Senate Health Bill Could End Medical Bankruptcy in California

By Linda Leu

Wednesday afternoon, the California Senate Health Committee passed SB639 (Hernandez), which implements many provisions of the Affordable Care Act that will help ensure consumers will be able to purchase affordable coverage. This includes the limiting of out-of-pocket expenses, aligning plans by value, and standardizing plan benefits, both within and external to the state health exchange marketplace.

Cracking the School-to-Prison Pipeline

By Anthony Asadullah Samad

There has been another raging discussion taking place over the past couple months, that of the school-to-prison pipeline. How many different ways can we say that the absence of investment in America's intellectual capital causes - even promotes - devastating social consequences? And how many different ways can we assess the racial consequences of misapplied forms of social control? No, there are no more "whites only" or "colored only" signs, which causes society to suggest that we are a more racially homogenous society. Yes, we do come together on some levels today. But the most common way in which we come together is on anti-intellectual levels.

Creating Community, One Vote at a Time

By Steve Hochstadt

I've been thinking a lot about community lately. My involvement in my local elections has led to hundreds of conversations with people about our community - what the problems are, how to improve them, how the city should be run. But more important than the way we vote or even whom we vote for is the role the whole community plays in our local affairs.

Every once in a while, we all get to vote. Voting is one of the most important foundations of our democracy. Our ability to select our political managers, at the local, state, and national levels, and to vote them out of office the next time, puts ultimate power in the hands of the people.

Why Labels on Genetically Engineered Foods Won't Cost Consumers a Dime

By Zack Kaldveer and Ronnie Cummins

Organic Consumers Association

The biotech industry, led by Monsanto, will soon descend on the state of Washington to try their best to defeat I-522, a citizens' ballot initiative to require mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Voters should prepare themselves for an onslaught of discredited talking points, nonsensical red herrings, and outright lies designed to convince voters that they shouldn't have the right to know what's in the food they eat.

Why School Test Resistance May Be About to Sweep the Nation

By Mark Naison

When people decide to resist unjust policies that have overwhelming support and for which there are few antecedents in their lifetime, mass movements do not erupt overnight. They are often inspired by the accumulation of individual acts of protest, taken at great risk.

One of the best examples of this is the lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement, which began when four black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, decided to challenge segregation in their downtown business district, sparking a movement in scores of cities that eventually encompassed more than 35,000 protesters and led to the creation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee(SNCC).

Keystone Pipeline: Canadian Profits, American Woes

By Rev. Jim Conn

With a trumpet blast from the sources of conventional wisdom, the Keystone XL pipeline charged through the news sources last month. When the State Department released its positive environmental report that is seen as clearing the way for a pipe full of Canadian oil slurry to run through the heartland of America to the refineries of Houston, the pundits lined up to salute. They said the XL would add to American oil independence. They said it would bring jobs. They said it would never cause any of those silly problems the environmentalists were bothered about.

What Senators Saw at the U.S.-Mexico Border

By Michael Dear

Four U.S. Senators came to visit the Arizona border. Hosted by John McCain, Republican of Arizona, they were members of the so-called 'Gang of 8' - a bipartisan group currently drafting proposals for comprehensive immigration reform.

During their visit, the senators reportedly witnessed a migrant trying to scale the border wall before being apprehended by authorities. Such drama! (And such a coincidence...)

But being on the line does provoke fresh insights. "You can read and you can study and you can talk but until you see things it doesn't become reality," said Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, who was touring the border for the first time.

Major CEQA Reform Stalled, But Steinberg Promises Changes

By Robert Cruickshank

In the wake of Senator Michael Rubio's surprise resignation in February, major reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act appear to be stalled:

Joel Fox, chairman of the Small Business Action Committee, said, "The stars were in line, but have been knocked out of alignment."

But Rubio may have seen the writing on the wall as far back as last fall, when his last-minute effort at taking on CEQA was quashed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who insisted that any fixes to the premier environmental law wouldn't happen in the dark of night under the Capitol dome.

April Is the Cruelest Month As the Economy Crawls Along

By Robert Reich

Bad news on the economy. It added only 88,000 jobs in March - the slowest pace of job growth in nine months.

While the jobless rate fell to 7.6 percent, much of the drop was due to the labor force shrinking by almost a half million people. If you're not looking for work, you're not counted as unemployed.

That means the percentage of working-age Americans either with a job or looking for one dropped to 63.3 percent - its lowest level since 1979.

The direction isn't encouraging. The pace of job growth this year is slower than its pace last year.

What's going on? The simple fact is companies won't hire if consumers aren't buying enough to justify the new hires. And consumers don't have enough money, or credit, or confidence to buy enough.

Reshaping Education: New Opportunities for Teachers Unions

By Lisa Schiff

In the midst of a protracted assault on public education, teachers unions have in front of them a tremendous opportunity. The need for strong leadership asserting child-centric approaches to education has never been greater - teachers and their unions can seize this moment to break the mold of the traditional union and expand that organization's legitimate sphere of action to formally include the very structure and quality of students' learning experiences.

The historic purpose of a union to protect and advocate for its members is no less relevant today than it was in years past, but within the world of public education that mission alone is insufficiently ambitious, both for teachers and their students. The conditions of work are critical, but the nature of that work is equally so.