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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

August, 2005

Schwarzenegger Propositions Poison To California
By Karen Nakamura

Californians are coming to grips with the insidious power grab Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and
Republicans are attempting with the Special Statewide Election November 8. Progressive activists gearing up for the election need to understand the ramifications of some of these propositions. To give us that leg up, the Coastal Post spoke with Kris Organ Executive Director of SEIU Local 949, the State Employees International Union.
Organ set matters straight by explaining the union is only one part of the very vocal Alliance for a Better California, a coalition of public employees, teachers, nurses, firefighters and healthcare workers who have been dogging the governor since he started trying to take away state employee benefits and strip them of their power. There are three Propositions that particularly concern the Alliance, Prop 74, 75 and 76.
"The reason," Organ explained, "Governor Schwarzenegger is spending $80 million on a special election instead of putting these issues on a regularly scheduled election, is that he's counting on a low voter turn-out to get his initiatives through. They wouldn't pass in a regular election where there's greater voter turnout." It's a known axiom that in special elections, progressives stay home whereas conservatives usually vote anyway.
"We call Prop 76 the 'Power Grab Initiative' because it's the intention of a small group of politicians, especially the governor, to cut funding to education by $4 billion up front and then anytime the Governor can declare a budget emergency. It overthrows Proposition 98, passed by the voters several years ago to protect education funding. Then there's Prop 75, which silences our voice. It targets public employees and makes it harder to be heard. But Schwarzenegger is not the first person to want to silence public employee whistleblowers and he won't be the last."
Daniel Martin, also from Local 949, was adamant that these propositions be fully understood by the voters. He especially harped on Prop 74 which extends teacher tenure eligibility, (i.e. permanent employee status rather than probation), from 2 to 5 years. "It was one of the teachers," Martin said, "I think Sandra Lowe who joked, 'What's Arnold talking about? Most teachers leave before five years because they can't deal with the working environment. Let's face reality.'"
It's time to examine these three propositions in some depth. We'll do the same for the others in September. Our sources are the State of California election and the Alliance for a Better California websites.
Proposition 74 is officially titled the Public School Teachers Waiting Period for Permanent Status, Dismissal.
Prop 74 increases the time required before a teacher can become a permanent employee, i.e. tenured, from two complete consecutive school years to five. It also authorizes school boards to dismiss a permanent teacher who receives two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations. The Alliance for a Better California has this to say about Prop. 74:
"The "Punish New Teachers Act'… does nothing to improve student learning or deal with the real problems facing our schools. Instead, it punishes new teachers by denying them the right to have a hearing before they are fired during their first five years of teaching. There is already a system in place to fire teachers who are not performing in the classroom, no matter how long they've been on the job. This initiative will simply drive teachers out of the profession in California. It unfairly singles out teachers as the problem… when many classrooms are still badly under-funded and students are denied the basic resources they need."

Proposition 75, Public Employee Union Dues. Required Employee Consent for Political Contributions.

This proposition "prohibits public employee labor organizations from using dues or fees for political contributions unless the employee provides prior consent each year on a specified written form." It doesn't apply to fees collected for charitable organizations, health care insurance, or other purposes directly benefiting the employee.
Another interesting requirement is that labor organizations "maintain and submit to the Fair Political Practices Commission records concerning individual employees' and organizations' political contributions; those records are not subject to public disclosure."
The No on Prop 75 folks emphasize that union members already have the option of not spending dues money on politics. Rather, they say, Governor Schwarzenegger and his allies are trying to silence the voices of working people with what they call the "Paycheck Deception Act." They feel Prop 75 only adds more red tape while deterring working people from participating in the political process.
"The Governor wants to make it nearly impossible for working people to have a voice in the political process. The Governor cannot win on the issues that Californians care about, so instead he is trying to silence the strong voices of his opposition."

Proposition 76: School Funding. State Spending. Initiative, Constitutional Amendment.

According to the State's website Prop 76 "Changes state minimum school funding requirements (Proposition 98), permitting suspension of minimum funding, but terminating repayment requirement, and eliminating authority to reduce funding when state revenues decrease. Excludes above-minimum appropriations from schools' funding base." Activists need to study just that bombshell alone and its implications. There's more. Again, here's the official statement.
"Limits state spending to prior year total plus revenue growth. Shifts excess revenues from schools/tax relief to budget reserve, specified construction, debt repayment. Requires Governor to reduce state appropriations, under specified circumstances, including employee compensation, state contracts. Continues prior year appropriations if new state budget delayed. Prohibits state special funds borrowing. Requires payment of local government mandates. Spending limit could constrain state expenditures.
Other provisions would have major impacts on state budget decision making, which could lead to varying outcomes regarding the level of state spending and on the composition of that spending among education, transportation, and other state programs. Provisions allowing Governor to reduce appropriations could result in lower state spending in certain years when the state was facing unresolved budget shortfalls."
The Alliance's position is that the Governor's Power Grab Initiative would devastate public schools and other vital services, slashing funding for these priorities while protecting unnecessary pork projects.
"It cuts school funding by over $40 billion in ten years. That's $6,000 per student, leading to more overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs, fewer textbooks and classroom materials. Our schools lost two billion dollars when Governor Schwarzenegger broke his promise to repay the money he took from education, and if this initiative passes, the Governor will never have to repay that money to our schools. It does even more damage to our schools by overturning the voter-approved Proposition 98, eliminating the funding guarantee for education…"
It also cuts funds to local governments, many of which are facing deficits brought on by previous cuts from state and federal revenues. The outcome will reduce funding to police and firefighters, as well as vital health care services that protect children and the elderly.
And it gives incredible power to the Office of the Governor, to a governor who has frequently shown in the past his disdain of the legislative process.

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