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Huff signs onto Glazer’s anti-Confederate bill

State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, has enlisted Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff’s support for a bill that would prohibit all California public schools, buildings, parks, roadways and other state-owned property from using names associated with the Confederate States of America.

Public celebration of Confederate heritage has become more controversial since its association with Dylann Roof, the man accused of last month’s murderous racial terrorism in Charleston, S.C.

Huff, R-San Dimas, announced Monday he will become a co-author of Glazer’s SB 539, the Frederick Douglass Liberty Act, which would apply to names including those of Confederate elected leaders and military generals. California currently has two schools named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee: one in San Diego and the other in Long Beach.

“It’s time for a change in thinking and how we treat history,” Huff said in a news release. “The shooting deaths of nine African-American men and women at a church in South Carolina is clear proof that racial violence is alive and well in this country. Images of the accused killer wrapping himself in the Confederate Flag show that it’s become an emblem of cruel oppression and racial hatred. It’s become offensive to segments of our society.”

“California should have no interest in enshrining the names of Confederate leaders, the secessionist movement or their ideals in our public schools, buildings, parks or other state property,” he added. “While it’s important to never forget the mistakes made in the past, we shouldn’t be in the business of paying tribute to those mistakes.”

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2015
Under: Bob Huff, California State Senate, steve glazer | 6 Comments »

Excessive water use tax of up to 300%?

Water agencies could impose a tax of up to 300 percent on excessive use, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill.

Bob WieckowskiSB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.

“California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,” Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.

“SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,” he said. “It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.”

The State Water Resources Control Board has moved to curtail water use during the state’s historic drought, calling for a 25 percent cut, yet many water agencies are far from reaching their reduction goals despite managers’ best efforts. Wieckowski’s bill would let agencies impose up to a 300 percent tax on excessive use – a level to be determined by the local agencies – with revenue going to water conservation projects for those communities.

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Under: Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, water | 4 Comments »

SD9: Sandre Swanson rolls out early endorsements

Former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson is seeking early dominance in next year’s three-way (at least) Democratic showdown for the 9th State Senate District – in part, at least, by calling in old favors.

Swanson, D-Alameda, will face former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – also a former assemblywoman – in the race to succeed state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out in 2016.

Swanson on Thursday announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, whose district includes about half of the 9th Senate District’s voters. Thurmond said Swanson’s “Swanson’s record of standing up and fighting for our children, seniors, and working families is second to none.” Swanson was one of Thurmond’s earliest endorsers – way back in June 2013 – in last year’s very crowded 15th Assembly District race, while Skinner backed Elizabeth Echols. Chan endorsed Thurmond too, but not until well after the June primary.

On Wednesday, Swanson had announced his endorsement by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who has the other half of the 9th District’s voters. “He is someone that has stood up and done the right thing for our community, time and time again, showing a track record of being a true leader,” Bonta said. Swanson in 2012 had endorsed Bonta to succeed him.

And Swanson two weeks ago reminded everyone that he has the incumbent’s stamp of approval from Hancock – although that’s old news, given that she actually endorsed him for this race way back in 2012 in exchange for his dropping a possible challenge to her.

But Swanson’s early rollout of prominent endorsements might be to compensate for a cash disadvantage.

Filings with the Secretary of State’s office show Swanson’s campaign had about $13,500 banked at the start of this year, and has raised about $8,500 in big-ticket contributions since then. He has a fish-fry fundraiser scheduled for next Friday, June 26 near his Bay Farm Island home.

By contrast, Skinner started 2015 with almost $396,000 banked, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278 to the Senate committee — so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

And according to filings with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office, Chan’s 2014 supervisorial campaign committee started this year with about $57,000 in the bank – money that’s transferrable to her 2016 senate committee. Chan’s state senate committee then held a May 27 fundraiser at a Fremont steakhouse, for which tickets ranged from $125 to $8,500; she has not yet had to file a report reflecting how much she raked in. Don’t forget, Chan – who was term-limited out of the Assembly in 2006 – has wanted this seat for a loooong time, having lost the 2008 primary to Hancock after a sometimes-ugly race.

As I’ve noted before, this will be a very different dynamic from this year’s 7th State Senate District special election in which centrist Democrat Steve Glazer defeated liberal Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Because Swanson, Chan and Skinner will be fighting over the same pool of liberal endorsements and contributions, who gets what could be a better-than-usual indicator of which way the winds are blowing.

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

New bill would revamp California’s voting system

California elections would be radically retooled, with neighborhood polling places replaced by “voting centers” serving much larger swaths and a vast expansion of early voting, under a bill announced Thursday by two lawmakers and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Padilla, along with state senators Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, say a similar system adopted by Colorado a few years ago has brought much better turnout because voters are freer to cast their ballots when and how they please.

Their SB 450 not only would let a voter cast a ballot at any voting center in his or her county, but also would require that all voters receive ballots by mail and that those voting centers be open at least eight hours a day for the 10 days before Election Day. Voters could mail in their ballot or drop it off at a vote center or a secure 24 hour ballot drop off box.

“California ranked 43rd in voter turnout nationally for the 2014 General Election. This problem cannot be ignored. Civic participation is the foundation of our democracy,” Padilla said in a news release. “SB 450 would provide citizens more option for when, where and how they vote. Providing more options will help more citizens vote, despite our often busy lives.”

Padilla and the lawmakers said that since implementing the vote center model, Colorado has been a national leader in voter turnout. For the November 2014 general election, voter turnout of eligible citizens in Colorado was 56.9 percent, compared to only 30.9 percent in California.

From 2006 to 2010, Colorado’s voter turnout was an average of 7 percentage points higher than in California; since implementation of the vote center model, voter turnout in Colorado has been an average of 20.7 percentage points higher than in California.

That’s not the only way Padilla is hoping to boost voter participation. The Assembly last week approved a bill that Padilla sponsored, AB 1461, to modernize California’s motor-voter registration system so that every eligible citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get or renew a driver’s license or state ID will be registered – potentially adding millions to the rolls. Voters would retain their right to opt out or cancel their voter registration at any time, and the bill would protect those covered by existing confidentiality policies such as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
Under: Alex Padilla, California State Senate, Secretary of State, voter registration | 6 Comments »

SD7: Steve Glazer gets his committee assignments

State Sen. Steve Glazer, the Bay Area’s newest lawmaker, will serve on the Governmental Organization, Insurance, and Public Safety committees, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon announced Thursday.

Glazer, D-Orinda, defeated Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in May 19’s 7th State Senate District special election after a bitterly fought campaign rife with independent spending on both sides. The former Orinda mayor was sworn into the Senate last Thursday, May 28.

Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, steve glazer | 3 Comments »

George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: Darrell Steinberg, education, George Miller | 1 Comment »

State Senate OKs bill to curb ‘doctor shopping’

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 46 – which would’ve raised California’s 40-year-old cap on certain medical malpractice damage awards – in November, but a lesser-known part of that measure moved forward Thursday in the Legislature.

The state Senate voted 28-11 to approve SB 482 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which would require California doctors to consult an already-existing state prescription database before prescribing addictive medicine to their patients. This was another part of Prop. 46, albeit less controversial than the medical malpractice segment. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

It’s a win for Bob Pack, the Prop. 46 proponent and Danville resident whose two children were killed by a drunk and drugged driver on Oct. 26, 2003. The motorist who hit Troy and Alana Pack, 10 and 7, had consumed alcohol, Vicodin and muscle relaxants before getting behind the wheel; Jimena Barreto in the weeks before the crash had received six Vicodin prescriptions from six different Kaiser Permanente doctors, who had failed to check into the injuries for which she claimed she needed the pills.

To prevent this kind of “doctor shopping” by abusers and addicts, SB 482 will require prescribers to check the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) before prescribing Schedule II and III drugs like OxyContin and other opioids for the first time to a patient, and annually if the treatment continues.

“Prescription drug overdose kills thousands every year, but a simple check of a patient’s medical record can give doctors the information they need to intervene with those who are at risk or may be abusing medications,” Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said in a news release. “Requiring doctors to check California’s prescription database before prescribing the strongest, most addictive drugs will save lives and help stem the overdose epidemic.”

Results are promising in other states with similar laws, and Consumer Watchdog estimates that a 75 percent drop in doctor-shopping in California – as experienced in New York – would reduce state and local spending on prescription drugs for Medi-Cal patients by up to $300 million a year.

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate | 2 Comments »

SD7: Steve Glazer has been sworn in

State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, was sworn in this morning to represent the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District, a little more than a week after winning the fractious special election over Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

Gov. Jerry Brown, to whom Glazer has been a campaign advisor, administered the oath of office in a brief ceremony at the start of today’s floor session.

photo by Alex Vassar

Glazer issued this statement:

Steve Glazer”I was a 13-year old taking the bus on Freeport Boulevard to volunteer on a campaign for Governor in 1970 because I thought elections mattered.

“Even at that age, I saw the struggle for civil rights, concerns about the war in Vietnam, and worries about nuclear proliferation. I gave my Bar Mitzvah speech expressing hope for my future contribution to a better world and a healthier environment.

“I worked a minimum-wage job during high school sweeping floors at Orange Julius and cooking at Jim Boy’s Tacos just down the street from the Capitol. I was a bus boy during college to help pay the rent. After working in the State Capitol for a few years, I took a break and spent five months picking oranges and grapefruits in the orchards of a Kibbutz in Israel. I have great appreciation for all those who grow and harvest our food. I have always felt the pull of public service as the highest calling. And so I am here today humbled and honored to serve with some old and new friends in this State Senate.

“I thank the members of the Senate for their warm welcome. I especially thank the voters of the 7th district for their trust in my ability to represent them in the Capitol of the greatest State in the Union.”

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, steve glazer | 2 Comments »

SD7: What they’re saying about Glazer’s win

My esteemed colleague Matt Artz has full coverage of the 7th State Senate District special election’s denouement, in which Oridna Mayor Steve Glazer defeated Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla by a whopping 9.2 percentage points.

From California Democratic Party Executive Director Shawnda Westly:

“Assemblymember Susan Bonilla ran as a progressive candidate who fought tuition increases for UC and CSU students and delivered balanced budgets.

“Her opponent claimed to be Democrat but ran a cynical campaign to appeal to Republican voters in a low-turnout election. We know that low-turnout elections favor Republicans. When Democratic voters show up and vote, Democrats win.

“We will not back down from races like this in the future, and Democrats will go to bat for our endorsed candidates who put the needs of working and middle class families first.”

From Independent Women’s Voice President & CEO Heather Higgins, whose group spent $8,600 to support Glazer:

“On behalf of Independent Women’s Voice, I want to congratulate Steve Glazer on his resounding victory in Senate District 7. This is a great victory for east San Francisco Bay Area families, who have made it clear that they want to move their state in a new direction.

“Steve Glazer realizes it’s time for change in Sacramento. Voters are ready for political leaders who are willing to hold government accountable, restore fiscal responsibility and stand up to powerful and moneyed interests, including the unreasonable demands of unions. It is crucial that we restore government to promoting accountability and economic freedom. The people of Senate District 7 have paved the way for that positive path forward in California.”

From Jon Youngdahl of the union-funded Working Families Opposing Glazer 2015 Committee, which spent $2.23 million to support Bonilla:

“This low-turnout special election was a special circumstance where a Democratic candidate was able to pander to Republican voters to gain an edge. Our opponent received less than 30 percent of the Democratic vote, which will not be sustainable in future elections in a Democratic-leaning district. His campaign was bankrolled by a record-shattering $5.1 million in spending; $2 million from a Los Angeles developer more and than $1.3 from a PAC funded in part from the tobacco industry plus millions more from corporate education interests that we were unable to match.”

“This election was not about the soul of the Democratic Party. It was a craven political strategy designed by corporate special interests and Republicans to clear the field of credible Republican candidates and then spend records amount of money to keep Democrats away from the polls.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, steve glazer, Susan Bonilla | 5 Comments »

SD7: Open thread

Well, ladies and gents, it’s almost over – in a few hours, polls will close in the 7th State Senate District‘s special election, and either Steve Glazer or Susan Bonilla could be declaring victory soon thereafter.

Polls close at 8 p.m., and if you haven’t voted yet, please get up off your keister right this instant and go cast your ballot. If you need to find a polling place, check online with the registrars in Contra Costa County and Alameda County.

Here’s your final chance to embarrass – er, assert yourselves with predictions and prognostications, credit and blame, or just expressions of relief that your mailboxes will no longer be stuffed chock full of ugly accusations. Post your comments below; keep it clean, don’t get personal.

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 11 Comments »