WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!!! Cries the State Legislature

cry-wolfAt the April meeting of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, we considered the initiatives on the upcoming May 19 ballot. We urge you to READ them as well as the analysis pieces. These were put onto the ballot at the end of the budget session in February when Republican Abel Maldonado, Santa Maria, cut a deal to end the budget stalemate with Senate Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg. See this article for background. In addition to these lovely initiatives, Maldonado got the Democrats to agree to put the question of an OPEN PRIMARY to the voters. This one is NOT on this May ballot, however.

Assemblyman Mike Feuer spoke for the “PRO” side of the initiatives, and Calitics writer David Dayen spoke for the “NO” side. Here is the analysis from Calitics (with an internal quote from the League of Women Voters):.

Within the discussion, comments included: most citizens are really sick of our legislature taking the easy way out and NOT dealing with the real elephant in the room — CORPORATE CONTROL of our government. No one agreed with the usual targets for budget cutting — mental health, schools, childhood programs (all funding previously VOTED FOR via the initiative process). And there was a strong reaction against the fear-mongering talking points that have been sent along for these initiatives. Questions on why there were more corporate tax breaks added during the budget session and why so little was done about the burgeoning prison-industrial complex budget which wasn’t cut.

There are many reasons for the state being in this condition today. One is the application of Proposition 13 to commercial properties from 1978 onward. My recollection, having lived through that as the political deputy to City Controller Ira Reiner (who supported 13 and helped give it credibility), is that 13 was meant to apply to single-family residences. Because this was another of the many poorly worded initiatives voters have passed in frustration over the inaction of our state legislature, the so-called clarification AFTER it passed added in the commercial properties. Commercial real estate does not change ownership nearly as frequently as residential properties, and they use loopholes to avoid revaluation. They have enjoyed the lowest real estate taxes in the country ever since, as our education spending plummeted, in tandem, to become one of the lowest in the country also.

Another reason is the continual kow-towing to corporate interests and their lobbyists. Corporate tax breaks abound, and California remains one of the few states WITHOUT an oil severance tax. Hard choices for our legislators who continue to raise campaign funds from these same corporations and try to tell us that these contributions don’t influence their votes. Yea, sure. Possibly Clean Money could make a difference if we were to believe that there will be a quantum shift in ethics once it’s put into place. This was what was SUPPOSED to have happened a few decades ago when the legislature was made full time and given full-time salaries (now at $130,000). See Bill Boyarsky’s recent book for a backgrounder on the state legislature.

Many expressed outrage over the speaker’s revenge on those voting against this “deal with the devil” (as one person described it). Three assemblymembers lost their committee chairmanships as well as their previously assigned offices when they voted against these initiatives.

Another suggested that Democrats who go along with this Republican outrage are victims of the Stockholm Syndrome (WIKI: a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed).

Much is being made about the need to either get a two-thirds majority in both houses of the state legislature OR to pass a simple majority rule. Either of these could work to marginalize the minority party except for the fact that Arnold and his Republican minions got Democrats to join them and pass Proposition 11 last fall (it gives them equal redistricting power regardless of their dwindling numbers). And, if they had DONE anything about either of these options earlier, we wouldn’t be hamstrung now (Feuer noted that he is new in the legislature and acknowledged the failures of the past as a cause for the present).

No one really knows what will be done if the initiatives do not pass, but the legislators who are flying around the state speaking on this have their set of doomsday talking points. At the West LA Democratic forum the day after PDLA’s, Senator Dean Flores said there would be “across-the-board” cuts in all programs. Robert Cruickshank has his opinion on May 20th, and I started a list of “things to do” for our state legislators to get them focused on what real people are more interested in having them do.

Obviously, solving the healthcare crisis with immediate passage of SB810 would be a real step forward IF Democrats Susan Kennedy and Maria Shriver would push Arnold to sign it. Maybe he could leave office without having horns drawn on every picture, if he actually came through on this ONE thing.

Here’s a little reminder of the origins of our present Initiative 1A. Remember when all of the unions mobilized back in ’05 and we all shouted out a big NO to Arnold’s propositions? I do, because I walked the hills and long stairways of my Woodland Hills precinct. Let’s take a look back to 2005’s Proposition 76:

No on Proposition 76 – This proposition allows the governor to declare a fiscal emergency and cut any program by any amount he chooses. The issue is whether this power is properly vested in the governor.
If the initiative passes, the governor could undo decisions made by voters previously. School funding, health, police and emergency rooms, among other expenditures, would be at risk.

If the initiative fails, the governor would have less power to act in years when the budget is in a crisis.
Our state government is like the federal government in that power is shared by the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Giving the power to the governor to overturn prior decisions made by voters upsets this balance too much.

Here’s your reading set for the day. The state pays for a Legislative Analyst to go over ALL of these initiatives and explain them in relatively clear language. On page 5: “If Proposition 1A passes, the Governor would be given new authority to reduce certain types of spending during a fiscal year without additional legislative approval.” La De Da. Just what he wanted and was denied by the massive outpouring of unions that crushed Prop 76 three years ago. What happened? This time around we see a splitting of the unions. I’ll always recall CTA endorsing Republican Bruce McPherson over Debra Bowen, so they’ll NEVER have any credibility in my book. CTA-yes, CFT-no. Getting a late start on this, SEIU has joined the NO side.

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More on that same important page 5: “The fiscal effects of Proposition 1A are particularly difficult to assess. This is because the measure’s effects would depend on a variety of factors that will change over time and cannot be accurately predicted.” And THIS is the initiative that our legislature is trying to tell us we MUST PASS???

And, last point, many felt that pushing off these decisions onto the electorate by the initiative process is just another way for the legislators to abdicate their responsibility. Whatever happens in this election, they can just point to the voters and blame them (us)…either way. Catch 22 all over again.

So, PDLA joins Calitics and says “Just say NO” to all of these initiatives.

Linda Sutton


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