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Archive for July, 2012

Yee: Colo. massacre underscores need for gun bill

State Sen. Leland Yee quickly linked this morning’s massacre at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater to his own bill to change California’s assault-weapons policy:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this horrific tragedy and their families. These events are shocking to all of us and sadly remind us of the carnage that is possible when assault weapons get into the wrong hands. It is imperative that we take every step possible to eliminate the types of senseless killings witnessed in Aurora, Colorado. We must limit access to weapons that can carry massive rounds of bullets or that can be easily reloaded. SB 249 is a step in that direction and should be approved by the Legislature as soon as possible.”

Yee’s SB 249 would close what the San Francisco Democrat calls a loophole in the state’s assault-weapons law, already among the nation’s most stringent.

Magazines that can be removed by a normal push button, in combination with features such as a pistol grip and telescoping stock, are banned by California law; the law essentially requires that magazines be fixed, or removed or replaced with the use of a tool, in order to slow down the reloading process.

In an apparent effort to get around the law, gun makers have created a new mechanism that lets the magazine be easily removed by the tip of a bullet or in some cases by just putting a small magnet over the “bullet button,” basically recreating a normal push-button and letting magazines be changed within seconds. Yee’s bill, now pending before the Assembly Appropriations Committee, would prohibit this.

The alleged gunman in Colorado reportedly was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a Glock handgun.

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 16 Comments »

No fundraising boom for Emken’s Senate campaign

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken’s success in the June 5 primary didn’t translate into a big fundraising boom for her, her latest report to the Federal Election Commission shows.

Elizabeth EmkenEmken, 49, of Danville, bested 22 other candidates to finish second behind U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the June 5 primary; Feinstein got 49.3 percent of the vote, while Emken got 12.6 percent.

In the period from May 17 through June 30, Emken collected only $53,834 in new contributions, bringing her total in this election cycle so far to $182,927. Worse yet, she had only $26,754 cash on hand as of June 30, with $260,546 in outstanding debts and obligations.

Feinstein hasn’t filed(see update below) her May 17-June 30 report yet, but her previous report showed she raised almost four times more from April 1 through May 16 – $706,419 – than Emken has in this whole cycle.

“We knew this was going to be a financial challenge — in fact, I don’t know anyone who thought otherwise — but that snapshot has been taken and the picture is looking brighter,” Emken spokesman Mark Standriff said today. “In just the past few days, the Emken campaign brought on Ron Nehring as senior strategist and Anne Hyde Dunsmore, one of California’s most successful fundraisers, as our finance director. It’s still going to be an uphill struggle, but we’re picking up steam at the right time.”

Nehring is the California Republican Party’s former chairman.

Nobody expects the National Republican Senatorial Committee will sink much, if any, money into Emken’s campaign; Feinstein is widely seen as unassailable, and the NRSC will target its money to states where seats are truly up for grabs.

For context, 2006 Republican U.S. Senate nominee Dick Mountjoy raised $18,672 during the similar period from May 16 to June 30, 2006, leaving him with $20,854 cash on hand at the middle of that year. So maybe Emken shouldn’t feel so bad; then again, Feinstein beat Mountjoy 59 percent to 35 percent that November.

UPDATE @ 12:52 P.M.: My bad – Feinstein has filed her FEC report for May 17 through June 30. It shows she raised $575,678 during that time (almost 11 times as much as Emken) and had $3,085,603 cash on hand as of June 30 (115 times as much as Emken) with outstanding debts and obligations of $302,092.

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012
Under: 2012 U.S. Senate election, campaign finance, Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Sandre Swanson endorses Rob Bonta in AD18

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson has endorsed Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta to succeed him.

Swanson, D-Alameda, picked Bonta over the other candidate, Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen; both candidates are Democrats.

“It has truly been an honor to represent the East Bay in the California State Assembly and I am looking forward to passing the baton to a new leader to represent Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro,” Swanson said in a release. “Over the past several months, I have given serious consideration to the Democratic candidates running to succeed me. I have carefully considered their values, experience and vision for the future. It is now clear to me that Rob Bonta is the best choice for the California State Assembly.”

Swanson noted Bonta last weekend won the state Democratic Party’s endorsement.

Rob Bonta“Rob is an impressive young leader,” Swanson said. “As a husband and father, he fights for better schools and safer streets. As a lawyer, he stood up to Governor Schwarzenegger to stop education cuts. As an Alameda City Council Member, he has balanced budgets, protected public safety and worked to create local jobs.”

Swanson serves on the Assembly Budget Committee and chairs the Labor and Employment Committee, and said he believes Bonta would serve the district well in setting budget priorities, working to create jobs and protecting the middle class. Swanson also cited Bonta’s father’s civil rights background – he stood with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma and was an organizer under Cesar Chavez. And Bonta would be the first Filipino American to serve in California’s Legislature, Swanson noted.

“I am confident Rob will continue the work we started to be a champion for working families and the community,” he said. “We share a strong commitment to protecting the social services safety net for women, children the elderly and the disabled. Rob is an independent thinker who will consistently do what’s best for the East Bay and the people of California.”

Swanson is term-limited out of the Assembly after serving the 16th District for six years; the newly drawn 18th Assembly District, in which Bonta and Guillen are vying, covers a similar area.

Bonta and Guillen finished first and second, respectively, in last month’s primary election, and so advanced to November’s general election under the state’s new “top-two” system despite both being Democrats. Eliminated in the primary were another Democrat, AC Transit Director Joel Young, and Alameda businesswoman Rhonda Weber, a Republican.

Posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Sandre Swanson | 4 Comments »

Medical marijuana trial evidence bill reintroduced

A California member of Congress re-introduced a bill yesterday to let federal criminal defendants use medical marijuana evidence at trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in the Oakland-based Gonzalez v. Raich case gave the federal government discretion to enforce its ban on marijuana even in states with laws allowing its medical use, and let federal prosecutors exclude all evidence of compliance with state law from federal marijuana trials.

“The federal government has tilted the scales of justice towards conviction by denying medical marijuana defendants the right to present all of the evidence at trial,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said in a news release issued by Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access. “My bill would restore due process rights to law abiding citizens acting within the parameters of state and local laws. Juries should hear the entire story of a patient’s medical marijuana use before choosing to convict, not the heavily edited version they currently hear.”

Farr’s H.R. 6134, the “Truth in Trials Act,” has 18 cosponsors including Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, as well as Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa.

“The federal government should be leaving enforcement issues up to the local and state officials who designed the medical marijuana laws in the first place,” Americans for Safe Access executive director Steph Sherer said in the news release. “But, as long as the Justice Department is going to arrest and prosecute people in medical marijuana states, defendants ought to have a right to a fair trial.”

This is Farr’s fourth iteration of this bill:

  • 111th Congress – H.R. 3939 – referred to Judiciary Committee, never heard
  • 109th Congress – H.R. 4272 – referred to Judiciary and Energy & Commerce committees, never heard
  • 108th Congress – H.R. 1717 – referred to Judiciary and Energy & Commerce committees, never heard
  • Americans for Safe Access notes the Obama Administration has far surpassed the Bush Administration’s rate of indicting and prosecuting people operating under states’ medical marijuana laws, making the bill more crucial than ever.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
    Under: marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    ACLU, Guardian sue FBI for Occupy records

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Guardian sued the FBI in federal court today to find out whether and to what extent agents have investigated or watched members of the Occupy movement.

    Filed under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit says the ACLU and the Guardian filed a public information request in March that the FBI promised to fast-track – and then never provided a response.

    The lawsuit says the FBI has a long history of surveilling constitutionally protected political and religious activity, and says the FBI already acknowledged that “potentially responsive documents may exist” related to requests for records about Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Wall Street.

    “There is great urgency in shedding light on the extent of the FBI’s role in surveilling Occupy activists, and in particular, on whether the FBI has complied with local and national norms in monitoring those engaged in First Amendment activity,” the lawsuit says.

    In a web posting announcing the lawsuit, ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said that although “the right of protest goes to the heart of our democracy, and the FBI exists to keep us safe, the FBI has a perverse history of interpreting its mission to mean that it can spy on political activists including Martin Luther King Jr.”

    Posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
    Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Help is on the way for Mt. Diablo’s beacon

    Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law an East Bay Assemblywoman’s bill to fix the Eye of Diablo, the beacon atop Mt. Diablo in Mt. Diablo State Park.

    AB 1916 by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, authorizes the state Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into an operating agreement with the nonprofit Save Mount Diablo to use volunteers and licensed professionals to rehabilitate the beacon. The Assembly and the state Senate both passed it on unanimous votes.

    The beacon’s lighting for almost 50 years has been the centerpiece of an annual Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony, hosted by Save Mount Diablo and the Sons & Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. But the light has fallen into such disrepair that it won’t be ready for this year’s ceremony unless it’s fixed. Save Mount Diablo will raise the money needed for the repairs and organize volunteers.

    “During these difficult budget times, it is critical that these types of public private partnerships are encouraged whenever possible,” said Buchanan. “We all want the repairs to the beacon to move ahead swiftly and cost effectively. I know that Save Mount Diablo will be an exceptional partner for the Parks Department to work with on this project.”

    Save Mount Diablo executive director Ron Brown said he wants to move quickly to iron out a deal with the state “that will address the important historical and mechanical issues, and still have the beacon be operational in time for the December 7 ceremony.”

    Posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
    Under: Assembly, Joan Buchanan | No Comments »

    Pete Stark wants Olympic uniforms made in USA

    Rep. Pete Stark is helping to leading House members from both sides of the aisle in a hearty chant of “USA, USA, USA” over the issue of where U.S. Olympians’ uniforms should be made.

    Stark, D-Fremont, along with Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Me., led 59 members in sending a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee today urging that Team USA’s uniforms be made in the United States from now on. This year, the athletes’ couture was designed by Ralph Lauren – an American-based company – but manufactured in China.

    “We don’t outsource the athletes who represent the United States in the Olympics and we shouldn’t outsource the manufacturing of Team USA’s uniforms,” Stark said in a news release. “The fact that our American uniforms were made in China is a glaring reminder that we’ve gotten away from a core value: our country’s success is built on the innovation and industriousness of the American worker. When we deviate from that, we fail. That is why we’re calling on the U.S. Olympic Committee to reflect these values and ensure that Team USA’s uniforms are made in America.”

    The letter is supported by the AFL-CIO and the National Council of Textile Organizations. Among House members signing the letter were Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

    But it seems the lawmakers’ request was already granted before the letter was sent.

    U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun issued a statement Friday saying his organization takes seriously the concerns it has heard from Congress and the public.

    “With athletes having already arrived in London, and the apparel distribution process beginning this weekend, we are unfortunately not able to make a change for London,” he said. “We are absolutely committed, however, to working with our sponsors to ensure that the concerns voiced are addressed. To that end, Ralph Lauren has agreed to domestically manufacture Team USA’s apparel for Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”

    UPDATE @ 2:44 P.M.: This just in from Stark’s Twitter account: “We’re calling on USOC to implement Make it in the USA policy. USOC’s Friday statement doesn’t reflect policy change”

    Posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
    Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Alameda councilwoman named to state post

    Gov. Jerry Brown today appointed Alameda Councilwoman and former Mayor Beverly Johnson as deputy director at the state Office of Administrative Law.

    Johnson, 53, a Democrat, has been a councilwoman since 2010; her term is up at the end of this year. Earlier, she was the city’s mayor from 2002 to 2010 and a councilwoman from 1998 to 2002.

    She has been a self-employed attorney since 2000; worked at the Law Offices of Susan Jeffries from 1995 to 2000; was an Alameda County deputy district attorney from 1994 to 1995; and was an attorney at the Law Offices of W. Lance Russum from 1985 to 1993. She holds a law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

    This position requires Senate confirmation and the annual salary is $124,236.

    The Office of Administrative Law ensures that state agency regulations are clear, necessary, legally valid, and available to the public; it reviews administrative regulations proposed by more than 200 state agencies for compliance with the standards set forth in California’s Administrative Procedure Act, transmits these regulations to the Secretary of State and publishes them in the California Code of Regulations.

    Posted on Monday, July 16th, 2012
    Under: Jerry Brown | 7 Comments »

    ‘The Great Castro Valley Marriage Debate’

    The Great Castro Valley Marriage Debate” is scheduled for 6 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17, in the Castro Valley Public Library at 3600 Norbridge Ave. The debate resolution reads: “Same-sex couples should have the same legal right to civil marriage as opposite-sex couples.”

    Arguing in the affirmative will be local activist Billy Bradford of Marriage Equality USA and GetEQUAL; the Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring from Eden United Church of Christ; and Dr. Irene Landaw, a local Kaiser pediatrician. Arguing against the resolution will be Castro Valley residents Stacy Spink, Peter Hauer and Trinity Bustria. The debate will be moderated by Reema Kakaday from the Castro Valley High School JSA/Debate Team.

    This is open to the public, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

    I like this a lot: People of differing viewpoints getting together in a local, public forum to civilly discuss and debate one of the pressing social issues of our time.

    Posted on Monday, July 16th, 2012
    Under: same-sex marriage | No Comments »

    CBS’ Schieffer objects to Romney campaign’s ad

    The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney launched this ad yesterday:

    http://youtu.be/roodiGY0W1A

    Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent and anchor of “Face the Nation” – and the first face you see in Romney’s ad – said yesterday he’s not amused.

    “Obviously, I have no connection with the Romney campaign. This was done without our permission. It comes as a total surprise to me,” he said on his show yesterday. “That was a question that I posed to David Axelrod, the president’s campaign manager. I wasn’t stating something there. I was asking somebody else a question.”

    Actually, it appears this was a question that Schieffer had posed to former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during the May 27 show. He did, however, ask similar questions of Axelrod one week later.

    I’m not a big fan of journalists’ words being taken out of context to score political points – but then again, Schieffer did choose to pose that question using those words. What are your thoughts?

    Posted on Monday, July 16th, 2012
    Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency | 6 Comments »