Tag Archives: Structural Reform

Provide CPR for California – End The Crisis

Note: I’m proud to work for the Courage Campaign

The current budget crisis has been going on since at least mid-2007. It is a reinflammation of the 2002-04 crisis that brought down Gray Davis. Which was a recurrence of the budget crisis of the early 1990s. Which was a recurrence of the 1980s crisis, generated by Prop 13.

It has become painfully clear that the budget crisis is the result of a broken government. The 2/3rds rule has made the state nearly ungovernable. The initiative process isn’t much help. Susceptible to those with enough money to game the system, and hostile to those with good ideas, it’s worsened the governance crisis. How many times has Don Sebastiani put parental notification on the ballot?

We need not just a better budget, but a better government. Conservatives have succeeded in changing the rules to favor their ideologies. It’s time progressives pushed back. If we want to implement the progressive agenda, from universal health care to global warming solutions to affordable education and job creation, we need to fix the structural obstacles that have blocked those policy solutions.

That’s why the Courage Campaign – with help from many Caliticians – has unveiled its rescue plan for state government. We’re calling it CPR for California – the Citizens Plan to Reform California. It includes the following progressive reforms (the full document can be read here, with details on each of the proposals listed below):

• Clean money

• Term limits reform

• Universal voter registration

• Initiative financial disclosure

• Pursue campaign contribution limits

• Legislative review/consultation of initiatives

• Signature reform

• Eliminate 2/3rds rule

• Biennial budgeting

• Long-term budgets

• Restore marriage equality

• Protect the Constitution

All these reforms are good ones. But which ones should come first? We’re asking Californians to rank their top 3 priorities – and we’ve provided space for folks to propose their own government reforms.

CPR for California will be a progressive reform agenda for California, much like the 1911 progressive reforms that attempted to return power to the people. It will help pressure legislators to support the right reforms. It can serve as an agenda for a constitutional convention, should that happen.

Obviously some of these have already been proposed in the new Legislative session – public support for CPR for California can help create momentum for those progressive reforms.

At Netroots Nation in July, Van Jones explained the need for progressives to move from opposition to proposition. That’s what CPR for California is. Our chance to shift the terms of debate about democracy and government in California. Conservatives frequently frame government in hostile terms, and have set up rules that make that framing believable.

If we’re going to solve the budget crisis and build the kind of public services we deserve, Californians need a government that is democratic, accountable, and effective. CPR for California is a first step in making that happen.

Over the flip is the email we sent to over 100,000 Courage Campaign members today:

Dear Robert,

California is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, facing a $28 billion budget deficit over the next 19 months.

For thirty years, we have careened from budget crisis to budget crisis as the legislature becomes increasingly gridlocked and held hostage by a right-wing minority. Every election, millions of dollars are spent on meaningless or damaging ballot initiatives that often make matters worse. The voice of the voter is drowned by a sea of money, dispiriting the average Californian.

Before we can tackle the economic and environmental problems that bedevil our state, we must fix the broken politics that produced these problems.

Only we, the people, can revive California.

That’s why the Courage Campaign is launching the Citizens Plan to Reform California — “CPR for California” — a holistic package of reforms that can heal our sick government, including initiative reform, budget reform, clean money, and restoring equal rights.

We need your vote ASAP. In just a few minutes, you can rank the top three priorities we should place on our “CPR for California” agenda this year. Just click here to read the plan and tell us what YOU think are the most important reforms we should campaign for in 2009 to fix our broken state:


Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t rescue California. Five years after winning the recall election, his promises to “rise above politics as usual” have led to just the opposite: an impotent governor who talks big, but made our budget crisis far worse than what he inherited.

The state legislature can’t rescue California. The leadership’s hands are tied by the 2/3rds budget rule that allows a small minority of extremist Republicans to hold Californians hostage to the conservative ideology made famous by Grover Norquist’s vision of “drowning government in the bathtub.”

Only you can rescue California.

Working together, we can administer some progressive CPR to our state. Just click here to check out our “CPR for California” plan and tell us the top three priorities we should focus on in 2009. You can also suggest your own reforms to rescue our broken state:


When George W. Bush and his Republican friends broke the federal government, the American people organized to elect Barack Obama to fix the mess.

It is time for the people of California to do the same for California. Nobody else is going to step up and do it for us.

Thank you for helping us make California a more progressive, governable state.

Robert Cruickshank

Public Policy Director

Redistricting Redux

In last November’s special election, Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to ram a flawed redistricting proposition down the the throat’s of the California electorate.  Fortunately, the voters saw through it as a soft-core version of Tom Delay’s power grab in Texas.  Yes, the GOP knew that it wouldn’t be able to consolidate its power like it did in Texas, but they figured this would be a great way to possibly pick up a seat by using mostly Republican ex-judges.

However, I’ve always thought that we need a new way of redistricting.  Our general elections are drifting towards sham status.  Primaries are becoming the real election, and this causes the legislative candidates to become increasingly partisan.  It has yielded an assembly that is so hamstrung because both sides have retreated to their base and are unwilling to see the side’s position.  For example, at this point no GOP state legislator could really vote for tax increases.  They would soon be targeted by Grover Norquist and his gang for a primary challenge, and there goes his (or her) career.  And the primary pressures are causing both sides to want spending increases, but tax increases to support them are verboten by Norquist decree.

Wouldn’t it be great if every seat in the nation was truly competitive?  Where the seats were drawn by some reasonable cartographer?  Wow, that would be nice.  Well, now redistricting is back. Sen Alan Lowenthal’s (D-Long Beach) proposed consitutional amendment has support from both sides of the aisle.

A year ago, voters struck down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s redistricting reform, turned off by what appeared to be a crass power grab to reshape legislative districts.

Less than a year later, state lawmakers are back with another reform ballot proposal — to create an independent redistricting commission that would redraw the lines that determine the political balance of power in California.

“This is a much cleaner proposal. But, it will need support from both sides,” said state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the author of the measure, SCA 3. “People must be able to see that one party is not going to have an advantage over the other party. That’s crucial.”
Lawmakers must move quickly to get the measure on the November ballot. There is an official, though not strict, Thursday deadline. If they don’t make it, proponents may have to wait for 2008 to put it on the ballot.
(CoCoTimes 6/26/06)

And this time it’s done right: No mid-decade redistricting.  This time we’d wait until the 2010 census.  More on the flip…

One other issue raised is the tension between geographical continuity, that is having cities and counties in one region, and having competitive districts. 

But Democrats — perhaps leery of losing their big majority in the two legislative chambers — struck a provision that would have encouraged the commission to create competitive districts, instead putting more emphasis into drawing boundaries that avoid cutting through cities and counties.

The Center for Governmental Studies, in a study published last month, chastised that decision: “Commissions, without explicit instructions to define and prioritize competitiveness as a redistricting objective, are unlikely to achieve significant gains in the number of competitive districts.”

But much of California, Lowenthal said, has regional characteristics that can’t be forced into competitive boundaries.

“One goal is competitiveness, but it’s not the only goal,” he said. “There will be some areas where it will be competitive. But I don’t want to sell this like it’s going to create all these competitive districts.”

Both of these goals are tremendously important.  During Delay’s power grab, the Texas Legislature, which sure hates Austin, decided that there should be no representative that covers the bulk of one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the nation.  So, instead they saw fit to give a two-mile stretch of 6th Street, one of the city’s largest tourist attractions, into three different districts.  This should not happen in California.  We need districts that are both competitive and reasonable in terms of geography.  There are just some seats that will never be competitive (i.e. a couple of GOP seats in the O.C., San Diego and Inland, and several Dem seats in LA and SF.)  We needn’t force competiveness where there is a shared political sense in a region.  Rather, we should hope for districts that are drawn with a more reasonable geography, and then worry about competitiveness.

The actual system for annointing the new commissioners is a rather complex game.  Actually, it would make a very interesting game theory study, but well, hopefully that won’t happen. Here’s the CoCo Times’ description:

A look at how a redistricting commission would be selected under the proposed constitutional amendment:

• The California Judicial Council will choose 10 judges — five from each party — who will in turn nominate 50 potential commissioners.

• The 50 nominees must consist of 19 Democrats, 19 Republicans and 12 others who have not stated their party or belong to a third party.

• The four legislative leaders will then be allowed to remove two people from the opposing party, eliminating up to eight nominees.

• From the 42 remaining nominees, the judges will vote and select eight commissioners — with no more than four from either the Republican or Democratic party.

• Those eight commissioners then will choose the remaining three commissioners among the 12 who have no party ties for a total of 11.