CMA Capitol Insight: March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy 

CMA Capitol Insight is a biweekly column by veteran journalist Anthony York, reporting on the inner workings of the state Legislature.

Making the ballot

A deal was reached among Democratic leaders in Sacramento late last week on a plan to bring California’s minimum wage to $15 per hour – the highest in the nation and double the national minimum.

The deal comes after years of wrestling in the legislature, and a statewide push that began years ago with a handful of public sector unions in Los Angeles. The accord avoids a fight at the ballot box, where labor groups were preparing a measure to ask voters to raise the wage statewide.

Under the terms of the deal, California’s minimum wage would go from $10 an hour to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, with a 50-cent increase in 2018 and then $1-per-year increases in each of the following four years. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply, delaying their workers receiving a $15 hourly wage until 2023.

The plan also allows for future increases pegged to the rate of inflation.

Locals have led the way in passing the higher wage. San Francisco, Los Angeles and a handful of other cities already have wages at higher than the current statewide minimum of $10 per hour – and are phasing in future increases that would increase the wage to $15.

Of course, the measure could still head to the ballot if it is passed quickly by lawmakers in Sacramento. If business groups wanted to hold a referendum on the wage hike, they would have 90 days from the time the bill is signed to gather signatures that could yet put the measure before California voters this fall.

But for now, the deal means that the monster ballot that was facing voters this fall will be pared back a bit. A pair of proposed tax-hike measures have already fallen by the wayside. Meanwhile, drama remains. Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to reform juvenile justice and adult parole is still caught in a legal tangle, with the state Supreme Court expected to rule early next month on whether the measure is eligible to go forward.

Californians will have plenty to vote on this fall, however. Everything from tobacco taxes to extending the state’s upper-income tax brackets will be on the ballot, as will the first open U.S. Senate seat in 24 years, and, of course, the presidential race.

A new PPIC poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Ted Cruz in the state’s GOP primary. But it’s really not one primary at all. The winner of the statewide vote gets only 10 of the state’s 172 delegates. The rest are awarded by Congressional district. So, the candidate who gets the most Republican votes in Nancy Pelosi’s Congressional district gets three delegates, as does the winner of Tom McClintock’s conservative Northern California district. And so on.

The polls shows Trump and Cruz running about even among Republican men. Trump’s lead is due to his stronger showing among the state’s Republican women.

And there could be echoes in the U.S. Senate race. Loretta Sanchez currently trails Kamala Harris in the race for Senate, but is currently running second overall. While there is still a large number of undecided voters, the top two finishers (regardless of party) advance to the fall runoff. Sanchez leads Harris 36-22 among California Latinos. If Latinos turn out in numbers to vote against Trump, Sanchez could get a boost.

The poll also showed strong support for the Prop. 30 extension, with 58 percent of voters poised to maintain high tax rates for individuals making $250,000 or more. Just 38 percent of those polled said they’re opposed to the measure.


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