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Leland Yee Talks Supermajority

Post date: Mon, 02/11/2013 - 2:21pm

State Senator Leland Yee visited the South Bay last Friday as the guest speaker for the monthly Century Club luncheon. Welcomed warmly by the crowd, the senator reminisced about his close ties to San Jose before launching into his assessment of what the Democratic supermajority means for California. In short, it means:

  • More compassion. Lee discussed life-without-parole sentencing for youth, a punishment that no other country in the Western world countenances. While certainly there are those who have committed heinous crimes, Yee argued that there should be some alternative pathway to reintegrate into society those who have earned a second chance. Lee's bill to give deserving youth a chance for parole after 25 years was signed by Governor Brown in September.
  • More access. Lee touted California's efforts to expand voter registration in the state, including its new online registration program, which enrolled 780,000 new voters last year -- most of whom are new Democrats.
  • More accountability. Lee was passionate about the subject of transparency and accountability.  He strongly advocated the importance of ensuring the viability of the CalAccess database program, which enables voters to track campaign contributions and lobbying activity. Severely underfunded, the program is very old and crashed in 2011. Democrats successfully pushed an increase in lobbying fees to more fully fund the system; while it works now, it will still need to be replaced in the near future. Such a system, said Lee, is crucial to ensuring a transparent and accountable government.
  • More responsiveness. Democrats are looking carefully at removing the onerous 2/3 requirements for raising revenues and moving ballot initiatives -- areas in which California's progress was hindered by a dug-in minority.  They're also moving on gun legislation, including closing loopholes in current laws, that has wide support among voters but has been stymied by Republicans.

Lee's commitment to access and accountability make him a natural fit for Secretary of State in 2014; his ties to the South Bay mean that Santa Clara County Democrats will see a lot more of him as he lays the groundwork for that campaign.


Submitted by: rachel

Join the Club!

Post date: Thu, 01/31/2013 - 3:02pm

A great way to get involved as a local Democrat is to join one of our great clubs – there are more than a dozen to choose from, covering a variety of interests, ages and geographic areas within Santa Clara County. View them all on our club page here. This year, we highlight each of our clubs as part of a new occasional blog series, “Join the Club.” First up:  The Dean Club.

Officially known as the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, the group got its start back in 2003. As the country plunged into the dark ravine otherwise known as the George Bush era, many found hope in the candidacy of Howard Dean and his message of progressive, positive change. Once Dean’s presidential campaign was over, his supporters in Silicon Valley decided to remain together and continue their activism locally.  Loosely affiliated with Democracy for America, the national group that grew out of the Dean campaign, today’s Dean Club is now a powerhouse for progressive, grassroots action.

Since 2004, the group has walked hundreds of miles and made thousands of phone calls on behalf of their endorsed candidates. In 2012 alone, members trekked to Nevada to campaign for President Obama, fanned out in the Sacramento suburbs for Ami Bera, and spent hours traveling to small Delta towns to support the fledgling candidacy of Jose Hernandez. They also provided key grassroots support for Jim Beall’s State Senate campaign. Want more? How about raising $18K for Jerry McNerney, lobbying on behalf of the California DISCLOSE Act, and registering hundreds of new Democrats! (And this is just a partial list – visit their website to see it all.)  

The Dean Club’s focus is on electing strong-minded progressives and ensuring a clean and fair political playing field.  It sets clear goals every year and tracks its progress. Many of its members are key players in the local Democratic Party structure. Says member Carolyn Curtis, “Among Santa Clara County Democratic clubs, we're known as the club that walks the walk.” Fellow member Swanee Edwards agrees. “I joined the Dean Club even though it meets far from where I live because I wanted to be a part of the best club in the County – a club that gets things done, sets goals and has great people that encourage activism”

Interested in learning more? The Dean Club’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, February 6th, in Palo Alto, from 7-9 p.m. The topic: “Defending the California Environmental Protection Act – Information and Action!” Full details are here.

(Pictured above: Dean Club members at a club-sponsored fundraiser for the DISCLOSE Act.)

Submitted by: rachel

Happy Birthday, Roe v Wade!

Post date: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:51pm

A new poll released on the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade shows that a majority of Americans believes that abortion should remain legal in most or all cases, and 70 percent oppose efforts to overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision that in 1973 established the constitutional right to end a pregnancy.  Pollsters expressed surprise at what they perceived as a shift in attitudes, pointing to earlier surveys that showed most Americans opposing abortion. That shift likely illustrates a pro-choice backlash against ... well, where do we start? The all-male congressional panel convened to discuss contraception? The idea that a rape-induced pregnancy is a gift from God? The news that a woman's body can shut out sperm from a "legitimate rape"? There are, unfortunately, many to choose from.

While the latest poll results are good news for those who believe in woman's right to choose, the fact is that abortion rights are being steadily eroded across the country.  As Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, notes in a recent editorial, "[O]pponents have done a lot to make abortion care inaccessible." She continues:

We must reject their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning, to treat contraception differently than other preventive services under the Affordable Care Act, and to make abortion care unavailable to young, rural, and low-income women. We must reject their efforts to interfere in the relationship between women and their healthcare providers. That means saying "no" to laws that require doctors to give women medically inaccurate information, "no" to laws that delay care and require women to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds and counseling before they can access abortion care, and "no" to laws that let employers deny women access to health services based on the employer's beliefs.

Forty years after Roe v Wade, the fight to preserve a woman's sovereignty over her own body is clearly not over. While recent poll results are gratifying, fundamental human rights should never be left to the will of a shifting majority.

Submitted by: rachel

State Delegate Elections This Weekend

Post date: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 12:10pm

It's time to choose delegates for the California Democratic Party's April convention in Sacramento.  (Elected delegates will also represent their districts at the 2014 state convention.)  Twelve people will be chosen per Assembly district -- six men and six women.  Voting takes place this weekend -- click here to find out when and where to vote in your district.

Questions? Our downtown headquarters will be open Saturday from 9 am to noon just for this purpose.  Call 408-445-9500 if you have questions or need more information


Submitted by: rachel

SCCDP's First Annual Coat Drive a Success!

Post date: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 11:18am

The Santa Clara County Democratic Party's First Annual Coat Drive proved to be a resounding success. Launched in early December to commemorate the Party's new Downtown San Jose headquarters, Democratic clubs, community activists and volunteers collected over 1200 coats in just four weeks to distribute to those in need.  The coats were provided to Santa Maria Urban Ministries, which serves the homeless and hungry in San Jose's inner city.

Coats were collected in schools, at Christmas and holiday parties, and from those who simply visited our headquarters looking for a way to make a difference.  There are over 7000 homeless individuals on any given night in San Jose.  We won't solve that problem alone, but those who joined our Holiday Coat Drive can find some satisfaction in knowing that someone in need will be a little warmer tonight.

While the coat drive officially ended January 4, coats are still trickling in. If you have new or gently used coats left over from the holidays, don't worry about missing a deadline! We will continue to accept and distribute any coats we receive. Bring them by our headquarters at 25 N. 14th Street (corner Santa Clara); give us a call at 1-408-445-9500 if you have any questions or need more information.

Submitted by: rachel

Don't Throw Seniors off the Cliff!

Post date: Mon, 12/10/2012 - 12:16pm

As Washington debates solutions to the very man-made "fiscal cliff," Congressman John Garamendi (District 10) penned a thoughtful response to those who are willing to gut the safety net so millionaires can keep their tax breaks.  This piece was written as a guest post for the blog, Labor's Edge.

The Fiscal Cliff Can't Be Solved by Throwing Seniors Over the Cliff

I want to vote for a comprehensive bipartisan plan to address the fiscal cliff. I'm willing to take a tough vote. I'm willing to make sacrifices. I'm willing to feel the heat. But I'm not willing to solve the fiscal cliff by throwing seniors over the cliff. I draw the line at cutting benefits in Medicare and Social Security.

This week, House Republicans unveiled their fiscal cliff counterproposal. While they continue to call for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, they propose offsetting this cost by gutting Medicare benefits, including raising the age of Medicare eligibility to 67. I won't go there. As California's Insurance Commissioner for eight years, I know this would be horrible policy, throwing millions of seniors into the rapacious hands of an insurance industry interested only in profits for its shareholders.

Medicare is a promise we made to seniors more than four decades ago. When President Johnson signed Medicare into law, one in three seniors lived in poverty. Half of seniors had no health coverage at all. Today, less than one in ten seniors live in poverty and almost all have guaranteed access to affordable coverage. With medical expenses as high as they are, that's a remarkable improvement, and we have Medicare and Social Security principally to thank for it.

The seniors being kicked off Medicare under the GOP plan will face uncertainty, delayed treatments, and more expensive care - if they can even afford health care at all. Do we really want our emergency rooms clogged with seniors who couldn't afford their heart medication and suffer a preventable heart attack? Is it really in anyone's interest to see grandmothers and grandfathers sent to an early grave because they were forced to choose between having a roof over their head or paying out of pocket for lifesaving diabetes medication? This is, to borrow a phrase from Mitt Romney, severe conservatism, and it's the opposite of a reasonable bipartisan fact-based compromise.

If the House Republican plan to increase the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 moves forward, health care delivery in America would become more expensive for everyone. Seniors remaining on Medicare would see a substantial increase in their premiums because seniors ages 65 and 66, in the aggregate, are a lot healthier than seniors 67 and above. By moving 65 and 66 year olds into the expensive private market, states, local governments, employers, and the general public would pick up the multi-billion dollar tab. For example, businesses who provide health insurance and have older workers would bear the full cost of health insurance - effectively shifting the cost to these employers and their employees.

If the goal is to keep the Medicare system running as efficiently as possible, we should be looking into ways to lower the age of Medicare eligibility, not ways to increase it. The Republican plan chips away at Medicare affordability - one of its greatest strengths - seemingly by design. I'm willing to compromise, but I'm not willing to compromise the health and economic security of seniors and everyone who hopes to become a senior.

I approach this from the perspective of someone who regulated the insurance industry for eight years. I know how they operate, and I know how health care delivery operates in America. I know changes need to be made to Medicare to make it more solvent in the years and decades to come, and I know we can make those changes without harming benefits. For example, we can empower Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices or we can import drugs from Canada and other countries with robust safety standards. We can improve electronic records and crack down further on Medicare fraud. We can ramp up the prevention and early treatment provisions in current law. Each of these ideas has support among most Democrats and many Republicans. Let's make these ideas the starting point in extending the solvency of Medicare (beyond the eight additional years from the Affordable Care Act) and in preventing our national debt from becoming unmanageable in the long-term (as was done under President Clinton).

Compromise to address the fiscal cliff is not an end; it is a means to an end: preserving the health and well being of all Americans. We can fashion a bipartisan deal that keeps seniors' retirement security preserved. We can take a step back from the fiscal cliff without breaking our promise to seniors.

We can get this done and done right, but raising the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 is a nonstarter for me, and it's a nonstarter for many of my Democratic colleagues.


Submitted by: rachel

GOP Announces Chairmen for 113th Congress: All White Men

Post date: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 2:34pm

House Republicans announced their picks for incoming committee chairmen this week, and guess what?  They're all white men.  Now, I love white men -- I'm married to one, and I'm the mother of two. But after an election in which the forces of diversity left an unmistakable and lasting mark, it's hard to believe that the losing party wouldn't be searching for faces outside its lily-white circle.

In their defense, House Republicans don't exactly have a deep bench in that regard.  Out of 234 House Republicans, for example, only 20 are women, compared to 61 out of the 200 Democratic members. With even fewer minority members, the GOP side of the aisle is about 90 percent white and male.  The difference is stark -- and visible: “One thing that’s always been very startling to me is to see that on the floor of the House of Representatives when you look over on one side where the Democrats caucus and you look to the other side and it looks like two different visions of America,” says Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, 54.

Republicans, unfortunately, apparently still only have one vision of America -- a white one.  The simple truth is that the longer that vision endures, the smaller the party's prospects become.

Submitted by: rachel

A Legislative Supermajority: Now What?

Post date: Tue, 11/13/2012 - 1:00pm

Now that Californians have elected a Democratic supermajority to the State Legislature, the looming question is:  What next? What will Democratic priorities be now that the Party can govern unentangled by a reactionary minority determined to squelch progress at all costs? 

While Governor Brown has made clear his opposition to new taxes without voter approval, Democrats can still hike fees or close loopholes at their discretion. A supermajority also allows them to propose structural changes to the state's Constitution, like amending the two-thirds rule on taxes, that would make governing easier.

Robert Cruickshank, a writer for the blog Calitics, suggests that Democrats should not be shy about using their newfound power.  "The only way Democrats can upset those who put them in this exalted position is to be hesitant and timid," he argues.  "As recent history shows, Democratic supermajorities always evaporate when they aren't used to solve deeper problems."  Cruickshank has a thought-provoking take on what Democrats might focus on, including universal health care and increased school funding.  The whole thing is worth reading here.


Submitted by: rachel

Sutter Brown Visits San Jose Dem Headquarters to Support Proposition 30

Post date: Thu, 11/01/2012 - 9:58am

Hoping to give a boost to volunteers making calls on behalf of the governor’s tax initiative, Prop. 30, Sutter Brown, the governor’s pet corgi made an appearance at Democratic Party Headquarters on Tuesday.  (The event was even covered in Wednesday’s Mercury News – congrats to Jill Chesler, who got her picture in the paper!) Our grassroots effort to support this critical ballot measure is extremely important, considering the barrage of big-money advertising that has been directed against it. At stake is nothing less than the education system throughout the state – Proposition 30 will prevent drastic cuts in k-12 schools, community colleges and prevent another round of steep hikes in tuition for the state’s universities. Prop. 30 also ensures adequate funding for public safety and helps balance our state budget – it is vital that it passes. Drop by Democratic Party Headquarters and make a few phone calls on its behalf. Let’s keep California moving forward!

Submitted by: rachel

Romney Tries -- And Fails -- on Foreign Policy

Post date: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 2:13pm

He believes that Syria is Iran's path to the sea. He thinks a comparison of the U.S. Navy before World War I and today is useful. He is aware of much "tumult" in the Middle East. He wants to haul Mahmoud Ahmedinejad before the "World Court" (there is no such thing) for "genocide." He believes that calling Russia our biggest enemy and calling it our number one geopolitical foe are two different things.

Sigh.  To no one's surprise, Mitt Romney came off looking like the foreign policy neophyte that he is at the last presidential debate.  Perspiration glistening on his upper lip, Romney tried hard to recall the factoids crammed into his head during the pre-debate prep, but came up short. In contrast, President Obama was self-assured and in command, schooling his opponent on the nature of the defense budget, relations with Israel, the complexities of Middle East diplomacy, and the reality of dealing with China, among other topics. If there was any doubt about which candidate will better serve America's interests around the world, Monday night's contest put it to rest.  Even Mitt Romney agrees.

(Thanks to ABL at Balloon Juice for the graphic.)

Submitted by: rachel