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Happy Friday! You made it! It's a nice chilly morning at the HQ, I have my holiday lights around on around my desk, and over the last couple of nights, I finally broke the bout of insomnia I had since the election. Yes, it involves reading and herbal tea before bed and not sleeping with devices. Who woulda thunk? ;-)
On the issue of the entering and exiting approval ratings of prior governors, let's just say that it's complicated. PPIC uses binary approve/disapprove, with "don't know" as a third option. This is also generally used with most polls on the national level. However, old Field Polls generally used Excellent-Good-Fair-Poor-Very Poor. In short, we won't get an easy comparison between Brown and those before Wilson.
That said, I am having a ball going through these old Field Polls. It's like time in the gov docs section of the UC Davis library when I transferred there. If Alex Vassar is our resident legislative historian, I was his wannabe apprentice. I ate that crap up. I also consumed plenty in "the stacks" of the UC Davis Law Library. Yeah, I spent plenty of time in libraries in undergrad and law school, mostly doing NYT crosswords and reading material that had little to do with my current coursework.
For example, the July 1960 Field Poll asked whether alcohol sales should be banned on Election Day. 79.8% said yes, it should be banned. Of course it wasn't. That explains a lot...no offense to my California friends. I'm talking about Paul Tsongas '92. He was robbed by drunkenness!
Mexíco does have such a ban, except in certain zonas turísticas.
ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES: I wrote about this before and the reality is setting in.
On Wednesday from the Nooner branch office at Chicory, I saw several new staffers carrying their boxes across L Street to move into their new offices. Of course, in many case, that means someone has exited the building with such a box. Yes, it appears around 60-80 Republican legislative staff to members between Capitol and district offices also lost on Election Day (or, to make it even more painful, Election Month). And, it's not like other new GOP members are around to accept résumés.
But the bloodshed doesn't end there. In the Bee, Bryan Anderson reports that the Republican Caucus has eliminated 19 positions as well. The caucus's budget is tied to a percentage of seats held, which also determines the share of committee seats. Many of these positions are more senior career folks that aren't tied to a particular member and not necessarily to make the jump "across the street."
"Assembly GOP leadership determined who got laid off, [Assembly Republican caucus spokesman Jim] Stanley said. Among the losses were a few responsible for minority outreach and social media management."
“The cuts were spread across the caucus,” he added. “There were some in our policy shop, some in member services, some in communications. It was a decision made by leadership. It was a very hard decision.”
Republican consultant Mike Madrid called the cuts “demoralizing” and said the state’s Republican Party is “not really relevant.” He said he spoke with about 15 people working in the Capitol who have recently faced struggles, either personally or professionally.
“The morale piece is the most personally heartbreaking piece,” Madrid said. “A lot of people want to give back through public service, and these options have become increasingly eliminated.”
Stanley said the cuts do not reflect job performance.
“Nobody on either side of the aisle wanted to do this,” Stanley said. “This is not the Democrats spiking the football. This is just an unfortunate reality. It’s not a reflection on the people that we lost.”
Joining this large number of out-of-work GOP legislative staffers are the staff laid off by the California Democratic Party earlier this week. The good news is that the job market is very good. There are some new positions below in the classifieds, and I know the Morning Report has some as well. Trust me, we all have setbacks and life does not go as planned. Nooner thoughts are with each and every one of you.
ANOTHER DEPARTURE: Supreme Court of California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has left the Republican Party, re-registering as No Party Preference, reports Dan Morain for CALmatters.
"In a phone interview with CALmatters, Cantil-Sakauye—who was a prosecutor before becoming a judge 28 years ago and California Supreme Court chief justice in 2011—said she made the final decision to change her registration after watching the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“You can draw your own conclusions,” she said."
POLL POSITION: I'll be at a lunch briefing today on PPIC's statewide poll, and not just for a free salad and cookie. I have lots of take-aways from the poll, but I always like to hear the expert take. Meanwhile, let's look at some more numbers.
As with yesterday, you should be able to click on the images to see them larger. Here are all the charts I have done on the poll thus far.
This series of issues follow the introduction "Next, there are several policy choices that the governor and legislature could make in the next few years. Each of them would require a significant amount of new state funding."
High-speed rail: Even though the state is in a much better financial position than it was when voters approved $9.95 billion in general obligation bond funds to commence construction on a high-speed rail system, the mood has soured on the project particularly among likely voters. Of course, it's important to remember the measure championed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger won with only 52.7% of the vote--it was never overwhelmingly popular.
The numbers among likely voters are ugly across all regions. Oddly, it is least popular in the Central Valley, even though it was largely championed by civic and business leaders here/there as providing a better connection to the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Areas.
The Central Valley, which in PPIC's definition stretches from Shasta to Kern County, has some of the state's deepest poverty and highest unemployment rates. It has major needs, from education to health care to water that, when put in the context of priorities, ferry much more weight.
The Central Valley also just happens to be the only place you'll currently see actual construction on the project.
In fairness to the project and backers, this is in context of a question about what do prioritize with state budget funds. While the first $9.95 billion approved ($9 billion for the high-speed project) were general obligation bonds with 30-year debt service paid from the General Fund, the remaining funds were expected from a variety of other sources including federal funds and a portion of the state's "cap-and-trade" revenues. After operations begin, the law provides that it is not to have a public subsidy. For CALmatters, Dan Walters writes up the State Auditor's November report on the project's status, which does not look good.
Wildfire prevention and utility liability may be the most pressing issue in the next legislative session, but this is a big ugly mess on the desk of Governor-elect Newsom--or will he just treat it at arm's length? After all, it's an authority created by the people at the urging of a previous governor.
Tuition-free Community College
Tuition and fee increases have never been popular among voters, although now the concept of "tuition-free" community college is being put on the table and it is highly popular. Of course, it's not completely on the table for all students. The proposal is for the first two-years for students who complete the federal FAFSA or state DREAM Act financial aid application. The reality is if both of those criteria are met, something like 90% of those will qualify for free student enrollment fees under existing law. Thus, the price tag is likely under $50 million of a $6.2 billion state spending (including local property taxes) on community colleges.
So small cost out of what will already be going to community colleges under Proposition 98, so no pain to other parts of the budget. Budget dust. It's an easily political win that's very popular and will give the community colleges something to market on an incent students to attend full-time.
Universal health coverage
Both all adults and likely voters would like state policymakers address universal health care coverage. Of course, that's just a top-line question and not about specifics. Between private insurance, Covered California (exchange under the Affordable Care Act), and Medi-Cal, California does pretty well in availability of coverage.
The major policy issue on the table is whether to extend Medi-Cal to otherwise eligible individuals who can't be served because of their immigration status. Children are already covered under Healthy Families. Let's just say the below results would be different if that was specified in the question.
The poll was in the field the week following the election and the two biggest issues in the seven House seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat were the cap on the state and local tax deduction included in the tax bill and threats to health coverage, particularly that of pre-existing and contraceptive care. So, let's look at a couple of more charts on the heath care question.
By party . . .
By gender . . .
While this is a question about state priorities, most voters don't differentiate between state and federal on Election Day. Looking at these charts, anything but universal health care was an absolutely lethal issue for GOP members in swing districts (with a broad definition) on 11/6/18. Yes, they each voted to repeal "ObamaCare" and separately restore the pre-existing coverage mandate, but we know how that plays.
Finally, one more chart and then I need to hop in the shower to not offend anyone at the PPIC briefing. More on the poll tomorrow!
Universal preschool is a top priority of Governor-elect Newsom and many legislators. They also have the support of voters and, most importantly, money to do so. Lots of lawmakers have visions of programmatic sugar plums dancing in their heads, but expect this one to be delivered down the chimney in 2019.
PG&E needs some Benjamins and #CAKEDAY after jumping through the snow...
PG&E $$$: Pacific Gas & Electric asked the Public Utilities Commission for a $1.1 billion rate increase yesterday, reports Dale Kasler in the Bee. "The embattled utility, under investigation for its possible role in the Camp Fire last month, told the Public Utilities Commission that the rate hike would increase household electric bills an average of $8.73 a month. Natural gas customers would pay an additional $1.84 a month if the PUC approves the increase."
"In a statement posted on its website, PG&E said none of the dollars from the proposed rate hike would cover “potential claims resulting from the devastating 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires.” In September Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill, SB 901, that could allow PG&E to bill customers for some of its wildfire liabilities, depending on the company’s financial state. That protection, however, only applies to the 2017 fires.
The $1.1 billion in higher rates would begin in 2020, if approved by the PUC."
That means that PG&E will likely still come back to the PUC and ask for a rate hike to securitize borrowing for liability arising out of the 2017 fires. The company's lobbyists and allies, particularly in labor, are already back in the Capitol asking to extend SB 901 to include the 2018 fires. They weren't included in SB 901 because the book hadn't closed on the year yet. It will by the time the Legislature returns January 7. The stock of parent company PCG is down 45% since the Camp Fire broke out in November, a loss of about $12 billion in market cap.
Literally as I typed that previous graf, there was a law firm ad recruiting people who might have claims against PG&E on the teevee.
PG&E spent over $8.6 million lobbying the Legislature and PUC in the first six months of the year and its unions spent large amounts in this years elections, particularly on the Democratic side.
The folks I talk say they have no idea how this conversation will play out this year. While the stock market would like a quick solution, that is unlikely to happen. The issue smells like I-5 near Coalinga.
SB 901 was approved on the final day of session under immense political pressure. I'm not necessarily suggesting causation from the $1 million given to the California Democratic Party two weeks before the election from the largest union of electrical workers whose members, but it's on the chalkboard. (Kids, think dry erase boards with clouds of dust and professors with white powder, no not that kind, all over them. King Hall alums, I'm talking Tom Joo in Contracts.)
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Alex Hilke and Patrick McCallum!
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