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Dave Jones to run for Attorney General

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Thursday that he’ll run for state attorney general in 2018.

Dave Jones (Oct.2015)That could set up an interesting situation, as Gov. Jerry Brown might well have to appoint someone in 2017 to fill the rest of current Attorney General Kamala Harris’ term if she’s successful in her campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next year.

Having a statewide constitutional officer’s hat already in the ring for the office could nudge Brown to appoint a “caretaker” – someone not inclined to seek election in 2018 – to the potential vacancy should Harris go to the Senate.

But plenty of others covet the post, too. Those who’ve filed statements of intention to run for attorney general in 2018 – not a commitment, just a sort of placeholder that lets them keep money in campaign committees – include former state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, who has $183,405 banked for the race; former state Sen. Lou Correa; D-Santa Ana, who has $384,982 banked; former Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-La Canada Flintridge, who has $657,535 banked; Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, who has $2,980 banked but other money spread across other committees (including one for a 2016 state Senate run); and San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos, a Republican who has $74,975 banked.

Jones starts the race with $2.6 million cash on hand in his prior campaign account, which can be used for the Attorney General race, and a base of support throughout the state, according to a news release from campaign consultant Parke Skelton.

Jones, 53, was a Sacramento councilman from 1999 to 2004 and a state assemblyman from 2004 to 2011, when he began the first of his two terms as insurance commissioner.

“I am very excited at the prospect of working to make California’s communities safer,” he wrote in an email to prospective supporters Thursday. “I will hold accountable all who commit crimes, including corporations, corporate leaders, and public officials who violate the public trust. I will continue my work protecting consumers. And I will work hard to help all Californians succeed in an economy that is increasingly characterized by haves and have nots.”

Jones wrote that his Insurance Department already investigates major insurance crimes and protects consumers, his more than 300 law enforcement officers making more than 3,800 arrests since he began his tenure there and working closely with district attorneys across the state. He wrote that he’s starting his campaign so early due to “the reality of the cost of campaigning in California and the amount of Super PAC money likely to be spent against me by special interests.”

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2015
Under: Attorney General, Dave Jones | 1 Comment »

Ballot measure fee to rise from $200 to $2000

It’s about to get a lot more expensive to submit a proposed ballot measure in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill by Assemblymen Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, that raises the fee for submitting a ballot measure from $200 to $2,000, effective Jan. 1, 2016. AB 1100 is freshman Low’s first bill to be signed into law.

“It has been over 72 years since this aspect of the initiative process has been updated. This reform is overdue,” Low said in a news release. “We live in California, the cradle of direct democracy, but we also need a threshold for reasonableness. And this bill will do just that.”

The $200 fee was established in 1943 to deter frivolous proposals and to cover some of the costs of analyzing and processing initiatives, but that’s not a lot of money today. Low’s office said $200 today is the equivalent of $14.80 in 1943 dollars.

The bill was inspired in part by the submission in March of a “Sodomite Suppression Act” that if enacted would’ve required the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled the proposal unconstitutional and it has been removed from consideration for next year’s ballot, but critics called for reform of the ballot initiative process nonetheless.

“If a proposal makes it to the ballot, the $2,000 fee would be refunded to the proponent,” Low noted. “If a proponent feels strongly about a measure, a true grassroots campaign will find the means to pay the filing fee and get their proposal on the ballot.”

Critics insist the bill raises a barrier for ordinary Californians to engage in the process.

“Direct democracy is a citizen’s right – a cornerstone of the checks and balances of democracy that have been protected passionately in California,” state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said in a news release. “Raising the fee by 900 percent is cost prohibitive.”

Only the state’s elite political class will be able to put their ideas on the ballot, he said: “Elected officials should increase voter participation, not discourage it.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Under: Assembly, ballot measures, Evan Low | No Comments »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Catharine Baker returns tobacco industry money

The Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker won praise Friday for returning a campaign contribution from the tobacco industry.

Catharine BakerAssemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, gave back a $4,200 contribution from Altria, parent company of Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies. In doing so, Baker “serves as a model for other elected officials by returning dirty money and refusing to let Big Tobacco exert undue influence in the political process,” said Jim Knox, vice president of California government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Her prompt actions should be recognized because we do not often see politicians willingly giving back tobacco money let alone make a statement publicly to set an example for other elected officials who don’t want to be beholden to cancer-causing cigarette makers,” Knox said in a news release.

Baker said Friday that “everyone has to make his or her own choices about tobacco products. For me, I choose not to accept contributions because tobacco is just something I prefer my own kids not ever use.”

Knox’s organization recently wrote to politicians and political action committees that accepted tobacco-industry money in this year’s first quarter, asking them to give it back. Altria and its affiliates reported making more than a dozen contributions totaling $175,700 in 2015’s first three months.

Other recipients included Assembly Republicans Rocky Chavez, Don Wagner and Travis Allen, as well as state senators Isadore Hall, D-Compton; Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga; and Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster. Political action committees taking tobacco money in the first quarter included the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC; in fact, tobacco was the biggest industry sector contributing to JobsPAC in the 2014 election cycle.

Baker will host a community coffee from 9 to 10:30 a.m. this Saturday, May 30 in the Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Ave. in Livermore, at which constituents can share their thoughts and Baker will present a legislative update. To RSVP for this free event, please contact Baker’s district office at 925-328-1515.

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Catharine Baker | 7 Comments »

AD16: Sbranti won’t run, joins Swalwell’s staff

Former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a Democrat who lost November’s 16th Assembly District race to Republican Catharine Baker, won’t challenge Baker in 2016, he said Wednesday.

Instead, he’s ending his 17-year teaching career and starting work June 15 as deputy chief of staff to Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin – his former student at Dublin High.

Tim Sbranti“Everything comes full circle in life,” Sbranti said Wednesday. “He talks about how he learned from me, and now I learn from him. It’s actually kind of an honor to have a student who has done so well that I can now go work for him.”

Sbranti, 40, who has a 1-year-old daughter, said he’ll spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C., this summer getting oriented to the job; after that he’ll be based in Swalwell’s district office with trips to D.C. about once a month. He’ll be the main liaison between the D.C. and district staffs, with an eye toward ensuring the legislative team’s work is in line with the district’s priorities and “expanding our office’s relationship with the community,” he said.

Sbranti’s decision not to run against Baker in 2016 could start a mad scramble among ambitious local Democrats as the state party makes a priority of ousting Baker, the Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker. Baker, R-Dublin, is expected to be vulnerable as the presidential election’s high turnout gives Democrats, who have a 7.3-percentage-point registration edge in the district, more of an advantage.

I hear that Sbranti made his intentions known a few weeks ago, but East Bay Democrats were so pre-occupied with the 7th State Senate District special election – in which party pariah and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer defeated Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, on Tuesday – that they’re only now pivoting to consider AD16.

Names mentioned in the past include former Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson, but the word on the street is that she’s not interested right now. Likelier candidates might include Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, who finished fourth in last year’s AD16 primary behind Baker, Sbranti and Glazer; five-term Orinda Councilwoman Amy Worth; and Danville attorney Jerome Pandell, a Democratic activist who ran for the San Ramon Valley School Board last year. Or, some in the party might be hoping for a businesswoman from outside the usual political circles – like Baker – to get into the race.

Sbranti said he’ll miss being in the classroom, though he’ll stay involved in education as a member of the governing board of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, which advises and assists school districts, charter schools and county education offices on meeting the goals set forth in their Local Control and Accountability Plans. And he also might keep helping out as a basketball coach at Dublin High as time allows, he said.

“I want to stay connected,” he said, “but at the same time I’m excited about what lies ahead.”

He won’t rule out some future run for elected office. “Not any time soon, certainly not in my immediate future, but I think it would be foolish to rule out at any point down the line that I would run for something. It’s just not on my horizon right now.”

Swalwell said he’s excited to welcome Sbranti aboard after nearly 20 years as a teacher, state legislative staffer, councilman and mayor.

“His work has produced results that have helped create jobs, protect our environment, and provide affordable housing. But his work is not done, and I’m lucky he wants to continue serving our community as my deputy chief of staff,” the second-term congressman said. “Tim inspired me when I was his student to go into public service. I couldn’t be more thrilled to now have his counsel as I work to serve the East Bay.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Catharine Baker, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 6 Comments »