How do we address the housing crisis: one incremental step at a time

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Productively addressing California’s housing crisis will require a long slog, not a magic bullet. The effective policies are politically treacherous, while the easy victories already have been chalked up.

A broad consensus of nonpartisan policy experts and think tanks point to regulatory and litigation reform, particularly of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as the highest value policy change that can lead to quicker and less expensive production of needed housing in both infill and suburban locations.

But as Governors from Pete Wilson to Jerry Brown have learned, attempting to reform CEQA is a painstaking and mostly unsuccessful venture.

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Return of the “San Francisco Democrats”

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

While San Francisco Bay Area politicians dominated California politics over the past couple of decades as the state became more Democratic, the term “San Francisco Democrats” doesn’t play so well nationally.

Those with long memories will recall the term “San Francisco Democrats” served as a pejorative attack against the party following the Democratic National Convention in the City by the Bay in 1984. In a speech at the Republican convention that year supporting President Ronald Reagan’s re-election, UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick used the phrase in a negative way multiple times.

Supporting San Francisco values is understood to mean embracing liberal politics, culture, social and moral attitudes. Whether a political attack from the 1980s has impact today was tested in the recent Georgia congressional election. The Congressional Leadership Fund produced an ad tying Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff with San Francisco attitudes.

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Continued Education Critical to Ability of California Physicians to Treat Patients

Dr. Jonathan Katz
Practicing Neurologist in San Francisco

Legislation currently before the Assembly that is aimed at eliminating undue influence in pharmaceutical prescribing will instead hinder the education of California medical professionals and limit their access to critical information about new medicines and treatments.

The intent behind the legislation is to limit the promotional expenditures of the pharmaceutical industry, with the belief that this type of activity is somehow harmful to patient care.

However, SB 790 has the potential to severely limit important educational activities and create an unnecessary regulatory morass for physicians. Limiting communications between the life sciences industries and the treating community will have an unintended chilling effect on the exchange of information about new treatments. The bill could also limit peer educational events that are run by clinicians and happen to be sponsored by the biopharmaceutical industry.

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Trailer Bills Let California Lawmakers Slip New Policies into Budget

Laurel Rosenhall
Reporter, CALmatters

California senators were deep in heated debate about a small but politically explosive attachment to the state budget last week when a Riverside Democrat could be heard to suddenly channel Forrest Gump.

“Trailer bills,” said Sen. Richard Roth—referring to pieces of legislation tied to the budget but sometimes bearing little connection to it—“are a box of chocolates. And you never know what you’re going to get.”

Surprises abound each year as lawmakers craft the annual budget that keeps the state running. While most of the budget involves big-ticket items such as how much to spend on public education ($74.5 billion) or health care for the poor ($105.6 billion), a few extra nuggets are always thrown in that don’t involve much money but make significant policy changes.

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California Single Payer Health Care Rush

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

Echoes of California’s fabled Gold Rush can be heard in the proposal for single payer health care—but instead of migrants taking gold nuggets out of the ground, a new Health Care Rush likely would see many people rushing to California to claim taxpayer funded health care.

Much like Samuel Brannan, publisher of San Francisco’s first newspaper, famously shouting, “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” to attract attention to the gold strike, the cry of “free health care” likely would reverberate around the country and the world if the single payer bill becomes law.

The rush would be on.

Senate Bill 562 declares “the intent of the Legislature to establish a comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage program and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.” The bill defines resident this way: “Resident” means an individual whose primary place of abode is in the state, without regard to the individual’s immigration status.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein Should Run for Re-Election

Richard Rubin
Chair, California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

One Californian who is getting heavy press coverage these days is the venerable Democratic U.S. Senator, Dianne Feinstein—and for good reasons.

Feinstein came to the national stage in 1992—the so-called “Year of the Woman” when four were elected to the U.S. Senate, more than in any prior election or decade.

In doing so California became the first in the nation to have two female senators from the same state.

Joining her then was Barbara Boxer, now retired who was recently replaced by Kamala Harris—also a Democrat.

In this time of tumultuous change in the nation’s affairs the native San Franciscan is poised to play a major role.

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California’s Global Warming High-Speed Train

Michael J. Brady has been a litigator and appellate lawyer for 50 years; he has worked on opposing California’s high speed rail for 10 years. Mark Powell has been assisting Mike Brady for seven years; he is a retired chemist for Union Oil Co.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority promises to “achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in construction” and is committed to operate the system on “100% renewable energy” by contracting for “400 to 600 megawatts of renewable power”. These promises may please environmentalists, but they cannot be kept.

Construction Emissions

The Authority has provided only limited information regarding GHG construction emissions. Its 2013 Emissions Report estimated 30,107 metric tons in GHG “direct emissions” for the first 29 miles of construction. “Indirect emissions” associated with the manufacture and transport of materials, primarily concrete, steel, and ballast were not reported because, according to the Authority, precise quantities, sources, and suppliers were not known. A more plausible reason is the their desire to hide from the public more than 90% of GHG emissions associated with their project. Regardless, recent testimony by the Authority’s CEO clearly indicates that indirect emissions can now be tallied.

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Is California Budget as ‘Balanced and Progressive’ as Gov. Brown Suggests?

Steven Greenhut
Senior Fellow and Western Region Director for the R Street Institute, and he writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.

The California Assembly and Senate have until Thursday to approve the budget deal announced by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, but there’s little uncertainty about the outcome. The general-fund budget is a record-setting $125 billion – something Brown describes as “balanced and progressive,” given that it spends more on social programs, but doesn’t bust the bank.

In fact, the budget plan conforms almost exactly to the governor’s longtime fiscal approach. He wants to fund social programs as much as possible, but not create new, permanent spending programs that cannot be curtailed when fiscal times are bad. He talks repeatedly about frugality, yet his budgets continue to ramp up state spending to record levels. He did set aside $8.5 billion for the rainy-day fund to prepare for any downturn.

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In Governor’s Race, Left Turns Worry Business Community

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

In deep blue California, many Democratic gubernatorial candidates have their left turn blinker on constantly supporting policy moves in a progressive and risky direction. How does that sit with the state’s business community, which treasures certainty?

While the business sector is not monolithic, there is a common concern expressed by all types of business leaders that California is a difficult place to operate. The attitude is shared by the CEOs who year in and year out list the state last in business friendly environment to small businesses that express similar concerns in an annual survey.

While it is the tax, regulation and mandate issues that concern business leaders who are following the developing governor’s race, overall progressive agendas help gauge where the candidates are headed.

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Run as a Republican, Then Leave the State

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)

I’m not a big fan of demanding certain pledges of political candidates, like the no-tax pledges that are so common.

But I’d like to suggest that the California Republican Party push major statewide candidates to take a pledge – that they won’t quickly leave the state after they lose.

The Republican record in recent statewide elections is pretty embarrassing—it’s been years of losses, with the exception of people named Schwarzenegger and Poizner.

But recent cycles have produced a problem that goes beyond defeat: Departure.

Neel Kashkari, the Republican nominee for governor in 2014, no longer lives in California. He’s president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Before that, the 2010 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate Carly Fiorina decamped for Virginia shortly after she lost. (And one of the men she beat in the primary, Chuck DeVore, quickly fled for Texas).

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