California Institute LogoThe California Institute for Federal Policy Research
419 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
voice: 202-546-3700   fax: 202-546-2390 ransdell@calinst.org   http://www.calinst.org
California Capitol Hill Bulletin



Volume 7, Bulletin 29 -- September 21, 2000    [or see pdf version]

CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes China NTR

House Judiciary Reports Ag Guestworker Bill

Senate Moves to Consider H-1B Visa Legislation

Resources Reports CALFED Reauthorization Bill

54-Member Delegation and Governor Davis Weigh In On SCAAP Funding

Briefing on INS Service Center Set For Monday

Unanimous Delegation Sends Letter on FEMA Public Insurance Issue

Letter Backs California Maglev Project

Cal-DC Education Alliance Briefs Congressional Staff

Bipartisan California Delegation Meets to Discuss Gas Prices

California's Census Response Rate Notably Stronger than 1990

Implementation of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act

Retaining Health Care Funds for California

Falling Behind: California Workers and the New Economy

State Income Gap Widens

House Passes Two California Bills

Welcome to New State-federal Relations Fellow


To expand communications between Washington and California, the California Institute provides periodic faxed bulletins regarding current activity on Capitol Hill which directly impacts our state. Bulletins are published weekly during sessions of Congress, and occasionally during other periods. The e-mail edition is made possible in part by in kind donations from Sun Microsystems and IBM Corp.

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes China Normal Trade Relations

On Tuesday, September 19, the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 83-15 passed historic legislation granting China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with the United States. The bill, H.R. 4444, now goes to the President for signature.

Passage of the PNTR bill paves the way for China's admission to the World Trade Organization and the implementation of the U.S.-China trade agreement negotiated by the Administration and China last year. China will no longer be subject to the annual review of its trade status by Congress, which has been the law for 20 years. In return, it will reduce substantially or eliminate tariffs on U.S. imports over the next few years. For instance, China will participate in the Information Technology Agreement and tariffs on U.S. computers, semiconductors, computer equipment, and telecommunications equipment will be eliminated. The tariff-rate quota system for barley, peanut oil, sunflower seed oil, and cottonseed oil will be eliminated and tariffs on many U.S. agriculture products, such as citrus, wheat, corn, and rice will be reduced from 31% to 14% percent over the next three years.

Consideration of the bill consumed much of the Senate's work over the last week and a half as several amendments that could have scuttled the bill for this year were defeated. See, Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 28 (9/14/00). The House passed the bill by a vote of 237-197 last May.

Passage of China PNTR has been a major legislative priority for California's export industries, including high technology and agriculture. California's total exports of merchandise to China reached $2.75 billion in 1998 (the last year for which figures are available), with agriculture and livestock products accounting for $65 million of that figure. China's PNTR status and admission to the WTO is expected to vastly expand U.S. exports to the country, especially California exports.

 

House Judiciary Reports Ag Guestworker Bill

After two days of consideration, the House Judiciary Committee favorably reported H.R. 4548, introduced by Rep. Richard Pombo (Tracy), which establishes a three-year pilot program to allow agricultural growers to bring in immigrant farmworkers under temporary (H-2C) visas. The vote of 16-11 was substantially along party lines, with Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) voting against reporting, and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) voting to report.

There were several amendments offered during the two day consideration of the bill. One offered by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX) on Tuesday indicated some of the difficulties members had with the bill's provisions. Her amendment would have struck the bill's provisions allowing growers to offer cash housing allowances to farmworkers and retained current law provisions requiring growers to guarantee housing. During the vote, Rep. Elton Gallegly (Simi Valley) initially voted against the amendment, then changed his vote to support the amendment, giving it the vote needed to pass 14-13. He cited his concern that affordable housing in California was not available and the bill's provisions might only exacerbate the situation. But by the time the Committee adjourned for the day on Tuesday, he had offered a motion to reconsider to change his vote back to no.

On Wednesday, however, with his motion to reconsider still pending, Rep. Gallegly withdrew the motion and instead offered his own housing amendment. His amendment would require growers to guarantee housing to farmworkers, unless the state's Governor certified that there was sufficient housing available. If the Governor certifies sufficient housing, the growers then can offer cash allowances based on the statewide average of housing prices for the non-metropolitan counties in the state. Rep. Howard Berman (Happy Village) opposed the Gallegly amendment, arguing that the formula would result in insufficient housing allowances because it excludes metropolitan counties from the calculation, even though many of those counties, with higher housing rates, are also large agricultural areas. The Gallegly amendment was adopted by a vote of 17-14.

Rep. Jackson-Lee offered another amendment, which was agreed to by a vote of 15-13. It would restore the current law requirement that growers who contract with farmworkers for a specified period of time must pay them at least three-quarters of the wage expected for the whole period, regardless of whether the farmworkers are released before the end of that time. It is known as the "Three-Quarters Rule" under current law.

The Committee also accepted by a vote of 24-5 an amendment by Rep. Bob Barr (GA) that stripped a provision making it easier for undocumented farmworkers to re-enter the United States under H-2C visas.

Rep. Berman offered two amendments which were defeated. The first would have restored current law requirements that farmworker wages be set high enough to avoid having an adverse effect on domestic farmworker wages, rather than meeting the prevailing wage rate standard as called for in the bill. It was defeated by a vote of 13-17. The second amendment would have capped the number of immigrant farmworkers eligible for visas under the program to 100,000 annually for each of the three years of the program. There are no limits on the number of visas that can be granted under the Pombo bill. That Berman amendment was defeated by voice vote.

 

Senate Moves to Consider H-1B Visa Legislation

On Tuesday, September 19, the Senate voted 97-1 to take up S. 2045, to increase the number of H-1B skilled worker visas available. The bill would increase the cap on H-1B visas from the current 115,000 to 195,000 annually for the next three years. See, Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 8 (3/9/00).

The Senate leadership is expected to file a cloture motion soon to limit debate on the measure and prevent non-germane amendments from being offered. Progress on the H-1B legislation has been slowed by efforts to attach amendments to the bill to include an agricultural guestworker program and to grant residency to some undocumented and Latin American immigrants. Whether a deal can be reached on what if any amendments can be offered, is still in question. The high-technology industry has argued that the bill must be passed before Congress adjourns, as the current cap of 115,000 visas was reached by March of this year.

The House Judiciary Committee reported its version of the legislation in May, but floor action there is also awaiting the resolution of how to deal with other pending immigration issues. See, Bulletin, Vol. 7, Nos. 13 (4/13/00), 16 (5/11/00), & 17 (5/18/00).

 

Resources Reports CALFED Reauthorization Bill

The House Resources Committee on Wednesday, September 20, favorably reported by voice vote H.R. 5130 to reauthorize the CALFED restoration project, authored by Rep. John Doolittle (Rocklin). In his remarks on the bill, Rep. Doolittle stated that his bill addressed the need for additional water yield in California beyond what would be accomplished under the recent Record of Decision released by the CALFED state-federal partnership. His bill would also require CALFED officials to report to Congress on plans before funds were appropriated, and require CALFED to comply with current California water law. The bill authorizes $60 million in funding for FY01.

Rep. Cal Dooley (Visalia) joined in supporting the bill, stating that it would increase from 45 percent to 60 percent the amount of water available under water contracts.

Rep. George Miller (Martinez), however, strongly opposed the bill, arguing that it would take California back to the water wars of prior years. He attempted to offer a substitute to the Doolittle bill that would have been just a strict reauthorization of appropriations for CALFED for the next fiscal year, but his amendment was ruled out of order as non-germane.


54-Member Delegation and Governor Davis Weigh In On SCAAP Funding

All 54 members of the California Delegation signed a letter sent to House and Senate conferees on the Commerce, Justice, State (CJS)Appropriations bill calling for full funding of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The program partially reimburses the states for the costs of incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens.

The letter urges the conferees to at least include the House-approved figure of $585 million for SCAAP, and to increase funding to the maximum authorization level of $650 million if additional money is made available for the bill. The letter points out that, even at the fully authorized level, SCAAP would not totally reimburse the states, because 1999 SCAAP awards under the $585 million represented only 38 percent of the costs to the states.

In addition to the Delegation letter, Governor Gray Davis joined with seven other Governors to urge Majority Leader Trent Lott (MS) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (SD) to restore funding for SCAAP. The Senate CJS Appropriations bill cut funding to $50 million. The letter asks that "an appropriate level of funding be provided to ensure that states can dedicate greater resources to fighting crime and keeping streets safe, and we note that President Clinton requested $600 million for SCAAP in his FY01 Budget Proposal."

Other Governors signing the letter: Jane Dee Hull (AZ); Benjamin Cayetano (HI); George H. Ryan (IL); Christine Todd Whitman (NJ); George E. Pataki (NY); John Kitzhaber (OR); and Gary Locke (WA).

 

Briefing on INS Service Center Set For Monday

On Monday, September 25, at 10 a.m. in Room 1116, a briefing for congressional staff will be held on the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) California Service Center (CSC). The briefing is being sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (San Jose).

Crystal Williams, Director of Liaison for the American Immigration Lawyers Association will discuss problems that family and businesses encounter in their dealings with the CSC. An immigration attorney, who has represented the interests of families and high-technology companies, Ms. Williams will review existing problems with CSC's services, areas in which the CSC has improved and suggestions for long term improvements to the INS and the CSC. The CSC serves California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii, and is used to petition for the immigration of family members as well as international employees.

For further information, please contact Sue Ramanathan in Rep. Lofgren's office at 5-3072.

 

Unanimous Delegation Sends Letter on FEMA Public Insurance Issue

All 52 members of the California Congressional Delegation have sent a letter to conferees on the Disaster Mitigation Act of 1999 (S.1691/H.R.707) urging them to accept the House language on the Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA) proposal to require public entities to obtain insurance against natural disasters, such as earthquakes.

The House bill calls for a GAO study of the availability of disaster insurance for public institutions, before FEMA promulgates any regulation. Currently, the Senate language provides for FEMA to move forward on a regulation requiring public entities to carry disaster insurance. See, Bulletin, Vol. 7, Nos. 5 (2/10/00), 10 (3/23/00), 13 (4/13/00), 14 (4/20/00), 24 (7/20/00), and 27 (9/27/00).

In addition, the letter urges conferees to include language requiring a national panel of insurance and public safety experts to assess the full impact of implementing predisaster insurance requirements.

 

Letter Backs California Maglev Project

A letter currently circulating for signatures among California Members of Congress expresses support for the application of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Maglev Deployment Program. The letter is being circulated by Rep Joe Baca (Rialto).

DOT Secretary Rodney Slater is expected to select among several projects competing for federal magnetic levitation (maglev) rail project matching funds in the very near future. The SCAG proposal (California's only entry) envisions a route from LAX to Riverside County running via Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. A specific route alignment is to be determined within the next year.

The Californians' letter states that, "SCAG's maglev project would play a key role in remedying the myriad transportation problems in Southern California and in demonstrating this exciting new technology for deployment throughout the nation and the world." In the letter, the California members note that, among the various competing maglev proposals, "No other project promises such improvements in the livability of its communities. And finally, no other project would generate the high level of ridership required to demonstrate the viability of maglev."

The letter also stresses that most of the funding for the California project would come from private sources. While Congress authorized $950 million for maglev when TEA-21 was authorized in 1997, relatively little has been spent to date. For more information, refer to http://www.calmaglev.org .

Offices of members who have not yet signed the letter but wish to do so should contact Tim Sechrist with Rep. Baca's office at x5-6161.

 

Cal-DC Education Alliance Briefs Congressional Staff

On Wednesday, September 20, representatives of the California-DC alliance -- which includes educators, school boards, administrators and advocacy groups from across California -- briefed delegation staff members regarding K-12 education issues. The briefing focused the state's share of the Title I program, special education, data accuracy for formula grant distribution, and FEMA's proposed disaster insurance requirement.

Don Iglesias of the Santa Cruz City Schools provided information on FEMA's proposal to require that all public buildings carry disaster insurance, a plan which would force one large California school district to increase its annual budget by 27%. School district insurance costs could be as high as $125 million, he noted. Iglesias also pointed out that the Northridge earthquake caused the bankruptcy of nine insurance companies, adding that the availability of coverage -- affordable or not -- would be in question. (See also delegation FEMA letter article above.)

Debbie Rury of the California Department of Education discussed data accuracy for federal formula funds distribution, noting that most federal education programs rely at least in part on census data for determining allocations by geographic area or school district. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report from earlier this year was cited, which estimated that substantial undercount of California by the 2000 census could cost the state more than $5 billion.

Mike Weimer of the California Federation of Teachers spoke regarding the formula for distributing funds under Title I, the largest federal education program and the fourth largest federal formula grant of any kind. He thanked the California Congressional delegation, and particularly Appropriations Committee education conferees such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, for achieving a compromise to help remedy the unfairness of the Title I 100% hold harmless, which has plagued the state for several years.

Finally, Michael Hulsizer of the Kern County Schools discussed funding for IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which has provided less than 10% of the cost of providing special education services, not the 40% originally intended by Congress. He noted that the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations conference is likely to produce a significant increase in funding for IDEA, though the precise amount is still unclear. He added that there is growing interest in converting IDEA into a mandatory spending program.

The presenters expressed their thanks to Rep. Grace Napolitano (Norwalk) for securing the room for the briefing.

 

Bipartisan California Delegation Meets to Discuss Gas Prices

The bipartisan California Congressional delegation met on Wednesday, September 20, to hear a briefing by Federal Trade Commission and Department of Energy officials on gasoline prices in California. Reps. Sam Farr and Jerry Lewis, chairs of California's House Democrats and Republicans respectively, asked for an update on the FTC's ongoing investigation into high gasoline prices in the State, an investigation requested by the delegation in July 1999.

Mr. Richard Parker, Director of the Bureau of Competition at the FTC, reported that data collection on this issue is expected to continue for two more months with a report to be presented to the FTC commissioners upon completion. He indicated the commissioners will then decide whether there is evidence enough to pursue action for illegal pricing activities. The delegation also received a briefing on the current supply and demand of oil in the national market by Mr. Mark Manzur of the Department of Energy, who noted that California's gas prices are impacted by the state's dearth of pipelines and location of key refineries.


California's Census Response Rate Notably Stronger than 1990

California achieved a 70% response rate to the 2000 Census, according to U.S. Department of Commerce officials, an increase of 5% over 1990. Only four other states achieved the goal of a 5% improvement. Nationwide, 67% of households responded, an increase of 2%.

Except for Virginia's 72% response rate, California's 70% rate was as good or better than any state in the West, South or Northeast regions of the country. (In Midwest states, by contrast, 9 of 12 states were above the 70% mark.)

In California, 20 of the state's 58 counties (or 34%) met their target rate for participation, while a remarkable 254 of the state's 471 cities (or 54%) achieved their target rate. Nationwide, only 24% of cities and counties met their target response rates.

For more detailed information, see http://rates.census.gov .

 

Implementation of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act

The Subcommittee on Health and Environment of the House Committee on Commerce met on Tuesday, September 19 for a hearing on the implementation of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The subcommittee heard testimony from the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Natural Resources Defense Council and four state water departments.

The GAO testimony provided by Mr. Peter Guerrero, Director of Environmental Protection Issues, focused on its report released on the same date, entitled: Drinking Water: Spending Constraints Could Affect States' Ability to Meet Increasing Program Requirements. The GAO reports that in FY 1999 total state expenditures fell below estimates of the amount needed for program implementation given by the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators by 20%. GAO reports however that, according to a nationwide survey, the amount of federal funding impacted the states' ability to implement their drinking water programs less than the effects of state imposed spending constraints. Spending constraints along with a hiring freeze have effected staffing levels. GAO also found states are reluctant to use revolving fund set-asides to address inadequate staffing due to concern of diverting funds away from infrastructure needs.

Testimony from Mr. J. Charles Fox, Assistant Administrator for Water, EPA focused on the efforts of the EPA to implement SDWA amendments, the funding issues the program faces, as well as some of the challenges for the Drinking Water Program. Testimony from the states centered on the following issues: the EPA proposed Radon Rule, the EPA proposed Arsenic Rule, MTBE Contamination of drinking water sources, State Revolving Funds and infrastructure needs.

Witness testimony can be viewed at the House Committee on Commerce website: http://www.house.gov/commerce/ and the GAO report can be obtained at http://www.gao.gov .


Retaining Health Care Funds for California

California is in danger of losing $597 million in federal funds received in FY 1998 for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). California received $855 million in FY 1998 for its program and existing law requires these SCHIP funds be spent within three years or unspent funds must revert to the federal government for redistribution to other states.

The Speaker of the California State Assembly, Bob Hertzberg, has sent a letter to each member of the California delegation, warning them of this danger and urging congressional action before adjournment of this session. Hertzberg outlines a recent Health Care Financing Administration action allowing a state to apply for a waiver for a demonstration project allocating SCHIP funds to cover parents of children already enrolled in the insurance program. His letter states that State legislation has been passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature. The legislation provides State statutory authorization for parental coverage under SCHIP. Hertzberg also emphasizes that in order for this project to extend services to parents to succeed, the state needs authority to retain federal SCHIP funds for two years longer than currently allowed.

Senator Feinstein has also joined the effort to allow California to retain SCHIP funds. In a letter to President Clinton, Feinstein and 59 senators urged the President to extend the September 30th deadline for using unspent funds in SCHIP by two years. The letter indicated that 41 states and the District of Columbia were in danger of losing $1.9 billion for children's health programs and that a reduction of this amount would hamper states' ability to provide services for children already enrolled in SCHIP.


Falling Behind: California Workers and the New Economy

The California Budget Project released a publication Falling Behind: California Workers and the New Economy, which examines the economic well being of California workers and their families over the past two decades in comparison to the nation. Some of the findings sited include: the income of the median California family of four dropped below that of the nation in 1998; more Californians earned poverty level wages in 1999 than in 1989; and the Bay Area's wage growth exceeded that of Los Angeles County, the state and the nation over the past decade.

The report can be viewed at the California Budget Project website: http://www.cbp.org .

 

State Income Gap Widens

A report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco expands on earlier studies identifying a growing gap between California's wealthiest and poorest residents during the 1990s. While the gap grew in California, income inequality in the rest of the United States leveled off. Analysts identify the state's recession in the early 1990s, and the late arrival of the national economic boom in the state as causes of the diminished economic standing of California's middle and lower income families. The report also identifies California's large pool of young and poorly educated workers as a long term cause of economic inequality in the state. The report indicates that 39% of California's families are middle class, compared to 45% in other states and 43% in California in 1989.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco report, entitled Cyclical and Demographic Influences on the Distribution of Income in California, can be viewed in its entirety at http://www.sf.frb.org/econrsrch/econrev/2000/article1.pdf along with an economic letter entitled Have Californians Kept Up in the 1990s at http://www.frbsf.org/econrsrch/wklyltr/2000/el2000-25.html .

 

House Passes Two California Bills

On Monday, September 18, the House passed two bills under suspension of the rules dealing with California issues. The first, H.R. 4643, settles a land dispute and ratifies a 1996 agreement between the federal government, the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Imperial Irrigation District. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mary Bono (Palm Springs) and passed by voice vote. Under the bill, three settlement trust funds would be established in the Treasury Department to benefit the Cahuillas. Federal funding would be set at $10 million and the two water districts would each contribute $4 million. The Interior Department is also authorized to act as trustee for land acquired by the tribe in the Coachella Valley; one gaming casino would be allowed to operate on the land, under the bill's provisions.

The second bill, H.R. 1113, was introduced by Rep. Doug Ose (West Sacramento) and also passed by voice vote. It provides federal funds to address flooding in the Colusa Basin drainage area. The bill authorizes flood-control projects, and requires local governments to pay 25 percent of the costs to design and construct the projects, with the federal government responsible for the remaining 75 percent. All operation and maintenance costs would be paid for by the local governments. The Colusa Basin runs through Colusa, Glenn, and Yolo counties, and flooding in the basin causes about $4.9 million annually in property damage.

Welcome to New State-federal Relations Fellow

The California Institute welcomes our new Congressional Fellow, Tonya Gorham. A California native, Tonya is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Southern California Graduate School of Social Work. Tonya comes to us most recently from Sacramento where she served in the Executive Fellowship program as a staff member for Governor Davis' cabinet Secretary for the California Health and Human Services Agency, Grantland Johnson. Tonya has a background in health, mental health, aging, foster care and social welfare policy, gained while practicing clinical social work for four years in Los Angeles and during her time as an Executive Fellow.

Each fall the California Institute welcomes a new Fellow for a one year appointment. This position is generously funded by the California State University System, via the Center for California Studies at CSU Sacramento.

The Center for California Studies also administers four fellowship programs in Sacramento, the Assembly, the Senate, the Judicial and the Executive Fellowships. The Congressional Fellow at the Institute is selected from the previous year's class of Sacramento Fellows. Deadlines for applications to the Sacramento programs range from mid-January to mid-February for Fall 2001. For more information about applications for the Sacramento programs, please call the Center for California Studies at 916-278-6906 or visit their website at: http://www.csus.edu/calst/Programs/programs.html .

Click here to return to the California Institute home page.  Or click here to e-mail.