Barbara Lee’s statement on Bay Bridge closure

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, just issued this statement on the Bay Bridge closure:

“First, I want to say I am relieved that no one was injured in the incident that forced authorities to shutdown the Bay Bridge. My office has been in constant contact with Caltrans, and I have been closely monitoring the circumstances surrounding the closure of the Bay Bridge and the work that is being done to repair the bridge.

“I have received assurances from Caltrans officials that crews are working as quickly as possible to make the necessary repairs and to be certain that the work is done properly. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) provided funding for the initial repairs that were done during the Labor Day weekend closure of the bridge. The FHA has been contacted again by Caltrans to secure emergency funding for the repairs. These emergency federal funds will assure a speedy response to repair the bridge.

“The Bay Bridge is a vital transportation link between San Francisco and the East Bay, and it is imperative that we all work together to ensure the bridge repairs are done as quickly and safely as possible.”


House passes Miller’s water recycling bill

The House today passed Rep. George Miller’s H.R.2442, the “Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act of 2009,” on a 241-173 vote, advancing a bill that would help ease the region’s water issues.

The bill provides $38 million for six Bay Area water recycling projects: The CCCSD-Concord Recycled Water Project, the Central Dublin Recycled Water Distribution and Retrofit Project, the Petaluma Recycled Water Project, the Central Redwood City Recycled Water Project, the Palo Alto Recycled Water Pipeline Project and the Ironhouse Sanitary District-Antioch Recycled Water Project.

Together, Miller said, they’ll provide 7.2 million gallons of water per day for landscape irrigation and other uses, meaning that same amount of drinkable water gets freed up for nearly 25,000 households. And the projects are expected to create more than 3,000 jobs, he added.

“Today’s bill responds to the request for assistance from the state of California and local water managers to expand the supply of water in our drought-stricken state,” Miller said in his news release. “This bill is good for our economy – it will create thousands of jobs and it will help reduce stress on our oversubscribed fresh water systems.

House Republicans had fought the bill to a standstill two weeks ago; it was brought up Sept. 30 under suspension of the rules, meaning it needed a 2/3 majority to pass, and it went down on a near-party line, 240-170 vote. Today the bill was brought up under a rule, meaning it needed only a simple majority. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, tried again to have it sent back to committee, but failed.

“This legislation is an insult to the water-starved communities of the San Joaquin Valley,” Nunes raged in a statement issued today. “It is offensive to those of us who have fought for and been denied any legislative relief for the real water crisis in California – the one that has turned half a million acres into desert.”

Nunes has been pushing hard for a waiver to the Endangered Species Act so the water flow to Central Valley agribusiness can be restored regardless of the pumping’s impact on the endangered Delta smelt. “George Miller and his friends on the left supported the ESA waiver for New Mexico in 2003. Now they are telling the people of the San Joaquin Valley ‘no,’” Nunes said. “The hypocrisy of my colleagues on the Democratic side of the isle is very telling. Their actions today do not reflect the values of the American people.”

But Miller said water recycling is supported by the major water coalitions including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Association of California Water Agencies.

“This legislation will not only help my congressional district, which has pioneered water recycling efforts, but is one of a series of water recycling bills that the House has approved this year to expand water supply in communities up and down California, in Republican and Democratic districts alike — without controversy, and without amendment, and without debate on larger California water policy issues,” Miller said. “This year alone, the House has passed five local water bills for Republican members of the House. Those members asked for and received support from the House for their bills, and did not ask for an amendment for any one of those bills.”


Boehner and Stark: Same vote, different reasons

The House today approved the conference report for the fiscal year 2010 Defense Authorization bill on a 281-146 vote. Most of the nays were Republicans who were incensed that House Democratic leaders had attached to the bill an amendment expanding federal hate-crime law so it would be a federal crime to assault people because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

To wit, from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“Democrats have done a great disservice to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces today by using them as leverage to pass radical social policy. They engineered this abuse of the legislative process because they had no way other to pass legislation that is unconstitutional and just plain wrong. Our troops – and their families – deserve better.

“All violent crimes should be prosecuted vigorously, no matter what the circumstance. The Democrats’ ‘thought crimes’ legislation, however, places a higher value on some lives than others. Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance.”

But for Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont – the only Bay Area member to cross the aisle and vote with Republicans against the bill – the hate-crimes language was the only good thing about it. He said:

“Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to the Defense Authorization bill. As we focus on slowing the rising cost of health care, we should be just as vigilant about ever higher levels of defense spending.

“No one on the international stage comes close to our military spending. The United States accounted for 41.5 percent of the entire world’s military spending in 2008 – the next closest country was China at 5.8 percent. To put this in perspective, if we spent only six times as much as the next closest country, instead of seven times as much, we would have more than enough money to completely pay for health care reform.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against the Defense Authorization bill. That said, there is an important provision in the bill that I support, extending hate crimes laws to cover sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. I have supported hate crimes legislation throughout my career in Congress, including as a co-sponsor of this legislation when it was approved by the House in April, and I am glad that the hate crimes provision in this bill will finally become law.”


Labor Secretary visits Oakland for stimulus forum

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis was in town over the weekend for an hour-long, invitation only roundtable with local civic, community, education, labor and business leaders convened by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

The topics for the forum Saturday at the Airport Hilton were green job creation, the emerging green economy, workforce, education and healthcare reform in Lee’s 9th Congressional District, Lee’s office said. Lee has been trying to hold her district forth as a model for green job development and use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus funding

“I have long considered my district to be on the cutting-edge in the development of green jobs, which I believe will lead to a pathway out of poverty for many living in underserved communities,” she said in a news release issued after the forum. “I thought it was important that Secretary Solis got a first-hand look at the fine work being done here in my district.”

Solis noted more than half a billion ARRA dollars have been provided for projects involving green job creation. “I was very pleased to join Congresswoman Lee and local leaders, to discuss how these funds are being leveraged and how green jobs can provide economic security for middle-class families and underserved communities.”


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.”


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.