While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 5

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending July 7, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
past week and beyond
Budget Countdown Day 7 and still no budget in sight. In fact, there haven’t been any meetings of the Big Five, at least that have been made public and you know they’d be doing major photo ops. showing the Big Boys strutting down the hallway smiling if they were. So, with lots of anxious vendors and state workers hoping for some success before their next pay checks are due,
Here are some of the highlights:
Health care for all?- and other more modest proposals:
SB 840 Senator Kuehl’s Health Care for All
Having passed the Senate, this measure had its first opportunity in the Assembly where it was heard and passed by the Assembly Health Committee, predictably on party lines. Seems the Reps (and the Gov.) are too tied at the hip with the Insurance Industry to break ranks and support what the majority of Californians want by way of health care.
Nonetheless, Michael Moore’s Sicko which had its US premier in Sacramento just a few weeks ago, to much fan-fare and buzz, is creating quite a stir in the political world as the public is demanding reforms to America’s healthcare system. Moore has successfully raised the issue and the question “Why is a country that spends more on healthcare than any other nation in the world unable to take care of its sick?”
The word is that Senator Kuehl’s SB 840 will be approved by both houses and head to the Governor’s desk again where he has said he will veto the measure again. He will continue with the same right-wing mantra (and industry developed rhetoric) that is designed to inflame and mislead the public. The real question, of course, is why should the private, for-profit insurance industry be taking 30% of every insurance premium dollar when the government can make sure everyone has health care for about 10%-like it does with the highly successful Medicare and Veterans healthcare programs? Of course, we know why…because the Insurance industry is among the Gov’s and the Republicans chief campaign contributors. But the public is ready to pounce so we’ll keep an eye on this.
In addition, Assemblymember Dave Jones’ AB 1554, the insurance company accountability bill comes up for a vote in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, July 11th. AB 1554 still allows the for-profit insurance industry to continue to charge at its current rates, but will require they justify any rate increases and get permission from an oversight agency before doing so. Obviously, this idea has engendered the wrath of the health insurance industry. They do not want to be regulated and certainly don’t want the kind of oversight the public created with auto insurance back in 1988 with Proposition 103. So expect lots of backroom arm-twisting on this as it works its way through the process.
AB 8—the recently merged measure of Senator Perata and Speaker Nunez is also set for hearing this coming week. Although this measure doesn’t make the structural changes necessary to achieve real reform, it does attempt to compromise with the Gov. who insists that the insurance industry remain a big profit-player in this game. It is also in this bill that the Governor is most likely to have a say at the end of the day, since it is likely to head to a “Conference Committee” where Schwarzenegger can put his highly paid staff to work. With the power of the leaders of both houses behind it, this bill will continue moving forward.
Global Warming and implementation of AB 32.
And speaking of his highly paid staff, it seems that they’ve been quite meddlesome recently. As we reported last week (See While California Dreams- Volume 1 Issue 4), the firing of the head of the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) created a real P.R. nightmare for our putative “Green” governor. While circling the globe hyping himself as the One who has tamed the Global Warming crisis, it turns out that he’s been trying to backdoor the highly suspect “cap-and-trade” concept rather than seriously reduce greenhouse gas emissions through strict regulation.
This past week, in a rare Friday gathering, the Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing to determine whether the allegations of potentially illegal and improper meddling by the Governor’s staff were accurate. Of note, only Dems. were in attendance (the Reps had all gone home, probably for their regular Friday morning golf games). While requesting that his top aides (the ones accused of the meddling) appear, the Gov. sent a couple underlings who have no first-hand knowledge of anything, including where Arnold’s smoking tent is located. In fact, they weren’t even from the Governor’s office. This nose-thumbing by Arnold prompted both the Speaker and Natural Resource Chair Loni Hancock to threaten issuing subpoenas to get Susan Kennedy and Dan Donmeyer, the alleged culprits to testify under oath to find out if they were attempting to pressure the Board and like the members of the Bush cabal, trying to substitute politics for science. No decision yet, but the whole thing has created a black-eye for the Governor.
Trying to invoke damage control, he quickly announced the appointment of long-time environmentalist Mary Nichols as the new head of the CARB.
With impressive credentials ranging from service to the Clinton, Brown and Davis adminstrations, there is little doubt that she is qualified to direct this important work. The major question is whether the Governor will let her and the other board members do their job instead of continuing to interfere and micro-manage the agencies work in setting serious and effective regulations to reduce global warming as mandated by AB 32.
For more on this, see the Sac Bee story at: http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/261050.html and Frank Russo’s post at
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/
Eminent Domain issues coming back
In the November, 2006 election, a sneaky and regressive measure was placed on the ballot by a notorious right-wing Billionaire named Howard Rich. He’s a developer who lives in New York but has been trying to affect what happens in our state (and many others) for several years. Last year it was Proposition 90, an initiative he funded which would have destroyed many of our environmental protections and zoning laws by requiring the government to compensate just about anyone for not being able to build just about anything anywhere they wanted. For example, if someone bought a corner lot or a piece of open-space land in a residential area and wanted to put in a smelting plant, but zoning laws prohibited such, the government would have to pay them for the lost benefits of that endeavor. Crazy you say. Yup. And he’ll be back with this effort, although with a somewhat watered-down next year. Watch for it being sponsored by the Jarvis Taxpayers Association and coming to you in the June, 2008 election, when no one will be watching.
With the key primary election having been moved to February 2008 for the Presidential race, the less compelling (but still important) legislative races will be relegated to what will be perceived by the public as a minor election but one where potentially policy-altering measures will be passed as Initiatives while the public is asleep at the wheel. This one is an unabashed right-wing power grab so expect a lot of out-of-state money to come into California from Howard Roth and his ilk. What they can’t do through the front door to eviscerate land use and environmental protections, they’ll try to accomplish with their multi-millions of developer dollars while we aren’t paying attention. This is the down-side of moving our Presidential primary to February.
To try to limit its impact, however, Assemblymember Hector De La Torres introduced ABA 8, a constitutional amendment that would avoid the few instances of abuse that can occur under existing law. His measure would prohibit government exercise of its power of eminent domain to seize owner-occupied residential units by cities and redevelopment agencies. But eminent domain, when applied as intended, is a valuable tool for local jurisdictions to clean up blighted areas and generate commerce and economic development.
This measure requires a two-thirds vote. Unfortunately, a few extremists on the Republican side are bullying their colleagues into holding a party line in opposition to this compromise,thereby reducing the likelihood of it passing. But this is an important, although somewhat unexciting topic so we’ll be following it closely as it moves through the legislature and onto the ballot-one way or another.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve had several diverse blogposts dealing with:
Speaking plainly- a look at the recurring language debate over English only
Happy Birthday to our once and future America- quotes that embody the promise
of a just and grand vision for our country
Has the US officially reinstated racism in our schools? Jackie Goldberg deconstructs the Supreme Court decision weakening/overturning Brown v. Board of Education
An Inspired Week for Conservatives- a look at the extreme right turn of the Supreme Court
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

While California Dreams- Volume 1. No.4

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending June 30, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
past week and beyond
With the prospects of meeting the July 1st budget deadline all but dead, the Legislature and Governor have been focused on other distractions. Much of the activity this week is more interesting for its intended or unintended future consequences than any actual victories or defeats-except that the budget will NOT come in on time. As we’ve said in prior posts and updates, that shouldn’t be the criteria for what is IN the document, but that discussion is too complex to sustain the interest of most voters. As a Sac Bee blogger so eloquently put it, “They can’t never (sic) seem to pass the budget on time.”
Here are some of the highlights:
The Budget-Our state’s moral document
Once again, the deadline for passage will be missed, but not for lack of trying by the Dems. They’ve tried to meet the Gov more than halfway on his proposal, but with him out of the country and posturing with the French and Brits, there wasn’t much pressure on the legislative leadership, the so-called “Big Four” to reach agreement in his absence.
Of course, the Gov. may have known something the rest of us, who would at least like to see an appearance of an effort to meet the deadline, didn’t know-that the Reps aren’t playing on his team at all. The Republicans took this week to demonstrate, yet again, their insensitivity and unwillingness to reach agreement unless and until cuts are made to those rarely likely to vote for them-the elderly, blind, disabled and poorest Californians.
In this case, the die was cast when they refused to agree to a $10.5M cost override in the sparsely funded but critically important foster care programs for the state. This money was to provide transitional housing for some of the state’s 75,000 foster kids after they turn 18. That decision means these hard-luck kids will be more likely than not to be living on the streets or going to prison- a grim choice for which the Reps can take credit.
Now the game of who’s to blame emerges from the Caucus rooms with the Reps repeating their mantra that we’ve got to balance the budget (on the backs of the elderly and disabled). Of course, they’ve refused year-after-year to save the poorest and neediest from cuts by refusing to close corporate and yacht loopholes that would achieve the same balance but not at the expense of our most vulnerable.
We’ll keep watching this dance unfold as the pressure starts to mount as the month of July wears on and government vendors stop being paid. I suspect the Gov will put on his white hat and try to save the day-assuring that he comes out looking the best in all this. For more on the budget story, go to: http://sacbee.com/111/story/249788
The Tribes vs. The Unions
As we predicted last week, this interesting battle exploded this week with the Assembly signing off on new “Compacts” that will allow four of the richest tribes in Southern California to add up to17,000 new slot machines at their casinos. Although the unions attempted to require concessions from the tribes that would allow workers the right to organize, the tribes refused to concede this point and the Dems (along with all the Reps, of course) capitulated. With an embarrassingly weak attempt to save face with some non-binding conditions thrown in at the end of the debate, gambling in California continues to grow and expand.
For more on this story, check out Capitol Weekly at http://www.capitolweekly.net/news/article.html?article_id=1557.
Labor had its own victory this week, with its candidate, Laura Richardson defeating the tribe’s choice, Jenny Oropeza for the Long Beach area Congressional seat vacated by the death of Juanita Millender-McDonald. In spite of an almost $500,000 independent expenditure campaign by the tribes, this was an example of door-to-door politics trumping mailers and brochures, especially given the low-turnout for the election. With over 240,000 registered voters, only about 11% bothered to vote. This is shameful, especially with the increased use of absentee voting. Regardless, Richardson will go off to Congress after the August “run-off” and Oropeza stays in the State Senate. Where this all leads in the ever-escalating battle between the tribes and the unions is anyone’s guess. Most Sacramento insiders believe that this will continue to play out and have some ugly consequences in the upcoming 2008 elections.
Global Warming and implementation of AB 32.
A very interesting development happened at the end of this week, with the Gov firing the head of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The story is murky at best-with the Gov saying Robert Sawyer wasn’t aggressive enough and Sawyer saying it was the Gov. who sabotaged his efforts to make those first global warming regulations stronger and more expansive. I’d put my money on Sawyer’s version as we’ve seen over-and-over again this Governor talking tough but acting like a corporate shill on global warming and other environmental issues he’s supposed to be championing. For more on this story, check out http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-air29jun29,1,902444.story?coll=la-headlines-california.
What Californians think about
An interesting poll was released this week by the well-respected Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) which does great work taking the pulse of the state on a variety of issues. This poll focused on what Californians see as the most important issue facing the state (Immigration) and how they feel about it. Even though this is a federal issue and the state’s role is very limited, at best, 25% of all residents believe this is the state’s top issue, with the economy (at 11%) and healthcare (at 8%) coming in a distant second and third.
So what did the poll find on the subject? Interestingly, in spite of all the noise and vitriol, 74% of Californians agreed that those who have been in the country illegally for at least two years should be allowed to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status. A full 63% support the temporary guest worker program proposed in the now-defunct federal immigration bill.
With the demise of the measure in Congress this week, however, the whole immigration fiasco will put increasing pressure on California to do something, regardless of the fact that we don’t have the jurisdiction to do much. For more on this poll, go to
http://ppic.org/main/pressrelease.asp?p=693
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week
During the past week, we’ve had several interesting blogposts dealing with:
Public Education-Is anyone in charge here?
Empowering California’s Youth
Are you Contributing to Republicans when you buy a car?
To read and comment on these entries, just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
We’ll be watching and reporting on the many issues, including the not-on-time budget, as they unfold over the next several days. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you to 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 Iss.3

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending June 23, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond:
With far less fanfare than Michael Moore’s visit and screening of his compelling and tear-jerking expose on the disastrous state of our health care system in this country, the Capital returned to its less frenzied but still intense efforts on a variety of measures that are either time-sensitive or political hot-potatoes to be dealt with.
Here are some of the highlights:
Health Care- (not the real deal)
Although most Californians would like to see a universal-type system similar to Senator Kuehl’s SB 840, neither the Governor nor the legislature is giving up on a modified system that maintains a health-insurance based program. Late this past week, the leaders of the Senate, Don Perata, and Assembly, Fabian Nunez, stood together and announced they had merged into one bill the elements of competing measures they had introduced earlier this year. They are touting this measure as:

“extending health insurance to millions of Californians who have none and institute fundamental reforms to expand coverage and rein in spiraling medical costs. It features shared responsibility among employers, individuals, reinvested state dollars, and new federal funds.”

While the Gov. is getting most of the press on this subject, with his measure that calls for extracting additional sums for the various stakeholders, including doctors and hospitals, the amusing word-game stumping the Gov is whether his idea (which isn’t in any bill, so it really isn’t more than his wish list) constitutes a “tax” or a “fee”. If it’s a tax, then his ideas, if incorporated into the next iteration of this compromise, will require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature (no Reps will report for duty on that one) or whether it’s a fee it won’t require their votes. The semantic game is well documented by John Myers in his Capital Notes (See thursday’s offering).
For more information on the details of w hat is included in the actual legislation Perata and Nunez are carrying now and how this is all shaking out. Check out the Sacramento Bee article.
On the budget
This dance continues, with the Gov. washing his hands of any arm-twisting power he has by taking a European excursion, ostensibly to sell California to our friends in England and France, among others. Guess there’s more publicity to be gained there than trying to hammer out the necessary compromises at home. Oh well, when your popularity rating is in the 60’s and you’re the Terminator, you can get away with abandoning your post and putting all the responsibility and heavy lifting on the other parties whose popularity remains in the cellar.
Seems the Dems and Reps are playing P.R.games, with the Dems saying they’re close to a budget and the Reps saying yes and then no. Of course, what’s in the budget should be of greater concern than meeting the deadline. But it’s much easier for the public to put its collective arms around the failure to meet the deadline than the priorities being included in the discussion. The budget is complicated and decisions about whether to fund foster care, gang violence, medi-care reimbursement rates for Planned Parenthood and other community care clinics (see weblog entries of May 2nd and May 29th) require considered thought and participation, something we’re sadly lacking in political discourse today.
The list goes on and on at dizzying speed and import. It takes very little energy or brain-power to focus on a deadline and that’s what the buzz is all about at the moment.
Of course, the legislature wants the term-limits initiative to pass, needing an “on-time” budget to persuade the public that they’re not so bad after all, so meeting the deadline would probably be a fair bet this year, although don’t wager too much of your hard-earned money on it.
The Tribes vs. The Unions
And speaking of wagers, an issue simmering to the surface in Sacramento revolves around the push by five very rich Southern California Tribes who are putting their political power to work to get legislation passed which will allow them to add up to 22,500 new slot machines at their casinos. Pushing back with similar clout are the Unions who are demanding various rights for casino workers, including the right to organize by collecting signatures on union cards, activities the Tribes are being accused of prohibiting at present.
This battle is also playing out on the electoral field as Labor is backing Laura Richardson’s run against Jenny Oropeza for Congress because, purportedly, Oropeza voted to support the legislation expanding gambling without including worker protections as demanded by the Unions. The race is further complicated by the homophobia Richardson has reputedly demonstrated during her political career, thus engendering a strong response from the politically active Gay and Lesbian Community. This battle will be played out by next Tuesday when the Special Election is held in Long Beach to replace deceased Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald. Click here for more info.
Global Warming and implementation of AB 32
This week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) came out with its closely watched and anticipated first set of regulations in response to the landmark Global Warming Bill passed in 2006. If you recall (ignoring all the hype, particularly by the Gov’s highly paid media staff), this measure mandates the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Translated, this is the equivalent to reducing gas consumption by an average of 800 million gallons of gas per year for 13 years. The rules have been denounced by many environmental groups as being far too weak, but given who’s been appointing to that Board ( Schwarzenegger), this can’t be a big surprise. He’s a lot of hat and very little cattle when it comes to really doing what is necessary to attack global warming. And much like the Bush Adminstration, there isn’t a big corporation that Arnold will squeeze to do the right thing, especially if it costs them even a dime to be good stewards.
So what has the CARB done? It has set up three new rules requiring: cleaner gas;less methane emissions from landfills; and a ban on the sale of refrigerants for car air conditioners. For more information, check out the L.A. Times article.
The Rest of the Story
We’ll be watching and reporting on the many issues, including further budget discussions as they unfold over the next several days. 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–Our new newsletter

Because we’re committed to keeping Californians informed on the goings-on in Sacramento, here at Speak Out California we’ve launched a new weekly update called ” While California Dreams “. Our goal is to provide a regular summary of the key events and issues that have taken place in the state Capital during the past week.
If you aren’t already a subscriber to our site, please come join us and receive this newsletter by email each Saturday. If you already do subscribe, we hope you’ll send it along to your friends and like-minded progressives and have them join up as well. It’s free and designed to keep progressive awareness and activism alive through our highly acclaimed voter guides,action-alerts, frequent blog entries on key legislation, issues ,analysis and commentary and now weekly update.
With so much on the line, yet so little information being disseminated by the main-stream media, we join with other progressive on-line activists in trying to keep Californians informed and knowledgeable on matters which directly and significantly affect our state and our communities.
We hope you will find “While California Dreams” to be helpful and informative. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

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