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Good news for California beer & spirits lovers

There’s good news from Sacramento this week for Californians who enjoy a sip of this or a shot of that.

beer tastingGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law AB 774 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, which will allow limited beer tastings at certified farmers’ markets.

“This bill recognizes that at farmers’ markets brewers meet consumers face-to-face and build a relationship,” Levine, D-San Rafael. “AB 774 allows tastings where brewers are already selling their products at certified farmers’ markets.”

The new law, which also lets nonprofits receive donated beer as items for auction, will give farmers’ market managers full discretion on whether or not to allow beer tastings; limit tastings to one brewery per day per market; allow tastings only in a controlled, cordoned-off area; and limit tastings to eight ounces per adult customer.

Brown one year ago signed Levine’s similar bill to allow wine tastings at farmers’ markets.

Levine also made headway this week with his bill to create a new license for craft distillers so they can sell up to three bottles of distilled spirits per person per day at an instructional tasting; hold private events at the distillery; and have ownership in up to three restaurants. AB 1295 was approved Tuesday by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.

Current state law prevents distillers from selling their products directly to consumers.

“This historic legislation changes Prohibition-era laws for craft distillers to reflect the modern marketplace,” Levine said, letting craft distillers “operate in a similar manner as wineries and breweries under existing law. This bill helps craft distillers to be competitive with large out-of-state distillers. Growth of the craft distillery industry means jobs in our local communities.”

Bottoms up!

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Assemblyman called on carpet for hearing dustup

Things got so ugly at Wednesday’s Assembly Labor and Employment Committee hearing that a trip to the principal’s office was required.

During the hearing on SB 3, a bill to raise California’s minimum wage again, chairman Roger Hernández, D-Baldwin Hills, cut off a witness and then called for a vote despite vice chairman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, wishing to speak. As Harper continued to object, Hernández first switched off his microphone and then ordered a sergeant-at-arms to remove it.

Committee members Kansen Chu, D-San Jose; Evan Low, D-Campbell; Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento; and Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, didn’t intervene and voted to approve the bill.

“Blocking discussion in this manner is unfair, undemocratic and soils the decorum of the Assembly. I was sent here to represent the concerns of the voters of my district and chairman Hernández shut down my ability to speak for who I represent,” Harper said in a news release. “Our state’s underemployment rate is overwhelming and the bill being rammed through our committee would make it harder to hire. We are sent here to debate policy that impacts the lives of Californians, not shut down dissenting points of view.”

The Assembly Republican Caucus decried the incident as well, calling Hernández’s behavior “spastic”

“Assemblyman Hernández must have forgot that last session he voted in favor of Assembly Bill 2053, to mandate harassment training,” the caucus jabbed in its statement. “Californians elect their representatives to be their voice in Sacramento, and no other members should ever have the ability to strip them of that duty.”

Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, has met with Hernandez, Harper and the GOP leadership about the incident, spokesman John Casey said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“The Speaker believes that all members of the Assembly have the right to ask questions and voice their opinions on legislative matters while in committee and on the floor,” he wrote. “Mr. Hernández acknowledged his oversight to Mr. Harper and expressed regret. The Speaker doesn’t expect any similar incidents to occur going forward.”

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Toni Atkins | 1 Comment »

California eagerly smack-talks Donald Trump

California is tripping over itself to open a can of whup-ass on Donald Trump.

Republicans and Democrats alike have been blasting the reality television star, billionaire businessman and (ersatz) GOP presidential candidate since the middle of last month, when he launched his campaign by saying that Mexicans who enter the nation illegally are responsible for a lot of drug-related or violent crime.

Isadore Hall IIIOn Thursday, state Sen. Isadore Hall III, D-Compton, introduced a resolution condemning Trump and fellow GOP contender Ted Cruz for their “recent racist remarks;” calling upon the state to divest from any ties with Trump’s businesses; and urging private businesses and individuals to do likewise.

“Immigrant families fundamentally enrich the extraordinary character of our state and nation,” Hall said in a news release. “California’s short and long-term economic, social, health, security, and prosperity require policies that allow individuals to become legal and enfranchised participants in our society and economy.

“I stand with my fellow State Senators, immigrant families and residents throughout California in denouncing Donald Trump’s reckless, arrogant and irresponsible actions,” Hall continued. “The racist statements made by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have no place in our state or national political discourse and no place for anyone who aspires to one day serve in the White House.”

It’s unclear what, if any, business ties the state might have with Trump.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, issued a statement agreeing that “convicting an entire nation and culture as Donald Trump has done with our neighbors to the south is offensive and should not be tolerated in California.

“At the same time, using state resources to protest the inappropriate statements from politicians on either side of the aisle or around the country, is a waste of taxpayer dollars and only draws attention to those politicians who are trying to grab headlines,” Huff said. “The Legislature should instead focus its time on improving our economy and ensuring that Californians have the opportunity to pursue the American dream.”

Shawn SteelMeanwhile, Shawn Steel – one of California’s Republican National Committee members – called on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and state Attorney General Kamala Harris to give up $6,000 that Trump gave to her attorney general’s campaign committee – $5,000 in 2011 and $1,000 in 2013.

“When national embarrassment Donald Trump isn’t busy attacking immigrants, he’s writing big checks to Democrat Kamala Harris,” Steel said in a news release. “Attorney General Kamala Harris should denounce Trump’s offensive comments and give her ‘Donald Dollars’ to charity.”

“Conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats can agree: Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric has no place in politics,” Steel added. “It’s time that Kamala Harris stood up to her campaign contributor.”

But Harris already had done so before Steel made his call, campaign spokesman Nathan Click said Thursday. “Earlier in the week, the AG directed the campaign to send the contributions to CARECEN, a California-based civil rights organization that provides resources and support for immigrant children and their families.”

Steel neglected to mention that Trump gave a total of $3,500 in 2004 and 2006 to Jerry Brown’s campaign for attorney general; $25,000 to the California Republican Party in 2005; a total of $12,000 to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s committees in 2007 and 2008; and $2,500 to Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009.

Finally, I’m told that San Jose’s Dulceria Mi Carnaval Party Supply has sold out of their newest, hottest product, but more are on order. This photo was taken elsewhere, but for illustrative purposes:

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Like a papier-mache chorus line from hell, no?

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Bob Huff, California State Senate, Kamala Harris | 4 Comments »

Gov. Jerry Brown will visit the Vatican

Gov. Jerry Brown will visit the Vatican this month to speak at a two-day symposium on climate change and modern slavery.

Brown, who was a Jesuit seminarian way back when, will make the trip one month after Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment including his call for a partnership between science and religion to combat human-driven climate change. The visit also comes a few months before world leaders will convene in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

“In the spirit of the pope’s encyclical, this unprecedented gathering of global leaders is a wake-up call to face up to the common threats of climate change and human exploitation,” Brown said in a news release. “This is about the future of humanity and how we as human beings live and treat one another and the natural world around us.”

The two-day event, hosted by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, aims to drive awareness, dialogue and action at the local level on climate change and modern slavery – two pressing, interconnected issues highlighted in the pope’s encyclical. Brown will attend sessions on “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities” on Tuesday, July 21, and sessions on “Prosperity, People and Planet: Achieving Sustainable Development in Our Cities” on Wednesday, July 22.

It’s a continuation of Brown’s focus on building collaboration among “subnational” governments of states and provinces to combat climate change. He attended the Climate Summit of the Americas this week in Toronto, where Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard signed the “Under 2 MOU,” a first-of-its-kind pact amongst states and provinces around the world to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius – the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be catastrophic climate disruptions.

Since the agreement was first signed at a Sacramento ceremony in May, 18 signatories in nine countries and four continents have signed on, collectively representing more than $5.3 trillion in GDP and 130 million people.

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Huff signs onto Glazer’s anti-Confederate bill

State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, has enlisted Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff’s support for a bill that would prohibit all California public schools, buildings, parks, roadways and other state-owned property from using names associated with the Confederate States of America.

Public celebration of Confederate heritage has become more controversial since its association with Dylann Roof, the man accused of last month’s murderous racial terrorism in Charleston, S.C.

Huff, R-San Dimas, announced Monday he will become a co-author of Glazer’s SB 539, the Frederick Douglass Liberty Act, which would apply to names including those of Confederate elected leaders and military generals. California currently has two schools named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee: one in San Diego and the other in Long Beach.

“It’s time for a change in thinking and how we treat history,” Huff said in a news release. “The shooting deaths of nine African-American men and women at a church in South Carolina is clear proof that racial violence is alive and well in this country. Images of the accused killer wrapping himself in the Confederate Flag show that it’s become an emblem of cruel oppression and racial hatred. It’s become offensive to segments of our society.”

“California should have no interest in enshrining the names of Confederate leaders, the secessionist movement or their ideals in our public schools, buildings, parks or other state property,” he added. “While it’s important to never forget the mistakes made in the past, we shouldn’t be in the business of paying tribute to those mistakes.”

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2015
Under: Bob Huff, California State Senate, steve glazer | 6 Comments »

Tim Donnelly launches referendum vs. vaccine law

Former assemblyman and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly is launching a referendum campaign to overturn California’s new law requiring mandatory vaccinations for public and private school students.

Donnelly, the arch-conservative from Twin Peaks, submitted his proposed referendum Wednesday to the state Attorney General’s office for preparation of an official title and summary, with which he can circulate petitions to place it on the November 2016 ballot.

Tim Donnelly“This referendum is not about vaccinations; it is about defending the fundamental freedom of a parent to make an informed decisions for their children without being unduly penalized by a government that believes it knows best,” he said in a news release.

It certainly seems to be in keeping with Donnelly’s political philosophy; his talk radio show’s website describes him as “broadcasting from deep behind enemy lines in the occupied territory of the socialist republic of California.” Donnelly finished third, with about 15 percent of the vote, behind Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican rival Neel Kashkari in last year’s top-two gubernatorial primary.

Donnelly’s news release says California enjoys one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates, even though it has let people opt out for personal or religious reasons. But by signing SB 277 into law Tuesday, Brown “deprived every Californian of that choice should they wish to send their children to a private or public school,” the release said.

“For the vast majority, this is not an issue, but for those who are concerned about the inherent risks of an ever increasing schedule of vaccinations, or who themselves or their children have suffered severe reactions, up to and including death, having the freedom to opt out is everything,” the release said. “Now, that freedom is subject to the arbitrary control and subjective determination of a doctor and the government, instead of the parent.”

UPDATE @ 3:02 P.M.: State Sen. Richard Pan, the pediatrician who authored SB 277, issued a statement later Wednesday noting Californians “overwhelmingly support requiring vaccinations for school.

“Our bill was a reasonable, science-based approach to protecting children, and the most vulnerable among us, from dangerous diseases,” wrote Pan, D-Sacramento. “Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools we have to prevent deadly communicable diseases. I have spent my career campaigning to build healthier and safe communities and I will continue that work by fighting any referendum that hurts Californians.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
Under: Tim Donnelly | 6 Comments »

Excessive water use tax of up to 300%?

Water agencies could impose a tax of up to 300 percent on excessive use, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill.

Bob WieckowskiSB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.

“California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,” Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.

“SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,” he said. “It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.”

The State Water Resources Control Board has moved to curtail water use during the state’s historic drought, calling for a 25 percent cut, yet many water agencies are far from reaching their reduction goals despite managers’ best efforts. Wieckowski’s bill would let agencies impose up to a 300 percent tax on excessive use – a level to be determined by the local agencies – with revenue going to water conservation projects for those communities.

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Under: Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, water | 4 Comments »

Arnold terminates marriage-equality opponent

Like many on Facebook, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to use an image of himself overlaid with rainbow colors as his new profile picture to show support for the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling. One of his Facebook followers took issue with that, and the Governator’s response was… classic.

IMG_0337

Posted on Saturday, June 27th, 2015
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, same-sex marriage | 1 Comment »

SD9: Sandre Swanson rolls out early endorsements

Former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson is seeking early dominance in next year’s three-way (at least) Democratic showdown for the 9th State Senate District – in part, at least, by calling in old favors.

Swanson, D-Alameda, will face former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – also a former assemblywoman – in the race to succeed state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out in 2016.

Swanson on Thursday announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, whose district includes about half of the 9th Senate District’s voters. Thurmond said Swanson’s “Swanson’s record of standing up and fighting for our children, seniors, and working families is second to none.” Swanson was one of Thurmond’s earliest endorsers – way back in June 2013 – in last year’s very crowded 15th Assembly District race, while Skinner backed Elizabeth Echols. Chan endorsed Thurmond too, but not until well after the June primary.

On Wednesday, Swanson had announced his endorsement by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who has the other half of the 9th District’s voters. “He is someone that has stood up and done the right thing for our community, time and time again, showing a track record of being a true leader,” Bonta said. Swanson in 2012 had endorsed Bonta to succeed him.

And Swanson two weeks ago reminded everyone that he has the incumbent’s stamp of approval from Hancock – although that’s old news, given that she actually endorsed him for this race way back in 2012 in exchange for his dropping a possible challenge to her.

But Swanson’s early rollout of prominent endorsements might be to compensate for a cash disadvantage.

Filings with the Secretary of State’s office show Swanson’s campaign had about $13,500 banked at the start of this year, and has raised about $8,500 in big-ticket contributions since then. He has a fish-fry fundraiser scheduled for next Friday, June 26 near his Bay Farm Island home.

By contrast, Skinner started 2015 with almost $396,000 banked, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278 to the Senate committee — so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

And according to filings with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office, Chan’s 2014 supervisorial campaign committee started this year with about $57,000 in the bank – money that’s transferrable to her 2016 senate committee. Chan’s state senate committee then held a May 27 fundraiser at a Fremont steakhouse, for which tickets ranged from $125 to $8,500; she has not yet had to file a report reflecting how much she raked in. Don’t forget, Chan – who was term-limited out of the Assembly in 2006 – has wanted this seat for a loooong time, having lost the 2008 primary to Hancock after a sometimes-ugly race.

As I’ve noted before, this will be a very different dynamic from this year’s 7th State Senate District special election in which centrist Democrat Steve Glazer defeated liberal Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Because Swanson, Chan and Skinner will be fighting over the same pool of liberal endorsements and contributions, who gets what could be a better-than-usual indicator of which way the winds are blowing.

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

Fiona Ma: Warriors boost economy, tax revenue

Even amid the transcendent joy of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship win, California’s tax officials are keeping their eye on the bottom line.

Fiona MaBoard of Equalization member Fiona Ma, whose district includes the Bay Area, issued a news release Wednesday morning noting that the championship ring comes with a monetary bonus for the players, meaning a modest increase in tax revenues for the state. But on a larger scale, as the series and victory reverberate through the economy – merchandise sold, extra hours for arena employees, restaurants and bars packed with fans – there’s even more money coming in.

Ma’s statement noted that $10 million might seem like a drop in the bucket of the state’s world-class economy, but that sum could hire 320 full-time employees at $15 per hour; open 100 small businesses; or buy for school supplies for 103,000 kids.

“The Warriors gave as good as they got throughout the entire season, and they’re bringing home a championship trophy,” Ma said in the news release. “Even better, they’ve made winners of us all, and I congratulate them on a stunning season! … Here’s to another win in 2016!”

Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015
Under: Fiona Ma | 4 Comments »