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Archive for January, 2011

Buchanan v. Wilson: The final AD15 numbers

Some of the numbers came in too late for inclusion in my roundup for tomorrow’s paper, but campaign finance reports filed today show the East Bay’s only hotly contested general election for a state legislative seat was quite costly.

Incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, raised $3.275 million and spent $3.266 million in 2009-10 to fend off a challenge from Republican nominee Abram Wilson, San Ramon’s mayor; Wilson raised $1.27 million and spent $1.258 million.

Buchanan defeated Wilson by a little more than 13,000 votes, a margin of 6.8 percentage points. It was a hard-fought race, but I think Buchanan probably scored the most crushing blow with an advertisement calling attention to the seemingly exorbitant salary paid to San Ramon’s city manager – something sure to irk many California votes in a year in which public salary and benefit scandals like the one in Bell attracted so much outrage. It cast a shadow over Wilson’s claim to fiscal conservative bona fides, and that was all she wrote.

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: 2010 election, Assembly, campaign finance, Joan Buchanan | 5 Comments »

E.Bay lawmakers react to Jerry Brown’s SOTS

Some East Bay lawmakers are sounding off on the State of the State address that Gov. Jerry Brown delivered earlier this evening. Guess what: They liked it.

From state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

“This governor is being honest with the Legislature and the voters. We can no longer pretend the state can right its ship without serious action. As Senate Majority Leader, I am committed to working across the aisle and with voters up and down the state to make sure we, once and for all, put California’s budget crisis behind us. Every single person in Sacramento and the state wants California to again be a leader in jobs and prosperity.”

From Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo:

“Less than a week after assuming office, Governor Brown presented us with a budget that does not rely on accounting gimmicks or inflated revenue projections. He continued the dialogue tonight by talking honestly about the difficult choices all of us must make – Democrats and Republicans. It also is clear that the Governor understands the tremendous potential of California and the contributions that critical programs like education have made to our economy and our lifestyles. I share his vision and his optimism.

“I was born in California at a time when we were the leader in education, aerospace, research and many other industries. Anything was possible in our state then because we made critical investments in our infrastructure, and we were disciplined in how we spent our money and repaid our debt.

“I believe the Governor has been very forthright about the tough road that lies ahead and we must come together as Californians and be willing to make the sacrifices required to right our financial ship and rebuild our infrastructure, our schools, our colleges, our roads. It is both a fiscal and a moral imperative if our children are going to have the same opportunities as our generation.

“The Governor has repeatedly shared his commitment to education and to creating good jobs. These are two of my top priorities. As a budget subcommittee chair, I am holding hearings to review the Governor’s budget to allow for a thorough review and public comment as well as timely action. I am looking forward to continuing my work to help our great state regain its place as a leader in our nation.”

From Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“I think Governor Brown is being straight-forward and very candid about the challenges facing California and people find that refreshing. He’s not using any smoke and mirrors or Hollywood flash, nor is he searching for scapegoats.

“The reality is there aren’t any quick fixes or silver bullets to get us out of this mess. We need to cushion the blow for those families who have already suffered the most from the recession, and we need to stimulate job growth. We can do that by becoming more competitive in manufacturing, putting people to work to modernize our facilities and make them more energy efficient, and by investing in our universities to advance our biotech industries.

“Our challenges are daunting, but they can be overcome by the creativity and imagination that has made our state the eighth-largest economy in the world.”

As the Bay Area has elected no Republicans to this Legislature, I picked a few GOP voices from elsewhere in the state. Follow me after the jump to read ‘em…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown, Joan Buchanan, Mimi Walters, Tom Harman | 1 Comment »

Boxer & DiFi introduce new pipeline safety bill

California’s U.S. Senators introduced a bill today to strengthen pipeline oversight and increase penalties when federal pipeline regulations are violated, inspired by last September’s deadly San Bruno gas pipeline blast that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

It’s similar to a bill the Senators introduced last September; S.3824 was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation but was never heard before the 111th Congress drew to a close.

The new Strengthening Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act of 2011, however, also would enforce recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released in early January.

“We must make sure the system of pipelines crisscrossing our country is safe. Americans shouldn’t have to worry that the pipes beneath their feet will suddenly explode, and no neighborhood should have to endure the tragedy that befell San Bruno,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a news release. “That is why we are introducing legislation that will improve the safety of pipelines and increase penalties for those who violate federal regulations.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said while San Bruno residents recover and rebuild, “we must do everything we can to protect our communities by increasing inspections of our nation’s pipelines while setting tougher penalties for safety violations.”

The legislation would:

  • double the number of federal pipeline safety inspectors.
  • require deployment of electronic or remote-control valves capable of automatically shutting off the gas in a fire or other emergency.
  • mandate the use of inspection devices called “smart pigs” or an inspection method certified by the Secretary of Transportation as equally effective at finding corrosion.
  • require pipeline operators to establish a complete record of pipeline components in order to verify the “maximum allowable operating pressure,” based on the weakest section of the pipeline. Pipelines with incomplete records must be pressure tested or replaced, and must operate at reduced pressure until testing is completed. This provision was recommended by the NTSB after it discovered serious problems with Pacific Gas and Electric’s record keeping during the investigation of the San Bruno explosion.
  • prohibit natural gas pipelines from operating at high pressure if they cannot be inspected using the most effective inspection technology.
  • prioritize old pipelines in seismic areas for the highest level of safety oversight.
  • direct the Transportation Department to set standards for natural gas leak detection equipment and methods; there are no uniform national standards for how to detect leaks now.
  • The bill also includes provisions that would increase civil penalties for safety violations; expand data collection to be included in the national pipeline mapping system; close jurisdictional loopholes to assure greater oversight of unregulated pipelines; and require consideration of a firm’s safety record when considering its request for regulatory waivers.

    Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

    Contra Costa Council USA: Video clips

    Watch video clips of the speakers at Friday’s Contra Costa Council USA annual conference.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30th, 2011
    Under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    The Challenger disaster, 25 years later

    In memory of the seven American heroes of science and learning who lost their lives 73 seconds after takeoff, 25 years ago today…

    sts-51-L mission patch

    Commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee
    Pilot Michael J. Smith
    Mission Specialist Judith A. Resnik
    Mission Specialist Ronald E. McNair
    Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka
    Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis
    Educator Sharon Christa McAuliffe

    Read all about them here, and take a moment today to remember their sacrifice.

    Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011
    Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    11 new White House interns are from Bay Area

    The Spring 2011 roster of White House interns includes almost a dozen either hailing from, or who have studied in, the Bay Area:

  • Sadie Brinton, San Francisco (Arizona State University)
  • Kimberly Castle, Oakland (Northwestern University)
  • Kelly Fitzpatrick, Los Angeles (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Chelsea Forbes-Terry, Hayward (Arizona State University)
  • Tiffany Gonzalez, San Francisco (Georgetown University Law Center)
  • Christa Hall, Citrus Heights (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Darshini Patel, Palo Alto (Wellesley College)
  • Sarah Reinheimer, Sacramento (University of San Francisco)
  • Dana Spindler, San Francisco (University of Washington)
  • Taryn Toyama, Fremont (San Jose State University)
  • Amira Valliani, Fremont (Yale University)
  • The program’s mission is to “make the White House accessible to future leaders all around the nation and cultivate and prepare those devoted to public service for future leadership opportunities.” Interns work in one of several White House departments, including the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of the Chief of Staff, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Health Reform, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of White House Counsel, the Office of Energy and Climate Change, the National Economic Council, the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the Presidential Personnel Office, the Communications Department, the Domestic Policy Council, the Office of the First Lady, and the Office of the Vice President.

    Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011
    Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Lee, Skinner tout free tax prep program, EITC

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, were in West Oakland today to tout a free tax assistance program that helps working poor people take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, to the tune of many millions of dollars in the East Bay.

    Barbara Lee 1-28-2011The “Earn it! Keep it! Save it!” tax assistance program – a project led by the United Way of the Bay Area in cooperation with more than 250 public and private partners, now in its ninth year – provides free tax return preparation help to families that earned less than $49,000 in 2010; it helped 52,000 taxpayers last year.

    The Earned Income Tax Credit, created in 1975, is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families, conceived in part to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for it.

    At a news conference in the People’s Federal Credit Union at Seventh Street and Mandela Parkway, Lee said the EITC lets working families keep more of their money, which ultimately benefits the entire community in which that money is spent. And as social services continue to be scaled back, she said, such families need all the help they can get.

    “We have millions that’s being left on the table” while “we have so many people who are struggling … and there could be cash in their pockets right now,” Skinner said.

    The “Earn it! Keep it! Save it!” program last year operated 211 sites in seven Bay Area counties, with 3,949 volunteers helping to prepare 51,963 tax returns that brought $57.2 million in total refunds, including almost $18.3 from the EITC.

    Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011
    Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, Nancy Skinner, taxes, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

    Dave Jones helps HHS tout healthcare reform

    California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this morning on a teleconference to roll out a new HHS report showing how much families and businesses can save on health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reforms signed into law last year.

    The report says that with the creation by 2014 of state health exchanges, marketplaces where individuals without coverage through their employers can shop for insurance at competitive rates:

  • Middle-class families purchasing private insurance in the new State-based Health Insurance Exchanges could save as much as $2,300 per year in 2014.
  • Tax credits provided by the Affordable Care Act will lead to even greater savings. For example, in 2014, a family of four with an income of $33,525 could save as much as $14,900 per year since they will also qualify for tax credits and reduced cost sharing.
  • In 2014, small businesses, on average, could save up to $350 per family policy and many may be eligible for tax credits of up to 50 percent of their premiums.
  • The tax credits are already available to small businesses, and cover 35 percent of their premiums. For example, a firm with 10 workers who earn an average of $20,000 annually could currently receive credits of $35,000 annually. These tax credits could save small businesses $6 billion in 2010 and 2011.
  • All businesses will likely see lower premiums of $2,000 per family by 2019, which could generate millions of dollars in savings.
  • “If we repeal the law as some in congress have proposed, families and small business owners will pay the price,” Sebelius told reporters on the conference call, saying the nation mustn’t return to the days when rising costs put heavier burdens on family budgets and business balance sheets.

    Sebelius said some insurers are already reporting increased enrollment as they inform their small business clients of the tax credits made available under the new law.

    Dave JonesJones said the report underscores the importance of moving forward with implementing the Affordable Care Act, which he called “one of the most significant legislative accomplishments of the last 50 years.” He noted that California is the first state to pass legislation under the Act to establish its health care exchange.

    Jones also noted the new law requires that children with pre-existing conditions no longer can be denied coverage; he noted that California parents with uninsured children should enroll them before March 1 to take advantage of a lower open-enrollment rate.

    Jones earlier this week had announced that the state Office of Administrative Law approved his request for an emergency regulation giving him authority to enforce the 80 percent Medical Loss Ratio in the individual market established under the Affordable Care Act – meaning California’s individual insurers must now spend at least 80 percent of their premium revenues on medical services rather than profits, marketing and overhead.

    UPDATED @ 12:59 P.M.: U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, said this:

    “This report is as deeply flawed as the $2.6 trillion health law that the American people continue to oppose. The facts from the government’s own budget experts are clear. According to the Administration’s actuary, health care costs for the nation will rise faster under this new law, despite the White House’s claim. Every American remembers President Obama’s pledge to reduce health costs by $2,500 for families, but the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has found the President’s health care law will increase premiums by $2,100 for families purchasing coverage on their own. House Republicans have listened to the people and acted to repeal this disastrous, budget-busting health law. Now it’s time for the Senate to act as well.”

    But, from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the ranking member on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce:

    “Today’s report confirms that the increased competition and consumer protections in the reform law will lower health insurance premiums for millions of American families and businesses. At a time when budgets are already stretched thin by rising costs, this is one more example of how families and businesses are benefiting from the health care law and can ill afford the reckless Republican effort to repeal it.”

    Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011
    Under: Dave Jones, healthcare reform | 5 Comments »

    Brown names Oaklander to run state ABC

    Gov. Jerry Brown today named an Oaklander who had worked closely with him in the Attorney General’s office to run the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

    Jacob Appelsmith, 47, will serve both as senior adviser to the Governor and as ABC’s director. Appelsmith since 2008 has served as a special assistant to the Attorney General and chief of California Bureau of Gaming Control; earlier, he was as a deputy attorney general; general counsel for the Office of the Attorney General’s personnel and equal employment opportunity matters; and lead supervising attorney for the Employment, Regulation and Administrative Section in the Attorney General’s office.

    From Sacramento Lawyer’s September 2001 profile of Appelsmith:

    Appelsmith has got sideburns “down to there” and wears several earrings (weekends only). But people trust him because he is a very talented lawyer and really knows employment law, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jim Schiavenza said.

    Appelsmith’s unique personal and legal style probably can be traced to his Berkeley upbringing. “Jake was exposed early on to the Berkeley community’s general presumption of social justice,” Bass said. It is probably that exposure, Bass said, that has influenced Appelsmith so that the concept of social justice is part and parcel of who Appelsmith is.

    [snip]

    Not only is Appelsmith concerned with social welfare, but he also has a diverse array of interests outside of his work. He proclaims that reading Charles Dickens “is a huge thing” for him. Others note his love of music. Schiavenza said that if you saw Appelsmith outside of work, you would likely find him at a bar listening to music. Bass, a former jazz pianist, said that he and Appelsmith fool around with music quite a bit outside of work and reflected on the time when the two lawyers parodied “A Streetcar Named Desire” for a select group of friends.

    At work, Appelsmith juggles a variety of projects without missing a beat, Schiavenza said. Appelsmith is a man who “stretches everyone’s imagination, is imaginative about solutions, and is willing to take risks,” Schiavenza said. Those qualities fit neatly within the attorney general’s office’s new perspective on its role as the state’s attorneys.

    From 1988 to 1994, he was an attorney with Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. He earned an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College in Vermont and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

    The ABC director’s position requires Senate confirmation and has an annual salary of $150,112; the senior adviser’s post neither requires confirmation nor carries additional pay. Appelsmith is a Democrat.

    Posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011
    Under: Jerry Brown, Oakland | 1 Comment »

    Assembly adjourns in slain union leader’s honor

    The state Assembly adjourned today in memory of Berresford “Berry” Bingham, political director of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, who was found dead Tuesday in his West Oakland home; Oakland Police are treating the case as a homicide.

    The adjournment was at the request of Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, who chairs the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and counted Berry as a friend and constituent. Swanson made this floor statement:

    “I rise today with a very heavy heart to adjourn in the memory of a constituent, but more importantly, a good friend. Berry Bingham was a Political Director for SEIU Local 1021. For 17 years, he worked tirelessly on behalf of working families in the State of California. Berry was a delegate to the Central Labor Council in Alameda County for 20 years; served our country in the United States Navy for 20 years; was the first African American to serve on the Alameda County School Board from 1994 to 2002; and was an assistant track and field coach at Encinal High School in Alameda.

    “It was shocking to learn of his death. He was full of life and energy, believed in the process of democracy, and was a fierce advocate on behalf of working families. Bingham was gentle and kind and engaging to his friends. He was respectful, but always a fierce advocate on behalf of those he represented.

    “I saw Barry two weeks ago when I was having breakfast at Ole’s in Alameda with my wife. He walked up to me, smiled, and we embraced. We talked about the brightness of the future of California, which will now be a great memory for me. This is a terrible loss for his family and the community. I respectfully ask that we adjourn in memory of Berry Bingham, an outstanding advocate and a great patriot.”

    Bingham’s death is Oakland’s 12th homicide of 2011. A reward of $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the killer or killers; anyone with information can call police at 510-238-3821 or Crime Stoppers of Oakland at 510-777-3211.

    Posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011
    Under: Assembly, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »