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Archive for March, 2013

Assembly bill to seize assault weapons is dead

One of the most controversial gun-control bills introduced in California this year – a move toward taking the 166,000 registered assault weapons that are grandfathered under the state’s ban – is dead, its author said today.

When Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, introduced AB 174 in January, it declared the Legislature’s intent to end all “grandfather clauses” allowing ownership of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The bill was gutted and amended Tuesday to address public-school health centers instead.

Bonta said Thursday that he realized his proposal was a non-starter.

Rob Bonta“It would be extremely expensive, for one – if you were going to take back guns that have were grandfathered in, you would have to provide market compensation for them,” he said. “I didn’t think that made the most sense from a fiscal perspective.”

Bonta also said he was very aware of the gun lobby’s assertion that any state or national registration of firearms is merely a prelude to confiscation – something his bill actually pursued.

“I didn’t want to have a bill that plays into that argument,” he said. “I wanted to concentrate on some other bills that I thought would be more focused and more effective.”

Bonta is carrying other gun-control bills including AB 187, a 10-percent tax on ammunition sales to fund crime-prevention efforts in California cities most torn by gun violence; AB 180, giving Oakland special dispensation to enact gun regulations more strict than the state’s; and AB 1020, requiring the state to send a letter to gun buyers during their 10-day waiting periods reminding them that “straw purchases” on behalf of those banned from owning guns are illegal.

Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Under: Assembly, gun control, Rob Bonta | 4 Comments »

Zoe Lofgren introduces Refugee Protection Act

Rep. Zoe Lofgren and U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy introduced bills in the House and Senate Thursday that they said would improve protection of refugees and asylum-seekers coming to the United States to flee persecution in their home nations.

Their Refugee Protection Act would reform the expedited removal process for asylum seekers pursuing their claims before the Asylum Office of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill requires the immigration detention system to adhere to basic humane treatment for asylum seekers and others with access to counsel, religious practice, and visits from family.

It also strengthens the law so those with actual ties to terrorist activities will continue to be denied entry to the United States. But the authors say it will protect innocent asylum seekers and refugees from being unfairly denied as a result of overly broad terrorism bars that over time have inadvertently swept in those who were actually victimized by terrorists.

“Americans have long been a compassionate people, offering a safe harbor to victims of devastating calamities and survivors of tortuous, brutal regimes,” Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in her news release. “The legislation we’re introducing today not only continues that proud tradition, it makes several needed improvements to ensure we can help those seeking freedom from persecution and oppression abroad.”

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Her bill is cosponsored by Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; John Conyers, D-Mich.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; and Peter Welch, D-Vt. The Senate version is cosponsored by Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; and and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

“The Senate will soon turn to comprehensive immigration reform and the changes to the refugee system contained in this bill are a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system,” said Leahy, D-Vt. “As we address the many complex issues that face our immigration system, we must ensure that America upholds its longstanding commitment to refugee protection.”

Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Under: Immigration, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Mike Honda’s poll shows few know Ro Khanna

Rep. Mike Honda continued his double-barreled defense against a potential Democratic challenger Thursday by releasing a poll showing he has 10 times that person’s support.

honda.jpgAccording to the poll Honda’s campaign commissioned from Lake Research Partners, Honda starts with 57 percent support to Ro Khanna’s 5 percent. Khanna, a former Obama Administration official with $1.26 million in his campaign coffers, is rumored to be announcing a 2014 campaign against Honda soon.

Republican Evelyn Li, who challenged Honda last year, shows at 13 percent in this poll, and 23 percent of voters are undecided. The live telephone poll of 503 likely 2014 open primary voters, conducted Feb. 17-20, has a 4.4-point margin of error.

“Mike Honda is well-known and well-liked by the people he represents,” pollster David Mermin said in Honda’s news release. “His potential challengers are unknown and will face a long road to persuade voters to choose them over the Congressman.”

Khanna declined to comment on the poll Thursday: “I haven’t made any announcements yet about my future plans, but I am committed to serve where I can do the most for Bay Area residents.”

Mermin also noted that among voters who are tech-industry workers, Honda leads Khanna 56 percent to 6 percent. Khanna, who served as a deputy assistant secretary of commerce from 2009 through 2011, last year released his book “Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key To America’s Future,” and he has worked to cast himself as a young, aggressive policy maker who’s in tune with the high-tech sector’s needs.

California’s 17th Congressional District is the first in the continental United States to have an Asian-American majority. Honda’s poll shows he holds 68 percent support from East and Southeast Asians, 59 percent from South Asians, 63 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of white voters.

Ro KhannaNone of this comes as much of a surprise, as Khanna, 36, remains largely unknown in the district – he has not yet even confirmed he’s a candidate, and the Honda’s poll shows 86 percent of voters don’t know who he is.

That hasn’t stopped a clearly-spooked Honda, 71, from moving swiftly and aggressively to try to quash his campaign before it starts; Honda in the past two months has rolled out endorsements from big guns such as President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, and former DNC chair Howard Dean – and we’ve still got a year and two and a half months until the June 2014 primary.

Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

San Francisco nudists’ latest court action flops

A federal judge has declined to issue a temporary restraining order blocking San Francisco’s new public-nudity law.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled Thursday that nudists failed to present specific evidence of how the nudity ban has infringed their constitutional rights, or of why they’d be likely to succeed if the case went to trial.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors late last year adopted an ordinance barring people from baring their genitals on public streets, sidewalks, and most other public rights-of-way as well as on transit vehicles and in transit stations. Exceptions were carved out for permitted events and festivals, and for children under the age of five.

Chen in January issued an order dismissing these same nudists’ effort to keep the law from taking effect Feb. 1. His order back then sided with the city’s arguments that the constitutionality of local restrictions on public nudity has been repeatedly upheld in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and that such bans are a valid and longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation.

Thursday’s ruling dealt with an “as-applied” challenge filed last week, after the law was in effect, claiming the city and its police were chilling their First Amendment rights to engage as in political speech as nudists by taking them into custody rather than writing them tickets for violating the law. The city countered that the nudists have no constitutional right to expose themselves in public.

“And Plaintiffs do not explain, much less submit any evidence demonstrating, how the ordinance prevents them from engaging in political speech or artistic expression,” Deputy City Attorney Tara Steeley wrote in the city’s brief. “Plaintiffs remain free to express any message they want. They simply must cover their ‘genitals, perineum, or anal region’ while on streets, sidewalks and certain other public places.”

Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Under: San Francisco politics | 1 Comment »

Bill would force police to get warrants for emails

A Bay Area lawmaker’s new bill would require California law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant before asking service providers to hand over a private citizen’s emails.

SB 467 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group. Leno introduced a place-holder version of the bill last month, but rolled out its operative language today.

go get a warrant“No law enforcement agency could obtain someone’s mail or letters that were delivered to their home without first securing a search warrant, but that same protection is surprisingly not extended to our digital life,” Leno said in a news release.

“Both state and federal privacy laws have failed to keep up with the modern electronic age, and government agencies are frequently able to access sensitive and personal information, including email, without adequate oversight,” he said. “SB 467 repairs the existing holes in California’s digital protection laws, ensuring that electronic communications can only be accessed by law enforcement with a warrant.”

Some law enforcement agencies have claimed investigators don’t need a warrant to obtain any email that has been opened or has been stored on a server for 180 days. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy recently announced it would support changes to federal law that would require a warrant in such cases.

“California, the home of many technology companies, should be a leader in protecting the privacy of people’s electronic communications,” EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury said in Leno’s release. “Many of the state’s technology companies have already indicated that they require a search warrant before disclosing the contents of communications. With SB 467, the warrant requirement becomes the status quo for all electronic communication providers and all law enforcement agencies across the state.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also supports the bill, which “would ensure that content stored in the cloud receives the same level of protection as content stored on a laptop or in a desk drawer,” said Nicole Ozer, the Northern California ACLU’s technology and civil liberty policy director.

Posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Civil liberties, Mark Leno | 2 Comments »

Eric Swalwell pursues ‘Mobile Congress’ via Skype

Rep. Eric Swalwell seems to be following up on his campaign promise to produce a “Mobile Congress” that’s more accessible to constituents via video technology and social media.

Swalwell via SkypeSwalwell, D-Dublin, did a Skype video conference with the Fremont City Council during the council’s meeting Tuesday, offering an update on Congress’ doings and taking questions from council members and Mayor Bill Harrison.

Simple as it seems, Swalwell says he’s not aware of any other member of Congress ever connecting with a local government meeting like this before. Swalwell says he intends to make it a habit with city councils throughout his 15th Congressional District.

“Just because I am in Washington, D.C., does not mean that the work at home stops. I want to stay as close to the district as possible even when 3,000 miles away, and I will take advantage of technology to stay in touch with folks at home and keep constituents informed about what we’re doing,” Swalwell said in a news release. “The idea of ‘Mobile Congress’ is about bringing Congress closer to the people, and video conferencing into the Fremont City Council meeting was a step to achieving this.”

Said Harrison: “The City of Fremont was proud to be the first city to have Skyped with Congressman Swalwell. We are appreciative of the federal update he provided to our community and his continued commitment to Fremont.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Feinstein won’t give up on assault weapons ban

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sounded pretty ticked off when she spoke on CNN a few moments ago about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronouncing dead her effort to reinstate the federal assault-weapons ban.

Feinstein, D-Calif., said Reid, D-Nev., told her she would have an opportunity for a vote and “I take him at his word.”

More specifically, Feinstein said she left her meeting with Reid under the impression that she’d get a vote both on her overall bill and on a broken-out section that would only ban large-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

“This is very important to me and I’m not going to lay down and play dead,” she told CNN, noting polls show public support for an assault-weapons ban and her bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday on a 10-8 vote. “Not to give me a vote on this would be a major betrayal of trust, as I would see it.”

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a strict party-line vote, and Reid told reporters Tuesday that the proposed assault weapons ban isn’t holding up against Senate rules requiring at least 60 votes to end debate and move to final passage. It’s been known all along that Reid and several other Democratic senators from relatively conservative states probably wouldn’t support such a bill.

The White House replied that the assault-weapons ban can still be brought up as an amendment, and the votes can be found to pass it.

Polls have shown majority support for an assault weapons ban, though far weaker than that for universal background checks or a large-capacity magazine ban. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll pegged support for an assault-weapons ban at 57 percent; Quinnipiac University put it at 54 percent; and the Pew Research Center/USA Today put it at 56 percent.

Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, gun control, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Ousted from House, Mary Bono Mack finds a job

One of the three California Republican House members unseated in November has found new, gainful employment with a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm

Mary Bono MackMary Bono Mack, who lost her seat to Democrat Raul Ruiz, has joined FaegreBD Consulting as a senior vice president; the firm says she’ll focus her government advocacy and consulting practice on legislative, regulatory and policy matters related to the entertainment, media and information technology sectors.

“I’m excited to build on the groundwork already in place with FaegreBD Consulting’s national practices,” Bono Mack said in the company’s news release. “In looking toward the next phase of my career, it was important to me to join an organization with international reach and tremendous growth potential, where I could provide value and leadership in continuing to shape public policies that impact some of our most dynamic economic sectors. FaegreBD Consulting is a great fit.”

The eight-term congresswoman had served on the Energy and Commerce, Judiciary and Armed Services committees. FaegreBD says she’ll “continue her focus on the telecommunications industry by working with clients to develop thoughtful policies that grow the Internet economy and maximize broadband networks throughout the U.S.”

FaegreBD Consulting Chair Dave Zook said his company is “confident that she will bring the same intensity to serving clients that need sound legislative and regulatory actions in a highly competitive economy. Mary will be a great resource as well for our 750 consulting and Faegre Baker Daniels legal professionals worldwide who need to understand where Washington is headed on key issues.”

The company also notes that as the late Sonny Bono’s wife and the administrator of his collection, Bono Mack will focus on the protection of artists’ intellectual property rights as an important aspect of her entertainment practice.

House Republicans Dan Lungren and Brian Bilbray also were unseated by Democrats in November, but have not yet publicly announced their next career steps.

Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Under: U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Ammiano bill lets ABC control medical marijuana

Medical marijuana would be regulated by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control under a bill rolled out by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Tom AmmianoAmmiano, D-San Francisco, last year had carried a bill that would have created a nine-member Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement within the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate the industry. The Assembly passed AB 2312 on a 41-30 vote last May, but Ammiano pulled it from consideration by a state Senate committee.

Now his new bill, AB 473, would instead establish a Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement within the ABC, responsible for monitoring supply and sales of medical cannabis so that the product is kept clean of toxins and criminal involvement is eliminated.

“Where marijuana rules are concerned, California has been in chaos for way too long,” Ammiano said in a news release. “Cities have been looking for state guidance, dispensaries feel at the mercy of changing rules and patients who need medical cannabis are uncertain about how their legitimate medical needs will be filled. This is a concrete plan that will keep medical marijuana safe. We will get it into the right hands and keep it out of the wrong hands.”

Ammiano says the approach is similar to that which has operated successfully in Colorado for three years, because the ABC has the experience in education, compliance and enforcement necessary to regulate successfully, said Matt Cook, a national consultant who was the architect of Colorado’s regulatory plan.

“With this kind of mechanism, you can ensure that only those who are authorized through state law are able to get it,” Cook said. “We’ve had not one federal intervention.”

Ammiano introduced a placeholder version of AB 473 last month, but updated it Tuesday. He’s also introducing an Assembly resolution asking the federal government to give California breathing room to get its medical cannabis house in order without the threat of new widespread prosecutions of medical providers.

Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Under: Assembly, marijuana, Tom Ammiano | 3 Comments »

Thoughts on the Iraq War’s 10th anniversary

These two statements cover some of the same points, but seem so very different in tone.

From President Barack Obama:

“As we mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, Michelle and I join our fellow Americans in paying tribute to all who served and sacrificed in one of our nation’s longest wars. We salute the courage and resolve of more than 1.5 million service members and civilians who during multiple tours wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in military service. We honor the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future after many years of hardship. And we express our gratitude to our extraordinary military families who sacrificed on the home front, especially our Gold Star families who remain in our prayers.

“The last of our troops left Iraq with their heads held high in 2011, and the United States continues to work with our Iraqi partners to advance our shared interest in security and peace. Here at home, our obligations to those who served endure. We must ensure that the more than 30,000 Americans wounded in Iraq receive the care and benefits they deserve and that we continue to improve treatment for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. With a strong Post 9/11 GI Bill, we must help our newest veterans pursue their education and find jobs worthy of their incredible talents. And all Americans can continue to support and honor our military families who are pillars of so many of our communities. On this solemn anniversary, we draw strength and inspiration from these American patriots who exemplify the values of courage, selflessness and teamwork that define our Armed Forces and keep our nation great.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, (in remarks delivered on the House floor):

“Today is a solemn anniversary: a tragedy that began ten years ago today when President George W. Bush launched a war of choice in Iraq, dragging our country into a costly, bitter conflict based on falsehoods and hyperbole. It took President Obama fulfilling his campaign promise to end the Iraq war, and we are grateful that he brought the war to an end.

“But we must not forget how we got into the war in the first place.

“We were told we would find weapons of mass destruction. We were warned about mushroom clouds. I offered an amendment at the time that would have taken us down a different path. It would have required the U.S. to work through the United Nations, using inspectors and maximizing diplomacy and mediation to ensure that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction.

“Unfortunately the amendment failed, by a vote 72 – 355.

“What happened from there? We all know the tragic consequences: President Bush dragged the country into an unnecessary war; no weapons of mass destruction were ever found; the costs of the Iraq war soared far beyond what was projected; and we lost 4,486 American troops in Iraq, and over 32,000 were wounded.

“Ten years later, the full consequences and costs of the Iraq war remain to be seen. According to a new study by the Watson Institute at Brown University, the war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion, with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to our war veterans. And the long term costs including caring for our veterans, which we must do, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades.

“Most importantly, we’ve paid for this war most tragically in loss of life and injury. Fighting the war in Iraq has also undercut nation building here at home. Investments we should have been making in job creation, educating our kids, putting cops on the street, and rebuilding our aging infrastructure. Instead of nation building at home, we poured billions of dollars into nation building in Iraq with little oversight or accountability.

“The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued its final report to Congress last month detailing billions of dollars lost to waste, fraud, and abuse. Speaking with an Iraqi official, Special Inspector Stuart Bowen was told, ‘You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad, but you cannot point a finger to a single project that was built and completed by the United States.’

“Unfortunately, these lost opportunities and tragic mistakes are not behind us.

“As the daughter of a 25-year veteran of the armed forces, I am incredibly thankful for the sacrifices our women and men have made in Iraq, and continue to make in Afghanistan. I am also deeply concerned with the widespread, often undiagnosed, incidents of PTSD and the alarming suicide rates amongst our returning soldiers.

“We need to honor our troops who served and show our support by giving our men and women who served the best health care, the best educational opportunities, and the best job training available. They deserve nothing less.

“It is my hope that this reckless and short-sighted decision will mark a turning point in American history, and that we will never again wage an unnecessary war. We must use all the tools of American power in resolving disputes, including diplomacy. And we must have sufficient congressional debate and oversight before ever putting another U.S. solider in harm’s way.

“Finally, just like in Iraq, there is no military solution in Afghanistan. We need to bring the war in Afghanistan to an accelerated end, and bring our troops home now.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in expressing this sentiment during a different war said, ‘The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities of a decent America.’

“Let us put this decade of perpetual warfare behind us, invest in our veterans, our children, and get about the business of nation building here at home.”

There’s more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Iraq, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 5 Comments »