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Dianne Feinstein endorses CA’s assisted-suicide bill

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed California’s assisted-suicide bill.

“The right to die with dignity is an option that should be available for every chronically suffering terminally ill consenting adult in California,” Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to the authors of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act. “I share your concern that terminally ill California residents currently do not have the option to obtain end-of-life medication if their suffering becomes unbearable.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, one of the bill’s authors, said Feinstein’s support “is a big boost for our effort, sending a strong signal that the political momentum has shifted. When one of California’s most respected, thoughtful, and longest serving political leaders takes the unusual step of speaking out in strong support of a bill like this you know you are on the right track.”

The bill’s other authors are state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton. They released a list Tuesday of 70 current and former lawmakers who support the legislation, including 19 current lawmakers who have signed on as co-authors.

SB 128, modeled on Oregon’s law, will have its first hearing next Wednesday, March 25 in the Senate Health Committee. The bill would let a terminally ill competent person get a prescription for drugs to hasten and make painless his or her death. The authors say it has “numerous protections to prevent abuse” and “all participation is voluntary;” they note Oregon’s law has been in place for 17 years with no reported cases of abuse. Last year, 155 Oregonians used the law to help end their lives.

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‘Nanny state?’ Brown vetoes diaper changing bills

So much for the “nanny state” – Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a pair of bills Friday that would’ve required more diaper changing stations across California.

SB 1350 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would have required the California Building Standards Commission to adopt building standards governing the installation of baby diaper changing stations in places of public accommodation for equal use by men and women. The Senate had passed it 32-0, the Assembly 67-8.

diaper changing stationAnd SB 1358 by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would have required buildings owned or partially owned by state or local governments, as well as certain other private buildings open to the public, to maintain at least one safe, sanitary, and convenient baby diaper changing station accessible to women and men. The Senate had passed it 29-1, the Assembly passed it 66-11, and the Senate concurred in Assembly amendments 31-2.

Brown nixed them both Friday, issuing a joint veto message.

“At a time when so many have raised concerns about the number of regulations in California, I believe it would be more prudent to leave the matter of diaper changing stations to the private sector,” he wrote. “Already many businesses have taken steps to accommodate their customers in this regard.”

“This may be a good business practice, but not one that I am inclined to legislate,” he concluded.

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Lawmakers urge Jerry Brown to halt all fracking

Nine state lawmakers, including a few from the Bay Area, have signed a letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to obtain oil and gas, the process commonly called “fracking.”

Marc Levine“The risks are simply too great to allow fracking to continue,” Assemblyman Marc Levine, who authored the letter, told reporters on a conference call this morning.

The technique demonstrably hurts air and water quality, might influence seismic activity, and furthers a dependence on fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, said Levine, D-San Rafael, and so it must be suspended “until we have all the data to address the immediate and long-term dangers.”

Signing Levine’s letter were Assemblymembers Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara; Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica; Adrin Nazarian, D-Van Nuys; Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, as well as state Senators Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Lois Wolk, D-Vacaville; and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.

Levine, who announced the letter in November, teamed up with CREDO, an activist group which had thousands of members sign petitions and make phone calls urging their lawmakers to sign the letter. Levine and CREDO delivered the letter and held their news conference during this final week of a public comment period on Brown’s proposed fracking regulations, which they say would allow a massive expansion of fracking in California.

CREDO campaign manager Zack Malitz called fracking “one of the greatest environmental struggles to face Califonians in a generation,” and said Brown has proposed “dangerously weak regulations that would only encourage more fracking” despite “massive public opposition.”

“His legacy as an environmental leader is on the line,” Malitz said. “Californians will hold him responsible for putting oil-industry profits ahead of our health and the climate.”

Several bills proposing a moratorium on fracking failed to get enough votes to advance in the Legislature last year. The Legislature did pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabassas, which Brown signed into law in September; that bill requires oil companies to go through a permit process, disclose chemical uses, do groundwater tests and send notices to neighboring landowners about their intent to drill.

Brown generally has pursued energy policy that supports increased oil production while expanding California’s goal of producing at least a third of its electricity from renewable sources (such as wind or solar energy) by 2020.

UPDATE @ 12:32 P.M.: This just in from Evan Westrup, Brown’s spokesman: “After extensive debate, the Legislature – including the authors of this letter – voted to enact SB 4, which became effective just days ago. Pursuant to this bill, the regulatory process has begun and we encourage these legislators and other interested citizens to actively participate.”

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Lois Wolk hopes to represent Contra Costa cities

State Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis, confirmed today that she’ll seek a second four-year term in the newly drawn 3rd State Senate District, including much of her current 5th District in Yolo and Solano Counties but grabbing Napa County, parts of Sonoma and several Contra Costa County communities.

She issued a news release applauding the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s work, and saying it “correctly recognized these counties and cities have a great deal in common. It may not be perfect, but it makes sense. The new 3rd District is a natural fit with the communities I currently represent and the issues that have been my primary focus while in the Legislature. I would be honored to represent every one of these constituents, new and old.”

Wolk gains the Contra Costa County communities of Crockett, Port Costa, Martinez, and Pleasant Hill; they used to be part of the 7th State Senate District, now represented by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

“The only downside of the new plan is that I will no longer get to represent San Joaquin County, including the City of Stockton, where I have worked hard to build partnerships with local elected officials and constituents,” she said. “Those constituents can rest assured I will continue to represent them vigorously until they elect my replacement, who I hope will be Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, who has declared her intentions to seek the seat.”

“I will also make efforts to get to know the new communities, meet everyone I can and listen to their issues,” Wolk said.

Wolk also announced early endorsements from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; and state Senator Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa.

“It’s been my privilege to work with Senator Lois Wolk on Delta and statewide water issues,” Miller said in Wolk’s release. “I know when the people of northern Contra Costa County get to know Lois, they will join me in supporting her to represent us in the State Senate.”

Wolk won her current 5th District seat in 2008 by defeating Republican nominee Greg Aghazarian, 65 percent to 35 percent; she now chairs the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. Earlier, she represented the 8th Assembly District from 2002 to 2008.

I don’t see that any other person living within the bounds of the new 3rd District has filed a statement of intention to seek the seat next year, but of course, that could change.

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Capitol Weekly releases ideology rankings

Capitol Weekly released its annual political ideological ranking of state legislators and while such lists are rarely definitive, they do offer a glimpse into lawmakers’ philosophical proclivities.

Click here to read the full report, but here are the results for some of the East Bay representatives.

The Weekly staff selected 19 bills to use in its ranking system and assigned or deducted points for yes, no and non-voting results. A score of 100 is a perfect liberal while a score of 0 is a perfect conservative.

Not surprisingly, the Bay Area lawmakers stick to the liberal side of the chart.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: He scored a 91, missing a perfect score because of a yes vote for the Los Angeles football stadium bill and failing to vote one way or the other on the bill establishing Harvey Milk Day.

State sens. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: All scored 100.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: Scored 94, dinged for failing to vote on a payroll records bill and carbon offsets legislation.

Assemblymemembers Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch; Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland; and Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward: All scored 89, losing liberal points for voting in favor of the Los Angeles stadium deal and air pollution credits bill.

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State Senators honor slain Oakland Police

These floor speeches were made Monday, but the videos just became available today.

From state Sen. Mike DeSaulnier, D-Concord (reading from our article in Monday’s editions):

More after the jump…
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