Plastic bag ban passes Assembly

Despite strong momentum and an air of inevitability, California state legislators hit a major snag on Aug. 27 in their plans for a statewide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

It was a  rebuke for SB270, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima. Despite a last-ditch effort to amend the bill, it lost the support of Democrats wary of slipping a divisive bill through the Legislature in an election year.

But the concerns of Democratic freshmen and relative environmental moderates weren’t to blame for the initial loss of support that propelled SB270 to a floor vote. In a surprise twist of interest-group politics, the grocery store workers’ union balked at the bill’s proposal to charge customers 10 cents for paper or legally sanctioned reusable plastic bags.

The bill got 38 votes for and 33 against, but that did not meet the 41-vote threshold to pass.

At first blush, it might have seemed that grocery workers would embrace the provision, which Republicans slammed as a gravy train for a big, politically connected business interests. After all, the California Grocers Association decided to throw its weight behind SB270 once Padilla ensured that the grocery business would keep the proceeds of the 10-cent levies.

Corporate profits

But as the Los Angeles Times reported, the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council grew convinced SB270 would enrich grocery corporations alone, not workers, local stores or surrounding communities. The 10-cent fees add up. If a family uses just three bags a day, the tally comes to more than $100 a year, money that could go to more food, clothing or a kid’s schoolbook.

That led Padilla to throw together his late amendment, which would earmark the 10-cent fees for costs incurred by the new regulagtion.

Padilla also tried to calm bag manufacturers’ nerves by including changeover loans in his bill. According to SB270′s language:

“[$2 million] is hereby appropriated from the Recycling Market Development Revolving Loan Subaccount in the Integrated Waste Management Account to the department for the purposes of providing loans for the creation and retention of jobs and economic activity in this state for the manufacture and recycling of plastic reusable grocery bags that use recycled content, including postconsumer recycled material.”

Basically the state would let bag manufacturers borrow cheap money to make as seamless as possible a production and employment switch from single-use to thicker, multi-use plastic bags. 

A change in momentum

Supporters of the bag ban pointed to the success of similar plastic bag bans at the municipal level. Over 100 counties or cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have passed regulations prohibiting the convenient sacks. The failure of a statewide measure in California follows on the heels of unsuccessful legislative efforts in Massachusetts and Washington.download

The inability of plastic bag bans to scale upward to the state level reflects the power of suburban and rural interests, which often are different from those in large cities. California Democrats representing lower-income and Central Valley voters held back from casting their ballots for Padilla’s bill, as CBS Sacramento observed; Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, called SB270 a departure from California’s “long history of policy around food affordability and availability.”

What’s more, city-level changes created a series of small battles that bag manufacturers and the grocery industry have proven reluctant to commit massive resources toward.

But state-level politics has been shown to shift the lobbying terrain in favor of the biggest corporate players affected by bag laws — groups with competing and conflicting interests. So the prospect of a statewide ban threw both sides of the debate into action.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a manufacturers’ group, hired top-shelf PR company Edelman and paid lobbyists over $640,000 to decry SB270 as a huge and calculated giveaway to the grocery industry.

A glimpse of the future

All told, the proposed bag ban revealed the power of the cross-party political currents sweeping through state and national politics this election season. It pitted some corporate interests against others. It put unions on the side of small-town Republican lawmakers. And it pulled apart the longstanding alliance between working-class Democrats in California’s interior and big-city Democrats with a fashionable and wealthy white-collar base.

These unexpected tensions and strange bedfellows could bedevil Democrats in November, in 2016, and beyond. With California Democrats still hoping for a way to save face, Padilla has one more shot at salvaging the bill before the year’s legislative session ends this week.

How he might pull it off, however, remains unclear.

James Poulos is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.com. 

VA Retaliating Against Whistle-Blowers

Memphis VA Medical Center management has retaliated against two whistle-blowers responsible for a series of exposés in The Daily Caller — despite assurances from the new VA secretary that whistle-blowers are protected against reprisal.

“The Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center fully supports the Whistleblower Protection Act and does not engage in retaliatory actions,” said Willie Logan, the communications officer for the Memphis VA Medical Center.disabled-veterans

But Sean Higgins and Charlie Williams both told TheDC that hospital authorities have found ways to target them.

Higgins was employed by the Memphis VA Medical Center until recently, and Williams continues to be employed by the facility.

Both previously asked to remain anonymous for a series of Daily Caller exposés, but have gone public after they say they have faced retaliation for cooperating with TheDC and other media.

Higgins told TheDC that in April 2014, he made a complaint first to the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation (JCOHA) and then anonymously to local media that a number of dialysis machines weren’t being cleaned properly.

The employee responsible for cleaning the machines was using 20 cubic centimeters of cleaning fluid when they were supposed to be using 20 gallons.

“That’s like using a tea spoon of cleaner when you’re supposed to use a bucket,” said Higgins.

Five days after a surprise inspection by JCOHA, Higgins said the medical center human resources department told him he’d be the subject of an administrative investigative board for an unspecified complaint over creating a hostile work environment.

“Two and a half years ago I made a hostile work environment complaint, but they never investigated that and they left me working in that environment the entire time,” said Higgins, charging that the difference between the way the complaints were treated as proof the complaint against him was retaliatory.

Higgins said he’s been blowing the whistle on corruption at the facility since shortly after he began working there in 2007.

Higgins originally tipped off The Daily Caller in June that the Memphis VA Medical Center closed down a therapy pool purportedly due to a lack of funds — months after approving $1 million in bonuses.

Charlie Williams originally snapped two photos that became the centerpiece of two Daily Caller exposés of medical records backlogs at the facility.

Williams told TheDC that over the last two weeks, he’s been the subject of a series of dubious complaints — all since he was spotted speaking with Higgins while both waited to meet new VA Secretary Robert McDonald during an Aug. 12 visit.

“They [hospital management] put two and two together,” said Williams to TheDC, referring to his belief that hospital management presumed he was the original source of photos used in the two stories after he was spotted with Higgins.

Though he tried to remain anonymous, Higgins believes it was an open secret that he was the source of most of the negative stories about the hospital leaked to the media.

Williams is one of four people who work in the room where the backlogs occurred.

Williams, a veteran of the Iraq War who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), said his boss, Rebecca England, claimed he was absent without leave after he took time off for treatment about six months ago.

Williams told TheDC that not only did he have the time off approved, but England wasn’t even his supervisor when he was off work. His supervisor at that time never questioned his absence, Williams added.

Williams initially reported the backlog in March 2014 in an Office of Special Counsel complaint, and described retaliation from the employee responsible, which he told TheDC exacerbated his PTSD.

Last week, England sent him an email suggesting he’d be under investigation.

“I was in the area at 300 [3 p.m.] as I was pulling inpatient documents for a report for QM [Quality Management] from the documents you had previously scanned,” England wrote in an email to Williams on Aug. 19. “We will schedule a fact finding session upon my return.”

Williams told TheDC that the employees who were responsible for the two backlogs — Carnell Clark and Brenda Rodgers — weren’t held accountable, and that Clark was even chosen for overtime to help catch up the backlog.

Michael Volpe is a contributor to The Daily Caller 

Brown hits CalPERS on pension spiking

A bad month for CalPERS has gotten worse. On the heels of unfavorable news surrounding its investment strategy and leadership, the California Public Employee Retirement System provoked the wrath of Gov. Jerry Brown, who heaped scorn on its latest “pension spiking” plan.

“Today CalPERS got it wrong,” Brown said in a statement, revealing he had asked his staff to determine what could be done to “protect the integrity” of legislation enacted just last year to combat such schemes. An audit of CalPERS pension spiking, underway in the State Controller’s office, is set to be released soon.300px-JerryBrownByPhilKonstantin

A cat and mouse game

Employees spike pensions by using overtime, vacation time and similar benefits to drive up their income before retirement. CalPERS, the largest pension fund in the country, ran afoul of the governor’s wishes by permitting such temporary pay increases to count as “pensionable income,” the amount used to calculate the size of retirement pensions.

The move flew in the face of Assembly Bill 340, signed into law by Brown as the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act. Its aim was to make a dent in the public pensions crisis that has threatened to overwhelm city and state budgets. Through a series of complex regulatory adjustments, PEPRA made newer public employees much more responsible for paying the cost of their retirement benefits. While Brown and his allies cheered the over $50 billion in expected savings over 30 years, unions such as the Service Employees International Union decried the changes.

One of Brown’s key objectives was to use PEPRA to crack down on pension spiking. As The Wall Street Journal reported, PEPRA “ostensibly closed these loopholes by defining ‘pensionable compensation’ as ‘base pay’ for ‘services rendered on a full-time basis during normal working hours.’” In other words, extras like “unused vacation and sick leave” were officially off limits.

But CalPERS, as the Journal put it, “tried to end run the law by including 99 other salary boosters such as ‘incentive pay’ for ‘local safety members, school security officers and California Highway Patrol officers who meet an established physical fitness criterion.’”

Flagrant abuses

As it turns out, these under-the-radar boosters have proliferated among public workers. In his criticism of CalPERS, Brown focused exclusively on the evils of temporary pay as a source of pension spiking.

But new investigations have turned up myriad abuses. The San Francisco Chronicle, for instance, uncovered special “marksmanship pay” for cops; an “asphalt work premium” for those who “mix, transport and/or apply a tar-like substance for sidewalks, roads, roofs and/or parking lots”; an “audio visual premium” for “workers who are consistently responsible for operating audio visual equipment”; and a “circulation librarian premium,” which applies, as one might imagine, to circulation librarians — apparently for doing nothing more than their jobs.

The flagrant use of double-payment techniques like these helped fuel support for Brown from the League of California Cities. That organization, according to PublicCEO.com, echoed Brown’s criticism of pension spiking in an effort to push CalPERS “to narrow the scope of pensionable compensation and review the extra pay items to see if they still serve a public service. Chris McKenzie, the League executive director, told the board hundreds of California cities are still in financial distress and facing six years of increasing CalPERS rates” — with the higher rates paid ultimately by local taxpayers.

A credibility gap

The chorus of anger directed at CalPERS comes at an especially embarrassing time. CalPERS board member Priya Mathur is in hot water with the Fair Political Practices Commission over her repeated failure to file legally mandated reports on campaign contributions and so-called statements of economic interest. After some $13,000 in fines, the Los Angeles Times reports, the CalPERS board “punished” Mathur “by temporarily removing her as chairwoman of the health committee and suspending her traveling privileges.”

James Poulos is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.org. 

Justice Dept. Opens New Asylum Gate For Guatemalans

The Department of Justice’s board of immigration appeals has decided to let Guatemalan women win asylum in the United States if they claim to be victims of domestic violence.

The decision creates a huge new incentive for Guatemalan women to cross the U.S. border, because if their asylum claim is accepted, their children get U.S. citizenship, plus the use of federal health, education and retirement programs, regardless of their initial education and work skills.Christmas_Island_Immigration_Detention_Centre_(5424306236)

The new decision also means that many of the Guatemalan women who have already crossed the border this year have a new claim for asylum.

“Under this breaking decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals, many [migrant] women [detained at the detention center] Artesia may be eligible for asylum,” said Ben Winograd, a lawyer who is paid to help foreigners win residency and citizenship.

“This (long overdue) BIA decision should make many [foreign] victims of domestic violence eligible for asylum,” said Winograd, a liberal advocate who is based in Alexandria, Va.

The decision was announced in an Aug. 26 decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals at President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice.

The board’s decision likely will accelerate the rapid growth in asylum awards to foreigners. For example, the number of foreigners who successfully filed asylum claims in the United States almost tripled from 2012 to 2013, up to 30,393.

Coyotes and migrants in Central America are exploiting the administration’s lax policies. From Oct. 1 to July 31, 55,420 adults and children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras crossed the border to file asylum claims following the White House’s 2010 decisions to relax enforcement. Another 57,525 “unaccompanied alien minors” were brought by coyotes to the U.S. border, in the expectation that federal agencies will deliver the minors to their parents and relatives already living in the United States.

Few of those who have crossed the border have been sent home.

Since 2010, the administration has relaxed immigration enforcement even though the annual supply of new labor — 4 million Americans youths, roughly 600,000 working-age immigrants and roughly 800,000 foreign guest-workers — far exceeds companies’ demand for extra labor. In response, household wages have dropped since 2010, and nearly all of the income gains since 2010 have gone to the wealthiest investors.

Under long-standing congressional laws and court precedents, people can seek asylum by showing evidence that they are persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality or political opinions or membership in a qualified social group. The “social group” is something of a catch-all category, and already includes married women from El Salvador, thousands of whom have also streamed across the border this year.

“Depending on the facts and evidence in an individual case, ‘married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship’ can constitute a cognizable particular social group that forms the basis of a claim for asylum or withholding of removal,” said the immigration board’s decision.

“We find that the lead respondent, a victim of domestic violence in her native country, is a member of a particular social group composed of ‘married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship,’” it said.

The woman and her three children entered the country in 2005. She was slated for deportation in 2009, and then appealed to the board.

Since 2009, the Department of Homeland Security quietly reversed a prior policy that said victims of domestic violence don’t count as a “social group” for immigration purposes.

Under the DHS’s new policy, DHS officials told the immigration court that “the respondent established that she suffered past harm rising to the level of persecution and that the persecution was on account of a particular social group comprised of ‘married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationships,’” according to the appeals board.

The immigration courts are part of the Department of Justice, not the judiciary.

The Aug. 26 decision is a victory for the progressive groups now trying to help many foreigners become citizens. The domestic-violence decision likely will be used as a precedent in future immigration cases that will be bought on behalf of other women in South American, African and Asia.

Outside the United States, hundreds of millions of women suffer from domestic violence, according to an advocacy report by the United Nations’ World Health Organization. “Overall, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence,” said the 2013 report, which is titled “Global and regional estimates of violence against women.”

“There is a clear need to scale up efforts across a range of sectors, both to prevent violence from happening in the first place and to provide necessary services for women experiencing violence,” the U.N. report said.

Neil Munro is the White House correspondent for The Daily Caller. This piece was originally posted on Dailcaller.com.

Dems stop bills to ease gas price hike

Perhaps the last chance to head off a California gasoline price hike that could exceed 50 cents per gallon by 2020 just was defeated on the state Senate floor.

Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, offered amendments to a bill, AB2492, that had nothing to do with the bill’s focus on drug sentencing. The amendments duplicated those in Vidak’s bill, SB1079, which would head off a gas price hike that could begin next year.

“I rise today to offer amendments that will stop a hike in gasoline and diesel prices that could range anywhere from 16 to 76 cents a gallon every time Californians fill up Jan. 1, 2015,” Vidak said on the Senate floor Aug. 21. “Gasoline is not a luxury for most Californians, it’s a necessity.

“Communities that I represent already suffer extreme poverty and some of the highest unemployment in the state as well as the country. Our food banks are already overwhelmed with families waiting in food lines. And they’re not able to make it right now. This is an unfair, hidden, regressive tax that will hurt many vulnerable Californians, and it must be stopped.”

The amendments were promptly voted down by the Senate’s Democratic majority, 23-10, without discussion.

Exemption

Schwarzenegger bentleySB1079 would exempt the transportation fuel industry from having to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program, which the industry is scheduled to do beginning Jan. 1, 2015. That program was started to advance compliance with AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The program requires the state’s largest energy users to reduce their carbon emissions or purchase carbon allowances through the cap-and-trade market mechanism.

“The State Air Resources Board’s regulatory analysis for the market-based compliance mechanism anticipates carbon allowance costs ranging from $15 to $75, inclusive, per ton between 2015 and 2020,” the bill states.

“Many areas of the state continue to struggle from disproportionately high unemployment rates, and the state’s hard-working low-income and middle-income families will likely suffer most from this additional cost burden.”

The bill exempts from the cap-and-trade program any industries not enrolled in it by Dec. 31, 2014.

“This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect,” the bill states.

“The facts constituting the necessity are: To allow sufficient lead time to make necessary adjustments to the program before it takes effect January 1, 2015, it is necessary for this act to take effect immediately.”

Stuck

Despite the bill’s call for urgency, SB1079 is bottled up – Vidak calls it “stuck” – having been sent to the Senate Rules Committee.

“Liberal elites don’t seem to care about poor people who have to wait in food lines to feed their family,” said Vidak in a press release response to the rejection of his amendments. “Even a small increase in gas prices will be devastating to so many people in our Valley.”

Vidak goes on to charge that “the California Air Resources Board and the Brown administration secretly created the unauthorized gas tax without public knowledge or legislative approval. California already has the highest gas prices in the nation. According to GasBuddy.com, the average cost for gasoline in California is $4.12 per gallon and the national average is $3.68.”

A similar bill, AB69, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, provides a three-year exemption for the transportation fuel industry until 2018. It has been assigned to the Assembly Rules Committee.

High gas prices

No one knows exactly how high gas prices might increase as a result of bringing transportation fuels into the cap-and-trade mandate. It will depend on how high the price of a carbon allowance goes. Currently at $11.34 per ton, it’s expected to grow by 5 percent plus inflation per year as the carbon allowance noose tightens.

By 2020, gas prices will likely increase in the range of 13-20 cents per gallon, but could exceed 50 cents per gallon, according to a letter to Perea from the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The estimate is based on gas prices increasing 8-9 cents per gallon for every $10 per ton of carbon allowance cost.

“The actual price increase will depend on a wide variety of economic, technological, and regulatory factors that are difficult to predict,” the LAO letter acknowledges. “We note that if transportation fuels were not part of the cap-and-trade program, alternative policies to meet the AB 32 emissions targets might be adopted that also have the effect of increasing gasoline prices.”

Price study

The estimate of a 13-20 cent per gallon gas price rise is based on a June 2014 study conducted for the California Air Resources Board by the Market Simulation Group. It’s based on a 2020 allowance price of $20 per ton. But the study also states that allowance prices could go as high as $79 per ton, shooting gas prices up more than 50 cents per gallon.

“This study’s scope is narrower than the others we reviewed, but our summary places very heavy weight on it due to its timing and methodological credibility,” the LAO letter states.

The other cost studies that the LAO looked at are not far off from the Market Simulation Group report.

A 2012 study by the Boston Consulting Group estimated that gas prices could increase 15-77 cents per gallon in 2020 (in 2013 dollars). The amount could be 17-87 cents per gallon in projected 2020 dollars, according to the LAO.

A 2010 study for the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated gas prices increasing 37 cents per gallon in a “conservative case” and 88 cents per gallon in an “extreme case.”

An 88-cent gas price hike would likely push California gas prices over $5 per gallon. And that concerns Perea, who defended his three-year moratorium bill in a press release.

“The cap-and-trade system should not be used to raise billions of dollars in new state funds at the expense of consumers who are struggling to get back on their feet after the recession,” he said. “In some areas of the state, like the Central Valley, constituents need to drive long distances and they will be disproportionately impacted by rising gas prices.”

‘Much larger’

Perea believes gas prices will increase about 15 cents per gallon, but cautioned that “a much larger jump is possible. Delaying fuels from coming under the cap would allow California consumers to prepare for the potential impacts of higher gas prices.”

The pain at the pump will be felt not only by residents, but by businesses, warned John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business/CA.

“California’s small businesses and consumers‎ face significant economic harm from fuel price increases coming Jan. 1, but state officials have done nothing to inform them this is coming,” Kabateck said. “A reasonable delay to this policy will give the state time to fully analyze the impacts of bringing fuels under the cap and small businesses and families time to budget for this financial hit.”

Transportation businesses will likely be hardest hit by the gas price hike.

“Moving fuels under the cap-and-trade program could stifle the economic recovery in the state and give out-of-state businesses a competitive advantage,” said Mike Kelton, CEO of Inland Star Distribution in Fresno.

“While we must work to reduce the consumption and dependency on gasoline and diesel to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, ­another new gas tax is the wrong way to go about it. The bipartisan support to delay the new hidden gas tax shows the importance to review the impacts of the policy created by regulators at the Air Resources Board.”

$2 billion hit

The probability that SB1079 and AB69 will not be voted on in this legislative session has drawn scorn from Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters. He estimates that a 15-cent gas price hike would translate into a $2 billion hit to Californian motorists, with many paying more than $100 extra annually to fill up.

“Given the heavy financial impact of placing fuel under the cap-and-trade program, it should face legislative scrutiny and direct up-or-down votes, rather than being imposed by an unelected board,” wrote Walters in his column, “Legislature ducking debate on big fuel price hike.”

“Were AB69 to die without even a hearing, it would be another example of how the Legislature has cravenly ceded its policymaking duties to others, whether they be initiative sponsors, judges or bureaucrats.”

Dave Roberts is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.com. 

Stifling free speech? California looks to ban Confederate flag

California is looking to bar the “Stars and Bars.”

A bill sits on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk to ban California from displaying or selling the Confederate flag or objects with images of it. The state’s Legislature passed the bill nearly unanimously last week.

Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, D-Compton, introduced the legislation after his mother discovered the Capitol gift shop sold a replica of Confederate money that contained a picture of the flag, according to the L.A. Times.

confederateFlagThe lone dissenting vote among the 67 cast was from former California GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks. He argued the bill would infringe on free speech.

“I’m a strict Constitutionalist,” he told the Times. “It’s painful and lonely.”

Hall thanked his fellow lawmakers for “standing together united to fend off the ugly hatred of racism that’s been portrayed and demonstrated through the emblem of the Confederacy.”

The flag is, to be sure, divisive. In the South, some fly it as a nod to their roots — the “Stars and Bars” or variations of it are used as the state flag in a few states, including Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Others use the flag as the symbol of racism that Hall, a black man, decries.

But the First Amendment offers strong protections for such free speech. Could this law be a violation of those constitutional rights even though it doesn’t apply to individuals?

“It’s complicated,” said Peter Scheer, executive director of the San Rafael, Ca.-basedFirst Amendment Coalition.

He told Watchdog.org the law could be seen as a form of government expression, which is constitutionally protected, but on the other hand there are limits on this doctrine of government speech.

Scheer imagines a situation in which a law did the opposite of this one — that required the flying of the Confederate flag next to the California flag on state government buildings, including public schools.

“Would that be copacetic under the First Amendment?” he asked. “I’m not so sure.

“Some government speech, even though protected under the First Amendment, may still be challenged as violating citizens’ First Amendment rights on the theory that citizens are associated, against their will, with an official point of view with which they strongly disagree.”

California’s ban wouldn’t apply to images of the Confederate flag found in books or state museums if displayed for historical or educational purposes.

Johnny Kampis is a contributor to Watchdog. This piece was originally posted on Watchdog.org. 

Arrested for DUI, Sen. Hueso voted to ban beach booze

It could be a case of, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

State Senator Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, was arrested early Friday morning on suspicion of drinking and driving. He reportedly spent the night drinking wine and tequila in the State Capitol and at a local restaurant with several of his colleagues. Years before, he voted to ban drinking at public beaches.Ben-Hueso-Mugshot-147x220

In Nov. 2007, Hueso, then a member of the San Diego City Council, voted to adopt a one-year ban on alcohol consumption at the city’s public beaches. The temporary ban, which took effect on Jan. 14, 2008, prohibited “alcohol consumption 24 hours a day on all City beaches, including Mission Bay Park and coastal parks south of Tourmaline Surfing Park.”

In July 2008, before the effects of the alcohol ban could be evaluated, Hueso voted to put a permanent ban on the Nov. 2008 ballot, a measure that would later be titled Proposition D. Hueso’s fellow council members at the time who also voted for the ban included current San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, both Republicans; and Rep. Scott Peters and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, both Democrats.

Prop D: Narrowly approved by voters

Prop. D, which passed 52.5 percent to 48.5 percent, gave authorities leeway to charge violators with either an infraction or a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Opponents of the alcohol ban argued that the law would take “away your right to enjoy your beaches.”

“Taking away your rights and freedoms is easier than punishing the troublemakers, but it is the wrong solution,” opponents of Proposition D wrote in their ballot argument. “More punishment for troublemakers, overnight and holiday bans only, and enforcing our existing laws are the right solutions for San Diego!”

Although Hueso voted for the ban, he was far from its biggest cheerleader. Faulconer, the city’s current mayor, championed the cause after “a Labor Day booze-fueled melee on Pacific Beach brought out cops in riot gear.”

According to the Voice of San Diego, “Revelers threw bottles at the police. The police pepper-sprayed crowd-goers. And national television audiences were treated to handheld videos of drunks generally making idiots of themselves.”

Following the incident, Faulconer proposed an outright ban, but was initially stymied by Hueso, who “worried about law-abiding beachgoers being cited as if they were rowdy drunks.”

“What’s going to happen to people who want to propose to their partner on the beach with a bottle of wine?” Hueso asked the L.A. Times in November 2007.

Hueso accepts full responsibility for DUI

On Friday, Aug. 22, Hueso was arrested by the California Highway Patrol on two misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence. According to a CHP spokeswoman, Hueso drove his state-owned Ford Fusion the wrong way on a one-way city street.

Hueso, who initially said he would fight the charges, later accepted “full responsibility.”

“I am truly and profoundly sorry for the unacceptably poor personal judgment which I demonstrated last night,” Hueso said in a statement following his release from jail. “I accept complete personal responsibility for my actions and any punishments that ultimately come my way as a result of this incident.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.”

“33,561 people died in traffic crashes in 2012 in the United States,” according to a report by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, which reviewed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those accidents, “an estimated 10,322 people died in drunk driving crashes, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic deaths that year.”

Hueso: 4th State Senator in trouble with the law

Hueso becomes the fourth Democratic state Senator in trouble with the law this year. In March, State Senator Leland Yee was arrested on felony charges of working with Chinatown gangsters and brokering arms deals with a Muslim rebel group based in the Philippines.

In February, state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was charged with a 24-count indictment in connection with bribery and corruption.

In January, state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, was found guilty of eight counts of felony voter fraud, perjury and filing a false declaration of candidacy.

Hueso is not up for re-election until 2016.

John Hrabe is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwachdog.com.

Paul Ryan: Big government has U.S. at ‘tipping point’

It is no longer a question of how much government Americans want. The only question is how much government Americanscan afford.PaulRyanAP-500x333

And the former Republican vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the answer is becoming clear.

“I talk about this in the book,” Ryan told Watchdog Radio Monday. “About very progressive policies. About the outcomes they produce, and how they bankrupt governments.”

Ryan writes in his new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea”, that the federal government has expanded entitlement programs, Medicare, Social Security and now Obamacare, to the point where they cost far more than taxpayers have.

“If we keep going on this way, soon, we’ll reach a tipping point,” Ryan writes in his book, “where there are too many people receiving government benefits and not enough people to pay for those benefits.”

Ryan, who said he has not decided about a presidential bid in 2016, added that Americans need to act now to stop from going over that tipping point.

“We need to have a clarifying election in this country, where we give the people of this country a very clear choice, so we can win that election and have a mandate to fix this country’s problems before it’s too late.” Ryan told Watchdog Radio.

Listen to the full conversation Watchdog Radio’s Benjamin Yount had with Ryan.

Benjamin Yount is a contributor to Watchdog. This piece was originally posted on Watchdog.org.

Dem Politician: Grant Illegals Amnesty Or They’ll Become Terrorists

Democratic State Representative and candidate for U.S. representative Pat Murphy said Tuesday that if the underage migrants who have come to the U.S. from Central America aren’t given a “pathway for citizenship” they could become terrorists.

by Mike Lewis, from The Hill

by Mike Lewis, from The Hill

Speaking with Iowa Public Radio host Ben Kieffer, Murphy said that “we need to make sure that we take care of the children that are coming up here.”

“They’re not from Mexico, they’re coming from further south,” Murphy continued. “We need to make sure that when we’re talking about these children we need to treat them like they’re our children or our grandchildren. If they’re gonna be refugees, which several of them are going to be, we need to make sure that we have—one, we take care of them, and we create a pathway for citizenship and set up education for them so they don’t become the same problem that we’re currently having in the Middle East—that they’ll be terrorists a generation from now.”

Murphy has represented Iowa’s 99th district in the Iowa House of Representatives since 1989, and earlier this summer won the Democratic nomination for congressman representing Iowa’s 1st. Murphy, who has called himself “a liberal’s liberal,” was endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the political action committee famous for drafting Elizabeth Warren to run for Senate and instigating Scott Walker’s recall election. “He supports expanding Social Security benefits, holding Wall Street accountable, lowering student loan interest rates, and Elizabeth Warren’s economic populist agenda,” read their endorsement.

Murphy’s comments came the same day that ISIS released the gruesome video of an unknown terrorist beheading American journalist James Foley, and threatening to kill another. U.S. and British intelligence officials now think that the murderer is from the United Kingdom.

“From what we’ve seen it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen,” said Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday. “Now this is deeply shocking. But we know far too many British citizens have travelled to Iraq and travelled to Syria to take part in extremism and violence.”

Murphy said he supports the immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate last year, which creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and also implied that it’s too expensive to deport illegals anyway.

“There is no way that I can see that this state is going to move 13 million undocumented workers back to the countries they came from. We saw what went on in Postville in this district, back in–six or eight years ago. We spent approximately–I think it was $230,000 for each person that we deported from the Postville plant,” he said.

Murphy was referring to the arrest of nearly 400 undocumented workers after Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials raided a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Most of the workers arrested were deported within the year.

Murphy’s campaign was reached out to for comment, but has not yet provided a statement.

Tristyn Bloom is a columnist for The Daily Caller. This piece was originally posted on Dailycaller.com. 

CA Congresswoman asks Reddit users to help her donors ‘rebrand’ net neutrality

 One of Silicon Valley’s congresswomen is appealing to Reddit users to help her protect the bottom lines of her largest campaign contributors, including Google, as she seeks to become the top Democrat on one of the oldest and most powerful committees in Congress.internet

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., last week announced a contest seeking submissions from Reddit and YouTube users for help to “rebrand” net neutrality, a decade-long political war over influence and money between major Internet services and the Internet service providers they use to reach their customers.

Net neutrality advocates funded by left-wing foundations and major Internet companies like Google have rallied support by leveraging consumer disdain for ISPs such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, but they worry support for their cause still has yet to take hold in mainstream consciousness.

Cable TV comedian John Oliver humorously criticized  the term “net neutrality” for the boredom it invoked in laypeople and highlighted ISPs’ lobbying expenditures against the issue, suggesting advocates instead call net neutrality “preventing cable company f******.”

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohania, a millionaire Internet activist, philanthropist and serial entrepreneur, followed up on Oliver’s comments, telling Buzzfeed in July he believed net neutrality was “a terrible brand.”

In her announcement Thursday, less than a month before an upcoming Federal Communications Commission deadline about the issue, Eshoo said her contest would give Internet users the “opportunity to have an impact on the process, to help put the advantage back in the hands of the Internet user, and to ensure that the free and open Internet prevails.”

Eshoo, whose tenure spans over two decades, has been one of the top five recipients of campaign donations from the computer and Internet industries since 2000, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Both Roll Call and the Associated Press in April reported Eshoo, pitched in a major fundraising battle, was leveraging her Silicon Valley ties to secure her re-election and win the top Democratic seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee following the upcoming midterm elections.

Eshoo spokesman Charles Stewart told Watchdog.org in an email the congresswoman has been an “ardent defender” of the Internet and an advocate of net neutrality since the issue took the political stage.

“Her extensive record of advocacy over this period far outweighs any presumed political pandering to donors during her recent campaign for the top Democratic seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Stewart wrote.

During the past decade, the House committee has been a major battleground for influence between Internet companies like Google and ISPs like Comcast and Verizon.

The committee’s top two Republicans, Chairman Fred Upton from Michigan and Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, both of whose top campaign contributors include the nation’s major ISPs, have historically opposed net neutrality.

As of July 21, individuals and political action committees representing the computer and Internet industries have donated $137,490 to Eshoo’s re-election, second only to the pharmaceuticals and health products industries, which donated $172,798 thus far.

Eshoo’s top 10 donors for the 2013-2014 campaign cycle include indviduals and PACs affiliated with Hewlett-Packard, eHealth, Google, Kleiner Perkins et al, Gilead Sciences, Oracle, Standford University, Facebook, DISH Network and DirecTV.

Kleiner Perkins is one of several venture capitalist firms that backed Google in its infancy, and whose portfolio includes Facebook, Twitter and Uber.

As is the case for most members of Congress, Eshoo’s advocacy also promotes the economy where she lives — Menlo Park, home to Facebook’s global headquarters and Kleiner Perkins, and named by Time’s Money Magazine in 2013 as one of the “best places for the rich and single.”

Eshoo’s California congressional district includes the city of Mountain View, home to Google’s global headquarters.

The Center for Responsive Politics, which runs OpenSecrets.org, estimated Eshoo’s net worth was $2.1 million in 2012.

“Internet users know what they want and expect from the Internet, but these days all the jargon about net neutrality rules is making it difficult to know what box to check that advances their best interest,” said Eshoo in her announcement.

Josh Peterson is a contributor to Watchdog. This piece was originally posted on Watchdog.org.