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Legal scandals lead Dems to cancel golf fundraiser

Chalk up one immediate victim of the ethical and legal scandals sullying the state Senate: Golf.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, who’ll succeed Steinberg in the top spot at the end of this year, issued a joint statement Tuesday announcing they’ve cancelled this weekend’s Pro Tem Cup – the annual Democratic party fundraiser at which donors give tens of thousands of dollars to join legislative leaders on the links at Torrey Pines in La Jolla – “in light of the very recent and extraordinary breaches of the public trust by three individuals.”

C’mon, guys, SAY THE NAMES! Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, convicted of voter fraud and perjury; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, indicted on bribery charges; and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, charged last week with trading favors for money and conspiring to traffic arms.

So, no golf!

“In its place, we intend to spend this weekend in our districts having an open and public conversation with our constituents about the work ahead for this Legislature and for this state,” Steinberg and de Leon said in their joint statement. “It’s important that our constituents understand that, despite the appalling acts of a few individuals who – on their own – put self-interest ahead of the public interest, the Senators who are here are here to serve, to do the hard, unglamorous work of fixing tough public-policy problems, and – most important – to do it the right way.”

And that means putting the putters away. Steinberg and de Leon said the modern campaign system makes fundraising “an occupational necessity, but Senate Democrats have always prided themselves on doing it ethically, appropriately, and in full adherence to every rule and regulation governing public disclosure.

“The Pro Tem Cup has long been a successful, signature example of this,” they said. “But these are unprecedented times and they demand that we take a step back and take stock of how we all do the people’s business and balance it against the demands of running for office.”

The lawmakers said Senate leadership in coming weeks will conduct a “rigorous review of existing campaign finance laws and our own internal fundraising practices – and make recommendations on where we can improve as a caucus and a state, with a focus on when, where and how we raise campaign dollars and how we increase public transparency.” They’ll also schedule a public hearing to discuss campaign finance “the constitutional limits on reform.”

“Make no mistake: Senate Democrats fully intend to strengthen our productive, progressive majority this election year and have no intention of unilaterally disarming in terms of campaign resources,” Steinberg and de Leon said. “But this is time for a reality check. And, while the Legislature as a whole cannot be held responsible for the bad acts of three individual members, we do bear a high and profound responsibility to do all we can to repair the excruciating breach of public confidence they left behind.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Under: California State Senate, campaign finance, Darrell Steinberg, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Leland Yee | 9 Comments »

Darrell Steinberg urges Ron Calderon to resign

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on Friday urged state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, to resign, hours after federal prosecutors announced he and his brother are charged with 24 counts involving bribery, kickbacks and cover-ups.

Here’s the full statement from Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“I make this statement with the full support of my caucus.

“I value and respect the legal principle that a criminal defendant is innocent unless proven guilty. I also know that the Senate has an ethics code that governs the behavior of elected officials, regardless of whether they are convicted or not. Senator Calderon is entitled to his full due process in all venues. It may be difficult, if not impossible, for the Senate to conduct a full investigation of the issues contained in the indictment because the U.S. Attorney has asked us specifically not to call any witnesses who are part of their investigation.

“Given the seriousness of charges that strike at the very heart of what it means to be a public official, Senator Calderon’s continued service is a cloud over all the important work that we must get done this year. It is in the best interests of the people and the Senate if he resigns. I call on him to do so. The Senate Rules committee has already stripped him of his committee chairmanship and his committee assignments.

“At a minimum, he should take a complete leave of absence until the criminal proceedings are finished. If he does not resign, or take that leave of absence voluntarily, the Senate will seek to suspend him.”

This is quite a departure from Steinberg’s refusal just a few weeks ago to urge state Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood – convicted of eight felonies related to not living in the district he represents – to resign his seat. One could argue that the charges against Calderon are significantly more serious; one also could argue that Calderon has not yet been convicted of anything, while Wright has.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg | 6 Comments »

Court: Chiang shouldn’t have held lawmakers’ pay

State Controller John Chiang overstepped his legal authority in 2011 by deciding to dock lawmakers’ paychecks because he deemed the budget they had passed to be unbalanced, a state appellate court ruled Friday.

“(W)here the Legislature is the entity acting indisputably within its fundamental constitutional jurisdiction to enact what it designates as a balanced budget, the Controller does not have audit authority to determine whether the budget bill is in fact balanced,” Court of Appeal Associate Justice M. Kathleen Butz wrote; associate justices Cole Blease and William Murray Jr. concurred in this affirmation of a lower court’s 2012 decision.

Proposition 25 of 2010, approved by 55 percent of voters, lets the Legislature approve budges on a simple-majority vote, but it also says lawmakers must forfeit their pay and per diems for each day the state is past its constitutional deadline without a budget.

Chiang announced in June 2011 that his office’s review of the budget, which had been passed on the day it was due, “found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished. The numbers simply did not add up, and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to the governor.” He ended up withholding about $583,000 from the lawmakers.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, sued on principle, without seeking recovery of that back pay.

Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, John Chiang, John Perez, state budget | 2 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 »

Steinberg wants Calderon 86ed from committees

State Sen. Ron Calderon – embroiled in an FBI corruption probe – should be removed from all his committee assignments, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg recommended Wednesday.

“I am asking the Senate Rules Committee to temporarily remove Senator Ron Calderon as chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, pending resolution of the United States Attorney’s investigation into his conduct,” Steinberg, D-Sacarmento, said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. “I will also ask the Committee to temporarily remove Senator Calderon from all other committee assignments, pending the same investigation.”

“I do not make this request lightly, nor do I judge the truth of the publicly reported allegations,” Steinberg continued. “I am concerned, however, about keeping Senator Calderon in his positions. The allegations, though yet unproven, are serious enough to cloud any interactions the Senator might have with colleagues, advocates, and the public on issues within his jurisdiction.”

The claim that an elected official took money and favors for official acts “is perhaps the most serious breach of the public trust and the institution in which they serve,” Steinberg said. “In other highly sensitive public situations that do not involve proven allegations of misconduct, public employers take similar actions. The public and the Senate deserve no less protection in the current situation.”

Calderon, D-Montebello, chairs the Senate Insurance Committee and sits on the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, the Environmental Quality Committee, the Governmental Organization Committee, and the Select Committee on Procurement. Steinberg also wants to eliminate the Select Committee on California’s Film and Television Industry, which Calderon chairs but which has not convened since its creation earlier this year.

The Rules Committee will consider Steinberg’s recommendations at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Room 113 of the State Capitol.

Posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg | 1 Comment »

New laws bar threats against illegal immigrants

The TRUST Act wasn’t the only immigration-related bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law this weekend: Others could cost businesses their business licenses and hefty fines if they threaten workers based on their immigration status.

SB 666 by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg makes it illegal to report or threaten to report workers’ immigration or citizenship status, or that of their family, in retaliation of an employee filing a complaint of unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment, or otherwise attempting to exercise his or her rights in the workplace.

Employers and businesses found violating this new law could be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 per incident, and with business license suspension or revocation under certain conditions. Steinberg, D-Sacramento, issued a statement calling the new law “another tremendous victory for civil rights.”

“Workers deserve fairness and safe conditions when they go to their jobs every day without the fear of retaliation when they stand up for their rights. Our labor laws are supposed to protect all California workers, regardless of their immigration status,” he said. “When employers use threats and intimidation like this, the voice of workers is silenced and law-abiding businesses face unfair competition. This law will ensure justice.”

Steinberg said there’ve been many cases in which employers ignore immigration status when hiring, but then use threats of deportation when workers stand up for themselves. This new law prohibits that and clarifies that an employer can’t retaliate against an employee who makes a written or oral complaint regarding unpaid wages, adding a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for violations of California Labor Code Section 98.6.

“There are people every day who come into our office with valid claims (and) with valid complaints,” Michael Marsh, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, said in Steinberg’s news release. “Their rights have been violated and yet they’re afraid … Even when they’re told that they have these protections they don’t want to pursue these claims because they fear deportation. This is a persistent problem and I think it really needs to be addressed.”

In a similar vein, Brown also signed into law AB 524 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, which includes threats to report a person’s immigration status in the definition of extortion.

A recent National Employment Law Project report found labor violations and retaliation have become widespread in California’s low-wage labor market. Jose Mejia, director of the California State Council of Laborers, called the bill “a major step toward improving job quality in the low-wage jobs that fuel our state’s economy and to remove the ability of employers to use immigrant status for retaliation or other unlawful purposes.”

Mullin, D-San Mateo, noted “California is home to over one quarter of the immigrants who live in the United States. We have a civic obligation to ensure our laws adequately protect all people from exploitation and workplace retaliation based on immigration status.”

Brown also on Saturday signed:

    AB 35 by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina – Provides that immigration consultants, attorneys, notaries public, and organizations accredited by the United States Board of Immigration Appeals are the only individuals authorized to charge a fee for providing services associated with filing an application under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s deferred action program.
    AB 1024 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego – Allows applicants, who are not lawfully present in the United States, to be admitted as an attorney at law.
    AB 1159 by Gonzalez – Imposes various restrictions and obligations on persons who offer services related to comprehensive immigration reform.
    SB 141 by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana – Requires that the California Community Colleges and the California State University, and requests that the University of California, exempt a United States citizen who resides in a foreign country, and is in their first year as a matriculated student, from nonresident tuition if the student demonstrates financial need, has a parent or guardian who was deported or voluntarily departed from the U. S., lived in California immediately before moving abroad, and attended a secondary school in California for at least three years.
    SB 150 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens – Authorizes a community college district to exempt pupils attending community colleges as a special part-time student from paying nonresident tuition.

Posted on Monday, October 7th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Immigration, Jerry Brown, Kevin Mullin | 19 Comments »

Medical-marijuana bill revived via gut-and-amend

A marijuana-regulation bill that was defeated on the Assembly floor in May has returned, revived through a gut-and-amend tactic in the final week of the Legislature’s session.

AB 604 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, which used to deal with eyewitness identifications in criminal investigations, is now the vehicle for Ammiano’s Medical Cannabis Regulation and Control Act, formerly AB 473. It’s coauthored by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

The bill would require the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to set up a division to monitor production, transportation and sales of medical marijuana, and would grandfather in medical marijuana businesses already operating legally under city or county laws.

“Not only are patients in California barraged by virtually daily closures of dispensaries due to aggressive attacks by the Justice Department, but the patchwork system of local bans and regulations in the state leaves hundreds of thousands of patients without safe access to medical marijuana,” said Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access. “It’s time for state legislators to roll up their sleeves and finish the job of implementing California’s medical marijuana law.”

Duncan’s group would prefer that medical marijuana be regulated by the Department of Public Health, but said it’s more important to put some sort of state regulatory structure in place so that cities and counties can’t keep imposing bans. ASA and the Sacramento chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are staging a lobbying blitz today to build support for the legislation.

California representatives of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition support the bill, too.

“While law enforcement special interest groups have derailed bills like this before, this is something police on the ground want,” retired lieutenant commander Diane Goldstein said in a news release. “Just like anyone else, they try to do their jobs as professionally and effectively as possible. But right now, the lack of clear regulations on the medical marijuana industry means they can’t do that because they don’t know what’s legal and what isn’t.”

Posted on Monday, September 9th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, marijuana, Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano | 2 Comments »

Steinberg’s prison plan seeks 3-year extension

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s alternative to Gov. Jerry Brown’s state-prison plan involves relies on asking for three more years to solve the overcrowding problem.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, unveiled Senate Democrats’ plan this morning in a letter to Brown and to the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuits that led a three-judge panel to order California to further reduce its inmate population by this year’s end.

Darrell Steinberg“The federal courts have put us in the untenable position of either releasing thousands of inmates from our prisons early, or putting our prison capacity on steroids by renting new prison beds at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars for years to come,” Steinberg said today. “Neither option makes any sense. We can do far better, and would be wrong to give up now.”

Steinberg said his plan would “achieve a durable solution” to prison overcrowding by reducing crime through performance-based grant programs. These grants would incentivize counties to expand proven rehabilitation, drug and mental health treatment programs for criminal offenders. This is modeled after a 2009 effort which, in just two years, reduced new prison admissions by more than 9,500, with $536 million in state savings over three years.

Also, the state would create an Advisory Commission on Public Safety to analyze and recommend changes in California’s sentencing laws.

But that won’t do the trick by Dec. 31, so Steinberg is asking the plaintiffs to agree to extend the deadline by three years. He wants all parties to the lawsuit to agree to let an independent state panel evaluate and determine proper population levels for California’s prisons based on standards and practices employed by correctional administrators across the country.

The state is under a federal court’s order to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity by the end of this year. California already has reduced its prison population by more than 40,000 since 2006 – more than half of which was via 2011’s “realignment,” which spun some offenders out to county jails instead of state prisons.

The one thing on which all the leaders in Sacramento agree is that granting early release to thousands of inmates in order to meet the deadline isn’t an option. Brown, joined by Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, yesterday unveiled a plan that calls for quickly leasing in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, including county jails, and contracting with community corrections facilities; suspending the closure of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco; and spending up to $315 million to make it all happen.

“Governor Brown has a well-earned reputation as a good steward of the public purse; throwing this expensive Band-Aid on a hemorrhage threatens to undermine our hard work,” Steinberg said Wednesday. “We cannot build or rent our way out of overcrowded prisons.”

UPDATE @ 10:37 A.M.: The plaintiffs say they might be willing to grant the extension Steinberg seeks. Here’s the statement they just released:

“We are ready and willing to sit down with the Governor and his counsel to discuss ways to end federal court oversight. Senator Steinberg’s substantive proposals are acceptable to us and we are open to an extension of the date for compliance with the three judge court’s order if an agreement produces an effective and sustainable approach that will resolve the chronic overcrowding problem in the state’s prisons. The actual amount of time must be arrived at through these discussions.

“We strongly support Senator Steinberg’s proposal to provide local governments with resources to reduce and prevent crime by treating offenders in the community, and to establish a public safety commission. That commission will be charged with making recommendations based on solid evidence to reduce recidivism by holding individuals accountable in the most effective and least costly way. His solution demonstrates that the state can achieve a real, sustainable approach to safely reducing and managing the inmate population without further federal intervention and wasteful spending on more prisons.

“The Governor’s plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the prison system for low risk prisoners will not make the public any safer. Without reform of the sentencing laws California’s prison population will continue to grow, making it only a matter of time before the prisons will once again exceed the population cap and prompt a renewed Court order requiring further reductions in the prison population.”

UPDATE @ 12:00 P.M.: Brown says it wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.

“It would not be responsible to turn over California’s criminal justice policy to inmate lawyers who are not accountable to the people,” the governor said in a statement issued a few moments ago. “My plan avoids early releases of thousands of prisoners and lays the foundation for longer-term changes, and that’s why local officials and law enforcement support it.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, State Prisons | 1 Comment »

Brown, some lawmakers unveil state prison plan

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle – most of them, anyway – rolled out a plan today to satisfy a federal court order to limit the state’s prison population while avoiding the early release of thousands of prisoners.

In the short term, the plan is: Lock ‘em up somewhere else.

The plan unveiled by Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway calls for quickly leasing in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, including county jails, and contracting with community corrections facilities; suspending the closure of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco; and spending up to $315 million to make it all happen.

“This legislation will protect public safety and give us time to work with public officials and interested parties to make thoughtful changes in the overall criminal justice system,” Brown said in a news release.

But while state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he agrees with preventing any early inmate releases, he said Brown’s plan has “no promise and no hope.”

“As the population of California grows, it’s only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow and the Court demands mass releases again,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in his own news release. “For every 10 prisoners finishing their sentences, nearly seven of them will commit another crime after release and end up back behind bars.”

“More money for more prison cells alone is not a durable solution; it is not a fiscally responsible solution; and it is not a safe solution,” he said, announcing he’ll unveil Senate Democrats’ alternative plan at 10 a.m. Wednesday. “We must invest in a durable criminal justice strategy, which reduces both crime and prison overcrowding.”

The state is under a federal court’s order to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity by the end of this year. California already has reduced its prison population by more than 40,000 since 2006 – more than half of which was via 2011’s “realignment,” which spun some offenders out to county jails instead of state prisons.

Brown, Perez, Huff and Conway said they’re also seeking long-term solutions.

“This process will leave no stone unturned as we investigate what can work to make improvements,” Perez, D-Los Angeles, said in the news release. “We will consider every option from updating sentencing laws; to giving local governments and law enforcement the necessary tools. And certainly we will examine broader policy questions that prevent crime, like improving education from preschool to higher education and on programs that break the cycle of poverty.”

Huff, R-Brea, said Senate Republicans will support the plan “because we believe the safety of California families should be our first and foremost priority” and allowing the early release of so many inmates “is simply unacceptable.”

Conway, R-Visalia, said today’s plan incorporates some ideas that Republican lawmakers had put forward. “We will continue to work with the Governor and the Speaker to find sustainable solutions that will honor the court’s demands, while keeping Californians safe.”

Activists who’d like to see the prison population reduced, not just moved around, are disappointed.

“Gov. Brown has turned his back on his own earlier proposals to the court, which detailed smart, sustainable alternatives for California to reach the court order,” said Courage Campaign executive chairman Dr. Paul Song. “Instead, the Governor is choosing to throw hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars down the black hole that is California’s broken prison system. This wasteful spending will prevent the restoration of funding to education and other vital services, which continue to suffer from devastating cuts made during the Great Recession. Funding those services would do more to keep Californians safe than further expansion of the prison-industrial complex.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Bob Huff, California State Senate, Connie Conway, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, John Perez, State Prisons | 6 Comments »

Senators will urge pension funds to shun Russia

In a move that could have a lot more impact than a vodka boycott, state Senate Democrats intend to introduce a resolution urging California’s massive public pension funds not to invest future resources in Russia.

Mark Leno“The anti-gay laws recently passed in Russia are an unconscionable affront to LGBT people across the world, not just those who live in that country,” state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “Californians cannot silently sit back and tacitly condone these practices by continuing to invest in and support Russian enterprises. CalPERS and CalSTRS are well placed to use their economic clout to make a strong statement that it’s unacceptable to persecute and discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Leno – joined by sate Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento; Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach; and bill sponsor Equality California – will offer a resolution – urging the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System to cease making direct future investments in Russia, and to encourage companies in which employee retirement funds are invested and that are doing business in Russia not to enable human rights violations.

It also will call on the International Olympic Committee to seek a written guarantee from the Russian government that athletes and other visitors to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will not be prosecuted under the anti-gay laws; urges NBC Universal to discuss the negative impact of these laws on-air during its broadcast of the games; and calls upon the president, Congress, and the State Department to increase efforts to encourage the decriminalization of homosexuality in countries around the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted a new law June 30 that threatens arrest, detainment and imprisonment for up to 15 days for individuals or groups found to be publicly supportive of LGBT equality. Punishable offenses could include public acknowledgment of one’s orientation, displays of affection between same-sex partners, statements in support of LGBT rights, and the use of symbols such as rainbows that are attributed to the LGBT community. Hate crimes and public persecution of gays have increased in the months following the enactment of these extreme measures.

“What’s happening in Russia is an outrageous violation of basic human rights, and history has taught us time and time again what can happen when we remain silent in the face of such persecution,” Steinberg said in the news release. “It’s imperative that we stand strong with our LGBT brothers and sisters by clearly condemning these homophobic laws and policies. Through the world stage of next year’s Winter Olympics and through adherence to socially responsible investment practices, we can help put an end to this aggressive discrimination.

Posted on Friday, August 9th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Mark Leno | 2 Comments »