"One of California's most powerful politicians is proposing a radical new way of drawing the state's voting districts
-- one that would strip lawmakers like him of the power to create "safe" seats," reports Nancy Vogel in the Times.
"The proposal, from Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez
, would give the once-a-decade task to an independent panel chosen by the governor, the Legislature and a group of judges. Nuñez, a Los Angeles Democrat, hopes to ask voters to approve the idea in February when they choose presidential primary candidates.
"Theoretically, the measure would balance some voting districts more evenly between Democrats and Republicans, produce more competition and thus result in more moderate winners.
"'It'll align the Legislature a lot closer to the people of California,' Nuñez said.
"Nuñez's motives contain at least some self-interest. He is backing a separate measure for the Feb. 5 ballot that would extend the stay of sitting lawmakers. And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he will not endorse that measure unless it is coupled with a redistricting overhaul."
And, the speaker may need the governor's help more than ever, as the odds of the term limits measure qualifying for February seemed to dwindle yesterday
. The Bee's Judy Lin reports "Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Conny McCormack on Thursday said the percentage of signatures verified for the 'Limits on Legislators' Terms in Office' constitutional amendment hovered at 63.85 percent in a random-sample count of the state's most populous county.
"Initiative backers needed at least 66 percent verification from all outstanding signatures Thursday afternoon in order to meet a Sept. 27 deadline to qualify for the February primary. And because Los Angeles accounted for the bulk of the signatures yet to be counted, an opponent believes the petition is in doubt.
"'I'm not sure if their incompetence is a justification for laughter or tears
,' said Kevin Spillane
, a GOP strategist leading the fight against the term-limits initiative. 'If anything, it's a question mark. It's not what anyone would have expected.'"Who was running this signature operation, anyway?
Meanwhile, county results trickled in through the afternoon and evening, and there's report of a very low 61.7% validity rate for San Bernardino. Our Post-It note calculation says that unless Los Angeles's numbers come in at or above 68%, the measure will need to go to a full count, nearly assuring that it won't make the February ballot without political intervention.
The timing couldn't have been a whole lot worse for the Speaker's team to fumble the term limits play. The news spread on a morning when the Speaker's political consultant, Gale Kaufman
was quoted in the Bee taking a shot at the Assembly Freshman class."We went into a retreat and talked about substantive issues," she said. "One morning it was health care. Well, try to deal with 26 people who have never thought about those issues."
A few freshmen members did not take kindly to the comments.Also Thursday, the Speaker had scheduled a Democratic caucus meeting. Our sources tell us it was originally scheduled to discuss members' obligations to raise political money to fund the term limits initiative.
Assuming the Los Angeles tally comes in below 68 percent, the pressure moves to the Secretary of State's office, who has discretion to call for the full count any time before Sept. 20.Just for sake of comparison, a full count was necessary for a initiative on the February ballot that would reduce and stabilize community college fees. That count took 45 days to complete. If proponents of the term limits measure hope to qualify for the February ballot, the count would have to be completed in half that time.
"Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, playing what amounted to a game of chicken, postponed a scheduled vote Thursday on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's health care plan
," writes the Bee's Aurelio Rojas.
"The Democratic speaker had announced last week that he would put the plan up for a vote to demonstrate how little support it has after the Republican governor said he would veto Núñez's bill, which would assess employers higher fees than Schwarzenegger's plan.
"Núñez said he postponed the vote after Schwarzenegger began negotiating in earnest about how to expand access to health care for the 6.7 million Californians without insurance.
"'Over the past couple of days, we were able to jimmy the door open that kept us from negotiating,' Núñez said. 'I think that once that door opened up a little bit, the discussions with the administration began to improve.'
"Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear
said he would let the 'speaker speak for himself' on why the vote was postponed, but added it was inaccurate to say 'we just started talking about health care.
The Chron's Tom Chorneau writes
: "Taking on health care reform would be an overwhelming challenge even under the best circumstances, but this year the Legislature lost two months of work time as a result of the state budget stalemate. Lawmakers have until Sept. 14 , the end of the session, to pull together an overhaul proposal, unless the governor decides to call a special session that would extend the discussions.
"Despite the time crunch, consumer groups, labor unions and health care advocates in California and across the nation are putting pressure on California officials to follow through with the health care agenda."
"The state Senate on Thursday approved an advisory measure
that would ask California voters in February whether President Bush should withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, sending the bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature," reports Matthew Yi in the Chron.
"The Senate also approved a bill that would ban teenagers from using handheld communications devices while driving.
"The governor has until Sept. 10 to sign or veto the Iraq war bill, SB924, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata
, D-Oakland. If Schwarzenegger takes no action, the legislation becomes law and the measure will be placed on the Feb. 5 presidential primary ballot.
"Schwarzenegger has about a month to sign the cell phone legislation, SB33, which would kick in July 1. The measure by Sen. Joe Simitian
, D-Palo Alto, would make it illegal for teens to talk on the cell phone - even with a hands-free device - or text message while behind the wheel."
"Signaling a potent Republican primary challenge against Rep. John Doolittle
, Roseville Assemblyman Ted Gaines said Thursday he is plotting to run for Doolittle's seat
because voters have "lost faith" in the embattled congressman," reports the Bee's Peter Hecht.
"Gaines' declaration that he is forming an exploratory committee - and raising money for a potential candidacy - moves Doolittle decidedly closer to facing a likely well-funded contender from within his own political party."
"Tree-sitters marooned for 12 hours without food or water behind a chain-link fence outside Cal's Memorial Stadium were able to eat again on Thursday after UC police stopped blocking their supplies
," reports Carolyn Jones in the Chron.
"Meanwhile, a judge said she will decide today whether the fence should be removed, as protesters have demanded.
"The university erected the barrier on Wednesday around part of an oak grove near the stadium, where tree-sitters have perched since December to protest UC's plans to cut down the trees to make way for a $125 million sports training center.
"UC officials said they took the action in anticipation of more than 70,000 football fans descending upon the area for Saturday's nationally televised Cal football game against Tennessee.
"'Food has been provided to the people in the trees and they will continue to have an ample supply of food,' UC spokesman Dan Mogulof
said Thursday. 'We are not trying to starve them out.'"
"A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said Thursday that the governor has not taken a position on either bill because he hasn't seen them yet."
From our Leads that Make Us Want To Read On Files
Reuters reports, "A German court has awarded 3,000 euros ($4,100) in damages to a man who had to have the top of his skull replaced with plastic because of a faulty hospital fridge."
"Doctors removed the top of the man's head and put it in cold storage while they operated on his brain, the court in the western city of Koblenz said Tuesday.
"Because the refrigerator was defective, the section of skull was not kept cool enough and could not be reattached. Doctors replaced the bone with a plastic prosthesis."