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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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Edward Ring

How to Identify a “Good” Bond

On November 8th, Californians approvedProp. 51, authorizing $9.0 billion in new borrowing for construction and upgrades of public schools. Also on November 8th, Californians approved 171 local bond measures, authorizing over $22 billion in additional financing for construction and upgrades of public schools.

This new borrowing is only to construct and upgrade K-12 and community college campuses.Total K-12 enrollmentin California has been stable at around 6.3 million students for over a decade.Community college enrollmentin California is about 2.1 million students. This means that this latest round of borrowing equates to $3,735 per student. And similar sums are thrown at California’s K-12 schools and community colleges for construction and upgrades every two years. What gives?

One of the most obvious problems with voter approved bonds in California is the preference given school bonds.… Read More

Edward Ring

Unionize the Personal Assistants to the One-tenth-of-one-percenters

It came as a shock to learn that some of those who were around when unions first started infiltrating local and state governments actually welcomed the process. These were the days when unions were driving jobs overseas because of their unwillingness to negotiate new contracts in the face of foreign competition. “Let them come,” some observers said, “they’ll finally show these politicians what it’s like to try to run a unionized organization.”

We know how that turned out. The unions took over the government. Now they run nearly every city and county in California. Business and finance leaders play ball, or they’re targeted. And where the corpses of bankrupt industries once littered the American landscape, we now face the prospect of bankrupt cities and counties.

So here’s a modest proposal: Let’s embrace the process. Forget about the fight for a $15 minimum wage. That’s small thinking. Forget about unionizing home care professionals. That’s retail politics. Let’s aim for the pinnacles of power. Let’s force the elite of the elite to embrace unions where they live. Let’s force them… Read More

Kevin Dayton

Fresh Out of Bankruptcy, Stockton Plans a Union Monopoly on Construction Contracts

The City of Stockton filed a petition for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy relief on June 28, 2012, and the petition was accepted onApril 1, 2013. Earlier this year, on February 25, the City of Stockton exited bankruptcy protection.

Stockton’s city manager declared that “We emerge from bankruptcy a renewed city, perhaps better prepared for our future than any other city in the State, with a new value system, a thorough understanding of our operations and finances, and the tools to maintain solvency and adjust to economic conditions for decades into the future.”

With that inconvenience out of the way, the Stockton City Council is proceeding to implement a “value system” similar to what brought it to bankruptcy in the first place. It is giving its most favored constituency –unions –a potentially costly monopoly on… Read More

Edward Ring

How Project Labor Agreements Elevate Costs to Taxpayers

When considering the labor movement in the United States, there is a huge distinction between government unions and private sector unions. Government unions elect their own bosses, they operate within agencies that collect taxes instead of having to make a profit by enticing consumers to buy their products, and they operate the machinery of government which means their more zealous members have the ability to intimidate their political opponents. Private sector unions have none of these advantages. They negotiate with managers hired by CEOs who report to shareholders. They negotiate with companies that will go out of business if they over-compensate their workers. And with rare exceptions, workers in private companies are not approving our business permit applications, inspecting our workplaces, or auditing our tax returns.

So where does this put construction unions who compete for government contracts?

This question matters a lot to reformers, because private sector unions, properly regulated, not only have a vital role to play in American society, but their members have the potential to lobby effectively against many of the special interests who are killing… Read More

Kevin Dayton

Smoothing Over Project Labor Agreement Disputes in Closed Session: The Latest Union Scheme for “Progress” in California

UPDATE (November 13, 2013):At its November 12, 2013 meeting, the board of trustees for Rancho Santiago Community College District voted unanimously to continue a practice adopted in August 2013 not to discuss its Measure Q Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session until the college chancellor gets legal clarification from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. An opinion from the Attorney General is not likely to be produced for several months.

Speaking in support of having the discussions in open session was Dave Everett, Government Affairs Director for the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, and Craig Alexander of the Pacific Justice Institute. On behalf of trustee Phil Yarbrough, Alexander wrote aNovember 5, 2013 memo to the boardexplaining why discussing Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session was not legal.

The head of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council was at the meeting… Read More

Kevin Dayton

Unions Tempt Republicans with “Bipartisanship” Lure: Five Tips for Resistance

Two Republicans in the California State Legislature are now voting for legislation sponsored by the state’s construction unions, following several years of unified, principled caucus resistance to such schemes. One might think that former Republican legislators Brett Granlund, Anthony Pescetti, and Ken Maddox are back from term-limited exile, in disguise.

Union leaders and lobbyists are thrilled! They can now label their costly, self-serving bills as “bipartisan” while labeling their more principled critics as “extremist.”

A Bipartisan Attack on Constitutional Rights, Local Control, and Fiscal Responsibility

Most prominent among the union-backed bills with Republican support is Senate Bill 7. This bill would withhold state funding for any of the state’s 121 charter cities that exercise their right under the state constitution to set their own government-mandated wage rate policies for purely municipal construction.

SB 7 undermines the principle of local control over local funds and the fundamental structure of constitutional federalism. It also punishes fiscally responsible cities that recognize how state-mandated… Read More

Kevin Dayton

Pugnacious Defense of Economic Freedom in Orange County Can Inspire California’s Free-Market Activists

Californians whowant fiscally responsible governments and freedom of choicefor government contractors and their employees have another reason for dismay.

Construction union lobbyists are once again advancing their costlyagenda for local governmentsbeyond the corrupt and mismanaged urban centers of Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

In their latest move, union officials and their elected sycophantsare nowpushing formonopoly control of almost $1 billion in planned construction at Coast Community College District in Orange County (California).

This is not the firstinfiltration of government-mandatedProject Labor Agreementsinto Orange County. About a dozen years ago, union lobbyists managed to get control of the taxpayer-funded construction programs of three local governments: Orange County, Santa Ana Unified School District, and Rancho Santiago Community College District. In the case of Orange County, three Republican supervisors voted for it andaRepublican state legislatordefended it.

But California’s supporters of economic and personal freedom shouldnot be discouraged! This… Read More

Katy Grimes

Prevailing wage scams steal from taxpayers

In what strange world do janitors get paid $45 per hour? In California, the land of the prevailing wage.

The dirty secret is that janitors often are not really getting paid $45 per hour, but the taxpayers are being charged this amount on public works projects.

Designed to help the worker, the prevailing wage was created to set a minimum hourly rate paid on all public works projects, primarily for construction workers. But the classification has been expanded and greatly abused.

One contractor’s saga

I recently met with a Southern California contractor who has owned a final construction cleanup business for more than 25 years. Final cleanup on government construction projects is always the last task in the project, and usually takes place within days of the occupants moving in, depending on the size and scope of the cleanup. The contractor said that the work he and his crews do includes cleaning the construction dust off of walls, washing and polishing floors, cleaning windows and mirrors, power-washing all surfaces, wiping down fixtures and hosing down the roof and parking lots.

He is hired as a subcontractor by large… Read More