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AD15: Skinner endorses Echols as successor

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who’ll be term-limited out of the 15th Assembly District at the end of this year, has endorsed Elizabeth Echols of Oakland over several other Democrats vying to succeed her.

EcholsEchols, 53, “is the candidate with the stature necessary to be a strong and effective representative for AD15, will hit the ground running when she enters the Assembly, and stands for the progressive values that constituents throughout the District express to me on a daily basis,” Skinner said.

Skinner said Echols “has distinguished herself with substantive public and private sector experience,” including stints as President Obama’s appointee as Regional Administrator of the Small Business Administration, e-commerce advisor to Vice President Al Gore, policy director at Google and an executive at the U.S. Green Building Council. “This work as well as her community work in countless political campaigns, non profits and community organizations give her a preeminence AD15 deserves,” Skinner said.

Echols said she’s honored to have the incumbent’s support. “She has been a leader on many issues I intend to champion in the State Assembly, including investing in job creation, providing a world-class public education and protecting our environment. I’m grateful for her trust, and excited for the opportunity to carry on a tradition of progressive leadership.”

Others who have stated an intention to run for the 15th District seat include
Sam Kang of Emeryville, the general counsel for an economic justice advocacy group; Andy Katz of Berkeley, president of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District’s board; Richard Kinney, a San Pablo councilman; Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member; and Cecilia Valdez, a San Pablo councilwoman. Kinney is the lone Republican, all the rest are Democrats. Echols led the pack in fundraising as of June 30; campaign finance reports for the second half of 2013 are due Friday.

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Moore drops out of 15th Assembly District race

A prominent East Bay Democratic and LGBT activist has dropped out of the crowded race for the 15th Assembly District seat, leaving as many as six candidates still in the field.

peggy-moore-state-assembly-photo“Unfortunately the timing of this race has been difficult for my family,” Peggy Moore says in a statement posted on her website. “After a great deal of reflection, I have concluded that this is not the right time for me to campaign for elected office. This has been an incredibly tough decision, but it is the right decision for me and my family.

“One of the hardest things about this moment is the disappointment of my supporters, but I want you to know that your investment in me was not wasted. Thanks to your help, we have a network of thousands of supporters who are willing to stand up for progressive values and to work for a more representative government,” she wrote. “I have learned so much over these last few months, and I will continue to advocate for access to health care, for seniors, for LGBT people, for the working class. My passion for helping the people in my community has only grown stronger.”

Moore, 50, was the California political director of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Earlier, the Oklahoma native was a 2008 Obama campaign volunteer who became the Northern California field director for Organizing for America, the campaign’s community-organizing successor group. She also was an Oakland City Council candidate in 2005.

Moore – who got married in July – said Friday she decided not to run last month after concluding she could remain active and engaged in the community without holding elected office.

“We have some good candidates in the race,” she said, though she said she’s not ready to endorse any of her former rivals just yet. “Each candidate brings something different to the table, I like each of them for different reasons.”

Others who have stated an intention to run for the 15th District seat – from which Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out – are Elizabeth Echols of Oakland, former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration; Sam Kang of Emeryville, the general counsel for an economic justice advocacy group; Andy Katz of Berkeley, president of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District’s board; Richard Kinney, a San Pablo councilman; Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member; and Cecilia Valdez, a San Pablo councilwoman. Kinney is the lone Republican, all the rest are Democrats. As of June 30, Moore had trailed behind Echols, Kang, Katz and Thurmond in fundraising, while Kinney and Valdez had not yet reported any fundraising.

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Skinner to offer bill protecting unpaid interns

An East Bay lawmaker says she’ll introduce a bill next month to protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination.

“Interns should not have to give up their basic civil rights just because they are willing to forgo pay,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. “Interns deserve the same legal protection against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.”

Skinner notes neither state nor federal law explicitly protects unpaid interns from sexual harassment.

The issue has come to the fore in part because a federal judge in New York ruled in October that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – which protects employees from workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment – does not apply to unpaid interns because they’re not “employees.” That case involved a Syracuse University student who claimed she was sexually harassed, kissed and groped by a supervisor at her media company internship who later retaliated against her for rebuffing his sexual advances.

Here in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act protects employees from sexual harassment, but does not specifically include unpaid interns; a recent state court decision held that FEHA does not apply to “volunteers.”

A 2008 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found 50 percent of graduating students held internships, up from 17 percent shown in a 1992 study by Northwestern University. And women are much more likely than men (77 percent to 23 percent) to hold unpaid internships, according to a 2012 survey of college students by Intern Bridge, a consulting firm that specializes in college recruiting.

“The recession has forced young people to rely on these unpaid positions to build resumes and contacts in an incredibly competitive job market,” Skinner said. “Employers owe them a safe and fair workplace.”

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Brown signs law to let distilleries sell tastings

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Thursday that grants distilled spirits and brandy manufacturers the right to charge customers for tastings on their premises, just as wineries do.

St. George Single Malt WhiskeyNo, this is not the most important legislation on his desk. But I like whiskey, so I’m writing about it anyway.

AB 933 was carried by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and was sponsored by the California Artisanal Distillers Guild; the Assembly and state Senate both passed the bill unanimously.

Skinner contended tastings are a traditional, responsible way for adults to sample alcohol in modest quantities and learn more about how the tipples are made. California distilleries already were allowed to offer free tastings, but couldn’t charge for those tastings to offset the costs of hiring staff.

Northern California is home to several distilleries, including St. George Spirits in Alameda, Charbay in St. Helena, Falcon Spirits in Richmond, Old World Spirits in Belmont, and – coming soon – Russell City Distillery in Hayward.

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Skinner & Bonta urge passage of gun control bills

Two Assembly members and a flock of East Bay elected officials and community leaders gathered on an Oakland church’s steps Monday morning to urge the Legislature and governor to pass and enact gun-control measures.

Bonta-Skinner news conference - photo by Josh Richman“The Second Amendment’s purpose was not to have every citizen own assault weapons, it was not to protect gun violence in our communities,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, at the news conference outside Beebe Memorial Cathedral.

Skinner and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, urged the state Senate to pass two of Skinner’s bills: AB 48, which would ban conversion kits that let people create their own high-capacity ammunition magazines, and AB 1131, which would increases from six months to five years the period of time that someone is prohibited from possessing a firearm after communicating a threat of physical violence to a licensed psychotherapist.

They also urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill by Bonta that the Legislature already has passed: AB 180, which would give Oakland special permission to pass and enforce gun registration and licensing ordinances that are stricter than state law.

Both lawmakers urged the public to flood the governor’s office with phone calls and letters of support for these bills.

Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley said he was among faith leaders who met with Vice President Joe Biden in January, weeks after the Newtown, Conn., shooting tragedy, to discuss how to deal with gun violence.

“In many of our communities, we have Newtown tragedies every day,” McBride said Monday, adding he knows the man – a father of young children – who was shot and killed early Sunday evening at Eighth and Page streets in Oakland. “We know one bill won’t solve all the problems, but it gets us closer… This is a moral issue we must respond to today.”

Skinner echoed that – “ We know that gun laws alone will not do this, will not solve it” – and called for local communities to unite behind zero-tolerance policies for gun violence.

The Legislature has a other gun-control bills to consider as well in this final week of its session, including:

  • SB 53 (De Leon) — to require a background check for all ammunition purchases and licenses for all sellers
  • SB 374 (Steinberg) — to ban semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines and retroactively requires an ownership record for all guns
  • SB 396 (Hancock) — to outlaw ownership of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition
  • SB 567 (Jackson) — to update California’s definition of an illegal shotgun to include a shotgun with a revolving cylinder and a rifled bore
  • SB 683 (Block) – to expand safety certificate requirements to long guns, rather than just handguns
  • SB 755 (Wolk) — to expand list of convicts who can’t legally own guns to include of multiple drug or alcohol convictions, carrying ammunition onto school grounds, active participation in street gangs, and others
  • AB 711 (Rendon) — to ban use of lead ammunition by California hunters
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    A few upcoming Bay Area political fundrasiers

    Though nobody’s pulling down the kind of $32,400-per-head dough that President Obama would’ve raised for Democrats in Los Angeles on Monday had he not cancelled to deal with Syria, some local, state and federal candidates in the Bay Area have fundraisers coming up.

    Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will celebrate her birthday with a fundraiser for her 2016 bid for the 9th State Senate District at 4 p.m. this Sunday, Sept. 8 in Oakland; the special guest will be former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, now a Cal law and public policy faculty member. Tickets cost $100 for “birthday love,” $500 for “birthday well wishes,” $1,000 for “birthday hugs” and $2,500 for “birthday kisses.”

    Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson is holding a “BBQ, Brews, Blues and Badges” event to raise money for his 2014 re-election campaign next Friday evening Sept. 13 at the Pine Meadow Golf Course in Martinez. It’s $50 per person or $75 per couple, or $250 for bronze sponsorship, $500 for silver and $1,000 for gold.

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will hold a leadership breakfast at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 27 at an Oakland restaurant with special guest Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs, the freshman who defeated Republican Mary Bono Mack last year. Two tables of eight seats each go for $2,600 or $1,500; one table goes for $500; but individual tickets are pretty cheap at $50 per person or $35 for seniors, students and disabled persons. Lee also has scheduled a reception for 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29 at a couple of supporters’ home in Berkeley; tickets for that range from $100 to $1,000.

    Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, will hold a brunch with special guest Assembly Speaker John Perez at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, before Cal’s homecoming game against Washington State, at a supporter’s home in Berkeley. Individual tickets cost $100 or $250, but co-host status costs from $500 to $8,200.