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Archive for September, 2012

Swalwell wants new CA-15 debate, but host balks

15th Congressional District candidate Eric Swalwell today urged the Eden Area League of Women Voters not to give incumbent Rep. Pete Stark “a free pass” by failing to hold another debate in this race.

Eric Swalwell“Voters deserve to hear from Congressman Stark and me on the issues that impact their lives,” Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, said in a news release. “The voters expect debates. It’s time to come out of hiding. As a 40-year incumbent, Congressman Stark should be prepared to face his constituents and explain himself. The League of Women Voters should not give Congressman Stark a free pass from the time-honored tradition of debate and dialogue.”

But league president Nancy Van Huffel said it’s nothing personal – she just sees no point in it given that the league had sponsored a pre-primary debate for this race in April.

“We are sponsoring probably 12 or 14 candidate forums and we are a small league, so I did not schedule another debate for Pete Stark and his opponent because we had a debate and it is online,” she said today. “We didn’t see where it would be any kind of new thing.”

Van Huffel said she was unaware when this fall’s debates were scheduled that Stark, D-Fremont, had already publicly refused to debate Swalwell again. “He was not invited, he did not refuse, it was just a matter basically of timing.”

She acknowledged, however, that the league is holding a second debate for at least one East Bay race: the 20th Assembly District contest between Hayward councilman Bill Quirk and Hayward optometrist Jennifer Ong, which like the Stark-Swallwell race is a Democrat-on-Democrat smackdown made possible by the state’s new top-two primary system.

Three other candidates were eliminated in the 20th Assembly District primary so the dynamics have changed considerably, Van Huffel noted; only one candidate was eliminated in the 15th Congressional District primary.

“Certainly that race is important but I’m not sure there would be any further information that would come of it (a debate),” she said. “We try to do the best we can.”

With or without a new debate, the race continues to be noticed outside the Bay Area: Daily Kos’ David Nir today named CA-15 the only “tossup” among California’s six same-party House elections.

The league’s pre-primary CA-15 debate was the forum at which Stark accused Swalwell of having accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” from Dublin-area developers – an accusation he later retracted, and the first of several allegations Stark made this spring which proved to be untrue.

Follow after the jump for complete video of that April forum, broken into four parts…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

California parents value college but aren’t saving

California parents value a college education more than a good-paying job for their kids, but most have not started saving to help pay for that education, according to a new survey conducted for ScholarShare, the state’s “529” college savings plan.

“The good news is parents realize the importance of a college degree to their kids’ future and economic prosperity,” State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who chairs the ScholarShare Investment Board, said in a news release. “The bad news is higher education costs continue to rise, and most parents have not been able to start making preparations to help ensure their family can afford those costs. A ScholarShare account can help fill that critical financial need.”

Named for the section of the IRS code under which they were created, 529 plans let earnings on investments grow tax-deferred, and disbursements, when used for tuition and other qualified higher education expenses, are federal and state tax-free. ScholarShare accounts can be opened with as little as $25, or $15 when combined with regular, automatic monthly contributions of at least $15. The program has no annual account maintenance fee, no income limit and offers a high maximum contribution cap of $350,000. ScholarShare now holds more than $4.4 billion in assets in about 250,000 accounts.

The survey conducted by Hart Research Associates found 84 percent of parents considered it “very important” that their children attend college. That’s a higher percentage than those who prioritized having a good-paying job (75 percent) or owning a home (69 percent). Latino (93 percent), black (88 percent) and Asian (90 percent) parents said attending college was “very important” at significantly higher rates than white parents (72 percent). And 78 percent of parents overall said a college education was more important now than it was 10 years ago.

The survey also that when asked what they would be willing to do to improve their current financial situation, 65 percent of parents would be willing to delay their retirement and 46 percent would be willing to save less for their retirement. But only 45 percent said they would delay saving for their kids’ college education and 40 percent said they would save less for their kids’ education.

Yet most parents worry about being able to afford their kids’ tuition: 53 percent said they’re “very concerned” about their ability to pay.

Only 43 percent of parents have a college savings account. Parents who have been saving more than 10 years have set aside an average of $25,193, compared to $14,733 for those saving 6-10 years and $4,663 for those saving five years or less.

Fifty-nine percent of parents surveyed said it’s certain or very likely their children will attend a University of California or California State University school; 51 percent said it was certain or very likely their children would go to a community college; and only 26 percent said it was certain or very likely their children would attend a private university. (That adds up to more than 100 percent because the “very likelies” have some either-or.)

And 44 percent of parents said they expected scholarships or grants to cover at least half of their children’s higher education costs; 35 percent said cost coverage would come from their own savings and income, and 28 percent said it would come from student loans. (That adds up to more than 100 percent because parents expect to use more than one funding source.)

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: Bill Lockyer, education | No Comments »

Stark targets Medicare glitch for same-sex couples

A bill introduced today by Rep. Pete Stark aims to close a loophole deep in Medicare’s rules that has been costing seniors who are in same-sex marriages.

Medicare’s secondary payer rules generally let someone maintain employer-sponsored coverage after they’ve obtained Medicare eligibility. They don’t have to join Medicare Part B (covering certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services) and pay its monthly premium as long as they maintain that workplace insurance as their primary coverage and Medicare Part A (covering inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care) as their secondary coverage.

The law also protects people in this situation who later transition to Medicare Part B when they lose that employer-sponsored coverage: They don’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty, as would someone who simply waited to obtain Part B coverage until they got sick.

But Stark, D-Fremont, said constituent Joseph Goleman of Newark was told he would have to pay that late-enrollment penalty because he disclosed that he was in a same-sex marriage.

“The practical effect of my legislation is to provide people over age 65 in same-sex marriages the choice to remain on their spouse’s employer health coverage as their primary insurance, without facing significant financial penalties from Medicare in the future,” he said. “Regardless of one’s position on same-sex marriage, this small change in law makes financial sense for Medicare and will ensure consistent treatment of people regardless of their age.”

Current law has different definitions for family depending on whether one becoming eligible for Medicare through disability or through age. The definition is “family member” for people with disabilities includes legally-recognized same-sex marriages, but for those turning 65, the term is “spouse” – and the federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits that term from including state-recognized same-sex marriages.

“Joseph knew what happened to him when he visited the local Social Security office didn’t feel right. Thankfully, he immediately reached out to my office and we were able get him the benefits he was due,” Stark said in a news release. “The confusion in current law is likely denying eligible beneficiaries the benefits they are due today – as it would have Mr. Goleman if he’d not reached out to me.”

Stark is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that oversees Medicare.

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: Pete Stark, same-sex marriage, U.S. House | No Comments »

Where does Mitt Romney’s 47 percent live?

The nation continues to mull Mother Jones’ scoop of Mitt Romney’s unguarded comments to a private fundraising event this past May in Florida:

“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.”

So where are those 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax?

The Atlantic has the answer, with data from the Tax Foundation. In California, 37 percent of residents pay no income tax, but that only ranks us 16th among the states:


(click to enlarge)

As the Atlantic notes:

This measures only those Americans who filed for taxes with no liability. Millions more didn’t even file; it’s those millions, added to the estimated 52 million here, who combine to make that 47 percent.

It’s important to remember that just because people aren’t paying income tax doesn’t mean they’re not paying taxes — they pay federal payroll taxes and state and local sales taxes, for example. Once those taxes are factored in, the tax regime is basically flat. And the reason that most income tax nonpayers don’t pay is they simply don’t make enough income to qualify to pay. As one might expect, the map of states with the highest poverty levels resembles this map fairly closely.

Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, taxes | 18 Comments »

Course offerings at the Schwarzenegger Institute

We received a news release this morning announcing that the University of Southern California’s Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy has announced the participants in its first-ever symposium, coming up next Monday, Sept. 24.

Hilarity ensued. One colleague wrote:

The “Schwarzenegger Institute?” Is this a Saturday Night Live skit? I can see the classes now:

- S101: Doubling State Deficits by Cutting Car Registration Fees
- S102: Workshop in Transitioning Your Approval Rating From 65 percent to 30 percent
- S103: Hydrogen Highway: From Hype to Bust
- S104: Extracurricular Activities With Staff

How much did he pay to get his name on that building? What’s next, USC’s Rosanne Barr Charm School?

Another responded:

don’t forget:

S105: Ruining Your Legacy By Having a Love Child
S106: Pro Tip: Don’t Mess with the Kennedys

As for me, Schwarzenegger in academia makes me think:

Please share your own suggestions for Schwarzenegger Institute course offerings in the comments; keep it clean.

UPDATE @ 3:40 P.M.: Sharon Cornu, the former Alameda Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer and former Oakland deputy mayor who’s now running Rep. Pete Stark’s re-election campaign, asks “shouldn’t he invite Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, and that governor from South Carolina to a zipper workshop? I can get the Society of First Wives to sponsor it!”

Anyway, the Sept. 24 event will feature “top elected officials discussing bipartisan cooperation; entertainment industry leaders offering perspectives on the power of people and innovation and its impact on their business, as well as the impact the entertainment industry has on popular culture; and a dialogue on how to explore local solutions while addressing global environmental challenges,” according to the USC news release.

“During my time as governor of California, I learned that the best solutions to the challenges we face come only when all sides are willing to meet in the middle and engage respectfully. That’s why I am so excited about the group of leaders we’ve assembled from across the spectrum,” Schwarzenegger, the institute’s chairman, said in the release. “These are some of the most thoughtful and respected individuals I know, so I’m 100 percent confident that big ideas are going to be born and shared at our inaugural symposium.”

The institute is housed at the USC Price School of Public Policy, where Dean Jack Knott said Schwarzenegger “has the unparalleled ability to bring together this diverse program. While USC is honored to be visited frequently by world leaders and industry experts, this historic symposium will collect a wealth of experience and an exchange of ideas such as this school has never seen before.”

Participants in a two-hour panel on post-partisanship will include Schwarzenegger; former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; former U.S. Energy Secretary and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; and former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, all moderated by ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts.

An lunch panel on local solutions to global challenges of environment, energy and climate will include Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, moderated by host of NBC “News Conference” Conan Nolan.

And a panel on “The Power of People and Innovation – Perspectives of Media and Hollywood Leaders” will include Schwarzenegger; Academy Award-winning movie director James Cameron; Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group; Brian Grazer, chairman of Imagine Entertainment; Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman Jimmy Iovine; and Universal Studios and NBCUniversal President and CEO Ron Meyer, moderated by Buzzfeed.com Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith

Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Watch Mary Hayashi make her case to local Dems

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, was at this past Saturday’s Alameda County Democratic Central Committee meeting, seeking the committee’s endorsement of her campaign for the District 2 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

Hayashi was arrested last October for shoplifting $2,450 worth of clothes from San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus; she pleaded no contest in January to misdemeanor grand theft and was sentenced to three years of probation and a $180 fine. In an exclusive July interview, she insisted that her walking out of the store with black leather pants, a black leather skirt and a white blouse in a Nieman Marcus shopping bag that she had brought with her was entirely inadvertent; she said she believes voters would forgive her and vote for her on her legislative track record.

On Saturday, she was asked, “How do you exemplify the values of integrity and honesty we want for our elected officials?” Here’s her answer:

The committee announced its endorsements Sunday night: It picked Richard Valle – the incumbent appointed to fill the District 2 seat after former Supervisor Nadia Lockyer resigned – over Hayashi for November’s election. Union City Mayor Mark Green, a former longtime Democrat now registered without party affiliation, also is in the race.

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Assembly, Mary Hayashi | 6 Comments »

Brown nixes traffic ticket/spinal cord research bill

Gov. Jerry Brown today vetoed an Bay Area lawmaker’s bill that would’ve added a $1 fee to the cost of a moving traffic violation in order to fund spinal-cord injury research.

AB 1657 by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, would’ve directed the money to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund, which was created in 2000 and is administered by the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at UC-Irvine.

Originally bankrolled by the state’s general fund, the program has been zeroed out by budget cuts even though every $1 of state money had leveraged another $5 in federal funds. It’s named after Fremont Planning Commissioner Roman Reed, who suffered a spinal cord injury in the 1990s and became a nationally-known research advocate.

The Assembly had passed the bill 46-24 in May; the state Senate 22-14 in August; and the Assembly approved it again on a 48-28 concurrence vote in August.

Wieckowski’s office said eight other states use a similar method to fund spinal cord research, but Brown today said California won’t be the ninth.

“Spinal cord injury research is certainly worthwhile, but the funding method chosen is not,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “Loading more and more costs on traffic tickets has been too easy a source of new revenue. Fines should be based on what is reasonable punishment, not on paying for more general fund activities.”

Wieckowski said he’s disappointed.

“This is not only a loss for all the Californians living with paralysis, it’s also a loss for scientific research and innovation,” he said, noting top researchers had supported the bill. “I think $1 is a reasonable penalty for irresponsible drivers when you consider the fact that traffic accidents are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries. I will keep on working to make sure California reinvests in this vital research.”

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski | 2 Comments »

Pols decry voter ID laws on Constitution Day

Two Bay Area members of Congress used the Constitution’s birthday today as an occasion to decry voter ID laws – which they call voter-suppression efforts – in some crucial presidential swing states.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, issued a statement noting that the U.S. Constitution, at 225 years old, “is the most enduring government charter in world history.” It laid out our national ideals including the right to vote, and that right has been expanded and protected since then, he wrote.

Pete Stark (photo by Aric Crabb)“Unfortunately, voting rights are now at risk due to a series of discriminatory and restrictive voter identification laws enacted at the state level,” Stark said. “If these un-American laws stand, they will impede the democratic process and prevent many Americans from exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

Republican-led legislatures in more than a dozen states have enacted strict new voter ID laws since 2008, claiming they’ll crack down on fraud; Democrats say the laws aim to keep millions of minority, elderly, poor and other voters from casting ballots.

Stark said he’s a proud cosponsor of HR 5799, the “Voter Empowerment Act of 2012” by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., which he said “would protect voters’ rights and ensure the integrity of our electoral system. I will continue fighting to protect the right to vote and work to ensure that all eligible citizens are able to participate in our democracy.”

HR 5799 among other things requires states to offer online voter registration; promotes same-day registration; creates requirements for states to promote registration and voting access for the disabled; and prohibits state and local officials from preventing a person from registering or voting in any federal election, or from allowing certain kinds of formal challenges to someone’s registration or eligibility to vote.

Also among that bill’s 140 cosponsors is Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, who had an op-ed piece published today on the Huffington Post and The Hill taking Republicans to task for attacking constitutional voting rights.

honda.jpg“The Republican attacks on these amendments, and their attacks on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, aim to cut the legs of citizenship from beneath us. Republicans are prohibiting access to the ballot for minorities, the elderly and young people who have been, and continue to be, historically disenfranchised,” Honda wrote. “We have fought these fights before, and it’s shameful that we have to still fight for these rights today. But fight we will. If we can vote, then we must register. If we can share time, then we must volunteer. If you believe in preserving access to our democracy, then we must speak out.”

Congress and state lawmakers should be educating citizens “instead of road blocking citizenship rights for which thousands have fought and died. We must be educating on pathways to citizenship, not restricting individuals from access to our democracy. Early voting, absentee ballots and in-language assistance are all key pillars of voting, and it is unfortunate that Democrats have to fight tooth and nail to retain them.”

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2012
Under: Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, voter registration | 3 Comments »

Eshoo moves to name post office for slain soldier

A Mountain View post office would be named for a slain Iraq war hero, under a bill by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

Eshoo’s H.R. 6260 would rename the facility at 211 Hope St. as the Lieutenant Kenneth M. Ballard Memorial Post Office.

Ballard, 26, died in Najaf, Iraq on May 30, 2004 when a M-240 machine gun mounted on his vehicle accidentally fired. The Army initially had reported Ballard was killed by small arms fire during a battle with insurgents, and didn’t inform his family of the truth until more than a year later.

Ballard had served in the Army for almost nine years, and was awarded the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars, two with Valor Device. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Lieutenant Ballard demonstrated great courage and heroism throughout his military career,” Eshoo said in a news release. “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and he should be remembered and honored by our community.”

Introduced Aug. 1, Eshoo’s bill now has the support of California’s entire 52-member House delegation, a necessary step before it can be considered by the House Oversight Committee. The legislation also is supported by the Mountain View City Council.

Born in Rome, N.Y., Ballard and his family moved to Mountain View in 1981. After graduating from Mountain View High School in 1995, he enlisted in the Army and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. He went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Iraq. He won a “Gold to Green” Army ROTC Scholarship and attended Middle Tennessee State University, but after graduation returned to Germany and was then deployed to Iraq.

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, U.S. House | No Comments »

New law requires tracking of Internet crimes

Alameda County and Los Angeles must now collect and publish information on Internet-related crimes, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Ellen CorbettSenate Bill 561 by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, requires the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to collect data on arrests and prosecutions that involve the misuse of personal information gathered on the Internet. It also directs the state Justice Department to publish that data on its website.

The aim is to create a more accurate picture of the scope and nature of Internet-related crime, which can help lawmakers and law enforcement combat such activity.

“It is high time to track the criminal activity we know is occurring via the Internet, social networking websites and smart phones,” Corbett said in a news release. “These wonderful technological advances have transformed our society for the better, but they have also presented criminals with new opportunities they are actively exploiting. We need to understand exactly what is happening so we can respond appropriately.”

Corbett said mapping connections between crime and Internet is particularly important for protecting children, as 95 percent of children aged 12 to 17 spend time online; about 80 percent of them visit social-networking sites. Even use among young children is on the rise, with kids up to age 5 now accessing the Internet at least once a week.

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, Ellen Corbett | 1 Comment »