Moving California Forward

Over the past several years, many of the needed reforms identified by CA Fwd in 2008 have been enacted and implemented. These reforms - along with experienced political leadership and a recovering economy - have eased partisan gridlock, reversed fiscal trends and begun a restructuring of government authority to better align with the state's size, diversity and complexity.

Here's a short list of reforms that CA Fwd has been involved with that have fortified California's governance. For more details, scroll down and click on any of the headers below.

Create Accountability for Results
Citizens Redistricting. Prop 11 in 2008 took the decennial job of drawing political boundaries away from lawmakers and gave it to citizens to reduce partisan gerrymandering.
Top-Two Primary. Prop 14 in 2010 gave every voter the right to vote for all candidates in primary elections, giving politicians an incentive to appeal to all voters in their districts.
Term Limit Reform. Prop 28 in 2012 allowed state lawmakers to serve up to 12 years in either house of the Legislature, giving them a chance to build expertise and relationships.
Public Records Reform. Prop 42 in 2014 affirmed in the constitution the public’s right to local government records.
Ballot Initiative Reform. SB 1253 in 2014 increased public review of proposed ballot measures, increased transparency about supporters and encouraged legislative solutions.
Simple Majority Vote for the State Budget. Prop 25 in 2010 made it harder for partisan stalemates to hold up funding for essential state and community services.
Rainy Day Fund. Prop 2 in 2014 provided a mechanism for managing volatile revenue and saving money to provide essential services during economic recessions.
Legislator Suspension Reform. Prop 50 in 2016 gave the California Legislature clear authority to suspend members of the Senate or the Assembly without pay.
California Legislative Transparency Act. Prop 54, approved in 2016, requires the Legislature to distribute and post online legislation in its final form for at least 72 hours before a final floor vote by either house, to post online a video recording of every legislative meeting that is supposed to be open to the public, and to allow all individuals to create and share their own recordings of legislative proceedings.
Promote Cost-effective Public Services
Community Corrections. CA Fwd is helping counties develop cost-effective strategies to implement new state laws that give local government control over more criminal offenders.
K-12 schools. CA Fwd is helping school districts use new authority and resources to close the achievement gap.
Grow Middle-Class Jobs
Good Jobs. CA Fwd, along with the CA Stewardship Network, is leading the CAEconomic Summit, a regions-driven effort to identify state actions that encourage job growth.
Workforce Investments. The Summit network has worked to steer state resources toward programs that increase job skills for a new generation of middle class wage earners. In 2016 the state budget included $200 million for the Strong Workforce program which will upgrade career technical programs which will train the state's 21st century workforce at California's Community Colleges.
Infrastructure Financing Tools. The Summit network crafted and advocated for new local authority to finance infrastructure that supports jobs, communities and the environment.
Sustainable Development. The Summit network has also helped direct a dedicated source of funding to affordable housing, make water investments that protect the state from future droughts, and expand partnerships between schools and the manufacturing industry to build a steady source of well-paying jobs.
  • Overview

    CA Fwd was created in 2007 to inspire comprehensive changes to the way public decisions were being made. California was swimming in red ink -- even in boom years. The Legislature was gridlocked by partisanship. State agencies and local government were often at war – when they must work together to encourage job growth, provide quality services, and be accountable for getting the job done. CA Fwd’s Leadership Council developed a prescription for change.

    1. Improve Government Performance. Government must be as innovative, productive and creative as California. Innovations must accelerate decisions, yield efficiencies, and boost results in such vital services as schools, transportation and public safety.

    2. Move Government Closer to the People. Californians live in communities and work in regional economies, local governments must be empowered and expected to create strategies and design programs that nurture resilient communities and support vibrant regional economies.

    3. Invest in the Future. To be globally competitive and grow middle class jobs,California will need to make disciplined, effective and product investment in education, infrastructure and other programs.

    4. Promote a viable, inclusive and responsive democracy. The technologies and demands of the Information Age increase the need and capacity for government to be more responsive and accountable for results. Californians must be involved in expressing preferences and satisfaction and through citizen engagement the opportunity for all California will increase.

    Six years later California is in a significantly better position. Progress has been made in every area where reform was needed. The academics and pundits were simply wrong when they declared California “ungovernable and a “failed state” that only a constitutional convention would save.

    It is hard to isolate CA Fwd’s contributions to multi-faceted reforms that emerged from the chaos of feuding interest, opportunistic political actors and crisis-driven compromises. CA Fwd’s proposals have inspired and influenced actions and informed decisions at the highest levels.

    CA Fwd in 2011 developed a Smart Government Framework through a stakeholder process that advocated for greater local control of education, public safety and social service programs, as well as new alignment of resources to match program responsibilities. The Framework called for setting state goals, and for the State to take on a new role of helping local governments learn from each on the best way to achieve those goals.

    CA Fwd convened legislators to engage on budget reforms, stakeholders to define a new state-local relationship, county officials to explore results-based policies, and regional civic leaders on strategies to restore upward mobility. CA Fwd published model legislation, presented testimony, submitted advice letter and organized expert briefings.

    Since 2008, CA Fwd has presented its prescription for change to more than 79,000 Californians in live venues. CA Fwd has been a consistent and persistent voice for nonpartisan reform through hundreds of bogs, scores of videos and routine communication to 40,000 civically committed Californians.

  • Create Accountability for Results

    CA Fwd's Solution

    Beginning in 2008, CA Fwd identified and began to promote comprehensive changes to the political system to encourage candidates and incumbents to be more responsive and enable voters to hold them accountable. Among them:

    • Electoral process reforms to reduce partisanship and increase responsiveness, including open primary, citizens redistricting and term limits. Transparency reforms to minimize the negative impact of campaign financing on election results and policy decisions.

    • Election administration reforms to increase voter knowledge, enfranchisement and participation.

    • Initiative process reforms to increase the ability of public interest groups to use this important, while reducing the unintended consequences of poorly vetted initiatives.

    CA Fwd's Contribution

    CA Fwd helped to develop what became Prop. 11, the citizens redistricting initiative on the 2008 ballot. The California Forward Action fund supported the successful campaign. CA Fwd helped to lead a coalition of interests that closely monitored and advised the commission to encourage successful implementation.

    CA Fwd researched and publicly supported the potential for an open primary. The California Forward Action Fund endorsed and publicly advocated for Prop. 14 enacted on June 2010 ballot.

    CA Fwd researched and publicly supported the need for term limit reform. The California Forward Action Fund endorsed and publicly advocated for Prop. 28 enacted on June 2012 ballot.

    CA Fwd was an active supported for an initiative reform process that sponsored SB 1253, which increases transparency and flexibility in the initiative process. The California Forward advocated for its passage. SB 1253 was signed into law.


    The combined impacts of citizens redistricting, top-two primary and term limit reform is widely being credited as encouraging candidates to appeal to all voters in a district and for incumbents to work in a bipartisan way to solve problems.

    Election administration reforms are steadily reducing practices that unintentionally reduce the number of citizens who are registered to vote, who do vote, and whose vote is counted.

  • Promote Cost-Effective Public Services

    CA Fwd's Solution
    Beginning in 2008, CA Fwd crafted comprehensive budget reforms designed to prevent lawmakers from making poor fiscal decisions and to focus on ways to improve the performance of public services. CA Fwd continues to work on options for improving the revenue system to provide adequate and reliable revenue for vital public services, and education and infrastructure in particular. The comprehensive budget reforms included: comprehensive budget reforms to prevent poor decisions and increase good decisions, General Fund revenue reforms that align tax structure with the economy, revenue reforms that allocate authority among government to improve results, adequate and stable funding for investments such as work force and infrastructure.
    • Performance-based budgeting

    • Multi-year budgeting

    • Pay Go for new spending and tax cuts

    • Management of volatile revenue and increased reserves

    • Simple majority vote on budget

    CA Fwd's Contribution
    Most of the elements that CA Fwd promoted have been enacted into law or into practice. Among them:
    • Proposition 25 enacted by voters in 2010 allows the Legislature to adopt a budget by a simple majority vote.

    • SB 14 would have required performance-based budgeting. Governor vetoed the bill, but issued executive order B-13-11 requires state departments to adapt budgeting practices to increase efficiencies and to fund programs based on necessity and effectiveness.

    • SB 15 of 2011 established multiyear forecasts.

    • The Legislature put Prop. 2 on the Novemeber 2014 ballot and was overwhelmingly enacted by the voters. The provision set aside revenue in good year and capture spikes in revenue to pay down debt and strengthen the state's fiscal reserves.

    • In 2011, CA Fwd convened a wide variety of public officials, experts and advocates to develop the Smart Government Framework, which articulated the need to restructure the state-local relationship to encourage innovation in the delivery of community and regional services, including education and public safety.

      The Governor and the Legislature, recognizing the diversity and complexity of California, in 2011 and 2012 took dramatic steps to shift authority to counties and school districts. CA Fwd in 2012 launched the Partnership for Community Excellence to encourage successful implementation of new local authorities. Among the actions:

    • CA Fwd convened experts and advocates in 2012 and 2013 to identify challenges and solutions to implementing public safety realignment.

    • In 2013 and 2014, CA Fwd worked with 37 counties in 10 convenings to identify how to use federal funds to provide health, mental health and substance abuse treatment to offenders.

    • In 2014, CA Fwd began working with individual counties committed to developing data-driven decision models for managing offenders and delivering high quality services.

    • In 2013, CA Fwd partnered with the California School Boards Association to help local school officials understand the obligations and opportunities of the new Local Control Funding Formula and in developing Local Control Accountability Plans.

    • In 2014, CA Fwd and the California School Boards Association launched a learning collaborative with the senior leaders from 16 school districts committed to learn from each other to improve results.

    A potent combination of experienced political leadership. governance reforms like Prop. 2, and organizational reforms such as Public Safety Realignment and the Local Control Funding Formula have significantly altered the governance landscape in California. To achieve better outcomes, CA Fwd is focusing its attention on effective implementation of these reforms.

  • Grow More Middle Class Jobs

    CA Fwd's Solution

    California policymakers struggled through the Great Recession to understand how state policies could support middle-class job growth in the state's distinct and diverse regional economies. Previous efforts to create state agencies with top down economic plans had failed, and regional economic leaders had given up on the state's ability to be a responsive partner in resolving regulatory barriers, creating infrastructure financing tools, or aligning higher education with the workforce needs of regional industry clusters.

    CA Fwd in 2010 articulated the need for state government to structure new relationships with California's diverse regions, and support public-private partnerships to identify and enact policies that would encourage job creation.

    CA Fwd's Contribution

    CA Fwd, with its partners at the California Stewardship Network, launched the Economic Summit in 2011. The Summit brings together business, government and civic leaders to identify actions that will increase prosperity as measured by a triple bottom line - economy, environment and community equity.

    Through the Economic Summit, CA Fwd has worked with volunteer action teams developing policy proposals to improve results in workforce, regulations, infrastructure, housing and working landscapes.

    CA Fwd has supported extensive research into models on way to redesign the sales tax to reflect a service-oriented economy, and is continuing to identify new ways to align public revenue with regional economies.

    CA Fwd staffed and supported work by Economic Summit Infrastructure Action team to develop enhanced infrastructure financing districts as a told for local governments. The Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB 686 (Beall) significantly strengthening infrastructure financing districts.

    Summit volunteers have developed and successfully advocated for proposals to align community colleges with regional workforce needs and to increase funding for career technical education.

    Summit volunteers have developed and successfully advocated for enhancing infrastructure financing districts and for performance oriented amendments to the 2014 water bond proposal.

    For full results, see


    As California's economy gains momentum, the Summit's leadership is working to institutionalize a regional and sustainable approach to state policymaking. The Summit's leadership are prioritizing opportunities to reduce the income gap and promote Triple-bottom-line solutions - policies that simultaneously grow middle-class jobs, environmentally sustainable communities, and globally competitive regional economies.