In this video from Fox Business News, California Political Review publisher Jim Lacy comments on GOP Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s campaign swing through California, his clinching the nomination, and protestors at the Anaheim rally on May 26.
California has become a “one party state” controlled by the California Democratic Party and California Democrat politicians.
Two key drivers was the decline of the Republican Party in the wake of Pete Wilson’s Prop. 187, and the redistricting deal in the early 2000s that helped Congressional Republicans and Republican incumbents by making most of California’s districts solidly Democrat or solidly Republican, according to a conversation with the late Allan Hoffenblum, legendary GOP strategist and former publisher of the California Target Book.
Republicans are not competitive in the vast majority of districts, and once the 2016 election is over it has been reported by David Crane, Stanford University, that there will be no open Assembly seats in the state until 2024. Campaign consultants are already sulking over the lack of potential competitive elections in the years following 2016.
This lack of party competition will primarily hurt California working families and the declining middle-class and help powerful special interests. The reason is that the lack of a viable political opposition in the vast majority of districts allows politicians to pander to their “core constituencies” and ignore the vast majority of voters including independents and the political center.
The one bright spot is the passage of the “top two primary system” as the result of a back door budget deal which has enabled the rise of the “moderate democrat” in California politics which tend to be less tied to the Democratic pro-labor base and more sensible on business and independent voter issues (i.e. taxes, government regulation).
Republican challengers, and their backers, tend to be the ones who can challenge California Democrat politicians on their weakest policy stances including taxes, out of control government spending, and onerous and costly government regulation.
But in most legislative races in California the Democrat establishment candidates do not have a viable Republican challenger. The result is that many of the key issues facing California are not even debated in the campaign. This is bad for the state’s political system and its voters.
Most competitive legislative races in California are characterized as a race between a far-left “progressive, pro-labor” Democrat, and a more moderate “pro-business” Democrat. This trend is the result of the state’s relatively new “top two primary system” and is surely better than having no competition but does not provide the same benefits as a true two party system.
Most “moderate Democrats” are still pro-labor, just not as far left as the organized labor establishment–backed Democrat candidates. And most “moderate Democrats” stick to the California Democratic Party platform on most economic and social issues. They are essentially Democrats, with a pro-business slant, which is good for the state and its political debate, but does not tend to challenge the Democratic status quo on most important issues in the state.
For example, take the example of Senator Bill Dodd (D), running as a moderate Democrat in the Sacramento valley in 2016. He is selling himself as a reasonable centrist Democrat who can work with both Democrats and Republicans to get things done. But he is still “pro-labor” and tied to the Democrat labor base on most issues including environmental regulation and state spending issues–perhaps the state’s two most important current policy issues.
Perhaps most alarming, is that after 2016 many of the “moderate Democrats” may not even have the threat of a viable moderate pro-business challenger, which makes it likely that they could sway back to the left, even the far-left, staked out organized labor and California Democratic Party.
In conclusion, there are really two potential paths to bringing back electoral competition to California politics.
First, the Republican Party and its candidates could move closer to the political center to better challenge Democrat candidates. This is unlikely to happen because the state’s Republican candidates are simply a reflection of the state’s Republican voters who tend to be very conservative.
Second, the more likely scenario is that you will see an increasing split in the California Democrat Party between its “pro-labor” base and “moderate Democrats.” This split has increased dramatically in the last year, and likely to continue.
If one considers voting data, one finds that the political center is huge, larger than either party, and there is really a lot of room for new varieties of Democrat candidates to stake out a more centrist positions that appeal to independent voters who tend to be more fiscally conservative than the Democratic base yet still pro-environment. These voters tend to be more reasonable on regulatory issues and other common sense policy positions, such as keeping a lid on the state’s rising tax burden and expansion of the welfare state.
Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, the state’s current one-party system is bad for California and the average voter, particularly independents, who in many cases do not even have the option to vote for a candidate that fits their political and policy preferences.
David Kersten is part of theKersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy
In March, the ACLU of Northern California and other groups urged the California Judicial Council — the policy-making board of the California court system — for action, arguing that suspending licenses for unpaid fines disproportionately affects lower-income drivers.
The ACLU and others have been targeting individual courts as well in Bay Area counties. Contra Costa County Superior Court responded last week saying the Failure to Pay policy was under review.
“The court will suspend all FTP referrals until further notice,” Steven K. Austin, presiding judge of the Superior Court, wrote last week to the ACLU of Northern California and Bay Area Legal Aid. Austin added the moratorium had already begun.
In many instances, drivers receive an initial fine for some violation, with lots of additional fees tacked on. What was a $100 fine could be several hundred dollars and only swelling from there, sometimes escalating to thousands as payment is not made.
This often leads to a suspension, which limits the driver’s ability to get to work and perpetuates the problem, the coalition of civil liberties groups argued. And many of these citations are for minor infractions like not wearing a seat belt or not signaling on a turn.
By the end of 2015, more than 1.9 million Californians, many of who whom are unemployed, disabled or homeless, had suspended licenses for failure to appear or failure to pay on citations, according to data provided by civil liberties groups.
Data shows a strong correlation between high poverty rates and high suspension rates in the bay area.
“What we’re looking for is a system that doesn’t punish people for being poor,” Micaela Davis, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, previously told CalWatchdog. “What we see is that the fines and fees are so exorbitant on simple traffic citations that people simply can’t afford to pay.”
Detractors may argue that it’s the driver’s actions that incurred the fine in the first place, but Davis dismissed that notion, saying there are more effective ways of handling the issue.
“We can hold people accountable without also ruining their lives,” Davis said.
As the Chief Whistle blower for KSFO San Francisco (560), I was on the Brian Sussman show at 6:45 am, as I have for six years. Today we discussed three issues:
1. The Stanford University study showing that CalPERS and CalSTRS have a total of just under one trillion in unfunded liabilities. (Full story here)
2. Why does the UC Irvine Administration allow students to protest around the campus, and in the face of Jewish students with the chant, “Long Live the Intifada”? (Full story here)
3. Why do some cities, like Madera, population 63,000 pay the City Manager $214,000 and nearby city of Fresno with a population of over 500,000 pay its City Manager $235,000? (Full story here)
All of these stories, and more, are found at California Political News and Views.
Remember only 239 more days of “Barack the Last” in the White House.
In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security argued with the airline industry over whose fees were more responsible for the insanely long lines at TSA checkpoints. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called on the airlines to drop their fees for checked baggage this summer so flyers would bring fewer carry-on bags. The airlines said the TSA should drop its $85 fee to sign up for the speedier TSA PreCheck program.
In Europe, terrorism appears to have claimed an EgyptAir A320 that took off from Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris and vanished from radar over the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s likely that both the unreasonable delays at U.S. airports and the loss of the EgyptAir plane were caused by the same thing: the politically correct insistence that every passenger is equally likely to be a terrorist.
Since the 9/11 attacks, airport security has focused on two things: knowing who’s on the plane, and knowing what’s in the luggage.
The problem in the U.S. is caused by too much of the second, and the EgyptAir incident may have been caused by not enough of the first.
This spring, as thousands of Americans missed their flights due to TSA backups, the European parliament was still debating whether to allow the collection and sharing of airline reservation data by adopting a Passenger Name Record directive.
The Council of the European Union finally adopted the PNR in April. But the 28 member nations of the EU have two years to implement it. France had been planning to begin testing of the system this summer.
Why did Europe wait so long to start a PNR system? French Prime Minister Manuel Valls pressed hard for …
A personal digression: My father was head of the Iowa Department of Transportation (then called the Iowa Highway Commission) in the late ’60s and early ’70s before he was appointed by President Ford to serve as Deputy Federal Highway Administrator. (Of course, he lost that job when Jimmy Carter became president, but he continued to work in the private sector for a transportation think tank.) When I was in high school, I remember him coming home from an ASHTO conference. That organization, the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, was a pretty well respected group and still is. He was complaining bitterly about what was going on in California. I don’t recall his exact words, but the gist of it was that the new head of California’s transportation agency, called CalTrans, had been taken over by a certifiably crazy person (with no background in transportation policy) by the name of Adriana Gianturco. According to my father, in the 1950s and ’60s, California had the best transportation agency in the entire world. But all that changed with the election of a new, anti-growth, small-is-beautiful governor by the name of Jerry Brown.
Now, fast forward 40 years. Gov. Brown, version 2.0, proposes a budget that assumes a big increase in transportation taxes and fees. The California Legislature shouldn’t just say no, it should say hell no.
Where to start? First, let’s take judicial notice of the fact that California is already a high tax state with the highest income tax rate and the highest state sales tax in America. But more relevant for the issue at hand, we also have the highest fuel costs in the nation. This is because of both the 4th highest excise tax on fuel and the fact that refineries are burdened with additional costs to comply with California’s environmental regulations.
The high cost to drive in California might be understandable if we were getting value for our tax dollars. But we aren’t. A big problem is that Caltrans is dysfunctional, plain and simple. It has never fully recovered from the days when the agency was effectively destroyed by Gianturco. A report by the California State Auditor just a couple of months ago concluded that a primary responsibility of Caltrans – maintenance of our highways – is not being executed in a manner that is even close to being efficient or competent. Senator John Moorlach, the only CPA currently serving in the California legislature, reacted saying that “This audit reinforces the fact that our bad roads are not a result of a lack of funding. They’re a result of a lack of competence at Caltrans.” Moreover, a report by the Legislative Analyst concluded that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees costing California taxpayers over a half billion dollars a year. All this compels the obvious question: Why, for goodness sake, do we want to give these people even more money?
Another unneeded and costly practice consists of project labor agreements for transportation construction projects. These pro-union policies shut out otherwise competent companies from bidding on projects resulting in California taxpayers shelling out as high as 25% more than they should for building highways and bridges.
Finally, California’s environmental requirements are legendary for their inefficiency while also doing little for the environment. Exhibit A in this foolishness is Gov. Brown’s incomprehensible pursuit of the ill-fated high speed rail project. Not only has the project failed to live up to any of the promises made to voters, it is currently being kept alive only by virtue of the state’s diversion of “cap and trade” funds which are supposed to be expended on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in the Kafkaesque world of California transportation policies, the LAO has concluded that the construction of the HSR project actually produces a net increase in emissions, at least for the foreseeable future.
No one disputes the dire need for improvements in California’s transportation infrastructure. But imposing draconian taxes and higher registration fees that serve only to punish the middle class while wasting billions on projects that don’t help getting Californians get to work or school cannot and should not be tolerated. Legislators who present themselves to voters as fiscally responsible need to understand that a vote for higher transportation taxes will engender a very angry response from their constituents.
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.
But it can happen. And it is happening – on a regular basis.
Civil asset seizure without due process is taking place today across America, to the tune of $2.5 billion in assets taken by the government over the past 15 years.
The reason why Republicans haven’t made this legalized smash and grab an election issue is simple – government agents claim they are grabbing the assets of drug dealers. It’s the perfect cover.
Nobody wants to support drug dealers. The problem is, under federal law, government agents get to define who fits under the drug-dealer label. Agents can take first and ask questions later.
Under current rules of asset seizure, federal agents are asked to produce “clear and convincing” evidence that the assets are tied to drugs. But the evidence isn’t necessarily subject to a jury’s verdict. No judicial finding of guilt is required for federal agents to take your house, car and bank accounts.
Due process is short-circuited. Rule of law is deployed at a minimum threshold.
In other words, citizens can only hope the government gets it right when it comes to civil asset seizure. How comforting is that?
A national movement has begun to tighten the rules and bring due process into the practice. Many conservative organizations, including the Institute for Justice, Heritage Foundation and the Koch Institute, support legislation to bring stronger legal protocols to asset seizure.
In California, the State Legislature can introduce some accountability to the free hand created by federal rules on asset seizure.
Senate Bill 443, introduced by State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would require California law enforcement agencies to bring or obtain a criminal conviction before they seize someone’s assets. The proposed legislation has bipartisan support but needs all the help it can get.
The bill would keep asset forfeiture cases in California courts, rather than handing them over to federal jurisdiction. This is important, and it’s why SB 443 is opposed by many local law enforcement agencies.
Under current rules, local agencies can circumvent California law and send seized assets to the feds for “adoption” under loose federal rules. The feds typically take a 20 percent cut for “adopting” the case. SB 443 would end the dubious practice of “adoption.”
And SB 443 would help prevent guiltless spouses from suffering financially when allegations are made against their partners. Under federal law, if you made the mistake of marrying the wrong person, too bad. SB 443 gives protection to innocent spouses.
No doubt, SB 443 raises difficult questions for conservatives. It exposes Republicans to the charge of being soft on crime, to not exerting maximum leverage on drug dealers.
But the bill speaks to larger questions – the rule of law and the reach of the federal government. If we lose sight of those concerns in rhetoric about drug dealers, another chunk of our democracy will be gone.
Obviously, convicted drug dealers should not be allowed to protect their assets. But before the government grabs someone’s property, we should at least make sure the accused person has committed the crime.
The rule of law requires a trial and conviction. Coincidentally, a trial and conviction is the minimum threshold established by SB 443.
Mike Madrid is a partner at GrassrootsLab, and a nationally recognized expert on Latino voting trends. In 2001, named one of America’s “Most Influential Hispanics” by Hispanic Business Magazine.
President Obama is going to Hiroshima.
When the president travels to Japan later this month for a G-7 summit meeting, he will visit a memorial site that honors the memory of those killed in 1945 when President Harry Truman made the decision to use the atomic bomb to end World War II in the Pacific.
It’s a reminder that the fearsome power of the United States government is under the control of elected civilians.
The atomic bomb was new in 1945, but the structure that controlled its use dates to the 18th century. The U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war — and to spend or withhold funds for it — not to military leaders or intelligence professionals but to Congress. The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, outranking everyone in uniform even if he (or she) never served in the military personally.
The design was intended to ensure that the American people control the U.S. government, and not the other way around.
That’s why the information that has come to light about the National Security Agency’s secret data collection programs is so troubling. In the name of keeping the American people safe from terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has been collecting and saving the email and Internet activity records of innocent Americans and allowing government agents to search the data without a warrant.
Congress is asking questions, and not getting answers.
Sometime next year, lawmakers will have to decide whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act, which is set to expire. The law has allowed the U.S. attorney general and the director of national intelligence to intercept the communications of targeted foreign nationals, but it turns out that data from Americans has been swept up in the process.
How many Americans have had their emails and Internet activity records collected by this warrantless surveillance? The Obama administration won’t say. Last month 14 lawmakers from both parties sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper demanding an answer, but Clapper would only say he’s looking at “several options” for providing the information, “none of which are optimal.”
In a recent hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, senators were told that the intelligence agencies are ignoring the required “minimization” procedures, which call for the communications of innocent Americans to be deleted when discovered.
But a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found that the information is never deleted. “It sits in the databases for five years, or sometimes longer,” board chairman David Medine told the senators, and the program “does not just target terrorists” but anyone with “foreign intelligence value.”
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, expressed concern over the government’s “backdoor searches” of the collected data. Without a warrant, just by filing a “query,” government agents can read every private word.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, insisted that the surveillance program has helped U.S. authorities foil terrorist plots. She said the government should declassify more reports so the public can see the value of the law.
That’s really not enough. The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires the government to get warrants. That constitutional right can’t simply be erased by a couple of declassified reports declaring the usefulness of warrantless searches.
If Congress doesn’t get answers to all its questions, lawmakers shouldn’t hesitate to let Section 702 fade into the sunset.
The power of the U.S. government is too great to be uncontrolled.
The Department of Labor’s new overtime rules come at a jarring time for California businesses which have seen recent changes in California laws to increase both the minimum wage and mandated leave. Small business employers can’t catch a breath before a new mandate comes down affecting their employees and ultimately their bottom line.
The Department of Labor’s new rule allows workers earning $47,476 annually time-an-a-half for every hour they work beyond 40 hours. The previous annual salary threshold for requiring time-an-a-half pay was $23,660.
National Federation of Independent Business California State Executive Director Tom Scott said in a release responding to the new rule, “We see this as particularly troubling here in California where the cost of doing business is already prohibitively high. Small businesses are still grappling with the news of a $15 minimum wage; now they have to go through each salary exempt position and decide which employees they have to shift to hourly workers. This will adversely affect workplace morale as many will view this adjustment as a demotion.”
However, there is a way for employees of all stripes to get a pay increase without affecting a businesses bottom line. Unfortunately, because of the increased burdens California businesses face more businesses are looking at this benefit for their employees: Move to a state with no income tax.
If an employee receives the same wage in, say, Texas or Nevada, which have no income taxes, more money stays in the employees’ pocket. It’s like a pay raise without the companies increasing payroll.
Too many California businesses are doing the math because of the constant attack on their bottom line.
The world’s largest solar energy plant known for incinerating birds just got a taste of its own medicine. A fire at the plant Thursday morning, which may have been caused by “misaligned” mirrors used to reflect sunlight at boiler towers, broke out in the facilities interior — literally scorching parts of the plant.
NRG Energy, the company operating the Ivanpah solar plant in southern California, was forced to shut down one of its generating towers and is investigating if mirrors, or heliostats, failed and torched a boiling tower. Now, the plant which got $1.6 billion from the Obama administration, will only be able to generate electricity from one of its three towers.
An NRG spokesman said it’s too early to say exactly what caused the failure, but it’s likely due to misaligned heliostats, according to Gizmodo. Whatever the cause, workers and firefighters literally went through hell to douse the flames.
A small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply.
Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.
The scorched tower is currently shut down, according to the Associated Press, and it’s not clear when it will come online again. It’s also unclear if this setback will affect California’s electricity supply.
This only adds to Ivanpah’s troubles. The plant was nearly shut down by California regulators for not producing nearly as much power as it was supposed to. Regulators have given the plant until the end of July to meet its power quotas, but this fire may make it hard for the plant to meet its goals.
Ivanpah only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data. And it does all this at a cost of $200 per megawatt hour — nearly six times the cost of electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Interestingly enough, Ivanpah uses natural gas to supplement its solar production.
It wasn’t long after the plant opened, its operators asked the federal government for a $539 million federal grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department.
Environmentalists quickly attacked the project for killing thousands of birds since it opened. Many birds were incinerated by the intense heat reflected off Ivanpah’s heliostats.
The Associated Press cited statistics presented by environmentalists in 2014 that “about a thousand… to 28,000” birds are incinerated by Ivanpah’s heliostats every year.
“Forensic Lab staff observed a falcon or falcon-like bird with a plume of smoke arising from the tail as it passed through the flux field,” according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report from 2014.
Ivanpah — which is owned by BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy and Google — uses more than 170,000 large mirrors, or heliostats, to reflect sunlight towards water boilers set atop 450-foot towers that create steam to turn giant turbines and generate electricity.