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UC Davis experts available to comment on the November general election

September 19, 2012

The following UC Davis experts can talk about issues related to the 2012 general election, from the presidential race to the California initiative process:

Partisan politics and presidential elections

Political science professor Robert Huckfeldt is an expert on partisan politics. Huckfeldt is a scholar of public opinion, participation and voting in national elections. Contact: Robert Huckfeldt, Political Science, director of the Institute of Government Affairs and the UC Center Sacramento, (530) 752-0975, rhuckfeldt@ucdavis.edu.

Unemployment and job loss, labor markets, poverty

Labor economist Ann Huff Stevens, professor and chair of the Department of Economics and director of the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, can talk about issues related to unemployment, labor markets and poverty. Her research focuses on measurement and dynamics of poverty, the effect of income shocks on individuals’ income and health, and the effects of job loss and unemployment on use of medical care, insurance status and health outcomes of workers and their families. Contact: Ann Stevens, Economics, (530) 752-3034, annstevens@ucdavis.edu.

Tax policy

Dennis J. Ventry Jr. can comment on federal and state tax policies, including tax expenditures, distribution of the tax burden and family taxation. He is a leading critic of the mortgage interest deduction, having written opinion pieces for news media and in academic journals on the subject. Ventry calls the deduction the most "inequitable, inefficient and ineffective" provision in the Internal Revenue Code. More generally, Ventry has observed: "Taxes touch every aspect of our lives, from cradle to grave, from the child tax credit to what the ill-informed call the 'death' tax. Taxes raise revenue, to be sure. But they also stimulate and stunt economic growth; redistribute and concentrate wealth; reward and punish families; influence and distort social behavior. In the end, taxes reflect and reinforce societal norms and values." Contact: Dennis J. Ventry Jr., School of Law, (530) 752-4566, djventry@ucdavis.edu.

Robert Yetman, associate professor of management, is an expert on corporate tax, financial accounting, income tax, U.S. and international financial accounting, and nonprofit accounting and tax issues. Professor Yetman can address presidential candidates' tax proposals  and California ballot propositions with tax implications. Contact: Robert Yetman, Graduate School of Management, (530) 752-3571, rjyetman@ucdavis.edu.

Economic and industry impacts of Proposition 37

Colin Carter, a professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics who specializes in commodity markets and international trade, suggests that Propostion 37, if approved by California voters, will result in the virtual disappearance of voluntarily certified nongenetically modified processed food products, a gain in market share for organic foods, higher food prices and the appearance of food labels that do not accurately reflect the relative GM content of foods. “Retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, both of which sell foods that are nonorganic but voluntarily labeled as GM-free, will likely eliminate those products,” Carter said. “Food processors and retailers will not risk marketing foods as GM-free when they probably carry very small trace amounts of GM crops.” He predicts that only certified organic farms could risk not labeling their products as possibly containing GM crops. He also predicts that food processors may revert to using less healthful oils like palm oil to replace soybean or canola oil, much of which is produced from GM crops. Contact: Colin Carter, Agricultural and Resource Economics, (530) 752-6054, colin@primal.ucdavis.edu.

The science of Proposition 37

Martina Newell-McGloughlin, executive director of Strategic Initiatives at UC Davis, says that Proposition 37 is capricious in that it is process- and not product-focused, and singles out just one of many techniques used by researchers and plant breeders to modify food crops. She notes that the proposed legislation does not address the use of other plant-modification techniques such as irradiation, which is used to create crops such as durum wheat and Asian pears. Newell-McGloughlin, an internationally recognized authority on biotechnology and its societal implications, has testified against Proposition 37 before the American Medical Association. She is co-director of a National Institutes of Health Training Grant in Biomolecular Technology and has served on panels for the United Nations, World Bank and World Trade Organization. She is the co-author with Edward Re of the 2007 book “The Evolution of Biotechnology: From Natufians to Nanotechnology.” Contact: Martina Newell-McGloughlin, Office of Research, (530) 754-7679, mmmcgloughlin@ucdavis.edu.

The initiative process

Law professor Floyd Feeney can talk about issues related to election law and initiatives. He is co-author of two books on initiatives, “Lawmaking by Initiative: Issues, Options and Comparisons” (1998) and “Improving the California Initiative Process: Options for Change” (1992). In 2000-01, he served as legal adviser to the Speaker’s Commission on the California Initiative Process. He also teaches election law. Contact: Floyd Feeney, School of Law, (530) 752-2893, fffeeney@ucdavis.edu.

Election law and initiatives

Christopher Elmendorf is a law professor and expert on election law. He is a principal investigator of an ongoing study of rank-choice voting in San Francisco. His recent writings have focused on the roles that advisory bodies can play in fostering governmental accountability, judicial formulation and the right to vote. His work has been published in the New York University Law Review, the Duke Law Journal and the Election Law Journal, among others. Contact: Chris Elmendorf, School of Law, (530) 752-5756, (415) 385-5781 (cell), cselmendorf@ucdavis.edu.

Political races

A.G. Block, associate director of the UC Center Sacramento and founding director of the center’s public affairs journalism program, can comment broadly on races to be decided in the election. Block reported on California politics and elections for many years as editor of California Journal magazine, and, more recently, as a columnist with Capitol Weekly. He is the co-editor and principal author of four editions of “The California Political Almanac,” as well as co-editor of six editions of the “California Politics and Government Annual.” Contact: A.G. Block, UC Center Sacramento, (916) 445-7300, agblock@ucdavis.edu.

K-12 education policy

Tom Timar, a professor in the School of Education and executive director of the Center for Applied Policy in Education at UC Davis, can speak about education policy as it figures in the presidential campaign. He recently co-edited the book, “Narrowing the Achievement Gap: Perspectives and Strategies for Challenging Times,” (Harvard Press). The book addresses alternatives to federal policies that previously have failed to address issues of children who are poor, racially isolated or have language challenges. Contact: Tom Timar, School of Education, (530) 754-6654, tbtimar@ucdavis.edu.

Proposition 34: Repeal of the death penalty

John W. Poulos, law professor emeritus, has taught and written about the death penalty for many years. While a professor, he also represented indigent defendants on California's death row. As an attorney, he represented clients in death penalty cases. Contact: John W. Poulos, School of Law, (530) 752-2881, jwpoulos@ucdavis.edu.

Law professor Floyd Feeney (whose biography and contact information can be found in this list under “initiative process”) can also speak about the death penalty.

What influences voting?

Recent research by Alison Ledgerwood, an assistant professor of psychology, suggests that neighbors’ lawn signs, public opinion polls and even a conversation in the next restaurant booth can affect how people vote in an election. But it all depends on how far away we are from an election. “We clearly use other people to help us make our decisions, but what my research shows is that we rely on different people’s opinions for near-future and distant-future events.” News release on research: http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10295. Contact: Alison Ledgerwood, Psychology, (530) 752-4401, aledgerwood@ucdavis.edu.

Welfare, poverty, tax policy and the recession

Hilary Hoynes, professor of economics, can talk about poverty, inequality and the impacts of government tax and transfer programs on low-income families. Her current research projects include evaluating the impact of the Great Recession across demographic groups, examining the impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on infant health, and estimating impacts of U.S. food and nutrition programs on labor supply, health and human capital accumulation. She is part of a team of researchers awarded a $150,00 grant from the Russell Sage Foundation to study food insecurity during the recession. She is co-editor of American Economic Review. Contact: Hilary Hoynes, Economics, (530) 752-0505, hwhoynes@ucdavis.edu

Voter representation among Latinos and Asians

Mindy Romero is a political sociologist and project director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis. The project is a data resource and research initiative for the state of California. A key focus is to identify disparities in participation across place and population. The project recently released the first in a series of policy briefs examining registration and election trends for California, which Romero can address. News release on the study: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10311. Romero’s individual research specializes in the intersection of political behavior and race/ethnicity, with an emphasis on conducting research that is relevant to communities. California Civic Engagement Project: http://regionalchange.ucdavis.edu/projects/california-civic-engagement-project-ccep. Contact: Mindy Romero, project director, California Civic Engagement Project, (530) 665-3010, msromero@ucdavis.edu.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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