Arnold in trouble

More troubles piled up for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, as one of his key measures for the Nov. 8 special election was thrown out, and state Democrats filed an ethics suit over money paid him by Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines.

On June 21, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge disqualified Proposition 77 to shift redistricting powers from the state Legislature to a panel of retired judges. Attorney General Bill Lockyer had sued to remove the measure because its supporters submitted one version to his office, and another to voters. Prop. 77’s backers said they would appeal.

Calling Prop. 77 “the latest in a list of serious political blunders” by the governor, California Labor Federation head Art Pulaski said in a statement that “Schwarzenegger has tried to pass off one half-baked scheme after the other on Californians since he was elected.”

Pulaski cited the governor’s withdrawal of initiatives to privatize public workers’ pensions and to base teachers’ pay on merit, as well as his abandoning of efforts to eliminate many state regulatory bodies.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political schemes have been rejected by the court of law and by the court of public opinion,” Pulaski said. “He has gotten it wrong again with his redistricting scheme and with this entire costly, unnecessary special election” that “serves the interest of no one but the governor’s corporate contributors.”

Following the scandal that broke earlier this month over Schwarzenegger’s multi-million-dollar deal with two fitness magazines that heavily feature advertisements for performance-enhancing supplements, Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres filed a complaint July 19 with the Fair Political Practices Commission, calling the payments illegal honoraria and unlawful gifts to a public official. The complaint also said Schwarzenegger violated conflict of interest rules when he vetoed state Sen. Jackie Speier’s bill to cut supplement use by high school athletes.

Still on the ballot are the governor’s measures to cap spending if it exceeds revenue and to extend to five years the time for teachers to achieve tenure. Also on the ballot are a measure by the governor’s backers to force public worker unions to get annual permission from every member to use dues funds for political action, an initiative to notify parents when minors seek an abortion, and two measures for prescription drug benefits — one by the pharmaceutical industry and the other by the broad Health Access coalition.

The continuing setbacks have led some to speculate whether Schwarzenegger would be wise to cancel the special election. The Los Angeles Times quoted several Republican consultants who counseled cancellation, while others pointed to the political price he would pay for doing so.

In a setback for the labor-community coalition that has been opposing the right-wing ballot initiatives, Prop. 80 to reregulate California’s electricity market was also ruled off the ballot. On July 22, the 3rd Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled that the measure would have impinged on the Legislature’s authority over the state Public Utilities Commission.