Schiff foe targets estate tax

Pasadena businessman John Colbert, the Republican challenging Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in November, has signed the "Death Tax Repeal Pledge," promising he would vote for permanent repeal of the federal estate tax. The pledge is the brainchild of the American Family Business Institute, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy bill looking to permanently bury the tax.

The tax requires family members inheriting property, including business assets, worth $3.5 million or more to pay up to 55% of the net value of estate in taxes when the owner dies and passes it on to heirs. The tax was suspended for 2010 after Congress failed to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats on reauthorizing or modifying it.

Republicans say the tax hurts farmers and small businesses by draining the assets they would use to plow back into their enterprises. Democrats say the tax is fair and affects only the wealthiest of families, although they have also signaled a willingness to scale it back.

An American Family Business Institute study predicts that repeal of the so-called death tax would boost employment in California by 180,000 jobs and in the nation by 1.5 million jobs.

"The estate tax deals with more than just land. It deals with money and everything else of value, really," Colbert said. "We need that money to stay in private industry so it goes toward growing the private sector, not the government."

Through a spokeswoman, Schiff said he does not support a repeal, though he does want the tax burden reduced.

"I support a substantial reform of the estate tax, which raises the ceiling on the value of estates that are fully protected from any tax, and lowers the tax rate on any remaining portion of an estate," he said in a statement, pointing to his vote last year to exempt estates of up to $7 million from any estate tax. "Given the substantial deficit and national debt, we cannot afford to eliminate the estate tax on all estates — a view shared by even the most wealthy Americans, like Warren Buffett."

Huff bill aims to correct abuse of power

Sen. Bob Huff (R- Diamond Bar), whose district includes La Crescenta, is seeking to pare down the list of those who can maintain their privacy when pulled over by a police officer.

Under state law, police officers and designated members of their family can have their names and other information blocked from public databases for security reasons. Huff's measure would correct what he believes to be an abuse of the privilege.

According to a legislative analysis of his bill, Senate Bill 938, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reserve deputy included his son, a convicted criminal, on the list of blocked names. At a recent traffic stop, other officers had no idea a convicted criminal was in their midst.

In a statement, Huff said the measure would "create safer roads for California residents." The measure was approved Aug. 13 by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Liu legislation heads to governor's desk

A measure by state Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) to track and prevent crimes against the elderly and disabled is headed for the governor's desk.

Liu's measure, Senate Bill 110, requires the state Department of Justice to provide statistics to local police and prosecutors about assaults and other crimes against the elderly and disabled. It also states that local police and state authorities with oversight of seniors and the disabled have "concurrent jurisdiction" to investigate such cases.

"This bill will help police prevent these crimes, investigate offenses when they happen, and bring the perpetrators to justice," Liu said in a statement. "We must protect our most vulnerable citizens."

Bill eases paper weight on college students

A bill by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) to make it easier for community college students to obtain financial aid has passed both houses of the Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature.

Portantino's Assembly Bill 1997 would launch a three-year pilot program at 10 community colleges, encouraging students with financial hardships and others to use the full range of state and federal grants and loans available to support their work toward a degree.

The legislation would streamline the paperwork associated with grants and give more students a chance at more resources. Studies show that students are not tapping all the funds available, even as tuition costs rise.

"According to the Institute for College Access and Success, our community college students leave some $500 million in federal aid (on the table)," Portantino said in a statement. "That's money that could help them work less and reduce their student loans."

Assuming the bill passes, schools can apply to participate, with the final decision coming from the chancellor of California Community Colleges.

Sherman hosts town hall meeting

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) will host a town hall meeting Aug. 29. Residents of his district are encouraged to attend to discuss taxes, health care and whatever else is on their minds.

The event takes place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Reseda High School, 18230 Kittridge St., Reseda.

One man promising to attend is Sherman's Republican rival in the November election, businessman Mark Reed. On his campaign website, Reed encourages his supporters to go.

"Here's your chance to ask why Brad Sherman is helping to put us into a $1.6-trillion deficit, why he doesn't denounce Obama's Israel policy and why he just voted for the Disclose Act, which restricts political free speech," he says.

Reed hosts a fundraiser the prior evening in Granada Hills. His website is

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