While California Dreams-Weekly update Vol.1 No. 11

While California Dreams-Weekly Update Vol. 1 No. 11
A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 18, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond:

The budget continues to be the key issue for the state, although it appears not too many Californians are paying close attention to the deadlock and the governor has been unable to move his team one bit in the process. Presidential politics are heating up in the Golden State with the latest polls showing significant movement for the Hillary Clinton campaign. More and more initiatives are heading toward the ballot, with the announcement of numerous measures being introduced or out for signature gathering. But with the promise that the Legislature will be coming back this week, talks and issues will begin again in earnest…..maybe. If the legislative process does begin, healthcare will likely move front-and -center with other hot-button issues not far behind.
Here’s the scoop on this past week:

The Budget–Week Seven and Counting. Lots of pain, but no Gain:

Although the state’s ability to function has been seriously compromised by the lack of a budget, there is little compromise left in the legislature at the moment. The budget impasse is sadly, drawing less than overwhelming public concern, except to those directly impacted by the state’s inability to pay its bills for services and programs. Without the necessary outcry, there is little likelihood that we’ll see enough pressure exerted by the public to get much movement on this crisis. Although the numbers are subject to interpretation, the outcry, such as it is, comes primarily from those who are not being paid for their services or those who are unable to access those state-funded programs. The majority of Californians haven’t yet felt the impacts and aren’t willing to raise the heat to a high enough temperature to get this budget resolved. As the delay creates greater hardship, more voices will be raised and hopefully more effective pressure will force one of the “gang of 14” holdout Republican senators to break ranks and get the state back on track.
The belief is Sacramento is that the Rep leader, Dick Ackerman, was supposed to have stepped forward earlier in the month with that vote Unfortunately, somewhere short of the Senate floor he chickened-out. Although the ostensible “leader” of his pack, Ackerman has a history of being weak-kneed at critical times and rather than lead has been intimidated by his own caucus. It’s unfortunate because he’s “termed out” and is teetering on top of the heap as it is. The conventional wisdom is that no matter what happens, his position as Minority Leader will be over in very short order.
This week, the Governor made a half-hearted and clearly ineffective try at reigning in his flock. He returned from vacation by blasting Senate Republicans for the impasse. When that didn’t do anything other than harden their will, he decided to blame the Legislature as a whole. When that didn’t work, he just stopped appearing at all, and has done little, if anything to try to jump-start the discussions over the past several days. Hey Gov, one of your Senators is all it will take. What happened to those cigar nights in your tent? You might want to open the flaps and let some of the boys enjoy a $50 smoke on your dime and see if you can’t charm them with your Terminator tales. After all, it worked with the public.
One suggestion that just might work is removing the undemocratic 2/3rds requirement to get a budget. SInce the Reps abuse their once-a-year political power, maybe its time to cut them loose from the debate entirely. If they showed any sense of responsibility or good faith in negotiating, that would be one thing, However, this band of 14 right-wing neocons considers this budget debate just good sport. They are revelling in holding the state hostage.
It’s time to put an end to their antics. Heavens, even right-wing extremist Tom McClintock agrees on that plan!
Although a Field poll conducted this week shows that just 12% of Californians are very concerned about the budget mess, thousands of unpaid bills are clogging the inboxes of the state. It is estimated that millions of dollars in late fees are already piling up and billions of dollars in unsold bonds are jeopardizing the state’s plans to move forward with various programs. In addition to the $1 billion the state has now failed to make in Medi-cal payments to hospitals and other providers, Cal Trans estimates it has almost 35,000 invoices that are unpaid and more than $8 million owing to its vendors. For the California Highway Patrol, it’s about $17 Million. It goes downhill from there to those seeking payment.
And for those needing services, —the disabled, our kids and families who rely on state services, they’re really starting tofeel the pinch. Unfortunately, the Reps who are holding out are being heralded as heroes by their right-wing constituents. Sadly too many of them care little that the state is unable to provide much needed services to the neediest among us. As more vendors are unpaid and more small businesses are threatened, the cries will grow, even in the reddest of areas.
Much is being written on the stalemate-who it helps, who it hurts, but the only real question is who’s going to blink first? No one is quite sure, as the 14 hold-out Republicans want more cuts (they’ve already gotten the Governor’s commitment to do that) and the Dems are threatening to put the whole deal back on the table. But with them coming back from summer recess this week, perhaps there will be something that causes the deadlock to break. What it will be, if anything, is anybody’s guess…..
In the meantime, the Legislature is taking a big hit in its public support. While this should be of concern to the members who are hoping to extend their current terms with the so-called “Term Limits” initiative, the irony is that the more dissatisfaction with this group the greater the likelihood the term limits measure will pass, thus giving these same unpopular people more time to stay in office. In other words, the longer the budget delay, the greater the chances these legislators will have to extend the length of their terms, according to the latest polls. For more on this check out the Sac Bee.

Presidential Politics–Hillary breaking away from the pack:

With a new poll coming out this week, it looks like the Hillary machine has made significant progress in California, widening her lead to a 30 point advantage over her closest primary opponent, Barak Obama. Thanks to an effective early organization, led by California campaign manager, Ace Smith, the Hillary folks have put together an impressive early start. But don’t expect the Obama campaign to let this lead continue. It has just announced the hiring of s new California campaign director, Mitchell Schwarz who is, himself, a seasoned strategist. His past credentials include campaigns for Bill Clinton, Barbara Boxer and Antonio Villaraigosa. Look for this race to heat up soon. With California’s huge delegation at stake, all top-tier candidates will be fighting hard to win the February primary.

SB 840-Universal Health Care still in the news:

A very interesting development occurred this week that highlights the public support for Senator Sheila Kuehl’s bill to bring universal health care to California. A group of “non-profit” healthcare foundations led by Blue Shield of California Foundation, organized a townhall type event in 8 locations around the state. Titled, “CaliforniaSpeaks”, these groups spent about $4 million ostensibly to bring together randomly selected Californians to talk about healthcare reform. The event included Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders, among others and was designed to control the discussion by leaving out the single-payor option. But the public was not fooled and in fact INSISTED that SB 840 be discussed. Not only was it brought up as a viable option, when all was said and done, the majority of those in attendance supported SB 840 as the public’s choice for healthcare. For a great article on this, check out Senator Kuehl’s piece reprinted in the California Progress Report.
Other legislation to watch:
We’ve had several Speak Out California readers ask about gun-control legislation this year. If the legislative leaders withdraw their threats to hold up all legislation until a budget passes, we’ll likely see movement on AB 1471, a bill authored by Assemblymember Mike Feuer. This bill received a boost this past week when LA Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa and law enforcement leaders held a news conference in support of this measure. The bill ould make California the first state in the nation to require gun manufacturers to install a mechanism in new firearms that would stamp information on each bullet casing. The belief is that this “microscopic identification tag” would reduce violence and destroy the illegal gun market. For more on the bill, check out the LA Times article.

The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
Winning one for Consumers:
Victory over Alcopops
Civil Rights and Civil Unions:
It’s Time for Civil Unions- By Jackie Goldberg
Cleaning out the White House
Bye-Bye Rovie

We’ve fixed our spam problem, so we hope you’ll join in the discussion by feeling free to read and comment on these entries by going to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the legislative year winds down, with more on the flurry of initiatives cropping up. Many of them are quite dangerous, including one of the latest additions designed to hand the Presidential election to the Republicans in 2008. We’ll be doing alot more on them and other important political discussion to come. It is our goal to keep you on top of the key issues facing the state. 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