Kuehl, Sheila


Sheila Kuehl served for eight years in the State Senate and six years in the State Assembly. Senator Kuehl served as chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee from 2000-2006. Her website is www.sheilakuehl.org

May Budget Revise: Oliver Twist vs. Great Expectations

Sheila KuehlBy Sheila Kuehl

In Charles Dickens' early and dark novel, Oliver Twist, an orphan is condemned to the poorhouse and forced to labor for an undertaker. He escapes to London only to be recruited into a gang of child pickpockets. The book presents an unrelenting view of poverty and the social ills that come with it. Dickens' much later novel, Great Expectations, in contrast, sets out a more hopeful view of what could happen if a poor orphan got a little help, set a course for himself, and chose good over evil. The new proposed budget presented by the Governor to the Legislature in May, after April tax revenues were tallied, generally dubbed "The May Revise", presented the same sort of choices for the Governor and the Legislature, with the choice greatly dependent on whose revenue projections would gain acceptance.

Prop 36: Making the Punishment Fit the Crime

By Sheila Kuehl

Appearing on California's November ballot, Proposition 36 would change sentencing for those who commit a non-serious, non-violent felony, after having served time for two, prior, serious or violent felonies (the so-called "third strike"). There are a few exceptions, but, generally, current prisoners could apply for re-sentencing if their third strike was non-serious and non-violent.

There are three levels of crimes in California: felonies, misdemeanors and infractions. Felonies are the most serious and those convicted of felonies generally are sentenced to incarceration in state prisons. Felonies are also divided into categories, with the most egregious being "serious" or "violent" felonies, which are listed in California statute.

Prop 33: Deja Vu All Over Again

By Sheila Kuehl

California voters rejected an initiative just like Prop 33 - which would alter the factors considered in setting auto insurance rates in contravention of the provisions of Prop 103, adopted by the voters in 1988 - only two years ago, in part because of their concern that one insurance company, Mercury Insurance, was footing the bill for the entire "yes" side. Prop 33 would allow auto insurance companies to offer discounts to other companies' insureds if they have maintained "continuous coverage" with their current company. Let's call it the "cherry-picking, unraveling of the old Prop 103" proposition.

Prop 31: A Smorgasbord of Provisions

By Sheila Kuehl

Prop 31 is a collection of seven disparate provisions gathered together by a collection of think-tanks and pundits aimed changing state government procedures. It is primarily the brainchild of an organization called California Forward, which was put together by Common Cause and the Center for Governmental Studies, among others, and funded by five foundations, including the California Endowment. The hope was to find ways to make government more efficient and responsive. However, several critics have opined that Prop 31 doesn't really accomplish the goal, but simply recycles a number of ideas that have been floated through the years without a good deal of empirical evidence on whether or not they accomplish what they set out to do.

Prop 38: A Different Take on the Problem of Education Funding

By Sheila Kuehl

This is the second in a series of essays analyzing the Propositions appearing on California's November ballot. This essay describes Proposition 38, which amends state statutes (not the Constitution) to increase state income tax for any Californian earning more than $7316 a year, and allocates the increased revenues to K-12 education, state debt and early childhood education. I'll also address what happens if both the tax measures, Propositions 30 and 38, should pass.

Governor Brown Looks to Patch a Budget Gap with Prop 30

By Sheila Kuehl

When Governor Brown took office, he erroneously believed he was dealing with the same California Republican party with whom he had worked out so many things in the past. Instead, he was strung along just long enough for the temporary taxes put into place by Gov. Schwarzenegger, which were simply supposed to be extended, to expire. Left with no alternative, the Governor put his version, a continuation of the Schwarzenegger tax increases, out for signature. At the same time, a proposed initiative, cheerfully dubbed the Millionaire's Tax, was circulating and the two seemed destined to do some harm to each other, especially since the provisions of the Millionaire's Tax were polling better. As Sen. Russell B. Long once put it, "Don't tax him and don't tax me, tax that guy behind the tree." That would be the rich, and the 99% seemed very willing to do it.

I Got The Didn't-Think-It-Could-Get-Any-Worse-But-It-Just-Did Blue Pencil Blues

By Sheila Kuehl

This is the last in a series of nine essays exploring California's 2012-13 budget, and presents the unilateral "blue pencil" cuts made by the Governor to the final June budget. The first essay in this series explained the general provisions of the Governor's January budget. The second discussed specific cuts proposed to welfare-to-work (CalWORKS), child care and Medi-Cal. The third analyzed the January proposals related to K-14 and higher education. The fourth revealed the details of proposed realignment funding, and proposed "government efficiencies". The fifth set forth the revised May budget concerning the general financial picture, the new plunging deficit and education, 0-16. The sixth presented revisions in the May budget regarding Social Services and Prisons. The seventh detailed the hurry-up June legislative budget. The eighth set out the provisions of the final budget put on the Governor's desk.

Women and Children First (Over The Cliff): The Final June Budget

By Sheila Kuehl

This is the eighth in a series of nine essays exploring California's 2012-13 budget. On June 15th, the Legislature sent a majority-vote budget to the Governor. Over the next two weeks, the Governor and the Democratic leaders negotiated a final budget. This essay presents the major revisions adopted in that final budget.

2012-13 Budget Essay No. 7: Of Cabbages and Kings, the June Legislative Budget

By Sheila Kuehl

This is the seventh in a series of essays exploring California's 2012-13 budget. It presents the budget sent on June 15th from the Legislature to the Governor, still lacking his agreement on several large issues.   

The first essay in this series explained the general provisions of the Governor's January budget. The second discussed specific cuts proposed to welfare-to-work (CalWORKS), child care and Medi-Cal.  The third analyzed the January proposals related to K-14 and higher education.  The fourth revealed the details of proposed realignment funding, and proposed "government efficiencies".  The fifth set forth the revised May budget concerning the general financial picture, the new plunging deficit and education, 0-16.  The sixth presented May revisions in Social Services and Prisons.

Paranoia I Adore Ya: An Agnostic's View of Coincidence on Social Services and Prisons

By Sheila Kuehl

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "coincidence" as: 1. The act or condition of coinciding. 2. The occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.  

Notice that the primary definition does not include the word "accident."

Einstein attributed such apparent synchronicity to a higher power, saying, "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." In Othello, Shakespeare thought these connections a simple construction of the mind, saying, "Trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmations strong as proofs of holy writ."

Science fiction writers, who often create whole new worlds in order to honestly assess the deficiencies and dangers of the "real" one, devote a lot of ink to speculating on events that coincide and whether such connections may have been intended. In fantasist Emma Bull's opinion, "Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys."