California Capitol

Capitol Alert
By Alexei Koseff
akoseff@sacbee.com
December 30, 2015 10:00 PM

No legislators were arrested for corruption, but 2015 was another turbulent year in California politics, full of globetrotting politicians, hours upon hours of emotional testimony at the Capitol, and the state’s first open U.S. Senate race in more than two decades. If you can’t remember it all, we’ve got you covered – from the landmark legislation to the television sitcom appearances.

JANUARY

The new year kicked off with a new driver’s license for undocumented immigrants. The Capitol hosted a very full day of inaugurations for the state’s constitutional officers, many of which were sponsored by special interests. Days later, Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer announced the don’t-call-it-a-retirement end of her 33-year congressional career. Attorney General Kamala Harris quickly jumped into the race to succeed her, stoking fears that Democrats were trying to clear the field. Gov. Jerry Brown faced criticism from his liberal allies for not addressing inequality more in his budget proposal. He formed a “committee of two” with University of California President Janet Napolitano to work through their strong disagreements over how much money to give UC. Lawmakers introduced an assisted death bill that would allow terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending medication. California’s crowded prisons hit court-mandated capacity levels a year ahead of schedule. The community college system announced its 15 pilot bachelor’s degree programs. State investigators raided the home of former Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey, who still had Brown’s support. We met the state’s drought czar, Felicia Marcus.

FEBRUARY

Lawmakers announced a bill to mandate vaccines for schoolchildren, kicking off one of the year’s biggest legislative battles. Backlash was swift from across the political spectrum – and actor Rob Schneider. Meanwhile, Latino politicians were seeking one of their own to challenge Harris for U.S. Senate, but it wouldn’t be former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom launched his gubernatorial bid nearly four years before the next election. Opponents were already trying to unseat surprise Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando. Though presidential candidates rarely stump in California, an early money primary was playing out from Palo Alto to La Jolla. Brown administration officials threw a controversial farewell dinner for Peevey. Bag manufacturers spent more than $3 million to get a referendum for the statewide plastic bag ban on the ballot. Boxer’s farewell tour of duty included a cameo on “Parks and Recreation.”

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