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New law allows wine tastings at farmers’ markets

Salud! Sláinte! Kanpai! L’Chayyim! Wine and hard cider vendors at farmers’ markets can now offer tastings under certain conditions, thanks to a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

wine signBrown signed AB 2488 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, which had passed the Assembly and state Senate with unanimous votes.

The new law, effective immediately, lets wineries or cider makers who grow all of the fruit in their product to offer tastings to potential customers at farmers’ markets. But nobody’s going to get schnockered: Market managers still have discretion on whether to allow tastings; only one winery can offer tastes at a market on a given day; the tastings must happen in a cordoned-off area; and the grower can pour no more than three ounces of wine or cider per adult customer.

“The farmers’ market shopping experience involves tasting the product,” Levine said in a news release last month. “AB 2488 simply allows tastings at certified farmers’ markets where winemakers are already allowed to sell their products. This bill is a common sense solution for farmers’ markets, wineries and cider makers.”

Paul Kronenberg, president of the Family Winemakers of California, said wine like many other products is traditionally “sold through sampling. Consumers want to understand the wine, decide if they like it and decide if it is a good value.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin dead at 70

Former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, died Thursday. He was 70.

Ira RuskinRuskin served as a Redwood City councilman from 1995 to 2004, including a stint as mayor from 1999 to 2001. In 2004 he defeated Republican Steve Poizner to win the 21st Assembly District seat, despite Poizner having spent $5.75 million of his own money on the race.

As a councilman and Assemblyman, he made a name for himself in environmental affairs, and he chaired both the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials as well as the Budget Subcommittee on Environmental Resources.

Term-limited out of the Assembly in 2010, he had planned to run for the state Senate in 2012 but instead withdrew from politics in 2011 when he had to undergo surgery for the brain tumor that eventually claimed his life.

“As a member of the Assembly and as Mayor and City Councilmember of Redwood City, Ira Ruskin was known as the consummate public servant. His loss is not only a loss for his family and many friends, but for the entire State of California,” Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said in a statement issued Saturday.

“In the Assembly Ira Ruskin was a leader on consumer issues, energy independence and protecting our coast,” Atkins said. “The leadership, intelligence and compassion Ira Ruskin brought to public service will be sorely missed. My Assembly colleagues and I send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Cheryl, and to all their family and friends.”

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2014
Under: Assembly | No Comments »

Tim Donnelly wants immigrant kids deported

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who lost last month’s gubernatorial primary election, wants California and federal agencies to start deporting the thousands of young illegal immigrants who’ve been rushing to U.S. borders in recent months from violence-ravaged Central American nations.

Tim Donnelly“Rather than dump these children on our streets to become victims again, we need to do what is in their best interest which is to restore them to their natural parents in their home countries,” Donnelly, R-Hesperia – a former Minuteman anti-illegal-immigration activist – wrote in a letter Wednesday to the officials at the state Department of Social Services, U.S. Border Patrol, Riverside County and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Study after study irrefutably indicate that children who are raised by their birth parents, even if they are imperfect or living in difficult circumstances, have a better chance of achieving long–term success if the family unit stays intact,” he wrote.

Donnelly’s letter comes a day after Homeland Security buses carrying immigrant children and families were rerouted Tuesday to a facility in San Diego after American flag-waving protesters blocked the group from reaching a suburban processing center. The standoff in Murrieta came after Mayor Alan Long urged residents to complain to elected officials about the plan to transfer the Central Americans to California to ease overcrowding of facilities along the Texas-Mexico border.

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children – mostly fleeing at their parents’ behest from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border since October in what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. Many of believed they would receive leniency from U.S. authorities.

“News stations are reporting these children are to be ‘processed’ and ‘released,’” Donnelly wrote. “There have also been credible reports these children are being sent to our country by the drug cartels with only a phone number of a contact in our state. The Border Patrol have been instructed they are not to check the backgrounds or immigration status of the contacts state side … in other words, our government has completed the drug cartels communication ring at taxpayer expense and no government agency is doing their duty to prevent this from happening.”

Donnelly wrote that he wants to know to whom these children are being released, and whether background checks are being done on those people to see if they are “illegally present in our country, and by the very nature of their status, are unable to provide the safety and stability these children desperately need.”

He also wants to know where children without relatives in California will be released, and what sort of action plans various counties have to deal with the influx.

“We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. I can think of no group at greater risk than ‘unaccompanied minors’ – these children are alone and their parents are thousands of miles away,” Donnelly wrote. “The Border Patrol is reporting that nearly one third of the girls, ages 10-14, have been raped during their journey to our country, and many of them are now pregnant. This is unconscionable.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Assembly, Immigration, Tim Donnelly | 4 Comments »

Perez might seek recount in controller’s race

This just in from Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez, who election returns show fell 481 votes short of fellow Democrat Board of Equalization member Betty Yee in their race to finish second in the primary election for state controller:

John Perez“After nearly a month of counting votes and a vote margin of just 1/100th of one percent, out of more than 4 million votes cast, nobody would like to the see this process completed more than we would. Since this is one of closest statewide elections in the history of California, we have an obligation to review and ensure that every vote cast is accurately counted. During our review, we will also determine whether a recount is warranted.”

If these results remain unchanged, Yee will face off against first-place primary finisher Ashley Swearengin, Fresno’s Republican mayor, in November’s general election. The 481 votes by which Yee leads Perez represents 0.012 percent of the 4,039,375 total votes cast in the primary election for controller.

Posted on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, John Perez | 3 Comments »

California’s “Ban the Box” law takes effect

California’s “Ban the Box” law – removing questions about criminal convictions from state and local government job applications – took effect Tuesday, and supporters say it’ll make the hunt for gainful employment easier for about 7 million Californians.

Ban the BoxA study released Tuesday by the National Employment Law Project shows public employers have updated their job applications to comply with the new law, enacted as AB 218 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.

“When we first introduced the bill nearly two-and-a-half years ago, our goal was to advance a simple but powerful message — that everyone who works hard deserves a second chance to turn their lives around and give back to their communities,” Dickinson said in a news release Tuesday. “We are heartened to see that the state’s public sector employers have embraced fair-chance hiring and that they are now setting an example for the private sector to follow.”

The law requires that state and local agencies determine a job applicant’s minimum qualifications first, and only after that can get and consider information about past criminal convictions. Certain employers – such as law enforcement agencies and school districts – are exempt from the law, as are any job positions subject to a criminal background check by an occupational or licensing law.

The NELP survey found all of California’s 10 largest counties and 10 largest cities – representing about three quarters of the state’s population – have removed the conviction-history question from their job applications and delayed the criminal background check until later in the hiring process.

Of the 10 largest counties, each of which has a population greater than 952,000, only Alameda, Santa Clara, and Riverside counties had a similar policy in place before AB 218 was signed into law. And of the 10 largest cities, each of which has a population of more than 346,000, only Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco had such policies in place.

About half of the largest counties and cities – including Santa Clara County, Oakland and San Jose – have gone beyond what the new law requires: They delay the criminal-history inquiry until the employer makes a conditional offer of employment, or later. San Francisco has passed a local ordinance extending the policy to private employers, too. And Richmond and Compton extend the policies to private vendors doing business with those cities.

“AB 218 provided us with the mandate to adopt ban-the-box, which we’re proud to embrace, but it’s just a first step of our evolving process to ensure that all our residents share in the promise of economic opportunity,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who has championed this cause.

The Assembly approved AB 219 on a 48-29 vote in May 2013, and it just barely squeaked through the state Senate on a 21-16 vote in September.

These “fair-chance hiring policies” are now in effect in 12 states plus almost 70 cities and counties across the nation.

Posted on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate | 19 Comments »

Buchanan & DeSaulnier battle over license plates

Their East Bay Districts overlap, but Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier certainly weren’t seeing eye to eye at Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee hearing.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was there to speak on behalf of his SB544, which would require the California Department of Education to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for creation of a specialized license plate program to generate funds for school violence prevention programs.

DeSaulnierThe problem is, DeSaulnier – who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee – earlier this year helped push through a resolution, SR28, that puts a moratorium on new license plate types until a task force made up of California Highway Patrol, DMV and local police can issue a report by July 2015 “on license plate designs appropriate for traffic safety and effective law enforcement in today’s environment.”

And that resolution essentially put the kibosh on Buchanan’s AB49, which would require the Department of Health Care Services to apply to DMV for a special license plate promoting breast cancer awareness – what supporters call the “pink plate” bill. AB49 now languishes in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Could you please explain to me why you should not have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and why this plate and any other should not be subject to the pending results of the study?” Buchanan, D-Alamo, asked DeSaulnier on Monday. “Because it seems to me that when we write a bill that kills one, it should apply to everybody, especially the author of that resolution.”

The difference, DeSaulnier replied, is that “the full-plate pink plate had a problem, in my conversations with the CHP” – police were concerned that the fully colored plate might be hard to distinguish from other states’ plates, especially under twilight conditions. His school-violence prevention plate, he said, merely has a logo on one side, not a fully different color.

But Buchanan insists SR28 applies to all specialty license plates. And “if we’re going to pass a resolution that clearly states it applies to all specialty plate types… we should be applying that equally to all license plates and not making special carve-outs,” she said.

Replied DeSaulnier: “If someone comes together with a plate that complies with our rules then it will get out of our committee.”

“Right now, my opinion is, your plate does not,” he told Buchanan. “In my discussions with CHP, they had some questions, so that’s why we’re doing the study. … My whole difficulty with your plate was whether public safety could see or not.”

Buchanan held her ground. “I believe for us to approve a bill that’s in conflict with an existing senate resolution that came out of the senate transportation department is not responsible,” she said. “I think that if they want to change it, it should be changed first.”

The Assembly Transportation committee voted 10-3 to advance DeSaulnier’s bill, which is now pending before the Assembly Education Committee.

The California Channel has video of the exchange here (starting at the 50-minute mark).

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 9 Comments »

Bill would require cops to check gun database

Weeks after a mentally ill student killed six people plus himself and injured 13 in a rampage near UC-Santa Barbara, a state lawmaker has proposed two new bills she says will help prevent gun violence and save lives.

Hannah-Beth JacksonSB 505 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would require that law enforcement officers who are making a “welfare check” on someone who might be a danger to themselves or others must first check that person’s name against the state Justice Department’s firearm database.

Deputies who visited Elliot Rodger in April hadn’t checked the system, and so didn’t discover he owned three handguns – all of which were found in his car after his deadly rampage through the Isla Vista on May 23.

“In addition to instigating an important conversation about mental illness and gun violence, the tragedy in Isla Vista has also raised questions about law enforcement protocols,” Jackson said in a news release issued Wednesday. “Right now, we seem to have a patchwork of inconsistent agency policy on database checks. This bill would create consistency and ensure that law enforcement agencies are using the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others.”

Deputies still might have lacked legal authority to seize Rodger’s guns, she said, but they at least could’ve made a more informed judgment about the threat he presented. “We will never know for sure if the outcome in Isla Vista might have been different with a gun database search,” Jackson said. “But the next time California experiences a similar tragedy, we shouldn’t be left wondering. Searches of the gun database can be done in as little as 90 seconds, and those 90 seconds can help save lives.”

Jackson also is offering SB 580 to provide more money for police to enforce existing laws, specifically:

    $5 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies to take guns away from those who currently illegally possess them; the state Bureau of Firearms has identified 20,834 people with a prior criminal conviction or mental health disorder which disqualifies them from possessing more than 43,000 firearms, and the list grows by about 15 to 20 people per day.
    $10 million over three years to improve the efficiency of the Justice Department’s aging data systems used to register gun ownership, conduct background checks, and monitor the possession of firearms by prohibited persons.
    $50,000 for the Justice Department to train local law enforcement on how to effectively use the Automated Firearms System, the centralized database of gun purchases.

“This case highlighted the need to consult these databases,” Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, a co-author of SB 580, said in Jackson’s news release. “But, we need to make sure there’s adequate training so law enforcement can use those databases effectively.”

SB 505 is scheduled for an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on June 24; no hearing has been set yet for SB 580.

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control | No Comments »

SD10: Mary Hayashi’s last-minute contributions

Former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who was eliminated in last week’s primary election for the 10th State Senate District, reported a few pre-election contributions right after the vote.

Mary HayashiOn Thursday, she reported having received $1,000 from Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on May 31; Bass was Assembly Speaker during the second of Hayashi’s three Assembly terms.

And on Friday, she reported having received $2,500 from San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. on June 2. That’s interesting in light of Hayashi’s opposition to fracking, and her attack upon rival Democrat Bob Wieckowski for not supporting a moratorium; Chevron semi-notoriously provided free pizza to residents near the site of a fracking explosion and fire this past February in Pennsylvania.

Hayashi, perhaps best known for her 2012 shoplifting conviction for which she’s still on probation, finished third behind Wieckowski and Republican Peter Kuo.

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, California State Senate, campaign finance, Mary Hayashi | 1 Comment »

What the top two hath wrought upon California

My story today includes experts’ opinions on the effects that California’s top-two primary system had on Tuesday’s results; over at FlashReport.org, former state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro makes an impassioned case against the system.

In furtherance of the debate, here’s a list of all House, state Senate and Assembly races I found in which candidates of the same party are advancing to November’s general election, leaving voters without an alternate party choice; I did not list races in which the incumbent stands unopposed.

SAME-PARTY HOUSE RACES: 5 Democratic*, 2 Republican

CA4 – Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, vs. Art Moore (R)
(A nonpartisan candidate was eliminated; there were no Democrats.)

CA17 – Rep. Mike. Honda, D-San Jose, vs. Ro Khanna (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

CA19 – Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, vs. Robert Murray (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates; Murray ran as a Republican in 2012.)

CA25 – Tony Strickland (R) vs. Steve Knight (R)
(Two Democrats, two Republicans, a Libertarian and a nonpartisan were eliminated.)

CA34 – Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, vs. Adrienne Edwards (D)
(A Peace & Freedom Party candidate was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA35 – Norma Torres (D) vs. Christina Gagnier (D)
(Two other Democratic candidates were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA40 – Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce, vs. David Sanchez (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

* It’s still too close to call whether state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, or Alameda County GOP vice chairman Hugh Bussell of Livermore will advance to face Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in the 15th District.

SAME-PARTY STATE SENATE RACES: 5 Democratic, 1 Republican

SD6 – Roger Dickinson (D) vs. Richard Pan (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

SD24 – State Sen. Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles, vs. Peter Choi (D)
(One Republican candidate was eliminated.)

SD26 – Ben Allen (D) vs. Sandra Fluke (D)
(Five other Democrats and one nonpartisan were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

SD28 – Jeff Stone (R) vs. ?????
(Too close to call, but those now in second and third place are both Republicans; another Republican and two Democrats were eliminated.)

SD30 – State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, vs. Isidro Armenta (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SD40 – State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, vs. Rafael Estrada (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SAME-PARTY ASSEMBLY RACES: 8 Democratic, 3 Republican

AD7 – Kevin McCarty (D) vs. Steve Cohn (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD9 – Jim Cooper (D) vs. Darrell Fong (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD15 – Elizabeth Echols (D) vs. Tony Thurmond (D)
(Three Democrats, one Republican, one Peace & Freedom and one nonpartisan were eliminated.)

AD17 – Chris Campos (D) vs. David Chiu (D)
(One Republican was eliminated.)

AD26 – Rudy Mendoza (R) vs. Devon Mathis (R)
(Three Democrats and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD39 – Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Arleta, vs. Patty Lopez (D)
(One Democrat was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD47 – Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, vs. Gil Navarro (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD53 – Miguel Santiago (D) vs. Sandra Mendoza (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD64 – Mike Gipson (D) vs. Prophet Walker (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated, there were no Republicans.)

AD71 – Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, vs. Tony Teora (R)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD74 – Keith Curry (R) vs. Matthew Harper (R)
(Two Democrats and a Republican were eliminated.)

Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Election reform, Elections, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

‘Dancing hamster arrested on insurance fraud charges’

Best headline ever, no? It arrived in my inbox a few minutes ago atop a press release from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, announcing the arrest of Leroy Barnes, 27, of Los Angeles, known as one of the dancing hamsters in Kia commercials.

Barnes faces insurance fraud charges related to his alleged collection of state disability insurance benefits under false pretenses.

“Fraudulently collecting disability benefits is not only illegal, it disrespects legitimately injured Californians who are unable to work,” Jones said as solemnly as one can in a news release involving dancing hamsters.

Jones’ release says Barnes in June 2010, while employed as a dancer for John Cossette Productions, was struck by a piece of ceiling that fell on him during a sound check; Barnes then received state disability insurance benefits from September 2010 to September 2011, totaling more than $51,000.

But while he stated he was unemployed during the year he received that money, detectives discovered evidence that he actually starred in a Kia car commercial playing the role of a dancing hamster, according to the news release. He also performed in a rap group called The Rej3ctz under the alias MoWii, assisting in recording the song “Cat Daddy,” and also worked as a backup dancer for Madonna, Kelly Rowland, and Chris Brown under the name Hypnosis.

I’m not sure which dancing-hamster Kia ad Barnes appeared in, so I have no choice but to offer a few for your review; watch carefully to see if any of the hamsters seem to be limping.

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: Dave Jones | 2 Comments »