California Democrats temporarily lose Assembly supermajority

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Democrats will be without a supermajority in the Assembly for months and risk losing the two-thirds edge needed to pass tax and fee increases in the Senate.

When lawmakers return in January, they will have two vacant Assembly seats that won’t be filled until at least April after Los Angeles members resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. In the Senate, a member in a competitive district is facing a recall over his support for a gas tax increase and another could face pressure to resign depending on the results of a misconduct allegation.

“It will certainly affect votes,” said Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley, chairman of the rules committee.

Supermajorities were needed this year to pass the gas tax increase and reauthorize the cap-and-trade program. Passing a budget only requires a simple majority.

Although the changes cut into the Democrats’ legislative power, tax and fee increases are less likely to come up for votes in election years because they can be unpopular with voters. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press

The GOP Needs to Improve Its Marketing Skills

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

California is now a one-party state, with Democrats having a supermajority in both the state Assembly and Senate.

How is it that the GOP can’t adequately explain to California residents that our ideas are better? Why is it that Republicans can’t convince Californians that our solutions will bring prosperity and a better life for everyone, Democrats included? The fact is that Republicans in California are poor marketers. We have a great product but don’t know how to sell it.

We need to learn how to market it. You can manufacture a great widget that will do incredible things, including saving people tons of money. But if you don’t know how to market it, you won’t make any sales, even if it is better than sliced bread.

The blame is not completely with the Republican Party. Selling our ideas is only one of the ways we can improve our standing with California voters. We have many obstacles in California. The populous cities of the state are predominantly filled with secular progressives who aren’t interested in limited government, lower taxes and a better business environment. The unions run the Democrat Party and they and multi-millionaire Democrats provide funding to Democrats and their candidates that Republicans can only dream about. It isn’t easy to overcome the Democrat funding, no matter how well we sell our ideas.

Also, the Democrats have been very successful over the past several decades in convincing voters that Republicans are heartless, racist, misogynist and white supremacists, without compassion, and who are essentially evil. We have let them get away with that and have done very little to counter those false charges.

We also need to get active in the inner cities and show the African American community that we care about them. We do, but saying so means nothing compared to getting into the communities and actually doing something to help their community.

We have been active in the Latino community, and have several Latino-American elected officials and party leaders. Programs like the Grow Elect program are doing great things in the Latino community, and state and local leaders like Mario Guerra, Jack Guerrero, Ignacio Velazquez, Alex Vargas and others are making a big difference in the Latino community. We need to do more to show Latinos that their future and the prosperity for their families lies with the Republican Party.

With the supermajority now in the Legislature, one way we can make a public relations difference is to propose legislation that will benefit Californians. Go the the extremes. Eliminate the carbon tax, reduce stifling regulations on business, propose lowering taxes. Of course, none of these bills will pass, but we can then issue press releases that Republicans are trying to make life better for Californians by submitting important bills that are being voted down by Democrats. Let’s learn how to use the press and public relations. In the next two years let’s see if we can convince Californians to try voting for Republicans. Let’s convince the voters that they have nothing to lose, and might have everything to gain.

I know we can do it.

By Gary Aminoff, Treasurer, The Republican Party of Los Angeles County

Can California’s Legislative Supermajority Act Responsibly?

After a thunderstorm of post-election recounts across the Golden State, it appears that Democrats have reclaimed a supermajority in the California Legislature.

Whatever one’s political sway – and this applies to national election results, as well – it’s important for all voters to respect that “the people have spoken,” turn the page and hope for the best.

Having said that, as a proud entrepreneur, supporter of my community, rancher and surfer, I love the great state of California and want nothing more than to see our economy and future thrive for generations to come. To that end, I thought it might be timely to offer our new crop of Democrats in the State Capitol a few words of instructive advice before they settle in all too soon. 

First and foremost, think carefully about the consequences of your agenda. There are more than a few rumblings about the new Legislature and governor poised to tackle many big issues in the new year – issues for which the two-thirds vote, in my opinion, play a critically important role in assuring a level of caution and restraint. Transportation and infrastructure reform, climate change, affordable housing are some of the hot-button items that appear looming on the legislative horizon. To many, these may seem noble and venerable priorities and opportunities for an improved quality of life. But at what cost – literally? Will these trailblazing new policies be funded on the backs of small business owners, working families and future generations through taxes, fees, levies, assessments and other costs? Californians already pay the highest income tax, statewide sales tax, gas taxes, minimum wage and myriad fees to comply with onerous regulations. A bold agenda is one thing, but crippling our small employers and communities with hordes of new, unanticipated costs is another – and one that will further prolong our state’s economic and jobs recovery. Think before you act.

Second, don’t forsake your Republican colleagues in the Legislature – they represent voters, too. It may be easy for some to render the GOP irrelevant – but they’re not. And neither are the many, many voters in their districts who are looking to them for hope, help and a future bursting with promise. The Moderate Democrats are and will continue to be a vital bloc, focused on advancing a pro-business agenda within their party. I am hopeful that they will remain true to their words on the campaign trail and match their actions with their slogans – and inspire others within the Democratic Party to follow their direction. But no one should ever count the Republicans out in California – theirs is a party of ideas, individualism, and economic success. A one-party rule can have dire consequences if the majority fails to heed the thoughts, ideas and concerns of everyone in the electorate. Work across the aisle every day, respect the GOP, and it will result in better policy for everyone in the long haul.

Finally, it’s time to focus on making California government work more efficiently for the people. It’s time to clean up the still-obscene piles of waste, paper, logjams and errors that are ultimately treating taxpayers like a non-stop ATM. I hope our leaders and others will join me in making this a primary focus and priority in 2017 and beyond. I’m committed to this cleanup because I’ve heard from one too many small business owners, seniors, veterans and community leaders that our politicians and bureaucrats are still spending hard-earned tax dollars like drunken sailors (apologies, drunken sailors). Our new supermajority should halt discussions about new spending and first look to eliminate much of the inefficiencies and frivolity that have grossly infected our mammoth government beast. Our leaders should continue a bipartisan crusade for historic pension, workers’ comp and unemployment insurance reform – all costs that threaten to leave our children’s children with irreparable debt. And the new legislature must continue to insist on opening the books of every department, agency and operation, demanding answers to where our money is being spent, and seeking alternatives or reductions that will improve efficiency and keep more resources in the pockets of families, consumers and “mom and pops”?  We should all urge our legislators to push for increased transparency and accountability with every single program and activity so that Golden State government works for us, not for itself. We need to regularly audit our expenses. It’s something every job creator must do each day if they want to keep their doors open; why shouldn’t the “body politic” which we’re all funding be held to that same standard?

November 8th is finally behind us. The ads have stopped running, the polls have closed, and the people have, indeed, spoken. Now is not the time for protests, sour grapes, crossed arms or furrowed brows. Now is the time for our newly-electeds to take a breath, take their oath of office, and take their job seriously. I’m hopeful that the new supermajority will remember to think about the impact of their agenda, work with Republicans who still represent and serve many voters out there, and fight vigorously to make our government more efficient – and affordable – for all of us. That’s the California wave all of us will be proud to ride for many years to come.

Wayne Hughes, Jr. is a California businessman, philanthropist and founder of SkyRose Ranch and Serving California in Central California which treats veterans with PTSD and other disorders. Find out more atwww.bwaynehughesjr.com @BWayneHughesJr

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. …

Click here to read the full article

What Threat Does a Democratic Supermajority in the Legislature Really Pose?

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Once again, we’re confronted with the possibility of Democrats grabbing two-thirds control of both houses of the California Legislature. As with the U.S. Senate at the national level, because of higher voter turnout Democrats in California generally do better in presidential election years (2008, 2012) than in the non-presidential years (2010, Tea Party time, and 2014).

The last time this happened, after the 2012 election, Gov. Jerry Brown joked to Democrats in the Legislature, “Remember, hug a Republican.” But then Dems had a problem leveraging their two-thirds supermajorities because several legislators were promoted to the state Senate or the U.S. Congress, leaving vacant seats. Then special elections sometimes elected Republicans, such as state Sen. Andy Vidak of Hanford in July 2013. That election ran up $5 million in campaign costs.

It used to be the two-thirds vote was needed to pass the state budget. That brought up the quasi-undemocratic Gang of Five meetings of the governor and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Assembly and state Senate. Republicans had real clout and could delay passage of a budget for weeks, even months.

All that ended in 2010, when voters passed Proposition 25, allowing a majority vote for passing the budget. Also helping pass budgets by the June 15 deadline have been large new revenues from the economic recovery and the adept moves of a governor now in his fourth term in office.

Today, the two-thirds supermajority only applies to tax increases, putting measures on the ballot and reversing gubernatorial vetoes.

Tax increases likely won’t be on the agenda because two more probably are going to pass on Nov. 8: Proposition 55, the “extension” of Proposition 30 from 2012. And Proposition 56, the $2 a pack increase in cigarette taxes to further impoverish poor and lower-middle-class smokers. Even Democrats have a limit of how much they can increase taxes. (Don’t they?)

Of course, if the economy tanks next year, once again we’ll have $20 billion budget deficits, and howls for higher taxes to pay for the overspending during the recent years of prosperity. But the deficits usually lag the start of a recession by a year or two, bringing us to 2018, another election year, so the increases would just be put on the ballot.

As to putting measures on the ballot, after the 17 mind-numbing initiatives put before voters this year, does anyone really want any more in 2018? How about that “advisory” initiative, Proposition 59, stuck before voters when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 254? It urges California members of Congress to reverse the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed campaign contributions by corporations.

Here’s some advice to the Legislature: Stop putting initiatives on the ballot! Let the people only do so through the signature process.

As to overturning vetoes by governors, the last time that happened was in 1979. If Dems do regain their two-thirds majorities, what’s likely to happen is a repeat of 2013: fighting over open seats interspersed with increased clout for moderate Democrats.

As Capital Public Radio reported in January 2013, “The most important members of the California Legislature this year might not be the two Democratic leaders – despite the two-thirds supermajorities they hold in each chamber.  And it almost certainly won’t be the Republicans.  They’ve been courted for key votes in recent years but now don’t have the numbers to block any bills on their own. The leverage in this legislative session may well lie with a newly-critical voting bloc: moderate Democrats.”

Republicans’ role? Pretty much what it has been in recent years. They sometimes pair up with Democrats to give bipartisan legitimacy to bills, such as the excellent asset forfeiture bill passed this year. And they put on the eyeshades like state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, a CPA, and look at the budget numbers.

It’s something. And it’s not likely to change until the return of the Emperor Norton.

Veteran California columnist John Seiler now edits the Seiler Report. His email: writejohnseiler@gmail.com

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Reprieve for Prop. 13

By now, most Californians have read dozens of analyses from experts and partisans alike about the meaning of last Tuesday’s election. Analyzing the national scene is not rocket science.  Republicans romped and Democrats took a shellacking.

But understanding the impact here in ever-so-blue California is a bit more complicated.  While it is true that Republicans, who tend to be more taxpayer friendly, did not win a single statewide seat, the news for fans of Proposition 13 is actually quite good.

Rather than focus on the statewide races, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was laser focused on using our political muscle to prevent the tax-and-spend majority party from securing the dreaded two-thirds supermajority in both the California Senate and Assembly.  The reason why a two-thirds supermajority is so dangerous is two-fold.  First, under Proposition 13, taxes imposed by the state cannot be imposed without the two-thirds vote.  As long as the minority Republicans hold firm against tax hikes, Californians will be protected.  (And it’s not like California needs higher taxes.  We already have the highest income tax rate, the highest sales tax rate and the highest gas tax in America).

Second, it takes a two-thirds vote of each house to place a proposed amendment to the California Constitution on the ballot.  Had the majority party achieved the supermajority, it could have placed anti-Proposition 13 measures on the ballot at will.  But, because the Democrats were thwarted in their efforts, they will have to convince their political allies – principally the public sector unions – to spend several million dollars to collect the necessary signatures to qualify such a proposal.

Another observation about this year’s election is that, as if there were any doubt, the branding of Proposition 13 has never been stronger.  Both true Proposition 13 defenders and pretenders used Proposition 13 as a talking point in their campaigns.  Turns out that those candidates who were true Proposition 13 defenders – meaning they had the endorsement of the HJTA Political Action Committee – did very well.  So much, in fact, that most of the endorsed candidates won, even those whom the pundits thought had little chance of victory.

That Proposition 13 itself was such a centerpiece of this election cycle is astounding.  This landmark measure was on the ballot more than 35 years ago and yet incumbent legislators who had bad Proposition 13 votes while in the Legislature suddenly felt vulnerable.  A former legislator who was openly anti-Proposition 13 lost badly to an HJTA endorsed candidate, Janet Nguyen, in a contested Senate seat.  Her opponent, Jose Solorio, was in such deep trouble that Governor Brown cut one of his very few television ads this election cycle in a failed attempt to save him.  As in 1978, Jerry Brown was bested by Proposition 13.

But to those who think that these political victories allow us a chance to rest, think again.  Already, the enemies of Proposition 13 are conducting extensive political research – both polling and focus groups – to determine how best to dismantle these critical taxpayer protections.  And left leaning anti-taxpayer groups have intensified their efforts to convince local governments and school district boards to pass anti-Proposition 13 “resolutions.”  These resolutions may be non-binding, but our adversaries are laying the groundwork for a repeal of Proposition 13 in 2016.  That much is very clear.

But for now, let’s enjoy the victories just achieved.  Just in time for the coming holiday, taxpayers and homeowners in California have much to be thankful for.  And while we realize our reprieve will be short and that we must prepare for battle anew in a few short weeks, these victories give us the much needed hope that California can, once again, become the Golden State it once was.

 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.

This piece was originally published on HJTA.org

A Few Good Fits for Desperately Hungry Republicans

PHOTO BY RBERTEIG

The wave that swept Republicans back into power in blue states such as Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Massachusetts didn’t quite reach California, the state that once produced Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In fact, every Republican candidate for statewide constitutional office lost. Governor Jerry Brown creamed his Republican opponent—and Brown didn’t even run a campaign. Democrats maintained strong majorities in both legislative houses. So why are California GOP officials so giddy about how the election played out?

Two reasons come to mind. First, Republicans won three critical state senate races and stopped the Democrats from holding a supermajority in that body. Election night results looked good for Republican prospects in the state assembly, too, though the final counts in two races will determine whether the GOP prevents a Democratic supermajority in the lower house. Democrats need at least two-thirds of those seats to meet the state constitution’s threshold for passing tax increases. Republicans, as a rule, oppose every new tax increase in a state that already has the nation’s highest individual income-tax rate.

Second, while it still has no idea how to win a statewide election, the California GOP has figured out how to win in targeted districts—even in some that lean Democratic. In the last legislative session, Democrats lost their supermajority in the state senate after scandal drove three legislators from office. One was convicted of voter fraud and perjury, and two others face federal corruption charges. But Republicans chose not to focus on Democratic foibles. Instead, under the leadership of former state senator Jim Brulte, the party put its resources into a handful of winnable races.

Sacramento-based GOP political consultant Jeff Randle said that the Republicans “had to show incremental progress [Tuesday] night and we did that by winning with really good candidates.” Randle, who helps recruit viable candidates through the Trailblazers program, credited the party’s successes to its newfound emphasis on “finding candidates that match their districts.” The best example may be Senator Andy Vidak, a Spanish-speaking cherry farmer from the San Joaquin Valley. Though Democrats enjoy a 20-point voter-registration edge in Vidak’s heavily Latino district, voters in the politically moderate farm region tend to favor independence. Vidak, a cowboy hat-wearing conservative populist, beat his Democratic rival, Fresno school board trustee Luis Chavez, by 10 points.

Republicans also held a senate seat that many pollsters and professional political operatives predicted they would lose. Anthony Cannella, the former mayor of the San Joaquin Valley city of Ceres and son of former Democratic state assemblyman Sal Cannella, prevailed in part by drawing union support away from his Democratic challenger, Shawn Bagley. And Republicans scored a key win in ethnically diverse and politically competitive central Orange County, where county supervisor Janet Nguyen won a state senate seat in a race in which Republicans effectively tapped Asian support. Asians now represent 12 percent of California voters, and they turn out in higher percentages than many other ethnic groups. So Nguyen was another GOP candidate who matched well with her district.

In the assembly, the Republicans did well in all but one of their targeted races. In the eastern Bay Area, the socially moderate Catherine Baker took a hard line on public-employee unions, strongly opposing the 2013 Bay Area Rapid Transit strike in a district that spans Orinda and Walnut Creek east of the Berkeley Hills to the Tri-Valley—in other words, a district full of voting commuters hard hit by two four-day work stoppages in July and October of last year. Pending a final count of absentee and provisional ballots, Baker leads Democrat and union activist Tim Sbranti in the contest for an open assembly seat. Retired police officer Tom Lackey unseated the Democratic incumbent in the Palmdale area, and Korean-American Young Kim, a former staffer for veteran Republican congressman Ed Royce, ousted incumbent assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, 56 percent to 44 percent, in northern Orange County.

One could argue, however, that the Democrats should never have held some of these seats in the first place. “It’s true Republicans did well, but that’s only because Democrats overreached so far,” said Grant Gillham, a political consultant and former Republican staffer. “You’re living in an alley, eating out of garbage cans and you find half of a Big Mac and you think you’ve hit the jackpot. That’s the situation with Republicans now,” he said, jokingly. He’s got a point, but half a Big Mac is looking pretty good to a desperately hungry party.

This piece was originally published on by City Journal.

Democrats lose super-majority in CA Assembly

Republicans, who have already blocked a Democratic super-majority in the California Senate, have also succeeded in defeating a Democratic super-majority in the Assembly.

The only question remaining: How many seats will Democrats lose in the lower house?

Buoyed by low voter turnout and an effective ground operation, Republicans picked up two Southern California seats and held a slim lead in another Bay Area district, which was considered the top priority of the state’s labor unions. Those pickups, which aren’t expected to change with the counting of late absentee and provisional ballots, would be enough to make up for losing a coastal Ventura County seat currently held by a moderate Republican.

Entering yesterday night, Democrats held 55 seats in the Assembly, compared to 24 seats for Republicans, with one vacant GOP-leaning seat.

From the Bay Area to Los Angeles, the GOP recruited non-traditional candidates to prove the party means business about expanding its base and intends to adapt to the state’s changing demographics. Republican candidates for Assembly posted stronger-than-expected results, with some safe, off-the-radar Democratic seats remaining too-close-to-call for most of Election Night.

Young Kim wins in Orange County

In the 65th Assembly District, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, lost by double digits to Republican challenger Young Kim, a former congressional aide to Rep. Ed Royce. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the first-generation Korean American immigrant held a commanding 12-point advantage.

A gracious Quirk-Silva conceded the race late Tuesday night and offered her best wishes to Kim. “We fought hard, we worked hard, but tonight is not our victory,” the former mayor of Fullerton posted on Twitter. “I wish my opponent #YoungKim the best in her new position, congratulations!”

More than $5.2 million had been spent on the race by the candidates, political parties and independent expenditure committees. Although Democrats have a 1.7-point advantage in voter registration, the district is considered a “lean Republican” seat, according to the ATC Partisan Index, which ranks districts based on their competitiveness. Kim performed well among absentee voters and benefited from strong support from thousands of Korean-American voters in the district.

In the 36th Assembly District, Asssemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, another first-term Democrat, lost reelection by a wide margin. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Republican challenger Tom Lackey held an impressive 23-point lead in a district that Republicans let slip away in 2012 during late absentee and provisional counting.

This time, Republicans dispatched their top ground operatives to the Los Angeles County-based district to make up for a disastrous 2012 campaign. Fox, who won in 2012 by less than 200 votes, was pummeled this election with damaging mailers that reminded voters of his ongoing legal troubles.

The losses by Quirk-Silva and Fox marked the first time in two decades that a Democratic incumbent has lost reelection to the Legislature, according to GOP political consultant Matt Rexroad.

“1994 was the last time a Democrat incumbent lost to a Republican in CA Legislature,” Rexroad, an award-winning political consultant, tweeted. “Two will lose tonight.”

Parties split open targets

The two parties split a pair of open seats at opposite ends of the state.

In the 16th Assembly District, moderate Republican Catharine Baker, an attorney from Pleasanton, defeated Democrat Tim Sbranti, the mayor of Dublin, by four points with all precincts reporting. It is unlikely that Baker would lose the race with the remaining absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted. Her win will give Republicans enough seats to block the Democrats from reaching a super-majority.

Republicans, who traditionally struggle in the Bay Area, dedicated millions of dollars of their limited campaign funds to the competitive race after a brutal June primary. Aided by millions of dollars in independent expenditures from labor unions, Sbranti was ultimately weighed down by his ties to the unions, especially after a vicious primary against moderate Democrat Steve Glazer.

Several hundred miles south, Democrats picked up an open seat in the 44th Assembly District that was vacated by moderate Republican Jeff Gorell. The Ventura County-based seat was an expensive race between Republican Rob McCoy and Democrat Jacqui Irwin. With all precincts reporting, Irwin led McCoy 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

Other Democratic incumbents in trouble

At least one other Democratic lawmaker remains in danger of losing reelection.

In the 66th Assembly District, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, was losing to Republican challenger David Hadley by more than 2,000 votes. The South Bay district was expected to be competitive, in part, because of low voter turnout.

Asm. Adam Gray

In the 21st Assembly District, Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, defeated a late challenge from Republican Jack Mobley. With all precincts reporting, Gray had 52 percent to Mobley’s 48 percent.

Republicans largely ignored Republican Jack Mobley’s challenge to Gray. A moderate Central Valley Democrat, Gray endeared himself to the state’s business community by occasionally delivering pro-business votes on hot-button issues. But the weak incumbent needed more than $310,000 in support from the party to beat back a last-minute campaign push orchestrated by CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte.

Big upset: Democrat defeats Democrat

The biggest potential upset of the night was in the 39th Assembly District. Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, was losing to unknown Democratic challenger Patty Lopez by 182 votes. However, with late absentee and provisional ballots left to count, that race remains too close to call.

In two other safe Democratic districts, the results were closer than expected.

In the 57th Assembly District, Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, held a slim lead over Republican Rita Topalian. Calderon, the son of former Assemblyman Charles Calderon, was weighed down by corruption charges filed against his uncle, outgoing state Sen. Ron Calderon.

In the nearby 48th Assembly District, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, defeated Republican Joe Gardner by single digits.

This article was originally published at CalWatchdog.com