<![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 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 19:11:27 -0700 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 19:11:27 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Lawmakers Try to Curb Smoking in California]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 01:06:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/smoking-stock-generic-73160938.jpg New efforts are underway in California to snuff out smoking--or at least make it even more difficult for smokers to light up. NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston explains what lawmakers are doing to try to curb smoking in California.

Photo Credit: FILE/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Obama Jokes at Correspondents' Dinner]]> Sun, 26 Apr 2015 02:09:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Obama-White-House-Correspondents-Dinner-1.jpg President Obama poked fun at politicians, government officials and himself at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clinton Has Qualms on Trade Deal]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:16:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/l_apclintonburritox1200.jpg

The second day of her first 2016 campaign visit to New Hampshire found Hillary Clinton at another roundtable, this one at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord.

Clinton says community colleges need to reinvent themselves and better market what they offer.

"It's one of the reasons why I really support President Obama's efforts to try to raise the visibility of Community Colleges and make it even more affordable for even more people to go," said Clinton.

Obama's proposal calls for community college to be free.

In contrast, Clinton expressed qualms over the trade deal the Obama administration is negotiating with Pacific nations.

Clinton's campaign previously said she would be closely watching efforts by the administration to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Her comments Tuesday were her first on the subject on the campaign trail.

"We need to build things, too," she said. "We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive," while getting back to "a much more focused effort, in my opinion, to try to produce those capacities here at home."

Even so, she stopped short of rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership - an agreement opposed by many manufacturing unions.

The next stop for Clinton is the Concord home of 94-year-old Mary Louise Hancock, a New Hampshire Democratic Party stalwart who has hosted dozens of Presidential candidates in her living room over the years.

In keeping with Clinton's no media strategy, reporters were held at bay. And it's not just reporters frustrated by the lack of access.

"She is being insulated to the degree that she should not be as a candidate," said independent voter Brian Blackden. "We don't run campaigns in New Hampshire, never have, with one candidate from the party, and it's wrong."

The Clinton campaign doesn't disclose most of her stops - but Hillary Clinton is not difficult to find. Just look for the crowd of people, motorcade of cars and secret service.

Another stop, not on the public schedule, a visit with Democrats at party headquarters where Clinton is warmly supported - though the progressive wing of the party is listening closely and Clinton is responding.

Political analyst Dean Spiliotes says, "She's sounding much more populist, much more progressive. Wall Street supporters for now seem to be kind of okay with that . They see it as a strategic choice that she has to make."

Besides free community college, Clinton now supports same sex marriage as a constitutional right and she is talking about limiting "unaccountable money" in politics.


Content from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Photo Credit: AP | Charlie Neibergall]]>
<![CDATA[Technology and Politics: Why Social Media is Important to Presidential Candidates]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 04:33:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hillary-clinton-generica01.jpg

For years anyone running for president was focused on getting people to knock on voters' doors, a tactic often called the "ground game." But these days the question is how is your "web game?"

For Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio, it would be the key to their party's nomination.

Social media, and technology as a whole, is something voters -- especially the growing demographic of young voters -- are looking for. Now candidates have to sell themselves on the web as part of the campaign.

Clinton, with 3.3 million Twitter followers, declared her candidacy over social media. Rubio, with more than 700,000 of his own Twitter followers, did the same.

Social media, it seems, is now a big part of any major political campaign.

"The kind of tech tools we have available for advertising any product these days are especially appealing to politicians," said Melinda Jackson, a professor at San Jose State University.

It's true -- Twitter and Facebook are quick, cheap and effective.

In the Bay Area, the political strategy of using the web  has been built in for a while. Examples include California Attorney General Kamala Harris hanging out at Facebook and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom spending time at San Jose's recent "Techmanity" conference.

"And they can also use big data to their advantage because they can actually see what people are clicking on, what people are sharing, what people are re-tweeting," Jackson said. "And that gives them information about how their message is getting out."

It is not just television ads anymore -- this time around the candidates will try to reach you online.

Neither candidate is immune to the rougher side of technology. Clinton, widely criticized for the recent e-mail server scandal and Rubio, a social media meme after reaching for that bottle of water.

To his credit, Rubio jumped on Twitter afterward to poke fun at himself.

<![CDATA[Managing California's Water During a Historic Drought]]> Sun, 12 Apr 2015 15:24:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000010992116_1200x675_426957891556.jpg The California drought may have started as a nuisance but now it has become a crisis. NBC Bay Area's Larry Gerston talks about how we manage our water when we don't have enough.]]> <![CDATA[VP Biden Talks Job Training in Oakland]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 15:24:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/248*120/tlmd_20140226_joe_biden.jpg

Vice President Joe Biden visited a PG&E power plant in Oakland, California, Friday morning and spoke with veterans in a job-training program.

Biden spoke with 15 students in the utility's workforce development program before a much broader press event where he highlighted the importance of workforce development, especially for veterans, according to remarks released by the White House.

His appearance is part of a two-day swing through the Bay Area. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, arrived Thursday evening. The vice president attended a political fundraiser, while his wife visited De Anza Community College in Cupertino to highlight the administration's commitment to two-year colleges.

PG&E's training program prepares people for careers as utility workers, welders, gas service representatives and such. Since 2008, the program has trained more than 600 students, according to the company.

The Republic National Committee issued a general anti-Democrat statement on Friday ahead of Biden's speech, that did not address the specifics of his visit or job growth.

Instead,  Ninio Fetalvo, RNC spokesman stated in an email: “Vice President Biden will continue to tout the same failed Democrat policies of the Obama Administration, but it’s clear that the American people want our country to go in a new direction in 2016. Whether it’s Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton, the American people aren't ready for more of the same.”

In a followup email, Fetalvo added that in the Republican's viewpoint, Obama's economic policies leave the middle class behind, and Biden "will continue to tout what they are doing to promote the middle class," citing March's "disappointing" jobs report as an example.

NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez and Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[2016 NH Primary Candidate Tracker]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 06:28:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/candidate-tracker-NH.jpg

The candidates included in the tracker are individuals identified by necn as potential 2016 presidential contenders. The list will change as the race develops. Information about candidate stops was collected from media reports, candidate schedules and plans confirmed by necn.

For more coverage of the 2016 New Hampshire Primary and politics throughout New England, check out necn.com's "Politics First" section.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[California Divided Over The Drought?]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:42:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ca-drought-stock-breaking-465639979.jpg Is it fair? Who gets to use more water and who is being forced to cut back? NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston shows how Gov. Jerry Brown is getting some heat for his new plan.

Photo Credit: FILE/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former RI Gov. Lincoln Chafee Exploring Presidential Bid]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 07:59:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/183*120/72123949.jpg

Lincoln Chafee, the former governor and U.S. senator from Rhode Island, announced Thursday that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider a run as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

His launch was made on his website, Chafee2016.com.

Chafee will spend the next few months in New Hampshire, Iowa and other key battleground states, according to a statement issued Thursday morning. 

"Throughout my career, I exercised good judgment on a wide range of high-pressure decisions, decisions that require level-headedness and careful foresight," Chafee said. "Often these decisions came in the face of political adversity. During the next weeks and months I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts about the future of our great country."

Chafee served in the U.S. Senate as a Republican from 1999 until 2007. That same year, he left the Republican Party and became an independent. He switched his affiliation to Democratic in 2013.

He served as governor until 2014. He did not seek re-election.

Photo Credit: FILE - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Analysis: Rahm Emanuel Wins Again]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 21:31:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rahm-463880456.jpg

It always seemed inevitable that he’d win. That was the point.

Rahm Emanuel won his re-election contest Tuesday night and bested challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to remain in charge of Chicago for another four years, the Associated Press projects.

“I have had the good fortune to serve two presidents, being elected to congress, but being mayor of the city of Chicago is the greatest job I’ve ever had," Emanuel told supporters. "I’m humbled at the opportunity to serve you, the greatest city, for the next 4 years."

The acerbic mayor overcame questions about his personal style and fended off opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union and the Service Employees International Union who backed his opponent, to win back the job of running city hall.

It wasn’t easy for a mayor who’s used to getting his way. Emanuel expected to cruise to victory in a February primary where he took on a weak field of challengers. But the self-confident political operative, who’s served in Congress and in two White House administrations, ran into trouble.

Garcia, the handpicked candidate of the Chicago Teachers Union, shocked the political system and thrilled progressives when he forced Emanuel into the city’s first ever runoff election for mayor.

Emanuel was left vulnerable after a tenure that saw him clash with teachers over a contract dispute that led to a strike, close 50 schools in mostly black neighborhoods, preside over a wave of violent crime on the south and west sides, and install a series of questionable red light cameras around the city, among other autocratic decisions.

But his opponent, who turned in an impressive result on primary night, was not able to turn Emanuel’s weaknesses into an electoral victory. Garcia often punted on opportunities to outline a specific plan for helping the city through its myriad fiscal woes and ran a campaign whose central theme was “I’m not Rahm.”

Emanuel, who relied on a nearly $30 million war chest to run advertisements during the campaign, may not have offered many more fiscal specifics than Garcia. But his attack ads painted the challenger as completely unprepared for the job of managing a multi-billion dollar budget. The image stuck and Chuy’s reliance wait-and-see-ideas (he said he’d form a commission to look at the city’s finances after the election) didn’t help define him as a candidate that could cross the hurdle of preparedness.

It turns out voters favored the bully who talked the talk instead of the good guy who didn’t say much.

"We are the city that works, and that means it has to work for everyone in every neighborhood. The decisions we make in four years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next 40 years," Emanuel said in his victory speech.

But Emanuel’s victory brings with it some questions and some challenges because the man who earned the nickname Rahmbo continues to have an image problem.

And while a majority of voters cast their ballot for Emanuel, the may have held their nose voting. Emanuel remains a deeply disliked individual. He even acknowledged his testy personality in an on-air advertisement that saw him own up to his reputation as a hard-charging jerk.

Will he try to hang on to the softer side of Rahm? Can the mayor swallow his pride when dealing with a cadre of individuals and organizations that endorsed his challenger or will he stick it to them, dead fish style? Put another way: Will Rahm play nice in his second go around?

That’s not so inevitable.

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jeb Bush ID'd Himself as "Hispanic" on Voter Form]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 07:15:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP632245416248.jpg

Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Monday that a 2009 voter registration form that identified him as Hispanic was a "mistake."

"My mistake! Don’t think I’ve fooled anyone!" the former Florida governor tweeted in response to a post by one of his sons.

The existence of the form was first reported Monday by the New York Times, which obtained information from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department.

Bush, who was born in Texas and is the brother of the former President George W. Bush. He speaks fluent Spanish, according to the Times, and lived in Venezuela for two years in his 20s.

His wife Columba is from Mexico and is also fluent in Spanish. Bush has drawn on his background and experience to build support among Latino voters.

A spokeswoman for Bush could not explain the characterization to the Times.

Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Bay Area Man Killed in Yemen: Family]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 04:26:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/211*120/YEMEN21.JPG

The Bay Area’s Yemeni community is calling on the American government to do more to stem the violence in their country after an Oakland man was killed amid escalating tensions in the Middle Eastern nation.

Jamal al-Labani , who lived in Oakland for about 15 years, was looking forward to bringing his new family to the Bay Area when that dream was shattered.

In a Hayward hall on Mission Boulevard Saturday, friends and family members mourned the loss of al-Labani, an American citizen who went to Yemen in February to try and bring his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter to the United States. Al-Labani has two teenage sons from a previous marriage living in Fresno.

On Tuesday, as al-Labani was trying to make it home to safety in the port town of Aden,  he and a nephew were killed by shrapnel during heavy rebel tank fire, his family says.

“He had been trying to leave the country the past three weeks, and things are getting worse and worse. Airports are pretty much closed. There’s no way for him to escape,” said his cousin Mohammed Alazzani.

Al-Labani, who co-owned a Westco gas station on MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland, was known for his great smile and his kindness.

“Even his customers actually cried. You see tears in his customers," Alazzani said. "He’s really generous. Even if customers are short money, he will let them go."

Now, members of the Yemeni community in Oakland and San Francisco are worried about their relatives in their homeland.

A Saudi-led coalition wants the return of Yemen’s president, who fled the country last week. But Houthi rebels have overrun much of the country. The Council on American Islamic Relations is calling on Washington to remove U.S. citizens.

“Our big focus right now is getting Americans out of Yemen and seeking the government’s assistance to do so,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

But the State Department says it has no plans to intervene, saying civilian lives could be at greater risk if they sent the military.

Alazzani thinks his cousin would be alive today if the U.S. had acted earlier.

"If we acted or did something last week, we could have probably saved him,” he said.

Other countries have been pulling their citizens out of Yemen. The American Red Cross on Saturday called for a 24-hour cease-fire.

<![CDATA[Family Holds Memorial Service for Bay Area Man Killed in Yemen]]> Sun, 05 Apr 2015 12:36:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/yemen6.JPG The Bay Area’s Yemeni community is calling on the American government to do more to stem the violence in their country after an Oakland man was killed during a recent wave of violence in Yemen. Nannette Miranda reports from Hayward.]]> <![CDATA[Impact of Asian Americans on American Politics]]> Sun, 05 Apr 2015 11:45:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000010885321_1200x675_423376451768.jpg Asian Americans make up the fastest growing population in the country. NBC Bay Area’s political analyst Larry Gerston joins us live to discuss how this community's growth is having an impact on American politics.]]> <![CDATA["A Necessity": Undocumented Immigrants Flock to DMV for Licenses Under New Law]]> Sun, 05 Apr 2015 12:06:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dmv_lines_saturday.jpg

New information released Friday from the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows the agency has received nearly twice the number of applications for driver licenses from undocumented immigrants as projected.

As of March 27, 2015, nearly half a million people have applied for the license under AB 60 which went into effect earlier this year. Here’s a look at the numbers:

  • 493,998 Total number of applications for a driver license
  • 448,693 Applicants with necessary documents to obtain a license without further review
  • 203,000 Approximate number who have obtained a license
  • 28,163   Applicants requiring additional review (duplicate records or other administrative process)
  • 17,142 Applicants without necessary documents who can schedule a second review

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said the agency had expected to reach the half-million milestone in July 2015.

California is one of 10 states that now provide licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. The licenses issued to immigrants without legal status will include a distinctive marking and are not considered a valid form of federal identification.

Before the law went into effect, it was estimated that approximately 1.4 million people would apply over the next three years.

Immigrant advocates have cheered the licenses as a way to integrate immigrants who must drive to work and shuttle children to school.

Critics have questioned state officials' ability to verify the identity of foreign applicants, citing security concerns.

In preparation for the added workflow, the DMV opened four locations in San Diego County on Saturdays: Clairmont, Chula Vista, San Ysidro and El Cajon.

<![CDATA[CA's Water Policy For Ag Faces Review Call]]> Sat, 04 Apr 2015 14:27:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/188*120/citrus+tree.jpg

At a fresh fruit stand across the road from a Riverside citrus grove, the topic of the drought inevitably came up.

A hot topic was Governor Brown asking for a 25 percent cutback in water use by almost all Californians, businesses, and industries - except one.

Not coincidentally, it is the state's largest consumer of water- agriculture.

"Everyone should take their part." said Diana Hermano, a pharmacist with a passion for blood oranges.

Four hundred miles to the north in the state capital, a former state water official was more blunt.

"The public is willing to do its part if it feels the burden is is being shared equally," said Jonas Minton, former deputy director of the California Dept. of Water Resources, now water policy advisor for the Planning and Conservation League.

Minton has become a leading voice in calling on California policy makers to re-examine water policies that favor agriculture over competing interests in some ways, though not all--agriculture argues it has suffered unnecessarily from decisions committing surface water to environmental and wildlife protection.

"Agriculture in California is a $45 billion operation--business," observed Steve Pastor, executive director of the Riverside County Farm Bureau. "And I think people understand one in ten California jobs depends on agriculture to survive."

Even before this drought, agriculture has done its share of conservation by switching to more efficient irrigation systems, Pastor said, adding that in some farming areas near population centers, agriculture uses recycled water that could not be go into the drinking water supply.

For the most part, the steps have been voluntary and motivated by business decisions, rather than government edict.

For more than half a century, California agriculture has benefitted from water imported hundreds of miles via aqueduct systems built under government direction to reduce dependence on groundwater.

During the drought, the availability of imported water has dwindled. Allocations from the state water project, which draws its resources from Sierra Nevada snowmelt, stand at 20 percent.

But the state's growers have been able to keep crop production within five percent of pre-drought levels, in part due to efficiency measures, and to a greater extent from increased pumping of groundwater from wells.

In some area of the state, such as the San Jacinto Valley, agreements limit now muc well water may be drawn. But other areas have no limits whatsoever, and growers have been able to maintain their fields, though the cost of the power to pump water increases expenses. 

The Governor's executive order does refer to groundwater, requiring certain reports to be expedited.

Minton dismissed that as "paper exercises rather than real reductions."

Last year, the state legislature adopted new requirements for groundwater monitoring and planning for sustainability to be phased in over the next two decades.

Minton is among those who argue the state needs to shorten those deadlines, and discourage growers from expanding permanent tree crops, and digging new and deeper wells.

"My mother taught me the first rule of holes: stop digging," Minton said, expressing concern that before the groundwater protections are fully in place, underground aquifers

may be depleted beyond saving.

Minton echoes the plea last month from Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In an op-ed article, Famiglietti cited evidence gathered via satellite of a massive loss of groundwater in America's southwest since the beginning of the millennium, and called on the state to take urgent action.

Minton chides Gov. Brown for being "slow in his response." Brown has spoken of his commitment to escalate steps as the situation warrants and when--politcal analysts note--public sentiment is ready.

It has long been de facto policy in California that surface water for agriculture is deserving of cost subsidies, because of agriculture's role in providing essential foodstuffs.

Minton contends that is undercut by the shift toward high value specialty crops, particularly almonds and pistachios.

"Almonds are tasty, I'll grant you that," Minton said. "But they're not essential in the food web." What's more, much of the nut crop is exported overseas.

Growers respond that producing any product, be it food or industrial, requires water, and exports help reduce America's trade imbalance.

One other consequence of the switch from so-called row crops--such as grains and tomatoes

that must be replanted each season--is less flexibility in responding to drought, because unlike a wheat field, nut trees cannot simply be "fallowed" in dry years to save water, but must be irrigated or be lost.

In recent decades, some half a million acres of farmland have been idled, some due to lack of available water, but much also due to drainage problems and soil contaminated by salts and other residues from irrigation water.

The possibility this drought is more than a periodic cycle swing, but a longer term result of climate change, is also addressed by Minton. Some foresee the potential loss of vast swaths of California farmland, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley. Minton envisions jobs and economic growth from a new crop: electrons, generated in fields of solar power plants to designed to exploit the relentless growing season sun that requires so much water to sustain agriculture.

It is a future that many growers hope to avoid so long as water is still available.

<![CDATA[Lease Signed for Hillary Clinton Campaign HQ]]> Sat, 04 Apr 2015 08:44:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/clinton-emails-USE-THIS-ONE-465797002.jpg

A lease has been signed for an office in Brooklyn that is expected to be the headquarters for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, sources familiar with the deal told MSNBC on Friday.

The space takes up two floors of a building on Pierrepont street in Brooklyn Heights that also houses offices for Morgan Stanley and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

MSNBC reports that it's not clear when Clinton or her team signed the lease. Under federal election rules, candidates have 15 days from the day they engage in campaign activities, like renting office space, to officially declare a run.

During the 2008 campaign, Clinton made her headquarters outside Washington.

Photo Credit: Yana Paskova/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jeb Bush to Fundraise Amidst Controversy in San Francisco]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 17:46:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP19940449792.jpg

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush arrives in the Bay Area on Wednesday to fundraise for a likely White House bid, as he faces likely criticism on the Left Coast for defending controversial “religious freedom” laws in Indiana.

Bush will be in East Palo Alto at the Four Seasons on Wednesday and San Francisco on Thursday to raise money for his Right to Rise Super PAC, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bush arrives to criticism for defending Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican who set off a firestorm last week when he signed a bill giving businesses the right to refuse services on religious grounds. Bay Area businesses, including Twitter, Yelp, Square and Levi Strauss & Co., along with CEOs Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com and Tim Cook of Apple, have come out against the law or pulled business from Indiana.

Critics said the law opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians, but Bush argued this week that Pence did “the right thing,” insisting that “once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”

The trip, his second to the Bay Area this year, also showcases his stylistic differences with his brother by holding a fundraiser in San Francisco, noted the San Francisco Chronicle. After a visit to the city in 1999, George W. Bush never set foot in the city during eight years in office.

<![CDATA[Examining Possible Khanna-Honda Rematch]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:54:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1004-2014-Debate.jpg If you liked it the first time, brace yourself for the sequel. We're talking about last year's congressional race between Mike Honda and Ro Khanna. NBC Bay Area's Political Analyst Larry Gerston reports.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Indiana Gov: We Intend to Fix "Perception" Problem of Law]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:55:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pence-presser-468206814.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday said a bill he signed into law last week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but said he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters during a morning press conference from Indianapolis.

The Republican reiterated earlier comments that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to discriminate but to protect religious freedom. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law alleged it could provide some businesses the opportunity to refuse providing services or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

Pence said he found that claim "offensive," and called upon the state's General Assembly to address the issue.

"This law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," he said. "The intent of the law was to give the courts in our state the highest level of scrutiny in cases where people feel that their religious liberty is being infringed upon by government action."

His comments Tuesday were a follow-up to an op-ed piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal that the law was not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Indiana Gov. Addresses Law Controversy]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 07:56:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Mike-Pence-Indiana-Gov.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said in a Tuesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that a controversial bill he signed into law last week is not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore."

"As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it," he continued.

His published remarks are an attempt to quell the firestorm that's brewed since he affixed his signature to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law maintain it could allow some businesses to refuse providing service or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

That's sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

Republican legislative leaders said they are working on adding language to the law to make it clear it does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA["I'm Not Running": Warren Shuts Down 2016 Buzz Again]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 06:36:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP868875334282.jpg

Sorry, "Elizabeth Warren for President" holdouts.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts on Tuesday dealt another blow to supporters — and rivals on the right — hoping she'll enter the 2016 race, repeating her intention to stay on the sidelines. 

"No, I am not running and I’m not going to run," she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in an interview.

"I'm not running. I'm not running," she repeated when asked again whether there was any room to hedge.

Warren, who has gained a national profile as a vocal critic of Wall Street, has insisted for months that she does not plan to run against likely candidate and frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. On Tuesday, as she appeared on the "Today" show to promote her new memoir, she said serving in the U.S. Senate is the best platform for fighting for changes on financial regulation, student loans and more.

“I’m in Washington and I’ve got this really great job and a chance to try to make a difference on things that really matter," she said.

The senator's own words haven't stopped supporters on the left from continuing a draft-Warren effort to lay groundwork and generate support for a run. Republicans have also used the buzz surrounding a possible Warren bid to rally their base — citing the progressive Democrat in fundraising emails and other appeals for support.

Even as she rejected the speculation surrounding her own plans, Warren sidestepped a question about whether Clinton is the best messenger on issues embraced by the party's liberal wing.

“I think we need to give her a chance to decide if she’s going to run and declare and to lay out what she wants to run on," she said. "I think that's her opportunity to do that.”

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Apple's Tim Cook: Anti-Gay Laws Are "Very Dangerous"]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:22:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tim-cook-apple-fortuna.jpg

Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed Indiana's new "religious objection" legislation over the weekend, penning a Washington Post piece warning that “there’s something very dangerous happening in America.”

The piece, which was posted late Sunday night, said the openly gay executive, who was raised in a Baptist home in the South, was "deeply disappointed" in the recently passed "Religious Freedom Restoration" law in Indiana that shields business owners who turn away customers for religious reasons.

"This isn’t a political issue," he wrote. "It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous."

Cook called this new wave of legislation "very dangerous," noting there are about 100 similar bills under consideration in two dozen states. And he added that they "go against the very principles our nation was founded on" and "have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality."

“America's business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business,” he wrote. “At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers' lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That's why, on behalf of Apple, I'm standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I'm writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement.”

Cook, who was baptized in a Baptist church and grew up in the South in the 1960s and 1970s.  He publicly disclosed that he is gay in October. Last week, Cook announced that he will give his fortune away.

Photo Credit: NBC NEWS]]>
<![CDATA[Iraq War Vet Tammy Duckworth Launches Senate Bid in Illinois]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:24:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Tammy-Duckworth3.jpg

In a video to supporters, Rep. Tammy Duckworth on Monday made official a 2016 challenge to Sen. Mark Kirk. 

"I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because it’s time for Washington to be held accountable and to put Illinois’ families and communities first," the Hoffman Estates Democrat said her video message.

Duckworth, an Iraqi war vet who lost her legs in a helicopter crash, recently had her first baby at the age of 46. 

Well known in her district, her message was a sort of introduction to a statewide audience. She said she was a Marine, a wife, a new mom and a combat veteran. She recalled the financial struggles she faced with her family while growing up and as she put herself through college.

"If you elect me as Illinois’s Senator, I will fight my heart out to represent you with honor and integrity," she said. 

Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2012, plans to run for re-election.

Illinois Republicans quickly tied Duckworth to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is currently serving time in a Denver-area prison on a corruption conviction.

"Rod Blagojevich protégé Tammy Duckworth is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider. "Duckworth represents the extreme wing of the Democrat party — voting with Nancy Pelosi 92 percent of the time. I have no doubt that next November, Illinois voters will re-elect Mark Kirk who has been a strong & independent voice for our state in Washington."

Photo Credit: YouTube / Tammy Duckworth
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<![CDATA[Court Overturns Part of Pension Cut for SF City Workers: Report]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 17:12:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/sfcityhall2.JPG

A state appeals court overturned part of a pension cut for San Francisco city employees that voters approved years ago.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, about 23,000 retirees will get a cost-of-living increase in addition to their pensions.

Under Proposition C, which was supported by Mayor Ed Lee and approved by two-thirds of voters back in 2011, retirees lost that increase when their pension fund was earning more than previously expected

The city could appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Hurd]]>