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An early glance at next year’s AD-15 showdown

Quite a battle is shaping up in the 15th Assembly District, where Nancy Skinner will be term-limited out at the end of 2014 and five could-be candidates cover the political spectrum from left to… well, left.

With less than 13 months to go until June 2014’s top-two primary, all five of the candidates who’ve filed statements of intention to run are Democrats, and pretty liberal ones at that – not surprising for this East Bay district, which includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo, Kensington and parts of Oakland including Montclair and North Oakland. As of February, the district was registered 64.5 percent Democrat, 7.8 percent Republican and 18.6 percent no-party-preference.

The field appears to include, in alphabetical order:

EcholsElizabeth Echols, 53, of Oakland – regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, appointed by President Obama in 2010, and an Alameda County Democratic Central Committee member. Among her earlier jobs, Echols was Google’s director of policy from 2004 to 2008; executive director of the White House’s E-Commerce Working Group, under Vice President Al Gore, from 1999 to 2001; and a senior advisor at the Clinton administration’s Commerce Department from 1995 to 1999.

KangSam Kang, 34, of Emeryville – general counsel at the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based policy, research, organizing, and leadership nonprofit working for racial and economic justice. A Korean immigrant who says he grew up working in his family’s small business, Kang earlier worked at several non-governmental organizations on issues ranging from Iraqi sanctions enforcement to economic development in New York’s West Harlem neighborhood

KatzAndy Katz, 33, of Berkeley – government relations director for Breathe California, a nonprofit fighting for clean air and public health, and president of the board of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. Katz has a long record on issues such as renewable energy and climate change and is a former chairman of the Sierra Club California; earlier in his career, he worked at a law center helping injured workers collect unpaid wages and workers’ comp, and as Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s community liaison.

MooreMargaret “Peggy” Moore, 49, of Oakland – was California political director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and a longtime LGBT and political activist. An Oklahoma native, Moore 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.

ThurmondTony Thurmond, 44, of Richmond – senior director of community relations at the Lincoln Child Center; a West Contra Costa County School Board member from 2008 to 2012; and a Richmond City Council member from 2005 to 2008. His current project at the youth center, CEO Youth, is a high school youth entrepreneur program that applies the lessons students learn in the classroom to conceptualizing and launching a youth-led business venture. Thurmond lost to Skinner in the 2008 primary for what was then the 14th Assembly District.

The field might not turn out to be this big; while Thurmond and Katz have already launched their campaign websites and Kang is collecting contributions via ActBlue, neither Echols nor Moore has taken such overt action yet. (UPDATE @ 4:57 P.M. FRIDAY: Scratch that – Echols clearly is in, per comment #1 below.)

However many candidates actually get into the race, the top two vote-getters in June will advance to November’s general election – meaning candidates will need to muster enough money to survive a year-long campaign. Though all of these are toward the liberal end, it’ll be interesting to see who tries to maneuver toward the middle – and how – in order to attract non-Democrats, or if most of them just try to double-down on the progressive vote.

Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, Nancy Skinner | 4 Comments »

Bills push for ammo tax, assault weapon seizure

Among the gun-control bills being rolled out by Assembly Democrats are a pair from a freshman East Bay lawmaker to tax ammunition and perhaps move toward confiscating banned assault weapons.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s AB 187 would place a tax on the sale of ammunition in California with proceeds going to a high-crime prevention fund that would be used in targeted areas suffering from high violent crime rates.

“In communities like Oakland and Stockton, parents are afraid to let their children play outside while gun violence ravages the streets,” Bonta, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “We must take swift action to get these communities the resources they need, and in AB 187 I propose to do so through a tax on ammunition.”

Far more controversial is Bonta’s AB 174, which for the moment reads as follows:

Under current law, certain banned weapons are permitted under various “grandfathering in” clauses. It is the intent of the Legislature to subsequently amend this measure to include provisions that would end all of those exemptions.

Rob Bonta“State laws on the books currently restrict the purchase and sale of assault weapons and large capacity magazines, but almost all laws only apply on a going-forward basis and exempted weapons remain on our streets,” Bonta said. “With AB 174 we will closely examine this loophole and do what’s right for the children and people of California.”

Ending any grandfather clauses presumably would mean a mandatory buyback of all banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines – just the kind of registration-driven confiscation that gun-rights advocates have been warning about for decades, and that they’ve sworn to resist.

According to the state Justice Department, 77,103 Californians own 166,424 registered, grandfathered assault weapons.

Other Assembly bills touted today include:

    AB 169 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, to prohibit people who’ve been exempted from restrictions on buying guns that the state designated as unsafe from selling or transferring those guns to anyone who isn’t also exempt. California maintains a list of state-tested handguns that are approved for sale in the state.
    AB 170 by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, would allow only individuals – not corporations or other associations – to be issued permits for assault weapons and machine guns. “In the same way that we prohibit sharing driver licenses, we should not allow dangerous weapons to be passed from hand to hand within an organization. One person, one permit just makes sense,” Bradford said.

And, yet to be introduced:

    A bill from Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, to prohibit those involved in gun or ammunition trafficking from possessing any guns or ammo for 10 years.
    A bill from Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, to tighten gun-safety laws already in place by adding a safe-storage requirement when a person prohibited from gun possession is living in the home. Ammiano’s bill also would let the state Justice Department extend the state’s 10-day waiting period when necessary for background checks.
    Another bill from Dickinson also to impose an ammunition tax – this one at a nickel per bullet, with proceeds going to an existing program that screens young children in grades 1 through 3 for mild to moderate mental illness and then intervenes to help those in need.
    A third bill from Dickinson to require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest any existing pension fund investments from companies that manufacture, sell, distribute or market firearms or ammunition, and to prohibit any such investments in the future.

“Although California already has some of the nation’s best laws to reduce the incidence of violent and fatal shootings, we are always prepared to move when we can improve the safety of our communities and families,” Ammiano, who chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said in a news release. “The Assembly is acting on this challenge and looks forward to seeing other proposals from the Senate. We will work with the other house to protect Californians from those who would misuse weapons. We will take a careful look at each bill when it comes to the committee.”

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2013
Under: Assembly, gun control, Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta, Tom Ammiano | 19 Comments »

Reax to Gov. Jerry Brown’s ‘State of the State’

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“We enter 2013 surrounded by the most positive atmosphere in several years, and the Governor’s State of the State address points us toward the great potential that lies ahead for California. With bold action, the Legislature worked with Governor Brown to weather the storm of fiscal adversity in perhaps the most difficult period in modern California history. We handled that well; we can also handle success in the better times that lie ahead.

“I join the Governor in his call for fiscal restraint, but neither can we be afraid to be bold in our vision for California. We cannot spend money that we don’t have, and we won’t. As the economy grows, we will develop smart strategies to pay down debt, to build-up our reserves, and also to begin restoring what’s been lost when the opportunity is there to do so.

“We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work to further restore the promise of this great state.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar:

“We share the Governor’s optimism and celebration of California’s entrepreneurial spirit, business community and educators. We are encouraged by the Governor’s acknowledgement that we need to pay down debt, develop a rainy day fund, and avoid saddling our college students with more tuition increases.

“We look forward to working with the Governor on education reforms to ensure that all California students can obtain a world class education.

“While the Governor acknowledged the loss of jobs in California and focused on job creation in Silicon Valley, he did not offer any substantive proposals for job creation or helping California’s working families. The long-term solution to California’s economic challenges is to get Californians back to work.”

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley:

“Governor Brown’s State of the State address was a breath of fresh air and the first time since my start in the Assembly that the dark cloud of deficits was lifted.

“To the naysayers who doubted California’s ability to bounce back from the worst global economic collapse in recent memory, the Governor reminded us that together Sacramento and California voters acted decisively and proved them wrong. Our state is on its way to economic recovery.

“I commend Governor Brown for his message of optimism and boldness that reflects a return to California the great. He outlined our past and present efforts that will continue to secure California’s status as the golden state with unparalleled education opportunities, global leadership on transportation, clean energy and climate change and an innovative, growing economy.

“While restraint is necessary to not invite the next bust cycle, restoration of essential safety net services is also important to support Californians still hurting from the economic downturn.

“I am proud that, among the achievements mentioned by Governor Brown, legislation I authored is among accomplishments that have helped pave the way for internet sales taxes, responsible for over 1,000 new jobs in the state and California’s achievement of more than 20 percent renewable energy this year.

“It’s an exciting time for California – and a proud moment for all – as we continue the work ahead of shaping a stronger economy, fueling technology, expanding health care, supporting education and combatting climate change.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“Today, the Governor wasn’t so much kicking the can down the road as he was hiding the can entirely. And while we’re glad he embraced a number of key Republican proposals, there’s still no plan to create jobs. If you’re unemployed, you want action, not rhetoric.

“His bold proclamations of an economic turnaround conveniently ignored the facts: our cities are going bankrupt because they can’t pay off pension obligations, 4.4 million taxpayers have left the state since 1998 while job creators are fleeing the worst business climate in the nation, and continuing government waste and abuse undermines any promise of fiscal restraint. It’s time for a reality check.

“The overall picture of California’s economy is not nearly as good as Gov. Brown paints it, mainly because Democrats raised taxes retroactively and have virtually guaranteed future job losses to add to the millions of Californians out of work today. This all may be ‘par for the course’ for Jerry Brown, but not for those living with less through no fault of their own. They have a much more realistic outlook and our leadership would do well to accept that reality instead of trying to blur the facts.”

Much more, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, Mark DeSaulnier, Nancy Skinner, Paul Fong | No Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s gun control plan

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who chairs House Democrats’ task force on gun violence:

“The president and our task force agree that we need a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent gun violence. Executive action can and should be part of the process, and many of the executive actions announced today will have a positive influence on reducing gun violence. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and do what needs to be done to save lives. Many of the policies that will have the greatest impact on reducing gun violence will require Congressional action.

“During the next several weeks our task force will examine the president’s proposals and the proposals of others. We will continue meeting with stakeholders on every side of this issue. And we will develop a comprehensive set of policy proposals that both respect peoples’ 2nd Amendment rights and help keep our communities safe from gun violence.”

From the National Rifle Association:

“Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.

“The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children.

“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who has introduced a bill to regulate ammunition sales in California:

“I applaud President Obama for presenting a comprehensive plan that will help reduce the gun violence ravaging our communities and, hopefully, stop the rash of mass shootings that have become an all-too-common occurrence.

“California has tough gun laws but our ability to address gun violence is undermined when one can bypass California rules by crossing state lines. Federal action is needed to ensure the effectiveness of our state laws.

“As public opinion shows, strong support for gun control exists nationally in favor of enforcement and regulations to bulletproof our communities from devastating gun violence.”

From Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms:

“Suddenly Mr. Obama wants to get more criminal and mental health records into the NICS background check data base and get a permanent director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Where has he been for the last four years?

“Perhaps he was too busy during his first term, while his administration was running thousands of assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition and countless high capacity magazines to violent criminals and drug cartel thugs through his administration’s Fast & Furious program. Now he wants to take away our Second Amendment rights when he and his friends have put more assault weapons in the wrong hands than all of organized crime?

“These firearms have been used not only to kill a Border Patrol agent, but also hundreds of people including women and children. This policy has resulted in more deaths and carnage than all the mass shootings in the United States in last ten years.

“The measures being proposed by the president will not prevent a repeat of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and he knows it. The initials ‘B. O.’ stand for more than Barack Obama. They stand for the bad odor of his blame game.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, gun control, Jackie Speier, Leland Yee, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Skinner, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 30 Comments »

Special ticket deal for gun-control forum Thursday

The rhetoric could get hot at a gun-control this Thursday evening in San Francisco.

The Commonwealth Club of California is convening a panel on “Gun Laws: California and The Nation – What Should Be Done?” at 6 p.m. Thursday in its offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. (at Second) in San Francisco.

Scheduled to participate are Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who has introduced a bill to regulate ammunition sales; Benjamin Van Houten, managing attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; San Francisco Police Sgt. Kelly Dunn, who serves in her department’s Special Victims and Psychiatric Liaison units; and Calguns Foundation cofounder and chairman Gene Hoffman, with San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz as the moderator.

“Our panel will discuss the national issues and California’s role in the dialogue regarding proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, to pass stricter laws to buy and license guns and ammunition, to require gun vendors to do background checks on potential owners, and report sales so law enforcement can track guns and their owners,” the club says.

Tickets cost $20 for the general public or $12 for club members and are free for students with valid ID, but the club is offering a special deal in which anyone can get tickets at the member price: Just use the coupon ID “specialforguns” when ordering online.

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Under: Assembly, gun control, Nancy Skinner | No Comments »

Skinner brings back bill to control ammo sales

A Bay Area lawmaker is re-introducing a bill that would tighten up on ammunition sales, which aren’t tracked by current law.

“In California, it’s harder to get some cold medicines than ammunition,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release, referring to the state’s law restricting sales of pseudoephedrine, which can be used as a precursor for making methamphetamine. “Something has to change.”

Skinner this past summer authored AB 2512, which would have required large ammunition purchases to be reported to local law enforcement. The bill was inspired by July’s shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Her bill also sought to close a loophole in the assault weapons law allowing individuals to have high-capacity magazines, like those found on the man who killed 26 people last Friday in Newtown, Conn. But the legislation, introduced by gutting and amending an already-existing bill, came too late in the year to have any hearings before the session ended.

Her new bill would require all ammunition purchasers to show their IDs; require all ammunition sales to be reported to the state Department of Justice; require all ammunition sellers to be licensed and undergo a background check; and
ban kits to convert ammunition clips into high-capacity magazines.

Skinner had told me last week – two days before the Newtown massacre – that she had been meeting with law enforcement and other stakeholders to develop a revised version of the bill.

“Among the most shocking details from the shooting massacre in Colorado is the undetected stockpiling of ammunition and weapons by the alleged shooter. In Newtown, the shooter had hundreds of unspent rounds. While incidents like Aurora and Newtown may be rare, we can’t let ammunition stockpiling go unnoticed,” Skinner said today. “Gun violence is an ongoing, yet unnecessary threat in communities throughout California. As lawmakers, we need to do everything we can to stop this trend.”

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Under: Assembly, gun control, Nancy Skinner, Public safety | 21 Comments »

Skinner: Dems must choose battles, but fight some

With supermajorities in both legislative chambers, Democrats must walk a finer line than ever, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said Wednesday.

My coffee meeting with Skinner, D-Berkeley, yielded a wide-ranging conversation about her party’s considerable new power and the responsibilities that go with it, as well as her own legislative priorities. The former Berkeley councilwoman has just won re-election to her third and final Assembly term, and she sees a productive but sensitive session ahead.

“We’ve been given this privilege by the voters and we want to be respectful of the privilege we’ve been handed,” she said Wednesday.

The caucus must choose its battles, she said, but not choose them so carefully that none ever get fought.

She’s in a position to help choose those battles because, as the Assembly Rules Committee’s chair, Skinner is among the Legislature’s top leaders. Rules is responsible for assigning bills to committees, setting salaries for legislative staff, waiving rules and overseeing the Assembly’s business; it’s basically an executive committee for the chamber, and its seats are coveted.

But Skinner on Wednesday said the supermajorities were achieved by votes in individual districts, not a statewide vote, and so lawmakers must move cautiously to ensure they don’t salt the field.

For example, she said, voters’ approval of Proposition 30 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure temporarily increasing sales taxes and income taxes for the state’s richest residents to fund K-12 and higher education – was “great,” but it would take a lot more revenue to return the state’s schools, colleges and universities to their heyday.

“There’s probably appetite for some more revenue,” she said, but it has to be something that’s palatable to voters.

For example, state Sen. Ted Lieu’s proposal to triple the Vehicle License Fee – which was slashed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, blowing a huge hole in the state budget – was withdrawn almost as soon as it was advanced last month due to public backlash. And voters in November 2010 handily rejected Proposition 21, which would’ve boosted the VLF to bankroll state parks. Voters just don’t like the VLF, Skinner said.

“We have to look at the range of … tax expenditures, what I call tax loopholes or tax giveaways, that were part of various budget deals in order to get a Republican vote” in past years, she said.

One such loophole was the single-sales factor, just repealed last month by Proposition 39; that’ll bring in about $1 billion a year, half of which for the first five years is earmarked for projects increasing energy efficiency and creating green jobs. Skinner this month introduced the Assembly version of a bill to implement that.

“But there’s others like that,” she said, citing the “net operating loss carryback” deduction that was suspended for 2010 and 2011 but will apply to 2012’s corporate taxes.

This and other loopholes, if closed, “could be worth from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, which is significant,” she said.

And of course there’s the possibility of “split-roll” reform of Proposition 13 so that residential properties remain protected but commercial properties are re-assessed more often, she said. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, already has announced a bill to tighten state laws enacted under Prop. 13 so that it’s harder for businesses to avoid re-assessment and higher taxes when property changes hands – a half-step toward split-roll that wouldn’t require voters’ approval of a ballot measure.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Under: Assembly, gun control, marijuana, Nancy Skinner, same-sex marriage, state budget, taxes | 2 Comments »

Bay Area’s new Assembly leadership assignments

Here are your Bay Area Assembly members’ leadership assignments for the 2013-14 session, made today by Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

Speaker pro Tempore: Nora Campos, D-San Jose
Assistant Speaker pro Tempore: Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco
Rules Committee Chair: Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley

Committee and Subcommittee Chairs
Accountability and Administrative Review Committee: Jim Frazier, D-Oakley
Budget Subcommittee No. 2 (Education Finance): Susan Bonilla, D-Concord
Business, Professions & Consumer Protection Committee: Rich Gordon, D-Los Altos
Education Committee: Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo
Elections and Redistricting Committee: Paul Fong, D-Mountain View
Judiciary Committee: Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont
Public Employees, Retirement & Social Security Committee: Rob Bonta, D-Alameda
Public Safety Committee: Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco

Also, Fong was elected chairman of the Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.

Posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Jim Frazier, Kevin Mullin, Nancy Skinner, Nora Campos, Paul Fong, Rich Gordon, Rob Bonta, Susan Bonilla, Tom Ammiano | No Comments »

Gay Scout to be honored Monday by Assembly

California Assembly Speaker John Perez will recognize and honor Ryan Andresen – the East Bay Boy Scout who was denied his Eagle rank because he’s gay – at the new Assembly’s opening session Monday in Sacramento.

Andresen, now 18, of Moraga, and his parents also are scheduled to meet with supporters including Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Boy Scouts of America this summer re-affirmed its national policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from leadership. Andresen came out as gay, and though he had participated in Scouting for 12 years and satisfied all of the many requirements to attain its highest rank, Troop 212′s leaders denied him his Eagle award. The local council subsequently kicked him out of Scouting entirely.

His mother, Karen Andresen, started a petition which has been signed by almost 428,000 people urging the troop’s leaders to ignore BSA’s policy and give Andresen the award he earned.

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, John Perez, Leland Yee, Nancy Skinner | 8 Comments »

Lawmaker to show support for gay former Scout

A former Boy Scout who was denied his Eagle Scout award because he’s gay will be accompanied by an East Bay lawmaker as he delivers more than 400,000 petition signatures to the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council tomorrow in Pleasant Hill.

The issue might be near and dear to Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is the mother of a lesbian daughter.

“Ryan worked hard to earn a merit status that is being denied to him solely because he is gay – that’s unacceptable,” Skinner said today. “In speaking out, Ryan and his family have displayed incredible courage and we all need to support people who are willing to stand up and demand fairness, tolerance and equality.”

The Boy Scouts of America this summer re-affirmed its national policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from leadership. Ryan Andresen of Moraga came out as gay, and though he had participated in Scouting for 12 years and satisfied all of the many requirements to attain its highest rank, Troop 212’s leaders denied him his Eagle award. The local council subsequently kicked him out of Scouting entirely.

Andresen appeared last week on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Nancy Skinner | No Comments »