The Title & Summary Ballot Test

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

There seems only one way to remove from the attorney general the power of writing ballot measure titles and summaries–through an initiative. The obvious problem—the attorney general gets to write the title and summary for such an initiative. You can imagine the result.

Back in July, I wrote that new California Attorney General Xavier Becerra would face his first test on writing a balanced, impartial ballot initiative title and summary with the filing of a gas tax repeal measure. This week, a Sacramento Superior Court judge said he failed the test. Unfortunately, the title and summary fairness test must be harder than the Bar Exam since attorney generals of all political persuasions seem to have a tough time mastering it.

In this case, Judge Timothy Frawley tabbed as confusing and misleading the description written by the Attorney General. He said that a reasonable voter would have trouble understanding what the measure would do. The judge’s tentative ruling will be finalized at a hearing on the matter today.

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Don’t Have $2,000 to File a California Ballot Initiative? File in Europe Instead!

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)

The California ballot initiative system used to provide a cheap way for regular citizens to get some attention for their ideas, be they good or bad. But that was back when it cost just $200 to file an initiative, and get it posted online with a title, summary and fiscal analysis. Even if you didn’t have the money to actually qualify the measure with millions of dollars’ worth of signatures, you could get a little attention.

Democrats, who have been trying to strangle California’s direct democracy, curbed that open process by raising the filing fee to $2,000. But here’s some good news: there’s another place to advance your ideas: Europe.

The European Union has a European Citizen’s Initiative. It’s not a ballot initiative but it is an agenda-setting initiative. You can advance your idea, get on a web site (on which people can sign – an option that California doesn’t give its citizens), and get some notice for your idea.

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Bills, Bills, Bills…The Tally

Chris Micheli
Attorney and Lobbyist at the Sacramento government relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

817 bills were introduced in the Senate in 2017.

Of those, 514 bills were passed by the Senate, while only 3 were refused passage on the Senate Floor. That leaves 303 bills as 2-year measures which may be considered in January 2018. So, 63% of introduced bills passed out of the Senate, while .4% of introduced bills failed passage on the Senate Floor.

In terms of authors and bills, the most bills were introduced by Senator Lara with 29. Galgiani introduced 28; Hill had 26; and five senators introduced 24 bills each (Bradford, Glazer, Leyva, Nguyen, and Portantino).  On the other end of the spectrum, Senators Gaines and Mitchell introduced only 9 bills each. Vidak introduced 12.

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What a difference three days makes: How voters shook up California’s Legislature

Laurel Rosenhall
Reporter, CALmatters

Something was different this year.

As lawmakers in Sacramento approached the last night of their session—the final opportunity to pass or kill bills for the year—they had had three days to figure out how to vote.

Three days may not sound like much, given the magnitude of the decisions involved in shaping policy for 39 million Californians. But it’s three more days than lawmakers used to have to make up their minds on some measures.

That’s because a new law voters imposed last year forbids them to act on a bill until it’s been available to the public for 72 hours. While most legislation is published online for several weeks or months, every year lawmakers write some new ones at the last minute, leaving almost no time for the public—or even their colleagues in the Legislature—to scrutinize the proposals.

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Plaintiffs’ lawyers appreciate Legislature’s data dump

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

In a recent article about a job-killing bill that threatens more workplace litigation, CalChamber’s Jennifer Barrera and the internet trade association ComTIA’s Kara Bush stated, “By using the smokescreen of transparency, the bill author and her plaintiffs’ attorneys allies aim to unravel the carefully structured compromise. In effect, the legislation would require employers to serve up reams of data that attorneys need to establish a case. What a gift!”

In short, the proposed law would require many private employers and nonprofits to collect data on salaries of all well-paid white-collar employees. The statistics for each job title or classification must be analyzed and re-categorized according to whether the job duties are substantially similar. Thousands of businesses would deliver the data to the secretary of state, to be posted in public. Legitimate reasons for pay differentials wouldnot be included in the database.

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California Supreme Court Strengthens Local Government by the Developer and the Public Employees

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)

Here’s one sign of just how awful the supermajority-crazy California system is. Even when a court eliminates a perfectly awful supermajority, it makes things worse.

That’s what happened when the California Supreme Court killed off a supermajority that required local ballot initiatives that raised revenues to win supermajorities of voters to be approved. The court, in long and unconvincing argument, effectively nullified statewide ballot measures that had established supermajorities for local ballot initiatives that raised revenues.

The court’s argument was that direct democracy is so strong that a local measure that is an initiative – which means it is put on the ballot by signatures – should not be constrained by a supermajority. Effectively, the court’s dangerous logic is that direct democracy exists in a time and space beyond local or state government. Direct democracy is an authority unto itself.

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CA Should Raise Teacher Pay By Reducing Unfunded Retirement Liabilities

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

Fast-rising spending on pensions and other retirement costs is crushing teacher staffing and pay in California. As an example, retirement spending at San Francisco Unified School District grew 3x faster than district revenues over the last five years, absorbing $35 million that could have gone to current teachers. Worse, that happened despite record stock market gains and school revenues. Absent reform, teacher staffing and pay will decline further.

Something must be done. Public school students and teachers deserve fully-staffed classrooms and sufficient salaries. While the children of well-to-do parents can attend private schools or privately-subsidized public schools, most of California’s six million K-12 students cannot.

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An Olympic Victory Bigger Than a Month in 2028

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

In the summer of 2028, the world will flock to Los Angeles to celebrate sports, share cultures and inspire the youth of our world to run faster, reach higher and grow stronger in all aspects of life. The Games will also leave a legacy for L.A., as they have in the past.  Many athletes, coaches and fans will travel Olympic Blvd. to visit the Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center for events like fencing, taekwondo, boxing, table tennis and basketball. In 1932, 10th Street was renamed Olympic Blvd. for the 10th modern Olympiad.  It was the first of many legacies the Olympic movement would leave on our City.

Much of the success of the ‘32 and ‘84 Games can be attributed to the fact that L.A. only needed to construct a few new venues. The ’32 Games made use of 15 existing venues, building only a rowing facility and swimming pool. That pool still exists today and is open to the public. It was restored in 2004 with funds generated from the ’84 Olympics. The ’84 Games only needed two new venues – a velodrome and new swimming stadium, the latter of which is still being used by USC Trojan athletes.

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Draper’s Three States Map Could Use Some Revision

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)

Why does Tim Draper hate Southern California?

I’m sympathetic to the venture capitalist’s attempts to split up California. Our state is more the size of a country than an American state. And splitting the state would give Californians to write new and at least semi-rational state constitutions for themselves. And that’s something we’ll never get to do if we remain one giant state.

But the way Draper draws his maps is another story. He keeps trying to split up California’s true regions, instead of turning them into states.

His latest “3 Californias” initiative, a follow-up to his “6 Californias” attempt, should have made it easier to keep the regions together. But instead, he seems want to split things up, so tens of millions of Californians will live in one state but work in a different one.   

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Tax Reform in Washington has CA Implications

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The next great Washington debate will be over tax reform and accomplishing tax cuts will have major and positive implications for California businesses and jobs.

If done right, tax reform is really a jobs bill. Cutting taxes for large and small businesses to 15 percent, as President Donald Trump wants to do, puts more resources in the hands of business leaders and entrepreneurs to expand business and create jobs. Cutting taxes through increased deductions will help workers gain larger paychecks.

For California small business owners, the White House plan is especially important because of the recent income tax increases voters have levied in the Golden State.

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