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California Governor Signs Bill To Fund Safe Drinking Water Projects

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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law Wednesday that will take up to $130 million of state money each year originally to be used to clean the air and clean up the drinking water instead.

What We Know:

  • California has struggled to provide basic clean drinking water to more than 1 million of its residents despite their HUGE economic status (the state has the world’s fifth-largest economy). The area with the biggest problem is Central Valley, the heart of the state’s $20 billion agriculture industry. The large farms in the area have polluted water sources for most rural communities.
  • The problem has grown so severe that the state has a grant program to provide bottled water to some communities. As of June, “the state was providing bottled water to about 18,000 Californians in 51 communities at a cost of about $4 million,” according to George Kostyrko of the State Water Resources Control Board.
  • “Families shouldn’t have to dump water over their heads to shower every day,” Newsom said in a statement. “This funding is critically important to addressing California’s long-standing safe drinking water issues.”
  • California has grant programs that would fund infrastructure to deliver water to rural communities, including a voter-approved $7.5 billion bond in 2014. However, they do not have a program to provide financing for water systems in need of money to operate that equipment, which can be hard for smaller systems lacking sufficient revenue.
  • Newsom proposed a tax on most residential water bills to fix this, but the California State Legislature authorized a plan to take up to $130 million a year over the next decade from a fund that was meant to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The State Water Resources Control Board is also required to develop a plan on how to spend the money, including identifying failing water systems that need the most help.
  • The money used is part of the state’s cap and trade program, which requires the states’ biggest polluters (like oil refineries and farms) to buy credits that let them pollute. The program has earned more than $9.5 billion so far and state officials are supposed to use that money to improve the environment.
  • Some environmental groups are worried about the plan, claiming it sets a precedent of the state using the cap and trade money for other purposes as the state struggles to meet their emission reduction goals. “The gray lines which already existed just became grayer,” Democratic state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, who voted against the plan, said in an interview last month.
  • However, supporters of the bill believe the spending is necessary due to climate change impacting drinking water by “accelerating the decline of groundwater basins and increasing naturally occurring environmental contaminants.”

California is getting the water they desperately need.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel Ousted After 12 Years

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(Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty Images file)

In a 60-59 vote, Naftali Bennett took over as Prime Minister after a two-year cycle of political standstill.

What We Know:

  • Benjamin Netanyahu was viewed as a political magician for his ability to remain in office for 12 consecutive years. Recently, he came into critique for his polarizing and autocratic tendencies. He used divide and rule tactics to aggravate rifts in Israeli society such as the ongoing tensions between Jewish and Arabic citizens.
  • Netanyahu was indicted in 2019 for fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes. He used his concession speech as an opportunity to berate his political opponents and assured the people he would be back.

“I will lead you in the daily struggle against this evil and dangerous leftist government in order to topple it. God willing, it will happen a lot faster than you think.”

  • Three out of Israel’s eight political parties are headed by former Netanyahu allies that share his beliefs, but developed personal issues with him. Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, took it upon himself to create cross-party arrangements to push Netanyahu out of power. Bennett’s victory now places him at the head of a coalition made up of the most diverse members the country has seen.
  • The coalition included right-wing, left-wing, and Arab parties all united under the desire to vote out Netanyahu. This makes it the first coalition in Israel’s history with the involvement of Arab parties. While the coalition was united for this purpose, they are deeply divided when it comes to key issues.
  • Bennett, 49, is a former chief of staff for Netanyahu. He also served as defense minister, economy minister, and education minister amongst other roles under Netanyahu’s regime. He will spend two years as Prime Minister, focusing on domestic issues because of the ideological disparities amongst his coalition. Yair Lapid will then take over for the next two years, as per the coalition’s agreement.
  • President Biden congratulated his victory. The two have agreed to consult on national security and Biden hopes to advance further peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

“Twice in history, we have lost our national home precisely because the leaders of the generation were not able to sit with one and another and compromise. Each was right, yet with all their being right, they burnt the house down on top of us,” Bennett said in his speech.

  • Bennett’s regime may have no choice to address larger issues despite their best efforts. While he is choosing to focus on issues such as the relationship of religion and state, cost of living, and quality of life, Israel hasn’t passed a budget since March of 2018. On top of this, the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah is still awaiting a High Court decision after being delayed in hopes of easing tensions.

Because of the fragile bonds that hold his coalition together, Bennett’s success as Prime Minister hinges on his ability to create compromise. “Citizens of Israel are all looking to us now, and the burden of proof is upon us,” he stated.

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Senate Announces Bipartisan $1 Trillion Infrastructure Deal

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(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A bipartisan group of 10 Senators have been engaged in negotiations with President Biden to create an infrastructure bill. After negotiations ceased this Tuesday, the group announced they have a tentative plan to propose in the coming weeks.

What We Know:

  • The plan includes $579 billion in new spending, which would add up to $1.2 trillion over eight years. Senators said in a statement that the proposal would be paid for and would not include tax increases. There have been talks amongst the group of indexing the gas tax to inflation to cover the cost, but Biden’s unwillingness to raise taxes for those who make less than $400,000 a year would prove difficult.
  • Republicans are skeptical of this deal and Democrats are impatient. Many are hopeful that a bipartisan agreement will pass. In a joint statement, the group said, “We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues, and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork to garner broad support both parties and meet America’s infrastructure needs.”
  • Some Democrats are vehemently opposed to the deal as it makes no mention of clean energy or climate change. They are encouraging leadership to push through a partisan bill, which still would require ten votes on the Republican side to pass.
  • Regardless of opinion, many agree that a bill needs to pass swiftly. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is among these representatives, “I worry about time being wasted. Even if our Republican colleagues [work in] good faith, we simply do not have the time to delay.”

The uncertainty in this decision follows a few weeks of tumult in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement, “Senior White House staff and the Jobs Cabinet will work with the Senate group in the days ahead to get answers to those questions, as we also consult with other members in both the House and the Senate on the path forward.”

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Senate Confirms Zahid Quraishi as First Muslim Federal Judge in the U.S.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Zahid Quraishi as a U.S. District Judge of New Jersey, making him the first Muslim American to hold the position in U.S. history.

What We Know:

  • Quraishi, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was approved by the Senate with an 81-16 vote, receiving all present Democratic votes and 34 Republican ones. He is currently a U.S. magistrate judge for the District of New Jersey, has worked as a federal prosecutor, and served two tours in Iraq.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), stated, “[Quraishi] is a man of integrity, a consummate public servant, and a trailblazer for Asian Americans and Muslim Americans across this country who dream of one day presiding over a court of their own.”

  • President Joe Biden nominated Quraishi in his first group of judicial nominations back in March. Biden focused on diversity with his group of nominees, including three African American women for the openings in the Circuit Court and the first women of color to serve as a federal judge in the District of Maryland.
  • Democrats and progressives expressed their excitement and gave their congratulations to Quraishi via social media. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) stated that Quraishi was an “excellent addition to the court,” and his confirmation is a “reflection of America’s ideal of religious freedom.” Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that they need to expand on demographic and professional diversity, and confirming Quraishi was an example of that.

  • According to The New York Times, The Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized Quraishi’s time while in Iraq and his involvement with former President George W. Bush’s second term. They called Quraishi a “detention legal adviser” during a time when prisoner abuse in Iraq was out of hand.
  • The civil rights group also called out the judge’s involvement with ICE throughout Bush’s last two years of office. They wrote the Senate a letter begging them to take a look into Quraishi’s actions during this time and consider them before they voted. Quraishi received the Bronze Star for his time in service.

Along with confirming Quraishi, the Senate also advanced the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jackson is at the top of the list for the Supreme Court if a vacancy appears.

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