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Anna Eshoo helps bring bill to ban horse doping

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency would have authority to clean up horse racing and enforce anti-doping standards in races with simulcast betting, under a bipartisan bill introduced yesterday.

H.R. 2012, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, was introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., with original cosponsors Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

horse injection“As we approach the third and final race of this year’s Triple Crown, it’s important that we shed light on a scandal that is plaguing horse racing in America — doping,” Eshoo said in a news release. “This cruel and dangerous practice with race horses not only causes an average of 24 horses to drop dead every week, but it is still permitted by law in the U.S. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will outlaw doping in horse racing and create a culture of safety for some of the most majestic creatures on earth.”

USADA is a non-governmental organization that’s designated as the official anti-doping agency for the U.S. Olympics and works with sports leagues to strengthen clean competition policies. It made big headlines last year by filing a charge, and ultimately imposing a lifetime ban, on champion cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Under this new bill, the agency would develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs for horseracing. It would also put an end to race day medication; set a harmonized medication policy framework for all races with interstate simulcast wagering; require stiff penalties for cheating, including “one and done” and “three strikes, you’re out” lifetime bans for the worst cases; and ensure racehorse drug administrations comply with veterinary ethics.

House and Senate committees held hearings last year at which jockeys, veterinarians and owners testified that abuse of legal and illegal substances are contributing to increased breakdowns of racehorses and deadly accidents.

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McCarthy leads House GOP junket to Silicon Valley

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is bringing a group of House Republicans on an “Innovate to Create” tour of Silicon Valley this week to meet with leading tech entrepreneurs and discuss how innovation leads to American job creation and economic growth.

“Silicon Valley is the cradle of twenty-first century innovation and the home to businesses that have effectively harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country so great. Visiting these companies and meeting with their leaders is a great opportunity for members of Congress to see firsthand how innovation leads to job creation and economic growth across the entire country and around the world,” McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a news release.

“Washington must be mindful of the impact its policies can have in either fostering or hindering this growth. House Republicans are committed to unshackling entrepreneurs from onerous government-manufactured burdens that threaten to dampen opportunities for development so that there are no limits to what America’s innovators can imagine for our future.”

The lawmakers will meet with representatives from Google, Facebook, the Internet Association Roundtable, Engine Advocacy, Good Technology and Palantir Technologies. Besides McCarthy, lawmakers on the tour include Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Ind.; George Holding, R-N.C.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.; Patrick Meehan, R-Pa.; Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.; and Steve Scalise, R-La.

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New bipartisan bill takes aim at gun trafficking

Firearms trafficking would become a federal crime, and “straw purchasers” who buy guns for convicted felons and others barred from buying guns on their own would face 20 years behind bars, under a new bipartisan House bill.

H.R. 452, the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013 introduced Monday by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Patrick Meehan, R-Pa.; Scott Rigell, R-Va.; and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., aims to address concerns of law enforcement officials who’ve testified before Congress in the wake of December’s schoolhouse shooting massacre in Connecticut.

The officials had told lawmakers that a dedicated firearms trafficking statute would help them combat the flow of thousands of firearms to violent criminals, international drug cartels, and other dangerous people. This proposal was included in recommendations made last month by President Obama and Vice President Biden for legislative action to prevent gun violence.

The authors held a news conference today on Capitol Hill, backed by a phalanx of uniformed law enforcement officers.

“We’re first and foremost here today as fellow Americans,” Rigell said. “This bill wisely tackles the deficiencies that exist right now in federal law.”

“As a lifetime member of the NRA, as a firearm owner and as a father … I’ve got a problem with people who break the law with firearms because it inevitably puts pressure on my rights,” he said, yet four of 10 straw purchasers face no meaningful consequence.

“It’s really great to have an NRA member standing with us on this important reform,” Maloney said.

The bill goes first to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Goodlatte had the NRA’s endorsement last year (as did Meehan, but not Rigell); it’ll be interesting to see how he handles this bill.

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Local Obama allies help fund fight against voter ID

Even as a Pennsylvania judge ruled today to block that state’s new voter ID law from taking effect before next month’s election, some major Bay Area supporters of President Obama’s announced they’ll fund efforts to stop other, similar laws.

The Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund announced it’ll give half a million dollars to combat what it calls voter disenfranchisement efforts in several states. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Common Cause Education Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Project Vote will receive $125,000 each.

Douglas Goldman“Our response to voter suppression is strategic,” Douglas Goldman said in a news release. “By supporting these distinct projects, we want to bring a coordinated approach to ensure that voting rights are protected.”

Douglas Goldman – a retired emergency physician, software company founder/chairman, and prominent philanthropist – is the son of Levi Strauss heirs Richard and Rhoda Goldman. He and his wife, Lisa, hosted a $35,800-per-person fundraising dinner for President Obama in May at their Atherton home. In thanking them for their hospitality, Obama said, “They have had my back from the get-go, at a time when not many people knew who I was.”

Goldman’s news release today cited a study recently published by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which said voter suppression tactics have multiplied since the 2010 mid-term election. Since then, about 38 states have instituted changes in voting procedures and requirements that include: proof of citizenship to register, shortened early voting timeframes, making it more difficult for third-party organizations to register people to vote, and photo ID requirements.

Republicans have claimed the laws aim to curb in-person voter impersonation fraud, but instances of that are extremely rare. Democrats say Republicans are passing the laws to keep young, minority, elderly and low-income voters away from the polls.

“Voter suppression is a wrong that must be righted,” Goldman said. “It is particularly sad to see special interests trying to encroach on America’s historical achievements in voting rights. Every grade-school student can recite the American maxim of ‘one person, one vote.’ Regretfully, however, these efforts direct us towards ‘one affluent, highly educated, longtime citizen; one vote.’ That is wrong! It is not the American way.”

As I’d written in last week’s story about California’s new Election Day voter registration law, Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said Democrats have a partisan motivation, too. “Those voters who are least attached to the system — who move the most, who are poor, who are students — are the groups that have the most problems registering but are also the groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.”

Hasen said “the ideals of equality” suggest letting as many eligible voters as possible cast ballots, but “over history we’ve fought over how broad the franchise would be.” It took constitutional amendments, the Civil War, litigation and legislation to get where we are today, he noted.

Recipients of the Goldman Fund grants intend to use the money to monitor polling places, manage voter hotlines, fund legal strategies, provide public education, and support other activities related to ensuring systematic and accessible voter registration, according to the fund’s news release.

The Goldmans created their foundation in 1992, and it has awarded nearly $60 million to more than 500 nonprofits in seven areas: democracy and civil liberties, education and literacy, environment, health and recreation, the Jewish community, reproductive health and rights, and San Francisco Bay Area institutions. The fund’s assets now total about $170 million.

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Boxer to introduce child-abuse reporting bills

This means you, Mike McQueary.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., says she’ll introduce a pair of bills tomorrow that she says will protect children from abuse by strengthening federal and state reporting requirements so abuse is reported to local law enforcement or a child protective agency.

“To protect our children from violence and abuse, anyone who sees or knows about a crime against a child must report it to local authorities. Right now, the federal government and 32 states have no such requirement in law,” Boxer said in her news release.

Boxer’s bills – the State Child Protection Act and the Federal Child Protection Act –require that anyone who witnesses or has reasonable suspicion of a crime against a child must report it to local law enforcement or a child protective agency. Under the State Child Protection Act, states that fail to comply would lose some of their federal justice assistance grants. The Federal Child Protection Act would require all persons on federal property to report child abuse.

California does not have comprehensive reporting requirements for child abuse, Boxer noted.

McQueary, a Penn State assistant football coach, apparently did not contact police after witnessing the alleged rape of a 10-year-old boy by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in an athletic facility shower in 2002.

UPDATE @ 3:48 P.M.: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., today introduced a similar bill requiring all states to pass and enforce a law requiring all adults to report instances of known or suspected child abuse; Boxer is the bill’s co-sponsor. The main difference between Boxer’s bill and Casey’s bill is the specific funding the federal government would withhold from states that don’t comply: Boxer’s threatens to revoke part of a state’s Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding from the Justice Department, while Casey’s would hold back funding through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act administered by the Health and Human Services Department.

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Senators urge dropping barriers to refinance

Both of California’s U.S. Senators are among more than a dozen from both sides of the aisle who urged the Obama Administration today to make administrative reforms to help millions of responsible homeowners refinance and take advantage of today’s record-low interest rates.

The lawmakers – writing to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco – said that with interest rates at 3.94 percent, it’s time to lower barriers that keep borrowers trapped in higher-interest loans and to address other hurdles that limit existing refinancing programs.

Specifically, they called for removing loan-to-value limits, which they said would provide the most at-risk borrowers an alternative to simply walking away from their mortgage; eliminating loan level price adjustments, which they say make a refinance less affordable, reduce the benefit to the borrower, and can’t be justified on loans on which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac already bear the risk; and ensuring that second lien holders don’t stand in the way of a refinance.

“Time is of the essence and we urge you to act quickly and aggressively to ensure that responsible homeowners receive the full benefit of these lower rates,” they wrote.

In addition to U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the letter was signed by Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
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