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E-162 - Monday, September 23, 2019
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RECENT AURAL PLEASURE:
TRUMP TAX RETURNS: Lawsuit information page for SB 27 (McGuire and Wiener): Primary elections: ballot access: tax returns.
MONEY MATTERS: This is the space where we look at interesting contributions to party committees or non-capped "ballot measure" committee accounts affiliated with legislators. Standard contributions to candidate committees up to the 2020 limit of $9,400 for primary and general are not included.
WEEKEND'S AT THE NOONER:
IN TODAY'S NOONER:
Happy Monday! Hope you had a delightful summer weekend and may I welcome you to fall.
Following up on my thoughts yesterday that Governor Gavin Newsom is beefing up his environmental credz before an expected veto of SB 1 (Atkins), he is in New York City today to speak at the launch of Climate Week. The United Nations Assembly is also occuring and today 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is speaking to the world leaders.
It's the first day of fall and joint interim recess of the Legislature. Therefore, it's time to pick up some books. Beginning today, all politics and current events books are on sale at Capital Books on Kay, located immediately next to the Crest Theatre at 1011 K Street.
Capital Books did not pay for this but Nooner veterans know I love books, local bookstores, and family-run businesses--particularly those trying to keep shopping and eating options available near our State Capitol. Capital Books also has a really cool dog. Go for the books and stay for the dog, or the reverse if that's how you roll. If you read about the sale here, tell them "The Nooner sent me" just for fun.
Ballot measures and "public charge" crackdown after the jump...
"Assembly Bill 1451, now awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature or veto, would prohibit paying initiative, referendum, or recall petition circulators on a per-signature basis, and require 10% of signatures on an initiative petition to be collected by either unpaid circulators or the employees or members of nonprofit organizations.
Its author, Assemblyman Evan Low, a Campbell Democrat, and other advocates of the bill contend that it’s a good government measure to protect voters from being fooled by unscrupulous signature-gatherers who misrepresent the issues for which they are working.
But everyone familiar with the years-long effort to enact such a law knows that it’s an attack on the use of the ballot by business, politically conservative and/or anti-tax organizations trying to bypass the Legislature and seek voter approval of their proposals or to overturn laws that the Legislature has passed, or recall politicians.
It does not prohibit people from being paid to gather signatures, but they would have to be paid salaries, not on a per-signature basis, thus changing the dynamics of the process."
Well, let's look at some of the ballot measures currently in circulation or soon to be:
That's just some. Some are sponsored by business, some by organizations, and some by initiatives. Even the "liberal" measures that are backed by organizations aligned with the author and coauthors of AB 1451 will have to use paid signature gatherers.
Yesterday at farmers market there was an ironing board with the rent control petitions on it and signs "Sign for Rent Control." The person being paid for signatures was not there (I walked by three times in a half-hour) to answer questions. Just petitions and crudely made signs, right there next to the Sanders, Warren, and Yang booths that all had at least three volunteers.
Quick aside to the Kamala Harris folks, I wouldn't take Sacramento's largest farmers market patrons for granted. I get that we can't have a drum line with the candidate like the Iowa Steak Fry, but the Sacramento region accounts for roughly the same number of convention delegates as the entire state of Iowa, which has an estimated 49. California has around 495, primarily allocated by congressional districts. If you can't find three volunteers in Sacramento on a beautiful Saturday morning to put up a table with info and swag, that says a lot about the campaign.
A big majority of voters (perhaps 75%) in California will have their ballots in their mailbox the day after the February 2 Iowa caucuses. Most won't vote until later in February, but the Iowa showing ain't what it used to be. We'll be sitting in our warm living rooms and watching Hawkeye State voters trudge through the snow for their community-based caucuses while we await our ballots arriving the following day. Yeah, things like farmers market in Sacramento matters now, even in one's home state.
Among those who do show up, Yang's crew seems the most excited, but Sanders and Warren supporters are there to make the case. No, Yang's folks could not answer how we pay for universal basic income and neither supporters Sanders nor Warren could explain how we're going to pay for forgiving student loan debt and why doing so in a non-means tested basis. Nevertheless, they are there and willing to engage, unlike Harris's supporters.
I would have bought a Yang MATH hat but they have to be ordered online. I have Booker, Bootigieg, and Harris t-shirts, but yesterday of course I was sporting a shirt in tribute of The West Wing for its 20th anniversary.
Okay, that wasn't a quick aside, but back to AB 1451. My personal preference would be not touching how gatherers are paid but rather provide a radically lower qualification threshold for all-volunteer efforts. The current signature requirement makes all-volunteer efforts near impossible, although I wish it were not the case.
Along with several organizations including the California Federation of Teachers and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, I co-authored Proposition 92 that was on the February 5, 2008 special election ballot and ran the non-organizational funding part of the effort. It was a constitutional amendment and statutory initiative to ensure community colleges got their fair share of Proposition 98 funds and would have rolled back student fees. Although we negotiated with the California Teachers Association on the language and had the full support from their community colleges segment, the Community College Association CTA/NEA, CTA walloped us with unfounded negative advertisements and failed. The big business interests Walters decries in his column today signed the ballot measure against campaign, significantly damaging relationships built with community college leaders.
But, we did not fail and the work would prove to be worth it. Community colleges soon were at their 11% of funding or Proposition 98 that was an acknowledgment of the "statutory split," a long-fought victory that turned back the funding encroachment from community colleges of the prior decade. And, community colleges are free now for first-time, academically progressing students.
Initiatives can be used for leverage and that's completely consistent with the legacy of the Hiram Johnson-led reform effort. The initiative and referendum processes were created to challenge a Legislature corrupt with railroad interests which suppressed the interests of the average Californian. Underfunding of community colleges had a lot of reasons to point to, but we knew the colleges and their students were often the neglected stepchildren.
Just by qualifying the initiative, including through the use of paid signature gatherers, combined with major student rallies at the Capitol, we changed the political dynamic and it paid off arguably more than the actual initiative would have. Sure, I have policy concerns about lots of things in community colleges, but I generally keep them to myself.
Do I like the fact that it costs $3-4 million to qualify an initiative? No. I would have loved for the community college initiative to have leveraged the students, faculty, staff, and community supporters--easily 3 million individuals--on a completely voluntary basis to gather signatures. However, it simply isn't possible with the current signature thresholds.
A chiropractor from Pollock Pines has submitted for title and summary a proposed initiative to allow online petition signatures. That would be a positive step, but there are no indications that he has the money behind the effort to qualify it.
AB 1451 is a small step that has been discussed in several cycles, but it has a new side to it. Yes, I'm referring to Dynamex. By shifting paid signature gatherers from per-signature to per-hour compensation, they are likely employees under the Dynamex decision and AB 5/AB 714. That means that gatherers of paid petition shops could become union employees, something that Walters doesn't mention. (There is also a 10% requirement of signatures gathered by either volunteers or members of a nonprofit organization, which could be a union.)
I like the concept of electronic signature gathering and a lowered threshold for all-volunteer efforts or a differential weighting system of volunteer-gathered and paid signatures. But that would take a constitutional amendment, too many people make money of the current system, and no do-gooder seems likely to pony up the dough to create a fairer, more Democratic system envisioned by Hiram Johnson.
"PUBLIC CHARGE" HITS IMMIGRANT COMMUNITY: Erica Hellerstein reports for CalMatters that fear of a federal crackdown on immigrants using public services is leading some to abandon public services such as food stamps and health care for otherwise qualified citizen children if the parent is undocumented or otherwise in documentation limbo.
"Across California, the looming change in what is known as the “public charge” rule is sowing confusion and fear within the immigrant community, causing many people to abandon programs they need for fear of retaliation from immigration authorities, according to nearly two dozen interviews with health care providers, lawyers, nonprofit organizations, and social service agencies.
The new rule could affect more than 2 million Californians, most of whom are not subject to the regulation, and could result in 765,000 people dis-enrolling from MediCal and CalFresh, according to UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research."
The food stamp program was created in 1939 to stimulate purchases of surplus agricultural products during the depression. From the USDA site:
"The first recipient was Mabel McFiggin of Rochester, New York on May 16, 1939. The first retailer to redeem the stamps was Joseph Mutolo, and the first retailer caught violating the program was Nick Salzano in October 1939. Over the course of nearly 4 years, the first FSP reached approximately 20 million people at one time or another in nearly half of the counties in the United States, peak participation was 4 million, at a total cost of $262 million. The program ended in the spring of 1943 "since the conditions that brought the program into being--unmarketable food surpluses and widespread unemployment--no longer existed."
It returned full-scale and permanently in 1964:
"On January 31, 1964, President Johnson requested Congress to pass legislation making the FSP permanent. Secretary Orville Freeman had submitted proposed legislation to establish a permanent FSP on April 17, 1963. The bill that was eventually passed by Congress was introduced by Congresswoman Sullivan. Among the official purposes of the Food Stamp Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-525) were strengthening the agricultural economy and providing improved levels of nutrition among low-income households; however, the practical purpose was to bring the pilot FSP under Congressional control and to enact the regulations into law."
In short, the program has long been as much of as a subsidy to American agriculture as a way to ensure nutrition for needy persons. Add the impact of agriculature reduction from food stamps to the trade war effect, which has already cost more in emergency subsidies to farmers than we spent to bail out the Big 3 automakers after the 2008 market crash.
As mentioned at the beginning of this item, the the "public charge" crackdown affects both food stamps and health care. An example provided by Hellerstein in her article is a mother of U.S. citizen children who is hoping to become a lawful permanent resident through asylum status. However, now she fears that her children receiving health care and constitutionally entitled to a public education (which undocumented children are also entitled to under Plyler v. Doe) will lead to the denial of asylee status at best and deportation at worst.
So kids are exercising their constitutional rights by going to school possibly are doing so without adequate nutrition and without health coverage. That's just brilliant. It's a waste of tax dollars on providing education to undernourished pupils that data strongly suggest are less likely to progress academically and they aren't getting basic health care maintenance, threatening the health of the other children in the classroom. Didn't we just have a, uh well, bloody battle over the common (and necessary) good of mandatory vaccinations?
It's not liberal politics but rather common sense to think that a crackdown on "public charges" could have major impacts to American agriculture and public health.
Sure, I don't like that my tax dollars subsidize corn syrup in those big sodas one can buy at the corner market with a CalFresh card any more than I do the corn-derived ethanol fuel additive and corn and soybean subsidies for the industrial beef industry. But Arnie Vinick isn't running for President to have a Season 6, Episode 13 ("King Corn") of The West Wing. While several top-tier candidates are running on the Green New Deal, you won't have top-tier candidates running against corn growers who, without ethanol, would have increasing surpluses.
Seventeen Democratic candidates were at the Iowa Steak Fry over the weekend, a big fundraiser for the Iowa Democratic Party that inherited the Harkin Steak Fry. An estimated 11,000 folks were in attendance to watch their candidates flip 10,500 steaks for them to eat and for a crowd vote for candidates with, what else, corn kernels. Even vegan Cory Booker was there, although he partook in vegan options.
Campaigns bought blocks of tickets for volunteers, most of whom are not Iowa voters.
The beef they were flipping was from "good ole" Midwestern cattle subsidized "grain finishing." Most of the major candidates have endorsed Green New Deal in whole or in part, but I haven't seen a rebuke of the Steak Fry, even though it is exactly the type of beef consumption and industrial agriculture that the plan calls to reduce. Hypocrisy, much?
I'm not writing to blast the consumption of corn and beef. I had a delicious elote en vaso at the Quince de Septiembre el Grito event at the Capitol last Sunday and made an Instant Pot beef pho last night. The elote corn may or may not have been local, but it was at least going in the stomach of an animal evolved to naturally eat it, unlike cattle. And, the beef I used in my pho was local and grass fed from Lucky Dog Ranch (Dixon) and Winterport Farm (Ione).
At Winterport's farmers market booth, I can talk to Dan about how his cattle are doing. I met him at the wildfires fundraiser in the spring hosted by PT Ranch (which also provided the chicken cooked by Cobram Estate's (Woodland) chef Kevin O'Connor. Dan provided the beef carpaccio and Chef Kevin did the cooking and brought cases of olive oil. PT Ranch is next to Winterport to the south at farmers market and Molly is usually there to talk about her birds and eggs. PT partnered with Riverdog Farm for the fundraiser, which is also next to Dan's Winterport on the north side, and Riverdog's Betsy did a lot of work on the fundraiser in addition to bringing the outstanding produce.
Betsy was there yesterday and I wasn't the first person from who she heard the complaint of no bacon to pair with the early season Brussels sprouts. Molly was there to hear about how I cooked last week's chicken sous vide with a broiler finish. Dan sold me the beef knuckles for my pho, as did Kathie at Lucky Dog with a rib eye (thawed and then briefly frozen, needed for the final element of the finished pho).
My entire pot of local, grass-fed beef pho and accompaniments cost less than a ticket to the Iowa Steak Fry without any candidate sales pitches.
Anyway, I know I went way off topic to point out the hypocrisy of Democratic presidential candidates as they go to ridiculous levels of hypocrisy to pander to Iowa voters, a state with the population of the Sacramento region. Meanwhile, even our home state junior Senator isn't mobilizing volunteers on her behalf in Sacramento and, while I like Kamala, I'd venture to say that voters showing up to stock their fridges know more about Sanders and Warren than Harris, and the Yang booth was pretty crowded as well.
MUNI MATTERS, CAKEDAYS and NEW CLASSIFIEDS after the jump...
LA-LA LAND: A coalition of criminal justice reformers has launched an online and billboard campaign called "Run George Run" to encourage San Francisco district attorney George Gascón to challenge Los Angeles district attorney Jackie Lacey next year. Gascón was born in Cuba, immigrated in 1967, graduated from Cal State Long Beach and Western State University School of Law. He rose to assistant police chief in the Los Angeles Police Department. From the release:
"In contrast to D.A. Lacey, D.A. Gascón opposes cash bail and the death penalty, developed cutting-edge reforms to tackle racial bias and expunge marijuana convictions, and led SF to become the nation’s first major city to shut down juvenile hall."
The effort is serious, has a website, and political consultant Dan Newman (former partner of SCN Strategies) working on it.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Rebecca Barrett, Sophia Gacia Fanlau, Assemblymember Adam Gray, Kara Bush Grossglauser, Paul Hegyi, Khaim Morton, and Dan Weintraub.