Originally published May 21 2015
California's new water legislation held under top secret status; no one's allowed to know the details
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The U.S. government is becoming less transparent than it has been at any time in our history, as evidenced by pending water legislation in the nation's capital that voters, via their elected representatives, are not permitted to see.
As reported by McClatchy Papers, five months into a new Congress and years into a punishing drought that still continues to ravage most of California, legislation dealing with dwindling supplies of water confounds and splits the state's lawmakers.
Moreover, draft copies of bills are kept so close to the vest that they appear to be a top secret. The myriad details surrounding each draft are constantly changing. Timing to introduce the legislation is not yet settled, although a June 2 Senate hearing might go off as planned. Democrats are divided, and some are just angry.
Feinstein channeling Obama administration secrecy practices"Right now, I don't know," a negative-sounding Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said recently when she was asked about the prospects for new legislation. "It's very difficult to put something together. Obviously change is controversial, so to propose something and then not to be able to do it makes no sense."
Feinstein and her staff are behind her chamber's drought legislation, but so far it has been developed under what a number of California water experts have independently called a "cone of silence."
Although the Republican-controlled House is expected to pass drought legislation this summer, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, has told Western growers last week that the Senate will either make or break any legislation.
"We've met with people. We've talked with people," Feinstein told McClatchy Papers. "We've taken ideas. We have done everything we can."
Other California Democrats have panned Feinstein's legislative effort as "very disappointing," labeling it the "same old story." This does not bode well for future political initiatives.
As McClatchy further reported:
Feinstein and House Republicans agreed last year on language to boost water exports south of the environmentally sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, encourage the completion of water storage project feasibility studies and capture more runoff from early storms, among other provisions. A version passed the House in December and died in the Senate.
Staffers for House GOP members have drafted more than 75 pages of proposed language. McCarthy told growers that a bill could be introduced again in the House by June.
However, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, opposed legislation that was drafted last year. Now, other California lawmakers are being asked what kind of bill they would like to see, but so far, nothing has come of the effort.
Why is this legislation so difficult?Complaints about collusion and secrecy last year helped doom that legislative effort.
"Sen. Feinstein is moseying around with something, but she won't tell us what," Rep. John Garamendi, who represents part of the worst-affected areas of the state, told McClatchy. "Same old story. . . . Those of us that represent the Delta and San Francisco Bay are not included in the process."
For her part, Feinstein defended her secrecy, actually blaming the other lawmakers for any criticisms or alternatives they may offer. "It doesn't do any good to say, 'Let us see your language so we can rip it apart," she said, intimating that only her views and solutions were valid.
Meanwhile, the state continues to wither under heat and drought. In January, Governor Brown declared a drought state of emergency and imposed strict water consumption and use measures, but not all parts of the state are sacrificing equally. For example, daily water usage in ritzy Palm Springs is 201 gallons per person, which is about double what it is for residents elsewhere.
Worse, California is responsible for the bulk of food and produce grown in the U.S. As the drought worsens and lawmakers continue to prove incapable of coming to an agreement on drought legislation, the people, as usual, will continue to suffer.
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