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John Garamendi seeks T&I ranking member post

A Northern California congressman is making a play to become the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s ranking member.

Current ranking member Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., was defeated Tuesday in his bid for an 18th term. The panel’s next-most-senior Democrat is Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., already is the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member but reportedly now more interested in this slot.

After DeFazio come 15 more Democrats (two of whom won’t be back next year) – and then comes Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove.

John Garamendi“A demonstrated ability to preserve Democratic ideals while working across the aisle to get things done will be crucial in the next Congress, and particularly in this Committee,” Garamendi wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the Democratic Caucus.

“With major legislative initiatives on the horizon that include surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak reauthorization, the Democratic transportation agenda calls for a strong, inclusive, proactive leader who looks beyond divisive dualities to facilitate opportunity, momentum, and results,” he wrote. “This is the leadership I aim to bring.”

Garamendi’s letter cites his work in Congress on water infrastructure, domestic shipyards and the U.S. Merchant Marine, but also harkens back to his California work.

“Most notably, in 1990, I authored SCA 1, which became California Proposition 111,” wrote Garamendi, who at that time was a state senator. “Among the most important transportation propositions in California history, this measure ensured government expenditure limits would not unnecessarily restrict the infrastructure improvements needed to keep pace with California’s population and economic growth.”

“The initiative led to voter approval of an $18.5 billion transportation package that helped improve roads and transit corridors throughout the state,” he wrote. “For this work, I was named Legislator of the Year by the League of California Cities, and to this day, Prop 111 provides funding for cash-strapped highways and public transit systems in California.”

The other California Democrats on the Transportation Committee are Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, who has more seniority than Garamendi, and Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, who has less.

The Democratic Caucus is expected to vote on ranking-member appointments in December.

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Brown, lawmakers seek disaster declaration

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday requested a presidential major disaster declaration for California, as communities in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties continue trying to recover from the South Napa earthquake on Aug. 24.

“Economic impacts of this event will be extensive. The earthquake caused significant damage throughout the region,” Brown wrote in a letter sent to the White House on Tuesday. “This incident is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments, and supplemental federal assistance is necessary.”

Such a declaration from the president would trigger the release of federal funds to help communities recover, and an executive order Brown signed Tuesday provides additional financial aid to local agencies and nonprofits so residents can replace important documents and access key services without footing added costs or other burdens.

The region’s voices in Congress, led by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, echoed Brown’s call with their own letter to President Obama. “It is clear to us and local authorities that a major disaster declaration is critical to helping our state recover and rebuild,” Thompson’s letter reads.

Also signing Thompson’s letter were senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield.

Federal relief funding might include Federal Emergency Management Agency money to help people to rebuild and repair housing, and for local communities to repair public infrastructure; and Small Business Administration loans for businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, inventory, and supplies. Homeowners and renters may also be eligible for SBA loans to repair or replace disaster-related damages to homes or personal property.

FEMA does not provide for assistance if there is another option in place, like insurance. Those affected by the quake should contact their insurance companies first to see what benefits, if any, their plan provides.

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Beer breeds bipartisanship in House

What has the power to make California’s House members work across the aisle? Beer.

Reps. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month urging it to reject a proposed regulation that would’ve put a burden on small breweries while contributing to an increase in food waste. The letter was signed by 11 other California House members – six Democrats and five Republicans.

At issue were spent grains: by-products of alcoholic beverage brewing and distilling that are commonly used as animal feed. The FDA had proposed that breweries be forced to dry, package, and inspect all food, including spent grain used for cattle. But the agency announced Thursday it won’t pursue the regulation.

“We’ve heard from trade groups and members of Congress, as well as individual breweries raising concerns that FDA might disrupt or even eliminate this practice by making brewers, distillers, and food manufacturers comply not only with human food safety requirements but also additional, redundant animal feed standards that would impose costs without adding value for food or feed safety,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, explained in a blog post. “That, of course, would not make common sense, and we’re not going to do it.”

Garamendi issued a news release Friday saying food safety is important, but “the FDA was proposing a burdensome and unnecessary regulation, and I’m glad they’re reversing course.”

“Many small breweries are helmed by people who believe deeply in conservation and sustainable agriculture,” he said. “They like to buy local and stay local, partnering with area farmers to reduce food waste. It’s great news that this practice can continue in California and across the nation.”

Among the small breweries in Garamendi’s district are Berryessa Brewing Company in Winters, Black Dragon Brewery in Woodland, Heretic Brewing Company in Fairfield, Sudwerk Brewery in Davis, and Sutter Buttes Brewing in Yuba City.

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Activists seek ‘Robin Hood tax’ upon Wall Street

Activists organized in part by the California Nurses Association rallied Friday at congressional offices in 22 cities – including four in Northern California – to call for a tax on Wall Street speculation to relieve economic inequality and address basic needs.

The Oakland-based union scheduled the events for Friday because it’s the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who at the time of his death was amid a campaign for economic justice that included anti-poverty and worker-rights issues.

Supporters of HR 1579 – authored by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and cosponsored by local lawmakers including Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Garamendi, D-Fairfield – sometimes call it the “Robin Hood tax.”

The bill would levy a tax of 50 cents on every $100 of stock trades and smaller amounts on transactions of bonds and derivatives. Its goal to reduce harmful financial market speculation; discourage high-volume, high-speed trading; and slow down proliferation of complex derivatives while raising hundreds of billions of dollars per year for jobs, health care, education, the fights against HIV/AIDS and climate change, and more.

Several dozen countries have similar taxes, and the United States had one until 1966. Business leaders including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Pollin, and Larry Summers have recommended adopting a financial transaction tax, and after Wall Street’s crash 1987, such a tax was endorsed by President George H.W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan. And former Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, carried a similar bill in 2010.

There’s no chance the Republican-led House will ever advance this bill.

Still, Northern California activists rallied Friday at the offices of congressmen George Miller in Concord, Mike Honda in San Jose, Ami Bera in Rancho Cordova and Jeff Denham in Modesto – three Democrats and a Republican, respectively.

“My patients are trying to heal from an illness or surgery and when they go home they are forced to make a decision between buying medication or food,” California Nurses Association co-president Malinda Markowitz, an RN at San Jose’s Good Samaritan Hospital, said in a news release. “That’s why I want Rep. Mike Honda to support the people of this community by supporting the Robin Hood Tax.”

The nurses’ union notes King once said, “This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have nots. The question is whether America will do it.”

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Money matchups: CA3, CA7, CA9, CA10 & CA21

Aside from the Honda-Khanna and perhaps the Swalwell-Corbett Democrat-on-Democrat contests, the Bay Area doesn’t offer much in terms of competitive House races – yet some races elsewhere in Northern and Central California are heating up, according to campaign finance reports filed last week.

3rd Congressional District
(likely Democratic*)

  • Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, raised about $114,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $216,000 cash on hand and $55 in debts.
  • Dan Logue, the Republican assemblyman from Chico, raised about $88,000 in 2013’s final quarter and finished the year with about $251,000 cash on hand but about $122,000 in debts – the latter, mostly the $115,000 he loaned his own campaign.
  • Republican Ryan Harter of Plumas Lake just entered the race last month and so has not yet reported any fundraising.
  • 7th Congressional District
    (Toss-up*)

  • Freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, raised more than $338,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $1,152,000 cash on hand but about $342,000 in debts.
  • Former Rep. Doug Ose, a Republican from Sacramento, raised about $129,000 in the final quarter, finishing 2013 with about $277,000 cash on hand and $44,000 in debts.
  • Igor Birman, a Republican from Rancho Cordova and former chief of staff to Rep. Tom McClintock, raised about $72,000 in 2013’s final quarter and finished the year with about $124,000 cash on hand and $18,000 in debts.
  • Elizabeth Emken of Fair Oaks, who was U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Republican challenger in 2012, raised about $49,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $306,000 cash on hand but about $312,000 in debts – the latter, mostly the $285,000 loan she made to her own campaign in June and September.
  • 9th Congressional District
    (likely Democratic*)

  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, raised about $130,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $306,000 cash on hand and $3,000 in debts.
  • Republican Steve Colangelo of Stockton raised about $7,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $582 cash on hand but almost $23,000 in debts.
  • Republican Karen Davis of Lodi raised no funds but loaned her campaign $12,000, all of which was paid to consultant Chad Condit – the son of former Rep. Gary Condit.
  • 10th Congressional District
    (likely Republican*)

  • Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, raised about $196,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $1.3 million cash on hand and about $34,000 in debts.
  • Democrat Michael Eggman of Kingsburg – brother of Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stoctkon – raised about $188,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $287,000 cash on hand and $2,700 in debts.
  • 21st Congressional District
    (lean Republican*)

  • Freshman Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, raised about $232,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $677,000 cash on hand and $12,000 in debts.
  • Democrat Amanda Renteria of Sanger – a former aide to U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Debbie Stabenow – raised about $338,000 in 2013’s final quarter, finishing the year with about $257,000 cash on hand and $6,500 in debts.
  • (* all ratings courtesy of the Cook Political Report)

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    House GOP schedules water bill for vote

    House Republican leaders have scheduled a vote next week for an emergency water bill offered by Central Valley Republicans.

    The controversial legislation – H.R. 3964, Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford – is being rushed through on account of California’s severe drought. But the bill would be the biggest reform of California water policy in decades, and has met with harsh criticism from the state’s Democrats.

    House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement Friday saying Central Valley farmers and families were dealt a blow earlier in the day when the California Department of Water Resources reduced State Water Project allocations from 5 percent to zero; the reduction followed a finding on Thursday that the state’s snowpack is at only 12 percent of normal for this time of year.

    “Today’s action is a stark reminder that California’s drought is real,” Gov. Jerry Brown of the allocation reduction. “We’re taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face.”

    But McCarthy said “the pressure this decision puts on the already dangerously low reservoirs and groundwater banks is unsustainable,” and HR 3964 “is a responsible answer to the hardship the Central Valley is currently facing. I thank Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and Chairman Hastings for appreciating the urgency of this matter and scheduling a vote on this bill next week.”

    He noted Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., oppose the House bill.

    “Perhaps more disturbing is their failure of leadership in offering a solution of their own to bring Central Valley communities new or additional water,” McCarthy said. “As the House acts on Rep. Valadao’s legislation next week, I urge Governor Brown to use his authority to immediately direct state agencies to relax current state environmental regulations in the delta to ensure any water that does move down the Sacramento River ultimately flows to Kern County and Central California. Absent immediate action, California farmers and communities will continue to be gripped by the damaging effects of the worst drought in a century.”

    Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, on Thursday had blasted the Republcians’ bill as “a political ploy in an election year that does nothing to solve the devastating drought facing the state.

    “If enacted, the bill would overturn six decades of California state water and environmental law, tear up long standing contracts between the state, federal government, and water districts, and ignore the California Constitution’s public trust doctrine. This would create massive confusion and environmental damage to all California’s rivers, the Delta, and San Francisco Bay,” Garamendi charged. “This bill hurts Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike by threatening the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen, and small businesses throughout the state. We cannot throw away years of water management experience for the sake of scoring a few political points.”