Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'California State Senate' Category

Go talk to your congressman

With only two weeks left in Congress’ summer recess, there are still a few chances to see and be heard by your lawmaker.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has several events coming up. First, I’ll moderate a Commonwealth Club of California discussion with him at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $20 for non-members or $7 for students, and are available online.

DeSaulnier also is continuing his series of free, public town-hall meetings as well. The remaining three are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26 in the Harding Elementary School auditorium, 7230 Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito; Wednesday, Sept. 2 in the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way; and Thursday, Sept. 3 in the Clayton Library’s Hoyer Hall, 6125 Clayton Road. All three will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, will host a town hall forum on Social Security at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Florence Douglas Senior Center, 333 Amador St. in Vallejo. Special guests will include Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Sandy Goodman, District Manager of the Vallejo Social Security Administration field office.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will host a California drought solutions forum from 10 to noon Tuesday, Aug. 25, in the San Joaquin County Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave. in Stockton. Open to the public, the forum will feature experts and voices that include farmers, water technology innovators, policy makers, federal and state government, academia, and others.

Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2015
Under: Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Where Bay Area lawmakers stand on the Iran deal

As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues rolling out Democratic supporters one by one, almost half of the Bay Area’s House delegation has not yet committed to support or oppose the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have said they’ll vote for the agreement, as have Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

Most recently on the bandwagon are Swalwell and Farr, both Wednesday, and then Speier on Friday. Speier said in her statement that this is “one of the most important votes I will ever cast.

Jackie Speier“To come to this decision I attended scores of hearings, classified briefings, and met with U.S. allies, my Republican and Democratic colleagues, foreign policy experts, nongovernmental groups, the military and intelligence communities, and my constituents. I also met with the President for over two hours to discuss this deal,” she said.

“As President Kennedy once urged, we must pursue ‘a more practical, more attainable peace, based… on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.’ This deal, like those Kennedy pursued with the Soviet Union, is a first step away from catastrophe,” Speier said. “So as he said, ‘Let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable and war need not be inevitable.’ ”

No Bay Area members of Congress have come out against the deal, but five still aren’t ready to say where they stand: Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

“It’s my first big, consequential foreign policy vote, so I wanted to avail myself to learn as much as I could,” DeSaulnier said Friday, adding that while he sees no need to rush the decision during this month-long recess, “I’m leaning very much to support the president’s agreement.”

Mark DeSaulnierHe said has met both with President Obama in Washington, and then with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent trip to Israel with other Democratic House freshmen. “I promised both sides I would listen to them.”

And he said he’s reserving final judgment until after he completes five town-hall meetings he has scheduled for constituents over the next few weeks. In fact, he’s dedicating the second half of his first such meeting – 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18 in the community room at Pleasant Hill Middle School, 1 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill – to this issue.

Honda spokeswoman Lauren Smith said Thursday her boss “is continuing to meet with people and get input and feedback, as well as fully considering all of the details of the deal. He will make a decision once he has collected all pertinent information.”

Lofgren’s chief of staff, Stacey Leavandosky, said Thursday her boss “is currently studying the agreement, meeting with constituents about it as well as hearing from Administration officials.”

McNerney spokesman Mike Naple said Thursday his boss “is still reviewing the agreement and hasn’t made a decision yet.”

And Huffman spokesman Paul Arden referred to his boss’s July 15 statement, in which he had said that “while I will vote based on the merits of the agreement, Iran’s credibility and trustworthiness are also considerations.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: Mike Honda has just announced that he supports the deal.

UPDATE @ 2:55 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: And now Jerry McNerney is on board, too.

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M. FRIDAY 8/21: Lofgren now says she will vote in favor of the deal.

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 12 Comments »

California eagerly smack-talks Donald Trump

California is tripping over itself to open a can of whup-ass on Donald Trump.

Republicans and Democrats alike have been blasting the reality television star, billionaire businessman and (ersatz) GOP presidential candidate since the middle of last month, when he launched his campaign by saying that Mexicans who enter the nation illegally are responsible for a lot of drug-related or violent crime.

Isadore Hall IIIOn Thursday, state Sen. Isadore Hall III, D-Compton, introduced a resolution condemning Trump and fellow GOP contender Ted Cruz for their “recent racist remarks;” calling upon the state to divest from any ties with Trump’s businesses; and urging private businesses and individuals to do likewise.

“Immigrant families fundamentally enrich the extraordinary character of our state and nation,” Hall said in a news release. “California’s short and long-term economic, social, health, security, and prosperity require policies that allow individuals to become legal and enfranchised participants in our society and economy.

“I stand with my fellow State Senators, immigrant families and residents throughout California in denouncing Donald Trump’s reckless, arrogant and irresponsible actions,” Hall continued. “The racist statements made by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have no place in our state or national political discourse and no place for anyone who aspires to one day serve in the White House.”

It’s unclear what, if any, business ties the state might have with Trump.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, issued a statement agreeing that “convicting an entire nation and culture as Donald Trump has done with our neighbors to the south is offensive and should not be tolerated in California.

“At the same time, using state resources to protest the inappropriate statements from politicians on either side of the aisle or around the country, is a waste of taxpayer dollars and only draws attention to those politicians who are trying to grab headlines,” Huff said. “The Legislature should instead focus its time on improving our economy and ensuring that Californians have the opportunity to pursue the American dream.”

Shawn SteelMeanwhile, Shawn Steel – one of California’s Republican National Committee members – called on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and state Attorney General Kamala Harris to give up $6,000 that Trump gave to her attorney general’s campaign committee – $5,000 in 2011 and $1,000 in 2013.

“When national embarrassment Donald Trump isn’t busy attacking immigrants, he’s writing big checks to Democrat Kamala Harris,” Steel said in a news release. “Attorney General Kamala Harris should denounce Trump’s offensive comments and give her ‘Donald Dollars’ to charity.”

“Conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats can agree: Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric has no place in politics,” Steel added. “It’s time that Kamala Harris stood up to her campaign contributor.”

But Harris already had done so before Steel made his call, campaign spokesman Nathan Click said Thursday. “Earlier in the week, the AG directed the campaign to send the contributions to CARECEN, a California-based civil rights organization that provides resources and support for immigrant children and their families.”

Steel neglected to mention that Trump gave a total of $3,500 in 2004 and 2006 to Jerry Brown’s campaign for attorney general; $25,000 to the California Republican Party in 2005; a total of $12,000 to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s committees in 2007 and 2008; and $2,500 to Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009.

Finally, I’m told that San Jose’s Dulceria Mi Carnaval Party Supply has sold out of their newest, hottest product, but more are on order. This photo was taken elsewhere, but for illustrative purposes:


Like a papier-mache chorus line from hell, no?

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Bob Huff, California State Senate, Kamala Harris | 4 Comments »

Huff signs onto Glazer’s anti-Confederate bill

State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, has enlisted Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff’s support for a bill that would prohibit all California public schools, buildings, parks, roadways and other state-owned property from using names associated with the Confederate States of America.

Public celebration of Confederate heritage has become more controversial since its association with Dylann Roof, the man accused of last month’s murderous racial terrorism in Charleston, S.C.

Huff, R-San Dimas, announced Monday he will become a co-author of Glazer’s SB 539, the Frederick Douglass Liberty Act, which would apply to names including those of Confederate elected leaders and military generals. California currently has two schools named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee: one in San Diego and the other in Long Beach.

“It’s time for a change in thinking and how we treat history,” Huff said in a news release. “The shooting deaths of nine African-American men and women at a church in South Carolina is clear proof that racial violence is alive and well in this country. Images of the accused killer wrapping himself in the Confederate Flag show that it’s become an emblem of cruel oppression and racial hatred. It’s become offensive to segments of our society.”

“California should have no interest in enshrining the names of Confederate leaders, the secessionist movement or their ideals in our public schools, buildings, parks or other state property,” he added. “While it’s important to never forget the mistakes made in the past, we shouldn’t be in the business of paying tribute to those mistakes.”

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2015
Under: Bob Huff, California State Senate, steve glazer | 6 Comments »

Excessive water use tax of up to 300%?

Water agencies could impose a tax of up to 300 percent on excessive use, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill.

Bob WieckowskiSB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.

“California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,” Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.

“SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,” he said. “It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.”

The State Water Resources Control Board has moved to curtail water use during the state’s historic drought, calling for a 25 percent cut, yet many water agencies are far from reaching their reduction goals despite managers’ best efforts. Wieckowski’s bill would let agencies impose up to a 300 percent tax on excessive use – a level to be determined by the local agencies – with revenue going to water conservation projects for those communities.

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Under: Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, water | 4 Comments »

SD9: Sandre Swanson rolls out early endorsements

Former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson is seeking early dominance in next year’s three-way (at least) Democratic showdown for the 9th State Senate District – in part, at least, by calling in old favors.

Swanson, D-Alameda, will face former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – also a former assemblywoman – in the race to succeed state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out in 2016.

Swanson on Thursday announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, whose district includes about half of the 9th Senate District’s voters. Thurmond said Swanson’s “Swanson’s record of standing up and fighting for our children, seniors, and working families is second to none.” Swanson was one of Thurmond’s earliest endorsers – way back in June 2013 – in last year’s very crowded 15th Assembly District race, while Skinner backed Elizabeth Echols. Chan endorsed Thurmond too, but not until well after the June primary.

On Wednesday, Swanson had announced his endorsement by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who has the other half of the 9th District’s voters. “He is someone that has stood up and done the right thing for our community, time and time again, showing a track record of being a true leader,” Bonta said. Swanson in 2012 had endorsed Bonta to succeed him.

And Swanson two weeks ago reminded everyone that he has the incumbent’s stamp of approval from Hancock – although that’s old news, given that she actually endorsed him for this race way back in 2012 in exchange for his dropping a possible challenge to her.

But Swanson’s early rollout of prominent endorsements might be to compensate for a cash disadvantage.

Filings with the Secretary of State’s office show Swanson’s campaign had about $13,500 banked at the start of this year, and has raised about $8,500 in big-ticket contributions since then. He has a fish-fry fundraiser scheduled for next Friday, June 26 near his Bay Farm Island home.

By contrast, Skinner started 2015 with almost $396,000 banked, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278 to the Senate committee — so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

And according to filings with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office, Chan’s 2014 supervisorial campaign committee started this year with about $57,000 in the bank – money that’s transferrable to her 2016 senate committee. Chan’s state senate committee then held a May 27 fundraiser at a Fremont steakhouse, for which tickets ranged from $125 to $8,500; she has not yet had to file a report reflecting how much she raked in. Don’t forget, Chan – who was term-limited out of the Assembly in 2006 – has wanted this seat for a loooong time, having lost the 2008 primary to Hancock after a sometimes-ugly race.

As I’ve noted before, this will be a very different dynamic from this year’s 7th State Senate District special election in which centrist Democrat Steve Glazer defeated liberal Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Because Swanson, Chan and Skinner will be fighting over the same pool of liberal endorsements and contributions, who gets what could be a better-than-usual indicator of which way the winds are blowing.

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

New bill would revamp California’s voting system

California elections would be radically retooled, with neighborhood polling places replaced by “voting centers” serving much larger swaths and a vast expansion of early voting, under a bill announced Thursday by two lawmakers and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Padilla, along with state senators Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, say a similar system adopted by Colorado a few years ago has brought much better turnout because voters are freer to cast their ballots when and how they please.

Their SB 450 not only would let a voter cast a ballot at any voting center in his or her county, but also would require that all voters receive ballots by mail and that those voting centers be open at least eight hours a day for the 10 days before Election Day. Voters could mail in their ballot or drop it off at a vote center or a secure 24 hour ballot drop off box.

“California ranked 43rd in voter turnout nationally for the 2014 General Election. This problem cannot be ignored. Civic participation is the foundation of our democracy,” Padilla said in a news release. “SB 450 would provide citizens more option for when, where and how they vote. Providing more options will help more citizens vote, despite our often busy lives.”

Padilla and the lawmakers said that since implementing the vote center model, Colorado has been a national leader in voter turnout. For the November 2014 general election, voter turnout of eligible citizens in Colorado was 56.9 percent, compared to only 30.9 percent in California.

From 2006 to 2010, Colorado’s voter turnout was an average of 7 percentage points higher than in California; since implementation of the vote center model, voter turnout in Colorado has been an average of 20.7 percentage points higher than in California.

That’s not the only way Padilla is hoping to boost voter participation. The Assembly last week approved a bill that Padilla sponsored, AB 1461, to modernize California’s motor-voter registration system so that every eligible citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get or renew a driver’s license or state ID will be registered – potentially adding millions to the rolls. Voters would retain their right to opt out or cancel their voter registration at any time, and the bill would protect those covered by existing confidentiality policies such as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
Under: Alex Padilla, California State Senate, Secretary of State, voter registration | 6 Comments »

SD7: Steve Glazer gets his committee assignments

State Sen. Steve Glazer, the Bay Area’s newest lawmaker, will serve on the Governmental Organization, Insurance, and Public Safety committees, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon announced Thursday.

Glazer, D-Orinda, defeated Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in May 19’s 7th State Senate District special election after a bitterly fought campaign rife with independent spending on both sides. The former Orinda mayor was sworn into the Senate last Thursday, May 28.

Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, steve glazer | 3 Comments »

George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: Darrell Steinberg, education, George Miller | 2 Comments »

State Senate OKs bill to curb ‘doctor shopping’

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 46 – which would’ve raised California’s 40-year-old cap on certain medical malpractice damage awards – in November, but a lesser-known part of that measure moved forward Thursday in the Legislature.

The state Senate voted 28-11 to approve SB 482 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which would require California doctors to consult an already-existing state prescription database before prescribing addictive medicine to their patients. This was another part of Prop. 46, albeit less controversial than the medical malpractice segment. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

It’s a win for Bob Pack, the Prop. 46 proponent and Danville resident whose two children were killed by a drunk and drugged driver on Oct. 26, 2003. The motorist who hit Troy and Alana Pack, 10 and 7, had consumed alcohol, Vicodin and muscle relaxants before getting behind the wheel; Jimena Barreto in the weeks before the crash had received six Vicodin prescriptions from six different Kaiser Permanente doctors, who had failed to check into the injuries for which she claimed she needed the pills.

To prevent this kind of “doctor shopping” by abusers and addicts, SB 482 will require prescribers to check the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) before prescribing Schedule II and III drugs like OxyContin and other opioids for the first time to a patient, and annually if the treatment continues.

“Prescription drug overdose kills thousands every year, but a simple check of a patient’s medical record can give doctors the information they need to intervene with those who are at risk or may be abusing medications,” Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said in a news release. “Requiring doctors to check California’s prescription database before prescribing the strongest, most addictive drugs will save lives and help stem the overdose epidemic.”

Results are promising in other states with similar laws, and Consumer Watchdog estimates that a 75 percent drop in doctor-shopping in California – as experienced in New York – would reduce state and local spending on prescription drugs for Medi-Cal patients by up to $300 million a year.

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate | 2 Comments »