June 2010

Big Oil’s Hazardous Landscape on Repeal of AB 32

By Warner Chabot
California League of Conservation Voters

When Texas oil refiners Valero and Tesoro were contemplating whether to buy their way onto the California ballot last winter, they envisioned a ripe environment for their proposition to repeal the state's clean energy and air standards: skyrocketing unemployment rates, a Tea Party-inspired anti-regulation backlash, and increased skepticism about the science of global warming fueled by the rants of right-wing talking heads Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

California Health Department Failing to Address Unsafe Care Problems Raised by Nurses

By Geri Jenkins, RN

It’s been six months after Registered Nurses and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United filed a complaint with the California Department of Public Health regarding sweeping and pervasive patient care problems at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

Yet state officials have yet to act. On Monday, a CDPH told one of our representatives, after our latest call to see what they are doing about this urgent problem: “No one has been assigned.”

Perhaps we should not be surprised. Another California agency that is dominated by appointees of the Schwarzenegger administration, the Public Employee Relations Board, is the agency that, on behalf of the University of California hospital administration, went to state court seeking to block the democratic right of UC nurses to strike, as a last resort, to demand the UC correct the patient care problems in their system.

The Real Reason Public Employee Unions Are On The Defensive

By Robert Cruickshank

In Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition blames public employee unions themselves for the defensive position they undeniably find themselves in right now. Scheer's argument is a mixture of right-wing claims that it's somehow wrong for people to be paid well and a more interesting claim that unions brought these problems upon themselves by not cultivating enough public support.

The main problem with this argument is that it totally ignores the role of the right-wing, corporate union-busting machine in systematically undermining unions, especially public sector unions. Leaving that crucial piece of the story out of the op-ed makes Scheer's argument much weaker.

As Prop 8 Trial Concludes, Study Shows Risk of Rushing to Ballot

By Paul Hogarth

Yesterday, the Proposition 8 trial in San Francisco Federal Court will hear its long-awaited closing arguments – as gay marriage advocates prepare to return to the ballot. And a new study conducted by the Haas Jr. Foundation looks at pre-election polling data from 33 states that passed anti-gay marriage initiatives. It concludes (a) we always do worse than what polls say, and (b) voters don’t change their minds about this issue during campaigns. The lesson, of course, is that we must work harder to move hearts and minds – and that work can’t be done in a short election season. Sadly, the implications of this study will strike many as discouraging – was all the money, time and energy we spent in California and Maine somehow a waste? It’s true gay marriage is a sensitive topic that voters develop hard feelings about that can’t be changed overnight. But the study did not focus on the small sliver of “persuadable” voters in each election who decide the outcome.

Resolution Calling on Congress, President to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act Passes Senate Judiciary

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

AJR 19 (Brownley, Feuer), a non-binding resolution calling on the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to repeal the nation's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), advanced to California's Senate floor today, after it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 3-2 vote.

The resolution by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, (D-Santa Monica, photo on the right) and Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), calls on the U.S. Congress and President to repeal DOMA because it "discriminates against married same-sex couples." 

AB 919: Confronting a Bad Supreme Court Ruling

By Pedro Morillas

In January, the Supreme Court ruled in a contentious 5-4 opinion that corporations have the same free speech rights as people. In the eyes of the court, the ‘We the People’ preamble to the Constitution applies to corporate entities because corporations are, well, groups of people.

Flowing from this skewed logic, the court struck down nearly a century of law that forced corporations to seek contributions from individuals affiliated with the corporation to fund their political contributions, people like shareholders, employees and board members.

Whitman, Fiorina Get Mixed Reviews in Silicon Valley

By Viji Sundaram
New America Media

Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, the two businesswomen-turned-political hopefuls who clenched the Republican nominations in the California primaries, got mixed reviews from tech workers in Silicon Valley.

Former Hewlett-Packard (HP) CEO Fiorina will face Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November. Former eBay chief Whitman goes up against Democrat Jerry Brown in the race for governor.

Both women ran their political campaigns largely on their business records. But while eBay grew astronomically during Whitman’s tenure, under Fiorina’s control, HP fared poorly, resulting in her ouster by the board. Their political support reflected their perceived business acumen: In Santa Clara County, the heart of the Valley, more voters (66 percent) looked favorably on Whitman as a possible public sector success than they did on Fiorina (31 percent).

Prescribing Readable Drug Labels

By Anthony Wright
Health Access

After a disastrous final ruling last week by the Board of Pharmacy basically gutting an earlier law of hers, Senator Ellen Corbett announced new legislation to create consumer friendly, readable, prescription drug labels.

Senator Corbett has amended Senate Bill 1390 to require pharmacies to provide language assistance to patients who have limited English proficiency, and use labels printed in a minimum 12 point font size, the suggested standard by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people each year. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 46 percent of adults cannot understand the information listed on their prescription drug labels.

A Deal is Never a Deal With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

By Angie Wei
California Labor Federation

Arnold Schwarzenegger is holding a gun to the heads of over 300,000 California state employees. He’s salivating at the opportunity to drop state employee pay to federal minimum wage if a budget isn’t enacted by July 31st. He’s also announced that he won’t sign a budget unless it includes worker concessions on their pensions.

That’s right. The federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, 75 cents below CA’s $8 an hour minimum wage. Sacramento’s economy would come to its knees. Local restaurants, car repair, grocery stores, landlords, banks, would all lose revenue as a result.

Families would face further economic pressure, unable to pay their rent, their mortgages, their credit card bills, their student loans, their car and insurance payment. The crushing impact on families would dig them into a financial hole that they may never be able to crawl out of.

Cutting Medi-Cal Drug Treatment Threatens Lives

By Dr. John McCarthy

I wrote a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger on behalf of disabled patients currently being treated in the methadone treatment system, alerting him that eliminating the drug Medi-Cal program threatens the lives of hundreds of disabled patients. I am a psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist in Sacramento, and I am the physician for about 300 patients on SSI disability whose health and lives would be endangered if they were forced to withdraw from methadone, if drug Medi-Cal was eliminated, as proposed by the governor.

Home Care Advocates Continue Fight Against Budget Cuts in Federal Appeals Court

By Thu Phan

Yesterday as the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard a case that is critical to our ability to live independently, I joined dozens of other people with disabilities, low-income seniors, and our caregivers to keep up the fight for safe, quality home care. 

We gathered on the steps of San Francisco’s James R. Browning court house to show California leaders and community members what California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program means to us.

AD5: Stonewall Dems Endorse Pan, Will Counter Prop 8 Contributions to Pugno

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

With 43 percent of the vote, self-described Proposition 8 author, Andrew Pugno (photo on the right), has won the Republican primary and will face off against Democrat Dr. Richard Pan for California's 5th Assembly District in what both sides anticipate will be a tough race for the open seat of this once solidly Republican district east of Sacramento.

Pugno won the race after raising more than $350,000 dollars using the Protectmarriage.com's Yes on Prop 8 contributors list shortly after the anti-marriage equality initiative passed. 

Sacramento's Stonewall Democratic Club responded with the launch of the website, StopAndrewPugno.com, and is calling on the LGBT community to help stop Pugno's political aspirations in their tracks.

Survey Shows How California Schools are Coping with Budget Cut Pains

By Rupa Dev
New America Media

Faced with budget cuts, K-12 public schools in California are grappling with terrible choices about what should get the ax. A new survey of almost 400 schools finds the cuts over the last two years were felt everywhere from grounds upkeep to instructional material to school nurses.

The online survey, administered by the California Department of Education, asked administrators in county offices of education, school districts, and charter schools about how they balanced their budgets in light of state budget cuts to public education.

Has Obama Finally Rejected Austerity - and Will California Reject It Too?

By Robert Cruickshank

It has become the most important political story of the year - the battle between the New Hoovers who demand austerity, and the rest of the world that understands we need prosperity instead of prolonged recession. So far the Obama Administration has been hard to pin down on this. They pushed hard to get the $787 billion stimulus done in early 2009, but made the stimulus too small to pull the nation out of recession for fear of asking for too much.

Since then, calls for austerity have grown louder. Some of this comes from wealthy folks like Pete Peterson spending a ton of money to push this messaging out to the public. Some comes from Austerity Democrats who do not understand how economies actually work. And some comes from the teabaggers, who as I explained are afraid deficit spending will undermine their privileges by being spent on nonwhite and poor people.

What Really Happened In 2004?

By Sam Gold
National Organization of Injured Workers

First of all let's get something straight; there was no reform of Workers' Compensation, period! Call it whatever you want, but don't you dare call it a reform!

The word "reform" is defined in many ways; Here are some examples:

1. To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form or condition.
2. To abolish abuse or malpractice in: reform the government.
3. To put an end to (a wrong).
4. A change for the better; an improvement.

Can you honestly say that what occurred in the legislature in 2004 with Senate Bill 899 meets any of these definitions?

Electing Equality: Voters Chose LGBT and Pro-LGBT Candidates at the Polls

By Chris Moore
Equality California

Last week's elections were invigorating! The outcomes are generally very favorable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians and could prove to be history making. There are, however, some dangerous candidates on the horizon that will require our community to be energized and cohesive in order to beat them.

Nearly every single EQCA endorsed candidate won their primary yesterday, and we were hard at work helping to make that happen. Our Political Action Committee and its many donors directly contributed to candidates' campaigns. Our volunteers and staff made over 20,000 phone calls to urge support of our candidates and to get out the vote. We sent over 140,000 pieces of mail to every corner of the state. And to ensure that our candidates succeeded, we closed our offices yesterday and our 44 staff spent the day working on the most critical campaigns.

Newly Sworn-in Assemblymember Mike Gatto: Creating Jobs Key to Solving State’s Budget Woes

By Assemblymember Mike Gatto

SACRAMENTO – In this Democratic weekly address, Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) thanks the voters of California’s 43rd Assembly District for allowing him to serve as their representative in Sacramento and says that creating jobs is key to bringing in the revenue California needs to solve its budget woes.

Click onto the following link for the English language MP3 file. The running time is 1:20.


Click onto the following link for the Spanish language MP3 file. The running time is 2:00.


Preserve Safety Net, Cut Corrections

By Margaret Dooley-Sammuli
Drug Policy Alliance

Because of California's continuing budget crises, the question is no longer will we cut the corrections’ budget but how. Every dollar spent on big prisons this year will be taken from children's health care, family welfare, students' education, and services to our elderly and infirm. 

We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past in terms of shredding the education and social safety net or investing billions in incarceration policies that cycle men and women in-and-out of violent, overcrowded prisons and back to our communities. The decisions made now will have real and lasting consequences for the health and safety of California communities for decades.

California Cuts Threaten Latino Seniors’ Health, Safety

Araceli Martínez Ortega
La Opinion/New America Media

The only thing that makes 82-year-old Jesús Ruiz happy, despite his disabilities and feeling abandoned by his children, is the help he receives from the State of California through In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) for frail low-income elders and younger people with disabilities.

A home-care worker with a kind Mexican face goes to Ruiz’s apartment in Sacramento three hours per day to help him to clean, to wash his clothes and cook for him. She is the only one person left to care for him.

Real Health Coverage Choices

By Anthony Wright
Health Access

Last week's passage of key state health reform implementation legislation mostly focused on the bills--SB900 and AB1602--setting up the California exchange, the new purchasing pool where many Californians--especially those not getting coverage through large employers--will be getting their coverage. California may well be the first in the country to pass a law, post-reform, to create an exchange, in accordance with the new federal law.

But health reform's transformation of how individuals buy coverage should not solely be within the exchange. Many of the consumer protections--from prohibiting denials for pre-existing conditions to setting standard benefits--need to be in the overall market for individuals and small businesses that purchase coverage. In this vein, SB890 (Alquist/Steinberg) address the structural flaws in the overall individual market.