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.


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.”


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…
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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.


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.”


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.