George Miller to serve as lecturer at Cal

Well, he did say he wanted to stay involved in education and education policy.

George MillerFormer Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who retired this year after 40 years in the House, will join the University of California, Berkeley as the Fall 2015 Matsui Lecturer at the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service.

That means Miller will spend a week in residency at the Matsui Center during October, speaking to classes, meeting with students, delivering a public lecture and taking part in campus culture. His public lecture – focusing on Congress, labor, and income inequality – is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19th in Cal’s Banatao Auditorium; registration for this free event is available online.

Matsui Center Director Ethan Rarick said Miller “was an extraordinary national leader with a long and distinguished record of service in Congress, but he is also deeply rooted in the politics and policy challenges of California.”

Miller, 70, called this “a wonderful honor,” especially given that the center’s namesake – the late Rep. Bob Matsui, D-Sacramento – “was not only a great friend but a passionate thinker and fighter for economic and social justice.”

“He fully understood the obligation, power, and the duty that the United States Congress has to assure that those less fortunate and in need of assistance are able to fully participate in the American society and economy,” Miller said. “Bob Matsui never stopped fighting for justice. He was a great role model for me and many other members of Congress who served with him. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the Matsui Center to engage Berkeley Campus students in the discussion of the critical issues of our time.”

Miller also currently serves as senior education advisor for the Boston-based education tech services company Cengage Learning, helping executives on issues ranging from public policy to business strategy. And he’s a member of a “Right Start Commission” launched in May by Common Sense Kids Action to explore ways to modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The Matsui Center, founded in 2008, is part of Cal’s Institute of Governmental Studies, California’s oldest public policy research center.


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.


Senate OKs bills inspired by care-home fiasco

The state Senate on Wednesday approved two bills that aim to prevent future snafus like that which led to more than a dozen senior citizens being abandoned at a Castro Valley residential care home in October after the state ordered it shut down.

SB 894 aims to strengthen and clarify the obligations of the California Department of Social Services and a licensee when that license is suspended or revoked, to ensure safe relocation of residents when a facility closure happens. The senate approved this bill on a 27-8 vote.

And SB 895 aims to bolster the assisted-living facility inspection process by requiring that unannounced, comprehensive inspections of all residential care facilities for the elderly occur at least once per year, and more often if necessary to ensure the proper quality of care. The senate approved this bill on a 36-0 vote.

In the 1970s and 1980s, DSS’ Community Care Licensing Division inspected residential care facilities twice a year. But budget cuts reduced that number to once a year in the 1990s, and inspections were reduced further in 2004 to once every five years.

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, authored both bills, which are part of a legislative package sponsored by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

“Following the tragedy at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley last year, it is clear that assisted living facility residents deserve improved protections and safeguards that ensure they will remain safe both while living at those facilities, as well as if and when those group residences are closed,” Corbett said in a news release Wednesday.

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More out-of-state tuition with ‘Six Californias?’

More than two-thirds of the University of California’s students would have to pay out-of-state tuition if voters approved Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s proposed ballot measure to split California into six states, a political consultant says.

That would cost them more than $2.5 billion per year, according to an analysis by Forward Observer, a Sacramento-based public-affairs strategy firm.

The analysis found the “Six Californias” measure would affect more than 109,000 students who suddenly would be attending a UC campus in other than the state in which they reside.

For example, if a student from Los Angeles attended UC Irvine just 50 miles away, the school would be free to charge an additional $22,878 in out-of-state “nonresident supplemental” tuition, Forward Observer concluded. UC Davis would have the largest percentage of students that would be forced to pay out-of-state tuition, at 78.1 percent; UCLA would have the lowest, at 55.1 percent.

“Jefferson California, a new state to be comprised of counties in the far north, would have not one campus in the University of California system if split off from the rest of the state as proposed,” Forward Observer CEO Joe Rodota noted in a news release. “Just how would a family from Redding or Chico feel about paying $36,000 in out-of-state tuition to send their son or daughter to UC Davis?”

“California needs serious solutions to difficult problems,” said Rodota, a former cabinet secretary to Gov. Pete Wilson. “Draper’s proposal may be provocative, but it isn’t a solution to anything.”

Draper, whom spokeswoman Anna Morris was “in back to back meeting appointments in LA” on Monday, has not yet responded.

UPDATE @ 9:52 A.M. TUESDAY: Morris got back to me moments ago with Draper’s comment. “That all depends on state compacts among the six,” Draper said. “Either there would be no change, or states would come up with cheaper and better solutions for their students.”

Meanwhile, West Sacramento Mayor Christoper Cabaldon suggests via Twitter that the new states could choose to join the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, so their students would pay only 150 percent of resident tuition in order to attend UC schools in other Californias. I’m sure that 50 percent increase over current tuition would sit well with everyone.


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.”


Three locals to advise Obama on manufacturing

Several Bay Area people will serve on the new steering committee for President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, the White House announced Thursday.

The president created the partnership in 2011 to bring industry, academia and government together to revitalize the manufacturing sector and boost the nation’s global competitiveness.

Among those on the new committee are University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks; Ajit Manocha, CEO of Milpitas-based semiconductor manufacturer GLOBALFOUNDRIES; and Mike Splinter, executive board chairman of Santa Clara-based Applied Materials Inc.

The original steering committee issued a report last year, “Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing,” that called for sustaining U.S. investments in science, technology, and innovation; establishing a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, a set of public-private partnerships to build shared high-tech facilities and advance U.S. leadership in emerging technologies; upgrading community-college workforce training programs and deploying the talent of returning veterans to meet critical manufacturing skills needs; and improving the business climate for manufacturing investment through tax, regulatory, energy, and trade reform.

The new steering committee will build on that work, functioning as a working group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and in partnership with the National Economic Council, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Commerce Department. It’s also going to hold regional working sessions and forums designed to find examples of innovative strategies to build manufacturing competitiveness.