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Show ‘Em the Money

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

Where have all the Republican donors gone?

The Republican Party is in the doldrums in California. Like the Oakland Raiders, the Republicans need one win to give them confidence. A win in a statewide race would not turn political fortunes around immediately but it would be a stepping stone.

Pundits and academics advise it would be good for state governance if the Republican Party would become more competitive statewide.

Those same political observers agree that this year’s Republican statewide office candidates are an attractive lot and they give Controller candidate Ashley Swearengin and Secretary of State candidate Pete Peterson shots at winning their races, acknowledging that it won’t be easy.

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Next Steps for a Climate Change Policy for California

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Governor Brown spoke to the United Nations Climate Summit last month. He made a strong pitch for state and local government activism to fight climate change. The Governor also promised to set an ambitious goal for carbon reduction for 2030 that “will also require heightened political will.”

The Governor’s timing is perfect because California’s climate change law is about to make a real impact on Californians.

Politicians, regulators and special interests have spent the past eight years claiming credit, pointing fingers,  writing regulations, filing lawsuits, fighting a ballot measure, and spending money taxed from just a few companies.

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What Are the Best Placement Strategies for California’s Long Term Unemployed?

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

What are the best placement strategies for California’s long term unemployed?

This week a consortium of four California Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) is launching a project to address this question. The project in its first months will take a critical look at existing long term unemployed (LTU) projects throughout the nation. Starting in early 2015, it enroll LTU participants and test placement strategies in California.

The number of long term unemployed (those unemployed more than 26 weeks) has been decreasing over the past two years in California, but still stands at 548,800 Californians in the latest month of August 2014. As the chart below, forwarded by EDD labor market specialist Mr. Brandon Hooker, indicates, the number of LTU is over 36% of the total unemployed of 1,505,000—a far higher percentage than prior to the Great Recession (click on chart to enlarge).

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Lawsuit Abuse Chases Jobs Out of California

Joe Ramirez
CEO & Owner, Pacific National Security

As many of you know, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is recognizing Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week. Nearly every small business owner I know has a horror story about lawsuit abuse. These lawsuits are much more than a paperwork headache – they can force small businesses to shut down and destroy jobs.

My story is not unusual. I own a private security firm, and when a client cancelled and moved to a national provider, I had to lay off one of my employees assigned to the account.   We could not place him back to work and as a result, I was hit with a lawsuit claiming that I didn’t give the employee the appropriate number of breaks as required by law. I was astounded to be told by our lawyer that even though a violation had not been committed, I would actually spend less money if I settled the lawsuit rather than fighting it.  With reluctance, we settled the lawsuit – and the employee and his lawyer received thousands of dollars.

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My Uncle Dale’s California Dream

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)

I had to go to a family funeral up in Apple Valley, I explained to friends and colleagues, as I canceled a day’s worth of appointments recently. They offered their sympathy, but what they said next confused me: “Have a nice flight.”

Flight? No one needs an airplane to get to Apple Valley from L.A. The town of 70,000 is only a 90-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, even less than that from my home in the San Gabriel Valley.

Too many California places remain stubbornly invisible, despite their proximity to population centers. Apple Valley, in Southern California’s High Desert, is one such place. Apple Valley is one of four big municipalities in the Victor Valley that, taken together, have as many people as Oakland. But getting there requires a climb up Interstate 15 and over the 4,000-foot-high El Cajon Pass. Millions of Californians eager to make it to or from Vegas speed by without giving Apple Valley a second thought. 

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Initiative Reform is Only the First Step for the Think Long Committee

Nathan Gardels
Sr. Advisor, Berggruen Institute on Governance, Think Long Committee for California

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Governor Brown signs SB 1253 with representatives of the initiative reform coalition. The author, Nathan Gardels, is on the far left.

The passage of SB1253 by a wide bi-partisan margin in the Legislature, and its signature into law by Governor Jerry Brown, marks a milestone for California’s 100 year- old direct democracy initiative process. It is the most significant change in proposition politics in four decades.

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Jerry Brown’s Veto Rate is Actually Quite Low (and What that Could Mean)

Carson Bruno
Research Fellow, The Hoover Institution

September 30th was the deadline for Governor Brown to sign or veto the 1,074 bills sent to his desk by the legislature, officially ending the 2013-2014 legislative session. And most of them he signed; vetoing 13.3% of the bills.

But how does Jerry Brown 2.0’s veto rate compare to past Governors and what does it say about his “adult in the room” narrative and “canoe” governing philosophy?

Jerry Brown 2.0, on average, has vetoed 12.6% of the bills sent to him (on average, 959 bills are sent his way each year). When compared to his predecessors, Brown’s recent veto rate appears lacking.  Schwarzenegger, for example, had an average annual veto rate of 26.4% (two times Brown’s rate), despite having more bills pile up on his desk (1,066, on average, per year). But wait, you’ll say; Schwarzenegger was a Republican, who had, at times, a frosty relationship with the Golden Dome. 

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Brown Should Apply Logic of Ethics Bills Vetoes to the Rainy Day Fund

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)

Gov. Jerry Brown should re-read his very strong language vetoing ethics bills. And then he should think hard, again, about his rainy day fund, Prop 2.

Applying the wisdom of the ethics bills vetoes – that adding more ethics rules would make the already existing rules too complex – might lead him to reconsider a a measure that is already way too complex. Brown also argued, in his vetoes, that the law already has ethics and disclosure laws – just as the state already has reserve funds in place.

His Prop 2 also puts new constraints on politicians. So did the ethics bills he voted, arguing that while some constraints should be applied to politicians, “some balance and common sense is required.” And the complex formulas of Prop 2 go far beyond common sense. Here’s just a taste, one typical little paragraph in a 4000+ word measure.

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Lawsuit Abuse Wastes Tax Dollars Meant For Education

Craig DeLuz
Robla School District Board of Trustees, President

As president of the Robla School District Board of Trustees, I take my duty to spend taxpayer dollars as effectively as possible very seriously.

That’s what makes it so frustrating when attorneys file abusive lawsuits against the district in search of a quick payday – something that happens across the state with alarming frequency. With each lawsuit, the district has to use taxpayer dollars in its defense. When those dollars are diverted to courtrooms instead of classrooms, the only winners are the personal injury lawyers and those trying to cash in at the expense of California’s children.

So during this year’s Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, I want to make sure my fellow citizens recognize how California’s laws enable and encourage lawsuits at every turn, and it is costing taxpayers – and our schools – dearly. According to a recent report from CALA, litigation costs for 12 California school districts over a period of three fiscal years from 2010 to 2013 were $125.6 million. Almost all of the districts examined faced multi-million dollar budget cuts during the years examined. High litigation costs contributed to budget crunches at districts across the state, resulting in fewer teachers and educational programs.

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2013 CalPERS Payouts Online at Transparent California

Mark Bucher
President, California Policy Center

CalPERS financial struggles are draining state taxpayers. The ever-increasing contribution rates it demands from state and local governments have already bankrupted several cities. Even for more financially stable agencies, increased CalPERS contributions have crowded out other spending priorities or tax relief.

While discussions about unfunded liabilities and projected rates of return are necessary and important, the average member of the public is too busy to dive into the details.

That’s why the recent release of CalPERS’ 2013 base payouts, including retiree names, on TransparentCalifornia.com is so important.

For the first time, average Californians can quickly and easily see how much CalPERS paid out to retirees in 2013. The names and payouts are available here.

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