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CA17: Mike Honda sings; Ro Khanna in ‘War Room’

Rep. Mike Honda, facing a 2014 challenge from a well-funded fellow Democrat, is willing to sing for his supper – or, at least, to help fill his campaign coffers.

“Congressman Mike Honda is a master on the karaoke mic. Everyone from DC to California’s 17th Congressional District knows it. SF does too,” reads an invitation to the next fundraising event for Honda, D-San Jose. “Let’s celebrate Mike’s re-election effort by joining together for some fun, drink, and embarrassment on Friday, August 16th at Pandora Karaoke Bar in San Francisco! (If you don’t sing, don’t worry – come anyway!)”

The host committee includes former Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; San Francisco Democratic Party executive director Ally Medina; and several others. Tickets for this “On the Mic with Mike” event cost from $45 to $1,000, but there’s no mention of how much you can pay to avoid listening to these folks sing.

Meanwhile, challenger Ro Khanna will be busy Friday night holding his umpteenth meet-and-greet at a private home in Cupertino; on Saturday, his campaign will be going door-to-door in Fremont, Milpitas, Cupertino and Sunnyvale.

Khanna is coming off a high-exposure week that started with his appearance on Current TV’s “The War Room:”

Posted on Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, campaign finance, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

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.

Posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Fiona Ma, Joan Buchanan, John Perez, Nancy Skinner, Nora Campos, Rich Gordon | 3 Comments »

Better budget more time for your booze buys

California will no longer allow alcohol sales through self-checkouts, under a bill signed into law late Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

self-checkoutAB 183 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, requires that alcohol sales be a face-to-face transaction in which a clerk checks a person’s ID and can check for sobriety.

Ma cited a a 2009 UCLA study that showed 20 percent of young adults were able to override a self-service checkout by scanning other items and/or swiping credit cards. She also noted underage drinkers consumed nearly 14 percent of all alcohol sold in California in 2007, totaling $3.6 billion in sales. The bill was sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Professional Firefighters.

“AB 183 garnered wide-spread support from law enforcement because it closes a door for minors wanting to obtain alcohol,” Ma said Monday. “The Governor’s signature will ensure that alcohol is treated no differently than tobacco and spray paint.”

The bill’s opponents – including the California Grocers Association and the Fresh & Easy grocery chain, which relies on self-checkouts as a key part of its business model – said self-checkout stations already have lock-out mechanisms preventing customers from buying alcohol without a clerk verifying the buyer’s age and finalizing the purchase, making this bill a fix in search of a problem. They said it’s just a sop to labor unions that don’t want people replaced by bar-code scanners.

“We are disappointed that politics has prevailed over solid judgment,” Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said Monday. “Despite the intentions of the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) and its allies in the Legislature, this bill will not stop Fresh & Easy’s efforts to bring fresh, wholesome and affordable food to more Californians. We are continuing our expansion and look forward to creating more jobs in neighborhoods throughout the state.”

Posted on Monday, October 10th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Fiona Ma, Jerry Brown | 4 Comments »

Ma comment raises eyebrows

Interminable Endless debate, grandstanding and hot rhetoric are traditional faire of end-of-session days at the Capitol.

Thankfully, most of the hot air evaporates into thin air, forgotten the moment the words leave their authors’ mouths.

One comment, however, had a little more staying power than most, courtesy of Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, at a news conference announcing a bipartisan agreement to eliminate a $1 billion tax loophole for out-of-state corporations.

It had to do with the ever-shifting recounting by legislators of how the bill to carve out the tax breaks for out-of-state corporations came to be approved in the dead of night at the end of the 2009 legislative session.

It was an agreement hammered out in tough negotiations that resulted in passage of the 2009 tax hikes, which required six Republican votes — three in each chamber.

Just last week, Gov. Jerry Brown off-handedly criticized legislators for approving the loophole to out-of-state corporations without understanding the full implications. But Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, begged to differ, saying he understood perfectly well that he was sending $1 billion out of the state.

It was just that Republicans “had a gun to our heads” as Democrats sought desperately to pass the tax hike Steinberg said.

Ma had an entirely different spin in attempting to explain legislators’ acquiescence to the deal.

The bill was “drafted incorrectly,” she said with a stunning finality. Rather than requiring all corporations to pay taxes based on their sales under a “mandatory single sales factor,” Ma said, legislators simply made a mistake in making tax calculations elective for the out-of-state corporations.

When asked by a member of the Capitol press corps if she was saying she didn’t know what she was voting for, Brown came to the rescue. Sort of.

“I want to step in here,” Brown interjected. “Trying to discern the motives of those legislator who created this is a fool’s errand because they all have a different story.

“I have my own story, my own thoughts, but it’s speculative. … If anybody else can figure out why they did it or if they understood it and what they meant by saying they understood it and what kind of understanding they brought to bear on it,” go ahead and try.

Posted on Friday, September 9th, 2011
Under: California Legislature, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Angry words as Democrats move budget forward

Lots of tough words are flying back and forth across the aisle as the Legislature has sent a Democratic party-line budget to Gov. Jerry Brown.

From state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

“Today Democrats have passed a balanced budget and respected the state constitutional deadline and voters’ wishes. While this was the responsible thing to do, it is heartbreaking. Republicans were unwilling to give voters the option to avoid cuts and slashing funding for courts and education.”

“This deadline, and our commitment to meet it, has been known to all, including Republicans, since Proposition 25 passed last November. Republicans’ steadfast resistance to putting another option before voters – to ask whether to continue taxes at their current level instead of letting them expire – is undemocratic.

“The truth is we have no other option to pass a budget that is balanced. Without more revenue, the only option left is to make awful cuts. And these come after we already made $11 billion of tough cuts in March.

“There is no doubt we can do better – we must do better – for California and its future. I call on Republicans to consider the consequences of what is happening here today, and ask all Californians to contact Republican legislators and demand another option.”

“The bill now goes to the governor, who will continue to seek Republican support for an alternative to this harsh, all-cuts budget. All Californians should contact the governor and Republican legislators today to demand a more equitable solution.”

From state Senators Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto; Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet; and Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, the four Republicans seen as pivotal to a budget deal:

Tom Harman“Today’s actions prove that the bridge tax isn’t a stumbling block – it’s political theater. The real stumbling block for the Majority Party are the unions and trial lawyers demanding they block the reform proposals we have been pushing for months.

“Instead of a political drill, today we could have had a real bipartisan budget – one that allows voters to weigh in on Governor Brown’s tax proposal as well as a hard spending cap, significant reforms to our broken pension system, and improvements to California’s business climate to spur the economy and get people back to work.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“Today, through their inexplicable refusal to engage in a responsible and balanced budget solution, Republican legislators have forced an additional $300M in devastating cuts to our public universities.

“For six months, Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders have tried to work with Republican legislators to reach common-sense, common-ground solutions to California’s budget problems that would have minimized already enormous cuts to the University of California and California State University systems, the cornerstone of California’s economic engine.

“But, even after Democrats passed $12.5B of budget cuts in March, including $1B from higher education, Republican lawmakers have been incapable and unwilling to meet anywhere near the middle.

“These cuts are penny wise and pound foolish and threaten to further damage a stretched-to-the-limit public university system that was once the envy of the world. In volatile economic times, we should be investing in our universities to ensure we are producing the highly-skilled, educated workforce California needs to compete in the global economy.

“If Republicans want to walk the walk on job creation and attract and retain businesses in California, they should immediately return to the table and negotiate a good-faith solution that reverses these additional cuts to the State’s universities.”

From Board of Equalization member George Runner:

George Runner“Make no mistake, this Democrat budget isn’t about solving California’s fiscal problems—it’s only goal is to ensure lawmakers keep their paychecks flowing.

“When voters last fall granted Democrats their wish of majority-vote budgets, they demanded lawmakers forfeit their pay if those budgets are not approved on-time. But it was never the voters’ intention for lawmakers to approve a sham budget simply to keep their paychecks coming.

“What’s worse is that to protect their own pay, Democrats are poised to sacrifice the paychecks of thousands of California small businesses known as affiliates. Up to 25,000 of these Internet entrepreneurs will lose their affiliate status if Democrats approve a so-called ‘Amazon tax.’ According to the Board of Equalization’s analysis, ‘termination of affiliate programs would have an adverse impact on state employment’ and ‘lead to lower revenues.’

“The dumbest idea of all is the Democrats’ plan to sell state buildings for one-time revenue. If lawmakers want real one-time dollars, they should consider my proposals to raise billions in revenue by (1) granting an interest and penalty holiday to spur collection of delinquent tax payments and (2) selling-off aging debts owed the state.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Fiona Ma, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, Lt. Governor, Mark Leno, state budget, Tom Harman | 4 Comments »

Legislative battle over self-checkout alcohol sales

Your quick trip to the supermarket for a six-pack of brews or a bottle of vino might take a bit longer if the state Senate approves a bill that would bar retailers from letting customers buy alcohol through self-service checkouts.

self-checkoutAB 183 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, is based on the argument that self-checkout alcohol sales make it easier for minors or already-intoxicated customers to buy, and increase chances of theft. The Assembly approved AB 183 on a 48-26 vote May 26, sending it to the state Senate.

Similar bills have been offered twice before, both by former Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate. His 2007 bill didn’t make it past the Senate Governmental Organization Committee; his 2009 bill was approved by the Legislature but was vetoed last September by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said there’s “no legitimate evidence to suggest that self-service grocery checkout stands are contributing to the theft of alcoholic beverages and sale to minors or intoxicated persons. … Thus, it is unclear what problem this bill seeks to address.”

Among AB 183’s supporters are the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Mothers Against Drunk Driving – somewhat strange bedfellows, given they took ardently opposite sides on last year’s marijuana legalization just a few months ago. Other supporters include several police organizations as well as anti-drug and anti-alcohol groups.

“We believe it is imperative that our youth be taken out of harm’s way in regards to underage drinking,” Michael Henneberry, communications director for San Jose-based UFCW Local 5, said Thursday. “AB 183 is a common-sense fix to the issue and will swiftly mitigate against the major problem of youth using self check to procure liquor. The law applies to union and non-union stores alike and is equitable despite the claims of some retailers.”

Nonetheless, the move toward more self-checkouts means a shrinking need for supermarket labor, the UFCW’s potential members. The union for years has been trying to organize clerks at Fresh & Easy supermarkets, which happen to use an all-self-checkout model; most recently, the UFCW has staged an informational picket line outside that company’s new store in Modesto.

The UFCW, always a prolific contributor to Democratic campaigns and causes, spent $15,000 last year just to lobby for De La Torre’s bill. The union’s Western States Council spent $15,348 on lobbying in this year’s first quarter, but Ma’s bill isn’t listed among those the union has tried to influence.

Opponents of AB 183 such as the California Grocers Association say self-service checkout stations already have a lock-out or “freeze” mechanism that requires a clerk’s intervention to verify age before finalizing all alcohol purchases. They also say studies consistently show that most of the time, minors get alcohol by getting adults to buy it for them.

“When this same legislation was vetoed last year the reason was clear – there is no legitimate evidence to suggest that assisted self-service grocery checkout stands are contributing to the theft of alcoholic beverages and sale to minors or intoxicated persons. The same holds true today,” CGA President Ron Fong said Thursday. “Our stores have solid protections in place against minors purchasing alcohol and we see this bill as a solution in search of a problem.”

The California Grocers Association – also a prolific campaign contributor that leans Republican, and gave significant amounts to Schwarzenegger’s committees – spent $60,251 on lobbying in this year’s first quarter on dozens of bills including AB 183.

Posted on Friday, June 3rd, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Fiona Ma, Labor politics, Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

Lawmakers urge you to ‘eat local’ on Sundays

Some California lawmakers want you to light a fire under the state’s economy by “eating local.”

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston; and Foster Farms marketing director Ira Brill will be joined by other state lawmakers and agricultural leaders at a news conference tomorrow morning on the State Capitol’s steps to announce a resolution – ACR 42, introduced Monday – calling on Californians to prepare meals made exclusively from California-grown ingredients at least every Sunday.

Ma’s office notes that while California produces 400 commodities and a significant amount of food for the rest of the country, Californians still spend a tremendous amount on out-of-state foods; $210 million is spent on out-of-state poultry alone, from states such as Texas and Arkansas.

Dedicating just one day a week to eating only California-grown foods could represent a consumption increase of up to $15.6 billion in sales, according to the effort’s Facebook page.

Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Under: Agriculture, Assembly, Fiona Ma | 3 Comments »

Fiona Ma invites you to a super colon

Nope, not a typo. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, sent out a news release this afternoon announcing she’ll co-host a “super colon” on the State Capitol’s North Lawn from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to raise awareness on colorectal cancer (and not – I repeat, NOT – as commentary on the state budget process).

Ma – along with Strides For Life, the California Colorectal Cancer Coalition and radiation oncologist Dr. Dale Hunter – will be calling attention to Assembly Concurrent Resolution 23, which declares March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. On display will be a 10-foot-by-20-foot colon, which visitors can walk through to learn about early detection and to understand how to prevent colorectal cancer.

Ma says cancer is California’s 2nd leading cause of death – claiming an average of 50,000 lives per year – and colorectal cancer is the state’s third most common form of cancer. About 65 percent of colorectal cancer patients have a survival rate of only five years due to low prognostic exams and early detection; studies have shown that early detection has helped decrease the number of new cancer cases over the years.

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Fiona Ma | No Comments »

Dems highlight budget cuts’ impact

Their caucus having kowtowed to the Republican minority and Gov. Schwarzenegger on much of the budget agreement, Bay Area Legislative Democrats are keeping a busy schedule of complaining about the agreement’s impacts.

Assembly Select Committee on Schools and Community chairman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, are holding a hearing this morning in San Francisco, bringing Bay Area school officials, teachers, parents and community members together to talk about the steady decline in state education funding.

“When kids throughout California return to the classroom this fall, they will find fewer teachers, less resources and larger class sizes,” Torklakson, formerly a classroom teacher, said in a news release. “The cuts we make to education on the state level impact every community, every school and every student. It’s important that we know how.”

Among those testifying will be San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia; Mt. Diablo Unified School Board President Gary Eberhart; West Contra Costa Unified School District Associate Superintendent Wendell Greer; United Educators of San Francisco Vice President Linda Plack; 25-year teaching veteran Theresa Jimenez; and United Teachers of Richmond President Pixie Hayward Schickele.

At the same time three miles away, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, will headline an event announcing his new legislation to restore funding to the state Department of Public Health’s Domestic Violence Program, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated with a line-item veto.

The program provides funding to 94 domestic violence shelters and centers across the state, and Yee says cutting off the money puts domestic violence victims and their children in danger while increasing the state’s health care and law enforcement costs. Yee’s bill would move $16.3 million from the state’s victim’s compensation fund (which he says has a $136.2 million balance) to the Domestic Violence Program.

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Fiona Ma, Leland Yee, state budget, Tom Torlakson | Comments Off

Assembly Dems: More public transit in stimulus

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, said today he got 19 other Assemblymembers to sign onto a letter he wrote this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, asking her to seek greater investment in public transit as part of the economic stimulus package.

The letter went out Thursday, a day after the House voted 244-188 to pass its $819 billion version of the package, which has $43 billion for transportation projects including $12 billion targeted for mass transit. The U.S. Senate will vote on a stimulus package next week, and then the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled in a conference committee before it goes to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

“This is the right moment for a meaningful investment in transit that will help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil and improve our environment at the same time,” Torrico said in a news release. “More people are relying on transit systems to meet their transportation needs.”

The letter says more and more people “depend on mass transit in their everyday lives to get to their places of employment, to take their children to school or childcare, and to shop for food and other necessities. Additionally, expanding public transit represents a crucial step for addressing global warming and improves mobility without sacrificing air quality.”

The letter also cites a U.S. Department of Transportation estimate that a $47.8 billion investment in public transportation could support more than 1.3 million green jobs in the next two years, and a California Transit Association estimate that every $1 billion invested in new transit capital projects creates 34,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in local economic activity.

Other Bay Area signatories to the letter included Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009
Under: Nancy Pelosi, Transportation, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »