SACRAMENTO — It's the time of year again when interest groups flock to the state Capitol steps to promote their causes.
Media events with dozens of participants, sometimes hundreds, are staged, competing for attention from TV cameras, radio reporters and even pencil-pushing print journalists. Traditionally, the coveted west steps are ground zero, with the north steps running a close second.
"They are a mix of theater and politics. It's groups of people looking for exposure and cameras to leverage the policy or legislation they want," said John Howard, editor of Capitol Weekly. The nonprofit, online news site covers state government and politics for Sacramento insiders.
The steps were packed last week. On Tuesday, it a was rally to oppose the governor's budget plan to limit the hours and pay for state-paid caregivers for the sick and elderly.
The north steps event brought out reporters from three newspapers, three television outlets and two radio stations. "It was widely covered," said Mike Roth, whose Sacramento company, Pascal Roth, helped stage the event.
A day later the same firm was back on the west steps, this time for a demonstration dubbed "CSI: Sacramento." It called attention to a bill that would increase penalties for employers that illegally shortchange low-wage workers' pay.
The made-for-TV antics featured someone pretending to be a "wage thief" decked out in a business suit and a ski mask. He pretended to steal from a janitor, a security guard and a food-service worker at "crime scenes" cordoned off by yellow police tape in front of the Capitol.
The goal, Roth said, was to "break through a lot of the noise here in the Capitol."
On Thursday at the west steps, the unfolding statewide drought was the focus. A group called the California Latino Water Coalition brought hundreds of people from the Central Valley to ask the governor and lawmakers for more help in dealing with the state's growing water shortage. "Your issues don't rise to a high priority … unless you're in Sacramento," said Mario Santoyo, the coalition's executive director. "In Sacramento, it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease."
State tax collectors may have money for you.
But only if you're due an income tax refund and moved without a forwarding address. The kitty contains a total of $16 million in checks that were returned by the Postal Service. They range from $1 to $54,000, with most worth $1,000 or less.
Think you're due some cash? Go to the Franchise Tax Board's Check your refund status page.
Last year, the Franchise Tax Board issued 10.7 million refunds worth more than $10.5 billion.
The U.S. Treasury wants to boost small businesses in the Golden State with $55.6 million. The goal is to provide entrepreneurs with new sources of capital to create jobs and grow the economy.
The new money, delivered last week, can be used to back loans from community banks. Details are available from the state treasurer's office.