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Jun 07 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 7, 2012

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Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and City Hall

Good Thursday morning!

The California Legislature is in session.  Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

The California Franchise Tax Board is meeting today:

The Franchise Tax Board, meanwhile, is discussing “The Tax Gap, The Underground Economy, And The Criminal Element,” as the agenda puts it. That gap is estimated at $10 billion a year after enforcement and collections. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. at 9646 Butterfield Way, Town Center’s Gerald Goldberg Auditorium in Sacramento.

On to today’s California headlines:

 Few centrists advance in California’s new primary system

California’s new voting system may have been designed largely to shake up the polarized state Capitol, but Tuesday’s election made it clear that the promised political earthquake will have to wait.

Despite newly drawn districts and a primary system that allowed cross-party voting — changes that backers said would produce more moderate lawmakers — California could face continued partisan brinkmanship, at least for a while.

Just a few centrists emerged Tuesday in contests marked by some of the lowest voter turnout in state history, less than 25%, according to the secretary of state’s latest tally.

A handful of GOP candidates succeeded by challenging their party’s anti-tax orthodoxy, which has long stymied budget talks, but they face stiff challenges in November. Several Democrats backed by the state’s business interests — and representing a potential check on the power of labor unions — also appear vulnerable.

Still, the increased competition was undeniable — and expensive.

Experts predict that the new primary rules will result in perhaps the costliest legislative campaigns in state history, increasing the power of the special interests that fund them. Spending by labor, business and other groups in support of candidates in dozens of legislative races approached $14 million, nearly double that of two years ago.

“Competition is expensive,” said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. “If you want cheap elections, go Soviet.”

California’s top-two system shakes up field

As many as 29 California legislative and congressional districts will see two members of the same party compete in the November general election, a function of new balloting rules that made a statewide debut in Tuesday’s primary.

Hundreds of thousands of votes remain to be counted around the state, and the results in a handful of races could change. But clear trends emerged. Incumbents survived. Not one failed to at least make the runoff.

Business groups fared better navigating the top-two terrain than their adversaries in organized labor, delivering wins for some moderate Democrats. A handful of Republicans who refused to sign a no-tax pledge also secured top-two spots.

And supporters of the new primary system said the number of same-party runoffs could make good on their argument that the change will force candidates to run and govern in a way that appeals to a broader spectrum of voters.

2012 ELECTION: Democrats reeling from loss

The path to a Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives runs straight through California, party leaders have said for months.

They trumpeted a crop of new candidates they said could yield several pickups in the Golden State. Among them was Pete Aguilar, the 32-year-old mayor of Redlands.

Democrats saw Aguilar as a lock to finish among the top two in this week’s primary in the 31st Congressional District. Instead, two Republicans — U.S. Rep. Gary Miller and state Sen. Bob Dutton — received the most votes, leaving Aguilar about 1,500 votes short and Democrats nationwide pondering how one of their best opportunities slipped away.

Ultimately, Aguilar was undone by a combination of factors: California’s new top-two-primary system, a lopsided field of candidates, a huge influx of outside money and poor voter turnout.

California pension cuts may have ripple effect

Decisive victories for ballot proposals cutting retirement benefits for government workers in two of the largest cities in the U.S. emboldened advocates seeking to curb pensions in state capitols and city halls across the nation.

The voter responses in San Diego and San Jose were stinging setbacks for public employee unions, which also came up short on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall victory in Wisconsin.

“The message is that if elected officials and public employee unions do not responsibly deal with this issue, voters will take things into their own hands,” said Thom Reilly, former chief executive of Clark County, Nev., now a professor of social work at San Diego State University. “We could see more draconian measures from citizens.”

In San Diego, two-thirds of voters favored the pension reduction plan. And the landslide was even greater in San Jose, where 70 percent were in favor.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters’ Daily video: Tuesday’s important votes? Pension reform

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