Supreme Court Opens The Door To A Democratic Gerrymander

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Has the United States Supreme Court just given California Democrats the right to gerrymander California’s congressional districts to their hearts’ delight?  That’s the most likely conclusion from the oral arguments in a case involving the Arizona independent redistricting commission.  If the Court rules for the Arizona legislature, as the oral arguments strongly imply, the Court will also of necessity toss out the current California congressional maps and return California districting to the legislature.

In 2010, California voters took congressional redistricting away from the legislature and gave it to the newly created Citizens Redistricting Commission.  Arizona has a similar commission, and legislative Republicans there were unhappy with that state’s new congressional lines.  So they sued contending only the legislature can draw congressional districts.  The Supreme Court appears likely to agree with Arizona’s Republicans, but in the process it will give a huge gift to California Democrats.

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Shouldn’t California Have the Best Roads By Now?

George Runner
Member of the California State Board of Equalization, District 1

If high taxes guaranteed results, then California should have some of the best roads in the nation. For years we’ve had one of the highest gas taxes, yet our freeways consistently receive failing grades.

It makes no sense unless you admit that high taxes don’t guarantee good roads. That’s one of many reasons I had no trouble voting with my State Board of Equalization colleagues to approve a 6 cent cut to the state’s gas tax. Under a confusing and complicated law commonly known as the “gas tax swap,” the state has been over collecting tax dollars as gas prices have fallen. The new rate helps solve this problem.

Any tax cut is a rare bit of good news for overtaxed Californians. This gas tax cut also has the added benefit of partially offsetting the cost of a new hidden gas tax that took effect January 1 to help fund high speed rail and other so-called anti-global warming efforts.

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Gordon Fowler and “Community-Linked Entrepreneurship” in California

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

The Indian Wells Valley Annual Economic Outlook Conference was held last Thursday in the high desert city of Ridgecrest (pop. 27,616) Kern County. This is the 28th year of the conference, and it was unusually well attended with over 400 participants, drawn from throughout the China Lake and greater Valley region.

fowlerOne of the featured speakers was the owner of a rapidly growing business in the Sacramento Valley, Gordon Fowler. In his talk, Fowler spoke of his experiences starting and operating a business in California, and especially of the “community-linked entrepreneurship” movement in California, and its presence among California’s millennials.

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Gasoline is California’s Life Blood

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

The Field Poll reports that for the first time in seven years more California voters believe the state is moving in the right direction (50%) than feel it is on the wrong track (41%). Those living in coastal California are much more likely to have a positive outlook on our state’s future than inland residents. And Democrats are more optimistic than Republicans, so it may be safe to assume that Democrats living in Malibu, Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are much happier than Republicans living in Central Valley and other areas with high unemployment.

Like politicians everywhere, California’s governing class will attempt to claim credit for this reversal of what had been nearly unanimous pessimism.  Moreover, they will also claim that this is vindication of progressive policies that have given California one of the most harsh tax and regulatory environments in the nation.

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State Treasurer Chiang on Taxes and the Economy

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

With the rising conversation about extending Proposition 30 taxes, I asked state Treasurer John Chiang if he would advise that the taxes be continued. Chiang said that a promise was made that the taxes would be temporary and circumstances would have to change, such as the economy tanking, to justify continuing the taxes.

Chiang spoke to the Town Hall Los Angeles Thursday reviewing his actions as state Controller and reporting that California went from dire fiscal circumstances to the “most robust economic recovery on the planet.”

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Is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott California’s New Best Friend?

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 new governor of Texas seems intent on making California more competitive with his own state – even though he may not realize it.

Greg Abbott, as both a candidate last year and a governor this year, has been warning Texans against efforts to “California-ize” the Lone Star state. Those warnings were broad and rhetorical, but now he’s getting specific. He’s lashing out at Texas cities that go their own way and enact policies at odds with state policy and with his conservative politics.

To stop these cities, Gov. Abbott and the Republican legislature are enacting laws to reduce local control on many issues – from business, to energy to spending and taxes. That’s bad news for Texas communities—but it’s good news for California’s own communities.

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LA Time Gets It Wrong – Again – on Sumps Issue

Catherine Reheis-Boyd
President of the Western States Petroleum Association

Thursday, the Los Angeles Times published an article about a number of sumps – or ponds – that exist in oil production regions in the lower San Joaquin Valley.  It’s an important issue but certainly not the scandal portrayed in the Time’s inaccurate report.

The members of the Western States Petroleum Association are aware the Regional Water Quality Control Board is evaluating oilfield operations in the San Joaquin Valley in conjunction with the Board’s basin planning efforts, including the use of sumps, or ponds, to capture fluids used in the oil production process.  

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Electric Shock

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

Is Kevin de León trying to kill off what’s left of California’s manufacturing?

He must. The leader of the California Senate a couple of weeks ago introduced a package of bills that call for a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by cars and trucks and a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings, and demands that 50 percent of the electricity generated in the state must come from renewable sources, all by 2030.

All this earns him the warm applause of his base – he was accompanied by environmentalists, union folks and renewable energy entrepreneurs at his press conference – as he pushes the state’s businesses out into the cold.

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The Impossibility of a Republican US Senator

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is becoming more and more the inevitable successor to Sen. Barbara Boxer, but one thing will assure Harris’s election, and that is if a Republican ends up in the top two runoff against her.  It is impossible for any Republican to be elected United States Senator from California.

That is because federal offices have become the symbol of our polarized nation.  Consider Sen. James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma.  Inhofe is congress’s leading climate change denier; he regularly calls global warming a fraud and a hoax.  So you would think he would be seriously challenged when he ran for re-election last year, but you would be wrong.  Inhofe won re-election in Oklahoma by 68 percent.

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Will the 2016 Tax-apalooza Force the Chargers Out of California?

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)

Two stories, one statewide and one local, are about to intersect.

The statewide one is the now familiar scheming and debate over what sorts of tax-related initiatives and measures should go on the November 2016 ballot. One way or another, California voters are going to be asked whether they want to raise and reform various kinds of taxes.

The local issue is about football. The San Diego Chargers last week announced plans to build a stadium jointly with the Oakland Raiders in L.A. County. That’s put new focus on hot-and-cold efforts by San Diego to find a way to build a stadium and keep the team.

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