A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending September 8, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
past week and beyond
The first of the final two weeks of the regular session is now done, with hundreds of bills having been heard and or otherwise disposed of. Healthcare, predictably continues to be front and center. The environment has seen some good news and bad, while civil rights–for both the gay community and working women round out the headline grabbers for the week.
Ballot initiatives and threats of same continue to be bandied about, while the Republican play to steal yet another presidential election is taking on broader national attention as its implications for Republicans holding the White House become known. Term Limits has dodged a bullet and will now appear on the February ballot, creating greater pressure to get a redistricting measure passed before the coming recess. And the Perata Iraq initiative sits on the Governor’s desk, most likely facing a veto. Of course, the Gov didn’t endear himself to his party this weekend at the Republican state convention, but that is of little concern as the Reps continue on a downward spiral in this state.
So let’s get to the details:
SB840/Universal Health Care and AB8 .
With all the hype about AB 8, Senator Kuehl’s true reform healthcare measure, calling for a Medicare type system to cover all Californians and still have us choose our own doctors, appears to be DOA on Schwarzenegger’s desk. With the legislature’s leaders heavily in negotiations with the Governor on a bill that keeps the insurance industry well in the game, there is just no way to fix this truly broken health care system. With a private, for-profit health INSURANCE industry in place, the only move that can be made essentially requires us to try to shove a square peg into a round hole. It can’t be done, but that isn’t deterring them from trying. For an excellent piece on why this process is not the answer, click here.
Schwarzenegger is insisting that everyone have health insurance. This is NOT universal healthcare, it is universal insurance- whether people can afford it or not. This deference to the insurance industry is maddening for those who realize the private companies are a major part of the problem and need to come out of the equation completely. Nonetheless, there have been concessions of transparency where the insurance companies would have to reveal what they pay and where the dollars that they rake in go.
The negotiations are complicated and keep changing almost by the minute. Rather than give you a play-by-play on all the moving parts, let’s break this down to the core issue in all this: Who will pay the bulk of the health care costs and who will be covered by the program? With so many major players in the mix –the hospitals, big and small employers, workers, the poor, doctors and healthcare providers, federal dollars, etc. there is real concern that we could be rushing into another end-of-session energy-deregulation type debacle.
With that in mind, there are those who are urging the leadership and legislature to go slow, and allow the governor to call a special session (he can do it anyway) and try to think through the process more carefully and deliberatively. Another option considered is to put an initiative on the ballot that addresses the funding mechanism, since there is no way the obstinate and out-of-touch right wing that has a hold on the Republican Senators will even consider such a mechanism—even if those having to belly-up are willing to pay! For more on this aspect of the story, check out this article at the California Progress Report, as well as Julia Rosen’s piece here.
While two important environmental bills apparently delayed until next year’s session, a major breakthrough has occurred on the water/flood control scene. A package of bills reflecting a compromise has been reached which will address the uncontrolled development on flood-prone lands in the Central Valley region without imposing moratoriums on construction or impeding local economic growth. The dam on overhauling the state’s antiquated and ineffective approach to flood protection and water planning appears to have been broken—-or so the claims go. For an analysis of what this compromise looks like, click here for the SacBee article and here for the California Progress Report’s coverage.
Sadly, two other key environmental bills that we’ve been touting haven’t made it through the process this year. One is Senator Alan Lowenthal’s SB974, an important bill to clean up the air near the ports of California– Long Beach , L.A. and Oakland . For more on this story, click here for our blog.
The other is Senator Joe Simitian’s SB 412, which would require that California establish the need for LNG plants before allowing them to be built in the state. Seems like a no-brainer, but this bill got in the cross-hairs of end-of-session wrangling between the Senate and Assembly. While Speak Out California has been urging the leadership to move this bill back onto the floor for a vote, we’re still waiting. If you would like to help by sending emails to Speaker Nunez, go to our action alert to sign up here. We’ve also blogged on here.
For more information about the successes and failures of other measures, California Report’s chief Frank Russo has done a yeoman’s job of covering them here.
Civil Rights push for gay marriage and workforce equity
The Governor will see AB 43, Mark Leno’s gay marriage bill back on his desk again this year. For the second time, the Legislature, on a strictly party-line vote, has passed this measure and will likely see the governor veto it again. This is a hard sell, with the Governor having ducked the measure last year, saying the Court should decide. The Supreme Court turned around and said the legislature should decide. Well, they have. Governor?
Two measures that we’ve been following on our weblog over the past few weeks have now passed both houses and are on their way to the Governor’s desk. The first, AB 437, by Assemblymember Dave Jones, ensures that victims of pay discrimination continue to have a fair opportunity to seek redress in the courts. The measure clarifies that the time period for alleging pay discrimination claims runs from the date of each payment of a discriminatory wage.
The second, AB435 by Assemblymember Julia Brownley, addresses workplace discrimination against women. The measure extends the statue of limitations for an employee in order to file a civil action against an employer for wage discrimination and also extends the time period that an employer is required to maintain wage and job classification records.
Click here for more on both these measures.
Initiatives on the move
Without a doubt, the most talked-about initiative this week is the transparent attempt by the Republican party to co-opt California’s 55 electoral votes in order to swing the next presidential election back to them. The initiative is couched in pleasant and reasonable language; talking about fairness and every vote counting, etc. But there is nothing fair about this initiative, designed to replace California’s winner-take-all system of handing all its electoral votes to the state’s popular vote winner (as is done in 48 other states) with a system that gives electoral votes by congressional district popular vote. Bottom line: In a state where the Reps have about a snowball’s chance of winning, this measure, if passed, would send them home with about 20-22 of the state’s 55 electoral votes. It is a cynical and serious plot to keep the White House, even though they haven’t really WON the presidency since 1988.
The Dems are rightly, crying foul here. This past week, National Democratic Party Chair, Howard Dean called this, “just another Republican attempt to rig an election.” Check out the San Francisco Chronicle article here. Unless enough people know about this ploy, the measure will likely qualify for the ballot and cost the Dems between $10-20 million to kill it, moving money from places it would otherwise be spent for democratic candidates and issues. Likely exactly what the Reps had in mind when they pulled this stunt. Smells a lot like Karl Rove is still alive and well.
When we reported last week’s edition of While California Dreams, it appeared that the Term Limits/Extension initiative might not make it onto the ballot because it appeared to lack the required number of signatures. Seems this was a false alarm-as two counties reconsidered their counting techniques, recounted, and decided that the signatures qualified after all. A collective sigh of relief was purportedly heard emanating from the Capitol as current, otherwise termed-out legislators still stand to gain additional years if this measure passes.
This event may very well lead to additional ballot measures. The conventional wisdom goes that Schwarzenegger’s support is either necessary or very helpful to get the term-limits/extension measure passed, but he won’t play ball unless a redistricting measure is also included, which will take the ability to configure legislative districts out of the hands of the legislature. Without such a measure, there is concern that the Gov. might even oppose the desired term-limits/extension measure, thus likely condemning it to fail. Speaker Nunez is purported to be scurrying hard to put an initiative together that will meet the Gov’s requirements, while Senator Perata has made it clear it won’t get by the Senate if it also includes putting Congressional redistricting into the hands of an outside body. The key question is whether such a compromise is in the offing and whether it flies with the Gov. No answer on that one yet.
As we reported last week, Senator Perata’s advisory initiative is on the governor’s desk. Perata wants the people of California to be able to weigh in on the war in Iraq and let the President and Congress know whether we want an immediate withdrawal of our troops. The vote was predictably along party-lines and the odds are that the Gov. will veto it along the same party line. But the problem for the Governor “of the people”, as he likes to define himself, is that he can’t argue that the people shouldn’t have a chance to express their opinion on this measure, without being labeled a hypocrite. Don’t bet on seeing this reach the ballot, however. There’s very little upside for the Gov in signing the measure to send it to the ballot. He’s too good a politician not to realize this.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:
End of Session Drama Begins
Senate Bill 974- The Art of the Possible
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
With only a few days left in the first year of this legislative session, there will be a mad-dash to end the year on an upbeat of legislative accomplishment. This is also the time when good intentions and bad bills can wreak havoc on our state so we’ll be watching bills carefully and sounding the alarm if we think there are concerns that you might want to express to the legislature or the Governor when these measures get to his desk.
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