Saturday, October 12, 2013



(San Diego)  Harvey Milk left an indelible mark on the history of the United States and the announcement that the United States Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp in his honor affirms his important place in our culture.  Last year, I was honored to carry HR 41, which was passed by the State Assembly, to urge the Postmaster General to issue a Harvey Milk stamp.

Postal commemorative stamps draw attention to important people who may not be familiar to all Americans.  Harvey Milk, who gave his life because he led the way for equality, is an ideal choice for this recognition.

I congratulate the sponsors of the campaign for a Harvey Milk stamp – the Harvey Milk Foundation, the International Court Council, and the GLBT Historic Task Force of San Diego – on their success.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jorgensen Backs Tea Party Strategy Threatening Economic Meltdown While DeMaio Stays Silent

Even as the consequences of the government shutdown are felt throughout San Diego, Marine veteran Kirk Jorgensen wants to compound the irresponsible Tea Party crisis and default on the country’s debt, risking another major recession.

At the same time, candidate Carl DeMaio, who once called a press conference to announce he was signing a petition, still won’t say whether he would vote for the ongoing shutdown or the looming default crisis. On the most important issue facing San Diego and the country, Carl DeMaio refuses to tell people where he would stand.

“Both Kirk Jorgensen and Carl DeMaio are failing critical tests of responsible leadership,” said Matt Inzeo of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Kirk Jorgensen is pushing reckless Tea Party approaches that threaten America’s economy, and Carl DeMaio refuses to tell San Diegans where he stands during this reckless shutdown. San Diego needs real leaders who will solve our problems, not Kirk Jorgensen to make our challenges worse or Carl DeMaio to duck tough issues.”


Jorgensen Backs Extreme Position to Not Raise Debt Ceiling Without Concessions. On October 8, 2013, Jorgensen posted on his Facebook that Congress should not raise the debt ceiling without “immediate spending cuts.” [Kirk Jorgensen Facebook, 10/08/13]

“Republicans Ignore Calls from Business Community Raise the Debt Ceiling Now and Pass Reforms Later.” “Business leaders are increasingly warning Republicans that their refusal to lift the nation's ability to borrow more money could badly damage the economy, but the GOP, under ferocious pressure from conservatives to force budget concessions from President Barack Obama, are standing their ground. While business groups acknowledge that major bills like the debt ceiling have historically offered opportunities for major reform, they are pressing lawmakers not to take their negotiations past the Oct. 17 date set by the Treasury Department that could risk default.” [Yahoo News, 10/08/13]

“Debt Ceiling Debacle is No Big Deal to Tea Party Republicans.” “The biggest threat facing the United States today may be the monumental ignorance of the tea party Republicans who have captured the once-great Republican Party. While economists and financial experts on Wall Street are uniformly warning that failure to raise the nation’s debt ceiling would be a catastrophe that would send world stock markets into a nose dive, members of the tea party caucus in Congress are insisting it would be no big deal at all.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/09/13]



(San Diego)  Governor Brown has signed AB 154, legislation carried by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins that expands access to abortion.  The bill broadens the categories of trained healthcare professionals who may perform early abortions to include nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, and certified nurse midwives. This expansion will help alleviate a shortage of abortion providers in California, where more than half the counties have no abortion provider.

“Timely access to reproductive health services is critical to women’s health,” says Atkins.  “AB 154 will ensure that no woman has to travel excessively long distances or wait for long periods in order to obtain an early abortion.  I appreciate Governor Brown’s support of women’s health.”

A recent comprehensive study conducted by the University of California San Francisco and published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that trained nurse practitioners, midwives and physicians’ assistants can safely provide early abortions and that women appreciate receiving care in their own communities.  AB 154 includes stringent training and competency requirements for these practitioners.

The bill is sponsored by the California Women’s Health Alliance, a coalition of groups such as Planned Parenthood, California Church IMPACT, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and Black Women for Wellness.  The Alliance is dedicated to protecting and improving the reproductive health of California women. The bill is also supported by the California Medical Association.



(San Diego)  Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, was signed into law by Governor Brown today.  The bill provides transgender people seeking legal name changes to reflect their gender identity with a streamlined and inexpensive process that protects their privacy. Current law requires a transgender person to obtain a court order and to publish the name change application in the newspaper. This process can be expensive and also publicly exposes the person to potential discrimination, harassment or even violence because of being transgender.

AB 1121 creates a new administrative option for transgender people seeking to amend the gender marker on a California birth certificate through the State Registrar.  It also deletes the costly newspaper publication requirement.

“Transgender people are entitled to have their official documents and their legal name reflect their true identity without a burdensome and expensive process that endangers their personal safety,” says Atkins. “This bill improves the lives of transgender Californians because it creates a simpler, more affordable, and safer process. I am very pleased that Governor Brown agrees and that he has signed my bill.”

Transgender people’s understanding of themselves as male or female is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.  Medical science recognizes this condition as Gender Dysphoria and prescribes specific treatments to help the transgender person transition physically, so their bodies match their gender identity.  This often includes surgery, medication, and mental health support. Being transgender is not a choice.  A person’s gender identity is set at an early age and cannot be changed at will.

The transition to living in accord with one’s gender identity also involves a legal process because birth certificates and a person’s name usually reflect the sex they were assigned at birth. In California, a person seeking a court-ordered name change has to publish a notice in a newspaper for four weeks.  They are also required to have a public hearing before a judge, the record of which is also public.  The process is lengthy and can be expensive.

Forty-four percent of transgender people experience discrimination, harassment and assault.  A public name change process heightens the likelihood of these occurring.  AB 1121 allows the transgender person to avoid the public notice and court process by applying directly to the state Office of Vital Records for a name change.

AB 1121 is sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.

Block measure targets service inequities to children with developmental disabilities

SACRAMENTO – Governing boards of the state’s 21 regional centers of the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) will receive training and support to increase their linguistic and cultural competency under SB 367, a measure approved today by the governor.

SB 367 would also require the regional centers’ governing boards to assess how well they are serving linguistically and culturally underserved populations and to provide recommendations to the director of the regional center and post on the Internet the training provided to their governing boards.

“We know we must do better to provide services and care to children with autism and other disorders,” Block said. “We can and must perform better for regional center clients by identifying areas for improvement and providing additional support and training to the governing boards who direct those centers. Strong leaders are critical in any organization.”

DDS contracts with the 21 regional centers across the state to coordinate, purchase and provide community-based services for eligible consumers with developmental disabilities. More than 220,000 Californians with developmental disabilities are served through this system.

Block said race, language and socio-economic status play a large role in creating obstacles to access. “That shouldn’t happen, and SB 367 will help us focus on creating equal access to services. My bill will help ensure that our regional centers are working to eliminate cultural and language barriers to treatment.”

Block’s bill is part of a Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders legislative package. In April 2012, the state senate conducted a hearing to determine how well regional centers were serving their clients. The hearing resulted in a 119-page report, “A Preliminary Report by the Taskforce on Equity and Diversity for Regional Center Autism Services,” which identified 19 recommended changes to practice within the Developmental Services system.


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Monday, October 7, 2013

Carl DeMaio’s Model Legislator: Senator Ted Cruz

As the government shutdown continues to hurt San Diego workers and businesses, Carl DeMaio compared himself to the architect of the crisis, Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz, holding him up as someone who “can make a difference.” While San Diegans and people across the country look for responsible solutions to the shutdown, Carl DeMaio promises more of Senator Cruz’s radical approach.

“The only difference Ted Cruz is making is irresponsibly shutting down the government with his reckless antics, but Carl DeMaio is holding him up as a model for how to behave in Washington,” said Matt Inzeo of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Senator Cruz has been the leader of the reckless push to shut down the government, and Carl DeMaio will be a loyal foot soldier pushing these irresponsible crises – that’s not the kind of leadership San Diego wants.”


DeMaio Compares Himself to Ted Cruz. On Tuesday at the San Diego Lions Club, when asked how as a junior congressman he would be able to change Washington, DeMaio pointed to Ted Cruz as an example saying “Take a look at what Ted Cruz is doing. Freshman Senator, he’s certainly creating a lot of stir. So I do believe one individual can make a difference. And it’s a question of whether you are willing to stand your ground.” [San Diego Lions Club Video 4, 10/1/13]

House Republicans Credit Ted Cruz for Government Shutdown.  “House Republicans give one person the most credit for bringing Congress to its current standoff over funding for the federal government: Ted Cruz […] Many lawmakers said they would have been here had it not been for the junior Senator from Texas.” [Huffington Post,  9/29/13]

“Cruz: Tie Debt-Ceiling Rise to Obamacare Changes.” “Sen. Ted Cruz says legislation raising the debt ceiling is among the best leverage that Congress has to rein in the White House and should include changes to the nation's new health insurance system. The Texas Republican said Sunday in addition to what he calls "Obamacare," Republicans should also look for a "significant" plan to reduce new spending and avoiding new taxes.” [AP, 10/06/13]



(San Diego)  AB 482, a bill to improve the cost effectiveness of the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) and to fund museums through the sale of a Snoopy license plate, was passed by the State Legislature today and sent to the Governor.


“California’s museums preserve our cultural identity for future generations while providing enjoyment and education for everyone,” says Atkins.  “Snoopy is himself a cultural institution and having his partnership in support of our museums is sure to make a huge difference in keeping them financially strong.  I hope everyone will sign up for a Snoopy plate and I thank Governor Brown for signing AB 482.”

The CCHE was established at the California State Library in 2003.  Since then, it has provided $122 million in grants to not-for-profit groups, government entities, and Native American tribes from funds generated by voter-approved Proposition 40.  These grants have supported the acquisition, restoration, preservation, and interpretation of our state’s historical and cultural resources. Due to dwindling Prop 40 funds, CCHE’s activities and staff face significant reductions and a winding down of the grant program.

Under AB 482, which is sponsored by the California Association of Museums, the CCHE would move over to the Natural Resources Agency where efficiencies can be implemented, with savings to the state of approximately $30,000 per year.

At the same time, a permanent source of funding for CCHE’s programs became possible when the widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz offered the rights to Snoopy’s likeness for a license plate that would raise funds for museums.  AB 482 authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to offer the Snoopy plate, which, like all specialty license plates would cost $50, plus another $48 if motorists want their plate personalized .  DMV will accept requests for the new plate.  They require at least 7,500 prepaid requests before starting production.  The California Association of Museums has already received more than 9,200 pledges from Californians who say they will purchase the plate once it is available.  The proceeds from the plate will be distributed through a competitive grant process.  All museums will be eligible.


(San Diego)  Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law AB 425, a bill by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins to require the State of California to address water pollution caused by copper-based anti-fouling hull paint.  Under this bill, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is directed to complete by February 1, 2014 its work to evaluate and make recommendations regarding whether the paint should be subject to increased state oversight and how best to mitigate its potentially harmful effects.

“Copper-based paint is effective in keeping boat hulls free from damaging organisms like barnacles and algae but it also poses a threat to aquatic animal and plant life when it leaches into water where recreational boats are moored,” says Atkins.  “We need to complete the scientific analysis in order to develop sound and balanced environmental policy that protects our marine ecosystem without being overly burdensome.”

Copper based hull paint is legal in California as long as it is registered as a pesticide; however, the level of pollution in some bodies of water exceeds that allowable under the federal Clean Water Act and state water quality regulations.  This, in turn, endangers plant and animal life, particularly in areas with limited water circulation and a high concentration of moorings for personal recreational boats, which can remain stationary for long periods.  For example, Shelter Island Yacht Basin in San Diego Bay has been ordered to reduce its copper pollution by 76% by the year 2022.

DPR has been conducting ongoing research and analysis of the issue for a number of years without issuing recommendations.  AB 425 is intended to jump start this process and require DPR to complete its work so that informed policy decisions can be made.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

FACT CHECK: NRCC’s New Health Care Ad Campaign Is A Big Fat Lie 

The National Republican Congressional Committee has launched new radio ads falsely claiming that Representative Scott Peters voted to protect “Congress’ taxpayer funded healthcare” and ensure “members of Congress receive special subsidies to pay for their healthcare.”

It’s a big fat lie.  In reality, major nonpartisan organizations have concluded that there is no special exemption or subsidy, even some House Republicans have admitted it isn’t true and House Speaker John Boehner lobbied to protect it.


·         CNN: Congress, Staff are Not Exempt from Obamacare. “Congress is no more exempt than any other employer who drops coverage and then helps employees purchase insurance on the exchanges.” [CNN, 9/25/13]

·         Politifact: “False.” “Cruz… said the president ‘just granted all of Congress an exception.’ … We rate Cruz’s claim False.” [Politifact, 8/14/13]

· “Lawmakers and their Staffs Face Additional Requirements that other Americans Don’t.” “Congress isn’t ‘exempt’ from the law…In fact, as we’ve said before, lawmakers and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don’t… federal employees will have to get insurance through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act. Other Americans with work-based insurance aren’t subject to such a requirement.” [, 8/30/13]

·         Roll Call: Norm Ornstein, AEI: False. “On the assertion that Members of Congress are exempt from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act: also false. Members of Congress are subject under the health care reform law to the same mandate that others are to purchase insurance, and their plans must have the same minimum standards of benefits that other insurance plans will have to meet. Members of Congress currently have not a gold-plated free plan but the same insurance options that most other federal employees have, and they do not have it provided for free.” [Roll Call, 5/11/11]

·         The Hill: “At least two House Republicans have acknowledged that the policy is not an exemption from the healthcare law. Rep. Krisi Noem (R-S.D.) reportedly told one of her constituents that Congress is not exempt, and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) also pushed back against talk of an exemption." [The Hill, 9/30/13]

·         National Review: “They haven’t been “exempted” from the amendment that forces them onto the exchanges, in a way no other American is […] The net result of the law and the workaround isn’t a “special handout” for congressional employees […] But people who happen to be paid by the federal treasury don’t deserve to have the entire value of their existing coverage stripped away, as almost no Americans will experience. [National Review, 9/27/13]

·         Speaker Boehner Protected These So-Called Subsidies. “Yet behind-the-scenes, Boehner and his aides worked for months […] to save these very same, long-standing subsidies, according to documents and e-mails provided to POLITICO. […] Boehner wondered aloud at one point whether he and the Nevada Democrat could quietly slip some language into a bill to end the problem without it receiving any public attention.” [Politico, 10/1/13]