by Jennifer Schlueter
Last Tuesday, Republicans celebrated their victories across the nation, which gave them control over the state Senate. In California, they were able to deny the Democrats “a two-thirds legislative supermajority that would consign GOP lawmakers to virtual irrelevance in the state Capitol,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Historically, the win of the Republicans over the Senate should not come as a surprise, because for the last three decades, every two-term president’s party lost their majority during midterm elections of the president’s sixth year (Reagan, Bush, Clinton).
Despite the Republican’s nationwide wins, California stayed mostly blue. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown defeated his opponent Neel Kashkari with almost 59% to 41%. Brown, who had served as California’s governor already from 1975 to 1983, now enters his record 4th term, which will also be his final one. The LA Times calls him a “both an expert technician, tweaking government to be more efficient and effective, and a big thinker, transforming the state’s infrastructure and combating climate change.”
He is determined to push forward the $68 billion bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and fight climate change by exploring more renewable energy sources for California, but, he also wants to save the state’s money. “It is a balance between holding my foot on the brake while pushing my other foot on the accelerator. It’s definitely paradoxical,” the LA Times quotes him.
As expected, both of Brown’s Propositions passed with a more than 2 to 1 lead, because Republican and Democratic legislators drafted them together with the governor. Proposition 1, a bill designed to prepare for and help California through droughts by building water dams and reservoirs, will also fund protection, cleanup, and recycling of the state’s water sources. “California voters get it,” Ann Notthoff, the Natural Resources Defense Council Director of California Advocacy, said in a statement, according to the Mercury News. “We need to act now to protect what precious little water we have and make smart investments to protect our water future.” Opponent Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, was also quoted in the paper: “Prop. 1 did not change any of these stubborn facts: The Delta has been overpumped for decades, and this cannot be sustained, and our salmon and other fisheries are on the verge of collapse. The one thing that must be done if we’re going to stabilize the state’s water policies: Balance water rights claims to actual water supplies.”
Proposition 2 will make the state save money by help of a “rainy day fund,” which will stabilize the state’s budget by paying old debts and putting more restrictions on politicians before using its money. The Mercury News quoted a statement of Phillip Ung, California Forward Action Fund campaign manager for Yes on Proposition 2: “Californians save money and pay down debt every day. Tonight, by passing Proposition 2, voters told their government to do the same. This is an important step toward ending California’s ruinous boom and bust budgeting.” Opponents say this money should rather be used to improve California’s public schools.
California’s current incumbent of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson defeated his challenger and fellow Democrat Marshall Tuck with a tight 52% to 48%. “Sixteen months ago we set out on this journey to do one thing: put children first and ensure that every child has equal access to a quality education,” Tuck said in a statement, according to the LA Times. “And despite yesterday’s loss, I couldn’t be prouder of the unique coalition of parents, community leaders, teachers, Democrats, Republicans and independents we built along the way. Together we proved that in California there is a growing call for change.” Torlakson told the paper: “I congratulate my opponent for running a strong campaign. And while I disagree with him in many respects — I believe he truly wants California’s children to succeed — and I wish him well.”
Another important decision for California was the approval of Proposition 47, which will release previously convicted felons, because their minor crimes such as theft under $950 and drug-related offenses are now reclassified as misdemeanors. Also, offenders of such crimes will from now on go to jail instead of prison. An article on the “FiveThirtyEight” website mentions states that have passed similar laws like this have saved money since the passing of related bills, and most of their crime rates have decreased.