Take a look at ElectionTrack, which provides daily updates on donations to major California campaigns, including ballot measure ones. For example, here are reports on the two competing eminent domain initiative campaigns for the June ballot: No on 98/Yes on 99 and Yes on 98
Last week I had the privilege of discussing asset building for lower income Americans in three very different settings: the annual Opportunity Economics Colloquium of the Hope Street Group, held at the Lansdowne Resort outside of Washington; an Assets Forum sponsored by the New America Foundation in the State Capitol in Sacramento, California; and with a group of financial services, social service and foundation representatives brought together by the City of Seattle. While the settings and audiences varied, the theme was the same: how to empower and encourage all Americans, particularly those who do not have funds either to cushion an economic setback or to invest to achieve economic security, to take sustainable first steps toward saving. Given the current financial crisis, one wishes these discussions had started ten years ago, but that same crisis makes it all the more important that they're happening now.
ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE MEASURE HEADED FOR CALIFORNIA BALLOT: Or so its supporters say. This tracks though with information first reported here over the weekend that the initiative, at $2 per signature, had made the ballot. This is in spite of a well-organized blocking campaign by opponents. One wonders, however, why backers are spending their money. Some polls suggest that Californian is close to having a majority of citizens who support same-sex marriage, and the Republican governor has vowed to fight this.
$10 PER HOUR IN EUREKA: Signature gathering is about to begin on a new minimum wage ballot initiative that would guarantee $10 per hour to anyone working in the city of Eureka on California's northern coast.
MOMENTUM FOR COLORADO RIGHT TO WORK: That's according to its supporters, who are lining up endorsements. Business groups are backing it, but they should be wary. A frontal attack on labor is likely to unite the state's unions and turn out to be a setback for business interests. Exhibit A: California, the year 2005.
New Health Dialogue is pleased to welcome, Leif Wellington Haase, the Director of New America’s California Program, to share his insights on the recent debate on insurance rescissions in California.
Few things have given California insurers a blacker eye than the practice of rescission, the retroactive cancellation of individual health insurance policies. Critics charge that insurers find supposed errors and discrepancies in customers' original applications and disenroll them after they have racked up large medical bills, leaving them unexpectedly with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid claims. (Rescissions are a standard part of the insurance business; plans have a right to protect themselves if someone commits fraud or omits essential relevant health information. The controversy that has been grabbing headlines in California involves insurers allegedly cutting off coverage for minor mistakes on insurance applications only after the applicants incur expensive medical services).
For the weekend, here's a little bit of blockbuster democracy history, and a lesson about dual measures.
What do I mean by dual measures? It's a proven tactic in the ballot initiative game. If you oppose an initiative that's headed for the ballot, it may not be enough simply to fight the initiative directly. You may want to qualify your own initiative -- ideally, something that sounds similar and covers the same topic, but does something different than the initiative you oppose. Why bother with a counter initiative? Voters, faced with two like-sounding measures -- usually vote "no" on both. And so the initiative you opposed is defeated. The drug industry did this expertly in 2005 in California by qualifying its own, faux-drug discount measure to defeat a drug discount measure. For this June's ballot, cities and counties qualified a counter measure on eminent domain to counter a more aggressive initiative, qualified by property owners, that would restrict the ability of governments to take property for any sort of private use. (The LA Times sorts this out today).
At least that's the raw numbers from the Secretary of State's office show. The state's population of adults eligible to votes is also growing, so it's hard to know if there's a percentage gain. But Democratic numbers are up -- though their percentage of total voters is even. Republicans continue to lose voters -- in both absolute and percentage terms. The party has done this to itself--by preventing decline to state voters from taking Republican ballots, the GOP is pushing people to the Democrats. And "decline to states" -- that's California for independent -- continue to grow. They're now nearly 20 percent of all voters.
DEPARTMENT OF MOON HOWLING: The Las Vegas Review & Journal takes a long look at one of the country's more important signature firms, National Voter Outreach and its CEO Rick Arnold. I've interviewed Arnold in his Carson City home, and found him to be one of the more thoughtful people in the petition trade, critical of its problems and clear-eyed about its limitations. This story is built heavily around criticism from the liberal/progressive Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which is quick to lable signature gathering as corrupt (at least in cases where it opposes the cause in question). There is a "shocked, shocked" quality to this criticism. The signature gathering business has plenty of problem workers, many of them poorly trained folks who, for lifestyle reasons, have taken a job that usually pays them in cash. But BISC and other critics invariably propopse to criminalize the process of gathering signatures, as in Oklahoma. In supporting these restrictions, liberals are hurting themselves, by establishing precedents restricting political speech that can be used by their political opponents. And such restrictions don't stop direct democracy. They merely slow it down, adding to the costs (and thus the influence of interest groups) that progressives love to denounce. The more you regulate, the more firms like National Voter Outreach will benefit.
It shows more than a little chutzpah for the California Labor Federation to demand that Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez return a pile of campaign cash he is sitting on: $4 million that came from the state Democratic Party. Labor interests, as much as any interests in California, have helped create the governing system in which achieving any difficult policy requires politicians to defend their policies at the ballot. Politicians without a store of cash soon find it difficult to govern, because it's hard for them to credibly go to the ballot without a big, scary pile of greenbacks. It would be wrong if Nunez used the money for his own political career, as labor leaders say they fear. But he needs the money -- and ought to use it -- not for politics, but to govern.
Labor is really angry at Nunez because they don't like the way he's governed recently -- particularly in two policy areas. But the story of those policy areas shows precisely why he needs the cash.
It's being treated as news that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering a tax increase. (In private, two Republican sources tell me, he is starting to engage Republican legislators on the question of tax increases). But this is no surprise. During his more than four years as governor, Schwarzenegger has maintained a public anti-tax stance even as he frequently has considered raising taxes. In the spring of 2004, according to internal polling and other documents I turned up while researching a 2006 book on Schwarzenegger, he considered a temporary sales tax increase and polled on possible tax options that would sell with the public. The polling showed the public supported tax increases -- but would nevertheless be unhappy at Schwarzenegger for breaking his word and supporting them. So he didn't back tax increases then. But his health care proposal last year included fee increases, which certainly can feel like taxes to those who are paying them. And in a larger sense, the governor's main prescription for the state's budget and infrastructure troubles -- a major general obligation bond in 2004, and a 2006 infrastructure bond -- are tax increases by another name.
There is a flood of new ballot measures on local development headed for municipal ballots in California. News of four such measures is below. I'll be moderating a Zocalo LA panel on this phenomenon on May 27 at 7 p.m. at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
Voters in LA county will decide whether to charge themselves a global warming fee.
The Conejo Valley teachers union sides with Home Depot, and opposes a ballot initiative backed by a local chain of hardware stores that would limit big box development in Thousand Oaks.
A classic Santa Monica battle over a proposed ballot measure that would limit the size and imprint of commercial development.
Here's a report on a new local ballot initiative filed in an attempt to limit growth in Grass Valley. (That's in Nevada County, northern California).
And a bonus item from Arizona, cultural colony of California: Paradise Valley can't approve a Ritz without a referendum.