House passes ‘clean’ homeland security funding

About a third House Republicans joined with Democrats on Tuesday to pass legislation fully funding the Department of Homeland Security through this year’s end.

Some more conservative Republicans opposed the move, refusing to vote for a bill that doesn’t defund or otherwise roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But the GOP leadership – speaker John Boenher, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Bakersfield; and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. – all voted for it. The vote was 257-167.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“For the past three months, House Republicans have been playing a dangerous game in which the American people are on the losing end. Today, reason prevailed and the games are finally over. The people charged with protecting our national security deserve more than uncertainty. It is outrageous that Homeland Security funding was held hostage to a partisan debate. This is not how we should govern.

“Americans are rightly sick of the politically manufactured crises they’ve come to expect from this Tea-Party-led Congress. I am grateful to finally move past this brinkmanship and address real challenges. It’s time to get to work doing what the American people sent us here to do, creating economy-boosting jobs that pay enough for hard-working families to get ahead.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock:

“The top priority of Congress is to ensure the safety of the American people. Today’s vote ensures that our homeland security agents and personnel have the certainty and long term funding necessary to do their critical work of keeping us all safe. I do not support the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration as it flies in the face of the United States Constitution and ignores the will of the people. However, we cannot hold hostage funding for our national security and I will continue to push for a full debate on every aspect of immigration reform.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“Once again, Leader Pelosi has led the House out of a dire situation by providing the Democratic votes necessary to avert a dangerous partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency will be fully funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, and the American people can be assured that key national security operations will not be interrupted.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

“Our national security will not be shut down. Thankfully enough Republicans put their country before their party and joined with the Democrats to pass a clean DHS bill. Funding for our national security should never be held hostage in a political debate. Those upset by the President’s immigration plan should instead work with us to fix our broken system.”

More lawmaker reaction to Arnold’s veto threat

(UPDATE @ 11 A.M. MONDAY 10/12: I’ve updated this post throughout to denote which bills the governor signed and which bills he vetoed.)

Lisa and I worked up a story about East Bay lawmakers’ bills being held ransom as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatens a blanket veto this weekend unless Legislative leaders cut a deal on the state’s water problems. As print space is limited, I thought I’d post some of the lawmakers’ comments in fuller form here.

Assembly Majority Leader and state Attorney General candidate Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, said Friday that if the governor follows through on his veto threat, he’ll unveil a bill Monday explicitly banning exactly this type of legislative and executive “extortion” in the future. Torrico had asked state Attorney General Jerry Brown to probe whether the blanket veto threat already violates the California Constitution’s and Penal Code’s ban on such quid pro quos, but Brown said Friday he’ll not do so.

“This is a new low for the governor, but it really is in keeping with the tenor and tone in Sacramento of negotiation through ransom notes,” Torrico said.

Torrico cited Legislative Republicans’ successful moves in recent years to exact policy wins such as tax breaks for the horse-racing industry and a ballot measure that would create an open-primary electoral system, in return for their votes on the state budget.

He’s concerned about three bills he authored: AB 1049, (VETOED) adding the state Safely Surrendered Baby Fund to the state income tax return form’s voluntary contributions section; AB 1270, (VETOED) making it easier for victimss to receive compensation from the Victim’s Compensation and Government Claims Board in a timely manner by requiring the board to have written procedures and time frames in place as suggested by a state audit report; and AB 665, (SIGNED) to ensure that federal incentive payments given to California for increasing the number of youth adopted out of foster care will be distributed to counties to fund activities to improve legal permanency outcomes for foster youth ages nine or older.

Staffers for state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said she’s concerned about two bills she has waiting on the governor’s desk.

SB 83 (SIGNED) would let county transportation planning agencies put measures on their counties’ ballots to impose fees of up to $10 per vehicle to raise money for local projects to ease traffic congestion. The Senate passed this on a 23-17 vote, the Assembly on a 46-31 vote.

And Hancock’s SB 279 (VETOED) would let cities and counties create local financing authorities to help property owners pay up front for solar-energy systems, energy efficiency improvements and water conservation measures; initial funding would come from a bond fund to be repaid over time through an assessment on the tax bills of the participating property owners. The Senate passed this 25-8, the Assembly 58-19.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, noted she has 14 bills awaiting the governor’s action – more than any other Senator – dealing with issues such as lengthening the notice given to the state and requiring public hearings before a hospital emergency room can be shut down (SB 196, VETOED); halting sales of electronic cigarettes, currently unregulated and sometimes marketed to children (SB 400, VETOED); updating the list of public school facilities that need to be seismically retrofitted (SB 305, VETOED); and reducing fraud by barring petition signature gatherers from being paid per signature (SB 34, VETOED).

“Every member of the legislature works long and hard to craft meaningful legislation. The bills would not be on the Governor’s desk if they did not have merit,” she said. “These bills are not just pieces of paper. Each one will have an impact on Californian’s lives.”

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said she believes the governor will review every bill on its own merit

“These are vital issues to the people of California and I am sure that he will give careful consideration to each of these bills,” she said, noting she has 13 bills on the govenror’s desk. “My top priorities include AB 1386, (SIGNED) which will resolve a 40-year old dispute over a Caltrans project in my district and address local transportation and housing needs.”

She’s also concerned about AB 73, (SIGNED) without which Alameda County will risk losing its groundbreaking violence prevention program, Hayashi said. “Lastly, AB 108 (SIGNED) is critically important, because we need to protect consumers from having their health insurance policies rescinded, especially at the very moment they need costly treatment and life-saving services”


DiFi to pirates: ‘Avast, ye scurvy dogs!’

Well, not exactly. But in a letter to President Barack Obama last week, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein did say the government should put armed security teams aboard U.S.-flagged shipping vessels operating on pirate-infested seas.

Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the move as a stop-gap measure until there’s a more comprehensive, international plan to deal with rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia. She also said today she’ll author a bill to make armed security teams a requirement for U.S.-flag vessels sailing through dangerous waters.

“I believe that any U.S.-flag shipping vessel operating in the Gulf of Aden or the Straits of Malacca – or in any other high piracy zone – should be required to have armed security teams aboard,” she said. “I have listened to a lot of rhetoric and reasons for not doing this and how there must be a political solution to the ongoing chaos within Somalia. But in the meantime, the number of hijackings continues to go up, and more than 200 hostages are being held. This is unacceptable.”

Feinstein notes pirates attacked over 90 commercial ships in 2008, hijacking 40 and reaping an estimated $120 million in ransom. The Maersk Alabama — from which Capt. Richard Phillips was seized and held hostage by pirates, necessitating a rescue by Navy SEALs — was but one of several ships hijacked recently, and now pirates threaten to target and harm the crews of U.S.-flagged ships in the region. “I believe we must take strong, decisive action to make sure the crews on these ships are protected from the menace of piracy.”

Yarrrrgh. Read Feinstein’s letter to Obama in its entirety, after the jump…
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Schwarzenegger becomes a budget ‘stunt’ man

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said today he’s going to cross his arms, stomp his foot, hold his breath and turn blue until the Legislature sends him a budget he likes.

Well, not exactly, but close:

“At this point, nothing in this building is more important than a responsible budget and to fix our broken budget system and to create an economic stimulus package, so until the Legislature passes a budget that I can sign, I will not sign any bills that reach my desk,” he said. “That means that some good bills will fail, yes, but we do not have the luxury of stretching this process any longer. The only thing that the Legislature should be focusing on is reaching a budget compromise immediately.”

For context, California’s budget hasn’t been signed by the June 15 constitutional deadline since 1986; a quick search shows me the past 10 budgets were signed on these dates:

  • 2007: Aug. 24
  • 2006: June 30
  • 2005: July 11
  • 2004: July 31
  • 2003: Aug. 2
  • 2002: Sept. 5
  • 2001: July 25
  • 2000: June 30
  • 1999: June 29
  • 1998: Aug. 21
  • So this late date isn’t new, although we are facing a much bigger deficit than usual. But state Controller John Chiang earlier today said that’s not as much of a worry as the governor would have us believe:

    “On Monday, I testified to the Senate Governmental Organization Committee that June revenues provided us with more than $4.2 billion in reserves at the end of September, which is well above the $2.5 billion my office considers a prudent cash cushion. Although I will release the actual cash flow figures in my monthly report later this week, the preliminary numbers from July show that our cash position has further improved, providing added assurance that the State will have the resources to meet its payment obligations for all of September and into October.

    “The Governor based his executive order to cut employees’ salaries to the federal minimum wage on a faulty premise that it would conserve the cash needed to pay our bills next month. Two consecutive months of improved revenues and decreased spending have rendered his executive order to be nothing more than a solution to a problem that does not exist in the immediate future.

    “I have been working with commercial and investment bankers for the past several months to ensure the State can borrow to meet all of our payment obligations, and this news delays our need to borrow by several weeks. In light of our cash flow improvements, I respectfully urge the Governor to reconsider his executive order. To not do so would needlessly subject hundreds of thousands of hard-working public servants to financial harm and add more strain to our already fragile economy.

    “Although the last two months of revenue performance are welcome news, it will not alleviate the need for California to engage in expensive and risky Wall Street borrowing later this year. The only way to avoid this borrowing is with a budget that contains sound revenue and expenditure solutions that are free from get-out-of-town gimmicks.”

    A get-out-of-town gimmick is exactly what this blanket-veto threat seems to be, hot on the heels of his possibly-toothless order to cut state workers’ pay to the federal minimum wage. He’s sounding increasingly petulant as legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle fail to cave to the pressure he tries to exert. It’s a stunt I think people are likely to see worthy of one of his action films, but not of a governor.

    Even his movement off his no-tax-hikes rhetoric — although at least denoting some movement — seems misguided. His proposal to raise the state sales tax by a penny on the dollar for three years would bring in about $5 billion a year, which isn’t even close to the $6.1 billion the state would have in its coffers this year had Schwarzenegger not repealed the Vehicle License Fee back in 2003. And the sales tax is more regressive than the VLF, meaning it has a more disproportionate impact on the poor: The California Budget Project says the state’s poorest 20 percent spent 8.4 percent of their pay on sales tax last year, while the richest 20 percent spent no more than 3.3 percent. And that’s to say nothing of the havoc the governor’s proposal might play with constitutionally mandated Proposition 98 education funding when the sales-tax hike sunsets after three years.

    First he tried to hold state workers hostage, now he’s putting a gun to the head of the very business of government, seeking a budget deal as ransom. If I had to guess, I’d think he’s uncomfortable with giving people any more time to realize how absurd it is that California is one of only three states (Arkansas and Rhode Island are the others) requiring the Legislature’s supermajority support (two-thirds of each chamber voting yes) to pass its budget or tax increases, rather than a simple majority.

    The governor clearly wants the budget done fast. The question is, does he want it done right?