Arnold’s Smart Move

I’ve been a critic of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R-CA) policies for the better part of his term as governor.  But Thursday, his support for the California Medicaid would make opponents proud.

Arnold had been a wavering, sometimes supporter of health care reform throughout the debate.  More recently, in early January, he called the legislation “health care to nowhere” despite the fact it looked very similar to reforms he proposed in California.

Thursday, the California governor came out in strong support of the health care reform law, becoming the first Republican governor to do so. “The bottom line is this: If national health care reform is going to succeed, it has to be a partnership, like with everything, a partnership between the state and the federal government,” he said.

Now for the fun part.

Arnold’s announcement came the in the same letter as the state ask from the US Department of Health and Human Services for over $4 billion a year in additional Medicaid funds.  This Medicaid waiver has been in the works for a long period of time, but with the state’s fiscal distress the waiver is larger than the state has asked for in the past. It is needed in the state too. With nearly 1/4 of the population uninsured and historically low Medicaid payments, the waiver will go a long way to help doctors and low-income individuals in the state.  The waiver would expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage to 200% federal poverty, well above the reform’s 133%.

Of course, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the Governator immediately after his move.  She needed this win, as state after state has been uncooperative to say the least in signing on to implement the reforms.

Now, with talk of changing the constitution reemerging to allow the Austrian born Republican governor to run for president, the Governator has once again returned to the spotlight as a national model for moderate conservatism.  Yey?

By Emma Sandoe

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Crisis Averted? Arizona Legislature Changes Immigration Bill Language

The Washington Examiner reported this morning that some of the language has been changed in the new AZ immigration bill, defining the context in which law enforcement can ask for documentation and limiting the possibility of racial profiling.

Now, Arizona lawmakers have made some changes intended to clarify their intent and, perhaps, silence some of the critics.  The changes were first reported by Phoenix television station KNXV, better known as ABC15.

The first concerns the phrase “lawful contact,” which is contained in this controversial portion of the bill: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…”

So now, in response to those critics, lawmakers have removed “lawful contact” from the bill and replaced it with “lawful stop, detention or arrest.” In an explanatory note, lawmakers added that the change “stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state.”

“It was the intent of the legislature for ‘lawful contact’ to mean arrests and stops, but people on the left mischaracterized it,” says Kris Kobach, the law professor and former Bush Justice Department official who helped draft the law.  “So that term is now defined.”

The second change concerns the word “solely.”  In a safeguard against racial profiling, the law contained the phrase, “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.”  Critics objected to that, too, arguing again that it would not prevent but instead lead to racial profiling.  So lawmakers have taken out the word “solely.”

These changes could make a considerable difference – bringing the law closer to existing procedure, which dictates that law enforcement can only demand legal documents from a person who is already violating an existing law. It remains to be seen how legal challenges will proceed against the new language.

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Can Arizona’s Immigration Law Withstand Legal Challenges?

UPDATE: The American Civil Liberties Union, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Immigration Law Center are set to announce in Phoenix on Thursday plans to challenge the measure. U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said this week that he was considering a possible legal challenge to the law. [More here]

Despite concerted efforts to thwart the passage of Arizona’s new immigration legislation, the bill was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23rd. The bill now has the nation in an uproar – it has prompted nationwide protests, and sparked a renewed commitment to tackling national immigration policy in Congress.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has expressed her “deep concern” about the barrier the new law will create between law enforcement and crime victims. President Obama referred to the legislation as “misguided.” Even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch adversary of moving on immigration reform, admitted today that he feels the Arizona law is unconstitutional.

In upcoming months, we can expect a litany of lawsuits challenging the legislation from a number of different fronts.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is exploring legal action, and the Department of Justice is reviewing the law’s constitutionality. Most legal challenges are likely to focus on state pre-emption of federal law; this is how similar anti-immigrant laws were overturned in the past. Legal experts offer mixed opinions as to whether such an argument can effectively defeat the law. AP reports:

Kevin Johnson, dean of the law school at the University of California-Davis and an immigration law professor, said such a lawsuit would have a very good chance of success. He said the state law gets into legal trouble by giving local law enforcement officers the authority to enforce immigration laws.

However, Gerald Neuman, a Harvard Law School professor, said Arizona could make a compelling legal argument that it has overlapping authority to protect its residents.

Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who helped write the Arizona legislation, said he anticipated legal challenges and carefully drafted the language. He said the state law is only prohibiting conduct already illegal under federal law.

From a historical perspective, Thomas A. Saenz of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund points to a similar law enacted in California twenty years ago:

The federal court struck down Proposition 187 as an unconstitutional attempt to regulate immigration, which is a role that belongs exclusively to the federal government. [Arizona’s] SB 1070 is an even more direct attempt to establish the state’s own immigration law and enforcement scheme.

Yet it remains difficult to predict what would happen should a legal challenge reach the supreme court. New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse points to an ominous hint from a 1982 case in which the Court overturned a Texas law prohibiting undocumented children in public school:

In 1982, hours after the court decided the Texas case, a young assistant to Attorney General William French Smith analyzed the decision and complained in a memo: “This is a case in which our supposed litigation program to encourage judicial restraint did not get off the ground, and should have.” That memo’s author was John G. Roberts Jr.

Another issue to consider is legal protection against racial profiling and discrimination, which many claim the new law promotes. According to Baylor Law Professor Laura A Hernandez, the new requirement to carry identification papers “will place an additional burden/requirement on citizenship for those of Hispanic descent which also appears to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.” The clause requires states to apply the law equally to all persons regardless of race, socio-economic status, or citizenship.

Posted by Mary Tharin

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Kerry-Graham-Lieberman Climate Bill Could Make Matters Worse

Months have passed since the Senate trio took up the task of cobbling together a climate bill that everyone might agree on. However, as details continue to be revealed about the draft legislation, many an eyebrow is being raised over certain provisions that could prove a step backward for environmental protection.

In wide-sweeping attempts to court business interests and Senate moderates, the legislation cuts back on the power of other regulatory entities – like the EPA and state governments. Lindsay Graham told Politico:

“I wouldn’t support EPA regulation on top of congressional action, and I couldn’t support 50 states coming up with their own standards,” he said. “That’s one thing business legitimately needs.”

Environmental activists have long been prepared for a disappointing, compromise-ridden bill – but the common wisdom has always been “something is better than nothing.” The danger now is that this bill, as written, would actually do more harm than good.

Much to the chagrin of polluting companies, the Environmental Protection Agency has been extremely effective in cleaning up our air and water. Air quality has improved tremendously since the agency was established in 1970, as the American Enterprise Institute unwittingly pointed out.

Congress, on the other hand, has a long history of pandering to the oil and coal lobbies, among others. Considering that any bill that comes out of Congress is bound to be riddled with loopholes, the regulatory power of the EPA would probably be the only hope for making sure businesses truly cut down on their carbon emissions. A number of green groups, including 1Sky and Sierra Club, are pressuring lawmakers to uphold the regulatory authority of the EPA.

Another huge blow would be dealt by restricting state and local governments which, up to now, have been responsible for the most ambitious climate action this country has seen. More than 20 states currently participate in regional cap-and-trade programs, and many states have employed renewable energy standards to promote clean energy. Pending legislation would block these programs, likely forcing many states to accept far lower carbon caps.

This is what happens when you try to write a clean energy and climate bill and invite oil and gas companies to the table.

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Graph of the Day: Income Inequity

Business Insider has some pretty telling charts on income inequity in the United States.  It is definitely worth spending a few minutes of your time. The chart above shows the wealth distribution in the United States.  70% of the wealth is held by the top 10% of the population while half of the population only accounts for 2.5%.

See what the White House and Joe Biden’s Middle Class Task Force wants to do about it here.

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California Climate Change Initiative Under Attack

Why are a number of Texas-based oil companies pouring money into a nascent ballot initiative in California? Becasue they don’t want to clean up their act.

In a desperate attempt to undermine the state’s ground-breaking environmental policies, these companies are funding a campaign to stall – or cancel completely – California’s comprehensive plan for climate change mitigation. Assembly Bill 32, approved in 2006, would place a cap on the state’s emissions, bringing them down 30 percent by 2020.

Companies like Valero and World Oil Corp. have contributed almost $1 million to support a ballot initiative that would delay implementation of AB 32 until California’s unemployment rates hold at or below 5.5 percent for a year. Realistically, this equates to an indefinite postponement – a quick look at unemployment data over the past two decades shows that rates rarely stay that low for an entire year.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poisner have jumped on the initiative, claiming that curbs on carbon emissions will destroy jobs and increase the burden on consumers. The campaign continues to cite statistics from a CSU Sacramento report which has since been thoroughly discredited.

In response, the California Environmental Procession Agency released document entitled “Setting the Record Straight on AB 32.” They point out:

  • Small businesses are not regulated by AB 32, and costs to them will be negligible. Many of California’s largest employers support the bill (Google, Ebay, etc.)
  • AB 32 is likely to save households money by supporting energy efficiency; such measures have already saved Californians $56 billion.
  • Capping emissions would further boost California’s robust clean energy sector. California’s energy efficiency policies have already created 1.5 million jobs

Considering the amount of money being spent, he initiative it likely to be on the ballot in November. The nation will be watching to see where Californians stand on an issue that their state has pioneered for decades. It will be a huge blow to the environmental movement if oil money manages to reverse the progress of the US leader in clean energy and emissions regulation.

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South Africa: World Cup Ready

This June, South Africa will host the world in the largest international games, the World Cup.  This is an event has been a point of pride for the country and the continent since it was chosen as the site of the World Cup in 2004.  It will be the first time an African nation will play host to these games.

But South Africa has had a problem with violence for the better part of its history and violent crime has risen dramatically in Johannesburg in recent years.  The country continues to rank second to Colombia in terms of murder rate.

Most troubling is the recent call by the South African white supremacist “Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging” movement called the recent killing of their leader a “declaration of war” by blacks against whites.  In their statements, the group is using the World Cup as leverage for its threats rather than what many would hope would be a time to call a truce.

The country has made multi-billion dollar investments in advanced technology to track and respond to crime.  There was talk several years ago of Rudy Giuliani’s group assisting the city with efforts, but according to a South African publication, the Daily Maverick, the fault of the failed partnership lies with the city’s mayor, Amos Masondo.  “In reality, no one from Masondo’s office bothered to return Giuliani’s phone calls.” But the politics and those making decisions have changed.

The US has seen its fair share of unexplained violent crime.  The recent mass shooting in Southeast Washington, DC or plans by the militia group in Clayton, Michigan are examples of our own problems, not to mention the countless crimes that go unreported in the national media. While there is no question the crime rate in South Africa country is much higher than the U.S. tourists should remember that crime can happen anywhere.

There is little evidence of positive movement for the country.  The cameras have improved response time dramatically, however it has not reduced the incidence of crime in the same dramatic fashion.  But what there is evidence of is a willingness and desire by the local officials to take the problem seriously and protect the expected inflow of tourists.  The country has prioritized this event even speeding in the judicial system.  The country aims to please tourists, in more ways than one.  The collective will may not stop all crime, but I am hopeful and confident it will alleviate a good deal of the fear.

Editor’s note:  For full disclosure, I wrote this post after the purchase of my tickets to the country, therefore my hope may be interpreted as slightly selfish.

Written by Emma Sandoe

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