Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Energy, Arnold, & Cave Bugs

Since I read the maddening Uzbekistan story last night and posted my thoughts on it already, I was able to read the papers this morning without completely fixating on how upsetting that was. And, reading closely, I was even able to find a few stories of good news to pass along.

- The Christian Science Monitor and LA Times both discuss the much-improved prospects for passage of an energy bill in the Senate this year, thanks to the interesting tag-team cooperation between the two senators from New Mexico, Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Jeff Bingaman. For the first time, senators from the same state are the chair and ranking minority member of a Senate committee, and both say they're committed to passing a bipartisan energy bill in the near future. Of course, bipartisan doesn't necessarily mean good, and I'll certainly be watching closely to see what happens to the bill on the Senate floor (including what decisions are made on fuel efficiency, global warming, and MTBE liability). But, I think the prospects are better than ever for a palatable piece of legislation to come out of the Senate, and then it will be be up to the conferees to make sure that it's not gutted by unreasonable demands from the House side.

- The LA Times and Washington Post report on the gutsy move by Governor Schwarzenegger to call a special election for November 8 so that California voters can weigh in on three measures he says are vital to reforming the way the state operates. The first, and most debated thus far, "involves a spending cap that would force the state to make automatic cuts if revenue falls below projected income." Schwarzenegger's other proposals would put the state's redistricting process in the hands of a panel of retired judges rather than the partisan legislature, and would restructure the tenure process for teachers. All three elements face brutal opposition from entrenched interests, including many in the state legislature, but each (particularly the redistricting plan) is worthy of consideration at the very least. The governor is taking quite a risk by taking these questions directly to the people, and the next few months will certainly be interesting to observe!

- And finally, cave bugs. Also in the LA Times (on top of things today out there!), a report on a little-noticed action by the Supreme Court yesterday, overshadowed by the important decision in the Miller-El case. In a key victory for conservationists, the Court dismissed without comment a challenge to the Endangered Species Act, upholding "a lower court's ruling that the federal government has the authority under the Constitution's commerce clause to protect rare animals even if they do not cross state borders." The challenge was brought by Texas developers who argued that the ESA could not cover species which did not cross state lines. as the LAT notes, a different resolution to this case "could have eliminated the protection of more than half of the 1,264 species covered by the Endangered Species Act." A win for the environment at the Supreme Court.


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