A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending October 20, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
Past week and beyond
Now that the dust has settled and the governor has disposed of 964 bills by either signing or vetoing them, we will devote this update to just what did and did not become law this legislative year. Remembering that a legislative session is comprised of two calendar years, there are many bills that have not been resolved that will have an opportunity to proceed in the coming year. We’ll be following them when the legislative session reconvenes in early January.
In the weeks to come, we’ll be taking a closer look at the various ballot measures that have qualified for the February, 2008 ballot, those that are still pending and those that are emerging for consideration between the June and November 2008 elections.
We here 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:
Just what this legislative year accomplished — or not.
On the whole, a number of small steps were accomplished by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. Since the governor gets the final say, for all intents and purposes (it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the legislature muster up the necessary 2/3rds vote to override a veto), all eyes look to him for the ultimate analysis. In this case, it can be said that Schwarzenegger pleased his Chamber of Commerce allies, frustrated the gun lobby and surprised some of the “conventional wisdom” that he so very much likes to confound. Overall, the governor vetoed 22% of the measures that got to his desk which is a new record. This figure includes the signing of 750 bills and vetoes of 214.
Much of what he signed and vetoed was predicable and predicted. He rejected the health care proposal authored by Speaker Fabian Nunez (AB8), Senator Perata’s water-development plan and all the falsely but effectively captioned “job-killer” bills opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce which primarily represents the interests of the largest corporations doing business in this state. In keeping score between the Lions (big business) and the Gladiators (in this case, the public-consumers), this year it was the Lions 12 and the Gladiators 0. And there were many others that the Chamber didn’t like that the governor disposed of with his veto pen as well.
On the other hand, the Governor signed a number of bills that surprised Sacramento insiders, befitting that the Governor loves keeping everyone off-balance.
Regular and Special Session- California’s Perennial Water Problems
We can quickly dispose of legislation arising out of this special session, as neither side was able to prevail and no agreement has been reached on how to deal with our serious water crisis in this year’s extraordinary session. Talk is now that there will be a push to qualify at least two initiatives to deal with the issues. The Governor wouldn’t budge on his call for building more dams and Perata and the environmental community won’t go along with a one-dimensional, massive, concrete approach to resolving the crisis.
However, there were some positive moments on the water front, although they came in the regular session and were signed by the Governor by the October 15th deadline as part of a package of bills negotiated between the legislature and the Governor. It appears that the state is finally addressing development in flood-prone areas. SB 5 by Senator Mike Machado requires the state to prepare a Central Valley Flood Protection Plan by 2012. AB 5 by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk reforms, restructures and renames the agency in charge of flood protection in the Central Valley, the state Reclamation Board. The final piece that the Governor signed is AB 70 by Assemblymember Dave Jones which deals with property damages in areas where flooding can result in governmental liability.
To the surprise of most observers, however, the governor vetoed two major water bills by Senator Perata. Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1002 which would have appropriated over $610 million in already approved bond money for various water projects, particularly in the fragile and failing Delta region can expect to see the level of frenzy and debate ramp up quickly…at least for those who are listening.
Signing, Vetoes and other legislative offerings:
With the major healthcare reform bills dead for the year, we look to the passage and signing of SB 94 (Kuehl) as one of very few, but important healthcare measures this year. We did a number of action-alerts this year regarding this issue and thanks to the letters, faxes, emails and phone calls by Speak Out California members, we helped turn the tide so that the governor felt the heat to sign this measure. The bill will increase reimbursement rates to reproductive healthcare providers to ensure their continued ability to provide reproductive health care services to hundreds of thousands of Californians. These rates had been frozen for years, while both the cost and number of people seeking these important services have sky-rocketed in the state.
The Governor vetoed not only AB 8 by Nunez (the measure to greatly expand health care for uninsured Californians) but also SB 171 by Perata. The latter has been around for a number of years and would protect healthcare workers who are often injured while lifting patients. The measure seems obvious enough: It would require general acute care hospitals to establish a patient protection and healthcare worker back injury prevention plan that includes identifying patients needing lift teams for lift, repositioning, or transfer devices. Why would anyone oppose such a sound, preventative measure, when the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 72,780 health care workers suffered work-related back or neck injuries in 2005, which is 36,880 more than suffered by construction workers? Such is the power of the omni-powerful hospital lobby in Sacramento. Maybe next year…although that’s small consolation for the nurses who manually lift an estimated 3,600 pounds each shift they work.
Consumers (that’s you and me and everyone who buys anything from anyone)
This was not a particularly good year for consumers either. Our privacy and quality assurances were turned back by the free-market mentality that thinks regulation or control of any kind on any aspect of business is unnecessary and bad.
So the governor vetoed a number of important consumer protection bills that passed the legislature and reached his desk. Among them were:
AB 779 (Jones), an important consumer privacy bill would have required retailers to encrypt the transmission of payment-related data. It was opposed by the Chamber of Commerce. Consumer groups saw the measure as a privacy and security safeguard of sensitive financial information that can be left out in the open for identity thieves and hackers to pilfer. The Chamber’s and the Governors retort: the bill could leave retailers vulnerable to unnecessary lawsuits and increase costs to business. Unfortunately, it says little for the unnecessary hassles, expense and risk we take as consumers in providing this sensitive information to businesses who have no duty or incentive to protect it from misuse.
SB 886 (Perata) would have created a regulatory scheme with some autonomy for dental hygienists and would have extended the state dental board until 2011. The Board licenses and regulates California’s dentists and is scheduled to “sunset” or expire next year. So much for having confidence that the one in the white coat jamming those large needles into your mouth or pulling out your teeth is required to get a license for the pleasure…
But this veto portends something even greater than destroying the Dental Board: Senator Perata observed, in his response to the veto, “…the truth may be a trend of deregulation and an intentional move to eliminate all consumer boards by this administration.” Perata also noted that the Governor has vetoed legislation which would have continued oversight of the for-profit vocational schools and basic review and accountability for chiropractors. He called these vetoes, “Anti-consumer, plain and simple.”
The one bright spot for consumers and environmentalists alike, was the Governor’s signing of AB1108 (Ma) which bans the use of toxic compounds called phthalates in the manufacturing of toys that are designed for infants and toddlers.
A mixed bag in this category. In addition to the water discussion above, a few good wins but a lot of disappointments this year. While the Governor signed a large alternative fuel and clean air bill, he vetoed important bills to make our buildings and fuels greener. He rejected AB 888 (Lieu) and AB 1058 (Laird) which would have set green building standard for both commercial and residential construction.
The Governor did sign AB 118 (Nunez) which is captioned the Vehicle Technology, Clean Air, and Carbon Reduction Act of 2007. This is considered to be a major alternative fuels and clean air bill which will give specific state agencies the responsibility of creating a program for the voluntary retirement of high-polluting vehicles.
The Governor also signed AB609 (Eng) which removes unnecessary obstacles that impede the state from purchasing green building technologies, but vetoed two other significant green building measures which would have set commercial and residential development green building standards.
AB233 (Jones), the Healthy Heart and Lung Act, is now law. This measure will improve enforcement of rules that limit toxic diesel emission. In addition, SB719 (Machado) will finally reform the San Joaquin Valley’s Air Pollution Control District by adding needed expertise and urban representation. Adding some necessary funding to start cleaning up the air is AB 118 (Nunez), which will raise an expected $150 million per year for clean fuel and air programs.
Unfortunately, legislation to reduce toxic threats did not do well this year with the Governor- or in the legislature as a whole. He also vetoed AB35 (Ruskin) which would have required the state to set sustainable building standards for the construction and renovation of state buildings; SB 210 (Kehoe) which would have required the adoption of a low-carbon fuel standard by 2010 achieving at least a 10% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
For more on these bills and some excellent summaries, go to:
We’ll complete our analysis next week and will cover topics relating to working families, public safety and civil rights. If you have any pieces of legislation you would like to hear more about, please let us know by going to www.speakoutca.org/weblog
New initiatives on the horizon
As mentioned earlier, it is possible we’ll see some effort to bring water-related initiatives to the ballot in the coming year. We’ll be watching for that and also covering the measures that continue to move forward as the election season nears.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:
The Job Killer Sound-bite?- How the Chamber of Commerce has created a phrase that misleads us into believing unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims.
To read and comment on these entries just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
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Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team