2012 Ballot Initiatives
By Steve Smith
California Labor Federation
Last Thursday California’s Fair Political Practices Commission sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.
According to the Sacramento Bee:
In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars.
By Sarah Rose
California League of Conservation Voters
California voters expect our leaders to make timely investments in activities that fight climate change, create jobs, and improve the environment and public health. Each time the question of whether our state should invest in climate change solutions and a clean energy economy is put to a vote of the people, including Proposition 39, they overwhelmingly vote "yes." And yet today, our elected leaders have delayed the investment in the future that Californians have said they want. This is a particular insult to voters that the Governor used the passage of Prop 39 last November - which should have made our efforts to fight climate change more robust - as an excuse to borrow the revenue.
By Lisa Schiff
A friend of mine emailed me last fall incredibly worried about the impact of potential sequestration cuts on schools and students across the country. He was a long-time Washington D.C.-based public education advocate, so I was simultaneously unshaken and unnerved by his concern. Sequestration seemed like a D.C.-based fear, so unlikely to actually happen given the blowback that would surely come from such imprecise cuts. But my friend's many years of fighting for resources for children's education meant that I couldn't really ignore his concerns, and so his words remained a low-level worry until March 1st, when I had to concede that he'd been right all along.
By Robert Cruickshank
Last week's big news was the announcement from Governor Jerry Brown that the state budget is out of perennial deficit and looking at several years of surpluses. We'll talk more about what those surpluses mean and how they ought to be used, but it's worth taking a moment to remember how we got here.
Since 2001 or so, California's budget seems to have been in perpetual deficit, with less money coming in than was needed to fund existing public services. While the deficit pressure eased in 2005-06, that didn't last, and by the summer of 2007 the deficits had returned as the housing bubble popped and the country slid into the worst recession in 60 years.
By Ann Notthoff
What California does makes a difference. When President Obama increased national mileage standards last year, he built on the pioneering work that Senator Fran Pavley started here in 2002. We dream big, we take big steps and when it comes to environmental and public health protection, nobody does it better. With his new budget proposal today, Governor Brown has a chance to build on our state's strong record of environmental and public health protection.
By Rev. Jim Conn
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."
Those are the opening lines from the Christmas story according to St. Luke, as written down by the team of scholars working under the direction of King James of England 500 years ago. Different translators have used different phrases over the centuries, but the frame for telling this story has always been taxes.
The Roman Empire wanted to make sure everyone paid their taxes, so Rome required its subjects to return to their towns of birth to sign into the national registry as part of a census, which allowed the keepers of the treasury to know who had paid and who had not. And that's how Jesus got to be born in Bethlehem.
By Dick Meister
Be alert, American workers: The passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan means serious trouble for unions and their supporters everywhere. Yet there's legitimate hope that it also could lead to a revitalized labor movement.
You can be sure the action by Michigan, long one of the country's most heavily unionized states, home of the pioneering and pace-setting United Auto Workers and iconic labor leader Walter Reuther, will inspire anti-labor forces in other states to try to enact right-to-work laws.
By Lisa Schiff
My daughter came home from school the other day frustrated and angry. She had been excited the evening before because she'd learned that having finished The Odyssey her ninth-grade English class was now going to tackle Beowolf. We discussed the different translations and decided to compare the version we had at home with the one her class was going to read once she got the book. The next night she handed me, with a gesture of disgust, a used double-sided photocopy of the classic; no "real" book, just a set of rather worn stapled pages.
By Robert Cruickshank
Last week I made the case for restoring democracy to transit funding decisions in California. A Democratic State Senator is proposing exactly that, offering a constitutional amendment that would reduce the requirement for passing a transit tax from 66.7% to 55%. But apparently some folks still seem to believe that a two-thirds requirement is somehow good for transit funding initiatives.
By Robert Cruickshank
Two pieces of transit funding news came out of Los Angeles today. The first is that the L.A. Streetcar won its vote among downtown property owners to create a local taxing district and raise $125 million in revenue to begin building a streetcar line.
Unfortunately, we also learned that Measure J, the Los Angeles County Metro transit tax extension that would have helped deliver more rail projects sooner “failed.” It received 66.11% of the vote, a huge landslide victory in almost any other race. But because of the rule requiring a two-thirds vote for most local taxes, Measure J had to get 66.66%.