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Rocky Chávez takes Trump to task

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 2:43 pm in U.S. Senate

Rocky Chávez, a Republicanseeking one of California’s U.S. Senate seats in 2016, had some choice words Wednesday for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump’s incendiary comments about immigrants from Mexico have landed him in hot water, as Univision, NBC Universal and Macy’s have cut ties with the reality-television businessman. Chávez, a Republican Assemblyman from Oceanside, took him to task with a statement issued Wednesday.

Rocky Chávez“It saddens me that the narrative being set for Republicans at a national level can be initiated by someone who has never been elected,” he said, noting his GOP colleagues in the state Legislature “have a proven track record of supporting legislation that encourages comprehensive immigration reform.”

Chávez earlier this year co-authored Senate Joint Resolution 2 by Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, which urged Congress and the President to work together for comprehensive immigration reform; a majority of Assembly Republicans supported it.

“Immigrants come to the United States from all over the world to both benefit from and contribute to our society; we owe it to our nation to welcome immigrants with open arms and to reform our current broken immigration system,” Chávez said “We must not forget that the United States of America is a nation of immigrants and our society has always grown stronger as we form a more diverse society. Immigration was a catalyst of the American dream in the past and will be the key to the future.”

Others who have declared candidacy for California’s Senate seat in 2016 include state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana; and former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette.

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Tim Donnelly launches referendum vs. vaccine law

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 2:21 pm in Tim Donnelly

Former assemblyman and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly is launching a referendum campaign to overturn California’s new law requiring mandatory vaccinations for public and private school students.

Donnelly, the arch-conservative from Twin Peaks, submitted his proposed referendum Wednesday to the state Attorney General’s office for preparation of an official title and summary, with which he can circulate petitions to place it on the November 2016 ballot.

Tim Donnelly“This referendum is not about vaccinations; it is about defending the fundamental freedom of a parent to make an informed decisions for their children without being unduly penalized by a government that believes it knows best,” he said in a news release.

It certainly seems to be in keeping with Donnelly’s political philosophy; his talk radio show’s website describes him as “broadcasting from deep behind enemy lines in the occupied territory of the socialist republic of California.” Donnelly finished third, with about 15 percent of the vote, behind Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican rival Neel Kashkari in last year’s top-two gubernatorial primary.

Donnelly’s news release says California enjoys one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates, even though it has let people opt out for personal or religious reasons. But by signing SB 277 into law Tuesday, Brown “deprived every Californian of that choice should they wish to send their children to a private or public school,” the release said.

“For the vast majority, this is not an issue, but for those who are concerned about the inherent risks of an ever increasing schedule of vaccinations, or who themselves or their children have suffered severe reactions, up to and including death, having the freedom to opt out is everything,” the release said. “Now, that freedom is subject to the arbitrary control and subjective determination of a doctor and the government, instead of the parent.”

UPDATE @ 3:02 P.M.: State Sen. Richard Pan, the pediatrician who authored SB 277, issued a statement later Wednesday noting Californians “overwhelmingly support requiring vaccinations for school.

“Our bill was a reasonable, science-based approach to protecting children, and the most vulnerable among us, from dangerous diseases,” wrote Pan, D-Sacramento. “Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools we have to prevent deadly communicable diseases. I have spent my career campaigning to build healthier and safe communities and I will continue that work by fighting any referendum that hurts Californians.”

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Of Cuba, embassies and Barbara Lee

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 1:47 pm in Barbara Lee, U.S. House

Rep. Barbara Lee was among those quick to praise President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba will be opening reciprocal embassies soon – but she renewed her insistence that she’s not angling to be ambassador.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement calling the opening of embassies “another important step forward as we work to normalize relations after more than 50 years of failed policy. She urged Congress to follow the president’s lead by supporting H.R. 664, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, and H.R. 403, the Free Trade With Cuba Act. “It’s past time to end the failed embargo, lift the travel ban and fully normalize relations between our two countries.”

Lee has been a longtime advocate of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations, and the Chronicle’s political gossip column alleged in January that Lee had a “gentlewoman’s agreement” with President Obama to name her as the U.S. ambassador to Cuba. She promptly replied with a statement saying she wouldn’t seek such a nomination, but rather would “continue the efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and the fight for our shared progressive values in Congress.”

Of course, “seeking” a nomination and being willing to accept one aren’t necessarily the same thing, so I asked her office Wednesday if she would accept it if it’s offered.

Her response, delivered by email through a spokesman: “I appreciate the faith that my constituents have invested in me, as their Member of Congress. I plan to continue working, in Congress, to lift the travel ban, end the embargo and advance the many important issues that affect my constituents’ daily lives.”

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Excessive water use tax of up to 300%?

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 at 3:51 pm in Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, water

Water agencies could impose a tax of up to 300 percent on excessive use, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill.

Bob WieckowskiSB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.

“California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,” Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.

“SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,” he said. “It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.”

The State Water Resources Control Board has moved to curtail water use during the state’s historic drought, calling for a 25 percent cut, yet many water agencies are far from reaching their reduction goals despite managers’ best efforts. Wieckowski’s bill would let agencies impose up to a 300 percent tax on excessive use – a level to be determined by the local agencies – with revenue going to water conservation projects for those communities.

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Boxer, Rubio urge full disclosure in Malala’s case

By Josh Richman
Monday, June 29th, 2015 at 12:18 pm in Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer joined Monday with fellow Sen. Marco Rubio – currently a top-tier candidate for the GOP presidential nomination – in urging Pakistan’s government to fully account for the case of the ten Taliban fighters allegedly responsible for 2012’s brutal attack on 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, D-Calif., is ranking member and Rubio, R-Fla., is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues.

“This past April, Pakistani officials announced that, after a secret trial, all ten suspects were found guilty for their roles in the attack against Malala and received 25 year prison sentences,” the senators wrote in a letter to Jalil Abbas Jilani, the Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. “Although we have serious concerns about the trial’s lack of transparency and general absence of information regarding the cases against these ten individuals, we were encouraged to hear that the Pakistani judicial system was actively working to hold those responsible for this heinous act.”

Marco Rubio“That is why we are particularly alarmed by recent media reports that eight of the ten convicted were actually acquitted of these charges against them,” they continued. “These reports raise significant concerns about the transparency and the accountability of the Pakistani judicial system. As such, we respectfully request that the Pakistani judicial system provide an honest and transparent accounting of the events surrounding the cases against these ten individuals and continue its important work to bring all those responsible for the brutal attack against an innocent teenage girl to justice.”

Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for education for girls. In 2012, while riding home from school, Taliban fighters boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head. The attempted assassination sparked national and international support for Malala and girls’ education advocacy. In 2014, she became the youngest recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Rubio is in third place in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, according to an average of five recent national polls. Walker has not yet formally announced his candidacy.

Read the full text of the senators’ letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

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Arnold terminates marriage-equality opponent

By Josh Richman
Saturday, June 27th, 2015 at 6:04 pm in Arnold Schwarzenegger, same-sex marriage

Like many on Facebook, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to use an image of himself overlaid with rainbow colors as his new profile picture to show support for the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling. One of his Facebook followers took issue with that, and the Governator’s response was… classic.

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Reactions to SCOTUS’ Obamacare ruling

By Josh Richman
Thursday, June 25th, 2015 at 9:11 am in Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, healthcare reform, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Kamala Harris, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

The Bay Area’s voices in Congress are predictably ebullient about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“This is a tremendous victory for improved health care and clearly validates the Affordable Care Act. This means that 6.4 million Americans in 34 states will continue to have access to health insurance subsidies. I could not be more pleased.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the millions of Americans who now have affordable health care – many of them for the first time in their lives – because of Obamacare.

“It is long past time for Republicans to end their efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and join us in fulfilling the promise of quality, affordable health care for all.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the health of our country. Despite the best efforts of congressional Republicans, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land, a fact reaffirmed by this decision. It’s also working. Thanks to the ACA more than 16 million Americans have gained coverage and the nation’s uninsured rate is at its lowest level ever.

“I am hopeful that the attempts by Republicans in Congress to kill the ACA will end and we can finally move forward to do the big things our constituents sent us here to do: grow the economy, create jobs, and advance equality.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“Today’s historic decision will uphold the ACA and continue to provide coverage to millions of Americans who have come to depend on the law to treat their illnesses and pay for their medications. For too many generations, the issue of health care created panic, anxiety, and dread. Marketplaces can continue to enable families and individuals who are uninsured to buy quality, affordable coverage. It is time for us to understand that the ACA is the law of the land and here to stay. Instead of working to dismantle this important law, we should be working to spread the benefits of ACA to each and every American.”

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena:

“Today, the Supreme Court has once again ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, upholding that all Americas, no matter where they live, can access premium tax credits for quality, affordable health care.

“Since the ACA was passed, we have spent far too much time fighting over the law, both in Congress and in the courts. This ruling should settle once-and-for-all that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

“With today’s decision now behind us, and the ACA standing on firm constitutional ground, we need to begin working across the aisle to build on the law’s important reforms so that all Americans can have access to quality, affordable health insurance.”

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton:

“All Americans should have access to quality and affordable health care when they need it, and today’s Supreme Court decision reaffirms that health care will be available to millions of people. This is an important victory that keeps health care accessible for more than 6 million people, including many lower and middle income families, who would not otherwise be able to afford insurance.

“In California, and in my district, we are seeing that the Affordable Care Act works. Hardworking families are receiving quality health care coverage through the state exchange. With this Supreme Court decision, we should move forward and look at ways to make improvements, instead of wasting time and resources to tear down a law that is providing millions of people with life-saving health care.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“This is yet another landmark victory for millions of Americans who have been able to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The Court has now ruled that the law is not only constitutional, but that it’s legal for Americans in states using the HealthCare.gov exchange to continue to benefit from federal tax credits to help pay for health insurance.

“More than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law, and the nation’s rate of uninsured is at the lowest level ever. Coverage is affordable, with 85 percent of enrollees claiming tax credits. Consumers are enjoying greater competition and choice, Medicaid expansion is helping millions of low-income Americans obtain care, and young adults are getting covered.

“Today’s decision further affirms the Affordable Care Act will remain woven into the fabric of America’s health care system.”

The House Republican leadership is predictably perturbed.

From Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“ObamaCare is fundamentally broken, increasing health care costs for millions of Americans. Today’s ruling doesn’t change that fact. Republicans will continue to listen to American families and work to protect them from the consequences of ObamaCare. And we will continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The only thing that is more disappointingly flawed than today’s decision on what Obamacare actually meant is Obamacare itself. Obamacare remains a failed law that was forced through Congress on a partisan vote, and its consequences are being felt today. The law is increasing health care costs, reducing choice, and has led to fewer jobs, and today’s ruling doesn’t change that.

“Throughout the country, the American people are suffering because of the limits this law places on receiving high-quality care from doctors that patients choose, not the government. One thing that today’s ruling does confirm is that we must repeal and replace this fundamentally flawed law. The House will continue to work toward a patient-centered solution and to help those who have felt the hardships this law has caused.”

And California’s candidates for U.S. Senate in 2016 weighed in, too.

From former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“One thing is for certain: If the Republicans in Washington haven’t believed Obamacare was right, then they should have long ago come with a single, practical alternative. Between now and the election, they better do just and convince Americans why their alternative is better. If they don’t, they will be handing the election to Hillary.”

From Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana:

“I applaud and agree with the court’s decision to rule in favor of an individual’s ability to receive tax credits from the federal health insurance exchange, a program that has supported so many Americans and their families. I’ve said this before: we are dealing with families, not concepts. Millions of families rely on the federal marketplace to purchase affordable health insurance, and I am relieved that they will be able to continue to do so.

“With today’s Supreme Court decision behind us, it’s time for Congress to get back to work. The Affordable Care Act is settled law, and this ruling reaffirms that families are in control of their own health care.”

From California Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“The Affordable Care Act delivered access to quality, affordable health coverage to millions of Californians who otherwise would not have been able to afford insurance. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in King v. Burwell ensures that millions of families can keep their affordable health insurance. Because of this ruling, health insurance continues to be accessible to every American, making our entire nation healthier and more prosperous.”

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Thompson renews call for background-check bill

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 at 11:46 am in gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House

Echoing calls from President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and many others in the wake of last week’s racist-terrorism massacre in Charleston, S.C., Rep. Mike Thompson today urged House GOP leaders to bring his bipartisan background-check bill to a vote.

Thompson, D-St. Helena, is an avid hunter and combat veteran who was tapped to be House Democrats’ point man on gun-control issues soon after the December 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. His H.R. 1217, co-authored by Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

“Mr. Speaker, last week we witnessed an act of pure hatred and evil in Charleston, S.C.

“This is a time to mourn the victims, to pray for their families, for a community to heal, and for Congress to take action against unchecked and widespread gun violence.

“30-plus people are killed every day by someone using a gun. Mass shootings are becoming almost commonplace. And yet we continue to do nothing.

“No legislation will stop every tragedy. But passing commonsense gun laws will at least stop some.

“We need to pass background checks. It’s our first line of defense against criminals & the dangerously mentally ill getting guns.

“We don’t know what laws could have prevented the shooting in Charleston.

“But we do know that background checks stop help keep guns from dangerous people – and that saves lives.

“If the Republican leadership has a better idea to cut down on gun violence, let’s see it.

“If not, let’s bring commonsense, bipartisan reforms like my bill to expanded criminal background checks up for a vote.”

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted one year ago found 92 percent of Americans – and 92 percent of gun owners – support requiring background checks for all gun buyers. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted this past weekend found 90 percent support.

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Lawmakers urge $$$ disclosure, LGBT protection

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 at 2:35 pm in Anna Eshoo, campaign finance, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House

Bay Area House Democrats are demanding action on disclosure of government contractors’ political contributions and on protecting LGBT people from assault in immigration detention centers.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, led 104 House members while U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., let 26 senators in urging President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring companies that do business with the federal government to fully disclose their political contributions.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is spent and you have the power to ensure that the American people can obtain this information,” the House members wrote. “With public funds come public responsibilities, and any company receiving federal tax dollars should be required by executive order to fully disclose their political spending in a timely and accessible manner.”

Among the top 15 recipients of federal contracting dollars, a recent analysis by Public Citizen found that only 47 percent fully disclose their contributions to non-disclosing 501(c)(4) organizations. This is the fourth time since 2011 that Eshoo has led her colleagues in calling on President Obama to issue such an executive order. All Bay Area House members signed the letter except Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., signed the senate version, but Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., did not.

honda.jpgAlso Tuesday, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., led 33 House members in writing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to express concerns over the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“Detention should almost never be used for vulnerable groups such as LGBT immigrants facing immigration proceedings,” they wrote. “Recent surveys of jails and prisons by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that non-heterosexual detainees experience sexual assault at up to 10 times the rate of heterosexual men. The situation is starker for transgender detainees. According to the BJS survey, one in three will be sexually abused within 12 months in custody.”

The lawmakers asked that DHS and ICE consider an LGBT person’s detention to be “not in the public interest” per the department’s November 2014 enforcement memo, and that they work with LGBT and civil rights groups “to develop additional community-based alternatives to detention.”

Bay Area Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among those signing the letter.

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Endorsements, pledges in 2016 U.S. Senate race

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 at 11:21 am in U.S. Senate

Candidates in California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race continue to roll out their endorsements and commitments.

Rocky ChávezAssemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, announced Tuesday that he has the endorsements of 22 GOP assemblymemebers including Republican Leader Kristin Olsen.

“Rocky Chávez is the leader we need in Washington,” Olsen, R-Modesto, said in Chávez’s news release. “He has incredible experience in keeping our nation safe as a Marine colonel who served 28 years. He knows how to support our nation’s veterans, having served as California’s Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Finally, he knows the importance of a good education and has fought to improve California’s schools as a member of the state assembly.”

Meanwhile, former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette announced Tuesday that he has taken the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” offered by Americans for Tax Reform. The pledge commits him to oppose any and all efforts to increase marginal income tax rates for people or businesses, and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of tax deductions and credits unless they’re matched dollar-for-dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Tom Del Beccaro“California has the highest tax, regulations and debt burden of any state in the country,” Del Beccaro said in a news release. “That burden plays into California’s high unemployment rate and leader of poverty in the nation. No sensible candidate for U.S. Senate for California could advocate for even more taxes. I call upon Kamala Harris, Loretta Sanchez, Rocky Chavez, and anyone considering a run, to join me it protecting California tax payers from further tax increases.”

Del Beccaro favors a flat tax – a single, low rate for everyone, regardless of income – which he says would decrease the size of the IRS while boosting economic activity, creating jobs and reducing poverty. Critics say a flat tax would shift much of the nation’s revenue burden to middle- and lower-income Americans – who already spend a larger percentage of their income on necessities like food, housing and health care – while letting the rich pay far less.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Del Beccaro “has been a proponent for tax reform from the moment he came on the scene.”

Kamala HarrisAnd the Service Employees International Union California announced Tuesday that the 700,000-member union has endorsed Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, in this race to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next year. The huge union made its choice in a town-hall process in which all members had a chance to hear from and evaluate candidates’ policies.

“We know she’ll be a tough fighter for working families in Washington, the same way she’s shown courage and commitment to stand up for hard-working Californians as Attorney General,” union president Laphonza Butler said in a news release. “SEIU’s endorsement means our members will put our boots on the ground to deliver votes across California and put our hearts into a winning campaign to put Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.”

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