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.


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.”


$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

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.


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.”