Political Landscape: Bill tough on government

Glendale News Press

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff and the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition requiring a review of government programs every five years to assess their performance and improve operations.

"For Congress to make fiscally responsible budgetary decisions, we must have transparent data about the performance and efficiency of federal agencies," Schiff (D-Burbank) said in a statement. "As a co-sponsor of the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Performance Improvement Act of 2010, I believe it will help Congress conduct more effective oversight, make better-informed authorization and appropriation decisions, identify and eliminate duplicative programs, and enhance the performance of federal programs."

The legislation requires agencies, in conjunction with Office of Management and Budget, to identify goals to ensure government is working toward objectives with direct value. The heads of federal agencies must determine progress in meeting the established goals and the effectiveness of management.

It also requires quarterly assessment reports detailing critical information on the strengths and weaknesses of federal programs, along with agency performance improvement officers and a performance improvement council to supervise agencies' performance management activities and assist in standard development. The Government Accountability Office will evaluate whether goals are tethered to real outcomes and whether agencies are efficiently spending taxpayer dollars, along with providing recommendations.

Alcohol bill gets unanimous support A California Senate committee this week unanimously approved a bill by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino that encourages teenage drinkers to seek emergency medical attention for suspected alcohol poisoning.

The Senate Public Safety Committee Tuesday voted 7 to 0 in favor of the bill, which Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) said would ensure young people felt comfortable dialing 9-1-1 without worrying that they might be punished.

Assembly Bill 1999 would grant immunity from criminal prosecution for underage drinkers or their friends who seek emergency medical help. The immunity would be limited to the victim and one or two underage peers if they acted in good faith, called 9-1-1 and stayed at the scene until authorities arrived.

"Let me be clear: This bill does not condone underage drinking. What it does do is give young people a lifeline if they have made a mistake and are in trouble," Portantino testified before the committee. "[It] sends a message that if you do the right thing helping a friend in distress, you will not be punished."

It is modeled after legislation in Colorado and New Jersey. Experiences elsewhere has shown that the approach does not encourage underage drinking, but creates situations in which teenagers are able to seek the medical help they need, Portantino said. "As the father of a teenage girl, I would hope this bill could help her or someone else's daughter or son who needs emergency medical treatment," he said.

Bill would make declawing illegal Six months after Burbank became the eighth municipality to enact a ban on cat declawing, a California Senate committee Tuesday passed a bill that would make it illegal for a landlord to require declawing or devocalization as a condition of tenancy.

Assembly Bill 2743 would impose a $2,500 fine for each declawing or devocalization resulting from a landlord-tenant agreement. Landlords would not be able to give preferential treatment to tenants with declawed or debarked animals, or advertise in a way designed to discourage applicants with declawed pets.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) characterized procedures as permanent and complex surgeries with several unintended consequences, including physical complications for animals and emotional and financial costs for pet owners.

Searches of rental listings throughout the state turned up several properties with landlords and managers that require potential owners to have declawed cats. A spokeswoman for the California Apartment Assn. said the agency years ago decided to exclude language about declawing cats and devocalizing dogs in its widely circulated rental and lease agreements.

Instead, the association recommended that property owners use security deposits to cover damage resulting from pet behavior. While Glendale has not weighed in on animal declawing, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica and West Hollywood all join Burbank in banning the practice and recognizing it as inhumane. The Senate bill is expected to be heard in the coming weeks.

Stories submitted to genocide project Schiff last week submitted a second set of stories from Armenian Genocide survivors for inclusion into the Congressional Record as part of the Armenian Genocide Congressional Record Project.

Pioneered by Schiff, the project is part of a larger effort to make the experiences part of the national record. The Armenian Genocide, while accepted by more than 20 nations, has not been formally recognized by the U.S. Congress. Schiff is the primary sponsor of the Affirmation of the U.S. Record on the Armenian Genocide, which calls on the president and government to officially recognize events that resulted in 1.5 million deaths as genocide.

"It is difficult if not impossible to find an Armenian family not touched by the genocide, and while there are some survivors still with us, it is imperative that we record their stories," Schiff said last week. "Through the Armenian Genocide Congressional Record Project, I hope to document the harrowing stories of the survivors in an effort to preserve their accounts and to help educate the members of Congress now and in the future of the necessity of recognizing the Armenian Genocide."

Schiff has encouraged survivors and their families to participate in the project by submitting their stories to Mary Hovagimian, at mary.hovagimian@ mail.house.gov.

— Christopher Cadelago

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