This is a sampling from Bay Area News Group's Political Blotter blog. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.
The collected papers of former Rep. Pete Stark are about to become part of history at the Hayward Area Historical Society.
Executive directory Myron Freedman said an archivist has begun sifting through 40 years worth of papers, photos and keepsakes at Stark's district office in Fremont.
"We're in the process of inventorying what they have and determining what should be in the collection," he said, adding the task should be done in another six to eight weeks.
"It's a great addition to the political history ... of how the Bay Area has grown, and all the projects that came here as a result of his being in Congress and being such a powerful congressional figure," Freedman said. "He really is a piece of history."
Stark, D-Fremont, served 20 terms in Congress starting with his election in 1972 and ending with his defeat in November by Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton. When he left office last month at age 81, the former banker was the fifth most senior House member, the sixth most senior member of Congress overall, and dean of California's 55-member House delegation as well as the second-longest serving Congressman ever to lose a general election.
During his long tenure, Stark developed a reputation as an outspoken advocate for health care access and affordability, serving as chair or ranking member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; as an opponent of various wars; and as Congress' only avowed atheist. He also had a reputation for controversy, as the acerbic tone he took with detractors often led to headline-making quotes. Now retired, he lives with his wife and children in Maryland.
Freedman said the Hayward Area Historical Society's new museum and research center, expected to open in June on Foothill Boulevard, will include a reading room in which the public can review the Stark collection either by appointment or during drop-in hours one day per week.
Even as states keep chipping away at marijuana prohibition, some House members keep trying to change the federal law.
A bill being introduced by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., would end federal marijuana prohibition, letting states decide their own policies; it also would set up a regulatory process like the one for alcohol for states that choose to legalize the drug. Commercial marijuana producers would have to buy a permit, as commercial alcohol producers now do, to offset the costs of oversight by the newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms.
And a bill by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would establish a 50 percent federal excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, from the producer to the next stage of production, usually the processor. It also would impose an occupational tax on those operating in marijuana, with producers, importers and manufacturers facing an occupation tax of $1,000 per year and any other person engaged in the business facing an annual tax of $500 per year.
"Absolutely, there's an opportunity for us to make at minimum a $100 billion difference over the next 10 years," Blumenauer said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon, as the nation moves away from high law enforcement and prison costs and marijuana starts generating public revenue.
Polis said November's successful legalization ballot measures in his state and Washington mark "an enormous evolution of American opinion on the issue."
Most Americans now believe the war on drugs has failed and "enough is enough, let's try a new way," he said. "It's an idea that's time has come."
Jesselyn McCurdy, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington legislative office, said the war on drugs has had disproportionate impact on communities of color. Students for Sensible Drug Policy executive director Aaron Houston said young people are disproportionately impacted as well.
"It's clear that we've reached the tipping point," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The American people are demanding reform, and members of Congress are starting to give it to them."