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3 from Bay Area on budget conference committee

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

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

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

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

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

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What they’re saying about the governor’s budget

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“This is a proposal that clearly shows California has turned the corner. The Governor’s budget is sober, restrained and forward thinking, and I believe it’s a solid foundation for the budget process. I am looking forward to thorough and insightful public hearings as we work with the Governor to adopt the final budget by our Constitutional deadline.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“It’s easy for Gov. Brown to tout austerity and fiscal restraint when he has more of the taxpayers’ money in his pocket. His challenge will be to follow through on those promises when the economy continues to stagnate and the Democrats’ pie-in-the-sky projections don’t come to pass. That’s why Republican legislative leadership correctly proposed this week for the Governor to mandate that his new Prop 30 taxes fund our classrooms and protect our communities.

“What’s disappointing about Gov. Brown’s announcement is that job creation was never mentioned. Cutting the regulatory burden was ignored. Working with Republicans to unify the state is sadly not part of his agenda. In order for California to finally emerge from its economic doldrums and enter a new Golden Age, the answer lies with policies that encourage job growth and unleash the innovation of small business owners, not with budget wrangling and deferred payments that mask billions in debt to the federal government for unemployment insurance and more.

“We need bold reforms to go hand in hand with accountability and responsible fiscal governance if we want to return California and its citizens to prosperity. If Jerry Brown thinks we’re out of the woods just because, on paper, we’ll finally be ‘living within our means,’ he’s sadly mistaken.”

From state Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

“The budget proposal released today by Governor Brown is the most positive one we have seen in half a decade. The budget is narrowly balanced and contains elements that ensure a modest reserve. However, it reflects the difficult cuts and decisions the Legislature and Governor have made in the past few years to address the state’s structural budget deficit. It also demonstrates the confidence entrusted in us by voters in November who recognized that our fiscal situation was untenable without new temporary revenues. Although we are still under fiscal constraints, I am hopeful we are now past the period of devastating cuts we saw in previous years to education and programs that provide critical aid to elderly Californians, disabled people and working families.

“With the improvement of our fiscal outlook comes the opportunity to continue our work to restore California. While our recent efforts have focused largely on making cuts in the least harmful manner possible, we will now have more capacity to refine our work to improve essential programs and analyze the role of government and its effectiveness. I look forward to working with Governor Brown and my colleagues in the Legislature to evaluate this year’s budget to help ensure it is the best possible plan for a state on the mend.”

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

“New funding for our classrooms is a positive step forward for California. However, the Governor’s budget only seems to include $2.7 billion in new funding for K-12 schools and community colleges even though Proposition 30 taxes will generate $6 billion this year alone – Californians should be disappointed.

“I remain concerned that while state spending is being increased by $5 billion over last year, much of this money is used to expand state programs and provides major pay and benefit increases for state employees.

“Basically, this budget is balanced by a $50 billion tax increase, and Californians have yet to see any real, long-term plan to bring back jobs and help our struggling families.”

More, after the jump…
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Bay Area lawmakers propose ammo control law

Three Bay Area lawmakers introduced legislation yesterday that would require that law enforcement be notified of large ammunition purchases.

AB 2512 – co-authored by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco; and state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley – would require vendors who sell, supply, deliver, or give possession of more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition to an individual within any five day period to report the transaction to the local law enforcement agency where the individual resides within one day. State law does not currently require any oversight, tracking or reporting of large-quantity ammunition transactions.

Their bill also would prohibit large-capacity conversion kits or “clip kits” which allow more than 10 rounds to be shot without reloading.

This is a “gut-and-amend” of Skinner’s previously introduced bill that would’ve fined certain limited liability companies for failing to file tax returns.

The lawmakers cited James Holmes, charged with murdering 12 people and attempting to murder scores more in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, as having amassed 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the course of a few weeks without raising any red flags with authorities.

“While incidents like Aurora may be rare, gun violence is an ongoing, yet unnecessary threat in communities throughout California. As lawmakers we need to do everything we can to minimize it,” Skinner said in a news release issued today.

Hancock said California “has been a national leader in adopting thoughtful gun safety laws,” and she hopes this bill “will further protect the public from becoming a victim of gun violence and prevent tragedies like the one in Aurora, Colorado.”

Ammiano said nobody has a legal, vested interest in being able to fire off hundreds of rounds in a short time. “We’re not taking ammunition away from legitimate sportsmen and women. We just want to be sure local law enforcement has the tools it needs to stay ahead.”

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Sandre Swanson drops 2012 state Senate bid

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson has abandoned his challenge to fellow Democrat state Sen. Loni Hancock.

“I finally concluded that, setting all misunderstandings aside, that it’s the best interests of our community not to have a major Democrat-on-Democrat campaign when we’re trying to win a two-thirds majority in the Senate,” Swanson, D-Alameda, said a few minutes ago. “It’s much better for our meager resources to be used in trying to get a two-thirds majority.”

Swanson said this past weekend’s pre-endorsement conference, in which local Democrats overwhelmingly chose Hancock, D-Berkeley, over him, “really didn’t” affect his decision; incumbents who represent the party’s values almost always win such votes, he said. And he acknowledged, as he has in the past, that he and Hancock agree on most issues.

Swanson, who’ll be term-limited out of the Assembly at this year’s end, had jumped into the race after redistricting confirmed he would be eligible, even though he’d initially said he wouldn’t run against his longtime ally. Senate Democrats quickly rolled out their support for Hancock.

Now he’s endorsing her for 2012, and she – in a news release issued by Senate Democrats late this afternoon – is endorsing him to succeed her in 2016. Read that release in its entirety, after the jump…
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Democratic endorsements, or the lack thereof

There were some interesting Bay Area results from the California Democratic Party’s “pre-endorsing conferences” this past weekend, at which members of the party’s state central committee, county committees and local Democratic clubs got together to vote on who should get the nod for the June 6 primaries.

A candidate would’ve needed 70 percent of the vote at one of these meetings in order to secure a place on the consent calendar at the state Democratic convention, which will be held Feb. 10-12 in San Diego.

In some places, redistricting has pitted former friends and allies against each other; such is the challenge Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, is mounting against state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento had signaled his support of Hancock months ago, and – unsurprisingly – I hear she got 136 votes (86 percent) at the local conference while Swanson got only 21. However, I hear Swanson had enough local labor heavy-hitters behind him to guarantee he’ll have some boots on the ground in the run-up to the vote.

Swanson is term-limited out of what has become the new 18th Assembly District, where Democrats including Rob Bonta, Joel Young, Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal are vying to replace him. Bonta got the most votes but Young trailed just behind, with nobody anywhere close to the 70 percent threshold.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, is term-limited out of the new 20th Assembly District, where Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk got the pre-endorsement nod over fellow Democrats Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, and New Haven Unified School District Sarabjit Cheema. (Union City Mark Green ditched his former Democratic affiliation and is running as an independent.)

The only vacant Bay Area House seat is the one created by the impending retirement of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, fired off a news release noting he got 69 votes – more than all the other candidates combined – highlighting “the strong grassroots support of my campaign from throughout this entire district.” But his closest competitor, progressive activist Norm Solomon of Inverness, got 41 votes – enough to block any endorsement in this race.

And in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was solidly endorsed over an upstart challenge by Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. I hear that a staffer for state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, cast her vote for Stark rather than for “no endorsement” – a sign that Corbett, who’d at first said she was raising funds to seek this seat in 2014 but later said she was re-assessing the option of jumping in now, perhaps has decided not to go for it this year. Corbett herself couldn’t cast a ballot, because she doesn’t live within the new district’s lines.

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Senate adjourns in honor of Richmond’s Livingston

The California State Senate adjourned today in memory of George Livingston, the first elected African-American mayor of Richmond, who died Saturday.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, introduced the motion to adjourn in his honor, and said this on the floor:

“I rise today to ask the Senate to adjourn in memory of George Livingston, former Mayor of Richmond, California. He died Saturday morning in Doctor’s Hospital in San Pablo at the age of 78 after a long bout with diabetes.”

George Livingtson“He had the distinction of being Richmond’s first elected African-American mayor and was known throughout the region as a leader and consensus builder, and a person who brought people together to get things done.”

“I particularly honor the work that he and I did together when I was Mayor of Berkeley and he was Mayor of Richmond. We formed a program with Oakland called the East Bay Safety Corridor where our police worked together. We exchanged best practices, we got radios to talk to each other for the first time, and we worked together in recognition of the fact that we are one urban community and our people travel across district lines.”

“It was a great collaboration that lasted for ten years and accomplished many wonderful things. George was there from the beginning, absolutely key and absolutely supportive, and remained so throughout my time in the Legislature.”

“He will be greatly missed. He was a great man and I request that we honor his memory and send our condolences to his wife, Eunice, his son, George, Jr., and his daughter, Grace.”