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Mike Honda introduces the ACRONYM Act

Rep. Mike Honda, annoyed by what he calls “an avalanche of verbiage in the name of every bill,” announced his introduction Wednesday, April 1 of the Accountability and Congressional Responsibility On Naming Your Motions (ACRONYM) Act of 2015.

The bill will prohibit the addition of words to the title of any bill just to create an acronym.

Sing it, Mike!“It’s gotten ridiculous,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “We’re getting bills that have over 10 words in the title just so they can spell something that’s supposed to be clever. The last straw was The Pension And Social Security Measuring Equivalence Permanent Linking of Everyone’s Actual Savings Environment (PASS ME PLEASE) Act, which only corrected a typo on Page 346 of the tax code.” The bill failed along party lines.

The ACRONYM Act was immediately endorsed by the Association of House Reading Clerks, the House Transcription Guild, the Association of Print Journalists, and the Teachers and Educators Resource Society of Editing (TERSE). The bill was condemned, however, by the Venerable Enclave of Repetitive But Official Stylistic Engineers (VERBOSE).

“My goal is to rid this Congress, and all those after it, of bills with names like the Utility and Nuclear Defensive Energy Rehabilitated Facility Upkeep and Notification Determination for Every Democracy (UNDERFUNDED) Act; the National Environmental Versus Economy, Reflection, and OUTcome OF Congressional Outlays, Minus Military Information Technology Terminology, Electricity Enhancement (NEVER OUT OF COMMITTEE) Act, and the People Are Ready To Inhabit Saturn And Neptune (PARTISAN) Act,” Honda added.

Honda said that as an educator for more than 30 years, it offends him to see the language so brutally abused. “And I was a science teacher! We wrote the book on adding unnecessary words and phrases to make things sound more important. But this has gotten out of hand.”

Honda has high hopes for the bill passing out of the Nation’s Operational and Clerical Habits Application and Notification for Congressional Excellence (NO CHANCE) House subcommittee.

(Yes, we get it. And a very happy April Fool’s Day to you too, congressman.)

Posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Bay Area students at White House Science Fair

Three Bay Area students’ projects will be among those featured in the White House Science Fair on Monday in Washington, D.C.

Holly JacksonHolly Jackson, 14, of San Jose, investigated the art of sewing from a unique, architectural point of view. After learning to sew in the 4th grade from her grandmother, Holly’s scientific curiosity led her to explore the relative strength and compatibility of threads and fabrics, important information to better understand innovative sewn materials for the 21st century. She engineered a device to measure the capacity and strength of stitched fabric, and designed experiments and procedures to yield precise measurements. Her research has potential applications in the design of high-performance protective gear, hazmat and space suits, parachutes, and more. Her work won the top award of $25,000 at the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS competition.

Natalie NgNatalie Ng, 19, of Cupertino, developed two micro-RNA-based prognostic models that can predict metastasis in breast cancer, and identified two micro-RNAs that independently impact the ability of breast cancer cells to metastasize. Ng’s project has important implications for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer diagnosed in women worldwide, according to the latest WHO report. A frustrating reality about cancer is that even when initial hormonal treatment seems to work, metastatic cancer cells can survive and spread to distant sites in the body. So, accurate prediction of metastatic outcome, such as with the aid of genetic signatures, can significantly improve the ability to predict the recurrence risk and to devise appropriate treatment strategies for individual cancer patients. Ng won First Place at the 2013 International BioGENEius Challenge.

Ruchi PandyaRuchi Pandya, 18, of San Jose, combining nanotechnology, biology and electrochemistry to use small biological samples – only a single drop of blood – to test for specific cardiac biomarkers. She developed a one-square centimeter carbon nanofiber electrode-based biosensor that has the potential to improve cardiac health diagnostics for patients around the world. Ruchi takes her passion for STEM education beyond the lab by mentoring 9th and 10th grade students on research and engineering as a teaching assistant for her school’s STEM-research class. She has competed at the California State Science Fair every year, and has won 18 category and special awards for scientific research. After graduation, Ruchi intends to major in materials science and engineering, and hopes to pursue a career as a technology entrepreneur.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: education, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Bay Area House members out and about Friday

Bay Area House members have a bunch of events planned for Friday.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will take part in a discussion with employers of the benefits of hiring trained ex-convicts at 9 a.m. Friday in the student lounge in Building R of Merritt College, 12500 Campus Dr. in Oakland. Others expected to take part include California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeff Beard; California Prison Industry Authority General Manager Charles Pattillo; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; Alameda County Assistant Sheriff Brett Keteles; and PWC Development President Prophet Walker, himself a former offender.

Mark DeSaulnierReps. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Sarbanes, D-Md., will take part in a roundtable discussion on the problem of big money in politics, at 11 a.m. Friday in Blum Hall B100 at UC-Berkeley. The event, hosted by the California Public Interest Research Group, will address local and federal efforts to curb big money’s influence by amplifying small donors’ voices, as well as the recent push for President Obama to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending. State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter, the Berkeley Forum and others also will take part.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will hold a forum to update the community about President Obama’s executive actions on immigration at 4 p.m. Friday at the School of Arts and Culture in Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave. in San Jose. The event also offers eligibility workshops to prepare families to apply for relief from deportation pending availability of applications this year. Lofgren, Lofgren, the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will be joined by Rep. Luiz Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Santa Clara County supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez; and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, campaign finance, Immigration, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Nora Campos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Campos’ office in disarray; chief of staff blamed

Assemblywoman Nora Campos’ office has continued to see tremendous staff turnover in recent years, and several former staffers say it’s due to a hostile work environment created by her chief of staff.

Nora CamposRecords obtained from the Assembly Rules Committee show that since Campos, D-San Jose, took office at the end of 2010, 46 staffers have started work for her.

About two dozen have left since Chief of Staff Sailaja Rajappan joined the office in November 2012. Former staffers say Rajappan was unduly antagonistic, dressing down aides in front of their peers for failing to meet her often-shifting demands and standards.

“It was stifling and humorless, people always looking over their shoulder, a culture fostered by the chief of staff who actively sowed dissention and division between her own staffers,” said Steven Harmon, a former reporter for this newspaper who served as Campos’ press aide from June 2013 through his firing by Rajappan last month. Harmon said he was given no specific reason for his firing.

“People leave generally to escape the punishing atmosphere, a culture of fear and oppressive management,” he said.

Rajappan said she and Campos would not answer questions by phone or email this week, and unless this story was delayed to accommodate a face-to-face interview with Campos next week, “we don’t have a comment on this situation.”

It’s not the first time Campos’ office has seemed to be in disarray; allegations about her being tough on staff date back to her days on San Jose City Council.

But these new claims come as Campos finds herself somewhat marginalized in the Assembly. Formerly the speaker pro tem – appointed by the speaker to preside over floor sessions – Campos found herself without any leadership post or committee chair as Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reorganized in November. Atkins late last month named Campos as “assistant Democratic leader – external relations,” a title that didn’t exist previously.

And the turnover has consequences for the 27th Assembly District’s constituents, particular when it comes to the skeleton-crewed district office. Each assembly district has approximately 466,000 constituents; Campos’ district office as of last month had two employees, while other Bay Area assembly members have from four to seven district staffers each.

Campos’ Capitol and district staff combined now numbers six or seven.

Three other staffers who left Campos’ office of their own accord in the past two years spoke on condition of anonymity, lest their comments hurt their Capitol or other public-policy careers. One described the office’s atmosphere as “pretty toxic.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | 33 Comments »

Lee & Honda demand non-military plan vs. ISIL

Two Bay Area House members introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the president to give Congress within 90 days a “comprehensive diplomatic, political, economic and regionally-led strategy to degrade and dismantle” the so-called Islamic State.

Not the omission of the word “military,” as authors Barbara Lee and Mike Honda are noted anti-war lawmakers, and among the House’s most liberal members.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“We can all agree that ISIL and their actions are horrific and barbaric,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “As we work to degrade and dismantle ISIL, we must be comprehensive in our strategy. National security experts have clearly stated that there is no military solution to ISIL. In order to ultimately degrade and dismantle ISIL, we must craft a robust regionally-led, political, economic and diplomatic strategy.”

That means considering the sectarian and ethnic tensions that gives rise to militant groups like this, as well as the group’s oil-based financial structure and revenue stream, she said.

“While this legislation prevents the deployment of U.S. ground troops, it does not close the door for military action,” she added. “Congress will have to debate and vote on any authorization for the use of force. Any comprehensive strategy must address the underlying political, economic and diplomatic elements that have contributed to ISIL.”

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Hose, said that despite the enemy’s undeniable brutality and formidable threat, “military strength alone will not defeat extremism. The only lasting solution is a comprehensive solution that addresses the political and economic concerns of the region – one in which the rights of all religious and cultural groups are respected.

“The U.S. must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to emphasize diplomatic, political, and economic solutions to work towards a lasting, inclusive future away from violent extremism,” he said.

Organizations supporting the bill include Win Without War, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Just Foreign Policy.

Diane Randall, the Friends Committee’s executive secretary, noted Lee was the lone vote opposing the authorization for use of military force immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Lee now is “proposing a repeal of that blank check for war,” Randall said, by urging “political and diplomatic solutions to the crises our failed policies helped create.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

House members react to net neutrality plan

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that he’s proposing strong new rules that would bar Internet and wireless providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against consumers’ access to particular websites and services – thus preserving “net neutrality.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The proposed update to net neutrality rules is a triumph for the American consumer. The American people asked for the strongest possible rules to ensure a free and open Internet, and Chairman Wheeler has heard their voices by proposing to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.

“The American people asked for net neutrality rules to apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and the updated rules again deliver.

“The American people asked for and received bright-line rules to prevent throttling of Internet content, prohibit paid prioritization, and a ban on blocking.

“Finally, the proposed update goes a step further to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against content providers at the point of network entry.

“This is the architecture of our digital future. The Chairman’s proposal deserves the vote of the full Commission.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“The record breaking number of comments received by the FCC left no doubt that the public supports strong net neutrality rules. I’m pleased Commissioner Wheeler has recognized that public sentiment today and put forward a good plan to use Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

“These protections, including bans on blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic based on source, application, or content, will bolster innovation and self-expression across the nation and around the world. Large technology companies, small app developers, movie and television writers, public advocacy organizations, and the public at large all stand to benefit from a free and open internet.

“Additionally, I am pleased the Chairman has put forth a plan that emphasizes restraint – forbearing from regulations unnecessary for achieving an open and competitive internet.

“I look forward to a swift consideration of the Chairman’s proposal by the full Commission.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Lofgren co-authors bill to update online privacy

A decades-old communications privacy law would be updated to better shield Internet users and wireless subscribers from overly broad government surveillance programs, under a bipartisan bill introduced Monday and coauthored by a Silicon Valley congresswoman.

The Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Ted Poe, R- Texas; and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., would modernize the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act by requiring government agencies to get a search warrant based on probable cause prior to intercepting or forcing disclosure of electronic communications or geolocation data.

The 1986 law – meant to set legal standards that law enforcement agencies must meet to access electronic communications – hasn’t kept up with technology, leaving modern user data with only weak, convoluted protection.

“Fourth Amendment protections don’t stop at the Internet, and Americans rightly expect Constitutional protections to extend to their online communications and location data,” Lofgren said in a news release. “Establishing a warrant standard for government access to cloud and geolocation provides Americans with the privacy protections they expect, and would enable service providers to build greater trust with their users and global trading partners.”

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act does not clearly require law enforcement to get a warrant to access Americans’ online communications – all it takes is a subpoena if the content is more than 180 days old.

ECPA also lacks any clear standards for law enforcement access to location information, such as tracking an individual’s cell phone location, leading to confusion in courts, compliance burdens for businesses, a competitive disadvantage with international businesses in countries with stronger laws against government access, and inadequate privacy for Americans.

This bill would:

  • Require the government to get a warrant to access wire or electronic communications content, or to intercept or force service providers to disclose geolocation data;
  • Preserve exceptions for emergency situations, foreign intelligence surveillance, individual consent, public information, and emergency assistance;
  • Prohibit service providers from disclosing a user’s geolocation information to the government in the absence of a warrant or exception;
  • Bar the use of unlawfully obtained geolocation information as evidence; and
  • Provide for administrative discipline and civil liability if geolocation information is unlawfully intercepted or disclosed.
  • Posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2015
    Under: U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

    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 »