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What’s in a Name?

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

President Barack Obama stirred up a minor controversy authorizing a name change for Alaska’s Mt. McKinley back to an older name, Denali.

California has had debates over place names. In the last decade, there was an effort to change the name of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County that kicked up a fuss locally but ultimately went nowhere.

But in the political world, attempting to change the label on a well-understood government act may well be an effort at subterfuge.

Take the so-called Lifting Children and Families out of Poverty initiative filed this summer. Its funding mechanism is a surcharge on property valued on the property tax rolls at $3 million or more. It is supposed to raise $7 billion in new revenue.

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California Here He Comes

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

Let’s stipulate that the GOP’s Trump boom may fizzle long before California’s June 2016 Presidential primary rolls around —remember Michele Bachmann and the pizza man?  But The Donald has the resources, the bravado and the profile, potentially, to stay in the race through the Primary season.   And the state’s GOP presidential Primary might even matter—for the first time in a very long while.

Nationally, the Republicans have become the party of alienation. A huge chunk of the GOP’s rank-and-file voters appears to loathe President Obama, but they are not crazy about anybody or anything in Washington either.  Donald Trump has tapped into that sour mood.  No other candidate has yet been able to jump out of the GOP presidential pack, which now outnumbers the entire roster of an NBA team. Conventional wisdom is that Trump’s act will lose steam and that one or more “plausible” candidates will emerge from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.  However, this election cycle is far from conventional.  Certainly, it may take more than the early-state GOP caucuses and primaries to winnow the field. Trump could easily emerge from the early going as the top vote and delegate getter, leaving the other candidates to jockey for position over a longer haul.  That means that later primaries and caucuses may take on real importance, and the GOP race could actually play out until the June 7, 2016 California Primary.

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Send California Your Anchor Babies

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)

You better anchor me, baby.

Because I find it impossible to write with restraint when politicians start using babies – babies using babies! – to prey on prejudice and misinform the public in the service of winning votes.

That’s exactly what’s happening in the Republican presidential contest, as Donald Trump and his opponents make xenophobic nonsense about “anchor babies” the number one issue in the race. I won’t rehash here all the ways that people who actually know something about immigration have debunked this fantastical idea that hordes of pregnant immigrants are coming here to have babies (permit me just one statistic: 91 percent of undocumented immigrant parents had been in this country at least two years when they gave birth). Let’s just stipulate that race-baiting bunk is a staple America’s shameless presidential politics, and nothing I write will change that.

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Teachers Unions and Media Try to Make Hay of Teacher Shortage Myth

Larry Sand
President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

For years, teachers unions have been moaning that nearly half of all new educators leave the profession within the first five years. They and others have repeated the claim so many times that it has taken on the mantle of truth. But like so much else the unions say, fact checking reveals something quite different. Veteran teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci has been doing his best to destroy the “revolving door of teachers” fairytale for years. And now we have a report released in April from the National Center of Education which finds that only 17 percent of new teachers had left the profession between 2008 and 2012. While this new data may put a crimp in the teachers unions’ argument, they are sure to keep complaining about that 17 percent, and cite as reasons: poor pay, a good economy, the Koch Brothers, a bad economy, ALEC, too much testing, too little respect, corporate ed reform, etc. But as Antonucci points out, teachers typically leave their jobs for pretty much the same reasons as everyone else – spouse relocating, giving birth, poor health, etc.

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Top Five Tax Traps Small Business Owners Need to Avoid

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

As Vice Chair of the California State Board of Equalization (BOE), I regularly hear from small business owners who are caught off guard by tax liabilities. This isn’t surprising given the complexity of California’s tax laws. Even the most well-meaning, knowledgeable business owner can run into problems.

Because of this, I regularly host free small business and nonprofit tax seminars throughout my district to help business owners avoid these “tax traps.” (In fact, we’re hosting a series of events in the coming months designed to help small business owners be successful. Learn more at www.boe.ca.gov/events.)

For those of you unable to attend one of these free seminars, here are the top five tax traps to avoid:

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Don’t Seize Farmers Water, Let Them Trade It

Matthew Fienup
Economist at the Center for Economic Research & Forecasting (CERF), at California Lutheran University. His specialty is applied econometric analysis and the economics of land use.

As California weathers its fourth straight year of extreme drought, policy makers and their cheerleaders continue to scapegoat California’s agricultural industry. Writing in the Sacramento Bee, economist Christopher Thornberg, for example, refers to the industry as “feckless” and advocates using eminent domain to seize farmers’ water. In truth, the agricultural industry has made ground-breaking efficiency gains in the past twenty years.

Consider this: In the late 1980s, following the last big drought, total groundwater extraction by farmers within Fox Canyon, a robust agricultural region in Ventura County, declined sharply and then settled in to a five-year average of approximately 80,000 acre feet per year. That level of extraction has now been stable for over 20 years. During that same 20-year period, production of notoriously water-hungry strawberries has increased 145 percent. Production of raspberries has increased an astonishing 425 percent. Ventura County farmers are doing vastly more with the same amount of water. This pattern holds true statewide. The total value of agricultural output in California increased from $16.3 billion in 1998 to $22.3 billion in 2010, without any increase in total agricultural water use. Rather than a story of fecklessness, this is a story of fabulous innovation; one that producers in other industries can look to for inspiration.

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Both Sides Are Right on Transportation. Let’s Find a Deal

Lucy Dunn
President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council

To the outside, a deal may appear elusive on transportation funding this session. Republicans are intent on using existing funding and demand accountability reforms. Democrats want new funding while also agreeing that accountability reforms are necessary.

Both sides are right. It’s time to make a deal.

Before we consider new revenues, we must agree to a combination of responsible reforms and accountability to ensure we’re using the most out of existing transportation dollars.

We must ensure that transportation dollars are constitutionally guaranteed to go to transportation projects and not diverted for other purposes. And we must restore current transportation dollars that are being diverted for other purposes. 

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Let’s Have an Honest Immigration Debate

Bonnie Reiss
Director of the University of Southern California's Schwarzenegger Institute

There is no doubt that the candidacy of Donald Trump has reignited the immigration debate. There is also no doubt that while Americans may disagree over how to deal with our broken immigration system, there is a general consensus that it must be fixed.

The problem with the approach of both Trump and the media to this debate is that it’s not rooted in all of the facts.

When the citizens of the United States engage in important policy debates, they are always best served when the relevant facts and data lay the foundation of those discussions. Sadly, that is not what we are seeing in the immigration debate. A clear example of this was seen on a recent edition of Meet the Press in the interview conducted by host Chuck Todd. When discussing Trump’s plan to deport the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., the following exchange occurred: 

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The Jobs Perplex (2): California, Labor Day 2015

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director and author, The Autism Job Club (2015, with R. Holden)

bernicklabordayWe arrive at Labor Day 2015, with a much different story line in California than previous Labor Days.

Four years ago, our Labor Day 2011 posting, entitled the Jobs Perplex, looked at the slow pace of job growth of the Great Recession recovery. Then the Perplex was why job growth was slower than previous recoveries. One factor discussed: the runaway growth of the government benefit rolls, and replacement of employment with government benefits.

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Governor Signs Legislation that Limits Access to Direct Democracy

Senator Jim Nielsen
California State Senate, 4th District

Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1100 (Low-D) into law. EffectiveJanuary 1, 2016, citizens who wish to submit a ballot initiative or referendum must pay $2,000, instead of the current fee of $200.

Direct democracy is a citizen’s right – a cornerstone of the checks and balances of democracy that have been protected passionately in California. Raising the fee by 900 percent is cost prohibitive.

The ballot initiative process engages voters and increases interest and participation in elections. The intent of this extraordinary fee increase was to deter frivolous filings, but with this new $2,000 charge, the freedom and balance of powers that California’s early Reformers established are slowly being eroded away. 

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