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Archive for January, 2011

Bipartisan call to protect IHSS from cuts

As the state budget process inches forward, even some Republicans are now saying that deep cuts to the state’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program may be ill-advised because they’ll cost California more in the long run.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal includes cutting all IHSS funding for domestic services – things such as cooking, cleaning and laundry – for certain recipients; foes of the plan say this would mean more than 380,000 elderly and disabled people losing this aid. The budget also includes a proposed 8.4 percent cut to all IHSS recipient hours, atop the 3.6 percent cuts from the 2010 budget.

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle held a news conference this morning in Sacramento to express concerns.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that cutting IHSS will have a negative impact on our state’s economy as well as local economies,” said Assemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach, according to a news release issued by the UDW Homecare Providers Union. “As a former Orange County Supervisor, I’ve seen firsthand that IHSS is much more cost-effective than institutional care.”

The release said Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Riverside, recognized some inefficiency in the program, but said he doesn’t believe cuts are the solution. “Instead, the Governor and the Legislature should be seeking to improve standards and oversight for IHSS to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being maximized.”

Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, also voiced support for IHSS, the release said. “I am not one of those Republicans who say all government is bad government. I believe that government has a responsibility to take care of children, the elderly, disabled and veterans in the most humane, cost-effective way possible,” he said. “And I believe that cutting IHSS benefits would be an example of cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

Many Democrats have decried past cuts as well as Brown’s proposal for more.

“The fundamental question is: Do we want to promote institutional care that costs $55,000 or more per person per year to operate? Or do we want to encourage home care that costs about $12,000 per person per year?” said state Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, according to the union’s release. “Instead of cutting IHSS, we must figure out ways to move a portion of the 100,000 people currently in institutions into IHSS so we can really begin to save the state money.”

Meanwhile, a member of another union – SEIU United Long Term Care Workers – testified today before an Assembly Budget subcommittee about the hardships IHSS cuts would create. Cindy Valdez is a full-time provider to her partner, Jeff.

“If domestic services were cut I would no longer be able to afford to work as his full-time caregiver. I would have to look for a full-time job,” she said. “We would probably have to hire another caregiver to take care of Jeff, someone who doesn’t know him and would have a harder time anticipating his medical and emotional needs. We might even have to resort to placing him in an assisted living center, something that both he and I do not want for him.”

SEIU ULTCW President Laphonza Butler issued a release saying the state’s most vulnerable citizens can’t afford to lose these hours of care, and “for caregivers, these cuts mean fewer hours of work, possible loss of healthcare benefits, and the potential for job loss at a time when the state’s unemployment rates are already at historic highs.”

Posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, state budget | 9 Comments »

California = disaster

It’s official: California is a disaster.

2012Oh, a disaster area, that’s what I meant. Sorry.

President Barack Obama today declared a major disaster exists in California and ordered federal aid for recovery efforts in the area struck by severe winter storms, flooding, and debris and mud flows from Dec. 17 through Jan. 4.

That funding will be made available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storms, flooding, and debris and mud flows in Inyo, Kern, Kings, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Tulare counties. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

We still have to deal with the rest of our disasters on our own.

Posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Congressional reactions to the State of the Union

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“President Obama’s speech tonight was inspiring, unifying and visionary.

“He addressed two major issues facing our nation – job creation and deficit reduction. And he rightly continued his call for civility in our discourse.

“Throughout his speech, he drew on the American tradition of rising to challenges through our ability to innovate and work hard.

“The President’s priorities are in line with California’s priorities. We need a clean-energy economy that will create good jobs and keep us at the forefront of the world. We need a top-notch education system that spans from Head Start to college. We need roads, bridges, high-speed rail and other infrastructure that transport people and goods efficiently in order to move our country forward.

“The President clearly stated his intention to pursue fair deficit reduction, which I support, and he also inspired us to continue working across party lines in order to meet the many challenges required of us. I look forward to working with him and my Congressional colleagues to reach these goals and make our nation stronger.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“The President is absolutely right to challenge our schools to do better. Now is the time for real, substantive changes that will transform our schools and put our students on the path to success in school and in life.

“If we want to win the future, as the President said, if we want our country to prosper, then it is time we decide as a nation that our children can’t afford for us to wait any longer. It is time we decide as a nation to take a hard look at where our schools are and where we need them to be. And it is time we decide as a nation to rid ourselves of the average label we too often receive and excel, out-perform and out-compete other countries.

“If we fail to take action to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are sentencing our students to the status quo. I’ve been fighting too long to let that happen.

“Real education reform will mean more community involvement, more parental involvement, buy in from teachers and less prescription from the federal level – all of this without losing the accountability our students need to keep them on track.

“It shouldn’t matter if a student is in a school in an urban city or a rural town, in a suburban neighborhood or on a U.S. military base – every child in this country deserves the opportunity to succeed. “We can continue to make excuses or we can realize what other countries have – that our economy will not be strong if the education of all our students is not strong.”

Read more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 7 Comments »

A final thought from Robert Reich on the SOTU

I was at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga this evening to hear former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich speak about why the economy is still struggling, and our political discourse remains so bitter.

After filing my story, I walked up to the front of the Soda Activity Center to ask Reich where he expects the nation’s leaders would find the political will to address the past 30 years of flattened workers’ wages while the rich have gotten richer – a problem he says was the root cause of the recession, to be solved by expanding the earned income tax credit up through the middle class while raising marginal tax rates for the richest Americans.

He said it’s not really a “redistribution of wealth,” as I’d put it in my question, because he’s convinced the top 1 percent of Americans in the longer term would do better with a smaller share of a burgeoning economy than a larger share of a struggling economy.

“In this environment, when Republicans, have so effectively hammered home the story that our problem is government, we need politicians who have the courage to tell the truth,” Reich said.

President Obama’s State of the Union address was accurate in recognizing the need for long-term investment, innovation and international competition, he said, but didn’t address the immediate challenge of increasing demand for goods and services, and thus creating jobs. “If he doesn’t address that central issue, he’s allowing the Republicans’ story to dominate.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: economy, Obama presidency, taxes | 2 Comments »

‘We do big things:’ The SOTU’s full text

The full text of the president’s speech:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. And as we mark this occasion, we are also mindful of the empty chair in this Chamber, and pray for the health of our colleague – and our friend – Gabby Giffords.

It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.

Read more after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency | 6 Comments »

Excerpts from tonight’s SOTU address

The White House has just released these excerpts from the State of the Union address that President Barack Obama will deliver tonight:

With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children. That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.

But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.

UPDATE @ 3:45 P.M.: We just received excerpts from the Republican rebuttal that House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., will deliver after the State of the Union address tonight. Read them, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency | No Comments »

McNerney to honor Giffords at district meeting

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, says his 63rd “Congress at Your Corner” constituent meeting will pay homage to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was critically wounded by a gunman at such a meeting early this month in Tucson.

Jerry McNerney“I’m firmly committed to being accessible to the people I represent,” McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “Over the past four years, I’ve held dozens of these events and always enjoyed the opportunity to hear directly from the people I represent about their thoughts and ideas. I encourage people to come share their thoughts and ideas with me.”

“In light of the tragedy in Arizona, I’m also inviting the public to attend this event to express their support for the victims of the shooting and write notes to Gabby Giffords, my dear friend and colleague. I know that personal and heartfelt words of support from our community will be greatly appreciated during this difficult time.”

McNerney will later deliver these notes to Giffords’ office in Washington, D.C. Also, to honor the shooting’s victims, his Congress at Your Corner will begin with a moment of silence.

It’ll be from 3 to 4 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 27, at Stockton’s Cesar Chavez Central Library, 605 N. El Dorado St.

Also Thursday, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, his staff and local officials will host an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at his Fairfield district office at its new, more accessible site at 609 Jefferson St., across the street from the Solano County Government Building.

John Garamendi“The people of the 10th Congressional District have entrusted me to be their representative in Washington, and to do my job, I must be accessible to the people I serve,” Garamendi said in a news release. “Our new Fairfield office is more centrally located, making it easier for my constituents in Solano County to reach out to me and my staff.”

Among those scheduled to attend are Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis; Fairfield Mayor Harry Price and Vice Mayor Chuck Timm; Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez and Vice Mayor Jane Day; Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez; and Solano Community College President Jowell Laguerre.

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Mike Gravel coming to Walnut Creek

Gravel

Gravel

Former president candidate and Democratic U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, of Alaska, is the keynote speaker at the Feb. 4 meeting of the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center.

Gravel will talk about Wikileaks, the famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, Web site where thousands of secret U.S. documents have been posted.

Read on for for the Peace Center’s news release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Political events | 4 Comments »

Brown names picks for CPUC, Energy Commission

Gov. Jerry Brown this morning announced two appointees to the California Public Utilities Commission and two to the California Energy Commission, all from the Bay Area and all with a decidedly pro-consumer bent.

Named to the CPUC were Mike Florio, 58, of Oakland, and Catherine Sandoval, 50, of Campbell.

Florio, a Democrat, has worked as the senior attorney for The Utility Reform Network since 1978; is a member of California Conference of Public Utility Counsel; and was also a member of the board of governors of the California Independent System Operator from 1997 to 2005. He holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, a M.P.P. from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a B.A. from Bowling Green State University. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $128,109.

Sandoval, a Democrat, has worked as an associate professor at Santa Clara University School of Law since 2004; earlier, she was undersecretary and senior policy advisor for housing with the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 2001 to 2004. She was vice president and general counsel with Z-Spanish Media Corporation from 1999 to 2001; director of the Office of Communications Business Opportunities for the Federal Communications Commission from 1994 to 1999; and an associate with Munger, Tolles & Olson from 1991 to 1994. She earned a J.D. from Stanford Law School, a Master of Letters in political science from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and a B.A. from Yale. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $128,109.

Named to the California Energy Commission were Robert Weisenmiller, 62, of Berkeley, and Carla Peterman, 32, of Oakland.

Weisenmiller, if confirmed by the state Senate, will serve as chair of the commission at the conclusion of the current chair’s term, effective Feb. 6. He was first named to the commission last year; earlier, he was a co-founder and executive vice president of MRW & Associates from 1986 to 2010 and was a co-founder and executive vice president of Independent Power Corporation from 1982 to 1986. He was an assistant to a commissioner, manager of the Special Projects Office and director of the Office of Policy Development and Program Evaluation with the California Energy Commission from 1977 to 1982. Weisenmiller holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and a M.S. in energy and resources from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.S. in chemistry from Providence College. The job comes with an annual salary of $128,109. Weisenmiller is registered decline-to-state.

Peterman, a Democrat, is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley and currently serves on the board of directors for the Utility Reform Network. She has conducted extensive research on solar photovoltaic markets and climate change, including co-authoring a series of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory publications on cost and deployment trends in the U.S. solar photovoltaic market. She has conducted research at the University of California Energy Institute at Haas since 2006 and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 2008 to 2010. She was a business analyst with Isles from 2004 to 2005 and was an associate focused on energy financing in the investment banking division of Lehman Brothers from 2002 to 2004. Peterman holds a B.A. in history from Howard University and an M.S. in environmental change and management and an M.B.A. from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $128,109.

UPDATE @ 3 P.M.: From Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo:

“I welcome Gov. Brown’s appointment of Catherine Sandoval and Mike Florio to the California Public Utilities Commission. Both appointees have stellar reputations as thoughtful and forceful advocates for consumers. In the aftermath of the deadly gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, it is my hope that they will provide the crucial oversight that is needed to end a culture of complacency on the commission.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: energy, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

House passes GOP budget rollback resolution

The House today voted 256-165 to pass H.Res. 38, a resolution directing committees to cut non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels or lower, “beginning with a down payment in the form of a continuing resolution that will fund the government at pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels or lower for the remainder of the fiscal year,” according to House Speaker John Boehner’s office.

The vote came hours before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he’s expected to extend for another two years the three-year partial freeze of domestic programs that he suggested in 2010.

From Boehner, R-Ohio:

“I am pleased the House has committed itself to cutting Washington spending. At a time when the Treasury Secretary is begging Congress to raise the debt limit, a ‘freeze’ is simply inadequate. Rather than lock in the consequences of Washington Democrats’ job-destroying spending binge, we pledged to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels and impose real spending caps. The American people have rejected the idea that we can spend and borrow our way to prosperity, as have many economists. The new majority has listened, cut Congress’s budget, and now we’re focused on keeping our pledge to cut spending to pre-‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels. We’ve listened, and tonight the American people will find out whether President Obama has done the same.”

Unsurprisingly, the entire Bay Area delegation voted against it (except for Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who didn’t vote). From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The ‘budget plan’ which the Republicans propose lacks the most basic element required of a budget — numbers. In my 18 years of service in Congress and a decade in county government, I’ve never seen a budget plan with no numbers. My constituents deserve a clear strategy for reducing the deficit. The budget resolution should also be a roadmap for addressing how we can create jobs, strengthen our economy, and detailing what programs will be cut and where we will invest. These are tough decisions. They require a serious plan, not a numberless-nothing bill.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, responded to the GOP bill by introducing his own H.R. 413, the “Defense and Deficit Reduction Act,” to take defense spending back to 2008 levels for the next five years. From Stark:

“We can’t be serious about reducing the deficit if we’re going to wall off 60 percent of our discretionary spending from cuts. This legislation would save $182 billion, from a sector riddled with extra planes and engines that the Pentagon doesn’t want. At a time when we are spending seven times the next closest nation on our military, we must look toward defense for waste and potential savings.”

UPDATE @ 3:13 P.M.: Here’s Stark, speaking earlier today on the House floor:

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, John Boehner, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 3 Comments »