While California Dreams- Volume 1. No.4

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending June 30, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
past week and beyond
With the prospects of meeting the July 1st budget deadline all but dead, the Legislature and Governor have been focused on other distractions. Much of the activity this week is more interesting for its intended or unintended future consequences than any actual victories or defeats-except that the budget will NOT come in on time. As we’ve said in prior posts and updates, that shouldn’t be the criteria for what is IN the document, but that discussion is too complex to sustain the interest of most voters. As a Sac Bee blogger so eloquently put it, “They can’t never (sic) seem to pass the budget on time.”
Here are some of the highlights:
The Budget-Our state’s moral document
Once again, the deadline for passage will be missed, but not for lack of trying by the Dems. They’ve tried to meet the Gov more than halfway on his proposal, but with him out of the country and posturing with the French and Brits, there wasn’t much pressure on the legislative leadership, the so-called “Big Four” to reach agreement in his absence.
Of course, the Gov. may have known something the rest of us, who would at least like to see an appearance of an effort to meet the deadline, didn’t know-that the Reps aren’t playing on his team at all. The Republicans took this week to demonstrate, yet again, their insensitivity and unwillingness to reach agreement unless and until cuts are made to those rarely likely to vote for them-the elderly, blind, disabled and poorest Californians.
In this case, the die was cast when they refused to agree to a $10.5M cost override in the sparsely funded but critically important foster care programs for the state. This money was to provide transitional housing for some of the state’s 75,000 foster kids after they turn 18. That decision means these hard-luck kids will be more likely than not to be living on the streets or going to prison- a grim choice for which the Reps can take credit.
Now the game of who’s to blame emerges from the Caucus rooms with the Reps repeating their mantra that we’ve got to balance the budget (on the backs of the elderly and disabled). Of course, they’ve refused year-after-year to save the poorest and neediest from cuts by refusing to close corporate and yacht loopholes that would achieve the same balance but not at the expense of our most vulnerable.
We’ll keep watching this dance unfold as the pressure starts to mount as the month of July wears on and government vendors stop being paid. I suspect the Gov will put on his white hat and try to save the day-assuring that he comes out looking the best in all this. For more on the budget story, go to: http://sacbee.com/111/story/249788
The Tribes vs. The Unions
As we predicted last week, this interesting battle exploded this week with the Assembly signing off on new “Compacts” that will allow four of the richest tribes in Southern California to add up to17,000 new slot machines at their casinos. Although the unions attempted to require concessions from the tribes that would allow workers the right to organize, the tribes refused to concede this point and the Dems (along with all the Reps, of course) capitulated. With an embarrassingly weak attempt to save face with some non-binding conditions thrown in at the end of the debate, gambling in California continues to grow and expand.
For more on this story, check out Capitol Weekly at http://www.capitolweekly.net/news/article.html?article_id=1557.
Labor had its own victory this week, with its candidate, Laura Richardson defeating the tribe’s choice, Jenny Oropeza for the Long Beach area Congressional seat vacated by the death of Juanita Millender-McDonald. In spite of an almost $500,000 independent expenditure campaign by the tribes, this was an example of door-to-door politics trumping mailers and brochures, especially given the low-turnout for the election. With over 240,000 registered voters, only about 11% bothered to vote. This is shameful, especially with the increased use of absentee voting. Regardless, Richardson will go off to Congress after the August “run-off” and Oropeza stays in the State Senate. Where this all leads in the ever-escalating battle between the tribes and the unions is anyone’s guess. Most Sacramento insiders believe that this will continue to play out and have some ugly consequences in the upcoming 2008 elections.
Global Warming and implementation of AB 32.
A very interesting development happened at the end of this week, with the Gov firing the head of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The story is murky at best-with the Gov saying Robert Sawyer wasn’t aggressive enough and Sawyer saying it was the Gov. who sabotaged his efforts to make those first global warming regulations stronger and more expansive. I’d put my money on Sawyer’s version as we’ve seen over-and-over again this Governor talking tough but acting like a corporate shill on global warming and other environmental issues he’s supposed to be championing. For more on this story, check out http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-air29jun29,1,902444.story?coll=la-headlines-california.
What Californians think about
An interesting poll was released this week by the well-respected Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) which does great work taking the pulse of the state on a variety of issues. This poll focused on what Californians see as the most important issue facing the state (Immigration) and how they feel about it. Even though this is a federal issue and the state’s role is very limited, at best, 25% of all residents believe this is the state’s top issue, with the economy (at 11%) and healthcare (at 8%) coming in a distant second and third.
So what did the poll find on the subject? Interestingly, in spite of all the noise and vitriol, 74% of Californians agreed that those who have been in the country illegally for at least two years should be allowed to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status. A full 63% support the temporary guest worker program proposed in the now-defunct federal immigration bill.
With the demise of the measure in Congress this week, however, the whole immigration fiasco will put increasing pressure on California to do something, regardless of the fact that we don’t have the jurisdiction to do much. For more on this poll, go to
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve had several interesting blogposts dealing with:
Public Education-Is anyone in charge here?
Empowering California’s Youth
Are you Contributing to Republicans when you buy a car?
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
We’ll be watching and reporting on the many issues, including the not-on-time budget, as they unfold over the next several days. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you to send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

Public Education—Is anyone in charge here?

We continue with Speak Out California Board Member and Former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg’s series on the state of public education in California today. In this entry, she examines and explains the veritable stew of players in the education arena—from the state down to the school district and provides her insights into how we’ve gotten into the mess we’re in today….and what we must do to get out of it. As a teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member, LA City Council Member and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Education during her six years in the California State Assembly, she has a wealth and breadth of experience virtually unparalleled in the current debate on where we must go and how we must go about fixing the education crises in our state.
She continues her comments and insights here:

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Empowering California’s Youth

From The Courage Campaign

Last week, I met a young woman, a high school student, at a Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara event about "Empowering California's Youth."  She was there because she'd just gotten a postcard from the army — one that detailed all the benefits of enlisting in the army after graduating from high school.  "Don't they know I'm college bound?!" she said, concerned that the army recruiters were working her high school too hard.  "There's recruiters everywhere at school," she told me.  She was so upset after getting that postcard that she decided to attend the Progressive Democrats event to hear about ways she could fight back against the military's recruitment machine.

She wasn't disappointed.

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Are You Contributing to Republicans When You Buy a Car?

What do you look for in a car? Safety? Fuel economy? Comfort? Affordability? How about whether you are inadvertently making a campaign contribution to the Republican party?
Auto dealers are among the most aggressive contributors to the Republican party and Republican candidates. Compared to other industries, they are among the most lopsided in their giving. During the 2000 election cycle, 96% of the auto industry’s soft money went to the GOP.
In addition, some of the largest auto dealers are among the Bush Pioneers, who raised many millions for Bush’s election and re-election campaigns. According to Automotive News, auto dealers played an active role in funneling a whopping $150 million to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Dealers also crowed about the pivotal role they played in the battleground state of Ohio.
How do auto dealers make so much money they can afford to write those big checks? To extract the last possible dime from even the most wary customers, auto dealers commonly engage in highly sophisticated scams like “loan packing,” auto salvage fraud, dealer “markups” of interest rates, “yo-yo” financing, high-pressure sales tactics, and other forms of predatory practices.
How can you avoid making a inadvertent contribution to the Bushites? Next time you buy a car, consider buying a used car from an individual. By eliminating the middle man (yes, the biggest auto dealers are almost exclusively white and male), you can save a bundle–and also avoid contributing to the auto dealers’ political agenda.
Nationally, auto dealers’ top legislative priority is elimination of the estate tax. They have also invested vast sums in opposing improved fuel economy standards. (Global warming? Forgetaboutiit. Gotta hype those Expeditions, Escalades, and Hummers.) They are hugely active in pushing to eliminate longstanding state and federal consumer protections. They have a long history of opposing safety advances including shoulder harnesses to protect kids in the back seat, air bags, safety glass, side impact protection, public information about crash tests, and disclosure of vehicles’ likelihood of flipping over in a crash. To top it all off, they are increasingly inserting mandatory arbitration clauses into their contracts–forcing you to give up your constitutional rights when you buy a car from them.
When you go somewhere other than a dealership to buy, you are not only saving money, and withholding funds from the GOP, you are also preserving your constitutional rights–and helping save the planet.
Just make sure you aren’t buying from a curbstoner—an unlicensed dealer. Google “curbstoner” to find out how to avoid them too.

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 Iss.3

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending June 23, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond:
With far less fanfare than Michael Moore’s visit and screening of his compelling and tear-jerking expose on the disastrous state of our health care system in this country, the Capital returned to its less frenzied but still intense efforts on a variety of measures that are either time-sensitive or political hot-potatoes to be dealt with.
Here are some of the highlights:
Health Care- (not the real deal)
Although most Californians would like to see a universal-type system similar to Senator Kuehl’s SB 840, neither the Governor nor the legislature is giving up on a modified system that maintains a health-insurance based program. Late this past week, the leaders of the Senate, Don Perata, and Assembly, Fabian Nunez, stood together and announced they had merged into one bill the elements of competing measures they had introduced earlier this year. They are touting this measure as:

“extending health insurance to millions of Californians who have none and institute fundamental reforms to expand coverage and rein in spiraling medical costs. It features shared responsibility among employers, individuals, reinvested state dollars, and new federal funds.”

While the Gov. is getting most of the press on this subject, with his measure that calls for extracting additional sums for the various stakeholders, including doctors and hospitals, the amusing word-game stumping the Gov is whether his idea (which isn’t in any bill, so it really isn’t more than his wish list) constitutes a “tax” or a “fee”. If it’s a tax, then his ideas, if incorporated into the next iteration of this compromise, will require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature (no Reps will report for duty on that one) or whether it’s a fee it won’t require their votes. The semantic game is well documented by John Myers in his Capital Notes (See thursday’s offering).
For more information on the details of w hat is included in the actual legislation Perata and Nunez are carrying now and how this is all shaking out. Check out the Sacramento Bee article.
On the budget
This dance continues, with the Gov. washing his hands of any arm-twisting power he has by taking a European excursion, ostensibly to sell California to our friends in England and France, among others. Guess there’s more publicity to be gained there than trying to hammer out the necessary compromises at home. Oh well, when your popularity rating is in the 60’s and you’re the Terminator, you can get away with abandoning your post and putting all the responsibility and heavy lifting on the other parties whose popularity remains in the cellar.
Seems the Dems and Reps are playing P.R.games, with the Dems saying they’re close to a budget and the Reps saying yes and then no. Of course, what’s in the budget should be of greater concern than meeting the deadline. But it’s much easier for the public to put its collective arms around the failure to meet the deadline than the priorities being included in the discussion. The budget is complicated and decisions about whether to fund foster care, gang violence, medi-care reimbursement rates for Planned Parenthood and other community care clinics (see weblog entries of May 2nd and May 29th) require considered thought and participation, something we’re sadly lacking in political discourse today.
The list goes on and on at dizzying speed and import. It takes very little energy or brain-power to focus on a deadline and that’s what the buzz is all about at the moment.
Of course, the legislature wants the term-limits initiative to pass, needing an “on-time” budget to persuade the public that they’re not so bad after all, so meeting the deadline would probably be a fair bet this year, although don’t wager too much of your hard-earned money on it.
The Tribes vs. The Unions
And speaking of wagers, an issue simmering to the surface in Sacramento revolves around the push by five very rich Southern California Tribes who are putting their political power to work to get legislation passed which will allow them to add up to 22,500 new slot machines at their casinos. Pushing back with similar clout are the Unions who are demanding various rights for casino workers, including the right to organize by collecting signatures on union cards, activities the Tribes are being accused of prohibiting at present.
This battle is also playing out on the electoral field as Labor is backing Laura Richardson’s run against Jenny Oropeza for Congress because, purportedly, Oropeza voted to support the legislation expanding gambling without including worker protections as demanded by the Unions. The race is further complicated by the homophobia Richardson has reputedly demonstrated during her political career, thus engendering a strong response from the politically active Gay and Lesbian Community. This battle will be played out by next Tuesday when the Special Election is held in Long Beach to replace deceased Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald. Click here for more info.
Global Warming and implementation of AB 32
This week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) came out with its closely watched and anticipated first set of regulations in response to the landmark Global Warming Bill passed in 2006. If you recall (ignoring all the hype, particularly by the Gov’s highly paid media staff), this measure mandates the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Translated, this is the equivalent to reducing gas consumption by an average of 800 million gallons of gas per year for 13 years. The rules have been denounced by many environmental groups as being far too weak, but given who’s been appointing to that Board ( Schwarzenegger), this can’t be a big surprise. He’s a lot of hat and very little cattle when it comes to really doing what is necessary to attack global warming. And much like the Bush Adminstration, there isn’t a big corporation that Arnold will squeeze to do the right thing, especially if it costs them even a dime to be good stewards.
So what has the CARB done? It has set up three new rules requiring: cleaner gas;less methane emissions from landfills; and a ban on the sale of refrigerants for car air conditioners. For more information, check out the L.A. Times article.
The Rest of the Story
We’ll be watching and reporting on the many issues, including further budget discussions as they unfold over the next several days. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to
Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

Raising Educational Achievement

Continuing our series, former State Assemblymember and Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Jackie Goldberg gives us her take on how we can raise achievement in our schools. Focusing on our under-performing schools, here’s her take on what we should be doing in California to improve learning in a way that measures more than rote performance on standardized tests and gets to the heart of learning and education.

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Making Real the Promise

Take Back America crashed out of the gates this morning with an outstanding series of aggressively positive messages from some of the outstanding movement leaders. Bob Borosage, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, MoveOn super activist Eli Parisier, Drum Major Institute chief Andrea Batiste Schlesinger and Rep. Schakowsky unleashed a series of barn burners. I’m not sure I can think of a session with a better matchup between crowd energy and great speakers that knew just the right tone to hit. And you didn’t have to fly to Washington and shell out mad hotel money to see it:

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Killer cars flooding into CA

As if life in California weren’t exciting enough, we are getting dumped on by unscrupulous insurers and auto dealers who profit from the illicit trafficking in total loss vehicles, including hurricane flood cars. Yup, that cute red number your teenager finds so alluring may be a killer car that swam with the fishes.
Remember the 500,000 flood cars that we all saw on TV, submerged up to their rooftops in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma? Experts warned everyone to look out for them, since they are basically rotting from the inside out, and are totally unreliable.
According to the former president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, a lot of them were headed to auto auctions in–yes, you guessed it–California. The auctions advertise them on the internet and sell them to the highest bidders–typically, unscrupulous auto dealers who hose them down and spiff them up, to disguise the fact they are worthless, hazardous junkers. Then they sell them to unsuspecting used car buyers, usually for the going Blue Book price.
It’s illegal, of course, but enforcement to curb the frauds is extremely lax, and the profit margins are staggering. An unscrupulous dealer can nab a flood car at auction for $3,000, spend $1000 to power wash it and replace the upholstery, then turn around and sell it for $12,000. They don’t usually offer discounts, because that would arouse suspicion among potential buyers. It would also reduce their ill-gotten gains.
California, the nation’s largest auto market, is famous worldwide as a dumping ground for hazardous junkers. According to the DMV, a whopping 2.5 million vehicles that were totalled in crashes, floods, or other disasters are being driven on our roads. Look around you—even if you don’t own one, you may be killed or injured by one of the clunkers when the axle falls apart, the steering goes wacko, the brakes fail, or it stalls out in traffic.
Auto insurers and dealers have cleverly devised ways to profit from the frauds involving killer flood cars. When insurers total a car, it is rarely destroyed. Instead, they send totalled autos to auctions known as “salvage pools,.” which are basically an arm of the insurance industry. Insurers get a cut of the take at the auction. When the junkers are sold for fraudulent purposes, they command a higher price, enabling insurers to recoup more of their losses or even turn a profit.
Consumer groups and CA Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner backed legislation to prohibit the sales of totalled hurricane flood cars in CA. But insurers like State Farm, Geico, Farmers, Allstate, and auto dealers killed the bill. It was SB 498, authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza. No Republican senator would vote for it, since it was opposed by some of their biggest contributors. While most democratic senators supported it, a handful of so-called “moderate” democratic senators who usually side with business interests blocked its passage.
keep an eye out for toxic flood cars that are contaminated with bacteria, mold, and mildew, have air bags that may not inflate in a crash, and electronic systems that are madly corroding away. Even if you don’t buy one, you or your family could end up riding in one. If you happen across a flood car, get in touch with CARS. We’re working to protect American families from flood cars, including testifying before Congress , working to get laws passed to prohibit dumping flood cars back into the market in the first place, and doing interviews with national news media.
More info about why flood cars are so hazardous in posted on our website, at: http://www.carconsumers.com.
Rosemary Shahan
Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

While California Dreams–Our new newsletter

Because we’re committed to keeping Californians informed on the goings-on in Sacramento, here at Speak Out California we’ve launched a new weekly update called ” While California Dreams “. Our goal is to provide a regular summary of the key events and issues that have taken place in the state Capital during the past week.
If you aren’t already a subscriber to our site, please come join us and receive this newsletter by email each Saturday. If you already do subscribe, we hope you’ll send it along to your friends and like-minded progressives and have them join up as well. It’s free and designed to keep progressive awareness and activism alive through our highly acclaimed voter guides,action-alerts, frequent blog entries on key legislation, issues ,analysis and commentary and now weekly update.
With so much on the line, yet so little information being disseminated by the main-stream media, we join with other progressive on-line activists in trying to keep Californians informed and knowledgeable on matters which directly and significantly affect our state and our communities.
We hope you will find “While California Dreams” to be helpful and informative. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

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How to fix the education divide- more beginnings

Speak Out California’s resident expert and former Assemblymember, School Board member and long-time teacher, Jackie Goldberg continues her commentary on the state of education in California today-and what we need to do to improve the quality of education we are providing to all our students.
With recent reports indicating that California will not have enough well-educated and trained people to meet its workforce needs over the next several decades, it is critical that we start NOW and work to close that gap.
Here is what Jackie Goldberg has to say on one of the most critical yet controversial areas of educational reform in California—how to continue Class size reduction, including a passionate pitch for ways we can pull together the funding necessary to close the education gap in our state:

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