Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Special election blues

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, like the President, was elected on campaign promises of changing the tone of government by ending partisanship, reaching across the aisle, etc. Unfortunately, this is something at which both men turned out to be especially bad. Now, as the President promises to continue borrowing from unborn tax-payers to pay for a traveling road show of social-security-privatization propaganda until the end of his lame duck term, Schwarzenegger is spending 55 million of his constituents' dollars to continue his policy of non-stop campaigning. The governor, who was elected in a special recall election, has done almost no governing since taking office, instead preferring to star in cheap made-for-tv fare, such as filling in fake potholes--special effects paid for alternatively by John Q. Taxpayer and Corporate H. Lobbyist.

On Monday the Specialelectionator took the next step by officially calling a special election for Nov. 8. Here are the highlights of the LA Times coverage:
Likely initiatives on the ballot

Spending cap
Would limit amount that government spending could increase each year. Would force automatic cuts if the state budget was not in place by the July 1 deadline. Would give the governor the power to cut programs midyear if the budget fell out of balance. Would remove some school spending obligations from state law. Supported by Schwarzenegger, California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable. Opposed by California Teachers Assn., California Labor Federation, California Nurses Assn.

Teacher tenure

Would increase to five years from the current two the period of service required before public school teachers could receive tenure. Would allow teachers to be fired after two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations. Supported by Schwarzenegger. Opposed by California Teachers Assn., other unions.

Would require a panel of retired judges to draw election districts for state legislative, Board of Equalization and congressional offices. Takes away power of state legislators to draw their own districts. Voters would approve or disapprove the judges' redistricting plan. Supported by Schwarzenegger. Opposed by various GOP and Democratic lawmakers.

Union dues

Each member of a California public employee union would have to consent every year for any portion of his or her dues to be used for political campaigns. Supported by anti-tax advocate Lewis Uhler. Opposed by numerous public employee unions.


Would ban abortions for minors (younger than 18) until 48 hours after a parent or guardian was informed that the abortion was going to be performed, except in a medical emergency or with a waiver from the parent or guardian. Would require doctors to keep statistics on abortions provided to minors. Supported by James Holman, publisher of the San Diego Reader. Opposed by Planned Parenthood of California, Feminist Majority Foundation.

Three more initiatives are expected to qualify for the ballot by the June 30 deadline:

Prescription drugs 1

Would allow Californians with low and medium-level incomes (up to $38,280 for individuals) to receive discounted drug prices negotiated with pharmaceutical companies by the state Department of Health Services. Prescriptions for drugs made by companies that declined to negotiate discounts would be discouraged in the state's Medi-Cal program. Supported by Health Access California. Opposed by drug companies.

Prescription drugs 2
Would allow Californians with low and medium-level incomes (up to $28,710 for individuals) to receive voluntary discounts negotiated with pharmacies and drug companies by the Department of Health Services. No penalties for companies that did not reduce prices. Supported by pharmaceutical industry. Opposed by Health Access California.

Electricity service regulation
Would partly move away from deregulation by restricting electricity customers' ability to switch from private utilities to other providers. Would also require all electricity sellers, not just private utilities, to purchase 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2010. Would raise fees to expand regulatory oversight by the Public Utilities Commission. Proponents are Robert Finkelstein and Michael Peter Florio.


Governor Puts Agenda on the Ballot
By Jordan Rau, Times Staff Writer

...The election promises to be an expensive bare-knuckles fight between the two most powerful lobbies in Sacramento: the business interests and Republican activists that have been filling Schwarzenegger's campaign coffers all year, and the unions that are at risk of losing much of their political clout if the governor succeeds.

In anticipation, the California Teachers Assn. raised dues over the weekend to collect $50 million more from members. The state prison guards union has moved to raise its dues as well, hoping to gather $18 million extra. Schwarzenegger and his allies are preparing to spend more than $40 million.

The unions' opposition has been multiplied by an initiative that could crimp their ability to use members' dues for political purposes. The effort to defeat it is expected to draw union support from across the country.

...The California secretary of state's office projects that the election will cost taxpayers $45 million, plus $7 million to $10 million for voter pamphlets.

Democrats and others called the election needlessly costly and said Schwarzenegger could easily have waited until the next scheduled election, the June 2006 primary, to put his ideas on the ballot.

Though the governor cannot call off the special election, he and lawmakers have until the end of August to place any compromises they negotiate on the November ballot and urge voters to choose them over the initiatives. That is what they did last year when they hammered out a deal on aid to local government.

But Schwarzenegger's proposals this year ask far more of Democratic legislators and their allies. His proposed budget overhaul — which Schwarzenegger made clear was his top priority — would limit the amount by which lawmakers could increase state spending each year and give the governor new authority to slash outlays during the fiscal year if expected revenues didn't materialize.

"It would be a dramatic shift of power from the legislative branch to the governor," said Jean Ross, director of the California Budget Project, a Sacramento nonprofit organization...

It would be great to get a redistricting out of the hands of politicians, but the Schwarzenegger proposition is needlessly rushed and antagonistic. We could vote next June to have judges do the redistricting after the next census. I'm not sure how I'll vote on this.

Similarly, changing the rule for tenure for teachers doesn't seem like a bad idea to me. There are bad teachers, and if they can be weeded out before given tenure, that would be a relief to a lot of kids. But is this going to make a big difference? No. Is this worth having a special election for? No. As discussed below, Schwarzenegger's strategy, as described by his "media expert," is to demonize middle-class unionized professionals. I don't think it will work.


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