How next Secretary of State will make California more business friendly

150 150 Ed Coghlan

(Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes/Flickr)

When Toyota announced recently that it was moving 3,000 jobs from Southern California to Texas, it sparked a debate about the business climate in California.

First impressions are important and the first point of contact for new businesses here in California is often the Secretary of State’s office. Modernizing the outdated paper-based business filing system has emerged as a key issue in the hotly contested campaign race for California Secretary of State.

The seven candidates will gather in San Diego on Tuesday evening for the last scheduled California Secretary of State Candidate Forum ahead of the June 3rd primary election, in which only the top two finishers will advance to the general election in November. For more information or to register to attend the CA Fwd co-sponsored forum, click here.

That prompted us to ask each candidate by email a question about what he would do to streamline and improve the Secretary of State’s job of business filings:

Question: The Secretary of State’s office is the first stop for every new business in California and has been criticized for red tape and slow turnaround time due to a paper-based business registration process. If elected, what will you do to ensure that the Secretary of State’s office is more business-friendly?

Roy Allmond, Republican

“Bill Jones had already started the online filing system and had everything set for expansion for all other filings to be online. I will find the plans, and endeavor to have them implemented.”

Derek Cressman, Democrat

“The Secretary of State’s office has recently awarded a contract to a Silicon Valley firm to automate California’s business filings in a program called Business Connect. Rather than throwing out all the work that has gone into this project, I will build upon it and work with the staff and the IT vendor to ensure that it is completed on-time and within budget. I have founded a business myself as well as incorporated a non-profit corporation, so I’m familiar with the challenges. I will bring decades of management experience in the non-profit sector to the job, so have the skills and track record necessary to both oversee outside vendors and manage staff within the Secretary of State’s office.

David Curtis, Green

“I suspect I would look at waiving or deferring some minor issues to get the apps out of the office. I would try to reduce as many blockages as possible and I would increase people resources if it is warranted. I would integrate business licensing with environmental improvement where it makes sense.”

Jeffrey H. Drobman, Democrat

“I will first make all the Secretary of State software systems secure. Then I will proceed to move all paper-based processes to electronic ones using computers with modern databases. I will have new and state-of-the-art websites built to support an all-electronic, online business filing system.”

Alex Padilla, Democrat

“One of my top priorities will be helping businesses create jobs by making it easier to start a business. In the past, new businesses have waited months to register and get approval to begin operations. I believe every business owner should be able to register and open doors within five business days – and do it online. 

As an MIT trained engineer, I am excited about the potential to use technology to modernize the Secretary of State’s office and speed up business filings and bring business services online. Online registration would be faster, more efficient and help prevent backlogs. I’ll call on our state’s wealth of technology and innovation leaders to volunteer time and service to provide a much needed ‘technology surge’ to the office of Secretary of State.

Our Secretary of State should support entrepreneurs, providing a helping hand to the risk takers who build our economy.”

Pete Peterson, Republican

“As a former small business owner myself, and someone married to an LLC owner here in California, I know how difficult it is to ‘do business’ with the Secretary of State’s office.

1. Benchmark with other states like Nevada and Delaware to create an e-filing system for LLC business registration and Statements of Information.

2. Ask simple survey questions on the Business Registration and Dissolution forms about why businesses are starting/leaving the state, and use that data in an annual “Coming/Going Report” that I will present to the Legislature and Governor.

3. Fight to reduce the $800/yr. Business Franchise Tax levied on all LLCs. Many times the amount other states charge, our tax falls most harshly on entrepreneurs at the lower economic rungs of the ladder.”

Our Secretary of State should be seen as the supporter of entrepreneurs, providing a helping hand to the risk takers who build our economy.

Dan Schnur, No Party Preference

“The fact that our state government still uses paper to process applications for new business licenses is an embarrassment. All of the candidates for this office understand the need to fix a broken system and provide necessary guidance and support to California’s aspiring small business owners. The question is which one of us can actually do it.

In order to force the state legislature to make these types of improvements, the Secretary of State needs to understand how state government works and how it’s broken. But the person in this position also needs to have a perspective that comes from working outside of government, in order to understand how the needs of everyday citizens can be served.

I am the only candidate in this race who brings both of those perspectives to the job of Secretary of State. Once elected, I will force the Legislature to make this happen.”

We also asked the candidates about what they would do to update the aging Cal-Access website. Their responses can be found on our sister site (


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan