Fixing California With Fracking

From U-T San Diego:

Seven years ago, the California unemployment rate was virtually the same as the national rate — under 5 percent. The Golden State had seen some downs during the broad economic growth enjoyed across America since the 1980s, especially after the end of the Cold War hollowed out the defense industry in the early 1990s. But by and large, California generally fared well for a generation, its economic health paralleling that of the U.S.

Now, in 2013, the state unemployment rate remains well above the nation’s for the fifth straight year — 8.9 percent in August vs. the U.S. rate of 7.3 percent. Using a joblessness measure that is based on those who want full-time work but can’t find it, California has the second-worst rate in the nation: 18.3 percent. Between elevated unemployment and the high cost of living, the Golden State now has the highest effective poverty rate of any state.

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fracking oil gas

Democrats Fought Debt Ceiling Hikes Many Times

From The Daily Caller:

While President Obama claims that Republican efforts to tie a new debt ceiling increase to GOP budget priorities have “never [been] seen in the history” of the country, the Democratic Party has consistently battled debt ceiling increases when Republican presidents were in power.

With the Treasury Department announcing that the U.S. will reach its borrowing capacity by Oct. 17, a debate over raising the debt ceiling will likely consume the attention of Capitol Hill next month, with Republicans pushing for certain budgetary concessions in return for raising America’s borrowing limit. President Obama calls such demands unprecedented.

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debt ceiling obama

Truancy May Cost State Billions

From The Sacramento Bee:

California must act to reduce rampant truancy that saw an estimated 1 million elementary students absent in the last school year and may cost the state billions of dollars through increased crime and poverty, according to a study released Monday by the state attorney general’s office.

“The empty desks in our public elementary school classrooms come at a great cost to California,” the report said.

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Medical Device Tax Now Looms Large

From Politico:

A once-obscure tax on medical devices that’s part of Obamacare is playing a pivotal role in the fight over the government shutdown.

Along with a one-year delay in the president’s health law, House Republicans have included provisions repealing the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices in their bill to fund federal agencies into the next fiscal year. And some have suggested the move to wipe out that tax might — at some point— become a path to compromise with the Senate. But Senate Democratic leaders have so far opposed the device tax as part of a short-term spending bill.

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healthcare obamacare

Napolitano’s Resume Precedes Her As UC President

From The Sacramento Bee:

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano officially takes over as the University of California’s president on Monday, but she already has survived her first leadership challenge — a “no-confidence” vote sought this month by student activists who think her work in Washington makes her unsuitable to run the nation’s largest public higher education system.

Detractors argued that Napolitano was a poor choice, given her previous job, to oversee college campuses prone to protests and attended by students from families living in the U.S. illegally. But leaders of a statewide student association ended up voting 9-6 not to hold a referendum on Napolitano’s appointment so soon, but vowed to seek reassurances from her in the next few weeks.

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Photo courtesy The National Guard, flickr.

Photo courtesy The National Guard, flickr.

Where Obamacare is Attacking Existing Health Care Plans

From The Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama famously promised, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” He later got even more specific.

“If you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have,” Obama said.

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Disarming the Wrong People

‘Poor choices should have consequences,” state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said about her support of SB 755, a bill that inextricably ties DUI convictions and gun control. I agree with the quote in general. When voters make a poor decision in electing representatives like Ms. Jackson, rueful consequences do abound.

There is no doubt that driving under the influence is dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible. But, by definition, there are very few people in this world that get behind the wheel with the intention of harming others. By definition, their judgement and ability to drive is impaired, and they should be punished accordingly. But, SB 755 applies gun control to individuals convicted of a DUI without regard to evidence that they possess any propensity or proclivity to use a gun recklessly or in the commission of a crime. There is absolutely no connection between a DUI and the propensity for gun violence that would justify connecting these two disparate crimes together in a bill, and I dare Ms. Jackson to prove me wrong on this point.

Most gun violence in our community, state and nation is committed by hardened criminals, namely gang-bangers and career criminals, in the commission of a crime. Most of these people have long records of multiple crimes and existing law prohibits these same persons from having guns in their possession. The people already covered by existing law include those that have been convicted of violent crime, gang affiliation, and those who are suffering from certain disabilities resulting in impaired judgement that could lead to acts of violence against themselves and others. Unlike SB 755, existing law makes sense because most of these people have already proven themselves capable of violent behavior.

It is common knowledge that violent crime rates are down in California due to one law in particular and that is the Three Strikes Law which locks up habitual felons for the rest of their lives, whereas, SB 755 will take away guns from people who have never been convicted of any crime except the DUI. In fact, SB 755 majors in the minors as most of the offenses it ties to gun prohibitions are misdemeanors, not felonies.

Why not add distracted drivers to the list of people who can no longer own, purchase, receive, possess or have in their custody a firearm for 10 years after a second conviction? We know that texting while driving constitutes impaired driving. Why not take away the 2nd Amendment rights of these “criminals” too?

The bitter irony? Ms. Jackson and her colleagues are doing precious little to ameliorate the dire circumstances having to do with violent criminals being released from prison before their sentence is up. Why doesn’t she concentrate her efforts on keeping these people behind bars rather than supporting this brazen, blatant attempt to justify taking away the 2nd Amendment rights of the citizenry on a lark? Ms. Jackson should be embarrassed she is supporting SB 755 as it reflects her utter disregard for the Constitution and her disdain for the well-being and intellect of the citizenry.

(Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of the Andy Caldwell Show, weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m., on AM 1290 News-Press Radio. Originally published on Fox and Hounds.)

Time to Settle the Prison Overcrowding Dispute

Gov. Jerry Brown is still batting .000 against the federal judges dealing with the state’s prison overcrowding suit and it doesn’t look like his slump is going to end anytime soon.

Despite the governor’s angry words and continuing court battles, it’s past time to sit down with all parties and try and work out the best of the bad deals available for the state.

It was a tough week for Brown, who is trying to meet the demand of a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that some 8,000 inmates be removed from the state prison system without actually letting any of those prisoners go free.

Facing a Dec. 31 deadline from the increasing impatient jurists, Brown asked for a three-year delay in meeting the long-standing timeline.

In a court order this week, the judges gave Brown four extra weeks, until Jan. 27.

Brown said that without that three-year extension, he was going to start moving California inmates to out-of-state prisons on Sept. 30.

Not going to happen, the judges said.

And the governor, who has been adamant that he does not intend “to turn over California’s criminal justice policy to inmate lawyers who are not accountable to the people,” was ordered by the judges to immediately meet with those same attorneys to “explore how defendants (that’s Brown and the state) can comply with this Court’s June 20, 2013 Order.”

Brown, furious that the judges are blocking his plan to relieve overcrowding by sending prisoners on an out-of-state road trip, had Attorney General Kamala Harris file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the three-judge panel has exceeded its authority.

Given the state’s continuing losing streak in federal court, it’s unlikely Brown is going to find much sympathy at the highest court of the land.

Brown’s concern is that the judges have already decided that the only way California can end overcrowding is by immediately releasing inmates already in the system. In their most recent order, the judges said that the talks with the attorneys behind the suit “shall specifically include” discussion of prisoners such as three strikers, juveniles, the elderly and medically infirm, Immigration and Customs Enforcement inmates and others who may be at low risk to re-offend.

Setting those prisoners free is the last thing Brown wants. Just about every plan he’s come up with has involved keeping California inmates in custody somewhere, whether it’s in local jails, private prisons in the state or out-of-state lockups.

Even the compromise agreement he made with state Sen. Darrell Steinberg called for keeping cutting the prison population by limiting the number of new or repeat lawbreakers sent to the penitentiary, not by cutting loose those already inside.

The problem is as much politics as penology. A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that adults in the state by a 52 percent to 39 percent margin supported Brown’s plan to spend $315 million to deal with prison overcrowding. At the same time, 78 percent of California adults were at least somewhat concerned about the effects of a possible early release of state prison inmates.

Californians, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, are willing to spend plenty of money to meet the court’s order to ease overcrowding, just so long as the prison gates stay locked.

But the political problems surrounding the release of thousands of state prison inmates into California communities are Brown’s worry, not the judges. The overcrowding violates prisoners’ constitutional rights, they said, and they want Brown and the state to comply with their order.

The one ray of hope for the state is that the judges want the upcoming discussions to not only deal with ways “by which compliance can be expedited or accomplished,” but also with ways the court “can ensure a durable solution to the prison crowding problem.”

Shuffling prisoners through a variety of jails and prisons outside the state corrections system is a desperate, short-term move that’s little more than the illusion of a solution. It’s not only expensive, but it’s also unsustainable. Without changes at the front end of the justice system, the back end will continue to grow.

Steinberg’s call for improved rehabilitation programs for inmates and young offenders, alternative sentencing and changes to the state’s “tough on crime” sentencing rules have a much better chance of becoming that “durable solution” the judges want to see. But even three years isn’t much time to show the type of results needed to trim back the prison population as much as the courts have ordered and it’s unlikely the judges – or the inmates’ lawyers – will be willing to agree to even that much of a delay.

But it should be increasing clear, even to Brown, that either he must make a serious move to deal with prison overcrowding or it will be done for them. And if that means making nice to the inmate lawyers – and the Ninth Circuit judges – well, no one said it was easy being governor.

(John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics. Originally published on Fox and Hounds.)

Fairness For All

Obamacare Waivers

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