Here’s Hoping “Clear the Field” Doesn’t Prevail in Senate Race

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

The buzz created by Los Angeles City Council president Herb Wesson’s endorsement of AG Kamala Harris for U. S. Senate was a big “get” because Wesson was known as an ally of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who is considering jumping into the Senate race. Astute political observer, Dan Schnur of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute tweeted that the endorsement was a big deal because it cut into Villaraigosa’s Southern California base.

Naturally Harris and her campaign team are doing all they can to clear the field of big time opponents so that she can have clear sailing to a top spot in the primary and a victory in the general election.

However, in a state of 38 million people we shouldn’t have major political contests that feature only one viable candidate. Here’s hoping that “Clear the Field” doesn’t succeed.

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R.I.P. Dan Wall

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

Dan Wall was an expert on local government finances who advocated for counties and readily engaged in debates over tax philosophy in a straightforward, congenial way. Our paths crossed many times serving on panels or discussing tax questions when he worked for both the California State Association of Counties (called the County Supervisors Association of California until 1991) and the County of Los Angeles. Wall passed away last week.

On one memorable occasion, Wall commented on the recently passed Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, of which I was a proponent. The measure toughened the rules on passing taxes, something local government opposed. In fact, CSAC was one of the leading opponents of Proposition 218 during the election campaign.

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The 2015 CALA Legal Reform Wish List

Tom Scott
Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

With the 2015-2016 legislative session under way, it’s worth reminding our elected leaders why legal reform is needed. Ultimately, enacting legal reform is about making our lawsuit system serve the interests of ordinary people, rather than making personal injury lawyers rich. Stopping the abuse of our legal system will enable California businesses to grow and create jobs.

California has a long way to go. Last month, our state was again named one of the nation’s top “Judicial Hellholes,” due to the many abuses of the lawsuit system that take place here. These abuses include “shakedown” lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Proposition 65, the use of “public nuisance” lawsuits and contingency fee lawyers by the public sector, and abusive lawsuits alleging violations of consumer protection laws.

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Public Sector Pay: Transparency and Perspective

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Public sector labor leaders in California would rather that the public remain relatively ignorant about how well their members are compensated. But they are fighting a losing battle.

Because of California’s massive unfunded pension liability and other scandals, the public is demanding answers. Interests as diverse as taxpayer groups, business organizations, the media and some elected officials have moved aggressively, not only to address these problems, but also to ensure that there is much greater transparency about public sector compensation than we have seen in the past.For example, attorneys at Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association won several Public Records Act lawsuits against government interests — mostly at the local level — who were attempting to shield their compensation data from the public. And PensionTsunami.com is a website which for years has been a clearinghouse for articles on pension abuses.

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Villaraigosa Record has Pluses for Senate Bid – and Landmines

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

The signs are growing that state and national Democrats’ attempts to clear the U.S. Senate field in 2016 for California Attorney General Kamala Harris aren’t working.

Several well-known Democrats are seriously considering challenging Harris, and at least a couple seem likely to run — starting with former Assembly Speaker and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

In recent coverage of the Senate race to succeed retiring Barbara Boxer, talking heads on CNN and MSNBC have treated Villaraigosa, 61, as a formidable foe for Harris, 50. But they have been vague about what it is that might make him preferable to a Democratic rival who seems much more comfortable and appealing on TV and who has far more national patrons.

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The Cop Whisperer

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

Over the weekend, Congresswoman Karen Bass held a forum on the issue of policing in the African-American community featuring Los Angeles Civil Rights attorney Connie Rice, an appointee to President Obama’s 21st Century Community Policing Task Force. During the forum a number of community members expressed anger at the lack of progress on dealing with the police while Rice offered her formula for making strides in police/community relations. As she summed up, things are not as bad as they were but not as good as they should be.

Rice said the formula for success is to flip the incentives for police – to credit police for handling a situation and not making an arrest instead giving them credit for an arrest or what she said police department’s often call a “righteous shooting.”

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A Question for All The Born-Again Democratic Poverty Fighters

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)

Who knew there were so many poverty fighters among Democrats in the legislature? Heck, who knew that there were Republican poverty fighters too? And why are so many coming out of the woodwork now, in the wake of yet another austerity budget from Gov. Jerry Brown?

I share many of the concerns about the need to restore – and, more broadly, make smarter and more stable – health and human service programs that were decimated in the recession. But the Democratic interest in the subject – after nearly a decade of Democrats cutting such programs without remorse – is curious. In fact, here’s a more than fair question.

Where the heck were you poverty fighters last fall?

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U.S. Economy Needs Hardhats Not Nerds

Joel Kotkin
Editor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

The blue team may have lost the political battle last year, but with the rapid fall of oil and commodity prices, they have temporarily gained the upper hand economically. Simultaneously, conditions have become more problematical for those interior states, notably Texas and North Dakota, that have benefited from the fossil fuel energy boom. And if the Obama administration gets its way, they are about to get tougher.

This can be seen in a series of actions, including new regulations from the EPAand the likely veto by the president of the Keystone pipeline, that will further slow the one sector of the economy that has been generating high-paid, blue collar employment. At the same time, housing continues to suffer, as incomes for the vast majority of the middle class have failed to recover from the 2008 crash.

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How Paid Sick Leave Can Be Healthy For Pensions

Publisher, CalPensions.com

President Obama said during his State of the Union address last week that 43 million workers have no paid sick leave, forcing “too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.”

The president wasn’t talking about government employees.

Most of them not only have paid sick leave, but also an incentive not to use it. When they retire, their unused sick leave can be converted into “service credit” for time spent on the job, which increases the amount of their pensions.

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Taking on the Minimum Wage Debate in L.A.

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

The national debate over minimum wage increases will take center stage in Los Angeles because two efforts to raise the minimum wage face staunch opposition from the business community. The Los Angeles Business Federation, known as BizFed, went on the offensive last week coming out strongly against both minimum wage proposals and the way the council is going about reviewing the consequences of a minimum wage increase.

Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to see the minimum wage increased to $13.25 an hour while advocates and some council members say that’s not enough, that the minimum wage should go up to $15.25 per hour.

BizFed doesn’t think the discussion should be a competition on which higher minimum wage proposal takes effect, but rather whether there should be an increase at all at a time the state is raising the minimum wage.

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