Monday, September 8, 2008

News from California: passage of three good bills--but they still need support

There's been some important actions in the California state assembly recently on clean elections, the national popular vote, and genetically-modified crops. The next step for all these bills is signature or veto by Governor Schwarzenegger, who is not considering bills until the state legislature passes a budget. Read on, and if you're a California resident, please be ready to take action to move some good bills into law. And if you're not, maybe you know someone who is--forward this post! You can phone the Governor's office at 916-445-2841, or comment by email at this link:

First, California's Clean and Fair Elections bill, AB 583 (Hancock) has passed the full Senate and Assembly. If signed by Schwarzenegger and approved in a June 2010 state referendum, AB 583 will establish a pilot project for voluntary full public financing for Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018.

The bill squeaked by its Assembly votes, and organizers credit grassroots support with passage in the face of heavy lobbyist opposition. For more information, please visit the California Clean Money Campaign's website at

Congratulations to everyone who worked on this campaign, especially former AfD national council member Jo Seidita, who has been active on this issue for more than a decade.

Also off the Assembly's docket and on to the Governor: a bill to support the national popular vote, rather than the current election/electoral college method, which has long doomed so-called "safe states" to the campaign back burner. California, the nation's most populous state, has a lot to gain from a national popular vote, and so this measure has passed the Assembly and gone on to a possible gubernatorial signature.

Under the current system, most of the candidates' attention goes to voters in so-called "swing states," and for conservatives in liberal states (or liberals among conservatives) a national popular vote means a slightly greater chance to meet with presidential candidates and influence platforms--after the big donors have their say, of course.

But most importantly, a national popular vote can help prevent another Florida or Ohio--where widespread disenfranchisement of potential Democratic voters tipped the state, and thus the nation, to the GOP. It's harder to steal an election if you have to do it in every state. For more information, see AfD's Portland chapter has been supporting National Popular Vote actions in Oregon, and the AfD national council has endorsed this reform as well.

Lastly, the legislature recently passed a bill protecting farmers against Monsanto lawsuits. AB 541 (Huffman, D-Marin/Sonoma) also needs to be signed into law after passing 23-14 in the Senate and unanimously in the Assembly.

AB 541 regulates genetically engineered (GE) crops, protecting California farmers from lawsuits when GE pollen drifts into their fields (as pollen is, of course, naturally engineered to do) and contaminates their non-GE crops.

Unbelievably, farmers whose produce becomes contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of harassing lawsuits brought by biotech patent holders, particularly Monsanto. The bill also establishes a mandatory crop sampling protocol to prevent biotech companies that are investigating alleged violations from sampling crops without the explicit permission of farmers.

No comments: