Voters Are Wising Up – Local Politics Is a Waste of Time

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 L.A. Times a couple of weeks ago wrote a hand-wringing story about a new poll showing that fewer California voters see local politics as worthwhile. The poll noted that local politics used to have a bit of a halo—people famously hated what they saw in Washington or Sacramento, but liked their own local officials and thought local political involvement was worthwhile.

But the findings of the LA Times/USC Dornsife poll showed disenchantment. More than a quarter of California voters say elected officials aren’t responsive to their needs. 49 percent said their community didn’t benefit when they donated money to a candidate. Fewer than 7 in 10 voters thought that volunteering for a candidate would help their community. The Times noted that there were still big consensuses on the community benefit of volunteering for civic groups (90 percent), discussing events (83 percent), and giving money to charity (84 percent).

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Should’ve Left Markets Alone

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

Who’s to blame for the Haggen grocery disaster?

Haggen last week announced it was pulling out of California, Arizona and Nevada, abandoning most of the 146 Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions groceries it bought early this year. Haggen blames Albertsons and has sued it. Plenty of others blame Haggen, saying the small chain had no business buying all those stores.

But I think most of the blame goes to the Federal Trade Commission. It never should have ordered those stores to be sold in the first place.

The FTC has a weird obsession with what it considers monopolies. Whenever two sizable chains merge, some nameless FTC bureaucrat uses some opaque formula – well, hey, nobody really knows whether they use a formula or just flip coins – to come up with some split-the-baby “solution” to prevent the much feared “monopoly.” So when Albertsons decided to buy the Safeway chain, the unknown FTC bureaucrat got busy playing SimCity with the West Coast grocery market. “You can keep the two stores here but you must sell that one over there. …”

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Tea Party Domination and the Presidential Election

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

Speaker John Boehner’s capitulation to the militant conservative wing of his party commanded by Tea Party loyalists whose principal goal is not to govern but to thwart every effort to do so by those who disagree with them does not auger well for a Congress in near total disarray or for a troubled nation.

His exit is likely to only reinforce the unmistakable resolve of these extremists to push even harder against the moderates in their party who would prefer to restore some semblance of order.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Bakersfield) appears to be the front-runner to succeed Boehner but who would want the job?

What he will have to promise in exchange for support will make any accommodation with the Administration that much tougher or will be insufficient to appease the forty to fifty dissident Republicans in open revolt against their own party.

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Governor Brown Revives Redevelopment Agencies

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

Redevelopment is back in California.

Four years after Governor Jerry Brown led the effort to eliminate redevelopment agencies, the governor has changed his mind, signing legislation to restore the controversial institutions and their power to use eminent domain.

Earlier this month, Gov. Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2, which grants local governments the power to create new entities to stimulate economically-depressed and crime-ridden areas. Beginning January 1, community revitalization authorities will have broad powers to issue bonds for the purpose of investing tax funds in infrastructure, affordable housing and economic revitalization projects. These new government entities formed by cities, counties and special districts will also have the power to use eminent domain and could resurrect the abuses made possible by the Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo decision.

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PPIC Poll Examines Tax Proposals

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

In the shadow of my commentary yesterday on the possible tax measures on the 2016 ballot comes the Public Policy Institute of California poll that takes the standing of many of the potential tax initiatives. This snapshot in time indicates supporters of the tax increases have a lot of work to do to convince the public to vote for them.

But the way the questions were asked must be considered when weighing the results.

The idea of extending Proposition 30 is becoming more practical than theoretical with the submission of two separate ballot measures to achieve that goal. One measure, filed chiefly by the California Teachers Association, would extend Prop 30 for 12 years. The second measure filed by the California Hospitals Association, a health care union and a children’s advocacy group, would make the Prop 30 taxes permanent.

The voters appear divided on extending Prop 30 with 49% in favor of extension and 46% opposed. However, those favoring the extension drop to 32% if the taxes are made permanent.

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SB 358 Helps Workers and Employers

Jennifer Barrera
CalChamber Policy Advocate, Labor and Employment, Legal, Taxation

The issue of gender equity in compensation has been a prominent topic at the Capitol this year, with the introduction of several bills addressing this issue.  One of the premier bills that has received national attention is SB 358 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, titled the “Fair Pay Act.”  While the California Chamber of Commerce was initially opposed to SB 358, through the hard work and collaboration of Senator Jackson, her staff, and sponsors, CalChamber ultimately changed its position to Support.  Here’s why.

Equal pay for equal work has been the law in California for decades.  While SB 358 certainly strengthens this law, it also provides clarity on ambiguous provisions that will help California employers avoid costly litigation.  First, the term “equal” has proven too rigid and in limited cases, created absurd results that have provided a false sense of security for employers to justify a wage differential.  Some employers have actually interpreted the term “equal” to mean absolutely identical job duties and title, and pay men a higher wage than women on minor variations.  This was never the intent of the law and certainly is not how the federal counterpart, Equal Pay Act, or similar anti-discrimination laws have been interpreted with regard to wage discrimination.  SB 358 modifies the term “equal” to “substantially similar” in order to emphasize the intent and application of the law. 

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Austin Beutner’s L.A. Times Was a Blast from the Past

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 most important political campaign in California has died prematurely, and without a proper obituary.

That sad fact speaks volumes about the challenges facing our state’s media. Because the deceased campaign wasn’t for a Senate candidate or for a ballot measure. It was a campaign on behalf of the Los Angeles Times.

The campaign didn’t get very far. In September, Tribune Publishing, the Chicago media company that owns the L.A. Times, unceremoniously fired the campaign’s chairman, Times publisher Austin Beutner, after a year on the job. The firing of Beutner from a job no one has been able to hold for long in recent years may have been predictable: Beutner, a former investment banker, had no previous experience in media, but had short stints as a mayoral candidate and a deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa. But his dismissal touched off controversy. Beutner’s supporters portrayed Tribune (once again) as distant meddlers in the local paper, and Beutner as an advocate for local journalism (who might return if the paper were sold to L.A. billionaire Eli Broad). Tribune executives, who didn’t want to sell to Broad, countered that Beutner was a big spender who couldn’t meet companywide financial targets.

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For Marijuana in California, Line Between Legal and Illegal Gets Hazy

Susan Shelley
Susan Shelley is an author, former television associate producer and twice a Republican candidate for the California Assembly.

California’s medical marijuana industry may soon be craving pain relief instead of selling it.

The state Legislature recently passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, a combination of three laws that together will impose a massive, multi-agency regulatory framework on the cultivation, distribution and sale of cannabis.

Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, said his group lobbied Sacramento for “sensible regulations.” In a panel discussion presented by the Republican Liberty Caucus of California at the recent state GOP convention, Bradley said he tells his members it’s better than “having your doors kicked in.”

The new laws abolish collectives and cooperatives. Instead there will be state licenses for commercial growers, distributors and sellers, and additional licenses required in cities and counties that choose to be “wet” jurisdictions instead of “dry.”

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Tax Initiatives Poker Game Begins

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

This post-legislative period is shaping up as the great California initiative poker game – with taxpayers’ money as the chips.

The California Teachers Association was the first to the table with a measure to extend Proposition 30 by keeping its income tax hike on the wealthy in place for 12 more years after it was scheduled to expire in 2018. A week later, the California Hospital Association, Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and Common Sense Kids Action played their hand: “I’ll see your $7 billion annual tax increase on Proposition 30 for 12 years and raise it to $10 billion a year, not for a dozen years, but forever!”

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The Underbelly of the California Drought

Victor Davis Hanson
Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

It is September in California, year four of a scorching drought. Forest fires are blackening the arid state, from Napa Valley to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fly over the High Sierra and about every tenth evergreen below appears dead. Even the high mountain lakes and reservoirs are about empty – and equally void of vacationers who have few places to boat, fish, and ski, and are unsure where the next forest fire will break out and force evacuations on often one-lane winding mountain roads.

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