Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Experts tell congress more mentally ill are victims than perpetrators of gun violence

Democratic U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano held a hearing Tuesday on gun violence and the mentally ill.

West Covina Democrat Grace Napolitano held briefing on mental illness and gun violence Tuesday, one of a series of hearings expeced on gun violence.

Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said the mentally ill are 11 times more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. He said researchers are working on better tools to detect mental illness sooner.

"Just as in cardiology, where most cardiologists spend their time preventing heart attacks, you’ll see a point where most people who invest in mental health are investing their energy in preventing psychosis, so that you actually catch somebody long before they reach that crisis point where there is the highest likelihood of very bad outcomes."

Napolitano is sponsoring a bill to pay for on-site mental health services in schools.  Minnesota Senator Al Franken is sponsoring the Senate bill.

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NRA bashing from California's Congressional Democrats

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Friday that the NRA's proposal "is really nothing more than a distraction."

After the National Rifle Association called Friday for armed police officers at every local school, California members of Congress were swift to react to the proposal.

Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein didn’t dismiss the NRA proposal out of hand. "If school districts want to hire armed security guards," she said, "I support that. It’s a decision each school district should make." Feinstein added that one-in-three public schools in America already have armed security on staff.

Feinstein again called for a renewal of her assault weapons ban. "The NRA’s blanket call to arm our schools is really nothing more than a distraction," she said. "It’s a delay tactic."

Democrats on the House side were equally critical. Grace Napolitano of Norwalk said it was "just like the NRA. Sell more guns. Arm everybody." West L.A.'s Henry Waxman sait it was "very cynical for the NRA to blame everybody but themselves for the gun disasters, the killing that we’ve been seeing in recent years." And Janice Hahn of Carson said the NRA’s solution "is so out of touch with reality and so out of touch with what the American people want right now."

Hahn supports the assault weapons ban, but wants to do something about the guns already out there. She sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asking that $200 million in any fiscal cliff deal be set aside to buy back assault weapons: "I want to get the ones that are already out there and get them off the streets."

Waxman also supports Feinstein’s assault weapons ban, and a ban on magazine clips for those weapons. He also suggests a look at our culture’s “glorification of violence” and an examination of our mental health system.

Mental health is the top issue for Congresswoman Napolitano. She says families need education to help identify those with mental health problems and the resources to treat them. She says families should be able "to have the funding to pay for the expensive psychiatric treatment for those who need it."

Most Republican House members have been silent on the issue, but Congressman Buck McKeon of Santa Clarita issued a statement saying there should be a “thorough dissection of our country’s mental health and family services.” He also suggests looking at “problematic” enforcement issues with current gun laws.

And a spokesman for Irvine’s John Campbell says the Congressman doesn’t support a “single solution approach to solving what is clearly a multi-faceted problem,” but does believe we should have a national debate about the root causes of the violence at Newtown.

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Congressional fight focused on citizenship for undocumented immigrants

Democratic U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano of El Monte spoke Wednesday at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

Suddenly, immigration is the buzz word on Capitol Hill. A pair of Republican Senators floated their idea Tuesday for giving legal status to illegal young people, and the House of Representatives is expected to vote Friday on a visa bill. But the chances of a comprehensive immigration bill passing both the House and Senate anytime soon remain slim.

Shortly after the election, House Speaker John Boehner seemed to open the door to immigration reform. He called for a "common sense, step-by-step approach, it would secure our borders, allow us to enforce our laws and fix a broken immigration system."

L.A. Congressman Xavier Becerra, a top Democrat in the House, says Boehner isn’t the only Republican talking immigration, citing both talk show host Sean Hannity and Super PAC leader Karl Rove.

"The question is no longer if," said Becerra, "it’s when.  Will we get a solid, sensible bill done? That’s the question."

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Hispanic Caucus picks favorites in California House races (updated)

Emergency room physician Raul Ruiz is running against Republican incumbent Mary Bono-Mack in a Coachella Valley district that includes Palm Springs.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is ostensibly a bi-partisan body that in the past has had Republican members. But it has none at the moment, so it's no surprise that the caucus’ political action committee is spending money on two races where Democratic Latino challengers are facing off against vulnerable Republicans.

The Committee for Hispanic Causes/Building our Leadership Diversity PAC, or CHC BOLD PAC, sent $10,000 apiece to emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz, who is running against Palm Springs Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, and former astronaut Jose Hernandez, who is challenging Fresno Republican Jeff Denham. 

In a race for an open seat, L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas got $6,000. He's running against David Hernandez, who heads the San Fernando Chamber of Commerce and is running as an independent. In the June primary, Cardenas finished well ahead of Hernandez, 64% to 22%.

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California voters largely ignored June primary; Congress has some theories why

California Voters Participate In The State's Pivotal Primary

David McNew/Getty Images

Voter turnout in June was the lowest ever for a California presidential primary. One member of Congress says voters are asking, "What difference does it make?”

Californians stayed home for June’s primary election in record numbers. Two out of three registered voters did not cast a ballot, the lowest turnout ever in a California presidential primary.

Political experts — those who run for office every two years — have a few theories about why voters were so turned off and whether things will be different in November.

Democrats had plenty of reasons: St. Helena's Mike Thompson blames it on the lack of suspense — "We knew who our presidential standard bearer was going to be"; Jackie Speier of San Mateo figures it's voter fatigue because the "campaigning has been going on for so long"; Anaheim's Loretta Sanchez says members of Congress are also to blame because "we all saved our money for a general election."

Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno points out one other thing missing from the June ballot: propositions. "That usually attracts voter interest." 

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