Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Brown parole initiative faces California Supreme Court

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a Capitol rally sponsored by Victims Rights United of California on April 7, 2016.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a Capitol rally sponsored by Victims Rights United of California on April 7, 2016. rbenton@sacbee.com

Whether you will vote this November on a ballot initiative making it easier for nonviolent offenders to get parole could depend on the California Supreme Court.

The proposal is Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to relax strict, fixed-term sentencing standards that he helped usher in as governor four decades ago and now regards as an “abysmal failure.” Brown has said the policy had “unintended consequences,” contributing to prison overcrowding and removing incentives for inmates to rehabilitate themselves.

But in a rush to get the measure to the November ballot, where it would face more favorable voter turnout, Brown tacked his idea onto another initiative already filed by juvenile justice advocates that would remove prosecutors’ discretion on when to try teenagers as adults. That decision could ultimately be its undoing.

In February, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that the initiative had been improperly filed. Because Brown’s amendment – which would allow parole consideration for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes once they have served their base term and authorize prison authorities to grant credits for good behavior – substantially changed the content of the measure, she said, the Attorney General’s Office should not have accepted it.

Arguing that both parts deal with similar issues of criminal justice, Brown immediately appealed to the state’s highest court, which granted a stay on the decision, allowing proponents to begin collecting qualifying signatures. Its ultimate fate, however, is still up in the air.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether to block the measure at 9 a.m. in San Francisco. Brown has said he is “hopeful” the justices will take a look at all of the circumstances of how the initiative came together.

CAMPAIGN CENTRAL: Track the funds outside interests are funneling into upcoming legislative races and potential California ballot measures with The Bee’s new mobile-friendly tool, The Money Trail. To have the day’s best California commentary delivered to your inbox, sign up for our new daily opinion politics newsletter, The Take.

HRC YOU AGAIN: For the first time in forever, the California primary was supposed to matter – then Tuesday happened and crushed all of our hopes. The Golden State will have to console itself with the fact that Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has vowed to keep fighting through June, forcing presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton to maintain a presence here and avoid an embarrassing defeat on the final day of the primary season. Clinton is back for another swing through California this week, starting with an afternoon rally at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park. She’ll be in San Francisco tomorrow for a star-studded fundraiser with U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, actress Elizabeth Banks and author Cheryl Strayed.

TODOS JUNTOS: The last few years have seen California and Mexico draw closer politically. Two years ago, Brown led a delegation to Mexico to bolster relations on trade and the environment, then hosted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Sacramento. Several legislative excursions south of the border have followed. The exchange continues this morning with a visit from Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, and Carlos Sada Solana, the new Mexican ambassador to the United States, who will be honored on the floors of the state Senate and Assembly.

MONEY MATTERS: Things are getting heated in the 47th Assembly District, where a Democratic lawmaker is facing a rare challenge from the left over her ties to the business community. Last month, Chevron dumped $1 million into an independent expenditure supporting Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, which later sent out a mailer defending her record as an “environmental champion for us all” despite her opposition to last year’s most significant climate change bill. Now a coalition of environmental groups and unions, including the United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council, that supports her opponent, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes, is poking back. They will unveil a mobile billboard hitting “Chevron Cheryl,” 11 a.m. in front of a Chevron gas station in Rialto, with plans to drive it around the district over the next month.

LOOK AGAIN: Politicians do not like to see their legacy accomplishments tarnished. After an oversight panel last year ripped the state for bureaucratic and technological shortcomings that it said made it impossible to analyze the effects of Proposition 63, a 2004 tax on high earners to fund programs for the mentally ill, the initiative’s architect, former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, issued his own report touting its positive impact. Steinberg, currently in the midst of a campaign for Sacramento mayor, will follow up with another analysis of Proposition 63’s benefits, 10 a.m. at Mercy Housing on 7th Street.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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