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Dan Walters

Democrats hope to recover lost seats in 2016

Democrats won supermajorities – more than two-thirds of the seats – in both houses of the Legislature in 2012. Democrats lost those supermajorities two years later as Republicans gained a few seats. Democrats will try to restore their legislative supermajorities in 2016, buoyed by the prospect of a higher voter turnout in a presidential election. […]

January 06, 2016 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Elections will top New Year

Since 2016 is a number divisible by 2, this is also an election year, and that biennial fact will dominate – and perhaps distort – California politics in the forthcoming months. There’s even an outside chance that California will have a role in the presidential selection process beyond being a cash cow for White House […]

January 03, 2016 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Neighbors perhaps, friends no

There’s always been an incongruity about California’s having three disparate states on its borders. As California’s population exploded during the 20th century, those of Nevada, Arizona and Oregon remained relatively sparse and today, collectively they have just one-third of California’s population. The economies of California and its neighbors developed differently, but they once shared a […]

December 30, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Big trends will affect California politics

Demographics, it’s been said, are destiny. That’s especially true of their impact on politics. Midway through the decade, California’s major demographic trends are quite evident and will, indeed, affect its politics in the years ahead. The state Department of Finance recently released 2015 population estimates for the state and its cities and counties, which confirmed […]

December 27, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Farmer’s measure hits bonds

Dean Cortopassi, a wealthy San Joaquin County farmer, is rattling California’s political establishment by spending millions on a 2016 ballot measure. Dubbed the “No Blank Checks Initiative,” the constitutional amendment would require a public vote whenever the state borrows more than $2 billion for a public works project via “revenue bonds.” Typically such bonds are […]

December 23, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

2012 workers’ comp law actually cut costs

A 2012 legislative overhaul of compensation for work-related injuries and illnesses appears to have had the desired effect of reducing medical costs, two new independent studies say. A recent spike in medical costs, however, may indicate that the effects of the legislation, Senate Bill 863, are beginning to wear off, according to one of the […]

December 20, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

LA could be Olympics winner and loser

Los Angeles moved closer last week to becoming the venue for the 2024 Summer Olympics when voters in Hamburg canceled its bid. That leaves Los Angeles facing only Paris, Rome and Budapest in the jousting before the International Olympic Committee, having become the U.S. candidate after Boston, the original American candidate, withdrew due to stiff […]

December 16, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Shift in state’s college degree structure a good start

With some fanfare, state Sen. Marty Block delivered a symbolic check early this month to a San Diego-area community college. It was for $350,000 to help San Diego Mesa College offer four-year degrees in health information management in accordance with legislation that Block authored last year. The fanfare reflected, in part, Block’s somewhat embattled political […]

December 13, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Work continues on state-run retirement option for low-, moderate-income Californians

California has long prided itself on having an upwardly mobile, egalitarian gestalt, so there’s much irony in its evolution into a two-tiered society. But there’s also much angst as the relative few in the top tier prosper and the many in the lower tier deal with stagnating incomes and very high living costs, particularly for […]

December 09, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Recent events underscore state’s vulnerabilities

The bankruptcies of three cities and high-profile financial scandals in a couple of others demonstrated the operational vulnerabilities of California’s municipalities. A coincidental series of events just last month underscore that vulnerability, to wit: The California Public Employees’ Retirement System board is shifting to lower assumed investment earnings. It will force state and local governments to cough […]

December 06, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

State’s courts face financial, managerial tangles

There’s nothing more fundamental to a well-functioning society than an efficient, fair court system to resolve civil disputes and criminal cases. California has the nation’s largest court system, and perhaps its most troubled with severe financial and managerial tangles, and a virtual war between a San Francisco-based administrative superstructure and hundreds of rebellious local judges. […]

December 02, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

State still owes one huge debt

When Jerry Brown returned to the governorship in 2011, he pledged to clean up the state’s finances and pay off a “wall of debt.” Brown defined the debt rather narrowly, however, as $33 billion borrowed from banks, special funds and school aid to cover budget deficits during the Great Recession. One of the debts that […]

November 29, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Wrangling over new state taxes

As the Great Recession gripped California, state revenues plummeted by 20 percent and Capitol politicians and major stakeholders battled over which programs would take the hits. During this decade, however, a slow recovery from recession and a temporary hike in taxes approved by voters in 2012 have boosted general fund revenues from scarcely $80 billion […]

November 25, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Is California’s economy booming? Not really

Kevin de León, the state Senate’s president pro tem, has been making his way slowly to a global conference on climate change in Paris next month. One of his stops, last week, was London, where he spoke to a group of British legislators and business leaders, touting the economic benefits of California’s efforts to curb […]

November 22, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Kamala Harris undercuts California’s Prop. 209

Proposition 209, passed by California voters in 1996, bars race, ethnicity or gender preferences in hiring, college admissions and other governmental actions. The measure, which has survived multiple legal challenges, is a section of the state constitution. Attorney General Kamala Harris took an oath to “support and defend . . . the constitution of the […]

November 18, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Brown struggles to secure lasting legacy

When Jerry Brown’s first governorship ended in 1983, he had precious little lasting accomplishment on his political resume. His few initiatives had faced a hostile (albeit Democratic) Legislature and he had been preoccupied with two unsuccessful campaigns for the presidency and one for the U.S. Senate. After the latter, Brown declared, “I believe the people […]

November 15, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

California initiative process alive and well

The Capitol’s Democrats and their biggest allies – unions, particularly – were riding pretty high after the 2012 elections. The party had achieved two-thirds legislative supermajorities and with a Democratic governor in place, its leaders and their allies had an ambitious liberal agenda to pursue. What better time, some thought, to consolidate their control of […]

November 11, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Local decisions perhaps best on certain issues

California and its politicians over the years have taken pride in pushing the policy envelope, setting a pace for the nation as a whole. Decades ago, we led in building freeways, in battling smog that cars on those freeways created and in offering low- or no-cost higher education opportunities. Currently, Gov. Jerry Brown and other […]

November 08, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

National student test scores confirm poor California performance

The latest national academic tests tell us again that California’s public schools aren’t doing a very good job of educating more than 6 million youngsters. Once again, California finds itself in the bottom tier, with New Mexico and Alabama, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests of fourth- and eighth-graders in math and English. […]

November 04, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Brown remains consistently inconsistent

Over his half-century as a practitioner of California politics, Jerry Brown has proved himself to be consistently inconsistent. Indeed, he has claimed that tendency as a virtue, once sneeringly dismissing “small minds that slavishly adhere to foolish consistency.” It should not be surprising, therefore, that skimming through the hundreds of bills from the 2015 legislative […]

November 01, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Quick fix typically not best fix

Were the El Niño phenomenon to actually generate copious rainstorms in California, it could create a dilemma for homeowners with elderly roofs – patch the leaks or spend big bucks for a new roof. California politics present similar choices. The state’s extraordinarily complex socio-economic matrix makes gathering support for any major policy decision extraordinarily difficult. […]

October 28, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

New law stops gold dredging

California is what it is – a diverse and economically and culturally potent society – largely because gold was discovered in the American River in 1848. It drew thousands from every corner of the globe, establishing it as a magnet for those with ambition and drive that is still powerful. It jump-started an innovative and […]

October 25, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

State should consider study before going all-in on pre-kindergarten

The New America Foundation urges California in a new report to spend more on training and paying pre-kindergarten teachers. “Our bottom line is that California is not doing enough to educate early childhood educators so that kids don’t fall way behind in school,” the report’s author, Sarah Jackson, told EdSource, an online educational news site. […]

October 21, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

State’s cap-and-trade dollars piling up

One of the chores the Legislature left undone when it adjourned was spending billions of dollars from auctioning carbon dioxide emission credits. There’s no shortage of suggestions on how to spend the “cap-and-trade” money, but state law says it’s supposed to be spent on reducing carbon emissions and thus combating climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown […]

October 18, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Crime remains lingering political issue for state

The beginning of Jerry Brown’s first governorship four decades ago coincided with a dramatic increase in crime. Crimes of all kinds climbed to more than 7,000 per 100,000 Californians during the first year of his governorship, twice the crime rate during father Pat Brown’s gubernatorial term a decade earlier. Not surprisingly, crime was a dominating […]

October 14, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

State lurches forward on immigration reform

Twenty-one years ago, California voters passed Proposition 187, which sought to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants. Ultimately, however, it was voided by the courts, sparked a political backlash that divided the Republican Party, galvanized Latino and Asian political activism and led California politicians to set a new and radically different course. While immigration reform […]

October 11, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

State tinkers with power system at peril of ratepayers

When California’s electric power system went into a virtual meltdown 15 years ago, one might think it would have cured politicians’ urges to fiddle with its operations. After all, it was caused by a know-it-all overhaul of the system four years earlier by then-Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature, and successor Gray Davis’ mishandling of […]

October 07, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Poor acts contribute to malaise

California has, as noted in this space previously, a severe civic malady – a sharp decline in voting. Politicians have been scrambling to find fixes, such as automatically registering voters as they contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, Public Policy Institute of California polling has found, in essence, that the reason so many Californians […]

October 04, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Cultures clash as court weighs in on school funding, accountability

The epic war between California’s education establishment and a loose coalition of school reform and civil rights groups rages on many fronts. Combatants clash in the Legislature, in the state Board of Education, in local school board meetings, in school district, legislative and statewide elections, and, ultimately, in the courts. One of their many specific […]

September 30, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,

Intraparty fights take shape for 2016

Toni Atkins probably would prefer to remain the Democratic speaker of the state Assembly indefinitely, but she can’t. Although the state’s term-limit law has been amended to provide more flexibility, she’s bound by the earlier version that limits someone to three terms in the Assembly. Atkins still has eight years of state Senate eligibility. But […]

September 27, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged ,
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