Let’s Brag About California’s Weather While We Still Can

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 little joys of being Californian is the opportunity to taunt folks Back East about their terrible winter weather. Hey, Boston, how does it feel to have been colonized by Eskimos?

But this winter, we seem to be overdoing it, sending out a blizzard of social media postings of palm trees and blue skies. It’s enough to make you wonder if all our taunting merely masks our fears about our own weather.

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Throw the Penalty Flag in Football and Politics

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

The campaigns for the Senate District 7 special election and building a Los Angeles area football stadium are two rough and tumble affairs that have something in common – the need to throw a penalty flag on deceptive plays in the campaigns.

Much attention has been paid to the disingenuous nature of mailings by the Asian American Business PAC supporting the candidacy of withdrawn Republican candidate Michaela Hertle funded by the public employee unions who hope to cripple the chances of Democrat Steve Glazer who is willing to take on the unions.

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The March 2015 Meme of Job Growth, Low Wages

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

In public policy, we often ignore the obvious, due to partisanship, the desire to get along, or ideology. So it is with last Friday’s “puzzle” over both the state and federal jobs reports showing strong job gains, with weak wage growth.

Bernick_Avg Hr EarningThis past Friday, due to the annual benchmarking process by EDD, both the state jobs report for January and the federal job report for February were issued on the same day. Despite the differences in time and geography, the meme for the two was similar: job gains were strong, but were being accompanied by weak wage growth. Many jobs are being created and/or sustained, but they are not good paying jobs.

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Why I’m Going to Tunisia and You Should Too!

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)

Many of you reading this were part of the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, a five-day long summer gathering in San Francisco, that looked at the state of direct democracy in California, the U.S., and the world.

These every other year gatherings have continued, under the leadership and management of friends in Europe. The next such gathering is at the University of Carthage in Tunis, Tunisia, May 14-17. (Details are here). It’s a free, public gathering, with speeches, workshops, even a debate between Tunisian political parties. Why would Californians think of traveling all the way to Tunisia?

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Congress Needs to Step in to Stop Patent Trolls

Tom Scott
Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Here in California, the latest battle of the smartphone wars between Apple and Samsung before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is just the latest example of why our nation’s patent laws need reform. This highly public feud has increased the average consumer’s awareness of patents and their role. Washington has paid attention too, and California’s own Congressman Darrell Issa is settling in as Chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property (IP) and technology issues. Rep. Issa has confirmed patent legislation is a top priority and he will play a key role in the bill that Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to introduce in the coming weeks.

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Franchise Business Model Provides Opportunity for California Women, Minorities & Other Aspiring Small Business Owners

Saunda Kitchen
Owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Sonoma County, California

When actress Patricia Arquette shined the national spotlight on wage equity for women in her recent Oscar speech, I was reminded of a major reason I decided to go into business for myself 19 years ago – to obtain more control over my financial security than I would otherwise find as a female employee in a traditional male-dominated workplace environment.

Getting started in business is tough for anyone, but especially for women and minorities, who historically have not held ownership positions in proportion to the population. Fortunately, I was able to attain my goal of becoming a small business owner by saving enough money to become a co-owner and operator of a Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise in Sonoma County.

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Dear Uncle Bob

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)

Dear Uncle Bob,

You’re back!!!

You told a number of our mutual friends down here in L.A. that you were trying to make a quiet start in the State Senate, and keep your head down for a while. And that strategy made a ton of sense. You didn’t want to be at the center of the conversation, at least at first. And you certainly didn’t want to be perceived as a threat to our BFF Kevin, who is still getting the hang of this legislative leader thing.

And you held to that strategy! For like a whole week!

I’m so proud of you, Uncle Bob.

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Mockler’s Education Plan was Simple, the Legislature Complicated It

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

Much has been written about the contributions to public life of Johnny Mockler, who passed away last week. Punditry often focuses on his work in school finance and in particular the Proposition 98 minimum school funding guarantee that the voters approved in 1988. As an initiative measure it arose out of an inability by the governor and legislature to settle on a system that would provide schools with adequate or at least stable funding. An initiative proposing an increase in taxes dedicated to schools had been defeated by the voters earlier that year.

It has been observed that the guarantee that he helped to fashion is so complex that it was necessary to go to him to determine its operation. Although he glibly accepted the adulation his genius showed in the original 1988 Proposition 98 measure that was simple and elegant. It simply required school funding (a combination of state aid and local property tax) to grow with the economy.  So if the economy was doing better and providing more tax resources, the schools would do better. The calculation basically meant that “you get what you got in the prior year plus growth.” And if the state got into fiscal trouble the requirement could be suspended by the legislature by a 2/3ds vote.  Neat and simple.

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Medicaid Report Finds Federal Funds Systematically Misallocated to States, Especially CA

Autumn Carter
Executive Director, California Common Sense

Medicaid debates over expansion and program cuts are raging throughout the states as higher healthcare costs and enrollment figures strain state budgets. California Common Sense’s new report examines whether the federal government’s current formula for determining federal funding levels per state accurately represents a state’s potential revenue and current poverty levels.

The “Federal Medical Assistance Percentage” (FMAP) is the federal government’s base share of a state’s Medicaid costs. To calculate each state’s FMAP, the federal government uses a long-standing formula, which is based on each state’s per-capita personal income (PCI) relative to the national average. We find that the current formula is flawed in that it relies too heavily on PCI to determine how much federal aid a state actually needs to serve its low-income Medicaid enrollees. Using more accurate indicators of potential revenue and poverty rates, we reworked the formula to illustrate the extent of the funding disparities among states. 

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CA, TX and the Rise of the Nation-States

Fox&Hounds Contributor

In this highly polarized political environment, states and localities, are ever more taking on the character of separate countries. Washington’s gridlock is increasingly matched by decisive, often “go it alone” polices from local authorities. Rather than create a brave, increasingly federalized second New Deal, the Obama years, particularly since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, have seen discord rise to a level more akin to that left by James Buchanan, the last president before the Civil War, than Franklin Roosevelt.

This makes understanding the sometimes-divergent economic and demographic trends of various states ever more important. With no compelling national vision, not only are politics more “local” but are increasingly distinct by region.

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