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Kevin Mullin mulls election recount reform bill

The politically ugly recount now under way in the race for state controller has inspired a Bay Area Assemblyman to start working on a bill to reform the election recount process.

Kevin MullinAssemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, announced Wednesday he’s researching ways to ensure the recount process in future statewide elections is fair to all candidates, and he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature returns from its summer recess.

Mullin said options might include setting a threshold that automatically triggers the recount process for very close races, the development of a recount standard across counties, and a state-funded recount process.

“California is in uncharted territory with the Controller’s race recount,” Mullin said in a news release. “It’s imperative to our system of governance that the election process is fair and transparent for all voters and candidates. We are actively researching a variety of options and engaging in discussions with the Secretary of State’s office so we can craft comprehensive legislation on this issue.”

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, clearly finished first in the primary election for controller, but Board of Equalization member Betty Yee edged out fellow Democrat and Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez by 481 votes in their race to finish second. Perez has demanded a recount, specifying 15 counties in which he did better than Yee.

Current law lets a candidate demanding a recount specify not only which counties but even specific precincts and the order in which they’re recounted; the candidate must pay for the recount on a daily basis but can stop the process whenever a desired result is achieved. (Clarification: All of the ballots in each county included in a recount request must be recounted in order to change the result, though Perez could halt the recount between any of the 15 counties he specified if he gets a number he wants.) The other candidate can then choose whether or not to demand a recount too. Critics note this gives an advantage to whoever can better afford a recount – in this case, Perez.

“When the recount process is necessary, it should be easily implemented and every vote valued and counted equally,” Mullin said.

Mullin said he also plans to pursue legislation to standardize county-by-county vote counting and reporting procedures for vote-by-mail ballots that are dropped off at polling places on Election Day. His goal is to avoid the kinds of delays experienced in this year’s controller’s race as county vote tallies were aggregated and reported on the Secretary of State’s website.

Posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Kevin Mullin | No Comments »

Rep. Mike Honda calls on Fox to fire Bob Beckel

Rep. Mike Honda has joined the chorus of Asian-American politicians calling for the resignation or ouster of Fox commentator Bob Beckel following Beckel’s racially charged tirade last week.

Here’s the Beckel clip:

Honda, D-San Jose, issued this statement Monday:

honda.jpg“I am outraged and disgusted by Fox News commentator Bob Beckel’s use of the word ‘Chinamen’ and his other racist and xenophobic comments. I agree with State Senator Ted Lieu, Campbell CA Councilmember Evan Low, and everyone else who has called on Fox News to fire Beckel. The ignorance and hatred in his comments are repugnant. The fact that he has yet to apologize for these comments is inexcusable. As the founder of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus, I know that words hurt, and slurs are used to intimidate. Fox News needs to do the right thing and fire Bob Beckel.”

State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who is currently a 33rd Congressional District candidate, issued his statement Saturday:

Ted Lieu“I am one of those ‘Chinamen’ with ‘Oriental’ eyes that immigrated to America and majored in computer science. I also served on active duty in the United States Air Force and continue to serve my country in the Reserves. And today, as an American and as a California State Senator, I call on Mr. Beckel to resign.

“America is great because anyone can be an American. Our country is the strongest in the world because of our diversity. Unfortunately, Fox News host Bob Beckel does not understand what it means to be an American.

“But Mr. Beckel’s comments are more than just racist and stupid. His ignorant views are dangerous because it is precisely those types of extreme xenophobic and racist views that caused our government to massively violate constitutional rights during World War II and force more than 100,000 Americans into internment camps.

“It is Mr. Beckel’s extreme racist and xenophobic views that are a threat to the American people and he should resign now.”

But Peter Kuo, the Santa Clara Republican now seeking the 10th State Senate District seat, took a more conciliatory tone Saturday:

Peter Kuo“Beckel’s remarks have invoked strong emotion and sadness among immigrants who call America their home. Having endured racist remarks growing up and hearing these comments from a major media figure is shocking and hurtful. Many have moved to the United States in search of the American Dream and found it through hard work, education and job opportunities. The United States is the home to the greatest technological and medical innovation in the world, in great part because of the diverse group of people that have made these fields their careers.

“Today, I observed public calls for Bob Beckel to be fired from Fox News. I completely understand those emotions and feelings as his actions are very insulting. However, I think we have an opportunity to rise above his insensitive comments and use this sad moment in time to grow as a nation. Calling for termination because my feelings are hurt would be easy, and likely very much understood by the media, the voters and most certainly the Chinese-American community. And that may just be the solution. But in the ever increasingly sensitive, racially charged environment we all seem to live in these days, why not take a step back and reflect and recognize that while regrettable, it is quite possible that Mr. Beckel made a mistake albeit a terrible one. Instead of rallying everyone to call for his termination, I prefer a different approach. I would ask Mr. Beckel to offer a formal apology on the air. If Mr. Beckel were to apologize, and those of us offended were to accept said apology, wouldn’t we have already accomplished so much more than the alternative? If I’m to ask the voters of Senate District 10 and California to trust my ability to make sound judgements, to listen to both sides of the aisle, to think my way through problems and controversy instead of always acting on pure emotion, as many issues like this are often handled, then it is important for me to treat this issue no differently.

“Mr. Beckel, I’m offended by your comments as is the Chinese-American community. Do what is right, apologize and move forward better aware of the repercussions of your actions. If this is done, I call on the Chinese-American community to accept his apology, and hope that Mr. Beckel will reach out to members of the Chinese-American community and offer a meeting or a conversation to discuss these events. I will gladly welcome him to my district to meet with Chinese-American community members if he is willing. Instead of dart throwing and mud slinging, let’s figure out a way to move forward so that we may be a more resilient, unified and a compassionate nation.”

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Mike Honda, Ted Lieu, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Steinberg, Corbett to lead trip to Central America

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Majority Leader Ellen Corbett will lead a delegation of state lawmakers to Central America next week, in part to explore the political, economic and social situation driving a flood of unaccompanied children to the U.S. border.

centralamerica-political-mapThe lawmakers will meet with an array of officials in El Salvador and Guatemala to probe the situation and find out what states like California can do to meet the humanitarian challenge presented by the undocumented immigrant tsunami. Dangerous conditions in those nations and Honduras have driven parents to send more than 52,000 children north to the U.S. border in recent months.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Corbett, D-Hayward, will be joined on the trip by Legislative Latino Caucus members Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside; Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Assemblyman V. Manuel Peréz, D-Coachella; and caucus vice-chair Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.

The trip, from July 14 through 23, will include a stop in Panama to learn about the Canal Zone’s expansion. Some transportation, security and interpreting service costs are being borne by the host countries, and the remaining expenses – including airfare and hotels – will be paid by the lawmakers.

In El Salvador, the lawmakers are scheduled to meet with Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Vice President Oscar Ortiz, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo Martinez, Economy Minsiter Tharsis Salomon Lopez Guzman; Legislative Assembly President Sigfrido Reyes; and U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte. In Guatemala, they’re scheduled to meet with Vice-minister of Foreign Relations Oscar Padilla Lam; Paul Briere, President of the Congressional Committee for Migrants of Guatemala; and U.S. Charge d’Affaires Charisse Phillips. And in Panama, they’re scheduled to meet with the Panama Canal Authority and U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Farrar.

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Ellen Corbett, Immigration | 4 Comments »

New law allows wine tastings at farmers’ markets

Salud! Sláinte! Kanpai! L’Chayyim! Wine and hard cider vendors at farmers’ markets can now offer tastings under certain conditions, thanks to a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

wine signBrown signed AB 2488 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, which had passed the Assembly and state Senate with unanimous votes.

The new law, effective immediately, lets wineries or cider makers who grow all of the fruit in their product to offer tastings to potential customers at farmers’ markets. But nobody’s going to get schnockered: Market managers still have discretion on whether to allow tastings; only one winery can offer tastes at a market on a given day; the tastings must happen in a cordoned-off area; and the grower can pour no more than three ounces of wine or cider per adult customer.

“The farmers’ market shopping experience involves tasting the product,” Levine said in a news release last month. “AB 2488 simply allows tastings at certified farmers’ markets where winemakers are already allowed to sell their products. This bill is a common sense solution for farmers’ markets, wineries and cider makers.”

Paul Kronenberg, president of the Family Winemakers of California, said wine like many other products is traditionally “sold through sampling. Consumers want to understand the wine, decide if they like it and decide if it is a good value.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin dead at 70

Former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, died Thursday. He was 70.

Ira RuskinRuskin served as a Redwood City councilman from 1995 to 2004, including a stint as mayor from 1999 to 2001. In 2004 he defeated Republican Steve Poizner to win the 21st Assembly District seat, despite Poizner having spent $5.75 million of his own money on the race.

As a councilman and Assemblyman, he made a name for himself in environmental affairs, and he chaired both the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials as well as the Budget Subcommittee on Environmental Resources.

Term-limited out of the Assembly in 2010, he had planned to run for the state Senate in 2012 but instead withdrew from politics in 2011 when he had to undergo surgery for the brain tumor that eventually claimed his life.

“As a member of the Assembly and as Mayor and City Councilmember of Redwood City, Ira Ruskin was known as the consummate public servant. His loss is not only a loss for his family and many friends, but for the entire State of California,” Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said in a statement issued Saturday.

“In the Assembly Ira Ruskin was a leader on consumer issues, energy independence and protecting our coast,” Atkins said. “The leadership, intelligence and compassion Ira Ruskin brought to public service will be sorely missed. My Assembly colleagues and I send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Cheryl, and to all their family and friends.”

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2014
Under: Assembly | No Comments »

Tim Donnelly wants immigrant kids deported

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who lost last month’s gubernatorial primary election, wants California and federal agencies to start deporting the thousands of young illegal immigrants who’ve been rushing to U.S. borders in recent months from violence-ravaged Central American nations.

Tim Donnelly“Rather than dump these children on our streets to become victims again, we need to do what is in their best interest which is to restore them to their natural parents in their home countries,” Donnelly, R-Hesperia – a former Minuteman anti-illegal-immigration activist – wrote in a letter Wednesday to the officials at the state Department of Social Services, U.S. Border Patrol, Riverside County and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Study after study irrefutably indicate that children who are raised by their birth parents, even if they are imperfect or living in difficult circumstances, have a better chance of achieving long–term success if the family unit stays intact,” he wrote.

Donnelly’s letter comes a day after Homeland Security buses carrying immigrant children and families were rerouted Tuesday to a facility in San Diego after American flag-waving protesters blocked the group from reaching a suburban processing center. The standoff in Murrieta came after Mayor Alan Long urged residents to complain to elected officials about the plan to transfer the Central Americans to California to ease overcrowding of facilities along the Texas-Mexico border.

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children – mostly fleeing at their parents’ behest from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border since October in what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. Many of believed they would receive leniency from U.S. authorities.

“News stations are reporting these children are to be ‘processed’ and ‘released,’” Donnelly wrote. “There have also been credible reports these children are being sent to our country by the drug cartels with only a phone number of a contact in our state. The Border Patrol have been instructed they are not to check the backgrounds or immigration status of the contacts state side … in other words, our government has completed the drug cartels communication ring at taxpayer expense and no government agency is doing their duty to prevent this from happening.”

Donnelly wrote that he wants to know to whom these children are being released, and whether background checks are being done on those people to see if they are “illegally present in our country, and by the very nature of their status, are unable to provide the safety and stability these children desperately need.”

He also wants to know where children without relatives in California will be released, and what sort of action plans various counties have to deal with the influx.

“We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. I can think of no group at greater risk than ‘unaccompanied minors’ – these children are alone and their parents are thousands of miles away,” Donnelly wrote. “The Border Patrol is reporting that nearly one third of the girls, ages 10-14, have been raped during their journey to our country, and many of them are now pregnant. This is unconscionable.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Assembly, Immigration, Tim Donnelly | 4 Comments »

Perez might seek recount in controller’s race

This just in from Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez, who election returns show fell 481 votes short of fellow Democrat Board of Equalization member Betty Yee in their race to finish second in the primary election for state controller:

John Perez“After nearly a month of counting votes and a vote margin of just 1/100th of one percent, out of more than 4 million votes cast, nobody would like to the see this process completed more than we would. Since this is one of closest statewide elections in the history of California, we have an obligation to review and ensure that every vote cast is accurately counted. During our review, we will also determine whether a recount is warranted.”

If these results remain unchanged, Yee will face off against first-place primary finisher Ashley Swearengin, Fresno’s Republican mayor, in November’s general election. The 481 votes by which Yee leads Perez represents 0.012 percent of the 4,039,375 total votes cast in the primary election for controller.

Posted on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, John Perez | 3 Comments »

California’s “Ban the Box” law takes effect

California’s “Ban the Box” law – removing questions about criminal convictions from state and local government job applications – took effect Tuesday, and supporters say it’ll make the hunt for gainful employment easier for about 7 million Californians.

Ban the BoxA study released Tuesday by the National Employment Law Project shows public employers have updated their job applications to comply with the new law, enacted as AB 218 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.

“When we first introduced the bill nearly two-and-a-half years ago, our goal was to advance a simple but powerful message — that everyone who works hard deserves a second chance to turn their lives around and give back to their communities,” Dickinson said in a news release Tuesday. “We are heartened to see that the state’s public sector employers have embraced fair-chance hiring and that they are now setting an example for the private sector to follow.”

The law requires that state and local agencies determine a job applicant’s minimum qualifications first, and only after that can get and consider information about past criminal convictions. Certain employers – such as law enforcement agencies and school districts – are exempt from the law, as are any job positions subject to a criminal background check by an occupational or licensing law.

The NELP survey found all of California’s 10 largest counties and 10 largest cities – representing about three quarters of the state’s population – have removed the conviction-history question from their job applications and delayed the criminal background check until later in the hiring process.

Of the 10 largest counties, each of which has a population greater than 952,000, only Alameda, Santa Clara, and Riverside counties had a similar policy in place before AB 218 was signed into law. And of the 10 largest cities, each of which has a population of more than 346,000, only Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco had such policies in place.

About half of the largest counties and cities – including Santa Clara County, Oakland and San Jose – have gone beyond what the new law requires: They delay the criminal-history inquiry until the employer makes a conditional offer of employment, or later. San Francisco has passed a local ordinance extending the policy to private employers, too. And Richmond and Compton extend the policies to private vendors doing business with those cities.

“AB 218 provided us with the mandate to adopt ban-the-box, which we’re proud to embrace, but it’s just a first step of our evolving process to ensure that all our residents share in the promise of economic opportunity,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who has championed this cause.

The Assembly approved AB 219 on a 48-29 vote in May 2013, and it just barely squeaked through the state Senate on a 21-16 vote in September.

These “fair-chance hiring policies” are now in effect in 12 states plus almost 70 cities and counties across the nation.

Posted on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate | 19 Comments »

Buchanan & DeSaulnier battle over license plates

Their East Bay Districts overlap, but Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier certainly weren’t seeing eye to eye at Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee hearing.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was there to speak on behalf of his SB544, which would require the California Department of Education to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for creation of a specialized license plate program to generate funds for school violence prevention programs.

DeSaulnierThe problem is, DeSaulnier – who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee – earlier this year helped push through a resolution, SR28, that puts a moratorium on new license plate types until a task force made up of California Highway Patrol, DMV and local police can issue a report by July 2015 “on license plate designs appropriate for traffic safety and effective law enforcement in today’s environment.”

And that resolution essentially put the kibosh on Buchanan’s AB49, which would require the Department of Health Care Services to apply to DMV for a special license plate promoting breast cancer awareness – what supporters call the “pink plate” bill. AB49 now languishes in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Could you please explain to me why you should not have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and why this plate and any other should not be subject to the pending results of the study?” Buchanan, D-Alamo, asked DeSaulnier on Monday. “Because it seems to me that when we write a bill that kills one, it should apply to everybody, especially the author of that resolution.”

The difference, DeSaulnier replied, is that “the full-plate pink plate had a problem, in my conversations with the CHP” – police were concerned that the fully colored plate might be hard to distinguish from other states’ plates, especially under twilight conditions. His school-violence prevention plate, he said, merely has a logo on one side, not a fully different color.

But Buchanan insists SR28 applies to all specialty license plates. And “if we’re going to pass a resolution that clearly states it applies to all specialty plate types… we should be applying that equally to all license plates and not making special carve-outs,” she said.

Replied DeSaulnier: “If someone comes together with a plate that complies with our rules then it will get out of our committee.”

“Right now, my opinion is, your plate does not,” he told Buchanan. “In my discussions with CHP, they had some questions, so that’s why we’re doing the study. … My whole difficulty with your plate was whether public safety could see or not.”

Buchanan held her ground. “I believe for us to approve a bill that’s in conflict with an existing senate resolution that came out of the senate transportation department is not responsible,” she said. “I think that if they want to change it, it should be changed first.”

The Assembly Transportation committee voted 10-3 to advance DeSaulnier’s bill, which is now pending before the Assembly Education Committee.

The California Channel has video of the exchange here (starting at the 50-minute mark).

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 9 Comments »

Bill would require cops to check gun database

Weeks after a mentally ill student killed six people plus himself and injured 13 in a rampage near UC-Santa Barbara, a state lawmaker has proposed two new bills she says will help prevent gun violence and save lives.

Hannah-Beth JacksonSB 505 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would require that law enforcement officers who are making a “welfare check” on someone who might be a danger to themselves or others must first check that person’s name against the state Justice Department’s firearm database.

Deputies who visited Elliot Rodger in April hadn’t checked the system, and so didn’t discover he owned three handguns – all of which were found in his car after his deadly rampage through the Isla Vista on May 23.

“In addition to instigating an important conversation about mental illness and gun violence, the tragedy in Isla Vista has also raised questions about law enforcement protocols,” Jackson said in a news release issued Wednesday. “Right now, we seem to have a patchwork of inconsistent agency policy on database checks. This bill would create consistency and ensure that law enforcement agencies are using the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others.”

Deputies still might have lacked legal authority to seize Rodger’s guns, she said, but they at least could’ve made a more informed judgment about the threat he presented. “We will never know for sure if the outcome in Isla Vista might have been different with a gun database search,” Jackson said. “But the next time California experiences a similar tragedy, we shouldn’t be left wondering. Searches of the gun database can be done in as little as 90 seconds, and those 90 seconds can help save lives.”

Jackson also is offering SB 580 to provide more money for police to enforce existing laws, specifically:

    $5 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies to take guns away from those who currently illegally possess them; the state Bureau of Firearms has identified 20,834 people with a prior criminal conviction or mental health disorder which disqualifies them from possessing more than 43,000 firearms, and the list grows by about 15 to 20 people per day.
    $10 million over three years to improve the efficiency of the Justice Department’s aging data systems used to register gun ownership, conduct background checks, and monitor the possession of firearms by prohibited persons.
    $50,000 for the Justice Department to train local law enforcement on how to effectively use the Automated Firearms System, the centralized database of gun purchases.

“This case highlighted the need to consult these databases,” Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, a co-author of SB 580, said in Jackson’s news release. “But, we need to make sure there’s adequate training so law enforcement can use those databases effectively.”

SB 505 is scheduled for an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on June 24; no hearing has been set yet for SB 580.

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control | No Comments »