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Assemblyman called on carpet for hearing dustup

Things got so ugly at Wednesday’s Assembly Labor and Employment Committee hearing that a trip to the principal’s office was required.

During the hearing on SB 3, a bill to raise California’s minimum wage again, chairman Roger Hernández, D-Baldwin Hills, cut off a witness and then called for a vote despite vice chairman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, wishing to speak. As Harper continued to object, Hernández first switched off his microphone and then ordered a sergeant-at-arms to remove it.

https://youtu.be/5VN6KqrSBiA

Committee members Kansen Chu, D-San Jose; Evan Low, D-Campbell; Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento; and Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, didn’t intervene and voted to approve the bill.

“Blocking discussion in this manner is unfair, undemocratic and soils the decorum of the Assembly. I was sent here to represent the concerns of the voters of my district and chairman Hernández shut down my ability to speak for who I represent,” Harper said in a news release. “Our state’s underemployment rate is overwhelming and the bill being rammed through our committee would make it harder to hire. We are sent here to debate policy that impacts the lives of Californians, not shut down dissenting points of view.”

The Assembly Republican Caucus decried the incident as well, calling Hernández’s behavior “spastic”

“Assemblyman Hernández must have forgot that last session he voted in favor of Assembly Bill 2053, to mandate harassment training,” the caucus jabbed in its statement. “Californians elect their representatives to be their voice in Sacramento, and no other members should ever have the ability to strip them of that duty.”

Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, has met with Hernandez, Harper and the GOP leadership about the incident, spokesman John Casey said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“The Speaker believes that all members of the Assembly have the right to ask questions and voice their opinions on legislative matters while in committee and on the floor,” he wrote. “Mr. Hernández acknowledged his oversight to Mr. Harper and expressed regret. The Speaker doesn’t expect any similar incidents to occur going forward.”

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CA15: Swalwell feeling heat on women’s issues?

Perhaps Rep. Eric Swalwell is feeling some heat from his Democratic challenger after all.

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, is both running on her state legislative record and trying to make a play more specifically for women’s votes this year. Among the three priorities on her campaign website:

TO SECURE AND BOLSTER WOMEN’S RIGHTS
I will push back against the seemingly endless efforts to roll back the progress that generations of women before us have made. During my time in the State Legislature I passed legislation expanding the rights of victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault as well as voted in favor of expanding access to maternity leave and services. In 2011 I was awarded the Women of Achievement Award by the National Women’s Political Caucus of California. This year, I secured continued funding from the Violence Against Women Act to ensure that California women can get no costs forensic exams.

So it’s probably not coincidence that Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, sent a mailer to his 15th Congressional District constituents in the past few days touting how he’s “standing strong for women” by fighting to raise wages for women and their families through the Paycheck Fairness Act; protecting the work-family balance by supporting the Healthy Families Act to ensure paid sick leave for workers; supporting an increase in the minimum wage, as two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women; and supporting the Strong Start for America’s Children Act to increase access to affordable, quality child care.

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House Dems try to force minimum wage vote

House Democrats are signing a discharge petition to force an up-or-down vote on Rep. George Miller’s bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

George Miller“Large, bipartisan majorities have repeatedly voted to raise the minimum wage when it has come to the floor in the past, and Republican and Democratic presidents alike have signed it into law,” Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release Wednesday. “The American people are clamoring for this pay raise, and it’s well past time for congressional Republicans to hear their voices and bring H.R. 1010 up for a vote. When this comes to the floor, it will pass. We just need a vote.”

The bill would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour over three years, and then index it to inflation thereafter. It also would gradually increase the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the minimum wage; it’s now at about 29 percent.

The Congressional Budget Office reported this month that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could lift about 900,000 U.S. workers out of poverty, but also could cost about 500,000 jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has refused to bring the bill – which has 194 cosponsors, all Democrats – up for a hearing, mark-up or floor vote. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., filed the discharge petition Wednesday; forcing consideration of the bill will require 218 signatures, so some Republicans would have to cross the aisle.

“The discharge petition I filed today is an unfortunate necessity in order to ensure action will be taken by this Congress to improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans,” Bishop said in a news release. “This is an issue that has wide support among the American public but so far has not been acted on in Washington. It is time for that to change and it is time to raise the wage.”

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George Miller helps pitch new minimum-wage bill

The federal minimum wage gradually would rise to $10.10 per hour from its current $7.25, and then see automatic annual increases linked to changes in cost of living, under a bill introduced today by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 also would gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers – now at $2.13 an hour – for the first time in more than 20 years, bringing it to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. The bill comes three weeks after President Obama highlighted increasing the minimum wage in his State of the Union address.

“Income inequality is one of the greatest threats to America’s long-term economic vitality, yet we are widening that inequality with wages that subject people to live in poverty,” Miller said in a news release. “Even during a so-called ‘golden age of corporate profits,’ millions of working families are falling behind because their paychecks aren’t keeping up. That’s immoral and that’s undermining our economy.”

Raising the minimum wage is especially important for working women, who make up a disproportionate share of minimum-wage workers today, Miller added. “As we mark Women’s History Month, we should ensure that working women and families don’t fall into poverty even though they work for a living. It’s time for them to get a raise. It’s time to grow our economy from the bottom up. It’s time for $10.10.”

The lawmakers were joined at today’s Capitol Hill news conference by Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Andy Shallal, owner of several Washington-area restaurants; Amie Crawford, a Chicago fast-food worker; and Gregory Reynoso, a New York pizza delivery driver, who discussed why raising the minimum wage is good for both the economy and for working families.

Congressional conservatives are sure to oppose the bill, contending it will be a job-killer.

“This ill-conceived and dangerous wage hike bill would be a disaster for the entry-level labor market,” Michael Saltsman, research director at the conservative Employment Policies Institute, said in a news release. “It would harm the employment prospects of thousands of entry-level and low-skill employees while failing to reduce poverty or boost the economy.”

But Miller and Harkin contend that’s not true, and note the minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power since its peak in 1968; if it had kept up with inflation since then, it would be worth approximately $10.56 per hour today. The minimum wage today pays only $15,000 per year, which is $3,000 below the poverty level for a family of three; this bill would boost the minimum wage to $21,000, lifting families above the poverty line.

The lawmakers say more than 30 million American workers will get a raise under their bill; more than half of whom are women, and 88 percent are adults. And they say increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will increase the Gross Domestic Product by nearly $33 billion over three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities; that economic activity will generate 140,000 new jobs over those three years, they say.

Miller – the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce – has championed increases to the federal minimum wage for years. He was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 after 10 years without any increases, and he led more than 100 House Democrats in introducing a bill last summer that would’ve brought it to $9.80 per hour; that 2012 bill was never heard in committee.

Harkin chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, And Pensions Committee.

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Miller leads Dems in pushing minimum wage hike

Rep. George Miller led more than 100 House Democrats today in introducing a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour.

The minimum wage was last increased in 2009, but this would be the first increase for tipped-workers in 21 years. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is expected to introduce companion legislation today.

“Raising the minimum wage at its core is about respecting and valuing work. No one who works hard every day and plays by the rules should live in poverty,” said Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat.

“Increasing workers’ paychecks will help millions of working families make ends meet and help the nation’s economy grow,” he said in a news release. “It is time for Congress to stand up for working people for a change and for Washington Republicans to stop using their position in Congress only to benefit wealthy special interests. They should join Democrats in ensuring a well-deserved raise for millions of honest, hardworking Americans.”

Miller was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 following 10 years without any increases.

Miller’s new H.R. 6211, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, would increase the minimum wage in three 85-cent steps, over three years, from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour; after that, the rate would then be indexed to inflation each year. The bill also would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from today’s $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

Among the bill’s 104 original cosponsors are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Expect this to be dead on arrival in the Republican-run House; many conservatives believe requiring employers to pay higher minimum wages makes them less likely to hire or retain less-skilled workers, thus increasing unemployment.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in January said his preference would be “to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI or with another index so it adjusts automatically over time” – much as these Democrats are now proposing after the initial three-step, three-year increase. He seemed to walk that statement back a bit in March, when he said he favors reviewing the minimum wage periodically but there’s “probably not a need to raise” it now.

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The Barbara Boxer Building Blitz, Day 2

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., followed up her news conference Wednesday in San Francisco with a luncheon address to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce today, hammering home a theme that America should build its way out of this recession.

“We can and we will move this great city forward,” she told the crowd of local politicos and businesspeople, noting she has an apartment just a few blocks away and comes to them “not only as your Senator but as your neighbor.”

She blasted President Bush for forcing Congress to strip out earmarks which included $300,000 for the city’s green-jobs initiative; $300,000 for the city’s “Grow Our Own” police recruiting initiative; $500,000 for the city’s police equipment and technology; $20 million to continue the Port of Oakland’s dredging project.

“There’s nothing in there that’s nefarious. They’re all legislative priorities that I’m very proud of,” she said, later adding “it isn’t pork when you’ve got a ship coming into Oakland’s port and it gets stuck — that’s beef.”

But as Democrats feel more and more optimistic about taking not only the White House but also a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, she said, “we could be on the verge of some changes here.”

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to trudge through recession, government should be looking to highway, water and other badly needed infrastructure projects to create jobs, she said, as well as to clean-energy “green jobs.”

“We worry about jobs going overseas, but you can’t put a solar panel on that house down the street from India — unless you have very long arms,” she quipped.

Chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has dominion over these sorts of projects, “is everything I’ve always dreamed about… and I can’t blow this opportunity,” she said, praising local leaders such as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Rep. Barbara Lee and Green for All founder/president Van Jones for being “committed to fighting economic hardship and global warming at the same time.”

Boxer once again defended her vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets, but once again said she would have preferred it if the government used its shareholder status with the bailed-out banks to take an active role in their lending policy. Any small business owners who are still having trouble regaining their lines of credit should call her office or Lee’s immediately, she invited.

Though she had referred to the presidential campaign somewhat obliquely during her remarks, she spoke more directly about it while taking questions from the audience. Asked what can be done to help the 37 million Americans living below the federal poverty line, Boxer told the audience to look at the candidates’ tax-break plans: with John McCain “it’s more of the same, we know that,” she said, while Barack Obama “says he’s going to give it to people who work.”

Also, she noted, “it took us 10 years — the biggest disgrace — to raise the minimum wage;” McCain has voted against such increases 19 times. “If he had his way, it would still be $3 – he has voted against it since then.”

She wrapped up the session by offering some rather fawning anecdotes about Obama, including how she herself hadn’t believed Dick Durbin — the senior U.S. Senator from Illinois — when he’d raved to her years ago what a marvelous Senator Obama would make. After seeing Obama in action in the Senate, she said, she was forced to admit to him that she’d initially doubted how good he would be, confessing “I was wrong — you’re better.”

And now, my confession. In my article yesterday, I wrote:

The crisis is all too real, Boxer noted: Almost 190,000 Californians lost their homes to foreclosure in the first nine months of the year, atop about 85,000 in 2007. “We’re talking about probably the number of people who live in Delaware. We are talking about a massive displacement in our communities.”

Delaware’s estimated 2007 population was 863,904. But the problem is still massive, and she said it will only get worse if California’s unemployment rate, now at 7.7 percent, keeps rising.

Boxer had indeed said almost 275,000 California homes have been lost to foreclosure from January 2007 through last month, but I’d missed the part where she said she was assuming several residents per home in making her Delaware analogy. Mea culpa, and thanks to the Senator for being kind when we discussed it today.