The Shell Game: You Lose!

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

Democrats in the California Legislature seem to be facing the reality that the fire tax they passed with the Governor’s help in 2011 is unfair. Californians who live in rural areas rely on a range of public services from multiple levels of government to combat fires. These residents already pay taxes to fund essential fire services.

The original fire fee was a scheme Governor Brown came up with after diverting about $90 million a year in fire prevention funds to help “balance” the state budget. Residents have gained nothing since this shell game passed. Not a dime of fire fee revenues can be used for actual fire suppression — trucks, planes or hoses. The funds can only be used for “prevention” efforts, which seem to be few and far between.

However, instead of simply repealing this onerous fire prevention fee, Democrats now want to replace a really bad policy with an even worse one.

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Don’t Rush to Make New Law

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

Politicians often overreact to news items, rushing to propose laws to prevent future occurrences of a situation or grab the limelight when problems will go away on their own. Recent instances: A proposal for a constitutional amendment to prohibit banning of the United States flag from state colleges and university property; and offering changes to the initiative process because of the filing of an anti-gay initiative.

In early March, the UC Irvine Legislative Student Council voted to take down all flags, including the American flag in the student lounge, claiming the banners could be compared to hate speech.

Soon after, the Executive Cabinet of the Associated Students reversed the council’s decision, but not before state Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, called a press conference to announce a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit state-funded colleges and universities from banning the flag of the United States of America on school property.

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Waiting for the Legislature

Chris Bertelli
Public Affairs and Communications Consultant in Sacramento

The issue of teacher tenure and performance was reprised this week thanks to a new poll by the LA Times and the University of Southern California. The education-focussed poll revealed that seven in ten voters believe the current system of tenure needs changing and more than eight in ten think decisions on teacher retention should involve aspects of teacher performance, not just seniority as the current system dictates.

Astute capitol-watcher John Myers at KQED reported on this poll in light of last summer’s Vergara ruling on teacher tenure and dismissal statutes, where a judge struck down wide swaths of California’s teacher tenure and dismissal rules. Myers noted it was “fascinating” that in light of Vergara and the recent overwhelming public support for reforming the teaching profession, nothing was happening in the legislature in response. Unfortunately for those with a stake in seeing these laws fixed, the legislature’s inaction is less fascinating than it is typical.

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A Woman Running for President

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

Not that woman! Judith Rhodes, Governor of California.

OK, here’s the disclaimer – this is a shameless self-promotion for my new novel, The Mark on Eve.

A spell cast by an 18th century witch has condemned Eve Hale to an endless life. Centuries later, her secret could unravel and doom the election of the first female president when Eve dives in front of an assassin’s bullet to save the candidate’s life.

The respected Kirkus Reviews wrote of The Mark on Eve:

“…wholly satisfying ending. An intriguing novel…”

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The Real State of the City of Los Angeles

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

Mayor Eric Garcetti delivered his 4,500 word State of the City on Monday afternoon to a large gathering at Cal State Northridge.  He opened by saying that our City has turned the corner, “leaving the Recession in the rearview mirror.” He then focused on his many “Back to Basics” initiatives and programs that are helping grow our economy, create jobs, and make LA a great city that works for all Angelenos.

Early on in his address, Garcetti pledged, “As long as I’m your Mayor, I won’t duck bad news.  I’m going to own it and I’m going to attack it.”

Yet Garcetti failed to mention the City’s flawed finances that are characterized by a Structural Deficit where expenditures increase faster than revenues, a $700 million cumulative deficit over the next four years, and more than $25 billion in unfunded pensions and in deferred maintenance on our streets, sidewalks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure. 

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Parental Equality Post-Divorce Offers Solution to Gender Pay Inequality

Volunteer Legislative Director of National Parents Organization of California

There’s been buzz lately around the gender pay gap. Active California legislation, AB 1354 (Dodd) and SB358 (Jackson), intend to bring equal pay to women. This past week, California Assembly Woman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, announced a proclamation on Equal Pay Day, which fell on April 14 this year. But there’s an important piece missing from the conversation: In order to close the gender pay gap, we must address employment barriers that keep single parents in poverty by encouraging family courts to equally award parents custody of their children.

Advocates state that women earn only 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man – an unfortunate reality that stems from research showing that one of biggest barriers to women completing higher education, obtaining employment and advancing within their careers is the lack of affordable childcare options. Our family courts could help turn this around by treating parents equally and encouraging meaningful and equal relationships between the child and both parents. When parenting is shared,  women are enabled to participate more fully in the workforce. Custody schedules are arranged around both parents’ work schedules, maximizing the time that the child is with each parent and reducing the overall childcare costs. And since parents are sharing in the educational opportunities of their child, time off for school sickness and activities is also shared. 

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Governors Wilson and Davis View Environmental Laws Differently

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

Town Hall Los Angeles hosted a discussion between former California governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis yesterday with the two disagreeing over environmental law regulations and touching on other policy issues and state politics.

Wilson argued that the reason California had both the highest taxes and the highest poverty rates in the country is because decisions by the legislature made it difficult to create jobs. The former Republican governor said that excessive regulation was driving jobs away from California, particularly the application of CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, when used to thwart projects that would create jobs.

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My Lawn Is Worse Than Yours

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)

2015-04-03 10.22.16Forgive me for bragging, but my front lawn looks a lot worse than yours.

As the drought deepens and the state water board revises its plans for mandatory restrictions this week, California’s lawn culture has flipped, dirt-side up. With outdoor watering being called a society-threatening scourge, your local community pillars, once celebrated for lawns and gardens even greener than their money, run the risk of becoming social outcasts.

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Why California’s Salad Days Have Wilted

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

“Science,” wrote the University of California’s first President Daniel Coit Gilman, “is the mother of California.” In making this assertion, Gilman was referring mostly to finding ways to overcoming the state’s “peculiar geographical position” so that the state could develop its “undeveloped resources.”

Nowhere was this more true than in the case of water. Except for the far north and the Sierra, California – and that includes San Francisco as well as greater Los Angeles – is essentially a semiarid desert. The soil and the climate might be ideal, but without water, California is just a lot of sunny potential, but not much economic value.

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Editor’s Note

Fox and Hounds Daily Editors

“Probolsky Research has just completed a new statewide poll where we asked voters about whether or not business taxes need to be reformed now or after the 2016 elections. 61.6% of respondents said that business taxes need to be reformed now and the economy cant wait until after 2016. Also of note, was this strong support was remarkably consistent across key demographics, including political parties, gender, and geographic regions throughout the state.”  -Adam Probolsky

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