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Barbara Lee leads effort to widen abortion access

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 at 3:32 pm in Barbara Lee, U.S. House

Rep. Barbara Lee and two other House members led 70 Democrats in introducing a bill Wednesday that would require Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded health insurance to provide coverage for abortions.

The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, or the EACH Woman Act, essentially would end the Hyde Amendment policy – a legislation “rider” attached to annual spending bills since 1976 that bans use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion except in cases of incest or rape.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Each and every day, the rights of women are under attack in America – today, we push back because every person has a right to healthcare,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “The EACH Woman Act is a bold and groundbreaking step forward. This legislation would ensure that every woman can access all of her healthcare options, regardless of how much money she earns or where she lives.”

“Regardless of how someone personally feels about abortion, none of us, especially elected officials, should be interfering with a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions just because she is poor.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., joined Lee in introducing the bill – which probably is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House.

Lee’s office quoted a recent poll by Hart Research which found 86 percent of voters agreed that “however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.” Support for that statement was strong across all age ranges, and stood at 79 percent of Republican surveyed.

The bill is supported by 33 national and state organizations. Policies like the Hyde Amendment and state insurance bans have withheld coverage for safe, legal abortion care for too long, said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation.

“It’s unconscionable that we have allowed politicians to take away some women’s decisions just because of where they live or their income level,” Saporta said. “The EACH Woman Act would ensure health coverage for abortion for every woman no matter what type of insurance she has, where she lives, or how much money she has.”

Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said most Americans agree a woman enrolled in Medicaid should have all of her pregnancy-related healthcare covered by insurance, including abortion.

“And among young people and people of color, that opinion is a tidal wave,” she said. “We are ready to change the game in Washington. We are organized, making phone calls, knocking on doors, and paying visits to our members of Congress. We are ready to do what it takes to make Hyde history.”

National Right to Life, the nation’s oldest and largest anti-abortion-rights organization, didn’t answer an email Wednesday seeking comment on the legislation.

UPDATE @ 10:19 A.M. THURSDAY: Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, got back to me Thursday morning.

“There is empirical evidence that well over one million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment, probably much closer to two million,” he said. “The one to two million Americans alive today because of the Hyde Amendment include, no doubt, many constituents of Congresswoman Lee. We think that each of these human lives has great worth. Contrary to the premises of the bill, we believe that pregnancy is not a disease, and we believe that elective abortion is not health care.”

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Huff signs onto Glazer’s anti-Confederate bill

By Josh Richman
Monday, July 6th, 2015 at 9:42 pm in Bob Huff, California State Senate, steve glazer

State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, has enlisted Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff’s support for a bill that would prohibit all California public schools, buildings, parks, roadways and other state-owned property from using names associated with the Confederate States of America.

Public celebration of Confederate heritage has become more controversial since its association with Dylann Roof, the man accused of last month’s murderous racial terrorism in Charleston, S.C.

Huff, R-San Dimas, announced Monday he will become a co-author of Glazer’s SB 539, the Frederick Douglass Liberty Act, which would apply to names including those of Confederate elected leaders and military generals. California currently has two schools named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee: one in San Diego and the other in Long Beach.

“It’s time for a change in thinking and how we treat history,” Huff said in a news release. “The shooting deaths of nine African-American men and women at a church in South Carolina is clear proof that racial violence is alive and well in this country. Images of the accused killer wrapping himself in the Confederate Flag show that it’s become an emblem of cruel oppression and racial hatred. It’s become offensive to segments of our society.”

“California should have no interest in enshrining the names of Confederate leaders, the secessionist movement or their ideals in our public schools, buildings, parks or other state property,” he added. “While it’s important to never forget the mistakes made in the past, we shouldn’t be in the business of paying tribute to those mistakes.”

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Rocky Chávez takes Trump to task

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 2:43 pm in U.S. Senate

Rocky Chávez, a Republican seeking one of California’s U.S. Senate seats in 2016, had some choice words Wednesday for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump’s incendiary comments about immigrants from Mexico have landed him in hot water, as Univision, NBC Universal and Macy’s have cut ties with the reality-television businessman. Chávez, a Republican Assemblyman from Oceanside, took him to task with a statement issued Wednesday.

Rocky Chávez“It saddens me that the narrative being set for Republicans at a national level can be initiated by someone who has never been elected,” he said, noting his GOP colleagues in the state Legislature “have a proven track record of supporting legislation that encourages comprehensive immigration reform.”

Chávez earlier this year co-authored Senate Joint Resolution 2 by Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, which urged Congress and the President to work together for comprehensive immigration reform; a majority of Assembly Republicans supported it.

“Immigrants come to the United States from all over the world to both benefit from and contribute to our society; we owe it to our nation to welcome immigrants with open arms and to reform our current broken immigration system,” Chávez said “We must not forget that the United States of America is a nation of immigrants and our society has always grown stronger as we form a more diverse society. Immigration was a catalyst of the American dream in the past and will be the key to the future.”

Others who have declared candidacy for California’s Senate seat in 2016 include state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana; and former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette.

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Tim Donnelly launches referendum vs. vaccine law

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 2:21 pm in Tim Donnelly

Former assemblyman and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly is launching a referendum campaign to overturn California’s new law requiring mandatory vaccinations for public and private school students.

Donnelly, the arch-conservative from Twin Peaks, submitted his proposed referendum Wednesday to the state Attorney General’s office for preparation of an official title and summary, with which he can circulate petitions to place it on the November 2016 ballot.

Tim Donnelly“This referendum is not about vaccinations; it is about defending the fundamental freedom of a parent to make an informed decisions for their children without being unduly penalized by a government that believes it knows best,” he said in a news release.

It certainly seems to be in keeping with Donnelly’s political philosophy; his talk radio show’s website describes him as “broadcasting from deep behind enemy lines in the occupied territory of the socialist republic of California.” Donnelly finished third, with about 15 percent of the vote, behind Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican rival Neel Kashkari in last year’s top-two gubernatorial primary.

Donnelly’s news release says California enjoys one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates, even though it has let people opt out for personal or religious reasons. But by signing SB 277 into law Tuesday, Brown “deprived every Californian of that choice should they wish to send their children to a private or public school,” the release said.

“For the vast majority, this is not an issue, but for those who are concerned about the inherent risks of an ever increasing schedule of vaccinations, or who themselves or their children have suffered severe reactions, up to and including death, having the freedom to opt out is everything,” the release said. “Now, that freedom is subject to the arbitrary control and subjective determination of a doctor and the government, instead of the parent.”

UPDATE @ 3:02 P.M.: State Sen. Richard Pan, the pediatrician who authored SB 277, issued a statement later Wednesday noting Californians “overwhelmingly support requiring vaccinations for school.

“Our bill was a reasonable, science-based approach to protecting children, and the most vulnerable among us, from dangerous diseases,” wrote Pan, D-Sacramento. “Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools we have to prevent deadly communicable diseases. I have spent my career campaigning to build healthier and safe communities and I will continue that work by fighting any referendum that hurts Californians.”

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Of Cuba, embassies and Barbara Lee

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 1:47 pm in Barbara Lee, U.S. House

Rep. Barbara Lee was among those quick to praise President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba will be opening reciprocal embassies soon – but she renewed her insistence that she’s not angling to be ambassador.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement calling the opening of embassies “another important step forward as we work to normalize relations after more than 50 years of failed policy. She urged Congress to follow the president’s lead by supporting H.R. 664, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, and H.R. 403, the Free Trade With Cuba Act. “It’s past time to end the failed embargo, lift the travel ban and fully normalize relations between our two countries.”

Lee has been a longtime advocate of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations, and the Chronicle’s political gossip column alleged in January that Lee had a “gentlewoman’s agreement” with President Obama to name her as the U.S. ambassador to Cuba. She promptly replied with a statement saying she wouldn’t seek such a nomination, but rather would “continue the efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and the fight for our shared progressive values in Congress.”

Of course, “seeking” a nomination and being willing to accept one aren’t necessarily the same thing, so I asked her office Wednesday if she would accept it if it’s offered.

Her response, delivered by email through a spokesman: “I appreciate the faith that my constituents have invested in me, as their Member of Congress. I plan to continue working, in Congress, to lift the travel ban, end the embargo and advance the many important issues that affect my constituents’ daily lives.”

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Excessive water use tax of up to 300%?

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 at 3:51 pm in Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, water

Water agencies could impose a tax of up to 300 percent on excessive use, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill.

Bob WieckowskiSB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.

“California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,” Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.

“SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,” he said. “It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.”

The State Water Resources Control Board has moved to curtail water use during the state’s historic drought, calling for a 25 percent cut, yet many water agencies are far from reaching their reduction goals despite managers’ best efforts. Wieckowski’s bill would let agencies impose up to a 300 percent tax on excessive use – a level to be determined by the local agencies – with revenue going to water conservation projects for those communities.

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Boxer, Rubio urge full disclosure in Malala’s case

By Josh Richman
Monday, June 29th, 2015 at 12:18 pm in Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer joined Monday with fellow Sen. Marco Rubio – currently a top-tier candidate for the GOP presidential nomination – in urging Pakistan’s government to fully account for the case of the ten Taliban fighters allegedly responsible for 2012’s brutal attack on 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, D-Calif., is ranking member and Rubio, R-Fla., is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues.

“This past April, Pakistani officials announced that, after a secret trial, all ten suspects were found guilty for their roles in the attack against Malala and received 25 year prison sentences,” the senators wrote in a letter to Jalil Abbas Jilani, the Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. “Although we have serious concerns about the trial’s lack of transparency and general absence of information regarding the cases against these ten individuals, we were encouraged to hear that the Pakistani judicial system was actively working to hold those responsible for this heinous act.”

Marco Rubio“That is why we are particularly alarmed by recent media reports that eight of the ten convicted were actually acquitted of these charges against them,” they continued. “These reports raise significant concerns about the transparency and the accountability of the Pakistani judicial system. As such, we respectfully request that the Pakistani judicial system provide an honest and transparent accounting of the events surrounding the cases against these ten individuals and continue its important work to bring all those responsible for the brutal attack against an innocent teenage girl to justice.”

Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for education for girls. In 2012, while riding home from school, Taliban fighters boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head. The attempted assassination sparked national and international support for Malala and girls’ education advocacy. In 2014, she became the youngest recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Rubio is in third place in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, according to an average of five recent national polls. Walker has not yet formally announced his candidacy.

Read the full text of the senators’ letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

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Arnold terminates marriage-equality opponent

By Josh Richman
Saturday, June 27th, 2015 at 6:04 pm in Arnold Schwarzenegger, same-sex marriage

Like many on Facebook, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to use an image of himself overlaid with rainbow colors as his new profile picture to show support for the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling. One of his Facebook followers took issue with that, and the Governator’s response was… classic.

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Reactions to SCOTUS’ Obamacare ruling

By Josh Richman
Thursday, June 25th, 2015 at 9:11 am in Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, healthcare reform, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Kamala Harris, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

The Bay Area’s voices in Congress are predictably ebullient about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“This is a tremendous victory for improved health care and clearly validates the Affordable Care Act. This means that 6.4 million Americans in 34 states will continue to have access to health insurance subsidies. I could not be more pleased.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the millions of Americans who now have affordable health care – many of them for the first time in their lives – because of Obamacare.

“It is long past time for Republicans to end their efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and join us in fulfilling the promise of quality, affordable health care for all.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the health of our country. Despite the best efforts of congressional Republicans, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land, a fact reaffirmed by this decision. It’s also working. Thanks to the ACA more than 16 million Americans have gained coverage and the nation’s uninsured rate is at its lowest level ever.

“I am hopeful that the attempts by Republicans in Congress to kill the ACA will end and we can finally move forward to do the big things our constituents sent us here to do: grow the economy, create jobs, and advance equality.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“Today’s historic decision will uphold the ACA and continue to provide coverage to millions of Americans who have come to depend on the law to treat their illnesses and pay for their medications. For too many generations, the issue of health care created panic, anxiety, and dread. Marketplaces can continue to enable families and individuals who are uninsured to buy quality, affordable coverage. It is time for us to understand that the ACA is the law of the land and here to stay. Instead of working to dismantle this important law, we should be working to spread the benefits of ACA to each and every American.”

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena:

“Today, the Supreme Court has once again ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, upholding that all Americas, no matter where they live, can access premium tax credits for quality, affordable health care.

“Since the ACA was passed, we have spent far too much time fighting over the law, both in Congress and in the courts. This ruling should settle once-and-for-all that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

“With today’s decision now behind us, and the ACA standing on firm constitutional ground, we need to begin working across the aisle to build on the law’s important reforms so that all Americans can have access to quality, affordable health insurance.”

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton:

“All Americans should have access to quality and affordable health care when they need it, and today’s Supreme Court decision reaffirms that health care will be available to millions of people. This is an important victory that keeps health care accessible for more than 6 million people, including many lower and middle income families, who would not otherwise be able to afford insurance.

“In California, and in my district, we are seeing that the Affordable Care Act works. Hardworking families are receiving quality health care coverage through the state exchange. With this Supreme Court decision, we should move forward and look at ways to make improvements, instead of wasting time and resources to tear down a law that is providing millions of people with life-saving health care.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“This is yet another landmark victory for millions of Americans who have been able to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The Court has now ruled that the law is not only constitutional, but that it’s legal for Americans in states using the HealthCare.gov exchange to continue to benefit from federal tax credits to help pay for health insurance.

“More than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law, and the nation’s rate of uninsured is at the lowest level ever. Coverage is affordable, with 85 percent of enrollees claiming tax credits. Consumers are enjoying greater competition and choice, Medicaid expansion is helping millions of low-income Americans obtain care, and young adults are getting covered.

“Today’s decision further affirms the Affordable Care Act will remain woven into the fabric of America’s health care system.”

The House Republican leadership is predictably perturbed.

From Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“ObamaCare is fundamentally broken, increasing health care costs for millions of Americans. Today’s ruling doesn’t change that fact. Republicans will continue to listen to American families and work to protect them from the consequences of ObamaCare. And we will continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The only thing that is more disappointingly flawed than today’s decision on what Obamacare actually meant is Obamacare itself. Obamacare remains a failed law that was forced through Congress on a partisan vote, and its consequences are being felt today. The law is increasing health care costs, reducing choice, and has led to fewer jobs, and today’s ruling doesn’t change that.

“Throughout the country, the American people are suffering because of the limits this law places on receiving high-quality care from doctors that patients choose, not the government. One thing that today’s ruling does confirm is that we must repeal and replace this fundamentally flawed law. The House will continue to work toward a patient-centered solution and to help those who have felt the hardships this law has caused.”

And California’s candidates for U.S. Senate in 2016 weighed in, too.

From former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“One thing is for certain: If the Republicans in Washington haven’t believed Obamacare was right, then they should have long ago come with a single, practical alternative. Between now and the election, they better do just and convince Americans why their alternative is better. If they don’t, they will be handing the election to Hillary.”

From Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana:

“I applaud and agree with the court’s decision to rule in favor of an individual’s ability to receive tax credits from the federal health insurance exchange, a program that has supported so many Americans and their families. I’ve said this before: we are dealing with families, not concepts. Millions of families rely on the federal marketplace to purchase affordable health insurance, and I am relieved that they will be able to continue to do so.

“With today’s Supreme Court decision behind us, it’s time for Congress to get back to work. The Affordable Care Act is settled law, and this ruling reaffirms that families are in control of their own health care.”

From California Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“The Affordable Care Act delivered access to quality, affordable health coverage to millions of Californians who otherwise would not have been able to afford insurance. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in King v. Burwell ensures that millions of families can keep their affordable health insurance. Because of this ruling, health insurance continues to be accessible to every American, making our entire nation healthier and more prosperous.”

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Thompson renews call for background-check bill

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 at 11:46 am in gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House

Echoing calls from President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and many others in the wake of last week’s racist-terrorism massacre in Charleston, S.C., Rep. Mike Thompson today urged House GOP leaders to bring his bipartisan background-check bill to a vote.

Thompson, D-St. Helena, is an avid hunter and combat veteran who was tapped to be House Democrats’ point man on gun-control issues soon after the December 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. His H.R. 1217, co-authored by Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

“Mr. Speaker, last week we witnessed an act of pure hatred and evil in Charleston, S.C.

“This is a time to mourn the victims, to pray for their families, for a community to heal, and for Congress to take action against unchecked and widespread gun violence.

“30-plus people are killed every day by someone using a gun. Mass shootings are becoming almost commonplace. And yet we continue to do nothing.

“No legislation will stop every tragedy. But passing commonsense gun laws will at least stop some.

“We need to pass background checks. It’s our first line of defense against criminals & the dangerously mentally ill getting guns.

“We don’t know what laws could have prevented the shooting in Charleston.

“But we do know that background checks stop help keep guns from dangerous people – and that saves lives.

“If the Republican leadership has a better idea to cut down on gun violence, let’s see it.

“If not, let’s bring commonsense, bipartisan reforms like my bill to expanded criminal background checks up for a vote.”

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted one year ago found 92 percent of Americans – and 92 percent of gun owners – support requiring background checks for all gun buyers. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted this past weekend found 90 percent support.

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