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California politicos react to San Bernardino killings

California’s elected officials are sounding off on Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, in which 14 people reportedly were killed and more wounded.

Gov. Jerry Brown cancelled the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony that had been scheduled for Wednesday night. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families and everyone affected by the brutal attack,” he said in an emailed statement. “California will spare no effort in bringing these killers to justice.”

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

“Today, yet another American community is reeling from the horror of gun violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of San Bernardino. As the families of the victims grieve and the survivors focus on healing, the entire American family mourns.

“Gun violence is a crisis of epidemic proportions in our nation. Congress has a moral responsibility to vote on common sense measures to prevent the daily agony of gun violence in communities across America. Enough is enough.”

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

“Today we add San Bernardino to the long list of communities that have fallen victim to a mass shooting, and my heart is with the victims and their families.

“Details in San Bernardino are still murky, but what we do know is that these deadly shootings aren’t slowing down. Just a week after a deadly attack in Colorado Springs, we’re prepared to mourn more victims today.

“The Washington Post reported this week that in the first 334 days of 2015, there were 351 mass shootings. That’s an average of more than one deadly rampage for every day this year.

“USA Today reported that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System ran more than 185,000 checks for gun purchases the day after Thanksgiving. That doesn’t even count the sales that took place online or at gun shows, where no checks are necessary.

“When a convicted felon can walk into a gun show and buy an assault rifle, that’s a problem. When an individual with a known mental illness can buy an assault rifle online, that’s a problem. When a terrorist who can’t board an airplane can buy an assault rifle in a gun store, that’s a problem.
“Congress also has a problem—a debilitating fear of upsetting the gun lobby. Congress refuses even to require background checks on all firearms purchases, an action supported by the vast majority of Americans.

“Each time I see breaking news of yet another mass shooting, I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Congress can’t stop every shooting, but we can help reduce their frequency. I remain hopeful that enough of my colleagues will join me to make that a reality.”

More, after the jump…
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CA17: Kevin de León endorses Ro Khanna

17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna will be endorsed Thursday by state Senate President Kevin de León, one of the highest-profile California Democrats so far to turn his back on eight-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda.

Kevin de Leon“Ro Khanna values the ideals that the Democratic Party stands for: equal rights, standing up for working families, protecting social security and Medicare, fighting for clean air and water, expanding the middle class and making sure everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream,” de León, D-Los Angeles, said in Khanna’s news release. “As an educator, Ro is committed to making sure public schools have the funding and technology to ensure all our kids have the opportunity to succeed in the 21st Century.”

Khanna, a former Obama administration official, is making his second run against Honda, D-San Jose; Honda beat him by 3.6 percentage points last November.

In the last election cycle, most prominent elected Democrats lined up behind Honda, while a few – notably including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed – endorsed Khanna. It remains to be seen whether the House Ethics Committee’s pending investigation of Honda will affect his endorsements this time around.

“As a community organizer against Prop 187 and for the NEA, I am impressed with Ro’s commitment to grassroots organizing,” de León added. “Not only is he bringing more people into the political process, but I know his commitment to ground-up power will ensure his office stays in touch with the needs of the people he represents, and not just wealthy donors and the special interests.”

Khanna said de León “embodies everything that’s great about the Democratic Party.”

“He’s a leader in the effort to combat climate change, has spearheaded forward-thinking and compassionate immigrant rights laws, worked to make colleges more accessible and affordable, and he has helped spur an innovation economy around renewable energy technologies that has helped create more good paying middle class jobs while protecting our environment,” Khanna said. “I am deeply honored by the confidence and trust Kevin de Leon is placing in me. I look forward to being a strong and active partner with him as we take these California policies and work to adapt them in Washington.”

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California lawmakers globe-trot to Cuba, Japan

With the Legislature in recess next week, California’s top lawmakers – and a few Bay Area members, too – are leaving Sacramento to do some globe-trotting.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Agriculture Committee Chair Henry Perea, D-Fresno, will lead a trade delegation of legislators, academics, and agriculture industry representatives to Cuba from Monday, March 30 to Friday, April 3.

They’re aiming to build ties with Cuban policymakers, farmers, and businesses, and to explore options for California and Cuba to collaborate not only in agriculture but also in telecommunications, construction and banking.

Toni Atkins“With the federal government moving forward with efforts to normalize diplomatic, economic, and commercial relations, it is important for California to also engage with Cuba and expand economic relationships that create new opportunities for businesses in our state,” Atkins said in a news release. “The Assembly wants to do everything we can to create more jobs and business in California, and this trade delegation is one way to help California companies gain a competitive edge.”

The partner organization for the trade delegation is Californians Building Bridges, a nonprofit with years of experience leading cultural, humanitarian and entrepreneurial exchanges between California and Cuba. No Assembly funds are being spent.

Also in the delegation are Bill Quirk, D-Hayward; Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond; Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove; Adam Gray, D-Merced; Jose Medina, D-Riverside; and Rudy Salas Jr., D-Bakersfield – all Agriculture Committee members, or serving districts with agricultural interests. Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, and Republicans on the Agriculture Committee were invited but declined to attend.

Meanwhile, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, will lead a delegation including Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, to Japan from Monday, March 30 through Thursday, April 2. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, is going, too.

The lawmakers were invited by the Japanese government, and they’ll be discussing issues including transportation, seismic safety, clean energy, environmental protection and climate change.

Kevin de LeonThey’re scheduled to meet Monday in Tokyo with U.S. Embassy officials and Japanese officials including Issei Kitagawa, the state minister of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism to discuss high-speed rail. They’ll also meet that day with people from Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, the main entity responsible for recovery from the March 2011 earthquake that devastated part of the nation.

On Tuesday, they’re scheduled to visit Japan’s National Diet, the legislature, as well as to tour the High Speed Rail Operation Center and to ride in a new fuel-cell car produced by Toyota.

On Wednesday they’ll travel to Kobe to meet with the mayor and tour a facility memorializing the January 1995 earthquake that killed more than 5,000 and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and the recovery efforts that followed. And on Thursday they’ll start in Osaka and then head for Kyoto, to meet the mayor for a briefing on the city’s economy and history.

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State oversight avalanche bears down on ABAG

State officials are rushing to put new oversights in place following the embezzlement of almost $1.3 million by an Association of Bay Area Governments official from a bond-funded San Francisco development account.

State Treasurer John Chiang on Thursday announced a partnership with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, to conduct legislative oversight hearings to make sure money raised through government bond sales is safe from fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Chiang also said he has created a special task force to develop best-practices guidelines on the care of bond proceeds that will be issued to all state and local governments.

California and its local governments over the past decade have issued more than $700 billion in public debt, Chiang noted in a news release.

“We rely on these borrowed moneys to build and maintain the critical infrastructure upon which our communities and economy depend – from schools and roads to levees and libraries,” Chiang said. “The ease in which one of ABAG’s leaders allegedly fleeced more than a million dollars in bond funds raises concerns regarding whether there are sufficient safeguards at the thousands of State and local agencies which are responsible for nearly three-quarters of a trillion bond dollars.”

And state Controller Betty Yee announced Thursday her staff will audit ABAG’s internal administrative and accounting controls.

“As California’s chief fiscal officer, I am charged with protecting state resources,” Yee said. “When public money goes missing, I need to determine how it happened and whether effective controls are in place.”

Yee’s audit will initially focus on FY 2012-13 and 2013-2014, but that might expand if investigators discover accounting weaknesses that may have affected earlier years. The Controller’s Office sent a letter today to ABAG asking that the association make available documents that will be used in the audit including ledgers, contracts, invoices, personnel records, meeting minutes, policies and procedures. The audit work will begin Feb. 20 and is expected to take a few weeks.

More, after the jump…
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Reactions to Barbara Boxer’s decision not to run

Click here to read our full story on Boxer’s decision.

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

“It was 22 years ago this week when Barbara became a senator, and she has certainly left her mark. After I spoke with Barbara this morning about her decision, I realized that even though she may leave the Senate, I’m confident she’ll remain a champion on the many issues that defined her public service.

“Barbara took on a lot of challenges in Congress, but I think I’m most grateful for her hard work in support of women and families, the environment, human rights and her tireless efforts to modernize our country’s infrastructure. She has made a real difference for California and the country.

“Barbara and I worked particularly hard on the fight against global warming—I think no one is more engaged on this issue than she. It’s been an uphill battle, but today we’re seeing the success Barbara has had on making climate change a real priority for Americans.

“I always knew I had a partner in Barbara. She is never one to shy away from any challenge, and I can’t thank her enough for being such a resilient collaborator. We blazed many trails together, and now I’m eager to see where her next steps take her. Barbara is so passionate about so many things, I know her work has really just started. I’m sure she’ll continue to be a role model and inspiration to us all.

“Barbara, thank you and best wishes as you take that next step forward. It has been a true honor to serve with you.”

From California Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon:

Harmeet Dhillon“Senator Boxer’s impending retirement at the end of 2016 will bring a long-overdue opportunity for change to California’s representation in the Senate. For far too long Senator Boxer has pushed a liberal agenda that does little to address the challenges facing millions of Californians and Americans alike. Important issues to Californians such as the economy, technology, energy policy, excessive regulation on small businesses, education, and meaningful immigration reform have fallen behind in the wake of her focus to push a strictly partisan agenda at the cost of California citizens. We look forward to a spirited campaign to replace Senator Boxer with someone more in line with the needs and the goals of California voters.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, at her weekly news conference:

Nancy Pelosi“She called me before I came down here. It’s funny, she called me and she said she wanted to talk to me personally. I thought maybe she wanted to have dinner tonight or something. Oh my. Well, her decision is an important one for her and her family. It’s all personal and individual. Senator Boxer has been such a champion for the people of California and, indeed, for our entire country.

“I have always said of Congresswoman Boxer, Senator Boxer – Congresswoman when I came to Congress – Senator Boxer, that she is – this will sound like an oxymoron to you, but she is one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known of. She has always shared her ideas. She has always shared the credit. She has always tried to help people succeed with their ideas. She has reached across the aisle. She has reached across our state, which is a glorious state. And her leaving will be a great loss to the Congress of the United States, the people of California, and to our country.

“I hope as she goes – I assume that she’s not running, but she’ll be here the next two years – and in the course of that time, there will be real recognition of the difference that she has made for fairness in our economy, protection of our environment, respect for our men and women in uniform. She’s really a great leader for our country – small in size but a giant in terms of her contribution to the country. I didn’t know. As I said, all I had was a call from her, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting.

“It’s a real loss, I think. But God bless her, for her decision. And I wish her and Stewart and their family well. Thank you. My granddaughter just took her grandson out for their sixth birthday. They were born a couple months apart. So we are very close, from a family standpoint. Senator Boxer had a shower for my daughter, Christine, five days [before] – that would be six years [ago] – and the next day, her daughter Nicole had the baby, Sawyer. So they are just very close in age. And our family celebrations have been together over time, whether it’s weddings or babies or whatever. So, it’s a close personal friendship.

“Of course, I wish the best for her in that regard personally. Officially, I think it’s a big loss for the country. But she knows her timetable. Thank you very much.”

Much, much more, after the jump…
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9

Legal scandals lead Dems to cancel golf fundraiser

Chalk up one immediate victim of the ethical and legal scandals sullying the state Senate: Golf.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, who’ll succeed Steinberg in the top spot at the end of this year, issued a joint statement Tuesday announcing they’ve cancelled this weekend’s Pro Tem Cup – the annual Democratic party fundraiser at which donors give tens of thousands of dollars to join legislative leaders on the links at Torrey Pines in La Jolla – “in light of the very recent and extraordinary breaches of the public trust by three individuals.”

C’mon, guys, SAY THE NAMES! Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, convicted of voter fraud and perjury; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, indicted on bribery charges; and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, charged last week with trading favors for money and conspiring to traffic arms.

So, no golf!

“In its place, we intend to spend this weekend in our districts having an open and public conversation with our constituents about the work ahead for this Legislature and for this state,” Steinberg and de Leon said in their joint statement. “It’s important that our constituents understand that, despite the appalling acts of a few individuals who – on their own – put self-interest ahead of the public interest, the Senators who are here are here to serve, to do the hard, unglamorous work of fixing tough public-policy problems, and – most important – to do it the right way.”

And that means putting the putters away. Steinberg and de Leon said the modern campaign system makes fundraising “an occupational necessity, but Senate Democrats have always prided themselves on doing it ethically, appropriately, and in full adherence to every rule and regulation governing public disclosure.

“The Pro Tem Cup has long been a successful, signature example of this,” they said. “But these are unprecedented times and they demand that we take a step back and take stock of how we all do the people’s business and balance it against the demands of running for office.”

The lawmakers said Senate leadership in coming weeks will conduct a “rigorous review of existing campaign finance laws and our own internal fundraising practices – and make recommendations on where we can improve as a caucus and a state, with a focus on when, where and how we raise campaign dollars and how we increase public transparency.” They’ll also schedule a public hearing to discuss campaign finance “the constitutional limits on reform.”

“Make no mistake: Senate Democrats fully intend to strengthen our productive, progressive majority this election year and have no intention of unilaterally disarming in terms of campaign resources,” Steinberg and de Leon said. “But this is time for a reality check. And, while the Legislature as a whole cannot be held responsible for the bad acts of three individual members, we do bear a high and profound responsibility to do all we can to repair the excruciating breach of public confidence they left behind.”