Hello and welcome to KQED newsroom I’m Thuy vu coming up on our program a California Republican and Democrat have a bipartisan plan focused on tech firms that rely. On foreign labor California’s market for legal recreational marijuana kicked off this week we’ll hear from experts about the high stakes. And potential pitfalls but first he’s brought us to the brink of nuclear war if you’ve watched any cable TV recently you’ve probably seen. An ad calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The ads were paid for by billionaire Tom Steyer the former hedge fund manager is one of the top donors for the Democratic Party he has also poured millions. Of dollars into get-out-the-vote campaigns earlier today steyr discussed his political motivations and ambitions with KQED z– politics editor Scott Shafer Tom SAR welcome to KQED newsroom Scott.
Thank you for having me you’re spending a lot of money tens of millions of dollars on ads calling for the impeachment of President Trump but you’ve never held office you’ve never run for. Office why are you Tom Steyer the guy to be saying it’s time to impeach the president well I don’t think it’s at all about me actually Scott what we’re really. Trying to do is empower the voice of the American people what we’re doing is letting at this point over 4 million people.
Put their voices together to say this is a dangerous president he’s unfit for office we need to get him out so it really isn’t at all about me we’re. Not convincing anyone to do this I assure you that we’re enabling them to put together a collective national voice to speak up to elected official as you. Know you’re getting a lot of pushback from Democrats starting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who says it’s too soon we need to wait for this Muller investigation to run. Its course you’re endangering the Democrats efforts to retake the house you’re smiling you disagree with that.
Well it’s not the first time I’ve heard it that’s why I’m smiling let me start about the question about it’s too soon we got for constitutional call scholars I’m not. A lawyer but we got four law professors for two hours to take us through exactly the case for impeachment and we. Put it on the web at need to impeach calm and. It is a open-and-shut case that he has met the criteria for impeachment we’re supportive of the Muller investigation he is investigating.
Two out of the nine criteria that this president has met so there’s no doubt in. My mind that from a legal standpoint it’s clear the quite the second question you asked me was is this bad for Democrats it Nancy Pelosi Democrats say a lot of Democrats. Often say that here’s what I would say we are telling the truth we believe he is unfit. We believe all those Democrats would agree with us that he’s unfit we think that he’s dangerous to the American people we believe those Democrats would agree with that we believe that this.
Is the constitutional remedy for a dangerous unfit president and when they say that what they’re really saying is this is going to rile up the Republican base well. Also yes that’s true that will drive out turn up turnout among Republicans but they’re also saying look. Any impeachment proceedings need to begin in the House of Representatives which is controlled by Republicans let us win back the house. First isn’t that a good argument well the publicans aren’t going to impeach him I can add I did go to.
High school so I can get 50 percent of 100 and half of 435 I think there’s a different question about impeachment you’re talking about a grave move. Removing the elected president of the United States that is not supposed to happen in a vacuum it is. A long process it took two and a half years with Richard Nixon it is something where the people of the United States who were really talking with and for. The people of the United States have to understand that something really wrong has taken place or it’s this can’t happen you know in a vacuum behind closed doors and it’s a.
Process that we’ve begun that it’s important to begin because it is urgent and it’s bringing it to the American people saying take a look this is dangerous energy why are Democrats you think. Being so cautious I don’t want to speak for them but I will speak to their concern and that’s this they what I’ve heard is that they’re worried about. The idea that Republicans will be angry at the concept of impeachment and therefore we’re in flaming their base. I see this in a different view which is we’re speaking to Americans generally and we’re speaking to Democrats and independents the question is if we’re telling an important truth to the American people and. To Democrats won’t that actually get them to go to the polls if we’re talking about the major question in the United States it is not a secret to.
The American people that this president is very different you’re saying though. In these ads that elected officials have a moral responsibility to to speak out and to support. Impeachment a moral responsibility and this week you your group nextgen America also sent. Out a platform on sexual harassment and said that elected officials and candidates that they don’t embrace this.
Platform they’re not morally fit to be in government so it raises the question areare you at risk of being sort of a moral scold. Here well I think that there is a point here about right and wrong and I think that’s the question honestly in 2018 Scott I think that where people.
Are getting way way too far away from a basic question about American values and that is actually what I do think is it question here yeah this is a question about the. Soul of America this is not about a 35 or a 37 percent marginal tax rate this is a question about whether we’re safe it’s a question about our people who. Are not rich white American males fully citizens these are the basic questions for Americans so I think if you ask me do I think this is. A moral question that we are having a moral attack on the basic fabric of. American society I think definitely and I would refer you to the elections in 2017 in Virginia in Alabama and in New Jersey be can you tell me it’s. Not more speaking of elections there’s a lot of speculation about your political future you’re making announcement in Washington on Monday about your political plans for 2018 give.
Us a preview let me start by saying it would. Be crazy to pre-announce by a I don’t want to be will tell anybody but but let me say this I started this by saying this isn’t about me this isn’t. About me I am ambitious about something I am very Emmys I want to be part of the group of people who push America back. Onto a just and prosperous path I’m extremely you can do that best in office well that’s what I’m going to. Dress on Monday but but there are you satisfied with the field of people running. For the US Senate and for a gun well I don’t think we know yet who the field is are you thinking either speculation you could be part of the field I mean.
You know that but I’m just saying you don’t really no one really knows who’s gonna run cuz their filing deadline. Isn’t until February I don’t think but my point is I believe I am absolutely Frank and straightforward about the idea that I want to be. In the group of people I think we’re in a dangerous position I think our democracy is under attack I think the safety of our citizenry is under attack and. I want to be one of the people who is locking arms and insisting that we go back and push for a just America we’d go back and push for the kind of. Prosperity in the 21st century that is possible and within our reach and which I believe this administration is blowing last question there.
Is a book out today fire and fury have you read it I’ve read the excerpts I have not gotten a copy of the book yet but I’m looking forward to reading it and are. You gonna give it to anybody well judging on the excerpts we went out and bought 535 copies and we’re gonna get citizen volunteers to deliver them to the office of every Congress person. And senator because we believe when we started this impeachment petition on October 20th we felt every subsequent day would bring information that would bolster our argument this. Was a dangerous unfit president who needed to be removed from office and from what. I can tell this book makes that case in very bold letters all right Tom Steyer will look forward to the official announcement next week thanks so much for coming in thank you. For having me it’s a pleasure now to immigration and Silicon Valley Republican Congressman darrell Issa of San Diego County wants to patch up what he calls.
Loopholes in the h-1b visa program many high-tech firms rely on h-1b visas to hire foreign workers but critics including President Trump. Say the program is being exploited to take jobs away from American workers eisah co-authored the bill with Democratic congresswoman zoloft Brennan of San Jose both of them are with.
Us now congressman darrell Issa joins us from KPBS in San Diego and congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is in San Jose welcome to you both thank you Thank You. Congressman eisah what is the biggest problem you see right now with.
H-1b visa program as it stands well the biggest challenge is to allocate a limited resource to the best. And the brightest and most needed of the 65,000 slots that were changing the rules on about 40% go to relatively low skilled consulting jobs often. Displacing American workers and we know that there are at least 65,000 employment opportunities in high-skilled areas masters and PhDs in the stem field. That companies like Facebook and Google and others would fill if they could get those slots so we just want to see that the and congressman. Lofton has been great on this the highest paying the the most.
Skilled the most needed are the first in line and this goes a part of the way toward doing that and so how would. Your legislation reform the program what it does is it takes care of what we you called an. Introduction loopholes which have a lot to do with history 25 years ago they said.
If you pay sixty thousand you can get around certain proofs or at two stations well you can imagine that over a couple. Of decades 60,000 really should be 90 or $100,000 just to be equal dollars and congresswoman Lofgren you normally oppose. Republican immigration policies yet you helped to write this bill why well it’s it’s a small measure honestly I had. A bill that was more dramatic reform of the program but this bill makes some incremental changes that improve the current situation and therefore I thought it was worth because it’s better than. The status quo there are several problems with the h-1b program one is the outsourcing issue where you have low paid h-1b visa holders come in essentially replace American employees they sometimes. The Americans are even forced to train the foreign workers and that is really not what the h-1b program was.
For this bill will help on that we’ll see if it actually fixes it but we hope that it will by requiring recruitment and prohibiting. Displacement and actually requiring disbarment of firms if they don’t live up to their obligations the Trump. Administration is now reportedly drafting a proposal that would require h-1b visa holders to leave the country. While their green card applications are being processed currently they’re allowed to stay what do you think of that mr. Issa well there’s a couple of areas one is we need a broader. Bill that lifts the per country cap because often the reason they’re waiting so long is they’re from a particular country that has a long waiting list versus a short one there’s. Also a fix in our companion bill that Senator hatch offered in.
The Senate where it has a conditional green card process so it. Would formalize who gets to stay beyond an h1 and I believe that if we can get this out of. The house in the next couple of weeks working with Senator hatch we can come up with an acceptable bipartisan approach but. At the same time we shouldn’t have somebody stay for X amount of years and then lose them from the workforce there’s no logical reason to do that if we can. Provide fixes that get beyond the current you know some people staying for 14 or 15 years in this in-between state congresswoman Lofgren and I want two things I want to get to real quickly.
Before we run out of time here the Trump administration regarding offshore oil and. Gas drilling it’s now saying it would allow it on most US coastal waters including California what is your reaction to that I think that’s a.
Terrible idea it used to be that Californians in the house from both parties would elbow each other out. Of the way to introduce bills to prevent oil drilling off the coast of California and I hope that there’s a way to. Stop that but I want to go back to the issue that Darrell raised which is you know young talented people we have a pool of a couple of million young. Talented people and they’re called daca recipients we ought to have a bipartisan urgent discussion on how to keep those kids in a safe spot they are losing.
Their status now nearly a hundred and twenty a day some have committed suicide on the idea that they might be sent back to. Some country they don’t even know so I’m happy to work on. This tiny reform bill with Darrell maybe we can do bigger reform but we’ve got this talented pool of young people that we should not. Be neglecting and let’s have some bipartisan discussion to fix that congressman I said what are some of the. Other issues that you can foresee working with congresswoman Lofgren on or other Democratic members of the House well I certainly think the the question of offshore oil drilling off the California coast is one.
Where there’s going to be a united front to go to secretary Zinke and clearly make it clear the California doesn’t want to be part. Of it I hope we can also maybe be more responsive with our onshore exploration in Bakersfield. In other areas but the reality is we have plenty of oil and natural gas without going off the California coast and I think that’s an area you’re gonna see the.
Delegations coming together I wanted to ask you about the GOP tax reform bill as well you both voted against it this week State Senate leader Kevin de Lyonne introduced. Legislation that would allow Californians to make charitable deductions charitable deductions to the state in exchange for a tax credit now this is designed to to skirt the new $10,000 cap on state and local.
Deductions where do you stand on that congresswoman Lofgren I thought it was a very creative idea and I hope they do they do it. I hope that we take a look also at the property tax issue and see whether some of the property tax that cannot be. Deducted could also be dealt with in a similar matter as a voluntary contribution that is then deductible from.
Federal taxes for the federal government to really essentially shoot. At democratic states as they’ve done here New York New Jersey California and double tax people. Is simply wrong and I’m glad to see our state government fighting back and Congressman Issa what. Do you think of some of these more creative measures that are coming forth do you support them or does or does it feel a little bit like gaming. The system well you know sometimes you find a legal loophole and you exploit it in this case I think the first principle that was violated in that bill was the idea.
That somehow the states don’t get their money first and what you have left is by definition taxable so I. Thought as a matter of principle the bill had problems that’s where I voted no you know. To be honest anything we can do to even the playing field as Californians because we’re a donor state we already.
Send more money to Washington and we get back Wisconsin Kentucky Mississippi states where this bill this new law was. Popular their net recipients effectively of California New York New Jersey’s money and I think that’s part of the principle. Is we don’t want to artificially be sending more money to Washington simply because. Tax policy has made us donors in a greater amount to to Washington alright I’m going to have to leave it. There representative darrell Issa and Zoe Lofgren thank you so much for being with us thank you on.
January 1st California became the biggest state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults the state has already issued. More than 400 licenses to businesses that are hoping for big profits. In the multi-billion dollar pot industry but several cities including San Francisco are still scrambling to put regulatory systems in place at the local level. Meanwhile this week the trumpet ministry took aim at recreational cannabis allowing federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce laws against. Marijuana which remains illegal at the federal level joining me now to discuss this are San Francisco Chronicle cannabis reporter and editor of green state David towns Oakland extracts owner Taryn Buxton and attorney Henry. Wieckowski welcome to you all thanks week so David starting off with you what.
Has this first week been like since recreational marijuana became legal. It’s been a mixture of elation and confusion and a. Little frustration on the part of Californians people are going to stores for the first time in decades they never thought they’d be able to do this other people.
In places like Los Angeles don’t know where they can legally. Go yet and why is that why why are in Los Angeles and San Francisco not quite ready to go out of the gate and and start issuing licenses some of these cities. Haven’t done their regulatory homework and they’re still catching up to smaller cities that were more interested in getting sales started. On day one so San Francisco will start on Saturday this coming January 6th and Sharon you sell edibles extracts at your store in. Oakland what are you seeing there what has business been like that we had to we had to deliver a lot of product a lot of the other.
Dispensaries in the area before January 1 because there had there was a rule about. Delivering things under the old regulatory regime before January 1 and then if you deliver anything after that you have to follow the new rules new compliance rules which are much more.
Complicated so there was a ramp up production in November and December to get ready for that and. So we were distributing a lot of product and now we’re just trying to make sure everything’s gonna be. Compliant for the next year and and do you feel like things are running fairly smoothly or is there’s still.
A lot of confusion a lot of stops and starts um there’s a lot of need for people to have the compliant space. There’s a lack of space for a lot of a lot of businesses so there’s a lot of smaller companies that were around that had a lot of products. On the shelves last month but because of the new rules they weren’t able to exist now. So while people are shutting down temporarily and so that’s kind of.
Upsetting this fudging and Henry under the Obama administration federal prosecutors were discouraged from bringing charges in states where marijuana is legal but this week we’re seeing. The Trump administration we were hearing from Attorney General Jeff Sessions who’s now urging federal prosecutors to be more aggressive about enforcing laws against marijuana what are you hearing from. Business owners are they worried about how this will affect. Them well of course they’re worried you know we’ve just recently celebrated the in the adult use coming on.
Effect on Monday and now all of a sudden Jeff Sessions comes out with this document yesterday saying that he’s rescinding what they’re calling the Obama administration memo it’s actually a Cole. Memo that was introduced by the Department of Justice it wasn’t an Obama memo one wonders whether this is just part of the Trump administration rescinding everything that Obama.
Did and whether or not anything will really change but I would imagine there’s there like for a business owner like you you’re seeing what Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing with the memo what. Are you feeling and do you have any fears about how it will affect your business will there be efforts to go underground again. For some businesses there will I think the main concern is my business and a lot of.
Other businesses are so in the process of trying to raise capital and a lot of the capital’s been coming from other parts of the country and so when Jeff Sessions. Starts making comments like that the money gets a little bit nervous so it kind of limits your access to funding and so it since so many businesses it must have funding. To comply with the new regulations because new regulations are so heavy they’re.
Just very expensive upgrades or you’re built very building or possibly having to move upgrading a packaging and all that so people need outside. Funds to be able to do that if you can’t raise funds from other people whose are scared of what jeff Sessions are saying just puts a little more.
Stress on us all it seems like Jeff Sessions has accomplished one goal which is to make institutional investors and big business people more nervous the smaller operators. Have tend to be more risk tolerant and they’ve been in the game for a.
Number of decades and many of them will probably see this as a boon because they’ll deal with less big business competition and certainly the black market really. Feels emboldened when they see the regulated markets come under threat like this doesn’t complicate things though for business owners who. Want to be able to access bank services this is what’s happening you know from the Trump administration make them a lot more nervous the federal law hasn’t changed.
And it never has changed cannabis remains a federally illegal Schedule one drug equivalent to heroin what’s changed is this. Direction that’s saying that cannabis businesses are not a priority. Does it mean they’re actually a priority who knows but if you’re if you’re. A kind of business that has a risk management department this certainly is gonna make their hair catch on fire sure there’s some suspicion that this was done just to impede the money that is. Now coming into the legal cannabis market to try to slow it down and impede the. Progress because as we know attorney general sessions is not a strict in favor of cannabis.
At all whether it’s medical or adult use he said that he would tolerate medical use but he’s definitely against adult use speaking of medical use those. Should and and now recreational use legalized here shouldn’t there be some kind of federal controls in place though I mean. Let’s talk about medical marijuana which you brought up California legalized it more. Than 20 years ago there’s a surplus and some of that surplus crosses state lines illegally should there be some kind of strict federal controls in. Place well there are federal controls in place people that move cannabis out of the state of California can be prosecuted for transporting it in interstate commerce and.
Prosecutions like that continue they backed off from prosecuting the dispensaries in California that are adhering to the law but if you try to move the product out of the state. You do risk exposure to some very significant federal penalties and President Obama under. His administration told US attorneys to explicitly focus on those interstate traffickers what Attorney General sessions has done is taken away. That type of prioritization so he could actually be fomenting more in the state trafficking if they. Start going after these lawful regulated actors David what about the danger of people driving on the roads under the influence of marijuana where are we right now. With enforcement standards and efforts for that sure there was a big.
Incident over the weekend on Christmas Day when a CHP officer here in Oakland was killed in an accident by a driver who was under the. Influence of two drugs alcohol and cannabis that driver had a point one one blood alcohol level and nobody is. Safe to drive under those conditions including with cannabis on board what we do know is that cannabis has been widely available in California since the 60s. The CHP has tons of experience interdicting drug ADRA’s and up until now it hadn’t hadn’t been a significant priority I think they’re going to continue to use scarce law enforcement resources as best and.
That tends to be on drunken drivers night drivers weekend drivers tired drivers and distracted drivers they’re really the ones that are adding to the. Problems on the road drunk driving arrests and convictions went down in Colorado after adult use was legalized there and rugged driving and yes and.
Actually alcohol consumption especially among the younger population went down substantially also arrests were driving while high and under the influence of marijuana didn’t didn’t call Jurado see a rise. In that they might have saw a temporary spike as enforcement started focusing on that but in the last year we know that drug and driving arrests for marijuana in Colorado went.
Down Taron as a business owner are you satisfied with the way things are going now the. Way this is rolling out are there significant regulatory issues that you think still need to be addressed they haven’t created a strong enough framework for small businesses small cottage operations and that’s the backbone. Of medical marijuana and it should be the backbone of recreational marijuana having small mom-and-pop operations they tend. To care more about the quality of the product and care more by the patients that they’re serving so creating. An environment where it create you need so much money just. To step into the game you’re kind of forcing people to either align with big business or with large.
Investors we’re not going to have those same concerns and priorities and so I don’t like the idea that. Small businesses are closing like every week I’m seeing on social media businesses that I’ve known for years where they’re shuttering because they they can’t keep up with compliance and these are. Good people who have good employees and they they should exist and they’re struggling too and they all talk about they’re going to try to. Come back online but it’s like how long is that going to be where they still have a market place for them to go and go into because it’s good being flooded.
By all these other companies so yes with legalization has come regulation and we’ve actually had to hire an attorney. In our office just to do compliance full-time because it is that labor intensive and it is unfortunate because it is pushing a lot of the people that allow. The industry to develop where it is today out because they can’t bear those expenses alright I get the sense that the public wants two different things heavy-handed regulation in small. Businesses and small businesses are the ones that benefit the least when there’s a lot of red tape okay we will have to leave it there David downs.
Taran Buxton and Henry Wieckowski thank you all for a very interesting discussion thank you for having us. They and that will do it for us you can find more of our coverage at kqed.org slash newsroom. I’m Thuy vu thank you for joining us you.