Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for March, 2014

Why the senate suspension vote was only 28-1

A caller left me a voice mail this morning noting that we’ve not reported why several state senators didn’t cast votes in Friday’s roll call on suspending the three Democrats who’ve run afoul of the law.

The vote was 28-1 in favor of suspension; the lone dissenter, Joel Anderson, R-San Diego, believed suspension was too light a reaction and expulsion would be more appropriate.

The senate has 40 seats, one of which (the 23rd District) currently is vacant. And naturally, the three senators being suspended – Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello; and Rod Wright, D-Inglewood – weren’t there to vote.

So that leaves seven. Of those, six – Marty Block, D-San Diego; Mark Leno, D-San Francisco; Richard Roth, D-Riverside; Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas; Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto; and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford – had excused absences for previously scheduled commitments and were not in Sacramento.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-South Los Angeles, is the only senator who was present but didn’t vote.

“She felt that the motion should have been divided so that each case was considered separately, so they could debate the merits and the ground for each case,” Mitchell spokesman Charles Stewart said Monday. “But there was not the mood or the votes to sever the issue.”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014
Under: California State Senate | 3 Comments »

Boxer supports Danville couple’s MICRA measure

A ballot measure to raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence lawsuit awards has gained a high-profile supporter: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Bob and Carmen Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003, submitted 840,000 signatures a week ago to qualify their measure for November’s ballot.

Barbara Boxer“I will never forget meeting a child who was severely disfigured and forever confined to a wheelchair because of medical malpractice,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release issued Monday by the campaign supporting the mesaure.

“I was stunned to learn how unfair California law is in terms of compensating these patients and their families, and I committed to helping the victims of these tragedies,” Boxer continued. “That is why I am proud to support the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which will reform our judicial system to hold accountable those responsible for so much pain and suffering and ensure that patients and their families get the justice they deserve.”

The measure – supported by trial-lawyer groups – would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery, now fixed at $250,000, for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

Medical organizations oppose the measure. “A ballot measure that is certain to generate more medical lawsuits and drive up costs for every health consumer in California is the worst possible idea at the worst possible time,” California Medical Association President Dr. Richard Thorp said last week in a news release. “This initiative is bad for patients, bad for taxpayers and bad for California’s entire system of health care delivery.”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Gun-rights backers decry Leland Yee’s hypocrisy

Gun-rights advocates are up in arms about state Sen. Leland Yee’s alleged double life – an ardent gun-control advocate in public, while secretly negotiating with purported mobsters to set up international gun deals.

“It appears that Leland Yee is not only an epic gun-control hypocrite, but also exactly the type of truly dangerous gun trafficking criminal who my clients have always urged authorities to throw the book at,” Chuck Michel, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association, said Thursday.

Leland YeeYee, D-San Francisco, famously has carried “bullet button” legislation, which would ban a common modification to semi-automatic rifles that lets users quickly swap out their ammunition magazines without running afoul of the state’s assault weapons law. His SB 47 was pulled from consideration last August, a few weeks before the end of the legislative session, but remains pending in the Assembly.

That bill was among eight that made up state Senate Democrats “LIFE Act” gun-control package last year.

“The prevalence of deadly, military-style weapons in our society has resulted in countless tragedies,” Yee said last April. “It is past time to put some common sense laws into place in order to prevent such tragedies in the future. The LIFE Act is a bold step forward in this effort.”

Yee is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of “honest services.” Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking count is punishable by up to five years and $250,000. Free on $500,000 bond, Yee is scheduled to return to court Monday.

An FBI affidavit says Yee told an undercover FBI agent he could facilitate big shipments of guns into the country in exchange for campaign contributions. No guns actually changed hands, but Yee accepted a $5,000 contribution from a bogus company set up by the agent as their negotiations continued in a series of face-to-face meetings from January through March 14. At one such meeting, Yee allegedly discussed specific locations in the Philippines and Florida that might be ideal for moving the guns, which he said would include M-16-type automatic rifles.

Consider what Yee said last October when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would’ve classified all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines as banned assault weapons.

“California’s Assault Weapons Ban has protected the public for decades,” Yee said at the time. “But we must work to make sure that it is capable of dealing with new threats that face California. In the Governor’s veto message, he spoke of the importance of our gun laws and the need to make sure they are carefully tailored. SB 47 will protect the public while keeping an appropriately narrow scope.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 49 Comments »

Ron Paul to speak in Hayward and San Francisco

So soon after U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s Bay Area fundraising blitz and speech at Cal, the region will get a visit from the Paul who started it all.

Ron PaulFormer 12-term congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul will speak on “Liberty Defined: The Future of Freedom,” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, in the university theater at the California State University, East Bay campus in Hayward. Admission is free and it’s open to the public, but tickets will be required and are available on a first-come, first-served basis either online or by calling the Independent Institute at (510) 632-1366, ext. 105.

Paul will do a separate, private reception and book-signing at the campus after his speech; the $75 price includes a copy of one of his books.

Paul also is scheduled to address the Commonwealth Club of California at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 10, at the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco; tickets are available online or by calling the club at 415-597-6705. This event also will be followed by a book-signing.

“The father of U.S Presidential hopeful Rand Paul and former U.S Presidential candidate himself, Ron Paul, a former U.S. Congressman from Texas, will tell us why he believes that to believe in liberty is not to believe in any particular social and economic outcome,” the club’s news release says.

“He says it is to trust in the spontaneous order that emerges when the state does not intervene in human volition and human cooperation. It permits people to work out their problems for themselves, build lives for themselves, take risks and accept responsibility for the results, and make their own decisions. In fact, Paul calls liberty the seed of America,” the release continues. “He maintains the term “liberty” is so commonly used in our country that it has almost become a mere cliché. But do we know what it means? What it promises? How it factors into our daily lives? And most important, can we recognize tyranny when it is sold to us disguised as a form of liberty?”

Paul’s CSU-EB appearance is sponsored by the Smith Center for Private Enterprise Studies – a free-market think tank at the university – and by the Independent Institute, a nonprofit nonpartisan libertarian group based in Oakland. No state funds will be used to host or pay Paul (nor will Peter be robbed).

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Under: Ron Paul | 2 Comments »

Oakland FoodCorps member will visit White House

A FoodCorps member helping Oakland public school students learn about healthy food will join First Lady Michelle Obama to help plant the sixth consecutive White House Kitchen Garden.

Sarah TingSarah Ting is one of six FoodCorps members taking part next Wednesday, April 2. Ting works with the Oakland Unified School District, where she teaches and collaborates with the Farm-to-School Supervisor on district level procurement for the National School Meal Program.

FoodCorps is part of the AmeriCorps Service Network. This nationwide program is dedicated to teaching children about healthy food, how it grows, and where it comes from, and ensuring they have access to these foods each and every day. Serving under the direction of state and community partners, FoodCorps members across the country dedicate a year of public service to help children grow up in healthy school food environments.

FoodCorps founders and students from Washington, D.C.’s Bancroft Elementary School and Harriet Tubman Elementary School, who have been active participants in the White House Kitchen Garden, also will take part in Wednesday’s event.

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Under: Obama presidency | No Comments »

Rep. Eric Swalwell takes Congress to the dogs

Rep. Eric Swalwell, who already had expanded the “Congress at Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greet model to include “Ride With Your Rep” cycling outings, is now inviting 15th Congressional District residents and their pets to join him for “Congress Unleashed.”

Those coming to the event from 10 to 11 a.m. this Sunday, March 30 in Union City’s Drigon Dog Park “will meet and talk to Congressman Swalwell about their ‘pet’ issues, as well as learn about opportunities to adopt and foster dogs from an animal organization,” according to his news release.

“I work to be accessible to all of my constituents, and an outdoor town hall at a dog park is one more way to hear from more East Bay residents about the issues important to them,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in the release. “The event also will be an opportunity to find owners for dogs in need of a loving home.”

And what politician doesn’t relish a photo opportunity with cute, fluffy puppies? The freshman lawmaker is being challenged in his bid for a second term by state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and by Alameda County Republican Party vice chairman Hugh Bussell, a software development manager from Livermore.

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | No Comments »

Barbara Lee and Bill O’Reilly trade barbs

Rep. Barbara Lee says Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s language on poverty and race “is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse.”

This all started March 12, when House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., spoke about his legislative proposals for reforming poverty programs during his appearance on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America. “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee said.

Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement that same day saying Ryan’s comments were “a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”

Lee said that as a Budget Committee member herself, Ryan’s claims about racial dynamics of poverty “are not only statistically inaccurate, but deeply offensive.”

“Instead of demonizing ‘culture,’ and blaming black men for their poverty, Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America,” she challenged. “His uninformed policy proposals continue to increase poverty, not solve it. My colleague is demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues in urban and black communities.”

That brings us to Tuesday, when O’Reilly brought the exchange up during his interview with Ryan.

O’REILLY: So I understand you had a phone call with Ms. Lee. How did that go?

RYAN: Well, I have known Barbara for many years. Look, there was nothing racial whatsoever in what I said. And if you listen to the full context of all of my remarks, it’s pretty clear. So what I would like to do and I mentioned this is, let’s get beyond throwing baseless charges at people. Let’s not impugn people’s motives or characters and let’s have a real conversation about what we really need to do [[is]] to truly fight poverty in America. If the status quo was working so well, then we wouldn’t have to do that. It’s not.

[snip]

O’REILLY: They don’t want a conversation. With all due respect to you because I think you are a good man. They don’t want a conversation. They don’t want to solve the problem. These race hustlers make a big living, and they get voted into office, by portraying their constituents as victims, and it’s all your fault and it’s my fault, it’s the rich people’s fault, it’s the Republicans’ fault. It’s everybody’s fault except what’s going on. And what’s going on, as you know, is the dissolution of the family, and you don’t have proper supervision of children, and they grow up with no skills, and they can’t read and speak, and they have tattoos on their neck, and they can’t compete in the marketplace. And that is what is going on. But if you say that you are a racist. So, no matter what you say congressman, you are going to be branded because the race hustlers don’t want to solve the problem.

BOOM! Lee is not amused.

“Unfortunately we’ve come to expect language like ‘welfare queens,’ ‘food stamp president,’ and now ‘race hustlers’ from the right wing and Mr. O’Reilly. It is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse,” she said Wednesday.

“For us to achieve the American dream for all, we must engage in this conversation that has been sparked about race and poverty, even if it is difficult for some. Racial discrimination, poverty, and income inequality remain issues that must be debated and addressed, and these kinds of ‘code words’ only get in the way of solving the real problems,” Lee said.

Congress has a responsibility to “come together to present a budget and funding priorities that create opportunity for all,” she continued. “We must make critical investments in job creation, education, and job training. Among many issues, we must address extending unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, enacting criminal justice reform, and securing voting rights for communities of color, so that we can truly find solutions to these critical issues.”

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

State court refuses to block Sunnyvale Measure C

Sunnyvale’s new ordinance requiring ammunition sellers to log and keep buyers’ names for two years isn’t preempted by state law and so won’t be blocked, a Santa Clara County judge has ruled.

Judge Kevin McKenney refused to block enforcement of the new law, which was approved by city voters last November as part of Measure C, as requested by a local gun-store owner and a national gun-industry trade group.

The plaintiffs – U.S. Firearms, a Sunnyvale store; Eric Fisher, its owner; and the National Shooting Sports Foundation – claimed the ammo-sales log requirement was pre-empted by California’s Anti-Gang Neighborhood Protection Act of 2009. That law would’ve required that all “handgun ammunition” sales be done face-to-face, and would’ve required buyers of such ammunition to show valid ID, which the seller would record and keep for at least five years.

But a Fresno County Superior Court judge issued an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect in 2010. The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District agreed last November, finding the law is unconstitutionally vague – there’s no definition of “handgun ammunition” clear enough for the law to be enforceable, it ruled – and blocking the law’s enforcement. The state Supreme Court just agreed in February to review that case.

Sunnyvale argued that with no state law in effect, city voters were free to enact their own rules. McKenney agreed last week.

“A contrary conclusion would unreasonably intrude upon the constitutional right of local governments to enact and enforce ordinances and regulations that serve legitimate purposes where the state law forming the basis for a preemption claim is indefinitely inoperative for reasons that do not undermine the efficacy of the local legislation,” the judge wrote.

McKenney also found the plantiffs didn’t establish that they could win their case by arguing the ordinance violates their constitutional rights.

Other parts of Measure C require gun owners to notify police within 48 hours of the loss or theft of a firearm and o keep firearms locked up when not in the owner’s immediate possession, and ban possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The National Rifle Association has challenged the magazine possession ban in federal court; a trial judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused this month to block the ban’s enforcement, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review their rulings.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: gun control | No Comments »

9th Circuit refuses to block SF gun controls

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s refusal to block San Francisco’s requirement that handguns be locked up when they’re not being carried, and the city’s ban on sale of hollow-point ammunition.

hollow-point ammoThe National Rifle Association, an organization of former police officers and several individuals sued in 2009. A federal judge in 2012 refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the rules’ enforcement; a three-judge panel of the appeals court affirmed that ruling Tuesday.

The plantiffs had argued that there are times – such as when sleeping or bathing – that carrying a handgun is impractical, yet having to retrieve the weapon from a locked box or trigger lock could impair their right to self-defense. San Francisco argued that firearm injuries are the third-leading cause of death in the city, and having unlocked firearms in the home increases risk of gun-related injury, especially to children.

“San Francisco has drawn a reasonable inference that mandating that guns be kept locked when not being carried will increase public safety and reduce firearm casualties,” Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote.

And the hollow-point ammo ban “does not prevent the use of handguns or other weapons in self-defense,” the judge wrote. “The regulation in this case limits only the manner in which a person may exercise Second Amendment rights by making it more difficult to purchase certain types of ammunition.”

San Francisco’s evidence more than “fairly supports” its conclusion that hollow-point bullets are more lethal than other types of ammunition, Ikuta wrote.

The court recognizes the significance of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, “but we also recognize that the Second Amendment right, like the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, may be subjected to governmental restrictions which survive the appropriate level of scrutiny,” she wrote. “Because San Francisco’s regulations do not destroy the Second Amendment right, and survive intermediate scrutiny, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Jackson would not succeed on the merits of her claims.”

Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel, issued a statement saying there’s “confusion and inconsistency” about what legal standards to use when evaluating Second Amendment challenges.

“This case provides a perfect vehicle for these important issues to be resolved, either by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the Supreme Court, and we will seek review immediately,” Michel said. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify that it meant what it said in its decisions from 2008 and 2010 — that the Second Amendment is not a second class constitutional right.”

The NRA more recently has sued to block enforcement of San Francisco’s new ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. A federal judge in February refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the ordinance’s enforcement, so it’s scheduled to take effect April 7.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: gun control, San Francisco politics | 2 Comments »

Money update: SD10, AD15, AD16, AD25 & AD28

Here’s how the money is piling up (or not) in races for some of the Bay Area’s open state legislative seats; all figures are as of March 17.

10th STATE SENATE DISTRICT
Mary Hayashi (D) – $690,733 cash on hand; no debt
Roman Reed (D) – $72,336 cash on hand; $58,034 debt (incl. $40k loan from candidate)
Bob Wieckowski (D) – $152,440 cash on hand; no debt
Peter Kuo (R) – $109,594 cash on hand; $7,541 debt (incl. $5k loan from candidate)
Audie Bock (NPP) – no report

15TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Elizabeth Echols (D) – $140,341 cash on hand; $28,159 debt (incl. $15k loan from candidate)
Clarence Hunt (D) – $30,950 cash on hand; $43,611 debt (loan from candidate)
Sam Kang (D) – $68,800 cash on hand; $13,918 debt
Pamela Price (D) – $20,020 cash on hand; no debt
Tony Thurmond (D) – $98,953 cash on hand; $35,331 debt
Richard Kinney (R) – no report
Eugene Ruyle (P&F) – no report
Bernt Rainer Wahl (NPP) – no report

16th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Newell Arnerich (D) – $66,823 cash on hand; $30,000 debt (loan from candidate)
Steve Glazer (D) – $429,608 cash on hand; no debt
Tim Sbranti (D) – $126,443 cash on hand; $27,817 debt
Catharine Baker (R) – $139,965 cash on hand; $1,886 debt

25th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Kansen Chu (D) – $201,723 cash on hand; $6,458 debt
Teresa Cox (D) – $65,186 cash on hand; $60,136 debt (incl. $58k loan from candidate)
Armando Gomez (D) – $230,622 cash on hand; no debt
Craig Steckler (D) – $123,480 cash on hand; $8,600 debt (incl. $5,100 loan from candidate)
Bob Brunton (R) – no report

28th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Evan Low (D) – $332,916 cash on hand; $2,036 debt
Barry Chang (D) – no report
Michael Hunsweck (R) – no report
Chuck Page (R) – $1,760 cash on hand; $2,000 debt (loan from candidate)

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance | 7 Comments »