One-Party Rule Corrupts California’s Election Process

California Democrats control the governor’s mansion, every statewide elected office, both U.S. Senate seats, 42 of 53 congressional districts and hold a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature. You’d think such electoral dominance would remove any need to further stack the process in their favor – but you thought wrong.

Perhaps the political class is paranoid because most California voters are not as far to the left as they are. Politicians know this and it’s borne out in most election cycles. In November, attempts to gut Proposition 13, reimpose affirmative action, allow 17-year-olds to vote, allow rent control and abolish cash bail went down in flames.

Now what we’re seeing is a pattern of trying to keep democracy out of the hands of the voters.

The most stunning example is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s apparently unconstitutional appointment of a U.S. Senator, when the U.S. Constitution’s Seventeenth Amendment states that vacancies “shall” be filled by an election unless the legislature empowers the governor “to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Granite Bay, immediately questioned the constitutionality of Newsom’s appointment of then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the vacancy created when Sen. Kamala Harris resigned to become vice president. Evidence that he was right comes with the introduction of Assembly Bill 1495, which finally creates the required special election, but not until November 2022.

“We’ll be electing someone to serve for a month,” Kiley observed. “Here’s the truly crazy part: Padilla will at the same time be running for reelection. So, on your November 2022 ballot you’ll see what looks like a printing error: a race for the same Senate seat will appear twice.”

To read the entire column, please click here.

Gov. Newsom Announces $116.5 Million ‘Vax-A-Million’ program Incentive Program

Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a $116.5 million COVID-19 “Vax-a-Million” vaccination incentive plan on Thursday, aiming to boost the number of vaccinated Californians and potentially reward those who have already been vaccinated.

According to the plan, $100 million will go towards $50 gift cards for Kroger’s, Albertson’s, or as a generic Bank of America card. 2 million of the cards will be issued to the next 2 million Californians ages 12 and up who vaccinate based on a first come, first serve basis following the final dose of the selected type of vaccine.

For vaccinated Californians, they will be automatically entered into a series of lottery drawings through the middle of June. On June 4th and June 11th, drawings will be held to give 15 people $50,000 each for a total of 30 people. The remaining $15 million will then go to a large drawing on June 15th for large $1.5 million prizes for 10 already vaccinated Californians.

All winners will remain confidential according to the Governor.

Governor Newsom spearheaded the incentive program to raise the number of vaccinations in California, as daily vaccination figures have been falling in recent weeks.

“This last week, those first doses are way down,” said the Governor at a press conference on Thursday. “My goal is north of 70% of all eligible Californians by June 15th. We estimate that 12 million eligible Californians have not yet received a single dose of the vaccine.”

According to the California Department of Public Health, as of Thursday over 17 million people in California are now fully vaccinated, with another 4.3 million partially vaccinated. In total, this amounts to over half of California’s population. As Newsom’s goal of 70% is only a matter of weeks away, state officials hope that the incentive program will greatly increase the number of vaccinations in the next three weeks.

“Some Californians weren’t ready to get their COVID-19 vaccine on Day One, and that’s OK,” said California Department of Public Health Director Tomas Aragon on Thursday. “This program is designed to encourage those who need extra support to get vaccinated and help keep California safe.”

“This will reinforce the value of vaccination for all Californians, especially those in communities hit hardest by the pandemic,” added Newsom. …

Click here to read the full article from the California Globe.

California Has Millions of Acre-feet of Water Waiting to Be Built

As part of its May Revise rollout, the Newsom administration announced $5.1 billion for water infrastructure and drought response. While the announcement invests on funding better data collection, continuing the implementation of Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, and maintaining current water infrastructure, nothing in Newsom’s proposed funding will solve the real problem facing California: lack of sufficient water supply.

Steven Greenhut, author of the PRI book Winning the Water Wars, talked about Newsom’s proposed water spending on Valley Public Radio recently, saying “a lot of it is about information and conservation, and I’m not against any of these things…but my argument in my writing is we need to promote long-term policies of water abundance that put more water into the state’s giant plumbing system.”

Greenhut is right that many of Newsom’s proposals are necessary for safe drinking water, flood protection, and reliable water conveyance. Newsom also extended the drought emergency proclamation to 41 counties on May 10, which gives state regulators greater flexibility for reservoir releases, conservation, and voluntary water transfers.

But several of the proposals are questionable, such as hundreds of millions of dollars for studying solar panels over aqueducts.

History shows us that the state moves quickly when it necessary. The reconstruction of the Oroville spillways, a massive undertaking at the state’s largest reservoir in northern California, was completed in roughly two years.

If the state wanted to prepare for future droughts, Newsom should pursue with the same urgency the all but forgotten water storage expansion projects approved by the California Water Commission in recent years.

In 2018, the California Water Commission awarded Proposition 1 (2014) water bond funding to eight water storage projects. Prop. 1 gave the California Water Commission $2.7 billion for investments in new or existing reservoirs. Specifically, the money had to fund “public benefits” related to any water storage project that applied for funding.

The commission awarded various levels of funding to eight water storage projects that will collectively increase the total storage capacity by 4.3 million acre-feet.

Unfortunately, Californians will have to wait three more years until the first project is complete. The last of the eight projects may not be done until after 2030, depending on permitting. With the majority of California reservoirs sitting at or below half capacity, imagine what an extra million or two million acre-feet would have done to help California’s environment, agriculture, and cities.

The work on the eight water projects, if they are indeed all built, may be doing some of the most important work nobody seems to be talking about to ensure California has enough water for future generations and future droughts.

Yet case studies and lessons cannot replace the fact that California needs more water. The California Department of Water Resources said they expect to deliver five percent of requested water supplies in 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said they won’t be delivering any of their contracted water for 2021.

With millions of acre-feet underfunded and waiting to be built, Newsom and his administration should put the construction of these water projects front in center in his water plan. Anything less threatens the stability of Californians and its delicate water infrastructure.

Evan Harris is the media relations and outreach manager for PRI.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

California Voters To Decide In 2022 On Sports Betting

Californians would be able to legally bet on Lakers, Dodgers and Rams games at tribal casinos and horse-racing tracks under an initiative that qualified Thursday for the November 2022 ballot, touching off what is expected to be an expensive battle with excluded card clubs over who should benefit from the potential billion-dollar market.

The constitutional amendment to allow sports betting was written by Native American tribes that showed their political might in 2008 when they spent $115 million to win approval of four ballot measures that preserved an expansion of gambling they had been granted a year earlier.

“This is an important step toward giving Californians the opportunity to participate in sports wagering while also establishing safeguards and protections against underage gambling,” said Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, one of the 18 tribes that are part of the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering behind the ballot measure.

On the other side, card clubs left out from a share of the sports wagering are expected to spend a significant amount of money to oppose the new ballot measure, which they have referred to as an attempt to monopolize the gaming industry. The campaign committee called No on the Gambling Power Grab reported raising more than $1 million in cash contributions last year. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Who Will Support California’s Populists?

A recent article published in the Kennedy School Review by American Affairs editor Julius Krein makes a strong case that conservatives have no future as a political force in America. The one flaw in this article, entitled “Can Conservatism Be More than a Grudge,” is it may be a little too pessimistic. It’s well argued and is a must-read for anyone serious about reviving conservative political power in places like California.

The only hope Krein offers is the power of populism, harnessing a multi-racial coalition of working-class and middle class Americans. But conservative populism, ascendant today in California, is about to be squandered by an establishment that lacks the leadership and authenticity to tap this extraordinary energy.

One of Krein’s understated but most powerful points regards patronage. He writes: “The Democratic coalition is no less incongruous than the Republican one. There are, however, two important differences between them. First, the Democratic economic base is composed largely of ascendant and prestigious economic sectors and firms, from Silicon Valley to Goldman Sachs, while Republicans are predominantly supported by declining sectors, like natural resource extraction. Second, the Democratic patronage system is coherent, even if the Democratic coalition is not. In other words, the Democratic Party is capable of using policy to directly benefit its various constituencies and to create new ones. Together, both of these factors ensure that Democrats’ patchwork constituencies have reasons to overlook their coalition’s internal contradictions. That is simply not the case on the Republican side.”

This single paragraph cuts to the heart of the Republican disadvantage, especially in California. “Using policy to directly benefit its various constituencies.” For examples, think no further than the ongoing “Blue city bailouts,” “green” mandates and infrastructure boondoggles.

These rivers of money enable Democrats to “overlook their coalition’s internal contradictions.” The Republicans have no such luxury. There’s no Silicon Valley coterie of billionaires with plans for everyone, and money to back it up. There’s no public employee union machine that, just in California, collects and spends nearly a billion dollars per year. California’s Republican big money, to the extent they ever have big money, comes from intermittent pop-up donors, willing to blow a few million on a pet project then disappear for another twenty years. Republican contenders often are dilettantes running vanity campaigns, or they’re vapid, underfunded establishment candidates, peddling Democrat-lite policies, thinking that makes them relevant. In a sea of pretenders, authentic candidates get stereotyped and dismissed.

Meanwhile, over the past year and by complete surprise, a grassroots populist movement has arisen in California. Out of nowhere, an army has formed, united in opposition to the symbol of Democratic one-party tyranny, Governor Gavin Newsom. In a few months, Newsom will fight for his political life in a special recall election. Disaffected Californians, by the millions, will vote against Newsom keeping his job, many of them indifferent to who replaces him. Newsom may or may not survive. But what’s next for California’s populist conservative movement?

One of the ways that Republican candidates to replace Newsom can distinguish themselves would be to embrace solutions to the problems that have put Newsom in trouble to begin with. These issues aren’t a mystery: Housing, homeless, education, law and order, water, electricity, transportation, forestry, to name the obvious.

Solutions to these issues are also not mysterious. Deregulate housing permits. End the disastrous “housing first” policies and instead give the homeless safe housing in inexpensive barracks where sobriety is a condition of entry. Repeal Prop. 47 which downgraded property and drug crimes. Build reservoirs, desalination, and wastewater recycling plants. Build nuclear power plants and develop California’s abundant natural gas reserves. Recognize that the common road is the future of transportation, not the past, and widen California’s freeways and highways. Let the timber companies harvest more lumber in exchange for maintaining the fire roads and power line corridors. Done.

Instead, the Republican’s titular frontrunner, Kevin Faulconer, has made a plan to cut taxes the centerpiece of his campaign. For this, big Republican donors are willing to spend millions of dollars. Imagine if Faulconer’s campaign centerpiece was spending public money efficiently on things that would make a difference: energy, water, transportation, while cutting spending in areas of failure by, for example, introducing private sector competition to the public school system, and releasing the timber industry to thin the overgrown forests? Imagine Faulconer betting his campaign on a promise to create millions of new jobs and lower the cost-of-living by making it easier to build homes and develop natural resources?

Don’t blame Faulconer. Blame the system that thinks the only “safe” campaign for a GOP candidate is to say they’ll lower taxes. Blame the conventional wisdom that polling and focus groups should govern political campaigns instead of leadership and vision. You can’t focus group your way to leadership. It has to come from the heart and the mind. Politicians have to be willing to challenge voters, defy the polls, and explain why what they believe is the right thing to do. They have to do the work of the policy wonk, and then translate the result into impassioned rhetoric while preserving the substance. They have to be willing to lose if their explanations are unconvincing, shouted down, outspent, or arrive before their time.

The saddest thing in this epic failure of leadership on the part of California’s Republican donors and the politicians they support is that as they concoct formula driven pablum in a futile attempt to out Democrat the Democrats, California’s populist conservative movement, coherent and active as never before, is not being offered anything that might motivate them to stay united and fight. This is a tragedy. Where is a new and daring contract with California? Where is a 21st century Fix California agenda? Where is the platform that dares to step on the toes of every special interest that owns the state – the public sector unions, the environmentalist lobby, the litigators, the tech billionaires, the Hollywood progressives, and every corrupted corporation and trade association that plays ball just to survive?

Without leadership, California’s populists will be offered solutions that are extreme. While the GOP’s handful of elected officials offer legislation that never makes it out of committee, that is, while these politicians go through the motions, and know they are just going through the motions, what could make a difference, ballot initiatives to fix all of the above – housing, homeless, education, law and order, water, electricity, transportation, forestry – are not given serious consideration.

Another two year cycle comes, another two year cycle goes. But this time, we will remember that there was an army, begging for logistical support. It costs as little as $10,000 to do legal work and file a California state ballot initiative with the California Attorney General. The filing deadline for something to appear on the November 2022 ballot is this August, because the entire process including signature gathering takes 15 months. Ten thousand dollars. Kevin Faulconer will spend more than that for just one 30 second spot in a major television market. Much more. So will his rivals.

Where are these initiatives? Why aren’t California’s trade associations putting some forward? Why aren’t donors funding initiative drafts to be filed for title and summary? Why don’t they get the process started, to provide populists – as well as potential big donors – with material to evaluate and possibly support? It’s cheap. Even the rivulet of ongoing GOP patronage can easily afford to do this. Just the dialog and excitement generated by a slate of initiatives that are filed and posted on the Secretary of State’s website, initiatives that might actually do some transformative good, would be worth the preparation expense.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Thanks to what is arguably negligence on the part of people who could do so much, demagogues and grifters will offer causes with extreme emotional resonance to California’s populist army. Causes guaranteed to animate about 5 percent of the population, while the other 95 percent either laugh at their Quixotic absurdity or cry at their wasted energy. Into this vacuum, California’s populist army will splinter and their energy will dissipate. Volunteers, fragmented and forsaken, will see their signature gathering energy wasted in the streets, with nothing to show for it but a suntan. And California’s Republican opposition will prove, yet again, that they are utterly irrelevant.

This article originally appeared on the website of the California Globe.

Multimillionaire Recall Candidate Cox’s Unpaid Bills

Multimillionaire recall candidate John Cox’s prior gubernatorial campaign has been ordered by a judge to pay about $100,000 to a political consulting firm that produced television ads for his unsuccessful 2018 race — one of a string of unpaid bills detailed in a lawsuit and campaign filings.

Cox’s campaign has refused to pay, leading to a “debtor’s examination” hearing next month in San Diego over the financial status of that campaign committee, according to court records.

“California needs to know the real story about John Cox. To be honest with you, he’s not who he says he is,” said Jim Innocenzi, the founding partner of Sandler-Innocenzi, the Virginia-based GOP firm that an arbitrator and a judge have ruled is owed nearly $55,000 for ads it produced and about $43,000 in attorney’s costs, interest and other fees as of September 2019. These awards have grown by 6% interest since then, plus additional attorney’s fees as Innocenzi has tried to collect the money.

A spokesman for Cox’s current gubernatorial campaign said the invoices were submitted late and that Cox contests the amount owed. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California DAs Hope to Slow the Flow of Early Inmate Releases

The planned early release of 76,000 inmates from California prisons is a big meal not well digested by prosecutors across the state.

“Allowing the early release of the most dangerous criminals, shortening sentences as much as 50%, impacts crime victims and creates a serious public safety risk,” says Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.

She and 40 other prosecutors were so incensed by the new rules (which took effect May 1) that will allow the early releases they filed a petition with the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. They’re requesting, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, a repeal of the temporary emergency regulations “that could potentially lead to their early release.”

According to the Associated Press, inmates eligible to use good-behavior credits to shorten their prison time include both violent and repeat offenders. Their terms will be cut by one-third of their original sentences. In the previous four years, good-behavior credits could not be used to reduce prison terms by more than one-fifth.

As many as 63,000 of those who will be considered for early release are serving time for violent crimes; 2,000 are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole.

All eligible inmates won’t be released at the same time, of course. Not even California would do that. And some might deserve the break they’re going to get.

But it’s not hard to imagine, with California’s recidivism rate of 66% for “felony offenders rearrested for any offense within two years,” that for many, early release will be nothing more than an opportunity to pick up where they left off. Let’s take a look at recent headlines and see what kind of environment the inmates will be released into:

And of course there’s the campaign to starve law enforcement of resources:

Not all prosecutors are on board with the 41 who petitioned the corrections department. The names of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón could not be found on the list. But then they are the “progressive” prosecutors facing recall efforts.

Boudin entered office promising to ignore crimes he didn’t believe were serious enough to prosecute – and kept that promise – and pledged to end mass incarceration. Gascón announced right away upon taking office he would no longer seek cash bail for certain offenses, nor charge juveniles as adults, and would never pursue the death penalty. He also said his prosecutors wouldn’t ask for extended sentences in gang-related cases, against those who used firearms in the commission of crimes, or for those facing longer prison terms under the state’s Three Strikes Law.

So no one would expect them to oppose a wholesale inmate release. It’s part of their playbook.

Kerry Jackson is the author of Living in Fear in California and is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Ten dead, Including Gunman, In San Jose Rail Yard Mass Shooting

In California’s largest mass shooting this year, a gunman opened fire at a San Jose light rail yard Wednesday morning, killing nine people and dying of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

The gunman set his house on fire before he drove to a Valley Transportation Authority union meeting and began shooting, law enforcement sources said. Officials said the victims were shot in two different buildings.

The shooter was identified by sources as Samuel Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker at the VTA.

At a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom said there is a “sameness and a numbness to these incidents,” after meeting with family members of the victims, and asked when the shootings will stop. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California’s Unemployment Paradox: Openings and Joblessness

Despite California’s high unemployment rate, many positions at restaurants, bars and retail stores are going unfilled — causing some business owners to fear they won’t be able to fully reopen even when the state gives the green light on June 15.

The Golden State’s unemployment rate remained unchanged between March and April, holding steady at 8.3% even as employers added nearly 102,000 jobs, according to figures released Friday by the Employment Development Department. That accounts for 38% of all U.S. jobs gained last month — a bright spot that dims when one takes into account that California still has the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate and has regained only 48% of jobs lost amid the pandemic. In some areas, the share of jobless residents is actually increasing: Los Angeles’ unemployment rate shot from 11.4% in March to 11.7% in April.

Nevertheless, Gov. Gavin Newsom touted the April unemployment figures as California “continuing to lead the nation’s economic recovery,” noting that his $100 billion stimulus plan would help small businesses recover. Not all business owners were convinced.

Experts say the staffing shortage is likely due to a multitude of factors: People — especially women — dropping out of the labor force as schools and child care centers closed, fear of contracting the virus in the workplace, some families finding that it makes more financial sense to stay on unemployment than to return to work, low-wage workers gravitating to other parts of the state and other careers, and low wages in general.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

New Head Of Largest California Worker Union Won’t Back Newsom

The new president-elect of California’s largest state employee union said Tuesday that the influential organization won’t back Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s effort to fend off a likely recall election this fall.

Richard Louis Brown said anger over union contract concessions last year during what proved to be an illusionary $54 billion state budget deficit helped fuel his victory over longtime Service Employees International Union Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker.

Brown said that anger extends to Newsom.

“He is going to need support from public sector unions to help him fight his recall,” Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press. “When I become president of Local 1000, he can look for somebody else to support him. He will not get any help from us. He’s on his own.” …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.