11

California reps sign brief for right to carry guns

Two California congressmen are among 34 GOP lawmakers who have signed onto a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the Second Amendment secures the right to carry handguns outside the home for self-defense.

The brief signed by Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, and John Campbell, R-Irvine, urges the high court to review the Drake, et. al. v. Jerejian, et. al. case that was decided last July by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Four New Jersey residents and two organizations had challenged a state law requiring that people show a “justifiable need” for a permit to carry a handgun outside the home; they lost both in the district and appellate courts.

“We conclude that the District Court correctly determined that the requirement that applicants demonstrate a ‘justifiable need’ to publicly carry a handgun for self-defense qualifies as a ‘presumptively lawful,’ ‘longstanding’ regulation and therefore does not burden conduct within the scope of the Second Amendment’s guarantee,” the appeals court concluded.

Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan Gottlieb said he’s glad so many members of Congress signed onto the brief urging the high court to take the case.

“The Supreme Court has already affirmed that the right to keep and bear arms applies to individual citizens, so it simply makes sense that this right extends beyond someone’s doorstep,” Gottlieb said. “A right limited to someone’s home unless a citizen can demonstrate some nebulous ‘justifiable need’ is not a right at all, but a heavily-regulated privilege.”

UPDATE @ 12:43 P.M.: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled today in a similar case, finding San Diego’s – and by extension, many other California counties’ – requirements for proving “good cause” for a concealed carry permit are unconstitutionally restrictive. Read my full story here.

16

Measure seeks special protection for Bible speech

A proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt Bible-based speech from the constitution and state law’s existing restrictions – including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes – has been cleared to start circulating petitions.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said proponent Allan Esses, a pastor from Irvine, must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from registered voters by Dec. 2 in order to qualify the initiative for next year’s ballot.

Here’s the state Attorney General’s official title and summary for the new proposed measure:

BIBLE-BASED SPEECH. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Exempts speech based on biblical authority from existing constitutional and statutory restrictions applicable to all other speech, including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes. Repeals constitutional provision denying protection to acts of religious expression inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potentially minor increased costs to state and local governments to resolve legal issues pertaining to the effect of the measure. (13-0003.)

Article 1, Section 4 of the state constitution says, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.”

Esses’ amendment would strike the second sentence in that section (“This liberty of conscience…”) and would add this section:

(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that it is not a crime, hate crime or unlawful for a person to use any part of the Bible’s content as authority: and do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith. to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views on salvation, heaven, or abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing., cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, marriage, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft, yoga, or sin at any public or private gatherings, school, church, or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, film, theater, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals or by means of a computer, electronic devise, telephone, cell phone or fax machine. These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.

Penal Code Section 302 criminalizes the intentional disruption of a religious gathering; Section 602.11 criminalizes blocking entry or exit from a health care facility (such as an abortion clinic), place of worship or school; and Section 11412 criminalizes making someone refrain from religious activity by means of a threat.

Esses failed to gather enough signatures for a similar measure in 2011.

“Although the Bill of Rights guarantees religious liberty, recent restrictions on the free exercise of religion have compelled the organization to submit clarifications of citizen’s First Amendment rights, similar to the need felt by some of the nation’s Founding Fathers to clarify in the Bill of Rights what they believed existed in the Constitution,” Esses had said of that earlier proposed measure in 2010. “What is particularly ironic and disturbing is the growing intolerance of so many people who preach tolerance. Increasingly, Christians are expected to violate our beliefs and conform our religious convictions to accommodate those who support positions that are clearly unbiblical.”

0

Why did John Campbell oppose the STOCK Act?

The House voted 417-2 this morning to pass the STOCK Act, which clarifies that laws against insider trading apply to members of Congress, congressional staff, executive branch officials, and judicial officers and employees.

One of the two votes against it was John Campbell, R-Irvine. I asked why, and here’s the statement his office sent:

John Campbell“True insider trading is already illegal and those of us in Congress have and will continue to be subject to the law. This is an ambiguous bill that could potentially and unintentionally cause constituents and members of Congress to break the law by simply asking or answering a question about the prospects of federal legislation. It pretends to make something illegal that is already illegal and then compounds the problem by overreaching and creating unintended, yet very damaging consequences. I have serious concerns about the effects it will have on a constituent’s ability to interact with their representatives in Congress.”

Democrats supported the bill despite House Republicans having stripped out provisions including a requirement that people who collect financial information from Congress — and sell it to investment firms — should register like lobbyists and publicly disclose their activities, and a section that would’ve restored some elements of federal corruption law that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected last year. (The Washington Post has the full report on that here.)

The bill’s U.S. Senate version had both those provisions and was approved last week on a 96-3 vote. The House and Senate versions must now be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, spoke on the floor this morning to urge her fellow Democrats to pass the bill, but she also had some choice words for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who fast-tracked the bill in a way that let him to strip out the Senate provisions but allow no amendments.

3

Swanson: Inmate release bumps food-stamp need

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding an order that California must release tens of thousands of inmates from its unconstitutionally overcrowded prisons is one more, big, new reason why some ex-cons should be eligible for food stamps, says Assemblyman Sandre Swanson.

Swanson, D-Alameda, is the author of AB 828, the Nutritional Assistance for Families Act, which would let people convicted of certain non-violent, drug-related felonies receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Federal law bars certain former offenders from receiving such benefits, but lets states opt out of the ban; 14 states have eliminated the ban entirely, and 21 have modified it.

The Assembly on Monday voted 46-30 to pass the bill; it now goes to the state Senate.

“Nearly 46,000 prisoners will soon be released into our communities,” Swanson said in a news release. “Whether you are happy with this or not, the fact is that the state is about to absorb a huge population of ex-felons and we must be realistic about how to support them and their families as they attempt to transition back into society. If a person’s most critical needs are not met when they re-enter society after serving time in prison, they won’t have the tools necessary for a successful and safe return. Without basic support, such as food, many of them will return to criminal activity and drug use instead of gainful employment and sobriety.”

“I understand being hard on crime. I stand behind stricter penalties and fines for criminals. However, once a person has successfully served his sentence, he should have tools available to successfully reintegrate.”

Swanson noted California’s recidivism rate is at 70 percent, the nation’s highest, and most Californians would prefer their tax dollars to support education and job creation rather than housing and re-housing the same inmates over and over again.

“California’s restrictive policies are inhibiting its access to federal monies,” he said. “AB 828 will tap into these federal funds, which will ultimately support agriculture, increase sales tax revenue, reduce the state’s recidivism rate, and provide fundamental services to families at a time of dire need. Economists estimate that for every dollar of SNAP funds spent, the local economy receives $1.75 in return. During these times of unprecedented program cuts and joblessness, we cannot leave federal dollars on the table that would ultimately help stimulate our economy and increase public safety by helping communities safely absorb the 46,000 prisoners who may end up living as our neighbors.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed two similar bills by Swanson in 2007 and 2008. In the latter veto message, Schwarzenegger wrote that “extending food stamp eligibility to drug dealers or traffickers, upon the condition that they engage in drug treatment, will not ensure these individuals will stop selling or trafficking illegal drugs. Therefore, this bill does not provide a targeted approach to the right population and does not ensure adequate public safety protections.”

Swanson tried again last year, but the bill got held up in the Senate Appropriations suspense file and never made it to a floor vote. As the Assembly OKed it last May, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine – then a GOP primary candidate for U.S. Senate – blasted the idea, saying “(g)iving felony-level drug dealers government funds with no strings attached undermines the very concept of holding them accountable for their actions. With just 12 percent of the nation’s population residing here, California is home to 32 percent of the welfare recipients in the United States. We should be encouraging Californians to become self-reliant, not enlarging the welfare rolls with convicted felons. Each dollar given to drug felons is a dollar that could go to an out of work family with children to care for.”

12

Food-stamps-for-felons bill draws DeVore’s ire

An East Bay Assemblyman’s bill to let drug felons get food stamps after their release from prison passed the Assembly floor today, but not without taking some heat from a lawmaker seeking higher office.

The Assembly voted 42-23 to approve AB 1756, the Transitional Assistance for Re-Entry Programs Act, by Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda. Existing federal law permanently bars drug-related felons from receiving food-stamp benefits, but allows states to opt out of the ban through legislative action; that’s what this bill would do. Elsewhere, 14 states have eliminated the ban entirely, and 21 have modified the ban so those with certain drug felony convictions can get food stamps and cash assistance.

Said Swanson:

“California currently spends over $8 billion on prisons, and spending is on track to surpass the higher education budget within the next four years. We cannot begin to address this problem without implementing programs that help former offenders successfully re-enter society.

“If a person’s most critical needs are not met when they re-enter society after being in prison, they won’t be able to successfully return to their communities. In fact, without basic support, many of them will be inclined to return to criminal activity and drug use instead of attaining sobriety and gainful employment. The recidivism rate in California is at an astonishing 70 percent. It is hypocritical for the Legislature to say we are interested in stemming the spiraling prison population while we continue to release prisoners without addressing some of their most basic needs upon re-entry.

“California’s restrictive policies are inhibiting its access to federal monies. AB 1756 will tap into more of these federal funds, which will support agriculture, sales tax revenue, reduce the state’s recidivism rate, and provide fundamental services to families.”

But Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine – a candidate vying for the GOP nomination next month to challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in November – voted and spoke against the bill, calling it Democrats’ most recent attempt to weaken welfare-reform measures signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

“Giving felony-level drug dealers government funds with no strings attached undermines the very concept of holding them accountable for their actions,” DeVore said in his news release. “With just 12% of the nation’s population residing here, California is home to 32% of the welfare recipients in the United States. We should be encouraging Californians to become self-reliant, not enlarging the welfare rolls with convicted felons. Each dollar given to drug felons is a dollar that could go to an out of work family with children to care for.”

The bill now goes to the state Senate.

5

Afghanistan withdrawal resolution defeated

H.Con.Res. 248, legislation by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, that would order the President to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, failed today on a 65-356 vote after more than three and a half hours of debate.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma were among the legislation’s 19 co-sponsors. They were joined by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, in voting for it today.

From Stark:

Pete Stark“Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.Con.Res. 248 to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.

“Despite the wishes of the people who voted him into office, President Obama is escalating the War in Afghanistan. It’s now up to Congress to end the war. This resolution would invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973, and remove troops from Afghanistan no later than the end of the year.

“This war has no clear objective. We have spent $258 billion on the War in Afghanistan, with billions more to come this year. American soldiers and their families are paying a greater price. Over 1,000 soldiers have died, and over 5,000 have been wounded in action. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch, and other humanitarian organizations, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed.

“It is time for Congress to assert its constitutional authority over matters of war and bring our troops home. I urge my colleagues to join us in support of this resolution. War will never stabilize Afghanistan. We must turn to diplomacy and infrastructure development to achieve stability in Afghanistan.”

From Miller:

“We need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan. Today, I again registered my opposition to the current US policy in Afghanistan by voting for Mr. Kucinich’s war powers resolution. While we know it isn’t feasible for American troops to leave Afghanistan in the time allotted in the resolution, by voting for it I am sending a clear message to President Obama and my colleagues that we need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan.”

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was one of five Republicans (the others included Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine) to vote for the legislation. From Paul:

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, issued a statement saying she had voted against the resolution “with a heavy heart.” See her full explanation after the jump…
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