Tax Reform Kabuki Theater Ready to Take Center Stage

Joe Rodota
CEO of Forward Observer, a public affairs firm with offices in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and served as deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Pete Wilson

Last month, the Legislature sent 600 bills to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature (or veto). Senator Bob Hertzberg’s SB 8 was not among them.

Hertzberg created a buzz when he introduced his proposal in late 2014. Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton wrote Hertzberg’s proposal “points the way to needed reform”; San Francisco Chronicle editor John Diaz called SB 8 “the most ambitious endeavor in the state Capitol this session.”

Hertzberg characterizes his bill as a “tax-reform plan to modernize state taxes,” but is SB 8 real “tax reform”? Or is it merely a tweak, albeit a very expensive one?

Forward Observer compared SB 8 with two tax reform plans released in the past six years. Our full report is here.

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In Right to Die Issue, Gov. Wants Options

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

Gov. Jerry Brown asked a proper question in considering whether to sign or veto the “Right to Die” bill: What would I want in the face of my own death?  The question he asked was answered by a healthy, reasonable individual. If the question is considered by someone who is told they are facing death would the answer be the same?

That is an important question. The bill’s detractors raised the issue of the ill individual’s state of mind in the face of a dire diagnosis. Senator Bob Huff sent out a press release reflecting some of these objections: “Many patients go into depression when they hear their illness is terminal, but while depression is treatable, suicide — even if state sanctioned — is not. By signing this legislation, the Governor ignores warnings from many physicians that patients facing end of life decisions may be subtly pressured to choose death rather than hold out hope for a cure.”

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It’s Becoming Springtime for Dictators

Joel Kotkin
Editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

In a rare burst of independence and self-interest, the California Legislature, led by largely Latino and Inland Democrats, last month defeated Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt to cut gasoline use in the state by 50 percent by 2030. These political leaders, backed by the leftovers of the once-powerful oil industry, scored points by suggesting that this goal would lead inevitably to much higher fuel prices and even state-imposed gas rationing.

Days later, however, state regulators announced plans to impose similarly tough anti-fossil-fuel quotas anyway. This pronouncement, of course, brought out hosannas from the green lobby – as well as their most reliable media allies. Few progressives today appear concerned that an expanding, increasingly assertive regulatory state, as long as it errs on the “right side,” poses any long-term risks.

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L.A.‘s Worsening Housing Affordability Leading To Overcrowding

Correspondent, California Forward

Closing the affordability gap in housing has become a huge economic issue for many Californians just trying to live in certain communities, let alone being able to join the workforce there. Just ask Brent Smith.

“You’ve got to get housing first in order to do anything,” said Smith, who works as an advocate at Skid Row Housing Trust, a nonprofit that provides permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty in downtown Los Angeles. “You’ve got to have a place where you can go eat, you can go rest, you can go shower, so you can feel better about yourself. So by getting housing, it does motivate a person to do better.”

Smith is also a resident of St. George Hotel Apartments, one of the 25 properties run by Skid Row Trust, and has moved from being homeless to permanent supportive housing and working with others through the same process he experienced. He is one of the success stories living and working in a region where finding an affordable place to live is becoming a challenge.

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Allan Hoffenblum

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

The sudden death of Allan Hoffenblum was a tear in the fabric of California’s political world. He was an endless source of information to the media and political players who subscribed to the California Target Book which he co-founded and managed amassing much information on California’s political races. Allan shared his expertise with our readers as an occasional columnist at Fox and Hounds Daily.

More importantly to many of us in the political world he was a friend and a mentor.

I knew Allan for many years and was pleased to host him a number of times at the public policy class I teach at Pepperdine University. On each occasion he would re-new an old friendship with the public policy school’s then dean, Jim Wilburn, who Allan recruited to work on President Nixon’s re-elect campaign in California in 1972. Allan took pleasure in sharing his knowledge and experiences with students.

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Rideshare Companies Don’t Need TrustLine In Order To Protect Consumers

Mike Montgomery
Executive Director of CALinnovates, a technology advocacy coalition whose membership includes sharing economy companies

There’s no question that when it comes to ridesharing, especially when children are in the car, safety is paramount. Customers need to trust that their drivers are committed to keeping them safe and that the drivers are thoroughly and properly investigated before they’re allowed behind the wheel. There can be no compromise on public safety.

This is something that everyone understands, whether you’re a parent like me, or a company offering rideshare services to the public. The question for rideshare companies is: “How do we protect the public at large while still fostering a culture of efficiency and innovation?”

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Brown Signs Ironic “Made in America” Bill

James Poulos
Staff Columnist, Orange County Register

Known  for his propensity to veto legislation that strikes him as ill-conceived, Gov. Jerry Brown surprised some observers by signing a bill critics describe as authorizing an outright lie.

Supporters said the new law, passed as Senate Bill 633, merely loosens the legal standards in-state manufacturers must adhere to when presenting their goods as American-made. With Brown’s signature, “makers of California goods can use ‘Made in U.S.A.’ if at least 95 percent of the parts are manufactured domestically,” the Sacramento Business Journal noted. “The threshold approved Tuesday replaces a 1961 state law,” which the bill’s author, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said “was approved in a pre-globalization era to protect American producers from foreign competitors with misleading labeling.”

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Help Wanted: More California Women Needed To Run For Public Office

Ed Coghlan
Contributing Editor & Special Correspondent, California Forward

It is hard to believe that the first state in the country’s history to have two women serving as U.S. Senators at the same time might have a problem attracting women to run for public office, but that’s the situation in California.

Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were the first women ever to be U.S. Senators from the same state at the same time. New Hampshire and Washington now can also make that claim.

A recent study of local government in California showed there’s been an increase in the number of women elected to city councils. Yet, other data points are still discouraging.

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Voters Are Wising Up – Local Politics Is a Waste of Time

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 L.A. Times a couple of weeks ago wrote a hand-wringing story about a new poll showing that fewer California voters see local politics as worthwhile. The poll noted that local politics used to have a bit of a halo—people famously hated what they saw in Washington or Sacramento, but liked their own local officials and thought local political involvement was worthwhile.

But the findings of the LA Times/USC Dornsife poll showed disenchantment. More than a quarter of California voters say elected officials aren’t responsive to their needs. 49 percent said their community didn’t benefit when they donated money to a candidate. Fewer than 7 in 10 voters thought that volunteering for a candidate would help their community. The Times noted that there were still big consensuses on the community benefit of volunteering for civic groups (90 percent), discussing events (83 percent), and giving money to charity (84 percent).

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Should’ve Left Markets Alone

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

Who’s to blame for the Haggen grocery disaster?

Haggen last week announced it was pulling out of California, Arizona and Nevada, abandoning most of the 146 Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions groceries it bought early this year. Haggen blames Albertsons and has sued it. Plenty of others blame Haggen, saying the small chain had no business buying all those stores.

But I think most of the blame goes to the Federal Trade Commission. It never should have ordered those stores to be sold in the first place.

The FTC has a weird obsession with what it considers monopolies. Whenever two sizable chains merge, some nameless FTC bureaucrat uses some opaque formula – well, hey, nobody really knows whether they use a formula or just flip coins – to come up with some split-the-baby “solution” to prevent the much feared “monopoly.” So when Albertsons decided to buy the Safeway chain, the unknown FTC bureaucrat got busy playing SimCity with the West Coast grocery market. “You can keep the two stores here but you must sell that one over there. …”

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