The Wizards of Sacramento

No organizations ignite more fear in the hearts of California lawmakers than California Correctional Peace Officers Association, California Teachers Association, California Medical Association and Service Employees International Union. But like the Wizard of Oz, there’s not as much behind the curtain as most people think:

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Contributions at the legal maximum from just three GFC Courage Committee chapters or members of the GFC Network provide more money, and aggregate amounts don’t reach the amounts we can deliver:

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But money isn’t enough. Persistence is also required. Legislators who know the Wizards will be there forever are wary of the staying power of political philanthropists who typically arrive with a flash and disappear without even a whimper. That’s why GFC chose to arrive quietly nine years ago, build a big network, form 15 Courage Committee chapters, establish a robust Sacramento presence, obtain private letter rulings to smooth the process for our donors and chapters, and start thinking early about succession planning. Armed with an unequalled ability to supply direct donations, legislators must now learn through our persistence that GFC also will be there forever. We would be delighted if other supporters of the general interest did the same thing.

Currently we are tangling with one of the Wizards (CMA) over AB 890, a bill to liberate nurse practitioners from California’s semi-feudal licensing rules. After more than a decade of attempts by NPs only to be beaten each time by legislators bowing to CMA’s pressure, this year with GFC’s help AB 890 passed the Assembly and is now moving through Senate committees. Our power is also increasingly evident in stopping bad bills, including tax measures, but we are well short of the power needed to produce major fiscal or education reforms as demonstrated by our failure this year even in a budget crisis to gain consideration of OPEB reform. But that won’t stop us. It took decades to move civil rights legislation through Congress, it will take decades to reform California, and even then a permanent Cold War will ensue because special interests will never leave Sacramento. Neither can we. Persistence matters.

Written by

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California

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