The state of California has long played a relatively outsize role in national politics for a number of reasons. An often mentioned phrase in national politics is, “What starts in California often migrates to the rest of the country.” As such, how public policy issues are addressed here in the state of California – by legislation, by regulation, or by judicial decision – often sets the standard for other states and even the nation as a whole.
Many state capitol observers note that California legislators enjoy being the first in the nation with some of their bills. In the past, California legislators have often considered what’s been enacted in some of the other states, particularly those who might be deemed comparable, at least in relative terms of size, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Illinois, etc. But, in recent years, it seems that’s less of a consideration and now being at the head of the pack, if you will, of the different states often seems to be the preferred route.
What are some of the reasons that California plays such a prominent role in national politics? Well the obvious ones include the fact that California is the largest state in the nation by population size. If it were a country, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world today. And certainly, Californians and their elected officials view themselves as leaders, not as followers.
What are some of the policy areas that California has tried to be the leading role model in national politics? Well certainly climate change comes to mind, with California leading efforts nationally, and frankly even internationally, to deal with the problems of climate change. And while the Trump administration generally hasn’t even agreed that such a problem exists, there’s been quite a lot of disagreement and quite a bit of legislation and even lawsuits regarding climate change.
California has also played a significant role in national politics through litigation in recent years. Attorney General Becerra in the state has filed more than forty lawsuits that have challenged federal actions, including lawsuits on immigration laws, the US Census, education, student debt, net neutrality, provisions of healthcare, and many in the environmental and climate change arenas. It’s interesting that during the 2017-18 state fiscal year, the AG incurred about $9 million in legal bills on a lot of these measures which was up over $6 million from just the prior fiscal year. So quite a considerable amount.
Finally, and probably most importantly, California has played a major role in national politics. Although, to be fair, most of our influence has come in the form of campaign contributions. We, despite even moving up our primary during a presidential election year, still have not as a state been able to really impact the presidential election.
Nonetheless, we do impact the federal elections because we do have the most Electoral College votes for purposes of the Presidential election. And of course we have the largest Congressional delegation.
You can find the full transcript of today’s podcast here.