Category Archives: California Legislature

State Republicans Dead Wrong on Budget

For as pro-business and anti-tax as this Blue Dog is, California’s Republican state legislators are way off base by rejecting Governor Brown’s call for putting a tax extension vote before the electorate. It is a pathetic, albeit classic, case of extreme ideology getting in the way of problem solving, sacrifice and compromise.

Extending taxes should really be a no-brainer that the Legislature and Governor should man-up for and even pass on their own without seeking the political cover of the ballot.

First, this is an extension. The taxes are already in existence. Our politicians are fond of putting things in terms of kitchen-table talk, so look at it this way: If a household is in dire financial straits, it cuts expenses and seeks to preserve existing income. Christmas money from relatives? Check. Bonus from work? Check. Rental deposit? Check. Refunds from car insurance or other sources? Check.  You get the idea.

Second, Brown is exhibiting dogged determination in making harsh cuts. We all know there is a ton of government waste and programs on the bubble that should be cut. But he also appears to be going all the way to the bone in a way that will shock liberal Dems. The Republicans need to bring more than the word “NO” to the table.

Third, perhaps worse than taxes, most moderates and independents despise spinelessness. But this dearth of leadership and lack of problem-solving is precisely what we are seeing and hearing from the California GOP.

To wit: “This is really not our problem,” Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, said Tuesday after meeting with Brown.

And this, in the Los Angeles Times from Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) the highest-ranking Republican budget leaders: “Listen, the drill is, we come up with a budget, it gets vilified by everybody and at the end of the day we don’t have the ability to pass it. It’s a majority-vote budget. We’re not the majority. We respect that. We’ll be part of the process but it’s not like we’re going to lead with all the things where we become the bad guys. The majority has the ability, they have the authority. God bless them, we’re here to help.”

Whining, hand-wringing and lobbing grenades is no way to attract people to your cause. The Republican position here is pure Stone Age. It’s embarrassing and exactly the type of unreasonable position that has marginalized the Republican party in California. Also it is why conservative and moderate Dems cannot bring themselves to embrace the party.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate taxes as much as the next guy and would not support new taxes. But the $9 billion or so already on the table needs to stay on the table until we get out of this mess. Republicans should hold their noses and see the common sense in this.

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Where is Governor Moonbeam?

Happy New Year, Californians.

While it is easy to remain cynical about the fate of the Golden State, Governor Jerry Brown’s first week on the job, as well as his run-up to taking office, has indeed been heartening. In terms of both symbolism and substance, one cannot help but be impressed by his sober, workmanlike approach to his job.

Whether a holding a low-key hotdog inaugural, making it a priority to open the lines of communication with Republicans or making the effort to meet key stakeholder groups in their own offices — Brown is drawing raves from both sides of the aisle.

Obviously, style must soon give way to substance. On the eve of his budget unveiling tomorrow, Brown appears dialed-into our crisis in a way we have not seen for the past eight years. Sure, closed door meetings discussions with Brown have been described as like watching a Super Ball bouncing all over the room. Yet, there is little, if any, public evidence of the old and quirky Governor Moonbeam. Instead, we are seeing a sure hand and steady grip at the helm of the Titanic.

By making it clear no-one is immune from deep, ugly cuts; that voters should approve tax extensions; and that the state must push more responsibility to local government, he is asserting a pragmatic no-nonsense, non-partisan approach that offers a glimmer of hope for our dire situation. It has not gone unnoticed that many believe the large contingent of  liberal Democrats is going to be Brown’s biggest nemesis.

The business community is on pins and needles waiting for all Brown’s appointments to be made. Already there are rumblings and concerns being voiced around Sacramento his appointments thus far are too partisan. But none of that matters if Brown continues to set the right tone and stays true to less government and living within the state’s means. By definition, that should curtail government’s insatiable appetite to regulate and stifle business.

If Brown stays tough, smart and fair, California might just have a chance.

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A Coyote-Ugly Truth

The Blue Dog typically takes a pass on email jokes, but here’s one worth sharing that apparently is making the rounds around high places in the State Capitol:

CALIFORNIA: The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. a coyote jumps out, bites the Governor and attacks his dog.

1. The Governor starts to intervene but reflects upon the movie “Bambi” and then realizes he should stop; the coyote is only doing what is natural.

2. He calls animal control. Animal Control captures coyote and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

3. He calls a veterinarian. The vet collects the dead dog and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases.

4. The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

5. The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is free of dangerous animals.

6. The Governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a “coyote awareness” program for residents of the area.

7. The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

8. The Governor’s security agent is fired for not stopping the attack somehow and for letting the Governor attempt to intervene.

9. Additional cost to State of California: $75,000 to hire and train a new security agent with additional special training with regards to the nature of coyotes.

10. PETA protests the coyote’s relocation and files suit against the State.

ARIZONA: The Governor of Arizona is jogging with her dog along a nature trail. a coyote jumps out and attacks her dog.

1. The Governor shoots the coyote with her State-issued pistol and keeps jogging. The Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

2. The buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that’s why California is broke.

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Can Party Leaders Afford to Dismiss Sentiment Behind Prop. 14?

Few things unite Republican and Democratic party hardliners more than a threat to the status quo. The current two-party stranglehold in California has yielded a virtual monopoly on ideas and public policy. This reality, coupled with ridiculously uncompetitive legislative districts, is a prime source of the gridlock we see daily in Sacramento.

Candidates pander to their liberal and conservative bases in the primaries, then try to convince everyone in the general election they are moderates in the center. Once they get into office they revert, with very few exceptions, back to lapdogs for the extremes of their respective parties and special interests. This is a sham Californians obviously see through given their approval for Open Primaries — just as they did in rejecting some of the big corporate power plays in the other statewide propositions this week.

But rather than catching a clue about voter sentiment and realizing how smart the electorate actually is, the entrenched party apparatchiks condescendingly dismiss the will of the people. John Burton, old-guard Democrat and Party Chairman, vowed as early as Tuesday night to consider filing a lawsuit. The Republican establishment, also voiced strong opposition to Prop. 14’s passage, and seemed content to stand with Burton, albeit in a crouched position.

Of all things, our politicians fear moderate voters and independents who care more about common sense problem solving than capital D or R ideology. An open primary will mean candidates will actually have to appeal to a broader range of the electorate from the get go — not just the extremes as has been the case for too long. One look no farther than Steve Poizner for a timely example. Long considered a moderate Republican, Poizner transformed himself into the second coming of Bill O’Reilly during a campaign in which he sought to brand himself as the only “true conservative” on the Republican ticket. A big reason he was trounced, besides winner Meg Whitman’s financial largesse, was that he was simply too disingenuous to believe.

Prop. 14 is emblematic of voter frustration and disenfranchisement. The measure, which passed overwhelmingly, is perhaps not as revolutionary as Prop. 13 and and term limits. But neither is it as draconian. The Blue Dog has seen first hand the chaos of term limits, which despite their intent have ironically backfired for a whole host of reasons. And Prop. 13 is at the root of many problems the state is facing today. But Prop. 14 would not appear to be in that camp. As political columnist Dan Weintraub writes in today’s Sacramento Bee, Prop. 14 is a victory for centrists/moderates and independents who deserve a voice earlier in the process.

Rather than scrambling like cockroaches for attorneys to overturn the will of the people, the Democrat and Republican Party Corporations should seek ways to broaden their appeal with more mainstream candidates. Tuesday’s election should make one thing clear to them: the majority of voters (of all parties) are standing by with cans of RAID.

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Much Ado About Palin

For being such an irrelevant lightweight, Sarah Palin still manages to get under the Left’s thin skin (more on that in a minute). While this is hardly a news flash, it is ironic that Palin is now, according to CNN and others, showing skill at also alienating the right — especially Chuck DeVore supporters — with today’s endorsement of Carly Fiorina, one of three seeking the Republican spot to take on incumbent U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.

Boxer certainly isn’t the Blue Dog’s cup of tea, but it is hard to see how Palin’s endorsement helps Fiorina attract the middle once the primary is over and Palin is hanging on her back like Clint Eastwood’s orangutan in “Every Which Way But Loose.” Carly’s camp is dissing Tom Campbell for a track record of losing big races because of his moderate credentials. Perhaps a valid point. But that may have more to do with public persona than partisan orientation. On paper, Campbell would appear the best person to unseat Boxer. While Fiorina remains intriguing — she would appear to be much less so for independents and moderate Dems with a Palin endorsement.  Seriously, is the Official Palin Stamp of Approval really the holy grail for Republicans? They are in big trouble if it is.

As for Palin’s ability to burrow like a crazed tick under the thin skin of liberals . . . The BlueDog – while no fan of Palin – finds all the contrived controversy about her Cal State University Stanislaus speech utterly ridiculous. An AG Jerry Brown investigation? State legislative news conferences, dumpster diving and conspiracy theories involving Palin’s agreement with a non-profit university foundation? You gotta be kidding me. Aren’t there bigger fish to fry?

You couldn’t pay the Blue Dog to hear Palin speak. She is a dim bulb on a huge ego trip. She was not vice presidential timber, but that’s what elections are for. The reality is that plenty of people relate to Palin and want to hear her blather on about whatever is on her mind. Like it or not, she is a big draw among an ardent group of voters, commands large fees and can help organizations like the CSU-Stanislaus foundation raise funds for worthwhile causes like scholarships.

Good for her. The  last time we checked this was still the United States and citizens (and illegals, apparently) had a few rights involving freedom of speech, expression, assembly and getting paid what the market will bear.

If Bill Ayers or Reverend Jeremiah Wright were speaking on a public university campus, this type of flap wouldn’t even be on the radar. Instead, we see an ongoing witch hunt against Palin by the Left – a energy that only gives her a credibility she wouldn’t otherwise possess. Moderates and independents in California — even those with no love for Palin — have little interest in seeing precious state resources and legislative energy wasted on character assassination.

So, to the Lefties: “Get Over Her” . . .  To the Republicans: “Get Over Her”

To the Rest of Us Suckers in the Middle: “Pray we don’t get stuck with two extremes in November.”

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Fabian’s Right: Dems Should Jettison BS & Approve Maldonado

The Blue Dog applauds former Assemby Speaker and Democrat Fabian Nunez for his eloquent, reasoned opinion piece in this morning’s Sacramento Bee: “Confirm GOP’s Maldonado, show Legislature can function.”

In his commentary, Nunez articulates a number of central Centrist themes in championing Republican state senator Abel Maldonado for the vacant Lieutenant Governor post. More political leaders should come out to exhibit the same type of common sense and statesman-like leadership as Nunez. The Capitol circus needs more responsible outside ringmasters.

We will let his piece speak for itself and encourage you — and the Legislature’s Democratic leadership — to read it.

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Obama’s Rush to the Economic Right: Will Sacramento Follow Suit?

Taking in President Obama’s state of the Union speech while frying patty melts for his kids, one thing struck the Blue Dog big time: Obama came out of the gates running for the center. In fact, his momentum seemed to carry him across the line and into Republican territory on jobs and the economy. Obamas’s most surprising, and apparently sincere, admission that business is still the engine that drives the economy was refreshing and even startling. Good for him. And let’s hope the Republicans find it in themselves to work with him instead of trying to sabotage the country for political gain in November.

And Obama should get credit for stabilizing the economy and starting to clean up the crap left by the previous Administrations. But his claims of jobs creation, however, rang a bit hollow. After all, the avalanche of recovery funds have chiefly been absorbed in protecting public sector jobs. In fact, the Stimulus Project suggests as much as 75 percent of the mega funds have gone to entitlements and government works.

Saving taxpayer-funded jobs ain’t the same thing as creating jobs. Government may employ people, but it doesn’t create the underlying wealth and new revenue. It absorbs, redistributes and transfers wealth. And yes, it plays a critical role in curbing private-sector abuse. This is all the subject of a whole different conversation. The point here is that government jobs are the offspring of taxpayers and especially the loins of business.

One wonders if the liberals in Sacramento heard Obama. Or were they too busy watching Nancy Pelosi and Joe Binden grin ear to ear as if they had just sipped the Kool-Aid or were in on the same joke?  One worries if the California Left really does get it. Here’s a classic example: A few months ago, there was a “Jobs Summit” held in Sacramento to explore  ways to create jobs. According the press account, there was an array of traditional Democratic stakeholders — labor, public employees unions, government, academics, think tanks and the like. But guess what? No mention of the economic engine Obama talked about. Apparently business wasn’t important enough to have a seat at the table. Never mind business is the table, as Obama pointed out in his speech.

We are in big trouble if this “summit” mentality mirrors the current mindset in the Capitol, a notorious Slaughterhouse for pro-business and private sector job growth initiatives. Growing business is serious business, and is getting more urgent. Consider that California’s nearly 13 percent unemployment rate is nearly as high (about 2 points less) than Michigan, which has been decimated by the gasping auto industry.

Obama called on policy grounded in “common sense”  and post partisanship. Whether this can happen in DC is anyone’s guess. Here in Sacramento, the stakes are higher and the divisions perhaps even greater in terms partisan rancor.

Nonetheless, let’s think big, and positively. So here’s a call — albeit a naive one –  from the millions of silent Centrists who would love to see the following from the California Legislature:

(1) Make private sector job creation its number one priority. And that doesn’t mean hiding behind the long-term dream of  “green job creation” at the same time regulations and laws are passed to ban products, shut down what manufacturing is left, hamstring farmers, mandate bureaucratic reporting of information that is already readily available just to curry favor with special interests and activists groups, etc.

(2) Steinberg and Perez should each reach across the aisle and name a moderate, respected Republican in each house as a Job Czar, who would serve as advisors on job-related legislation.

(3)  Run every bill through an economic filter with analysis from an independent third-party group of economists — as well as from Capitol staff and their bosses.

(4) Create a legislative Siberia for any bill that creates a new program or bureaucracy.   State office buildings already are littered with programs that don’t have adequate funding.

The Blue Dog likes to start from the ideal and work backwards, lowering expectations as we go. So let’s think big. Sacramento Dems – take a page from the Democrat in Chief. Create an environment friendly for jobs growth and you’ll ultimately have plenty of tax revenue to address the many ominous ills in our state.

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What Scott Brown Means for Jerry Brown, et al

Depending on your pundit, Scott Brown’s stunning ascension to Ted Kennedy’s vacant Massachusetts Senate congressional seat is either a crippling defeat for the Democrats or a harbinger that Republicans will soon hold sway throughout the nation.

In reality, these are both oversimplifications and miss the point. From this Left Coast moderate perch, Brown’s surprise win is a victory for the great swath of independents and moderates who cut through both sides of the aisle.

What moderates lack in colorful political personalities and a party all their own, we make up for with a nasty habit of abruptly slamming on the brakes when we see either fringe taking control of the wheel. President Clinton learned this. So did Newt Gingrich. This is what seems to have just sent shockwaves through the nation’s political circles.

Anyone listening? There is a reason the nation’s fastest growing political force is gathering around the independent, moderate center. We may not have the power to hold conventions and catapult candidates out of the primaries. But we serve as critical check-and-balance calibrators and defiant momentum changers.

Massachusetts’ liberal base is legendary. So there is no denying Brown’s victory sends a powerful signal. But is it one Senator Barbara Boxer will understand or heed? If she exhibits the entitlement mentality and arrogance displayed by Democrats along the Eastern seaboard and in DC . . . she could well be toast. No matter what, the likes of Carly Fiorina and  Tom Campbell should suddenly feel very, very emboldened.

In the race for Arnold’s seat, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner will have to look over their shoulders as they pander to the Republican’s hardcore right. It seems Jerry Brown would do well to take advantage of being unchallenged (for a race he hasn’t officially entered) and stake out centerfield while his adversaries charge wildly to right before trying to veer back to the middle post June.

The moderate pendulum is not just swinging, but rather assertively at that. November is suddenly getting interesting.

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What’s Your S.O.S.?

Governor Schwarzenegger delivered his final State of the State (SOS) address this morning. It was a mixed bag. Sober reality check. Wistful glorification of California’s can-do spirit. A vague, punch-drunk plan of attack for rescuing California.Protecting education, cutting prisons, tax breaks. They all sound wonderful. How this stacks up with financial and political reality is highly suspect. But give the Governor credit for connecting the dots and trying to move ahead in the face of insurmountable odds.

Depending on your viewpoint and situation, S.O.S. can mean a lot of things.

* For castaways desperate for salvation, it’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass – “Save Our Souls.”

* For soldiers sick of canteen food, it’s “Sh*! on a Shingle.”

* For cynics in the capitol press corps and in The Building, it’s “Same of Sh@#.”

* For liberals, to paraphrase Democratic ex-Speaker Karen Bass, it’s “Save our Shreds” of what is now the social safety net.

* For Arnold, it boiled down to the “Same Optimistic Speech.”

The Blue Dog thinks it was very well-written and delivered pretty well. But the feel-good tone evaporated minutes after the speech . . . just inventory the pitiful track record of a Centrist Governor sandwiched between too-far right Republicans and the dominant left-wing Liberals. They are all talking about collaboration now. But as Sacramento political pundit Steve Swatt so nicely put it: “By summer the olive branches will be fire wood.”

Achieving some measure of budget reform should now be Governor Schwarzenegger’s drumbeat to a proud legacy, It’s a worthy goal and the Governor should be applauded for that. The Legislature should, but of course, won’t, do anything meaningful or visionary to help him.  After all, a broken system cannot fix itself.

Yes, Governor, California is a wonderful place indeed. But her glow has faded and she can’t rely on her looks any more. The fresh-faced beauty queen is now a haggard middle-aged woman with missing teeth and a crack pipe in her hand.  Optimism alone is not going to change that fact.

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Source: Bradshaw Leaving Horseshoe

Pay AttentionA well-placed source tells the Blue Dog that Vickie Bradshaw will be leaving her post as Cabinet Secretary to Governor Schwarzenegger, whose office is expected to make the announcement next week. Her departure is a blow to most state agencies because she has been their only pipeline to the Governor. She has also been credited with playing a moderating and stabilizing influence within the horseshoe. She and Paul Feist,, her likewise highly regarded chief deputy, are said to be returning to the agency from which they came a year ago — The Labor & Workforce Agency.  No reason given, however, rumors suggest possible tension between Bradshaw and the Governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy (aka SBK), who has been a frustrating firewall between agency chiefs and the Governor. Some say, Bradshaw’s departure is disconcerting especially given the ominous 2010 that is shaping up around the budget, and the predictable exodus of staff that is expected as the Administration winds down.

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