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California Redistricting Commission in Jeopardy at US Supreme Court

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

The key question the United States Supreme Court must address in deciding if state voters can create redistricting commissions for congressional districts is whether the people can be considered legislators when they create laws through the initiative process. It goes to the heart of the initiative power, which voters in both California and Arizona used to create citizens redistricting commissions.

The United Stated Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from the Arizona legislature seeking to overturn an appellate court decision affirming the power of Arizona voters to set up a redistricting commission. California voters took the same approach in wresting power away from legislators to draw the lines for congressional as well as state legislative districts.

Arizona’s legislature argued that only the legislature can draw congressional district lines. They point to the United States Constitution which states that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

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A Lieutenant Governor’s Debate in Pyongyang

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)

“With Bay Area public radio apparently not providing a favorable enough platform for Mr. Newsom to debate, we’re willing to accept a forum moderated by MS-NBC’s Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz.  If MS-NBC isn’t favorable enough, we could be talked into doing it on either Russian government-funded RT television, or North Korea’s KCNA, although with that last one we can’t find a bureau for them in the United States,” – statement from campaign of Ron Nehring, challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

PYONGYANG (AP) – In a historic event, California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom debated challenger Ron Nehring in a military hall here in the North Korean capital.

North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, who has not been seen in public in weeks, did not attend, but the Foreign Ministry issued a statement welcoming the debate and the Cal Channel’s investment in putting on and broadcasting the debate, which represented a significant part of North Korea’s GDP for 2014.

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Battle of the Upstarts: Houston vs. San Francisco Bay

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

“Human happiness,” the Greek historian Herodotus once observed, “does not abide long in one place.” In its 240 years or so of existence, the United States has experienced similar ebbs and flows, with Boston replaced as the nation’s commercial capital first by Philadelphia and then by New York. The 19th century saw the rise of frontier settlements—Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and finally Chicago—that also sought out the post position. In the mid 20th century, formerly obscure Los Angeles emerged as New York’s most potent rival.

Today we are seeing yet another shuffling of the deck among American regions. New York remains the country’s preeminent city, but its most powerful rivals are likely to be neither Chicago nor Los Angeles, but rather two regions rarely listed in the hierarchy of influential regions: the San Francisco Bay Area and Houston.

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ADA Lawsuits Continue To Hurt Fresno’s And California’s Economy

Ruth Evans
Government Affairs Committee Chair for Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce and Owner of Evans HR Group

As a business owner who is involved with my local chamber of commerce, I know how devastating a lawsuit can be to small businesses. I’ve seen otherwise prosperous businesses forced to scale back, lay off employees, or even shut their doors altogether due to an abusive lawsuit, and I want to put a stop to it.

That’s why I’m joining California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse in recognizing Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about the impact lawsuit abuse has on our society.

A recent event here in Fresno illustrates just how pervasive the problem of lawsuit abuse is. The Fresno Chamber of Commerce, Fresno Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Fresno Chapter of the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association came together to call out just how lawsuit abuse is hurting their businesses, especially abusive lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Answering Your Questions About Proposition 2, the Rainy Day Reserve, on the November Ballot

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

What is Proposition 2?

Proposition 2 amends the State Constitution to strengthen the requirement for a budget reserve and to pay down budget-related debt. Proposition 2 would increase the size of the state’s “Rainy Day” reserve from $8 billion to $11 billion, and would require minimum annual contributions into that reserve of $800 million – and even more when the economy is strong and state revenues are high. The measure would also require extra revenues be used to reduce budget debts, repay funds borrowed from local school districts, or be used for investment in new infrastructure or reduce long-term pension liabilities.

How did Proposition 2 get on the ballot?

Proposition 2 was placed on the November ballot by the Governor and Legislature. The measure was sponsored by Governor Brown and approved unanimously by the Legislature.

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Prop 2: A Bag Full of Whips and Chains for the Budget

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)

Let me be clear, I don’t want to judge anybody, especially not the supporters of Prop 2, who are legion among the state’s media and good government elites. I believe that what people do within the privacy of their own homes should be up to them, at least as long as it doesn’t involve plastic grocery bags.

But I don’t think it’s fair for Prop 2’s supporters to force their own proclivities upon me and my fellow Californians.

And they have a powerful thing for bondage – whips and chains – that they’re trying to force on the California constitution via Prop 2.

That ballot measure, mistakenly labeled a rainy day fund, is really a motley, impossible-to-understand array of restraints on the discretion of those foolish humans who dare try to govern and make state budgets in Calfornia. Yes, there is a new reserve fund, but that’s not all. There’s a second reserve that involves schools, a host of new formulas for budgeting, and new rules involving pensions and debt. That’s not a rainy day fund, it’s a bag full of whips and chains for the budget. It’s 4600 words seems to include everything but a safe word.

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Stockton Ruling Could Prompt More CA Cities to Declare Bankruptcy

Heidi Siegmund Cuda
Former Investigative Producer for Fox 11 News in Los Angeles and the Creator and Host of the Economic Series, "Saving the California Dream." She is currently directing a film on the nation's public pension crisis.

A federal bankruptcy judge’s ruling in the Stockton bankruptcy case Wednesday may trigger more municipal bankruptcies in California and stoke benefit changes at the bargaining table, according to some of the nation’s leading pension watchdogs.

The decision, by Judge Christopher M. Klein, didn’t order any pension cuts–but it did give city officials the opportunity to make them.

The judge invalidated the argument by the California Public Employees Retirement System (Calpers) that public workers’ pensions have a special status in California and cannot be cut.

“It’s a big defeat for Calpers, which had argued that nothing supersedes California law, which is designed to protect them and they should be paid under all circumstances,” says Steve Malanga, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “What the judge said is federal law is all about breaking contracts.”

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Prop. 46 Will Increase Abusive Medical Lawsuits

Joel Strom
Fellow, Unruh Institute of Politics, University of Southern California

Lawsuit abuse penetrates every level of society, perhaps nowhere more so than in the medical profession. The upcoming November election in California presents voters with a clear choice if they want to keep a tenuous lid on an explosion of costs associated with medical lawsuit abuse – vote NO on Proposition 46.  Voting down this highly-partisan proposition will allow us to continue a longstanding bi-partisan approach to reducing frivolous lawsuits defined in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act.

Proposition 46, on the other hand, was written by and for personal injury lawyers, ostensibly to make it easier for patients to seek compensation and in an effort to increase the payouts they receive when they file lawsuits against doctors.  This even includes when my medical professional colleagues and I work in community clinics and health centers. Proposition 46 seeks to change the law to make it more lucrative for these lawyers to file lawsuits against doctors.

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Proposition 2, An Insurance Policy for the Budget

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

When The Sacramento Bee asked Gov. Jerry Brown Friday whether, if re-elected, he would continue his pledge to only raise taxes approved by voters, he appeared to duck the question. He said he was focusing on passing Propositions 1 (water bond) and 2 (rainy day budget fund). As Brown hinted in his response, any question about future tax policy is tied to the fate of the rainy day fund measure.

Proposition 30’s temporary taxes are due to expire in 2018. Already, some elected officials are calling to extend the tax. If Democrats secure a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and Senate on Nov. 4, the tax extension can be accomplished by a legislative vote and a gubernatorial signature.

Keeping Proposition 30 taxes would keep a fiscal system mounted on a rickety foundation – and Brown knows that. More than once, he has observed that the state treasury relies too heavily on high-income Californians. The top 1 percent of taxpayers supplies approximately one-third of the state’s $110 billion general fund budget. When the economy sours, high-end earners pay a heavy price as the value of their stocks and other capital gains takes a tumble. That produces a drop in tax revenue that reverberates throughout the state budget.

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Higher Education Veto Is Penny Wise And Pound Foolish

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.

Governor Jerry Brown has been rightfully praised for his fiscal prudence and discipline.  Sometimes, however, it is possible to be Pound wise and Penny foolish.  That would appear to be the case with the Governor’s veto of legislation to provide $100 million for the University of California and the California State University system.

The money would have gone for pressing deferred maintenance at the UC and CSU campuses.  This isn’t glamourous stuff, but we can’t afford to neglect the facilities and infrastructure that support the academic necessities on our campuses.  As we all know, delayed maintenance results in costs that grow exponentially.  The veto of the $100 million that was earmarked for the campuses is likely to result in future costs in the hundreds of millions.

We understand the Governor’s desire to hold the line on spending, particularly as California faces unanticipated costs attributable to the drought and wildfires, but failure to deal with urgent maintenance needs on the campuses will inevitably result in new unanticipated costs that could have been avoided.

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