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Rep. Sam Farr is retiring; peers sing his praises

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, announced Thursday he won’t seek another term next year, ending his House run of more than two decades – and some of his local peers are singing his praises.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“For 23 years in the Congress, Sam Farr has served as a tenacious, far-sighted champion for California’s Central Coast and hard-working families across America. With a career in public service that stretches across five decades, Congressman Farr has truly devoted his life building a better future for his communities, our country, and our world.

“Congressman Farr’s determined leadership on behalf of veterans, farmers, the environment and working families has left an indelible mark on California and our country. As Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and FDA, Congressman Farr has championed safe, sustainable and nutritious food and hard-working farmers, ranchers and producers. As the longest-serving Democrat on the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Congressman Farr has stood strong for ensuring all veterans have access to the health care and resources their service and sacrifice have earned. As founder of the House Oceans Caucus, Sam Farr has been a leader for our climate and an invaluable voice for preserving the beauty and bounty of the oceans for future generations.

“From his early service in the Peace Corps through his decades in the Congress, Sam Farr has defined courageous and thoughtful leadership. When he leaves the House, he will be missed by friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle. We wish him, his wife Shary, and the entire Farr family all the best in their next adventures together.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“Sam Farr has been a valued member of the California Democratic Delegation and champion of the Central Coast in Congress for 23 years. A former Delegation Chair, Sam serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and is the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee for Agricultural Development, Food and Drug Administration where he championed safe and nutritious food for consumers, farmers, and producers.

“He has dedicated his life to public service, from his early service in the Peace Corps in Columbia, to representing his wonderful home on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors for 6 years, and the California State Assembly for 12 years before being elected to Congress. A national leader on protecting our oceans, he founded the House Oceans Caucus and authored the Oceans Act, which created the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. While on the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Farr helped convert the Fort Ord Military Base into the biggest California coastal ocean park in modern history, with Cal State University Monterey as its crown jewel. Sam stands for peace and diplomacy and always stands up for the “little guy.” We wish him well as he retires and know he will enjoy the serene beauty of the region he has spent a lifetime protecting.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“Sam Farr has led a long and honorable life dedicated to public service. I had the pleasure of serving with him in Congress and on the House Appropriations Committee where he distinguished himself as the champion for our oceans and precious coastline. A fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Congressman Farr has continued his commitment to a just foreign policy, particularly in our relationship with Latin America, and specifically with Colombia. Sam’s fingerprints will be indelible from his work as an Appropriator. Sam cared about our veterans, our oceans, and our future global relationships because of his Peace Corps service. I know he will continue to work passionately in his future endeavors, and I wish the best for him and his family. I’ll miss his humor, counsel, and photos. I’m proud to call him my Peace Corps buddy, my friend and colleague.”

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Sam Farr will vote for Trade Promotion Authority

Rep. Sam Farr has broken with most of his fellow California Democrats, announcing Thursday morning that he’ll vote in support of the “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority that the Obama Administration and Republican congressional leaders want.

Until Farr, D-Carmel, posted a statement to his constituents online Thursday, the only California House Democrat known to be supporting TPA was Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove – a second-term member in a vulnerable swing district, compared to the 12-term Farr’s safely deep-blue district. The House could vote on it Friday.

Sam FarrFarr wrote that the Central Coast’s economic strength lies in adapting to meet global demands, with local businesses relying on access to new markets in order to compete.

“Trade opens up those markets. It puts the goods we produce and the crops we grow here in California into the hands of more buyers around the world. More sales abroad create more jobs here at home. Trade is good for the Central Coast,” he wrote.

Trade Promotion Authority “simply defines the process Congress will use to vote on future trade deals,” Farr wrote, and “sets the strongest human rights, environmental and labor standards for trade in the history of our country. These are not ceilings but instead are floors that have to be met, giving President Obama the leverage necessary to push for even stronger standards when negotiating with other countries.”

Farr wrote that he expects the pending Trans Pacific Partnership – a trade deal with almost a dozen Pacific Rim nations, which will be the first pact to proceed under TPA – “to be the strongest trade deal ever negotiated. It will require all of the signatories to address issues like conditions in their factories or fair pay for their workers. It will also improve environmental standards leading to cleaner air and cleaner water.” But if it doesn’t contain adequate protections, he said, he’ll vote against it.

After listening to labor, human rights and environmental groups, as well as local businesses and growers, “I concluded voting for TPA is the right thing to do for our district, our economy and our environment,” he wrote.

“To put in bluntly, I trust President Obama to deliver a better trade deal than Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell,” Farr wrote. “Under TPA, any deal brought to Congress by the President will be made public and reviewed for 60 days. At the end of that time period, Congress will hold a simple up or down vote. Without TPA, the Republican controlled Congress would be able to strip out any of the tougher standards put in place by the White House.”

Farr acknowleged many in his party will disagree, and it would be easier to vote with them, “but I did not come to Congress to do what is easy. I came here to do what I feel is right, no matter how hard that vote will be. A yes vote on TPA is right. It means moving us forward while a no vote on TPA means remaining stuck.”

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Bill would require warning labels on soda

Sodas and sugary drinks sold in California would have to bear a label warning consumers of health risks, under a bill introduced Thursday in the state Senate.

sodaSB 1000 by state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, would require all containers of beverages with added sweeteners of 75 or more calories per 12 ounces to bear this label: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

“When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers,” Monning said in a news release. “As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices.”

Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in Monning’s news release that there’s “clear and conclusive” scientific evidence that soda and sugary drinks are major contributors to these harms. “These diseases cost California billions of dollars in health care and lost productivity every year. When any product causes this much harm, it is time to take action.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Medical marijuana trial evidence bill reintroduced

A California member of Congress re-introduced a bill yesterday to let federal criminal defendants use medical marijuana evidence at trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in the Oakland-based Gonzalez v. Raich case gave the federal government discretion to enforce its ban on marijuana even in states with laws allowing its medical use, and let federal prosecutors exclude all evidence of compliance with state law from federal marijuana trials.

“The federal government has tilted the scales of justice towards conviction by denying medical marijuana defendants the right to present all of the evidence at trial,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said in a news release issued by Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access. “My bill would restore due process rights to law abiding citizens acting within the parameters of state and local laws. Juries should hear the entire story of a patient’s medical marijuana use before choosing to convict, not the heavily edited version they currently hear.”

Farr’s H.R. 6134, the “Truth in Trials Act,” has 18 cosponsors including Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, as well as Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa.

“The federal government should be leaving enforcement issues up to the local and state officials who designed the medical marijuana laws in the first place,” Americans for Safe Access executive director Steph Sherer said in the news release. “But, as long as the Justice Department is going to arrest and prosecute people in medical marijuana states, defendants ought to have a right to a fair trial.”

This is Farr’s fourth iteration of this bill:

  • 111th Congress – H.R. 3939 – referred to Judiciary Committee, never heard
  • 109th Congress – H.R. 4272 – referred to Judiciary and Energy & Commerce committees, never heard
  • 108th Congress – H.R. 1717 – referred to Judiciary and Energy & Commerce committees, never heard
  • Americans for Safe Access notes the Obama Administration has far surpassed the Bush Administration’s rate of indicting and prosecuting people operating under states’ medical marijuana laws, making the bill more crucial than ever.

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    Dems warn of House GOP budget’s impact on CA

    California Democratic Congressional Delegation Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, rallied her troops today for a conference call with at least eight members highlighting how House Republicans’ budget plan would impact California.

    “While we know reining in our deficit is necessary for economic prosperity, there is a responsible way to do it,” she said.

    Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said that “in transportation, we’re really talking about serious, serious job losses in California” as the GOP plan cuts funding for high-speed rail, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, and other programs adding up to at least $1.25 billion.

    Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said she’s now circulating a letter to California House members asking Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect to California $2 billion in high-speed rail funds that Florida Gov. Rick Scott yesterday refused; senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer sent such a letter yesterday. Garamendi said unless California gets that money, the Republican budget will leave its rail project underfunded.

    Speier was among several members on today’s call who voiced concern at the House GOP plan to cut Title X family planning funding; Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said Republicans are exercising their “vendetta” against family planning and women’s health.

    Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, decried a potential $1.3 billion cut to community health care clinics; he said in a rural community like Watsonville where the clinic would lose $151,000 per year from its base grant, jobs would be lost and health access severely curtailed. “It really does have impacts on Main Street all over the United States.”

    Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said even to a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat like himself, a cut like that makes no sense.

    “What they’re doing is a lot like waking up in the morning and finding you’ve put on a lot of weight and deciding you’re going to take care of it by cutting off your leg,” Thompson said, noting sick people cut off from community clinic care will instead seek higher-cost care with traditional family-practice physicians or, worse yet, in emergency rooms. “The cost of health care for these folks is going to go through the roof.”

    Farr said addressing the nation’s debt is important, but House Republicans are blurring the distinction between long-term debt – which he likened to a home mortgage – and short-term debt – more like a credit card – in order to score political points.

    “What the Republicans are trying to do is scare everybody with the long-term debt saying you have to pay it off right away,” he said, when in fact it’s better to approach that long-term debt with a deliberate, long-term plan rather than “a meat ax.”