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Brown nixes traffic ticket/spinal cord research bill

Gov. Jerry Brown today vetoed an Bay Area lawmaker’s bill that would’ve added a $1 fee to the cost of a moving traffic violation in order to fund spinal-cord injury research.

AB 1657 by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, would’ve directed the money to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund, which was created in 2000 and is administered by the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at UC-Irvine.

Originally bankrolled by the state’s general fund, the program has been zeroed out by budget cuts even though every $1 of state money had leveraged another $5 in federal funds. It’s named after Fremont Planning Commissioner Roman Reed, who suffered a spinal cord injury in the 1990s and became a nationally-known research advocate.

The Assembly had passed the bill 46-24 in May; the state Senate 22-14 in August; and the Assembly approved it again on a 48-28 concurrence vote in August.

Wieckowski’s office said eight other states use a similar method to fund spinal cord research, but Brown today said California won’t be the ninth.

“Spinal cord injury research is certainly worthwhile, but the funding method chosen is not,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “Loading more and more costs on traffic tickets has been too easy a source of new revenue. Fines should be based on what is reasonable punishment, not on paying for more general fund activities.”

Wieckowski said he’s disappointed.

“This is not only a loss for all the Californians living with paralysis, it’s also a loss for scientific research and innovation,” he said, noting top researchers had supported the bill. “I think $1 is a reasonable penalty for irresponsible drivers when you consider the fact that traffic accidents are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries. I will keep on working to make sure California reinvests in this vital research.”

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski | 2 Comments »

New laws signed on prostitution, child car seats

Gov. Jerry Brown signed several bills by Bay Area lawmakers today, including one that lets juveniles convicted of prostitution seal their records without proving they’ve been rehabilitated, and another that aims to boost infant car-seat safety.

AB 2040, by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Oakland, “provides that an adult who was previously adjudicated to be a ward of the juvenile court because he or she committed a prostitution offense may petition the court to seal the records of the offense, regardless of the person’s criminal record or proof of rehabilitation,” according to the most recent legislative analysis. This relief isn’t available to those minor “johns” who paid or offered to pay a prostitute. The Assembly had passed this bill 49-21, and the state Senate approved it unanimously, 36-0.

AB 1452, by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo “requires hospitals, clinics, and birthing centers, when discharging a child, to give the parent or the person to whom the child is released specific contact information for organizations that provide assistance with the use, law, and installation of child passenger restraint systems,” the analysis said. The Assembly passed this bill on a 61-14 vote, and the state Senate on a 31-6 vote.

See what other Bay Area bills the governor signed into law today, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Sandre Swanson | 15 Comments »

New chairmanships for Bay Area lawmakers

Some Assembly members from the Bay Area were given influential committee chairs as Speaker John Perez reshuffled his leadership yesterday.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, takes over as chair of the Education Committee, on which she has served since her election to the Assembly in 2008; earlier, she’d served on the San Ramon Valley school board for 18 years.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and with stakeholders in the education community on legislation that will make the best use of our resources to benefit California’s students,” she said in a news release issues this morning. “We are currently facing unique challenges in funding education in our state, but we will hold steadfast to our mission of preparing students to be the workers, leaders and innovators of tomorrow’s global economy.”

Bob WieckowskiAssemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, takes the Judiciary Committee’s chair; a bankruptcy attorney by trade, he has served as the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee’s chairman.

Wieckowski issued a statement saying he has enjoyed serving on the Judiciary Committee under chairman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles and looks forward “to working with the Judiciary consultants in this new position. I appreciate the Speaker giving me the opportunity to lead this important committee.”

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Redwood City, will Chair the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee.

Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, now chairs the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee, and also steps up as Assistant Majority Floor Leader. (I love the Majority Floor Leader’s job description: “Represents the Speaker on the Floor, expedites Assembly Floor proceedings through parliamentary procedures such as motions and points of order and promotes harmony among the membership.” Harmony!)

And within the powerful Budget Committee, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, will Chair the subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, steps up as Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore until Sept. 1, when she’ll become Speaker Pro Tempore (responsible for presiding over floor sessions in Speaker Perez’s absence). Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, will be Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, continues chairing the Rules Committee.

Posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Fiona Ma, Joan Buchanan, John Perez, Nancy Skinner, Nora Campos, Rich Gordon | 3 Comments »

South Bay GOP Assembly candidate short on cash

A South Bay Republican Assembly candidate who’s already grappling with her own skeletons-in-the-closet while taking on a Democratic incumbent in a heavily Democratic district has a new problem: cash, and none of it.

Santa Clara management consultant ArLyne Diamond, the challenger to Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, in the newly drawn 25th Assembly District, sent out this e-mail plea today:

URGENT REQUEST – NEED IT NOW!

The hardest part, for me, of running for office is trying to raise the money one needs in order to succeed.

Your donations helped me get on the ballot in the primary and win a spot towards the November election. You might remember that among the costs were the fees to both counties for having ballot statements.

Well, we need approximately $8,500.00 to get statements on the ballot in both Santa Clara and Alameda counties. We are about ½ way there.

The deadline is August 10th. That’s just a few days away. I must bring checks to the Registrar of Voters in both counties before that date.

So please: Make as big a donation at this time as you are able – and either mail it today or tomorrow – or use the “donate” button and pay it through Paypal.

Now, $8,500 isn’t a whole lot of money in the context of a California Assembly race, but Diamond’s campaign hasn’t reported ANY fundraising to the Secretary of State’s office so far. Wieckowski’s campaign had $57,778.30 cash on hand as of June 30; the data crunchers at MapLight.org have found most of his money comes from labor unions, followed by lawyers and lobbyists.

Diamond’s fundraising picture might not be helped by our recent revelation that her license to practice psychology was revoked 23 years ago by state authorities who concluded she’d improperly and unethically used her relationship with a patient to get a loan to fund her business.

Wieckowski finished first in June’s primary with 41.4 percent of the vote, followed by Diamond at 30.7 percent; eliminated was Democrat Pete McHugh, at 27.9 percent. The district is registered 45.3 percent Democrat, 19.7 percent Republican and 30.5 percent no-party-preference, so there’s not a lot of suspense here.

Posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski | 3 Comments »

Primary post-mortems on CA15, AD20 and AD25

I spent yesterday starting to unpack what the new top-two system hath wrought upon California’s state legislative and House races – something we’ll be unpacking for years, I suspect – but today I’ve some time to dissect the still-unofficial results in few interesting Bay Area races.

15th Congressional District

Incumbent Pete Stark, D-Fremont, finished first with 41.8 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Eric Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, at 36 percent; eliminated was conservative independent Chris Pareja, a Hayward businessman, at 22.2 percent. Stark is in trouble – I can’t imagine a single, solitary Pareja voter switching to Stark, but I can imagine lots of them voting for anybody but Stark. Stark won the Alameda County sections of the district 42.9 percent to Swalwell’s 35.3 percent, but Swalwell prevailed in the smaller Contra Costa area, 40 percent to Stark’s 33.1 percent.

Stark’s best hopes are that elevated Democratic turnout and the coattails of President Obama (who endorsed him) will give him an edge in November, while the more moderate Swalwell will continue romancing not only Democrats but also independents and Republicans. The key to Stark’s strategy might be saying as little as possible in live public appearances, given his disastrous spring gaffes.

20th Assembly District

Hayward councilman Bill Quirk, a Democrat, finished first in the race for this open seat, with 30.2 percent of the vote, followed by fellow Democrat Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, at 24.9 percent. Eliminated were Union City Mayor Mark Green, an independent, at 20.9 percent; Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso, a Republican, at 18.1 percent; and Union City school board member Sarabjit Cheema, a Democrat, at 5.8 percent.

This was somewhat surprising, as I thought Green – mayor for 19 years – would have the name recognition to finish second behind Quirk. But Green, a longtime Democrat, switched to no-party-preference in 2010 and probably had hoped he’d attract the district’s voters who wouldn’t vote for a Democrat; that was foiled by Reynoso’s relatively late entry into the race. Ong, meanwhile, staged a direct-mail blitz – my household got 13 pieces of mail from her (including my favorite of this season), compared to two from Quirk, two from Green and one from Cheema. Quirk has the party establishment’s support, and easily is the odds-on favorite for November.

25th Assembly District

Incumbent Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, finished with 41.4 percent of the vote, followed by Republican ArLyne Diamond, a management consultant from Santa Clara, at 30.7 percent; eliminated was Democrat Pete McHugh, at 27.9. This district was radically redrawn last year, splitting Wieckowski’s power base in Fremont (where he was a councilman) and extending much further down into Santa Clara County. That’s where McHugh, Milpitas’ vice mayor and a former county supervisor, hoped his name recognition would give him an edge.

But ultimately, Wieckowski ran neck-and-neck with McHugh in Santa Clara County – a difference of only 10 votes out of the almost 20,000 cast for the two of them – while beating McHugh 4-to-1 in Alameda County. The district is registered 45.3 percent Democrat, 19.7 percent Republican and 30.5 percent no-party-preference, so it’ll be tough (read as: nothing short of a miracle) for Diamond to carry it in November.

Posted on Thursday, June 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 primary election, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Pete Stark, U.S. House | No Comments »

Bay Area lawmakers react to Brown’s budget

The rhetoric is flying hot and heavy in the hours since Gov. Jerry Brown issued his May budget revision. We’ve got an overall look at the situation in our main story, but here’s what some of your Bay Area lawmakers are saying…

From Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“As we work through this shortfall, we should do all we can to protect education and access to our colleges and universities. I appreciate the Governor’s continuing commitment to demand more accountability from for-profit higher education institutions who are saddling our students with large amounts of loan debts. We can no longer accept such high levels of student loan defaults. By making more of these colleges ineligible for Cal grant funds, our students will be more likely to attend better institutions where their chances of success will be higher.”

From Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park:

“The Governor’s May Revise reveals the tough decisions that lie ahead. I agree with the Governor that it has taken years to create the fiscal calamity that we face, and it will take years to make the structural reforms to get out of it. However, with a now $16 billion budget deficit for this year, it is near impossible to balance the budget without cuts to services we value.

“This new budget prompts the question of how much government Californians’ truly want. We cannot provide services without adequate funding. At the moment, we are severely underfunded.

“As we continue to enter budget negotiations and talks, I hope the Governor and both parties will have honest conversations of how to balance the budget without compromising our safety net, public safety, or public education system.

“It is essential that we refrain from gimmicks and tactics of kicking the can down the road. This is a problem that we face now, and in turn, we must solve this immediate deficit now. As a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I look forward to delving into the details of this revise in order to produce a balanced, on-time budget.”

From Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco:

“The challenging cuts that Governor Brown announced today in his revised budget proposal are temporary solutions until we are able to pass responsible tax measures this November. No one is happy about $8 billion in cuts but I applaud the Governor for understanding that cuts alone will not solve our budget crisis and that California will not be able to recover economically unless we have a balanced approach to the budget deficit.

“I strongly support the proposed November tax measures and I am committed to other common sense revenue ideas like closing the corporate loopholes in Proposition 13, taxing and legalizing marijuana and enacting an oil severance tax, all of which combined would bring in more than $2 billion in new revenue annually to the state. Only by creating new revenue will we restore California’s economic health and put people back to work.”

From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:

“Today’s May Revise makes it clear that it is more important than ever that we move forward with Governor Brown’s tax initiative proposal. California must honestly address our structural budget deficit and thoughtfully cultivate new revenue sources. We need more revenue to responsibly fund education and protect the safety net for our most vulnerable populations. The moral and social cost of more unproductive cuts and no new revenue will be felt well past the life of this budget.”

Posted on Monday, May 14th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Jerry Brown, Rich Gordon, Sandre Swanson, state budget, taxes, Tom Ammiano | 9 Comments »

Assembly OKs anti-Citizens United resolution

The state Assembly voted 48-22 today to urge Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution as a means of overturning a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that unleashed a deluge of unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.

If the state Senate passes it as well, Assembly Joint Resolution 22, co-authored by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, will put California amid a national grassroots movement. Hawaii and New Mexico have passed similar resolutions, as have more than 100 cities across the nation including Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and Fairfax.

Today’s vote was along straight party lines, with all the ayes from Democrats and all the nays from Republicans; 10 members were absent or not voting.

Bob Wieckowski“The Citizens United decision is judicial activism run amuck,” Wieckowski said in a news release. “For more than a century, Congress and the Supreme Court have recognized the need to differentiate between people and the vast amount of wealth at the disposal of large corporations. The floodgates were opened by this ruling and now a small number of very wealthy interests are having a greater influence on our national politics than ever before.”

The Supreme Court’s holding that the First Amendment bars the government from restricting political spending by corporations and unions led to the creation of the “Super PACs” – often funded by a just few wealthy donors – that now essentially serve as shadow campaigns for the presidential candidates, but without any fundraising limits.

Groups including Public Citizen, Common Cause, the California Public Interest Research Project (CalPIRG), California Church Impact, California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association, California Professional Firefighters and the California League of Conservation Voters support AJR 22.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign, said this movement has percolated up from the streets. “It is because of the work of dedicated activists throughout the state that California’s elected officials are joining them in taking a stand to say that democracy is for people, not for corporations.”

Public Citizen helped lead the introduction of similar resolutions in Massachusetts, Vermont and Maryland, and has supported activists’ and lawmakers’ efforts to introduce similar resolutions in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and New York.

Posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, campaign finance | 6 Comments »

Milpitas’ McHugh eyes run vs. Wieckowski in AD25

Milpitas Vice Mayor Pete McHugh confirmed this afternoon that he’s considering running against Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, in the newly drawn 25th Assembly District.

Pete McHugh“I’ve got a lot of experience in local government and I would like to see if I can make a positive difference at the state level, and possibly try to solve the problems by something other than dumping off state responsibilities on local counties and cities,” McHugh, also a Democrat, said today. “However, he is an incumbent, and as I understand it the powers that be – which would be labor and the Democratic Party – would like to keep their players intact. So I am still looking at it; it’s getting late, and I will be making a decision within the next three to four weeks.”

McHugh, 69, was elected to his latest Milpitas City Council term in 2008. He served three terms on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, winning elections in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Before that, he’d been on the Milpitas City Council since 1976, and in 1978 became the city’s first elected mayor.

As a former Fremont councilman, Wieckowski’s political power base is in that city. But redistricting split the city and the new 25th District, in which he resides, now extends further south so that parts of Santa Clara County – including parts McHugh has represented as a councilman or supervisor for decades – now make up most of the electorate.

After spending some time testing the waters, McHugh believes there’s support for him to run “but I want to be convinced that there is even more support out there. Challenging an incumbent is not an easy task, even in these days when people are less than enchanted with their federal and state representatives. I want to see if I can raise an adequate amount of money; ‘adequate’ will be defined later by me. It will be a challenge, there’s no question.”

Wieckowski, 56, had just short of $50,000 in his campaign’s account as of June 30, but late contribution reports show he pulled in $15,600 in the last few days of 2011.

McHugh said local labor officials with whom he’s been speaking have subsequently been called by Wieckowski and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, inquiring about McHugh’s plans. McHugh said he finally talked to Wieckowski directly.

“He asked why would I run against him, and I said I’m not running against him, I might be running for the position to see if people want to give me a chance to bring some solutions up there,” McHugh said, especially solutions that don’t involve stripping local governments of funding as the state is now doing with redevelopment money. “It’d be wonderful to have a chance to be in that arena and take on the lions – or maybe give them something to chew on.”

UPDATE @ 5:28 P.M.: Wieckowski spokesman Jeff Barbosa said his boss is traveling today and can’t be reached.

“With the changes in redistricting this is not a big surprise. Bob has a lot of respect for Vice Mayor McHugh, but he is also confident that he will be re-elected to the Assembly,” Barbosa said.

“He currently represents Milpitas and a part of San Jose. He has worked hard on issues that are important to the region, including BART to San Jose and the clean technology sector. He has reached out to Silicon Valley and small businesses to create policies that will keep the Valley a leader in innovation,” Barbosa continued. “The Assemblymember has already earned the endorsements of the California Professional Firefighters, CNA, the CHP and California School Employees Association, to name just a few. Several of his Santa Clara County Assembly colleagues have endorsed him, along with San Jose elected officials. He believes he is well-prepared to represent the 25th District.”

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski | 6 Comments »

Union City mayor ditched Dems for Assembly bid

Longtime Democrat Mark Green is hoping to stand out from the crowd seeking the newly drawn 20th Assembly District seat by running as an independent.

Actually, his party affiliation died a while ago without so much as a whimper. Green, Union City’s mayor since 1993, ditched the Dems in November 2010 – five months after placing third in the nonpartisan Alameda County District 2 supervisor race later won by Nadia Lockyer – according to the county Registrar of Voters.

Mark GreenRunning as an independent “gives me an opportunity to help end the plague of polarizing party politics in Sacramento, and for the first time, this is an open primary election for Assembly, which means that voters are able to vote for ANY candidate, regardless of party affiliation,” Green, 58, wrote in a Dec. 30 fundraising letter.

After rattling off some of his achievements and service on various boards and authorities, Green wrote, “I will be a strong voice for non-partisan decision-making, which I believe is the way to bring about positive change to the toxic environment in our State government.”

The district, as recently redrawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission, will include Hayward, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Fairview, Ashland, Union City, the upper half of Fremont, and Sunol. It’s northern half, formerly part of 18th District, is currently represented by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, who’ll be term-limited out of office this year. The southern half, now part of the 20th District, is represented by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Wieckowski’s home falls in the newly drawn 25th District, which includes Fremont’s southern half as well as Milpitas, Santa Clara and part of San Jose.

You’ve gotta wonder whether Green felt the ballot was getting too crowded with all those “Ds” for him to stand out. Democrats Bill Quirk, 66, a Hayward councilman; Dr. Jennifer Ong, 42, a Hayward resident who practices optometry in Alameda; and Sarabjit Cheema, 52, a New Haven Unified School District board member, are all running. So is Republican Adnan Shahab, 33, of Fremont, whom Wieckowski defeated in 2010.

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Mary Hayashi | 8 Comments »

Hearing planned on underground gas tank leaks

An East Bay lawmaker will chair a hearing Wednesday in San Jose on progress toward cleaning up thousands of leaking underground tanks that pose environmental threats.

The Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee’s hearing will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium in the Santa Clara County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St.

“Cleaning up leaking gas station tanks and restoring abandoned sites is critical to our local economies and environmental safety,” committee chairman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said in a news release. “We passed some important measures last year to fund clean-up efforts and this hearing will help us better address the challenges and impediments to restoring these sites in a timely way.”

The committee will hear testimony from the State Water Resources Control Board; an official from Robinson Oil (Rotten Robbie); environmental clean-up firms; Santa Clara, Alameda, Calaveras and Merced county environmental health officials; and the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, among others.

Gov. Jerry Brown last month signed a pair of related bills authored by Wieckowski and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita. Wieckowski’s AB 291 extended for two more years a temporary petroleum storage fee that owners of underground storage tanks must pay; the fee currently generates about $270 million per year, used to reimburse underground tank owners who clean up leaks. Smyth’s AB 358 reformed the reporting and review process for such clean-ups.

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Environment | No Comments »