CMA Capitol Insight: Sept. 29, 2014

September 29, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle 

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

Election Time: From Tepid to Hot and Heavy

Depending on where you live in California, you may not know there was an election going on at all. Many of the top-of-the-ticket races, including the race for governor, seem to be a foregone conclusion, with Democrat Jerry Brown poised to win a historic fourth and final term as the state’s top executive. Some of the state’s biggest Democratic superstars, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris, also seen poised to win similarly easy contests.

But in certain parts of the state, the political battle is hot and heavy. A number of contested Congressional races, including one in Sacramento, another along the Central Coast and one in San Diego, are among the most contested in the nation. In all three seats, first-term Democratic incumbents are facing tough GOP challengers. And unlike two years ago, this year is not a presidential year, which tends to lower voter turnout That, in turn, makes the electorate more conservative, and gives the GOP an advantage they don’t have in presidential election years.

Republicans also stand a good chance of ending the Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature. Democrats are facing some long odds in their efforts to hold onto an Orange County Senate seat currently held by Sen. Lou Correa. If former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio falls to Republican Janet Nguyen in the 34th Senate District, it would mean Democrats would have to knock off incumbent GOP Senators Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) or Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) to hold onto the 27-seat supermajority they enjoyed for the first half of this legislative year.

In the Assembly, a handful of races will determine the fate of the Democratic supermajority in that house, with most Democrats calling first-term Assemblyman Steve Fox an underdog in his reelection bid against Republican Tom Lackey, who finished 8 points ahead of Fox in the June primary.

And, one could make the argument that supermajorities will be much more important this session than they were last time around. Though Gov. Brown has not burnished a great liberal image, Democrats are actively preparing for a busy 2016 election cycle. With the taxes from Proposition 30 set to begin rolling off in the 2016-17 budget year, discussions are beginning about what a post-Prop. 30 California may look like.

Brown has said Proposition 30 was a budget patch, and has not expressed his support for an extension of the income and/or sales tax hikes that have brought billions of additional dollars into state coffers each year. And yet, this will be Brown’s final term in office. While he remains coy during his reelection bid, there is speculation, and hope among some Democrats, that Brown will emerge in 2015 with a bold vision for California’s future.

What could that be? Some kind of property tax reform? Another form of tinkering with Proposition 13? A new way to make it easier for local governments to raise certain taxes to pay for core services?

Brown isn’t talking for now. But if any plan is going to be put on the ballot by the Legislature, it’s going to take a two-thirds vote to put it there. We should have some indication of what to expect in the year ahead when Brown unveils his 2015-16 spending plan in early January.

Meanwhile, Proposition 46 continues its freefall in the polls. Thanks to an early advertising campaign funded by the California Medical Association and others; recommended No votes from every single major newspaper in the state that has weighed in on the issue; and thousands of conversations between California physicians and their patients, friends and family, the problematic ballot measure appears headed for defeat. But mark those calendars – absentee ballots will be sent out within the next two weeks, and election 2014 will officially be underway.


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