October 2012


Labor, Business, Environmental Leaders Support Job-Creating Prop 39

By Steve Smith

With California's unemployment rate still over 10%, we should be using all available resources to strengthen our economy and create jobs. That's why it's so frustrating to see a wasteful corporate tax loophole draining resources that ought to be putting people back to work. But Prop 39 aims to change that, and anyone who truly cares about creating jobs in California should sprint to the polls on November 6th to pass this commonsense measure.

Last week in San Francisco leaders from California's labor, business and environmental communities stood together to close the loophole that's costing tens of thousands of jobs and slowing our economic recovery.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Will Politicians Suffer for Opposing High Speed Rail?

By Robert Cruickshank

In California media outlets often like to ask whether Governor Jerry Brown or state legislators will suffer for supporting high speed rail. Their assumption is that the risky move when it comes to HSR is to back it, and that opposing it comes at little political cost.

What's in Your Food? People Have a Right to Know

By Richard J. Jackson, MD MPH

In less than two weeks, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which would require labeling of food sold in California grocery stores if the food contains genetically engineered ingredients. Sixty-one other countries already have this requirement in place. You should not have to be a chemist, toxicologist or geneticist to have trust in your food.

There is a long history of false reassurances in the environmental health world, including about many pesticides, fumigants, food dyes and preservatives. The most outrageous manipulations of public trust were industry denials of hazards from tobacco, and the misinformation from the lead industry, which worked aggressively in opposition to the concerns of pediatricians and others about lead's toxicity, especially to children.

Prop 30: A Step Toward Fairer Taxation

By Martin J. Bennett

With the fall elections upon us, Californians are reeling under a weak recovery, enduring both historic levels of income inequality, and the most severe fiscal crisis in recent history. To address the crisis we must have some common sense remedies: raise taxes on the wealthy and build a movement for a fair and more equitable tax system.

Income inequality has exploded over the last two decades in both the nation and California. UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez has documented that the share of national income received by the upper 1 percent more than doubled from 9 percent in 1979 to an astonishing 23 percent in 2007. The richest 1 percent raked in a staggering 60 percent of the national income gains over these three decades, while the bottom 90 percent received just 9 percent.

Delta Leaders Line Up in Opposition of "Water Tunnels" Plan

By Dan Bacher

On October 24, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) hosted a press conference in Sacramento urging more federal support for levees in rural parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for a statewide cost-benefit analysis of the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Joined by a bipartisan coalition of local leaders representing diverse Delta communities, Garamendi, a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and former Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, said the cost-benefit analysis is necessary to ensure the plan does not cause harm to Northern California farming, fishing, and tourism.

Prop 36: Making the Punishment Fit the Crime

By Sheila Kuehl

Appearing on California's November ballot, Proposition 36 would change sentencing for those who commit a non-serious, non-violent felony, after having served time for two, prior, serious or violent felonies (the so-called "third strike"). There are a few exceptions, but, generally, current prisoners could apply for re-sentencing if their third strike was non-serious and non-violent.

There are three levels of crimes in California: felonies, misdemeanors and infractions. Felonies are the most serious and those convicted of felonies generally are sentenced to incarceration in state prisons. Felonies are also divided into categories, with the most egregious being "serious" or "violent" felonies, which are listed in California statute.

California Health Care Changes Coming, Despite Concerns

By Linda Leu

Last Thursday, the Assembly Health Committee held a hearing on Managed Care Program Initiatives at the Department of Health Care Services - that is, the transitions the DHCS is overseeing - including moving dual eligibles to managed care, moving seniors and people with disabilities to managed care, and moving "Healthy Families" kids to Medi-Cal.

Consumer advocates and legislators have expressed concerns over how well these transitions are going. Particularly, network adequacy and timely access rose to the surface as serious concerns for consumers who may be falling through the cracks in these transitions. Beth Capell of Health Access spoke of the importance of timely access, and that timely access is a good indicator that plans are financially solvent and that networks are adequate to provide care.

Prop 33 Targets Senior Citizens for Insurance Rate Hikes

By Nan Brasmer

I am a senior citizen. I live on a fixed income. I'm voting No on Proposition 33 because it will raise automobile insurance rates on law abiding Californians like me, who have a health problem that keeps them off the road for a period of time.

Ten years ago, after living in pain for years, I had my hip replaced. I dropped my auto insurance for four months while I recovered. After all, I could not drive, and this helped me save some money.

But if Proposition 33 were the law, I would have been punished with higher insurance premiums for the next five years simply because I suspended my insurance when I did not need it. That's not fair.

Why Rejecting Prop 32 is a Patient Safety Issue

By Malinda Markowitz, RN

It would be easy for voters, sick of the auction of California politics to the biggest spenders, to be tempted by the misleading advertising for Proposition 32. But all the ads for 32 ought to come with a warning label: beware of buyer's remorse.

Anyone who has seen the No on 32 endorsements from the real campaign finance reform groups, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and Public Citizen, probably already understands the initiative is not what it claims.

A Jobs Training Program for California Where Everybody Wins

By John MacMurray

If we believed everything the media tells us about labor relations in California, most of us would have the picture of businesses, mostly small and family owned, struggling valiantly to survive against the predations of an over-large and over-reaching government, and of the rapacious labor unions, both intent on driving these businesses out of California, if not out of business entirely. However, like Sportin' Life tells us in Porgy and Bess, "It ain't necessarily so."

And this is due in large part to California having the wisdom, back in 1939, to set up an agency called the California Apprenticeship Council, which blends businesses, government agencies, and unions to work very well together for goals that benefit all of us.

The Subversion of Direct Democracy

By Roy Ulrich

A few months ago, I attended a large political gathering. There, a gentleman was handing out flyers which read, "Abolish the Congress and replace it with direct citizen voting by phone or television."

A few days later, a newly-arrived transplant to Southern California wrote a letter to The Los Angeles Times. He said he was mystified by California's method of writing and enacting laws by ballot initiative. He wondered what happened to the concept of laws being written by elected legislators. The flyer and the letter represent polar opposite views about direct versus representative democracy.

Prop 34: Ensure That California Never Makes an Irreversible Mistake

By Franky Carrillo

Freedom.

It's hard to imagine it being taken away without just cause. But it happens - more often than you might think.

When I was just 16 years old, I was stripped of my freedom, wrongfully convicted of a murder I did not commit. I spent twenty years behind bars before I was finally able to prove my innocence.

But I always wonder, if I had been sentenced to death, would I have been able to prove my innocence in time?

This is why I believe so strongly in Proposition 34, which will replace California's death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole. With the election just two weeks away, it's a critical time to make sure California voters hear about the true costs of the death penalty.

Transitioning from "Healthy Families" to Medi-Cal: Too Much, Too Soon?

By Linda Leu

Last week, two California Senate Committees, the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review and the Committee on Health, held a joint oversight hearing on the transition of the Healthy Families Program to Medi-Cal. Despite the assurances of Administration officials charged with implementing the transition, legislators' questions demonstrated serious concerns with whether the state will really be ready to move forward on the proposed timeline. The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has proposed that the transition begin on January 1, 2013, with "general notices" going out to families imminently, even though many important details remain undecided.

Westlands Dumps Thousands Into Defeating Pro-Delta Candidates

By Dan Bacher

A review of Federal Election Commission records has exposed an effort by the politically powerful Westlands Water District to replace the two pro-Delta Representatives, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney, with two candidates more aligned with their effort to drain the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Congressional candidates Kim Vann and Ricky Gill have taken tens of thousands of dollars from the California Westside Farmers PAC and from individual Westlands board members and prominent growers, according to the Federal Election Commission.

George McGovern Changed the Democratic Party

By Kenneth Burt

The passing of George McGovern, who upset the political establishment by winning the 1972 California Democratic primary, provides a unique opportunity to reflect on a history professor turned elected official who fundamentally changed the presidential selection process and realigned the modern Democratic Party.

The young McGovern flew multiple bombing missions in World War II as part of the fight against fascism. As part of the effort to create a better world, he directed the Food for Peace program in the Kennedy administration and shaped the modern food stamp program that has assisted farmers and low-income Americans.

Prop 33: Deja Vu All Over Again

By Sheila Kuehl

California voters rejected an initiative just like Prop 33 - which would alter the factors considered in setting auto insurance rates in contravention of the provisions of Prop 103, adopted by the voters in 1988 - only two years ago, in part because of their concern that one insurance company, Mercury Insurance, was footing the bill for the entire "yes" side. Prop 33 would allow auto insurance companies to offer discounts to other companies' insureds if they have maintained "continuous coverage" with their current company. Let's call it the "cherry-picking, unraveling of the old Prop 103" proposition.

Clean Sweep for Tenants in Sacramento

By Dean Preston

In a highly successful legislative session for renters, the Governor signed into law every bill supported by Tenants Together this year. Starting January 1, 2013, California law will prevent unfair nonpayment evictions after ownership changes (AB 1953, Ammiano), require at least 90 day eviction notice for any tenant evicted after foreclosure (AB 2610, Skinner), prohibit landlords from imposing online only rent payment rules (SB 1055, Lieu), require landlords to notify tenants of foreclosure filings (SB 1191, Simitian), and bar landlords from requiring their tenants to declaw or devocalize their pets (SB 1229, Pavley). In a state capitol where renters' rights are so often ignored, times appear to be changing.

The Hiding of Liberalism

By David Dayen

Michael Gerson is a former Bush speechwriter, and an unlikely candidate to have written something with which I wholeheartedly agree. But I think he’s reached a core insight here:

In its heyday — say, the 1960s — American liberalism had an obvious identity. It was ambitious, reformist and frankly moral in its appeal to a common good that included minorities and the poor. It was praised as idealistic and attacked as utopian. Robert Kennedy, quoting Aeschylus, set out "to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world." […]

Tom Hiltachk, Master of Deception

By Matthew Fleischer

Any lawyer with some experience in Sacramento politics can draft language for a statewide initiative. But crafting deceptive ballot measures that can trick people into voting against their core beliefs is nothing less than an art form.

For many years, the undisputed master of the misleading initiative has been Thomas Hiltachk. So it's little surprise that Hiltachk is the author of Proposition 32, which promises to rid Sacramento of special interest money – but which would actually give almost complete control of state politics to corporations and the super-rich by effectively crippling the ability of unions to participate in elections and lobbying. Hiltachk has also quite possibly written into the initiative a poison pill that would shield corporations from its provisions and leave only unions to suffer the consequences if Prop 32 passes.

Obama, Romney and the Latino Vote

By Kenneth Burt

California and Texas have the largest Latino communities, but Spanish-speaking voters are likely to have the greatest impact in states having either a relatively small Spanish-speaking population or where the ethnic composition is in flux.

Latinos are positioned to play a major role in three Southern states - Virginia and North Carolina, where the Hispanic population is relatively new, and Florida - once dominated by conservative Cuban Americans - where there has been dramatic growth in the Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Central American populations.