A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending September 29, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
Past week and beyond
With traveling solons returning home from various parts of the world next week, both Healthcare and Water Policy are two special session topics that are heating up. There are various views on both matters and some new Special Session legislation has been introduced this week.
And, in breaking news, the so-called “Dirty Tricks” initiative to change how California allocates its Electoral College votes appears to be dead, at least for now.
Governor “green” speaks at the United Nations, upstaging the absent President Bush (who held his “own” global warming conference to upstage the U.N.) and gets a chance to sign three major environmental bills. Let’s see if he puts his pen where his mouth is.
Public Safety bills on the Governor’s desk get support from the former Attorney General.
We hear at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this and any signings or vetoes by the Governor in the weeks and months ahead, so
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And now, for the week’s goings-on:
Special Session – Water Policy – three competing sets of proposals, and an Oct. 16th deadline.
Water, water, water- the issue that makes energy problems in California look small by comparison- moves to the front and center in Sacramento. Assembly Democrats introduced three bills by Assembly Member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), while the Governor’s proposal is carried by Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto).
Laird’s bills include a different approach to dams which are a major part of the Governor’s staggering $9 billion plan. Under the Governor’s plan, the state would pay up to half of the cost for three dams to the tune of $5.1 billion. Democrats have always been suspicious of this part of the proposal, however under one of Laird’s bills, local entities would be required to pay for the bulk of the dams because they are local water projects. This would save the state almost $5 billion. Democrats support conservation, recycling, and groundwater storage to boost water supplies and either oppose dams for environmental reasons or believe local projects should be paid for by local water agencies. For more on this click here to read E. J. Schultz’s Sacramento Bee article.
Then there is the entire Delta part of the Governor’s offerings. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director for Restore the Delta criticizes the SB 3xx which is the Governor’s water bond (carried by Republican Senators Cogdill and Ackerman, and Republican Assembly Member Villines). SB 3xx would spend $1.9 billion to provide an “alternative conveyance system” by sending the money to water agencies for construction. She says, “The Delta cannot be restored if the Sacramento River is diverted from the Delta.” Her organization does support Senator Perata’s bill, SB 1002, which would provide $611 million for levee repair, habitat and infrastructure.
For more on the Delta issues, and on SB 2xx (Senator Perata’s water bond) please see Barrigan-Parrilla’s article.
But here’s the rub with all of this. The legislature and the Governor only have until October 16 to make a deal on water policy in order to get a bond measure to fund any of this on the February 5th ballot. With the Governor at the U. N. and about twenty state legislators away from the capital on “state business” trips, at their own expense, to China, and other places, how will all of this get down? Some people are worried that everything will be done by the Governor and the Legislative Leadership of both parties in secret, behind closed doors, and then suddenly there will be bills quickly passed with little or no public scrutiny. Everyone wants to hurry because of the recent court decision requiring action. So, there are three sets of proposals, and a deadline. The last time there was such a deadline (self imposed or externally imposed) we got a massive bill to de-regulate electricity that was passed unanimously in both Houses. We need an open, careful process with plenty of sunshine on the specific details. We don’t need a back door, hurry up “compromise” so that the Governor can “look effective.”
Message to Governor “green”: Sign the environmental bills on your desk!
According to the Bee’s Judy Lin, the Governor has three bills on his desk that will “see how far he’s willing to go to keep his reputation green.” AB 888 and AB 1058 (Ted Lieu, D-Torrance) would require more energy efficient use of water in new homes as well as energy efficient lighting in large office buildings. We will just have to wait and see if the Governor is indeed a jolly “green” giant.
Healthcare measures on the Governor’s desk, and none of them are from the Special Session.
What do AB 8, SB 275, AB 423, SB 474, SB 472, AB 343, AB 910, AB 1113, AB 1324, AB 1, and SB 350 all have in common? They are all bills on healthcare reform on the Governor’s desk right now, awaiting his signature or veto. AB 8, the Assembly alternative to the Governor’s proposal, will be vetoed by Schwarzenegger according to the Governor’s staff. This bill by both Speaker Nunez and Sen. Pro temp Perata was vetted throughout the legislative session that just ended. In contrast to that, the Governor’s proposal which could find no author throughout the entire session, is now in the Special Session.
But there are other issues too. SB 275 (Cedillo) would prevent patient dumping by hospitals, while AB 343 (Solorio) would require the state to disclose the names of employers who use Medi-Cal for their workers instead of providing health care benefits on the job. AB 1324 (De La Torre) would force health plans to justify to state agencies why they are rescinding health coverage to enrollees unless they can prove fraud by the consumer.
For an excellent description of the healthcare bills on the Governor’s desk check out Anthony Wright’s excellent and comprehensive article here.
Finally, on the healthcare matter, there is growing concern that either the Democrats’ plan or the Governor’s plan, or some compromise, will not affect all Californians in an equal or similar manner. Certainly those with the lowest incomes will get some state subsidy for healthcare insurance. And those in jobs where the skill level of the employee is high, will probably see little change, as healthcare benefits are often part of the draw to hire and retain such highly skilled employees. But for most of the rest of Californians with a variety of current coverage, there may be hidden danger in either plan currently under consideration. If an employer is paying around 10% of payroll now to cover employees, the new plans allow an employer to drop coverage and pay into a state fund to have their employees pay for their own coverage. Under the Governor’s proposal the pay-or-play amount is 4% of payroll, while the Democrats require a 7.5% amount. Both those amounts are under 10%, and many companies might actually see either plan as a way to reduce costs for healthcare benefits. This could lead to fewer employers providing health insurance to their employees.
For more on this see Make Zapler’s take on this matter here.
And speaking of healthcare and family values…
While all the hubbub about healthcare is going on in Sacramento, only California Republican Congressional delegation member Mary Bono voted for the SCHIP Reauthorization Bill, H.R. 976. Nationally 45 Republicans voted for the bill that funds health care for children. But here in California, 18 of 19 in the California delegation- those who care so much about family values- could not see their way clear to support the measure that would bring more federal dollars to help California children get health coverage. What do they mean by “family values”?
And speaking of the California Congressional delegation…
While the War on Iraq continues unabated, and while housing foreclosures continue to rise, and while Blackwater mercenaries continue to kill Iraqi civilians with impunity, and while more Americans than ever have lost their health insurance or cannot afford to pay the premiums, and while global warming remains unaddressed by Congress, our nation’s elected officials had time to debate and pass a condemnation of MoveOn.org’s advertisement regarding the veracity of General Petraeus’ testimony to Congress. It is appalling that the Democratic leadership in both houses permitted this measure to even come to a vote. Not only did they fail to speak up for the 1st amendment right all of us have to “free speech”, but they also allowed the President and Republicans in general to completely divert the nation’s attention from all of the above mentioned critical issues facing our national government. But the most appalling thing about this entire debacle is that the Democrats in the California delegation split 50/50 on this issue.
Here is the roll call of those who voted to condemn MoveOn’s ad:
Senator Diane Feinstein, and Congressmembers: Joe Baca (CA-43), Dennis Cardoza (CA-18), Jim Costa (CA-20), Susan Davis (CA-53), Anna Eshoo (CA-14), Sam Farr (CA-17), Jane Harmon (CA-36), Tom Lantos (CA-12), Jerry McNerney (CA-11), Grace Napolitano (CA-38), Laura Richardson (CA-37), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), Loretta Sanchez (CA-47), Adam Schiff (CA-29), Ellen Tauscher (CA-10, and Mike Thompson (CA-1).
You might want to call or write these fine Democrats and ask them, “What could you possibly have been thinking?”
Good Bills Awaiting Action by the Governor
There are many important bills on the Governor’s desk. This week three of them got a boost by former Attorney General John Van de Kamp. He is urging the Governor to sign Senate Bill 511 (Alquist), Senate Bill 756 (Ridley-Thomas) and Senate Bill 609 (Romero) which taken together “will help law enforcement solve and prosecute crimes, while also protecting the innocent from wrongful conviction.”
In 2006 the California Senate established The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, with Van de Kamp as the Chair. These three bills were recommended from a series of reports that have come from the Commission which included members from law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, a victim advocate, and public members. SB 511 requires the electronic recording of police interrogation in cases involving homicides and other violent felonies. SB 756 calls for a task forced to set up voluntary guidelines for the conduct of police line-ups and photo arrays to increase the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. And SB 609 will require the corroboration of testimony by jailhouse informants. All three should be signed by the Governor. Please write or call and tell the Governor to sign these important bills. The Governor vetoed similar measures last year, but these have been revised to meet his objections.
To tell the Governor you support these three public safety measures, look forward to an action alert coming soon!
Speaking of public safety, Assembly Member Paul Krekorian (D-Glendale) puts AB 1539 on the Governor’s desk as well. His bill would save state money by allowing for “compassionate release” from prison those who are “permanently medically incapacitated” which the bill defines as those inmates “who are permanently unable to perform activities of daily living and require 24-hour total care due to irreversible medical conditions such as being in a coma, a persistent vegetative state, brain death, ventilator-dependency, and loss of control of muscular/neurological function.” These conditions prevent any risk to the public, but currently can cost $120,000 per inmate to keep in prison. There is a better way, and it is AB 1539. Please see Krekorian’s article here on our website.
On Worker’s Compensation:
Expect the Governor to veto another bill, this one by Senator Perata – SB 936 – which the California Chamber has called a “job killer.” That usually means that it would help working people and their families. In this case the bill would increase payments to the permanently disabled workers in the state. But Schwarzenegger, the ever popular business guy will most likely say “no” to helping those permanently disabled while at work.
Nonetheless we do hope that the Governor will at least sign AB 338 (Coto-D-San Jose) whose bill drew support from both sides of the aisle. This bill would extend the eligibility window for temporary disability benefits from two years to fours years, while keeping the cap at 104 weeks of payments. But Schwarzenegger may veto this bi-partisan bill because he thinks his original ideas were “absolutely fantastic.”
P.S. on Worker’s Comp – the Rating Bureau for Worker’s Compensation has recommended an increase in insurance premiums to reflect the “increased cost of processing claims even though the payouts themselves continue to fall.”
AB 1413 (Portantino, D-Pasadena) and SB 190 (Yee, D-San Francisco) are two bills that attempt to curb “runaway salary increases and sweetheart deals for state university administrators.” After raising tuition by almost 100% over the past four years, state university executives received hefty salary increases this year, while faculty and students screamed in horror. These bills would ensure that there would be public discussion of administrative compensation. Let’s shine some light here.
A struggle over gambling in California has created a strange alliance between Hollywood Park racetrack owner Terry Fancher and the Pala Band of Mission Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community. They have been fighting in court for more than three years in a suit brought by the racetrack over the validity of the gaming deals those two tribes signed with the Governor. But all three groups have entered into a “marriage of convenience” to oppose the 2006 compacts signed by Schwarzenegger for some of the state’s largest tribes. Stay tuned for what will probably be a very, very, very expensive pro- and anti-initiative campaign on the most recent tribal pacts.
Sadly we report that Stockton may be the nation’s home-foreclosure capital with about 25% of those who bought homes with so-called sub-prime mortgages now in default by at least 60 days.
Hypocrisy continues as Congressmember Jeffrey Craig (R-Idaho) most famous for “I am not gay”, this week voted “no” on the hate crimes bill because it would add gay people to the list protected by the legislation. Chutzpah award of the week goes to Congressman Craig!
The Governor’s Scorecard
So far this year, the Governor has signed 254 bills into law. And he has vetoed only 10 bills. This is quite a contrast to his first year as Governor where he vetoed the vast majority of bills placed on his desk. But looking at the Bills he has signed, it appears that very little passed this year that was controversial. It is not particularly clear whether the legislative leadership has moved toward the Governor, or the Governor has moved toward the legislative leadership. Or maybe they moved toward each other. But stay tuned. Unfortunately we think that more vetoes are yet to come.
To see a complete list of Governor vetoes and signatures so far, please click here.
Last and certainly by no means least:
Governor, sign SB 94 (Kuehl, D-Santa Monica) which will add a few million dollars for family planning so that clinics can serve the more than 10,000 women and men who are now turned away and who need access to pre-natal care, contraception, and prevention education for STDs as well as other family planning needs!
To send a letter to the Governor, please participate in our action alert here on our website
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:
Working to repair a dangerously broken prison system- Paul Krekorian’s AB 1539
Hooray for the First Amendment!
To read and comment on these entries just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
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Until next week,
Jackie Goldberg and the Speak Out California Team