The relationship between the California state government and the state’s small-business community is something between a stalemate and just stale. But that dynamic might change, thanks to an emerging political force: business-minded, moderate Democrats who also happen to be Latinos.
For years in California, small-business owners have been furious with their state’s government for creating an environment hostile to business. And for years, government officials have shown that they simply don’t care.
To play devil’s advocate: Why should the Golden State government care? Decades of complaints from California’s smallest businesses – over labor laws, taxes, health care costs, and the endless red tape of regulations – haven’t actually resulted in enough closed business doors to result in economic apocalypse. The small-business community, at the same time, lacks the political clout (and political buying power) to threaten entrenched liberal Democrats. So the government brushes small business away like an annoying fruit fly – a pest they know can’t really hurt them.
Sometimes a tired, largely ignored, message needs a new messenger. The middle-age, white Republican men of California’s small-business community might find themselves replaced in California’s public-policy debates by moderate Hispanic Democrats – many of them women – who care deeply about the considerable economic and social opportunities offered to their community by business ownership.
This could get interesting.
Already, there is evidence of a shift. California’s moderate Democrat caucus – which includes a number of Latino legislators – including Rudy Salas, Susan Bonilla and Susan Talamantes Eggman – has begun to plead for more centrist solutions in the interest of jobs and economic growth on issues such as fuel regulations and taxes.
Locally, leaders such as Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo have worked with the small-business community and its representatives without regard for party labels or dogma. They are aware of the high number and percentage of Latino-owned firms in Los Angeles County (the highest in the nation, according to the last U.S. Census) and what business ownership means to Latinos economic mobility.
When a state goes as far left as California has, it is natural that there be some kind of pushback or pendulum swing, often from an unexpected source. Those outside the Hispanic community might find it surprising to see Latino legislators as part of a group providing some opposition to the most liberal policies.
To me, the phenomenon is not surprising, given the entrepreneurial streak in the Latino community. We are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to become entrepreneurs. Latinas in particular are the rapidly rising stars of the small-business sector, with Latina-owned business starts outpacing every other demographic group.
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