Last week, we reported
that a local district judge had blocked part of San Francisco's
universal health care plan requiring employers with 20 or more
employees to either provide health care or contribute $1.17 to $1.76
per hour (depending on the size of the firm) to a city fund for health
care for their employees. The judge has argued that the requirement
violated the federal ERISA law covering employer health plans.
On December 24th, the California Supreme Court gave a major Christmas
present for labor rights, affirming that under California law, union
members in a mall could distribute handbills calling for a consumer
boycott of one of the mall's tenants. The decision, Fashion Valley Mall v. NLRB, built
on an earlier state high court decision in 1980 that deemed malls to be
a "public forum" where the public had free speech rights. The recent
decision extended that principle to active labor boycotts -- a critical
tool for labor to get its message out to consumers.
On Monday, the California Assembly passed a compromise health care reform measure that is intended to bring health care to at least 70% of the state's uninsured and reduce costs for everyone. The compromise measure was crafted by the Speaker and Senate President to mitigate concerns that led Governor Schwarzenegger to veto
an earlier version. This time, Governor Schwarzenegger hailed the vote,
calling it "courageous" and saying "we are closer than ever to fixing
our broken healthcare system."
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared this
year's Nobel Peace Prize with Al
Gore, recently released a
report detailing the negative environmental changes that will result from
climate change, including higher temperatures leading to increased deaths
from more severe heat waves, increased incidence of infectious
diseases, and severe damage to ecosystems. The IPCC report
warned that there were only eight years left to act to prevent the
worst effects of global warming.
California's attorney general is planning to file suit in
federal court against the EPA for stalling on a decision about whether
California and 11 other states can implement rules requiring car makers
to produce cleaner cars. Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Washington also
plan to join the suit against the EPA. The suit was to be filed this week, but has been postponed due to the wildfires raging in Southern California.
The breadth of issues addressed by the California Legislature was impressive
as legislative leaders moved aggressively on the environment and clean energy,
education, workplace family issues, and health care. However, because of the
Governor's veto pen and the minority party's ability to block revenue bills
with just one-third of the vote, the extent of the progress the Legislature
made on these issues was far less than it could have been.