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New bills on booze, child care, energy, bullies

Like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, state lawmakers flocked back to Sacramento today, some to be sworn into their new terms, some to introduce bills, some perhaps just to keep their seats warm.

Among the Bay Area delegation’s legislative priorities: sangria, child care, party buses, public utilities, human trafficking, renewable energy and bullying (in no particular order).

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – who was announced today as the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee – introduced a bill that would lift state law’s ban on sale of infused alcohol. Believe it or not, it’s illegal under existing law for a bar to mix up a big jar of sangria, or to infuse a big container of vodka or some other liquor, for later use and sale; such things can only be made to order. As a resurgence of the art of the cocktail has swept the state, many bar owners have ignored this rule – at their peril, it turned out, when the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started handing out warnings and citations earlier this year. Leno estimates half of the Bay Area bars’s create and serve infusions, including limoncello, sangria, fruit flavored tequilas and many flavors of infused vodka, and his SB 32 is supported by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, was named Majority Leader – second in command, responsible for setting the Democratic agenda and the Senate’s floor operations – and introduced a bill to restore the $256 million for Stage 3 child care that Gov. Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed out of the state’s budget. The Stage 3 program provided child care services to more than 81,000 children and some 60,000 working families statewide; a court has put the cut on hold until Dec. 31, and the First 5 Commissions in many counties – including Alameda and Santa Clara – are footing the program’s bills until funding can be restored. “This money is vital for thousands of working parents, their children, and their caregivers who depend on these centers being open,” Corbett said in a news release.

On the Assembly side, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, co-authored the Assembly version of the bill to restore the vetoed child-care funds, and also introduced his own bill to crack down on operators of “party buses” that allow underage drinking aboard their vehicles. Prompted by the death of a 19-year-old from Burlingame, Hill’s AB 45 would require bus drivers – just as limousine drivers already are required – to make underage passengers sign statements that their consumption of alcohol is illegal, and then end the ride if any underage passengers imbibe. Fines starting at $2,000 for a first offense could be imposed by the Public Utilities Commission against companies that don’t comply, and further violations could result in license suspensions or revocations; party bus operators also could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Hill also introduced a bill, inspired by the Sept. 9 natural gas blast that killed eight people and flattened 27 San Bruno homes, that would prevent utilities from using ratepayer money to pay penalties or fees assessed by the Public Utilities Commission; require utilities that own or operate gas facilities to annually report to the PUC any pipeline problems; require utilities to create public education programs on their emergency response plans; require gas pipeline owners or operators to prioritize pipelines near seismically active areas for increased safety oversight, and by 2020 to create programs to upgrade their facilities for state-of-the-art inspection methods; require the PUC to set minimum standards to install automatic and/or remote shutoff valves; and require the PUC to ensure utility owners actually use rate increases to pay for the projects they propose, with any diversions publicly explained.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, December 6th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, energy, Jerry Hill, Joe Simitian, Mark Leno, Sandre Swanson, state budget, Tom Ammiano | No Comments »

Bowen: Contractor messed up voter guide mailing

A contractor’s error was responsible for some Bay Area households never receiving their official state voters’ guides before the June 8 primary, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reports.

In a letter sent yesterday to Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who’d contacted Bowen’s office after taking complaints from San Mateo County residents, Bowen said managers at Admail West, the Sacramento firm contracted to mail the guides, admitted “their company is responsible for duplicate or triplicate mailings of state voter guides to voter households in some counties, while at the same time failing to mail a single state voter guide to other households.”

“No one at Admail West has ever been able to fully explain the extent of the mailing problem, or why the company did not have better quality-assurance procedures in place for such an important statewide project,” Bowen wrote. “Moreover, Admail West managers reported that the one employee who handled the mailing data and caused the San Mateo County mailing errors passed away in June, and many key details are not known by anyone else at the company.”

Regardless of who screwed up at Admail West, she wrote, “there is no excuse for the sloppy tracking and lack of quality control by any vendor when the Secretary of State’s office provides extremely clear mailing specifications and voter address data.”

Checking around online, I see that Admail West’s president is Kathleen Pescetti. Her husband is Anthony Pescetti, the Republican former Assemblyman from Gold River; their son, also named Anthony, is Admail West’s business development manager.

Hill, D-San Mateo, issued a news release today noting there are still unanswered questions that must be resolved to ensure this doesn’t happen again: “I will be working with the Secretary of State to identify corrective actions that may include legislation or a state audit.”

Hill on June 16 introduced AB 814, which would require that for a statewide election, officials include a notification with the sample ballot informing voters they can obtain a voter information guide on the Secretary of State’s website. The notice also would include the telephone number, designated by the county elections official, at which a voter could request that a ballot pamphlet be mailed to him or her; ballot pamphlets also would be made available at polling places. The bill passed the state Senate Appropriations Committee on a unanimous vote Monday, and now awaits a Senate floor vote.

Hill also this year authored AB 1717, authorizing county and city elections officials to create procedures letting a voter opt out of receiving their sample ballot, voter pamphlet and polling-place notice by mail and instead get them electronically by e-mail or on the county’s or city’s Web site. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed that bill into law last month.

Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2010
Under: Assembly, Debra Bowen, Elections, Jerry Hill | 2 Comments »

Lawmakers ride out-of-district money wave

California lawmakers over the past three years raised 79 percent of campaign funds from outside their districts, according to a new study by the data-crunching wizards at Berekeley-based nonpartisan nonprofit MAPLight.org.

MAPLight.org (that’s “MAP” as in “Money In Politics”) found California legislators serving as of Aug. 31, 2009 – 79 Assembly members and 40 Senators – raised $97.9 million in campaign funds from January 2007 through March 2010, with $77.5 million coming from outside the district. About $11.9 (12 percent) came from in-district, while the remaining $8.6 million (9 percent) couldn’t be definitively located.

More than half of the lawmakers (68 out of 117 members, or 58 percent) raised 80 percent or more of their campaign funds from outside their districts; 19 lawmakers raised 90 percent or more of their funds from outside their districts.

“Not a single legislator in California raised the majority of their campaign funds from in-district, where their voters live.” MAPLight.org Executive Director Daniel Newman said in a news release. “Instead of a voter democracy, we have a donor democracy.”

“With out-of-district fundraising at a staggering 80 percent, the problem is not with a few bad apples, but with a rotten barrel,” he said. “This report shows that our campaign finance system is broken. This remote control system works well for wealthy interest groups, but not for voters.”

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation stacked up in percentage of contributions from out of district, and rank among the 119 lawmakers surveyed:

  • Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose – 94.0 percent (#5)
  • Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley – 92.7 percent (#10)
  • State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – 89.1 percent (#21)
  • Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, San Francisco – 87.8 percent (#29)
  • Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Newark – 87.5 percent (#33)
  • State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – 85.5 percent (#40)
  • State Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose – 85.4 percent (#43)
  • Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City – 83.2 percent (#54)
  • Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch – 82.9 percent (#56)
  • Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., D-San Jose – 82.5 percent (#59)
  • Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda – 80.4 percent (#64)
  • Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino – 80.0 percent (#68)
  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – 79.2 percent (#72)
  • Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis – 76.9 percent (#79)
  • Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa – 74.7 percent (#85)
  • State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – 74.5 percent (#87)
  • Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael – 72.5 percent (#91)
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley – 67.4 percent (#100)
  • State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto – 63.4 percent (#102)
  • Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – 62.1 percent (#105)
  • Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo – 62.0 percent (#106)
  • State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – 58.9 percent (#110)
  • State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berekeley – 57.9 percent (#112)
  • And, in case you’re wondering where the money comes from, the top 15 ZIP codes of contributions to legislators were:

    1 Sacramento, CA 95814 – $23,149,034 (23.66%)
    2 San Francisco, CA 94105 – $2,034,877 (2.08%)
    3 Sacramento, CA 95833 – $1,408,211 (1.44%)
    4 Los Angeles, CA 90020 – $1,395,635 (1.43%)
    5 Burlingame CA, 94010 – $1,280,137 (1.31%)
    6 Los Angeles, CA 90071 – $1,054,345 (1.08%)
    7 Newport Beach, CA 92660 –$972,717 (0.99%)
    8 Sacramento, CA 95811 – $843,928 (0.86%)
    9 Sacramento, CA 95816 – $839,730 (0.86%)
    10 Los Angeles, CA 90017 – $741,449 (0.76%)
    11 Oakland, CA 94612 – $698,200 (0.71%)
    12 Sacramento. CA 95834 – $669,150 (0.68%)
    13 Pasadena, CA 91101 – $625,373 (0.64%)
    14 Los Angeles, CA 90010 – $621,677 (0.64%)
    15 San Francisco, CA 94111 – $583,888 (0.60%)

    MAPLight.org is among supporters of Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, which would try out a system of public financing of election campaigns in the 2014 and 2018 elections for Secretary of State, funded by an increase in lobbyist registration fees.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Assembly, ballot measures, California State Senate, campaign finance, Elaine Alquist, Ellen Corbett, Fiona Ma, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Joe Coto, Joe Simitian, Leland Yee, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Tom Ammiano, Tom Torlakson | 3 Comments »

    Some upcoming political events around the Bay

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will be scooting around the district tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 18, first taking part in a 1:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new local U.S. Census office at 1814 Franklin St. in Oakland, and then attending a 2 p.m. ceremony at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in the Port of Oakland, celebrating the completion of the 50-foot Oakland Harbor Deepening Project.

    Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Board of Equalization Chairwoman Betty Yee will forecast state revenues and spending for the next year at the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club luncheon, at noon tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 18, at Cocina Poblana, 499 Embarcadero West in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It’s open to the public but space is limited so you’re encouraged to RSVP by email to treasurer@demlawyers.org. Tickets cost $25 for club members, $30 for non-members at the door, but there’s a $5 discount if you buy in advance through the club’s Web site.

    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is holding another of his “Congress At Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greets from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at the Margaret K. Troke Branch Library at 502 W. Benjamin Holt Drive in Stockton. “Instead of asking community members to come to one of my offices, I am going to go to them to make it as easy as possible for them to meet their Member of Congress,” he says. “I am committed to meeting with residents throughout the district so that I can effectively serve them and address their needs.”

    Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Biotechnology, will chair an informational hearing on “Maintaining California’s Status as the World’s Biotechnology Capital” at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at Exelixis Inc., 210 E. Grand Ave. in South San Francisco. Executives from local life science companies will testify about the challenges of starting a biotech business and explain what other states are doing to lure companies away from California.

    Rumored Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Attorney General Jerry Brown; state Treasurer Bill Lockyer; and 10th Congressional District Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. John Garamendi will headline the 39th Annual Alameda County Democratic Unity Dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Oakland Airport Hilton, 1 Hegenberger Road; Board of Equalization Chair Betty Yee will emcee. All interested Democrats are invited to attend; tickets cost $75 per person in advance or $125 for patrons, with tables available at $1,000 and up. Advance tickets are available by calling 510-263-5222. A limited number of door tickets will be available at $85 each.

    Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009
    Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Assembly, Barbara Lee, Bill Lockyer, Calendar, General, Jerry Hill, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Nancy Skinner, U.S. House | Comments Off

    Two more local lawmakers named to reform panel

    Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, this afternoon announced that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, and Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will be among the 10 members of her chamber (eight Democrats and two Republicans) serving on the Joint Select Committee on Reform.

    Bass and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, are forming the panel with the goals of making the Legislature more transparent and effective and making state government more efficient and customer friendly. Steinberg announced his appointments last week, including state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, as co-chairman and state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, as a member.

    Hill issued a statement saying he’s “eager to answer the call of our constituents for a more efficient and transparent government. I’m confident this group will lead the way to a more productive government with thorough analysis of potential reforms.”

    Bass said her appointees “are ready to hit the ground running on reforms. I look forward to the Committee’s recommendations as they work throughout the coming weeks to produce a roadmap to help California work better.”

    According to last week’s news release announcing the committee’s formation, the panel will be tasked with:

      - Giving Californians more value for their tax dollars by making government more efficient and accountable.
      - Prioritizing key issues, so government makes the tough decisions and only turns to the voters when absolutely necessary.
      - Cutting through the gridlock caused by outmoded rules and undue partisanship.
      - Making government more transparent and accessible from around the state.
      - Diminishing the influence of special interests.
      - Making government more customer-friendly.
      - Creating a process that encourages decisions that reflect long-term thinking, not short-term band-aids.

    The Public Policy Institute of California found in July that only 17 percent of California adults, 14 percent of registered voters and 10 percent of likely voters it had surveyed approved of the way the state Legislature is handling it’s job, and I’m willing to bet the last two months haven’t brought any significant improvement. Re-instilling faith in our state lawmakers won’t be easy or quick; here’s hoping these and other appointees are up to the task, and that the task itself isn’t inherently impossible.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
    Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Hill, Karen Bass, Mark DeSaulnier, Mary Hayashi | Comments Off

    Local businesses honored by Assembly members

    Chicken and waffles with a good book, food for body (and soul) and mind – these are a few of my favorite things. And local Assembly members singled out purveyors of these delights as businesses from each district around the state were honored this week by the California Small Business Association in Sacramento.

    Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, picked Derrick Johnson of the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland’s Jack London Square as his district’s honoree, praising Johnson’s practice of hiring and training local workers including many at-risk youth.

    Although originally from Oakland, Johnson’s father and uncles opened a small chain of Los Angeles restaurants called Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. In the late 1990s, his cousins invited Johnson – then living in Florida – to invest in the first Roscoe’s restaurant in Oakland; that investment eventually turned into ownership, with Johnson eventually moving, renaming and reopening the Jack London Square eatery.

    “As a small businessman, Derrick Johnson has created an enterprise that is not simply a financial success, but a community achievement as well,” Swanson said. “By hiring local residents, particularly those who often have difficulty finding work, Home of Chicken and Waffles contributes to our economy while creating a better quality of life for many people. I was very pleased to nominate such a deserving business.”

    Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, honored Michael Barnard, owner of Rakestraw Books, as the 15th District’s winner. Rakestraw hosts a regular program of author appearances and events with local Schools, and has created community partnership events with other local businesses and non-profits; Barnard has served on the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce board and is now president of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

    “Through his hard work, Rakestraw Books – ‘The Bookstore in Danville’ – continues to be a community institution,” Buchanan said. “Small businesses make significant contributions to the California economy. They are the heart and soul of our communities, and Rakestraw books is just that,” Buchanan said.

    More local Bay Area honorees, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
    Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, General, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

    Hearing on Port of Oakland air quality worries

    Assemblyman Jerry Hill said he’s temporarily shelving his bill to crack down on pollution at the Port of Oakland, at least until the Legislature’s Select Committee on Ports holds a hearing by the end of next month on pollution controls being implemented by the ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

    “One thing has remained the same since I served on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District: the Port of Oakland continues to drag its feet when it comes to cleaning up the air,” Hill, D-San Mateo, said in a news release today. “This hearing will review the steps California ports are taking to control pollution and highlight areas of improvement that need to be made.”

    Hill said research has found truck pollution alone at the Port of Oakland brings health costs of $153 million as well as 18 early deaths per year; West Oakland residents are exposed to three times more diesel particulate matter than other Bay Area residents.

    The Port of Oakland commissioners recently adopted a Maritime Air Quality Improvement Plan which Hill said didn’t include meaningful commitments to achieve clean air goals such as improvements recommended by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, local environmental, labor and community groups.

    Statewide, goods movement pollution already accounts for a quarter of the diesel pollution in the air. The Air Resources Board recently estimated that, if left unregulated, ports alone will constitute the largest source of pollution in the state by 2020—larger than the combined impact of every car on the road in California. Controlling pollution from ports and the rest of the goods movement system is vital to the state’s ability to attain federal and state health-based air quality standards.

    “While the recession is putting new pressures on our ports, we still have to prepare for a future of greener operations,” said Ports Select Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

    Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009
    Under: Assembly, Environment, Jerry Hill, Oakland | 1 Comment »