The State of California Owes Me Money

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)

INVOICE

From: Joe Mathews
To: State Controller
CC: The Legislature, the Governor
Re: Unpaid Wages And Back Pay

Please consider this my bill for $7786 in unpaid wages and back pay for my work as a California lawmaker.

Yes, I know we have a highly professional, full-time legislature, but those guys keep kicking the toughest decisions about laws and constitutional amendments to me. They can’t even pass a budget these days without putting six measures on the ballot and calling a special election. And big interest groups and rich guys keep throwing things on the ballot for me to decide too.

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Main Street Menace of the Week: SB 810 (Leno) – Government Run Healthcare

John Kabateck
NFIB State Director in California

While the legislature is in session, the National Federation of Independent Business/California will be profiling anti-small business bills and the adverse effect they would have on California’s job creators.  This is the second column of that series.

"I’m from the government and I’m here to help."  Just hearing those words strikes fear in the hearts of hardworking small business owners everywhere.  In California it is especially frightening, given the number of onerous regulations, soaring costs, and other burdens that are regularly heaped upon the plates of small businesses.  Add to that the financial crisis facing the state with foreclosed homes, rising unemployment, and a growing state deficit, and government is not seen as a savior by most right now.

So in the middle of all this our legislature is once again considering yet another "law of unintended consequences", Senate Bill 810 (Leno), which would turn over our already-stressed healthcare system to an incapable, if not absentee, caretaker: our state government bureaucracy.

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California’s Plummeting GOP Registration

Allan Hoffenblum
Publisher of the California Target Book and owner of Allan Hoffenblum & Associates

Going into the 2010 election cycle — the last election in which candidates will run in districts drawn in 2001 – the biggest story is the plummeting Republican voter registration throughout California.

Not only is the current statewide Republican registration of 31% a historic low, but for the first time there is not a single congressional, state senate or assembly district that has a majority Republican registration.

Back in 2001, when the redistricting mapmakers gerrymandered the 80 assembly districts in an attempt to keep the status quo of 50 safe Democratic districts and 30 safe Republican seats, five of the assembly districts had solid Republican majorities and an additional five had a GOP registration of between 48 – 50 percent. Today, it’s zero majority districts and only two with GOP registration over 48 percent (Jean Fuller, AD32; Jeff Miller, AD71).

On the congressional level, there were three Republican majority districts in 2001 and an additional four with GOP registration between 48 – 50 percent. Today, zero majority districts and only one district between 48 and 50 percent (Kevin McCarthy, CD22).

While GOP registration has tumbled, voters who register Decline to State (DTS) have increased significantly. Democratic registration statewide in 2001 was 45 percent; today it is 44.55%. DTS registration was14.5% in 2001; today it is 20%.

As a result of this continuous increase in voters registering DTS, there are now 14 congressional districts and 21 assembly districts where Decline to State voters OUTNUMBER those who are registered Republicans.

A recent Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) statewide poll asked the question: Do you think of yourself closer to the Republican Party or Democratic Party? Forty seven percent replied Democratic Party, while those responding Republican Party or neither (volunteered) tied at 23 percent each.
The consequence of all this is that several districts that were gerrymandered in 2001 to be safe Republican are now no longer safe.

In November 2008, Barack Obama outpolled John McCain in EIGHT of the nineteen congressional districts currently held by a Republican, FIVE of the fifteen Republican-held senate districts, and TWELVE of the twenty-nine Republican-held assembly districts. McCain carried no Democratic-held district.

At the national level, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the political arm of House Democrats, has announced that they will target these eight “Obama GOP” districts in 2010. They are CD3 (Dan Lungren), CD24 (Elton Gallegly), CD25 (Buck McKeon), CD26 (David Dreier), CD 44 (Ken Calvert), CD45 (Mary Bono Mack), CD48 (John Campbell), and CD50 (Brian Bilbray).

While it is unlikely that they will actually target all eight, there is little doubt that at least two or three will be on the national target list. National Democrats have already funded radio commercials attacking Lungren in CD3 and Calvert in CD44. (see my earlier Fox and Hounds post: How the GOP hung on to CA Congressional seats in 2008).

The twelve Obama GOP assembly districts are AD5 (Roger Niello), AD26 (Bill Berryhill), AD 30 (Danny Gilmore), AD33 (Sam Blakeslee), AD36 (Stephen Knight), AD37 (Audra Strickland), AD38 Cameron Smyth), AD63 (Bill Emmerson), AD64 (Brian Nestande), AD70 (Chuck Devore), AD74 (Martin Garrick), and AD75 (Nathan Fletcher).

The soon-to-be elected state chair of the California Democratic Party, John Burton, will have his crosshairs on all of these districts, especially those that will be open seats in 2010 due to the incumbent being termed out. The open seats are: ADs 5, 33, 37, 63, and 70.

Among the five Obama GOP senate districts, four are odd-number districts not up for election in 2010; the fifth is SD12, which Republican Jeff Denham must give up due to term limits. Since Denham was reelected to that seat in 2006, GOP registration has dropped four points while DTS registration has increased by three and Obama carried the district by a margin of 18 points (58% – 40%). Democrats will spend whatever it takes to bring that district into the Democratic column.

In fact, look for 2010 to become one of the most competitive November General Election campaigns since the current lines were drawn in 2001. The question now is, will the California Republican Party have sufficient numbers, dollars, and political smarts needed to put up a good fight?

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California Comeback Could Begin in Nevada

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

California Republicans announced a road trip yesterday. They plan to head to Reno, Nevada to hold a hearing about why businesses choose to leave California. Nevada is a good place to look for such businesses in exile.

The Republicans will not only have former California business people testifying at their hearing; Nevada’s governor and some of its legislators will also be in attendance. I imagine there will be a few zingers fired California’s way from that crowd. But, they have a right to crow – California businesses move out of state because of poor policy choices by our state’s lawmakers.

Not only can the condition of chasing businesses from the state be turned around, it must be turned around. The answer to solving California’s budget problems is to free up the job creating power of business. And the best way to do that is to encourage ENTREPRENEUR CALIFORNIA, a place where the entrepreneur can thrive without the burden of difficult regulation and high taxes.

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Quiet Conscience Makes One Strong

Judge, Superior Court of Orange County

In many ways, our great country is now at a crossroads. Will we continue to build on the values that helped to make us great, including a reliance on our native ingenuity, creativity, and work ethic? Or will we get soft and look evermore toward bigger government to take care of us?

Today we are facing daunting challenges to our economic way of life. So it’s naturally important for our general feelings of economic confidence to believe that government is “doing something” positive about the situation. But this also brings upon us the risk that we, and the government, will see government as the solution to all of our problems. And that is a dangerous course to take for our future, and for the future of our children.

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Do Editorial Boards Still Matter?

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)

One day back in 2005, when I was reporting a book on Gov. Schwarzenegger and his use of ballot initiatives, Todd Harris, then a political consultant for the governor, greeted me triumphantly.

“36 for 36!” he said.

Harris was talking about Prop 77, the redistricting reform initiative the governor was backing on the special election ballot that year. After many weeks of work, the governor’s campaign had convinced all 36 of the state’s largest newspapers to endorse Prop 77.

The editorials didn’t make a bit of difference. Prop 77 lost.

In recent weeks, when I ask people on different sides of the special election ballot measures what they’re up to, the answer is often: I’m on my way to meet an editorial board.

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Looking for Drama at a News Conference

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

The news conference supporting Propositions 1A to 1F at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce featuring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, Chamber president Gary Toebben and other business and public sector leaders didn’t promise much drama. But, I attended the proceedings in hopes that some local color or unusual event would set this conference apart.

About forty teachers, business executives and carpenters stood behind the speakers, the carpenters in their hard hats and orange vests adding some color and visual impact for the cameras.

Mayor Villarigosa “humanized” the proceedings by revealing he was lobbied for support by the governor at Washington’s Gridiron Club over two beers and a stogie.
Villaraigosa declared that the propositions were the “only way out of the morass” in Sacramento, criticizing both the left and the right for trying to oppose the package.

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Disconnect and the Tea Parties

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

In normal times, political institutions generally reflect the
members they serve. In theory, a legislative body reflects the
combined wisdom and experience of its elected representatives. And
those representatives, again in theory, reflect the views of the
citizens who elected them. The same can be said of virtually any
organization, whether a labor union or a political party.

But every now and then, those in the leadership positions of
political institutions, for whatever reason, become disconnected
with the very people they purport to represent.

Perhaps the clearest example of this occurred in 1978 with
Proposition 13. It is hard to fathom the depth and breadth of the
stated opposition to the measure. Virtually every organization in
California had taken an opposing position. Virtually every editorial
board, all business organizations (including the California Chamber
and the California Taxpayers Association), all labor organizations
and, of course, the entire academic brain trust from our world
renowned universities campaigned vigorously for the defeat of
Proposition 13.

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Somali Pirates: Shootout at the OK Corral

David S. White
Principal of the Law Firm of David S. White & Associates, West Los Angeles, specializing in litigation, arbitration and mediation of real-estate-related disputes and litigation since 1977; www.dswlawyers.com

Need a diversion from obsessing over the economy? I have just the story for you.

When we last left off, Somali Pirates, actually ragtag Somali teens and twenty-somethings in flip flops and shorts, armed with automatic weapons, boarded the US flagged Maersk Alabama 300 miles off the East African coast, took it over for a bit, then lost control back to its crew but got off the ship and into a lifeboat, taking the Captain as hostage. US Navy destroyer Bainbridge got to the scene and incongruously faced off against a handful of these Somali Pirates in a lifeboat holding the Captain.

The Maersk Alabama went on to its port in Kenya with its load of food and relief supplies and, back at the scene, at night, the Captain made a daring escape from the lifeboat where the Pirates held him captive, but, a couple of Pirates jumped overboard, re-captured the Captain and brought him back onto the lifeboat. Media covered all of this incessantly and we learned that another UD destroyer was, I wanted to say “steaming” toward the scene a few hundred miles off the humid East African coast, but 21st Century US destroyers don’t “steam” anymore, they have ultra high tech propulsion systems now.

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Split Roll Property Tax Discussion Highlights Tax Commission Meeting

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

Taxing commercial property was the focus of the Commission on the 21st Century Economy in its fourth meeting, this one held at UC Davis yesterday. Commercial property and residential property are taxed the same under the provisions of Proposition 13. However, some advocates want to see the property tax roll “split” into at least two categories with residential and commercial property treated differently.

What a split roll would mean to the California economy and how business and commercial property have faired since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 depended how one reads the economic landscape. CSU Professor Terri Sexton said that residential property has taken on a greater share of the property tax burden in the last thirty years, although she admitted that could simply be the product of more residential home building or homes turning over during that time.

On the other hand, former Legislative Analyst William Hamm said there was no evidence of a property tax shift to homeowners. He argued that the ratio of assessed value to market value was higher for business property meaning that business properties are assessed closer to the full market value than residential properties.

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