New poll shows Californians want to lead on responding to climate change
by Brian Leubitz
In a PPIC poll just released this evening, Californians said that they want action on the environment. As you can see from the graph, Californians think the time to act is now.
About two-thirds of Californians (68%) support the state law, AB 32, which requires California to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Strong majorities have favored this law since the survey first asked about it in July 2006, but a partisan divide has emerged on the question. While most Democrats, Republicans, and independents favored the law in 2006, support since then has increased 14 points among Democrats (from 67% to 81% today) and dropped 26 points among Republicans (from 65% to 39% today). Support has dipped slightly among independents (from 68% to 62% today). A strong majority of Californians (65%) favor the state making its own policies to address global warming.
Why the big drop in Republican support? Ah, that would be the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is gone. AB 32 was as much his doing as the sponsors of the bill, current Sen. Pavley or former Speaker Fabian Nunez or anybody else. Now that he's out of office, there just isn't that big name Republican support and so the cratering should be no surprise.
Many see the drought and long-term warming trends as serious challenges for the state:
Majorities of Californians are at least somewhat concerned about four possible impacts of global warming in the state. More than six in 10 adults are very concerned about droughts (64%) and wildfires (61%) that are more severe. Fewer Californians express this level of concern for heat waves that are more severe (44%) or rising sea levels (32%). The share saying they are very concerned about droughts that are more severe is up 15 points since last July (49%) and is at a new high (previously 60% in July 2007). Concern about more-severe wildfires was similar in the past.
There is a lot more environmental data here for those that care to look through the cross-tabs, they can be found at PPIC's website. You'll find questions on the carbon tax (58% support), more detailed questions on cap and trade(51 %support), KeystoneXL (53% support) and a whole lot more.
Now, as for elected officials, don't expect any big changes come November. Gov. Brown has a 53% approval rating, with just 28% disapproving. And he holds a 52-33 lead over Republican Neel Kashkari. The Legislature isn't fairing quite so well, with a 38% approval rating, but that is slightly up from May's 36%. And President Obama has a 50% approval rate here in California.
Senator called for nationwide adoption of the failing electoral system
by Brian Leubitz
A few days ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had something to say about
California, which probably mirrors the diversity of America more than any other state, was racked by polarization until voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that adopted a "top-two" primary system. ... While there are no guarantees, it seems likely that a top-two primary system would encourage more participation in primaries and undo tendencies toward default extremism. It would remove the incentive that pushes our politicians to kowtow to the factions of their party that are most driven by fear and anger. For those of us who are in despair over partisanship and polarization in Congress, reform of the primary system is a start. (NYT Op-ed / Sen. Chuck Schumer)
Quickly I'll say this: Chuck Schumer hasn't actually looked at how Top-2 has worked here in California. If he had, he would know just how much of a disaster it was. Yes, our polarization decreased after 2010, but you know what else happened in 2010? We elected a Democratic Governor and huge majorities in the Legislature, culminating in supermajorities in both houses. Oh, and we got rid of the 2/3 requirement for our budget.
I was going to write a lot more about this subject, but then friend of Calitics Paul Hogarth wrote an in depth post that is now appearing on the front page of Daily Kos.
But the "top-two" primary also created a whole new host of problems that has led to abysmal voter turnout, Republican-vs-Republican general elections and the rise of corporate Democrats in the state legislature. Oh, and the Tea Party is still a relevant factor in the state.
Paul goes on to point out a number of good examples of just how badly Top 2 performs in real life. If you are a regular reader, you can probably recall most of them, but his post is a great primer whenever somebody speaks fondly of Top 2. Share it abundantly.
Stanford Law Professor is first of two picks that Brown will make
by Brian Leubitz
Gov. Brown will replace Justices Baxter and Kennard this year, and today he announced his first pick, Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar .
Cuellar, 41, was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and for years crossed the border by foot to attend school in Texas. He moved with his family to the Imperial Valley when he was 14 and obtained his bachelor's degree from Harvard College, his law degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in political science from Stanford.
In selecting Cuellar, Gov. Jerry Brown said: "Tino Cuellar is a renowned scholar who has ... made significant contributions to both political science and the law. His vast knowledge and even temperament will - without question - add further luster to our highest court." (LA Times)
Baxter was widely considered one of the more conservative of the seven member court, so the replacement will likely shift the court leftward. While we can only speculate how a Justice Cuellar will rule, the fact is that Brown will have 3 of the 7 justices by next year. With another Brown administration very likely comes the very real possibility of a Brown majority on the court. And with his current appointment pattern, perhaps a very intellectual California Supreme Court as well.
Former speaker concedes to allow election to move forward
by Brian Leubitz
The trouble with elections decided by less that 500 votes is that you are basically within the margin of error. It isn't the same kind of error you get in a poll, but the point remains. There are just going to be mistakes somewhere along the line. That's the nature of the process. But John Pérez has decided that in the interest of moving the election forward to concede.
While I strongly believe that completing this process would result in me advancing to the General Election, it is clear that there are significant deficiencies in the process itself which make continuing the recount problematic. Even in the effort so far, we have found uncounted ballots, but there is simply not enough time to see this process through to the end, given the fact that counties must begin printing ballots in the next few weeks in order to ensure that overseas and military voters can receive their ballots in a timely manner. (John Pérez release)
Yee thanked the former speaker and is looking forward to the general election:
"I want to thank Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez for doing the right thing in recognizing that the recount was unlikely to reverse the outcome of the June primary election. This allows us to move forward and to be united for the November general election. John A. Perez is an outstanding leader who has played an important role in helping to put California back on sound fiscal footing. He ran a strong and positive campaign and will have a long career of leadership and public service."
Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU did a little slideshow that shows our death row looking more like the early bird special at the local buffet. For a variety of legal and pragmatic reasons, we just don't perform executions anymore. And now that is increasingly likely to stay the case for the foreseeable future:
A conservative federal judge from Southern California may have done what progressives have been trying to do for years: end the death penalty in California.
The July 16th order by Judge Cormac J. Carney (PDF), in the case of Jones v. Chappell, is an astonishing document. It takes no position on the morality of the death penalty, or whether it's inherently cruel for the state to take a life. But it repeatedly spanks the State of California for turning the process of executions into such an unpredictable fiasco that inmates - and the families of victims - have no idea whether, or when, a condemned man will die. (48Hills / Tim Redmond)
A few things before I continue. First, if you aren't reading 48Hills, you should be. I don't always agree with Tim on some of the local San Francisco issues, but he brings a great insight on local politics. Next, if you are interested in this issue, it might be worth the time to read the whole decision linked above and here. Now, Judge Carney was appointed by Gray Davis before getting the George W Bush appointment to the federal bench, but he was still a Bush appointee FWIW. (Also, he was a former USFL player!)
As Tim points out in his story, the decision is about process. We have sentenced 900 people to death since 1978, and only 13 have been executed. Certainly the deterrent effect is not what we are going for here. And because we underfund public defender services, death penalty appeals take years upon years to complete. That's not even to mention the questions of how we perform (or don't) the executions.
In 2012, California voters very narrowly retained the death penalty, 52-48, by rejecting Prop 34. But how much longer before those numbers flip? And even if we are inclined to retain it, are we going to adequately fund it? Perhaps it won't be too long until we get another crack at a similar measure on the ballot.
State Water Board issues mandatory conservation order
by Brian Leubitz
We all know that the state is in a pretty serious drought. But while most of the state has at least made some headway in conservation efforts, it just hasn't been enough. I see you, SoCal, grinning sheepishly in the corner.
The new rules, approved by the State Water Resources Control Board on a 4-0 vote, impose new restrictions on outdoor water use starting Aug. 1 that could result in fines of up to $500 per violation.
Gov. Jerry Brown in January asked Californians to slash their water use by 20 percent. But a new state survey released Tuesday showed that water use in May rose by 1 percent this year, compared with a 2011-2013 May average. (Merc News / Paul Rogers)
Now, this isn't all just household users. Perhaps it would be easier if that were the case, but water usage is a big mess of different parties and factions. Agricultural water use has been slightly decreased, mostly by force, but it still isn't enough. Commercial use, like pressure washing, needs to be reduced as well. And, we all need to strive to take shorter showers and reduce water in every way that we can at home.
Because enforcement is up to local water authorities, many people won't really notice any changes. But some are already up in arms. Like, say, the famously powerful lobbying group of BigPressureWashing. I kid, but this law directly impacts these users and their jobs. And here in SF, where local authorities are now taking a data-driven approach to poop on our sidewallks power-washing can be #KindOfABigDeal.
We can all do more to reduce water usage by using common sense, simple water-saving techniques. Maybe El Nino will save us next year, but we have to plan to be in a drought for a while. Better start saving now.
Measure splitting the state looks set to appear on ballot
by Brian Leubitz
I'll admit that I sort of thought this was some sort of joke that would never make it to the ballot. I was surprised when word filtered out that serious signature gathering was moving forward in the spring and summer. Apparently that has now borne fruit:
Tim Draper said he will file the signatures in Sacramento on Tuesday morning. State officials still need to review the petitions to ensure the initiative can qualify.
"California needs a reboot," Draper's campaign said in a statement on Monday. "With six Californias, we can refresh our government." (LA Times)
Well, he's got the awkward technology lingo thing going on, but just because you can say "reboot" doesn't mean it is a good idea. An LAO report from earlier in the year showed a bunch of flaws in the proposal including higher costs and greater inequalities. Yes, Silicon Valley would be a dynamic and wealthy state, but what about the rest of the state(s)?
And then there is the whole question of this being entirely powerless until Congress acts. With the Senate divided, would either party want to roll the dice on 10 new Senators?
In the end, Draper will spend his few millions on this, the state will pay to count these votes, and not much will happen.
It's been a long time, but we did it! Positive cash!
State Controller John Chiang today released his monthly cash report for the month of June, and announced that the state's General Fund -- the primary account from which California funds its day-to-day operations and programs -- ended the fiscal year with a positive cash balance for the first time since June 30, 2007. A positive cash balance means that the state had funds available to meet all of its payment obligations without needing to borrow from Wall Street or the $23.8 billion available in its more than 700 internal special funds and accounts.
Now, this is more of a symbolic milestone than anything else. The Controller can shift money around so that there isn't a huge cost to the taxpayers of having a general fund deficit on one particular day. And the close of a fiscal year isn't really that much different than any other day.
That being said, this still speaks volumes about where we have come from over the past two years. Since the majority vote budget rules and the Prop 30 tax increases passed, we are on solid footing. We still need to do more to focus on what comes next when the Prop 30 taxes expire, as a simple expiration would just put us back to the boom/bust cycle that we've seen for the last 20 years.
San Francisco voters will have a chance to vote on a $15 minimum wage proposal this November in a gradually increasing wage compromise announced last month:
The mayor, city supervisors and business and labor leaders came together on the compromise - even the Chamber of Commerce was on hand - but service industry representatives warned the plan would be hard on restaurants and other hospitality-related businesses.
The compromise announced at City Hall would increase the city's current hourly base pay, $10.74, to $12.25 next May 1, then to $13 in July 2016 and $1 each subsequent year until it reaches $15 in 2018. That would bring the annual pay for a full-time minimum-wage worker to $31,000. (SF Chronicle)
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, unions are working to get a requirement of a $15 minimum wage for city contractors:
Currently, Los Angeles has a living wage ordinance that requires that city contractors pay at least $12.28 per hour without health benefits, or slightly less with health benefits, according to its Bureau of Contract Administration website.
The Coalition of LA City Unions, which includes unions representing more than half of city workers, wants to raise that minimum to $15, Chairwoman Cheryl Parisi said Tuesday. It also wants to set the same bar for city employees.(LA Times)
Now, both of these proposals are not nearly as dramatic as some in the social justice movement would like. There is concern on the lower end of the labor market that some employees could be squeezed out. However, the data on these questions is very mixed, and in fact shows no statistical proof that minimum wage. As you can see from the chart to the right, all of the studies basically say that there will be very little economic impact. It may confound many of the free-market people, but data is data.
Maybe you see races decided by 484 votes for some City Council races, or in some some states in exceptionally close elections. But in a California statewide election? That razor's edge is extremely rare:
A month after the primary election, Democrat Betty Yee finished 484 votes ahead of John A. Pérez for second-place in the state controller's race, officials announced Monday.
Lake County Registrar Diane Fridley used nearly all of her allotted 28 days to certify the results in the down-ballot contest that sparked a daily ritual of political junkies refreshing their web browsers. (SacBee)
Just how close is that? It is 12 thousandths of a percent of the vote total. Or approximately the same as the vote difference in Florida in 2000 (percentage wise).
Pérez can seek recounts of specific precincts, but there is always the risk of going the other way. There is no guarantee of picking up votes in any one precinct. Because Lake County took so much time, there is a limited decision period for Pérez to decide if he wants to seek that recount. But as of right now, Betty Yee looks to be the favorite over Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen in November.
Supreme Court declines review of gay treatment ban
by Brian Leubitz
While there was some very disappointing news coming out of the Supreme Court today, there was some positive as well:
The justices on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that said the state's ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors doesn't violate the free speech rights of licensed counselors and patients seeking treatment.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that efforts to change sexual orientation were outside the scientific mainstream and have been rejected for good reason.(SacBee)
This is very good news for teenagers that had been subjected to the harmful practice. It has no basis in anything resembling science, gives credibility to homophobes, and can irreparably damage the self-esteem of its victims.
In short, there is clear evidence that reparative therapy does not work, and some significant evidence that it is also harmful to LGBT people.
In contrast, there is ample evidence that societal prejudice causes significant medical, psychological and other harms to LGBT people. (HRC)
As you can see from the statistics in the image to the right, LGBT youth face many challenges already. There is no place for this practice in anything resembling a medical setting, and it should never be forced upon children. This ban is a big step forward in the fight against homophobia.
The Board of Supervisors will meet in a special evening session next Tuesday to take up, among other things, the final canvass for the June 3 election. The board will meet beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 1 ... Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to complete the count, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
Fridley's office is the last of the 58 county election offices statewide to complete the final count for the June 3 primary, according to the unprocessed ballot posted by the California Secretary of State's Office on Friday.
Maybe tomorrow we'll have an idea of what is going on in Lake County for those last 6,000+ ballots.
The Controller's race is now sitting at a 861 vote lead for BoE member Betty Yee over former Speaker John Pérez. And the only remaining outstanding mail-in ballots come from Lake County:
But before any decisions are made on a possible recount, there are about 6,000 ballots to count in Lake County, where Pérez outpolled Yee by about seven percentage points in election day results. Diane Fridley, the Lake County registrar, said Tuesday that the office plans to process 5,263 vote-by-mail ballots Thursday morning and will sometime later deal with 743 provisional and 47 damaged ballots. The office will finish its work no later than next Tuesday's deadline, said Fridley, who is on light duty following surgery and has only a skeleton staff to help with the ballot work.
Fridley said it's the first time in her 36 years at the office that any statewide race could come down to Lake County. Both campaigns have been in touch and plan to have representatives in her Lakeport office on Thursday.
"We're working as fast as we can," she said.(SacBee)
It does seem a bit odd that Lake County is now the focus, but we are still waiting on those results. In the results previously announced in that county, Pérez and Republican David Evans basically tied with 2326 and 2325 votes. Yee trailed behind with 1662 and Swearingen with 1134. If the proportions are the same with those 5,263 votes, Pérez (and Evans) would pick up about 390 votes on Yee. That would still leave Yee ahead by over 400 votes.
But to be clear, this is an extraordinarily close race. In the end, it could come down to a few thousandths of a point. In an election with about 4 million votes, the odds of that happening are just mind-boggling.
Lake County said that they would be counting on Thursday, but no results have been released on the web yet. I'll update this post if results are released
Field Poll shows Legislature took hit after recent controversy
by Brian Leubitz
Field is in the midst of their most recent data dump, and you can't help but feel that Gov. Brown is all smiles. First, there's the fact that he has a 20 point lead over Neel Kashkari
The results of the latest Field Poll show incumbent Democratic Governor Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by twenty points, 52% to 32%, among likely voters in this year's gubernatorial election. ... Brown is regarded favorably by 54% of likely voters, while 31% have an unfavorable opinion. Following his second place showing in the June primary, Kashkari is viewed favorably by 28%, while 16% of voters hold an unfavorable opinion of him.
In addition, the Poll finds 54% of voters approving of the job Brown is doing as governor, while 29% disapprove. (Field PDF)
The Governor's approval rating during this term has been as low as 43%, before reaching a high of 59% in April of this year. While it did slip, when combined with his mound of campaign funds, the contest between Brown and Kashkari doesn't really seem a fair fight. Barring some major shift of the political landscape, you have to feel that Brown should defeat Kashkari handily.
Now, on the other side, the Legislature was so close to actually having a net favorable rating. The institution's ratings were trending up from a low of 19% in May 2012 before Prop 30. In December 2013, it hit 40% for the first time since 2002. In other words, a really long time. And then in the late March poll, approval was trending even higher, with a 46-40 split in the first few days of polling. Then the Leland Yee story broke, and the numbers fell back to earth.
Slightly more voters believe California is generally on the wrong track (46%) than say it is moving in the right direction (41%). In addition, more voters disapprove (47%) than approve (35%) of the job performance of the state legislature.
Opinions about both matters are directly related to the party registration of voters. Democrats offer a much more optimistic assessment of the direction of the state and hold more positive views of the job the state legislature is doing than Republicans. (Field PDF)
Still, this says a lot about the harmony of the post Prop 30 days. There are still budget fights, but they aren't nearly as toxic as they once were. The majority vote budget means that the fights are basically all within the party. The scandal can't help, but beyond a bad apple or two, this is a legislature that works for California.
Ellis Act reform would have required waiting period before evictions
by Brian Leubitz
Well, after a lot of drama getting out of the Senate, the SF Ellis Act reform legislation died in the Assembly:
The Ellis Act reform bill introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-S.F., will not be moving forward this year, according to his office. The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1439, sought to limit evictions in San Francisco by requiring new property owners to wait five years before invoking the Ellis Act, a state law that allows a landlord to evict their tenants if they intend to leave the rental business. ...
"I am profoundly disappointed that the Assembly Housing Committee failed to pass critical legislation that would help mitigate the negative impacts of a recent surge in Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco," said Leno in a statement following the Assembly Housing Committee vote. (SF Examiner)
The bill took a couple tries to get it through Assembly, and ultimately trying to make law for one county at the state level was just too high of a hurdle to clear. The bill only applied to SF because of the unique housing conditions, something of a perfect storm. Rising housing costs in both the rental and ownership markets, combined with a complicated rent control system leave a lot of loopholes to exploit and a lot of incentive to exploit them for speculators.
But ultimately, this was never any sort of silver bullet. It dealt with a small, but high-profile, loophole. San Francisco needs to look at a kitchen sink approach to try to bring housing costs under something resembling control, or the beautiful City by the Bay will lose the diversity that helped make it great.
There is little disagreement that our water infrastructure needs some work. Across party lines and the north-south divide, there is a consensus that we need to invest in our water system. The amount of the bond package is still in dispute, but those are minor disagreements.
But the one big stumbling block are the twin tunnels that Gov. Brown wants to build to bring water to Southern California from the Delta. The administration released a report on the potential job gains from the project:
The study's author, Dave Sunding, a UC Berkeley agricultural and resource economist, predicts that construction of what is called the Bay-Delta Conservation Project would create an average of about 15,500 jobs a year over a decade of construction and habitat restoration. Once built, the project to make water supplies more reliable would spur an additional estimated 19,600 jobs a year over 50 years, he said.
"In the short, medium and long range, the Bay Delta Conservation would provide economic benefits to California," said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the Department of Water Resources. "The plan is essentially an insurance policy against species extinction and inadequate water supplies." (LA Times)
To call these figures controversial is a big understatement. The job figures are being called highly speculative, on both construction and the long-term prospects. The tunnels, which were rejected by the voters during Brown's first stint as governor in the 80s, are back again with the same controversy. Like then, the questions of drought are still very much present. If our current drought continues, or another, more vicious dry spell hits, there simply won't be any water there.
Sen. Lois Wolk, who represents much of the Delta has been trying to move past this issue, and is taking the right tack. She is working hard to get a water bond on the ballot without any sort of authorization for the tunnels. And in the NBCLA clip below the fold, this is what Sen. Steinberg is endorsing, and warning against a bond that includes them.
The tunnels are a big conversation of their own, and tying the bond up with that political melee could backfire at the ballot. But with the deadline for the ballot getting closer, we should have a resolution soon.