A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending November 24, 2007
Key bills and issues we've been following during the
Past week and beyond
In keeping with the spirit of the week, we can safely say that this one was a turkey for the legislature as well. Sacramento came up with an egg on the water bonds issue as there is no time left for any meaningful measure to be passed during this "Special" legislative session in order for it to be placed on the February, 2008 ballot for approval by the people. Although Senate leader, Don Perata has been working hard to reach agreement with the Governor, the deal seems to be hitting a stumbling block over who is going to oversee the distribution of funds for dam projects that would comprise about $3 billion of the bond funding. The Dems want to be able to oversee the spending on an annual basis, but the Reps want the funding to be continuous because they think that the former may try to pull the dam dollars needed for the concrete to implement their vision of appropriate water policy. For the Dems and their environmental supporters, the goal is groundwater storage, recycling and conservation. Although Perata compromised on this issue, the stalemate continues and thus the February '08 ballot deadline has passed.
For more on this story, check out the Sac Bee article here.
For even more analysis, check out Bill Cavala's column for the California Progress Report here.
Meanwhile, the healthcare measure continues to see the dogged determination of the Speaker, Fabian Nunez, who insists that a deal can be reached with the Governor that will have logic as well as political legs. He is planning to call for a vote possibly this coming week, but all the concessions and twists necessary to fit this square peg into a round hole aren't viewed by many as having much of a chance of passing or working, if such a miracle were to happen.
Bringing on the lawsuits to protect the public
The real action this week, such as it was, really comes out of the judicial side where a number of lawsuits were filed to attempt to address some critical issues that call for judicial intervention either because big businesses are over-reaching or the government isn't doing its job to regulate and enforce existing laws.
From the Secretary of State to former Governor Moonbeam, (now middle-of-the-road Mr.Mainstream) Attorney General Jerry Brown, the courthouse saw its work load increase from these Constitutional offices during the past week.
Secretary of State Deb Bowen, ever vigilant over the fraudulent touch-screen debacle of a number of companies serving up questionable products, has filed a lawsuit seeking $15 million in damages from a company which sold unauthorized systems to five California counties, alleging they had not sought the required certification necessary to qualify their equipment for use in California.
Attorney General Brown brought a suit this week against 20 leading toymakers and retailers, including Mattel and Toys R Us for the lead content in products being sold to our children.
Environmental organizations have also gotten into the fray by suing the federal government over toxic pollution caused by a fleet of mothballed warships floating near the continually-challenged San Francisco Bay. Under the terms of the complaint, the Natural Resources Defense Center (NRDC) and the San Francisco Baykeeper allege that the U.S. Maritime Administration has violated both state and federal environmental regulations by allowing dozens of decaying and rotting ships to linger well past the Congressional deadline set for their removal.
Another lawsuit was filed this week by education advocates against the State of California alleging the state has shortchanged school districts by $1 billion of required programs (mandates) it has either underpaid or failed to pay at all. With the state continuing to go in the red by the month, the timing on this lawsuit couldn't be much worse.
Of course, the car manufacturers and dealers have their own deep pockets to challenge the laws that the legislature and people want, so they don't want to be left out of the litigation frenzy (except when it comes to the public suing them). Yup, they've sued to overturn California's landmark greenhouse gas legislation of 2002. (By way of disclosure, the undersigned proudly co-authored this important piece of legislation.) The measure, as passed, authorizes the state to establish limits as to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions permitted by motor vehicles. The car manufacturers and dealers are claiming that the law is an attempt to require higher gas mileage (which is strictly a federal government responsibility for which states have no jurisdiction). The experts seem to feel the lawsuit won't hold muster based upon the recent Supreme Court decision that held that regulating air pollutants is not in conflict with the exclusive federal power to regulate fuel economy. However this one may turn out, it again shows the importance of keeping the courthouse doors open for everyone- rich or poor, right or wrong.
The economic forecast continues to cast a dark shadow on the state
The fallout from the sub-prime housing market collapse continues to unfold. The Legislative Analyst continues to issue warnings about the steep drop in tax revenues coming into the state and the fallout will continue for months to come. Although we're not quite sure where this will all land, we know the perils of this downturn are likely to be extensive. For more on the implications, check out the SacBee article here.
We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this and any signings or vetoes by the Governor in the weeks and months ahead, so
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As promised, Speak Out California will be taking a close and careful look at the significant number of ballot initiatives as they are introduced for the 2008 election year. There will be a number of them that qualify as the money to gather signatures continues to be factored in as just a cost of doing business. With California becoming the testing ground for all sorts of controversial ideas, our commitment to direct democracy through the initiative process continues to encourage special interest groups and multi-millionaires to play in our sandbox. Many of these ideas are contrary to the best interest of the people of our state and we at Speak Out California will continue to speak out against those policies that do not serve our communities.
And now for the rest of our weekly update...