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McNerney, Garamendi & foes on SCOTUS ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act ensures the health care reform law will be a top issue in this November’s battles for control of the House. In and near the Bay Area, the candidates have come out swinging today.

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, who’s seeking re-election in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District:

Jerry McNerney“When I am with people, working in our region, I hear how having access to affordable health care is imperative to our families. I have been unemployed and understand what it’s like to worry about providing for your family and had to struggle to find health coverage.

“The health care reform we passed is far from perfect and needs to be improved upon, but it is a big step in the right direction. Folks who are uninsured will now have some peace of mind, knowing that they will have health care. In our area, where unemployment has been much higher than the rest of the country, and where people need access to affordable health care, this is a vital element to our economic recovery.”

And from McNerney’s opponent this November, Republican candidate Ricky Gill of Lodi:

Ricky Gill “Jerry McNerney promised that his health care plan would reduce health care costs, but today we learned it is simply a massive tax increase that is already contributing to skyrocketing health care premiums for middle class families. Jerry McNerney stands for the status quo, but I am committed to moving responsibly towards bipartisan, comprehensive health care reform that increases patient choice, reduces costs, and protects coverage for seniors, young people and those with pre-existing health conditions.”

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who’s seeking re-election in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District:

John Garamendi “When people fall ill, we should help them get better. Most of us have experienced hard times. Many of us have gone without health coverage. When you lay all the heated rhetoric and legalese aside, the health care debate is really about what we’re going to do when people get sick or injured. In America, we should take care of each other. It is irresponsible to force millions of Americans to delay treatment because they can’t afford it, to live one broken leg or one chronic illness away from financial calamity.

“Today a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court made the right decision. President Obama and Democrats in Congress did the right thing. We developed a plan that extended health coverage to most Americans. We fulfilled our moral obligation to seniors, to children, and to hardworking Americans. The Supreme Court sided with our authority to improve health care for all Americans.

“The health care law establishes a powerful Patient’s Bill of Rights. No longer will Americans with a pre-existing condition be denied health coverage. No longer will women be charged more for coverage. The health law will finally close the prescription drug donut hole, so seniors can afford their medication. The benefits of the Affordable Care Act have already started. 32.5 million Seniors have already received free preventative services. Three million additional young adults now have health coverage because of the law. Small businesses can take advantage of tax credits so they can provide insurance for their employees. Starting in 2014, 30 million more Americans will be able to afford access to health care.

“Jesus taught us, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ All the world’s great religions urge us to be compassionate and to help the sick. All good people recoil at the sight of needless suffering and cruelty.

“We all deserve the freedom from want and the freedom from fear. While I hope to eventually see Medicare for All in America, the Affordable Care Act is a vast improvement over the dark days when we allowed the insurance companies to run roughshod over our health.”

And from Garamendi’s opponent this November, Republican candidate and Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann:

Kim Vann “Today’s Supreme Court ruling underscores the urgency with which Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with solutions that do not tax and cripple our economy. Rather than providing a lasting solution to the challenges facing our health care system, the health care law places a $600 billion tax on American families and businesses, while cutting over $500 billion from Medicare, empowering an unelected and unaccountable board of bureaucrats to make decisions regarding seniors’ health care, and imposing burdensome and costly regulations on our small businesses. It’s clear these solutions aren’t working. We must work for real reforms that lower costs and increase access to quality care, while ensuring that patients and their doctors—not government bureaucrats—remain in control of their healthcare decisions.

“My opponent, Congressman John Garamendi, has already voted for a more radical government health care overhaul than Obamacare. He supports the complete government takeover of health care—a ‘single payer’ government-run system. This radical position is not only out of step with most Republicans and Democrats—it’s out of touch with reality.”

Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, healthcare reform, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

McNerney will skip convention, Garamendi unsure

Add Rep. Jerry McNerney to the list of Democratic elected officials who won’t attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this September even as they try to retain their seats.

But it seems he has a pretty solid reason.

“The Congressman won’t be attending the convention, as it conflicts with his son’s wedding,” spokeswoman Lauren Smith said today.

McNerney, D-Stockton, is being challenged in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District by Ricky Gill, a recent law school graduate from Lodi whom the National Republican Congressional Committee named one of its Young Guns – a well-funded, well-organized up-and-comer taking on a vulnerable incumbent.

But Gill spokesman Colin Hunter said Gill hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August; he declined comment on McNerney skipping Charlotte.

Various national media outlets have been building a list of Democrats avoiding the Charlotte convention, often from districts where President Obama’s approval ratings are low. Likewise, some Republicans who might benefit from distancing themselves from the GOP are avoiding Tampa.

It’s unclear whether Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, will go to Charlotte. Garamendi is challenged in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District by Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, another of the NRCC’s Young Guns.

“A decision has not been made yet,” Garamendi spokesman Donald Lathbury said today. “We’ll have a better sense of his schedule closer to the convention.”

A spokeswoman for Vann didn’t immediately return a call or an e-mail.

UPDATE @ 1:05 P.M.: Alee Lockman, Vann’s campaign manager, says “no plans have been made as of yet” on whether Vann will go to the GOP convention in Tampa.

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Is one of these ‘Young Guns’ shooting blanks?

Two of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” are near the Bay Area, but one of them might be shooting blanks.

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s primary in the 3rd Congressional District show incumbent John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, got 52.5 percent of the vote while “Young Gun” Kim Vann – a Colusa County supervisor – got 25.4 percent.

It’s true that Vann had to beat back three other Republican challengers, but the long and short of it is that Garamendi still managed to pull a majority of the votes in a low-turnout election that should’ve favored Republicans. In November, with the presidential election drawing many more voters to the polls and Democratic turnout improving accordingly, Vann’s going to have a much tougher time. The well-respected Cook Political Report agrees, listing Garamendi’s district – which has pieces of Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties – as a “likely Democratic” win this fall.

Not that Vann is letting any grass grow under her feet. Here’s the video she released yesterday:

It could be somewhat different story over in the 9th Congressional District, listed by Cook as “lean Democratic” as incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, seeks re-election.

Unofficial results show McNerney got 48.4 percent of the vote, while “Young Gun” Ricky Gill – a Lodi native who just finished law school at UC-Berkeley – drew 39.5 percent; another Republican, Mountain House businessman John McDonald, got 12.1 percent.

Unlike Garamendi, McNerney didn’t manage to get a majority on Tuesday. Spokeswoman Lauren Smith told me late Tuesday night that he’s not worried; he believes stronger Democratic turnout in November will buoy him to victory. The district – with parts of San Joaquin, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties – is registered 43.8 percent Democrat, 36.5 percent Republican and 15.8 percent no-party-preference, which gives him a better edge than the tiny GOP advantage he overcame in his old district in November 2010. But Gill is playing up his local roots and has raised a lot of money, and McNerney certainly can’t kick back and relax this summer.

Posted on Thursday, June 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 primary election, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

House OKs indefinite detentions, TBI treatment

The House today voted 182-238 against a bipartisan amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, expressing Congress’ view that no one detained on U.S. soil can be indefinitely detained and that every person deserves access to a lawyer and a fair judicial process.

All Bay Area members voted for the amendment except Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who didn’t vote.

“Last year, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, he laid out his concerns regarding provisions that would have allowed for indefinite detention of American citizens and required that certain individuals captured even on US soil be held in military custody,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said afterward.

“The Smith-Amash amendment would have addressed these concerns, righting a wrong that flies in the face of our commitment to protect the American people and have the proper balance between security and liberty,” she said. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in the House failed to join the vast majority of Democrats in supporting this amendment to realign detention policy with the U.S. Constitution.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, had co-sponsored the amendment.

“The NDAA allows the Executive Branch the power to detain individuals indefinitely without giving them their day in court,” he said. “Not only does this subvert the core principles embedded in our Constitution, this policy prevents our judicial system from trying and punishing anyone who would harm Americans. Instead of allowing terrorists to hang in legal limbo, we must bring them to justice.”

Among other amendments, however, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, scored a win with his bipartisan effort to speed up new and innovative treatments to servicemembers and veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Our troops and veterans have earned the very best treatment and care that we can provide,” said Thompson. “But sometimes the best treatments aren’t available at military and veteran medical facilities. My amendment will make sure that our heroes who return from combat with TBI or PTSD have access to the highest quality care our nation has to offer.”

The amendment Thompson cosponsored with Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, creates a new five-year, $10 million pilot program to let military patients get treatment from health care facilities outside the VA that use cutting-edge, successful therapies for TBI and PTSD. Physicians and residential treatment centers can qualify for payment from the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs through a “pay-for-performance” plan, meaning they must prove a patient has had demonstrable improvement. The amendment also requires an annual report to Congress on the results of the program, as well as a report on plans to integrate successful methods into Defense and VA medical facilities.

Ultimately, the House passed the NDAA today on a 299-120 vote; the only Bay Area member to vote for it was Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012
Under: Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Safeway exec’s joke falls flat for House members

Much of the Bay Area’s House delegation has asked top officials at Pleasanton-based supermarket giant Safeway for an apology after one of those officials told what the lawmakers say was a sexist joke about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The letters the lawmakers sent today to Safeway CEO Steve Burd and General Counsel Robert Gordon takes issue with something Gordon, 60, of Orinda, said at the company’s shareholder meeting Tuesday in Pleasanton:

“You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter. The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, ‘Nice pigs, sir.’ And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the Secret Service agent said, ‘Excellent trade, sir.’”

(Thanks very much, he’ll be here all week, try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waiters.)

SO not funny, say the lawmakers.

“Poking fun at politicians is part of our culture, and TV comedians carry this out nightly. But sexist jokes told by a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to an international audience are completely inappropriate and demonstrate a shocking lack of respect, not only for two of the most important and respected people in our country but for all women,” they wrote to Burd. “Safeway owes an apology to Secretary Clinton, Leader Pelosi, and the country. It is up to the Safeway board to decide what action to take against its general counsel for his comments but let there be no doubt as to our strong disapproval and deep disappointment in your company for what he said.”

The letters were signed by George Miller, D-Martinez; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

I’m awaiting a response from Safeway, and will update this when it’s received.

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: “Both letters will be responded to shortly,” Brian Dowling, Safeway’s Vice President of Public Affairs, e-mailed me about an hour ago; he did not clarify whether this will be the extent of the company’s comment today, so I must assume that it will be.

UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Dowling clarifies that the company will respond directly to the lawmakers, and Gordon also will write directly to Pelosi and Clinton.

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Lawmakers urge faster Afghanistan withdrawal

Most of the Bay Area’s House delegation was among 101 members who signed a letter, co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, urging President Obama to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government and security forces.

The lawmakers want the president to announce this at the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Chicago, in order to effect a speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Earlier this month you visited Afghanistan to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement. As you stated at Bagram Air Base, ‘this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,’” the lawmakers wrote. “The core of al Qaeda has been greatly reduced in size and ability to attack Americans. Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything that we have asked of them. With over 17,000 dead and wounded U.S. servicemen and women, and long term costs estimated at $4 trillion for the past decade of unfunded wars, the overwhelming majority of American people want to bring the war in Afghanistan to an expedited end.”

The lawmakers wrote that while many of them would prefer an immediate full withdrawal, there’s broad bipartisan consensus that the process at least should be speeded up. “We also remind you that any agreement committing U.S. troops to Afghanistan must have congressional approval to be binding.”

The only Bay Area members who didn’t sign the letter – which Lee, D-Oakland, coauthored with Walter Jones, R-N.C. – were Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Lee also this afternoon offered an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, which would’ve limited further funding for the Afghanistan war to only what’s required for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors.

Lee’s amendment failed on a 113-303 vote. “My amendment provided members of the House the opportunity to stand squarely with the war-weary American people,” she said in a statement issued afterward. “I am disappointed that a majority of House members did not stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan.”

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

New fundraising figures in hot House races

Candidates have filed campaign-finance reports to the Federal Election Commission for the first quarter of 2012. Here’s a round-up of the news from the more vibrant races in or near the Bay Area:

15th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, raised $60,255 and spent $90,299 in the first quarter, and had $551,341.79 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell, also a Democrat, raised $100,930.24 and spent $96,592.16 in the first quarter, and had $93,311.05 cash on hand with $8,572.50 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

A report from Hayward businessman Chris Pareja, a conservative independent, wasn’t available Monday. “We filed last week, but noticed some of our supporting documentation was not included in the package,” he said. “I have notified the FEC that we identified the situation and are amending our report. It may be tomorrow or the next day before I can email you the info.”

Attorney and former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont – who’d raised a startling $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, but said he wouldn’t run this year if Stark did – raised $15,929 and spent $41,266.10 in the first quarter of 2012, and had $1,109,715.90 cash on hand with $58.50 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – who had explored a run in the 15th Congressional District this year but instead chose to finish her state Senate term in 2014 – raised $7,800 and spent $51,585.51 in the first quarter, and had $103,947.94 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

9th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, raised $264,592.85 and spent $108,140.08 in the first quarter, and had $937,802.55 cash on hand and $20,694.46 in unpaid debts as of March 31.

Lodi law student Ricky Gill, a Republican, raised $308,070.08 and spent $104,035.41 in the first quarter, and had $988,585.80 cash on hand with $179,151.91 in unpaid debts as of March 31.

Tech executive John McDonald of Mountain House, another Republican, raised $6,695.98 and spent $13,467.06 in the first quarter, and had $28,736.48 cash on hand and $25,300 (the amount he personally has loaned his campaign) in unpaid debts as of March 31.

3rd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, raised $261,183.09 and spent $308,387.76 in the first quarter, and had $255,448.26 cash on hand with $14,324.18 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann of Arbuckle, a Republican, raised $120,504.99 and spent $93,967.47 in the first quarter, and had $216,646.14 cash on hand with $5,409.97 in outstanding debts as of March 31.

United Airlines pilot and Air Force reservist Rick Tubbs of Vacaville, another Republican, raised $16,492.44 and spent $23,591.01 in the first quarter, and had $5,391.41 cash on hand and $11,622.23 (all of which he personally loaned his campaign) in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Retired U.S. Marine Charles Schaupp of Esparto, another Republican, raised $610 and spent $27,792.78 in the first quarter, and had $5,223.75 cash on hand and $50,179.32 (including $50,000 he personally loaned his campaign) in outstanding debts as of March 31.

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, campaign finance, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

How tight-fisted was your House member?

As various national media reported over the weekend, House members are under pressure to ratchet down their office budgets – and one Northern California lawmaker is touting his frugality as a result.

USA Today presented the data on members’ 2011 budget allocations so that it could be arranged in order of the percentage spent – thereby telling us who’s been most tight-fisted with his or her office budget.

Nationally, the biggest spender was Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who overshot his budget by about $8,500; his office told USA Today he will be under budget once all books for the year are reconciled. (The data was as of Dec. 31.) And the nation’s most frugal House member appears to have been Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who spent only 60 percent of the $1,453,472 he was allotted for 2011.

The average House office budget for 2011 was $1.45 million, USA Today reported, with different members allotted different amounts based on factors including a district’s geographical size, its distance from Washington, D.C., local office rental costs and so on. Also, lawmakers who’ve been in Congress for longer tend to have more experienced staffers who draw higher salaries.

Lawmakers must cut their budgets by 6.4 percent this year after a 5 percent cut in 2011.

Here’s how the Bay Area’s members stacked up with their 2011 budget allotments and the percentages they actually spent:

  • Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma – $1,520,019 – 97.8 percent
  • Mike Thompson, D-Napa – $1,488,110 – 97.1 percent
  • Mike Honda, D-Campbell – $1,513,347 – 95.6 percent
  • Pete Stark, D-Fremont – $1,493,927 – 94.9 percent
  • Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto – $1,563,124 – 94.1 percent
  • George Miller, D-Martinez – $1,452,987 – 93.9 percent
  • Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose – $1,480,567 – 92.0 percent
  • Barbara Lee, D-Oakland – $1,518,030 – 91.6 percent
  • Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – $1,671,596 – 91.4 percent
  • Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough – $1,640,268 – 87.1 percent
  • Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – $1,473,929 – 85.3 percent
  • John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove – $1,467,605 – 77.8 percent
  • Garamendi issued a news release today crowing that he was more frugal than 395 of his House colleagues.

    “I want to see less money spent on Congress and more resources paying down our deficit and investing in our schools, roads, health coverage, and veteran’s services,” he said in the release. “I’ve balanced the checkbook for the family ranch. I know how to make more with less. I’m proud that we managed to stay so under budget while still maintaining robust communications with and support for 10th Congressional District residents.”

    But Garamendi – who’s running for re-election this year in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District – was quick to note his frugality doesn’t mean he’s out of touch. He said he hosted more than a dozen in-person and telephone town halls last year or early this year, plus resource fairs for job seekers, veterans, seniors, social services and small businesses and other events.

    Posted on Monday, April 9th, 2012
    Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 6 Comments »

    Calif. House Dems urge probe of Trayvon’s death

    Two dozen California House Democrats wrote to express support for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation of whether the Feb. 26 slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a self-styled neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., “was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime.”

    “The family of Trayvon Martin deserves to know the truth and the American people expect justice to be served,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, which was sent to Holder yesterday.

    The letter cites unresolved questions about what led to Martin’s slaying by George Zimmerman, 28, and the Sanford Police Department’s failure to make an arrest.

    “It is in the best interest of our constituents and the country that you conduct a thorough investigation that also determines whether this was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime,” the lawmakers wrote. “History has shown that investigating these crimes and enforcing our laws against them bring the issue to light and help our society progress.”

    Among those who signed the letter are Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; George Miller, D-Martinez; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

    President Barack Obama said Friday it’s “imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” and noted the case makes him think of his own kids. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

    Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012
    Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 24 Comments »

    Garamendi, Bowen decry danger to mail-in ballots

    Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, joined California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to testify to the state Legislature today about the danger that some impending U.S. Postal Service facility closures pose to the integrity of California’s vote.

    As I reported last month, Bowen contends the Postal Service’s proposed closure of around a dozen mail processing centers in California as part of a national restructuring could delay hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots from arriving at registrars across the state in time to be counted.

    She and Garamendi took their concerns to a joint oversight hearing of the state Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments and the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting.

    “Don’t radically alter mail delivery expectations in a year that could very well set vote-by-mail records in California. Don’t close down these centers in the lead up to a presidential election, giving voters, elections officials, and postal workers insufficient time to work out the kinks,” Garamendi testified at the hearing. “Don’t disenfranchise tens of thousands of Californians who just want their voices heard. Give us six more months to get through this election, and after six months, once the chaos of the election settles down, we’ll have enough time to make the best of a bad situation. Democracy is too important to penny pinch.”

    Garamendi also sent a letter today to the chairman and ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy urging their support for Congressional action to prevent mail processing center closures.

    “We are a nation that takes voting rights seriously. We are a nation that believes democracy is worth paying for. I oppose the closing of these facilities because they help make representative democracy possible,” Garamendi wrote in the letter. “I hope you’ll join me in preventing voter disenfranchisement by using the powers of this Committee and the United States Congress to prevent further mail processing center closures until after the November 2012 elections.”

    A mail-in ballot – which state law says a voter can request up until seven days before the election – must be received by the voter’s county election office no later than 8 p.m. on the day of the election; any received after that aren’t counted. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, about 26,000 ballots arrived too late to be counted in California’s November 2010 general election.

    Last year, Bowen has said, the three processing-center closures – in Salinas, Marysville and Oxnard – clearly affected local elections in Monterey and Ventura counties: The time it took to deliver outbound and receive inbound vote-by-mail ballots went from one to three days, to five to seven.

    Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz last month said the agency will announce by mid-May which centers it plans to close, but has not decided when the closures would take effect. Election mail “would be affected by the proposed service changes,” he acknowledged.

    “However, the Postal Service, as always as in elections past, will be working with elected officials and their mailers in the coming months to ensure their mail is received and delivered in adequate time to respond,” Ruiz said. While he couldn’t advise voters how late they can wait to put their ballots in the mail, he said they should still arrive in time to be counted if the Postal Service processing center receives them the day before the election.

    Posted on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
    Under: Debra Bowen, Elections, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 9 Comments »