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Strange bedfellows in California water wars?

What do Congressional Republicans, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and GOP gubernatorial candidate and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner have in common? All advocate a waiver of the Endangered Species Act to help ease California’s water crisis.

The Act is the basis on which water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River has been severely curtailed, in protection of a species of fish called the delta smelt. Farmers, urban water utilities, environmentalists and everyone else who uses water have faced off over the dwindling supply.

Poizner, speaking to a small-business roundtable at the Fremont Chamber of Commerce today, called upon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – whom he noted is the first Speaker of the House from California – to support Republican legislation that would grant California a waiver from the Act to speed irrigation of parched Central Valley farms. Pelosi supported such a waiver for New Mexico several years ago but won’t do the same for California now, he charged. (Actually, what House Republicans wanted brought to the floor this summer was a wholesale suspension, not a temporary waiver, of the Act as it pertains to Delta pumping.)

Feinstein called for such a waiver too as she announced Wednesday she’s working on comprehensive Delta restoration legislation. A Republican Senate amendment for a waiver hasn’t had much luck.

Progressives see such a waiver as an end run around environmental protection laws to benefit big agribusiness, which could do more economic harm than good.

In a related matter, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, on Wednesday blasted House Republicans for opposing his H.R. 2442, the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act of 2009, which would add six water recycling projects for the Bay Area providing 7.2 million gallons of non-potable water per day for landscape irrigation, parks and so on – thus freeing up other water for agriculture and drinking. “When it comes to providing clean water to California, congressional Republicans have now shown their true colors. The legislation that the House voted on today would supply California with much-needed funding for alternative water supplies — but congressional Republicans just said no.”

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2009
Under: Dianne Feinstein, Environment, George Miller, Nancy Pelosi, Steve Poizner, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | 4 Comments »

Barbara Lee: No more U.S. troops to Afghanistan

As Obama Administration officials mull the pros and cons of a increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, has introduced H.R. 3699, which would prohibit funding for any such increase.

“History tells us that there will not be a military-first solution to the situation in Afghanistan, “she said in a news release. “Open-ended military intervention in Afghanistan is not in our national security interest and will only continue to give resonance to insurgent recruiters painting pictures of foreign occupation to a new generation.”

“I applaud the Administration’s decision to conduct a much-needed strategic review of our military presence in Afghanistan,” she continued. “As we consider the possibility of further entrenching United States Armed Forces by sending significantly more brave men and women in uniform into harm’s way, this legislation sends a clear message in opposition to this course of action.”

Among the bill’s 21 original cosponsors are Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

Lee to chair UN forum on minority participation

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, has been named chairperson of the second session of the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues, to be held November 12-13 in Geneva, Switzerland, focusing on “Minorities and Effective Political Participation.”

“I am extremely honored to be appointed to this prestigious position and to participate in a formal capacity at the UN Forum on Minority Issues,” Lee said in a news release. “I look forward to working in this capacity to promote dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities around the globe.”

“This Forum represents a unique opportunity engage in discussion on opportunities to increase and strengthen the participation of minorities in the decision-making processes of their governments–a subject of deep personal interest throughout my life and career.”

As the forum’s chair, Lee will lead a global discussion of ways to build greater involvement of minorities in countries around the world in political activities. The forum will bring together over 400 participants, including government delegations, UN officials, political parties and minorities from around the world to produce a set of recommendations that will be made publicly available.

Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, General, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Hearing on bill to ban LGBT work discrimination

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, on Wednesday morning will hold the first full House committee hearing on a bill that would bar employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

H.R. 3017, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, authored by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., would prohibit employment discrimination, preferential treatment, and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by employers with 15 or more employees. For now, it’s legal to discriminate in the workplace based on sexual orientation in 29 states, and in 38 states based on gender identity.

Those scheduled to speak at Wednesday’s hearing include:

  • U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.
  • U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
  • Stuart Ishimaru, Acting Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • William Eskridge Jr., John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School
  • Vandy Beth Glenn, fired from her Georgia state legislative job when she told her supervisor she was transitioning from male to female
  • Camille Olson, partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP
  • Craig Parshall, senior vice president and general counsel, National Religious Broadcasters
  • Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center
  • Brad Sears, executive director of the Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, UCLA School of Law
  • The bill’s 159 co-sponsors include the entire Bay Area delegation but for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; the Speaker customarily refrains from cosponsoring, debating or voting on all but the most vital legislation.

    Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Under: Civil liberties, General, George Miller, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

    Some upcoming political events around the Bay

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will be scooting around the district tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 18, first taking part in a 1:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new local U.S. Census office at 1814 Franklin St. in Oakland, and then attending a 2 p.m. ceremony at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in the Port of Oakland, celebrating the completion of the 50-foot Oakland Harbor Deepening Project.

    Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Board of Equalization Chairwoman Betty Yee will forecast state revenues and spending for the next year at the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club luncheon, at noon tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 18, at Cocina Poblana, 499 Embarcadero West in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It’s open to the public but space is limited so you’re encouraged to RSVP by email to treasurer@demlawyers.org. Tickets cost $25 for club members, $30 for non-members at the door, but there’s a $5 discount if you buy in advance through the club’s Web site.

    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is holding another of his “Congress At Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greets from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at the Margaret K. Troke Branch Library at 502 W. Benjamin Holt Drive in Stockton. “Instead of asking community members to come to one of my offices, I am going to go to them to make it as easy as possible for them to meet their Member of Congress,” he says. “I am committed to meeting with residents throughout the district so that I can effectively serve them and address their needs.”

    Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Biotechnology, will chair an informational hearing on “Maintaining California’s Status as the World’s Biotechnology Capital” at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at Exelixis Inc., 210 E. Grand Ave. in South San Francisco. Executives from local life science companies will testify about the challenges of starting a biotech business and explain what other states are doing to lure companies away from California.

    Rumored Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Attorney General Jerry Brown; state Treasurer Bill Lockyer; and 10th Congressional District Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. John Garamendi will headline the 39th Annual Alameda County Democratic Unity Dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Oakland Airport Hilton, 1 Hegenberger Road; Board of Equalization Chair Betty Yee will emcee. All interested Democrats are invited to attend; tickets cost $75 per person in advance or $125 for patrons, with tables available at $1,000 and up. Advance tickets are available by calling 510-263-5222. A limited number of door tickets will be available at $85 each.

    Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009
    Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Assembly, Barbara Lee, Bill Lockyer, Calendar, General, Jerry Hill, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Nancy Skinner, U.S. House | Comments Off

    Tony Amador to launch CD-11 campaign tomorrow

    Former U.S. Marshal Antonio C. “Tony” Amador will officially throw his hat into the ring tomorrow to challenge Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in the 11th Congressional District.

    Amador, 65, a Republican, will hold a news conference at the Veteran’s Memorial near Lodi City Hall at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

    He’s touting his life experience as one of 14 children born to Mexican immigrant farm workers, as well as his professional experience from a long law enforcement career: 13 years as a Los Angeles Police Department patrol officer; appointments to various state positions by governors Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson; a stint in Washington as Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the agency overseeing the Executive Branch’s personnel practices (where he was accused of sexual harassment in 1993, later cleared by a White House review); and seven years (ending last month) as U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of California.

    “Tony Amador has the real experience and background to represent California’s 11th Congressional District. In comparison, Rep. Jerry McNerney has become one of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s reliable liberal ‘Yes men’ in Congress,” reads the news release that went out today. “At a time when the public’s opinion of Congress remains at an all-time low, the 11th district needs a man like Tony Amador—A Tough Leader for Tough Times.”

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasted no time in trying to take Amador down a notch. “Unlike Tony Amador and his other two primary opponents, Jerry McNerney has been working hard on behalf of the people of the 11th District to create jobs, especially through renewable energy, cut taxes for small businesses and get the economy moving again,” said DCCC Western Regional Press Secretary Andy Stone, who himself is a former McNerney spokesman.

    Stone’s “other two primary opponents” comment might be an understatement; as Lisa noted in her column this past weekend, there’s a lot of GOP interest in this seat. Other declared or potential candidates include Lodi-area grape grower Brad Goehring; Danville businessman Jon Del Arroz; former San Jose City Councilman Larry Pegram; San Ramon businessman David Bernal; and Lodi-area construction company owner Robert Beetles. I’d bet McNerney believes it’s “the more, the merrier,” as a fractious GOP primary could sap the eventual nominee’s money and momentum for the general election.

    Amador’s news release says he and his wife of 44 years live in Lodi, but that’s a relatively recent development – he’s a longtime Sacramento resident. I’m checking now to see when he moved into the 11th District, but it’s basically academic: The Constitution requires a Congressional candidate only to live somewhere within the state, not the district itself. And as a practical matter, it might not have made much difference either – just ask John Garamendi!

    Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
    Under: 2010 election, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

    Video: Pete Stark doesn’t waste his urine

    Maybe you were there, maybe you’ve seen on CNN, but if not: Here’s the video of House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark at his town hall meeting on health care reform this past weekend in Fremont. At about a minute and 35 seconds in, a man tells Stark, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining,” and Stark replies doing so “wouldn’t be worth wasting the urine.”

    Stark has never been one to back down when challenged. What do you think: Was he provoked? Was it just another moment of Pete Stark being Pete Stark? Was it over the line?

    Oh, and please watch the whole clip, not just the incendiary quip – there are lots of interesting perspectives throughout, and lots more context for judging Stark’s behavior. And when you see the captions pop up every now and then, keep in mind that this was uploaded to YouTube by the Golden Gate Minutemen.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
    Under: healthcare reform, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

    Your local electeds react to Obama’s speech

    First, some resources: Take a look at the Associated Press fact-check on the speech – it’s early, but relatively comprehensive and at least should indicate what questions to ask as the legislation takes shape. For the full text of the president’s speech, click here; for the Republican response, click here.

    Now, on to some reactions from your electeds. I spoke earlier tonight with U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who told me she’d run into the President after the speech as she was heading back to her office.

    “I told him I thought he hit it out of the ballpark. He said, ‘Now let’s get it done,’” Boxer said. “I loved it, and I’m ready, I’ve been ready. I think it’s the great moral issue of our time and it’s also a great economic issue.”

    And she believes U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., also is “ready to go, ready to write a bill.” The Finance Committee is the last that must produce a bill before Congress sets about combining the several bills into one, and he’d said earlier today that he’s ready to push ahead with a bill in the week after next – with or without Republican support, but also without the public option for which President Obama made his case tonight.

    Boxer thought he made that case, and the rest of the case for reform, well.

    “The President did what he had to do tonight to jumpstart health care legislation. He put a human face on the issue, he addressed all the propaganda that’s been out there as a distraction… He made a moral argument,” she said, adding that as the President recounted the note he’d received from the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, “You could’ve heard a pin drop in that chamber – he really spoke from his heart and to our hearts.”

    Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said much the same when I spoke with her this evening.

    “He really made us recognize that health care should be a moral imperative and it is an issue of social justice,” Lee said, particularly by voicing support for the public option that her caucus and others have demanded. “For him to continue to support it, with all the pressure on him to take it off the table, was what I wanted to hear.”

    Now that the President has taken off the gloves to “dispel all of these terrible myths and lies” opponents have leveled this summer, “the work continues – now we have to make this happen,” she said.

    More reactions from your electeds, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, General, George Miller, healthcare reform, Jerry McNerney, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 19 Comments »

    Rallies in support of health care reform

    As members of Congress prepare to return to Washington, D.C., the Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America is putting together events nationwide – including at least two here in the Bay Area – to demonstrate support for health care reform that it says would lower costs, protect patient choice and ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

    From noon to 2 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 1, there’ll be a gathering outside House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller’s district office at 1333 Willow Pass Road in Concord.

    “Congressman Miller will join Bay Area residents from all walks of life as they express their support for health insurance reform, talk about what reform would mean and how to fight back against the lies being spread by the special interests and Republicans in Washington,” according to the news release. “Participants will also be thanking Congressman Miller for his support and delivering hundreds of declarations of support for the President’s three principles for reform, signed by constituents, as he heads back to Washington to get it done and pass health insurance reform now.”

    Similar events are planned noon outside the district offices of Rep. Barbara Lee at 1301 Clay St. in Oakland; of Rep. Mike Honda at 1999 South Bascom Ave. in Campbell; and of Rep. Zoe Lofgren at 635 N. First St. in San Jose.

    The day after that, Wednesday, Sept. 2, people will gather from 5 to 7 p.m. on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, with a similar message for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the delegation. “Stand with us in unity and numbers as we display our support for the President’s call for significant health insurance reform,” says the Web site. “Let’s make sure our representatives hear our voices and take our message that health insurance reform cannot wait back with them to D.C.”

    And at noon Thursday, Sept. 4, there’ll be a sendoff rally outside the district office of Rep. Jerry McNerney at 5776 Stoneridge Mall Road in Pleasanton.

    Posted on Monday, August 31st, 2009
    Under: Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, healthcare reform, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 20 Comments »

    What they say about the impending BART strike

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

    “Delaying negotiations any longer is not the answer. The majority of employees have already reached an agreement and there is no reason why Amalgated Transit Union and BART cannot resolve their issues without punishing the public. I strongly encourage both sides to sit down, negotiate in good faith and resolve their differences as quickly as possible. State mediators are ready and available to help both sides reach an agreement over the weekend.”

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “Constituents in my district and commuters throughout the Bay Area rely on BART and its workers to provide them with safe, efficient and reliable transit service. I encourage both BART and the ATU to resume their negotiations as soon as possible in order to work out their differences and reach a settlement that works for all parties.”

    Lt. Gov. (and CD10 candidate) John Garamendi:

    “Californians, especially commuters in the Bay Area, have been watching BART labor negotiations with increasing concern, especially in these last 24 hours as BART management has imposed terms and conditions on members of ATU Local 1555 and union members have responded with a strike to start late Sunday night. Tonight I am calling on both sides to put the public first. I call on BART management to lift the imposed contract, and I call on ATU Local 1555 to suspend its call for a strike Sunday night. After four months of negotiations, the people of California need both sides to return to the table and act in the best interests of the state. During these challenging economic times, public transportation is a critical. All of us need to focus our attention on securing a settlement that protects our economy.”

    Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Lee, John Garamendi, Transportation, U.S. House | 6 Comments »