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Kevin Mullin mulls election recount reform bill

The politically ugly recount now under way in the race for state controller has inspired a Bay Area Assemblyman to start working on a bill to reform the election recount process.

Kevin MullinAssemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, announced Wednesday he’s researching ways to ensure the recount process in future statewide elections is fair to all candidates, and he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature returns from its summer recess.

Mullin said options might include setting a threshold that automatically triggers the recount process for very close races, the development of a recount standard across counties, and a state-funded recount process.

“California is in uncharted territory with the Controller’s race recount,” Mullin said in a news release. “It’s imperative to our system of governance that the election process is fair and transparent for all voters and candidates. We are actively researching a variety of options and engaging in discussions with the Secretary of State’s office so we can craft comprehensive legislation on this issue.”

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, clearly finished first in the primary election for controller, but Board of Equalization member Betty Yee edged out fellow Democrat and Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez by 481 votes in their race to finish second. Perez has demanded a recount, specifying 15 counties in which he did better than Yee.

Current law lets a candidate demanding a recount specify not only which counties but even specific precincts and the order in which they’re recounted; the candidate must pay for the recount on a daily basis but can stop the process whenever a desired result is achieved. (Clarification: All of the ballots in each county included in a recount request must be recounted in order to change the result, though Perez could halt the recount between any of the 15 counties he specified if he gets a number he wants.) The other candidate can then choose whether or not to demand a recount too. Critics note this gives an advantage to whoever can better afford a recount – in this case, Perez.

“When the recount process is necessary, it should be easily implemented and every vote valued and counted equally,” Mullin said.

Mullin said he also plans to pursue legislation to standardize county-by-county vote counting and reporting procedures for vote-by-mail ballots that are dropped off at polling places on Election Day. His goal is to avoid the kinds of delays experienced in this year’s controller’s race as county vote tallies were aggregated and reported on the Secretary of State’s website.

Posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Kevin Mullin | No Comments »

Rep. Mike Honda calls on Fox to fire Bob Beckel

Rep. Mike Honda has joined the chorus of Asian-American politicians calling for the resignation or ouster of Fox commentator Bob Beckel following Beckel’s racially charged tirade last week.

Here’s the Beckel clip:

Honda, D-San Jose, issued this statement Monday:

honda.jpg“I am outraged and disgusted by Fox News commentator Bob Beckel’s use of the word ‘Chinamen’ and his other racist and xenophobic comments. I agree with State Senator Ted Lieu, Campbell CA Councilmember Evan Low, and everyone else who has called on Fox News to fire Beckel. The ignorance and hatred in his comments are repugnant. The fact that he has yet to apologize for these comments is inexcusable. As the founder of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus, I know that words hurt, and slurs are used to intimidate. Fox News needs to do the right thing and fire Bob Beckel.”

State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who is currently a 33rd Congressional District candidate, issued his statement Saturday:

Ted Lieu“I am one of those ‘Chinamen’ with ‘Oriental’ eyes that immigrated to America and majored in computer science. I also served on active duty in the United States Air Force and continue to serve my country in the Reserves. And today, as an American and as a California State Senator, I call on Mr. Beckel to resign.

“America is great because anyone can be an American. Our country is the strongest in the world because of our diversity. Unfortunately, Fox News host Bob Beckel does not understand what it means to be an American.

“But Mr. Beckel’s comments are more than just racist and stupid. His ignorant views are dangerous because it is precisely those types of extreme xenophobic and racist views that caused our government to massively violate constitutional rights during World War II and force more than 100,000 Americans into internment camps.

“It is Mr. Beckel’s extreme racist and xenophobic views that are a threat to the American people and he should resign now.”

But Peter Kuo, the Santa Clara Republican now seeking the 10th State Senate District seat, took a more conciliatory tone Saturday:

Peter Kuo“Beckel’s remarks have invoked strong emotion and sadness among immigrants who call America their home. Having endured racist remarks growing up and hearing these comments from a major media figure is shocking and hurtful. Many have moved to the United States in search of the American Dream and found it through hard work, education and job opportunities. The United States is the home to the greatest technological and medical innovation in the world, in great part because of the diverse group of people that have made these fields their careers.

“Today, I observed public calls for Bob Beckel to be fired from Fox News. I completely understand those emotions and feelings as his actions are very insulting. However, I think we have an opportunity to rise above his insensitive comments and use this sad moment in time to grow as a nation. Calling for termination because my feelings are hurt would be easy, and likely very much understood by the media, the voters and most certainly the Chinese-American community. And that may just be the solution. But in the ever increasingly sensitive, racially charged environment we all seem to live in these days, why not take a step back and reflect and recognize that while regrettable, it is quite possible that Mr. Beckel made a mistake albeit a terrible one. Instead of rallying everyone to call for his termination, I prefer a different approach. I would ask Mr. Beckel to offer a formal apology on the air. If Mr. Beckel were to apologize, and those of us offended were to accept said apology, wouldn’t we have already accomplished so much more than the alternative? If I’m to ask the voters of Senate District 10 and California to trust my ability to make sound judgements, to listen to both sides of the aisle, to think my way through problems and controversy instead of always acting on pure emotion, as many issues like this are often handled, then it is important for me to treat this issue no differently.

“Mr. Beckel, I’m offended by your comments as is the Chinese-American community. Do what is right, apologize and move forward better aware of the repercussions of your actions. If this is done, I call on the Chinese-American community to accept his apology, and hope that Mr. Beckel will reach out to members of the Chinese-American community and offer a meeting or a conversation to discuss these events. I will gladly welcome him to my district to meet with Chinese-American community members if he is willing. Instead of dart throwing and mud slinging, let’s figure out a way to move forward so that we may be a more resilient, unified and a compassionate nation.”

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Mike Honda, Ted Lieu, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

‘Happy Fracking Day’ with Brown & Newsom

An El Dorado Hills artist who has a sort of personal history with Gov. Jerry Brown has once again immortalized him in sculpture – this time, taking him to task for letting oil and gas “fracking” proceed in the Golden State.

Laura Harling’s “Happy Fracking Day” sculpture won an Award of Merit in fine art at the California State Fair, where it’s on display.

(Click to enlarge)
Happy Fracking Day

The sculpture, 15¼” high and wide, 10½” deep, is described thusly on the artist’s website: “California Governor Jerry Brown and Lt Gov Gaven Newsom celebrate fracking. Only the 1% were invited to the party.”

Fracking Cake

Harling, 67, a Green Party member, said Monday she always been interested in politics and “the long history of environmental destruction by industry is impossible to overlook.

“When I first learned about fracking, it reminded me of the damage caused by hydraulic mining and gold dredging in my neighborhood,” she said. “I believe that fracking will be considered an even worse mistake in the future. I seem to find no end of ideas for my satiric sculptures by following the money.”

Harling – whom the Chronicle reported had worked way back in the day as a state janitor tasked with cleaning a much younger Gov. Jerry Brown’s apartment – has drawn inspiration from Brown and Newsom for past works as well.

It takes two to tango

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014
Under: Environment, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor | 1 Comment »

Steinberg, Corbett to lead trip to Central America

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Majority Leader Ellen Corbett will lead a delegation of state lawmakers to Central America next week, in part to explore the political, economic and social situation driving a flood of unaccompanied children to the U.S. border.

centralamerica-political-mapThe lawmakers will meet with an array of officials in El Salvador and Guatemala to probe the situation and find out what states like California can do to meet the humanitarian challenge presented by the undocumented immigrant tsunami. Dangerous conditions in those nations and Honduras have driven parents to send more than 52,000 children north to the U.S. border in recent months.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Corbett, D-Hayward, will be joined on the trip by Legislative Latino Caucus members Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside; Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Assemblyman V. Manuel Peréz, D-Coachella; and caucus vice-chair Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.

The trip, from July 14 through 23, will include a stop in Panama to learn about the Canal Zone’s expansion. Some transportation, security and interpreting service costs are being borne by the host countries, and the remaining expenses – including airfare and hotels – will be paid by the lawmakers.

In El Salvador, the lawmakers are scheduled to meet with Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Vice President Oscar Ortiz, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo Martinez, Economy Minsiter Tharsis Salomon Lopez Guzman; Legislative Assembly President Sigfrido Reyes; and U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte. In Guatemala, they’re scheduled to meet with Vice-minister of Foreign Relations Oscar Padilla Lam; Paul Briere, President of the Congressional Committee for Migrants of Guatemala; and U.S. Charge d’Affaires Charisse Phillips. And in Panama, they’re scheduled to meet with the Panama Canal Authority and U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Farrar.

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Ellen Corbett, Immigration | 4 Comments »

California’s budget finished 2013-14 in the black

California finished its fiscal year in the black for the first time since 2007, state Controller John Chiang confirmed Thursday.

California in the blackThat means the state had funds available to meet all of its payment obligations without needing to borrow from Wall Street or from the $23.8 billion available in its more than 700 internal special funds and accounts.

“While this is welcome news after seven years of record-high borrowing just to pay our everyday bills, we still have much work to do,” Chiang said in a news release. “We should remain laser-focused on paying down the Wall of Debt, reversing the many accounting gimmicks to which we’ve become addicted and keeping the State as liquid as possible to avoid experiencing the payment delays and IOUs that plagued our State during the Great Recession.”

The economy inevitably will decline again sooner or later, he noted. “We should be vigilant about preparing for that day while we celebrate the great progress we’ve made to date.”

Chiang’s report found the General Fund had $1.9 billion in cash on June 30, marking the first time it has ended the fiscal year in the black since 2007, when it ended the year with $2.5 billion in the bank.

For the 2013-14 fiscal year, revenues came in at $101.6 billion, or $2.1 billion (2.1 percent) more than projected in the Governor’s budget released in January. Personal income taxes totaled $66.2 billion, coming in $1.7 billion above the January estimates (2.6 percent). Corporate taxes totaled $8.5 billion, which was $725 million more than expected (9.3 percent). Retail sales and use taxes came in at $22.2 billion, or $415 million under (1.8 percent) the estimates.

Revenues for June alone totaled $14.8 billion, beating estimates in the 2014-15 Governor’s Budget by $304 million (2.1 percent). Income tax collections for the month of June came in $635 million (7.4 percent) above estimates. Corporate taxes topped estimates by $289 million (13.2 percent). Sales taxes came in short of estimates by $265.8 million (11.6 percent).

Posted on Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Under: John Chiang, state budget | 2 Comments »

New law allows wine tastings at farmers’ markets

Salud! Sláinte! Kanpai! L’Chayyim! Wine and hard cider vendors at farmers’ markets can now offer tastings under certain conditions, thanks to a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

wine signBrown signed AB 2488 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, which had passed the Assembly and state Senate with unanimous votes.

The new law, effective immediately, lets wineries or cider makers who grow all of the fruit in their product to offer tastings to potential customers at farmers’ markets. But nobody’s going to get schnockered: Market managers still have discretion on whether to allow tastings; only one winery can offer tastes at a market on a given day; the tastings must happen in a cordoned-off area; and the grower can pour no more than three ounces of wine or cider per adult customer.

“The farmers’ market shopping experience involves tasting the product,” Levine said in a news release last month. “AB 2488 simply allows tastings at certified farmers’ markets where winemakers are already allowed to sell their products. This bill is a common sense solution for farmers’ markets, wineries and cider makers.”

Paul Kronenberg, president of the Family Winemakers of California, said wine like many other products is traditionally “sold through sampling. Consumers want to understand the wine, decide if they like it and decide if it is a good value.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Brown signs same-sex marriage bill into law

With a stroke of Gov. Jerry Brown’s pen Monday morning, California did away with its last statutory barriers to same-sex marriage.

Brown signed SB 1306 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which replaces references to “husband and wife” with gender-neutral language, bringing state statutes into line with the state and U.S. Supreme Court rulings recognizing marriage rights for same-sex couples. The bill officially takes effect Jan. 1.

“This legislation removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender,” Leno said in a news release.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 let stand California’s ruling that Proposition 8 of 2008 – which wrote a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution – was unconstitutional. By repealing Proposition 8, that ruling essentially restored the California Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling that had cleared the way for same-sex marriages; weddings resumed almost immediately.

Leno’s bill was cosponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris, Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Although there is no question that same-sex couples can marry in California, the discriminatory language that remains on the statutory books creates confusion about the rights of same-sex couples,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in Leno’s news release. “This law makes it clear to everyone that same-sex couples can marry and that all spouses have the exact same rights and responsibilities under the law, regardless of gender.”

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Mark Leno, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »

Former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin dead at 70

Former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, died Thursday. He was 70.

Ira RuskinRuskin served as a Redwood City councilman from 1995 to 2004, including a stint as mayor from 1999 to 2001. In 2004 he defeated Republican Steve Poizner to win the 21st Assembly District seat, despite Poizner having spent $5.75 million of his own money on the race.

As a councilman and Assemblyman, he made a name for himself in environmental affairs, and he chaired both the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials as well as the Budget Subcommittee on Environmental Resources.

Term-limited out of the Assembly in 2010, he had planned to run for the state Senate in 2012 but instead withdrew from politics in 2011 when he had to undergo surgery for the brain tumor that eventually claimed his life.

“As a member of the Assembly and as Mayor and City Councilmember of Redwood City, Ira Ruskin was known as the consummate public servant. His loss is not only a loss for his family and many friends, but for the entire State of California,” Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said in a statement issued Saturday.

“In the Assembly Ira Ruskin was a leader on consumer issues, energy independence and protecting our coast,” Atkins said. “The leadership, intelligence and compassion Ira Ruskin brought to public service will be sorely missed. My Assembly colleagues and I send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Cheryl, and to all their family and friends.”

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2014
Under: Assembly | No Comments »

Tim Donnelly wants immigrant kids deported

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who lost last month’s gubernatorial primary election, wants California and federal agencies to start deporting the thousands of young illegal immigrants who’ve been rushing to U.S. borders in recent months from violence-ravaged Central American nations.

Tim Donnelly“Rather than dump these children on our streets to become victims again, we need to do what is in their best interest which is to restore them to their natural parents in their home countries,” Donnelly, R-Hesperia – a former Minuteman anti-illegal-immigration activist – wrote in a letter Wednesday to the officials at the state Department of Social Services, U.S. Border Patrol, Riverside County and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Study after study irrefutably indicate that children who are raised by their birth parents, even if they are imperfect or living in difficult circumstances, have a better chance of achieving long–term success if the family unit stays intact,” he wrote.

Donnelly’s letter comes a day after Homeland Security buses carrying immigrant children and families were rerouted Tuesday to a facility in San Diego after American flag-waving protesters blocked the group from reaching a suburban processing center. The standoff in Murrieta came after Mayor Alan Long urged residents to complain to elected officials about the plan to transfer the Central Americans to California to ease overcrowding of facilities along the Texas-Mexico border.

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children – mostly fleeing at their parents’ behest from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border since October in what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. Many of believed they would receive leniency from U.S. authorities.

“News stations are reporting these children are to be ‘processed’ and ‘released,’” Donnelly wrote. “There have also been credible reports these children are being sent to our country by the drug cartels with only a phone number of a contact in our state. The Border Patrol have been instructed they are not to check the backgrounds or immigration status of the contacts state side … in other words, our government has completed the drug cartels communication ring at taxpayer expense and no government agency is doing their duty to prevent this from happening.”

Donnelly wrote that he wants to know to whom these children are being released, and whether background checks are being done on those people to see if they are “illegally present in our country, and by the very nature of their status, are unable to provide the safety and stability these children desperately need.”

He also wants to know where children without relatives in California will be released, and what sort of action plans various counties have to deal with the influx.

“We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. I can think of no group at greater risk than ‘unaccompanied minors’ – these children are alone and their parents are thousands of miles away,” Donnelly wrote. “The Border Patrol is reporting that nearly one third of the girls, ages 10-14, have been raped during their journey to our country, and many of them are now pregnant. This is unconscionable.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Assembly, Immigration, Tim Donnelly | 4 Comments »

Tuning in to ‘The Neel Kashkari Show’

Well, if November’s election goes as widely expected and Gov. Jerry Brown trounces Neel Kashkari, at least the Republican challenger has a new career waiting: Radio host.

NEEL KASHKARIKashkari, a former Treasury Department official from Laguna Beach, on Wednesday will do his third radio guest-hosting gig in as many weeks, filling in for Jillian Barberie to co-host the Mid-Day LA program on KABC 790 with John Phillips from noon to 3 p.m.

On Tuesday, he guest-hosted the Chris Daniel Show on News/Talk 580 and FM 105.9 KMJ in Fresno. And on June 20, he guest-hosted the John & Ken Show on KFI 640.

There’s no question that Kashkari is using these appearances for electioneering. In announcing the Chris Daniel Show gig, his campaign had said he would “be joined in-studio and on the phone by elected officials and community leaders to discuss a variety of issues including the state’s faltering business climate, the water crisis, Governor Brown’s ‘Crazy Train’ and making Republicans once again competitive in a predominately blue state.” An almost-identical statement preceded the John & Ken Show gig.

Federal Communications Commission regulations require that if a broadcast station lets one legally qualified candidate for public office use its facilities, “it shall afford equal opportunities to all other candidates for that office to use such facilities.”

This “equal-time rule” is applicable here, said Jonathan Kotler, an attorney and associate professor in the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Brown’s campaign would have to request the equal time, he said.

“The Brown campaign has to make a call – do they want the free time, or if I were their strategist, I’d think the best strategy would be to ignore him (Kashkari) because there must be a lot of people out there like me who have never heard of the guy,” Kotler said.

Besides, can you even imagine Brown hosting the John & Ken Show? They’d get so many calls that it would crash all of Southern California.

Asked whether the governor might seek equal time, campaign consultant Dan Newman replied, “Unlikely – he has a busy and demanding day-job.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari | No Comments »