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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.

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | No Comments »

Mike Honda offers body armor, gun control bills

Rep. Mike Honda introduced a package of three bills this week that he said will increase public safety and aid law enforcement – and are sure to drive gun-rights activists into a rage.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, on Wednesday introduced H.R. 378, the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, which would prohibit the purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users such as first-responders and law enforcement. This is his second try at such legislation; the bill he introduced last summer died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

He also introduced H.R. 377, the Homemade Firearms Accountability Act, which would require that guns that are self-assembled or manufactured at home be regulated the same as those that are purchased. That means all homemade guns would have to have serial numbers. Here too, Honda tried this in the last Congress, but his bill died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

But H.R. 376, the Home-Assembled Firearms Restriction Act, is a new one – it would ban the sale and purchase of “incomplete lower receivers,” which are easily purchased and converted into functioning firearms.

AR15 incomplete lower receiverThis could be the most controversial of the three. There’s a big trade in incomplete lower receivers, which often let gun enthusiasts build weapons they wouldn’t be able to buy in stores due to existing laws.

“These bills are sensible, reasonable measures to limit the damage that can be inflicted by guns and those who mean harm with them,” Honda said in a news release. “We have seen too many people injured and killed by guns to just stand by and do nothing. These bills will modernize our gun laws to reflect how weapons are currently getting into the wrong hands.”

Honda’s office said the whole package is supported by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Newark Police Chief James Leal, Stop Handgun Violence, the Coalition for Peace Action, and the Violence Policy Center. The body-armor bill also is supported by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California State Sheriffs’ Association. And the serial-number bill also is supported by Third Way and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Honda’s office said he’ll be introducing legislation in each of this Congress’ first six weeks “that addresses a key part of the modern progressive agenda.” Last week, he offered four bills on manufacturing and technology; in coming weeks he’ll tackle human trafficking, STEM education, advanced technology, and the environment and energy infrastructure.

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015
Under: gun control, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Ro Khanna’s new project: Opposing landfill growth

Ro Khanna, the renegade Democrat who came within a few points of unseating Rep. Mike Honda last year, has found a new, local cause to champion: a fight against stinky garbage.

Ro KhannaThe former Obama administration official is helping to drum up opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill. Expanding the dump at the end of Dixon Landing Road by 15.1 million cubic yards, and delaying its estimated closure from 2025 to 2041, would create the Bay Area’s highest landfill. Residents of Milpitas and other nearby communities say the dump’s odors already are affecting their health and quality of life.

Khanna, 38, of Fremont, said Wednesday that Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves – who had endorsed Khanna in the 17th Congressional District showdown that Honda won by 3.6 percentage points – has appointed him “to be a liaison to community groups on this and to work with the city’s lawyers.

“I am involved in a public strategy to make sure Newby takes actions to mitigate the odors that are affecting residents in Milpitas, Fremont and even Santa Clara,” Khanna said. “Also I am opposed to the expansion permit.”

Khanna said he’s no longer of counsel to the Silicon Valley powerhouse law firm Wilson Sonsini, but he remains a visiting lecturer at Stanford’s Economics Department and may have an iron in the fire with a tech firm – stay tuned for that.

Khanna forwarded information about a demonstration the landfill’s opponents intend to stage at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday outside San Jose City Hall, before the city planning commission’s 6:30 p.m. meeting. Activists say they’ve gathered 10,000 petition signatures opposing the expansion permit since November; they want the planning commission to deny the permit and order an odor-mitigation study.

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Under: 2014 general, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

State lawmakers react to Brown’s inaugural speech

From state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose:

Jim Beall“This may have been Gov. Brown’s best State of the State address. He laid out a long-term vision for California’s future. As chairman of the Senate transportation committee, I agree with his mission to maintain our roads, highways, and bridges. By investing in infrastructure maintenance and effective mass transit projects we can cut pollution and create new jobs. The BART extension to San Jose is projected to generate 19,000 jobs (one job for one year). We have to keep the state moving and I’ve introduced SB 9 to allow multi-year funding under the Cap and Trade program for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I also agree with the Governor that we can no longer make students the ‘default financiers’ of our colleges. SB 15 would freeze tuition rates and that’s why I co-authored it. I believe there has to be a more public investment in education rather than have the students pick up higher and higher percentages of the cost. The Governor was right to point out that California cannot afford to pour more money into the prison system. This costs higher education dearly because it is money that could be spent on our universities.’’

From Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin:

Catharine Baker“As we prioritize our budget, we must focus on what is needed for a strong and prosperous state. Education, transportation, and an environment that promotes job growth must be our focus in the coming years.

“I was pleased to hear the Governor’s commitment to some shared priorities we have. Ensuring our schools receive the necessary funding to provide all of California’s children the education they deserve should remain a top priority. We need to ensure that funding for education is going directly to the classroom to benefit our students and teachers, and not to a bloated administrative bureaucracy. And we cannot continue to defend the status quo and the policies addressed in the Vergara decision. Those policies are denying students the opportunity to get a good education. Finally, in the true spirit of local control, we must eliminate the cap on savings reserves that was implemented last year. It endangers the financial health of every school district in our community.

“Republicans and Democrats worked together last year and supported the rainy day fund, and the state needed that reform. Our school districts need a rainy day fund, too, and state law now prohibits them from having the savings they need to protect against cuts. Ensuring we have reserves to continue necessary programs in the midst of a fiscal crisis is the right thing to do. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the cap on reserves is eliminated.

“As Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Committee, I will work to fight tuition increases that hinder our students’ ability to attend college, and I hope the Governor will join me in this pledge. Under the UC proposed tuition hike, students and their families will pay 25 percent more for their degrees in 2020 than they are paying today. Lawmakers and the UC must work together on long-term planning to keep higher education affordable, and I will fight for that.

“The Governor and I agree that it is time Republicans and Democrats come together to address California’s transportation needs. We have a crumbling infrastructure that was built for a population a fraction of the size it is now. But directing public funds to High Speed Rail as it starts breaking ground this week is a poor use of taxpayer dollars. We should be breaking ground on BART to Livermore, expanding parking at BART, and improving our road capacity instead of funding the bullet train project. This is money that should be spent easing congestion and increasing mass transit in the most high traffic regions of the state.

“I applaud the Governor and my predecessors that have worked to turn our economy around over the past few years. There is a still a great deal of work to be done, and our economy is fragile. Unemployment is dropping, but there are still too many Californians out of work and too many businesses leaving our state. We have to make it easier for employers to do business here. I would like to have heard the Governor address this, but I look forward to working with him on improving California’s business economy.”

More from the Bay Area’s lawmakers, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 5th, 2015
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Catharine Baker, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jim Beall, Phil Ting | 1 Comment »

Assemblyman decries city council replacement

One of new Assemblyman Kansen Chu’s first acts will be to decry the process by which his San Jose City Council replacement is being chosen.

Kansen ChuAs my colleague Mike Rosenberg reports, the council is slated to vote Friday afternoon, in its last meeting of the session, on an interim appointment before a special election next year to replace Chu, who left his District 4 council seat for the state Assembly earlier this month.

Mayor-elect Sam Liccardo and outgoing Mayor Chuck Reed have named former District 4 councilwoman Margie Matthews – who endorsed Liccardo for mayor – as their pick. The proposed appointment is seen by the mayor-elect’s critics as a political maneuver that could tip the balance of power at City Hall in his favor. But Liccardo and his supporters say it’s merely a chance to ensure the District 4 residents of north San Jose are represented on key issues, as the winner of the upcoming election will not take office until as late as August.

Chu issued a news release late Thursday saying he’ll hold a news conference Friday morning at San Jose City Hall along with Councilman Ash Kalra and representatives from various community groups to “express their outrage at the anti-democratic, unethical tactics” Liccardo is using to fill the seat.

“The effort to hastily appoint a caretaker to represent the constituents of Council District 4 has been an example of government secrecy and deception,” the news release said. “With moving application deadlines, no community outreach, and an application and interview process with a pre-identified and selected candidate, the community has had little opportunity to voice its concerns about the potential candidates or the process being used.”

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Kansen Chu | 8 Comments »

Honda touts manufacturing bill within CRomnibus

Some last-minute poison pills kept Rep. Mike Honda from voting for the $1.1 “CRomnibus” spending bill approved by Congress, but he sees a few bright spots in it for Silicon Valley nonetheless.

And there’s little that Honda – who just eked out a narrow electoral win last month over fellow Democrat Ro Khanna – would rather do these days than deliver a bit of good news for his district.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, said Tuesday that the CRomnibus included the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act. This Republican-led, bipartisan bill that the House had approved back in September authorizes $400 million to create up to 15 Centers for Manufacturing Innovation – regional hubs where universities and colleges, small and large manufacturers, and government can address manufacturing challenges and bring ideas from lab to market. They’ll also work toward producing a skilled workforce to meet the nation’s manufacturing needs.

Honda believes the initiative will lead to more domestic manufacturing and job creation across the nation. He anticipates that Silicon Valley will be among the first applicants seeking to create such a center, probably in order to develop the next generation of semiconductor manufacturing tools.

IPC – a global trade association serving the printed board and electronics assembly industries, their customers and suppliers – issued a statement Monday thanking Honda for his role in RAMI’s passage.

“Among the bill’s earliest and most steadfast champions, Congressman Honda keenly appreciates the connection between the strength of America’s manufacturing base and the incredible innovation that takes place in his district in Silicon Valley.” IPC President and CEO John Mitchell said. “Representing all facets of the electronics industry, IPC’s members — including the many located in Congressman Honda’s district — look forward to the collaboration among private and public sector stakeholders at the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation centers that this legislation will establish.”

Honda was proud of the bipartisan effort behind this bill and the greater CRomnibus, but said he had no choice but to vote against it after two riders were added that he staunchly opposed – one to roll back part of the Dodd-Frank banking reforms that prevent taxpayers being left on the hook to insure risky derivatives trading, and another to vastly increase the amount of money individuals can contribute to political parties.

“I had to make that decision (to vote nay) … That’s the way the sausage is made in Congress,” he said. “But I’m glad we got the RAMI in and also the next round of funding on BART, about $150 million” for the Berryessa extension.

Honda spoke Tuesday as he prepared to leave for South Korea, where he’ll spend the next few days meeting with business and government leaders including Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert, as well as visiting U.S. troops and surviving victims of World War II sexual enslavement.

He said his priority is to discuss what South Korea is doing to encourage American businesses to thrive there, and the investment and innovation opportunities South Korean businesses have in the Bay Area. He’ll be delivering a policy speech at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul about how the two nations can strengthen their economic and political relations; he also has a dinner scheduled with the Korea International Trade Association and its chairman, as well as a meeting with the vice minister of trade, industry and energy.

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
Under: economy, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Bay Area’s big cities have gun buybacks Saturday

The Bay Area’s three biggest cities are holding gun buyback events Saturday, a day short of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre’s second anniversary.

2013 San Jose buybackSan Jose’s event runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (or sooner, if the money runs out) at P.A.L. Stadium, 680 S. 34th St., hosted by the San Jose Police Department, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, Councilman Xavier Campos, County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

“I am proud to have started this event last year, that saw 463 weapons get turned in, and even more proud that it will be continuing this year and tentatively for any years to come,” Xavier Campos said. “The community has spoken loud and clear that public safety is number one. This event will look to help take dangerous, unused, and illegal weapons off the street in an effort to help our Police Department make our neighborhoods and our city safe for all.”

Oakland’s and San Francisco’s events are partially funded by Gun by Gun, a tech nonprofit that crowdfunds gun buybacks. As of Thursday, the group had raised more than $70,000 from more than 600 individual donors for buybacks in four cities.

“The crowdfunding campaign is designed to put power back in the hands of the community” said Gun by Gun cofounder Ian Johnston, who was 10 when he lost his father to gun violence. “People are frustrated by the rate of gun violence we experience and they want to see results.”

Oakland’s buyback will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd., co-hosted by the Oakland Police Department. Open only to Oakland residents, organizers will offer up to $100 for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and up to $200 for firearms that meet the state’s definition of assault weapons.

San Francisco’s buyback will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at United Playaz, 1038 Howard Street. Tech investor Ron Conway is matching the first $10,000 in donations to the crowdfunding campaign. The San Francisco Unified School District this week sent home letters to every student’s parent encouraging them to take part in the buyback.

“Gun homicides are the leading cause of death for our young people in San Francisco,” said school board member Matt Haney. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

But critics say this isn’t the way to curb violence.

“Gun buybacks are not only largely meaningless, they are actually dangerous, because they do absolutely nothing to address the underlying issues of violence in our society. They do however offer a great photo opportunity,” Eric Wooten, president of the Liberal Gun Owners Association, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday by the San Francisco Chronicle. “But after the last photo is snapped and the last tweet tweeted, the entrenched inequities and other societal problems that actually cause violence will still be left unaddressed.”

Unemployment, a biased War on Drugs, and educational disparities are the roots of violence, he wrote.

“What you won’t hear from those supporting this gun buyback is that the number of guns netted is probably less than the number of guns legally bought in the greater Bay Area in just the few hours it took to hold the buyback,” Wooten wrote. “If we want to actually reduce violence, the effort spent on today’s gun buyback would be far better focused on education or other social programs aimed at improving equality of opportunity.”

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2014
Under: gun control | 38 Comments »

No leadership post or committee chair for Campos

Notably missing from the lists of Assembly leadership and committee-chair assignments sent out in recent weeks was Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

Campos wields the gavel in January 2013Campos, D-San Jose, who has just been sworn in for her third term, had served from August 2012 through this month as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, a leadership position in which she presided over floor sessions on the speaker’s behalf.

But when new Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her leadership team Nov. 25, she named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as speaker pro tempore and freshman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as assistant speaker pro tempore. And when Atkins named committee chairs Dec. 3, Campos’ name wasn’t on that list, either.

Campos’ tenure hasn’t been without blemishes. San Jose Inside reported earlier this year that she has developed a reputation as being abusive toward her staff, which allegedly has made it hard for her to recruit and retain aides.

Atkins’ office declined to comment Monday. But an Assembly staffer familiar with the situation said the decision had nothing to do with Campos’ office, which apparently has stabilized significantly this year.

“It’s more about what the Speaker wanted, and I think there were some members that were not that happy with her (Campos) presiding – they didn’t think she was the best spokesperson for the Assembly,” the staffer said, adding that once the decision had been made to replace Campos with Mullin, “there really wasn’t anyplace else to put her.”

Campos most likely will get some new, better committee assignments so that she can pursue some issues in which she has shown special interest, the staffer added.

Campos spokesman Steve Harmon said she’s happy with her lot.

“To her, it’s never been about being the face of the Assembly or a big-shot title. It has always been about her doing work. And, although it was an honor, she was far less concerned with titles and focused on the work and the legacy she leaves behind,” Harmon said Monday. “She enjoyed serving as Speaker pro Tem, but wanted to move forward to meet new challenges. She’s taken up an important role on the Assembly Rules committee, and is now using the freedom and flexibility of building relationships with her colleagues to champion issues that are important to her.”

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos, Toni Atkins | 4 Comments »

Lofgren defends Obama at immigration hearing

Rep. Zoe Lofgren rose to President Obama’s defense Tuesday during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on his “executive overreach on immigration.”

In his opening statement, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the president “has just announced one of the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president.”

“The Obama Administration has crossed the line from any justifiable use of its authority to a clear violation of his constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws,” Goodlatte said, adding there’s a difference between setting prosecutorial priorities and “setting enforcement-free zones for millions of unlawful aliens.”

“By boldly proclaiming that there will be no possibility of removal for millions of unlawful aliens, President Obama eliminates entirely any deterrent effect our immigration laws have,” he said. “He states plainly that those laws can be ignored with impunity. Such actions will entice others around the world to come here illegally, just like his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program encouraged tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien minors and families from Central America to make the dangerous trek to the United States.”

“By acting lawlessly and assuming legislative power, the Obama Administration is driving full speed ahead to a constitutional crisis, tilting the scales of our three-branch government in his favor and threatening to unravel our system of checks and balances,” Goodlatte concluded. “Rather than working constructively with the new men and women Americans elected to represent them in Congress, the President is making his relationship with Congress increasingly toxic by unconstitutionally acting on his own. Tragically, President Obama’s shortsighted actions have further set back congressional efforts to enact legislation to reform our broken immigration system.”

But Lofgren, D-San Jose, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, said while the president can’t change the law, he can take action within it – as has every president since Eisenhower.

“The President’s actions are lawful. They are also smart, because they will allow DHS to focus limited resources on serious criminals, recent arrivals, and gang members. Finally, they are consistent with basic American values, like accountability, family unity, and compassion, Lofgren said.

“The legal question isn’t even a close one,” she later added. “The President has clear legal authority to defer removals when it’s in the national interest. Chief Justice Roberts reaffirmed that principle just two years ago – our immigration laws recognize this authority – past Presidents have used this authority regularly. Our President is doing so now and I, for one, am grateful that he is.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Under: Immigration, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

CA17: A little more Khanna-Honda post-mortem

My story in today’s editions explores why Ro Khanna’s campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Honda didn’t succeed, but there was more to my interview with Khanna than we had room for in this article.

I sat down with Khanna minutes after he delivered his concession speech Friday night. At that time, Honda led in unofficial returns by 3,658 votes, or 3.66 percentage points. Another 27,853 votes have been tallied in Santa Clara and Alameda counties since then, and as of Monday morning, Honda leads by 4,637 votes, or 3.62 percentage points.

CONGRESSMAN CANDIDATE RO KHANNAFirst, some more math. Khanna had said Friday that he and his consultants had hoped 150,000 to 160,000 votes would be cast in this race; in a district of about 296,000 voters, that would’ve meant turnout of about 51 to 54 percent. As of Monday morning, only about 128,000 ballots have been tallied – a turnout of only about 43 percent – and as Khanna notes in the story, his key constituencies of young voters, independents and Republicans were among the least likely to vote.

In Election Day’s earliest returns – absentee ballots that came in early enough that they’d already been processed by 8 p.m. Tuesday – Honda led by about 7 percentage points, a lead that narrowed later that night and in the following days. Khanna said that indicates Honda did better among earlier voters, while he was far more competitive among those who did their vote-by-mail ballots at the last minute or who voted at the polls on Election Day.

“We’d always said this was a race against time,” he said Friday. “If we’d had a couple more weeks, maybe we would’ve pulled ahead.”

Also, Khanna was more effusive in his praise of his deepest-pocketed supporter than I could fully explain in the story.

I had pressed Khanna about the $857,000 spent by Californians for Innovation, the super PAC formed by his supporters to do independent spending on his behalf; much of that spending came in the campaign’s final month, and about half that money was contributed late enough that the donors’ identities won’t be revealed until December.

I asked whether this had been a double-edged sword for him – the radio ads and mailers kept his name out there after his own campaign had run out of money, but the independent and somewhat shadowy spending might’ve discomfited some supporters who had been proud to back a candidate who shunned PAC and lobbyist donations to his own campaign. Khanna said he was OK with it.

“I was very open to say that if there were supporters who wanted to come to our defense, they should” – and he’s thankful that they did, he said. “I’m glad that there was someone there to set the record straight, I didn’t discourage it… but I think it’s unfortunate that we had to go there.”

The biggest super PAC donors – at $250,000 – were Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife. Honda’s late ads noted Arnold had worked at Enron, a company which before its collapse in 2002 had gamed California’s electricity grid to cost the state’s residents billions of dollars in surcharges.

“I do know John Arnold, we had a long conversation about pension reform and his desire for new leadership in the Democratic Party,” Khanna said, noting Arnold has also supported Democrats like outgoing San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. “The idea that he’s a right-wing kind of person is just false… He and his wife are an incredibly decent couple and I’m very proud of their support. I regret that they were attacked in the campaign, I think they’re good people.”

Posted on Monday, November 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »