Field poll shows voters want lower taxes and services, just not any of the services they like
By Brian Leubitz
The Field polling organization occasionally asks voters how they feel about the balance of government services versus taxes. And in the most recent such poll, by a 54% to 35% margin, most California voters say they prefer lower taxes and fewer
government services to higher taxes and more government services. But if you are a Republican, you are going to want to stop reading there.
You see, voters aren't really sure what they want. They say they want fewer services, but when it comes to choosing services that they would be willing to cut, well that's a different story. When it comes to pretty much anything that costs a substantial part of our state budget, nobody wants to make any cuts.
However, when voters are asked whether state and local government spending in each of six specific program areas should be increased, reduced or left the same, there is much less support for spending reductions. Only small proportions of voter (between 8% and 15%) support less state and local government spending on the k-12 schools, mental health, road and highway building and repair, and law enforcement and police. In the case of k-12 schools and mental health, majorities favor increased government spending. In the case of road and highway building and repair, and law enforcement and police, pluralities support keeping spending at current levels. Voters are divided when asked about government spending on environmental protection and public assistance programs. (Field)
So, cut our taxes and reduce our services, except the services that we like, which are most of them. It's a frustrating dynamic, to say the least, but it is a dynamic that the Republicans have been playing off for decades in California and beyond. It hasn't been all that successful here, but it has worked very well elsewhere, and it is all they really have.
On another front, support for Prop 13 remains high. However, a big majority of voters would like to see the commercial property values reset on any property transaction, not just a complete sale. That change would be bigger than it sounds, as commercial property rarely changes hands completely. This would shift the balance that had been shifting heavily towards housing. But, who knows if it would ever happen, the Chamber of Commerce is still strong, and would bust out "job killer" in under 2.5 seconds.
Looks to fix 2010's ACA 4 that will appear on November ballot
by Brian Leubitz
Gov. Brown has always been fond of the concept of a rainy day fund. He's included the concept on many occasions, speeches, budgets, etc. Add "special session" to that list:
Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the "Rainy Day Fund" measure on November's ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.
"We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund," Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24. (Josh Richman / Political Blotter)
It seems that pretty much everybody in Sacramento, across the political spectrum, supports the move, with Richman pulling supportive quotes from the Speaker, Senate minority leader, and the Chamber of Commerce. But, of course, they all have different ideas of what this means. Brown wants to account for the wild swings in revenue we get due to stock options and the like, while Huff and the Chamber focus first on spending one-time revenue on ongoing expenses.
What exactly this means for the November ballot is unclear. Any changes could push the ballot measure to 2016, but there is some flexibility with a lot of time still remaining.
With Sen. Yee dropping out of the Secretary of State's race, the media and the polling operations have been in something of a frenzy to figure out how that will impact the race. And, so, you would think that a poll that was being conducted during that mess could have some very interesting data.
It could, but the Field Poll that was being conducted while Yee was arrested has a few very serious flaws. First, here are the up-front numbers after the Yee arrest: Peterson-R: 30%, Padilla-D: 17%, Curtis-G: 5%, Schnur-NPP: 4%, Cressman-D: 3%, Other/Undecided: 41%.
That's all well and good, but let's look at a few flaws in this poll.
1) The poll didn't include all the candidates on the ballot. Ordinarily in a competitive race with just a few relatively well-known candidates, you can kind of forgive that. However, this is a different kind of race. There are a slew of unknown candidates. Even Padilla, who is the most known candidate in the race, was basically an unknown to 54% of likely voters. But the poll did not include two candidates who haven't filed fundraising reports with the state: Jeffrey Drobman and Roy Allmond.
Now, to be clear, neither of these two will be your next secretary of state. And they won't pick up a ton of votes. But Allmond is running as a Republican, splitting the generic Republican vote. Drobman is running as a Democrat and may cause problems for Democrats as well. However, that split of base Republican vote could be meaningful. Peterson, with his $1800 or so that he has in the bank still seems likely to grab one of the top-two positions, but that is hardly a given.
2) The poll was split between pre and post-Yee. The margin of error is higher than most Field polls, with a 5.5% pre-Yee MoE, and 6.5% post-Yee MoE.
3) Winning the June primary is essentially meaningless. We do not have head-to-head matchups in this poll
Conclusion: I normally love the Field Poll data, and some of the things about the coverage that have been bothering me have nothing to do with Field at all. The media should know that winning the June election doesn't really make you a frontrunner, but that doesn't stop Breitbart declaring that Peterson is "favored" to win. Yes, he is favored to win the vote totals in June, but that and a quarter will get you a gumball.
Give me data for a head to head matchup between Peterson and Padilla, and then see what we get before any leads are declared. Note that this is also an issue in the Controller's race. SacBee declared Mayor Ashley Swearingen the leader in that race, despite the fact that Democratic vote is split. Top-2 is apparently creating a lot of confusion for both reporters and readers, but in many ways, it isn't that different than a regular primary when it comes to vote consolidation. Most Democrats will vote for the Democratic candidate in November, so comparing June vote totals is more than a bit confusing. Perhaps headline writers could do a better job on this front?
I mean, come on, do you really think this video at the top of this post is going to push Peterson to the win?
Butte County doesn't actually have any fracking operations right now, and isn't likely to become a hotbed of fracking anytime soon. But the Board of Supervisors is making a preemptive statement this week:
Tuesday the Board of Supervisors voted to have county staff prepare an ordinance that bans fracking.
Documents prepared by county staff for Tuesday's meeting described fracking as "a common term for hydraulic fracturing that is a technique of well stimulation used to increase petroleum production,"
At request from the county's Water Commission, the supervisors were asked to adopt and ordinance that would require a conditional use permit before a fracking operation could take place within county jurisdiction. (Chico ER)
Even if there weren't any fracking operations around the corner, at the very least this local action could send a statement to other areas and perhaps be a model.
It turns out having one of your members arrested for involvement in a gun running scandal hurts your approval numbers. Who'd have thunk it?
Following Yee's arrest, voter sentiment of the legislature has turned negative. The proportion of voters expressing disapproval jumped six points from 40% to 46%, and now is greater than the proportion approving (43%), which declined three points. Thus, voter opinions of the legislature swung a net nine points in the negative direction in the days following news of Yee's arrest.(Field poll PDF)
Now, that being said, 40% is still relatively strong compared to the dark days of the budget fights a few years ago. In September 2010, approval of the legislature hit a rather abysmal 10%. The majority vote budget and the wiggle room afforded by Prop 30 should probably get most of the credit for that rebound. But the Yee arrest, following the other Senate legal issues, drags that down. Perhaps some of that will be resolved when those members are officially gone from the chamber, but with the Yee story likely to linger in the news, don't expect an immediate bounce at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Gov. Brown is riding high. Field has him at an all-time high of 59%, with just 32% disapproving. Those are numbers that will be hard for any competitor to overcome in June or November. But the field of candidates that are actually in the race? The odds grow even longer. Right wing extremist Tim Donnelly leads the pack at 17% with no other candidate exceeding 3%. Neel Kashkari hopes to spend his way to relevance, but time is running quite short.
Bill sent to interim study as lack of votes became apparent
by Brian Leubitz
With the recent negative coverage from the movie Blackfish, activists from across the nation were looking to the Assembly today. The orca hearings in Sacramento got a lot of press coverage, but the bill will not move forward this year:
In a move that effectively kills the legislative effort for the year, the legislation aimed at ending SeaWorld's killer whale shows was sent to interim hearings. The author agreed to the committee chair's request when it became clear that the votes were not there to move the bill. The action spares legislators and SeaWorld the uncertainty that a simple defeat of the bill in committee would have brought since bills sent to interim cannot be reconsidered. Presumably, hearings will be held after the close of the legislative session that could shape the debate in 2015.(IVN / Shawn M. Griffiths)
As you might expect, SeaWorld was very, very opposed to the bill and brought out all the stops. Their argument is fairly well laid out in this Fox5 video, but the short version is that the whales are better off performing because that is the most stimulating part of their day. That question will get some more study this year as the bill is likely to come up again. On the eve of the hearings, activists delivered over a million signatures in support of the measure, and the attention is unlikely to totally recede anytime soon.
Predictions of a huge El Niño event bring concerns across the globe
by Brian Leubitz
One of the interesting things about El Niño is that is somewhat predictable months ahead of time. April traditionally is one of the worst months for such predictions, but a very large pocket of warm water in the Pacific is bringing warnings of dire impacts.
The warm water just below the ocean's surface is on par with that of the biggest El Niño ever recorded, in 1997-98. That event caused $35 billion in damages and was blamed for around 23,000 deaths worldwide, according to the University of New South Wales. The 1997-98 El Niño is also the only other time since records begin in 1980 that sub-surface Pacific Ocean water has been this warm in April.
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As I wrote last fall, the coming El Niño could be enough to make 2014 the hottest year in recorded history, and 2015 could be even warmer than that. ... And people in drought-stricken California could be forgiven if they're crossing their fingers for a strong El Niño, which is linked to some of the wettest years in state history. Still, it's certainly no slam dunk that an El Niño would be enough to end the crippling drought there or even bring above normal rainfall. And if the El Niño ends up being as strong as current predictions indicate, there's a chance it may even tip the scales from drought to deluge across the state, spurring damaging mudslides amid bursts of heavy rain. The two strongest El Niños in the last 30 years-1982-83 and 1997-98-both caused widespread damage from flooding in California. (Slate / Eric Holthaus)
Given that we still haven't hit 50% of our average seasonal weather for the winter/fall wet season, the rain would certainly be welcome and would ease a lot of the very tensions in the Central Valley. That being said, we can no longer ignore the long range planning issues for climate change even if we get a very wet winter next year. The drought cycles aren't going to get any better, and we need to clearly prioritize our plans for water so that we aren't fighting each time water allowances are cut.
We've known Toni Atkins was going to be our next speaker for a while now, but the date of transition was something of a mystery. Now we have that answer:
The Assembly will have a new speaker May 12.
Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) was designated speaker-elect in an Assembly vote two weeks ago.
Multiple Capitol sources confirm that on Wednesday, current Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) announced at an Assembly Democratic caucus meeting that the transition will take place in about six weeks. (LA Times)
Her first big task? Well, that would be the budget. The May revise will come out right around that date, so her team will need to be ready to respond from day 1. A thrilling way to hit the ground running, I suppose.
Senator becomes highest-profile endorsement of measure to fix broken malpractice system
by Brian Leubitz
In a perfect world, we certainly wouldn't be discussing medical malpractice reform. However, California's law on the subject is far from the perfect world. For many victims of medical malpractice, it is cost prohibitive to seek justice. The costs of trial become too expensive to pursue the case, and many victims find it difficult to find an attorney that can handle the case. There are a litany of other reasons MICRA is broken, but you can read more about MICRA in my previous post on the subject http://www.calitics.com/diary/...
The short story being that the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages hasn't been adjusted for inflation for over 35 years, and that cap means that many victims won't be able to get the justice that they need. Specifically, cases that are brought by people unable to show a steady stream of income are punished by this hard cap. So, children, senior citizens and the disabled are put in a real position of danger.
Now, to be clear, there are some good organizations on the other side of this issue. Planned Parenthood drew fire on its decision to oppose MICRA reform. Their logic on their position sounds good but the facts just don't back up the position. Essentially, Planned Parenthood argues that changing the hard caps on malpractice damages will reduce doctor supply and vastly increase malpractice insurance. But the real data show that neither of these suppositions to be correct. Again, I point you to my previous writing or to the LA Times' Michael Hiltzik on the subject:
Over the last 22 years, California malpractice insurers have paid out in claims an average of only 36 cents of every premium dollar they've collected, according to Insurance Department statistics. For comparison's sake, for all property and casualty insurance lines the figure is 62 cents; for passenger auto insurers alone it's more than 60 cents.(LA Times / Michael Hiltzik)
So, yeah, the reason that malpractice insurance premiums are rising? That would be a massive profit level for the insurance companies. But I digress.
The supporters of the Troy and Alana Pack Act recently submitted nearly 850,000 signatures to get their bill on the November ballot. Essentially the measure would adjust for inflation since the date of the 250,000 cap and permanently index the cap to inflation. It was something that was originally included in the MICRA legislation, but cut later in the legislative process. The Pack Act now has a big name supporter: Senator Barbara Boxer.
"I will never forget meeting a child who was severely disfigured and forever confined to a wheelchair because of medical malpractice," Senator Boxer stated. "I was stunned to learn how unfair California law is in terms of compensating these patients and their families, and I committed to helping the victims of these tragedies. That is why I am proud to support the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which will reform our judicial system to hold accountable those responsible for so much pain and suffering and ensure that patients and their families get the justice they deserve."
Seven year old Alana Pack and ten year old Troy Pack were killed on a roadside by a doctor-shopping drug addict who ran them over after being overprescribed thousands of narcotics at Kaiser and falling asleep at the wheel. Their father Bob Pack authored the Pack Act to increase accountability for medical negligence and substance abuse.
The gubernatorial candidate from Wall Street, Neel Kashkari, is struggling in the polls and fundraising is running dry. So, where to turn? How about trying to get some cash from the petroleum industry with some timely shout outs to his corporate friends in the business:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari toured a drilling technology company here Wednesday and promised to rebuild the state's economy in part by improving the business climate for oil and gas.
In the last three years that Jerry Brown has been governor, California has increased its crude oil production 3 percent to 199 million barrels, he said. During the same three years, Texas has increased its production 77 percent to 941 million barrels, and North Dakota has hiked production 105 percent to 313 million barrels.
California's economy is improving slowly, Kashkari said, but added that far too many Californians remain out of work because the state isn't business-friendly.(Bakersfield Californian)
Well, that is all well and good, but the numbers that the Kashkari campaign passed off in a press release are not really relevant. Even petroleum executives would allow that each state has different petroleum reserves. Not all wells are created equal. Part of that is the regulatory environment, but fracking is a technology that aims to get at deposits with a wildly varying levels of accessibility. Monterey shale isn't the same as the deposits in Texas or North Dakota, and there are many other considerations. Like, hey, the fact that we are in a big drought. KQED has a great report on that subject in both audio and text formats.
The potential for higher water use doesn't sit well with some San Joaquin Valley farmers. "They're competing for the same water that we're using for our farms," says Keith Gardiner. "That's taken away from the farm fields."
"It is an added pressure," says Greg Wegis of Wegis and Young, a farming operation near Bakersfield. "From what I've seen, in some of the fracking wells, they're using 3-to-4 acre-feet per well. That's not helping the situation."(KQED)
But Kashkari has very little to work with. Brown has a huge warchest, and Donnelly is still polling above him. Kashkari needs more cash and attention. He can claim to be addressing with an appearance on Squawk Box, but appearing on CNBC won't make the kind of big shake up that he needs to this race. So, why not try pandering to petroleum interests. It won't help him win the governor's office, but maybe he can squeeze into the November top-2.
Poll shows right-wing anti-immigrant Tim Donnelly could be GOP standard bearer in November
by Brian Leubitz
WHo really wants to be the one to get steamrolled by Gov. Brown and his huge warchest come June/November? Well, there are a few folks vying for the privilege, but few show any sign of making any inroads. Barring a bizarre calamity, Brown seems a prohibitive favorite over the field. And that instinct is borne out in PPIC's poll:
When primary likely voters are asked how they would vote in the governor's race, 47 percent choose Brown and 10 percent choose Republican Tim Donnelly. Fewer support Republicans Andrew Blount (2%) or Neel Kashkari (2%)-the other candidates included in the survey-while 3 percent name someone else and 36 percent are undecided. (PPIC)
Now, Donnelly, who is a well known right wing extremist better known as a Minuteman vigilante than as a serious legislator. Not exactly the type of candidate a 21st century party is really looking for in a state with a minority majority. But while some party leaders are kind of rooting for Neel Kashkari, and his much more compelling, and modern, story, the grassroots of the party seems to prefer Donnelly's anti-immigrant right-wing platform.
Had Kashkari been able to keep up his initial strong fundraising, you would have to like his odds to pull out the number two spot. But with that fundraising rapidly slowing, Donnelly may be able to carry a right-wing base vote to the second line of the November ballot. The other candidate, Andrew Blount, Mayor of Laguna Hills, says he is raising no money at all. Unless he plans to self-finance, Donnelly's slightly higher name ID would likely be enough to push him over the edge. Here's the current cash situation:
Donnelly reported Monday that he has less than $11,000 in cash on hand, with unpaid bills of $149,068. Kashkari, meanwhile, has banked more than $900,000, while Brown has nearly $20 million on hand.(SacBee)
Perhaps this will improve when one of them squeaks onto the November ballot. However, the numbers right now are all looking strong for Gov. Brown. His current approval rating is at 49% approval, down a bit from his all time high in January of 58%, but more than solid given the other factors in the race.
Arrest in a shocking investigation opens up SoS race
by Brian Leubitz
First, I'll simply state that everybody deserves their day in court, and all the charges are merely allegations at this point. But, wow, if only a small fraction of what was revealed is true, you have the makings of an action-packed Hollywood blockbuster.
In the part that pertains to Yee, the long and short of it was that he sold proclamations and small favors in exchange for campaign contributions. (Some of which exceed the contribution limits in the SF mayoral race.) In the affidavit, which you can find over the flip or on scribd here, Yee is said to have told the federal informants that he would not make money for himself for any official acts, and that he did not want to discuss pay-for-play deals. However, he is alleged to have participated in said pay-for-play for campaign contributions at the behest of his fundraising consultant, and alleged gun runner, Keith Jackson.
State Senator Leland Yee, one of the most powerful Democratic politicians in California, was arrested Wednesday morning in a major series of federal raids in the Bay Area and Sacramento targeting corruption and gang activity.
Federal agents arrested Lee(sic) at his home in San Francisco Wednesday morning and he was driven to the federal courthouse while his offices in Sacramento were raided.
The federal complaint filed March 24 and unsealed Wednesday alleges Sen. Yee was engaged in soliciting illegal campaign donations in exchange for political favors and was involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms. (CBS SF)
Now, as for the SoS race, you have to figure that with Sen. Yee out of the running, Sen. Alex Padilla is now the big frontrunner. That being said, Democrat Derek Cressman could make a strong challenge if he can continue to raise enough money to increase his name ID. Former Republican Dan Schnur and current Republican Pete Peterson could also push to make that second line of the ballot.
Whatever else you do today, take a few minutes to read the affidavit. It's like something out of a Mario Puzo novel.
UPDATE: I managed to get a snapshot of Keith Jackson's page from Singer Associates website, which has now been taken down. You can read the full affidavit over the flip, as well as viewing a CBS-SF news report.
Governor looks solid for next election, looks back and forward with Dowd
by Brian Leubitz
Neel Kashkari, despite being something of a modest frontrunner to make it to the general election with Gov. Brown, is now struggling with fundraising. Apparently Hank Paulson can only max out once, and Kashkari is having some issues getting contributions beyond the ranks of Goldman Sachs. Kashkari now has less than $1mil, compared to Brown's nearly $20m.
That all leads up to Maureen Dowd's puff piece with the Governor entitled "Palmy Days with the Governor." There are no hard hitting revelations here, just a few rememberances, many of which have to do with the Clintons:
So how does he reconcile what he said in 1992 and now? Have the Clintons changed, or has Brown changed?
He crosses his arms and gives me a flinty look, finally observing: "In retrospect, after we see all the other presidents that came afterwards, certainly, Clinton handled his job with a level of skill that hasn't been met since."
It goes on to cite the heckling at the CDP convention, but Gov. Brown is a fighter at heart. Despite his discomfort at the heckling, he closed his speech with "keep protesting." He has changed a lot since his first go-round, but maybe he is still much the same.
Crowded Field and Top-2 could net interesting election
by Brian Leubitz
Buck McKeon announced his retirement in January, but the announcement produced little surprise. He was rumored to retire for a while now, including some rumors in the past few cycles. And Tony Strickland, after losing a run against Julia Brownley in 2012, has been pretty much campaigning in this district since.
But even with the Strickland campaign up and running for a long time, there have been no shortage of candidates. And over in the LA Daily News, Rick Orlov takes a look at the field:
The race has drawn two prominent Republicans - Sen. Steve Knight and former Sen. Tony Strickland - who have represented portions of the district in the state Legislature, as well as a physician who first ran against McKeon two years ago, a former test pilot, a pair of businessmen and one Libertarian. (Rick Orlov / LA Daily News)
Dr. Lee Rogers, the Democratic nominee in 2012, is running again, joining former Air Force pilot Evan Thomas. The crowded field of 4 Republicans, a Libretarian, and two Democrats kind of presents the question of Top-2. Last year, a strong chance at a Democratic pickup in CA-31 was foiled when a field of Democrats piled over each other and fell behind the two Republicans running. Of course, that could happen again there in 2014, with a huge field.
In order for that dynamic to really work, there has to be two recognizable members of one party and a field of less known candidates on the other side. However, 2014 seems more likely for the two Republican Senators to split most of the GOP vote, and the other two Republicans picking up only a smattering of votes. The fact that Thomas is starting a bit behind also makes him unlikely to creep into that top-2. However, with the small sample size we have seen so far, you never really know what is going to happen in the post Top-2 world.
While 2014 is likely to be a tough year for Democrats nationwide, one again California appears to be the breaking point of any momentum. The party stands a chance to pick up both CA-31 and CA-25, netting a few seats that may have to make up for other states across the country.
Measure to require donor disclosure for nonprofit political dies in Senate
by Brian Leubitz
Take a step into my TARDIS, way back to 2012, when a group of conservative nonprofit groups with connections to the Koch Brothers poured around $15 million into the efforts to defeat Prop 30 and pass Prop 32. Eventually, they settled for a record fine of over a million dollars, but hey, if you can get away with it, #AmIRight? What's a million dollars between friends trying to monkey with democracy?
Well, a bill to fight just these sort of money laundering operations was working its way through the state Legislature. SB 27, introduced by Senator Correa would have required every ballot committee receiving more than $1 to disclose its top ten contributors.
I say was, because with the loss of the votes of Sens. Wright and Calderon and the current lack of Democratic supermajority, that measure seems to be on ice for a while. No Republicans would cross party lines and vote for public disclosure, so despite the passage in the Assembly, the measure goes nowhere. CORRECTION: A previous version of this post said a supermajority was required due to a requirement of constitutional amendments. However, SB 27 is not a constitutional amendment. Rather, the Political Reform Act of 1974 requires a 2/3 supermajority to make changes.
"Senate Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for voting to keep Californian's in the dark about who is funding political campaigns," said SoS candidate Derek Cressman. "How anyone favoring fair and transparent elections could have no preference between the party of dark money and the party that voted unanimously for sunshine today is a mystery to me."