Politics


Legislature Passes Historic Medi-Cal Expansion Bills

By Linda Leu

"We are in an Extraordinary Session because we must do extraordinary things to move the state forward," said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada in her testimony in support of ABX1 1 (Speaker Perez), the bill to expand and streamline the Medi-Cal program. The bill enjoyed spirited debate before passing off the Assembly Floor today with a 53-22 vote.

The Tea Party Plot to Unravel Government

By Robert Reich

Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public's business, and to sow distrust among the population.

Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.

Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what's been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you'd be forgiven if you see parallels.

Three-Quarters of Progressive Caucus Not Taking a Stand Against Cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

By Norman Solomon

For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.

While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits - including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

Sequestration Cuts Threaten California's Comeback

By Steve Smith

It's been a good start to the year for California. We lead the nation in job creation. Our budget is balanced. Unemployment is dropping. Prop 30 stopped devastating cuts to our schools. While we still have a lot of work to dig out from the recession caused by Wall St. greed and excess, there's no question that California is enjoying a major comeback.

But the California comeback could be short-lived if Republicans in Washington, D.C. continue this insane game they are playing with the so-called "sequestration" cuts. These automatic spending cuts would sap $500 million in federal funding from California putting priorities like education, health care and public safety at risk. The cuts could cost California 225,000 jobs.

Environmentalists Decry "Poor" Notification of First Fracking Hearing in L.A.

By Dan Aiello

In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown Jr.'s supervisor of oil and gas at California's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute protested what she sees as a circumvention of the intent, if not the technical requirement, of California's transparency rules on public hearings.

Siegel's organization was just one of a number of environmental groups who were disappointed in the state agency's efforts to engage the public on the issue of fracking's impact on California's groundwater, aquifers, agriculture production and fragile coastline.

The first public hearing on the administration's hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, regulations in California is scheduled for February 19, 2013 in Los Angeles.

What Would Ideal CEQA Reform Look Like?

By Robert Cruickshank

There's been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about various proposals to reform the California Environmental Quality Act. But the most interesting proposals are those that have been around the longest.

I first delved into CEQA back in 2009 when covering an article that argued CEQA could be the biggest obstacle to California high speed rail. At the time, I touted a 2006 study by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association - SPUR - titled Fixing the California Environmental Quality Act. SPUR's approach was to follow the successful model of Oregon, where for over 40 years sprawl has been effectively if not totally limited in favor of light rail and infill development. SPUR's goal was to promote greater urban density through smart, holistic planning processes. CEQA is primarily designed as a tool to block bad projects but does nothing to encourage good projects, which is what we need.

The State of the Union: Mr. President, Time to Focus on the Economy

By Robert Reich

If you're sitting in the well of the House when a president gives a State of the Union address (as I've had the privilege of doing five times), the hardest part is on the knees. You're required to stand and applaud every applause line, which means, if you're in the cabinet or an elected official of the president's party, an extraordinary amount of standing and sitting.

But for a president himself, the State of the Union provides a unique opportunity to focus the entire nation's attention on the central issue you want the nation to help you take action on.

President Obama has been focusing his (and therefore America's) attention on immigration, guns, and the environment. All are important. But in my view none of these should be the central theme of his address Tuesday evening.

Delta Whopper: How Big Water Spins the Science on Water Policy

By Zeke Grader

Fishermen are my constituents - I work with them every day. And when you hang around fishermen, you hear a lot of fish stories. Sometimes, of course, you hear some real whoppers, yarns that stretch the credulity of even the most trusting soul. But nothing I've heard on the docks can match the whoppers that originate from Sacramento.

Perhaps the most egregious falsehood comes courtesy of Big Water - the state's largest water districts and agencies, including Kern County, the Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

California Farmers Alarmed as Energy Companies Outbid Ag Water Districts for Resource

By Dan Aiello

There's a new water interest bidding for California's limited water supplies, and the managers of California's historic agriculture-centric water districts in the Central Valley aren't smiling.

With a finite supply of water, Sacramento may have to choose between expanding food production or fracking wells and oil and natural gas production. Either option will likely lead to increases in food or energy costs for consumers.

Out-of-state, (primarily Texas-headquartered) energy companies with deep pockets from record profits and the strongest lobby in Sacramento are anxious to extract as much severance tax-free California oil from the ground as quickly as possible.

Immigration Reform Reality Check

By Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

In 2007 the U.S. Senate choked the life out of the last major immigration reform initiative. Republican Senators, fourteen to be exact, refused to give President George W. Bush the votes needed for cloture.

Today, this same chamber is giving life to the issue they squashed no more than five years ago. And more importantly, back-of-the envelope math shows that with 55 Democrats, two Independents, and the four Republicans who helped draft the immigration reform, there will not be a replay of the Senate immigration showdown.

Immigration reform also has an active advocate in President Obama and a Senate chamber that can make the push. That's the good news.