Is Hardball A Felony?

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

Politics is not inherently a criminal enterprise, but you’d never know it by the headlines. Texas Governor Rick Perry’s indictment in Texas is another example of a political prosecution that seeks to criminalize common political behavior.

Perry has been charged with “abuse of official capacity” (maximum sentence 99 years) and “coercion of a public servant” (maximum sentence 10 years) for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million in funds for the state’s Public Integrity Unit, tasked with investigating public corruption and run out of the office of Travis County district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. Perry threatened the funds-cutoff unless Lehmberg–a Democrat–resigned her post, in the wake of her 2013 conviction for drunken driving. Lehmberg refused to leave office and Perry followed through with his veto, leading a Texas government watchdog group to file the complaint that led to Perry’s indictment

Oddly enough, it is the openness and transparency of Governor Perry’s actions in this case that have provided the basis for the criminal charges. Perry never hid his demands or brandished his blue pencil behind closed doors.

Read comments Read more

The Illogic of Goodwin Liu

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)

When you don’t have an idea what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut. Goodwin Liu, unfortunately, couldn’t hold to this advice, and so the associate justice of the California Supreme Court revealed himself to be thoroughly, and embarrassingly, uninformed on California’s constitution and its system of direct democracy.

This is often a space for light rhetoric and half-formed thoughts, but in this case, I do not make this statement about Liu the least bit lightly. And I don’t have an axe to grind on the case in question, the court’s decision to remove Prop 49, the advisory measure on whether to pursue a constitutional amendment, off the ballot. I don’t know Liu but have friends in common and have only heard good things about him as a brilliant young scholar who was treated badly as a nominee for the federal bench.

Also, I would not have voted for Prop 49 if it appeared on the ballot, and don’t see money-in-politics as the awful force that the backers of Prop 49 do. I disagree with the five justices who voted to remove the measure from the ballot, but I can see the view that since the state constitution doesn’t permit such measures, they shouldn’t be on ballots.

Read comments Read more

Lawmakers Don’t Think Rules Apply to Them

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

No one would dispute that California’s diversity extends to the wide political gulf between conservative Californians and those who see themselves as liberal. From strong Tea Party interests in the more rural areas to the “Occupiers” in San Francisco, the balkanization of our body politic is well recognized. But there should be, if there isn’t already, a consensus that the rules that apply to voting and the electoral process should not be manipulated for political gain.

Regrettably, for the second time in 3 years, in response to a suit filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), the courts have had to intervene for just such an attempt.

In a transparent effort to manipulate voter turnout, the majority in the Legislature approved for the ballot an advisory measure that, if passed, would have asked Congress to initiate a constitutional amendment that would limit the ability of groups and organizations to participate in political activity. (This issue has become a cause celebre for some on the far left who believe that corporations should be prohibited from exercising political speech.) But the California Supreme Court agreed with Jarvis that the measure raised a significant issue as to whether it was a legitimate exercise of legislative power and therefore directed the California Secretary of State to refrain from placing what would have been Proposition 49 on the November ballot.

Read comments Read more

How Labor Money Undermines the Financial Literacy of California’s Legislators

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

“In an era when we aren’t going to have tax increases, figure out how to be more efficient spending the money we’ve got, and the Republicans can help you do that if they’ll get off the philosophical cant about stuff and help you make things more efficient. They actually culturally know more and occupationally know more about efficiencies than Democrats typically do.” -  California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Democrat, addressing the state legislature in 2010.

What was Lockyer thinking? As one of the most plain spoken and financially astute politicians California’s got, and as someone who has been around the capitol for decades, he certainly knows a thing or two about Republicans and Democrats. Did Lockyer make a fair generalization? And if so, what are the causes, and what are the consequences?

“They actually culturally know more and occupationally know more about efficiencies than Democrats typically do.”

Read comments Read more

Fire Threat Increases, California Discourages Safety

John McCormack
Retired fire scientist, is the former manager of research and development for the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. He has also served as a consultant for the North American Flame Retardant Alliance.

There have been more multi-alarm house fires in California in the past six months than in the previous two years combined, according to a recent report from KCRA in Sacramento. Given that, it’s hard to believe that the state would embrace a policy that deemphasizes fire safety.

For more than 40 years, California pursued a fire safety policy for furniture that recognized the risk presented by smoldering sources (cigarettes) and open flame sources (candles, matches and lighters). Now there has been a radical change in state policy that could result in increased fire deaths, injuries and property damage.

Recently the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI) amended the pre-existing fire safety standard for upholstered furniture in response to activists who demanded that flame retardant products be removed from these products. The new state standard, which takes effect in 2015, eliminates the requirement that furniture manufacturers test their products for resistance to ignition from open flame sources.  To further discourage use of flame retardant chemicals, Senator Leno is pushing legislation (SB 1019) to require manufacturers to apply labels on any furniture treated with flame retardants to alert consumers to the presence of those chemicals. The timing is ironic given KCRA’s report that the threat of open flame fires appears to be increasing.

Read comments Read more

CA & USA: Tied in Knots Over Race

Gary Delsohn
Former Sacramento Bee Reporter now working for the Chancellor at UC Davis

America’s latest racial conflict is playing out on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, but everyone knows this could happen anywhere at any time.

Few California cities are immune from such potential explosions. One over-zealous cop, a George Zimmerman-like vigilante or any number of criminal acts with a racial element and our streets could be enflamed while the world watches in sorrow and disgust.

America is still tied in knots over the issue of race and class and at time like this, it can feel as if we always will be.

Why does it seem as if we only talk deeply about these questions immediately after something tragic like the Michael Brown shooting? Is this the only time these issues command our serious attention?

Read comments Read more

Aaron Rodgers for Governor

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’ve been punked, California.

There have been a number of false reports to the effect that California voters will watch Gov. Brown debate Neel Kashkari at 7 pm the night of Thursday, Sept. 4. How can people possibly believe this?

That date and time are all the evidence you need to know that this is a hoax. No serious political debate or significant event would be scheduled for that evening, since it would conflict with the first National Football League game of the season. You’d get a bigger audience for a debate on a Saturday night (which was the night of the one debate Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did during his reelection campaign) than on that Thursday.

Read comments Read more

The Energy and Creativity of the Internet Job Placement Sites

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

This summer, Congress enacted the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which governs the $3 billion or so spent each year by the federal government on job training. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, announced that the Act would bring U.S. job training in the 21st century.

I started in the public workforce system in 1979 with a community job training agency and have seen the system improve over the years. Today’s system is more focused on linking training to jobs, in involving employers, in making data on job placement rates more transparent. The new legislation helps nudge along these improvements.

However, WIOA will not significantly change the system or outcomes. Like its predecessors, the Job Training Partnership Act (1982) and the Workforce Investment Act (1998), WIOA involves modest adjustments to job training approaches (despite hundreds of meetings, conferences, and discussions). The same forms of recruitment, assessment, training and placement will continue, usually by the same training and placement agencies.

Read comments Read more

What’s the Deal with Cities and Counties Hiring Contingency Fee Lawyers?

Tom Scott
Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

I get that cities and counties in this economy are struggling, but it seems like lately they are willing to sue just about anyone. Is this a new scheme? Taxation through litigation? Who benefits from the public sector suing the private sector?

Santa Clara County seems to be leading the charge. Back in 2000, Santa Clara County and a whole host of other counties and cities sued the paint industry. In January of this year, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg issued his final statement of decision, holding five paint manufacturers liable for $1.15 billion to replace and maintain lead paint in millions of homes in California. This decision will likely be appealed, but the fact that these cities and counties used public nuisance laws as their claims is a step too far.

Then in May 2014, Santa Clara and Orange Counties filed a lawsuit against five pharmaceutical companies claiming the companies violated California’s false advertising and unfair competition laws, thereby creating  a public nuisance. They say the drug manufacturers knew that opioids were ineffective, addictive and unsafe for long term use but persuaded doctors to prescribe them in order to expand the market and boost their profits.

Read comments Read more

Tracking America’s ‘Hidden Millennials’

Fox&Hounds Contributor

When it comes to attracting the hip and cool, Southern California, long a cultural trendsetter, appears to be falling behind – at least in the view of the national media. Articles about where millennials are, or should be, going rarely mention anywhere in this region as a top choice.

Rather than hang out at the beach or enjoy poolside ambience, the conventional wisdom is that the millennial generation – those born after 1983 – would rather go anywhere else. Southern California is not on a list of the top 12 regions (although San Diego gets a mention) for millennials, published in the Huffington Post. Other “best” lists and similar compilations invariably highlight New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Texas, Raleigh, N.C., and Boston, but rarely SoCal.

Read comments Read more

Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.