Readers of this column are fully aware that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is the leading voice for California’s beleaguered homeowners and citizen taxpayers. For that reason, we have frequently confronted situations where California’s political elites attempt to silence our voice or limit the access conferred to others in communicating our message to the public at large.
Just last year, you may recall, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg intentionally shut off the camera which was airing what was specifically designated as a “public hearing” at the Capitol just as HJTA’s representative was about to testify on the horrible impacts of Proposition 30. Agree with us or not, we had an important message to share with all California voters as to why imposing the highest income tax and sales tax rates in America was a bad idea. Pulling the plug on the public access channel was such an unwarranted act of censorship that even the usually liberal media was outraged.
Well, here we go again.
The Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation held a three-hour hearing on Proposition 13 this week. And yet the organization which is synonymous with Prop 13 and the rights of California homeowners was not invited to participate. Thus, although assorted government analysts, academicians and even those expressing outright hostility to Proposition 13 will be testifying, the voice of homeowners has, once again, been locked out.
Bear in mind, HJTA has a full time lobbyist and we haven’t been shut out — not yet anyway — of being able to present testimony on specific bills. This is something our lobbyist, David Wolfe, does several times a day during the legislative session.
The recent hearing is not on a specific bill but, rather, intended to serve as an “informational” hearing on Proposition 13. But how can you have an “informational” hearing on Proposition 13, intended to “inform” members of the Assembly and Revenue Taxation Committee, without having the organization with the most expertise on the subject matter being asked to testify?
Not only are we named for the man who wrote Proposition 13, but we have authored two subsequent initiatives — Propositions 62 and 218 — which closed loopholes in Prop 13 created by the courts and the Legislature itself. Voters approved both measures. Moreover, our attorneys are litigating Proposition 13 issues everyday and the legal journals and casebooks are replete with examples of our unique expertise. Our affiliated foundation has sponsored dozens of studies on the impact of Prop 13, its benefits as well as the efforts to weaken or repeal it.
The failure to include the preeminent Proposition 13 organization in a hearing on Proposition 13 itself is incomprehensible and calls into question whether the hearing is really intended to be helpful or just another Capitol “dog and pony” show.
Perhaps the silver lining here is that Californian’s political elites are worried that HJTA is just too effective at what we do. And, at the end of the day, they can talk about weakening Prop 13 all they want; but any changes to this vital homeowner protection will have to go to the voters.
And while they can attempt to limit our voice at the Capitol, the power bosses know that they can’t limit the access to our members and all homeowners who wish to preserve Proposition 13. So if they want a fight at the ballot box, we’ll be heard loud and clear.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.