When Californians go to the polls in November, they will be choosing from many new faces seeking to represent them in the state legislature.
Thanks to redistricting and a wide swath of retirements, there will be at least 22 new State Assembly Members elected this fall and 10 new State Senators. Those numbers could grow higher depending on the outcome of the closest races. This doesn’t include several members elected in special elections earlier this year.
Those new faces elected this year will face some big challenges when they take office in December. Just this week, the Department of Finance reported that tax receipts were $2.8 billion below projections in September, putting the state’s revenue shortfall to date at $7 billion below projections.
On education, recently released test scores from large California school districts – representing over 1 million students, found that just 41 percent of Los Angeles Unified students were proficient in reading, and only 13 percent of Bakersfield students were proficient in math. The rest of the statewide results will be released by the end of October.
Meanwhile, according to estimates from CalMatters, the statewide homeless count has grown by at least 22,500 over the past three years to over 173,000 – with no prospect on the horizon to reverse this troubling trend.
To help state lawmakers , PRI has just released our “California To-Do List” – a state level version of the “Congress To-Do Lists” we previously released on health care, energy, and education. The ideas in our to-do list are culled from our recent book Saving California edited by Steven Greenhut.
The reforms, put forward by 10 of California’s leading free-market voices, are actional, market-based reforms that have the potential to gain bipartisan support and address the top issues of Californians according to a recent PPIC survey – the economy, homelessness, housing, water, crime, the state budget and more.
Economy – Chapman University fellow in urban studies Joel Kotkin says policymakers should consider a wide-ranging tax-rebate program to lure large-scale investments into more economically disadvantaged parts of the state like the Central Valley and south Los Angeles. When tried in other cities, such as San Antonio, Texas, the strategy succeeded in luring a new Toyota plant and creating prosperity and opportunity in what had been a poor town dominated by the military.
Housing – As PRI explored in “The CEQA Gauntlet” earlier this year, land use bureaucracy and regulations hinders the construction of new housing and other California priorities including climate change projects and wildfire prevention. Demographia principal Wendell Cox suggests creating “Housing Opportunity Areas,” primarily in the Central Valley and Inland Empire, which would feature liberalized land-use laws to stimulate desperately needed new housing construction.
Public Safety – With voters growing increasingly concerned about crime, former California Assemblyman and director of the American Conservative Union Foundation Center for Criminal Justice Reform argues that law enforcement should reassess its priorities. Following public safety realignment, he says that California should do a better job of ensuring that parole violators meet quick, certain, and short consequences so offenders realize they will be held accountable for breaking the rules. He also says that parole officers should focus on high-risk offenders, rather than check kiters.
Water – With California’s drought growing worse by the day, Greenhut (who also authored the PRI book Winning the Water Wars) argues that policymakers need to adopt an “all of the above” approach to planning the state’s water future, focused on a vision of water abundance including applying market mechanisms to water, such as a better way to price water.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.