Tag Archives: 2/3

Modoc County Votes to Raise Property Taxes

A portion of Modoc County voters on Tuesday approved the creation of a hospital district and a parcel tax of $195 per year to save its bankrupt medical center.

The hard-red rural county (population 9,184) is the largest per-capita recipient of state spending. Their tiny medical center has been losing money for a decade, despite the county supervisor’s cutbacks in service and improper allocation of state funds intended for education and transportation.

The County requested a $12.5 million loan from the state after a State Controller’s audit revealed that the supervisors had misallocated… $12.5 million dollars. The new hospital district will generate $3.1 million per year and be governed by its own board, independently of the the County.

Modoc has 5,667 registered voters, Only 3,724 voters whose properties lie within the new district participated in the mail-in election. Turnout among those was 63%. The vote to create the district passed by 70% and the vote for the parcel tax passed by 68%.

Two myths have been busted in Modoc:

1) The myth of Republican fiscal competence, and

2) The myth that California voters will not tax themselves to fund government-run services.


CA 65AD Challenger Carl Wood

Meet Carl Wood, Democratic challenger to the GOP’s Paul Cook in the California 65th Assembly District.  Carl is a lifelong advocate for labor and civil rights, a true blue progressive.  Last election, Carl narrowed the spread on this race from 23% to 7% with only a skeletal campaign.   He’s well known in Riverside County for his work as a Public Utilities Commissioner under Gray Davis, battling the forces of Enron.

This time, the 65th is a priority for local Democratic clubs and labor unions.  So far Carl has the endorsement of the California Labor Federation, CNA, CTA, CSEA, CWA, LIUNA, SEIU California State Council, SEIU RN 121, Teamsters Council 42, Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), and United Auto Workers (UAW).

This is a purple, not red district, and the incumbent’s staff is already making panicky mistakes.  See over the flip.  **Correction:  Previously listed UDW among endorsers, which was incorrect.**  

From the Press Enterprise

Candidates or their supporters sometimes get cranky about an opponent’s preferred designation.

An aide to Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, recently sent e-mails trying to mobilize opposition to Democratic challenger Carl Wood’s preferred designation as “job development coordinator.” Wood* is director of regulatory affairs for the national Utility Workers Union of America.

Cook aide George Price called the designation “an outright lie” and urged people to complain to election officials. The e-mail, though, showed that it came from Price’s Assembly account. State law prohibits political work with government resources.

Sam Cannon, Cook’s chief of staff, said Price was not at work and meant to send the e-mail from his personal account. “It’s definitely not an appropriate thing to do and he takes full responsibility,” Cannon said.

Cook has been through is own ballot designation fight. In 2006, a rival challenged his designation as “retired Marine colonel” but Cook prevailed. This year, Cook will be described as “member of the state Assembly.”

(*Corrected for this diary: PE article read “Cook is …”)

With California Senate seats in play, it’s imperative we reach a 2/3 majority in the California Assembly as well.  Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are key battlegrounds for Democrats.  Carl’s Act Blue page is here.

Crossposted at dkos

Brown v. Democracy

By George Lakoff, UC Berkeley

With the California Financial Crisis at stake, the impartiality of the California Attorney General has come under scrutiny.

Proponents of the California Democracy Act, a ballot initiative that would restore a majority vote for revenue and budget in the legislature, are asking Jerry Brown, the Attorney General, for a new title and summary. An exhaustive poll has shown that Brown’s title and summary changed the meaning and intent of the proposed initiative by one of the largest margins ever seen in a poll.

The poll was conducted by David Binder Research, one of California’s most respected polling firms. The poll showed that the actual initiative for majority on revenue and budget is supported by likely California voters by a 73-to-22 percent margin – a 51 percent lead. But Attorney General Jerry Brown personally wrote the title and summary with wording that shifts that favorable margin to a 38-to-56 percent unfavorable margin – a 69 percent shift!

The poll was conducted March 6-11, with a random sample of 800 likely voters with a margin of error of ±3.5 percent. The summary appears on www.CaliforniansforDemocracy.com.

If unchanged, Brown’s wording, not the actual initiative, would appear on the ballot, leading voters to misinterpret it and vote against it. Brown’s wording, if not changed, could kill the initiative, despite overwhelming voter support.

The effect is crucial, since the lack of majority rule in the legislature has made it impossible for the legislature to raise the revenue the state needs to prevent financial meltdown. It is the single biggest factor in the state’s budget crisis.

The California Democracy Act is one sentence long.

More in the extended

All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote.

Its intent is “to bring democracy to the California legislature by ensuring that all legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote. The current 2/3 vote requirement for revenue and budget allows 33.4% of either the Assembly or Senate to block the will of the majority, which violates an essential tenet of democracy.” The issue is democracy. And on an initiative, a simple majority can end the 2/3 vote rules.

Attorney General Brown’s rewording states:

Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass a Budget or Raise Taxes from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

It changes the legislative vote requirement necessary to pass the budget, and to raise taxes from two-thirds to a simple majority. Unknown fiscal impact from lowering the legislative vote requirement for spending and tax increases. In some cases, the content of the annual state budget could change and / or state tax revenues could increase. Fiscal impact would depend on the composition and actions of future legislatures.

The Attorney General’s wording uses the word “taxes” four times, associated with the words “raise” and “increase”. It includes the conservative language “spending and tax increases,” usually used to vilify liberals. His title and summary raises voters’ fears that their taxes could be raised. It replaces the intent of the initiative to promote democracy via majority vote by a purported but untrue intent to raise taxes on individual voters.

The Binder report notes that taxes in general, as opposed to their taxes, are not a real concern of most voters. Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed to raising taxes on lower and middle income Californians, as are Republicans. No one in the legislature wants to raise taxes on most voters.

When taxes on the lower and middle income brackets are not at issue, 64 percent of voters support “solving the budget crisis by closing tax loopholes on corporations and charging oil companies an extraction fee without raising taxes on lower and middle income Californians.” 55% agree with the statement that “we could raise revenue and balance the budget without raising taxes on lower and middle income Californians.” Tax experts, such as Jean Ross of the Californian Budget project and Lenny Goldberg of the California Tax Reform Association agree.

Some moderate and liberal opponents of the Democracy Act believe that the right will attack it as raising taxes nonetheless, and that is no doubt true. Usually such attacks would lower support for an initiative by about 10 percent. The Binder poll took this into account by providing a battery of such attacks and then testing support again. The predicated effect occurred. Support for the original wording dropped from 73-to-22 percent down to 62-to-34 percent, still a 28 percent margin.

In short, the Attorney General’s wording raises unrealistic fears in a majority of voters that their taxes might be raised and hides the true democratic intent of the original initiative. That is why proponents of the California Democracy Act are asking for an accurate title and summary from the Attorney General that reflects the democratic intent of the initiative and does not raise unrealistic fears of most voters that their taxes might be raised via the initiative.

Indeed, voters show overwhelming support for such basic democracy. As Binder observes, 71% of voters agree with the statement that “in a democracy, a majority of legislators should be able to pass everyday legislation.” And 68% of voters disagree with the statement that “in a democracy, a minority of legislators should be able to block everyday legislation.” Percentages this high reflect support from across the political spectrum.

Since everyday legislation requires revenue, a majority vote requirement for both revenue and budget would realize the aspirations of an overwhelming percentage of voters for democracy in their legislature. And it would allow the legislature to pass legislation that would end the budget crisis.

I ask you to write to Attorney General Brown [email protected] asking him to provide a title and summary of the resubmitted California Democracy Act according to its actual intent as follows: Ensures that all legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote, and ends the ability of a minority of legislators to block the will of the majority on such legislation.

The Attorney General ought not to be acting against the overwhelming yearning for democracy on the part of voters across the political spectrum, as well as their deep desire to end the state’s budget crisis.

The author is Professor of Linguistics at UC Berkeley, one of the world’s most renowned linguists and one of the country’s leading experts on the use of language in politics. He is the author of the California Democracy Act.

Bay Area Council Drops $2mil, but on what?

The Bay Area Council, a business coalition from the…um…Bay Area, has announced that they will drop $2 million into the Repair California efforts that they have been pushing for the last few years.  Their efforts to get a constitutional convention may, or may not, result in a ballot measure effort for the November 2010 election.  Maybe.

Repair California, a coalition preparing two Constitutional Convention initiatives for the November 2010 ballot, will receive $2 million from its chief sponsor, the Bay Area Council.

Steven Hill, a coalition member and director of the political reform program at the New America Foundation, made the announcement a few minutes ago at a constitutional reform convention in Sacramento. It represents about half of what the group estimates it will need to run a successful initiative campaign.

Hill also outlined some of of the details of the planned initiatives, which he said will be filed with the state in the next 10 days.

The first initiative authorizes the voters to call a Constitutional Convention, an act restricted under current law to the Legislature. The second measure convenes a convention limited to the review of governance issues. Its recommended reforms would come back to voters in subsequent elections. (CoCo Times)

But the real question is how the delegates are allocated. And as of right now, it appears that they will be allocated at the County Supervisor level.  Every county gets one, and another for each 250K of population, with some provisions made for the 1mil+ cities. If it’s a winner take all thing, where a 3-2 Republican lean appoint all of the delegates, we’re looking at a heavily Republican convention.  Even if there is some proportionate representation in the bigger counties, it’s hard to see how it gets anywhere near the big Democratic advantage we see in the Legislature.

Obviously this is unacceptable. On one level, how could progressives support something with such a big thumb on the scale for conservatives.  On the other, law-side, how does the BAC plan on getting around the legal precedent striking down representation based upon counties.  It violates the one man-one vote principle.

There is still time to change the proposed language, but if this is the plan, I for one will not be supporting it.

Fixing the Supermajorities: Budget, Taxes or Both?

MediaNews has a story about the grassroots/institutional divide over the question of how to challenge the supermajorities.

A split between Democratic activists and the political pros who run the party may be growing over how to approach the issue that has bedeviled the party for years: the two-thirds vote required to pass taxes and budgets in the Legislature.

Most Democrats in the upper echelons of the party apparatus are convinced it’s a fool’s errand to try to persuade voters to hand the majority party unchecked power to raise taxes. Instead, they’re gearing up for a campaign next year to lower the threshold – from two-thirds of both legislative bodies to a simple majority – on budget votes only, a path they believe voters can embrace.

But some grass roots liberals say they’re frustrated with the caution of party leaders and believe, if sold right, voters would hand over both taxing and budgeting powers to the majority party. (CoCo Times 9/21/09)

I’m not sure this is totally accurate.  Not all elected Democrats agree with the assesment of what has been called by some as the institutional position.  Specifically, at the Progressive Caucus breakout groups, Sen. Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Asm. Torrico (D-Fremont), disagreed on this subject.  Sen. Hancock took the so-called institutional position of challenging the budget side, and then moving on to revenue.  Asm. Torrico said you have to do both at one time.

The article goes on to point out the CA-Majority-Rule website that was organized by Susie Shannon and Deana Igelsrud, and their effort to organize funding for a poll based on the work of Berkeley professor George Lakoff. (Incidentally, you can donate here) The poll will probably yield some interesting data, but I think the question of viability misses the gorilla in the room.

Budget/ Taxes Budget 2/3 Budget Majority
Revenue 2/3 Status quo: Parties get to blame each other and we keep on fighting a losing battle. Democrats are stuck with accountability for bad budgets during revenue declines without control of the tax structure
Revenue Majority Not going to happen: nobody is going to put this situation on the ballot and it wouldn’t pass Optimal: Democrats get to sink or swim.  We have the majorities; under this plan we get to see how Democrats would really govern.
Specifically, I think it is clear that a measure to get majority rule on the budget will be a lot easier victory.  However, the question is whether a world where we have complete power over the budget without revenue authority is a good thing for Democrats.  I’ve even made a little matrix (–>) Because with power, comes accountability, whether justified or not.  So, as it stands, neither party has complete authority over the budget. And thus, each party can point the finger at the other for portions of the budget that are unpopular.

But what happens when we win just the budget measure? Sure, we’ll get a heck of a lot more authority over the budget.  Policy wise, that’s a really good thing.  But politics wise, you have to wonder if that’s really so great.  When the cuts are made, guess who gets the “credit” (aka, electoral anvil)? Yup, we get left holding the bag for the mess, without the tools to fix it.  Seems like a bit of Pyrrhic victory to me.

There’s a reason why the Constitutional Convention idea is so appealing: the entire system is messed up, and far past the point of one fix having anything than a minor difference in how the system functions as a whole.

Majority Rule for Budget & Revenue >> Passes CDP Executive Board

This weekend at the California Democratic Party (CDP) Executive Board Meeting several hundred board members unanimously passed this resolution:

Majority Vote  BRG09.08

WHEREAS, the  California Constitution requires certain bills making appropriations from the  General Fund, for changes in state taxes for the purpose of raising revenue,  to be passed in each house of the Legislature by a two-third vote;  and

WHEREAS, this requirement amounts to minority rule by one third, plus one and has brought the State of California  to a revenue crisis and a situation of paralysis because of a vocal minority  of conservative Republicans; and

WHEREAS, the people of  California deserve urgently to have a functional, effective and balanced  government, able to respond and adjust to economic downturns and upswings for  the benefit of the majority of its citizens, rather than be held hostage by  the ideologies of the few;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party supports a change to only require a simple  majority (like the U.S. Congress and 80% of states) for revenue bills, thus restoring majority rule and representative democracy to California’s  government.

This resolution combined with a similar resolution for majority rule for budget put the CDP in the position of favoring majority rule for both budget and revenue related legislation.

Dr. George Lakoff spoke on behalf of the resolution before the Resolutions Committee.  Flyers and buttons were handed out.  Encouraging words came from all but a few. Those few would like to see majority rule but did not believe the revenue part would pass as a ballot measure.  Among the few was John Burton the chair of the party, who slammed the measure during his opening comments while the buttons and flyers were handed out at the door.  Shawnda Westly the new Executive Director said that his and her opinion were based on polls that I pointed out were poorly framed and amounted to asking if the person minded having taxes raised.  I told her that Lakoff had written a set of poll questions and I summarized them.  She suggested that we raise some money to take the poll.  Then they would look at the results and reconsider their position.

I presented the argument that a “just budget” measure, if passed by voters would not end the gridlock as expected by the voters and that the Democrats would be blamed.  I told her “under promise and over deliver” is a Silicon Valley marketing mantra and that a “budget only position would be “over promise and under deliver” and a disaster for the party.  

It is important to have the support of Mr. Burton and his staff because the campaign for majority rule will be very expensive and they are able to raise money and induce other organizations to support the campaign.  

Several prominent CDP officials are in favor of Majority rule for both budget & revenue; most vocal was Assemblymember Alberto Torrico the Majority Leader, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, CDP Vice Chairs Eric Bauman and Alex Rooker and CDP Controller Hillary Crosby.  Assemblymember Nancy Skinner counseled on the importance of getting Burton’s support and the need for money for a successful campaign.  


Prepare a ballot measure for submission to the Attorney General for approval.

Do you know a lawyer(s) who might be of service?

Find sponsor(s) like labor union(s) or environmental group(s) to administer Lakoff’s poll.  

Can you open the door to some organization that would consider sponsorship?

Find a suitable polling firm.  

Do you know of one?

Lobby John Burton and Shawnda Westly.  

Do it!

This is going to be one helluva fight, the kind that builds the party and draws activists into the political fray.  The Obama campaign is waiting for the just cause – this is it!  The Governor has been good enough to loan the Majority Rule campaign thousands of state employees for three Fridays each month to work on the campaign, in addition to thousands of pissed off college students who won’t graduate as planned because of canceled classes, and parents with kids in school who can’t find their favorite teacher or play in the band or join a team  Thousands more who took back our country in 2008 will take back our state in 2010.

Ellis Goldberg

TriValley Democratic Club President & Webmaster www.TRIVALLEYDEMS.com

Office/home 925 831 8355

Cell 925 451 4303

[email protected]

The Other, Other 2/3 Rule

While we are all concerned about the 2/3 rule for the budget, and, of course, the 2/3 rule for revenues. But what about that other, other 2/3 rule? The one for the ballot, that requires a 2/3 vote of the people for increases in revenue.

It’s a real pain too. In fact, that rule caused the defeat of two measures that were supported by over 60% of the electorate.  These were two parcel taxes that would have allowed the school districts to ave the jobs of teachers. Take Measure E in Redwood City for example:

In the midst of a deep economic recession, voters rejected Tuesday a parcel tax measure that would have helped the Redwood City School District weather cuts in state funding.

With all precincts reporting, Measure E had 62.1 percent of voters in favor of the tax compared to 37.9 percent opposed, short of the two-thirds approval it needed to pass, according to returns from Tuesday’s election. (SJ Merc 6/2/09)

You’re talking about 62.1% of the population wanting to do something, but some out-dated, ridiculous law blocks them from taxing themselves. The same thing happened in Pleasanton, where over 61% approved the parcel tax. At some point, the voters of California need to at least give themselves enough credit to decide something with a simple majority.  

How are we to govern under these rules? It simply isn’t possible for the people of California to constantly be fighting battles at these ridiculous thresholds. Would any sort of business operate like this? These are local taxes for crying out loud, yet the state constitution is once again blocking the will of the people. Not for some greater purpose, not for civil rights (looking at you, Prop 8), but simply because some organization thought they could screw up the state a little further.

Not only is the initiative system broken beyond repair, the entire constitution has got to go. It’s time to Repair California.

Tom Torlakson (AD-11) Makes a Stab at 2/3

Californians thinking that we will have to wait until November 2010 and get a single shot to put a dent in the 2/3 rule may be in for a pleasant surprise if AD-11 Assemblymember Tom Torlakson gets his way.

My friend and fellow opponent of Props 1A-1F Sean Keenan, President of the Ojai Valley Democrats, was on our weekly “Reality Check” segment on KVTA 1520 in Ventura County today; among other things, we discussed Torlakson’s bills AB 267 and ACA 10.

AB 267 would authorize school districts to form education finance districts for the purpose of raising revenue for local schools. Under the measure, each education finance district must be comprised of three or more neighboring school districts. The districts would be authorized to place a parcel tax on the ballot for voter approval provided that they agree on the division and expenditure of the revenues raised by the tax.  ACA 10 is a companion constitutional amendment measure to AB 267 which would allow Education Finance Districts to levy a local parcel tax with a majority vote instead of the current two-thirds vote required for single local school districts.  Both measures have passed out of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Allowing majority vote by the people for tax increases is a no-brainer: if people want to increase revenues for the common good and vote to do so, they should be allowed to do so.  Ater all, as I’ve said before, we should be allowed as informed citizens to buy the government we want.  It’s one thing for Republicans to argue about majority rule on revenue enhancements enacted by elected officials; it’s quite another to disallow the voters themselves to choose to raise their own taxes to benefit their own schools.  Indeed, as Mr. Keenan said on the radio today, the voters of Ojai had chosen to levy just such an increase to benefit local schools with 65% approval, but failed to clear the insane 66.67% threshold needed for a 2/3 majority.  Who needs schools, anyway?

Torlakson’s office states that the reason for creating the education finance districts comprised of multiple school districts in AB 267 is to help ensure that poorer school districts are not left out of parcel tax levies instituted by wealthier surrounding districts; additional measures to ensure this outcome would be added if it were discovered that wealthy communities were circumventing the intent of the law (thanks to Sean Mykael for relaying this info).

AB 267 is likely to pass through the legislature; it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the Hoovernator would veto the measure.

ACA 10, on the other hand, faces an almost impossible uphill battle: as a proposed constitutional amendment, it would require 2/3 of both the Assembly and the State Senate just to allow the measure to come before the voters, either in June 2010 or later in November.  Can there be any doubt as to how the anti-democratic (in every sense of the word) Yacht Party will vote on this one?  In an irony that will surprise no one, a 2/3 rule at the state level will no doubt prevent a remedy to the 2/3 at the local level.

In an environment where convincing voters of the need to do away with 2/3 at a state legislative level may be a challenge even given the budget crisis, convincing voters that they themselves should be allowed to vote on certain revenue increases without the onerous burden of 2/3 could be a significantly easier task.

Still, it will almost certainly require bypassing the legislature and moving to a signature-gathering effort and petition drive in order to put this commonsense change on the ballot.  It will be interesting to see what kind of action this idea receives from the CTA and other motivated parties.

The Tracy Press Makes the Progressive Case Against Prop 1A

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

I must admit that I was a bit surprised when I saw this editorial at the Tracy Press. It clearly lays out what can only be described as the progressive case against Proposition 1A:

This hastily drafted measure won’t work.

Why? Proposition 1A has such rigid provisions, it would lock in a reduced level of public services without taking into account California’s changing demographics, population growth and future policies. It would also give the future governors new power without legislative oversight.

1A isn’t even a short-term patch on a long-term problem. Most of this measure’s provisions wouldn’t take effect for two years. In that time, we could repeal the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for budgets and tax increases – and we could work on real budget reform, without the permanent changes that 1A would make to the state’s Constitution. (Tracy Press)

It’s like reading something straight out of the virtual pages of Calitics.

Activism for the People: Biking for 2/3 Repeal

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) isn’t necessarily the go-along to get along type. During the budget week from hell, she was a thorn in the leadership’s side. She has spent quite a bit of time to push for the repeal of 2/3. Today, she got a little support from some of her constituents who biked up to Sacramento.

Or rather, she helped out these parents, and local grassroots leaders.  This video (h/t to Josh Richman), while not the most solid YouTube effort ever, does do a decent job of explaining the problem with the supermajority rules. My complaint is that the message is a bit hidden, it could be more direct.

If we are going to get 2/3 repealed, we can’t let the struggles of February get forgotten. It must be present and visible and associated with the state’s failures. See your kid’s teacher getting cut? That was the 2/3 rules.  See your elderly neighbor’s in-home support services cut? That was the 2/3 rule. Same deal with the whole litany of disaster preparedness services. Supermajority rules lead directly to dysfunctional and inadequate government.  In a land of wildfires and earthquakes, we simply cannot afford this dysfunction.

If we are to move forward in whatever new economy oozes out of the melting glacial ice of the 21st century, we can’t be hamstrung by such inefficiencies.