Slatest PM: Looking to California For an End to Washington's Gridlock

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 18 2013 4:30 PM

Slatest PM: Looking to California For an End to Washington's Gridlock

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California Gov. Jerry Brown points as he walks on stage before speaking during the Drive The Dream event at the Exploratorium on September 16, 2013 in San Francisco, California

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Does California Hold the Answer?: New York Times: "Before Washington, California was the national symbol of partisan paralysis and government dysfunction. ... But over the past month, California has been the stage for a series of celebrations of unlikely legislative success — a parade of bill signings that offered a contrast between the federal shutdown in Washington and an acrimony-free California legislature that enacted laws dealing with subjects including school financing, immigration, gun control and abortion. The turnaround from just 10 years ago — striking in tone, productivity and, at least on fiscal issues, moderation — is certainly a lesson in the power of one-party rule. Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in the Assembly and Senate and the governor, Jerry Brown, is a Democrat. The Republican Party, which just three years ago held the governor’s seat and a feisty minority in both houses, has diminished to the point of near irrelevance."

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Simple as 1, 2, 3: "But the new atmosphere in Sacramento also offers the first evidence that three major changes in California’s governance system intended to leach some of the partisanship out of politics — championed by government reform advocates — may also be having their desired effect in a state that has long offered itself as the legislative laboratory for the nation. ... Lawmakers came into office this year representing districts whose lines were drawn by a nonpartisan commission, rather than under the more calculating eye of political leaders. This is the first Legislature chosen under a nonpartisan election system where the top-two finishers in a primary run against each other, without party affiliations, an effort to prod candidates to appeal to a wider ideological swath of the electorate. And California voters approved last year an initiative to ease stringent term limits, which had produced a statehouse filled with inexperienced legislators looking over the horizon to the next election. Lawmakers now serve 12 years in either the Assembly or the Senate."

It's Friday, October 18th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees, and the whole team at @Slatest.

RIP, Tom Foley: Washington Post: "Foley, 84 and a Democratic congressman from Washington state, served as [House] speaker from 1989 to 1995. He had been in ill health in recent months. Foley in 1994 became the first speaker in more than a century to be defeated for reelection to his congressional seat. His defeat after 30 years in Congress was perhaps the biggest GOP victory in that year's 'Republican Revolution,' which returned Republicans to power and installed Newt Gingrich as speaker. He later served as ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton."

Wedding Bells: USA Today: "Gay couples in New Jersey will be able to marry starting Monday. The state Supreme Court Friday turned down Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration request to delay same-sex marriages, clearing the way for the weddings to begin Oct. 21. A lower-court judge had earlier ruled that same-sex weddings must be allowed starting Monday, and the administration requested a stay. The Christie administration has also appealed a lower court decision that the state should allow same-sex marriages, and the high court is expected to hear arguments and render a decision on the broader issue over the next three months. The ruling by the justices against the motion was unanimous, a sign that the administration's prospects for the full appeal are bleak."

The Rising Costs of Healthcare.gov: NBC News: "The government contract for the company that built the glitch-prone website for Obamacare has ballooned to three times its original cost, and some Republicans are demanding the resignation of the cabinet secretary who oversees it. Since its launch, on Oct. 1, the site has been plagued by crashes as Americans to try log on and enroll for health insurance. The Obama administration has conceded that the launch has been rockier than it had hoped. The U.S. arm of a Canadian company, CGI, had the biggest role of the many contractors that worked on the rollout. It won the contract in October 2011. At the time, it had an estimated cost of up to $94 million. By May of this year, that cost ceiling had swelled to $292 million."

Obama's Pick For Homeland: Reuters: "President Barack Obama on Friday named former Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson to run the Department of Homeland Security, where the task of securing the nation's borders will give Johnson a central role in the president's immigration reform efforts. Johnson, now a partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, served as general counsel at the Pentagon during Obama's first term. There, he was involved in ending the military's ban on gays serving in the armed forces and in formulating the administration's policy for the use of unmanned drones to strike at enemy targets. While at the Pentagon, Johnson also worked on counterterrorism, cyber security and disaster response, all of which will be issues he will have to address as head of Homeland Security. ... Johnson must win confirmation in the Senate. In an indication of challenges ahead of him, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said Johnson would have to address concerns over management of the sprawling agency and allegations that immigration officers are releasing violent criminals."

BART Strike: Associated Press: "San Francisco Bay area transit workers are on strike for the second time since July, scrambling the morning commute for hundreds of thousands of workers who were up before dawn to clog highways, swarm buses and shiver on ferry decks as they found alternative ways to the office. Six months of on-again, off-again negotiations have brought agreement on key issues such as raises, health care and pensions. But there remained a snarl Friday: a package of work rules involving when schedules are posted, whether workers can file for overtime when they've been out sick, and how paychecks are delivered. ... The strike could drag through the weekend and into next work week. BART spokesman Rick Rice said Friday that no new talks have been scheduled, and representatives from the unions were meeting and didn't immediately return calls from The Associated Press. Discussions fell apart late Thursday after a marathon 30-hour negotiation with a federal mediator that put representatives from both sides at dueling press conferences, rumpled, unshaven and angry."

17 Nights at the National Zoo: Washington Post: "What happened during the 17-day closure of the National Zoo due to the federal government shutdown?  The baby panda packed on the pounds. There were two deaths: a century-old female giant tortoise and a wrinkled hornbill. A female lowland gorilla was sent to a zoo in Wichita for breeding purposes. And two of the zoo’s lions mated. With television cameras rolling and dozens of staff on hand to greet the gathered crowd, the zoo opened to the public at precisely 10 a.m. Friday, after a closure that lasted for 2 1/2 weeks."

See you back here Monday. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

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