Big Money Expected To Influence Citizen Lawmakers

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

Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on legislative lobbying efforts made headlines this week but the total amount will likely pale next to what is expected to be spent this year on that other form of California lawmaking—the initiative process.

Coverage of the lobbying reports disclosed that $312.7 million was spent on lobbying the legislature in 2015, a double-digit increase from just two years earlier.

But according to initiative guru, Rick Claussen, of the consulting firm Redwood Pacific, which specializes in initiative campaigns, a crowded November ballot could produce spending of nearly half-a-billion dollars.

Claussen offered some best guess rounded figures that could be spent for and against a number of the high profile initiatives headed for the ballot.

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How to Know Your City Isn’t Super

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)

A riddle: how do you know your city isn’t super?

Answer: If it’s hosting the Super Bowl.

Does that seem harsh? Well, I’m sorry. So let me put this another way.

Congratulations, Santa Clara, California! You’ve just joined a club that includes such notable municipalities as East Rutherford, New Jersey; Pontiac, Michigan; Miami Gardens, Florida; Arlington, Texas; and Glendale, Arizona.

What do those cities have in common? Three things. First, they are all smaller cities on the edge of bigger cities. Second, they invested big in pro sports in the hopes of boosting their economies and raising their profiles. Third, none has demonstrated much benefit from a big investment in pro sports.

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Volunteers Needed to Test Mileage Fee System for Road Funding

Lucy Dunn
President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council

I served this past year as chair of the California Transportation Commission, which is responsible for allocating funds for highway construction, passenger rail and transit improvements, active transportation such as walking and biking and a host of other mobility projects.

A variety of financial indicators last month showed that the excise tax portion of the gas tax, which funds the State Transportation Improvement Program, was likely to remain flat or decline in the immediate future. Last week, CTC announced its decision to “deprogram” three-quarters of a billion dollars in projects. Affected projects in Orange County may include improvements to I-5, I-405 and CA-57, hundreds more throughout the state.

Following this decision, CTC urged the Legislature to make funding and maintaining safe and effective infrastructure a top priority, in addition to reforms in system management by Caltrans. Otherwise, even more project cuts will come. Gov. Jerry Brown, state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, have three separate revenue and reform proposals for consideration. Republican leaders have significant reform proposals as well. Last year, after decades of delay, a divided Congress finally came together on a plan for federal transportation funding and reforms. If Congress could do it, so can the state Legislature.

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Attorney General Reins In Shady Bond Practices

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

It’s not often that taxpayers get good news, especially in tax-happy California. Even more surprising is when the good news is an official opinion from the state’s Attorney General, someone not normally associated with friendly treatment to taxpayers.

Last November, this column noted that local governments, especially school districts, were prone to engage in questionable campaign activity to secure an unfair advantage in bond elections. Although it is illegal for officials to use public resources (including public funds) to urge a vote for or against a political issue, consultants frequently advise tax proponents to wage one sided “informational” campaigns. This includes sending out material stating all the good things a bond or tax measure will do, but usually they stop just short of violating the law by telling people how to vote. (Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has had multiple successes in obtaining court injunctions against school districts that cross the line into advocacy, but by the time the court rules, the political damage has already been done.) And to top it all off, the “consultants” compensated with taxpayer dollars are frequently given financial incentives if they win.

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California Here They Come, Maybe. Really.

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

The GOP came to blows in the Iowa Caucus—the top three finishers were “the blowtorch,” “the blowhard” and “the blow-dried.”  Senator Ted Cruz, entrepreneur Donald Trump and Senator Marco Rubio set the stage for a three-way contest that could actually stretch into the June California Presidential Primary.

While Cruz and Trump were expected to dominate the field in Iowa, Senator Marco Rubio scored surprisingly well—finishing a close third.  Perhaps that was attributable to the “Goldilocks effect;” many voters apparently found Trump “too hot,” Cruz “too cold” and Rubio “just right.” Is that a one-off phenomenon? 

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California Needs to Embrace the Apocalypse

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)

Is California being governed by apocalyptic French philosophy?

Oui. But it’s not the end of the world.

Indeed, apocalyptic French philosophy may finally provide clarity for those of us long puzzled by that great California mystery: What is the meaning of Jerry Brown?

In recent years, our governor’s statements have taken an end-of-days turn, Jerry channeling Jeremiah. The governor has warned of nuclear holocaust, wildfires consuming the entire state, the demise of Silicon Valley if his water plans aren’t adopted, and the apocalypse if we don’t curb carbon emissions. Last month, the governor went to Palo Alto for the latest of unveiling of the Doomsday Clock, a timekeeper for the annihilation of mankind. (It’s just three minutes to midnight, humans.)

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California’s Pension Contribution Shortfall At Least $15 Billion per Year

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

“Pension-change advocates failed to find funding for a measure during the depths of the 2008 recession and the havoc it wreaked on government budgets, so they won’t pass (a measure) when the economy is doing well.”
–  Steve Maviglio, political consultant and union coalition spokesperson, Sacramento Bee, January 18, 2016

It’s hard to argue with Mr. Maviglio’s logic. If the economy is healthy and the stock market is roaring, fixing the long-term financial challenges facing California’s state/local government employee pensions systems will not be a top political priority. But that doesn’t mean those challenges have gone away.

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June Ballot Measure a Reminder of Capitol Corruption

Jon Fleischman
Publisher of the FlashReport

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has assigned a number, Proposition 50, to the only measure to appear on the upcoming June primary ballot.

If passed by the voters, Prop. 50 would amend the state constitution to allow either chamber of the legislature, by a two-thirds vote, to suspend a member of that body without pay or benefits.

The measure stands as a reminder of the corruption that has gripped the California State Capitol in recent years.

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Does Eric Garcetti Deserve a Second Term?

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

Although the mayoral primary for the City of Los Angeles is over 400 days away, two credible candidates have surfaced to challenge Mayor Eric Garcetti in the March 7, 2017 election. While their chances of ousting an incumbent who has hauled in over $2.2 million in campaign contributions through June 30, 2015 are remote, they will certainly raise questions about Garcetti’s record of kicking the can down the road over the last 31 months.

The first to announce his intention to run was Mitchell Schwartz, a Democratic fund raiser and a committed environmentalist who is concerned that the City is not dealing effectively with the homeless epidemic, increased crime, our failing streets and deteriorating infrastructure, and out of control real estate development.  

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Use Market Pricing to Reduce California CO2 Emissions

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Nobody should be surprised that California’s cap-and-trade program is the most cost-effective strategy to reduce carbon emissions. What’s astonishing is that policy makers insist on pursuing other more expensive options.

The existing mandate to GHG reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 is apparently on an achievable path, helped by the historic recession, national automobile fuel economy standards, and the cap-and-trade program, which covers about 80 percent of emission sources.

Since November 2013, the Air Resources Board has held 13 auctions that set the price for GHG emission allowances. These auctions have revealed market prices ranging from $10 to $14 per ton of CO2, with an overall average for all auctions of $12.11 per ton. 

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