Part of the Bay Area News Group

New law allows wine tastings at farmers’ markets

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 at 1:29 pm in Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown

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.”

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Cleveland Rocks (the RNC’s world)

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 at 10:06 am in Republican Party, Republican politics

Look out, Cleveland, the storm is comin’ through/ And it’s runnin’ right up on you…

The Republican National Committee’s Site Selection Committee on Tuesday named Cleveland as its recommendation to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. The RNC and the city now enter into exclusive negotiations on the details, and the recommendation will be presented to the full 168-member RNC when it meets next month in Chicago.

“Cleveland is a phenomenal city, and I can’t think of a better place to showcase our party and our nominee in 2016,” Site Selection Chairwoman Enid Mickelsen said in a news release. “Cleveland has demonstrated they have the commitment, energy, and terrific facilities to help us deliver a history-making Republican convention.

The committee previously had narrowed the field to Cleveland and Dallas, but Ohio’s battleground-state status probably helped Cleveland carry the day.

The Band’s “Look Out Cleveland” (quoted above) is a bit of a downer lyrically, so one assumes the RNC will also open negotiations with Ian Hunter for the rights to use his song over… and over… and over again…

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Mark Meuser launches Bay Area Republican PAC

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 at 9:46 am in Republican Party, Republican politics

What’s Mark Meuser up to?

Mark MeuserMeuser, you’ll recall, is the Walnut Creek civil litigation attorney who ran against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, in 2012 (a race DeSaulnier won, 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent). More recently, he’s been donning Minuteman garb to deliver speeches on the nation’s Founding Fathers at meetings of local Republican groups.

Reports filed Friday with the Secretary of State’s office show Meuser, 39, this year created the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee, which he funded with $10,500 of his own money. Most of that money already has been spent, including $7,000 on television ad production and $2,500 for print ads in the Antioch Herald. He also registered a BARepublican.com website, though it’s not active yet.

But Meuser is being a bit cryptic about what it’s all for.

“The PAC has not spent any money on behalf of any candidate,” he said in an email conversation Monday. “The PAC is preparing for this November’s election and the money it spent was in preparation for that.”

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Brown signs same-sex marriage bill into law

By Josh Richman
Monday, July 7th, 2014 at 12:50 pm in California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Mark Leno, same-sex marriage

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.”

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Former Assemblyman Ira Ruskin dead at 70

By Josh Richman
Monday, July 7th, 2014 at 9:55 am in Assembly

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.”

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CA17: Honda and Khanna battle for GOP votes

By Josh Richman
Saturday, July 5th, 2014 at 10:10 am in Mike Honda, U.S. House, Uncategorized

With two Democrats having survived the 17th Congressional District’s primary to advance to November’s general election, the battle is on for the district’s Republican hearts and minds.

Weeks after Jim Cunneen – the last Republican to represent Silicon Valley in Sacramento – endorsed Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for an eighth term, Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu has now cast his lot with Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

Ernie Konnyu“I have been in touch with Ro and his staff and look forward to help unite Republican and independent voters who supported me in the western portion of the Congressional district with the thousands of voters already backing Ro Khanna,” Konnyu, 77, of San Jose, said in a statement issued Friday.

“My aim is to deliver to the House of Representatives a new bi-partisan Congressman from Silicon Valley ready to lead for jobs and greater Silicon Valley successes,” he said. “I trust that Ro will be good for America and great for Silicon Valley.”

Konnyu was a South Bay Assemblyman from 1980 to 1986, when he was elected to serve what was then the 12th Congressional District. He served only one House term, primaried out in 1988 by a more socially moderate Republican, Tom Campbell.

Honda finished first in last month’s primary with 48 percent of the vote, and Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – finished second with 28 percent. Republican Vanila Singh of Fremont got 17 percent and Joel VanLandingham of San Jose got 7 percent, and so they were eliminated.

Only 19 percent of the district’s voters are Republican while 44 percent are Democrats and 32 percent state no party preference, but that GOP fifth of the electorate could be a crucial bloc if either campaign can mobilize it. While many had assumed Republicans might favor Khanna – generally seen as being a smidgen to the right of the ultra-liberal Honda, or at least, more attuned to the tech sector’s needs – a poll in May found 19 percent of GOP voters favored Honda while 18 percent favored Khanna.

Singh sent a Fourth-of-July email to her supporters Friday saying that in recent weeks she has been “reaching out to voters, volunteers, and donors to keep this exciting and impressive movement that we have begun in motion! I am humbled by the endless amounts of phone calls I have been receiving both locally and nationally. This proves that we have laid the organizational foundation that will endure for those who share these ideals.”

“As we celebrate our independence today, I hope you can join me in preserving their vision by continuing to fight for our beloved country,” Singh wrote. “These next couple months are just the beginning of an inspirational movement and it is imperative that we keep a presence at this very pivotal time in our nation. I want you to remember that these campaigns are about the people – make sure your voice is loud this November!”

The message, however, made no mention of an endorsement.

Honda and Khanna appear to be equally matched in campaign money to spend from now to November. You can bet that some of that money will be spent wooing the Singh and VanLandingham voters who are now up for grabs.

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Poll: 92% of voters want gun background checks

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 at 2:26 pm in gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House

Americans overwhelmingly support requiring background checks for all gun buyers – so long as you don’t call it “gun control,” according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Thursday.

The poll of 1,446 registered voters nationwide found 92 percent support universal background checks with only 7 percent opposed; the poll, conducted June 24-30, has a 2.6-percentage point margin of error. Among gun owners, support for universal background checks is 92 percent; among Republicans, 86 percent; and among Democrats, 98 percent, the poll found.

Also, 89 percent of U.S. voters support laws to prevent people with mental illness from buying guns; 91 percent of gun owners support this idea.

Yet when asked if they support “stricter gun control laws,” 50 percent said yes and 47 percent said no.

“Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “But when it comes to ‘stricter gun control,’ three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say ‘hands off.’”

The U.S. Senate last year rejected an amendment that would have expanded background checks to online and gun-show sales. H.R. 1565, a similar, bipartisan House measure co-authored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, has 188 cosponsors, but Republican House leaders have refused to put it to a vote.

Thompson issued a statement Thursday saying that “as a hunter, gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment,” he’s proud to count himself among the 92 percent supporting universal background checks. He said it’s time that GOP House members heed that overwhelming call “and bring our bill up for a vote – because if the Republican Majority would allow a vote, my bill would pass.”

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the new poll “reaffirms what we all already know.”

“It is almost unthinkable that, despite such overwhelming public support, Congress continues to put the interests of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the safety of the American people and will not even vote on expanding background checks to online sales and gun shows,” he said. “It is time we come together and hold the NRA lapdogs accountable for the lives that are being lost every day because of their despicable behavior.”

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Lawmakers urge Obama to consult them on Iraq

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 at 10:27 am in Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren

Rep. Barbara Lee and a Virginia Republican have lead 78 other House members in urging President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., last summer led independent letters calling on Obama to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. Now they’ve joined together on a letter sent to the president Thursday.

“We do not believe intervention could be either quick or easy,” they wrote. “And we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and that it could very well be counter-productive.”

The lawmakers called for a political settlement involving all segments of the Iraqi population.

“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote. “The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad. The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize.”

Besides Rigell, other Republicans signing the letter included Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.;

Besides Lee, other Bay Area members signing the letter included Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

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Tim Donnelly wants immigrant kids deported

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 at 4:19 pm in Assembly, Immigration, Tim Donnelly

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.”

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Eshoo & Speier to host town hall at Palo Alto VA

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 at 12:06 pm in Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, U.S. House, veterans

Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier will host a town-hall meeting Monday at the Palo Alto VA Hospital on veterans’ access to care – a touchy topic given recent revelations of VA shortcomings and malfeasance.

Veterans are invited to come and get answers to questions about the VA’s health care appointment process; Palo Alto VA Director Lisa Freeman will be there, too.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May amid revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment.

“Amid deeply disturbing revelations about delayed care of veterans throughout the nation and the scandal of information being manipulated, it is critically important to not only review wait times for care but also have veterans ask their own questions and have them addressed,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release Wednesday. “This town hall meeting will provide a forum for veterans in our region to share their experiences with access to care at the Palo Alto VA, and, moving forward, help to develop even better systems to improve the VA hospital for our veterans.”

Speier, D-San Mateo, said in the same release that the “scandalous issue” of VA employees in other states manipulating appointment lists to conceal long waiting times “has damaged the credibility of the VA health care system.”

“It doesn’t appear that this despicable behavior exists in Northern and Central California,” she said. “But I want veterans who use VA hospitals and clinics in our area to have a chance to comment on the quality of the access to care they receive. I thank the VA Director for not only providing my staff with their insights on the challenges they face in caring for over 130,000 veterans, but also in agreeing to host a town hall meeting at the hospital.”

The meeting will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 7 in the auditorium of VA Palo Alto’s Building 101, at 3801 Miranda Ave. in Palo Alto.

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore, plus seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, and Sonora.

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