Capitol Weekly reports on a pair of bills that got some special treatment yesterday
. "This is a tale of rumor and suspicion, paranoia and conspiracy. It's about the Senate and the Assembly, the governor and the Democrats and the fight for the media spotlight on the state's sexiest issue. It is, in short, a story of California politics.
"On Thursday afternoon, long after most Assemblymembers had gone home for the weekend, two last bills were jammed through an Assembly committee to meet a key legislative deadline. The bills needed an 11th-hour extraordinary committee hearing called by Speaker Fabian Nunez, and some considerable arm twisting from the legislative leadership in both houses.
But the tale of Sen. Christine Kehoe
's bills, SB 140 and SB 210, is also a parable about the relations between the houses, divisions among legislative Democrats, egos inside the Capitol and the politics of global warming
"As California approaches the third week of the fiscal year without a state budget, Democrats are planning a floor vote next week
even though Republicans have said they will not provide the support to pass the spending plan," reports Judy Lin in the Bee.
"'Hopefully, the Republicans will have enough sense to vote for it because it's going to be a very strong budget,' Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez
, D-Los Angeles, said after participating in budget talks on Thursday. 'They're going to have to defend their opposition if they decide not to vote for it.'
"With a monthlong legislative recess scheduled to begin July 20, Núñez said he canceled his vacation plans
and warned lawmakers to brace for a long summer that will require them to stay within two hours of the Capitol.
"Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines
of Clovis painted a more optimistic outlook Thursday after meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss the stalemate.
"He said Democrats need to show a willingness to restrain growth in programs.
"'I think we made progress,' he said. 'You feel like you move two steps forward and one step back, and we might get it done by next week.
Meanwhile, the governor was in the Bay Area pushing his health care plan
. Josh Richman reports in the Contra Costa Times: "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked top Bay Area business executives to support his health care reform plan Thursday, deriding Democratic leaders' alternative and a single-payer plan.
"Democrats' proposal - which would have employers who don't offer medical insurance pay 7.5 percent of payroll into a state fund - is outrageous, the governor told the Bay Area Council. It would amount to punishing business in the name of reform, he said.
"A single-payer, government-run system won't work, he said, citing the state prison health care system, now under a federal judge's control because it had failed to provide constitutionally adequate care.
'Our prison health care system is government-run ... so that's not a direction to go, either."
"His own plan more fairly shares the cost between state and federal governments and between employers and workers, he insisted. "Tell the legislators that you believe in shared responsibility, tell them that you believe everyone should be covered," he urged."
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars set aside to help Inland communities deal with the impacts of Indian casinos
went to unrelated projects, such as a rescue ambulance boat and a program for troubled students, according to a state audit released Thursday," reports the Riverside Press Enterprise's Jim Miller
"The Bureau of State Audits faulted local committees, made up of city, county and tribal government officials, which dole out money from a special state-managed pot of gambling dollars meant to address casino impacts such as traffic and crime.
" The committees apparently didn't violate the letter of the law but deviated from its intent in the 2005-06 grants they issued, state Auditor Elaine M. Howle wrote.
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday signed a bill temporarily extending student protections at California's career-oriented colleges
. But he acknowledged that new regulations are still needed," writes Judy Lin in the Bee.
"The bill by Assemblyman Paul Cook
, R-Yucca Valley, allows the state Department of Consumer Affairs to enter into voluntary agreements with for-profit teaching institutions to abide by state rules so the schools can remain in good standing through Jan. 31.
"California had to act after a law -- and the state oversight bureau it created -- expired at midnight June 30, leaving an estimated 400,000 students without protection from fraud.
"'This bill is the first step in a comprehensive reform to offer students much-needed protection they deserve,' Schwarzenegger said. 'We continue to work diligently with the Legislature on the larger reform measure that will strike a balance of protecting students while streamlining an overly burdensome regulatory structure.'"
"The state Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a plan to fund a new medical center at San Quentin State Prison
with bond money previously set aside for 8,000 hospital beds for the state correctional system," writes the Bee's Andy Furillo.
"On a 69-5 vote, the Assembly sent the $146 million measure to the Senate for concurrence. The vote was taken, in legislative parlance, "without reference to file," meaning it wasn't on the daily calendar. It also never underwent any committee hearings.
"Senate Bill 99 was quickly fashioned this week by Assemblyman Jose Solorio
, D-Santa Ana, after Republicans in his house had withdrawn support for another measure that would have funded the San Quentin facility separately.
"Financing for the center, sought by federal medical care receiver Robert Sillen
, will now come out of the $7.9 billion in spending authorized by Assembly Bill 900, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in the spring. AB 900 money had been approved for 53,000 jail and prison beds throughout the state, including the 8,000 to be in new prison hospitals."
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday ordered health officials to more accurately track the death toll from heat waves
, after an Associated Press investigation found hundreds may have died from two weeks of triple-digit temperatures last year," reports the AP's Don Thompson.
"The AP found that the number of deaths in July 2006 was 466 higher than the average over the previous six years – a spike many health officials attributed to the record heat. The figure is three times more than the 143 people the state said officially died from the heat."
"California voters will weigh in next year on 'eminent domain,'
the quaintly named procedure by which governments seize private property for ostensibly public purposes, and a preview of the forthcoming battle was staged in the Capitol on Thursday," writes Dan Walters in the Bee.
"Two Senate committees met back-to-back in the same room and approved a bill that's part of a drive by local governments to change eminent domain rules just enough to stave off a more far-reaching overhaul by property rights groups.
"The measure, Assembly Bill 887, had been defeated in the Senate Local Government Committee on Wednesday as Sen. Mike Machado
, D-Linden, joined Republicans in opposition. But after some parliamentary maneuvers, the committee reconvened on Thursday and Machado switched sides, sending the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which met minutes later and approved it. Machado said he had been given assurances that some provisions would be altered.
"Republicans fumed that procedural rules were bent or broken to give the bill a second chance in Local Government. 'It is not proper for the committee to hear the bill,' Sen. Dave Cox
, R-Fair Oaks, complained, adding, 'The public has been completely eliminated from participation.'"
"A state commission charged with finding ways to pay for increasing retirement benefits to public employees learned Thursday that California governments are coming up $63 billion short in their bid to fully fund pension programs
," reports Ryan Huff in the Contra Costa Times.
"But there also was good news in a California Research Bureau report presented to the governor's commission: Local and state governments are in better shape than they were decades ago -- funding 89 percent of their pension obligations.
"Despite the $63 billion shortfall, California's pension systems are at a healthy funding level -- up 11 percentage points since 1991, said Ron Seeling
, chief actuary for the California Public Employees' Retirement System.
"'This idea that we are drowning in debt is totally nonsense,' he said."
And from our Seattle bureau, "Duncan M. McDonald is finally off the voter rolls
after the Australian shepherd-terrier mix was sent absentee ballots for three elections
Is there a problem with Australians? I guess we could always ask Ron Nehring
"King County Elections Director Sherril Huff said she canceled the voter registration Tuesday for the dog owned by Jane K. Balogh, 66, who registered her pet to protest a change in the law that she said made it too easy for non-citizens to cast ballots.
"Balogh put her phone bill in the dog's name, then used that as identification when she mailed in the registration form in April 2006. In November, she wrote "VOID" across Duncan's ballot and returned it with an image of a paw print on the signature line
The dog is reportedly up for the chairmanship of the California Republican Party.