Political Power Struggle Over PUC Reforms

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

The California Public Utilities Commission rightly faces questions about its effectiveness and responsibilities, but in the end the issue of reforms will come down to a question of power—the political kind.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s proposed constitutional amendment to replace the authority of the PUC will get the debate started and public sentiment should be on his side. The natural gas disaster at Porter Ranch follows in relative short order the San Bruno gas line explosion and the questionable dealings involving the San Onofre nuclear power plant. All these highly publicized issues have given the PUC a black eye.

The PUC’s stated mission is “protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure….”

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New Hampshire – Maker Of Presidents

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Iowa they say picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents.  And in fact, that is exactly right.  New Hampshire not only makes presidents, it also rids us of presidents, two in recent history.  And this year it is going to play its traditional mighty role.

Hillary Clinton simply has to survive New Hampshire, but if she does better than expected, as some polls suggest, she will be the “comeback gal” just like Bill was the “comeback kid” in 1992.  For the Republicans, New Hampshire could make or break their candidates.  Before Saturday’s debate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was emerging as the establishment choice against Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.  Then he had a bad New Hampshire debate.  His candidacy could go the way of other New Hampshire debate losers.

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Millions of Gallons of Wasted Storm Runoff Ignored 

Assemblyman Jim Patterson
Assembly Member Jim Patterson represents the 23rd District, which includes portions of Fresno and Tulare counties.

Last week the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation heard testimony from several of the state’s water bureaucrats about how they are spending water bond funds. Surprising to me was that after all the back-patting, there was not one mention of all the water we are wasting.

According to the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, more than 208,000 acre feet of water was flushed out to the ocean during the month of January.
We should be pumping that water out of the Delta to refill and replenish the reservoirs we will rely on for our next dry season.

Fresno County Farmer Wayne Western has been crunching numbers to keep the public aware of all the water waste.  “The people of California have been conserving for a major drought for over three years.  We’ve also been paying for it by lost jobs, fallowed fields,” Western said. “It’s time for the government to end the man-made drought and start pumping and saving water.”

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The Importance of the New Hampshire Primary

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 big story going into the New Hampshire primary—the first in the nation—is the shifting dynamics of one of the strangest presidential campaigns in American history.

Iowa’s caucus results are often not predictive of the final outcome—certainly on the GOP side where neither of the previous winners—Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum—received their party’s nomination.

But they do suggest that the simmering discontent in the general populace which candidates in both parties have been tapping into since the campaigning began is boiling up to the surface and the remaining contenders may ignore it at their peril.

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Mandating Victims of Gas Leak to Return in 8 Days Unacceptable 

Michael D. Antonovich
Los Angeles County Supervisor

In a weekend negotiation, the Southern California Gas Company and the City of Los Angeles agreed to a 7-night, 8-day timeframe by when residents displaced by the Porter Ranch gas leak must return to their residence otherwise reimbursement for relocation expenses will stop.

This deal victimizes the victims once again and violates the spirit of the Public Health officer’s 30-day return recommendation.  Residents and school officials should have the confidence once the well is sealed, that the area has been appropriately tested and assessed before the Gas Company discontinues paying for relocation expenses.  These residents have been forced out of their homes and their children forced out of their schools.  A 30-day return policy would be in the best interest of residents, students, and schools. 

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Property Taxpayers in Center of School Bond Debate

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

Property taxpayers are in the eye of a brewing storm whipped up by the contrasting efforts to pass a statewide school construction bond initiative and the Brown Administration’s insistence that future school construction bonds be funded locally. Depending on which way this wind blows, local residential and business property taxpayers could be hit with a higher property tax burden.

There is also the danger than business properties, including small businesses, could be singled out for even higher taxes if local bonds rely on parcel taxes for repayment.

A $9 billion state school bond already has qualified for the ballot. Builders, building trades, business organizations, school districts and a bi-partisan array of elected officials support it. State school bonds are paid off by the General Fund and this is why the governor’s office objects. In his concern to protect the General Fund, Governor Brown wants local school districts to raise local taxes to pay for school construction bonds.

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How to Get Votes in New Hampshire—A Personal Story

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

Thirty years ago, when I was campaigning for a seat in the 400-member New Hampshire House (yes, 400 members), I spent my weekends at the Sanbornton Town Landfill engaging voters. Since my Lakes Region town with its 2900 residents had no street garbage collection, it was the one place that everyone in town showed up in their Ford 150’s on Saturday mornings. What better place to politic, particularly when my campaign budget totaled $300?

To this day, I’m convinced my master strategy of political dump diving is what got me elected, the first member of my political party to represent the town in 100+ years. But don’t tell my Mom. She insists that her haranguing voters as they entered the white clapboard Town Hall that was built in 1834 was the key to my electoral success.

I like to tell this story because, in a way, it’s what the New Hampshire primary is all about, even three decades later.

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Death to the PUC!

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)

I’m not sure the state’s Public Utilities Commission deserves to die. But I’m glad the death penalty has finally been put on the table.

That’s the real import of a proposal from three legislators to ask voters to strip the PUC of its constitutional authority and allow the legislature to redistribute its power to other state agencies.

This is unlikely to happen, at least soon. A constitutional amendment will need a two-thirds vote; Gov. Brown’s support isn’t needed to get it on the ballot, but his support would probably be required to get such a measure to pass, given the money that would be spent against it.

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Minimum Wage Divides Experts

Reporter, CalWatchDog

Voters will likely decide on the November ballot whether or not to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, even though experts are still divided on the issue.

There will be plenty of anecdotes in between now and November about the fruit picker or dish washer whose wages would rise 50 percent if the minimum wage were to jump from $10 to $15 per hour. But experts say that’s not the only factor to consider.

Experts agree that increased wages will increase prices, as employers are forced to compensate for increased labor costs. This means minimum-wage workers will lose some of their new-found earnings to inflation.

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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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