While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 10

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 11, 2007.
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond:
The budget continues along as the key issue for the state, with the Reps. continually moving the goalposts in their unsupportable effort to tie the state in knots to appease their egos and political bosses. The electronic voting machine situation has also heated up after Secretary of State Debra Bowen courageously pulled the plug on Diebold and Sequoia by announcing none of their machines will be permitted to count votes in the California elections next year. Other than that, the Legislature and Governor are just getting back from vacations so there is nothing to report on the legislative side. But who needs legislation when you have no budget with which to operate the 7th largest economy in the world? Anyway,
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Six and counting. The impasse seems to be headed in the wrong direction.
The obstinate privileged Republican white men of the Senate continue to posture and puff as they are experiencing essentially their first and only wiff of power. They continue to thwart their titular leader, the Gov, who is trying, however ineffectively, to end the holdout and get his budget passed. Of course, it might be more effective if Governor Schwarzenegger were in town, but he’s on vacation so he’s got his underlings working overtime in his absence. He’s scheduled to return this week and start public appearances to try to put pressure on his teammates to get this budget passed.
There are many who say the Governor has been marginalized as he can’t pull his team together and they don’t want to listen to him anyway. They’re bitter, emboldened and out-of-touch with the people. A nasty combination for so-called leaders, but with the ridiculously gerrymandered seats they got in the last redistricting, they’re pretty immune from caring about the public anyway. So, the impasse continues to devolve into personal name-calling and threats that no other business will be conducted in the legislature once the recess ends (August 20th ) if the stalemate continues.
Unfortunately, such a threat just plays into the Reps hands as the only really significant legislation on the table belongs to the Dems— things like healthcare, environmental protections for air quality in our ports, protection of worker’s rights…to name a very few of the things that are important to the Dems but the enemy of the Big Business bosses controlling the right-wing agenda. So this is a threat that needs to be revisited and likely revised. As it stands, it’s like saying to your children (and the Senate Reps are certainly behaving like children), that you’re going to punish them if they don’t clean up their rooms by not letting them do their homework. Wrong incentive.
Meanwhile, two long-term care facilities and the California Association of Health Facilities have filed suit against the state for failure to pay required medical reimbursements due for services rendered. So far, it is estimated that the state has missed $750 million in Medi-Cal payments to the state’s health care providers.
For an excellent summary of the status of this mess, check out Julia Rosen’s piece Working Californians.
One of the positive outcomes of this logjam should be the call for a reassessment of the 2/3rd vote requirement to pass a budget. As we’ve been saying all along at Speak Out California, this anti-democracy requirement puts us in the same status of just two other states—Arkansas and Rhode Islands. Although this ridiculous requirement has always been archaic, it’s even worse now with a bunch of ultra-conservatives finding a way to exercise power and ignore the will of the overwhelming majority of Californians and their representatives and governor. Simply put, the right-wing extremists are committed to bringing down government and the state. We cannot let them get away with that. For more on this, check out the posting “Obstinance or Principle” on our blog.
To try to kick-start the negotiations, Speaker Fabian Nunez has made it clear that should they have to go back to the drawing board, the Dems are putting their major concessions back on the table. Issues like the $1.3 billion cut from transportation; the delay in providing a cost of living adjustment for the elderly, disabled and poor in our state and other cuts in social services to our neediest people.
We’ve been talking about the fact that the Reps are trying to undermine CEQA – and get rid of one of the most important environmental laws in California all for the benefit of the BIA—The Building Industry of America, which funds virtually every one of the neo-con holdouts. After all is said and done, this turns out to be the sticking point (at least du jour).But modifying CEQA is a non-starter for both the Dems and the Gov. so we’re at a serious impasse that doesn’t look like it’s got an obvious resolution. Whatever that resolution is, though, it will have to include something to let the “gang of 14” save face. Not that they should be able to, given the world of hurt so many are now in because of them, but that’s the way the game is played.
So the question now is, what happens if the budget hasn’t been passed by the time the legislative year ends in mid-September? If that happens, it’s likely the Governor will call a special session to bring the Legislature back to get the budget passed. With the way things look at the moment, it’s either that or a quick recall election against that one hold-out keeping the state from getting back on track. Our current system is certainly no way to run a railroad!

California Secretary of State taking lots of flack for decertifying Diebold and Sequoia Voting Machines.

As we were putting out our weekly update last week, Secretary of State Deb Bowen had just announced her decision to de-certify the majority of the touch screen voting machines being purchased by the various County Registrars for use in next year’s three elections. We predicted that the state’s 58 independent County Clerk Registrars who don’t like the idea of anyone treading on their territory. would be ready for a major push-back against such edicts from higher-ups. But after receiving the results from credible UC experts, it was clear that the voting machines made by Diebold, Sequoia and Hart InterCivic are just not reliable. The findings were clear, although the naysayers insist they were unfair. But the integrity of our vote is the most important guarantee we have in a democracy. Voters are cynical enough about the process; for them to believe their votes don’t even get counted as they are cast, brings democracy to its knees. Secretary Bowen found accordingly.
Much of the problem lies squarely at the feet of these companies. They have consistently refused to provide access to their software, hiding behind the claims of trade secrets and proprietary interest. They have fought every effort to require open access and transparency necessary to assure the public that the equipment is not just hanging chads in a box-or worse (as we have seen over-and-over again).
The media has been mixed on this issue and on Secretary Bowen’s decision. Predictably, she’s been getting a lot of heat from the big cities, where the impact will be the greatest. For example, one out of every four votes statewide will be cast out of LA County in the 2008 election cycles where theyve purchased millions of dollars of these now decertified machines. But the grassroots is applauding her for holding tough. Interestingly, she’s also getting support and accolades from some of the inland communities where the issue of voting system integrity is apparently trumping financial concerns.
Initiatives and More Initiatives filling up the 2008 ballot.
We’ve got to hand it to the special interests in this state (often funded by outside interests that don’t give a rip about California). We’re now about to see additional ballot measures seeking to overturn the Indian Compacts supported by the Governor as millions start pouring in from race tracks, organized labor (unhappy with the provisions that make it very difficult for casino workers to organize) and now other rival tribes.
This week, rival tribes have committed to $1 million each to overturn the four compacts that will enable Southern California’s richest tribes to double (or more) the number of slot machines. It’s estimated that the battling sides will end up spending $20million on each of the four measures, for a cool $80 million.
A second ballot measure is now out for signature gathering addressing the eminent domain issue. This one is being sponsored by the League of California Cities, and the California League of Conservation Voters as a defensive measure to the more extreme pro-property rights measure that has apparently now qualified for the ballot. For more on this story, check out the Capitol weekly.
Of course, one of the most insidious is the measure now out for signatures for the June ballot intended to hand the presidency to the Republicans (if November, 2008 turns out to be a close election). The Reps are trying to break up California’s election from the traditional winner-takes-all that exists in almost all states, to one that gives each candidate a pro-rata portion. This would add a bunch of votes onto the Republican side that they wouldn’t otherwise get and possibly hand them enough electoral votes to win the Presidency in ’08. This one is nasty and the sign of desperate people who can’t stand the notion of democracy actually working as promised. Check out Speak Out California’s blog entries on this stealth attack on democracy. (See below).
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
Obstinance or Principle?
On trying to divide up California’s all-important 55 electoral votes
Trying to Steal the Presidency again!
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 for one more week, 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