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California: A Time For Choosing
California’s Special Election – YES on Props. 73-77!
[Carol Platt Liebau] 11/7/05

Almost two years ago, Californians recalled Governor Gray Davis and – as all of America remembers – replaced him with Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since then, there’s been some good news. State revenues have increased by $6 billion without tax increases. The Governor has rolled back the unfair car tax increase, reduced workers' compensation insurance premiums by 30 percent, and brought more than 400,000 jobs back to California. And he has tried to do even more.

But he has a problem. To put it bluntly, Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to promote important and lasting reforms are being killed. They’re being choked to death by the greedy hands of Democratic legislators and the union bosses who too often control them. After numerous good faith attempts to negotiate with state Democratic leaders, it has become clear both to the Governor – and to all who are in touch with reality – that the Democrats won’t help him make the changes that we need for California to survive. That’s because those changes threaten the Democrats’ own hold on power – and the dollars that flow, too often and too freely, out of state coffers and into the pockets of union bosses.

Carol Platt Liebau - Senior

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at [go to Liebau index]

In desperation, the Governor has called for a special election – calling for us, the people, to step up where the Democrats have stepped aside. Governor Schwarzenegger has asked us to support ballot measures 74, 75, 76 and 77, and has himself endorsed measure 73. Each is essential to California’s well-being.

Proposition 73 – Parental Notification

Proposition 73 is straightforward. It would amend the California constitution to forbid abortions for minors until 48 hours after notification of a parent or guardian. It likewise permits pregnant minors to seek a waiver of the notification requirement from a juvenile court – an option that can be invoked for girls who either have abusive parents or are the victims of incest. And if a physician certifies that the abortion is necessary to prevent the mother’s death or serious bodily harm, the notification requirement is waived altogether.

Opponents of the measure have attempted to mislead the public by positing devastating hypotheticals – like abusive parents, incidences of incest or pregnancies where the life of the mother is threatened – and then pretending that the measure isn’t responsive to them.

But it is. And in an age where young women are required to obtain parental consent for a field trip, an aspirin or for pierced ears, it seems reasonable – and right – that parents be notified before girls makes a life-or-death decisions that can impact their emotional, psychological and even physical health for years to come.

Proposition 74 – “Put the Kids First Act”

Proposition 74 is a modest attempt to reintroduce the concept of accountability into public education.

Under the measure, teachers must maintain satisfactory performance reviews for five consecutive years (rather than two) before receiving tenure and the lifetime benefits that accompany it. And school boards may dismiss a permanent teacher who receives two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations.

Proposition 74 is necessary because currently, the unions protect poor teachers at the expense of California’s children. They have created a maze of complex rules and requirements that make it nearly impossible to dismiss any tenured teacher, however incompetent or outrageous.

As a result, school districts rarely bother even to try to remove bad teachers. According to the Sacramento Bee, between 1990 and 1999, the L.A. Unified School District convened only 13 dismissal panels; only one tenured teacher’s case went through the process from beginning to end. In San Bernardino, even a teacher who swore at her students, called them derogatory names and showed R-rated movies couldn’t be fired! Ultimately, she was paid $25,000 to “resign.” It’s a testimony to the union’s strength that California is one of only ten states that makes it so difficult to remove bad teachers.

No school system can thrive when educators are insulated from accountability for their performance. And although good teachers deserve all the respect and support that we can give them, bad teachers deserve to be fired. Proposition 74 makes both goals easier to achieve – and that’s why California needs it.

Measure 75 – Paycheck Protection

Paycheck Protection – Proposition 75 – is perhaps the most crucial to California’s recovery.

Right now, it’s no exaggeration to say that the government employees’ unions are almost as powerful as the lawmakers themselves. These unions can pay off enough legislators to defeat any measure, however modest, that would reduce the size of government or restrain government spending. And they do it with the dues that they force their members to pay.

It seems obvious that the unions should have their members’ consent before spending their money on political causes. As one Fountain Valley schoolteacher said, “The issue is so simple that even my kindergarten students understand it: Ask permission.”

The unions don’t ask permission – and it’s outrageous that they use the money they take to pursue an agenda that many of their members don’t share. According to a Los Angeles Times exit poll, 30% of voters in the 2003 recall election were from union households. Nearly half – 48% -- of union voters voted "yes" on the recall. 56% voted for a Republican candidate. But not one dollar of public employee union campaign contributions – not one dollar! – was spent in support of recalling Gray Davis or on behalf of Republican candidates.

Even as recently as 2000, the California Teachers Association, along with the California Federation of Teachers, spent significant resources and contributed thousands of dollars to fight against Proposition 22. This was despite the fact that a majority of their members – and a sizable majority of Californians – supported the traditional definition of marriage.

Under the current system, unions are authorized to spend dues on their political causes unless union members specifically object. But under Proposition 75, the union bosses would have to obtain the written consent of their members before using their money for political purposes.

Democrats and the unions have been fighting this measure tooth and nail. In fact, the union has assessed a $60 per year dues increase on its members to raise $50 million over three years to fight the governor's proposals. That’s because they know what’s at stake. If unions must get permission from their workers in order to spend their money, they’ll have less to spend – and their influence over legislators will diminish. In fact, after passage of the Utah Voluntary Contribution Act in 2001, over 93% of Utah teachers refused to give even one dollar a month to the Utah Education Association Political PAC. That’s what the unions are afraid of.

For their part, the Democrats realize that if Proposition 75 passes, they will lose the guaranteed support of one of their biggest and most reliable donors.

Passage of Proposition 75 would remove a huge road block to government reform by curbing the abusive influence that unions wield in Sacramento. When state workers regain the power to determine whether their dues are used for political purposes, union leaders will be restored to their proper place – as the people obeying the laws, not dictating them.

Proposition 76 – “Live Within Our Means”

If there was ever a state that needed to learn to live within its means, it’s California! State legislature has no concept of restraint when it comes to spending Californians’ money.

Between 2001 and 2005, state population and inflation increased by a combined 21 percent. During the same period, revenue rose by 25 percent. But at the same time, spending skyrocketed by a staggering 40%. The result is a structural state spending gap of nearly $1 billion per month. And without Proposition 76, this spending will continue indefinitely; many state programs receive automatic annual spending increases – whether they “need” them or not. Just last year, California's general fund revenues increased by $5 billion – but spending formulas put in place during the late ‘90’s boom mandated that we spend $10 billion. That’s a recipe for fiscal disaster.

As a candidate, Governor Schwarzenegger promised to balance the budget without raising taxes. He has stood strong against countless Democratic efforts to impose tax increases. He has reduced the gap between spending and revenues from about $10 billion when he took office to about $6 billion today. And he has proposed cuts that would have reduced the gap further had they not been rejected by left wing lawmakers.

But now he needs our help. He needs the tools that Proposition 76 provides if he is going to fulfill his no-new-taxes pledge.

Under the Live Within Our Means Act, the state is required to use extra revenue from peak years to build “rainy day funds.” When revenue shortfalls occur, it will allow the state to spend those reserves to maintain essential state services. And when the budget isn’t balanced, Proposition 76 allows the governor to reduce appropriations when the legislature fails to act, and automatically continues the prior year’s appropriations. This last part is key. It means that Republicans can freeze state spending, if necessary, by refusing to provide the two-thirds majority required to pass a new budget.

With Proposition 76, year-to-year budget increases will be limited to the average growth in revenues for the past three fiscal years, thereby placing reasonable, responsible limits on state budget growth. And legislators won’t be able to create costly new programs during economic booms that demand ongoing spending when revenues drop.

Predictably, Democrats and their union friends have been fighting this proposition hard – because any prospect of spending cuts frightens them to death. Their solution to any fiscal shortfall is – always – a tax increase. But a tax increase certainly isn’t the answer when the tax, cost-of-living and regulatory burden in California is so crushing that new employers won’t come here – and job- and wealth-creating entrepreneurs are being driven from the state.

Without Proposition 76, a tax increase may be the only way to close the gap between what our state spends and what it collects. But the Live Within Our Means Act will bring about important reforms in California’s budgeting process: Public school funding will be driven less by formula and more by an annual assessment of needs. Annual increases for welfare stipends will no longer be automatic. And future spending will be smoothed so that our boom and bust cycles no longer send government programs spinning between feast and famine.

Proposition 76 makes sense. It’s vital to California’s economic recovery. And it deserves your vote.

Proposition 77 – Redistricting

California is a state with 36 million people, 80 Assembly districts, 40 state Senate districts and 52 Congressional districts. But after last November’s elections, not one congressional or state legislative seat in California – not one out of 153 – changed hands. That’s hardly the sign of a healthy political climate.

Proposition 77 is designed to restore some much-needed competition to California politics. Under the Voter Empowerment Act, independent judges, rather than politicians, would draw election districts and then voters would be able to approve or reject them. As a rule, few conservatives are in favor of allowing unelected judges to do much of anything. But this measure is an exception – because, right now, California voters are trapped in a status quo where politicians are insulated from any real threat of being voted out of office.

As a result, Governor Schwarzenegger can’t negotiate effectively with the Democrats. If a Democrat represents a gerrymandered district with a partisan registration advantage of 30% -- as some state Democrats do – then the Governor could swing a whopping 20% of that vote, but the Democrat can still win easily. In these circumstances, why would a Democrat ever bother to negotiate with the Governor?

Sad to say, the responsibility for this status quo rests at the feet of Democrats and Republicans alike. Back in 2000, the politicians got together and drew legislative districts with only one principle in mind: Incumbent protection. The system works well for them – it’s all about “job security.” For us, however, it has produced a legislature that is arrogant, unaccountable and out of touch.

As a result, the legislature can pursue every left wing pipe dream without having to worry about accountability or any real world results. That’s how – only five years after Californians passed Proposition 22 with 61% of the vote – legislators still felt free to pass a gay marriage bill.

Even at the end of this legislative year with the special election looming, the Democrats in Sacramento were up to their same old tricks: Planning to raise the state’s minimum wage. Proposing a law that mandates gender equity in the workplace, allowing anyone with a real or perceived grievance to sue his employer. Passing bills to let workers sue their employers over labor or environmental concerns. A bill that would require students to be taught in their native language. And legislation that would create a reparations fund for Mexican-Americans “unfairly” repatriated to Mexico decades ago.

That’s only a taste of the pernicious policies that are being pursued in our name by our so-called “representatives.” They dare to carry on this way only because they think they’re safe – that there’s nothing we can do about it.

With Measure 77, there is something we can do about it! It’s high time for the politicians to stop picking the voters – and for voters to start picking the politicians.


In 1964, Ronald Reagan’s political career began with a remarkable speech “A Time for Choosing.” This week, Californians will confront their own “Time for Choosing.” On the one hand, there is a legislature that wants nothing but ever more regulations, penalties and taxes on business, with ever better pensions, benefits and perks for government workers. On the other is a Governor who is committed to economic competitiveness and streamlining bureaucracy.

There can be no recovery for California without meaningful reform. But there can be no reform as long as legislators sit, fat and happy, in electoral districts that are sheltered from robust political competition. And when left-wing, big spending, big-government-promoting unions wield the only meaningful leverage over legislators, passing Propositions 74, 75, 76 and 77 – along with 73 – is the only way for us to obtain the reforms that we so desperately need.

Just two short years ago, the voters of California spoke loud and clear. We said we wanted a fundamental change in our government – change that would make the state more accountable, more responsible, more competitive and more restrained. Change that would make all of us – as Californians – more prosperous, and above all, more free.

That change is still possible. It is, in fact, within our very grasp – if we can only muster the electoral strength we need to pass Propositions 73-77, thereby doing our part to help secure California’s future. -one-


Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and tOR / CRO editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

copyright 2005


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