It’s Today’s News: Pensions, Pensions, Pensions

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

Reading Friday’s news, I couldn’t help think of the union official who, sitting on a Capitol Weekly panel with me after the last General Election, said in response to my bringing up concerns on the pension issue: “That’s yesterday’s news.” Actually it is today’s news over and over and over again. In fact, there were three separate issues of pension alarms reported Friday.

  • The agreement to keep tuition unchanged at the University of California worked out by Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano included movement toward a plan to relieve crushing pension obligations on the UC budget. As the Sacramento Bee reported, while details remain to be worked out, the plan “will introduce a pension tier with a dramatically lower compensation cap, and could shift new hires from a guaranteed benefit to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.”
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Retention Elections for US Supreme Court Justices? No!

Scott Lay
Higher education Lobbyist and Publisher of The Nooner

Following the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage, presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz is calling on retention elections for Supreme Court justices. I’m pretty certain that Cruz knows that it has zero chance of approval be 2/3 of the states, making it an easy bullet point to add to the platform.

Cruz knows a bit about the Supreme Court, having served as a clerk to William Renhquist, and having argued nine cases before the Court while attorney general of the Lone State state. And, hailing from Texas, he’s quite familiar with judicial elections–judges from county judge to the Texas Supreme Court run. However, unlike California where judges must stand for “retention” elections, Texas judges are elected in partisan elections.

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Attempts to Change Proposition 13 are Misguided

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

There’s been no shortage of attempts in recent years in the State Legislature to overhaul Proposition 13—California’s landmark initiative protecting homeowners and small business owners from out of control property taxes.

Multiple bills have taken aim at the proposition, but the most popular among these bills pushes the so-called “split roll” property tax, which would eliminate Prop. 13 protections for job creators but leave them in place for homeowners. This split roll idea is especially favored by lawmakers who are eager to bring more money into state coffers.

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For a New Legislative Model Look to Texas

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Would-be reformers have filed an initiative that, if adopted by voters, would make the California Legislature one of the largest – if not the largest – legislative bodies in the world. The Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act (NLRA) would require one Senator for every 10,000 Californians and one Assembly representative for every 5,000. This would mean that the Senate would increase from 40 to 3,850 members while the Assembly would balloon from 80 members to 7,700.

The stated goal of this proposal is to reduce the influence of special interests, make our system more democratic and provide greater access to legislative representatives.

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Supreme Court Affirms Power of Initiative in Redistricting Case

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

The people can serve as legislators. In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court declared that an initiative by the voters to create a commission in Arizona to draw congressional districts was constitutional. California established a similar commission in 2008 when voters passed Proposition 11 and added congressional redistricting to the commission’s duties with Prop 20 in 2010.

The case affirms that voters have legislative authority through the initiative process, a powerful boost for initiative lawmaking. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the only Californian on the court, who himself was involved in a California initiative when he practiced law in California, joined the majority.

The case arose when Arizona legislators challenged the right of voters to set the parameters for congressional elections. The U.S. Constitution specifically cites that legislatures are to set the rules of election. 

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Are We Finally Off the Hook for Prop 8?

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)

Celebrate that marriage equality is a 50-state reality. (OK, 49 – it wouldn’t be a major advance in American civil rights if Mississippi weren’t engaged in defiance).

Run a victory lap if you like (take the baton from Gavin Newsom, since he must be getting tired with all his victory laps).

Get hitched while you’re at it. (Think of the economic spike this year from all those rich celebrities who can finally get married after saying for years they couldn’t until every one could).

But if you’re an average Californian who wasn’t deeply involved in the legal and political fights on the subject, you probably shouldn’t pat yourself on the back over the legalization of same-sex marriage. We didn’t have anything to do with it.

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The Golden State Jobs Outlook is, Well … Golden 

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

CALIFORNIA ECONOMY-Every year, I, along with Pepperdine’s Michael Shires, have what has become the often-dispiriting job – for a 40-year California resident – of evaluating the nation’s metropolitan regions in terms of both short-term and midterm job growth. Yet, this year, the results for our state’s metros are somewhat improved, as California’s post-recession job-growth rate now equals, and could surpass, the still-somewhat insipid national average.

After years of subpar growth, California is reaping the advantages of a fortuitous economic alignment of ultralow interest rates, high stock values and growing investments in high-end residential real estate. Vast sums are pouring into the state for new tech ventures, speculative hotel and residential developments. Low borrowing rates allow the state to keep pace with its massive debts, while buoyant stocks help the massive government pension plans, which invest in the market. 

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CA Gains in Film and TV Production as Other States Lower Incentives

James Poulos
Staff Columnist, Orange County Register

Hollywood could soon reclaim its once-shaky status as America’s production headquarters. After a near panic touched off by a nationwide spending spree on state incentives for film and television production, programs around the country have begun scaling back or shutting down altogether, leaving California in a persistent but much diminished race for the spoils.

The Golden State’s new $330 million incentive program has helped renew confidence that California policymakers won’t give up on staying competitive. But Hollywood owed its regained stature to the apparent exhaustion of its far-flung rivals. “California’s gains appear to be a direct result of a wave of disenchantment with tax incentives that has bubbled over in Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Michigan, where credits are being rolled back or eliminated,” The Wrap reported.

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Serrano vs. Priest School Financing Case Pops Up in SB 277 Debate

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

It was a bit jarring to hear the numerous references to the California Supreme Court’s Serrano vs. Priest decisions of the 1970s taking a prominent roll in the passionate Assembly debate over SB 277, the measure to disallow personal belief and religious exemptions for mandated vaccinations of school children. Serrano vs. Priest had nothing to do with medical issues or parental choice but was a series of major decisions that changed the course of school financing in California.

Well, maybe it did have something to do with parental choice in a round about sort of way. What prompted the case was a choice parents made on where to live and how much school districts spent on students.

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The Pope vs. AB 32

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)

One of the surprises of Pope Francis’ new encyclical on climate change was that he criticized so-called “cap and trade “ systems of pollution credits.

California has such a system, and the funds produced by the selling of the pollution credits are the subject of considerable fights.

But the Pope doesn’t like such credits. In the encyclical, he sees them as a response to climate change by a global capitalist system he deplores. He prefers spiritual and moral renewal – and a turn away from consumption – as a response to that.

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