August 2012

California Must Resist Anti-Teacher Special Interests

By Duane Campbell
Choosing Democracy

Following assaults on teachers in Tennessee, New Jersey, New York and Florida – among others – the California legislature this week is using the “gut and amend” procedure to change the current teacher evaluation system in the state. The brutal assault in Florida led to the defeat of the moderate governor Christie by Tea Party advocates in 2010.

In California legislators claiming to be responding to a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that Los Angeles was improperly implementing the current law, legislators are trying change the law before Friday using Assembly Bill 5. An active advocate of the yet undefined plan is Michelle Rhee’s organization, so-called “Students First.”

Don’t Let Big Insurance Pull The Wool Over Your Eyes!

By Sam Gold
Injured Workers Television Network

The insurance industry and specifically large self-insured companies are ramping up support in Sacramento for another, as they call it, Workers Compensation Reform – a very bad choice of words as the definition of the word reform means “the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt or unsatisfactory!” And corrupt and unsatisfactory it most certainly is, but not caused by employees, but the employers and their insurers. They have the vast financial resources to lobby our legislators who will gladly take their political contributions to make changes in existing law.

Good Week for California Renters: Four Tenant Rights Bills Land on the Governor’s Desk

By Dean Preston
Tenants Together

We don’t get to say this much, but this was a good week for renters in Sacramento. Despite realtor and landlord campaign contributions and the undue influence they bring, a number of good renters’ rights bills have made it through the minefield of the California State Legislature and are now on the Governor’s desk. Governor Jerry Brown has 30 days to sign or veto the bills.

Health Care Reform in California

By Diane Lefer

“The way the health care delivery system developed in this country has been a global scandal,” said Michael Hiltzik, author and Los Angeles Times columnist, as he concluded the community program he moderated August 22 on the effects of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking at the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles, expert panelists acknowledged the obvious limitations of the act, which was found constitutional (for the most part) by the Supreme Court at the end of June. They also cited new benefits flowing from the legislation. But what became very clear was that there are steps we in California can take to make reform more meaningful even without action on the federal level.

The “Target” Approach to Better School Meals

By Dana Woldow


Wouldn’t it be great if many good causes - feeding hungry kids, organic farming, fighting global warming, growing small local businesses - could all be supported by school meal programs? In a perfect world, every worthy goal could benefit from these government funds. In the real world, underfunding of school meals by Congress means that schools must prioritize to ensure scarce resources are going towards feeding the most kids, and that means student needs trump other noble causes.

SB 863: Why Are Worker Advocates In Opposition?

By Julius Young

Boxer & Gerson, Oakland, CA
Publisher Of Blog

Today the legislature is holding an informational hearing on SB 863, a comprehensive workers’ comp reform bill.

Although the bill has some good elements, has been improved from recent versions and although any progressive workers’ comp reform effort may involve some compromises, SB 863 has too many takeaways for workers and should be rejected.

From Tijuana, Ex-Dreamer Calls for Immigration Reform

By Jacqueline Guzmán-Garcia, Translated by Elena Shore

Photo: Nancy Landa at graduation

Nancy Landa was working in the public sector at a California organization that fateful September in 2009, when she was 29. She had graduated with honors in 2004 with a degree in business administration from California State University, Northridge (CSUN), and had a steady job. Everything seemed normal.

All of a sudden, at the Third Street entrance to Highway 710 N toward Long Beach, Landa was stopped by two immigration officials. They got out of a van and, without showing her any official documentation, told her she was under arrest.

“I’m dreaming -- it’s a nightmare,” Landa thought as she climbed in the vehicle with four other people, heading to a detention center in downtown Los Angeles.

SB 863: Real Workers’ Comp Reform to Reduce Costs and Help Injured Workers

By Angie Wei
California Labor Federation

Arnold Schwarzenegger rode into the Governor’s office in 2004 on the campaign promise to “fix” the workers’ compensation system. Every day in 2004, the media hammered home Schwarzenegger’s talking points that California’s highest-in-the-nation workers’ compensation costs were driving employers, and jobs, out of the state.

In the face of a relentless media campaign and the threat of an extreme workers’ comp reform ballot measure, the Legislature passed SB 899 in 2004—a draconian bill that gutted the workers’ compensation system and created more pain and suffering for injured workers.

The Case for Progressive CEQA Reform

By Robert Cruickshank

A last-minute end of session gut and amend effort to change the California Environmental Quality Act will not move forward - but that doesn't mean the effort to reform CEQA has come to an end, nor does it mean that the broken system of environmental review can be left to continue to rot. The same coalition that came together this month to push reforms will merely redouble their efforts ahead of a 2013 push to change CEQA. They've got the money and the momentum. I would not bet against them.

Many progressive groups across the state mobilized to block this specific reform proposal, charging that it would in fact carve out a series of loopholes to existing laws and help environmentally unfriendly things like offshore oil rigs avoid CEQA review.

2012-13 Budget Essay No. 7: Of Cabbages and Kings, the June Legislative Budget

By Sheila Kuehl

This is the seventh in a series of essays exploring California's 2012-13 budget. It presents the budget sent on June 15th from the Legislature to the Governor, still lacking his agreement on several large issues.   

The first essay in this series explained the general provisions of the Governor's January budget. The second discussed specific cuts proposed to welfare-to-work (CalWORKS), child care and Medi-Cal.  The third analyzed the January proposals related to K-14 and higher education.  The fourth revealed the details of proposed realignment funding, and proposed "government efficiencies".  The fifth set forth the revised May budget concerning the general financial picture, the new plunging deficit and education, 0-16.  The sixth presented May revisions in Social Services and Prisons.

Conservationists Beat Back Attack on CEQA

By Bruce Reznik

Planning & Conservation League

Conservation groups are hailing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for preventing a last-minute attempt to gut the California Environmental Quality Act from moving forward. State Senator Michael Rubio tried to sneak drastic changes to CEQA through the legislature using the infamous “gut-and-amend” procedure.

Senator Rubio’s legislation, known as SB 317, would have made comprehensive changes to CEQA without giving the legislature – and the public – an opportunity to explore what these changes would mean to environmental quality in the state.

Teachers and Nurses Take Action at Yacht Club to "Save Our State From Bungling Billionaires"

By Fred Glass

A few weeks ago an agonized fundraising appeal went out from three right wing millionaires on behalf of the so-called “Californians for Reforms and Jobs, Not Taxes” campaign against Proposition 30.

Apparently business executives Floyd Kvamme, David Marquardt, and Mark Stevens had learned that Prop 30, also known as the “Protect Schools and Local Public Safety Act,” would cause the wealthiest Californians to have to part with 1 to 3% more of their enormous incomes to support public education and public safety programs. Faced with the unnerving prospect that millions of school children might have smaller class sizes, and neighborhoods across the state might become safer places to live and work, they sprang into action.

Enough of Groundhog Day: Save CEQA

By Jenesse Miller

One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray's weatherman character is trapped living the same day over and over again. But one of my least-favorite real-life versions of Groundhog Day--where several interest groups try to push through major changes to California's most important environmental law at the last minute--is playing out yet again in the state Capitol in the waning days of the legislative session.

The Los Angeles Times warns: “Major change to one of California’s most important laws could happen literally in the dark of night."

NYT Picks Up on Cuts to Current Medicare Beneficiaries Arising From Romney-Ryan Plan

By David Dayen

The story I covered on Sunday about how the Romney-Ryan campaign would have to cut current Medicare benefits because of the box they’ve shoved themselves into by promising to “restore $716 billion in Medicare cuts” finally gets picked up by the New York Times in a front-page story. If the story gets a bigger platform, all the better. But I don’t think Jackie Calmes did a complete job of explaining this, so let me try again.

Prop 32: The Billionaires' Bill of Rights

By Dick Meister

Billionaire corporate interests and other well financed anti-labor forces are waging a major drive to stifle the political voice of workers and their unions in California that is certain to spread nationwide if not stopped ­ and stopped now.

At issue is a highly deceptive measure, Proposition 32, on the November election ballot, that its anti-labor sponsors label as an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. But actually, it would limit ­ and severely ­ only the spending of unions while leaving corporations and other moneyed special interests free to spend as much as they like.

Unions would be prohibited from making political contributions with money collected from voluntary paycheck deductions authorized by their members, which is the main source of union political funds.

Will Speaker John Perez Keep His Promise to Grassroots Democrats About Passing the California DISCLOSE Act?

By Carole Lutness

Last month there was great news for AB 1648, the California DISCLOSE Act. Speaker John Perez, who is a co-author of AB 1648, stood up in front of a couple of hundred activists at a Los Angeles County Democratic Party meeting and said, to a roaring round of cheers, that “we are going to get the DISCLOSE Act passed!”

This was fabulous news, because the California DISCLOSE Act is crucial to fighting back against Citizens United and unlimited anonymous spending in SuperPACS by making political ads in California clearly show their three largest funders.  Without it voters will be crushed by the Chevron’s and Koch Brothers of the world.

Speaker Perez really has to make it happen because unfortunately, with huge opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce and its big-money corporate allies who would rather keep voters in the dark, it doesn’t look like there’s any Republican Assemblymembers that will vote for it, denying it the 2/3 vote it needs as it currently stands.

Social Scientists’ Brief with Supreme Court Sheds New Light on Diversity

By Eva Paterson
Equal Justice Society

On August 13, the Equal Justice Society, the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and the Haas Diversity Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 13 of the country’s leading social scientists in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, urging the Court to uphold modest race-conscious admissions policies.

The brief cites studies, provided to the Supreme Court for the first time, showing that race-conscious admissions policies such as those used by the University of Texas at Austin result in a more diverse student body, which is essential to produce leaders able to compete in the 21st century global marketplace. The brief also explains how structural barriers inhibit educational opportunity.

Prop 37 Solution to Walmart’s Untested, Unlabeled, Toxin Spliced Corn

By Zack Kaldveer
Yes on 37 Right to Know Campaign

As the summer winds down, family barbeques are in full swing and supermarkets are filled with shoppers searching for the right foods to grill up with friends and neighbors.

But do they really know what they’re buying? What they may not know is that Walmart has admitted it will soon start selling agrichemical giant Monsanto’s sweet corn, which has been genetically engineered with an insecticide inside it -- not on the corn, but IN it.

Bt toxin works as an insecticide by disintegrating the lining of insects’ stomachs when they chomp on the corn.  So what is this doing to the bodies of adults or children who eat the corn? We don’t know.

Paranoia I Adore Ya: An Agnostic's View of Coincidence on Social Services and Prisons

By Sheila Kuehl

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "coincidence" as: 1. The act or condition of coinciding. 2. The occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.  

Notice that the primary definition does not include the word "accident."

Einstein attributed such apparent synchronicity to a higher power, saying, "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." In Othello, Shakespeare thought these connections a simple construction of the mind, saying, "Trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmations strong as proofs of holy writ."

Science fiction writers, who often create whole new worlds in order to honestly assess the deficiencies and dangers of the "real" one, devote a lot of ink to speculating on events that coincide and whether such connections may have been intended. In fantasist Emma Bull's opinion, "Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys."

Obama Needs Labor - Again

By Dick Meister

Organized labor, which played a major role in President Obama's 2008 election campaign, thankfully has launched what seems certain to become an even greater and perhaps decisive effort in behalf of Obama's re-election this year.

We should all be thankful for that, given the reactionary policies Mitt Romney and his Republican cohorts promise to put in place should they win, and the positive reforms Obama and the Democrats promise.

Four years ago, 250,000 AFL-CIO activists campaigned for Obama's election. But the AFL-CIO says the number of union volunteers campaigning for Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress this year will reach at least 400,000, and be waged among union and non-union members alike.

That's not an unrealistic expectation, considering what happened in 2008.
One-fifth of all voters that year were union members or in union households, and fully two-thirds of them supported Obama, and the ratio was even higher in so-called battleground states.