<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Thu, 31 Jul 2014 02:34:17 -0700 Thu, 31 Jul 2014 02:34:17 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Gushing Main Break Could Have Bad Impact During Historic Drought]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:31:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/ucla-flooding-9.jpg

It was an accident, but the water main mess in Westwood could not have come at a worse time.

Not only for a region suffering a drought, but one asking residents throughout the state to sacrifice.

Besides the damage to a major Westwood artery, to the storied venue of college basketball, and all the time and treasure it will take to repair a 90-year-old water main, there was this:

The image, sent throughout California, of millions of gallons of freshwater wasted, in the middle of one of the worst droughts in decades.

Mark Silva, a construction worker said, "such a waste. This entire neighborhood could have used that water."

Silva, 33, is from Alhambra, land of the brown lawn, where the mo-blow-and-go gardeners kick up more dust than leaves.

It's a city which just this week passed one of the strictest water conservation measures in the state.

"I don't want to get fined," he said. "I'd rather just let my lawn die, I guess. I got no choice."

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson says while most will appreciate that this was an accident, Tuesday's blow-out wasn't what you'd call inspirational for water conservation.

"We can't react to the way that it looks," Wesson said. "We have to react and do the things necessary to secure the situation right now."

Just this week, environmentalists protested a proposed water tunnel that would fast-track Northern California water for Southern California.

Lawmakers in Sacramento are debating a water bond measure they plan on putting before voters in the fall.

Their worry is that it will fail if voters from Northern California don't trust those in Southern California to manage water wisely.

Pictures from Tuesday out of Westwood won't help.

]]>
<![CDATA[CA Has 1st Openly Gay Governor - For Part of Day]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:39:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/toni+atkins+swearing+in.jpg

For eight or nine hours on Wednesday, California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins will be acting as the state's top chief executive— the first openly gay governor in state history.

That's because this week, the three above her on the state org chart are not in town.

Gov. Jerry Brown is on a trade mission in Mexico this week. As the Washington Post noted, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom filled in for a bit, but is on the East Coast for a Special Olympics event. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg then took over for a while, but he had plans to be in Chicago on Wednesday.

"I feel so grateful," Atkins said in an email on Wednesday forwarded by her spokesman. "I wish my parents could see this. Now I know that may sound hokey to many. But honestly, this is what is going through my mind. If Governor Brown wants a few more days away I'm here for him!"

Atkins spokesman Will Shuck confirmed Atkins will "hold the role of acting governor for approximately one business day, ending this evening on the return of governor." 

Atkins, D-San Diego, is the first openly lesbian leader of either California chamber, succeeding the first openly gay Assembly speaker, John Pérez, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

She shared on her Facebook page that filling in is nothing new: during her time on the San Diego city council, the now 51-year-old Atkins served as acting mayor after other city officials stepped down. She was the first lesbian to hold that position, too.

But Atkins was not focusing on making history due to her sexual orientation on Wednesday. She took the opportunity to highlight her roots -- growing up "in poverty in Virginia" -- and her journey to becoming acting governor for a day.

Atkins, who has focused on funding state universities and advocating for victims of violence and abuse during her time at the Capitol, had a full calendar ahead of her.

But the first act, she tweeted out, was to make sure the temporary first dogs of California - Haley and Joey -  got their morning walk. She shares her pooches with wife, Jennifer LeSar, in the South Park/Golden Hill community of San Diego.

 



Photo Credit: CA State Assembly]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-LA Councilman Convicted of Voter Fraud, Perjury]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:50:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/alarcon+richard+councilman+la+court.jpg

Former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon was convicted Wednesday on some of the voter fraud and perjury counts against him in a trial stemming from accusations that he lied about where he lived so he could qualify for public office.

Alarcon was convicted on four of 16 felony counts against him for living outside a district he was elected to represent. The jury cleared him on the other counts. His wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, was convicted of three counts, and acquitted on three others.

Alarcon, 60, faced seven counts of fraudulent voting, six counts of perjury by declaration and three counts of perjury in an application for a drivers license. His wife was charged with six felony counts: three counts each of perjury by declaration and fraudulent voting in elections in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10. Richard Alarcon faces up to six years in state prison and would be barred from holding elected public office. Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon faces up to five years and four months in state prison and would be barred from running for public office.

The panel was asked to decide whether the couple lied about where they lived between 2006 and 2009 so that Richard Alarcon could qualify for public office in Los Angeles' 7th Council District.

Outside of court Wednesday, Alarcon said he had no comment, but added, "I know I'm innocent."

Deliberations in the month-long trial began last week after prosecutors argued that the Panorama City house that Alarcon and his wife claimed as their "domicile" appeared to neighbors, utility employees and mail carriers to be vacant. Prosecutors contended the Alarcons really lived outside the 7th Council District in Sun Valley.

Under state election law, a residence for voting purposes is defined as a permanent home where one intends to remain and return after an absence. The law does not detail how much time must be spent at the address for it to qualify as a "domicile."

The defense claimed that the prosecution had not even come close to proving the charges against the two. Defense attorneys argued that the Panorama City house underwent renovations and remained the couple's permanent residence because they planned to return there after construction.



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Bell Councilman Sentenced to Home Confinement]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:00:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/185*120/cole+george+bell+corruption.jpg

A former Bell city council member accused in a public corruption scandal was sentenced Wednesday to probation, community service and home confinement.

George Cole is the second to five former Bell city council members convicted of misappropriating public funds in the community south of downtown Los Angeles. The council members were paid inflated salaries for sitting on city boards that rarely met.

Cole, 64, was sentenced to five  years probation, 180 days of home confinement and 1,000 hours of community service. He also must pay more than $77,000 in restitution to the city of 35,000 people and wear a GPS ankle monitor.

Cole was convicted in March 2013 of two counts and acquitted of two others. Former council members George Mirabal and Teresa Jacobo and former Mayor Oscar Hernandez were convicted of  five counts and acquitted of five others. Former Councilman Victor Bello was  convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.

The five pleaded no contest April 9 to two felony counts each of  misappropriation of public funds in a plea deal -- charges on which jurors had  deadlocked -- to resolve the case against them.

Jurors exonerated former Councilman Luis Artiga of all 12 charges  against him.

Mirabal, 64, was the first of the five to be sentenced July 11. He was ordered to serve a year in county jail, five years probation and 1,000  hours of community service, rejecting the prosecution's request of a four-year  state prison term.

The prosecution also recommened a four-year state prison sentence for Cole, who was paid about $75,000 in one year for serving on two "sham boards" created by the city council. Cole was paid about $430 per month when he was first elected in 1984.

In a sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett noted  that Cole "continued to play an active part, voting for additional unearned  and illegal raises for his co-defendants, although he did not personally  benefit from them" when he was not accepting a city salary from November 2007  to October 2008. The prosecutor also noted that Cole has been "working with the city of  Bell for months in order to pay full restitution."

Cole's attorney, Ronald Kaye, asked for a probationary  sentence without any jail time, citing his client's health. During the trial, Kaye told jurors that the veteran city councilman  decided to work without pay after realizing in November 2007 that people in the  city of Bell had been laid off, and that a "huge rift" developed with then- Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo after Cole said he did not want to be paid.

Jacobo, 56, is set to be sentenced Friday, with Hernandez, 66, and  Bello, 55, expected to be sentenced next week. The five were charged in September 2010 along with Rizzo and former  Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia.

Rizzo pleaded no contest last October to all 69 charges against him and  was sentenced April 17 to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay $8.8 million in  restitution. Spaccia was convicted last December of 11 felony counts, including  misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. Jurors acquitted her  of one count of secretion of a public record involving former Bell Police Chief  Randy Adams' employment contract, and deadlocked on another count --  misappropriation of public funds involving an alleged $75,500 loan of taxpayer  money in 2003 -- that was eventually dismissed.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[President's LA Visit Includes Fundraisers, Speech ]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 02:25:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP161508552016%281%29.jpg

President Barack Obama arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon for a 24-hour visit that includes two political fundraisers and a speech at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

Southern California is the last stop on President Obama's three-day West Coast trip that began Tuesday in Seattle. Obama began Wednesday in San Francisco, where he attended a morning fundraiser benefiting the House Majority Political Action Committee, before arriving at Los Angeles International Airport around 3 p.m.

Obama's first stop in LA was the Hancock Park home of television producer Shonda Rhimes for a late-afternoon DNC  fundraising reception and dinner. Tickets for the event begin at $1,000, according to an invitation posted  on the website, PoliticalPartyTime.org, which tracks political fundraisers.

The price was $10,000 to attend the reception and for the opportunity to have a photo taken with Obama. The maximum allowable contribution of $32,000 also allowed the donor to co-host and attend dinner with the President. 

The event's co-chairs include Kerry Washington, the star of the Rhimes-produced ABC drama "Scandal."

"The overwhelming majority" of tickets for the fundraiser were priced at $1,000 "because most of the people I know cannot afford" a $32,400 ticket,  Rhimes told City News Service.

On Thursday, Obama is scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion at the Los Angeles home of Michael Rapino, CEO  of the concert promotion firm Live Nation. Ticket proceeds benefit the Democratic National  Committee.

The president is expected to raise up to $6 million democratic congressional candidates for the midterm election. Some of Obama's critics say the president shouldn't do that much fundraising when there are so many crisis spots around the world. 

Obama was originally scheduled to make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, but the White House decided that appearing on a comedy show would be inappropriate given the events going on internationally. 

The lone planned non-fundraising event of Obama's visit to California will be Thursday at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, where he is expected  to speak on the "importance of job-driven skills training, particularly for  fast-growing sectors such as health care," according to the White House. The speech is scheduled for about 1 p.m. before the President departments LAX at about 3 p.m.

Various groups describing themselves as pro-immigration and pro- Palestinian plan to protest outside Trade-Technical College.

The Los Angeles Police Department advised drivers to avoid an area near the northern parts of Brentwood and an area south of downtown Los Angeles Thursday because of Obama's visit. The trip will be Obama's 19th to Los Angeles or Orange counties since  taking office in 2009 and the third in three months.

All but three of his trips have included political fundraisers.

Ted Chen contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kerry Arrives in Cairo to Press Cease-Fire]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 02:53:20 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/140721-11pm-kovacik-israel-latest_1200x675_310808643586.jpg Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo in hopes of trying to broker a new truce in the Middle East conflict. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Monday, July 21, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[Cross-Border Crime in the Crosshairs for California AG]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:30:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/kamala3.JPG

Western states’ attorneys general convened in Park City, Utah over the weekend. At the head of the table: California's AG Kamala Harris.

Harris said she called the special summit to meet with law enforcement officials across the US, Mexico and El Salvador. The summit was designed to tackle the issue of trans-national crime that crosses borders.

Immigration, ID theft, money laundering, gang warfare, drug smuggling and human trafficking all took center-stage.

Harris spoke about technology's role in crime and shared insight California police departments have been using to help stay ahead of the game against criminals.

With recent immigration headlines pointing to Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Harris quoted a United Nations study claiming 48% of unaccompanied children entering the United States from Latin America are threatened by transnational organizations. Harris said she was able to meet one-on-one with the AG from Mexico and El Salvador.

"What this does is it improves relationships which will improve our ability to coordinate around a common purpose," Harris said about the summit.

Human trafficking for labor, drugs and sex was a major focus as well. An analyst from Carnegie Melon showed examples of how ads for sexual favors peak around large sporting events, using the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans as an example.

Harris said she worried many of the unaccompanied minors crossing the border could fall into the human trafficking trade.

"When I see images of people surrounding a bus of women and children and chanting go home as though they're trying to take anything from anyone," Harris said, "They're literally trying to seek refuge."

Mexico's attorney general, Jesus Murillo Karam, spoke one-on-one with NBC4 just after his conversations with Harris. He said the collaboration between governments is fundamental. Karam says money is Mexico's biggest issue with the drug cartels and just how much of it there is, most of which comes through in American dollars. He also joined Harris in her belief that in the issue of supply and demand, both need to be dealt with as a whole.

But in the area of drugs, Harris and Karam differed. Karam insisted that drugs are being bought and sold on both sides of the border while Harris claimed 70% of all methamphetamine in the U.S. comes from Mexico by way of San Diego.

"I'd like to see Mexico's law enforcement strengthened to do what it wants to do to stop the production of methamphetamine in its own country," she said, "because perhaps that will then reduce the meth entering our country and our state."

The attorney general from El Salvador spoke a little more candid about the issues his country faces and how it affects California.

"Today," he said, "justice has no borders."

Luis Martinez said he's working hard to fix the perceived corruption in his government, even going to so far as to investigate his own president. But he added that times are tough in El Salvador, that society has become too angry and vengeful that it's led to the mass exodus of new generations of Salvadorans.

Harris called the summit a success before heading back to Sacramento, but she added that there is still a lot of work to be done. 

]]>
<![CDATA[Death Penalty Struck Down in Calif.]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 07:02:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/sanquentin.jpg

A federal judge on Wednesday declared the death penalty "unconstitutional" in the state of California – the first ruling of its kind in the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney in Orange County called the system "dysfunctional" and "arbitrary" in his 29-page ruling.

"No rational person can question that the execution of an individual carries with it the solemn obligation of the government to ensure that the punishment is not arbitrarily imposed and that it furthers the interests of society,” he wrote.

California has not executed anyone since 2006, when a U.S. district court judge decided to block the execution of a convicted murderer because of concerns over the administration of lethal injection. Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Spokespersons for both California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the California Department of Corrections said they were "reviewing the ruling."

ACLU of Northern California Associate Director Natasha Minsker, who is not directly involved in the case but following it closely, tweeted as she read the ruling, citing the judge who said the current system is plagued by delay and violates the Eighth Amendment.

It is not immediately clear why Carney's rule was released Wednesday.

In her opinion, Minsker said the judge made this unprecedented ruling at this juncture in time because he felt that "enough was enough."

Death penalty proponent Marc Klass, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was kidnapped and killed in 1993, called Carney's decision "another slap in the face of California's crime victims." His daughter's killer, Richard Allen Davis, was sentenced to death.

Klass said Carney's ruling flies in the face of what the people of California want and that eventually, the death penalty will be back on the ballot.

Carney was appointed to the federal bench in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush, who supported capital punishment and who earned the nickname of "the Death Penalty Governor" when he was chief executive of the state of Texas.

Carney's ruling stems from the 1995 case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who sued Kevin Chappell, the warden of the California State Prison at San Quentin. Jones was sentenced to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, 10 months after he was paroled for a previous rape. Jones remains on death row, still awaiting his execution nearly 20 years after his sentence.

"Mr. Jones is not alone," Carney wrote.

Of the 900 people sentenced to death for their crimes since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, only 13 have been executed so far.

Carney wrote that it will continue to result in an unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution.

For the random few for whom execution becomes a reality, Carney said they will go on to languish for so long on death row that "their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary."

Carney wrote that when an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it the promise that it will actually be carried out. That promise is made to citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones, and to the hundreds of individuals on death row, he wrote.

However, Carney argues, “for too long now, the promise has been an empty one.”

The delays have resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual's execution will be carried out, Carney wrote.

In his closing paragraph, Carney writes that the current system serves no “penological purpose.” 

From 1893 to 2006, there have been a total of 513 executions in California, including 307 by hanging, 196 by lethal gas and 10 by lethal injection.

At the time a federal judge put California's death penalty on hold in 2006, lethal injections were carried out in San Quentin's old gas chamber, which the judge found too cramped, too dark and too old for prison staff to properly administer execution drugs.

Since then, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has built a new execution chamber on the grounds of San Quentin in Northern California and made a number of changes to its procedures to address the judge's concerns, the Associated Press reported.

A new federal judge has taken over the case and has not ruled on whether those changes are enough to restart executions.

Additionally, the corrections department is drafting a new set of regulations for administering lethal injections. No executions can take place until the new regulations are formally adopted.

NBC Bay Area's Mark Matthews and the Associated Press contributed reporting.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Bell Council Member Mirabal Sentenced]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:00:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/203*120/mirabal+george+bell+162213261.jpg

One of five former city council members involved in a public corruption scandal that outraged a community south of downtown Los Angeles will be placed on probation and serve one year in jail after pleading no contest to two felony counts of misappropriation of public funds.

Former Bell Councilman George Mirabal, 64, faced up to four years in state prison for receiving a $100,000 per year salary that prosecutors called "a drastic  departure from the expected pay of an honest council member whose sole goal is  public service." At his sentencing Friday, he received five years probation and was ordered to serve one year in jail, according to City News Service.

Mirabal also most perform 1,000  hours of community service and pay more than $242,000 in restitution. The judge suspended a four-year prison term against Mirabal, who will not have to serve  any of that time as long as successfully completes the terms of his probation.

He is set to surrender to begin serving his jail term July 25.

Mirabal and his colleagues pleaded no contest in April to the misappropriation of public funds charges and accepted a plea deal on the remaining corruption charges.

Mirabal, former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former Councilwoman  Teresa Jacobo were each convicted in March 2013 of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five others. Former Councilman George Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others. Ex-Councilman Victor Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted  of four others.

Jurors deadlocked on a handful of counts against the five, with the  prosecution announcing in May 2013 that it intended to retry those charges. The  plea deals reached earlier this year resolved the remaining counts, eliminating  the need for another trial.

Jurors exonerated former Councilman Luis Artiga of all 12 charges  against him.

In a sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett urged  the maximum four-year term allowed under the plea deal, writing that the court. The case represents an extreme case of public corruption, he said.

"Defendant Mirabal's illegal $100,000 a year salary was a drastic  departure from the expected pay of an honest council member whose sole goal is  public service, a goal that appears to have never been shared by defendant  Mirabal and his co-defendants," Hassett wrote in the sentencing memorandum. "Given his history of nearly 20 years as a council member, city clerk  and mayor of Bell, defendant Mirabal was aware of his obligations as a  fiduciary for the city, but instead acted in his own

The prosecution is also seeking restitution of at least $242,293 for the  city of Bell.self-interest to the  detriment of the people of Bell."

In his sentencing memorandum, defense attorney Alex R. Kessel asked the  judge to sentence Mirabal to probation and community service. He called Mirabal's an "aberration" in what was an otherwise exemplary career as a public servant.

Mirabal is the first former City Council member to be sentenced in  connection with the corruption scandal, with Hernandez, Jacobo, Bello and Cole - - who are also facing a term between probation and four years in prison -- set  to be sentenced within the next month. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy, who will sentence the  five former council members, noted earlier this year that they would be  precluded from running for public office again.

During their trials, the ex-city council members were accused of sitting on boards that rarely met, but still received triple-digit salaries. But it was the city's top administrator, Robert Rizzo, who became the face of the scandal after the Los Angeles Times reported he was giving himself an annual salary and benefits package of $1.5 million.

An audit by the state controller's office found Bell illegally raised property taxes, business license fees, sewage fees and trash collection fees; illegally diverted gas taxes and other state and federal funds; and issued $50 million in voter-approved municipal bonds for a public park that was never built.  A good portion of that money, auditors found, went into the lucrative salaries and pensions that Rizzo and other top officials collected.

Rizzo pleaded no contest in October to all 69 charges against him and was sentenced April 17 to 12 years in prison. He was ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution.

His assistant, Angela Spaccia, was convicted in December of 11 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. Jurors acquitted her  of one count of secretion of a public record involving former Bell Police Chief  Randy Adams' employment contract, and deadlocked on another count --  misappropriation of public funds involving an alleged $75,500 loan of taxpayer  money in 2003 -- that was eventually dismissed.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Border Crisis: President Asks for $3.7B in Emergency Funds]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 09:54:10 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP30516697099.jpg

President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors along the U.S.-Mexico border that has led to the release of undocumented immigrants in California, NBC News reported Tuesday.

The request, initially estimated at $2 billion, comes a day after another another plane of undocumented women and children arrived at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, bringing more than 100 immigrants from Central America for processing at local U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities. The arrival follows more than week of tension in the Riverside County community of Murrieta, where buses of immigrant families were turned away as they arrived outside a Border Patrol station that was to serve as a processing center.

The money President Obama is seeking would be for immigration judges, detention facilities, legal aid and other items that could address the situation on the border, which the administration has termed a humanitarian crisis.

Funding Request Details:

  • $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to help deter border-crossers and increase enforcement. That would include $879 million to pay for detention and removal of adults traveling with children, to provide additional detention space for those individuals, and to speed up the prosecution of adults who cross the border unlawfully with children.
  • $433 million for Customs and Border Protection to cover overtime costs and for additional facilities to detain unaccompanied children while they are in Border Patrol custody. It also includes nearly $40 million to increase air surveillance, such as drone flights along the border.
  • $64 million to the Department of Justice, with much of the money spend on hiring 40 additional teams of immigration judges. The White House says that together with a previous request for 35 additional teams, the system would be able to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually.
  • $1.8 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services for the care of unaccompanied children, including shelter and medical care.

Tuesday's emergency funding request also included extra money for fighting wildfires in the western United States, according to the Associated Press. About $625 million of the emergency spending request would go to fight wildfires in Western states.

The request of Congress did not include proposals for legislative changes that the White House wants.

On Monday, activists and community leaders rallied in downtown Los Angeles to denounce Obama’s request to increase border security and expedite immigration processing. Immigration rights groups and community leaders stood in front of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building to speak out against what they called the "fast track" approach to solve the border crisis.

Administration officials said they are still working on ways to do it faster, but that the request for specific legislative changes will move on a separate track than the emergency spending request Obama is sending to Congress on Tuesday.

The process for undocumented immigrants involves meeting with an immigration officer in 15 days at a court near their final destination. The officer will make sure they're still living where they claim and will then set a date for them to appear in immigration court.

Immigration attorneys say that due to the influx of immigrants being processed from Central America, immigration court hearings that normally would be scheduled within days are now being scheduled months out.

In 2013, more than 26,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended on the southwestern border and just 1,669 were deported, according to NBC News. The San Diego sector of CBP has managed the arrival and processing of close to 400 immigrants in less than a week.

NBC News reports some Democratic lawmakers are reluctant to give away even narrow changes to immigration law, given the fact that broader immigration reform is going nowhere.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the White House can act within existing law to speed up the judicial process.

"The administration should use that flexibility to speed up the system while still treating these children humanely, with compassion and respect," she said.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NewsConference: Joe Hicks on the 50th Year Anniversary of Civil Rights Acts]]> Sun, 06 Jul 2014 07:44:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NewsConferenceHICKS070614_1200x675_296215107886.jpg 50 years ago this week, the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. NBC4's Conan Nolan talks with Joe Hicks, Vice President of Community Advocates, Inc, a local think tank about how it changed America.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference: Attorney Brian Kabateck on Hobby Lobby Decision, Sterling, Stow]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:31:51 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NewsConferencekabateck070614_1200x675_296219203606.jpg Former President of Consumer Attorneys of California Brian Kabateck talks with NBC4's Conan Nolan about major legal cases this week...the controversial Hobby Lobby decision, the new vacancies on the California Supreme Court, Sterling vs. Sterling and the Brian Stow vs. LA Dodgers.]]> <![CDATA[NewsConference: USC's Manuel Pastor. Ph.D. on the Surge of Illegal Crossings at U-S Border]]> Sun, 06 Jul 2014 07:45:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NewsConferenceimmigration70614_1200x675_296231491717.jpg Why are tens of thousands of undocumented from Central America crossing the border illegally? Is a Los Ageles gang responsible for the surge? What impact will this have on the future of national immigration reform? NBC4's Conan Nolan gets the backstory from Prof. Manuel Pastor, the co-director of the Center for the Study of Immigration Integration at USC.]]> <![CDATA[Berkeley Set to Require Free Medical Pot for Poor]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 09:55:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/06-11-2014-medical-marijuana-generic.jpg

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley will likely soon be required to provide free pot to low-income members and homeless people, according to an ordinance approved by the city council on Tuesday.

The city is also looking to approve a fourth dispensary, raising the current limit of three locations.

The proposed ordinance, first reported by the East Bay Express, requires that Berkeley dispensaries give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year low-income people. And the pot can't be poor quality either. The proposed city ordinance reads (PDF) that the "medical cannabis provided under this section shall be the same quality on average" as marijuana "dispensed to other members."

“It’s sort of a cruel thing that when you are really ill and you do have a serious illness... it can be hard to work, it can be hard to maintain a job and when that happens, your finances suffer and then you can’t buy the medicine you need,” said Sean Luce with the Berkeley Patients Group.

In order to be eligible, a person must qualify for exemption from local taxes and fees, an income level that's set every year by the city council. That equates to $32,000 a year for one person and $46,000 a year for a family of four.

The ordinance is awaiting final approval, but could become law in August.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[New California Laws Take Effect]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 09:56:20 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1086698841.jpg

A host of new laws took effect Tuesday. Here is a look at some of them.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wildfires Threaten Rolling Blackouts Across State ]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:12:38 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/powerlines5.JPG

Tinderbox conditions exacerbated by a historic California drought could put power lines across the state at risk of failing this summer, officials said.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's power grid, warned Friday that extreme heat could cause "rolling blackouts" this summer, meaning some places could see no power for periods of time.

"Fires in particular are going to be a problem this year," said Steve Berberich, the chief executive officer of Cal-ISO.

Wildfires burn underneath the transmission lines and cause power outages, Berberich said.

If there are no devestating fires, then there is enough power available for the summer, but officials are urging the public to conserve power usage.

"It's a great time right now to go and put LED lights in," said Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the California Energy Commission, referring to the low-energy bulbs.

Officials suggested setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher.

Federal officials in May said that all of California remains in "severe" drought or worse. The conditions are the most extreme in the U.S. Drought Monitor's 15-year history.

Three months ago, 90 percent of the state was considered in severe to exceptional drought. A year earlier, that figure was less than half of the state.

]]>
<![CDATA[Hillary Clinton: We Can’t Afford to Lose Biotechs ]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 06:16:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/hillary+clinton+biotech+sd.jpg

The United States could start losing biotechnology companies if the system doesn’t change, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

The former First Lady made the remarks during the keynote presentation Tuesday at the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego.

“I don’t want to see biotech companies or pharma companies moving out of our country simply because of some perceived tax disadvantage and potential tax advantage somewhere else,” she said.

One major concern of the U.S. biotech industry is risk on investment. Clinton used the example of a biomedical company that doesn’t get through clinical trials or doesn’t get approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

“You’ve got sunk costs, which could mean the end of your business, but you still have expertise that might be useful,” she said.

Clinton said she would support forming a national committee of science leaders and regulators to create a kind of “insurance policy” to reduce this risk. She also encouraged the states to take the lead on this issue.

“If Washington is not welcoming to this kind of effort, maybe it could be put together by the states that are the leaders in hosting biotech companies,” she said, citing California funding stem cell research when the federal government would not.

“States have a role to play, but we need a national framework,” she added.

As Clinton spoke, opponents rallied outside the convention center. Some protested Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack that killed four men, including three with San Diego ties. Others protested GMOs – genetically-modified organisms – produced by the biotech agriculture industry.

“I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record, you say, and are scientifically provable to continue to try to make the case to those who are skeptical,” Clinton said when asked about her stance on GMOs.

She said she promoted drought-resistant seeds while combating food insecurity in Africa, which “by definition, they have been engineered to be drought-resistant.”

The former New York senator stayed tight-lipped on any presidential ambitions.

“We have time for one more question. What could that be? What could that be,” the moderator Jim Greenwood asked at the end of the presentation, as the audience laughed. Clinton just smiled.



Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Feinstein "Disappointed" Lucas Decided to Build Museum in Chicago]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 06:08:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/06-25-2014-lucas-feinstein.jpg

California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein is not hiding her feelings about George Lucas's decision to snub San Francisco for the site of his new museum.

Feinstein tweeted and released a statement Wednesday, a day after news broke that Chicago had beaten out San Francisco and Los Angeles in the intense competition for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Feinstein's statement underlined tensions between Lucas and the Presidio Trust board, which snubbed an earlier proposal from Lucas.

In her statement, Feinstein said that although Lucas had long been interested in building the museum in San Francisco, the Presidio Trust rejected the original proposal to house the museum at Crissy Field and subsequent attempts to find a suitable location in San Francisco failed.

"San Francisco would have benefited greatly from this project, and it is truly a missed opportunity," Feinstein said.

She added: “I appreciate Mayor Lee’s efforts but very much regret how George Lucas has been treated by the Presidio Trust Board over the past four years. I hope this incident leads to a thorough review and overhaul of the procedures used by the Trust.”

At the time the Presidio Trust rejected a proposal by Lucas for a museum at Crissy Field to host his art collection, board Chairwoman Nancy Hellman Bechtle said that the project would not be the right fit for the location.

Feinstein had been a big supporter of the proposal, along with Gov. Jerry Brown, San Francisco Myaor Ed Lee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

San Francisco city officials had pushed a waterfront property known as Seawall Lot 330 for the museum site, even hanging a banner in front of City Hall, reading, "George Lucas, please build your museum in San Francisco for the world to enjoy."

In the end, Chicago won because of "the quality of the site proposed by the city's task force," and the "unparalleled visitor access" on the 17-acre site.

"Choosing Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but a difficult decision for me personally because of my strong personal and professional roots in San Francisco," said Lucas, a Modesto native.

The Presidio Trust also expressed disappointment in Lucas's decision.

“The Trust encouraged Mr. Lucas to consider an alternative world-class location in the Presidio with views of the Bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge,” Bechtle said. “Mr. Lucas decided not pursue this opportunity. We thank Mr. Lucas for his longtime commitment to the Presidio and wish him the best in Chicago.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Modified "Audrie's Law" Clears Senate Committee]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 19:02:03 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/161*120/audrie.JPG

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A bill responding to the sexual assault of a Northern California teenager who committed suicide after a photo of the attack was posted on social media was amended Tuesday to remove a mandatory two-year sentence for juvenile offenders.
 
Members of the Assembly Public Safety Committee objected to requiring a minimum of two years' punishment outside the home for young people convicted of sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious. The parents of 15-year-old Audrie Pott of Saratoga expressed outrage after the three teenagers who had assaulted their daughter in 2012 received sentences of 30 to 45 days.
 
Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, dropped the mandatory punishment from his bill, prompting the public safety committee to approve the compromise and send the bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB838 still would require a juvenile who is convicted of rape, sodomy, oral copulation or an act of sexual penetration to complete a mandatory sexual-offender treatment program. It also would require that court proceedings for a juvenile charged with sexually assaulting an unconscious or disabled victim be open to the public.
 
Also under the bill, adults or juveniles tried as adults would face an additional year of punishment for a sexual assault when the attacker shares photographs or texts to harass or humiliate the victim.
 
The bill is named after Pott, who awakened after drinking at a friend's party in the prosperous Silicon Valley town southwest of San Jose to find herself partially clothed. Someone also had used a felt pen to scribble lewd comments on her body.
 
She soon found that at least one humiliating photo of her was circulating among students at her high school and hanged herself days later.
 
Two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old were sentenced in the case. Two were ordered to serve 30 days on weekends in juvenile detention, while the third was sentenced to 45 consecutive days. That compares to the maximum 10-year prison sentence they could have received as adults.
 
Beall said the amended bill will not change a provision in state law that provides lesser penalties for juveniles if a victim does not have the ability to fight off a sexual assault.
 
"However, it still holds juveniles who commit this crime more accountable than before, " Beall told the committee.
 
The California Police Chiefs Association and groups supporting victims' rights and the developmentally disabled still back the measure, he said.
 
Sheila Pott, Audrie's mother, scolded committee members for not approving the original mandatory minimum sentence. "The laws as currently enacted are simply inadequate to protect our communities from juvenile sexual predators," she said.
 
"These assailants got a slap on the wrist and no treatment whatsoever," Pott said, referring to her daughter's attackers.
 
Yet she said the amended bill is better than existing law and urged support.
 
The measure had passed the Senate on a 34-0 vote, but the American Civil Liberties Union, Chief Probation Officers of California, Human Rights Watch, defense attorneys and other groups opposed the mandatory minimum sentences.

 "It was shocking to see this kind of bill in 2014 because the whole thrust of juvenile justice is going in a different direction,'' Sue Burrell, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, said in a telephone interview.
 
The juvenile justice system is built around providing young, impressionable offenders with individualized care, treatment and guidance, she said, while Beall's original bill would have required what she called ``a one-size-fits-all punishment based on the charges.''



Photo Credit: Kris Sanchez]]>
<![CDATA[DMV Hearings Begin on Undocumented Immigrant Licenses]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 21:05:13 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/traffic_los_angeles2.jpg

The first of two public hearings on proposed regulations for a state law that directs the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants living in California began  Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Assembly Bill 60 requires the DMV to issue a driver's license to applicants who cannot submit proof that their presence in the United States is authorized by federal law. The applicant must meet all other qualifications for a driver licenses in California, including written and driving tests required by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The bill was approved by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session before it was signed into law in October by Gov. Jerry Brown. The original draft of the bill provided licenses to anyone who could prove they work or pay taxes in the United States, but the final version left it up to the DMV to determine required documentations.

The public hearings on Tuesday in Los Angeles and Thursday in Oakland will focus on what documents will be accepted from applicants attempted to establish identity and California residency. The identity requirements proposed by the DMV provide four options for applicants, all of which are outlined here. The proposal includes a second review process by which an applicant unable to comply with Options 1, 2 or 3 can interview with a DMV investigator, who will try to verify identity.

More than a dozen options are available to applicants to satisfy the California residency requirement, including a lease agreement, mortgage bills, home utility bills, tax returns, federal government-issued IDs and other documents.

About 100 people attended Tuesday's hearing, according to the Associated Press. Speakers urged the DMV to consider providing translators for non-English-speaking applicants and coordinating with consulates to ensure that immigrants who live outside major cities can obtain documents.

"I have full concern that the DMV doesn't have a way to verify," Newport Beach resident Denise Aliberti said.

DMV officials told NBC4 the agency has a process to determine the authenticity of the documents.

"The documents have to be secure enough, according to DMV standards," said Armando Botello, of the California DMV. "They're not very easily forged."

An estimated 2.5 million undocumented immigrants live in California, according to a 2010 Pew Research study. The DMV estimated that about 1.4 million individuals will become licensed with the enactment of AB60.

After the public hearings, the department will deliver its final recommendations to the Office of Administrative Law for review. The law requires the DMV to begin issuing licenses to undocumented applicants by Jan. 1.

Cards provided to approved applicants will indicate on the back that they are only IDs for driving. The cards do not establish eligibility for employment, voting or public benefits. Approved drivers also become eligible for insurance and training, including written and driving tests required by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

]]>
<![CDATA[Venture Capitalist Proposing to Divide California Into 6 States]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 08:11:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/193*120/0623-SixCalifornias.jpg

Venture capitalist Tim Draper and his supporters this weekend will attempt to collect more than 800,000 valid signatures for his ballot proposal to divide California into six states.

With California home to 38 million people and the nation's most populated state, Draper said the state has become ungovernable and can no longer meet the needs of its citizens.

Draper has invested $2 million into his efforts to get California split into six states:

  • Northern, rural California would become the State of Jefferson
  • Area from Wine Country and Sacramento to Lake Tahoe would become North California
  • The State of Silicon Valley would run from San Francisco to Santa Clara County
  • Much of the state's Central Valley would become Central California
  • The Los Angeles County basin would be called West California
  • The area from San Diego to the desert in the east would become South California


Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Budget in San Diego]]> Sat, 21 Jun 2014 03:57:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Governor+Jerry+Brown+54674.jpg

California Governor Jerry Brown made a trip to San Diego Friday to sign the one-time 2014-2015 state budget, completing his work at the City Administration Building downtown.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg also attended the signing, as well as Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and Senator Mark Leno.

Brown’s budget is designed to pay down debt, bring stability to the teachers’ pension system, build a reliable “Rainy Day Fund” for the state of California and directs additional funding for local schools and health care.

“This on-time budget provides for today and saves for the future,” Brown said in a statement released by his office Friday. “We’re paying off the state’s credit card, saving for the next rainy day and fixing the broken teachers’ retirement system.”

For full details on the governor's budget, click here.

After the signing in San Diego, Brown will travel to Los Angeles to join members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus for a community celebration in recognition of legislation signed last year to help workers and immigrants in California. That event takes place at Los Angeles’ Pico House on Main Street.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5 Things to Know About New House GOP Leader McCarthy]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 16:30:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/450883992.jpg

House Republicans selected a new majority leader Thursday, tapping  Rep. Kevin McCarthy to the conference's No. 2 post.

The California native replaces outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was handed a surprising defeat by a little-known GOP challenger in Virgnia's primary election

The promotion puts the 49-year-old McCarthywho has quickly risen through the leadership ranks during his four terms in Congress, next in line to potentially succeed House Speaker John Boehner.

Here are five things you may not know about the new majority leader:

He got his (lucky) start in sandwiches.

A young McCarthy used a $5,000 lottery prize to start his own business, opening a sandwich shop called Kevin O's Deli at age 19. The shop he has descibed as "Subway before there was Subway," offered "fresh Dutch Krunch white rolls every day," and sandwiches "hot upon request," according to The Orange County Register. McCarthy says he used the profits from later selling that deli to finance his college education. The experience of building a business before hitting 21, he says, helped shape his views on limited government regulations and taxes.

He sees (some of) himself in “House of Cards.”

When Netflix’s popular political drama debuted in 2013, a few things felt a little too familiar to McCarthy, who, like the show’s fictional lead, Rep. Francis Underwood, served as majority whip. That framed whip hanging in Underwood’s office? A spitting image of the one McCarthy received as a gift from Cantor. The scene where Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, tells members “Vote your district, vote your conscience, don't surprise me"? Sounds strikingly like what McCarthy says he tells his own conference. The real-life whip believes those nods came out of a meet-and-greet he had with Spacey before the show started filming. He says the similarities between him and Underwood, a Democrat known for his duplicitous and Machiavellian ways, stop at those superficial references, though. "This one is made professionally about Washington, but it's not Washington," he said of the show during an appearance in Sacramento. "Don't believe what you see in there, but it's intriguing."

He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the California state Capitol, that is. McCarthy, first elected to represent his home district in Kern County in the state Legislature in 2002, rose to leader of the Assembly’s Republican caucus during his first term. That put him at the bargaining table with then-Gov. Schwarzenegger, who entered office via a 2003 recall election, on state budget negotiations and other major issues facing the Golden State. McCarthy left California's Capitol for the halls of Congress after the 2006 election, when he won the House seat vacated by his own political mentor and former boss, former Republican Rep. Bill Thomas.

He’s an all-star Instagrammer.

McCarthy’s filter-laden Instagram account has attracted more than 12,000 followers to date. While cameos from the likes of Beyonce, Ringo Star and cute dogs don’t hurt, the GOP congressman also uses the social platform to post behind-the-scenes photos from his political and personal life (including frequent “Throwback Thursday” pictures). His social media savvy led BuzzFeed to name him the “best Republican congressman on Instagram” in 2013.

 


He splits with some GOP conservatives on immigration.

McCarthy hails from one of the nation's bluest states. But the California native hasn’t strayed much from the GOP line in his own time in office, voting with his party 96 percent of the time, according to one Washington Post analysis.  Still, he's split with the more conservative factions of his caucus on at least one key issue seen as a potential factor in Cantor’s primary defeat: immigration reform. Unlike his tea party-aligned colleagues, McCarthy has expressed support for creating a path to legal status for the country’s undocumented immigrants. His campaign for majority leader drew criticism from some conservative commentators, who blasted his backing of immigration reform, Sandy relief funding and a budget compromise. Despite some differences in ideology and style, McCarthy, a skilled networker and social butterfly, has made many friends in Washington, thanks in part to his success in raising cash and building a program to train and support up-and-coming candidates.
 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Assembly Public Safety Committee Postpones Vote on "Audrie's Law"]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 15:06:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/audriepott4x6.jpg

The Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday postponed the vote on a proposed cyberbullying law.

The legislation, called "Audrie's Law,"  would expand California's definition of rape to include the sexual assault of an unconscious or developmentally disabled person. The measure is sought by the family of Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old Saratoga High School student who was sexually assaulted while unconscious at a house party in 2012, and later committed suicide.

Audrie’s Law, or SB 838, introduced by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), would close a statutory loophole that fails to recognize the sexual violation of an unconscious or developmentally disabled victim as forcible rape.

The bill would also require a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for juveniles who are convicted in juvenile court of raping an unconscious or developmentally disabled person and to allow such cases to be tried in an open courtroom.

"We feel what we are asking for a two-year minimum sentence is completely reasonable and warranted," said Sheila Pott, Audrie's mother. "And the public wants this."

The Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice opposes the bill.

"This bill would be the first mandatory minimum sentence in the juvenile justice system in our state," said Lizzie Buchen, Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice. "It has been tried in adult court and is very ineffective, and it doesn't prevent crime."

Another group, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, sent a letter to Tom Ammiano, the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee. The letter claims the proposed bill is using Audrie's death to wreak havoc on the juvenile justice system.

Sheila Pott disagrees with the letter's claim and said Audrie's Law will only help victims like her daughter.

The bill stems from what happened to Audrie at a party in 2012. She drank too much and passed out.  Later there were photos of her lying unconscious with words scribbled on her body, images that would be shared with others. 

On her Facebook page, Audrie expressed that her life was ruined and that others knew what happened. She killed herself on Sept. 12 of that year. The three teens involved were sentenced under the juvenile justice system with penalties of 30 to 45 days.


Jodi Hernandez and Christie Smith contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Pott Family ]]>
<![CDATA[Tex. Gov. Rick Perry Compares Being Gay to Alcoholism]]> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 07:52:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/rick-perry-AP273062193022.jpg

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was invited to Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco to speak about biofuel, solar and wind energy, as well as take a trip down memory lane on being a Republican candidate during the 2012 presidential campaign.

So it was an unwelcome surprise to many in the liberal-leaning city when Perry ended up comparing homosexuality to alcoholism - in a story that took a life of its own on social media across the country hours after he spoke.

For example, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who married the first same-sex couples in San Francisco when he was mayor in 2004, tweeted that Perry "must apologize for (his) ignorant and hateful remarks," noting also that it is Gay Pride month. Newsom went to rehab for alcoholism in 2007.

The "remarks" in question came while Perry was taking questions after his speech on Wednesday evening.

Perry was asked about the Texas Republican Party's adoption this month of supporting access to "reparative therapy" for gays and lesbians - a disproven process intended to change sexual orientation.

Perry's answer: "I don't know. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a doctor."

Commonwealth Club interviewer Greg Dalton then asked him whether he believed homosexuality is a disorder.

"Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that," Perry said.  "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."

Audio Podcast of Rick Perry at Commonwealth Club

Perry's office sent out a standard email on Thursday, not specifically adressing his views on being gay and having a drinking problem.

"The governor supports traditional marriage and believes that marriage is between one man and one woman," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed wrote. "He has been clear on his position that each state has the right to define marriage to reflect the views of its citizens."

Perry's views include his 2005 support for the Texas Marriage Amendment, defining marriage as the "union of one man and one woman." And when the Boy Scouts admitted openly gay Boy Scouts in May 2013, Perry stated: "I am greatly disappointed" with the decision.

Though the crowd at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel on Nob Hill was full of Perry supporters, Perry's responsel drew a "murmur of disbelief," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Business Journal said members of the audience actually hissed.

By contrast, Perry didn't mention the controversy on his Twitter feed. He felt the event prompted "great discussion."

But critics quickly began chiming in.

Robbie Sherwood, a former political reporter for the Arizona Republic and the executive director of ProgressiveNow in Arizona tweeted: "Dumbassery is a choice, Rick, homosexuality is not." In a phone interview, Sherwood added: "Please keep going, tell us more what you think, because that will just accelerate Texas turning blue."

The national group, Human Rights Campaign, also took grave offense to Perry's remarks. On its website, spokesman Fred Sainz said: "Although he may not have the 'genetic coding' to think before he speaks, Rick Perry, M.D. should have a real conversation with actual doctors before voicing his expertise on these issues. Every major mental health and medical organization in the country has condemned practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation.”

In an interview on Thursday morning, George Dobbins, vice president for programming at the Commonwealth Club, said that Perry would "of course" be invited back to speak.

But Dobbins wouldn't state whether the Texas governor had the most controversial statements in the history of the club.

"Controversy," Dobbins said, "is in the eye of the beholder."

Watch the raw video here:

NBC Bay Area's Mark Matthews and Stephanie Chuang contributed to this report.

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NBC's Chuck Todd: Why Cantor Lost]]> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 19:35:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000006784560_1200x675_278401091860.jpg NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd explains what led to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning loss in the 7th District.]]> <![CDATA[Facebook Firearm Policies Blasted by Gun Control Group]]> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 18:03:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/177*120/113888441-the-facebook-website-is-displayed-on-a-gettyimages.jpg

Facebook has come under fire in the wake of a June 8 shooting at a Las Vegas shopping mall that left five dead.

That's because Jerad Miller, one of two suspects in Sunday's shooting, had posted on Facebook that he was trying to purchase firearms prior to the shooting, according to Think Progress.

Miller had an extensive criminal record that made buying a gun legally impossible. His wife Amanda was prohibited from purchasing a gun legally as long she lived in the same house as her husband, Think Progess reported.

But critics -- including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence -- say Facebook allows people who couldn't buy a gun in a store to buy them from an individual, with little regulation.

"Facebook makes it easy for dangerous people to get guns," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who was in D.C. this Tuesday for the group's annual summit.

At issue is whether or not Facebook should allow individuals to post either a request to buy a gun from another Facebook user or an offer to sell one.

The social media site allows those posts, though it says users should say background checks are required if state law requires them. Also, the posts are supposed to be limited to users over age 18, and Facebook does not allow paid advertising for guns.

But, Gross said, other sites are more strict. Craigslist prohibits all weapons sales. EBay won't allow listings for firearms -- only parts and accessories, and those listings have limitations.

"Ironically, [Facebook] prohibits paid advertising for guns, which would mean that people in a lot of cases would have to get background checks, but they allow private sales of guns which means people never have to get background checks," Gross said.

Gross called Facebook's March announcement that they would be taking steps to regulate gun sales "woefully inadequate" to stop what the New York Times has called one of the world's largest marketplaces for guns.

“This [shooting] is a demonstration of just how inadequate" Facebook's steps are, he said.

 A Facebook spokesperson responded to the controversy surrounding Miller's post, saying, "While this online discussion is certainly disturbing in light of recent events, we have not been made aware of any connection to an actual gun transaction offline.”

Gross says that prohibiting the sale of guns through social media could not only help stop mass shootings, but also daily gun violence in America.

“On an average day in America, 85 to 90 people will die because of a bullet," he said. "And the fact is there are solutions that exist, whether they are solutions to these mass shootings or solutions to the everyday shootings, and the American public supports those solutions."

A search on Facebook reveals that gun sales groups are still active on the site.

Although pages like "Guns for Sale" suggest that a background check "may be required," the majority of posts do not indicate that one is necessary. Many sellers provide personal e-mails or numbers to text with inquiries.

"Guns for Sale" posted an apology on June 1 for their "lack of guns for sale lately," saying they "have some new guidelines... and are working on being completely compliant with the Facebook's firearm related regulations."

Following this post, the group advertised several guns for sale by private sellers. None of the posts indicated that a background check was necessary. Several provided private numbers to contact sellers.

Facebook defends its policies, and says they remind users to behave responsibly.

"Any time we receive a report on Facebook about a post promoting the private sale of a commonly regulated item, we will send a message to that person reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations," said a spokesperson.

But for Gross, there is one way to ensure Facebook changes its ways.

"We...need to keep the heat on... We need to let Facebook know that we’re watching them," he said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kuehl, Shriver Will Square Off in Supervisor Runoff Race]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 07:50:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/238*120/SupervisorsRace.JPG

Former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl will face former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver on the November ballot to represent the 3rd District on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Kuehl, who spent 14 years as a state legislator, and Shriver, a businessman and Kennedy scion, beat six others to advance in the race to represent the district, which includes most of the San Fernando Valley and wealthy Westside enclaves including Malibu, Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades.

California's open primary rules call for the top two vote-getters to advance to a November runoff if no candidate receives the required number of votes to win with a simple majority.

Kuehl finished first with 36 percent (43,348) of the vote. Shriver garned 29 percent (34,509). 

The winner will take a seat on the powerful LA County Board of Supervisors, which oversees a $25 billion annual budget and dozens of agencies.  A number of big challenges loom over the board including reforming the troubled Sheriff’s Department and Department of Children and Family Services, both of which are facing massive overhauls in coming years.

They are vying to replace Zev Yaroslavsky, who assumed office in 1994 and is facing term limits approved by voters in 2002.

Both candidates have amassed large war chests for the campaign. Kuehl plans to spend about $1 million on her campaign. Shriver, with deep personal resources, plans to spend $1.8 million - including $1 million of his own money.

Kuehl and Shriver beat out six others for the spots on the fall ballot, including former Malibu Mayor Pamela Ulich and West Hollywood Councilman John Duran, who had the backing of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Candidates faced off in nearly 20 debates in just three months, during which Kuehl repeatedly dismissed Shriver’s experience, instead championing her years in Sacramento as the best primer for the supervisor job.

Shriver has questioned Kuehl’s age - she’s 73 - and said voters would have to decide if she would have enough “energy” for the job. He has touted his business credentials and his philanthropic record.

Kuehl is backed by the Los Angeles County Democrats Party, a handful of state legislators and union groups including United Teachers of Los Angeles. Shriver is backed by Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Arleta, and International Longshore and Warehouse Union 13.

In District 1, former U.S. Labor Secretary and Congresswoman Hilda Solis will replace Gloria Molina, who is also up against term limits after 23 years in office.

Solis was up against two relative unknowns - Long Beach law enforcement officer April Saucedo Hood and El Monte Councilman Juventino “J” Gomez.

Solis also garnered the early endorsement of Molina. 

]]>
<![CDATA[LB Elects First Openly Gay, First Latino Mayor]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:43:31 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Long_Beach_New_Mayor_Raw_Intvw_-_Web_Exclusive_1200x675_273390659804.jpg

Long Beach City Councilman Robert Garcia made history Tuesday night when he narrowly defeated businessman Damon Dunn in the race for mayor to become the first Latino, the first openly gay candidate and the youngest person to be mayor of Long Beach.

"I think you run, not necessarily to be the first, I know that there are certainly historical implications of my election," Garcia said. "I’m in this to be mayor of everyone, no matter the age or the color of their skin or who they love."

Garcia believes the city’s diversity is one of its assets.

"We have one of the largest Cambodian communities outside of Cambodia, a large Latino community, a large LGBT population, and we have everyone. I really think that’s what makes Long Beach strong," Garcia said.

Garcia received 52 percent of the votes cast Tuesday, with about 1,900 more people voting for him than for Dunn. He will replace current mayor Bob Foster. Today’s election was a runoff after the two competed with eight others in the primary election.

Both candidates would have made history if elected. Dunn, a former professional football player and real estate investor, would have become the first African-American to hold the position.

"It says a lot about the city of Long Beach, about the diversity, about the open-mindedness to have the two candidates that we have that made the runoff," Dunn said.

Garcia was born in Peru and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 5 years old. He grew up in Covina and was the first person in his family to graduate from college, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Long Beach State and his master’s from USC. He has been on the Long Beach City Council since 2009.

"This is kind of like what you would say, the American dream I am actually living, whether he wins or not, I already feel a winner," Garcia’s mother said Tuesday night.

"To see my mom work so hard, she worked at thrift stores and working at small jobs, cleaning homes, and to see me go to college, be the first in my family to go to college, and now here…I just felt like I needed to this," Garcia said. "I felt that the city was ready to take that step forward."

While Garcia noted that his election has historical value for certain groups, he believes the best way to govern is to think about everyone in his jurisdiction.

"For me it’s really about making sure we stick to what the issues are. The issues in Long Beach are ensuring that we stay financially responsible, that we grow the port in an environmentally-friendly way, that we’re working with our employees to improve services, and that we’re a city that’s supporting people and that we’re bringing business," Garcia said.

When asked what Garcia plans to focus on during his first 100 days in office, the mayor-elect says he plans to focus on building a strong budget and restoring services lost such as library hours and park programs.

“It’s also going to be about a new strategic era for the city, we’re gonna be doing strategic planning for our educational partners, for our business team, our economic team, and I wanna hire also the best and the brightest, Garcia said. “Long Beach is going to be poised to continue doing really great work, growing the port, bringing in new partners, working with people like Mayor Eric Garcetti and others to really put Long Beach in that next step.”

]]>
<![CDATA[Outsider McDonnell Headed to Runoff for LA County Sheriff]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:06:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/208*120/mcdonnell+sheriff+la+county+election.jpg

Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell fell just short of the number of votes needed in Tuesday's primary election to avoid a November runoff, setting up a November contest against former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka to determine who will be Los Angeles County's next sheriff.

McDonnell was the lone outsider in the seven-candidate primary field. Under California's open primary rules, the top two vote-getters advance to a November runoff if no candidate receives the required number of votes to win outright.

McDonnell garnered 49 percent (264,104) of the vote, Tanaka (79,189) was second with 15 percent of the vote.

The winner will take on the job of reforming the Los Angeles County Sheriff's  Department, which has been under fire over the management of the jail system and faced federal indictments, after the retirement of Sheriff Lee Baca. At an election-night party Tuesday, McDonnell compared stepping into the  role of sheriff to a corporate turnaround in which new management is  recruited from outside the company.

"They don't reach down into the organization to replace the CEO," McDonnell told NBC4.

McDonnell was endorsed by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie  Lacey, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer and California  Attorney General Kamala Harris. He also has the backing of four of the five  county supervisors who control the department's budget: Michael Antonovich,  Gloria Molina, Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe, who appointed McDonnell to serve  on the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence in 2011.

Tanaka, who is the mayor of Gardena, spent more than 30 years in the Sheriff's Department and was second-in-command to Baca. He was blamed by the  Citizens' Commission in a 2012 report for promoting an environment in which  aggressive deputies went undisciplined for violence against inmates.

Tanaka (pictured, right) has called the commission's  findings an attack on his character and said its sources lied to prevent Tanaka  from becoming sheriff. He also positioned himself as a reformer during the campaign.

"If I'm the top cop in Los Angeles County, things would be a lot different," Tanaka said Tuesday night. "The orders I give would be clear, consistent and sensible. People would be held accountable."

When a federal prosecutor confirmed in late May that Tanaka was the  subject of an ongoing federal probe, some of his rivals called on him to step  out of the race. Tanaka refused, saying he'd leave the choice to voters.

Tanaka retired from his post in 2013.

Baca, a four-term sheriff, retired in January while under fire for  deputy-on-inmate violence in county jails and charges of corruption within his  department. Eighteen sheriff's deputies were indicted in an ongoing federal  investigation that has implicated at least two additional deputies to date.

Interim Sheriff John Scott will head the department until December.

Assistant Sheriffs Todd Rogers and James Hellmold, LAPD Senior Detective  Supervisor Lou Vince, retired sheriff's Cmdr. Bob Olmsted and retired  sheriff's Lt. Patrick Gomez split the balance of the votes.

]]>