Part of the Bay Area News Group

And now, a bit of tax-board marijuana humor.

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 9th, 2015 at 6:24 pm in marijuana, taxes

Best headline I’ve seen in a while on a government news release: “Cannabis Learning Tour Provides Tax Policy Insight into Budding Industry.”

Get it? BUDDING.

Hey, I know it’s not subtle, but most of the releases I see are utterly humorless.

Fiona MaThis one came from the Board of Equalization, announcing that members Fiona Ma and Vice Chair George Runner took a listening and learning tour through Humboldt County this week with leaders in the area’s cannabis industry. Up there in the “Emerald Triangle,” it’s a substantial chunk of the local economy. Ma and Runner sought perspective on the product, from seed to sale, to help shape tax policy; the release didn’t mention whether they inhaled.

“I am proud to be a part of these informational meetings as part of a broader effort to engage stakeholders who will play an integral role in the regulation of this industry,” Ma said in the release. “Our goal is to encourage this industry to come out of the shadows, to register, to become legal, and that is where we must find a balance for the future of our state.”

George RunnerRunner said the tour “provided helpful insights into how we can work with the medical marijuana industry to promote compliance with California tax laws. This is a growing industry [ed. note – pun intended?], but we’re currently missing out on a great deal of revenue that is owed to the state.”

State law requires medical marijuana sales be taxed at the local tax rate where the product is sold or will be used, so Runner and Ma want state and local governments get what they’re due.

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Speier to offer ‘gay conversion therapy’ ban effort

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 9th, 2015 at 4:11 pm in Jackie Speier, U.S. House

A Bay Area congresswoman will introduce a resolution next week urging states to ban “gay conversion therapy,” as President Obama called for in recent days.

Jackie SpeierRep. Jackie Speier plans to introduce the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) resolution next Tuesday morning. The resolution calls on states to ban licensed mental health professionals from engaging in therapy to try to change minors’ sexual orientations.

“Conversion therapy is quackery — you can’t ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release. “I applaud the president for his strong stance against it. I look forward to working with the White House when I reintroduce the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) Resolution. What LGBT youth need is love and support, not discredited pseudoscience.”

Speier first introduced the SHOK resolution in late 2012, soon after California enacted such a ban. California’s law took effect in 2014 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear challenges to it.

Reacting to a public petition, the White House this week announced the Obama administration’s support of efforts to ban the practice.

The American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association have rejected gay conversion therapy as a scientifically invalid practice, finding it can cause serious harm.

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Florida buys ad blitz before Rick Scott’s LA visit

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 9th, 2015 at 12:49 pm in economy

Florida Ports adFlorida Gov. Rick Scott is softening up southern California with an ad blitz in advance of his visit next week to poach California port jobs.

Enterprise Florida, the Sunshine State’s public-private economic development agency, this week rolled out a “Florida is Ready” ad campaign with an April 6 buy in the Journal of Commerce; the ad also will appear in the Los Angeles Times and in the nine-publication Los Angeles News Group (which is owned by the same parent company as the Bay Area News Group).

And on Thursday, Enterprise Florida released a radio ad which will run on Los Angeles stations in advance of Scott’s visit this coming Sunday and Monday. Here’s the script:

“This is breaking news from the state of Florida. Are you a business owner sick of high taxes? Are you facing burdensome regulations that are hindering your ability to compete and succeed globally? California has the nation’s highest personal income tax rate, the highest state sales tax, and one of the highest gas taxes. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is leading a delegation to California to meet with companies to tell them why Florida is the best place to do business. With no state income tax, no capital gains tax, a business tax that continues to drop and a business-friendly attitude, businesses can keep more of the money they make in Florida. If you’re looking to relocate and expand your business, look no further than the Sunshine State. Gov. Scott wants your company to succeed in Florida.”

“We are excited to travel to California next week to tell California companies why they should do business in Florida, including all of the great reasons for California shippers to consider sending their goods through Florida ports,” Scott said in a news release.

“With our low-tax, business friendly climate and our commitment to investing in our transportation infrastructure, Florida is ready to welcome more job creators to our state,” he added. “In comparison, California has some of the highest taxes in the country and is ranked 50th in regulatory freedom. Elected officials in California are not making it easier for businesses to succeed, and I look forward to meeting with California companies next week as we continue to work toward making Florida the global destination for jobs.”

Scott’s rhetoric aside, California led all other states in job creation in the 12 months ending Jan. 31. Texas, from which Gov. Rick Perry also has come to California seeking to poach jobs, and Florida ranked second and third, respectively.

Perhaps Scott is mostly just looking for a vacation from his worries. He took flak recently for banning state agencies from using the phrase “climate change,” and this week backed off his support of Medicaid expansion, an apparent flip from the previous flip he did on that issue two years ago.

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House members tell DOJ to back off on marijuana

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 at 5:32 pm in marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House

A bipartisan pair of California House members are insisting that the Justice Department back off from prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and providers in states with medical marijuana laws – as Congress mandated in a recent spending bill.

Reps. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday, reminding him in no uncertain terms that the amendment they co-authored to the “cromnibus” federal spending bill – approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in December – bars the Justice Department from spending money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

The lawmakers cited a recent Los Angeles Times article in which a department spokesman said the amendment doesn’t apply to cases against individuals or organizations, but merely stops the department from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.”

“We write to inform you that this interpretation of our amendment is emphatically wrong,” Farr and Rohrabacher wrote to Holder. “Rest assured, the purpose of our amendment was to prevent the Department from wasting its limited law enforcement resources on prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions against medical marijuana patients and providers, including businesses that operate legally under state law.”

State law enforcement agencies are better equipped to determine whether people and businesses are abiding by state laws, they wrote.

“We respectfully insist that you bring your Department back into compliance with federal law by ceasing marijuana prosecutions and forfeiture actions against those acting in accordance with state medical marijuana laws,” their letter concludes.

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SD7: Union IE group launches pro-Bonilla TV ad

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 at 4:08 pm in California State Senate, Susan Bonilla

The union-funded PAC that’s opposing Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer in the 7th State Senate District’s special election has launched a television ad on behalf of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015 rolled out a 30-second ad Wednesday highlighting Bonilla’s efforts to expand early childhood education and her support of a bipartisan bill making it easier to fire educators who abuse children. The ad ends with the voiceover: “No wonder classroom teachers, local law enforcement, and Governor Jerry Brown trust Susan Bonilla.”

Working Families spokesman Steve Maviglio said the ad began airing Wednesday and will run for at least a week on all three cable systems serving the district; he wouldn’t specify the cost, except to say it’s a “substantial” ad buy.

Records from the Secretary of State’s office show the group has spent at least $821,000 on the race so far. But Glazer has received a lot of independent-expenditure help, too – Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield has anted up at least $763,000 on Glazer’s behalf, and the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC has spent at least about $494,000.

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Hillary Clinton hires Google exec for campaign tech

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 at 11:55 am in 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton

A longtime Google executive will run the tech division of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Washington Post reports.

Stephanie HannonStephanie Hannon, Google’s director of product management for civic innovation and social impact, will be the Clinton campaign’s chief technology officer, charged with building new ways for the former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady to engage with voters, sources told the Post. Hannon, a 40-year-old Democrat from San Francisco, is the first woman to hold the top tech post in a major presidential campaign.

My colleague Matt O’Brien has confirmed with Google that Hannon is departing to go work for Clinton.

Hannon’s LinkedIn profile shows she has held her current post at Google since March 2013, “building innovative technology to help people broaden engagement with their community, government and nonprofits” with a focus on “changing how the world prepares and responds to natural disasters, using big data and experiments to enable cities to make evidenced based decisions and sharing transparent election ballot, candidate and results globally.”

Here’s Hannon speaking last year about share how Google helps cities make better decisions with data:

Earlier, she was a product manager at Facebook from 2012 to 2013, working in site integrity and trust engineering – that is, “building product features and operations tools to ensure Facebook is a safe space for communication where people use their authentic identities.”

Earlier still, she was a vice president at Eventbrite from late 2011 to early 2012; a cofounder at Sensey, a startup that aimed to bring web technology to residential energy management through smart thermostats, in 2011; and a Google product manager from 2004 to 2011 in Mountain View, Zurich, and Sydney, Australia. And she was a software engineer at Cisco Systems from 1996 to 2002.

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Rep. Eric Swalwell visited troops, officials in Iraq

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 at 8:23 am in Eric Swalwell, Iraq, U.S. House

Rep. Eric Swalwell returned Wednesday from a bipartisan congressional trip to Iraq.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, is a House Intelligence Committee member and was briefed in Iraq by senior military officials involved with Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission to roll back the self-proclaimed Islamic State. He also met with Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi, and he attended Easter Sunday service and brunch with enlisted troops.

Swalwell Easter brunch with troops in Iraq

“This trip gave me the opportunity to see up close the damage the Iraqi-led, U.S.-supported coalition is having on ISIL,” Swalwell said in a news release. “Because of the enduring work of our troops and intelligence community, we have ISIL on the ropes and are well-positioned to deliver a knockout blow. The real challenge, however, is what does Iraq look like post-ISIL? The United States can provide limited, short-term military aid to Iraq, but a longstanding peaceful future requires Iraqi leadership that puts an end to sectarian violence.”

“It was an honor to spend Easter Sunday in Iraq with my heroes, the brave men and women of our Armed Services and intelligence community,” he added. “I was moved by the commitment of our troops, who were spending Easter away from their loved ones, to serve our country.”

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SD7: FPPC nixes Glazer’s complaint vs. union PAC

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 at 4:49 pm in California State Senate, campaign finance, Susan Bonilla

The state’s political watchdog agency has rejected state Senate candidate Steve Glazer’s complaint about the union-bankrolled PAC that’s opposing him.

Steve GlazerGlazer – Orinda’s mayor, and a Democrat – faces Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, in the May 19 special election for the 7th State Senate District seat. He complained last Wednesday to the California Fair Political Practices Commission that Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate had issued a mailer that didn’t disclose the big money – $185,000 from the State Council of Service Employees and $75,000 from the California School Employees Association – behind the PAC.

But Galena West, acting chief of the FPPC’s enforcement division, sent a letter to Glazer on Tuesday saying the PAC “has provided evidence that the mailer was already in production prior to the committee’s acquiring contributors of more than $50,000.”

“The FPPC’s Enforcement Division will not pursue this matter further,” West wrote.

“Once again, Steve Glazer’s attacks on working families have backfired in another attempt to distract voters from the more than $745,000 he has received from a Bush and Schwarzenegger donor from Los Angeles and more than $450,000 he has received from a political action committee funded by tobacco companies and other corporate interests,” Steven Maviglio, the PAC’s spokesman, said in a news release Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate that he has wasted taxpayers resources for this publicity stunt.”

But Glazer campaign spokesman Jason Bezis retorted that “the essence of the complaint is now factually confirmed; the vast majority of the money for these mailers has come from government unions. They didn’t want the voters to know this and used a technicality to obscure this fact.”

“It’s obvious that the unions are not proud of their parenthood of these false mailers, as we saw in the primary election with their fake Asian American Small Business PAC,” Bezis added. “Powerful special interests, such as these government unions, detest thoughtful and independent candidates like Steve Glazer. The choice for voters is a special interest sycophant like Bonilla versus a people’s advocate like Glazer.”

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Ben Affleck for Senate? You can pledge $$$ now…

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 at 4:34 pm in campaign finance, U.S. Senate

A Palo Alto-based political engagement startup has launched a new page giving people the power to pledge money to candidates for California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race – even if those potential candidates have not yet even expressed interest in running.

Crowdpac – described by Yahoo News last fall as “a Kickstarter for politics and a Match.com for web-savvy politicos” – has set up a pledge system in accordance with an August 2014 Federal Election Commission ruling allowing pledges, but not actual donations, before a candidate forms a campaign. Only if and when a candidate chooses to run will the user be charged.

Ben AffleckSo the group’s 2016 California Senate page includes declared candidates like state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, and Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, D-Oceanside; people who’ve expressed interest but haven’t yet declared, like House members Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette; and celebs who’ve said nothing about entering the race, like actors Ben Affleck (D) and Kelsey Grammer (R).

Crowdpac already has a similar pledge page for the 2016 presidential race, including “say WHAT?” candidates like former Vice President Al Gore and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

The idea is to alleviate the chicken-or-egg problem in modern campaign finance: Many ordinary Americans won’t make political contributions because they feel good candidates aren’t stepping forward, and many good potential candidates won’t step forward because they don’t think they can raise the tremendous sums required to run a big campaign. The Crowdpac team believes their pledge system will get more people engaged and invested in the process, and avoid having a few rich people anoint their chosen candidates.

It’s an interesting team. CEO and cofounder Steve Hilton is a visiting professor at Stanford, and a former senior advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cofounder Adam Bonica is a Stanford assistant professor of political science who studies the quantitative measurement of political ideology; he built the algorithms driving Crowdpac’s various services. And chief operating officer and cofounder Gisel Kordestani is a tech entrepreneur who has worked in early stage startups, management consulting and spent more than eight years at Google in senior global roles in finance and new business development.

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Loretta Sanchez to meet with SF Latino Dems

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 at 3:25 pm in U.S. Senate

Sure, Attorney General Kamala Harris already has raised a cool $2.5 million for her 2016 Senate run, but that doesn’t mean other Democrats aren’t still seriously considering taking her on – even on her home turf.

Loretta SanchezRep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, is meeting with the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club from 5 to 7 p.m. this Friday at Don Ramon’s Mexican restaurant, 225 11th St. in San Francisco. The event is co-sponsored by a bunch of local Latino organizations; there’s been some dissatisfaction voiced among Latino Democrats at not having one of their own in the Senate race.

This isn’t Sanchez’s first trip to Kamala Harris’ home base since she first expressed interest in running in January. Photos posted to her Facebook page show her at Don Ramon’s restaurant in mid-March with California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, and at North Beach’s Stella bakery the next day with former San Francisco supervisor Angela Alioto.

Sanchez isn’t the only Southern California House member pondering a run for the seat Barbara Boxer will vacate next year; others include Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles.

Harris is the only prominent Democrat who has declared her candidacy for the seat so far; Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, is the only prominent Republican to throw his hat into the ring so far.

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