Community and Government Report - October 2011
U.S. Budget Crisis Continues
The good news is that Congress has passed legislation to keep the government running. The bad news is that it’s just a temporary measure.
On October 4, the House overwhelmingly passed a continuing resolution, H.R. 2608, that will keep federal funds flowing through November 18. The Senate had passed a similar bill on September 26. The continuing resolution is necessary because the House hasn’t passed a budget in two years. Instead, it has been passing short-term resolutions allowing the government to pay its bills.
Debt Ceiling Raised
After months of acrimonious negotiations, the House and Senate passed a debt ceiling measure this summer that President Obama signed into law. If the measure had not passed, some observers believed that the full faith and credit of the United States would have been in jeopardy, which could have triggered a worldwide economic panic. Part of the compromise which led to its passage was the creation of a special panel of 12 members from both parties and both houses. This “super committee " is tasked with finding $1 trillion in cuts. Much like the commission created to close hundreds of military bases in the 1990s, congressional members would have one option on the result: an up or down vote. Both houses of Congress submitted their proposals to the super committee on Friday. The committee has until November 23 to vote on these proposals.
In simple language, the law allows the government to raise its credit card limit.
While there is still a lot of sifting to be done to determine the full impact of the bill, it does provide $17 billion for the Pell Grant program. However, the measure offers only a temporary reprieve for the Pell program. Given that House conservatives vehemently oppose tax increases, it’s likely that the committee charged with reducing the deficit will favor spending cuts over revenue increases. That puts Pell grants and the other student aid programs at risk of cuts in the near future. However, the Pell Grant program is popular, and many in both parties feel it will be protected. We will be watching this very closely.
California has also been dealing with complicated budget matters. The 2011-12 state budget was passed in June with a few poison pill provision built into it. The most significant was the automatic trigger for spending cuts if the state does not achieve certain revenue targets. There is growing fear that revenue will not hit those targets. California missed the revenue mark in September by collecting $301.6 million less than state leaders expected when they approved this year's budget. While the numbers are down, some feel the bulk of the revenue will come during the spending associated with the holidays in December. So far, we have not heard any whispers of Cal Grant being threatened. We will continue to monitor this closely.
New Districts for 2012 Election
The Citizens Redistricting Commission approved the final district maps that will be used for the 2012 elections. Political maps for seats in the state assembly, state senate, board of equalization and congressional districts are required to be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts. For the first time in state history, an independent citizens’ commission was responsible for this redistricting process. No longer will politicians decide who the voters are; the voters will decide who their officials will be.
New House, Assembly Members
Moraga and Saint Mary’s will have a new house and state assembly member, while the state senate representative remains the same. The district lines go into effect after the November 2012 elections.
George Miller (D-Martinez), longtime Contra Costa representative, will now represent Moraga and Saint Mary’s. Previously SMC was represented by John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), whose new district is now in the Sacramento suburbs. Miller’s new district will be numbered CD 11.
Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon) will represent Saint Mary’s in the state assembly. Our previous assembly member Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), will remain on the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel and represent a district that stretches along Highway 80.
Saint Mary’s will remain in the 7th state senate district, currently represented by Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord).
The California Independent Film Festival, hosted in Moraga, has released its schedule for 2012. The international festival will be held from between February 10 and February 16, 2012, at the Rheem Theatre in Moraga.
Community and Government Relations Director