Five Questions for Split Roll Proponents

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Proponents of an $11 billion statewide property tax increase re-filed their ballot initiative this week, claiming “notable improvements to implementation dates, expansive new small business tax relief, clarified education financing and stronger zoning language to ensure large corporations cannot avoid reassessment.”

Breaking down the changes, one can’t help but conclude that proponents would not have thrown away $3.5 million in donors’ money spent to qualify the original measure to add a very minor change in the definition of business property or – even more laughably – to give a handful of property owners a pass on the tax increase.

The most likely reason for this expensive do-over is incompetent drafting that left some school districts out of the money, and language that may have required a retroactive tax increase.

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Why California Should Close Failing School Districts

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)

School has begun for the 40,000-plus students of Sweetwater Union High School District. But the district’s crisis never ends. 

Sweetwater rarely makes the statewide news, but it’s California’s largest secondary school district. Sweetwater’s high schools and middle schools serve oft-forgotten communities near the U.S.-Mexico border—Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, and San Ysidro. 

While some kids succeed in Sweetwater schools, this border district flunks the basics of school administration, with phony budgets, questionable borrowing, and unsustainable union giveaways that now threaten student services and teachers’ jobs. Indeed, Sweetwater’s record is so egregious that it should make California rethink how it intervenes with failing local governments.

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A Look at the Rules Governing the Last Month of Session

Chris Micheli
Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

The following is a brief look at the major happenings at the end of Session pursuant to the California Constitution and relevant statutes. The end of the Legislative Session includes the last month that the Legislature is in session, followed by the month in which the Governor considers all of the bills sent to his desk for final action.

Overview 

The final weeks of the Legislative Session are a proverbial sprint to the finish line. Policy committees have finished the bulk of their work, but many bills get significant amendments that require the policy committees to hear additional bills as the Session winds down. 

The main focus during the last month of Session is on the fiscal committees and their votes on measures that are pending on the Suspense Files in the respective Appropriations Committees of the Senate and Assembly. These bills will be voted upon on Friday, August 30 after the floor sessions conclude that morning. 

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Can California Put Cars in the Rear View Mirror

Julie Cart
Reporter, CALmatters

The story goes that Californians love their cars. But much of the time that relationship is dysfunctional, launching drivers into the teeth of traffic jams, fouling the air and spewing gases that undermine state policies to combat climate change. Most personal cars sit quietly at the curb or in a garage for 95% of the day, so why even have one?

With transportation — mostly passenger vehicles — responsible for about 40% of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions, policymakers are ramping up efforts to uncouple Californians from their cars. As they nudge people into ride-sharing, public transit and housing built to enable both, officials are playing a long game. And they’re navigating a political and social minefield dotted with oil interests and drivers loath to give up cars without easy and affordable alternatives.

There’s also our clichéd romance with the automobile, long abetted by the state’s film, television and music industries with such tropes as the Beach Boys’ surfboard-toting station wagon and TV commercials showing drivers gliding up Pacific Coast Highway, convertible top down, gleaming hair whipping in the breeze, not another soul in sight.

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Another Consequence Tied to Tax Return Mandate Ploy

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Articles have been written, by Tony Quinn on this page and elsewhere, that the California Democratic legislators’ and governor’s ploy to keep President Trump off the primary ballot by demanding tax returns could suppress Republican voter turnout resulting in more Democratic vs. Democratic runoff elections for legislative seats under the top two primary system. But there is a second major consequence that would occur by holding down Republican votes: empowering ballot measures supported by the Democrat’s supermajority control of the legislature. They stand a much better chance of passing if fewer Republican voters show up.

The threat still exists to some extent even if Trump wins his lawsuit to strike down the law requiring tax returns. With a supermajority in the legislature, Democrats could put constitutional amendments on the ballot with a two-thirds vote. No need for the governor to sign on. With a hotly contested Democratic primary, the March election portends a strong Democratic voter turnout.

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Stop Repeating the Lie About the OC Turning Blue

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)

While I’m glad to see Trump-era Republicans suffer humiliation and worse, the headlines about “Orange County Turning Blue” really upset me.

That framing – the O.C. Is Now Blue — represents how awfully anti-democratic American politics has become.

The idea reflects the “winner-take-all” thinking that poisons our politics. When results and elections are close, we don’t share power or representation. The winning politician or party gets it all.

“Winner take all” thinking is how you end up describing a narrow lead in registered voters (of fewer than 1000 voters as of this writing) by one party as the political turnover of a county. There’s an authoritarian, even militaristic cast to this, as though Orange County has fallen to the blue piece in some California version of the game Risk.

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Impact of Scooters on Environment Still in Question

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

The dockless electric scooters that started popping up in California cities three years ago are facing a two-front backlash. 

The first front involves complaints over heavy use hurting quality of life in tourist areas and posing safety risks to both users and pedestrians.

In Los Angeles, anger over scooters has left city leaders increasingly open to a regulatory crackdown and led to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of scooters being vandalized. In San Diego, California’s second largest city, whether to ban or severely limit scooters is shaping up as a major issue in the 2020 mayoral race. One of the two early frontrunners, Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria, is a scooter supporter. The other, Democratic Councilwoman Barbara Bry, sees them as a failed experiment. 

The second front of criticism has generally caught the scooter industry by surprise: That’s the view that one of scooters’ main selling points – that they help the environment by limiting vehicle emissions – is exaggerated or false. 

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Were Pension Benefits Enhanced Without Due Process?

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

In 1999, at the height of the stock market runup fueled by the internet bubble, California’s state legislature passed SB 400, which increased pension benefits for officers with the California Highway Patrol. Over the next several years, pension benefits were similarly increased for government employees working in nearly every one of California’s cities, counties, state agencies, schools and special districts. But in California’s wine country, a case is quietly moving forward that argues these pension benefits were enhanced without due process.

The case, George Luke vs Sonoma County, is based on California Government Code Section 7507, which prohibits adoption of retirement benefit plan increases unless the approving agency first (1) retains an enrolled actuary, (2) who prepares an actuarial report, (3) which estimates future annual costs of the increases, and (4) the estimate of future annual costs are made available to the public at a meeting at least two weeks before the agency approves the increases.

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A Pulse for Republican Party in Los Angeles

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Despite a 20-point Democratic registration advantage, Republican John Lee topped Democrat Loraine Lundquist in Los Angeles’ 12th Council District special Election. Returns have Lee in front of Lundquist by about 1300 votes out of around 32,000 cast, or 52% to 48%.

While Republicans show a pulse in L.A., it is not a strong one. Still, the only Republican council seat on the 15-member city council apparently remains in Republican hands. (Some ballots still need be counted.)

Lee’s accomplishment in a city and state that has turned solid blue in the last few decades is something to note.

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Oakland Cannabis Consumers Must Protect Their Health and Safety

Dr. Angelo Williams
Deputy Director of the California Black Health Network.

The City of Oakland should be rightfully proud of its landmark cannabis equity program. The social justice program is intended to help mitigate decades of disproportionate marijuana arrests and incarceration of Black and Brown individuals. It requires that applicants for cannabis business licenses who suffered cannabis-related legal repercussions during the war on drugs receive half of all business licenses issued in the city. It also gives them access to no-interest startup loans subsidized by cannabis tax revenue. Sacramento took similar steps with the CORE Program, which similarly aims to address the aftermath of historical disparities in enforcement. 

Given that African Americans make up only 6% of California’s population, but represent almost a quarter of those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses, the intent behind the program is solid — even if progress is slow.

Social justice and equity for cannabis entrepreneurs is incredibly important, but the health of cannabis consumers is also critical to our community. As the city moves forward on cannabis licensing, we must make consumer safety for those who use cannabis for medical or recreational purposes a priority. 

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