A bill with canines

Sacramento-area state Senator Deborah Ortiz proposed a bill last week that would give back some teeth to a political watchdog that some say has lost its bite.

Senate Bill 1120 would require that $9 million from the state’s general fund annually be given to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)—the independent state body charged with keeping elected officials and public employees in line by enforcing campaign and lobbying laws.

“For the past two decades, we have failed to provide the commission with the necessary funds and support to carry out this important duty,” Ortiz said in a prepared statement.

Currently, the FPPC receives $6.1 in annual funding, only $1 million of which comes from the general fund. According to Ortiz, the agency’s caseload has doubled since the 1980s while its staff of investigators has been cut in half. It receives an average of five complaints per day but has the resources to pursue only half of the valid complaints, according to the agency.

Last year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting funding to the commission, prompting Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, to speak out in support of the FPPC.

Ortiz’s bill could come up for discussion in the Senate as soon as February 4.

Ortiz, who will be termed out of the Senate at the end of this year, is looking at a run for secretary of state, which would pit her against Senator Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, in the June primary.

—Jeffrey M. Barker

1984, 26 years late

An Oakland Tribune editorial last week warned readers that “in America today, Big Brother is watching.” The editorial followed an earlier call for copies of George Orwell’s 1984. The Tribune plans to send copies of the book to all 535 members of Congress, Vice President Cheney and President Bush.

The Tribune’s editors argue that though “his Thought Police may not yet be on the march,” America today shares frightening parallels with Orwell’s 1949 novel, including secret wiretaps, war without end and alterable history.

So far, the Tribune has gathered well over 100 copies of 1984, according to Executive Editor Kevin Keane. Some of the books, which range from old, battered high-school editions to new or commemorative editions, come inscribed with what Keane calls “poignant” messages to Congress and “other types of warnings.”

“We hope they take the premise seriously,” Keane said, anticipating Congress’ reaction. “We hope they don’t toss it in the trash.”

The Tribune plans to follow up its gift with a letter to Congress to “try to drive home the point,” said Keane. They also will print some of the books’ inscriptions in another upcoming editorial.

“We’re not saying it’s doomsday,” Keane said, echoing the editorials, “but there are parallels between Orwell’s message and the government’s actions.”

Copies of 1984 can be mailed to the Oakland Tribune at 401 13th Street, Oakland, CA 94612.

—Amanda Dyer

Recall effort still alive

The quixotic effort to recall Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger regained a pulse last week, as the California secretary of state approved petitions for printing. New rules requiring the recall petition to be printed in seven different languages caught organizers of the recall campaign off guard. The group was worried that it wouldn’t make the deadline, of gathering 1.5 million signatures in time to place a recall measure on the ballot in the June 2006 election.

Now that the petitions have been released, Dr. Ken Matsumura, who has been pushing for a recall since last summer, says he believes the group can gather enough signatures in the next six weeks. If not, he has vowed to go ahead with the measure to try to force a special election sometime in the summer of 2006. For more information, go to www.recall2006.com.

—Cosmo Garvin