megan's blog


Top-Two Primary Engages Independents—Despite Low Turnout Overall

By Public Policy Institute of California

In the first test of California's top-two primary in 2012, the new system failed to produce the increase in voter turnout that many had hoped for. But it did appear to encourage participation of independent voters. Under the new system independents are no longer required to take the extra step of requesting a ballot with all legislative and congressional contests on it. As a result, more independents appear to have voted in these primary races than they had under the old system.

These are among the key findings of a report released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Fracking Moratorium Bill Passes Senate Environmental Quality Committee

By Dan Bacher

A bill imposing a moratorium on fracking and acidizing for oil extraction in California passed through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee Wednesday by a 4 to 2 vote.

Senators Mark Leno, Jerry Hill, Loni Hancock and Fran Pavley voted for Senate Bill 1132, while Senators Ted Gaines and Jean Fuller voted against it. Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson was out of the room for the initial vote, but is expected to vote in favor of the bill.

Authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, SB 1132 would require the Natural Resources Agency to facilitate an "independent scientific study" on well stimulation treatments (fracking and acidizing) and their hazards and risks to natural resources and public, occupational, and environmental health and safety by January 1, 2015.

Why Classroom Experience Matters

By Seth Sandronsky

Marcos Breton, a veteran columnist for The Sacramento Bee, one of 30 newspapers The McClatchy Co. publishes, did it. In “Sacramento’s teachers have won this battle,” April 13, 2014, he bashes these union members, and inverts logic:

Diesel Truck Pollution: The Truth is Lost in the Fumes

By Diane Bailey

A couple things about diesel truck pollution: there’s still a lot of it in California, truck drivers are suffering from it, and most truck owners oppose rolling back the statewide truck clean-up rule. These facts have been obscured by all the fumes emanating from a tiny but vocal minority of trucktivists who want to do away with the Air Resources Board measure curbing diesel pollution from trucks. Tomorrow, ARB will consider allowing some additional delays to their statewide diesel truck and bus rule adopted six years ago.

Common Core, New Funding Formula Get High Marks

By PPIC

Most Californians favor two historic changes under way in K–12 education: implementation of new English and math standards and a new funding formula that gives school districts increased flexibility over spending and provides extra money for disadvantaged students.

At the same time, most Californians are concerned about whether teachers are prepared to implement the new standards, called the Common Core State Standards. And many residents lack confidence that local districts will make wise use of the money allotted to them in the new Local Control Funding Formula.

These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Supreme Court Weighs Unions' Future

By Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi

Springtime is typically emblematic of the birth and growth of new life forms. However, in 2014 this time of year could become a moment of death for the labor movement as we have come to know it.

In the coming weeks the United States Supreme Court will render a decision in the case of Harris v. Quinn that could paralyze labor’s ability to organize workers throughout the country. Despite its major implications, the case remains largely absent from our mainstream discourse or even within discussions among progressive allies.

Are Teacher Evaluations Education Reform's Biggest Bust?

By Jeff Bryant

Would you like your job performance judged by a 5-year-old?

That's a relevant question for public school teachers in Hawaii, where the state's new teacher evaluation system attributes 10 percent of their job performance rating on what children as young as 5 years old think.

Although 10 percent may not seem like a whole lot, in a metric based evaluation system where harsh judgments of "effective" versus "needs improvement" can swing either way based on a point or two, 100 percent can be 100 percent of the reason for a bad grade.

But the child's portion is not the sole problem Hawaiian teachers are having with their new evaluation system, which will ultimately affect their pay and can subject them to penalties as severe as termination.

The Toxic Denial Department

By Liza Tucker

Consumer Watchdog

What is a polluter’s shill to do when trying to save a client hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs? Well, one tactic is to manipulate the public living near the site of a partial nuclear meltdown into believing that nothing at one of the most polluted sites in California can hurt them. And hint that maybe, just maybe, this well-documented partial meltdown never happened in the first place.

Secretary John Laird, Ocean 'Protector'

By Dan Bacher

On Monday John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources and Chair of the California Ocean Protection Council, sent a memo to the "California Ocean and Coastal Community" discussing recent letters on the federal FY15 budget that he sent to three Congressional appropriation committees.

CEO Pay Hits 'Insane Level'

By Mike Hall

AFL-CIO

It’s good to be a CEO, at least paywise. According to the 2014 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, released today, it’s 331 times better to be a CEO than an average worker. PayWatch finds that the average CEO of an S&P 500 company pocketed $11.7 million in 2013, while the average worker earned $35,293. The gap between CEOs and minimum wage workers is more than twice as wide—774 times.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that PayWatch: