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Majorities Favor State Government Downsizing

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

The recent PPIC Statewide Survey offers an early snapshot of voters’ choices as we enter the November election cycle. The majority support for Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection and the Proposition 1 state water bond was widely cited in the media last week. But the poll also reveals surprising news about the voters’ overall mood this year: by a wide margin, likely voters would rather pay lower taxes and have a state government that provides fewer services (53%) than pay higher taxes and have a state government that provides more services (41%).

What is so special about this finding? We have been observing a slow but steady rise in the preference for lower taxes and fewer services since November 2012—when voters approved the Proposition 30 tax increase. In the 24 times since we first asked this question in our February 2003 poll, the preference for lower taxes and fewer services has usually been below 50 percent. Moreover, this preference has never exceeded 55 percent, placing the current reading close to the historic high.

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The Plastic Bag Referendum and the Connection to the Sec. of State Race

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

If the referendum filed to overturn SB 270, the plastic bag ban law signed by Governor Brown yesterday, makes the ballot arguments against the ban will deal with lost manufacturing jobs and charging consumers 10-cents for paper bags that grocers’ pocket. Those arguments should be highlighted during the signature drive and later in the campaign if the referendum qualifies.

But is there a chance that the referendum effort will bleed into the state’s Secretary of State’s race?

The Secretary of State’s office has nothing to do with implementing the new law.

But in another era, the Secretary of State’s office had nothing to do with outlawing pay toilets especially for women. However, Oakland Assembly woman March Fong Eu rode that issue into the statewide office in 1975. She held the position of Secretary of State for 20 years.

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Gov. Brown Rebuilds Redevelopment

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

Reversing his 2011 abolition of redevelopment, on Monday Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that will revive it, Senate Bill 628 and Assembly Bill 229. He also vetoed a third redevelopment measure, AB2280, he believed went too far by codifying an anti-poverty program into redevelopment law.

Property rights advocates opposed the trio of  bills as bringing back eminent domain abuses and taxpayer-funded corporate handouts.

“Since redevelopment’s abolishment in 2011, the Redevelopment Lobby has been advocating for a replacement that would bring politically connected developers back to the public money trough,” said Nick Mirman, a grassroots activist with the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, an influential property rights group that recently released a radio ad campaign against the measures. “If signed, these redevelopment bills will invite a return to the era of rampant eminent domain abuse and corporate welfare.”

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The Days of Awe

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

We are currently in the Days of Awe, the 10 day period between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a time of repentance, prayer, and charity. It directs us to a form of charity or good deeds relevant to our employment world today.

daysofaweIn repentance, prayer and charity, we are to take an active role. In repentance (“teshuvah”) , we are to ask forgiveness for our sins not only from God but from those we have wronged.  Yom Kippur atones for sins between man and God. For sins against others, we must seek them out and seek reconciliation with them directly. In prayer (“tefilah”) , we are to engage in introspection of our actions: how much of what we are doing has meaning and how much is driven by vanity and self-importance. Most of all, in charity (“tzedakah”), we are to  take actions that benefit others directly, not engaging in  abstraction or ideology.

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School Superintendent Race is Referendum on Teachers Unions

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

While the battle for Superintendent of Public Instruction between two Democrats is drawing attention because it is the most hotly contested statewide political race, in the end the contest may not so much depend on voters feelings about the candidates as how they feel about the power wielded by teachers unions.

The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers are all in for their man, incumbent Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

Challenger Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive, will tell anyone that listens he is not anti-union, that he has only worked in union schools and supports teachers right to organize. Still his candidacy is anathema to the unions because of his reform platform.

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Why Not Drug Test Legislators?

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)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari called a few days ago for mandatory drug testing for all California legislators and statewide officeholders. Then, some hours later, he said he had been joking.

My first reaction, before he recanted, was that this was a terrible waste of money, given the abundant evidence we already have about politicians’ deficits in judgment and thinking. Would anyone be surprised if it turned out our elected officials are, well, on something?

But once I knew this was but a joke, I reconsidered.

What would be the harm – as long as no one was punished or run out of the legislature for testing positive?

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Swearengin to CA GOP: Unity for Me But Not for Thee

Jon Fleischman
Publisher of the FlashReport

Last weekend at their state convention, the California GOP rolled out the red carpet for Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the GOP nominee for State Controller. The opening night’s main event was a dinner banquet profiling the “Women of the GOP” — and the plum keynote speech for that dinner was given to the charismatic Swearengin.

Swearengin in talking with the press corps at that very event, created a divisive earthquake for the GOP by making it clear that she is not supporting the GOP’s nominee for Governor, Neel Kashkari.

Swearengin told the Los Angeles Times, “I’m looking at the two candidates like other Californians are… We still have not had a chance to meet, so I’ve been focused on my race and getting the word out to voters around the state that I think California needs some independence when it comes to watching the treasury.”

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Property Rights Group Urges Brown To Veto Redevelopment 2.0

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

An influential property rights group has released a new radio ad campaign urging Governor Jerry Brown to veto three bills that would bring back California’s abusive redevelopment agencies.

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, which praised Brown’s previous effort to abolish redevelopment agencies in California, is hoping to block a trio of redevelopment bills – SB 628, AB 2280, and AB 229. The legislative package, property rights advocates fear, would bring back redevelopment’s worst components: eminent domain abuses and taxpayer-funded corporate handouts.

“Since redevelopment’s abolishment in 2011, the Redevelopment Lobby has been advocating for a replacement that would bring politically connected developers back to the public money trough,” said Nick Mirman, a grassroots activist with the Alliance. “If signed, these redevelopment bills will invite a return to the era of rampant eminent domain abuse and corporate welfare.”

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Initiative Reform — One Bridge Short

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

As someone who participated in the working group on initiative reform package that ended up as Sen. Darrell Steinberg’s SB 1253 signed by Governor Brown over the weekend, I can say the bill is, well, okay as far as it goes. But to invert a title used for a World War II book and movieA Bridge Too Far which tells the story of the allies trying to go too far with a battle strategy, the initiative reform in my mind came up one bridge short – in other words, it did not go far enough.

The bill lengthens the signature gathering period a month, a plus for grassroots organizations. It allows proposition proponents to pull an initiative if a legislative compromise is reached, an incentive for ballot measure authors to work with the legislature and vice-versa and certainly a step that can save state money and voter aggravation.

The measure also brings the legislature into initiative discussions early. Once proponents collect 25% of the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot the legislature would hold committee hearings on the measure. This, of course, means additional work for committee staff and members and those who count the signatures.

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What Should State Do With Those Tesla Millions?

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)

Don’t tell us you don’t have the money, Jerry.

Gov. Brown and the legislature were perfectly willing to give a single company, Tesla, $500 million, mostly in tax credits, to build a battery plant here.

But now that Tesla took a better deal in Nevada, state leaders are dropping the subject of that $500 million, as though this is the end. If California has that kind of money to give to a company for speculative technologies, California has that kind of money for greater investments.

Where should the money go?

I’m tempted to suggest that the money go to help shore up Medi-Cal, which has many new customers who are having trouble finding doctors. The cost of restoring reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal is $250 million, so the Tesla money would more than cover it.

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