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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 »

Help is on the way for Mt. Diablo’s beacon

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law an East Bay Assemblywoman’s bill to fix the Eye of Diablo, the beacon atop Mt. Diablo in Mt. Diablo State Park.

AB 1916 by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, authorizes the state Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into an operating agreement with the nonprofit Save Mount Diablo to use volunteers and licensed professionals to rehabilitate the beacon. The Assembly and the state Senate both passed it on unanimous votes.

The beacon’s lighting for almost 50 years has been the centerpiece of an annual Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony, hosted by Save Mount Diablo and the Sons & Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. But the light has fallen into such disrepair that it won’t be ready for this year’s ceremony unless it’s fixed. Save Mount Diablo will raise the money needed for the repairs and organize volunteers.

“During these difficult budget times, it is critical that these types of public private partnerships are encouraged whenever possible,” said Buchanan. “We all want the repairs to the beacon to move ahead swiftly and cost effectively. I know that Save Mount Diablo will be an exceptional partner for the Parks Department to work with on this project.”

Save Mount Diablo executive director Ron Brown said he wants to move quickly to iron out a deal with the state “that will address the important historical and mechanical issues, and still have the beacon be operational in time for the December 7 ceremony.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Joan Buchanan | No Comments »

Scandal can’t slow Assembly fundraising

Even a key supporter’s scandal can’t slow the hustle and bustle of a contested campaign.

Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer – now in rehabilitation for undisclosed addictions after a former lover allegedly attacked her in a Newark motel room early this month – and her husband, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, had been scheduled to hold a fundraiser tonight at their home for Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, who’s running for the 20th Assembly District seat.

Quirk, who’s tight enough with the Lockyers that he served as the treasurer for Nadia Lockyer’s 2010 supervisorial campaign, emailed supporters Sunday to announce that the event – for which tickets cost from $50 to $1,000 – had been moved to an Italian restaurant in Oakland Hayward. (My apologies; I frequent Buon Appetito myself, and misstating the city was a careless error on my part.) “Nadia and Bill Lockyer will have an event at their home sometime in the spring,” Quirk wrote.

You’ve got to wonder whether that’s wishful thinking, given that family’s unfortunate disarray.

As Quirk competes with Democrats Jennifer Ong and Sarabjit Cheema and independent Mark Green (while Republican Adnan Shahab has dropped out) in this top-two primary, the fundraising beat goes on even in districts with incumbents.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, is still calling for RSVPs to her wine-and-hors-d’oeuvres reception with Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, next Tuesday, March 6 at Alamo’s Round Hill Country Club. Tickets start at $50 while a “leader” package of 10 tickets plus signage and special acknowledgement costs $3,900, all going to buoy Buchanan’s bid for a third and final Assembly term serving the newly drawn 16th District. Among her challengers will be Republican David Haubert of Dublin.

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: Per the comments below, I neglected to mention Estes Albert “Al” Phillips of Livermore as a Republican contender in the 16th Assembly District. I’d noticed a statement-of-intent in the Secretary of State’s database under the name Estes Phillips, but didn’t know he goes by Al and so couldn’t find his campaign’s website earlier. My apologies.

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, campaign finance, Joan Buchanan, John Perez | 5 Comments »

Officials crow over State Route 4 Bypass

A flock of federal, state and local officials took a victory lap out in Brentwood this morning at the site of the State Route 4 Bypass project, which they said will create hundreds of jobs, reduce traffic congestion and improve driver safety.

The project recently received $25 million in funding from the California Transportation Commission, which will be spent on converting a 2-lane, 2-way expressway to a 4-lane freeway from north of Laurel Road to south of San Jose Avenue, as well as the construction of an interchange at the intersection of the SR 4 Bypass and Sand Creek Road.

The SR 4 Bypass is an approximately 12.5 mile long transportation corridor in Eastern Contra Costa County starting at the SR 4 Bypass/SR 160 interchange in Antioch, passing along the western edges of the cities of Oakley and Brentwood, then rejoining SR 4 in unincorporated Contra Costa County east of Brentwood. Its purpose is to remove the existing SR 4 from the historic downtown areas of Oakley and Brentwood.

Officials toured the area and then proclaimed victory.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, called the project “critical to the future of East Contra Costa County. The construction of the latest phase of the bypass project will create hundreds of jobs and the completion of the overall project will help spur economic development throughout the region, decrease traffic and make our roads safer to drive. I was glad to be a part of the effort to secure $25 million in funding for the State Route 4 Bypass project.”

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor said “never in my wildest dreams did I think this project was going to happen, but it’s “a great day to be mayor.”

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said the project “will help Contra Costa commuters spend less time in traffic. The $25 million award recognizes that this project reduces congestion on a highly travelled corridor and improves traffic safety. I am pleased that the California Transportation Commission and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority were able to make this happen.”

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, praised “effective management and leadership demonstrated by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority” that has led to taxpayers saving about $32 million from the Highway 4 widening and Caldecott Tunnel projects combined. “I will continue to work with the California Transportation Commission to ensure these savings are reinvested back into the community.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, said it has been “an honor to support the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, under the leadership of Randy Iwasaki, and the many local leaders who have worked hard to secure this funding.”

And Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier, who chairs the State Route 4 Bypass Authority, said it’s been “pleasure working with the Building Trades on this. They were instrumental in getting the funding for this project.”

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Contra Costa County, Jerry McNerney, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla, Transportation, U.S. House | No Comments »

Meet the East Bay’s veterans of the year

Each of the East Bay’s Assembly members named a Veteran of the Year this week, to be recognized at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee’s annual luncheon today in Sacramento.

Read all about these inspirational vets, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

Buchanan named to Delta Protection Commission

Assembly Speaker John Perez has named Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, to serve as an ex-officio member of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Protection Commission, which protects, maintains and enhances the Delta’s environment, Buchanan announced.

“Recognizing and enhancing the unique cultural, recreational and agricultural resources of the Delta benefits all Californians,” she said in her news release. “Everyone in California depends on the Delta for something.”

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Protection Act of 2009 gave the commission the responsibility to make recommendations to the Delta Stewardship Council on ways to preserve the region; it’s currently working up an economic sustainability plan.

Buchanan noted most of the Delta is within her 15th Assembly District. “We must ensure that the Delta is a region where agriculture, habitat, recreation and residents thrive together,” she said in her release, noting the commission has a critical role in that and she’s pleased to have been appointed to it.

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Joan Buchanan, John Perez | No Comments »

Buchanan v. Wilson: The final AD15 numbers

Some of the numbers came in too late for inclusion in my roundup for tomorrow’s paper, but campaign finance reports filed today show the East Bay’s only hotly contested general election for a state legislative seat was quite costly.

Incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, raised $3.275 million and spent $3.266 million in 2009-10 to fend off a challenge from Republican nominee Abram Wilson, San Ramon’s mayor; Wilson raised $1.27 million and spent $1.258 million.

Buchanan defeated Wilson by a little more than 13,000 votes, a margin of 6.8 percentage points. It was a hard-fought race, but I think Buchanan probably scored the most crushing blow with an advertisement calling attention to the seemingly exorbitant salary paid to San Ramon’s city manager – something sure to irk many California votes in a year in which public salary and benefit scandals like the one in Bell attracted so much outrage. It cast a shadow over Wilson’s claim to fiscal conservative bona fides, and that was all she wrote.

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: 2010 election, Assembly, campaign finance, Joan Buchanan | 5 Comments »

E.Bay lawmakers react to Jerry Brown’s SOTS

Some East Bay lawmakers are sounding off on the State of the State address that Gov. Jerry Brown delivered earlier this evening. Guess what: They liked it.

From state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

“This governor is being honest with the Legislature and the voters. We can no longer pretend the state can right its ship without serious action. As Senate Majority Leader, I am committed to working across the aisle and with voters up and down the state to make sure we, once and for all, put California’s budget crisis behind us. Every single person in Sacramento and the state wants California to again be a leader in jobs and prosperity.”

From Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo:

“Less than a week after assuming office, Governor Brown presented us with a budget that does not rely on accounting gimmicks or inflated revenue projections. He continued the dialogue tonight by talking honestly about the difficult choices all of us must make – Democrats and Republicans. It also is clear that the Governor understands the tremendous potential of California and the contributions that critical programs like education have made to our economy and our lifestyles. I share his vision and his optimism.

“I was born in California at a time when we were the leader in education, aerospace, research and many other industries. Anything was possible in our state then because we made critical investments in our infrastructure, and we were disciplined in how we spent our money and repaid our debt.

“I believe the Governor has been very forthright about the tough road that lies ahead and we must come together as Californians and be willing to make the sacrifices required to right our financial ship and rebuild our infrastructure, our schools, our colleges, our roads. It is both a fiscal and a moral imperative if our children are going to have the same opportunities as our generation.

“The Governor has repeatedly shared his commitment to education and to creating good jobs. These are two of my top priorities. As a budget subcommittee chair, I am holding hearings to review the Governor’s budget to allow for a thorough review and public comment as well as timely action. I am looking forward to continuing my work to help our great state regain its place as a leader in our nation.”

From Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“I think Governor Brown is being straight-forward and very candid about the challenges facing California and people find that refreshing. He’s not using any smoke and mirrors or Hollywood flash, nor is he searching for scapegoats.

“The reality is there aren’t any quick fixes or silver bullets to get us out of this mess. We need to cushion the blow for those families who have already suffered the most from the recession, and we need to stimulate job growth. We can do that by becoming more competitive in manufacturing, putting people to work to modernize our facilities and make them more energy efficient, and by investing in our universities to advance our biotech industries.

“Our challenges are daunting, but they can be overcome by the creativity and imagination that has made our state the eighth-largest economy in the world.”

As the Bay Area has elected no Republicans to this Legislature, I picked a few GOP voices from elsewhere in the state. Follow me after the jump to read ‘em…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown, Joan Buchanan, Mimi Walters, Tom Harman | 1 Comment »

More from local lawmakers on Brown’s budget

I spent the day speaking with Bay Area lawmakers about Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, and as always, there was a lot more than could fit into the story filed for the print editions.

Fiona Ma“Democrats elected Jerry Brown and part of why we elected him is because of his leadership, the fact that he’s been there and done that and now has the courage to tell the voters the real deal and make those cuts, even in the face of opposition from our traditional allies and friends,” said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, predicting that while some details might be dickered over, Brown’s overall plan won’t see much opposition from legislative Democrats.

As for legislative Republicans, she said, they’ve never presented a full budget plan of their own: “They have not been part of the solution… They’ve just been saying ‘no, no, no.’”

Voters will have to see past ideology and idealism this year, she said. “We just explain the reality: We have 33 cents in our pocket yet we want to go buy the toy that costs a dollar and we’ve maxed out all our credit cards – well, that’s not going to work anymore.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, said she already has been telling her constituents they can’t both expect lowered taxes and full, quality state services, and has found “people are very receptive in terms of knowing someone understands the problem and is honest with them.”

Buchanan said everyone has certain programs they’d like to protect, but the reality is that California must decide how to get the most bang for the bucks it already has. Brown’s plan acknowledges this, she said: “I can’t say it’s perfect or that I’ll necessarily agree with every single part of it … but when I look at how he’s put the whole package together, I think overall he’s done an excellent job.”

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, says specificity will be the key in convincing Californians to support extending the taxes already in effect for another five years, as Brown proposes. The message has to be that if those taxes aren’t extended, “then your school district will look like this, and your public safety system in California will look like this,” he said. “We need to show everyone, and I need to see it too – I have an understanding and a perception of how it would be, but I need to know how painful it would be – how many fewer teachers would we have?

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said she’s “pleased that our schools are at least being maintained, our K-12 schools, at the level they were this year – we can’t throw away a generation of children. The other cuts, we’re going to have start engaging in great detail.”

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said “we just have to be realistic about what we can do, where we’re going, and focus on creating some real structural reform,” adding that while she may not agree with every element of Brown’s plan, his personal engagement with lawmakers is refreshing. “It’s great, but at the same time, this is going to be really tough.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Fiona Ma, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, state budget | 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 »