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Matt Gonzalez returns to public defender’s office

Former San Francisco Supervisors President and 2008 independent vice presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez has returned from whence he came – the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, where he took over today as chief attorney.

gonzalez1.jpgGonzalez, 45, was a deputy public defender from 1991 to 2001; he then served on the Board of Supervisors from 2000 through 2005, and lost the 2003 mayoral election to Gavin Newsom. He was independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s running mate in 2008.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced Gonzalez’s return to his staff at an 8 a.m. meeting. Gonzalez replaces former Chief Attorney Teresa Caffese, who left Dec. 31 for private practice.

Both Adachi’s and Gonzalez’s names have been bandied about as possible San Francisco mayoral candidates this year, both appealing to progressives; neither has declared candidacy.

In a news release, Adachi said Gonzalez’s experience both in the courtroom and in City Hall make him an excellent fit for the position, which involves overseeing and managing all internal operations of the Public Defender’s office as well as participating in budget planning and negotiations.

“We wanted a top trial lawyer who understands our work, has a commitment to our clients and a dedication to preserving the resources that allow our office to function,” Adachi said. “That person is Matt Gonzalez.”

Gonzalez since 2005 has been a partner in the law firm of Gonzalez and Leigh, where he handled both civil and criminal matters including several federal civil rights cases; 2010 Green gubernatorial nominee Laura Wells retained him after being arrested outside the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman debate last October in San Rafael.

The McAllen, Texas native received his Bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1987 and his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1990.

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DeSaulnier pushes for smoking ban

DeSaulnier

DeSaulnier

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has introduced legislation that would close loopholes in workplace smoking rules and effectively banning lighting up anywhere on the job.

Exemptions in the existing state law allow smoking in certain areas of a hotel/motel lobby and meeting and banquet rooms, retail or wholesale tobacco shops, warehouses, breakrooms, businesses with five or fewer employees and other specified locations.

California already has among the most stringent anti-smoking laws in the country.

Senate Bill 575 would end the exemptions and prohibit all smoking in the workplace.

Read on for DeSaulnier’s news release:

DeSaulnier Introduces Legislation to Eliminate Workplace Smoking

Senate Bill 575 Closes Loopholes in California Law that Expose Workers to Second Hand Smoke

While once the leader in protecting workers from the toxic effects of secondhand smoke, California has fallen far behind. This is due to the exemptions and loopholes in California’s Smoke-Free Workplace law. Because of these loopholes thousands of California workers and patrons of certain businesses continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke. To protect those workers and patrons, Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) today introduced SB 575 to eliminate loopholes in the state’s Smoke-Free Workplace law.

“California workers should not be exposed to secondhand smoke and the health risks associated with it,” said DeSaulnier. “They go to work to earn an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, not to breathe in carcinogens. It is time to bring California’s once-groundbreaking Smoke-Free Workplace law into the 21st Century.”

“Californians are rightfully proud of the fact that we led the effort to make workplaces smoke-free so they are surprised to learn that the states that followed in our footsteps have now lapped us in providing stronger protections for workers,” said Alecia Sanchez, Director of State Legislative Advocacy, American Cancer Society, California Division. “Twenty-four states have received the 100% smoke-free designation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sadly, California is not among them. This bill will correct that.‪”

“The American Heart Association has long advocated for smoke-free workplace ordinances at the state and local levels,” said Dr. Charlie Shaeffer, American Heart Association advocate. “Secondhand smoke kills an estimated 38,000 Americans annually, 35,000 of which are from heart disease. By closing the loopholes in California’s current law, it can help decrease a nonsmoker’s risk of heart disease,” continued Dr. Shaeffer.

“It’s time for California to close the loopholes on dangerous secondhand smoke in the workplace ,” said Jane Warner, President and CEO for the American Lung Association in California. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and people exposed increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent,” according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2006 report on secondhand smoke.

Exemptions in the Smoke-Free Workplace law allow smoking in certain areas of a hotel/motel lobby and meeting and banquet rooms, retail or wholesale tobacco shops, warehouses, breakrooms, businesses with five or fewer employees and other specified locations. SB 575 would remove those exemptions thereby prohibiting smoking in those workplaces. This bill is co-sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association.

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Jerry Brown declares war on trinkets

His budget proposal still under fire from both sides in the Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown today declared war on trinkets.

Brown directed all state agencies and departments to stop spending taxpayer dollars on free giveaway and gift items – key chains, coffee mugs, pens and so on – in order to cut costs. A statewide review revealed that from 2007 to 2010 state agencies and departments spent a total of $7.5 million on such items:

    Business, Transportation & Housing Agency — $5,088,037
    State and Consumer Services Agency — $1,154,960
    Health and Human Services Agency — $778,678
    Department of Food & Agriculture — $175,530
    Labor and Workforce Development Agency — $129,012
    California Volunteers — $77,387
    Environmental Protection Agency — $48,317
    Emergency Management Agency — $41,810
    Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation — $12,201
    Department of Veterans Affairs — $4,968

“Not a cent of taxpayer money should be spent on flashlights, ashtrays or other unnecessary items, most of which likely end up in landfills,” Brown said in his news release. “Every taxpayer dollar we save by cutting waste is a dollar that can be used to pay for critical public safety and social services.”

Dang – and I was hoping for a Sutter Brown plush toy.

Brown also has asked the Bureau of State Audits and the Little Hoover Commission to provide “Top 10” lists of ways to cut government waste and increase efficiency, and issued executive orders to freeze hiring across state government, cut state cell phones and halve the state’s passenger vehicle fleet.

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Jackie Speier makes abortion debate personal

Hours after Rep. Jackie Speier joined some of her California Democratic House peers yesterday to voice concern over Republicans’ efforts to cut Title X family planning funding, she made national news by revealing on the House floor that she herself has had an abortion:

Speier, D-Hillsborough, spoke in response to the ardently anti-abortion-rights Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who had just read aloud graphic descriptions of abortion from a book. This all happened during debate over an amendment by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Speier moments ago Tweeted: “I’m overwhelmed by the warm comments I’ve received from across the U.S. I will always stand up for women’s health and reproductive rights.”

UPDATE @ 3:09 P.M.: Speier issued this statement today after the House voted 240-185 to pass Pence’s amendment:

“Last night, I spoke on the House floor about a painful time in my life when the pregnancy that my husband and I prayed for was unsuccessful. I had what’s called dilation and evacuation or d & e. The fetus slipped from my uterus into my vagina and could not survive. Today some news reports are implying that I wanted my pregnancy to end, but that is simply not true. I lost my baby.

“It is time to stop politicizing women’s health. For some, describing a procedure like the one I endured is nothing more than talking points. But for millions of women like me it’s much more—it’s something that will always be a part of us.

“Planned Parenthood provides vital services to women including family planning and cervical cancer screenings. I am disappointed that the House passed the Pence amendment to defund it. These sorts of policies would turn back the clock on women’s health and reproductive rights. I urge the Senate to defeat it. It is time to stop playing politics with our lives.”

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Got questions? CoCo has answers

In the ever-expanding transfer of our lives onto the Internet, Contra Costa County is taking a test run at extending its on-line library chat system into other areas of county government.

Check out www.co.contra-costa.ca.us and click on the live web chat and ask away.

A news release from the office of Supervisor John Gioia suggest that residents  could ask things like “Where do I go for a building permit?” “What do I do about barking dogs?” “Is there a bus to the Martinez hospital?” “Where do I vote?”

The county library has had a chat function for years on its website, and will deploy the same employees during the trial run to answer the county questions .

Chat live Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If it works out, the county will make it permanent.

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Hancock seeks crackdown on gun-toting auditors

State Senate Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Loni Hancock introduced a bill today that would strip the sworn peace-officer status from attorneys and auditors at the state Office of the Inspector General, the independent agency watchdogging the state prison system.

Hancock, D-Berkeley, says her SB 490 would save the state $3.7 million by eliminating the more generous benefits, training and equipment – including guns and cars – provided to the OIG’s 105 attorneys and auditors. In contrast, fewer than five of the Attorney General’s 1,200 attorneys and auditors have peace-officer status.

“This bill starts the process of eliminating the abuse of peace office status in state government and the resulting waste of taxpayer dollars,” Hancock said in a news release. “I want to insure that the Office of the Inspector General continues to carry out its work in a cost-effective manner. I do not believe that peace officer status for their attorneys and auditors is necessary.”

A report issued Nov. 30 by the Senate Office of Oversights and Outcomes entitled, “Gun-toting Auditors and Attorneys: Does the Inspector General Need 105 Armed Peace Officers?” found that outfitting each attorney and auditor with guns, holsters, handcuffs, ammunition and related equipment costs more than $2,000 per employee. The report also found their state-issued cars logged more than 700,000 miles for home-to-work commutes at no cost to the employees, representing about 70 percent of their total mileage.

The state Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee today unanimously approved a motion from Hancock – who chairs its Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary – to reduce the OIG’s budget by $3.4 million and reduce the number of sworn officers in the agency to 25 for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

OIG Chief Deputy Inspector Donald Currier told the Los Angeles Times last November that the office is willing to give up the guns and cars but not its peace-officer pensions, as the job still has risky assignments. “They’re not typical police duties, like CHP officers pulling people over all the time who they don’t know,” Currier said, “but their job is to ferret out criminal wrongdoing in prisons, including abuse of force by correctional officers.” The Times noted, however, that the state Senate report indicated other auditors who investigate criminal wrongdoing at public agencies do so without peace officer status.

UPDATE @ 4:55 P.M.: Hancock’s office clarified that her bill would prevent future OIG hires from getting the more generous pension plans available to peace officers, but current workers’ pensions are legally protected under current agreements. The $3.7 million figure doesn’t include any pension savings, just training and equipment.