RECALL DEBATE SLEIGHT-OF-HAND: DID YOU MISS THIS?
by Jill Stewart
American Reporter Correspondent
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Wednesday's recall debate broke little new ground as meek journalists and inexperienced citizens lobbed softballs at Gov. Gray Davis and the candidates, failed to ask the toughest questions and let false statements go unchallenged.
Why was Californi Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante silent during the gross overspending of the Davis years? Why did Davis ignore former chief economist Ted Gibson that the state's revenue had dried up? Is Arianna Huffington, the anti-tax loophole candidate who uses tax loopholes, merely gathering anecdotes for a book?
The questions we wanted to hear weren't asked. The debate merely distracted journalists while some of the worst legislation in years hurtled toward Davis' desk.
Let's review some of the worst stinker bills in Sacramento, shall we?
SB 2 will spawn layoffs as small businesses pare down to get below the 20-employee cutoff. Bigger struggling companies will close.
It is widely known among insiders that some details of SB 2, by state Sen. John Burton, were ghost-written by the Service Employees International Union. I am told Davis recently chatted with the SEIU about this dog. Then, miraculously, the SEIU handed Davis a check for $250,000.
I doubt SEIU's bosses care if they wipe out thousands of jobs. The SEIU - and Davis - will merely blame President Bush. The goal here is to co-opt workers before the recall, then let the chips fall. They'll say: "We won free health care for you! We made history!" No kidding. Watch for businesses to stream out of state.
Initially, this turkey included a five-mile zone around each sacred site, meaning construction could be challenged five miles down the freeway from a burial grounds or other site.
SB 18 was idiotic, and opposition by cities was intense. But Sacramento is Backwards World. So its authors changed the law. Now, tribes can challenge development even further removed from sacred sites. Now, there's no five-mile limit at all.
This bizarre bill also allows the public to be barred from the Heritage Commission's proceedings. Bowing to religious pressure, the location of the sacred sites will be secret. This means the media will sue very quickly.
Davis would never sign this blatantly unconstitutional bill but for one thing: rich tribes have already poured $2 million into Bustamante's campaign, and money-grubbing Davis wants some.
I predicted the Dems would buckle to greedy trial lawyers, unions and others bleeding the system dry. Sadly, I was right.
Although you cannot find this fact in the shallow media coverage, the real reforms were quietly killed weeks ago. A conference committee now is claiming that its heavily watered-down proposal will give major relief to California.
It won't. Davis was too gutless to force through the two basic reforms that make all others mere fingers in the dike.
First (although the media rarely explains this), California's nutty rules allow the workers to essentially be the ones determining if they were injured on the job. Doctors who make their living off workers comp are happy to oblige, proof or no proof. Only three states give workers so much say in this important matter - and naturally California clings more than any other to this grossly abused and terribly subjective rule.
In 47 normal states, determining if a worker is injured isn't largely up to the worker because that would be crazy! These states use "objective standards" - basically, an independent doctor who makes no money treating workers comp, and who utilizes American Medical Association guidelines.
But in California, the unions view these abuses as a perk for their workers. Years ago, special interest groups including the unions pressured the politicos to make it illegal to use the AMA guidelines.
Second, when determining if a worker should get permanent disability payments - a huge slice of California's crisis - our Orwellian "no fault" laws encourage the parties into court (as the trial lawyer lobby insisted so it could get rich off the system). As a result, 50 percent of all California workers comp cases hit court. In Utah, where independent doctors determine permanent disability, 4 percent of cases hit court.
The end result is, truly injured workers get screwed and are forced into court, and everybody else sucks the system dry.
Reforms you'll hear touted this week, like capping some medical fees and chiropractor visits, won't end the crisis. Only by copying how the top-rated states use "objective standards" will we see major relief.
Any politico who says otherwise is ignorant or lying. Despite the recall, what else is new?
See Jill tonight on The O'Reilly Factor, FOX News Channel, 8 p.m. or 1 a.m. Watch for her upcoming commentaries on the New Republic Website, www.tnr.com