51 states? County votes to secede from California

Published: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 12:40 PM
Updated: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 12:40 PM

            51 states? County votes to secede from California

If a fired up group in Northern California has its way, we may soon need to stitch one more star on to the Stars and Stripes.  The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday in favor of a declaration of secession from the Golden State. Residents say they are fed up with what they see as a lack of representation, and over-regulation, at the state capitol. Supporters of the radical plan say they want other rural counties in Northern California and Southern Oregon to join them in the creation of a new state called the 'Jefferson'. "Many proposed laws are unconstitutional and deny us our God-given rights," Gabe Garrison of Happy Camp said at the meeting. "We need our own state so we can make laws that fit our way of life."

Garrison was among more than 100 people who attended the meeting, and most were in support of the declaration. However, the process would not be easy, requiring approval from the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress, but supporters say it would restore local control over decision-making.  According to the Redding Record Searchlight, residents of the majority-Republican county urged the board to consider secession. In addition to a lack of representation in Sacramento, they cited concerns about local water rights and a new rural fire prevention fee. The $150 annual fee was approved by the Legislature in 2011 to offset the costs of providing fire service to people who live far from services.

"I haven't had one contact in regard to this issue that's in opposition," Supervisor Michael Kobseff said about the secession declaration. But if the newly formed "Jefferson" hopes to be the first new state to join the Union since Hawaii in 1959, it will have to hurry. Because 'secession fever' has also arisen in some Colorado counties, where residents there are also considering seceding from their state. The issue is on the ballot in at least three counties and also involves local displeasure of recent actions by that state's legislature.

Find out more about the proposed state of "Jefferson" on the Jefferson Statehood Project website.

Democrats aim to define struggle against Trump in Atlanta

Published: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 10:41 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 10:41 AM

            Democrats aim to define struggle against Trump in Atlanta

The uneasy clash between grass-roots activists and establishment figures at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta isn’t hard to spot. It’s on display at caucus meetings, panel discussions and the maneuvering behind Saturday’s vote to elect a new party leader.

And for a party struggling to find a balance between the liberal wave of outrage at Donald Trump and its leaders trying to corral that energy into electoral action, the attempts to strike a tentative truce will define their fight against the president.

It won’t be easy. Democrats of all stripes have united in a Trump “resistance” movement, but even the most outspoken elected officials struggle to match the ferocity of the Trump opposition that’s filled the streets with protesters and town hall meetings with newly energized activists.

>> Read more trending stories

And the same divisions that cleaved the party during last year’s election — namely, the progressive bloc led by Bernie Sanders supporters pitted against more mainstream party factions that supported Hillary Clinton — continues to dog Democratic leaders who desperately want to put the 2016 election behind them.

“We didn’t win, but the revolution is very much in this room,” said Winnie Wong, who co-founded the People for Bernie group and helped create the #FeeltheBern hashtag. “And you folks need to pick up the mantle. We can’t stop now, we have to do everything that we can in this party to be a part of this political revolution.”

The groundswell of frustration undercuts the other dominant theme of the three-day conference that started Thursday — a constant drumbeat of calls to unify behind a common opponent. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed made a personal plea to Democrats to stay focused on Trump — and not their own internal fissures.

“This is going to end up being unity weekend in the city of Atlanta and unity weekend in the state of Georgia and unity weekend in the Democratic Party,” Reed said. “It’s going to be the end of that presidency of Donald Trump.”

The party has a long way to go. Republicans control the White House, both chambers of Congress and almost three dozen governor’s mansions. In Georgia, the party faces an even more daunting climb: Republicans control every statewide office and hold commanding majorities in the state Legislature.

Democratic leaders are intent on turning the explosive protests into votes, but they also risk the same wave of primary challenges and infighting that the tea party movement triggered in the GOP after Barack Obama’s 2008 election as president.

“There are people who feel like the Democratic Party has stopped listening to young people. Especially us young people,” Nelini Stamp said. “We have ideas and we’ve changed the country in the last six years. We need to work together and we need to push each other better.”

Stamp is a founder of the Resist Trump Tuesdays movement, and her organization is one of a surge of new groups that have sprung up after the November election.

Strikingly, though, one of the first targets of the group’s protest was a Democrat: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Thousands of protesters wound up on the doorstep of his Brooklyn office, urging him to defy Trump at all costs.

Rita Bosworth has also not endeared herself to party leaders. After starting Sister District Project, which matches donors in deep blue districts to help candidates run in more conservative areas, she said a California Democratic official pressed her on whether she was secretly coordinating with Libertarians.

“We are trying to reconnect with the people,” said Christine Pelosi, another California activist. “People do not trust us to fight for them. They do not trust us to put their interests first. That’s what every single listening tour that all of us have gone on shows us.”

That fight is spilling over into the fight to pick the party’s next chairman. Sanders and other leaders in the party’s progressive wing are backing U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid for DNC chairman, while former U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has support from allies of Clinton’s and Obama’s.

The odds seem to favor Perez — his supporters whisper he is nearing the votes needed to win outright — but Ellison boasts an impressive network. And a dark horse contender could emerge. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., hopes a late charge could make him the party’s next face.

The winner will try to bridge the divide between veteran operatives more accustomed to the halting progress of politics and newfound activists who demand immediate action and results. Xavier Becerra, California’s new attorney general, urged Democratic veterans to act more like the grass-roots demonstrators.

“Get in the way — be a hitter and be authentic and be real every day,” Becerra said. “Continuously prove to every hardworking American that we have your back.”

Some of the upstart operatives are putting the political class on notice. Andrea Litman helped start Run for Something, which encourages left-leaning candidates to run for public office, after Trump’s victory made her “angry at the system” that she said benefited older, affluent white male attorneys.

Thousands of candidates have already signed up through her website to run for higher office. And she’s more than willing to encourage them to run against contenders favored by the establishment wing.

“If we have a young progressive candidate and you have someone you picked,” she said, “we’re going to go after you.”


Governors gather amid uncertainty on future of Obama health law

Published: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 8:23 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 8:23 AM

As the nation’s Governors assemble in Washington, D.C. this weekend for their annual winter meeting, not all Republicans are united behind a big drive in the Congress to repeal the Obama health law, as some in the GOP are worried about what would change with Medicaid and the coverage provided to millions of low income Americans.

“I’m very optimistic that the President heard my concerns about the Affordable Care Act,” said Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who went a day early to D.C. to meet with President Trump at the White House and raise issues about efforts to repeal and replace the Obama health law.

Kasich brought with him a plan backed by a half dozen other Republican Governors, who are worried that the GOP Congress and Mr. Trump may move to shift the costs of Medicaid health programs on to the states, making it difficult to provide coverage for those who can’t afford it.

“If they do something that I think is wrong, I’m going to speak out,” said Kasich, who earned the ire of Mr. Trump and many other Republicans during the GOP primaries in 2016.



“I’m very glad that I’ve been able to make my point on this whole business of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act,” Kasich said after his meeting with the President.

“If it upsets Republicans in the Congress, I mean, that’s life,” Kasich told reporters.

Kasich’s home state of Ohio is one of the handful of Republican-led states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Obama health law; his plan would put the states in charge of that program, but leave the feds paying most of the costs.

But early indications from Capitol Hill are that won’t float with the GOP Congress, as early plans would limit federal funds offered to states for Medicaid coverage.

As for Democrats, they were already slicing and dicing press reports about what the GOP wants to do with the Obama health law.

“Let me count thy ways that the leaked GOP ACA repeal plan will totally, completely, monumentally screw you,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), as it seems unlikely right now that Democrats will vote with the GOP on almost anything related to health care.

That means the GOP will have to keep Republicans on board in the Congress to insure their plans get approved.

And that means they may need people like Kasich on board, to help.

“I don’t care what the Republicans do on this; if they do something that I think is wrong, I’m going to speak out,” Kasich said.

CNN, New York Times barred from White House press briefing

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 3:00 PM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 6:35 PM

            CNN, New York Times barred from White House press briefing

Several news organizations were barred Friday from attending a White House press briefing, including CNN, The New York Times, Politico and The Hill.

The Hill reported that the blocked organizations also included the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, the Daily Mail, BBC News and the New York Daily News.

>> Read more trending stories

White House press secretary Sean Spicer decided against holding a traditional press briefing on Friday afternoon in favor of a smaller question-and-answer session known as a "gaggle," according to The Hill.

Spicer allowed several conservative-leaning news outlets to attend the gaggle, along with the major television news networks. Among the groups granted entry to the question-and-answer session were Breitbart News, the One America News Network and the Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Also included were reporters from major television networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, and national wire services like Reuters and Bloomberg, The Hill reported. The Associated Press and Time were allowed in but boycotted it "because of the way it was handled," BuzzFeed reported.

During a panel discussion last December, Spicer said that open access for the media is "what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship."

In a statement, White House Correspondents' Association president Jeff Mason condemned the decision to include some organizations while excluding others.

"The WHCA Board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," Mason said. "The board will be discussing this further with White House staff."

CNN called the decision "unacceptable" in a statement and blamed the administration's anger over recent news stories for the situation.

"Apparently, this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don't like," the statement said. "We'll keep reporting regardless."

News organizations were blocked from the gaggle just hours after President Donald Trump took to the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference and denounced what he deemed to be irresponsible news reporting.

>> Related: Full Transcript: Read Donald Trump's remarks at CPAC

"We are fighting the fake news. It's fake. Phony. Fake," he said. "A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people. … They make up sources. They're very dishonest people."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Kasich on Trump: ‘Root for the pilot’

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 3:09 PM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 3:09 PM

Gov. John Kasich and two of his top health care aides will meet Saturday with U.S. Health and Services Secretary Tom Price to offer ways to make “sure people aren’t left behind” as congressional Republicans try to scrap the 2010 health law and design a substitute.

President Donald Trump asked Price to meet with Kasich and his top advisers following a one-hour meeting Friday between the president and the Ohio governor, who were bitter rivals for the Republican nomination during last year’s presidential campaign.

RELATED: Kasich breaks with Trump on media criticism

Even though Kasich refused last year to endorse Trump after the GOP nominated him in Cleveland last summer, Kasich emerged from his meeting with Trump to say “the man is the president of the United States. It’s sort of like being on an airplane. You want to root for the pilot. You don’t want the pilot to screw up.”

Kasich said Trump asked him to meet with Price and White House chief of staff Reince Preibus to “sort of lay out the way in which we can” revise the 2010 law -- known as Obamacare -- to “save money and make sure people aren’t left behind.”

RELATED: Trump adviser asked FBI to dispute Russia reports

“Don’t know where that will all go,” Kasich told reporters outside the White House. “I will tell you, the president . . . listened very carefully to what I had to say about it and had a very positive response and he was very open to it and asked a number of questions.”

Kasich will be joined at Saturday’s meeting with Price and Preibus by Greg Moody, executive director of the Office of Health Transformation, and Barb Sears, state Medicaid director.

Kasich has been a sharp critic of Republican plans to scale back eligibility for Medicaid, a joint federal and state program from 1965 which has allowed Kasich to provide health coverage to 700,000 low-income people in Ohio.

The 2010 health law extended coverage to more than 20 million Americans previously without insurance in two ways.

Middle income people who worked for companies which did not insure their employees were eligible for federal financial assistance to buy individual health plans through state and federal marketplaces, known as exchanges.

In addition, the law expanded Medicaid to allow families of four earning $33,948 annually – which is 138 percent of the federal poverty level – to be eligible for health coverage. Ohio and 31 other states accepted additional federal dollars to provide for the Medicaid coverage, while 19 states did not.

RELATED: A look back at Trump’s first month in office

Kasich: Trump ‘listened very carefully’ about Medicaid

In an opinion piece Friday in Forbes Magazine, Kasich suggested scaling back Medicaid eligibility to the federal poverty line, which would be $24,600 a year for a family of four and then “shift” those above the poverty line to private insurance plans, presumably bought through the federal or state marketplaces. 

Kasich, however, did not set up a state exchange in Ohio, forcing people to buy insurance through the federal marketplace.

“Before making this transition and moving residents off Medicaid, which is stable, the alternative needs to be just as stable,” Kasich wrote in Forbes.

Kasich is among a small group of governors trying to craft a solution to that would salvage Medicaid coverage for a sizable chunk of the poor.

But Kasich's ideas appear may run into intense opposition from congressional Republicans. The Associated Press reported Friday that Republicans are considering a bill which would end Medicaid expansion and instead provide tax credits of $4,000 a year to allow people to buy insurance.

The meeting with Trump took place as a fresh survey showed a growing number of Americans are warming to the 2010 health law.

The poll, which was sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation – a non-partisan health care research organization in Washington – shows 48 percent of Americans support the law while 42 percent oppose it.

As recently as July of 2014, a Kaiser poll showed 53 percent of Americans disapproved of the law while only 37 percent supported it.

The same poll shows 56 say Medicaid is either very important or somewhat important to them.

The random-digital dialing poll of 1,160 adults was conducted from Feb. 13 through last Sunday.

(Randy Ludlow and Catherine Candisky of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.)