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Archive for October, 2013

Fracking activists to protest Jerry Brown in SF

Anti-fracking activists intend to protest as Gov. Jerry Brown visits the Bay Area this afternoon to sign a regional agreement to align government policy, combat climate change and promote clean energy.

Brown is scheduled to be at Cisco-Meraki’s San Francisco headquarters at 4 p.m. to sign the pact with Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and British Columbia environmental officials.

But the Californians Against Fracking coalition – which includes members of more than 150 groups including MoveOn.org Civic Action, CREDO, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Race, Poverty, and the Environment, and Environment California – say Brown’s support of fracking could undermine any progress the agreement would make.

Brown last month signed into law SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, which creates the state’s first rules for hydraulic fracturing or acidation to extract oil and natural gas. Some environmentalists, including this coalition, argue that only a moratorium on these techniques will keep California safe from environmental harms and further the state’s clean-energy goals.

The activists who’ll protest Brown’s appearance today say using fracking, acidization, and other unconventional extraction techniques to access 15 billion barrels of crude oil beneath California would produce nearly as much global warming pollution as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and set back the state’s progress on combating climate change.

Posted on Monday, October 28th, 2013
Under: energy, Environment, Global warming, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 3 Comments »

Danville dad’s MICRA initiative starts circulating

A Danville man whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003 can start circulating his proposed ballot measure that would raise California’s nearly 40-year old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs, the Secretary of State’s office said Thursday.

The start of petitioning moves the ball forward in what could be one of next year’s costliest ballot-measure battles.

Here’s the official title and summary prepared by the Attorney General’s office:

DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING OF DOCTORS. MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE LAWSUITS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive test to the California Medical Board. Requires Board to suspend doctor pending investigation of positive test and take disciplinary action if doctor was impaired while on duty. Requires doctors to report any other doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. Requires health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Increases $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits to account for inflation. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: State and local government costs associated with higher net medical malpractice costs, likely at least in the low tens of millions of dollars annually, potentially ranging to over one hundred million dollars annually. Potential net state and local government costs associated with changes in the amount and types of health care services that, while highly uncertain, potentially range from minor to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. (13-0016.)

Pack must collect valid signatures of 504,760 registered voters by March 24 in order to qualify the measure for next November’s ballot.

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Dental Association, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Central Valley Health Network created a “Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs” committee this summer to oppose the measure. The committee had banked at least $31.5 million by the end of August.

Bob and Carmen Pack will kick off the petition drive during a memorial gathering at 4 p.m. Sunday at Danville’s Sycamore Valley Elementary School and Park, marking the 10th anniversary of the deaths of their children, Troy, 10, and Alana, 7.

Posted on Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Under: ballot measures | 36 Comments »

Mike Honda signs up to interact with petitioners

Rep. Mike Honda is one of the first members of Congress to adopt a new tool that lets lawmakers respond directly to people who’ve signed Change.org online petitions targeting them.

Change.org on Wednesday launched its “Decision Makers” utility, through which any elected official who is being petitioned can sign up for a verified profile where those petitions are aggregated in one public place. Notifications of responses from decision makers are sent via email to petition signers, who are encouraged to comment and continue the conversation on the petition page.

Honda’s page shows there are 125 open petitions to him with 10 or more signers.

“I have always worked to make my office as accessible to constituents as possible, and this system is a hyper-transparent way to see what issues Americans are really talking about,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in the company’s news release. “It’s tools like this that help us do what we came here to do — make government more accountable to the people who sent us here. I’m proud to be an early adopter of Change.org for Decision Makers, and hope to see other members take part as well.”

Others who’ve already signed up include U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.; and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.

San Francisco-based Change.org is the world’s largest and fastest-growing online petition platform, with 45 million users in 196 countries and growing by 3 million users every month. It plans to roll out a similar tool for business leaders and figures in other sectors.

“For elected officials and business leaders who want to build lasting, productive relationships with their constituents and customers, this product provides a huge opportunity to engage, and it’s exciting to see elected officials recognize that right off the bat,” President and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Dulski said in the release.

Posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Miller blasts Walmart for paying workers too little

An East Bay congressman blasted corporate giant Walmart on Wednesday for paying its workers so little, and essentially subsidizing its bottom line with taxpayer dollars.

George Miller“Walmart is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, yet they pay such low wages that many of its workers are unable to provide for their families. This is wrong,” Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release. “When workers win, their families win, and we all win. If big corporations like Walmart paid their workers higher wages, families could live better. And federal taxpayers would not have to foot the bill to help them keep their heads above water.”

Miller, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, joined with another House Democrat and Walmart employees for a Capitol Hill forum Wednesday taking the company to task.

The effort was in reaction to a presentation Walmart President & CEO Bill Simon made last month at the Goldman Sachs 2013 Annual Global Retailing Conference, in which he acknowledged that more than 475,000 associates earned more than $25,000 last year. Walmart employs 1.3 million associates in the United States, and had posted a $17 billion net profit for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31.

The lawmakers and Walmart workers renewed their calls Wednesday for Walmart to improve working conditions, stop retaliation against those who speak out, and increase hours to ensure workers earn a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work. Doing so, they say, would let workers cover the basics and help contribute to the economy.

“I work hard, and I want to be able to support my family and earn enough so I don’t have to rely on public assistance to survive,” Anthony Goytia, an overnight stocker at the Walmart in Duarte (Los Angeles County), said in the news release. Goytia works full-time and makes less than $16,000 a year, relying on food stamps and Medi-Cal to keep his family fed and cared for.

“These workers deserve safe workplaces and the right to speak out for their workplace rights without risking retaliation or being fired,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “It’s time that Walmart listen to their workers who are here to demand what all Americans want: fair pay, fair rules and fair treatment.”

A report prepared by Miller’s committee staff earlier this year calculated that just one Walmart store’s employees must rely on $900,000 in taxpayer-funded supports, a number that’s expected to rise as more workers apply Medicaid because they are ineligible for Walmart healthcare plans.

Walmart has 264 stores employing 81,247 associates in California, according to the company’s website. Regular, full-time (34 hours per week or more) associates in California earn an average hourly wage of $13.03 – that’s $23,037.04 per year for a 34-hour work week, or $27,102.40 per year for a 40-hour work week.

Posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA17: Former 49ers stars raise money for Khanna

Amid trying to explain a website snafu which created “personal fundraiser” pages for Twitter followers without their knowledge or consent, House candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign tried to get the word out Tuesday about an upcoming fundraiser with some 49ers flair.

Khanna & LottFormer 49ers stars Ronnie Lott, Harris Barton, Roger Craig, and Dwight Clark will headline a fundraiser for Khanna – a former Obama administration official who’s seeking to unseat fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda – next Monday, Oct. 28 in Fremont.

“After being part of four Super Bowl winning teams, I know what it takes to deliver results,” Lott wrote in an email to Khanna supporters, describing Khanna as someone who “embodies the key principles of hard work and leadership.”

“Keeping up with the news in Washington lately has made me deeply frustrated,” Lott wrote. “Entrenched special interests have gummed up the works of Congress and nothing is getting done on behalf of the American people. I think it’s time for new leadership, and just like there came a time to pass the torch from Joe to Steve, and from Alex to Colin, now is the time to pass the torch from Mike to Ro. We need new energy and bold ideas to confront the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.”

Tickets for Monday’s event range in cost from $1,000 to $5,200.

Khanna raised $1.2 million in the final quarter of 2011, when people thought he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark; Stark chose not to retire in 2012, and was defeated in November by Rep. Eric Swalwell, another Democrat. Since entering this 17th Congressional District race in early April, Khanna has outstripped Honda in fundraising in this year’s second and third quarters.

The Bay Area Chapter of KAYA Filipino Americans for Progress, a political mobilization group, held a fundraiser for Honda on Monday night in Daly City. His campaign said he’ll be in Washington for the next week, but has scheduled campaign meet-and-greets (contributions of $10 to $500 requested by not required) for Saturday, Nov. 2 in Cupertino and Sunnyvale.

Posted on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

California files health-care law amicus brief

California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether for-profit businesses may claim religious exemptions from the national health-care law’s requirement that employee health plans cover birth control.

The brief urges the high court to hear Kathleen Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and to overturn a lower court’s ruling that would allow two for-profit corporations to avoid full compliance with the law. The Obama Administration sought the court’s review last month.

“Access to contraceptive services is critical to the health of women and infants; women’s economic and social wellbeing; and women’s opportunities to participate fully in society,” the brief says. It also argues that a lower court’s determination that for-profit corporations may assert religious exemptions to certain laws could interfere with enforcement of other important regulations that protect public safety, civil rights, social welfare, housing, employment and public health.

“The freedom of individuals to exercise the religion of their choosing is one of the most important values in our society, as reflected by its enshrinement in the federal Constitution,” the brief says. “The federal government’s contraceptive coverage regulations under ACA respect that freedom through inclusion of appropriate exemptions, while also advancing the similarly compelling interests in public health and gender equality in access to health care. The court of appeals’ decision would upset that balance and threaten far-reaching impacts on the States beyond the issues presented by this action.”

Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington all joined in California’s brief, which addresses a ruling issued in June by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Posted on Monday, October 21st, 2013
Under: Attorney General, healthcare reform, Kamala Harris | 9 Comments »

More White House interns with Bay Area ties

The White House today announced its Fall 2013 interns, including several who either hail from or attended school in the Bay Area.

This crop of interns, along with their hometowns and the universities they most recently attended, includes:

    Joanna Chen of Anaheim (University of California, Berkeley)
    Caitlin Etienne of Richfield, Minn. (Monterey Institute of International Studies)
    Elva Linares of Oakland (University of California Hastings College of the Law)

Interns work in one White House 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.

Posted on Monday, October 21st, 2013
Under: Obama presidency | No Comments »

Tauscher to speak at Cal on U.S.-Russia relations

Ellen Tauscher started the summer optimistic that the improving U.S.-Russia relationship would provide fertile ground for new arms-control agreements – but it’s been a tough couple of months since then.

“This is like batting-cage practice when the machine goes wild and is throwing balls at you left and right,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. “Events can overtake you.”

negotiating aloneTauscher, a former East Bay congresswoman who served for three years as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, will be back in the Bay Area on Oct. 30 to deliver a speech entitled “Negotiating Alone? The United States, Russia and the Prospect of Arms Control.”

Sponsored by the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service at UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, Tauscher’s address will assess the prospects for future arms control agreements between two nations that still retain vast nuclear arsenals.

Tauscher in June had co-authored an article in Foreign Policy magazine with Igor Ivanov – a president of the Russian International Affairs Council and former Russian Federation foreign minister – in which they wrote the U.S.-Russian political dialogue was finally gaining momentum toward mutually assured stability.

But things turned sour this summer. Russia in June enacted new laws limiting civil liberties for gays and lesbians; in August gave asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden; and throughout maintained its support for its longtime ally Syrian President Bashar Assad during that nation’s brutal civil war. President Obama cancelled a September summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Can this marriage be saved?” Tauscher quipped Monday, before adding that it must be.

“It is a fundamentally important relationship for many, many reasons, and we are not at our best right now – that is for sure – but I think that everybody who has been part of this for a long time knows that relationships ebb and wane,” she said, adding efforts are afoot to “try to get back to a better footing” and “find a way to remember that we do some of the best works in the world together.”

Ellen TauscherThe Syria situation – in which Russia for years has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Assad’s government, and then last month brokered a deal for destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons – has been particularly trying, Tauscher said.

“This is when it’s very difficult to keep a sense of equilibrium in the relationship because it’s not just the obvious bilateral and international roles that we play,” she said. “It’s very complicated when third, fourth and fifth parties are involved, and that’s part of the situation we find ourselves in now.”

She said she hopes the “Track II” nonofficial talks that she’s a part of will be fruitful as a “back channel way for conversations to keep going when the public face of the relationship is not the prettiest.”

Tauscher is now senior public policy adviser to the Baker Donelson law firm in Washington, D.C. Registration for her Matsui Lecture is available online.

Posted on Monday, October 21st, 2013
Under: Ellen Tauscher, International politics | 2 Comments »

Report: GOP’s future hangs on immigration reform

The Republican Party could lose a lot of House seats in 2014 and 2016 – including a few in California – as well as the next presidential election if it stands in the way of comprehensive immigration reform, according to a political research firm’s new report.

The researchers at Seattle-based Latino Decisions call it the “Prop. 187 Effect,” after California’s 1994 ballot measure to bar illegal immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services – a measure their report says drove the ever-expanding Latino electorate into the Democratic Party’s arms.

“Even in a gerrymandered Congress, the Latino vote is going to remake the landscape if we experience a national phenomenon around immigration similar to the Prop. 187 effect,” said Latino Decisions principal Gary Segura. “Not only does our research show Latinos still hold the GOP responsible for Prop. 187, we see that they’re poised to significantly shift the vote toward Democratic Congressional representation in districts nationwide.”

On a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Segura noted 93 percent of all Latinos under the age of 18 are U.S. citizens, so the nation’s Latino electorate will double over the next 18 years even if not one new Latino immigrant enters the country.

The report identifies 24 House districts now held by Republcians where the Latino vote alone has a strong chance of swinging the outcome of 2014 elections, and 20 more GOP districts where the size of the Latino electorate exceeds the incumbent’s 2012 victory margin.

Among districts the report deems most susceptible to a Latino swing vote are California’s 10th, represented by Jeff Denham, R-Modesto; 25th, represented by Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita; and 31st, represented by Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga.

A poll conducted by Latino Decisions in July found 58 percent of Latino voters will be personally angry if the House blocks an immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship, and 69 percent of Latino voters would place blame for a lack of comprehensive immigration reform upon Republicans, while only 13 percent would blame Democrats and 11 percent would blame both parties equally.

Hector Barajas, a longtime Republican strategist who earlier this year co-founded the GOP polling and messaging firm Latino Edge Research, acknowledged later Thursday that it’s “important to recognize that some races would be more affected than others if they do not correctly engage their Latino electorate.”

“That being said, not changing the same narrative that Republicans as a whole are opposed to immigration reform will allow Democrats to continue with their successful strategy of attack candidates with an R behind them,” he said. “In the end, it will be up to the individual campaigns to demonstrate to the Latino electorate that they are not the ‘Bad Guy’ in the movie.”

President Obama said Thursday that with the government shutdown over and the debt-limit crisis averted, “we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.” A bipartisan bill already passed by the Senate would beef up border security and modernize the system while ensuring “everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities,” he said, adding economists estimate the bill would bring $1.4 trillion in new economic growth over the next 20 years.

“The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do. And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it,” he said, inviting the House to offer any improvements. “But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years. This can and should get done by the end of this year.”

Posted on Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Under: Immigration, Jeff Denham, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

PAC vows to revive civility in politics. Not.

A Nevada-based conservative political action committee on Thursday apologized – well, sort of – for an early-morning fundraising email describing lawmakers who supported the deal to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling as “a parliament of traitors and whores.”

“These 81 whores curbstomped liberty and defecated on the Constitution yet again tonight,” the Western Representation PAC’s email said, singling out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., for special abuse. “Mitch McConnell received his $3 billion of silver to betray the base and the grassroots, via an amendment authored by Lamar Alexander. They’re such sluts for a good porking… It takes $2.9 billion to put Mitch McConnell on his knees before President Obama, whoring himself out and betraying his Kentucky constituents.”

Western Representation PAC logo

“They will remember this day and rue it, and we will pour forth the fires of your wrath upon their heads… We are coming, and we are never going to stop until we take down every last one of these 81 whores,” the email vowed. “Your donations are history-making ammunition to execute those who spat in your faces tonight with their vote. It’s time to take these whores and traitors out. Donate today, and know that your dollars will rain down like mortars on those who betrayed us tonight in 2014. A season of vengeance is upon us, and it is time for the establishment to reap what it has sown.”

Yowza! Sounds like someone was off their meds.

The email had gone out in the name of PAC cofounder Dustin Stockton. He sent out another email Wednesday afternoon under the subject line “We went too far.”

Dustin Stockton “After seeing some of the crony handouts in the legislative deal yesterday I instructed our team not to pull their punches and portray the rage that we are justifiably feeling over just the latest example of Washington corruption,” Stockton wrote. “Although my name was at the bottom of that email it was not written by me and some of the rhetoric I felt went over the line. I’d like to apologize for that and since it had my name on it, ultimately it is my responsibility and I apologize for some of the more brash rhetoric.”

But delving into notpology territory, Stockton also wrote “the fact is that these politicians who are granted the sacred honor of representing our interests ARE whoring themselves out to lobbyists and special interests.”

“Our team is humbled and honored for the opportunity to dedicate our lives to fighting these evil bastards,” he wrote. “We only succeed when we responsibly represent your voice in our activism and our email earlier stepped over the line. We apologize for that, but not for calling it like we see it.”

Read the entire original email, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Under: Republican politics | 2 Comments »