Part of the Bay Area News Group

Bill would raise California’s smoking age to 21

California’s legal minimum age for smoking would rise from 18 to 21 under a newly introduced state Senate Bill.

“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age,” state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in a news release issued Thursday. “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them. That is why I believe we need legislation like SB 151.”

“We need to wake up and stop making it so easy for tobacco companies to poison generation after generation of Californians,” said Hernandez, who chairs the Senate Health Committee.

Though smoking generally is on the decline, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States with 480,000 people dying each year, including 40,000 from effects of secondhand smoke, Hernandez noted. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports tobacco use kills more people per year than alcohol, murders, illegal drugs, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents combined.

California would be the first state to raise the minimum age so high. The legal minimum age to buy tobacco products is 18 in 46 states; Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah have raised it to 19, as have New York’s Onondaga and Nassau counties and some Massachusetts towns. The minimum age is 21 in New York City; New York’s Suffolk County; Evanston, Ill.; Columbia, Mo.; Englewood, N.J., Hawaii County, Hawaii; and several Massachusetts towns.

Tim Gibbs, senior director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said raising the legal age to 21 “will help get tobacco out of the hands of teenagers when they are young and most vulnerable to the tobacco industry’s predatory model of recruiting lifetime addicts.”

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 2 Comments »

San Jose’s Ash Kalra to launch Assembly bid

It’s never too early to start that 2016 campaign, folks.

Perhaps taking a page from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who already is pumping out endorsements of her 2016 campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra this Saturday will launch his Democratic campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Nora Campos as she’s term-limited out of her 27th District seat in 2016.

Ash KalraIf elected, Kalra, 43, would be the first Indian-American ever to serve in the California Legislature.

Kalra says he’ll be joined for the rollout – set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friendship Hall on East Santa Clara Street in San Jose – by California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, San Jose Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Donald Rocha, and more than 200 community members.

The 27th Assembly District encompasses much of San Jose, from downtown to the East Side, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Little Saigon, Alum Rock, Edenvale, Seven Trees, Communication Hill, Japantown, and the Monterey Corridor.

Kalra, first elected to the city council in 2002, represents District 2, the city’s southern region. He’s a professor at Lincoln Law School of San José, and earlier was an instructor at San José State University. Before his election, he worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent clients in Drug Treatment Court.

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | No Comments »

Barbara Boxer praises BART’s plan to ban e-cigs

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is thanking BART for its plan to ban use of e-cigarettes on trains and in stations.

Barbara Boxer“Research has raised major concerns about secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Thomas Blalock. “This is particularly relevant in small, enclosed spaces such as trains and stations, leading the World Health Organization to recommend that steps be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public and work places.”

The BART Board of Directors will hold a final vote to approve the ban on Feb. 12. Boxer last June wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to ban the use of such devices on airplanes.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill this week that would ban use of e-cigarettes in all public spaces.

For the full text of Boxer’s letter to BART, read after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Mark Leno, Transportation, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Jackie Speier gets new military oversight role

Rep. Jackie Speier, an outspoken critic of how the military handles sexual assaults, has been chosen as ranking member of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Jackie Speier“The Department of Defense keeps us safe every day, but there has been a litany of projects exposing weaknesses in acquisition and procurement. I will use this position to root out waste, fraud, and inefficiency at the Pentagon, so that taxpayers can be sure they are getting the value they deserve for their money,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release.

“From the ill-conceived Littoral Combat Ship, to excessive prices for spare parts, to wasteful practices with ammunition, I have worked eliminate unnecessary military programs,” she added. “We have to make smart investments to keep our nation and our troops safe, not race to spend the most and get the least in return. We also need to be sure our military secrets, like plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, cannot be stolen by hackers and foreign governments.”

And last but most certainly not least, the appointment “will also be a powerful tool in our ongoing fight to protect whistleblowers and prevent sexual assault in the military,” she said. “I am eager to work with Chairman Thornberry and Chairwoman Hartzler on all of these issues.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
Under: Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

New bill would bar drones over private property

Drone aircraft would be prohibited from trespassing over private property in California, under a bill introduced this week.

SB 142 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would clarify the state’s existing language on trespassing – which forbids people from entering someone’s private property, and from taking photos or recordings there – to specify that it also applies to remotely operated aerial vehicles.

Hannah-Beth Jackson“Drones have a lot of potentially useful and extremely innovative uses. But invading our privacy and property without permission shouldn’t be among them. When we’re in our backyards, with our families, we have an expectation that we have a right to privacy,” Jackson said in a news release. “This bill would extend these long-established definitions of trespassing and privacy, and bring them into the 21st century, by applying them also to drones.”

The bill wouldn’t affect drone use in public areas or in airspace above about 400 feet, which is under federal regulation. Jackson introduced her bill Monday, hours after a drone crashed on the White House lawn.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, introduced a bill in December that would require warrants for human surveillance collected by airborne drones; destruction of drone-collected data within one year; and limits on sharing that data. Law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have to get a warrant before using a drone in response to exigent circumstances, traffic accidents, fires, environmental disasters, and searching for illegal marijuana grows in wilderness areas. Gov. Jerry Brown in September vetoed another bill on this subject.

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 2 Comments »

Kamala Harris endorsed by LA’s Herb Wesson

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Monday that Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has endorsed her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016 – perhaps a shot across the bow of another prominent Los Angeles political figure who’s considering getting into the race, too.

“She took on the Wall Street banks and delivered for Californians,” Wesson said in Harris’ news release. “She’s fought elementary school truancy and for the right of children to receive a first-class education. And she’ll continue to be a champion for working and middle class families across California and the nation.”

This endorsement seems aimed at highlighting Harris’ connections and popularity in Los Angeles, where former Assembly Speaker and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is mulling whether to run against her to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016.

LA’s huge cache of votes is key to winning any statewide election, and Harris – a Bay Area native – worked hard to build relationships down there when running for attorney general in 2010 against then-Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Harris on Monday said Wesson – also a former Assembly speaker – “has served his city, county and state so effectively for more than two decades, and I look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come.”

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015
Under: Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Bill Clinton speaking in Bay Area early next month

Former President Bill Clinton will deliver four lectures around the Bay Area in the first week of February.

Bill ClintonClinton comes as part of the MPSF Speakers Series, the nation’s largest community speaker series in the United States, averaging over 8800 subscribers annually. Previous speakers in the 2014-2015 season have included former FBI Director Robert Mueller; former President’s Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee; former U.S. Ambassador to China, presidential candidate and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.; and former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Clinton will speak Monday, Feb. 2 at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael; Tuesday, Feb. 3 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland; Wednesday, Feb. 4 at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center; and Thursday, Feb. 5 again at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are sold only for the entire season of speakers, not for a single event, and are sold out for Oakland and San Mateo.

The former president visits the region as speculation heats up about whether and when his wife, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will declare her candidacy for president in 2016’s election. She’ll be in the Bay Area later in February, delivering a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Posted on Sunday, January 25th, 2015
Under: Bill Clinton | 2 Comments »

Chris Christie to keynote California GOP convention

Potential 2016 presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will keynote the California Republican Party’s spring convention luncheon on Saturday, Feb. 28 in Sacramento.

“Governor Christie is working to move New Jersey forward with balanced budgets, sensible tax reform and a focus on improving K-12 education,” state GOP chairman Jim Brulte said in a news release. “We are thrilled he will be joining us at convention to share his story and wisdom.”

Party vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon called Christie “a great example of Republican leadership. He has helped New Jersey overcome some of its toughest challenges in decades, and has been a guiding voice across the nation as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association.”

Christie said he’s “excited to be joining Republicans in California as we plan for the years ahead and look to build upon the successes of 2014.”

Christie, whose popularity rose has he handled the aftermath of 2012’s “Superstorm” Sandy, has had a rockier road since late 2013, when the “Bridgegate” scandal – in which some of his top aides ordered closure of lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge as payback to his political foes – came to light. A new Quinnipiac Poll trend line tells the tale:

Christie Quinnipiac poll

The poll shows more New Jerseyans support Christie than any of a dozen other potential GOP candidates, but Christie would lose the Garden State in a head-to-head with potential Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Nationally, an average of five polls conducted late last year shows Christie trailing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush among potential GOP candidates.

Posted on Friday, January 23rd, 2015
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | 4 Comments »

Mike Honda endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

The big U.S. Senate 2016 news du jour is that hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer won’t be in the race, but meanwhile, California Attorney General Kamala Harris – the only person to declare candidacy so far – continues rolling out endorsements.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, on Thursday joined his Bay Area peers Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in backing Harris to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

“As a leader in protecting the privacy rights of consumers, preserving California’s environment, and fighting for women’s rights, Kamala is the best candidate to carry on the legacy of our great Senator Barbara Boxer,” Honda said in a news release. “Kamala and I share a deep passion for many of the issues important to California families, and I look forward to continuing our work together when Attorney General Harris becomes our newest Senator.”

Harris said she and Honda “have enjoyed a long partnership on many important issues such as combating domestic violence, improving public safety, and protecting civil rights for all Americans. I look forward to continuing our work together.”

Posted on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Kamala Harris, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Ro Khanna has a new job & got engaged

Former congressional candidate Ro Khanna has a new job, and is engaged to be married.

Khanna, 38, has joined Smart Utility Systems – a company with offices in Irvine and in Noida, India – as vice president of strategic initiatives.

Ro Khanna“I am excited about opening Smart Utility’s Silicon Valley office, and working on increasing awareness for an energy-efficiency software that will save consumers money and reduce energy consumption at peak hours,” Khanna said Wednesday.

Khanna, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official who lives in Fremont, last year mounted an insurgent Democratic campaign against seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th Congressional District. After a costly and hard-fought race, Honda prevailed by 3.6 percentage points.

Khanna also said his longtime girlfriend, Ritu Ahuja, is now his fiancée.

As reported here last week, Khanna has been spending some time recently helping organize opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill, at the end of Dixon Landing Road in Milpitas.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Under: 2014 general, U.S. House | 2 Comments »