Brown feisty on prisons, bills, budget

6:41 PM, Jan 8, 2013   |    comments
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Gov. Jerry Brown started 2013 off with a bang in a Capitol news conference to announce his push to eliminate a state prison population cap, making it clear that he's ready to stand his ground on the myriad of policy and political hurdles headed his way.

"I didn't come here, you know (I'll be) 75 in April, just to screw around," said an animated Brown.  "I'm trying to fix this state that has been screwed up for a long time."

Brown has spent the past few weeks putting the finishing touches on his new state budget to be unveiled on Thursday, as well as completing a round of radiation for his recently diagnosed prostate cancer.  He dismissed any suggestion that he's not up to full speed for what's ahead.

The governor's media chat was focused on his new push to remove the existing court cap on California's prison population -- a cap that a new state legal motion says is no longer needed when it comes to ensuring constitutionally acceptable medical and mental health services.

"We can run our own prisons," said Brown, fists clenched behind his Capitol podium.  "And by God, let those judges gives us our prisons back. We'll run them right."

Attorneys for the inmates that filed the lawsuits sparking the prison fight more than a decade ago say the governor is not only wrong on the facts about medical conditions and prison crowding, he's not helping move the process forward.

"It's preventing an orderly transition back to the state," says Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office.  "This is another in a long line of litigation tactics."

But Brown may have his eye on a larger venue: a return to the U.S. Supreme Court.  While the state's pleas were rejected there in 2011, there is some question as to whether the high Court would see things differently given the past two years of declining prison populations.

Prisons, of course, weren't the only topic talked about today (though the governor tried to stay on message as reporters peppered him on other topics).

Brown made it clear he's ready to rebuff any ideas from his supermajority fellow Democrats that are too unwieldy or too expensive.

"2013 is the year of fiscal discipline," said the governor.  "No one is going to get everything they're looking for."

Though he didn't offer specifics, the governor promised his budget will aid education at both the K-12 and college levels.  But he also suggested a lot of Democratic pushing to restore previous cuts will fall on deaf ears.

"Money is a big deal around here," said Brown in comments aimed less at the reporters in the room than legislators on the Capitol's upper floors.  "People want to have more child care, they want to have more people locked up, they want to have more rehab. More, more more."

Brown brushed off questions about proposed legislation or larger public discussions, most notably the debate about gun control in the wake of last month's Newtown, Conn. mass shooting.

"I'm not going to talk about it today."

And on his health, in the wake of prostate cancer treatment, Brown didn't miss a beat.

"I'm ready, I'm raring to go, and don't expect me to leave too soon," he said with a smile.


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