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Lawmakers Review, Then Denounce Prop. 32 as Deceptive Power Grab by Special Interests

Following their constitutional responsibilities, legislators on Tuesday morning held an informational hearing on Proposition 32, the CTA-opposed Special Exemptions Act that aims to gag the voices of educators and working women and men while allowing special interests even more power to shape government to their wills.

During a joint hearing at the state Capitol of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments and the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committees, chaired respectively by Sen. Lou Correa and Assembly Member  Paul Fong, lawmakers pressed proponents of the measure to reveal the source of the funding behind the proposition, something they could not do.

Proposition 32 Proponents John Kabateck , the executive director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and David Wolfe, a representative of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, were unable to respond to lawmakers’ inquiries about the special interests supporting the measure because current law – and the provisions of Proposition 32 – do not create that kind of transparency.  (Wolfe spoke in place of former Sen. Gloria Romero, who has scheduled to address the panel but demurred due to a “scheduling conflict.”)

Legislators noted that a Super PAC tied to the radical Koch Brothers had reportedly contributed $4 million to help underwrite the measure.  The law does not require the PAC to disclose who its contributors are or where the money came from.

“It is clear that unions use payroll deductions help finance positions, and corporations don’t – they just use general fund money,” declared Assembly Member Sandre Swanson.  “Proposition 32 would tilt the balance of political participation toward corporations because they are financed differently than unions….If this is simply an attempt to develop a political advantage, then voters need to take that into consideration when making their decision.”

Early in the hearing, Assembly Member Susan Bonilla leaned on Proposition 32 backers to make it clear that current law already provides employees width an opt-out provision so that no payroll-deducted funds are used for political purposes widthout their consent. “Union membership is voluntary, … [and] no one is involuntarily having their moneys used for political purposes,” she stressed.

Lawmakers chided both Kabateck and Wolfe for pretending to speak for union members, saying unions do, and business representatives do not. “It smells funny that the business group and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Union are ‘speaking up’ for union members…..unions represent their members – you don’t.”

Union members have voices, lawmakers said, and they can vote out their leaders if they are unhappy width their union’s positions.

Kabateck asserted that unions were blocking regulatory and education reform, and blamed unions for the demise of a bill he said would have gotten teachers convicted of crimes out of the classroom.

Assembly Member Tony Mendoza noted that he himself was a former teacher, and he knew the opposition to the bill (SB 1530 Padilla) “wasn’t about keeping bad teachers in the classroom.  It was about due process…that assures that [as a teacher] you’re not singled out by some principal who doesn’t like you. Those reforms [in that bill] didn’t protect educators…..”

Opponents of the bill, including Trudy Schafer of the League or Women Voters, and Derek Cressman of California Common Cause, insisted that Proposition 32 is masquerading as political reform but is nothing of the sort: “Proponents have tried to make it attractive by dressing it up as campaign reform…. Many leading political organizations dedicated to good government and consumer advocacy are all opposed. Like the League….they came to the conclusion Proposition 32 is not what it seems. It promises political reform but really aims to help its supporters and harm opponents….It earns the name of the Special Exemptions Act because its restrictions don’t apply to a wide number of organizations.”

“They came after us in 1998 and 2005.   This is the third go ‘round trying to do something to worker s in this state,” thundered Willie Pelote, testifying on behalf of the American Federation of State County, and Municipal Employees, which represents both public sector and private sector workers.

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