2012 California Legislation

Sacramento’s Mixed Fiscal Message

By Peter Schrag
So was it a threat or just a statement of hard facts? The “it” here was the Field Poll’s finding last week that 72 percent of voters don’t approve of the school budget cuts that would automatically follow failure of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase measure on the November ballot.

Did the voters disapprove because they saw the school cuts as a threat – what Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, called “the most expensive ransom note in California history”?

Did it mean that 19 percent of us who said we approve of the school cuts like cutting school funding (9 percent had no opinion)? And if voters were reacting to a perceived threat, why did a significantly greater percentage of Republicans react positively to the Brown proposal than did Democrats (22 percent to 14 percent)?

California Legislature Passes High Speed Rail Bond Issue, Moving Project Forward

By David Dayen

High speed rail survived by the skin of its teeth Friday.

In a closely watched vote of the California state Senate, a bill to issue the first $5.8 billion in bonds for the construction of high speed rail lines passed 21-16. It needed all 21 votes to pass. Four Democrats voted no – including Allen Lowenthal, the Democratic candidate for Congress in CA-47, and Fran Pavley, the author of the state’s historic global warming law – but ultimately, just enough Democrats voted in favor of the bonds for them to pass. Joe Simitian and Mark DeSaulnier were the other Democrats who opposed the bill.

A Victory for Homeowners

By Caitlin Vega
California Labor Federation

The other night, my son woke up with a bad dream. “I dreamed we had to move out of our house,” he told me in a worried voice. As I hushed him back to sleep, I thought about all the children for whom that is not just a bad dream.

Over the past 6 years, nearly two million Californians have lost their homes to foreclosure. That’s an awful lot of parents who have had to explain to their children that they could not stay in their homes. They’ve had to take their kids out of the schools and neighborhoods where they were raised and have friends and start over somewhere new and unfamiliar.

California Legislation Would Eliminate Consumer Protection of Internet Services

By Cheryl Leanza
Progressive States Network

Sometimes states operate against stereotype, and this legislative session is no exception. In contrast to a forward-thinking bill put forward in West Virginia earlier this year, which would have forward explicitly granted authority over high speed broadband Internet services, it seems the typically consumer-friendly and technologically savvy California legislature is considering moving in the opposite direction, taking up a policy proposed by the ultra-right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and that ALEC endorsed when it was under consideration in New York State.

California Passes Significant Protections Against Illegal Foreclosure Processes

By David Dayen

Pressured by a coalition of activists and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the California legislature completed a months-long project yesterday to significantly improve its foreclosure process. The measure gives homeowners a new right to sue over fraudulent practices, ends dual tracking – where servicers process foreclosures while negotiating loan modifications – and extends a single point of contact at all borrowers. The state Assembly passed the companion bills by 53-25, with the Senate passing by 25-13.

AB 439 Would Weaken Medical Privacy Law

By Richard Holober
Consumer Federation of California

California lawmakers are poised to weaken a patient privacy law despite its overwhelming voter support.  

AB 439 (Skinner) is before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote on Tuesday July 3. The bill would create loopholes in the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA), placing patients at risk of repeated unauthorized release of confidential health information on a massive scale.

Assembly member Skinner is carrying the bill for McKesson Corporation, a healthcare business that ranks 15th on the Fortune 500 list. McKesson, a distributor of pharmaceuticals and manager of healthcare information systems, reported revenues of $122 billion in its 2012 Annual Report. Drug store chains, hospitals and other health care corporations are also supporting AB 439.

California + Quebec = Good News for the Climate

By Erica Morehouse
Environmental Defense Fund

The State of California and the Canadian province of Quebec are worlds apart in many ways – they are, of course, under different governments, in different nations, and their economies are separated by both geography and currency. But they share a common goal: tackling the problem of climate change while stimulating economic growth by putting a price on carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed link between the two jurisdictions represents a transformative step for North America, and could jumpstart a broader regional effort to combat the threat of climate change and create a prosperous clean energy economy.

California Homeowners and Advocates Ask State Legislators “Whose Side Are You On”

By Kevin Stein
California Reinvestment Coalition

Over 70 California community groups, labor unions, and advocates have sent a letter to California’s Assembly members and Senators asking them “Whose Side Are You On: Banks or Homeowners?” This week, members of the Joint Legislative Conference Committee on Foreclosure Issues will be voting on important legislation that will create protections and strengthen due process for California’s homeowners. The legislation could effectively end bank practices that have led to wrongful and unnecessary foreclosures for California homeowners who are struggling to negotiate a modification with their bank.

California’s homeowners and advocates are calling for strong legislation that:

  • Ends “dual track” by requiring banks to provide a "yes" or "no" answer on a modification application before proceeding with foreclosure, and to halt the process if a borrowers completes a loan modification application after the process has begun,

'Unemployed' Doesn't Mean 'Unemployable'

By Mitch Seaman
California Labor Federation

In any recession, from any era, unemployed workers face challenges that are unique to the time but consistent across history. Finding new work is never easy, but during a recession the search can prove almost impossible, as greater numbers of unemployed workers fight over fewer available jobs. For example, at the peak of the current downturn, around seven unemployed workers existed for every open position. Though this 7-1 ratio has since improved to 4-1, the outlook remains bleak and the unemployed still struggle.

Making matters worse, the severity and structural nature of the current downturn means many jobs are gone for good, and idled workers need all the help they can get when finding new work.

Reduced Drug Possession Penalties Can Save Money and Lives

By Diana Zuniga, Drug Policy Alliance

California continues to suffer an economic drought while the corrections and incarceration industry is experiencing a tsunami of funds and is increasingly locking up people convicted of non-violent, low level drug law violations. What is the California economy gaining from imprisoning low level drug offenders?

Not much. The war on drugs and in particular the war on people who simply use drugs is increasingly taking from programs that need the resources. In a recent Associated Press article, the author, Don Thompson, confirmed that California needs to cut costs specifically associated with health care that are currently triple the national average. Thompson concluded, “California spends $16,000 per inmate for health care services, compared to an average of $5,000 in other states.” California needs to realign its budget and priorities when incarcerating individuals.