Acting Out the Minimum Wage Drama

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

“All the world’s a stage,” wrote William Shakespeare, and political theater on the hot topic of the minimum wage is playing out in smaller Los Angeles theaters. We’re not talking about minimum wage as the topic of a play, but minimum wage as the subject of who goes on stage.

When the leadership of Actors Equity, the stage actors union, decided to push for a minimum wage for Los Angeles actors who work in 99-seat theaters and smaller, they got pushback from many of the union’s members. The actors feared that forcing the theaters to pay the actors more might force some of the hanging-on-by-their-fingertips theaters to close down.

The debate over raising the minimum wage for the small theaters mirrors the larger debate on minimum wage that is occurring in the country.

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Good Bills Are Focus of CalChamber Job Creator List

Denise Davis
Vice President, Media Relations and External Affairs at Cal Chamber

Since 2008, CalChamber has been identifying bills that will improve the state’s job climate and stimulate our economy.  We put them on our annual “Job Creator” list hoping to put a spotlight on proposals that will encourage investment in our economy.

Last week, we released the 2015 “Job Creator” list.  This year’s list includes 11 bills that will improve our legal climate, lower costs for employers, spur tourism, and create construction jobs. The list follows recommendations made in our annual business issues guide, called “Foundation for a Better California.”

Each year we hope to have as many job creator bills on our list as we do on our job killer list.  Let’s hope our policy makers make that possible in the years to come! 

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CEQA: California Dreamin’ or California Nightmare?

Jennifer Hernandez
Attorney in the California environmental and land use practice group of Holland & Knight LLC, an international law firm

Our recent report on “California Social Priorities” — released by Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy and the topic of the first meeting of the Houston based Center for Opportunity Urbanism — stirred up some controversy. A largely negative response came from Josh Stephens from the California Planning and Development Report.

As a lifelong Democrat, granddaughter/daughter/sister/aunt of union members working in the steel and construction trades, major contributor and multi-decade Board member of several California environmental advocacy organizations, top-ranked California environmental and land use lawyer and recipient of the California Lawyer of the Year award for environment and land use work, and Latina asthma-sufferer who grew up in Pittsburg, California amidst factories that belched pollution into our air and waters, I need to first take exception to the author’s apparent assumption that anyone publishing a thoughtful report with accurate data about California’s acute social needs (income inequality, middle-class job loss, educational non-attainment) is a “conservative” with a “hate on CEQA in much more vague ways.”

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Elementary Indoctrination

Larry Sand
President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

To say California’s teachers’ unions wield outsize influence over state education policy is hardly novel. From setting tenure rules to rewriting dismissal statutes and blocking pension reforms, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers roam the halls of the legislature like varsity all-stars. But less well known are the unions’ efforts to remake curriculum—and thereby influence the next generation of citizens and voters.

According to labor expert Kevin Dayton, organized labor has been trying to get its collective hooks into classroom content since 1981, when the City University of New York developed the “American Social History Project.” The idea was to present the history of marginalized and oppressed groups—including labor unions—to a “broad popular audience.” In California, the project took a great leap forward in 2001, when Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg cooked up the Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education, which, as Dayton explains, was established “to address issues of labor education in California’s public school system.” At the commission’s behest, Governor Gray Davis signed a bill that encouraged school districts to set aside the first week in April as “Labor History Week” and “commemorate it with appropriate educational exercises to make pupils aware of the important role that the labor movement has played in shaping California and the United States.”

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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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