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Bay Area lawmakers offer tix for Pope’s visit

A few Bay Area House members are holding lotteries in which their constituents can win tickets to see Pope Francis during his U.S. visit later this month.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is offering tickets for the pontiff’s address to a joint session of Congress on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24, to residents of her 18th Congressional District; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is doing the same for her 14th District constituents; and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is doing it in his 9th District. Ticket holders will be able to view the address from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol via televised broadcast.

“I’m excited to be able to extend an opportunity to my constituents to take part in this historic event,” Eshoo said in a news release. “While not all who wish to attend will be awarded a ticket, my office is working to ensure the lottery is conducted fairly and make the process a good one.”

Speier said Pope Francis “has become a focal point across the world for prioritizing peace over war, care of the planet over consumption, forgiveness over accusation, and neighbor over self. I’m excited that 50 of my constituents have the opportunity to be on the West Lawn of the Capitol to watch the broadcast of the Pope’s address to members of Congress. My only regret is that I can’t make these tickets available to everyone.”

McNerney said it’s “sure to be a momentous occasion. This is the first time that the Pope will deliver an address to Congress, and I look forward to hearing his message for the American people.”

The deadline to enter McNerney’s lottery is tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 4; the deadline to enter Eshoo’s lottery is noon Pacific Time next Tuesday, Sept. 8; and the deadline to enter Speier’s lottery is midnight next Thursday, Sept. 10. Only constituents of those districts may enter, only one entry is allowed per person, and each winner will receive two tickets.

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Honda’s bill would yank NFL team’s trademarks

Rep. Mike Honda is going long with a new bill to yank the Washington Redskins’ federal trademarks.

Honda’s “Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act” – say that five times fast! – would cancel any existing trademarks and prohibit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from issuing any new ones that use the term “redskins” in reference to Native Americans. The bill formally declares that this is a disparaging term and so can’t be trademarked under the Lantham Act.

honda.jpg“It is unbelievable to me that, in the 21st century, a prominent NFL franchise is calling itself by a racial slur,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “Team names should not be offensive to anyone. Allowing trademark protection of this word is akin to the government approving its use. Removing that trademark will send a clear message that this name is not acceptable.”

Honda is jumping into an issue that’s still pending in the federal courts: The USPTO actually canceled the franchise’s trademark registration last summer, but the registration remains effective during the team’s appeal to a federal judge in Virginia.

Losing the protection would weaken the franchise’s defense against infringement and hamstring its ability to keep counterfeit merchandise out of the country, but it wouldn’t stop it from selling merchandise with its name and logo or from suing others who try to profit by doing so.

The bill’s 26 original co-sponsors – all Democrats – include Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, said Honda and the bill’s co-sponsors “have chosen to stand on the right side of history by introducing legislation that would effectively eliminate the federal trademark protections of this racial epithet.”

Suzan Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, said the term “is a reminder of the vile practice of skinning Natïve people for ‘proof of Indian kill’ for payment of bounties issued by colonies and states. Even if it only meant the color of one’s skin, it would be the worst case of invidious discrimination committed in public in our time.”

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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.
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    Ron Nehring to address ALEC summit meeting

    Ron Nehring, the former California Republican Party Chairman and 2014 Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, will address the opening session of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) States and Nation Policy Summit on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

    Ron NehringALEC’s website says it “works to advance limited government, free markets and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.”

    It’s basically a forum through which conservative state lawmakers and the private sector collaborate on legislation that’s then pushed in multiple states, from business bills favoring lower taxes, privatization, and relaxed regulation to things such as stand-your-ground self-defense laws and voter ID requirements. Funded mostly by major corporations and conservative benefactors including the Koch brothers, it has become a target for liberal activists.

    The summit is the group’s annual, national post-election meeting focusing on the legislative agenda for 2015; ALEC’s next national meeting will take place in San Diego, California this summer.

    Nehring’s news release said his opening remarks Wednesday will review election results across the country, and recommendations for 2016 including “the critical importance of growing support for candidates supporting limited government and free markets in America’s immigrant, suburban and urban communities; building coalitions; and recognizing the role of candidates’ personal narratives in addition to their philosophy.”

    Nehring lost this year’s race to incumbent Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent.

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    Pot advocates form 2016 initiative committee

    A national marijuana advocacy group is filing papers with the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday to form a committee in support of a 2016 ballot measure for recreational legalization.

    That measure is still coalescing, but the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project says it’ll be part of a coalition of activists, organizations and businesses supporting a plan they expect will resemble the MPP-financed initiative approved by Colorado in 2012. And they intend to start raising money immediately.

    “Marijuana prohibition has had an enormously detrimental impact on California communities. It’s been ineffective, wasteful, and counterproductive. It’s time for a more responsible approach,” MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia said in a news release. “A diverse coalition of activists, organizations, businesses, and community leaders will be joining together in coming months to draft the most effective and viable proposal possible. Public opinion has been evolving nationwide when it comes to marijuana policy, and Californians have always been ahead of the curve.

    “Marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and that’s how it needs to be treated,” Kampia added. “Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol just makes sense.”

    California activists have been watching Colorado’s and Washington state’s experiences with legalization, and have said they’ll tweak the Golden State’s ballot measure accordingly.

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    Pelosi applauds Redskins’ trademark cancellation

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board has canceled the Washington Redskins’ trademark registrations on the grounds that the team’s name is disparaging to Native Americans.

    From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

    “As someone who grew up in Baltimore, the Washington football team has always held a special place in my heart. The team name is another matter. For so many Native Americans, this name has long stood as a deep offense – an affront to the dignity of their heritage, and an insult to the proud identity they hope to pass on to their children and their grandchildren.

    “Today’s actions by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are in line with longstanding rules on the treatment of disparaging or offensive names. While we respect the right to free speech, slurs have no right to trademark protections.

    “The team that represents our nation’s capital should be a source of pride to all Americans. It’s long past time for the Washington football team to choose a new name.”