California’s Boom Is Poised To Go Bust — And Liberals’ Dream Of Scandinavia On The Pacific

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

As its economy started to recover in 2010, progressives began to hail California as a kind of Scandinavia on the Pacific — a place where liberal programs also produce prosperity. The state’s recovery has won plaudits from such respected figures as The American Prospect’s Harold Meyerson and the New York Times’ Paul Krugman.

Gov. Jerry Brown, in Bill Maher’s assessment, “took a broken state and fixed it.” There’s a political lesson being injected here, as well, as blue organs like The New Yorker describe California as doing far better economically than nasty red-state Texas.

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NFIB Survey: Health Insurance, Regulations, and Federal Taxes Top Concerns for Small Business Owners

Tom Scott
CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)/California released its quadrennial California Problems and Priorities Survey in conjunction with the NFIB national Problems and Priorities Survey, according to which small business owners list the cost of health insurance, government regulations, and high federal taxes as their top three concerns.

“Many Americans are frustrated by the federal government’s failure to solve problems. Small business owners are frustrated by the problems that the federal government creates,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “All of the top problems for small businesses relate directly to excessive federal regulation and taxation.”

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Prop 54: Positive Reform

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

On Friday, Joe Mathews took to this page to argue that Proposition 54, demanding more transparency in the legislative process, is ill advised. He took on a George Skelton column in the L.A. Times that equated Prop 54 with motherhood and apple pie, claiming mothers would object to the goals of the initiative. However, I think the ingredients in Joe’s pie are half-baked.

Boil down his argument to the frustration he has with what he calls small reforms: redistricting, top-two primary and now Prop 54, which requires legislation to appear in print for 72 hours and provides for filming legislative hearings. He wants big changes that will allow legislators to make deals and use traditional political coercion to punish opponents and push through legislative changes.

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Why Would Parents Want to Know Anything about LCAPs?

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)

The LA Times reported recently on a poll from USC and Stanford institutes showing that more than half of voters had never heard of read about the Local Control Funding Formula.

This is treated as bad news, since LCFF is supposed to make parent engagement a priority. And the funding in LCFF is supposed to be directed in part the Local Control and Accountability Plans, which are supposed to be developed by local districts with parent participation.

I had high hopes for the LCAPs – until I saw them actually put together. They are a long, laborious, bureaucratic process. They don’t leave room for real parent input—they instead involve coming up with detailed and technical answers to meet state templates and questions that are highly technical. The end results have been very long (sometimes hundreds of pages) and confusing documents.

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UC Stays On Top

Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine
Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine co-chair the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Ackerman is a former California State Senator and Assemblyman, and Levine is a former U.S. Congressman and State Assemblyman.

The polls are in, and the University of California dominates—in academics, not football. UC Berkeley and UCLA sit atop the new U.S. News and World Report rankings of the top public universities in the nation. Six of the top ten public universities are UC schools, and all nine UC campuses made the list of America’s best public universities.   UC Merced, the newest UC campus, joined the list for the first time. The University’s excellence should be a source of pride to all Californians, but that achievement is not something that we can afford to take for granted.

Football teams can’t stand on their laurels, and neither can top flight universities. Higher education institutions have to compete for the best faculty and students. They require up-to-date curricula, facilities and equipment. They have to adapt to changing cultural and economic realities, and they have to keep up with the growth in qualified applicants. The incoming class at UC will be the most diverse in history, in the context of the university adding almost 8,000 more California students than last year. All these actions must be accomplished within the framework of increasingly constrained finances.

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Public Pension Problem is Not Old News

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

A couple of years ago, sitting on a panel discussing the recent election and looking at future policy and political topics, I raised the public employee pension issue. A public union representative on the panel dismissed the issue as “old news.”

Not hardly.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times began a series put together in cooperation with CALmatters and Capitol Public Radio on the miscalculations of dramatically increasing public employee pensions that will hit taxpayers with a double whammy: billions of additional dollars billed to taxpayers to pay the exploding costs and reduction of services because money must be diverted to cover pensions.

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Is It Time To Reconsider California’s Initiative System?

Carson Bruno
Research Fellow, The Hoover Institution

On November 8, 2016 Californians will once again have the opportunity to not only elect (or re-elect) local, state, and federal representatives, but also to directly participate in generating public policy.  While California’s initiative system is often romanticized, its inflexibility often leads California down a path ripe with unintended consequences and few options for fixing past mistakes.

First adopted in 1911, California became the tenth state to create the initiative system, whereby voters could themselves put on the ballot statutes, constitutional amendments, and referenda.   Supported by the progressive movement to blunt the influence of the railroad lobby over the Legislature, California’s version of direct democracy has led to some of the Golden State’s most notable – and infamous – policies, such as Proposition 13, medical marijuana legalization, the death penalty, and California’s abbreviated period of banning same-sex marriage.

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The Great Stampede of 2016

B. Wayne Hughes Jr.
Wayne Hughes, Jr. is a California businessman, philanthropist and founder of SkyRose Ranch and Serving California in Central California which treats veterans with PTSD and other disorders. Find out more @BWayneHughesJr

In certain parts of America, Baptist churches still hold “cowbell” services that offer churchgoers a Sunday succession of clergy sharing brief vignettes intended to motivate and inspire their congregation to commit to lives of public service. If a shepherd addresses his flock beyond the allotted time, a moderator rings a cowbell, which is the preacher’s signal that their time is up. When they’ve overstayed their welcome, someone whispers, “Ring the cowbell.”

In a famous Saturday Night Live skit, a Blue Oyster Cult cover band is cutting a song in the studio – constantly interrupted by their hare-brained percussionist and the band’s producer, who keeps chiding the musicians to use “more cowbell.”

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Gov. Should Veto Bill That Adds Partisan Politics to Local Government

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Among California’s great strengths is that our local government offices are nonpartisan, unlike many states where partisan politics dominates at the local level. But once in a while aspects of our Progressive Era reforms come under attack; and that is the case with Senate Bill 958 currently on Gov. Brown’s desk. It is a bill he should veto with vigor.

SB 958 sounds like a good idea, it sets up a 14 person commission to redistrict the five-member Los Angeles Board of Supervisors at the next round of redistricting in 2021. The problem is that it would be done by a partisan panel; the commission the bill establishes would have to reflect the partisan make-up of Los Angeles County.

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Prop 54 Hates Your Mom and Apple Pie

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)

The LA Times columnist George Skelton calls Prop 54 “a motherhood-and-apple-pie proposal if ever there was one” in that it supposedly limits the power of special interests. And Skelton adds: “This is the kind of measure that legendary reform Gov. Hiram Johnson and other California progressives had in mind when they established the state’s initiative system 105 years ago.”

Skelton is wrong not only about Prop 54—a measure that puts new limitations on the ability of the legislature to compromise and make deals– he is wrong about history, and about our mothers and their pies.

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