California Judge Decides Vince Fong Can Run for Congress in 2024

Fong first declines, then announces candidacy following Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Resignation announcement

Assemblyman Vince Fong, the Bakersfield representative who Congressman Kevin McCarthy endorsed to succeed him, got good news Thursday when a Sacramento Superior Court Judge ruled he can run for Congress.

The question of his candidacy arose when the Republican Assemblyman announced he would run to replace Kevin McCarthy in the U.S. House of Representatives, after only a few days before, declining to run, saying it wasn’t his time.

Assemblyman Fong, who is serving his fourth term in the California State Assembly, released the following statement December 7th on his plans for the 2024 election cycle:

“Representing the residents of the Central Valley is an honor and privilege. In the past 24 hours, I have been humbled to receive an outpouring of encouragement to run for Congress. I want to thank everyone who reached out for your kind words and offers of support.

“After giving it thoughtful and prayerful consideration, my family and I have decided that now is not my time, and I will not be running for Congress in 2024.

Following today’s ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang, Fong said:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the voters of the 20th Congressional District, who will now have the opportunity to select the candidate of their choice in the March 5th election. I am grateful that Judge Chang upheld the integrity of our elections and sided with Central Valley voters against an overreaching Sacramento politician.”

“I look forward to getting back on the campaign trail and working as hard as I can over the next several months to once again win the trust of Central Valley voters and earn the right to represent them in Congress.”

The issue with Fong’s announcement to run for Congress was that Fong had already filed paperwork to run for the Assembly, and the deadline had passed to back out.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Fong could not run for congress because California law does not allow candidates to appear on the same ballot twice for different jobs. The state also prohibits candidates from dropping out of a race after the filing deadline closes.

The California Secretary of State said, “no withdrawal is allowed, and a person cannot run for more than one office in the same election.”

The Globe reported that Fong would likely need to go to court and have a judge decide if he can decline the Assembly race in order to run for Congress. And he did.

The CAGOP defended Fong’s decision to run for Congress, claiming the Secretary of State’s decision was “egregious:”

On Thursday, California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson weighed in on Fong’s court win:

“Today’s ruling was a victory for the voters of Congressional District 20 who will now get to decide who can best represent them from a full slate of candidates. The Sacramento Democrat machine tried and failed to interfere in a district that heavily favors Republicans, but the court rightly saw the legitimacy of Assemblyman Fong’s candidacy and put an end to Democrats’ political games. We look forward to a robust campaign in CA-20 as voters – not Sacramento Democrats – choose a leader to send to Washington on their behalf.”

The Globe spoke to political legal experts and reported:

“The law is very clear on this,” said Mark Georgiou, a legal advisor to political campaigns in several western states, to the Globe on Monday. “What happened is Fong wanted the Assembly again and assumed that McCarthy would just run again, or if he didn’t, that Grove would go in. That’s what that 7th announcement was all about. Then Grove bailed, and Fong saw an opening. He obviously wants the House seat, but he just didn’t foresee the race opening up this year. And honestly, an open year was his in, as strong GOP seats in California don’t open too often.”

“Honestly, he declared too early, especially with McCarthy facing all that heat earlier this year, and wanted to kind of reneg on it for the bigger seat. The law says differently. Bad luck, but he could still run for a higher office in the future. If he had grace, he could have played being too late to the punch with a joke, back a candidate, and then a higher office later on. He went this route instead though, and predictably, was stopped pretty quickly. Him and the CAGOP and McCarthy can go on about how unfair this is, but in all honesty, it’s just the law. It’s like getting mad at the tree when you veer your car off the road into it.”

Congressional District 20 is a safe Republican district, so is the real issue — is the Kevin McCarthy camp trying to maintain a hold on the district and power in Congress with a friendly? Fong worked as McCarthy’s district direct director for 10 years, and is assumed by all to be loyal to the McCarthy machine… especially after CD 20 candidate David Giglio’s tweet:

“Do you want to know why people don’t take Republicans seriously when we talk about election integrity? It’s because we have corrupt establishment Republicans out there who think it’s ok to ignore/violate election laws to benefit themselves while laughably claiming to be doing so out of concern for election integrity. The GOP has spent 3 years chastising Democrats for ignoring election laws during the 2020 election to benefit themselves and now here we are with Republicans doing the same thing. Behavior such as this makes us look like fools.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Bill Seeks Improve California’s Woeful Budget Transparency

Jerry Brown Budget 2017Getting detailed information about the California budget has long been a headache. The state Department of Finance provides online access to decades of information, but the portal is clumsy and difficult to use. There are no easy ways to chart how spending has ebbed and flowed in specific areas or to quickly spot the biggest changes from year to year.

This is why in 2016, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) ranked California as the worst state in the nation when it came to providing “online access to government spending data.”

That wasn’t the first blast coming the Golden State’s way. In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity gave California an F minus – a 25 on a scale of 1 to 100
– on the question of whether “the budget and budget-related information is accessible to the public in an open-data format.”

Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, wants that to change. He’s introduced what he calls the Budget Transparency Act of 2019. Assembly Bill 62 would promote state budget transparency by establishing an online website that would be “interactive, searchable, regularly updated, and include specified features, including information on each state expenditure.”

The Legislative Counsel’s Digest describing the bill notes that state law already requires anyone with internet access to be able to gather information on the budget. But Fong’s measure would broaden the budget categories to cover all but data “deemed confidential or otherwise exempt from disclosure under state or federal law.” Presently, state law limits access on some fiscal information, though not on basics like the general fund budget.

Best states used as template for Fong’s bill

The five states that U.S. PIRG rates highest for access to state financial data
– Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Oregon and Connecticut – each offer a readily searchable budget database of the type Fong’s bill details. Ohio’s online budget tool in particular has been cited for its ease of use and comprehensiveness.

U.S. PIRG dismisses the argument that such databases are expensive. Its California chapter (CalPIRG) has estimated it would cost $21,000 to set up with subsequent annual costs of about $40,000 per year.

The chapter has been after the state to do better on fiscal transparency for many years. In a 2009 report, CalPIRG blasted California for providing so little information online about more than $4 billion in corporate tax breaks and subsidies it gave out each year, including about $500 million in breaks for operating in economically distressed areas. It also said the state should provide online tools that would allow users to evaluate whether the breaks had actually helped the economies of distressed areas.

No hearing date has been set yet for Fong’s bill.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Which legislators stood up for California taxpayers this session?

CapitolIn 2017, the California Legislature launched a sustained and withering assault on middle-class taxpayers. Its victories were numerous and significant: A $75 per document recording tax was approved, affecting up to 400 different transactions; a gas and car tax, which takes effect November 1, will cost California households another $600 a year; and an increase in environmental regulations, known as cap-and-trade, could increase the cost of fuel by an additional 70 cents/gallon by 2030.

In the face of such devastating policies, it is easy for taxpayers to question whether legislators will ever be held accountable. However, a useful tool to assist taxpayers is the annual legislative Report Card published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Introduced back in 2007, the point of the report card is to document how lawmakers have voted on issues important to taxpayers. Lawmakers tend to hide behind statements, often of dubious veracity, to justify their votes. The report card sets aside motives, politics and party affiliations and simply asks one question: did legislators stand up for the interests of taxpayers?  While politicians may obfuscate, the numbers don’t lie.

HJTA’s 2017 scorecard featured a list of 22 bills which, represents a broad sample size, making it easy to see who is either a friend to taxpayers or beholden to the special interests that pervade the state Capitol. Beyond the obvious tax increases listed above, other bills include those that make it easier for local governments to increase sales taxes, and allow for San Francisco Bay Area residents to increase bridge tolls. Attacks on the initiative process are another common theme highlighted in the scorecard.

Given the policy breadth of the bills listed above, it should come as no surprise that the 2017 scorecard was nothing short of abysmal. A record 79 legislators failed the scorecard while only 24 got a grade of “A.” Ten legislators received the coveted and difficult to get perfect score in 2017: Assembly Members Travis Allen, Brian Dahle, Vince Fong, Jay Obernolte and Jim Patterson. They were joined by State Sens. Joel Anderson, Patricia Bates, Jean Fuller, Mike Morrell and Jeff Stone. These legislators should be commended for their diligence on behalf of taxpayers. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

The reason why California taxes continue to skyrocket

TaxesBefore the ink on the governor’s signature has dried on the largest gas tax increase in California history, Sacramento Democrats are fully intending to break their promise to dedicate the new revenue to fixing our crumbling roads. In the upcoming budget, there is a proposal to divert 30 percent of this gas tax increase to items and programs completely unrelated to repairing our roads and highways, such as park maintenance and job training for felons.

Regrettably, these bait-and-switch tactics are now so commonplace in Sacramento that few notice. For many years, billions in transportation dollars have been diverted from road building and maintenance to the general fund, which has created the crisis we are currently facing. Why would anyone think things will be different now with the new $52 billion car and gas tax hikes?

There are many other examples of lawmakers misleading the public when promoting new taxes. Sacramento sold the recent tobacco tax increase on the November 2016 ballot to voters as a way to fund Medicaid. After the proposition passed, the revenues were simply swept into the general fund and, as a result, doctors and millions of Californians on Medicaid are not receiving the funds which they were anticipating.

Just last week, we witnessed the annual practice of passing 40 “shell” budget bills that are virtually devoid of written content. The blanks will be filled in as the majority party rams through all the deals it makes behind closed doors. Even with the passage of a new constitutional amendment — Proposition 54, discussed below — requiring bills to be in print for 72 hours, the sheer volume of budgetary language makes it difficult for the public and media to truly know how taxpayer dollars are to be spent.

Sacramento may not know how to manage money and prioritize spending, but legislative leaders do know how to dissemble and divert public attention from the reality of the budget process. They prefer to keep average folks in the dark because they know the public would never approve these budget diversions.

Voters clearly stated they prefer transparency and public participation when they approved Proposition 54 last year. The proposition requires that legislation be in print and available for public view for three days before being voted on. Majority lawmakers opposed this reasonable measure because it blocked them from introducing legislation and immediately passing it, without public comment, often in the dead of night. For Sacramento insiders, secrecy and deception are a way of life.

Californians deserve real budget transparency in order to change this broken process and to reform the bait-and-switch culture that has led to a state that has become simply unaffordable. Ultimately, it is middle class and working class families that are harmed the most by the bad policies coming out of Sacramento. Affordability is one of the biggest and most important issues facing this state, but we are moving in the wrong direction because new taxes and fees continue to be imposed in the false belief that more government and higher taxes are the answer.

It should surprise no one that California ranks dead last in the nation on budget transparency. This needs to change if we want the Legislature to change its focus to promoting the wellbeing of average Californians.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Vince Fong represents California’s 34th State Assembly district, which includes portions of Bakersfield and the communities of Bear Valley Springs, Oildale, Maricopa, Ridgecrest, Taft and Tehachapi.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register and the HJTA