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Bill would provide funds for ‘mystery goo’ cleanups

A new bill would provide state funding to clean up incidents like the “mystery goo” in the San Francisco Bay that recently killed more than 200 birds.

EAST BAY BIRD RESCUEState Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said SB 718 – jointly authored by state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley – fixes a gap in existing law by creating a funding mechanism for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation during such rare events.

“California has a sophisticated oil spill response system, but in the unique event when a pollutant is unidentified, there is no clear funding mechanism for the cleanup,” Leno said in a news release. “This legislation clarifies that the state’s top priority during a spill of any kind is to immediately protect waterways and wildlife, regardless of what type of substance caused the problem.”

The bill authorizes the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to borrow up to $500,000 from the state’s oil spill prevention fund for the rehabilitation and rescue of wildlife in spill events where the substance is non-petroleum based. The bill gives the state clear authority to quickly respond to these events; once the responsible parties for the spills are found, they would be required to reimburse the state for the costs of cleanup, including accrued interest.

The bill is co-sponsored by San Francisco Baykeeper and Audubon California.

“When a spill happens, it is essential that first responders can act quickly to protect sensitive shorelines and species,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, San Francisco Baykeeper’s interim executive director. “This bill will help ensure that state, local and nonprofit responders are working in concert — and with adequate resources — to prevent harm to San Francisco Bay and all of California’s waters.”

An unidentified sticky synthetic goo first appeared in the Bay in mid-January and coated hundreds of birds, many of which died because they could not maintain their body heat. Others were rehabilitated and released back into the wild by volunteers from local non-profit organizations. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated the incident, but no significant state resources were available to support non-governmental agencies in their cleanup, rescue and rehabilitation efforts. The International Bird Rescue center, a publicly supported non-profit group, spent about $150,000 on animal care.

No word on whether future mystery-goo cleanups would involve the Ghostbusters:

Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Environment, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno | No Comments »

Bay Area House members out and about Friday

Bay Area House members have a bunch of events planned for Friday.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will take part in a discussion with employers of the benefits of hiring trained ex-convicts at 9 a.m. Friday in the student lounge in Building R of Merritt College, 12500 Campus Dr. in Oakland. Others expected to take part include California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeff Beard; California Prison Industry Authority General Manager Charles Pattillo; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; Alameda County Assistant Sheriff Brett Keteles; and PWC Development President Prophet Walker, himself a former offender.

Mark DeSaulnierReps. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Sarbanes, D-Md., will take part in a roundtable discussion on the problem of big money in politics, at 11 a.m. Friday in Blum Hall B100 at UC-Berkeley. The event, hosted by the California Public Interest Research Group, will address local and federal efforts to curb big money’s influence by amplifying small donors’ voices, as well as the recent push for President Obama to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending. State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter, the Berkeley Forum and others also will take part.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will hold a forum to update the community about President Obama’s executive actions on immigration at 4 p.m. Friday at the School of Arts and Culture in Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave. in San Jose. The event also offers eligibility workshops to prepare families to apply for relief from deportation pending availability of applications this year. Lofgren, Lofgren, the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will be joined by Rep. Luiz Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Santa Clara County supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez; and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, campaign finance, Immigration, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Nora Campos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

SD7: Joan Buchanan endorses Susan Bonilla

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, who came in third in yesterday’s 7th State Senate District special primary election, emailed supporters Wednesday afternoon with a plea to vote for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in the May 19 general election.

“While last night’s results weren’t what we were expecting, I am incredibly grateful to all of you for believing in me, your time and all your hard work,” wrote Buchanan, an Alamo Democrat who was term-limited out of the 16th Assembly District seat last year.

“I’m proud of the campaign that we ran; I’m proud that we stuck to our pledge to run a positive-only campaign; and I’m proud of how many of you truly took to heart our shared vision for a better future,” she wrote. “It’s clear that our positive messages of a quality education for every child, protecting our precious environment and creating a better California resounded with tens of thousands of voters.”

With some mail-in ballots yet to be counted, current results show Buchanan got 22.6 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s top-two primary, finishing third behind Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer (32.8 percent) and Bonilla (24.9 percent); Glazer and Bonilla will face off in May, while Buchanan and two others are now eliminated.

Buchanan wrote that she called Bonilla, D-Concord, on Tuesday night to offer congratulations. “I ask you to support her bid to be our next State Senator,” she wrote.

The endorsement is hardly surprising, given that Buchanan and Bonilla didn’t disagree on much. But given the primary results, it’ll take a lot more than this endorsement to help Bonilla best Glazer in May.

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 9 Comments »

SD7: Looks like May will be a nail-biter

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla should be starting to sweat right about now.

Steve GlazerMy colleague Matt Artz has the lowdown on yesterday’s 7th State Senate District special primary election. As of Wednesday morning, with some mail-in ballots still to be counted, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – the centrist Democrat in this race, backed by entities including the California Chamber of Commerce – topped the list at 32.8 percent, while Bonilla, D-Concord – a more liberal candidate with strong union backing – came in second at 24.9 percent.

They’ll go on to the special general election on May 19. Eliminated in yesterday’s primary were former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, at 22.6 percent; Michaela Hertle, a Republican businesswoman from Pleasanton who dropped out Feb. 2 and endorsed Glazer, at 17 percent; and Concord Democrat Terry Kremin, who barely campaigned at all, at 2.8 percent.

It’s not surprising that Glazer and Bonilla made the cut. Massive independent spending on their behalf caught Buchanan in a crossfire from which there was little chance of escape.

But yesterday’s numbers show a surprisingly tough road ahead for Bonilla. If you figure those who voted for Hertle will now swing toward Glazer, that puts him close to the 50 percent mark. And while it’s hard to imagine many Hertle voters suddenly swinging all the way across the spectrum to support Bonilla, it’s easier to imagine some Buchanan voters choosing Glazer, which could put him over the top.

Democrats hold a 15-point registration edge in this district, but the party’s leftward edge is blunted in low-turnout elections – of which this certainly was one.

With 97,104 votes counted so far and an estimated 13,432 ballots still left to count as of Wednesday morning, it seems that about 110,536 voters actually bothered to turn out for this special primary. In a district with 488,596 voters, that’s an abysmal 22.6 percent turnout. Maybe that will improve in May’s general election, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Susan BonillaUnions now will double down to mobilize voters for Bonilla, but that doesn’t always lead to a win – consider how Republican attorney Catharine Baker beat Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a union darling, by 3.2 points in last November’s low-turnout election in the 16th Assembly District, despite a 7-point Democratic registration advantage.

And Glazer can almost certainly count on more support from his own deep-pocketed independent spenders, most notable the Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC and southern California Republican-turned-independent businessman Bill Bloomfield.

If 7th District residents think they’ve been inundated with mail and calls so far, they ain’t seen nothing yet.

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 4 Comments »

GOP senators demand hearing on firearms program

California State Senate Republicans want to know why Attorney General Kamala Harris hasn’t cracked down harder on convicts and mentally ill people with guns – but Harris’ office says it’s making progress and can’t do the task overnight.

The GOP caucus wrote a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León on Tuesday to request an oversight hearing on why the state still has a huge backlog in its Armed and Prohibited Persons program (APPS), a database that cross-references California firearm owners with domestic violence restraining orders, mental health records and criminal histories to identify people who can’t legally own firearms.

Harris’ office reported to the Legislature this month that the 21,249-entry backlog that existed at 2014’s start grew by 7,031 more names last year due to new firearms prohibitions.

But 3,922 names were cleared from the database due to warrants being cleared, restraining orders being vacated by judges, or deaths, and 6,879 more names were cleared after investigation. Harris reported her agents investigated 7,573 cases, resulting in the seizure of 3,286 firearms and 137 arrests.

That still leaves 17,479 prohibited persons on the list, holding up to about 35,000 firearms and 1,419 assault weapons, Harris’ report said.

Lawmakers passed and Gov. Jerry Brown in May 2013 signed SB 140, authorizing $24 million more for the state Justice Department to put toward APPS over the following three years. Harris said in a news release at the time that this would 36 more agents for the program, which she and staffers said was a high priority. But Republicans say only half that many have been hired so far.

Now the GOP lawmakers want a joint oversight hearing by the Senate Public Safety Committee and the relevant budget subcommittee to review the APPS program. Specifically, they want to know how 40 percent of the SB 140 money was spent without hiring all the staff needed to erase the backlog; Harris’ plan for future spending to actually erase the backlog; and why Harris’ report left out information – which they say is required under SB 140 – regarding the breakdown of why each person in the APPS is prohibited from having a firearm.

Kristin Ford, Harris’ press secretary, responded Tuesday that “removing guns from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them has been a top priority of the California Department of Justice.”

“Upon taking office Attorney General Harris hired agents and urged the legislature to fund efforts to eliminate a backlog that was created ten years ago,” Ford said. “This funding has allowed agents to reduce the backlog for the first time in the program’s history and doubled the average number of guns seized per year.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
Under: Attorney General, California State Senate, gun control, Kamala Harris | 3 Comments »

Dianne Feinstein endorses CA’s assisted-suicide bill

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed California’s assisted-suicide bill.

“The right to die with dignity is an option that should be available for every chronically suffering terminally ill consenting adult in California,” Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to the authors of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act. “I share your concern that terminally ill California residents currently do not have the option to obtain end-of-life medication if their suffering becomes unbearable.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, one of the bill’s authors, said Feinstein’s support “is a big boost for our effort, sending a strong signal that the political momentum has shifted. When one of California’s most respected, thoughtful, and longest serving political leaders takes the unusual step of speaking out in strong support of a bill like this you know you are on the right track.”

The bill’s other authors are state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton. They released a list Tuesday of 70 current and former lawmakers who support the legislation, including 19 current lawmakers who have signed on as co-authors.

SB 128, modeled on Oregon’s law, will have its first hearing next Wednesday, March 25 in the Senate Health Committee. The bill would let a terminally ill competent person get a prescription for drugs to hasten and make painless his or her death. The authors say it has “numerous protections to prevent abuse” and “all participation is voluntary;” they note Oregon’s law has been in place for 17 years with no reported cases of abuse. Last year, 155 Oregonians used the law to help end their lives.

Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
Under: Bill Monning, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Lois Wolk, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

SD7: Money & endorsements as endgame nears

Independent spending has continued to run amok in the all-Democrat 7th State Senate District special election since I last updated the tsunami Friday.

To recap, unions are spending big for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and against Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – though Glazer has his own deep-pocketed, anti-union benefactors. Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan looks to be caught in the crossfire, and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin remains beneath the radar.

Mailers are flooding the district’s mailboxes, often several a day, as the candidates plan get-out-the-vote efforts like precinct-walking and phone-banking for the campaign’s final days.

Here’s where the independent spending stands as of Wednesday:

    Bill Bloomfield, businessman: $552,984 (pro-Glazer)
    JobsPAC (California Chamber of Commerce): $297,494 (pro-Glazer or anti- the other two)
    California Charter Schools Association Advocates: $128,202 (pro-Glazer)
    EdVoice: $23,570 (pro-Glazer)
    Independent Voter PAC: $7,539 (pro-Glazer)
    California Dental Association: $336,631 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Professional Firefighters: $154,928 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Medical Association: $83,439 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Building Industry Association: $66,526 (pro-Buchanan)
    Working Families Opposing Glazer (labor unions): $240,829 (anti-Glazer)
    Asian American Small Business PAC: $122,478 (anti-Glazer or pro-Michaela Hertle, a Republican who dropped out and endorsed Glazer)

The grand total: $2,014,619. And that, of course, doesn’t include the $669,000 the three candidates had spent as of Feb. 28 – a figure that will surely rise in these final weeks before next Tuesday’s special primary.

Buchanan’s campaign bankroll includes $75,000 that she loaned out of her own pocket on Feb. 28 – about 26 percent of what her campaign has collected this year.

There’s been no movement yet on the federal trademark-infringement lawsuit that the California Republican Party filed last week against the Asian American Small Business PAC. As previously reported here, the PAC – which almost always supports Asian American Democrats – has been using union money to buy fliers on behalf of Michaela Hertle, the Pleasanton Republican who quit the race Feb. 2 and endorsed Glazer. Hertle and the state GOP contend unions are funneling money through the PAC to produce mailers urging Republicans to vote for Hertle, thereby sapping votes from Glazer.

The party complains the PAC used its elephant logo without permission; party vice chairwoman and attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Wednesday she has not yet been able to serve the committee with the complaint, but she’s sending its officers and vendors letters warning them to preserve evidence for the case.

In other news, Bonilla has continued to rack up significant endorsements in the past few weeks, including those of the California Labor Federation and former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. Miller called her “a proven leader who has delivered balanced budgets, improved our schools, fought to protect the Delta, and created new opportunities for middle-class families.”

Clean Water Action endorsed Buchanan last week.

Posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 4 Comments »

Sandra Fluke to direct liberal group’s CA office

Sandra Fluke – the Los Angeles attorney who came to national prominence in 2012 as Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” after her testimony to House Democrats on Obamacare’s contraception mandates – has a new job.

Sandra FlukeFluke, 33, who ran unsuccessfully last year in the 26th State Senate District, will head the new California office of Voices for Progress, a national liberal advocacy group. She said the group recognizes that “as the world’s seventh largest economy, California can provide a model for the states, the federal government, and even other countries.

“We must transition to an environmentally sustainable economy, ensure that economic opportunity is shared by all, and guarantee that all have a voice in our democracy,” she said. “I look forward to working with Voices members, industry and labor leaders, the advocacy community, and our elected officials to ensure that California consistently leads in these areas and in shaping federal policy as well.”

Voices for Progress since 2010 has been working on issues such as ending filibuster abuse that halted judicial confirmations in the Senate; reducing income inequality; and combating climate change, including opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. The group’s prominent California members include Democratic activists and fundraisers such as Quinn Delaney and Wayne Jordan of Piedmont and Wade and Lorna Randlett of San Francisco.

“With Sandra’s great leadership, we will be able to increase this federal work while we also help California continue its leadership on climate, and restore its past leadership in providing a first-rate education and economic opportunity,” said Voices for Progress founder and president Sandy Newman.

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 5 Comments »

Today’s congressional odds and ends

Sacramento_San_Joaquin_Delta_NHA Oct 2012-page-001DELTA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA: The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would become a National Hertiage Area, to be managed by the Delta Protection Commission, under companion bills introduced Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. The lawmakers say the goal is to protect and promote the vast history, resources, and economy of the Delta community. Property owners and tribes are explicitly protected in the bill and capable of opting out of any recommendations, and the bill will have no effect on water rights or water contracts and creates no new regulatory authority or burden on local government or citizens. The bill’s original cosponsors are Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento. “Covering more than 700 square miles and nearly 60 islands and boasting more than 400,000 people, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the largest delta in the world and a critical resource for California,” Feinstein said. “With a National Heritage Area designation, we can support a future for the Delta that is sustainable and bright.”

FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN EDUCATION: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, joined with Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., to introduce H.R. 1194, the Family Engagement in Education Act, to provide money for schools to promote effective strategies to get parents involved. “Education doesn’t stop at the end of the school day,” DeSaulnier said. “Research shows that family engagement in a child’s learning experience increases student achievement, improves attendance, and reduces dropout rates.” The bill is supported by the National PTA.

e-verifyE-VERIFY FOR ALL EMPLOYERS: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, blasted a proposal to mandate use of E-Verify – an online government system for determining people’s eligibility to work in this country – for all employers. The House Judiciary Committee advanced the Legal Workforce Act on Tuesday on a 20-13 vote. But Lofgren, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, noted the bill is opposed by the agricultural sector, unions, civil liberties groups and many others. Without comprehensive immigration reform, “expanding E-Verify would devastate the agricultural economy, resulting in closed farms, a less-secure America, and the mass off-shoring of millions and millions of U.S. jobs, including all of the upstream and downstream jobs created and supported by agriculture,” Lofgren said. Expanding E-Verify alone would also increase the deficit and decrease tax revenues. Last Congress, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the Legal Workforce Act would have resulted in a net revenue loss of $39 billion over ten years.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Under: Dianne Feinstein, education, Immigration, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Uncategorized, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

SD7: IE money for Republican who dropped out

The independent spending that’s flooding the 7th State Senate District’s special election has taken an odd turn, as a committee known for backing Asian American Democrats spends on behalf of a white Republican who dropped out of the contest weeks ago.

The Asian American Small Business PAC has reported spending $46,380 on research, polling and mailing on behalf of Michaela Hertle. And that’s bad news for the candidate whom Hertle endorsed: Democrat Steve Glazer.

Steve Glazer“It’s gutter politics,” Glazer charged Monday. “There’s no Asian-American in the race, and the Republican has withdrawn and endorsed me. It’s clearly an attempt to confuse the voters and smear me.”

Glazer, Orinda’s mayor and a former campaign advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, has set about courting Republican votes, as he’s more centrist than the contest’s other two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

But when Hertle dropped out of the race and endorsed Glazer Feb. 2, it already was too late to remove her name from the ballots. By spending money to tout her now, the PAC effectively is sapping votes from Glazer.

The mailer already is hitting registered Republicans’ mailboxes across the district. On the front, beside a photo of Hertle apparently cribbed from her Twitter profile, it asks, “Why settle for less? Let’s elect a real Republican to stand up for us in the State Senate.” On the back, it says the community “needs a real reformer in the State Senate who can break the partisan gridlock and produce results for us.”

Click to enlarge:
Hertle flier front

Hertle flier back

“Unlike the other candidates, Michaela Hertle is an independent leader who owes no favors to the special interests paralyzing our state government. We can trust Michaela to fight for reform and for us,” the flier says, praising her as fiscally conservative and a government reformer.

Bill Wong, the PAC’s political director, insisted this truly is a pro-Hertle effort and not an attempt to sap votes from Glazer to benefit Bonilla or Buchanan.

“Michaela is still on the ballot and there’s an option for people to vote for her,” Wong said, noting about 41 percent of the district’s voters are Republicans or independents. “She thought she couldn’t raise enough money to run a legitimate campaign, so we figured we’d throw in this money and see how it goes.”

The PAC mostly gives money to Asian American Democrats – it gave only to Democrats in the 2013-2014 cycle, and all but one of the 17 were Asian American. But Wong said it has given to a few Republicans in the past, including Michelle Steele and Alan Nakanishi for the Board of Equalization in 2010, so supporting Hertle isn’t unprecedented.

She’s the candidate most aligned with the PAC’s ideals, he insisted: “Everyone else is kind of a career politician.”

Who’s putting up the money remains an open question.

Despite the PAC’s name, it gets most of its money from big companies and unions. Its biggest contributors in 2013-14 were Comcast Corp. ($46,800); International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers Local 39 ($40,000); California State Council of Service Employees ($30,000); AT&T ($27,286); Professional Engineers in California Government ($20,000); Eli Lilly & Co. ($15,000); and the State Building and Construction Trades Council ($15,000).

The PAC had $55,064 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, so either it has mostly cleaned out its coffers with this spending, or it has received more contributions since the start of the year. Any such new contributions won’t have to be reported until well after this March 17 special primary election.

Either way, because it already had more money banked than it spent on this election, its mailer need only identify the PAC and not any new major donors.

Among those listed as officers on the PAC’s filings are California political and public affairs consultants James Santa Maria and Lucy McCoy; also listed is Jadine Nielsen, a longtime Democratic political operative, former Democratic National Committeewoman and former Los Angeles deputy mayor now living in Hawaii. None of them returned phone calls Monday.

Glazer says he’s pretty sure he knows who’s funding this “pro-Hertle” effort.

“It’s all being orchestrated by the BART unions and friends,” he said. “This is a front group for nefarious interests that don’t want to be known.”

It’s no secret the unions hate him. Glazer burned his bridges with labor first by consulting with JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, to support centrist Democrats like himself beat labor-backed Democrats in 2012’s elections. More recently, he crusaded for legislation to ban transit-worker strikes like the ones that stilled BART in 2013.

Labor unions at the start of this month created Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015. In the past week, that committee has received $35,000 from the California Teachers Association, $25,000 from the California Federation of Teachers, $25,000 from the Professional Engineers in California Government, and $25,000 from the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO – a total of $110,000. And it has spent almost $64,400 so far on anti-Glazer research, polling, mailing and a website, KnowGlazer.com.

Posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 11 Comments »