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Lawmakers support Occupy Oakland’s strike

Local lawmakers support the general strike that Occupy Oakland protesters have called for tomorrow.

“Occupy Oakland’s November 2nd day of action is aimed at bringing attention to the great inequalities that exist in the United States. I join in solidarity with Occupy Oakland to confront the greed of Wall Street and the major banks and demand that the 1 percent pay their fair share,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. “As the movement grows, we are likely to see more actions aimed at underscoring the inequalities faced by the 99 percent and we should support actions with these aims in mind. I continue to stand with the peaceful protesters in this struggle for economic justice and equality.”

“The decision to call for a general strike was made by the Occupy Oakland protesters,” said a spokeswoman for Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. “It appears that it was made to amplify the main reason why they and others in cities across America began protesting in the first place, which is to further call attention to the unfairness of the American economy and the difficulties that the middle class faces every day. We will see how the residents and workers of Oakland respond to the call. More than anything, though, we hope that the day remains peaceful.”

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, said he supports tomorrow’s demonstrators “100 percent.”

“This is a campaign to save the middle class, and it’s long overdue. I’m encouraging everyone to demonstrate in a nonviolent way,” Swanson said, adding he’s a longtime supporter of civil disobedience tactics. “I think this is about changing the economics of our nation and increasing opportunity for people all over. … This is an opportunity to have a demonstration that will speak well of the way we feel about each other in this country.”

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said, “I stand in full support of the peaceful protestors of Occupy Oakland and the Day of Action to achieve economic justice and jobs for the 99%.”

And, from state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley:

“As a part of the 99%, I support the Occupy Oakland movement and the Occupy Movements across the country. And this week, I will be adding my voice in support of the General Strike that has been called in Oakland.

“The Occupy Movement is a national outcry against the strangling influence of money and corporate influence on our economy, our political system, and on our national soul and reputation. I am grateful to them for rallying Americans from all walks of life to speak up and speak out against the forces that show them such disrespect. I am grateful that they are demanding a return to the American Dream of a strong and stable middle class.

“Every day my office intervenes to help people who are losing their homes and their jobs, or struggling to pay for their children’s education. I hear from frustrated and angry Americans worried about their retirement savings because of Wall Street greed and mismanagement.

“Unfortunately, I also see many of the biggest and most profitable corporations demanding more concessions from government — more tax breaks, giveaways, and special treatment, no matter what the cost is to our society. Every bill I have introduced in the Senate to make our tax system more equitable or take money out of politics has faced their powerful opposition.

“Peaceful civil disobedience is a basic human right and has been used ethically and successfully throughout the world. The violent response to peaceful disobedience last week could have been avoided and should be condemned. Oakland is a dynamic place where diversity is usually encouraged. It is tragic that Oakland is now known as the first and only Occupied City where violence has erupted.

“I urge the City leadership to work with the Occupy Movement – and the Occupy Movement to work with the City – to ensure that effective and peaceful protest can continue. As a person who has lived most of my adult life in the East Bay, raised my family here, and as a State Senator fighting for quality education, a healthy environment and economic equity for all Californians, I am ready to help in any way I can.”

UPDATE @ 2:05 P.M.: “We now live in an America in which income disparity is winnowing away the middle class,” said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. “Workers are angry as they struggle to find jobs while the richest among us gain ever more wealth. We have a long history of civic engagement and protest movements in our country. I understand the frustration of the Occupy movement. I hope their peaceful activism will bring about change.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, George Miller, Loni Hancock, Mary Hayashi, Oakland, Pete Stark, Sandre Swanson, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

Labor endorsement goes to Loni Hancock

As a battle for a state Senate seat between like-minded, labor-friendly Democrats takes off in the East Bay, a significant labor organization has cast its lot with the incumbent.

The Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council today announced its endorsement of state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, for re-election in the 9th State Senate District. Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, who’s term-limited out of the Assembly next year, has indicated he’s likely to challenge her.

“Senator Hancock is committed to putting people to work in the Bay Area and ensuring that these jobs are good union jobs with living wages, health benefits and a pension to retire on with dignity,” council director Greg Feere said. “Her leadership has been vital on important projects like the bay bridge reconstruction and the fourth bore of the Caldecott tunnel. These projects have produced thousands of local jobs and we look forward to continue working with her in the State Senate.”

The council, with 28 affiliated local unions, handles everything from worker safety and permit discussions to union meetings and other issues centered around the trades. Hancock said she appreciates the endorsement: “I have worked side-by-side with them throughout my years of services to keep jobs in the Bay Area and I look forward to our continued work together in the future.”

Hancock’s campaign received a $6,800 contribution in early August from the State Building and Contruction Trades Council of California’s PAC.

Hancock and Swanson have a lot in common policy-wise, and trade unions have been the biggest bloc of campaign contributors to both. They’re facing off under new conditions: The 9th State Senate District used to start with Albany and Berkeley at the north end, sweep down through Oakland and Alameda and then out through Castro Valley to grab Dublin and Livermore. Newly drawn in redistricting, it now starts in Rodeo and includes all the Western Contra Costa County cities as well as Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont and San Leandro — a more compact, more urban district.

And next June’s will be California’s first regular primary election using the “top two” system, in which candidates of all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. Given the district’s overwhelmingly Democratic registration, it’s easy to imagine two Democrats being the only options on the district’s November 2012 ballot.

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
Under: 2012 State Senate election, Assembly, California State Senate, Labor politics, Loni Hancock, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

Poll: Hancock would beat Swanson in SD9

A poll reportedly commissioned by state Senate Democrats shows state Sen. Loni Hancock with a wide lead over potential challenger Assemblyman Sandre Swanson in a one-on-one battle for her 9th State Senate District seat.

The poll shows 44 percent of likely voters in the newly drawn district supporting the incumbent Hancock, 18 percent supporting Swanson, 8 percent supporting other candidates and 31 percent unsure. Goodwin Simon Strategic Research conducted the telephone survey of 402 likely voters Sept. 24 through Sept. 27; the margin of error is five percentage points.

In his memo, Goodwin wrote that Hancock leads Swanson by 25 points among Democrats, by 27 points among nonpartisans, and by 36 points among minor party voters; she also leads among the district’s few Republican voters. Also, she leads him in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, he wrote, and by 10 points in the city of Oakland.

“Hancock leads Swanson among black voters (who comprise about 17% of likely voters), and holds a very wide lead among white, Latino, and mixed race voters,” he continued. “Moreover, a match-up of positive paragraphs, drawn entirely from the two candidates’ websites — and intended to be as fair as possible to both candidates — widens Hancock’s lead to 30 points: 52% to 22%. Hancock should win this race fairly easily; it would be very difficult for Swanson to catch up to her.”

Now, for the caveats: My source provided me neither the actual methodology and script for the poll nor the cross-tab information for subgroups. All I have is this memo. But the fact that this poll was even commissioned means Hancock’s supporters are looking to paint her as a lock for re-election.

I’d reported back in February that Swanson had filed a statement of intention to run in 2012 — when he’ll be termed out of his current seat — for the 9th State Senate District. At the time, Swanson said his nascent Senate campaign already had held its first fundraiser. Still, he said, “the final decision on running obviously can’t be made until the district lines are drawn … and nobody up here has anything to say about that.”

“Given the time frame that the redistricting commission has set for this summer, you can’t develop a credible campaign (for 2012) unless you develop the infrastructure for that now,” Swanson had said, noting that Hancock “was the first one I talked to,” he added. “We have met and I told her I was going to open up this committee, and she completely understood.”

He had called her “a friend and a colleague I’ve worked closely with,” and said he’s unlikely to challenge her if they both remain in the same district. “This is about seeing where the lines fall,” he said.

Well, those lines fell so that both Swanson – who lives in Alameda’s Bay Farm Island section – and Hancock, of Berkeley, do indeed both live in the district. Friends they may be, but this poll’s existence makes it seem like someone has been taking Michael Corleone’s advice to “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”

The “Swanson for Senate 2012” committee had $61,197.48 in the bank as of June 30; I see no record of any big-ticket contributions reported since then. Hancock’s 2012 re-election campaign committee had $66,964.12 in the bank as of June 30, but she looks to have raised at least $13,600 since then – half from the State Building and Construction Trades Council, and half from state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s campaign committee.

UPDATE @ 5:03 P.M.: It seems this showdown is ON.

“I’ve talked to my wife and obviously I’m seriously considering this run,” Swanson said a few minutes ago. “I am approaching a final decision and I’ll be making an announcement about my plans within the coming weeks.”

But he sure sounds as if he has made that decision already.

“I’ve been involved in politics for almost four decades, so I don’t panic very easily and I keep my eye on the main agenda. And the agenda in any campaign would have to be the pain Californians are facing, the insecurity that those with disabilities and relying on the safety net are feeling, the pain of those losing their homes right now… This is the campaign I would run,” he said. “The last thing I would do is concentrate on personality. Whatever I do, it would be a race about issues… I have always believed that the best idea should always win the day.”

He said this poll doesn’t scare him; when he first sought his Assembly seat, an early poll showed him 31 points behind Oakland City Attorney John Russo, and another poll just two weeks before the primary election showed him 12 points behind. Aggressive campaigning and a clear message can overcome bad numbers, he said.

Posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Sandre Swanson | 3 Comments »

What they’re saying about the ‘Amazon tax’ delay

Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed a compromise that puts off making online retailers like Amazon.com collect sales taxes in California for one year, giving the industry time to lobby Congress for protection.

My colleague Steve Harmon was at the signing event in San Francisco and will be filing a full report shortly, but meanwhile, we’ve got stakeholders comments pouring in.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, was among architects both of the “Amazon tax” bill passed in June and of this compromise delay, which convinced Amazon to drop its plans to spend millions on a repeal ballot initiative next year.

“The issue of eFairness is all about protecting jobs and businesses in California,” Skinner said in a news release. “AB 155 ensures a level playing field for California stores so they can keep their employees and support our communities, and it means new revenue that can be used for our schools, seniors and safety.”

“AB 155 is an historic compromise that sees online companies and brick-and-mortar retailers coming together. Businesses already face a lot of troubling uncertainties these days. AB 155 and Amazon dropping its challenge to eFairness in California takes some of that uncertainty away.”

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, also pushed hard for the tax.

“This is a classic compromise that will greatly benefit the state,” Hancock said in her news release. “For the first time, Amazon acknowledges that it is obligated to collect and remit California sales tax and that it will begin doing so, without further challenge, in September 2012. Amazon has also agreed to forgo any further attempt at a referendum and will not pursue court challenges. We now have a clear path to creating a level playing field where the state’s brick-and-mortar businesses will not be at an unfair disadvantage.”

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said California today “has moved forward towards achieving fairness. AB 155 closes a loophole that gives out-of-state online retailers an unfair advantage over stores in California, giving retailers time to achieve a federal solution. Overall, more jobs will ultimately be protected and created within the state.”

Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, issued a statement saying the company is grateful to Brown and the Legislature’s bipartisan leadership “for this win-win law.

“We’re excited that we now can create 10,000 jobs and cause $500 million in investment in California in addition to reinstating our California-based affiliates,” he said. “We’re committed to working with Congress, retailers and the states to pass federal legislation as soon as possible and as analysts have noted, we’ll continue to offer customers the best prices, regardless of whether sales tax is charged.”

Posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Loni Hancock, Nancy Skinner, taxes | 1 Comment »

Walmart breaking from the ‘Amazon tax’ pack?

It seems like state Sen. Loni Hancock, an architect of the “Amazon tax” that the online retailing giant is now trying to repeal, isn’t eager to call out a key ally: Walmart.

Arkansas-based Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, had been pretty gung-ho on Hancock’s and other lawmakers’ rhetoric that changing California law to ensure collection of sales taxes online was a means of “leveling the playing field” between online and brick-and-mortar businesses.

But Brisbane-based Walmart.com, the LA Times reported today, “offers hundreds of products from a third-party retailer, CSN Stores in Boston, that are sold without collecting taxes when state residents buy them. Wal-Mart insists that it’s not its responsibility to require companies that sell products through its site’s Marketplace Retailers program to collect California sales tax, even though the billing and the credit card transactions take place on Walmart.com.”

Asked for comment, Hancock, D-Berkeley sent a statement:

“The new laws are not specifically aimed at Amazon or any other particular internet company. They are aimed at creating a level playing for all companies doing business in the State of California – big and small. It’s up to the Board of Equalization to enforce the law and ensure that no company is evading its responsibility to collect and remit California sales tax.”

So: not taking a position on Walmart specifically, but leaving it up to the Board of Equalization to examine and act on the issue.

Federal law says states can tax sales only if the seller has a physical presence in the state; Californians are supposed to pay taxes on whatever they buy online, but very few actually do.

California’s new law lets the state tax board collect from any retailer with a so-called business “nexus” or connection with an affiliate inside California. Several other states have enacted similar statutes. Amazon has launched a campaign committee to put a measure on next year’s ballot to repeal the law; Hancock last week launched another tax bill that would supersede the existing law but would be passed with a 2/3 legislative majority, making it impervious to repeal by referendum.

Walmart had been poised to help fight against Amazon’s repeal referendum, but now…?

UPDATE @ 5:34 P.M.: Hancock spokesman Larry Levin and chief of staff Hans Hemann feel I’ve been unfair to the senator; they just e-mailed this statement.

Of the three legislative bills dealing with the Amazon tax situation, the one Loni authored – the so-called “long arm” provision – is the bill that gives the Board of Equalization the most wide-ranging authority and open-ended freedom to go after ALL internet sales tax scofflaws.

In fact, it was SPECIFICALLY designed to give BOE enforcement authority to determine if a company owes sales tax. The sponsor of our bill, Board of Equalization board member Betty Yee, told the LA Times that “she believes that Wal-Mart does have an obligation under the California law that took effect July 1 to collect the taxes.”

So we think your post about her was unfair. Her bill speaks for itself. It’s not fair of you to imply that she’s “taking a walk on Walmart” – as you clearly did – when her own bill is clearly and unambiguously designed to go after companies in exactly these circumstances. That is why she said in her statement that she expects the BOE to go after whoever violates the new law.

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Loni Hancock, taxes | 3 Comments »

Death row abolition bill yanked, bound for ballot

State Sen. Loni Hancock today abandoned her bill that would’ve abolished California’s death penalty, even as a coalition supporting it vowed to take it to voters as a ballot measure instead.

Hancock, D-Berkeley, withdrew SB 490 from consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which was scheduled to vote on the bill today.

“The votes were not there to support reforming California’s expensive and dysfunctional death penalty system,” she said in her news release. “I had hoped we would take the opportunity to save hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to support our schools and universities, keep police on our streets and fund essential public institutions like the courts.”

SB 490 would have replaced the death penalty with life imprisonment without possibility of parole for those already condemned and for the future. Hancock chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee as well as the Budget subcommittee that oversees the criminal justice system’s funding. The bill had been opposed by groups including Crime Victims United of California and the California District Attorneys Association.

But California Taxpayers for Justice, which had been backing Hancock’s bill, said it’s far from done.

“If the California Legislature will not act to put an end to California’s death penalty debacle, and to keep California families safe, then we will. We will take immediate steps to file a ballot initiative for the November 2012 general election,” the group said in a news release; more information will be released at a news conference Monday morning in Sacramento.

Stefanie Faucher, a member of California Taxpayers for Justice and associate director of San Francisco-based Death Penalty Focus, said she and her colleagues “are confident that Californians are ready to replace the death penalty.”

Well… maybe.

A July 2010 Field Poll found 70 percent of California voters support capital punishment, up from 67 percent in 2006; this support cut across age, gender, racial, religious and party lines. The survey had a 2.8 percentage point margin of error.

However, a subsample of that same poll found that if given a choice, about as many voters would personally opt to impose a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole — 42 percent — as would choose the death penalty — 41 percent — for someone convicted of first-degree murder. This subsample had a 4.6 percentage point margin of error.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee heard testimony Tuesday from 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Arthur Alarcón and Loyola Law Professor Paula Mitchell, co-authors of the study, “Executing the Will of the Voters? – A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” published in June. The study had concluded California has “the most expensive and least effective death penalty law in the nation.”

And last week, former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp and Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson testified in support of the bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Van de Kamp chaired the California Commission of the Fair Administration of Justice, which produced a 2008 report that called the state’s death penalty system dysfunctional and a waste of money.

Posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Public safety, state budget, State Prisons | 4 Comments »

Lawmakers: Cancel your Amazon.com account

A pair of East Bay lawmakers will join with a group of nonprofits and concerned citizens Monday to launch a campaign urging Californians to cancel their Amazon.com accounts until the retail giant backs off its ballot-measure effort to repeal an online sales tax.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who were instrumental in the tax legislation’s passage, will hold a news conference on the State Capitol’s north steps Monday morning with Nan Brasmer, president of the California Alliance for Retired Americans; Jessica Lehman, lead organizer with Community Resources for Independent Living; and a few dozen California seniors, families, people with disabilities and health and human services advocates.

They’ll be making a case that making Amazon collect sales tax from Californians’ online purchases would level the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar businesses, bringing the state $200 million per year in revenue that’s desperately needed to maintain vital public services.

After the news conference, participants will testify to the state Senate Appropriations Committee in support of additional measures needed to raise revenues.

Monday’s event, one of several planned statewide, is sponsored by the Health and Human Services Network of California, California Partnership, Health Access, California Immigrant Policy Center, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Parent Voices, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Community Resources for Independent Living and other groups.

Posted on Friday, August 12th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Nancy Skinner, state budget, taxes | 40 Comments »

Hancock pushes ‘double majority’ tax measure

State Senator Loni Hancock today introduced a proposed state constitutional amendment to let a simple majority of the Legislature place tax measures on the ballot for passage by a simple majority of voters.

Hancock, D-Berkeley, says her SCA 15, which she’s calling “The Taxpayer Right to Vote Act,” wouldn’t replace the existing two-thirds requirement to pass taxes, but rather would create an alternative to it: a “double majority” in which both lawmakers and the public weigh in.

“This is a common-sense proposal to help break the gridlock that is still gripping Sacramento,” Hancock said in her news release. “We spent the past six months in fruitless negotiations with Republicans that went nowhere. Now, many of the public institutions that once made our state great and provided opportunities for our citizens are in grave jeopardy. Voters should have the right to decide if they want to pay for teachers in the classroom and police on the streets.”

Hancock said the need to provide revenue “for vital services that are important to the well-being of Californians” shouldn’t be held hostage by a legislative minority that’s unwilling to compromise and “blinded by narrow ideological agendas.”

She framed this as another reform measure aimed at making state government more responsive to the people, a natural follow-up to Proposition 25’s creation of a majority-vote budget process. “It simply creates a viable alternative to legislative gridlock.”

I’ve left a message for Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal and will update this item as soon as I’ve heard back from him…

UPDATE @ 3:39 P.M.: “This is called the ‘Legislature Screws the Taxpayers Act of 2012?’ ” Coupal asked with a laugh. “When the voters passed Prop. 25, they were told over and over and over again, ‘This does not affect the two-thirds vote for taxes. Anyone who does not believe there was a long-term agenda here is deceiving themselves.”

If this makes it onto next year’s ballot, voters would “beat this thing like a drum,” Coupal added. “The voters just rejected the last eight statewide tax proposals that appeared on the ballot… so the voters are very negative on tax increases and they will see this for what it really is: a power grab by the Legislature.”

Posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Loni Hancock, state budget, taxes | 4 Comments »

Amazon seeks ballot measure to repeal sales tax

A lobbyist for online retail giant Amazon.com submitted to the Attorney General’s office Friday a draft of a proposed ballot measure that would roll back the online sales tax just passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Amazon’s “California Jobs Referendum” will be reviewed and given a title and summary by the AG’s office before it’s cleared to start gathering petition signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Amazon Vice President of Public Policy Paul Misener issued this statement today:

“This is a referendum on jobs and investment in California. We support this referendum against the recent sales tax legislation because, with unemployment at well over 11 percent, Californians deserve a voice and a choice about jobs, investment and the state’s economic future. At a time when businesses are leaving California, it is important to enact policies that attract and encourage business, not drive it away. Amazon looks forward to working again with tens of thousands of small business affiliates in California that were harmed by the new law’s effect on hundreds of out-of-state retailers. As Governor Brown has made clear, it is important to directly involve the citizens of California in key issues and we believe that Californians will want to vote to protect small business and keep jobs in the state.”

As my Mercury News colleague Patrick May explained last month, federal law says states can tax sales only if the seller has a physical presence in the state. California sought to get past that issue by letting the state tax board collect from any retailer with a so-called business “nexus” or connection with an affiliate inside California. Supporters say it would make the tax code more fair, forcing Internet retailers to collect taxes just as brick-and-mortar stores already do. Several other states have enacted similar statutes.

UPDATE @ 4:30 P.M.: Board of Equalization member George Runner says “I told you so:”

“As I warned, Californians are losing jobs and income as a result of the so-called ‘Amazon Tax.’ It should come as no surprise that impacted California business owners would seek its repeal.

“Clearly, the ‘Amazon Tax’ is not working. After having terminated their relationships with thousands of California-based affiliate businesses, leading out-of-state online sellers continue to sell into California without collecting the sales tax.

“My staff has identified more than three dozen online sellers that have terminated their affiliate programs. Each termination represents lost jobs and lost income for California—losses that could have been easily avoided had the Governor and Legislature exercised a little common sense.

“Proponents of the ‘Amazon Tax’ claimed it would ‘create fairness’ by ‘leveling the playing field’ between California’s brick and mortar retailers and out-of-state online sellers. They claimed it would generate $200 million in new revenues for the state this year. But they were wrong.”

UPDATE @ 4:54 P.M.: State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who sponsored some one of the bills that led to the online sales tax, says, “It is unfortunate that Amazon – a multi-billion dollar corporation – continues to argue for a tax loophole that gave them a unfair advantage against California’s small business owners. All we are asking is that they collect and remit their fair share of taxes, like everyone else.”

UPDATE @ 5:24 P.M.: Board of Equalization member Betty Yee doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her colleague George Runner. “It is in every Californian’s interest for online and store front businesses to play by the same rules,” Yee said in a news release. “I strongly doubt Californians will support a loophole promoting out-of-state jobs, when holding Amazon.com accountable to the same rules as everyone else protects California’s economy.”

Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Loni Hancock, state budget, taxes | 3 Comments »

Death penalty author to argue for its abolition

An author of California’s death-penalty law as it exists today will testify for its abolition tomorrow, an East Bay lawmaker announced.

Don HellerDon Heller, a former prosecutor who authored the successful Proposition 7 of 1978 to broaden the capital punishment California had just reinstated the previous year, will testify to the Assembly Public Safety Committee in favor of SB 490, state Sen. Loni Hancock’s bill to abolish the state’s death penalty. The bill would convert the sentences of all those now on California’s death row to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Witnesses previously scheduled to testify for the bill include Hancock, D-Berkeley, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee as well as the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Corrections; Judy Kerr, sister of a murder victim and spokeswoman for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; and Death Penalty Focus Executive Director Jeanne Woodford, who as San Quentin State Prison’s warden oversaw four executions before becoming director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Among those scheduled to testify against the bill are Crime Victims United of California lobbyist Dawn Sanders-Koepke and a representative from the California District Attorneys Association.

Posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Public safety, State Prisons | No Comments »