A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending July 28, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond
While the budget continues to be the hot topic of the week in Sacramento and certainly the number one issue for the state, a number of other battles are brewing, especially on the Initiative and Referendum side of the electoral process. With California consistently on the cutting edge of controversy and innovation, several measures have been added to the potential ballot for next year, and some California cities are calling for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney:
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Four and counting. The impasse continues
Now that the Senate has had another week to posture and pontificate over the budget that the Assembly adopted the previous week (and then left town for a month), leaving the older and wiser Senators to duke it out, there seems little left to say. With that in mind, let’s look for the budget stalemate to be broken in the week ahead. Why the optimism?
Well, let’s see what the past week has wrought:
This debate exists on two levels. The first is the public/media debate where the Reps claim they must have a budget that balances this year. With a $145 billion budget, they insist there is a shortfall of an unacceptable $700 million.
The Dems say there is NO shortfall, and in fact, the bipartisan budget passed in the Assembly creates a $3.5 billion reserve. With a $4 billion surplus carrying over from 2006, that number is correct. The problem? The Reps don’t want to include the carry-over surplus in the calculations.
What they’ve proposed is to cut another $300 million in basic benefits to the poorest Californians, cut drug treatment programs, and delete even more from public transportation funds. It is, predictably, a heartless set of cuts that are consistent with their ideological views. For an excellent summary and commentary on the Republican counter-proposal presented this week, check out the LA Times here.
An additional and sinister demand has nothing to do with the budget, but everything to do with the environment and pandering, yet again, to their corporate sponsors. They are demanding modification of CEQA – the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA is one of the most important environmental laws in the state. The measure requires tough but appropriate protections for any development. The Reps (and their Big Developer financiers) hate the law and have been trying to do away with it for decades. This ploy won’t fly either.
But the subtext, or second level has to do with egos, politics and posturing.
The Reps wanted to express publicly their unhappiness with the Gov for not taking them more seriously. He didn’t want to play in their sandbox, so they’re feeling slighted (and properly so). Holding up the budget now becomes a mark on Schwarzenegger’s leadership, especially his inability to reign in his own party. Thus far, they’ve succeeded, and whatever few efforts Schwarzenegger has made have failed to dislodge the puny two votes he needs to get his party’s support. One, Abel Maldonado has already signaled he’s ready to vote “AYE” (by abstaining on the first go-rounds and not voting ” NO “). The question is: Who is the second vote? Are there any semi-“moderates” in the entire 15- MAN Republican Caucus? Apparently, the answer is, ” No “.
For an excellent article on the other games being played here, check out the The Roundup for July 26, 2007.
How will this all play out?
When the dust settles, the conventional wisdom is that the budget will pass and the Governor will use his “blue pencil” to line-item veto between $200 million (he’s already committed to that) and $500 million of the questionable $700 million the Reps claim is still out-of-whack. There will be some other little concessions to the Reps to save face, and the state will, yet again, have a foolish budget that doesn’t solve its fundamental problems.
With the Assembly in recess, there is little to report on the legislative front, but as we promised, much to be said in other areas.
The latest at the California Air Resources Board/Global warming.
New California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols came out swinging in her first week on the job. She announced that tough, new first-in-the-nation rules have now been adopted requiring construction companies to retrofit or replace their diesel-powered bulldozers, scrapers and other heavy construction equipment over the next 13 years. Finally, California is making a serious effort to reduce the particulate matter (soot) that scientists say is responsible for an estimated 1100 premature deaths, more than 1,000 hospitalizations and tens of thousands of asthma attacks in California each year.
Not only will public health be directly affected-and improved, but greenhouse gasses(which are a by-product of fuel burning) will also drop with the ban on idling equipment.
California Clamoring for Presidential Impeachment?
Well, maybe a bit premature, but nonetheless the drumbeat is growing louder here in California, with the City of West Hollywood being the first city in Southern California to support issuance of Articles of Impeachment for the President and Vice-President, joining other cities in California and around the nation.
For more on this story, check out West Hollywood Mayor John Duran’s blog entry.
Voting Machine Test Results finally in
When Debra Bowen ran for Secretary of State, she campaigned heavily on insuring the security of our voting process. After it was so clear that hacking and machine manipulations played heavily in the 2004 Presidential election, the integrity of our votes has become a critical issue in California and the nation itself.
The long-awaited test results were released this week by Secretary of State Bowen and to the surprise of few, the findings support the concerns about how vulnerable voting machines are to hackers and others wanting to manipulate the vote count. With national implications as well, the story is just unfolding. See the NY Times article here.
Initiatives to watch out for
Rejecting the Expanded the Indian Gaming Contracts:
There’s something about a Friday afternoon in mid-summer that brings out the more interesting “under the radar” news. But not this time. Today, four separate referendum measures were filed with the Attorney General’s Office by labor unions and the horse racing industry to invalidate the recently-signed tribal gaming pacts that would expand slot machines at four of the largest and richest tribal casinos in Southern California. It is expected that more than $20 million will be spent in support and opposition to EACH of these four measures. The LA Times has a story on this here. Stay tuned to this slugfest, as the predictions are that they could overshadow the Presidential candidates spending in February.
Term Limits/Expansion Initiative:
No matter what you call it, or whether you support it or not, the “term limits” or “term extension” initiative folks have submitted over 1.1 million signatures to qualify the measure on the February ballot. This is far more than required, so it’s a safe bet this issue will come before the voters again during the Presidential primary election campaign. Although the proponents in Sacramento have accumulated lots of cash for the effort, it’s still a long shot for passage. While the title and summary provided by AG Jerry Brown is favorable to those who are proposing the Initiative, there will be plenty of push-back from the opposition, assuring this will be a hotly- contested and ugly battle where both sides will be bashing government and politicians to prove their respective points!
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
GOP Budget For California Found in President Bush’s Colonoscopy
Budget Crunch Time- Who is Asking the Tough Questions?
West Hollywood Calls for Impeachment
To read and comment on these entries, just go to www.speakoutca.org/weblog
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the summer pushes on. Although the Assembly is in recess, there is still lots going on in our great state and we’ll make sure you stay on top of those key issues. 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
A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento