<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Political News, Bay Area Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Thu, 28 May 2015 03:17:41 -0700 Thu, 28 May 2015 03:17:41 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Lawmakers Want to Study Effects of War on Veterans, Families]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 19:06:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0527-2015-soldiers.jpg

How bad are the effects of war on veterans and their families?

That's what a group of bipartisan lawmakers in Washington are trying to figure out. They want research on how chemical weapons can have an impact on the health of children and grandchildren of veterans.

The proposal is called the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015, which is co-authored by South Bay Congressman Mike Honda.

"I do seek treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," veteran Omar Teutle said.

The former Marine served one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Now Teutle is dealing with the news lawmakers in Washington want to see if the toxins troops were exposed to in combat -- like Agent Orange in Vietnam and neurotoxins in the Gulf wars -- can impact their children and grandchildren.

If approved, the act would establish a national center for research to study the health of a veteran's descendants. The Veterans Administration has recognized certain birth defects among the children of veterans of both the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Tito Cortez of the Veterans Supportive Services Agency helps veterans fight for military benefits and is glad someone is finally trying to look into this other effect of war.

"Had I known there was Agent Orange when I got out of Vietnam I probably would not have gotten married," Cortez said. "That's how scary it is -- would have thought twice about getting married."

Veterans said they are the ones who were drafted or enlisted, not their descendants. So their children should not have to be scarred by the same war they are trying to leave behind.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Field Poll: CA Voters Still Approve of Jerry Brown]]> Tue, 26 May 2015 18:05:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/presupuesto-california-gobernador-jerry-brown.jpg

Despite the drought, water cutbacks, and the recent recession, California voters are giving high marks to Governor Jerry Brown. The latest NBC Bay Area Field Poll finds his approval numbers are near a record high.

Nearly six in 10 voters approve of the job Brown is doing as governor and only 26 percent disapprove.

That's despite the sharp split among voters on whether California is on the right track. Forty percent of voters say California is moving in the right direction and 40 percent believe the state is seriously off-track.

<![CDATA[Bay Area Legislator Wants to Increase Gas Taxes]]> Mon, 25 May 2015 20:22:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gas+prices+rising.JPG More than 4 million Californians hit the road this weekend. The highest number since 2005. Larry Gerston examines a proposal to increase gas taxes.

Photo Credit: Joel Cooke]]>
<![CDATA[President Obama Responds to 5-Year-Old Girl’s Message on Twitter]]> Sun, 24 May 2015 09:57:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/211*120/obamatweet1.JPG

A small girl with a big message caught the president's attention on Twitter.

Five-year-old Yasmeen from Virginia wrote a letter to President Obama asking that he "stop war for our world," adding that countries should have a meeting instead.

She also asked the president to "give a speech to tell everyone they can marry who they want."

Her aunt, Dr. Fahmida Zaman, a psychologist in San Francisco, tweeted a picture of the letter to the president — and the commander in chief responded.

He wrote: "Tell your niece I really like her letter. Couldn't agree more!" he wrote. It was only Obama's sixth tweet since getting his own account.

"The fact that he responded to a letter that a 5-year-old wrote, to be able to share with her that her words got to the president was pretty remarkable," Zaman said.

The message has been retweeted more than 3,000 times.

Photo Credit: Via Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands Fly "Home to Vote" For Ireland Gay Marriage Referendum]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 17:35:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP574120519370.jpg Voters went to the polls in Ireland Friday on whether to allow gay marriage in a referendum that has seen thousands of citizens travel home from overseas in order to take part. Mark Matthews reports.]]> <![CDATA[Hillary Clinton Visits NH Brewery]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 15:21:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/228*120/Hillary+Clinton+smuttynose+2.jpg

Hillary Clinton received information on her private email server about the deadly attack on US Diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that has now been classified.

It's new information that came to light about the former Secretary of State as she campaigned at the Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire, her second visit to the state as a presidential candidate.

Clinton says she wants people to be able to see all of the nearly 300 emails that have been released

"I'm aware that the FBI has asked that portion of one email be held back - that happens in the process of FOI responses," she said. "But that doesn't change the fact that all of the information i the emails was handled appropriately."

No laws were violated. But Friday's redaction shows that Clinton received information considered sensitive on her unsecured personal server, which came to light just as she was beginning her presidential campaign.

Clinton also seemed to give a more definitive answer when asked about her views on the future of US Policy in Iraq.

"This has to be fought by and won by Iraqis," said Clinton. "There is no role whatsoever for American soldiers on the ground to go back other than as trainers and advisers."

The candidate got an earful from small business as she spoke in defense of the Export Import Bank which guarantees loans to help U.S. exporters - opposed by some Republicans.

On the subject of the controversial Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, Clinton says she is still deciding her position.

"I do have concerns," she said. "I have concerns that the standards will not be tough enough. They will not be enforceable."

The Clinton Campaign has announced that her official announcement rally will be June 13. The location has not yet been announced.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Paul's Senate Speech Not a Filibuster]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 16:05:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/150408-rand-paul-today.jpg

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) took to the floor of the Senate chamber Wednesday afternoon for what would become a 10-and-a-half hour speech against a provision of the Patriot Act up for renewal, a move he called a filibuster.

But was his marathon oration really a filibuster?

Not exactly, says Larry Gerston, NBC Bay Area Political Analyst.

By definition, a filibuster is any obstruction that prevents legislation from being brought to a vote. And there was no legislation up for a vote on the day of Paul’s speech.

“His protest was a nice opportunity for him to talk about an issue, but the issue wasn’t under consideration,” Gerston said. “He could have talked about the colors of the rainbow, it didn’t really matter. There was no bill up for the Senate to consider that day.”

The provision Paul was protesting is Section 215, which deals with the bulk collection of Americans' phone records. It's one of three sections of the Patriot Act that will expire on June 1.

The USA Freedom Act, a bill approved by the House of Representatives last week, would renew the three sections up for expiration through 2019 and change Section 215, stopping the bulk collection of phone data.

But the changes in the USA Freedom Act aren’t strong enough, according to Paul.

The senator created buzz on social media days before his speech, telling constituents that he would begin his filibuster to "end NSA spying" and advising them to show their support through the hashtag #StandwithRand.

“I’ve chosen to filibuster the Patriot Act, because the Patriot Act is the most un-patriotic of acts,” Paul said in a video posted to his Twitter account the day before his Senate speech.

Ten-and-a-half hours is a long time to be on one’s feet. So long, in fact, that Paul wore sneakers to the festivities.

It was reported that most seats in the Senate chamber were empty the day of Paul's marathon performance. Not typical during a filibuster, Gerston said.

Instead, the political analyst suggested that Paul’s address was actually self-promotion.

“He was talking to TV cameras, and he was talking to those people interested in knowing more about Rand Paul,” Gerston said. “He was talking to those people who might be interested in voting for him downstream. He was talking to those people who might provide him money for his campaign.”

The Kentucky senator’s actions did garner a lot of attention, but just how effective they will be in stopping the collection of phone records by the National Security Association is to be determined. Two renewal bills currently rest in both houses, which Paul criticizes because they’d cut short—not eliminate—the bulk collection of data on individuals’ phone records.

The Senate will recess for Memorial Day, which leaves limited time for action before the Patriot Act expires on June 1.

In the meantime, Rand Paul has continued posting photos and videos in what has become his social media tour de force around this issue.

Photo Credit: The TODAY Show
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<![CDATA[Jim Kenney Wins Philly Mayoral Bid]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 21:15:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/AP142050022358.jpg

Jim Kenney is poised to become Mayor of Philadelphia after winning the Democratic Party's nomination in Tuesday's primary.

"I am honored and forever humbled by the coalition of support that made me the Democratic nominee for mayor of the City of Philadelphia," the 57-year-old former at large city councilman proclaimed during his victory speech surrounded by family, former council members and key supporters.

Kenney was declared the winner at 9:03 p.m. with 62 percent of the vote. Only 24 percent of precincts had reported when the race was decided. The numbers narrowed as more votes were recorded, but he still carried the vote 2-1 or 56 percent.

Kenney bested five other opponents — Anthony Hardy Williams; Lynne Abraham; Nelson Diaz; Doug Oliver; and Milton Street — but his victory is far from a surprise. Heading into May, a poll of 600 likely voters showed Kenney had a huge 42 percent lead over his opponents. The survey was the only independent poll of the primary race and was conducted for NBC10/Telemundo 62, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

Williams and Abraham each had 15 percent of pie while the others had 5 percent or less.

Kenney had the most endorsements including vital support from former colleagues on city council and several unions including the electricians, FOP and teachers. Some of the most important backing came from prominent African-American politicians from Northwest Philadelphia including Councilwomen Cindy Bass and Marian Tasco and state representative Dwight Evans.

"Our campaign was a broad and unprecedented coalition of diverse groups many of whom came together for the first time to support me," Kenney said.

Known for his big personality and sometimes brash comments in person and on Twitter, the South Philadelphia-native said he'd like to provide universal prekindergarten education, raise minimum wage to $15 an hour and banish stop-and-frisk. They're all topics that were of top importance to voters, our polling showed.

Kenney spent 23 years in council and was seen for being progressive on issues like the environment, ethics and marijuana decriminalization. He's long supported the LGBT community, police and firefighters as well.

But he has walked back on comments about police's use of force, which some likened to brutality, and, years ago, distanced himself from former state senator Vince Fumo, who was convicted of corruption.

Kenney will now face lone Republican challenger Melissa Murray Baily in the November general election, but he's expected to win as Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-1 in the city. He said he'll be spending the next six months earning every vote.

"We need this coalition to grow even larger," he said "Together I know we can achieve even greater things, so let’s get to work."

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Majority of Voters Not Paying Attention to Senate Race]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 10:27:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AC-KNTV-6PM-5192015---22012717.jpg

Voters are not paying much attention to next year’s open primary election for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat, according to the latest NBC Bay Area Field Poll.

Kamala Harris is leading, but just 19 percent of voters selected her as their first choice. Nearly six in 10 likely voters are undecided, the poll shows.

The good news for Harris’s main opponent, Loretta Sanchez, is almost 60 percent of those surveyed aren’t even tuned in to the Senate race.

With so many voters having no preference whatsoever, there’s plenty of room for another candidate or two, NBC Bay Area political analyst Larry Gerston predicts. The deadline for candidates to file is in March 2016.

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<![CDATA[Should College Be Free? Bernie Sanders Says So]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 16:35:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/471658670.jpg

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, announced a proposal Tuesday that would make undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities free to students. The idea would be largely funded through new fees on Wall Street.

“It'll strengthen our economy and give us a better-educated workforce,” said Sen. Sanders, who is also running to the left of Hillary Clinton in seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House.

The Wall Street speculation fee would be levied on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators, according to a summary of the legislation posted on the website of Sen. Sanders. The fees would amount to $.50 on every $100 of stock. A .1 percent fee would be tacked onto bonds and a .005 percent charge would be levied on derivatives.

It is estimated that the fees could raise hundreds of billions of dollars a year, Sanders said. Through that, the federal government would cover two-thirds of the free college tuition, with states responsible for the remaining third, according to the legislation summary.

Nationally, total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70-billion a year, according to the office of Sen. Sanders.

The Independent, who is a self-described Democratic Socialist and admirer of how several European nations provide free higher education, also wants lower interest rates on student loans. The legislation Sanders introduced would give borrowers the ability to refinance student loans at lower interest rates, as homeowners can currently do with their mortgages.

“It is totally absurd that in America today, we have hundreds of thousands of bright young people who can no longer afford to go to college,” Sanders told necn.

Other reforms the College for All Act would implement include expanding the federal work study program, which offers part-time employment to students, and simplifying the student aid application process, Sanders added.

As for Sanders' proposal to tax Wall Street to make college free, many observers believe the GOP-controlled Congress will pay little or no attention. Still, Sanders said Washington has to do a better job of listening to families struggling to pay for education.

Separately, education leaders in Vermont announced Tuesday that high schoolers can continue taking up to two college courses free.

“This is really quite a big deal,” said Jeb Spaulding, the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges. “It’s really a major economic advancement tool for many students who wouldn’t otherwise get to post-secondary education.”

A state law was about to make towns kick in half the costs, possibly stifling participation in the so-called “dual enrollment” program which more than 1,000 Vermont students took part in in the past year, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

A new fix means the state education fund will now cover the costs of that coursework, Shumlin announced, noting he would like to see more students apply to dual enrollment programs before upcoming deadlines.

Kenyan-born Lule Aden, 18, a senior at Burlington High School, said she enjoyed taking University of Vermont classes well before she even graduated high school. She said she will be the first in her family to go to college when she heads to UVM in the fall, planning to study communication sciences and disorders.

“Taking these courses, getting a feel of how college feels, and how the courses are, and how long classes are, I feel more prepared for it,” Aden said, describing how her dual enrollment experience left her more ready for college. “And I'm going to be able to do it and hopefully be successful.” 

<![CDATA["Hello, Twitter!" President Obama Gets His Own Account]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 09:43:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/obama-blackberry-459365998.jpg

President Barack Obama has joined the Twitterverse. 

With his second term more than halfway through, the president sent his inaugural tweet from a new @POTUS Twitter account on Monday. 

The verified account, which attracted more than 146,000 followers within 30 minutes of posting the first tweet, carries the bio "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States."

The official @WhiteHouse account retweeted the message and posted confirmation of its own.

The tweet wasn't the first 140-character missive sent from the 44th president. The White House's existing practice was to sign tweets from the president on the @BarackObama handle with his initials, "-bo." That @BarackObama account, launched in March 2007, is run by the staff of Obama's non-profit Organizing for Action group. 

The new account followed all major Chicago sports teams except one — the Cubs. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Will Rep. Sanchez Shake Up the Senate Race?]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 15:49:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/loretta-sanchez-los-angeles-candidata-senado-california.jpg Since Sen. Barbara Boxer’s retirement announcement last January, California attorney general Kamala Harris has stood out as the best known contender. But last week, Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana stepped up. NBC Bay Area political analyst Larry Gerston joins us to discuss whether the Sanchez candidacy is a game changer.]]> <![CDATA["SNL" Heralds the Summer of Hillary Clinton]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 03:37:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Hillary-Clinton-SNL-Louis-CK-16-May-2015-2.jpg

Summer is only a calendar page away. But nevermind the sunny skies and balmy breezes: the season of straw polls and caucuses has arrived, and Hillary Clinton was in campaign mode on "Saturday Night Live."

In the musical opening sketch, the former senator and secretary of state (portrayed in her latest "SNL" incarnation by a manic, delighftully unhinged Kate McKinnon) took to beaches and sand castles to introduce herself to a younger generation.

"May I have just a moment of your summer? I'm Hillary Clinton and I'm running for president of these United States," said Clinton, clawing at the air, her hands like pincers.

"But that's not for a long time," one (Kenan Thompson) said. "Now it's summer vacation."

"My last vacation was in 1953," she replied. "I played one round of hopscotch with a friend. I found it tedious. Why hop when you can march — straight to the White House."

She then issued her percussive laugh — something like "ah HA HA haaaaaa" — as her mouth curled into a snarling rictus.

She spoke with some kids (Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson), whose parents remained resolutely against her political aspirations.

"I like your sand castle," she said.

"Thanks," Bryant's character replied. "It's our dream house."

"That's nice. This is my dream house," Clinton said, embracing a massive, sandy model of the White House.

Also on the campaign trail were a few surfers (Kyle Mooney, Jay Pharoah and Beck Bennett).

“Hey there, 18-to-25-year-olds," she said, stiffly hula-twisting up to a surfboard. "How does it hang?”

Blank stares.

"You know what's cool? In two years I'll be 69," Clinton said. (More blank stares). "You like that? Bill told me to tell that to young males."

The former president made a brief appearance himself (in the person of longtime "SNL" impersonator Darrell Hammond), if only to help a young woman (Sasheer Zamata) apply sunscreen.

"Billary Rodham Clinton, what are you doing?" the former first lady hissed at her husband.

"Sorry," Mr. Clinton told Zamata's character. "It's my mom."

The Clintons weren't the only political dynasty to take some flak on Saturday night. On "Weekend Update," co-host Colin Jost skewered Jeb Bush for his fumbled responses to questions related to his brother's record in Iraq.

"Jeb Bush said in an interview this week that, like his brother, he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq," Jost said. "But he wouldn't have done it for the same George did: to capture the genie from Aladdin."

Jost also noted that Jeb Bush faced criticism during a Nevada town hall meeting, where a college student said George W. Bush "created ISIS."

"But that's really not fair," Jost said. "It's more like he co-created it," as a photo of Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared.

Photo Credit: Broadway Video
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<![CDATA[Local Politician Compares Ballot Postage to Poll Tax]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 19:13:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/0515-2015-Mail.jpg

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian raised some eyebrows at a board of supervisors meeting earlier this month when he compared the postage required on the county’s vote-by-mail ballot to a poll tax.

It’s 91 cents – strikingly close to the dollar that used to be charged as a poll tax back in the bad old days,” he said from the dais on May 5.

If you crunch the numbers and adjust for inflation, the postage payment is nowhere near the financial equivalent of the historic poll tax—a 19th Century law that kept minorities, particularly African Americans, from exercising their right to vote. Back then it cost on average one to two dollars to register to vote, though the price tag varied by state. That’s equivalent to $13 to $15 today.

But reasons to doubt Simitian’s comparison extend beyond the numbers, says Bertrall Ross, a voting rights expert at UC Berkeley’s School of Law.

“They both impose cost on voters in order to vote, but they’re very different, it seems to me, in terms of their origin and their object,” Ross told NBC Bay Area this week. “I think it’s dangerous to try to make too many, draw too many analogies to the poll tax because it has a danger of diluting the importance of the poll tax and what it actually meant.”

The object of the poll tax was to keep poor and minority groups away from the polls, Ross said. It was inherently discriminatory, he added, which is much different from the Santa Clara County postage policy.

Joe Simitian agrees that vote by mail postage isn’t meant to target poor and minority groups specifically, but he does worry that the cost could create a burden on voters, especially the ten percent of county residents who live at or below the poverty line.

“Look, I think there’s a fundamental question here,” he said. “Do we want to charge people when they exercise their right to vote? I think the answer to that question is and should be no.”

Simitian has reason to be concerned about mail-in ballots. Nearly 70 percent of voters in Santa Clara County vote by mail. In fact, some precincts in the county are vote-by-mail only, though the county Registrar of Voters Office told NBC Bay Area that those mandated to vote by mail receive a ballot with pre-paid postage.

In the last national election, voter turnout was the lowest it has been since World War II, and the turnout was similar in California. As a result, Simitian says Santa Clara County is encouraging vote-by-mail to its population because of the convenience attached to the process. But should it come at a cost at all? Simitian says no.

“Without the participation of the voting public, we don’t have a real democracy,” he said. “And we start to charge people for exercising their right to vote? You’re headed in the wrong direction in a serious way.”

On that point, Bertrall Ross agrees.

“There’s other arguments that could be put forth in terms of, let’s try to make it as easy for people to vote as possible, and one way to do that would be to eliminate this postage requirement,” he said. “But equating it to the poll tax, I think, is a political move that if you look at the historical context doesn’t really match up.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Examining Gov. Brown's Revised CA Budget]]> Tue, 12 May 2015 19:19:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/presupuesto-california-gobernador-jerry-brown.jpg Gov. Jerry Brown is set to announce a revised budget with updated revenue estimates for the fiscal year that ends next month. Will there be extra money, and if so, how will the state spend it? Larry Gerston reports.]]> <![CDATA[GROSS: Rand Paul Staffer Licks Super PAC's Camera]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 16:47:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP759153459907.jpg

A New Hampshire staffer for Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul's campaign licked the camera of a Democratic super PAC trying to videotape the candidate on Monday.

A YouTube video posted by the group American Bridge, which is tracking GOP candidate on the trail, shows David Chesley, Paul's New Hampshire political director, staring into the video camera for several seconds before giving the lens a big lick.

Boston Globe political reporter James Pindell was at the event - a Town Hall in Londonderry - and asked Chesley afterward what the lick was all about, but said he got no answer.

Necn has an email in to the Paul campaign seeking comment.

Photo Credit: FILE
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<![CDATA[What’s At The Root of California’s Historic Drought?]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 00:19:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/190*120/471011092_master.jpg Have you heard enough about water conservation? A new study shows that the biggest problem may have less to do with conservation and more to do with ownership of California Water Supplies. NBC Bay Area’s Political Analyst Larry Gerston discusses what may be at the root of this historical drought.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Parents Debate on Children's Vaccination Requirements]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 12:32:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/N11P+CA+VACCINE+DEBATE+PKG+-+22395703.jpg

The battle over vaccination is heating up with some last minute political wrangling.

The big question--should all children be required to have vaccinations or be banned from school? This idea causing a lot of controversy.

Elaine Shtein of San Jose is preparing signs to protest Monday against Senate Bill 277. The proposed legislation would require parents to vaccinate their children or home school them.

"It's very severe legislation that is overreaching parent's rights to choose what gets injected into their children," Shtein said.

Elaine's 6-year-old son Jackson has autism, and she believes vaccines may have played a role. This is why she has not had her 10-year-old daughter Sophia complete her boosters. She said if the proposed legislation passes, it will uproot her kids' lives.

“I would be home schooling an 8-year-old third grader and a severely vaccine-injured 6-year-old,” Shtein said.

Proponents of the bill said the legislation will protect the community and prevent the resurgence of preventable diseases like we saw in California during a recent measles outbreak.

State Sen. Richard Pan is a pediatrician who authored the bill.

“We do not need to have families worry about having their children exposed to a very preventable disease and end up having children injured in the hospital, or god forbid die because we had one these diseases,” Pan said.

Dr. Pan said the bill would also repeal the personal beliefs exemption for vaccinations, which would increase the number of kids getting vaccinated. State records show more than 13,000 California kindergartners did not get vaccinated because of either personal or religious beliefs.

And in a new development, Dr. Pan plans to change the bill to essentially grandfather in many public and private school students whose parents have claimed personal belief exemptions. Shtein said she still opposes the bill and contends the current system is working to protect our kids health.

"We don’t want to be told what to inject in our kids," she said. "What's next? Telling kids the next vitamin that they all must take?"

Senator Pan dropped a key requirement that schools notify parents of immunization rates at their children's schools. SB 277 may go to a full Senate vote as early as this week. If it becomes law, California would become the third state to allow only medical exemptions to childhood vaccination requirements.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA["SNL" Skewers GOP Presidential Candidates]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 04:33:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/Ted-Cruz-Bobby-Moynihan-SNL-9-May-2015.jpg

The 2016 presidential election cycle has officially begun — and in the comedy world, that means it's open season on the high-profile politicians clamoring for a shot at the Oval Office.

"Saturday Night Live" skewered Republicans running for the presidential nomination in a skit featuring the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, but Hillary Clinton didn't exactly escape unscathed.

In the cold open sketch, GOP leaders emerged onstage at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference accompanied by over-the-top shoutouts from a DJ (Cecily Strong).

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (Beck Bennett) promised to shred the Obamacare and the IRS like his basslines, while Dr. Ben Carson (Kenan Thompson) likewise promised to do the same.

"Put this guy in prison, because he's about to steal your vote!" the DJ said. "But be careful, because if sexuality works the way he says it does, he might turn gay in there." (For the record, Carson apologized for saying that being gay is a choice.)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Bobby Moynihan) entered and ripped off his suit jacket, revealing a fluorescent shirt. Former HP executive Carly Fiorina (a loony Kate McKinnon) one-upped that, riding in on a motorcycle flanked by pyrotechnics.

"Her maiden name is Snead, and she's just got what you need — unless it's foreign policy experience," the DJ said over the blaring hip-hop.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (Kyle Mooney) rode in a skateboard as the DJ explained his stance on pro-marijuana legalization: "He's a small man who loves small government and fat blunts."

And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (Taran Killam), who apparently eschewed an undershirt in favor of tanning oil, entered with a bevy of dancers to a background track from Miami rapper Pitbull.

"Won't it be fun to watch all these guys lose to Jeb Bush?!" the DJ says as the candidates gather onstage.

But Weekend Update co-hosts took a few jabs at Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton, too.

"A new poll shows that Hillary Clinton's poll points have dropped two points since she made her campaign official," Michael Che said. "Because for some reason, once a woman tries to make it official, we suddenly lose interest."

And then there was this, also from Che: "Hillary Clinton reportedly met with potential donors for her presidential super PAC, three weeks after she criticized that practice. The super PAC's name is Hillary's Political Action Committee for Democracy, or HiPACracy."

Photo Credit: Broadway Video
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<![CDATA[Presidential Candidate Rand Paul Opens "Tech Hub" in SF]]> Sun, 10 May 2015 10:20:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*129/FullSizeRender24.jpg

Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul was in San Francisco Saturday to speak about "disrupting democracy" in an attempt to woo Millennials and the Silicon Valley crowd.

Paul, who calls himself "a different kind of Republican," took questions about net neutrality, NSA surveillance and Millennial voters during the discussion, formally titled "Disrupting Democracy: A New Generation of Voter Engagement." The event was co-hosted by Lincoln Labs, a Libertarian-leaning "technology and policy think tank" and Brigade, billionaire Sean Parker's civic engagement startup. Brigade's CEO Matt Mahan also joined the conversation along with the San Francisco Chronicle's political reporter Carla Marinucci.

"Some people might be thinking what the hell is a Republican doing in San Francisco," Paul said to chuckles from a packed house at the shared incubator workspace StartupHouse at 934 Howard St. Paul opened a "tech hub" at StartupHouse Saturday to boost his campaign's presence in Silicon Valley, the first 2016 presidential candidate to do so. Paul's campaign has also added a CTO, a tech advisory board and tech office space in Austin.

Paul and Mahan discussed strategies to increase voter engagement among Americans, particularly Millennials — an elusive group that's attractive to Republicans and Democrats alike.

"I think young people are looking for something genuine," Paul said. "You need to go where young kids are." Paul said his campaign will be aggressively using social media to reach out to young people during what is already being dubbed as the "Periscope election." "We use Snapchat more than anybody else," he said, without going into any specific social media plans ("I'd have to kill you first," he quipped when asked about it).

An article in Vox last year observed that even though Millennials may be missing from the polls, their tweets, texts and hashtags indicate they are paying attention.

“Millennials are better informed, better connected and more exposed to news” than their parents, Mahan told the Chronicle in an earlier interview, but added that there’s “a skepticism or even a cynicism problem" because many Millennials doubt “their vote is relevant or impactful.”

The 2014 midterm election marked the lowest voter participation since the 1940s, but Brigade's leaders say advances in social technologies can reverse the trend. "Disruptive new technologies and candidates are going to make our government better," Mahan said.

Photo Credit: Riya Bhattacharjee]]>
<![CDATA[Fake Masonic Cops Arrested: Sheriff]]> Wed, 06 May 2015 11:35:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/189*120/5-6-2015-FakeCops.JPG

Three people accused of posing as police officers with a rogue force they said had existed for thousands of years wound up behind bars after trying to schedule meetings with real law enforcement officials.

The trio, including an aide to the California attorney general, claimed to be members of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department (MFPD) in letters sent to several agencies in Southern California, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman said.

After this aroused suspicion, detectives launched an investigation, and arranged for them to meet Captain Roosevelt Johnson of Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.  

During the meeting, the three said that their group was descended from the medieval order the Knights Templar and that their agency had been in existence for 3,000 years, authorities said. They also said their department had sovereign jurisdiction in 33 states and across the border in Mexico.

The group's website describes differences between the MFPD and "other police departments."

"The answer is simple for us. We were here first! We are born into this Organization our bloodlines go deeper then (sic) an application. This is more then a job it is an obligation," the website says.

During raids in the 28000 block of Linda Vista Street and the 17000 Block of Sierra Highway, in Santa Clarita, investigators discovered badges, identification cards, weapons, uniforms, police-type vehicles and other law enforcement equipment.

The three — David Henry, 46, who claimed to be the MPFD chief,  along with Tonette Hayes, 56, and Brandon Kiel, 36, who claimed to be chief deputy — were arrested and booked on charges of impersonating a peace officer. Henry is also accused of lying under oath, while Kiel is accused of misusing government identification.

Kiel has worked as deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice, according to the Los Angeles Times. A department spokesman declined to comment, but told the Times Kiel is on administrative leave.

Detectives believe the suspects were trying to deceive individuals in the community as to their status as law enforcement officials for a purpose yet to be determined. They also believe there may be other individuals associated with this organization.

Jail records did not indicate a court date for the suspects. It was not clear Wednesday morning whether the three suspects had obtained an attorney.

Anyone with further information about their activities is asked to call detectives on  323-980-2211, or they can anonymously  call "Crime Stoppers" on 800-222-8477.

<![CDATA[CA's Carbon Emissions Goals Attainable?]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 19:34:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/presupuesto-california-gobernador-jerry-brown.jpg

California Governor Jerry Brown announced last week a new plan for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The executive order calls on the Golden State to decrease carbon emission rates by 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030.

“I’ve set a very high bar, but it’s a bar we must meet,” the governor told onlookers when he announced the executive order last week.

The goal sets a national precedent and is on par with the benchmark set in place by the European Union last year — the most ambitious target in the world.

Executive orders aren’t technically law, but rather set mandates around which legislation can be written.

The proposal will serve as an interim goal established by the governor as the state works toward reaching its target of reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

That’s the more long term plan laid out in Senate Bill 32, legislation introduced by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) at the end of last year.

What does the governor’s announcement mean for the state? Getting halfway to that 2050 benchmark within the next 15 years.

Has the governor set the bar too high, or is this simply an expression of his faith in California’s climate change policy?

“This is basically saying we need a new industrial revolution,” Dan Kammen, Professor of Energy at UC Berkeley told NBC Bay Area. “The last one took about 150 years. Now we need to do it between now and 2050.”

Kammen says despite the ambitious target, the state can reach the governor’s goal, but getting there by 2030 isn’t going to be easy.

California has already begun plucking at the ‘low hanging fruit’ to bring carbon levels down, like incentivizing cleaner cars, implementing stingier fuel standards and promoting renewable energies—the state sources 24 percent of its power from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power. In light of the governor’s new demand, Kammen says California must majorly increase its use of these technologies, and leverage them in new ways.

“Finding ways to do these things together is really kind of the magic of California innovation on the technical and policy side,” he said. “Because the more we can find opportunities to do both of these things together, like electric vehicles charged up by solar, wind and other renewables, that means that you win twice over. That’s literally a win-win strategy.”

According to figures from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s carbon emissions dropped nearly 7 percent between 2004 and 2012, the year that data is most recently available. If the state keeps at the same rate, it will actually beat the 2020 carbon emissions benchmark set forth by CARB.

So for now, California is ahead of the game in making carbon reductions.

But the real challenge as meeting Governor Brown’s benchmark comes into action will be convincing everyday citizens to play a significant role in cutting back on emissions, said Abby Young, Climate Policy Manager at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Most of the energy nationwide — around 70 percent — is consumed in buildings, and the Bay Area is home to a number of older office spaces and residential properties. Due to their age, these types of buildings are rarely energy efficient.

While requirements have been established for new construction to meet energy efficiency standards, real progress could mean state and local governments incentivizing homeowners to jump on board with retrofitting their homes, Young said. That means installing solar panels and taking other steps to increase energy efficiency, she added.

“What’s great about the governor making this kind of bold statement is it motivates and inspires…individuals to realize how important the individual behaviors and actions they take every day are to helping the state meet this goal,” Young said.

<![CDATA[Critic of Presidential Hopeful Carly Fiorina Uses Her Domain Name ]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 21:22:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Carly+Fiorina+NH+050115.jpg

A website domain using the name of Presidential hopeful and former Hewlett-Packard tech executive Carly Fiorina shares how many people she fired while leading the Silicon Valley company.

The homepage of CarlyFiorina.org reads, "Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain. So I'm using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard."

30,000 sad face emojis follow the statement, "It was this many."

Following the long string of sad faces, it asks, "And what does she say she would have done differently? 'I would have done them all faster,' — Carly Fiorina."

Fiorina is the latest Republican Presidential hopeful who neglected to grab their domain name before announcing their intentions, only to have a critic register it and use it for skewering purposes. In March, Texas Senator Ted Cruz made headlines for failing to secure TedCruz.com, which bears the messages, "Support President Obama" and "Immigration Reform Now!"

Unable to wrest that domain away, reported Time, Cruz set up shop at TedCruz.org.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Christie Aides Plead Not Guilty]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 15:56:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kelly-Baroni.jpg

Two former political allies of Gov. Christie entered not guilty pleas Monday after they were charged for their alleged involvement in politically motivated lane closures of the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and his former top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, entered the pleas through their attorneys in the nine-count indictment unsealed Friday after a yearlong investigation.

"I would never risk my career, my job and my reputation for something like this," Baroni said after the brief court hearing. "I am an innocent man."

Kelly didn't talk to reporters Monday, but said she was also innocent at a news conference on Friday.

Bail for both was set at $150,000 and U.S. District Court Judge Susan Wigenton set a tentative trial date of July 7.

David Wildstein, who went to high school with Christie and later became a top official in the Port Authority, pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal counts. He admitted that he helped plot lane closures in Fort Lee on an approach to the world's busiest bridge as political payback against that community's Democratic mayor for failing to support Christie's re-election campaign.

"If David Wildstein was willing to repeatedly lie to settle a petty political grudge, nobody should be surprised at his eagerness to concoct any story that he thinks will help him stay out of federal prison," said Baroni's lawyer Michael Baldassarre. "We're confident that everyone will see this desperate ploy for exactly what this is."

Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, said that the case was built solely on information from Wildstein. He said that her brief appearance with Baroni in court Monday was the longest Kelly and Baroni have ever spent together.

Christie has not been implicated in the criminal case.

The charges provide mixed news for Christie as he tries to regain momentum in support of an expected presidential bid.

Christie appears to have been cleared of any allegations that he personally participated in the scheme, but the charges brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey still hit close to home.

A Monmouth University poll of 500 New Jersey residents conducted from Friday through Sunday and released on Monday found that half believe Christie was personally involved in the decision to close the toll lanes. Sixty-nine percent don't believe he's been completely honest about what he knew.

Less than one in 10 believe the three individuals who've been charged in the scheme were the only ones involved. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Several recent polls have found Christie's job approval rating in the state has also sunk to an all-time low.

Christie's aides and backers hope the developments will allow the governor to put this chapter behind him less than a year before the first presidential primaries, even as legal proceedings have just begun. In many ways, the outcome was the best he could have hoped for — little new information and no names mentioned beyond those Christie had already cut ties to.

<![CDATA[Has California Fulfilled Its Obligation to Reduce Overcrowded Prisons?]]> Sun, 03 May 2015 13:55:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP784771844590.jpg California has finally complied with a federal court order to reduce overcrowded state prisons. The order resulted from a lawsuit that contended the conditions subjected inmates to cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. But has the program worked as intended? NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston explains if the state fulfilled its obligations.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sen. Sanders Announces White House Bid]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 09:21:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sanders-announce.jpg U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses his plans to run for the White House in 2016.]]>