Job Killers — Or Just More Fear?

The California Chamber of Commerce has released its annual list of what it calls “job-killer bills.”
Why is it that the Chamber’s job-killer bills hit-list seems to only target Democrats? Not a single targeted bill belongs to a Republican. “Bad bills”, like those designed to protect public health, climate concerns or consumer rights legislation, are all authored by Democrats. The chamber has always been a lobbying organization, but it has gotten so bad that the Chamber seems to have devolved into little more than just one more fear-mongering Republican Party front group.
The “job killers” on this list are any laws that protect consumers, reduce energy use, require worker protections or anything else that might hinder a very few corporate executives from reeling in another several-hundred-million dollars a year. The jobs that are “killed” are those of lobbyists for the energy industry.
The first group on the “job killer” list is bills that ask for any kind of energy or water conservation or environmental standards for new housing construction. For example, AB 1085. The bill describes itself as undating,

“building design and construction standards and energy conservation standards for new residential and nonresidential buildings to reduce wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy.”

But the Chamber’s job-killer list says this

Substantially increases the cost of housing and development in California by implementing significant energy efficiency measures

Now, think about this — if it costs less to heat and cool your house, this saves you money. If you want to add energy-saving technology like solar electric or water-heating on your house this creates good jobs. Maybe Exxon won’t benefit as much from this as the new, upcoming solar industry, but heck, the solar companies aren’t coughing up the big bucks and providing the good jobs to the Chamber of Commerce’s lobbyists!
The next group of “job killers” is “workplace mandates” like paid sick leave for employees, disability pay for on-the-job injuries or providing California’s citizens with health insurance.
Ah yes, the money businesses pay out to provide sick leave and disability pay for those pesky employees “kills jobs.” They could hire so many more people if they didn’t have to actually pay them and keep them from getting injured! This is one of the oldest arguments in the books. Slaves are always cheaper. But why do we have an economy if not to provide US with good jobs and other benefits? Do we have an economy so a very few corporate CEOs get all the money and benefits, or do we have an economy so the people can also get good pay and benefits and safe working conditions? The evidence (this, for example) is clear that good wages and benefits do not hurt jobs or the economy.
Then there are “economic development barriers” like asking online retailers to collect the same sales taxes that you local business owner collects, asking the wealthy to help pay for our schools, raising fire standards in high-risk fire areas and protecting our environment. I guess the online retailers must be paying the Chamber more this year than the retailers who have to actually rent storefronts and pay wages in your town. I can’t think of any other reason why SOME retailers should collect sales taxes and others should be exempt. Doesn’t this change the playing field waaayyy in favor of online retailers and harm the prospects of businesses that actually set up in our local communities? God forbid we ask them to help pay for our schools and police and fire protection!
This “job killer: list is nothing more than the use of fear to scare us into allowing a few rich corporations to have their way. By saying that protecting workers or the environment might “cost jobs” they are trying to make us afraid to ask these big corporations to live up to their responsibilities to our communities. How long will we let these lobbyists make us afraid?

National Health care policy state-by-state?

While those of us deeply immersed in the healthcare debate have strong opinions about which way to go, we could probably benefit from hearing the ideas of others who are students of government, while not necessarily engaged in its actual nitty-gritty where we sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees.
While teaching at UC Santa Barbara, I had the opportunity to work with Stuart Kasdan, who served as the Teaching Assistant in a class I taught on California Politics and Public Policy.
Stuart Kasdan is a graduate student and PhD candidate in Political Science at UC Santa Barbara.
His previous employment includes work as a senior program examiner at the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Stuart has a masters degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Davis and served as a peace corps volunteer.
Although I’m a firm believer in the importance of removing the insurance industry from the healthcare debate, Stuart proposed a system that acknowledges the political reality that the insurance business carries alot of weight in the halls of Congress. They certainly control our own governor’s thinking on the subject and continue to be part of the dialogue among our presidential candidates. So, in the spirit of offering another perspective, I asked Stuart to give his take on the situation and this is what he came up with:

Continue reading

Job Killer or Opportunity to Help Clean Up L.A.’s Filthy Air ?

Senator Alan Lowenthal has served in the California Legislature since 1998. He served six years in the State Assembly and was elected in 2004 as the senator from the 27th Senatorial District, representing the communities surrounding the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
He is a committed and strong voice for reasonable yet firm environmental protections, especially when dealing with issues of public health and air quality specifically. His
SB 974 has engendered a full-scale push-back from big businesses both state-wide and nationally. In typical hyperbolic and hysterical fashion, these companies (which read like a Fortune 500 company who’s who) claim that the measure will destroy business in California. As Senator Lowenthal explains below, this is typical business balony…..
What they don’t, and can’t do is deny the health problems they create or encourage when they deny any responsibility for the mess their current transportation practices engender. This measure will split a mere $30 per container use fee equally between air quality mitigation measures, such as the replacement of dirty diesel trucks and infrastructure improvements such as rail grade separations.
It all boils down to these big Fortune 500 companies, and their cronies, wanting to maintain the status quo which allows emitting filthy and noxious diesel fumes into the air and sustaining gridlock. Rather than addressing and trying to solve the very real issues of LA’s deadly air quality, they prefer forcing California’s residents to continue suffering so the rest of the country can have cheap goods. Who ultimately pays the price? In SB 974,Senator Lowenthal says it shouldn’t be the health and well-being of Californians. This measure is moving its way toward the Governor’s desk. He vetoed a similar measure last year. This time, we’re hoping a groundswell of public support will force Schwarzenegger to do the right thing for the people of our state. Here are Senator Lowenthal’s thoughts on the issue:

Continue reading

Whose life is it anyway?

By Patty Berg

Here’s an alarming little tidbit that should make you spill your latte all over the New York Times on the front seat of your Volvo:
The Religious Right is poised for a victory in Sacramento.
That’s right. With the help of conservative doctors and nervous politicians, the muscle and money behind the right-to-life movement is orchestrating an anti-choice victory on Death With Dignity in Sacramento.
Amazing as it may seem, the Right is just a few votes away from stopping a bill that has support of 70 percent of the state’s voters. We’re talking about the California Compassionate Choices Act, AB 374, which would give terminally ill patients the right to use medication to control their dying, just like the Death With Dignity Act allows Oregonians to make that choice.
If you think California should be immune to the anti-choice message, you’d be right. But that’s what makes this play so unnerving. Anti-choice organizers are keeping the zealots in the closet, and cloaking themselves as protectors of the underclass. In short, they’re using our progressive ideology against progressives.
They’ve managed to convince some Democrats who should know better that giving people a choice could end up hurting the poor. They’re trying to get good solid Demcrats to ignore the strong support of the ACLU, MALDEF, NOW, AFSCME, every major state Senior Citizen group and CAPG, the California Association of Physician Groups,one of the state’s largest physician organizations. Heck, the Speaker of the Assembly is one of the authors of the bill — when was the last time he did anything to hurt the poor?
They’re also using Astroturf politics, making something look like it’s a grass-roots movement when, in fact ,it’s being orchestrated by long-time campaign operatives. The Catholic Church hierarchy, in conjunction with a well-greased Republican machine, has unleashed a flood of e-mails, letters and phone calls, all designed to convince fence-sitting Democrats that there’s a price to pay at the polls for anyone who supports choice at the end of life.
Never mind that statewide polling consistently shows that 70 percent of California voters support choice at the end of life. Never mind that support among Democrats is closer to 80 percent. Never mind that the Democratic Caucus’ most trusted private pollster says there is no way anyone could be hurt politically by this vote – the anti-choice campaign is nonetheless gaining traction. We must stop this misleading campaign now!
We should know this week whether California is run by progressive thinkers, or whether a well-run conservative campaign can actually send progressives running. AB 374 should be heading toward a vote of the full Assembly in the next few days. We need your help right now!
Let’s insist that our end of life decisions belong to each of us, and not to strangers.
If you want to support AB 374 sign our action alert!.

Assemblywoman Patty Berg represents the 1st District, which includes a third of the California coast, from Bodega Bay to the Oregon Border. She is a joint author of AB 374.

Now we must fund reproductive health care

As we see a woman’s reproductive rights being chiseled away on the national level, thanks to the currently Bush-stacked US Supreme Court, we have to rely more and more heavily on setting the standards for Reproductive Choice right here in California. But the anti-choice movement knows there are more ways than just stacking the court to reduce access to safe and early abortion and reproductive health care services……just squeeze providers financially and watch the number of facilities shrink so rapidly that these services become unavailable or at the very least, so stretched that the ability to obtain healthcare becomes dangerously delayed for patients from all walks-of-life.
Such is the story right here in California. And that is why Wednesday, May 2nd, when Planned Parenthood conducts its annual Lobby Day in Sacramento, it is critically important to support their efforts to obtain a committment to increase the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate for reproductive health services. Not just a promise from the Legislature, but the Governor as well. For all his bluster about being a moderate, “post-partisan” governor, there is nothing that will show that he has at least a modicum of moderation more than his supporting the increase in rates that haven’t been adjusted in almost 20 years!

Continue reading

The Rogue Court and Reproductive Rights

Politics is always full of irony-whether it’s a political party claiming to have “family values” while its leaders are chasing youngsters of their own sex, cheating on their spouses, or selling their public trust to the highest bidder. We see so much of it in this right-wing Republican era that it’s simply hard to know where to start.
The irony of the anti- gun control mantra that guns don’t kill people… (of course it’s the bullets that do it), to the so-called “sanctity of life” while we’re allowing mentally unstable college students to buy semi-automatic weapons and shoot up their colleagues , while at the same time sending our young men and women to a war zone to kill and be killed in another country’s thousand year old war.
And then there is Roe v. Wade—the most important civil rights legislation of the past three decades finally going down in a slow but apparently inexorable death dance with the appointments of anti-choice male justices to the
highest court in the land. But you may ask: “Where is the irony in this?”

Continue reading

Healthcare Battle Heating Up

As the legislative season starts to get into full gear and the healthcare debate takes front-and-center, it’s time to gear up for a huge public outcry against the Governor’s unabashed pro-insurance industry bias. While he cavorts around the country as the Pretender- in- Chief in the battle against global warming, the battle to provide affordable, quality healthcare in California is warming up as well.
Several attempts to address the healthcare crisis have been offered up by both parties over the past few legislative sessions. While modest healthcare reform has long been on the agenda , we’ve really just attacked its inefficiencies and inequities on the fringes. Now is the time to truly reform and revamp the system. The real question is how are we going to do it?
Senator Sheila Kuehl has been fighting to create the single-payor Medicare-type system for several years. And all the data seems to support this concept—take the insurance industry out of the game because they offer little or nothing to the process. The basic principle is fairly simple: The cost of the insurance industry administering the system is totally out-of-line and unnecessary. If we replace their greedy profit and excessive overhead with a single administrator, health care providers will be able to thrive without the burden of insurance companies demanding anywhere from 25-50% of each insurance premium dollar being paid ,ostensibly, for health care.
But this governor is beholden to the insurance industry for millions of dollars in contributions and simply refuses to recognize we can do better for less if we remove this parasitic industry from the equation. In order to make some of the changes that must be made now, we’ve seen several compromise proposals come into play. One of these important and necessary fixes comes in the form of AB 1554 by Assemblymember Dave Jones of Sacramento. While this measure doesn’t solve the problem, it does force the insurance industry to justify its profits and costs before being able to raise its rates, a process that has gone uncontrolled for far too long, thus allowing this industry to increase costs—and its enormous profits to the point that many Californians simply cannot afford insurance, period.
Prior to Jones introducting this measure, other legislators had tried to bring up similar measures, without success. AB 1554 starts up its hill on Tuesday, April 17th with its first policy hearing in the Assembly Health Committee. We urge you to go to our
on our site and send a letter to the members of that committee urging that they support this bill. If the Governor is going to insist on keeping the insurance industry in the game, let’s at least make sure that their rates can’t be raised just because they can…… For an example of the kind of fiasco lack of oversight can cause, look at the cost of gasoline and the profits these scoundrels are reaping because we refuse to place any kind of ceiling on unjustifiable greed.
When so many of our people go uninsured, the system itself becomes overloaded with non-paying patients. As a society we appropriately refuse to turn the neediest of these away and thus our hospitals become burdened, inefficient and overworked. Then society suffers—but not the insurance industry. As a community, this is just unacceptable.
It’s clear the Governor thinks business is more important than people, so he’s willing to sacrifice Californians on the altar of profit. And yet his popularity soars. So we have to start somewhere, incrementally, to put people first. There is no better place to start reasserting our values than when it comes to healthcare. The time is now.

Life after Anna Nicole Smith

Now that the mystery of who fathered Anna Nicole Smith’s child has been resolved, perhaps we can go on to more important, albeit far less interesting matters, like health care, ending the war and addressing global warming. Of course, focusing on these matters is far less interesting, but with all the intrigue and suspense gone, we just might have to bite-the-bullet and consider that there are other pressing matters to deal with.
Fortunately, the California legislature has made that call and after a week’s vacation for Easter, Passover and other celebrations, they’re back dealing with issues that actually will impact our daily lives. Although hundreds of bills are back in play-from the sublime to the ridiculous, there are a number of interesting and significant health-care related bills that continue to move forward.

Continue reading

The real bogeyman in the healthcare debate

Thanks go to the Sac. Bee’s editorial today on pointing out that progress in dealing with the serious healthcare crisis in California-and nationwide is that government is not the bad guy that the Bush/ Schwarzenegger team try to portray but that government has a proven track-record on this issue (with Medicare and Medicaid as obvious examples) and will continue to demonstrate that it has a very important role in the solution.
We here at Speak Out California believe it is critically important to scratch off the thin veneer the Bush spin machine has created in order to mislead Californians into believing that the Governor is “moderate” and not beholden to the same special interests that control the Bush administration’s shameless pro-corporate agenda. The fact is that this Governor is completely beholden to the same large corporate influences, among them the same insurance giants that are fighting against making health care available to all Californians because it will, by necessity,pull the plug on their corporate greed.
In order to get the full and complete picture of SB 840 and the Governor’s complete dishonesty in characterizing the terms of the measure, we asked Andrew McGuire, the Executive Director of Health Care for All-California to give us his thoughts on this important and ground-breaking effort to bring real health care REFORM to our state. Here are his observations and a call-to-action for all Californians who believe the time has come to take the profit out of healthcare and give Californians the opportunity to have healthy lives for themselves and their families:

Continue reading