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Sunday, Nov 14 2010 02:23 PM

JOSE GASPAR: Dream bill could become reality with Brown

BY JOSE GASPAR, Californian contributing columnist jgaspar@bakersfield.com

The midterm elections are finally over.

That was the easy part.

What lies ahead is a more interesting scenario given the outcome in California where voters resurrected Jerry Brown as governor for a third term and re-elected Barbara Boxer to the U.S. Senate.

Both races weren't even close. Despite trying to buy an election, Meg Whitman lost by a margin of 53 percent to 41 percent of the vote. Likewise, Boxer routed the other rich candidate, 52 percent to 43 percent.

And Latino voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Brown and Boxer.

More on that coming up, as we say in TV news.

They rejected Whitman's pledge that she would be "tough as nails" on the matter of illegal immigration. Given the outcome, so did a lot of other voters for that matter.

But now that Jerry Brown returns to govern, will he hold his campaign promises?

Of particular interest to thousands of Kern County students is the California Dream Act, which has been vetoed three times in a row by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This bill would allow some undocumented students access to financial aid from the state to attend college.

Currently, undocumented students are not eligible for state grants or loans. In Kern County, between 1,200 and 1,500 undocumented students graduated from area high schools this year, said Jim Young, chancellor emeritus of the Kern Community College District.

Here's what Jerry Brown said on Oct. 2 in Fresno during a televised debate with Whitman: "Yes to the California Dream Act. I would have signed that bill."

The author of the bill, State Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), promises to reintroduce the California Dream Act in the next session, where it will most likely pass the State Legislature.

But will Brown really sign it? Or was it just a ploy for votes?

"I do expect him to come through on that. No reason to doubt it," said Cal State sociology professor Gonzalo Santos.

"There is no imaginable reason why Brown would not do this. (It's) the most practical and beneficial and most morally sound aspect of immigration reform at the state level (or) risk the wrath of the Latino community," said Santos.

Another bill where Brown might make history is giving farmworkers the right to be paid overtime after working more than eight hours a day. Sponsored by State Sen. Dean Florez and passed by the Legislature this year, the bill was vetoed by Schwarzenegger.

Given that the United Farm Workers Union finally came around to support the bill, and Brown has a long working history with the UFW, this is another one to watch.

Though Florez will be termed out, another legislator is expected to reintroduce it.

The most contentious bill that will be brought up again by Cedillo is another attempt aimed at providing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants who meet certain guidelines.

This license would be of a different design or color than standard licenses and good for driving purposes only, not valid as an identification document.

But on this one, Jerry Brown made it clear during the campaign that he would not sign such a bill.

"We know we will have to lobby for his signature," said Conrado Terrazas, spokesman for Cedillo.

MORE POLITICAL ANALYSIS: On election night, California pretty much went its own way from the rest of the nation and bucked the GOP "shellacking" as President Barack Obama put it. The Los Angeles Times notes Latino voters came out this time, comprising 22 percent of the California voter pool - much to the detriment of Republicans. Latino voters sided more than 2 to 1 with Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman and continued voting for Democrats.

No wonder that in Nevada, there was a Spanish-language campaign urging Latinos not to vote. Latinos for Reform, a Republican-backed group, claimed Hispanic voters have been betrayed and therefore, they should not vote. It was seen as a ploy to keep Latinos away from the polls to keep them from voting for Democratic candidates. Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat, won by the way, with a little help from his amigos.

In the race for 30th Assembly District, Fran Florez just can't seem to catch a break losing a second time as the Democratic candidate. What happened?

"Fran Florez should have won," said former Bakersfield city councilman Mark Salvaggio. "She was greatly hampered by the state Democratic Party's failure to provide her with adequate funding."

And at the city level, Bakersfield finally saw its first Latino elected to the Bakersfield City Council.

At 33, Rudy Salas easily won the race for Ward 1 city councilman. He'll have his work cut out for him. Ward 1 is probably the most economically depressed area of the city. But Salas seems undeterred.

"I want to be a strong voice and a strong advocate for residents on the City Council," said Salas.

Jose Gaspar is a reporter for "29 Eyewitness News" and a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are the opinions of Gaspar, not necessarily The Californian's. E-mail him at jgaspar@bakersfield.com.

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