Despite Concerns, Initiative Process is Here to Stay

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

For its October poll, the Public Policy Institute of California tested support for California’s initiative process. In a series of four questions the pollsters asked voters if they were satisfied with the initiative process, if the process was controlled by special interests, if there are too many propositions on the ballot, and if initiative wording is too complicated and confusing for voters to understand. 

Bottom line: the initiative fared okay, perhaps even a little better than the other lawmaking body, the legislature. Asked if voters approved or disapproved of how the legislature did its job the results found 45% of likely voters approved, 42% disapproved. Taken together, 60% of voters were satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the initiative process. 

This is not to say that the voters did not have some issues with the process. 

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2021 and Another Minimum Wage Hike Coming

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

Just like earlier this year, because of the enactment of SB 3 (Leno) in 2016, California’s minimum wage is going up again. On January 1, 2021, the state’s minimum wage will be increased for all sizes of businesses, including “small employers,” who will see their fourth wage hike in recent years.

Under prior state law, the minimum wage for all industries increased to $10 per hour on January 1, 2016. Pursuant to SB 3, the minimum wage for all industries will be increased to $15 per hour by January 1, 2022 for businesses employing 26 or more employees and by January 1, 2023 for businesses employing 25 or fewer employees (referred to as “small employers”).

The current minimum wage for 2020 is $13 per hour, except for “small employers,” in which case it is $12 per hour.

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California’s Tax Revenue

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

According to the October Finance Bulletin issued by the Department of Finance, California’s tax revenues in September were 43 percent greater than forecast by the 2020-21 Budget Act enacted in June. Revenues for the first three months of the current fiscal year are now $8.7 billion greater than forecast. That’s good news for programs worried about funding cuts.

Don’t blame DOF for an inaccurate forecast. Because California’s tax revenues are dependent on capital gains derived from inherently unpredictable investment markets, it’s not possible to make accurate forecasts. They do their best. On the other hand, feel free to blame the State Controller’s Office for California being the only state that still hasn’t issued a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended nearly 500 days ago. Just imagine how officials would react to your business or non profit not filing your annual report on a timely basis. 

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Prop. 15 backers try to mislead homeowners

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

It’s a sign of desperation. When anyone in politics starts making wild claims less than a month before an election, you know something is amiss.

So it is with the proponents of Proposition 15, the “split roll” initiative which would impose the largest property tax increase in California history. Throughout this campaign, proponents have consistently argued that the measure won’t impact homeowners because it just raises property taxes on commercial and industrial properties. But now, they claim that Prop. 15 actually saves homeowners money. This is absurd on its face.

Recent polling suggests that support for split roll is sinking fast, especially among homeowners. This might explain why proponents have, at the 11th hour, countered with the argument that, as corporations have to pay more, the tax burden for homeowners goes down. Nobody believes this.

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How to Save California’s Forests

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is a co-founder and senior fellow at the California Policy Center

For about twenty million years, California’s forests endured countless droughts, some lasting over a century. Natural fires, started by lightening and very frequent in the Sierras, were essential to keep forest ecosystems healthy. In Yosemite, for example, meadows used to cover most of the valley floor, because while forests constantly encroached, fires would periodically wipe them out, allowing the meadows to return. Across millennia, fire driven successions of this sort played out in cycles throughout California’s ecosystems.

Also for the last twenty million years or so, climate change has been the norm. To put this century’s warming into some sort of context, Giant Sequoias once grew on the shores of Mono Lake. For at least the past few centuries, forest ecosystems have been marching into higher latitudes because of gradual warming. In the Sierra Foothills, oaks have invaded pine habitat, and pine have in-turn invaded the higher elevation stands of fir. Today, it is mismanagement, not climate change, that is the primary threat to California’s forests. This can be corrected.

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What New Polling Tells Us About Propositions 15 & 16

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

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) tested two ballot propositions in its October poll and while things can certainly change as the election campaigns head into the home stretch the poll results have something to say about the campaigns and the issues they represent. In a couple of words, on Prop 15: a difficult choice; on Prop 16: no mandates and too fast to achieve change. 

Proposition 15, the split roll campaign to raise property taxes on commercial property dedicating revenue to schools and local governments, the poll says it’s as close as it can get. The battle is going down to the wire and beyond as the late ballots may decide the issue. Presently, Yes on Proposition 15 is at 49%, No is 45%, with 6% undecided. Since the margin of error on the poll is 3.5%, the race can be considered a dead heat. 

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Reading the Props: 24 Is Being Used to Lock in an Earlier Law

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)

Every two years, I read the full text of all statewide ballot propositions—because at least one Californian should.

Next is Proposition 24

Prop 24 almost broke this reader.

The Consumer Personal information Law and Agency Initiative, as it’s called, runs 50 mostly single-spaced pages, and includes 26,279 words, making it by far the longest initiative on this ballot, or any other ballot. It was by far the hardest read of any measure in recent memory.

It’s also a sequel. And like Godfather 2, it’s longer than the original.

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Environmentalists Getting What They Wanted

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

It’s just what environmental activists hoped would happen.  California is losing people.  It’s not because folks are dying sooner, either.  Both natives and newcomers have decided they’ve had it and are departing the state.  

What is different from other points in history?  Golden State residents have repeatedly endured the surging rents and sky-high costs of living like the ones they are suffering today.  Unlike in the past, however, these spikes were never accompanied by today’s destructive increases in wildfires, homelessness, taxes, water and electricity shortages, state mandates and economic lockdowns.

That’s why an ever-increasing number of California citizens are declaring they’ve simply had it and are leaving.  They want a new start somewhere else.

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Prop 22 reflects desperate Uber’s missed opportunities

Steven Hill
Steven Hill is the author of Raw Deal: How the Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers and The Startup Illusion: How the Internet Economy Threatens Our Welfare.]

Like so much about politics today, the debate around Uber and Lyft’s Proposition 22 in California has quickly become polarized. Advocates on both sides have engaged in simplistic arguments of Silicon Valley versus labor unions, or drivers really want flexibility instead of security.

Yes, the future of work is changing, and the labor laws must adapt, as the CEOs of Uber and Lyft asserted recently in a joint op-ed. Yet these companies have consistently missed numerous opportunities to act as good-faith partners for their drivers, and for society in general.

I have personally witnessed these companies’ failings. After my book Raw Deal: How the Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers was published, I was asked to a meeting with high level Uber representatives. Previously I also had been part of a meeting with Lyft leaders. A central part of these discussions was my proposal calling for a “portable safety net” for their drivers, and for other types of freelance workers. 

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Ballot Integrity Questions Could Upset Typical Vote Patterns

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

Fire in official ballot drop boxes, unofficial ballot drop boxes set up to harvest ballots, the attorney general demanding the names of voters using the unofficial drop boxes, questionable ballots mailed in California, warnings of violence erupting around the election, and the COVID-19 crisis have all made the process of counting this year’s vote the most uncertain in the state’s history. The multiple ballot issues likely will change typical voter behavior so that while results in California are predicted to be finalized in close elections weeks after election day, the reality is the determination of winners may come earlier than expected. 

California is already under a blizzard of mail-in ballots. As of this writing, about 4 million ballots, 18% of all ballots mailed, have been returned. They include 2.2 million from Democrats (22% of the ballots mailed to Democratic voters) more than 635,000 Republicans (16% of the Republican voter ballots mailed) and more than 900,000 from all other parties including No Party Preference (14%.)

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