By Dan Aiello
After more than two months delay, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety, arrives today at one of California's Maximum Security correctional facilities to see for himself the progress the State's prison system is making to address concerns of judges and reform advocates for the care of incarcerated Californians.
Earlier this year Ammiano likened California's 33 prisons to "Gladiator Academies," where Californians incarcerated for homelessness, victimless crimes like drug possession and those with mental illness must choose between "being victimized or victimizing others."
By Zeke Grader
Fishermen are my constituents - I work with them every day. And when you hang around fishermen, you hear a lot of fish stories. Sometimes, of course, you hear some real whoppers, yarns that stretch the credulity of even the most trusting soul. But nothing I've heard on the docks can match the whoppers that originate from Sacramento.
Perhaps the most egregious falsehood comes courtesy of Big Water - the state's largest water districts and agencies, including Kern County, the Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
By Dan Aiello
There's a new water interest bidding for California's limited water supplies, and the managers of California's historic agriculture-centric water districts in the Central Valley aren't smiling.
With a finite supply of water, Sacramento may have to choose between expanding food production or fracking wells and oil and natural gas production. Either option will likely lead to increases in food or energy costs for consumers.
Out-of-state, (primarily Texas-headquartered) energy companies with deep pockets from record profits and the strongest lobby in Sacramento are anxious to extract as much severance tax-free California oil from the ground as quickly as possible.
By Mary Solecki
As a small town Midwesterner, I know that farming opportunities are crucial for healthy communities in a large part of the country. My grandmother would remind me, as yours probably did too, "Waste not, want not." Our population is rising, so we have to find a way to do more with less: feed more people, make finite resources stretch.
And I think that is what's at the heart of the biofuels movement: doing more with less. How can we deliver our energy needs from domestic sources and still deliver the food we all need? Well, as my grandmother pinpointed so many years ago, the answer lies in the waste.
By Victoria DeFrancesco Soto
In 2007 the U.S. Senate choked the life out of the last major immigration reform initiative. Republican Senators, fourteen to be exact, refused to give President George W. Bush the votes needed for cloture.
Today, this same chamber is giving life to the issue they squashed no more than five years ago. And more importantly, back-of-the envelope math shows that with 55 Democrats, two Independents, and the four Republicans who helped draft the immigration reform, there will not be a replay of the Senate immigration showdown.
Immigration reform also has an active advocate in President Obama and a Senate chamber that can make the push. That's the good news.
By Dan Bacher
As a lawsuit was filed to stop unregulated fracking in California, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, claimed that fracking causes no environmental harm in the state.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a rapidly spreading, environmentally destructive new method of oil and gas extraction that is drawing growing opposition throughout the state by environmentalists, fishermen, tribal members, family farmers and consumer advocates.
By Robert Cruickshank
The California Legislature is currently in a special session dealing with state implications of federal health care reform, but once the regular 2013-14 session resumes, proposals to reform the California Environmental Quality Act will quickly become a top issue.
As I argued last week, there are three main groups when it comes to CEQA reform:
- Businesses and developers who chafe at the added time and cost created by CEQA. Some of these folks want to build environmentally friendly stuff and just want a law that works more easily, but others want to gut it with loopholes.
- Transit and sustainability advocates who are fed up with CEQA's unnecessary delays, costs, and its empowering of NIMBYs - but who also generally support the law's original goals and want to see it fixed rather than undermined. I consider myself part of this camp.
- Conservationists and slow-growth or anti-growth folks who think CEQA works just fine as it is now.
Not every individual or group neatly fits into one of those groups, but it's a workable classification.
By Steve Hochstadt
American higher education has some big problems. We still have a world-class network of colleges and universities. Students from less developed and from highly developed nations come to the US to get BAs and advanced degrees. Our teaching practices are copied, our researchers have made English a universal scientific language, and our graduates can compete across the globe.
The hundreds of small colleges scattered across the US represent a unique American contribution to undergraduate education, which is being copied in Europe. Not only has American higher education led the world in the integration of women and minorities into faculties and administration, but American scholars have developed the broadest critique of economic inequality, abuse of political authority, and social discrimination.
By Judy Dugan
California's oil and gas industry regulators are about to write final state regulations on the controversial practice of fracking natural gas and oil wells in the state. Don't expect any backbone, however, from the state Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Regulation. So far, the draft proposals boil down to "trust the oil industry."
By Anthony Wright
Monday started a special session of the California Legislature, called by Governor Jerry Brown last week, to pass laws to continue to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, and get California ready to take advantage of the benefits available starting in January 1, 2014.