The California Introduction Machine

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

Much is made during presidential election periods that the state is merely an ATM machine for candidates. As a solid blue state that has not voted for a Republican for the White House since 1988, California is considered safe for whoever the Democratic nominee will be (we’re talking to you, Hillary Clinton.)

Yet, candidates from both major parties come to the Golden State for the gold – dollars for their campaign accounts.

In this coming election, however, at least on the Republican side, the race is wide open. Before GOP candidates can hit up the California ATM machine, many need to introduce themselves to California voters and donors. And that’s been happening now.

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California Tax Freedom Day Comes Late Again

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

California lags behind much of the country when it comes to high taxes and creating an atmosphere that allows businesses to create jobs.

Another area where California fails to meet the national standard—National Tax Freedom Day. This year, California residents will work nine days longer than the national average to meet their annual tax obligation.

California’s byzantine tax structure continues to create a difficult economic environment in which to live and work. Unfortunately, Californians must work 123 days to pay their tax bill. We can do better.

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Glazer vs. Bonilla 7th Senate District Battle Reflects New Political Split in California

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

California’s politics remain polarized, but not just via the traditional division of Republicans vs. Democrats. As reported here two months ago in the post “Issue of Government Unions Divide Candidates More Than Party Affiliation,” there were two California State Senate contests that remained unresolved after the November 2014 election. One of them, pitting Republican John Moorlach against Republican Don Wagner for the 37th Senate District, was settled on March 17th. Moorlach, who has fought to restore financial sustainability to public employee pension systems, was opposed by government unions. Wagner, also a conservative, but less outspoken than Moorlach on the issue of pension reform, was endorsed by government unions. Moorlach won.

The other race, originally pitting three Democrats against each other for the 7th Senate District, has narrowed to a contest between two candidates that will be settled on May 19th, Democrat Steve Glazer vs. Democrat Susan Bonilla.

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Your Voice Can Make A Difference

Tom Scott
Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

I have been involved in the fight to end lawsuit abuse for quite some time and grassroots supporters always ask me whether meeting, calling, or writing to their legislators will make a difference. With all the talk of special interest influence and the effect of campaign contributions, it is easy to understand why individual citizens might question if their voice will make a difference.

The answer to that question is clear: yes, the voices of grassroots supporters of lawsuit reform can make a difference. We saw evidence of that this week, when members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee considered critical bills to curb “shakedown” lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

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California’s Latino Voter Turnout: What Happened?

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Has the “Sleeping Giant” gone back to sleep, and will the Giant wake up for in time for 2016? Since passage of the controversial anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 in 1994, Latino voter turnout in California has mushroomed and with it Latino political clout. That is, until 2014 when turnout took a dive and many Latinos suddenly lost interest in voting.

Much was written about the awakened “sleeping giant” of Latino voters rushing to the polls after 1994, and indeed they did. A major reason for the collapse of California’s once vibrant Republican Party was Latino anger over Proposition 187 that was championed by former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson.

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The Empire is Back

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 talking not about the new Star Wars movie but about Southern California’s Inland Empire. Of course, you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a statewide celebration of the remarkable economic comeback of the I.E.—which encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties and their 4.4 million inhabitants. When it comes to this huge section of the state—with a population greater than Oregon’s—if the good news isn’t being ignored, it’s being spun as bad.

The Inland Empire is by far California’s least fashionable region. That’s because it resembles the hotter, grittier, more working-class place the state is actually becoming, not the beautiful, wealthy place we aspire to be. When the I.E. is growing, such gains are dismissed as unwanted or unnatural sprawl; when the I.E. struggles, such pain is considered to be just rewards for an impudent dystopia.

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Southern California Housing Figures to Get Tigher, Pricier

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

What kind of urban future is in the offing for Southern California? Well, if you look at both what planners want and current market trends, here’s the best forecast: congested, with higher prices and an ever more degraded quality of life. As the acerbic author of the “Dr. Housing Bubble” blog puts it, we are looking at becoming “los sardines” with a future marked by both relentless cramming and out-of-sight prices.

This can be seen in the recent surge of housing prices, particularly in the areas of the region dominated by single-family homes. You can get a house in San Francisco – a shack, really – for what it costs to buy a mansion outside Houston, or even a nice home in Irvine or Villa Park. Choice single-family locations like Irvine, Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica have also experienced soaring prices.

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Hey Central Valley, Happy Bizarro-Earth Day!

Harold Johnson
Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation

In Superman comics, “Bizarro World” is a universe where wrong is right, and Superman’s clone is a villain.  The parallel planet’s name is “Earth” spelled backwards – htraE.

But it’s not just in comic books that you encounter the specter of evil twins and vertigo-inducing inversions.

Today, as we mark Earth Day, 2015 – with California seared by drought – a downside-up federal regulatory regime stalks the San Joaquin Valley, inflicting pain on some of the very species that the federal government has sworn to protect.

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Business Interests and Pension Reform

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

As the battle over public pension reform heats up as Calpensions Ed Mendel explained last week, the question for California’s business community is will it get involved?

A number of reasons have been offered to suggest business would stay on the sidelines if a pension reform initiative qualified for the ballot. The fear that such a measure would drive an unusual number of opponents to such a reform to the polls who will also vote for the tax increase measures that are expected to be on the ballot; or to vote in some closely contested races to put the Democrats in control of a supermajority of the legislature.

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Which Low-Down Do You Prefer on Pensions?

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)

And you thought it was just all the math and actuarial tables that make pension ballot measures confusing.

Now California faces the prospect of old-fashioned human confusion as San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed pursues another pension measure: key voices both for and against the measure have the same name.

Welcome to the David Low vs. Dave Low contest.

Dave Low is familiar to people who follow statewide politics. He’s executive director of the California School Employees Assn. He’s been a voice against various campaigns to limit retiree benefits – and on a host of other state issues.

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