November 5, 2004

Latest News from Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante

LEGISLATION

The Governor had until the end of September to sign or veto all bills passed by the Legislature during the last few weeks of the legislative session. Following is a summary of actions taken by the Governor on several important bills.

Military Family Relief Fund. On September 16, I was pleased that the Governor signed SB 1162 (Machado). This bill, which I sponsored and patterned after a successful program in the State of Illinois, was designed to help alleviate some of the financial difficulties that the families of California National Guard members are facing due to extended tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Private employers typically do not make up the difference in pay when Californians leave their jobs to go on active duty, and some families have lost as much as 70 percent of their household incomes. Many families lose their homes and automobiles and overextend their credit cards while their loved ones are putting themselves in harm’s way in service to our country.

This new law provides emergency grants through a voluntary check-off donation system on our state tax forms, giving all Californians and corporations a tax-deductible opportunity to assist our military families.

Prescription Drugs. A veto by the Governor of a package of bills to allow the purchase of safe prescription drugs from Canada will prevent Californians from having access to a source of less-expensive prescription drugs. An estimated one million Americans who currently order their drugs from Canadian vendors save between 40-60 percent on each purchase, but many of California’s seniors and low-income patients are being forced to make a choice between buying life-saving prescription drugs or buying food. The bills vetoed were AB 1957 (Frommer), SB 1144 (Burton) and SB 1333 (Perata).

One of the bills, SB 1144, would have allowed the Department of General Services to purchase Canadian prescriptions for use by people in California institutions and veterans’ homes, which suffered an annual increase in drug costs of 354 percent between 1996 and 2003. A veto of this bill means that the state’s taxpayers will continue to pay those excessive costs.

Minimum Wage Increase. The Governor vetoed this important legislation, which would have provided a modest increase in California’s minimum wage. Three other West Coast states have a higher hourly minimum wage - Oregon, Washington and Alaska. It should be our goal to ensure a decent standard of living for every Californian. The bill vetoed was AB 2832 (Lieber).

Immigrant Responsibility and Security Act. Currently, 10 states-Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin-offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. The Governor’s veto of this legislation prevents us from taking an important step toward ensuring safer roadways. The bill would have allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license after undergoing criminal background and security checks, providing a birth certificate and a passport or foreign identification card, and paying a $141 processing fee. It also would have prohibited licenses from being issued to immigrants from countries considered to be sponsors of terrorism.

Earlier this year, when the Governor asked the Legislature to repeal the immigrant driver’s license bill that was signed into law last year, he gave his word that he would sign a bill that included additional security measures. However, even with those additional provisions in the bill, the Governor vetoed AB 2895 (Nunez/Cedillo), breaking faith with the immigrant community and the Legislature.

CALIFORNIA COMMISSION FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

At the quarterly meeting of the Commission for Economic Development (CED) the focus was on two of California’s legendary industries, tourism and entertainment. The commissioners heard from prominent guest speakers, including Mr. John Malcolm and Ms. Sarah Walsh from the Motion Picture Association of America. They spoke about the increasing threat that piracy poses to California’s economy, costing the motion picture industry more than $3 billion per year. Another outstanding speaker, Mr. Kirk Sturm with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, spoke about the important role that the California Parks System plays in the state’s economy, adding $3.2 billion in tourism and other revenues in the past year alone.

LETS TALK TURKEY

Another program that I can’t help but get excited about is my annual turkey giveaway, affectionately known as Operation Gobble. According to the Center on Hunger and Poverty (), more than five million Californians worry each day that they are not going to have enough to eat, and nearly 1.2 million experience hunger on some level. It seems incredible that this situation could exist in a state as bountiful as California, but, unfortunately, hunger is a very real and daily occurrence for many.

Last year, many community sponsors came forth to help the hungry, either through generous monetary donations or by giving of their time to help with distribution efforts. Among them were the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the California Poultry Federation, the California Water Service Company, SBC, the California Emergency Foodlink, Union Bank of California and the California State Council of Laborers. These sponsors, as well as US Bank, the Neighborhood House Association, the Port of Long Beach, and union plumbers, firefighters and carpenters, among others, worked with the California National Guard and various food banks to give away more than 8,000 turkeys, which provided nearly 96,000 meals to families in communities throughout California.

This is the 12th year of Operation Gobble and we need your help to make it a success. If you are an individual or company that would be interested in donating funds or turkeys so that some of the poorest families in California can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal, please contact Cesar Diaz of my Sacramento office at (916) 445-8994, or by email at Cesar.Diaz@ltg.ca.gov.

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