A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 4, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond
The budget has clearly taken over as the top issue for the state, now that it’s well over a month late and a lot of key organizations and service providers are starting to experience a world of hurt. Hurting, too, are the voting machine companies that have taken their secrecy and deception to the end of the line with our Secretary of State courageously pulling the plug on these systems, to the consternation and cries of many (although not all) of the county clerks in the state.
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Five and counting. The impasse continues
Last week, I predicted the stalemate on the budget would end and that we’d finally see a budget enacted. I posited that the Gov would agree to meet his party’s absurd insistence that we cut even further into the budget to “balance” it, although it really contains a large surplus, plus prepayment of not-yet-due loans. Nevermind that balancing the budget wasn’t really what the Reps wanted. The Gov finally got his team into the “horseshoe” and promised he would use his powers to use his “line-item veto” power to cut most if not all of the “shortfall” as they demanded. But it turns out that isn’t what they really want after all. As the Gov put it, in a moment of pique and candor, “I don’t know what they want, I hope they know what they want.”
The long and short of it is that whatever they’re wanting now was not part of the deal they demanded (and got) and the Dems refused to have any part of it. Negotiating 101 says you after someone says yes to everything you ask for, you can’t then demand more –and expect to get that, too. So the Senate Dems have folded up their tent in total frustration,and gone home.
Although no one (including the Reps) really knows the answer to what they really want, there are certainly a number of solid theories none of which, sadly, has anything to do with the people of this state.
As we mentioned last week, there really isn’t a shortfall at all, but the Reps want to debilitate government and frankly, privatize the whole thing. Such a philosophy is great for their corporate sponsors, because it takes away the ability of government to watch over the mischief these big corporations are making, and hands important functions and services to the private sector where there is no public accountability or interest in the public good. The only concern for the corps and their CEO’s is more and more profit. So, if the Dems have capitulated (sadly) to the cuts that start hitting on bone and without any appreciable fat or even skin, what is the problem??
We mentioned last week that the Reps are trying to inject public policy into the budget by trying to shake down CEQA -and get rid of one of the most important environmental laws in California. This all for the benefit of the BIA—The Building Industry of America, that wants to build and build without regard for any environmental or quality-of-life consequences. Timm Herdt at the Ventura County Star has a good summary avalible here.
On this one, both the Gov and the Dems have said that they aren’t going there. It was not part of the budget discussion and was only brought up at the 11th hour, which is no way to negotiate a budget. It sets an unacceptable precedent and besides, the Dems believe they’ve already given too much as it is.
But as we’ve said, the Rep hold-out has little to do with the people of California and lots to do with egos and payback and watching your back. It’s payback for Arnold because the Reps think they’ve been disrespected by the Gov. See the article in the San Francisco Chronicle detailing this here. It’s testosterone running wild with the white, male Rep senators holding hands and pledging a blood oath not to give in…under fear of serious reprisal (read that as having a neo-con as a primary opponent in their next election). They’ve been nicknamed the Gang of 14 by the media. It’s also about the Rep leader, Dick Ackerman, deciding he likes having a big office and being called, “Mr. Leader” so he’s demonstrating he’s tough by refusing to consider the need for someone to act like a grownup on his side of the aisle and give the last vote necessary to get THEIR budget passed.
The Bottom Line: There’s no rational or logical reason this budget is being held up, but there is little doubt that the responsibility for it rests solely with the Gov and the Senate Reps. The Assembly Reps supported it; it’s the budget the Republican Governor called for and the Senate Dems are willing to suck it up and pass it to get the state moving again. There’s just no excuse.
It’s also about flame-thrower Tom McClintock finally finding a constituency with his incendiary rhetoric and blogging prowess and agitating the extremists of the state—and of his party, into a frenzy. Sadly, only one of the Reps has any modicum of sense or courage to buck the fanaticism of the anti-government groupies who are now barraging the Senate with threats and intimidation to hold-out…even if no one is quite sure what they’re wanting the weak-kneed Gang of 14 to hold out for?.
Doesn’t matter, though, because it is giving McClintock the chance to beat his chest and have someone pay attention to his destructive diatribes.
One lonely Republican, Abel Maldonado, got up on the floor of the Senate this week and said, Yes, I’m voting for OUR budget; it’s the budget we negotiated for, it’s what we wanted and I’m not going to continue beating my chest. It’s time to get this process over and done with for another year. The Rep response?
Well, we’re going to run someone even more conservative than you in your primary and beat you! Of course, in the District, this makes Senator Maldonado a hero, so I don’t think he’s particularly worried. What it does show, though, is how OUT OF TOUCH this band of conservatives is. They don’t hear the people, don?t care about the people, and just live in their little fantasy world of ultra-conservative districts so badly drawn by both the Reps and Dems back in 2002. The Sac Bee has a good article on this at.
California Secretary of State holds firm on Voting Machine Integrity
When Debra Bowen ran for Secretary of State, she ran on a platform of restoring integrity and confidence in the voting process. Although this may sound like an easy task, supported by one and all, it has been anything but. The county clerks and registrars of voters in many of the state’s 58 counties don’t want her treading on their sacred ground. Historically, the voting process has been under the singular domain of each county registrar. As an example of their commitment to maintaining their autonomy, they went after Kevin Shelley on 2005, after he made it clear he wanted to assure credibility and accuracy of these alleged (and now proven) unreliable vote counting machines. Of course, Shelley had other significant issues, but his insistence that the county folks play ball with him didn’t help him, either.
Secretary Bowen, on the other hand, has no such baggage. She does have, however, a strong independent streak of her own which, when coupled with her strong commitment to this issue and protecting against the hacking of voting equipment that many of us believe influenced the Presidential race in 2004 (think Ohio, in particular), makes her pretty formidable.
After commissioning a study to see whether the voting machine makers could provide a secure and accurate system, she is following the findings of University of California computer experts hired to see if they could hack into these systems. They could, and did, quite easily. They were able to change vote totals and manipulate the “security” in these machines. After a day of hearings this past week, where all this came out, she announced that she has decertified both the Diebold and Sequoia systems. Lots of fallout yet to come on this one, but for a preview check out this article at the Sac Bee, or for national implications check out this NY Times piece.
London Bridge Is Falling Down:
Most of us remember singing this song when we were children.
Little did any of us think that this might actually happen -at least not in the United States of America! But thanks to policies that reject investing in our infra-structure, or realizing that it takes money to maintain our roads, bridges, utilities, sewers, levees, buildings and other key systems and talk about taxes as though we were promoting the plague, we’re seeing in America deterioration of our infra-structure that we only believed could happen in third-world nations.
So here we are, somewhat stunned but sobered by the sights in Minneapolis of a bridge that fell down for no apparent reason– no earthquake, no explosion, no fire, no terrorists. It fell down through neglect and political negligence. Of course, the Bushies want us to believe it wasn’t on their watch, but in fact, it was. On Bush the First and then again in 2004 when Bush, Jr. threatened a veto of a measure that would ensure public money to invest in shoring up our aging infra-structure.
In California, we are reducing funds for transportation to appease the Reps, while learning that there are almost 3,000 bridges in the state that the federal government has identified as “structurally deficient.” Caltrans is now conducting emergency structural inspections of bridges in California that are built with steel trusses similar to those that failed in Minnesota this week. Click here for the story at the Sac Bee
While we certainly hope that similar events do not happen here—or anywhere else, this should be time to start an honest and intense discussion on just what our government can and should be doing to protect us from these kinds of avoidable tragedies—and the fact that we just might need to PAY for the kinds of services and construction that it takes to do so.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
The Governor’s Birthday Present-with love from his party
On global warming:
California Voters needed to help raise fuel efficiency and curb global warming
On voting machine manipulations:
Can We Count on Voting Machines to Count the Votes?
On our infra-structure concerns:
America is Crumbling
To read and comment on these entries, just go to:
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!