Ah, New Year’s! Cue the flood of media retrospectives on the year that was. This isn’t one of them.
Californians know where we’ve been. Let’s focus, instead, on the Future. Specifically, here are ten things Californians should watch for in 2012:
1. A raft of “tax reform” initiatives on November’s ballot:
Frustrated with his inability to garner enough GOP votes to meet the two-thirds requirement to put a tax increase on the ballot, Gov. Jerry Brown moved to qualify an initiative asking Californians to raise income taxes on high-income earners and to increase the state’s sales tax, to ease California’s continuing budget deficit and protect specific programs.
Can Brown block the qualification of a half-dozen other initiatives, many by liberal groups, leaving only his tax plan on the ballot? Or will voters do what they almost always do when faced with dueling props? When in doubt they just vote “No.”
2. The Prop 8 court decision:
The fate of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters in 2008, will be decided in federal court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is poised to rule on the constitutionality of the ban, likely setting the stage for a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court.
3. The Democrats’ drive to get two-thirds in the Legislature:
Next year will mark California’s first experience with elections held under the state’s top-two primary and new district lines—both designed to make elections more competitive. At the same time, the state’s GOP has atrophied to the point where legislative losses may allow Democrats to reach the 2/3 majority necessary to raise taxes.
4. The 2013 L.A. Mayor’s race:
Will Zev run?
The field for the race to replace the termed-out Antonio Villaraigosa is taking shape. But Yaroslavsky, the putative front-runner, has yet to make his course known. What might his decision mean to the alchemy of L.A. politics?
5. The move to change term limits:
There’s a growing consensus that California’s dysfunction is exacerbated by the state’s draconian term limits. An initiative to tweak them will appear on the June ballot. If it passes, will it make a difference?
6. Democratic gains from California’s Congressional reapportionment:
If Democrats pick up a bunch of California Congressional seats, might that help national Dems. overturn the GOP’s House majority?
7. California’s GOP and Latinos:
The state’s burgeoning Latino electorate still smarts from the passage of Prop. 187 and Republicans’ harsh rhetoric on immigration. That’s worsened the GOP’s electoral problems. Will the party recalibrate and reach out to this crucial voter group?
8. The status of pension reform:
The group California Pension Reform, is flirting with two initiatives aimed at cutting government pension costs and other propositions are being floated to rein in what is seen as a “budget buster.” Gov. Brown is committed to his own pension proposal to help right the state’s fiscal ship. This will be a hot topic at every level of government.
Labor will focus on two critical electoral battles: pension reform and a newly qualified initiative that would bar unions from automatically tapping members’ dues to fund political activity. What might that mean for candidates wanting union support?
9. The future of California’s bullet train:
Opposition has been building to selling bonds to fund high-speed rail, as cost estimates have been growing and ridership projections have been shrinking. Will “ the single largest public investment ever in the U.S.” come to fruition?
10. California’s role in determining the GOP Presidential candidate:
Will there be one for this huge, but late-voting, primary state? Stay tuned for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida for some clues—or conclusions.
The sardonic wish “May you live in interesting times,” reminds us: We do live in interesting times, for better or worse.
So let’s get on with it!
Ten Things Californians Should Watch For in 2012