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Kamala Harris names Oakland attorney to FPPC

An Oakland attorney has been named to California’s political watchdog agency by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Eric Casher, 34, will serve a four-year term on the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Casher practices law at Meyers Nave in Oakland; he serves on the boards of the California Bar Foundation and the Charles Houston Bar Association, and in 2011 was recognized by the National Bar Association as one of the “Nation’s Best Advocates, 40 Under 40.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UC-Berkeley and a law degree from the UC Hastings College of the Law.

Also, Casher chaired a Young Professionals Finance Committee for Harris’ 2010 campaign for attorney general and, like Harris, was an active supporter of and fundraiser for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

“Eric’s commitment to justice, fairness and the rule of law will make him a strong asset on the Fair Political Practices Commission,” Harris said in a news release. “The people of California will be well-served by his diligence and his judgment.”

The five-member FPPC adopts and amends political and campaign-finance regulations, helps agencies and officials with record-keeping and reporting, maintains economic-interest records and investigates and punishes violations of the Political Reform Act. The governor appoints two commissioners, and the remaining three appointments are made by the state attorney general, the secretary of state and the state controller.

Posted on Monday, March 11th, 2013
Under: campaign finance, Kamala Harris | 1 Comment »

What they’re saying about the governor’s budget

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“This is a proposal that clearly shows California has turned the corner. The Governor’s budget is sober, restrained and forward thinking, and I believe it’s a solid foundation for the budget process. I am looking forward to thorough and insightful public hearings as we work with the Governor to adopt the final budget by our Constitutional deadline.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“It’s easy for Gov. Brown to tout austerity and fiscal restraint when he has more of the taxpayers’ money in his pocket. His challenge will be to follow through on those promises when the economy continues to stagnate and the Democrats’ pie-in-the-sky projections don’t come to pass. That’s why Republican legislative leadership correctly proposed this week for the Governor to mandate that his new Prop 30 taxes fund our classrooms and protect our communities.

“What’s disappointing about Gov. Brown’s announcement is that job creation was never mentioned. Cutting the regulatory burden was ignored. Working with Republicans to unify the state is sadly not part of his agenda. In order for California to finally emerge from its economic doldrums and enter a new Golden Age, the answer lies with policies that encourage job growth and unleash the innovation of small business owners, not with budget wrangling and deferred payments that mask billions in debt to the federal government for unemployment insurance and more.

“We need bold reforms to go hand in hand with accountability and responsible fiscal governance if we want to return California and its citizens to prosperity. If Jerry Brown thinks we’re out of the woods just because, on paper, we’ll finally be ‘living within our means,’ he’s sadly mistaken.”

From state Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

“The budget proposal released today by Governor Brown is the most positive one we have seen in half a decade. The budget is narrowly balanced and contains elements that ensure a modest reserve. However, it reflects the difficult cuts and decisions the Legislature and Governor have made in the past few years to address the state’s structural budget deficit. It also demonstrates the confidence entrusted in us by voters in November who recognized that our fiscal situation was untenable without new temporary revenues. Although we are still under fiscal constraints, I am hopeful we are now past the period of devastating cuts we saw in previous years to education and programs that provide critical aid to elderly Californians, disabled people and working families.

“With the improvement of our fiscal outlook comes the opportunity to continue our work to restore California. While our recent efforts have focused largely on making cuts in the least harmful manner possible, we will now have more capacity to refine our work to improve essential programs and analyze the role of government and its effectiveness. I look forward to working with Governor Brown and my colleagues in the Legislature to evaluate this year’s budget to help ensure it is the best possible plan for a state on the mend.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar:

“New funding for our classrooms is a positive step forward for California. However, the Governor’s budget only seems to include $2.7 billion in new funding for K-12 schools and community colleges even though Proposition 30 taxes will generate $6 billion this year alone – Californians should be disappointed.

“I remain concerned that while state spending is being increased by $5 billion over last year, much of this money is used to expand state programs and provides major pay and benefit increases for state employees.

“Basically, this budget is balanced by a $50 billion tax increase, and Californians have yet to see any real, long-term plan to bring back jobs and help our struggling families.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Rob Bonta, state budget | No Comments »

State took 2,000 guns from illegal owners in 2012

California may have a sizeable leg up on other states in taking guns away from mentally ill people who are barred by law from owning them.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Tuesday that more than 2,000 firearms were seized in 2012 from people in California who were legally barred from possessing them, including mentally unstable people and those with active restraining orders. She noted the state has clear laws determining who can and can’t possess firearms based on their threat to public safety.

“Enforcing those laws is crucial because we have seen the terrible tragedies that occur when guns are in the wrong hands,” she said, referring to a mentally ill gunman’s spree Friday at a Connecticut elementary school that claimed 26 lives, including 20 children.

Harris said 33 state Department of Justice agents used its Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database to identify convicted felons, people with active restraining orders, people determined to be mentally unstable and others barred from owning guns. Agents seized 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition, and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, with most of the firearms seized during two six-week sweeps.

The first statewide sweep targeted people barred from gun ownership because of mental health issues, and the second focused on people with legally registered assault weapons who were later prohibited from owning them.

Harris last year sponsored SB 819, carried by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to increase funding for the APPS program through the use of existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers; the new law took effect at the start of this year.

The APPS database cross-references people who legally bought handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. APPS was launched in November 2006, and the first statewide sweep was conducted in 2007. California is the nation’s first and only state to have created such a database.

Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
Under: Attorney General, gun control, Kamala Harris, Public safety | 10 Comments »

AG Kamala Harris says give, but give wisely

Commercial fundraisers in California raised $338.5 million in 2011, but only just over half of that actually went to charitable organizations, according to a report released today by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

So in this season of giving, ask a lot of questions about how and who to give to.

“This report gives Californians the vital information they need to make educated choices about where to make charitable contributions this holiday season,” Harris said in a news release. “While commercial fundraisers play a role in supporting charities in California, it is important for donors to know how much of their money will be used to support the charity’s programs, and how much will go to overhead.”

The 51 percent of donated funds going to charities using a professional fundraiser in 2011 is actually an increase from the 2010 average of 44.4 percent.

Commercial fundraisers, hired by charities to raise money on their behalf, typically charge a flat fee for their services or take a percentage of the contributions they collect.

Most charities registered with the Attorney General don’t use commercial fundraisers to raise funds, but do their own, in-house fundraising. But state law requires commercial fundraisers to register with the Attorney General’s office and file annual financial disclosure reports detailing income and expenses for each fundraising campaign.

The $338.5 million figure excludes thrift store operations and vehicle donation programs, which are accounted for separately.

The Attorney General’s office also publishes a Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors with advice and guidelines, including:

    Ask the fundraiser how a donation will be distributed. Fundraisers are required by law to tell a consumer this information.
    Ask what percentage of donations will be used to pay for fundraising expenses. This information can better inform the consumer as to how much of the contribution will go to the cause versus overhead.
    Ask if the fundraiser works for a commercial fundraiser and is being paid to solicit. If the answer is yes, then it is likely less of the funds are going to the charity.
    Avoid cash donations, as cash can more easily be diverted to non-charitable purposes and there is no way to trace it.
    Avoid giving credit card information to a telephone solicitor or in response to a telephone solicitation.
    Learn about a charitable organization, its activities and its fundraising practices before giving.

The Attorney General’s office maintains a searchable online database on registered charities and registered professional fundraisers, but donors also can check with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2012
Under: Attorney General, Kamala Harris | No Comments »

New laws move to grab human trafficking assets

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a pair of bills into law today to make it harder for human traffickers to hide their assets.

AB 2466, by Assmemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, ensures that criminal defendants involved in human trafficking can’t hide or dispose of assets that would otherwise be provided as restitution to victims. Existing California law entitles victims are entitled to mandatory restitution, but this new law will let courts order the preservation of the assets and property until there’s a conviction.

“Now, the perpetrators of this despicable crime cannot game the system and keep their money when caught and convicted,” Blumenfield said in a news release. “Justice will come for victims.”

SB 1133, by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, expands the list of assets that a human trafficker must forfeit and provides a formula for using those resources to help victims of human trafficking.

“Today we are one step closer to dismantling the economic infrastructure that convicted child sex traffickers rely on to continue to lure young people into the sex trade,” Leno said in a news release. “In addition to taking away the lucrative profits from these horrendous crimes, we are providing much-needed financial support for increased investigations and victim services.”

The Assembly and state Senate passed both bills without any dissenting votes; both laws will take effect on Jan. 1.

“With these new laws, California prosecutors and law enforcement officials will be able to seize assets of human traffickers, cripple their operations and aid victims,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a news release. “Human trafficking is big business in California. It is a high-profit criminal industry that is expanding rapidly across the globe, including here in California.”

Harris and Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibáñez signed an accord Friday to expand prosecutions and secure convictions of criminals who engage in the trafficking of human beings. The pact will increase coordination of law enforcement resources targeting transnational gangs engaged in such crimes, and calls for closer integration on human trafficking as well as sharing best practices to recognize human trafficking and provide support and services to victims.

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Mark Leno | 1 Comment »

Kamala Harris’ speech to the DNC

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has just finished addressing the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Harris – an East Bay native and former San Francisco District Attorney – was an early, ardent supporter of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and he endorsed and campaigned for her as she sought her current office in 2010.

Here’s what she said:

http://youtu.be/yq-Q5-kqfAY

On behalf of the great state of California, I thank you for the honor and the privilege to be here. Let’s get right down to business.

We are here because we love our country, and we firmly believe in the American ideal that our country should work for everyone. That ideal is written into our laws, the rules of the road that create a level playing field in this country. Those are the rules I became attorney general to uphold. And those are the rules Mitt Romney would have us roll back.

He would roll back the rules that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. Roll back the rules that protect the health and safety of women and families. Roll back the rules that prevent the kind of recklessness that got our economy into this mess in the first place.

Well, we’ve all seen what happens when you roll back those rules. What happens are rows of foreclosure signs. What happens are mountains of family debt. What happens is a middle class that’s hurting. That’s what we’ve seen in towns across California and across this country.

Read the rest of Harris’ speech, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Kamala Harris | 5 Comments »

California state officials speak on SCOTUS ruling

California’s foremost elected officials are speaking out about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Today’s dramatic Supreme Court ruling removes the last roadblock to fulfilling President Obama’s historic plan to bring health care to millions of uninsured citizens.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“There is a healthcare crisis in this country, a crisis with profound implications for each citizen in every city and county in America. Today’s United States Supreme Court decision, which upheld the individual insurance requirement, is just a start. But the decision allowing states to opt-out of Medicaid expansion still leaves millions of Americans vulnerable.

“We can — and must – act now to do more to offer healthcare access to all. We do not have time to stand on the sidelines. There is a crisis but there is also a solution.

“Americans know it is much less expensive to keep people healthy than it is to treat their sickness. This is particularly true when much of the treatment for uninsured Americans is provided in costly emergency rooms. Without a universal healthcare plan, our emergency rooms will continue to bear the brunt of this crisis and citizens will pay the price with higher taxes, more expensive premiums, hidden costs and increased fees.

“While serving as mayor of San Francisco, I saw first hand the impact of the healthcare crisis on the insured, uninsured, businesses, emergency rooms and municipal coffers.
We decided to address this crisis head-on and launched the country’s first local universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco. It is blueprint that can be replicated by cities and counties across the nation. A public plan can work. San Francisco is proving it.

“Since being implemented, more than 80 percent of uninsured San Franciscans have received medical coverage. Healthy San Francisco is not health insurance, instead it provides access to affordable basic and ongoing health care services for the uninsured, regardless of immigration status, employment status, or pre-existing medical conditions.

“We must not wait for the federal government to take the lead in the wake of the today’s Supreme Court decision. Cities and counties across the nation, such as Dallas, Indianapolis, and Miami, have already taken steps to establish healthcare service access programs. California must move forward with innovative programs, like Healthy San Francisco, that provide access to healthcare and not simply access to healthcare insurance.”

From Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“Today’s decision is a historic victory for Californians, for the President, and for the country. The Affordable Care Act repairs a healthcare system badly in need of reform and ensures that every American has access to affordable health care. We never doubted the constitutionality of this law, and it is already making a difference in the lives of millions of Californians.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Dave Jones, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, healthcare reform, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris | 10 Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s same-sex marriage stance

Here’s what some of California’s state and federal elected officials are saying about President Obama’s statement today affirming support for same-sex marriage rights:

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer “This is a historic day and another step in our country’s long march toward equal rights and justice for all. The President’s statement is a milestone and so important for the millions of American families who deserve full equality. None of us can rest until marriage equality is a reality for all Americans.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi “Today marks progress for the civil rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans. With President Obama’s support, we look forward to the day when all American families are treated equally in the eyes of the law.

“Republicans are standing on the wrong side of history. Just yesterday, a Republican-backed amendment to ban same-sex marriage passed in North Carolina. Here in the House, Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and they are using taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court. These actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society.

“Throughout American history, we have worked to live up to our values of liberty and freedom, and to end discrimination in all of its forms. Today, we took another step forward in our march toward equality.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“I have never been more proud of our President than I am today. His journey to acceptance is an example of the one value we honor most in America, freedom; freedom to choose who we love, freedom to choose who we marry, freedom to choose who we partner with to raise a family. Denying the right for any two people to marry is discrimination. I can only hope the President’s personal position will swell the tide of public opinion to end prejudice against the LGBT community.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

John Perez “I am very proud of the President for today’s eloquent and bold announcement that he supports marriage equality for every person in this country. As with many Americans, his views on this issue have evolved towards an embrace of dignity, respect and justice for every American. Like the President’s successful effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I believe today will be remembered as a major milestone in the LGBT movement, and one that gives credence to Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that ‘the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.’ I am deeply grateful for the President’s leadership on this fundamental issue of civil rights.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Equality before the law is a pillar of American democracy. I applaud President Obama’s support for the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

For counterpoint, here’s Alliance Defense Fund litigation staff counsel Jim Campbell:

“This shows that the Obama administration doesn’t understand the public purpose of marriage. Marriage – the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman – is the building block of a thriving society. It’s not something that politicians should attempt to redefine for political purposes. The president has spoken eloquently about how fatherless homes often hurt children and society. Today’s statement is a tragic contradiction that promotes the creation of even more fatherless and motherless homes.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Leland Yee, Lynn Woolsey, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Rich Gordon, same-sex marriage, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 50 Comments »

Kamala Harris touts pact for online-dating safety

Online daters, take heart – California Attorney General Kamala Harris has your backs.

Harris announced Tuesday that three of the nation’s leading online dating providers agreed to issue a joint statement of business principles to help protect people seeking their soul mates from instead falling victim to identity theft, financial scams and sexual predators.

Her agreement with Santa Monica-based eHarmony, Dallas-based Match.com and Beverly Hills-based Spark Networks – which operates websites such as JDate and ChristianMingle – states that the companies will protect their members by using online safety tools, including checking subscribers against national sex offender registries and by providing a rapid abuse-reporting system for members. They’ll also keep proactively educating their members about safe online practices, providing tips such as fraud-prevention guidance and how to safely meet people offline.

“I commend these companies for committing to these important consumer protections,” Harris said in a news release. “Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted. It is a priority for this office to ensure consumers are protected online, and companies who are creating in the Internet space have a continued opportunity to innovate and thrive.”

She said providers will continue their efforts to screen members for financial or physical safety threats, including looking for fake profiles and checking sex offender registries to prevent registered sex offenders from using their fee-based services. Anyone identified as a registered sex offender won’t be allowed to use these services.

“In the interest of protecting and educating users, I strongly encourage all online dating companies to adopt the same principles as these industry leaders,” she said.

Harris last year created an eCrime Unit to prosecute identity theft, data intrusions and other tech-involved crimes. She’ll assign a liaison from that unit to deal with reports of suspected criminal activity provided by the three online dating providers and other providers who adopt these principles.

About 40 million Americans used an online dating service and spent more than $1 billion on online dating website memberships in 2011, Harris said; of couples married in the last three years, one in six met through an online dating service and one in five people have dated someone they met through an online dating site.

The CEOs of all three companies reiterated their commitments to member safety in Harris’ news release, and said they’re proud to work with her to set an example for the industry.

Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Under: Attorney General, Kamala Harris | No Comments »

For-profit medical pot? No prob, law’s author says

A former South Bay lawmaker who authored the state’s medical marijuana framework says state officials have misunderstood, or perhaps twisted for their own ends, a crucial section of that law dealing with whether dispensaries can operate on a for-profit basis.

It’s been the state’s contention for years that for-profit dispensaries aren’t allowed. But former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, issued an open letter earlier his month saying that’s not at all what his SB 420 of 2003 said. Here’s the operative part of that letter:

John VasconcellosIt was certainly true that one side wanted to outlaw any profit-making, while the other side did not and would not. So right there and then – in order not to lose our coherence as a working team hoping for a broadly supported result and to hold our coalition together – we took the openly deliberated, fully appreciated compromise way out: We catered to neither side on this issue. Instead the Task Force crafted the language that appears in Health and Safety Code section 1 1362.765(a) as follows: “…. nor shall anything in this section authorize any individual or group to cultivate or distribute marijuana for profit.”

It was so carefully crafted that neither side could claim victory. In effect that issue was entirely left to whatever otherwise is the status of that issue in California law.

Although certain members of our Task Force did advocate for a prohibition on profit-making, that position was firmly rejected by the Task Force in favor of the above compromise language.

The language we fashioned means nothing more – nor less – than what it explicitly says. Nothing in that section prohibits profit. Nothing in that section explicitly authorizes profit, either. But I must point out that nobody is required to obtain an “authorization” from the Legislature to make a profit in California.

In fact, it would have been utterly incongruous for us constituting that A.G.’s Task Force, to have come up with such a ban on profit, which could not readily be interpreted or found to be explicitly or implicitly in support of implementing Proposition 215′s intention to allow patients to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes.

In short, the language in question, which was painstakingly crafted as a result of careful give-and- take from all sides, simply restates a self-evident fact about what is not in that section, but the language does not in any respect purport to prohibit profit – if that had been the intent, the language would have so stated clearly. It obviously does no such thing.

This made my head hurt a little, so I called Oakland attorney Robert Raich, who has argued a medical marijuana case to the U.S. Supreme Court and was part of the task force that drafted SB 420. He broke it down for me: This language was a sop to the cops.

“We needed to throw a bone to them to make them happy so they wouldn’t completely oppose it and walk away from the table altogether,” he said. “But you don’t really need authorization from the Legislature to make a profit. … The fact that it says it doesn’t authorize profit doesn’t mean it prohibits it.”

Raich said he explained it to one of his Oaksterdam University students thusly: The student can say he doesn’t authorize his girlfriend to use his car, and if the girlfriend then drives it, she has run afoul of his lack of authorization. But if the student says he doesn’t authorize Raich to drive Raich’s car, there’s no real effect because the student never had authority over Raich’s car to begin with.

Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office declined to comment on Vasconcellos’ letter.

But, having covered California’s medical marijuana policy since 1997, I’m guessing the state isn’t impressed. I think its lawyers would note all marijuana cultivation and distribution was illegal before voters approved certain narrow exceptions in Proposition 215 of 1996, the Compassionate Use Act; that ballot measure certainly didn’t create a right to profitable sales. Vasconcellos’ 2003 law also didn’t alter that status quo: The section dealing with collective/cooperative cultivation is silent on it, and the section Vasconcellos cites, dealing with primary caregivers, made it clear the Legislature wasn’t authorizing such sales.

So I’d be willing to bet that if someone presents Vasconcellos’ letter in court, the state would argue that such a radical departure from existing law isn’t something the Legislature would have left to implication or conjecture. But I also think the state would argue that Vasconcellos’ letter doesn’t fit within the rules that courts use for determining legislative history and intent, and so is moot anyway.

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Under: Attorney General, Kamala Harris, marijuana | 3 Comments »