Oprah Jumps Ahead of the California Presidential Candidates Parade–At Least for a Day.

Joel Fox

Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Now we are hearing about another Californian for president—Oprah Winfrey. With the nation-state of California in stiff opposition to the man in the Oval Office, a number of Californians are considering a move across the country to the White House.

Presidential chatter for Oprah Winfrey ramped up yesterday following her Golden Globe speech including this print headline in the Los Angeles Times: Oprah Winfrey for President? Her speech resounds; not to mention the online follow up articles on the Times website.

One person probably not enthralled with the Oprah speculation is California’s junior senator Kamala Harris. As someone from the “resistance” state of California, a woman and a minority, Winfrey occupies similar space in the Democratic Party as Harris who has also been considered a presidential contender.

Then there is Tom Steyer who would not comment on the possibility of a 2020 presidential run at his Washington, D.C. press conference yesterday where he ruled out runs for governor and the U.S. Senate. Steyer announced his campaign to build Democratic voter ranks and pressed his case for the impeachment of Donald Trump. Observers suggest his efforts would increase his nationwide profile and are building the foundation for a national campaign.

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Arbitration Agreements and NDAs Are Not the Same

Chris Micheli

Attorney and Lobbyist at the Sacramento government relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

Arbitration agreements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) have recently been in the news due to the sexual harassment scandals involving politicians in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, as well as members of the media and Hollywood moguls. Readers should be aware that these agreements are two separate and distinct types of legal documents, yet both are being targeted for elimination by the plaintiff’s bar.

To distinguish the two, an arbitration agreement is basically a written contract in which two or more parties agree to settle a dispute outside of court by use of an alternative dispute resolution process (i.e., they agree on a different venue in which to resolve their legal dispute). On the other hand, a non-disclosure agreement is a contract by which one or more parties agree not to disclose information that they have shared with each other.

So why are they being targeted for elimination? The plaintiff’s bar has long sought to limit or outright prohibit arbitration (unless agreed to after the dispute has already arisen) because attorneys are less likely to be compensated as well in arbitration than in traditional court litigation. With the public attention being drawn to sexual harassment claims, the plaintiff’s bar sees an opportunity to enhance their chances of success.

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New Eyes on LA Economy 

Lawren Markle

Director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC)

The Greater LA region is a real tapestry of economic activity and diversity, with industries ranging from satellites to salsa, digital media to automotive design, lifesciences to logistics, and frankly there’s no place like it.  That’s why we are thrilled at Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) to welcome a new Chief Economist, Steven Banks Ph.D. to our staff.

Steven has not only developed models to enhance economic, sector and industry forecasts, he has also worked in many of the industries that have a massive footprint in Los Angeles, in senior leadership roles providing economic forecasting and analysis at Warner Bros (entertainment), Trust Company of the West (finance), General Motors (automotive design and manufacturing), and Caterpillar (heavy manufacturing and infrastructure construction).  Steven has also lived in Southern California for many years, both in LA and San Diego, developing a deep understanding of how the regional economy ticks.  Naturally, our team likes that.  But more importantly, in our nonprofit, public-benefit role, providing objective analysis to inform decisions, we think adding such a seasoned veteran means our value to you is greater. 

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It’s Janus in February

Larry Sand

President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Janus v AFSCME case on February 26, with a decision scheduled to be announced in June. If successful, it would free public employees in 22 states from having to pay any money to a union as a condition of employment.

Many union leaders are beside themselves with the thought that their days of collecting forced dues payments may well be numbered. And in an attempt to convince anyone who will listen to them, the lies and whines are flowing like raw sewage. Perhaps Numero Uno on the BS meter is Mr. Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association. In the current issue of California Educator, the union’s magazine, Heins spews some whoppers that would make Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton blush.

“They want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join in strong unions.” Blatant crock. The case is about giving working people a choice to be a part of a union.

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California Scheming: Playing Games with the Taxman

Joel Fox

Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Sacramento Democratic politicians are so concerned that taxpayers will have to pay more taxes to the federal government under the recently passed U.S. tax law that they have devised a scheme to help taxpayers avoid paying more federal taxes.

Wait! Aren’t these the same Democratic leaders like Gov. Jerry Brown and state senate president Kevin de León, who pushed for higher income taxes under Proposition 30, an extension of those taxes under Proposition 55, and new gas taxes with SB 1?

What they really want is to preserve California’s high taxes which could be put in jeopardy of a taxpayer backlash if the federal write offs are reduced.

The plan to substitute charitable donations—still a write off against federal taxes under the new law–in lieu of paying state taxes will face strong headwinds.

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Immortal Property Taxes

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)

To: California Association of Realtors
Re: Death and Taxes

Barring some wild technological advance, all Californians eventually will die.

But why can’t our property tax discounts live forever?

That’s the question raised by your glorious new idea: a ballot initiative to make our state’s famously generous Proposition 13 property tax savings even more generous—and portable.

Your “People’s Initiative to Protect Prop 13 Savings” is a proposal as perfectly Californian as the Golden Gate Bridge. It provides a concrete symbol of an undeniable reality: Limiting property taxes is the fundamental organizing principle of postmodern California.

Under our Prop 13 regime, the taxable value of every California home was frozen to its value as of March 1, 1975 (when Olivia Newton-John won the Record of the Year Grammy for “I Honestly Love You”).—or whatever subsequent date Californians first bought their houses. From that original base, the assessed value of a home cannot increase by more than two percent annually—no matter how the actual value of it goes up.

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Cleaning UP the Voter Rolls

Mark Meuser

Candidate for California Secretary of State

Last month Judicial Watch and Election Integrity Project of California filed a lawsuit against the county of Los Angeles and the state of California. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants have failed to properly maintain the voter rolls (Judicial Watch v. Dean Logan, No. 2:17-cv-08948). The complaint alleges that Los Angeles County has approximately 144% voter registration. It also claims that California has 101% voter registration. It is a factual impossibility to have more people registered to vote than eligible to vote. Thus, the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs allege that Dean Logan and Alex Padilla have violated federal law by not removing from the voter rolls those who have died and those who have moved away, in a timely manner.

By failing to keep the voter rolls clean, the defendants are making it easy for special interests to swing close elections. Almost every day I hear a new story about problems with California’s elections. Stories of voters who showed up at the polls, and were told that someone had already voted for them. Stories of bus-loads of individuals traveling from precinct to precinct. Stories of family members, discovering that their dead relative has been voting for years. These stories are not happening 100 years ago – they happened in 2016. 

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In the New Year, Worry Free California has a Lot to Worry About 

Joel Kotkin

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

Propped up by media idolatry, California is moving from denial to delusion. Case in point: A recent AP story claimed that the state “flush with cash from an expanding economy” would consider spending an additional billion dollars on health care for the undocumented, as well as a raft of new subsidies for housing and the working poor.

All this wishful thinking and noble intentions ignores a slowing state economy, and a structural deficit, keyed largely to state worker pensions, that may now be headed towards a trillion dollars. Perhaps the widely celebrated, although poorly distributed “good times” of the past few years, have clouded Sacramento’s judgement.

Jerry Brown, repeatedly lionized in the national press, finally leaves office next year, he will likely leave his successor both a totally out of control legislature and looming fiscal crisis. Brown’s replacement will also have to deal with a state that, according to the Social Science Research Council, suffers the greatest income inequality in the nation and the third worst economic environment for middle class families. Worse yet — upwards of one-third of the state population subsists near or in poverty.

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Sign Here: ‘Tis Initiative Season

Joel Fox

Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

It is too early to know which initiatives will qualify for the November ballot; some measures have not even received their titles and summaries from the attorney general yet. But we know that money goes a long way in helping to qualify ballot measures using professional signature gatherers. It is conventional wisdom that money can almost assuredly qualify a measure for the ballot but money is not a magic bullet for getting measures approved by voters.

The per signature cost varies and tends to increase closer to the qualification deadline.

Still it is interesting to see what measures have resources behind them in the qualifying stage and I will use a rudimentary yardstick on that point.

Just before Christmas in front of a Southern California WalMart, a signature gatherer was trying to gather signatures on petitions. He was not passionately working on one measure near and dear to his heart. He carried six different petitions seeking signatures on each one.

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Climate Change Conundrum

Timothy L. Coyle

Consultant specializing in housing issues

When California enacted AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act (“the Act”), prominently featured was the Act’s “cap and trade” program.  Cap-and-trade was a sop to the business community which had reluctantly joined the legislation’s negotiations to help hammer out a “compromise”.  Cap-and-trade was advertised as the “market based” justification for bill.  The business community – with some nudging by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – bought it.

In fact, cap-and-trade is a sham – designed not to reduce carbon emissions but to generate money for the state, instead.  The program offers credits to well-heeled polluters in exchange for cash – meaning those gross offenders are limited to all the emissions that (their) money can buy.  The “market” ostensibly determines the value of the credits.

The proceeds of the sales go, of course, to the state.  The state is barely limited to what it can spend the money on.  Not surprisingly, a massive number of well-meaning special interests have lined up in recent years for pay-outs – from labor unions to affordable housing developers to providers of high-speed rail. 

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