3

State Senator grows teary about multiple sclerosis

State Sen. Noreen Evans was overcome with emotion Monday as she introduced a resolution to declare this week Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week.

Noreen Evans speechThe debilitating neurological disease has hit close to home for Evans, D-Santa Rosa, who said four close family members have struggled with it. Her floor speech started out shaky, grew steadier for a time, and then ended in tears as she spoke of how the disease often strikes people in the prime of their lives. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and state Sen. Holly Mitchell moved to comfort her as she finished; the Senate passed her resolution 31-0. The California Channel has video of her speech here – it starts at about 38 minutes and 45 seconds – but I’m having trouble embedding it.

Evans – a mother of three who announced in August that she’ll return to her law practice rather than seek a second Senate term this year – wouldn’t discuss her family’s specific situation later Monday afternoon except to say “it is something that has affected my family very deeply.” She did say one relative who had struggled with the disease passed away last year.

“I always like to try to find to turn a negative into a positive, and if I can turn this into a way of helping other people understand… then that’s something I’d like to do,” she said, adding public attention can help lead to more resources and support for research toward treatment, from reversing the disease’s effects to an overall cure. “There are a lot of people in our communities who struggle with this disease and nobody ever knows about it.”

14

Proposal for oil severance tax rises anew

From the Legislature, to an unsuccessful effort toward a ballot measure, and to the Legislature again: The oil-severance tax is back.

State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, rolled out her SB 1017 on Wednesday with a rally at California State University, Sacramento. Flanked by student leaders and California Tax Reform Association executive director Lenny Goldberg, Evans said the tax is estimated to raise about $2 billion per year.

“California is realizing an economic recovery but as both the State Auditor and California Budget Project have concluded, without new revenues the state remains on unstable financial footing,” Evans said. “California remains the only oil-producing state in the nation that does not impose an oil extraction tax. Meanwhile, our debts grow, our population increases, and our services are strained while new revenues from our own natural resources earn $331 million a day for big oil companies. Not taxing oil extraction is simply fiscally unsound.”

SB 1017 would impose a 9.5 percent severance tax on the extraction of oil from ground or water within California’s jurisdiction. Half the revenue would be distributed into an endowment and split three ways among the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems, while health and human services would get 25 percent and state parks would get 25 percent.

The idea has been kicking around here for many years, and this isn’t even Evans’ first bite at the apple: She carried SB 241 just last year, but it never made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A UC-Berkeley-based student group called Californians for Responsible Economic Development began circulating petitions for an oil-extraction-tax ballot measure last April; when they missed their signature-gathering deadline in September, they started anew with a revised measure. But in November, the group changed its name to Students’ Voice Now and announced it would partner with lawmakers to push for a bill instead.

“Tuition levels are vulnerable to a fluctuating economy,” said Harrison “Jack” Tibbetts, a UC Berkeley senior and author of the California Modernization and Economic Development Act. “The endowment avoids this reality by growing during a booming economy and protecting students and their families during the bust. Many other states who tax oil extraction use this same model and have a flourishing education system.”

But Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged not to raise or create any taxes without voter approval, and so isn’t likely to break his promise and embrace this bill, especially as he seeks re-election this year. Anti-tax groups quickly noted this amid their own opposition.

“Governor Brown has been very clear: now is the time for fiscal restraint and government efficiency,” said Beth Miller, spokeswoman for Californians Against Higher Taxes. “But Senator Evans clearly isn’t listening. Instead she is focused on raising taxes on hard-working Californians and creating a huge new, unaccountable government bureaucracy.

SB 1017 promotes a tax Brown already said he doesn’t support, and for which voters have no appetite, Miller said. “Just two years ago, voters approved more than $6 billion in higher taxes and earlier this year the governor announced the state had a $4 billion budget surplus. Voters want Sacramento politicians to hold the line on taxes and work to make government work better and smarter – not create more government and taxes.”

11

Bill proposed to regulate toy guns’ appearance

State lawmakers will introduce a bill regulating toy guns so that they don’t look too much like the real thing, in reaction to a Santa Rosa boy’s fatal shooting by a police officer last month.

Real rifle and toy rifleThis “Imitation Firearm Safety Act” would define what an imitation firearm is and what they must look like to differentiate real guns from fake guns. For now, state law doesn’t include paintball, airsoft and bb guns in its legal definition of imitation weapons.

“Currently these copycat toys are manufactured to be virtually indistinguishable from real firearms,” state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said in a news release. “Because the use of lethal force against a person carrying an imitation firearm is a significant threat to public safety, toys must look like toys and not lethal weapons.”

Andy LopezAndy Lopez, 13, was shot dead Oct. 22 in Santa Rosa by a sheriff’s deputy who believed the airsoft gun Lopez carried was a real AK-47-type rifle.

Evans is co-authoring the bill with state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael. In reaction to a similar shooting in Los Angeles, De Leon carried a bill in 2011, SB 798, that would have required all BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be painted a bright color.

“This will give police an opportunity to easily identify toy guns for what they really are and avoid these types of tragedies,” De Leon said in Friday’s news release. “Toy gun replicas do not belong on the streets. They endanger children, teens and law enforcement. We can easily protect everyone involved with this simple solution. My strongest hope is that we can enact legislation this time so that no more families are forced to suffer the terrible grief the Lopez family has suffered today.”

A 1990 Department of Justice study found that there are more than 200 incidents per year in which imitation guns are mistaken for real firearms, the lawmakers said.

Levine called Lopez’ death “unfathomable, gut wrenching, and tragic.”

“When a child is playing with a toy gun, there must be no doubt that the toy is not a real gun,” he said. “Consequently, we need a law that fully protects our families from tragedies like this. I am proud to co-author this important legislation.”

Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed De Leon’s SB 1315 to let cities within the County of Los Angeles enact local ordinances more restrictive than state law regulating the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of any BB device, toy gun, or replica of a firearm that substantially similar to existing firearms.

3

Go meet your House member

With the House of Representatives not convening again until Nov. 12, many members are out in their districts meeting the masses in the next few weeks. Among other opportunities:

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has three town-hall meetings scheduled tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 2): from 9 to 10 a.m. in the auditorium at the Orinda Library, 26 Orinda Way; from 10:30 to 11 a.m. in the multi-use room at Las Lomas High School, 1460 S. Main St. in Walnut Creek; and noon to 1 p.m. in the multi-use room at Pleasant Hill Elementary, 2097 Oak Park Blvd.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, will hold a “Coffee with your Congressman” specifically for East Bay veterans from 9 to 10:30 a.m. tomorow in the Coast Guard Room at the Hayward Memorial Hall, 22737 Main St. The conversation will include the Department of Veterans Affairs backlog and how his office can assist with VA claims.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will attend Antioch’s 47th Neighborhood Cleanup Event from 9 to 10 a.m. tomorrow in Gentrytown Park on Monterey Drive.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and the U.S. Patent and Trade Office will co-host a workshop on promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 2, in the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Building 400 in Los Altos Hills. Later Saturday, he’ll stop by a Covered California healthcare insurance exchange enrollment fair that’s running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cherrywood Elementary School, 2550 Greengate Drive in San Jose. And at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, he’ll be speaking on how federal budget sequestration has affected housing vouchers in a program hosted by the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County at the Rivertown Apartments, 1340 Hope Dr. in Santa Clara.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, will speak on immigration reform during the North Bay Organizing Project’s annual meeting, which is open to the public and runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 3 at the Sonoma Academy, 2500 Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa. He’ll also hold a town hall meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the northern end of his district in the Middletown Community Center, 21256 Washington St. in Middletown, Lake County. And Thompson will give the opening remarks at an informational forum on the nation’s new health insurance law, sponsored by the American Association of University Women, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Benicia First Baptist Church, 1055 Southampton Road.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will hold a coffee and conversation session at 10:15 a.m. next Saturday, Nov. 9 in Hive Café, 2139 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland; due to limited space, constituents can RSVP by emailing LeeCA.events@mail.house.gov or by calling 510-763-0370. Lee also will hold a town hall at 10 a.m. the following Saturday, Nov. 16, in the council chambers at Alameda City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.

1

State Sen. Noreen Evans to retire in 2014

State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said Monday she won’t seek a second term in 2014.

As with any prematurely vacant legislative seat, Evans’ decision to leave public life is sure to touch off a flood of campaigns to succeed her.

Noreen EvansAfter 20 years in public office including 10 in the Legislature, “Sacramento is not my home and politics not how I planned to spend my life,” she said in a statement Monday. “Though I enjoyed my job as a lawmaker, my first love is the administration of justice. I will leave the Legislature next year at the end of my term to return to my private law practice.”

Evans, 58, said she’s “immeasurably grateful for the faith, trust and support of our great community and the hard work of my dedicated staff.”

She touted accomplishments including writing the nation’s first Homeowner Bill of Rights, improving the state’s foster-care system, protecting the coastline, keeping state parks open, updating regulation of the state’s wine industry, preserving the California Environmental Quality Act and more. She served stints as chair of the senate’s judiciary and budget committees, too.

“As I return to private practice, I will continue to be a strong advocate for progressive values, working families, equal protection and justice for all,” Evans said. “We have seen California through unprecedented challenges. I hope my efforts over the past two decades have contributed in some small measure to a better future for us all.”

Evans’ 2nd Senatorial District currently includes all or parts of Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. Due to redistricting, the lines will be somewhat different in 2014.

13

Oil severance tax measure to start circulating

A proposed ballot measure to enact an oil severance tax, with most of the revenue spent on education, has received its official title and summary and is about to start circulating for petition signatures.

California oil wellsConceived by UC-Berkeley students, the California Modernization and Economic Development Act places a 9.5 percent tax on oil and gas extracted from California; supporters say it would bring about $2 billion of new revenue per year. Of that, about $1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12 education, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California.

Another $400 million or so would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper forms of energy, and about $300 million would go to county governments for infrastructure repair, public works projects, and funding public services.

Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the group behind the measure, has 150 days to collect 505,000 signatures in order to qualify it for the 2014 ballot. The group says it’ll do both grassroots organizing and fundraising for paid signature gathering.

California over recent decades has seen many legislative bills and ballot measures – either proposed, or unsuccessful with voters – to impose such a tax. More than 30 states have oil and gas severance taxes, but opponents say such a tax could reduce California’s oil production, costing jobs.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a Cal professor, endorsed the effort in February, saying using oil severance tax revenue for education “should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

The measure last week won support from state Senator Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, whose SB 241 would impose an oil severance tax to fund education and parks in California. She said she supports any effort to let “California to collect on these vast and irreplaceable natural resource revenues that should fund one of the most important core services of government – education. It’s past time California ends the oil industry’s free ride and finally sets a solid revenue stream towards funding government’s education obligations.”

CMED campaign manager Jack Tibbets, a junior at Cal, said his staff will be working closely with Evans’ office. “Should the Senate fail to vote and pass SB 241, our campaign will work with public officials, donors, interest groups and students to produce an extraction tax for the 2014 ballot.”

Here’s the official title and summary issued today by the state Attorney General’s office:

TAX ON OIL AND NATURAL GAS. REVENUES TO EDUCATION, CLEAN ENERGY, COUNTY INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES, AND STATE PARKS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Imposes 9.5% tax on value of oil and natural gas extracted in California. During first ten years, allocates revenues: 60% to education for classroom instruction (split equally between UC, CSU, community colleges, and K-12 schools); 22% to clean energy projects and research; 15% to counties for infrastructure and public health and safety services; 3% to state parks. Thereafter, allocates 80% to education, 15% to counties, and 5% to state parks. Prohibits passing tax on to consumers through higher fuel prices.
Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state revenues from a new oil and gas severance tax of $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year initially (which could either grow or decline over time), to be spent on public schools, colleges, and universities; clean energy research and development; local infrastructure projects; and state parks. (13-0002.)