A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending December 1, 2007
Key bills and issues we've been following during the
Past week and beyond
Efforts to try to get a water bond on the ballot were supposed to dove-tail with the health care proposal being hashed and hacked out by both houses of the capitol this week. Unfortunately, both have broken down to the point that the leadership, short of mopping up the floor with failed expectations and efforts have instead, called off a possible vote of the legislature for the coming week. While Speaker Nunez has sounded the alarm for his troops to be ready to return to Sacramento this coming week for a vote on the health care bill and the senate was rushing to announce an agreement on the water distribution and storage measures, it all seems to have fizzled, at least for the time being. So there will be no floor session in the Assembly- the members have gone from a certain date to the completely amorphous "call of the speaker". Just a call could happen in a week, in a month or not at all.
It seems that the devil in these details just isn't willing to make the final concession to seal the deal. And in the health care debate, that unacceptable point of contention revolves around the big hole in the health care safety net that just seems to get worse with each new compromise suggestion. For water, the problem is tied to the storage- canals to deliver water to Southern California and control the flow of money to approved projects. We're talking some significant differences and difficult choices. For our prior discussion on the basics of this debate, check out our update from last week here.
Democrats call for a third special session to address the sub-prime mess
Perhaps on the belief that three's charm, and that something can get accomplished on the third time around, several Dems met in Sacramento on Friday calling for the Governor to call a third special session to address the sub-prime fiasco that is wreaking havoc on California homeowners and our economy as a whole. As the rise of foreclosures is taking its toll on the economy, officials say the weak real estate market is largely to blame for the steep decline in state revenues. Whatever the real reason, there is little question that the current lending practices have helped create the situation where we have massive defaults on loans that are threatening our state's economy and costing the state billions of dollars in revenue.
The argument goes that with our projected short-fall already in the billions, the last thing we need is to fall further and further into state and individual debt if we can try to gain some concessions from mortgage holders to just cool their jets and work with homeowners who would otherwise be on the streets. For more on the way this is playing out with the lending community, see a first and second article from the SacBee.
Bringing on the lawsuits to protect the public
Last week we introduced a new section into our weekly update- the lawsuit. Several have been brought to address a number of inactions by the Feds: everyone from the Secretary of State suing the voting touch-screen manufacturers, to the AG suing for lead content in toys, to challenging the US EPA for allowing rotting mothballed ships from remaining and lingering in the ever challenged waters of the SF Bay.
Our Suit of the Week includes California, as one of 11 other states, suing the US EPA over new regulations that exempt thousands of companies from disclosing to the public details about their use and emission of toxic chemicals. These new requirements, not surprisingly, significantly weaken the public health by denying the public information about just what toxic chemicals are being released into the air in surrounding communities. This is just another example of the Bush administration putting profits over people---and their health. This is one we should all get behind. And we applaud our state's AG and the 11 others who are not going to allow this administration to keep moving us backward when it comes to protecting our air, water and health.
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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The Governor sneaks Privitization back on the front burner
While most of Californians aren't paying much attention to what's happening in the closing weeks of the year, especially while we're trying to figure out how to meet our gift expectations with the price of gasoline going through the roof, our incomes teetering and our mortgage payments keeping us awake at night. So it should be of no surprise that the Governor has floated an enormous and dangerous trial balloon out there, just to see if anyone is watching- or more importantly, if they care.
Such is the case with the Governor's call for more privatization of services. The goal of the free-marketers is to outsource just about everything, so that government is no longer in charge. With the free marketer's only interest in profit, the people will end up paying more and more for less and less in the way of services. After all, who do these companies have to answer to? Certainly not the electorate, the public or those who ultimately pay for their services. Nope. This is a system that lets the private sector, motivated solely by profit, take over the creation and control of our roads, public works projects, healthcare, schools, prisons, ports, levees, hospitals and other social and public safety services with no input from the people. We just get to pay and be quiet. No accountability, no oversight, no interests of the people to contend with ---just the bottom line success of the CEOs and some shareholders who are only trying to make a buck.
This scary but not far fetched plan was floated again this week by the Governor. For more on this story (which we have to watch very closely in the months to come and ask: Who is in charge? Who do they answer to? Who pays their expenses?) Check out the LA Times article here.
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.
Nasty politics and the Initiative battles for 2008
While the term-limits/extension initiative continues to heats up, with cross-allegations as to who exactly is funding the nay side of the measure (looks like New York multi-billionaire Libertarian Howie Rich) the right wing is frantically trying to gather enough signatures to qualify the Electoral College split initiative for the June ballot. This is the sell-out measure that the Republicans have been dreaming about as a way to dilute ONLY California's voting process, since a Democrat has carried this state and its significant 54 electoral votes for the past four election cycles and is poised to do so again.
The right wing would like nothing better than to split our system so they can claim 20 votes (which they would likely achieve if the split were based on who wins individual congressional districts). That's enough for another Ohio and the Reps believe that gives them the White House again. Not at all shy about acknowledging in public that they don't care how they win, nor do they give much respect to the Constitution, they want to continue to destroy the country as they have done with such effectiveness over the last eight years.
The good news, such as it is, is that they're having some difficulty collecting the signatures fast enough to qualify for the June ballot. They're likely to succeed, as the number of valid signatures is only in the mid 440,000s. To ensure the qualification, they're trying to reach the magic 700,000 number. If, of course, people actually read the material, they'd likely hand them re-chewed gum instead, and not their signatures, but that's a topic for another day, as we'll have to do something about the fraudulent manner by which signature gathering is pursued and accomplished.
Of course, this system allows so many items to come before voters, measures that are either distortions of the issues, turf battles, economic warfare or other types of political warfare that really have no place on the state's ballot. But as long as out-of-state money can buy often out-of-state and otherwise out-of-work people to lie and mislead unsuspecting Californians to sign just about anything, we've got a real mess on our hands.
Well try to provide some thoughts on that as we enter this political season and beyond.
In the meantime, we'll continue updating the process as new measures qualify and news about existing measures comes to the fore.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:
Things can change
Exploring California's Budget
To read and comment on these entries just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
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Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team