More shady politics from Sacramento Democrats

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, left, listens as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin del Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, urges lawmakers to approve a measure to change the rules governing recall elections, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Democratic lawmakers approved the bill that would let people rescind their signatures from recall petitions and let lawmakers weigh in on potential costs. Newman is facing a recall campaign over his vote to increase the gas tax. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Last week, the ostensibly nonpartisan California Fair Political Practices Commission agreed to remove a long-standing campaign contribution limit so that Democrats could better fight an upcoming recall election against one of their own. And you thought things were bad in Venezuela.

Earlier this year, frustrated taxpayers in Senate District 29 initiated a recall of state Sen. Josh Newman because of his vote to impose over $5 billion annually in new taxes on cars and gasoline. Within months, over 100,000 signatures were submitted in support of ousting Newman.

In a move to bolster Newman’s chances of surviving the impending recall, the Senate Democrats last month requested that the FPPC allow elected officials to contribute more than $4,400 — the legal limit — to Sen. Newman’s recall committee. Since 2003, the FPPC has maintained that the contribution limits that apply to candidate committees during regularly scheduled elections also apply to recall elections. In fact, back in 2008, that rule was applied against a Republican legislator, Jeff Denham, when he was fighting his own recall challenge. The justification for the limit is to prevent legislative leaders from using their power and influence over special-interest contributors to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could then be immediately transferred to the targeted legislator.

In response to the Democrats’ request, the FPPC’s own legal counsel reviewed the limit and concluded that the current interpretation is both “well-reasoned and legally sound.” However, in a 3-1 vote, the commission ignored its attorneys’ objection and gave preliminary approval to lift the contribution limit for recall candidates.

To be clear, many question both the efficacy and the constitutionality of political contribution limits. After reasoned debate, it may well be that the California Legislature would vote to lift the cap for future elections. But it is the method and timing of the revised interpretation that stinks.

First, the Democrats are hiding behind the FPPC. If they don’t like the contribution limits, they could simply pass a reform bill, which Gov. Brown would quickly sign. But, rather than be upfront about their political agenda, they asked their cohorts at the FPPC to do their dirty work for them via a regulatory amendment.

Second, and far more troubling, is the timing. If this particular contribution limit can’t be justified as advancing the public interest — and it may not be — why repeal it in a manner so transparently intended to help one particular political party, and one particular candidate? By not delaying the effective date of the regulatory change until some not-too-distant future election cycle, the FPPC loses the moral high ground, as well as the appearance of objectivity.

The upshot of this may not mean much. Sure, with lots more Democratic money to spend in the recall election, voters in the 29th Senate District will see their mailboxes filled to brim with misleading mailers, as well as nonstop radio commercials on every station, funded by special interests. But the anger on the part of working Californians over the massive tax increase, especially in Newman’s conservative district, is palpable — and even an unlimited supply of campaign cash may not be able to stave off voter wrath.

Nonetheless, the FPPC action is unseemly and wrong. Today, when cynicism over the political process is at an all-time high at both the national level and here in California, we should be assuring citizens that our democratic processes are fair and reflective of high standards of integrity. Unfortunately, the FPPC’s sudden rule change will only reinforce distrust on the part of voters.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register.

Republicans Will Sue Attorney General over ‘Misleading’ Gas Tax Repeal Language

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedRepublican advocates of a California ballot initiative to repeal the state’s new gas tax will sue Attorney General Xavier Becerra over language he issued describing the measure, which they say is “misleading” to voters.

The language, reported by the Los Angeles Times, says the referendum “eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.” Proponents of the repeal say that there is no way to be certain that the gas tax and new vehicle registration fees will be used to fix the state’s roads.

In addition, the Times notes, Becerra’s description says the referendum “Eliminates Independent Office of Audits and Investigations.” Advocates of the repeal note that the office, provided for in the gas tax law, does not yet exist.

The language in Becerra’s description must be provided by those gathering signatures for the referendum, and backers are concerned that the language of the description could dissuade some people from supporting the effort.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), who is leading the repeal effort and is running for governor in 2018, told the Times that “almost everything” in Becerra’s description of the referendum was misleading.

The battle over language is only the latest controversy in the fight over the gas tax. Democrats are trying to change the rules for recall elections to protect State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), who voted for the gas tax. (The Wall Street Journal accused them of “rigging the recall rules” to move the election from this fall to next June, when Democratic turnout is expected to be higher.) Democrats are also trying to remove campaign finance restrictions on legislators so that they can donate unlimited amounts of money to Newman’s effort to defend his seat in the recall. And Democrats are suing members of the California College Republicans who gathered signatures for the recall, alleging that the students misled voters by telling them that recalling Newman would mean repealing the gas tax.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

California Democrats out to reverse another election rule to help one of their own

As reported by the Orange County Register:

First, Democrats hoping to protect one of their own passed a law changing the rules for a recall.

Now they are pressuring the state’s campaign watchdog to reverse a longstanding stance on contribution limits to once again benefit Sen. Josh Newman, who Republicans are seeking to punish for casting a vote to raise state gas taxes.

In 2002, the California Fair Political Practices Commission adopted a regulation that said state candidates are subject to contribution limits when they give money to a recall committee controlled by another state candidate. The FPPC interprets the law to mean that state politicians can’t give the Fullerton Democrat more than $4,400 each to fight his recall.

Roughly 15 years and two recall elections after the agency took the position, Senate Democrats are arguing the FPPC got it wrong. They say candidate committees should be able to give unlimited sums to a candidate-controlled recall committee, which would allow Newman to rely on fundraising by colleagues to help fend off the Republicans gunning for him. Democrats had the Legislature’s government lawyers study the issue, and on June 27 Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine issued an opinion predicting that courts would uphold a reversal of the FPPC’s longstanding interpretation. …

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Recall effort stymied by Sacramento

Members of the California Legislature apparently believe they have the power to change outcomes they don’t like. This is like awarding the NBA Championship to Cleveland by retroactively mandating that all of Golden State’s three point baskets be counted as only two.

While basketball is not on the minds of lawmakers, they are working to interfere with something of much greater value to average Californians, their constitutional right to recall elected officials. The Sacramento politicians think they have found a way to derail what appears to be a successful grassroots effort to recall state Sen. Josh Newman, who cast a key vote imposing a new $5.2 billion annual gas and car tax on already overburdened taxpayers.

The power of recall is a powerful tool of direct democracy. The secretary of state’s website says, “Recall is the power of the voters to remove elected officials before their terms expire. It has been a fundamental part of our governmental system since 1911 and has been used by voters to express their dissatisfaction with their elected representatives.”

In the 29th Senate District, covering parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, voters have been busy exercising their right to recall their tax-raising representative Josh Newman. Much to the surprise of Sacramento insiders, it looks like the campaign will succeed in gathering enough signatures to force the senator to be held accountable in a special election — already the secretary of state has instructed county registrars to begin counting the signatures. The chance that the recall of one of their own will be successful has lawmakers panicking. Their solution is to surreptitiously change the recall rules that have been in place for over a century.

500px-Capitol_Building_MG_1600_Sans_watermarkWith little notice, the Legislature amended Senate Bill 96, as it was about to pass in connection with the state budget on June 15, for the purpose of changing the rules governing the current recall effort. The purpose of the bill is shamelessly transparent: “It is the Legislature’s intent that the changes made by this act in the Elections Code apply retroactively to recalls that are pending at any stage at the time of the act’s enactment… .”

Their end game is delay. They want to delay the ultimate vote on ousting Newman for as long as possible, despite the constitutional guarantee to have the vote as quickly as possible — between 60 days and 180 days from the recall petitions having been certified.

Here’s how they do it: First, they try to delay the petition review process by requiring the county Registrars of Voters to check the validity of every signature submitted. Normally, the registrars are permitted to check a random sample of the signatures, saving both time and money.

Second, and more disturbing, is the provision buried deep in the text that states, “Notwithstanding any other law, the Secretary of State shall not certify the sufficiency of the signatures [on the recall petitions] until the Legislative Joint Budget Committee has 30 days to review and comment on the estimate [of recall costs] submitted by the Department of Finance.”

Here’s the kicker. The Department of Finance is part of the governor’s office and the bill does not require the governor’s office to prepare that analysis under any time limit. Gov. Brown, who has already come out against the recall, can simply delay that report indefinitely, which, in turn, would hold up certification of the recall effort and the ultimate election.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that those in power in Sacramento will stop at nothing to retain their power and influence, putting their own interests ahead of those of average Californians. But lawmakers who disrespect voters should be wary. Polls show that nearly 60 percent of Californians oppose the new gas tax. The higher taxes will kick in just before the beginning of next year’s election season. Voters are very likely to remember who is responsible and choose to retire multiple representatives, not just a single senator, in the regularly scheduled 2018 election.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register

Democrats Embrace Banana-Republic Tactics

California’s Democrats control just about everything in the state. They own every statewide constitutional office and have supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. Heck, a news report this week revealed that Republicans have a majority of voters in only 14 of the state’s 482 cities. In other words, the majority party can pretty much do as it pleases wherever it chooses.

Yet the usually hapless Republican opposition has managed to inspire enough fear in the majority party that Democrats have resorted to the kind of cheating one would expect in some third-world backwater.

As this column has explained, one of the state’s savviest GOP officials, former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio, is leading a recall campaign against a Democratic senator, Josh Newman, who represents a GOP-leaning district in Orange and Los Angeles counties. The recall has legs because Newman cast a deciding vote on a massive increase in the gasoline tax and the state’s vehicle-license fees — something that will cost many Californians hundreds of dollars a year. (The roads here need help, but state leaders are too busy spending money on other priorities.)

Recall advocates seem likely to succeed at picking off this freshman senator, given widespread anger — even among many Democrats — at the tax hike. Losing Newman will mean that Democrats lose their legislative supermajority. In California, supermajorities are needed to pass every manner of tax increase. Furthermore, DeMaio and company have plans to use the latest tax hike to target other vulnerable legislators in other districts.

Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman speaks with supporters at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.  - ADDITIONAL INFO/// - ROD VEAL/CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER - 110916.Elex.Senate29 - 11/8/16 -  Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman hangs out at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.

State Senator Josh Newman

So far, we’ve seen the expected pushback — a particularly ugly hit mailer by Newman backers, and a tsunami of support from the majority party and from liberal interest groups. That’s politics as usual, but the latest gambit is particularly outrageous: Legislative leaders are pushing through a bill that would change the rules of the game for recall elections to assure that Newman can survive this challenge.

“The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot,” according to a Sacramento Bee report. “The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election.”

DeMaio and company are playing by existing rules, which would require the governor to schedule a recall election 60 to 80 days after the secretary of state certifies the number of signatures. They want to strike while the iron — or at least voter anger — is still red hot. They’re planning to hold the election shortly after gas prices go into effect. It’s a great strategy, especially given the large number of signatures recall backers already have submitted for verification.

But few expected Democrats to resort to this strategy. Senate Bill 96 and Assembly Bill 112 have been rammed through the Legislature as trailer bills — last-minute technical measures that are supposed to be reserved for budget issues. It’s a way for them to pass bills without the normal hearing process and legislative vetting.

For instance, the current analysis of S.B. 96 says that “this bill expresses the intent of the Legislature to enact statutory changes relating to the Budget Act of 2017.” But that language has been stripped out and the new, controversial non-budget-related language is inserted.

The bills will delay the signature-gathering process long enough to allow the governor to consolidate the recall election on the June primary ballot. That will give time for voter anger to smolder, and primary elections draw a much larger turnout. In this state, that means that far more Democrats will turn out, and the likelihood of the recall succeeding would be much slimmer.

Here’s the Bee again: “It would give voters who signed the petitions up to 30 days to withdraw their signatures, with county election officials reporting withdrawn signatures every 10 days. If there were still enough signatures to qualify the measure, the Department of Finance would have to issue a cost estimate for the election. Then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee would have 30 days to review and comment on the department’s cost estimate.”

The justifications for this rules-rigging are almost as outrageous as the legislation itself. Legislative leaders are upset that recall supporters tie the recall to a possible rollback in the gas-tax hike. Since when do legislators scuttle a long-established democratic process simply because they might not like the argument the other side may be using?

The idea that voters are being misled and need a chance to withdraw their signatures is condescending. I’d have more respect for the state’s majority party if its officials simply dispensed with these arguments and admitted that they simply are flexing their political muscle.

By the way, it’s a legitimate goal of the recall to get rid of Newman as a way to build political pressure for the Legislature to overturn the gas tax hike. One of the key reasons for recalling Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 was his support for a tripling of the vehicle-license fee. One of the first acts of his replacement, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a rollback of the fee hike.

“Recalls are designed to be extraordinary events in response to extraordinary circumstances — and it’s in the public’s overwhelming interest to ensure the security, integrity and legitimacy of the qualification process,” said a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, to a Los Angeles Times reporter. So now the official argument is that they don’t like the reason for the recall. And they’re doing this for the public’s interest, of course. DeMaio has threatened legal action, but this whole thing could further delay the election.

This isn’t the first time the state’s Democrats have rigged the rules for crass political purposes. Another Bee article noted that this has become rather common. For instance, it noted that in 2011 they passed a law requiring all voter-backed initiatives (as opposed to the ones put on the ballot by legislators) to appear on the November general-election ballot given that conservative-oriented initiatives have a tougher time on these high-turnout dates.

They also passed in 2012 a bill changing the order in which initiatives appear on the ballot with the obvious goal of making it more likely for the governor’s tax increase to appear first — and thus be more likely to get a “yes” vote.

And I wrote for the Spectator last week about the Assembly speaker’s decision to, apparently, just ignore the clear intent of a recently passed voter initiative that requires a 72-hour notice before a vote on all final versions of every bill. That good-government measure was supposed to stop the Legislature from sneaking through gut-and-amend bills without giving legislators, the media, and the public an opportunity to see what’s in them. The Assembly offered an alternative reading of the measure as a transparent way to get around it.

Meanwhile, I also wrote for the Spectator about how Democratic legislators are rewriting some county redistricting rules as a brazen way to flip some Republican supervisorial districts to the Democrats — something so heavy-handed that even Democratic officials in Los Angeles County objected.

Perhaps, this is what one can expect in a one-party state, but it certainly makes a mockery of the notion of democracy. But the latest ploy is particularly disturbing. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the anti-recall measure, we can at least dispense with the niceties. At that point, it will be official and California will join the ranks of banana republics.

This piece was originally published by the American Spectator

Democrats push new rules to help them win an election

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Democrats are pushing late-blooming bills to significantly improve state Sen. Josh Newman’s odds of surviving an effort by the state GOP and others to recall him from office.

The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot. The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election.

Regular election turnout historically is much higher than turnout for special elections, which helps Democrats.

The effort to recall Newman, D-Fullerton, began soon after his April 6 vote for a road-funding plan that will raise taxes on gas and diesel and vehicle fees by billions of dollars. Newman, who represents an area that has long had Republican representation, won election last fall by just 2,498 votes.

Republican lawmakers and other recall supporters denounced Monday’s legislation as an abuse of power. …

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Why the recall of Josh Newman is justified

Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman speaks with supporters at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.  - ADDITIONAL INFO/// - ROD VEAL/CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER - 110916.Elex.Senate29 - 11/8/16 -  Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman hangs out at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.

State Sen. Josh Newman, who has been in office less than six months, is the target of a credible and well organized recall election. The recall effort was instigated by reform and taxpayer interests over the passage of Senate Bill 1 which imposes a permanent $5.2 billion annual tax on gasoline and vehicle registration. That tax increase, never approved by voters, has generated vocal public criticism.

But why Josh Newman? Shouldn’t all legislators who cast a yes vote for this regressive tax on California’s middle class be held accountable? That is arguably true and there may be more recall efforts launched in the near future.

Nonetheless, there are several legitimate reasons why Sen. Newman deserves to be at the top of the list.

Opponents of the recall have suggested that a recall is only justified in cases of gross malfeasance or corruption. While those are certainly good reasons to target a legislator in the middle of a term, they are not exclusive reasons. It wasn’t that long ago when Gov. Gray Davis’ attempt to increase the car tax — one of the very taxes at issue here — led to his successful recall. His opponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, actually dropped a car from a crane in an illustration of how unpopular the car tax hike was. In short, some actions justify a severe political response.

Second, it is readily apparent that Josh Newman is a bad fit for the Senate district he represents. Yes, he was duly elected, but only by the slimmest of margins. This is a district that should have been relatively easy win for a fiscal conservative. However, as we know from the statewide vote, many voters expressed strong negative feelings for the Republican at the top of the ticket — Donald Trump — and even those Republicans and independents who weren’t thrilled with Hillary Clinton, many still couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Trump. But Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot in a recall election which vastly increases the chances for success.

Third, the 29th Senate District has a large contingent of middle-class voters. Much different from the West Side of Los Angeles or San Francisco, a lot voters in the 29th District have seen their housing costs and other cost of living items increase without a matching increase in their incomes. For them, a huge increase in the gas tax and vehicle registration tax hits the family budget hard. Coastal elites don’t care how much the cost of gas is — most don’t even bother looking at the price — but working Californians do. A recall election will make Newman explain to the voters of his district why he voted against their interests.

Fourth, in addition to sending a message to other tax-happy legislators about the consequences of big middle-class tax hikes, replacing a progressive with a fiscally responsible individual would deprive Democrats of the two-thirds supermajority they need to impose even more tax hikes without voter approval. The California Taxpayers Foundation has calculated that, in the first four months of the new legislative session, progressives have proposed $155 billion in new taxes. Depriving Democrats of the two-thirds supermajority they need to pass tax hikes is more than a legitimate policy objective — it is critical for saving the state from liberal lunacy.

Fifth, the anger among California voters has not subsided from the day Senate Bill 1 was jammed through the legislature. If anything, the more citizens learn about this attack on their pocketbooks, the more incensed they get. Grassroots taxpayer groups have legions of members who are angry drivers reaching for their pitchforks and torches. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association alone has several thousand active members in Senate District 29 and they haven’t been shy about wanting something done and done now.

It would have been preferable for the Legislature as body, and Sen. Newman in particular, to have not imposed a punishing tax hike on California drivers. But they did, so they have only themselves to blame for political retaliation.

Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register

California Democrats capture legislative supermajorities

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

SACRAMENTO — Democrats will have a two-thirds supermajority in both chambers of the California Legislature next year after Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang lost her bid to advance to the state Senate.

Election results released Monday showed Democrat Josh Newman narrowly defeated Chang for a Senate seat concentrated in northeastern Orange County.

Newman’s victory gives Democrats control of two-thirds of the 40 seats in the Senate — enough for them to approve tax increases, suspend legislative rules, pass emergency legislation or overturn the governor’s vetoes without any support from Republicans.

Newman is a U.S. Army veteran from Fullerton who founded a nonprofit to help veterans pursue civilian jobs following work in the entertainment and technology industries. He will replace Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, who was barred by term limits from seeking another term. …

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