The Western Governors Assn. is calling on Congress to create a new guest worker program for immigrants.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:56 PM
State Sen. Dave Cox has asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to have the state auditor investigate the use of taxpayer money to promote universal preschool at the same time that Rob Reiner and his allies were trying to qualify Prop. 82 for the ballot.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:31 PM
State Senate Leader Don Perata says he believes it was wrong for a state commission headed by Hollywood director Rob Reiner to use public funds to promote universal preschool at the same time that Reiner was privately pushing a ballot measure that seeks to accomplish that goal.
“I think it’s a legitimate concern,” Perata told the Bee’s Capitol bureau this morning.
Perata joins several other politicians, mostly Republicans so far, who have questioned the $23 million ad campaign sponsored by the First Five Commission, which was created and funded by a 1998 initiative that increased tobacco taxes to pay for children’s programs.
Reiner was the major backer of that proposal and is now sponsoring Prop. 82 on the June ballot, which would raise taxes to pay for voluntary preschool for every 4-year-old in California. The ads paid for by the First Five commission started running just as Reiner's allies were hitting the streets to gather signatures for his preschool measure.
When he first saw the ads last fall, Perata said, he was suspicious because they employed the same tag phrase – preschool for all – that was the slogan for the initiative. He said he asked his staff at the time, “How can they get away with that?”
“It wasn’t even cleverly disguised. It was just blatant. I didn’t know then and I still don’t know how that happened, how was it allowed to happen…If I did that they would hang me by my thumbs.
“It was very troubling to me.”
Perata said the $23 million that was spent on the campaign could “do a lot of creative and important things for children.” He said he will consider backing efforts to try to redirect the money set aside for advertising by the initiative that created the commission to programs instead.
“There’s something wrong we should fix,” he said.
Separately, Perata said, he has all but decided to withdraw his endorsement of Prop. 82, which he said he made without doing an extensive enough review of the measure. He now believes it is “fatally flawed” because, lacking a means test, it would direct too many resources to families who already can afford preschool and not enough to the poor, and it has the potential to put out of business private and nonprofit preschools that are doing a good job.
Here is a link to the Bee's first story about the ads on Dec. 19 2005.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:06 AM
When we spend money on health care, we think that's bad. But when those dollars get multiplied through the economy, it can be good. A new study says that the hospital industry contributes $85 billion to the Southern California economy.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:24 AM
State Sen. Chuck Poochigian is asking for an attorney general's investigation to determine if money spent by Rob Reiner's First Five Commission was an illegal use of public funds on behalf of a ballot measure (Prop. 82).
Posted by dweintraub at 4:13 PM
Phil Angelides goes on the air in his campaign for the Democratic nomination with an ad that portrays him as the leader in the fight against Schwarzenegger's policies and features a testimonial from Sen. Barbara Boxer. The tag line is: "He stood up to Arnold. He'll stand up for you."
Steve Westly has also expanded his ad buy into the major media markets this week.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:24 PM
The New York Times reports on what's happened in Canada since a Supreme Court decision last year opened the door to more choice in health care:
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 23 — The Cambie Surgery Center, Canada's most prominent private hospital, may be considered a rogue enterprise.
Accepting money from patients for operations they would otherwise receive free of charge in a public hospital is technically prohibited in this country, even in cases where patients would wait months or even years in discomfort before receiving treatment.
But no one is about to arrest Dr. Brian Day, who is president and medical director of the center, or any of the 120 doctors who work there. Public hospitals are sending him growing numbers of patients they are too busy to treat, and his center is advertising that patients do not have to wait to replace their aching knees.
The country's publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine.
Dr. Day, for instance, is planning to open more private hospitals, first in Toronto and Ottawa, then in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. Ontario provincial officials are already threatening stiff fines. Dr. Day says he is eager to see them in court.
"We've taken the position that the law is illegal," Dr. Day, 59, says. "This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."
Read the whole thing.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:33 AM
The gov’s much-anticipated speech to the Republican faithful in San Jose Friday night was a bit anti-climatic. It was short, punchy and mostly predictable, reviewing his proudest moments (cutting taxes, reforming work comp), pledging to hold the line against taxes, and briefly laying out a rationale for his infrastructure proposal. He stated the obvious (“we may not agree on everything”) and got his biggest applause, probably, when he mentioned his likely running mate, Sen. Tom McClintock, who is the only major Republican candidate for lieutenant governor and who is a God to the hard-core who gather at these conventions.
There’s clearly still a great deal of discontent with Schwarzenegger on the far right, and this speech did nothing to change that. They never really trusted him to begin with, and most of the true believers voted for McClintock in 2003 and not him. Schwarzenegger was in favor of abortion rights, gay rights, some gun control, and, based on his record pushing Prop. 49 the year before, was not exactly a small-government kind of guy. That’s still who he is. But he is also the same governor who cut taxes by $4 billion and cut workers comp premiums by about twice that. He risked his job advocating for change that most Republican activists supported, even if they thought it didn’t go far enough.
Something like 70 percent of California Republicans approve of the job he is doing. That number is probably lower here, where the most conservative members of the party predominate. But even here he got a warm welcome and more than polite applause. Yes, he might have some trouble getting the base worked up to hit the trenches on his behalf. If he loses the election by 100,000 votes, some will cite that factor. But if he did everything these people would like him to do in a state that leans strongly Democrat, he would probably lose by 1 million votes, and the ground game would not matter anyway.
In the end the election is likely to be decided by whether Schwarzenegger is able to win back the independents who supported him in 2003 and more than a handful of Democrats. Without them in his camp in November, it won’t really matter what the Republicans do at the margins.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:06 AM
Rob Reiner, under pressure for guiding public money into an advertising campaign that helped lay the groundwork for his universal preschool ballot initiative, is taking a five-month leave from his job on the First Five Commission, The Times reports.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:13 AM
Gov. Schwarzenegger’s numbers crunchers have been circulating some figures to legislative leaders and others that compare the debt service cost of his $68 billion infrastructure borrowing plan to the outline floated by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez for a $30 billion package.
According to the figures from the Department of Finance, if the state authorizes no more borrowing, the debt service on general obligation and revenue bonds will peak at about 5 percent of general fund revenues in 2010, then decline over time to 1.89 percent 20 years from now. With the governor’s plan to sell $68 billion in bonds, that debt service would eventually reach about 6 percent of the general fund, compared to about 4.73 percent today. But the state is also currently paying about 1.5 percent of its general fund to service the deficit bonds the voters approved in March 2004. Once those bonds are retired, the money now being spent on that debt service could be shifted to the infrastructure bonds, leaving the state’s overall debt level at about where it is today.
The speaker’s plan, because it is front-loaded, would not be any cheaper than the governor’s proposal in the short-term, and might actually be a bit more expensive, the governor’s office contends. It would not be until about 2012 that a smaller bond package would yield debt service savings compared to the governor’s plan. And if the Legislature or the voters authorized more bonds in the meantime, there might not be any savings at all.
That’s all well and good. But I’ve never had the feeling that Democratic opposition to the governor’s package is really about the numbers. It’s more about politics and priorities, and making sure Schwarzenegger doesn’t get too big a win on this issue heading into his reelection campaign.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:55 AM
A new PPIC poll finds that 87 percent of likely voters say the environment will be an important issue when they decide how they will vote in November, and few of them are happy with what they think they know about Schwarzenegger's record. Among other things, this shows the power of branding in politics. Schwarzenegger has crusaded against global warming, pushed a massive investment in solar power and other renewable energy sources, created the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to guard the state's signature mountain range, opposed offshore oil drilling, and signed legislation to protect coastal waters. But he is a Republican. And in California, being a Republican politician usually means you oppose policies that most voters consider to be good for the environment. Schwarzenegger has made a few appointments that the enviros don't like and vetoed a few bills they wanted signed, but even the most ardent environmental lobbyists concede that his record is more mixed than hostile. But voters, especially Democrats and independents, don't seem to see it that way.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:38 AM
I love this story about the Segway founder inventing small, almost portable machines to produce power from cow dung and purify water, then hooking up with a venture capitalist to distribute them to Third World entrepreneurs.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:56 PM
The first part of the legislative analyst’s annual report on the budget says that the state is looking at more than $11 billion in revenues by the end of the next fiscal year that were not anticipated when the current budget was adopted last summer. Yet even with all that new money, the state will still be facing a large and growing structural deficit between its revenues and its projected spending. Spending in 2006-07 under the governor’s proposal would reach a new high on an inflation-adjusted per capita basis, and total state spending would be at a 10-year high as a share of the state’s economy. The analyst recommends that the Legislature “reduce the amount of ongoing spending increases proposed in this budget, and use the savings to either increase reserves or pre-pay additional budgetary debt.”
You can read the whole thing here.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:19 PM
That Orange County toll road the state wants to build through a park is giving Schwarzenegger fits. Republican activists have focused on it as a test of the governor's commitment to transportation infrastructure, but his brother-in-law, among others, has been lobbying to block it. Now five state senators are calling on the governor to kill the idea.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:59 AM
Even though test scores have consistently shown that English learners in immersion programs do better than those in bilingual programs, a new state study released Tuesday says the immersion requirement has made no difference in the progress of these students. Anybody out there have thoughts on the apparent contradiction between this study and the results in the annual English learners development test?
Posted by dweintraub at 7:55 AM
If giving a lethal injection to a murderer who bludgeoned an innocent girl to death, then raped and stabbed her lifeless body, is cruel and unsual punishment, can the death penalty be legal anywhere in America, for anything? It seems as if this challenge in federal court in San Francisco will either be struck down by the Supreme Court or will hasten the end of capital punishment. Or maybe they will find a doctor somewhere who is willing to administer whatever cocktail the courts say is permissible.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:48 AM
US Term Limits is trying to get California lawmakers to sign a pledge agreeing not to ask the voters to change the state's term limits law in any way. The group promises to publicize the list statewide. Interesting. I am thinking it will not be a long one. First of all, there's little danger that any lawmaker who refuses to sign the list will suffer real consequences. Second, there is growing support in the Legislature for a modest change that the voters might actually like.
Currently, Californians can serve up to three, two-year terms in the Assembly and two, four-year terms in the Senate, for a total of 14 years.
The most viable proposal for change would reduce that total from 14 years to 12 years, but allow members to serve all of it in the Assembly, or the Senate, or a combination of the two.
That doesn't seem so bad to me. Talking about it certainly doesn't violate the spirit of term limits. And putting it on the ballot to get the voters' decisions seems perfectly sensible.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:11 PM
This story from the Chronicle takes a look at what seems to be a very positive development in providing health care to all.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:53 AM
Here is my column for Tuesday, in which I ask why we don't want our employers to manage our food, housing and transportation purchases, but we think it is a good idea for them to decide how we get our health care. I also suggest that this relationship is a major reason we are more insecure about our next doctor visit than our next meal.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:48 AM
I stumbled across this interesting nugget while reading Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King's early take on this spring's NFL draft. King says that Reggie Bush, the USC running back and Heisman Trophy winner, is eager to play in Houston in part because Texas has no state income tax. That fact could save him several hundred thousand dollars a year, based on his projected first-year salary.
I've never suggested that California repeal its income tax, especially to help our sports teams lure star players. But, if true, this insight is only the latest evidence that on the margin, people do make decisions based on how much tax they are going to have to pay. And wealthy people usually have more flexibility in making those decisions than the rest of us. Finally, with our tax structure, it would only take a few thousand people in Reggie Bush's projected income class to move away and send California's tax revenues spiraling downward again.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:22 PM
Jay Mathews explains how "teaching to the test" usually means teaching to the standards, which is a different and generally positive thing.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:27 PM
The San Diego Union-Tribune, reporting on documents released Friday, details the depths of disgraced former Rep. Duke Cunningham's greed and dishonesty.
His conduct over six years, as spelled out Friday by federal prosecutors seeking a maximum 10-year prison sentence, was unflinchingly mercenary, especially as it pertained to his love of extravagant living and expensive toys. Once, he demanded the use of a private jet to take him yacht shopping, with no intention of paying for either.
Read the whole thing.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:20 PM
Posted by dweintraub at 6:16 PM
The LAO has a sobering new report on retiree health care benefits for state employees. They're costing the taxpayers about $1 billion now, and the long-term costs of promises already made and yet to come due is likely to soar past $40 billion. Read the whole thing here.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:30 AM
The four legislative leaders today sent a joint letter to the California Hospital Assn. expressing concern that a proposed ballot measure to increase the tobacco tax could put the state in violation of an agreement that settled nationwide litigation against the industry. That would lead to the forfeit of California's share of the settlement money from that lawsuit and force the state's general fund to repay bonds floated during the Davis Administration that essentially mortgaged that 25-year revenue stream to help bridge the state's budget deficit.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:26 PM
Election Law blogger Rick Hasen weighs in on today's state Supreme Court decision saying that there should be no "bright line rule" invalidating ballot initiatives that do not follow procedures to the letter of the law. The case stems from the fight over Prop. 77 last year, which would have created an independent redistricting commission. At one point an appellate court had thrown the measure off the ballot because its sponsors had circulated a version for signatures that was different from the one submitted to the attorney general for review.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:08 PM
So the state is going to pay a board-certified anesthesiologist to make sure that a convicted killer is put to sleep before he is put to death, so he will feel no pain. A federal judge so ordered, to protect the murderer's rights. But if I were terminally ill and wanted to hire someone to do the same for me, it would be against the law. Right.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:52 AM
Here is Republican activist Steve Frank's take on the agreement that ended conservative agitation for a party resolution demanding that Schwarzenegger fire his Democrat chief-of-staff, Susan Kennedy.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:20 PM
A federal judge threatens to delay a California execution by lethal injection because the condemned killer might experience pain before he dies.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:55 AM
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez says he wants to fashion a megapackage of bipartisan ballot measures that would included a scaled back infrastructure package along with redistricting reform and a tweak to term limits.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:08 PM
Here is a link to the report prepared for Don Perata by the Keston Institute at USC on options for leveraging the state's infrastructure funding with other public and private sources of money. With some exceptions, it could have been a document produced by the Schwarzenegger Administration. It endorses toll roads, public-private partnerships, design-build contracts for freeways, fees on water users, and other measures the governor has suggested.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:48 PM
Can the truth about a politician emerge from an online battlefield of ideas? Capitol Hill staffers seem to be spending most of their time these days editing the entries about their bosses on a popular Internet cooperative encyclopedia.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:59 AM
A $1.5 million machine that can save lives by spotting heart problems without an invasive procedure.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:48 AM
Keep your eye on the Oakland schools. Already facing a strike threat from the teachers, the district is now struggling to nail down a contract with the union that represents security guards, secretaries and classroom aides. The district, which serves some of the poorest students in the state, is already in receivership because its finances were a mess.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:40 AM
Here is the latest installment in my series of columns on the future of California. This one is on the graying of the state's population. Here is a link to the earlier pieces on immigration, education and transportation.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:25 PM
A record grape harvest in 2005, and prices held up, too. The weintrauben did the best.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:59 PM
You can watch Don Perata's infrastructure ads here.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:36 PM
Donald Boudreaux explains why the trade deficit is not a problem.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:55 AM
Dianne Feinstein just announced that she will vote for a compromise Congress has reached with the White House on an extension of the Patriot Act:
“I will vote for this bill. It is a substantial improvement. There are three basic changes. They are specific. They do improve the bill. I think it’s important to get this done, and there is a four-year sunset, so we will also be able to watch it closely.”
Posted by dweintraub at 3:55 PM
Cindy Sheehan now says she won't challenge Feinstein.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:57 PM
A former top aide to Doolittle went to Puerto Rico on a trip paid for by Abramoff's firm, according to this story.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:39 PM
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez on school funding at his press conference today:
We need to change the entire debate on school funding in California rather than continue to obsess about where we rank. We need to shift our focus to what it actually costs to make sure that every one of our kids lives up to their potential-- what it will take for every student to pass the exit exam, to reduce the number of drop outs, ensure that textbooks are affordable, and attract the best and the brightest teachers to inner-city schools.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:08 PM
The state auditor has published a review of worker safety on the Bay Bridge skyway project, where Cal-Osha is trying a cooperative approach that allows more frequent state inspections but lets the contractor correct problems identified rather than facing sanctions. The audit says the contractor appears to have a safety record far better than is typical on other Bay Area projects or nationally. But the auditor has concerns that some injuries might not have been reported. It appears that even if all the additional injuries found by the auditors were added to the count, the project would still have an injury rate for below the average.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:23 AM
Here is a link to the UC study that says an aggressive attempt to draw competitive districts in California while still respecting civic and geographic boundaries and complying with federal law would yield a dozen or more competitive seats in Congress and in the state Assembly. This is the report that was rumored to be ready for release before the Nov. 8 election but never came out because, its authors said, it wasn't finished yet.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:13 PM
Oakland has a problem with its residents littering their community. So the city plans to tax fast-food restaurants up to $2,400 each per year to raise money to hire a staff to clean up the trash.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:47 PM
A group of high school students and their parents sued the state Wednesday, claiming the high school exit exam is discriminatory. The students have so far failed to pass the test of basic language and math skills but want a diploma anyway. I wonder how many of them would have sued the state for fraud if they had been given a diploma despite not having learned the basic skills needed to survive in society? The high school exit exam helps minorities and the poor by motivating the schools to focus attention on failing students and by bringing more resources to help them succeed.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:29 PM
They say that the planes that land safely don't make news, only crashes do, but here are two good-news economic stories that were in the papers today. The Bee reports that manufacturing jobs increased in the Sacramento region in 2005. And this LA Daily News story says LA County in 2006 can expect its strongest economic performance in five years.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:14 PM
The governor has appointed Margaret Fortune as director of public affairs in his office, meaning she is the person who is supposed to reach out to minority communities on his behalf. Fortune is the former educator who helped convert Sacramento High School into a charter school and was working in the governor's education office as the person in charge of turning around low-performing schools.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:51 PM
Here is Jack O'Connell's speech today on the state of education in California. I like his ambition (for the schools). I like his vision. And I applaud him for standing up for standards and accountability when it would be all too easy to fudge. But sometimes I think we should just focus first on doing everything we can to get every kid to read and write in English and understand basic math before he or she graduates from high school. If we can't do that, how can we expect to prepare kids for careers or a brave, new technological world?
Posted by dweintraub at 2:49 PM
Talking Points Memo is doing a great job collecting the stories published about Rep. John Doolittle and the various favors he's done over the year for lobbyists, including those with a connection to Abramoff. The San Diego Union-Tribune, following up on the demise of their region's Duke Cunningham, appears to have caught Doolittle lying about military support for one firm he steered money to in the budget: PerfectWave Technology.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:12 AM
John Kurzweil indicts his party's elected and consultant establishment:
California Republicans have spent most of the past decade trying to bring about a revolutionary reversal of direction in the political culture of one of the world’s most powerful and influential political entities with less clear thinking, research, preparation, and attention to detail in execution — and, indeed, with little evidence even of realizing the magnitude of the job they have undertaken — than one typical small businessman would employ in opening a single hamburger stand. This Republican approach might somehow prove adequate if the opposition were similarly trifling, but not when the other side is willing and able to spend and to do whatever it takes to win, as California Democrats have repeatedly shown themselves to be.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:01 PM
This is long overdue. New electricity meters will let consumers manage their own power load to minimize their bills by using less power at peak times when demand, and cost, is high. Users who can't or won't shift their use to other times will pay more.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:37 AM
Home mortgage default notices rose in December to their highest level since March 2004, the Bee reports.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:30 AM
David D. Friedman makes a great case for unschooling. Especially for the kids of college professors and other motivated parents who will make sure their children get the education they need.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:02 PM
Sen. Carole Migden says she is going to introduce a Wal-Mart health care bill, requiring employers of 10,000 or more to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care benefits. Modeled after the law recently adopted in Maryland, of course.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:18 PM
The headlines about the California effects from the new federal budget bill sound ominous. The bill is expected to cost Californians about $1.4 billion if we want to maintain the same level of service for programs offered here that are now funded largely by taxpayers in the other 49 states. But wait. That's federal accounting. So it's $1.4 billion over five years. The state budget is closing in on $100 billion per year. So we are talking about $1.4 billion out of about $500 billion in spending. That's less than three-tenths of one percent of projected state spending.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:52 AM
Not only would the principle of free preschool be enshrined in the state Constitution, but so would a particular approach to preschool. Suppose educational experts determined down the line that the most effective program combines preschool with smaller primary-school classes, or that the most appropriate teacher training might not require a BA? Tough. The rules will be written into the Constitution and, accordingly, hard to change. State educational practice will be embalmed, the clock stopped at 2006.
Read the whole thing.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:41 AM
Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor caused a stink last month by suggesting that the city's police check the immigration status of people arrested for serious crimes or gang activity. Now the Mexican American Political Assn. is calling on residents to engage in peaceful "non-cooperation" with the police and to boycott businesses that support the policy.
UPDATE: Jon Fleischman points out that Costa Mesa is piggybacking on a policy that Sheriff Mike Carona has been developing for about a year. Fleischman, who flaks for Carona when he isn't blogging (and sometimes when he is!) explained the policy here.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:24 PM
The final tally from the special election: Schwarzenegger and his allies spent about $76 million. His opponents spent $121 million. The CTA alone kicked in $58 million. Schwarzenegger begins his reelection run with virtually no cash on hand and about a half-million in debts.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:59 AM