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Archive for June, 2011

Garamendi headed to Netroots Nation

Garamendi

Garamendi

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who has become very vocal in recent weeks about what he views as an unsustainable and undesirable U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, will be a panelist on Friday at one of the biggest progressive gatherings in the nation.

Garamendi is a panelist at Netroots Nation being held in Minneapolis eduring the next few days. Many of the movers and shakers behind the event helped President Barack Obama seize the grassroots power of the Internet during his successful presidential campaign.

The congressman is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and he recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he was treated to an insider’s tour of U.S. special operations units.

Garamendi has repeatedly said the the U.S. must move away from a military anti-terrorism strategy and and turn to its highly trained special operations teams.

That’s a message likely to resonate at Netroots Nation.

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: Congressional District 10 | 7 Comments »

Tim Pawlenty glitter-bombed by activists in SF

Republican presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was sprinkled with glitter and confetti by a pair of gay-rights activists today in San Francisco.

Pawlenty was attending the American’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2011 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center when he was approached by activists Nancy Mancias, 41, and Chelsea Byers, 24, both of San Rafael, from the women’s peace group CODEPINK. “Where’s your courage to stand up for gay and reproductive rights? Welcome to San Francisco, home of gay hero Harvey Milk!” they said as they were being led away.

In a news release issued after the incident, the activists said they were inspired by another glitter attack mounted against Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich last month in Minneapolis.

“We are on the cusp of a important civil rights movement and Pawlenty wants to end it. He has expressed his desire to reinstate ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’”, Mancias said in the release. “He’s vetoed equal rights legislation in his home state of Minnesota.”

UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: All glitter aside, Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse issued a statement noting Pawlenty was in San Francisco to speak to health insurance executives, “and he’s getting paid to do it.”

Woodhouse noted Pawlenty recently endorsed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Republican budget plan that would convert Medicare into a voucher system for future generations.

“Perhaps being bought and paid for by the health insurance executives is something Tim Pawlenty is fine being known for, but it won’t help future seniors who will be forced to pay more for less in terms of health care if Republicans get their way and end Medicare,” Woodhouse said. “Perhaps pocketing thousands of dollars in cash to give a speech outlining his plan to repeal health reform is a plus for Tim Pawlenty, but it won’t help seniors afford their prescription drugs or preventive care, it won’t help young people access health insurance and it won’t help people being denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition.”

Pawlenty campaign spokesman Alex Conant quickly returned fire.

“This lame attack is just more evidence that President Obama has a campaign plan, not an economic plan,” Conant said via e-mail. “Given the inordinate amount of attention the DNC spends on Governor Pawlenty, it’s clear they recognize that Pawlenty’s record of results is a stark contrast to Obama’s empty rhetoric. We’re not going to be lectured by Democrats who have failed to address out-of-control health care costs, deficits and unemployment.”

Conant declined to comment on the glitter-bombing.

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »

Dems pursue Medicare Part D drugmaker rebates

House Democrats including two from the Bay Area have introduce a bill they say would save the government more than $100 billion by reducing Medicare Part D prescription drug costs for taxpayers “without resorting to the Republicans’ reckless proposal to double seniors’ health care costs by 2022 by dismantling Medicare.”

H.R. 2190, the Medicare Drug Savings Act of 2011 was introduced yesterday to eliminate what its authors call “a sweetheart deal for brand-name drug manufacturers that allows them to charge Medicare higher prices for millions of low-income enrollees in the Medicare Part D program.”

Until 2006, the government received substantial rebates on drugs used by “dual eligible” Medicare and Medicaid enrollees. But the Medicare Part D law eliminated these rebates, dramatically raising prices for the government and windfall profits for manufacturers. H.R. 2190 seeks to eliminate the windfall, requiring that manufacturers pay the rebates for dual eligible and low-income Part D enrollees so taxpayers and the Medicare program don’t overpay.

A similar proposal was also included in the recommendations from the President’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the bill’s backers note.

Pete Stark“Instead of making devastating cuts to programs that help low-income and middle-income Americans, as Republicans keep putting on the table, we should do what every other industrialized country does and ask the pharmaceutical industry, one of the wealthiest in the world, to chip in,” Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s ranking member and an original co-sponsor of this bill, said in a news release.

“What’s more, the savings from this legislation could pay for a multi-year ‘doc fix’ – something we tried to do in a comprehensive way but have had to address yearly so Medicare’s payments to doctors aren’t slashed,” Stark added.

“The federal government is the largest payor for senior’s drugs and it is absurd we do not use our bargaining power to negotiate drug discounts with the high profit pharmaceutical industry,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking member and another original co-sponsor. “Unlike the Republican plan, Democrats recognize that you don’t reform Medicare by ending the program nor do you make Medicaid sustainable by simply shifting the costs onto states. This bill will improve Medicare and Medicaid’s sustainability while still providing the needed benefits our nation’s citizens depend on.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills, introduced the bill. Besides Stark and Miller, the other original co-sponsors are Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich.; John Dingell, D-Mich.; and Rob Andrews, D-N.J., ranking member on Education and the Workforce’s Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee.

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: George Miller, healthcare reform, Henry Waxman, Pete Stark, U.S. House | No Comments »

Jerry Brown vetoes state budget package

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed the state budget package that the Democrat-dominated Legislature sent him yesterday.

Here’s the veto message:

I am returning Senate Bill 69 and Assembly Bill 98 without my signature.

In January, I presented a balanced budget solution with a mix of deep spending cuts and temporary tax extensions subject to voter approval. My plan would put these extended revenues in a lockbox, ensuring that they are only used to protect education and public safety. It would also address California’s long term fiscal crisis by substantially paying down the $35 billion wall of debt built up over the last decade.

Yet Republicans in the Legislature blocked the right of the people to vote on this honest, balanced budget.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Legislature made valiant efforts to address California’s budget crisis by enacting $11 billion in painful cuts and other solutions. I commend them for their tremendous efforts to balance the budget in the absence of Republican cooperation.

Unfortunately, the budget I have received is not a balanced solution. It continues big deficits for years to come and adds billions of dollars of new debt. It also contains legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings. Finally, it is not financeable and therefore will not allow us to meet our obligations as they occur.

We can – and must – do better. A balanced budget is critical to our economic recovery. I am, once again, calling on Republicans to allow the people of California to vote on tax extensions for a balanced budget and significant reforms. They should also join Democrats in supporting job creation and ending tax breaks for out-of-state companies. If they continue to obstruct a vote, we will be forced to pursue deeper and more destructive cuts to schools and public safety– a tragedy for which Republicans will bear full responsibility.

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, state budget | 8 Comments »

Two great transporation forums coming up

We’ve got two great opportunities coming up for all you public-transportation buffs.

For a local view, the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club will host a community forum luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, June 17, on public transportation featuring AC Transit Directors at Large Chris Peeples and Joel Young as well as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District 4 Director Robert Raburn.

They’ll be sharing information and insight on how Alameda County public agencies are addressing the growing need for infrastructure development in local and regional transportation, the growing importance of public transportation in urban planning, fiscal austerity in state and local budgets, and environmental justice.

The event is at Everett & Jones Barbecue, 126 Broadway between Second Street and the Embarcadero near Oakland’s Jack London Square. It includes a buffet lunch and tickets cost $25; space is limited, so attendees are encouraged to sign up online, or RSVP to club treasurer Guy Bryant at 510-836-7563 or treasurer@demlaywers.org.

For a broader view, the Commonwealth Club of California will host a free public forum from 9 to 10:30 a.m. next Friday, June 24, in its offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco on “From Point A to Point B: Fixing America’s Transportation Problems.” Taking part in a panel discussion will be Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger; American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director John Horsley; American Public Transportation Association President Bill Millar; and Mineta Transportation Institute National Transportation Finance Center Director Asha Weinstein Agrawal. Mortimer Downey, chair of the MTI board of trustees and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation, will moderate.

Immediately following the panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. will be a keynote address from Polly Trottenberg, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation; this is free and open to the public as well.

“If you have ever been stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge, late to meetings, or have had a ruined weekend because you couldn’t comfortably and efficiently make it to a destination in time, you know that California suffers from a major transportation infrastructure problem,” the Commonwealth Club’s news release says. “From pot holes jarring people’s necks and backs, to bridges collapsing nationwide, thousands of commuters are being affected every day by America’s inadequate and faltering transportation infrastructure system. At the upcoming FREE Commonwealth Club transportation infrastructure summit, experts will examine what can and must be done to ameliorate this dire situation.”

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: Transportation | No Comments »

Lynn Woolsey lets loose on Obama’s Libya stance

“Contempt for the Constitution,” “flies in the face of common sense” and “an insult to the American people” is the kind of hot rhetoric Rep. Lynn Woolsey used to level at our immediate past President.

But there Woolsey, D-Petaluma, was firing those verbal bullets at President Barack Obama today, after argued he doesn’t need Congressional authorization under the War Powers Act for U.S. involvement in Libya because our efforts there fall short of full-blown hostilities.

Obama released the unclassified section of a report entitled “United States Activities in Libya,” providing his Administration’s answers to questions received from House members and Senators; a cover letter from the Defense and State departments to House Speaker John Boehener; and a letter from himself to Congress.

Here’s Woolsey’s full statement:

“The Obama Administration’s argument is one that shows contempt for the Constitution and for the executive’s co-equal branch of government, the United States Congress. To say that our aggressive bombing of Libya does not rise to the level of ‘hostilities’ flies in the face of common sense and is an insult to the intelligence of the American people. This act must not stand, because we can’t afford another full-blown war—the ones we’re already fighting are bankrupting us morally and fiscally. Let those who support the military campaign against Libya make their case, in an open debate culminating with a vote in the U.S. Congress. The American people deserve nothing less.”

Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Under: Lynn Woolsey, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Angry words as Democrats move budget forward

Lots of tough words are flying back and forth across the aisle as the Legislature has sent a Democratic party-line budget to Gov. Jerry Brown.

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

“Today Democrats have passed a balanced budget and respected the state constitutional deadline and voters’ wishes. While this was the responsible thing to do, it is heartbreaking. Republicans were unwilling to give voters the option to avoid cuts and slashing funding for courts and education.”

“This deadline, and our commitment to meet it, has been known to all, including Republicans, since Proposition 25 passed last November. Republicans’ steadfast resistance to putting another option before voters – to ask whether to continue taxes at their current level instead of letting them expire – is undemocratic.

“The truth is we have no other option to pass a budget that is balanced. Without more revenue, the only option left is to make awful cuts. And these come after we already made $11 billion of tough cuts in March.

“There is no doubt we can do better – we must do better – for California and its future. I call on Republicans to consider the consequences of what is happening here today, and ask all Californians to contact Republican legislators and demand another option.”

“The bill now goes to the governor, who will continue to seek Republican support for an alternative to this harsh, all-cuts budget. All Californians should contact the governor and Republican legislators today to demand a more equitable solution.”

From state Senators Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto; Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet; and Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, the four Republicans seen as pivotal to a budget deal:

Tom Harman“Today’s actions prove that the bridge tax isn’t a stumbling block – it’s political theater. The real stumbling block for the Majority Party are the unions and trial lawyers demanding they block the reform proposals we have been pushing for months.

“Instead of a political drill, today we could have had a real bipartisan budget – one that allows voters to weigh in on Governor Brown’s tax proposal as well as a hard spending cap, significant reforms to our broken pension system, and improvements to California’s business climate to spur the economy and get people back to work.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“Today, through their inexplicable refusal to engage in a responsible and balanced budget solution, Republican legislators have forced an additional $300M in devastating cuts to our public universities.

“For six months, Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders have tried to work with Republican legislators to reach common-sense, common-ground solutions to California’s budget problems that would have minimized already enormous cuts to the University of California and California State University systems, the cornerstone of California’s economic engine.

“But, even after Democrats passed $12.5B of budget cuts in March, including $1B from higher education, Republican lawmakers have been incapable and unwilling to meet anywhere near the middle.

“These cuts are penny wise and pound foolish and threaten to further damage a stretched-to-the-limit public university system that was once the envy of the world. In volatile economic times, we should be investing in our universities to ensure we are producing the highly-skilled, educated workforce California needs to compete in the global economy.

“If Republicans want to walk the walk on job creation and attract and retain businesses in California, they should immediately return to the table and negotiate a good-faith solution that reverses these additional cuts to the State’s universities.”

From Board of Equalization member George Runner:

George Runner“Make no mistake, this Democrat budget isn’t about solving California’s fiscal problems—it’s only goal is to ensure lawmakers keep their paychecks flowing.

“When voters last fall granted Democrats their wish of majority-vote budgets, they demanded lawmakers forfeit their pay if those budgets are not approved on-time. But it was never the voters’ intention for lawmakers to approve a sham budget simply to keep their paychecks coming.

“What’s worse is that to protect their own pay, Democrats are poised to sacrifice the paychecks of thousands of California small businesses known as affiliates. Up to 25,000 of these Internet entrepreneurs will lose their affiliate status if Democrats approve a so-called ‘Amazon tax.’ According to the Board of Equalization’s analysis, ‘termination of affiliate programs would have an adverse impact on state employment’ and ‘lead to lower revenues.’

“The dumbest idea of all is the Democrats’ plan to sell state buildings for one-time revenue. If lawmakers want real one-time dollars, they should consider my proposals to raise billions in revenue by (1) granting an interest and penalty holiday to spur collection of delinquent tax payments and (2) selling-off aging debts owed the state.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Fiona Ma, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, Lt. Governor, Mark Leno, state budget, Tom Harman | 4 Comments »

Mitt Romney to visit Bay Area next week

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in the Bay Area next week as part of a California fundraising barnstorm, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Mitt Romney @ GOP Debate 6-13-11 (AP Photo)The Times says it obtained a campaign memo indicating the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP presidential primary candidate will hit Sacramento, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire next Tuesday through Thursday. Among the stops is barbecue Tuesday at the Portola Valley home of Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, for which tickets will cost from $1,000 to $10,000.

Romney makes the fundraising sweep as he comes off what was generally seen as a solid performance this past Monday night at the first GOP primary debate in New Hampshire; the presumptive frontrunner – based on fundraising and name recognition – seemed to emerge largely unscathed, as his rivals aimed their fire instead at President Obama.

McNealy, 56, described himself to the Chronicle in 2003 as “a libertarian” and told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year that Silicon Valley’s job-creation issues come from afar.

“It’s the overhead and the overhang, the clouds brought in by Sacramento and Washington, D.C., the regulations, the deficit and the misallocation of resources. It’s all of those things. Obviously, I’m a believer in the private sector and in personal responsibility,” he said. “The biggest issues with the Valley are local, state and federal governmental overreach and overregulation. It’s over-pensioned, over-unionized and over the top.”

Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney | 11 Comments »

Pool report from the First Lady’s SF event

My esteemed colleague Matt Krupnick just filed this pool report from First Lady Michelle Obama’s fundraising event in San Francisco:

Pool entered the dim 15th-floor ballroom in the Merchants Exchange Building at 465 California Street in San Francisco’s Financial District after the 200 or so attendees had eaten lunch. Tickets started at $2,500. Janet Reilly kicked things off by acknowledging San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and several San Francisco County supervisors, who were all seated at tables throughout the room. The event, she said, was proof San Francisco is “the vanguard of the movement to re-elect Barack Obama.”

She then introduced Marie Gil, a campaign volunteer and summer organizer with Organizing for America. She noted she was a single mother of three who had recently been laid off, but that last month she received her MPA from the University of San Francisco and would be attending law school in the fall.

FLOTUS then entered to an extended standing ovation. She also introduced Mayor Lee, as well as Paul Pelosi, whom she called her “other husband,” as he “always” seems to be at her events.

Mrs. Obama thanked attendees for their help during the 2008 election and asked them to join her on “the next part of this journey.” She recounted the many people she meets on the campaign trail and said they remind her of her family and the president’s family.

FLOTUS also recounted a long list of the administration’s accomplishments and priorities: economic turnaround, cutting taxes for the middle class, equal pay for women, health-care reform, reducing the deficit, clean energy, stem cells, community colleges, Pell Grants, Race to the Top, ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which gained her enthusiastic applause from the San Francisco crowd), Supreme Court appointments, ending the Iraq war, Osama bin Laden being “brought to justice,” turning around child obesity and helping military families and veterans.

POTUS is “a special person” and “has a mind like a steel trap,” she said, so he remembers the people he meets and their stories. POTUS knows he’s playing “the long game” and often encourages her to take disappointments in stride, she said. “He needs you to be there with him for the long haul.”

Mrs. Obama said she had one final question for the crowd: “Are you in?” That brought enthusiastic applause, as well as an “I’m in!” from one man in the crowd. FLOTUS then shook hands and hugged attendees.

Posted on Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Under: campaign finance, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

Miller & McNerney urge Weiner to resign

Though they didn’t respond to my inquiry yesterday, Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, both issues statements today calling upon Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., to resign for having sent lewd photos of himself to women using Twitter and Facebook.

“I am very troubled by Rep. Weiner’s sad and tragic actions and I believe he should resign,” said Miller, who as chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee ranks among his caucus’ leaders. “I think that Rep. Weiner, his family and the Congress will be better off if he addresses his personal problems as a private citizen and not as a public representative.”

Said McNerney: “Anthony Weiner’s behavior is unacceptable. Public officials should be held to the highest standards and, clearly, he has failed in this area. He should do the right thing for the people he represents and for the integrity of our government.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Under: George Miller, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 1 Comment »