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Archive for February, 2007

News flash: N. Dakota GOP lawmaker stuck in 1975

From the Associated Press, via Yahoo News:

BISMARCK, N.D. — Bono has plenty of fans. But don’t count North Dakota lawmakers among them.

Lawmakers in the House defeated a resolution 58-35 Thursday to honor the U2 frontman for his advocacy of debt relief for Third World countries, saying the Irish rocker had no connection to the state.

Fargo state Rep. Scot Kelsh, who sponsored the measure, said he got the idea for the resolution from a magazine published by the National Conference of State Legislatures, which mentioned that no state at the time had approved a resolution to honor the singer.

“This is something that does matter to us as citizens of North Dakota, the United States, and the world at large,” Kelsh said.

herbel.jpgRep. Gil Herbel, a Republican, said he initially thought the resolution referred to Sonny Bono, the former singer, Republican congressman and husband of Cher.

“When I saw the resolution, I was looking for Cher’s name in there,” Herbel said.

Posted on Friday, February 16th, 2007
Under: General | No Comments »

Governor visits Bay Area, praises stem-cell grants

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in Burlingame today to commend the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine‘s board for approving the first round of grants, totalling $45 million, to support embryonic stem cell research. Schwarzenegger in July had the state loan the board up to $150 million to tide it over while $3 billion in bond money — approved by voters under Proposition 71 of 2004 — is stuck in litigation.

“Today is a day for great hope. These initial grants are important because we all know that we cannot afford to wait when it comes to advancing potentially life-saving science,” the governor said. “This research brings hope for an eventual end to the suffering from chronic disease — such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer or multiple sclerosis — and promise for the people who love someone with one of these terrible illnesses.”

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The governor’s news release noted that Johns Hopkins University researchers reported Tuesday that stem-cell transplants let the spinal cord repair itself, refuting a long-held medical theory. Researchers are also using stem cells to find treatments for spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other debilitating injuries and illnesses.

Listen to the governor’s remarks here.

Posted on Friday, February 16th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General | No Comments »

Stark: Foster kids should keep Social Security $$$

pete-stark1.jpgRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, today introduced the Foster Children Self Support Act to protect Social Security benefits of eligible foster children.

Stark, a member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, noted state governments are responsible for the care of all children in foster care, and about 30,000 of these children are eligible for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits due to their disabilities or their parents’ deaths.

But instead of letting these children use their benefits to meet their needs and prepare for adulthood, many states including California now take this money for use as a government revenue stream. Stark’s bill would ban this, requiring states instead to work with each foster child and his or her advocate to develop a plan for using this money to meet the child’s present and future needs — from tutoring services to mortgage payments — or to save it for use in adulthood. Stark also will host a Congressional briefing on the issue tomorrow morning on Capitol Hill.

“State governments that steal the Social Security benefits of foster children should be ashamed of themselves,” Stark said in a news release. “Rather than rob from foster children who have already lost so much, we should help them invest in their future.”

Ask him about this — and anything else — at the town meetings he’ll hold Saturday in his district:

  • 9 – 10 a.m. in the Ruggieri Senior Center, 33997 Alvarado Niles Road in Union City
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. in Hayward City Hall’s council chambers, 777 B St. in Hayward
  • Noon – 1 p.m. in Alameda City Hall’s council chambers, 2263 Santa Clara Ave. in Alameda
  • Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2007
    Under: General, Pete Stark, U.S. House | No Comments »

    Schwarzenegger seeks bench diversity

    majors-lewis.bmpGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who faced campaign-trail allegations of inadequate diversity in his judicial appointments, today named Sharon Majors-Lewis his as judicial appointments secretary, saying in a news release that her “legal expertise makes her a great asset and a fantastic addition to my administration. I look forward to working with her to appoint qualified and diverse individuals to the bench.”

    Majors-Lewis, a 58-year-old Republican from Chula Vista, has worked for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office since 1987, where she most recently has been a chief deputy district attorney overseeing the North County Branch in Vista, the East County Branch in El Cajon and the South Bay Branch in Chula Vista, as well as the juvenile division and the District Attorney’s Office travel budget. Earlier, she worked for the Defense Department from 1968 to 1977.

    She looks forward “to working with a governor who has demonstrated he has the conviction to think outside the box to make positive changes,” she said in the release, which added she’ll work with Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy, Legal Affairs Secretary Andrea Hoch and the appointments secretary — a position now vacant, as Schwarzenegger also Thursday named its current holder, Timothy Alan Simon, to the Public Utilities Commission — to update the judicial appointment process and screen judicial appointment candidates. The job doesn’t require Senate confirmation and pays an annual salary of $133,728.

    Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2007
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, Sacramento | No Comments »

    Term limit reform headed to the ballot

    An initiative that would allow state lawmakers termed out in 2008 to stay on the job as long as six more years is headed for the ballot.

    An unusual, bipartisan coalition today submitted the “Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act” to the Attorney General’s Office. Once the language has been approved, proponents will gather signatures. The measure could show up on the expected February 2008 presidential primary election.

    If the makes it onto the ballot and voters concur, lawmakers could serve 12 years in either the Assembly or the Senate. Current law limits service to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

    The measure also allows lawmakers termed out in 2008 to serve as many as 12 years in their current house. That would allow Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata to serve another four years and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez could say six more years.

    It also solves a thorny problem for Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. He terms out next year and planned to run for a single term in Assembly District 11 before running for state superintendent of schools in 2010. (He had served only two of the three Assembly terms allowed before he successfully ran for the Senate.)

    But the District 11 incumbent Assemblyman is political ally Mark DeSaulnier, elected just three months ago. In order to avoid running against his friend, DeSaulnier has little choice but to plan a Senate campaign just months into his first term in the Assembly.

    If Torlakson could stay in the Senate, where he would likely win re-election, that shift would no longer be necessary.

    The term limit extension would also allow Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, to run for re-election rather than jump into a hotly contested congressional fight. Houston is considering running for the seat that Republican Richard Pombo lost in November to Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton. Both parties are expected to fight hard for that seat.

    Except for a return to local politics, the former Dublin mayor had nowhere else to go if he wanted to stay in public office. As a termed out Republican in the last Republican legislative seat in the Bay Area, Houston has little chance of success in Contra Costa County’s heavily Democratic senate district.

    Whether or not voters will embrace a modification to their beloved term limits remains an open question, especially if the shift benefits lawmakers currently in office.

    It also speaks volumes that the Legislature itself has apparently abdicated term limit reform to outside groups which which it has close ties.

    Proponents of the measure include the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Teachers Association, which have been on the opposite side of many issues in the state.

    The political team leading the effort is an unlikely partnership, as well.

    Veteran Democratic and labor political strategist Gale Kaufman will work with Matthew Dowd, a GOP political consultant for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s overwhelming 2006 win.

    For those interested in Kaufman’s press release, here is the text:

    LEGISLATIVE REFORM MEASURE SUBMITTED TO ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE; SIGNATURE COLLECTION TO BEGIN

    Sacramento – Today a bipartisan legislative reform measure, the “Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act,” has been submitted to the California Attorney General. Once approved by the AG’s office, the measure will go to California ‘s voters for signatures.

    The measure reduces the total time a member can serve in the California Legislature from 14 to 12 years, while allowing members to gain more experience in one body of the Legislature.

    Proponents say the measure will reduce partisanship, help put an end to the constant campaign cycle and empower legislators to work more effectively together across partisan lines. By allowing legislators to become more experienced in one house, the measure also serves to reduce the undue influence of outside special interests that aren’t directly accountable to California ‘s voters.

    “We need to reform the current system so that California has a stable legislature that is focused on solving the state’s growing challenges rather than the next election,” said Allan Zaremberg, President of CalChamber. “In the spirit of California ’s original term limits law, the Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act prevents career politicians – even shortening the total time legislators may serve – while allowing each chamber to benefit fully from the expertise developed during a legislator’s early service.”

    The stated purpose of the measure is to provide greater stability and expertise to the Legislature’s policymaking process.

    “The California Teachers Association believes California voters should have the right to support or oppose any candidate for political office and should not be denied the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice because of artificial barriers such as term limits,” said CTA President Barbara E. Kerr. “The current system makes it difficult for lawmakers to gain the experience and knowledge they need to really help our public schools and kids.”

    U.C. Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain has written extensive reports on the impact of term limits, including one for the Public Policy Institute of California, which was also published in a series of studies by the National Conference of State Legislators.

    “One of the most important findings in our PPIC report on term limits is that there is a pressing need to hold the executive branch accountable, particularly in the budget process, to ensure that taxpayer money isn’t being wasted,” Cain said. “Amending term limits to give legislators more time and incentives to develop expertise will be an important step toward making state agencies, and the executive branch as a whole, more accountable. This is an important reform – it’s a basic issue of checks and balances.”

    “California ‘s term limit law is not working for its citizens in terms of the complexity of the issues the legislature must confront. The proposed change would solve that problem while providing for continuing turnover in the legislature,” said Bill Hauck, President of the California Business Roundtable and former Chairman of the California Constitution Revision Commission. “It’s time to modify the arbitrary limits in current law and stop the exodus of qualified and talented elected leaders.”

    Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2007
    Under: State politics | No Comments »

    New marketing slogan: “Oakland: Hey, it’s not D.C.”

    A lawyer representing former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb apologized to a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel Thursday that Bobb couldn’t be present for the arguments in a lawsuit against him; he has long sinced moved to Washington, D.C., where he was elected last November as president of the school board.

    “Sort of like, ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire,’ ” Circuit Court Judge Richard Clifton quipped in reply.

    Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2007
    Under: General, Oakland | No Comments »

    McNerney wins early DCCC support

    What a difference a victory makes.

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee listed today Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in its fund-raising program for vulnerable freshmen legislators called “Frontline.”

    It’s a strong signal that the institutional Democratic Party intends to help McNerney win re-election. Freshmen are especially vulnerable but McNerney must win re-election in a conservative leaning district where Republicans are expected to wage a major effort to retake the seat.

    During the mid-term election, the DCCC contributed less than $100,000 to McNerney’s campaign despite repeated requests for aid. And in the primary, leading DCCC members gave money to one of McNerney’s opponents, airline pilot and former Navy officer Steve Filson.

    The lack of party support didn’t seem to hurt McNerney. Large cash and volunteer infusions from national environmental organizations and McNerney’s own grassroots fund-raising efforts helped propel him to a huge upset over seven-term incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

    Here’s what the DCCC press release this morning says:

    Van Hollen Announces Members of the DCCC Frontline Program

    (Washington, D.C.) – The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today announced the Members of DCCC Frontline program for the 2008 cycle. As a result of the DCCC’s historic success last November, 29 Members have qualified for the Frontline Program this cycle. The Frontline Program will be chaired by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), the former Chairman of the DCCC, will continue working with Frontline Members this cycle.

    Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said: “In November, the American people sent a clear message for change. The Frontline Members are already hard at work for the American people by restoring honesty and openness in government, re-establishing fiscal responsibility, strengthening our national security, and giving everyone a shot at the American Dream. The Frontline Program will give our Members an added boost so they can continue focusing on the issues their constituents care most about.”

    Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Frontline Program, said: “Our Frontline Members inspired the confidence of their constituents during their campaigns for Congress. They made the commitment to move our country in a new direction. They are our Majority Makers. The Frontline program will build on their strengths, providing them with the money, message and strategy they need to successfully position themselves for reelection in 2008.”

    The Frontline Program

    The Frontline Program is a partnership between the DCCC and Members which lays the ground work for the 2008 cycle by supporting and expanding their fundraising and outreach operations. This competitive program requires members to meet aggressive fundraising goals, accelerate volunteer and recruitment efforts, and increase on-line networking.

    Last cycle, the Frontline Program’s early success helped make half of the most competitive Democratic seats safe by the fall of 2006, allowing the DCCC to expand its offensive opportunities. Democrats have an outstanding record of defending tough seats with battle tested incumbents and have successfully protected 95 percent of their incumbents since 2002. In 2006, Democrats did not lose a single seat.

    Frontline Members

    Representative Jason Altmire (PA-04)
    Representative Michael Arcuri (NY-24)
    Representative John Barrow (GA-12)
    Representative Melissa Bean (IL-08)
    Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-03)
    Representative Christopher Carney (PA-10)
    Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02)
    Representative Joe Donnelly (IN-02)
    Representative Chet Edwards (TX-17)
    Representative Brad Ellsworth (IN-08)
    Representative Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-08)
    Representative Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-20)
    Representative John Hall (NY-19)
    Representative Baron Hill (IN-09)
    Representative Paul Hodes (NH-02)
    Representative Steve Kagen (WI-08)
    Representative Ron Klein (FL-22)
    Representative Nick Lampson (TX-22)
    Representative Tim Mahoney (FL-16)
    Representative Jim Marshall (GA-08)
    Representative Jerry McNerney (CA-11) (emphasis added)
    Representative Harry Mitchell (AZ-05)
    Representative Christopher Murphy (CT-05)
    Representative Patrick Murphy (PA-08)
    Representative Ciro Rodriguez (TX-23)
    Representative Heath Shuler (NC-11)
    Representative Zack Space (OH-18)
    Representative Tim Walz (MN-01)
    Representative John Yarmuth (KY-03)

    Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2007
    Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

    Governor appoints McPeak’s successor

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed a Los Angeles man and attorney Dale Bonner to succeed former Contra Costa County Supervisor Sunne Wright McPeak as the state’s secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.

    McPeak left the governor’s cabinet last November to head up the California Emerging Technology Fund.

    Link to Bonner’s profile here.

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    Here’s the governor’s press release:

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the appointment of Dale E. Bonner as the secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BT&H).

    “Last November, California voters approved the historic $37.3 billion Strategic Growth Plan bonds to rebuild California and in my State of the State address, I proposed additional investments in transportation along with implementing more public-private partnerships. Dale’s commitment to public service and background in both state government and the private sector are tremendous assets as we invest in California’s future,” said Governor Schwarzenegger

    Bonner has served as a partner in the law firm Epstein Becker & Green since 2002, where he specializes in government contracts, health care law and represents domestic and foreign technology and services firms in state and local procurement matters. From 1999 to 2002, he was of counsel to the law firm Hogan & Hartson. Prior to going into private practice, Bonner served in the public sector as commissioner for the California Department of Corporations from 1998 to 1999 and deputy secretary and general counsel for BT&H from 1996 to 1998. At the Department of Corporations, he was responsible for overseeing the regulation of California’s corporate securities, financial services and managed care industries. Bonner previously was deputy legal affairs secretary in the Office of Governor Pete Wilson from 1992 to 1996. He serves on the California Science Center Board of Directors and is a past member of the BT&H Expert Review Panel, Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and California Performance Review Commission. He became a member of the California State Bar in 1991.

    “I have had a life-long interest in public service and am honored Governor Schwarzenegger has chosen me for this position,” said Bonner. “I look forward to working with the Governor, who has been visionary in his efforts to rebuild California’s infrastructure and stimulate our economy.”

    Bonner, 41, of Los Angeles, earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $157,000. Bonner is a Republican.

    The state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH) oversees the activities of 13 departments consisting of more than 42,000 employees, a budget greater than $11 billion, plus several economic development programs and commissions. Its operations address financial services, transportation, affordable housing, real estate, managed health care plans and public safety.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 14th, 2007
    Under: State politics | No Comments »

    Calling all NRA members: Buy wine?

    This has to be one of the most unique political fund-raisers I’ve seen in long time: Join the National Rifle Association Wine Club and proceeds from every purchase will go to help support the organization.

    Enroll now and for a limited time only, each new enrollment gets a chance to win a “handsome hand-signed copy of (NRA executive vice president) Wayne LaPierre’s book ‘Guns, Freedom and Terrorism’ or ‘The Global War on Your Guns : Inside the UN Plan To Destroy the Bill of Rights.’ ”

    The club even offers an NRA Limited Edition Wine Series.

    I confess, I’m perplexed.

    I have gunowner friends and relatives and I’ve never heard a single one of them roll into the kitchen after a hunting excursion or a trip to the shooting range and declare, “I just have to have a glass of pinot noir or I will absolutely die.”

    Hot coffee, maybe. Iced tea on hot day.

    My brother used to hunt deer in Oregon with a bow and arrow. He and his buddies would smear themselves with deer urine, sit in trees and drink beer until they fell onto the ground. (Bambi was safe, I’m telling you.)

    But chardonnay? Never.

    I guess I just don’t hang out with the right hunters.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 14th, 2007
    Under: Web Site of the Day | No Comments »

    State political watchdog gets new chairman

    With political reform high on his list of second-term priorities, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the appointment of James “Ross” Johnson as chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, an agency meant to provide fair, impartial interpretation and enforcement of political campaign, lobbying and conflict of interest laws.

    ross-johnson.gifJohnson, 67, whom the governor called “a great advocate of political reform,” represented Orange County in the state Legislature for 26 years — in the Assembly from 1978 to 1995, and in the state Senate from 1995 to 2004 — and was the first person to serve as a party leader in both chambers. He authored several bills to tighten campaign finance laws and increase public disclosure of contributions, and in 1988 he authored the first ballot proposition approved by California voters to limit campaign contributions.

    Johnson also was the person who filed an FPPC complaint against — and later sued — then-Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante for moving about $4 million in large checks through an old campaign account to skirt new state contribution limits during the 2003 gubernatorial recall race. Bustamante, of course, finished a distant second to Schwarzenegger in that special election. Johnson, a Republican, will earn $127,833 a year in this new post.

    tim-hodson.jpgSchwarzenegger also announced the appointment of Timothy Hodson as an FPPC member. Hodson, 56, of Sacramento, has worked for Sacramento State since 1993, where he’s now the Center for California Studies’ executive director as well as a professor in the government department and in the public policy and administration graduate program. From 1987 to 1993, he was a staff director for the state Senate Elections and Reapportionment Committee; earlier yet, he was principal consultant for the state Senate Office of Research from 1983 to 1987 and chief of staff for Senator Omer Raines from 1982 to 1983. A Democrat, he’ll be paid $100 per day when engaged in FPPC activities.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 14th, 2007
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, California State Senate, Elections, General, Sacramento | No Comments »