A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending November 17, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
Past week and beyond
Last week we observed that the Special Session was clearly losing momentum and oxygen. Although it certainly doesn’t have the vigor or energy of the regular legislative session, it appears to have staying-power beyond what we anticipated. Ever slowly and ploddingly, the beat goes on. This week, the water bill seems to have been revived (after we all but pronounced it dead) and the health care measure being touted by the Democrats in the Assembly has now seen another iteration which has been approved by the Assembly Health Committee, even though its chances of passing are slim at best. While some may say little is going on, it is impossible to deny the fact that the leadership continues to push ahead, somewhat reminiscent of the “Little Engine That Could” as it fought its way up the mountain to the top.
We posit that the effort to accomplish something is fueled by a desire to show some productivity before the fury of the February election and the battle over Prop 93, the term-limits/extension initiative. While this may very well be the motivation, the fact remains that the legislature is forging ahead with an admirable dogged determination.
On the health care side, the Assembly heard and passed out of committee a revised measure that considers a number of the Governor’s suggested ideas, like reducing the contributions required by employers. However its ultimate passage remains problematic at best as neither the Reps nor the Governor have signaled their agreement. And with the ominous news about the economy becoming more apparent and pessimistic, we can only wonder if major policy changes of this magnitude can emerge under such a difficult economic prognostication. The Governor, of course remains all smiles and optimism, but that positive thinking won’t get us out of the economic mess created by the national policies of the Bush administration or the irresponsible policies of the sub-prime mortgage industry that have brought our economy to a halt.
The dismal economic forecast weighs into the debate
By now, most Californians are aware that we’re in for a financial shakedown (if not meltdown) in the economy. While not necessarily the doing of California or its policies, the housing downturn, coupled with the ever-increasing price-gouging we’re seeing at the gas pump, is wreaking havoc on our middle-class. The result is that all facets of the economy have slowed down dramatically. Added to this is the Writer’s Strike in Hollywood and the obvious fiscal train wreck in the state’s budget becoming more apparent.
There is at least a glimmer of good news amongst all this economic carnage. The writers and producers have agreed to start up negotiations right after the Thanksgiving holiday. But with dozens of productions dark, the loss of income has got to be taking its toll on California’s huge entertainment industry which means there little being generated in the way of income or tax receipts for the state, based upon that income.
The bad news, so deftly presented by California’s outstanding Legislative Analyst, Elizabeth Hill, confirms that the state expects to see a shortfall in tax receipts over the next fiscal year of almost $10 billion. As we reported last week, the governor has already called upon the state’s agencies to start cutting at least 10% from their budget. It is important to note that this doesn’t take into account the fallout from the fires in our state this past September, the economic costs associated with fighting them or the loss of economic activity as a result. Translated: things are likely to get worse before they get better. For more on this economic bad news, click here for the LA Times article or here for the SacBee story.
We have also been following the work of the legislature in order to unravel the reasons behind the devastating and totally avoidable oil spill in the Bay Area last week that leaked 58,000 gallons of filthy, low-grade bunker fuel into its waters. While it has emerged that the cause was human error, the results have led legislators, headed by Natural Resources Chair Loni Hancock, to call for serious measures to protect against future disasters of this nature. Among the ideas to quickly come forward is a measure to require the placement of bunker fuel inside the ships, and not carried along side behind the hull.
On the federal level, a new debate and discussion has begun over the problem associated with single-hulled ships, one of the primary culprits in major oil spills throughout the years. For a good discussion of this issue, click here for the Mercury News story.
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:
Health Care in the Governor’s Special Session
Last week, Speak Out California provided commentary on the different measures (and their motivations) that have been discussed, passed by the legislature and vetoed by the Governor this past session. For this discussion, click here. For a fairly comprehensive look at the positive side of the healthcare proposal, check out the article from the California Progress Report here.
From the political side, it is really unclear whether we’ll see this measure move through the legislature after Thanksgiving. We’ll give the leadership an “A” for effort and persistence. Whether the merits are worth the grade is a question that we’ll see debated over the next several weeks, and likely the subject of ballot initiatives in the months and perhaps years to come.
The latest on the infamous February 2008 ballot measure: Proposition 93-The term limits/expansion initiative
While a number of other ballot initiatives are heating up over the past few days and week, we’ll focus once more on the Prop. 93 initiative which will give the current crop of members additional time in their respective jobs and then reducing the maximum amount of time a member can serve from 14 to 12 years.
There is more bad news for the “pro” side this week, as the very powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association (better known by its acronym, the CCPOA) has announced its intention to “put as much money into defeating the measure as it takes.” For the legislative leadership, this is a bad proclamation, as the organization has an estimated $10 million in its political war chest. It’s initial offering of $1 million, added to the already committed $3 million by U.S.Term Limits, Inc. and Insurance Commissioner Poizner, make this measure even more unlikely to pass. While its polling has already gone down from 59% in the summer, to 49% in the most recent polls, the opposition seems to be stacking up against its passage. For a good article on this, check out the Sac Bee story here.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:
“Too often closing the barn door too late”— Lesson we can learn from oil spills and other disasters
“Big Money- an Insurmountable obstacle to democracy in California”- How big money is corrupting our political process
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