislation this year boosting paid leave. The sponsoring organization is backing bills this year to let domestic workers continue drawing overtime and to allow parental leave for students, among others.

MEXICOMMERCE: Brown has made much of California forging climate change pacts with other governments, and today Mexico’s potential role will be in the spotlight. Mexican energy officials will speak to a California Chamber of Commerce luncheon at 1215 K Street about energy-related commerce between the two polities. After that, those same officials will testify before a 3 p.m. Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation hearing in room 113 about how the neighbors can work together on green technology and energy efficiency.

TRIBUTES: Brown and California Attorney General Kamala Harris will both be on hand this morning to honor California Highway Patrol officers slain in the line of duty, including one who died after being struck by an SUV on Interstate 80. The memorial event begins at 9:30 at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento.

MONEY TRAIL: Get up to speed on all the campaign cash flowing in legislative races on the June 7 ballot as well as for qualified and potential November ballot measures. See how much outside interests are kicking in, as well. Click here.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert