California politicos on the Voting Rights Act ruling

Here’s how some California politicos are reacting to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that voids key provisions of the Voting Rights Act:

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

“I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Voting Rights Act. The law successfully countered a century of aggressive limitations on minority voting rights, a fact that today’s majority decision acknowledged: ‘The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.’

“After more than 20 hearings in the House and Senate, Congress in 2006 reauthorized key provisions in the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. By invalidating a key piece of the law, the Supreme Court departed from settled precedent and dealt a real setback for voting rights in this country.

“I believe Congress should move quickly to introduce new legislation to preserve voting rights for all Americans.”

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

Barbara Boxer“The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of the clear evidence we continue to see of efforts to suppress the vote in minority communities across the country. It is devastating that the Court’s conservative majority would strike down a central provision of the law that has protected the voting rights of all Americans for nearly a half century, and was reauthorized by Congress almost unanimously just seven years ago. I’ll be working with my Senate colleagues to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every American can participate fully in our democracy.”

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

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the Supreme Court took a step backward on voting rights, on civil rights, on liberty and justice for all. This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

“Even with this setback, the court did place the power to reinforce the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the hands of Congress. As Members of Congress, we know that changes in election laws can have discriminatory effects. That’s why Congress made the determination that advance review of changes in election procedures is required for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation.

“Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.”

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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.”

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Yee will offer bill to ban 3-D printable guns

Though a federal bill to criminalize the 3-D printing of guns or certain gun components is pending in Congress, at least one California lawmaker wants to get in on the action, too.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said he’ll introduce legislation to prohibit use of 3-D printers to create untraceable firearms.

“While I am as impressed as anyone with 3-D printing technology and I believe it has amazing possibilities, we must ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences,” Yee said in a news release. “I plan to introduce legislation that will ensure public safety and stop the manufacturing of guns that are invisible to metal detectors and that can be easily made without a background check.”

LiberatorAs I reported late last month, 3-D printing technology eventually could change some of the fundamentals of the nation’s gun-policy debate. Although critics say the plastic parts created by such printers can’t withstand the heat and pressure of use in a firearm, Texas activist Cody Wilson in recent days has announced what he claims is the first fully-printed, fully-operational firearm.

“We must be proactive in seeking solutions to this new threat rather than wait for the inevitable tragedies this will make possible,” said Yee.

The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 bans firearms that are invisible to metal detectors or airport X-ray machines. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., on April 10 introduced H.R. 1474 to renew and expand that law to include specific parts like those Wilson and his peers are producing.


Bay Area-based gun control bills advance

As a bipartisan deal on increased background checks for gun sales appears to be headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate, some state lawmakers from the Bay Area are celebrating their own progress on gun-control measures yesterday in Sacramento.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee advanced a slew of gun bills on a series of party-line, 5-2 votes yesterday.

Mark DeSaulnierAmong them were two bills by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

SB 293 would require all newly made or imported handguns in California be “owner-authorized,” or “smart guns” personalized in a way that would allow them to be fired only by authorized persons. This requirement would take effect eighteen months after the state California Attorney General makes a finding that owner-authorized handguns are available for retail sale and meet stringent performance criteria specified in the bill.

And DeSaulnier’s SB 299 would require that every person whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is subsequently recovered, the local law enforcement agency would have to be notified within 48 hours as well.

“It is critical that we promote safe and responsible gun ownership,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “These bills will help us prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, and ensure they are only operated by their lawful owners.”

Leland YeeAlso passed by the committee were two bills by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

SB 47 would prohibit the use of “bullet buttons” or other devices that allow for easily changeable magazines on firearms deemed assault weapons by state law. Such firearms would only be allowed to have ammunition magazines holding up to 10 rounds, which could not be changed without dissembling the weapon; essentially, bullets would have to be loaded one-by-one from the top of the gun.

And Yee’s SB 108 would require all guns to be properly stored when an adult isn’t home. Current law requires that gun owners own a trigger lock or safety lock box for their weapon, but doesn’t require such a device be used on an idle firearm; Yee’s bill would specifically require that any firearm be stored with a trigger lock or in a lock box at a residence when the owner isn’t there.

“The horrors of Newtown and countless other mass shootings are still with us,” Yee said in his own news release. “With this in mind, it is our responsibility to make sure our laws protect the innocent from the threat of gun violence.”

In other Bay Area-based gun policy news, Oakland City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to pass a bill creating a bullet tax.

AB 187 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, would impose a 10 percent tax on ammunition to fund crime prevention efforts in the state’s most crime-ridden areas. Bonta had said last month that his bill might merge with another lawmaker’s proposed nickel-per-round tax to fund mental-health screening for children. He also said his tax is mostly about generating money to “combat the gun violence in our communities,” but could have the “secondary benefit” of stemming “rampant sales.”

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the resolution along with City Attorney Barbara Parker, issued a statement saying that the bill’s endorsement is part of an effort to work with state officials to stop gun violence.

“This bill would significantly improve our ability to make communities safer,” Kaplan said. “I’m committed to working with leaders at all levels of government to stop gun violence.”

AB 187 is scheduled to be heard Monday, May 6 by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.


State Sen. Leland Yee responds to death threat

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, today issued a statement regarding the arrest of a Santa Clara man who allegedly made a threat against Yee’s life in response to the lawmaker’s gun-control legislation:

“First, I want to thank the CHP and the various law enforcement agencies who are working on this case.

“Four weeks ago, I received an email to my Senate account detailing a very explicit threat on my life. The author of the email specifically stated that if I did not cease our legislative efforts to stop gun violence that he would assassinate me in or around the Capitol. He stated that he was a trained sniper and his email detailed certain weapons he possessed.

“This threat was unlike any other I had ever received. It was not a racist rant on my ethnicity or culture, but instead it was very deliberate and specific. As a psychologist, I was deeply concerned by the calculating nature of this email.

“My Chief of Staff immediately forwarded the email to the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the CHP to investigate.

“As you know, law enforcement made an arrest on Tuesday and executed a search warrant of the suspect’s home in which they found illegal weapons and bomb-making materials. I have no other details regarding this case and all such questions should be directed to the CHP.

“With that said, I want to make it crystal clear – these threats and any others will not deter me and my colleagues from addressing the critical issues surrounding gun violence. This case is very troubling and only further demonstrates the need to address this epidemic.

“Again, I want to thank the CHP for their swift action and I want to thank my family, staff, and constituents for all their support.”


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…
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