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The Weekly Roundup

Drivers’ hands-off, Labor tunes in, voters drop out

Thursday, September 14
“A state audit released this week warns that California’s efforts to prepare
for a terrorist attack or natural disaster are being undermined by a morass
of red tape,” writes the LAT’s Evan Halper.

“State Auditor Elaine M. Howle says in the report that the administration of
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has let tens of millions of dollars in federal
emergency preparedness grants languish unspent and has not adequately tested
the ability of California’s medical facilities to handle mass casualties.”

Friday, September 15
Californians are going to have to put down their cell phones and use a
hands-free devices, starting in 2008, if they want to talk and drive at the
same time under a bill Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law today.
“Public safety is the governor’s No. 1 priority, and this bill make the
streets and highways of California safer by making sure drivers have both
hands available for driving,” said Margita Thompson, a spokeswoman for
Schwarzenegger.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, tells the Chronicle that data from the
California Highway Patrol “showed that not only were cell phones the No. 1
cause of distracted driving accidents, but that hands-free technology
substantially reduced the number of crashes.”

“We’ve got this readily available technology that costs next to nothing and
that saves lives. My argument has been, why not use it? Simitian said.”

Now that we’ve got this technology, can someone find a way to free the hands
of the driver next to us who is shaving with one hand and eating an Egg
McMuffin with the other?

Saturday, September 16
From our This Little Piggy Stayed Home files, PPIC’s Mark Baldassare says
this year’s election isn’t exactly getting voters fired up. He sees “a
surprisingly high level of voter indifference in the upcoming election.
Based on PPIC’s recent survey and election trends, we may be headed for the
lowest turnout ever in a California general election.”

Ah, democracy in action. Or inaction, as it were.

Sunday, September 17
The Chron’s John Wildermuth looks at Arizona’s public-finance system and
California’s Proposition 89. “Backers of California’s Proposition 89, which
would provide $200 million a year for public financing of California
candidates, point to the success of the Arizona system as an example of what
could happen in California. But many of the political pros who work every
day with the system have curbed their enthusiasm.”

‘On the whole, it has opened up the political process to a new pool of
candidates,’ said Michael Frias, campaign director for the Arizona
Democratic Party. ‘But we need to look and see where it can be improved.'”

“Some Republican leaders have harsher feelings about Arizona’s public
financing system. ‘There are a lot of good things California and other
states could pull from Arizona, but this isn’t one of them,’ said Glenn
Hamer
, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party.”

Monday, September 18
Harrison Sheppard and Steve Geissinger take a look at the growing clout and
size of the Black Caucus in the Oakland Tribune. “The current caucus has six
members–all from Los Angeles County–but three to five new members could hail
from the Bay Area, the Inland Empire and San Diego. Such growth would make
it larger than the caucuses for Asian and gay legislators.” Not to mention
the Armenian Caucus, since Dario Frommer is going to be termed out.

Tuesday, September 19
The governor signed a bill to raise voluntary tax money for sea otters.

The otter bill, “written by Assembly Democrats Dave Jones of Sacramento and John Laird of Santa Cruz, was prompted by Jones’ son, Will, who cried upon
learning that the threatened California sea otter population is not
thriving.”

Who does the kid think he is, Darrell Issa?

Wednesday, September 20
“A coalition of the state’s most powerful public employee unions has agreed
to start an independent campaign opposing the re-election of Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger that could cost as much as $25 million, according to several
sources familiar with the plan,” reports Tom Chorneau in the Chron.

“The effort, which could begin as soon as this weekend, comes at a critical
time for Democrat Phil Angelides, whose campaign has languished much of the summer largely because he’s been unable to raise the money needed to
effectively carry his message to a statewide audience.”


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