July 2007 Archives

Will California lead the way to curbing global warming and making the US less dependent on foreign oil? Or will we be held hostage by the dinosaurs in Detroit and Big Oil and Coal? A historic showdown is imminent in Congress. The time to make your voice heard is NOW.

For the first time in a decade, the U.S. Senate has voted to improve motor vehicle fuel economy, saving consumers at the pump and also reducing harmful pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. But the House is closely divided, with the auto, coal, and oil industries attempting to derail the momentum from the Senate victory. This is a critical moment for the environment, consumers, and the nation.

The burning question: Will enough lawmakers from California vote AYE for H.R. 1506, the Fuel Economy Reform Act of 2007, to offset the NO votes from members of states dominated by the auto, coal, and oil interests? H.R. 1506 will raise fuel economy 10 miles per gallon over the next 10 years, to 35 mpg, and 4% every year afterward. These gains in fuel economy are achievable and long overdue. Any added costs for the vehicles will be offset by savings at the pump. Oh, and did we mention that we also help save the planet?

While California has the most to gain from raising fuel economy standards, both in decreased pollution and in savings on fuel costs, some California lawmakers are wavering, thanks to a barrage of phone calls and faxes--not to mention campaign contributions--- from auto, coal, and oil interests. Those lawmakers are seriously out of step with public opinion. Yet another poll, recently conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, shows overwhelming support among Californians for increasing fuel economy standards and addressing global warming. This should be a no-brainer, but some wavering lawmakers need to hear from more of us to realize they are going to be held accountable for this vote--by the public.

How can you make your voice heard at this critical time for California, our nation, and our planet?

Call wavering lawmakers and let them know you care about the planet. Urge them to vote for H.R. 1506 when Speaker Pelosi and the authors, Representatives Markey and Platts, bring the bill to the House floor.

Here's who to call TODAY:

U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno)
DC office: 202-225-3341
Fresno office: 559-495-1620

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield)
DC office: 202-225-2915
Bakersfield office: 661-327-3611

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-El Segundo, Wilmington)
DC office: 202-225-8220
El Segundo office: 310-643-3636

U.S. Rep. Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino)
DC office: 202-225-6161
San Bernardino office: 909-885-2222

U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Solana Beach)
DC office: 202-225-0508
Solana Beach office: 858-350-1150

Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs)
DC office: 202-225-5330
Palm Springs office: 760-320-1076

Spread the word among your family and friends. The calls you make now will be among the most important you will ever make.

Thank you for speaking up, California!!

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Much has been made of the fact that today, July 30th is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's 60th birthday and wouldn't it be a great present if the Reps. would come together, sing Happy Birthday and Kumbaya and give the state a budget and move on with the other important business at hand.

Such thinking is sweet, but as far from reality as one can get in Sacramento, where reality is usually cast by political consultants and clever media-spinners. No, the Gov. can't rely on his flock for support---or likely even a birthday card. So much for the much ballyhooed smoking tent, late night schnaps and heavily testosteroned bantering in the beautiful outdoors of the "horseshoe" in the Capitol. Must be pretty quiet these days as former Senate Democratic leader and first-buddy to the Gov.John Burton is long gone and any sense of Republican comraderie with the Gov. has taken a similar route.

Nope, there's no fun today in Mudville for this Governor. Of course, he doesn't much mind. After all, he's had his mug all over national and international newspapers and magazines, been meeting with the heads of state, the UN leadership and NYC's own number one honcho, possible presidential candidate Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He's also been seen at the Capitol gym while budget negotiations have been taking place, photographed down in Miami raising over $1.5 Million last week on a jaunt to that city a couple thousand miles away from our shores. This and several other long-distance photo-ops have demonstrated a less than a total commitment to getting a budget passed here in the place Schwarzenegger is actually authorized to oversee and govern.

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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

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From The Courage Campaign

Over the weekend, California Republican Senators were given some homework – since they couldn’t stop voting “No” on a compromise budget plan approved by Democrats and Republicans in the Assembly, the Senate Republicans had to come up with their own budget plan.  In a lucky coincidence, President Bush had a colonoscopy on Monday, and doctors apparently found the Republican budget plan lodged somewhere in the First Colon.

How else can we explain where this GOP budget came from?  The Republican proposal would leave tens of thousands of poor people to die, would end several environmental protection laws (??), and would close down several University of California institutes.  And that’s just what they made public.  Apparently there’s even more draconian and unnecessary spending cuts they’re holding back for some reason.  Maybe the rest of the spending cuts are still stuck up Bush’s… colon.

OK, all kidding aside -- I don’t want to be accused of just slinging mud, so let’s take a closer look at the main parts of the GOP budget proposal.

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All eyes will be on the California Senate Wednesday as they are back from a few days hiatus while the Republicans have been challenged to put up a budget of their own. With a put-up-or-shut-up challenge by President Pro Tem of the Senate, Don Perata, the Reps were sent back to the drawing board to propose their own budget after they refused, en masse, to approve the deal the Assembly had passed with bipartisan support, and lobbed over to the Senior Chamber last week.

So what can we expect will happen? The deal that was struck by both sides in the Assembly has been narrowed down as follows: (For other Speak Out California stories on this, scroll down to the Budget section under "Archives" part-way down on the left-hand side of the page)

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As more and more Americans are becoming concerned and even outraged over the behavior of President Bush and VIce-President Cheney's blatant disregard for the limits on their power, cries for Impeachment are growing. Among them are the City of West Hollywood which just became the first jurisdiction in Southern California to call for the impeachment of the President and Vice President. As this drum starts beating stronger and stronger with each and every new and additional unconstitutional attempt by the Bush Administration to expand its executive powers, the people of this country are becoming more and more angered and activated.

West Hollywood Mayor, and newest Speak Out California board member, John Duran, explains why he and the City of West Hollywood have taken the unprecedented step to call for the ouster of this George who would be King, were we to sit back and watch him and Dick Cheney ignore and destroy the Constitution of this great country.

It is our hope that at least the discussion of impeachment will begin in the classrooms, boardrooms and water coolers as well as the Council Chambers of this state and country as we ask ourselves whether we are willing to relinquish the Democracy so many have fought and died for in this great country, or are we going to hold-the-line and say that enough is enough; that George Bush is not King, that our Constitution cannot be dismantled and ignored and no one is above the law?

Here's what Mayor John Duran has to say on this critically important issue:

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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

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NO 2nd Grade Testing!

A couple of years back, while I was Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, we made a deal with the Governor. And now, he wants to back out of it! I guess that should come as no surprise, since he seems to only make deals for a short term gain, and chooses not to follow through with the parts he doesn't like.

The deal was that the budget would pass and with it would be a commitment that California would end testing seven year olds with high stakes, standardized tests.

Why did the legislative majority require California to get out of the business of " testing" seven year olds? Was it because we don't want them to learn? Is it because we don't think they can learn? Or is it that we just don't want to hold teachers and schools " accountable" ?

Well, actually, it is not for any of those alleged reasons. We, as a legislative body, decided that labeling very young children as " failures" was probably not going to help them love learning, and was indeed cruel and unusual punishment.

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The Big Corporate Bullies are at it again! Just when we thought they'd be embarassed and hiding from their latest shenanigans---pawning off bad medicine (think VIOXX) or seeing their Chinese competitors getting caught trying to sneak tainted pet food, toothpaste and fish into the U.S., they're back themselves trying to slam the courthouse doors shut so they can't be prosecuted for their own often dangerous antics.

What is it now? It's a new initiative they've just filed with the California Attorney General's office which will allow them to avoid accountability when they get caught doing things like discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, gender, age or disability. If this initiative makes it to the ballot and passes, they'll be able to get away with refusing to pay their workers for their earned pay, be passing off known damaged and dangerous products, illegally pollute our air and water with inpugnity. The list goes on and on.

How are these profiteers planning their next attack on protecting the public? They're staking out an initiative which will all but end class action lawsuits in the state of California by making them so hard and expensive for the little guy to bring to court, that they'll all but vanish. Using Bush-like double-speak to hide their true identity, these greedy CEO's and corporate polluters go by the totally misleading title of " Civil Justice Association " otherwise known as C-JAC. Like Bush's cronies, they're anything but seeking justice---it's just more and more about their profits and the public be damned.

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From The Courage Campaign

Santa Barbara, the beachside villa I am fortunate enough to call home, has just become one of the first cities to show, definitively, just how real the climate crisis is. The City Council approved a plan to paint a light blue line on the streets. Officially called an "art exhibit," the line will run through the city, showing where the new shoreline will be if we don't stop global warming from melting Greenland and the ice caps.

You may have seen how this works in An Inconvenient Truth: as global temperatures rise, more and more of the ice on Greenland, Antarctica, and in the Arctic is melting, meaning that there's more liquid water in the oceans. This will cause widespread, permanent flooding across the world, including in lovely places like Santa Barbara. Parts of Santa Barbara (and Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and New York...) will be underwater if we don't work to slow down our carbon emissions - pollution which increases the greenhouse effect and warms the planet.

As much as I'd like to see the beach move even closer to my house, it's pretty clear that if flooding on the scale predicted by top scientists happens, we'll have millions and millions of people displaced, and acres of land will be washed away.

So, I'm going to listen to the message sent by Al Gore and his rock star friends. They've sent out an SOS, sounding the alarm so that this light blue line in Santa Barbara remains just a work of art and not a prediction.

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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

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We've been counting down(or should I say up) the days since the State's budget was due. It really doesn't matter whether you start from June 15th or July 1st because it rarely comes in on time, regardless of the date you pick. While it is always easiest for the public to focus on the simple fact that the budget is late rather than why, it's about time we looked at the why so maybe we can start fixing the fundamental problems that make this yearly exercise so exercising to the public.

Unlike the almost whimsical reports of spay/neuter issues that have aroused the extraordinary passions on both sides of that issue,(will Lassie or Bob Barker from the Price is Right prevail?) it's hard to get people to focus on the more mundane aspects of why we have this annual food-fight when it comes to getting our financial house in order. Let's start with the fundamental problem that exists in California and those two other large and complex states--Rhode Island and Alabama: It requires two-thirds of the legislature to approve a budget. Until one of the two parties in this state grows big enough to take over 2/3's of each of the legislative houses, this will continue to be the fundamental roadblock to an on-time budget.

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This is the 9th entry in a continuing series on the status of public education in California today. Speak Out California's own Jackie Goldberg has been involved in the public school system for close to 40 years-as teacher, LA Unified Schoool Board Member, LA City Council Member, State Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Education.

To see the other stories and analysis she has done, just go to our Weblog, scroll down the left-hand side of the page and click on the "Public Education" category.

We welcome your comments and responses as Speak Out California tries to provide Californians with honest discussion and appraisal of what is good and bad in the largest public school system in the Country. With so many challenges ahead, we hope you will let us know your thoughts on the subject as well.

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What Happened to the California Dream?- By Dave Johnson

How long have people been making fun of us left-coast tree-hugging, frisbee-tossing, granola-crunching, animal-loving, tofu-eating, yoga-practicing, peacenik eco-nuts?

The thing is, people are starting to realize that all of these ridiculed things are good for us-- and for the country and the planet. They are the right choices.

Sure, everyone had a good laugh. But it's a few years later now and the consequences of years of bad choices are catching up. People who mocked tofu-eaters and Frisbee-tossers are realizing they don't want to be fat and out of shape--some are even dying of heart attacks and diabetes. Granola and tofu are good for you, especially compared to the fast food, meat and white breat that were being eaten in their stead.

And what about the eco-nuts? They aren't looking all that nutty today, are they? The people who laughed about tree-hugging econ-nuts are spending $60 to fill their gas tanks and worryng about their coastal property values declining as the water rises. Meanwhile Californians are driving hybrids in proportions greater than the rest of the country. Who is laughing now?

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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

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

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Recently Governor Schwarzenegger rekindled the English-only debate while speaking to a group of Spanish-language news-media. In his remarks, he suggested that the Spanish-speaking community turn off those very T.V. stations hosting him and focus on listening to English only networks and reading English language newspapers. While pretty gutsy to challenge the reason for being of the group tho which you've been invited to speak, Schwarzenegger's propensity for indelicately putting his foot in his mouth on the controversial English vs. Spanish debate stirs up strong emotions on all sides of the issue. Nonetheless, it IS a discussion worth having as it tends to divide us in ways that make it difficult, if not impossible, to unite around the things that we have in common.

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In celebration of our nation's birthday---with its vision and grandeur, we offer up some reminders of the greatness of spirit and dignity that inspired the grandest experiment in the history of humankind---self-rule, Democracy.
Long may it reign....and may it return to our shores quickly. Here are some of the inspired words of great American leaders over the course of the republic. Although certainly not a definitive list, these words and concepts have particular relevance today.

"Those who give up essential freedom to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety"
Benjamin Franklin

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." Thomas Jefferson

" The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"...and so, my fellow Americans, Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". John F. Kennedy

" I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education." Thomas Jefferson

.....Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me Liberty, or give me death! Patrick Henry

"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Preamble to the Constitution of the United States

" Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

" The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." Abraham Lincoln

" With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds."
Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Happy Birthday America

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This past week has been a woefully sorry one for the rights of the American people. The neocons have gained total control of the Supreme Court and are gleefully and unquestionably overturning the hard-fought gains of the past seventy-plus years. Many of us saw this coming but can only wish, sadly, that we had been wrong.

This court has thrown judicial precedent out the window. Both John Roberts and Samuel Alito obviously lied about their commitment to it when they testified before the Senate of the United States, but it seems lying and cheating and commuting sentences of convicted criminals is all within the Bush playbook. Such arrogance now extends to Bush's court and seems to continue unabated. This past week it was civil rights, consumer rights and first-amendment rights of individuals all paying the price of this lawless and reckless administration's blind allegiance to a corporate ideology. But the most stunning of all is the rejection of one of the pillars of our society over the past 50 years---that segregation in education is, as a matter of fact and law, unequal. Not anymore.
We asked Speak Out California's own Jackie Goldberg to take a look at the right-wing spin on this decision---that we don't need such legal protections any longer; that Brown v. Board of Education is passe and irrelevent to today's world and that destroying its mandate is not a big deal. Of course it's a big deal and Jackie pulls no punches in dissecting the neocon attempt to downplay the significance of this offensive and dishonest opinion by the Court.Here is her response to an opinion piece that ran last week in the New York Times by one Juan Williams:

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From The Courage Campaign

This was a big week for conservatives.  The immigration bill, while flawed, would have been a step in the right direction for fixing a system that forces more than 12 million people in America to live in the shadows.  Conservatives in the US Senate succeeded in killing that bill, which means that there won't be any meaningful immigration reform until 2009.  Then, the Supreme Court showed its new, solid conservative colors with 3 (three!) blockbuster conservative rulings.  One decision gave corporations all kinds of free speech guarantees in election campaigns.  Another ruling issued the same day limited the free speech rights of student protestors.  And the third 5-4 conservative court decision rolled back the clock on racial equality all the way back to the 1950's.  So, perhaps inspired by the conservative movement's stunning successes in Washington, conservative Republicans in Sacramento dug in their heels and refused to allow a budget to pass the Assembly before start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Democrats in Sacramento had a budget ready to go - one with painful cuts in important services like education.  For example, fees at California universities would see no relief in the Democratic budget, and a planned boost of $400 million for K-12 schools also didn't make the cut.  Traffic a problem in your part of California?  The Democrats trimmed more than half a billion dollars for transit projects in an attempt to keep state spending at reasonable levels.  All this wasn't nearly enough for Assembly Republicans, though - they want even deeper cuts.

I'm left scratching my head.  Aren't we living in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world?  Why do we need to so deeply cut such essential programs as K-12 education?  There must be some way that California can do better.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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