John Cox will speak to the Peninsula Harbor Republicans Club about the Neighborhood Legislative Initiative on February 26th at 7 pm.
6:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Meet & Greet while getting to know fellow conservatives.
Dinner: 6:30 p.m. Buffet Dinner/Cash Bar ($25 per person “CASH” or “Check” for dinner at the event) – Cash Bar / $5 per person if you are not eating dinner.
RSVP: Please RSVP to email@example.com and indicate your dinner choices: chicken, Salmon or vegetarian.
Meeting: 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Speaker: John Cox
Topic: Neighborhood Legislative Initiative
Location: Los Verdes Country Club, 7000 W. Los Verdes Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes 90275
Driving Directions & Map
For more information see the Peninsula Harbor Republicans page
Your group can earn money while working to change the trajectory of California!
The Neighborhood Legislature needs to gather 1,000,000 valid signatures for our petition drive. Join Monday’s conference call to learn how your organization can earn money – $2.50 per signature!
Please join your fellow concerned citizens on a conference call with John Cox on Monday, February 10, at 7pm.
Call- in number: 267-507-0370 code 623282#
John, a Rancho Santa Fe businessman and original member of the Club for Growth, has personally funded $500,000 to launch this game-changing initiative. Patterned after the New Hampshire model, the NL’s purpose is to create a “citizen legislature” and end the political influence of government unions and other special interest groups by giving each neighborhood its own state Assemblyman and Senator.
In short, Cox believes the best way to rein in our out-of-control legislature is by expanding it from 120 members to 12,000. It’s completely counterintuitive, but fascinating to hear John explain the concept, as he recently did in six short minutes on Los Angeles’ highly popular John & Ken Show.
John and the NL have recently been covered by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Fox News.
Click http://neighborhoodlegislature.com/legislature/ for more information on the Neighborhood Legislature initiative.
We need your help to rescue California!
January 6, 2014
California’s political ethics watchdog continued its proactive approach to enforcing the state’s political reform act last year, with prosecutions of serious campaign cases and lobbying violations reaching record highs in 2013.
The Fair Political Practices Commissionclosed 854 cases with violations, according to its end-of-year report released Monday. The number of cases the agency opened surpassed 350, an increase of more than 300 from 2012.
Under its former chief Ann Ravel, who recently departed for the Federal Election Commission, the FPPC increased its focus on major misbehavior rather than less-significant offenses. Commission-initiated cases were virtually nonexistent before Ravel’s tenure.
FPPC officials said they hoped to maintain the more aggressive pursuit, including launching investigations in the midst of elections where they could have a greater impact.
“We’re trying to continue that past her tenure,” said Gary Winuk, the agency’s chief of enforcement.
In 2013, prosecutions into conflicts of interest and compliance with requisite financial disclosure statements both reached all-time highs. Overall, the number of complaints received and cases opened and closed rose significantly over the last year, the report shows.
Among the cases cited were the commission’s record $1 million settlement with a pair of nonprofits for failing to disclose the source of contributions to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increases and support an anti-union measure, Proposition 32.
Other prominent investigations involved leveling $40,500 in fines against three partners in a prominent public affairs firm in Sacramento and fining former Democratic Sen. Dean Florez of Shafter $60,000 for misusing campaign funds.
Of the total cases prosecuted last year, 29 percent involved major campaigns and 7 percent centered on lobbying. At 42 percent, the bulk of the agency’s prosecutions involved failures to report required statements of economic interest.
January 2, 2014
A California resident and one-time Republican presidential candidate has a radical plan to overhaul government in his state — a ballot initiative that would increase the size of the state’s legislature to roughly 12,000 members.
John Cox, a San Diego County resident, says his plan is to divvy up the state’s 120 legislative districts into roughly 12,000 more community-based districts. The plan, he claims, would make California government more in tune with voters and less vulnerable to special interests.
Cox reportedly has cleared the first hurdle, getting state permission this month to collect signatures to get the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. But he still faces several other challenges in his bid to increase the size of the legislature for the first time since the late-1800s.
He will need to collect 807,615 valid signatures by May 19. And the initiative, if passed, could have to go before the state Supreme Court to become law, according to Bob Stern, who ran California’s non-partisan Center for Governmental Studies.
Though the idea seems outlandish, California activists have used the state’s robust ballot question culture to enact a range of measures over the years. And Cox argues that it would actually save the state money, by paying lawmakers far less.
Stern, though, did not give this one good odds.
“It’s an interesting idea, but not realistic,” he told FoxNews.com. “The public won’t support it.”
Stern points out that a similar effort to expand the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors failed 20 years ago. He noted California, with 38 million people, does have the biggest legislative districts in the country.
State senators now represent an average 950,000 residents — roughly the same as a U.S. senator in Montana and more than the average U.S. House member.
Cox’s Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act would reduce state Senate districts to an average 10,000 residents and state Assembly districts from about 465,000 to 5,000 residents.
“If this passes, this would be the greatest transfer of power since 1776, because what it means is that special-interest money won’t control the state legislature,” Cox told The Wall Street Journal last week. “It will be real people in the neighborhoods.”
He also makes clear his plan won’t send an overflow of lawmakers to Sacramento for the annual months-long legislative session. It instead calls for them to form working committees that elect a member to represent them at the state capital, though the roughly 12,000 would each cast a final vote, most likely online.
Cox says his plan would save the state money because each legislator would make $1,000 a year plus some expenses, compared with the roughly $95,000 they now make annually. And the salary cuts, combined with less staffing and operational costs in Sacramento, would save California $130 million a year, according to a preliminary state analysis obtained by The Journal.
Cox reportedly says he already spent $500,000 on the initiative and is willing to spend more to get the message out to voters.
December 29, 2013
In California, the voters are able to put proposed laws on the ballot if they gather enough signatures. This process is called an “initiative”. The legislature may also place propositions on the ballot, a process called a “referendum”.
One of the ballot propositions for 2014 is “The Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act”, which would decentralize the election of representatives in order to reduce the political power of special interests such as corporations, labor unions, and trial lawyers. This reform would shift political power to the people of California.
Like the US Congress, the California legislature has two houses, a Senate with 40 members and an Assembly with 80 members. The population of California is 38 million. The districts for the California Senate now have 950,000 persons, a greater number than for Congressional districts, while about 475,000 people live in each assembly district. It now takes a million dollars to win a California Senate seat.
The Neighborhood initiative would instead create Senate districts of 10,000 persons and Assembly districts of 5000. These neighborhood districts would form a greater association of 100 neighborhood districts within the current districts. The association council would elect a representative to the state legislature, thus keeping the same number of representatives in the state legislature. However, the final approval of a law would require a vote by all the neighborhood district representatives. That vote could be done on an Internet web site, as corporations now do for their elections of board members and propositions.
The Neighborhood Legislature proposition was initiated by John H. Cox, who has been a lawyer, real-estate management executive, and local office holder. The aim is to have the measure on the November 2014 ballot. That will require over 800,000 valid signatures, 8 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last election, by May 19. That is a high hurtle, which usually requires several million dollars to pay for signature gatherers. This initiative has already made a splash, with articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the The Los Angeles Times, and other media.
I have been writing for years on reforming democracy with tiny voting districts in a bottom-up structure. Back in 2007, I wrote an article, “Democracy Needs Reforming”, proposing that the political body be divided into cells of 1000 persons, each with a neighborhood council. A group of these would then elect a broader-area council, and so on up to the national congress or parliament. The state legislature would then only need one house, rather than a bicameral legislature that mimics the US Congress and British parliament. This “cellular democracy” would eliminate the inherent demand for campaign funds of mass democracy.
The Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act would not be quite as thorough a reform as a cellular democracy based on tiny districts, but it has the same basic concepts: smaller voting groups, and bottom-up multi-level representation. This initiative would indeed greatly reduce the demand for campaign funds that are needed in today’s huge California electoral districts.
It will be a great challenge to obtain the needed signatures. It could happen if the media provide editorial support and coverage. At any rate, the fact that this initiative is taking place will go a long ways to publicizing the gross corruption of democracy that is taking place, and the only effective remedy to the inherent dysfunction of mass democracy. Many reforms are needed in today’s governments, reforms in taxation, pensions, environmental protection, transit, criminal law, and economic deprivation. The main reason that useful reforms are not taking place is the subsidy-seeking and reform-blocking induced by mass democracy. The initiative process in California and other states is a way to circumvent the corrupt legislature, but in a large state like California, that process itself requires big money.
It will be interesting to watch the progress of the Neighborhood Legislature initiative, and to watch the special interests jump in with misleading negative ads. If this goes on the ballot and wins, it will be a victory for the people and a defeat for the moneyed special interests.
On Dec 27, 2013
John H. Cox has a vision for making California’s government more responsive and less beholden to special interests. All it would take, he says, is increasing the number of elected representatives nearly one hundredfold.
An attorney, real-estate executive and sometime political candidate, Mr. Cox hopes to take his idea directly to the voters, employing California’s ballot-measure process and bypassing the legislature he hopes to reform. His proposal, aimed for next November’s ballot, calls for massively expanding the legislature by splitting the state’s political districts into hundreds of smaller, neighborhood-size ones. Instead of 120 legislators, voters would elect nearly 12,000.
Doing so, Mr. Cox says, would restore grass-roots democracy and help prevent what he considers the too-powerful influence of special interests.
“If this passes, this would be the greatest transfer of power since 1776, because what it means is that special-interest money won’t control the state legislature,” Mr. Cox said in an interview. “It will be real people in the neighborhoods.”
A wholesale remaking of government in the most populous U.S. state may seem a pipe dream, but Mr. Cox said he already has spent about $500,000 of his own money and was ready to dole out “whatever it takes” to get the “Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act” in front of voters. If he succeeds and the measure passes, the state constitution would be changed and the plan would take effect, barring any court challenges.
His first hurdle: Qualifying the measure. Last week California’s Secretary of State allowed him to begin gathering signatures. He must get at least 807,615 valid signatures—or 8% of the votes cast for governor at the most recent election—from registered voters by May 19. That alone could cost $2 million to $3 million, said political consultants in the state.
His plan also could be one of several ballot measures competing for voters’ attention next fall. Currently there are 20 referendums and initiatives in the signature-collection process, while one referendum is past that stage and awaiting verification.
Corey Cook, a political-science professor at the University of San Francisco, said such a measure likely would have a hard time passing, as complex political overhaul measures rarely do well at the ballot box.
California, with 38 million residents, has the largest legislative districts in the country. With an average population of 930,000, the Senate districts are larger than the average U.S. congressional district. The average campaign for a Senate seat costs about $1 million. Mr. Cox’s proposal would shrink Senate districts to an average of 10,000 people, and Assembly districts would go from 465,000 people to 5,000.
Mr. Cox’s plan doesn’t require all 12,000 lawmakers elected by the new districts to meet in Sacramento. Instead, the districts would form “working committees” that mirror the size and geography of existing legislative areas, numbering 80 seats in the Assembly and 40 in the Senate.
The committees would caucus and elect a member from their ranks to represent them in the state capital. Final approval of any law, however, would be subject to the vote—most likely by the Internet, according to Mr. Cox—of all the legislators from the neighborhood districts.
Mr. Cox’s measure would also cut costs, he said. Most California lawmakers now earn just over $95,000. His plan would pay each legislator $1,000 annually, plus certain expenses. Those appointed to represent the committees would earn more. Mr. Cox’s plan would also cut spending by the legislature on staff and other costs in half. Such changes would save the state $130 million a year, according to a preliminary state analysis, though the cost of local elections could increase initially.
Mr. Cox, originally from Illinois and a resident of the community of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, is president of Equity Property Management and heads his own law firm, Cox, Oakes & Associates. He was briefly a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Cox said he came up with the plan after observing the political process in New Hampshire. The state of 1.32 million residents elects a part-time assembly of 424 members, or one representative for every 3,100 people. There, he said, he witnessed impassioned speeches by neighbors and a more grass-roots approach to politics.
The leaders of both Democratic-controlled houses of the California legislature, State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, declined to comment for this article.
Kathy Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, a nonprofit organization that advocates for government reform, declined to take a position on the plan, but said “there are certainly going to be some real logistical concerns that people are going to have about how you manage a citizen legislature of several thousand people,” she said.
Mr. Cook, the political-science professor, said the plan could make governing a nightmare. “That is a recipe for nothing ever getting passed ever,” he said. “Even in a city like San Francisco it is often difficult to get citywide consensus when you have smaller districts, and so imagine getting state consensus…when people represent such small constituencies.”
December 20, 2013
A San Diego businessman is campaigning to expand California’s 120-member legislature to the size of a small town.
John Cox’s Rescue California was approved Thursday to circulate petitions for a ballot measure that would expand the state’s Assembly and Senate to a total of 12,000 members. Assembly members would represent 5,000 people and senators would represent 10,000 people. State senators in California currently represent roughly 950,000 people, meaning they and counterparts in Texas have larger districts than members of the U.S. House. Roughly 475,000 people live in each California House district.
The group says its proposal targets special interests.
“One of my favorite expressions is we don’t elect policy leaders in the legislature, we elect professional fundraisers,” Cox, 56, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. Cox was also once president of the Cook County Republican Party in Illinois and the first Republican to formally seek the party’s 2008 nomination for president of the United States, according to NBC’s San Diego affiliate.
The proposal to expand California’s legislature may seem like it would make representation unrealistically local, but there are members in other states with fewer residents. In New Hampshire, the state with the largest legislative body, each House member represents about 3,300 people. In Vermont, each district houses roughly 4,175 residents. In no state, however, do members of the upper chamber represent fewer than 10,000 residents, as is proposed under the plan. Senators in North Dakota represent roughly 14,890 residents, the fewest of any state upper chamber.
Under the proposal, every hundred legislators would elect one among them to represent their interests in the state capital— thus maintaining a 120-member body in Sacramento. To qualify the measure for the ballot, the group will have to collect 807,615 signatures from registered voters by May 19.
Published at CalNewsroom.com
Santa can skip Sacramento this Christmas Eve. That’s because, with the help of special interest groups, it’s always Christmas for California politicians.
A new report by California Common Cause shows that elected officials in California accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts in 2012. The gifts to lawmakers, according to the non-partisan citizens’ lobby organization, came primarily from special interest groups that routinely lobby state officials.
“Christmas came early for many of the Capitol’s most powerful,” said Phillip Ung, author of the report and outgoing policy advocate for California Common Cause. “When gifts are exchanged, a feeling of gratitude is natural, but voters should be concerned how policymakers show their gratitude towards powerful interest groups.”
In 2012, state elected officials accepted approximately $216,000 in gifts and travel payments, including $41,000 in hotels and lodging; $30,000 for tickets to entertainment and sporting events; and more than $100,000 for meals and receptions, according to the report.
California Democrats may claim a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature, but an Orange County Republican lawmaker topped the list of gift recipients in 2012. State Senator Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, accepted $15,810.80 worth of gifts in 2012, almost double the amount of the next highest legislator. Rounding out the top five were Speaker of the Assembly John Perez, D-Los Angeles; Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello; Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima; and Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas.
To compile its report on overall gifts, Common Cause used publicly available financial disclosure reports that are filed annually with the state. That means the figures are likely to be lower than the actual total. State law does not require gifts under $50 in value to be reported on these Statement of Economic Interest forms.
“At a time when federal investigators are looking for potential illegal actions by California legislators, this report shows that many legal activities raise suspicions about the influence of special interest in the State Capitol,” said Kathay Feng, executive director for California Common Cause.
Gifts to state lawmakers ranged from lavish meals to expensive tickets to entertainment venues, all paid for by powerful special interest groups. Under state law, most gifts are subject to a $420 limit.
Some of the gifts to state lawmakers included a $69.78 breakfast for Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, paid for by the California Independent Petroleum Association; $420 worth of Disneyland tickets for Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine; and a $420 round of golf for Calderon.
“The prolific providers of entertainment and sports tickets were special interest groups with business before the Legislature,” the report stated.
Despite the state’s $420 gift limit, Jones-Sawyer, Wagner and Calderon were among those who also accepted thousands of dollars worth of accommodation, meals and airfare as participants at a special interest-funded junket to Maui. The Common Cause report criticized the longstanding travel loophole that allows public officials to be reimbursed for travel expenses if connected to a non-profit conference.
In 2012, 17 California legislators attended such trips to Maui that were funded by special interest groups. According to the Sacramento Bee, the list of legislators that traveled to Maui included:
Special interest-funded junkets weren’t the only gift loophole highlighted by Common Cause. The report also identified lawmakers’ use of campaign committees as slush funds.
Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced and State Sen. Ricardo Lara of Long Beach, both Democrats, used campaign funds to buy gifts for Perez. Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, also used $231.85 of her campaign funds on meals and dinners for other legislators.
Earlier this year, six state lawmakers used campaign funds for a spring break trip to Cuba organized by a Capitol lobbyist. Legislators using campaign funds on the trip included Atkins, Calderon and Mitchell; as well as Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo; Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton.
In addition to gifts, Common Cause analyzed contributions made at the request of legislators and statewide officers. These “behested payments” to politicians pet causes totaled $6.7 million in 2013. Ethics experts say these payments offer another form of influence.
“We call it an end run around contributions limits,” Bob Stern of the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009.
Gov. Jerry Brown has been the state’s top fundraiser for non-profits. ”From 2006 through September of 2013, he has raised a total of $22.5 million through behested payments for his favorite charitable causes,” Capitol Weekly reported earlier this year. “As a point of comparison, the amount is more than half the price-tag of his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, which racked up some $40.5 million in political contributions.”
Common Cause, one of the nation’s most effective grassroots advocacy groups, promotes good government issues and tracks special interest involvement in politics. A copy of the report is available at Gifts, Influence, and Power: A Report on Gifts Given to California’s Elected Officials.
December 19, 2013
SACRAMENTO — John Cox, a San Diego County real estate mogul, hates the way the California Legislature operates, so he wants to make it bigger. Much bigger.
Cox heads the Rescue California Foundation, which on Thursday was cleared by the state to circulate petitions for a proposed ballot measure that would expand the Legislature from 120 members to 12,000 members, each elected from neighborhood legislative districts of 5,000 (for Assembly) to 10,000 (for Senate) residents.
Under his plan, 100 legislators would be elected in each of the current legislative districts and would send one representative from each district to Sacramento to participate in working groups to draft bills and hold hearings. Each piece of legislation would have to be approved by a vote of the 12,000 members.
“I got tired of seeing what’s going on in our politics,” said Cox, a resident of Rancho Santa Fe. “Frankly, politics is about selling to the highest bidder, on both sides.”
By having lawmakers elected from very small districts, the proposal could force candidates to spend more time going door-to-door seeking votes and less money on television ads and mailers, Cox said.
“We are converting campaigns for the Legislature from huge, mass-media efforts to little neighborhood efforts,” he said. “You are taking money out of political campaigns by doing this.”
By cutting the pay and expenses of the Legislature, the proposal would save the state $130 million annually.
The group has been pitching the idea to Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce and other community groups since April, and Cox said he has put $500,000 of his own money into the campaign. Still, the group faces an uphill struggle to obtain 807,615 signatures of registered voters by the deadline of May 19 to qualify the initiative for the ballot.