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San Jose’s Ash Kalra to launch Assembly bid

It’s never too early to start that 2016 campaign, folks.

Perhaps taking a page from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who already is pumping out endorsements of her 2016 campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra this Saturday will launch his Democratic campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Nora Campos as she’s term-limited out of her 27th District seat in 2016.

Ash KalraIf elected, Kalra, 43, would be the first Indian-American ever to serve in the California Legislature.

Kalra says he’ll be joined for the rollout – set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friendship Hall on East Santa Clara Street in San Jose – by California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, San Jose Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Donald Rocha, and more than 200 community members.

The 27th Assembly District encompasses much of San Jose, from downtown to the East Side, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Little Saigon, Alum Rock, Edenvale, Seven Trees, Communication Hill, Japantown, and the Monterey Corridor.

Kalra, first elected to the city council in 2002, represents District 2, the city’s southern region. He’s a professor at Lincoln Law School of San José, and earlier was an instructor at San José State University. Before his election, he worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent clients in Drug Treatment Court.

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Campos aims to curb police militarization, drones

Local police forces’ militarization would be curtailed on the ground and in the air, under bills introduced Monday by a South Bay lawmaker.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, introduced a bill that would forbid local law enforcement agencies from buying surplus military equipment without public input and approval from their local elected governing body, like a city council or a county board of supervisors.

Nora Campos“My bill is intended to help California communities and local law enforcement find the balance that is right for them. We are not a military state and our neighborhood streets shouldn’t be turned into warzones,” Campos said in a news release.

“Excessively militarizing the police isn’t necessarily in the best interest of a community,” she continued. “It does nothing to improve community relations when routine police actions, including crowd control, center on heavy military weaponry. Obviously, there are situations that require a strong law enforcement response and I will always support efforts to keep our law enforcement officers safe.”

Campos introduced another bill Monday that would require warrants for human surveillance collected by airborne drones; destruction of drone-collected data within one year; and limits on sharing that data.

“We must ensure that information collected by drones is not used against law-abiding people, and that people’s civil rights remain intact,” Campos said. “This is a common sense bill that stands on our tradition of fair treatment and justice under the law.”

The bill provides exceptions. For example, law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have to get a warrant before using a drone in response to exigent circumstances, traffic accidents, fires, environmental disasters, and searching for illegal vegetation in wilderness areas.

Gov. Jerry Brown in September vetoed another bill on this subject, AB 1327 by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, Campos noted, but “drones are here to stay and my bill will be a vehicle for finding the right balance. I look forward to working with all the interested parties.”

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CA15: Corbett mailer takes aim at Swalwell

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, has a new mailer in the field for her bid to unseat Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, taking aim at the freshman congressman’s experience and bona fides.

The mailer contrast “Eric Swalwell – not ready for Congress” – with less than one Dublin City Council term prior to his 2012 election to the House, his pro-development votes on that council, the Republican votes he took in his 2012 election, and his lowest ranking among Bay Area liberals from the National Journal – to “Ellen Corbett – 2 decades of leadership on progressive Democratic issues,” from her time as a San Leandro councilwoman and mayor to three terms in the Assembly and two in the state Senate.

Click to enlarge:
Corbett mailer - front

Corbett mailer - inside1

Corbett mailer - inside2

Corbett mailer - rear

Corbett appears to be off the mark in concluding that “of the 10 Democrats representing the Bay Area, Swalwell has, by far, the worst record on progressive issues.” According to the National Journal’s 2013 vote rankings, both Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, came in less liberal/more conservative than Swalwell.

Also, if some of these attacks on Swalwell sound familiar, it’s because Pete Stark attacked his relative inexperience, his GOP support and his Dublin City Council votes in 2012.

And Corbett’s mailer says “Swalwell is supported by the Washington, D.C. Democratic Party leadership” while Corbett “is endorsed by our local Democratic Clubs, representing grassroots, progressive activists here in our community.” True, though Swalwell won the California Democratic Party’s endorsement as well as those of the Tri-Valley Democratic Club and the Contra Costa Young Democrats – not as many local groups as Corbett lists on her mailer, but grassroots nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Swalwell is holding a fundraiser Wednesday night in San Francisco, headlined by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., with tickets ranging from $50 to $1,000.

UPDATE @ 11:39 A.M.: Corbett is holding a campaign meet-and-greet this Saturday evening, May 17 at the Hayward home of former Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele; it’s billed as an “important conversation about the future of our nation.” And Corbett also is flexing the muscle of her labor-union support, inviting backers to join her for phone banking on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons/evenings at the Alameda County Labor Council office in Oakland and on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from the United Food and Commercial Workers hall in Hayward.

UPDATE @ 10:35 P.M.: Corbett takes issue with my analysis.

“McNerney is not a Bay Area representative. His district is based in Stockton and Lodi,” she wrote to me in an email this evening. That’s true, but his 9th Congressional District still includes almost 86,000 registered voters in Contra Costa County, so I usually include him among Bay Area members; clearly she does not.

Corbett also disputed my noting that Swalwell isn’t the most conservative member of the Bay Area delegation. In her email, she provided ratings not only from the National Journal but also from the American Civil Liberties Union, Progressive Punch and Peace Action West which – when averaged together – indicate that he is. “Swalwell is clearly the least progressive member of the Bay Area Congressional caucus,” she wrote.

This may be true, but her mailer cited only the National Journal as a source; by that standard, Swalwell is rated 86th most liberal in the House, Zoe Lofgren is ranked 99th and McNerney is ranked 171st.

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Not much hubbub over veto of Oakland gun bill

Those who wanted Oakland to be able to pass its own, stricter gun laws seemed unwilling to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown for his veto Monday.

AB 180 would’ve let Oakland establish its own ordinances – stricter than state law – on registration or licensing of firearms.

“The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearms regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty,” Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, wrote in his veto message issued Friday. “I am mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence, but this is not the right solution.”

Rob BontaThe bill’s author – Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – seemed to take it in stride.

“I will continue to fight for the people of Oakland to be free from the gun violence which plagues our community,” said Bonta, who as chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay has held field hearings on the issue. “In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that he was ‘mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence. I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor as to how the state can continue to assist Oakland in the future.”

Oakland City Council in May unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by council members Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as the city attorney’s office – supporting AB 180.

“Though we’re certainly disappointed that AB 180 was vetoed, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate the victories of our advocacy,” Kaplan spokesman Jason Overman said Monday. “Governor Brown signed an important bill authored by Assemblymember Skinner to create new common-sense gun laws that seek to reduce gun violence, both in Oakland and across California.”

The Skinner bill Overman referred to is AB 48, which makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, lend, buy or receive any conversion kit that can convert a legal ammunition-feeding device into an illegal large-capacity magazine. The bill also makes it a crime to buy or receive a large-capacity magazine; manufacturing or selling such magazines already has been illegal in California for more than a decade.

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Bay Area-based gun control bills advance

As a bipartisan deal on increased background checks for gun sales appears to be headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate, some state lawmakers from the Bay Area are celebrating their own progress on gun-control measures yesterday in Sacramento.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee advanced a slew of gun bills on a series of party-line, 5-2 votes yesterday.

Mark DeSaulnierAmong them were two bills by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

SB 293 would require all newly made or imported handguns in California be “owner-authorized,” or “smart guns” personalized in a way that would allow them to be fired only by authorized persons. This requirement would take effect eighteen months after the state California Attorney General makes a finding that owner-authorized handguns are available for retail sale and meet stringent performance criteria specified in the bill.

And DeSaulnier’s SB 299 would require that every person whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is subsequently recovered, the local law enforcement agency would have to be notified within 48 hours as well.

“It is critical that we promote safe and responsible gun ownership,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “These bills will help us prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, and ensure they are only operated by their lawful owners.”

Leland YeeAlso passed by the committee were two bills by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

SB 47 would prohibit the use of “bullet buttons” or other devices that allow for easily changeable magazines on firearms deemed assault weapons by state law. Such firearms would only be allowed to have ammunition magazines holding up to 10 rounds, which could not be changed without dissembling the weapon; essentially, bullets would have to be loaded one-by-one from the top of the gun.

And Yee’s SB 108 would require all guns to be properly stored when an adult isn’t home. Current law requires that gun owners own a trigger lock or safety lock box for their weapon, but doesn’t require such a device be used on an idle firearm; Yee’s bill would specifically require that any firearm be stored with a trigger lock or in a lock box at a residence when the owner isn’t there.

“The horrors of Newtown and countless other mass shootings are still with us,” Yee said in his own news release. “With this in mind, it is our responsibility to make sure our laws protect the innocent from the threat of gun violence.”

In other Bay Area-based gun policy news, Oakland City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to pass a bill creating a bullet tax.

AB 187 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, would impose a 10 percent tax on ammunition to fund crime prevention efforts in the state’s most crime-ridden areas. Bonta had said last month that his bill might merge with another lawmaker’s proposed nickel-per-round tax to fund mental-health screening for children. He also said his tax is mostly about generating money to “combat the gun violence in our communities,” but could have the “secondary benefit” of stemming “rampant sales.”

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the resolution along with City Attorney Barbara Parker, issued a statement saying that the bill’s endorsement is part of an effort to work with state officials to stop gun violence.

“This bill would significantly improve our ability to make communities safer,” Kaplan said. “I’m committed to working with leaders at all levels of government to stop gun violence.”

AB 187 is scheduled to be heard Monday, May 6 by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

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Eric Swalwell pursues ‘Mobile Congress’ via Skype

Rep. Eric Swalwell seems to be following up on his campaign promise to produce a “Mobile Congress” that’s more accessible to constituents via video technology and social media.

Swalwell via SkypeSwalwell, D-Dublin, did a Skype video conference with the Fremont City Council during the council’s meeting Tuesday, offering an update on Congress’ doings and taking questions from council members and Mayor Bill Harrison.

Simple as it seems, Swalwell says he’s not aware of any other member of Congress ever connecting with a local government meeting like this before. Swalwell says he intends to make it a habit with city councils throughout his 15th Congressional District.

“Just because I am in Washington, D.C., does not mean that the work at home stops. I want to stay as close to the district as possible even when 3,000 miles away, and I will take advantage of technology to stay in touch with folks at home and keep constituents informed about what we’re doing,” Swalwell said in a news release. “The idea of ‘Mobile Congress’ is about bringing Congress closer to the people, and video conferencing into the Fremont City Council meeting was a step to achieving this.”

Said Harrison: “The City of Fremont was proud to be the first city to have Skyped with Congressman Swalwell. We are appreciative of the federal update he provided to our community and his continued commitment to Fremont.”