California’s June primary just became crucial in the race for the White House

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

California Republicans are about to experience an event many of them have never seen — a primary that could truly determine a presidential nomination.

Because Donald Trump lost Ohio’s primary on Tuesday night, ceding the state’s 66 delegates to  its governor, John Kasich, the race to get the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination seems unlikely to be settled before California votes on June 7.

Barring another big shift in the race, such as a decision by one of the three remaining candidates to drop out, the contest for California will be critical to the outcome. …

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Carly Fiorina Ends Bid For Republican Presidential Nomination

As reported by NPR:

Carly Fiorina is exiting the Republican presidential race after a seventh-place showing in [Tuesday] night’s New Hampshire primary.

“While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them,” said Fiorina in a statement.

Fiorina was an unconventional candidate. Her only previous political effort had been a 10-point loss in a race for U.S. Senate in California, and her tenure at Hewlett-Packard was most notable for her being fired by the board of directors after an unsuccessful merger with Compaq.

Still, Fiorina struck a chord with many Republican voters, many of whom were especially drawn to her fierce anti-abortion viewpoints and spirited appearances on the campaign trail and in debates. …

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Over Half-Billion Likely to be Spent on November Ballot Measures of millions of dollars spent on legislative lobbying efforts made headlines this week but the total amount will likely pale next to what is expected to be spent this year on that other form of California lawmaking — the initiative process.

Coverage of the lobbying reports disclosed that $312.7 million was spent on lobbying the legislature in 2015, a double-digit increase from just two years earlier.

But according to initiative guru, Rick Claussen, of the consulting firm Redwood Pacific, which specializes in initiative campaigns, a crowded November ballot could produce spending of nearly half-a-billion dollars.

Claussen offered some best guess rounded figures that could be spent for and against a number of the high profile initiatives headed for the ballot.

MediCal Protection measure                                              $50 million
Referendum on Plastic Bags                                               $10 million
Revenue Bond Vote Requirement                                     $30 million
Condom Requirement for Adult Films                             $5 million
State School Bond                                                                 $7 million
Drug Pricing Mandates                                                        $65 million
Minimum Wage Increase (two initiatives filed)             $30 million
Property Tax Increase                                                          $50 million
Prop. 30 Extension (different versions filed)                  $60 million
New Plastic Bag Fee for Environment                              $5 million
Tobacco Tax                                                                           $100 million
Legislative Transparency                                                    $5 million
Marijuana Measure                                                              $35 million

$452,000,000 to persuade voters on policy decisions appearing on the ballot!

Not on the list: the gun control measure which should see lots of money raised on both sides; the governor’s proposal for sentencing reform; potential death penalty reform measures — one to eliminate the death penalty, the other to carry out the penalty more swiftly; political finance reform; and an attempt to end high-speed-rail by diverting rail funds to water projects. All these and more could make the ballot and ring up the initiative campaigns cash register even higher. Indeed, perhaps 20 measures might appear on the November ballot, moving the spending totals close to or well over that half-billion dollar mark.

Funding for initiatives topping the amount spent on a year of legislative lobbying should not come as a surprise to anyone closely following California politics. As academics such as Bruce Cain and others have pointed out, California has, in essence, two electorates. The electorate filtered though legislative elections and the electorate that votes directly on ballot measures.

The two lawmaking approaches yield different outcomes on issues because of the nature of the voting population in the legislative districts as compared to the statewide voting bloc. Initiatives appeal to statewide voters that often express a different opinion than legislators.

Money spent to influence legislators is a big story. More money will be spent to influence citizen-lawmakers.

Then again, there are many more decision makers when it comes to initiatives.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Pension reform initiative abandoned for 2016

Unions pension public sectorThe landmark effort to take public pension reform straight to the people of California has been withdrawn from ballot consideration.

“Beleaguered by fundraising doubts and attacks from organized labor, two former California officials said Monday they are backing off plans to place a measure on the November ballot intended to curb public pension benefits,” the Sacramento Bee reported. “Instead, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio said in a joint announcement, ‘We have decided to re-file at least one of our pension reform measures later this year for the November 2018 ballot.’”

Staying solvent

The news marked a sharp reversal for critics of the state’s pension spending, which has ballooned apace with California’s freshly flush balance sheet. The price tag for guaranteed health coverage alone has put Sacramento on notice of the size and scale of the problem. “The state has promised an estimated $72 billion in health care benefits for its current and future retirees, an amount that will increase to more than $300 billion over the next three decades, according to the governor’s Department of Finance,” according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Jerry Brown has sought to bring those costs under control in a way that won’t spur a revolt within his own party or hand too much power to Republican legislators. “Brown proposes prefunding benefits similar to the way the state pays for pensions — by paying into a trust fund that accrues investment returns over time, reducing the amount of money that taxpayers must contribute in the future,” the AP noted. “In negotiations with public employee unions, he’s asking state workers to pay into a fund through a deduction on their paychecks. The state would pay an equal amount.”

A firmer approach

The Reed/DeMaio proposals would have tackled unions in a much different way.  “Reed and DeMaio had filed two proposals for the November 2016 ballot, planning to choose one,” as the AP reported separately. “One would have put employees who first join a public pension system on or after January 2019, into 401(k)-style retirement savings plans that guarantee fixed contributions from employers instead of fixed returns. The second measure would have capped how much employers could pay for new hires’ retirement benefits to a certain percentage of their salary.”

Public opinion studies produced conflicting portraits of how much support for the initiatives Reed and DeMaio could count on. “Apparently the measure to force new employees into 401(k) style ballot initiatives did not poll well (even though a 2015 poll by Reason-Rupe showed majority support for such a shift),” as Reason observed. “The measure to cap the amount employers could contribute to pensions fared better in polls, but according to Reed, they weren’t able to raise enough money to collect signatures and prep for an expensive battle with California’s public unions.”

Finding funding

That difficulty struck at the heart of the year’s complex political landscape. “The stark reality is that within the state, there are no deep pockets to finance such a campaign,” Dan Walters noted at the Bee. “However large they may be, fast-growing pension and health care liabilities don’t discomfit any major interest groups, since their greatest impacts are on local governments, especially cities, rather than on state government.” That would have likely pushed the initiative’s supporters into a scramble for cash.

The necessity to look far and wide for money fostered its own kind of political optics problem. “Any reform campaign would be dependent on money from one or more wealthy individuals, probably from out of state, and it hasn’t materialized,” as Walters observed. “Conversely, any broad retiree benefit reform effort would draw implacable, high-dollar opposition from unions.” So even if the reform effort gained an adequate sponsor, Golden State unions would be able to portray their high-dollar spending as more of an in-state groundswell than their opposition — a potentially substantial advantage in a populist election season.

Originally posted on

​Be Careful What You Sign

VotedArmed with a clipboard and a smile, they stand on the sidewalk in front of popular stores and public buildings. “Want to support schools?” or “Do you want to end poverty?” they call out to passersby. Those who respond positively are asked to sign a petition to place a measure to accomplish the stated goal on the ballot.

These are signature gathers, usually paid by the interests advancing the initiative they tout. They are not obligated to fully explain who would actually benefit from the passage of measure which, more times than not, is the sponsor of the initiative. And they do not have to volunteer if the initiative would raise taxes. In fact, for tax increase measures, saying that the proposal would hike taxes is likely the last thing they would admit.

However, even if signature gatherers are, at times, misleading, this does not justify further weakening the People’s right to initiative, referendum and recall, as some suggest. As with all matters relating to government, it remains the voter’s responsibility be informed and to ask questions — and questions should be asked before signing a petition in support of a measure that could result in a major change in state law.

The tools of direct democracy are worth preserving. They vest the citizenry with the power to be the Legislature of last resort when sitting lawmakers prove to be indolent, incompetent or corrupt and unable to properly carry out the most important business of the public. One has only to look back to 1978. When the Legislature and then Governor Brown refused to act, voters placed on the ballot and approved Proposition 13, an answer to escalating property taxes that were literally forcing many from their homes.

Support for the legislative referendum in our country goes back to Thomas Jefferson, who advocated for its inclusion in the Virginia state constitution. Its implementation in California is credited to Governor Hiram Johnson.

Johnson was elected in 1910 on an anti-Southern Pacific Railroad platform at a time when most members of the Legislature where bought and paid for by the railroad. (An ironic historical footnote: Shortly after taking office Johnson paroled notorious Southern Pacific train robber, Chris Evans.)

In a 1911 special election, California voters approved the initiative process which allowed regular folks to be involved in making laws and broke the stranglehold of the railroad had on the Legislature. The politicians, none of whom like to share power, have been disgruntled ever since. Of course, the fact that politicians don’t like the people’s initiative, referendum and recall rights, that are embedded in the state constitution, may be one of the best arguments that these rights must be retained.

However, the key to a vibrant and effective initiative process is an informed public. So if asked to sign a petition, be wary. Read the initiative summary that is required to be printed at the top of the petition form. There are initiatives in circulation right now that would increase income taxes and undermine Proposition 13 protections for taxpayers. If there is a tax increase included, you may still decide to sign, but at least you will know the impact of your decision in a state where we already have the highest income rate, the highest state sales tax and were we rank in the top four in total tax burden. In other words, caveat emptor.

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.

CA Primary Could Determine GOP Presidential Candidate

James Lacy, author of Taxifornia, explains to radio host Hugh Hewitt why the CA primary in June might actually matter in the quest for the GOP presidential nomination:

Trump Ad Echoes Campaign for CA Prop. 187

Donald Trump political adDonald Trump’s first TV ad of the 2016 campaign isn’t airing in California, but the images are very familiar to Californians.

The ad begins with a warning about radical Islamic terrorism, with photos of the two San Bernardino shooters over a background of flashing emergency lights and a sheet-covered body. Next, the announcer promises that Trump will “stop illegal immigration,” and the video cuts to grainy black-and-white footage of immigrants racing on foot to cross the border.

That clip is actually from Morocco, but if you lived in California in 1994, you probably remember the original version of this ad, with its grainy black-and-white footage of immigrants racing on foot to cross the border, running between the cars on Interstate 5.

“They keep coming,” the announcer said somberly in that campaign ad for Gov. Pete Wilson’s re-election. “Two million illegal immigrants in California. The federal government won’t stop them at the border, yet requires us to pay billions to take care of them.”

Also on the ballot that year was Proposition 187, which would have cut off public benefits, including education and health care, to everyone in California who was residing in the country illegally.

Pete Wilson won that election with 55 percent of the vote, and Prop. 187 passed with 59 percent.

Later, Prop. 187 was thrown out by a federal court and Wilson was widely blamed by political experts for turning a generation of Latino voters away from the Republican Party. But that’s not proof that voters feel differently today than they did in 1994.

Will Trump’s message resonate with a majority of voters in California or repel them? Let’s crunch the numbers from the 1994 vote for Prop. 187 and see if we can find the answer.

We’ll start by asking, “Who voted for Prop. 187?” According to an average of exit polls, 40 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of voters registered as independent or other.

At that time, statewide voter registration in California was 49 percent Democrat, 37 percent Republican, and 14 percent independent or other party. Today, the numbers are 43 percent Democrat, 28 percent Republican and 29 percent independent or other.

How would a vote on Prop. 187 come out today if the 1994 exit poll percentages were applied to California’s current voter registration by party?

It would pass, 56 percent to 44 percent, assuming equal turnout across the board. It’s a guessing game to predict which party’s voters would be more energized to turn out, and whether that would change the outcome. It probably wouldn’t.

Like the voter registration statistics, the demographics of California have changed.

The 1994 exit polls estimated the ethnic/racial composition of the electorate as 78 percent non-Hispanic white, 9 percent Latino, 7 percent black and 6 percent Asian.

Who voted for Prop. 187? Sixty-four percent of non-Hispanic whites, 52 percent of both blacks and Asians, and 27 percent of Latinos.

The Public Policy Institute of California projects that in 2016, 60 percent of the state’s likely voters will be white, 18 percent Latino, 6 percent black, 12 percent Asian, and 4 percent multi-racial or other.

If each group voted as it did in 1994, Prop 187 would pass by a margin of 53 percent to 43 percent. Adding the 4 percent of voters in the more recent multi-racial category to either side won’t change the result.

There’s one more question. Have attitudes and views in this state changed so dramatically since 1994 that exit polls from that election are now irrelevant and meaningless? Maybe. But a different conclusion can’t be ruled out:

Donald Trump could carry California.

Threats of Increased Gun Control Result in Increased Statewide Sales

GunCalifornia’s experience with gun control and gun sales has created an ironic situation with significant implications for policy: Tighter regulations have increased along with firearms purchases.

The phenomenon cuts both for and against the prevailing party platforms on the political Left and Right. “The increase in handgun sales coincides with a dip in gun-related crimes,” for example, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, lending support to conservatives’ insistence that most gun owners have no interest in breaking the law and no greater inclination toward violence. “The number of aggravated assaults in California involving a firearm dropped from more than 23,000 in 2005 to less than 16,000 last year,” the paper added. “The number of gun-related murders fell from 1,845 to 1,169 over the same time period.”

Growing unease

On the other hand, the statistics also reinforce the liberal contention that even very strict controls on guns can leave the Second Amendment intact, preserving citizens’ sport shooting and self-defense interests. In a further irony, however, the data indicates that robust gun sales have been boosted by a widespread perception among current gun owners that access to weaponry is being progressively sealed off.  “While more handguns are being sold in California, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are more gun owners. Some researchers have found the number of American households that own a firearm is at a 40-year low, even though transactions are climbing. This suggests a smaller group of people is collecting more weapons,” the Chronicle surmised.

The state’s 2014 ban on openly carrying unloaded guns, going into effect at the beginning of 2016, was “not expected to slow the growth in gun sales,” as SFist noted. Other new rules taking effect on the first of the year required that “pellet, BB, and airsoft guns must be brightly colored, to help distinguish them,” and that “concealed carry permit holders will no longer be allowed to bring their weapons onto school grounds or college campuses,” as the Christian Science Monitor reported.

But another impending law has raised the ire of a relatively broad group of activists and interest groups. January 1 triggers legislation, written and passed in the aftermath of the Isla Vista shooting, that “gives the police or family members the option to petition the courts to seize the guns and ammunition of someone they think poses a threat,” as the Guardian observed — “the first law of its kind in the country.”

Diminishing returns?

But, the paper noted, this so-called gun violence restraining order “has raised concerns from lawmakers and pro-gun groups about civil liberties and questions about how effective it will really be.” The now-customary wave of litigation set to emerge from the uncertain legal landscape was expected to refine the law’s implications, which legislators in Sacramento haggled over on the way to passage. “It will become clearer after petitions begin to flow through the California courts what kind of evidence, minimally, could result in the issuance of a temporary firearms restraining order,” according to the Guardian.

Other new restrictions on guns proposed this election season have raised further questions. While Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has begun campaigning on a policy that “would prohibit their possession and require anyone who has them to sell to a licensed firearm dealer, transfer them out of state or relinquish them to law enforcement for disposal,” as the Sacramento Bee reported, Gov. Jerry Brown has instead played up the limits of California restrictions that aren’t mirrored or reinforced by neighboring states and the federal government. “We have among the strictest gun control regulations in the country, and it doesn’t do us that much good if other states and the federal government is basically passive in this effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” Brown told CNN, according to the Bee.

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Hillary Clinton gets away with reinforcing gender stereotypes

hillary-clinton-biopics-cancelled-ftrThere was always something odd, and slightly dated, about Hillary Clinton’s promoted reputation during her years as first lady. Women were not a novelty in the workforce in 1992, but you would have thought so to hear the fawning excitement over Mrs. Clinton’s career. She was said to be the most intelligent. The most accomplished. The most influential, qualified, powerful … . The list went on and on, as if some husbands apologize with publicists instead of diamonds.

In 2008, when Nancy Pelosi was the first female speaker of the House of Representatives in U.S. history, Hillary Clinton was not the first woman ever to run for president. But she seemed to get all the press for being the groundbreaking, ceiling-shattering feminist. Nancy Pelosi was treated by the media as the Ethel Mertz of the story, the perpetual second banana who delivers the set-up lines for the star comedienne.

“Comedienne” is considered sexist today, so let me correct that to “comedian.” I don’t want to use a politically incorrect term that offends women, although I am a woman, and that should buy me some slack on these issues but it probably doesn’t.

The rules are so difficult to figure out.

For instance, Hillary Clinton was asked during the recent debate if it was time to change the role of the president’s spouse.

Mrs./Sen./Secretary Clinton answered generally, and then said, “With respect to my own husband, I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that.”

What in the name of Gloria Steinem was that about?

To get a sense of what an outrageous statement that is, imagine the response if a Republican man, or any man, had said he believes that as president, Hillary Clinton will probably choose the flowers and china for state dinners.

Great Betty Friedan, he’d have been strung up with the nearest microphone cord, right there on the spot, and his head would have been impaled on a tall can of hair spray as a warning to the others.

And what Hillary Clinton said next was even more startling. “I will certainly turn to him as prior presidents have,” she said, “for special missions, for advice, and in particular, how we’re going to get the economy working again for everybody, which he knows a little bit about.”

Mother of Bella Abzug! Did the woman who might become the first female president of the United States just say her husband knows more than she does about the economy and jobs? What on Gaia’s green earth was she thinking?

The answer is in the polling data. The Quinnipiac University poll just revealed publicly what a candidate polling privately would already have known: by 53 to 43, voters think Donald Trump “would do a better job handling the economy” than Hillary Clinton.

Some time ago, a conservative-leaning friend of mine, a woman, said she would vote for Hillary Clinton in a heartbeat. “Why?” I asked. “Because we’ll get Bill back to run the economy for eight years,” she told me.

How many voters think that? How many voters would vote for that?

Who knows, but with my own eyes, I saw the woman who once snarked that she wasn’t “some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” who once sneered at women who “stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” announce to the country that as president of the United States, she’d handle the dishes and her husband would handle the money.

Holy Alice in Wonderland!


2016 Initiative bonanza sets stage for fights

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

Measures ranging from a $9 billion school bond to a condom requirement for actors in pornographic movies are set to join the presidential candidates on November’s California ballot, with plenty more still to come.

Battle lines are being drawn in what could be one of the busiest — and most expensive — initiative seasons in California history.

“It’s likely to be a very long ballot,” said Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog, a progressive group that’s sponsored a number of consumer-oriented initiatives over the years.

Besides the seven measures that have already qualified for the ballot — including one of nationwide interest that would cut prescription drug prices for state agencies — supporters of others are out on the streets, haranguing passersby in an effort to collect enough signatures to go before the voters next year.

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