October 2013


The Importance of Maintaining Long Distance Passenger Rail

By Robert Cruickshank

Another year, another Congressional Republican attack on Amtrak’s popular long distance rail service.

This time California Republican Jeff Denham is among those seeking to shut down the high ridership service:

In a May hearing, Rep. Jeff Denham, a California Republican and chairman of the railroads subcommittee in the House of Representatives, noted that Amtrak’s long-distance routes lost a combined $600 million in 2012.

“We simply cannot afford to continue these levels of subsidized losses year after year,” Denham said.

Pacific States Aren't Waiting for Congress to Tackle Climate Change, Governors Work Together

By Annie Notthoff

Natural Resources Defense Council

Monday afternoon, the governors of California, Oregon, Washington, and the premier of British Columbia will sign an ambitious Pacific Coast climate and energy action plan that will encompass a population of 53 million in the world’s fifth-largest economic region.

FPPC Levies Record Fines Against Dark Money Groups

By Steve Smith

California Labor Federation

Last Thursday California’s Fair Political Practices Commission sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.

According to the Sacramento Bee:

In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars.

Jerry Brown Is Embarrassing California

By Adam Scow

Food & Water Watch

Sometimes talk isn’t just cheap, it’s downright misleading. While he preaches about climate change being the single greatest challenge to mankind, Governor Brown’s current policies would actually worsen our climate crisis. Once perceived to be a trailblazer on the environment, Governor Brown is now siding with the oil and gas industry to push fracking at the expense of our climate, health and water.

Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions

By Selena Teji

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

There are many collateral consequences to criminal convictions in California, such as barriers to employment, housing, and social services. An additional concern that criminal defense attorneys should consider when advising their clients is the possible immigration consequences of their conviction. Under current immigration laws, even legal permanent residents can face deportation and bars on reentry following a conviction for a low-level drug offense.

Don’t Feel Sorry for JPMorgan Chase

By Richard Eskow

Scandal-tainted megabank JPMorgan Chase is losing legal ground in the wake of its multi-year crime wave (if the term “crime wave” seems harsh, we invite you to review the evidence here, here, and here.) But in the wake of its tentative $13 billion settlement with the federal government, it may be on the verge of winning at least one battle – in the court of public opinion.

Oil Lobby Has Spent Over $45 Million in California Since 2009

By Dan Bacher

A new report released by the American Lung Association reveals that the oil industry lobby, the biggest corporate lobby in California, has spent $45.4 million in the state since 2009.

The report was unveiled at a crucial time in California environmental politics - just a couple of weeks after Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 4, the green light to fracking bill, and less than 10 months after a network of so-called "marine protected areas" created under the "leadership" of a big oil industry lobbyist and other corporate operatives was completed on the California coast.

Fast Food With A Side Of Poverty, And What It Costs Us

By Derek Pugh

A new report from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley estimates that low-wage jobs in the fast-food sector are costing American taxpayers nearly $7 billion every year.

The report—Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast Food Industry—highlights the negative effects low-wage jobs have on the American economy and public. Workers in the fast-food industry are subjected to low pay with no benefits, forcing them to rely on public assistance programs to survive. The median worker is paid a mere $8.69 an hour, with many making at or near the minimum wage, and 87 percent do not receive health insurance through their employer.

Google: Doing Evil with ALEC

By Norman Solomon

Google Inc. is now aligned with the notorious ALEC.

Quietly, Google has joined ALEC -- the American Legislative Exchange Council -- the shadowy corporate alliance that pushes odious laws through state legislatures.

In the process, Google has signed onto an organization that promotes such regressive measures as tax cuts for tobacco companies, school privatization to help for-profit education firms, repeal of state taxes for the wealthy and opposition to renewable energy disliked by oil companies.

ALEC’s reactionary efforts -- thoroughly documented by the Center for Media and Democracy -- are shameful assaults on democratic principles. And Google is now among the hundreds of companies in ALEC. Many people who’ve admired Google are now wondering: how could this be?

Governor Brown, DPH on Verge of Side-Stepping Law and Jeopardizing Health of CA Children

By Bruce Pomer

Health Officers Association of California

Vaccines are one of the greatest and most successful tools ever developed for preventing disease and protecting public health. Governor Brown and the California Department of Public Health, however, are on the verge of taking action that could violate California law, undermine the statewide effort to get more children immunized and threaten the health of all California communities.

California, like every other state, requires school-age children to obtain various vaccinations against childhood diseases. However, California also currently has a mechanism called a “personal belief exemption,” or PBE, that allows parents to opt their children out of mandatory vaccines simply by printing out a form and signing it.

McCutcheon v. FEC: "Citizens United" on Steroids

By Steve Mikulan

Frying Pan News

The U.S. Supreme Court's new term, which began yesterday, could spell a world of hurt for working Americans. People who believe this aren't simply looking at worst-case scenarios -- in which, say, the conservative majority sides on every point with plaintiffs represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. No, their view rests on the conservatives' well-established penchant for producing rulings that go far beyond the original cases before the justices - rulings that make laws that didn't previously exist, grant awards that weren't sought and answer briefs that were never filed.

When Public and Private Meet, Extra Care Is Needed

By Donald Cohen

In the Public Interest

Across the nation, private companies are looking to take over public services. A legislative battle in Sacramento over a bill to privatize state trial courts epitomizes the promises and pitfalls of privatization.

Assembly Bill 566 (Wieckowski) would require that before contracting services out, courts must provide proof of cost savings, create employment standards, engage in a competitive bidding process, and undergo regular financial and performance audits bill sits on the governor's desk for signature or veto and the lobbying is intense.

The 'Plot Against Pensions' Takes Aim At California

Isaiah J. PooleBy Isaiah J. Poole

David Sirota, the author of the Institute for America's Future report on "The Plot Against Pensions" that detailed the right-wing collaboration to dismantle public pension programs around the country, is now reporting in Salon that "the Enron billionaire whose former company wrecked the Golden State's economy appears to be using a shadowy Texas front group to now try to loot the Golden State's public pension system."

Feds Urged to Halt Fracking off the California Coast

By Dan Bacher

A national environmental group on October 3 accused the federal government of violating a key national environmental law by allowing offshore fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in waters off California’s coast without analyzing the risks to human health and endangered marine species.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice letter with two federal agencies in charge of regulating offshore oil development, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The group plans legal action if the government fails to act.

What's Next for the Exchange?

By Amy DePaul

It seemed fitting that the federal government closure - staged in the name of defeating the unpopular reforms of the Affordable Care Act - began on the same day that the ACA's new insurance exchange drew an overwhelmingly eager response from the American public.

"A ton of people are excited to enroll," enthused Sarah Sol, information officer at Covered Cal. "Needless to say, we're thrilled with this strong consumer response."

As Stephen Colbert said in characteristic faux Republican, "Too many people signing up is always the surest sign that nobody wants it."

Despite Shutdown, Obamacare Starts: Huge Interest as California Begins Enrollment

By Anthony Wright

Health Access

Yesterday marked the begining of a six-month open enrollment in the new benefits and options of the Affordable Care Act, including with the launch of Covered California, our state’s marketplace for health care coverage.

Now millions of Californians are now able to shop, compare, and buy affordable, high quality health insurance through Covered California, a new insurance marketplace where individuals, families and small business can also get financial assistance to pay for health coverage. This brings us a major step close to the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

Congressional Republicans Violate Their Oath of Office

By Leo Gerard

Like "Git 'er done," Americans should be yelling at Republicans in Congress: "Do yer job!" That's because Republicans are shirking their sworn duty by both shutting down the government and threatening to default on its bills.

Before taking office, each member of Congress swears a simple, straightforward oath. It leaves little room for misinterpretation. They vow to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to "faithfully discharge the duties of the office."

California Must Foster the Takeoff of Electric Vehicles

Assemblymember Phil TingBy Assemblymember Phil Ting

Editors note: On September 28th, 2013 Governor Brown signed into law the bills mentioned in this post.

Green living is the future. But the power of our everyday actions to aid the environment can only be unleashed when green choices become a bigger part of our lives.