February 2012

Governor Brown Misrepresenting Medi-Cal

By Anthony Wright
Health Access California
Governor Brown is coming back from Washington, DC, from a series of meetings--with his fellow Governors, our U.S. Senators, our Congressional delegation, various Administration officials, and with President Obama.

With everything going on, I'm legitimately surprised that Governor Brown spent so much time lobbying the federal government to give him more authority to cut Medi-Cal.

In particular, one item he focused on was the federal government's recent rejection of a request to allow the state to impose significant new cost-sharing on millions of low-income Californians. Last year's budget included the provision to impose $5 co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs, and $50 for an emergency room visit (and $100 for a night in the hospital), all targeted at families making less than $900/month.

Several In-Home Supportive Service Related Bills Introduced in State Legislature

By Marty Omoto
California Disability Community Action Network

Several regular legislative session policy bills impacting the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program were introduced earlier this month and last week by the February 24th bill introduction deadline.  Two bills – and possibly a third – deal with IHSS providers that would propose changes to existing State law that currently prohibit an individual from working as an IHSS provider if he or she was convicted of certain crimes. Current State law allows the IHSS recipient to hire such an individual by submitting to the county a signed waiver document.

State Senate President and Assembly Speaker Both Introduce IHSS Bills

GE Breaks Laws, Avoids Taxes, Receives Billions From Gov't, and Then Gets White House Post?

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

GE paid an effective tax rate of 2.3 percent or less over the past ten years. What did the government do for GE while it was paying little - and often no - taxes? Let's see:

The government let it off with just a slap on the wrist - more than once - after it repeatedly broke the law. The government bent the rules so that it could receive bank bailout money, although it wasn't a bank, saving it from destruction and giving it billions in profits.

The government rescued it even though it had already blown a reported half-billion dollars on a shady mortgage firm that hired strippers and at least one ex-porn actress to sell its loans, shafting thousands of homeowners and leading many of them into foreclosure.

The government gave it favorable tax treatment for moving thousands of jobs offshore. And to top it all off, President Obama honored it (and undoubtedly helped its sales) by naming its CEO to be his "Jobs Czar."

Oppose the "State Water Rights Repeal Act" (H.R. 1837)

By Doug Obegi
Natural Resources Defense Council

This week, the House is scheduled to vote on “State Water Rights Repeal Act” (H.R. 1837). This bill would devastate California’s rivers, the Bay-Delta estuary, our fisheries and wildlife, and the jobs and communities that depend on their health. The legislation is opposed by the State of California, California’s two Senators, more than 10 members of the state’s House delegation, the leaders of both state legislative houses, and literally hundreds of commercial and recreational fishing associations, environmental groups, water districts, local governments, and farmers. See here for more information about those who oppose this bill.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of this radical bill’s most harmful provisions.

Legislation Needed to Revise Penalties for Simple Drug Possession

By State Senator Mark Leno

Following the lead of 13 other states and the federal government, I'm introducing legislation that revises the penalty for simple drug possession under state law from a felony to a misdemeanor. The new legislation, SB 1506, does not apply to anyone involved in selling, manufacturing or possessing drugs for sale. The bill would help alleviate overcrowding in state prisons and county jails, ease pressure on California’s court system and result in millions of dollars in annual savings for both state and local governments.  

Billionaire Insurance Baron Tries to Buy Off California Republican Party

By Brian Stedge-Stroud
Consumer Watchdog

Billionaire insurance baron George Joseph, Chairman of Mercury Insurance, is attempting to buy the endorsement of the California Republican State Party for his November insurance ballot measure. The insurance executive and “Forbes 400” billionaire is the party’s largest donor for the past two years. In 2010, when the Republican Party endorsed Joseph’s prior attempt to pass the same auto insurance surcharge initiative, Joseph donated $1 million to the Republican Party. He recently donated another $1 million in October 2011 to the California Republican Party.

The insurance billionaire’s ballot measure would penalize good drivers as much as $1,000/year for auto insurance. Consumer Watchdog Campaign and Consumer Federation of California were joined by Sharada Polavarapu, a San Francisco resident who relies solely on mass transit, to call on the Republican Party to oppose this ballot initiative as an attack on the middle class.   

Your Toxic Couch: New California Legislation Will Address Chemicals in Flame Retardants Found in Furniture

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Where there’s smoke – fire is still likely after California’s out-dated 12-second rule. And toxic flame retardants in your bed or couch may harm your family anyhow.

Those worrisome factors are behind a bill introduced Friday by California Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, seeking to change the state’s fire-safety testing standards for furniture.

Currently, furniture makers have to use stuffing and foams treated with flame retardants to meet California’s current rule. Under an obscure state law known as Technical Bulletin 117, furniture must withstand being ignited by on open flame for 12 seconds, even though fire-safety experts have determined that even a smoldering cigarette taking more than 12 ticks of the clock can set furniture ablaze.

Air Pollution In Southern California Remains Serious Issue Despite Decades of Progress Made – Part 2

By Alan Kandel

In Southern California over the past two decades much in the way of air quality improvement has been achieved. There has been a marked reduction in both fine particle pollution generated at area ports (as we’ve learned from Part 1) and motor vehicle-produced smog (ground-level ozone).

Fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) is emitted from motor vehicles and other mobile sources (both on and off-road) in addition to industrial and power plant (stationary) sources as well as from forest fires, according to information provided by California Watch Health and Welfare reporter Bernice Yeung in the article: “Southern Californians at risk of death from air pollution, EPA says.”

Media Promotes False Republican Gas Price Attacks on Obama

By Randy Shaw

With President Obama’s approval numbers rising, the traditional media has created a new issue it claims raises “political perils:” rising gas prices. Working in lockstep with Republican backers of the Keystone XL pipeline and the “drill, baby, drill” crowd, the media is inflating an issue that a close look at the facts shows has never swayed presidential voters, and will not do so next November.

Proposition 8: The Marriage Protectors Are Back In Court Again

By Peter Schrag

There was little surprise in last week’s attempt of the marriage protectors to get a larger appellate panel to review the three-judge Ninth Circuit of Appeals decision overturning California’s gay marriage ban. They said from day one they were going to do something. Some shoe had to fall.

But how they’re arguing for it raises some curious questions.

The Ninth Circuit ruling, handed down earlier this month, was as much as anything an attempt to circumscribe its scope and thus make it a less tempting target for the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, who like nothing better than to stick it to the libs on the left coast. The leading Ninth Circuit lib is Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who wrote the Proposition 8 decision.

Clinton Targets Short-Lived Pollutants as Drivers of Climate Change

By Bruce Reznik
Planning and Conservation League

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced a joint, six-nation climate change effort to reduce air pollutants. The freshly christened Climate and Clean Air Coalition, consisting of delegates from Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Bangladesh, Ghana, and the United States, met in Washington to detail measures that will curb emissions of pollutants such as black carbon soot and methane, so-called “short-lived” climate pollutants because they dissipate in the atmosphere much faster than their long lingering cousin carbon dioxide.

Race and Sex-Based Abortion Ban Hijacks Civil Rights

By Jessica González-Rojas and Miriam Yeung
New America Media

As members of immigrant families, as women of color, and as mothers ourselves, we were appalled when the United States House of Representatives introduced HR 3541 late last year. This legislation, which could come to a floor vote soon, cloaks itself in the language and names of civil rights heroes, but is in fact a duplicitous attack on the health, dignity, and human rights of all women of color, including immigrant women.

The President's Corporate Tax Message: Say What?

By Robert Borosage

The Obama administration released a “framework” for corporate tax reform on Wednesday, proposing to lower corporate tax rates, and pay for that by closing various corporate tax loopholes.

The “framework” isn’t really a corporate tax reform proposal. It is a message document, framed in a bitterly partisan election year when no reforms are about to take place. So what is the message?

The president wants to show that he’s sensitive to business complaints about a tax code with the highest nominal corporate tax rates in the industrial world, outraged at the loopholes and scams built into the code, committed to providing incentives for business to create jobs here at home, and stout in opposing more corporate tax cuts unlike his Republican opponents.

Surprise: New PPIC Report Promotes Peripheral Canal

By Dan Bacher

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has just released a new report, “California 2025: Planning for a Better Future,” touching on an array of issues including water. Other topics included in the report are budget, climate change, economy, education, housing, population and the workforce.

Those hoping that the PPIC might break with its past reports calling for the construction of the peripheral canal to export more Delta water to corporate agribusiness and Southern California will be disappointed, since the report includes a rousing endorsement of the peripheral canal as the “solution” to both ecosystem restoration and water supply needs in California.

Is Congress Going to Double the Interest on Your Student Loan?

By Sarah Jaffe

Unless Congress acts soon, millions of college students could see the interest rate on their federal student loans double this summer—adding $5,000 to the cost of an education for students who pay off their loans in 10 years, and around $11,000 over 20 years.

Yet Republicans are claiming that keeping those rates low costs too much and isn't the federal government's job. Rep. Virginia Foxx, chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee, even argued that it's unnecessary for any student to borrow money to go to college in the first place.

President Mostly Speaks Truth About Gas Prices

By David Dayen

So we’re going to have another fatuous debate about gas prices in this country, as if the President has a ticker on his desk that he can set to the 9/10 of a cent. President Obama made the effort to mock this. As a national politician he obviously feels he cannot say “there’s not much I can do,” but he came extremely close in this speech. I give him credit for anticipating the Republican line of attack:

You can bet that since it’s an election year, they’re already dusting off their 3-point plan for $2 gas. And I’ll save you the suspense. Step one is to drill and step two is to drill. And then step three is to keep drilling. (Laughter.) We heard the same line in 2007 when I was running for President. We hear the same thing every year. We’ve heard the same thing for 30 years [...]

Voter IDs: The ‘Hanging Chads’ of 2012

By Khalil Abdullah
New America Media

A gathering of activists, journalists and voting rights advocates met recently to discuss the growing number of states that have adopted what many see as discriminatory voter registration laws. Such policies, they argue, do more to limit rather than expand democracy, threatening to disenfranchise millions in the lead up to the November elections.

Citizen journalist Faye Anderson was among those gathered at last week’s symposium, hosted by the Center for American Progress. Taking aim at new regulations in several states that require voters to show photo ID, she equated the law to the controversy hanging over the 2000 presidential race.

The regulation, she says, will be the “hanging chads” of the 2012 election.

The One Percent Won This GOP Debate

By Terrance Heath
Campaign For America’s Future

Make it stop. Please, just make it stop. That's the short version of my reaction to GOP primary debate #20. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe I need more time to recover from my two days at CPAC. (After the debate, I felt the same odd sensation that I swear I felt after finally fleeing CPAC — that tingling sensation one usually feels when an arm or leg that's "fallen asleep" wakes up. Except it was it was my brain coming back to life, after going numb.)

As a progressive, it really shouldn't bother me. After all, in many ways the biggest winner of the Republican debates is President Obama, while the biggest losers are (a) the candidates and (b) the Republican Party. Plus, the debates have supplied an entertaining string of awkward moments. This one had its moments, too. But it's getting painful to watch and listen to these guys. It's like watching someone run headfirst into a brick wall, at full speed, then back up and do it again. And again. And again.

El Segundo Inc.: Furor Over Chevron’s Sweetheart Deal

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

The skirmish of words in El Segundo over its city manager’s proposal to raise local taxes on that city’s largest business, Chevron Oil, has suddenly become a full-fledged legal war, with the official making explosive accusations against both El Segundo’s government and Chevron. The story, which Donald Cohen has been following for Frying Pan News, began with Doug Willmore’s efforts to bring the giant refinery’s taxes in line with the taxes paid by other California oil companies. Willmore was subsequently fired on February 9 by El Segundo’s city council.

Not a Drop to Drink: Inside California's Water Crisis

By Elizabeth Royte
On Earth Magazine

When Josie Nieto visits her relatives in Mexicali, Mexico, she luxuriates in long showers. And when she’s thirsty, she enjoys a glass of water straight from the kitchen tap. At Nieto’s own house, the water pressure is so low it can take her 45 minutes to shower and shampoo. And sometimes there’s no water at all, which is why some of her neighbors hoard water in buckets. It’s fine for laundry and houseplants, but Nieto isn’t keen on drinking the stuff. The main pipe of her community water system runs straight down the middle of an irrigation ditch. "I’ve seen dead animals in there," Nieto says.