A Big Breakthrough on Green Jobs

The New York State Senate and Assembly, too often a model of corruption and dysfunctionality, rose above petty politics last week to pass forward-thinking legislation on climate and energy, setting a precedent for bipartisanship and a sensible cap and trade system.  The State Senate passed the groundbreaking Green Job/Green New York Act, with strong support from Republicans, Democrats, and the Working Families Party, which spearheaded the legislation. The bill — expected to be signed into law this week by Gov. David Patterson leverages $112m in revenue from the Northeasts's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) into $5 billion of private investment to finance home weatherization, energy efficiency projects, and green jobs creation.

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Look how Grassley repays Obama's compliments (updated)

At yesterday’s town-hall meeting in New Hampshire, President Barack Obama had nice things to say about Senator Chuck Grassley:

“Now, I think that there are some of my Republican friends on Capitol Hill who are sincerely trying to figure out if they can find a health care bill that works – Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe from Maine have been – yes, I got to admit I like Olympia, too. They are diligently working to see if they can come up with a plan that could get both Republican and Democratic support.”

In addition, Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register noticed that Organizing for America is not mobilizing Obama’s supporters to show up at Grassley’s town-hall meetings in Iowa. Instead, Organizing for America is trying to drive turnout to events hosted by Iowa’s Democrats in Congress.

Grassley’s holding four public events today, and @iahealthreform is helpfully liveblogging them on Twitter. Look at how Grassley talks about health care reform and tell me whether Obama should praise Grassley’s efforts.

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Open thread on Obama's 100th day in office

Please share any thoughts about President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office in this thread. Are you thrilled, satisfied, or disappointed? What have been his best and worst decisions so far, in your opinion?

Congress marked the occasion by approving the president’s $3.5 trillion budget outline in the House and in the Senate.

I will update later with highlights from the president’s press conference this evening.

UPDATE: The consensus seems to be that Obama did very well at the press conference. Over at Popular Progressive, Gark says the president hit a home run on the question about what surprised, troubled, enchanted and humbled him.

Huffington Post has the full transcript from the press conference here. I particularly liked his comments about bipartisanship, and I’ve bolded my favorite remarks:

I do think that, to my Republican friends, I want them to realize that me reaching out to them has been genuine. I can’t sort of define bipartisanship as simply being willing to accept certain theories of theirs that we tried for eight years and didn’t work and the American people voted to change.

But there are a whole host of areas where we can work together. And I’ve said this to people like Mitch McConnell . I said, look, on health care reform, you may not agree with me that I — we should have a public plan. That may be philosophically just too much for you to swallow.

On the other hand, there are some areas like reducing the costs of medical malpractice insurance where you do agree with me. If I’m taking some of your ideas and giving you credit for good ideas, the fact that you didn’t get 100 percent can’t be a reason every single time to oppose my position.

And if that is how bipartisanship is defined, a situation in which basically, wherever there are philosophical differences, I have to simply go along with ideas that have been rejected by the American people in a historic election, you know, we’re probably not going to make progress.

If, on the other hand, the definition is that we’re open to each other’s ideas, there are going to be differences, the majority will probably be determinative when it comes to resolving just hard, core differences that we can’t resolve, but there is a whole host of other areas where we can work together, then I think we can make progress.

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Open thread on Obama's budget speech

Technically, it’s not a State of the Union address, because Barack Obama hasn’t been president for a full year yet. I know plenty of Bleeding Heartland readers will be among the millions of people watching, so please use this thread to share your thoughts and reactions.

Here are a few links to get the discussion going. Chris Bowers puts forward a hypothesis about why so many people care about the State of the Union, which is just one of many speeches the president gives during the year.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility say the cap-and-trade approach to tackling global warming, which Obama supports, won’t work.

Obama seems to be “losing the right, consolidating the middle and left.”

A majority of Americans would rather see Obama stick to the policies he campaigned on rather than take a bipartisan approach:

    Which do you think should be a higher priority for  Barack Obama right now – working in a bipartisan way with Republicans in Congress or sticking to the policies he promised he would during the campaign:

   Working bipartisan way: 39%

   Sticking to policies: 56%

[…]

   Which do you think should be a higher priority for Republicans in Congress right now – working in a bipartisan way with Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress or sticking to Republican policies?

   Working bipartisan way: 79%

   Sticking to policies: 17%

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele (the guy who was supposedly more “big tent” oriented) is open to cutting of RNC funding to the three Republican senators who voted for Obama’s economic stimulus bill.

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Gronstal and Kibbie set the tone on the Iowa Senate's opening day

The Iowa Legislature opened its 2009 session today, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal let the members of the upper chamber know that he has “never seen such a tough situation” with the state budget and economy in his 26 years at the statehouse.

In his opening address the the Iowa Senate, Gronstal listed some of the biggest challenges facing legislators, in particular rebuilding communities damages by last year’s natural disasters and leading Iowa “through these tough times without sabotaging the commitments we’ve made on economic growth, health care and education.”

He warned that a lot of legislators won’t get what they want this year:

Our resources are limited.  We will say “no” to many good ideas.  We are going to disappoint some people and frustrate others.

If your idea of being an elected official involves being loved by everyone, the next few months will be pretty rough.

Gronstal also noted that bipartisan majorities approved many key policies in Iowa during the past few years, and called for finding “bipartisan solutions” to this year’s challenges.

In his opening address to the chamber, Senate President Jack Kibbie echoed Gronstal’s warning that leaders will be saying “no” to a lot of requests from legislators.

He also advocated some policies that are anything but bipartisan: a gas tax hike and the expansion of workers’ bargaining rights.

Kibbie said increasing the gas tax would create jobs and boost economic development:

First, we can no longer put off the challenges to our transportation infrastructure. It is vital that we begin to clear the backlog of projects that play a  significant role in future economic development. In my district my constituents, Republicans and Democrats, all tell me that we need to get to work and if the only impediment to that progress is money they are willing to pay a few more cents at the pump. I support efforts that result in a gas tax increase. Success in that endeavor will mean better roads, jobs, and an economic boost to Iowa’s families and communities.

I’ve supported a gas tax increase since John Anderson proposed it during his 1980 presidential campaign, but I don’t expect that measure to get through the legislature without a bruising battle.

Here’s a piece listing the many potential benefits of a federal gas tax increase. Kibbie is talking about a smaller increase in the state gas tax, but many of the same benefits would apply.

Kibbie also said Iowa workers need good wages, and therefore “we should not fear passing Legislation that help[s] workers bargain for a better future.”

Kibbie could be referring to the “fair share” bill that Democrats didn’t have to votes to get through the Iowa House in 2007, or to the collective bargaining bill that Governor Chet Culver vetoed last spring. Either way, Republicans and corporate interest groups will put up a fight.

Getting labor legislation through the Iowa House, where Democrats have a 56-44 majority, is likely to be more difficult than getting it through the Iowa Senate, where Democrats have a 32-18 majority.

The complete texts of the opening statements by Gronstal and Kibbie (as prepared) are after the jump.

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