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Archive for December, 2012

Out of the Assembly and onto the bench

Gov. Jerry Brown today named former Assemblywoman Alyson Huber to the Sacramento County Superior Court bench.

Alyson HuberHuber, 40, a Democrat from El Dorado Hills, served in the Assembly from 2008 through earlier this month, representing what had been the 10th Assembly District.

She was an associate at Bartko Zankel Tarrant and Miller from 2003 to 2008; an associate at Oppenheimer Wolff and Donnelly LLP from 2000 to 2003; and an associate at Phillips and Spallas LLP from 1999 to 2000.

Huber holds a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University. She fills the vacancy created by the conversion of a court commissioner position on March 19, 2012. Superior Court judges earn an annual salary of $178,789 – a hefty raise from the current Assembly salary of $90,526.

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Jerry Brown | 10 Comments »

The Blotter goes on vacation

I’ll be off from work until Jan. 4, so the blog posts will be few and far between (if any!) until then. But hey, keep those comments coming… ;-)

Happy holidays and best wishes for a happy, healthy and fruitful 2013!

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Reactions to the NRA’s press conference

The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre held a news conference this morning about his organization’s thinking on keeping America’s children safe in the wake of last Friday’s massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school:

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, whom House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named earlier this week to chair a gun-violence task force:

“Everyone agrees our schools, movie theaters shopping malls, streets and communities need to be safer. But we need a comprehensive approach that goes beyond just arming more people with more guns to make this happen.

“Closing holes in our mental health system, addressing our culture’s glorification of violence, improving background checks for everyone who buys firearms, and reinstating the ban on assault weapons and assault magazines all must be part of a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent gun violence.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who introduced bills this week to boost federal grants for school security and to offer federal reimbursement to governors who deploy National Guard troops to secure schools:

“The head of the NRA blamed everyone in sight – except his own organization – for gun violence in America, and showed himself to be completely out of touch by ignoring the proliferation of weapons of war on our streets.

“The NRA is now calling for stronger security at our schools. They should endorse my legislation, which would fund security upgrades for schools and trained law enforcement personnel to protect our kids.

“In the days ahead, I will work for a comprehensive strategy, which includes sensible gun laws, a focus on mental health and school safety.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“To the NRA, gun violence is never about semi-automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition clips. Never. But to a majority of parents across the country, mass shootings and gun violence have everything to do with those types of assault weapons and people who have lost their minds. Congress needs to ban high capacity clips, reinstate a sensible ban on assault weapons, and dramatically increase access to quality mental health care in America as part of our effort to reduce gun violence.

“The fact is, the NRA’s approach would require armed guards not just in schools, but everywhere in America – at every store in every mall, every movie theatre, every supermarket, every church, synagogue, and mosque, and every sporting arena, because that is where America’s families and children spend their time outside of the home. And yet those locations would still be vulnerable to a deranged person wearing bulletproof vests and carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition and semi-automatic pistols and rifles.

“For most of us, everything has changed since Newtown. Sadly, one of the only things that hasn’t changed is the way the NRA thinks about the epidemic of gun violence in America.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who authored a state law – struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 – to prohibit sale of certain violent video games to children:

“I find it mind-boggling that the NRA suddenly cares about the harmful effects of ultra-violent video games. When our law was before the Supreme Court – while several states, medical organizations, and child advocates submitted briefs in support of California’s efforts – the NRA was completely silent. Now, rather than face reality and be part of the solution to the widespread proliferation of assault weapons in America, they attempt to pass the buck. More guns are not the answer to protecting our children, as evident by the fact that armed guards weren’t enough to stop the tragedy at Columbine High School. The NRA’s response is pathetic and completely unacceptable.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“The predicted Mayan Apocalypse apparently materialized today in the form of the NRA’s vision for America.

“The NRA’s suggestion that we militarize our schools is not the solution, and references to other militarized institutions simply reinforce the problem our nation has with gun violence. What next? Armed guards at Starbucks and little league games? This is completely the wrong direction.

“The NRA’s grotesque demonization of mental illness feeds ignorance. It insults the one in four Americans who suffer – overwhelmingly in silence – some form of mental health problem annually.

“What was billed as a constructive conversation spiraled into extreme rhetoric and profitable fear mongering. As I set out in a letter to Vice President Biden yesterday, we must focus our efforts on multiple fronts, including health care and gun control, to curb disturbingly familiar and horrific scenes of mass murder.”

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, George Miller, gun control, Leland Yee, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

$9 mil in federal grants for East Bay firefighters

Two Bay Area cities are among 10 statewide that have received sizeable federal grants to boost their numbers of firefighters, members of Congress announced today.

Oakland Fire Department at workOakland got more money from the Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program than any other city in the state in this round of funding: $7,782,240.

“This highly competitive funding is critical to improving public safety and ensuring 24-hour staff coverage by hiring new and laid-off Oakland firefighters,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “As Oakland and our nation continue to recover from the greatest economic downturn since the great depression, federal investments in public sector hiring are critical to moving our economy forward.”

Pinole got $1,239,456.

“This grant is a vital boost to our local fire department which plays such an important safety role in our community,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. “First responders all over California have been hit especially hard by the recent economic downturn and I’m glad to see the federal government stepping in with critical financial resources to help carry out the vital mission of our local firefighters. I congratulate the Pinole Fire Department on winning this grant.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, called Pinole’s grant “a win for the public” as well as the fire department.

“It will enhance public health and safety by making sure our local fire department has the resources and personnel it needs to keep our community safe and respond to fire and fire-related emergencies,” he said. “I am proud to support these grants and thank our firefighters and first responders for their service.”

The SAFER program designed to strengthen the nation’s ability to respond to fire and fire-related hazards and improve the nation’s overall level of preparedness, with the goals of enhancing local departments’ ability to reach and maintain 24-hour staffing and to assure that their communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. In other words – it’s to help the departments increase the number of frontline firefighters, and to rehire firefighters who were laid off due to the economy.

Other cities for which SAFER grants were announced today include:

    El Medio Fire Protection District, Oroville – $312,000
    Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District – $5,632,152
    Santa Rosa Fire Department – $2,560,068
    City of Oxnard – $2,227,581
    Downey Fire Department – $1,886,958
    City of Hesperia Fire Protection District – $2,012,583
    City of San Bernardino Fire Department – $3,055,989
    Colton Fire Department – $1,986,300

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Moment of silence Friday for Newtown

At the request of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, California Gov. Jerry Brown today called for Californians to observe a moment of silence tomorrow in honor of the 20 children and six adults killed in Newtown.

California will observe the moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, December 21.

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Under: Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Bay Area House freshmen get committee posts

Congressman-elect Eric Swalwell will serve on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee while Congressman-elect Jared Huffman will serve on the Natural Resources Committee, according to assignments announced Thursday by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Eric SwalwellSwalwell, D-Dublin – who unseated fellow Democrat Pete Stark last month – had voiced interest in serving on Transportation and Infrastructure, but this assignment makes sense given that the newly drawn 15th Congressional District he’ll represent includes the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Swalwell said today his assignment “will offer me the opportunity to pursue many of the initiatives I discussed during my campaign. This includes clean energy innovation and the development of alternative energy systems to drive economic growth and create jobs.”

“The focus on technology will also enable me to pursue my ideas for a ‘Mobile Congress’ to use new technologies to adopt rules and practices for the Congress that are in-tune with 21st Century technology and culture,” he added, noting additional committee assignments might be coming in January.

Jared HuffmanHuffman, D-San Rafael, who succeeds Lynn Woolsey and had talked of applying his experience as an environmental attorney, got what he was hoping for. His newly drawn 2nd Congressional District stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way up to the Oregon border – the largest stretch of California coastline of any district, and so a natural resource unto itself.

“The economy of his congressional district is directly tied to California’s natural resources, and the committee plays a critical role in public lands management, fishing policy, tribal issues, and coastal protections,” Ben Miller, who will serve as Huffman’s chief of staff, said today. “With Jared’s background and his interest in resolving natural resource conflicts and advancing clean energy solutions, it’s a perfect fit.”

Here’s how other California members-elect fared:

    Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove – Foreign Affairs
    Raul Ruiz, D-Coachella – Natural Resources

Pelosi also put Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on the Budget Committee; Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on the Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Our Democratic Caucus is the most diverse in the history of Congress, and each of our Members will bring a unique perspective to the great challenges of our day – from job creation and economic growth to innovation, education reform, and clean energy development,” Pelosi said in her news release. “On every committee, our colleagues will offer their experience, passion, and persistence to the task of effectively and faithfully serving the American people.”

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Under: Ami Bera, Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Skinner brings back bill to control ammo sales

A Bay Area lawmaker is re-introducing a bill that would tighten up on ammunition sales, which aren’t tracked by current law.

“In California, it’s harder to get some cold medicines than ammunition,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release, referring to the state’s law restricting sales of pseudoephedrine, which can be used as a precursor for making methamphetamine. “Something has to change.”

Skinner this past summer authored AB 2512, which would have required large ammunition purchases to be reported to local law enforcement. The bill was inspired by July’s shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Her bill also sought to close a loophole in the assault weapons law allowing individuals to have high-capacity magazines, like those found on the man who killed 26 people last Friday in Newtown, Conn. But the legislation, introduced by gutting and amending an already-existing bill, came too late in the year to have any hearings before the session ended.

Her new bill would require all ammunition purchasers to show their IDs; require all ammunition sales to be reported to the state Department of Justice; require all ammunition sellers to be licensed and undergo a background check; and
ban kits to convert ammunition clips into high-capacity magazines.

Skinner had told me last week – two days before the Newtown massacre – that she had been meeting with law enforcement and other stakeholders to develop a revised version of the bill.

“Among the most shocking details from the shooting massacre in Colorado is the undetected stockpiling of ammunition and weapons by the alleged shooter. In Newtown, the shooter had hundreds of unspent rounds. While incidents like Aurora and Newtown may be rare, we can’t let ammunition stockpiling go unnoticed,” Skinner said today. “Gun violence is an ongoing, yet unnecessary threat in communities throughout California. As lawmakers, we need to do everything we can to stop this trend.”

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Under: Assembly, gun control, Nancy Skinner, Public safety | 21 Comments »

Bay Area Senators revive DISCLOSE Act

Two Bay Area state Senators announced Thursday the re-introduction of a bill requiring that the top three funders of political ads be clearly identified, both on the ads themselves and on the campaign’s website.

SB 52, the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, by state Senators Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Jerry Hill, D-Palo Alto, is sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign. It applies to advertising for ballot measure campaigns, independent expenditures and issue advocacy. The bill introduced today is intent language, to which details will be added early next year before it’s heard in policy committees.

“We saw evidence in the most recent election cycle of unnamed organizations throwing around large sums of money in order to confuse California voters,” Leno said in a news release. “The only way to stop this covert financing of campaigns is to require the simple and clear disclosure of the top three funders of political ads so voters can make well-informed decisions at the ballot box.”

Hill said the bill is “vital to protecting the integrity of our democratic process and ensuring fair elections in our state. After seeing billions of dollars flow into elections across our country after the Citizens United decision, we need the DISCLOSE Act now more than ever.”

California Clean Money Campaign president Trent Lange said more than 350 groups and individuals signed on to support the last version of this bill and more than 84,000 Californians signed petitions for it, “demonstrating the rising outcry to stop Big Money special interests from deceiving voters when they fund political ads.”

Actually, this effort has had several iterations recently. AB 1148 last January got 52 Assembly votes, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass. And AB 1648 was passed by the Assembly in August after being amended to require only a simply majority vote, but was stuck in a state Senate committee at the end of the last session. Both of those bills were authored by then-Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, now congresswoman-elect for the 26th House District.

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, campaign finance, Jerry Hill, Mark Leno | No Comments »

Boxer pitches grants, Guardsmen for safer schools

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer today introduced two new bills that she said will strengthen safety at schools by giving state and local officials new resources and tools to help them secure their campuses and protect students.

Barbara Boxer“When our children and our grandchildren are at school, we must have faith that they are safe,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release. “This legislation will help state and local officials protect our children by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal.”

One bill – the School Safety Enhancements Act – would strengthen and expand the Justice Department’s existing COPS Secure Our Schools grants program to provide schools with more resources to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, secured entrances and other important safety measures.

The program currently requires a 50 percent local match, but Boxer’s bill would let the Justice Department reduce the local share to 20 percent for schools with limited resources. The bill also creates a joint task force between the Justice Department and the Department of Education to develop new school safety guidelines, and would increase the Secure Our Schools authorization from $30 million to $50 million.

Boxer’s second bill – the Save Our Schools (SOS) Act – would let the federal government reimburse governors who want to use National Guard troops to help ensure that our nation’s schools are safe.

It’s modeled after a successful National Guard program – in place since 1989 – that lets governors use Guardsmen to assist with law enforcement efforts related to drug interdiction activities. Under the new program, Guard troops could help support local law enforcement agencies to ensure schools are safe. The National Guard has said it is “particularly well suited for domestic law enforcement support missions” because it is “located in over 3,000 local communities throughout the nation, readily accessible, routinely exercised with local first responders, and experienced in supporting neighboring communities.”

Boxer said bills like this are only part of a comprehensive response to Friday’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school; she also wants new gun control laws, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as controls to ensure that the mentally ill can’t buy guns.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, Public safety, U.S. Senate | 24 Comments »

Thompson to lead House Dems’ gun control effort

Rep. Mike Thompson will be House Democrats’ point man seeking new steps Congress can take to reduce gun violence and prevent massacres like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday morning.

“As we mourn the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, we must respond with more than words; we must take action. We must be able to tell our children that we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “I am pleased to appoint Congressman Thompson to lead our task force to reduce and prevent gun violence. He is a Vietnam veteran and an avid hunter, and he is ideally suited to lead this effort, working with the Administration and in a bipartisan way, to ban assault weapons and assault magazines.”

Mike ThompsonThompson, D-Napa, said that as a father and grandfather, he’s “deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless act of violence we’re mourning in Newtown,” and he’s honored to chair an effort seeking ways to reduce and prevent such things.

“I am a gun owner, hunter, former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus, supporter of the second Amendment and a combat veteran who carried an assault rifle in Vietnam,” Thompson said. “I understand guns, their purpose and how they are used. Military-type assault weapons and assault magazines have no place on our streets or in our communities. We also need to consider instituting more detailed background checks and making sure appropriate mental health services are available. As chair of this task force I will be working on these issues as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence and strengthen our nation’s gun laws while protecting law abiding citizens’ right to own legitimate firearms.”

UPDATE @ 9 A.M.: Here’s how Thompson answered the four questions we put to all California House members for today’s front-page story:

Do you support re-enacting the federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004? Why/why not?
“Yes. I am a gun owner, hunter, former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus, supporter of the second Amendment and a combat veteran who carried an assault rifle in Vietnam. I understand guns, their purpose and how they are used. There is absolutely no reason why people should have access to military-type assault weapons or assault magazines. They serve no sporting purpose, they aid criminals, and they open the door to mass shootings like the one we’re mourning in Newtown.”

Do you believe citizens have an inalienable right to own weapons like the Bushmaster .223 rifle, along with multiple 30-round magazines, used in Newtown?
“No. I believe law-abiding, responsible Americans have the right to own legitimate firearms for legitimate purposes. But the second amendment was not written with the purpose of providing everyone with the inalienable right to sell or own military-type assault rifles and assault magazines.”

Should the right to own firearms be predicated upon a background check, including mental health, of others residing in that home?
“Yes. We need a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence. Conducting background checks and getting mental health information are an important part of an all-the-above approach to preventing gun violence.”

Would you support a federal law requiring user education, user licensing and registration of all firearms, much as we already require with cars?
“I support a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence that includes detailed background checks, meaningful mental health improvements, strict firearm registration rules, assault weapon bans and assault clip bans.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
Under: gun control, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »