Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Congress to tackle student loans and immigration this week

"Children Uniting Nations" 4th Annual National Conference

Paul Morigi/Getty Images for It Girl Public

L.A. Congressman Xavier Becerra is part of the House "Gang of 7" that is crafting an immigration reform bill.

Congress returns to work this week after the Fourth of July break with two big issues on its plate: student loan rates and immigration.

For college students taking out federal loans, all eyes are on the Senate where a bi-partisan group of lawmakers is trying to sell a compromise. Student loan rates doubled on July first, but any deal will likely make the new rate retroactive. The fight is over how high above the ten-year Treasury bill rate the interest rate for loans should be, and whether that number should be fixed.

Wednesday is the big day in the House when Republicans meet behind closed doors for what is expected to be heated debate over how to proceed on immigration reform. Republican Speaker John Boehner says he won't bring anything to the floor without a majority of his party's support. Several tough piecemeal bills have already cleared the Judiciary Committee. The bi-partisan "Gang of Seven," which includes L.A. Congressman Xavier Becerra, still hasn't presented its comprehensive bill.

Time is running out for action on Capitol Hill. Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the summer in early August. 



What’s next for Wendy Greuel?

Wendy Greuel

Wendy Greuel Campaign

Wendy Greuel may jump right back into politics after losing to Eric Garcetti in the LA mayor's race.

Wendy Greuel says she’s taking a much-needed break after her loss to Eric Garcetti in the Los Angeles mayor’s race and leaving the L.A. city controller's office on July 1.

“This will be the first time in my entire life that I will be off work for more than ten days,” Greuel said.  “I’m kind of a workaholic.”

Greuel, 52, recalled that she graduated from UCLA on a Thursday, for example, and went to work for Mayor Tom Bradley on the following Monday. The rest of her biography is well known by now – she worked in the Clinton Administration, for Dreamworks, and was elected to the L.A. city council before serving as City Controller.

“The advice I’ve gotten from so many people is don’t jump too quickly into whatever you’re going to do next,” she said in a recent conversation.

But Greuel offered that she may return to politics right away. She said supporters have talked to her about running for one of two offices next year.


Nuclear Regulatory Commission coming west for San Onofre update

Allison MacFarlane is the newly-confirmed chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is coming to Southern California next month for a public meeting about the next steps in de-commissioning the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Regulating what happens to nuclear fuel at facilities such as San Onofre is part of the NRC's purview, says agency chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, whose appointment to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was confirmed late last month.

Macfarlane is an expert on that side of the nuclear energy equation. She got her PhD in geology from MIT and has researched environmental policy and security issues related to nuclear energy. She also served on a presidential commission that looked at strategies for dealing with nuclear waste.

Step one, Macfarlane says, is moving spent fuel into a pool. She says it's "like a swimming pool, but 30-40 feet deep." About 200 fuel rods — 12-feet high, each about the diameter of a quarter — are bundled together and held in racks at the bottom of those pools. The water provides both cooling and protection from radioactivity.


Poll: Mamas don't want their babies to grow up to be politicians

House GOP Leadership Hold News Conference On Immigration

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Former San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter is an exception to the Gallup Poll findings. His son inherited his Congressional seat.

Willie Nelson may have cautioned mothers about allowing their children to grow up to be cowboys, but Americans have made it clear in a new Gallup poll — by a two-to-one margin — they don't want their babies to grow up to be politicians.

Gallup has been asking about sons going into politics since 1944. (Questions about daughters were added much later.) Except for 1965 when 36% of Americans thought a political career was a good idea, fewer than one in three parents have ever favored their child running for office. This latest poll shows 64% say "no way." Just 31% say they'd like to see politics as their child's life's work.

Non-white parents are the strongest supporters of a child's political career, with more than 40% favoring a son or daughter's campaign. Gallup says this isn't a reaction to America's first black president; similar answers were found when both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were president.


Special elections set for Asssembly, Senate seats are costly, draw few voters

Legislature Special Elections

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

State Sen. Norma Torres won her race for the 32nd Senate District seat in May after a special election costing Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties $2.4 million. Photo from Feb. 16, 2012, before the election.

Governor Jerry Brown has called for special elections on Sept. 17 to choose replacements for two state legislators who recently won spots on the L-A City Council.

Voters will cast primary votes in the 45th Assembly District in the San Fernando Valley and the 26th Senate District race in Culver City and Ladera Heights. If a runoff is needed, the top two candidates will face off Nov. 19.

As state legislators leave office mid-term after winning seats in Congress, L-A City Council or other elective office, their spots are filled by primary and, if necessary, runoff elections. Already, a dozen special elections have been scheduled in 2013, the most in ten years, according to the Secretary of State's office.

The elections are a by-product of California's term limits that send politicians hopping from seat to seat.