Roaming the halls in Sacramento

Having a momentary and irrational longing for the chaos and excitement of lawmaking, I decided to head back to the halls of the Capitol for a visit this past week. I knew things would be running on overdrive as deadlines for bills to be heard would compete with the budget deadline to create an interesting stew of activity and craziness. Of course, I was not disappointed.
This is the time of year in Sacramento when the heat outside (it was well over 100 degrees) is matched by the heat and intensity of the debate inside over issues, dollars, priorities and values. Even with a budget surplus in the billions, Right-Wing politics reared its ugly head with the Republicans refusing to agree to any budget that included an extremely modest sum to make sure all California’s children have access to health care. Arguing that perhaps a portion of that would be spent for undocumented children, this would be unacceptable and a deal breaker. In order to avoid an extended and unwanted budget stalemate, the $23 Million allocation was removed. Of course, the irony and illogic on this issue are profound. We all know that communicable diseases don’t stop with a green card, citizenship,or other man-made distinction. Nonetheless, the right-wing saw this as an opportunity to rile up the base. The Dems decided there would be other ways to protect California’s children in the weeks ahead, so the extremists were able to declare victory to take to the right-wing talk-shows that look at this as real red-meat for their ratings.

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Bipartisanship and compassion create results

In a political world so fractured by the strangle-hold of right wing extremism on government and the mainstream media, it is heart-warming and even encouraging when politicians get together and act like statespeople, actually giving a damn about the people they have been elected to represent. Such was the case recently when a group of legislators, united by the experience of developmental disability within their own families, pulled together for the betterment of an entire community.
The group, recently formed and calling themselved the “Family Caucus” is comprised of three Democrats: Assemblymembers Barbara Matthews of Tracy, Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, Betty Karnette of Long Beach and one Republican, Russ Bogh of Cherry Valley. Their personal experience with disabled children and siblings has created a bond and a determination to speak up on behalf of a community often left in the dark and the dust in the budget process. Not this time.

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More on the importance of labor

[As part of our ongoing coverage of labor issues, please consider this crosspost from UAW member and UC-Santa Barbara grad student Daraka-Larimore Hall, author of hoverbike. This can be a tough issue for some progressives, especially those of us that are new to the movement and that grew up under Reagan. But it’s incredibly critical, not just for the success of our movement but for the day to day existence of so many Americans. Give it some thought. -da]
Let’s get a few things straight. Labor is not a special interest. Unions are not anachronisms. The modern economy has not made worker’s organizations obsolete. One would think that these would be uncontestable principles among progressives in the United States. Unfortunately, waning union strength, years of effective conservative propaganda, and the predominance of middle-class professionals in Democratic circles have conspired to make us somewhat forgetful of these basic truths.

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So what’s holding up the budget now?

With the state awash in money from the recent housing and technology boom, what games are being played by the minority party to hold up the budget and keep the legislature–both sides– from an on-time budget and a claim of bipartisanship success? The answer is the immigration/race card, and as reported by current Assembly Budget Committee Chair, John Laird (D Santa Cruz), the Republicans have come unglued over a provision that would provide health care for all California’s children within the next couple years.
Assemblymember Laird has an excellent piece in Monday’s California Progress Report that addresses the main points in the budget proposal. We asked him to write a piece for Speak Out California that hones in on the political gamesmanship with the budget and what excuse the Republicans found to avoid early and bipartisan approval—where even the Governor was in agreement (at least initially before he started his flip-flopping of agreeing to it before disagreeing to it). As we print this article,we’re hearing noises from the Senate Democrats of possible capitulating in order to get the budget resolved. Nonetheless, it is helpful for Californians to get a sense of just how California’s archaic budget process operates under the political microscope.
In my post the other day, I talked about how the requirement of a 2/3 vote was a critical structural reform in California to get our state in line with the 47 other states that require a simple majority to pass a budget. Here’s a current example of the reason why this is the kind of reform we need in our state as illustrated by the gamesmanship being played by the Republicans and reported by Budget Chair John Laird exclusively for Speak Out California:

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Same old budget battles

I doubt the public fully appreciates the difficulty in passing a budget in California–let alone an on-time budget.
As one of only three states in the country to require a super-majority of 2/3 of each house of the legislature to ensure passage (only Rhode Island and Arkansas share this questionable distinction) the process becomes almost impossible, especially in today’s hyper-partisan world.
During my six years in the legislature, we went from years of plenty to years of drought in the blink-of-an-eye. With cooperation, budgets could and should have been done on time and in a bi-partisan manner with each side getting and giving enough to meet any reasonable standard. But in a 2/3 super-majority world, this is almost impossible.
In our state, where Democratic majorities preside in both houses, the budget is one of the very few times the Republicans play a significant role and with the radicals in charge of that party today, there is little if any likelihood that they will agree on anything that could even hint of responsible and effective government. After all, this group of right-wingers wants to marginalize government, not make it work. It’s all about shrinking government and thus letting the private sector take over. Greed and profit will replace the common good. Accountability and oversight of Corporate America and multi-national oil, tobacco and insurance companies will be eliminated.That’s the Right-wing’s goal. Only government of the people stands in their way.

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Unions 101

There’s an interesting, thoughtful and deeply researched post over at dkos today. It’s a must read. The anti-union sentiment in the comments is a little disturbing, although it does seem to be mostly just kvetching. The simple fact is that there is no way to build a global economy that works for everyone without unions.
The left hasn’t done such a great job of telling our economic story over the past few decades, but unionism is a natural and maybe even inevitable consequence of the rights to free speech and free assembly. It is a huge part of the story of the American economy. The legal and cultural barriers we have placed on forming unions in this country deeply impact those two substantial freedoms.
If you need an illustration of how this plays out in workers’ day to day existence, read about the Wal-Mart workers that are practically forbidden from even talking to each other in Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. Are there unions that need their gates crashed? Sure, but the solution to fixing any democratic institution that needs help is never to just walk away and give up. Individual organizations are different – sometimes those need to be given up on and rebuilt from scratch. But democratic institutions like parties and unions need to be treated with a greater level of respect.
This comment in the thread, with the usual poorly-reasoned anti-union litany of excuses certainly sounded familiar. I heard all of these and more (they forgot “whining about coercion”) while trying to organize UC tech workers for UPTE. I think the eventual route to organizing techies may be more along the lines of a workplace democracy kind of movement, which a lot of workplaces are moving towards anyway since the limitations of the worker/management model are constantly getting more obvious.
While on the subject of thoughtful dkos posts, the last two foundations diaries of mine got picked up in the front page “diary rescues” like this one, which resulted in some interesting discussion, especially for the response to Russel Kirk one. Commenters there asked both for a more summarized form as well as elaboration, and I’ll be trying to provide both very soon.

Foundations III: Ten progressive principles, a response to Russel Kirk

With the roots of the philosophy of progressivism – interdependence and expanding substantial freedom – covered now in slightly more detail, here’s a first take on a full progressive response to Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles that dates originally back to 1957, the hazy dawn of movement conservativism.

Being neither a religion nor an ideology, the body of opinion termed conservatism possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata. So far as it is possible to determine what conservatives believe, the first principles of the conservative persuasion are derived from what leading conservative writers and public men have professed during the past two centuries.

The ideology dodge here is a little bit of a funny tactic. Kirk protesteth a bit too much and he returns to it again and again. Don’t look behind the curtain, there’s no idelogy here! But there’s more:

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What does it all mean?

As far as we can tell, it means: run progressive.
It seems as though running lame just isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Phil Angelides won the Democratic Primary. His campaign was not the most innovative when it came to online tactics. And toward the end, it degenerated into a predictable mudslinging war with Steve Westly. But in the end, his campaign spoke to progressives. He got most of the progressive endorsements, and distinguished himself from the pack by being the only major statewide candidate in God knows how long to actually try to make a case for tax increases on coporations and the ultra-wealthy in order to pay for the things we need to get our state back on track.
I for one am convinced that Phil will be an excellent candidate to go up against Schwarznegger in the fall. He is a clear choice, and will be presenting a clear vision that is positive and that is nowhere anywhere near anything Schwarzenegger will touch, in spite of his fancy new marketing.
Francine Busby lost in her race for Congress. Kos has a great analysis of how her Republican opponent actually ran to her left, and WON.
Meanwhile, the fall campaign has already begun, and it looks like Schwarzenegger will be playing the duck and cover game when it comes to him being associated with President Bush, whose approval numbers have hit a record low in the Golden State. No more than 28% of Californians approve of the job Bush is doing.
In Schwarzenegger’s first election where he will only face *gasp* ONE opponent, those numbers aren’t looking so hot.

Today is the day – Vote!

It’s election day, so if you haven’t already, please get out and vote today!
If you are still deciding, chek out our one-stop source of election information, the 2006 Primary Voter’s Guide.
And if you need to be motivated, read our good friend Frank Russo’s analysis of why this election is important.
Don’t let this be an historic low-turnout election! Go vote and remind your friends, family members and coworkers to do the same.

Swiftboating of Judy Chu: Tobacco rears its ugly head – again!

We’ve been tracking the source of late money going into a number of key races in the state and in the process, lifting the veil of these misleadingly named IE committees. The tobacco industry has been a major contributor to several of the Orwellian titled groups and targeted many progressive, anti-smoking candidates through the years. So why should we be surprised that tobacco continues its deceitful practices–this time in the form of a hit piece against Board of Equalization candidate, Judy Chu, who is running against Jerome Horton for the 4th district seat in Los Angeles County.
Of course, tobacco has a big stake in the outcome—can they continue their favored treatment with Mr. Horton on the key state taxing board or be subject to greater scrutiny by the persistently critical Ms. Chu who has stood up to this industry for years? She won’t take their money and has voted against them time after time. Mr. Horton, on the other hand, has taken lots of their money for his campaigns and carried their water politically as well.
The truth is that Judy Chu has been tobacco’s worst nightmare, not their best friend. So what is tobacco doing in this race-sending out pieces claiming Ms. Chu is actually on their side?

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