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Archive for January, 2013

Open thread on Obama’s inauguration speech

In case you missed it…

What did you think of the speech? Right tone? Right content? What was missing? Share your thoughts, but no potshots between commenters, please.

Read the speech as prepared for delivery, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013
Under: Obama presidency | 20 Comments »

State targeting those who didn’t file 2011 returns

You might be getting a call soon from the state Franchise Tax Board if you didn’t file a state income tax return for 2011.

The board is contacting more than one million Californians who didn’t meet the Oct. 15, 2012 deadline. It’s comparing records of filed tax returns with more than 400 million income records it receives each year from third parties to find those who earned California income but didn’t file a return. The FTB gets income information from the IRS, banks, employers, state departments, and other sources, and also uses occupational licenses and mortgage interest payment information to detect others who may also have a requirement to file a state tax return.

Around here, the FTB is looking up 27,751 people in Alameda County; 19,466 in Contra Costa County; 10,855 in San Mateo County; 25,435 in Santa Clara County, and 3,876 in Santa Cruz County. Last year, FTB collected more than $714 million statewide through these efforts.

Those contacted have 30 days to file a state tax return or show why one is not due. When a required return is not filed, FTB issues a tax assessment using income records to estimate the amount of state tax due; that assessment includes interest, fees, and penalties that can total up to 50 percent.

Posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Under: taxes | 7 Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s gun control plan

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who chairs House Democrats’ task force on gun violence:

“The president and our task force agree that we need a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent gun violence. Executive action can and should be part of the process, and many of the executive actions announced today will have a positive influence on reducing gun violence. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and do what needs to be done to save lives. Many of the policies that will have the greatest impact on reducing gun violence will require Congressional action.

“During the next several weeks our task force will examine the president’s proposals and the proposals of others. We will continue meeting with stakeholders on every side of this issue. And we will develop a comprehensive set of policy proposals that both respect peoples’ 2nd Amendment rights and help keep our communities safe from gun violence.”

From the National Rifle Association:

“Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.

“The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children.

“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who has introduced a bill to regulate ammunition sales in California:

“I applaud President Obama for presenting a comprehensive plan that will help reduce the gun violence ravaging our communities and, hopefully, stop the rash of mass shootings that have become an all-too-common occurrence.

“California has tough gun laws but our ability to address gun violence is undermined when one can bypass California rules by crossing state lines. Federal action is needed to ensure the effectiveness of our state laws.

“As public opinion shows, strong support for gun control exists nationally in favor of enforcement and regulations to bulletproof our communities from devastating gun violence.”

From Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms:

“Suddenly Mr. Obama wants to get more criminal and mental health records into the NICS background check data base and get a permanent director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Where has he been for the last four years?

“Perhaps he was too busy during his first term, while his administration was running thousands of assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition and countless high capacity magazines to violent criminals and drug cartel thugs through his administration’s Fast & Furious program. Now he wants to take away our Second Amendment rights when he and his friends have put more assault weapons in the wrong hands than all of organized crime?

“These firearms have been used not only to kill a Border Patrol agent, but also hundreds of people including women and children. This policy has resulted in more deaths and carnage than all the mass shootings in the United States in last ten years.

“The measures being proposed by the president will not prevent a repeat of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and he knows it. The initials ‘B. O.’ stand for more than Barack Obama. They stand for the bad odor of his blame game.”

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

Posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, gun control, Jackie Speier, Leland Yee, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Skinner, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 30 Comments »

NRA’s “Practice Range” app raises gun foes’ ire

Gun-control advocates are hopping mad about the National Rifle Association’s new “Practice Range” target-shooting app now on sale in Apple’s iTunes store.

The free app became available this weekend, a month after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre renewed the national debate on gun control and gun violence – and after NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed violent video games as helping to create a culture of violence that’s to blame for such events.

The Courage Campaign, one of many liberal groups decrying the app, has started an online petition urging Apple CEO Tim Cook to dump the app from the store.

“This is a classic example of everything that is wrong with the NRA. Instead of coming to the table with constructive ideas to reduce gun violence, the NRA is instead developing a video game that glorifies guns and gun violence,” Courage Campaign online programs director Adam Bink said in a news release. “It is yet another shameful example, in a long list of shameful examples, of the destructive role the NRA plays in reducing gun violence and making our schools, communities and streets safer. We are calling on Apple to reject this app. It has no business being in the hands of kids across this country.”

ABC News reports the app was released Sunday for children ages 4 and up, but its description was updated today to rate it for ages 12 and up.

I’ve downloaded the app to my iPhone; it appears to have indoor range, outdoor range and skeet shoot options but none in which you’re shooting at anything alive. It allows you to choose from among several different kinds of weapon, although some remain locked unless you buy the option for 99 cents.

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Under: gun control | 3 Comments »

Special ticket deal for gun-control forum Thursday

The rhetoric could get hot at a gun-control this Thursday evening in San Francisco.

The Commonwealth Club of California is convening a panel on “Gun Laws: California and The Nation – What Should Be Done?” at 6 p.m. Thursday in its offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. (at Second) in San Francisco.

Scheduled to participate are Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who has introduced a bill to regulate ammunition sales; Benjamin Van Houten, managing attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; San Francisco Police Sgt. Kelly Dunn, who serves in her department’s Special Victims and Psychiatric Liaison units; and Calguns Foundation cofounder and chairman Gene Hoffman, with San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz as the moderator.

“Our panel will discuss the national issues and California’s role in the dialogue regarding proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, to pass stricter laws to buy and license guns and ammunition, to require gun vendors to do background checks on potential owners, and report sales so law enforcement can track guns and their owners,” the club says.

Tickets cost $20 for the general public or $12 for club members and are free for students with valid ID, but the club is offering a special deal in which anyone can get tickets at the member price: Just use the coupon ID “specialforguns” when ordering online.

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Under: Assembly, gun control, Nancy Skinner | No Comments »

Ideas that won inauguration tix from Mike Honda

As President Obama’s second inauguration approaches, members of Congress have been handing out tickets to the big event. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, took a slightly different approach, asking applicants for the tickets to offer good legislative ideas. Honda today released excerpts from the winning submissions.

From Kennon Lee of San Jose, a recent college graduate:

Sometimes the simple solutions are the most effective. So this is mine: expand the Peace Corps. Forge a partnership with California’s public schools to integrate Peace Corps service as a complement to our world-class university system. Establish a university fellowship for students with financial need, funding their public education in exchange for a Peace Corps tour after graduation. Awardees can be encouraged to continue their careers as civil servants at the state or government level; their cross-cultural skills would be invaluable as California grows ever more diverse. Lastly, engage youth at an earlier age. Convince local school districts to work closely with Peace Corps recruitment centers so that RPCVs can inspire young students. I still remember when an RPCV visited my elementary school class; it was magic.

Of course, there must also be a financial element– in order to accommodate more Volunteers, the Peace Corps must receive additional funding. However, the cost is so small and the benefits so great. How many Volunteers, and future civic leaders, could be funded by the equivalent of a single Lockheed F-35? In return, we will strengthen our future pool of talented young (and old!) professionals. They will make lasting connections overseas, strengthening our global ties and prompting future cultural and commercial exchange. We will also provide an outlet for job seekers discouraged and disillusioned by the dismal financial climate. They can focus their energies overseas, gain practical skills, and return to the U.S. as highly marketable employees and job creators.

Despite these benefits, I concede that it will not be politically expedient to request additional funding for an organization like the Peace Corps. But I believe that you have earned the trust of constituents and colleagues alike, and can convince them with reasoned arguments that long-term solutions are what California needs. Fight the good fight. I and every other Peace Corps Volunteer, past, present and future, thank you for it.

From Abdul Banafa, 20, of Milpitas, a Mission College student and IT support intern at ProHealth Home Care:

Invest in small business’s not the banks, put money back into public education, invest more in the people less in the military. Unit prices are going up every year and I know so many people who have gotten accepted but couldn’t attend universities because of the price including me. Invest in the new working class! Ask people what they want, more accessible and well-advertised means of contacting our representatives, I know a lot of people who don’t even know who our rep is, we need to put it in people’s faces that you guys are here to help us and maybe an idea will come up from there. I don’t know if you remember me, but when I was a senior in high school you were going to come to my American Government class but were busy so you sent a representative, from Milpitas High!

From William Zhoa Wilson, a 9th grader from Los Gatos* who attends the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach:

Our top priority must be to give the children of America a solid, thorough education. However, in order to achieve this goal, our current system requires a severe revamp. Our education system hires teachers that, whether good or bad, are essentially non-dischargeable, so that there is little to no motivation for some of these teachers to expend effort on teaching. These teachers are usually hired by public schools, and this discourages parents from sending their children to these schools, resulting in a loss of funding and a downward spiral. In order to ensure our children’s education, we must be able to:
1. Ensure that our educators are up to the task.
2. Attract teachers who are well trained and suitable for the job of educating children of any age.
3. Identify struggling students and be able to give them help in whatever subject they require.

(* Per Honda spokesman Michael Shank, “Since the Los Gatos (address) idea was so good, and since it was a high school student submitting it, we decided to take one from CA-15, Honda’s old district, since the transfer just happened.”)

Posted on Monday, January 14th, 2013
Under: Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

House Dems step up their gun-violence dialogue

House Democrats will stepping up the dialogue next week on how best to prevent gun violence.

Mike ThompsonRep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, a combat veteran and avid hunter whom House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tapped last month to head up a gun-violence task force, held three town hall meetings on the topic this past week in Napa, Vallejo and Santa Rosa. On Monday, Thompson will join U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and Center for American Progress President and CEO Neera Tanden for a CAP-sponsored forum in Washington, D.C., on legislation and policies to reduce gun violence.

Pelosi and Thompson, along with Democratic Steering and Policy Committee co-chairs Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rob Andrews, D-N.J., will hold a hearing next Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill entitled “Gun Violence Prevention: A Call to Action.” Among those scheduled to take part are Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Chaska, Minn., police chief Scott Knight, the former chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Firearms Committee; Emily Nottingham, whose son, Gabe Zimmerman, was slain in the 2011 assassination attempt upon Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz.; and Newtown, Conn., schools superintendent Janet Robinson.

Vice President Joe Biden convened a series of meetings this past week on curbing gun violence, and DeLauro was joined today by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and two other lawmakers in urging Biden to push for more firearms research by the Health and Human Services Department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 1997 have been under a restriction that effectively keeps it from conducting any research or analysis related to gun violence, they wrote.

“We conduct evidence-based research into car crashes, drowning, poisoning, child abuse, and all other causes of accidents and injuries,” the lawmakers wrote to Biden. “We should be doing the same kind of research in order to determine how best to prevent firearm injuries and save lives. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to include a proposal recommending the end of this appropriations restriction and enhanced research on gun-related violence as part of your Task Force’s upcoming recommendations.”

Read the full text of the lawmakers’ letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, gun control, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Public safety, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

An unfortunately timed pro-gun missive

A California gun-rights leader sarcastically thanked U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this morning for driving more people into the arms of the National Rifle Association with her promise to reinstate a federal assault weapons ban – and said the NRA is actually too liberal for his tastes.

Minutes later, news began to break about a shooting at a Kern County high school.

Charles NicholsCalifornia Right to Carry president Charles Nichols of Torrance claimed in an e-mail that NRA leaders are “dancing with joy” as “100,000 people have joined the so called gun-rights organization in the last 18 days thanks to the ultra-liberal leftist Senior Senator from the left-coast state of California who announced that she will soon be introducing a bill that would either ban or require the registration of nearly every handgun, rifle and shotgun ever made. That’s a minimum of $2,500,000.00 into the coffers of the NRA from new memberships sold in just the last 18 days alone.”

But Nichols wrote that the NRA is unlikely to spend a lot of money fighting the legislation, and claimed the NRA has been too soft on past legislation and lawsuits.

“Ironically, the NRA also supports Gun Free School Zones despite what its spokesmen may say on TV,” he wrote. “What the NRA says to the public and what it says in legal briefs are two completely different things. … Senator Feinstein thinks it would be drastic but I suspect many members of the NRA believe that gun free zones should be abolished along with prohibitions on carrying loaded firearms in public.”

I got that email at 9:27 a.m. The Associated Press reports the shooting at Taft Union High School in Taft (near Bakersfield) happened around 9 a.m.

“Today comes word of another tragic shooting at an American school. I have visited this school over the years—in fact, my own father attended Taft Union,” Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote later this morning. “At this moment my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and I wish them a speedy recovery. But how many more shootings must there be in America before we come to the realization that guns and grievances do not belong together?”

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, gun control, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

What they’re saying about the governor’s budget

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“This is a proposal that clearly shows California has turned the corner. The Governor’s budget is sober, restrained and forward thinking, and I believe it’s a solid foundation for the budget process. I am looking forward to thorough and insightful public hearings as we work with the Governor to adopt the final budget by our Constitutional deadline.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“It’s easy for Gov. Brown to tout austerity and fiscal restraint when he has more of the taxpayers’ money in his pocket. His challenge will be to follow through on those promises when the economy continues to stagnate and the Democrats’ pie-in-the-sky projections don’t come to pass. That’s why Republican legislative leadership correctly proposed this week for the Governor to mandate that his new Prop 30 taxes fund our classrooms and protect our communities.

“What’s disappointing about Gov. Brown’s announcement is that job creation was never mentioned. Cutting the regulatory burden was ignored. Working with Republicans to unify the state is sadly not part of his agenda. In order for California to finally emerge from its economic doldrums and enter a new Golden Age, the answer lies with policies that encourage job growth and unleash the innovation of small business owners, not with budget wrangling and deferred payments that mask billions in debt to the federal government for unemployment insurance and more.

“We need bold reforms to go hand in hand with accountability and responsible fiscal governance if we want to return California and its citizens to prosperity. If Jerry Brown thinks we’re out of the woods just because, on paper, we’ll finally be ‘living within our means,’ he’s sadly mistaken.”

From state Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

“The budget proposal released today by Governor Brown is the most positive one we have seen in half a decade. The budget is narrowly balanced and contains elements that ensure a modest reserve. However, it reflects the difficult cuts and decisions the Legislature and Governor have made in the past few years to address the state’s structural budget deficit. It also demonstrates the confidence entrusted in us by voters in November who recognized that our fiscal situation was untenable without new temporary revenues. Although we are still under fiscal constraints, I am hopeful we are now past the period of devastating cuts we saw in previous years to education and programs that provide critical aid to elderly Californians, disabled people and working families.

“With the improvement of our fiscal outlook comes the opportunity to continue our work to restore California. While our recent efforts have focused largely on making cuts in the least harmful manner possible, we will now have more capacity to refine our work to improve essential programs and analyze the role of government and its effectiveness. I look forward to working with Governor Brown and my colleagues in the Legislature to evaluate this year’s budget to help ensure it is the best possible plan for a state on the mend.”

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

“New funding for our classrooms is a positive step forward for California. However, the Governor’s budget only seems to include $2.7 billion in new funding for K-12 schools and community colleges even though Proposition 30 taxes will generate $6 billion this year alone – Californians should be disappointed.

“I remain concerned that while state spending is being increased by $5 billion over last year, much of this money is used to expand state programs and provides major pay and benefit increases for state employees.

“Basically, this budget is balanced by a $50 billion tax increase, and Californians have yet to see any real, long-term plan to bring back jobs and help our struggling families.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Rob Bonta, state budget | No Comments »

Hilda Solis resigns as U.S. Secretary of Labor

Hilda Solis has resigned from her post as U.S. Secretary of Labor, the Washington Post reports. Before taking the post in 2009, Solis was a Democratic congresswoman from El Monte for eight years, and earlier yet was a state Senator and Assemblywoman.

President Obama issued this statement:

“Over her long career in public service – as an advocate for environmental justice in California, state legislator, member of Congress and Secretary of Labor – Hilda Solis has been a tireless champion for working families. Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class. Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work. I am grateful to Secretary Solis for her steadfast commitment and service not only to the Administration, but on behalf of the American people. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Under: Labor politics, Obama presidency | 13 Comments »