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UC Regents urged to finish gun industry divestment

Activists preparing to mark Saturday’s anniversary of last year’s murderous rampage in Isla Vista, in which six UC Santa Barbara students were killed and 13 were wounded, urged the UC Board of Regents on Thursday to finish divesting the system from any investments in the firearm industry.

Thousands of petition signatures were delivered to the board’s meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus by Allie Clement, a 2012 UC Santa Barbara graduate who hails from Newtown, Conn. — the site of 2012’s schoolhouse massacre. “I couldn’t believe that both my hometown and my college town were affected by gun violence.”

Bob Weiss of Thousand Oaks described to the board how his 19-year-old daughter, Veronika, was among those gunned down by Elliot Rodger that awful day.

“If this body is invested in the gun industry, that means you’re in the gun business, and if you’re in the gun business, I’m in the gun business. I don’t want to be in the gun business,” Weiss said, his voice breaking. “I don’t know how any of you can sleep at night with all of the students who have been killed.”

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said the system divested itself of any direct gun-industry investments in 2013, and is now combing through its vast portfolio to see if any of its mutual funds have such stakes; any that are found will be sold, she said.

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Muslim group plans Sacramento lobbying blitz

A Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group will focus its California lobbying blitz next month on bills dealing with police surveillance, equal pay for women, and a freeze on tuition at state colleges and universities.

CAIRCalifornialogoThe California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is planning its 4th annual California Muslim Day at the State Capitol for Monday, April 27. They’ll be reaching out to legislators about issues that impact the Muslim community broadly, and to push for three bills in particular.

SB 178, the California Electronic Communication Privacy Act by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would provide protection against warrantless government access private electronic communications such as emails, text messages and GPS data that are held on smartphones, tablets, laptops and other digital devices. Police would have to go to a judge and get a warrant before accessing such information.

SB 358, the California Fair Pay Act by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would will help to ensure that women are paid equally when they do the same work as men, and protect workers from retaliation when they inquire or speak out about wage differences at work. CAIR notes that in 2013, a California woman working full-time earned 84 cents to every dollar earned by a man doing the same job; the gap is considerably wider for women of color.

AB 42 by Assemblywoman Young Kim, D-Fullerton, would require the California Community Colleges and California State University – and ask the University of California – to freeze tuition and fees at their 2014-15 levels while the tax hikes enacted by voters as Proposition 30 of 2012 remain in effect.

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Tools you can use for the Nov. 4 election

As the election advertising reaches fever pitch, burning up your TV and clogging your mailbox, here are a few resources for cutting through the smoke:

Voters Edge, set up by MAPLight.org and the League of Women Voters California Education Fund, takes your home address and presents you with a virtual version of your ballot with click-throughs that not only informs you about the measures and candidates, but also provides a run-down of those measures’ and candidates’ biggest campaign donors.

California Choices, a collaborative effort by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Next 10 and UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, has updated its website to include guides to the six statewide ballot measures, as well as a page where you can compare endorsements from unions, nonprofits, parties and news organizations.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit California Voter Foundation’s guide is pretty easy to navigate. And, though you should’ve received it in the mail already, the state’s Official Voter Information Guide is available online as well.

Don’t forget: Next Monday, Oct. 20 is the last day to register to vote in this election. You can do so online, or pick up a paper voter registration application at your county elections office, library, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, or U.S. post office.

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Reich visits Capitol on CEO pay, oil extraction tax

It’s Robert Reich day at California’s State Capitol.

No, there hasn’t been an official proclamation. But the former U.S. Secretary of Labor, now a UC-Berkeley public policy professor, will be under the dome Thursday to speak on behalf of two bills introduced by Bay Area lawmakers.

Reich is doing a news conference with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski in support of DeSaulnier’s SB 1372, which would create a new corporate tax table that increases taxes on businesses with big disparities between the salaries of their workers and their CEOs. The bill is being heard Thursday morning by the State Governance and Finance Committee.

“For example, if the CEO makes 100 times the median worker in the company, the company’s tax rate drops from the current 8.8 percent down to 8 percent. If the CEO makes 25 times the pay of the typical worker, the tax rate goes down to 7 percent,” Reich wrote on his blog Monday. “On the other hand, corporations with big disparities face higher taxes. If the CEO makes 200 times the typical employee, the tax rate goes to 9.5 percent; 400 times, to 13 percent.”

“Pushing companies to put less money into the hands of their CEOs and more into the hands of average employees creates more buying power among people who will buy, and therefore more jobs,” he wrote. “For the last thirty years, almost all the incentives operating on companies have been to lower the pay of their workers while increasing the pay of their CEOs and other top executives. It’s about time some incentives were applied in the other direction.”

And, Reich will testify to the Senate Public Education Committee in favor of SB 1017 by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which would create an oil extraction tax to fund higher education, health and human services, state parks and more.

Reich endorsed a similar student-organized ballot measure effort last year, saying that 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 California Chamber of Commerce this month put both bills on its list of “job killers,” arguing they create barriers to economic development.

“The economic recovery is still the number one issue for Californians,” Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said when announcing the list. “These bills pose a serious threat to our economy and, if enacted, would dampen job growth in the state.”

Of Evans’ bill, Zaremberg said “an oil extraction tax will drive up consumer prices, push jobs away and upset a fragile economy that is showing strong signs of life.”

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Online registration grabs low-, mid-income voters

The new online voter registration system that California launched last fall isn’t just getting more people registered – it’s getting different people registered.

More registrants come from low- and middle-income neighborhoods than expected, according to a study just released by researchers Lisa García Bedolla, a Cal associate professor of education and of political science, and Véronica Velez, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cal’s Center for Latino Policy Research.

“Given voters in California are, on average, significantly more affluent than the general population, this study suggests that online voter registration opened up the … process to a wider range of voters in terms of their socioeconomic status,” García Bedolla and Velez reported.

Based on data from each of California’s 58 counties, the state’s online drive that ran from Sept. 19 through Oct. 21 generated 839,297 new registered voters. Some 22.6 percent were Latino, 11.1 percent Asian, and about 59.8 percent white – breakdowns similar to the state’s overall voter registration.

But the researchers focused on census-tract data for the newly registered voters in San Diego and Alameda counties, two regions with similarly diverse populations but contrasting political tendencies – San Diego tending more conservative, Alameda County tending more liberal.

In San Diego County, 71 percent of Latino, 57 percent of white and 50 percent of Asian American online registrants lived in areas with medium incomes under $75,000. In Alameda County, the numbers were 65 percent for Latino registrants, 52 percent for whites and 44 percent for Asian Americans.

Garcia Bedolla said this suggests that “when we make the process easier, like letting you register after you Google it on your phone, folks participate.”

The study also found:

  • Women of color, rather than white women, are driving the gender gap in Democratic party identification among the online registrants.
  • A significant proportion of eligible voters over age 35, particularly white men, registered online.
  • Latina and female Asian American voters were more likely to vote than were Latinos and Asian American men.
  • Only among white registrants and voters is there near gender parity in registration and turnout.
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    Initiative to fund higher ed cleared for circulation

    The proponent of a proposed ballot initiative that would hike various taxes to fund California’s public universities and community colleges has been cleared to start collecting petition signatures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said Monday.

    Here’s the official title and summary prepared by the state attorney general’s office:

    TAXES TO FUND CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Imposes new taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel ($0.025 per gallon), alcohol ($0.05-$1.65 per gallon), and cigarettes ($0.0125 each); raises vehicle license fees by 0.5% of vehicle market value. Allocates new revenues 80% to University of California and California State University, 20% to California Community Colleges. Maintains state funding for higher education at or above 2009-2010 levels and student financial aid at or above 2010-2011 levels. Caps student tuition and systemwide fees at 2009-2010 levels. Creates joint commission to recommend cost efficiencies in higher education. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Additional state tax revenues from increases in various taxes of about $2.2 billion annually that would be dedicated to public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to replace lost tuition and fee revenues (due to lower student tuition and fee levels), unknown effect on total funding for public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to satisfy increased state spending requirements on public universities and colleges, unknown effects on other parts of the state budget and the state General Fund. (12-0015.)

    Proponent Jesse Lucas – the California State University-Los Angeles Associated Students’ Legislative Affairs Committee Student-at-Large – must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from California registered voters by April 15 in order to qualify this for the ballot in November 2014.