Patt Morrison

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The Sally Rand of Legislatures


Oh, that legislature is such a tease, with the peekaboo budget – it’s off, it’s on, we have a deal, no we don’t.

By ten pm, the deal that looked good eight hours earlier – as Assembly speaker Karen Bass told us – was stalled and everybody went home to think it over for the night. The Democrats want some guarantees and protections for education funding, and the governor’s evidently saying nix to that.

Whatever budget we wind up with, it won’t be any oil painting. Schools? Cut. Health services for poor kids and homebound elderly? Cut. Prison budget? Cut. The sad part is that even though this budget may straggle across the finish line, bleeding from $26 billion in cuts, it’s no triumph; as is so often the case, some cuts will wind up costing more than they save. The elderly whose adult day care is cut will wind up in bogglingly more expensive nursing homes. Poor kids who don’t get health care coverage will still get sick – and end up in bogglingly more expensive emergency rooms. Penny-wise, billion-foolish, maybe. In exotic-dancer terms, services could be stripped. But you can still read someone's lips, because they're saying ''no new taxes.'' You could still hope for a ten-spot in the g-string, though.

And then there's burlesque-like tease. The state Board of Equalization goes and dangles the prospect of a billion plus dollar tax bonanza in front of the state. It’s calculated that taxing the marijuana trade could raise as much as $1.4 billion a year. It arrived at this figure in response to a proposal by a San Francisco assemblyman to handle dope the way we handle booze: regulate it and tax it.

But don't count your buds before you pick 'em, bud.

Yesterday we heard about two breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease: a Duke University finding that a certain genetic biomarker could flag a coming case of Alzheimer’s anywhere from five to seven years before symptoms actually show up – and a UC Irvine study found that a drug rather like one used to treat the inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis could likewise reduce brain-cell inflammation that exacerbates Alzheimer’s. Lab mice treated with the drug didn’t suffer the same memory loss that untreated mice showed.

And how did Goldman Sachs manage to make a humongous $3.44 billion profit in the second quarter of this financially wretched year? We spent time with two guests on that topic – and one of them concluded pretty much what I would hear a few hours later, when one member of my book group said that as soon as he heard those numbers, he figured something or someone got finagled.

Today – could California really stage another constitutional convention? And I mean, make some really serious changes? Like to the initiative process? Proposition 13? Hey, if the guys in powdered wigs and buckled shoes could do it, why can’t we? Okay, then – what power would YOU be willing to give up? And to whom?

See? Harder than it looks.

-- Patt Morrison

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