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RECENT AURAL PLEASURE:
If there is a big issue that I haven't covered today, I know there are many out there and I'm not purposely ignoring anything. There is just a lot going on, so I will likely have a Nooner Nightcap this evening. It's 11:27 and I need to hit "save" before the hamsters start running the wheel for Nooner Premium. The first five hours of the day have gone way too fast!
SEEN ON THE TEEVEE: Senator Kamala Harris was on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night.
Happy Thursday! You're almost there! Besides Nooner Premium subscribers and advertisers, today's Nooner is brought to you by recovery from jury duty, good sleep, the '80s Hip-Hop "station" on Amazon Music, and a sunny balcony. For now, Young MC is telling me that I better Bust a Move on this Nooner.
Yesterday was certainly a crazy day in the Capitol. More than 1,000 teachers, school board members and other advocates had a raucous rally on the West Steps, marched around downtown, and entered the Capitol to call for "full funding" and a tightening of rules on the state's charter schools.
While the Senate Budget Committee was meeting to accept its subcommittee reports in preparation for the two-house conference committee, the target of the demonstration was less for inside the Capitol and more for the public. Proposition 98 for K-12 schools and community colleges are fully funded this year and all the gimmicky "deferrals" have been cleaned up. (To explain this accounting mechanism that education groups supported during the worst budget years, I would need a whiteboard.)
Rather, education is looking for an increase in funding that supplements Proposition 98. There is still a debate among some education leaders as to which tax will increase funding per pupil toward the national average, but there's a general acknowledgment that it will need to be done on the ballot. The differential treatment of commercial and industrial property from residential property in assessment for Proposition 13 property tax purposes ("split roll") has already qualified for the November 3, 2020 general election.
While Governor Newsom has supported the concept of taxing commercial and industrial property at market value as opposed to Prop. 13 constrained valuation, he stated at his budget unveiling that he would like to see the parties work something out to avoid a ballot showdown. Political experts are split as to how a "tax business for education and local government" will affect turnout in the presidential on one side or another. If anyone tells you they know definitively, they are full of crap.
This week, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators released poll results on voters' attitude toward K-12 funding needs and options to increase funding. I would have ordinarily covered this at the beginning of the week as it was contextual for yesterday's rally. Of course, I was doing my civic responsibility of jury duty and longtime Nooner readers know that I wait until I have time to look at a poll before I write about it.
In summary, while there appears to be some perception by voters that the K-12 school funding situation is not as dire as it was a few years ago, they believe still great need. Voters were then presented with a proposed $11 billion measure that is different from the split roll measure currently scheduled for the ballot and supported by social justice organizations, the California Federation Teachers, and the Chan/Zuckerberg Foundation (yes, that Zuckerberg).
The poll tested a measure that:
The poll tested a plain language description that, without reproducing here, I would deem a reasonable explanation of what the Attorney General's office might assign to such measure. For longtime readers, you know I call bull when I see it, which I often do. Positive and negative arguments were tested after an initial vote response. Here are the results:
Reading their conclusions and not at all involved in the education space these days, I am in general agreement in their conclusions. There is a majority of voters that believe that school funding is below what it should be. As usual in California, they are more willing to entertain taxes on others, in this case corporations and the "wealthy." Further, backers of the concept that conducted the poll also conclude that an aggressive campaign before opponents would need to take place to dominate the message. Further, they acknowledge that voter confusion with the split roll measure could cause voter confusion dooming both efforts.
What this measure does is take away arguments against the split roll that could divide labor by instead of focusing on real property and improvements, it focuses on profits of corporations. The split roll divides businesses in two ways. The first is that it hits small businesses whether their buildings are owned or rented. Property tax increases are obviously passed to rented space, whether it be in a commercial building or to the dry cleaners. Additionally, "old economy" businesses have more fixed assets in California than "new economy" businesses do.
Chief among the "old economy" are manufacturers and oil and gas extractors and processors. Those refineries are huge fixed assets from both a land value (particularly the coastal ones in the Bay Area and SoCal) and improvements perspective. Let's throw in the investor-owned utilities that obviously have a huge amount of industrial property, with substations throughout the state. Now, you and I may hate them at times, but that's not what's important in this space. My job is to look at the politics of proposed policies.
If you have not been completely off line or watched television, the oil and gas industry has a major advertising campaign going on featuring workers. While some observers immediately jump to the conclusion that it's a campaign against a oil and gas extraction tax, there is no serious effort in the Legislature or on the streets as an initiative right now. Senator Bob Wieckowski's bill to do so was never even referred to a committee in the State Senate. However, I think the ad campaign continues because they are building up positive public opinion and get voters to think about jobs in the industry before they take up arms against the split roll. You don't waste money talking about a specific measure 530 days before an election, long before there is a proposition number.
I've talked a lot in this space over the last year about the close relationship between IBEW and other unions with the investor-owned utilities. When the Legislature holds hearings, they are key faces--not shareholders or executives. The same will be true in the split roll fight. I would predict that, if it's on the ballot, the unions that represent the employees in oil and gas would be front-and-center against the measure. More taxes on the facilities they work at, they will argue will threaten jobs or job performance, thus hurting public safety.
Don't get me wrong, I would vote for the split roll measure, but I'm just talking about the politics.
So, labor could be divided over split roll, which could also be a divide between the "old economy" and the "new economy." Blue collar unions often are much more associated with the former, while the latter can be pointed to for the broader range of newer, higher income jobs.
Of course, the measure tested by CSBA/ACSA does not include the local government spending that the split roll does, so it will have detractors itself, including labor such as police, fire, and service employees. It also creates more reliance on high income individuals, which is already an identified problem with California's tax system. However, it would not affect the usual discussion of the boom and bust nature of the state General Fund, but rather be left to local school and community college districts to plan accordingly to weather the bad years.
Perhaps this is the alternative to the split roll tax that Governor Newsom is looking for. I don't expect him to weigh in any time soon.
GUNS & PROHIBITED PERSONS: As if you couldn't tell already, I learned a lot in jury duty. Yesterday, the State Senate passed on a 24-11 vote SB 120 (Stern) to add conviction of certain violent misdemeanors to the crimes with which a person are required to be added to the prohibited persons list for purchase or possession of firearms.
The debate reminded me of a point in the jury trial I just sat on. Yesterday I mentioned that the victim in the case did not exactly come from the Upright Citizens Brigade and was arguably a "worse" guy than the defendant. That doesn't matter in the legal conclusions upon determination of the facts that we were charged with finding, but it meant that we did hear about his felony convictions and saw him testify in an orange jumpsuit.
Anyway, when asked whether he had a gun, which was a relevant fact in the defendant's case, he said yes. He was questioned that wasn't he prohibited from possessing a gun because of previous violent felonies and he said yes. He went on to say that he will "always" have a gun for protection including as soon as he gets out of his current orange jumpsuit.
The defendant/shooter in the current case was not a prohibited persons list and had the gun used was registered to him. Anyway, yesterday's bill has nothing to do with the facts of this case but it just reminded me that legislation itself does not stop the shooting, whether possession is legally permitted or not. As the victim said, "I'll have a gun regardless." In fact, the gun the victim had at the time of the incident (whether or not he brandished it as alleged by defense) was obtained from the defendant with a trade for 49ers autographed merch and $200. That's just how things work away from the Capitol grounds.
I would vote for SB 120 if I were in a legislative seat. I would also agree with those who say "criminals will be criminals." I saw one last Thursday give sworn testimony in front of three Sac County sheriff deputies in the courtroom that he fully intends to break the law again upon release and that won't be long.
POP! GOES THE SODA BILLS, ANTI-VAXX, HOUSING and CAKEDAY after the jump...
POP GOES THE SODA BILLS! For CALmatters, Laurel Rosenhall looks at why legislation to reign in the sales of sugar-sweetened beverages keeps on getting tripped up.
I would put this in the context of oil and gas severance tax, the investor-owned utility issues, and horse racing. Too often, observers of the legislative process are too narrow in their thinking. They think that it's a legislator against a "big, bad" industry player with, well, horse blinders on and miss the collateral effects.
If we're talking sugar-sweetened beverage bills, the three biggest players (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Keurig Dr. Pepper) sell syrup and promote the end product. From the point of making syrup to buying it, it passes through bottlers and distribution, and on to the store where you purchase it. Let's take some Cokes that kids drink this afternoon as they play soccer Southside Park. They pick it up from Thao ("T") at Southside Market, the corner store across from me.
Before it is stocked at Southside Market, it passes from Coca-Cola through the Sacramento Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Natomas. That locally owned exclusive distributor mixes the syrup with carbonated water and puts it in the bottles or cans you find at retail, whether it be Costco or the small corner store owned by T's Hmong immigrant family. The Sacramento Coca-Cola Bottling Co. is represented by Teamsters Local 150. If the destination was to Safeway down R Street, Teamsters would have handed it off to employees represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers 400.
There are lots of other interests involved, including advertising companies and others that I don't have time to brainstorm. But, I'm guessing you get the picture. We go from a "predatory" company through union jobs at distribution to retail and also individual markets. I don't think T's market is part of any association, but I know that the 7-11s and gas station market retailers each have their own associations. That's why these bills die, not just because of the American Beverage Association (ABA) runs the cute little ads about their smaller cans available at some retailers and certainly not because of ABA's direct influence.
This same analysis can be applied to many of the seemingly intractable issues that come up year after year in the Capitol.
And, yes, when I break my diet, I get my chips and salsa from "T" and he's always happy to talk policy issues as are lots of business owners in town. T's also a great source of discussions on tobacco and marijuana (kids by chips from him, but not pot).
On that topic, as I was eating my Mediterranian buffet lunch yesterday, I learned of another business death on mid-Kay Street. Bru Co. has closed after only like a year in business. The owner of the closed shop came in as Mo and I were talking to invite us over to help drain the remaining kegs. Of course I said "no," but was sad that another young risk-taker who put money on the line to enliven mid-Kay has fallen victim to the street's bad business climate.
Gibran and I are sitting down with councilman Steve Hansen next month for the pod and, while we have many things to talk about that are happening in SacTown, the mid-Kay situation will definitely be on the agenda.
ANTI-VAXX: As expected, Senator Dr. Richard Pan's (D-Sacramento) SB 276 to track the medical exemptions granted by physicians to otherwise required childhood vaccinations passed the Senate Floor. The vote was 24-10, with four not voting. The four not voting were Democratic Senators Allen, Galgiani, Hueso, and Roth. Otherwise, it was party line with Democrats voting "aye" and Republicans voting "no."
The jeers of Senator Pan during closing and after the bills passage were from the gallery and not the floor. I errantly said on Twitter that they were from Senators on the floor. Hopefully in the future the presiding officer will simply say "Those in the gallery will refrain from applause or vocal response" which is often the rebuke given. Otherwise, it's hard for those of us watching on teevee to perceive where the noise is coming from.
FROM THE DESK OF THE DEAN: George Skelton writes that the failure (for now) of SB 50 on transit- and job-oriented housing density can largely be blamed on Gavin Newsom, who never explicitly supported the bill as part of what the governor considers his number one priority.
I have mixed emotions on this. The Legislature has not taken kindly of prescriptive solutions by governors as long as I have been up here. I was watching a 2017 interview with Jim Brulte last night on CalChannel. In it, he appropriately attributed the recall of Gray Davis to the Legislature pushing the governor who had become the first Democrat in sixteen years too hard and too fast. The Legislature has wanted governors to step back and let the 120 lawmakers develop policy and present governors with signature or veto. I agree with Brulte that Democrats may have pushed some things too fast and they added to the rolling blackouts from energy market manipulation and the car tax trigger that led to Davis's recall.
I saw Newsom's non-prescriptiveness with the Legislature on housing as working on developing a relationship with a body that he never served in, playing only the ministerial role while Lieutenant Governor of President of the State Senate. He never had to cast a tie-breaking vote that I recall.
There was also an interesting conversation on Twitter last night, and from what I've gathered, there were several Senate Democrats who told different people different things as to what there floor vote would be on SB 50 if it reached the floor. The author of the bill Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) believes he had at least 21 votes. I can't share who I talked to and I believe Scott but it would have been close.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Mandy Morello, Mike Young, and Rock Zierman!
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