How Did California’s Voter Registration Rate Get So High?

Eric McGhee
Research Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California

The most recent report on voter registration from the California Secretary of State offers startling news: the registration rate is now just above 80%, the highest it’s been before a primary election since World War II. With several months to go before the registration deadline, this rate is all the more remarkable considering the state’s population, which compared to other states is younger, more mobile, and less acculturated to voting—in part due to the high number of immigrants. As a result, eligible voters in California are especially challenging to mobilize.

What explains this incredible number? First, national politics has helped draw in new voters over the last decade. In the early 2000s, the state’s registration rate languished below 70%. Two presidential elections—the race between Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008, and the one between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016—helped elevate that rate to about 76% heading into the 2018 election.

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Politics and Economics Don’t Always Mix

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

University of California at Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez knows something about economics but apparently not about politics.

In a recent debate with former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Saez (who is also an advisor to presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and proponent of a wealth tax) claimed there’s a correlation between wealth and political power. As the Financial Times described it, ”Saez said that wealth create[s] power, which skew[s] politics.”

But Saez’s own state and campus illustrate a very different correlation.

This year California’s legislature and governor are awarding $10 billion in compensation and benefits to 57,000 state prison employees, or $175,000 per employee. That’s 2.5x more than the $4 billion the legislature and governor are awarding to the University of California system, which amounts to just $16,000 per UC Berkeley employee.

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California says it won’t buy cars from GM, Toyota, others opposing tough tailpipe standards

Rachel Becker
Environment Reporter for CalMatters

Starting immediately, California state agencies will no longer buy gas-powered sedans, officials said Friday. And starting in January, the state will stop purchasing vehicles from carmakers that haven’t agreed to follow California’s clean car rules.

The decision affects General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and multiple other automakers that sided with the Trump administration in the ongoing battle over tailpipe pollution rules. The policy will hit General Motors particularly hard; California spent more than $27 million on passenger vehicles from GM-owned Chevrolet in 2018.

California’s Department of General Services, the state’s business manager that oversees vehicle purchases for California’s fleet, announced the bans on Friday afternoon. The immediate ban on state purchases of cars powered only by gas will include exceptions for public safety vehicles.  

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Retiring The Ballot Number 13

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Some notice has followed the fact that the state school construction bond on the coming March ballot has been labeled Proposition 13, the same ballot number of the well-known 1978 property tax cutting measure long praised or vilified in political circles depending on who is speaking. The concern raised brought back a memory when there was an attempt to end confusion over the use of the Proposition 13 label and retire the number, as I’ll relate below.

With the school bond Proposition 13, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, chief protector of the 1978 property tax reduction, announced,  “HJTA will be opposing Prop 13 (that’s sounds weird) on the March ballot.” His concern is with additional debt generated by the $15 billion bond, the inclusion of Project Labor Agreements in the measure, which add to the cost, and the fact that local school districts are required to provide matching funds for state money, which opens the gates for more property tax backed local bonds.

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No-shows, endorsement spats and drag queens: What’s on tap at this weekend’s Democratic convention

Ben Christopher
Contributing Writer, CALmatters

Like Comic-Con for progressive political nerds and consultants, the California Democratic Party’s biannual convention — one of the year’s largest gathering of like-minded partisans — will kick off in Long Beach this weekend with an estimated 5,000 attendees. 

Some will be coming to snap selfies with presidential candidates, although for all the predictions of this state’s enhanced role in selecting the party’s nominee, neither of the frontrunner White House challengers will be there.

Other rank-and-file Dems will come to network, or make merry with their fellow activists. A select few will arrive to do battle in pursuit of the party’s coveted endorsement for legislative and congressional seats — important because party money and door-knockers are at stake.

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Long-Term Solutions for California Wildfire Prevention

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

Nobody knew how the fire started. It took hold in the dry chaparral and grasslands and quickly spread up the sides of the canyon. Propelled by winds gusting over 40 miles per hour and extremely dry air (humidity below 25 percent), the fire spread over the ridge and into the town below. Overwhelmed firefighters could not contain the blaze as it swept through the streets, immolating homes by the hundreds. Even brick homes with slate roofs were not spared. Before it finally was brought under control, 640 structures including 584 homes had been reduced to ashes. Over 4,000 people were left homeless.

Does this sound like the “new normal?” Maybe so, but this description is of the Berkeley fire of 1923. In its time, with barely 4 million people living in California, the Berkeley fire was a catastrophe on par with the fires we see today.

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Let Us Keep on Truckin’ Says Lawsuit; Remove the AB 5 Roadblock

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Now it begins—the California Trucking Association (CTA) is opening what likely will become an avalanche of lawsuits, new legislation or just plain protests and complaints to get out from under the restrictions of AB 5 limiting the role of independent contractors. 

The Trucking Association, to borrow a well-worn phrase especially popular in the 1960s, wants to Keep on Truckin’ as it has in the past. According to a statement from the CTA, as many as 70,000 independent truck drivers are afraid that AB 5 limits their abilities to be owner operators. Unlike some other professions, the truckers were not exempted from AB 5, which codified the California Supreme Court test created in the Dynamex case to determine if a worker is an employee or a contractor. 

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The High Cost of Environmentalism

Stuart Waldman
President, Valley Industry & Commerce Association

With Thanksgiving in two weeks, I have to start by giving thanks that my family and home have been safe from the fires we have seen recently. I have many friends who were evacuated or lost power. And seeing the homes that burned was sobering for everyone living in California.

The smoke, power outages, and freeway closures impacted life in the San Fernando Valley – forcing at least one local nonprofit to cancel its major fundraiser, losing desperately-needed money which could have been spent on services; closing schools, and endangering people in poor health for whom the smoke and lack of electricity was not an inconvenience but a real danger.

I hope that the stories we’ve heard will illustrate something I’ve been talking about for years now – the importance of energy reliability and affordability. Over the last few years, certain environmentalist groups have coalesced around a single energy policy – remove all trace of fossil fuels from our city and state. And they have the right to campaign on their one issue as much as they want.

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Unsustainable California

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

The recent rash of fires, like the drought that preceded it, has sparked a new wave of pessimism about the state’s future. But the natural disasters have also obscured the fact the greatest challenge facing the state comes not from burning forests or lack of precipitation but from an increasingly dysfunctional society divided between a small but influential wealthy class and an ever-expanding poverty population.

We are not addressing either the human or natural challenge. Once the ultimate “can do” state, California is morphing into one that is profoundly “can’t do.” Neither right nor left seems to have any program to confront the state’s worsening malaise on issues ranging from housing, education and the economy to the care of the environment.

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LA City Budget Situation Reflects a Sad Reality of Today’s Politics

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The chatter from many presidential candidates and local politicians is that corporations and businesses are corrupting government and buying the government they want. While there is no denying that corporations do their best to influence and direct politicians, businesses are not the only ones playing that game and are often the target of spending interests that attempt to manipulate political class, as well. As the current Los Angeles budget situation shows, those interests have had great success. 

A recent Los Angeles Times editorial best captured the process of public sector unions bending politicians to their political will to meet budget demands to meet union wage and benefit requests. At the same time, politicians are not open with citizens about the city’s financial situation.

As the Times editorial points out, the city budget, hailed by city officials just six months ago as reaping surpluses of $33 to $77 million a year over the next four years, is actually facing big deficits of $200-$400 million over the next four years. 

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