Bay Area Council lauds Fed nominee Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business whom President Obama nominated Wednesday to chair the Federal Reserve Bank, was “a thoughtful and engaged member” of the Bay Area Council’s executive committee, the council said Thursday.

Summers withdraws from Fed chief consideration, Janet Yellen considered strong candidate“Janet Yellen provided an incisive voice on economic policy during her tenure with the Bay Area Council,” council president and CEO Jim Wunderman said in a news release. “Janet was an active and valuable leader … providing thoughtful and timely insights on the regional, state and national trends that were shaping our economy leading up to and entering the Great Recession.”

The Bay Area Council is a public policy advocacy organization composed of more than 275 of the nine-county region’s biggest employers. Yellen, 67, served on its executive committee from 2004 to 2010 during her tenure as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

She was a frequent speaker at Bay Area Council conferences and meetings, including an April 2008 address to hundreds of CEOs and leading executives in which she shared her perspectives on the emerging financial crisis that would soon become the Great Recession. She also spoke at the 2006 Outlook Conference, discussing the forces driving the economic boom at the time and the surging housing market.


Skinner: Dems must choose battles, but fight some

With supermajorities in both legislative chambers, Democrats must walk a finer line than ever, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said Wednesday.

My coffee meeting with Skinner, D-Berkeley, yielded a wide-ranging conversation about her party’s considerable new power and the responsibilities that go with it, as well as her own legislative priorities. The former Berkeley councilwoman has just won re-election to her third and final Assembly term, and she sees a productive but sensitive session ahead.

“We’ve been given this privilege by the voters and we want to be respectful of the privilege we’ve been handed,” she said Wednesday.

The caucus must choose its battles, she said, but not choose them so carefully that none ever get fought.

She’s in a position to help choose those battles because, as the Assembly Rules Committee’s chair, Skinner is among the Legislature’s top leaders. Rules is responsible for assigning bills to committees, setting salaries for legislative staff, waiving rules and overseeing the Assembly’s business; it’s basically an executive committee for the chamber, and its seats are coveted.

But Skinner on Wednesday said the supermajorities were achieved by votes in individual districts, not a statewide vote, and so lawmakers must move cautiously to ensure they don’t salt the field.

For example, she said, voters’ approval of Proposition 30 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure temporarily increasing sales taxes and income taxes for the state’s richest residents to fund K-12 and higher education – was “great,” but it would take a lot more revenue to return the state’s schools, colleges and universities to their heyday.

“There’s probably appetite for some more revenue,” she said, but it has to be something that’s palatable to voters.

For example, state Sen. Ted Lieu’s proposal to triple the Vehicle License Fee – which was slashed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, blowing a huge hole in the state budget – was withdrawn almost as soon as it was advanced last month due to public backlash. And voters in November 2010 handily rejected Proposition 21, which would’ve boosted the VLF to bankroll state parks. Voters just don’t like the VLF, Skinner said.

“We have to look at the range of … tax expenditures, what I call tax loopholes or tax giveaways, that were part of various budget deals in order to get a Republican vote” in past years, she said.

One such loophole was the single-sales factor, just repealed last month by Proposition 39; that’ll bring in about $1 billion a year, half of which for the first five years is earmarked for projects increasing energy efficiency and creating green jobs. Skinner this month introduced the Assembly version of a bill to implement that.

“But there’s others like that,” she said, citing the “net operating loss carryback” deduction that was suspended for 2010 and 2011 but will apply to 2012’s corporate taxes.

This and other loopholes, if closed, “could be worth from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, which is significant,” she said.

And of course there’s the possibility of “split-roll” reform of Proposition 13 so that residential properties remain protected but commercial properties are re-assessed more often, she said. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, already has announced a bill to tighten state laws enacted under Prop. 13 so that it’s harder for businesses to avoid re-assessment and higher taxes when property changes hands – a half-step toward split-roll that wouldn’t require voters’ approval of a ballot measure.

Lots more, after the jump…
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New chairmanships for Bay Area lawmakers

Some Assembly members from the Bay Area were given influential committee chairs as Speaker John Perez reshuffled his leadership yesterday.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, takes over as chair of the Education Committee, on which she has served since her election to the Assembly in 2008; earlier, she’d served on the San Ramon Valley school board for 18 years.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and with stakeholders in the education community on legislation that will make the best use of our resources to benefit California’s students,” she said in a news release issues this morning. “We are currently facing unique challenges in funding education in our state, but we will hold steadfast to our mission of preparing students to be the workers, leaders and innovators of tomorrow’s global economy.”

Bob WieckowskiAssemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, takes the Judiciary Committee’s chair; a bankruptcy attorney by trade, he has served as the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee’s chairman.

Wieckowski issued a statement saying he has enjoyed serving on the Judiciary Committee under chairman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles and looks forward “to working with the Judiciary consultants in this new position. I appreciate the Speaker giving me the opportunity to lead this important committee.”

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Redwood City, will Chair the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee.

Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, now chairs the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee, and also steps up as Assistant Majority Floor Leader. (I love the Majority Floor Leader’s job description: “Represents the Speaker on the Floor, expedites Assembly Floor proceedings through parliamentary procedures such as motions and points of order and promotes harmony among the membership.” Harmony!)

And within the powerful Budget Committee, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, will Chair the subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, steps up as Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore until Sept. 1, when she’ll become Speaker Pro Tempore (responsible for presiding over floor sessions in Speaker Perez’s absence). Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, will be Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, continues chairing the Rules Committee.


Brown names Oakland woman as WCAB chair

Gov. Jerry Brown today named an Oakland woman as chair of the state Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

Ronnie Caplane, 63, has served on the board since 2003, when she was appointed by then-Gov. Gray Davis; she was re-appointed in 2009 by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The seven-member board reviews petitions for reconsideration of decisions by workers’ compensation administrative law judges.

Caplane has a long history of Democratic activism, and remains a board member of the National Women’s Political Caucus-Alameda North. Caplane placed third out of five in the 2006 Democratic primary for what was then the 16th Assembly District, losing to Sandre Swanson. She also served for on the Piedmont Unified School District Board from 1998 to 2006, including two years as the board’s president.

Her late husband, Joe Remcho, was a prominent attorney who had worked with the state’s top Democrats on a variety of issues; he died in a January 2003 helicopter crash.

She was a freelance writer and columnist for the Piedmonter and the Montclarion – papers owned by the same company as this blog and website – from 1992 to 2006; a partner at the Bruynell and Caplane law firm from 1983 to 1985; and a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division from 1979 to 1982. She holds a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

The appointment does not require Senate confirmation; the annual salary is $132,179.


Lee replaced as Congressional Black Caucus chair

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will relinquish her post as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in January, the caucus announced today.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., emerged as the chairman-elect after the caucus elected officers for the 112th Congress today.

“As First Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Cleaver oversaw our Jobs Taskforce and played an integral role in crafting and implementing our legislative and messaging strategy on a host of issues from health care reform and the economic recovery to climate change and Wall Street reform,” Lee said in the caucus’ statement.

She said she was honored to have chaired the caucus for the past two years. “While we have had many successes on a host of issues, there remains much more important work to do in the upcoming Congress and I am confident that the incoming CBC executive officers are more than up to the challenge.”

“When I became chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, we drafted an Opportunities for All—Pathways Out of Poverty agenda consistent with our role as the ‘conscience of the Congress’ to make sure that all Americans are protected and empowered by the government,” Lee said. “Regardless of which party controls the House of Representatives, the Congressional Black Caucus will never retreat from our commitment to create Opportunities for All—Pathways Out of Poverty.”

Cleaver said he’s “humbled and honored” by his colleagues’ support. “I owe a deep debt to our current Chair, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, for her steadfast leadership. I have learned much from her estimable example. I look forward to working with all my colleagues, of all creeds, colors, parties, and ideologies, as we begin the 112th Congress in 2011.”

The CBC’s chair typically only serves for two years, so this passing of the gavel was expected. Lee, however, shows no sign of slowing down in pursuit of her agenda: She issued a statement earlier today blasting a possible extension of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, and will co-host a press teleconference tomorrow with Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to discuss their plan to prevent any cuts to Social Security.


East Bay enviro named to state energy panel

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Julia Levin, 45, of Kensington, to the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission — commonly called the California Energy Commission — on Thursday.

Levin, a Democrat, has worked for the National Audubon Society as its global warming campaign director since 2007 and before that as its California policy director since 2003. Earlier, Levin was California policy coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists from 1999 to 2003, an environmental attorney in private practice from 1997 to 1999 and a senior staff attorney at the Natural Heritage Institute from 1994 to 1996. She is the American Wind Wildlife Institute‘s board chairwoman and a Sierra Club member. The post requires Senate confirmation and carries an annual salary of $128,109.

The commission is California’s main energy policy and planning agency, with responsibilities such as forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency by setting the state’s appliance and building efficiency standards; supporting public interest energy research; providing market support to existing, new, and emerging renewable technologies; implementing the state’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program; and planning for and directing state response to energy emergencies.

Schwarzenegger also Thursday announced he’s nominating current Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas, 34, of Sacramento, to take over as the panel’s chair; the term of former chairwoman Jackalyne Pfannenstiel of Piedmont ended last month. This appointment also is subject to state Senate confirmation, and carries a $132,179 annual salary; Douglas also is a Democrat.