Too Bad for Kevin McCarthy, Very Bad for California

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

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s problem in capturing the Speakership of the House of Representatives was bigger than the gaffe he made is describing the effect of the special Benghazi committee– although that certainly greatly contributed to his downfall. The fact that he could not unite a fractured GOP caucus that sees increasing fissures daily proved not only a hurdle for McCarthy but portends more dysfunction in Congress. That’s bad for the country.

McCarthy’s failure to secure the speaker’s office is also bad for California. Having the leadership of both parties resting with California representatives (San Francisco Representative Nancy Pelosi leads the Democrats) could possibly help the Golden State, which is often ignored by Washington, especially in the area of sending back money that California taxpayers pay into the national treasury.

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A New Political Power: Mod Squad & Business

Luke Phillips
Research Associate for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and Senior Correspondent at Glimpse From the Globe

Another day, another story in the quixotic Green crusade to kneecap California’s lower and middle classes by jacking up the price of fossil fuel energy. The California Air Resources Board voted 9-0 two weeks ago to carry out the low-carbon fuel standard, a regulation requiring “a 10% cut in the carbon content of transportation fuels sold in the state by 2020.” As usual, California is leading the way over the cliff again- no other state in the country does this. Experts in the oil industry, of course, have been the first to protest- such a regulation will inevitably eat into their profits. But Big Oil isn’t the only player who will suffer. The millions of lower and middle class Californians who depend on moderate energy prices will ultimately pay for this new regulation in their gas receipts and utilities bills. The cost of living will rise, and social mobility will stall.

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Pension Reform Initiative Reworked

James Poulos
Staff Columnist, Orange County Register

The leaders of California’s pension reform movement have scrapped their previous effort, introducing two new schemes instead.

The news added a fresh twist to the state’s long-running game of political cat and mouse, which has seen state officials labor to cast would-be reforms in a negative light.

Switching gears

Previously, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio had forged ahead with a proposal that would subject all pension increases to voter approval.

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Facing the Challenge of Violence in South LA

Constance L. Rice
Founding Co-Director of Advancement Project and a civil rights attorney

Recent coverage of crime spikes and “cyber banging” as new phenomena have missed some important aspects of what the LA basin is actually experiencing. Now that is not to say that recent articles are entirely wrong, but just missing the right context and some key facts.

Are shootings rising in some gang-ridden neighborhoods of LA? Yes. Are most of those shootings gang-related? That has always been the case and is nothing new. Is LA failing to respond? No. The local press has that wrong. LAPD, the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, gang intervention, neighborhood groups and advocates like Urban Peace Institute are doing a lot of what is possible. But some missteps and backsliding are occurring, and the groups are not doing everything they could in the most effective way. Here’s what’s missing:

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The Tab for SB 350 Becomes Due

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

Now that SB 350 has been signed into law we will found out what SB 350 really costs. The law requires that 50 percent of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources in the next 15 years and that buildings double their energy efficiency over that time.

Concerns about increased costs to implement this bill were a major part of the debate. Those objecting to SB 350 did not let up on their criticism once Gov. Brown put his signature on the bill.

Senator Jim Nielsen commented: “Senate Bill 350 will drive up the costs for our energy, food and all things that require abundant affordable energy to produce and transport, particularly hurting those California families least able to afford it.”

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Why California Should Position Itself as a Mecca for the Poor

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)

Fresno regularly ranks as one of the poorest metro areas in the United States. So why do people keep moving there?

The short, if incomplete, answer: Fresno is in California. And there is something very different about our state’s poor cities.

In other parts of America, people have abandoned cities labeled poor—because of high poverty rates and low rates of education among residents—in big numbers. Detroit’s population fell from 1 million in 1995 to 688,000 today. Cleveland’s population dropped from 500,000 in 1999 to less than 390,000 today. Population declines have been seen in places like Buffalo, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Birmingham, and Toledo. I cut my teeth as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, and my main job was watching people flee; Charm City’s population, once more than 900,000, is down to 620,000 today.

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Reining In the Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

​The Legislature will be looking at a bill introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-10th Dist.) which would abolish the powerful Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission as well as its kindred agency, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and replace them with directly elected boards.

​To begin with, 16 of MTC’s 21 members are already elected officials appointed by other elected representatives so the distinction is basically moot.

​The problem is this may not solve the problems and could even exacerbate them if the underlying causes are not accurately diagnosed. Elected bodies are not always ipso facto more accountable.

​The real questions are: What is their assigned role and are they carrying it out in the best interests of the public?

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Stop the War on Drivers

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

Just in case you had any doubt, it’s now clear that California’s war on drivers has escalated.

Three weeks ago, for example, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed all motorists to use the carpool lane on two L.A. freeways during off-peak times. That may have seemed to you like an easy, no-cost way to relieve traffic congestion, but not to the governor. Brown shot it down, he said, because he believes carpool lanes are necessary “to reduce pollution and maximize the use of freeways.” Yeah, right; those miles-long lines of idling cars next to an open carpool lane at 8 p.m. sure help to reduce pollution.

But there are other examples of how our elected leaders lately have declared a surge in the longstanding war against motorists.

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The CA Supreme Court Considers: Can Legislature Put an “Advisory” Measure on the Ballot

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court heard the case of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc. v. Padilla, which involves the legality of the California Legislature’s attempt to place an “advisory” measure on the 2014 November ballot.  The Supreme Court previously, at the request of HJTA, removed Prop 49 from the 2014 ballot.  Today’s hearing is on the merits and will determine whether the measure will appear on the 2016 ballot.  (The measure would ask voters whether the U.S. congress shall propose, and the California Legislature ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.–editor)

In lawyer-speak, it was a very active panel with the justices not only interrupting both attorneys repeatedly, but sometimes interrupting each other.  A number of justices acknowledged that, even if Prop 49 appeared on the ballot – presumably in 2016 – it would have no legal effect whatsoever.  However, the justices also seemed compelled to acknowledge the plenary power of the legislature.  HJTA’s attorney, Tom Hiltachk, noted that the attempt of the legislature to place a meaningless advisory measure on the ballot was itself neither a legislative act nor an exercise of any power ancillary to legislative power.

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Californians and Congress

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

baldassareThe recent announcement of Speaker Boehner’s resignation comes at a time when national approval ratings of the US Congress are in the teens (14% in September Gallup Poll). With the early talk of majority leader Kevin McCarthy stepping into the Speaker position, what are Californians saying about the powerful federal institution that the congressman from Bakersfield is well-positioned to lead?

In the latest PPIC Statewide Survey, we asked Californians to rate eight state and federal elected leaders and legislative bodies—interviewing was completed just before Pope Francis’ speech to Congress and Speaker Boehner’s surprise announcement. California likely voters give their lowest approval by far to the US Congress. Just 17 percent say they approve of the way the US Congress is handling its job. 

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