Bipartisan praise for Brown’s drought declaration

Praise is raining down from both sides of the aisle for Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a drought emergency.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I applaud Governor Brown’s decision to issue a drought declaration. The declaration provides the state with greater flexibility to address drought conditions and lays the foundation for federal disaster assistance through a presidential declaration.

“This week Congressman Costa, Senator Boxer and I called on President Obama to approve a federal disaster declaration as soon as possible and to appoint a drought task force to work with the state to mitigate the drought’s effects on the state. Now that the governor has issued the state declaration, I hope the president will act quickly to approve the federal declaration.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“This bone-dry winter reminds us again that California’s water infrastructure is insufficient. Our lakes and rivers look bleak, including those that feed the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, upon which we are overly reliant as the sole solution to California’s water future.

“I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and the Governor on immediate actions that should also guide long-term water policy in California.”

From state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto:

“I absolutely commend the Governor for taking action on this very serious situation. It is a great first step to setting the wheels in motion to aid California during one of the driest years in history. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with him and my colleagues on this issue.

“California’s reservoirs are at an all-time low. This is a crisis of epic proportions and underscores just how important it is for us to pass a water bond this year to address our infrastructure needs. Additional water storage is key. The Latino Water Coalition rally yesterday, his visits to Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside on Monday and Tuesday and a weather forecast that includes not a drop of rain make a pretty solid case not only for this drought declaration, but for passing a comprehensive water bond that includes money for additional above ground water storage.”

From state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford:

“The Valley roared and the governor heard us! Thank you Governor Brown for declaring California is in a drought emergency.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“With 2013 being the driest year on record, and the Sierra Nevada snowpack at 17% of its normal levels, it is clear California is in the middle of a severe drought. This will result in an increase in devastating wildfires, such as the fire currently burning in Glendora and the many others we’ve seen in recent months. It jeopardizes the farmers in the Central Valley and beyond, putting the local economies and families that depend on that industry at risk. This drought is already negatively impacting the quality life of every Californian, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

“While we pursue conservation efforts on the state level, it is important that all of us work to lower the amount of water we use. I thank Governor Brown for issuing this declaration, and join him in calling for a 20-30% voluntary reduction in water consumption. There are many simple ways to conserve water, from fixing leaky fixtures and appliances, to installing water saving showerheads and taking shorter showers, to only using your dishwasher or washing machine when you have a full load. As our economy gets back on its feet, this drought has the potential to force us back into a recession. We can help to lessen the suffering of the worst affected if we all do our part.”

More, after the jump…
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Senate OKs bill inspired by BART phone shutdown

A bill inspired by BART’s shutdown of cell-phone service during public protests in 2011 has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

The state Senate on Friday concurred in amendments to SB 380 by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, which says agencies could only interrupt cell service when directed by a court order based on probable cause.

no signalBART turned off electricity to cellular towers in four San Francisco stations for three hours during an August 2011 protest about a BART Police officer’s fatal shooting of a knife-wielding homeless man.

The incident led the Federal Communications Commission to probe wireless service shutdowns, bringing public comments that indicated such shutdowns create more problems then they solve because they impede emergency communications. BART later in 2011 adopted a new standard for when it could interrupt phone service; Padilla’s bill, if it becomes law, would pre-empt that policy.

“The tragic events in Boston earlier this year remind us of the vital importance of wireless service to first responders, victims, and families during emergencies,” Padilla said in a news release Friday.

“For decades, California law has required a court order to interrupt or shutdown traditional telephone service,” he said. “SB 380 would extend these protections to the modern mobile communications network which is critical to public safety and a key element of a free and open society.”

Gov. Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, saying that giving law enforcement agencies only six hours to make findings about service shutdowns “could divert attention away from resolving the conflict without further threat to public safety.”

Padilla’s current bill differs from last year’s by making carve-outs for hostage and barricade situations, and by adding process for a shutdown in certain emergencies so long as it’s followed by court review to determine whether free speech and public safety standards were met.

The state Senate passed this bill 35-3 in May; the Assembly passed it 77-0 on Wednesday; and a roll call is not yet available for Friday’s Senate concurrence vote.


Lee pushes for unemployment benefit extension

Rep. Barbara Lee is helping to leading dozens of House members in demanding that an extension of emergency unemployment benefits be part of whatever “fiscal cliff” solution is worked out between Congress and the White House.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)When I interviewed Lee, D-Oakland, last week for my story in Saturday’s editions about the Bay Area delegation’s stance on the negotiations, she had said this was among her top priorities.

Congress in February reduced the maximum number of weeks from 99 to 73 — which Lee called “totally unconscionable” — and now it’s about to fall back to six months, cutting off more than 2 million people. Maintaining the benefits until at least 73 weeks is imperative, she said.

“Not only is it the right thing to do but it’s the economically prudent thing to do,” Lee said last week, noting that unemployment benefit dollars usually go directly out into the economy as the jobless feed, clothe and shelter their families.

So Lee and Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., sent a letter to House and Senate leaders yesterday requesting a full and robust extension, signed by 78 House members including George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

“Every one dollar spent on unemployment insurance generates $1.55 in economic activity,” Lee said in a news release today. “With millions of Americans still struggling to recover from the recession, we cannot afford to strip one of the only remaining lifelines for workers that are eager to get back to work.”

Read the entire Lee/Peters letter, after the jump…
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California sends aid to states ravaged by Sandy

Californians are hard at work helping the East Coast start to put itself back together after Hurricane Sandy’s fury.

Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday directed the California Emergency Management Agency and California National Guard to send specialized assistance to the east coast to help in responding to Hurricane Sandy. A total of 83 personnel – trained in medical aid, search and rescue and other emergency response skills – will soon be positioned close to the affected areas for quick deployment.

The California National Guard on Monday sent military transport aircraft carrying two helicopters and two highly trained Pararescue teams with their equipment to Charlotte, N.C. Also being deployed are a Boeing C17, two C130 aircraft and two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.

On Saturday, ten members of California’s Urban Search & Rescue Incident Support Teams had been sent to Virginia and other East Coast areas in support of Federal Emergency Management Agency requests. This team included first responders from Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento City, Sacramento Metro, Los Angeles City and County and Orange County fire departments.

The California Emergency Management Agency also is working with the California Utilities Emergency Association to deploy utility crews and equipment to the East Coast as power outages are expected to be widespread.


Brown declares emergency in tsunami counties

Gov. Jerry Brown has just issued an emergency proclamation for Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan, which generated a water surge along the California coast, causing damage to ports, harbors and infrastructure.

Such proclamations clear the way for state and federal emergency aid.

Read the proclamation’s full text, after the jump…
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Excerpts from today’s ‘State of the State’

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will deliver his 2009 “State of the State” address at 10 a.m. this morning, an unusally momentous occasion given the state’s dire fiscal emergency. His office has already sent out excerpts of what he’ll say; here they are, in their entirety:

I will not give the traditional State of the State address today, because the reality is that our state is incapacitated until we resolve the budget crisis. The truth is that California is in a state of emergency. Addressing this emergency is the first and greatest thing we must do for the people. The 42 billion dollar deficit is a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off.

It doesn’t make any sense to talk about education, infrastructure, water, health care reform and all these things when we have this huge budget deficit. I will talk about my vision for all of these things… and more… as soon as we get the budget done.

The legislature is currently in the midst of serious and good faith negotiations to resolve the crisis, negotiations that are being conducted in the knowledge we have no alternative but to find agreement.

We meet in times of great hope for our nation. Although we hear the drumbeat of news about bailouts, bankruptcies and Ponzi schemes, the nation with great anticipation is also awaiting the inauguration of a new president. Our nation should be proud of what President-elect Obama’s election says to the world about American openness and renewal.

This nation rightfully feels the hope of change. Californians, of course, desire change here in their own state as well. Yet they have doubts if that is possible.

People are asking if California is governable. They wonder about the need for a constitutional convention. They don’t understand how we could have let political dysfunction paralyze our state for so long. … It is not that California is ungovernable. It’s that for too long we have been split by ideology.

One of the reasonable expectations the public has of government is that it will produce a sound and balanced budget. That is what the legislative leaders are struggling to do right now. There is no course left open to us but this: to work together, to sacrifice together, to think of the common good – not our individual good.

In December, we even had to suspend funding that affects 2,000 infrastructure projects that were already underway. So, now, the bulldozers are silent. The nail guns are still. The cement trucks are parked. This disruption has stopped work on levees, schools, roads, everything. It has thrown thousands and thousands of people out of work at a time when our unemployment rate is rising.

How could we let something like that happen? I know that everyone in this room wants to hear again the sound of construction. No one wants unemployment checks replacing paychecks.

When a budget agreement is reached, when some of the raw emotions have passed, I will send to the Legislature the package of legislative goals and proposals that a governor traditionally sends. These proposals are sitting on my desk. … But, our first order of business is to solve the budget crisis.

As you know, in the last 20 years of budgeting, only four budgets have been on time. … We should make a commitment that legislators – and the governor, too – lose per diem expenses and our paychecks for every day the budget goes past the constitutional deadline of June 15th. … I mean, if you call a taxi and the taxi doesn’t come, you don’t pay the driver. If the people’s work is not getting done, the people’s representatives should not get paid either. That is common sense in the real world.

We have the best trained, the most selfless, the toughest firefighters in the nation. Thirteen of whom lost their lives. They gave their lives for this state. Ladies and gentlemen, the courageous examples of those firefighters should not be lost on us.

In our own way, we, too, must show courage in serving the public. Ladies and gentlemen, let this be a year of political courage.

Let us resolve the budget crisis, so that we can get on with the people’s work.

UPDATE @ 10:29 a.m. THURSDAY: Read the full transcript of the speech as prepared, after the jump… Continue Reading