Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘majority vote’



Jerry’s Options Dwindle; Calbuzz Breakthrough Plan

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

At this stage of his life, Jerry Brown is at the end of his rope.

Biologically, the matter’s pretty much out of his hands. Politically, however, Governor Gandalf is still fighting the good existential fight, laboring day and night in an effort to craft a solution to the state’s budget woes.

As a political  matter, his biggest problem that needs fixing is this: most of the Republicans in the Legislature can just sit back and laugh at his exertions, getting exactly what they want by doing exactly nothing.

Not surprisingly, Brown is frustrated, exasperated and more than a little pissed off at the GOP members who are, variously,  inexperienced,  scared of losing their jobs and/or ignorant.

“If you’re not going to vote to extend taxes, if you’re not going to vote to cut, if you’re not going to vote to eliminate redevelopment, so what the hell are you going to do?” Brown said Monday night. “By the way, if you’re not going to do anything why do you take a paycheck?”

The boundaries of his dilemma are clear: He promised that he won’t raise taxes without a vote of the people; he doesn’t want a Democrats-only majority vote to put a tax extension measure on the ballot; he’s so far failed to peel off two votes from Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to get a two-thirds vote for a ballot measure. And an all-cuts budget to eliminate the state’s $26.6 billion deficit is so draconian, it’s not clear Republicans would vote for it, not to mention Democrats.

So when he now vows, as he did Monday night, that a tax vote will happen “one way or another” — “no matter what anybody says across the street” — it’s clear he’s banking on some mechanism to get a measure on the ballot. But how, and on which ballot, are both unclear.

Brown’s approval rating of 48-21% (including 67-10% among Democrats, 45-23% among independents and 25-35% among Republicans) is far better than the Legislature’s at 16-70%, according to the Field Poll. But so what?

He can slap up a crappy You Tube behind-the-desk speech and argue “This is a matter of we, the people, taking charge and voting on the most fundamental matters that affect all of our lives.” He can go before Labor’s 2011 Joint Legislative Conference and cry “I say let California vote!” But he still seems stuck with just five options:

1. Get a 2/3 Vote: Threaten, bribe or cajole two members each of the Assembly and the Senate to agree to place on the June ballot a five-year extension of income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees passed in 2009. This was always Brown’s Plan A. But anti-tax forces have vowed to place on a stick the head of any Republican legislator who goes along with this idea, even if they get a spending cap, pension reform and regulatory relief for business in the bargain. “The moment of truth is rapidly approaching,” for this option, Brown said the other night.

2. Use the Majority Vote: Democrats in the Legislature have enough votes to place the extensions on the June ballot on their own by arguing that they’re part of the existing budget that’s in place until June 30. For starters, this might or might not be legally valid; worse, as a partisan measure, it might cause business interests who have expressed support to turn against it, to avoid being in league with the Democrats who will have conceded “only” budget cuts but no action on pensions or regulations.

3. Scramble for a June initiative: Some consultants have said it might still be possible to gather enough signatures for a June measure to extend the taxes, but writing a measure, getting approval, analysis, title and summary, circulating and collecting signatures would have to occur in record time. Most people think it can’t be done.

4. Adopt an All-Cuts Budget: Brown might still just throw up his hands and lay out another $14 billion in cuts. See above for why this option sucks.

5. Gather signatures for November: This could be a last-ditch attempt to keep his promise for a vote and avert massive cuts. The problem is that once they get past June, those extensions from the 2009 will have expired and continuing them, even temporarily, can more easily be characterized as tax increases. Polling has found about 55% support for extensions, 52% for temporary taxes and less than 40% support for tax increases.

Not a good choice in the bunch.

Voila! The Calbuzz Outside-the Box-Thinking Plan for Fiscal Integrity, Nuclear Safety and Peace in Our Time.

Here’s how it would work: Set things up so that the Democrats  approve, with a majority vote, a conditional all-cuts budget that presumes no tax extensions. (We wonder if Republicans would vote for it.) Then gather signatures to place that on the November ballot, with a provision that if the measure fails the cuts will not occur because the 2009 taxes and fees will be re-instated for five years. As a practical matter, cuts can be delayed to occur after November. And costs can be shifted to local government for local responsibilities whether the measure wins or loses.

Then let Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, radio heads John and Ken and the rest of their not-our-problem cadre be forced to argue for the budget ballot measure while Democrats and labor argue against it.

In other words, make the “yes” position a vote for cutting programs for widows, orphans, fish and fawn and the “no” position a vote for freedom, justice and common decency on our streets and in our homes. Recall: in the history of ballot propositions in California, “no” beats “yes” 67% of the time.

Such a move would fulfill Brown’s promise for a vote on taxes while ripping the mask from the Republicans’ phony we’re-just-protecting-the-taxpayers stance and forcing them to take public responsibility for the real-life consequences of what their position truly means: a massive reduction in popular public services, starting with K-12 schools and higher ed.

Right now the right-wing has the best of all possible worlds: they cry crocodile tears about government spending without having to lift a finger to take ownership of the painful steps necessary to reduce it enough to balance the budget exclusively with cuts.

Using political jujitsu, however, the Calbuzz Plan flips the framework on the whole debate, and denies irresponsible Republicans their current luxury of indulging in total unaccountability.

Is it legal? We have no idea, but we’ve paid enough attorney fees to know that it wouldn’t be hard to round up a whole stadium full of lawyers willing to argue that it is. If nothing else, that at least will boost employment.

How Papal Predeccesors Can Help Pope Jerry I

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Jerry Brown’s recent reliance on religious rhetoric in trying to win Republican support for his tax plan may reflect a belief that his only hope for political salvation lies in the power of prayer.

Or maybe it just means he’s suffering delusions of grandeur.

Some media heretics claim that Brown’s drawing of a comparison between the few Republicans willing to negotiate with him and the Jewish elder Nicodemus means the governor is casting himself in the role of Jesus.

But the Calbuzz College of Cardinals and Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, which has analyzed Brown’s canonical pronouncements more fully than any other news organization, just issued a new encyclical, decreeing that the Jesuit-trained governor’s spouting of sacerdotal language suggests instead that he considers himself the Pope, a point he seemed to make in a recent appearance before legislators:

While expressing disappointment at Republicans who have signed anti-tax pledges, he quipped that as a young seminary student he made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that were later withdrawn.

“It took the Pope to do that, but I want you to know we can set up a process where we can dispense people from pledges,” he said to laughter.

“Any Republican that wants a dispensation, they should come down to my office.”

With compromise-minded GOP senators declaring this week that they are at “impasse” with Brown, we recommend he look closely at the political records of five of the 266 popes in Roman Catholic Church history for some key dos and don’ts about what he should do next:

St. Peter (32-67 AD) - The first pope, and the rock upon which his church was built, Peter found perhaps his greatest success during the years he traveled on populist missionary tours throughout the Mideast and Asia Minor – Antioch, Caesarea,  Galatia, Joppe, Lydda, Pontus, et al. – before ending up in Rome.

It’s a good model for Brown, particularly if Republicans remain stubborn, and he should hit the road – Anaheim, Chowchilla, Grass Valley, Jackson, Larkspur, Pomona, etc. – on behalf of his budget plan, before heading back to Sacramento.

A word of caution: Historians tell us Peter met his earthly fate by being crucified upside down by whack job Emperor Nero; Brown is well advised to avoid  being in the same room as Grover Norquist.

Pope Leo I (440-461) - Leo the Great is known for sustaining and expanding the unity of his church at a time when that wasn’t an easy thing to do; among other accomplishments, he persuaded Attila the Hun to leave Italy, and convinced the Vandals to take it easy on the citizens of Rome.

Like Leo, Brown is faced with restoring stable governance to a state in chaos. His equivalent challenge: chilling out the marauding anti-government Visigoths of the GOP.

Pope-elect Stephen (March 23-26, 752) - A Roman priest, Stephen was elected to succeed Pope Zachary but died just three days later, before he was ordained, of what historians say was apoplexy.

It’s understandable that Brown might go all apoplectic over the budget battle, so he needs to just…breathe…and take an ecumenical dose of Zen  meditation the better to stay on the political pathway to a second term. Plus some friendly Ignatian advice: “Age quod agis” – “Do what you are doing.”

Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) – Not-so-Innocent was the first pope to levy an income tax, requiring all clergy to fork over one-fortieth of their pay to help support the Crusades. At first, he promised to return one-fourth of the dough if they paid up willingly and honestly; when some complained that the money was being misused, he cracked down and threatened to excommunicate anyone who tried to short the tax man.

The clear lesson for Brown: he needs to make his case for tax extensions both convincing and clear, and if he manages to get his measure on the ballot, he damn well better explain to voters exactly where their money is going.

Pope Pius IX (1846-78) – The cardinals who voted him in were divided into two factions – conservatives who wished to continue absolutism in church governance, and liberals, who backed moderate reforms; when the deal went down, he won by three (decline-to-state) votes.

Pius started his record-long reign as a strong liberal, but became ever more conservative in later years, as he demonstrated shrewd and savvy political skill on behalf of his church while navigating decades of European revolutionary upheaval and ushering in the dogma of “papal infallibility.”

Like Pius, Brown now trends more conservative than in his liberal salad days. Also like him, the governor needs to win support from independents in order to succeed. In the end, however, it would be a helluva’ lot easier for Brown if he just declared himself infallible and passed whatever budget he damn well pleases.

On a more secular note: With the Gang of Five GOP senators who’ve been meeting with Brown having declared an impasse, while unions representing teachers, firefighters, cops and others urge the Legislature to protect pensions, it’s a 50-50 proposition at best that Brown’s hopes for a June vote on $12 billion in tax and fee extensions will come to pass.

Given that the governor has repeatedly stated he will not go for a majority-vote move to get a measure on the ballot (because it’s likely not legal, not to mention politically suicidal) there are basically three theories about what will happen next in Sacramento :

1. Intransigent Republicans will continue to refuse to offer reasonable options for negotiation on a budget agreement because by saying “no” they get what they want: $26 billion in spending cuts.

This is the “Don’t Throw Me in the Briar Patch” approach that Brown unintentionally invited by saying a) he won’t raise taxes without a vote of the people and b) if he can’t get a vote, the only alternative is an all-cuts budget.

2. Many Republicans (the Gang of Five and others) know that $26 billion in spending cuts would devastate local schools, higher education, public safety, state parks and social services (for which they may be blamed), so they’ll hold out until the last minute, expecting Brown to negotiate with himself by offering ever deeper cuts, pension reforms and spending limitations which they just might go along with after the California Republican Party state convention March 18-20.

3. Declaring talks at an impasse – and Brown’s suggestion that things look bad – are just negotiating tactics and in the next few weeks both sides will bend enough to reach an agreement that the Democrats and their labor, environmental and social allies can accept in place of $12 billion more in cutbacks and that a handful of Republicans — bolstered by chambers of commerce and other business groups — can accept as conservative accomplishments to ward off the right-wing, anti-tax political  jihad.

What will happen? Who will prevail? Will Sutter Brown roll over and present his belly to be stroked? Will Pope Jerry?

Calbuzz sez: a combo of 2) and 3).

Cal Forward Fee Proposal Meets Our Hawaiian Eye

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

When last we checked on California Forward’s reform proposals we saw them drifting in some Legislative backwater. But friends tell us there may still be breath in some of the proposals and the one Calbuzz thinks is most likely to be a sleeper relates — you guessed it — to whether it takes a majority or two-thirds to approve of fees.

As we noted in our last look at this damn thing, SCA 19, Cal Forward’s omnibus reform bill,  includes a provision that says:

any bill that imposes a fee shall be passed by not less than two-thirds of all Members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature if revenue from the fee would be used to fund a program, service, or activity that was previously funded by revenue from a tax that is repealed or reduced in the same fiscal year or in a prior fiscal year.”

Jim Mayer and Fred Silva of Cal Forward said this would apply only in some specific and rare cases and would not undercut the Legislature’s ability to raise fees in most cases by majority vote.  We said we thought the measure would affect the Legislature’s power on fees because (quoting us) “every program, service and activity is funded by ‘revenue from a tax,’ and so, any place where the Legislature wanted to subvent tax funds with fee funds would require a two-thirds vote.”

Comes now someone who, unlike Calbuzz, actually understands the budget — Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, who tells us: “The language is so broad that it appears to require a two-thirds vote to impose or increase a fee that goes to any program that receives support from the General Fund.

“That would include CalFire, community college fees, everything that receives even a dime of state general purpose funding, or a dime of revenue from a tax that has been cut at any time in the state’s history.”

Oops. Another reason — along with the elimination of the two-thirds vote on the budget (which we like, BTW) — that Cal Forward’s package of proposals is ready for the fork.

Now this: Check out CBP’s latest, a detailed report on who pays taxes in California, which sh.ould come in handy the next time some candidate starts claiming the state has the highest taxes in the nation

This just in: Our Honolulu Bureau’s Big Waves and Little Drink Umbrellas Desk reports that Aloha State airwaves are crackling with ads from candidates in a May 22 congressional race, which threatens to become the latest special election nightmare for Democrats and the White House.

With the Scott Brown special election stunner still top of mind, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s troops are facing the real possibility of losing their long-held grip on the state’s First District seat because of an all-party ballot, which makes the top vote-getter the new representative without a run-off, coupled with an all-politics-is-local internecine brawl between two Hawaii Democrats.

The scenario was set up when longtime Rep. Neil Abercrombie resigned in December to run for governor, to replace outgoing Republican Linda Lingle (who’s having big problems of her own ) amid a California-style budget mess. The Democratic Establishment, in the persons of U.S. Senators Daniels Akaka and Inouye, quickly lined up behind state senator Colleen Hanabusa, a reliable legislative hack who’s now running as a “partner” of President Obama, who won the district in his home state with 70 percent of the vote in 2008.

But Ed Case, a moderate and former Democrat House member, also jumped into the contest, raising the specter that Republican Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, may split the seam and capture the seat amid the D’s feuding. Case is casting himself as an outsider by running against Washington insiders and, Mai Tai sources say, would run likely run stronger against Djou in a one-on-one matchup because of his appeal to independent voters.

But Case broke the play-nice rules of Hawaii politics by challenging Akaka in the 2006 Senate primary and payback is a bitch; the Asian-American Action Fund, strong backers of the two U.S. Senators, has warned off any national Dems of a mind to get behind Case by noting that 60 percent of the voters are of Asian descent, a not-so-subtle shot aimed at helping Hanabusa and dissing the white guy.

Gleeful Republicans meanwhile are nationalizing the race, and uniting behind Djou, a smart and boyish looking moderate with a nice-looking young  family who’s campaigning as a small-government entrepreneurial types. GOP presidential hopefuls Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney have both weighed in on the contest, contributing money to Djou and portraying him as a scourge of “Obamacare, a costly stimulus bill and cap and trade legislation.”

And Mahalo for that.

Why Goo Goo Plans are Toast; Labor Runs Amok

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

We come to bury California Forward, not to praise it. The goo goo reform plan, now subsumed into SCA 19, contains a host of worthy measures affecting budgeting and spending. But it’s the much-needed centerpiece – reducing the two-thirds vote needed to approve the state budget – that is its undoing. For now.

Why? Because to put the measure on the ballot will itself require a two-thirds vote, which won’t happen because even if all the Democrats lined up together – and that’s not at all certain – the Republicans would kill it.

As His Royal Walters wrote last week: “Politically, the plan appears to be a nonstarter.”

Loyal Calbuzzers know that we have long argued that without a variety of reforms – including majority vote on the state budget — California will remain fundamentally ungovernable.

Sure, a governor and Legislature will play their roles, budgets will be passed, schools and prisons will operate, the state will function. But California will continue to float along like a raft on the ocean, not like a true ship of state being steered along a certain course.

Besides the majority-vote budget provision, the SCA 19 – at the request of California Forward – also includes a provision that says:

any bill that imposes a fee shall be passed by not less than two-thirds of all Members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature if revenue from the fee would be used to fund a program, service, or activity that was previously funded by revenue from a tax that is repealed or reduced in the same fiscal year or in a prior fiscal year.”

Now, Jim Mayer and Fred Silva of Cal Forward – two really smart guys whose thinking we respect – say this is NOT an attack on the Sinclair Paint decision (which Calbuzz has covered exhaustively) that allows the Legislature to raise fees by majority vote as long as there is a “nexus” between the fee and the service it pays for.

They say it only would apply to a limited situation in which a fee was proposed to replace a specific excise tax used to fund a specific program, service or activity. The measure was inserted, Mayer said, “in order to build some support for majority vote from business groups who would otherwise kill the bill.”

Which kinda underscores our point:  If it doesn’t affect Sinclair, why do it at all? Because, they say, some business interests are worried that the Legislature will try a massive bait-and-switch, swapping out tax-based revenues with majority-vote fees.

The way we read the measure, it does affect Sinclair since every program, service and activity is funded by “revenue from a tax,” and so, any place where the Legislature wanted to subvent tax funds with fee funds would require a two-thirds vote – which under Sinclair only requires a majority. But we’re not what you might call your “tax experts.”

Anyway, even if the liberals go along – and if just a few of them read this like we do, that’s not likely – the Republicans are not likely to give away their one-third-vote leverage. Which is why we say you can stick a fork in Cal Forward’s proposal.

Back Away From the IPhone!

Back in January, Calbuzz was first to break the news that three longtime Democrats from a new Silicon Valley firm were rolling out “a product that – for better or worse — promises to cut dramatically the cost of gathering signatures for ballot initiatives by using social networking and touch-screen technology.”

Verafirma Inc.’s Democracy Project, founded by Jude Barry, Michael Marubio and Steve Churchwell, we reported, makes it possible for activists to use email, Facebook and other social networking venues to distribute ballot initiative language and arguments, and to collect and verify signatures from users who have an iPhone, Droid or other new generation touch-screen device.

So when we heard about Barry, a Calbuzz contributor, getting blacklisted by Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, we thought it was just a case of union protectionism run amok.

The ostensible reason for placing Barry and his firm, Catapult Strategies, on the  “do not patronize” list was that Verafirma is selling its signature-gathering technology to the folks trying to qualify a ballot measure for “paycheck protection” — labor’s most-hated proposal which would ban use of union dues for political purposes.

This didn’t make any sense. Verafirma is licensing use of a technology that anybody can use. It’s as if they’d come up with a pedestrian GPS system and Republican precinct walkers wanted to use it. It’s like selling electronic clipboards and pens. The technology is neutral. It’s like blacklisting an iPod dealer because right-wingers are buying and using his product.

But then we read Internal Affairs in the Mercury News and nosed around a bit more and it all came clear: Pulaski was doing the dirty work for Cindy Chavez, who heads the South Bay Labor Council and who is supporting Forrest Williams for county supervisor. Barry is working for Teresa Alvarado, seeking that same seat on the county board.

Chavez told the Mercury News she didn’t draft the Pulaski letter, although she knew it was in the works. And she took a whack at Barry for allowing “a company of his to support taking the right away from working men and women to speak politically.”

Calbuzz has no candidate in the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors race. We just think Barry  — who worked for Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean, ferchristsake — is getting rat-fucked. Sure paycheck protection is anti-union. And one of Barry’s defenses — that it wasn’t his personal account at Verafirma — is specious.

But none of that should matter: he’s done nothing to challenge labor’s right to organize or influence politics. This stinks.

FPPC Lets Newsom Double Dip: Calbuzz called attention to a loophole in the law governing contributions a while back but the FPPC has decided that you can run for one office, max out to the limit, drop from that race and enter another and max out again from the same donors. This lets Gavin Newsom, now a candidate for gov lite, go back to all those donors who gave him $25,900 when he was a candidate for governor. Whatever.

CA Forward Moves Ahead on Majority Budget Plan

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

cafwd_logo

California Forward, the good government group backed by the state’s most muscular civic foundations, decided Wednesday – at least tentatively – to stand up and play a role in reforming California.

The goo-goos’ leadership council agreed to support scrapping the two-thirds legislative vote now required to approve the budget in favor of a majority vote, according to leakage through the Victorian windows in the Drawing Room of the Sterling Hotel, where the group was meeting in Sacramento to hash out an action item agenda.

Endorsement of a majority budget vote would be part of a package of reforms that includes two-year budgeting, performance management measures, a sunset review of government codes, a rainy-day fund and a “pay-go” requirement that new legislation must identify funds or cuts, Calbuzz also learned. (Until the whole group agrees with the leadership council’s proposals, support for any of this remains provisional.)

The group – backed by California Endowment, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation – is ideologically diverse, so the two-thirds budget vote proposal has proved a difficult one for members because of the partisan polarization split on the issue.

Cal Forward is also apparently inching toward support for a constitutional change to return to local governments the authority to raise revenues with less than the two-thirds vote mandated by Proposition 13 since 1978.

Whether reforms like these can be accomplished one at a time or in clusters, or whether substantive reform will demand a constitutional convention, as outlined by the Bay Area Council, remains to be seen. But for now, at least, it looks like California Forward is opting to assert an active role in the reform movement.