There are eight statewide Constitutional Officers: the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Controller, State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. These officers are all elected at the same time in a General Election and may be re-elected to a maximum of two four-year terms.

In preparation for the upcoming election, we are releasing a quick background of each of the Constitutional Officers and what they actually do in the California government.

To begin, we start with the California Board of Equalization (BOE).

The State BOE was created in 1879 under the California Constitution in Article V, Section 14 (f) and Article XIII Section 17. To equalize, in the legal definition, means to balance. Hence, the BOE was charged with responsibility for ensuring that county property tax assessment practices were equal, balanced, and uniform throughout the state. The Board does not have power or the responsibility to adjust taxes directly, just to assess their practices. The Board consists of five members, four of whom represent districts, and the State Controller. The four districts are subject to redistricting every ten years under the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.  

The current members of the State BOE, and their districts, are:

  • Betty Yee (D) – State Controller
  • George Runner (R), First District – Counties of Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Tulare, Yuba, and portions of Los Angeles.
  • Fiona Ma (D), Second District – Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, and Yolo.
  • Jerome Horton (D), Third District – Counties of Los Angeles and Ventura and a portion of San Bernardino County.
  • Diane Harkey (R), Fourth District – Counties of Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and a portion of San Bernardino County.

The BOE was responsible for administering various state and county taxes, hearing tax appeals, and overseeing county property tax assessments. However, in 2017, the Board was stripped of its powers under AB 131, now California Government Code 15600(d)(2). The provision strips powers in regards to:

  • Conducting a tax practices appeals hearing
  • Making a determination or publishing a decision on an appeal
  • Taking any other action with respect to an appeal heard after January 1, 2018

Those powers were redirected to the Office of Tax Appeals.

The BOE now has following responsibilities under California Gov Code Sec. 15600(b):

  • The review, equalization, or adjustment of a property tax assessment
  • The review or measurement of county assessment levels
  • The tax practices assessment of water storage transportation lying within two or more counties and property
  • The assessment of taxes on insurers
  • The assessment and collection of taxes on the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcoholic beverages
  • The duty to adjust the rate of the motor vehicle fuel tax through the 2018–19 fiscal year

The BOE made waves over the new fuel tax by openly opposing the increase in tax earlier this year. While they do not have a direct power to deny the tax, the BOE turned down the recommendation to increase taxes, which raised controversy over the validity of the necessity to increase those taxes.

Molly Alcorn also contributed to this post.

McGeorge Capital Center for Law & Policy Director, Professor Leslie Gielow Jacobs, appeared yesterday on KCRA in Sacramento to talk about allegations made yesterday by California Insurance Commissioner, and candidate for Attorney General,  Dave Jones against current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. You can catch her comments in the video below.

Jones’ campaign released a statement following Attorney General Becerra’s from attorney Amber Maltbie (McGeorge, 2009) which read, “First, the Government Code Section 8314 prohibition on state officials filming campaign commercials in a state building supersedes any permit or permission that Becerra was able to obtain from the Film Commission or Highway Patrol using his influence as Attorney General. Second, the California Film Commission website states explicitly that there is no process to film inside an Appellate Court of the State of California. ‘Filming requests for appellate courtrooms located within state office buildings will not be considered.'”




McGeorge’s Lawmaking in California course – Part 1 (transcript)

In today’s post I continue my series looking at the courses offered by the Capital Center for Law & Policy at McGeorge School of Law to train aspiring Capital Lawyers who plan to work in and around California state government. Today’s post is one of two on McGeorge’s Lawmaking in California class.

McGeorge’s Lawmaking in California course is only one of a handful of law school courses that is dedicated specifically to forms of lawmaking in the state of California. It covers the fundamental components of the legislative process as well as discussions of the rulemaking process and avenues of direct democracy.

The topics covered in the course include legislative procedure, bill drafting and analysis, legislative history and intent, advocacy, relationships with the Executive Branch, and the powers and limits of the Legislative Branch of California state government.

The course is taught in downtown Sacramento at the State Capitol, rather than on the law school campus, as this provides students with the feel of the practice of Capital Lawyering. Instead of having a textbook, the course uses a close to six hundred page reader that’s full of substantive information that be readily used as a reference guide for anyone working in or around the legislative and/or regulatory processes. The reader is compiled by the course’s two professors, Diane Boyer-Vine and me.

In addition to a midterm and final – each worth 20% of a student’s grade – the course features practical writing assignments – a bill and amendment drafting project and a bill analysis drafting project. The bill drafting project not only requires that students draft a bill, but also draft a substantive amendment to address one or more opposition concerns that could be raised with the original bill and drafting an urgency clause for the bill as well as a justification for that urgency clause.

That’s the 30,000 foot overview of McGeorge’s Lawmaking in California course. Next week we’ll discuss more of the particulars of the class.




On Wednesday May 9th, the California Energy Commission approved a set of standards that will require most new homes built in the state after 2020 to include solar panels on their roofs. This standard was introduced to move California closer to a long-held goal of creating “zero net-energy” buildings, which generate as much electricity as they use over the course of a year.

The standards (PDF) apply only to single-family homes and certain low-rise condos, townhomes, and apartments. To environmentalists, the move is an important step to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. California law calls for cutting the state’s total carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Of course, adding a solar requirement to new homes will increase the upfront cost of a new home in a state where cost of purchasing a house is already too high for many potential homebuyers. The California Energy Commission has estimated that the increased cost will average to over $10,500 per home. The extra expense would hit at a time when California is suffering a severe and deepening housing affordability crisis. Proponents of the new regulation say that the reduced utility costs generated by the solar power will lead to the panels paying for themselves over the course of a mortgage. However it’s the high upfront cost of building or buying the home that deters buyers and this new requirement does not improve that situation.

Obviously, not everyone is pleased with this mandate. Bill Watt, a homebuilder and design consultant, said those added costs – on top of other building mandates like fire sprinklers – are pushing home prices further out of reach for many buyers.

“We’re not building enough housing already,” said Watt, “Why not just pause for a little while, focus on the affordability and housing issues, then circle back?”

The California housing crisis is nothing new and legislators have been grappling with the issue for years. In fact, the upcoming ballot in November may have as many has five additional ballot measures in regards to affordable housing including rent control and low income subsidies.

On today’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast we’ll be exploring a bill that’s been mentioned in a few previous episodes and still working it’s way through the California Legislature, AB 931. The bill would change the use of force standard in California from reasonable to necessary. To help explain the bill itself and what that change would mean in practical terms, we talked to the bill’s author, Assembly Member Shirley Weber.

This is the conclusion of a trio of podcasts we’ve done in response to the shooting of Stephon Clark here in Sacramento. Those episodes were “Protests and the Push for Independent Investigations” with Assembly Member Kevin McCarty talking about his push in the California Legislature for indpendent investigations of instances of use of deadly force, and “Moving The Needle on Police On Black Violence” which featured four lawyers who are members of the Wiley Manuel Bar Association talking about how the shooting of Stephon Clark has affected them and their thoughts on what the community can do going forward to heal the wounds and find solutions.

On legislation like AB 931, that is, legislation that would make a noticeable impact on how folks go about doing their job on a day to day basis, it’s to be expected that the affected groups – both directly affected and indirectly affected – are going to try to influence the shape and outcome of that legislation. That is certainly the case here with AB 931 with the law enforcement community and community groups both showing up to have their voices heard. And to explain how groups influence legislation, and which pressure points they consider to influence legislation, we talk to veteran lobbyist and adjunct professor in McGeorge School of Law’s Capital Lawyering program, Chris Micheli.

As always, if you like the show, please click “SUBSCRIBE” on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, and while you’re there, please leave the show a 5 star rating. You can also let us know what you think of the show on Facebook or Twitter. And feel free to like and/or follow us while you’re there as well.




On Monday, May 14th, the Supreme Court published their decision to legalize sports betting from a case arising in New Jersey. However, that does not mean Americans can start placing their bets.

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court decision states that “[p]rovisions of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that prohibit state authorization and licensing of sports gambling schemes violate the Constitution’s anticommandeering rule.” This means that it is unconstitutional to prohibit states from legalizing sports betting, not that sports betting is now legalized across the country.

“The decision by the Supreme Court affirms that the choice to legalize sports wagering is one for the states to make for themselves,” State Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced stated. Gray proposed a state constitutional amendment that would authorize sports wagering. But that amendment must make its way through the Legislature and California voters would then have to approve it. And as CALmatters’ Dan Morain points out, “that amendment faces many hurdles in the Legislature and voters would have to approve it. The soonest that could happen is 2020.”

With a major industry being legalized, parties are jumping to get a piece of the revenue. Several interest groups have begun to weigh in from tribal communities to online gambling websites (video link) – all showing support for the legalization.

Major sports leagues such as the MLB and NBA have been lobbying for legalization heavily across the states after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last June. Their lobbying also includes an addition called an ‘integrity fee’ for bets placed as well as a mandate that requires casinos buy real-time data from the leagues themselves.

As sports betting is legalized major parties are constructing ways to profit from the industry, including the government. The American Gaming Association estimates wagering at about $150 billion per year. By regulating the industry, the state of California and local governments could then tax sports gambling, producing more taxpayer money to fund programs.

So what does this mean for Californians? Sports betting is not legalized, so don’t place your bets… yet.




The Governor’s Role in the Legislative Process (transcript)

Today’s podcast is a look at the governor’s role in the legislative process.

As you well imagine, California’s Governor is a key player in the legislative process, even though the bulk of legislation is done by the elected members of the Legislature in the Assembly and the State Senate. It’s important to appreciate the various roles that the state’s chief executive plays in the legislative process.

In a quick look at the administration and the legislative process, we know that the Governor of California has a significant impact – both with regard to specific legislation as well as the budget and funding priorities of the state.

As such, it’s critical that interested parties work with the administration throughout the legislative process, which includes the members of the Governor’s office, the Department of Finance and relevant state departments and agencies. Some of the other commonly known roles the Governor has include identifying issues for the legislature to address. He or she has the authority to call the California Legislature into extraordinary or special session. And, of course, he or she has the final say, absent a veto override, over individual bills.

Because of the Governor’s multiple roles in the legislative process, he or she can lead and influence public policy development, as well as often set the major legislative agenda items for the legislative session.

I hope you will enjoy this opportunity to look at some of the roles of the Governor, with particular attention to the chief executive’s role in the legislative process. Remember that the Governor has many tools and powers to control and influence legislation in California. As a result he or she plays a prominent role in any lawmaking by the California Legislature.




Intro to Capital Lawyering – Part 2 (transcript)

Today’s post is part two on the Introduction to Capital Lawyering course – to be called Capital Lawyering and Policy Making going forward – that is offered at McGeorge School of Law. You can find my first post on the Capital Lawyering and Policy Making course here.

McGeorge’s Capital Lawyering and Policy Making course is taught by adjunct professor Tom Nussbaum, who is a former Chancellor of the California Community College system. He also authored the course reader.

According to Professor Nussbaum, policy analysis is the rubric for problem solving that is typically applied in policy making settings, like the California Legislature. As such, the first three class sessions revolve around various policy analysis methodologies and applying policy analysis to real world issues.

The course also serves to introduce students to the various venues for lawyering in the government, with a particular focus on California state government. Of the fourteen class sessions that comprise this course, half of them focus on lawyering at the three levels of government. Four of those courses focus on California state government, two classes focus on lawyering at the federal government level, and one is dedicated to local government.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the purpose of the course is to provide students with exposure to capital lawyering in general while educating them about the levels of government so that students understand that government may provide an avenue to resolve a client’s legal problem beyond traditional litigation of alternative dispute resolution. Students will take away from this course the knowledge that changing the law may be the best approach to solving a legal issue rather than litigating it.

In next week’s post, as part of this larger series on how the Capital Center for Law & Policy trains capital lawyers, I’ll start walking you through McGeorge’s Lawmaking in California course, which I co-teach with Legislative Counsel Dianne Boyer-Vine.

The Clinic – Episode 8: The Staff/Sponsor Relationship (transcript)

Today we have a very special episode of The Clinic.  In  addition  to  Keri  and  Michelle,  we’ve  got  the  legislative  staffer  who  they’ve  been  working with very  closely,  Carli  Olson,  in  Assembly Member  Maienschein’s office  joining  us. The conversation focuses less on AB 1784 and the legislative process and more on the relationship between the legislative staffer and bill sponsors.

Keri, Michelle, and Carli give insights into their relationship and communication strategies in order to ensure their bill’s success. Carli also tells us what she looks for in a bill sponsor such as willingness to adjust bill language, successful interpersonal relationships, and level of commitment to the bill passage.

One of the main obstacles in the staff/sponsor relationship can be managing amendments to the bill. Luckily, Keri, Michelle, and Carli have demonstrated an effective way to avoid tension and disagreement through maintaining open communication and respect. Keri and Michelle also explain that when they propose amendments and they are denied, they trust in the expertise of the legislative staff and the Assembly Member. The same is also in the reverse, Carli states that while she has done research on the subject, Keri and Michelle are experts and can provide insight to any questions Carli or Assembly Member Maienschein have.

Once again, a special thank you to Carli Olson for her candor and an insight into how she works with bill sponsors.

The Clinic is going to be taking a break for the next few weeks. As you remember, AB 1784 is currently sitting in the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s Suspense File. The deadline to move those bills isn’t until May 25, so we likely won’t see any action on the bill until after that date. We’ll be back with you as soon as there’s some movement.

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode!

In today’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast we are talking about California’s foster care system and. In particular, we’ll be talking about AB 1784 – authored by Assembly Member Brian Maienschein (R – San Diego) which is one bill working its way through the California Legislature aimed at improving the system. To get more information on what’s in the bill and what it will do, we’ve brought Carli Olson on to this week’s episode. Carli is a Legislative Aide in Asm. Maienschein’s office and she is the staffer who is taking the lead on AB 1784.

The other people you’ll hear in today’s episode will sound familiar if you’ve been following our series The Clinic. That’s because we’re talking to Keri Firth and Michelle Evans, both of whom are McGeorge students who are participating in the school’s Legislative and Public Policy Clinic. We explore in much more depth what that clinic is in The Clinic, but to give you a quick summary of it, the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic gives McGeorge students the opportunity to experience the legislative process first-hand. Students come up with an idea for a bill and from there, they lobby that bill from start to finish through the California Legislature.

This is an exciting episode because it gives us a chance to highlight the great work Keri and Michelle are doing for a new audience.

As I promised in the episode, there are two places you can find the entirety of this series we’re doing with Keri and Michelle and they navigate AB 1784 through the California Legislature. Again, those spots are our page for The Clinic here on CAP⋅impact. The other place you can find all the episodes of The Clinic on our Soundcloud page.

As always, if you enjoy The CAP⋅impact Podcast, there are a couple of free and easy things you can do to help us out. Please subscribe to the show on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, and while you’re there, please leave us a five star rating and a review.