Lenny Mendonca was appointed as co-chair of the organization in January 2013.
California Forward was created by California Common Cause, the Center for Governmental Studies, the New California Network and The Commonwealth Club of California's Voices of Reform Project at the urging of the California Endowment, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
The organization was created in 2006 "with $16 million from five major foundations."
For the November 6, 2012 statewide ballot in California, the organization is supporting a Government Performance and Accountability Initiative. In 2010, it advocated for a package of propositions.
2010 ballot propositions
Bob Hertzberg, who was the co-chair of California Forward at the time, told a reporter in early 2010 that his group wanted the California State Legislature to use the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment process to put a "package of reforms" which would altogether amount to a constitutional revision on the November 2, 2010 statewide ballot. According to Hertzberg, "We have a significant challenge here in California, and we need to fix it as quickly as possible." Hertzberg also said, ""Unfortunately, when ballot initiatives are too long and too big, they just scare people. They're easy for the interests to kill. People would rather vote 'no' than 'yes,' especially in these times when they're so nervous. The only way you can do it is piecemeal. Take a simple bite at a time and do it over two or three elections."
Bruce McPherson, a former California Secretary of State, said in Santa Cruz in November 2009 that the group supports proposals that end the 2/3rds requirement for the California State Legislature to raise taxes, and that end the ability of the state government to borrow money from local governments:
California Forward also drafted a plan they call the "Best Practices Budget Accountability Act" which, they said, "requires that clear goals and performance measurements be specified for every program in the governor's budget proposal."
In January 2010, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that the California State Legislature "seems poised to approve only the most incremental of California Forward's proposals: a two-year budget cycle and performance-based budgeting. More substantive reforms, like forcing legislators to identify a funding source for any new program and allowing a budget to pass with a simple majority, will probably be left on the cutting-room floor."
In mid-March 2010, top Democratic leaders of the California State Legislature said they were encouraging the state legislature to refer an amendment to the ballot that would eliminate the 2/3rds requirement, an idea aligned with some of California Forward's goals. Ultimately, Proposition 25, which ended the requirement that a 2/3rds supermajority vote be taken to pass a state budget, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot, and was approved.
Professor R. Michael Alvarez and political consultant T. Anthony Quinn wrote a 33-page argument on behalf of California Proposition 14, Top Two Primaries Act (June 2010).
Tony Strickland, Republican assistant minority leader in the California State Senate, said in 2010 that the state legislative Republican caucus would fight California Forward's effort to qualify a measure to lower the state's two-thirds requirement for passing a state budget.
California Forward has a Leadership Council whose members are:
- Robert M. Hertzberg, Co-Chair. Partner, Mayer Brown LLP and former Speaker of the California State Assembly.
- Thomas V. McKernan, Co-Chair; CEO, Automobile Club of Southern California
- Robert L. Balgenorth, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO
- Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO, Green For All
- Bill Hauck, President, California Business Roundtable
- Antonia Hernández, President and CEO, California Community Foundation
- Fred Keeley, Treasurer, Santa Cruz County
- Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California
- Donna Lucas, Founder, Lucas Public Affairs Group
- Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO, California Emerging Technology Fund
- Bruce McPherson, former California Secretary of State
- Chuck Poochigian, former member of the California State Senate and California State Assembly
- Cruz Reynoso, former Associate Justice, California Supreme Court and the Third District Court of Appeal
- Connie Rice, Co-Director, Advancement Project
- Gene Voiland, Principal, Voiland Enterprises LLC
- Public CEO, "LENNY MENDONCA ELECTED NEW CO-CHAIR OF CALIFORNIA FORWARD LEADERSHIP COUNCIL", January 11, 2013
- Santa Cruz Sentinel, "California budget reforms in the hopper for November ballot", November 18, 2009
- Fox and Hounds Daily, "Hertzberg on the California Forward Initiative", February 23, 2012
- Mercury News, "Echoes of the Declaration of Independence to shake up Sacramento", July 4, 2009
- SN&R, "California Renovation. Our government is broken. Here’s a blueprint for fixing the mess that is California", June 18, 2009
- Los Angeles Times, "Dream big and take baby steps", March 1, 2010
- Wall Street Journal, "Fixing Seasons of California Discontent", February 9, 2010
- Long Beach Press Telegram, "A modest set of reforms", January 31, 2010
- Mercury News, "California Legislature takes up constitutional reforms, targets budget process", March 11, 2010
- Ballot Access News, "California Forward Publishes Report in Favor of Proposition 14", April 5, 2010