Democrats want to extend health coverage to undocumented immigrants

Health for allCalifornia’s Democratic legislators want to extend health benefits to undocumented young adults, the continuation of an effort that ushered children without legal status into the state’s publicly funded health care system last year.

It is unclear when the program would start or how much the state would spend if the proposal, which could cost up to $85 million a year, is approved by Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers are working out details ahead of their June 15 deadline for passing a new budget.

The plan would provide full-scope coverage for 19-to-26-year-olds who qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s name for Medicaid. Currently, the federally funded program covers only emergency visits and prenatal care for undocumented residents. Under the proposal, revenue from taxes on tobacco products would absorb expenses for all other coverage.

Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens has been one of the strongest voices for expanded care. In 2015, he pushed for coverage for all adults. That proposal was changed to admit only undocumented children; it took effect last year. This year, he said in a recent video message to supporters, “We are going to make the final push to ensure we capture our young adults.”

Supporters’ ultimate goal is to include all undocumented adults, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a health care consumer group backing the proposal.

“We believe without coverage people are sicker, die younger and are one emergency away from financial ruin. It has consequences for their families and their communities — both health and financial consequences,” he said.

The plan would mean that undocumented children currently in the program would not age out at 19, putting low-income undocumented immigrants on a par with those allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance under Obamacare until they are 26.

Sen. John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican, opposes an extension of benefits. One reason is financial. California doesn’t have “a balance sheet we can brag about,” he said, citing the state’s debt load, among other reasons.

Secondly, he disapproves of illegal immigration. Moorlach migrated to the U.S. legally as a child with his family from the Netherlands.

“I’m kind of offended that we feel an obligation to pay for expenses for those who did not come through the front door,” he said. “I certainly have compassion and want to help people in need, but I’m having difficulty, as a legal immigrant, because we are already in such bad fiscal shape.”

Advocates argue that undocumented immigrants help propel California’s economy with their labor and the taxes they pay, and that they cost the state money when they don’t work because of illness or when they end up in the emergency room.

“Health care is a right,” said Ronald Coleman, director of government affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center, an advocacy organization and supporter of the proposal. “These are folks we are investing in through the California Dream Act and through other programs our state offers, and it makes sense to invest in our future, which our young adults will be.”

Estimates vary for how many people this expansion of Medi-Cal would serve and what the costs would be. Each house of the Legislature has passed its own version of the proposal, with differing figures attached.

The Assembly allocated $54 million a year to cover an unspecified number of additional enrollees, with a July 2017 start date. The Senate proposed $63.1 million in the first year, beginning in 2018, and $85 million annually thereafter, also without specific population numbers.

Coleman’s center, which is working closely with lawmakers on the issue, estimates about 80,000 new people would be eligible, and the cost would be around $54 million a year. That assumes the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program continues, because it provides access to Medi-Cal. If  DACA were eliminated, the figures would increase to about 100,000 eligible people and about $84 million in annual costs, Coleman said.

The governor’s proposed budget does not include the proposed expansion or any money for it.

Kevin, a 19-year-old Angeleno who asked that only his first name be used because he lives in California illegally, wants the proposal to succeed. He has been working for more than a year to distribute information about Medi-Cal children’s coverage to immigrant families.

He meets all but one of the requirements for DACA: He was not in the country before June 15, 2007. He arrived in the U.S. in 2011 at age 14 from Guatemala, on a visa that later expired. He graduated high school, has no criminal record and is now majoring in Business Administration at California State University, Los Angeles.

“There’s this misunderstanding that young people are healthy,” said Kevin, who suffers from eczema. He worries about the chronic condition flaring up. “When it gets worse, it doesn’t let me do anything with my hands.”

He is enrolled in a county health insurance program for low-income residents, but he can’t afford a dermatologist. He can barely pay for the prescription lotion he uses for the eczema and sometimes goes without it.

“We are trying to have a better economic standard, and we are like the building blocks of this society,” he said. “Having health insurance will allow us to focus more on school and do our regular day-to-day activities. A healthier society works better for everyone.”

If lawmakers can now agree on details, a consensus proposal will go to the full Legislature for approval. The deadline for that is June 12.

This piece was originally published by CalMatters.org

California could become a sanctuary state for marijuana

As reported by CNN Money:

California lawmakers are trying to protect the marijuana industry by establishing California as a sanctuary state for pot.

A bill moving through the state legislature would prohibit state and local police from assisting federal agents who target marijuana businesses that are legal according to state law, unless those agents have a court order.

“The reason for this is because the present administration in Washington is very unpredictable,” Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles and the author of the bill, told CNNMoney. “This is protecting the rights of Californians.”

The bill passed the state Assembly 41-33 last week. Most Democrats supported the bill, and most Republicans opposed it. …

Click here to read the full article

State Assembly defies new transparency law

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

SACRAMENTO – California voters in November overwhelmingly passed Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment to promote transparency by requiring all bills in their “final form” to be published online for 72 hours before legislators vote on them. It’s designed to stop last-minute gut-and-amend bills where the leadership pushes through substantive measures that haven’t been vetted – or even read by most members who vote on them.

It’s no secret that many legislative leaders dislike the proposal. For years, reform-minded lawmakers have proposed similar measures – but they never made it before the voters. Opponents of the rule say they are all for transparency, but that requiring such a long period of time for the public and critics to review all bills makes it difficult to get complicated and important measures put together as the legislative deadline approaches.

One would think that Prop. 54’s passage would have settled the argument, but a fracas last week in the Assembly suggests that core debates over the measure are far from settled and might soon find themselves hammered out in court.

The Legislature adjourned Friday following the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin. Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, assured that bills coming from the Senate waited 72 hours before a final vote. But Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, is accused by Proposition 54’s backers of allowing more than 90 bills to be voted on without having been published for a full 72 hours before the vote.

There’s a question over terminology in the proposition’s language: “No bill may be passed or ultimately become a statute unless the bill with any amendments has been printed, distributed to the members, and published on the internet, in its final form, for at least 72 hours before the vote, except that this notice period may be waived if the governor has submitted to the Legislature a written statement that dispensing with this notice period for that bill is necessary to address a state of emergency … .” The issue involves the term “final form.”

The initiative’s proponents say final form means the final form before a vote in each house of the Legislature. But the Assembly argues that final form “does not pertain to a vote to move a bill to the opposite house and instead applies to legislation presented on the floor of the second house,” according to a Sacramento Bee explanation.

The chief clerk of the Assembly issued a statement explaining that “Assembly bills will not be in final form until they are presented on the floor of the Senate.” Proponents of Prop. 54, including former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and moderate Republican financier Charles Munger Jr., strongly disagree with that interpretation and say they might go to court to defend what they say is the clear intent of the initiative.

One element of Prop. 54 that’s not in contention: The section finding that bills in violation of the 72-hour waiting period could be invalidated by the courts. That’s where the latest fracas resembles a game of chicken. De Leon clearly wasn’t taking any chances with his house’s interpretation of the proposition’s meaning. Rendon could have, say, passed a minor bill on a shorter notice as a test case to see how the courts would rule. Instead, if it’s true that he didn’t wait the full 72 hours for the votes, he may have put dozens of bills in jeopardy if the courts side with initiative drafters.

Supporters of the rule applying to both houses argue that it would be incomprehensible to give members of one legislative body (and their constituents) 72 hours to review a bill and deprive the same thing of members of the other legislative body.

Critics of the “both houses” interpretation suggest that Prop. 54’s drafters could simply have included the language “in each house” following the words “final form.” But the initiative’s drafters believe the plain reading of the initiative means that every bill must be in print 72 hours before each vote. Including the “in each house” language could have been interpreted to mean 72 hours in each house (for a possible total of six days), something proponents clearly didn’t intend.

It’s increasingly likely this dispute ends up at the state Supreme Court, with the stakes higher than ever. It will pit the intent of an initiative that passed by a nearly two-to-one margin and in all of California’s 58 counties against more than 90 recently passed bills, which could possibly be tossed aside even if the governor signs them.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

What Will It Take For California Voters To Change Their Minds?

VotingIn Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book, “The Tipping Point,” his central thesis is how events collate together to form a “tipping point,” that changes individuals, companies, governments and society. Has California reached a tipping point? Seemingly it has. Then why do voters keep electing the same Democrats, and allow the Republican Party to fade away into oblivion?

Moreover, apathetic voters don’t care that the Democratic governor and Legislature say one thing, and do something completely opposite as long as the hot causes are in line with the media and Democratic Party’s narrative of gay marriage, abortion and global warming. Those three shibboleths of California public policy have overtaken the central tenets of state government: infrastructure, public safety and education – since all three are in shambles or disarray at best.

For Democratic voters, independents who lean conservative, but never hear an organized message, along with Republican voters who still long for Reagan, here are issues to consider along with our downward trajectory. Your apathy and unrealistic expectations are taking California to a brutal tipping point that could easily mirror the disaster being ignored by the mainstream media (LA Times, NY Times, ABC, CBS, NBC) about Venezuela since it doesn’t fit their false narrative that socialism espoused by Bernie Sanders should be emulated.

The next number of paragraphs will begin showing the current path for California this year and decades ahead. It is sobering to envision what California will look like for our children if changes in voting patterns and the domination of the Democratic Party aren’t broken.

Gov. Brown and the Democratic supermajority Legislature raised taxes again, and openly misappropriated the funds giving middle-class families and businesses additional reasons to flee the state. If these two trends push forward in the future and the CRP does nothing about this with candidates who can explain what’s taking place in California – versus not supporting a Republican President during election seasons – then the CRP will be relegated to the dustbin of history. Translated, California will remain having the worst environment in the nation for job creation and business friendliness.

Unfortunately, Democrats are now job killers and only believe in the above-mentioned public policy shibboleths along with hating Trump. The days of Gov. Brown’s father, FDR, Truman, JFK and Scoop Jackson are over – Democrats who believed in strong defense, single-family homes, infrastructure, education and two-parent families as the backbone of stable, thriving societies. Imagine a California Democrat who didn’t back abortion-on-demand, gay marriage and global warming and was pro-life instead, questioned the sanctity of marriage and was against global warming – even doubted the veracity of the environmental movements claims? That person wouldn’t win a City Council race against a dead person in San Francisco.

Pensions as currently configured are 100% unsustainable, no matter what the stock market achieves in the near future using historical rates of return. Democrats and Republicans who don’t make a case for pension reform will bankrupt California, and don’t expect Trump or Pence to rescue us. Even Sacramento has ominous pension problems. Hundreds of billions, even trillions are owed, yet voters are only concerned about the three shibboleths?

Unions now run California’s education standards, and three new bills (AB450, AB1209 and SB63) would further influence the destruction of our economy and labor practices all in the name of being progressive Democrats. Yet voters keep voting for these measures and legislators, instead of sensible, business-friendly, moderate Republicans like David Hadley (though I disagreed with him about not supporting Trump during the Presidential election).

Social issues that have nothing to do with California’s upward trajectory are en vogue by Democratic legislators and their supporters: a former teacher at Diablo Valley College was arrested for attacking a Trump supporter with a bike lock at the Berkeley protests and AB1576 would tax items and their price equivalent based on gender for businesses who don’t price items exactly the same throughout California. Litigation for consumers and businesses will skyrocket costs.

Republicans who only want to be moderates and worry about taxes, business growth and strong defense should understand that gender, class and race are additional shibboleths added onto the social diagram of how Democrats beat Republicans in this state. The days of not articulating reasonable social policies are now over since President Obama introduced all three into public policy and the national media to win elections and fragment the United States.

While Gov. Brown and the Democratic-controlled legislature obsess over nothing, Joel Kotkin states:

“In the coming years, California’s claim of being the economic exemplar of the country may be further undermined by legislative overreach. The statewide rise in the minimum wage will hit the lower-wage sector, particularly outside the coastal enclaves. Various plans to boost the welfare state, such as a single-payer health care system (costs $400 billion annually) that includes the undocumented, and a host of union-driven initiatives, seem certain to drive up costs and impose an ever-heavier tax burden on the state’s struggling middle class. Perhaps most threatening, over time, may be a host of new environmental laws which will impose enormous burdens on affordable housing, energy prices and industrial growth.”

This warning is coming from a self-described, “Truman Democrat,” and not a Tea Party Republican or Trump supporter. Somehow, Los Angeles believes receiving an Olympic bid in 2024 or 2028 will alleviate these concerns, without considering what prior cities have done with billion dollar stadiums in bankruptcy, disrepair and out-of-use? What our society should care about and attempt to alleviate before the Olympics being awarded is dropping the homeless rate in Los Angeles – which surged 23% according to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

San Francisco has taken the illegal-immigrant debate to a new level. Mayor Ed Lee stated in his 2017 State of the City address, “We are a sanctuary city, now, tomorrow, forever,” without understanding the implications of H.R. 2431 that punishes sanctuary cities by withholding federal monies. In 2016 San Francisco received $509,260,129 in federal grants and direct payments. And Democrats who control all levers of state government want to burden businesses with immigration policy, which will only drive more of them out of the state.

California isn’t in a shots-fired civil war, but we are dangerously close to moving in that direction when the mayor of California’s most prominent city so openly defies the federal government. The Civil War decided that federal laws supersede state laws whether we like it or not.

State, county and local monies for mobility are allocated towards public transportation that the public either doesn’t want or use commiserate to cost, or the cost-to-benefit ratio is negative when you consider as an example, the miniscule affect on traffic that bike sharing produces. Meaning, billions are wasted on transportation projects that don’t improve pedestrian safety or traffic mobility. Whereas a better use would be the construction of quality-of-life infrastructure: schools, roads, highways, sidewalks, bridges and water systems.

The biggest killers to California are environmental issues that strictly pertain to global warming as fact and the regulations that will kill this state. As an example, President Obama’s last year in office, he produced regulations that totaled $2 trillion according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Clean Power Plan was just one type of environmental regulation that California wholeheartedly embraced along with the Paris Climate Agreement without understanding the costs or zero affect either would have on cleaner air, efficient use of environmental resources or how China and India would negate any gains by California adhering to these onerous regulations and agreements since both are still building coal-fired power plants.

Moreover, renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs) don’t currently work now or in the near future as envisioned by Gov. Brown and State Senator Kevin de Leon. Both (EVs and renewables) have vast unanswered questions and technologies that need to be solved before either is scalable the way fossil fuels and the combustible engine is at this time. Since all environmental strategy and policy is based on man-made global warming in California through the Democratic-controlled Legislature then the questions raised here need to be answered before moving forward with global warming-centric political hysteria. That’s not how good policy is made, or to truly answer the questions about the climate changing and what that means for California, the U.S., industrialized nations and the developing world.

As a former Republican State Assembly nominee (43rd State District) I call on the CRP to begin soberly asking why they can’t win elections anymore? Particularly, Los Angeles County (as goes L.A. County so goes this state) when candidates like Pete Peterson should’ve been embraced, his campaign funded by the party, and should currently occupy a top CRP leadership position while gearing up to either run for Governor, Lieutenant Governor or Secretary of State again. Imagine if now, Dean Peterson (Pete is the Dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy where I am a December 2015 graduate) were Secretary of State?

Dean Peterson ran on a platform of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness for the office, instead of the politicized entity it currently is that knowingly has illegal immigrants on its voter rolls. Anyone who believes there aren’t differences in a Democrat or Republican begin trying to clean up voter rolls, and the mess that brings up to find out the differences. Dean Peterson would’ve have accomplished that task, or at least wouldn’t have added to the disaster. The CRP and national party should embrace him and others vibrant candidates like him as well.

California has gotten lucky economically through Silicon Valley exploding, Los Angeles exploding home prices and the popular presidency of Barack Obama protected by and prodded forward by the media. A narrative not unlike Pravda during the Soviet Union’s days, but still we have the highest poverty rates, welfare usage, income inequality and fleeing of citizens over the other 49 U.S. states. We’ve created a system that is no longer sustainable in the long-run and unless voters change their minds, character or sources of voting information then the words of Samuel Johnson, in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Traveller, will come true: “How small, of all that human hearts endure, That part that laws or kings can cause or cure.”

Todd Royal is a geopolitical risk and energy consultant based in Los Angeles.

Trump nominee threatens to shake up Central Valley water status quo

WaterAs a presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s promise to help Central Valley farmers get more water and to reduce environmentalists’ influence over the federal government got him a warm reception in rallies last May and August in the region that leads the way in feeding the nation and in powering California’s$54 billion agricultural industry.

As president, for a variety of reasons, Trump so far has only been able to providepart of the relief on water supplies that many in the Central Valley sought, even in the wake of a winter rain deluge. But Trump has signaled his intent to honor his promise to help the region by choosing David Bernhardt – a veteran of California’s water wars – for the No. 2 job in the Interior Department.

Bernhardt is a Colorado-based partner in Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a multi-state law firm which has on four occasions represented the Central Valley’s Westlands Water District, the largest U.S. irrigation district, in lawsuits targeting Interior Department policies. The law firm has been paid $1.3 million by the water agency since 2011.

Bernhardt’s Senate confirmation is expected this week or soon thereafter, but it may be close to a party-line vote. At a May 17 meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Bernhardt was grilled by ranking Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington and other Democrats over the conflicts of interest he would face because of his history representing Westlands and Cadiz, a Los Angeles land development firm that has fought with federal regulators over its audacious plan to access the water in a Mojave Desert aquifer.

Bernhardt: Effect on jobs should matter in regulatory decisions

At the hearing, Bernhardt repeatedly said he would avoid issues involving former clients unless given the blessing of Interior Department ethics lawyers. But Bernhardt’s remarks in answer to another question explain why he may be such a threat to the Central Valley’s water status quo.

When asked about his commitment to “scientific integrity” in enforcing Interior Department policies, Bernhardt said, “I will look at the science with all its significance and its warts. You look at that, you evaluate it and then you look at the legal decision you can make. In some instances the legal decision may allow you to consider other factors, such as jobs.”

This is music to the ears of many Californian Republicans, starting with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare. He has long contended that the Central Valley has suffered from a “man-made drought” because of bureaucratic decisions that interpret laws in ways that place the interests of  endangered fish such as the delta smelt over the needs of humans – despite no compelling legal obligation to do so.

The Obama administration rejected the contention, saying that its actions to use fresh water supplies to help sustain the delta smelt instead of helping Central Valley farmers followed laws requiring the federal government to protect endangered species and the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Administration representatives said the decisions Nunes slammed as arbitrary were anything but.

Yet the highest-profile fight between Bernhardt’s law firm and Obama’s Interior Department wasn’t about the delta smelt or allegedly dubious bureaucratic maneuvering. It was over toxic substances in the irrigation water coming from Westlands’ 940 square-mile district. Despite criticism from environmentalists, the Obama administration agreed to a settlement on how the problem would be ameliorated that the Fresno Bee estimated could save the water agency more than $375 million. Greens who didn’t like the ruling couldn’t overcome the case that Bernhardt built that federal courts had consistently held that the federal government bore the burden for building drainage systems to limit the impact of the toxins.

Feds control 100 million acres of land in California

But Bernhardt’s confirmation would also insert him in other California water issues.

As a Sacramento Bee editorial noted, the deputy interior secretary historically has been “directly involved in virtually every aspect of California water, from the Colorado River agreement in the south to the Klamath River in the north, and, especially, the operations of the Central Valley Project.”

Given that the federal government owns or effectively controls 100 million acres of land in California – second only to Alaska in federal land holdings in the 50 states – this focus by the agency’s number two official is unsurprising.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Union leaders launch hyperbolic grenades at Trump education budget

shocked-kid-apDid you know that the Trump/DeVos budget is manifestly cruel to children and catastrophic to public schools? Are you aware that Trump/Devos are planning to slash funding for public schools, and use voucher schemes to funnel taxpayer dollars to unaccountable private schools?

Well, I sure didn’t “know” these things till the two national teachers union leaders told me. But actually, climbing out of the union rabbit hole and venturing back to the real world, one regains perspective. And the reality is that the Trump/Devos budget cuts – which of course will have to run through the Congressional obstacle course before becoming law – don’t warrant the union leaders’ outlandish hyperbole. Not one iota.

In a nutshell, the budget does away with some programs that are wasteful and many that can be funded elsewhere. Alaska Native Education, Native Hawaiian Education, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers are on the elimination list. (A good summary of the budget cuts can be accessed here.) All in all, the proposed budget will pare federal spending by $9 billion, which represents a 13 percent cut. The budget also includes $1.4 billion “to support new investments in public and private school choice.” Most of the money earmarked for school choice would be an increase to the part of the existing Title 1 program that provides supplemental awards “to school districts that agree to adopt weighted student funding combined with open enrollment systems that allow Federal, State, and local funds to follow students to the public school of their choice.”

Is a 13 percent cut worth the hysteria? Hardly.

First of all, 92 percent of education spending comes from state and local sources, while federal dollars account for just 8 percent. Reducing that 8 percent by 13 percent means that each state will be losing a shade over 1 percent of its total education funding. That’s it. Hardly a slash. More like a minor paper cut. And of course any state that loses federal funding (Alaska and Hawaii take note) is perfectly capable of adding the 1 percent back via the legislative process.

As for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, they are typical of bureaucratic waste. As Brookings Institution Mark Dynarski writes, “To date, more than $12 billion of federal tax money has been spent on a program that a preponderance of evidence indicates doesn’t help students.”

It’s also instructive to step back and examine the effect that spending in general has on student achievement. And it has been proven time and again that there really is no correlation. In fact, between 1970 and 2012, our education spending tripled (in constant dollars) and student achievement was flat. On the 2015 international PISA test, which measures math, reading and science for 15 year-olds, the U.S. was in the middle of the pack – average in science and reading, but below average in math, trailing Estonia, Poland, Finland et al, while outspending those countries considerably. Additionally, a stunning 60 percent of all U.S. students now entering college need remediation.

President Trump recently told Congress, “We need to return decisions regarding education back to the State and local levels, while advancing opportunities for parents and students to choose, from all available options, the school that best fits their needs to learn and succeed.”

Trump is right on target here. Education should not be controlled by a federal bureaucracy. As Center for Education Reform CEO Jeanne Allen said in response to the budget, “Throughout the nation, at all levels, policymakers, parents, teachers and innovators are leading critical new endeavors to focus on student achievement, some by using new technologies in the classroom, some by implementing new schools of choice, some through boosting the traditional activities of districts.”

Only the special interest teachers unions and their fellow travelers could disagree.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This piece was originally published by the California Policy Center.

California’s Single-Payer Healthcare Bill Isn’t Based in Reality

As reported by National Review Online:

On Thursday, the California state Senate passed Senate Bill 562, which seeks to establish a statewide single-payer healthcare system.

Democratic senator Ricardo Lara, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, co-authored the bill and advocated its passage, but failed to explain how the proposal’s $400-billion price tag will be financed.

The bill represents a key progressive goal, and yet, it will almost certainly never be signed into law — even though Californians have elected Democratic majorities to both legislative chambers and a Democratic governor. Why not? Because it’s absurdly expensive. This year’s entire state budget is $180 billion. The single-payer system called for in 562 costs more than double that. …

Click here to read the full article

Teachers Unions Losing Long War Over Parental Choice

LAUSD school busSupporters of charter schools, homeschooling and other forms of school choice are so used to fighting in the trenches against the state’s muscular teachers unions that they often forget how much progress they’ve made in the last decade or so. Recent events have shown the degree of progress, even if they still face an uphill — and increasingly costly — battle.

The big news came from a local school-district race, although it wasn’t just any school district but the second-largest one in the nation. Charter-school supporters won two school board seats (there’s still some vote counting in one of them) in the massive Los Angeles Unified School District, and handily disposed of the union-allied board president. The race was followed nationally, and set the record for the most money spent on a school-board race in the United States, ever.

The total cost was estimated at $15 million, with charter supporters spending $9.7 million, according to estimates from the Los Angeles Times. Typically, choice supporters get eaten alive by the teachers’-union spending juggernaut. It’s usually good news if our side can at least raise enough money to get the message out, but it’s a shocker — in a pleasant way — to find the charter folks nearly doubled the spending of the union candidates.

Various reformers, including Netflix cofounder and Democrat Reed Hastings, invested serious money in the race. He donated $7 million to one charter group, the Times reported. Another top donor was former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a moderate Republican, who spent more than $2 million. Once again, we saw that this was not some right-wing attack on unions. Victory didn’t come cheap, but it’s hard to understate the importance, from a reform perspective, of having a major school board run by a pro-charter majority.

LAUSD’s school Board President Steve Zimmer led the board in March to make a controversial — and largely symbolic — vote in favor of one of the more noxious school-union-backed bills to get a hearing in the state Capitol. Some charter supporters say Senate Bill 808 could be the death knell for most of the state’s charter schools, yet Zimmer’s support for it appears to have badly damaged his re-election chances. That’s another good-news event.

SB 808 is a brazen attempt to bring charter schools under the total control of local school districts, many of which are hostile to their very existence. According to the Senate bill analysis, “This bill requires all charter school petitions to be approved by the governing board of the school district in which the charter school is located, prohibits a charter school from locating outside its authorizer’s boundaries, and limits the current charter appeal process to claims of procedural violations.”

If educators wanted to create a charter school within any district in California and that district is run by a union-controlled school board that hates charters, then there would no longer will be any real workaround if the bill passes. That’s because the bill would wipe out appeals to the county and state level, except for some minor procedural matters.

Furthermore, the bill would let school boards decommission or reject charter schools if they are a financial burden. As the 74 Million blog reports, “that argument could be made about any charter, as state funds follow students as they leave school districts.” The bill allows the board to revoke a school’s charter upon a variety of broad findings, including any improper use of funds or “sustained departure” from “measurably successful practices,” or “failure to improve pupil outcomes across multiple state and school priorities…”

So, one instance of improper use of funds could shut down a school. Imagine if that standard were applied to the LAUSD itself, given its scandals. Charters succeed because they have the freedom to have a “sustained departure” from the failed union-controlled teaching policies. Under this bill, the core of their success could be cause for their shut down. And no school can always improve pupil outcomes in every category. These things take time, and measurements can be subject to interpretation.

In other words, the bill would place the fate of California’s charter schools in the hands of those most committed to their destruction. Given that the makeup of school boards can change every election, it would destroy any security parents could have in these schools: one successful union board election could mean the beginning of the end for the school, as union-backed boards use these new “tools” to dismantle the competition.

But there is good news. The bill was recently shelved, turned into one of those two-year bills that is technically alive but going nowhere fast. The Democrats control the state Capitol and the California Teachers’ Association arguably is the most powerful force under the dome, but many Democrats representing low-income districts aren’t about to mess with successful charters.

In other words, charter schools have come into their own, and we’re probably well past the point that the unions could so directly stomp them. They’ll do what they can to harass and hobble them, but such frontal attacks remain symbolic. And the courts continue to have their say, and frequently end up siding with the charter-school movement.

For instance, in late April the California Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Anaheim parents who want to use the state’s parent-trigger law to turn a traditional public elementary school into a charter school. Under the trigger law, a vote by 50-percent of the student body’s parents can force low-performing schools to change the administration or staff, or revamp themselves into a publicly funded charter with more teaching flexibility.

The school district was adamantly against the change and made various challenges to a 2015 court decision approving the trigger. This is another victory for charter schools in California, although it has to be dispiriting to parents who have to continually fight in the courtroom while their kids get older. It’s been two years since the court approved changes at the school, which already has delayed improved education for two more class years.

But the court’s decision is still encouraging news, as the cultural sands shift in favor of educational alternatives, especially for low-income kids.

California candidates already are lining up for the 2018 gubernatorial race to replace Jerry Brown, who has been friendly to charters. One of the candidates is Delaine Eastin. She’s a close ally of the teachers’ unions. In the early 2000s, when she served as the superintendent of public instruction, Eastin tried to essentially outlaw homeschooling throughout the state.

California’s education code doesn’t directly mention homeschooling. The state’s compulsory education law mentions only an exemption for “children who are being instructed in a private full-time day school by persons capable of teaching … .” Homeschooling parents have long embraced a state-approved work around: They register as small private schools with their respective county boards of education.

Under Eastin’s leadership, however, those homeschools were required to file with the state Department of Education rather than the counties. And then Eastin sent a letter to district officials explaining that homeschooling as it is generally understood (parents without a teaching credential who teach their kids at home) “is not authorized in California, and children receiving homeschooling of this kind are in violation of the state’s truancy laws.”

Yet I talked to Eastin recently and she said she recanted her position long ago after getting quite an education from homeschooling parents. She even described herself as a supporter of charter schools. As with everything, we must follow Ronald Reagan’s advice for dealing with the Soviet Union (“trust, but verify”). But what does it say when one of the most dogged allies of unionized public schools now takes a position acknowledging the importance of parental choice?

It says that we’re making progress. It’s frustrating, plodding and expensive. But such progress should keep charter supporters encouraged as they head into the next round of battles.

This column was first published by the California Policy Center.

Charles Munger did NOT make donations to causes for Gov. Jerry Brown 

Due to a reporting error in a recent post by Stephen Frank, an article that appeared yesterday in the California Political Review and California Political News and Views contained inaccurate and incorrect information regarding donations of Charles Munger, Jr., a Palo Alto physicist and influential GOP donor.

Since 2011, Munger has donated $750,000 to charitable causes at the behest of former Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo.

He has not donated money on behalf or for Jerry Brown, as was originally reported in the Orange County Register and then further written about by Frank. The OC Register article was corrected on its website and Frank’s article has been removed from California Political News and Views. CPR apologizes for the error.

The California Economy’s Surface Strength Hides Looming Weakness

If you listen to California’s many boosters, things have never been so good. And, to be sure, since 2011, the state appears to have gained its economic footing, and outperformed many of its rivals.

Some, such as Los Angeles Magazine and Bloomberg, claim that it is California — not the bumbling Trump regime — that is “making America great again.” California, with 2 percent job growth in 2016, gained jobs more rapidly than most states. The growth rate was about equal to Texas and Colorado, but behind such growth centers as Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah and the District of Columbia.

Bay Area: Still the tower of power

sanfrancisco3Over the past few years, the Bay Area has grown faster in terms of jobs than anywhere in the nation. But this year, according to the annual survey of the nation’s 70 largest job markets that I do with Pepperdine University public policy professor Michael Shires for Forbes, there is a discernible slowing in the region. For the first time this decade, San Francisco lost its No. 1 slot to Dallas, which, like most other fastest-growing metros, boasts lower costs and taxes, and has created more middle-class jobs than its California rivals.

The San Francisco area, which includes suburban San Mateo, remains vibrant. More troubling may be the weakening of the adjacent San Jose/Silicon Valley economy, which dropped six places to eighth — respectable, but not the kind of superstar performance we have seen over the past several years.

This partly reflects an inevitable slowdown in information job growth. As the startup economy has stalled, and the big players have consolidated their dominance, sector growth has dropped from near double digits to well under half that. Perhaps more telling has been a shift in domestic migration, which was positive in San Francisco earlier in the decade, but has now turned sharply negative. These are clear signs of a boom that is cooling off.

Southern California: Stuck in second gear

Southern California continues to lag. San Diego managed only a mediocre 29th-place finish. That’s better than Orange County, which managed an even less impressive 37th, and Los Angeles, by far the state’s largest job market, which reached only 40th place.

In Southern California, many seem to mistake high housing prices for economic vigor. High prices do create a wealth effect for those who own property, and this creates ancillary jobs in home repair and real estate. The area has also benefited from something of a boom in hospitality, medical and educational jobs.

But this does not make up for less-than-stellar creation of high-wage jobs. Los Angeles has expanded information jobs, much of them tied to Hollywood and the media-oriented “Tech Coast” corridor along coastal Southern California, but it continues to lose blue-collar manufacturing jobs. Professional business growth has been weakening since 2013. Lower-wage jobs in the health and hospitality industries, meanwhile, have enjoyed more robust expansions. Poverty in Los Angeles, particularly in South L.A., is arguably worse than during the riots a quarter-century ago.

Orange County suffers less from poverty but also sees rapid growth in low-end sectors like hospitality, which has grown almost 20 percent since 2011. Unlike Los Angeles, professional and business service employment — the largest of the high-wage sectors — has seen steady growth, up 20 percent since 2011, but information growth has been weak and manufacturing continues to decline.

Perhaps the biggest surprise may be the 14th-ranked Inland Empire, which has benefited from, among other things, the soaring home prices along the coast. Outside of information jobs, which have declined, the region has seen steady growth in manufacturing, wholesale trade and professional and business services. As much as the middle-class economy still exists in Southern California, it is now solidly ensconced in this region.

Future prospects

In the coming years, California’s claim of being the economic exemplar of the country may be further undermined by legislative overreach. The statewide rise in the minimum wage will hit the lower-wage sector, particularly outside the coastal enclaves. Various plans to boost the welfare state, such as a single-payer health care system that includes the undocumented, and a host of union-driven initiatives, seem certain to drive up costs and impose an ever-heavier tax burden on the state’s struggling middle class.

Perhaps most threatening, over time, may be a host of new environmental laws which will impose enormous burdens on affordable housing, energy prices and industrial growth. The slowdown in tech growth, coupled with a looming decline in the markets as the Trump agenda unravels, could weaken the capital gains juggernaut that has sustained the state through the past decade. Gov. Jerry Brown, under whose watch spending has risen 45 percent, is already predicting a large deficit for next year.

So far this decade, California has defied economic logic, largely due to the explosive growth of Silicon Valley, as well as the effects of rapid real estate appreciation. Yet, these gains have failed to reverse, and in some ways have even exacerbated, the state’s highest-in-the-nation poverty rate, growing inequality and a mounting outmigration of middle-class families. These facts suggest that it’s time to end the celebration and start focusing on how create a more expansive, less feudal California.

Originally published in the Orange County Register.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

ditor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University.