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Monday is voter registration deadline

This Monday, May 4 is the last day to register or re-register to vote in the May 19 special election, wherein voters will decide on six budget-related ballot measures.

To be eligible to register to vote in this election, a person must be a U.S. citizen and California resident; at least 18 years old on Election Day; not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction; and not deemed by a court to be mentally incompetent to register and vote. Voters must re-register if they have moved, changed their names, or wish to change their political party affiliation (the latter of which makes no difference in this election).

Voter registration cards are available from county elections offices, public libraries, city halls, post offices and DMV offices, or can be downloaded from the Secretary of State’s Web site. Voter registration cards require an original signature and must be submitted in person or through the mail; a registration card postmarked on or before May 4 will be accepted as meeting the registration deadline.

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See, it’s OK to disagree.

Just yesterday, I saw San Francisco State University Assistant Professor Ramon Castellblanch angrily denouncing Proposition 1A, the spending-cap/rainy-day-fund measure on the May 19 special-election ballot, claiming it would be “devastating” to the future of public higher education in California.

Apparently state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who helped broker the budget deal that put Proposition 1A before voters, doesn’t hold a grudge. Steinberg’s office today announced Castellblanch, a Democrat from Benicia, has been appointed to the California Board of Pharmacy.

The board adopts rules and regulation for the proper and effective enforcement and administration of the pharmacy profession including licensing and enforcement of state and federal laws. Castellblanch’s term will expire June 1, 2012.

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May 19 ballot pamphlets are ‘in the mail’

Mailing of state-issued pamphlets for the May 19 statewide special election are lagging behind the schedules of Bay Area election offices, which began sending vote-by-mail ballots on Monday.

For folks who haven’t made up their minds yet, the ballot pamphlet contains overviews of the six statewide measures and the arguments for and against each of the questions.

“The Secretary of State’s office tells us that they will finish mailing out the pamphlets by April 27,” said Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir. “But as of (Wednesday afternoon) no Bay Area voter has received a pamphlet.”

In the meantime, voters can wait for the  pamphlet to show up in their mailboxes or download it online at www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov.  Voters may also pick up a copy at the following county election offices:

n Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters: 555 Escobar St. in Martinez. Contact the office at 925-335-7800 or www.cocovote.us.

n Alameda County Registrar of Voters: 1225 Fallon Street G-1 in Oakland. Contact the office at 510 267-8683 or www.acgov.org/rov.

n Solano County Registrar of Voters: 675 Texas St. in Fairfield. Contact the office at 707-784-6675 or www.solanocounty.com.

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Speaker Bass urges passage of May 19 ballot measures

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, invited me to sit down with her for about a half-hour this afternoon between her Bay Area events.

After Bass accepted an award from Girls Inc. for her work with youth, we met in the oddly named “Bridal Room” at the new downtown Oakland Catholic cathedral. (We’re pretty sure it’s a room intended for brides and their bridesmaids to prepare for a wedding.)

As expected, Bass focused heavily on her campaign to persuade Californians to pass the six ballot measures on the May 19 special election she helped negotiate. The measures were part of the Legislature’s protracted and difficult budget settlement early this year. (Click here to link to the independent Legislative Analysts Office’ conclusions about the measures.)

“If we don’t pass these measures, when we begin to negotiate next year’s budget, we will have a $14 billion hole instead of an $8 billion hole,” Bass said.

People have become confused, she said, over critics’ statements that measures 1D and 1E will take money from children and mental health programs funded through Props. 10 and 63. Bass said the new measures will tap into the prior propositions’ reserve funds and divert the money into very same programs that the propositions were intended to serve: core children and mental health programs.

“If these measure fail, we will have to cut children and mental health programs,” Bass said. “We are not using all the reserves but some of that money, which will otherwise just sit in the reserves.”

She also defended some of the proposed corporate tax credits that critics have said will cost the state tens of millions of dollars such as the Hollywood movie tax credit.

“I can’t defend all the tax credits we negotiated,” Bass said.

But the movie industry has been slowing moving out of California, she said, and the state needs to take action or lose it in the same way it lost the the aerospace industry.

While the measures contain plenty for everyone to criticize, she compared the state’s fiscal morass to a house on fire.

“When the house is on fire, the first thing you do is put out the flames before you start trying to rebuild the house,” she said.

Bass also emphasized a need for the Legislature to tackle some of the state’s other big problems such as water, healthcare, the tax code, energy and the prison system.

She and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg issued a joint statement earlier today and vowed to work on comprehensive plan to solve the state’s water crisis, particularly the problems of the California Delta.

And Bass says she will pursue the creation of independent commissions to study and recommend reforms of the state’s parole system and its criminal laws. As an example, she wants to see reforms of laws that criminalize and label as sex offenders teen-agers who engage in so-called “sexting.”

On her personal legislative agenda, Bass has introduced a bill that would extend publicly funded services to foster youth through age 21. The current law cuts foster children off at age 18, a time when very few young people are ready support themselves.

She also plans to work on a ballot measure in 2010 that would create a special fund to fully pay for foster care services. The money would come from new taxes on candy and snack foods, which would generate an estimated $500 million a year.

Bass is running out time to finish her agenda. She terms out in 2010 and has no other publicly elected position on her radar.

“But I will be involved in public policy somehow,” she said. “I have been involved in public policy all of my life.”

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Skinner set to speak

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will speak Wednesday at a meeting of the Diablo Valley Democratic Club about the ballot propositions on the May 19 statewide special election ballot.

The event will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the Ygnacio Valley Library, 2661 Oak Grove Road in Walnut Creek.

In addition, Joyce Kingery of the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley will discuss her organization’s recommmendtions.

Rudy Ramirez, campaign manager for Measure D in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District will discuss Proposition 1B.

And Cally Martin of First 5 Contra Costa will speak about Proposition 1D.

The Diablo Valley Democratic Club serves Concord, Clayton, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Martinez. Meetings are open to the public. For Information, visit www.dvdems.org or call 925-946-0469.