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Proposed measure would require condoms in porn

By Josh Richman
Thursday, March 19th, 2015 at 12:12 pm in ballot measures

All porn actors working in California would have to wear condoms, under a new proposed ballot measure that Secretary of State Alex Padilla has cleared to start circulating for signatures.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein believes condom use in pornography already is required under laws dealing with blood-borne pathogens, but the industry has largely ignored this and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has failed to enforce it.

He's here to helpSo he’s proposing a separate law that explicitly would require performers in adult films to wear condoms during intercourse; requires adult-film producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical exams related to sexually transmitted infections; require producers to get state health licenses at the start of filming and post the condom requirement at film sites.

Producers would be held liable for violations, as would certain distributors; performers, if they have a financial interest in the film that causes the violation; and talent agents who knowingly refer performers to producers who don’t comply.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office and state Finance Department estimate such a law could reduce state and local tax revenue by tens of millions of dollars per year as adult film production either leaves the state or is driven underground, and also could cost the state a few million dollars per year to administer.

In order to qualify the measure for next year’s ballot, Weinstein will have to collect signatures of 365,880 registered voters (5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in last year’s gubernatorial election) and submit them to county elections officials by Sept. 14.

Los Angeles voters in 2012 approved Measure B, requiring mandatory condom use in porn films; the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that law in December. Nevada is considering such regulations, too.

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Speier proposes redefining ‘armor piercing’ ammo

By Josh Richman
Thursday, March 19th, 2015 at 11:35 am in gun control, Jackie Speier, Public safety, U.S. House

A Bay Area congresswoman has introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Attorney General to update – and tighten – the definition of “armor piercing” ammunition.

Rep. Jackie Speier said H.R. 1454, the Modernized Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 2015, is a much-needed update to the 1986 law that banned “cop-killer” bullets.

Jackie Speier“America’s men and women in law enforcement must be safer and have better technology than the criminals who want to kill them,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release. “It is unacceptable for them to be outgunned. The ATF has decided not to use its authority and take this common-sense step updating the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986, so it’s up to Congress to act. My legislation will make sure our first responders are as well protected from ‘cop-killer’ ammunition as they were when the law was passed.”

The law that President Ronald Reagan signed in 1986 banned the civilian sale and transfer of armor-piercing ammunition, defined as bullets or bullet cores that can used in handguns which are made from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium.

Since then, advances in bullet propellants, coatings, and materials have rendered the 1986 ban dangerously ineffective and outdated, Speier contends, and the market is now flooded with ammunition that can pierce body armor but skirts the 1986 ban.

green tipsThe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) this year proposed new regulations to restrict sale of M855 “green tip” ammunition that’s commonly used in AR-15-type semi-automatic rifles – perhaps the most popular style of rifle in the United States. After fierce opposition from the gun industry and gun-rights advocates, the ATF this month withdrew its plan.

Now the battle has shifted to Congress, though Democrats know perfectly well that the Republican leadership will never give these bills so much as a glance.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., last week introduced H.R. 1358, the “Armor Piercing Bullets Act,” to restrict sales of this ammunition, which he said can penetrate the soft body armor often worn by police.

“Armor piercing rounds like green tips should only be in the hands of military personnel or police officers, period. There is absolutely no compelling argument to be made for anyone else to have access to them,” Engel said. “But the out of touch gun industry lobby is fighting tooth and nail to keep cop-killing ammunition on the streets. We need to speak up on behalf of our police officers and say ‘stop the madness.’”

Speier’s bill would require the attorney general to modify the definition of armor-piercing ammunition to conform to the bullet’s performance, not just its content. It also would require the attorney general to establish testing criteria to assess a bullet’s lethality against the minimum standards of body armor worn by law enforcement personnel.

It’s potentially much farther-reaching than Engel’s bill. To understand why “armor piercing” is a hard definition to pin down, I recommend this VICE News article – it’s an opinion piece, but the analysis is interesting.

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SD7: Joan Buchanan endorses Susan Bonilla

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 at 3:00 pm in California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, 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.

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Shocker: Ernie Konnyu won’t run for U.S. Senate

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 at 2:33 pm in Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate

Attention, all 13 of you who knew that former congressman Ernie Konnyu was considering a U.S. Senate run in 2016: He’s out.

Ernie KonnyuKonnyu, 77, of San Jose, wrote an open letter to California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte on Wednesday saying the past week had been “brutal” to his hopes of running against Democrat Kamala Harris for the senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate next year.

Konnyu wrote that his longtime strategist, Tea Party Express mastermind Sal Russo, told him over “a great steak dinner smothered with onions at Frank Fats in Sac” that a run was inadvisable. Though he’s a longtime California Republican Assembly member, nobody deigned to introduce him at the group’s banquet Saturday. On Sunday, the president of the Bay Area Hungarian Freedom Fighters Association “pulled me aside and in a loving way chewed me out for even thinking about making ‘an unwinnable Senate run’.” And on Tuesday, his dinner conversation with his own wife and daughter “turned bitter as they could not see a chance to win the fight.”

“I know that I do have a responsibility to the Republican party in this Senate race which I take very seriously,” Konnyu wrote, outlining a long-shot scenario pipe dream in which enough Democrats would split that party’s vote to let him and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez – who declared candidacy March 5 – finish first and second in the top-two primary.

Riiight. Konnyu’s tenure in Congress might be remembered mostly for the sexual harassment claims he faced, which were part of the reason members of his own party ensured he served only one term. His letter Tuesday would be sort of funny, if not for the fact that Konnyu actually did slightly better than Chavez in a January-February Field Poll measuring the popularity (read as: “name recognition”) of 18 possible senate contenders.

“So Chairman Brulte, since I am now OUT, you would do well to find another strong Ernie Konnyu for the Senate race to increase the R win chances,” Konnyu wrote. “I state that as it would be a crying shame to simply waste Assemblyman Chavez on just improving future Republican support among Hispanics, as good as that is.”

Dry your tears. Konnyu promised he’ll “still still write a few checks to the G.O.P. and I’ll still help make the good fight on behalf of worthy Republican candidates.” He also promised to help “a brilliant Demo, Ro Khanna, who is willing to work with the Republican congressional majority, finally oust another Demo, the atrocious and uncooperative liberal, Congressman Mike Honda in the 17th C.D. (I hope the GOP will stay out this time in that unwinnable for a Republican district.)”

Yikes. With friends like these…

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Barbara Boxer cosponsors medical marijuana bill

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 at 11:36 am in Barbara Boxer, marijuana, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Tuesday became an early cosponsor of a bipartisan bill to end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana.

Perhaps she was feeling particularly green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Barbara BoxerSenators Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rand Paul, R-Kent.; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., last week introduced S.683, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2015. The bill would move marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act – a list of drugs not recognized to have any valid medical use – to the less-restrictive Schedule II.

States would be freer to enact and implement medical marijuana laws without federal interference; veterans’ doctors could recommend the drug; research would speed up; and bankers could breathe easier when dealing with the industry if this bill became law.

Some advocates say having Boxer, D-Calif., sign onto the bill is a big deal.

“Sen. Boxer represents the state that led the way on medical marijuana, and it’s about time she took some action to defend the will of California’s voters from federal interference,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.

“We would have expected her to do something on this years ago, but better late than never,” he said. “A new generation of senators like Cory Booker, Rand Paul and Kirsten Gillibrand are leading the way on this issue, and it’s nice to see that even some lawmakers who have been around for awhile are starting to notice which way the political winds are blowing. This is a sign that the dam is about to break. Expect more old-school politicians to get on board soon.”

Boxer spokesman Zachary Coile said the senator “is a strong supporter of California’s medical marijuana law and she believes that patients, doctors and caregivers in states like California should be able to follow state law without fear of federal prosecution.”

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SD7: Looks like May will be a nail-biter

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 at 10:42 am in California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla

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.

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GOP senators demand hearing on firearms program

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 at 5:10 pm in Attorney General, California State Senate, gun control, Kamala Harris

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.”

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Dianne Feinstein endorses CA’s assisted-suicide bill

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 at 1:48 pm in Bill Monning, California State Senate, Dianne Feinstein, Lois Wolk, U.S. Senate

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.

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Oakland, SF education officials meet with Obama

By Josh Richman
Monday, March 16th, 2015 at 10:37 am in Barack Obama, education, Oakland, Obama presidency, San Francisco politics

Three California education officials – including two from the Bay Area – met Monday morning with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to highlight the need for funding as Congress mulls a new budget and a revamp of the No Child Left Behind law.

Jumoke Hinton HodgeOakland Unified School District board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Mike Hanson were among the dozen officials from across the nation who met with Obama and Duncan at the White House.

All were from districts that are part of the Council of the Great City Schools; Hodge chairs the board of that national organization, which represents the needs of urban public schools. School districts eligible for membership must be located in cities with populations over 250,000 and student enrollment over 35,000.

Obama said in the meeting that he’s ready to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities, the Associated Press reported. He hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts, he said; he’s also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

If the Republican budget doesn’t reflect those priorities, he said, they will have “a major debate.”

“My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child,” he said, according to a pool report from the New York Post’s Geoff Earle. “We are making too much progress here … for us to be going backwards now.”

Obama and Duncan are touting improved high-school graduation rates as evidence that the administration’s policies are working. In California, the high school graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 increased by 2.4 percent overall, including a 2.7 percent increase for Hispanic students and a 2.1 percent increase for African-American students.

Richard CarranzaHinton Hodge is co-founder of the Parent Leadership and Engagement Academy Initiative (PLEA), a community-building project dedicated to the education and support of West Oakland parents and families. She collaborated with California Tomorrow to develop programs aimed at increasing parents’ ability to navigate the public school system; has worked extensively with low-income youth and students identified as severely emotionally disturbed; and she has provided gender-specific services to urban girls.

Carranza has been San Francisco’s schools superintendent since June 2012; earlier, he had been the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice at the district since 2009.

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Senate candidate Rocky Chávez coming to East Bay

By Josh Richman
Friday, March 13th, 2015 at 4:55 pm in Assembly, campaign finance, Catharine Baker, Kamala Harris

2016 U.S. Senate candidate Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, will be at a campaign event Monday in the East Bay – but not for his campaign.

Rocky ChávezChávez will be the “VIP guest” at a fundraiser this Monday, March 16 for Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, the Bay Area’s only Republican in Sacramento. Tickets for the pre-St. Patrick’s Day reception – “heavy hors d’ouevres, no host bar, green beer complimentary for the first 30 lucky guests!” – at The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon cost from $150 (“shamrock”) to $4,200 (“pot o’gold”).

Chávez declared candidacy March 5 for the senate seat from which Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will retire next year. The only other prominent candidate in the race so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat whom a recent Field Poll showed to be a frontrunner.

Catharine BakerTwo little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, say they’re running too, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has formed an exploratory committee for the race.

Baker is wise to be raising money as soon as possible. She won her 16th Assembly District seat by a 3.2-point margin in November, but she should expect a much tougher fight in 2016 when heavier turnout drawn by the presidential election will help Democrats flex their 7-point voter registration advantage.

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