After that, I went over to a party in Fremont that was dialing into a statewide conference call (and having a guest appearance by actress and Michael Dukakis relative, Olympia Dukakis). Phil took questions, and there were some really interesting, substantive policy issues discussed.
We heard about the relative merits of different models for universal healthcare: the new Massachusetts idea of requiring healthcare, like car insurance, and subsidizing those with low income; vs the Medicare model, where care is provided by private doctors and hospitals, but the gov't handles the insurance side; vs the full-on "socialized" model where the gov't employs the doctors. It sounded like Phil was coming down mostly for the middle version, but he also was clearly open to seeing how the MA thing works, out and adapting what's best from it.
Somebody else asked about the pension funds -- I didn't quite catch the question, but we got mostly a retrospective discussion (since Phil's been Treasurer for 7+ years), basically saying that a) it's important for the state and employers to pay into the pension funds and not underfund them (like many private businesses do) and then abandon pensioners later; and b) that the socially-responsible investing techniques Phil brought to the system have really worked, both from both the social perspective and the traditional capitalist one -- CalPERS has gotten better returns under Phil's leadership than it did when it was investing lots of money in tobacco companies, in corporations that shelter from taxes in Bermuda, etc; and at the same time, we've funded growth in disadvantaged communities, pumped up research in biotech and alt-energy in our state, and pushed corporations to adopt codes of ethics regarding pollution, how they treat workers, etc. Given that CA taxpayers own large numbers of shares in those corporations, it's about time we kicked them to actually work for our good, rather than poisoning us so they can pay their CEOs an extra million dollars. This is actually one of my big reasons for supporting Phil -- like FDR in the '30s, he's showing us how we can make capitalism work for all of society, rather than letting it devolve into feudalism. (South Park Libertarians like to think that FDR was some kind of communist, out to destroy capitalism. In fact, had he, and Keynes, not come along, this country almost certainly would've suffered a communist revolution before the outbreak of WW2 in Europe; either it would've been successful, in which case we would've ended up like the USSR; or it would've been suppressed, and we would've ended up a fascist state like that era's Spain or Italy.)
The last thing I remember off-hand is the discussion they had on a bill pending in the Assembly, which is intended to make taxes simpler for people by sending them pre-filled forms. If you don't plan to itemize, and your income is simple (not involving lots of capital gains, or a real estate transaction), this probably would be good for you. Phil said he's interested, but he is concerned that some people might be intimidated into thinking the state was just telling them "you owe this much!" when in fact they may not, if they itemize, or if the state has some mistaken info. Basically, he doesn't want the CA Franchise Tax Board turning as aggressive as the IRS often is.
I also met a few really cool locals, who I'm hoping to work with in the coming weeks. In general, it was fantastic being in a house filled with fifty smart, passionate people, who care about policy. If anyone avoids this sort of thing because they feel like it's too daunting -- really, it's not. Once you break through the intimidating sense of how big a state (or even local) election seems, and try doing a few little things, it very rapidly becomes a lot of fun. And seriously, you can make a difference. Walk one precinct -- it'll take maybe four hours, spread across two days -- and you can make the difference in winning a majority of the votes in that precinct. People will give a lot more credence to an unpaid volunteer from their own neighborhood, than they will to a bunch of TV ads. Multiply that by a few thousand volunteers, and you can swing an election. That's democracy.
After I got home from the party, I sent emails to people from the convention, whom I'd been meaning, all week, to get back to. I owe a lot of thanks to a few of them -- particularly Tom Cochran, the outreach director of the Santa Clara County Dems -- for helping me to round up other delegates in their ADs.
Now I'm waiting for plymouth to get home from researching the Livermore windfarm, and for djdigit to come over from sunyata__'s. I think roommate G~ may join in as well. If anyone else wants to come play games (and already has my number and/or address -- it's not like I'm gonna be checking email/LJ), we'll probably be up til about midnight. There will probably be pizza around 8:30pm.
ETA, 12:14am: Games were fun. Settlers with djdigit and plymouth; another Bab5er (don't know if he's on LJ) joined us about fifteen minutes before the Settlers game ended (I won very sneakily by grabbing longest road and playing two victory-point devcards, all at the same time), and after that we played Zar for an hour or so. So, a very good day all round. Bed now.