A Time For Choosing
California’s Special Election – YES on Props. 73-77!...
Platt Liebau] 11/7/05
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
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
[go to Liebau index]
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.
73 – Parental
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
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
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
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-
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 CarolLiebau.blogspot.com