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Assembly Dems to take aim at CalSTRS liability

Assembly Democrats say they’re ramping up an effort to solve the long-term, crushing unfunded pension liability in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).

“The Assembly will pursue a solution to the STRS shortfall this legislative session,” Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said at a news conference today in Sacramento. “Further delay only means further cost and further exposure for the state’s general fund. We believe there must be shared responsibility for a funding solution between school districts, the state and teachers. Our end goal is a State Teachers Retirement system that is 100 percent fully funded.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee he chairs will start holding hearings next month.

“I am eager to begin this process and confident that an equitable and permanent solution can and will be found to the CalSTRS funding problem,” he said. “Ensuring the long term financial security of California’s hardworking and dedicated teachers is a goal we are hopeful we can achieve this year.”

As Jessica Calefati reported Sunday, CalSTRS’ unfunded liability is around $80.4 billion and constitutes a huge chunk of the looming costs threatening the state’s long-term fiscal health.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang, both of whom serve on CalSTRS’ governing board, immediately welcomed the lawmakers’ call to action.

Perez and Bonta “are spot-on in calling for immediate action and shared sacrifice in addressing CalSTRS’ unfunded liability gap during the coming year,” Chiang said in a news release. “If lawmakers can meet the challenge with courage and fiscal prudence today, Californians can avoid a risis tomorrow that imperils not only teachers, but taxpayers and the education system in which they have entrusted our children’s future.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the state’s teachers’ unions buy into this (or don’t) especially regarding Perez’s call for “shared responsibility” including teachers.

The CalSTRS shortfall “does not have to be paid overnight,” the California Teachers Association states in its retirement position paper. “Like a mortgage, this is an amount that will need to be closed over a 30-year period. The shortfall has to be addressed, and teachers are committed to partnering with CalSTRS in finding a long-term funding solution.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: Assembly, education, John Perez, Rob Bonta | 8 Comments »

State & federal calls for relief to Philippines

California and federal officials made urgent pleas Wednesday for more government and private aid for the Philippines, which is reeling in the aftermath of deadly Typhoon Haiyan.

In Sacramento, Assemblyman Rob Bonta – the Legislature’s first Filipino-American member – held a news conference Wednesday with Speaker John Perez and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, encouraging Californians to support relief efforts.

“California is uniquely affected by the typhoon in that our state is home to the largest Filipino American population in the entire United States,” said Bonta, D-Alameda. “There are approximately 1.5 million Filipino Americans in California; this represents 43 percent of the nation’s entire Filipino American population. Many came to the U.S. within the last decade and still have deep ties to the Philippines. I’m proud that our state leaders stand in solidarity in support of the relief efforts.”

Jaime Ascalon, deputy consul general of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, thanked Californians for their help. “It is great to see that when we are in need, California’s greatness, generosity and leadership is without hesitation.”

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, noted Assembly Democrats’ website now has a page directing people to organizations helping to assist typhoon victims. “As Californians, we have had our share of natural disasters, and we understand how horrific the cost can be — not just in dollars and cents, but in human terms. The photos and news reports have shown the devastation… And as with other recent massive disasters in Haiti and Japan, the people of California have been eager to respond.”

Steinberg said the stunning devastation in the Philippines puts Californians’ daily worries in perspective. “The California spirit is to ask what we can do to help and then to follow through. But recovery in such massive disasters will take years. What we cannot forget is that long after the news coverage wanes and the cameras are gone, the suffering and the need for help will remain for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.”

Californians who want to donate to relief efforts also can visit the American Red Cross’s Capital Region website or the CaliforniaVolunteer website.

Haiyan devastation

Meanwhile, two Bay Area House members introduced a joint resolution Wednesday urging Congress to render aid.

“The historical and cultural links between the Philippines and the United States run deeper than any flood waters,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release. “I urge my colleagues to support this resolution to show our friends, the good people of the Philippines, that – as they stood with us in World War II – the American people stand with them at this, their time of greatest need. There are so many Filipino families in my district grieving over this and they deserve to know we are doing all we can to help.”

Speier’s 14th Congressional District has the largest population of Filipino Americans of any district in the nation – almost 70,000.

Joining Speier in introducing the resolution was Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, whose 17th Congressional District is the first in the continental U.S. with an Asian-American majority, and who is chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“Alongside the 60,000 Filipino Americans in my congressional district, as well as the 3.4 million across the country, my heart goes out to the people of the Philippines and all those affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan,” Honda said in the release. “I draw upon the spirit of Bayanihan – where communities join together to uplift their neighbors – and call our global community to action and stand in support and solidarity with the relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines.”

The two lawmakers’ resolution expresses the deepest condolences from the United States to the people of the Philippines affected by the typhoon, which has claimed nearly 1,800 lives and left more than 600,000 people homeless. It also urges additional support for the victims in the recovery and rebuilding process. Despite an initial release of $25 million in U.N. emergency funds, aid workers report medicine shortages and difficulty accessing fresh water and food.

Speier’s office said the U. S. military already is helping the Philippine government with aerial reconnaissance, search and rescue, and supplies and resources. Over 150 troops are on the ground; the USS George Washington nuclear supercarrier will arrive within a few days; and two KC-130 Hercules aircraft were deployed from Japan. More assets are on short notice for deployment depending on the level of need.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working with the Philippine government and international relief groups to provide water, food and emergency shelter; it’s estimated that 2.5 million survivors will need food aid for the next six months. The U.S. government is providing $20 million in immediate aid: $10 million from USAID’s office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to provide emergency shelter and hygiene kits for 10,000 families, and $10 million from USAID’s Food for Peace program. About 55 metric tons of nutrition are expected to arrive on Thursday to feed about 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for five days; 1,000 metric tons of rice shipped from Sri Lanka is expected to arrive in early December and will feed 60,000 people for one month.

Speier will hold a telephone town hall at 6 p.m. Thursday with 100 Filipino-Americans from her district who are concerned for relatives or friends affected by the typhoon; representatives from the federal government and the Red Cross will be on the call, too. “Nothing can ease the pain of those who have lost loved ones or are uncertain if their loved ones are alive, but we will not spare any efforts to help the survivors rebuild their lives,” Speier said.

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jackie Speier, John Perez, Mike Honda, Rob Bonta, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Bonta seeks aid for typhoon-ravaged Philippines

As authorities continue to try to get a grip on the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, Assemblyman Rob Bonta – the first Filipino-American to be elected to the California Legislature – issued this statement and plea for aid Sunday:

Rob Bonta“I send my deepest sympathies to the people of the Philippines who this weekend experienced the tragic destruction of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful storm ever recorded in human history. Authorities estimate that approximately 10,000 lives have been lost, and the devastating impact to the entire country is unprecedented. As my Filipino brothers and sisters try to survive, locate their loved ones, and heal after this tragedy, I am encouraged that our country and the rest of the world are moved with empathy, concern, and a desire to help, and are turning those feelings into tremendous relief efforts. I urge everyone to join those efforts. The International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC) Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is supporting the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) in relief efforts and could use our support. Please visit http://www.redcross.org.ph/donate and contribute what you can to help address this enormous human tragedy.”

For those who find it easier to donate via the American Red Cross, click here.

UPDATE @ 10:20 A.M.: Here’s another way to help. The Registered Nurse Response Network – a project of National Nurses United, of which the Oakland-based California Nurses Association is part – already has signed up 370 registered nurses as volunteers to aid with Haiyan relief efforts and is seeking more, as well as donations to help send those nurses to the Philippines. Nurses who want to volunteer should click here; to donate to the “Send A Nurse” fund, click here.

Posted on Monday, November 11th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Rob Bonta | No Comments »

Not much hubbub over veto of Oakland gun bill

Those who wanted Oakland to be able to pass its own, stricter gun laws seemed unwilling to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown for his veto Monday.

AB 180 would’ve let Oakland establish its own ordinances – stricter than state law – on registration or licensing of firearms.

“The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearms regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty,” Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, wrote in his veto message issued Friday. “I am mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence, but this is not the right solution.”

Rob BontaThe bill’s author – Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – seemed to take it in stride.

“I will continue to fight for the people of Oakland to be free from the gun violence which plagues our community,” said Bonta, who as chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay has held field hearings on the issue. “In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that he was ‘mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence. I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor as to how the state can continue to assist Oakland in the future.”

Oakland City Council in May unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by council members Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as the city attorney’s office – supporting AB 180.

“Though we’re certainly disappointed that AB 180 was vetoed, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate the victories of our advocacy,” Kaplan spokesman Jason Overman said Monday. “Governor Brown signed an important bill authored by Assemblymember Skinner to create new common-sense gun laws that seek to reduce gun violence, both in Oakland and across California.”

The Skinner bill Overman referred to is AB 48, which makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, lend, buy or receive any conversion kit that can convert a legal ammunition-feeding device into an illegal large-capacity magazine. The bill also makes it a crime to buy or receive a large-capacity magazine; manufacturing or selling such magazines already has been illegal in California for more than a decade.

Posted on Monday, October 14th, 2013
Under: Assembly, gun control, Jerry Brown, Oakland City Council, Rebecca Kaplan, Rob Bonta | 9 Comments »

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
  • Posted on Monday, September 9th, 2013
    Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta | 8 Comments »

    Gun-control bills tailored for SF, Oakland advance

    The Legislature on Friday sent two city-specific gun control measures – both for the Bay Area – to Gov. Jerry Brown.

    The state Senate passed AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which would give Oakland special permission to pass and enforce gun registration and licensing ordinances that are stricter than state law.

    Bonta on Friday noted FBI statistics show Oakland last year had California’s highest violent-crime level, and the nation’s third highest. The city had more than 4,000 firearm-related crimes and 131 homicides in 2012; it has had 65 deaths by firearm so far in 2013.

    “No one can deny that Oakland is suffering,” he said in a news release, adding his bill “is a smart and sensible bill that empowers Oakland and provides local control in addressing gun violence—where it is needed most.”

    Bonta was appointed chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay this year, and he and fellow committee member Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will hold a news conference Monday morning in Oakland to urge Brown to sign this and other bills.

    Meanwhile, the Assembly on Friday passed SB 475 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which would require permission from the San Francisco and San Mateo County boards of supervisors in order for gun shows to be held at the Cow Palace – in effect, banning any future gun shows there.

    “For years, residents, community organizations and elected leaders from the neighborhoods surrounding the Cow Palace have asked to have a voice in the decision to hold gun shows in their backyards, but they have been ignored,” Leno said in a news release Friday. “Meanwhile, firearms related crimes persist in these communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent families who reside in the surrounding area. This proposal gives local communities a say in determining whether they want gun shows in their neighborhoods, especially when they live in daily fear of gun violence.”

    The Cow Palace straddles the county line, and is operated by the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions. Leno twice before has authored bills to impose flat-out bans on gun and ammunition sales at the Cow Palace: AB 2948 of 2008 failed on the Senate floor, and SB 585 of 2009 was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2013
    Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Mark Leno, Oakland, Rob Bonta, Uncategorized | 53 Comments »

    New law allows non-citizen election workers

    County elections officials can use non-citizens as polling-place workers in order to translate for voters who don’t speak English, under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

    Rob BontaAssemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said his AB 817 will help counties meet federal and state law requiring language assistance at polling sites by drawing upon California’s pool of lawful permanent residents. Bonta issued a news release saying Brown “clearly understands the challenges faced by the increasingly diverse voters in our state related to civic engagement and participation.”

    Eugene Lee, voting rights project director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles – which was among the bill’s sponsors – said his group looks forward to working with elections officials to implement the law next year. “The bill will improve opportunities for voters who face language barriers to receive the assistance they need to fully participate in our democracy.”

    The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund also was among the bill’s sponsors, and executive director Arturo Vargas said it also will “provide lawful permanent residents a new opportunity to become more civically engaged.”

    The bill emulates rules already in place that allow elections officials to appoint up to five high-school students per precinct as poll workers before they’re old enough to vote. The Assembly approved AB 817 on a 49-23 vote in May; the state Senate approved it 22-10 in July; and the Assembly concurred in the Senate’s amendments with a 49-25 vote earlier this month.

    Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
    Under: Assembly, Rob Bonta | 2 Comments »

    Politicians take different tones on BART strike

    It’s always interesting to compare the tones that various politicians take when weighing in on labor issues.

    In this case, of course, it’s the still-threatened Bay Area Rapid Transit strike. California U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein today wrote to BART management and union leaders to urge a resolution to the standoff:

    “We write to strongly encourage all parties involved in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) contract negotiations to use the seven-day ‘cooling off period’ declared by Governor Brown to end the labor dispute.

    “The Bay Area relies on a safe, affordable, and reliable public transportation system, and any BART service disruption has significant impacts on our region’s economy and the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the system. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the four-day BART service disruption in July cost the Bay Area at least $73 million in lost productivity.

    “We urge you to resume negotiations in good faith, end the dispute, and work together to avoid any further disruptions to BART service.”

    That seems pretty even-handed. But yesterday, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Oakland; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, issued a statement after the inquiry board appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to review the dispute held a public hearing in Oakland:

    “We’re pleased today’s meeting redirected focus on the ultimate goal of finalizing a fair contract that continues to ensure a safe, dependable public transit system. The panel asked important questions, obtaining documents and testimony that revealed the true financial picture of BART, the actual wages workers earn, and the significant safety issues confronted by employees every day.

    “Testimony revealed inconsistencies in information BART management made public. For example, the figure given for average BART worker pay has been $79,500. But that figure includes management pay. BART’s own documents given to the panel show train operators earn less than $63,000 and station agents earn $64,000 on average. In addition, we learned that workers have offered to significantly increase contributions to pensions and employee medical.

    “These are the type of facts that need to be the focus at the bargaining table. We believe that BART riders deserve good faith negotiations to resume so that rail service can continue uninterrupted.”

    No question where they stand, huh?

    Posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013
    Under: Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Bill Quirk, Dianne Feinstein, Labor politics, Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta, Transportation, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

    Bonta helps raise money for slain child’s funeral

    Here’s a role no lawmaker should ever have to play: helping to raise funds to cover the funeral expenses of a murdered child from his district.

    Alaysha Carradine   (Family photo)Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s campaign sent out an e-mail this morning soliciting donations to help cover the funeral and burial costs for Alaysha Carradine, 8, who was killed last week during a sleepover at a friend’s home when someone sprayed the friend’s Oakland apartment with gunfire. Two other children were wounded.

    “Now, a family which should have been buying clothes and supplies for third-grade is faced with funeral and burial expenses they cannot afford,” said the e-mail from Bonta, D-Oakland.

    Bonta chairs the Assembly’s Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay, which held its first hearing May 17 in Oakland.

    Bonta’s e-mail says he and other East Bay figures including Oakland City Council members Rebecca Kaplan, Libby Schaaf and Lynette McElhaney as well as Port of Oakland Commissioner (and mayoral candidate) Bryan Parker have joined with the Khadafy Foundation for Non-Violence to raise the funds online.

    All contributions are tax-deductible and any funds raised over the target amount will be donated to the foundation and used to help defray burial expenses for other children who might become victims of gun violence.

    Posted on Friday, July 26th, 2013
    Under: Assembly, Rob Bonta, Uncategorized | 38 Comments »

    Politicians react to same-sex marriage rulings

    EVERYBODY has something to say about today’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage. Here’s the latest from your Bay Area elected officials.

    From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    “As author of the bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision.

    “Today’s ruling clearly establishes that the 14 senators who opposed DOMA in 1996 were correct. It also states that one class of legally married individuals cannot be denied rights under federal law accorded to all other married couples. Doing so denies ‘equal protection’ under the Constitution. This is an important and significant decision.

    “Because of inequities in the administration of more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA, it is still necessary to introduce legislation to repeal DOMA and strike this law once and for all. I will introduce that legislation today with 39 cosponsors in the Senate.

    “As a Californian, I am thrilled by the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8. The court’s ruling on technical grounds leaves in place former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

    “I believe this decision means marriage equality will finally be restored in California.”

    From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

    “Today my spirits are soaring because the Supreme Court reaffirmed the promise of America by rejecting two blatantly unconstitutional measures that discriminated against millions of our families.
    “I was proud to have voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and it is so heartening to see that the federal government will now treat all marriages equally.

    “Because of the Court’s ruling on Proposition 8, millions of Californians will be able to marry the person they love – with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.”

    From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

    “Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice. The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California. The highest court in the land reaffirmed the promise inscribed into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’

    “Soon, the federal government will no longer discriminate against any family legally married in the United States. California will join 12 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing the fundamental rights of all families. Our country will move one step closer to securing equal protection for all of our citizens.

    “Nearly 44 years to the day after the Stonewall Riots turned the nation’s attention to discrimination against LGBT Americans, the fight for equal rights took a giant step forward. Yet even with today’s victory at the Supreme Court, the struggle for marriage equality is not over. Whether in the courts or in state legislatures, we will not rest until men and women in every state are granted equal rights. We will keep working to ensure that justice is done for every American, no matter who they love.”

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

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
    Under: Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, John Garamendi, Leland Yee, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Skinner, Nora Campos, Paul Fong, Rich Gordon, Rob Bonta, Tom Ammiano, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 40 Comments »