Politics, government and public life for Southern California

House Ethics Committee had a busy year

It was a busy year for the House Ethics Committee.

In its end-of-the-year report, the House Ethics Committee says it met 35 times in 2012. That's more than twice the number of meetings in the year before.

A great part of the committee's time is spent training Congressional staffers about the rules and regulations. It also answers questions - a lot of them, apparently. Over the past two years, the committee fielded 40 thousand requests for "guidance" from staffers via phone, email or personal visits to the Ethics office.

The other side to the House Ethics Committee is its investigative work.

Over the past two years, it looked into nearly 100 different matters. The committee publicly addressed 27 of its investigations - just under a third of the total cases.

Several of those cases involved Californians.

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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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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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Hotly contested political races on Capitol Hill

US Representative Dana Rohrabacher

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) has his eye on the chairmanship of the House Science Committee.

It's election season in Congressional districts all over California where 53 seats are up for grabs. But some of those lawmakers are also scrambling for votes 3.000 miles away in Washington, DC.  They're trying to move up the leadership ladder.

California loses one powerful Republican leader next year when Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier retires. As a number of other House members step down, run for another office, or are defeated in the general election, several top jobs at House committees are opening up.

A pair of Orange County Congressmen are putting their names forward as committee chairmen, should the GOP retain control of the House.

Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach has a great interest in international affairs.  He's been critical of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, saying he heads "a corrupt clique."  President Karzai doesn't much like Representative Rohrabacher: he denied him entry to Afghanistan recently. 

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