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BART strike bill is dead, but another is coming

Assembly Democrats on Wednesday killed an East Bay lawmaker’s bill that would’ve essentially banned strikes by BART workers, like the ones that threw Bay Area commutes into chaos in 2013 – but another lawmaker is preparing to take another stab at it.

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, introduced AB 528 last February, delivering on a campaign promise that had helped her become the Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker.

Catharine Baker“In June 2017, the current BART contract expires. We should never be subject to BART strikes again,” Baker said in a news release issued Wednesday after the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee killed the bill on a party-line vote. “This is just the first step in the fight to protect us from BART strikes and I will keep pursuing solutions that will prevent the entire Bay Area from coming to a grinding halt in the face of another strike.”

Many didn’t think the bill would last even this long in the Democrat-dominated Legislature. The committee first heard it in May, and rather than voting it down, agreed to make it a two-year bill; then-chairman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said that would give more time for legislators and other interested parties to discuss the issues. Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, now chairs the committee.

Baker’s AB 528 instead would have barred BART workers from striking as long as they continue to get wages and benefits – in other words, if an existing contract has a no-strike clause and management keeps honoring the pact’s financial terms after it expires, unions couldn’t strike. Baker campaigned on pursuing a bill like this after two 2013 strikes brought BART to grinding halts, snarling Bay Area traffic and costing the local economy $73 million per day by one business group’s estimate.

Democrat Steve Glazer made a similar campaign promise when competing with Baker in 2014’s 16th Assembly District primary, and again in his successful campaign in last year’s 7th State Senate District special election. Glazer intends to introduce a BART-strike bill sometime in the next few weeks, spokesman Steve Harmon said Wednesday.

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Might California ban gun sales to terror watch lists?

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed Thursday to use an executive order to ban gun sales to those on federal no-fly watch lists – begging the question of whether California might seek to do the same.

The Democratic governor said state officials are working with the federal government to get access to the lists. “If you cannot fly due to being on a government watch list, you should not be able to purchase a firearm while on that watch list as well,” Malloy told reporters at the Capitol. “This is basic common sense. The American people get it.”

Congress repeatedly over the past two weeks has turned away efforts to enact this as a federal law. Critics say the government’s terrorist watchlists are error-prone and bureaucratically generated, so using them to deny gun purchases could mean violating Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms without due process of law.

Gov. Jerry Brown was just arriving back in California on Thursday after attending an international conference on climate change in Paris. Spokesman Gareth Lacy said he didn’t anticipate commenting on Connecticut’s action.

A spokesman for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – who has proposed a ballot measure for next November that would require people to give up their high-capacity ammunition magazines and require background checks for ammunition purchases, among other things – said this might not be practicable at the state level.

“States aren’t able to compel the federal government to share that information,” spokesman Rhys Williams said in an email. “But Lt. Governor Newsom believes it could and absolutely should be a federal action, as simple as adding the relevant information to the NICS (the FBI’s firearm background-check system) – and it should be done today.”

Still, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said Friday he plans to introduce legislation barring individuals on the government’s no-fly list from being able to purchase guns and certain chemicals, the Sacramento Bee reported.

“You are not going to stop every single one of these occurrences,” Gatto told the Bee. “But it does make sense to make sure that the people who have been deemed too dangerous to even board a quick flight to Vegas, that they are not allowed to go out there and buy guns and chemicals en masse.”

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Bay Area lawmaker wants to legalize ‘ballot selfies’

A Bay Area lawmaker will introduce a bill making it legal for Californians to take “selfies” of their voting ballots and post them on social media.

Marc LevineAssemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, said it’s good for voters to share their civic participation. He’ll introduce his bill when the Legislature returns to session in January.

“As voters go to the polls this week, I encourage them to declare their participation in the elections process,” he said in a news release. “California law should encourage voter pride, political speech, and civic engagement through social media. Laws prohibiting this activity were written before sharing digital images over the internet was ubiquitous. It is time to update those laws to reflect technology and the world in which we now live.”

For now, section 14291 of the state Elections Code says that “after the ballot is marked, a voter shall not show it to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.” Anyone photographic their ballot and posting that photo on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media would be in violation.

But Levine notes that a recent federal district court decision indicates this state law might be an unconstitutional denial of voters’ First Amendment free speech rights. The court ruled that a New Hampshire law banning disclosure of one’s ballot – and levying fines of up to $1,000 – is unconstitutional, finding that the ballot selfie is a form of political speech that can be restricted only by meeting the highest standard of constitutional scrutiny.

“The ballot selfie is protected political speech,” Levine said Monday. “Elections officials must demonstrate public harm through nefarious use of ballot selfies before denying voters their First Amendment rights. I encourage California voters to exercise their right to political speech.”

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SD7: Bonilla won’t run against Glazer in 2016

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla won’t run next year against fellow Democrat state Sen. Steve Glazer, who defeated her in the 7th State Senate District’s special election earlier this year.

In a Facebook post Monday morning, Bonilla, D-Concord, indicated she doesn’t want a do-over of that ugly race.

Susan Bonilla“I believe our efforts are best spent in uniting our collective voices to help achieve a better quality of life for our entire community,” she wrote. “Having our community experience a negative and divisive election based on lies, personal attacks, and defamation of character is harmful and damaging for our community. Running for public office should always be focused on a debate of ideas and values that will help our community and not tear us apart.”

“Therefore, in order to ensure that all of our collective efforts remain focused on building a stronger foundation for the next generation of families, I am announcing that I will not run for State Senate in 2016,” she wrote. “I hope we can continue to work together for the betterment of our state, community, and our families as I complete my term in the Assembly in December 2016. Together, we can ensure the next generation of Californians will achieve their dreams by having high quality schools, good paying jobs, and safe communities in which to raise their families.”

Glazer, D-Orinda, beat Bonilla by 9 percentage points in the May special election to fill the vacancy left by Mark DeSaulnier’s election to Congress last year. The contest between the centrist Glazer and union-backed liberal Bonilla saw tremendous independent spending and a corresponding avalanche of negative advertising that soured many of the district’s voters.

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SD9: Robert Reich endorses Nancy Skinner

A state Senate battle between two like-minded progressives rolls on in the East Bay, with some new heat from a prominent liberal’s endorsement.

Nancy SkinnerFormer U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a UC-Berkeley professor, endorsed former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner this week in next year’s 9th State Senate District race. Skinner, D-Berkeley, is vying with former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, in this race – two labor-backed liberals with no daylight between them on most notable issues.

“Nancy Skinner is a proud progressive leader who is not afraid to take on powerful corporate interests and fight for our families,” Reich said in Skinner’s news release. “We need a fighter like Nancy Skinner in the State Senate.”

Skinner, who was term- limited out of the Assembly late last year and now is an energy and transportation senior fellow at UC-Davis, said she’s honored to have Reich’s support. “Not only is he a personal hero, he is one of the most thoughtful, compelling and effective progressive leaders in America. Reich has dedicated his career to combating injustice and making a real difference in the world.”

Skinner less than two weeks ago announced her endorsement by 12 current state Senate Democrats. But Swanson began rolling out his own endorsements at the start of this past summer, which have included nods from both the assemblymen now representing the district; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Teamsters Joint Council 7; and 9th District incumbent Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out next year.

Skinner had about $922,000 ($925,176, less $2,878 in outstanding debt) banked for this race as of June 30, while Swanson had about $50,000 ($80,387, less $30,443 in outstanding debt).

Republican Richard Kinney, San Pablo’s vice mayor, also is running for the seat; he had about $750 banked as of June 30. But in a district that’s 63 percent Democrat to 8 percent Republican, it’s hard to imagine him making it into the June primary’s top two in order to advance to November.

A third prominent Democrat, former Assembly Majority Leader and current Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, dropped out of this race late last month.

“Over the past six months, I am proud to say that we had successfully begun to build a campaign based on local support, community action and alliances with like-minded groups in Sacramento, Chan wrote in message to supporters. “Unfortunately, political races are increasingly dependent on money and less on grassroots support and action. It has become clear that the window of time I have to raise the necessary funds will be difficult given my responsibilities to my constituents. It has also become clear that the needs of my family must come first.”

Chan noted that although she can use some of the money she had raised for this race for her supervisorial campaign committee and the rest for like-minded candidates and causes, she will honor individual contributors’ requests for refunds.

The 9th District is a swath of Contra Costa and Alameda counties from Rodeo in the north to San Leandro in the south, including Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Piedmont, Emeryville, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Hercules, Kensington and other communities.

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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.”