State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson on offshore drilling

Hannah-Beth Jackson

A bill by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to ban offshore oil drilling from an area of state waters known as Tranquillon Ridge in the Santa Barbara Channel passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee this week. The vote was 6-2. The area is designated as a Marine Protected Area because of its sensitive marine ecosystem.

The California Legislature banned new offshore oil and gas leases in 1994 when it passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act, but the act did not include the area known as Tranquillon Ridge, which stretches into both state and federal waters. Senate Bill 1096 would repeal this loophole.

“Even the slightest chance of an oil spill in a Marine Protected Area far outweighs any potential benefit to the state,” said Jackson in a press release. “This bill will close the book on the possibility of offshore drilling in these state waters and help ensure that our precious coastline remains protected forever.”

Both Exxon and Sunset Oil have proposed since 2003 to drill into the Tranquillon Ridge, with operations based at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Fishing and public entry are restricted there.

The bill will now head to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Reps. Julia Brownley, Lois Capps speak out about Hobby Lobby ruling

Lois Capps

U.S. Representatives Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, both released critiques of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the privately owned businesses to determine whether or not to pay for certain forms of birth control in employee health insurance based on religious grounds, a case brought by Hobby Lobby.

“For-profit corporations are not people,” said Brownley in a press release, alluding to the 2012 Presidential campaign wherein Mitt Romney was quoted saying, “Corporations are people, my friend.” “The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling allows the owners of closely held for-profit corporations to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.”

The Supreme Court’s decision came after a challenge by Hobby Lobby on certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, which required companies to provide birth control to employees. Hobby Lobby protested on religious grounds and won in a 5-4 decision that split along ideological lines.

“The personal beliefs of a boss should not be imposed on his employees and should not give him the right to take away access to basic health care, especially birth control,” said Capps in a press release. “I am disappointed the court does not agree.”

“This decision will hurt American women and their families and sets a bad precedent for women’s health and First Amendment protections in the United States,” said Brownley.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that the court had “ventured into a minefield” and that the decision would make it difficult for employees “who do not share their employer’s religious beliefs.”

The Obama administration has said that more than likely the problem can be fixed by subsidizing contraception for those employees who cannot acquire it through their employers’ health insurance.

The decision comes two years after the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in another closely watched and politically charged decision.

Das Williams takes up effort to overturn Citizens United decision

Das Williams

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court decided that limiting political spending by corporations was unconstitutional in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. The decision made it possible for corporations to spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns. Now, Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, is attempting to have the decision reversed in state Senate Bill 1272.

Senate Bill 1272, co-authored by Williams, has passed out of Assembly.

The bill would add a question to the November 4, ballot asking Californians if an amendment to overturn Citizens United should be proposed by Congress. That question, if passed, would be given by the California Secretary of State to the U.S. Congress to request an amendment to the United States Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision and applicable judicial precedents. The state of California would then ratify the amendment.

“Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution, nor have the people ever granted Constitutional rights to corporations,” said Williams in a press release. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s reversal of previous decisions on limiting spending allows bottomless corporate and individual financial contributions to distort the election process.”