This is a sampling from Bay Area News Group's Political Blotter blog. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.
Northern California House members from both sides of the aisle are cheering new, stiffer federal penalties for illegal marijuana grows on trespassed lands.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced last week that it had adopted tougher punishments for high-level offenders who cultivate marijuana grows on public or private lands they don't own. The amended guidelines will be submitted to Congress and reviewed for six months before officially taking effect Nov. 1.
This had been the aim of a bill introduced this past summer and a letter sent to the commission in November by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, as well as by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
"Illegal marijuana grow sites that threaten lives, destroy public lands and devastate wildlife have become far too common," Thompson said in a news release Monday. "These new sentencing guidelines will serve as a strong deterrent against these illegal grow sites, and they will help make sure criminals who wreck our public and private lands are held fully responsible for the harm they cause."
Huffman said toxic and illegal chemicals used at such sites, plus the potential for violence, make such grows unsafe on many levels. Also, "California is in the midst of a devastating drought, and many of these grow operations illegally divert streams and tap groundwater with untold impacts on downstream water users and wildlife," he said.
Both he and Farr noted that the nation seems to be moving toward what they consider to be more reasonable laws on marijuana use, but these illegal grows can't be tolerated. "With these new guidelines in place, we can make public and private lands safer while protecting the environment for everyone to enjoy," Farr said.
LaMalfa said property owners and local government often are stuck paying thousands of dollars in cleanup costs. "The Sentencing Commission's recognition of these impacts will go a long way toward ensuring that those who disregard our nation's laws are held responsible."
Rep. Eric Swalwell raised more than eight times as much as his challenger and fellow Democrat state Sen. Ellen Corbett in this year's first quarter, and had about 4½ times as much money banked as of March 31, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Meanwhile, a Republican who got into this 15th Congressional District race at the last minute is funded only by himself and by one of the state's biggest GOP benefactors.
Swalwell, D-Dublin, raised $272,783.87 from Jan. 1 through March 31; at the end of that period, he had $922,581.82 cash on hand with $6,859.82 in outstanding debt. Corbett in the same time raised $32,485.33, finishing with $208,005.35 cash on hand and $6,000 in debt; that's right about where Corbett was at the end of 2014, though she had raised almost three times as much in last year's final quarter.
Hugh Bussell, a GOP county committeeman from Livermore, lent his campaign $1,750 and took a $2,400 contribution from Charles Munger Jr. of Palo Alto, chairman of the Santa Clara County GOP and a prolific contributor to the party's causes and candidates.