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Archive for September, 2012

New laws move to grab human trafficking assets

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a pair of bills into law today to make it harder for human traffickers to hide their assets.

AB 2466, by Assmemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, ensures that criminal defendants involved in human trafficking can’t hide or dispose of assets that would otherwise be provided as restitution to victims. Existing California law entitles victims are entitled to mandatory restitution, but this new law will let courts order the preservation of the assets and property until there’s a conviction.

“Now, the perpetrators of this despicable crime cannot game the system and keep their money when caught and convicted,” Blumenfield said in a news release. “Justice will come for victims.”

SB 1133, by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, expands the list of assets that a human trafficker must forfeit and provides a formula for using those resources to help victims of human trafficking.

“Today we are one step closer to dismantling the economic infrastructure that convicted child sex traffickers rely on to continue to lure young people into the sex trade,” Leno said in a news release. “In addition to taking away the lucrative profits from these horrendous crimes, we are providing much-needed financial support for increased investigations and victim services.”

The Assembly and state Senate passed both bills without any dissenting votes; both laws will take effect on Jan. 1.

“With these new laws, California prosecutors and law enforcement officials will be able to seize assets of human traffickers, cripple their operations and aid victims,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a news release. “Human trafficking is big business in California. It is a high-profit criminal industry that is expanding rapidly across the globe, including here in California.”

Harris and Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibáñez signed an accord Friday to expand prosecutions and secure convictions of criminals who engage in the trafficking of human beings. The pact will increase coordination of law enforcement resources targeting transnational gangs engaged in such crimes, and calls for closer integration on human trafficking as well as sharing best practices to recognize human trafficking and provide support and services to victims.

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Mark Leno | 1 Comment »

Brown signs bill expanding birth-control access

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law today that makes it easier for women to obtain birth control – a bill that created some strange bedfellows, pun intended.

Assembly Bill 2348 by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, lets registered nurses dispense and administer hormonal contraceptives under a standardized procedure, or upon an order by a certified nurse-midwife, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant in certain clinic settings. Hormonal contraceptives include birth control pills, “morning-after” pills, vaginal rings and patches, and so on.

“At a time when some seek to turn back the clock and restrict women’s health choices, California is expanding access to birth control and reaffirming every woman’s basic Constitutional rights,” Brown – who signed the bill Saturday morning at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ headquarters – said in a news release.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Cecile Richards said California “has long served as a national model for enacting proactive public policy that reduces rates of unintended pregnancy and expands access to comprehensive reproductive health care services. By enacting this bill, California is, once again, setting an example of national leadership at a critical time when access to health care is under attack.”

Planned Parenthood had sponsored this bill along with the California Family Health Council, where President and CEO Julie Rabinovitz applauded Brown “for continuing California’s long-standing history of breaking down barriers to birth control access and helping women across the state reduce their risk of unintended pregnancy. With his signature, the Governor also took action to address provider shortages statewide by allowing RNs to work to the full extent of their scope and training. This is especially important in our changing health care landscape.”

AB 2348 bill had been opposed by the California Right to Life Committee and the California Catholic Conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.

“I propose that the problem is not the lack of access to contraceptives but their ready access — and this bill will allow even more medical personnel to hand them out,” Carol Hogan, the conference’s pastoral projects and communications director, wrote in July.

Reliable information is lacking on the effects of long-term use of hormonal contraceptives, Hogan wrote, and “their easy access may actually encourage sexual activity — possibly producing yet more problems. There are also studies showing emotional damage to women who engage in sexual activity at an early age and/or outside of a marital commitment.”

“In keeping with society’s move to honor nature, rather than handing out hormonal contraceptives on every street corner, perhaps we ought to educate our young women to honor their natural bodies,” she wrote.

But the bill also had been opposed by the politically powerful California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

“CNA supports the expansion of primary health services for women with a single standard of high quality care for everyone,” the union blogged this spring. “However, this bill encroaches on the practice of nurse practitioners in an effort by employers to use lower paid registered nurses to provide these family planning services.”

Posted on Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
Under: Assembly, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

Two area Democrats OKed ‘No More Solyndras’ bill

Two Northern California House Democrats sided with House Republicans last week to pass a bill called the “No More Solyndras Act” to phase out the clean energy loan-guarantee program that bankrolled the now-defunct Fremont solar manufacturer.

Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, were among the 22 Democrats who joined with 223 House Republicans to vote in favor of H.R. 6213; they were the only California Democrats to do so. On the other side, 157 Democrats and four Republicans opposed the bill, which now is before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised the bill as ensuring “that taxpayers are no longer left holding the bag for the administration’s reckless investments. … The Obama administration may still regard the loan program that brought us Solyndra as an ‘enormous success,’ but the American people know better.”

Both McNerney and Garamendi are locked in tough re-election battles: McNerney, with Lodi Republican Ricky Gill; and Garamendi, with Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, also a Republican. Also, both voted for President Barack Obama’s economic-stimulus package, which funded the loan-guarantee program among many other things; the program itself began during President George W. Bush’s administration.

“This program, like all government programs, needs to be reviewed and modified to address problems,” Garamendi said in a statement issued by a spokesman Friday. “I will continue my work to strengthen energy independence, create clean energy jobs, and Make It In America.”

McNerney last year had defended the loan-guarantee program.

“Solyndra certainly needs to be accounted for,” he had said in an interview. “But in order to develop new sources of energy we need to do research and development, and a well-supervised loan guarantee is one way to achieve that. I think there is a need for loan guarantees, especially considering what’s happening overseas.

McNerney had said it’s “not a good argument to say that the failure of one company is an indication that the whole industry has a problem. Moreover, oil, gas and coal companies have had government subsidies for 100 years or so, so I think it’s reasonable that renewable resources companies can look to the government for help both in research and in incentives.”

McNerney spokeswoman Lauren Smith on Saturday noted McNerney’s use of the phrase “well-supervised,” and said he made no endorsement of a program that lacks proper oversight and management.

“Congressman McNerney has always taken pride in being an independent voice and representing the people in our community,” she said. “With the people in Contra Costa and San Joaquin Counties struggling in today’s economy, he felt compelled to vote for H.R. 6213 to ensure that their hard-earned tax dollars are spent in a responsible way with proper oversight and accountability. He understands what it’s like to be out of work and worried about money – and how every last dollar matters to most families in our region.”

As the Associated Press reported, Republicans have noted that three of the first five companies to get loan guarantees under the stimulus, including Solyndra, have gone bankrupt. But Democrats say Republicans are ignoring the Energy Department’s successes, including saving nearly 300 million gallons of gasoline a year by supporting such projects as one of the world’s largest wind farms in Oregon, a large solar generation project in California and a major photovoltaic solar power plant in Arizona.

Gill’s campaign is making hay of McNerney’s vote, noting McNerney had called green energy his “signature issue” during his initial run for the House in 2006.

“It turns out his signature was written in disappearing ink,” said Gill campaign consultant Kevin Spillane, accusing McNerney of “suddenly running away from the issue that defined his candidacy and his entire record in Congress — the advocacy of green energy, its supposedly endless economic potential, and the need for costly government incentives to promote its development.”

“Seems like McNerney’s true ‘signature issue’ is saving his political career,” Spillane said.

Smith replied this is “a blatant political attack… There is no credibility there.”

Posted on Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, economy, energy, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | No Comments »

New voter data: ‘no party preference’ still rising

Nonpartisanship continues to rise in the Golden State, according to California’s latest voter registration data.

As of September 7, a total of 17,259,680 Californians are registered to vote, representing 72.6 percent of eligible Californians, up from 69.8 percent this time four years ago.

“As Californians hear more about the important issues on the November ballot and as we approach the October 22 deadline to register, those numbers will continue to go up,” Secretary of State Debra Bowen said in a news release announcing the new data. “Filling out a voter registration application online or on paper takes just a few minutes, and I expect to see tens of thousands of new California voters this presidential election season.”

Of Californians registered to vote, 3,672,229 chose no party preference – a new all-time high. The previous record raw-number high of unaffiliated voters was 3,654,608, reported in June.

Here’s the registration breakdown (with Sept. 2008 figures in parentheses for comparison):

  • Democrat – 7,458,915 – 43.33% (7,101,442 – 43.91%)
  • Republican – 5,197,177 – 30.11% (5,227,489 – 32.32%)
  • no party preference – 3,672,229 – 21.28% (3,151,369 – 19.49%)
  • American Independent – 434,438 – 2.52% (333,609 – 2.06%)
  • miscellaneous – 210,583 – 1.22% (107,605 – 0.67%)
  • Green – 109,488 – 0.63% (116,334 – 0.72%)
  • Libertarian – 94,620 – 0.55% (78,935 – 0.49%)
  • Peace & Freedom – 59,232 – 0.34% (54,989 – 0.34%)
  • Americans Elect – 2,998 – 0.02% (n/a)
  • Friday’s report reflects data gathered 60 days before the November 6 General Election, with updates to voter registration rolls in California’s 58 counties including the removal of registrants who have passed away, moved out of state, or have been determined to be ineligible to vote, as well as the addition of new registrants.

    The deadline to register to vote in the November 6 general election is October 22. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is October 30. Californians can check their voter registration status online, and as of this week can register to vote online as well; paper voter registration applications are available at sites including U.S. post offices, public libraries, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and county elections offices.

    Posted on Friday, September 21st, 2012
    Under: Debra Bowen, voter registration | 20 Comments »

    Romney finishes his tough week here in Bay Area

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney arrives in the Bay Area today for a high-priced fundraiser on the Peninsula, but only those paying to get in will know what he says there – no press will be allowed.

    Unless, of course, someone surreptitiously videotapes this evening’s event at the Strawberry Hill estate on Redington Road in Hillsborough, as someone did a similar event this past May in Florida. That video, released this week by Mother Jones, included Romney’s now-notorious comments about roughly half the country:

    “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”
    [snip]
    “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

    Should guests at this fundraiser be frisked at the door for recording devices?

    Anyway, tickets to tonight’s event cost $500 for young professionals, $1,000 for bronze level, $2,500 for silver level and $5,000 for gold level. Giving $15,000 gets two tickets to the reception as well as a photo for two with Romney, as does bundling $25,000 to $50,000.

    Giving $50,000 gets four tickets, including two with preferred seating at a special reception, and four photo reception tickets; bundling $100,000 gets four tickets, two special reception tickets and two photo reception tickets; and a couple that gives $100,000 gets four tickets, two special reception tickets and four photo reception tickets.

    Musician David Foster will entertain the crowd. The event is to start at 4:45 p.m., but Romney isn’t scheduled to arrive at San Francisco International Airport until shortly before 6 p.m.

    The fundraiser is for Romney Victory Inc., a joint fundraising committee including Romney’s campaign, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the state GOP entities in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont.

    Posted on Friday, September 21st, 2012
    Under: 2012 presidential election, campaign finance, Mitt Romney | 17 Comments »

    Details – and tickets – for Obama’s SF fundraiser

    President Barack Obama’s Bay Area fundraiser on Monday, Oct. 8 will be at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, on Grove Street in the city’s Civic Center.

    Tickets for this 5:30 p.m. concert-rally – for which the musical guests are yet to be announced – are selling at $100 for “Muni;” $250 for “Cable Car;” $1,000 for “Ferry,” which includes preferred seating; and $2,500 for “Bay,” which includes premium seating. The $7,500 “Golden State” package gets you premium seating plus a photo opportunity with the president, and then you can pay an additional $2,500 for each guest you want in the photo with you. Tickets are available online.

    It’s not yet clear whether this will be his only event in the Bay Area; he usually does one big rally-type event and several smaller, more exclusive and expensive events in the same visit. He’ll be in Los Angeles on Sunday, Oct. 7.

    Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
    Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, campaign finance | No Comments »

    New tips for voting while in foreclosure

    A new report highlights the confusion that people who’ve lost homes to foreclosure feel when determining how they can cast a ballot this November, and lays out ways to protect their voting rights.

    The Fair Elections Legal Network’s report, “Lose Your Home, Keep Your Vote: How to Protect Voters Caught Up in Foreclosure,” is accompanied by guides tailored to 15 states – including California – on how and where people can vote depending on where they are in the foreclosure process.

    “Voting is the foundation of our democracy. People dealing with the foreclosure process or whose homes have been foreclosed upon have enough to deal with without worrying about their vote counting,” network president Robert Brandon said in a news release. “With foreclosures on the rise again, the question shouldn’t be if a voter facing foreclosure can vote but where that voter can cast their ballot, and that question should be clearly answered by election officials.”

    Brandon said election officials “have a duty to make sure voters have the information they need to cast a ballot and have it counted. They should be extra vigilant as Election Day nears to issue directives and educate the public and local election officials on how voters who lost their home can maintain their right to vote.”

    California had the highest number of new foreclosure filings last year and, according to RealtyTrac, during the month of June 2012, California had the highest foreclosure rate nationwide this past June.

    California has been hit hard by foreclosures in recent years; some areas, including the now-bankrupt city of Stockton, have been devastated. California in August was among the states with the greatest decreases (42 percent) in foreclosure starts compared to one year earlier, according to RealtyTrac, yet still posted the nation’s third highest state foreclosure rate: One in every 340 California housing units had a foreclosure filing in August, which is twice the national average.

    And seven of the 10 U.S. metro areas with the most foreclosure activity in August are in California: Modesto, Merced, Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, and Chico.

    Like all movers, those who facing foreclosure also face hurdles to voting such as needing to update their address and/or re-register to vote in a new jurisdiction. What a particular person must do might depend on where he or she is in the foreclosure process; for example, someone who has lost a home might still have a legal “right of redemption,” a period of time in which they could repurchase their home and during which time they can still vote from that address.

    In California and 17 other states, a person can keep voting at the address of their foreclosed home until they establish a new residence in which they intend to remain. In other states, the correct polling place for a foreclosure victim is often more confusing.

    Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
    Under: housing, voter registration | 5 Comments »

    Brown signs veterans’ bills, jabs at Senate GOP

    Gov. Jerry Brown signed a slew of bills today – including two from Bay Area lawmakers – to improve services and opportunities for California’s veterans, and he used the occasion to take a swipe at U.S. Senate Republicans.

    “Yesterday, a bill to invest in job training for veterans was blocked because of Washington political infighting,” Brown said in his news release. “Here in California, Republicans and Democrats joined together to support our veterans. These bills respect the honor and dignity of those who serve.”

    Senate Republicans blocked a bill Wednesday that would have created a $1 billion jobs program putting veterans to work tending the country’s federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments. Republicans said the spending authorized in the bill violated limits that Congress agreed to last year.

    California Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter Gravett, in Brown’s release, said “veterans issues should never be partisan.” Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, the California National Guard’s adjutant general, said the new state laws “demonstrate that California is fulfilling its obligation to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much.”

    Among the bills Brown signed into law was AB 2478 by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, which expands the current exemption given to veterans from paying non-resident tuition at California Community Colleges by one year.

    More specifically, it lets veterans who were discharged from a military installation in California additional time (up to two years) to establish residency if they need to briefly return to their home state prior to attending community college. The California Community College Chancellor’s Office has said some veterans don’t start the residency process immediately after discharge for various reasons, including rehabilitation from injuries.

    The Assembly in May approved AB 2478 on a 75-0 vote; in August, the state Senate approved it 37-0 and the Assembly gave it an 80-0 concurrence vote.

    Brown also signed AB 1550 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, which increases the fees required to issue, renew, and personalize specialized veterans’ license plates to fund veterans’ organizations.

    Specifically, it raises the fee for initial plate issuance from $30 to $50; the annual renewal fee from $30 to $40; and the plate personalization fee from $40 to $78, with all of the money directed to County Veterans Service Officers – agencies that assist veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services accrued through military service.

    The Assembly in May approved AB 1550 on a 71-3 vote; in August, the state Senate approved it 37-0 and the Assembly gave it a 72-1 concurrence vote.

    For a list of other veterans’s bills Brown signed into law today, follow us after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
    Under: Assembly, Jerry Brown, Mary Hayashi, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

    Gill wants you to parse McNerney’s TARP votes

    The campaign of Lodi Republican Ricky Gill – who’s taking on Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District – is up in arms about a claim made in pro-McNerney mailers sent out by the California Democratic Party.

    Two CDP mailers, aiming to paint McNerney as a fiscal conservative, say he voted “NO to a $350 billion bailout because McNerney believes in responsible spending.”

    But Gill’s campaign notes that the January 2009 vote to which that refers – on releasing the second half of the $700 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program – was meaningless. As FactCheck.org explained two years ago:

    As the law was structured, the treasury secretary (then Henry Paulson) had access to only $350 billion, half of the total package, at first. The second half would be available only if the administration went to Congress and asked for it. Treasury would get the money unless Congress said no. The first $350 billion of the TARP money was quickly spent.

    By the time the Bush administration, at the request of President-elect Barack Obama, filed a request with the Senate for the rest of the money on Jan. 12, 2009, there were widespread complaints that too much of the first tranche had been used to bail out large institutions and not enough to help homeowners. The new funds could have been blocked had both houses of Congress voted to do so, but on Jan. 15, 2009, the Senate defeated a disapproval resolution, 52-42, effectively voting to release the funds. Treasury almost immediately announced it would use some of the money to shore up a deeply crippled Bank of America.

    Where was the House in all this? Pretty much irrelevant. Eventually there was a similar vote in that body. … [I]t passed, 270-155. But the vote came on Jan. 22, a week after the Senate’s vote (and two days after Obama was sworn in). Treasury already had the money.

    So the House vote was purely symbolic.

    “The Democrats’ claim is doubly misleading because McNerney voted for TARP in the first place,” Gill spokesman Colin Hunter said in an email.

    True, too – though it might be worth noting that the law creating TARP was proposed and signed by President George W. Bush, and approved by Congress with bipartisan support (including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and 90 other House Republicans). And also that TARP both worked and cost the taxpayers less than expected, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
    Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

    Cal researchers map political info via social media

    Cal Berkeley researchers have launched a new website to explore how political knowledge can be spread rapidly across big populations using social media – and their test subject is one of this election season’s hottest issues.

    The project, from UC’s CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative, aims to develop a general-purpose system that can be used for a wide variety of issues, but for now it’s being tested on just one: Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike ballot measure.

    Ken Goldberg, an engineering professor, said that “although the outcome of this vote has an enormous potential impact on students, alumni, teachers, parents and employers, many are not aware of Proposition 30. The California Proposition 30 Awareness Project aims to change that.”

    Visitors to the website can learn about the ballot measure – a four-year, quarter-cent sales tax hike and a seven-year income tax hike for those making more than $250,000 per year – and receive a custom web link to share with whomever they please using email, Facebook or Twitter. They can return to the site later to see a unique graphic representation of their influence, and track their “influence score;” after the election, the website will list the 50 most influential people.

    Influence is computed using a variant of the Kleinberg and Raghavan algorithm, where each visitor’s influence increases by one point for each person he or she recruits, by half a point for every person those people recruit, and so on. This model has been applied in many contexts with financial incentives, but researchers believe this is the first time it’s being tested with intangible rewards.

    The researchers say the project and website emphasize awareness and are unbiased; the site includes links to the California Voters Guide and to campaigns on both sides of the issue. Visitors can also indicate their position for or against the proposition, and join an online discussion afterward.

    Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
    Under: ballot measures, Jerry Brown, Media, taxes | 2 Comments »