House Dems urge Brown to sign TRUST Act

Gov. Jerry Brown got a letter from 28 California House Democrats this week urging him to sign the TRUST Act, which would limit how the state’s law enforcement officers cooperate with federal immigration efforts.

The lawmakers – including all but two of the Bay Area’s House members – wrote that the bill “sets clear, uniform standards to limit burdensome detentions of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement solely on the basis of federal immigration detainer requests. The measure is designed to enhance public safety and protect civil liberties, while also promoting fiscal responsibility at the state and local levels.”

More than 100,000 people have been deported from California under federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, the lawmakers noted. “Civic and faith leaders from California and across the nation have forcefully argued that we should not deport today those who could be on the road to citizenship tomorrow.”

Furthermore, there’s evidence that S-Comm has reduced crime victims’ willingness to cooperate with police lest they themselves end up being deported, and that’s not good for public safety, the House members wrote.

Brown vetoed a version of the TRUST Act last year. But the lawmakers noted the current version – AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – “gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor detainer requests.”

“It will ensure that those who have not been convicted of any crime, have only been convicted of minor crimes, or those who are only identified by the S-Comm program because of their immigration history are not held on costly and unfair federal immigration detainers,” they wrote.

The only Bay Area House members who didn’t sign the letter were Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. A Speier staffer said she hasn’t talked to Ammiano about the bill yet, and “she wants to do that before she takes a position.” McNerney’s office didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment.

The Assembly passed AB 4 with a 44-22 vote on May 16. It now awaits a state Senate floor vote; if it passes, it’ll go to Brown’s desk.

UPDATE @ 12:25 P.M.: “I support the sentiment of the TRUST Act,” McNerney said by email. “We need change in our country in the form of comprehensive immigration reform. Our country is founded on a long and proud immigrant history, and we need to find a clear path to citizenship for the law-abiding and hard-working people who want to join the United States of America. These people deserve a defined and manageable path to citizenship.”


Leland Yee: Personal domestic attendant

Leland Yee: Child psychologist, county supervisor, school board member, state lawmaker – and now, personal domestic attendant.

Leland YeeFor a day, at least. Yee, D-San Francisco, will work Wednesday as an attendant to Ursula McGuire, 77, a board member at Senior and Disability Action. Yee’s duties will include helping McGuire with her weekly shopping, and so he’s holding an 11 a.m. news conference at a Target store in San Francisco.

He’s trying to call attention to AB 241, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, which would extend labor protections such as overtime pay and meal and rest breaks to domestic workers. Current state law’s protections for such workers are vague in places and omit some workers entirely, Yee says.

The California Domestic Workers Coalition says the state has more than 200,000 housekeepers, nannies, caregivers and others in private homes – primarily immigrant women who are their own families’ primary earners. Without them, many of those they serve would have trouble remaining in the workforce as well, the coalition contends – yet many domestic workers have been paid wages below the poverty line and remain excluded from some basic labor protections.

Opponents of Ammiano’s bill, including the California Association for Health Services at Home and various individual home-care companies and individuals, argue it would reduce their ability to provide affordable care to elderly or disabled clients and would make it very hard to provide care to those needing around-the-clock assistance, according to a state Senate staff analysis.

The Assembly in May voted 45-25 to pass AB 241; the state Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee in June passed it 3-1; and it’s scheduled to be heard next Monday, Aug. 12, by the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Surveillance: Drones, drugs & ‘Domain Awareness’

On the domestic surveillance news front today: The Assembly Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 6, on domestic use of drones.

Among those scheduled to testify are Professor YangQuan Chen of the UC Merced School of Engineering; Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean; CalFire Deputy Director Andy McMurry; TerrAvion founder and CEO Robert Morris; Professor Elizabeth Joh of the UC Davis School of Law; Linda Lye, attorney with the ACLU of Northern California; and Jennifer Lynch, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to noon, and the public can listen online.

“The Public Safety Committee has been called upon this session to evaluate some bills involving the use of drones,” committee chairman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “However, it’s such a new subject; we need to develop a base of knowledge and a context for making decisions on these important bills.”

Also, Reuters reports today that a secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit – operating in tandem with the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security – is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

And, I was on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California” on Friday night to discuss Oakland’s controversial decision to expand its public video surveillance:

It was a lively discussion, but I wish I’d had a chance to delve into other topics such as how Oakland and other cities share the intelligence they gather with a regional “fusion center” located in a federal building in San Francisco; varying policies on how long such video footage is retained; and how easy it is for cities with extensive video surveillance networks to later add in software such as facial-recognition programs. I touched on some of these topics in a story I co-authored in June.


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…
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Medical marijuana bill dies, but might rise again

A bill to have the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage Control regulate medical marijuana died on the Assembly floor Friday, but its author said he’ll work to resurrect it with help from the state Senate.

“This is not an easy bill, but it is a needed bill that has the necessary support,” Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, insisted in a news release Friday. “Unfortunately, the vote was closed prematurely and in error, preventing all the votes from being registered. I’m going to make sure my legislative colleagues stay focused on getting this to the Governor’s desk for his signature this year.”

Ammiano spokesman Carlos Alcala explained that if a bill doesn’t reach enough votes to pass right away, the author can essentially ask that it be put on hold and then brought back up later in the same day’s session. Ammiano tried that on Thursday, but his AB 473 still failed on a 32-36 vote.

“It turned out that some offices were getting misinformation suggesting that the bill would preempt cities’ right to determine where dispensaries can go, or whether they can go in at all,” Alcala said.

Assembly rules also let authors request reconsideration of a bill after it has failed, and Ammiano brought the bill back up on Friday so he and other supporters could reassure other lawmakers that cities’ rights wouldn’t be infringed. The bill would require ABC to set up a division to monitor production, transportation and sales of medical marijuana.

“I hope cities will allow dispensaries so their residents who need this product can get it safely, instead of illegally,” Ammiano said in his release. “I believe that a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement will help cities see they can authorize dispensaries. Not only will the division’s oversight ensure there is no increase in crime, more cities will begin to recognize the economic benefits that others have already seen.”

Again, the bill didn’t reach a passing threshold, but rather than asking Ammiano whether he wanted to put the vote on call for the rest of Friday’s session, the presiding officer – Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose – simply closed the vote, “at least temporarily killing the bill,” Alcala said.

“Mr. Ammiano doesn’t want to put the blame on her (Campos). I think a lot of people were confused about what was going on – there was parliamentary confusion and that led to an early demise, but he sees it more as a stumbling block than a dead end,” Alcala said, adding Ammiano’s staff knows ways to work with the state Senate to revive the bill. “He intends to still get a bill through the Legislature this year and to the governor.”


Ruling gives new drive to medical marijuana bill

A Bay Area lawmaker says today’s California Supreme Court decision that local governments can ban medical marijuana dispensaries is all the more reason to support his bill to create statewide regulation under the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

AB 473, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, was passed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee two weeks ago on a 5-2 vote, and now is pending before the Appropriations Committee. Here’s what Ammiano said today:

Tom Ammiano“As I understand it, the court ruling says Riverside County can, under current state law, prohibit dispensaries. However, it allows a big hole for the legislature to drive through. The court wrote: ‘Of course, nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach. In the meantime, however, we must conclude that Riverside‘s ordinances are not preempted by state law.’

“To me, that sounds like a call for the Legislature to act. I hope to move toward that different approach so we can ensure that patients have access to medical cannabis wherever they live.

“That’s what the voters of California wanted when they passed the Compassionate Use Act.

“In the meantime, my AB 473 can be a kind of friendly persuasion. It provides a way to make localities more open to allowing dispensaries. State regulation should reassure them (and the federal government) that dispensaries can operate safely, legally without threats to the communities where they are located.

“In fact, I think they will see that dispensaries often stabilize and contribute to their communities because of greater attention to security and increased tax revenues.”

Drug-reform groups are on aboard, given today’s court ruling.

“It is time for the state legislature to enact state-wide medical marijuana oversight and regulation that both protects patient access and eases the burden on localities to deal with this issue on their own,” Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a news release. “Localities will stop enacting bans once the state has stepped up and assumed its responsibility to regulate.”

Don Duncan, California policy director of Americans for Safe Access, said “the ball is in the legislature’s court to establish statewide regulations that both meet the needs of patients and keep communities safe.”