The California Capitol
Good Tuesday morning!
It is California Primary election day and there are no floor sessions scheduled in the California Legislature.
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
On to today’s California headlines:
Voter turnout for today’s election will likely set a record low for a presidential primary in California, with just 35 percent of registered voters casting ballots, according to the Field Poll.
The estimate reflects the state’s insignificance to the Republican presidential nominating contest, which was settled long ago, and to a dearth of competitive, high-interest races statewide.
“There’s really no comparison,” poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “We’ve never had a turnout at this level before for a presidential primary in California.”
In a report released today, Field estimates 6 million people will vote in the election, 35 percent of registered voters and just more than 25 percent of all Californians who are eligible to vote.
In the 2008 presidential primary, turnout reached almost 58 percent.
If turnout today falls below 40 percent of registration, as Field expects, it will be for the first time in the modern era. The previous record low turnout for a presidential primary was 41.9 percent in 1996.
Primary elections are, by their nature, not conclusive political events, but rather stage-setters for the real showdown in November.
For the political cognoscenti, however, this particular primary carries some unusual interest because it’s a first test of two major structural changes.
They are legislative and congressional districts drawn by an independent commission rather than by politicians themselves, and a new voting system in which two top finishers will face each other in November, regardless of party.
In a handful of the 153 legislative and House seats up this year, that could mean that two Democrats or two Republicans, or perhaps even an independent, could qualify for the November runoff.
It will, however, almost certainly eliminate minor party candidates from competing, which strikes many as unfair.
Californians heading to the polls Tuesday will decide whether to tweak term limits for state lawmakers and raise cigarette taxes to fund cancer research — even as they try out a revamped primary system designed to reduce partisan gridlock here and in Washington.
Under new primary rules, the top two finishers in races for state and federal offices will face off in November, regardless of party affiliation. The presidential contest is an exception. Candidates also are competing in new voting districts drawn by a citizens panel rather than the Legislature, which formerly engineered those districts to protect incumbents and maintain the influence of party bosses.
The outcome could reshape the way power is wielded in two capitals long defined by gridlock and brinkmanship. If more moderates are elected, it could eventually break the hold of labor unions on Democrats and anti-tax groups on Republicans.
With legal challenges to the California bullet train mounting, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday began circulating proposed legislation designed to significantly diminish the possibility that opponents could stop the project with an environmental lawsuit.
Brown’s office sent the proposal to a group of powerful environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Planning Conservation League and the Natural Resources Defense Council, hoping to win their support for the special legal protection.
The proposal puts environmental groups in a tough spot. Brown is asking them to agree to water down one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in history, but for a project they support because of its potential to help reduce vehicle emissions and global warming.
The legislation would most immediately affect suits brought by Central Valley agricultural interests, which have been among the project’s leading critics because of potential effects on farms, dairies, processing plants and other holdings.
Enjoy your morning and please remember to vote!