Labor Dept. releases $7.96 mil for NUMMI workers

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced it’s releasing the remaining $7.96 million from a National Emergency Grant to keep providing re-employment and training services to about 4,455 workers affected by the closure of Fremont’s New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) and 39 of its supplier companies.

the former NUMMI plant“Today’s grant will result in continued support services and job training for auto industry workers in Fremont who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a news release. “As our economy continues to improve, this grant will benefit employers, too, by providing grant participants with the skills and credentials that match 21st century needs.”

A grant of up to $19,042,012 was approved in June 2010, with almost $11.1 million released at that time. Awarded to the California Employment Development Department, this second release provides dislocated workers – many of whom also are eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance – access to services including dependent care and transportation assistance. Workers of supplier companies whose TAA petitions were denied have access to a full array of training and employment-related services under this grant.

“It has been more than a year since the NUMMI plant’s closing and unemployment is still unacceptably high,” Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, said in his own release. “In this difficult economy, I am committed to creating jobs and providing the assistance that laid off workers need to hone their skills and remain competitive. The East Bay is a hub for innovation and green manufacturing and the funding announced today will help ensure that our workforce is prepared to fill new jobs in these areas.”


The budget’s done. Who will own it?

Assembly Republicans reportedly will hold a news conference tomorrow to mark Friday as “Freedom from Higher Taxes Day,” on which the state’s temporary income, sales and car tax increases enacted in February 2009 will expire. Democrats say they should have musical entertainment from Nero and his fiddle, with seed corn served for lunch.

“While it is unfortunate that the Democrats’ majority vote budget plan includes illegal fee increases, irresponsible spending priorities and lack of funding certainty for K-12 and higher education, it is good news for Californians that it does not include a massive $58 billion tax increase,” Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, said yesterday. “As a result of Assembly Republicans standing united together to protect taxpayers, the average California will see $1000 in annual tax savings starting Friday. This tax relief will be a major boost to families and the economy.”

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President John Coupal put it more succinctly this morning, as Twitter requires: “Effective midnight tomorrow, multi-billion $ tax burden will be removed from the shoulders of CA taxpayers. Thank you Republicans! Victory!”

Few on the GOP side seem concerned – at least, not publicly – by the idea espoused in a Wall Street Journal article that Republicans not only failed to get other concessions in the budget deal, but now also have lost their prime bargaining chip to influence other policy such as pension reform.

Still, Republicans clearly are ready to own these reduced taxes. Democrats want to sure that ownership continues if this already painful budget – widely seen as based on some shaky income assumptions – goes south, necessitating even deeper midyear cuts.

“This is not a budget to celebrate. There’s a lot of pain here for a lot of people,” state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said last night. “We enacted a plan that preserves our opportunity for economic recovery, and look forward to giving Californians the chance to vote on making that recovery even stronger.”

Some Dems are needling their counterparts across the aisle.

“Reep Rapture Clock: T-39 hrs til tax redux to make up 4 bad St budget cuts. Q-why 0 Reeps voted 2 cut budget? A-tax cut unleash eco expansn!,” Democratic political consultant Steve Glazer – who ran Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign last year – tweeted this morning.

For those unaccustomed to reading tweet-speak, I’ll translate: Glazer asked why – if the tax cuts are such a great idea and guaranteed to spark economic expansion as GOP orthodoxy insists – not a single Republican actually voted for them yesterday. And Glazer clearly believes the “Reep Rapture” is every bit as likely to occur as was Harold Camping’s.

This, in a nutshell, will be your next year and a half, as Brown and the Legislature push to put a measure on next November’s ballot to restore the higher tax rates and raise the state’s revenue: Republicans taking a victory lap for holding the line on taxes, Democrats ensuring that Republicans take the blame for every untended senior citizen, cancelled school instruction day, tuition hike, dark courtroom, uninsured child and shuttered park they see.


‘Open carry’ ban advances to await floor vote

Almost lost in yesterday’s new-budget-deal shuffle was the forward movement of AB 144, the bill to ban the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public places.

The state Senate Appropriations Committee determined the bill would have little or no fiscal impact to the state, so it was referred directly from the committee to the floor without a vote under Senate Rule 28.8, I was told today by Wendy Gordon, spokeswoman for bill author Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge.

A state Senate floor vote is expected sometime this summer, and if it passes, it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk; the Assembly already passed it last month.

Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for the pro-open-carry Responsible Citizens of California, last month said there’s a “pretty good chance of seeing it defeated on the Senate floor,” and if not, Gov. Jerry Brown “has supported second amendment rights in the past, so I believe there’s a good chance he wont sign the bill.” If the bill is signed into law, he said, it will face a challenge in court.

Chang’s group and other gun-rights activists have been using Facebook and Twitter to try to pressure senators to oppose the bill.

Working with the California Police Chiefs Association and the Police Officers Research Association of California on this bill “has made me quite unpopular with the ‘Open Carry’ movement, but law enforcement says it wastes time and resources when they could be out catching bad guys,” Portantino said in a news release issued after yesterday’s committee action. “Instead, they are tied up dealing with calls from the public about gun-toting men and women in the coffee shop. As law enforcement officials tell me, it’s not safe and someone is going to get hurt.”

AB 144 makes it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. Law enforcement personnel are exempt as are security guards, hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances.

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually, or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law. Opponents say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers checking to ensure the guns aren’t loaded, in accordance with state law.


Dems crow over Medicare donut hole’s fillup

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported today that nearly half a million beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit program have saved $260 million – an average savings of $545 per beneficiary – in the first five months of 2011 due to the “donut hole” fix included in the Affordable Care Act.

The healthcare reform bill enacted last year made it so that seniors and people with disabilities who hit the “donut hole” gap in prescription drug coverage now get a 50 percent discount on brand name prescription drugs.

Democrats were predictably elated by the new figures.

Pete Stark“As these new data show, the health reform law continues improving Medicare coverage for senior citizens and people with disabilities,” Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said in a news release. “Republicans, however, want to eliminate these benefits by repealing the health reform law. What’s more, they have also voted multiple times this year to slash Medicare’s benefits by changing it from a guaranteed benefit into an underfunded voucher that would leave beneficiaries to the mercy of the private insurance industry. The Republicans’ reckless plan is dangerous to the health and financial future of America’s Medicare beneficiaries.”

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, noted nearly 55,000 California seniors saved a total of about $30 million since January.

“Seniors are catching a big break on the cost of their prescription drugs thanks to the health reforms that we passed last year. As more and more people reach the feared donut hole this year, we’ll see even more seniors directly benefiting from this law,” Miller said in his own news release. “The health reform law is having a positive impact on more and more people each and every day, seniors and non-seniors alike, but Republicans in Congress continue fight it. First they voted to repeal the health care law, which would wipe out these new drug cost savings. Then they voted to end Medicare and add thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses to people who enroll in Medicare. Their votes are bad for seniors and bad for the country.”

Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s latest hit piece on Democrats it deems vulnerable – in this area, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – says healthcare groups are voicing strong opposition to a section of the Affordable Care Act that would create “an unelected and unaccountable board of bureaucrats who would limit seniors’ access to care.”

The NRCC is talking about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of healthcare finance experts appointed by the president which in 2014 would start offering proposals to reduce Medicare’s rate of growth if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ chief actuary determines it’s growing too fast. The board’s recommendations would take effect automatically unless Congress votes to stop them.

“Healthcare professionals are now joining with the American people in rejecting Jerry McNerney’s plan to empower unelected bureaucrats to endanger seniors’ access to Medicare benefits and make unsustainable cuts to the program,” NRCC Communications Director Paul Lindsay said in the news release. “It’s no wonder these 270 healthcare groups now stand in opposition to McNerney’s deeply flawed Medicare plan, which would interfere with their ability to provide a full range of services to seniors relying on the program.”

Actually, however, the law seems to explicitly forbid this. Sec. 3403\1899A(c)(2)(A)(ii), found on page 409, says the board’s “proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums under section 1818, 1818A, or 1839, increase Medicare beneficiary costsharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.”


East Bay political events round-up

Here’s a look at upcoming East Bay political events:

Walnut Creek

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is the featured guest at a July 23 fundraiser in Walnut Creek for the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will introduce Boxer.

Called “Taste of California Summer,” the event will be held from 3-5 p.m. at Shadelands Ranch, 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek.

For information, visit www.contracostadems.org.


California Women Lead East Bay Chapter will host a special viewing of the documentary “Crime After Crime” on July 22.

The film chronicles the battle to free Deborah Peagler, a woman serving 24 years to life in California after a jury in 1983 convicted her of murdering her abusive boyfriend.

Walnut Creek attorneys Nadia Costa and Joshua Safran took the case pro bono in 2002 and set out to prove that Peagler was forced into prostitution and brutalized by her abuser.

Movie director Yoav Potash and Costa will answer questions after the showing.

For the movie trailer and more information, visit http://crimeaftercrime.com.

The event will be held from 6-9 p.m. at the Danville Village Theatre, 422 Front St., Danville. Tickets are $20 each.

Attendees may also purchase fixed-price meal tickets for $50 which include discounted dinners at the Basil Leaf Cafe or the Amber Bistro, both located on Hartz Avenue in Danville.

A portion of the proceeds benefit “Debbie’s Campaign.”

California Women Lead is a nonpartisan organization of women serving or interested in political office.

For more information, contact chapter president Dana Tsubota at dct@msrlegal.com.


The Museum of the San Ramon Valley has recently opened a new exhibit entitled “Remember the Ladies: Celebrating the Centennial of California Women Suffrage, 1911-2011.”

As part of the exhibit, museum curator Beverly Lane will speak on July 9, 10:30 a.m., on “Women’s Lib, Then and Now.”

The exhibit runs through July 16 and tells about the hard-fought campaign to win women the vote in California.

California was the sixth, and largest, Western state to approve woman suffrage on October 10, 1911. The Susan B. Anthony amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which approved the franchise for women nationwide, won final approval in 1920.

The exhibit includes stories about the women of the San Ramon Valley who were rancher’s wives, mothers, merchants, post mistresses, farmers, telephone operators and teachers.

It includes vintage clothing, cartoons and posters on the Woman Suffrage campaign of 1911 and information about ways suffragettes supported less restricted clothing for women.

The museum is located in the Danville Train Depot, 205 Railroad Ave., in Danville, It is open Tuesday through Fridays from 1-4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Admission is $3 for guests and free for museum members. For more information, contact 925-837-3750 or go to www.museumsrv.org.

Contra Costa County

The Contra Costa Commission for Women seeks nominations of women for its 2011 Hall of Fame in a variety of areas.

Categories include women who demonstrate leadership, create community, work for justice, preserve the environment, improve health care, contribute to the arts, innovate in science and technology.

Honorees are recognized each March at the commission’s Hall of Fame event.

For more information on how to submit a nomination, contact womenscommission@gmail.com or www.womenscommission.com.


Rhetoric-rich reactions to new state budget deal

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders announced a budget deal this afternoon that can be passed on simple majority, no-Republicans vote – practically a done deal with Thursday being the last day of the fiscal year. Both sides insist the state deserved far better, so let’s all assume that’s true and it’s time for Californians to assume the position.

My colleage Steve Harmon will file has filed a story on the nuts and bolts, but meanwhile, talking points are being unsheathed left and right — so, let the rhetoric fly!

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“This is a balanced budget that protects, to the greatest extent possible, California’s public education system, jobs, the economy, and our way of life. While this budget implements more than $14.6 billion in harsh and very real cuts, it also puts us on a pathway over the next 18 months to eliminate a structural deficit that’s plagued California for a decade.

“This budget is the most austere fiscal blueprint California has seen in more than a generation. Spending levels are at an historic low, and every sector of society will feel the difficult choices we’ve made to bring this budget into balance.

“Earlier this year, the Governor asked both Democrats and Republicans to get out of their comfort zones and do what was best for California. For Democrats, that meant agreeing to billions of dollars in cuts to programs that are vital to children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We delivered in March and we’re delivering again in June – with billions more in cuts, particularly if revenues fall short of projections.”

“Unfortunately, Democrats were forced to deliver alone. We used all the tools available to us under the Constitution to do just that – deliver.

“The imperative for revenue is as great as before because there is still a structural deficit looming. We will move forward through the initiative process to put the question before the voters in November of 2012.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga:

“Californians deserve better than the ‘Hope without Change’ budget the Democrats announced today. This latest budget is based on the hope that $4 billion in new revenues will miraculously materialize, but does absolutely nothing to change government as usual.

“The Democrats have said no to all of the Republican reforms that Californians are demanding, including pension reform, a spending cap and job creation. Californians have the right to a real bi-partisan budget solution that provides for a vibrant economy and job opportunities.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“We began this process with a commitment to make 2011 the year we stopped reacting to the Great Recession and started the difficult work of building our way out of it. The budget agreement we have reached moves us much closer to that objective. We will pass a comprehensive, on-time budget that closes the remainder of the deficit for this year, and eliminates more than 75 percent of the structural deficit going forward.”

“One of the most important aspects of this budget agreement is that it will not cause massive job losses that threaten our economic recovery. We have cast some very difficult votes, but we need to get control of our finances if we are going to be able to make the kind of long-term investments that are necessary to rebuild our shattered economy and prepare the workforce for the kinds of 21st century economy industries, like green manufacturing and biotechnology.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare:

“Republicans listened to the voters and stayed true to the only special interest we represent – California’s taxpayers. Despite every effort by Gov. Brown, legislative Democrats, public employee unions and other Sacramento special interests to pressure us to raise taxes by $58 billion, we honored the commitment we made to the people of California to stay out of their wallets. While Democrats may still use legally questionable maneuvers to raise taxes, the simple truth is because of Republicans’ resolve, temporary tax increases will expire this Friday and the average California family will save nearly $1,000 per year.

“Californians deserve a government that understands that money belongs to the people, not the government. While we still haven’t seen the details of the Democrats’ budget plan, our steadfast opposition to higher taxes has helped remind Sacramento tax-and-spend liberals of the need to live within our means.

“In the remaining months of the legislative year, Republicans look forward to passing badly-needed measures like pension reform to fix future state budgets. We will also continue to push our pro-jobs agenda to help the nearly 2 million unemployed Californians get back to work.”

More, after the jump…
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