The economy may be improving but state governments are still working to repair the damage to their books. We're keeping track with a series of reports, and we go this morning to the nation's most populous state, which has some of the nation's largest problems.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Here in California today, Governor Jerry Brown gives the State of the State address. He'll outline more cuts to government programs while asking voters to approve a measure to raise taxes. Here's NPR's Richard Gonzales.
Gary Locke is Washington's ambassador to Beijing. He took over the post after Jon Huntsman left. Locke is the first U.S. ambassador to China to have roots in that country — his ancestors hail from a village in southern China. He serves at a time of enormous change, a time when many Americans see China as a threat. Ambassador Locke talks to Steve Inskeep about his impressions of China and its government.
In his first year as Colorado's secretary of state, Republican Scott Gessler has been sued eight times.
He has outraged Democrats by rewriting the state's campaign finance rules, tangled with counties over which voters they can send mail-in ballots to, and attracted national attention for participating in a fundraiser to pay off a campaign finance fine levied by his office.
"We've definitely shaken up the status quo, and I think that's happened a bit in some other states, too," he says.
France's 35-hour work week has plenty of critics who say it has sapped the country of its competitiveness and is tying companies in knots. And to make their case, a leading example is the current state of overtime at French hospitals.
Along with five weeks of annual leave, French employees get time off if they work more than 35 hours in a week. At the Hopital Vaugirard, a public hospital in central Paris, employees have accumulated more than 2 million days off in the past decade.
President Obama is feeling election-year pressure on the pending decision over the Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans say the Canadian project would provide the U.S. with oil and new jobs, but environmentalists want him to block it. They say Alberta's oil sands generate more greenhouse gases than other kinds of oil, and Americans must not become dependent on such a dirty source of energy. But it may already be too late to change that.