Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Brewing ‘split roll’ battle + Heated debate over sex offender bill + Frank Fat’s turns 80

The Google headquarters on in Mountain View. A potential 2020 ballot measure would remove Proposition 13 property tax protections from commercial property.
The Google headquarters on in Mountain View. A potential 2020 ballot measure would remove Proposition 13 property tax protections from commercial property. Sipa USA/TNS

Happy Monday, alerters! Thanks for starting your day with The Sacramento Bee. We have just a few more weeks until the end of session. Lots to do before then!

Assembly gavels in at 1 p.m., the Senate an hour later.


A battle over California’s sacrosanct Proposition 13 could still go to voters in 2020.

The Schools and Communities First campaign refiled a so-called “split roll” ballot initiative last week to relax Prop. 13’s restrictions on property tax increases.

It’s a do-over for tax reform advocates who say they want to get more money to schools. The new proposal amends a similar initiative from the League of Women Voters of California that had already qualified for the ballot. That original measure would have retained Prop. 13’s 1 percent cap on property tax increases for residential properties, but allowed greater tax hikes on business properties.

The updated version is designed to offer more protections for small businesses, while allowing new tax increases on most commercial and industrial properties.

Prop. 13 prevents local governments from reassessing properties unless they’re sold to new owners. Because commercial properties change hands less frequently than residential properties, critics of the law say it unfairly benefits big business by locking in decades old property values for commercial and industrial properties.

“California’s under-assessment of commercial and industrial properties is a growing problem,” the initiative states, continuing that investors and corporations use a “variety of schemes” to skirt the law.

“For forty years, California’s novel approach to taxing commercial and industrial property has starved funding for schools and local communities, disadvantaged small and startup businesses, and exacerbated our housing crisis,” continued the group’s spokesperson Tyler Law.

Despite pouring nearly $3.5 million into qualifying for the ballot last year, the coalition refiled the initiative last week with clarifying amendments to guard against opponents who will argue it could harm small and independent business owners.

The proposal already has more than 400 endorsements, Law wrote in a press statement.

But, as POLITICO noted following the announcement, the revision means the group will have to collect double the required amount last year. That means it has until May 1 to garner nearly 1 million signatures, with more than $5 million as the likely price tag.

And it’s not going to be an easy battle. The Californians to Stop Higher Property Taxes, a group of businesses, taxpayers, homeowners and renters, is already advocating against any changes to Prop. 13.

“For decades, these same special interests have attempted to erode Proposition 13’s protections,” said Rex Hime, CEO of the California Business Properties Association. “This last-ditch attempt to tinker with the details is like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. No matter how you shuffle, dismantling Proposition 13 will result in disaster for California families, workers and the economy.”


Things are heating up in the race for the race to be District 5’s next senator.

Assemblywoman Susan Eggman is facing fierce criticism from her Democratic challenger, Modesto City Councilman Mani Grewal for her voting record on a measure to reform California’s Sex Offender Registry Act

At the heat of the tiff is Senate Bill 145, a proposal to exempt a person who is convicted of consensual anal, oral and penetrative sex with a minor from having to register as a sex offender, as long as he or she is no more than 10 years older than the partner, who must be at least 14.

Back it up — Grewal put out an ad that called out Eggman, who is gay, for voting for SB 145, though she later pulled her co-sponsorship.

He responded to pushback for his characterization of the bill, which he said would allow a “21-year-old man to molest my 11-year-old daughter and then be exempted from registering as a sex offender.”

Equality California, a co-sponsor of the bill, said Grewal’s ad was a “thinly veiled anti-LGBTQ attack” against the reform legislation.

The attempt of the bill, according to its author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, is to end “blatant discrimination” against LGBTQ young people. Current law exempts registration if the activity is limited to penile-vaginal intercourse, but doesn’t extend the same pass to other consensual sex acts.

The San Francisco Democrat released a statement on Friday calling on Grewal to stop what he said is a repeat of “malicious slander that LGBT people are pedophiles.”

“LGBT people - and particularly gay men - have been labeled perverts, pedophiles, sex predators, and child molesters since the beginning of time,” Wiener said. “California Democrats should not be perpetuating that stereotype by misrepresenting legislation designed to decriminalize LGBT young people. I call on Mani Grewal to immediately stop with these homophobic and false attacks.”

Grewal said his position is not an attack on the LGBT rights and that he was “somewhat surprised” to see it considered as such. He said he opposed Proposition 8, the state’s attempt to ban same-sex marriage in 2008 and that he worked to deny a Modesto city permit for a “Straight Pride” parade being organized for Aug. 24. He also said he faced discrimination as a Sikh.

“Like you, we have lived with hatred all of our lives,” he said in response to Equality California. “My support in your struggle against hate will remain unwavering.”


It was just like old times inside Frank Fat’s last Wednesday night, when former Gov. Jerry Brown, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and a host of other top California political names congregated at the legendary Sacramento Chinese restaurant in celebration of its 80th birthday.

On the menu? For Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, a serving of gyoza. For all, a trip down memory lane.

John Burton, the legendarily explicit former California Democratic Party chair, told stories of a now-dead legislator who brought a date to the Chinese restaurant, knowing he could charge the meal to a ‘pigeon’ — a lobbyist,” The Bee’s Benjy Egel notes.

In his write up, Egel writes describes Frank Fat’s reputation as the once “go-to place for legislators’ backroom deals and napkin-scribbled agreements,” though “lobbying reform, an improved dining scene and stricter laws around alcohol changed Capitol culture over the years.”

“It’s here, it’s been here and it’s going to stay here because it’s an institution,” Burton said. “The food’s good, the food’s consistent and if you (found) a good lobbyist, the price (was) right.”

The food is good. Good enough to earn the restaurant one of three area Michelin Bib Gourmand designations in May. The restaurant also received a James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award in 2013.

The brains behind the business was Frank Fat himself, born Dong Sai-Fat in 1904 in Canton, China. He landed in Sacramento in 1926 and opened the legendary dining institution 13 years later.

The well-known proprietor died more than a decade ago, but his “simple mantra” lives on through his namesake establishment.

“You give people good food, a nice place to eat it in and make them happy.”

Opened in 1939, the downtown Sacramento landmark restaurant Frank Fat’s turns 80. Here's a glance at its colorful history.

By the way — The Bee asked Brown for updates on life after office and his plans to open a California-China climate change institute at UC Berkeley.

“I’m up on the ranch,” Brown told Egel. “I just came back from a conference on China-American relations in San Diego with a lot of experts from China and the United States.”

Brown also said he’s launching the institute next week in New York City, . But we’ll have to “wait and see” for more details.

Until then, gyoza on, Governor.


Devin Nunes had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

After McClatchy reporter Kate Irby wrote that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, owns a farm that generates no income and is worth less than $15,000, the hashtag #ImAFarmerLikeNunes went viral on Twitter.

His Democratic challenger, Phil Arballo, got in on the fun.

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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.