Bay Area Council Blog: Government Relations Archive


Constitutional Convention effort starts 2010 with a bang

On the same day, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an extensive Opinion Editorial, Californians have the opportunity to fix state, by John Grubb, former Council EVP and current Campaign Director for Repair California.

In late December, the Attorney General issued Title and Summary for the Constitutional Convention ballot measures.  This development moves the campaign into its next phase: Statewide signature gathering.  Repair California has until April to collect approximately 1.4 million signatures.  The Bay Area Council continues to support the cause – and was recently given a nod for our efforts in addressing the major concerns of our state when Jim Wunderman was named “California’s Person of the Year” by California politics observer Joe Matthews.

You can access the Title and Summary for the measures below:

Prop 1: “Allows voters to place question of calling a constitutional convention on the ballot.”
Title & Summary

Prop 2: “Calls a limited convention to propose changes to state constitution.”
Title & Summary

Stay tuned for more Constitutional Convention updates.

DC Cherry Blossum2

Must act decisively and fast to save California

AS 2009 closes, the opinion of most Californians is “good riddance.” The year ends with record unemployment figures of 12.5 percent, 25 percent higher than the national average. Other large states with diverse economies like New York and Texas have unemployment rates below average. The year also closes with another record budget deficit looming and more cuts to education and other vital services on the way.

Economists predict a slow recovery for the nation’s economy in 2010, but what about California? Will we lead the nation out of this recession as we have done so many times in the past?

I believe we can. California still has the best and brightest workforce in the world, we still lead the world in innovation, venture capital investment and new technologies. If any place can turn this economy around, it is California.

Unfortunately, it is also true to say that if anywhere in the world, despite its embarrassment of riches, can make things worse, it is California.

A recent national survey of CEOs ranked California the worst state in the nation to do business. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks California 48th in the Business Tax Climate index. A 2009 report commissioned by the governor, titled “Cost of State Regulations on California Small Businesses” totals the cost of regulation to the state at almost half a trillion dollars. This cost amounts to 3.8 million lost jobs, one-tenth the state’s population.

Businesses in California are overtaxed, overregulated and underappreciated, which is why so many are moving to other states. If we are to emerge from our current fiscal mess, a mess that is costing us our position as an economic leader in the country and the world, we must make policy changes to encourage new investment and job creation in California.

Before we step forward, let’s start by looking back and undoing shortsighted policy decisions that have badly damaged California’s economy. This is my wish list for California’s businesses in 2010.

In 1999, California scrapped the 40-hour federal standard for payment of overtime, and instead forces employers to pay overtime to employees once they have exceeded eight hours in any given day, even if they work less than 40 hours a week. This law, combined with California’s incredibly rigid lunch-hour rule, makes California noncompetitive. Employers and employees need more flexibility and less mandates from Sacramento. We need to repeal AB 60, the eight hour day law, and AB 1711, the mandatory lunch law.

It is impossible to total the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) cost to business, because it is so pervasive. One thing is certain: It is a massive anchor on California’s economy. The U.S. already has stringent environmental protections in the National Environmental Protection Act; California has set the bar much higher in CEQA and forces our businesses through lengthy and costly delays. We need to reform CEQA to speed up the review process and give more certainty to business while maintaining our environmental protections.

California has the highest sales tax in the nation and is one of just four states in the nation that does not allow a sales tax exemption for the purchase of machinery used in manufacturing and telecommunications. This puts California at a huge competitive disadvantage and cost us thousands of jobs since the exemption sunsetted in 2004. We need to address our overall taxation structure and reinstate the 6 percent Manufacturer Investment Credit that helped pull California out of the last recession.

We can protect our environment, workers and businesses and prosper again, but we must act decisively and act fast.


Persistence, Persuasion Pay Off with NOL

By George Broder

This week Congress passed – and this morning President Obama signed – a $24 billion bill to help the unemployed and support the housing market – with a Net Operating Loss (NOL) provision included as part of the deal – a major part of the Council’s 2009 legislative agenda.

The bill extends unemployment benefits that were due to expire for an additional 14-20 weeks. It also renews an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, while also expanding it to cover many other home purchases – another priority BAC members advocated for while in D.C. last month. The NOL provision allows businesses that had operating losses in 2008 and 2009 to seek refunds for taxes paid on profits over the past five years – extending it from two years.

NOL may not roll of the tongue, or come up often in conversation, but its more than just an accounting term – it’s about jobs and economic survival. An enlightened NOL tax policy allows businesses to weather tough times, maintain their payrolls and avoid layoffs.

A delegation of Bay Area Council members met with Congressman Richard Neal (D – Massachusetts), leader of the NOL fight in Congress, on our May trip to Washington D.C. – and again last month – to offer their support and expertise on the issue. In addition, it was a key issue while meeting with other members of Congress to support the extension. The Bay Area Council’s Urban Development Working Group has also been engaged on the issue and coordinated broader outreach to Congress by the Bay Area business community. The Bay Area Council is happy to have played a role in such a huge win for business.


BAC Trip Initiates Sustainable Development Dialogue with D.C.

By Matt Regan

A delegation of California’s leading infill developers, architects and land use lawyers participated in a Bay Area Council sponsored trip to Washington D.C. last week to talk to the administration and members of Congress about the many roadblocks that currently impede the progress of sustainable dense, transit oriented development in our cities.

Led by Michael Covarrubais, Chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, Andrew Giacomini, Chair of Government Relations and Jeff Heller Co-Chair of our Climate Change Committee, and Jim Wunderman President & CEO of the Bay Area Council, seventeen delegates and five Bay Area Council staff made the trip back to lobby for smart growth policies and practices.

A recent directive from President Obama instructed the Department of Transportation, HUD, and the Environmental Protection Agency to work in a coordinated manner in order to make sustainable urban development and healthy livable communities the norm rather than the exception. We met with senior officials from all three agencies as well as Fannie Mae and told them in some frank and open discussions we told them what gaps needed to be bridged and roadblocks removed in order for the President’s vision to become a reality.

We also took our case to the Capitol where we met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congressman Richard Neal and senior staff from Congressman Barney Frank’s Financial Oversight Committee.

If one common thread connected all our meetings it was that we were visiting at the right time and that our message and our leadership on this important issue was noted and valued. The follow up work is ongoing and we hope to report some tangible results in the very near future.

Special thanks to Brendan Dunnigan and HKS Architects our dinner sponsors, Andy Ball (Webcor) and Jeff Heller (Heller Manus Architects) or cocktail reception sponsors, and our full team of delegates;

Andy Ball, President & CEO, Webcor Builders
William E. Berry, President & CEO, University Associates
Margo Bradish, Partner, Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP
Michael Covarrubais, Chairman & CEO TMG partners
Shelley Doran, Vice President, Webcor Builders
Brendan Dunnigan, HKS Architects Inc.
Jim Ghielmetti, CEO, Signature Properties Inc.
Andrew Giacomini, Managing Partner, Hanson Bridgett LLP
Jeffrey Heller, President, Heller Manus Architects
George Marcus, Co-Founder & Chairman, Marcus & Millichap
Chris Marlin, Vice President, Lennar Homes
Stephen Richardson, Senior Vice President, Alexandria REIT
John Stewart, Founder & Chairman, the John Stewart Company
Tom Sullivan, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Wilson Meany Sullivan
Nicholas Targ, Partner Holland & Knight
J.T. Wick, Principal Berg Holdings

And thanks to the Bay Area Council team, Jim Wunderman, Pearl Mazzini, George Broder, Scott Zengel and Matt Regan for their work on this very successful venture .


Who will represent the East Bay in Congress?

By Matt Regan

The ballroom of the Concord Crowne Plaza was filled to over flowing on Friday morning with members of the East Bay business community eager to hear from their next member of Congress. Who that person might be is still to be decided, thus the 10th Congressional District candidates’ forum that the Bay Area Council co-hosted with the Contra Costa Council.

As you may know, Ellen Tauscher the sitting Representative was recently confirmed as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and she will be sorely missed by her district and the whole Bay Area. The race to replace Congresswoman Tauscher is proving to be very hot indeed with, at the last count, 14 candidates in the running. This election cycle is an unusually short one with a special election on September 1, followed by the top vote getter from each party advancing to the general on November 3.

Going into the debate, if all you knew about the respective candidates was what their campaigns are putting out, you’d know that John Garamendi went to Harvard and rides a horse, Mark Desaulnier has been endorsed by just about everyone and likes photos of Mount Diablo, Joan Buchanan is not one of the boys and doesn’t play poker, and David Harmer really dislikes bailouts. (voters in the 10th district will understand) The purpose of the forum therefore was to ask the tough questions and put the candidates on the spot on the key policy issues of the day ranging from healthcare, water, education, foreign affairs, transportation and the economy.

We were treated to a lively and educational forum and came away with a much fuller understanding of where each candidate stands and what priorities they will take to Washington D.C. Senator Mark Desaulnier, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, David Harmer, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, Anthony Woods, Christopher Bunch, Gary Clift, John Toth, Adriel Hampton, Jeremy Cloward, David Peterson, Mark Loos and John Toth all participated.

Thanks to Chevron, AAA (Northern California & Nevada), Safeway, Tesoro and Mechanics Bank for their generous sponsorship of this event and special thanks to Lisa Vorderbruggen of the Contra Costa Times for refereeing the panel and keeping everyone on time and on topic – for the most part.


Constitutional Convention Town Halls Coming to the Bay Area

By Melanie de La Grange

For the past year, the Bay Area Council has led the charge to systematically reform our State through a Constitutional Convention. Repair California, the coalition formed to officially campaign for the cause, is holding town hall meetings across the State to provide education on the proposal for a limited Constitutional Convention, as well as to get input from participants.

There are three town hall events headed to the Bay Area, brought to you by Repair California, and local partners:

Silicon Valley Constitutional Convention Town Hall
Friday, July 31, 2009
9:00 a.m. Registration | 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Program
AMD Commons Building
991 Stewart Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Cost: Free, RSVP Required
Click here for more information

San Francisco: Repairing California: Time for a Constitutional Convention
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
PG&E Auditorium
77 Beale Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Cost: Free, RSVP Required
Click here for more information

Save the Date for the East Bay Constitutional Convention Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, September 17, 2009.


Senate Leader Dean Florez visits the Bay Area Council

By Matt Regan

Senate Leader Dean Florez (D) Shafter, visited the Bay Area Council this week to give us the inside scoop on the state budget woes and what we should expect to see coming our way in the next month in terms of cuts and taxes. He was surprisingly upbeat and optimistic given the current fiscal situation in Sacramento and stated unequivocally that a bipartisan budget deal would be sent to the Governor by the end of the month that would not involve any new taxes.

The Senate appears to have put together the framework for a $21 billion program of cuts to state programs and services that would close the deficit, with just some minor details yet to be worked out. The only potential roadblock to a resolution appears to lie with the Governor who would like to see an additional $4.5 billion in cuts to establish a rainy day fund to offset future deficits and avoid unnecessary harmful cuts. Senator Florez and his caucus is making the argument that, while they agree in principle to the rainy day fund, the rainy day is actually here today, and that any additional cuts would cause irreparable harm to too many Californians.

Having made almost $15 billion in cuts already this year and witnessing the voters reject any new revenue streams, our legislators are faced with the very painful task of making deeper and more impactful cuts to vital programs and services, particularly to our already underfunded education system. Senator Florez was hopeful that the education cuts would not reach into the classroom that that the savings could be made by eliminating many of the burdensome state mandates that generate tons of paperwork and eat up thousands of man hours per year.

On a somewhat brighter note, the Senator left us with the good news that he fully expects a water bond to pass this year with bipartisan support. The bond would include provisions for two surface storage projects as well as conveyance and conservation. If there is a silver lining to our current fiscal crisis it appears that it just might be forcing the warring parties in Sacramento to sit down and work together to accomplish something important for the greater good.

Thanks to Chevron for hosting this enlightening policy discussion and to Caroline Rodman for making it happen.


The Council’s Whirlwind Trip to Washington, D.C.

By Melanie de La Grange

The Bay Area Council Delegation got a true taste of Washington D.C. last week – from high powered meetings on Capitol Hill to being caught in a colossal traffic jam thanks to the dueling motorcades of three heads of state. The Delegation heard inside the beltway commentary from Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Broder and CNN pundit Donna Brazile. They went to Capitol Hill for a meeting with Speaker Pelosi and members of the Bay Area delegation, plus a meeting with Senator Boxer. They squeezed in meetings at the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the State Department. They met with President Obama Cabinet member Ron Kirk, who, as the U.S. Trade Representative, is responsible for all current and future free trade deals. They had dinner with Senator Dianne Feinstein. They went to the White House Executive Office Building and met with: Larry Summers, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council; Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; Carol Browner, President Obama’s global warming czar; Van Jones, President Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer; and Matt Rogers who is in charge of the stimulus funds for the Department of Energy. And they attended a Washington Nationals ball game – all of this in under 48 hours!

We look forward to returning to DC over the coming months to continue to push our federal agenda.


Post from the Inauguration – The Golden Tickets

By Andrew Giacomini, Chair, Bay Area Council Government Relations Committee

January 19, 2009 – MLK Day -Washington DC

Remember that movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?” Just like young Charlie, thanks to Senator Feinstein, last Wednesday my wife Susi and I learned that we had been awarded 2 Golden Tickets to the inauguration of Barack Obama. As we loaded the car Sunday morning, my neighbor Carl was in front of his house bouncing his young daughter on top of the leaves in his Green Waste can. Carl was the first neighbor on our block to put up his Obama for President sign, way back before Iowa. “Where you headed?” he asked. I told him we were going to the inauguration. His eyes lit up and he smiled. “Please say hello to President Obama for me,” he said.

By Sunday night, we were in Chicago, waiting for a connecting flight to DC. I picked up a coffee. The young woman behind the counter looked worn out (it was near midnight). She asked where I was headed. When I told her, she beamed. “I was there when he gave his acceptance speech in Chicago – it was the most amazing night of my life – I will never forget it,” she proudly told me. I had watched those momentous remarks over the internet with my family, my wife and I had tears running down our faces and our three children were mesmerized by the moment.

We managed to find a hotel room by DuPont Circle. We walked to the Metro this morning, rode the train to Union Station and headed to the Capitol Mall to pick up our Golden Tickets from Senator Feinstein’s office, Room 331 in the Hart Senate Building. The streets are packed with people wearing Obama Gear of various sorts all taking in the scene and sharing the experience with one and other. As we walked along, we noticed that many families were there with several generations of family members, from grandparents with walkers and canes to grandchildren in strollers and backpacks. And people are noticeably happy and hopeful, waiting for tomorrow’s great day.

The lines to get tickets are around the block in all directions, but nobody minds because we know what we are waiting for. We are all strangers and yet we have so much in common that conversation is easy; our hearts are full and our eyes are gleaming with anticipation and hope. When I open the envelope and look at the tickets, tears again come to my eyes – I can’t help it. I am so proud of our country – it feels like all things are possible.

Although most of the people here are focused on moving forward, in DuPont Circle we find a collection of groups more focused on Bush Bashing. There is a 30 foot inflatable effigy of W bearing the sign “Give Bush the Boot” surrounded by piles of shoes. The barker is organizing passing citizens to hurl “boots” at the blow up doll. It gave me a smile but I decided not to throw a shoe – time to move on. Around the corner, there is a giant canvas sheet propped in the air bearing the first words of the US Constitution – people are signing it with sharpies – it begins, of course, with “We the People”, which is just how it feels here in Washington today.

Tomorrow morning, while holding his hand on the same bible on which President Lincoln placed his hand in 1861, Barack Obama will speak the same words as the 43 Presidents before him as he takes the oath of office to serve as the President of the United States of America. Of course, today is a special day too because on it we recognize the birth of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. So today we remember his Dream and tomorrow, in the same place, we the people swear in as our 44th President the embodiment of that Dream.


Mark Your Calendar for DC in ’09

By George Broder

Mark your calendar and set your schedule to participate in the Council’s annual trip to Washington, D.C. on May 4-6, 2009. Timed for optimum impact at the conclusion of the new Administration’s First 100 Days, meetings will be held on Capitol Hill, at the White House/Executive Office Building and key agencies.

We will press our agenda on issues including H1-B visa reform, timely passage of Free Trade Agreements, federal investment in our infrastructure, healthcare and full funding for the America Competes Act. We will urge the adoption of “green” policies that embrace cap and trade strategies and stimulate the private sector by rewarding innovation and investment. Please give us your priorities as we formulate our plans. More details forthcoming soon. Registrations will be limited due to premium access restraints.

For more information or to offer ideas, please contact me at 415.946.8728.