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Miller leads Dems in pushing minimum wage hike

Rep. George Miller led more than 100 House Democrats today in introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour.

The minimum wage was last increased in 2009, but this would be the first increase for tipped-workers in 21 years. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is expected to introduce companion legislation today.

“Raising the minimum wage at its core is about respecting and valuing work. No one who works hard every day and plays by the rules should live in poverty,” said Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat.

“Increasing workers’ paychecks will help millions of working families make ends meet and help the nation’s economy grow,” he said in a news release. “It is time for Congress to stand up for working people for a change and for Washington Republicans to stop using their position in Congress only to benefit wealthy special interests. They should join Democrats in ensuring a well-deserved raise for millions of honest, hardworking Americans.”

Miller was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 following 10 years without any increases.

Miller’s new H.R. 6211, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, would increase the minimum wage in three 85-cent steps, over three years, from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour; after that, the rate would then be indexed to inflation each year. The bill also would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from today’s $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

Among the bill’s 104 original cosponsors are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Expect this to be dead on arrival in the Republican-run House; many conservatives believe requiring employers to pay higher minimum wages makes them less likely to hire or retain less-skilled workers, thus increasing unemployment.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in January said his preference would be “to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI or with another index so it adjusts automatically over time” – much as these Democrats are now proposing after the initial three-step, three-year increase. He seemed to walk that statement back a bit in March, when he said he favors reviewing the minimum wage periodically but there’s “probably not a need to raise” it now.

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9th Circuit to rehear challenge to state DNA law

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday to rehear a challenge to California’s law requiring law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples from all adults arrested for felonies.

The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer said Wednesday that oral arguments will be heard by an 11-judge “en banc” panel during the week of Sept. 17.

The state Legislature in 1998 enacted a law requiring DNA sampling from people convicted of certain offenses. But in 2004, 62 percent of California voters approved Proposition 69, which expanded the law to require DNA collection from “any adult person arrested or charged with any felony offense … immediately following arrest or during the booking.”

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit appellate court had upheld that law in February, finding “that the government’s compelling interests far outweigh arrestees’ privacy concerns” because “DNA analysis is an extraordinarily effective tool for law enforcement officials to identify arrestees, solve past crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation in March joined with the ACLU in calling for an en-banc rehearing, arguing that the warrantless seizure and repeated search of DNA taken from people who’ve merely been arrested – not convicted – is unconstitutional.

But in a brief filed in April arguing a rehearing, the state attorney general’s office noted that “(v)irtually every federal court to have considered the question agrees that the collection of a DNA sample for forensic identification, pursuant to a
lawful arrest and subject to statutory restrictions on collection, use and confidentiality, comports with the Fourth Amendment.”

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Ricky Gill cancels fundraiser in marijuana flap

Republican congressional candidate Ricky Gill cancelled a Stockton fundraiser that was to be co-hosted by a businessman whose son was just indicted on federal marijuana charges.

Those who brought the event to my attention believe Gill’s association with anyone under federal investigation or indictment is damning, especially given that this is the second instance. My colleague, Lisa Vorderbrueggen, has written about the Gill family’s business connections to – and Gill’s own campaign contributions, later returned, from – Harvey Whittemore, the Nevada lobbyist now under federal indictment in a campaign-finance scandal.

But this seems like a somewhat different matter, given the debate now raging in California and elsewhere over the Obama Administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries operating in accordance with state and local laws.

Gill fundraiserThe $125-per-person fundraiser was to be held tomorrow, Thursday, July 26, at Le Bistro, a Stockton restaurant co-owned by Bruce Davies, a local Realtor; the Davies family was listed among the event’s co-hosts. Bruce Davies in 2010 had applied to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Stockton, according to the Stockton Record, and had proposed using part of Le Bistro’s kitchen to produce edible marijuana products.

Matthew Davies, Bruce Davies’ son, was indicted by a federal grand jury this month on marijuana cultivation charges; he and two other Stockton men are accused of having grown marijuana in a warehouse and a home within the city.

The Stockton Record reports that a multi-agency probe began last September after Davies and told a CHP officer that he was on his way to his marijuana storage facility, where he stored marijuana for his Medizen dispensary in Sacramento, because the burglar alarm had gone off – hardly an effort to hide his activities. Federal agents later seized 1,962 plants and 40 pounds of processed marijuana from the warehouse, which also apparently had supplied the Central Valley Caregivers Cooperative in Stockton.

Gill is running against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District. McNerney in 2008 reversed his previous opposition to medical marijuana, voicing support for an amendment that would bar the federal government from spending money to investigate and prosecute those who are operating in accordance with their states’ medical marijuana laws.

Ricky GillGill spokesman Colin Hunter today said the campaign cancelled the fundraiser as soon as Matthew Davies’ indictment was reported in the Record, and Gill has not received any contributions from the Davies family.

“This is a transparent attempt to distract from the real issue in this campaign: Jerry McNerney’s utter failure to stand up for our communities in Congress on jobs, foreclosures and agriculture,” Hunter said. “Perhaps the Democrats ought to worry about the real contributions McNerney took – from big banks and from Solyndra’s lead investor, to name just a few – rather than the hypothetical contributions Ricky didn’t.”

Hunter said Gill “does not object to the legitimate, physician-prescribed use of marijuana to treat serious, chronic or debilitating illnesses. He believes state and federal governments should work together to craft a sensible enforcement plan that will hold accountable those individuals operating outside or in clear violation of medical marijuana regimes, but will not penalize seriously ill patients seeking only to manage their pain.”

So, how scandalous would it have been if Gill had raised money from people linked to medical marijuana? Lots of Bay Area politicians have taken contributions from people connected to local dispensaries. But consider who and where Gill is: What flies in the mostly Democratic Bay Area might not fly for a Republican in that Central Valley-centric district (even if Democrats have a 7-point registration edge there).

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Contra Costa reacts swiftly to revised Delta peripheral canal plan

Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho

Contra Costa County, whose leaders have been fending off a peripheral canal for more than three decades, reacted swiftly and negatively to a joint federal-state announcement today of a new Delta water diversion proposal.

“We need science before size,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, who also sits on the Delta Protection Commission, Delta Conservancy and helped found the Delta County Coalition. “Science should drive the capacity of any project, not the other way around. It is completely unacceptable.”

See my colleague Steve Harmon’s full story here.

(ADDED 5:29 P.M. East Bay congressional representatives also blast plan. See full statements below.)

Smaller options must be evaluated, and science and the economic impacts of any pipeline must be more than “considered, as the announcement today said,” Piepho added.

“It’s easy to ‘consider’ something for 3 seconds, then shove it off the table and go back to your primary objective, which is to pipe massive amounts of Delta water into Southern California,” she said.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff echoed her colleague’s dismay via  a text message from Sacramento, where she watched the announcement.

“If people believe what (Gov. Jerry Brown) and (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar said today, I think there’s still a bridge available for sale,” Mitchoff said. “The plan will sacrifice the interest of one part of the state for the interests of others.”

The county, the Contra Costa Water District and others say the diversion will degrade both the environment and drinking water quality for tens of thousands of East Bay residents. The county board of supervisors formally opposed the plan in early July.

In contrast, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wholeheartedly endorsed the pact, calling it a “major step toward a real solution in the Sacramento-Delta.” Feinstein led the federal legislation mandating completion of a Bay-Delta Conservation Plan by February 2013. See her press release issued today below.

 

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Joe Biden: ‘Most Americans got nailed’

Vice President Joe Biden came out swinging today in advance of tomorrow’s U.S. Senate vote on President Obama’s tax proposal.

“It’s a simple proposition – we’re proposing to extend the middle-class tax cut for 98 percent of the American people” – those making up to $250,000 per year, Biden told reporters on a conference call.

If the tax cuts aren’t extended, 114 million people will see their taxes increase by thousands of dollars, he said. Biden was citing figures from a new report from the National Economic Council.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he said. “But the Republicans have fixed on extending all the cuts… They’re holding the middle-class tax cut hostage.”

Republicans propose continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, regardless of income. Biden said extending the cuts for those making more than $250,000 per year would cost $1 trillion over next decade, almost 80 percent of which would go to those making more than $1 million a year (who would continue enjoying an average tax cut of $160,000 per year). “What’s happening here is the very wealthy are getting the vast bulk of all of what the Republicans want to extend,” he said.

“The other side claims this is the best way to grow the economy,” Biden said – a continuation of “trickle down” economic policies. “The problem is, we’ve seen that movie before, and we know how it ends. It didn’t work before. In the beginning of the decade, congress passed trillions of dollars in tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest Americans more than anybody else.”

“What happened? The rich got richer… but most Americans got nailed. We had the slowest job growth in half a century after 2000, the typical family actually saw their income fall.”

In fact, Biden said, the Republicans’ tax proposal actually would hit millions of poor and middle-class Americans with higher taxes while protecting the wealthy.

He said that under the GOP plan, 11 million people will take a $1,100 tax hike because the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses won’t be extended; 12 million will take an $800 tax hike due to elimination of recent child tax credit improvements; and 6 million will take a $500 tax hike due to elimination of marriage and large-family provisions under the Earned Income Tax Credit program.

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Fourth POTUS pool report: The Fox Theater event

Motorcade departed Piedmont residence at 6:21 p.m. en route to the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland’s “Uptown” district; arrived there 6:37 p.m.; among supporters nearby was someone with a Ron Paul banner. Visible in a window on Telegraph Avenue was a “Free Beer for Obama” sign.

Press was placed in holding room while POTUS did photo reception; tickets to that cost $7,500, plus $2,500 per additional person in the photo. Other tickets for Fox event cost $100, $250 and $1,000. About 2,000 people attended.

Press was brought into theater at 7:40 p.m. PT in time to hear Obama campaign California political director Peggy Moore introduce Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. “What a difference three and a half years makes,” Lee said, during her seven minutes of remarks. The nation has seen 28 consecutive months of private-sector job growth on the president’s watch, she noted: “America prospers when we’re all in it together.”

POTUS took the stage at 7:56 p.m. to a deafening, standing ovation. Though he’d worn a jacket at the Piedmont dinner, he appeared here in a white shirt, sleeves rolled to just below the elbow, and dark tie. After two minutes of cheering from the crowd, POTUS joked, “Alright, thank you!” and took a few steps away from the podium as if to leave.

MUCH more, after the jump…
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