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.”


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.”


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…
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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).


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.


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.