0

Mike Honda urges Brown to sign Martins Beach bill

Rep. Mike Honda is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would re-open San Mateo County’s Martins Beach, the focus of a fierce battle between a billionaire who closed off the access road and surfers and advocates wanting to reach the beach.

The Legislature last month sent Brown SB 968 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would instruct the State Lands Commission to consider buying Martins Beach Road if it can’t cut a deal with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to voluntarily open access to the coastline near his sprawling property.

“The people of northern California have waited too many years to regain their historical access to Martins Beach,” Honda, D-San Jose, wrote in a letter to Brown dated Thursday. “The State of California has always recognized the importance of open spaces for its citizens and provided them access to the beautiful coasts in the Coastal Act of 1976. We must preserve this treasured public access to our state’s best resources.”

The beach isn’t in Honda’s 17th Congressional District; it’s in Rep. Jackie Speier’s 14th District. But Honda’s office says he’s been “a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career,” advocating for projects throughout the South Bay and Peninsula. (Speier’s office says she “supports public access,” but described no position on SB 968.)

“Protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound public policy – it’s our obligation,” Honda wrote. “In my work, first as a County Supervisor, as a State Assembly member, and finally as a member of Congress I have continually fought to ensure public access to open spaces for all Californians to enjoy – equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value – and one that should be afforded to all, regardless of income.”

Hill, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club will hold a news conference Friday morning outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Brown to sign the bill.

Brown, in a meeting with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board a few days before SB 968 reached his desk, declined to comment on the issue: “I think that topic is being sufficiently contested, it doesn’t need any further comment from me.”

1

Bill: State must buy or take Khosla’s beach land

Billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla either would have to voluntarily sell part of the beach property he bought in 2008 to the state or else see it seized under eminent domain powers, under a bill to be introduced Friday by a Bay Area lawmaker.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, plans a news conference Friday near Half Moon Bay to roll out a bill he says would settle the years-long battle between Khosla, 59, of Portola Valley, and various local residents and groups. The battle is being watched across the nation as a key, possibly precedent-setting showdown between private property owners and public access rights.

Khosla – a Sun Microsystems cofounder and prominent donor to President Obama – in 2008 paid $37.5 million for 89 acres near Martin’s Beach, a popular surfing and picnicking spot south of Half Moon Bay. The property’s previous owners had charged visitors $5 for access and parking at the beach, but Khosla built a gate and declared the beach closed to the public.

Hill’s bill would require the State Lands Commission to start negotiations with Khosla to buy all or part of the property for a public access road; if no deal is struck within a year, the bill would require the commission to acquire all or part of it by eminent domain to create that road.

Vinod KhoslaA group of surfers who were arrested in October 2012 for walking around the gate and down the road to the beach dubbed themselves “Martin’s 5;” county prosecutors later dropped the charges.

A group of three surfers calling themselves Friends of Martin’s Beach sued to restore public access, citing a section of the state constitution that says property owners can’t completely block access to public bodies of water. But San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled in October that this provision doesn’t apply because the constitution was predated the original land grant, which dates back to 1848.

The Surfrider Foundation has sued Khosla too, based mostly on the California Coastal Act and claiming Khosla didn’t get a coastal development permit for the gate and “keep out” signs. That case is scheduled to be tried later this year.

2

Boxer spars with nuclear agency on oversight

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer is sparring with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee over congressional access to the agency’s information.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, D-Calif., wrote a letter to NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane on Tuesday, urging her to withdraw its new policy that the senator says will inhibit congressional oversight.

“As an ‘independent agency,’ the NRC is independent from the Executive Branch – not from congressional oversight,” Boxer wrote. “It is the NRC’s responsibility to keep Congress apprised of its activities, as well as to follow the law and use its authorities responsibly and in the public’s interest.”

Yet the NRC “unilaterally devised a drastic change of policy behind closed doors” without notifying her committee, and implemented it without consulting Congress or the public, Boxer wrote.

“This policy is a radical departure from previous NRC document policies and creates significant hurdles and delays that can be used to withhold information entirely from the chairs and ranking members of oversight committees,” Boxer wrote. “It also allows the NRC to broadly deny information to individual members of Congress, even when the information is related to matters affecting their home states.”

The NRC’s claims that the new policy is justified by its need to protect against public release of sensitive materials isn’t supported by case law or by Justice Department guidelines, the senator wrote.

“I call on the NRC to cease its efforts to circumvent Congress’ oversight authority and create a policy that is a model of transparency and respects Congress’ responsibility to oversee the NRC,” Boxer wrote.

4

Efforts to roll back abortion laws start circulating

Supporters can start circulating petitions for two ballot referenda to overturn a pair of abortion-access laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Thursday.

Brown on Oct. 9 signed into law AB 154 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, so nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants with special training can perform abortion by aspiration — in which the uterus’ contents are suctioned out — which is the most common kind of first-trimester abortion. The Assembly passed the bill on a 50-25 vote in May, and the state Senate passed it on a 50-25 vote in August, with most Democrats and no Republicans voting for it.

Brown also that day signed AB 980 by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, which requires the repeal of any sections of the California Building Standards Code that treat primary-care clinics differently if they do abortions.

With dozens of new abortion restrictions enacted in other states this year, California stood alone in passing laws to increase access.

Bowen said Thursday that proponent Laurette Elsberry can start circulating petitions for her measures to roll back these new laws. The attorney general’s official titles and summaries for these measures are:

REFERENDUM TO OVERTURN LAW ALLOWING SPECIFIED LICENSED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS TO PERFORM EARLY ABORTION PROCEDURES. If signed by the required number of registered voters and timely filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and the Governor. The law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law would permit a nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, or physician assistant with a valid license and training to perform specified early abortion procedures. (13-0029.)

REFERENDUM TO REIMPOSE DIFFERENT STANDARDS ON CLINICS PROVIDING ABORTION SERVICES THAN ON OTHER PRIMARY CARE CLINICS. If signed by the required number of registered voters and timely filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and the Governor. The law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law would repeal regulations that impose different building and licensing standards on clinics providing abortion services than on other primary care clinics. (13-0030.)

Elsberry – who voter registration records indicate is a 75-year-old Republican from Sacramento – has until Jan. 7 to gather and submit valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters for each measure.

11

Mark Leno responds to Public Records Act hubbub

The story that Tom Peele and I wrote late Friday afternoon about a budget trailer bill essentially letting local governments opt out of their obligations under the Public Records Act – which many say guts the law – drew a lot of righteous outrage over the weekend.

The general policy initially had been suggested by Gov. Jerry Brown, in his budget proposals. State Sen. Mark Leno, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee that authored the bill in question, didn’t get back to me Friday in time for the story’s deadline, but did return my call and leave me a message on Saturday afternoon. (I was off Monday, so I only just heard it this morning.) Here’s what Leno, D-San Francisco, said:

Mark Leno“The policy question before the Legislature was not in support or opposition to the Public Records Act – that is intact. Voters have supported the public records act, that has not changed. The policy question was is it a responsibility of the general fund – and the LAO has pegged the cost at tens of millions of dollars annually – to pay for local government to do what they should and the voters want them to do.

“We do not believe that there will be much change at all. Local government is not going to stop doing this, and if they do, they put themselves, local electeds will put themselves on record as a result of this bill to say ‘We won’t do this anymore.’ So if reporters or the public or anybody else has a problem with that, it’s with their local elected officials.

“Everyone supports the Public Records Act, it’s a question of is it a responsibility of the general fund. And then of course there’s the whole conversation of how the state has been abused by these mandates, locals billing us outrageous amounts for minimal time and expense – that’s a whole other question.”

1

Zoe Lofgren to present award to Aaron Swartz

Rep. Zoe Lofgren announced today that she’ll present the 2013 James Madison Award to the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz “in honor of his dedication to expanding access to public information in the digital age.”

Aaron SwartzSwartz’s family will accept the award, named in honor of President James Madison and administered by the American Library Association, which recognizes those who have championed, protected and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know. Lofgren, D-San Jose, will present the award at a ceremony Friday night at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center in Washington, D.C.

Lofgren received this award last year for her congressional work in protecting and advancing the freedom of information, and is now drafting “Aaron’s Law” legislation to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the wire fraud statute to protect other Internet users from outsized liability for everyday activity.

Swartz – a longtime crusader against Internet censorship – was charged with two counts of wire fraud and 11 CFAA violations, carrying combined penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines plus restitution, for downloading millions of academic journal articles from a subscription-only service without authorization. He hanged himself in January in his Brooklyn apartment at age 26.

UPDATE @ 5:05 P.M. THURSDAY: Lofgren regrets she won’t be able to attend after all “because of a personal matter,” her office announced a short while ago.