AM Alert: Brown's finance director sells budget to California business community

akoseff@sacbee.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Michael Cohen, director of the California Department of Finance, testifies to the Senate budget committee in 2011.

HECTOR AMEZCUA — Bee file

Crafting a successful budget can be a high-wire balancing act, as the governor seeks broad support from the diverse and often conflicting interests.

One of the first and most important stops has become a meeting with the California Chamber of Commerce, which is often pushing lawmakers for greater fiscal restraint.

When Gov. Jerry Brown's director of finance, Michael Cohen, speaks about the 2014-15 budget proposal before the group today, he might find a more receptive crowd than in years past. With Brown emphasizing paying down debts over starting new public programs, and no new taxes on the docket, this year's agenda features fewer of the kinds of proposals that earn the Chamber of Commerce's dreaded "job killer" label.

Cohen speaks at approximately 12:45 p.m. during a luncheon at the California Chamber of Commerce on K Street.

VIDEO: The impending retirement of U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, sets up a game of musical chairs for California's legislative leadership, Dan Walters says.

EASY RIDER: The future is another step closer: Last year, the California Department of Motor Vehicles developed regulations for testing self-driving cars on the state's roadways. They were published in November, and the public comment period for the rules ended yesterday, but there's one more opportunity to participate in the process during a hearing at 10 a.m. at the DMV Headquarters on First Avenue. The regulations are expected to be finalized this spring.

CAP-AND-TRAIN: California's proposed high-speed rail project has been met with one controversy after another--and Gov. Brown's idea to use cap-and-trade funds to get construction started this year is no exception. The California High-Speed Rail Authority will discuss that proposal and other business at its meeting today at 10 a.m. in the Secretary of State's Auditorium on 11th Street.

DEMO DISCUSSION: There was much debate following the 2012 election over what impact increasing diversity might have on the future of national and California politics. Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project, takes a deep dive into those demographic shifts and where their effect is likely to be strongest during a talk called "Is Demography Political Destiny?" at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street at noon.

WAGE WAR: In-home caregivers and their allies will be at the north steps of Capitol at 10:30 a.m. to protest a proposal in Gov. Brown's budget they say would hinder their ability to make a living. The new rule would prohibit caregivers who serve low-income patients through the state's In-Home Supportive Services program from working more than 40 hours per week and earning overtime pay.

POOR MARKS: A report card on the state of education issued last year by StudentsFirst -- the controversial education advocacy group headed by Sacramento first lady Michelle Rhee -- was notoriously harsh, with two-thirds of states earning a D or worse. California was among the unlucky 11 to receive an F. Will the results be just as bleak this year? We'll find out today when the organization issues its report for 2014.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, who turns 57 today.

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