Stately Affairs

Congressmember Lois Capps is taking the first steps to reverse
last year’s humiliating political defeat at the hands of Duncan
Hunter, the conservative Republican representative from El Cajon
who led the effort to get Santa Rosa Island
declared an elk-hunting preserve for disabled
veterans. Hunter, who is now seeking the presidential nomination,
succeeded despite opposition from veterans’ groups and the head of
the National Park Service. Hoping to highlight areas of contention
with Hunter’s plan, Capps will be “grilling” the nation’s parks
chief this week at a public hearing. With Capps now in the
majority, a reversal of last year’s vote seems assured.

Representative Lois Capps joined members of the Democratic
Women’s Working Group to trash plans to cut $1.2
from the annual $4 million budget of the
Office of Women’s Health
(OWH). Democrats accused the Food
and Drug Administration chief, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, of
exacting budgetary revenge on the OWH for publicly stating that the
emergency contraceptive Plan B, which is opposed by Christian
fundamentalists, should be made available without a doctor’s
prescription. Plan B’s eventual release has been the subject of
intense political wrangling. If the $1.2 million cuts to the OWH
budget stand, von Eschenbach will have effectively put the office
out of business for the rest of the fiscal year.

Assemblymember Audra Strickland (R - Thousand Oaks) introduced a
bill that would allow California vegetable growers to file
libel lawsuits
against people who disseminate critical
false information about vegetables. Strickland, who is frequently
mentioned as a likely candidate to replace State Senator Tom
McClintock – whose district includes Santa Barbara – was responding
to inaccurate reports tracing last summer’s E. coli outbreak to
spinach grown in Oxnard. To prevail in such a suit, growers would
have to prove the defendant knew the information was false.
Opponents charge such a bill could endanger the First Amendment and
public health; rather than risk litigation, some people might opt
to remain silent about a possible health risk.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to redraw the state’s political
districts and relax California’s term limits law – supported by
leaders of both parties in Sacramento – has hit the brick wall of
Washington politics. Congressional Democrats are concerned
tinkering with district lines might undermine the numerical
advantage they now enjoy for the first time in more than a decade.
But if district lines aren’t redrawn, the state’s term limits law
probably won’t be relaxed either, meaning that many leaders in both
parties and houses will be termed out of office at the end of this
legislative session. Schwarzenegger hopes to craft a redistricting
proposal limited to California’s legislative districts.


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