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Muslim group plans Sacramento lobbying blitz

A Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group will focus its California lobbying blitz next month on bills dealing with police surveillance, equal pay for women, and a freeze on tuition at state colleges and universities.

CAIRCalifornialogoThe California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is planning its 4th annual California Muslim Day at the State Capitol for Monday, April 27. They’ll be reaching out to legislators about issues that impact the Muslim community broadly, and to push for three bills in particular.

SB 178, the California Electronic Communication Privacy Act by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would provide protection against warrantless government access private electronic communications such as emails, text messages and GPS data that are held on smartphones, tablets, laptops and other digital devices. Police would have to go to a judge and get a warrant before accessing such information.

SB 358, the California Fair Pay Act by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would will help to ensure that women are paid equally when they do the same work as men, and protect workers from retaliation when they inquire or speak out about wage differences at work. CAIR notes that in 2013, a California woman working full-time earned 84 cents to every dollar earned by a man doing the same job; the gap is considerably wider for women of color.

AB 42 by Assemblywoman Young Kim, D-Fullerton, would require the California Community Colleges and California State University – and ask the University of California – to freeze tuition and fees at their 2014-15 levels while the tax hikes enacted by voters as Proposition 30 of 2012 remain in effect.

Posted on Friday, March 27th, 2015
Under: Assembly, California State Senate | 3 Comments »

California lawmakers globe-trot to Cuba, Japan

With the Legislature in recess next week, California’s top lawmakers – and a few Bay Area members, too – are leaving Sacramento to do some globe-trotting.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Agriculture Committee Chair Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will lead a trade delegation of legislators, academics, and agriculture industry representatives to Cuba from Monday, March 30 to Friday, April 3.

They’re aiming to build ties with Cuban policymakers, farmers, and businesses, and to explore options for California and Cuba to collaborate not only in agriculture but also in telecommunications, construction and banking.

Toni Atkins“With the federal government moving forward with efforts to normalize diplomatic, economic, and commercial relations, it is important for California to also engage with Cuba and expand economic relationships that create new opportunities for businesses in our state,” Atkins said in a news release. “The Assembly wants to do everything we can to create more jobs and business in California, and this trade delegation is one way to help California companies gain a competitive edge.”

The partner organization for the trade delegation is Californians Building Bridges, a nonprofit with years of experience leading cultural, humanitarian and entrepreneurial exchanges between California and Cuba. No Assembly funds are being spent.

Also in the delegation are Bill Quirk, D-Hayward; Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond; Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove; Adam Gray, D-Merced; Jose Medina, D-Riverside; and Rudy Salas Jr., D-Bakersfield – all Agriculture Committee members, or serving districts with agricultural interests. Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, and Republicans on the Agriculture Committee were invited but declined to attend.

Meanwhile, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, will lead a delegation including Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, to Japan from Monday, March 30 through Thursday, April 2. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, is going, too.

The lawmakers were invited by the Japanese government, and they’ll be discussing issues including transportation, seismic safety, clean energy, environmental protection and climate change.

Kevin de LeonThey’re scheduled to meet Monday in Tokyo with U.S. Embassy officials and Japanese officials including Issei Kitagawa, the state minister of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism to discuss high-speed rail. They’ll also meet that day with people from Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, the main entity responsible for recovery from the March 2011 earthquake that devastated part of the nation.

On Tuesday, they’re scheduled to visit Japan’s National Diet, the legislature, as well as to tour the High Speed Rail Operation Center and to ride in a new fuel-cell car produced by Toyota.

On Wednesday they’ll travel to Kobe to meet with the mayor and tour a facility memorializing the January 1995 earthquake that killed more than 5,000 and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and the recovery efforts that followed. And on Thursday they’ll start in Osaka and then head for Kyoto, to meet the mayor for a briefing on the city’s economy and history.

Posted on Friday, March 27th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Bill Quirk, Bob Huff, California State Senate, Kevin de Leon, Toni Atkins, Tony Thurmond | 1 Comment »

Bay Area House members out and about Friday

Bay Area House members have a bunch of events planned for Friday.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will take part in a discussion with employers of the benefits of hiring trained ex-convicts at 9 a.m. Friday in the student lounge in Building R of Merritt College, 12500 Campus Dr. in Oakland. Others expected to take part include California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeff Beard; California Prison Industry Authority General Manager Charles Pattillo; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; Alameda County Assistant Sheriff Brett Keteles; and PWC Development President Prophet Walker, himself a former offender.

Mark DeSaulnierReps. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Sarbanes, D-Md., will take part in a roundtable discussion on the problem of big money in politics, at 11 a.m. Friday in Blum Hall B100 at UC-Berkeley. The event, hosted by the California Public Interest Research Group, will address local and federal efforts to curb big money’s influence by amplifying small donors’ voices, as well as the recent push for President Obama to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending. State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter, the Berkeley Forum and others also will take part.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will hold a forum to update the community about President Obama’s executive actions on immigration at 4 p.m. Friday at the School of Arts and Culture in Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave. in San Jose. The event also offers eligibility workshops to prepare families to apply for relief from deportation pending availability of applications this year. Lofgren, Lofgren, the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will be joined by Rep. Luiz Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Santa Clara County supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez; and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, campaign finance, Immigration, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Nora Campos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

SD7: Joan Buchanan endorses Susan Bonilla

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, who came in third in yesterday’s 7th State Senate District special primary election, emailed supporters Wednesday afternoon with a plea to vote for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in the May 19 general election.

“While last night’s results weren’t what we were expecting, I am incredibly grateful to all of you for believing in me, your time and all your hard work,” wrote Buchanan, an Alamo Democrat who was term-limited out of the 16th Assembly District seat last year.

“I’m proud of the campaign that we ran; I’m proud that we stuck to our pledge to run a positive-only campaign; and I’m proud of how many of you truly took to heart our shared vision for a better future,” she wrote. “It’s clear that our positive messages of a quality education for every child, protecting our precious environment and creating a better California resounded with tens of thousands of voters.”

With some mail-in ballots yet to be counted, current results show Buchanan got 22.6 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s top-two primary, finishing third behind Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer (32.8 percent) and Bonilla (24.9 percent); Glazer and Bonilla will face off in May, while Buchanan and two others are now eliminated.

Buchanan wrote that she called Bonilla, D-Concord, on Tuesday night to offer congratulations. “I ask you to support her bid to be our next State Senator,” she wrote.

The endorsement is hardly surprising, given that Buchanan and Bonilla didn’t disagree on much. But given the primary results, it’ll take a lot more than this endorsement to help Bonilla best Glazer in May.

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 9 Comments »

SD7: Looks like May will be a nail-biter

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla should be starting to sweat right about now.

Steve GlazerMy colleague Matt Artz has the lowdown on yesterday’s 7th State Senate District special primary election. As of Wednesday morning, with some mail-in ballots still to be counted, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – the centrist Democrat in this race, backed by entities including the California Chamber of Commerce – topped the list at 32.8 percent, while Bonilla, D-Concord – a more liberal candidate with strong union backing – came in second at 24.9 percent.

They’ll go on to the special general election on May 19. Eliminated in yesterday’s primary were former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, at 22.6 percent; Michaela Hertle, a Republican businesswoman from Pleasanton who dropped out Feb. 2 and endorsed Glazer, at 17 percent; and Concord Democrat Terry Kremin, who barely campaigned at all, at 2.8 percent.

It’s not surprising that Glazer and Bonilla made the cut. Massive independent spending on their behalf caught Buchanan in a crossfire from which there was little chance of escape.

But yesterday’s numbers show a surprisingly tough road ahead for Bonilla. If you figure those who voted for Hertle will now swing toward Glazer, that puts him close to the 50 percent mark. And while it’s hard to imagine many Hertle voters suddenly swinging all the way across the spectrum to support Bonilla, it’s easier to imagine some Buchanan voters choosing Glazer, which could put him over the top.

Democrats hold a 15-point registration edge in this district, but the party’s leftward edge is blunted in low-turnout elections – of which this certainly was one.

With 97,104 votes counted so far and an estimated 13,432 ballots still left to count as of Wednesday morning, it seems that about 110,536 voters actually bothered to turn out for this special primary. In a district with 488,596 voters, that’s an abysmal 22.6 percent turnout. Maybe that will improve in May’s general election, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Susan BonillaUnions now will double down to mobilize voters for Bonilla, but that doesn’t always lead to a win – consider how Republican attorney Catharine Baker beat Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a union darling, by 3.2 points in last November’s low-turnout election in the 16th Assembly District, despite a 7-point Democratic registration advantage.

And Glazer can almost certainly count on more support from his own deep-pocketed independent spenders, most notable the Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC and southern California Republican-turned-independent businessman Bill Bloomfield.

If 7th District residents think they’ve been inundated with mail and calls so far, they ain’t seen nothing yet.

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 4 Comments »

Senate candidate Rocky Chávez coming to East Bay

2016 U.S. Senate candidate Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, will be at a campaign event Monday in the East Bay – but not for his campaign.

Rocky ChávezChávez will be the “VIP guest” at a fundraiser this Monday, March 16 for Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, the Bay Area’s only Republican in Sacramento. Tickets for the pre-St. Patrick’s Day reception – “heavy hors d’ouevres, no host bar, green beer complimentary for the first 30 lucky guests!” – at The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon cost from $150 (“shamrock”) to $4,200 (“pot o’gold”).

Chávez declared candidacy March 5 for the senate seat from which Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will retire next year. The only other prominent candidate in the race so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat whom a recent Field Poll showed to be a frontrunner.

Catharine BakerTwo little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, say they’re running too, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has formed an exploratory committee for the race.

Baker is wise to be raising money as soon as possible. She won her 16th Assembly District seat by a 3.2-point margin in November, but she should expect a much tougher fight in 2016 when heavier turnout drawn by the presidential election will help Democrats flex their 7-point voter registration advantage.

Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2015
Under: Assembly, campaign finance, Catharine Baker, Kamala Harris | 4 Comments »

John Pérez endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

Former California Assembly Speaker John Pérez has endorsed state Attorney General Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate in 2016 and will co-chair her campaign, a coup for a candidate who’s trying to shore up her bona fides among Latino voters as several potential rivals still consider running.

John Perez“I am proud to support Attorney General Kamala Harris’ candidacy to succeed Senator Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate, and I am honored to serve as campaign co-chair,” Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said in a news release. “As Attorney General, she has been a fighter for middle class families, for children, for immigrants, and for the environment. She will continue to be a tough, practical, results-oriented leader when she is in the Senate. I look forward to campaigning alongside Kamala Harris and working with her when she is representing California in Washington, D.C.”

Harris said she’s grateful for his support. “He has served his community and his state so effectively and passionately, as a leader in elected office, in the labor movement, and in the Democratic Party. He has a proven track record of working for the middle class and promoting economic fairness, and is a tireless campaigner. My campaign will benefit greatly from his service as co-chair.”

Pérez, who was Speaker from 2010 to 2014, was the first openly gay person of color to be elected speaker of any state legislature in the nation; earlier, he worked as political director for the California Labor Federation. In addition to his Latino and LGBT status, the fact that he’s from Los Angeles is good for Harris too, as she looks to strengthen her support in the voter-dense Southland.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had been thought of as a prime possible contender for the Senate seat, announced last week announced he won’t run. But there’s still buzz among the state’s Latino Democrats that they’d like to field someone as an alternative to Harris, and House members including Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, have said they’re considering running.

On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, and former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette have formed exploratory committees for this contest.

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Under: John Perez, Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

SD7: IE money for Republican who dropped out

The independent spending that’s flooding the 7th State Senate District’s special election has taken an odd turn, as a committee known for backing Asian American Democrats spends on behalf of a white Republican who dropped out of the contest weeks ago.

The Asian American Small Business PAC has reported spending $46,380 on research, polling and mailing on behalf of Michaela Hertle. And that’s bad news for the candidate whom Hertle endorsed: Democrat Steve Glazer.

Steve Glazer“It’s gutter politics,” Glazer charged Monday. “There’s no Asian-American in the race, and the Republican has withdrawn and endorsed me. It’s clearly an attempt to confuse the voters and smear me.”

Glazer, Orinda’s mayor and a former campaign advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, has set about courting Republican votes, as he’s more centrist than the contest’s other two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

But when Hertle dropped out of the race and endorsed Glazer Feb. 2, it already was too late to remove her name from the ballots. By spending money to tout her now, the PAC effectively is sapping votes from Glazer.

The mailer already is hitting registered Republicans’ mailboxes across the district. On the front, beside a photo of Hertle apparently cribbed from her Twitter profile, it asks, “Why settle for less? Let’s elect a real Republican to stand up for us in the State Senate.” On the back, it says the community “needs a real reformer in the State Senate who can break the partisan gridlock and produce results for us.”

Click to enlarge:
Hertle flier front

Hertle flier back

“Unlike the other candidates, Michaela Hertle is an independent leader who owes no favors to the special interests paralyzing our state government. We can trust Michaela to fight for reform and for us,” the flier says, praising her as fiscally conservative and a government reformer.

Bill Wong, the PAC’s political director, insisted this truly is a pro-Hertle effort and not an attempt to sap votes from Glazer to benefit Bonilla or Buchanan.

“Michaela is still on the ballot and there’s an option for people to vote for her,” Wong said, noting about 41 percent of the district’s voters are Republicans or independents. “She thought she couldn’t raise enough money to run a legitimate campaign, so we figured we’d throw in this money and see how it goes.”

The PAC mostly gives money to Asian American Democrats – it gave only to Democrats in the 2013-2014 cycle, and all but one of the 17 were Asian American. But Wong said it has given to a few Republicans in the past, including Michelle Steele and Alan Nakanishi for the Board of Equalization in 2010, so supporting Hertle isn’t unprecedented.

She’s the candidate most aligned with the PAC’s ideals, he insisted: “Everyone else is kind of a career politician.”

Who’s putting up the money remains an open question.

Despite the PAC’s name, it gets most of its money from big companies and unions. Its biggest contributors in 2013-14 were Comcast Corp. ($46,800); International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers Local 39 ($40,000); California State Council of Service Employees ($30,000); AT&T ($27,286); Professional Engineers in California Government ($20,000); Eli Lilly & Co. ($15,000); and the State Building and Construction Trades Council ($15,000).

The PAC had $55,064 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, so either it has mostly cleaned out its coffers with this spending, or it has received more contributions since the start of the year. Any such new contributions won’t have to be reported until well after this March 17 special primary election.

Either way, because it already had more money banked than it spent on this election, its mailer need only identify the PAC and not any new major donors.

Among those listed as officers on the PAC’s filings are California political and public affairs consultants James Santa Maria and Lucy McCoy; also listed is Jadine Nielsen, a longtime Democratic political operative, former Democratic National Committeewoman and former Los Angeles deputy mayor now living in Hawaii. None of them returned phone calls Monday.

Glazer says he’s pretty sure he knows who’s funding this “pro-Hertle” effort.

“It’s all being orchestrated by the BART unions and friends,” he said. “This is a front group for nefarious interests that don’t want to be known.”

It’s no secret the unions hate him. Glazer burned his bridges with labor first by consulting with JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, to support centrist Democrats like himself beat labor-backed Democrats in 2012’s elections. More recently, he crusaded for legislation to ban transit-worker strikes like the ones that stilled BART in 2013.

Labor unions at the start of this month created Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015. In the past week, that committee has received $35,000 from the California Teachers Association, $25,000 from the California Federation of Teachers, $25,000 from the Professional Engineers in California Government, and $25,000 from the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO – a total of $110,000. And it has spent almost $64,400 so far on anti-Glazer research, polling, mailing and a website, KnowGlazer.com.

Posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 11 Comments »

SD7: This week’s money and endorsements

Independent expenditure money continues to rain down upon the 7th State Senate District’s special election’s Democrat-on-Democrat showdown.

Competing to succeed Mark DeSaulnier (now a congressman) are Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin.

Since my last report, in which I detailed the big independent spending that the California Dental Association has done on Bonilla’s behalf, other Bonilla IE benefactors have materialized as well. The California Professional Firefighters IE PAC has spent about $118,000 for mailers, postage, data and polling since last Friday, Feb. 13, while the California Medical Association IE PAC has spent about $83,400 on mailers.

But weighing in against Bonilla and Buchanan is JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce political action committee, which on Tuesday reported spending about $21,000 on research and mailers. Glazer was a consultant for JOBSPAC back in 2012 – one of the ways in which he has burned his bridges to much of the Democratic Party and the unions that support it.

And Republican-turned-independent millionaire Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield – a patron of centrist Democrats who buck their party and labor – has spent about $75,000 more on Glazer’s behalf beyond the $104,000 I reported last week, bringing his total so far to almost $180,000.

Meanwhile, among the more significant new endorsements, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, the California Nurses Association and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges endorsed Bonilla this week; former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin endorsed Buchanan; and former state Controller Steve Westly and former state Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti endorsed Glazer.

The special primary is scheduled for March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the special general election will be held May 19.

Bonilla and Buchanan will meet with the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus members and other district residents from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 2 in the Oak View Room at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway; the event is open to the public.

Posted on Friday, February 20th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 3 Comments »

Rocky Chávez opens Senate exploratory committee

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez announced Tuesday that he’s forming an exploratory committee for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate in 2016.

Rocky Chávez“Our nation suffers from a lack of clear leadership when it comes to issues of national security and looking out for California families who have seen stagnant wage growth for almost two decades,” Chávez, R-Oceanside, said in a news release. “My story is like that of so many other California families, having worked in the grape fields with my uncle and cousins as a child to seeing one of my own children attend an Ivy League medical school. That’s the American Dream, and it’s what every parent hopes to see for their own children. But if we don’t take steps to protect our nation and help create more opportunities for our children, we risk losing that Dream.”

Chávez, 63, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a colonel, describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate. A former Oceanside city councilman and former acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Chávez was elected to the Assembly in 2012 to represent the 76th District in northern San Diego County. He’s the Legislature’s only Republican Latino. (Ed. note: I shouldn’t have taken Chavez’ biography page as the gospel: Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona, is Latino as well.)

Chávez is the first Republican to take the step of forming an exploratory committee; former state GOP chairmen Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette and Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills have expressed interest in running but haven’t decided yet.

The only person who has declared candidacy so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; other Democrats including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are considering running too.

California’s Latinos will form a crucial voting bloc in this high-turnout presidential election year, but they tend to break heavily toward Democrats. Chávez seems undaunted.

“My strong history of leadership and compelling personal narrative give me great confidence,” he said. “I believe we can start a movement that will make a real difference in the lives of California families.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
Under: Assembly, U.S. Senate | 11 Comments »