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