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San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Counties, CA November 4, 2008 Election
Smart Voter

Additional Issue Positions

By Blair A. Nathan

Candidate for State Senator; District 11

This information is provided by the candidate
This document discusses my views on various issues facing the state.
For positions on BUDGET, EDUCATION, HEALTH, and WATER issues, please see the Q&A page.


A healthy environment for business is a prerequisite for growth. It is important to give firms the freedom they need to succeed. A strong private sector means strong employment, income, and entrepreneurship levels.

  • Businesses should be permitted to calculate work hours on a weekly rather than daily basis. This would result in more flexible schedules for employers and employees.
  • Businesses should be free of over-reaching, one-size-fits-all mandates. For example, while many firms find it advantageous to offer paid sick days, such a policy would be awkward and costly for some small business.
  • I oppose efforts to reverse California's workers compensation reforms.


It is arguably government's most basic task to keep dangerous criminals off the streets. Without tough law enforcement, it is difficult to maintain safe, happy, and orderly communities.

All too often the state has paroled particular offenders against the recommendation of the relevant correctional officers and without sufficiently accounting for its actions. This practice must stop.

In the short run, we must acknowledge that our prison system is stressed and overcrowded. Realistically, early release of some non-violent, non-serious convicts should be on the table. In the long run, California must ensure that enough prison space is built to incarcerate offenders for appropriate durations.


I believe strongly in a reform of California's redistricting system. The current method of drawing legislative district borders relies upon the discretion of the legislature. The result is that politicians can select their voters, when it should be the other way around. In addition to being inherently undemocratic, the status quo leads to ideological gridlock in Sacramento. The recent budget impasse is in part symptomatic of the redistricting problem.

Proposition 11, which I support, would transfer redistricting authority to an independent, bipartisan body. Prop. 11 does not, however, address the demarcation of federal legislative districts. This process too should be transfered to an independent panel.

I also support an identification requirement for voting, along the lines of the Indiana law recently upheld by the US Supreme Court. Such a law would not have to be onerous--the Indiana law, for example, allows retroactive presentation of ID. A voter ID requirement would deter fraudulent behavior at the polls and instill confidence in the most fundamental process of our democracy.


California is the most beautiful state in the Union, and it is our obligation to keep it that way. We must legislate where required to protect residents from pollution and other forms of environmental degradation.

That said, conservation should always be a matter of practical policy rather than ideology. We must honestly and rigorously examine the costs and benefits of any environmental measure.

It is for this reason that I am skeptical of California's climate change agenda. Global warming is a real issue, and we should do our part to address it. Nominal progress at the cost of substantial economic pain is unacceptable, however.

In particular, I disagree with the carbon cap-and-trade system stipulated by AB32. Cap-and-trade will constitute a de facto tax on carbon, which currently underlies our livelihood. The result will be businesses moving out of state or declining to establish themselves here. Consumers will pay more for the vast range products and services that somehow depend on fossil fuels. Cap-and-trade markets, meanwhile, would be susceptible to gamesmanship and rent-seeking behavior.

What would overzealous climate legislation accomplish? No model can put forth a highly accurate number in the way of benefits, though not for want of effort. It seems certain that absent federal action (leaving aside India and China) California's efforts would be futile.

In lieu of the highly punitive agenda the state is currently pursuing, I would favor a more proactive approach, including:

  • Streamlining of nuclear power development; it has been decades since California constructed a nuclear plant.
  • Government sponsorship of prizes for environmental innovations.
  • Grants for developing greener technologies--including alternative energy that is actually commercially viable.

If, as it appears, the punitive approach is a fait accompli, I would favor a delay of a year or two in its implementation. At this time of financial crisis, a weak housing market, and expensive fuel and groceries, Californian consumers and businesses are not in a position amenable to bearing new costs. Implementation of the full AB32 suite would be more reasonable against the backdrop of a robust economy.


Gun laws must be based on two fundamental principles:

  • Californians have a right to reasonably limit the circulation of deadly weapons in their communities.
  • The Second Amendment of the US Constitution is, and should be, inviolable.

In accordance with the preceding guidelines, I believe that California's gun laws are adequate. I would support neither a major tightening nor a major loosening of firearms regulations.


I support the Insurance Commissioner's proposal to allow pay-as-you-drive auto insurance to be sold in California. Since risk is more or less proportionate to distance driven, pay-as-you-drive would result in fairer insurance rates. These rates could save money for most Californians. Finally, pay-as-you-drive would provide incentives to limit driving, thereby reducing congestion and pollution.


Development of land--including the creation of housing--is a delicate issue given the current housing market and today's environmental considerations. The latest major land use bill, SB 375, certainly has its advantages, including some bureaucratic streamlining and a vision of more compact development. However, in general I favor devolution in land use decision-making. Localities should be able to determine how--and whether--they develop. Aggregating too much authority at the regional level or giving excessive power to state bodies such as the Air Resources Board undermines local discretion in this important policy area.

As far as state-owned land is concerned, every bit of revenue counts. The state should therefore look into selling ancillary land around state facilities, as well as prime real estate owned by the state (e.g., the LA Coliseum). In the long run, moving the correctional functions of San Quentin to another location would free up valuable waterfront real estate.


My Political Philosophy page outlines my stance on such issues. To wit, my views in this area are conservative at a personal level, but I don't believe that the legislature should take an activist role in pushing a particular moral vision.

While I respect a woman's right to choose, I believe there should be commonsense limits on abortion at the margin. Accordingly, I support the establishment of a parental notification law (Prop. 4) and the limitation of the number of taxpayer-funded abortions a woman can undergo in a year.

It is my opinion that the traditional family structure is optimal for the upbringing of children. Because of this, society has a vested interest in preserving the symbolic significance of marriage. At the same time there is a powerful civil rights argument for equal treatment of same-sex partnerships. Consequently I support the status quo that prevailed before the California Supreme Court's (constitutionally dubious) decision about same-sex marriage. Namely, same-sex couples should have access to the same legal benefits as opposite-sex couples. However, the designation of "marriage" should be reserved for opposite-sex partnerships (Prop. 8).

Please note that I support Propositions 4 and 8 in my capacity as a private citizen. If either proposition is rejected by a majority of Californians, it is not the place of the legislature to attempt to countermand the result. Decisions about basic values must originate with the people themselves; they should not be imposed by the legislature, the courts, or any other government body.


California's transportation networks leave much to be desired. Meanwhile, the state gets one of the lowest bangs for its transportation buck in national comparisons. We must strive, therefore, to make transportation projects more cost-effective. One way to do this is to take greater advantage of private firms for infrastructure projects. Private firms can bring additional expertise and reduced costs to public undertakings. (Of course, the usual prescriptions for cost-effectiveness also apply; transparency and systematic project evaluation are always called for.)

Additionally, we must shepherd our transportation dollars carefully in today's budget situation. We need to avoid spending money on projects that are not worthwhile. Exhibit A in this realm is the high-speed train network envisaged by Prop. 1A. The Proposition places the government in the awkward role of venture capitalist, borrowing $10bn against the general fund. Federal and private money would be solicited but would not necessarily materialize. Cost overruns due to right-of-way disputes and environmental delays would be inevitable. Revenue projections would surely fall short, since California's urban geography is not particularly suited to an expansive rail network. We must resist boondoggles such as this if we want to have funding available for the roads and rail we need.

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