California Elections Attorney/Official Says Be Patient – May Be Millions of Votes Left to Count

The 2020 General Election was the first all-mail-in-ballot election under California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s then-executive order, now a law. Since then, many voters still are not sure about the process. And after Tuesday’s California Primary Election, many voters have reservations.

The Globe spoke with Audrey Martin, an Elections attorney and Elections official for the Republican National Lawyers Association who works on election integrity, as well as with many county registrars.

Martin says California does mail-in voting well.

I told her that right before the 2020 General election I visited the Sacramento County’s Voter Registraton and Election office to learn what happens after a mail-in ballot is dropped off.

What I witnessed was a sophisticated production process replete with checks and double checks.

Martin agreed. She said she doesn’t necessarily agree with all of California’s voting laws, but most county registrars “are very well run.”

Martin said not all county voter registrars have the same computerized capabilities as Sacramento, so when some counties were sharing early totals on Election night, others still had bags of ballots stacked throughout their offices which had not yet been processed and counted.

“Theoretically there could be a lot of ballots to process – it’s usually a big number,” Martin said. Maybe millions? She said with so many people waiting to drop off their ballot, or mailing it on Tuesday, “it takes much more time by registrars on the back end.”

And this happens “because it is so easy to vote in California,” Martin said. There are many options, which also means people don’t always know the way to vote, particularly those who always voted on Election Day in person. The voting-by-mail for them just isn’t clear. For many, they are worried that their mailed ballot doesn’t get to the registrar, so they show up in person on Election Day to cast their vote. Martin said this takes county registrars so much extra time because they have to check the voter logs against the mailed ballots.

In the  Sacramento County’s Voter Registraton and Election office, ballots collected from the more than 170 official collection boxes around the county are sorted by precinct. Those ballots go next to employees operating the machines that slice open the return envelope, and a poof of air allows the operator to lift the ballot out, while a second operator separates but saves the envelope, which are used later for audits.

The ballots are scanned into the computer system, and voter signatures on the envelope are matched to the voter’s signature in the county elections system. If the operator feels the signatures don’t match, the voter is mailed a new signature page, which they fill out and send back.

Deep inside of the elections offices is a production center which resembles the production process in a printing plant bindery. Operators feed ballot return envelopes in stacks into a large machine which scans them, and separates by batches and precincts. Other operators act as auditors along the way. And there are phone banks of employees taking calls about the process.

There are employees in teams of two who analyze the actual ballot for any votes “X’d” out as a mistake, looking for voter intent. If they cannot make out the voter intent, it is left blank.

All of these operations are monitored by “Big Brother” – cameras in every room, from several angles.

With so many outstanding ballots, and 36 days to count them, expect some of the races to tighten up, or other candidates to pull away with bigger leads.

Voters Recall D.A. Chesa Boudin

Reformist prosecutor in San Francisco will not finish first term amid social problems.

SAN FRANCISCO — Embattled Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin, who became a lightning rod for debates over crime and homelessness in San Francisco, will not finish his first term as the city’s top prosecutor.

With more than 61% of voters backing the recall of the 41-year-old reformer candidate, the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle called the race Tuesday night.

The bitter, expensive recall election has become a referendum on some of San Francisco’s most painfully visible social problems, including homelessness, property crime and drug addiction.

The recall campaign has painted Boudin as a soft-on-crime prosecutor who doesn’t care about public safety. It has tied his criminal reform policies to high-profile crimes, including a fatal hit-and-run involving a man on parole, a series of smash-and-grab robberies from high-end Union Square stores and attacks against elderly Asian American residents.

“Safe is not a word I’d use to describe San Francisco,” said Raj Marwari, 40, who lives in the Marina District and works in finance. He said he voted to recall Boudin because “obviously, things have gotten worse in every way,” including homelessness. He said he’s embarrassed when his parents from Texas visit the city.

Removing Boudin from office won’t solve everything, Marwari said, but “when the player’s doing bad, you’ve got to pull ’em.”

Property and violent crimes fell by double-digit percentages during Bou-din’s first two years in office. But some individual categories of crime surged in the same time frame: Burglaries rose 47%; motor vehicle theft, 36%. Homicides also increased, though the city saw its lowest number of killings in more than a half-century in 2019.

Like other prosecutors in the nationwide movement to reimagine the criminal justice system, Boudin ran on a platform to reduce mass incarceration and divert low-level offenders into drug and mental health treatment instead of jail cells.

His loss could have national implications, including for Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who is facing his second recall attempt in two years.

During his 2½-year tenure, Boudin has refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults. He has reduced the use of sentencing enhancements. A San Francisco police officer stood trial for excessive force this year for the first time, though the officer, Terrance Stangle, was acquitted.

Boudin and his supporters fanned out across the city Tuesday to hand out pamphlets urging a “no” vote on the recall, known as Proposition H. As he campaigned along Divisadero Street in a neighborhood known as NoPa (North of the Panhandle), Boudin said he was “feeling great.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Voters Just Not Interested This Year

Remember the old saw about leading a horse to water but unable to make it drink?

The horse, it’s assumed, just wasn’t interested and that’s an apt description of the nearly 22 million Californians who have been given ballots for today’s primary election.

Through Monday, data guru Paul Mitchell reports that just 14% of those ballots had been returned to local election officials for counting, indicating that voter turnout could drop below the current record-low of 25.17% set in the 2014 primary.

It’s not difficult to understand why. Primary elections mostly determine which candidates will face each other five months hence. This year’s primary is especially lackluster and its weak dynamics cannot compete with other matters preoccupying voters, from COVID-19 to skyrocketing gasoline prices and surges in crime.

In fact, there’s just one high-profile political contest that will be resolved today — whether San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin will be recalled for his policies that, critics say, are too lenient on lawbreakers.

Pre-election polls indicate that the recall could succeed and the election has attracted national media attention because of San Francisco’s reputation for leftish politics and the potential setback for the national criminal justice reform movement.

Aside from the Boudin recall, the most noteworthy contest is a three-way battle for Los Angeles mayor. Polls indicate that Congresswoman Karen Bass and businessman Rick Caruso are running neck-and-neck with Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León a distant third.

De León will probably end with single-digit support, but that likely will be enough to prevent either Bass or Caruso from gaining a majority and thus force a November runoff for the right to govern a city plagued by issues — homelessness, crime, traffic congestion, racial tension, economic torpor and political discord — that have bedeviled previous mayors.

That’s about it in terms of issues and contests that could motivate large numbers of voters to mail in their ballots. There are a few that interest political junkies, such as who will finish in the top two in some legislative and congressional districts. But the real games will be decided in November — whether California will play a role in the national duel for control of Congress, and the rivalry between progressives and moderates for control of the state Assembly.

Another factor that undercuts voter motivation in this primary is the lack of high-profile ballot measures.

For decades, California’s constitution declared that statewide initiative measures could appear only on a “general election” ballot, presumably the November election. In 1971, however, a young secretary of state named Jerry Brown decreed that measures could be placed on the primary ballot as well.

Three years later, Brown used his own ruling to place Proposition 9, a political reform measure, on the 1974 primary ballot — a major factor in his successful campaign for governor that year.

For the next four decades, primary election ballots included some of the state’s most far-reaching, hard-fought ballot measures that drew voters to the polls, including Proposition 13, the iconic tax limitation measure in 1978.

In 2011, however, Brown, once again governor, countermanded his own 1971 decree by signing legislation to once again confine initiative measures to the November general election ballot.

Click here to read the full article in CALMatters

Column: Rep. Levin’s District Is a Battleground Again, This Time With Strong GOP Headwinds

North County Democrat’s primary election mailer seeks to boost desired GOP opponent for November

Several California congressional districts always come up in discussions about control of the House of Representatives. The 49th District represented by Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, is one of them.

Regardless of whether the district straddling the San Diego-Orange county line ends up being pivotal in November, the election there promises to be a close one.

Seeking his third term, Levin seemingly has an unencumbered path to the fall general election in the slightly Democratic-leaning district, allowing him to marshal his resources and focus strategy on his eventual Republican opponent. Meanwhile, a handful of Republicans are slugging it out to advance out of Tuesday’s primary.

That’s the good news for Levin. The other news is he’ll have to face one of a few robust GOP challengers during an election year in which so many dynamics are trending in the Republican Party’s favor. That’s a change from his first two elections, when the political climate had the wind at his back.

Not only that, the district has been redrawn to adjust to population changes reflected in the once-a-decade census, adding some new voters he hasn’t represented and taking away some he has.

“There certainly is peril that Mike Levin faces in this district,” said Thad Kousser, chair of the UC San Diego political science department.

Having said that, Kousser isn’t so sure the GOP effort to retake the House majority “hinges on this district.” In other words, if Levin loses, that will be indicative of a big Republican win nationwide on Nov. 8, according to Kousser.

Levin isn’t just waiting for the fall campaign. He’s become a presence in the primary — as a player in the battle among GOP candidates.

The most prominent Republicans are three who hold or have held elective office: Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett of Dana Point, former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott — who lost to Levin in 2020 — and Oceanside City Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez.

mailer supporting Levin noted Rodriguez favors the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country. With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe, the issue of protecting abortion rights has become a potentially potent one for Democrats in this election — particularly in purple swing districts like the 49th.

The tactics behind such a mailer are two-fold: It looks like a hit on an anti-abortion candidate to Democrats, while it might encourage conservative voters to back Rodriguez.

“This is the emerging part of the Democratic playbook,” Kousser said. “. . . We’ve seen this in other races where a strong Democrat is trying to pick the weakest Republican candidate.”

Maybe there’s polling that suggests Rodriguez is the better target for Levin in November. But the Oceanside council member is a Latino Marine veteran in a district that includes the Camp Pendleton Marine base and is home to a lot of veterans and Latinos.

Complaints that such maneuvers amount to meddling in the other party’s contest tend to fall flat these days. Back when there were separate Republican and Democratic primaries, making cross-party forays generated more controversy.

But here, Levin is running in the primary against not just the one little-known Democrat, but the Republicans as well. In California’s nonpartisan primary system, the candidates are on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters advance to November, regardless of party affiliation.

Elections such as this have much of the same feel of the old, separate primaries. In other districts that are dominated by Democratic or Republican voters, it’s not unusual for the top two finishers to be members of the same party.

Not only are congressional politics trending Republican, Kousser said there is a “stronger set of Republican challengers across the state this year.”

Click here to read the full article in The San Diego Union Tribune

Alameda County to Reinstate Public Indoor Mask Mandate Beginning June 3rd

Businesses here don’t want them because they cut into business, but look what happened – they brought them back’

The Alameda County Public Health Department announced on Thursday that they would be reinstating the mask mandate for most indoor public places in the County.

According to a statement from the County Public Health Department, the move to reinstate masking comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases in Alameda County has shot drastically up in the past several weeks, surpassing last summers Delta variant wave and already encroaching on the number of cases from the 2021-2022 winter surge. The County is averaging between 800-900 new cases a day with 102 people currently being hospitalized for contracting the virus. Both figures are up by 20% from only a few weeks ago.

While the County has become the first to reinstate mandatory indoor masking since the end of the winter surge earlier this year, there will be exceptions in the County. K-12 schools will not be covered by the mandate with it already being the end of the school year, and with the city of Berkeley also not falling under the mandate due to them having their own public health department. However, all other areas, including Oakland, fall under the new mandate.

“Rising COVID cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” said Alameda County public health officer Nicholas Moss in the Thursday press statement. “We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end. Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities.

“We held off doing this as long as we felt it was reasonable, but with the numbers continuing to go up and when we started to see concerning signals, we felt we needed to act.”

Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla also noted that “We thank Alameda County residents, employers, and businesses for continuing to rise to the challenge in response to this pandemic. Unfortunately, COVID has not gone away and once again, we must take measures to protect ourselves, friends and community members, and employees and patrons from this very infectious virus.”

Negative reaction to the return of the indoor mask mandate

However, many citizens and business owners in Alameda County seriously questioned the return of the mask mandate on Thursday, with many reacting negatively to the Department’s decision.

“No. No no no no no,” said Lucinda Jackson, a local East Bay business owner who said her businesses only returned to the black for the first time since early 2020 just last month, to the Globe on Thursday. “They said it wouldn’t happen again. They said on TV masks wouldn’t be back. Everyone was saying they wouldn’t be back. Businesses here don’t want them because they cut into business. But look what happened. They brought them back.”

“This is the same government that right after all the BLM protests, said to go out and support black owned businesses. And now, by putting the mandates back, they are hurting us. This isn’t a one-dimensional issue. Putting the mandates back have consequences way beyond health, which, we should note, isn’t hospitalizing nearly as many people now. This makes me ashamed of my County.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

The history of the Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms

With all the debate going on about guns and gun control in America, here’s a little history. The Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Those favoring gun control stress the “militia” part, saying the “right of the people” part is subordinate to it. But the late Charlie Reese, for 30 years a journalist with the Orlando Sentinel, once parsed the 18th-century language.

He wrote: “Notice that it does not state that the right of the states to have militias shall not be infringed. This amendment consists of a nominative absolute and a subject and verb.

“The nominative absolute is the phrase ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.’ The subject of the sentence is ‘right.’ The verb is ‘shall be infringed’ modified by the adverb, ‘not.’ Thus the main sentence states plainly that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringe. … A modern way of writing might state, ‘Because a well-trained militia is essential to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’”

Next, in 2000 historian Michael A. Bellesiles published “Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture.” Its narrative that American gun culture was not there from the beginning, but began only around the 1850s, earned him the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2001. Then the prize was rescinded when his fellow historians showed he had faked his research. The fact is America from the beginning was a gun culture.

Sometimes gun-control advocates point out how much stricter gun-control laws after mass shootings have been enacted by the United Kingdom and its former colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But America is different. We gained our independence from the British Empire through a violent revolution. We also fought a Civil War that killed 850,000 people to keep the country together and free the slaves. That was about 3% of the population, the equivalent to 9 million today.

Many gun control laws in American history have been harmful to Black Americans, including the slaves before the war, and the newly emancipated freedmen and freedwomen after. In a 2011 article in the Atlantic, UCLA constitutional scholar Adam Winkler wrote, “Indisputably, for much of American history, gun control measures, like many other laws, were used to oppress African Americans …

“Civil-rights activists, even those committed to nonviolent resistance, had long appreciated the value of guns for self-protection. Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a permit to carry a concealed firearm in 1956, after his house was bombed. His application was denied, but from then on, armed supporters guarded his home.”

In District of Columbia v. Heller from 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

By the way, who is in the militia? 10 U.S. Code § 246 (a) reads: “The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and … under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Republican Beefs Up Campaign Spending as O.C. Threat Emerges

GOP Rep. Young Kim of Orange County has all the elements for a fairly easy path to reelection in November — a gloomy national mood favoring her party, a formidable campaign war chest and a new, more Republican-friendly district. Most prognosticators considered her June 7 primary to be an afterthought.

UNITED STATES – MAY 23: Young Kim, Republican running for California’s 39th Congressional district seat in Congress, speaks with attendees at the Brea & Placentia Caravan gathering of real estate professionals at Panera Bread in Brea, Calif., on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. California is holding its primary election on June 5, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

But now she is campaigning with a sudden sense of urgency. Kim has unleashed $1.3 million in advertising as the primary approaches. Outside allies are coming to her aid with more spending.

Most of Kim’s focus is on fending off Greg Raths, an underfunded GOP opponent who has been a staple on the political scene in Mission Viejo, the district’s largest city. After years of touting her bipartisan bona fides, she is upping her appeals to the GOP base, emphasizing her conservatism and hard-edged rhetoric on illegal immigration.

The explosion in spending may just be a cautionary measure, or a sign of a suddenly rattled front-runner. More broadly, Kim’s tilt further to the right reflects redistricting’s influence on politicians. With a shift in district boundaries, Kim’s campaign style has shifted too — vying for a constituency that is more conservative and less diverse than the residents she now represents.

“We think she is the heavy favorite to win reelection, but you can’t win reelection if you don’t make it through the primary first,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, which provides nonpartisan campaign analysis. “I don’t think campaigns make these sort of moves unless there is a concern she isn’t going to make the top two.”

Kim still enjoys the powerful benefits of incumbency. If, in a huge upset, she fails to advance, the implications could reverberate in the national battle for control of the House. The sole Democratic candidate, physician Asif Mahmood, would have improved chances of turning the seat blue, a rare pickup opportunity in a cycle where his party is largely on defense.

Kim’s campaign portrayed the moves as due diligence that was long expected, particularly because she must introduce herself to 80% of the district’s voters.

“We don’t take anything for granted as Congresswoman Kim takes every campaign seriously,” said Sam Oh, a Kim campaign strategist. “She’s working hard to earn every vote.”

The first hints of a changing campaign dynamic came earlier this month, in a text message from Kim linking Raths, a Mission Viejo city councilman, to President Biden, blaming them both for illegal immigration. “We CANNOT risk the Raths-Biden agenda,” it read.

Since then, her advertisements have continued to pile on Raths, showing his photo with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and accusing him of being liberal.

That’s an unlikely label for the 68-year-old retired military colonel who is a devoted fan of former President Trump and the Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right Republicans in Congress. If the GOP takes the House, his choice for speaker would be Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a conservative firebrand, over House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Californian.

Raths was largely dismissed by political observers in his challenge against Kim, who had the backing of the Republican establishment and raised nearly $5 million as of March compared with Raths’ $100,000. Another Republican in the race, Nick Taurus, a right-wing extremist who has aligned himself with white nationalists, brought in less than $10,000.

But Raths does have an advantage of familiarity, especially among faithful Republican voters. He has appeared on their ballots multiple times in his city council runs. He also ran for Congress three times, most recently losing to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in 2020.

After the decennial redistricting process set off a musical chairs among incumbents to compete in redrawn districts, Kim, 59, declared she’d run in the new 40th District. The predominantly inland Orange County swath includes Aliso Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita. Her residence in La Habra sits just west of the boundaries (members of Congress are not required to live in their districts).

Although a majority of eligible voters in Kim’s current district are people of color (30% Asian American and 29% Latino), the new district has fewer minority voters and is nearly 61% white, according to the nonpartisan California Target Book, which handicaps races.

In previous races, Kim faced an uphill battle against a 5-point Democratic registration advantage. Biden easily beat Trump in that district by 10 percentage points in 2020. To win, she had to appeal to crossover voters — and she did so by emphasizing her moderate politics and making little mention of Trump. Her congressional website touts that she was recently rated the most bipartisan freshman member of Congress and among the top 10 most bipartisan Republican members.

In her unsuccessful run for Congress in 2018, she struck a moderate tone on immigration, emphasizing her support for a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” who were brought to the country illegally as children and opposing Trump’s policy of family separation at the border.

Now, running in redder territory — Republicans hold a 5-point registration advantage in the new district — her ads tell voters to “Vote Conservative. Vote Kim.” The immigration-focused text message sent by her campaign touts her support for securing the border, including “Keeping Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy.”

“We’re highlighting her positions that the voters in this district care about that are timely and at the forefront of their minds,” said Oh, the campaign strategist. “It’s as simple as that.’

But Kim’s attempts to outflank Raths on the right may ring false with some voters.

“That’s crazy,” said Nancy Sandoval, 78, a Raths supporter and Mission Viejo resident who runs a website that offers voting advice for conservatives. “I know his heart. He certainly isn’t a liberal.”

Unable to afford television advertising, Raths has put his faith in what he called “an amazing stealth ground game.” He said his campaign has visited 70,000 houses in the district since February. Walking 12 miles a day, Raths said, he’s lost 27 pounds. He would also campaign while working as an Uber driver, pitching his candidacy to passengers.

Some Republicans worry he would be a flawed general election candidate. In 2020, he joined a lawsuit alleging the California election was rife with fraud, echoing Trump’s false election claims; the suit was thrown out by a federal judge. Fox News reported in April that his campaign website copied several passages nearly word for word from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s site. And this month, he said at a candidate forum that the Jewish community “control[s] a lot of politicians.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Compton City Council Election Overturned in Wake of Vote Rigging Scandal

Results of a Compton City Council race decided by one vote have been overturned following an election rigging scandal that prompted criminal charges against the winner last year.

Two-term Councilman Isaac Galvan must be replaced by his challenger, Andre Spicer, after a judge determined that four of the votes cast in the election were submitted by people who did not live in the council district that the two men were vying to represent, according to a 10-page ruling issued Friday by Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court.

After a contentious primary, Galvan and Spicer advanced to a runoff in June 2021, which Galvan won, 855 to 854. With the four illegal ballots disqualified, Court ruled that Spicer was the rightful winner of the election by a tally of 854 to 851.

Calls to Galvan and Spicer were not immediately returned Monday. Spicer, a Compton native and entrepreneur, told NBC he was “elated” by the ruling.

It was not immediately clear when Spicer would take office. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Registrar referred questions to the city. Compton Mayor Emma Sharif did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

The municipal contest drew attention in August, when the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Galvan with election rigging and bribery.

Prosecutors alleged that Galvan conspired with primary opponent Jace Dawson to direct voters from outside the council district to cast ballots for Galvan in the June runoff against Spicer. Galvan was also accused of trying to bribe an elections official with concert tickets, according to the criminal complaint. The official immediately reported the attempt, according to Dean Logan, the county’s top elections official.

Dawson, Kimberly Chaouch, Toni Sanae Morris, Barry Kirk Reed and Reginald Orlando Streeter were charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit election fraud last summer. When she ruled on Spicer’s election challenge Friday, Court found that Chaouch, Morris, Streeter and a man named Jordan Farr Jefferson all voted in the runoff between Spicer and Galvan despite not living in the Compton City Council’s second district.

Chaouch, Morris, Streeter and Jefferson all listed Dawson’s address in Compton as their home when registering to vote in the race, according to the 10-page ruling.

Six days after the race, Chaouch admitted on a recorded line that she actually lived in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles and that Dawson had her register to vote from his address, court records show.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Needs Budget Reform to Make Most of Surpluses

The wisest thing to do with an exceptional increase in the state’s tax revenues is to save it for the time when there is an exceptional decrease in those revenues. There is even Biblical precedent for this common sense approach: Joseph got to be Pharaoh’s chief minister by storing up seven years’ grain surpluses to cover the seven years’ famine that followed.

The complex system of California’s state finance, however, impedes applying this wisdom. In 1979, California voters adopted the Gann Limit — named for Paul Gann, the co-author of the previous year’s limits on property tax Proposition 13. The purpose was well intentioned, to rein in the natural tendency of all governments to grow. Expenditures in California were set at their 1978 levels, adjusted only for population growth and the growth of personal income. When state tax revenue grew faster, the difference had to go back to the people. In 1990, another initiative refined the Gann Limit, requiring the excess to go 50% to California’s public schools and 50% to taxpayers. Alternatively, the surplus could be spent on capital projects, defined as having a useful life of more than 10 years.

What was not permitted was to send the extra money into a state rainy-day fund. That would count as an expenditure, and limiting expenditures was the whole purpose of the Gann Limit. However, some expenditures are profligate, and some are wise. California voters expressed support for fiscal prudence in a different initiative approved by in 2014, requiring 1.5% of the state’s general fund, and a varying percentage of the state’s volatile capital gains revenue, to go every year into a reserve for fiscal crises.

Regrettably, that initiative did not adjust the Gann Limit. So, Californians’ desire to curb profligate spending now impedes our instinct for prudent saving anticipating hard times. Hard times are coming. The remarkable growth of the stock market values, coupled with renewed formation of new companies with the attendant reward of initial investors, has inflated California’s capital gains revenues over the last year.

The easing of the pandemic has also contributed to that effect, but that surge has now run its course. Further, the stock market is signaling a serious downturn. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index reached its historic peak at 4,463 in March. That was almost a doubling of its value from 2020. Since March, however, that index has dropped almost 9% in less than two months. No economist is predicting a rise; discussion, rather, has focused on whether the Federal Reserve can bring down inflation without inducing a recession.

A “soft landing” is what is being pursued — but that means a “landing” nonetheless and with it an evaporation of much capital gains tax revenue for California.

In California’s most recent state budget, more than 12% of the entire general fund account came from capital gains taxes (24.5 out of 193.8 billion dollars). California could lose almost all of that in a market downturn. In the collapse of the housing bubble in 2009, California took in only $3 billion in capital gains taxes. A return to that level would necessitate a massive cut in California’s state expenditure, including for Medi-Cal and low-income housing assistance, whose needs would grow as unemployment rose in a downturn.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Column: In Orange County, an Assembly Seat Fight for the Future of Latino Politics

Bulmaro “Boomer” Vicente strode to the podium at Anaheim City Hall last Tuesday to address the City Council and locked eyes with Councilmember Avelino Valencia. The two are running against each other for the open 68th Assembly District seat in the June 7 primary and are expected to advance to the general election in November.

Their signs are all over Anaheim and Santa Ana, where Valencia and Vicente are respectively from and where I’ve spent my entire life. But they had never run into each other on the campaign trail — until now.

The previous week, news broke that the FBI was looking into corruption in the city over the proposed sale of Angel Stadium and by a “cabal” that supposedly rules my hometown. The news made national headlines, and Mayor Harry Sidhu had resigned after Valencia and other councilmembers called for him to step down.

For Vicente, his opponent’s words weren’t good enough.

Reading from a prepared speech, he accused Valencia of being “funded by the same systems” that fouled Anaheim politics. “How can we trust that there’s no political favor with these hundreds of thousands of dollars?” Vicente asked, before asking Valencia to suspend his assembly campaign “for the love of Anaheim” and help “clean up the mess he stayed silent about until now.”

Valencia looked calmly ahead as residents in the packed council chambers applauded.

It was the latest volley in their fight for votes. For my vote — and my political soul too.

The sons of Mexican immigrants represent two sides of the same Latino political coin that the Democratic Party desperately needs to pocket to remain relevant.

Valencia is a 33-year-old millennial — a first-term Anaheim councilmember with roots in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacán who has worked for the past six years as a staffer for retiring Assemblymember Tom Daly, a moderate Democrat.

Vicente is a 26-year-old zillennial — a first-time political candidate whose parents are from Oaxaca and who’s taking a leave of absence from his job as policy director at Chispa, a nonprofit on the vanguard of progressive policies in Santa Ana.

Valencia has raised nearly $326,000 through last week from an assortment of labor unions, Big Business and politicians on both sides of the proverbial aisle, including Speaker of the House Anthony Rendón and former Anaheim Councilmember Kris Murray.

Vicente has raised about $51,000, mostly from small donations. Two Republican candidates haven’t even raised enough money to report to the California secretary of state.

The face-off is drawing regionwide attention, both for what it says about an Orange County too many people still figure as a conservative wasteland, and for what it represents for Latino Democratic politics in Southern California and beyond.

Across the country, young progressive Latinos are mounting vocal challenges against established pols. In South Texas, longtime Rep. Henry Cuellar — the only Democrat in Congress to openly oppose abortion — is in a deadlock with 29-year-old Jessica Cisneros. In Los Angeles, Eunisses Hernandez has cast incumbent Gil Cedillo as little better than a vendido in her race against the L.A. councilmember. Michael Ortega is doing the same against Rep. Lou Correa, whose congressional district covers the cities that Valencia and Vicente would represent.

They offer something different: a fight for the future, by the future.

“I’m thrilled that O.C. has more Latinos on the ballot,” said Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, which declined to endorse either candidate. “I’m excited that we will have a Latino representative, regardless of who wins.”

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