2010 California Legislation

The California Budget: Back in Black

By Robert Cruickshank

Last week's big news was the announcement from Governor Jerry Brown that the state budget is out of perennial deficit and looking at several years of surpluses. We'll talk more about what those surpluses mean and how they ought to be used, but it's worth taking a moment to remember how we got here.

Since 2001 or so, California's budget seems to have been in perpetual deficit, with less money coming in than was needed to fund existing public services. While the deficit pressure eased in 2005-06, that didn't last, and by the summer of 2007 the deficits had returned as the housing bubble popped and the country slid into the worst recession in 60 years.

Have Toxic Couches Finally Met Their Match?

By Valerie Pacino

Eureka! The California legislature will this spring consider a bill to modernize the 12-second rule, the state’s obscure furniture flammability standard that fails to protect us from fires even while it poisons homes across North America. Over the past seven months, we’ve described this scientifically discredited standard; provided nine (adorable) reasons to modernize the standard; refuted Big Chem’s star witness; and uncovered the engine of toxic political influence that shuns fire safety in favor of profits.

This time, we bring hopeful tidings.

Toxic Money: Big Chem, Dirty Politics, and the Poison in Your Couch

By Valerie Pacino

Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. Big Chem knows that politics can be business by other means. You’ve got to hand it to them: they’ve used politics with astounding effectiveness to secure their bottom line. The result is literally toxic for the rest of us.

The chemical industry spent nearly $5 million a year over the past five years on lobbying and campaign contributions in California. That’s a lot of money for one industry and one state. On the other hand, it’s a pittance, considering the payback: by defending an obscure and ineffective fire-safety regulation, the industry extends its North American stronghold in a market worth billions of dollar of sales each year. That’s one of the best returns-on-investment imaginable.

California: Ground Zero for America’s Foreclosure Crisis

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Ethel Gist bought her dream house and planned to retire to Antioch, Calif. Instead, the 70-year-old lost the house during the height of the foreclosure crisis, and now rents a place with her daughter and two grandchildren.

After he lost his three-bedroom home in East Los Angeles, Rene Lopez says his world has “shrunk.” He and his family of seven are crammed into a two-bedroom apartment. Lopez, who lost his job as a jeweler, is struggling to find work in a restaurant.

Dianne Pinkston, a self-employed tax preparer in Los Angeles, inherited the family house, only to lose it to foreclosure soon after. Pinkston still has a debt of $150,000 to pay off, but says she finds solace in her family and friends, and the fact that after the ordeal, she’s “still standing.”

Scoring the California Legislature: Who Stood With Consumers In 2010?

By Zack Kaldveer
Consumer Federation of California

The Consumer Federation of California released its 2010 Scorecard for State lawmakers today. The scorecard rates legislators on their votes cast on key consumer rights bills.

State Assembly members and Senators were evaluated on a number of issues, including prohibiting private for-profit post-secondary schools from making false job placement claims to prospective students, requiring lenders to provide mortgage modification information BEFORE initiating foreclosure proceedings, establishing a universal, government run health insurance program, prohibiting the manufacture or sale for use by infants or toddlers of food containers that contain bisphenol A (a toxic chemical), requiring large manufacturers and retailers to disclose their efforts to eliminate human trafficking, and prohibiting a retailer from charging a fee for debit card purchases, among others.

New Governor Should Sign Life-Saving HIV Prevention Law

By State Senator Leland Yee

Today as we recognize World AIDS Day, I am hopeful that Governor-elect Jerry Brown will heed the advice of doctors, pharmacists, and AIDS prevention advocates, by signing legislation to allow pharmacies to sell sterile syringes to an adult without a prescription.  

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed my Senate Bill 1029, which would have brought California in line with every other state in the nation (accept two) to no longer prohibit pharmacists from selling a syringe without a prescription. I am committed to reintroducing this bill during the upcoming legislative session that begins next week.

SB 1070 Coming to the 2012 Ballot?

By Robert Cruickshank

A bill like Arizona's odious, anti-immigrant SB 1070 could never make it out of committee in the California Legislature, and would never be signed by Governor Jerry Brown (or Arnold Schwarzenegger for that matter) even if it did.

That leaves the ballot, and that's what one right-winger plans to do:

A Republican activist from Belmont is raising signatures to place an Arizona-style immigration law on the California ballot in 2012.

The proposition would require all state and local police officers to investigate the immigration status of people they stop if they have reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally. It would make it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work while concealing their immigration status. And it would make it a state crime for an employer to hire an undocumented immigrant, whether the hiring happens intentionally or negligently.

Lobbyists and Corporations Foot the Bill for California Lawmaker's Hawaiian Trip

By Daniel Newman

The Sacramento Bee reported that at least a dozen California state legislators flew to Hawaii this past week for a large annual get together with lobbyists and corporate officials in separate conferences in Maui and Kauai.

The article named  energy providers PG&E and Southern California Edison, the trade group California Manufacturers and Technology Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association as well as pharmaceutical companies as groups that sent lawmakers "hobnobbing with interest groups in a tropical paradise."

Concerns Rise Over Funding of Public Colleges, Universities

By the Public Policy Institute of California

A strong majority of Californians say state funding for higher education is inadequate and most would favor more spending on public colleges and universities even if it means less money for other state programs. These are the findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.   

A poor economy and persistent state budget deficit have taken a notable toll on Californians’ views about state funding for public higher education in the PPIC survey—taken before the state legislative analyst projected a $25.4 billion budget shortfall over the next 18 months. Today, 74 percent of residents say the state does not provide enough money for colleges and universities, up 17 points from October 2007 (57%).

Assembly Will Hold Oversight Hearing on Bay Delta Conservation Plan

By Dan Bacher

The California Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s controversial proposal to build a peripheral canal/tunnel – on Tuesday, November 16, in the State Capitol, Room 437, starting at 1:00 PM.

A broad coalition of environmental organizations, fishing groups, Indian Tribes, water agencies, cities and counties is strongly opposed to the plan to facilitate the export of more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies.