Part of the Bay Area News Group

Bill introduced to ban filtered cigarettes

A new Assembly bill would ban all filtered cigarettes in California.

Assemblyman Mark Stone says he’s approaching this not as a health issue, but as an environmental issue: Discarded butts are sullying the state and costing millions.

Mark Stone“Cigarette filters leach dangerous chemicals into the environment, kill animals that eat them, and cause communities to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for clean-up,” Stone, D-Santa Cruz, said in a news release issued Tuesday. “California has many laws in place to curtail cigarette litter, but people continue to illegally discard tons of cigarette butts each year. The current laws aren’t sufficient to address this major problem.”

Unfiltered cigarettes would remain legal under Stone’s bill. Stone spokeswoman Arianna Smith noted filters for decades have been reported to be ineffective, given that smokers who use them take deeper and more frequent puffs to get the same amount of nicotine into their bodies.

Spokespeople for tobacco giants Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the bill.

Stone – who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection – said a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported 845,000 tons of cigarette butts become litter around the globe each year. In California, they remain the single most collected item of trash collected by volunteer groups and organizations that conduct parks, rivers and beach cleanup events.

butts“Our volunteers have collected 466,000 cigarette butts in our clean-ups just around the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary alone since 2007,” Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores, said in Stone’s release. “This is by far the most pervasive type of litter in our environment. Our community has attempted to educate the public about the dangers of this toxic litter but it has not made a significant dent in the problem.”

The California Department of Transportation has estimated the costs to clean up cigarettes on roadways at $41 million annually, Stone said, while San Francisco estimates its costs for cleanup at $6 million annually.

“An estimated 3 billion toxic, plastic cigarette butts are littered in the Bay Area each year,” Allison Chan, pollution prevention campaign manager for Save The Bay, said in Stone’s release. “Millions of them make their way into our waterways and the Bay through storm water systems, where they pose an environmental threat that we can no longer ignore.”

Dr. Thomas Novotny – a San Diego State University professor and former Assistant U.S. Surgeon General who is CEO of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project – said in Stone’s release that such a ban “will substantially reduce the burden of cigarette butt waste cleanup for our communities, help protect our treasured beaches and wildlife, and reduce blight in our urban living environments.”

UPDATE @ 3:43 P.M.: David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA’s parent company, said in an email that the tobacco giant “knows that cigarettes are often improperly disposed of,” and uses its packaging and websites to discourage smokers from littering. The company also since 2002 has collaborated with Keep America Beautiful to launch a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, which in 2012 rolled out 195 new grant-supported programs across the nation.

“During the past six years, CLPP consistently has cut cigarette butt litter by half based on local community measurements taken in the first four to six months after implementation, as measured by Keep America Beautiful,” Sutton wrote. “Survey results also showed that as communities continue to monitor the program, those reductions are sustained or even increased over time.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Environment, Mark Stone | 2 Comments »

Lawmakers urge DOJ to back off pot dispensaries

Four Bay Area House members are urging the area’s top federal prosecutor to halt what they say is ongoing “hostility toward dispensaries” that provide marijuana under the state’s medical marijuana law.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, sent a letter to Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District. In says, in part:

“It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries. Moreover, it appears to directly counter the spirit of Deputy Attorney General Cole’s memo, and is in direct opposition to the evolving view toward medical marijuana, the will of the people and, by now, common sense. Additionally, the State of California has also received legislative direction and guidelines from California Attorney General Kamala Harris on responsibly delivering medical marijuana.

“It is our view that the intent of the Justice Department is to not enforce its anti-marijuana laws in conflict with the laws of states that have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses. California understands the urgency toward putting together a statewide regulatory system, and we can all be helpful in that regard, but some municipalities, including Oakland, have already done an extraordinary job regulating medical marijuana. California is moving in the correct direction in a measured manner, and should be given the opportunity to do so.”

Several Bay Area dispensaries have been targeted by federal prosecutors, and Alameda County supervisors this month adopted a resolution urging the federal government to back off.

In a news release announcing the lawmakers’ letter, Lee said it’s “far past time for commonsense and economic sense to prevail in policies and actions related to medical cannabis dispensaries that serve the patients in our communities. This harassment and constant threat of prosecution should end.”

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Uncategorized | No Comments »

More reactions to Obama’s health insurance delay

We’ll be posting a full story about reactions to President Obama’s plan to delay cancellation of some individual health insurance plans that don’t meet standards set by the nation’s new law, but here are a few pols for whom we didn’t have space in that article.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the president’s proposal a “good step” that’s “very helpful in the implementation of the law.” She also spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about Republicans’ constant opposition to this law.

“This is typical of Republicans through the generations. Every time we’ve tried to expand health care, they’ve opposed it and opposed it and tried to derail it,” she said, adding that the new insurance law can be fixed “but that’s not good enough for my Republican friends. They just want to tear it down, just like they wanted to tear down Medicare.”

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in an email that he supports the president’s fix, which “continues to provide more choices without undermining the strengths of the new health care law. Implementing any new law creates a few bumps. We should be look for minor tweaks that strengthen the law rather than return to the old system that left millions of Americans without quality coverage.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, issued a statement calling Obama’s proposal “a step in the right direction towards fixing issues with the health care law. This was a promise that was made and it is a promise that should be kept.”

“I’ve said from the beginning that the health care reform law isn’t perfect,” Thompson said. “But instead of engaging in partisan bickering and playing blame games, I want to work to make health care reform better. … If we quit the partisan games, we can build on the reforms made in Obamacare, work out the imperfections, and make sure every American can get quality, affordable health insurance. That is a goal worth fighting for.”

Posted on Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, healthcare reform, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 27 Comments »

Boxer: Santa Cruz cop killer was military snafu

At a U.S. Senate hearing today on sexual assault in the military, Sen. Barbara Boxer cited the deadly shootings of two Santa Cruz detectives by Army veteran Jeremy Goulet as an example of military justice gone awry.

Boxer, D-Calif., testified before the Boxer testified at the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel’s oversight hearing.

“Last month, an Army veteran shot and killed two Santa Cruz police detectives who were attempting to question him over a sexual assault allegation,” Boxer said. “In the aftermath of this shooting, we learned that even though the former soldier had faced two separate rape charges while serving in the Army, charges against him were dropped and he was discharged without a conviction as part of a plea bargain.”

“Now what is it going to take to convince the military that sexual assault is a violent and vicious crime and that those who perpetuate it are capable of other violent crime—including murder?” Boxer asked. “What is it going to take? It is a vicious, violent crime, and those capable of that vicious crime are capable of other crimes—yes, murder.”

Boxer’s comments echo those that former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made last week at the two slain officers’ funeral.

“We do know that he had a history of sexual violence both in and out of the military. And for whatever reason, people somehow always looked the other way,” Panetta had said, acknowledging that military sex offenders were not always prosecuted for the offenses they committed. “And at some point, somebody pays a price.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

STOP READING THIS BLOG AND GO VOTE!!!

It’s Election Day – get out there and vote, if you haven’t already!

California’s polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you haven’t put your vote-by-mail ballot in the mail yet, DON’T – it won’t be counted unless it reaches the registrar’s office by 8 p.m. tonight, and postmarks don’t matter. You can drop it off by hand at any polling place in your county, or at the registrar’s office; don’t forget to sign the outside of the envelope.

If you have any questions about your ballot, your polling place or anything else having to do with this election, contact your county registrar:

Alameda County, www.acgov.org/rov, 510-267-8683
Contra Costa County, www.cocovote.us, 925-335-7800
Marin County, www.marinvotes.org, 415-473-6456
Monterey County, www.montereycountyelections.us, 831-796-1499
Napa County, www.countyofnapa.org/Elections, 707-253-4321
San Francisco, www.sfgov2.org/index.aspx?page=599, 415-554-4375
San Joaquin County, www.sjcrov.org, 209-468-2885
San Mateo County, www.shapethefuture.org, 650-312-5222
Santa Clara County, www.sccvote.org, 408-299-8683
Santa Cruz County, www.votescount.com, 831-454-2060
Solano County, www.solanocounty.com/depts/rov, 707-784-6675
Sonoma County, vote.sonoma-county.org, 707-565-6800

To report election fraud, call the California Secretary of State Office‘s voter hotline: 800-345-8683

Posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 Contra Costa County election, 2012 presidential election, 2012 State Senate election, 2012 U.S. Senate election | 7 Comments »

Bay Area gets $7.4 mil to hire veterans as cops

The U.S. Justice Department today announced more than $111 million in Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant funding awards to more than 220 cities and counties to create or save about 800 law enforcement positions. All of the 600-plus new positions must be filled by veterans who served at least 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001.

In the greater Bay Area, Alameda County got $1,875,000 for 15 positions; Antioch got $1,502,680 for five positions; Hayward got $3,602,644 for nine positions; and Santa Cruz got $375,000 for three positions.

Vice President Joe Biden, on a conference call with reporters today, said the administration believes veterans who had to “fight like hell” overseas shouldn’t have to fight quite so hard to find jobs here at home.

The COPS Hiring Program makes grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire community policing officers, providing the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years. President Obama announced in February that preference for this year’s COPS and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants would be given to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans to serve as police officers and firefighters.

Along with the pledge to hire military veterans, grantees for the COPS 2012 Hiring Program were selected based on fiscal need and local crime rates. Also factored in was each agency’s strategy to address specific problems such as increased homicide rates and gun violence.

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012
Under: Obama presidency, Public safety, veterans | No Comments »

New video explains state’s spring storm disaster

Even as Gov. Jerry Brown tries to convince federal officials to provide aid and funding for California counties hit by severe storms in March, the California Emergency Management Agency today released a new video detailing those storms’ impact.

The nine-minute video describes “how a haunting low pressure system parked itself over the Pacific Ocean last March pushing relentless bursts of heavy rains, paralyzing snow and high winds throughout the state over a 12-day period,” CalEMA said in its news release.

The state calculated more than $50 million in damages and Brown declared a state of emergency in 17 counties. Capitola and other parts of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties were particularly hard-hit

“It’s difficult for people to appreciate the sheer magnitude of this disaster because of the wide spread affects in different parts of the state,” Acting CalEMA Secretary Mike Dayton said in the release. “We decided the best way to educate people about this disaster was to document the impacts on video and talk to experts who explain how unusual, and powerful, this storm system really was.”

Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Anti-nuclear ballot measure starts circulating

California’s nuclear power plants would be shut down under a proposed ballot measure that Secretary of State Debra Bowen cleared today for collection of petition signatures.

Here’s the Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure:

NUCLEAR POWER. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Extends statutory preconditions, currently applicable to new operation of any nuclear power plant, to existing Diablo Canyon and San Onofre operations. Before further electricity production at these plants, requires California Energy Commission to find federal government has approved technology for permanent disposal of high-level nuclear waste. For nuclear power plants requiring reprocessing of fuel rods, requires Commission to find federal government has approved technology for nuclear fuel rod reprocessing plants. Both findings are subject to Legislature’s rejection. Further requires Commission to find on case-by-case basis facilities will be available with adequate capacity to reprocess or store power plant’s fuel rods. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Likely major impacts on state and local finances in the form of decreased revenues and increased costs, at least in the billions of dollars annually, due to disruptions in the state’s electricity system and electricity price increases. Potential major state costs to compensate utilities for investment losses resulting from the mandated shutdown of their nuclear power plants. Potential avoidance of future state and local government costs and lost revenues resulting from the unlikely event of a major nuclear plant incident. (11-0008.)

Proponent Ben Davis Jr. of Santa Cruz County has until Oct. 20 to collect valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters in order to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Davis has taken on this industry before: He apparently drafted what became a successful 1989 ballot referendum that shut down the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station near Sacramento.

Davis’ request for a title and summary for his “Nuclear Waste Act of 2011” was filed March 30, a few weeks after the 9.0 earthquake and resultant tsunami that devastated Japan and triggered a crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Under: ballot measures, energy | 9 Comments »

Brown declares emergency in tsunami counties

Gov. Jerry Brown has just issued an emergency proclamation for Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan, which generated a water surge along the California coast, causing damage to ports, harbors and infrastructure.

Such proclamations clear the way for state and federal emergency aid.

Read the proclamation’s full text, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 11th, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers urge banks to allow aid for jobless

Five Northern California members of Congress are pressuring mortgage servicers to work with a new federally funded program in California intended to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program provides qualified unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 a month for up to six months to help pay their mortgage. But according to the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, if the monthly mortgage exceeds $3,000, the servicers won’t accept any payment at all, even if the homeowner could send a second check to cover the difference between what is owed and what the program covers. As a result, unemployed homeowners who could avoid foreclosure proceedings thanks to this program are instead at risk of failing to pay their mortgage and landing in foreclosure.

“If this program is to have meaningful success, mortgage servicers are going to have to get on board with processing these payments,” Miller said in a news release. “Refusing to accept dual payments is unacceptable and is a disservice to the homeowners who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes while they look for work. Homeowners shouldn’t have to forfeit their homes because of bureaucratic intransigence by banks and servicers.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, another of the letter’s signers, said “it’s time that banks and servicers become part of the solution and not the problem.

“It’s ridiculous that servicers and banks are unwilling to participate in a program that will help protect the value of the very asset on which their loan is based on,” she said. “I find it deeply troubling that servicers would have borrowers default rather than simply accepting payment.”

In their letter – also signed by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz – they wrote that, “we believe refusing to accept supplementary payments from homeowners is inexcusable and we strongly urge you to remedy this problem expeditiously… It is unacceptable that servicers in California are unwilling or unable to figure out a workable resolution to this problem, particularly given that two viable options to address the issue exist.”

Those options, they say, are either to accept two checks (one from the program and one from the homeowner) or to forebear the amount of the mortgage that exceeds the $3,000 program payment.

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Under: George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 13 Comments »