CA17: Honda mingles at Silicon Valley econ forum

I spied with my little eye: Rep. Mike Honda slapping backs, shaking hands and otherwise mingling with Silicon Valley’s business elite at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Regional Economic Forum on Friday morning in Mountain View.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, took part in a panel discussion entitled, “How can Washington, D.C., help Silicon Valley succeed?” with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; SendHub.com CEO Garrett Johnson; ChargePoint vice president Dimitrios Papadogonas; and SunPower CEO Tom Werner. The moderator was Working Partnerships Executive Director Cindy Chavez, a former San Jose councilwoman, current Santa Clara County supervisorial candidate and longtime Honda ally.

They were speaking to about 400 local government and business leaders – key constituencies that Honda wants on his side as he faces an electoral challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official. Khanna’s campaign strategy depends in large part on convincing voters he’s more in touch with Silicon Valley’s needs than Honda.

Honda clearly tried to prove otherwise Friday as he talked on topics including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Outside, he insisted this isn’t a new cause for him – he said he started at least six or seven years ago, with bills to consolidate approximately $2 billion in STEM education grants that were spread across almost a dozen federal agencies, and to elevate STEM education to the level of a presidential committee.

He said he also has pushed for additional financial support to college students who want to teach STEM subjects, and for having more personnel with technology and corporate backgrounds working on Capitol Hill either as fully-paid interns or permanent staffers: “Most congresspeople don’t have a background in everything that you need.” And, he said, he wants President Obama’s push for universal preschool to include STEM education that starts in the pre-kindergarten to third-grade years – an earlier start to introduce a future workforce to the wonders of science.

Khanna – a former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department – also has emphasized STEM education as a cornerstone of his campaign, but has suggested that Honda is late to the party on this issue.

My chat with Honda was briefly interrupted by Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman, who greeted the congressman with a hug and a vow of support. Honda said Berman had been a student volunteer for his first House campaign, back in 2000.


Medical marijuana bill dies, but might rise again

A bill to have the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage Control regulate medical marijuana died on the Assembly floor Friday, but its author said he’ll work to resurrect it with help from the state Senate.

“This is not an easy bill, but it is a needed bill that has the necessary support,” Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, insisted in a news release Friday. “Unfortunately, the vote was closed prematurely and in error, preventing all the votes from being registered. I’m going to make sure my legislative colleagues stay focused on getting this to the Governor’s desk for his signature this year.”

Ammiano spokesman Carlos Alcala explained that if a bill doesn’t reach enough votes to pass right away, the author can essentially ask that it be put on hold and then brought back up later in the same day’s session. Ammiano tried that on Thursday, but his AB 473 still failed on a 32-36 vote.

“It turned out that some offices were getting misinformation suggesting that the bill would preempt cities’ right to determine where dispensaries can go, or whether they can go in at all,” Alcala said.

Assembly rules also let authors request reconsideration of a bill after it has failed, and Ammiano brought the bill back up on Friday so he and other supporters could reassure other lawmakers that cities’ rights wouldn’t be infringed. The bill would require ABC to set up a division to monitor production, transportation and sales of medical marijuana.

“I hope cities will allow dispensaries so their residents who need this product can get it safely, instead of illegally,” Ammiano said in his release. “I believe that a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement will help cities see they can authorize dispensaries. Not only will the division’s oversight ensure there is no increase in crime, more cities will begin to recognize the economic benefits that others have already seen.”

Again, the bill didn’t reach a passing threshold, but rather than asking Ammiano whether he wanted to put the vote on call for the rest of Friday’s session, the presiding officer – Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose – simply closed the vote, “at least temporarily killing the bill,” Alcala said.

“Mr. Ammiano doesn’t want to put the blame on her (Campos). I think a lot of people were confused about what was going on – there was parliamentary confusion and that led to an early demise, but he sees it more as a stumbling block than a dead end,” Alcala said, adding Ammiano’s staff knows ways to work with the state Senate to revive the bill. “He intends to still get a bill through the Legislature this year and to the governor.”


Kaiser CEO named to First 5 Commission

Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson was named today to the First 5 California Children and Families Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown.

george-halvorsenHalvorson, 66, of Sausalito, has been Kaiser’s head honcho since 2002; earlier, he was CEO of Group Health Inc. from 1986 to 1992 and when the company merged with MedCenters Health Plan Inc., he became president and chief executive officer of the newly-formed HealthPartners from 1992 to 2002. Halvorson also is a member of the Bay Area Council, where he has held various leadership positions since 2002.

Halvorson announced in October that he intends to retire from Kaiser at the end of this year.

The California Children and Families Act, approved by voters in 1998, required the formation of a state commission to oversee and support funding of education, health and child care programs for children ages 0 to 5 and their families. Also known as First 5 California, the commission also works with 58 First 5 County Commissions across the state to develop and fund programs for young children that are tailored to local communities’ needs.

This position does not require state Senate confirmation and compensation is $100 per diem. Halvorson is registered to vote without any party preference, but records from the California Secretary of State’s office indicate his few contributions have favored Democrats – including $2,000 to Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and $4,000 to Brown’s 2006 attorney general campaign.


3 from Bay Area on budget conference committee

The Bay Area is well-represented on the joint legislative committee tasked with hammering out a state budget deal.

The Joint Conference Committee on the Budget has four assemblymembers and four state senators who’ll reconcile differences over the budget between the two houses of the Legislature.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has named state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, as a co-chair of the committee, and the other senate appointees are Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands.

On the Assembly side, Speaker John Perez named Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, who will serve as co-chair; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City.

“For the first time in years, we are headed into budget negotiations without the dire need to cut billions from the budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate,” Pérez said in a news release. “It is time to assure our citizens that we are putting the state on a path to avoid future devastating cuts to state-provided services and education. I have confidence that the Conference Committee will craft the best budget possible for the people of California.”


Take the California Carbon Challenge

The same folks who brought you the California Budget Challenge – an online exercise that lets you try to set priorities and balance the state budget yourself – now want you to try your hand at balancing climate change with economic growth.

California Carbon ChallengeThe California Carbon Challenge, by nonpartisan nonprofit Next 10, presents users with more than two-dozen strategies – from developing transit-oriented housing plans, to pay-as-you-drive insurance, to boosting energy efficiency in buildings. The simulator keeps track of the choices being made and their impacts via an interactive meter showing tons of carbon reduced and the costs or savings for those choices.

California has enacted groundbreaking policies that require the state to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The policy options included in Next 10’s Carbon Challenge fall into eight categories: vehicle technologies, driving costs, mass transit, alternatives to driving, green buildings, smart growth, government operations, and energy users and producers. Some of the choices – including time-of-day electricity pricing, or the requirement that state and local agencies use only Zero Emission Vehicles or plug-in hybrids – are not among the state policies being implemented at this time. Other options, like implementing a carbon trading market, are already underway in California.

Site users see pro and con arguments about each policy choice, as well as information about who – individuals, businesses, or government – would bear the possible costs or benefits. Users can leave comments about their choices, find out what percentage of other site visitors chose the same options, and share their decisions on social media and with policymakers.

“We created the California Carbon Challenge to show what the challenges and opportunities for reducing emissions are, and to also engage and inform people who are trying to better understand what these policies do,” Next 10 founder F. Noel Perry said in a news release. “However, we hope this resource can be a learning tool for people in other states and countries who are considering policies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”


House members blast Brown’s Delta water plan

Five members of Congress held a news conference in Sacramento this morning to renew their staunch opposition to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, all believe the plan would devastate the Delta and ignores concerns repeatedly raised by local stakeholders. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, concurs but wasn’t at today’s news conference.

The state has released a 20,000-page Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the BDCP. Chapters 1-7 were released in the last few months and Chapters 8-12, including the financing mechanism, were released yesterday.

The lawmakers released statements after their news conference. From McNerney:

Jerry McNerney“The Governor recently released additional information on his deeply-flawed plan for the Delta region, which further proves he is intent on forcing this plan forward without any regard for the farmers, families and small business owners who rely upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods, or for the incredible environmental damage that will result. As it stands, the plan will cost billions of dollars, devastate the most valuable water resource we have in California, and ultimately create no new water. There is a better way forward, and it must include the input of the people who stand to lose the most if the Delta is destroyed.”

From Thompson:

Mike Thompson“The proposed BDCP is not a workable solution. It puts the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors ahead of the Delta’s and North-of-Delta’s farmers, fishers and small business owners. Livelihoods are at stake. Until we have a plan that is transparent, based on sound science and developed with all stake-holders at the table, then any process that moves us closer to building these tunnels will recklessly risk billions of California tax dollars and thousands of jobs. Let’s take the time to get this right.”

From Miller:

George Miller“Governor Brown and his administration officials have failed to demonstrate that they are taking into account the real physical and financial harm that can come to Bay-Delta communities if a BDCP plan is pushed through without the proper cost benefit analysis of alternatives, an adequate finance plan, or without acknowledging the best available science — science that has pointed to the real possibility that this plan could overtax our water resources and devastate the Bay-Delta region. Without doing so the BDCP is further than ever from a sustainable policy. It is time to seriously reevaluate this plan to ensure it fulfills the co-equal goals that it is mandated to adhere to, and takes into consideration the concerns of the businesses, families and communities that rely on a viable, healthy Bay-Delta region for their livelihoods.”