Taking A Lesson From California
Wednesday - October 12, 2005
Having been born and raised, and lived off and on in California, I was a “Californian” for the first 40 years of my life. But for the past 30 years, and for the foreseeable future - by the same logic - I am a “Hawaiian.” But still with kids and grandkids and many friends there, and having spent time both at UCLA and Cal Berkeley, I try to stay current on the social and political issues in “the land of fruits and nuts” and “movie star” governors.
One of the most significant differences between California and most other states is the political process of “Initiative, Referendum and Recall.” In the most basic terms, Californians may initiate a petition, and with enough signatures, get an issue on the ballot for a referendum. Remember “Proposition 13”? Howard Jarvis, an anti-tax activist sponsored the initiative to freeze property taxes until the property was sold. It passed, and for good or bad, arrested spiraling property taxes for home owners. Of course, most recently, Gov. Gray Davis was emphatically ejected by a recall vote, making way for “Ahnold” to win the election to fill the void.
In the “Review and Outlook” column of last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal , it was reported that Governor Schwarzenegger has emphatically endorsed Prop 75, a ballot measure for next November’s special election, that would prohibit public-sector unions from spending members’ involuntary dues for political contributions without the members’ written permission. It is known as “paycheck protection.” The Journal reported that a field poll shows 55 percent of likely voters supporting the measure. But when the same measure was on the ballot seven years ago, an early lead melted under the heat of massive union spending, and it failed by 53 percent to 47 percent. And you can be sure the unions are planning a massive assault for this go-around too. “The unions have essentially bought and paid for the California Legislature,” says a spokesman for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “(Gray Davis) accepted a $500,000 contribution from the prison guards’union immediately before signing a massive increase in prison guard benefits.” Said their union rep, “Yes, he gave us the benefits because we paid him the money.” Blatant!
The Journal continues, “After similar ‘paycheck protection’was passed in Washington state in 1992, over 90 percent of Washington’s schoolteachers declined to contribute to their union’s political action committee.”
Utah passed a similar measure leading nearly 95 percent of the teachers to opt out. And with the price of everything going up in Hawaii, I’d bet that even some HGEA and HSTA members would vote for a little paycheck protection.
The last time around California’s business leaders chose “to sit on the sidelines” thus contributing to the close loss. But now business has another chance to “break the iron triangle of public employee unions, liberal interest groups, and state legislators that is slowly turning California’s economy into France and Germany.”
I ask you, does any of this have a familiar ring for Hawaii’s voters? A legislature bought and paid for? Union raises and benefits “because we paid him the money”? The “iron triangle”?
Unfortunately, Hawaii’s voters are only able to use the ballot box for city charter and state Constitutional amendments, with neither document covering collective bargaining and mandatory arbitration, or dues issues for the government unions. And since our Dem-dominant Legislature just can’t seem to get anything right lately -from the “Band-aid” Act 51 on educational reform (which combined with “No Child Left Behind” is driving our administrators and teachers up the wall) to the loony Gas Cap Law to approving a “surcharge” (right!) on the GET, and I could go on - isn’t it time for us to do one of two things?
Either, come a year from November, we finally boot out the incumbents based on their shabby records, or we mount a grassroots effort to get back some control through Initiative, Referendum and Recall. It might be one idea worth importing from California - without the fruits and nuts, of course.
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