Redistricting Case Before the Supreme Court: Will of the People in the Balance

Kathay Feng
Executive Director, California Common Cause

Justice Anthony Kennedy of California is the key to the Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case heard before the Supreme Court this week.  Sitting in the Supreme Court on Monday, I think he asked questions that suggest he is in the middle and could go either way.

John Myers of KQED, veteran California politics watcher, reminded us of Justice Kennedy’s California roots. Long before donning a judge’s robe, Justice Kennedy drafted an initiative for then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Clearly, he is a person deeply familiar with how the initiative process is an integral part of California’s lawmaking process.

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GOP Pulse Detected

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist

News Flash: The California Republican Party appears to have a pulse. From all appearances, “Dr.” Brulte seems to be weaning the state’s GOP off life support.

Despite the party’s anemic scorecard in the last election, there was a new tone and heightened energy in the air at last weekend’s Republican convention in Sacramento. To paraphrase Monty Python, the CAGOP is “not dead yet.”

Even though Republicans lost every statewide office in the last election and appear nowhere near fielding a top tier candidate for Barbara Boxer’s open U.S. Senate seat, GOP State Chair Jim Brulte, and his cohorts touted the gain of enough Assembly and Senate seats in 2014 to hold Democrats under the two-thirds supermajority in the legislature. (These days, it doesn’t take much good news to bolster GOP hopes.)

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L.A. Voters Want Company

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Voters in Los Angeles who bothered to vote in yesterday’s primary election decided they want company when future city and school district elections are called. They overwhelmingly supported two charter amendments to change the timing of the elections to coincide with national elections beginning in 2020. More than 76-percent of the voters approved the change.

“Overwhelming” is a relative term in this circumstance. Preliminary post election night figures showed that only about 8-percent of registered city voters participated in the vote to move the city elections. The Los Angeles school district boundaries, which go beyond the city limits and includes an additional 330,000 registered voters, showed a turnout of a tick under 7 percent.

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John Mockler, Education Guru

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

(John Mockler, the legendary Sacramento education policy maven, died on Tuesday. State Librarian Greg Lucas captured John’s life and spirit in the following obituary, which ran in Capitol Weekly. – Loren Kaye)

John Mockler, one of the most influential voices on California education policy for more than 40 years, died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer. He was 73.

“John knew education law like no one else and was able to put school finance on a solid footing that endures even today. He was also a great human being who I will deeply miss,” Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday.

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Supreme Court Opens The Door To A Democratic Gerrymander

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Has the United States Supreme Court just given California Democrats the right to gerrymander California’s congressional districts to their hearts’ delight?  That’s the most likely conclusion from the oral arguments in a case involving the Arizona independent redistricting commission.  If the Court rules for the Arizona legislature, as the oral arguments strongly imply, the Court will also of necessity toss out the current California congressional maps and return California districting to the legislature.

In 2010, California voters took congressional redistricting away from the legislature and gave it to the newly created Citizens Redistricting Commission.  Arizona has a similar commission, and legislative Republicans there were unhappy with that state’s new congressional lines.  So they sued contending only the legislature can draw congressional districts.  The Supreme Court appears likely to agree with Arizona’s Republicans, but in the process it will give a huge gift to California Democrats.

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Shouldn’t California Have the Best Roads By Now?

George Runner
Member of the California State Board of Equalization, District 1

If high taxes guaranteed results, then California should have some of the best roads in the nation. For years we’ve had one of the highest gas taxes, yet our freeways consistently receive failing grades.

It makes no sense unless you admit that high taxes don’t guarantee good roads. That’s one of many reasons I had no trouble voting with my State Board of Equalization colleagues to approve a 6 cent cut to the state’s gas tax. Under a confusing and complicated law commonly known as the “gas tax swap,” the state has been over collecting tax dollars as gas prices have fallen. The new rate helps solve this problem.

Any tax cut is a rare bit of good news for overtaxed Californians. This gas tax cut also has the added benefit of partially offsetting the cost of a new hidden gas tax that took effect January 1 to help fund high speed rail and other so-called anti-global warming efforts.

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Gordon Fowler and “Community-Linked Entrepreneurship” in California

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

The Indian Wells Valley Annual Economic Outlook Conference was held last Thursday in the high desert city of Ridgecrest (pop. 27,616) Kern County. This is the 28th year of the conference, and it was unusually well attended with over 400 participants, drawn from throughout the China Lake and greater Valley region.

fowlerOne of the featured speakers was the owner of a rapidly growing business in the Sacramento Valley, Gordon Fowler. In his talk, Fowler spoke of his experiences starting and operating a business in California, and especially of the “community-linked entrepreneurship” movement in California, and its presence among California’s millennials.

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Gasoline is California’s Life Blood

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

The Field Poll reports that for the first time in seven years more California voters believe the state is moving in the right direction (50%) than feel it is on the wrong track (41%). Those living in coastal California are much more likely to have a positive outlook on our state’s future than inland residents. And Democrats are more optimistic than Republicans, so it may be safe to assume that Democrats living in Malibu, Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are much happier than Republicans living in Central Valley and other areas with high unemployment.

Like politicians everywhere, California’s governing class will attempt to claim credit for this reversal of what had been nearly unanimous pessimism.  Moreover, they will also claim that this is vindication of progressive policies that have given California one of the most harsh tax and regulatory environments in the nation.

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State Treasurer Chiang on Taxes and the Economy

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

With the rising conversation about extending Proposition 30 taxes, I asked state Treasurer John Chiang if he would advise that the taxes be continued. Chiang said that a promise was made that the taxes would be temporary and circumstances would have to change, such as the economy tanking, to justify continuing the taxes.

Chiang spoke to the Town Hall Los Angeles Thursday reviewing his actions as state Controller and reporting that California went from dire fiscal circumstances to the “most robust economic recovery on the planet.”

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Is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott California’s New Best Friend?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The new governor of Texas seems intent on making California more competitive with his own state – even though he may not realize it.

Greg Abbott, as both a candidate last year and a governor this year, has been warning Texans against efforts to “California-ize” the Lone Star state. Those warnings were broad and rhetorical, but now he’s getting specific. He’s lashing out at Texas cities that go their own way and enact policies at odds with state policy and with his conservative politics.

To stop these cities, Gov. Abbott and the Republican legislature are enacting laws to reduce local control on many issues – from business, to energy to spending and taxes. That’s bad news for Texas communities—but it’s good news for California’s own communities.

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