The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

February 21, 2013
McCarty has lots of questions on new Sacramento arena

As Sacramento city officials work on a possible new arena deal to help keep the Kings in town, City Councilman Kevin McCarty wants answers, lots of answers.

To read his letter to City Manager John Shirey, click here.

As The Bee's editorial board says today, many of McCarty's questions are worth asking and the answers should be used to make any deal as good for city taxpayers as possible.

February 19, 2013
Big fight begins on plastic bag ban in Sacramento

The battle lines were clearly drawn this afternoon on a possible plastic bag ban in Sacramento.

Environmental advocates told a City Council committee that single-use bags are a scourge. Californians Against Waste estimated that city residents use 180 million a year. The advocates applauded the city for taking a leadership role.

But business groups expressed concerns.

An official from the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce said an ordinance would be "untimely and premature" because the local economy is still fragile and because Sacramento would be the first in the region with one. It urged that no action be taken until 2015.

The California Grocers Association said while it's not encouraging an ordinance, it's willing to talk. It wants to make sure all competitors in a market are treated equally, though the council members pushing the issue are discussing exempting smaller stores.

As The Bee's editorial board pointed out today, there are some thorny issues involved in a ban to avoid hurting businesses or consumers.

The council's Law and Legislation Committee will keep wrestling with this issue and try to come up with a proposed ordinance to go before the full council, probably in a couple of months.

February 14, 2013
California judicial nominees move a step closer to federal bench

Troy L. Nunley is back to waiting for the full U.S. Senate to finally vote on his nomination as a badly needed reinforcement for the federal district centered in Sacramento.

The Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded his name on a voice vote today. It signed off on his nomination in December, but the Senate adjourned before voting. That forced Nunley and 10 other judicial nominees awaiting floor votes to start over. As The Bee's editorial board noted, they are casualties of the partisan wars in Congress.

President Barack Obama renominated Nunley on the same day the new Senate took office last month. Nunley has been waiting since last June, when Obama first nominated him. He is a former prosecutor who is now a judge on the Sacramento Superior Court. He would fill a vacancy in the Eastern District of California, which is in an official judicial emergency because of case backlogs.

The Judiciary Committee also acted today on Beverly Reid O'Connell, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge nominated for a seat in the Central District. William H. Orrick III, a nominee for the Northern District, wasn't as fortunate. His nomination was held over.

UPDATE: Sen. Barbara Boxer of California applauded the committee action. She recommended O'Connell, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein suggested Nunley.

"These are both outstanding judges who would serve in judicial emergency districts with some of the heaviest caseloads in the nation," Boxer said in a statement. "We owe it to the millions of Californians who live in these areas to confirm these talented nominees without delay."

February 12, 2013
Want to view Sacramento council retreat? You're out of luck

Now, I'm really glad I went to the Sacramento City Council's retreat last week.

It was fascinating to see the interaction among the new and old council members.

It also turns out that the column I wrote will likely be the only public record of the gathering, other than the notes and recollections of the participants and city officials in attendance.

The retreat was held outside City Hall, at the Sierra Health Foundation. I was the only member of the public who was there. And the audio-video equipment that was supposed to record the meeting for posterity malfunctioned.

That word came via an exchange of emails between the City Clerk's office and Craig Powell, the head of Eye on Sacramento, a watchdog group that had raised concerns about whether open meeting laws and council rules had been followed. (They had.)

The city posts videos of all council meetings, so those who don't attend or see them live on public access cable can see their elected representatives in action. That won't happen in this case, but the lesson has been learned going forward, the clerk's office said today.

I would offer to donate my notes, but my handwriting is horrible. I doubt many people could make heads or tails out of them.

February 6, 2013
Dickinson says he'll push bill on online purchase privacy

That didn't take long.

The Bee's editorial board called today for the Legislature to clarify whether a consumer privacy law covers online purchases after a California Supreme Court ruling on Monday said it didn't.

This morning, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Banking and Finance, said he plans to introduce such a measure this month.

"In today's high-tech world, the privacy of online consumers is continually susceptible to being violated," Dickinson, a Sacramento Democrat, said in a statement. "The court's decision will further impair the privacy of online consumers. I plan to introduce legislation this month that would increase consumer privacy while also ensuring appropriate fraud and identity theft protection. We must better protect consumers' privacy by safeguarding against the exploitation of personal information."

The consumer protection law, passed in 1990, says that retailers can't require personal information such as home address and phone number from customers using credit cards. In the split decision, the high court said the law applied to only "brick-and-mortar" stores and didn't extend to credit card purchases on the Internet, in part because online retailers can't check photo IDs.

February 1, 2013
Legislature gets another chance to make military service count

A California legislator is giving it the old college try a second time on a bill designed to make it much easier for medics and others with medical training in the military to get health care jobs in civilian life.

This week, Assemblyman Dan Logue introduced Assembly Bill 213, which would require state health licensing boards to create policies recognizing the education, training and practical experience of veterans. The measure would also require the boards to work with colleges to make sure vets don't have to retake classes they took in the military and can quickly complete course requirements.

I wrote about this issue last year, about all the hurdles that veterans have to jump through to become nurses and other health care providers.

Logue and other supporters say smoothing the transition would be a two-fer: Unemployed veterans would find jobs, and rural counties that need more primary care, especially with health reform, would get more bodies.

"Many rural areas of California have a large population of veterans, and the object of this bill is to fast track those who already have medical training from the military into civilian health care jobs," Logue, a Marysville Republican, said in a statement.

Assemblyman Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, is the bill's principal co-author.

A very similar measure stalled in the Legislature last session. Legislators approved and Gov. Jerry Brown signed other laws designed to help veterans, but not this one.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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