Essential Politics: Learning tough lessons from Australia’s drought


I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today. Let’s get started.

California lawmakers who visited the driest inhabited continent on the planet are bringing home lessons learned from crippling drought.

The 10-day fact-finding mission to Australia included a meeting with the Victoria Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, MP Lisa Neville. In South Australia’s Adelaide, they were given "practical tips on water management," according to a local report that described Golden State lawmakers as "getting desperate for solutions to a drought that seemingly has no end."

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced the bipartisan trip, paid for by the nonpartisan think tank California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy last week. There has been little news since coming from across the ocean, but a radio interview with Assemblyman Marc Levine illustrates the seriousness of the challenge.

"So we have a historic system in place since the early part of the last century and this is going to be one of the biggest battles in California if we decide to take it on," Levine told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

From the report by Clint Jasper of ABC:

CLINT JASPER: In California, those who were granted water rights first, are the ones who are cut off from extraction last.

A legacy of Australia's drought between 1995 and 2007 was the establishment of water markets and water trading that separated irrigators' water entitlements from their land rights, and introduced the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

And even as a group of crossbench senators in Australia seek to amend some of those reforms, Marc Levine says it's something Californians are seriously considering.

MARC LEVINE: The water trading mechanism where there are transparent trades of water allocations is one that is good for us to learn from because it does allow for the marketplace to procure water for the highest and most efficient uses with the highest value in agriculture. And that might be a good model for us.

The California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy Study Travel Project to Australia was scheduled to run from Oct. 19 until Tuesday. It was described in a release as a bipartisan trip to meet with officials, organizations and business leaders, and included tours of "water harvesting plants to ‘working’ wetlands to desalination operations." According to its website, CFEE also led a project to Singapore.

Policy makers and shapers have been studying Australia’s 1997-2009 Millennium Drought and are attempting to use lessons learned there in the Golden State.

In a release, De León’s office said he would lead the delegation of public officials, environmental and labor leaders, business executives and policy experts.

"As we remain in the grips of this epic, four-year drought, California and the West have to closely examine all drought response and conservation efforts to confront this climate crisis," he said in a statement. "What we learn in Australia will help us adapt to extreme weather and help us prepare for what’s to come."

The Sacramento Bee reported that other attendees on the trip were Levine and Democratic Sens. Ben Allen and Ricardo Lara, Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella, Republican Assembly members Ling-Ling Chang and Kristin Olsen and Democratic Assembly members Susan Talamantes Eggman, Cristina Garcia, Henry Perea and Shirley Weber.

Neville tweeted a photo of De León and Levine and wrote it was "great" to talk with them about water, drought and "how we work together with CA on climate change."

The Australian government suffered a loss in Sacramento earlier this year, when it tried to eliminate a decades-long state ban on the importation of kangaroo products. A last-minute bill backed by the Australians to overturn the prohibition sputtered at the end of session.


Sen. Marco Rubio is headed back to California to raise money for his presidential bid in one of the GOP’s strongholds. The Florida Republican will attend a reception and dinner at the Newport Beach home of Parvina and Jim Glidewell on Nov. 18.

According to an invitation obtained by Seema Mehta, members of the host committee were responsible for raising $20,000 each — $2,700 per person and bringing in the remainder. Hosts were entitled to two tickets to the dinner, four tickets to a VIP photo reception and four tickets to the general reception. Tickets to the general reception are $1,000 each.

Several of the hosts have held fundraisers for Rubio previously. The host committee is the Glidewells, Joleen and David Bahnsen, Christy and John Clarey, Colleen and James Coffman, Michelle and David Horowitz, Valerie and Tracy Price, Manuel Ramirez and Wendy Baugh and Scott Baugh, former chairman of the Orange County Republican Party.

The Horowitz family hosted a June 30 fundraiser at their home, and that host committee was composed of the Clareys, Tracy and Valerie Price and the Blaughs, along with Coleen and David Blatt.


Sarah Wire reports that Rep. Adam Schiff has paid in full his losing baseball bet following the Dodgers defeat to the Mets. On Friday, Schiff wore a Mets tie and sang "Meet the Mets!" on the House floor. He got through most of the song before pleading for relief.

Watch the video.

Schiff, who represents the areas surrounding Dodger Stadium, wagered gourmet popcorn from Pauline’s Premier Sweets in Burbank. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), a Mets fan representing areas surrounding Citi Field, said he would pay out with fresh New York bagels.

As Javier Panzar reported earlier, Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles and Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) had their own wager, but it was far less interactive — it involved only food.


-- The California bullet train is so far behind schedule and faces so many obstacles that completing it on time and on budget is now all but impossible, a Times analysis by Ralph Vartabedian has found.

-- Our editorial board is grading Sacramento’s leaders. See how De León fared.

-- Attorney General and Senate hopeful Kamala Harris campaigns on rival Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s turf.

-- Jean Merl finds California’s three open-seat congressional contests could be good news for Democrats next November, with just one looking more competitive for Republicans.

-- How much do you know about standardized tests? Joy Resmovits has the quiz.

-- Christi Parsons details how Chicago has shaped President Obama’s views on guns, and what to expect from his visit there next week.

-- Hillary Rodham Clinton made a cameo as Katy Perry performed, and her team aimed to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders from duplicating Barack Obama’s successful Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines. Mike Memoli was there.

-- Fresh grief kept Vice President Joe Biden from entering the race for the White House, he said in an interview with "60 Minutes".

-- Ahead of Wednesday’s next GOP gathering, Mark Z. Barabak finds political debates have replaced actual balloting in determining which candidates are ascendant and which are forced to make an early exit.


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