Lynn Woolsey will retire, so let the race begin

As widely expected, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma – a paragon of progressive politics, and so a longtime burr in the saddle of conservatives near and far – announced today she’ll be retiring at the end of her current term.

Supporters heaped copious praise upon the 10-term Congresswoman today.

From Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future:

“Today’s announcement from progressive champion, Lynn Woolsey, marks the culmination of a distinguished Congressional career. For two decades Congresswoman Woolsey has worked tirelessly on behalf of America’s working class families and advocated for some of our nation’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised.”

From Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List:

“The entire EMILY’s List community thanks Representative Lynn Woolsey for her leadership and service to her district, her constituents and the state of California. We wish her the very best. Rep. Woolsey has had a remarkable career, rising from a single mother on welfare to a ten-term leader in Congress. She has been an outstanding advocate for women and families, and a leader in increasing access to higher education. With over a year left in her term, we look forward to her continued leadership. While it will be hard to fill the void left behind by Rep. Woolsey, EMILY’s List will work to keep this seat in the hands of a progressive Democratic woman.”

UPDATE @ 10:40 A.M. TUESDAY: From President Barack Obama:

“A fierce advocate for children, families and the people of the North Bay, Lynn Woolsey has never forgotten the people who sent her to Congress for nearly two decades. She is a leader on progressive causes and a fighter for working families, and we will miss her passionate voice in Congress. Michelle and I wish her well and join the people of California in thanking her for her many years of service.”

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

“Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is a partner in many ways. I thank her for her years of service on behalf of the people of Northern California and all Americans.

“She is a valued leader of the Progressive Caucus, and a tireless voice for the most vulnerable among us. Her dedication to peace, to ending our senseless wars, to the creation of a public option, and to women and children is inspiring to Members of Congress and to her constituents alike. I look forward to working with her through the rest of this Congress and will wish her a fulfilling retirement.”

Woolsey, 73, now represents all of Marin County and most of Sonoma County, but redistricting could change all that. Woolsey fired off an angry statement earlier this month when the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s first draft Congressional map showed her district being narrowed and elongated along the state’s North Coast to stretch all the way from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

Woolsey didn’t endorse anyone to succeed her, but rather said she’ll leave it to the 6th Congressional District’s voters to decide who’s best for the job. Among Democrats likely to vie to replace her are Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams of San Rafael; and progressive activist Normon Solomon of Inverness.

Of those four, only Evans’ home would fall outside the newly drawn district according to this draft – not that living within the district is a constitutional requirement.

Read the full statement, as prepared, that Woolsey made this afternoon during a news conference at her home, after the jump…
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Christian charity gets bogus MLB gear seized in SF

No, that poor kid in Malawi isn’t necessarily a Giants fan: Counterfeit Major League Baseball clothing seized during last year’s playoffs and World Series will be donated to needy people overseas, the Department of Homeland Security announced.

DHS officials will hold a news conference tomorrow in San Francisco to show off some of the more than 2,000 items of counterfeit MLB clothing seized by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate in and around AT&T Park last fall. The feds estimate that had the merchandise been genuine, it would have retailed domestically for more than $150,000.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has the bogus gear now, will turn the seized items over to World Vision – a “Christian humanitarian organization” based in Washington State helping impoverished children and families around the globe. “Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people,” the group’s website says.

“The sale of counterfeit goods causes immeasurable harm to the U.S. economy, but through charitable efforts like this, at least some good can come from these crimes,” Shane Folden, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Francisco, said in a news release today.

ICE HSI and CBP intellectual property rights enforcement efforts led to nearly 20,000 seizures in FY 2010, a 34 percent increase over the previous year. The seized goods had a total value of $1.4 billion, based upon the manufacturer’s suggested retail price had the products been legitimate.


Yee, video game makers react to SCOTUS ruling

Those for and against the California law that sought to ban sales of violent video games to minors have now weighed in on today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that shoots the laws down. (Read more on the ruling here.)

State Sen. Leland Yee, the law’s author, said Monday at a news conference in San Francisco that he’s disappointed that the court “has decided it’s going to side with corporate America and Walmart against our children.”

Yee, D-San Francisco, who holds a doctorate in child psychology, said he believes the fact that this ruling came at the very end of the high court’s term meant it was a complex, tough decision.

San Francisco Deputy Police Chief Kevin Cashman, at Yee’s news conference, said kids see too much violence at too early an age, and police are also concerned that violent games too often depict law enforcement officers as targets.

Dr. George Fouras, representing the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the San Francisco Medical Society, said these games, unlike Saturday-morning cartoons, “expose kids to behavior that is not acceptable in reality” and can harm kids’ cognitive development and decision-making ability. Dr. Shannon Udovic, speaking for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ California branch, said the law’s supporters are resolved to “continue the work that so many of us have been doing in bringing this important issue to parents’ minds.”

Entertainment Software Association President and CEO Michael Gallagher, whose video game industry trade group was one of this case’s plaintiffs, told reporters on a conference call that the ruling is “an overwhelming endorsement of the first amendment, the right to free expression and free speech, and also of the rights of parents.”

Gallagher noted this was the 13th consecutive decision, albeit the most important, upholding video game makers’ rights; meanwhile, he said, various governments have spent uncounted millions only to create uncertainty in the marketplace. He said he appreciated the 180 signatories to 27 friend-of-the-court briefs filed on his cause’s behalf, including various social-science and medical professionals as well as 10 state attorneys general.

Paul Smith, the ESA’s lawyer, said we seldom see so strong, clear and sweeping a decision from the Supreme Court the first time it tackles an issue such as this. He said the court found games are speech no different than books or movies, and the court isn’t in the business of carving out new exceptions to the First Amendment; science doesn’t bear out claims that the games are harmful, he added, and the law merely took control away from parents and gave it to government.


It’s no NY, but CA still mulling same-sex rights

New York State on Friday enacted a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, and while the California Legislature is somewhat stymied from following suit until courts figure out whether our state constitutional ban on the practice will stand, it is moving on other same-sex equality fronts.

SB 651 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would eliminate the requirement that couples must live together before entering into a domestic partnership. The state Senate passed this bill June 1 on a 24-15 vote; the Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear it at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28.

SB 117 by state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, would require that all state contractors paid more than $100,000 don’t discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation of their employees’ spouses or domestic partners. Current law requires agencies to ensure contractors don’t discriminate between married employees and employees in domestic partnerships when providing benefits, but doesn’t cover same-sex couples who married during the period from when the statutory ban on it was voided by the California Supreme Court in May 2008 until voters approved Proposition 8’s constitutional ban in November 2008. The state Senate approved this bill May 9 on a 21-15 vote; it’s now awaiting an Assembly floor vote.

And AB 1349 by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would clarify that courts can consider the relationship between a child and his or her biological and non-biological parents are when they’re asked to rule on who that child’s legal parents are. Current law lets biological parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity that can be used to cut off a non-biological parent’s relationship. The Assembly passed this bill May 2 on a 52-22 vote; it’s now awaiting a state Senate floor vote.


Hancock to introduce death-penalty bill today

As she promised a week ago, state Sen. Loni Hancock today will introduce a bill to abolish California’s death penalty.

The bill would replace capital punishment with life without possibility of parole. Hancock, D-Berkeley, who chairs both the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget subcommittee overseeing prison spending, will gut and amend her SB 490 to carry the language. It’s expected to have its first hearing at 9:30 a.m. next Tuesday, July 5, in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the bill would still require voters’ approval as a Legislature-sponsored initiative in November 2012. That coincide with the high-turnout presidential general election; the state’s significant Democratic voter registration edge means a somewhat more liberal electorate would decide the issue.

Hancock will discuss the bill in a live interview with host Jeffrey Callison on Capitol Public Radio’s “Insight” at 10 a.m. this morning.

“Capital punishment is an expensive failure and an example of the dysfunction of our prisons,” Hancock said in a news release issued late last night. “California’s death row is the largest and most costly in the United States. It is not helping to protect our state; it is helping to bankrupt us.”

Hancock announced her legislation after the Los Angeles Times reported last week on a new study highlighting capital punishment’s high cost in California: $4 billion since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, although only 13 executions have occurred since then while the number of condemned inmates has swelled to 714. The report, “Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” was written by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon, a former prosecutor, and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell. It will be published this week in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review.


Lockyers hosting Assembly fundraiser tonight

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, are hosting a fundraiser tonight for Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, with some other Assembly candidates on the guest list as well.

Tickets to the wine reception at Wieckowski’s home start at $50 with sponsorships ranging up to $3,900, the maximum personal contribution to a legislative committee allowed by law.

Wieckowski, a freshman and former Fremont City Councilman, won the 20th District seat in November with 73 percent of the vote to Republican nominee Adnan Shahab’s 27 percent; Shahab has formed a committee to run again in 2012.

It won’t be nearly the same race, however. A first-draft map issued recently by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission shows the district in which both Wieckowski and Shahab reside would be markedly different from the 20th District’s existing lines.

Bill Lockyer’s fundraising prowess is legendary. His own Lockyer for Treasurer 2010 committee finished 2010 with just under $3 million in the bank, after both repelling a challenge from Republican nominee Mimi Walters and giving his wife’s supervisorial campaign more than $1.5 million. He has formed a committee to run for state controller in 2014.

Among those scheduled to attend tonight’s event, according to Facebook, is Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, who has formed his own committee to run for Assembly next year. Guillen lives in the 16th Assembly District, where Sandre Swanson will be term-limited out.

Also scheduled to attend tonight is Dr. Jennifer Ong, a Hayward optometrist who has formed a committee to run next year in the 18th Assembly District, where Mary Hayashi is term-limited out.