Archive for Informational Articles

Brad Westmoreland Running for Congress

Brad Westmoreland

Brad Westmoreland is an attorney from Elk Grove who has decided to enter the race for the Seventh Congressional District seat, currently held by Dr. Ami Bera. Westmoreland visited the American River Democrats at their November meeting, and laid out his ideals and reasons for challenging the incumbent Democrat.

Ami Bera won the 7th District seat in 2012, defeating Republican Dan Lundgren after losing in his first bid in 2010. Representing a narrowly divided district, Bera pledged to work across the aisle to get important things done, and represent his conservative constituents as well as the liberals, progressives, and moderates. (Something Lundgren was famous for not doing.) And while Democrats have been grateful to have Bera in this seat after years of Republicans, he has cast some votes that raised concerns, and even lost endorsements from some groups. He has voted to scale back some of the new banking regulations, restrict refugee resettlement, and most famously, supported the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, which drew the ire of labor and environmental groups. (In that vote, he was supporting President Obama, but now that President Trump has bailed on it, and the other countries moved forward without the U.S., it has begun to look a bit better now, though it still likely needed “fixing.”)

And so Westmoreland has entered the race from the progressive side, aligning with those supporting Bernie Sanders. He introduced himself at the meeting as someone who grew up in a very conservative family—he remains the only Democrat, and has experienced the conversations many of us dread at some family gatherings, like Thanksgiving! But he says he always stays positive and listens to all points of view. He and his wife Crystal, who is a mental health professional, live in Elk Grove and are expecting their first child.

Why did he enter the race? Westmoreland say he believes we can do better than winning by razor-thin margins. He wants to reach out to the uninvolved people—the 12,000 fewer Democratic voters in 2014 compared to 2012—getting them interested by speaking to issues that matter to them, such as health care and “Medicare for all,” and education innovation to make it free and responsive to the changing economy. He wants to demonstrate our values to people who feel they are without a voice; to let them know that we are your party.

He spoke of the issue of gun violence, pointing out that the NRA is just a lobbying organization for gun manufacturers, who are maintaining an industry that kills people. He pointed out that gun incidents are actually good news for gun makers and sellers; that mass shootings become a win/win situation, as people buy more guns for protection, and in fear of more gun laws coming. Gun sales always spike after such tragedies. No one needs an assault weapon, he said; we need to ban them and get them off the streets. The question of it being a mental health issue is just a smoke screen; he said his wife has pointed out that mental illness does not mean violence, and it is a dangerous stigma to put on people who are suffering. What we need to do is close the loopholes; online sales, gun shows, private sales; to improve background checks. What often gets lost in the discussion, he said, is that women are often the victims of gun violence, through domestic abuse. In Canada, a man needs permission to buy a gun from his wife and/or ex-wife.

The next issue Westmoreland spoke about was related to his time in college when he began working for a man who had, at age 16, been paralyzed after an accident that broke his neck. The man was in need of 24-hour care, and Brad was an in-home caregiver. This experience changed his perspective, and after completing law school he went to work fighting for disability rights. That is one of the reasons he is now opposing H.R. 620, a U.S. House resolution to amend the Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). He says that the changes will weaken the ADA and disability rights across the nation, absolving businesses of the responsibility to make their premises accessible to all—rights that were hard-fought-for and have worked well for 27 years. (Congressman Bera, a co-sponsor of the bill, has stated that it is an effort to avoid un-needed lawsuits against small businesses, allowing them reasonable time to make repairs without paying large settlements, but that he fully supports the ADA.)

Westmoreland next spoke about public education, which he said should be free to all. One of the barriers to a strong middle class is student loan debt. It impedes the ability to own a home and start a family for many who work hard to get an education. Free public education is an important mechanism to give everyone a shot at achieving the middle class life. He also spoke about immigration and the myths that prevent immigration reform, like that they don’t pay taxes. Immigrants—documented or undocumented—actually pay a higher tax rate than corporations. He said the statute of limitations should apply to the undocumented immigrants, and they should have a path to citizenship.

Westmoreland covered a lot of issues in a spirited discussion with the American River Democrats

Westmoreland also took questions from the club members. He said he stood for campaign finance reform, because lobbyists are crowding out the people from speaking their voice and getting to their representatives. The constitution guarantees the right to petition your representatives, which is impeded by the big influence the moneyed interests have above the ordinary citizen. He also supports net neutrality, an issue the Trump administration is attacking today. Mental illness should be given a priority to help those suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD, rather than stigmatizing them as potentially violent, dangerous people. He agreed with the importance of not only passing background check laws for guns, but for building the infrastructure to monitor and enforce to rules, especially in states that may not be eager themselves.

But one of the biggest questions he took was why he is running against Ami Bera. He pointed out the big differences in their positions—he supports Medicare for all (single-payer health care), free public education, an assault weapons ban, a ban on fracking, and strengthening unions. He said we need to expand the electorate, and that we are in a “blue” district that voted “purple”—we need to take the issues to the people who never vote, both here and across the country, to build a majority. The results in the recent Virginia elections have got more people interested and excited, and that needs to be built on.

He said that our district has many Republicans who may not fully understand GOP policies. As a congressman he would represent them, but vote his conscious about what is best for everyone. But it is still important to listen to them, especially those, like his own family, who spend a lot of time watching Fox News, but who will respond to a conversation about the direction our country is moving in.

There are currently five candidates for the 7th District Congressional seat. Besides Ami Bera and Brad Westmoreland, there are three Republicans—Andrew Grant, Yona Barash, and Omba Kipuke. The primary election in June will narrow the final ballot to any two of those candidates.

For more information about Brad Westmoreland and his positions on issues, or how to support his campaign, visit

Recent mass shootings coincide with Americans Against Gun Violence annual banquet

Bill Durston kicks off the Americans Against Gun Violence annual dinner

Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Texas. Those names all now evoke the horror of mass shootings that are all too common in the United States. They also invoke memories of the usual political response: Democrats call for action, Republicans say it is not appropriate to “politicize” the tragedy, and weeks and months pass with nothing accomplished, until the process repeats itself in the next horrifying incident.

Americans Against Gun Violence, an organization formed to put political pressure and increase public awareness of the issues around the needless death and injury caused by the presence of so many, and so much more lethal guns in our country, held its first annual banquet on October 22, just after the Las Vegas massacre, and just before the Sutherland massacre. President of the organization, Dr. Bill Durston, kicked off the event, which was shared with Physicians for Social Responsibility, and introduced the keynote speaker, Josh Sugarman, author of Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns.

Josh Sugarman addresses the membership at the AAGV dinner

Sugarman noted that lots of attention is drawn to mass shootings, like the recent Las Vegas incident, but daily deaths from guns is even worse. One hundred people on average die each day from guns in America. What is behind this? The gun industry. They are at heart a consumer product business, with marketing plans to increase their profits, just like the automobile industry, consumer electronics, restaurants and food production—the difference is they are the only product not regulated by the government!

When a shooting occurs, one of the first questions the media and law enforcement asks is what was the motive. Why would someone get a hotel room to be a sniper at a concert, why would someone walk into a church intent on murdering everyone, why would someone ambush a cop, kill their spouse and family, shoot up a schoolyard, or assassinate a public figure? But what does that really matter in the end? The fact is these people, whatever their reasons, have the ability to build an arsenal. And they have access to military and law enforcement-grade weapons to accomplish it. Yes, there are some restrictions on the level of weapons—for example, a military automatic weapon can fire multiple rounds by just holding down the trigger. For the consumer-available weapons, the shooter must pull the trigger for each round. But they can still shoot in very rapid succession, making such guns effectively the same as a military machine gun.

The industry sells its product primarily to white males, of whom only 33% are currently gun owners. And that market is aging and dying off, with fewer new customers entering the market. That puts pressure on them to continue to resell their products to their primary market, by introducing ever more powerful and “efficient” guns, while stoking fears that a mass confiscation is just around the corner, and they need to stock up now. A phenomenon seen when either a liberal politician is elected, (President Obama’s election, or just the likelihood of Hillary Clinton’s election, for example) or when another mass shooting occurs, is a marked increase in gun sales, out of fear that new laws are on the way. The industry is also trying to expand their market beyond the white male demographic, finding ways to appeal to women, children, African Americans, and Latinos as a new customer base. They want diversity, not just “stale, male and pale.” (Quote from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade organization, about the demographic they want to change.)

And after every new incident, not only do we hear the chorus of “it’s not the time to politicize this tragedy,” but we are also told gun control doesn’t work, if you restrict guns only criminals will have them, the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, the real problem isn’t guns but mental illness, etc. Sugarman stated that it is time we recognize that (to paraphrase the Bill Clinton presidential campaign) It’s the gun, stupid!

Members of the American River Democrats were well represented at the event

While other nations react to gun violence by finding solutions—Australia and the United Kingdom are notable success stories—the National Rifle Association (NRA) insists that we need more guns. And the politicians who follow their lead (mostly Republicans, but Democrats are not always innocent) go along, failing to pass meaningful laws, and even opening the current restrictions even further.

Sugarman said that states with high gun ownership have higher gun deaths, including accidental shootings and suicides, while states with stronger gun control laws have lower overall rates of homicide (and not just from guns!) California is a good success story, but national laws are far more important. The NRA likes to tell everyone to look at Chicago. “They have strong gun laws, yet the gun violence rate is one of the worst.” While that is untrue on the face of it (many other states and cities have much stronger gun laws), even if Chicago had California-like restrictions, guns can be easily brought in from many neighboring states, like Indiana, that have very loose gun laws.

The bottom line is that lots of guns means lots of gun injuries and deaths. Dividing people into “good” ones who can get a gun and “bad” ones who shouldn’t, just doesn’t work. Many of the guns out there—handguns, assault rifles, automatic weapons—are designed specifically for killing people, and that is what they do, whether by intention, accident, or suicide.

But the public is way ahead of lawmakers in supporting change, and have found some success in a few places, like California. But the industry is not sitting still. The bill to legalize silencers and allow open-carry laws to be valid across state lines is still out there waiting to be passed by Congress. And the much ballyhooed idea of banning bump stocks has gone nowhere, despite the seeming universal openness to the idea, by even the NRA. California’s Dianne Feinstein is reintroducing an assault weapon restriction bill, but it is generally considered dead on arrival. But hey, it’s worth a try, right?

Meanwhile, America is held hostage by a fading industry, said Sugarman. While two-thirds of Americans live in gun-free homes, and only 1.5% of the population belongs to the NRA, they somehow exert more control over Congress than the will of the people. Sugarman said we need to focus on solutions, not slogans that will sell. Gun violence is a preventable epidemic, he said, with 33,000 annual deaths of Americans. We need to ask ourselves, are we doing everything in our power to prevent gun violence?

Learn more about Americans Against Gun Violence at

Listen to Josh Sugarman on on Insight from November 1.

Read a piece on recent gun violence written by Bill Durston, reprinted on this website: The Air Force is Not the Problem, A Good Guy With a Gun is Not the Solution

The Air Force Is Not the Problem… And A Good Guy with a Gun Is Not the Solution

By Bill Durston, President, Americans Against Gun Violence

Dr. Bill Durston, Americans Against Gun Violence

In the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, in which 25 people were killed, including numerous children and a pregnant woman, and 20 others wounded, it has come to light that the gunman, Devin Kelley, had been hospitalized involuntarily for mental illness and imprisoned for domestic violence while serving in the Air Force. Much of the media attention surrounding the shooting focused on the fact that the Air Force didn’t report Kelley’s mental illness and domestic violence conviction to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). A secondary focus of media attention has been the fact that Kelley was shot and wounded by a good Samaritan who lived nearby as Kelley was leaving the church.

Devin Kelley booking photo

Devin Kelley booking photo

As a result of not being listed in the NICS, Kelley had no trouble purchasing four guns from gun stores in Colorado and Texas, including the assault rifle that he used in the church shootings and the handgun that he later used to kill himself. The Sutherland Springs resident who shot Kelley twice with his own assault rifle, 55 year old Stephen Willeford, clearly risked his life in rushing to the church when he heard gunshots, but Kelley had already exited the church by the time that Willeford arrived and shot him. Despite being shot by Willeford in the leg and torso, Kelley was able to drive off in his SUV at high speed. Willeford hailed a passing driver, 26 year old Johnnie Langendorff, and they gave chase in Langendorff’s truck. Kelley crashed his car about 10 minutes later and was found dead in his vehicle by law enforcement officers, apparently as a result of having shot himself in the head.

Should the Air Force have reported Kelley’s hospitalization for mental illness and imprisonment for domestic abuse to the NICS?

Definitely. Preliminary reports indicate that it was not an individual clerical error but rather a system wide problem that resulted in the failure to report not only Kelley to the NICS but also multiple other Air Force personnel who should be prohibited from owning guns.

Would reporting Kelley to the NICS have prevented the Sutherland Springs mass shooting? Possibly. But under Texas’s lax gun control laws, even if he was prohibited from buying a gun from a federally licensed firearm dealer at a gun store as a result of being on the NICS database, Kelley still could have purchased a gun without a background check from a private “kitchen table” gun dealer or at a gun show.

Since the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed prohibiting “mental defectives” and individuals convicted of domestic violence from owning guns, how many mass shootings have been committed by other individuals who, like Kelley, fell into prohibited categories while in the military but were not reported to the appropriate civilian authorities?

None that I’m aware of. Of the more than 1.5 million U.S. civilians killed by guns since 1968 in single shooting incidents, there must have been some who fell into the same prohibited but unreported category as Kelley, but the point is, closing the “Air Force loophole,” which definitely should be done, is in and of itself not going to have a measurable effect in preventing mass shootings in the United States or in reducing the daily toll of gun violence.

And what about the “good guy with a gun” argument?

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (Facebook)

Obviously, you’d have to be out of touch with reality (as many gun zealots are) to claim that the Sutherland Springs mass shooting is an example of a “good guy with a gun” successfully stopping a “bad guy with a gun.” The action of Stephen Willeford was definitely heroic, but by the time that he shot and wounded Devin Kelley outside of the First Baptist Church, Kelly had already killed 25 people and wounded 20 others inside the church. An FBI study of 160 mass shootings between 2000 and 2013 found only one case in which an armed bystander other than a security guard or off duty police officer stopped a mass shooter. In 21 cases, unarmed bystanders disarmed and restrained the shooter. Whether the Sutherland Springs mass shooting would be considered by the FBI to be a case in which a mass shooting was interrupted by an armed bystander is unclear. While it’s possible that Kelley might have gone on to shoot other people after leaving the church, the evidence available at this time indicates that he had a vendetta against church members, and he’d already discarded his assault rifle by the time that Willeford shot him.

So, where do we go from here?

Following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas on October 1, attention was focused on “bump stocks,” devices used by Stephen Paddock to make his semi-automatic rifles fire almost as rapidly as fully automatic ones. Brief consideration was given to banning “bump stocks,” but as usual, Congress took no action to prevent future mass shootings. Now, as the Sutherland Springs mass shooting fades from the spotlight, the Air Force has announced that it’s going to review its protocols for reporting Air Force personnel who should be prohibited from owning guns to the NICS, but no other action is being seriously considered by Congress to prevent future mass shootings.

A recent New York Times article about mass shootings in the United States concluded with a quotation from a British journalist, Dan Hodges, who wrote:

In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.

In essence, Mr. Hodges is stating that the United States of America is a country that loves its guns more than its children. While I have come to the cynical conclusion that this statement may be true for some people in our country, I hope it’s not true for the majority, and I know it’s not true for you or for anyone else on our Americans Against Gun Violence listserv. I also strongly disagree with Mr. Hodges’s statement that the US gun control debate is over. On the contrary, I believe that the founding of Americans Against Gun Violence last year marks a new beginning.

Below is a list of what I see as some of the take home lessons from the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs mass shootings.

Please contact your state and federal elected officials to demand that they take the actions in bold print. (You can click on this link and enter your zip code to get the names and contact info for your elected officials. If you’re calling from a smart phone, you might want to enter the numbers of your US senators, your US representative, and your state legislators into your contact list for ease of calling in the future.) You can contact your elected officials about any one of the “bullet points” below that you feel most strongly about, or better yet, you can contact the same officials on a new bullet point every day until you’ve gone through the whole list.

  • All background check loopholes should be closed. A thorough background check should be required for any gun sale or transfer.
    Contact your elected officials to demand that they openly advocate and actively work toward requiring thorough background checks for all gun sales and transfers.
  • All semi-automatic rifles should be banned, with no grandfather clause, as was done in Australia within just 13 days of the infamous Port Arthur massacre there in 1996. Such weapons are specifically designed for the purpose for which Devin Kelley and Stephen Paddock employed them – to kill and maim large numbers of people in a short period of time. There is no legitimate civilian use for such weapons.
  • Contact your elected officials to demand that they openly advocate and actively work toward a complete ban on all semi-automatic rifles comparable to the ban enacted in Australia in 1996.
  • The paradigm for determining who can and cannot own a gun in the United States is backward. As the article in the New York Times referenced above pointed out, the United States is one of only three countries in the world, the other two being Mexico and Guatemala, in which the default position for someone seeking to acquire a gun is that the person can have the gun unless society can prove that he or she falls into a category of persons prohibited from owning one. In every other country of the world, the default position is that the person cannot have a gun unless he or she can prove why he or she needs one. And in most other high income democratic countries, “self defense” is not accepted as a reason for owning a gun given the well established fact that guns in the possession of honest, law-abiding people are much more likely to be used to kill or injure them than to protect them.
  • Contact your elected officials to demand that they openly advocate and actively work toward requiring persons seeking to acquire a gun to submit convincing evidence that they have a good reason for having a gun and that they can handle one safely.
  • It’s the guns, stupid! As documented in the New York Times article on mass shootings, the reason why the United States is the only high income democratic country in the world in which mass shootings occur on a regular basis, and why the overall rate of gun related deaths in the USA is 10 times higher than the average in these other countries, is that the rate of gun ownership in our country is much higher than in every other high income democratic country of the world. The high rate of gun ownership in the United States is due, in turn, to our exceedingly lax gun control laws as compared with every other high income democratic country.
  • Contact your elected officials to demand that they openly advocate and actively work toward the adoption of the same kind of stringent gun control laws in the United States that have long been in place in every other high income democratic country of the world, including a complete ban on civilian ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and stringent restrictions, if not a complete ban, on civilian ownership of handguns.
  • Good guys with guns don’t prevent mass shootings or reduce the daily toll of gun violence in our country. On the contrary, people with concealed weapons permits have committed mass shootings and many other criminal homicides. (See the Violence Policy Center report on “Concealed Carry Killers” for more information on this topic.)
  • Contact your US Senators and your US Representative and demand that they oppose H.R.38 and S.B.446, bills to make a concealed weapons permit issued in one state good in any other state.

Until the rogue Heller decision in 2008, there was no “Second Amendment right” for anyone to own any kind of a gun in the United States outside of service in a “well regulated militia.” Even after Heller, there’s no constitutional right to own an assault rifle. (See the post on the Facts and FAQ’s page of the Americans Against Gun Violence website concerning the Second Amendment for more details.)

  • Contact your elected officials to demand that they openly advocate and actively work toward overturning the rogue Heller decision and restore the Second Amendment to its original meaning.
  • Contact PBS and demand that it retract the misrepresentation of the Second Amendment by CBS commentator William Brangham on the PBS News Hour during coverage of the Sutherland Springs mass shooting on November 7.
    • Brangham stated, “In the United States, the Second Amendment gives citizens broad rights to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court has several times affirmed this fact.”
    • This statement is grossly inaccurate. See the post concerning the Second Amendment on the Facts and FAQ’s page of the Americans Against Gun Violence website for details.
    • In addition to demanding that PBS retract Brangham’s misrepresentation of the Second Amendment, demand that PBS rebroadcast the PBS News Hour segment from December 16, 1991, in which the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger stated in regard to the misrepresentation of the Second Amendment by the NRA that was endorsed by Brangham, “This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word fraud – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
    • If you’re a PBS contributor, mention this in your message.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, please become an official paid member of Americans Against Gun Violence, and please make an additional donation if you’re able.

The above “to do” may seem like a tall order. At our first annual dinner on October 22, though, our keynote speaker, Joshua Sugarmann, stated:

Gun violence is at epidemic levels in the United States, and this epidemic is preventable. You and I know that, and this knowledge is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we know how to stop the epidemic of gun violence that afflicts our nation. The curse is that when the next “worst mass shooting” occurs, we can’t just shake our heads like so many others and wonder why these horrific tragedies keep occurring.  Instead, we have to ask ourselves, are we doing everything within our own power to prevent them?

Thanks for supporting Americans Against Gun Violence and for doing everything reasonably within your power to help stop the shameful epidemic of gun violence in the United States of America.

Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence
Reprinted courtesy Bill Durston

Governor Candidate Delaine Eastin Visits ARDems

Delaine Eastin speakingWith big-name people like Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villariagosa declared running for California governor in the 2018 election, Delaine Eastin may seem like an unlikely candidate to capture a spot on the final ballot. But she makes up for lower name recognition with both passion and enthusiasm for issues that ignite the progressive fervor of many California Democrats. And it’s not like Eastin is an unknown—she held statewide office as Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1994 to 2002. Prior to that she was city council member for Union City, and a four-term Assembly Member. She has also worked as a teacher and in business for Pacific Bell.

Ms. Eastin spoke at the September 20 meeting of the American River Democrats, stating right off the bat that we are in crisis right now, not just with a “knucklehead” as president, but from lack of participation in civil society. We are stronger together, she said, as a democratic government. The budgets our representatives create are statements of our values; how we treat the people who need us is a moral test we are failing. California was once fifth in the US in per-pupil spending for schools; now we are near the bottom. Since the first Jerry Brown administration (1975-1983) California has built six college campuses, and 23 prisons.

Delaine Eastin speaks for the American River Democrats

Eastin says she will fight for the big things—education, universal healthcare, or Medicare for all, affordable housing. She is the only candidate who is in favor of banning fracking in the state. She says she has the courage, vision, and heart to fight for equality, justice, peace, and hope. She is against “the best government money can buy” and will not take any money from big oil, big tobacco, or other corporate interests, as some of her rivals for the nomination do. She says she is prepared to stand up to bullies, the rich, and the powerful. California is full of “dreamers,” who built this amazing state—not just the ones who need our protection from the current Trump administration, who is ending the DACA program.

As a city council member, she fought for issues like recycling, and served on the library commission. As an Assembly Member, she authored bills to improve schools, improve transportation systems, crack down on unlicensed contractors, increase use of recycled materials, such as “white goods”—old appliances filling landfills. Realizing the tobacco taxes only covered cigarettes, she fought to expand it to other forms—cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, etc.—to help fund libraries. She was named “Rookie of the Year” by the California Journal, a non-partisan analytical journal that reports on the State Legislature, and “Legislator of the Year” awards several times from the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, the California School Boards Association, and the California Media Library Educators Association.

Delaine Eastin speaks

Eastin spoke with passion about her hopes for California and her candidacy.

Her experience as chair of the Assembly Education Committee led to her later election as Superintendent of Public Instruction, where she filed a lawsuit to stop the state from diverting funds away from education, and reducing class size in public schools. She worked for school accountability and higher standards, decreasing waste in the system, and bringing better technology to the classroom. She also worked for universal pre-school, and after serving two terms, continues to be an advocate for education, serving on several boards for education advocacy in California.

Her goals are for an economy that works for everyone, including universal pre-school availability, small class size, and increasing the number of nurses and counselors in schools—California is last in the U.S. in those crucial positions. She wants to address the housing crisis in the state—we have the highest number of grown children living with their parents, and homeless people overall. She wants more affordable housing located near transportation hubs to help people get to work or school. She is for universal health care (she supports SB 562), fighting climate change, improving our infrastructure, and protecting the rights of those under attack—the disabled, immigrants, LGBTQ, people of color, and California Dreamers. She seeks a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. She asks the question: Did we do as much for the next generation as was done for us?

To learn more about Delaine Eastin, join her campaign, or donate, visit

Congressman Ami Bera Staffer Visits American River Democrats

Matthew Ceccato speaks to the American River Democrats

Matthew Ceccato is Congressman Ami Bera’s District Director at his California office, for the 7th Congressional District. Ceccato is a military veteran who was wounded in Iraq, and returned to attend grad school thanks to the G.I. Bill, and began work with Bera as a caseworker on veterans’ issues. He shared a lot of information with the club in a 2015 visit regarding help for veterans in need. Since then, he has been promoted to District Director overseeing the office, and as a guest speaker at the June meeting, shared more information about the operations and what is available to constituents through the Congressional office.

Ceccato said that there were three main categories of staff that he oversees in the office. Caseworkers are the heart and soul of the office. They are there to help people who have problems or issues with any federal government, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid issues, veterans’ issues, immigration and more. Field Representatives are there to represent the Congressman at various events and meetings he is unable to attend himself, to get feedback and share information with his constituents. The interns are a hardworking group who take calls, meet visitors, and process correspondence and social media feedback, and record all the information that comes in. It is all shared with Congressman Bera, who is then able to act on it—including making personal callbacks when possible. Ceccato said it is an amazing team, and your connection to the federal government, on anything from a denial of benefits to a visit to Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, he said that it was a whirlwind going on in Washington. They get about 1000 calls a week, and sacks of mail. And voices are being heard—calls about health care are making an impact. Ceccato said that even if the Senate had passed their version of the “Trumpcare” bill, it was dead on arrival at the house. Now tax reform is on the table, and the same kind of feedback can stop the kind of spending cuts that would be needed to give a tax break to the wealthiest. He said that calls and letters help even if your representative is already on your side. Reaffirmation helps, and feedback contributes to debate.

Ceccato also highlighted some real accomplishments made on veterans’ issues. A Post-9/11 Veterans Memorial is now underway. “Blind scheduling”—medical appointments made without confirming dates and times—is being eliminated. The National Guard overpayment problem has been resolved. Bera is also working to improve woman veterans’ care. Homeless veteran women with kids is a growing problem that needs addressing on a national level.

In conclusion, Ceccato urged the club, and anyone in the Seventh Congressional District to contact Bera’s office for any federal government issues people would need help with. Stalled tax refunds, students in need of financial aid, homeowners needing loan modifications, immigrant citizen applicants, small business loans, stalled passport issues, veterans medical or educational benefits, and Social Security and Medicare problems are just examples of assistance they can offer.

Contact the Sacramento office at 916-635-0505, or visit during office hours of 9 am to 6 pm at 8950 Cal Center Drive, Building 3, Suite 100, Sacramento CA 95826. Send a letter, or contact them online at The Washington DC office can be reached at 202-225-5716; 1535 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC, 20515.

Common Sense Kids Action Helps Make Children a Top Priority

How do you know if your representatives are voting for and pushing legislation that is helping our kids? Common Sense Kids Action is a nationwide organization that tracks measures in the legislation, and how they will affect kids, either positively or negatively. They are also involved in media and education, helping parents and teachers make informed decisions about media and technology.

Jeri Dahlke speaks at the American River Democrats May meeting

In May, Jeri Viera Dahlke, an American River Democrats club member, who is also involved with Moms on the Left and Indivisible, spoke at our club meeting about her involvement with Common Sense Kids Action and how we can use it to make a difference in issues affecting children and teens in our area and state.

Dahlke said that her husband had been a teacher in Watts, and she soon learned that the life of kids in school is not nearly the same across the state, despite funding goals. Access to books and facilities, and parents with little time to help made the differences stark from one district to another. She felt she needed to be more involved to make a difference for kids and their families who need support. She began working with Common Sense Kids Action, to help make it easier for people to understand what is going on and how it impacts children. She said “Doing good things for kids helps others—the benefits expand.”

Common Sense Kids Action serves by rating legislation, proving voters’ guides, educating and advocating. Advocating begins with visiting legislators at the Capitol, sending emails, making phone calls, and sending cards and letters. Every measure should be evaluated for its direct impact on kids—is it a good benefit? Common Sense Legislative Ratings allows you to choose Federal or State, and find a list of bills pending, with their positive or negative impact on kids. (California currently has 62 positive, one negative—not bad!) This guide can help you determine which bills you want to encourage (or discourage) your representatives to vote for, including Senator Richard Pan and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia’s Bill of Rights for Children and Youth (SB 18 and SCR 41.)

The Bill of Rights for Children and Youth states that all children deserve:

  • High-Quality Early Learning and Care
  • High-Quality Education Opportunities
  • Supportive Family Environments
  • Preventative, Accessible, and Comprehensive Health and Dental Care.

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Single Payer Health Care a Real Possiblity

Zulma Michaca and Shirley Toy speak at the American River Democrats April meeting

Though the Affordable Care Act—AKA Obamacare—was a major step forward to giving Americans universal affordable health insurance, it still has flaws, notably cost control. And now that the Trump Republicans are continuing to devise an even less accessible system, the California legislature is working on putting a system in place to provide the kind of health care most of the developed already has. State Senate Bill 562 is currently being heard in committees with a real chance of being passed and signed by the Governor. It recently passed the Health Committee and is due to be heard in Appropriations.

At the American River Democrats’ April meeting, we welcomed Shirley Toy and Zulma Michaca from the California Nurses Association. Their organization supports SB 562, because health care (not health insurance)is a human right. The Affordable Care Act was a great improvement, said Toy, but not enough. Costs continue to rise, and ACA didn’t do enough to change that. While the rest of the developed world pays less and gets better care, in the U.S., costs continue to rise while the Trump administration and Republican congress try to reach a compromise to end the ACA, and replace it with something “fantastic.” While the house finally passed their version, the Senate Republicans are struggling to make a less “objectionable” bill, but every proposal so far has robbed millions of the benefits they now have, while cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Meanwhile, American businesses large and small have problems competing with each other, and with international firms who don’t need to provide health insurance to their employees. Companies are forced to bargain health benefits with current and potential employees, while those in the “gig economy” and small business start-ups have to face big bills to get health care for themselves and their families.

The big question for bringing single-payer health care to California is how to pay for it. Toy pointed out that we already pay—and one-third of our insurance money goes to administration, marketing, doctors’ staff who deal with insurance, and profits for the private insurance companies. And the cost hospitals incur for treating uninsured people, especially in emergency rooms, gets built into the fees they charge paying customers. But just saying we already pay too much doesn’t actually fund the alternative! As club member Dr. Bill Durston pointed out, even the best idea needs a funding mechanism—the previous single payer bills would not have worked had there not been a companion bill to cover funding.

The bill currently says “It is the intent of the Legislature for the state to work to obtain waivers and other approvals relating to Medi-Cal, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare, the PPACA, and any other federal programs so that any federal funds and other subsidies that would otherwise be paid to the State of California, Californians, and health care providers would be paid by the federal government to the State of California and deposited in the Healthy California Trust Fund.” So that means that any money coming into California from the Federal government for healthcare would be funneled into the fund first. Additional money would obviously be needed. The remaining funding is not specific in the current bill, stating “It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would develop a revenue plan, taking into consideration anticipated federal revenue available for the program. In developing the revenue plan, it is the intent of the Legislature to consult with appropriate officials and stakeholders.”

So clearly, funding will also come from a combination of taxes and fees, to be specified in a companion bill, most likely. Though many, especially Republicans (and some Democrats) will claim it is a big tax hike on Californians, it should save money overall, as both the elimination of insurance company overhead, and using the power of large-pool negotiation with providers and drug companies, should allow for big savings. But then there is always the danger of bureaucratic waste and fraud, so the managers—the “Healthy California Board” and their staff—will have to be extremely vigilant in managing the program. If California proposes to provide a viable alternative to the national Trump/Republican plan, all of the citizens will need to see they are getting a good deal for good health care.

What do we get if SB 562, and a companion funding bill, are passed? All California residents will be eligible to enroll in a common health care system (like insurance, but different.) You choose your doctor, and/or “Care Coordinator,” who keeps track of your records and treatment. You may go to specialists without referrals, and coverage includes dental care, emergency, diagnostics, rehabilitation, substance abuse, prenatal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and more. You may also use a health care organization; a non-profit that coordinates care (like Kaiser, and others.)

Rates paid to providers are negotiated to insure both fairness to the doctors, medical staff, facilities, and drug companies, as well as the taxpayers of California who support the system. An immediate savings of at least 25 to 30 percent will come from the elimination of the insurance company costs. The system will be run by an independent board of nine Californians, appointed by the Governor and legislature, and chosen based on a background and expertise in health care; and must have at least one member from the general public, a nurses labor org., another labor org., and someone from the medical provider community. There will also be an advisory committee, representing a wide variety of citizens and representatives of various medical fields.

The political will needed, and fight to get this passed, will be formidable. Conservatives hate any government control of the market, even for essential services like health care. And conservative Democrats are reluctant to go too far, and risk losing support of the insurance and medical industry. While many organizations, like the California Nurses Association, labor unions, and many more support the idea, many doctors may fear losing income under this system.

But there is a lot to recommend it too, even to conservatives. Imagine the boon to businesses large and small if they no longer need to worry about providing health insurance benefits to attract good employees, and for the larger companies who are compelled to provide some form of coverage by law. Workers will have more choice to choose better jobs without worrying about losing or interrupting their health coverage. And entrepreneurs will be free to follow their dreams without the threat of bankrupting their families to buy insurance while they try to launch a small business. Is it worth paying somewhat higher income tax and potential business tax, if the payoff is so great? After eliminating the cost of health benefits for both employees and retirees, businesses will have a huge surplus of cash to help them chip in.  And individuals who have insurance costs deducted from their paychecks today may not even notice a tax increase. A successful launch of this system will no doubt draw more businesses to California once it has proven it works.

healthy california logoThe plan was designed following the model of developed countries around the world who provide better health care to their citizens than the U.S. does today. And as the bill progresses through the legislative process it will no doubt evolve further, especially the funding process. But the time to strike is now, with Democratic majorities and a Democratic Governor, (but one who still needs to be convinced.) For more information about this bill, see Healthy, and let your representatives know you are behind it, especially those who may be on the fence, like Assembly Members Cooley and Cooper, and State Senator Pan.

Update: Senate Bill 562 passed 2 committees in the Senate and was approved on the Senate floor by a 23-14 vote, right down party lines. It has been sent to the Assembly, where it is currently in the Rules committee awaiting action to send it forward, likely to the Health and Human Services Committee, and then Appropriations. However, the companion funding bill has not been crafted as yet, causing Speaker Anthony Rendon to hold it in Rules for now.

Rendon stated: “As someone who has long been a supporter of single payer, I am encouraged by the conversation begun by Senate Bill 562.

However, SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete. Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill, including the fact it does not address many serious issues, such as financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters to make SB 562 a genuine piece of legislation.

In light of this, I have decided SB 562 will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice.

Because this is the first year of a two-year session, this action does not mean SB 562 is dead. In fact, it leaves open the exact deep discussion and debate the senators who voted for SB 562 repeatedly said is needed.

The Senate can use that time to fill the holes in SB 562 and pass and send to the Assembly workable legislation that addresses financing, delivery of care, and cost control.”

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary

How Does Supreme Court Nominee Stand on Gun Control?

The late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger called the misrepresentation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to own guns “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public” that he had seen in his lifetime. In responding to questions from California Senator Dianne Feinstein during his confirmation hearing on March 21, Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, demonstrated that he was a party to that fraud. Please contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Click on this link for contact information for your U.S. Senators.) For more information regarding Judge Gorsuch’s fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment during his confirmation hearing, please read on.

The Second Amendment states, in its entirety:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Prior to 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court had never ruled that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own guns. On the contrary, it had been repeatedly established in Supreme Court decisions, in decisions of lower courts, and in reviews by legal historians that the Second Amendment was intended to protect a collective right of the people to maintain armed state militias, such as the current day National Guard, not a right of individual citizens to own firearms. In particular, the Supreme Court ruled in 1939 in the case of U.S. v. Miller and reiterated in 1980 in Lewis v. United States that, “The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.’”

In 2008, however, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court reversed over 200 years of legal precedent by ruling in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment did, indeed, confer an individual right to own guns, at least handguns of the type kept in the home “for protection.” The majority opinion in Heller, written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is internally contradictory and relies heavily on literature published in law journals over the past two decades by a small group of authors with direct ties to the gun lobby. Prior to the Lewis decision, it was virtually unheard of for any legal history expert to argue that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own guns.

Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller decision effectively deleted the phrase, “A well regulated militia” from the Second Amendment. In doing so, it opened the floodgates for a torrent of lawsuits challenging all sorts of gun control laws. Although handgun bans in Washington DC and Chicago were overturned, most other gun control laws, including bans on assault weapons, withstood post-Heller challenges.

In questioning Judge Gorsuch during his confirmation hearing, California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked him if he agreed that bans on civilian ownership of weapons such as M-16 rifles that are typically used in military service are consistent with Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller decision. Gorsuch evaded answering the question directly.

Gorsuch: Senator, Heller makes clear the standard that we judges are supposed to apply. The question is whether it’s a gun in common use for self defense and that may be subject to reasonable regulation. That’s the task as I understand it. There’s lots of ongoing litigation about which weapons qualify under those standards and I can’t prejudge that litigation.

Feinstein: No, I’m just asking you do you agree with this statement, yes or no.
Gorsuch: The statements of, the, uh, Heller decision?
Feinstein: Justice Scalia’s statement.
Gorsuch: Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law.
Feinstein: Do you agree?
Gorsuch: Well, it’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, Senator, respectfully, it’s a matter of it being the law, and my job is to apply and enforce the law.

Judge Gorsuch clearly knows, or should know, that the 2008 Heller decision represented a radical reversal of the Court’s prior interpretation of the Second Amendment. He also knows, or should know, that courts have ruled post-Heller that bans on assault weapons do not violate the Second Amendment, but the gun lobby, which enthusiastically supported his nomination by Donald Trump, wants the Supreme Court to rule that civilian ownership of AR-15’s, the civilian version of the M-16 military assault rifle and currently the most popular gun in America, is protected by the Second Amendment. Finally, Gorsuch definitely knows that the Heller decision could be reversed by a change in a single justice on the Supreme Court, and that had Hillary Clinton become President instead of Donald Trump, she almost certainly would have nominated a Supreme Court Justice who would have tipped the balance on the Court and reversed the Heller decision.

In stating, “Whatever’s in Heller is the law, and I follow the law,” Gorsuch is endorsing what the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public” that he had seen in his lifetime. In refusing to answer Senator Feinstein’s question concerning a ban on assault weapons, Gorsuch is also signaling that he would likely vote to expand the category of constitutionally protected firearms beyond handguns protected by Heller to include assault rifles such as the AR-15’s which are currently “in common use.”

It’s ironic that Gorsuch, like the late Antonin Scalia, claims to be an “originalist,” basing his decisions on the original intent of the framers of the constitution. In his introductory comments before his Senate confirmation hearing, he paid tribute to the late Antonin Scalia, stating: “He reminded us that words matter—that the judge’s job is to follow the words that are in the law—not replace them with words that aren’t.”

If words matter, then what is it about the phrase, “A well regulated militia,” that Neil Gorsuch doesn’t understand? And where in the Second Amendment does he find the words, “a gun in common use for self defense?”

Recognizing that Gorsuch was not going to give her a straight answer concerning whether he thought bans on assault weapons were consistent with the Heller decision, Senator Feinstein went on to ask him whether he agreed with Fourth Circuit Court Judge Harvey Wilkinson who wrote in the case of Kolbe v. Hogan that the Second Amendment was ambiguous and that the ambiguity should be resolved by legislators representing the people who were directly affected by gun violence, not by judges who were relatively insulated from it. Again, Gorsuch refused to give a straight answer.

Gorsuch: I begin by saying I hold Judge Wilkinson in high regard. He is a very fine man and a very fine judge.
Feinstein: Can you say yes or no?
Gorsuch: No, I’m, I wish I could, um, but…
Feinstein: I wish you could too.
Gorsuch: You know, the Supreme Court of the United States isn’t final because it’s infallible, as Justice Jackson reminds us. It’s infallible because it’s final. And, uh, Judge Wilkinson had his view, and the Supreme Court has spoken, and, and, Heller is the law of the land, and Judge Wilkinson may disagree with it and I understand that, um, and he may, but he will follow the law no less than any other judge in America. I am confident of that. Um, he’s a very fine judge who takes his oath seriously.

Gorsuch knows that the Supreme Court is neither infallible nor final. It’s not uncommon for the Supreme Court to reverse a previous ruling. According to the Government Accounting Office, the Supreme Court has issued rulings that overturned all or part of previous decisions on 236 occasions from 1810 through 2016. The 2008 Heller decision has been called by some legal scholars one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history. Heller may be the law of the land today, but Heller overturned the rulings in Miller in 1939 and Lewis in 1980. If confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Gorsuch himself could choose to be the deciding vote in overturning the radical Heller decision and in returning the Second Amendment to its original meaning. It’s clear from his answers to Senator Feinstein’s questions, though, that Gorsuch does not intend to do so.

The issue of the Second Amendment is only one of many on which Judge Neil Gorsuch refused to provide a straight answer to questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during two days of confirmation hearings. His evasive answers on the Second Amendment alone, though, along with his endorsement of a fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to own guns, are reason enough to deny him a position on the Supreme Court. Please contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to oppose the appointment of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thanks for your support of Americans Against Gun Violence and our efforts to stop the shameful epidemic of firearm related deaths and injuries that afflicts our country. If you haven’t already done so, please become a paid member and consider making an additional donation if you’re able. Please also visit the Facts and FAQ’s page of the Americans Against Gun Violence website to learn about other actions that you can take right now to help stop gun violence.

We can’t call ourselves a great nation until the day when rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country are at or below the rates in other high income democratic countries. In order to achieve that goal, we must reverse the fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment in the Heller decision and adopt stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in place in every other high income democratic country of the world. I look forward to working with you to make that day come sooner rather than later.

Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence

Reaching Out to Muslims

The American River Democrats welcomed Yannini Casillas, a representative from CAIR—the Council on American-Islamic Relations—to their March meeting. Ms. Casillas spoke about pre-conceptions, misconceptions, and the nature of Muslims in the U.S. and around the world, and Senate Bill 31, the California Religious Freedom Act.

Yannini Casillas speaks to the American River Democrats

Casillas opened her talk with “Islam 101.” She said that the Islamic faith is very diverse, and that the largest percentage of Muslims are Asian, with Indonesians being the greatest number. She said the media does a poor job covering the Islamic faith, and that there is a big difference between certain cultures and the Islamic religion. ISIS does not represent Muslims any more that the Ku Klux Klan represents Christians.

Muslims are largely peaceful and diverse, and will adapt to the culture they belong to. The tenants of their faith are prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage. They believe you cannot force anyone to do anything; it is the “hand, tongue, and heart” that will guide people to social justice on earth. Women have rights as well, and repression seen in places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan reflect their culture, not the religion. When asked about LGBT rights, she said that everything is between the individual and God; that Muslims are to respect the human, and it is not okay to hurt anyone.

Casillas said that CAIR is working hard fighting the Trump administration’s Muslim ban. She pointed out that even people like Muhammad Ali Jr., the American-born son of the world famous boxer, was detained and questioned by officials. CAIR is training people on their rights, and working with law enforcement officials to fight harassment and vandalism against Muslims.

Particularly concerning are actions by the FBI. There are over 100 cases in California alone of agents coming to investigate Muslim people at their homes and workplaces. They are fishing for terrorist leads, and intimidating people to provide information, threatening to report uncooperative people to ICE agents.

California Senate Bill 31, authored by Ricardo Lara, prohibits state or local agencies from providing or disclosing to federal authorities information regarding a person’s religious affiliation for use in a national database. Though such a database would apply to all religions, the target is clearly Muslims. (Though, of course, any group, including Jews, Hindus, or atheists, could be next.) The bill requires a two-thirds majority vote, but fortunately enjoys some bipartisan support, with a Republican listed as a co-author. It passed two committees unanimously and, as of this writing, awaits a Senate floor vote, before moving to the Assembly. (It requires a two-thirds majority vote because it is an “Urgency Bill” which will take effect immediately on passing.) Casillas encouraged everyone to contact their state representatives to support this bill.

How else can you help? Get to know your Muslim neighbors! Visit an Islamic center, like The Islamic Society of Folsom, and meet the people there. (I have a friend who is a Christian pastor and visits the center on a regular basis, and finds it quite rewarding.) And watch out for hate incidents against Muslims, or any people of a different culture. Women are more often victims of these crimes because they are usually more visible due to their dress. Report these incidents and intervene if possible. If you see a stranger, especially someone who may be from another culture or religion, smile and say hello!

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary

Report from Ami Bera Town Hall

Recently Louise Lopez attended Ami Bera’s Community Engagement Forum, and shared this report on the Moms (and Friends) on the Left Facebook page.

Congressman Bera addresses the crowd at his community forum. (Twitter – @RepBera)

March 11, 2017

Following topics were covered as responses to questions that were asked of Ami Bera.

1) Investigation of Russian Interference in the Election

Bera’s response: We need to protect the integrity of our democracy with an independent investigation. The congressman supports the Protect Our Democracy Bill which calls for such an independent investigation of Russian interference.

2) Travel Ban

Bera’s response: Co-sponsored the bill opposing the first Muslim Ban and is co-sponsoring the bill which opposes the Muslim Ban 2.0. This ban provides the wrong message to the world. It is dangerous and is also causing an increase in hate crimes at home.

3) President’s conflicts of interest

Bera’s response: A resounding ‘yes’ to an investigation. We need to ask for his tax returns.

4) Format for Town Halls (a Town Hall where he is the only speaker)

Bera’s response: Has held regular Town Halls from his first term. He started out as the sole speaker, but found that questions were often posed that would be better directed to others—State Assembly Persons or local city council members, for example. So he began inviting others respond to specific questions along with him. He has no problem with holding some meetings with no one else present on stage.

5) Is Donald Trump mentally ill?

Bera’s response: We should keep in mind that Donald Trump legally won this election via the Electoral College. He does not want the presidency or the government to fail. Bera is, however, concerned about Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, both before and after the campaign. Trump should listen carefully to his own words. The president also needs to step up: Post-9/11, President Bush visited a mosque. Trump is doing nothing along those lines to speak out against hate crimes. Also, “Someone needs to take his Twitter account away.” We are not the only ones reading his tweets, they become front page news in foreign countries as well and are cause for concern among our allies. Also, with regard to foreign countries, Bera is concerned about the diminished role that foreign diplomatic policy is being given by this administration while the military is being built up at diplomacy’s expense. When pressed on the question as to Trump’s mental health, Bera did say he felt Trump was a narcissist.

6) Rising Cost of Health Care

Bera’s response: Bera has publically rejected the current Republican bill, the AHCA. There are two things a federal health care plan should address: access and cost. The original ACA addressed access, but did not change the cost structure. The thought was to address this as well after initial passage, but the Republican majority’s complete opposition made this impossible previously. We don’t want to take away access, but we do need to find a way to make health care more affordable. We also need to address the cost of prescription drugs. The president should be bringing us together to work on these issues. Presently, we need to continue to protect the 20 million people who have gained healthcare under Obamacare as well as looking at cost. We have a good example of a successful plan in Medicare—this is a system that works well for older people and we should be talking about how to get younger people to be able to buy into this type of health care. Bera returned to the topic of health care later in the meeting with the following comments: He stands firmly with Planned Parenthood. It is disappointing to have an exchange with only 1 option. This creates a monopoly, not competition. To be viable, younger folks need to participate. Allowing people under 26 to remain on their parent’s policy is an example of this. We need to expand the possibilities by expanding different options.

7) Gun Violence and the Gun Lobby

Bera’s response: The majority of Democrats and Republicans– -at least those not in Congress—can find common ground with regards to gun laws. This is not about repealing the Second Amendment, it’s about keeping our communities safe. People with a history of violent criminal activity including domestic violence, as well as mental illness should not be able to easily acquire weapons. To that end, Bera supports background checks and a waiting period before a gun can be obtained. We should all be contacting members of congress regarding this issue.

8) HR 1215, which would limit the right to sue in Elder Abuse cases and negate California laws already on the books.

Bera’s response: Bera was not familiar with this bill and will look into it.

9) Stance on Refugees and Sanctuary Cities (this question seemed to reference votes which were not in support of these issues during previous terms).

Bera’s response: He is not against refugees. These are people in need of our help. With regards to illegal immigrants: police officers, nurses, and teachers should not be working as immigration officers. Children shouldn’t be living in fear that their parents may not be there when they get home. He did vote against a specific Sanctuary City bill because he does feel that illegal aliens who are criminals should be held by local agencies for deportation.

10) How can we achieve our objectives when Republicans control the majority of the Senate, Congress and the Presidency?

Bera’s response: As a result of the recent election, people are coming out from all over the country and speaking out. We need to continue making our voices heard. There will be elections this year as well as in 2018 and 2020. If we don’t show up and vote, we lose our voice.

10) Climate Change

Bera’s response: Climate change is real. As a member of the Science and Technology Commission, he will fight to protect the EPA. He noted that the EPA had being scrambling to save data out of concern that it could disappear. He lauds the return of investigative journalism as also having a positive effect in this area. He will fight to protect California’s climate laws.

11) What can be done to better represent the middle class?

Bera’s response: We cannot just be a party of opposition, we need to be a party that stands for something. To that end, we need to maintain a strong public education system. We need to provide an affordable college education, this is a forming of paying it forward. We need to create jobs which pay decent wages. We need to figure out how to rebuild trade and manufacturing jobs. An example would be coding technology. We’re not teaching our kids how to code but other countries are. We should also focus on America’s infrastructure, but we also need to teach kids these skill sets. It would be a good idea to bring instruction of vocational skills back to high schools.

Note: *At this point he also stated he was against school vouchers. This would only take away from public schools which all children already have access to.

12) Deregulation of Wall Street

Bera’s response: Will vote against the repeal of Dodd Frank. He will also fight against assaults on the media and gives them kudos for the job they are doing.

12) Why don’t you partner with local progressive groups?

Bera’s response: Because he is responsible for representing all 720,000 members of his district, it would be inappropriate to do so. He is willing to come as a private person to speak to various groups, according to his availability.

13) Hate crimes/hate speech

Bera’s response: We will do what we can to fight back. When this occurs in schools, schools need to figure out a way to deal with it. Incidents need to be reported and CARE as well as other groups can help with diversity training and instruction on how to push back against bullying.

At the end of the allotted time, Bera made these additional statements, not in response to specific questions:

Democrats and Republicans must come together. Different states may have different challenges, but we still must come together. With consideration to executive orders, if Republicans hated them when Obama made them, they should hate Trump making them as well. The founders designed the legislative branch to be the strongest—this is where our laws should be coming from. The job is to negotiate, debate and find a middle ground so that we can move forward. Otherwise, we will be stuck in a cyclical back-and-forth and stay the same.

Our thanks to Louise for this great report, and all who showed up to let Congressman Bera how we feel and how much we care!

(Note: Louise Lopez is not a currently a member or affiliated with the American River Democrats.)