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E-119 - Tuesday, November 5, 2019, presented by SYASLPartners
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IN TODAY'S NOONER:
Happy Taco Tuesday!
It's election day for local governments that like low-turnout elections, including those dragging their feet under the California Voting Rights Act. Many special districts are having at-large elections, or not because no challengers filed. San Francisco goes to the "polls" for muni offices and six ballot measures that could have waited 119 days for the March 3 primary.
Lots of water districts have elections today and many don't have them because residents didn't know and file to run. Not uncoincidental, the PPIC water policy session I'm at this morning is 90% white while the areas of the most critical drinking water situation are those serving agricultural workers. It's not PPIC's fault, as the event is free and they did a lot of outreach.
The Compton Unified School District is holding--in theory--it's last off-year, at-large election for three seats. Because of the California Voting Rights Act, Compton will finally join most local governments in Los Angeles County in going to even-year elections, although they can't agree on how to draw the lines for elections by district. The district's student population is 78.7% Hispanic/Latino and 18.1% African-American, while the school board looks much different.
I know the arguments in Los Angeles County about ballot length. The problem is not the local government elections, but rather Article VI, Section 16 of the California Constitution. Get rid of superior court judicial elections. The only people that give a damn are lawyers and family members, and that's where the money comes from with no campaign finance restrictions. People call/email me from around the state to ask for whom they should vote. Hell, I only know a few Sacramento and Yolo County judges through professional organizations and one through jury duty.
Keep Supreme Court retention votes. Get rid of court of appeal retention votes and superior court judicial elections.
Of course, today is also the special general in AD01, where Megan Dahle is overwhelmingly expected to join her husband, Senator Brian Dahle, in the Legislature. That's twice as many opportunities to pronounce their last name wrong.
This morning, Bernie Sanders tweeted that Election Day should be a national holiday. First, today is not a national election. Second, ~70% of California voters will cast a vote-by-mail ballot next year and do so for the month prior to Election Day--both for the primary and general elections. Should Californians get national holidays for the months of February and October?
PG&E: The mayors of Sacramento and Oakland have joined San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo and twenty other mayors and five county board of supervisors chairs to propose a public takeover of Pacific Gas & Electric in a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, reports Jim Gardner for the San Francisco Business Times. Here is the letter, which was also sent to Governor Newsom, legislative leaders.
"In a growing coalition of local community leaders, we are developing a proposed structural change for PG&E that addresses all three of these key elements. Based on a foundation currently in the Public Utilities Code, we will propose transforming PG&E into a mutual benefit corporation – in essence, a cooperative owned by its customers.
We propose a customer-owned utility for three primary reasons. The most compelling rationale is that PG&E correctly estimates it must invest tens of billions of dollars over the next decade for system hardening, wildfire protection and cyber-security. A mutualized PG&E can raise capital from a broad pool of debt financing in amounts substantially greater than can an investor-owned PG&E, and at much lower cost. A customer-owned utility can operate without the burdens of paying dividends to shareholders, and exempt from federal taxation. As a result, a cooperative financial structure will save ratepayers many billions of dollars in financing costs over this next decade. A customer-owned PG&E will better focus its scarce dollars on long-neglected maintenance, repairs, and capital upgrade, and mitigating some part of the substantial upward pressure on rates."
SD28 (Temecula-Coachella-Blythe): As expected, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) announced her candidacy for the SD28 special election via Facebook Live last night. Senator Jeff Stone resigned the seat last week and was sworn in as Western States Director for the U.S. Department of Labor, accepting an appointment by Donald Trump. Governor Newsom has not yet set a date for the special election, although the primary is expected to be March 3 with a Cinco de Mayo special general in both SD28 and CA25, if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote. The state's top two primary does not apply to special elections, since the goal is to fill empty seats expeditiously if there is a consensus candidate.
While the announcement wasn't a big surprise itself, Melendez also announced the backing of Stone and Temecula councilman Matt Rahn. Rahn had announced that he was running for the special with Stone's support as well as that of Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, but decided to wait for the seat to open up in 2022. Because Melendez was elected to the Assembly in 2012, she will be unable to run for the full term.
Republicans were concerned that, with excitement among Democrats and little suspense among Republicans in the March primary, the "leans Republican" district could send a Democrat to Sacramento if too many GOP members were on the special primary ballot.
NEWSOM AND LABOR: The team at Politico write on the tensions between Gavin Newsom and some big labor unions:
"Simmering tensions erupted last month when Newsom vetoed three bills backed by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. The governor has also come under fire from the California Nurses Association for backtracking on single-payer health care.
Unions suggest that losing their support will have long-term consequences if Newsom, widely known to have national ambitions, does run for president. For now, Newsom insists he's focused on his governorship.
"National politics provides us a cautionary tale of what happens when the working class is forgotten by candidates who are steeped in the ambitions of unrequited presidential aspirations," said Robbie Hunter, president of the trades organization that represents 400,000 people."
MONEY MATTERS: BURBANK'S PARCEL TAX: As I was pursuing my hobby last night of reviewing campaign finance reports, there was some of the usual. Yes, dialysis clinic giant DaVita gave $20,000 to Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge). That's just business as usual for the Approps chair with a vacuum cleaner called a "ballot measure" committee. But, the one that raised my eyebrows was $20,000 from the committee (last page) backing a parcel tax for Burbank schools on the March 3, 2020 ballot. The "Committee to Support the Quality Teachers, Staff and Schools Measure 2020" hasn't filed anything so we don't know where the money is from, but it's likely local labor.
The measure was put on the ballot by the school district, arguing that it receives less per pupil than surrounding districts. It's crafted like the failed Los Angeles Unified measure earlier this year as a tax of 10 cents per improved square foot, rather than the traditional flat rate per parcel. On the website, the campaign states "For example, a 1,700 square foot house would be assessed $170 per year, or approximately $14 per month, or 47 cents a day."
Of course, the 3,079 commercial properties in Burbank would have a different calculation. The Burbank Town Center shopping mall has "more than 5,700 free parking spaces." Well, I'm no engineer, but that seems like a large amount of improved square footage. In fact, a standard parking space is around 180 square feet. That's 1,026,000 square feet. With the proposed Burbank schools parcel tax, that would be $102,600 per year in increased property taxes, and we haven't stepped foot inside the mall. Anyway, multiply that across all the commercial properties and you can see where the opposition comes from, just like Los Angeles's failed measure.
But, for our purposes, why did a local parcel tax campaign committee give $20,000 to a ballot measure slush fund of the local state senator?
ABORTION: For CalMatters, Dan Morain reports that a law intended to provide women with all options at "crisis" pregnancy centers is having the unintended effect of bankrolling anti-abortion efforts. Morain writes:
"In an irony for the annals of California’s resistance, court documents show that reproductive rights advocates have paid a steep price for the failure of the Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency, or FACT Act, which sought to compel anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to disclose their license status and let women know that public family programs provide abortions.
Backed by abortion rights activists and overturned last year by the U.S. Supreme Court on free speech grounds, the law has generated an unintended bounty of attorney’s fees that now help underwrite conservative litigation and lawyers. Among them: the defense of the anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who clandestinely videotaped Planned Parenthood physicians, and the legal aid group led by one of President Donald Trump’s best-known lawyers, Jay Sekulow."
VOTER REG: Paul Mitchell geeks out for us yet again and charts Dem, Rep, and NPP voter registration by two-week period.
MORE MONEY MATTERS: The California Association of Realtors kicked in $3.5 million to qualify its 2020 measure to transfer property tax base assessment to new properties for seniors, in other words to create greater churn in the market. A similar measure failed in 2018 40.2-59.8%.
KAMALA, CAKEDAY, and CLASSIFIEDS after the jumpity jump...
2020 AND VOTERS CHOICE ACT: For Capitol Weekly, Paul Mitchell looks at the impact of the Voters Choice Act on the California ballot next year:
"In March of 2020 we will see 15 counties shifting to all-mail elections under the new Voters Choice Act model — 4.7 million voters in just those counties.
This shift will push the total number of voters being mailed ballots in 2020 to a record 15 million. This is a whopping 50% increase since California’s 2016 primary election.
Of those voters in the Voters Choice Act counties who are being mailed a 2020 election ballot, 28% did not elect to receive their ballots by mail when registering to vote and 35% have never mailed in an absentee ballot. This will pose some challenges, as county registrars and campaigns have to educate and turn out voters through a new mechanism.
In addition to all these new by-mail voters, Los Angeles County is doing a modified version of the VCA by using voting centers instead of neighborhood-by-neighborhood precincts, but not doing the mailing to all voters until 2024."
FIFTH PLACE: For Politico, Christopher Cadelago writes how California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris went from the darling of the Democratic presidential primary to the doldrums. Cadelago reports:
"Harris isn’t giving up, but some around her are already musing about what might come next. There’s the possibility of being picked as someone’s running mate. The Supreme Court has come up a few times. In Iowa, Harris said she doesn’t think anyone — “on any real level” — questions her ability or strength to be on a debate stage with Trump. She’ll be talking about that some more. But most of all, she said, she believes that the media debate over who is electable and who isn’t has affected how voters look at her candidacy.
She wants to have that conversation, she told me, 'out loud instead of just in our heads.'"
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Nick Anas and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara!