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It’s no NY, but CA still mulling same-sex rights

New York State on Friday enacted a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, and while the California Legislature is somewhat stymied from following suit until courts figure out whether our state constitutional ban on the practice will stand, it is moving on other same-sex equality fronts.

SB 651 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would eliminate the requirement that couples must live together before entering into a domestic partnership. The state Senate passed this bill June 1 on a 24-15 vote; the Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear it at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28.

SB 117 by state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, would require that all state contractors paid more than $100,000 don’t discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation of their employees’ spouses or domestic partners. Current law requires agencies to ensure contractors don’t discriminate between married employees and employees in domestic partnerships when providing benefits, but doesn’t cover same-sex couples who married during the period from when the statutory ban on it was voided by the California Supreme Court in May 2008 until voters approved Proposition 8’s constitutional ban in November 2008. The state Senate approved this bill May 9 on a 21-15 vote; it’s now awaiting an Assembly floor vote.

And AB 1349 by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would clarify that courts can consider the relationship between a child and his or her biological and non-biological parents are when they’re asked to rule on who that child’s legal parents are. Current law lets biological parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity that can be used to cut off a non-biological parent’s relationship. The Assembly passed this bill May 2 on a 52-22 vote; it’s now awaiting a state Senate floor vote.

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Hill, Mark Leno, same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

Angry words as Democrats move budget forward

Lots of tough words are flying back and forth across the aisle as the Legislature has sent a Democratic party-line budget to Gov. Jerry Brown.

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

“Today Democrats have passed a balanced budget and respected the state constitutional deadline and voters’ wishes. While this was the responsible thing to do, it is heartbreaking. Republicans were unwilling to give voters the option to avoid cuts and slashing funding for courts and education.”

“This deadline, and our commitment to meet it, has been known to all, including Republicans, since Proposition 25 passed last November. Republicans’ steadfast resistance to putting another option before voters – to ask whether to continue taxes at their current level instead of letting them expire – is undemocratic.

“The truth is we have no other option to pass a budget that is balanced. Without more revenue, the only option left is to make awful cuts. And these come after we already made $11 billion of tough cuts in March.

“There is no doubt we can do better – we must do better – for California and its future. I call on Republicans to consider the consequences of what is happening here today, and ask all Californians to contact Republican legislators and demand another option.”

“The bill now goes to the governor, who will continue to seek Republican support for an alternative to this harsh, all-cuts budget. All Californians should contact the governor and Republican legislators today to demand a more equitable solution.”

From state Senators Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto; Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet; and Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, the four Republicans seen as pivotal to a budget deal:

Tom Harman“Today’s actions prove that the bridge tax isn’t a stumbling block – it’s political theater. The real stumbling block for the Majority Party are the unions and trial lawyers demanding they block the reform proposals we have been pushing for months.

“Instead of a political drill, today we could have had a real bipartisan budget – one that allows voters to weigh in on Governor Brown’s tax proposal as well as a hard spending cap, significant reforms to our broken pension system, and improvements to California’s business climate to spur the economy and get people back to work.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“Today, through their inexplicable refusal to engage in a responsible and balanced budget solution, Republican legislators have forced an additional $300M in devastating cuts to our public universities.

“For six months, Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders have tried to work with Republican legislators to reach common-sense, common-ground solutions to California’s budget problems that would have minimized already enormous cuts to the University of California and California State University systems, the cornerstone of California’s economic engine.

“But, even after Democrats passed $12.5B of budget cuts in March, including $1B from higher education, Republican lawmakers have been incapable and unwilling to meet anywhere near the middle.

“These cuts are penny wise and pound foolish and threaten to further damage a stretched-to-the-limit public university system that was once the envy of the world. In volatile economic times, we should be investing in our universities to ensure we are producing the highly-skilled, educated workforce California needs to compete in the global economy.

“If Republicans want to walk the walk on job creation and attract and retain businesses in California, they should immediately return to the table and negotiate a good-faith solution that reverses these additional cuts to the State’s universities.”

From Board of Equalization member George Runner:

George Runner“Make no mistake, this Democrat budget isn’t about solving California’s fiscal problems—it’s only goal is to ensure lawmakers keep their paychecks flowing.

“When voters last fall granted Democrats their wish of majority-vote budgets, they demanded lawmakers forfeit their pay if those budgets are not approved on-time. But it was never the voters’ intention for lawmakers to approve a sham budget simply to keep their paychecks coming.

“What’s worse is that to protect their own pay, Democrats are poised to sacrifice the paychecks of thousands of California small businesses known as affiliates. Up to 25,000 of these Internet entrepreneurs will lose their affiliate status if Democrats approve a so-called ‘Amazon tax.’ According to the Board of Equalization’s analysis, ‘termination of affiliate programs would have an adverse impact on state employment’ and ‘lead to lower revenues.’

“The dumbest idea of all is the Democrats’ plan to sell state buildings for one-time revenue. If lawmakers want real one-time dollars, they should consider my proposals to raise billions in revenue by (1) granting an interest and penalty holiday to spur collection of delinquent tax payments and (2) selling-off aging debts owed the state.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Fiona Ma, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, Lt. Governor, Mark Leno, state budget, Tom Harman | 4 Comments »

The buzz on Jerry Brown’s May budget revision

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and state Senate Budget Vice Chair Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar:

Bob Dutton“Senate Republicans believe Governor Brown is moving in the right direction by making education and law enforcement funding a top priority. We also applaud the governor for embracing Republican proposals of paying down state debt and providing some job-creation incentives.

“But the May Revise goes too far on taxes and not far enough on reforms.

“Rather than curbing government spending, the governor’s revised budget still sets the state on a course of excessive spending growth in the future – spending that relies on tax increases.

“With $6.6 billion in new revenues, Republicans are right – we don’t need, and it’s ridiculous to ask voters for, five years of new taxes.

“Clearly the California economy is trying to recover, which makes it critical that the state budget include reforms that Senate Republicans have been seeking from day one – a hard spending cap, pension reform and business-regulation relief.

“The Senate Republicans’ long-terms solutions provide the stability small businesses need to grow and create jobs.”

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

Mark Leno“The revised budget proposal Governor Brown released today makes use of the state’s unexpected improved revenues in a fiscally responsible way and addresses California’s structural deficit so that we do not dig the hole any deeper. While our cash forecasts are encouraging, we are far from resolving the long-term deficit problem, and must not fall into the trap of utilizing one-time solutions, borrowing and deferments that would only aggravate the problem. This revised budget is an honest and balanced spending plan that extends current revenues to stimulate the economy, secure jobs and protect public investments in K-12 education, universities, public safety and social programs. I am committed to working with Governor Brown, my colleagues in the Legislature and the people of California to help our state recover and flourish once again.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare:

Connie Conway“In our ‘Roadmap to a No Tax Increase Budget,’ Assembly Republicans showed that we can protect funding for the classroom and law enforcement without raising taxes. We call upon the Governor to stop trying to raise people’s taxes and start working across party lines on a no-tax increase budget compromise. Protecting our core priorities, reforming state government and bringing back private sector jobs – without raising taxes — must continue to be our focus as we work to get California back on track.”

From state Treasurer Bill Lockyer:

“The Governor deserves credit for not succumbing to expediency and remaining focused on California’s longer-term fiscal future. The plan reflects an understanding that, despite welcome revenue increases, the State still faces significant budget shortfalls not just in the next fiscal year, but in subsequent years. It closes those ongoing deficits with a balanced approach that solidifies California’s fiscal foundation without short-circuiting the state’s economic recovery.

“The plan’s effect on our ability to borrow $10 billion to meet the State’s cash-flow needs remains unclear. If full implementation of the Governor’s FY 2011/12 plan remains contingent on voter approval of taxes, my office will not be able to complete a cash-flow borrowing transaction unless the final adopted budget includes real, inescapable, quickly-implemented spending cuts that would be triggered if voters reject the taxes.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, May 16th, 2011
Under: Bill Lockyer, Bob Dutton, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, John Chiang, Mark Leno, state budget, Tom Harman, Tom Torlakson | 11 Comments »

Foreclosure forum set for Saturday in Oakland

At least three state lawmakers are expected to attend a “foreclosure and economic crisis solutions forum” Saturday at which foreclosure victims, clergy, public employees and others will call for new initiatives to aid struggling communities.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda; Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, are scheduled to attend the public forum, from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday in St. Louis Bertrand Church, 1410 100th Ave. in Oakland. The event is being organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Oakland Community Organizations, PICO California, and SEIU Local 1021.

The forum will feature testimonies from foreclosure victims and local officials who are still feeling the crisis’ impact, and will offer policy solutions.

“Banks must be held accountable,” Lilian Cabrera, currently in foreclosure proceedings, said in a news release. “I’m a small business owner in Oakland, and if I don’t hold up my end of a contract, I’ll lose my license. Well, the banks certainly haven’t held up their end of the deal and they’re getting away with it.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, housing, Mark Leno, Nancy Skinner, Oakland, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

New bills on booze, child care, energy, bullies

Like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, state lawmakers flocked back to Sacramento today, some to be sworn into their new terms, some to introduce bills, some perhaps just to keep their seats warm.

Among the Bay Area delegation’s legislative priorities: sangria, child care, party buses, public utilities, human trafficking, renewable energy and bullying (in no particular order).

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – who was announced today as the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee – introduced a bill that would lift state law’s ban on sale of infused alcohol. Believe it or not, it’s illegal under existing law for a bar to mix up a big jar of sangria, or to infuse a big container of vodka or some other liquor, for later use and sale; such things can only be made to order. As a resurgence of the art of the cocktail has swept the state, many bar owners have ignored this rule – at their peril, it turned out, when the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started handing out warnings and citations earlier this year. Leno estimates half of the Bay Area bars’s create and serve infusions, including limoncello, sangria, fruit flavored tequilas and many flavors of infused vodka, and his SB 32 is supported by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, was named Majority Leader – second in command, responsible for setting the Democratic agenda and the Senate’s floor operations – and introduced a bill to restore the $256 million for Stage 3 child care that Gov. Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed out of the state’s budget. The Stage 3 program provided child care services to more than 81,000 children and some 60,000 working families statewide; a court has put the cut on hold until Dec. 31, and the First 5 Commissions in many counties – including Alameda and Santa Clara – are footing the program’s bills until funding can be restored. “This money is vital for thousands of working parents, their children, and their caregivers who depend on these centers being open,” Corbett said in a news release.

On the Assembly side, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, co-authored the Assembly version of the bill to restore the vetoed child-care funds, and also introduced his own bill to crack down on operators of “party buses” that allow underage drinking aboard their vehicles. Prompted by the death of a 19-year-old from Burlingame, Hill’s AB 45 would require bus drivers – just as limousine drivers already are required – to make underage passengers sign statements that their consumption of alcohol is illegal, and then end the ride if any underage passengers imbibe. Fines starting at $2,000 for a first offense could be imposed by the Public Utilities Commission against companies that don’t comply, and further violations could result in license suspensions or revocations; party bus operators also could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Hill also introduced a bill, inspired by the Sept. 9 natural gas blast that killed eight people and flattened 27 San Bruno homes, that would prevent utilities from using ratepayer money to pay penalties or fees assessed by the Public Utilities Commission; require utilities that own or operate gas facilities to annually report to the PUC any pipeline problems; require utilities to create public education programs on their emergency response plans; require gas pipeline owners or operators to prioritize pipelines near seismically active areas for increased safety oversight, and by 2020 to create programs to upgrade their facilities for state-of-the-art inspection methods; require the PUC to set minimum standards to install automatic and/or remote shutoff valves; and require the PUC to ensure utility owners actually use rate increases to pay for the projects they propose, with any diversions publicly explained.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, December 6th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, energy, Jerry Hill, Joe Simitian, Mark Leno, Sandre Swanson, state budget, Tom Ammiano | No Comments »

Marriage bill: religious freedom or ‘Trojan horse?’

My article in yesterday’s editions reported upon a Presbyterian minister who’s been put on trial this week by her church for having solemnized same-sex marriages during the five months in 2008 when it was legal in California to do so, but still forbidden by the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution.

Meanwhile, a pending bill would ensure that clergy members whose faiths oppose same-sex marriage are never forced into solemnizing such relationships, no matter what state law says about civil marriage. But SB 906 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, faces some opposition from some sections of the religious community.

William May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good, last month called the bill “a Trojan horse sponsored by the opponents of Prop 8. It is another slap at the 7 million voters who passed it.”

“The sponsor, Equality California, is trying to manufacture on their own a ‘civil’ class of marriage that is independent of marriage as a reality of nature,” he wrote. “It is clear this bill will be used to fool the voters into thinking there is a difference between religious and civil marriage and that same-sex ‘marriage’ will have no impact on churches and people of faith.”

The California Family Council opposes SB 906 for the same reason, as does Concerned Women for America of California.

I understand what they’re saying about Proposition 8’s ban on marriage being the will of the electorate, but there is an effective difference between religious marriage and civil marriage: If you don’t get a civil marriage certificate, your marriage isn’t recognized in California, and you don’t need a clergy member to sign that certificate. Read a deconstruction of May’s arguments here.

Said Leno, back in May: “This bill simply affirms that California is a diverse state and that we can all co-exist and make space for each others’ beliefs without compromising the beliefs of any religious group or individual. With the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, churches and clergy members who fear their religious views are threatened by marriage equality will have clear and solid protections under state law. In addition, churches that welcome same-sex couples will continue to fully recognize those families within their faith.”

The Assembly approved SB 906 last Thursday on a 51-26 vote; Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, joined with Democrats to support it. It now goes back to the state Senate – which approved it 23-11 in May – briefly for concurrence with a technical change, and then it’s headed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Mark Leno, same-sex marriage | 6 Comments »

Lawmakers ride out-of-district money wave

California lawmakers over the past three years raised 79 percent of campaign funds from outside their districts, according to a new study by the data-crunching wizards at Berekeley-based nonpartisan nonprofit MAPLight.org.

MAPLight.org (that’s “MAP” as in “Money In Politics”) found California legislators serving as of Aug. 31, 2009 – 79 Assembly members and 40 Senators – raised $97.9 million in campaign funds from January 2007 through March 2010, with $77.5 million coming from outside the district. About $11.9 (12 percent) came from in-district, while the remaining $8.6 million (9 percent) couldn’t be definitively located.

More than half of the lawmakers (68 out of 117 members, or 58 percent) raised 80 percent or more of their campaign funds from outside their districts; 19 lawmakers raised 90 percent or more of their funds from outside their districts.

“Not a single legislator in California raised the majority of their campaign funds from in-district, where their voters live.” MAPLight.org Executive Director Daniel Newman said in a news release. “Instead of a voter democracy, we have a donor democracy.”

“With out-of-district fundraising at a staggering 80 percent, the problem is not with a few bad apples, but with a rotten barrel,” he said. “This report shows that our campaign finance system is broken. This remote control system works well for wealthy interest groups, but not for voters.”

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation stacked up in percentage of contributions from out of district, and rank among the 119 lawmakers surveyed:

  • Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose – 94.0 percent (#5)
  • Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley – 92.7 percent (#10)
  • State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – 89.1 percent (#21)
  • Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, San Francisco – 87.8 percent (#29)
  • Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Newark – 87.5 percent (#33)
  • State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – 85.5 percent (#40)
  • State Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose – 85.4 percent (#43)
  • Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City – 83.2 percent (#54)
  • Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch – 82.9 percent (#56)
  • Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., D-San Jose – 82.5 percent (#59)
  • Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda – 80.4 percent (#64)
  • Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino – 80.0 percent (#68)
  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – 79.2 percent (#72)
  • Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis – 76.9 percent (#79)
  • Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa – 74.7 percent (#85)
  • State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – 74.5 percent (#87)
  • Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael – 72.5 percent (#91)
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley – 67.4 percent (#100)
  • State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto – 63.4 percent (#102)
  • Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – 62.1 percent (#105)
  • Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo – 62.0 percent (#106)
  • State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – 58.9 percent (#110)
  • State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berekeley – 57.9 percent (#112)
  • And, in case you’re wondering where the money comes from, the top 15 ZIP codes of contributions to legislators were:

    1 Sacramento, CA 95814 – $23,149,034 (23.66%)
    2 San Francisco, CA 94105 – $2,034,877 (2.08%)
    3 Sacramento, CA 95833 – $1,408,211 (1.44%)
    4 Los Angeles, CA 90020 – $1,395,635 (1.43%)
    5 Burlingame CA, 94010 – $1,280,137 (1.31%)
    6 Los Angeles, CA 90071 – $1,054,345 (1.08%)
    7 Newport Beach, CA 92660 –$972,717 (0.99%)
    8 Sacramento, CA 95811 – $843,928 (0.86%)
    9 Sacramento, CA 95816 – $839,730 (0.86%)
    10 Los Angeles, CA 90017 – $741,449 (0.76%)
    11 Oakland, CA 94612 – $698,200 (0.71%)
    12 Sacramento. CA 95834 – $669,150 (0.68%)
    13 Pasadena, CA 91101 – $625,373 (0.64%)
    14 Los Angeles, CA 90010 – $621,677 (0.64%)
    15 San Francisco, CA 94111 – $583,888 (0.60%)

    MAPLight.org is among supporters of Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, which would try out a system of public financing of election campaigns in the 2014 and 2018 elections for Secretary of State, funded by an increase in lobbyist registration fees.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Assembly, ballot measures, California State Senate, campaign finance, Elaine Alquist, Ellen Corbett, Fiona Ma, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Joe Coto, Joe Simitian, Leland Yee, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Tom Ammiano, Tom Torlakson | 3 Comments »

    Hayashi, Yee amass piles of campaign cash

    A gander at Bay Area state lawmakers’ cash on hand at the end of 2009 reveals that two are way ahead of the pack.

    In the East Bay, Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, had $367,751.57 in her campaign coffers at last year’s end, more than twice the amount of any other Bay Area Assembly member seeking re-election in 2010; the next-closest is Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, at $182,390.30.

    It looks like the bulk of Hayashi’s contributions have come from labor unions and health-care-related interest groups – not surprising, given she chairs to the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. Still, that’s a lot of heft for someone who’s unlikely to face a primary election challenge, and who represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

    There were unsubstantiated rumors last year that Hayashi might mount a primary challenge to state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro (who had a hefty $2207,368.04 in the bank at year’s end), but she has filed no such notice of intent with the Secretary of State’s office. Then again, I don’t see that she has an Assembly re-election Web site up. Then again again, she probably doesn’t need one yet.

    But the Bay Area’s biggest pot o’ gold belongs to state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who had $1,058,674.86 in the bank at 2009’s end. Beyond Chron has an interesting rundown on where a good chunk of that money is coming from, and why.

    Although Yee is seeking re-election this year, he’s also rumored to be preparing for a San Francisco mayoral run in 2011. If so, he could end up needing a lot of cash in a crowded race against Supervisor Bevan Dufty, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Assessor Phil Ting, and possibly Public Defender Jeff Adachi and District Attorney Kamala Harris, too (if Harris doesn’t prevail in this year’s state Attorney General’s race, as she’s hoping).

    The region’s barest cupboard is that of state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who had $19,296.47 in the bank at year’s end. But he’s not up for re-election until 2012, so he has plenty of time to beef up the bankroll.

    UPDATE @ 11:36 A.M. FRIDAY 2/12: Yee takes umbrage at Beyond Chron’s characterization of his votes. From a letter he sent to Beyond Chron:

    The author attacked my voting record on 7 different health care bills that came before me in the State Senate. Regrettably, the author was in such a rush to play “gotcha politics,” talk about “flip-flopping” and “blue-dog Democrats”, that he never called or contacted my office to get the facts.

    The result is all too familiar: on 5 of the 7 bills in question, the author was simply dead wrong on the facts. While accidents happen, it is hard to believe that anyone who was writing a hit piece as vitriolic as this one would just accidentally get over 70% of their facts wrong.

    Yee said four of the votes at issue were held on the same day, on which he was absent to attend his daughter’s wedding. Beyond Chron called a fifth, on a bill to create a public, single-payer health care system, a flip-flop on Yee’s part, but Yee said the bill had been gutted and amended into something entirely different in the year between his votes.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
    Under: Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance, Leland Yee, Mark Leno, Mary Hayashi | 1 Comment »

    Mark Leno enters national health care fray

    State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is rubbing elbows with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., today for events to promote single-payer universal health care.

    Leno – author of the California Universal Health Care Act, SB 810 – is about to join Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to speak at a “Medicare: Made in America,” rally in support of Conyers’ HR 676, which creates a Medicare-for-all-style health care system. Afterward, he’ll be meeting with House and Senate members and staffers in support of a single-payer system.

    “Our health care system is a failed experiment,” Leno said in a news release. “We don’t even have a health care system in this country, we have a risk management system, and the risk being managed is not the health of you and your family, it’s the profit margin of the insurance industry. People are realizing that insurance companies don’t provide health care – they ration it based on who can pay the most. A single payer system would put doctors and patients back in charge of health care decisions and is proven to save billions a year in wasteful administration. We need to build on systems, like Medicare, that we know will work.”

    Later yet this afternoon, Leno will join Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, at a Congressional briefing on state-based single payer initiatives sponsored by the California Nurses, to talk about successes and setbacks in California’s own health-care reform efforts.

    “California made history by passing a Medicare for all style health care plan – twice – only to have it thwarted by the Governor,” Leno said. “The single payer movement in California continues to grow quickly in every county of the state and our success has inspired other state legislatures. We won’t stop pushing until every American has access to health care.”

    Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009
    Under: General, healthcare reform, Mark Leno | Comments Off

    Lawmakers press for clear medical pot policy

    Both the California Legislature and Congress want the Obama Administration to better explain its policy on medical marijuana.

    State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, late Monday introduced a joint resolution urging the federal government to end medical marijuana raids in California and to “create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it.”

    The Obama Administration has signaled a willingness to change federal policy – saying it’ll raid only traffickers who masquerade as medical dispensaries, using states’ medical marijuana laws as a shield – but hasn’t yet produced a clear implementation plan. There’ve been several raids in California since the apparent shift, leaving federal agents and prosecutors in the awkward position of determining who is and isn’t obeying state law.

    Leno’s resolution, SJR 14, not only asks President Obama and Congress to “move quickly to end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical marijuana law,” but also asks the federal government to establish “an affirmative defense to medical marijuana charges in federal court and establish federal legal protection for individuals authorized by state and local law…” Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in the Oakland-based Gonzales v. Raich case, marijuana defendants can’t defend themselves in federal court using a medical or state-law defense.

    “Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement and legally established medical marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subjects of federal raids,” Leno said in a news release. “This resolution will clearly state the Legislature’s opposition to federal interference with California’s medical marijuana law and support for expanded federal reform and medical research.”

    Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee is pushing for clarity in the Obama administration’s policy by adding language to the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill.

    Sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., the language states, “There have been conflicting public reports about the Department’s enforcement of medical marijuana policies. Within 60 days of enactment, the Department shall provide to the Committee clarification of the Department’s policy regarding enforcement of federal laws and use of federal resources against individuals involved in medical marijuana activities.”

    Hinchey and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, in each of the last several Congresses have sponsored an amendment aimed at ending Drug Enforcement Administration raids on state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers.

    Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
    Under: California State Senate, marijuana, Mark Leno, Obama presidency, U.S. House | Comments Off