Another fight about who pays for public disclosure

On the heels of last week’s California Public Records Act dustup, we’ve seen another sign that local governments don’t want to be told how, or foot the bills, to keep the public informed.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee today voted 7-0 to pass AB 1149 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, which would require all local government agencies to notify their workers and constituents if their electronic data has been hacked, as the state and the private sector already are required to do.

But the bill’s opponents include the Association of California Healthcare Districts, California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, California Special Districts Association, California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities and the Urban Counties Caucus.

“AB 1149 infringes on local governments that have already adopted their own policies related to information breaches, and we are concerned about the potential cost implications for some cities of setting up the breach notifications outlined in the bill,” Natasha Karl, the League of California Cities’ legislative representative, said via e-mail today.

In other words, they don’t want to be told how – or be forced – to do it, or to pay for it. Campos contends that without such a law, there’s a patchwork of local policies – or no local policies at all – on disclosing such information leaks.

Nora Campos“People have the right to know if their personal information has been stolen so they can take appropriate steps to prevent further theft,” she said. “It’s outrageous that local governments are standing in the way of this. They say it would be too costly. But this is a public duty.”

Campos said her account was once hacked when she served on the San Jose City Council, and she was grateful for the alert she received so that she could contact her bank and credit card companies to warn them of any potential identity theft.

Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said she understood local governments’ misgivings over potential costs, “but this just makes so much sense because local government does use this kind of information… A breach is a breach. It’s very important to have that protection.”

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, just last week were contending that few if any local governments would hesitate to foot their own bills for compliance with the California Public Records Act. Such entities would be too scared of the public’s wrath to ignore the law, they insisted as they pushed Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal that the state stop funding the law and major sections be reduced to recommended best practices if locals don’t want to pay for them.

Amid a public outcry, the lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown reversed course. The state will keep reimbursing local governments for compliance with the Public Records Act at least until voters can decide next year whether to enshrine the PRA in the state constitution – and in doing so require the locals to foot the bills themselves.


Brown appoints 3 in advance of big reorganization

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed three agency secretaries Tuesday in preparation for an epic consolidation of state agencies and departments.

Brown’s plan cuts the number of state agencies from 12 to 10 and eliminates or consolidates dozens of departments and entities. The Little Hoover Commission has said the plan – which it approved in May 2012 and the Legislature approved (by not rejecting it) in June 2012 – is the most ambitious of the 36 reorganizations it has reviewed since 1968.

For now, unrelated departments – like Caltrans, the Department of Real Estate and the Department of Financial Institutions – are housed together, while related programs are scattered across different agencies, sometimes with duplicative results. Brown’s plan aims to improve coordination and efficiency and make government more responsive.

Effective July 1, five existing state agencies will be replaced by the following three: the Government Operations Agency, which will be responsible for administering state operations such as procurement, information technology and human resources; the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which will be responsible for licensing and oversight of industries, businesses and other professionals; and the Transportation Agency, which will encompass all of the state’s transportation entities.

Marybel BatjerBrown on Tuesday named Marybel Batjer, 58, of Reno, to be secretary of the Government Operations Agency. Batjer has been vice president of public policy and corporate social responsibility at Caesars Entertainment Corporation since 2005. Although she’s a Democrat, she served as cabinet secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2003 to 2005, chief of staff for Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn from 2000 to 2003 and undersecretary at the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1997 to 1998.

Earlier, Batjer was chief deputy director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing from 1992 to 1997 and special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1989 to 1992. She was a national security affairs special assistant for President Ronald Reagan and deputy executive secretary for the National Security Council from 1987 to 1989. Batjer was assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1981 to 1987 and director of political planning for the National Women’s Political Caucus from 1980 to 1981.

Anna CaballeroBrown appointed Anna Caballero, 59, of Salinas, as secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Caballero has served as Secretary of the California State and Consumer Services Agency since 2011 and was a Democratic Assemblywoman representing the 28th District from 2006 to 2010.

Earlier, Caballero was executive director of Partners for Peace, a non-profit specializing in violence prevention work, from 2000 to 2006. Caballero was mayor of Salinas from 1998 to 2006 and served on the Salinas City Council from 1991 to 1998. She was a partner at Caballero Matcham and McCarthy from 1995 to 2007 and at Caballero Govea Matcham and McCarthy from 1982 to 1995. Caballero was a staff attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance Inc., representing farm workers in consumer matters, from 1979 to 1982.

Brian KellyAnd Brown named Brian Kelly, 44, of Sacramento, as secretary of the Transportation Agency. Kelly has served as acting secretary at the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency since 2012, where he was undersecretary in 2012. He was executive staff director for state Senate President Darrell Steinberg from 2008 to 2012 and executive principal consultant for state Senate President Don Perata from 2004 to 2008.

Earlier, Kelly was principal consultant for state Senate President John Burton from 1998 to 2004 and assistant consultant for Senate President pro Tempore Bill Lockyer from 1995 to 1998. He was a field representative for the California Senate Democratic Caucus from 1994 to 1995

All three of these appointments are subject to confirmation by the state Senate, and each carries an annual salary of $180,250.


Dianne Feinstein names new chief of staff

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has a new chief of staff.

Feinstein & Duck circa 2011Jennifer Duck, 42, will be based in Washington and will oversee a staff of 70 in Washington, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. She replaces Chris Thompson, who is returning to California after nearly a decade of working for DiFi in D.C.

Duck since August 2009 has served as vice president of government relations and corporate leadership for Pfizer, Inc., the international pharmaceutical and consumer products company.

Earlier, Duck was staff director and chief counsel to Feinstein, D-Calif., on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2005 to 2009. Duck has also worked as counsel to former Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; counsel to U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; and senior policy advisor for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

Duck also worked in the Clinton Administration at the Labor Department’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, managing outreach to state and local officials as well as Congress. In 2008, she worked on the Obama presidential transition with teams for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Management and Budget, the CIA and the Department of Labor. Duck holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a law degree from Emory University.

“I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Duck back to my team,” Feinstein said in a statement issued this morning. “Jennifer is a seasoned Capitol Hill aide with deep experience in both the public and private sectors, familiarity with the executive and legislative branches of government, and significant policy expertise. I will rely on her counsel and good judgment as we advance a busy legislative agenda and work for the people of California.”

“I want to thank Chris Thompson for his dedication and service,” Feinstein added. “For nearly a decade Chris has been a trusted advisor and a friend. He has been an instrumental part of the team, and I’m sorry to lose him.”


California politicos on the Voting Rights Act ruling

Here’s how some California politicos are reacting to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that voids key provisions of the Voting Rights Act:

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Voting Rights Act. The law successfully countered a century of aggressive limitations on minority voting rights, a fact that today’s majority decision acknowledged: ‘The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.’

“After more than 20 hearings in the House and Senate, Congress in 2006 reauthorized key provisions in the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. By invalidating a key piece of the law, the Supreme Court departed from settled precedent and dealt a real setback for voting rights in this country.

“I believe Congress should move quickly to introduce new legislation to preserve voting rights for all Americans.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of the clear evidence we continue to see of efforts to suppress the vote in minority communities across the country. It is devastating that the Court’s conservative majority would strike down a central provision of the law that has protected the voting rights of all Americans for nearly a half century, and was reauthorized by Congress almost unanimously just seven years ago. I’ll be working with my Senate colleagues to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every American can participate fully in our democracy.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the Supreme Court took a step backward on voting rights, on civil rights, on liberty and justice for all. This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

“Even with this setback, the court did place the power to reinforce the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the hands of Congress. As Members of Congress, we know that changes in election laws can have discriminatory effects. That’s why Congress made the determination that advance review of changes in election procedures is required for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation.

“Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.”

More, after the jump…
Continue Reading


See who’s buying your government

Meet America’s new gatekeepers to public office: 31,385 people who represent 0.01 percent of the nation’s population, but 28 percent of all disclosed political contributions: a cool $1.7 billion.

This “1 percent of the 1 percent” is analyzed in a new report out today from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan good-government group. The report found these people’s money reached the campaign coffers of every winning congressional seat last year; in fact, 84 percent of House and Senate campaigns took more money from this donor group than from all small (under $200) donations received.

(click to enlarge)

Unsurprisingly, California tops the list of states from which this money comes, at $239 million; next is New York with $210 million, Texas with $198 million, Florida with $119 million and Nevada with $115 million. Lists of all donors broken down by state can be found online.

And Atherton ranked fourth among all U.S. cities, with 97 donors giving $5.7 million.

Sunlight reviewed disclosed donations for the 2012 cycle to federal candidates, party committees, congressional campaign committees, PACs and super PACs. Making the list required at least $12,950 in donations, a number that has increased steadily in recent decades.

“The nation’s biggest campaign donors have little in common with average Americans,” noted Sunlight senior fellow Lee Drutman. “They hail predominantly from big cities, such as New York and Washington. They work for blue-chip corporations, such as Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. One in five works in the finance, insurance and real estate sector. One in 10 works in law or lobbying. The median contribution from this group of elite donors? $26,584. That’s a little more than half the median family income in the United States.”

Of the people on the list, 15,343 predominantly supported Republican candidates and committees while 11,088 predominately supported the Democrats. They’re almost 72 percent male, with the top five listed occupations being retired (4,131), president (2,764), attorney (2,738), CEO (2,671) and homemaker (2,432).


Netroots Nation: Ro Khanna fires back at critics

Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official who’s challenging Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, fired back Friday at the national progressive leaders who had smack-talked him a day earlier.

Khanna, 36, of Fremont, took questions from reporters near his booth in the main exhibit hall at Netroots Nation, the national convention of liberal online activists running through Saturday night in San Jose.

On Thursday, Democracy for America chairman Jim Dean and Progressive Congress executive director Charles Chamberlain had belittled Khanna’s attempt to unseat Honda, D-San Jose, who they hailed as a progressive hero. Chamberlain used the words “Republican lite” and “hack” to describe Khanna.

Ro Khanna“Name-calling is what’s wrong with American politics,” Khanna retorted Friday. “We’re trying to have a conversation based on facts and my record.”

His record, he noted, includes staunch opposition to the Iraq war and the PATRIOT Act; two years in President Obama’s Commerce Department; and a track record of helping to raise money for other Democrats.

Asked in what ways he might be more progressive than Honda, Khanna replied he would’ve voted differently than Honda did on lobbying reform; Khanna said he believes lobbyists should be made to disclose their bundling of contributions, and should be banned from giving gifts to lawmakers. He said he also wouldn’t have approved pay raises for Congress, as Honda did, at a time when so many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.

And he said he would bring a “laser focus” on job creation for the middle class which he believes Honda has lacked.

Though House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had once supported Khanna – when he was raising money for what everyone believed would be a bid to succeed Rep. Pete Stark after Stark’s retirement – she now supports Honda.

“I have a lot of respect for Leader Pelosi … and I understand her support of Mike Honda’s many years of service,” Khanna said Friday, but he believes national endorsements won’t make much difference to 17th District voters. “I’m very locally focused.”

Speaking amid the hustle and bustle of almost 3,000 liberal activists, Khanna said he understands online criticism of his bid to unseat Honda and even welcomes it as an important part of the democratic process.

But while Honda’s campaign volunteers had blanketed the convention Thursday, signing up supporters and handing out stickers, and Honda briefly addressed the California caucus, Khanna said he’s less interested in being a “talking head” or political grenade-thrower and more interested in serving constituents by cooperating across the aisle to get things done in Congress.