The Tab for SB 350 Becomes Due

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

Now that SB 350 has been signed into law we will found out what SB 350 really costs? The law requires that 50 percent of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources in the next 15 years and that buildings double their energy efficiency over that time.

Concerns about increased costs to implement this bill were a major part of the debate. Those objecting to SB 350 did not let up on their criticism once Gov. Brown put his signature on the bill.

Senator Jim Nielsen commented: “Senate Bill 350 will drive up the costs for our energy, food and all things that require abundant affordable energy to produce and transport, particularly hurting those California families least able to afford it.”

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Why California Should Position Itself as a Mecca for the Poor

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)

Fresno regularly ranks as one of the poorest metro areas in the United States. So why do people keep moving there?

The short, if incomplete, answer: Fresno is in California. And there is something very different about our state’s poor cities.

In other parts of America, people have abandoned cities labeled poor—because of high poverty rates and low rates of education among residents—in big numbers. Detroit’s population fell from 1 million in 1995 to 688,000 today. Cleveland’s population dropped from 500,000 in 1999 to less than 390,000 today. Population declines have been seen in places like Buffalo, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Birmingham, and Toledo. I cut my teeth as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, and my main job was watching people flee; Charm City’s population, once more than 900,000, is down to 620,000 today.

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Reining In the Metropolitan Transportation Commission

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.

​The Legislature will be looking at a bill introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-10th Dist.) which would abolish the powerful Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission as well as its kindred agency, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and replace them with directly elected boards.

​To begin with, 16 of MTC’s 21 members are already elected officials appointed by other elected representatives so the distinction is basically moot.

​The problem is this may not solve the problems and could even exacerbate them if the underlying causes are not accurately diagnosed. Elected bodies are not always ipso facto more accountable.

​The real questions are: What is their assigned role and are they carrying it out in the best interests of the public?

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Stop the War on Drivers

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

Just in case you had any doubt, it’s now clear that California’s war on drivers has escalated.

Three weeks ago, for example, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed all motorists to use the carpool lane on two L.A. freeways during off-peak times. That may have seemed to you like an easy, no-cost way to relieve traffic congestion, but not to the governor. Brown shot it down, he said, because he believes carpool lanes are necessary “to reduce pollution and maximize the use of freeways.” Yeah, right; those miles-long lines of idling cars next to an open carpool lane at 8 p.m. sure help to reduce pollution.

But there are other examples of how our elected leaders lately have declared a surge in the longstanding war against motorists.

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The CA Supreme Court Considers: Can Legislature Put an “Advisory” Measure on the Ballot

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court heard the case of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc. v. Padilla, which involves the legality of the California Legislature’s attempt to place an “advisory” measure on the 2014 November ballot.  The Supreme Court previously, at the request of HJTA, removed Prop 49 from the 2014 ballot.  Today’s hearing is on the merits and will determine whether the measure will appear on the 2016 ballot.  (The measure would ask voters whether the U.S. congress shall propose, and the California Legislature ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.–editor)

In lawyer-speak, it was a very active panel with the justices not only interrupting both attorneys repeatedly, but sometimes interrupting each other.  A number of justices acknowledged that, even if Prop 49 appeared on the ballot – presumably in 2016 – it would have no legal effect whatsoever.  However, the justices also seemed compelled to acknowledge the plenary power of the legislature.  HJTA’s attorney, Tom Hiltachk, noted that the attempt of the legislature to place a meaningless advisory measure on the ballot was itself neither a legislative act nor an exercise of any power ancillary to legislative power.

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Californians and Congress

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

baldassareThe recent announcement of Speaker Boehner’s resignation comes at a time when national approval ratings of the US Congress are in the teens (14% in September Gallup Poll). With the early talk of majority leader Kevin McCarthy stepping into the Speaker position, what are Californians saying about the powerful federal institution that the congressman from Bakersfield is well-positioned to lead?

In the latest PPIC Statewide Survey, we asked Californians to rate eight state and federal elected leaders and legislative bodies—interviewing was completed just before Pope Francis’ speech to Congress and Speaker Boehner’s surprise announcement. California likely voters give their lowest approval by far to the US Congress. Just 17 percent say they approve of the way the US Congress is handling its job. 

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California Loses Two Political Mensches

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 California political scene has lost two of the good guys—Ross Bates and Allan Hoffenblum. Ross was a long-time Democratic consultant and Alan was a Republican strategist who left partisan politics to establish the California Target Book, an indispensable compendium of facts and statistics on legislative and congressional races in the Golden State. The two men were political opposites, but both were stellar examples of sociologist Max Weber’s observation that “Politics means a slow, powerful drilling through hard boards, with a mixture of passion and a sense of proportion.”

Allan was a USC grad and lifelong Republican—his mother worked for Ronald Reagan. He served in Viet Nam and was staff director of the GOP Assembly Caucus in Sacramento. He later ran one of the state’s most prolific campaign firms. In recent years, Allan was best known as publisher of the Target Book. Allan, along with Republican political guru Stu Spencer, became an outspoken critic of his party’s failure to bring Latino and gay voters into the GOP fold.   Allan was excitable and passionate about politics. He was a “go-to quote” for journalists who wanted frank political opinions and not canned sound bites. To the end, he fulminated about Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has alienated so many Asian and Latino voters.

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Conservatives Win with Kevin McCarthy as Speaker

Shawn Steel
CA RNC National Committeeman

No sooner had John Boehner announced his decision to resign as speaker than conservatives were lamenting the heir apparent.

California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who has a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 89 percent, is under fire for not being conservative enough. The opportunistic Constitutional Rights PAC has even mounted a “Fire McCarthy” fundraising campaign.

These attacks on California’s favorite son are dead wrong. Speaker Kevin McCarthy will not only advance the conservative cause, he could be the most consequential speaker since Newt Gingrich inspired the country with his Contract with America.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership: Job Creation in a Global Economy

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

It was exciting news yesterday that the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations among Pacific Rim nations have resulted in a final agreement. If ratified, this treaty would not only benefit the United States as a whole, but also uniquely and specifically the Los Angeles economy, which serves as the gateway to and from the U.S. for trade with these economies.

We live in a global economy that is more seamless every day. Creating political obstacles or policy walls to try to fight this basic reality is tantamount to screaming into the wind, and it only serves to hurt us all.

If we want good paying jobs in the U.S. and a better quality of life for all members of our society, we must grow our share of the world economic pie. Removing barriers to trade with other countries is an effective strategy to achieve that goal. 

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Tax Reform Kabuki Theater Ready to Take Center Stage

Joe Rodota
CEO of Forward Observer, a public affairs firm with offices in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and served as deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Pete Wilson

Last month, the Legislature sent 600 bills to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature (or veto). Senator Bob Hertzberg’s SB 8 was not among them.

Hertzberg created a buzz when he introduced his proposal in late 2014. Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton wrote Hertzberg’s proposal “points the way to needed reform”; San Francisco Chronicle editor John Diaz called SB 8 “the most ambitious endeavor in the state Capitol this session.”

Hertzberg characterizes his bill as a “tax-reform plan to modernize state taxes,” but is SB 8 real “tax reform”? Or is it merely a tweak, albeit a very expensive one?

Forward Observer compared SB 8 with two tax reform plans released in the past six years. Our full report is here.

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