Political Fix (17 September, 2015)

What Happened To AB954?

The California State Legislature stayed in session until the wee hours of Saturday morning, September 12, wrapping up end of the year legislation on assisted death, climate change, medical marijuana and family leave. The Senate even passed Resolution 39 that instructed Californians to “Dump Trump,” but Assembly Bill 954 never saw the light of day.

AB954 was Assemblyman Devon Mathis’ signature. It would have helped low-income homeowners whose wells have gone dry to drill new ones. According to the Health and Human Services Agency, more than 1,500 private wells have gone dry in Tulare County, with 1,000 of those in East Porterville. The bill would have appropriated $10 million from the general fund to help homeowners get grants or low-interest loans to drill new wells. Currently, federal and state money is only available for community wells.

In June, AB954 passed the Assembly 60-0, and was sent to the Senate where it was expected to easily pass and land on the governor’s desk.

Then politics intervened. The Chair of Appropriations, Senator Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, put AB954 in the suspense file. The suspense file is where lawmakers put bills to die. But why would Senator Lara want to kill a bill that had almost unanimous Republican and Democratic support?

According to Assemblyman Mathis, Sen. Lara did not given a reason for his veto of the bill. But others have.

According to an insider familiar with water issues, “bills with this much support coming out of one house do not get killed in such a manner unless the author has insulted, run his mouth, belittled, and/or taken other actions which make the dominant party feel they need to teach a lesson. Killing his flagship bill is a perfect vehicle for just such a lesson.” The pundit added, “things like that don’t happen to bipartisan bills unless someone pisses someone off.”

So what would have gotten the Democrats so angry? One theory is Assemblyman Mathis’ aggressive fight against SB277. This bill, popular with most Californians, eliminated the religious exemption for vaccinating school-aged children. Though Assemblyman Mathis is philosophically against forcing parents to vaccinate their kids, he took a zealous stance, holding rallies, sending out press releases and making speeches, against a very important bill to the Democrats. Though a Tea Party-affiliated group rallied hard against the legislation, the bill had only one plausible outcome, making Assemblyman Mathis’ fight ill-advised and alienating.

Another possible reason for AB954’s Senate demise might be because Assemblyman Mathis took his eye off the ball. It seems his senior staff tried running him for the Republican leadership position in the Assembly and failed miserably.

His staff marketed him as being part of the political millennial generation that would be there for the next 12 years and knew how to modernize the Republican Party, possibly bringing it back into power in California. Sources say he only received a few votes, but what he lost was precious time and clout in dealing with the drought while trying to establish his political legacy.

AB954 is not completely dead. Matt Shupe, Assemblyman Mathis’ new communications director, said that the plan is to bring the bill back next January, for the original $20 million for grants and loans for homeowners with dry wells. But the Democrats may resurrect the bill first and claim it as their own. Usurping other lawmakers’ bills is a common practice and already happened to Mathis’ bill AB956. This bill would have waived any CEQA requirements on projects seeking to recycle water. His bill was killed by the Democrats then folded into a larger piece of legislation, SB88.

The Crown Jewel

The minute you hear some suit using the drought as a justification for bad management just close your ears because you are about to hear some major baloney. CEMEX lawyers tried to blame the drought on the fact that four homeowners’ wells in Lemon Cove went dry right next to their gravel mine, and right next to a huge, brimming lake CEMEX created. Hanford is trying to use the drought as justification to sell off an undeveloped community park because they don’t have the water to maintain it. They apparently do have enough water though to supply 100+ new homes that a potential developer would build on the parkland. The Tulare County Supervisors are using the drought to justify killing off Mooney Grove while fields of lush corn stocks gently sway in the wind on three sides of the property.

All of these shenanigans have left the City of Visalia smelling like a rose. Visalia also happens to be ground zero for the drought but has succeeded in maintaining double the amount of parkland per person than Fresno or Hanford. Visalia has an impressive 5.1 acres of parkland per 1,000 people and keeps their schools open year-round for public use, unlike the other two cities. While Riverway Sports Park in Visalia remains green, beautiful and open, the trees in Mooney Grove and Hanford’s Hidden Valley Park are dying and the grass is brown.

It’s not just the community park situation that makes Visalia look good. It’s their accessible city council members, transparency, public safety workers and, dare I say, their newspaper? After reading the latest about the Salinas Californian going to three days a week, I felt so lucky to get up every day and read the Visalia Times-Delta with my morning cup of coffee. The Visalia Times-Delta is good enough to keep its citizens informed and makes enough mistakes to give me and my husband something to complain about. Life doesn’t get much better.

Visalia has had incidents of lack of transparency and police brutality, but it seems limited to a few bad apples. On the other hand, working with Hanford, Fresno and the Tulare County Board of Supervisors can be at times like talking to a brick wall.

So, as you read your daily newspaper with your morning coffee, receive a happy wave from Visalia’s handsome Chief of Police Jason Salazar, or stroll through one of Visalia’s many parks; realize that in other cities, life ain’t so sweet.

Where’s the Freak-out?

Remember when the Republican establishment had a major freak-out when Newt Gingrich surged in the polls in 2012? When is that freak-out going to happen over Donald Trump?

Polling god, Nate Silver, has told everyone to just calm down because Mr. Trump is highly unlikely to win the Republican nomination. His reason is that Mr. Trump is too much of a Democrat. Mr. Silver claims that if Mr. Trump ran for the Democratic ticket he would not have to change many of his positions. He may be extremely to the right when it comes to immigration, but he is a former registered Democrat and for universal health care and raising taxes on the rich.

Mr. Silver correctly predicted which candidate would win in every state during the 2012 presidential elections, so people listen when he talks. But I disagree with Mr. Silver. Might Mr. Trump’s final demise eventually come because he has insulted every special interest group in the United States? The only group he hasn’t insulted is angry middle-aged White men. But this isn’t 1789, and unfortunately for Mr. Trump, women and Blacks can now vote.

He actually did insult old White men when he attacked Senator John McCain and some of the 2016 presidential candidates. In fact, everyone who criticizes Mr. Trump is automatically labeled an idiot, or stupid, which is less of a reflection on his critics, than a reflection of himself.

Are there other reasons why Mr. Trump will not be able to go the distance? Hmm, let’s see. He said it was amateur hour for those who negotiated the Iran deal. Of course he knows more about Iran than the high-level diplomats from England, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union foreign policy chief. Mr. Trump criticized the moderators of the first debate for not quizzing him about his policy positions, then refused to answer policy questions during interviews. Mr. Trump has insulted Carly Fiorina’s looks and called women fat pigs, dogs and disgusting animals. He has called his fellow Republicans weak and morons and has called Mexicans drug dealers and rapists.

Many people have compared Mr. Trump’s bravado to Charlie Sheen’s “tiger blood” rant. But Mr. Sheen had an excuse for all the crazy things he said. He was on crack.

What will happen when Mr. Trump actually realizes he is not going to be president? He did sign the pledge not to run on a separate ticket if he loses the Republican nomination, but he signed the pledge with an asterisk next to his name. He won’t run as an independent if he is treated fairly, as if the entire country’s–no, the world’s–future revolved around how one megalomaniac is treated. Life is not fair, buddy–and if you weren’t a privileged White guy you might have learned that by now.

Whether he gets the nomination or not, I think I have changed my mind about wanting to see a debate between Hillary Clinton and Ms. Fiorina. I’d rather see a debate between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump.

Now For Some Venting

The Walking Dead

The Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, broke his silence recently to set the story straight on his killing of Cecil, the famous Zimbabwean lion. It seems he doesn’t want any trouble when he goes back to his day job and life as usual, which is something none of the big game he has killed over the years can do. But their lives don’t matter.

Dr. Palmer wants to make clear that “If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study, obviously I wouldn’t have taken it.”

Notice his choice of word “taken.”

There are a few problems with this. First, Dr. Palmer can see well enough to shoot an arrow through the lion’s neck but can’t see the cumbersome GPS tracking device? Second, if it weren’t a known lion that was part of a study then that would make it OK to kill one of God’s greatest creatures –for no better reason than it was a Tuesday?

Dr. Palmer also contests the account that the lion wandered for 40 hours injured and dying. He said that the lion only wandered injured for 24 hours and was tracked down the next day and killed with another arrow. So I suggest we shoot Dr. Palmer in the neck with an arrow and let him wander around for a day. Then we could have one of his buddy big game hunters finish him off with an arrow to the head, because according to Dr. Palmer, that would be OK.

No Vacancy At the Inn

When Saudi King Salman rented an entire luxury Washington DC hotel for his entourage during a visit with President Obama, one question came to mind–well, several, actually. Why is the European Union expected to take Syrian refugees by the hundreds of thousands while the Arab nations won’t take one? Even though they share the same ethnicity, religion and language, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman will not allow them in.

Great minds must think alike because right after I finished writing this blurb I heard renowned author Salman Rushdie say the exact same thing in an interview.

We both pondered the question of why Arab countries don’t take care of their brethren. I investigated whether these Arab countries were in good enough financial shape to take in the Syrians refugees. And the richest country in the world popped up as Qatar, which is just a stone’s throw away from Syria. Not only are these countries richer, or just as rich as Germany, they are Syria’s neighbors.

Right or wrong, Hungary, Poland and the Baltic countries only want Christian refugees. Has everyone forgotten the Srebrenica genocide? It’s safe to say they don’t like Muslims in some parts of Europe. Besides, would Qatar accept Christian refugees?

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