In celebration of the Independence Day, F&H will not publish today. Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July holiday everyone.
The United States Supreme Court announcement that it will consider the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case next fall produced handwringing and dire predictions that this could result in the end of public unions. Those who make those statements must think that the public unions are not offering representation that their members want. If the court sides with teacher Rebecca Friedrichs who opposes mandatory union dues, mandatory dues would end but voluntary union dues can continue. If the union does what the members want they will continue to get support.
David Savage’s article in the Los Angeles Times, which covers the circumstances around the case well, quotes Friedrichs, “I don’t have a voice or vote in the union, and I’m opposed to forced fees and forced unionism.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was on the wrong side of most Californians, and history, in his cranky dissent to last week’s landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation.
But, much as we might hate to admit it, Scalia was right when, in the same dissent, he argued that California isn’t part of the American West. And in so doing, he raised—almost certainly unwittingly—an important question about California’s future.
Scalia made his point via a swipe at his colleagues for being unrepresentative of the United States as a whole (and thus being foolish to impose their views on marriage equality on the entire country). After noting that all nine justices attended Harvard or Yale law schools and that only one grew up in the Midwest, he wrote: “Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner.” But what about Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is from Sacramento? Scalia’s answer came parenthetically in the next line: “California does not count.”
When we gather with friends and family this July 4th, it is the perfect time to reflect on some of the things that make our country great – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights provide a solid foundation for our roles as citizens, but unfortunately, our founding fathers were a bit vague in the area of personal responsibility.
Maybe they assumed we all had common sense and a feeling of accountability for our actions. However, it seems like we could have used some guidance in these areas. All too frequently, we see people – urged on by lawyers seeking to profit from the abuse of our lawsuit system – forsake their own responsibility and head straight the courts when they believe there is money to be made. This even happens in cases where no one has been truly injured.
During an extraordinary session of the Legislature on transportation and infrastructure issues, I introduced bipartisan legislation along with Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) to allow Californians to vote again on the controversial High-Speed Rail (HSR) project.
The High-Speed Rail of today is not what the voters approved in 2008. Californians deserve the right to re-vote on this massive transportation project that could end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars if it is ever completed. The money would be better spent on local roads and highways.
(Editor’s Note: The following release from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) offers information important to small businesses and entrepreneurs.)
As part of an ongoing effort to provide more on-line tools to businesses, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced the launch of the California Business Portal, a one-stop-shop website for business owners looking for information and assistance. (www.BusinessPortal.ca.gov)
“The California Business Portal is a response to the needs of the business community and their request for better on-line tools,” said GO-Biz Chief Deputy Director Panorea Avdis. “California business owners now have a resource to make it easier to do business in the state and GO-Biz will continually update the portal to ensure it keeps up with the demands of business owners and entrepreneurs.”
Governor Jerry Brown called special sessions to find permanent revenue sources to fund transportation infrastructure and Medi-Cal. The issue of keeping up with deteriorating roads has been a special concern to the business community and Brown is counting on business help to support a revenue solution for the roads. But is business willing to use its influence with Republican legislators to pass a transportation tax or fee increase of some kind?
Consensus in Sacramento is that the roads are in bad shape and revenue is needed to attack the problem. In announcing the special session, Brown noted that annual available excise fuel revenues for roads are billions short of the revenue needed. Deferred road maintenance requires billions more.
Californians are tired of government not keeping up with its fundamental duty to keep our roads in good repair. There are over 30 million registered vehicles in our state, and about 400,000 miles of road. Almost any California driver could tell you – our roads and the gridlock, traffic, and potholes that come with them are unacceptable for the Golden State. To improve our quality of life as well as our economy, we must improve our roadways and develop a reliable transportation network across the State.
California currently has $59 billion in deferred road maintenance on state highways. Add to that billions of dollars in needed repairs on local roads up and down the State, and we have a very serious unmet need, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars. Despite this, the recently-enacted 2015-16 State Budget ignored the need to invest in our roads and get people out of gridlock. It didn’t increase spending for transportation infrastructure by one penny, despite a record amount of new spending on other projects.
In a 5-4 decision preserving Arizona’s redistricting commission (and presumably California’s by extension), the U.S. Supreme Court had a direct and useful reminder for Californians: when we cast ballots on ballot initiatives, we’re acting as the state legislature.
Specifically, the court found that while the U.S. Constitution requires the State Legislatures to handle redistricting, the people are acting as the legislature when they vote on referenda or initiatives. “Our precedent teaches that redistricting is a legislative function, to be performed in accordance with the State’s prescriptions for lawmaking, which may include the referendum and the Governor’s veto. The exercise of the initiative, we acknowledge, was not at issue in our prior decisions. But as developed below, we see no constitutional barrier to a State’s empowerment of its people by embracing that form of lawmaking,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion.
The City of Los Angeles is a sprawling enterprise with 32,000 employees and an annual budget of $8.6 billion. But according to Rick Cole, the City’s former Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation, “LA is not designed to work.”
Our City’s operations are relatively simple compared to Los Angeles County and other large cities such as New York and Chicago. City Hall is not responsible for education, healthcare and hospitals, social services and welfare, and criminal justice and jails, all open ended services that are burdened by rivers of red ink, adverse court decisions, and controversial political and social issues that do not have simple solutions.
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