Fresno cited as suffering from ‘The Biggest Gap’

Adam Liptak writes in The New York Times about the growing clout of small states to bring home federal money at the expense of large states.

Powering the small-state muscle: the fact that every state is allotted two U.S. Senators regardless of size. In addition, strategic use of filibuster rules has kept federal dollars from being distributed in proportion to population.

Fresno is cited as an example of city with great needs that largely is ignored by the feds.

Here is what Liptak writes:

Fresno, Calif., is a city of a half-million people with a long list of problems, including 14 percent unemployment, the aftermath of a foreclosure crisis, homeless encampments that dot the sun-blasted landscape and worries about the safety of the surrounding county’s drinking water.

A thousand miles away, a roughly comparable number of people inhabit the entire state of Wyoming. Like Fresno and its environs, Wyoming is rural, with an economy largely based on agriculture. It is also in much better shape than Fresno, with an unemployment rate around 5 percent.

Even so, Wyoming receives far more assistance from the federal government than Fresno does. The half-million residents of Wyoming also have much more sway over federal policy than the half-million residents of Fresno. The vote people in Fresno remember best was taken in 2007, when an immigration overhaul bill that included a guest worker program failed in the Senate. Both agricultural businesses and leaders of Fresno’s large Hispanic population supported the bill, much as polls suggested a majority of Americans did.

But the immigration bill died in the Senate after a 53-46 vote rejecting a bid to move the bill forward to final passage. Wyoming’s two senators were in the majority and California’s two senators on the losing side.

Had the votes been allocated by population, the result would have been lopsided in the other direction, with 57 votes in favor and 43 against.

Even 57 votes would not have been enough to overcome a filibuster, which requires 60. In the last few years, 41 senators representing as little as a third of the nation’s population have frequently blocked legislation, as the filibuster (or the threat of it) has become a routine part of Senate business.

Beyond the filibuster, senators from Wyoming and other small states regularly oppose and often thwart programs popular in states with vastly bigger populations. The 38 million people who live in the nation’s 22 smallest states, including Wyoming, are represented by 44 senators. The 38 million residents of California are represented by two senators.

In one of every 10 especially consequential votes in the Senate over the two decades ending in 2010, as chosen by Congressional Quarterly, the winning side would have lost had voting been allocated by population. And in 24 of the 27 such votes, the majority of the senators on the winning side were Republicans.

David Mayhew, a political scientist at Yale, cautioned that the political benefit to Republicans is “quite small as well as quite stable,” adding that it is important not to lose sight of small blue states like Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont. But he acknowledged that small states of both political stripes receive disproportionate federal benefits.

Professor Frances E. Lee, a political scientist at the University of Maryland and  an author of “Sizing Up the Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation,” argues that the partisan impact of the small-state advantage is larger. “There is a Republican tilt in the Senate,” she said.

“The way Republicans are distributed across the nation is more efficient,” she added, referring to the more even allocation of Republican voters, allowing them to form majorities in small-population states. Democrats are more tightly clustered, especially in large metropolitan areas.”

You can read the entire article here 

Plastic bag ban proposal is revived in California

Plastic bags are back in the spotlight and the subject surely will spark heated debate among liberals, conservatives, environmentalists and people opposed to nanny-state style government.

Assembly Member Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, is reviving a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores. You can read more about the bill in this Sacramento Bee story.

Back in 2011, then Assembly Member Julia Brownley proposed a similar bill, but it died in the face of stiff opposition from bag manufacturers and grocers.

And, the year before that, a proposed ban on plastic bags also was shot down.

At that time, I wrote lyrics summing up California’s messy, hands-out politics.  With apologies to George M. Cohan, they are to be sung to the patriotic marching tune “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

You’re a small old bag,

 You’re a white plastic bag

 And forever on earth you may wave.

 You’re the emblem of

 A state gone nuts,

 The home of officials who cave.

 Ev’ry hand is out

 ’neath the Golden Bear’s snout,

 Where there’s always a secret deal.

 Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

 Stuff the cash in a plastic bag.

 

You’re a small old bag,

You’re a white plastic bag

And forever the pols you will save.

You’re the emblem of

a market gone pfft!

The home of the taxpayer slave.

Ev’ry crook wants in

‘on the Capitol din,

And there’s never a budget on time.

Should auld fat pensions be forgot,

Stuff the checks in a plastic bag.

 

 You’re a small old bag,

 You’re a white plastic bag

 And forever the votes they will crave.

 You’re the emblem of

 A dream gone bust.

 The home of the conspiring knave.

 Ev’ry heart beats true,

 More for me, less for you,

 Real voter choices are a drag.

 Should auld rigged districts be forgot,

 Stuff the cash in a plastic bag.

 

You’re a small old bag,

 You’re a white plastic bag

 And forever the land you will spoil.

 You’re the emblem of

 the job to get,

 A post for Meg or Jerry to toil.

 Monied crowds beat true,

 Leave the folks black and blue,

 Let them sing an old corny rag.

 Should party bosses be forgot,

 Stuff the checks in a plastic bag.

 

The new California Legislature is sworn in

Republicans were a bit scarce in the legislative chambers Monday as the newest California lawmakers were sworn in. Democrats hold super-majorities in both the 40-member state Senate and the 80-member Assembly.

But our local delegation has a Republican tilt, with newcomers Jim Patterson of Fresno and Frank Bigelow of Madera County representing area Assembly seats. They will join the Republican caucus, along with Assembly GOP Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, who is returning for another legislative term. Local Democrats are Assembly Member Henry T. Perea of Fresno and Assembly Member Rudy Salas of Bakersfield.

Patterson, Bigelow and Salas were among 40 freshmen legislators sworn in on Monday.

The AP reported that Republicans will have “just 11 seats in the 40-member Senate and at least 25 seats in the 80-member Assembly, although a handful of races remain undecided.”

California Democrats increase their advantage over Republicans

In the latest voter registration numbers, Democratic registration dropped slightly from the last presidential election, but not as much as Republicans. Democrats now make up 43.7% of the state’s 18.2 million registered voters, while Republicans dropped under 30% of the electorate for the first time. The Secretary of State’s Office reports that the GOP share of California voters is 29.3%.

Voters who have no party preference increased slightly over the last presidential election and now account for 20.9% of the  California electorate.

In Fresno County, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans, according to the latest statistics. Democrats have 41.1% of the Fresno County electorate, while 38.6% of the voters are Republicans. But the county tends to vote Republican at the top of the ticket because GOP voters generally have a higher turnout of its members in the county. That often negates the Democrats’ numerical advantage.

In addition, other Central San Joaquin Valley counties — Madera, Kings and Tulare, for example — maintain a solid Republican advantage in voter registration.

You can view voter registration for all California counties by clicking on this link from the Secretary of State’s Office.