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Archive for January, 2013

Jackie Speier to co-host gun buyback tomorrow

A Bay Area Congresswoman serving on House Democrats’ gun-violence task force is co-sponsoring an anonymous gun buyback tomorrow.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier and San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks will host the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 in the San Mateo County Event Center, 2495 S. Delaware St. in San Mateo. Anyone can surrender weapons, no questions asked, and receive up to $100 cash for a handgun, shotgun or rifle, or up to $200 cash for an assault weapon.

“Gun buybacks are a powerful tool to make our streets and schools safer,” Speier said in a news release. “There is no reason we need 90 weapons per 100 Americans, making the U.S. the most heavily armed society in the world. Buybacks are convenient opportunities for responsible gun owners to get rid of guns they no longer want. Fewer guns also mean fewer accidents and fewer chances for guns to fall into the wrong hands.”

Speier – who attended a gun-violence task force hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa – will also hold a town hall meeting with constituents from 1 to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at Temple United Methodist Church, 63 Beverly St. in San Francisco.

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2013
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

Eric Swalwell offers a ‘Ride With Your Rep’

Rep. Eric Swalwell has a new twist on the “Congress on Your Corner” meetings that many lawmakers hold with constituents.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, will hold his first “Ride With Your Rep” event tomorrow morning, Saturday, Jan. 26, in which constituents can chat up the freshman lawmaker while taking a bike ride through part of the district.

“I look forward to hosting my first Ridewith Your Rep event tomorrow and talking with East Bay residents as we bike through the community,” said Swalwell.

“This will give everyone a chance to discuss important issues while getting exercise, having fun, and experiencing the wonderful environment we are lucky to have in the Tri-Valley,” Swalwell said in a news release.

Constituents are invited to meet Swalwell at 9:30 a.m. at the Dublin Cyclery, 7001 Dublin Blvd. in Dublin; the ride will start at 10:00 a.m., bound for downtown Pleasanton, where the group can lunch at the Main Street Café, 401 Main St. For more information, call Swalwell’s district office at 925-460-5100.

Swalwell, 32, defeated 20-term incumbent Pete Stark in November to represent the 15th Congressional District.

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Karl Rove to keynote state GOP’s convention

Karl RoveKarl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, will keynote the Saturday-night banquet at the California Republican Party’s 2013 Spring Convention March 1-3 at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento.

Rove – among the most respected or reviled political strategists of modern times, depending on your point of view – oversaw the Bush White House’s offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs. He also was deputy chief of staff for policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before becoming known as “The Architect” of Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, non-partisan causes, and non-profit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional, and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden. He is also a Fox News contributor and writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal.

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Under: Republican Party | 5 Comments »

Barbara Boxer introduces school-safety bills

Even as one of California’s U.S. Senators was busy today introducing a new federal assault weapons ban bill, the other was introducing three bills to strengthen school safety – including efforts that jibe with calls for more armed guards in schools.

“We owe it to our children and our grandchildren to ensure that they are safe when they are at school,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release. “This legislation would give local communities and schools that want to strengthen security the opportunity for new resources and tools to help keep students safe.”

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

The program now 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 Education Department to develop new school safety guidelines, and would boost the Secure Our Schools authorization from $30 million to $100 million.

The School Resource and Safety Officer Act would use community policing strategies to prevent violence and improve student safety by making grants available for local governments to put trained, sworn career law enforcement officials at schools. Cities and school districts that meet the requirements could receive grants of up to $200,000 for each “School Resource and Safety Officer.”

The Save Our Students (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 aid law enforcement efforts related to drug interdiction activities; under this bill, guardsmen could support local law enforcement efforts to keep schools safe, such as helping with security upgrades or relieving local police so officers can do more patrols at schools.

Boxer noted 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.”

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Reax to Gov. Jerry Brown’s ‘State of the State’

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

“We enter 2013 surrounded by the most positive atmosphere in several years, and the Governor’s State of the State address points us toward the great potential that lies ahead for California. With bold action, the Legislature worked with Governor Brown to weather the storm of fiscal adversity in perhaps the most difficult period in modern California history. We handled that well; we can also handle success in the better times that lie ahead.

“I join the Governor in his call for fiscal restraint, but neither can we be afraid to be bold in our vision for California. We cannot spend money that we don’t have, and we won’t. As the economy grows, we will develop smart strategies to pay down debt, to build-up our reserves, and also to begin restoring what’s been lost when the opportunity is there to do so.

“We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work to further restore the promise of this great state.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar:

“We share the Governor’s optimism and celebration of California’s entrepreneurial spirit, business community and educators. We are encouraged by the Governor’s acknowledgement that we need to pay down debt, develop a rainy day fund, and avoid saddling our college students with more tuition increases.

“We look forward to working with the Governor on education reforms to ensure that all California students can obtain a world class education.

“While the Governor acknowledged the loss of jobs in California and focused on job creation in Silicon Valley, he did not offer any substantive proposals for job creation or helping California’s working families. The long-term solution to California’s economic challenges is to get Californians back to work.”

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley:

“Governor Brown’s State of the State address was a breath of fresh air and the first time since my start in the Assembly that the dark cloud of deficits was lifted.

“To the naysayers who doubted California’s ability to bounce back from the worst global economic collapse in recent memory, the Governor reminded us that together Sacramento and California voters acted decisively and proved them wrong. Our state is on its way to economic recovery.

“I commend Governor Brown for his message of optimism and boldness that reflects a return to California the great. He outlined our past and present efforts that will continue to secure California’s status as the golden state with unparalleled education opportunities, global leadership on transportation, clean energy and climate change and an innovative, growing economy.

“While restraint is necessary to not invite the next bust cycle, restoration of essential safety net services is also important to support Californians still hurting from the economic downturn.

“I am proud that, among the achievements mentioned by Governor Brown, legislation I authored is among accomplishments that have helped pave the way for internet sales taxes, responsible for over 1,000 new jobs in the state and California’s achievement of more than 20 percent renewable energy this year.

“It’s an exciting time for California – and a proud moment for all – as we continue the work ahead of shaping a stronger economy, fueling technology, expanding health care, supporting education and combatting climate change.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“Today, the Governor wasn’t so much kicking the can down the road as he was hiding the can entirely. And while we’re glad he embraced a number of key Republican proposals, there’s still no plan to create jobs. If you’re unemployed, you want action, not rhetoric.

“His bold proclamations of an economic turnaround conveniently ignored the facts: our cities are going bankrupt because they can’t pay off pension obligations, 4.4 million taxpayers have left the state since 1998 while job creators are fleeing the worst business climate in the nation, and continuing government waste and abuse undermines any promise of fiscal restraint. It’s time for a reality check.

“The overall picture of California’s economy is not nearly as good as Gov. Brown paints it, mainly because Democrats raised taxes retroactively and have virtually guaranteed future job losses to add to the millions of Californians out of work today. This all may be ‘par for the course’ for Jerry Brown, but not for those living with less through no fault of their own. They have a much more realistic outlook and our leadership would do well to accept that reality instead of trying to blur the facts.”

Much more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, Mark DeSaulnier, Nancy Skinner, Paul Fong | No Comments »

Boxer moves to blunt future debt-limit battles

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has reintroduced a bill that would blunt the ability to use the nation’s debt limit as a political bargaining chip, as Republicans have in recent years.

Congressional Republicans say they won’t approve raising the debt limit – the legal limit on the government’s borrowing, now at $16.4 trillion – unless Democrats and President Obama agree to deficit-reduction measures; the Democrats say raising the debt limit is a matter of paying bills on money we’ve already spent, and the threat of defaulting will wreck the world’s confidence.

The House is expected to vote later today on House Republicans’ plan to suspend enforcement of the debt limit through mid-May, giving everyone some time to cool off, reposition themselves and negotiate after the recently avoided “fiscal cliff.”

Barbara BoxerBoxer, D-Calif., said her S.57, the USA AAA Credit Restoration Act, would establish a predictable and fair process for considering an increase in the debt limit in order to avoid a default that would have catastrophic impacts on the global financial system and the U.S. economy.

“The last time Republicans threatened to default on our nation’s debt, consumer confidence plummeted, our country lost its AAA credit rating and it cost taxpayers more than $18 billion,” Boxer said in a news release. “This bill will bring sanity to future debt limit debates by laying out a clear, orderly process for raising the debt ceiling while allowing all voices to be heard.”

The bill she reintroduced Tuesday would set clear timetables for the Administration to request a debt limit increase and for Congress to consider it. On the day the President submits his budget to Congress each year, the Treasury Secretary would have to submit to Congress and print in the Federal Register the amount by which the debt limit must be increased for the following year. The Administration’s request would become law automatically unless Congress voted to disapprove of the debt limit increase under an expedited procedure.

Boxer said the measure is modeled on provisions in the Budget Control Act proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., during 2011’s debt limit debate.

The debt limit has been raised about 100 times since 1940, more often under Republican presidents than under Democrats. President Ronald Reagan holds the record, at 18 debt-limit increases; no other president has exceeded 10, and Obama is now seeking his seventh.

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Mike Honda is no longer a DNC vice chair

After a more-contentious-than-usual election of the Democratic National Committee’s officers, Rep. Mike Honda is no longer a vice-chairman.

The LA Times has a good report on how “chaos reigned for a time as DNC members balked at rubber-stamping a White House-approved list of replacements for several veterans of the pre-Obama era.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., won another term as chairwoman of the national party as expected, but some lower-level offices changed hands. DNC sources tell me Honda, D-San Jose, had wanted to stay on as one of the vice-chairs but stepped aside when he saw the writing on the wall, and freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii – whom Honda was helping raise campaign funds just months ago – now holds the post instead.

“The honor and distinct pleasure of serving for nine years in DNC leadership, at the request of the President and the Democratic Party, is one that I am now thrilled to see bestowed on an increasingly diverse Democratic National Committee helm,” Honda said by email this afternoon.

“Having pounded the political pavement for the President and the Party in over 35 states, I step down as vice-chair deeply satisfied with the diversity of color and creed that has entered our ranks,” he added. “As DNC leaders, we accomplished a great deal in this last decade, leaving Congress, and the White House, more diverse than ever before. The new Democratic leadership aptly reflects the new America and I look forward to working with them, as ardently as ever, to champion and campaign our democratic cause.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
Under: Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Medical marijuana advocates lose appeal

A federal appeals court today ruled the federal Drug Enforcement Administration does not have to reconsider moving marijuana to a less-strict list of controlled substances – a significant defeat for those advocating for the drug’s medical use.

Marijuana is currently listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act – the most restrictive category for controlled substances, encompassing drugs defined as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Other drugs on that list include heroin and LSD, while methamphetamine is on the less-restrictive Schedule II.

The Coalition for Rescheduling Marijuana filed a rescheduling petition in 2002; that petition was unanswered until 2011, when the Drug Enforcement Administration denied it after advocates sued for unreasonable delay. This hearing is on the appeal of that denial.

Advocates claim the ban on marijuana is rooted in politics, not science, and that the National Institute on Drug Abuse has created a unique and unreasonable research approval process for the drug.

An appeals brief filed by Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access had argued the DEA has no “license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions, as the DEA has done in this case.”

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled today that the DEA did adhere to its own rules, and so does not have to reconsider its ruling.

According to the appeals court, the DEA was following its own rules when it claimed that petitioners for rescheduling marijuana had failed to provide “adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.” Although the petitioners had provided peer-reviewed research as to the medical benefits of marijuana, the DEA requires studies more in line with the specific trials required by the FDA.

“We defer to the agency’s interpretation of these regulations and find that substantial evidence supports its determination that such studies do not exist,” the court ruled today, later adding, “it appears that adequate and well-controlled studies are wanting not because they have been foreclosed but because they have not been completed.”

But Drug Policy Alliance senior staff attorney Tamar Todd said in a news release that advocates are stuck in a Catch-22.

“The DEA is saying that marijuana needs FDA approval to be removed from Schedule I, but at the same time they are obstructing that very research,” Todd said. “While there is a plethora of scientific evidence establishing marijuana’s safety and efficacy, the specific clinical trials necessary to gain FDA approval have long been obstructed by the federal government itself.”

Advocates say the federal government has obstructed medical marijuana research by maintaining a government monopoly on the supply of marijuana that can legally be used in research; marijuana remains the only Schedule I drug that DEA prohibits from being produced by private laboratories for scientific research. Although DEA has licensed multiple privately-funded manufacturers of all other Schedule I drugs, it permits just one facility, located at the University of Mississippi, to produce marijuana for research purposes.

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
Under: marijuana | No Comments »

Condi Rice coming soon to CBS – and Stockton

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming soon to a television, and a speaking engagement, near you.

Condoleezza-Rice-photo-by-Steve-Gladfelter-Stanford.jpgCBS News announced yesterday that Rice, 58, who is now a Stanford professor and Hoover Institution senior fellow, is now a CBS News contributor, effective immediately. “In this role, the former Secretary of State will use her insight and vast experience to explore issues facing America at home and abroad,” the news release said.

Rice, who was President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009 and his National Security Advisor from 2001 to 2005, is also a founding partner of RiceHadleyGates LLC, an international business consulting firm.

She will be featured at a March 21 forum on “Advancing Women’s Leadership,” to be held at the University of the Pacific’s Alex G. Spanos Center; tickets cost $25 and will go on sale tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 22) at the university’s box office. Proceeds will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stockton and the University’s Women’s Resource Center.

The forum aims to inspire participants, especially young women, to make a lasting, positive and powerful impact in the communities where they live and work.

“We are thrilled and proud to bring Dr. Condoleezza Rice to Stockton,” Kathleen Lagorio Janssen, chair of University of the Pacific’s Board of Regents and a member of the Advancing Women’s Leadership planning committee, said in a news release. “Her vast accomplishments on the national and global stages are an inspiration to all aspiring leaders, men and women, who are working to improve the lives of those around them.”

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013
Under: Media | 1 Comment »

Which Bay Area House seat will Ro Khanna seek?

My esteemed colleague Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle has just posted a blog item about Ro Khanna moving toward a run in the 17th Congressional District, now represented by Mike Honda, rather than the 15th District, now represented by Eric Swalwell.

Ro KhannaKhanna, you’ll recall, is the former Obama Administration Commerce Department official who raised an eye-popping $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, but chose not to challenge Rep. Pete Stark in 2012. Swalwell did, and now he’s Congressman Swalwell while Khanna is cooling his heels at Silicon Valley law powerhouse Wilson Sonsini and deciding on his next move.

Some had assumed Khanna, 36, of Fremont, would mount a 2014 challenge to the freshman Swalwell, 32, of Dublin, but it’s no secret that Khanna’s congressional campaign committee’s statement of organization specified neither the year in which he would run nor the district.

I’d heard the same rumors as Carla, and so this was among the topics I raised while having coffee with Khanna this morning at Suju’s on Thornton Avenue in Fremont, and he’s still playing it cagey – all he would say is that he’s considering all his options.

From where I sit, looking to Honda’s seat instead of Swalwell’s might make a lot of sense for Khanna. The 17th District is much more the heart of Silicon Valley than the 15th District, and Khanna’s expertise is in manufacturing, entrepreneurialism and innovation – hence his recent book on those topics.

Also, the 17th District is the continental United States’ first majority-Asian-American district, and the source of much of the money that Khanna raised in that explosive final quarter of 2011. (In fact, Honda lent his name to one of the bigger fundraisers Khanna had that season, a few years after Khanna had donated $1,000 to Honda’s 2008 campaign.)

There are a few ways this could go. Honda’s interest in an Education Department post during Obama’s first term was no secret, and it’s not beyond the pale that he could be interested in an Obama Administration post now – if not in education, than maybe the Peace Corps (of which Honda is a proud alumnus) or something that utilizes all the experience Honda, 71, has accrued in advocating for minority political action and civil rights (the EEOC?)

Or, Honda could seek an eighth House term in 2014 and Khanna could run against him. California’s top-two primary and that district’s voter registration ratio (44.4 percent Democrat, 19.1 percent Republican, 31.7 percent no-party-preference) make it likely they’d prevail in the primary and face each other in November.

Khanna could make a much stronger play for the district’s nonpartisan and Republican voters than Honda can, as Swalwell did against Stark. But I don’t think this would look much like the Stark-Swalwell smackdown of 2012, which went very negative; though Stark and Honda both are arch-liberals beloved by labor, Honda’s by most accounts is a more likeable personality and going negative on him might be counterproductive.

Still, Khanna could make a case that Honda – although a good and praise-worthy liberal Democrat – hasn’t been as effective in representing the young, tech, forward-looking voters and innovative business interests of Silicon Valley as Khanna could. It would be interesting to see whether Khanna can fire up his fundraising again in a meaningful way; what campaign consultants he can attract; and what endorsements he gets, particularly from local officials and from other members of Congress.

If Khanna does run in the 17th District, Swalwell heaves a huge sigh of relief. He’ll still probably face a challenge from fellow Democrat Ellen Corbett, who’ll be term-limited out of the state Senate in 2014; she opened a campaign committee last year too, and with fundraising not nearly so robust as Khanna’s, she too chose not to challenge Stark. “I would be honored to serve in Congress, but it’s too early to discuss 2014,” she told me in November.

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013
Under: Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 11 Comments »