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PPIC: Gov, Senate races tight, drilling a no-go

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll shows likely voters are closely divided between Democrat Jerry Brown (37 percent) and Republican Meg Whitman (34 percent) for governor, with 23 percent undecided. Independents voters are split – 30 percent for Brown, 28 percent for Whitman and 30 percent undecided.

The same poll shows a similarly tight U.S. Senate race, with 39 percent of likely voters supporting Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, 34 percent supporting Republican nominee Carly Fiorina and 22 percent undecided. Boxer’s lead is similar among independents, with 35 percent backing her, 29 percent backing Fiorina and 25 percent undecided.

The numbers came as part of PPIC’s survey of “Californians and the Environment.” Of those likely voters saying that a candidate’s environmental positions are very important in determining their vote, 50 percent would vote for Brown and 16 percent would vote for Whitman; among those who say a candidate’s environmental positions are somewhat important, Whitman is favored 42 percent to 33 percent. Similarly, those who view candidates’ positions on the environment as very important are three times as likely to support Boxer (54 percent) as Fiorina (18 percent), while those who say candidates’ views on the environment are somewhat important are evenly divided, 37 percent to each candidate.

Among the poll’s findings on other environmental issues:

  • The Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster’s effects are clearly visible, as a solid majority of the state’s residents now oppose more offshore drilling (59 percent of California adults oppose, 36 percent favor), which is a 16-point increase in opposition from last year. It’s a partisan split; 72 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents oppose more drilling, while 64 percent of Republicans favor it.
  • Just 21 percent have either a great deal (8 percent) or good amount (13 percent) of confidence in the government to make the right decisions in dealing with the Gulf of Mexico spill; residents also lack confidence in the federal government’s ability to prevent future spills, with about three in 10 very (7 percent) or fairly (21 percent) confident, 32 percent not very confident, and 37 percent not confident at all.
  • Californians are divided (49 percent oppose, 44 percent favor) about building more nuclear power plants to address the nation’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil; 57 percent of Democrats are opposed, while 67 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents favor building more plants now. Overwhelming majorities favor increasing federal funding to develop wind, solar, and hydrogen technology (83 percent), and requiring automakers to significantly improve the fuel efficiency of cars sold in this country (83 percent).
  • Support for AB 32 – the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction law, now under fire by Proposition 23 – remains strong at 67 percent of California adults; it was at 66 percent last year. Asked whether the government should act to reduce emissions right away or wait until the state economy and job situation improve, a slim majority (53 percent) said California should act right away, while 42 percent said the state should wait.
  • And among other political findings:

  • President Barack Obama’s approval rating is at 56 percent among all adults, 54 percent among registered voters and 50 percent among likely voters.
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s approval rating is at 25 percent among all adults, 24 percent among registered voters and 25 percent among likely voters.
  • The California Legislature’s approval rating is at 15 percent among all adults, 12 percent among registered voters and 10 percent among likely voters.
  • Only 15 percent of all adults believe California is generally headed in the right direction; that number drops to 11 percent among registered voters and 8 percent among likely voters.
  • Only 25 percent of all adults see good economic times ahead for California; that number drops to 22 percent among registered voters and 19 percent among likely voters.
  • Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,502 California adult residents reached by landline and cell phones throughout the state from July 6 through 20, with interviews conducted in English, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), Vietnamese, and Korean. The margins of error are two percentage points for all adults; 2.2 percentage points for the 1,971 registered voters; and 2.7 percentage points for the 1,321 likely voters.

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    McNerney voted for the war supplemental

    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, was the only Bay Area House member to vote in favor of the $33 billion Afghanistan and Iraq war supplemental spending bill yesterday. The bill passed on a 308-114 vote.

    I asked McNerney’s office why he voted as he did, and how he felt about this week’s release of classified military documents on the WikiLeaks website.

    Jerry McNerney “The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter, especially if it has the potential to put American troops at risk. I have been following these developments carefully,” he replied in an e-mail this afternoon. “I voted in favor of the supplemental because I believe we must continue to develop an effective strategy to stop terrorists who are attempting to use Afghanistan as a safe haven from which to attack our country.

    “Late last year, I traveled to Afghanistan as part of a bipartisan fact-finding trip to see for myself the situation on ground,” he continued. “I spent time with our troops and met with U.S. military and Afghan government officials. I’m impressed by the efforts of our men and women in uniform and grateful for their sacrifice, and I believe our military commanders and our troops in the field should have the resources to defend themselves and execute the mission they have been given.”

    Politically, it seemed like a no-brainer. Regardless of how McNerney personally feels about the wars, a “no” vote would’ve been risky for the only truly embattled House incumbent serving the most moderate district in the Bay Area, and it’s not as if he’d have put the Democratic doves’ votes over the top.

    Read other Bay Area members’ comments, after the jump…
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    State GOP has mad cow disease

    Following an incident Tuesday in which police had to gun down an agitated cow that was running amok at the California State Fair, CRP Communications Director Mark Standriff today issued this statement:

    “Obviously, the stress of state budget uncertainty is taking its toll on these dedicated state employees, from fair management, to state fair police, to the U.C. Davis veterinary director who had to make the fatal decision to tragically down this pregnant cow and her unborn calf. We’re not second guessing the call. Considering the circumstances, it may have been the best decision. But it’s not fair to force people to make life-and death decisions when they’re also coping with the prospect of fewer vacation days or reduced office supplies.

    “With the state budget nearly a month overdue, the Democrat legislative leaders are happy to hang out in their own corral, unable to agree even among themselves how to close the state budget gap. This is inexcusable. This is bull. This is a new low for Democrats.

    “Is nothing sacred to them anymore, not even cows?”

    mad cowYes! The top thing on the cops’ and veterinarians’ minds when faced with this situation MUST have been the state budget! It’s the Democrats’ fault, clearly! THEY PROBABLY EVEN GAVE THE COW SOME ANGEL DUST!!!

    This release struck me as so odd, I actually checked my calendar to make sure it’s not April Fools Day. I guess the opportunity to combine a bunch of cow puns with the CRP’s mission of pinning all the blame for the budget deadlock on the Democrats was too much to resist.

    It seems to me that the CRP is grasping at straws – or hay, I guess. (Darn it, now they’ve got me doing it, too.)

    For a different perspective on the budget deadlock – arguing that Republicans actually have no desire to strike any sort of budget deal right now – see Robert Cruickshank’s post at Calitics.

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    Schwarzenegger delares fiscal emergency

    If it’s July, it must be another California budget crisis, which brings those beloved IOUs and another round of furlough Fridays.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a financial emergency and reinstituted state worker furloughs today, the latest in the ongoing feud between the governor and legislators over yet another unadopted budget.

    Read the full news release below:

    Gov. Schwarzenegger Declares State of Emergency, Issues Executive Order to Impose Furloughs Due to Cash Crisis Caused By Budget Impasse

    Governor Schwarzenegger issued an order today directing state agencies to reinstitute furlough Fridays until a new budget is in place. The order for state workers to take three furlough days per month will take effect starting August 1 and continue until a new budget is enacted and the Department of Finance certifies that the state has enough cash to meet its obligations through the end of the Fiscal Year.

    “Without a budget in place that addresses our $19 billion budget deficit, every day of delay brings California closer to a fiscal meltdown,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “The State Controller has indicated he could be forced to issue IOUs starting in August in order to avert a cash crisis. Our cash situation leaves me no choice but to once again furlough state workers until the legislature produces a budget I can sign.”

    The Governor’s furlough order continues to exempt CAL FIRE and California Highway Patrol from furloughs. In addition, the Governor’s new order is more narrowly drafted to exempt revenue generating agencies and quasi-public entities with non-general fund resources.

    Read the full proclamation below.

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    Martinez mayor pops the question in Venice

    Suzanne Hatch shows off her engagement ring

    Suzanne Hatch shows off her engagement ring

    Rob Schroder

    Rob Schroder

    Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder proposed marriage  in Venice Tuesday after sharing a gondola ride, dinner and wine with the object of his affection, Suzanne Hatch.

    She said she would think about it.

    Nah.

    She said yes. And then she posted the good news on Facebook, where I saw it moments ago.

    No word yet on the particulars such as a date.

    But now that I think about it, Schroder was exceptionally enthusiastic about his upcoming European vacation when he told me about the trip a few weeks ago.

    It is a local political merger of sorts.

    Hatch is the daughter of Carol Hatch, the retired veteran district director for Rep. George Miller,  D-Martinez.

    Schroder is the son of Republican and former Contra Costa Supervisor Bob Schroder. Rob changed his party registration from Republican to decline to state around the same time he started dating Hatch, a switch that reflects Schroder’s more moderate politics and ensured that he would be invited to the Hatch home for Christmas dinner. (The last part is a joke.)

    Congratulations to the happy couple.

    May they be as happy as I am. (My husband, Joe, and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary tomorrow. He proposed in Carson City, Nev., not as romantic as Venice, perhaps, but the outcome has been just as nice!)

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    DISCLOSE Act blocked in Senate

    A campaign-finance disclosure bill meant to close the spending floodgates opened by the U.S. Supreme Court in January’s Citizens United ruling was blocked today in the U.S. Senate, bringing joyful statements from some extremely strange bedfellows.

    The Senate voted 57-41 on the motion to invoke cloture on the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act; 60 votes were needed to end debate on the bill and bring it to a vote. Both of California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, voted for cloture; no Republicans did so; and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was the lone Democrat voting “no,” a parliamentary maneuver that lets him revive the bill some other time if he thinks he has the votes. The House passed its version of the DISCLOSE Act in June.

    The American Civil Liberties Union says it supports the disclosure of large contributions to candidates as long as that disclosure doesn’t chill political participation; it had urged senators to oppose DISCLOSE Act.

    “The DISCLOSE Act would not improve the integrity of political campaigns in any substantial way but would significantly harm the speech and associational rights of Americans,” Laura Murphy, the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office director, said in a news release. “We can only truly bring positive change to our elections if we continue to respect our cherished free speech rights and, unfortunately, the DISCLOSE Act does not do that. We commend the Senate for rejecting this well-intentioned but overly broad legislation.”

    Michael Macleod-Ball, the ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel, said small donors to small organizations risk losing anonymity under the bill while larger, mainstream organizations would be exempt from donor disclosure – a further distortion of campaign finance fairness.

    Way over on the right, Americans for Limited Government celebrated the bill’s blockage too.

    “The so-called DISCLOSE Act imposes arduous regulations on corporations and non-profits and is explicitly designed to intimidate dissent, all in violation of the First Amendment. Senate Republicans deserve the praise of all freedom-loving Americans who believe that free, unrestricted political speech is a basic and fundamental right under the Constitution,” ALG President Bill Wilson said in his news release. “This is intended to intimidate certain groups and individuals from saying anything at all and into giving up their First Amendment rights. It’s a cynical gag order.”

    Open government and consumer advocacy groups such as Common Cause and Public Citizen had strongly supported the bill as a bulwark against the tsunami of money expected to flood this year’s general election season; for it to take effect in time, the Senate would have had to approve it before the August recess.

    UPDATE @ 2:09 P.M.: Add the League of Women Voters to groups aggrieved by the DISCLOSE Act’s blockage.

    “It is sad to see Senators cling to partisanship and obstructionism once again, instead of working together to find a middle ground on the DISCLOSE Act,” League national president Elisabeth MacNamara said in a news release. “This is a failure for which voters will have to pay this November when corporate and other special interests use secret money to influence our elections.”

    “Opponents of the DISCLOSE Act have put forth various criticisms — some true and others based on misinterpretations — justifying their obstruction. But the bottom line is that voters deserve to know who is paying for election advertising. This is not only common sense — it is crucial if voters are to remain the cornerstone of our democracy,” she added. “We would like to know what these opponents have to fear from disclosure of election advertising. Furthermore, what is to prevent them from falling victim to the deceitful advertising which they are refusing to regulate?”