Lawmakers: Gov’t didn’t do enough for Solyndra

At least two local lawmakers say the layoff of 1,100 workers and bankruptcy of Fremont-based Solyndra – a solar cell manufacturing company held up as a paragon of California’s burgeoning green economy by politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Boxer and Barack Obama – is because government hasn’t done enough.

Per our story, Solyndra had landed $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as $1.1 billion in private venture capital.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said he’s saddened by Solyndra’s news and his thoughts are with the workers who’ll lose their jobs, but the company’s struggle “is one shared by other American manufacturers attempting to scale-up operations in a very competitive global economy.

“Although there has been criticism of the amount of public funding received by the company, we must recognize that our fiercest foreign competitors often receive substantially more assistance from their own governments,” he said. “If America is to compete globally and maintain a strong manufacturing base in our industries, we must provide the proper investments, research, and incentives to grow jobs here and assist our companies in scaling up operations. Our workers in the region are among the most innovative and productive in the world, and I remain confident that we can be competitive in the emerging clean energy field.”

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said it’s “devastating news,” and state lawmakers must “wake up to the fact we must act with urgency to protect jobs and help nurture California’s economy back to good health. When we don’t, our families and communities suffer. The instant loss of 1,100 jobs in my district is big blow that will have negative trickle-down effects throughout the Bay Area.”

“Unfortunately, it is too late to help Solyndra, but many other companies are struggling and could benefit from legislation I have authored that would give California-based solar companies a bid preference on state contracts,” Corbett said. “If California is going to place solar panels on state property, shouldn’t we try to use panels made in California? Isn’t it common sense to use taxpayer dollars to support California jobs? This is a simple measure that can help protect California jobs.”

Corbett’s SB 175 would’ve provided a 5-percent bid preference to companies that certify they’re using California-assembled or manufactured solar panels; the state Senate passed the bill June 1 on a 27-11 vote, but the Assembly Business and Professions Committee nixed it last month. Corbett recently revived the measure by gutting-and-amending the language into SB 134; time is growing short in this legislative session, but Corbett spokesman Andrew LaMar said today that Speaker John Perez’ office has committed to scheduling a hearing on it.


Bill Clinton coming to Richmond

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Richmond on Oct. 21, where he will deliver the keynote speech at the first Blueprint for Healthy Communities Summit sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

It may be the first official visit to Richmond by a former or sitting president. Longtime Richmond resident and county Supervisor John Gioia cannot recall any other.  (UPDATE ON 9/1/11 sent to Gioia by Michael Husser:  “Bill Clinton is technically not the first President to come to Richmond. In 1956, President Eisenhower stopped in Richmond as part of a whistle stop tour of the Bay Area during his re-election campaign. He spoke in Point Richmond at the Santa Fe Depot. It was not a long speech, but I was there with my father (Dr. Husser) who had served as a physician during WWII and knew Eisenhower.”)

But Clinton doesn’t come cheap. The district will have to raise $150,000 for his speaking fee, probably through corporate sponsorships.  (This ought to be interesting as some of Contra Costa’s biggest corporations are oil refineries subject to air district regulation.)

The invitation-only summit at the Craneway Pavilion on the Richmond waterfront will focus on the links between land-use planning and health primarily. Attendees will be elected officials, public health directors, city staffers and others.

Here’s the email that went out to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board this afternoon:

Dear Board members,

As you know, the Air District has been working through the CARE program and CEQA guidance to help local governments consider air quality, public health and climate protection in their land use decision making. As part of this effort, the Air District will be hosting another cutting edge summit this fall focused on the linkages between public health and land use. I’d like to provide a few highlights of the summit planning.

Title: Blueprint for Healthy Communities Summit

Date: Friday, October 21, 2011

Location: Craneway Pavilion, Richmond Waterfront

Audience: Bay Area elected officials, public health directors, city managers, planning directors, business leaders, non-profits, foundations, and more

Keynote: President Bill Clinton

We are very pleased to have secured President Clinton as the keynote speaker! We have also invited, but not yet confirmed, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius as well as White House Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley. We also plan to offer two workshops and a plenary on Constructing Healthy, Complete Communities.

We already have a number of sponsors for the event and will continue to secure additional sponsorship commitments.

Due to the tight planning schedule and the timing of acceptance by President Clinton, we needed to make some quick decisions and sign a contract to book President Clinton for this event. After speaking to Board Chair Bates about the tight timeline, Chair Bates authorized the APCO to enter into a contract with the Harry Walker Group to secure President Clinton for the October 21st date. Chair Bates gave this authorization with the caveat that speaker fees would be offset by sponsorship funds. The speaking fee is $150,000. We are confident we will be able to secure sponsorships to cover President Clinton’s speaking fee. Staff will provide an update on summit planning at the September 21 Board of Directors meeting.

Please mark your calendars for this exciting, invitation-only event when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District welcomes President Bill Clinton to the Bay Area to speak about a Blueprint for Healthy Communities. Invitations will be mailed soon.

Please feel free to contact me at 415-749-4646 with questions.

Jean Roggenkamp

On behalf of

Jack P. Broadbent

Executive Officer/APCO


‘Open carry’ ban bill’s author says it’s not dead

The state Senate moved a bill to outlaw the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public places to its inactive file yesterday, but the bill’s author insists it’s definitely not dead.

AB 144 is not dead; it’s a procedural move, it will be taken up soon,” Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, said today.

AB 144 would make 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.

The Assembly passed the bill in May on a 46-29 vote, and opponents have been hard at work this summer trying to bring pressure to bear on individual Senators. The StopAB144 Twitter group tweeted Tuesday that “at least five Senate Democrats have issues” with the bill, and “all five were Senators that we have been urging to vote no.”

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; some have promised to sue if the bill passes.

Supporters of this bill 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.

This Friday is the last day to amend bills on the floor; next Friday, Sept. 9, is the last day for each house to pass bills.

A similar bill, AB 1934 by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, died in September 2010 without a final vote after two days of tense maneuvering; Saldaña was then term-limited out of office. The state Senate approved her bill on a 21-16 vote after state senators Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, and Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, lent last-minute support despite a phone and fax blitz by gun-rights activists. But the bill had to win a concurrence vote in the Assembly, where Republicans threatened to run out the clock on the bill by debating it until after the midnight deadline — thus also threatening other bills awaiting votes. Majority Leader Chuck Calderon, D-Whittier, eventually won a motion to delay AB 1934’s consideration, and there it died.


President Obama to visit Bay Area next month

President Barack Obama will visit the Bay Area next month, a White House official said this morning.

The President is expected to visit Seattle before coming to the Bay Area on Sunday, Sept. 25. He’ll then visit the San Diego area and the Los Angeles area on Monday, Sept. 26, and the Denver area on Tuesday, Sept. 27, before returning to Washington, D.C. Specific events have not yet been announced.

The President was last in the Bay Area in April for one, two, three fundraisers in San Francisco.

UPDATE @ 11:04 A.M.: More details here.


Contra Costa man to lead state redevelopment fight

James Kennedy

Retired Contra Costa County redevelopment chief Jim Kennedy will take the reins of the California Redevelopment Association, the membership organization suing the state over legislation that helped balance the budget using redevelopment money.

The 60-year-old Martinez man will serve as the interim executive director through mid-2012 and “bridge the transition to the post-litigation realm when the shape of redevelopment will be better known,” he said.

He replaces John Shirey, who has been named Sacramento’s new city manager.

Kennedy’s chief task is to shepherd the 350-member organization through its legal challenge of legislation passed earlier this year that requires redevelopment agencies to pay the state a share of their money or go out of business.

The California Supreme Court stayed the law pending a ruling on the lawsuit in early January.

The redevelopment association and the League of California Cities argue that the legislation is unconstitutional in the wake of voter-approved Proposition 22, which barred state raids on local tax dollars.

A 35-year veteran of Contra Costa County, Kennedy officially retired in March although he has returned part-time to help the county unravel its redevelopment future.

After he returns to his retirement, Kennedy says he may teach, work for a nonprofit and write a nonfiction book on transit-oriented development. His wife, Janet, is a Martinez city councilwoman.



Walmart breaking from the ‘Amazon tax’ pack?

It seems like state Sen. Loni Hancock, an architect of the “Amazon tax” that the online retailing giant is now trying to repeal, isn’t eager to call out a key ally: Walmart.

Arkansas-based Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, had been pretty gung-ho on Hancock’s and other lawmakers’ rhetoric that changing California law to ensure collection of sales taxes online was a means of “leveling the playing field” between online and brick-and-mortar businesses.

But Brisbane-based Walmart.com, the LA Times reported today, “offers hundreds of products from a third-party retailer, CSN Stores in Boston, that are sold without collecting taxes when state residents buy them. Wal-Mart insists that it’s not its responsibility to require companies that sell products through its site’s Marketplace Retailers program to collect California sales tax, even though the billing and the credit card transactions take place on Walmart.com.”

Asked for comment, Hancock, D-Berkeley sent a statement:

“The new laws are not specifically aimed at Amazon or any other particular internet company. They are aimed at creating a level playing for all companies doing business in the State of California – big and small. It’s up to the Board of Equalization to enforce the law and ensure that no company is evading its responsibility to collect and remit California sales tax.”

So: not taking a position on Walmart specifically, but leaving it up to the Board of Equalization to examine and act on the issue.

Federal law says states can tax sales only if the seller has a physical presence in the state; Californians are supposed to pay taxes on whatever they buy online, but very few actually do.

California’s new law lets the state tax board collect from any retailer with a so-called business “nexus” or connection with an affiliate inside California. Several other states have enacted similar statutes. Amazon has launched a campaign committee to put a measure on next year’s ballot to repeal the law; Hancock last week launched another tax bill that would supersede the existing law but would be passed with a 2/3 legislative majority, making it impervious to repeal by referendum.

Walmart had been poised to help fight against Amazon’s repeal referendum, but now…?

UPDATE @ 5:34 P.M.: Hancock spokesman Larry Levin and chief of staff Hans Hemann feel I’ve been unfair to the senator; they just e-mailed this statement.

Of the three legislative bills dealing with the Amazon tax situation, the one Loni authored – the so-called “long arm” provision – is the bill that gives the Board of Equalization the most wide-ranging authority and open-ended freedom to go after ALL internet sales tax scofflaws.

In fact, it was SPECIFICALLY designed to give BOE enforcement authority to determine if a company owes sales tax. The sponsor of our bill, Board of Equalization board member Betty Yee, told the LA Times that “she believes that Wal-Mart does have an obligation under the California law that took effect July 1 to collect the taxes.”

So we think your post about her was unfair. Her bill speaks for itself. It’s not fair of you to imply that she’s “taking a walk on Walmart” – as you clearly did – when her own bill is clearly and unambiguously designed to go after companies in exactly these circumstances. That is why she said in her statement that she expects the BOE to go after whoever violates the new law.