While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 15

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending September 15, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
past week and beyond
The final days of this year’s regular session ended in the wee-hours of the morning, September 13 around 3:30am. At that moment, the Speaker banged the gavel, announced that the session had ended and likely declared victory of some kind for the work that had been done. The drama was somewhat undercut, however, by the fact that the Governor had already called a “Special Session” to consider the healthcare and water issues that were not resolved during the regular legislative year, thus extending the legislative year for some additional period of time.
A variety of bills were sent to the Governor’s desk for signature and veto, a few of which have already been acted upon. With the Term Limits/Extension initiative taking front-and-center in the decisions being made on the floor and behind the scenes, the session produced lots of buzz and intrigue during its final days. Purely political decisions always do play in the equation (various interest groups try to jam bills through at the final hour when few are watching or awake enough to notice). This year the dance was made even more delicate by this all-consuming focus on pleasing the public, enough to justify their vote to extend the terms of current term-out members (particularly the leadership of both houses and both parties) in the February primary.
Ballot initiatives continue to grab headlines as the California Democratic Party has announced an aggressive and pro-active effort to keep the electoral vote-splitting initiative off the June, 2008 ballot. But a redistricting initiative will not be showing up in time for the February ballot, putting the Term Limits/Extension measure at risk. Nor will the Iraq War initiative, since the Governor made short shrift of it by veto earlier in the week. While perhaps restoring some of his lost credibility with his own party, the Gov. dropped the hammer on one of his appointees at the behest of 34 NRA-beholden legislators, further dampening the ability of those given certain responsibilities from carrying them out appropriately—in the Alberto Gonzales/ George Bush mold. But there is so much more, so we’ll get to the details, but first:
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And now for the week’s goings-on :

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While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1, No.14

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending September 8, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
past week and beyond
The first of the final two weeks of the regular session is now done, with hundreds of bills having been heard and or otherwise disposed of. Healthcare, predictably continues to be front and center. The environment has seen some good news and bad, while civil rights–for both the gay community and working women round out the headline grabbers for the week.
Ballot initiatives and threats of same continue to be bandied about, while the Republican play to steal yet another presidential election is taking on broader national attention as its implications for Republicans holding the White House become known. Term Limits has dodged a bullet and will now appear on the February ballot, creating greater pressure to get a redistricting measure passed before the coming recess. And the Perata Iraq initiative sits on the Governor’s desk, most likely facing a veto. Of course, the Gov didn’t endear himself to his party this weekend at the Republican state convention, but that is of little concern as the Reps continue on a downward spiral in this state.
So let’s get to the details:
SB840/Universal Health Care and AB8 .
With all the hype about AB 8, Senator Kuehl’s true reform healthcare measure, calling for a Medicare type system to cover all Californians and still have us choose our own doctors, appears to be DOA on Schwarzenegger’s desk. With the legislature’s leaders heavily in negotiations with the Governor on a bill that keeps the insurance industry well in the game, there is just no way to fix this truly broken health care system. With a private, for-profit health INSURANCE industry in place, the only move that can be made essentially requires us to try to shove a square peg into a round hole. It can’t be done, but that isn’t deterring them from trying. For an excellent piece on why this process is not the answer, click here.
Schwarzenegger is insisting that everyone have health insurance. This is NOT universal healthcare, it is universal insurance- whether people can afford it or not. This deference to the insurance industry is maddening for those who realize the private companies are a major part of the problem and need to come out of the equation completely. Nonetheless, there have been concessions of transparency where the insurance companies would have to reveal what they pay and where the dollars that they rake in go.
The negotiations are complicated and keep changing almost by the minute. Rather than give you a play-by-play on all the moving parts, let’s break this down to the core issue in all this: Who will pay the bulk of the health care costs and who will be covered by the program? With so many major players in the mix –the hospitals, big and small employers, workers, the poor, doctors and healthcare providers, federal dollars, etc. there is real concern that we could be rushing into another end-of-session energy-deregulation type debacle.
With that in mind, there are those who are urging the leadership and legislature to go slow, and allow the governor to call a special session (he can do it anyway) and try to think through the process more carefully and deliberatively. Another option considered is to put an initiative on the ballot that addresses the funding mechanism, since there is no way the obstinate and out-of-touch right wing that has a hold on the Republican Senators will even consider such a mechanism—even if those having to belly-up are willing to pay! For more on this aspect of the story, check out this article at the California Progress Report, as well as Julia Rosen’s piece here.
Environmental efforts
While two important environmental bills apparently delayed until next year’s session, a major breakthrough has occurred on the water/flood control scene. A package of bills reflecting a compromise has been reached which will address the uncontrolled development on flood-prone lands in the Central Valley region without imposing moratoriums on construction or impeding local economic growth. The dam on overhauling the state’s antiquated and ineffective approach to flood protection and water planning appears to have been broken—-or so the claims go. For an analysis of what this compromise looks like, click here for the SacBee article and here for the California Progress Report’s coverage.
Sadly, two other key environmental bills that we’ve been touting haven’t made it through the process this year. One is Senator Alan Lowenthal’s SB974, an important bill to clean up the air near the ports of California– Long Beach , L.A. and Oakland . For more on this story, click here for our blog.
The other is Senator Joe Simitian’s SB 412, which would require that California establish the need for LNG plants before allowing them to be built in the state. Seems like a no-brainer, but this bill got in the cross-hairs of end-of-session wrangling between the Senate and Assembly. While Speak Out California has been urging the leadership to move this bill back onto the floor for a vote, we’re still waiting. If you would like to help by sending emails to Speaker Nunez, go to our action alert to sign up here. We’ve also blogged on here.
For more information about the successes and failures of other measures, California Report’s chief Frank Russo has done a yeoman’s job of covering them here.
Civil Rights push for gay marriage and workforce equity
The Governor will see AB 43, Mark Leno’s gay marriage bill back on his desk again this year. For the second time, the Legislature, on a strictly party-line vote, has passed this measure and will likely see the governor veto it again. This is a hard sell, with the Governor having ducked the measure last year, saying the Court should decide. The Supreme Court turned around and said the legislature should decide. Well, they have. Governor?
Two measures that we’ve been following on our weblog over the past few weeks have now passed both houses and are on their way to the Governor’s desk. The first, AB 437, by Assemblymember Dave Jones, ensures that victims of pay discrimination continue to have a fair opportunity to seek redress in the courts. The measure clarifies that the time period for alleging pay discrimination claims runs from the date of each payment of a discriminatory wage.
The second, AB435 by Assemblymember Julia Brownley, addresses workplace discrimination against women. The measure extends the statue of limitations for an employee in order to file a civil action against an employer for wage discrimination and also extends the time period that an employer is required to maintain wage and job classification records.
Click here for more on both these measures.
Initiatives on the move
Without a doubt, the most talked-about initiative this week is the transparent attempt by the Republican party to co-opt California’s 55 electoral votes in order to swing the next presidential election back to them. The initiative is couched in pleasant and reasonable language; talking about fairness and every vote counting, etc. But there is nothing fair about this initiative, designed to replace California’s winner-take-all system of handing all its electoral votes to the state’s popular vote winner (as is done in 48 other states) with a system that gives electoral votes by congressional district popular vote. Bottom line: In a state where the Reps have about a snowball’s chance of winning, this measure, if passed, would send them home with about 20-22 of the state’s 55 electoral votes. It is a cynical and serious plot to keep the White House, even though they haven’t really WON the presidency since 1988.
The Dems are rightly, crying foul here. This past week, National Democratic Party Chair, Howard Dean called this, “just another Republican attempt to rig an election.” Check out the San Francisco Chronicle article here. Unless enough people know about this ploy, the measure will likely qualify for the ballot and cost the Dems between $10-20 million to kill it, moving money from places it would otherwise be spent for democratic candidates and issues. Likely exactly what the Reps had in mind when they pulled this stunt. Smells a lot like Karl Rove is still alive and well.
When we reported last week’s edition of While California Dreams, it appeared that the Term Limits/Extension initiative might not make it onto the ballot because it appeared to lack the required number of signatures. Seems this was a false alarm-as two counties reconsidered their counting techniques, recounted, and decided that the signatures qualified after all. A collective sigh of relief was purportedly heard emanating from the Capitol as current, otherwise termed-out legislators still stand to gain additional years if this measure passes.
This event may very well lead to additional ballot measures. The conventional wisdom goes that Schwarzenegger’s support is either necessary or very helpful to get the term-limits/extension measure passed, but he won’t play ball unless a redistricting measure is also included, which will take the ability to configure legislative districts out of the hands of the legislature. Without such a measure, there is concern that the Gov. might even oppose the desired term-limits/extension measure, thus likely condemning it to fail. Speaker Nunez is purported to be scurrying hard to put an initiative together that will meet the Gov’s requirements, while Senator Perata has made it clear it won’t get by the Senate if it also includes putting Congressional redistricting into the hands of an outside body. The key question is whether such a compromise is in the offing and whether it flies with the Gov. No answer on that one yet.
As we reported last week, Senator Perata’s advisory initiative is on the governor’s desk. Perata wants the people of California to be able to weigh in on the war in Iraq and let the President and Congress know whether we want an immediate withdrawal of our troops. The vote was predictably along party-lines and the odds are that the Gov. will veto it along the same party line. But the problem for the Governor “of the people”, as he likes to define himself, is that he can’t argue that the people shouldn’t have a chance to express their opinion on this measure, without being labeled a hypocrite. Don’t bet on seeing this reach the ballot, however. There’s very little upside for the Gov in signing the measure to send it to the ballot. He’s too good a politician not to realize this.

The Rest of the Story

Our blogging offerings for the week:
End of Session Drama Begins
Senate Bill 974- The Art of the Possible
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
With only a few days left in the first year of this legislative session, there will be a mad-dash to end the year on an upbeat of legislative accomplishment. This is also the time when good intentions and bad bills can wreak havoc on our state so we’ll be watching bills carefully and sounding the alarm if we think there are concerns that you might want to express to the legislature or the Governor when these measures get to his desk.
We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 13

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending September 1, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
past week and beyond
Now that the Budget has gratefully been put to bed for another year, the Legislature and Governor have been focused on trying to sprint through the last few weeks of this legislative year. With hundreds of bills still yet to be resolved, the big issue back on the front burner is health care reform and the unfortunate rush to completion that has now taken on an almost messianic fervor.
Another issue that has clearly been driving the Legislature, especially its leadership this year has been the Term Limits measure designated for the February 2008 ballot. Seems there may be some unexpected glitches to that one.
Another interesting measure that may or may not get on the February 2008 ballot revolves around a non-binding resolution promoted by President Pro Tem Don Perata. This ballot measure would ask California’s voters if they think we should immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq. Although a non-binding resolution, it certainly has lots of folks aflutter.
Lots more to mention, so here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budge– a final analysis
Speak Out California supporter and friend, Senator Sheila Kuehl, has been writing on the budget process and its consequences for the state of California. This is her final piece on the 2007/08 budget that gives an excellent analysis of this year’s process and its impact.
SB840/Universal Health Care and AB8 .
We’ve been reporting on California’s answer to the health care debate since we started this weekly update three months ago (For a look at the back issues, click here) As we’ve been reporting, the issue boils down to whether we’re going to get real reform through a single-payor system, like the Medicare system already in place, or just some adjustment to the current system that retains the health insurance industry as the primary beneficiary of our health care dollars, rather than patients who need the care and those who provide it to them.
The Gov wants to keep the health insurance industry in the play, even though they add nothing to the delivery of healthcare. Speaker Nunez and Senate Pro Tem Perata have proposed a compromise in the form of AB 8 as a sort of a half-way proposal.
The key stumbling block, no matter how they slice and dice the negotiations, revolves around how we’re going to pay for this system. Although the Kuehl bill, SB 840 is the most vetted and comprehensive proposal, the Governor has said he will veto it if and when it comes back to his desk for signature. He vetoed a similar measure last year, obviously not having read it, because his veto message completely mischaracterized the measure. That, of course, is no moment for this Governor, who like the President, doesn’t let fact get in the way of his grandiose schemes. Regardless, the Dems want to get something out to the public this year, even if it isn’t that helpful in revamping a system that is clearly broken and in need of a complete overhaul.
Unfortunately, the debate really hasn’t started in earnest until just this week, with the Governor realizing his ideas include a tax increase that his Republican colleagues won’t approve, no matter how much he insists. The Perata/Nunez proposal calls for employers to plunk a nifty 7 1/2 % of payroll into the fund, while the California Restaurant Association and other small business interests are suggesting an alternative that includes increasing the sales tax to fund the program.
There is a little something here for everyone, including a minimum employer contribution, an expansion of medical coverage to nearly all of the 4.9 million Californians without it. But it still requires all Californians to have health insurance, thus keeping the bloated insurance industry in the game. As a concession to those who believe that taking the insurance industry out of the process is the real key to reforming this broken system, the plan would make some effort to control the uncapped premiums they are able to charge while requiring them to reveal the costs of their services. This would hopefully, generate competition and theoretically reduce their unconscionable profits and ability to deny health care for so many who do not “qualify” under their profit-driven models (such as those who have had the misfortune of having pre-existing conditions that the insurance companies refuse to cover).
There are several good articles on this issue, starting with the most updated analysis from the LA Times.
And analyzing the “dance” displayed this week in these negotiations (supporting the old adage that the two things you never want to watch being made are legislation and sausage) is John Myers, Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED’s “The California Report”, in his 8/29/07 and 8/30/07 articles for Capital Notes.
Senator Sheila Kuehl, the architect of SB 840 and leading spokesperson for a universal, single-payor but private delivery healthcare system, has a thoughtful article questioning the race-to-finish proposal being hammered out by the Governor and Democratic leaders. Frank Russo has this article posted on his site.
Initiatives and More Initiatives filling up the 2008 ballot.
One initiative that won’t be cluttering up the ballot, at least not the June ballot, is the attempt by the big business interests in California to squelch the right of the little guy to sue for violations of law under the state’s important class action system. Led by the corporate big-wigs at Intel, they were hoping to sneak this little dandy passed a sleeping electorate in June, 2008. But as more and more significant and controversial measures get dumped into the June ballot, the public’s attention will be redrawn to that election. Thinking the better of trying to eliminate hard-fought rights for the public, CJAC, the moniker big business hides behind, announced this week that they were pulling the initiative from the ballot. They did leave open, however, another attempt which there is little doubt they will try when they think the time is right and the public isn’t paying attention. But we will be…
Another possible unclogging of the ballot comes in a most unexpected place. One of the key motivators of this entire legislative year, it is asserted, has been the legislative leadership’s attempt to expand the term-limits law to allow them to serve additional terms (and then reduce terms for each subsequent batch of legislators). The goal has been to get the measure on the February ballot so the current but otherwise termed-out members and leaders can extend the length of their service. But something may have happened on the way to the Ball. It seems that not enough signatures have met the qualifications test and thus the initiative may not make it onto the ballot in time to save the terms of the current members. If the measure fails to make the Feb 5th ballot, it would be a huge blow to those who were hoping for an opportunity to extend their lengths of service.
For more on this story, check out the a first and second article by the Sac Bee.
In order to seal the deal, (should the Secretary of State certify the number of signatures before the September 20th deadline to secure a place on the ballot for the February ballot), Nunez is frantically trying to put a redistricting bill together. For the term limits/extension measure to pass, many believe that the Governor needs to lend his support to it. He’s made it clear that he won’t unless a redistricting measure accompanies it. While there are many moving parts to this idea–(think Congress), the Speaker is trying frantically to push this idea through the final two weeks as well.
Last, but by no means insignificant-at least in terms of controversy, is the initiative being pushed by Senator Perata which would put the Iraqi War issue on the ballot. Although only “advisory”, this would allow the people of California to weigh in on whether we should withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately. Cynics believe this is just an attempt to bring out more disaffected Democrats to vote on the term-limits initiative (which the polls say they support). Perata says it gives the voters an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the War and give voice to their concerns.
The measure has passed both houses of the legislature on the predictable party-line. It’s certainly hard to believe there isn’t a single Republican who thinks this disastrous occupation shouldn’t come to an end, but there it is. Of course, the only Republican whose opinion matters at this point is the Governors. As the bill is now on his desk, the conventional wisdom is that he’ll veto it since he’s taken the Republican line all along on the war. No matter that it’s inconsistent with his mantra of “power to the people” and that the people should be allowed to decide on matters of importance. But hypocrisy seems to run deep on the “R” side of the aisle these days, not that they have a monopoly on it—just that they seem to have perfected it during the Bush years. With little upside to the Governor, (who is having enough trouble getting along with his party these days), a veto is the more likely probability here.
The Rest of the Story

Our blogging offerings for the week

*Big Business tanking on an anti-worker initiative
Beating back bad initiatives one-at-a-time
*A final piece in celebration of Women’s Equality Day
Speaker Pelosi on being the First Woman Speaker of the House
*Environmental Legislation to clean up the state’s air- by Sen. Alan Lowenthal
Job Killer or Opportunity to help clean up LA’s filthy air?

To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
With only a few weeks left in the first year of this legislative session, there will be a flurry of activity and key bills we’ll be watching over the next several editions of our weekly update. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 12

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 25, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during
the past week and beyond:

On Friday the Governor signed the budget and used his “blue pencil” to cut important social programs for the neediest Californians, while protecting yacht, airplane and recreational vehicle owners from having to step forward and contribute to the common good.
With the budget now over, the legislature and Governor get to push for their pet projects during the last three weeks of the legislative session, including the important but going-south debate on health care reform.
And it seems the ostensible winner from the budget mess may just be Attorney General Jerry Brown who is making substantial noises again about running for Governor of the State when Schwarzenegger is termed out in 2010.
Lots more to mention, so here’s the scoop on this past week:
After an incomprehensible 52 day holdout, the Republicans let their leader cast the deciding, and only 2nd Senate Republican vote on the budget. Obtaining very few concessions of any kind, the budget battle is now at rest until next year’s budget battle begins.
The Budget– On the 52nd day, the legislature rested and the impasse that no one could quite explain ended with the Senate passing the 2007/08 budget. Alas, two days after ending their month-long recess, the Reps. finally let their ostensible “leader” Dick Ackerman, cast the final vote necessary to break the logjam that seems inevitable with the state’s requirement of a 2/3 vote of each house to get a budget.
It’s pretty much the same budget that conjured a bipartisan vote in the Assembly, but the one glaring concession that should offend just about everyone who isn’t rich enough to own a yacht is the one Ackerman himself was able to achieve for yacht owners like himself.
Remembering that the budget is the state’s moral document and is supposed to reflect the moral values of its people, this budget provides for a $45 million tax break for yacht owners who now can buy a yacht in California, take it out of state for 90 days, bring it back and NOT have to pay sales tax on the purchase. If that alone is not offensive enough, the trade off was made yesterday when the Governor blue-penciled, and thus completely eliminated, an extremely important and successful program to house the mentally ill.
This program had been lauded by mental health experts as helping break the cycle of homelessness that included hospitalization, jails and life on the streets. Among the many ironies in abolishing a program that actually saves the state millions of dollars beyond its cost, this was the same measure the Gov. went out of his way to praise only three years ago.
Clearly, the ultra-conservatives who dominate the Republican Party today think it’s great to serve their wealthy masters at our expense, so let’s put a face on who will now suffer. One Paul Culp, the LA Times reports, is a college graduate who suffers from untreated bipolar disorder and was living on the streets. Two years into this program, he was reunited with his children and is now supporting himself. Now the program is gone. Where will Paul Culp end up? And does anybody care—after all we’ve saved more than enough to allow yacht owners to buy their million dollar toys without having to pay the sales tax that you and I must on our less indulgent purchases. Moral document indeed.
Check out this excellent LA Times piece on this shameful Schwarzenegger veto, and this
Mercury News article.
The holdout Reps were complaining that Jerry Brown was causing problems for developers by wanting protections against growth that didn’t take into account the mandate of AB 32, the Global Warming measure. At the end of the day, the Reps got just about nothing for their whining but certainly enhanced the image and reputation of Attorney General Brown. If there was a winner in all this, the SacBee reports, it may very well be the AG himself. Ever the wily politician, Brown positioned himself as the champion of the global warming issue by forcing the County of San Bernardino to consider the mandates of AB 32 in its revised General Plan. Although Brown has not been a champion of the environment for years, he has raised his environmental credentials geometrically with this aggressive interpretation, one of the most popular and highly visible environmental legislation to come out of California in many years. Watch for another Jerry Brown gubernatorial candidacy in 2010 when Schwarzenegger is termed-out. For more, check out this SacBee story online.
As we’ve mentioned numerous times in our weekly updates and other blogs, it’s time for the state to end this 2/3 vote requirement. The priorities of the majority of Californians aren’t reflected in this budget. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata clearly agrees. Fed up with the games and bad faith of the “gang of 14” Republican Senators who unnecessarily held up the budget, Perata this week called on the Governor to convene a summit to fix the system he referred to as “fatally broken.” He wants a bipartisan panel to develop a plan that will ensure on-time budgets in the future and that rethinks how we collect our taxes, from where and how we spend them. See the SacBee story for more on this issue, as well as Frank Russo’s California Progress Report article.
Others are calling for an initiative that will end the undemocratic 2/3 budget requirement, a proposal being advanced by state Senator Tom Torlekson and dicussed further in this Mercury News article.
With the Republicans holding the power position because of the super majority requirement, they’re able to wreak havoc with the state’s priorities. This latest budget is just such an example. It’s time we ditch this undemocratic system and come back in step with all the states except for Rhode Island and Arkansas. It’s time the majority party was accountable for the budget so that if the public is dissatisfied with the way they’re running things, they can (and should) be voted out. That’s the principle of democracy and that’s what we need back in California.
SB840/Universal Health Care and AB8
Now that the budget is history, the Governor and legislative leadership is looking to address the health care mess that exists in California and nationwide. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to know that the current system is broken, however it does take someone outside the health insurance business to know that we need to remove them from the debate. Although the Gov. continues to insist that we talk about insuring everyone, he is actually trying to protect his big contributors in the health insurance industry. He claims that everyone will get care, yet doesn’t mention it will be provided by private companies whose only interest is making money. Ironically, they make money by denying care, not providing it.
The Gov.’s approach is to make everyone pay into the insurance companies—employers, hospitals, docs and employees. The Dems say, “no way”. Senator Kuehl’s universal plan, which is the only truly comprehensive health care reform on the table, says once we take the insurance companies out of the equation, we can provide health care for everyone, without having 35 cents of every dollar in premiums going to the health insurance gluttons. And we all get to choose our own doctors to boot!
AB 8 is sort of a half-way proposal. It includes a minimum employer contribution but expands public programs for children and their families, and tries to curb insurance company abuses and other tweaks around the outside of a cancerous middle called the for-profit health insurance business. Check out Julia Rosen’s Working Californian’s article for more information.
The debate has been heating up all week, with the Gov. saying he won’t sign AB 8 or SB840 (which he vetoed last year as well). Following the SacBee’s coverage, we see as the week ended, Speaker Nunez has called the Gov.’s bluff, saying he would put Schwarzenegger’s proposal in a bill and have a vote on the floor. A 2/3 vote would be required because there is a tax increase included, and if the Reps stay true to their blind allegiance to their mantra, “no new taxes”, the Gov.’s proposal will go down in flying defeat. Remember, too, that this Governor doesn’t have many admirers on his own side of the aisle, so this could be an interesting, albeit dangerous, game of chicken Nunez may be setting up.

Latest report shows wage gap widening

Not surprisingly, if you checked your bank account balance recently, the wage gap is widening in California with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
The highly respected California Budget Project released a new report this week, “A Generation of Widening Inequality: The State of Working California, 1979 to 2006.” Its findings are not surprising. The wealthiest continue to gain capital and the poorest continue to lose purchasing power with wages that barely keep pace with inflation. Interestingly, the gap between low-wage and high-wage workers has widened more in California than in the country as a whole. California’s high wage workers are doing better than most, but our low-wage workers are doing worse than their US counterparts. And what is happening to the middle class? It’s simply disappearing. Of course, now is the time to go out and buy that yacht and airplane, but then again, only the wealthy can afford them—and don’t have to pay into the public treasury to boot! The good news for them is that they’re getting rich enough to be able to afford one of each, while working Californians continue to struggle, with the bottom pay range having dropped 7.2% and 43% of new jobs paying less than $11 an hour.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, the economic recovery of the past decade has not provided the historic broad increase in the standard of living for workers but instead has created “skyrocketing corporate profits”. So much for the right-wing’s much ballyhooed “trickle down” economics.
The good news in this report, such as it is? The value of a college degree has gone up and the disparity between men and women has gone down. But Latinos have lost ground.
Initiatives and More Initiatives filling up the 2008 ballot
We’ve been following the trail of initiative announcements and the march from signature gathering to qualifying for the ballot. With virtually dozens of such measures in some stage of the process, we’ll be looking carefully at them all as they qualify for the ballot in either February, June, or November 2008.
At this point in time, it seems that the topic which will be most closely followed revolves around the sneaky effort by the Republicans to rig our Presidential vote in a way that ensures their party’s occupation of the White House in 2008. As we’ve reported previously on our website and on our blogpost, the Reps want to divvy-up the state’s massive 55 votes by congressional district, thus insuring them of additional electoral votes similar in number to those within states the size of Ohio or Florida. No need for chads or hacking into insecure Diebold voting machines, as the thinking goes, all we have to do is split California’s votes and regain the White House we’ve lost through our miserable, corrupt and incompetent stewardship over the past 6 ½ years.
The Dems are coming back swinging this time. This past week they introduced two proposed initiatives of their own that will reform the antiquated Electoral College system of electing a President. It calls for a national approach which will commit California to a plan that declares the winner of the national popular vote, President. Under the Democrats plan, this process would go into effect once the majority of states holding 270 cumulative electoral votes support such a measure.
Although a recent Field Poll released Tuesday, August 21, 2007 shows initial support for the Rep proposal (the Democratic response was not included in the poll because it had not yet been introduced), it did not have over 50 % support. Without a big lead to start, these kinds of initiatives rarely pass after a long and expensive battle which will undoubtedly ensue. You can be sure this measure will attract lots of national attention for its potential consequences for whoever takes the White House in November 2008. We’ll be covering this one very closely.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve featured Women’s Equality Day, as we celebrate the 78th anniversary of women finally getting the vote:
Women’s Equality- How far have we come?
Celebrating Women’s Equality through Workforce Justice
What do working women and their families want?
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
With only a few weeks left in the first year of this legislative session, there will be a flurry of activity and key bills we’ll be watching over the next several editions of our weekly update. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

While California Dreams-Weekly update Vol.1 No. 11

While California Dreams-Weekly Update Vol. 1 No. 11
A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 18, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond:

The budget continues to be the key issue for the state, although it appears not too many Californians are paying close attention to the deadlock and the governor has been unable to move his team one bit in the process. Presidential politics are heating up in the Golden State with the latest polls showing significant movement for the Hillary Clinton campaign. More and more initiatives are heading toward the ballot, with the announcement of numerous measures being introduced or out for signature gathering. But with the promise that the Legislature will be coming back this week, talks and issues will begin again in earnest…..maybe. If the legislative process does begin, healthcare will likely move front-and -center with other hot-button issues not far behind.
Here’s the scoop on this past week:

The Budget–Week Seven and Counting. Lots of pain, but no Gain:

Although the state’s ability to function has been seriously compromised by the lack of a budget, there is little compromise left in the legislature at the moment. The budget impasse is sadly, drawing less than overwhelming public concern, except to those directly impacted by the state’s inability to pay its bills for services and programs. Without the necessary outcry, there is little likelihood that we’ll see enough pressure exerted by the public to get much movement on this crisis. Although the numbers are subject to interpretation, the outcry, such as it is, comes primarily from those who are not being paid for their services or those who are unable to access those state-funded programs. The majority of Californians haven’t yet felt the impacts and aren’t willing to raise the heat to a high enough temperature to get this budget resolved. As the delay creates greater hardship, more voices will be raised and hopefully more effective pressure will force one of the “gang of 14” holdout Republican senators to break ranks and get the state back on track.
The belief is Sacramento is that the Rep leader, Dick Ackerman, was supposed to have stepped forward earlier in the month with that vote Unfortunately, somewhere short of the Senate floor he chickened-out. Although the ostensible “leader” of his pack, Ackerman has a history of being weak-kneed at critical times and rather than lead has been intimidated by his own caucus. It’s unfortunate because he’s “termed out” and is teetering on top of the heap as it is. The conventional wisdom is that no matter what happens, his position as Minority Leader will be over in very short order.
This week, the Governor made a half-hearted and clearly ineffective try at reigning in his flock. He returned from vacation by blasting Senate Republicans for the impasse. When that didn’t do anything other than harden their will, he decided to blame the Legislature as a whole. When that didn’t work, he just stopped appearing at all, and has done little, if anything to try to jump-start the discussions over the past several days. Hey Gov, one of your Senators is all it will take. What happened to those cigar nights in your tent? You might want to open the flaps and let some of the boys enjoy a $50 smoke on your dime and see if you can’t charm them with your Terminator tales. After all, it worked with the public.
One suggestion that just might work is removing the undemocratic 2/3rds requirement to get a budget. SInce the Reps abuse their once-a-year political power, maybe its time to cut them loose from the debate entirely. If they showed any sense of responsibility or good faith in negotiating, that would be one thing, However, this band of 14 right-wing neocons considers this budget debate just good sport. They are revelling in holding the state hostage.
It’s time to put an end to their antics. Heavens, even right-wing extremist Tom McClintock agrees on that plan!
Although a Field poll conducted this week shows that just 12% of Californians are very concerned about the budget mess, thousands of unpaid bills are clogging the inboxes of the state. It is estimated that millions of dollars in late fees are already piling up and billions of dollars in unsold bonds are jeopardizing the state’s plans to move forward with various programs. In addition to the $1 billion the state has now failed to make in Medi-cal payments to hospitals and other providers, Cal Trans estimates it has almost 35,000 invoices that are unpaid and more than $8 million owing to its vendors. For the California Highway Patrol, it’s about $17 Million. It goes downhill from there to those seeking payment.
And for those needing services, —the disabled, our kids and families who rely on state services, they’re really starting tofeel the pinch. Unfortunately, the Reps who are holding out are being heralded as heroes by their right-wing constituents. Sadly too many of them care little that the state is unable to provide much needed services to the neediest among us. As more vendors are unpaid and more small businesses are threatened, the cries will grow, even in the reddest of areas.
Much is being written on the stalemate-who it helps, who it hurts, but the only real question is who’s going to blink first? No one is quite sure, as the 14 hold-out Republicans want more cuts (they’ve already gotten the Governor’s commitment to do that) and the Dems are threatening to put the whole deal back on the table. But with them coming back from summer recess this week, perhaps there will be something that causes the deadlock to break. What it will be, if anything, is anybody’s guess…..
In the meantime, the Legislature is taking a big hit in its public support. While this should be of concern to the members who are hoping to extend their current terms with the so-called “Term Limits” initiative, the irony is that the more dissatisfaction with this group the greater the likelihood the term limits measure will pass, thus giving these same unpopular people more time to stay in office. In other words, the longer the budget delay, the greater the chances these legislators will have to extend the length of their terms, according to the latest polls. For more on this check out the Sac Bee.

Presidential Politics–Hillary breaking away from the pack:

With a new poll coming out this week, it looks like the Hillary machine has made significant progress in California, widening her lead to a 30 point advantage over her closest primary opponent, Barak Obama. Thanks to an effective early organization, led by California campaign manager, Ace Smith, the Hillary folks have put together an impressive early start. But don’t expect the Obama campaign to let this lead continue. It has just announced the hiring of s new California campaign director, Mitchell Schwarz who is, himself, a seasoned strategist. His past credentials include campaigns for Bill Clinton, Barbara Boxer and Antonio Villaraigosa. Look for this race to heat up soon. With California’s huge delegation at stake, all top-tier candidates will be fighting hard to win the February primary.

SB 840-Universal Health Care still in the news:

A very interesting development occurred this week that highlights the public support for Senator Sheila Kuehl’s bill to bring universal health care to California. A group of “non-profit” healthcare foundations led by Blue Shield of California Foundation, organized a townhall type event in 8 locations around the state. Titled, “CaliforniaSpeaks”, these groups spent about $4 million ostensibly to bring together randomly selected Californians to talk about healthcare reform. The event included Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders, among others and was designed to control the discussion by leaving out the single-payor option. But the public was not fooled and in fact INSISTED that SB 840 be discussed. Not only was it brought up as a viable option, when all was said and done, the majority of those in attendance supported SB 840 as the public’s choice for healthcare. For a great article on this, check out Senator Kuehl’s piece reprinted in the California Progress Report.
Other legislation to watch:
We’ve had several Speak Out California readers ask about gun-control legislation this year. If the legislative leaders withdraw their threats to hold up all legislation until a budget passes, we’ll likely see movement on AB 1471, a bill authored by Assemblymember Mike Feuer. This bill received a boost this past week when LA Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa and law enforcement leaders held a news conference in support of this measure. The bill ould make California the first state in the nation to require gun manufacturers to install a mechanism in new firearms that would stamp information on each bullet casing. The belief is that this “microscopic identification tag” would reduce violence and destroy the illegal gun market. For more on the bill, check out the LA Times article.

The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
Winning one for Consumers:
Victory over Alcopops
Civil Rights and Civil Unions:
It’s Time for Civil Unions- By Jackie Goldberg
Cleaning out the White House
Bye-Bye Rovie

We’ve fixed our spam problem, so we hope you’ll join in the discussion by feeling free to read and comment on these entries by going to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the legislative year winds down, with more on the flurry of initiatives cropping up. Many of them are quite dangerous, including one of the latest additions designed to hand the Presidential election to the Republicans in 2008. We’ll be doing alot more on them and other important political discussion to come. It is our goal to keep you on top of the key issues facing the state. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 10

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 11, 2007.
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond:
The budget continues along as the key issue for the state, with the Reps. continually moving the goalposts in their unsupportable effort to tie the state in knots to appease their egos and political bosses. The electronic voting machine situation has also heated up after Secretary of State Debra Bowen courageously pulled the plug on Diebold and Sequoia by announcing none of their machines will be permitted to count votes in the California elections next year. Other than that, the Legislature and Governor are just getting back from vacations so there is nothing to report on the legislative side. But who needs legislation when you have no budget with which to operate the 7th largest economy in the world? Anyway,
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Six and counting. The impasse seems to be headed in the wrong direction.
The obstinate privileged Republican white men of the Senate continue to posture and puff as they are experiencing essentially their first and only wiff of power. They continue to thwart their titular leader, the Gov, who is trying, however ineffectively, to end the holdout and get his budget passed. Of course, it might be more effective if Governor Schwarzenegger were in town, but he’s on vacation so he’s got his underlings working overtime in his absence. He’s scheduled to return this week and start public appearances to try to put pressure on his teammates to get this budget passed.
There are many who say the Governor has been marginalized as he can’t pull his team together and they don’t want to listen to him anyway. They’re bitter, emboldened and out-of-touch with the people. A nasty combination for so-called leaders, but with the ridiculously gerrymandered seats they got in the last redistricting, they’re pretty immune from caring about the public anyway. So, the impasse continues to devolve into personal name-calling and threats that no other business will be conducted in the legislature once the recess ends (August 20th ) if the stalemate continues.
Unfortunately, such a threat just plays into the Reps hands as the only really significant legislation on the table belongs to the Dems— things like healthcare, environmental protections for air quality in our ports, protection of worker’s rights…to name a very few of the things that are important to the Dems but the enemy of the Big Business bosses controlling the right-wing agenda. So this is a threat that needs to be revisited and likely revised. As it stands, it’s like saying to your children (and the Senate Reps are certainly behaving like children), that you’re going to punish them if they don’t clean up their rooms by not letting them do their homework. Wrong incentive.
Meanwhile, two long-term care facilities and the California Association of Health Facilities have filed suit against the state for failure to pay required medical reimbursements due for services rendered. So far, it is estimated that the state has missed $750 million in Medi-Cal payments to the state’s health care providers.
For an excellent summary of the status of this mess, check out Julia Rosen’s piece Working Californians.
One of the positive outcomes of this logjam should be the call for a reassessment of the 2/3rd vote requirement to pass a budget. As we’ve been saying all along at Speak Out California, this anti-democracy requirement puts us in the same status of just two other states—Arkansas and Rhode Islands. Although this ridiculous requirement has always been archaic, it’s even worse now with a bunch of ultra-conservatives finding a way to exercise power and ignore the will of the overwhelming majority of Californians and their representatives and governor. Simply put, the right-wing extremists are committed to bringing down government and the state. We cannot let them get away with that. For more on this, check out the posting “Obstinance or Principle” on our blog.
To try to kick-start the negotiations, Speaker Fabian Nunez has made it clear that should they have to go back to the drawing board, the Dems are putting their major concessions back on the table. Issues like the $1.3 billion cut from transportation; the delay in providing a cost of living adjustment for the elderly, disabled and poor in our state and other cuts in social services to our neediest people.
We’ve been talking about the fact that the Reps are trying to undermine CEQA – and get rid of one of the most important environmental laws in California all for the benefit of the BIA—The Building Industry of America, which funds virtually every one of the neo-con holdouts. After all is said and done, this turns out to be the sticking point (at least du jour).But modifying CEQA is a non-starter for both the Dems and the Gov. so we’re at a serious impasse that doesn’t look like it’s got an obvious resolution. Whatever that resolution is, though, it will have to include something to let the “gang of 14” save face. Not that they should be able to, given the world of hurt so many are now in because of them, but that’s the way the game is played.
So the question now is, what happens if the budget hasn’t been passed by the time the legislative year ends in mid-September? If that happens, it’s likely the Governor will call a special session to bring the Legislature back to get the budget passed. With the way things look at the moment, it’s either that or a quick recall election against that one hold-out keeping the state from getting back on track. Our current system is certainly no way to run a railroad!

California Secretary of State taking lots of flack for decertifying Diebold and Sequoia Voting Machines.

As we were putting out our weekly update last week, Secretary of State Deb Bowen had just announced her decision to de-certify the majority of the touch screen voting machines being purchased by the various County Registrars for use in next year’s three elections. We predicted that the state’s 58 independent County Clerk Registrars who don’t like the idea of anyone treading on their territory. would be ready for a major push-back against such edicts from higher-ups. But after receiving the results from credible UC experts, it was clear that the voting machines made by Diebold, Sequoia and Hart InterCivic are just not reliable. The findings were clear, although the naysayers insist they were unfair. But the integrity of our vote is the most important guarantee we have in a democracy. Voters are cynical enough about the process; for them to believe their votes don’t even get counted as they are cast, brings democracy to its knees. Secretary Bowen found accordingly.
Much of the problem lies squarely at the feet of these companies. They have consistently refused to provide access to their software, hiding behind the claims of trade secrets and proprietary interest. They have fought every effort to require open access and transparency necessary to assure the public that the equipment is not just hanging chads in a box-or worse (as we have seen over-and-over again).
The media has been mixed on this issue and on Secretary Bowen’s decision. Predictably, she’s been getting a lot of heat from the big cities, where the impact will be the greatest. For example, one out of every four votes statewide will be cast out of LA County in the 2008 election cycles where theyve purchased millions of dollars of these now decertified machines. But the grassroots is applauding her for holding tough. Interestingly, she’s also getting support and accolades from some of the inland communities where the issue of voting system integrity is apparently trumping financial concerns.
Initiatives and More Initiatives filling up the 2008 ballot.
We’ve got to hand it to the special interests in this state (often funded by outside interests that don’t give a rip about California). We’re now about to see additional ballot measures seeking to overturn the Indian Compacts supported by the Governor as millions start pouring in from race tracks, organized labor (unhappy with the provisions that make it very difficult for casino workers to organize) and now other rival tribes.
This week, rival tribes have committed to $1 million each to overturn the four compacts that will enable Southern California’s richest tribes to double (or more) the number of slot machines. It’s estimated that the battling sides will end up spending $20million on each of the four measures, for a cool $80 million.
A second ballot measure is now out for signature gathering addressing the eminent domain issue. This one is being sponsored by the League of California Cities, and the California League of Conservation Voters as a defensive measure to the more extreme pro-property rights measure that has apparently now qualified for the ballot. For more on this story, check out the Capitol weekly.
Of course, one of the most insidious is the measure now out for signatures for the June ballot intended to hand the presidency to the Republicans (if November, 2008 turns out to be a close election). The Reps are trying to break up California’s election from the traditional winner-takes-all that exists in almost all states, to one that gives each candidate a pro-rata portion. This would add a bunch of votes onto the Republican side that they wouldn’t otherwise get and possibly hand them enough electoral votes to win the Presidency in ’08. This one is nasty and the sign of desperate people who can’t stand the notion of democracy actually working as promised. Check out Speak Out California’s blog entries on this stealth attack on democracy. (See below).
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
Obstinance or Principle?
On trying to divide up California’s all-important 55 electoral votes
Trying to Steal the Presidency again!
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the summer pushes on. Although the Assembly is in recess for one more week, there is still lots going on in our great state and we’ll make sure you stay on top of those key issues. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 9

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 4, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond
The budget has clearly taken over as the top issue for the state, now that it’s well over a month late and a lot of key organizations and service providers are starting to experience a world of hurt. Hurting, too, are the voting machine companies that have taken their secrecy and deception to the end of the line with our Secretary of State courageously pulling the plug on these systems, to the consternation and cries of many (although not all) of the county clerks in the state.
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Five and counting. The impasse continues
Last week, I predicted the stalemate on the budget would end and that we’d finally see a budget enacted. I posited that the Gov would agree to meet his party’s absurd insistence that we cut even further into the budget to “balance” it, although it really contains a large surplus, plus prepayment of not-yet-due loans. Nevermind that balancing the budget wasn’t really what the Reps wanted. The Gov finally got his team into the “horseshoe” and promised he would use his powers to use his “line-item veto” power to cut most if not all of the “shortfall” as they demanded. But it turns out that isn’t what they really want after all. As the Gov put it, in a moment of pique and candor, “I don’t know what they want, I hope they know what they want.”
The long and short of it is that whatever they’re wanting now was not part of the deal they demanded (and got) and the Dems refused to have any part of it. Negotiating 101 says you after someone says yes to everything you ask for, you can’t then demand more –and expect to get that, too. So the Senate Dems have folded up their tent in total frustration,and gone home.
Although no one (including the Reps) really knows the answer to what they really want, there are certainly a number of solid theories none of which, sadly, has anything to do with the people of this state.
As we mentioned last week, there really isn’t a shortfall at all, but the Reps want to debilitate government and frankly, privatize the whole thing. Such a philosophy is great for their corporate sponsors, because it takes away the ability of government to watch over the mischief these big corporations are making, and hands important functions and services to the private sector where there is no public accountability or interest in the public good. The only concern for the corps and their CEO’s is more and more profit. So, if the Dems have capitulated (sadly) to the cuts that start hitting on bone and without any appreciable fat or even skin, what is the problem??
We mentioned last week that the Reps are trying to inject public policy into the budget by trying to shake down CEQA -and get rid of one of the most important environmental laws in California. This all for the benefit of the BIA—The Building Industry of America, that wants to build and build without regard for any environmental or quality-of-life consequences. Timm Herdt at the Ventura County Star has a good summary avalible here.

On this one, both the Gov and the Dems have said that they aren’t going there. It was not part of the budget discussion and was only brought up at the 11th hour, which is no way to negotiate a budget. It sets an unacceptable precedent and besides, the Dems believe they’ve already given too much as it is.
But as we’ve said, the Rep hold-out has little to do with the people of California and lots to do with egos and payback and watching your back. It’s payback for Arnold because the Reps think they’ve been disrespected by the Gov. See the article in the San Francisco Chronicle detailing this here. It’s testosterone running wild with the white, male Rep senators holding hands and pledging a blood oath not to give in…under fear of serious reprisal (read that as having a neo-con as a primary opponent in their next election). They’ve been nicknamed the Gang of 14 by the media. It’s also about the Rep leader, Dick Ackerman, deciding he likes having a big office and being called, “Mr. Leader” so he’s demonstrating he’s tough by refusing to consider the need for someone to act like a grownup on his side of the aisle and give the last vote necessary to get THEIR budget passed.
The Bottom Line: There’s no rational or logical reason this budget is being held up, but there is little doubt that the responsibility for it rests solely with the Gov and the Senate Reps. The Assembly Reps supported it; it’s the budget the Republican Governor called for and the Senate Dems are willing to suck it up and pass it to get the state moving again. There’s just no excuse.
It’s also about flame-thrower Tom McClintock finally finding a constituency with his incendiary rhetoric and blogging prowess and agitating the extremists of the state—and of his party, into a frenzy. Sadly, only one of the Reps has any modicum of sense or courage to buck the fanaticism of the anti-government groupies who are now barraging the Senate with threats and intimidation to hold-out…even if no one is quite sure what they’re wanting the weak-kneed Gang of 14 to hold out for?.
Doesn’t matter, though, because it is giving McClintock the chance to beat his chest and have someone pay attention to his destructive diatribes.
One lonely Republican, Abel Maldonado, got up on the floor of the Senate this week and said, Yes, I’m voting for OUR budget; it’s the budget we negotiated for, it’s what we wanted and I’m not going to continue beating my chest. It’s time to get this process over and done with for another year. The Rep response?
Well, we’re going to run someone even more conservative than you in your primary and beat you! Of course, in the District, this makes Senator Maldonado a hero, so I don’t think he’s particularly worried. What it does show, though, is how OUT OF TOUCH this band of conservatives is. They don’t hear the people, don?t care about the people, and just live in their little fantasy world of ultra-conservative districts so badly drawn by both the Reps and Dems back in 2002. The Sac Bee has a good article on this at.
California Secretary of State holds firm on Voting Machine Integrity
When Debra Bowen ran for Secretary of State, she ran on a platform of restoring integrity and confidence in the voting process. Although this may sound like an easy task, supported by one and all, it has been anything but. The county clerks and registrars of voters in many of the state’s 58 counties don’t want her treading on their sacred ground. Historically, the voting process has been under the singular domain of each county registrar. As an example of their commitment to maintaining their autonomy, they went after Kevin Shelley on 2005, after he made it clear he wanted to assure credibility and accuracy of these alleged (and now proven) unreliable vote counting machines. Of course, Shelley had other significant issues, but his insistence that the county folks play ball with him didn’t help him, either.
Secretary Bowen, on the other hand, has no such baggage. She does have, however, a strong independent streak of her own which, when coupled with her strong commitment to this issue and protecting against the hacking of voting equipment that many of us believe influenced the Presidential race in 2004 (think Ohio, in particular), makes her pretty formidable.
After commissioning a study to see whether the voting machine makers could provide a secure and accurate system, she is following the findings of University of California computer experts hired to see if they could hack into these systems. They could, and did, quite easily. They were able to change vote totals and manipulate the “security” in these machines. After a day of hearings this past week, where all this came out, she announced that she has decertified both the Diebold and Sequoia systems. Lots of fallout yet to come on this one, but for a preview check out this article at the Sac Bee, or for national implications check out this NY Times piece.
London Bridge Is Falling Down:
Most of us remember singing this song when we were children.
Little did any of us think that this might actually happen -at least not in the United States of America! But thanks to policies that reject investing in our infra-structure, or realizing that it takes money to maintain our roads, bridges, utilities, sewers, levees, buildings and other key systems and talk about taxes as though we were promoting the plague, we’re seeing in America deterioration of our infra-structure that we only believed could happen in third-world nations.
So here we are, somewhat stunned but sobered by the sights in Minneapolis of a bridge that fell down for no apparent reason– no earthquake, no explosion, no fire, no terrorists. It fell down through neglect and political negligence. Of course, the Bushies want us to believe it wasn’t on their watch, but in fact, it was. On Bush the First and then again in 2004 when Bush, Jr. threatened a veto of a measure that would ensure public money to invest in shoring up our aging infra-structure.
In California, we are reducing funds for transportation to appease the Reps, while learning that there are almost 3,000 bridges in the state that the federal government has identified as “structurally deficient.” Caltrans is now conducting emergency structural inspections of bridges in California that are built with steel trusses similar to those that failed in Minnesota this week. Click here for the story at the Sac Bee
While we certainly hope that similar events do not happen here—or anywhere else, this should be time to start an honest and intense discussion on just what our government can and should be doing to protect us from these kinds of avoidable tragedies—and the fact that we just might need to PAY for the kinds of services and construction that it takes to do so.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
The Governor’s Birthday Present-with love from his party
On global warming:
California Voters needed to help raise fuel efficiency and curb global warming
On voting machine manipulations:
Can We Count on Voting Machines to Count the Votes?
On our infra-structure concerns:
America is Crumbling
To read and comment on these entries, just go to:
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the summer pushes on. Although the Assembly is in recess, there is still lots going on in our great state and we’ll make sure you stay on top of those key issues. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 8

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending July 28, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond
While the budget continues to be the hot topic of the week in Sacramento and certainly the number one issue for the state, a number of other battles are brewing, especially on the Initiative and Referendum side of the electoral process. With California consistently on the cutting edge of controversy and innovation, several measures have been added to the potential ballot for next year, and some California cities are calling for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney:
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Four and counting. The impasse continues
Now that the Senate has had another week to posture and pontificate over the budget that the Assembly adopted the previous week (and then left town for a month), leaving the older and wiser Senators to duke it out, there seems little left to say. With that in mind, let’s look for the budget stalemate to be broken in the week ahead. Why the optimism?
Well, let’s see what the past week has wrought:
This debate exists on two levels. The first is the public/media debate where the Reps claim they must have a budget that balances this year. With a $145 billion budget, they insist there is a shortfall of an unacceptable $700 million.
The Dems say there is NO shortfall, and in fact, the bipartisan budget passed in the Assembly creates a $3.5 billion reserve. With a $4 billion surplus carrying over from 2006, that number is correct. The problem? The Reps don’t want to include the carry-over surplus in the calculations.
What they’ve proposed is to cut another $300 million in basic benefits to the poorest Californians, cut drug treatment programs, and delete even more from public transportation funds. It is, predictably, a heartless set of cuts that are consistent with their ideological views. For an excellent summary and commentary on the Republican counter-proposal presented this week, check out the LA Times here.
An additional and sinister demand has nothing to do with the budget, but everything to do with the environment and pandering, yet again, to their corporate sponsors. They are demanding modification of CEQA – the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA is one of the most important environmental laws in the state. The measure requires tough but appropriate protections for any development. The Reps (and their Big Developer financiers) hate the law and have been trying to do away with it for decades. This ploy won’t fly either.
But the subtext, or second level has to do with egos, politics and posturing.
The Reps wanted to express publicly their unhappiness with the Gov for not taking them more seriously. He didn’t want to play in their sandbox, so they’re feeling slighted (and properly so). Holding up the budget now becomes a mark on Schwarzenegger’s leadership, especially his inability to reign in his own party. Thus far, they’ve succeeded, and whatever few efforts Schwarzenegger has made have failed to dislodge the puny two votes he needs to get his party’s support. One, Abel Maldonado has already signaled he’s ready to vote “AYE” (by abstaining on the first go-rounds and not voting ” NO “). The question is: Who is the second vote? Are there any semi-“moderates” in the entire 15- MAN Republican Caucus? Apparently, the answer is, ” No “.
For an excellent article on the other games being played here, check out the The Roundup for July 26, 2007.
How will this all play out?
When the dust settles, the conventional wisdom is that the budget will pass and the Governor will use his “blue pencil” to line-item veto between $200 million (he’s already committed to that) and $500 million of the questionable $700 million the Reps claim is still out-of-whack. There will be some other little concessions to the Reps to save face, and the state will, yet again, have a foolish budget that doesn’t solve its fundamental problems.
With the Assembly in recess, there is little to report on the legislative front, but as we promised, much to be said in other areas.
The latest at the California Air Resources Board/Global warming.
New California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols came out swinging in her first week on the job. She announced that tough, new first-in-the-nation rules have now been adopted requiring construction companies to retrofit or replace their diesel-powered bulldozers, scrapers and other heavy construction equipment over the next 13 years. Finally, California is making a serious effort to reduce the particulate matter (soot) that scientists say is responsible for an estimated 1100 premature deaths, more than 1,000 hospitalizations and tens of thousands of asthma attacks in California each year.
Not only will public health be directly affected-and improved, but greenhouse gasses(which are a by-product of fuel burning) will also drop with the ban on idling equipment.
California Clamoring for Presidential Impeachment?
Well, maybe a bit premature, but nonetheless the drumbeat is growing louder here in California, with the City of West Hollywood being the first city in Southern California to support issuance of Articles of Impeachment for the President and Vice-President, joining other cities in California and around the nation.
For more on this story, check out West Hollywood Mayor John Duran’s blog entry.
Voting Machine Test Results finally in
When Debra Bowen ran for Secretary of State, she campaigned heavily on insuring the security of our voting process. After it was so clear that hacking and machine manipulations played heavily in the 2004 Presidential election, the integrity of our votes has become a critical issue in California and the nation itself.
The long-awaited test results were released this week by Secretary of State Bowen and to the surprise of few, the findings support the concerns about how vulnerable voting machines are to hackers and others wanting to manipulate the vote count. With national implications as well, the story is just unfolding. See the NY Times article here.
Initiatives to watch out for
Rejecting the Expanded the Indian Gaming Contracts:
There’s something about a Friday afternoon in mid-summer that brings out the more interesting “under the radar” news. But not this time. Today, four separate referendum measures were filed with the Attorney General’s Office by labor unions and the horse racing industry to invalidate the recently-signed tribal gaming pacts that would expand slot machines at four of the largest and richest tribal casinos in Southern California. It is expected that more than $20 million will be spent in support and opposition to EACH of these four measures. The LA Times has a story on this here. Stay tuned to this slugfest, as the predictions are that they could overshadow the Presidential candidates spending in February.
Term Limits/Expansion Initiative:
No matter what you call it, or whether you support it or not, the “term limits” or “term extension” initiative folks have submitted over 1.1 million signatures to qualify the measure on the February ballot. This is far more than required, so it’s a safe bet this issue will come before the voters again during the Presidential primary election campaign. Although the proponents in Sacramento have accumulated lots of cash for the effort, it’s still a long shot for passage. While the title and summary provided by AG Jerry Brown is favorable to those who are proposing the Initiative, there will be plenty of push-back from the opposition, assuring this will be a hotly- contested and ugly battle where both sides will be bashing government and politicians to prove their respective points!
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
GOP Budget For California Found in President Bush’s Colonoscopy
Budget Crunch Time- Who is Asking the Tough Questions?

On Impeachment:
West Hollywood Calls for Impeachment
To read and comment on these entries, just go to www.speakoutca.org/weblog
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the summer pushes on. Although the Assembly is in recess, there is still lots going on in our great state and we’ll make sure you stay on top of those key issues. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 7

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending July 21, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond
The Budget — week three but with an end in sight???
This is the week that the budget discussions heated up to the boiling point and the Assembly, for the first time in recent memory, beat the Senate to the punch by passing a budget and closing up shop for its annual Summer recess. Usually it’s the Senate that passes the budget first and heads out-of-town, leaving the Assembly holding the bag. Not so this time!
Unfortunately, as we send this out to you, the Senate has ungraciously failed to finalize its vote so we’re simply not able to give you much more than where the budget is now. But the Legislature has never been appreciative of press/blog deadlines — even for this former colleague who’s trying to give our readers the story on how California plans to spend $140 billion during the next fiscal year.
What we do know is this:
The Assembly passed a budget at 4:30 a.m. on Friday morning by a vote of 56 to 23. If you are wondering how in the world anyone can be clear-headed at that hour, I can tell you from experience that most members haven’t much focus on what they’re voting on at that hour. They certainly don’t know what is included in the last minute “trailer” bills. They’re actually limited to relying on the work of the Legislative Counsel’s Office to draft what they think the deal is that must be reflected in the budget bills that are passed.
The Budget bill itself gave the Republicans about $1.4 billion of the $2 billion in cuts they were demanding in order to vote for the budget. They succeeded by removing over $1.2 billion in public transit funding. If this feels like we’re moving backwards on the global warming and smog issues we have in this state, you’re right.
Additional “savings” are coming in the form of delaying cost-of-living adjustments for the aged, blind and disabled. This means that the weakest and neediest among us won’t see any increases in their measly support until May of 2008, rather than starting in January. This should make the Republican leadership very proud.
Another proud accomplishment for the Reps must be the reduction of funding for Proposition 36 — the drug rehabilitation programs that the voters of California overwhelmingly supported as a way to reduce the incarceration (and thus cost) of putting non-violent drug offenders in prison for their addictions. The voters, with much better vision and common sense, passed an initiative to try treatment and rehabilitation first before incarceration, a policy not only more humane, but likely to create enormous savings. Unfortunately, this program has never been properly funded, so the Reps want us to fund it even less. Not smart and not even good politics.
On the bragging rights portion of this budget, the deficit was reduced down to $700 million for the upcoming year and a $3.4 billion reserve was established, purportedly making this the largest reserve in several decades. The Assembly also added $2.5 billion in early bond repayments, over $1 billion more than the Governor had requested.
To the education community, K-12 will be fully funded. Unless the Senate comes through, however, the Governor will have succeeded in adding back the truly absurd standardized testing of seven-year-olds If you haven’t already sent a letter to members of the State Senate to demand they remove this requirement from the budget, click here and sign our action alert. Since the Senate is still debating the issue, there is still time to tell them it is wrong to force seven year olds to take this test. For more on this issue, see Jackie Goldberg’s blog
No Second Grade Testing for our Children!.
So educational funding has been protected and it is always good to pay down the debt and save for a rainy day. However, this year it was done at the expense of the poorest and neediest. But none of this matches the outrageous and shameful effort to provide tax credits to some of the wealthiest businesses and industries. This last minute and previously unmentioned Republican-generated boondoggle came as a surprise to many legislators and political observers, as it had never even been discussed before it showed up in the budget’s trailer bills. It seems that a separate “trailer” bill came out of the clear blue providing a package of five tax credits to out-of-state corporations doing business in California.
The movie industry was also included as part of this “sweetener” to get Republican support for the budget — it will change the way the tax obligations of many national corporations are computed. Estimated cost to the state and savings to the big business interests from out-of-state: $600 million a year! Will we ever learn that corporations have to pay taxes, just like the rest of us — or are we going to turn our heads while the rich get even more gluttonous and greedy? To make this even worse, these tax breaks were acceptable while the Reps successfully insisted again on sacrificing again $185 million in teacher tax credits.
The good news is that the Senate leadership announced these $600 Million per year of goodies as going nowhere. Senate President Don Perata said they wouldn’t even put this idea up for a vote. However, the main budget bill has now been voted on in the Senate — with all Dems going up on it and no Reps. Thus, the stalemate at the moment is that no Republicans will support the budget as passed by the Assembly, and therefore the 2/3 requirement needs two votes to pass.
As we send this week’s version of “While California Dreams”, the Senate has announced its intention to work through the weekend until it passes the budget. At this moment, all the Dems have voted “aye” without a single Rep vote, so it’s looking like an impasse since Senator Perata says he’s through negotiating and it’s time for the Reps to put up their votes.
With all efforts focused on the budget, and with proposed legislation having had its deadline last week, there is little to report in the way of legislative activity; instread, we’ll take a look at a few other key highlights on the political front that we’ve been following.

Global Warming and implementation of AB 32.

This was the week of the Senate’s confirmation hearings for Mary Nichols, nominated by the Governor to serve as head of the California Air Resources Board. The key issue for the Dems is whether she’ll implement AB 32 as written, or try to inject the Governor’s will that ignores the requirement that strong and effective regulations be proposed and adopted before we start playing cutesie with the free marketeers love affair with “cap and trade”. That fancy phrase allows big polluters to continue polluting by buying pollution credits from companies that have reduced their polluting below their allowed amounts. It’s actually a zero sum game, and we’re not going to put a serious dent in the global warming problem as long as we seek this approach first.
Many of us who have watched this Governor and don’t trust him to keep his word were concerned that he would renege on his commitment to honor the tough regulatory approach. He confirmed our fears when he fired the former, very highly respected Chair of the CARB. Predictably, highly-respected Ms. Nichols assuaged the concerns of Democratic leaders in the Senate when she reaffirmed CARB’s commitment to set new regulations as its top priority. Now it’s up to her to deliver as promised. We’ll be watching to see if she’s allowed to do her job or the Governor will interfere yet again with this important work. For more on this story, see the San Francisco Chronicle article here.
The Judiciary
Another interesting item on this front comes from the Legislature’s minority caucuses which were trying to delete funding for new judges from the budget. Their reason for this rather hostile move? It seems that the governor has a pretty poor record on appointing judges reflective of the state’s diverse population.
Recent appointments followed a similar pattern that the Governor has established during his tenure. With 260 judicial appointments, he’s appointed 8.5% Latinos, 4.6% Asian Americans and 5.8% African Americans. Since the population of the state is comprised of 44% whites, 35% Latinos, 12% Asians and 6.7% African American (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), the minority caucuses argue there is a strong need to make the judiciary more reflective of that diversity.
The problems? According to the Judicial Councel, more than 70% of the state’s judiciary is white and close to 73% is men. While the Governor has acknowledged a paltry record on reaching parity, he cites the fact that almost 85% of California attorneys are white and and almost 67% are male. Another source of the Governor’s problems is that he, like his predecessors, prefers to appoint prosecutors to the bench. Of his recent 26 appointments, 17 were former prosecutors.
Although the debate is unlikely to hold up the budget now that it’s in the Senate, it is a subject that has been closely watched by women’s organizations and the communities of color. This debate will continue long after the budget discussions to determine whether the Governor will try to make the face of the justice system look more like the face of California.

Initiatives to watch out for

We’ve been following possible initiatives for next year, another sneaky and dishonest possibility emerges from the bowels of Big Businesses’ dislike of accountability. This one is being explored by the mis-named Civil Justice groups, a real front for the oil and tobacco industries, the car manufacturers, drug companies and other self-serving behemoths who don’t want the little guy to have the ability to sue them for producing dangerous products, violating environmental, labor or other workplace protections. This one deserves to be tanked before it’s qualified for the ballot, but with the billions of dollars these companies have raked in from their sleazy business practices, they’ll likely get this on the ballot for June 2008–you know, the election where the people won’t be paying attention as they seek a breather from the February Presidential primary and the November Presidential election. For more on this Big Business effort to beat up some more on the little guy, go to our blogpost of July 20th by clicking here
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
No Second Grade Testing for Children– plea by former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg to stop the inhuman practice of requiring standardized testing of 7 year olds
The Big Corporate Bullies are at it Again— The effort by Corporate Fat-cats to reduce their accountability for their bad behavior.
Lightblueline: Sending out an SOS— One community’s creative response to the Global Warming challenge in Al Gore’s terrific An Inconvenient Truth
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the legislature finalizes the budget that will direct California’s priorities for the coming year. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 6

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending July 14, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond
Budget Countdown Day 14 and still no budget in sight. With time starting to pressure for action, the war of words is heating up, although it doesn’t appear that beyond the temperature in Sacramento, much else is percolating. For a more detailed analysis, check out our weblog entry here.
In order to stir the pot, or maybe even get the Reps off-the-dime, the Speaker has indicated he’ll be putting the budget up for a vote next week-an old ploy to flush out the opposition and make them account to the public for their unwillingness to negotiate a resolution. During this year, in particular, they’ve been unwilling to publicly identify the cuts they’ve apparently presented to the Dems. IN SECRET, sounding more and more like their Bush administration leaders in Washington who think they can do everything in secret as well. But this is California, where we love our sunshine!
For more on this story, check out the Sac Bee editorial here.
On other fronts, there have been a number of highlights (or low-lights, depending on your perspective). The Environment faired pretty well, with global warming and air pollution bills moving forward. Health care was a mixed bag with Universal Healthcare still on the table, the compromise approach of AB 8 continues to move as the leaders of both houses are keeping the pressure on. Unfortunately, though, the very important stop-gap measure by Assemblymember Dave Jones was defeated by an incredible push by the health-denial industry so efforts to force providers to justify further increases in premiums will have to wait another day (actually another year, at least—absent a miracle or two).
This was also the week that the spay-neuter bill met its demise and the talk of nuclear power reared its questionable head in the political arena, yet again.
So, here’s the story:
Health care for all?- and other more modest proposals:
With Senator Kuehl’s SB 840, the true reform measure of the year having advanced another step last week, this week highlighted the lesser but still reform-minded bill, AB 8 which is authored by Senate Leader Perata and Assembly Speaker Nunez. After 2 hours and 50 or so witnesses later, the measure passed on a party-line (no surprise there). The bill is being touted as a landmark bill that will overhaul our state’s $186 Billion health care system. In doing so, it would extend medical insurance coverage to 3.4 million working Californians by requiring employers without health plans to pay a 7.5% payroll tax to buy insurance for all its workers. Employees would be required to put in 4.5% of their income as a match. Of course, when all is said and done, it still keeps the insurance industry alive and well and taking out lots of money that would otherwise go to provide health care, not health insurance. But until we’re willing to buck up and create a Medicare-for-all type program, this has some legs and hopefully some benefit to the millions of Californians without any health insurance or access to adequate health care. This one will end up in a “Conference” where the Gov. will put forward his still orphaned plan. Not surprisingly, no Reps. will support any of these discussions. It’s the same old song—just another “job-killer” with the current Republican leadership demonstrating, sadly, that it is only interested in protecting its big corporate owners/donors.
As mentioned above, Assemblymember Dave Jones’ AB 1554, known as “The Insurance Company Accountability Bill” came up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday, July 11th. Although an important consumer protection bill, two key Dems refused to vote for this measure that would allow the for-profit insurance industry to continue charging its current rates, but require they justify any rate increases and get permission from an oversight agency before doing so. Again, no Reps. would consider challenging their big corporate donors, so that’s a given they voted “no.” This is all, sadly, just another example of the power of money when it comes to deciding whether to protect the big boys or the People. With no Reps anywhere in sight, unless the Dems stay together, good policy will continue to falter.
This one might have to go to an Initiative as it models another important insurance reform measure that did back in 1988—and which now sees rate regulation with the giant auto insurance industry. For more on this discussion and a couple interesting studies that just came out this week on the impacts of health care reform, click here.
The Environment has a good week, with Global Warming and implementation of AB 32 bills moving forward.
Sometimes good things come out of bad. With Schwarzenegger reeling from his manipulations of the State’s Air Resources Board (CARB) work on global warming regulations, suddenly greater scrutiny is being placed on the finer points of putting together the tools necessary to make this all more than just a PR play by the Gov.
With attention now clearly drawn to the Senate’s Democratic bill package of legislation focusing on climate change and its effects on California, Senators Kehoe, Lowenthal and Simitian were able to move forward their bills to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and coordinate state planning for climate change. Frank Russo has a good summary of the successes on his California Progress Report of July 10,2007 here.
SB 412- The LNG Market Assessment Act by Senator Joe Simitian
For those of us closely watching the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) debate closely, an important measure continues to wind its way gingerly through the legislative process.
SB 412 would require the California Energy Commission (CEC) to prepare an assessment of the LNG market in California to determine whether all the hoopla and corporate enthusiasm for building more LNG here is actually warranted. With a number of very enthusiastic energy companies ready to start building terminals and other infrastructure as soon as the state gives them the OK, the question yet to be answered is whether we need them at all. Seems like a reasonable preliminary question, but companies like PG&E and Mitsubishi, among others would rather make the claims, build the facilities and not bother with that fundamental question.
Given environmental and public safety concerns, it would seem most prudent—and logical to know whether we should even be investing in such projects in the first place. There are health and safety concerns that go along with building these massive plants, so before going all out, how about answering that question first? Seems like a good, solid and responsible notion. Let’s see how it goes from here.
The Rest of the Story
The Governor signs the Indian Slot machine deals:

Should be interesting to see if the promise of billions ($13.4- 22.4 billion to be exact), coming into state coffers over the next 25 years actually materializes
I’m not a gambler, so I’ll leave that bet to those who are, but I wouldn’t put a whole lot of money on it, either. In addition, the Unions are threatening to run an Initiative blocking the tribes’ casino expansion plans because the deals don’t provide worker protections for hotel, casino and hospitality workers.
Spay/neuter bill dies in the Senate:
With an estimated 20,000 letters and emails from both sides, this bill generated more public engagement than any other bill so far this year. Added to the drama was the star power that each side used to support its position. Those in support of this mandatory program (complete with large fine for failure to spay/neuter ones pets) brought in Bob Barker from The Price Is Right to present their position. (I can’t help but wonder if his name had anything to do with his selection?. After all, there are lots of Animal Rights folks in the entertainment industry?. Why select a guy with the name “Barker”?)
Not to be outdone, the anti-mandatory spay/neuter folks countered with none other than Lassie herself (or at least the 9th generation of same). My favorite photo of the year in Sacramento is here where Lassie is caught yawning while sitting at the Senate hearing where she was on display. Out the mouths of babes?and dogs!

Possible Initiatives for 2008

Last week we offered a “heads up” on a new initiative dealing with eminent domain—which allows the government to seize (and compensate) for taking property for legitimate public purposes.
This week the Assembly Republicans are talking about putting up an initiative that will lead to restarting the nuclear power industry. They’re out trying to get signatures to remove the bans against most nuclear power construction that have been in place in this state for decades. Using a very fancy and somewhat misleading caption ( that shouldn’t be much of a surprise) they’re calling it the “California Zero CO2 Emissions Electrical Generation Act of 2008.” Behind this fancy name is an effort to start building more nuclear power plants. Of course, not much has changed in terms of problems with these plants and generating nuclear energy. Sure they’re non-carbon producing, but we still haven’t figured out how to safely get rid of the nuclear waste they create and what a nice target they present for possible terrorists and other evil-doers!
Under the guise of stopping global warming, they’re hoping to hoodwink us into repeating the folly. We’ll keep a careful look at this one as well.
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve offered some interesting blogposts dealing with:
What’s Happened to the California Dream?
Are Charter Schools the Answer?
The Budget Stalemate-Week Two
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the legislature continues taking up bills and slogging its way through the budget morass with an intractable opposition party that has a mantra but few ideas to help overcome the impasse. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team