Seven initiatives to watch that threaten California prosperity

VotedVoters may face as many seven ballot measures damaging to California’s business and political climate in November. Any one of these measures should motivate millions in opposition spending by affected industries. More than a few are likely to qualify for the ballot.

Conventional wisdom teaches that gubernatorial elections deliver older and more conservative voters to the polls, which normally drives liberal and anti-business initiative entrepreneurs to aim their measures for presidential election years, like 2016 or 2020. But this formerly reliable rule has crumbled in the face of a low qualification threshold, interest group imperatives, and impatient wealthy donors. It’s open season on the deep pockets!

Increase taxes

In 2016, California voters extended top income tax rates (already the highest in the nation) through 2030, increased tobacco taxes by $2-a-pack, and imposed new taxes on marijuana use and production. Elsewhere, voters in hundreds of local jurisdictions raised sales, property and excise taxes for a variety of municipal or school services.

For certain unions and special interest groups, this isn’t enough. Two proposed ballot measures would impose multi-billion-dollar tax increases on businesses and upper income earners.

The United Healthcare Workers union has proposed a one-percent income tax surcharge on all income over $1 million, which would raise up to $2.5 billion annually for various health care programs. Wealthy taxpayers would pay a top rate of 14.3%, well above the highest income tax rate of any other state.

A coalition of liberal interest groups is circulating a split roll property tax proposal, requiring that nearly all commercial and industrial properties, except production agriculture, be assessed to full market value, and then reassessed every three years thereafter. Tax bills for business would increase by $10.5 billion a year.

Worsen housing crisis

California’s notorious housing shortage contributes to many social ills, including poverty, long commutes, air pollution, and flight of middle class jobs and job seekers. Tenant advocates, backed by the head of the Los Angeles AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are circulating a proposal that would exacerbate this shortage by repealing long-standing limitations on rent control.  Far from alleviating the housing shortage, this proposal would simply allow local politicians to benefit some existing renters at the expense of future renters and homeowners.

Regulate industries

A measure purporting to improve consumer control over personal internet privacy promises to be among the hardest fought and most expensive ballot battles. A San Francisco investor proposes requiring businesses to provide to consumers upon request a copy of any personal information it has accumulated and allows consumers to opt-out any or all collection of their personal information – even if not personally identifiable. This measure undermines widespread business models in the industry and likely reduce many services now available to internet users.

United Healthcare Workers is also soliciting signatures for a measure to establish price controls for privately-operated kidney dialysis treatment. Intended to create leverage on dialysis clinics to increase unionized staff, passage of the measure would increase overall costs by shifting dialysis treatments from clinics to more expensive venues like emergency rooms or hospitals.

Stall economic development

For more than two decades, excise taxes on California gasoline and diesel remained flat, contributing to the erosion of purchasing power of those tax revenues and creating a backlog of maintenance and operational improvements for roads and highways. In 2017, the Legislature and Governor agreed on a $5 billion annual boost in transportation revenues to repair roads and bridges and add capacity in some of the most congested corridors.

A San Diego politician has proposed repealing the excise tax increases and subject future increases to statewide voter approval, which would freeze in place hundreds of planned transportation improvements throughout California, without a plausible replacement revenue stream.

Disrupt state governance

A Silicon Valley millionaire is again attempting to qualify a measure to break apart California, this time into three separate states, centered on the Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles and San Diego/Orange County, with the rural area divided among the new states. The new states would obviously create new and unpredictable winners and losers – economically, socially and politically. Rather than working to knit the fabric of our state more tightly together, this proposal would tear it apart.

Initiative proponents will begin submitting petitions to counties in May for signature verification. It is not too soon to begin educating affected business and industry leaders about the consequences of these proposals.

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Needs Voter ID Laws

Voter fraud is real, pervasive, and purposed. But don’t take it from me. Listen to Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis.

Davis is a unique Democrat who acknowledges voter fraud is a reality that his party deliberately ignores, and pushed back against progressives claiming that worries over voter fraud are rooted in prejudice toward minorities.

“What I have seen in my state, in my region, is the most aggressive practitioners of voter-fraud are local machines who are tied lock, stock and barrel to the special interests in their communities — the landfills, the casino operators — and they’re cooking the [ballot] boxes on election day, they’re manufacturing absentee ballots, they’re voting [in the names of] people named Donald Duck, because they want to control politics and thwart progress.”

Davis argued that voter identification would protect minorities, including non-citizens, from politicians who are lobbied by special interests groups to resist anti-fraud measures.

“If you believe in more transparency around connections in politics and money in politics, how can you not believe in transparency when it comes to the core of politics which is voting?”

My state of California is not so fortunate to have Democrats like Artur Davis, who admits Democratic Party bosses benefit from voter fraud, but rather those who teeter between outright denying voter fraud happens and fostering an environment conducive to non-citizen voting. In January 2015, California became a state that allows illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license by revoking the need for applicants to establish proof of legal presence in the United States. Then in October 2015, under the false pretense that it’s “still too hard for Californians to register to vote,” Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law to register all eligible drivers license holders as voters unless they “opt out.”

But that wasn’t far enough. …

Click here to read the full article from the Daily Caller

New California law will automatically register illegal immigrants to vote

A new law in California that goes into effect this spring will automatically register people to vote – including immigrants who are in the country illegally.

In 2015, the state passed a law called the California New Motor Voter Act to increase voter rolls by simplifying the process to register to vote.

The legislation, which goes into effect April 1, will automatically register people who apply for a new driver’s license or new state ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

California has long provided driver’s licenses to anyone who claims to be in the country legally, whether they provide proof or not, which means illegal aliens will be registered to vote, WND reports. …

Click here to read the full article from the Daily Mail

Should felons be allowed to vote from behind jail bars?

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Thousands of felons serving time in county jails would be allowed to vote in California elections from behind bars under a bill moving swiftly through the state Legislature despite widespread opposition from law enforcement officials.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) introduced the measure with an aim that providing convicts the right to vote will give them a better sense of belonging to society and possibly reduce their chances of committing new crimes when released.

“Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism,” Weber told her colleagues during a recent heated floor debate on the bill.

But police chiefs and sheriffs throughout California say the proposal that passed narrowly in the state Assembly undermines a longstanding social compact: those who commit a serious crime lose not only their freedom to live in society for a time but also their right to participate in democracy. …

Click here to read the full article

Record Voter Registration in California

As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

LOS ANGELES—Amid a surge in voter interest stoked by the presidential race, nearly 18 million Californians had registered to vote by Tuesday’s elections—the highest number ever for any state before a primary, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.

That figure compares with about 17.2 million registered voters before the state’s 2012 presidential primaries, according to the office.

California officials reported a boom in residents registering as Democrats within the last 45 days of the sign-up period before Tuesday’s primary. During that time about 500,000 Californians newly registered or re-registered as Democrats, 136,000 as Republicans and 60,000 without a party preference.

Of all the state’s registered voters, the office said 44.8% are Democrats, 27.3% Republicans and 23.3% have no party affiliation. Minor-party registrations make up the rest. …

Click here to read the full article

In Four Weeks, Show Politicians You Care

Howard-JarvisIt’s election season and the media has made certain that voters’ attention has been focused on the presidential primaries. But there are hundreds of state and local races, critical to our future that garner very little media attention. On June 7, California Primary voters will take the first step in selecting those candidates who will be elected in November.

Candidates for Congress, the Legislature, county boards of supervisors, city councils, and school boards will become the officials who will have a great say over the caliber of service government provides and the quality of life for all. Some office seekers will be self-serving, interested in being somebody important. Others will genuinely want to accomplish something positive for their constituents. Some will want to provide good value for taxpayers’ dollars, while others will become beholden to special interests who benefit from higher taxes and more spending.

Deciding who is whom, is the challenge.

Most of us will never meet the presidential candidates, but the opportunities to meet and size up local candidates are fairly plentiful as they strive to be heard and to distinguish themselves from their opponents.

By now, it is clear that there is a lot of anger and frustration throughout our nation and our state over the performance of government. But keep in mind that, we, the voters, have the power to make changes.

Howard Jarvis, the father of the 1978 tax revolt, used to say that if we don’t like the direction of our government or elected officials, it is up to us to work together and use our votes to make changes.

The Primary Election is just four weeks away and it is time to think about our options and to take action to make sure our friends, our family and our colleagues are registered to vote and are informed of what is at stake.

In thousands of appearances all over the state during the Proposition 13 campaign Howard delivered the following message: The people of California are the government. The people we elect are not the bosses; we are. The elected officials are just temporary employees and this is your chance to tell them you’re fed up with their record of “Tax, tax, tax; spend, spend, spend; reelect, reelect, reelect.”

Howard would warn that most legislators seek to pass legislation and appropriate money for the simple purpose of getting themselves reelected. Further, he noted that government power comes from the ignorance of the governed whom the politicians and bureaucrats have set out to discourage from participating in the political process – the people in power would be just as happy if the people they rule didn’t even bother to vote.

And Howard Jarvis had a pithy comment that seems especially appropriate today: Only the knowledge that the people care will keep the politicians honest.

We can show the politicians we care by making sure all our contacts are registered to vote and they cast ballots. Registration information can be obtained from your county registrar of voters or you may register online at the California Secretary of State’s website. Remember vote by mail ballots will be in mail boxes in just a few days. Let’s get out and vote.

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.

All of California’s voters are now in one online database

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

A single, instantly updated list of registered voters in California became reality on Monday, as two final counties plugged in to an electronic database mandated by a federal law enacted in the wake of the contentious 2000 presidential campaign.

In other words, a database that was long overdue.

“It’s been more than a decade in coming,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said.

The $98-million project allows elections officials in each of California’s 58 counties to easily track voters who move from one place to another and to quickly update their records in the event of a death or a voter deemed ineligible after conviction of a felony.

The database will allow voters to check if they are …

Click here to read the full article

The End of the Electoral College?

VotedThough it means nothing for 2016, the 2020 presidential election may be decided by popular vote — or at least that’s the timeline given by one of the main proponents.

As it stands now, there really is no national election for president, rather 51 elections (including Washington, D.C.), where electors are doled out by the states/D.C., with the winner needing at least 270 electoral votes.

But most states are a foregone conclusion. Would blue California really go for a Republican? Or would red Mississippi chose a Democrat?

In most instance, no chance, so that gives a disproportionate share of attention by presidential candidates to a relatively small group of states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

National Popular Vote is pushing to replace the current race to 270 with a simple majority of the popular vote. Bay Area campaign and election lawyer Barry Fadem, who is working with NPV, says this goal can be achieved by 2020.

How Close Are They, Really?

It may seem like a farfetched idea, but the movement is halfway there. Ten states, including California, have ratified the measure (D.C. has signed on as well). Once enough states have ratified the interstate compact to represent 270 electoral votes — a majority — the county will move to the popular vote.

Last week, the Arizona House of Representatives approved the measure. And although it hasn’t voted yet, two-thirds of the Arizona Senate are sponsors. And there are several other states where at least one chamber has approved.

The way the law is structured, the (Constiutionally-mandated) electors of the states that have ratified the compact would choose the candidate who won the popular vote. Therefore, states that didn’t sign on are free to not participate, but they wouldn’t have enough electoral votes to matter.

The theory is that these states would ultimately fall in line, as they’d then have no incentive to stay under the current system once a majority starts with the popular vote.

Why Go Through This Trouble?

Many voters are still upset that in 2000, Republican George W. Bush beat Democrat Al Gore for president by winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. While this is largely Democrats who are upset, supporters of the losing candidate would be sour in any similar situation.

“The disadvantages of the current system, of course, are first that you can have an election where the winner of the popular vote loses the election,” said Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “It happened in 2000, without many repercussions, but the next time? Watch out.”

Swing states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia have a disproportionate influence on the general election. There are 12 or so states where candidates spend most of their time because the rest are viewed as forgone conclusions. According to NPV, no campaign events were held by the 2012 presidential candidates outside of these 12 states during the general election.

“Two-thirds of the states now are irrelevant, since they are firmly blue or red, giving all the focus to a small number of competitive ones and distorting the election,” Ornstein.

Downsides

Critics have said that a close election could result in a national recount (“take Florida in 2000 and multiply by 50, with a hundred times the number of lawyers,” said Ornstein), but that the federal government really isn’t equipped to handle a recount of that magnitude.

“The federal government does not conduct elections,” said Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a non-partisan political publication from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “So if there was an election that was so close a recount was required, it would have to be a 50-state recount. That sounds challenging.”

There’s also a concern that attention would shift from swing states to heavily-populated areas, like Los Angeles or New York City, on the theory that time-strapped candidates would plan visits to the densest areas to reach the most people at once.

But NPV contends that the densest cities still only make up a small part of the population. According to Census data, the 30 most heavily-populated cites account for only about 12 percent of the population — nowhere near a majority.

Is It Even Constitutional?

While something that fundamentally changes how the president is elected will likely be challenged in court, Fadem says “a Constitutional amendment is not required,” pointing to language in the Constitution giving each state the right to decide how to direct its electors.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Why is California voter participation so demonstrably low?

VotedSure, it’s been more than half a year since California’s last statewide election. But Californians’ remarkable failure to participate still deserves some attention today as we start focusing on the 2016 elections. In last November’s midterm Congressional election, the largest state in the nation had about the lowest voter participation of any state in the country. Hardly more than 42 percent of California’s registered voters bothered to mail-in their ballots in the conveniently provided pre-addressed envelopes, or even show up at the polls. This dismal voter participation was even worse than voter disinterest in one of the state’s other previous bad showings in 2002 when just over 50 percent of participants elected Gray Davis, the Democrat, over the GOP’s Bill Simon. In neighboring Oregon, voter participation in the November 2014 election at 69.5 percent was more than half again by percentage the level of participation of California voters in the same election.

Why is California voter participation so demonstrably low? Some pundits have offered that last year’s election was not a presidential election when voter interest would be higher and that popular Governor Jerry Brown, who was on the ballot, was destined to cruise to a big victory over feeble Republican opponent Neel Kashkari anyway, thus lessening voter interest. Democrats have a big political registration edge in the state, control every statewide elective office, and have near two-thirds control of both Houses of the state Legislature. And even with low voter turnout, the state bucked the national trend in which the GOP picked up seats in Congress, and Californians who did vote actually expanded the number of Democratic Congressional seats in Washington, D.C., from California by two (though improving GOP representation in the state Legislature just above the critical 33 percent needed to thwart tax-increases).

Yet a recent Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll reveals that more Californians, by 46 percent to 45 percent, think their state is headed in the the wrong direction rather than the right direction.

One reason for low voter turnout, and even for failures of the GOP to have made more gains in California in the November 2014 election, could be a failure to give voters a really good reason to turnout and feel their vote will be counted and make a difference. There are after all plenty of GOP and middle-of-the-road, independent voters in the state, as the same PPIC poll says 65 percent of CA voters are center/right, with conservatives, at 35 percent, having the plurality. An earnest young political consultant might conclude these voters just need to be contacted and given a good reason to get fired-up to change the results of many elections in the state.

One election where better voter turnout, perhaps by more focus on core GOP voters who sat on the sidelines and who didn’t get inspired enough to vote might have made a difference was the 52nd Congressional District race in conservative San Diego County. Just four years ago this seat was represented in Congress by Republican Brian Bilbray. But a Democrat won the seat in 2012 and the Republican challenger in 2014 was Carl DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego city council who had lost a close race for Mayor of San Diego. Unfortunately, DeMaio’s campaign became embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, some key aspects of which were found to have been manufactured against him. Scott Peters, the incumbent Democrat who was thought to be vulnerable in the GOP sweep in other states, ended up winning the election with 51.6 percent, to DeMaio’s 48.4 percent.

Yet a key factor in DeMaio’s loss was low voter turnout. At 49 percent, according to the California Target Book, some observers believe that if DeMaio’s campaign could have brought out the same level of base voter participation as even the lopsided victory of fellow Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, (about 56 percent), if the campaign not seen the scandal in the press, and had the campaign perhaps redirected resources to simply inspire baseline Republicans to do their public duty and come out to vote in larger numbers, the result could have been quite different, a GOP victory. According to the Target Book’s analysis, voter turnout in the 49th Congressional District where Darrell Issa cruised to a lop-sided 60 percent victory was 47 percent. One need not have a political science degree to understand that voter turnout in the 52nd race was not remarkably different given all the political spending and emphasis of Republicans to win the race; and that many GOP voters had to just pass on making a vote in the race. This observer believes that the problem was a failure to give more focus on peer-to-peer direct-voter contact with core Republicans, and this issue might have repeated itself in several of the other close Congressional races the GOP lost in California in 2014. Hard-core Republican voters were just not given a compelling or convincing reason to vote in the numbers needed to win the races, and especially in the 52nd, which was a winable seat.

Even with comparatively lower registrations in California for Republicans than Democrats, the GOP has great opportunity to win elections in the state and bring reform in the current generally apathetic low voter turn-out environment. A few victories could help Republicans grow in numbers. Voters are truly unhappy with the direction liberal Democratic leaders are taking the state, and if the GOP can better seize on ideas, candidates, strategies and tactics that really motivate conservative and middle-of-the-road voters to return their millions of empty ballot, they can win. Will they?

This article is cross-posted by the Flash Report

Legislators Push to Raise Initiative Filing Fee

VotedA proposal to make it more expensive to file a ballot measure in California is moving closer to becoming law, worrying both liberal and conservative groups that frequently utilize the initiative process.

Democratic Assemblymen Evan Low of Campbell and Richard Bloom of Santa Monica have proposed a 12-fold increase in the fee charged to obtain a title and summary for a proposed ballot measure. Low introduced the measure after a public uproar over an outrageous ballot measure that proposed a death penalty for gays and lesbians.

“We live in California, the cradle of direct democracy, but we also need a threshold for reasonableness,” Low said in a press release. “Amending laws and making statewide policy is not something that should be taken lightly.”

The bill, which passed the State Assembly in May on 46-28 vote, is now quickly moving its way through the State Senate.

Sodomite Suppression Act spawns fee hike

Since 1943, any Californian with $200 has been able to obtain the necessary paperwork to begin collecting signatures to put their proposal on the ballot. The reasonable filing fee has allowed average citizens and grassroots organizations to shape the political debate. Often times, the text, title and summary are enough to generate free publicity for an idea, including outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional measures.

Earlier this year, Orange County attorney Matthew McLaughlin paid his $200 filing fee and submitted the necessary paperwork to circulate “The Sodomite Suppression Act.” The proposed initiative would have “put to death by bullets to the head” gays and lesbians as well as banned anyone “who espouses sodomistic propaganda” from holding public office, receiving government benefits or being employed by the state.

Low said that the anti-gay measure inspired his decision to introduce Assembly Bill 1100 to increase the filing fee.

“It’s disturbing to hear that a licensed member of the California State Bar is putting forward a measure that attacks lesbian and gay members in our community,” Low said in a March press release announcing the bill. “But Mr. McLaughlin’s immoral proposal is the just the latest – and most egregious – example of the need to further reform the initiative process.”

Anti-gay measure blocked, filing fee hike remains

Attorney General Kamala Harris refused to grant the measure a title and summary, and instead sought court approval to ignore the initiative. Earlier this week, California Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei ruled in Harris’ favor, granting her the legal authority not to issue a title and summary.

With the court’s ruling to block the measure, one consumer advocacy group says that the filing fee hike is no longer needed.

“While we have reservations about how the court short-circuited the process, its decision made the bill irrelevant,” Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, wrote in a letter to state lawmakers. “And, unlike the courts, AB 1100 won’t guarantee an end to similar initiatives. But it will stop legitimate citizen initiatives.”

That position was supported by the Los Angeles Times, which recently noted in an editorial that “the fee should not be used as a tool to make it harder to file undesirable initiatives.” Yet, despite the court’s ruling, Low is unwavering in his mission to pass a 12-fold increase in the filing fee.

“While the court’s ruling on this egregious initiative proposal is both legally and morally the right action to take, the events bring attention to the need to reform the initiative process,” he said.

Right, left oppose filing fee hike

Asm. Evan Low

Even before the court’s decision to block the anti-gay measure, groups on both sides of the aisle expressed concerns that a fee increase could limit the ability of average citizens to use the state’s tools of direct democracy.

Consumer Watchdog, one of the most vocal opponents to the filing fee hike, reviewed filing fees for more than two dozen states that have an initiative process. The overwhelming majority have no filing fee, with just five states charging a nominal fee. Currently, Mississippi has the highest filing fee in the country at $500.

“It’s outrageous that the state that birthed direct democracy would charge its citizens an initiative filing fee that is five times greater than the next highest state – Mississippi,” Consumer Watchdog argued in its opposition letter.

Opposition to AB1100 isn’t limited to Consumer Watchdog. Both the California Taxpayers Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association have formally opposed the bill.

The filing fee alone doesn’t put a measure on the ballot. The threshold for qualifying a ballot measure is 5 percent of the total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election. As a result of California’s record low turnout in last November’s election, that threshold is at its lowest in three decades, but still requires 365,880 valid signatures.

In 2010, a similar proposal passed both houses of the Legislature before it was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “While well-funded special interest groups would have no problem paying the sharply increased fee, it will make it more difficult for citizen groups to qualify an initiative,” Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message.

This year’s bill will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 29.

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com