"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders
convened Sunday night in hopes of ending a budget stalemate that is entering its sixth week, but they made no
progress and dispersed after less than two hours, according
to several participants," reports the Times.
"'We have some big, deep differences, but at least we
were together and we'll just keep working through it,' Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines of Clovis said after the meeting in the governor's Capitol office.
"Lawmakers have been at odds over how to close a $15.2-billion budget gap, the largest since Schwarzenegger
took office in 2003. Although the state's fiscal morass has been apparent all year, the pressure
for a resolution is extreme now because the state could
run out of money by the end of September unless a budget
Just in time for the demise of Scrabulous, "Legislators officially return from their summer recess today with the state budget still unresolved and hundreds
of bills pending. Adjournment is scheduled for Aug.
31 (if the budget is done), but Democrats would like to finish up in time to
attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver
on Aug. 25."
"Negotiations over the late state budget continue today.
The Democratic-controlled Senate Governmental Organization Committee,
meanwhile, convenes a hearing 'examining the practical implications and legal authority
of the Governor's executive order reducing state worker salaries to
the federal minimum wage.'"
George Skelton writes that no we don't have a budget because there hasn't been a Dance of Death.
"That's the annual ritual in which one budget proposal after
another is ceremoniously sacrificed on chamber floors
until there's agreement on a single survivor.
"'Everybody dances around the fire. They throw stuff
at us. We throw stuff at them. Everybody falls over
dead, and we start all over again,' is how a senior legislative staffer described it to
me 15 years ago."
Now the scene around the fire is right out of Blazing
"That staffer -- it now can be told -- was Phil Perry, then communications director for Assembly Republican
leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga, and currently head of a political
public relations firm. For years, he refused to be
identified. 'I could have gotten in trouble,' he says. But the statute of limitations long ago ran
out, he figures.
"Today's legislators, Perry surmises, 'have either forgotten the steps to the Dance of Death
or they're too scared to move.'"
AP's Steve Lawrence reports legislators will have to deal with more than just the
"California lawmakers return
from their summer break Monday to deal with hundreds
of bills in four
hectic, final weeks of their 2008 session.
"Lawmakers are required to
wrap up their 2008 regular session by Aug. 31, but Schwarzenegger could
call them into special session if they haven't approved a budget by
Hmmm...and accrue more $170/day per diem?
"Democrats have an incentive to finish their work early
so they can
attend their party's national convention, which begins Aug. 25 in
Denver. The Republican convention starts Sept. 1 in Minneapolis."
Lawrence also offers a run-down of some of the hottest bills yet to be decided.
"State agencies spared thousands of temporary and part-time workers from layoffs and California's prison medical czar on Friday sought to exempt nearly
the entire corrections department from a minimum-wage pay cut, raising doubts about how much cash the
state will save under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's executive order," reports Kevin Yamamura in the Bee.
"Besides instituting layoffs and a temporary pay cut,
the governor eliminated overtime and imposed a hard
hiring freeze. He allowed exemptions for crucial health
and safety positions, but also for those serving revenue-producing functions, providing leeway.
"When he signed his order Thursday, Schwarzenegger said
he wanted to save cash to ensure the state can pay
its bills. His Department of Finance estimated the
maximum savings would be $1.2 billion per month, but that number will be reduced
by all of the exemptions. Some 10,300 workers – less than half of those eligible for layoff – actually received pink slips.
"'We will execute this executive order and achieve savings
we need to meet the state's obligations,' said Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear.
'We don't believe the exemptions will keep us from realizing
the savings we anticipated.'"
"As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators confront
a projected $15.2 billion budget deficit and weigh whether to impose
new taxes to close it, local governments throughout California are contemplating
a wide array of new taxes to close their shortfalls or expand local services
and facilities," writes Dan Walters in the Bee.
"Wrangling in the Capitol over a Democratic plan to
boost state taxes by more than $8 billion to close the state's budget deficit and increasing political and legal
battles over local taxes indicate that we may be nearing
a climactic point in our seemingly endless political
debate over what we want from government and how much
we're willing to pay for it."
"California bullet-train enthusiasts risk losing support from key environmental groups because of a dispute over the train's route. Unless resolved soon, the conflict could pose
problems for a high-speed rail bond measure on the November ballot," reports E.J. Schultz in the Bee.
"The Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League
have not yet taken a position on Proposition 1, which would authorize $9.95 billion in state borrowing to jump-start the 800-mile rail.
"But environmentalists are still seething over the selection
of relatively undeveloped Pacheco Pass as the route
to connect the Central Valley to the Bay Area. They
favor the more urban Altamont Pass to the north because
they say it would induce less sprawl.
"The Planning and Conservation League likes the concept
but 'has continued to be quite concerned about the whole
planning effort,' said Gary Patton, the league's lead lawyer."
"Seeking to salvage two years of efforts to completely
remake California's health insurance system, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Democratic legislators are nearing deals intended to rein in costly, meager
medical insurance policies sold directly to individuals ," writes Jordan Rau in the Times.
"In the final weeks of the legislative session, they
are negotiating measures that would limit insurer profits
on individual plans, require plans to provide a minimum
set of benefits and restrict insurers' ability to cancel policies retroactively.
"The new focus reflects how far Schwarzenegger remains
from his original healthcare goal: to orchestrate medical insurance for the 5 million Californians who lack it. Despite a year of
strenuous campaigning for his vision, which garnered
attention nationwide, the state Senate rejected that
$14.9-billion plan in January.
"Many of the concepts now under discussion were included
in that proposal. Although most California insurers
supported the governor's broader effort because it would have created millions
of new customers, the industry is uniformly resisting
the current push to circumscribe some of its most lucrative
"Three million Californians buy health insurance on
their own rather than through employers. Insurers keep
premiums low -- and profits high, their critics say -- on some individual policies by limiting the services
they cover. Such plans may exclude prescription drugs
and maternity services, for example; others may cover only hospital visits."
The Wall Stree Journal's Sarah Rubenstein looks at lawmakers' new attempt at health insurance reform.
"States face a Catch 22 when it comes to health policies that people
buy on their own. Require plans to provide certain
benefits or bar them
from rejecting individuals for coverage, and the result
will be that
the insurance gets more expensive. Give insurers lots
of latitude about
who and what to cover, and cheaper plans are available
— but often not
for the older and sicker patients who need coverage
"So California is trying a balancing act. A proposal
in the legislature would require insurers to cover
hospital care and preventive services, and would set
a maximum amount
patients would have to pay each year toward their bills.
State regulators would sort policies into categories
based on the
benefits they offer and establish minimum benefits
for each category,
presumably making them easier to compare.
"But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to limit it to
plans and not order insurers to offer specific benefits.
Zingale, the governor’s senior advisor on health, told the Times that
although “we need to make the insurance market more user-friendly,” too
many benefit requirements could lead to price changes
for people who
already have coverage."
The Bee's Steve Weigand looks at Ellen Corbett's and Carole Migden's bills restricting use of PFCs, and the tactics of
lobbyists working against it.
"'When I go out to talk to people about the legislative
process,' Corbett said in a recent interview, 'and they say, 'Well, the lobbyists have so much power because they
have all this money,' I say, 'No. The most power they have and how they most impact
the process is they outnumber you.' We're outnumbered and outgunned.'
"Statistics from the secretary of state's office indicate there may be something to Corbett's thesis.
"The number of registered lobbyists has increased from
an estimated 870 at the end of the 1995-96 session to 1,075 at the end of the current session, a 23.6 percent increase.
"The number of legislators, meanwhile, has remained
fixed at 120. That's about a 9-to-1 ratio of lobbyists to lawmakers.
"The 17 to 20 lobbyists striving to kill 1313 and 1713 are part of "working groups" assembled by lobbyists for chemical and manufacturing
companies and trade associations.
"'The more bodies we can throw at the train, the greater
chance we have of stopping it,' said Tim Shestek, the Sacramento-based lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council who
put together the coalition against 1713. 'We try and get as many folks involved as possible.'"
And from our Hot Flashes Files, the Ventura County
Star reports, "Firefighters are monitoring a patch of land north of Fillmore where
the ground climbed to 812 degrees on Friday for unknown reasons.
"Possible theories include that natural hydrocarbons
such as oil or
gas are burning deep in the earth. But nobody knows
for sure what might
have ignited the materials.
"'We are a little perplexed at this point, to tell you
said David Panaro, a geologist with the Ventura County
Protection, who was one of a few scientists called
in to help solve the
mystery. 'This is not your usual geological detective story.'"
And finally, from our Send In The Clowns Files, AP reports on a new weapon in the fight against bullying.
"Marvin Nash — a.k.a. Starvin' Marvin — has been a professional rodeo
clown for some 30 years, entertaining fans and protecting bull riders
at great risk to himself. He routinely taunts bulls
that outweigh him
by more than 1,000 pounds.
his biggest fight may lie outside the ring, where Nash
what to some is an opponent just as intimidating: childhood bullying.
to prevent the kind of violence that has erupted on
school campuses in
recent years, Nash has developed his "Bullying Hurts" program that
emphasizes youth mentoring and nonviolence. The program
has been taught
in some 300 schools in 37 states.
"'So many people think that
bullying is just a rite of passage,' Nash said. 'Kids have feelings
too. And so that's what we try to do is help them channel and be able
to discuss and find a solution that works for them.'"
His last class responded by calling Nash "Bozo," and throwing him in the trash can after third period.