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BART strike bill is dead, but another is coming

Assembly Democrats on Wednesday killed an East Bay lawmaker’s bill that would’ve essentially banned strikes by BART workers, like the ones that threw Bay Area commutes into chaos in 2013 – but another lawmaker is preparing to take another stab at it.

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, introduced AB 528 last February, delivering on a campaign promise that had helped her become the Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker.

Catharine Baker“In June 2017, the current BART contract expires. We should never be subject to BART strikes again,” Baker said in a news release issued Wednesday after the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee killed the bill on a party-line vote. “This is just the first step in the fight to protect us from BART strikes and I will keep pursuing solutions that will prevent the entire Bay Area from coming to a grinding halt in the face of another strike.”

Many didn’t think the bill would last even this long in the Democrat-dominated Legislature. The committee first heard it in May, and rather than voting it down, agreed to make it a two-year bill; then-chairman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said that would give more time for legislators and other interested parties to discuss the issues. Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, now chairs the committee.

Baker’s AB 528 instead would have barred BART workers from striking as long as they continue to get wages and benefits – in other words, if an existing contract has a no-strike clause and management keeps honoring the pact’s financial terms after it expires, unions couldn’t strike. Baker campaigned on pursuing a bill like this after two 2013 strikes brought BART to grinding halts, snarling Bay Area traffic and costing the local economy $73 million per day by one business group’s estimate.

Democrat Steve Glazer made a similar campaign promise when competing with Baker in 2014’s 16th Assembly District primary, and again in his successful campaign in last year’s 7th State Senate District special election. Glazer intends to introduce a BART-strike bill sometime in the next few weeks, spokesman Steve Harmon said Wednesday.

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‘Cárdenas So Proud Of Best Bill Ever Written’

Sometimes I receive a news release that bears publication in its entirety. This came in about half an hour ago from the office of Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-San Fernando Valley:

Cárdenas So Proud Of Best Bill Ever Written

Cardenas(Washington, D.C.) – With the support of nearly the entire California House delegation, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Beautiful San Fernando Valley, Calif.) this week introduced the most important piece of legislation ever etched into the Congressional Record.

This law is going to be so good and so smart that it will completely make America great again. America is going to be the best.

“All of the pieces of legislation introduced this year have been losers,” said Cárdenas. “Anyone can negotiate a multi-year transportation funding program, but in order to do what I’ve done, you have to be able to make deals. That is the reason I was elected, because I know how to make deals and I’ve got the best people, and they also know how to make deals. That’s how we got this done.”

Cárdenas used the most spectacular office staff in the Congress to pull together almost every California House member to support this absolutely huge bill.

Not only is the bill being supported by the greatest, classiest Congressional delegation ever assembled, but the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council unanimously approved it, because they know it will be a super law.

Cárdenas’ bill, H.R. 3938, will rename the Van Nuys post office after Marilyn Monroe, who attended Van Nuys High School in the 1940s. Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, referred to the time during which she lived in Van Nuys as the happiest in her life.

Marilyn Monroe was the best.

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Sanders bill would end federal marijuana ban

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill Wednesday to end the federal prohibition of marijuana – an utter non-starter particularly in this Republican-controlled Senate, but good fodder for Sanders’ Democratic presidential campaign.

The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015” by Sanders, I-Vt., would strike all references to marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, though it would keep in place the penalties for transporting marijuana from states or jurisdictions where it is legal to those where it is not.

Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have legalized adult recreational marijuana use, and California is expected to have a legalization ballot measure – maybe more than one – on next November’s ballot. Ohio voters rejected a legalization measure Tuesday, but it was opposed even by many legalization advocates because it would’ve created a cultivation monopoly.

Sanders said on the Senate floor last week that “the time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off of the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs.”

This is the first Senate bill to propose ending federal marijuana prohibition, coming from the first major-party presidential candidate ever to voice support for legalizing and regulating marijuana for recreational use by adults. Sanders voiced that support at last month’s Democratic presidential debate, while front-runner Hillary Clinton took a more wait-and-see approach.

“His actions today speak even louder than his words last month,” Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project’s communications director, said in a news release Wednesday. “Hopefully, this legislation will get his colleagues in Congress talking about the need for comprehensive marijuana policy reform. The science is clear that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and that should be reflected in our nation’s marijuana policy. Sen. Sanders is simply proposing that we treat marijuana similarly to how we treat alcohol at the federal level, leaving most of the details to the states.”

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Bay Area lawmaker wants to legalize ‘ballot selfies’

A Bay Area lawmaker will introduce a bill making it legal for Californians to take “selfies” of their voting ballots and post them on social media.

Marc LevineAssemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, said it’s good for voters to share their civic participation. He’ll introduce his bill when the Legislature returns to session in January.

“As voters go to the polls this week, I encourage them to declare their participation in the elections process,” he said in a news release. “California law should encourage voter pride, political speech, and civic engagement through social media. Laws prohibiting this activity were written before sharing digital images over the internet was ubiquitous. It is time to update those laws to reflect technology and the world in which we now live.”

For now, section 14291 of the state Elections Code says that “after the ballot is marked, a voter shall not show it to any person in such a way as to reveal its contents.” Anyone photographic their ballot and posting that photo on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media would be in violation.

But Levine notes that a recent federal district court decision indicates this state law might be an unconstitutional denial of voters’ First Amendment free speech rights. The court ruled that a New Hampshire law banning disclosure of one’s ballot – and levying fines of up to $1,000 – is unconstitutional, finding that the ballot selfie is a form of political speech that can be restricted only by meeting the highest standard of constitutional scrutiny.

“The ballot selfie is protected political speech,” Levine said Monday. “Elections officials must demonstrate public harm through nefarious use of ballot selfies before denying voters their First Amendment rights. I encourage California voters to exercise their right to political speech.”

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Speier offers bill to allow alcohol via U.S. Mail

A Bay Area congresswoman wants to lift the ban on shipping alcohol through the U.S. Mail.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said she’s joined by 24 original cosponsors in introducing the bipartisan USPS Shipping Equity Act, which would change the Prohibition-era law preventing shipping of beer, wine, distilled spirits and other alcoholic drinks to consumers by mail.

Jackie Speier“Prohibition is history, and this ban should be too,” Speier said in a news release “It’s ridiculous that we’re allowing UPS, FedEx, and other companies to ship spirits, wine, and beer to consumers, while banning the U.S. Postal Service from doing the exact same thing. As more states allow direct to consumer delivery, we need to lift this dated ban on so-called ‘spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors,’ to give consumers more shipping choices when they check out.”

Speier said the ban puts the Postal Service at a competitive disadvantage and limits shipping options for manufacturers and customers. Her H.R. 3412 would let the Postal Service ship alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would provide the Postal Service with an additional $50 million per year.

This bill is endorsed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, WineAmerica, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

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Good news for California beer & spirits lovers

There’s good news from Sacramento this week for Californians who enjoy a sip of this or a shot of that.

beer tastingGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law AB 774 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, which will allow limited beer tastings at certified farmers’ markets.

“This bill recognizes that at farmers’ markets brewers meet consumers face-to-face and build a relationship,” Levine, D-San Rafael. “AB 774 allows tastings where brewers are already selling their products at certified farmers’ markets.”

The new law, which also lets nonprofits receive donated beer as items for auction, will give farmers’ market managers full discretion on whether or not to allow beer tastings; limit tastings to one brewery per day per market; allow tastings only in a controlled, cordoned-off area; and limit tastings to eight ounces per adult customer.

Brown one year ago signed Levine’s similar bill to allow wine tastings at farmers’ markets.

Levine also made headway this week with his bill to create a new license for craft distillers so they can sell up to three bottles of distilled spirits per person per day at an instructional tasting; hold private events at the distillery; and have ownership in up to three restaurants. AB 1295 was approved Tuesday by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.

Current state law prevents distillers from selling their products directly to consumers.

“This historic legislation changes Prohibition-era laws for craft distillers to reflect the modern marketplace,” Levine said, letting craft distillers “operate in a similar manner as wineries and breweries under existing law. This bill helps craft distillers to be competitive with large out-of-state distillers. Growth of the craft distillery industry means jobs in our local communities.”

Bottoms up!