Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Darrell Steinberg' Category

State Senate OKs open-government amendment

The state Senate passed an amendment Wednesday that would enshrine the California Public Records Act in the state constitution while making local governments foot their own bills, winning praise from the open-government advocates who were pillorying the same lawmakers just a few weeks ago.

SCA 3 by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and state Sen. Mark Leno specifies that all local government agencies are required to comply with the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act, and removes the mandate that the state reimburse local entities for the costs of following these laws. It will be heard next in Assembly policy committees, and if it’s approved by the required two-thirds vote of the Legislature, it would appear on the June 2014 ballot.

“The Senate vote today moves us one step closer to strengthening the state’s most critical transparency laws by putting them in the California Constitution,” Leno, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “This constitutional amendment permanently protects the right of Californians to inspect public records and attend public meetings. It also clarifies the role of local governments to make their activities open and accessible without expectation of reimbursement from the state.”

Steinberg said the amendment doesn’t preclude strengthening these laws in the future. “Rather, it makes crystal clear that local agencies must comply with those laws and pay the costs to do so, which is important both for our democratic process and the protection of state taxpayers.”

California Newspaper Publishers Association general counsel Jim Ewert said his organization applauds Leno and Steinberg for this effort “which, if approved by voters, will strengthen and protect the public’s fundamental right to access government agency meetings and records in order to meaningfully participate in the decision making process. SCA 3 will ultimately and emphatically resolve the reimbursable mandate issue that has threatened the public’s right to know about local government activities for over 20 years.”

First Amendment Coalition executive director Peter Scheer agreed the amendment “removes any lingering doubt about local governments’ obligation to comply fully with the Public Records Act and Brown Act” and “hardwires the public’s ‘right to know’ to the state constitution.”

These and other organizations were calling for Steinberg’s and Leno’s heads a few weeks ago after they advanced a budget trailer bill that would’ve removed the state’s reimbursements for compliance with the Brown Act and CPRA and let local agencies choose whether or not to comply with key provisions of those laws.

When a public outcry ensued, Leno and Steinberg proposed this amendment but still wanted to withdraw the state reimbursements for the year until voters could approve it. Further pressure compelled the lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to agree to continue the reimbursements for the next fiscal year.

Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Mark Leno | 2 Comments »

Did Steinberg bawl out Yee in public-records flap?

Did state Senate Democratic leaders call Sen. Leland Yee on the carpet behind closed doors last week after Yee spoke out against their proposal to water down the California Public Records Act?

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he didn’t dress down Yee; Yee won’t say. But two reliable sources – a good-government policy advocate I talked with last week at Netroots Nation, and a State Capitol expert I talked with today – say that’s exactly what happened.

Darrell SteinbergThey said Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was none too pleased that Yee, D-San Francisco, spoke with me on Friday, June 14 as Thomas Peele and I prepared an article about the budget trailer bills that would’ve let local governments opt out of key parts of the public-records law.

Bad blood between Steinberg and Yee reportedly dates back to their Assembly days, as both jockeyed for leadership positions and influence. In the Senate, Steinberg has stripped Yee’s name from a few bills in recent years – including a 2009 bill to restore funding for domestic violence shelters and a 2010 bill providing relief after the San Bruno explosion – and stripped Yee of his title as assistant pro tem in 2010, in part because Yee opposed the Dems’ budget deal.

So Yee’s public criticism of Steinberg, Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno and other Democrats who’d voted to water down the Public Records Act shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Steinberg and other Dems reportedly were miffed nonetheless that Yee had hung them out to dry in public.

“God forbid you vote your conscience and then tell people why,” said the State Capitol expert I talked with today, noting that it would’ve been foolish for anyone to think Yee – a longtime government-transparency activist who’s running for Secretary of State next year – would either vote for the bill or remain silent about it afterward if called by a reporter.

Leland YeeYee wouldn’t discuss it today. “We don’t have any further comment on that matter,” spokesman Dan Lieberman said. “We’re just glad the CPRA is being protected.”

Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund said no caucus meeting was convened for the purpose of dressing down Yee; when I asked whether Yee was dressed down during a caucus meeting that was convened for some other purpose, he replied with a simple, “No.”

“Senate Democrats all strongly support the Public Records Act. That support has never waned,” Hedlund said. “What we now have is a fair compromise that offers a short-term solution, while allowing the people of California to constitutionally enshrine CPRA protections and to ensure that state taxpayers don’t pay for what local governments should be doing on their own.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Democratic politics, Leland Yee | 4 Comments »

Steinberg: Guns, mental health, public records

California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is about to take the stage here at Netroots Nation in San Jose for a panel discussion on “Not Another Newtown: Building a Movement to Prevent Gun Violence,” but I caught up with him a few minutes ago.

Darrell Steinberg“We want to create momentum here in California and continue to push for a national solution to the gun violence problem,” said Steinberg, D-Sacramento. “We not only want to push through our legislation in California, which I’m confident we’ll be able to, but also to convey that what we’re doing is cutting edge.”

Steinberg is shepherding a package of bills that among many other things would ban all semi-automatic rifles that take detachable magazines – a step well beyond what any other state has taken.

“Rather than clamping down on the newest loophole that they find, we’re making it as clear as can be,” he said. “We need to eliminate not only the current loopholes but also anything else they might think of next.”

Discussing this in front of the liberal online activists of Netroots Nation is “an opportunity to continue to build the extensive public support for reasonable gun regulation,” Steinberg said.

He said he also would like to talk about mental illness, although he’s not willing to equate this with gun control because the vast majority of mentally ill people never commit any violent crimes. Here again, he said, California is far ahead of the curve; he noted that the biggest non-education budget boost this year is for expanded mental-health services.

“Mental health and combating mental illness is a key to solving so many of our society’s seemingly intractable problems,” Steinberg said.

On another matter, Steinberg said he’s satisfied with the resolution to the past week’s flap over budget trailer bills that would’ve gutted the California Public Records Act by letting local governments opt out of major provisions if they don’t want to pay the costs of compliance.

“It was never our intent to undermine the Public Records Act – it was to clarify that public agencies ought to be responsible for the cost of complying with the law,” he insisted, acknowledging that this week’s fiery criticisms of the proposed changes were “a significant distraction to some of the achievements in this year’s budget.”

The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have conceded that they’ll continue the Public Records Act’s state-funded mandate for another year, while putting a constitutional amendment before voters in 2014 to transfer the responsibility for bankrolling the law from the state to local agencies.

Steinberg said he’ll actively and publicly support that amendment when it’s on the ballot, but “I wouldn’t imagine that it would be an amendment that would be very controversial.” Voters should react well to the idea of permanently enshrining the Public Records Act – signed into law in 1968 by Gov. Ronald Reagan – in the state’s constitution.

Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, gun control, Technology in politics | 5 Comments »

3 from Bay Area on budget conference committee

The Bay Area is well-represented on the joint legislative committee tasked with hammering out a state budget deal.

The Joint Conference Committee on the Budget has four assemblymembers and four state senators who’ll reconcile differences over the budget between the two houses of the Legislature.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has named state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, as a co-chair of the committee, and the other senate appointees are Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands.

On the Assembly side, Speaker John Perez named Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, who will serve as co-chair; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City.

“For the first time in years, we are headed into budget negotiations without the dire need to cut billions from the budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate,” Pérez said in a news release. “It is time to assure our citizens that we are putting the state on a path to avoid future devastating cuts to state-provided services and education. I have confidence that the Conference Committee will craft the best budget possible for the people of California.”

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, John Perez, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno, Nancy Skinner, state budget | No Comments »

Reactions to Jerry Brown’s May budget revision

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“The Governor’s May Budget Revision is another key milestone in our effort to pass a balanced on-time budget by June 15th. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to maintaining the fiscal stability that has come from an improving economy, legislative Democrats making tough but necessary budget cuts, voters approving the majority-vote budget and voters standing with Democrats in supporting temporary tax revenues. We will review the Governor’s proposals and revenue projections, along with the LAO’s revenue projections, in depth, and his revised budget will be thoroughly discussed throughout the Budget committee and subcommittee process. Assemblymembers will review the Governor’s proposal through the prism of principles outlined in our Blueprint for a Responsible Budget: continuing fiscal responsibility, strengthening the middle class, and delivering effective, efficient services for Californians. On the whole, the Governor’s framework and the Assembly’s Blueprint seem to track well, and we’ll spend the next month reconciling our priorities.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia:

“Governor Brown today put forward a revised state spending plan that I believe charts a realistic path forward in meeting the budget priorities of hard-working taxpayers. Republicans share the Governor’s commitment to paying down state debt and holding the line on new spending. It is our hope that Legislative Democrats will follow the Governor’s lead in making fiscal discipline a core budget principle. We must resist the temptation to blow through the surplus using one-time money for ongoing programs and reverse the progress we’ve made in closing the deficit.”

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

“Overall, this May Revision is a refreshing change. For the first time in four years, we no longer have to stare at enormous deficits and make agonizing decisions on which cuts will do the least harm to our children, to the poor, and to middle class families.

“That’s the politically correct thing to say, and it happens to be true.

“I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians. Unless the Legislative Analyst has a different conclusion, the Governor proposes few if any resources to restore cuts made over the past few years to the courts, and to health and human services.

“The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula is the right policy direction, but our serious concern about how it’s accomplished remains. The concentration grants treat thousands of disadvantaged students unequally. It also fails to expand the proven success of career pathway programs which can reduce dropout rates and improve our kids’ readiness for the workforce by combining rigorous curriculum that’s also relevant to students’ career goals.

“The budget debate begins in earnest. I look forward to a deeper analysis of revenue projections in the coming weeks while we continue to work with the Governor on the best budget for California’s economic recovery and its people.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“The Governor has revenue estimates that are lower than anyone expected, largely due to the increased payroll tax suppressing the economy. Higher tax rates and continuing high unemployment mean less money in people’s pockets and less money to propel the economy.

“We have common ground with the Governor in a belief that we cannot return to a culture of overspending that drives new budget crises. Governor Brown referred to this as a ‘Call for Prudence,’ we would call it ‘Common Sense.’ It seems that the Governor’s biggest budget challenge will be in restraining legislative Democrats and their growing wish list of new spending.

“Senate Republicans continue to believe that the State must meet the promises of the voter approved Proposition 30 tax increase measure by increasing funding for K-14 and higher education. We also believe that the Governor should support our efforts to allow Californians to vote on the bi-partisan rainy day reserve fund that had been previously scheduled for the 2012 ballot. Implementing a voter approved rainy day reserve requirement is the best way to protect against future budget crises and ensure stability.

“The Legislature should spend less time on a growing list of additional tax proposals such as soda taxes, oil severance taxes, tobacco taxes and several property tax measures that undermine historic Proposition 13 protections and instead focus on the growing public safety crises caused by the passage of AB 109, the Governor’s Public Safety Realignment scheme that has shifted 65,000 criminals from state prison to our local communities and neighborhoods.”

From California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye:

“I’m disappointed that the Governor’s revised budget proposals provide no more fiscal relief to the courts. Given the state’s current fiscal condition, I had hoped for more effort to help stop the downward spiral of the judicial branch budget. Courts across the state are already closing courthouses, courtrooms, and reducing the hours they serve the public. Without reinvestment in the courts, these terrible impacts will only expand, and the poor and middle class residents who rely on the courts to resolve issues that affect their lives and livelihoods will be adversely affected, as well those businesses still digging out from the effects of the great recession. We need adequate, ongoing funding for the courts that will permit us to reverse the damage caused by five years of budget cuts. The reforms I’ve put in place have helped save money and created more efficiencies. We needed critical support a year ago from the other two branches and now the need for justice is urgent. I am heartened by Speaker Perez’s comments last week about the need to begin reinvesting in the courts. I am optimistic that the Legislature and the Governor can work toward reversing some of the adverse impacts on access to justice before a budget bill is passed and signed.”

There’s a whole lot more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Connie Conway, Darrell Steinberg, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Leland Yee, Mark Leno, Rich Gordon, state budget, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Honda’s endorsers & Khanna’s ‘digital advocates’

The battle for the 17th Congressional District continues as Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, rolls out a new batch of endorsements and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna fires up his digital grassroots.

honda.jpgHonda on Tuesday announced the endorsements of state Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Controller John Chiang, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, and 14 current and former state lawmakers. He’d previously announced he has Attorney General Kamala Harris’ endorsement, while Khanna last month announced he has Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s nod.

Perez said Honda “has been a thoughtful and effective leader, with a distinguished track record of bringing both parties together to find solutions for the very difficult challenges facing our country. Our state is lucky to have such a phenomenal representative fighting for us in Congress, and I am proud to support him for reelection.”

And Torlakson said Honda “is working to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our classrooms, which will provide our children with a 21st century education and keep our country a leader in the global economy. I am proud to support Mike’s campaign for Congress and look forward to continue working with him to ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to get a quality education.”

Honda said he’s grateful for the state officials’ support: “We will continue working together for quality jobs, good schools, and a bright future for California’s families.”

Ro KhannaMeanwhile, Khanna is continuing his effort to “bridge the gap of digital and traditional involvement” by inviting people to become “digital advocates” to spread word of his campaign throughout Silicon Valley. The campaign’s first digital training for volunteers is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, May 7, at 43255 Mission Blvd. in Fremont; more trainings will be held in the coming months.

And Khanna will hold a meet-and-greet to answer district residents’ questions at noon this Friday, May 10, at 3333 Bowers Ave., Suite 130 in Santa Clara.

Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, John Chiang, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Mike Honda, Tom Torlakson, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

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

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

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

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

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

Reactions to the NRA’s press conference

The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre held a news conference this morning about his organization’s thinking on keeping America’s children safe in the wake of last Friday’s massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school:

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, whom House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named earlier this week to chair a gun-violence task force:

“Everyone agrees our schools, movie theaters shopping malls, streets and communities need to be safer. But we need a comprehensive approach that goes beyond just arming more people with more guns to make this happen.

“Closing holes in our mental health system, addressing our culture’s glorification of violence, improving background checks for everyone who buys firearms, and reinstating the ban on assault weapons and assault magazines all must be part of a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent gun violence.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who introduced bills this week to boost federal grants for school security and to offer federal reimbursement to governors who deploy National Guard troops to secure schools:

“The head of the NRA blamed everyone in sight – except his own organization – for gun violence in America, and showed himself to be completely out of touch by ignoring the proliferation of weapons of war on our streets.

“The NRA is now calling for stronger security at our schools. They should endorse my legislation, which would fund security upgrades for schools and trained law enforcement personnel to protect our kids.

“In the days ahead, I will work for a comprehensive strategy, which includes sensible gun laws, a focus on mental health and school safety.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“To the NRA, gun violence is never about semi-automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition clips. Never. But to a majority of parents across the country, mass shootings and gun violence have everything to do with those types of assault weapons and people who have lost their minds. Congress needs to ban high capacity clips, reinstate a sensible ban on assault weapons, and dramatically increase access to quality mental health care in America as part of our effort to reduce gun violence.

“The fact is, the NRA’s approach would require armed guards not just in schools, but everywhere in America – at every store in every mall, every movie theatre, every supermarket, every church, synagogue, and mosque, and every sporting arena, because that is where America’s families and children spend their time outside of the home. And yet those locations would still be vulnerable to a deranged person wearing bulletproof vests and carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition and semi-automatic pistols and rifles.

“For most of us, everything has changed since Newtown. Sadly, one of the only things that hasn’t changed is the way the NRA thinks about the epidemic of gun violence in America.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who authored a state law – struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 – to prohibit sale of certain violent video games to children:

“I find it mind-boggling that the NRA suddenly cares about the harmful effects of ultra-violent video games. When our law was before the Supreme Court – while several states, medical organizations, and child advocates submitted briefs in support of California’s efforts – the NRA was completely silent. Now, rather than face reality and be part of the solution to the widespread proliferation of assault weapons in America, they attempt to pass the buck. More guns are not the answer to protecting our children, as evident by the fact that armed guards weren’t enough to stop the tragedy at Columbine High School. The NRA’s response is pathetic and completely unacceptable.”

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

“The predicted Mayan Apocalypse apparently materialized today in the form of the NRA’s vision for America.

“The NRA’s suggestion that we militarize our schools is not the solution, and references to other militarized institutions simply reinforce the problem our nation has with gun violence. What next? Armed guards at Starbucks and little league games? This is completely the wrong direction.

“The NRA’s grotesque demonization of mental illness feeds ignorance. It insults the one in four Americans who suffer – overwhelmingly in silence – some form of mental health problem annually.

“What was billed as a constructive conversation spiraled into extreme rhetoric and profitable fear mongering. As I set out in a letter to Vice President Biden yesterday, we must focus our efforts on multiple fronts, including health care and gun control, to curb disturbingly familiar and horrific scenes of mass murder.”

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, George Miller, gun control, Leland Yee, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

Reactions to the Newtown school massacre

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

“No words can console the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School or describe the pain and shock of such an unspeakable tragedy. No words can comfort the loved ones of those brutally taken from us today. All Americans share our prayers and our grief over these horrifying events.

“We are all stunned, shocked, and distraught by this tragic shooting, by this violent act, and by the loss of so many young children. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the students, teachers, and educators killed and wounded in Newtown, Connecticut. The entire nation will continue to stand as a source of support to this community in the days and weeks to come.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell:

“Earlier today, another horrific gun tragedy struck our nation as innocent men, women, and children were senselessly shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. My prayers are with the victims, their families and friends, and the communities impacted by today’s terrifying events.

“As an educator for 30 years, I know firsthand the importance of making a school a safe place where children can grow and learn. Having that sense of safety ripped from us, again, is both shocking and jarring. It is difficult to imagine what it feels like to be a parent that has outlived their child or to be part of a family inexplicably left with a gaping hole in their hearts. While exact details still remain unclear, there is no doubt that today is a somber day. A close-knit community, like countless communities all around our country, was violently attacked, and we will continue to feel the shocks of this violence for some time.

“This event, much like the numerous other shootings earlier this year, will undoubtedly lead to difficult discussions about safety, public policy and emergency preparedness. This self-reflection is natural, and it is my hope that we can finally take action to address the root causes of these horrific tragedies together, as a nation.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and families of Newtown. In a year with so many appalling acts of gun violence, this is the most shocking of such tragedies. While we do not have all the details behind this senseless and unconscionable massacre, it is a sad and horrific reminder of what is possible when guns get into the wrong hands. We must limit access to weapons that can result in such catastrophe and mass murder.”

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

“I am horrified and incensed by today’s tragedy in Connecticut. These massacres don’t seem to stop—they continue on and on.

“When senseless mass shootings reach into our kindergartens and elementary schools, one has to question what is happening to America. Gun violence took the lives of more than 8,000 Americans last year, and today claimed the lives of at least 18 children.

“As I have said many times before—and now repeat in the wake of yet another tragedy—weapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our theaters, shopping malls and, most of all, our schools.

“I hope and trust that in the next session of Congress there will be sustained and thoughtful debate about America’s gun culture and our responsibility to prevent more loss of life.”

“But today we mourn for those who have been killed and the families that have been devastated.”

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

“My heart breaks over this senseless tragedy that took so many innocent lives. My prayers go out to their families and to all those who were injured.

“This touches us all so deeply, and it is long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“We all mourn the heartbreaking loss of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. We pray for their families and loved ones.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“For those calling for the postponement of any discussion of gun and mental health policy in America – you are wrong.

“Just WRONG!

“We postponed after the President and his press secretary, James Brady were shot more than 30 years ago. We postponed after the tragedy in Columbine 13 years ago. We postponed after Virginia Tech five years ago. We postponed after Representative Gabriel Giffords was shot in 2011. We postponed in July when a mentally disturbed James Eagan Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theatre. And earlier this week, people said it was too soon to talk about gun and mental health policy when a gunman opened fire at a crowded mall in Oregon.

“Today, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House briefing room named for James Brady and now we turn to our political leaders to finally and decisively act.

“Prayers are important. We are a nation that always prays at times of great tragedy. But prayer is not enough as we learn in James 2 14-26, ‘What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works…Faith without works is dead.’

“Today is a clarion call to all leaders, regardless of political party, to act purposefully. Senseless gun violence is not simply about gun control. It must also include meaningful discussion of mental health policy in America. Political parties must be realistic – Democrats can’t draw the line in the sand at banning all guns and Republicans can’t dig in on the status quo.

“The NRA and the gun lobby are not supportive the President and now is the time for him to give them a real reason. The President must call the question. Put the gun lobby on the bench. Call on every member of congress to step out from behind the money and power of the gun lobby and act before we are lulled back into a false sense of security and forget to have the conversation again until the next tragedy. There are families in Connecticut, Oregon, Virginia, California, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin and every other state that have suffered loss due to gun violence and they do not want a postponement this debate any longer.

“How many more people have to die before we decide the time is right to have this debate and take action? Now is a time for prayer…and leadership.”

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

Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, gun control, Jackie Speier, Jean Quan, Jeff Denham, Leland Yee, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

Who’ll decide the future of marriage in California?

I and my colleague Howard Mintz wrote an article today about how four other states’ votes in favor of gay marriage this week might or might not affect California’s situation on that issue. Here’s a tidbit that didn’t make it into the story:

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds both California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it might not fall to activists alone to make a renewed electoral push for same-sex marriage in California, suggested Rick Jacobs, chairman of the Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based progressive activist network claiming more than 750,000 members nationwide.

Thanks to this week’s elections, Democrats now hold supermajorities in both chambers of California’s Legislature as well as the governor’s office, Jacobs noted. Should the courts fail the movement, he said, “I can imagine a scenario … wherein we wouldn’t even have to pay the money to put it on the ballot: The Legislature and the governor could do it.”

Gil Duran, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, responded that “it is premature to speculate on these matters while the case is pending before the United States Supreme Court.”

Similarly, John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said “the Speaker believes this discussion is premature because the case is still before the courts, and the Speaker is very confident that the courts will invalidate Proposition 8 because of the eloquent and powerful case made by the plaintiffs and cited by Judge Walker in his decision ruling Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.”

But state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, seemed to embrace Jacobs’ idea: “I’m open to any and all ways to promote the cause of marriage equality and civil rights for all people.”

Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, John Perez, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »