By Rev. Jim Conn
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."
Those are the opening lines from the Christmas story according to St. Luke, as written down by the team of scholars working under the direction of King James of England 500 years ago. Different translators have used different phrases over the centuries, but the frame for telling this story has always been taxes.
The Roman Empire wanted to make sure everyone paid their taxes, so Rome required its subjects to return to their towns of birth to sign into the national registry as part of a census, which allowed the keepers of the treasury to know who had paid and who had not. And that's how Jesus got to be born in Bethlehem.
By Robert Cruickshank
Some Bakersfield residents, opposed to the current plan to bring bullet trains into central Bakersfield, are arguing for pause on the EIR for that portion of the route. Their argument is that the planning is flawed – but they’re only saying that because they just don’t want a downtown train station:
A kind of “time out” was proposed last week as a way to forestall lawsuits and rethink options on the proposed high-speed rail route into and through Bakersfield.
By Dan Aiello
The Brown administration Tuesday proposed new draft regulations that would require the oil industry to disclose where in California its oil extraction operations are using hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as "fracking," in advance of a new movie starring Matt Damon meant to bring public awareness to the environmental destruction caused by the practice.
By Dick Meister
Be alert, American workers: The passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan means serious trouble for unions and their supporters everywhere. Yet there's legitimate hope that it also could lead to a revitalized labor movement.
You can be sure the action by Michigan, long one of the country's most heavily unionized states, home of the pioneering and pace-setting United Auto Workers and iconic labor leader Walter Reuther, will inspire anti-labor forces in other states to try to enact right-to-work laws.
By Christopher Allen
California Progress Report
Following the horrific mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a number of California lawmakers are pressing forward with legislation to clamp down on the regulation of certain types of firearms, ammunition or gun magazine technology in the Golden State.
Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced legislation that would ban the use of "bullet button" or "mag magnet" magazines that allow the rapid replacement of empty gun magazines with full ones by the pressing of a button. The bill would also prohibit the sale and use of add-on kits that would enable the use of high-capacity magazines.
By Linda Leu
The Board of Directors of Covered California, the state's new Health Benefit Exchange, met yesterday in Sacramento to continue its work implementing a reformed healthcare market in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010. The 15th and final Board meeting of 2012 wrapped up a productive year with little sign of slowing down as we race toward the January 1, 2014 mandate.
By David Dayen
The President will support a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. He will also "consider" legislation limiting extended magazines that carry a high capacity of bullets, as well as legislation closing the "gun show loophole," which enables gun purchasers to avoid background checks by buying them at gun shows. Press Secretary Jay Carney also emphasized the importance of improving the nation's mental health system as a way to prevent more mass shootings. This is certainly further than the President had been willing to go after other similarly situated mass shootings over the first term. Vice President Biden will lead a task force that will presumably come up with legislative and administrative steps to curtail gun violence.
By Lisa Schiff
My daughter came home from school the other day frustrated and angry. She had been excited the evening before because she'd learned that having finished The Odyssey her ninth-grade English class was now going to tackle Beowolf. We discussed the different translations and decided to compare the version we had at home with the one her class was going to read once she got the book. The next night she handed me, with a gesture of disgust, a used double-sided photocopy of the classic; no "real" book, just a set of rather worn stapled pages.
By Pablo Rodríguez
Thanks to Speaker John Boehner and Congressional Republicans holding the U.S. economy hostage during the debt-ceiling debacle in the summer of 2011, a package of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as the 'fiscal cliff' are less than three weeks away. And once again, Speaker of the House John Boehner insists on fighting for billionaires and once again holds our families hostage while he lectures on the virtues of tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
But allowing taxes to go up on middle class Americans would be devastating - both for families who are already struggling to make ends meet and for our economy.
By Christopher Allen
California Progress Report
A piece in the Sunday New York Times by Adam Nagourney highlighted the new supermajority status of California's Democratic Party, and the fact that lawmakers and the executive branch are wary of the potential voter backlash if Democrats flex their new political muscle too aggressively on issues of new taxation aimed at closing the state's still-considerable revenue gap. Despite a legislature long-dominated by the Democratic Party, this degree control by one party has not been seen in the state for over three-quarters of a century. As Nagourney notes:
This does not appear to be a passing advantage. Even Republicans say that changes in electoral demographics mean that, with the exception of a few brief lapses caused by vacancies, Democrats could hold a supermajority at least through the end of the decade.
Yet in the "be careful what you wish for" department, Democrats are beginning to confront the struggles and complications that come with being in charge of the store. This authority came at least two years earlier than most Democrats had projected. And it is unleashing years of pent-up Democratic desires - to roll back spending cuts, approve a bond issue to rebuild the state's water system, amend the state's tax code, revamp California's governance system - that had been largely checked by the Republican minority.