Category Archives: California

Progressive Coalition Files Split Roll Measure for 2020

by Brian Leubitz

We still have twelve weeks before the 2018 election, but a coalition of labor, community organizations, business leaders, and elected leaders are already thinking about 2020. Today, they filed 860K signatures, far more than the 575K requirement to get to the ballot. Even assuming a higher failure rate that is typically encountered when using a mostly volunteer signature gathering process, this seems like it is on the road to the ballot.

In short, it is a split roll measure, which would split the personal property roll from commercial and industrial property. It is difficult to imagine that as they were watching ads about granny losing her home, voters were thinking about how much an office building or factory was worth. And that’s exactly the point here, the state is basically giving a huge tax boost to large companies. Maybe that’s what we would want to do, but we should be upfront about the transfer of wealth from school teachers to real estate conglomerates.

“Over the last 40 years, California has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, leading to chronic underfunding of schools, services, and local communities along with poor local land use decisions, and a spiraling housing crisis,” said Helen Hutchison, President of the League of Women Voters of California. ”Schools and Communities First is the first structural and equitable tax reform in four decades. It will reclaim over $11 billion robbed every year from schools and local communities, shaping a new legacy of investment in the people of California.”

Of course, you will see people screaming about “job killers.” But, alas, this is simply not true. In a recent study, UC-Santa Cruz researches came to the conclusion that fair assessments of real property would actually strengthen the state’s economy by incentivizing better land use.

We will have a long time to talk about this split roll measure, but it is a conversation that has been necessary for a long time. Prop 13 reform is overdue, and maybe 2020 will be the year we actually get some real reform.

By the by, don’t be fooled again by this granny in the streets canard. The CA Realtors are trying it again with Prop 5, and it will be an uphill climb to defeat it at the ballot. But don’t fall for it, it will cost the state and municipalities billions of dollars.

A Quick June Election Results Post

San Francisco Mayor Gavin NewsomElection results from across the state were generally favorable, with the huge exception of Josh Newman’s recall. Most importantly, while there are still a few races left, it appears that Democrats avoided the Top2 stumbling block and have a shot at flipping the seven targeted House seats.

For better or worse, it appears that Gavin Newsom is now very well positioned to be our next Governor, with only John Cox in his way. No big surprises in the other statewide constitutional races. But one to watch will be the state superintendent race, where Marshall Tuck leads Tony Thurmond. This nonpartisan race will likely be an expensive race as the charter schools and teachers unions fight over the future of our public schools. In both his previous run and his current one, Tuck has been reliant on the charter school movement for his electoral prospects. While the position is somewhat limited, a strong charter advocate would not be a good omen for our schools.

Back to the subject of Sen. Newman, Kerry Cavanaugh in the LA Times states the truth behind the election: the Republicans wanted a do-over in a lower turnout election. Their stated pretext of the gas tax was a mere fig leaf for their reliance on the flawed recall process.

Finally, here in San Francisco, the Mayoral race still is far from decided. London Breed is winning on first choice ballots, but as Don Perata learned, that alone does not make you Mayor. Leno now leads in the latest RCV count with a big boost from the second choice votes from third place Jane Kim. Lots of votes are still out there to determine the final outcome though, so this will probably be an agonizing wait for San Francisco to finally determine who will take over for Interim Mayor Mark Farrell.

Another June Poll: Newsom, DiFi with big leads

Another June poll: in Mark DiCamillo’s (formerly of Field) Berkeley IGS poll, Newsom and Feinstein both retain big leads in their respective races. However, in the gubernatorial race, both of the two Republican gubernatorial candidates are polling ahead of the Democratic pack.

On the Senate side, behind Feinstein (28%), Kevin de Leon (11%) is just narrowly ahead of the Republican pack for the second spot in the November general election. And the anti-Semitic Twitter troll didn’t make it out of the “other candidate section”, so that’s a good thing.

The leading Republican is a man named James P Bradley(10%), likely on the basis of his ballot designation “Chief Financial Officer.” Now, his website is pretty much a stock WordPress theme, complete with the twitter feed of the developer rather than the candidate and a slew of typos. But, he has a website, so that’s something. He’s a Trumpster, and proudly proclaims that he is the “Keep America Great First Candidate,” just to make sure he gets all the Trumpisms in there. (Also note that I didn’t do anything to his photo with the weird 3D effect or whatever is going on. That’s straight from his site.)

Ultimately, the races for the second spot in both contests are rather unsettled. It is entirely possible that there are no Republicans in either race and we have competitive Dem-on-Dem general elections or it could go the other direction and we have two Democrats who are huge favorites to win in November. Of course, having no Republicans on the statewide ballot would help competitive down ballot races.

In other news, Top 2 really is awful.

Drowning California in Norquist’s Bath

California Republicans risk tax increases for their constituents

by Brian Leubitz

Grover Norquist at Burning Man – NYMag
The feud over the tax deduction for state and local taxes continues after the recent House vote on the federal budget. Gov. Brown and Rep. Pelosi are mincing no words after all 14 California Republicans supported the budget. Brown went so far as to call the Republican members “like a herd of sheep” for voting for a measure that would increase taxes on Californians by ending the state and local tax(SALT) deduction.

But don’t worry, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) has a plan for that:

“You know how you get to deduct where California continues to raise their rates? I don’t think it’s fair that somebody else subsidize poor management of California or New York policies,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) told the California Republican Party convention last weekend.

“No longer can Sacramento say, I’m gonna raise the rates, just cause I’ll have the federal government subsidize it,“ McCarthy added as the crowd of conservative activists cheered him on. “They will have to be held accountable for when they want to raise taxes higher.“ (Capital Public Radio)

In other words, look over there, there’s a bathtub, let’s go hop into it because Grover Norquist told us to!

The California Republicans are hoping that the blame when the tax increases occur in California will be assigned to Democrats in the Legislature. But that seems somewhat of a gamble considering that those increases will be showing up on federal Form 1040 while Republicans control the federal government.

Look, SALT deductions are clearly not perfect, especially with respect to progressivity, but neither are any other of a number of tax expenditures. You know what else isn’t very progressive? Flattening the income tax structure to reduce taxes on the richest of Americans that, as Warren Buffet pointed out, don’t need a tax cut. Zeroing out this one deduction, while reducing taxes on the wealthy isn’t really what the Trump voters were dreaming of in their MAGA hats. And are the people really clamoring for reductions in the corporate tax rates that the Republicans are really focused on?

Pelosi, for her part, is calling on California Democrats to rally against the budget and the end of the SALT on November 3. For what it is worth, Capital Public Radio asked all of the California Republicans where they stand on the SALT deduction, with most not responding, but McCarthy and Rohrabacher said yes. We may get a full answer on how interested they feel in representing California as “tax reform” moves forward.

DiFi And KdL

Is this the fight we want or the fight we need?

by Brian Leubitz

By this point, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about Kevin de León’s entry into the Senate race next year. There have been rumblings for a while, and it seemed that he was going to enter the race whether DiFi was retiring or not. He has his shiny new website all ready to go, while she has, um, a spam site at what would be the most logical website, and a site from 2012 that is apparently selling space for google ads. She may want to have somebody look into that.

Kevin de León and Dianne Feinstein
There are any number of ways to think about this race, and much of it comes from where you stand. Sen Feinstein was never the progressive California Senator, that was Sen. Boxer and now Sen. Harris. She has always been a champion for gun safety legislation, and a leader as chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee. But she has never been a progressive firebrand. According to 538’s “Trump Score”, she is in the middle of the Democratic pack. But, that’s also 12 points more favorable to Trump than would be expected from a California senator.

On the flip side, there will be no end of Democrats announcing that running against an incumbent will bring ruin and the wasting of resources that could be spent in other states defeating actual Republicans. We will have to see where KdL’s money comes from once we see a report, but given the drama surrounding his candidacy, one would suspect that you won’t see many of the usual suspects on the contribution lists.

Now, Kevin de León has a lot of work in front of him convincing Californians that he will be a more representative (probably not so hard) and more effective (probably much harder) Senator that Sen. Feinstein. But the remaining question is whether the election will be decided in the first election or the second. As of yet, there are no serious Republicans in the race. But, if there are only two Democrats, and only one Republican, might we see another Dem-on-Dem general? Add in a third Democrat (Steyer?) that becomes a lot less likely. Add in a second Republican, and it becomes a lot more likely. Of course, this is one of the problems of the top-2 system. It leaves a lot up to gamesmanship and the sheer number of candidates. (For example, had Top-2 applied in the 2010 AG race, we would have missed a Rep on Rep race by a few thousand votes.)

At any rate, this race will certainly be interesting. How defining it is for the California (and national) Democratic Party is still up in the air.

Governor and Legislature Agree on Sanctuary State Legislation

State pokes stick in the eye of Sessions, Trump, and their neo-nativist supporters

by Brian Leubitz

Palm Springs Sanctuary city rally (#0336a)Governor Brown doesn’t mind confronting the federal government. He’s shown that particularly in the climate change arena as he has become the de facto American leader taking on that global crisis. However, he also likes to tread carefully.

And that was his hangup about Senator Kevin de Leon’s sanctuary bill, SB 54. And yesterday, the governor apparently got the changes he felt were necessary:

The amendments would give law enforcement agencies more discretion to notify federal immigration officials about convicted offenders in their custody and to transfer those offenders to immigration authorities.

The bill would still allow federal immigration officials to interview those in custody, though it will not permit those officials to maintain permanent office space in state prisons or local jails.

“This bill protects public safety and people who come to California to work hard and make this state a better place,” Brown said in a statement.(The Hill 9/12/17)

The changes also helped ease some of the opposition from law enforcement leaders that had been troubling to the governor’s office. And now, I suppose the ball is in the court of AG Sessions to get all mad and storm off with whatever block grants to the state aren’t glued down to the floor.

The agreement is getting praise from other state leaders as well.

“From the moment Donald Trump won the White House, California Democrats have been tirelessly working to protect and shield undocumented Californians from the federal Government,” said California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman.

“One of the cornerstones of that effort is SB 54 by Senator Kevin de Leon, and California Democrats are deeply grateful that he and Governor Brown have reached agreement on final language that ensures California’s law enforcement agencies are not used as instruments of federal immigration enforcement. Californians welcome our undocumented brothers and sisters, and the use of California’s peace officers against our own brothers and sisters would have been unconscionable and dangerously corrosive to the trust law enforcement needs from the community to keep Californians safe. This is a powerful message of inclusion and reassurance to Undocumented Californians, and I urge the Legislature to approve this bill as swiftly as possible.”

The NRA comes up with new excuses to keep weapons on our streets

National group funded by gun manufacturers files suit against assault weapons regulations

by Brian Leubitz

The NRA has a problem in California. They don’t have their normal power here, but they are still awash in money. So, the money goes to the lawyers instead of the politicians, because it is pretty tough to get Democrats to touch the stuff these days. The lawyers are getting quite creative too:

The new lawsuit, filed Thursday in Fresno Superior Court, seeks to block the new regulations, arguing that new rules requiring registration of existing assault weapons “go far beyond” the allowed registration process, and “unlawfully expand the scope” of the state’s registration requirement. (LA Times)

Long story short, the legislation banned guns with a “bullet button” that allowed for easy clip transfer. The NRA already sued on that one. But the guns that were out in circulation get to stay in their owners possession, but they have to be registered. The NRA likes neither of these, and sued on both aspects.

It will be a while before we get a final ruling on these cases, but we may see some sort of short term action in the interim.

Ending DACA Would be Disastrous for California

Congress must take action immediately.
by Brian Leubitz

The rumors are growing that Trump is planning on “ending DACA as we know it” on Friday.

President Trump plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “as it exists today” on Friday, Fox News reports.

Under DACA, nearly 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children have received work permits and deferral from deportation.

According to Fox, a senior administration official told correspondent John Roberts that Trump would end the program “as early as” Friday. (The Hill)

This would not only be a disaster for the recipient Dreamers but also for our state and nation. Nearly a quarter of a million Californians have been accepted into the DACA program, allowing these young immigrants to get jobs, live their lives, and California is better for it.

According to federal data, close to 223,000 young people have been approved for DACA in California in the program’s five-year history. If DACA recipients lose their work eligibility, there will be ripple effects, said Bill Hing, who teaches immigration law at the University of San Francisco.

“These folks will be driven underground, and the underground economy will expand, because folks are afraid,” Hing said. “They are going to be working under the table. We will lose overnight the economic contributions of 200-plus thousand folks in California, and that is going to hurt our economy.” (KQED)

Congress needs to take immediate action to fix this looming crisis. There have been indications that there could be votes for setting up some legal status for Dreamers in the house when an amendment in support of the Dreamers saw a flurry of Republican votes:

Twenty-six Republicans rebelled against an amendment to the spending bill that would end President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — an initiative that has granted stays of deportation to thousands of young undocumented immigrants, many of whom were brought into the country illegally by their parents. Though they are all staunch critics of Obama and oppose his unilateral changes to immigration policy, they cannot reconcile that opposition with their overall support for the policies he has put into place. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., passed — just barely — by a vote of 218-209.

Some of the Republicans who voted against the provision are those who typically oppose legislative language to roll back DACA or other similar programs offering deportation relief within certain immigrant communities, and strongly support passing comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation: Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida; Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California; and Mike Coffman of Colorado, among others. (RollCall)

Now, seeing as how this is a Republican Congress with a crazy man in the White House, you never know what is going to happen. But this is a rare opportunity for bipartisan action. Let’s just hope that the current occupant of the White House can see past his own rhetoric to find some compassion.

Pulaski: Congress Must Reject Job-Killing TPP

by Steve Smith

ARTPulaskiTPPOn Monday, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, representing a fake astroturf group  called the “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs,” penned a misleading op-ed in the Sacramento Bee in support of the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Cabaldon used a study from the Peterson Institute to help make his case that the TPP is good for jobs. Unfortunately for Cabaldon, he must not have actually read the study he cited because it actually says the flawed deal wouldn’t create any jobs AND it would lead to fewer good-paying manufacturing jobs.

Today, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski set the record straight with his own op-ed in the Bee, pointing out the many harmful effects of the deal.

Like every other recent trade pact, the TPP is chock-full of goodies for corporate special interests while woefully inadequate on labor and environmental safeguards. The chief problem that plagued deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement is that labor standards were weak or unenforceable, encouraging corporate CEOs to move their operations to countries that pay meager wages in comparison to U.S. wages. NAFTA led to 700,000 jobs shipped overseas.

The TPP is no different. In fact, the Peterson Institute report that Cabaldon cites finds that the trade deal wouldn’t be a job creator for America, but would lead to 121,000 fewer manufacturing jobs by 2030…That’s a major red flag for anyone concerned about the future of our middle class.

Another recent study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University paints a much bleaker picture. It projects that the TPP will lead to GDP contraction in the U.S. and job losses and increased inequality in all participating countries. Experts say the deal could also undermine California’s efforts to combat climate change, result in higher prescription drug prices and allow rampant currency manipulation by other countries.

Anyone who thinks this rotten deal will help address inequality in America clearly isn’t paying attention (or even worse, they’re drinking the corporate Kool-Aid).  Bottom line, progressives like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are rejecting the deal. Conservatives are also blasting it, including Republican congressional candidate Scott Jones, who’s running against Rep. Ami Bera, who sold-out workers on last year’s fast track vote. The notion that Cabaldon and his bogus “progressive” coalition are supporting workers is laughable. Real progressives (as well as many other folks across the political spectrum) oppose the TPP and know from experience this deal will further gut out the middle class.


The legacy of America’s broken trade policy is shuttered factories, outsourced jobs and a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for Congress to take a stand in support of working people instead of kowtowing to corporate lobbyists. For the sake of our future, Congress must reject the TPP.

Cross post from Labor’s Edge

What Color is the Sky in Joel Fox’s Fantasy World?

by Steve Smith

There’s been a lot of attention lately on California’s turnaround. As it turns out, that nonsense about all our jobs moving to Texas was a just Texas-sized whopper. Last year California created about 500,000 jobs to lead the nation in job growth, outpacing the conservative darling Texas.

Basically, the corporate narrative about California has gone up in smoke. In the last several years, California has done a litany of things that the corporate crowd claims kill jobs. We raised the minimum wage. We raised taxes on the rich with Prop 30 to better fund schools and public safety. We guaranteed paid sick days for all workers. We eliminated the wasteful enterprise zone tax credits for big businesses that cost the state nearly $1 billion per year. We got rid of another tax giveaway to business with Prop 39 and instead funneled those funds into clean energy projects that create good jobs. We strengthened regulations that protect workers and the environment. The list goes on and on.

So imagine my surprise when I read Joel Fox’s blog on Fox & Hounds claiming that the Chamber of Commerce was actually responsible for the job growth in California. Oh, ok. Sure. That makes total sense, Joel. The Chamber constantly derides California as the most anti-business state in the country and now wants to claim credit for our success? That makes about as much sense as that idiotic scheme you participated in during the 2012 election to help the Koch Brothers and their rich, out-of-state friends funnel millions into California to help pass the anti-worker Prop 32 and defeat Prop 30. But, I digress.

Hidden at the bottom of Fox’s inane blog is the one line we should all pay attention to in the context of this argument.

The Chamber’s goal is to keep business costs low to improve the economy statewide.

By lowering “business costs” he means eliminating protections for workers and the environment, shrinking wages for workers, while cutting taxes on CEOs and the wealthiest among us. California has roundly rejected this shortsighted notion, unlike, say, Kansas, which is seeing the disastrous effects of implementing the big business plan.

California, under Gov. Jerry Brown, has shown the real path forward.  You can create jobs AND protect workers and the environment. You can put more money in the pockets of those at the bottom while creating shared prosperity that benefits the economy as a whole. You can make the rich pay their fair share to fund our schools, public safety and other important services without hurting job growth. You can protect immigrant workers against exploitation and strengthen the ability for all workers to stand together in unions without hurting competitiveness. In fact, when you do those things, jobs DO grow. Wages DO grow. The economy gets stronger. And most importantly, lives change for the better.

Still, too many workers are struggling today. Now isn’t the time to go backward on workers’ rights. Instead, it’s time to step on the pedal so we raise standards for all workers to combat growing inequality. The last few years we’ve put to rest the narrative that says doing good things for workers and the environment kills jobs.

So let’s not waste time and let’s continue doing more of what we know works. More investment in California’s working people makes California a better place to live and raise a family. More support for workers and their families lowers poverty while creating an economy that works for everyone. And we do this not with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and its corporate CEO funders, we do it in spite of them.