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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…
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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 »

California state officials speak on SCOTUS ruling

California’s foremost elected officials are speaking out about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Today’s dramatic Supreme Court ruling removes the last roadblock to fulfilling President Obama’s historic plan to bring health care to millions of uninsured citizens.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“There is a healthcare crisis in this country, a crisis with profound implications for each citizen in every city and county in America. Today’s United States Supreme Court decision, which upheld the individual insurance requirement, is just a start. But the decision allowing states to opt-out of Medicaid expansion still leaves millions of Americans vulnerable.

“We can — and must – act now to do more to offer healthcare access to all. We do not have time to stand on the sidelines. There is a crisis but there is also a solution.

“Americans know it is much less expensive to keep people healthy than it is to treat their sickness. This is particularly true when much of the treatment for uninsured Americans is provided in costly emergency rooms. Without a universal healthcare plan, our emergency rooms will continue to bear the brunt of this crisis and citizens will pay the price with higher taxes, more expensive premiums, hidden costs and increased fees.

“While serving as mayor of San Francisco, I saw first hand the impact of the healthcare crisis on the insured, uninsured, businesses, emergency rooms and municipal coffers.
We decided to address this crisis head-on and launched the country’s first local universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco. It is blueprint that can be replicated by cities and counties across the nation. A public plan can work. San Francisco is proving it.

“Since being implemented, more than 80 percent of uninsured San Franciscans have received medical coverage. Healthy San Francisco is not health insurance, instead it provides access to affordable basic and ongoing health care services for the uninsured, regardless of immigration status, employment status, or pre-existing medical conditions.

“We must not wait for the federal government to take the lead in the wake of the today’s Supreme Court decision. Cities and counties across the nation, such as Dallas, Indianapolis, and Miami, have already taken steps to establish healthcare service access programs. California must move forward with innovative programs, like Healthy San Francisco, that provide access to healthcare and not simply access to healthcare insurance.”

From Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“Today’s decision is a historic victory for Californians, for the President, and for the country. The Affordable Care Act repairs a healthcare system badly in need of reform and ensures that every American has access to affordable health care. We never doubted the constitutionality of this law, and it is already making a difference in the lives of millions of Californians.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Dave Jones, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, healthcare reform, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris | 10 Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s same-sex marriage stance

Here’s what some of California’s state and federal elected officials are saying about President Obama’s statement today affirming support for same-sex marriage rights:

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

Barbara Boxer “This is a historic day and another step in our country’s long march toward equal rights and justice for all. The President’s statement is a milestone and so important for the millions of American families who deserve full equality. None of us can rest until marriage equality is a reality for all Americans.”

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

Nancy Pelosi “Today marks progress for the civil rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans. With President Obama’s support, we look forward to the day when all American families are treated equally in the eyes of the law.

“Republicans are standing on the wrong side of history. Just yesterday, a Republican-backed amendment to ban same-sex marriage passed in North Carolina. Here in the House, Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and they are using taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court. These actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society.

“Throughout American history, we have worked to live up to our values of liberty and freedom, and to end discrimination in all of its forms. Today, we took another step forward in our march toward equality.”

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

“I have never been more proud of our President than I am today. His journey to acceptance is an example of the one value we honor most in America, freedom; freedom to choose who we love, freedom to choose who we marry, freedom to choose who we partner with to raise a family. Denying the right for any two people to marry is discrimination. I can only hope the President’s personal position will swell the tide of public opinion to end prejudice against the LGBT community.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

John Perez “I am very proud of the President for today’s eloquent and bold announcement that he supports marriage equality for every person in this country. As with many Americans, his views on this issue have evolved towards an embrace of dignity, respect and justice for every American. Like the President’s successful effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I believe today will be remembered as a major milestone in the LGBT movement, and one that gives credence to Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that ‘the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.’ I am deeply grateful for the President’s leadership on this fundamental issue of civil rights.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Equality before the law is a pillar of American democracy. I applaud President Obama’s support for the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

For counterpoint, here’s Alliance Defense Fund litigation staff counsel Jim Campbell:

“This shows that the Obama administration doesn’t understand the public purpose of marriage. Marriage – the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman – is the building block of a thriving society. It’s not something that politicians should attempt to redefine for political purposes. The president has spoken eloquently about how fatherless homes often hurt children and society. Today’s statement is a tragic contradiction that promotes the creation of even more fatherless and motherless homes.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Leland Yee, Lynn Woolsey, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Rich Gordon, same-sex marriage, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 50 Comments »

What they’re saying about the Prop. 8 ruling

My esteemed colleague Howard Mintz has the full story on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and you can read the opinion yourself (assuming the court’s website doesn’t get overloaded again) by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here’s a treasury of quotes from elected officials.

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

“Today’s decision is a victory for civil rights and for progress for the LGBT community and for all Californians.

“By declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, the Ninth Circuit made a strong statement that laws must not target the LGBT community for discrimination and all of our state’s families deserve to enjoy fair and equal treatment under the law.

“As this battle moves through the appeals process, we must, and will, continue the fight for the fundamental rights of LGBT couples and every American. We will keep up the charge for change and equality in state legislatures and in the courts, and work in Congress to repeal and overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Together, we will make every discriminatory marriage amendment and law a thing of the past.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“The court has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry. I applaud the wisdom and courage of this decision.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stands as a victory for the fundamental American principle that all people are equal, and deserve equal rights and treatment under the law. This is the biggest step that the American judicial system has taken to end the grievous discrimination against men and women in same-sex relationships and should be highly praised.

“Proposition 8 has done nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that same-sex couples are inferior to heterosexual couples. These men and women are our firefighters, our paramedics, our law enforcement, our service-members, and to treat their relationships differently is unfair, unlawful, and violates the basic principle of who we are as a nation.

“Today however, it has been made clear that this type of discrimination will not be tolerated—there is no state power or law that can claim one type of love is more deserving of status and benefits than another. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has fulfilled its obligation to all Americans by protecting the fundamental right of all people to marry those whom they love. It has upheld the overall integrity of the American judicial system by placing individual characteristics of judges and justices secondary to their duty and commitment to true justice and equality.

“Although countless people have worked tirelessly to achieve this ruling, I would like to recognize the inspiring dedication demonstrated by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. They have never relented in their mission for equal marriage rights and should be highly commended for these efforts.

“While today marks a historic milestone towards equality for all Americans, our journey is not over until the highest court in the United States reaches the same decision that the Court of Appeals did today. It is on that day that the struggle for equality will be over and the dream on which this great nation was founded will become a reality.”

From state Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for fairness, a victory for equality and a victory for justice. Proposition 8 denied to gay and lesbian couples the equal protection to which all Americans are entitled. By striking this unconstitutional law from our books, the court has restored dignity, equality and respect to all Californians.”

For some counterpoint (although he’s not an elected official), here’s SaveCalifornia.com President Randy Thomasson:

“God created a man and a woman to fit together in marriage. The People of California have twice affirmed this beautiful, natural, and exclusive pro-family institution between a husband and wife, a man and a woman. The Ninth Circuit ruling to strike down man-woman marriage, by a Carter judge and a Clinton judge, is unfair to the voters, against our republic, against our democratic system, against the United States Constitution, against Nature, and against God and His beneficial design of family.

“It’s illogical and unconstitutional to claim that natural, unchangeable race and ethnicity is the same as sexual behavior. That’s not fair or true. Race and ethnicity are inherited, but science has never found homosexuality, bisexuality, or transsexuality to be inherited or unchangeable. Neither is this about commitment. As the divorce of leading anti-Prop. 8 lesbians Robin Tyler and Diane Olson demonstrates, the notion of homosexual ‘marriage’ is not really about ‘commitment,’ but is a political agenda forcing acceptance of homosexuality upon the children of America. Yet nothing is equal to marriage between a man and a woman. If you don’t have a man and a woman, you don’t have marriage.

‘Judicial activists like Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins need to be reined in like Newt Gingrich has been saying about judicial activists. Marriage is not in the United States Constitution, so this case should never have gone to federal court. Now it will be appealed to the nation’s high court, with Anthony Kennedy being the deciding vote. Fortunately, in past rulings favoring homosexuality, Kennedy has written against redefining marriage, making it likely that he will affirm California’s right to reserve marriage licenses for ‘a man and a woman.’”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jackie Speier, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Leland Yee, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Skinner, same-sex marriage, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

What they’re saying about Jerry Brown’s tax plan

Gov. Jerry Brown today issued an open letter to Californians announcing, as expected, that he’s filing a proposed ballot measure to hike income taxes on those making more than $500,000 a year and temporarily boost the state sales tax by half a cent to prevent devastating budget cuts in education and public safety.

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

“Californians realize that four years of draconian cuts have swung the pendulum too far. We’ve done enough damage, and enough is enough. It’s time to stop the bleeding and begin reinvesting in public education and local public safety. The Governor’s plan dedicates new revenue where it’s most needed – guaranteed to go directly into our public school and community college classrooms. At the same time, it protects ongoing funding for local public safety programs. The temporary taxes also create a more equitable system, with everyone paying a little more in sales tax while the wealthiest among us pay their fair share at a time when they enjoy record income growth. Bringing more balance to the support of essential services will begin to restore the greatness of our state.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga:

“Clearly the governor has put tax hikes ahead of job creation. Californians have consistently voted down tax-only proposals. Senate Republicans continue a call to action on reforms first. Only with reforms can we put Californians back to work and restore the people’s confidence in state government.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“The Governor’s revenue plan is fair, focused and forward-thinking. The plan asks the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share and takes us another major step forward on getting control of our long-term finances. More importantly, this plan helps minimize the need for cuts to higher education and other critical services and ensures that California is making the kinds of investments in education and public safety that will keep our communities safe and help our economic prosperity in the long term. I believe this is a plan that every Californian can and will support, and I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to win approval from the voters.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare:

“Governor Brown is once again relying on his failed budget playbook in proposing a massive $35 billion tax increase on hard-working Californians and job creators. Voters rejected similar tax increases in the past and have shown a strong reluctance in polls to accepting higher taxes to bailout Sacramento. Ironically, Sacramento Democrats are again proposing higher taxes at a time when Washington Democrats are suggesting a tax increase on families could plunge the country back into recession.

“Despite their rhetoric, it is clear that our state’s projected $13 billion budget shortfall is not the result of a lack of revenue, but rather that Democrats want to grow government spending by $10 billion next year. The majority party’s budget priorities are clear – sock working families with a painful tax increase to pay for more health and welfare spending and unsustainable public employee pensions, while education continues to take a massive hit. Assembly Republicans will again stand united as the last line of defense for taxpayers and will fight these reckless taxes every step of the way.”

Read more after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, December 5th, 2011
Under: Assembly, ballot measures, Bob Dutton, California State Senate, Connie Conway, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Nancy Skinner, state budget, taxes | 8 Comments »

Perez, Steinberg urge review of pepper-spray use

California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, just issued this statement amid the uproar over police’s use of pepper spray against nonviolent protesters Friday at the University of California, Davis:

“I was appalled at the apparent use of excessive force by the UC Davis police force at a peaceful student demonstration.

“All Americans deserve the right to peacefully express their opinions. Nowhere is that right more sacrosanct than in the university setting. I fully support the right of the students to continue to express their frustrations and aspirations, and I call on the University to assure the safety of their student body, not only from physical harm, but from limitations of their free expression.

“It is my expectation that the university will complete a thorough review of the incidents in question and adjust police procedures accordingly.”

Yesterday, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had said:

“On its face, this is an outrageous action for police to methodically pepper spray passive demonstrators who were exercising their right to peacefully protest at U.C. Davis. Chancellor Katehi needs to immediately investigate, publicly explain how this could happen and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

The Davis Enterprise reported this morning that UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza has been placed on administrative leave, along with two of the officers involved in the use of pepper spray, pending a review.

UPDATE @ 12:57 P.M.: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who as the state’s former lieutenant governor used to sit on the UC Board of Regents, is up in arms about the incident, too:

“I am appalled by the way in which students at UC Davis were treated. Campus police should know better than to cavalierly pepper spray peaceful protestors. The proud tradition of peaceful campus protests was shamelessly marred by these actions. I’m glad an investigation is underway, and I look forward to a full report on how they will avoid incidents like this in the future.

“At the same time, violent protests are never appropriate. From what I have seen, however, there was no violence on the part of the protesters at UC Davis. Indeed, by all accounts, Aggie students have shown remarkable restraint in the days following the pepper spraying. If and when protests become heated, they must be handled with the greatest discretion, so as to avoid and minimize injury to police and to demonstrators.

“Every incident of violence – no matter who the perpetrator – is a distraction from the legitimate issues that the 99% movement has raised. Our public universities have seen drastic cuts, harming our ability to stay competitive in a tough economy, and thousands of students have been priced out of an education or burdened with debts that they cannot repay. I hope the entire university community understands that we’re all in this together.”

UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, noted the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and will take what it finds to that county’s district attorney. The attorney general doesn’t usually get involved in such cases while that process under way unless asked to do so because local officials have a conflict of interests or a lack of resources.

Nonetheless, Gledhill said, “the attorney general is disturbed, she thought the incident was disturbing, and wants to follow the process and make sure the review is through. She will be monitoring that.”

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Civil liberties, Darrell Steinberg, John Garamendi, John Perez, Kamala Harris, U.S. House | 18 Comments »

What they’re saying about the budget forecast

The Legislative Analyst’s Office today issued a fiscal forecast showing California’s state budget deficit for the fiscal year starting next July 1 will be almost $13 billion.

If the state Finance Department concurs next month, this could mean $2 billion in mid-year “trigger cuts” this year, mostly in the K-12 and higher education budgets.

From Gil Duran, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown:

“California’s budget gap is the result of a decade of poor fiscal choices and a global recession. This year, we cut the problem in half. Next year, we’ll continue to make the tough choices necessary until the problem is solved.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“Today’s announcement by the LAO is indicative, but not determinative of the final decision on whether the budget triggers will be pulled next month and we must wait until the Department of Finance December forecast, which will have up to date information and certainly may alter the trigger calculation to lessen the level of trigger cuts.

“Given the uncertainty in the global economy, we included these triggers as a mechanism to ensure California’s fiscal solvency through this budget year. We approved budget solutions that eliminated seventy five percent of the ongoing structural deficit over time, and we have more work to do to accelerate the elimination of the remainder of that deficit.

“Ultimately, we all know that the best long-term solutions to our budget challenges are rebuilding our economy and putting Californians back to work, and we will continue working to build on the progress we’ve made with respect to job creation in the coming year.”

From state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

“I am deeply troubled by this forecast and the prospect of making another round of deep cuts to public schools and higher education. The Legislature and governor should explore all of our available options, and do everything we can, to prevent mid-year cuts.

“The bottom line is our public schools and institutions of higher education are woefully underfunded, and we must find a way to reverse this trend of cutting their support if we are serious about providing Californians and their children with a bright future.”

From Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chairman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber:

“The Legislative Analyst’s Office report indicates, as predicted, that the budget passed by Democrats with only a majority vote was overly optimistic and based on shaky assumptions. In this budget, state spending is predicted to increase by 12 percent by 2012-2013. It is clear that state spending has not been brought under control, and that’s not even factoring in the enormous cost of the federal healthcare mandates.

“It indicates that a lot more needs to be done to get California’s budget under control, and that does not happen through tax increases. Government has changed very little in how it conducts its business in the last three years.”

From state Controller John Chiang:

“Today’s news is no surprise. Our economy’s sluggish growth means a tax windfall is unlikely, and not a penny of the estimated $4 billion has been collected to date. The Governor and lawmakers were smart to backstop their hopeful budget projections with mid-year cuts, but they may not have gone far enough. Today’s report tracks with the troublesome pattern we have seen in the State’s receipts and spending, which could mean a cash-flow problem in California’s near future.”

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

“Today’s numbers make it clear that the state’s first priority must be to get to the ballot in November and raise needed revenues to avoid any more damage to Californians. The notion of cutting deeper into education, public safety and services for those in need is unthinkable. I imagine an overwhelming majority of Californians agree.

“We’ve cut to the point that the results are being felt like never before. The cupboard of easy solutions is bare. Just ask the students in our higher education systems; the more than one million elderly, blind, or disabled living in poverty; the families who see their kids go to school where the classrooms are more crowded and the resources are dwindling. We’ve hit a crossroads where the time has come to turn things around.

“Democrats have tackled more than half of the reoccurring deficit problem we’ve been plagued with ever since Governor Schwarzenegger cut the Vehicle Licensing Fee. As the LAO points out, last year’s budget actions have put our ongoing deficits at the lowest we’ve seen since the recession began. By building on that foundation, new revenue will finally allow the state to recover and reinvest.”

Read more, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Dutton, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown, John Chiang, John Perez, Mark Leno, state budget | 2 Comments »

California’s online poker bills are dead until 2012

A contentious effort to legalize and regulate online poker in California was pronounced dead for this year by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, wrote a letter to stakeholders saying that although the Legislature has held several hearings with hours of testimony, “significant, unresolved issues remain, including tribal exclusivity and waiver of sovereign immunity, the types of games that would be authorized, who would be eligible to apply for gaming site licenses and potential federal constitutional questions.”

The problems aren’t insurmountable, he wrote, “but not before the end of this legislative year on September 9th, when Interim Study Recess is scheduled to begin. Rushing to meet a legislative deadline on an issue of such significance for our state and our people would be unwise.”

Steinberg said he expects a better proposal will be developed during the recess for consideration when the Legislature reconvenes in 2012, and the state Senate Governmental Organization Committee will hold a hearing in January to move that bill along. “There is time to get this right, and it is imperative that we do so.”

A million Californians per week already play online poker on sites that are operated overseas or may be run illegally, says state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. The sites operate despite a 2006 federal law that bars gambling businesses from taking and paying out money online, unless the bets are made and paid within a state that has laws regulating it. No state currently does.

A pending, bipartisan House bill would end that federal ban and set up an interstate licensing program giving states authority to run online sites; U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged cooperation.

And Reid’s home state of Nevada, where gaming is king, is straining at the bit to see the ban overturned: Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a law in June requiring his state to adopt its own online poker regulations by January.

California could be left behind if it doesn’t do the same, Correa has said, as Nevada and other states stand to cut into approximately $7.5 billion in annual revenues now earned by California’s brick-and-mortar card rooms and tribal casinos. He said his SB 40 instead would bring California 1,300 new jobs and — with a 10 percent take from all online poker fees — $1.4 billion in revenue for state coffers in the next decade.

But while a coalition of card rooms and Indian tribes backed Correa’s bill, some gaming tribes opposed it, claiming a $50 million “buy-in” for online poker licenses would create an unfair advantage for certain gaming interests.

Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Indian gaming | No Comments »