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Archive for December, 2012

Millionaires to Congress: Take our taxes, please

With the fiscal cliff approaching, four dozen California millionaires have renewed their call for Congress to let tax cuts expire for America’s richest citizens.

The millionaires are part of the national group Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, a movement of more than 200 Americans with incomes over $1 million a year calling for higher taxes on incomes of that level. They’re joining with The Action, a broad coalition of labor and progressive groups pursuing the same goal.

“The rich have done extremely well in America for the past 30 years and it is past time for them to begin paying more taxes to support better public services,” retired attorney Guy Saperstein of Piedmont, one of the millionaires, said in today’s news release.

Another of the millionaires, former Wall Street Executive and author Ken Morris of Ross, said “fiscal intelligence suffered while millionaires benefited from GOP intransigence on fair taxation for far too long.”

“For the sake of renewing middle class economic health, it is high time to undo those policies by allowing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to expire,” he said.

Follow after the jump for a full list of the California millionaires…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
Under: taxes | 8 Comments »

Act now for tickets to Obama’s re-inauguration

Bay Area members of Congress are offering their constituents chances to win free tickets to President Barack Obama’s re-inauguration Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C., but one lawmaker wants applicants to sing for their supper.

“Please write a paragraph of at least 5 sentences, submit a video, or draw a picture suggesting an innovative idea either to put Americans back to work, or ensure that each and every child has access to a quality education,” Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, asks 17th Congressional District constituents seeking tickets.

Entries (only one per person) must be posted as responses on the congressman’s Facebook page by Thursday, Jan. 3.

Other local members are doing it on a more straightforward lottery basis; you can apply only through your own House member, or through either of California’s U.S. Senators.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield: Call 202-225-1880

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa: Email here or call 202-225-3311 or 707-226-9898

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton: Call 202-225-1947 or 209-476-8552

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez: Apply here

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco: Call 202-225-4965

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: Apply here

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: deadline already passed

Rep.-elect Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: available in January

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: deadline already passed

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: Call 202-225-3072

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz: Join stand-by list here

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif: Apply here

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: Apply here

If leaving a voice-mail message, be sure to include your full name, address, city, phone number, e-mail address and number of tickets requested.

Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Local House members seek targeted defense cuts

Three Bay Area House members were among a bipartisan contingent that asked President Obama and congressional leaders Monday to find targeted but substantial cuts in defense spending as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

The letter’s 22 signatories included Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell.

“The Pentagon’s budget has increased dramatically over the last decade, due in large part to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” they wrote. “As we transition from wartime to peacetime, and as we confront our nation’s fiscal challenges, future defense budgets should reflect the conclusion of these wars and acknowledge that our modern military is able to approach conflicts utilizing fewer – but more advanced – resources. Congress must consider these changes, not past spending or percentages of GDP, and move toward defense budgeting that focuses on meeting specific military requirements.”

The letter noted the Cato Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Taxpayers Union, the Project on Defense Alternatives have released plans to save up to $550 billion in defense spending without harming national security.

The sequestration scheduled to hit in January – enacted under the mid-2011 budget deal that ended that summer’s debt-limit standoff – will mean $110 billion in cuts, split evenly between defense spending and discretionary domestic spending. But these are across-the-board cuts, affecting all programs regardless of utility; lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see this as surgery with a chainsaw rather than a scalpel.

Posted on Monday, December 10th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Garamendi raising funds to pay off campaign debt

With a hard-fought re-election race done, Rep. John Garamendi needs more money to pay off his campaign debts.

Garamendi, D-Fairfield, will hold a fundraising luncheon Monday at an Italian restaurant in South San Francisco, seeking from $500 to $2,500 per person.

Garamendi fended off a challenge from Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, a Republican, in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District. He finished with 54.1 percent of the vote to Vann’s 45.9 percent, according to still-unofficial results scheduled to be certified next week.

As of Oct. 17 – the final reporting deadline before the election – Garamendi’s campaign had outspent Vann’s by about 43 percent, but had only $112,698 cash on hand with $132,354 in outstanding debts and obligations.

Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, campaign finance, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

What they’re saying about SCOTUS & gay marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it will review the constitutionality both of California’s Proposition 8 of 2010, which wrote a ban on gay-marriage into the state’s constitution, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Here’s a sampling of the reactions.

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

Gavin Newsom“Today marks the beginning of the end for a California journey that started eight years ago when San Francisco issued same-sex marriage licenses. By agreeing to hear the Proposition 8 case the U.S. Supreme Court could end, once and for all, marriage inequity in California.

“Forty-five years after the Supreme Court ruled that marriages between interracial couples were constitutional in Loving vs. Virginia, Justices can once again reaffirm the basic American principal of equality for all.

“The singling out a class of Californians for discrimination violates the basic principles of who we are as a nation. It is important at this moment in time to recognize that individuals can be mightier together than apart, that there is strength in our diversity, power when we unite around our shared values and success when we advance together.

“Today’s announcement starts the clock towards the final decision for California. History will one day be divided into the time before marriage equality and the period that follows. And thankfully, we will be on the side of history worthy of being proud of.”

From National Organization for Marriage Chairman John Eastman:

John Eastman“We believe that it is significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop 8 case. We believe it is a strong signal that the Court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8. That is the right outcome based on the law and based on the principle that voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect.”

“Had the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts’ decisions invalidating Proposition 8, it could simply have declined to grant certiorari in the case. It’s a strong signal that the justices are concerned with the rogue rulings that have come out of San Francisco at both the trial court and appellate levels. It’s worth noting that Judge Reinhart is the most overruled judge in America. I think this case will add to his record.”

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court will review lower-court decisions that invalidate the judgment of the U.S. Congress to define marriage as one man and one woman. It’s not the job of federal judges to substitute their views for the policy judgments of the people’s duly elected representatives. We believe the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn this exercise in judicial activism and stop federal judges from legislating from the bench on the definition of marriage. We’re confident the Court will uphold DOMA.”

From state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

Mark Leno“I am hopeful and encouraged about today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Proposition 8 case, which is one of the most significant equal rights issues to come before the court in many decades. For the past four years we have argued that Proposition 8 is not only unconstitutional, but that it also violates the basic principles of respect, dignity and validation that every American deserves. I am confident that the Supreme Court will reaffirm these fundamental freedoms and uphold that a person’s right to be treated equally does not vanish simply because of who they are or whom they love.

“The momentum for marriage equality has never been stronger in our country. We have support from President Obama, recent victories at the ballot box, and polls that show a majority of Americans are with us. In addition, federal courts continue to strike down laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I am convinced our triumphs will continue.”

From ProtectMarriage.com general counsel Andy Pugno:

Andy Pugno“Every one of the numerous legal steps we have taken for the past four years has been in anticipation of this moment. Arguing this case before the Supreme Court finally gives us a chance at a fair hearing, something that hasn’t been afforded to the People since we began this fight.”

“We are delighted that the nation’s highest court will decide whether to uphold the will of more than seven million Californians who voted to preserve the unique definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman.”

More after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

A new push for ‘split-roll’ property taxes

Hot on the heels of a poll showing support for altering Proposition 13 so commercial properties can be taxed at their current value, a Bay Area lawmaker says he’ll pursue exactly that.

The “split roll” property tax, in which all of Proposition 13’s protections for residential properties would remain but commercial properties would be regularly re-assessed, has been a goal of many Democrats for quite some time. But now, with a super-majority in both the Assembly and the state Senate as well as a Democratic governor, they may be in a position to actually do something about it.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll found majorities – 57 percent of adults, 58 percent of likely voters – favor such a plan; it’s supported by 66 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents, while Republicans are split (47 percent in favor, 48 percent opposed). The poll of 2,001 Californians was conducted Nov. 13-20; it has a 3.5-percentage-point margin of error for all adults and a 4-point margin of error for likely voters.

Tom AmmianoAssemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, announced this morning he’ll introduce commercial re-assessment legislation this session – not his first bite at this apple, but perhaps he’s feeling better about his chances.

“Prop. 13 is not the untouchable third-rail anymore. It’s more like the bad guy with the mustache who has tied California to the rails with the fiscal train wreck coming,” he said in his news release. “This year’s election, both at the federal and state level, shows that people recognize we have to improve revenue to maintain needed services. Reform of Prop. 13 is one possibility.”

Actually changing Proposition 13 would require another ballot measure, but Ammiano aims to reduce corporations’ ability to structure ownership to avoid having property reassessed when it changes hands. The change would not be a tax increase, he noted, but would increase needed revenues for education and other uses by taxing properties at their actual value, rather than leaving those values at artificially depressed levels.

“Corporations want to be treated as people when it suits them, as in the Citizens United case, but when it comes to paying their fair share of taxes, they are looking for a deal that real people – like you and your neighbor – can’t get,” he said.

Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Under: Assembly, polls, taxes, Tom Ammiano | 23 Comments »

A few more bits from Bill Clinton’s speech

As you’d expect, there was plenty more from 90 minutes of Bill Clinton in Cupertino last night than I could fit into my story.

On Afghanistan: “Unless you want to stay 25 more years, we might as well get out now,” Clinton said, noting that nothing costs a nation more in fortune and human toll than a war. “It’s time to come home – we’ve paid and paid and paid.”

On climate change: California will be glad it adopted a renewable energy portfolio standard, which will put it at the forefront of abandoning fossil fuels. Meanwhile, he said, there’s no easier and cheaper way to address energy supply and climate change than to invest in making existing buildings more energy efficient, which also creates good-paying jobs. “That used to be a conservative principle: Do more with less.”

On infrastructure: Even as the nation debates how to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” it should be looking ahead. South Korea’s average download time is four times faster than the United States’, he said, underscoring the need for public investment in a uniform, nationwide broadband infrastructure. “In all this budget debate, don’t forget the future.”

On staying in shape: Clinton discussed his heart disease, his 2004 coronary artery bypass surgery and the vegan diet he has adopted since. He said he now weighs 185 pounds – seven pounds less than his weight at his high school graduation, “but alas, it’s distributed differently.”

On his genes: Clinton digressed during his speech to talk about the interesting times in which we live, from our search for the possibility of extraterrestrial life to our discovery of the Higgs boson. He singled out the relatively recent discovery that elements of Neanderthal genome remain in most modern non-African humans; he said he’d excitedly told his wife and daughter about this discovery – and was told by both that they’d always been pretty sure he had some Neanderthal in him.

Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Under: Bill Clinton | No Comments »

Lee pushes for unemployment benefit extension

Rep. Barbara Lee is helping to leading dozens of House members in demanding that an extension of emergency unemployment benefits be part of whatever “fiscal cliff” solution is worked out between Congress and the White House.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)When I interviewed Lee, D-Oakland, last week for my story in Saturday’s editions about the Bay Area delegation’s stance on the negotiations, she had said this was among her top priorities.

Congress in February reduced the maximum number of weeks from 99 to 73 — which Lee called “totally unconscionable” — and now it’s about to fall back to six months, cutting off more than 2 million people. Maintaining the benefits until at least 73 weeks is imperative, she said.

“Not only is it the right thing to do but it’s the economically prudent thing to do,” Lee said last week, noting that unemployment benefit dollars usually go directly out into the economy as the jobless feed, clothe and shelter their families.

So Lee and Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., sent a letter to House and Senate leaders yesterday requesting a full and robust extension, signed by 78 House members including George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

“Every one dollar spent on unemployment insurance generates $1.55 in economic activity,” Lee said in a news release today. “With millions of Americans still struggling to recover from the recession, we cannot afford to strip one of the only remaining lifelines for workers that are eager to get back to work.”

Read the entire Lee/Peters letter, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Miller steps down as Dem policy committee’s chair

Rep. George Miller is stepping down from his decade-long chairmanship of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a post in which he was a top advisor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release Tuesday that it’s been an honor to serve under Pelosi’s direction, and before that under Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt. “I thank the leader for her confidence in me and I look forward to working with Steering and Policy as a member of the committee in the 113th Congress.”

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Miller “has been an extraordinary, dedicated, valued member of our Democratic leadership team, and we will continue to rely on his counsel, energy, and wisdom as we work together to move our country forward in the next Congress.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., will co-chair the panel in the new Congress.

“The leaders and members of the Steering Committee reflect the diversity, energy, bold ideas, and creative thinking of all House Democrats, and embody our Democratic commitment to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and grow the economy,” Pelosi said in her release. “With Congresswoman DeLauro and Congressman Andrews at the helm, this committee will play a central role in addressing the challenges facing our families, small businesses, and communities nationwide.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is among the regionally elected members of the committee – representing Northern California, Hawaii and Alaska plus American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands – while Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, joins Miller among the appointed members.

UPDATE @ 3:06 P.M.: Miller says he now wants to turn his full attention “to working with the chair and members of the Education and Workforce Committee on the growing backlog of legislation near and dear to my heart and that are critical to growing our economy – for example, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, raising the minimum wage, and protecting miners’ safety and health. The American people are counting on Congress to work in a bi-partisan manner to move these policies forward.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Poll: Even split on marijuana legalization

Americans are evenly split over whether marijuana should be legalized, but far more Americans believe legalization is a matter for states to decide than for the federal government, according to a new CBS News poll.

The poll released last week found 47 percent of Americans favor legalization while 47 percent oppose it. And 59 percent believe whether to legalize marijuana should be left up to each individual state to decide, while 34 percent say it should be a matter for the federal government to decide.

But that support for state jurisdiction actually has declined from 62 percent in September. In the interim, Washington State and Colorado voters last month approved ballot measures to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use for people age 21 and up. A similar measure in California – Proposition 19 of 2010 – was rejected by voters; California has no proposed ballot measures or legislative bills on marijuana legalization currently pending.

Still, drug reformers take the poll as proof that states should be allowed to make their own choices.

“The big question on everyone’s mind is – how will the federal government respond to the decisive victories in Colorado and Washington?” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a news release. “What this new poll shows is that Americans believe that states should be able to move forward with the responsible regulation of marijuana. The Obama administration would be wise to allow them to do so.”

This CBS News poll was conducted by telephone from Nov. 16-19 among 1,100 adults nationwide, including both land-line and cell phones; it has a three-percentage-point margin of error.

Other polls over recent years have shown a slow but steady trend in favor of legalization.

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Under: marijuana, polls | 1 Comment »