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Bill would require cops to check gun database

Weeks after a mentally ill student killed six people plus himself and injured 13 in a rampage near UC-Santa Barbara, a state lawmaker has proposed two new bills she says will help prevent gun violence and save lives.

Hannah-Beth JacksonSB 505 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would require that law enforcement officers who are making a “welfare check” on someone who might be a danger to themselves or others must first check that person’s name against the state Justice Department’s firearm database.

Deputies who visited Elliot Rodger in April hadn’t checked the system, and so didn’t discover he owned three handguns – all of which were found in his car after his deadly rampage through the Isla Vista on May 23.

“In addition to instigating an important conversation about mental illness and gun violence, the tragedy in Isla Vista has also raised questions about law enforcement protocols,” Jackson said in a news release issued Wednesday. “Right now, we seem to have a patchwork of inconsistent agency policy on database checks. This bill would create consistency and ensure that law enforcement agencies are using the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others.”

Deputies still might have lacked legal authority to seize Rodger’s guns, she said, but they at least could’ve made a more informed judgment about the threat he presented. “We will never know for sure if the outcome in Isla Vista might have been different with a gun database search,” Jackson said. “But the next time California experiences a similar tragedy, we shouldn’t be left wondering. Searches of the gun database can be done in as little as 90 seconds, and those 90 seconds can help save lives.”

Jackson also is offering SB 580 to provide more money for police to enforce existing laws, specifically:

    $5 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies to take guns away from those who currently illegally possess them; the state Bureau of Firearms has identified 20,834 people with a prior criminal conviction or mental health disorder which disqualifies them from possessing more than 43,000 firearms, and the list grows by about 15 to 20 people per day.
    $10 million over three years to improve the efficiency of the Justice Department’s aging data systems used to register gun ownership, conduct background checks, and monitor the possession of firearms by prohibited persons.
    $50,000 for the Justice Department to train local law enforcement on how to effectively use the Automated Firearms System, the centralized database of gun purchases.

“This case highlighted the need to consult these databases,” Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, a co-author of SB 580, said in Jackson’s news release. “But, we need to make sure there’s adequate training so law enforcement can use those databases effectively.”

SB 505 is scheduled for an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on June 24; no hearing has been set yet for SB 580.

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control | No Comments »

CA15: Corbett still lags as uncounted ballots wane

A Saturday update in Alameda County’s ballot tally didn’t help state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett gain any ground in her bid to finish second in the 15th Congressional District race.

Ellen CorbettAs of now, Corbett, D-Hayward, trails Republican Hugh Bussell by 721 votes, or about 1 percent of all votes cast in the race; before Saturday’s update, she’d been trailing by 713 votes. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, finished with a more-than-comfortable 49.3 percent of the vote to Bussell’s 25.9 percent and Corbett’s 24.9 percent.

Alameda County, which contains most of the district, still has about 4,500 ballots (1,000 vote-by-mail and about 3,500 provisional) to process county-wide; a spokesman said the registar will next update the results on his website Tuesday afternoon. Contra Costa County has about 10,000 (6,000 provisional and 4,000 exceptions – damaged or otherwise questionable vote-by-mail ballots); registrar Joe Canciamilla said he’ll next update the results on his website Friday before 5 p.m.

But Bussell has basically maintained the same lead as the number of ballots still outstanding has dwindled tremendously since last Wednesday, and so it’s growing ever more unlikely that the relative few ballots remaining will suddenly turn the tide.

Corbett couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

SD10: Mary Hayashi’s last-minute contributions

Former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who was eliminated in last week’s primary election for the 10th State Senate District, reported a few pre-election contributions right after the vote.

Mary HayashiOn Thursday, she reported having received $1,000 from Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on May 31; Bass was Assembly Speaker during the second of Hayashi’s three Assembly terms.

And on Friday, she reported having received $2,500 from San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. on June 2. That’s interesting in light of Hayashi’s opposition to fracking, and her attack upon rival Democrat Bob Wieckowski for not supporting a moratorium; Chevron semi-notoriously provided free pizza to residents near the site of a fracking explosion and fire this past February in Pennsylvania.

Hayashi, perhaps best known for her 2012 shoplifting conviction for which she’s still on probation, finished third behind Wieckowski and Republican Peter Kuo.

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, California State Senate, campaign finance, Mary Hayashi | 1 Comment »

CA15: Bussell now leads Corbett by 710 votes

The long, tough wait goes on in the 15th Congressional District, where Friday’s vote-tally updates still couldn’t provide a clear picture of who’ll finish second behind Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Alameda County’s update had narrowed Republican Hugh Bussell’s lead over state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, from 600 votes to 310, but then Contra Costa County’s update broke in Bussell’s favor so that he now leads Corbett by 713 votes – about 1.1 percent of all votes counted so far.

Both counties still have tens of thousands of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots to process, so the candidates must remain on pins and needles – except for Swalwell, of course, who’s sitting pretty no matter who’s in second place.

Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 31 Comments »

What the top two hath wrought upon California

My story today includes experts’ opinions on the effects that California’s top-two primary system had on Tuesday’s results; over at FlashReport.org, former state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro makes an impassioned case against the system.

In furtherance of the debate, here’s a list of all House, state Senate and Assembly races I found in which candidates of the same party are advancing to November’s general election, leaving voters without an alternate party choice; I did not list races in which the incumbent stands unopposed.

SAME-PARTY HOUSE RACES: 5 Democratic*, 2 Republican

CA4 – Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, vs. Art Moore (R)
(A nonpartisan candidate was eliminated; there were no Democrats.)

CA17 – Rep. Mike. Honda, D-San Jose, vs. Ro Khanna (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

CA19 – Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, vs. Robert Murray (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates; Murray ran as a Republican in 2012.)

CA25 – Tony Strickland (R) vs. Steve Knight (R)
(Two Democrats, two Republicans, a Libertarian and a nonpartisan were eliminated.)

CA34 – Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, vs. Adrienne Edwards (D)
(A Peace & Freedom Party candidate was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA35 – Norma Torres (D) vs. Christina Gagnier (D)
(Two other Democratic candidates were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA40 – Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce, vs. David Sanchez (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

* It’s still too close to call whether state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, or Alameda County GOP vice chairman Hugh Bussell of Livermore will advance to face Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in the 15th District.

SAME-PARTY STATE SENATE RACES: 5 Democratic, 1 Republican

SD6 – Roger Dickinson (D) vs. Richard Pan (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

SD24 – State Sen. Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles, vs. Peter Choi (D)
(One Republican candidate was eliminated.)

SD26 – Ben Allen (D) vs. Sandra Fluke (D)
(Five other Democrats and one nonpartisan were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

SD28 – Jeff Stone (R) vs. ?????
(Too close to call, but those now in second and third place are both Republicans; another Republican and two Democrats were eliminated.)

SD30 – State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, vs. Isidro Armenta (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SD40 – State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, vs. Rafael Estrada (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SAME-PARTY ASSEMBLY RACES: 8 Democratic, 3 Republican

AD7 – Kevin McCarty (D) vs. Steve Cohn (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD9 – Jim Cooper (D) vs. Darrell Fong (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD15 – Elizabeth Echols (D) vs. Tony Thurmond (D)
(Three Democrats, one Republican, one Peace & Freedom and one nonpartisan were eliminated.)

AD17 – Chris Campos (D) vs. David Chiu (D)
(One Republican was eliminated.)

AD26 – Rudy Mendoza (R) vs. Devon Mathis (R)
(Three Democrats and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD39 – Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Arleta, vs. Patty Lopez (D)
(One Democrat was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD47 – Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, vs. Gil Navarro (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD53 – Miguel Santiago (D) vs. Sandra Mendoza (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD64 – Mike Gipson (D) vs. Prophet Walker (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated, there were no Republicans.)

AD71 – Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, vs. Tony Teora (R)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD74 – Keith Curry (R) vs. Matthew Harper (R)
(Two Democrats and a Republican were eliminated.)

Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Election reform, Elections, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

CA15: Swalwell sits pretty as rivals fight for 2nd

As of now, Rep. Eric Swalwell has taken 49.2 percent of the 15th Congressional District’s vote with Republican Hugh Bussell 25.9 percent and state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett at 24.9 percent.

And that looks a recipe for Swalwell’s second term.

Bussell, the Alameda County GOP vice chairman from Livermore, leads Corbett, D-Hayward, by only about 600 votes, too small a margin to call which one of them will make it into the top two. In Alameda County, which includes the lion’s share of the district, the registrar still must review and/or count about 64,000 vote-by-mail ballots plus about 8,000 provisional ballots countywide. Likewise, Contra Costa County has as many as 50,000 more ballots to count.

The district’s voters are 48 percent Democrats, 22 percent Republicans and 21 percent nonpartisans. Swalwell, D-Dublin, built a Democrat-nonpartisan bloc – with a few Republicans too, probably – to dominate the middle of the field and crowd Corbett to one side; by drawing almost half the vote, he left her no room to maneuver beyond her liberal, labor-backed, Democratic base.

Bussell seemed happy Wednesday, and rightly so – his share of the vote slightly exceeded his party’s registration. But he’s probably too smart and well-versed to believe in his heart that if he gets to November, he can win.

Few who voted for Corbett will vote for him; they’ll vote either for Swalwell or not at all. And Bussell can expect no monetary aid from the state GOP, the National Republican Congressional Committee or other party entities, who’ll be focused on winnable races; he had about $3,200 cash on hand to Swalwell’s $697,000 as of mid-May.

“It’s a very steep hill to climb,” he acknowledged Wednesday. “On the other hand, as people take notice that there’s a Republican in the race, they may take a closer look at what I stand for … and Eric might find some of his support falling away as well.”

If Corbett edges out Bussell, it’s hard to imagine Bussell voters pivoting to support her instead of Swalwell – she argues Swalwell isn’t liberal enough for the district. And if her support from labor unions only just barely gets her into the top two this week, it’s hard to see how they can suddenly push her to victory in the larger-turnout, less ideological electorate we’ll see in November.

Corbett was enduring the primary cliffhanger stoically Wednesday.

“I called Mr. Swalwell this morning and wished him well and congratulated him in coming in first,” she said. “But we’re just going to have to wait for the votes to be counted … We’ll see how that goes.”

Bussell agreed. “I’m guardedly optimistic. At some level, it’s just fantastic we’re even at this point.”

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

Leland Yee placed 3rd for Sec’y of State. Really.

Leland Yee, the Democratic state Senator from San Francisco indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking bribes and conspiring to broker an international arms deal, finished third in a field of eight candidates for Secretary of State in Tuesday’s primary.

Leland Yee (photo by Karl Mondon)No, really. As of now, 287,590 votes have been counted for Yee – a number that will rise at least slightly as registrars around the state tally the final wave of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. Yee had announced he was dropping out of the race to be California’s top elections and political transparency watchdog right after he was charged with crimes that could put him in prison for life, but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

My first takeaway is that it sucks to be one of the five candidates who came in behind him. I’d call and ask them, but I’ll have mercy; if I were one of them, I’d be hung over for days and not taking calls.

I see a few possible explanations for Yee’s strong finish, and I suppose it’s probably a mix of several:

    1.) Some voters have a perverse sense of humor, and don’t care much who the Secretary of State will be, anyway.
    3.) Some voters live under rocks, without access to the internet, radio, television or newspapers. Then again, he still came in third in San Francisco, where news of his arrest and indictment was practically inescapable.

That point leads to my second takeaway, which is that the real winner in this primary election is James Lassart, Yee’s attorney. He must feel at least a little better today about his future prospects in picking a jury.

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Leland Yee, Secretary of State | 13 Comments »

SD10: Hayashi launches ‘FrackBob.com’ site

Democratic former assemblywoman Mary Hayashi of Hayward has launched another website against her main rival for the 10th State Senate District seat, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont.

The new “FrackBob.com” site calls attention to Wieckowski’s opposition to a moratorium on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing – the use of pressurized water to break rock formations and free the oil or gas within.

It goes hand-in-hand with a mailer that landed in district voters’ mailboxes this week, and coincides with the failure of a state Senate bill that would’ve imposed just such a moratorium.

Hayashi fracking mailer_1

Hayashi fracking mailer_2

Hayashi’s website features an embedded, brief video clip of Wieckowski, at the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board meeting, saying he doesn’t support a moratorium. But here’s Wieckowski’s full answer to the question:

“I do not support the ban on fracking. As everyone knows, I introduced the first bill to bring transparency to the issue of what was going on with fracking. I spent three years of my life working on two bills that were defeated by a combination of the oil companies and the environmentalists.

“And what we have now as a result of that work, we have regulations that were promulgated that will provide for pre-notification to landowners, disclosure of how much water is being used, disclosure of where the water is going, monitoring of the wellheads after, a website that goes up, complete disclosure of the chemicals that are used in the frack, and also – if you claim ‘trade secret’ – we created a private right of action for any citizen that would be affected by that, if the executive director of DOGGR [Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources] did not challenge the trade secret claim.

“Those are the regulations. That brings transparency so we know what is going on. I’m proud of that.”

Hayashi’s website and mailer say Wieckowski “supports fracking in the Bay Area.” I don’t see that he ever has said anything about this specific region, so I assume Hayashi is concluding that if he doesn’t support a fracking moratorium, he by extension must support fracking anywhere.

“The reality is, there is no oil in the Bay Area, so fracking in the Bay Area would not be happening,” Wieckowski campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said Thursday, adding that California now has the “toughest disclosure law in the country” as a result of Wieckowski’s earlier legislation. “Like all of their communications against Bob, it’s disingenuous and it’s just part of the story.”

The website also features a sound file of a robocall from “Theresa, a longtime Sierra Club member and a lifetime environmentalist” who criticizes Wieckowski’s position. Michelle Myers, director of the club’s Bay Area chapter, said Thursday she has heard from some members who were confused by or concerned about the call.

“We did not make an endorsement in that race,” Myers said, describing the caller’s self-identification “a tactic used by the campaign to identify themselves with the Sierra Club brand, and that is not appropriate.”

At least this website and mailer deal with a real issue on which the candidates have a real difference of opinion. Most of the nasty mailers, ads and websites in this race have either been about Hayashi’s 2012 shoplifting conviction, for which she remains on probation, or Hayashi’s claim that Wieckowski “protected rapists” by voting against a certain bill in committee in 2012, even though he later voted for an amended version on the Assembly floor.

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Mary Hayashi | 29 Comments »

Senate OKs bill to require warning labels on soda

The state Senate voted 21-13 Thursday to approve a bill that would require warning labels on the front of all bottles and cans of soda and other sugary drinks sold in California.

sodaSB 1000 by state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, now goes to the Assembly. If it eventually becomes law, all sugary drink containers would display a warning label – developed by a national panel of nutrition and public health experts – by July 1, 2015, reading: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

“Today’s vote is a major step toward warning people about the profoundly harmful effects of consuming liquid sugar,” Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a sponsor of the bill, said in a news release. “SB 1000 supports consumers’ right to know the facts about diabetes, undiluted by beverage industry spin.”

The bill’s supporters say overwhelming scientific research shows that liquid sugar is uniquely harmful because it gets absorbed so quickly – much faster than solid food – overloading the pancreas and causing the liver to store the sugar as fat, leading to fatty liver disease. This contributes directly to diabetes, which has tripled in the U.S. over the last 30 years.

The California-Nevada Beverage Association issued a statement Thursday saying that “putting government warning labels on more than 500 beverages will do nothing to change personal behaviors or teach people about healthy lifestyles. The last thing California needs is more warning labels. Senate Bill 1000 will only feed the confusion surrounding hundreds of beverages without changing personal habits.”

Foes of the bill say the state shouldn’t waste time and money as the federal Food and Drug Administration undertakes its first major nutrition-label update in 20 years. They also say the bill has confusing exemptions, and obesity and diabetes have many risk factors such as genetics, age, stress and even lack of sleep.

But a recent Field Poll found 74 percent of California voters, including a majority of Republicans and independents, support warning labels on sugary drinks.

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: Bill Monning, California State Senate | 2 Comments »

Senate OKs bills inspired by care-home fiasco

The state Senate on Wednesday approved two bills that aim to prevent future snafus like that which led to more than a dozen senior citizens being abandoned at a Castro Valley residential care home in October after the state ordered it shut down.

SB 894 aims to strengthen and clarify the obligations of the California Department of Social Services and a licensee when that license is suspended or revoked, to ensure safe relocation of residents when a facility closure happens. The senate approved this bill on a 27-8 vote.

And SB 895 aims to bolster the assisted-living facility inspection process by requiring that unannounced, comprehensive inspections of all residential care facilities for the elderly occur at least once per year, and more often if necessary to ensure the proper quality of care. The senate approved this bill on a 36-0 vote.

In the 1970s and 1980s, DSS’ Community Care Licensing Division inspected residential care facilities twice a year. But budget cuts reduced that number to once a year in the 1990s, and inspections were reduced further in 2004 to once every five years.

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, authored both bills, which are part of a legislative package sponsored by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

“Following the tragedy at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley last year, it is clear that assisted living facility residents deserve improved protections and safeguards that ensure they will remain safe both while living at those facilities, as well as if and when those group residences are closed,” Corbett said in a news release Wednesday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Ellen Corbett | No Comments »