Kashkari’s Attention-Getting Ad has a Point

Neel Kashkari’s campaign for governor sought to gain attention with its first statewide television commercial and succeeded. The ad titled Betrayal depicts a boy drowning before being pulled to safety by Kashkari. The boy is symbolic of the school children Kashkari asserts have been abandoned by Governor Jerry Brown when he appealed the Vergara vs. California case.

The judge declared in Vergara that conditions in California schools for minority students “shock the conscience” in concluding that “grossly ineffective teachers” protected by the state’s teacher tenure laws deny minority students constitutional protections for an equal education.

Kashkari’s attention-getting ad is intended to get the media and, through the media, the people talking about this issue. With the one sided advantage the governor has in financial resources Kashkari is relying on an edgy campaign commercial to get his word out.

Brown argued that the appeal to a higher court was necessary if the teacher tenure laws are to be changed. Previously, I wrotethat an appellate ruling would be helpful in validating the lower court’s decision.

However, Brown’s reasoning for the appeal ignored the main question ruled upon by the Superior Court. He did not take a stand on the issue. He did not say that his goal with the appeal is to confirm that the current standards must change; that the students are being denied a quality education. He was silent on the issue.

By not speaking up for the students who brought the Vergara case it clearly appears that Brown is playing up to the teachers’ unions, as Kashkari charges. The unions adamantly want to wipe Vergara away.

I suppose there is something to say about the attention getting aspect of the ad – a boy drowning until pulled to safety by Kashkari. Attention to a child in jeopardy worked in the famous political commercial put out by Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign in 1964. A little girl picking flowers disappeared from the screen replaced by the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion. That commercial actually ran only once but we are still talking about it 50 years later.

Kashkari, undoubtedly, was willing to use a dramatic image to get people talking.

Kashkari speaks of the problem examined in the Vergara case as a civil rights issue. If that is so, the dramatic ad to point out the issue can be compared to the demonstrations that were criticized during the civil rights era. They brought attention. But, the key for Kashkari is that people examine the core point he is making – that Brown is unwilling to stand up and proclaim that minority children are suffering under the current teacher protection laws supported by the unions — and not the ad’s image.

As Martin Luther King noted in his civil rights struggles of a half-century ago, while critics deplored demonstrations they failed to express similar concerns for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. He wanted his critics to deal with the underlying causes.

Kashkari hopes his commercial will bring attention to the underlying problem and those who resist change.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily.

Rep. Tom McClintock, Art Moore get personal in lone debate

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Rep. Tom McClintock and challenger Art Moore sparred in an early morning debate Wednesday marked by fierce character attacks that generated audience groans but put some distance between the two Republicans.

It was still dark out when the candidates took to their lecterns for the hastily planned, 60-minute exchange before about 100 people at Auburn City Hall. The six-term incumbent from Elk Grove and political newcomer from Roseville, running to represent the Placer-county centered district, took questions from the crowd on issues ranging from the national debt to climate change to fire protection.

But it was issues of character and who has the better temperament to lead the rural district that incorporates Yosemite and Lake Tahoe and runs to Fresno that coursed through the forum. …

Read the full article here

Kashkari draws a media crowd

Neel Kashkari, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Republican challenger, has been playing a long game.

That hasn’t been immediately evident from the frenetic activity surrounding his final month of campaigning. Using a string of concept-driven political stunts, ranging from free prizes to a masquerade as a homeless man, Kashkari has established a reputation for putting elbow grease into his run for governor.

Yet into the active effort and strident rhetoric Kashkari has added a relatively tongue-in-cheek approach to the uphill run before him. Unusual for a Republican trying to make a name in other states — but not so out of place in California — the combination of smarts, sarcasm and street hustle has inspired the media, if not Democrats, to take a closer look.

A new brand

Interest has swirled around whether Kashkari plausibly can portray a character that many have referenced but few have embodied — a “different kind of Republican,” as The Economist put it. Over the summer, some conservative stalwarts began to notice Kashkari’s recipe for change involved scrambling old battle lines, not simply moving to the progressive left or the pro-corporate center.

In a column hailing Kashkari, George Will depicted him as the heir to Barry Goldwater, who in 1964 famously lost in a landslide to President Lyndon Johnson — yet inspired a conservative movement that elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980. “If California becomes a purple state and Democrats can no longer assume its 20 percent of 270 electoral votes, Republicans nationwide will be indebted to the immigrants’ son who plucked up Goldwater’s banner of conservatism with a Western libertarian flavor.”

Goldwater turned his electoral blowout into an opportunity to shift the national Republican Party. Kashkari’s underdog status has afforded a similar opportunity — and the political press has picked up on the strategy. Rather than offering the media a retread of tales of California Republicans’ past, Kashkari has presented a surprising spectacle. Wealthy political novices from business backgrounds, such as Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, have tried to unseat top-tier Democrats before. They failed — leading national political journalists to question why the state GOP was willing to tolerate such a bad investment.Neel-Kashkari-Down-and-Out-300x165

Kashkari, who is not personally short on cash, has raised a far more modest campaign chest. But his small budget has become a buzz-building advantage. Not only has it fueled the kind of stunt-driven campaigning that grabs headlines, it has given state Republicans a feeling that neither donors nor the party have thrown good money after bad. And it has changed the media narrative, differentiating Kashkari from the political losers who have come before him.

The shift hasn’t necessarily played well with Kashkari’s natural allies across the country — Republicans close to Wall Street. After hitting the stump for him in early summer, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie couldn’t find time to share the state with Kashkari in the election season’s final weeks. Rather than a personal slight, however, the decision was strictly business: Christie was dispatched by the Republican Governors Association to help put well-positioned candidates over the top.

West coast credentials

The absence of monied East Coast support isn’t really a disadvantage for Kashkari. Earlier in his primary campaign, he had to shake his political association with the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP — the massive 2008 bailout program he was instrumental in designing and implementing under President George W. Bush. Kashkari seems to have determined that the West Coast — not Wall Street or his home state of Ohio — is the most hospitable territory for his brand of Republicanism.

Indeed, the swell of attention surrounding his approach has led some observers to suggest Kashkari could emerge from even a losing campaign as a powerful force in California Republican politics. Asked by the Santa Monica Mirror if he would consider a race for Senate in the years to come, Kashkari was blunt. “In all honesty, I’ve never ruled out any of those opportunities,” he said. Although, he added, he was “100 percent focused on November,” Mirror columnist Tom Elias placed his bet “on Kashkari starting right in on his next effort.”

And whereas he’s running against an incumbent this year, the next California U.S. Senate race is for the seat of Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016. Last month the Chronicle reported:

“Sen. Barbara Boxer says she has yet to make up her mind about seeking a fifth term in 2016, but there’s no shortage of signs that the Democrat may be opting out.

“It’s not just that she has less than $200,000 in her campaign account, compared with $3.5 million at this stage before her last election fight. Some comments from those who know the 73-year-old senator are also telling.

“‘She is not running for re-election,’ said one longtime Democratic fundraiser with deep ties to Boxer, who spoke only on background.”

Of course, she still might run. But if she retires, the open field, combined with Kashkari’s experience with this year’s campaign, could give him a big leg up in 2016.

This piece was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Three Ballot Initiatives, Not Quite As Awful As Usual

You gotta take your good news where you can get it when it comes to California’s dangerously inflexible system of initiative and referendum. So this year’s three ballot initiative – Propositions 45, 46, and 47 – qualify as good news.

It might be more precise to say: those three initiatives are less awful than usual.

I’m not talking about the policy substance of the initiatives – which involve health insurance rate regulation (45), liability for medical errors and some other things (46) or criminal charges and sentencing (47). One can make arguments for and against those policies. But the issues and the policies aren’t the first question you should ask about California ballot initiatives. The correct first question is, instead: is it possible to fix the errors in these things?

The default for California initiatives is to not permit fixing – or amendment – by the legislative body at all. We’re the only place on earth where this inflexibility is standard on initiative statutes. And it’s the fundamental problem of the process; once you do something by initiative, there’s little you can do to undo it.

Which brings us to the good – well, the not-so-awful news. All three of these measures depart from the norm by permitting legislative amendment. For that, their sponsors should be praised.

The praise shouldn’t be all that strong. Because the initiatives don’t make legislative amendment easy. All three require a super-majority vote of 2/3 – thus creating new supermajorities in supermajority-mad California – to amend the measure, and require such amendments meet the spirit of the initiative. Prop 47 also permits the legislature to use a majority vote to further reduce sentences of the crimes mentioned in the act.

These three initiatives also don’t include a reckless provision that has become a new standard of sorts for initiatives – provisions giving legal standing and a black check to the initiative’s own sponsors to defend their own measure in court. Effectively such provisions turn initiative sponsors into mini-attorneys general. Fortunately, none of the three initiatives on the ballot has any such provision.

Yes, this is a low bar – permitting fixes and not writing legal blank checks – but when it comes to California initiatives, you must lower your expectations.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Joe Mathews is a 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)

Murder victims’ relatives debate Prop. 47

At 11 p.m. on July 25, 2005 San Leandro police officer Nels “Dan” Niemi was called to the scene of a disturbance on Doolittle Drive. Niemi stopped Irving Ramirez, of Newark, who had spent the day drinking a bottle of Hennessy cognac to celebrate his 23rd birthday.

When Niemi turned away, Ramirez pulled out a gun, shot him in the head and pumped six more bullets into his body as he lay on the ground. Niemi, 42, left behind a wife and two children. Ramirez is on death row.

Would Niemi still be alive, and would career criminal Ramirez instead be living a productive life as a law-abiding citizen, if years earlier Ramirez had been provided drug and alcohol treatment and career counseling rather than being suspended from school and cycling in and out of jail?

Niemi’s widow, Dionne Wilson, thinks so. She told her story in support of Proposition 47 at a joint Public Safety Committee informational hearing last week.

Prop. 47 would reduce certain felony crimes to misdemeanors, resulting in fewer incarcerations and shorter sentences for many criminals. Nearly two-thirds of the several hundred millions of dollars expected to be saved by reducing the state prison and county jail population would go to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, a quarter would go to K-12 schools and the remaining 10 percent to trauma recovery services for crime victims.

Cop family

“I want to tell you why this proposition is so important to me,” Wilson told the committee on Oct. 2. “In 2005 I was a part of a typical cop family. I was living in Milpitas with my husband and six-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. Dan was in his third year as a police officer with San Leandro. We celebrated our favorite holiday, Fourth of July, together. Then 10 days later we celebrated my son’s 15th birthday.

“That night I got that knock on my door. Every police wife knows it can happen to her, but nobody thinks that it will. Two days before my 36th birthday I buried my husband. And so it really shattered my conception about public safety. Because I had always thought that as long as our prisons are as full as they could possibly be, that we are safe. And that’s a lie. And I was told that the death penalty verdict would bring me healing. And that was a lie.

“My life took a really, really dark turn. For the next 4-½ years I was so full of hate and vengeance I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I was ruining my own life, ignoring my children and nothing positive was coming out of what happened to my family.”

She turned her life around by joining Californians for Safety and Justice. The nonprofit describes its mission as “replac[ing] prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars.”

Wilson became a founding member of CSJ’s Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, which she said has nearly 6,000 members in California. And she signed the ballot arguments in favor of Prop. 47.


“I have met with so many different crime victims from so many different communities,” said Wilson. “And we all share the same wish. We all wish this to never, ever happen to anyone ever again. We are all committed to making changes in the system that will start to chip away at this cycle of violence that we are creating with the way our criminal justice system works right now.

“Why this is really important to me is because during the trial I learned that Irving has been cycling in and out of the system for years since he was a teenager. Substance abuse problems, alcohol problems, violence problems.

“These things kept occurring in his life, but the answer that was given to that was jail sentences. In and out of supervision with no treatment. With no safety net for his mom to get him into some kind of program at school, something to get him interested and find his passion.”

“It’s because we keep saying, ‘We don’t have the money. There’s no money for treatment, there’s no money for diversion programs.’ I just disagree. It’s the focus of where we’re putting our money that’s the problem.

“By reducing these low-level, nonviolent [felony] offenses [to misdemeanors], the savings that we’re going to realize will make it so that money is available to help people like Irving’s mom keep him on the right track, keep guns out of his hands, so this tragedy doesn’t strike another family.

“At some point we have to say to each other, ‘We cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We have to change what it is that we are doing.’ What if there was a program much like the ones that Prop. 47 would fund in Irving’s school when he was getting suspended, when he was getting kicked out of school?

“What if there was a drug or alcohol treatment program available when he was going in and out of the system? How might my life be different? I think that it would be much better for my husband to still be serving his community as a police officer in San Leandro than me sitting here today asking California to help change what we are doing.”


But not all family members of murder victims see Prop. 47 as the solution.

On Sept. 3. 1979, Harriet and Mike Salarno dropped off their 18-year-old daughter Catina Rose Salarno at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where she was starting school to study dentistry. They never saw her alive again. That evening she was shot in the head by her ex-boyfriend, Steven Burns, with whom she had broken off a relationship that summer.

Burns was sentenced to 17 years-to-life in prison. Every few years the Salarnos have shown up at Burns’ parole hearings to urge the parole board to keep him behind bars.

In 1990, Harriet Salerno founded Crime Victims United, which has as its mission “to support and strengthen public safety, promote balance in the criminal justice system, and protect the rights of victims” by strengthening sentencing laws and creating more effective rehabilitation and re-entry programs.

“Proposition 47, the so-called Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, does everything except keep our neighborhoods safe and our schools safe,” Salarno told the committee. “The proponents of this measure have already admitted that Prop. 47 will make 10,000 felons eligible for early release.

“According to the independent analyst, the vast majority of those felons have violent criminal histories. We are talking about felons convicted of carjacking, armed robbery, bank robbery, residential burglary, kidnapping, drug trafficking, just to name a few. Persons convicted of these very serious felonies will be released onto our street if Prop. 47 passes.

“These offenders will not be placed on parole nor given access to the programs that are needed to assimilate back into society in order to break the cycle they are in. When a career criminal steals a firearm or a suspected sexual predator possesses a date-rape drug or a carjacker steals yet another vehicle, there needs to be another option besides just another misdemeanor.

“This will, of course, lead to more victims. We are one of the groups that would love to go out of business. Unfortunately, If Prop. 47 passes, we will have a long, hard, wrenching future. How anyone can say the release of 10,000 felons for serious crimes will reduce crime and make our neighborhoods and schools safe is beyond basic logic.

“We must face the reality that there are some bad people in this world. There must be serious consequences for serious crimes. We as a civil society trying to protect its people cannot simply allow them to do this over and over to our citizens without serious consequences.”


In a YouTube video, Wilson argued for providing more help for crime victims. “Most victims don’t have any help,” she said. “We want to give them psychological counseling, some trauma support so they can put their lives back together.”

But Salarno noted that 10 percent of the money – what she called “a token amount” – expected to be generated by Prop. 47 is slated for crime victims. And she argued the influx of more victims that will result from the criminal release will overburden already overloaded trauma centers.

“I can attest on behalf of all victims, if you truly want to help us, then keep these violent offenders behind bars and do not add to our numbers,” she said.

Prop. 47 received 62 percent support in a Public Policy Institute of California poll of 1,702 adults conducted in the second week of September.

In the partisan breakdown, Democrats favored the initiative 69 to 22; Republicans backed it 50 to 32; and Independents favored it 64 to 25.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com.


Prop. 46 Will Increase Abusive Medical Lawsuits

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.

There are many avenues in place for aggrieved patients to seek compensation and justice, including filing State Licensing Board complaints, seeking peer review or mediation.  These avenues are likely easier, faster and far less costly, but rarely involve trial lawyers.  Shouldn’t we be promoting more efficient, fair and less costly means to compensation and justice?  Proposition 46 would likely not result in any of the above.

In case there was any doubt about who would benefit if Proposition 46 passes, look at the list of funders. The most recent data available show that more than 97 percent of the money in support of this initiative has come from attorneys and law firms. These lawyers are showing that they are willing to pay millions of dollars in order to manipulate our legal system in hopes of receive a bigger paycheck in the future.

If it passes, Prop. 46 will have disastrous consequences. It will raise costs, driving doctors and other health care practitioners out of the state and reducing access to health care for patients. Worse, the increased costs will fall squarely on the shoulders of California working families. A study by the former Legislative Analyst in California found that Prop. 46 will increase health costs in the state across all sectors by $9.9 billion – that’s billion, with a “b.”  Translation: a family of four will end up paying $1,000 per year more in higher health costs.

At this time every year, other supporters of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) and I recognize Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about the impact lawsuit abuse has on our society.

I can’t think of anything better to recognize this week than to send in my absentee ballot with a vote AGAINST Proposition 46.

Fellow at the Unruh Institute of Politics, University of Southern California

This article was originally posted on Fox and Hounds Daily.

Embattled Democrats Silent On ‘Executive Action’ And AG

Four Senate Democrats facing tough reelection races recently voted against President Obama’s plan to take executive action on immigration.

But would they vote against an attorney general nominee who would implement such a policy? When asked by The Daily Caller News Foundation, none of them were willing to commit.

Senators Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire all cast last-minute votes with Senate Republicans in September to prevent the president from following through on his plan to grant millions of illegal aliens work permits by executive action.

Another embattled Democrat, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, also cast a last-minute vote that ensured Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions’ amendment to deny funding for the president’s plan would fail. Those five votes were characterized as political maneuvering around a tough issue just ahead of an election. (RELATED: Sessions Leads GOP, Five Democratic Senators To Vote Against Obama Amnesty)

With a replacement for Attorney General Eric Holder likely to be named during the lame-duck congressional session following the election, senators will have a chance to weigh in on the issue again. Sessions has joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul in saying they would vote against any attorney general nominee who does not publicly disavow the president’s immigration plan.

When asked by TheDCNF, all four Senate Democrats who voted with Sessions on defunding the executive action plan declined to say whether they would also vote against an attorney general nominee who was in favor of it.

A spokesperson for Begich said the senator is against unilateral action on immigration from the president and does not support amnesty, but also declined to take a position on Sessions’ plan, saying he won’t comment on a hypothetical attorney general nominee.

“To me, securing our borders has to be the priority, and that should be the President’s focus,” Sen. Begich said in a statement. “I don’t support amnesty, and that is why the House must consider the Senate’s bipartisan solution so we can move forward with common sense reforms to fix the current broken system.”

The other three senators declined TheDCNF’s request for comment.

Hagan ran on immigration in 2008 and said last year she opposes amnesty. Landrieu boasted of voting against amnesty 9 times in a recent campaign ad, and Sen. Pryor also stated he is against amnesty in a campaign ad. An adviser to Shaheen told The Washington Post the senator does not support “a piecemeal approach by executive order.”

This article was originally posted on the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A Republican in Santa Monica: Is Top Two an Antidote to “Rational Ignorance”?

This article was originally published on Fox & Hounds Daily:

My good friend, Joe Mathews, has thrown a couple gauntlets at my feet (here and here) regarding my support of the Top Two. In one piece, he cites the results of Oregon’s Citizens’ Initiative Review (some form of which I’d like to see here), and in a second, he indicates that Neel Kashkari’s campaign for governor has been harmed by it. At the foundation of Joe’s arguments is the issue about which we are both most concerned: the Top Two’s (Open Primary) effects on civic participation.

Readers should take a look at the tremendous “work product” fashioned by a group of “regular” Oregonians invited into a policy discussion about a complex political reform, as it outlines the real trade-off’s involved. While not determinative of a measure’s outcome, the Review is incorporated into Oregon’s Voter Information Guide to provide voters with an “informed citizen’s view” of a particular ballot initiative.

The “citizens’ jury” viewed the measures adverse impacts on third parties, and the fact that certain “Home Rule” counties with different election systems would have difficulty integrating Top Two as being significant arguments. Joe is accurate in pointing that the Oregonians involved in the Review “voted” 14 to 5 against it, but the genius of the American Republic is its flexibility: what works in Oregon might not work in California and vice versa.

And as I looked back over the Voter Information Guide California voters received back in 2010 (when Prop 14/Top Two was on the ballot), I see many of the same arguments made both for and against, but California’s voters decided in favor of the measure by about 400,000 votes. (I should add that the side-by-side argument layout used by Oregon is a design concept we should bring to our Voter Guide.)

But I want to address a couple of Joe’s points directly. First, I’m not sure how an argument can be made that the Open Primary adversely affected Neel’s run for governor. Is Joe suggesting that Neel would have received more publicity had he been running in a party primary? Or that he would have won by a larger margin in a party primary?

To the first question, the primary race was one of the most contentious in recent years on the Republican side, with Neel making up significant ground to earn his spot in the general election. Along the way, the press did a solid job of bringing attention to a race that in many ways outlined the significant size of the California GOP’s “tent”. Neel has continued to build on that coverage now that he is the party’s representative in November, doing extremely well in a debate, and putting forth an identity of the party as one that truly cares about the poor and middle class.

To the second question about the margin of victory, it is arguable that the No Party Preference (NPP) voters now able to participate in the Open Primary (where they were not allowed to participate in a standard party primary) helped get Neel’s more moderate Republican campaign past Tim Donnelly’s.

On the question about Top Two’s impact on civic engagement, I have to become more personal: speaking as a Republican in Santa Monica. It’s not easy being a Republican here, but it’s fun. Getting one’s “McCain for President” lawn signs set on fire…twice (as happened to a friend of mine) gives you a sense of the mood here in this city that prizes its (ahem) “diversity”.

But it is here, where the Top Two is (or, at least, should be) promoting civic participation. Back to that Oregon CIR, where in one of its conclusions about the reform found, “those Democrats and Republicans who live in districts dominated by the other party. Their party’s candidates for key offices have no real chance in the General election.”

In the 2012 Assembly race here (50th AD), the primary – though with a close race for second with Republican, Brad Torgan – produced two Democrats: Richard Bloom and Betsy Butler. In the hard-fought general election campaign that followed, Bloom was able to garner Republican endorsements, and framed himself – as I believe he is – as a pro-business Democrat.

As our recently released research has noted, one of the major reasons Californians have said they didn’t vote in the 2010 cycle was “wondering if their vote would matter.” Our political scientists out there know the term for this is “rational ignorance” – the rational belief that because one vote out of millions won’t make much of a difference, ignoring the whole voting process makes, at least some, sense.

But in the 2012 Assembly race between two Democrats, I knew not only did one of the candidates have to appeal to me to win, but that my vote would actually (finally!) have an impact on a general election result. And the final results – a razor thin win for Bloom – proved that case.

Once again, in this 2014 cycle my ballot for the local state senate race will have two Democrats on it, and once again, one of the candidates (Ben Allen) is trying to gain Republican support and endorsements, framing himself as the more fiscally conservative between two candidates. In full disclosure, I know and like Ben personally, but even if I didn’t, I will know that come November my vote in this race will very much have an impact on the final result – combating “rational ignorance”.

At the same time, in both of the races I’ve cited here, more liberal Democrats – who may have sat out a general election in their “safe district” – will also know that if they want to determine the winner, they, too, will have to “get out the vote” in order to defeat a more centrist opponent.

Now I understand that there aren’t many places like Santa Monica, but if Bill Bishop and his best-selling book The Big Sort are to be believed, Americans are increasingly moving to places where they share similar political leanings as their neighbors (a dynamic true for Republicans and Democrats). Non-partisan redistricting and the Top Two appear to be two reforms that can help to address the civic participation challenges of a geographically polarized electorate.

I agree with Joe, that we’ve seen a decrease in voting participation with the Top Two, but this decline should be put in the context of a disturbing national trend – one that is occurring in states with party primaries too – and here we are only in our second statewide cycle with the process in place.

I also agree with Joe that a major downside of the Top Two is the significant negative impact it weighs on third/fourth parties. But I believe there are ways to at least ameliorate these issues through a more robust write-in program for the general election, and, in any event, the positive trade-offs of the Top Two outweigh the negatives…especially in the growing number of “Santa Monica’s” (and its Republican equivalent).

Pete Peterson is a candidate (R) for California Secretary of State, and Executive Director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy

Hearings dissect Prop. 46 on medical malpractice

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

California’s state and local governments could be hit with an increase of tens of millions to several hundred million dollars in annual health care costs if Proposition 46 passes on Nov. 4. That was the warning from California legislative analyst Ross Brown at a joint legislative committee informational hearing on the initiative on Monday.

The proposition also would raise costs for private health care providers, Brown said. But he did not estimate a dollar amount. Several providers warned the costs would be significant enough to force them to reduce medical services, particularly for the state’s poorest residents.

The main cost driver in the initiative is the raising of the $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice to match inflation. The cap was implemented by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act in 1975. That means the cap would increase to about $1.1 million today, then rise even higher annually depending on future inflation.

Malpractice costs currently represent about 2 percent of total annual health care spending in California. A 440 percent increase in the damages cap would force companies with health care either to pay increased premiums to insurance companies or pay more out-of-pocket if they are self-insured.

The two other major provisions of Prop. 46 – requiring providers to check the state’s prescription drug database and mandating drug testing of physicians – could result in offsetting costs and savings, according to Brown. For example, there would be additional costs for drug testing, but it might result in fewer instances of medical malpractice.


The first half of the three-hour hearing focused on emotional testimony from the proposition’s author, Bob Pack, and others whose family members have been killed by medical malpractice.

Pack said his two children were killed and his wife injured when they were hit by a driver under the influence of prescription narcotics, mainly Vicodin. The woman’s drugs were provided by six doctors, none of whom was aware other doctors were writing prescriptions for the same woman.

To prevent that kind of “doctor shopping” by drug addicts, Pack lobbied the state Legislature to create the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System database. But only about 30,000 doctors and pharmacists out of a total 200,000 in California are using it. Prop. 46 would require the remaining 170,000 to consult the database before prescribing or dispensing drugs for first-time users.

Gary Heller told the committee his wife Linda developed chronic neck pain after being rear-ended in an auto accident. A doctor prescribed a dangerous level of morphine sulfate, which led to her death after suffering for 32 days in the hospital.

The specialist subsequently was arrested for several DUIs, was in treatment programs and relapsed, Heller said.

“If Proposition 46 had been in, in my opinion, my wife’s doctor would have been caught before he negligently prescribed the drugs that caused her respiratory failure,” he said. “I believe the outcome was totally preventable. And that is something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”

Lethal meds

Tammy Smick said her 20-year-old son Alex was prescribed a lethal combination of medications in an Orange County hospital. Ironically, Alex had checked himself into the same hospital to safely detox off prescription medications he had become addicted to after a back injury.

“Alex was one of up to 440,000 Americans who are killed every year because of preventable medical error,” she said. “But to me Alex is not merely a statistic, he’s my son. I am not fighting for money. I am fighting for justice and accountability. And in memory of my beloved son, I am fighting for change so that no others suffer the same devastation.”

Michelle Monserratt-Ramos’s fiancée died after a surgical mistake resulted in infection. His doctor has been arrested for possession of crack cocaine, she said, but is still practicing medicine. She could not get a lawyer to take the case due to the low cap on non-economic damages.

“They told us, ‘You absolutely have a case, but because of the [cap] we are sorry, but it would not be a good business decision to take Lloyd’s case,’” she said. “Believe me, you don’t ever want to hear that [your loved one’s] life or their death is a bad business decision. All any victim or their family wants is answers and to be able to hold a negligent doctor accountable in order to save someone else’s life.”


The opposition to Prop. 46 was led by Farrah McDaid Ting, representing the California State Association of Counties. California’s 58 counties operate public hospitals and clinics that serve more than 3 million people annually, she said, providing a health care safety net for California’s poorest residents.

“Proposition 46 will increase costs for counties,” she said. “All of these services could be negatively affected if Proposition 46 became law. Especially for counties that self-insure, the increase in medical malpractice claims and costs would be devastating to them. It would come directly out of county general fund dollars.

“We’re also worried about the administrative nightmares that could happen under Proposition 46. We’re concerned about the potential for increased numbers of suits and the amount of staff time that those would require. We are working to continue providing critical health services, and we worry that Proposition 46 would reduce county resources at a time when they are needed the most.”

Ruth Haskins, a Sacramento OB-GYN, said the initiative will drive up health care costs, hurting the poor.

“Many of the patients that I treat come to me from the emergency room referrals and are on Medi-Cal,” she said. “They simply wouldn’t be able to afford the exorbitant increased health care costs that Proposition 46 would yield. I worry that that would mean that they wouldn’t get the necessary prenatal care to ensure safe, low-risk deliveries for healthy babies.

“If Prop. 46 were to pass, OB-GYNs like me, along with other high-risk specialists, would be forced to reduce our services or close their doors altogether. Proponents may say this measure is about safety. But the truth is Prop. 46 doesn’t do anything to improve safety or quality of health care in California. In fact, it would do just the opposite.”

Rising costs

Cathy Frey, CEO of the Central Valley Health Network, also warned that health centers and community clinics “may have to look at what services they can continue providing.”

Cesar Diaz, representing the State Building and Construction Trades Council, said his union’s 400,000 members and their families are already having to pay extra for the same level of health care. He’s concerned that Prop. 46 will force them to pay even more.

“We see Prop. 46 as being a venue for increased legal costs and basically attorneys having more access to such financing,” he said.


American Civil Liberties Union representative Michael Risher said the ACLU is opposed to the physician drug testing provision in the measure.

“It’s an unwarranted invasion of the privacy that our California Constitution specifically protects,” he said. “It’s unlikely to make us any safer.

“And it’s particularly galling that this provision was apparently thrown in not because people cared about drug testing – I think there’s a recognition that’s something more properly addressed by this Legislature – but because it apparently did well in focus groups and was thrown in as a sweetener, despite the fact that California’s Constitution does have a single-subject rule for initiatives.”

The “single-subject rule” exists to ensure initiatives stay on topic and don’t become grab bags of different changes in the law. However, a study by the University of California found court enforcement of the rule is not rigorous.

Drug testing

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said she’s a big fan of the ACLU, but strongly disagreed with its opposition to physician drug testing.

“As someone who’s had more than my share of surgery, I want to make sure that my physician is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while performing that surgery,” she said. “We require school bus drivers … to undergo some level of drug testing.

“As a supporter of ACLU I’m a tad surprised about the extent of your indignation about the notion of wanting to make sure that our doctors, particularly in hospitals where life and death decisions are made, are actually equipped mentally to perform those procedures.”

Risher responded, “It’s not that any of us wants to be operated on by a physician who’s under the influence. The data on random, suspicionless drug testing tend to show very little deterrent effect and very little enforcement effect with anything aside from marijuana, because that stays in the system longer than drugs like alcohol, cocaine and heroin.”

Jackson also argued it makes sense to increase the malpractice damages cap as a deterrent punishment for what she called the 5 percent of physicians who are guilty of 95 percent of medical malpractice.

But Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who is also a pediatrician at a Sacramento clinic, disagreed.

“I do take issue with the statement that the only thing that will get doctors and hospitals to pay attention to quality is financial,” he said. “The research I’ve seen shows very little correlation between medical liability suits and quality improvement. In fact, most of the patient safety and quality literature talks about systems change, transforming the health care delivery.”

Frey agreed, saying that numerous laws and oversight regulators already provide safeguards for patients.

“Community clinics and health centers, particularly those that are federally funded, are under an enormous amount of scrutiny,” she said. “They report to the federal government, they report to the state of California. They report, report, report. And quality is our number one issue.”

Field poll conducted in the second half of August showed support for Prop. 46 had dropped to just 34 percent (with 37 percent opposed and 29 percent undecided) from the 58 percent support (30 percent opposed, 12 percent undecided) it had received in late June/early July. The drop in support followed an increased campaign of TV ads by the anti-46 side.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

What incumbent candidates conveniently leave out of campaign ads

Humorist Will Rogers observed, “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” If Rogers were a Californian today, he would say the same thing about the state Legislature.

Fortunately, for average citizens, the Legislature adjourned a few weeks ago so its ability to inflict more harm on taxpayers, property owners and businesses is on hold until the first of the year.

Lawmakers are no longer in Sacramento listening to high-powered lobbyists for special interests that back more taxes and spending. Most have returned to their home districts to beg for votes. They are likely to be attending local events and some will actually be walking in neighborhoods to convince voters they deserve to be returned to the Capitol. And, of course, they will be invading your mail box, television and radio with their political ads.

The majority of candidates for reelection will be bragging that they and their colleagues have achieved a balanced, on time budget and the state is on the right track. Their accomplishments, they will claim, entitle them to continue in office.

However, here are some things that most will not mention. California continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in all 50 states. Our state ranks first in marginal income tax rates, state sales tax and gasoline tax. Businesses, and the jobs they provide, continue to flee the state. Even firms like Tesla and SpaceX that have been provided massive tax subsidies by Sacramento, have chosen to expand their facilities outside of California – Tesla to Nevada and SpaceX to Texas. And the Legislature continues to support subsidies to Governor Brown’s bullet train that may end up costing taxpayers nearly $100 billion.

Another topic that most incumbent lawmakers will not want to discuss is their efforts to pass ACA 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that would make it much easier to increase property taxes to pay for infrastructure bonds. Passage of this, and other proposals that fell just short of approval this year, could have resulted in increased property taxes totaling billions of dollars, once again putting homeownership in jeopardy as it was prior to Proposition 13, when there were no limits on annual increases in the tax bill.

It is also unlikely they will want to discuss their rejection of legislation that would have slowed the implementation of carbon fees, fees that are likely to add somewhere between 15 and 40 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas after the first of the year. This is no less than a war on the poor, who already can barely afford to put fuel in their cars due not only to high prices, but also to the highest gas tax in the nation. And California has plenty of poor. We lead all 50 states in the percentage of those living in poverty.

Voters who have the opportunity to meet candidates for office, whether they are incumbents or aspiring challengers, should be prepared to ask a few questions.

Here is a good question for all candidates, “Do you believe it is fair that Californians pay the highest tax rates in nearly every category?” An excellent follow-up question would be, “Where do you stand on an extension of the Proposition 30 income and sales tax increase, set to expire in the next several years?” And, of course it is always revealing to get answers to this question, “Do you support the governor’s bullet train that could cost taxpayers a hundreds billion dollars or more?”

Honest answers to these questions would provide a good gauge of how well a candidate understands that their actions have real consequences for average Californians. Some may show that they genuinely respect those they serve, while others, who are likely to equivocate when responding, will reveal that they are motivated by self-interest.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.