Poizner Apologizes for Being a Moderate

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

It must be discouraging to have to apologize for supporting something you believed in, but GOP gubernatorial hopeful Steve Poizner is probably getting used to it by now.

Take, for example, Poizner’s new www.PoiznerFacts.com, which is, according to a press release Thursday, “a myth-busting web site aimed at correcting distortions of Steve Poizner’s record.”

You know, the type of myths that suggest that the current state insurance commissioner was once a moderate Silicon Valley Republican who was willing to take unpopular positions because he felt they were right, even if they did go against the conservative, anti-tax grain of the state party.

Of course that was a couple of campaigns ago, when he was running for state Assembly in a strongly Democratic Bay Area district with the endorsement of the newspapers in San Francisco, San Jose and Palo Alto.

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Water Politics Invade State Fair

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

Political work at the California State Fair in Sacramento is typically a low-key, people-friendly affair. Office holders and would-be office holders typically make a pilgrimage out into the heat of Cal Expo, where they shake a few hands, kiss some babies, eat a corndog and sing the praises of California agriculture.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, for example, will be out there this evening, visiting the Republican Party booth in one of the halls and hoping desperately that some desperate newspaper or TV station, stuck in the August doldrums, will send out a reporter or a camera crew to ask him about his campaign for governor.

It’s generally considered bad form to do any serious politicking, especially since most of the fairgoers wouldn’t pay any attention anyway.

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Assembly Will Let Judges Cut Prisons

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

When a panel of federal judges earlier this month ordered the state to come up with a plan to quickly move some 43,000 inmates out of the grossly overcrowded state prison system, it provided legislators with the political cover to do what they knew they had to do anyway.

But the state Assembly has decided to toss that gift aside and in effect tell the federal courts “Make us.”

Here’s a news flash for the lower house: There’s a reason it’s called an “order.” Federal judges don’t like being ignored and have plenty of ways to make their unhappiness known, as the state has found in other prison-related battles.

When the Senate passed the state prison reform bill last Thursday, there were plenty of members who didn’t like it. It didn’t get a single Republican vote and only the bare number of Democratic votes needed to pass.

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Sen. Wiggins Says She’s Leaving

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

One of the toughest things about politics is that it’s so hard to know when it’s time to go.

State Sen. Pat Wiggins of Santa Rosa got the message Sunday and decided to jump before she was pushed, announcing to surprised supporters that she would not run for re-election next year.

The decision was so sudden that Wiggins announced it at a fund-raiser that was supposed to raise money for her re-election. Although Democratic legislators were quick to publicly thank Wiggins for her years of service to the state, they likely breathed deeps sighs of relief at the news.

The announcement came just days after a devastating piece in Friday’s Santa Rosa Press-Democrat suggested that Wiggins “is suffering from a serious and potentially career-ending mental decline.”

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Bass is in a tough position as prison cuts stall in the Assembly

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

Well, the governor had the prison plan he wanted for a few hours Thursday, but the way things look now that bill better be written in erasable ink.

While the state Senate managed to muster the bare-minimum 21 votes needed to pass the Legislature’s part of the $1.2 billion cut in the state prison system, the Assembly adjourned at midnight after hours of private deliberations and sub rosa horse-trading couldn’t bring out enough support to send the measure to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Since legislators, who arrived back in Sacramento last Monday after a month-long summer recess, are fleeing the capital for a three-day weekend, that means nothing is going to happen on the prison bill until Monday.

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Fiorina Has Big Questions to Answer

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

To the surprise of absolutely no one, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is taking the first official steps toward challenging Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer next year.

On Tuesday, the Los Altos Hills Republican filed her “Carly for California” campaign name with the IRS and sent out a kinda/sorta campaign press release to announce it.

“I have received a great deal of encouragement to make a run for the Senate in 2010 from people all across the political spectrum,’’ she said in the release. “Today’s filing … is the logical next step in evaluating running for office.’’

During the “full and thorough evaluation of her candidacy” that Fiorina promises, she should work on answering a single question: Why does she believe she’s qualified to be California’s next senator?”

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Schools for Sale Thanks to State Budget

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

Thanks to a little-publicized part of the latest state budget deal, “For Sale” signs are going to be going up on vacant school buildings across the state.

In an effort to give California schools a little something to make up for grabbing billions from educational funding to close the state’s budget gap, the Legislature agreed last month to suspend the rules that strictly limit how school districts can spend the money from the sale of surplus classroom buildings.

In the past, if a district sold a school building, money from the sale generally could only be used for more construction or one-time maintenance. The new rules toss those limits out and let that money go into the district’s general fund, where it can be used for one-time purchases.

But, like Cinderella’s wardrobe, there’s a time limit on the state’s generosity. On Jan. 1, 2012, the new rules disappear and school districts will once again be bound by the old restrictions.

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More Fights Ahead for the Legislature

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

The Legislature swings back into action today with a lineup of issues that promises to be just as divisive as the budget battle that tied up the Assembly and state Senate for weeks before last month’s summer recess.

Back then, the fight was all about the budget. This time, it’s about water, prison reform, energy, jobs, political reform and taxes. And, yeah, the state budget.

With the clock ticking on his time in office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is desperate to put the budget in the rear-view mirror and move on to something else. But Republicans and Democrats already are scuffling over the agreement that purportedly solved – or at least papered over – the problems in California’s financial plan.

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Local Highway Money is Target Again

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

The $1 billion in local highway money the state didn’t get in last month’s budget agreement could be a target again when the Legislature comes back from its summer recess next week, Darrell Steinberg, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, suggested Wednesday.

Steinberg, joined by local Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, was at a neighborhood health center in San Francisco’s Mission District, talking about his suit to recover nearly $500 million Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger blue-penciled from state health and welfare programs before he signed the budget revisions.

"We could go back to (the highway money),” he told the crowd of doctors, nurses, patients and various care providers. "That’s one way to do this.”

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Gay Marriage Vote Not a Political One

John Wildermuth
Journalist and Political Commentator

Wednesday’s decision by the state’s largest gay rights group to wait until 2012 before trying to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage makes perfect political sense. The problem is, for many people, marriage equality is anything but a political issue.

Equality California backed up its announcement with a 32-page report showing why it would be a bad idea to put a gay marriage amendment on a 2010 ballot. The poll numbers haven’t budged since the last election, raising the $40 million to $50 million needed for a successful campaign will take time and political consultants, polled by Equality California, agreed that November 2012, with President Obama running for re-election, will bring out the voters most likely to support a same-sex marriage initiative.

The reaction to that tightly reasoned argument could be seen on the Equality California blog.

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