The LAO releases an in-depth analysis of the governor's Prop. 76 here. The report says 76 could simply smooth out the state's spending or possibly reduce it over time, and could lead to either higher or lower spending on schools, but would most certainly give lawmakers and the governor more leeway in making that decision than the current constitutional formulas provide.
UPDATE: A trusted source says my quick summary of the LAO report distorts its bottom line. Upon re-reading it, I think he has a point. While it's true the report says Prop. 76 might or might not reduce spending over time, it clearly leans toward a conclusion that it would shrink spending, or at least the projected growth in spending.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:28 AM
The latest independent evaluation of the state's high school exit exam is here. Bottom line: stay the course, but give more help to special ed students and English learners.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:24 AM
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed the gay marriage bill, saying the issue should be decided by the voters or the courts. An AP story is here.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:26 PM
It's good news, of course, that Kaiser Permanente health care is close to a new labor deal with its workers. And most of us would consider it good news that Kaiser's employees will be getting raises and keeping their good benefits. They'll get 13 percent raises over three years. Sacramento area workers will get an additional bump of 10 percent to 13 percent to bring their wages into line with Kaiser workers in the Bay Area.
"It's the best contract we've ever bargained with Kaiser or anyone else," Sal Rosselli, president of United Healthcare Workers/West, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, told the Sacramento Bee.
But down the road, when Kaiser raises the prices it charges for its care, will Rosselli and everyone else be just as pleased? Probably not. Yet the rising cost of health care, which we all love to bemoan, is made up of the cost of wages and benefits, along with new equipment, new buildings, and new drugs, all of which we also enjoy.
It's probably close to futile to try to reduce the cost of health care without also being willing to reduce the cost of the inputs that drive the overall cost higher. And few of us want to do that. We would do better to spend more of our time trying to figure out a way to get access to quality care for those who are unable to afford it now.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:29 AM
Another public poll to be released today shows Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s approval rating in the dumps and his ballot measures going nowhere, except maybe down. The survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, which should be here later today, reports:
Prop. 74, his education reform, is trailing 43-47.
Prop. 76, his budget reform, trails 26-63
Prop. 77, his redistricting reform, trails 33-50
PPIC didn’t poll on Prop. 75, the union dues measure.
Schwarzenegger’s approval rating is 38-55 among likely voters.
Any rays of hope for the guv? Very few. Perhaps the 53% of likely voters who say the special election is a bad idea will simply stay home rather than trek to the polls to vote ‘no’ on his measures.
But that’s hardly a winning strategy.
The survey was taken between Sept. 12 and 19, before the governor’s television ads began to air on statewide tv.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:29 AM
Daniel Zingale, once a key adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, has joined the Schwarzenegger Administration as chief of staff to Maria Shriver. Donna Lucas moves over to senior adviser to the first lady. Zingale is only the latest of several Democrats and independents to populate the governor's inner circle even as his opponents accuse him of veering to the right. Zingale also brings credentials as a prominent gay rights advocate as the governor prepares to veto a bill seeking to legalize gay marriage in California.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:44 AM
Rep. John Doolittle, one of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, was quoted in the the Sept. 11 Sacramento Bee saying this about the governor's redistricting initiative, Proposition 77:
"I think people know I am a pretty strong and loyal Republican. This proposition is bad for the Republican Party...The speaker of the House, the entire House leadership, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the chairman of the Republican National Committee all think (Proposition 77) is a disastrous idea."
Paul Hefner, a Democratic operative and fellow opponent of Proposition 77, had this to say Monday about a new study suggesting that the initiative would produce more competitive districts:
"Proposition 77 is a political power play. It doesn't surprise me that partisan groups behind it would conjecture to support it."
So John Doolittle thinks 77 is a Democrat power play, and Paul Hefner and his party bosses think 77 is a Republican power play. Is it possible that maybe it's neither, that it is in fact a fair redistricting proposal that is hated by partisans on both sides?
I think the answer is yes. Read the full Rose Institute report here to see why.
Take special note of the report's conclusions about Rep. Howard Berman's San Fernando Valley congressional district. If drawn fairly, the district would be majority Latino. It was drawn by Berman's brother Michael to safeguard his incumbent status by moving Latinos into other districts.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:36 AM
The governor has announced his position on each of the measures on the Nov. 8 ballot. In addition to backing 74-77, as announced earlier, he supports Prop. 73, which would require teenage girls to notify their parents before getting an abortion, and Prop. 78, the voluntary prescription drug discount plan. He opposes 79, which would require the drug companies to negotiate discounts, and 80, which seeks to make it illegal for Californians to buy and sell electricity outside the regulation of the Public Utilities Commission.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:40 PM
The LAO's in-depth review of the 2005-06 budget as adopted is complete. You can find it here. Bottom line: the office projects a $6 billion structural gap in the operating budget going into the the 2006-07 fiscal year.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:05 PM
Sens. Feinstein and Boxer and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have united on a letter asking for federal funding for crucial California projects to shore up levees around Sacramento and in the Delta.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:01 PM
The governor has signed a bill to add further restrictions to 16- and 17-year-olds who drive.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:57 PM
Some people apparently want California to throw out one actor-governor with no previous political experience and replace him with another.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:07 AM
The teachers union members who shouted down this press conference because they disagreed with its message were certainly setting a great example for California students.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:05 AM
Over the summer there was some coverage of local government, especially counties, fretting about Schwarzenegger's Prop. 76 and its possible effect on their finances. I haven't seen this reported anywhere, but a couple of weeks ago the California State Assn. of Counties formally voted to endorse the measure.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:24 AM
Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced this morning that she intends to vote against the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:21 AM
Gov. Schwarzenegger has kicked off his ad campaign in support of Props. 74-77. One ad features the governor alone, looking into the camera and explaining that "big government labor unions" have blocked his efforts to reform California government.
The other has four citizens explaining briefly why they think the measures he is supporting are good for the state. Schwarzenegger does not appear. You can see the ads here.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:08 PM
Of all the tidbits the governor dribbled out in his rapid-fire series of interviews Tuesday, the most intriguing was this one, where he told Capitol Weekly that he would support limits on corporate contributions to campaigns without shareholder approval.
That idea is being floated in response to Proposition 75, the measure to require public employee unions to get consent from their members every year to deduct political money from their paychecks.
Wouldn't the real parallel be corporate deductions from employee paychecks for political purposes?
Posted by dweintraub at 10:01 AM
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez plans to endorse Phil Angelides for governor today -- at the same Sacramento middle school where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his now infamous budget deal with the public education lobby in early 2004. Though Schwarzenegger proposed and signed a budget this year that boosted school funding by $3 billion, or nearly $400 per student, the speaker and the treasurer say the schools should have received $3 billion more, and they have both proposed raising taxes to pay for that added spending.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:19 AM
Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi plans to continue his strange jihad against health savings accounts and consumer directed health plans with a daylong hearing at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday. While no one is claiming that these ideas can by themselves fix what ails health care, the commish seems to have developed an odd obsession about them. He positively hates the idea of allowing people to buy health insurance as insurance -- a protection against unpredictable financial calamity -- rather than a reimburesement scheme.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:06 PM
As expected, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced that he plans to run for reelection. He dropped the news at the end of an hourlong "town hall" meeting with a friendly audience in downtown San Diego. He didn't elaborate much on his recent comments on the subject, saying only that he is a "follow through guy" who was elected to complete a job. "I'm in this for seven years," he said. Here is an AP story that hit the wires moments before the announcement.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:09 PM
Two hours before Gov. Schwarzenegger's "town hall" meeting in San Diego, where he is expected to announce his intent to run for reelection, public employee union members are already gathering to greet him. About 50 to 100 protestors were marching in front of the hall by 10 a.m., including one with a sign that said "A village in Austria is missing its idiot." Seems like the lines are fairly sharply drawn for the special election campaign ahead.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:02 AM
The Sacramento News and Review takes a peek inside the Bee's editorial board, describes how we do what we do and then asks, is anybody listening?
Posted by dweintraub at 10:34 AM
The Department of Finance's monthly report is posted here. Tax receipts were up modestly over August projections, bringing in $268 million more than anticipated. Income taxes, including withholding, were up, as were sales tax receipts. Corporate taxes fell short of projections. Year to date revenues are up $320 million.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:51 AM
Here's an AP story on the worst-kept secret in Sacramento: Gov. Schwarzenegger plans to announce in San Diego on Friday that he intends to run for reelection next year.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:51 AM
Insurance commissioner candidate and multimillionaire Steve Poizner will take over as chair of the Prop. 77 redistricting reform campaign -- at least the part of it affiliated with Gov. Schwarzenegger's political team. It will be interesting to see if Poizner, a high-tech entrepreneur who ran and lost a race for the Assembly last year, pours much of his own money into the cause.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:06 PM
Pat Clarey has officially left the governor's office to join his special election campaign team. She is scheduled to return after the election. Peter Siggins will fill in for her until then.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:52 PM
Sen. Feinstein has completed her first round of questioning of Judge Roberts.
For the first part of her time, Feinstein focused on women's rights, including abortion. She probed Roberts about comments in memos he wrote that have been alleged to have been sexist, and questioned him about abortion-related precedents including Roe and Casey. Feinstein read parts of those rulings and asked Roberts if he agreed with them, but then backed off when Roberts said he agreed that she was quoting the ruling correctly yet would not take a position on whether the rulings were right or wrong. She did not press him to answer further when he declined to take up the issues on which she was focused.
She then moved to the commerce clause and the recent trend on the court to question Congress' right to regulate behavior that does not cross state lines.
She asked him about the case of the "hapless toad" and whether there is a basis for sustaining the Endangered Species Act other than the commerce clause. Roberts said he has not decided whether the ESA oversteps the bounds of the clause, and denied that he did so in his opinion in that California case.
Feinstein also asked about the separation of church and state.
"My faith and my religious beliefs do not play a role in judging," Roberts said. "I look to the law books and always have. I do not look to the bible or any other religious source."
Feinstein asked about end-of-life decisions.
Roberts said he agrees with Justice Brandeis that "It's a basic right to be left alone." But he refused to take a position on whether Americans have the right to end their own lives, or whether the federal courts should become involved in that issue.
For more on the senator's questioning, see the scotusblog here.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:19 PM
Kaiser Permanente plans to spend $21 billion in California, and $10 billion in Northern California alone, upgrading its health care facilities to make them safer in earthquakes, more efficient and more patient-friendly. Sounds like good news: construction jobs, then better care. But isn't the spiraling cost of health care, fueled by investments like this many times over, supposed to be bad news? Which is it? Here is the story.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:09 PM
From AP, here is the text of Sen. Feinstein's opening statement, as prepared, at the confirmation hearing for Chief Justice nominee John Roberts.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:20 PM
Eugene Volokh uses a little math to try to explain a phenomenon I've tackled in the past: California's two electorates. Because legislative districts are based on total population, but statewide results are, by definition, based on the actions only of voters, you often get two different results. This helps explain why the Legislature is big for gay marriage even as the electorate is not, a trend reflected on many other issues in this state.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:41 AM
The New York Times blasts Gov. Schwarzenegger for vowing to veto the gay marriage bill, alleging that the governor who has called others "girlie men" lacks courage himself. So what if 61 percent of Californians voted five years ago to ban same-sex marriage? Opinion polls now show some of them have changed their minds.
The Sacramento Bee, meanwhile, says the governor is right.
I agree with the Bee.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:01 AM
This horrific survivors' tale in the San Francisco Chronicle -- headlined 'Police made their storm misery worse' -- makes it sound as if the biggest mistake President Bush made after the hurricane was waiting too long before shoving aside the racist, corrupt idiots who were controlling things on the ground in Louisiana. As an aside, who knew that when the hurricane hit, there was a paramedics conference under way at the New Orleans convention center?
Posted by dweintraub at 8:42 AM
From the AP:
The Senate on Thursday rejected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's nomination of a veteran state employee to head the Department of Motor Vehicles, saying California needs a "political leader" in the post to prepare for tough driver's license security requirements.
The story is here.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:49 PM
This position paper out today from three groups that claim to represent the interests of women and minorities gives their reasons for opposing Proposition 77, the redistricting reform initiative.
Their main beef seems to be a sense that a panel of three retired judges won't care enough about drawing lines that create a Legislature reflecting the state's diversty. Never mind that the 1990s, under lines drawn by the state Supreme Court rather than the Legislature, saw the greatest increase ever in the number of women and minorities elected to the statehouse. In decades past, white (and minority) lawmakers conspired to draw lines for partisan or incumbent protection without regard to their effect on minorities, and sometimes even with the knowledge that the boundaries would inhibit the election of minorities.
Some day we will outgrow the notion that we need to draw political boundaries that pack members of particular ethnic groups together under the repugnant assumption that the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes dictates how you think about public policy. It's odd that the 1991 boundaries actually produced districts in which Latinos were able to get elected without the lines having been gerrymandered for ethnic bias. And most of the Latinos who won in such supposedly "white" districts were Republicans. But now some people insist on clinging to the notion that Latinos can only win when enough Latinos are packed into a district to elect "one of their own."
One amusing part of this paper is that it attacks the proposed requirement that any new plan be ratified by the voters, saying such a vote would be cumbersome, confusing and subject to manipulation by interest groups. Yet the official campaign against 77, which is distributing this paper today, is trying to tell voters that the measure deprives them of their right to vote on new boundaries (until they are already put in place).
The truth is that the real opponents of 77 are the far left and the far right who want to maintain their grip on power in the California Legislature and protect the ability of incumbents to pick their voters rather than letting voters pick their politicians. Maldef, the League of Women Voters and the Asian-Pacific American Legal Center are aiding and abetting that plot by their opposition to this measure.
If 77 goes down, don't hold your breath waiting for the League's friends in the Legislature to propose the perfect reform these groups say they would support.
UPDATE: Eugene Lee, attorney for the Asian-Pacific American Legal Center, begs to differ. In this letter Lee says the groups are not "aiding and abetting" the cause of incumbents but merely holding out for a better redistricting reform plan.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:34 PM
Finance Director Tom Campbell is taking a two-month leave of absence to campaign for Schwarzenegger's budget reform measure, Proposition 76. The Bee reported yesterday that Pat Clarey and Rob Stutzman will also be moving to the campaign payroll. Peter Siggins will fill in for Clarey through the election.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:00 PM
The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating story today which, unfortunately, I cannot find online. It's about one of those evil for-profit health care companies, HCA, and its amazing effort to evacuate one of its hospitals in New Orleans last week -- including assembling a fleet of 20 private helicopters from around the region and bringing in ham radio operators to act as air traffic controllers.
Here is an excerpt:
HCA’s evacuation of critically ill patients in the midst of poor flying conditions, no electricity, weak phone links and frequent sniper fire stands out among rescue operations in New Orleans in the aftermath of the hurricane. It throws into relief a corresponding failure of the public-rescue system: No such operation occurred across the street, at state-run Charity Hospital.
Indeed, HCA helped rescue up to 50 patients from Charity, many of whom were critically ill. Although HCA’s own patients and employees were in peril, the company’s ability to launch and execute a rescue shows how advance planning and private resources gave HCA and its patients a far different experience than those at Charity and other public hospitals.
“We were unable to get any government help in evacuating,” says Norman McSwain, a professor of surgery at Tulane and trauma director at Charity, who worked at both hospitals throughout the crisis. Two evacuated patients, both from Charity, didn’t make it.
The evacuation was the result of bold decisions by senior executives in the heat of the moment, coupled with some careful advance work. Last fall, top brass from HCA and its hospitals met at the Hyatt Hotel in Orlando, Fla., for a “Hurricane Lessons Learned” meeting. Three hurricanes had roared through Florida over the previous months, and HCA, whose 190 hospitals and 91 outpatient surgery centers are concentrated in the Southeast, wanted to better protect its facilities.
Some key gaps HCA identified: Cell phones often fail, so alternative phone systems are needed. Roads become impassable, so emergency supplies have to be stored closer to hospitals. Back-up generators are vital for cooling and diagnostic equipment, especially in summer, when hurricanes tend to strike.”
If you can't find the WSJ story, here is a press release from HCA that describes what the company did.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the article. Thanks to LC.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:45 PM
What do Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis have in common? A majority of California voters say they are not inclined to reelect either one of them. Today's Field Poll found that 56 percent of likely voters are not inclined to elect Schwarzenegger to a second term should he choose to run, and the governor is trailing both Phil Angelides and Steve Westly in hypothetical match-ups for 2006. The poll also queried folks for their thoughts on Davis. Only 20 percent said they would be willing to vote for him again if he tried a comeback.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:34 AM
The labor-backed campaign to defeat Prop. 75 will kick off its television ad campaign Wednesday. The campaign for the measure calls the proposal "Paycheck Protection." The No side calls the measure "Paycheck Deception."
Posted by dweintraub at 4:01 PM
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is endorsing Phil Angelides for governor today, giving the treasurer a clean sweep of the leading women in California Democratic politics. Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi already are on board.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:06 PM
The campaign against Prop. 77 -- the redistricting reform initiative -- is taking shape, with the committee hiring consultants Sandi Polka and Bill Carrick to lead the effort. Polka is a veteran of 30 years of California campaigns and is the leading political strategist to Senate Leader Don Perata. Carrick is a top Democratic ad man who has worked for Dianne Feinstein and Bill Lockyer, among many others. Paul Hefner will do communications.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:03 PM
I guess the campaign has officially kicked into high gear. The California Teachers Assn. contributed $21 million yesterday to three campaigns opposing the governor's teacher tenure and budget proposals and the paycheck protection measure. The CTA gave $5 million to the campaign against Prop. 74 and $8 million each to oppose Props. 75 and 76.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:44 PM
Here is the Bee's story on the FPPC voting to ask the Legislature from relief from citizen bounty hunters trying to do the commission's job.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:16 AM
Every poll that makes you want to write off Schwarzenegger as dead in the water also seems to contain a nugget or two that would give the governor reason to hope that all is not lost. Today's Field Poll is no exception. The survey makes it clear that folks are down on the governor (approval rating: 36-53) and are not happy about the special election (57-34 for calling it off). That should be the end of the story.
But then there was this:
"Do you agree or disagree: The state Legislature is more to blame than Gov. Schwarzenegger for blocking the reforms needed to improve the way state government is run."
Agree: 49 percent
Disagree: 35 percent
No opinion: 16 percent
I suspect we are going to hear a lot more about the "do nothing" Legislature before Nov. 8.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:00 AM
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said today he would be forced to consider raising taxes if voters don't pass his budget reform, Proposition 76, on the Nov. 8 ballot.
I interviewed Schwarzenegger on KTKZ 1380 in Sacramento this morning and asked him if his reform proposal was his last shot at balancing the budget without raising taxes, as he pledged to do when he ran for governor in 2003. Schwarzenegger has said that Proposition 76 is a crucial piece of his plan to finish erasing the state's structural budget gap, which has shrunk from about $10 billion to $6 billion since he was elected. But he's never said what he would do if the voters decided they don't want to give him the tools he says he needs. I asked him about that possible scenario.
Here is a transcript of the exchange:
Governor: "I think we have to understand, there's only two ways to balance a budget. Theres only two ways to go. One is that we live within our means and that we only spend what we have, which is the way we should go, the responsible way. The other one is the way, the direction they are going right now, which is to spend more and more money and what they want to do is drive us into a corner so that they can raise taxes."
Weintraub: "You've put the solution out there, you've put your answer out there. If it is not adopted, won't you then be into that very corner and forced to consider --
Governor: "Absolutely. Absolutely. Then we have to look at raising taxes. Because this is the only option we have in order to create the money. This is why I tell people, vote yes on Proposition 76, and make sure that we do everything we can to pass this proposition so that we force our legislators once and for all to live within their means and not to continue spending money and to keep making promises to people that they can't keep."
Posted by dweintraub at 9:00 AM
Friday morning I am scheduled to guest host again for Eric Hogue on KTKZ 1380 in Sacramento. You can listen in on the Internet at www.ktkz.com. The shows runs from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:27 PM
Kudos to the California rescue team mentioned in this CNN item and excerpted below. But a question: does Louisiana not have this kind of team, and if not, why not?
'We have to deal with the living'
Posted: 10:49 a.m. ET
CNN's Rick Sanchez in Metairie, Louisiana
We spent the night at the New Orleans Saints' training facility. It is the encampment for the FEMA officials and National Guard troops who will deploy out to certain areas.
They just deployed a new unit out here from California. They're called swift water operation rescue units. These folks are trained to go in and get people out of the homes that they have been stuck in for days now with water all around.
We were with a unit last night on a boat. We watched as they performed many of these rescues. It's quite a sight to see. Bodies are floating along the flooded road. And I asked them, "What do you do about that?" They said, "There's no time to deal with them now. We have to deal with the living."
We went off into many communities to see if we could find people. As we were navigating through these narrow areas with power lines and all kinds of obstructions above and below us, we suddenly heard faint screams coming from homes. People were yelling, "Help! Help!"
We found one elderly woman in one home. She told us, "I've been here and I need to get out. Can you get me?" Then she said, "But there are people next door and they have babies, so leave me until morning. Get them out now."
So we contacted the swift water rescue units and they went out there. To our surprise and their surprise there were no fewer than 15 people huddled in their home. We could only hear them. We couldn't see them. We were able to assist and get the right people over there to get them out.
Just like them, there may be literally thousands that need to be rescued. It's a very daunting task for these officials.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:08 PM