June 2007 Archives

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

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

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We continue with Speak Out California Board Member and Former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg's series on the state of public education in California today. In this entry, she examines and explains the veritable stew of players in the education arena---from the state down to the school district and provides her insights into how we've gotten into the mess we're in today....and what we must do to get out of it. As a teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member, LA City Council Member and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Education during her six years in the California State Assembly, she has a wealth and breadth of experience virtually unparalleled in the current debate on where we must go and how we must go about fixing the education crises in our state.

She continues her comments and insights here:

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From The Courage Campaign

Last week, I met a young woman, a high school student, at a Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara event about "Empowering California's Youth."  She was there because she'd just gotten a postcard from the army -- one that detailed all the benefits of enlisting in the army after graduating from high school.  "Don't they know I'm college bound?!" she said, concerned that the army recruiters were working her high school too hard.  "There's recruiters everywhere at school," she told me.  She was so upset after getting that postcard that she decided to attend the Progressive Democrats event to hear about ways she could fight back against the military's recruitment machine.

She wasn't disappointed.

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What do you look for in a car? Safety? Fuel economy? Comfort? Affordability? How about whether you are inadvertently making a campaign contribution to the Republican party?

Auto dealers are among the most aggressive contributors to the Republican party and Republican candidates. Compared to other industries, they are among the most lopsided in their giving. During the 2000 election cycle, 96% of the auto industry's soft money went to the GOP.

In addition, some of the largest auto dealers are among the Bush Pioneers, who raised many millions for Bush's election and re-election campaigns. According to Automotive News, auto dealers played an active role in funneling a whopping $150 million to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Dealers also crowed about the pivotal role they played in the battleground state of Ohio.

How do auto dealers make so much money they can afford to write those big checks? To extract the last possible dime from even the most wary customers, auto dealers commonly engage in highly sophisticated scams like "loan packing," auto salvage fraud, dealer "markups" of interest rates, "yo-yo" financing, high-pressure sales tactics, and other forms of predatory practices.

How can you avoid making a inadvertent contribution to the Bushites? Next time you buy a car, consider buying a used car from an individual. By eliminating the middle man (yes, the biggest auto dealers are almost exclusively white and male), you can save a bundle--and also avoid contributing to the auto dealers' political agenda.

Nationally, auto dealers' top legislative priority is elimination of the estate tax. They have also invested vast sums in opposing improved fuel economy standards. (Global warming? Forgetaboutiit. Gotta hype those Expeditions, Escalades, and Hummers.) They are hugely active in pushing to eliminate longstanding state and federal consumer protections. They have a long history of opposing safety advances including shoulder harnesses to protect kids in the back seat, air bags, safety glass, side impact protection, public information about crash tests, and disclosure of vehicles' likelihood of flipping over in a crash. To top it all off, they are increasingly inserting mandatory arbitration clauses into their contracts--forcing you to give up your constitutional rights when you buy a car from them.

When you go somewhere other than a dealership to buy, you are not only saving money, and withholding funds from the GOP, you are also preserving your constitutional rights--and helping save the planet.

Just make sure you aren't buying from a curbstoner---an unlicensed dealer. Google "curbstoner" to find out how to avoid them too.

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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

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Continuing our series, former State Assemblymember and Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Jackie Goldberg gives us her take on how we can raise achievement in our schools. Focusing on our under-performing schools, here's her take on what we should be doing in California to improve learning in a way that measures more than rote performance on standardized tests and gets to the heart of learning and education.

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Making Real the Promise

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Take Back America crashed out of the gates this morning with an outstanding series of aggressively positive messages from some of the outstanding movement leaders. Bob Borosage, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, MoveOn super activist Eli Parisier, Drum Major Institute chief Andrea Batiste Schlesinger and Rep. Schakowsky unleashed a series of barn burners. I'm not sure I can think of a session with a better matchup between crowd energy and great speakers that knew just the right tone to hit. And you didn't have to fly to Washington and shell out mad hotel money to see it:

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As if life in California weren't exciting enough, we are getting dumped on by unscrupulous insurers and auto dealers who profit from the illicit trafficking in total loss vehicles, including hurricane flood cars. Yup, that cute red number your teenager finds so alluring may be a killer car that swam with the fishes.

Remember the 500,000 flood cars that we all saw on TV, submerged up to their rooftops in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma? Experts warned everyone to look out for them, since they are basically rotting from the inside out, and are totally unreliable.

According to the former president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, a lot of them were headed to auto auctions in--yes, you guessed it--California. The auctions advertise them on the internet and sell them to the highest bidders--typically, unscrupulous auto dealers who hose them down and spiff them up, to disguise the fact they are worthless, hazardous junkers. Then they sell them to unsuspecting used car buyers, usually for the going Blue Book price.

It's illegal, of course, but enforcement to curb the frauds is extremely lax, and the profit margins are staggering. An unscrupulous dealer can nab a flood car at auction for $3,000, spend $1000 to power wash it and replace the upholstery, then turn around and sell it for $12,000. They don't usually offer discounts, because that would arouse suspicion among potential buyers. It would also reduce their ill-gotten gains.

California, the nation's largest auto market, is famous worldwide as a dumping ground for hazardous junkers. According to the DMV, a whopping 2.5 million vehicles that were totalled in crashes, floods, or other disasters are being driven on our roads. Look around you---even if you don't own one, you may be killed or injured by one of the clunkers when the axle falls apart, the steering goes wacko, the brakes fail, or it stalls out in traffic.

Auto insurers and dealers have cleverly devised ways to profit from the frauds involving killer flood cars. When insurers total a car, it is rarely destroyed. Instead, they send totalled autos to auctions known as "salvage pools,." which are basically an arm of the insurance industry. Insurers get a cut of the take at the auction. When the junkers are sold for fraudulent purposes, they command a higher price, enabling insurers to recoup more of their losses or even turn a profit.

Consumer groups and CA Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner backed legislation to prohibit the sales of totalled hurricane flood cars in CA. But insurers like State Farm, Geico, Farmers, Allstate, and auto dealers killed the bill. It was SB 498, authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza. No Republican senator would vote for it, since it was opposed by some of their biggest contributors. While most democratic senators supported it, a handful of so-called "moderate" democratic senators who usually side with business interests blocked its passage.

keep an eye out for toxic flood cars that are contaminated with bacteria, mold, and mildew, have air bags that may not inflate in a crash, and electronic systems that are madly corroding away. Even if you don't buy one, you or your family could end up riding in one. If you happen across a flood car, get in touch with CARS. We're working to protect American families from flood cars, including testifying before Congress , working to get laws passed to prohibit dumping flood cars back into the market in the first place, and doing interviews with national news media.

More info about why flood cars are so hazardous in posted on our website, at: http://www.carconsumers.com.

Rosemary Shahan
Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

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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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Speak Out California's resident expert and former Assemblymember, School Board member and long-time teacher, Jackie Goldberg continues her commentary on the state of education in California today-and what we need to do to improve the quality of education we are providing to all our students.
With recent reports indicating that California will not have enough well-educated and trained people to meet its workforce needs over the next several decades, it is critical that we start NOW and work to close that gap.

Here is what Jackie Goldberg has to say on one of the most critical yet controversial areas of educational reform in California---how to continue Class size reduction, including a passionate pitch for ways we can pull together the funding necessary to close the education gap in our state:

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Green Blogging

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From the Courage Campaign

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of energy conservation.  I always turn off the lights when I leave the room, and I use those compact florescent bulbs to replace the inefficient incandescents when they burn out.  I've got a pretty good track record when it comes to turning off the TV.  I rarely get caught accidentally leaving the refrigerator door open.  And I'm very proud to say that my fan even has a thermostat.But this blogging business can really run up the electric bill!  I've got a power-intensive workstation.  My computer is nearly always on, because I hate waiting for it to boot up.  Recently, I got a second monitor -- trust me, the benefits to having more than one monitor (especially if you're a writer) are amazing, but I'm sucking down twice as much electricity!  I've got a speaker system with a 80 watt subwoofer.  Add a couple of external hard disks... yeah, I'm a bona fide energy hog.

What's worse is that I'm apparently not alone.  A new study shows that when considering production, use, and disposal, annually computers put as much climate-change-causing CO2 into the atmosphere as airlines.  You read that right -- computing worldwide hurts the atmosphere as much as the aviation industry.

Sounds like a huge crisis to me, and we as bloggers (and blog reading computer users) need to be on top of this. 

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I doubt when the Founding Fathers considered creating a democracy where an informed public decided its political, social and economic destiny, they had any inkling it would end up more interested in insipid gossip than real debate about what would affect the lives of those whose opinions and decisions would direct the fate of a nation and its people.

But here we are with more ink and video spent on Paris Hilton, Anna Nichole Smith and other irrelevant trivia than on whether we are willing to feed the homeless, educate our children and clean up a world we are polluting into oblivion. Why bother discussing these important, complex and critical situations when we can bury our heads in the sand and argue about whether Paris should do 45 days or 23 days in jail for being an over-hyped and talentless party-girl and thus wreaking havoc on the values of hard-work and responsibility we try to teach our children?

As Rome burns and the dream of a well-informed public drowns in this nonsense or the corporate take-over of the press, rendering it little more than pandering and propogandizing for the powerful and wealthy, we sit idly by. Democracy can only work if the people who are given the awesome responsibility of self-governance know what they are doing when they make their choices.

To remedy this, several on-line sites, including Speak Out California, are committed to providing information and honest discussion about just what IS happening in the halls of power; just what financial and political decision-making is taking place with our hard-earned dollars. To ensure that more Californians have access to that information, we've initiated what we hope will be a weekly (or bi-weekly)summary of the goings-on in our state capitol. We're calling it, " While California Dreams ". We launched our first edition this past weekend and hope you'll take a look at it here http://ga4.org/speakout_ca_dreaming/notice-description.tcl? newsletter_id=10533153 For the reasons discussed in this blog, we think it's very important to provide an alternative to the cut-backs we're seeing in the mainstream media as it down-sizes to increase corporate profits.

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Now that the flurry of bill activity is over for the moment, the Legislature will be turning its attention back to the Budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2007. With a continuing budget shortfall of some magnitude still facing the state (no one is quite sure of the amount since the Governor recently announced a $700 million dollar hole he hadn't seen before), it's time to revisit some of the key priorities of the state.

We've asked one of Speak Out California's newest Board members, Dyanne Cano, to post her thoughts in her capacity as an expert on service-learning and after-school programs in the LA area. In that realm she observes,
not surprisingly, that while California boasts of a huge creative industry supplying billions to our economy,our political leaders show a complete lack of vision when it comes to funding art programs in this state.

Here are her comments:

For the past 30 years, the California Arts Council's mission is "to advance California through the arts and creativity." However, CAC's funding has been cut dramatically over the last few years (from $ 32 million in 2001 to $1 million in 2004 at its lowest--a 97% budget cut in just three years). According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, California now ranks the lowest among the 50 states in arts funding. Mississippi, the District of Columbia and Guam give more per person to the arts; California gives a mere three cents per person.

Why is increased funding for CAC important? In a 2006 op-ed piece for the San Fransico Chronicle, Alma Robinson, Executive Director of California Lawyers for the Arts, wrote, "Since 2003, when the state's General Fund allocation for the California Arts Council was reduced to $1.1 million, we lost most of the funding for arts education, artists' residencies and fellowships, the arts touring program and grants for the state's diverse arts organizations -- from the mini to the major. Many arts presenters, community arts programs, local arts councils and arts-service organizations are on life support."

To help increase CAC's budget from its current budget of $5.1 million and to protect it from further cuts, there are ways you can tell your representatives that the arts do matter.

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(Rosemary Shahan)

Caving in to aggressive lobbying by auto manufacturers and dealers who profit handsomely from the sales of muscle cars and enormous gas-guzzlers, California politicians refused to pass legislation that would have curbed greenhouse gas emissions and made fuel-efficient SUVs, pickups, minivans, and sedans more affordable. However, the author has vowed to continue the fight and revive the legislation next year.

The Clean Car Discount Act of 2007, AB 493, is championed by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City). It remains a top priority for environmental and consumer groups, as well as socially responsible businesses and faith-based organizations. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety has been working actively to get the bill enacted.

Auto dealers made many legislators fearful of voting for the measure. Auto dealers are extremely active and well-connected politically. They spend heavily on political campaigns, and generally back conservative candidates. They take pride in punishing lawmakers who dare to stand up for consumers and the environment.

No Republicans were willing to vote for the bill, and a handful of anti-consumer Democratic lawmakers also voiced a reluctance to vote for it, despite polls showing strong public support for the measure.

"The Clean Car Discount program is designed to ensure choice by providing that some vehicles of every type will be unaffected or receive a rebate. Over 40 percent of the 1.7 million new vehicles purchased in California each year will be eligible for a rebate, and another 20 percent will not be affected at all. Given the breadth of choice, the Clean Car Discount program will help make cleaner vehicles more affordable for every California family," said Ruskin in his explanation of the measure.

In their attempt to kill the bill, auto dealers stooped to misleading tactics. One auto dealer, Fritz Hitchcock, President of Puente Hills Toyota in City of Industry, claimed in a letter to lawmakers that AB 493 would "penalize" disabled Californians. But in fact the bill expressly exempts persons with disabilities from having to pay any additional charges, and would have made various models that can accommodate wheelchairs less expensive.

More information about AB 493 is posted on Assemblymember Ruskin's website, at: http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a21/

Auto interests also ran a deceptive ad in the Sacramento Bee the day before the vote. To get the scoop on the ad, check out the California Progress Report, at:


"The automakers have a long history of whining that they can't improve their products," said David Friedman, research director for the Clean Vehicles Program at UCS. "But the National Academy of Sciences concluded that conventional technology can boost the fuel economy of all vehicles, from two-seaters to four-by-fours. They can produce 34-mpg SUVs, 37-mpg minivans and 41-mpg family cars. UCS studies concluded that the auto companies can do even better."

Passage of AB 493 would have sped up the day when you can have your automotive cake and eat it too--by getting the vehicle you want, while paying less for fuel.

Steamed over global warming? Tired of paying through the nose for gas? Want to send a message? Let your local dealership know you won't buy another car from them until they drop their opposition to AB 493. The politicians have let us down. Now it's up to us. The auto market is softening, so even if only 10% of prospective buyers defer buying their next vehicle, it will have a huge impact.

Rosemary Shahan is the Executive Director of Consumers For Auto-Reliability and Safety. She wrote the first Lemon Law and has championed Consumer causes for over two decades. She serves on numerous progressive boards, including the Consumer Federation of California , Consumer Federation of America and is also a member of the Board of Speak Out California.

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Recently a long-awaited and highly anticipated report on the state of education in California was released. The findings presented lots of fodder for both sides. Our Governor, of course, chose to ignore the clear mandate that the state of California needs to invest more in our schools, instead insisting that money would only be considered after the "reforms" he cherry-picked were implemented. Predictably, he went after the teachers, and ignored the discussion that concludes with the lack of financial commitment that is required to increase academic performance, particularly in our underserved communities.

Our own former Assemblymember and education expert, Jackie Goldberg, responds to the report and the discussion about what is needed to make our schools better in the years ahead, especially for our poor kids.
Here is what she has to say:

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By Patty Berg

Here's an alarming little tidbit that should make you spill your latte all over the New York Times on the front seat of your Volvo:

The Religious Right is poised for a victory in Sacramento.

That's right. With the help of conservative doctors and nervous politicians, the muscle and money behind the right-to-life movement is orchestrating an anti-choice victory on Death With Dignity in Sacramento.

Amazing as it may seem, the Right is just a few votes away from stopping a bill that has support of 70 percent of the state's voters. We're talking about the California Compassionate Choices Act, AB 374, which would give terminally ill patients the right to use medication to control their dying, just like the Death With Dignity Act allows Oregonians to make that choice.

If you think California should be immune to the anti-choice message, you'd be right. But that's what makes this play so unnerving. Anti-choice organizers are keeping the zealots in the closet, and cloaking themselves as protectors of the underclass. In short, they're using our progressive ideology against progressives.

They've managed to convince some Democrats who should know better that giving people a choice could end up hurting the poor. They're trying to get good solid Demcrats to ignore the strong support of the ACLU, MALDEF, NOW, AFSCME, every major state Senior Citizen group and CAPG, the California Association of Physician Groups,one of the state's largest physician organizations. Heck, the Speaker of the Assembly is one of the authors of the bill -- when was the last time he did anything to hurt the poor?

They're also using Astroturf politics, making something look like it's a grass-roots movement when, in fact ,it's being orchestrated by long-time campaign operatives. The Catholic Church hierarchy, in conjunction with a well-greased Republican machine, has unleashed a flood of e-mails, letters and phone calls, all designed to convince fence-sitting Democrats that there's a price to pay at the polls for anyone who supports choice at the end of life.

Never mind that statewide polling consistently shows that 70 percent of California voters support choice at the end of life. Never mind that support among Democrats is closer to 80 percent. Never mind that the Democratic Caucus' most trusted private pollster says there is no way anyone could be hurt politically by this vote - the anti-choice campaign is nonetheless gaining traction. We must stop this misleading campaign now!

We should know this week whether California is run by progressive thinkers, or whether a well-run conservative campaign can actually send progressives running. AB 374 should be heading toward a vote of the full Assembly in the next few days. We need your help right now!

Let's insist that our end of life decisions belong to each of us, and not to strangers.

If you want to support AB 374 sign our action alert!.

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

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From The Courage Campaign

As Karl Rove's former right-hand man abruptly resigns, more details are emerging of yet another sly and illegal "campaign strategy" used by the GOP in the 2004 election. The basic idea behind the Republican strategy is to suppress the voting rights of African Americans. Why? Because African Americans overwhelmingly vote against the Republican Party. Tim Griffin, the Rove adviser who just resigned, is at the center of this brewing scandal. The practice known as "caging" is just the latest dirty trick to be uncovered in a long history of dirty Republican tricks designed to undermine not only the Democratic Party but also small-d democracy in America.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate has an excellent article on how caging works. Basically, what happens is the GOP contacts local city clerks and election commissioners and gives them a list of registered voters that they want "caged." The election officials then mail a letter to the voters' address. The letter requires the voter to send back a reply card within a few weeks in order to confirm that the address is valid. No problem, right? Well, the problem comes in that the list of voters targeted by the GOP is specifically limited to African Americans, and that's a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

The GOP also appears to have especially targeted African American soldiers that are deployed abroad and people who don't have a home. This means that that the voter registrations of untold numbers of Democratic soldiers were canceled because the soldiers weren't at home to send a reply card back to the elections office.

How do we know all this? Well, there's documentary evidence including emails and spreadsheets of names and addresses that clearly show the GOP effort to clear the voter rolls of African Americans in Florida. Former top Justice Department official Monica Goodling was questioned under oath about this last week, and she appeared to admit that "caging" is a strategy employed by Republicans. I guess we shouldn't be surprised at yet another example of institutionalized racism perpetrated by people entrusted to protect voting rights. We shouldn't be surprised, but as Lithwick suggests, we should be "madder than heck."

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Auto manufacturers and dealers are trying to kill the single most important bill in Sacramento to reduce greenhouse gas emissions spewed into the air night and day by the leading culprits -- motor vehicles. You would think this bill would be a no-brainer for any lawmaker who wants to keep his or her legislative district above water. But that would be to underestimate the ability of the auto Neanderthals to obfuscate.

The bill is up for a key vote next Wednesday or Thursday, so now is the time for those of us who are rather fond of life on our planet to take action. Call your Assemblymember and urge him/her to vote yes on AB 493.

The author is Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City). If enacted, AB 493 will accelerate the availability of affordable low-emissions vehicles. Since the Bushites are in global warming denial, it falls to the states to act. Once again, California will be leading the way, but only if we win.

How it works is simple: AB 493 will add a surcharge onto the worst gas-guzzlers, and use the funds to provide rebates for gas-sippers. This will make lower emissions vehicles more affordable for moderate and low income consumers who also care about the environment. Each category of vehicle, including pickups and SUVs, will include models with either no surcharge or a rebate, preserving consumer choice. So if you want a minivan for your family, you can get, say, a Honda Odyssey at no extra charge. But if you hanker for a Hummer, be prepared to pay extra to cover the cost to the rest of the world for polluting our atmosphere.

AB 493 is supported by a long list of pro-environment, pro-consumer organizations. You can read more about it at the author's website. To find your state Assemblymember, visit the website for the CA Assembly's site here:

CA State Assembly

and click on "Find my district." Plug in your address, and up pops the contact information for your state Assemblymember. Call and urge him or her to stand up to the auto interests and vote in favor of AB 493!

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