A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending November 24, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
Past week and beyond
In keeping with the spirit of the week, we can safely say that this one was a turkey for the legislature as well. Sacramento came up with an egg on the water bonds issue as there is no time left for any meaningful measure to be passed during this “Special” legislative session in order for it to be placed on the February, 2008 ballot for approval by the people. Although Senate leader, Don Perata has been working hard to reach agreement with the Governor, the deal seems to be hitting a stumbling block over who is going to oversee the distribution of funds for dam projects that would comprise about $3 billion of the bond funding. The Dems want to be able to oversee the spending on an annual basis, but the Reps want the funding to be continuous because they think that the former may try to pull the dam dollars needed for the concrete to implement their vision of appropriate water policy. For the Dems and their environmental supporters, the goal is groundwater storage, recycling and conservation. Although Perata compromised on this issue, the stalemate continues and thus the February ’08 ballot deadline has passed.
For more on this story, check out the Sac Bee article here.
For even more analysis, check out Bill Cavala’s column for the California Progress Report here.
Meanwhile, the healthcare measure continues to see the dogged determination of the Speaker, Fabian Nunez, who insists that a deal can be reached with the Governor that will have logic as well as political legs. He is planning to call for a vote possibly this coming week, but all the concessions and twists necessary to fit this square peg into a round hole aren’t viewed by many as having much of a chance of passing or working, if such a miracle were to happen.
Bringing on the lawsuits to protect the public
The real action this week, such as it was, really comes out of the judicial side where a number of lawsuits were filed to attempt to address some critical issues that call for judicial intervention either because big businesses are over-reaching or the government isn’t doing its job to regulate and enforce existing laws.
From the Secretary of State to former Governor Moonbeam, (now middle-of-the-road Mr.Mainstream) Attorney General Jerry Brown, the courthouse saw its work load increase from these Constitutional offices during the past week.
Secretary of State Deb Bowen, ever vigilant over the fraudulent touch-screen debacle of a number of companies serving up questionable products, has filed a lawsuit seeking $15 million in damages from a company which sold unauthorized systems to five California counties, alleging they had not sought the required certification necessary to qualify their equipment for use in California.
Attorney General Brown brought a suit this week against 20 leading toymakers and retailers, including Mattel and Toys R Us for the lead content in products being sold to our children.
Environmental organizations have also gotten into the fray by suing the federal government over toxic pollution caused by a fleet of mothballed warships floating near the continually-challenged San Francisco Bay. Under the terms of the complaint, the Natural Resources Defense Center (NRDC) and the San Francisco Baykeeper allege that the U.S. Maritime Administration has violated both state and federal environmental regulations by allowing dozens of decaying and rotting ships to linger well past the Congressional deadline set for their removal.
Another lawsuit was filed this week by education advocates against the State of California alleging the state has shortchanged school districts by $1 billion of required programs (mandates) it has either underpaid or failed to pay at all. With the state continuing to go in the red by the month, the timing on this lawsuit couldn’t be much worse.
Of course, the car manufacturers and dealers have their own deep pockets to challenge the laws that the legislature and people want, so they don’t want to be left out of the litigation frenzy (except when it comes to the public suing them). Yup, they’ve sued to overturn California’s landmark greenhouse gas legislation of 2002. (By way of disclosure, the undersigned proudly co-authored this important piece of legislation.) The measure, as passed, authorizes the state to establish limits as to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions permitted by motor vehicles. The car manufacturers and dealers are claiming that the law is an attempt to require higher gas mileage (which is strictly a federal government responsibility for which states have no jurisdiction). The experts seem to feel the lawsuit won’t hold muster based upon the recent Supreme Court decision that held that regulating air pollutants is not in conflict with the exclusive federal power to regulate fuel economy. However this one may turn out, it again shows the importance of keeping the courthouse doors open for everyone- rich or poor, right or wrong.
The economic forecast continues to cast a dark shadow on the state
The fallout from the sub-prime housing market collapse continues to unfold. The Legislative Analyst continues to issue warnings about the steep drop in tax revenues coming into the state and the fallout will continue for months to come. Although we’re not quite sure where this will all land, we know the perils of this downturn are likely to be extensive. For more on the implications, check out the SacBee article here.
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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As promised, Speak Out California will be taking a close and careful look at the significant number of ballot initiatives as they are introduced for the 2008 election year. There will be a number of them that qualify as the money to gather signatures continues to be factored in as just a cost of doing business. With California becoming the testing ground for all sorts of controversial ideas, our commitment to direct democracy through the initiative process continues to encourage special interest groups and multi-millionaires to play in our sandbox. Many of these ideas are contrary to the best interest of the people of our state and we at Speak Out California will continue to speak out against those policies that do not serve our communities.
And now for the rest of our weekly update…
Nasty politics and the Initiative battles for 2008
While the term-limits/extension initiative heats up, so are a number of other measures which promise to draw national attention to our state’s out-of-control initiative process or at the least set records in spending for special interests to battle it out.
Of greatest immediate national significance is, of course, the electoral college split initiative that the Republicans would desperately like to see in California. Although declared dead just a few weeks ago, it has seen a resurgence of money from out-of-state Republican heavy hitters who are helping that great lover of democracy, Darrell Issa fund a frenetic signature gathering campaign to put the measure on the June, 2008 ballot.
Although starting with under 50% approval, this transparent measure might very well manipulate the outcome of the 2008 presidential election by splitting electoral votes by congressional district (thus allowing the Reps to take 20 of the states otherwise winner-take-all- 55 votes). This is simply dirty politics at its worst, but you have to hand it to them, they’re not embarrassed about trying to grab the Presidency any way they can. And even if they can’t qualify this measure for the ballot, it assures that millions of dollars that would otherwise be used for candidates or initiatives will be diverted to keep this power grab from occurring here in our state.
And speaking of money, the gambling interests in California are ready for a huge battle with the Indian gaming tribes that are looking to expand their gambling operations. This week the Secretary of State announced that four referenda to stop the four richest tribes from adding up to 17,000 slot machines has qualified for the February ballot. They’ve already paid around $4.5 million just to qualify these four measures that they’re calling the “No on Unfair Gambling Deals” while the four tribes whose interests are being challenged have already put $20 million into the kitty to beat them back.
And an initiative that might as well be labeled “eating our own”, Prop 92, has put two key teachers’ unions at loggerheads. The measure, which would lower community college fees and set aside a percentage of the state budget to be spent solely and specifically on the two-year higher education system, is being supported by the California Federation of Teachers, (CFT) the state’s second-largest teachers’ union.
On the other side, is the California Teachers Association (CTA) the largest teachers’ union, which is opposed to the measure because of concerns it might pull money away from the K-12 schools. Given the anticipated budget short-fall, along with the enormous clout of the CTA, this measure appears to have lots of political problems. Just a week ago Senate leader Don Perata came out against the initiative as well. With dollars shrinking everywhere, this could be another classic case of well-deserving groups fighting for fewer and fewer dollars. Usually in those battles, no one wins. For more, check out the SacBee story here.
Another initiative that appears to be headed for the ballot is the reintroduction of the insidious so-called “Eminent Domain” initiative that was soundly defeated in November, 2006 as Proposition 90. The same “private property rights” folks are back again with a similar initiative that tries to play on the fears of government coming in and taking our homes. While this concern has great emotional appeal, the measure is really designed to undermine important land use decision-making that benefit the community. This measure pits “private property advocates and out-of-state developers against local government, environmental organizations and senior groups.” For more on this measure, check out the San Diego Union story here.
But not to be deterred, the opposition is planning to qualify its own eminent domain measure for the ballot in the coming week. For more on that side of the story, check out the California Progress Report article here.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:
Do Tax Cuts Really Help the Economy?—- How higher taxes historically coincide with higher economic growth.
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