East Bay lawmaker offers two gun control bills

California handguns would have to have owner-authorized safety mechanisms such as biometric readers, and stolen firearms would have to be reported within two days, under new bills from an East Bay lawmaker.

“Senseless violence occurs far too often when guns fall into the wrong hands,” state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in a news release today. “I introduced these bills to improve gun safety and help law enforcement better keep firearms out of the hands of criminals or illicit gun traffickers.”

SB 293 would require that handguns have an owner authorized safety mechanism, such as biometric readers or other technologies.

SB 299 would require that anyone whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is later recovered, local law enforcement would have to be notified within 48 hours of the recovery.

DeSaulnier said his bills also take aim at reducing gun-related suicides, by decreasing illicit guns on the streets and preventing unauthorized users from operating handguns. About about 19,000 of the nation’s more than 31,000 gun-related deaths each year are due to suicide, he said, and firearms are the nation’s leading method of suicide.

DeSaulnier last year had authored SB 1366 requiring lost or stolen firearms to be reported to local law enforcement. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill in September, writing that “(f)or the most part, responsible people report the loss or theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not,” and he was “skeptical that this bill would change those behaviors.”


Rep. Mike Honda unveils 2014 campaign team

Rep. Mike Honda on Friday continued his mega-early campaign publicity blitz – clearly aimed at convincing an ambitious fellow Democrat from challenging him next year – by announcing his campaign staff.

Honda, D-San Jose, in recent weeks has rolled out endorsements from President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and many others in order to scare off, or at least undercut, a potential challenge from former Obama administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont. Honda issued a release Friday announcing his top-shelf campaign team.

honda.jpg“The people of the 17th District get my absolute best 24/7. Our community also deserves a campaign team that reflects my commitment to the families of Silicon Valley,” he said. “Together, we will listen and engage this community to create good jobs, improve our schools and grow Silicon Valley’s influence around the world.”

Honda has hired San Francisco-based Terris, Barnes and Walters for campaign management and media consulting. The firm in 2012 ran Rep. Mike Thompson’s re-election campaign, as well as state Sen. Jim Beall’s campaign in the South Bay and state Sen. Bill Monning’s campaign for his Central Coast seat. Honda team will be led by partner Barry Barnes.

For polling, Honda picked Washington, D.C.-based Lake Research Partners, which has run numbers for all four of Rep. Jerry McNerney’s campaigns as well as for Rep. Raul Ruiz’s victory over Mary Bono Mack last year. The firm also advises Pelosi; Honda’s team will be led by Berkeley-based partner David Mermin.

Oakland-based Full Court Press Communications will handle the Honda campaign’s communications and social media. The firm recently managed communications for Proposition 35, and designed social media campaigns for five local races around the state. The team will be led by founder Dan Cohen and Sarah Hersh, a former McNerney spokeswoman.

And former Davis City Councilman Lamar Heystek will serve as Honda’s field director, as he did last year.

Khanna, who served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Commerce Department from 2009 through 2011, sat out last year’s election after raising a record-breaking $1.2 million in the final quarter of 2011 but choosing not to challenge veteran-but-vulnerable Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. Democrat Eric Swalwell took down Stark in November, and now there’s talk that Khanna might see Honda as a similar target in 2014.

Khanna’s campaign papers never specified the district or year in which he would run, and he has said he’s still mulling where and when to make his bid. “My decision on whether to run will not be based on Washington politics, it will be based on conversations in the local community,” he said early this month. “I want to determine where I can best help in aiding the community and improving our economy.”


State Senator resigns, takes job with Chevron

Cue the feeding frenzy: A California State Senate seat just became available.

State Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, announced today he’s resigning effective immediately and has accepted a job as manager of California government affairs for San Ramon-based oil giant Chevron Corp.

“As many of you know, a little over a year ago I decided not to run for the United States Congress to meet the needs of my growing family,” Rubio said in a statement issued today. “My time serving since then has been a blessing, but it has also been a challenge. I have missed too many family dinners, bedtime stories and parent-teacher conferences. My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, from whom we have learned a great deal.”

“Our youngest child, who has special needs, has given me great perspective as to life’s priorities and our eldest has reminded me that the most critical decisions are made at home and not under the Capitol dome,” he continued. “I have realized that my current professional path has left little opportunity to be home for those who are most important to me, which is why I am making a change.”

Rubio said his job with Chevron means working for a respected company “with deep roots in Kern County near the very oil fields where I was born. I am truly grateful for the rare opportunity to serve and the support I have been given. Thank you to everyone who made it possible. In my absence, Senate staff will remain in the district and Capitol offices to respond to the needs of residents of the 16th State Senate District – as they have always done.”

Rubio was elected to the 16th District in November 2010, representing all or portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties; at 35, he has been the state Senate’s youngest member. Earlier, he was a Kern County supervisor.


Activists react to bill to revoke Scouts’ tax breaks

A new California bill that would end tax breaks for youth groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation, including the Boy Scouts of America, is stirring both grassroots support and opposition.

Some California organizations, defined in a similar way to non-profit organizations under federal law, get exemptions from state corporate taxes and taxes on items they sell, such as the popcorn Scouts often sell to raise funds. SB 323 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, would end this exemption for youth groups that discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers; it also would require organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.

BSA“Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians,” Lara said Tuesday in a news release announcing the bill. “SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.”

An online petition launched by an activist and former Boy Scout to urge this bill’s passage already has more than 8,300 signatures. Petitioner Eddie Kurtz, who works with the Courage Campaign, said he joined as a Cub Scout and finished at the rank of Life Scout, one short of the Eagle Scout award.

“Scouting stands for the finest qualities of humanity: self-reliance, creativity, and an appreciation of nature. Most of all, we were taught how to act as responsible, respectful citizens,” Kurtz said in a news release Thursday. “This is why the Boy Scouts’ continued policy of excluding members based on their sexual orientation is so upsetting to me. It flies in the face of the very values that the scouting tradition professes to teach. As a straight ally, I can’t sit idle while the current leaders of the Boy Scouts disgrace this once-proud American institution with their personal bigotry.”

But the conservative Pacific Justice Institute will be working to oppose the bill; the group’s website refers to SB 323 as “forced lifestyle acceptance.”

“From the plain text of this bill, it is clear to us that SB 323 is one of the most outrageous bills we have seen in California — and that’s saying a lot,” PJI President Brad Dacus said in a news release Thursday. “We have been warning for years that the gay lobby would eventually use tax exemptions to force non-profits to capitulate to their demands, but it’s still shocking to see it actually in print and on its way to becoming law.”

Because SB 323 would essentially raise taxes on some organizations, it will require a 2/3 vote in each legislative chamber in order to pass – a majority Democrats attained in last November’s election.

The Boy Scouts of America’s executive board this month delayed a decision on whether to change its long-standing policy of excluding LGBT youths and adults; the organization’s full national council is expected to revisit the issue in May.

(Full disclosure: I’m an Eagle Scout, and a registered committee member in my son’s troop.)


Californians might weigh in on Citizens United

An East Bay Assemblyman wants Californians to vote on whether the state’s congressional delegation should push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow new limits on political contributions and spending.

Bob WieckowskiAB 644 by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, calls for a November 2014 ballot measure in which voters could instruct members of Congress to work toward an amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. Wieckowski last year authored a successful resolution expressing the Legislature’s support for such an amendment.

“Now it’s time to let all Californians have their voices heard,” he said in a news release Thursday. “This is an issue people feel passionately about because they know the campaign finance system is skewed against the interests of the working poor and middle class.”

Common Cause, a nonprofit group that advocates for open, honest and accountable government, is sponsoring the bill.

“Giving every Californian a chance to declare that money isn’t free speech is exactly the sort of high-profile step that is required if we are serious about reversing the Supreme Court,” said Derek Cressman, director of Common Cause’s campaign to reverse Citizens United. “Voter instruction measures such as this have spurred previous constitutional amendments.”

CREDO, a progressive mobile phone company with more than three million activist members nationwide including more than 500,000 members in California, supports the bill as well.

“California would be the biggest state yet to throw its support behind a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said CREDO political director Becky Bond. “Corporate money in politics is literally destroying our democracy and CREDO will help organize millions of Californians help us take back our elections.”

Similar grassroots ballot measures were approved in November by voters in Montana and Colorado, as well as in San Francisco and Richmond. Los Angeles last month approved a voter instruction measure that will appear on the city’s May 2013 ballot.


Five White House interns with Bay Area ties

Five people with Bay Area ties are among the dozens announced Thursday as the Spring 2013 crop of White House interns:

    Nicholas Coe of San Mateo, a 2012 graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and a former field organizer at Organizing for America;
    Adrian Ferrari of Saratoga, a student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire;
    Brittany Frye of Santa Rosa, a student and president of the College Democrats at New York University;
    Adam Susaneck of Wellington, Fla., a student at the University of California, Berkeley and a former Obama campaign worker; and
    Maxwell Wallace of San Francisco, a senior in the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

The White House’s news release says the internship program’s mission “is to make the White House accessible to future leaders around the nation and to prepare those devoted to public service for future leadership opportunities.”

Interns work in one of several departments, including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of Chief of Staff, the Office of Communications, the Office of Digital Strategy, the Office of the First Lady, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the Office of Presidential Personnel, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the White House Counsel, and the Office of White House Fellows.