A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending December 8, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
Past week and beyond
With little of note happening on the water and healthcare negotiations, there has been a little levity and a lot of revving up for the ballot initiative season that starts in February with the Presidential primaries taking top billing. Although of great interest to the state, the ballot measures coming down the pike are also quite momentous for the future of the state itself.
As we’ve promised, with the electoral season fast approaching, we?ll start taking a closer look at what we’ll be voting on in February, along with a look at what the rest of the election year bodes in the way of “direct democracy.” Of course, whether this is really what was intended by the founders of our direct democracy system, led by the late Hiram Johnson, or a cynical co-opting of the process by out-of-state billionaires with designs on mucking up our state, we’ll leave for another time. (Or just head over to our December 6th blog entry here for a few observations on the problem.)
Before getting into the details, as a basic primer, let’s recount where all the money and frantic signature gathering has gotten us for the first of our three elections this year- February 6th. According to the Secretary of State’s website, seven measures have qualified and will be on the February ballot. None have qualified for the June ballot and one has qualified thus far for November, 2008. There are 41 in circulation and 26 pending at the Attorney General’s office for further action. For those who need more, go to the Secretary of State’s website here.
With the holidays spirit in full swing, we’re including something a little on the light side. Not trying to compete with People or other intellectual magazines, we just thought our readers would be interested to know who has been chosen and now inducted into the California Hall of Fame for 2007. We’ll get to that and have a little more information for you (recently disclosed by the Schwarzenegger team) as to who those wealthy billionaires are who have paid to send him on extravagant international travel during his tenure as governor. Certainly, our Governor should be able to travel lavishly while selling our great state to foreign countries, especially since we don’t have an official residence for him to hang his hat and spurs when he returns from outside the state.
We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this in the weeks and months ahead, so
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Who’s Who in California’s Hall of Fame
While Californians are still scratching their heads trying to understand why we’re likely to find our state’s finances upside-down in the coming year, our Governor has inducted a new group of famous Californians into the Hall of Fame at the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts in Sacramento.
It is indeed a heady list of our most famous sons and daughters, extending from artists such as Ansel Adams and John Steinbeck to the more light-hearted fare provided by the late Milton Berle. Included this year are big name celebrities such as Tiger Woods and baseball legend Willie Mays, Steve Jobs, Robert Mondavi and actress Rita Moreno, all of whom walked the red carpet. Unable to do so because of the posthumous nature of their induction were polio researcher Jonas Salk, author John Steinbeck, the former Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice, Earl Warren and the late larger-than-life screen hero John Wayne. Also honored but unable to attend due to back problems (although still in this world), Elizabeth Taylor sent her regrets and promised to come to Sacramento to accept her award in the future. For more on this story, click here.
While clearly a distinguished and impressive group, there are those grousing that both Arnold and Maria are more interested in celebrity than truly appreciating California’s history. Of course, we’ve all got to complain about something and it’s certainly easier to focus the spotlight on this important discussion rather than how we’re going to get out of a multi-billion dollar hole next year.
Other news at the Capitol
Legislators move quickly to address oil spills after SF Bay disaster
While a relatively sleepy season, there is still some activity at the Capitol. Several members have announced the introduction of legislation to address the oil spill in the SF Bay, with Assemblymember Loni Hancock, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee taking the lead. Along with several other members of the Senate and Assembly, a host of measures are being introduced to try to stop this kind of avoidable environmental carnage in the future. For more on this story, check out the SF Chronicle article here.
After millions in damages to women coaches, Senator calls for resignation of Fresno State President
When three sexual discrimination lawsuits against one university result in almost $30 million in payouts, it’s time to hold someone accountable for such egregious and systematic illegal conduct. At least that’s the position of State Senator Dean Florez who called for Fresno State President John Welty’s resignation on Friday. For the third time in less than a year, the University has had to pony up millions as a result of blatant discrimination by the school’s athletic department against the school’s well-regarded women’s basketball and volleyball coaches and the former Associate Athletic Director, also a woman. But adding a staggering jury verdict of $19.1 million to two other settlements of over $9.3 million creates an enormous black mark on the school, to say nothing of its impact on the balance sheet of the university. While Welty is holding firm on his intention to stay, there have got to be a lot of concerned students, alums and plain old Californians wondering how and why the school should be able to get away with this kind of behavior, while costing so much in non-education related money. It’s certainly clear that Welty doesn’t plan on paying the bill out of his pocket so the question is: Where is the money going to come from?
Air Resources Control Board steps up to the plate again
Under the strong leadership of recently appointed Board Chair, Mary Nichols, the California ARB enacted a strict air emission measure that will ban much of the current fleet of diesel trucks from all ports statewide. This measure follows a recently approved plan controlling emissions for the ports of LA and Long Beach, which handle over 40% of all containers entering the U.S. While sparking anew the battle between trucking and shipping interests and environmentalists and health advocates, this tough measure was long-overdue. For more on this story, check out the LA Times article here.
What’s on the ballot in February, 2008 and what’s not
With the February presidential election quickly approaching (absentee ballots start being mailed in early January), it’s time to take a look at what finally landed on the ballot and what hasn’t.
Let’s start with the good news regarding the Presidential election: While not on the February ballot, the attempt by the Republican right-wing to mess with our electoral votes has suffered yet another set-back. Intended to divide our electoral votes by congressional district, the Rep leadership frantically tried to qualify the measure for February. When the real leaders of the effort were exposed, they withdrew the effort, only to restart it with the hopes of getting it qualified for the June ballot. Again, this measure would have split up our winner-take-all vote system (which is used in all but 2 other states in the country), and thus likely handed the Republicans enough electoral votes to win the White House in 2008. With the public aware of this cynical and blatant effort to undermine our democratic process, they were unable to muster enough money or signatures to qualify for the June ballot. While a momentary victory, we can’t expect that they won’t try to rev up this deceitful measure again–probably for the November election and try to claim its retroactive application. Again, they appear unwilling to stop at anything to undermine the will of the people. We’ll be keeping careful tabs on whom and what they’re likely to try next. But for now, the effort to undermine our state’s position in the Presidential elections has been defeated.
What’s on??? A brief summary
After all the to-do, we’ll see seven measures on the ballot, along with the Republican and Democratic Presidential contenders. We’ll stay out of those races and hope the best candidates emerge for a full-scale and in-depth discussion of the future of our country, but for us in California, the ballot pickings are a lot slimmer than the frenzy of early signature gatherings and hoopla anticipated.
There are seven measures, starting with Prop 91. This is an easy one to dispose of because it is now believed to be moot by those who put it on the ballot. Once Prop 1a passed in 2006, it is believed that transportation dollars will now be protected from being pilfered to balance other parts of the budget. Even its initial supporters are calling for a no vote. If they don’t want it, why should we?
Prop 92 The Community College Funding and Governance Initiative
This measure would require minimum levels of funding for community colleges, separating their funding from the current K-12 system. It pits the two largest teachers groups against each other.
Prop 93 The Term Limits/Extension Initiative
While touted as reducing the length of time a person may serve in the state legislature from a maximum of 14 to 12, it also allows those members currently termed out to extend their length of service. This one should create lots of mud and will do nothing to enhance the political debate. Bad for all sides.
Props 94,95,96,97 These are all referenda to overturn Amendments to Indian Gaming Compacts signed into law by the Governor in 2007
These initiatives pit the haves vs. the have-nots in the Indian Gaming communities as well as other gambling industries such as the horse-racing business. Labor wants to overturn the measures, but the Governor and powerful law enforcement groups are in support. This one will result in millions being spent. Expect lots of confusion and commercials from both sides. A yes vote overturns the compacts; a no vote keeps them in place. That, alone, is confusing enough for most people.
For an excellent discussion of the initiatives, check out today’s Los Angeles Times article here.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:
An Initiative Process out-of-control- Direct democracy turned on its head
Exploring California’s Budget- How does California develop the State’s budget?
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