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Immigration activists target Goodlatte fundraiser

Immigration reform activists plan to protest Wednesday evening outside a Silicon Valley fundraiser for House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, asking guests to pressure Goodlatte to address House GOP leaders’ reticence on the issue.

Bob GoodlatteThe 5:30 p.m. protest near the Los Altos Hills home of Oracle Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz is organized by Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN); SEIU United Service Workers West; United Farm Workers Foundation; Student Advocates for Higher Education; and Youth United for Community Action.

“Workers in Silicon Valley and throughout the Bay Area have been calling for reform – from the tech workers and entrepreneurs in the Peninsula to farmworkers in the fields, workers call for reform that provides a pathway to citizenship, families to be reunited, and strong worker protections,” said the news release announcing the protest. “Will Goodlatte listen?”

House Republican leaders in late January rolled out a statement of principles for pursuing immigration reform, but within days were saying it’s not likely to happen this year.

Goodlatte’s website says he has “strongly advocated for immigration reform that focuses on enforcement and upholding the rule of law, including elimination of enforcement waivers that have been abused by previous and current Administrations.

“To be clear, any immigration reform proposal must first guarantee that our immigration laws are enforced both at the border and within the United States,” Goodlatte wrote. “I remain opposed to amnesty, as I always have been. I do not support a special pathway to citizenship that rewards those who have broken our immigration laws.”

The fundraiser for Goodlatte, R-Va., is organized through TechNet, a tech industry lobbying group; tickets cost from $10,000 to $40,000. Goodlatte is being challenged in this June’s GOP primary by Paul Bevington, a libertarian-leaning high school teacher.

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Arnold’s privatization plan full of holes, foes say

County social services officials and consumer advocates say Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eleventh-hour plan to privatize the health and human services eligibility process could be disastrous.

County Welfare Directors Association of California Executive Director Frank Mecca told reporters on a conference call this morning that his group’s members are “really disappointed in the governor and have very serious concerns about his proposal … which we believe will cost the taxpayers a fortune and more importantly is going to harm the most vulnerable, needy people in our state.”

Mecca said the plan seems to have “absolutely no accountability or oversight,” giving the governor’s administration a free pass on competitive bidding, conflict-of-interest and other controls. And while the governor says the plan could save California hundreds of millions of dollars over time, “the governor has never provided an analyis to anyone including the legislature showing a cost-benefit for his proposal,” he said.

The governor’s likening of programs such as MediCal to the already-privatized Health Families Program is “completely flawed, beyond simplistic – to call it apples to oranges is proably to paint it in more favorable light than it deserves,” Mecca said, as MediCal is immensely more complicated.

Celia Hagert, senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, Tex., said from what she’s seen of Schwarzenegger’s plan, there are “striking similarities between it and what was attempted in Texas… which would make me very nervous if I were a California policy maker.”

Texas in 2007 dissolved an $899 million contract with Accenture Ltd. that called for the company to run an integrated eligibility determination system for the state’s health and welfare programs. That system’s January 2006 rollout in two Texas counties had been “an immediate disaster” with thousands of children kicked off their health care, a huge food-stamp application backlogged and long wait times and many abandoned calls for those seeking aid, Hagert said. Texas is still recovering from the debacle, she said: “It’s a high price to pay, and very difficult to make up for mistakes once they’re made.”

A similar story is still unfolding in Indiana, where the initial rollout “has been riddled with so many problems that the state hasn’t been able to justify rolling it out in other areas,” said Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. Yet Schwarzenegger seems eager to relive the Texas and Indiana experiences, she said: “Unfortunately, I fear that it’s ‘Groundhog Day’ in California.”

Elizabeth Landsberg, a legislative advocate for the Western Center on Poverty & Law, said it’s “terrifying” to think that could happen here. “We’re not scared of modernization and we’re not scared of automation, but we need to do it right” rather than in last-minute, closed-door Big Five budget negotiations, she said, especially when 7 million Californians’ due process and privacy rights, not to mention their health and food, are at stake.

San Luis Obispo County Social Services Department Director Lee Collins said his county has one of the state’s highest work participation rates for people in the CalWorks welfare program because his staff starts helping people find work as soon as they begin the application process – something that will be lost if that process is privatized and automated. “These online eligibility programs really kind of hook them into public assistance and keep them there and don’t allow us to work with them as easily to achieve self-sufficiency,” Collins said, citing a case in which a $400 car repair helped keep one family from entering the CalWorks system for a lengthy stay.

“California has a bad enough track record in automation … We don’t need another Oracle,” he said, referring to the state’s 2002 cancellation of a $95 million contact with software maker Oracle after a state audit found it would cost the state an extra $41 million over time rather than save it $100 million as some had claimed.

Replied Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear: “This is another example of defenders of the status quo fighting against reform and against Sacramento living within its means. It is clear these individuals have no understanding of our proposal or the reforms that are necessary to end the fraud and abuse in these programs.”

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California’s richest person supports Jerry Brown

Your campaign finance tidbit du jour: Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison – with an estimated net worth of $22.5 billion, placing fourth on Forbes’ most recent list of the richest people in the world – gave California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s nascent 2010 gubernatorial campaign $13,000 Saturday, according to the Secretary of State’s database as updated today.

I think $13,000 is about 5.8 millionths of $22.5 billion. Or, as Larry Ellison might say, a generous tip.

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McNerney pushes for permanent R&D tax credit

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, introduced a bill today that would make permanent a research and development tax credit.

The credits have been around in various forms for years and are frequently extended but they have existed in a near-constant state of uncertainty.

A similar bill in the U.S. Senate authored Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also apparently has broad support, which may bode well for the eventually passage of the legislation.

Here’s McNerney’s press release on the bill:

The bill, H.R. 5681, introduced today and referred to the Ways and Means Committee for further consideration, is entitled the Innovation Tax Credit Act.

“Research and development tax credits have inspired the research and innovation that has led to major breakthroughs in all different types of products from wind turbine parts to life-saving medical technologies and computers,” Rep. McNerney said. “My bill makes it easier for businesses doing research to take advantage of the credit and to plan for future investment.”

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