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Lawmakers urge DOJ to back off pot dispensaries

Four Bay Area House members are urging the area’s top federal prosecutor to halt what they say is ongoing “hostility toward dispensaries” that provide marijuana under the state’s medical marijuana law.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, sent a letter to Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District. In says, in part:

“It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries. Moreover, it appears to directly counter the spirit of Deputy Attorney General Cole’s memo, and is in direct opposition to the evolving view toward medical marijuana, the will of the people and, by now, common sense. Additionally, the State of California has also received legislative direction and guidelines from California Attorney General Kamala Harris on responsibly delivering medical marijuana.

“It is our view that the intent of the Justice Department is to not enforce its anti-marijuana laws in conflict with the laws of states that have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses. California understands the urgency toward putting together a statewide regulatory system, and we can all be helpful in that regard, but some municipalities, including Oakland, have already done an extraordinary job regulating medical marijuana. California is moving in the correct direction in a measured manner, and should be given the opportunity to do so.”

Several Bay Area dispensaries have been targeted by federal prosecutors, and Alameda County supervisors this month adopted a resolution urging the federal government to back off.

In a news release announcing the lawmakers’ letter, Lee said it’s “far past time for commonsense and economic sense to prevail in policies and actions related to medical cannabis dispensaries that serve the patients in our communities. This harassment and constant threat of prosecution should end.”

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Uncategorized | No Comments »

More reactions to Obama’s health insurance delay

We’ll be posting a full story about reactions to President Obama’s plan to delay cancellation of some individual health insurance plans that don’t meet standards set by the nation’s new law, but here are a few pols for whom we didn’t have space in that article.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the president’s proposal a “good step” that’s “very helpful in the implementation of the law.” She also spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about Republicans’ constant opposition to this law.

“This is typical of Republicans through the generations. Every time we’ve tried to expand health care, they’ve opposed it and opposed it and tried to derail it,” she said, adding that the new insurance law can be fixed “but that’s not good enough for my Republican friends. They just want to tear it down, just like they wanted to tear down Medicare.”

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in an email that he supports the president’s fix, which “continues to provide more choices without undermining the strengths of the new health care law. Implementing any new law creates a few bumps. We should be look for minor tweaks that strengthen the law rather than return to the old system that left millions of Americans without quality coverage.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, issued a statement calling Obama’s proposal “a step in the right direction towards fixing issues with the health care law. This was a promise that was made and it is a promise that should be kept.”

“I’ve said from the beginning that the health care reform law isn’t perfect,” Thompson said. “But instead of engaging in partisan bickering and playing blame games, I want to work to make health care reform better. … If we quit the partisan games, we can build on the reforms made in Obamacare, work out the imperfections, and make sure every American can get quality, affordable health insurance. That is a goal worth fighting for.”

Posted on Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, healthcare reform, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 27 Comments »

Q3 fundraising reports: CA15, CA7 and many more

As third-quarter Federal Election Commission reports trickle in on today’s deadline, it looks as if freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell still doesn’t have much to worry about money-wise from his Democratic challenger.

Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, raised $277,928 and spent $69,599 in the third quarter, leaving him with $614,262 cash on hand and $7,639 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30. State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, raised $36,502 and spent $9,269 in the third quarter, leaving her with $143,417 cash on hand and no outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

The 15th Congressional District – about 90 percent in Alameda County, and the rest in Contra Costa County – is registered 48.4 percent Democrat, 22.2 percent Republican and 20.7 percent no-party-preference.

I reported last week on what’s expected to be a fiercer Democrat-on-Democrat House showdown between Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna, where Khanna continues to outstrip the incumbent in fundraising.

Elsewhere, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton – often a target of the National Republican Congressional Committee – raised $140,310 and spent $66,407, leaving him with $243,445 cash on hand and $3,704 in outstanding debts. He’ll be challenged next year by Republican Steve Anthony Colangelo of Stockton, a prominent member of the local business community who owns “the leading event supply company in the Central Valley for weddings, graduation parties and other important community and family events.” Colangelo’s third-quarter report is not yet available as of now.

In a more distant but potentially tighter race, two Republicans vying to take a crack at freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, are putting a lot of their own money into their campaigns.

Former Rep. Doug Ose, a Republican from Sacramento, announced early last month that he’ll challenge Bera. Ose reported Tuesday that he raised $238,150 and lent his campaign $250,000 from his own pocket while spending $15,681 in the third quarter, leaving him with $256,243 cash on hand and $61,839 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

(UPDATE @ 8:45 P.M.: Nick Mirman, a spokesman for Ose’s campaign, e-mailed me this evening to say that the $250,000 that appeared in Ose’s latest report as a loan from the candidate “reflects forgiving campaign debt from the 2008 race … Again, he has not contributed $250,000 to his 2014 race.”)

Elizabeth Emken – U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Republican challenger in 2012, who since has moved from Danville to Fair Oaks for this race – reported raising $63,395 and loaning her campaign another $35,000 (for a total of $285,000 in personal loans so far this year) while spending $49,855 in the third quarter. That left her with $336,895 cash on hand but a whopping $293,255 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

Bera raised $456,396 and spent $68,268 in the third quarter, leaving him with $898,748 cash on hand but $345,490 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

Among the Bay-Area-House-Democrats-with-little-to-worry-about, third-quarter reports show:

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, raised $111,505 and spent $104,658, leaving her with $51,582 cash on hand and no outstanding debts
    Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, raised $65,421 and spent $34,519, leaving him with $349,073 cash on hand and $930 in outstanding debts
    Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, raised $196,000 and spent $77,595, leaving her with $477,678 cash on hand and no outstanding debts
    Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, raised $224,310 and spent $58,431, leaving her with $795,550 cash on hand and no outstanding debts
    Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, raised $127,190 and spent $71,987, leaving her with $1,103,324 cash on hand and $2,774 in outstanding debts.
    Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, raised $88,536 and spent $42,056, leaving him with $150,851 cash on hand and no outstanding debts.
    Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, raised $165,713 and spent $135,266, leaving him with $1,466,930 cash on hand and $6,172 in outstanding debts.

Posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, campaign finance, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 8 Comments »

Calif. House members: ‘Stop fighting, start fixing’

Eight California lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were among more than 50 House members who gathered today in Washington, D.C., to urge congressional leaders and President Obama to “stop fighting and start fixing.”

Organized by the bipartisan group No Labels, the lawmakers who assembled in the Cannon House Office Building’s caucus room agreed leaders mustn’t let the nation default on its debt.

“The No Labels Problem Solvers and other members of Congress you see here today are ready to work together and support our respective leaderships in a bipartisan solution to the government shutdown and other crucial issues facing our country,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. “Let’s show some courage and work together like the American people expect and deserve.”

Among those at the event were Reps. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; Tony Cardenas, D-Arleta; Jim Costa, D-Fresno; Susan Davis, D-San Diego; Jeff Denham, R-Modesto; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Scott Peters, D-San Diego; and David Valadao, R-Hanford.


NoLabels

“The costs of the government shutdown are growing every day, and experts from all sides agree that failing to pay America’s bills would be disastrous for our economy,” Bera said in a news release. “It’s past time for us to stop blaming one another, and start talking about how to move forward for the good of the country. This is not about Democrats or Republicans; it’s about putting the American people before politics. Many of us are ready to begin working and solving our nation’s problems, but we need leadership that lets us do that work.”

Posted on Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, Jeff Denham, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lee & Farr decry shutdown during House debate

A few Northern California House members were among those who took to the lectern moments ago during the latest floor debate on the impending federal government shutdown.

The House is debating the latest GOP plan: tying a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the continuing resolution that would keep the government funded and running past midnight tonight.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, called a shutdown “a huge mistake.” He said his party fought vehemently against the decision to go to war in Iraq, against welfare reform, and against lots of other things in recent decade, but with each, “we didn’t shut down the government after we lost that debate – instead, we tried to make it work.”

The shutdown, however, will hurt everyone from farmers trying to export food to mothers feeding their children with government aid, to students hungry for a school meal.

“It’s a mean, reckless, ill-conceived idea to shut down government,” Farr said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was a bit fierier still.

“Here we go again, Mr. Speaker – it’s really no secret that the Tea Party Republicans came here not really as public servants, but to destroy and decimate our government … This is, really, their dream vote,” Lee said. “It is shameful and it is downright wrong.”

“Make no mistake, the unnecessary GOP shutdown will have serious consequences for millions,” she said, and after more than 40 fruitless votes to cripple or repeal Obamacare, “this Tea Party obsession… to kill the government and to deny healthcare to millions of Americans, this must end… This hostage-taking must end.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was equally fiery in denouncing Obamacare. “It was passed in the middle of the night, 2,300 pages that nobody had ever read, and it’s having all kinds of consequences for our constituents, the American people,” Boehner said.

“Something has to be done, so my Republican colleagues and I thought we should defund the law for a year,” he said, noting the Senate disagreed.

But if the Obama administration has issued waivers and decided to delay enforcement of the employer mandate, why should ordinary Americans be stuck with a bill they can’t afford*, he asked. “It’s about fairness for the American people. Why don’t we make sure that every American is treated just like we are?”

(Click here to read more about who’s footing what bills.)

Posted on Monday, September 30th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, healthcare reform, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

More calls for Obama to consult Congress on Syria

Rep. Barbara Lee has gotten 53 other lawmakers to sign her letter urging President Barack Obama to consult Congress before taking any military action against Syria.

Much like the bipartisan letter by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., on which I reported yesterday, Lee’s letter notes Congress bears the constitutional obligation and power to approve or reject military force.

“As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis,” the letter says, also calling for allowing United Nations inspectors to complete their and denouncing human-rights violations.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)In a news release, Lee, D-Oakland, said the nation must learn from its experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

“We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire,” she said. “This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected. The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.”

Among those who’ve signed Lee’s letter are Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and George Miller, D-Martinez.

I’ve not seen the signatures of Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; or Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, on any of the letters so far.

But Thompson spokesman Austin Vevurka said Thursday that his boss “believes the use of chemical weapons is appalling and he believes Congress should reconvene so there can be a full and vigorous debate on the use of military force. He also believes any military action must involve an international collation and is continuing to closely monitor the evolving situation.”

UPDATE @ 12:14 P.M.: McNerney spokeswoman Lauren Smith said her boss believes “we need to find a balanced policy that is based on sound and thorough intelligence, and he believes the president should be consulting leaders from both parties in the House and Senate.” Note: McNerney’s call to consult leadership stops short of Lee’s letter, which urges Obama “to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.”

UPDATE @ 1:33 P.M.: “Right now the President is still reviewing his options as Commander in Chief,” Swalwell spokeswoman Allison Bormel says. “Should he choose to take action that requires congressional approval, Rep. Swalwell believes the Administration should consult Congress.”

Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 6 Comments »

Brown’s judicial shuffle might enable House run

In a somewhat unusual move, Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a Bay Area judge – who has a familiar name – to another county’s bench, perhaps in order to help facilitate her husband’s planned run for Congress.

Carrie McIntyre PanettaCarrie McIntyre Panetta, appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court bench in 2007 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was named to the Monterey County Superior Court bench Thursday by Brown.

Panetta, 46, is the daughter-in-law of former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta; her husband, James Panetta, is a deputy district attorney who moved from Alameda County to Monterey County in 2010.

James Panetta – a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer who was awarded the Bronze Star for his 2007-08 deployment to Afghanistan – earlier this year said he’s interested in succeeding Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, in representing California’s 20th Congressional District.

Carrie Panetta was an Alameda County deputy district attorney from 1999 to 2007 and an associate at Brobeck Phleger and Harrison LLP from 1992 to 1999. A Democrat, she holds a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota. She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Monterey County Superior Court Judge Terrance Duncan. A superior court judge’s annual salary is $178,789.

UPDATE @ 3:02 P.M.: Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said he would leave it to Judget Panetta to explain the move, and acknowledged it’s not common for a judge to be re-appointed from one county’s superior court to another’s. A voice-mail message left at Panetta’s courtroom in Oakland has not yet been returned.

UPDATE @ 10:35 A.M. FRIDAY: “We’re excited, very excited about the appointment and the move,” Judge Panetta said Friday morning, noting her husband has been working in the Monterey County District Attorney’s office since 2010. “It was really to get the family back together full-time … we had decided we want to make the Monterey peninsula our home, raise our girls there.”

Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Under: Jerry Brown, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers demand Obama consult them on Syria

Three Northern California House Democrats have signed onto a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to seek Congressional authorization for any military strike against Syria.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, are among 18 Democrats and 98 Republicans who’ve signed onto the letter drafted and circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.

“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter says. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

Other California members who’ve signed Rigell’s letter include Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and John Campbell, R-Irvine.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sent their own letter to the president today urging that he consult Congress.

And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama today urging the president to “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.”

UPDATE @ 11:54 A.M. THURSDAY: More Bay Area House members have signed onto Rep. Barbara Lee’s similar letter.

Posted on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 17 Comments »

House Dems urge Brown to sign TRUST Act

Gov. Jerry Brown got a letter from 28 California House Democrats this week urging him to sign the TRUST Act, which would limit how the state’s law enforcement officers cooperate with federal immigration efforts.

The lawmakers – including all but two of the Bay Area’s House members – wrote that the bill “sets clear, uniform standards to limit burdensome detentions of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement solely on the basis of federal immigration detainer requests. The measure is designed to enhance public safety and protect civil liberties, while also promoting fiscal responsibility at the state and local levels.”

More than 100,000 people have been deported from California under federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, the lawmakers noted. “Civic and faith leaders from California and across the nation have forcefully argued that we should not deport today those who could be on the road to citizenship tomorrow.”

Furthermore, there’s evidence that S-Comm has reduced crime victims’ willingness to cooperate with police lest they themselves end up being deported, and that’s not good for public safety, the House members wrote.

Brown vetoed a version of the TRUST Act last year. But the lawmakers noted the current version – AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – “gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor detainer requests.”

“It will ensure that those who have not been convicted of any crime, have only been convicted of minor crimes, or those who are only identified by the S-Comm program because of their immigration history are not held on costly and unfair federal immigration detainers,” they wrote.

The only Bay Area House members who didn’t sign the letter were Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. A Speier staffer said she hasn’t talked to Ammiano about the bill yet, and “she wants to do that before she takes a position.” McNerney’s office didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment.

The Assembly passed AB 4 with a 44-22 vote on May 16. It now awaits a state Senate floor vote; if it passes, it’ll go to Brown’s desk.

UPDATE @ 12:25 P.M.: “I support the sentiment of the TRUST Act,” McNerney said by email. “We need change in our country in the form of comprehensive immigration reform. Our country is founded on a long and proud immigrant history, and we need to find a clear path to citizenship for the law-abiding and hard-working people who want to join the United States of America. These people deserve a defined and manageable path to citizenship.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Immigration, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry Brown, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sacramento, Sam Farr, Tom Ammiano, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

>100 cosponsors for House background-check bill

More than 100 House members from both sides of the aisle have signed on to co-sponsor a bill that would require background checks for all commercial gun sales.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, chairman of the House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, and Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 1565 on April 15, two days before the Senate rejected the identical Manchin-Toomey amendment.

“We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to passing commonsense laws that keep guns from criminals, terrorist and the dangerously mentally ill,” Thompson and King said in a news release today. “This debate isn’t over. The American people deserve for this bill to be signed into law.”

The bill would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads; it would not cover private, person-to-person sales, as California’s law does.

This widening of background checks is tempered by several nods to those concerned about Second Amendment rights: The bill bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also lets gun owners use a state concealed-carry permit issued within the last five years in lieu of a background check, and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

And it improves the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by offering incentives to states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grants toward better record-sharing systems; federal funds would be reduced to states that don’t comply.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

The King-Thompson bill’s original co-authors are Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.; and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

From the greater Bay Area, co-sponsors include Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton.

The locals who haven’t signed on are Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and George Miller, D-Martinez. I’ve reached out to their offices to find out where they stand on the bill, and will update this item accordingly.

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. TUESDAY 5/7: McNerney and Miller both have signed on.

Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, gun control, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 10 Comments »