Schiff champions Giffords' strength

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said this week that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is tough and resilient and may be able to overcome the horrific injury she endured when she was shot in the head at a Tucson shopping center Saturday. Tucson resident Jared Loughner, 22, is accused of opening fire on a crowd during a public gathering sponsored by Giffords, killing six and wounding 13.

Schiff and Giffords are members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats. The two also have worked together on issues related to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. NASA operates the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is in Schiff's congressional district. Giffords is married to astronaut Mark Kelly and in the last Congress chaired the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology.

"Gabby and I worked on NASA issues together, sometimes on opposite sides," Schiff said. "I have great respect for her. She is smart and tenacious, and she will need every bit of that tenacity to overcome this wound. If anybody can do it, she can."

House shake-up displaces Sherman

With Republicans gaining a majority in the House of Representatives, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) says he will soon have to give up chairmanship of one of his subcommittees.

"I'm faced with choosing whether to be the number one Democrat on a subcommittee of the Financial Services Committee or a subcommittee of Foreign Affairs," Sherman said.

Sherman said the dust is still settling on committee assignments, but that he is most likely to keep his spot as ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade. "Those are very important issues," Sherman said.

He said he will remain a member, though likely not the ranking member, of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises.

Schiff revisits crime initiatives

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) met with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Monday, sketching out plans for legislation that might emerge from the House Judiciary Committee, of which Schiff is a member.

Schiff said he plans to continue with two initiatives he has backed in the past. One is to expand use of DNA testing in the criminal justice system. Last year, Schiff helped find $2 million to fund a DNA lab to serve Glendale and nearby cities.

He also wants to reintroduce a measure designed to avoid tensions between prosecutors and intelligence agencies when a person suspected of terrorism is caught and interrogated. He proposes a modification on how long government agencies may interrogate a terror suspect before issuing a Miranda warning.

Liu presses for more videoconferencing

Gov. Jerry Brown called for sharply reduced state spending with his proposed budget this week, and state Sen. Carol Liu (D- La Canada Flintridge) has wasted no time in identifying possible savings.

On Wednesday, Liu introduced Senate Bill 103, a measure calling for an increase in videoconferencing at state agencies, thereby reducing travel expenses. Liu said a similar move in Riverside County in 2009 saved local government there an estimated $400,000 in mileage reimbursements.

"The budget crisis means we have to make government more efficient," said Liu said in a statement. "We can save money and cut greenhouse gas emissions created by driving and air travel."

Liu spokesman Robert Oakes said he has made numerous efforts to find out what the state spends on mileage reimbursement, but has not yet received an answer.

The measure builds on legislation Liu sponsored last year, allowing female prisoners facing child custody hearings to participate via videoconference.

Bill would ease student aid process

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has resurrected a bill aimed at simplifying the financial aid process for California community college students.

Assembly Bill 91 establishes a pilot program at 10 community college campuses in which students seeking aid — ranging from fee waivers and student loans to Pell Grants and Cal Grants — would need to use only one form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, to apply.

The bill was approved in both houses in 2010, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I was extremely disappointed when this bill was vetoed last session and I'm glad to have a second opportunity to bring it to the Legislature," Portantino said in a statement. "The goal of this bill is to make the financial aid process simpler and put more money in the pockets of our neediest students and injected into our state's economy."

Only a third of eligible students apply for federal aid, according to Portantino.

League of Women Voters hosts candidate forum

On Jan. 19, candidates for Burbank City Council and the Burbank Board of Education will appear at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank. The event takes place at 7 p.m. at Burbank City Council Chambers inside City Hall, 275 E. Olive Ave.

In the Feb. 22 primary, three candidates are running for two council seats: incumbent Gary Bric, Burbank Police Commissioner Robert Frutos and Burbank Planning Board member Emily Gabel-Luddy.

Four candidates are running for three seats on the school board: Incumbents Ted Bunch, Dave Kemp and Roberta Reynolds, and business executive and parent Gregory Bragg.

Questions for the candidates can be submitted by telephone at (818) 925-4598, on the Web at, or in person on the night of the event, which is free.

FOR THE RECORD: This version corrects the number of people wounded in the Tucson attack.

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