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Archive for April, 2014

State Senate’s ethics review is tomorrow

The state Senate will hold its special ethics review and self-flagellation session Wednesday, following the conviction of one senator and the indictment of two others.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced the special day last month; all senators and staffers are required to attend.

The Senate voted 28-1 on March 28 to suspend Sens. Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. Yee, D-San Francisco, has been indicted for allegedly selling official favors and conspiring to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms. Calderon, D-Montebello, was indicted last month on bribery charges. Wright, D-Inglewood, was convicted in January of voter fraud and perjury related to not living in the district he represents.

Steinberg’s office says the meetings “will be closed sessions to facilitate frank discussions and candid interactive dialogue among the participants,” though Steinberg and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff will hold a news conference late Wednesday morning.

The group sessions will include a presentation on “Creating a Culture of Ethics – A National Perspective” by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and executive director of Character Counts at Drake University. The nonprofit Josephson Institute works with corporations, governmental agencies and professionals on strengthening standards of conduct in individual and institutional decision-making.

There will also be a panel discussion of the “Challenges of Legal Ethics in a Legislative Environment” facilitated by three attorneys with expertise in political and campaign issues: Lance Olson of Olson & Hagel, who advises some of the state’s foremost Democrats; Charles Bell Sr. of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, general counsel to the California Republican Party; and John Panneton, a former federal prosecutor. The panel will present hypothetical scenarios that raise potential ethical and legal issues; those scenarios will also be used by senate chiefs of staff, committee chief consultants and office directors as they lead staff discussions in individual Capitol offices later Wednesday.

Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Leland Yee | 4 Comments »

Swalwell wants airport perimeter security check

A Bay Area congressman wants an updated assessment of the nation’s airport perimeter security needs following a Santa Clara teen’s stowaway voyage in the wheel well of a jetliner taking off from Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The 15-year-old jumped a fence to get into the airport Sunday, and miraculously survived a five-and-a-half hour flight to Hawaii despite freezing temperatures and low oxygen levels.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, the only California congressman on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, notes there have been several such breaches since the Government Accountability Office last evaluated airport perimeter security in 2009. Several Democrats on the committee requested an update in February, and Swalwell wrote to the agency Tuesday to bolster that request.

“While we have made significant progress in airport security since 9/11, this latest incident near my congressional district in the Bay Area raises serious concerns affecting passenger safety,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in a news release. “I join my colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee to call for an updated assessment of airport perimeter security so we can identify vulnerabilities, protect our perimeters, and prevent future breaches.”

Read the full text of Swalwell’s letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Transportation, U.S. House | No Comments »

CA17: Honda’s busy schedule of local events

With six weeks to go before June’s primary election, Rep. Mike Honda is keeping his profile high in his 17th Congressional District with a busy schedule of official events.

Honda, D-San Jose, is making the best of his seven-term incumbent bully pulpit as challengers Ro Khanna and Vanila Singh step up the pace of their campaigns.

honda.jpgOn Tuesday evening, Honda will visit the Bill Wilson Center in San Jose to talk with several young homeless people with mental-health issues who are part of the center’s Transition Age Youth program. “It is crucial that we understand the needs and challenges facing homeless youth here in Silicon Valley,” he said in a news release. “We live in an area of great opportunity, and we are obligated to ensure that opportunity is available for all residents of Silicon Valley.”

On Wednesday, Honda will give the keynote address at the Housing Trust Silicon Valley‘s investor briefing in Santa Clara, speaking to more than 400 business leaders, Housing Trust partners, housing industry professionals, community partners, and the general public about the importance of affordable housing for businesses, workers and low-income residents.

On Thursday morning, Honda will join local elected officials, community leaders and public health officials in San Jose to announce the launch of a bus ad campaign urging Chinese- and Vietnamese-American residents to get tested for hepatitis B. The Asian American Pacific Islander community accounts for over half of all chronic hepatitis B cases, and half of the deaths related to hepatitis B; Honda will discuss how Congress is working to address and eradicate hepatitis, including the work of the bipartisan Congressional Hepatitis Caucus, which he founded and co-chairs.

Last week, Honda held a news conference in San Jose to announce his introduction of H.R. 4460, the Freedom of Faith Act, which would make permanent the immigrant provision for religious workers who are non-ministers; the current religious workers program will expire in 2015. “For over two decades, Congress has reauthorized this program time and time again,” he said. “It’s time we do what’s right for our communities of faith and make permanent this program that allows workers who lead worship, officiate events, and offer pastoral care, to receive temporary visas like ministers and faith leaders do.”

Honda also last week gave the opening address at the San Francisco Bay Area Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Nanotechnology Council’s 10th Anniversary symposium in Santa Clara, discussing the continuing importance of nanotech in our economy, as well as his role in enacting the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. The law, of which Honda was an original co-sponsor, first authorized $4 billion in federal spending over 4 years for the National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2003.

Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

Neel Kashkari rolls out his education plan

State funding would be routed directly to schools so principals, teachers and parents can spend it as they see fit while much of California’s Education Code would be eliminated under a plan unveiled Tuesday by Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari.

NEEL KASHKARIThe education reform legislation that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last summer was called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), so perhaps Californians can think of Kashkari’s plan as EMLCFF: Even More Local Control Funding Formula.

Handing over the purse-strings to local educators and families would let them adopt new priorities and methods – perhaps including increased vocational training and lengthening the school day and academic year – even as they’re held to strict accountability standards, Kashkari says. He also wants charter schools to have the same level of funding and facilities as traditional schools, and would eliminate the cap that limits California to 100 new charter schools per year.

For higher education, Kashkari wants to tie state funding to campuses’ success rates – as measured by credits accumulated, students retained, courses completed and degrees awarded – while putting more UC and CSU courses online and offering free tuition to science, technology, engineering and math students in exchange for a cut of their future earnings.

Kashkari’s education plan, which he’s rolling out Tuesday morning at Central City Value High School in Los Angeles, is a cornerstone of a campaign he launched in January with the slogan, “Jobs and Education. That’s It.” The former Treasury Department official and asset manager from Laguna Beach says California’s schools rank 46th in the nation in reading and math, with a huge achievement gap leaving low-income kids wanting for an adequate education.

“California used to boast one of the best education systems in the nation, and we do know how to fix our schools,” Kashkari said. “States around the country have implemented bold reforms that can help improve educational outcomes for our students, both in our K-12 schools and in our institutions of higher education.”

Yet Gov. Jerry Brown “continues to pursue superficial measures that treat only symptoms instead of undertaking bold education reforms that will help lift student achievement and rebuild the middle class,” Kashkari accused.

Brown last year signed the LCFF legislation that changes the state funding formula for K-12 schools in a way that he hopes will help boost disadvantaged students’ academic achievement. It will send $2.1 billion more to school districts with high numbers of students who are from lower-income families, who have limited English proficiency, or who are foster children.

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, education, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari | No Comments »

CA17: Singh & Khanna campaigns step it up

Watch for Republican candidate Vanila Singh to step up her 17th Congressional District campaign significantly in the next few weeks.

Vanila SinghI had coffee today with Matt Shupe, who took over as Singh’s campaign manager at the start of this month. Shupe formerly was executive director of the San Francisco Republican Party, working for county chairwoman and state GOP Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon; before that, he served three months as deputy manager of Andy Vidak’s successful state Senate campaign in early 2013 and has run or helped build several other campaigns.

Shupe, 29, brings a network of contacts from those campaigns and from his leadership roles with the California College Republicans that he says “can rapidly accelerate the growth of an operation,” he said. That’s what he intends to do for Singh – a speedy ramp-up using volunteers from all over the Bay Area to bolster Singh’s bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

It’s not as if they have much else to do. Shupe said Bay Area Republicans really only have two competitive races – this one, and Dublin attorney Catharine Baker’s run against three Democrats in the 16th Assembly District. “So I’m able to suck up a lot of the talent,” he said, adding his volunteer roster keeps growing. “Right now I’d say our list is in the hundreds.”

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Ro Khanna and his staff and volunteers will celebrate the opening of his campaign’s Cupertino field office from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at 20111 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 130. The campaign’s headquarters is in Fremont, but this office will be a hub for grassroots efforts in Cupertino and Sunnyvale. Cupertino council members Orrin Mahoney and Rod Sinks are expected to attend the event.

Khanna’s staff is touting his social media progress – now at 10,398 Facebook likes and 1,778 Twitter followers, compared to Honda’s 4,182 likes and 785 Twitter followers or Singh’s 1,064 Facebook likes and 280 Twitter followers. But social media only go so far, and Khanna’s campaign is maintaining a full schedule of neighborhood canvasses and phone banks.

Singh is holding a happy hour from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Thursday, April 24 at C&J’s Sports Bar, 1550 Lafayette St. in Santa Clara, and then will hold a campaign kickoff at 10 a.m. Saturday at her headquarters, 1313 N. Milpitas Blvd. Suite 215, in Milpitas.

Shupe said he has seen a hunger from the 17th District’s GOP voters: “You can tell that Republicans in this district have never really been campaigned to in many years.”

And Singh has the resources to sate that hunger, he said, having raised more money than any other Republican candidate in the Bay Area; she had about $300,000 cash on hand at the start of this month.

“She’s definitely a pragmatic, reasonable, non-Tea-Party candidate, so we believe she can connect uniquely to the district,” he said. “This is voter contact, get-out-the-vote campaigning from here to Election Day.”

Shupe acknowledged it’s an uphill battle in a district that’s registered 44 percent Democrat, 19 percent Republican and 32 percent nonpartisan. But a poll conducted in February by Honda’s liberal allies had found Singh – who had entered the race at the end of December – already a few points ahead of Khanna, almost certainly by dint of being the only Republican in the field at the time.

That’s a strong base on which to build, Shupe said, and while the goal is to win, the journey might be as important as the destination if Singh can make significant inroads within the South Bay Indo-American community of which she’s a lifelong member. “It’s definitely party building,” Shupe said.

Singh so far has refused to take part in any candidate forums or debates. Shupe said she won’t participate in any event that doesn’t include Honda or that does include the other Republican candidate, Joel Vanlandingham, whom she believes was recruited into the race by Khanna supporters in order to split the GOP vote. “He’s really degrading the election, I think.”

Posted on Monday, April 21st, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 35 Comments »

Online voter registration now in 10 languages

Californians can now do online voter registration in 10 languages, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Monday.

In addition to the English and Spanish versions already available, the Secretary of State’s office has now added Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. Also, the RegisterToVote.ca.gov has been redesigned to be simpler and more user-friendly, with better accessibility features for people with disabilities.

“After moving some mountains to quickly launch online voter registration in time for the 2012 presidential election season, I wanted to see what could be done to make it even better,” Bowen said in a news release. “This enhanced application is a result of in-depth collaboration among dozens of experts in cultural, language, disability access, elections and technology issues, along with local officials and the California State University Accessible Technology Initiative. I am grateful to them all for their valuable input.”

Community advocates had pushed for this expansion, noting that Asian Americans in California tend to have a relatively low voter registration rate.

“California has millions of immigrant citizens who are still learning English, citizens we need as full participants in our democracy,” Michelle Romero, director of the Greenlining Institute’s Claiming Our Democracy program, said in a news release. “This is an important step to help bridge the voter registration gap in communities of color.”

The information provided in a voter application still must be checked by a county registrar before an applicant can be added to the voter rolls; voters can check on their own registration status using the state’s portal to county offices. Monday, May 19 is the voter registration deadline for the upcoming June 3 primary election.

Posted on Monday, April 21st, 2014
Under: voter registration | 6 Comments »

Obama, Lofgren & Pelosi blast GOP on immigration

The rhetoric flew hot and heavy as Wednesday marked one year since the Senate’s introduction of a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The Senate passed the vote, but the House’s GOP leadership has refused to take up that bill or offer one of its own. President Obama issued a statement Wednesday morning saying this means House Republicans prefer the status quo over meaningful reform.

“Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from ‘Dreamers,’” the president said. “The majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue and there is broad support for reform, including among Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, and faith and law enforcement leaders. We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, ranking Democrat on Judiciary’s Immigration subcommittee, issued a statement noting “even today a majority of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform, which isn’t surprising because reform is overwhelmingly supported by a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum.”

“That support is one of the reasons why a movement has started to give immigration reform a fair up or down vote in the House,” said Lofgren, D-San Jose. “But the Republican-controlled House continues to stall on immigration reform, and as they continue to run out the clock, the window of opportunity to pass reform narrows.”

Then, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued a statement saying Obama had called him Wednesday after issuing his “partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together.”

“After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue,” Cantor said. “I told the President the same thing I told him the last time we spoke. House Republicans do not support Senate Democrat’s immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House. I also reiterated to the President there are other issues where we can find common ground, build trust and get America working again. I hope the President can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans that are struggling to make ends meet in this economy.”

Nancy PelosiAnd that annoyed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

“In response to the President’s renewed call for action on comprehensive immigration reform, Congressman Cantor once again offered only excuses for inaction,” Pelosi said. “With 30 House Republicans on the record in support of comprehensive reform, Rep. Cantor’s ridiculous statement this evening confirms that the Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of legislation that would pass the House immediately if allowed to come to the floor. It’s time for Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor to get out of the way, and allow immigration reform to become a reality.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: Immigration, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 15 Comments »

CA17: Khanna & Honda argue over campaign $$$

Rep. Mike Honda and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna got into another dustup over each other’s campaign contributions Wednesday, while a new report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows Republican challenger Vanila Singh gave her campaign a hefty loan.

PG&EKhanna says Honda, D-San Jose, should give back all the money he has ever received from PG&E’s political action committee because the energy utility now has been indicted on criminal charges related to 2010’s devastating gas explosion in San Bruno. But Honda’s campaign said Khanna should walk his talk by refunding money to contributors who say he pulled a bait-and-switch on them.

Honda raised $679,470.91 in the first quarter, and had $1,083,690.92 cash on hand and $22,472.21 in debts as of March 31. Khanna raised $464,220, and had $1,946,871.19 cash on hand and $93,613.53 in debts. As previously reported here, this is the first quarter in which Honda has outraised Khanna in this 17th Congressional District race.

Higher percentages of Khanna’s contributions came from California, and from Northern California in particular, than those of Honda’s, though that’s not surprising given Honda’s seven terms in Congress.

Singh raised $138,860 and loaned her campaign $74,000 in the first quarter, and as of March 31 had $300,422 cash on hand and $79,000 in debts including that loan. Among contributions she received was $2,000 each from the campaigns of Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and $1,000 from the campaign of Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md. Sessions – former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee – co-hosted Singh’s meet-and-greet with Republican doctors at last month’s state GOP convention; Burgess and Harris are doctors.

Republican Joel Vanlandingham has said he doesn’t plan to accept contributions.

Khanna issued a news release Wednesday announcing he sent a letter to Honda that notes Honda has accepted $28,000 from the PG&E PAC during his 14 years in Congress, including $6,500 in the past two cycles since the San Bruno blast; the latest contribution was $1,000 on March 21.

“In light of last week’s federal criminal indictment, I am asking you to return the tens of thousands of dollars in PAC contributions you have received from PG&E,” Khanna wrote, also urging Honda to join him in demanding that PG&E reveal which people within the company were responsible for the actions and decisions leading to the crimes alleged in the indictment. “I believe such steps are necessary to demonstrate to your constituents that you put the rights and safety of California consumers ahead of corporate PAC contributions.”

PG&E regularly gives money to House members on both sides of the aisle. In fact, the only Bay Area member who seems not to have received a contribution from the company’s PAC in this cycle is Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, in whose district the San Bruno blast occurred and who has been hard on the company ever since.

“Congressman Honda has confidence in the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case against PG&E, and expects that justice will be served,” Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday. “If Ro Khanna wants to talk about refunds, he can start by explaining why he isn’t refunding the thousands in contributions being demanded by his own donors.”

Indeed, a few people who contributed to Khanna’s campaign in late 2011 – when everyone thought he would run to succeed then-Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District – asked for their money back this January, saying they don’t want it spent against Honda. Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan on Jan. 14 said it would be “impractical” to return contributions made more than two years earlier. But that’s exactly what Khanna’s campaign had done just a day earlier, his FEC report shows: The campaign on Jan. 13 refunded $2,500 to Carl Page of Palo Alto, who had contributed that amount in November 2011.

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law replied, “None of Ro’s past or current contributors is under federal criminal indictment for putting the public safety at risk.”

Meanwhile, amid all the national buzz about Khanna’s well-funded Democratic insurgent campaign, the latest FEC report gives a clearer picture of how that big bankroll is being spent. Details, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Brown calls special session on Rainy Day Fund

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the “Rainy Day Fund” measure on November’s ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

“We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund,” Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24.

Voters enacted the current Rainy Day Fund in 2004 by approving Proposition 58, which directs 3 percent of annual revenues into the Budget Stabilization Account. The current system has no restriction on when funds can be withdrawn and requires deposits even in deficit years, unless the law is suspended.

Lawmakers in 2010 approved the proposal on the November 2014 ballot – ACA 4, which would raise the fund’s cap from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund, among other things. But Brown said Wednesday it doesn’t address the volatility of capital gains revenue, doesn’t provide a reserve for schools to help cushion future downturns, and limits California’s ability to pay down long-term liabilities.

Brown in January proposed changes including increasing deposits when the state has spikes in capital gains revenue; allowing supplemental payments to speed up the state’s payoff of its debts and liabilities; limiting withdrawals to ensure the state doesn’t drain too much at the start of a downturn; and creating a Proposition 98 reserve, after school funding is fully restored to pre-recession levels, to smooth school spending and avoid future cuts.

UPDATE @ 11:15 A.M.: Assembly Speaker John Perez calls this “a welcome and helpful development.”

“Assembly Democrats first proposed a permanent rainy day fund last May, and we look forward to working with our Republican and Senate colleagues to build a reliable system that handles short-term revenue spikes differently than ongoing, stable revenue streams,” said Perez, D-Los Angeles. “We need to establish a solid system for saving money in good years, so that we can better weather the bad years. We need a mechanism that not only strengthens our constitutional reserve, but also gets us off the rollercoaster ride of revenue spikes and dips that has caused so much trouble in recent years.”

UPDATE @ 2:02 P.M.: State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, says he’s glad Brown is doing this, but doubts whether Democrats share the enthusiasm. “It’s just common sense for California to put away money during the ‘boom’ years to avoid future tax increases and spending reductions in the ‘bust’ years. However, we are mindful that legislative Democrats have undermined similar efforts in the recent past,” he said.

“Despite agreeing to, and voting for, the rainy day reserve fund in Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (ACA 4) as part of the 2010-11 budget agreement with Republicans, Senate Pro Tem Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Perez denied Californians the opportunity to vote for it on the ballot in 2012 as promised,” Huff continued. “Now they want to remove it from the 2014 election ballot, preventing the people of California from establishing strong protections against future budget crises. I think today’s announcement is a message to the Democrats that the Governor is serious about doing something.”

The California Chamber of Commerce supports Brown’s move, too. “Adopting an effective Rainy Day Reserve should be the state’s top fiscal policy. California’s budget crises were caused by the Legislature spending one-time revenues for ongoing programs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg. “A solid reserve requirement will remove the California budget from the fiscal roller coaster. It is crucial that the Legislature pass a consensus proposal that the Governor can support to get approval by voters in November.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, John Perez, state budget | 4 Comments »

CA15: Swalwell’s & Corbett’s Q1 fundraising

Rep. Eric Swalwell raised more than eight times as much as his challenger and fellow Democrat state Sen. Ellen Corbett in this year’s first quarter, and had about four and a half times as much money banked as of March 31, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, a Republican who got into this 15th Congressional District race at the last minute is funded only by himself and by one of the state’s biggest GOP benefactors.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, raised $272,783.87 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and at the end of that period had $922,581.82 cash on hand with $6,859.82 in outstanding debt. Corbett in the same time raised $32,485.33, finishing with $208,005.35 cash on hand and $6,000 in debt; that’s right about where Corbett was at the end of 2014, though she had raised almost three times as much in last year’s final quarter.

Hugh Bussell, a GOP county committeeman from Livermore, lent his campaign $1,750 and took a $2,400 contribution from Charles Munger Jr. of Palo Alto, chairman of the Santa Clara County GOP and a prolific contributor to the party’s causes and candidates.

Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 21 Comments »