Visiting the Bazaar of U.S. Politics: September 2013 State Net® Capitol Journal in Review

Posted on 09-30-2013 by
Tags: Real Law

Brought to you by the Real Law Editorial Team

Haggling for goods and services is a lively tradition in parts of the world. In Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia, for example, it’s common to negotiate prices just about everywhere, from markets to hotels, and techniques for securing better deals are passed along to children at a young age.

In the Middle East and North Africa, too, the practice remains current. Open-air or covered markets known as souqs (also sooqs, souks and multiple other variations) are popular destinations for those willing or eager to bargain. Locals and tourists alike are drawn to them for everything from necessities to souvenirs—at prices to be determined.

Even in parts of the world where set-price purchasing is the norm, haggling still occurs. On a personal level, it can be low-risk and gratifying (in North America and Europe, think weekend flea markets and garage sales) or range from nerve-wracking to an art (house buying, negotiating a raise). Of course, deal making can also become an occupation.

In the United States, there is perhaps no greater stage for professional haggling than the bazaar of public politics, a fact that did not escape the attention of State Net® Capitol Journal throughout September.

Preparing for Obamacare

Indeed, the month saw plenty of political maneuvering on various fronts. On Capitol Hill in particular, legislators were locked in a highly charged debate over raising the federal debt ceiling. In the September 23 edition, Capitol Journal editorial advisor Lou Cannon explored a contentious matter that is at the center of the budget contest. In the edition’s top story, Cannon observed: “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which even the president now calls Obamacare, is approaching a moment of truth, and it’s not likely to be pretty.”

Starting on October 1, Americans without health insurance supposedly will be able to sign up for standardized affordable coverage through online marketplaces or exchanges operated by their state, the federal government or a combination of the two. But that’s occurring amid signs that many states will simply not be ready to go on time—and that time has arrived.

As Cannon further notes, the readiness of states to offer exchanges is just one of a number of challenges the Affordable Care Act faces. The ambitious goal of providing health care for millions of uninsured Americans also depends on various other administrative factors as well as continuing political bickering over details of the legislation. At the same time, as a recent Pew Research Center/USA TODAY survey shows, public views of the 2010 health care law remain as negative as ever, and many are unaware of the elements that will soon go into effect.

Cannon’s article offers a comprehensive overview of the obstacles and opportunities that are ahead for the act. It’s a worthwhile, four-minute read.

Sequestration Sequel

In the September 9 edition, Capitol Journal associate editor Korey Clark tackled head-on the looming possibility of another round of severe sequestration cuts given the lack of movement in negotiations towards reaching a deal on a federal budget. Federal funding, mostly in the form of grants, accounts for roughly 30 percent of state budgets on average. “Another round of cuts—on everything from public housing assistance and money for schools with low-income students to food inspection, scientific research and environmental protection—might actually be more painful, coming on top of the previous ones,” Clark noted.

Haggling over the budget developed over the month into an unprecedented level of political brinkmanship, leaving the possibility of the government shutting down and going into default on its obligations. Clark’s report adds a timely backgrounder and update of the situation.

Let’s Make a Deal

Meanwhile, Capitol Journal editor Rich Ehisen picked up the thread of an earlier story about ongoing wrangling over California’s chronically overcrowded prisons. In August, the U.S Supreme Court rejected Governor Jerry Brown’s bid to block a federal court order that would reduce the Golden State’s prison population by almost 10,000 inmates. In the September 2 edition, Ehisen reported on Brown’s response: a plan that would see California spend over $700 million—around two-thirds of the state’s hard-earned reserve fund—on a variety of measures to meet the inmate population cap. That proposal was swiftly criticized, triggering “what is shaping up to be a nasty showdown between the state’s top elected leaders over one of the thorniest issues with barely two weeks left in the legislative session,” Ehisen noted.

Following up with the top story in the September 16 edition, Ehisen reported on Brown’s surprising deal with his Democratic colleagues in a last-ditch effort to address the state’s prison dilemma. The agreement hinged on seeking a three-year delay in meeting the inmate population caps. In a declaration accompanying Brown’s filing to the federal court that ordered the caps, a state corrections official asked the judges to make their decision by September 27.

“It is unclear whether the three federal judges will go along with Brown’s plan,” the Los Angeles Times reported the day of the filing. “They have shown increasing impatience with California’s failure to relieve inmate crowding after more than two decades of litigation.”

In fact, the judges denied Brown’s request. Instead, the panel granted a 30-day extension to its original order, moving the deadline to reduce the prison crowding to January 27, 2014, and directed lawyers for the state and the inmates to immediately start confidential talks toward reaching a durable solution.

Watch for further updates from Ehisen as the story continues to unfold.

News and Views from the 50 States

There’s more that fills each weekly edition of Capitol Journal. It’s all compiled by the expert State Net editorial staff and freely available on the State Net website or in various formats via email.

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