Don’t Tax Independent Expenditures, Eliminate Candidate Donor Limits

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

The bill authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) to tax independent expenditure campaign spending has a point, although the measure itself is likely to find resistance in both the halls of the legislature and in the courts. Levine’s goal is to see campaigns conducted by candidates who would be accountable for the political messages delivered during a campaign.

With independent expenditures, which legally cannot consult or inform a candidate’s campaign of its activity, messages sent out on behalf of a candidate may not represent the candidate’s view, or his or her opinion of an opponent. Yet, the candidate often has to answer for this unsolicited “help.”

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Antonio Villaraigosa is Quintessential California

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)

It shouldn’t matter much to Californians whether Antonio Villaraigosa gets to be a U.S. senator or governor someday. We have no shortage of ambitious politicians, after all. But what should matter to us is whether Antonio Villaraigosa gets to be Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa didn’t get that opportunity over the past six weeks as he pondered, and ultimately decided against, a campaign for the U.S. Senate. Instead, in the media coverage and public discussion of the political drama, he was portrayed as one thing above all: the Latino candidate.

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LA Teachers Union: Striking Out?

Larry Sand
President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

The case is being built for a teachers’ strike in Los Angeles. The next step in the contract negotiation process is mediation, whereby a state-appointed mediator will try to get the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) to reconcile their differences. If no progress is made during those sessions, scheduled for March 26th, April 6th and April 15th, the fact-finding stage is next. Anything that comes out of this part of the process is not binding, but could be influential in the last step in which the district makes its final offer. At that point, the union can accept the deal, or reject it and call for a strike vote.

There are a number of issues on the table, but the main sticking points are as follows:

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Californians Deserve Better Protection When Shopping

Todd Ament
President and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce

First it was our favorite one-stop-shop – Target – exposing the information of 110 million people. A year later, it was our iconic orange friend that helps us do it ourselves – Home Depot – leaving 56 million store credit card holders feeling betrayed.

Nearly 160 million people, doing what makes our economy tick – shopping – subjected to unwarranted angst and a feeling of helplessness in a nation where 43 percent of companies experienced a data breach in the past year. In California, home of the eighth largest economy in the world, the issue is even more profound – 17 percent of 2012 U.S. data breaches occurred here and reported breaches increased by 28 percent in 2013, according to a recent California Attorney General report.

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Redistricting Case Before the Supreme Court: Will of the People in the Balance

Kathay Feng
Executive Director, California Common Cause

Justice Anthony Kennedy of California is the key to the Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case heard before the Supreme Court this week.  Sitting in the Supreme Court on Monday, I think he asked questions that suggest he is in the middle and could go either way.

John Myers of KQED, veteran California politics watcher, reminded us of Justice Kennedy’s California roots. Long before donning a judge’s robe, Justice Kennedy drafted an initiative for then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Clearly, he is a person deeply familiar with how the initiative process is an integral part of California’s lawmaking process.

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GOP Pulse Detected

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist

News Flash: The California Republican Party appears to have a pulse. From all appearances, “Dr.” Brulte seems to be weaning the state’s GOP off life support.

Despite the party’s anemic scorecard in the last election, there was a new tone and heightened energy in the air at last weekend’s Republican convention in Sacramento. To paraphrase Monty Python, the CAGOP is “not dead yet.”

Even though Republicans lost every statewide office in the last election and appear nowhere near fielding a top tier candidate for Barbara Boxer’s open U.S. Senate seat, GOP State Chair Jim Brulte, and his cohorts touted the gain of enough Assembly and Senate seats in 2014 to hold Democrats under the two-thirds supermajority in the legislature. (These days, it doesn’t take much good news to bolster GOP hopes.)

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L.A. Voters Want Company

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

Voters in Los Angeles who bothered to vote in yesterday’s primary election decided they want company when future city and school district elections are called. They overwhelmingly supported two charter amendments to change the timing of the elections to coincide with national elections beginning in 2020. More than 76-percent of the voters approved the change.

“Overwhelming” is a relative term in this circumstance. Preliminary post election night figures showed that only about 8-percent of registered city voters participated in the vote to move the city elections. The Los Angeles school district boundaries, which go beyond the city limits and includes an additional 330,000 registered voters, showed a turnout of a tick under 7 percent.

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John Mockler, Education Guru

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

(John Mockler, the legendary Sacramento education policy maven, died on Tuesday. State Librarian Greg Lucas captured John’s life and spirit in the following obituary, which ran in Capitol Weekly. – Loren Kaye)

John Mockler, one of the most influential voices on California education policy for more than 40 years, died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer. He was 73.

“John knew education law like no one else and was able to put school finance on a solid footing that endures even today. He was also a great human being who I will deeply miss,” Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday.

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Supreme Court Opens The Door To A Democratic Gerrymander

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Has the United States Supreme Court just given California Democrats the right to gerrymander California’s congressional districts to their hearts’ delight?  That’s the most likely conclusion from the oral arguments in a case involving the Arizona independent redistricting commission.  If the Court rules for the Arizona legislature, as the oral arguments strongly imply, the Court will also of necessity toss out the current California congressional maps and return California districting to the legislature.

In 2010, California voters took congressional redistricting away from the legislature and gave it to the newly created Citizens Redistricting Commission.  Arizona has a similar commission, and legislative Republicans there were unhappy with that state’s new congressional lines.  So they sued contending only the legislature can draw congressional districts.  The Supreme Court appears likely to agree with Arizona’s Republicans, but in the process it will give a huge gift to California Democrats.

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Shouldn’t California Have the Best Roads By Now?

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

If high taxes guaranteed results, then California should have some of the best roads in the nation. For years we’ve had one of the highest gas taxes, yet our freeways consistently receive failing grades.

It makes no sense unless you admit that high taxes don’t guarantee good roads. That’s one of many reasons I had no trouble voting with my State Board of Equalization colleagues to approve a 6 cent cut to the state’s gas tax. Under a confusing and complicated law commonly known as the “gas tax swap,” the state has been over collecting tax dollars as gas prices have fallen. The new rate helps solve this problem.

Any tax cut is a rare bit of good news for overtaxed Californians. This gas tax cut also has the added benefit of partially offsetting the cost of a new hidden gas tax that took effect January 1 to help fund high speed rail and other so-called anti-global warming efforts.

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