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Archive for September, 2014

‘Nanny state?’ Brown vetoes diaper changing bills

So much for the “nanny state” – Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a pair of bills Friday that would’ve required more diaper changing stations across California.

SB 1350 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would have required the California Building Standards Commission to adopt building standards governing the installation of baby diaper changing stations in places of public accommodation for equal use by men and women. The Senate had passed it 32-0, the Assembly 67-8.

diaper changing stationAnd SB 1358 by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would have required buildings owned or partially owned by state or local governments, as well as certain other private buildings open to the public, to maintain at least one safe, sanitary, and convenient baby diaper changing station accessible to women and men. The Senate had passed it 29-1, the Assembly passed it 66-11, and the Senate concurred in Assembly amendments 31-2.

Brown nixed them both Friday, issuing a joint veto message.

“At a time when so many have raised concerns about the number of regulations in California, I believe it would be more prudent to leave the matter of diaper changing stations to the private sector,” he wrote. “Already many businesses have taken steps to accommodate their customers in this regard.”

“This may be a good business practice, but not one that I am inclined to legislate,” he concluded.

Posted on Friday, September 19th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Lois Wolk | No Comments »

Pols want AG to probe CPUC’s ties with PG&E

Peninsula politicians want state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate possible crimes involving the California Public Utilities Commission’s shockingly cozy relationship with PG&E during the agency’s probe of the utility after the deadly 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco; and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane will hold a news conference Friday morning in San Francisco to deliver a letter to Harris.

The latest revelation of emails between CPUC staff and PG&E executives led to the outser of officials at both this week. The utility also disclosed in a regulatory filing that it may have violated PUC rules with emails it sent the agency as recently as January.

E-mails released by PG&E showed that the utility tried to influence the selection of the administrative law judge who would decide how much customers’ rates should go up to pay for required gas pipeline improvements after the 2010 blast killed eight and injured more than 50.

“The letter from Hill, Mullin and Ruane also cites what appear to have been a series of illegal interventions on PG&E’s behalf in the penalty case against PG&E for the explosion in San Bruno perpetrated by the CPUC’s executive director and former general counsel – including pressuring its own attorneys to advocate no penalty in the case, which attorneys felt to be ‘illegal and unethical;’ reassigning the attorneys after they refused to back down; and firing one when he pressed PG&E to produce pipeline safety records,” according to a news release from Hill’s office.

Gov. Jerry Brown offered full-throated support for CPUC President Michael Peevey last month even after an initial disclosure of e-mails related to the San Bruno case.

“I know there’s been a lot of ink poured out on this topic, but I would say he’s a very effective leader, he gets things done” especially on promoting renewable energy, Brown said of Peevey at the time. He went on to describe Peevey as “a strong force,” the likes of which hasn’t held the CPUC’s reins since John Bryson did so during Brown’s second term, from 1979 to 1982.

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Attorney General, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Kamala Harris, Kevin Mullin | No Comments »

Most Bay Area House members oppose ISIS plan

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jerry McNerney were the only greater Bay Area House members who voted Wednesday in favor of President Obama’s plan to beat back the Islamic State in part by training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.

The House voted 273-156 to add an amendment authorizing Obama’s plans to a short-term spending bill passed shortly after that will keep the federal government operating through mid-December. Voting yes were 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats, while 85 Democrats and 71 Republicans voted no.

Nancy PelosiPelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t whip Democratic votes behind the scenes, but did make a floor speech in favor of the amendment in which she called the Islamic State’s brutality “outside the circle of civilized human behavior.”

“We wish that this action that we’re called upon to do today was not necessary,” Pelosi said. “But the fact is that, with the diplomatic, political and humanitarian foundation that the President has laid out, with the narrowness of the request that he is making to us – it is not pleasant; it is not easy; it is hard – but it really is necessary for the House to approve this.”

A McNerney spokesman didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment. (See update at bottom.)

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the measure “an important, initial step forward” against a group that “represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.”

But several Bay Area Democrats explained why they couldn’t vote for the plan.

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said he supports “the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, support for local capacities on the ground, and expanded humanitarian assistance. Arming and training Syrians and Iraqis, and perhaps eventually supporting them with airstrikes, may push back ISIL’s gains. But it will not defeat extremism.”

“There is no lasting military solution to extremism. The only lasting solution is a political solution. One in which the rights and concerns of all religious and cultural groups are respected,” Honda said. “The US must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to encourage moderate Sunni groups in Iraq and Syria to move away from ISIL, and towards an alternative and inclusive future.”

“Simply arming the Syrian opposition groups comes with great risk,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said in a statement issued after the vote. “Instead, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes a debate and vote in Congress that specifically authorizes the use of force against ISIL, and the involvement of a broad, international coalition of Muslim and Western countries to diminish ISIL and degrade their organizational capabilities.”

“To defeat ISIL, I support U.S. led airstrikes and the building of a real, substantive coalition of regional allies who will stand up to defend their own countries and existence. I do not support putting substantial U.S. resources in, and betting the house on, unproven ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in an e-mailed statement. “Over the course of U.S. military history, this proxy-war approach has had disastrous results and no evidence in this case has convinced me the result would be any different.”

“I agree with the President’s decision to remove the threat created by ISIS but the plan laid out by the White House is still too vague,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in his statement. “I could not support the amendment without clear answers to how that threat will be removed and exactly what the United States role will be. ISIS remains a roadblock in creating stability in the region and they must be stopped. However, I am fearful today’s vote does not bring us closer to our ultimate goal of peace.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, issued a statement saying the vote “was not, as some have argued, a choice between supporting the President’s plan and simply doing nothing about ISIL. To be clear, I share President Obama’s assessment of ISIL as a brutal terrorist organization, I support the goal of destroying them, and I believe there should be an American role in a broad, multinational response to ISIL.

“My ‘no’ vote today is because this plan for a new American-led war in Iraq and Syria is being advanced without a proper congressional authorization as required by the Constitution, and because I believe the strategic assumptions underlying the plan are deeply flawed,” Huffman said. “Frankly, we should know better than to provide arms and training to fighters we know very little about – and what we do know is troubling. We should know better than to take the lead in fighting and funding this war without a real multinational coalition where the countries most impacted by the ISIL threat carry their fair share of the risk and cost. And we should know better than to do all of this on the basis of wishful assumptions and rosy assurances that the conflict will not escalate out of control.”

UPDATE 5:24 P.M.: McNerney just emailed me a statement saying that “taking military action is the gravest responsibility of our government, and I take my role in helping decide our nation’s policy very seriously.

“I support the current plan to engage and ultimately destroy ISIL, but it won’t be successful unless we can enlist an alliance of nations within the region that are fully and demonstrably committed to true democratic inclusion and are willing to fight for their own freedom,” he said, including training potential allied military units off the battlefield and arming competent and reliable allies.

“Meanwhile, the President must demonstrate America’s commitment to the region by using very limited American air power in conjunction with local military units to help prevent additional ISIL territorial gains. I do not support the involvement of American ground troops beyond their training mission, or the excessive use of American air power. Both of these are not needed and would likely be counterproductive in the end,” McNerney continued. “While I supported this amendment, I also urged my colleagues to consider the long-term effects of authorizing force: to our soldiers, to the innocent civilians, and to sustained stability in the Middle East.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »

Catching up with Ashley Swearengin

A barrage of attacks from her Democratic rival has Ashley Swearengin, Fresno’s mayor and the Republican candidate for state controller, convinced her campaign is running strong.

Swearengin stopped by the Oakland Tribune’s office Monday afternoon to chat about the state of the race. The Field Poll last week found Swearengin trailing Democratic rival Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, by 14 percentage points, though more than one in five likely voters remains undecided. Yee in recent days has attacked Swearengin’s stewardship of Fresno, and challenged her “Mayor/CEO” ballot designation.

“We’re very pleased with where we are,” Swearengin said Monday, adding that while Yee’s attacks are “so easily refutable,” they’re a sign that “they definitely take our campaign seriously.”

“My hope is that the other side continues to come at me with their inaccurate and misleading accusations,” she said.

Yee’s campaign has said that Swearengin’s Fresno is a place of fiscal disorder, unemployment, poverty and homelessness. But Swearengin defended her record saying she helped steer the city out of massive deficits exacerbated by the housing-market crash and recession; the city is now building its budget reserve and ranks among the state’s top job-creators, she said.

Yee was in Fresno last week seeking endorsements from the city’s police and firefighter unions, meeting with an agricultural group and holding a fundraiser. “She was definitely playing to the Sacramento insiders and those who support the status quo,” Swearengin said.

Despite several campaign events scheduled with other GOP statewide candidates, Swearengin continued to make her political independence a core talking point.

“I think Californians are tired of just checking the box for whatever their party affiliation is,” she said. “Most important to me is making sure that we’re reaching all the voters of Califonria, not just one party or the other.”

Reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office shows Yee has raised more money than Swearengin, but “we knew for certain we would be outspent,” Swearengin said.

“We’re working as hard as possible to get the resources we need to get the message out,” she said, adding her campaign will start its paid advertising soon. “We’ve got to make as much noise as possible and point out the importance of this seat and my qualifications.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 general | 4 Comments »

Field Poll: Voters unhappier with own lawmakers

California voters are growing less satisfied with their own members of Congress, a new poll shows – and that might be bad news for Democrats.

The Field Poll finds 40 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job their own House member is doing in Washington, while 36 percent approve. That’s a pronounced change from April, when 44 percent approved and 33 percent disapproved.

Polls often show voters are ready to “throw the bums out” of Congress – except for their own “bum,” whom they hold in somewhat higher esteem. But this drop in support for voters’ own House members means incumbents in close races could be at greater risk.

That spells trouble for Democrats, who hold all three of the California House seats deemed “toss ups” by the widely respected Cook Political Report. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, faces former GOP Congressman Doug Ose in the 7th Congressional District; Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, is opposed by Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell in the 26th Congressional District; and Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, is challenged by Republican Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman, in the 52nd Congressional District.

The numbers also probably aren’t welcomed by Bay Area’s only endangered incumbent, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who’s challenged by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont.

California voters’ overall view of Congress’ job performance remains predictably dismal, with only 13 percent approving and 75 percent disapproving. That’s similar to Field Polls dating back to early 2010, and is shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

When likely voters statewide are asked which party’s candidate they would likely support in November’s House elections, 46 percent say the Democrat while 38 percent say the Republican and 16 percent are undecided.

The Field Poll’s survey of 1,280 registered voters, conducted Aug. 14 through Aug. 28, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The sample of 467 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

Posted on Saturday, September 13th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, polls, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, water | 1 Comment »

9/11

Rather than post any political proclamations or statements about today’s anniversary, I’ll instead offer just this video of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” written in reaction to that awful day.

Lyrics after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

CA17: Honda & Khanna comment on Obama & ISIL

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, gave rather similar assessments Thursday of President Obama’s speech on action against the Islamic State.

honda.jpg“The threat of ISIL is beyond anything we have seen in the last 13 years since the horrors of 9/11. We have seen that ISIL has no limits to their gross brutality,” Honda said. That is why I support the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, supporting local capacities in Iraq, and expanding humanitarian assistance, but without US combat troops on the ground.”

“Only an inclusive and united Iraqi government, in which the rights of all minority groups are respected and represented, will effectively defeat ISIL and extremism,” he continued. “We cannot afford to make the same mistakes of the past. As I have repeatedly said, any sustained military action should be brought to debate and a vote in Congress.”

Ro KhannaKhanna said “President Obama did the right thing in speaking directly to the American people and outlining our nation’s role in leading a coalition to degrade and eventually destroy ISIL.”

“I’m encouraged by his focus on building a coalition of nations and his decision to provide support to those already fighting ISIL on the ground rather than committing American soldiers,” Khanna said. “The next step is for Congress to vote on the authorization of force. That is the system of checks and balances that our Founding Fathers created. But it relies on members of Congress having the courage to take a position instead of sitting on the sidelines and ducking the tough decisions.”

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Mike Honda urges Brown to sign Martins Beach bill

Rep. Mike Honda is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would re-open San Mateo County’s Martins Beach, the focus of a fierce battle between a billionaire who closed off the access road and surfers and advocates wanting to reach the beach.

The Legislature last month sent Brown SB 968 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would instruct the State Lands Commission to consider buying Martins Beach Road if it can’t cut a deal with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to voluntarily open access to the coastline near his sprawling property.

“The people of northern California have waited too many years to regain their historical access to Martins Beach,” Honda, D-San Jose, wrote in a letter to Brown dated Thursday. “The State of California has always recognized the importance of open spaces for its citizens and provided them access to the beautiful coasts in the Coastal Act of 1976. We must preserve this treasured public access to our state’s best resources.”

The beach isn’t in Honda’s 17th Congressional District; it’s in Rep. Jackie Speier’s 14th District. But Honda’s office says he’s been “a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career,” advocating for projects throughout the South Bay and Peninsula. (Speier’s office says she “supports public access,” but described no position on SB 968.)

“Protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound public policy – it’s our obligation,” Honda wrote. “In my work, first as a County Supervisor, as a State Assembly member, and finally as a member of Congress I have continually fought to ensure public access to open spaces for all Californians to enjoy – equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value – and one that should be afforded to all, regardless of income.”

Hill, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club will hold a news conference Friday morning outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Brown to sign the bill.

Brown, in a meeting with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board a few days before SB 968 reached his desk, declined to comment on the issue: “I think that topic is being sufficiently contested, it doesn’t need any further comment from me.”

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

Poll #s tanking, Props. 45 and 46 go on offense

As the Field Poll shows Proposition 46 all but done for and Proposition 45 struggling, backers of both those controversial, health-related measures went on the offensive Thursday by filing official complaints against their foes and challenging a big insurance company’s spending.

Prop. 46 author Bob Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed in 2003 by a drugged driver, filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission claiming the No on 46 committee violated state laws that require disclosure of major funders.

Insurance companies have contributed $42.8 million of the $56.5 million given to the No on 46 campaign, Pack says, and state law requires campaign committees to describe in descending order their major donors. Yet the No on 46 campaign committee is officially known as “No on 46 – Patients, Providers and Healthcare Insurers to Contain Health Costs.”

“How dare the insurance industry claim the mantle of ‘patients’ after blocking life-saving patient safety reforms for decades,” Pack said in a news release. “No on 46’s misleading attack ads, funded by mostly insurance industry money, pretend that they are a public campaign for patients. California’s TV and radio stations have a duty to the public to take these ads down until voters are told the insurance industry is really behind No on 46.”

Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on “pain and suffering” damages in medical malpractice cases; require random drug tests for doctors; and force doctors to use an existing prescription database to weed out drug abusers.

The campaign for it is being run by Consumer Watchdog, a lawyer-funded nonprofit advocacy group that’s also behind Proposition 45, which would give the state insurance commissioner power to reject health-insurance rate hikes.

Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court filed his own FPPC complaint Thursday arguing the No on 45 campaign’s name and radio ads don’t identify “health insurance companies” – the source of the $37.5 million to the campaign – as a major donor. But several insurers are listed by name, including Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., Wellpoint Inc. and Blue Shield of California.

My read: This is a small-ball attempt to further publicize insurers’ role in the campaigns, a role that’s already been widely reported. Court said it himself in today’s story, describing why he believes Prop. 46 isn’t a lost cause despite cratering poll numbers among likely voters: “All we have to do is tell them that it’s the insurance companies on the opposing side lying to them.”

Court, California Nurses Association members and other Prop. 45 supporters will be rallying at 1:30 p.m. Thursday outside Blue Shield’s headquarters on San Francisco’s Beale Street to deliver 22,000 petition signatures decrying the insurer’s purchase of a costly luxury skybox at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Blue Shield’s decision to spend money on the skybox underscores the need for Prop. 45, they argue, so the insurance commissioner can reject excessive rate hikes that then pay for such luxuries.

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »