Top Two Malfunctions, Democracy Suffers

Michael Feinstein
2018 Green candidate for Secretary of State; and former Santa Monica Mayor and City Councilmember

When the State Legislature placed Top Two elections on the June 2010 ballot, there were no prior public hearings on the topic. Instead Top Two was added as part of a last minute, middle-of-the night deal to obtain a needed Republican vote to pass a Democratic-led budget.

That means the very electoral system with which California chooses its state and federal representatives was not publicly vetted before being put into effect.

Quirks or Design Flaws?

Even if one wholeheartedly embraces the Top Two theory, as a matter of good government, one must also embrace that the public hearing process can improve legislation — and that it is the people’s right to review and comment on draft legislation. Yet no committee hearings were held on Top Two, a major constitutional amendment.

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Gavin Newsom Defeats Ace Smith, Thank Goodness

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)

Ace Smith is California’s top political consultant, representing many of the state’s top Democrats.

But watching one of his clients debate opponents is often torture.

That’s because he has a tendency to push candidates to keep thing simple. One candidate who Smith once represented described his method as honing everything down to three talking points, which are repeated ad nauseum.

This may be good political advice, but it also makes debates useless and unproductive. California remains a big, fascinating and complicated place, but people can’t connect to its issues and challenges when politicians speak about it in simple and boring ways.

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New Solar Mandate Will Dramatically Raise Energy Prices in California

Todd Royal
Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

Renewable energy (RE) doesn’t work and it exacerbates climate change by locking in fossil fuels as a backup fuel over RE’s inherent unreliability and intermittent qualities that makes electricity prices more expensive than fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) and nuclear energy. Countries like Denmark and Germany that have embraced renewable energy wholeheartedly now find segments of their population suffering energy poverty over higher electricity rates. Unfortunately on May 9th the California Energy Commission (CEC) by a 5-0 vote approved, “a first-in-the-nation plan to mandate the installation of solar panels on all new homes beginning in 2020.” Later this month the regulation is expected to gain final approval for implementation by the California Building Standards Commission (BSC).

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Billionaires vs Teachers Union: Charter School Fight Amps up Race for California Governor

Laurel Rosenhall
Reporter, CALmatters

They are Democrats and Republicans. They are residents of California, New York and Arkansas. They have made fortunes in technology, real estate, retail and media.

What do these billionaires have in common? They aim to shake up public education by promoting charters—schools that receive taxpayer funds but are not required to follow all the rules that govern traditional schools. And their newest goal is to try to elect California’s next governor.

Several wealthy business leaders have poured millions of dollars into a campaign backing Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat and former mayor of Los Angeles. Their spending, which follows similar efforts in key legislative and school board races, has made the California governor’s race the latest front in a long-standing war.

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Would You Believe? GOP Bill Would Raise Tax Revenue—Democrats Say No

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Here’s a shocker—Republicans, taxpayer groups and business associations pushed a bill that would raise tax revenue but it was rejected by the Democrats in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on the advice of unions, interest groups and others who always pine for more tax money.

Well, it is not really a shocker if you know the politics behind it. We’ve seen this particular play before. It employs the same cast of characters.

The bill was Sen. Pat Bates’ SB 1237. The bill’s intent was to clear up legislative created ambiguity when a change of ownership of commercial property triggers a reassessment of that property for tax purposes.

Certain sales of commercial property, which don’t constitute a single entity owning a 50 percent majority, are considered a non-change of ownership transaction under current law—even if 100% of the property changed hands. According to Proposition 13, a change in ownership triggers a reassessment, which produces increased property taxes for the county in which the property is situated.

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Legislatures Kill Transparency Pricing at the Pump

Ronald Stein
Founder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

Californians now pay as much as $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country. Shouldn’t the motoring public know why?

A bill in the California Legislature to do just that was Senate Bill 1074, by state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. Called “Disclosure of government-imposed costs,” it would have required gas stations to post near each gas pump a list of cost factors, such as federal, state and local taxes, costs associated with environmental rules and regulations including the cap-and-trade tax.

Numerous folks and organizations spoke in support of the bill at an April 23 hearing before the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. I testified myself. Absolutely no one from the public spoke in opposition.

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California Leaving is Becoming a Reality

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Recently, I got a note from a local business executive telling me he was retiring and moving out of California. He allowed me to use excerpts from his note so long as I didn’t identify him or his company. (Sorry, but I promised.)

He wrote that, on the one hand, California can be a very good place for young people to build their career. But on the other hand? “I have concluded that it is far too risky to retire here. I have done well, but I do not have the kind of wealth that allows me to be oblivious to the tax load.”

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Trump Attacks His California Supporters

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)

There’s no value in being a supporter of President Trump.

At least in California, where Trump’s moves are targeting the places where he lives.

His moves on immigration strike hardest at inland communities that rely disproportionately on immigrants to fill jobs in the biggest industries: health care, tourism and agriculture. His health care policies will hurt a business that is a larger part of the economies in the smaller and rural places where he’s strongest.

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Business Hears from the AG Candidates

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

How business might fare under the candidates for Attorney General was on display at the first debate in which all four leading candidates for the job debated in Downey yesterday. The BizFed Institute associated with the Los Angeles County Business Federation along with the Southern California News Group managed to bring together the four candidates vying for what many describe as the second most important office in state government.

Candidates clashed over the implementation of AB 450, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act that took effect in January and is enforced by the Attorney General. The measure prohibits employers to voluntarily allow immigration enforcement agents to enter a place a business or comply with a request for employee records. Under the law, immigration officers could access records or enter a place of business only with a judicial warrant. Businesses are subject to civil penalties for violating the law.

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California’s Transportation Future  – The Hyperloop Option

Ed Ring
Ed Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

In July 2012, Elon Musk sat down for a “fireside chat” with Sara Lacy, founder of the PandoDaily website. In between discussions of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX, 43 minutes in, Musk unveiled his idea for the “Hyperloop,” a new transportation technology that “incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.”

The concept wasn’t new. Hyperloop concepts have existed for nearly 200 years. Small scale “pneumatic railways” were actually built in Dublin, London, and Paris, mostly as a novelty, as far back as the 1850’s. In 1910, American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard proposed a train that would go from Boston to New York in 12 minutes. Goddard’s design advanced the technology, replacing wheels with magnetic levitation of the passenger capsule inside a vacuum-sealed tunnel.

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